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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2. Kanto 1 Part 2

Growlithe took the offensive. He transferred all of his centralized power into his hind legs before taking off in the form of an orange and black blur. Ash could tell that his speed had significantly increased, since they trained the day before—probably the result of the artificial restoration process. Pokemon, unlike humans, were constantly evolving. Most muscle-bound species significantly strengthened their muscular fibers every time they are forced to their limit.

Growlithe used his speed to confuse the tiny turtle pokemon. He understood that he didn't have the type advantage; therefore, he was entirely prepared to rely heavily on his speed and wits. Upon inspection, Growlithe started to pick up on Squirtle's severe lack of experience. He was Gary's starter after all. It was entirely plausible that this was the squirtle's very first taste of battle. Growlithe, on the other hand, had been battling since the day that he hatched. His mother knew that one day he would go on a journey of his own and wanted to ensure that he wasn't leaving wet and inexperienced. He still had a long way to go, especially in terms of accuracy and strength, but that didn't change the fact that some experience was always better than none.

Growlithe closed the distance between Squirtle and himself while preparing for a Bite. Just before Growlithe was able to sink his jaws into Squirtle's arm, he had to pull up.

Squirtle withdrew his body into his shell—not giving Growlithe any flesh to get a hold of. The young squirtle then proceeded to startle Growlithe. He emerged from his shell, almost as fast as he concealed himself, and fired two high-speed Water Guns at the fire-type in quick succession.

Growlithe didn't have enough of a warning to completely dodge the first shot. The attack managed to skim his left side—slightly trimming his fur. The second one wasn't a problem. The canine gathered himself and took off again at maximum speed. This time he was able to make contact and catch his maw onto the sky blue turtle's head.

Ash and Gary both winced. Although it was their first battle, there was no lack of intensity.

Ash saw an opportunity and decided to give the first trainer command of the battle, "Point-blank Ember, now!"

Growlithe heard his trainer's request and doused the turtle's head in flames. Squirtle tried to shake Growlithe off, but the grip the canine had on his head was too strong. Normally fire wasn't very effective against water-types, but at such a close distance almost any attack would do damage; unless the targeted pokemon was flat out immune.

Unfortunately for Squirtle, he wasn't immune—and the Ember was used in combination with the already painful Bite.

Gary watched as his squirtle grimaced in pain. He frantically tried to think of a way to separate the two opposing pokemon.

His conclusion wasn't very creative, but he didn't have any other ideas, "Squirtle, jump up and slam it on the ground!"

Squirtle listened to his trainer and used his short stubbly legs to spring himself and his opponent into the air. He came down forcefully to the ground, headfirst, all the while withdrawing as much of his head as he could to limit the forthcoming recoil.

Growlithe yelped in pain as his body collided with the hard dirt surface. He rolled a couple of times in the direction of his trainer before woefully pulling himself back up to his feet.

Ash and Gary both watched as both of their pokemon were visibly exhausted. Growlithe was in slightly better shape. The recoil from the botched Seismic Toss had done a lot more damage to Squirtle than Gary had anticipated.

The two pokemon proceeded to partake in a long-ranged shootout. Squirtle clearly had the upper hand in this kind of battle. Not only was his Water Gun more effective than Growlithe's Ember, but he was much more accurate.

As Ash watched the two attacks clash, one after the other, he racked his brain in attempt to come up with a way to end the battle. He had an idea, but was reluctant to try it. It seemed rather difficult to pull off.

He went for it anyway, "Growlithe, Ember at full-power, now!"

The fire-type dug deep into his internal flame and propelled the largest Ember he had ever summoned.

Squirtle's eyes lit up. He took the defensive by attempting to neutralize the oncoming flame with a heavy dose of Water Gun. The by-product was a massive, condensed explosion of sizzling steam.

The first phase of Ash's plan worked out perfectly. The second phase was either going to work or fail tremendously.

Ash waited until the light from the sun was being refracted, through the steam cloud, towards Squirtle, "Growlithe, direct your Leer at that cloud."

The puppy pokemon's eyes glowed with intimidation. The light from the sun counteracted with the lustrous pillar of steam—projecting a colossal mirage of Growlithe's pressure felt stare. The young squirtle froze in place, being trapped under a trance of fear.

Growlithe used the façade as a diversion and raced around the outside of the image. He followed up with another combination of Ember and Bite—this time sending Squirtle into the realm of unconsciousness.

After shaking off a look of astonishment, Gary returned Squirtle and accepted the loss.

Growlithe stumbled his way back to his trainer before lying down exhausted by his side. Ash bent down and gave Growlithe an affectionate scratch under the chin as he congratulated him on their first victory.

XXX

The rest of the morning consisted of registering for the Gym Circuit, healing their pokemon, and restocking on supplies. The majority of the money Ash had spent was on food. He made sure to purchase enough pokemon food to hold over at least two pokemon between Viridian and Pewter City. He also shopped for himself, using the earnings he received from Gary to purchase a set of Tupperware. Therefore, following through with his internal promise to avoid repeating yesterday's blunder.

Before going their separate ways, Ash and Gary got a bite to eat at the Pokemon Center's cafeteria. Ash could tell that Gary was still pretty upset over the loss. He would never openly say anything, but Ash knew his best friend.

Just like Ash, he didn't handle losing very well.

Ash's guess was confirmed when Gary told him that he was planning on sticking around Viridian for a few days to train at the battle facilities. Ash didn't see any reason to stay, so he told Gary that he was going to head to Pewter City.

Once they were done eating, Ash and Gary said their goodbyes. They promised to get stronger, so that next time their battle would be even more spectacular. With a parting handshake, the two best friends went in opposite directions.

