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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34. Kanto 11 Part 1

"She's gorgeous…" muttered Ash, in between blinks, as he gawked at the silver coated eevee.

Throughout his journey, he had seen a lot of beautiful pokemon, but Eevee, well…let's just say that she was near the top of his list.

Her fur glimmered as she looked around the hospital room with befuddled eyes, trying her best to get a grip over her current whereabouts. Ash took Eevee's brief moment of confusion as an opportunity to take a good look at her…

Her primarily silver pelt covered all of the areas where a normaleevee's fur would be brown, and the tip of her bushy tail as well as her large furry collar were as white as snow. The insides of her long, pointed ears were black instead of brown, while the rest of her features were the same as a typical eevee.

It was obvious the moment that she was released that Eevee was as special as Skylar had made her out to be. She was born with one of the two scientifically recognized genetic mutations. Eevee was what researchers referred to as shiny.

Now, despite their rarity, Eevee wasn't the first alternate colored pokemon that Ash had seen. There was Wallace's wailord, Kent's arcanine, and Ash could never forget Dragonite. However, although Ash had seen shiny pokemon before, this was the first time that he actually considered the possibility of having one of his own.

Finding pokemon belonging to the handful of species that he was interested in was difficult enough, so he had always thought that seeking after special specimens, like Eevee, was a waste of time. Granted, it's not like meeting Eevee had changed the way he would go about his journey, but it did shine a light on a couple of things.

First of all, even if Eevee chose not to let him train her, he was extremely lucky. Most people would consider themselves fortunate if they got to see a single mutated pokemon in their entire lifetime.

Ash had seen several, and if things went well, he'd have an opportunity to train two unique cases in Pidgeotto and Eevee.

Secondly, Ash had come to the conclusion that destiny had a tendency to be ironic. Just yesterday, he had been complaining to Sabrina about how he had failed to catch an abra on his way to Celadon. He really wanted that abra, and destiny had seemingly gone out of its way not to deliver.

Even though eevee was a species that Ash was heavily interested in, he hadn't sought one out. Be that as it may, an eevee was what stood in front of him. He wanted an abra, but destiny was delivering to him a silver eevee.

Ash couldn't help but internally

laugh. As much as he cursed destiny for asking so much of him, it sure could be incredible when it wanted to be…

All of a sudden, Ash was ripped from his thoughts when Eevee dashed over to the inclined hospital bed and leaped into Skylar's lap.

Skylar let out a brief burst of playful laughter as Eevee pressed her nose up against her cheek, taking in her scent. Once Eevee was finished, she used her eyes to examine Skylar's body as a whole – making sure that she was okay – before lying down at the foot of the bed.

"I'm so happy to see you," said Skylar, greeting Eevee, who responded by looking back up at her with amicable eyes.

"Oh, Eevee, honey!" exclaimed Ellen, interrupting Skylar and the evolution pokemon's moment as she reached over to wrap Eevee up in one of her suffocating hugs.

Ash chuckled under his breath as he watched Ellen grasp at an after-image. By the way that Eevee instinctually jumped over her head and landed gracefully on the floor in front of Ruphus, it was apparent that she had loads of experience avoiding Mrs. Worthington's hugs.

As Ellen crashed face first into the bed, Ruphus bent down on one knee in order to properly welcome Eevee.

"Hello, Eevee," said Ruphus in a soothing voice as he gently stroked behind one of the kit's ears. "I'm glad you're safe."

Eevee's eyes narrowed as Ruphus petted her. Despite the fact that she allowed him to touch her, it was clear that she didn't like it. Ash could instantly tell that they didn't mesh well; just watching them together made him feel uncomfortable. It was as if they were two divergent puzzle pieces that someone was trying to jam together.

Their relationship just seemed unnatural...

"I want to introduce someone to you," said Ruphus to Eevee as he used his hand to gesture towards Ash.

Now, Eevee had already glanced at him a few times, but it wasn't until Ruphus pointed over in his direction that Eevee actually acknowledged his presence in a significant manner.

"This is Ash," said Ruphus with a smile. "He's a friend and a very talented pokemon trainer. He saved you and Skylar from some bad guys that were trying to take you away."

The moment Ruphus mentioned the fact that he was a pokemon trainer, Eevee's ears twitched and her eyes intensified. She pulled away from Ruphus before approaching Ash with a look of intrigue.

"Hey, Eevee," said Ash, squatting down to her level, "I've heard a lot about you. I'm glad we're finally getting the chance to meet."

Memories of the moment he first met Growlithe flashed within his head. This experience was oddly similar. It felt like déjà vu as he reached his hand out for Eevee to sniff.

Without a hint of hesitation, Eevee pressed her black nose up against Ash's palm and smelt it.

