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.


12. Damian Part 3

Back with Ash and Cynthia

Lance was correct. Cynthia was indeed apologising to Ash.

"Don't apologise, Cynthia. Such things happen. Even if Gible didn't evolve, it would have been a draw. I must commend you. I have never seen any pokémon go toe-to-toe against Dratini like this before. It was exhilarating to watch."

"I know what you're saying. So far, Gible has mostly coasted through his battles. I think it was the rush he got from finally battling against someone on an equal footing that caused him to evolve."

"Maybe. But don't think you have won this battle. It is far from over!" he exclaimed as he sent out his second pokémon.

"Oh, don't worry about that, Ash. I know there is a lot left to this battle!" she replied before exclaiming in surprise when she saw his next pokémon. "A Floette! You have a fairy-type pokémon!" she then grimaced as she realised just how difficult the next battle would be for Gabite.

"Floette vs Gabite. Begin!"

"Ember!" Cynthia gave her first instruction in the battle.

Vines came out of Floette's flower that she used to evade the ball of fire coming at her. Strong gusts of sparkling wind came out her flower and crashed into Gabite who was too tired to dodge effectively. The super powerful attack caused him to scream out in pain before falling down on one knee in pain. As he struggled to stand up, glowing crescent leaves struck him continuously before his willpower finally gave way and he collapsed.

"Gabite is unable to battle. Floette wins."

Cynthia withdrew Gabite with a smile on her face and praised her pokémon. She then sent out her next pokémon, and Ash knew he was in for a difficult fight. He had seen her Monferno absolutely crush its opponents in the first round. And being a fire-type pokémon, Floette's grass-type attacks will have little effect on it, something Cynthia undoubtedly knew about.

"Be careful, Floette," he warned her. "Her Monferno is powerful." The fairy-type pokémon acknowledged his warning with a nod.

"Floette vs Monferno. Begin!"

"Fairy Wind!" It was Ash's turn to start giving instructions in the match. As gusts of wind started coming out of her flower, both trainer and pokémon failed to notice the smirk on Cynthia's face.

"Incinerate!" A fireball with a bright centre and black highlights came out of the Monferno's mouth and shot at the gusts of wind. Surprisingly, the gusts were absorbed by the fireball causing it to grow in size and shoot on towards Floette unhindered. By the time it reached the fairy pokémon, it had doubled in size. Not expecting this to happen, Floette was left with no time to react and took the full brunt of the attack causing an explosion.

"Floette!" Ash yelled out in worry as he saw the fairy type fall back with bruises all over her body. "What the hell happened?" he wondered out loud.

"Don't you know, Ash?" Cynthia said with a smile on her face. "Fire only grows larger if you feed it oxygen," causing Ash to look at her dumbfounded. He did know that, it was elementary science. But to use it in a battle in this way was something else. It was sheer genius. "It's time to finish this battle. Monferno, Flame Wheel!"

Monferno's body enveloped in fire and it started to somersault its way to Floette at a fast pace. But Ash had a counter. He had worked really hard with Floette to make sure that she can last a long time in battles. She would not be defeated so easily.


A bluish green force field appeared around Floette causing Monferno to crash painfully against it. As the ape like pokémon recovered from the abrupt pain of smashing face first into a barrier, Floette made haste in taking advantage of the opportunity presented to her. Predicting what her trainer was going to instruct her to do, she charged another Fairy Wind and blasted the Monferno back.

"Monferno!" Cynthia shouted. She could not believe it. She had expected to win the battle then and there and in a matter of seconds, her pokémon was on the defensive.

"Tackle!" Ash instructed, knowing the other moves would either be useless or help Monferno attack Floette like it did before. He grimaced as he realised the importance of Floette mastering Dazzling Gleam soon. She really needed more attacking prowess.

As Floette charged in, Monferno recovered and showing great agility, it dodged the fairy pokémon and sent a super-fast punch in return. The fighting-type attack caused little damage to the fairy but created enough space between the two pokémon, something Cynthia wanted.


The fireball came fast and Floette was unable to recover from the punch in time to dodge the attack. "Finish this! Incinerate!"

"Double Team!" Ash countered.

Multiple copies of Floette suddenly surrounded Monferno as the Incinerate harmlessly passed through one of them. Seeing Floette looking very bruised and battered, Ash knew she would not last longer.

"Wish!" he instructed and Cynthia saw with disbelieving eyes as the multiple copies all straightened up and their bruises faded as they returned to perfect health.

"How is that even fair?" she grumbled to herself as the copies all twirled and sent gusts of glittering wind at her starter. While the gusts were coming from different directions, she knew that most of them were illusions and only one was real. The problem for her was that she did not know which one that was, so she could not counter it as she did in the beginning of the match. She smiled despite herself as her starter was blasted by the attack. Trust Ash to know how to counter a disadvantage after seeing it used only once.

This did not mean that she would simply roll over and lose. "Monferno!" she snapped out getting her starter's attention to her as Floette readied herself to use the attack a second time. She could see that he was getting flustered by the attack and needed the focus. "Fire Spin! Get rid of those copies!"

Monferno nodded and released a brilliant flame from its mouth around it. The flame absorbed the wind from the gusts of wind from the Floette and became bigger and swept across all the copies and the original one. When the flame died down, the copies had disappeared and Floette had fallen back with numerous injuries.

"Incinerate! Again!" she barked out.

"Evade!" Ash instructed knowing that Floette could be knocked out if she got hit by that attack once again. "Grab and smash!"

Vines came out of Floette's flower and smacked against the ground with enough force to send her out of the way of the attack. They snaked their way towards the ape like pokémon and caught it at multiple places.

"Monferno, burn them away!" Cynthia instructed but was too late as Floette lifted it up and smashed it into the ground causing it to cry out in pain.

"No! Flame Wheel!" she yelled out as it was lifted into the air once more. The flames covering its body burned away the vines holding it in place and it rolled its way to the fairy.

"Protect!" Ash immediately countered.

"Ember!" it was Cynthia's turn to counter. Monferno stopped rolling and used the flames surrounding it to fire a point blank fireball that was met by a bluish green force field.

"Incinerate!" she yelled out triumphantly. As the force field lowered itself, Floette was met by a larger fireball fired from point blank range. She could not do anything as she was engulfed by the attack.

"Floette!" Ash yelled out in worry as he saw his fairy pokémon take the brunt of the attack. Once it ended, everyone could see the fairy pokémon down for the count, swirls in its eyes.