Ash headed in the direction of the Viridian Forest: the gateway between Viridian and Pewter. Gary stayed behind with intention to pursue the strength to defeat his rival and best friend.

XXX

The sun had been vacant for quite a while on his second night away from home. Ash had Growlithe use Ember to start a fire, setting ablaze the wood that he had just finished collecting. Their campsite was rather basic...just a fire and a warm, thick sleeping bag.

The ten-year-old boy and his pokemon had spent the majority of the day traveling. They stopped a few times, accepting the challenges of a few other traveling trainers. Most of them carried nothing but bug-types, so Ash and Growlithe had no problem defeating every single one of them.

The two friends just lied there cozily. Both of their eyes were fixated on the beautiful, shimmering, bright lights masterfully painted amongst the evening sky.

Ash abruptly broke the long period of silence, "It really doesn't get much better than this."

Growlithe didn't react at all, but Ash could tell that he agreed. He didn't think the puppy pokemon knew how to respond.

It was then that Ash decided to allow himself to become vulnerable. Growlithe was his starter...and nothing was going to change that. They had been together for a couple days now, and he knew that he should let Growlithe know how he felt.

"Growlithe, I promise to always look out for you."

The puppy pokemon looked up at Ash curiously.

Ash blushed slightly.

"I'm not very good at being sentimental," he patted Growlithe on the head as he spoke. "When I made the decision to take you as my starter, I meant permanently. No matter where my journey takes me, I hope to always have you by my side."

Growlithe nodded his head in affirmation. Ash's words meant a lot. He wished he could express his own feelings with words. Unfortunately, all he could manage was to cuddle up closer to his trainer and friend.

Ash continued, "Also, I know I told you – when we were walking to my house from Professor Oak's lab – but I want to remind you that I need you to be a leader."

Growlithe listened.

"It's just, when we make more friends, there are going to be times where pokemon is going to need to be accountable to pokemon. I'm afraid I most likely won't be able to relate to every single pokemon I catch."

Ash sighed, looking up at the stars, "I wish I could, but that's not realistic."

Growlithe looked Ash in the eyes intently. He was actually quite honored that Ash had this much faith in him.

"Growlithe, the moment I met you, I knew you could handle this responsibility. Please let me know if my expectations ever become overbearing."

The growlithe looked up at his trainer with a hint of fire in his eyes. He could take this burden on himself. As a matter of fact, he wanted this burden. If he didn't have the presence of strength to lead now, he would make sure that he acquired it. Growlithe naturally was a born leader. His mother was one of the most influential pokemon within Professor Oak's corral.

He would make her proud. Even more importantly, he would make Ash proud.

Before they put out the fire, Ash continued to talk to Growlithe as his eyelids began to get heavier. Ash could barely keep himself awake as the only thing providing light was the plethora of stars in the sky. It was time to sign off for the night. The two best friends drifted off into oblivion. The last thing on Ash's mind was just how much he loved the soothing aroma of the forest and having his pup by his side.

XXX

It was about the middle of the day, and they were in the epicenter of the forest. Ash and Growlithe were determined to find the second member of their team. Viridian Forest was home to an array of bug-types. Unfortunately, the only bug-type in all of Kanto that interested Ash was scyther—which do not happen to be indigenous to their current location.

Thankfully, there still happened to be a pokemon native to the forest that Ash wanted to get his hands on. Ash wanted one of the three pokemon belonging to the pidgey evolutionary line. Of the various different flying-types that were home to Kanto, they were his favorite.

Ever since he was a little boy, he had a strong admiration for the magnificent, fully-evolved pidgeot. The way the oversized flying-type effortlessly soared through the skies of Kanto, at tremendous speeds, had always amazed him. Their majestic plumage and glossy off-white and brown feathers were a sight to behold.

He also appreciated their thirst for battle and overall skill in combat. Ultimately, that was what interested Ash the most: their ability to balance power with speed while in the air. Outside of the rare dragonite and the three, nearly mythical, elemental birds of legend; they were uncontested in the skies of Kanto.

But finding one wasn't going to be easy. He knew discovering a fully-evolved pidgeot in the wild would be extremely difficult. Wild pokemon of that ability usually couldn't be found unless they wanted to be or if the seeker had done his homework. Besides, even if he somehow came across one, chances are it would be out of their league.

So what he was looking for was a pidgey or pidgeotto—preferably the latter. He didn't have any tracking skills; so for the most part, he was working blind. He hoped that Growlithe's superb sense of smell could help him out. But, without a reference scent, it would be difficult for him to rely on his starter.

After about an hour of Ash basically walking in circles like a novice, Growlithe had picked up on his first lead. Underneath the shade of a rather large oak tree, the puppy pokemon had found a talon like print indented into the ground's earthy surface.

At first, Ash was very confused. It was seldom that an avian claw print was found on the ground. Bird pokemon, like pidgey and Pidgeotto, usually warranted a good reason to land on anything near the earth's natural floor. Then Ash recognized something. The print was faded and lone—which meant that it didn't stay long enough to leave a solid print and that both talons didn't touch the ground. This caused Ash to believe that it merely grazed the surface...probably during a hunt.

With Ash's approval, Growlithe picked up the scent.

Growlithe followed the new smell off-trail and deep into the forest with his trainer trailing closely behind. The light from the sun began to fade as the abundance of trees blocked its pathway. The only source of light was a small leftover refraction, resulting in a luminous, orange glow.

During the search, Ash could feel the leering eyes of the many bug-types hidden within the depths of the forest's plant life. They simply stayed still—not allowing the details of their forms to be seen by the human. Ash never felt threatened. He figured it was most likely because he was in possession of a fire-type. But, he could be wrong, maybe they had other reasons.

