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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6. Innocence Lost Part 1

Ash was in a jubilant mood as he prepared a sandwich for himself while his pokemon were eating their pokemon food in the bowls Ash laid out in front of them. And why wouldn't he be? Things had been looking up for him since the fiasco at Mt. Moon. His first pokemon evolved, he then went on to win his second badge, that too on his first try. Life was good for Ash and his pokemon and he meant to enjoy it for as long as he can.

For this reason, Ash had decided to take a slight detour on his journey. Instead of going south of Cerulean City towards Vermilion City, the destination of his next gym battle, he went north. North of Cerulean City are routes 24 and 25. These routes are generally empty because route 25 ends at the sea and there is really nothing much to do on these routes. This provided Ash with an opportunity to spend a couple of weeks with his pokemon, travelling and training, challenging the odd trainers that are on this path, and seeing the wild pokemon that lived here. He might capture a pokemon or two, but mostly, he just wants to spend time with his family without having to worry about battling nearby trainers.

Having reached the end of route 24, Ash thought that his decision had been inspired. Eevee, Dratini, and Floette had loved the chance to spend the entire day out of their pokeballs. The absence of battling had also allowed them to spend a lot more time training than they used to. While Ash had told them to take these two weeks off so as to not burn out, his pokemon were more fired up than ever to become stronger. The result of the battle at Mt. Moon still lingered on their minds and they had sworn to never feel that weak again. Seeing them this fired up had stoked Ash's fires up and after spending the first day admonishing his pokemon for overtraining, he took part in the training sessions with renewed vigour himself.

The main thing that stopped Ash from complaining too much was the obvious joy and contentment on the faces of his pokemon at the end of each day. While they trained more, they spent enough time fooling around with each other to compensate. And stopping every hour to train for a few minutes was fine with Ash. It allowed them to review their knowledge of a move, or to think of a new way to learn a new move, as the case may be.

Floette had benefitted a lot from spending time outside her pokeball. Since the move she was learning, Wish, was done by catalysing chemicals in her body to quicken her healing process, she could spend the entire day trying to find the correct combination of released chemicals that did their job with no loss of energy. Every time she thought she had it down, Ash would instruct one of his other pokemon to hit her with a weak attack, to see if the healing process began. The continuous training over a couple of days allowed her to master the move much quicker than Ash expected her to.

On seeing her learn Wish, Ash made the snap decision to finally give her a role in the team. So far, Pikachu is one who would use his speed and strong electric power to take down his opponents. Dratini would evolve to become his go to man of sorts, with him learning a lot of moves of different types. It would allow him to take out almost any opponent. Eevee's role would depend on the pokemon she decides to evolve into. Ash was still not sure what he wanted Floette to do, but he went on a limb and went with his gut.

He decided to make her the "tank" of the team. She would be the one who would either outright overpower her opponent, or she would wear them down, extending the battle, till they got tired, before defeating them. Basically, she would make the battle one of attrition instead of one of speed or power, and Wish gave her the perfect starting point to do so. While Floette's body is not made to withstand a lot of hits, she can recover from them using Wish. Now, Ash just had to make sure that she was hit less often. And he got her started on that by having her learn Double Team from Pikachu. Having Pikachu explain the concept behind the move and coaching her when she practiced it, Floette was well on her way to learning the move already.

Pikachu, on the other hand, was busy trying to master Thunderbolt. Even when Ash suggested that he learn another move alongside mastering Thunderbolt, he adamantly refused. While Ash kept saying that the loss against Starmie was his fault and not Pikachu's, he refused to listen. According to him, both were at fault for not checking whether Starmie was unconscious or not before celebrating. But, it was solely his fault for not defeating the Mysterious pokemon regardless of that. He had managed to get in a couple of hits before falling unconscious. If he was powerful enough, Starmie would have been knocked out in one. So, he adamantly refused to learn anything else before he mastered that damn move!

And he was slowly succeeding. His body was not yet used to producing or handling such massive amounts of electricity, which is why he gets weakened when he uses the move. Continuously strengthening his body every hour for the last few days was finally showing its worth as Pikachu could now fire six Thunderbolts before they took their toll on his body. He aimed to get to ten Thunderbolts before moving on to the next move.

Ash felt a surge of pride flowing through his body as Eevee finally formed a perfect Shadow Ball and launched it at a boulder, successfully forming cracks all over it. After weeks and weeks of work, Eevee had finally succeeded in her goal. And Ash could not be prouder. Of all his pokemon, she had chosen the toughest move to master and struggled through it to succeed. Even Thunderbolt, which Pikachu was mastering, came about due to absorbing the access amount of electricity discharged by the Electabuzz. Now, the attack just had to be battle tested. That was fine with Ash as Eevee already knew how to perform the move. Adjusting the power wouldn't take her too long.

Once Eevee learnt Shadow Ball, she wanted to decide her next move as well. But this time, Ash put his foot down. She was the weakest of his pokemon and Ash wanted to bring her to the level of the rest of them. He instructed her to learn Swift. In this move, the user shoots star-shaped rays at their opponent. The attack never misses. Ash had seen Staryu use the attack in the gym and he wanted Eevee to have such an attack.

So far, Eevee was able to get the concept behind the attack. She could even produce a single ray at her target. However, Swift relied on sending multiple rays at the opponent, so Eevee still had some way to go before mastering the move. But they immediately noticed the difference between learning Shadow Ball and learning Swift. Shadow Ball took almost two months to learn. In comparison, Swift will take barely a quarter of that time.