Now, although eevee were blessed with a great sense of smell, they couldn't pick up emotions like Growlithe, and their intuitions weren't nearly as savvy as other fox-like species such as the two species belonging to the vulpix line.

However, just because her sense of smell wasn't otherworldly that didn't mean that she couldn't get some useful information about Ash from his scent.

Once Eevee was done exploring Ash with her nose, she took a couple of steps backward before locking eyes with him. Despite the fact that he had just met Eevee, he could tell by the challenging look in her eyes that she wanted to test his strength.

"She wants a battle," said Ash, standing up straight and planting his line of sight on Ruphus.

"I see that," retorted Ruphus with a smirk. "She doesn't act this way around just anyone. I think she's already taken somewhat of a liking to you."

"What part of wanting to battle makes you think that she likes me?" asked Ash, raising an eyebrow.

"Well," said Ruphus, "Eevee isn't one to show that she likes someone through traditional means. The fact that she wants to challenge you means that she's at the very least interested in you, which is definitely saying something."

"Really?" queried Ash, squinting his eyes in confusion, "but I haven't even done anything."

"My dad's right," inserted Skylar, causing Ash to pivot his glance over to his new friend. "When Eevee was born, for the first two months of her life, she wouldn't even look at me. The fact that she was willing to look you in the eyes means that she likes you."

Going off of what the Worthingtons were saying about Eevee, and then seeing her behavior, Ash could tell that she had a very unique and arduous personality. She was a tiny, silver, bundle of arrogant sass. It was obvious to Ash that she only acknowledged the strong, and she didn't want to waste her time frolicking around with those that couldn't help her realize her potential.

If Ash ended up walking away from Celadon with Eevee's pokeball attached to his belt, he had to be prepared for a challenging relationship. Eevee's attitude had the potential to be problematic.

Fortunately, Ash had a track record for taming ambitious personalities.

"You want a battle, eh?" asked Ash, eyeing Eevee with a tenacious expression.

A small smirk formed on Eevee's face, and her irises went ablaze as she nodded. She then looked up at Ruphus with desire felt eyes, wishing for his approval.

"Are you asking for my permission?" questioned Ruphus, surprised. "That's new."

"I think she's trying to give Ash a good first impression," said Skylar, astonished as well.

"Is that so, Eevee!?" asked Ruphus in between laughter.

The evolution pokemon responded by pointing her nose and looking the other direction, unwilling to admit that she was trying to come off as at least somewhat obedient.

"I see, I see, this definitely is interesting," said Ruphus, focusing his eyes on Eevee as if she was the only one else in the room.

Suddenly, Ruphus' disposition went from light-hearted to serious like the flip of a switch, "I'll let you battle Ash, but before you do there's something that I need to ask you."

Eevee focused her fiery eyes back on Ruphus as she cocked her head in a curious manner.

"When Ash leaves Celadon, would you like to go with him?"

Eevee's eyes widened, and her ears quivered, reacting to Ruphus' words. She took a moment to process what her trainer had just asked before pivoting her glance back-and-forth between Ruphus and Ash.

For the first time since he had met her, Eevee looked hesitant. Ash wasn't sure, but it looked like deep down inside Eevee truly did care about Ruphus. He was the only trainer she had ever known after all.

"I know that you and Skylar were out looking for someone that could properly train you, so you can cut the act."

Within the blink of an eye, Eevee went from hesitant to her typical impudent countenance. Ash couldn't help but internally scoff. Not only was she audacious and self-absorbed, but she could put on a believable façade as well.

Ash shook his head and smiled half-heartedly.

…Without a doubt, she would be difficult.

"I know this is something that you want," continued Ruphus, "and I'm not going to act like it isn't something that I've been thinking about as well."

Eevee stared at him with a blank expression. It seemed as though she didn't care that Ruphus was more than okay with her.

"I can personally vouch for Ash that he is a competent young trainer," said Ruphus, bringing his eyes over to Ash, "and he is a traditional battler, so his training style is more inclined to your interests. Last but not least, if it weren't for him, you'd be under the control of some really bad people, and Skylar..."

He paused, choosing not to finish what he was about to say, "The point is, we owe him. And I think that it will benefit everyone, including yourself, if you join him on his journey."

Once again, Eevee stood still for a second, soaking in what Ruphus was telling her. She then flashed him a look that signified what he recognized as consideration before turning around and walking over to Ash.

Ash planted his eyes on Eevee as she approached him.

"What do you thin—" managed Ash prior to being interrupted by a snarling Eevee.

"Eevee!" howled Ellen, speaking up for the first time in a while. "Why are you—"

"Don't worry, Mom," interjected Skylar, causing Ellen to go silent. "That isn't a hostile growl. She's just trying to tell Ash something."