"Floette is unable to battle. Monferno wins."

"Yes!" Cynthia exulted. "Great job, Monferno!" she told her starter.

"You did great, Floette," Ash said warmly as he withdrew the fairy. "You were at a massive disadvantage, yet you did so much damage to it." And it was true. Monferno had bruises all over its body and was panting heavily from the last battle.

"That was an amazing battle, Ash! Monferno was my first pokémon and he has never been pushed this hard in a battle before. And that too with half of Floette's moves ineffective on him. I think that if she was not handicapped the way she was, you would have won that round."

"That may be true, but there's no point talking about what ifs. And take nothing away from your Monferno or yourself. He battled brilliantly, and you led it well. Your strategy at the end really surprised me and that led to us losing."

He then took out his last pokeball and murmured into it. "It's all up to you now, buddy." Saying that, he sent out his starter.

"Be careful, Monferno. That Pikachu is at another level altogether. Don't let its small size fool you," she warned him.

"Pikachu vs Monferno. Begin!"

Pikachu immediately made use of his speed and freshness and dashed towards the tired Monferno. Surprisingly, he could keep up with Ash's starter for a while, but Pikachu was just tiring him out. When he realised that Monferno was tiring, he increased his speed causing Cynthia to shout out a loud "WHAT?!"

As Pikachu started smacking Monferno around, she recovered admirably fast and instructed Monferno to make use of Fire Spin. As the fire storm spread out around the Monferno, Pikachu backed away from the fire and dodged by retreating to a safe distance.

"Shock Wave!" Ash instructed. This is what made Pikachu so dangerous. While being extremely speedy and damaging from a close distance, he could be equally destructive from far away. However, it would be Ash that would be left surprised this time as Cynthia had another trick up her sleeve.

"Flamethrower!" she laid down her trump card. The powerful fire-type attack overpowered the electric-type attack and continued on its way towards Pikachu who was left with no time to react and took the attack head on.

"Yes!" Cynthia exulted. "Finish this! Flame Wheel!"

As Monferno once again somersaulted his way towards Pikachu, Ash frowned. The flamethrower was a powerful attack, and Pikachu was damaged more than what Ash was comfortable with. This could make Pikachu's battle against Cynthia's third pokémon extremely difficult. But for that, he had to beat that stubborn Monferno first. Ash could not believe the amount of damage he had taken and still continued to fight.

"Double Team!" Ash countered.

"Not again!" Cynthia groaned in frustration as one Pikachu became many and the Flame Wheel passed through a copy harmlessly.

"Spark!" Ash instructed. "Finish the battle!"

Monferno could not do anything as multiple sparking copies of Pikachu passed through him harmlessly from all sides before the actual one made contact and sent him flying away in pain. Pikachu ran after his opponent and jumped into the air to be above him. He lifted his paw and electric energy gathered on it before he smashed it into the Monferno's midriff while sending an electric current into him.

That seemed to do it as the Monferno was knocked unconscious before he hit the ground.

"Monferno is unable to battle. Pikachu wins!" the referee announced as Ash looked in disbelief at his starter. He recognised the attack Pikachu used, but he knew that he had not trained Pikachu in using that. As if to get confirmation, his pokedex beeped.

Pikachu has learnt the move Thunder Punch.

But how? Ash wondered. Could it be? By learning how to send his electric energy throughout his body, he combined that with what he learnt from Brick Break and learnt Thunder Punch. Is this why Professor Oak said that pokémon who learn to master their energy grow on to be more powerful than normal pokémon?

While Ash was thinking this, Cynthia had withdrawn her starter and was praising him to the moon and back, not that Ash could blame her. Monferno took quite a bit of damage before succumbing to his injuries. She then took out her next pokeball and murmured something to it before she released the pokémon inside.

Her next pokémon did not have a physical body. Its appearance seemed to projected out of a trapezoidal rock that had a crack running down the middle. Its appearance seemed to composed of a purple coloured fog that had a face in the middle of it containing green, crescent eyes connected to its mouth. Ash grimaced as he realised how difficult the upcoming battle would be. Spiritomb are powerful pokémon with only one known weakness – fairy. And Ash's fairy-type pokémon had already been knocked out.

"Pikachu vs Spiritomb. Begin!"

"Feint Attack!"


Spiritomb made its way towards Pikachu and floated out of the way of the electric attack. The Shockwave changed course and made its way towards the Forbidden pokémon but it suddenly disappeared from sight. It reappeared on Pikachu's right and smashed into him. Pikachu went away flying while shouting in pain, the Shockwave disappearing as Pikachu was no longer able to concentrate on his attack.

"Pikachu!" Ash yelled in worry. "Quick, use Spark!"

Pikachu quickly regained his bearings and charged towards Spiritomb while covering his body with electric energy. As he was about to reach it, Cynthia countered. "Sucker Punch!"

Just as Pikachu was about to hit the Spiritomb, a hand came out of its projected appearance and punched Pikachu on his face sending him careening back in pain.

"And now, Ominous Wind!" Cynthia instructed calmly, in her element. She knew how to battle with her Spiritomb and it showed. Each attack was methodical and effective, and Ash had no counter to them. The Spiritomb spun on its spot and a cyclone of purple coloured wind was created and smashed into the mouse pokémon.

"Pikachu!" Ash yelled in worry as he saw his starter being battered around. Pikachu were not pokémon who could take too many hits in the first place. Getting hit by a Flamethrower, a Feint Attack, a Sucker Punch, and now by Ominous Wind was too much for him. He was battered and bruised and was struggling to stand, that too on pure will power alone.

"Come on, buddy." Ash encouraged him. "We can't lose now. You know who's waiting for us in the finals. We can't lose! We made a promise!" Ash's voice increased as he started speaking with more and more passion. "We can't break that promise. This is our opportunity. We have to seize it!"

Pikachu seemed emboldened by Ash's words and his body started sparking. He stood up and stared at the Spiritomb with determination. The sparking around his body increased before he disappeared. He literally disappeared from sight. Ash and Cynthia looked in shock as Pikachu suddenly appeared behind the Spiritomb and smashed a massive Thunder Punch at it.

Neither of the two trainers knew what was happening. Ash had seen it happen once before when Jonathan's Charmander activated Blaze in the battle against him. He thought it would be something similar to that. However, some people recognised what Pikachu was doing and over near the Gym Leaders, Lt. Surge stood up and stared in awe at what he was witnessing with his jaw dropped. The rest of the Gym Leaders and the Elite Four were no better.

