Essence

Ash has always wanted to be a pokemon master. When the time comes for him to pick out his first pokemon, he shocks Professor Oak with a peculiar request. One thing leads to another, and he ends up with a loyal Growlithe. How will this unique situation affect the boy's destiny?

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11113835/1/Essence

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1. Kanto 1 Part 1

He took a deep breath to calm himself down as he entered the professor's lab. This was the moment he had been waiting for. For the majority of his short life, he had dreamt of the day that he would start his journey as a pokemon trainer. That journey was about to begin; therefore, it only made sense that his emotions were jumbled together in what felt like one giant knot of hyperactive confusion.

The boy only had a short moment to take in the familiar scenery of the well-organized laboratory before he was greeted by one of the professor's assistants. He recognized the tall, greasy haired man as the assistant that supervised the Trainer Qualification Exam a couple of months ago.

"Nice to see you again, Ash," the man spoke with a quiet tone and a bland expression.

Ash desperately tried to remember the assistant's name, but had no luck. He reached out to shake the man's hand as he truthfully replied, "Same to you. I'm embarrassed to say this, but could you remind me of your name?"

The assistant scratched the back of his head as he sighed. "The names Thomas. I can't blame you there; the only person working at this lab with a recognizable name has the damn building named after him."

Even though he could see the truth in the statement, Ash simply ignored the comment not knowing how to respond. The only famous name out of Pallet was the good, old Professor Samuel Oak, which was something Ash was hoping to change.

The assistant scientist led Ash through the main hall of the lab, which was embellished with all sorts of fancy scientific equipment and pokemon apparel. They slowly approached a door in the way back of the hall that oozed confidentiality. Oak's assistant, Thomas, timidly knocked on the door. Moments later, a lively elderly voice rambunctiously answered.

"Come in, the doors always open!"

Ash's thoughts quickly erased any impression of confidentiality that he had picked up on moments earlier.

Once they entered the new room, the dark-haired boy immediately recognized the owner of the cheery voice as Professor Oak. The professor hastily pushed aside whatever paper work he was attending to before jumping up from his desk to greet Ash.

"Goodness gracious, Ash, you're thirty minutes early," said the professor. "I thought I clearly stated nine o'clock on the email I sent your mother."

Thomas subtly took this as his cue to leave Ash in the hands of his boss. He exited the room quietly and shut the door behind him.

The dark-haired boy gave the professor a slight smile before replying, "Come on, professor, give me a break. I was too excited to wait. Besides, have you ever known me to be late for anything?"

The professor merely shook his head in a manner that portrayed disconcertion. He expected nothing less from his grandson's childhood friend. Nevertheless, Ash's sense of responsibility always impressed him.

"Your character never seizes to be refreshing, Ash," jeered the professor. "Although, in order for things to be fair, I can't present the starters until the specified time."

The newly eligible pokemon trainer flashed the professor an inquisitive look, "But, professor, would it be unfair if I chose not to pick from the three standard Kanto elemental starters?"

The professor raised a curious eyebrow, "Elaborate please?"

Ash suppressed a jolt of excitement while being careful not to get too carried away. If he knew the professor, and he did, he was one good explanation away from getting what he wanted.

"I want a journey of excitement; it doesn't make sense for me to start the same way everyone else does," said the boy passionately. "Nothing against the Kanto starters, but I'd like to be different."

Oak hadn't had a request like this in quite some time. The professor thought it over for a brief moment before giving an answer, "Well, I suppose that would be alright. What do you have in mind, Ash?"

Ash didn't hesitate, "That depends on what you got?"

The professor placed his hand under his chin, making it obvious to Ash that he was mulling over different possibilities. "Well, we're never short on pidgey?"

Ash quickly declined, "No, I'll catch one myself. Besides, I don't like the idea of having a flying-type as my starter."

Oak didn't take too long to spit out another option. "I think there are a few young nidoran. You can pick from either gender?"

Once again, Ash thought it over for a brief moment before declining. "I'll pass. I like nidoran, but I'd rather have my starter be a little less rash."

"Understandable; loyalty and compatibility are very important when you first start out," replied the professor.

Unfortunately, Ash could tell that Professor Oak wasn't sure how many more suitable options he had. He mentally pictured himself walking out of the building with several unseemly starters before he saw an enlightened expression on the professor's lived-in mug.

"If loyalty is what your looking for, Ash, my arcanine just hatched a couple of growlithe pups a few months ago," stated the professor with a smirk.

Ash listened to the professor intently.

"I was planning on giving one to Gary as a late birthday present. I suppose you could have the other," offered the professor.

Ash nearly jumped out of his shoes in excitement at the idea of having a growlithe of his own. He had always admired Professor Oak's arcanine. It was one of many pokemon that Ash, and his best friend Gary, grew up playing with. The dark-haired boy also was aware that the species was typically brave and faithful, which was the type of characteristics he wanted in his starter. Before he could make a decision, though, he would have to meet the young fire-type canine.

"Can I meet it first, professor?" asked Ash, delighted by the suggestion.

Professor Oak smiled, approving of Ash's request. Oak reached into the side pocket of his pristine, white lab coat and took out some sort of miniature, mechanical mechanism that resembled a key. He told Ash to wait where he was and walked out of the room. A few minutes later, the professor returned holding a red and white spherical device. It was perfectly symmetrical, designed in such a way that one half was red and the other was white. The two halves were scrupulously meshed together by a streak of black that lined it's way around the circumference of the ball. The release button was located in the center of the carefully constructed figure.