Another reason why Ash was so happy was that he finally got to use the gift he got from his mother on his birthday. The TM case. He went through the instructions again, not that he needed to since he had memorized them long before he left for his journey. He inserted the TM for Water Pulse in the slot and quickly downloaded it into the case. The case his mom bought for him was high end, and Ash could store up to ten TMs at a time. He then inserted Dratini's pokeball in the case, selected the link for Water Pulse, and started the upload.

The case worked by uploading the knowledge of the attack directly into the brain of the pokemon. While some trainers thought that was it, Ash knew that the pokemon didn't master the move immediately. The pokemon just knew the basics of the attack, it still needed to practice. The TMs just cut down the training time.

Ash had done the upload on the first day and told Dratini to practice the move afterwards. It was a good idea as the first time Dratini used the move, he produced a large wave, filling the clearing with water that rose to calf-level. Dratini had been almost knocked unconscious due to expending so much energy. Since then, he had practiced the move enough so that his Water Pulse had started to resemble the one Starmie used in the gym battle. Ash was pretty happy with his progress and knew that Dratini needed to spend only another day or two on that move.

Ash frowned as he was packing his bag to continue the journey when he noticed one of the packs of pokemon food missing. He always kept careful count of the food so that he'd know when it is about to run out. So he knew when one went missing.

"Guys, one of the packs of pokemon food is missing. I may have dropped it when I took out the food. Can you help me look for it?" Unfortunately, no matter how much they tried, they could not find it anywhere. Ash felt amused at the situation, though he had no idea why. After a futile half an hour of searching, they decided to move on.

This process continued for the next couple of days as well. Ash would find one of his packs of pokemon food missing and then he would feel amused when he was searching for it. The last part would always leave him confused. After all, why would he find amusement in missing food? However, right now, he felt amusement at his confusion as well. This had never happened before. With a jolt, he finally realized that the amusement he felt was not his own. Pondering over this, he started frowning as the pieces slowly fell into place. The missing food, the amusement he felt.

"Guys!" Ash snapped out. "A pokemon has been stealing our food. A psychic one if my guess is right. Be on guard! Don't let it escape us next time!" While he wasn't angry, the antics of the pokemon were annoying. He would have been happy to share the food with any wild pokemon. There's no reason to steal it!

Despite being on guard, the pokemon managed to evade Ash and his team that night as well. However, its luck ran out the next day during breakfast. Or so Ash thought. He was distracted from his breakfast by a shout from Pikachu.

"Pika, Pika!" He looked at Pikachu pointing at a bipedal pokemon that was primarily yellow in colour. It had a kite-shaped face, a pale yellow snout, and pointed ears. And a bag of pokemon food in its hands.

"Abra!" Ash shouted, on recognizing the psi pokemon. It just looked at Ash and teleported away. "Where did it go?"

"Vee, Eevee!" Eevee shouted as she started running towards the east. There, they could see Abra sitting and opening the bag of food. As Ash and his pokemon caught up with it, it looked at Ash and he suddenly felt amusement in his head again. Ash looked at the Abra wearily as the Abra was looking at Ash mischievously. He teleported away again.

Ash and his pokemon looked around for it again. And Ash felt his eyebrow twitch in annoyance when he saw the Abra sitting and eating his breakfast. At the exact same spot where Ash was eating his breakfast a minute ago. As Ash almost stomped to Abra, the Abra smiled at Ash and teleported again.

"Flo!" Floette shouted as she was the one to spot the elusive psi pokemon this time. This continued for another half hour as Abra kept teleporting away from Ash and his pokemon, always staying in viewing distance of them. It was annoying them to no end. Ash had never wished for one of his pokemon to know a move as fervently as he did now, as none of his pokemon knew Mean Look or Block, attacks that stopped a pokemon from teleporting.

Now, Abra was done with his breakfast and was waiting for Ash. Again, he felt amusement in his mind and this just irked him even more. "Okay, Abra. You've had your fun. Now, let us eat our breakfast in peace," he muttered out tiredly. The constant chasing for half an hour had sapped his energy. For Arceus' sake, he had not even had his breakfast yet.

The amusement in his mind spiked for a second when he finished that statement. Throwing an annoyed glance at the (he would swear it was smirking at him) psi pokemon, he started eating his cereal as his pokemon settled down to eat theirs. After finishing his breakfast and cooling down, he looked at the Abra who was sitting there peacefully. 'Wait, is it sleeping?' thought Ash, annoyed.

He then remembered that Abra was essentially like human babies, and needed to sleep 18 hours a day. An evil smirk crossed Ash's face as plans for revenge crossed his mind. "Pikachu, wake him up for me, will you?" he asked, the smirk still on his face.

"Pika, Pika!" Pikachu answered as the same evil smirk came on the faces of all his pokemon. Unfortunately, Pikachu had barely started charging his attack when Abra teleported away. 'Of course,' Ash mused. 'Telepathy. That's how I've been able to sense his emotions all this while.'

Abra had still not teleported too far, just enough distance to not be affected by Pikachu's attack. Ash walked up to it, and said, "Abra, wake up. I challenge you to a pokemon battle!" Ash was getting pumped. While he had been involved in a lot of battles, even one of life and death, he had never battled a wild pokemon with the intention of catching it yet. Pikachu was his starter and he had to convince the rest of them to join him in the Safari Zone.