"What is it?" asked Ellen inquisitively.

"I think…" started Skylar.

"She's issuing a challenge," finished Ruphus. "Eevee's decision relies on whether or not Ash can beat her in battle. If Ash wins, she'll go with him. If he loses, he doesn't have what it takes to train her."

"Challenge accepted!" exclaimed Ash with vigor in his intonation.

He paused as he shifted his attention toward Ruphus, "that is, of course, if you are absolutely sure that this is alright."

"I'm sure," said Ruphus, nodding his head as he stuffed his hands in his pockets. "My decision has already been made. The rest is up to you."

"Understood," Ash replied with a smirk before refocusing on Eevee, "let's do this then."

Ash saw a small, determined smile form on Eevee's face as she let out a confirmatory yap.

"Now, calm down you two," said Ruphus, clearly amused. "Don't forget that were in the middle of a hospital room."

Both of them surveyed their surroundings for a moment before relaxing.

Eevee let out an abraded sigh, whereas Ash simply scratched his head in embarrassment.

"I forgot where I was for a second," said Ash sheepishly.

He folded his arms as a thought crossed his mind, "There's a training facility in the Recreational Wing. We could battle there."

"Good idea," said Ruphus with a smile. "That sounds much better than a hospital room."

Everyone in the room chuckled at Ruphus' jest before Eevee interrupted with a series of mulish yaps.

"Alright," replied Ash. "She's getting antsy. What do you think? Should we head over to the training facility, now?"

"That's fine with—" managed Ruphus before being interrupted by Skylar.

"Hold on a second!" yelled Skylar, catching everyone's attention. "If you guys go now, I won't be able to watch the battle!"

Ash and Ruphus nodded, understanding where Skylar was coming from, whereas Eevee simply rolled her eyes.

"She's got a point," said Ruphus, scratching the back of his head. "Nurse Joy won't permit Skylar to leave this room for a couple of days. She still needs to rest a little bit before having another in-depth evaluation."

"Gotcha'," said Ash as he fiddled with one of the zippers on his jacket.

He took a moment to think before laying his eyes on the silver coated kit, "Sorry, Eevee, but we're going to have to postpone our battle until Skylar gets released by Nurse Joy."

Eevee's entire body slouched in response to what Ash had just told her. It was clear that she was disappointed. At the moment, there was nothing she wanted to do more than battle him.

"It's only right that Skylar gets a chance to watch," said Ash in a firm voice.

"Are you sure?" questioned Skylar in a much more placid tone. "Now that I think about it, I don't want to be a nuisance."

"Don't worry about it," said Ash. "You should be there, especially after everything that you have done for Eevee."

"Thanks," replied Skylar, "that means a lot.

"No need to thank me," said Ash with a smile before surveying everyone in the room. "Besides, it's not like I'll be going anywhere. I still have a lot of things that I have to do in Celadon before I leave."

Skylar reciprocated Ash's smile as her father walked over to him and grasped his shoulder.

"Okay, then," said Ruphus after clearing his throat, "how about this…"

He paused, giving everyone an opportunity to listen, "Ash, why don't we go our separate ways for the moment? We can plan on meeting at the training facility three days from now. That should give Skylar plenty of time to recover, and you'll be able to see most of Celadon."

"I think that's a splendid idea, honey!" blurted Ellen, who was sitting on the edge of the hospital bed, obnoxiously clapping for her husband.

"Sounds good to me," retorted Ash before looking down at Eevee. "You can be patient, right?"

Eevee huffed, letting everyone in the room know that she didn't want to wait. However, it didn't take long for her to follow up her sigh with a nod. She wasn't going to risk giving up such a great opportunity for something as trivial as her own impatience.

"It's been decided, then," said Ruphus with a smile. "The battle between Ash and Eevee will take place three days from now."

Ash smirked as he locked eyes with a confident Eevee.

Despite her arrant attitude, he couldn't wait to make the stunning, silver kit a part of his team.

XXX

"Thanks for the ride," said Ash to Officer Jenny as he and Growlithe hopped out of the backseat of the Police SUV.

"No problem, kid," retorted Jenny, rolling down both windows on the passenger side of the vehicle.

She paused as she waited for Ash to walk up to the front window, "Besides, I should be the one thanking you. Because of you, I don't have to worry about Petrel anymore. I can't explain how big of a relief it is to know that Sabrina Marvil is going to handle the Game Corner."

"I can only imagine," said Ash with a smile as he felt Growlithe brush up against his leg.

To be honest, Ash hadn't been expecting Officer Jenny to relinquish her desire to take down Petrel so easily. He didn't know why, but before meeting with Jenny, he was under the impression that she would try and create her own role within Sabrina's plan.