The professor warned Ash to take a few steps back while he wasted no time in releasing the growlithe from the confines of its pokeball. Ash wiped off the sweat that anticipation had produced upon his forehead, and gazed at the resulting flash of bright, white light emitted by the release. The incandescent light faded, leaving a medium-sized, quadruped pup in its stead. The pup had an orange coat with beautiful black stripes that barred across its back and legs. The long regal fur on its head and chest matched the off-white creamy color of its tail.

The growlithe immediately felt Ash's presence and cocked its head slightly to the side. It looked Ash over curiously with its lambent, grey eyes.

Ash adamantly looked Growlithe in its eyes by the use of his own. He would admit that he didn't have an extensive amount of knowledge on the loyal fire-type, but he knew enough to understand that in order to procure Growlithe's allegiance smoothly, he needed to gain its respect. Ash always felt that respect and first impressions often relied upon each other. A good first impression usually led to respect. A prior lack of respect for another, based off of assumption, usually tainted a first impression.

Without breaking eye contact, Ash crouched down and signaled Growlithe over to him.

The intensity in the dark-haired boy's deep brown eyes caused Growlithe to hesitate momentarily. Nevertheless, it didn't take long for the young pokemon to recognize the care in the boy's posture. The boy had brought his body down to nearly eye level, making sure that the first encounter was on equal terms. Growlithe saw this and recognized it as a good-hearted gesture. Most of his experiences with humans made him out to feel inferior.

This one was different. The boy was thoughtful.

The growlithe decided that it was safe to get closer. It slowly made its way towards the young boy, desiring the child's will power. But...it was not quite yet ready to submit.

Ash made the decision to let down his guard, softening his facial expression with a smile. He slowly reached out his hand, and gently ran his fingers through the soft creamy colored tuft that sprouted from the growlithe's head.

Growlithe didn't resist, allowing the human boy to do as he pleased. All anxiety was put to rest when it saw the boy's friendly grin.

While petting the young growlithe, Ash turned his attention back to the professor.

"Professor, if it's okay with Growlithe, I would love to start my journey with it by my side," said Ash, with a smile. "I think we would will make a great team."

Growlithe caught on to what was happening and wagged his tail in excitement. This human boy had all the properties of a good companion. Maybe he could be to him, what Professor Oak was to his mother. Growlithe broke any boundary of personal space with a lick of approval to Ash's face.

Professor Oak didn't need any further convincing. Growlithe were born understanding human speech, so he knew that there wasn't a communication error. It was obvious that the young fire-type had no problem being Ash's partner.

Oak couldn't help but smile at the two newly acquainted friends.

"I think it would be an injustice if you had any other starter," said the professor. "I approve your request. You may have him."

Ash gave Growlithe a big hug of acceptance. Growlithe returned the act of affection with another lick to Ash's face, resulting in a room full of laughter.

Professor Oak finished the acquisition by registering Growlithe's pokeball under the name Ash Ketchum, along with providing the newly registered trainer with five empty pokeballs and a starter pokedex—activated through Ash's newly acquired trainer account. In addition, Professor Oak gave a brief review of some of the basic functions of the pokedex. There was no need to go in depth, since preknowledge of the tablet sized supercomputer was needed in order to qualify as a trainer.

Last of all, Oak handed Growlithe's pokeball to Ash.

"Alright, Ash, your all set," said the professor. "I would like for you to return Growlithe as you exit through the main lab. However, I think it would be a good idea to release him as soon as you exit...that way you two can get to know each other better."

Ash agreed with the professor and asked Growlithe if he would be okay with going back into his pokeball for a little bit. Growlithe didn't seem to hate the idea, so Ash returned him.

Professor Oak walked Ash back to the entrance of his lab. He proceeded to ask Ash to give him a call when he reached Viridian City. Given that it's the only rational way to go, all trainers starting in Pallet Town traveled to Viridian City at the beginning of their journey.

Ash nodded his head in agreement, respecting the professor's wishes.

As Ash exited the building with his very first pokemon resting in the lone pokeball attached to his belt, the professor and the newly registered trainer said there goodbyes.

XXX

Ash and Growlithe cheerfully walked down Pallet's dirt path together. Before they could set off to Viridian City, they had to stop by Ash's house. He still had to pick up his backpack and say goodbye to his mother.

Since the walk from the lab to his house was decently long, he decided that now was as good a time as ever to become more acquainted with his starter. He figured the best way to do that would be to share everything he could about himself. The dark-haired trainer shared his goals and desires. He told Growlithe about how he aspired to be a pokemon master. He admitted that he wasn't quite sure what that looked like yet, but figured a good place to start would be Kanto's Gym Circuit.

Amongst the many things Ash had told Growlithe, the piece of information that stood out to the canine the most was Ash's goals for his pokemon. Ash was extremely passionate about potential. He felt that any pokemon he caught needed to be trained to reach its limit. He desired that by the time he retired as a trainer, he would be able to tell all of his pokemon that he tried his very hardest to make them the best he could. This was an attitude Growlithe could get behind. Most trainers desired to strengthen themselves; the best trainers pursued the strength of their pokemon.

Ash also explained to Growlithe how unique it was to start with a member of his species. He did his best to ensure that Growlithe understood that things would be fun, but not easy. Both of them needed to give their maximum effort. Ash expected Growlithe to be a leader amongst his future friends.

Growlithe yearned for the challenge. He wanted to take Ash to the top. He wanted to be the Pokemon Master's powerful starter.

Growlithe promised himself to do everything within his power to create that reality. Ash wanted to raise Growlithe to an elite level. That way, one day, Growlithe could be recognized as the strongest arcanine in the world.