The Abra opened its eyes and stared at Ash. It gave him a nod, but continued sitting there. Of course, it can't stand till it evolves. Ash took the nod as the Abra's acceptance of his challenge. "Eevee, let's go!"

"Vee!" she barked as she bounded forward. "Start with Quick Attack." She bounded forward in a burst of speed but found herself hitting nothing but thin air as the Abra teleported again. Eevee tried again, this time running with her tail glowing, but the result was the same. Another couple of attacks were dodged similarly, and it was then that Ash noticed Abra was not attacking back. He grimaced at his slow uptake as he remembered that Abra were peaceful pokemon that only knew Teleport to run away from danger.

Quickly spotting a pattern in Abra's movement, Ash decided to direct Eevee once again. "Get ready to charge a Shadow Ball. Attack it with a Quick Attack. Once it teleports, hit it with a Shadow ball immediately!"

Ash had noticed that Abra needed some time to teleport again. He wasn't sure if it was because he hadn't mastered teleporting every second yet, or if he tired himself out with the continuous teleporting he had done over the past half hour. As predicted, Abra could not teleport immediately after teleporting once and could only look on in despair as the super effective move barrelled into it. It cried out in pain as the ghostly energy coursed through its body before finally falling unconscious.

"Pokeball, go!" Ash shouted as he threw an empty pokeball at the fallen psi pokemon. The pokeball, on hitting Abra, burst open and sucked it in in a stream of red energy. The ball shut and fell down after which it shook a couple of times, before stopping with a ding. The red light that was flashing in the middle of the pokeball stopped, and Ash exulted in the joy of catching his first pokemon after a battle.

He petted Eevee on her head in congratulations. It was the first time that she had used Shadow Ball in battle and knocked out her opponent in one hit. While Abra may be weak against the move and it may be a weak pokemon in general, it was satisfying to see your efforts over a couple of months finally paying off.

Ash quickly released Abra and used a Revive followed by a Potion on it. Once Abra was looking healthy, Ash spoke to it. "Hello, Abra. My name is Ash Ketchum. First of all, are you feeling okay?" He wanted to make sure that Abra was healed properly before continuing his conversation. When Abra nodded, Ash started speaking to the Abra. He told it his dreams, what he expected of his pokemon, and what his pokemon could expect from him as a trainer. He ended it by asking Abra if he wanted to join him on his journey. Abra nodded and Ash felt satisfaction in his mind. Nodding happily, Ash took out his pokedex and pointed it at Abra to scan it.

Abra, the psi pokemon. Abra needs to sleep eighteen hours a day. If it doesn't, this pokemon loses its ability to use telekinetic powers. If it is attacked, Abra escapes using Teleport while it is still sleeping. This Abra is male and has the ability Synchronize. This Abra knows the move Teleport. This Abra knows the egg move Fire Punch, but it has not been unlocked yet.

"Welcome to the family, Abra!"

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Life with an Abra was…interesting. He slept for 18 hours a day, so training him was difficult. Ash decided to start teaching him Iron Tail, a move that three of his four pokemon knew. Since Abra won't be able to train for the crazy hours that the rest of his pokemon could, he would need all the help he could get. So, having Ash and three of his teammates train him was useful.

Other than that, he loved to learn, something Ash expected from the psi pokemon. Ash resolved to buy a few books for Abra to read the next opportunity he gets. If not learning new words from Ash or making his tail stronger to learn Iron Tail, he was fast asleep on Ash's back or trying to cause as much havoc as he possibly could. Like now, for example.

"Alright, Floette! Show me Double Team!" Ash was checking Floette's progression on the move. When Floette started building the energy for the attack, her concentration was destroyed by Abra teleporting. Right on top of her head! Floette gave a frustrated cry as she lost focus and Abra's amusement could be felt in everyone's mind.

"Abra!" Ash said sternly. He had been playing these pranks since Ash caught him. None of them were malicious, just annoying. Ash let them be since it was mostly during meal times. But this was the first time that Abra had done it during training and it seemed like Ash will have to set some boundaries.

"I don't mind you pranking, Abra. But there is a time and a place for everything. You can't do this when someone is training. Not only because I don't want you to interrupt their training session, but also because it is highly dangerous!"

Ash felt confusion coming from the Abra and the distinct thought of why echoed in his mind. Discarding the fact that Abra spoke his first word to Ash for later, he sought to clarify. "Floette was practicing Double Team. Even if it goes wrong, there's no harm done. But what if she was practicing a damaging attack? Considering the fact that they are learning the moves and don't have full control over them, the distraction could have caused Floette to lose control and really hurt someone, perhaps even critically! Now, do you understand why you need to have boundaries?"

Ash felt chagrin and sorrow in his mind as he again distinctly heard a sorry in his head. He sighed and put a hand on top of Abra's head. "It's alright, buddy. I know you were just looking for a laugh. And now that you know, you won't do it again, will you?"

As he saw Abra nod his head, Ash continued. "Anyway, let's put this past us! Two words popped up in my head that I know weren't my thoughts. Did you just speak to me?" he asked in amazement.

Little popped up in Ash's head again.

"So you can speak a word or two at a time, but not more than that?" Ash clarified.

Yes

"That's great, Abra. We'll work on that. Soon, we'll be having full conversations!" Ash was beyond excited at the prospect of talking to one of his pokemon. He knew such conversations would be impossible till Abra evolves into a Kadabra, but Ash was still excited. Maybe Abra could also let Ash know what the rest of his pokemon are feeling as well. Good times were waiting for Ash.