"Spiritomb!" Cynthia yelled out. "Hypnosis!"

Spiritomb followed its trainer's instructions and turned to Pikachu only to find the mouse now longer there. Pikachu reappeared behind it and charged a massive ball of electricity above his tail. He sent the Electro Ball at the Forbidden pokémon. The resultant shockwave once again shook the stadium and the Spiritomb's body was flickering.

"Spiritomb!" Cynthia was seriously getting worried. Every time she thought she had won the match, Ash's pokémon did something like this. Less than a minute ago, Pikachu was barely able to stand, and now this?! Where did that power surge even come from?

She tried to counter but Ash was not giving her any opportunity to do so. "Pikachu, get beneath that Spiritomb and hit it with Thunderbolt!" he yelled out in exuberance. This fight was the closest he had and the emotions were getting to him.

"What?" Cynthia asked in disbelief before realising that Ash had used the same strategy as her. She had kept Monferno's Flamethrower as a trump card, and Ash had done the same with Pikachu. The mouse pokémon once again disappeared from sight (what is that speed?! I've never seen anything like this!) and four massive bolts of electricity came from it and hit her pokémon. A massive dust cloud was formed as a result of the attack and Cynthia took out Spiritomb's pokeball with a resigned expression. She knew that attack was it, there was no way her Spiritomb could be conscious after that.

The dust cleared and the audience saw with baited breath to see the climax of that match. As the dust cleared, they were treated to the sight of both pokémon lying down unconscious, Pikachu's body giving up on him as he could not keep up with the surge of power anymore. The referee looked up at Lance in confusion wondering what to call as the result of the match.

The Champion got up and addressed the contestants. "It looks like a tie. In such a situation, we can use the cameras and the sensors to see which pokémon was knocked unconscious first. Another option is that since this is a three-on-three battle, we can decide the winner by a final knockout match. A one-on-one battle between the two of you to decide who goes to the finals. The decision is up to you two."

Ash and Cynthia looked at each other. They were startled out of their thoughts by the roaring of the crowd, something they had tuned out till now. They looked up in surprise as the entire crowd shouted "Once More" at the two contestants. And who could blame them? The match between Ash and Cynthia was as good as a match between two top contestants in the Pokémon League. The people in the crowd had even called their friends who had decided to skip the tournament to come watch the match. And these people were glad they listened to their friends' advice. The match between Ash and Cynthia was easily the best match of the entire S.S. Anne trip. And they wanted more! So they made their choice clear between the two options given to the contestants.

Ash and Cynthia smiled at each other. It looked like the decision had been made. As one, they turned to Lance and gave their decision. "One more match."

"And one more match it is!" Lance said with a joyous laugh as the crowd let out a wild cheer. Ash and Cynthia nodded at each other and sent out their pokémon. Ash sent out his Umbreon while Cynthia sent out her Eelektrik.

"Umbreon vs Eelektrik. Begin!"

"Discharge!" she yelled out, starting the match.

"Take it!" Ash yelled out as well, uncharacteristically as the heat of the moment got to both the trainers. Cynthia looked on in surprise as the powerful electric-type attack did absolutely no damage to the Umbreon.

"What, does your Umbreon have Lightning Rod as an ability as well?" she asked sarcastically causing Ash to burst into laughter.

"Not really. But having an electric-type pokémon as a starter allows one to come up with ways to battle them easily," he said with a smirk. "Quick Tail," he added to his dark-type pokémon.

Umbreon zipped away at full speed and smacked the EleFish Pokémon with impunity. Eelektrik was a powerful pokémon, but unfortunately, it was slow. Against a fast pokémon like Umbreon, it was struggling. As Umbreon came back to attack it again, Cynthia yelled out. "Discharge, once more!" Again, electricity filled the air as Eelektrik let out a powerful blast of electricity. Once the dust cleared, they saw that Umbreon had no damage to it.

"What?" Cynthia asked in disbelief. "Is your pokémon really immune to electric-type attacks?"

Ash just laughed and said, "Not really. Unfortunately for you, Umbreon has developed a rivalry with Pikachu. And I spent the last month training my pokémon to battle against Lt. Surge. So, my pokémon just know how to battle against electric-type pokémon."

"Umbreon, smack it away with Iron Tail. Then meet it with Dig." Umbreon called out her name before once more charging at her opponent. She smacked it into the sky and quickly dug a hole in the ground. By the time Eelektrik landed, Umbreon erupted from the ground beneath it and smacked into it again. Eelektrik yelled out in pain and fell heavily to the ground. It struggled to get up but its efforts were in vein as Umbreon charged power into her mouth and a black ball of energy was formed. She sent it at her opponent where it detonated powerfully creating another shockwave. By the time the dust cleared, Eelektrik was unconscious.

"Eelektrik is unable to battle. Umbreon wins. The winner of the battle is Ash from Pallet Town." And the crowd erupted in cheers once again. They were shouting not only Ash's name, but Cynthia's as well. The cheering renewed as both trainers met in the middle and shook hands in a great show of sportsmanship.

"That was a great battle, Ash. It was truly my most difficult one to date. I have learnt so much from just this one battle. Thank you," she smiled at her friend.

"Yes, it was an amazing battle," Ash admitted. "It was my most difficult battle as well. There were so many incidents where I could have lost the match. That has never happened before. If Pikachu had not found that weird boost of energy towards the end, you would have won."

"And I never would have reached that situation if Gible did not evolve midway through the battle." Cynthia countered. "That should have ended as a draw. If it did, I doubt you would have sent your Floette knowing that I have a Monferno. Anyway, no point in thinking about what ifs. You won, fair and square. My Eelektrik was not as powerful as the rest of my pokémon and you countered her attacks perfectly. But thanks to that, I too found a strategy for countering electric-type attacks."

Ash looked at her in surprise. "Yes, I found out your trick. You use Iron Tail to ground your pokémon against electric type attacks. When Umbreon was attacking Eelektrik, it had Iron Tail activated. When Eelektrik attacked, it quickly grounded itself again to make it seem like it is immune to electric-type attacks."

"Wow, this is amazing. You got all that so quickly," Ash said in an impressed tone as they started making their way towards the exit. The tournament was over for the day and they were walking back towards the room.