The two new friend's conversation was cut short right in front of Ash's house. There was a massive group of people who he recognized as several of his neighbors. They hoisted large poster board signs reading his name and wore all kinds of ridiculous accessories. It didn't take long for Ash to recognize the woman in charge. It was his mom.

He instantly felt like turning around and walking the opposite direction, but elected to face the embarrassment head-on instead of insulting his mother.

She turned around just in time to see her son approaching. He was supposed to be at the lab, so she was initially surprised. However, it didn't take long for her to figure out why he was already back. That question was answered by the cute little growlithe that was following him. She was slightly bummed that she wouldn't get to surprise her son at the lab. But, she quickly discarded any negative thoughts. She could never be upset at the sight of her baby.

After taking a closer look, she noticed that Ash was wearing the outfit that she had put together for him a couple of days ago. The dark gray pants and black, long-sleeved shirt looked rather good together. She wished he would keep his hair combed for once, but unfortunately, that was a fools dream. Ash never went anywhere without his tattered, old Pokemon League cap.

"Mom, what's going on?" asked the young boy as he neared his mother.

She waved off the neighbors as she stepped up to greet her son.

"We were going to go to the lab to see you off," she smirked. "Come on, Ashy, you know that if I do something, I do it big."

Ash couldn't help but laugh.

"That's true I guess," he looked at the neighbors and mentally chuckled at what they were wearing. "Was it really necessary this time, though; and why are they dressed like that?"

The neighbors shook their heads, not knowing the answer to that question themselves. Delia Ketchum had a way of getting what she wanted...when she wanted it.

His mother simply disregarded the question and brought her attention back to Growlithe.

"Ash, don't be rude. Please introduce me to your friend," requested his mother.

The dark-haired trainer introduced Growlithe and his mom to each other. He then proceeded to fill his mother in on everything that had happened at the lab. His mom listened, all the while, she was bent over running her fingers gently through the cream colored tuft of fur atop Growlithe's head.

Growlithe could see where Ash's thoughtfulness came from. His trainer's relationship with his mother reminded him of his own.

Ash's attention shifted when he realized that his mom was wearing his backpack.

Delia caught onto her son's change of focus, and took off the pack and handed it to him.

They packed for this journey the other day. He had made sure to pack all that he could for his first trip to Viridian, and his mother made sure he didn't forget anything important.

Delia smiled, "You packed well, the only thing I needed to add was a couple more clean pairs of underwear."

Ash's face lit up to a vibrant, tomato red. He waved his arms back and forth frantically as he shouted, "Mom, how many times have I told you!? Please don't say things like that in public!"

Ash could hear the remaining neighbors snicker. They would miss this: the mother and son comedic duo that never got old. Their humor was one of the many reasons that they were loved by everyone in town.

The mood changed from lighthearted to solemn like the flip of a switch. Goodbyes between mother and son seemed to have that kind of effect. There was no longer a reason for Ash to go inside. Now that he had his backpack, it was time for them to be on their way.

Part of her wished that Ash could stay home forever, but he was ten now. So young, but old enough to see the world for himself.

Change was hard...

Ash's mother was now in tears as she embraced her son with a tight hug. He did his best not to cry. Ash had always felt uncomfortable crying in front of other people, especially his mom. Besides, he knew that if he were to shed a single tear, his mother would probably completely break down in public.

Before Ash could leave, Delia bent down to say goodbye to Growlithe. The look she had on her face portrayed seriousness, "Growlithe, I expect you to take good care of my son."

The puppy pokemon barked firmly to reassure her that he would take good care of Ash. He wouldn't be able live with himself if he let the strong-willed woman down.

His mother then brought her gaze back to Ash.

"You're not off the hook either, Ash," she spoke to both of them, "you guys are partners now. You need to take care of each other."

The two friends nodded in agreement, understanding that they both had a brand new responsibility. It was a responsibility that depended on them working together to strengthen their teamwork and grow as individuals.

Ash gave his mother one more big hug before saying goodbye one last time.

His mother excused the remaining neighbors, and blew Ash a kiss, before going back inside her home.

Ash and Growlithe continued once again down Pallet's dirt path. They headed north towards Viridian City.

XXX

Ash and Growlithe had just about reached the edge of town when Ash heard a familiar voice coming up from behind.

"Ashy-boy, wait up!" yelled Gary Oak as he closed the gap in between he and his friend.

Gary was the grandson of Professor Oak as well as Ash's best friend. Ash turned around to find a panting Gary. The brown haired boy was bent over, breathing heavily, while grasping his knees.

"Shouldn't you be at the lab, Gary?" Ash asked dryly.

After taking a moment to catch his breath, the brown haired boy replied, "Um, I would be, but someone decided to set off on his journey without a proper goodbye."

Ash had actually thought about that before he left, but figured they'd run into each other sooner or later. His friend Gary tended to be a little bit over dramatic.

"I wanted to get a head start," said Ash with a shrug.

Gary crossed his arms with a scowl, "It looks to me like you went to the lab early to make a special request."

The brown haired boy transitioned his attention from Ash to Growlithe, "So Gramps let you take one of the new Growlithe pups, how'd you talk him into that?"

Ash smiled, "Well, I went to the lab early to see if I could start with something different..."

He then bent down and pet his new friend, "I wasn't expecting a growlithe, though. Your grandpa was generous enough to let me start with this little guy."

Gary's scowl turned into a smirk, "Well, if you want my opinion, I think you made the right choice. You guys look like your already comfortable around each other."

Ash nodded, "Yeah, Growlithe's a great pokemon. I can't wait to start training him."