The dark-haired boy could tell that they were getting closer by Growlithe's expression. The pup was much more focused and confident in all of his movements. They say a growlithe's olfactory glands could pick up on emotions. If there was any truth in that, he figured Growlithe could manage to track a bird.

Ash cursed under his breath as the search continued to prolong itself. They had been at it for a couple of hours, and the boy was now racking his brain trying to think of how they were going to get back. He assumed Growlithe could lead them with his nose, but he wasn't currently in a position where he wanted to interrupt Growlithe to ask. The pup had now been attentively trailing the scent for what seemed like a long time.

Growlithe felt the avian aroma keep getting stronger. The closer he got to its suitor...the more the scent revealed about itself. At first it was small; there was no way to separate its properties. But now the smell was much more potent and recognizable. Growlithe had been around plenty of pidgey before at Professor Oak's corral. He was positive that this fragrance belonged to a member of its species.

And then it became still. The prey's pheromone no longer dragged on. It was stuck.

...He froze in place.

Ash came to a stop mirroring his starter. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the chase was over. Ash observed his surroundings carefully, looking for any hint of moving life. At eye level, in all directions, he saw nothing. So, he looked up.

Perched up above, in a rather ominous looking tree, was a pidgeotto. The avian's plumes flowed gracefully with the wind as it inspected Ash. It was a humongous specimen, already about the size of a pidgeot. Ash could see its potential just by looking at it. He met the flying-type's piercing, black eyes with his own in attempt to delineate that their meeting wasn't by chance.

The pidgeotto knew why the human was here and glared back. It showed no signs of backing down. It did not plan to get captured by a human child, but would not disgrace itself by fleeing. Those that yearned to become valiant pidgeot were honorable. They did not shy away from a challenge.

Growlithe stepped forward after evaluating the situation. He didn't need Ash to tell him that he was needed.

The mammoth pidgeotto spread its wings and glided down to the earth's surface, landing a few feet shy of Growlithe. For the first time, as it dwarfed Growlithe, Ash was able to fully comprehend just how big the behemoth was.

Pidgeotto started things off by forcefully thrusting its wings down toward Growlithe—thus creating a pressure felt gust of wind. The orange and black canine barrel rolled out of the way, barely being able to avoid folding under the compression of Pidgeotto's flying-type attack.

Growlithe proceeded to try and incapacitate the pidgeotto with a menacing Leer, but it was no use. In order for Leer to work, there needed to be some sense of inferiority amongst the victim. It was obvious to Ash that the bird had no such feeling.

After the failed Leer attempt, Growlithe charged. He ferociously snapped his jaws as he tried to connect with the flying-type's raptorlike body.

Pidgeotto flapped its wingspan, precipitously propelling itself into the sky, thus leaving Growlithe biting at air. The avian formulated a Whirlwind and hurled it at Growlithe. The attack entangled the fire-type and tossed him in the direction of a neighboring tree.

Ash gritted his teeth, but sighed in relief, when he saw Growlithe gather himself in midair and plant his feet on the side of the tree. He followed the magnificent acrobatic display by using the tree for leverage before proceeding to spring his body back in the direction of the fight.

The raptorlike avian seemingly vanished from his spot, using a Quick Attack to meet Growlithe in the air. It used both of its talons to catch the surprised puppy pokemon, and this time gave itself no room for error by catapulting Growlithe towards the hard ground.

Growlithe yelped as he hit the ground hard. Ash winced at seeing his friend tossed like a rag doll. He managed to endure the collision, though, and got back up determined.

The fire-type answered by actuating a barrage of flames. Pidgeotto did its best to dodge, but couldn't manage to best the multitude of ephemeral fireballs. The flying-type took two hits to its right wing, at a high velocity, temporarily crippling it.

Ash saw his chance and pointed at a tree, "Grapple that tree and jump on its back!"

Growlithe didn't hesitate and took off—leaving an after-image. He used his momentum to run about halfway up the tree before forcibly pushing off.

Pidgeotto tried to dodge, but couldn't quite clear the entirety of his body. Growlithe lunged forward and managed to latch on to Pidgeotto's muscular, brown wing with his teeth, "Ember, now!" shouted Ash.

Growlithe fired an Ember at the same spot he had connected earlier. Except this time, it was from a point-blank vantage point. Pidgeotto shrieked as it fell the short distance to the ground. Growlithe let go of Pidgeotto's wing and safely landed on all four legs.

The normal/flying-type, although favoring its injured right wing, still had some fight left in it. From the ground, it used its left wing to throw powerful gusts of wind in the direction of Growlithe in hope of buying time.

Unfortunately, for the pidgeotto, its damaged wing grounded it—thus keeping the bird from accessing the sky.

"Ember to distract it, and get in close!" bellowed Ash.

Growlithe, once again, flung multiple Embers in the direction of Pidgeotto. He used each one, at some point, for cover as the oversized bird perilously worked on diverting the attacks with Gust.

Once Growlithe was in range, he fearlessly leaped in front of Pidgeotto's face and unleashed the biggest Ember he could muster.

It made perfect contact. All the while, Ash was frantically grabbing an empty pokeball from his backpack. He muttered something under his breath...frustrated that he didn't have one in a more convenient place.

By the time Pidgeotto hit the ground, Ash's pokeball was in the air at a high velocity. The homing system activated, and the capture device steered itself smoothly into Pidgeotto's chest. The barely conscious, wild pokemon could do nothing as its entire being was blanketed in a radiant, red light and vacuumed into the half red and half white sphere.

Ash watched as the ball shook: once…twice…three times…

And It clicked—signifying a successful capture. With a toothy grin on his face, Ash picked up his first catch ever.

He then doubled over and gave his exhausted starter a tight hug,"Great job, Growlithe! You were incredible!"