Cynthia just smiled bashfully and looked away as Ash praised her. Her attention went towards the Gym Leaders and the Elite Four making their way towards them along with someone who looked like a Professor and a teenage girl their age. The girl was pretty, Cynthia noticed, and she was bouncing around in excitement. As she skipped towards them, she excitedly hugged Ash congratulating him. Ash laughed as well while hugging her back and Cynthia suddenly felt angry at the girl. She wanted to do nothing more than pull her away from Ash. Cynthia frowned at the direction of her thoughts wondering why the hell she was thinking such irrational things. She put it to the back of her mind as she paid attention to the conversation going on.

It seemed like the Gym Leaders and the Elite Four had come to congratulate them both for the battle they had and the way they raised their pokémon (Lance had praised her! She sang in her mind). Then they split up as Ash and Cynthia went towards the pokémon centre to heal their pokémon. The Professor, who called himself Sycamore, the regional professor of the Kalos Region, Ash's childhood friend Leaf, Brock, Misty, Lt. Surge, Sabrina, and Lance accompanied them. Ash had struck a rapport with the four Gym Leaders and the Champion and they were all discussing the match. Well, everyone but Sabrina were, she was silently following them along.

After they gave their pokémon to Nurse Joy, Leaf asked the question that had been bothering Cynthia as well.

"Hey, Ash. When Pikachu was about to lose, why did you say you have to win at all costs? It seemed like there was more at stake than just this match."

Ash's good mood seemed to disappear at that question. He became silent and just shook his head at her to indicate there was no such reason. Of course, he convinced no one. There was a flash of light as Ash's Kadabra materialised out of his pokeball.

'Tell them,' he told Ash telepathically.

'No!' Ash argued.

'Why? Do you have a plan?' the psi pokémon asked slyly as he knew he had won the argument. All Ash could do was beat Damian, he had no plan to convict him for his sins. And his trainer knew that. After thinking for a way out of the situation for a few seconds, he glared at his pokémon before starting his tale. He told them about how he found the Charmander and his eventual death. What Nurse Joy and Officer Jenny told him. About how there was no proof against Damian.

He told them about Growlithe and his condition when they first met him on the ship. What Kadabra had found out. He told them how Kadabra also found out that Growlithe was not the only pokémon of Damian that was abused. He also told them about how Nidoking played such a huge role in keeping the other pokémon in line. He told them about how Growlithe had slowly confided in them throughout the five days and about Ash's promise to defeat Damian and find a way to make him pay for his sins. By the time he was done, the rest of his audience was looking at him with mixed emotions of horror and anger.

"I knew he was a creep but I never expected him to be this bad," Cynthia muttered in disgust. "Oh Arceus, I feel like taking a bath to get rid of filth now." On seeing the confused looks directed at her, she said, "That bastard was hitting on me." She shivered just thinking about it, an actioned mirrored by Misty and Leaf.

Ash felt a brief swell of anger in him, and said, "All the more reason to kick his ass tomorrow!"

"All that is fine," Lance interrupted. "But how do we go about exposing him?"

"It will be difficult," Sabrina said. "From how you have described him, he is smart enough not to abuse his pokémon in front of the public. I am sure that the three pokémon he plans on using tomorrow will not have any signs of abuse on them even if they are given to Nurse Joy. What we need to do is make him use more pokémon than the three of them."

"You mean like today?" Cynthia asked.

"No," the psychic replied. "Your match was a rare event. The statistical probability of the same repeating in the next match is close to zero. What we need is to have a four-on-four or a five-on-five match from the beginning itself."

"But looking at how smart he is, he will never agree to that," Cynthia said.

"Which is why we need to entice him to do so. Give a prize other than what we are giving for the competition. He is arrogant enough to believe that he will win anyway. I think he believes Ash would not even be able to defeat his Nidoking."

"That's a good suggestion," Lance said. "Now, what would be a good enough prize to get him to accept?"

"I have an idea," Professor Sycamore said. "How about we propose the idea in front of the entire crowd. This way, Damian will look bad if he rejects. I suggest that I am so impressed with the trainers in the competition that the winner of the competition gets an all-expenses paid trip to the Kalos Region and spend a week with me while I show them the various pokémon native to that region. It will also give them an opportunity to capture one or two pokémon that they like.

Once the battle is over, I insist that I take the trainers to the pokémon centre to get their pokémon healed since it is my fault they got so injured in the first place. This way, Damian would not be able to back out even if he tries."

"Hmm, that's a good idea," Lance said. "And doable as well."

Meanwhile, Ash was looking between Kadabra and Sabrina with suspicion. "What I want to know is how long have you two been planning this?" he asked causing the others to look at them with surprise.

Sabrina just smiled. "Well spotted, Ash Ketchum. Kadabra told me when I asked him to visit me the day the ship left the port."

"And you did not tell me this for what reason?" Ash asked his pokémon.

"Because I asked him not to," Sabrina replied. "As for the reason I asked him to visit me, I wanted to see how he was growing. As you know, I do love the Abra line."

Ash frowned but did not argue with her. Instead, he turned to Lance who started speaking. "Ash, this plan depends on you. It will be up to you to force Damian to take out his weaker pokémon so that they can be shown to Nurse Joy. Basically, you have to beat him."

"Don't worry about that," Ash said with a steely look in his eyes. "I have no plans of losing."

Their plans for tomorrow made, they split up. Ash and Cynthia went to get some sleep since the day had tired them out and Nurse Joy had told them to collect their pokémon the next day. Leaf and Professor Sycamore went to the dining room to eat dinner leaving the four Gym Leaders and Lance.

"I still think we should have told him," Lt. Surge said.

"You know why I told you not to," Lance countered.

"I understand your logic, but I don't necessarily agree with it."

"Don't worry," Sabrina said. "You will get to talk to him about it and it will be before the League." When she said that, Lt. Surge looked happier. They too decided to split up after the conversation was over. As for what they were talking about, it was about Pikachu's sudden boost in power.


The Gym Leaders and the Elite Four were watching the match with interest. After the battle between the dragons, the rest of the battles had been equally intriguing. They were especially impressed by Ash's ability to counter any situation that put him in a tight spot. They were sure that any other trainer would have lost by now. They were equally impressed with Cynthia's strategies, especially how she used Floette's Fairy Wind to boost Monferno's power.

"Looks like the match is about to end. Ash was caught completely flat-footed against the Spiritomb," Koga commented to general agreement.

"It was a brilliant match," Erika said. "To think that those trainers started their journeys only a few months ago!"

"Yes, they both will go on to do great things," Brock said.

Further conversation, however, was halted when they heard Ash's passionate plea to his Pikachu. The Leaders looked at each other in confusion but before anyone could ask the question, Pikachu started sparking. They all frowned and looked at Lt. Surge in surprise as he got up with an astonished look on his face.