The next day passed the same way, as Ash finally left route 24 to enter route 25. Ash was exploring the forest to collect some firewood as he was in the mood to eat something warm for a change. While walking, he heard a group of people talking. He frowned as he recalled all of his pokemon other than Pikachu to their pokeballs. He'd had a bad incident a few days ago where a passing trainer saw his Dratini and Floette and tried to catch them. Since then, Ash had started recalling all his pokemon whenever he saw other trainers.

Walking to the group of people, Ash saw a bunch of boys surrounding another boy who was running on a treadmill. They were all his age and were wearing suits, much Ash's internal disgust. After all, who in their right mind would wear suits at their age? As he neared them, curious to see what was going on, he heard the group asking a bunch of questions to the boy on the treadmill.

"What is Caterpie's final evolution?" one asked.

"Metapod. No, Butterfree!" the boy on the treadmill huffed out.

"Need two tries for that, how pathetic!" one muttered. The same guy then continued. "At what level does Pidgey evolve?"

"Sixteen?" the boy on the treadmill asked apprehensively.

"Sixteen? What's wrong with you? You've been here for a year and you don't even know at what level a Pidgey evolves? Forget it, there's no helping you." With that said, the group of boys went to a building that was in a sprawling compound a few miles away, leaving the boy on the treadmill alone.

After seeing no one come to help the poor boy, Ash approached him. Ash couldn't help but feel bad for him after seeing him sitting all alone and hunched up like that. "Hey, are you okay?" Ash asked.

"Huh?" the boy looked around in shock, startled by the sudden question. "Oh yeah, I'm alright," he said, trying to show a smile on his face and failing miserably.

"Don't let those guys pull you down," encouraged Ash. "They're nothing more than a bunch of bullies."

"They're not," the guy defended. "They're my friends. They were just trying to help."

"Didn't look like that from where I'm standing," commented Ash. "What were they doing, anyway?"

"They were helping me prepare for my exams. I study in the Pokemon Technical Institute. It's a really expensive school, and my parents saved up a lot of money for me to attend it. And now I'm not doing too well. So, they were trying to help me prepare, as you probably heard."

"Whatever helps you sleep at night better," snorted Ash. "What's a level, anyway?"

"Huh?"

"They mentioned levels. At what level does a Pidgey evolve? What is a level you are referring to here?"

"You don't know?" the boy asked, aghast. "I thought you were a pokemon trainer!"

"I am," Ash scowled. "And one of my pokemon has evolved as well. But I don't know anything about levels. And I studied under Professor Oak!"

"How did you study under Professor Oak and not know what a level is? Basically, the more a pokemon wins, the more experience it gets. Increase in experience increases the level of a pokemon. After it reaches a particular level, it evolves. For example, a Pidgey evolves into a Pidgeotto at level 18."

Ash took in this explanation for a few seconds before he started laughing. Loudly.

"What is so funny?" the boy scowled.

"Hahaha, sorry. It's just that this is too funny. Who came up with this nonsense? First of all, a pokemon only gains experience by winning? A pokemon does gain some experience by winning, but it also gains experience by training. In fact, it gains the most experience when it loses as it always learns something from each loss. If a pokemon never loses, it will never learn and grow." Ash explained passionately.

"Pika, Pika!" Pikachu nodded at his trainer's words trying to make the boy understand how idiotic he was being.

"Well, this is what we were taught at our institute."

Ash held back a comment, he didn't want to insult the boy because he was taught wrong. He then commented on something else he noticed. "I heard you say Pidgey evolves at level 18. But when the other boys asked you that question, you got it wrong. Why did you do that?"

"Oh, that." Here, the boy got depressed again. "If I answer questions correctly, they just keep getting progressively harder."

Ash tried to make sense of that logic in his head, but failed to. In his opinion, he should be asked tougher questions. This way, his knowledge would increase. He kept his opinion to himself though, to each his own. He decided to question him about the institute itself.

"So, what is this Pokemon Technical Institute? What is its purpose? Oh, by the way, my name is Ash Ketchum." Ash introduced himself after realizing that he had forgotten to do so before.

"My name is Joe," the now named Joe replied. "The Institute is an alternative for trainers who don't want to go for the gym circuit. We study, give exams, and when we graduate, we get admission into the Pokemon League."

Ash opened his mouth, then shut it. While he thought that nothing can replace real life experience and the bonds one makes with his pokemon, he didn't want to criticise the Institute. Yet. He still had to see if they had a system that compensates for the trainer's lack of real life experience. So, when Joe offered to show Ash around the school, Ash jumped at the chance.

The Institute was impressive, Ash had to admit. The lush fields, the huge battleground, the machine that simulates different weather patterns and terrains to prepare the trainers for real life. All these thoughts in Ash's head grounded to a halt when Joe led Ash to a room he called the simulator room. Here, Joe went on to explain that it's not just one battle, but the overall skill as a trainer that determines success at the Institute. And that despite being one of the weakest students, Joe was better than any trainer with two badges. He then went on to a simulator which simulated a battle between Misty's Starmie and Joe's Weepinbell. The Weepinbell used Razor Leaf which knocked the Starmie out cold and ended the battle.

Ash was staring at the simulator incredulously trying to understand what just happened. He imagined Misty's expression when she found out about the simulator and how it "beat" her and couldn't help but burst out laughing.