Growlithe responded to Ash's smile with a sloppy, wet lick to the face. In the canine's opinion receiving praise like this from Ash was something that would never seize to remain priceless.

XXX

Surprisingly, Pidgeotto wasn't all that difficult to get through to. After using a potion he had picked up in Viridian, and taking part in a complicated game of charades, the flying-type and Ash made a deal. Pidgeotto would swear his allegiance to Ash. In return, Ash would train Pidgeotto into the most powerful pidgeot on the planet.

Growlithe and Pidgeotto seemed to get along pretty well. After their battle, they both shared a mutual amount of respect for one another. Pidgeotto saw Growlithe as the one who had defeated him and submitted under that truth. Growlithe simply saw Pidgeotto as his new teammate and friend.

It had taken a few hours to find their way back to the main path. With Growlithe using his nose and Pidgeotto scouting overhead, it was rather easy to find. Sadly, it was still a long walk. Ash thought about saving time by flying on his abnormally sized pidgeotto's back, but didn't think he was quite ready to trust his new pokemon with his life.

By the time they finally got back to where they were before they went searching for Pidgeotto, it was getting dark. All that was left of the sun was a sliver; it buried itself behind the mountain peaks in the far distance.

Ash setup camp for the second time in the forest. The setup was the same as the night before. This time, he sent Pidgeotto to look for firewood. Once he returned, Growlithe did his job and started a fire with his ember. After the dark-haired boy finished his dinner, he reached into his pocket and dug out his pokedex. While Pidgeotto was eating, his rather large bowl of pokemon food, Ash scanned him.

"Pidgeotto – the bird Pokemon – pidgeotto claims a large area as its own territory. This pokemon flies around, patrolling its living space. If its territory is violated, it shows no mercy in thoroughly punishing the foe with its sharp claws. This pidgeotto is male. Current move set: Tackle, Sand attack, Gust, Quick attack, and Whirlwind. Ability: Big Pecks."

Ash made a mental note to research the ability Big Pecks when he got the chance. He recognized the name, but definitely didn't know any details about it.

Abilities are an inherent skill a pokemon is born with. You cannot do anything to change them and very seldom did a pokemon have more than one. Ash had heard rumors about elite level pokemon sometimes unlocking a second ability after years of experience and harsh training. During Ash's study to qualify as a trainer, he remembered reading somewhere that researchers hypothesized that abilities had a lot to do with a wild pokemon's status in their respective clan.

It made a lot of sense to Ash. People were often assessed, on what they can and can't do, based on talent. Pokemon were not much different in that regard. The more rare and powerful their ability was...the more respect they had amongst their kin.

Ash brought his attention back to the entry. He found the bit about a pidgeotto's perception of territory interesting. The dark-haired boy looked up from the device, "Pidgeotto, I want to talk to you."

The bird pokemon hesitated before peering up at Ash. Its eyes looked distant. Ash reckoned Pidgeotto wasn't used to pausing dinner for a conversation.

Growlithe looked up slightly interested. Ash wasn't a blabbermouth. He chose his words carefully and usually only spoke when needed to. Therefore, Growlithe had learned to always chime in when his trainer was verbal.

"This bit about territory, is this how you feel?" asked Ash.

Pidgeotto nodded. He had always felt the need to protect what was his; it was instinctual for a bird of prey.

Ash looked Pidgeotto in his eyes, "I want you to treat anywhere we are as our territory."

The boy had Pidgeotto's attention.

"I would like you to immobilize anything that approaches our camp without our invitation. We need to have some sort of protection on the road. Don't hurt anyone. Just make sure that they don't hurt us," said Ash.

Pidgeotto was slightly astounded. His new trainer spoke with the same safeguarding compassion that a mother pidgeot had, but also had the internal fire of a paternal provider and warrior. Pidgeotto puffed up his chest with pride accepting the requested duty.

Ash laughed and gently rubbed his large pidgeotto's plumage, "Great! I'm glad you like the idea."

He then looked at both Growlithe and Pidgeotto together, "I really don't want to tear away your instinctual desires. Let me know if there are any other duties I can give you that are similar to what you'd do in the wild."

Pidgeotto had a tough time comprehending just how thoughtful his new trainer was. Before being captured, he hated the idea of pledging fealty to a human. Now, he wasn't so sure. It would probably take time...but he could get used to this.

XXX

"Call it off! Call it off! Please, just call it off!"

Ash jolted up out of his sleeping bag at the sound of an unfamiliar outcry. His vision was hazy. It took the dark-haired boy a brief moment to discern what was going on. Pidgeotto had his beak clamped tight on a fully loaded suit of armor. The raptorlike avian dangled the mysterious boy in the air while being careful not to injure him, albeit firm enough to inflict fear.

Ash inspected the wailing boy. He looked to be about eleven-years-old and was slightly overweight. He wore a samurai styled suit of armor. The chestplate was still intact, and his toes were somehow still hanging onto his wooden clogs. Separated from his body, lying on the ground, was an ancient looking tin helmet. It had golden, decorative horns that Ash thought could be a product of the Meiji era.

A few feet away from the helmet lay a blade. The light of the sun reflected off of its exterior, creating a bright, white glare. Its hilt matched the golden color of the horns on the helmet. Ash walked over to the blade and calmly secured the dangerous object. He looked around the ground for a fallen scabbard, but instead found one hanging from the wielder's waste.

Ash wrapped his hands around his mouth, creating a flesh made megaphone, "Toss me the sheath, and Pidgeotto will let you go!"

The boy didn't argue. He untied the rope binding the sheath to his belt and listened to it ricochet off of the ground seconds later.

Ash picked up the black, metal scabbard and concealed the sword.