"Impossible," he muttered. "This is impossible!"

Before they could question the bulky master of electric pokémon, they saw Pikachu disappear in a flash. When it hit the Spiritomb, the more experienced Leaders understood what had Lt. Surge so perplexed.

"There is no way!" Bruno muttered in disbelief. "There is absolutely no way. I spent years trying to reach this stage and he has reached there in only a few months!"

"Seems like it," Agatha muttered. "I didn't understand the hype of this kid when Lance kept going on about him. But I do now."

"Umm, what are you talking about?" Misty, the least experienced of them asked.

"He has reached the zenith of being a pokémon trainer," Blaine said. "All pokémon have their own internal energies circulating throughout their bodies. These energies decide what type of pokémon it is. Most pokémon just learn how to bring it about and use it in battle. But some pokémon can manipulate it at will. This is the result of it."

"Electric pokémon," Lt. Surge said, "have electrical energy circulating throughout their bodies. When a pokémon is able to manipulate it, they can surround themselves with it. The electrical energy is surrounding every nerve and muscle of the pokémon like Pikachu is doing now. Because of that, they get a huge boost in speed and power, as you can see. What Pikachu is doing is just the tip of the iceberg. A pokémon who has mastered it can do so much more. They can become so fast that they are invisible to the naked eye. Their power becomes so refined that a single touch can knock other pokémon out. The only pokémon who are said to have reached this stage are the legendaries. This is why they are so powerful."

"And Pikachu has tapped into that energy?" Misty asked in disbelief.

"Yes. Now you can understand our incredulity. Pokémon take years to reach this stage. For Pikachu to reach this stage after just a few months is something I have never seen or heard of before." He turned to the Elite Four. "You have to let me train him!" he pleaded with them.

"No!" Lance said immediately. "This is a journey he needs to take alone. By the look on his face, he does not understand what is going on. Let him grow up, mature. Let him understand what it is his pokémon are doing. Let him explore the possibilities as you and I had once done. Once he does that, then you can help him."

"You are unfortunately making sense. But I still want to train him."

"I can understand your feelings," Lance said. "For I want to train him as well."

Flashback End

The next morning, Ash collected his pokémon from Nurse Joy and went back to his room. Once there, he called out all his pokémon other than Rhyhorn who was too young to understand what was going on. And Ash did not want to tell him in case it triggers a memory in the Spikes Pokémon.

He laid out the plan made by Sabrina the day before. All 5 pokémon looked fired up to beat Damian. He then turned to Dratini. "Tini, his Nidoking is powerful and his most dangerous pokémon. He beats his pokémon by overpowering them. Damian thinks he is unbeatable. Let's show them true power, eh?" to which his Dratini roared in agreement. All fired up at the thought of avenging the Charmander that was briefly a part of their team, as well as wanting to free the rest of the pokémon in his grasp after hearing the plight of the Growlithe, they made their way for the final.

Once there, he saw Cynthia standing in his path. She pointed to an alcove at their side where they could have a quiet conversation. "Good luck," she wished him quietly and gave him a quick kiss on his cheek. Before Ash could react, she disappeared into the crowd. Ash stood there dumbfounded as heat spread across his face. He felt the place where she kissed him burn as emotions he had never felt before stirred inside him.

Getting his emotions under control, he left the alcove and went to the arena. Once there, he went and stood in his box as the match was about to start. He saw that the stadium was quite filled today. More than double the people had come today as compared to yesterday. Word of his battle had spread among the people and they came to the stadium expecting a match as good as the one yesterday.

A few minutes later, Damian sauntered into the arena and made his way to his box. He looked at Ash, and commented. "When we first met a week ago, you didn't speak much. I just assumed that you were a man of few words. But then I see you yesterday comfortably talking with so many people. This leads me to believe that you don't like me for some reason."

Ash remained stoic as he tried to think of an excuse. No need to show hostility now that he was so close to exposing him. "I am not good with strangers," Ash admitted somewhat stiffly. It wasn't completely untrue, he was a shy person.

"Whatever," Damian scoffed. "I'm still going to defeat you."

Ash didn't respond to the bait choosing to ignore him. This somehow caused Damian to get angrier. Ash internally smirked. Years of dealing with Gary had taught Ash that the best way to rile arrogant people up was to ignore them. So, the two spent the next five minutes this way. Ash completely ignoring Damian and the latter continuously trying to get Ash's attention and getting angrier when failing to do so.

A hush spread over the audience as Lance stood up and Ash once again admired his ability to do that. "Greetings, one and all. Welcome to the final match of the tournament. Before we begin, I would like to congratulate the contestants for providing us such excitement. You guys are brilliant trainers. Now, use this experience that you have gained and continue to reach new heights. Before we begin the tournament, Professor Sycamore would like to say a few words."

The crowd turned curiously to the professor. He had not said anything before the previous finals. He got up and cleared his throat before he started speaking. "Good morning, everyone. I will make this brief since I want the match to start. We land in Lavender Town in two hours and the match and prize distribution ceremony have to take place before that.

So, what I want to say is this. I was so impressed by the performances yesterday that I would like to sponsor the winner's stay in the Kalos Region for a week, where he will stay with me and explore a little of the region and its pokémon." The crowd erupted in cheers at the announcement completely agreeing with the professor's decision. Down in the competitor's box, Damian smirked.

"However," he continued causing the crowd to go silent again. "I think a three-on-three battle is too small. I want the finalists to have a six-on-six battle like it happens in the Pokémon League. Now," he shouted to make himself heard over the noise of the crowd as they had started to cheer again. They quietened down and listened to him. "I know that Ash has only 5 pokémon with him, so a six-on-six battle is impossible. However, I would propose for the contestants to have a five-on-five battle!"

This time he didn't continue allowing the crowd to cheer at his decision. Hey, they were getting to witness a longer battle! As the crowd cheered and encouraged the trainers to accept the proposal, Ash saw that Damian had a scowl on his face. Knowing that he was about to disagree to the terms, Ash started speaking. "A chance to learn from a regional Professor for a week and have the chance of catching a pokémon from another region? Count me in!" he finished to bigger cheers from the audience.

Seeing the scowl still present on the face of Damian, Lance got up from his seat and another hush fell over the stadium. "The Pokémon League has no issues with this arrangement as long as the trainers agree to it." The crowd once again cheered and egged on Damian to accept the deal. Having no other option but to look bad in front of so many people, Damian had no choice. He too agreed to the decision and the match could finally start.