"What's so funny?" Joe asked. His anger kept rising as instead of answering, Ash just kept on laughing. Every time it looked like he would stop, Ash would burst out laughing again. It didn't help that the little mouse pokemon on Ash's shoulder fell off because it was laughing just as hard as its trainer.

"What the hell, man? Will you two stop laughing!" Joe really was pissed now.

"Haha, sorry." Ash chortled. "It's just that hahahaha," Ash started laughing again. "Sorry, sorry. It's just that we've never seen anything as stupid as this before." He then proceeded to start laughing again. He envied Pikachu, who didn't have to stop laughing to explain something like that.

"This is not stupid. This simulator is used by the Institute to test how advance the students are. They are even used as a test to make students graduate!"

"Doesn't make it any less stupid!" Ash retorted. "How about I prove it? You said you're better than a trainer with two badges? Well, I have two badges myself. How about you prove how much better you are than me?"

"Gladly. You keep insulting our Institute. I'll show you just how good it is!"

Both trainers moved to the field where Joe took out a pokeball and released a Weepinbell. Probably the same Weepinbell that the one in the simulator was based on.

Ash took out his pokeball, and said. "Eevee, let's do this."

In a flash, Eevee stood ready for battle. Ash chose Eevee since he wanted to see how powerful Shadow Ball could be on a non-psychic type pokemon.

"You ready?" Ash asked.

"Ready when you are!" Both trainers nodded at each other and Joe started the battle. "Weepinbell, Razor Leaf!"

Ash just smirked and watched the battle unfold. Eevee easily dodged the leaves coming at her as she phased into Quick Attack. Before Weepinbell could react, it was sent flying back by Eevee. Ash had no need to give any instructions as Eevee followed that up by continuing the Quick Attack and hitting the Weepingbell again, successfully knocking it out.

Eevee walked up to Ash with her head high, almost strutting along the way. She jumped into Ash's arms where he proceeded to groom her just the way she liked it. He then looked at Joe, who was staring at the unconscious Weepinbell, in disappointment.

"Was that it? For all that talk about you being better than a trainer with two badges, your pokemon got knocked out so easily? For Arceus' sake, I didn't even need to direct my Eevee in battle!"

"How did I lose so easily? I know that I am better than a trainer with two badges."

"That's because you were so naïve!" A voice cuts in. Ash turns to see who it was, and his eyebrows rose at the admittedly beautiful girl walking to the field. She had brown hair that went to waist height and complimented her striking brown eyes well. As Ash was taking her in, she continued.

"Did you really think that your pokemon can compensate for your opponent's battle experience? People like you are a blight to this school and only bring its reputation down!"

On seeing Joe visibly cringe at her words, and revising his opinion of her, Ash cut in. "And who might you be?"

She smirked at Ash, and said. "I'm the top student in the beginning class of the most exclusive club in the world, Pokémon Tech. It's sad that others aren't blessed with my beauty, my talent, my humble attitude. People call me a star, but I'm just Giselle."

"Full of yourself, aren't you?" snorted Ash.

"And who do you think you are? You have a Pikachu on your shoulder instead of his pokeball. Maybe you don't know how to train your pokemon. It happens. After all, you're just a beginner."

An eyebrow rose in response to her mocking. While he would have shouted back at her in the past, Ash had grown up now. "You should not judge a person by what you see. If I did that, I would say that you are nothing but a spoilt brat who was too much of a coward to go on a pokemon journey like most trainers. Instead, you decided to take the easy way out and came here."

Ash would not be intimidated by her beauty. He had seen and interacted with more beautiful woman before. (The Waterflower sisters came to mind. They were in their bikinis as well!) Giselle's cheeks puffed out at Ash's words, as she angrily replied. "I did not coward out! This Institute is much better than going on any journey. Why don't you let me show you, or are you too much of a coward to accept my challenge?"

Ash smirked at getting what he wanted. He had not had any good battles since the second gym and he was itching for a fight. "Sure, bring it on. Let's see how the top student of the beginning class does. This Institute looks useless to me so far, let's see if you change that."

"Oh, I will. Go, Graveler!"

"Eevee, you up for another battle?"

She yipped in response and bounded forward excitedly. She could sense that the Graveler was much more powerful than the Weepinbell. And she had been itching to fight a rock-type pokemon since Ash had not chosen her to battle Brock in the first gym.

"Rollout!" Giselle exclaimed.

"Knock it into the sky! Iron Tail!" Ash countered. He had experience on how to deal with rock-type pokemon using Rollout by now. He knew that while Iron Tail would overpower the Rollout attack as of now, it would not do much damage to the Rock Pokemon. Eevee's tail glowed silver as she smacked her opponent into the sky, using an Iron Tail at full power.

"Graveler!" Gisele shouted in shock, not anticipating that counter.

"Shadow Ball!" Ash exclaimed. The Graveler was a sitting duck in the air and could only cry out in pain as the ghostly attack slammed into its middle. The explosion caused Graveler to fall down where it formed a small crater due to the force of the fall. Remarkably, it struggled to get up. Ash thought the battle was done then and there.

"Finish it, Eevee." She yipped in agreement as she once again phased into Quick Attack and used the momentum generated to smash another glowing tail into the wounded Graveler. This time, the Graveler was down for good as it fell back with swirls in its eyes.