"Pidgeotto, please release him!"

The bird pokemon set the intruder down roughly; Ash didn't complain. The ten-year-old boy then dug the tip of the enshrouded blade into the ground and leaned up against it casually.

He took a deep breath before speaking with a firm tone, "Why on earth would you enter my campsite with a weapon?"

The boy weakly stood up. He brushed the grass and dirt off of his tattered armor before answering, "I was testing your merit. I wanted to see if you would be a worthy opponent."

The samurai boy's face was bright red. Ash couldn't tell if it was because he was embarrassed...or if it was the after-effect of being held upside down by a giant bird for so long.

Ash looked at the young samurai quizzically, "Do you wish for me to be your opponent in a pokemon match...or a sword fight? Because I am struggling to see how the two relate."

The misunderstood boy shook his head in grief and picked up his helmet, "All forms of battle can be rooted back to the blade," he then flashed a hint of passion. "How can you lead your pokemon into battle if you are not willing to take up arms yourself!?"

Ash thought it over. It was a flawed point of view, but he could see where the boy was coming from. Too many weak willed individuals hid behind the strength of their pokemon. The dark-haired boy raised his hand to his chin as he evaluated the stranger. Even if he was a bit foolish, he was no serious threat.

Ash sighed and lifted the sword from the ground, "I'll tell you what. I will give you a battle if you promise to ditch the sword when challenging traveling trainers."

The samurai kid slightly hesitated before replying, "That sounds like a fair trade. What are the conditions of our duel?"

Ash scratched his head in thought, "How about two one-on-one battles?"

"Sounds good to me," shrugged the samurai, "when shall we begin?"

Ash mulled the question over before answering, "Just give my pokemon and I a chance to eat and pack up camp. Then we should be good to go."

It didn't take Ash long to feed his pokemon and himself. While they were eating, Ash explained to Pidgeotto and Growlithe that he somehow could tell that the samurai kid wasn't a real threat.

Growlithe was indifferent. Ash wondered if he had picked up on the boy's real intentions by smelling the emotions in his scent. Ash was really starting to believe that there was some truth to that rumor.

Pidgeotto basically felt the same way as Growlithe. The dark-haired trainer was pretty sure that the flying-type was just having fun from the beginning.

Ash tried to offer the boy something to eat, but he insisted that he wasn't hungry. Ash didn't buy it. The way the boy's belly growled, while they were eating, didn't give Ash any reason to believe he was full. But, who was he to put a dent in the boy's samurai pride? Despite the fact that he wasn't quite sure where in the samurai handbook it said that it was shameful to accept a meal from an opponent.

On the contrary, maybe he was looking at it all wrong. It's possible that it only becomes shameful once you sneak into an opponents campsite with an unsheathed sword before challenging them to a pokemon battle.

After Ash and his two pokemon cleaned up the campsite, they were ready to take on the samurai. The samurai boy led them to a vast clearing about a half-mile off the main path. From their point of access, Ash could see a small log cabin to the right. His guess was that it belonged to the boy. The rest of the clearing was dirt and open space. It was the perfect place for a battle.

Both boys calculated a reasonable amount of space for their pokemon to work with—and faced each other. They set no official boundaries. Before they started, Ash realized that he hadn't actually asked the boy what his name was.

"What's your name!?" Ash hollered.

"Just call me Samurai!" The samurai boy exclaimed.

Samurai then reached for a pokeball before shouting, "What about you!?"

The trainer from Pallet Town bellowed, "Ash Ketchum!"

Samurai initiated the battle by casting a pokeball. Erupting from the red and white sphere was a menacing pinser. The big, ugly stag beetle filed its large, white, thorny, protruding pincers together as it hissed its battle cry.

Ash reached for his pokedex and scanned the big, brown bug.

"Pinser – the stag beetle pokemon – it grips its prey with its pincers until it is torn in half. What it can't tear it tosses far."

Ash gulped and made a mental note to stay away from its pincers. Both of Ash's pokemon had type advantage. He figured his flying-type was the best option. Pidgeotto had more long-ranged attacks—which would make avoiding Pinser's alarmingly dangerous forceps a lot easier.

He called Pidgeotto to the battlefront. The massive, off-white colored avian glided down from its temporary roost atop one of the nearby trees. He peered down at the bug-type with a nasty glare.

The two foes didn't waste a speck of time. Pinser rumbled in the direction of the bird. He prepared his pincers with the intention to crush Pidgeotto's being.

Pidgeotto jetted in the direction of the bug, rapidly closing the distance. At the last second, he elevated in order to narrowly dodge the threatening insect's biological sheers.

The stag beetle squatted—loading its legs with power. It vaulted its body into the air in pursuit of Pidgeotto.

The raptorlike avian thrashed its wings downward in an attempt to use Gust to force its enemy to the ground.

Pinser squeezed its forceps together creating a drill like protrusion. It used this like a dagger, and stabbed the attack, piercing the wind with its sharp point.

Pidgeotto wasn't going to let a pokemon, classified under the inferior bug-type, break through his wind barrier. This time, using the entire force of his incredible wingspan, he powerfully beat his wings once again

It was too much for Pinser to resist. The bug-type crashed into the ground, at a high velocity, leaving a small crater in its wake.

Pinser tried to get up, but was met by an overruling Whirlwind; It violently forced his back into the ground. As Pinser lay belly up, Ash saw an opportunity to finish the first of two battles.

He commanded the colossal pidgeotto, "Use Quick Attack while it's on the ground!"

Samurai tried to beckon his warrior to dodge, but time was too short. Pinser took a grand, accelerated Quick Attack straight to the gut rendering him unconscious.

Samurai frowned and returned his precious bug-type to its pokeball.