"This is a five-on five battle between Ash from Pallet Town and Damian from Celadon City. Substitutions are allowed in this battle. When I say NOW, both trainers will send their first pokémon to the battle."

Ash took out Dratini's pokeball and tossed it releasing his dragon pokémon while Damian took out his Nidoking.

"Dratini vs Nidoking. Begin!"

"I knew you were going to start with your Dratini! So, I came prepared! Nidoking, Ice Beam!"

A light blue ball formed on Nidoking's horn and multiple light blue beams were released from it towards Dratini. The dragon merely slithered out of the way of the attack with impunity and glared at the Nidoking. Remembering what Growlithe told them about what Nidoking does to the rest of the pokémon in Damian's team awoke something in the Dratini. This is not how one treats a member of the family. Recalling Growlithe's scared face, that feeling intensified till it reached a peak. The emotions burst and Dratini was surrounded by a bright light that forced everyone to look away. Once they could see again, they saw that the pokémon was changing. It was increasing in height, almost becoming two and half times its original height. The horn on the forehead grew bigger and a truly breath-taking sight awaited them when the light died down. For Dratini had evolved into a Dragonair.

"Dragonair!" Ash exclaimed beyond excited that he had evolved. "You are more gorgeous than I had ever imagined," he murmured to general agreement from the crowd. They were all spellbound, for they were treated to a sight only a few had ever seen; the evolution of a Dratini. The pokémon was known as a Mirage pokémon for being so rare, but to see its evolution! Oh, Ho-Oh had blessed them today!

The dragon pokémon ignored the muttering in the crowd in favour for glaring at the Nidoking. He opened his mouth and charged an attack. A blue and black ball of energy was formed before he released it at the Nidoking. The ball took the shape of a roaring dragon as it slammed into the Drill Pokémon and sent him flying while roaring in pain.

He then diverted energy to his tail which lit up bright green. Draconic scales formed on his tail as he made his way to the Nidoking. By Arceus, he was so much faster in this form! He had to spend time with friend-trainer-Ash to find the limits of the new form. As he neared the downed Nidoking and got ready to slam his tail, he realised that his trainer was shouting something. Concentrating slightly to clear the fog in his mind, he realised that his trainer was telling him not to use the Dragon Tail. By the time Dragonair understood the command, it was too late. The full force of the attack slammed into the Drill Pokémon and sent it into unconsciousness. Dragonair wondered why friend-trainer-Ash asked him not to use the attack when it was so effective when he felt a jolt of pain in his body. Recognising the symptom, he realised he had been poisoned. Oh, so that's why he was warned not to use the attack. He turned to Ash and looked at him in apology. The trainer, being the wonderful person he is, just shook his head at him and asked if he was alright. Dragonair just nodded at him.

"Nidoking is unable to battle. Dragonair wins!" The crowd cheered Dragonair's victory. Ash was already a crowd favourite after the battle with Cynthia yesterday, but Dratini's evolution was the cherry on the cake.

"Grr," Damian growled. "Don't get cocky. You may have defeated Nidoking, but there is no way you'll beat my other pokémon." Saying this, he released a large, purple, centipede-like pokémon. A Scolipede. Knowing how dangerous it is to fight against a poison-type pokémon when already poisoned, Ash withdrew Dragonair knowing that he can use him in later battles since substitution was allowed in this match.

Remembering his conversation with Kadabra last night where the psychic-type pokémon told Ash he wanted to battle, he thought of no better time to send him out than now.

"Scolipede vs Kadabra. Begin!"

"You think I didn't counter the weakness of poison-type pokémon?" Damian yelled out angrily. "Scolipede, Megahorn!" Scolipede's horn glowed white as it charges at Kadabra who calmly teleports out of the way.

'What did you do to make Damian this angry?' Kadabra asked amused.

'Well, let's put it this way. Dratini evolved and knocked out his Nidoking in two moves.'

'Oh, Dratini evolved? That's brilliant. He was already powerful before, he must have been insanely powerful now.'

'He didn't show it much in the match. I think Dragonair does not know the true power he can tap into now. He will need some training to get used to the form and explore his limits.'

'Hmm. You're right. I remembered having to do the same when I evolved. By the way, you remember asking why I felt so sleepy during the day and me telling you that I will tell you later? That later is now.'

'Let me guess. You were with Sabrina?'

'Oh, good guess! And this is what I was doing!' After saying that, his eyes glowed red and a multi-coloured beam was released from them at the Scolipede. The Megapede pokémon screamed in pain as the super effective attack hit him and fell down. As it struggled to its feet, Ash stared at Kadabra incredulously as his pokedex beeped.

'Did you just use Psybeam?!'

'Yep, good eye.'

'How? When?'

'Sabrina taught me.'

'She taught you how to use Psybeam in 5 days?!'

'Well, it's not mastered. But that will only come with practice.'

Ash still stared unbelievingly. He knew Sabrina was good, but to teach a pokémon a new move in just 5 days? Unbelievable.

'And why did you not tell me?'

'Because you would probably have tried to coach me as well and it would have interfered with what Sabrina was teaching me.'

'You are probably correct. Anyway, what do you say about finishing this battle?'

'I say that is a good idea.' With that said, Kadabra fired another psybeam at the Scolipede causing it to scream in pain once again before succumbing to his injuries.

'Huh. That was easy,' Kadabra commented.

'That was because the Scolipede was not trained well. Any trained pokémon would have dodged your first attack.'

'True. Good for us. We are that much closer to winning and exposing him.'

'Yes,' Ash said with a smirk.

"Scolipede is unable to battle. Kadabra wins!"

"This is not over!" Damian growls out as he sends his next pokémon, a Graveller, causing Ash to smirk. The referee looks at Ash asking if he is going to switch his pokémon. Ash wonders why not. Even if Damian somehow manages to defeat one of his pokémon, he can easily send out Kadabra or Dratini again.

"Good job, Kadabra. Get some rest. Let's do this, Floette!" Ash exclaims as he withdraws his psi pokémon and sends out his fairy.

"Graveller vs Floette. Begin!"

"Magnitude" Damian snarls.

"Evade," Ash says calmly.

Floette slammed a couple of vines into the ground to use as a push to get into the air. She floats up just in time as the ground starts shaking.

"Don't let up! The fairy will come down at some point!"

Ash just shook his head at his opponent. Honestly, this was embarrassing to Cynthia as a trainer that she did not reach the finals over this guy! "Magical Leaf till it drops."