The puppy pokemon would have blushed if he were capable. He really lucked out. He was going on a journey with a human that meshed with him perfectly. That was practically every pokemon's dream. But, he was also slightly lost by the conversation. Ash had yet to talk about Gary at all, so Growlithe was curious to learn about this human that Ash treated like a brother.

"Gary, shouldn't you get to the lab. What are you going to do if someone chooses the starter you want?" asked Ash.

Gary sighed, "Oh please, Ashy-boy. I called ahead of time and told Gramps which one I want."

Gary flashed Ash a cocky grin, "Do you really think I, the great Gary Oak, would let the pokemon I want slip through my fingers?"

The dark-haired boy laughed.

"You've always been dramatic," Ash continued, "I guess something's never change."

Gary flipped his hair before answering, "I try not to change what should always stay the same."

Ash changed the subject, "How do you feel about a battle in Viridian? I hear the gym leader only takes challenges if you have seven badges."

Gary attentively was listening.

"Since there is no gym battle, it would be nice to have some kind of challenge to kick start our journey," said Ash.

Ash's eyes met Gary's and radiated with intensity. Gary didn't back down and leered right back at his best friend.

Gary reached out a hand, "Challenge accepted! Ash Ketchum, we will always be best friends, but today marks the beginning of our rivalry as trainers."

Ash confidently smirked as he firmly grasped his friend's hand, "Couldn't have said it better myself."

Gary crouched down to Growlithe's level.

"And you, my friend, need to get strong. You're Ash Ketchum's starter after all," he chuckled, "that makes you Gary Oak's number one threat."

He patted him on the head, "Besides, Ash is going to put you in some tough situations. Trust me, I've been covering for his ass for almost ten years."

Ash rolled his eyes, "Don't listen to this joker, Growlithe. I'm the one thats always been doing the covering. "

The boys glared at each other—only to burst out into laughter moments later. They exchanged a little more friendly small talk before deciding that it was finally time to go their separate ways. Ash and Gary wished each other good luck and then headed in separate directions.

Before Gary could get too far, Ash turned around quizzically, "Gary, I forgot to ask, what pokemon did you reserve?"

The brown haired boy stuck his tongue out and snickered, "Nice try, Ashy-boy! But, you're going to have to wait until our match."

The two boys turned back around and continued walking toward their destinations. Although their paths were momentarily different, the two young boys were both thinking along the same lines. They would give the world something to get excited about. One day, they would battle in front of everyone—and it would be legendary.

Growlithe was just as excited as the two boys. He had a feeling that Gary would be one of their biggest obstacles. Good thing he thirsted for such a challenge.

Before stepping past town limits, the young boy and his Growlithe stopped and looked back at Pallet one last time. It would be a long time before they returned home.

XXX

Ash and Growlithe were around halfway between Pallet and Viridian. The air was clean, and they were surrounded by nothing but nature. The trees that guarded the path were just starting to lose their leaves, signifying the end of summer and beginning of fall.

The walk to Viridian had been nothing but enjoyable. He and his pokemon simply relished each other's company while taking in the gorgeous scenery. Ash spotted a clearing a little bit off path that would be a perfect place to stop and train. He filled Growlithe in on his idea and escorted the puppy pokemon to the location. It was around midday, and Ash wanted to at least figure out how he was going to train his starter before lunchtime.

While preparing for his journey, Ash didn't really take into account that he could be starting off with a growlithe. Therefore, his knowledge on the species wasn't quite where it needed to be. Fortunately, in order to pass the qualification exam, you had to have at least some general knowledge on all of the pokemon from your home region. He wasn't exactly starting from scratch. Nevertheless, his internal information on the fire-type was rather limited. Good thing he had a pokedex.

The miniature supercomputer was about the size of a standard paperback chapter book. It had several button controls on its frontside, along with a six-by-six inch screen. The side of the device was a portable scanner and the model was red in color.

Ash didn't waste any time and pressed the power button. The LED screen lit up. "Salutations—Pokemon Trainer...Ash Ketchum. I am model number 73419, also known as Dexter. I will be serving you in many ways over the course of your travels. My primary functions are to act as your trainer account manager, personal identification, and pokemon encyclopedia/database. I have several more features for you to uncover over time."

Ash figured that the initial information was probably provided to all trainers that started their journey in Kanto. He wasn't sure, but he figured that other regions had their own pokedex models. Now that the pokedex was activated, Ash held it over Growlithe and pressed down the scan button.

Dexter lit up once again and analyzed. "Growlithe – the puppy pokemon – growlithe have a brave and trustworthy nature. They often stand up to bigger and stronger foes and repel enemies with their bark or bite. Growlithe have an amazing sense of smell. It is fact that once a growlithe smells something's scent, it will never forget it. It is also rumored that growlithe can use their olfactory sense to determine the emotions of living beings. This growlithe is male. Current moveset: Bite, Ember, Leer, Roar and Odor Sleuth. Ability: Intimidate.

Thanks to the pokedex, Ash had a broad idea of where Growlithe was at in terms of battle capability. This gave him a general idea of how they would train. For now, given that it was just the two of them, all they could really do was build a physical foundation as well as work on refining Growlithe's current moveset.

Ash trained Growlithe for something like an hour before calling it quits due to hunger. During that time, they were able to begin kicking Growlithe into shape physically. He also got a chance to see Growlithe's Bite and Ember. He didn't really have the means to gauge the other three attacks.