"Great job, Eevee! Looks like all the work we put into learning Shadow Ball is finally paying off. You almost knocked out the Graveler with one hit! We'll have to experiment a bit more in other battles before finalizing the power expenditure needed."

"Vee! Eevee!" she yipped in return as she settled into Ash's arms again. She really liked being treated as a princess as she got Ash to pet her whenever she could. Looking at Pikachu, she showed her tongue to him making Pikachu roll his eyes in response.

"How?" Ash barely heard Gisele's soft question. It looked like she too was suffering from shock. "How did you beat me so easily? Graveler couldn't even touch your Eevee. Are you sure that you have only two gym badges? You can't be this strong and have only two badges!" she was sounding hysterical in the end.

"Yes, I have only two badges," Ash replied. "In fact, I won my second badge almost a week ago. And I can assure you that it was a hard-fought battle. To be completely blunt with you, your Graveler would have struggled to even beat Brock's pokemon if you were challenging him for your first gym badge. You may claim to be a powerful trainer and the best here, but in the real world, you would not last long with the attitude you have."

"What do you mean by that?" She asked. She looked bemused by Ash's words and Ash suddenly realised that this is probably the first time someone is speaking to her like this, so he decided to help her out. She reminded him of Gary, but she had a chance to change. Her arrogance came from being the best in the Institute and she just didn't know better.

"Well, you're cocky for one. Even powerful trainers like Misty and Brock, who are some of the best trainers in Kanto, do not have your arrogance. Second, if any wild pokemon attacked, you would lose. Did you really think that your opponent would just stand in one place and take your attack like it was in the simulator? This Institute will not prepare you for the League, it is just giving you people false hope."

"Is that so?" she grimaced. "I'm sorry if I came across as that arrogant to you. Everyone here praises me and looks to me to get stuff done and it's gotten to my head. Considering the ease with which you beat Graveler, I'm inclined to agree with you. Are there any other tips that you can give me?"

Ash stared at her for a few seconds, but she stared back determinedly. Accepting that she was being serious about learning from him and that she genuinely didn't know that she was being condescending, Ash decided to answer truthfully. "The most important part of being a trainer is the bonds you make with your pokemon." Here, he softly stroked both Eevee's and Pikachu's furs and continued. "Earlier, you said that I can't even control my pokemon enough to put him back in his pokeball. What you don't realise is that Pikachu doesn't want to be in his pokeball. In fact, he hates it. Which is why I don't force him to go back in. Pokemon are living creatures, they have their own thoughts and feelings as well. If you don't accept that and just treat them as pets that you use to battle, you'll never get far as a trainer. I consider each of my pokemon as my family. You should too."

Gisele ruminated over his words and then nodded her head in agreement. "I never realised that. Here in the Institute, while the pokemon are not treated badly, they are not shown the affection you have for your pokemon. Is there really a connection between the bond a pokemon has with its trainer and its power?"

"There is. Professor Sycamore from Kalos is supposed to be studying it. But it is a widely accepted fact, Gisele. Ask any gym leader, any Elite Four member, or any professor. They would all tell you the same."

"You have given me a lot to think about, Ash." Gisele had a troubled look on her face. Ash didn't blame her. He had just come and showed her that all her beliefs were false. "I don't really know what to do."

"You don't need to decide so early. You've had a major shock today. Think it over and then decide. That goes for you as well, Joe. I can see that you want to leave the Institute and start your own journey. Don't make any hasty decisions that you'll regret later."

"I will, Ash. Thank you for everything you have done," replied Joe.

"Yes, thank you Ash." Gisele smiled softly at the boy. "You've helped us a lot."

Ash's response was cut off by his stomach which decided that this would be an appropriate time to make a sound that resembled the mating call of a whale. Ash sheepishly rubbed the back of his head as he remembered that he had wandered into the forest in search of wood to make a fire to eat.

"Hehe, sorry about that. I was really hungry when I bumped into Joe and haven't eaten anything since then."

Ash's embarrassment deepened as he heard Joe's boisterous laugh and Gisele's amused giggles. He glared at Pikachu and Eevee, who had joined them in laughing. "Traitors!" he mock-scowled.

"You can have lunch here if you want," offered Gisele as she got her giggles under control. "Your pokemon need to be fed as well," she giggled again as Pikachu's and Eevee's stomachs rumbled out loud.

"I would love to," Ash accepted with a smile, and then smirked at Pikachu and Eevee who glared back in reponse. Over the bratty behaviour, Gisele was a nice girl once you get to know her. It helped that she was really pretty as well, Ash thought with a slight blush, which he hoped was unseen by anyone else.

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After a pleasing lunch with Gisele, Ash resumed his journey, once again releasing all his pokemon. A couple of days rolled by in a similar fashion to before. Pikachu was getting closer to mastering Thunderbolt to his satisfaction as his tally of continuous bolts rose to seven. The number of clones Floette could make of herself increased, but still not close to the copies Pikachu could make of himself. Eevee improved the number of star-shaped rays she could shoot and Dratini's Water Pulse was looking very similar to Misty's Starmie's attack, showing that he should master the move either today or tomorrow. And Abra was….sleeping soundly on Ash's back as the trainer oversaw his pokemon's training session. In short, a normal day for Ash and his pokemon, or so he thought. Little did he know that the day was going to take a turn for the worse very soon.

"Great job, everyone!" Ash praised his pokemon after another tough but short workout session, the ones they had every hour or so these days. They continued their journey with Dratini and Eevee talking to each other. Ash had no idea what they were talking about, but it must be important as they were completely engrossed in the discussion.