Multiple glowing leaves came out of Floette's flower and slammed into the stationary Graveller. The poor rock-type pokémon yelled in pain as it was subjected to a barrage of leaves that were super effective on it. It lasted barely 5 seconds before falling unconscious.

"Graveller is unable to battle. Floette wins."

"This is ridiculous. Stupid, weak pokémon," he muttered mutinously, then froze when he heard angry murmurings in the crowd. Realising how close he was to messing up, he quickly shut his mouth and withdrew his pokémon.

Realising just how close he was to losing, he angrily sent out his next pokémon, a Drowzee. Ash called back his Floette and calmly released his Umbreon. He had the advantage in the match. He knew that, Damian knew that, heck, the entire crowd knew that.

"Drowzee vs Umbreon. Begin!"

"Quick Tail followed by Shadow Ball," Ash instructed deciding to take the lead in the match for the first time. Before Drowzee could realise what is going on, it yelled out in pain as it was smashed in the face by a glowing silver tail. A massive black-coloured ball formed in Umbreon's mouth that she shot at the recovering psychic-pokémon. The resultant explosion was enough to knock Drowzee out.

"Drowzee is unable to battle. Umbreon wins."

Damian mutinously withdraws his defeated pokémon. Knowing he had just one pokémon remaining, he sent it out. Ash and Umbreon froze for a second on seeing the Growlithe. Not wanting to prolong his suffering, Ash quickly withdrew Umbreon and sent out his starter.

"Growlithe vs Pikachu. Begin!"

"Thunderbolt!" Ash said. And that was all that was needed. Pikachu's thunderbolt was too fast and too powerful for Damian and Growlithe to counter. The Puppy pokémon did not even yell out in pain as it was knocked unconscious by the powerful attack.

"Growlithe is unable to battle. Pikachu wins. The winner of this tournament is Ash from Pallet Town!"

The crowd cheered as Ash was announced as the winner. They were at first disappointed that the battle was so one-sided but after watching the semi-final yesterday, they knew that Ash was in a League of his own. No one doubted that Ash deserved to win the competition.

As the Gym Leaders and the Elite Four descended onto the platform, Ash watched with sadness as Damian withdrew the Growlithe. He was sad that he had to hurt the pokémon he had gotten close to over the past week, but it couldn't be helped. He smiled as he received the congratulations from the officials of the tournament.

As Lance mentioned that they should move on to the ceremony, Ash interrupted him. "As much as I would like to see what I will receive for winning this tournament, I would like to visit the pokémon centre. My Dragonair just evolved in the middle of a battle and was poisoned immediately."

"Oh, yes! Of course! How careless of me to forget. On that note," a brilliant smile came across Lance's face, "congratulations on your Dratini evolving!"

"Thank you!" Ash beamed at him. They turned around to look at a commotion behind them. They could see that Professor Sycamore was trying to convince Damian to show his pokémon to Nurse Joy, but Damian was refusing.

"But I insist. Your pokémon were injured because I wanted to see a better battle! I can't have it on my conscience if they remain injured."

"And I am telling you," Damian replied with a forced smile on his face, "it is fine. My pokémon will recover on their own. I can take care of them."

"Nonsense," Lance boomed. "Your pokémon were injured fighting in a competition sponsored by us in the League. I insist you show your pokémon to Nurse Joy. It is the least we can do." When Damian was about to deny it again, Lance continued. "Is there a reason you ae so hesitant in showing Nurse Joy your pokémon?" he asked with narrowed eyes.

"N-n-n-no Sir," Damian stuttered.

"Then what is the issue. Come on!" Lance moved his arm around Damian's shoulders and steered him towards the Pokémon Centre. Ash smirked and followed. What followed was hilarious for everyone other than Damian as he was sweating buckets at being exposed. It only got worse when Lance literally snatched his pokeballs from him and gave them to Nurse Joy. He gave all of them to Nurse Joy and when Damian protested, he simply said he didn't know which ones fought in the battle since Damian was not telling them. Ash's stomach was hurting at this point from trying to control his laughter.

Damian's expression grew even more nervous when Nurse Joy called Lance inside her office 15 minutes later. A few minutes after that, Lance literally stormed out of the office. His expression sobered Ash up pretty quickly. He had never seen Lance this angry ever before.

"Damian, you are under arrest for the abuse of pokémon. It is no wonder that you didn't want to show your pokémon to Nurse Joy!"

Damian opened his mouth before shutting them without uttering a word. What could he say, he had been caught red-handed. And so, it was a dejected Damian that was led away from the pokémon centre in handcuffs. Ash saw this happening with a vindictive smile on his face.

Half an hour later, the closing ceremony of the tournament was being held. The Pokémon League had searched through Damian's apartment in case he kept any pokémon there. Once that was done, he was kept under watch as the Closing Ceremony was organised.

Lance once again addressed the crowd. "Ladies and Gentlemen. Due to us discovering that Damian had been abusing his pokémon," he paused as a chorus of boos erupted from the crowd. "Yes, don't worry. Damian has been arrested. He will not be going near a pokémon for a long time now. But due to us discovering this, we cannot give him the second prize in the tournament. As a result, the winners of the tournament have been changed."

"In third place, we have the trainer who came here all the way from Hoenn, Luke!"

"I'm really glad Damian has been caught," Cynthia said from where she stood next to Ash as the crowd applauded for Luke politely.

"So am I," Ash said quietly. "I have been waiting for this moment for such a long time."

Cynthia just smiled at him gently and squeezed his hand in comfort, leading to Ash smiling at her in return.

"In second place, as you have no doubt guessed with her performance yesterday, we have Cynthia!" Lance exclaimed joyously. The crowd cheered loudly in approval as they started chanting Cynthia's name.

"Someone's popular," Ash teased the blushing girl as the crowd continued chanting her name. She showed Ash her tongue in retaliation and quickly jogged to the stage where she received two awards from Lance, one gift, and one cash prize.

"And in first place, the winner of the tournament, ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Ash Ketchum!" The crowd continued cheering as this time it was a blushing Ash who moved to the stage. He grinned at Lance as he too got two rewards, a cash prize and a box. His blush became brighter when he took the awards as the crowd started chanting his name as well.

He bashfully went and stood next to a smiling Cynthia who didn't miss the chance to tease him. "It looks like you are more popular than even I am," she laughed.