Even though Growlithe was extremely talented with his Ember for such a young pokemon, he had a long way to go before his accuracy was up to par. In addition, although he had what Ash assumed to be, good technique with his Bite; Growlithe lacked physical jaw strength, which came with experience and hard work. One thing was most certainly made clear by their training session. Growlithe had a massive amount of latent potential. Unfortunately, it was impossible for him to age any faster. So, they were going to have to rely on hard work to overcome the natural bonuses that came with experience.

XXX

After finishing up with lunch, and allowing their bodies to digest their food, Ash had Growlithe practicing his Ember. Right now, all Ash had Growlithe focused on was distance. He wanted maximum control out of his partner. So, it was important that Growlithe understood how much power he needed behind his Ember to reach different targets at various distances.

Ash was careful not to have Growlithe aim towards anything that could possibly be flammable. One of the nicest things about this spot was that for the most part it was dirt and mud—which was the perfect terrain to practice with a fire-type without having to hold back.

For the most part, Growlithe was doing pretty good. There were definitely a few times where Ember got away from him, but the majority of his attempts were landing in the right spot. He wasn't using any type of target. At this stage, a target would most likely frustrate Growlithe due to accuracy issues. It was much more beneficial to just point to a general area and have Growlithe shoot.

About a half an hour into the training session, Growlithe was starting to get tired. His accuracy was dissipating because of fatigue, causing his Ember to dangerously veer all over the place. Ash was preparing to put an end to it, but that's when it happened. A lone spearow was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was out of sight, so Ash didn't see the attack land.

Unfortunately, it wasn't necessary. The bird pokemon flew up from the backside of the large rock it was resting behind and screeched at the top of its lungs. Ash had to cover his ears, and Growlithe wanted to bury his head in the mud to escape the viciously loud noise. At first, Ash thought that the shriek was beginning to echo, but then realization struck him.

"Growlithe, we've got to go now!"

Growlithe didn't need to be told twice. The two friends had gotten themselves stuck in quite the predicament. They weren't willing to look behind themselves because they couldn't afford to be slowed down. However, it didn't take a genius to figure out that there was a large flock of spearow chasing after them. Ash wasn't surprised; he knew that if there was one spearow without fail there would be more. Spearow were pack oriented flying-types. They compensated for their lack of strength by traveling in fairly decent-sized groups.

Ash and Growlithe weaved their way around various obstacles to get back on the main path. Ash hoped that once they reached it, the spearow would end their pursuit. They didn't. As a matter of fact, they were getting closer. The dark-haired trainer and his pup were now running for their lives in hopes of reaching Viridian before the spearow caught up to them.

Ash began to gasp and cough. He wasn't in the kind of shape to endure this kind of pace for too long; but, he didn't really have a choice. He estimated that there was roughly twenty-five spearow. Even if his growlithe was fresh, which he wasn't, they didn't stand a chance if they turned around and fought. In this situation, quantity would severely out match quality. Even though spearow were not necessarily strong battlers, they were inherently relentless. Scientists hypothesized that thousands of years of rivalry with the stronger pidgey evolutionary line had caused spearow to genetically turn jealous and bitter.

They had been running for quite sometime now and somehow ended up off trail once again. With every step they took, the spearow gained on them. Ash figured that Growlithe could probably get away if he wasn't holding them up. He debated letting Growlithe escape by distracting the flock himself, but discarded the idea. He'd only spent a little bit of time with his starter, but he had learned enough about him to know that he would never leave him to die.

So he just kept running. His body screamed that it was done, but his brain wouldn't let him slow down. They were going to make it; they had to. He was going to become a master, and Growlithe was going to grow into a strong arcanine. He tried to calm his breathing down enough to be able to think straight. It was difficult, especially while exhausting his body further; but by sheer will, he managed to see things a little clearer.

Ash looked around at his surroundings. To his left was Growlithe. It was obvious that the pokemon was in poor shape, but He probably had a few more miles left in him. Straight ahead was nothing but nature. He occasionally saw the shadow of a wild pokemon or two, but he couldn't make out what they were. He looked to his right. He was astonished to see an azure river. He must have been too delirious to notice it sooner. Luckily, he caught his second wind.

The boy thought hard, weighing over his limited options. That's when it hit him—an idea that just might save them. His hope lied in the river's current. It was strong. A current couldn't be that strong if it had nowhere to go. Ash heard a loud crashing sound in the distance. About at the same time, he noticed that the air was becoming much more crisp—almost like the after-effects of a heavy rainstorm.

He realized that the earth was getting greener as they got closer to the booming noise. Ash was almost completely positive that his assumption was correct. But, he couldn't bet everything, on this one ludicrous plan, until he saw it with his own to eyes. He turned his head to the left, in the direction of Growlithe, and desperately tried to force words out of his mouth. With heavy strain, he managed to say what he wanted.

"Do you trust me?"

The loyal canine managed a grunt of assurance.

Ash reached for his belt where his Growlithe's lone pokeball shook violently, obeying the laws of physics. He fumbled it in his hands a few times before gathering a safe grasp. He felt the presence of the spearow gaining on them rapidly. Ash heard what sounded like malignant laughter as they closed in on their prey.

The cliffside gave them no warning as Ash and Growlithe went plummeting towards the water. The sound of the massive waterfall behind them was unmistakably clear. The dark-haired boy gathered himself in midair. He couldn't waste anytime being crutched by fear. He quickly located Growlithe falling a few feet away from him. The impact was going to be hard, and there was no way to predict where they would land. He had to return Growlithe or risk getting split up.

He pressed his finger down on the return button. The first try failed. He took a deep breath as the second try failed too—missing slightly to the right. Right before they hit the water, he managed to get it right. The pokeball enveloped Growlithe in a ray of ruby red light.