Floette seemed to have picked up the mischievous nature of Abra as she was using her vines to annoy Pikachu. Ash snickered as she picked Pikachu up and dropped him in a puddle. Pikachu sent an annoyed glare at the fairy pokemon and he retaliated with a mild shock in return. Floette was quick to twirl out of the way and went over to Eevee and Dratini to bother them. Pikachu shook himself like a dog and trotted beside his trainer.

The peaceful atmosphere was broken by the leaves of a nearby bush rustling. All of Ash's pokemon immediately became wary as they stared at the bush with guarded expressions. Their expressions remained the same as a Bulbasaur came crashing out of a bush. Ash's internal celebration at the prospect of finding a wild Bulbasaur were cut short when he saw the condition the Bulbasaur was in. Bile crept up Ash's throat as he stared at the injuries on the Bulbasaur. Bruises littered its body and there were burn marks all over as well. The bulb on Bulbasaur's back was half burnt off and he saw that there were cuts all over as well, making it bleed.

"What the fuck happened to you?" he asked aghast. His pokemon all surrounded the Bulbasaur trying to comfort it. Ash immediately reached for the medicines he had stored in his bag as he removed one of everything. He had no idea what to do to help the Bulbasaur, its injuries were too vast for a trainer to deal with. What the Bulbasaur needed was a certified pokemon doctor. As he took out an empty pokeball to put the poor pokemon in stasis so that he could rush it back to the pokemon centre, it started speaking to his pokemon rapidly.

As Ash approached it rapidly to tell it to not speak to conserve energy, he was surprised to see all his pokemon telling him to back off. He tried to tell them that he was going to catch the Bulbasaur to help it, but his pokemon refused to listen! His frustration was cut off as Ash got the now common feeling of Abra touching his mind.

"Trainer. Bulbasaur village. Lots pokemon. Heal. Girl doctor. Men black. R. Attack village. Hurt. Steal. Force. Girl. Help." Abra also sent along some images to Ash to better help him understand.

This was the longest that Abra had ever spoken to Ash. Due to the disjointed English, and having never communicated through images before, it took Ash a couple of seconds to understand what Abra was trying to tell him. His blood boiled and he was about to rush in. Looking at his pokemon, they felt the same. However, a sudden onrush of memories stopped him. Flabebe screaming in pain as a pink blur attacked her. A bruised Pikachu getting smashed by a Hyper Beam. Excruciating pain in his neck where the Crobat bit him. He remembered the consequences of rushing in and had learnt from his mistake.

He took out his PokeNav and dialled a number. "Come on, come on! Pick up the phone! Pick up the Arceus damned phone!" Ash muttered as the phone kept ringing.

"Ash?" A familiar voice said. "I didn't expect you to call me so soon. Did your Dratini evolve? Do you need any help with her?" the voice boomed. Ash had called the Champion of the Kanto and Johto regions. Lance had put his number in Ash's pokenav himself, and this was the first time Ash used it. He was too shy to call Lance before but the circumstances now said otherwise.

"Lance!" Ash shouted out loud. "Thank Arceus you picked up. Listen, there's an emergency!"

Ash didn't know if it was the panic in his voice that convinced Lance or if he was just good at reading situations as his jovial expression immediately turned serious. Gone was the man who was a sort-of friend of Ash's. In his place was the Champion, the most powerful trainer in Kanto and one of the most powerful trainers in the world.

"I'm listening, Ash. Tell me everything from the beginning.'

And Ash did. "I'm on route 25 currently, exploring the area. The journey was interrupted by a Bulbasaur that came across my path. I've never seen a pokemon this badly injured before! Here, take a look!" At this, Ash tilted the PokeNav so that Lance could see the Bulbasaur.

"I can see why you called me, Ash. The Bulbasaur needs a doctor, pronto! Just send me the coordinates of where you are, I'll send someone immediately!"

"Wait!" Ash shouted in panic, thinking that Lance was going to cut the call. "I was going to catch the Bulbasaur to put it in stasis till it reached a pokemon centre, but my pokemon stopped me after listening to what the Bulbasaur had to say! I captured an Abra recently and while he cannot talk fluently through telepathy, he conveyed what the Bulbasaur wanted to tell me!"

"What is it, Ash? The Bulbasaur needs help right now, can it wait till it is healed?"

"NO! The Bulbasaur is a part of some village here where a girl heals wild pokemon! There are a lot of wild pokemon there, it's like a paradise for them. Team Rocket found out about the place and attacked! A lot of the wild pokemon were hurt and were being kidnapped. Bulbasaur got so badly injured trying to help the doctor. The Team Rocket members were trying to ra….they were trying to raaa…" Ash tried to say the word, but was choking up, unable to talk further.

"ENOUGH!" Lance boomed. Ash looked over at the Champion and had to take a step back in fear. The dragon master was radiating fury, the likes of which Ash had never seen before. His eyes were hard as steel and they glowed slightly, reminding Ash of the time Dratini was angry in Mt. Moon. "Send me your coordinates now. Try to help the Bulbasaur as much as you can till then!" with that, Lance cut the call.

Ash wasted no time in sending Lance the coordinates of his location. He then shut his PokeNav and approached the Bulbasaur, who was barely conscious at this point. Hating himself for adding to its pain, Ash sprayed a Full Heal, a Revive, and a few potions on it. The Bulbasaur whimpered as its wounds stung, but Ash persisted. He missed a wound completely and realised that his hand was shaking. Using extreme willpower, Ash got himself under control and continued his treatment.