Ash didn't say anything, he just blushed further. As the photographer took the pictures, Ash was surprised when he felt a hand slipping into his. He turned to see a blushing Cynthia holding his hand before she raised their joint hands in victory. Ash started blushing once more, wondering why his face was heating up again. The adults just looked at the two teenagers with knowing smiles while the women in the audience had stars in their eyes.

As the ceremony was winding down, Ash and Cynthia looked at their awards. "Wow!" Cynthia muttered softly. "Look at the amount of money they have given us!"

"I know!" Ash said in shock, his eyes bulging at the figure written on the check. He knew that Lt. Surge said the money would be high, but this high? It was insane! Putting the cheque in the bag, he decided to see what was their other award.

"What did you get?" Ash asked curiously as he saw that Cynthia had the same idea as him and was going through the box that she got. She wordlessly turned it around to show it to him. Ash let out an impressed whistle as he saw the contents of the box. It was like the trainer pack of a rich kid. In the box were 2 of each type of pokeball. This included the normal pokeball, Great Ball, Ultra Ball, Lure Ball, Premier Ball, Repeat Ball, Timer Ball, Nest Ball, Net Ball, Dive Ball, Luxury Ball, Heal Ball, Quick Ball, Dusk Ball, and the Cherish Ball. Along with them were various medicines, including antidotes, paralyze heals, potions, Super Potions, Hyper Potions, Full Heals. It was an amazing award.

"If the prize for getting second place is so good, I wonder what you got," she commented. Ash took the hint and opened the box he got. "Wow!" he muttered as he showed Cynthia the contents of the box. Inside were 2 of each type of evolution stones. This included the Fire Stone, Water Stone, Thunder Stone, Leaf Stone, Moon Stone, Sun Stone, Shiny Stone, Dusk Stone, and the Dawn Stone.

"This is amazing, Ash," she muttered. "With this you can easily evolve your Pikachu and your Floette."

"Yeah," Ash said still in shock.

"So," Cynthia said as she got out of her surprise. "The ship docks in Lavender Town in an hour. What say we get one last meal before that?"

Ash grinned at her in reply. That was answer enough.


Ash, Cynthia, Professor Sycamore, Leaf, and the Gym Leaders and Lance stood in the Lavender Town Police Department. The rest of the Elite Four had left, saying they had to get back to their duties. They couldn't take a vacation for long considering that Team Rocket was still causing problems everywhere. They watched with satisfaction as Damian was taken inside the jail.

Leaf turned to Lance and asked him a question. "So, what would happen to his pokémon now that he has been arrested?"

"They will be taken to a rehabilitation centre," Lance replied. "Once they are over the trauma they suffered, they will be released into the wild."

"Would you like to see them?" Sabrina suddenly asked. Everyone looked at her in surprise. "You guys did help them get free," she said as if it was logical, which it was. They nodded happily, pleased to be allowed to see the pokémon. They were led to the pokémon centre where they were shown inside a room. 15 pokémon were sitting there lazing around, and a peaceful atmosphere filled the room. The pokémon tensed when the door was opened but went back to relaxing when they saw who it was.

Seeing them at peace caused the young teenagers to smile happily. They knew that those pokémon must not have had any peace since they had been caught by Damian. Not wanting to disturb the pokémon, they turned to leave. However, a cry from behind them caused them to turn stop. They turned around to see the Growlithe hopping forward before coming to a stop before Ash who bent down and pet him.

"You can experience life freely now, Growlithe. Damian can never hurt you again," he said gently. Growlithe just looked at Ash with big, teary eyes that caused Ash to pull him into a hug and many females and even some males to aww at the sight. In the background, Lt. Surge was giving death glares to anyone who was snickering at him for making that sound. Not that it was helping since his image as this tough war veteran was kind of ruined, causing him to start sulking.

Ash was ignorant to the proceedings behind him as he pulled away from the hug. He held the Growlithe at arm's length and said, "I'm going to miss you. It was nice to meet you. Your new life will be much better than your old one, that much I can tell you."

As Ash stood up and turned around to leave, he felt a weight slam onto his leg. He turned to see the Growlithe looking at him pleadingly while crying.

"It looks like the Growlithe does not want you to go," Sabrina said with a hint of amusement in her voice. When she saw her fellow Gym Leaders and Lance snap their heads towards her, she continued. "Yes, I knew about this beforehand. And I made the correct choice. Ash was the one who broke down Growlithe's barriers. He taught him how to trust again. He taught him how beautiful the bond between a trainer and his pokémon can be. It would be cruel to the Growlithe to take it away from him now. Growlithe are a species that give their loyalty freely and once earned, they will move heaven and earth for their trainers. Ash has earned Growlithe's loyalty, something he had not been able to give his previous trainer. So, as I said before, the Growlithe has made his choice clear."

Ash was listening to this with astonishment. He turned to the Growlithe on his leg who was openly crying now. "Growlithe, is it true?" he asked. "Do you really wish to come with me?" The Growlithe nodded his head so fast that half the people were scared it would fall off. Ash turned to Lance ask him his opinion. The champion of the Kanto and Johto regions had a smile on his face from watching the events of the last minute. He gave Ash a nod telling him that it was okay with him.

Ash beamed at him before taking out a pokeball. He showed it to Growlithe who finally stopped crying and yelled with joy. The Puppy Pokémon happily pressed the centre of the pokeball with his head and was sucked into the pokeball. The pokeball did not even struggle once before it dinged to show a successful capture.

Ash raised the pokeball in joy. He had finally got a fire-type pokémon. Fate was weird at times. He had thought he would get a fire-type when he had caught a Charmander only for the Charmander to die. He had vowed revenge for the Charmander and had succeeded. And his new fire-type pokémon was in fact Charmander's replacement on Damian's team. Life had turned full cycle for them.

A/N: And that's that. My longest chapter to date. A bit about this chapter. The training scene went on for longer than I had expected and I know the first half of the chapter may be a little dull as it has very little action. I wanted to write a scene from Umbreon's point of view as I want to highlight her change in personality after her evolution. This will come through more in later chapters as she struggles between her old sweet personality as an Eevee and the nastier personality of dark-type pokémon.

Don't read too much into Ash and Cynthia's interactions. They are two teenagers who have finally found an equal in each other, in their love for pokémon, their innate talent, and their desire to be the best. The both of them are teenagers and have a crush on each other, nothing more.

The pace will pick up slightly now as Ash will catch more pokémon and Team Rocket makes its presence felt. Yes, for those who think I have forgotten that Team Rocket attacks S.S. Anne, I have not. They will return with a vengeance.

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