The collision was anything but comfortable. Ash had to fight just to stay conscious. All the while, he had to desperately hold on to Growlithe's pokeball or risk losing it. He managed though, which was nothing short of a miracle. He battled his momentum, which was pulling him deep into the abyss of the natural pool. His adrenaline shielded him from the cold temperature of the unequable body of water. Once the aftermath of the collision subsided, Ash was able to conquer the conventional gravity levels of the pool and swim to the surface.

The boy had never felt so out of breath in his life. The miles of running, on top of nearly drowning, had his lungs feeling like they were being squelched by a machamp. Once he had caught his breath, he looked up.

...No spearow.

He then brought his attention to the rim of the waterfall. How had he survived such a fall? He muttered something resembling a prayer under his breath as he began to drag himself to shore. Once he reached land, he looked back in the direction that he'd come from to make sure he wasn't being followed by the menacing flying-types. He figured they must have assumed he was killed from the fall. His plan had worked; somehow, they had survived.

He just lied there, soaking in what had just happened. He had to wait a while before he could muster up the energy to move his body. Once he had gained back control of his limbs, he released Growlithe from suspended animation and gave him a big hug.

Growlithe was confused. One second he was falling...the next he was safe beside his soaking wet trainer. He remembered being enveloped by a beam of red light. Ash must have returned him at the last second.

But, how did he manage? They were falling at a high-speed. To be able to find him in the air and have the coordination to return him, all in a matter of seconds, was almost inhuman.

But then again, Growlithe had never really spent a lot of time around humans. So maybe it was? Growlithe's memory flashed back to the chase. The words Ash had said while they were running echoed in his head.

Do you trust me?

Did he know that they were going to fall? If so, his observation skills were uncanny. Even Growlithe, who had extraordinary hearing and gifted olfactory glands, wasn't aware that the waterfall was coming. How could Ash have known? He was running for his life. There was no time to rely on anything other than instincts.

Growlithe decided to stop being so analytical. They were alive; that's all that mattered. If he didn't trust Ash earlier, which he thought he did, he definitely did now.

His trainer had saved his life, and he had a feeling he would again. He just hoped that next time, he would be the one to protect his friend.

The two friends lied on the ground...looking up at the gorgeously clear sky. They simultaneously spotted a large and majestic rainbow shaded bird passing over them—about eight-thousand feet above. Ash didn't recognize what had to be a legendary. He reached for Dexter frantically. The waterlogged pokedex screen lit up, "My database has no records of that pokemon. Some pokemon we have yet to discover or have too little information on to make public."

Ash was astonished. He'd almost died...and seen a pokemon that was apparently so rare that Dexter didn't even know what it was.

Growlithe was having near identical thoughts—just as surprised.

They say a trainer's first day sets the tone for the rest of their journey. If that was the case, they had signed up for a thriller.

XXX

The sun was beginning to set when they finally arrived in Viridian. They were tired and desperately hungry. All of the food was in Ash's backpack, and it was destroyed when he fell into the water. Luckily, everything else was waterproof, and they didn't starve since they were close to the city. He made a mental note to invest in some Ziploc Tupperware.

After asking some stranger on the outskirts of town for directions, Ash and Growlithe found themselves standing out front of the city's pokemon center. Viridian wasn't really that much bigger than Pallet. He didn't quite understand what went into deciding if a settlement was a city or town anyway. He always thought it had to do with population, but he couldn't see how Viridian could possibly have that many more citizens.

One major difference that Ash picked up on was that there were many more paved roads. The architecture was also a lot more modern in comparison to Pallet's more rural feel. Ash pried open the door to the Pokemon Center, and held it for Growlithe before following closely behind.

He didn't pay much attention to the Center's décor. He was pretty sore, so it wasn't really worth the effort to look at anything other than the front desk. Not that he was all that interested in that sort of thing in the first place.

When he reached the front desk, he asked the pink haired nurse in charge if he could get a room. Pokemon centers not only acted as pokemon hospitals, but they were also hostels for visiting trainers. All you needed was a Trainer ID number, which most trainers had digitally programmed into their pokedex. Pokemon centers were another one of those things that you had to do research on in order to qualify to become a trainer. The League politicians didn't want to be responsible for some kid or pokemon dying because they weren't aware of their resources.

Ash gave the woman his pokedex and watched her place it into a slot plugin designed specifically for the device. She ran his identification through some kind of security database—probably to make sure he wasn't a fraud. Trainer identity theft was becoming more common after all.

Once she was done scanning Ash's pokedex, she handed it back to him along with a room key, "Mr. Ketchum, you're all set."

She then shifted her attention to the medial sized growlithe lying down at Ash's side, "Would you like to check in any of your pokemon while you're here? If you have a Trainer ID number, all medical work is completely paid for by the League."

Ash inspected Growlithe. He could definitely use medical attention. There were no serious injuries, but he was definitely worn down. Between training and escaping from the devastating flock of spearow, he had utterly exhausted himself.

"That would actually be great. He's pretty worn out," said Ash.

Nurse Joy flashed him a smile, "No problem," she reached over to the shelf behind her and placed a tray on the counter. " If you would please return your Growlithe and place his pokeball on the tray, I would be more than happy to take care of him."

Ash probably could have used a check up too, but ultimately decided against it. There were no issues that a good night's rest wouldn't fix.

Ash bent down and reassured Growlithe that everything would be completely fine. Growlithe trusted Ash with his life after the events from earlier, so he didn't need much convincing. Ash returned Growlithe and handed his pokeball over to the nurse. She promised that he was in good hands. Next, Nurse Joy asked Ash to either wait in the designated waiting room or his lodge—where he would get a call when Growlithe was ready to be picked up.