So lost in his thoughts was Ash that he jumped a foot in the air when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up to see Lance and a legion of Ace Trainers behind him. He realised that he recognised someone else as Agatha strode towards the two of them. Ash involuntarily took a step back at the aura she was emitting.

"Ash! Ash! Ash!" he was jerked out of his reverie as he realised that Lance was speaking to him. "Give Bulbasaur to them," he pointed at two Nurse Joys who were also a part of the group.

"Bulbasaur," the champion continued. "We're here to help your trainer. Rest now. Know that she will be in safe hands." He spoke gently.

"Saur! Bulba, Bulbasaur!" Bulbasaur said weakly as it shook its head.

"Wants. Stay. Trainer. Direct you. Other injured." Abra translated in Ash's mind.

"The Bulbasaur is saying that it will not leave its trainer's side. It will show us where the village is. There are other pokemon who would need Nurse Joy's help as well," Ash spoke for the first time in a while and realised that his voice was shaking. Pikachu jumped on his shoulder and rubbed its paws on Ash's cheeks. It was then that Ash realised that he was crying.

"Okay, give it to us. The sooner we finish this, the sooner we'll be able to heal it. You stay here." Lance spoke as he realised the futility of trying to convince the Bulbasaur to do otherwise. Its loyalty to its trainer was amazing. And why wouldn't it be? Lance mused to himself. If what the Bulbasaur says is true, its trainer heals wild pokemon for a living. What an amazing person.

Lance was taken out of his thoughts by the glares being directed at him by Ash and his pokemon. Even the Abra, whose eyes were normally closed, was glaring at him. "Okay, fine. Come along. But you will stay at the back. No fighting here, leave that to us. Do you understand?"

"But what if you guys need help?" Ash tried to argue.

Their conversation was interrupted as Agatha spoke for the first time. "Kid, do you really think that you will be able to help if Lance and I are struggling? No offense, but you have been a trainer for two months. Regardless, we won't need your help. Of that, I can personally assure you." As she finished, the ominous aura surrounding her increased tenfold and Ash was not the only one who took a step or ten back in fear. He gulped and nodded.

Now that the conversation was over, they left for the village. Abra translated Bulbasaur's directions and Ash told them to the group as they ran to the village. The two Nurse Joys ran alongside Ash doing their best to heal the Bulbasaur. They just hoped that they would make it there in time.

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Ash was feeling numb. His pokemon were surrounding him and they all looked depressed. Normally, Ash would be doing his best to comfort them, but he himself had no idea what to say. He was staring at the object of their depression in shock. He still could not believe what happened.

Ash's shock slowly went away. The numbness left him as well. They were replaced by a myriad of emotions. Anger was the first as it crept through his body. It burned hot swallowing Ash as he was forced to release some of it as he punched the ground hard. Repeatedly. He paid no mind to his bleeding hand as he continued to punch the ground in anger.

Soon, that left him as well and it was replaced by pain. Not physical pain from the injuries on his hand, but emotional pain. It felt like a hand had crept inside him and started squeezing his innards. He felt choked. He started heaving as he felt like enough oxygen was not getting inside his body.

The anger returned. This time, it had found its cause. Himself. Guilt immediately crept in as well, combining with his anger, leaving him with pulling at his hair. These feelings peaked as questions burned Ash's mind. Why? Why did this happen? Wasn't he strong enough? Why did he have to wait for Lance and the others? Why didn't he rush in himself? If he did, would the outcome have changed? After all the lectures he gave Joe and Gisele, was he the trainer who was absolutely useless? A fist made its way to the ground as he buried it into the ground with full power, the self-loathing becoming too much.

'I'll become a Pokemon Master!' A seven-year-old version of himself told his mother.

He snorted. Master? He wasn't even fit to call himself a trainer.

'Professor! This Pidgey is injured. Can you heal it?' asked a four-year-old Ash.

'Where did you find it, Ash? Anyway, it's hardly injured. It will be okay after a night's rest,' replied Professor Oak.

'Are you sure? It's in pain. Can't you take it away?'

'I'm sure, Ash. You really care about pokemon, don't you?'

'Of course, Professor! I won't let a pokemon remain injured as long as I can help it!' he finished cheerfully.

His fist slammed into the ground again as the memory from ten years ago came to the surface of his mind.

'I'll make sure this never happens again. I'll never be helpless in the face of Team Rocket!' a thirteen-year-old Ash said as he laid on a hospital bed in the pokemon centre at the base of Mt. Moon.

The fists kept punching the ground again as Ash thought of another promise he had broken. The motion stopped as the self-loathing was replaced by grief. He shouted out loud in pain and anger, unable to cope with his inner turmoil. He was startled out of his thoughts when he felt a massive hand on his shoulder. He looked up to see Lance staring at him, his anger at the situation clearly visible on his face. A Dragonite stood next to him, the same anger reflected in its eyes.

The Dragonite lumbered over to Ash's pokemon as Lance sat down next to him. "Let it out, Ash. Let it all out," he said.

"What?" Ash asked weakly, not understanding what Lance was saying, his mind muddled. He was once again startled by the keening of the Dragonite. The grief in its voice stirred something in Ash as he remembered what had happened when they reached the village.

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