Ash smiled and told Pidgeotto that he did a good job in his first battle before returning him. In his opinion, the large flying-type deserved a good rest in suspended animation.

The second of the two battles was what Ash would call a farce. The battle, if you could even call it that, ended just as soon as it had begun when Samurai summoned a metapod. The medial sized, motionless, forest green chrysalis tried its best to endure Growlithe's ember. Unfortunately, multiple attempts to make its exterior shell impenetrable only prolonged the inevitable conclusion.

Ash internally questioned Samurai's choice. Then he remembered the ridiculous scene he had awoken to earlier that morning. The decision to try and match a growlithe by sending out a bug-type incapable of movement kind of explained Samurai in a nutshell.

However, regardless of his intellect, Ash didn't dislike the kid. He didn't know why. Maybe it was because he had so much passion behind what he believed in. Or, possibly, it was because he was simply amusing.

Samurai looked at Ash with a slight look of disappointment.

The dark-haired boy held out his hand in preparation for a shake, "Thanks for the battle; it was a lot of fun!"

Samurai grasped Ash's hand honorably.

"No, thank-you," he tried to force a smile, "you've definitely shown me that I have a lot of work to do before I can consider myself a competent battler."

Ash shrugged, "Maybe it would have been different if both of my pokemon didn't have a type advantage?"

"I guess," sighed Samurai.

Ash could tell that the boy was pretty humiliated. Not only had he been given a fair battle after disgracefully sneaking into Ash's campsite while he was sleeping, but to top it off, he was also defeated pretty handily. Ash decided that it was probably a good idea not to fill him in on the fact that he had only been traveling for four days. As a matter of fact, he decided it would be better to leave the boy with something to work towards.

"Samurai, it's highly likely that in the next couple of days a few more trainers from my hometown of Pallet will be trekking through these woods," said Ash.

Samurai listened attentively.

"If you train hard and wait on the main path, you may be able to redeem yourself," Ash smirked. "One of them is my rival, so don't expect it to be easy."

The boy's face lit up vigorously at the chance to take back his honor, "I will do as you say. Except this time, I will challenge them in a more modern way."

Ash laughed. Now that Samurai's spirit had been rejuvenated, Ash felt comfortable enough to leave the fascinating boy alone to train for Gary and the other. He knew that the boy would have a tough time competing with Gary. Maybe he'd have a shot against the other kid. Ash just hoped he wasn't setting up Samurai to lose three straight battles. He didn't want to be responsible for completely destroying the boy's morale.

Samurai, Ash, and Growlithe accompanied each other during the trip back to the trail. Once they made it back, they said their farewells.

Samurai headed in the direction of Viridian City looking for a good spot on the trail to wait patiently for his chance at redemption.

Ash and Growlithe continued their expedition to Pewter City. The two friends hoped that, by the end of the day, they would reach the city that was home to Brock: the Pewter City Gym Leader.

XXX

From the peak of a hilltop, occupying the northern edge of the forest, Ash suddenly gasped. He could see Pewter City in the distance. Even from his vantage point, about a half-mile away, he could make out some of the large stone buildings Pewter was famous for. After Ash split off from Samurai, it had only taken him a few hours to get to his current location. He even stopped once to battle a traveling trainer's butterfree with Pidgeotto. The battle was a bit tougher than the one he had against Samurai, but that was probably because butterfree are capable of aerial combat.

Nevertheless, Ash was victorious.

The boy and his growlithe took in the breathtaking view, making sure to take mental pictures. Once they had their fill, they set off to enjoy the concluding moments of their journey to Pewter.

After peacefully hiking the trip's final stretch, the boy and his growlithe finally reached Pewter's outskirts. The city's outer edge was rather rural with the terrain being made up of mostly dirt and various sized stones. There were very few buildings, and most of them looked to be at least fifty-years-old and abandoned.

Ash even noticed a water well that looked like it hadn't been used in ages—along with a decrepit, old watermill that sat near the edge of a narrow, nearby riverbed. It looked to flow from somewhere deep in the forest. He didn't remember seeing anything like this when he was looking out from atop the hill. This part of the city had to have been drowned out by the tall city buildings.

Ash picked up on the fact that this portion of town was awfully empty. He had yet to see another person. It almost gave off the vibe of an eerie, old ghost town. As he passed through the district, he was cautious. He wasn't usually one to get paranoid, but the severe lack of people was ill-boding.

Unexpectedly, Growlithe stiffened up and began to snarl. Ash's head swiveled. He was looking for anything that could possibly cause such a reaction out of Growlithe.

"Would you be interested in some genuine Pewter City keepsakes?" asked a deep, scratchy voice from somewhere close to Ash.

Growlithe strangely relaxed as the scent revealed itself to be a shady looking man. His age was hard to estimate because of the burly, dark brown beard that settled upon his face. He was wearing old, battered outdoor wear and a thick, burgundy, wool snowcap. The hat was an interesting choice due to the time of year. Early fall in the Kanto region was anything but cold. It hardly provoked the need for the man's choice of clothing.

Ash replied; he didn't want to be rude, "Um, what are you selling?"

"Could you follow me please? My collection isn't far," he mumbled in a low tone.

Growlithe was no longer on edge. Therefore, Ash figured the man was to some extent credible. The boy's mother had always taught him not to judge a book by its cover. He didn't find it easy, but having Growlithe around dulled the risk considerably.

Ash followed the mysterious man, literally around the corner, to reach where he had setup shop. The ten-year-old boy was astonished and not in a good way. The man was selling rocks. Not gems. Not diamonds. Not even silver or copper. All that he had were plain, old, boring, gray rocks.