It's possible that he thought this because he was subconsciously putting Celadon's Chief Jenny in his favorite Jenny's shoes. That Jenny doubtlessly would have used the entirety of the Celadon Police Department to invade the Game Corner as if they were a flock of relentless fearow.

Whatever the case may be, Ash wouldn't spend too much time dwelling on it. He was just happy that Officer Jenny was onboard with leaving things to Sabrina. The fact that Jenny was so compliant made things easy. Ever since his conversation with Sabrina, he was afraid that he would be forced to argue with a police chief.

Thankfully, things unfolded in a much more pleasant manner...

"Anyways, I'm sure we'll see each other again at some point," said Officer Jenny, putting her SUV in drive. "Until then, enjoy Celadon."

"You're probably right," retorted Ash, backing up onto the busy sidewalk, "and I will."

She placed her hands on the steering wheel and was about to pull away when she froze, catching Ash's attention.

"Oh, yeah, before I take off," said Jenny, lowering her sunglasses, "it would be in your best interest to follow Sabrina's advice and stay away from the Game Corner. Whether you know it or not, you're the type that has a tough time resisting danger. However, this time, if you stick your nose where it doesn't belong, it's likely that you or someone else will get hurt."

She paused, "Please, just do everyone a favor, and stay out of trouble."

"I-I understand," stammered Ash.

"Good," retorted Officer Jenny, releasing the brake and stepping on the gas. "See ya later, ki…"

Her voice faded as the black and white vehicle drove off. By the time Ash got ready to say goodbye, all he could do was wave. Apparently, Officer Jenny wasn't a fan of subtle farewells.

"Well, that was weird…" drawled Ash, gazing down at his starter, "she was pretty adamant about us not going to the Game Corner."

Growlithe nodded, letting Ash know that he was listening.

"I mean, it's not as if Sabrina didn't already get the point across," added Ash, thinking back on what she said about revoking his license and sending him home to his mother.

Ash watched Growlithe shake his head in amusement as he flared his nostrils.

"What?" queried Ash, raising both of his eyebrows. "You don't believe me?"

Growlithe looked up at him with questioning eyes, letting Ash know that he was skeptical.

"Whatever," snorted Ash, folding his arms and turning the opposite direction, "I might be reckless from time to time, but I'm not dumb enough to oppose Sabrina and Officer Jenny."

Out of the corner of his eye, Ash saw his puppy pokemon give him a look that read, 'you're full of crap'.

"Okay, okay," said Ash, "I know I've done the opposite of what they've said before, but I would never ignore both of them at the same time."

Growlithe simply took his eyes off of Ash, choosing not to take part in his moment of immaturity any longer.

Once Ash realized that Growlithe was no longer interested in his childish behavior, he let out a deep sigh before finally taking notice to his surroundings.

The first thing that caught his attention was the large, inordinate building that stood directly in front of him. Ash got excited just by looking at it. After all, he had been looking forward to this moment since the beginning of his journey.

Straight ahead was the Celadon Department Store…

Its external appearance wasn't quite as ensnaring as Silph Co. Headquarters, but the building's significance reminded him a lot of the massive skyscraper in Saffron. In that regard, it was like he was standing in the middle of Saffron all over again. He couldn't help but picture Robert and Bill welcoming him the moment he walked through one of the sets of large, revolving doors.

"Awesome..." he muttered as he began to look over the building in finer detail.

In terms of height, it wasn't even close to being as tall as Silph Co. Headquarters. If Ash were to take a guess, he would say that it was roughly half as tall as Saffron's airy skyscraper. However, at first glance, he would guess that it was greater in terms of overall breadth. Obviously, he hadn't been inside it yet, but he was under the impression that each level was much bigger than Silph Co. Headquarters' floors.

Like Silph Co. Headquarters, it was a rather modern looking building. Ash wouldn't say that it was as contemporary as Celadon's pokemon center – which had recently been remodeled – but it was way more up-to-date than any of the large buildings that Ash remembered from some of Kanto's less populated cities.

The two things that stood out to Ash the most about the Department Store were its unique shape and color scheme. It would be an understatement to say that it stuck out like a sore thumb, but that was the only way that Ash could describe it.

From his point of view, it looked like a bulky, sky-blue, crescent moon that was lying on its side. It was arcing toward him, and jetting out of the center of it were three massive, rectangular columns that erected towards the top of the moon shaped building.

Each one of the three columns was painted a different primary color: the one on the left was red, the one on the right was yellow, and the one in the center was blue. Resting on top of the blue, center column was a giant, dark blue cube that had the image of a white pokeball etched into it…

As soon as Ash was done taking in the Department Store's outer appearance, he planted his eyes back on Growlithe.