Ash thanked Nurse Joy and decided he'd wait in the waiting room. Just like everyone else in the world, he had heard of Nurse Joy beforehand. This was just the first time he had ever actually seen what she looked like. He didn't think the restoration process would take too long. He figured he might as well just sit down and get a feel for the Pokemon Center's lobby.

Now that Ash had nothing better to do, he stayed stationary and observed. The first thing he noticed was that the Center was rather empty. He figured that was probably due to the fact that the city's gym leader, Giovanni, only accepted challengers if they had seven badges. Since the season had just started today, it was physically impossible for anyone to have that many. He also factored in the fact that, unless you were coming from Pallet this time of year, travel was relatively slow. Since he was one of only three trainers that left for Viridian that day, and the rest were probably all still traveling, it made perfect sense. He thought for a moment about the possibility of Gary or the other trainer arriving before him, but Ash came to the conclusion that it was impossible. He had a good hour head start on them and that was if they were to leave the moment they got their pokemon. He also sprinted nearly a quarter of the way, only stopping for a couple of hours to train.

The next thing he noticed about the Center was that it was rather bare. There were very few decorations and the ones that were hung up gave the building a big time hospital feel. Technically it was a hospital, so Ash figured most people wouldn't be put off by it. To the right of the front desk were videophones, which reminded him to give his mother and Professor Oak a call before he went to bed. In the center of the lobby, there was a makeshift lounge with a television. Nobody was over there, so the television was off—probably to conserve energy.

There was a hall to the left of the front desk. It had a sign with an arrow pointed forward that read: Rooms/Trading Center/Cafeteria. Ash thought about heading to the cafeteria, but decided against it. He didn't want Growlithe to think that he was having a great time while they were a part.

Ash, all of a sudden, was hit with an internal wave of loneliness. Realization struck, this was the first time all day that he didn't have Growlithe on him. At first, Ash was slightly ashamed for feeling this way. He felt weak. But, after giving it a second thought, he came to a healthier conclusion: Growlithe was his friend, and friends covered for each others weaknesses.

He needed more friends like Growlithe—pokemon that he could count on and always have at arms reach. He wasn't so desperate as to catch anything, though. If anything, this intramural reflection would cause a more selective approach to catching pokemon. Strength was important, but he also wanted diversity. He needed to be able to adapt to any situation. If today was any indicator, he was in for an interesting expedition.

Ash's in-depth cerebration was put on pause when he heard Nurse Joy's voice over the annoyingly loud intercom.

"Ash Ketchum, please report to the front desk. Your pokemon are ready."

Ash listened to directions—all the while wondering why the use of an intercom was necessary in an empty pokemon center. After retrieving Growlithe's pokeball, Ash thanked Nurse Joy and headed straight to the cafeteria. He got a quick bite to eat. Nurse Joy had already fed Growlithe, so the pup wasn't hungry.

The tofu burger and fries were actually pretty good, which surprised Ash. Given that it was made in a cafeteria, his expectations weren't all that high. He wasn't quite sure if there were any rules to having your pokemon out of their pokeball while in the cafeteria. However, the cook didn't seem to mind—and other than him, nobody else was around—so Ash figured it was okay. He loved having Growlithe's company; it made him feel safe. It was worth the risk of one of the other nonexistent consumers complaining.

Before leaving, Ash examined his growlithe. He was completely refreshed. The quality of work Nurse Joy did in such a short amount of time was amazing. It wasn't sorcery; all pokemon centers had restoration machines. But, nevertheless, technology was something that Ash would never quite be able to grasp.

His conversation with his mom was short and simple. He basically just let her know that he had reached Viridian City safely. She tried to get more details out of him, but he played the tired card. He didn't feel like telling her about the spearow. It would just cause her to worry.

The conversation with Professor Oak was a little bit more extensive. For the most part, they talked about pokemon to look out for when he entered the Viridian Forest.

After talking to Professor Oak, Ash headed to his room. The lodge was actually much nicer than he expected. It was small, but cozy. It even had its own bathroom with a shower that Ash took full advantage of. There were four empty beds for multiple trainers...but since he was the only person, he had the whole room to himself. He offered Growlithe the opportunity to have his own bed, but the fire-type felt more comfortable sharing with Ash. The ten-year-old didn't complain; he was actually pretty fond of the idea himself.

He shut off the lights. By the time his body made contact with the mattress, his eyelids were beginning to get heavy. He fought off drifting into comatose long enough to mutter a heartfelt goodnight to his new friend. It had been a long day, and they deserved the rest.

XXX

With Growlithe following closely behind, Ash wiped the sleep from his eyes as he entered the lobby. Apparently, the timing was perfect because standing at the front desk, retrieving two pokeballs from Nurse Joy, was Gary oak—who had yet to notice him. Ash snuck up behind him, trying his best not to be spotted. Growlithe wasn't quite sure what was going on. He followed Ash's lead and moved quietly. Ash lightly tapped Gary on the shoulder. Just as he expected, his best friend's entire body jolted while he gasped exasperatingly.

He turned around to find Ash keeled over laughing alongside his partner in crime Growlithe.

"Dammit, Ash, you know I hate it when you do that!" shouted Gary.

Ash managed to stop his convulsive laughter before replying, "I'm sorry, Gary, but you make it way too easy."

His friend had never had the best sense of awareness thus making him one of the easiest people to get a rise out of.