Ash was beginning to believe that the man was at least slightly deranged. Especially, once he saw each individual price tag associated with the different rocks. The man was asking a small fortune for every single one. Not to mention that he was trying to sell the rocks in a part of the city that was desolate. Ash guesstimated that the wooden shelf he was using, to display some of the smaller-sized rocks, was worth more than the merchandise itself.

"Is there anything that peaks your interest, young man?" asked the bearded man.

Ash said the first thing that came to mind, "Um, sir, you do know those are plain, old rocks, right?"

The man wagged his finger, "But you see...that's where your wrong, kid. These are plain, old rocks from Pewter City: the city of stone. They're genuine souvenirs."

Ash scratched his head.

"Um...whatever you say, sir," he then proceeded to lie. "I would buy one, but I can't afford it."

The man mulled it over, "Well, how much are you willing to spend? I may be willing to drop the price."

Ash internally laughed. If someone were to tell him – at the beginning of the day – that haggling for an ordinary, everyday rock was on his agenda; he would tell them that they were crazy.

But, Ash was nice...and he hated it.

"Um, how about fifty pokedollars for the small one?" asked Ash in disbelief that he was even considering this.

The man entered serious thought, "Seventy-five and you got a deal."

Ash retorted hesitantly, "Sixty and not a penny more."

The man smirked, "Sixty-five."

Ash frowned and handed him what little cash he had withdrawn from the trainer ATM back at the pokemart in Viridian City, "Fine, you win."

The man smiled and handed Ash a rock about the size of his palm, "It's your lucky day, son. You get to leave here with this beauty. And at a bargain price, too, might I add."

Ash had come to a conclusion. This man was, in fact, crazy.

The boy was pretty sure that he had just made the most idiotic purchase in the history of the world. The only way to justify it, in his mind, was to tell himself that he was generous when it came to the needy.

The man reached out a hand, "Pleasure doing business with you, son."

Ash hesitantly mirrored him, "Thanks for the rock."

The man pulled his hat up slightly so that he could make eye contact with Ash, "You know what? I like you, kid. What's your name?"

Ash half-heartedly smiled, "My names Ash. What about you, sir?"

"The name's Flint," He turned his attention to Growlithe for the first time, who a moment prior was starting to feel slightly ignored.

"What about this little fella? Does he have a name?" asked Flint.

Ash smiled at his buddy, "Nothing fancy; his name is Growlithe."

Growlithe wagged his tail. Attention was always exciting for the pup.

"Ash, I would love to show you the way to the Pokemon Center," said Flint. "Your Growlithe looks kind of worn out."

Ash was a little bit confused. He wasn't quite sure how he had gone from haggling over a rock to being asked if he wanted a tour. But, he reckoned he might as well accept. He felt a little more comfortable with the prospect of spending the sixty-five pokedollars on a guide to the Pokemon Center.

"Sure...that would be nice," he replied.

Flint gave Ash an awkward smile before heading towards the heart of the city. Ash followed—the whole time wondering...how in the hell was he convinced to buy a rock for sixty-five pokedollars?

XXX

The long walk to the Pokemon Center was rather pleasant. Flint didn't talk too much, which allowed Ash and Growlithe to soak in the altering scenery.

As they immersed themselves deeper into the city, it gradually changed from rural to contemporary. Most of the buildings grew in size. It was intriguing to see how the more current establishments contrasted with the early stone architecture that had stood since Pewter's birth.

The busy streets, carefully organized by painted roads and streetlights, rapidly became more congested. Pewter was a lot different than Viridian. It gave off much more of a big city vibe.

Every once in a while, Flint spoke up. He would share all kinds of little facts about certain parts of the city that they passed by as well as provide a timeline for when specific things were built. Ash was impressed. The man knew a lot for someone that sold rocks for a living.

Listening to Flint's few comments made Ash curious. Where did this man come from? What made him the way he was? Why did he choose to spend his time so far away from everything else? They were all questions that Ash found inquisitive, but he was too afraid to ask. He didn't know Flint well enough to be able to hypothesize what his reaction would be like.

Ash, Growlithe, and Flint finally arrived outside of the Pokemon Center. In terms of design, this pokemon center was very similar to the one in Viridian City. It was dome shaped with the roof resembling a pokeball. The large glass doors were constantly pivoting in response to non-stop activity. Unlike Viridian's pokemon center, Pewter's was annoyingly busy. However, the most evident difference was the drastic contrast in size. Pewter City's pokemon center was much bigger. Ash guessed that Pewter probably had a significantly larger budget than Viridian.

Upon entrance, the first thing that Ash picked up on was that the lobby was a mirror image of the one in Viridian. There were a few slight differences in décor. Other than that, it was all the same. This brought Ash to believe that the reason this pokemon center was so big was due to expanded lodging space, since the lobby was about the same size.

This time around, Ash was able to get a better feel for everything. The manifold of people gave him a much better visual example of how to use several of the different features that the Center provided.

There was a long line to see the Nurse Joy in charge of the Pokemon Center. Just like the lobby, she was identical to her family member in Viridian. The global anomaly involving the Joy and Jenny families was a hot topic within the scientific community.

Both families had some kind of genetic disorder. It entailed that every single female offspring was born identical. There were a few other families like this scattered across the different regions. Several conspiracy theories had popped up over the years. Most of them suggested some kind of secret cloning operation funded by the League.

Ash had to admit, it was rather strange. How could there be that many people that looked interchangeable? Not to mention the fact that they all had League administered jobs. Ash decided to shift his attention back to his surroundings. No matter how much time he spent trying to solve the mystery of Nurse Joy, he wasn't ever going to get anywhere.

Flint stuck with him the entire time. Ash figured he probably didn't have anything better to do. It's not like he had to get back to the rural suburb in fear of someone stealing his rocks.