"Let's go check it out," said Ash, gesturing for Growlithe to follow him over to one of the front entrances.

As they approached the building, Ash made sure to get a good look at the scenery around it.

Encompassing the Department Store were several less significant buildings. Most of them were decent-sized commercial buildings that belonged to a plethora of different companies. Ash hadn't heard of most of the corporations, but he recognized a few of them that had a niche in the pokemon industry.

Other than commercial buildings, he noticed a few luxurious apartments and a handful of high-quality restaurants. Ash had a feeling that it cost a fortune to live anywhere in Celadon's jet set northwestern district – let alone within walking distance – but for those that didn't have to worry about money, he could see the draw.

Another thing that Ash thought was noteworthy, although it wasn't all that surprising, was the sheer amount of people in the area. It was midday, so it was obvious that there would be thousands of people pouring in and out of a place as alluring and popular as the Celadon Department Store.

But, it didn't stop there. As Ash and Growlithe pushed their way through the busy conflux of people, he realized that a lot of them were just loitering around. It was evident that the area surrounding the Department Store was a popular hangout spot for Celadon's civilians.

There were several groups of people sitting down and chatting on city benches. He saw a multitude of people – of all ages – relaxing with their pokemon in the grassy parts of the thoroughfare, and Ash caught glimpses of citizens that were taking part in outdoor activities such as throwing a frisbee or skating around on rollerblades.

The pleasant atmosphere and good vibes that were being distributed throughout the area made being around such an absurd amount of people way more bearable, especially for Growlithe.

The pup didn't seem to be bothered by their surroundings, so Ash no longer feared the day that Growlithe battled in front of thousands of people. His social anxiety was no longer debilitating, albeit Ash still couldn't help but lookout for signs of it resurfacing just in case…

All thoughts of the area encircling the Department Store came to an end when Ash and Growlithe reached one of the front entrances. At that point, he thought about returning Growlithe. Howbeit, he changed his mind when he saw a surplus of trainers entering and exiting with their pokemon by their sides.

Once they came to the realization that the Department Store allowed pokemon, the two friends waited for a safe time to enter through the revolving, glass door before stepping inside the building.

Ash's eyes widened. Right away, the first-level took him back to the first time he stepped foot inside of Silph Co. Headquarters.

After taking a moment to soak in his surroundings, one thought reverberated within his mind.

…It was time to explore.

XXX

Even though Ash enjoyed the first two floors, he made it through without spending a dime.

The first floor was primarily made up of an oversized food court and non-pokemon related retail stores. Ash could definitely tell that Silph Co. Headquarters' newly remodeled first-level was built with the Department's Store's first floor in mind; they were almost mirror images of one another.

Likewise, the Department Store's second floor was nearly a carbon-copy of the third floor of Silph Co. Headquarters. It was a massive pokemart that operated at a highly efficient level.

Now, Ash recalled Robert telling him that Silph Co. Headquarters' pokemart was even bigger than the one in the Celadon Department Store. If that truly was the case, Ash couldn't tell. They were both unlike any other pokemart he had been to: massive, well-staffed, up-to-date and always fully stocked.

As to be expected, when Ash and Growlithe were on the second floor, the dark-haired boy figured he might as well re-up on some of the supplies that he would need when he left Celadon. Of course, it didn't cost him anything. Now that he had the Silph Co. platinum card that he had gotten from Robert, anything sold at a pokemart was his for free.

Speaking of his platinum card, the reaction he received from the cashier that checked him out was priceless.

Before seeing the platinum card, while scanning his items, the young teenager was working on auto-pilot. She was polite, but Ash could tell that she wasn't all there mentally. I mean, who would be after standing behind a counter for so long?

However, when it was time for him to pay, and he showed her his card, she stopped dead in her tracks, looking at him as if he had just transformed into a dratini.

Ash wasn't too surprised. According to Robert, there were only a handful of people in the whole world that had a Silph Co. platinum card, and Ash was without a doubt the youngest out of all of them. If anything, he was surprised that all of the employees were aware of the cards' existence.

Whatever the case may be, using the platinum card had been convenient and entertaining at the same time, making his trip through the Department Store's second floor satisfying…

After making their way through the Department Store's first two levels, Ash and Growlithe finally found themselves on the third floor, which was what Ash had been looking forward to the most.

Sure, he was fascinated by the Department Store as a whole, but this was what he had been anxiously awaiting ever since he set his sights on Celadon. Occupying the third floor was the Department Store's world famous TM Shop, which was where hundreds of TMs – manufactured by Silph Co. and Zeta Corps – could be purchased by the general public.

"Whoa…" drawled Ash, slack-jawed as he and Growlithe surveyed their surroundings.