Gary scratched his head—turning slightly red. He quickly changed the subject, which was something that Ash obviously picked up on, "So, Ash, when did you get to Viridian?"

Ash answered, "Last night...I don't remember exactly what time, though."

He was never the best at small talk, but carried on the conversation, "What about you?"

"Eh, I actually just got here," said Gary with a fidget. "I had to take care of a few things before I left Pallet."

Ash thought Gary seemed slightly put-off by the fact that he was the second to arrive.

"So, how was your first night camping?" asked Ash, slightly curious.

Gary shrugged indifferently.

"A lot less comfortable than a bed—that's for sure," he then looked down at both of the pokeballs that were in his hands, "but...I guess that's not what being a pokemon trainer is about."

Ash just nodded. Unlike Gary, camping was one of the aspects of being a trainer that he was the most excited about. Ever since he could remember, he'd loved being outside. The prospect of sleeping under the stars, for weeks at a time, was actually rather appealing to him. One of the many reasons that Ash had ultimately decided to travel alone was the fact that Gary would rather spend the money to sleep in a five-star hotel every night than camp on the occasion. Ash gave him the benefit of the doubt because of how he was raised, howbeit it still irked him. Regardless; Gary was the dark-haired boy's best friend, and the fact that he was slightly spoiled wouldn't change that.

Gary's face lit up out of the blue, "Ash, we both have pokemon!"

Ash's face scrunched—not understanding where he was going with this, "Um, yeah, we do. What's your point?"

Gary clenched the pokeball in his dominant right-hand, "Ashy-boy, what's the one thing we've wanted to do together since we were like five?"

Ash finally caught on.

"Obviously, I'm in," said Ash. "Aren't I the one that suggested a battle in the first place?"

Gary ignored Ash's question and enthusiastically smiled, "On my way here I spotted a public battle facility. The main offices were closed, but I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem if we used their outdoor training ground."

Gary turned around and eyed Nurse Joy, "Do you have to be a member, or something, to use the outdoor battle facilities across the street?"

Nurse Joy replied kindly, "Nope, only if you want to use their private, indoor training center. The outdoor facilities are for the public."

She pointed at them in a motherly sort of way, "And if you two battle, don't forget to come back and heal your pokemon. Also, I'm sure your sponsor already told you, but you can register for this year's Gym Challenge here or at any other pokemon center in Kanto."

Ash and Gary both mentally kicked Professor Oak. This was the first time they had heard anything about registration. They both kind of figured that all they needed to do was show up at the gyms. Well, at least this explained how the League could calculate the statistics concerning how many trainers successfully completed the Circuit each year.

The two friends told Nurse Joy that they would register for the League when they got back. That way, they had something to do while they were waiting on their pokemon. Besides, they didn't want to risk wasting any time. It was possible that somebody else could get to the practice field before them, and they were eager to battle.

It took the boys practically no time at all to reach the training ground, due to the fact that it was literally across the street. Although the surface was mostly just dirt, the training grounds were a lot nicer than Ash expected. There were paint boundaries and trainer boxes, which made the battle seem much more official. It was the perfect place for their first battle.

Ash and Gary both picked a side and stood in their designated trainer box, "The battle's going to have to be one-on-one!" shouted Ash from across the mock arena.

Gary gave Ash a lame thumbs-up, "Sounds good to me!"

Gary thought about giving Ash a hard time for only having one pokemon, but decided it would be stupid. Gary's situation was kind of unique. He would only have one pokemon as well if he didn't have the best grandfather in the world. He also factored in how picky Ash was and figured that there probably wasn't any pokemon in between Pallet and Viridian that he would consider catchable.

Ash decided to make the first move. He figured he might as well, since he didn't have surprise on his side. Gary knew he only had Growlithe.

Ash gestured Growlithe forward, "Go ahead, buddy. Time to show him what you got."

Growlithe confidently walked out onto the battlefield—ready to win his first battle. He felt like he owed it to Ash. The boy had treated him so well since they left Pallet, making him desperate for victory. Although he hadn't gotten the chance to train in-depth with Ash yet, he still felt like he had enough experience sparring with his brother to come out on top.

Gary racked his brain in attempt to make a decision. He could use his starter and capitalize on the type advantage, or he could go the more unique route and mirror Ash. He decided to play it safe. He lofted his starter's pokeball in the direction of Ash. Once the bright flash of light succeeding the release vanished, a proud squirtle appeared.

Ash whipped out his pokedex and analyzed: "Squirtle – the turtle pokemon – squirtle's shell is not merely used for protection. The shell's rounded shape and grooves on its surface help minimize resistance in water—enabling this pokemon to swim at high speed. Squirtle shoots water out of its shell when in the water and withdraws into its shell when in danger. It shelters itself in its shell, then strikes back with spouts of water at every opportunity."

The young trainer formulated a plan of action. Elemental moves would be, for the most, part useless. He was going to have to rely mostly on Growlithe's superior speed and physical prowess. Ash sifted through his options. Of Growlithe's five available moves, there were only three that he could technically use. He was definitely going to have to be creative in order to pull out a win.

Gary's squirtle attacked first by firing a forceful Water Gun at Growlithe.

Ash didn't need to give Growlithe a command as he dodged the attack on his own. Growlithe then charged up an incandescent flame and projected it towards the turtle pokemon.

The turtle pokemon shot a second Water Gun that met the fire attack head-on. The result was an explosive, iridescent cloud of mist.

Ash and Gary both could tell that Growlithe and Squirtle were just feeling each other out. Neither pokemon was trying to inflict damage. They were simply trying to get a grasp over each other's reflexes.

 

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