Ash had returned Growlithe a while ago. It only took about five minutes of standing in line surrounded by people for Ash to tell that Growlithe was painfully overwhelmed.

During the wait, Ash had eavesdropped on several conversations. He uncovered that there were three reasons why the Pokemon Center was so packed.

Reason number one was obvious: there were several trainers that were registering for this year's Pokemon League.

The second of the three was that they had finally announced the month that this year's League Tournament would be taking place in. The tournament would be sometime in May. The League always took place between April and June. For the longest time, Ash didn't understand why they changed the date every year. The answer was revealed to him while he was studying for the qualification exam. He found it rather interesting. Apparently, it all had to do with weather. The League had its strongest certified psychics look a year into the future. The goal was to find out when the Indigo Plateau had a two-week span of decent weather.

The final reason for the congestion, inside the Pokemon Center, had to do with the fact that trainers were getting decimated by Pewter City's gym leader: Brock Slate. Ash was confident in his own abilities, but he couldn't help but gulp after witnessing all of Brock's victims.

It took the dark-haired boy nearly twenty minutes to finally reach the front desk. He handed Nurse Joy both of his pokeballs for restoration and got a room.

Flint decided that it was time for him to head back to his shop. Before leaving, he questioned Ash, "What's your other pokemon, kid?"

"I have a Pidgetto," replied Ash, "why?"

The bearded man shook his head, looking a little bit disappointed.

"Brock's a rock-type gym leader," he then raised a question. "How do you plan on giving him a good battle by using two pokemon with type disadvantages?"

Flint left Ash with that last difficult question reverberating in his ears. Ash knew what Flint was doing. The man was trying to force Ash to seriously consider his next course of action.

...It was working.

Ash hadn't actually told Flint anything about his plan to challenge the Gym Circuit. But, before labeling the man as some kind of mind reader, Ash came to the conclusion that it was probably pretty darn obvious.

Ash scratched his head. In all honesty, this was something that he had been thinking over for quite a while. Unfortunately, he still hadn't settled on a concrete plan of action.

One option was to catch a pokemon with a type advantage. If he chose to go that route—his options were water, grass, fighting, ground, and steel-type pokemon. The problem with this strategy, though, was that he would have to settle for a pokemon he really didn't care to train. This part of the region was pretty dry when it came to pokemon Ash desired.

Ash had struggled over this issue for an excruciatingly long time. He loved pokemon. Almost every single species bewildered him to some degree, but he wanted to be a great pokemon trainer. Even though he believed that all pokemon could be trained to a high-level, he recognized that certain pokemon had much more natural potential.

He was after pokemon that had an uncanny amount of unlockable, latent ability. Ash was looking for creatures naturally blessed with the ability to become the best in the world...

His second option was to train. He could find a good place, on the outskirts of town, over by where he had met Flint. It would slow down his journey, but he was fully aware that he was going to have to stop and train, for decently long periods of time, every once in a while anyway. The drawback, though, was that it would take weeks to accumulate the amount of strength that Growlithe and Pidgeotto would need in order to overcome the type disadvantage. That was time that Ash couldn't afford to forfeit so early on in his journey.

The final option was the least convenient, but possibly the only rational way to go. He could skip the Pewter Gym entirely, at least for now, and return later. By the time he returned to Pewter City, he would without a doubt have the right team to take on Brock.

He hated to admit it, but right now he really didn't have the proper players. It would take some kind of otherworldly miracle for him to defeat Brock's powerful rock-types with a young fire-type and a flying-type.

No matter how exceptional Growlithe and Pidgeotto had performed up to this point, he refused to set them up for failure.

As long as you are willing to put forth the effort to look, the League publicizes what pokemon each gym leader uses to a certain extent. A gym leader is required to register a team specifically for trainers with less than three badges. Only one of the two pokemon can be evolved, and the identity of these pokemon must be public knowledge. This is how Ash knew that Brock's challenge, for beginners, was one of the toughest in the entire Gym Circuit.

The first of his pokemon was a geodude, which was actually pretty reasonable. The small spherical rock-type usually didn't give trainers too much trouble. It was the second of Brock's two Pokemon that sent unprepared trainers to the Pokemon Center crying.

The gym leader was in possession of an Onix—one of the largest pokemon in all of Kanto. Onix were massive serpentine pokemon. Their bodies completely consisting of large, bulky stone. This was not the type of opponent Growlithe and Pidgeotto could will into submission. They needed a strategy.

Unfortunately...there wasn't one.

In time, Ash had no doubt that his two friends would be able to overcome various type disadvantages. But right now, they weren't ready. He wished he could will them to victory. He would do anything to be able to walk into the Pewter Gym and know that he had a chance to earn the Boulder Badge, but that wasn't realistic. He hated to admit it, but he had to be patient. The boy decided, then and there, that his only legitimate option was to come back later.

He would have to get his first badge in Cerulean City. The Cerulean Gym specialized in water-type pokemon. Growlithe would be at a complete disadvantage, so Ash couldn't rely on him. Luckily, there was a pokemon rumored to be located in Mt. Moon that he wanted. It would be extremely difficult to find given that it was one of the rarest pokemon in all of Kanto. Regardless, Ash was willing to seek it out. After all, Growlithe happened to have a legendary sense of smell.

The boy snapped back to reality at the sound of Nurse Joy voicing his name over the Center's intercom. He collected his two pokeballs, ate a late lunch in the cafeteria, then made his way to his designated room.

It was late afternoon, and Ash was in much need a power nap. He had the spare time. The only things left on his agenda for the day was a trip to the Pokemart and an evening training session.

Tomorrow morning he would head for Mt. Moon: the mountainous bridge between Pewter and Cerulean.

XXX

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