Although it wasn't as big as the Department Store's pokemart, the TM Shop was still a large store. It was arranged similarly to a pokemart, using big signs that cascaded from the ceiling to indicate which TMs could be found in which aisle.

Judging by the fact that each sign had a different pokemon type etched into it, Ash assumed that the TMs were organized accordingly. The only exception was the sign suspended over the first aisle – all the way to the left – which read: TM Cases.

"Let's start over there," said Ash to Growlithe as he pointed over to the first aisle.

The only way to apply a TM was with a TM Case – which not only stored TMs, but also uploaded the information hidden within a TM into a pokemon's brain – so Ash figured that it was the best place to start. Once he found the TM Case that he wanted, he would track down the TMs that he planned on buying for each of his pokemon.

Ash already had a general idea as to which TMs he was going to purchase. Throughout his trip to Celadon, he had used his pokedex to figure out which TMs each of his pokemon could learn. Based off of that information, he had decided on two TMs for each of his friends...

As they made their way over to Aisle One, Ash noticed that the TM Shop wasn't nearly as crowded as the other floors. At first, Ash was a bit curious as to why, but then he came to the conclusion that the reason why it was slower than the other levels was likely because TMs were expensive.

Not only that, but TMs didn't really appeal to anyone other than serious pokemon trainers.

The TM Shop wasn't like the Department Store's pokemart, where there were items that could be used by trainers and normal civilians. TMs were designed solely for trainers that were trying to give their pokemon an edge. Thus, the people that visited the TM Shop – that were actually looking to buy something – were primarily trainers that were bound and determined when it came to enhancing the skills of their pokemon.

Simply put, the TM Shop's target market was a lot smaller than the Pokemart or the non-pokemon related shops on the first floor, so it only made sense that it wasn't as busy. It may have been the most compelling floor to Ash, but the same thing couldn't be said about the rest of the people that were visiting the Department Store…

Anyways, the second Ash stepped foot into the TM Shop's first aisle, he tried his best to put a stop to all of his distracting thoughts. It was time for him to focus his attention on the TM Cases occupying the shelves around him.

From one side of the shop to the other were hundreds of different TM Cases. They were all packaged in medium-sized, white, cardboard boxes that showed an image of the case within them on the front. In addition to the image, there was also a load of information, regarding the TM Cases' specs, finely printed on the back and sides.

Now, despite the fact that Aisle One was practically overflowing with TM Cases that came in different shapes, colors and sizes, there were technically only two types that Ash had to choose from: the TM Case Mk I and the TM Case Mk II. Even though both the Mk I and the Mk II could properly store and apply TMs. Ash was only interested in the Mk II.

Both the Mk I and the Mk II had their pros and cons.

For starters, the Mk I was way more affordable, which made it the more popular choice. It had been around longer, so it had a broader selection in terms of shapes, colors and size. Moreover, the smallest Mk I case, which could hold fifty TMs, far surpassed the largest Mk II case in terms of TM storage, which could only hold twenty-five.

Be that as it may, there was a feature that the Mk II had that appealed to Ash in a way that the Mk I never could.

Unlike the Mk I, the Mk II could reuse TMs.

The one major flaw of the Mk I was that after applying a TM, it wiped its drive, making it useless from that point forward. It took the data from the TM and directly transferred it into a pokemon's brain.

The Mk II was capable of reading the information on a TM, copying it onto the TM Case's internal drive, and then transferring the data into a pokemon's brain without wiping the TM.

Essentially, with the TM Case Mk II, you could use a single TM on multiple different pokemon as long as the pokemon you used it on were eligible to learn the TM's technique. In Ash's opinion, it was a cutting-edge tool that had the ability to open several new doors for any pokemon trainer.

Granted, the average trainer could never afford one, which was why they rarely sold and lacked the massive selection that the Mk I had.

Fortunately, due to the earnings he had received from coming in third place in the SS Anne tournament as well as the fact that he now had the Silph Co. platinum card, Ash could afford to break the bank and purchase one of the pricey, albeit remarkable, machines…

While sifting through the long aisle full of cases, Ash realized that only a small section of it had the Mk IIs. They were at the very end of the aisle—opposite of the shop's entrance. Even though Ash was fully aware that there weren't nearly as many Mk II models as there were Mk Is, Ash was shocked by the paltry selection.

It was actually kind of ironic. Despite the fact that the Mk II was by far the better TM Case, there were barely any, and they were forced to occupy the way back corner of the aisle.

Based off of ability, a machine like the TM Case Mk II should have been displayed at the front of the shop, for all eyes to see. Too bad it was so expensive. At this rate, it would end up getting discontinued, which only enhanced Ash's desire to purchase one regardless of the hefty price and lack of options…

"Hmm…" murmured Ash as he used his eyes to look over the shop's handful of Mk II models, "What do you think, Growlithe?"

He paused as he pointed at two distinct boxes, choosing to ignore the ridiculously steep price-tags that resided directly below their designated places on the shelf.

"If I have to, I can use one of my depository cases to hold the TMs we get, so size doesn't really matter," said Ash, pivoting his line of sight between the two objects.

"…These are the only two styles that I actually like, though."

The box to Ash's left had an image of a black, rectangular case with a white pokeball etched into ita. Below the white pokeball were the words, Zeta Corp, which were printed in bold, white letters.

The box on the right had an image of a—

Growlithe decisively used his nose to point at the box on the left while letting out a loud bark that caught the attention of some of the other shoppers in thea aisle.

"Really?" questioned Ash with a puzzled look, "but compared to the pikachu case don't you think it's kind of bor—"

Growlithe barked even louder this time, interrupting Ash as he pointed even more vigorously toward the black Zeta Corp's TM Case.

"Okay…" muttered Ash, scratching the back of his head, "and here I was thinking the pikachu case was kind of cool."

Growlithe responded by repetitively shaking his head

"Geez…" drawled Ash as he picked up the box containing the black Mk II case, "what's with you and pikachu?"

The puppy pokemon stared at him with befuddled eyes. It was as if Growlithe himself didn't understand the reason why he was dead set against the pikachu TM Case.

"Well, whatever," said Ash with a shrug as a funny thought crossed his mind. "I guess this pikachu case isn't a part of my destiny."

The puppy pokemon let out a quiet yip, agreeing with his trainer.

"Alright, then," retorted Ash. "Let's not waste anymore time then."

He paused, gesturing for Growlithe to follow him, "Come on. Let's go buy some TMs."

XXX

"Damn…" groaned Ash as he plopped his tired body onto the bed, "that was exhausting."

Growlithe leapt up after him before toppling over on his side next to Ash. It was evident that he was weary as well.

After finishing up at the TM Shop and spending the next few hours exploring the rest of the Celadon Department Store, Ash was forced to walk all the way back to the Pokemon Center.

Since he had gotten a ride to the Department Store from Officer Jenny, Ash had somehow forgotten to take into account the fact that he would need to find a ride back. Moreover, since he had spent all of his money at the Department Store – which he hadn't been planning on doing – he couldn't pay for a taxi or afford to catch a ride on the bus.

…Unfortunately, his platinum card wasn't good for something like public transportation; otherwise, he would have used that.

At the time, he thought about giving the station a call to see if Officer Jenny could pick him up, but he decided not to. She had already been gracious enough to drive him to the Department Store, and he didn't want to ask too much of her.

He also considered calling Ruphus, but he didn't want to take him or Ellen away from Skylar. She needed them more than he did.

At one point, he had even thought about riding Pidgeotto. However, he quickly discarded that idea.

Riding his overgrown avian would have taken an even greater toll on his body than a three-hour walk. On account of his travels, he was used to trekking long-distances by foot. He wasn't used to the rigorous after-effects of flying on a monstrously large bird without a saddle.

So, he walked…

Despite the fact that it wasn't exactly how Ash had envisioned spending the latter part of his day, it wasn't a bad experience.

First of all, he had the opportunity to see the entirety of Celadon's two northern districts, which was nice.

One of Ash's goals on his journey was to experience everything each city had to offer. The fact that he was forbidden by Sabrina and Officer Jenny from going to the Game Corner had definitely put a damper on his goal to explore Celadon. Howbeit, that didn't mean that he didn't want to see as much of the city as he could.

During the walk, Ash and Growlithe were able to see a plethora of intriguing shops, restaurants and city buildings. Ash didn't stop to check out all of them, but he found himself going into a few of the more fascinating establishments.

Granted, he couldn't buy anything, so it was aggravating from time to time, especially when he walked by an appetizing restaurant. Nonetheless, although he was starving by the time he got about halfway back to the Pokemon Center, he managed to enjoy his time traversing through the different places that captured his attention.

If he had to single out one place that stood out to him the most, it would be the Celadon Condominiums, previously known as the Celadon Mansion.

The Celadon Condominiums existed within a large, four-floored building that was right in the center of Celadon's two northern districts. Even though its name suggested that it was some sort of apartment building or cluster of condos, the Celadon Condominiums were actually the headquarters of several different technology based corporations.

Ash only took the time to check out the first floor, but as far as he could tell, it looked like a rather engrossing place. He wasn't the only person taking a look at some of the riveting electronics that were being produced inside of the momentous building.

Since he only gave himself a tour of the first-level, he wasn't sure exactly how much of it was available to the public. Judging by the fact that all of the different employees, from various different companies, were friendly and didn't seem to mind his presence, Ash figured that there weren't any extreme limitations…

Anyways, not only did his walk back to the Pokemon Center give him an opportunity to digest the northern part of the city, but it also gave him a chance to think about how he wanted to spend his next couple of days.

Before going to the Department Store, the only thing that was set in stone was his battle with Eevee, which was still three days from now. His walk to the Pokemon Center gave him some much needed time to figure out what he was going to get done in the meantime.

Of course, it was a given that he still had to take on Erika…

It would be awesome if he could challenge the Celadon Gym before his battle against Eevee, but it would be difficult to make that happen. The Celadon Gym was located in the furthest corner of the city's southwestern district. With no money, his only options were to either walk or ask someone he knew for a ride.

Unless he left early tomorrow morning, walking from the Pokemon Center to the Celadon Gym wasn't realistic. Celadon was a big city. Even if he walked straight there, with no breaks, it would take him at least a day to travel from one corner to the other. If he factored in the trip back, he would be looking at two full days of travel.

At the moment, a trip like that really didn't appeal to him, especially after his long walk back from the Department Store.

No, he'd rather bank on the chance that Ruphus or Ellen would drive him to the gym after his battle against Eevee. By that time, Skylar would be released from the Pokemon Center, and he wouldn't feel quite so bad about asking them.

…Besides, it's not like there weren't benefits to waiting

The Celadon Pokemon Center was one of the rare centers that had a training facility. He had decided that since he couldn't get to Erika's gym until after he battled Eevee, he might as well use the extra time to get some last minute training in.

His friends had plenty of things that they could work on, and it also gave him a chance to use some of the TMs that he purchased at the Department Store. In addition, there were a couple of other items he had gotten on the upper floors of the Department Store that he could begin to utilize.

All in all, now that he had the idea in his head, he was actually looking forward to spending a couple of days training with his pokemon. Since yesterday's battle against Team Rocket, he hadn't seen much of them. It would be nice to get to bond with them as they prepared for their upcoming match against Erika…

"What do you think about using the next few days to train?" Ash asked Growlithe, rolling over on his stomach. "We can touch up on some of the techniques we've been working on, and use a couple of the TMs that we just got."

Growlithe let out an affirmative yip. He didn't seem to have any objections.

"This will be our first true gym battle," added Ash with a smile. "I know we've trained hard over the past couple of weeks, but a little more practice won't hurt."

The puppy pokemon nodded his head elatedly. Ash could tell that he was excited.

"Alright," muttered Ash, slowly lifting his exhausted body up out of the bed, "I'm going to go take a shower before bed."

Growlithe let out a grunt, acknowledging Ash's words.

XXX

"Alright, guys," said Ash, catching the attention of all seven of his pokemon, "before we start, I have a couple of things that I want to say."

He paused, watching in amusement as they glanced back-and-forth at each other in a confused manner. Even while on the road, the only time all of them were outside of their pokeballs at the same time was when it was time to eat.

Simply put, it was rare for him to address all of them at once, so it was obvious to his pokemon that what he had to say was important.

"So, right now, we're in one of the training rooms at the Pokemon Center," said Ash as he folded his arms. "We've been in Celadon for a couple days. Sorry for not letting most of you out until now."

Out of all of his friends, the only ones that he had released since arriving in Celadon were Haunter and Growlithe.

Other than the short amount of time that Growlithe had been treated by Nurse Joy, his pup had been by his side the entire time, which was to be expected. And Ash had released Haunter the last couple of nights, so that the apparition could devour his dreams.

Despite the fact that they hadn't been released, like his pup and ghost, none of his other friends looked to be offended. If Ash hadn't let them out, he likely had a good reason why; they all seemed to understand that. Either something unexpected had occurred, or he had been really busy.

In this case, between handling all of the happenings that had occurred as a result of his battle against the three Rocket grunts and making a trip to the Celadon Department Store, it had been a combination of both.

"Since arriving in Celadon," continued Ash, "a lot has happened."

He paused, "Over the next few days, we'll be spending a lot of time together. I'll fill you in on most of the details later. But, right now, I would like to tell you what we'll be up to for the rest of our time in Celadon."

All of his pokemon planted their eyes on him, ready to listen to what he was about to say.

"We've got two important battles coming up," said Ash, surveying his friends.

"The first one will decide whether or not we get a new teammate," said Ash, holding up his index finger. "I'll explain more about it later, but I don't want to let this chance slip away. She's an extremely talented Eevee. If we beat her, she'll come with us."

The moment Ash mentioned the possibility of a new pokemon joining the group, the majority of his friends perked up. The two exceptions were Wartortle and Growlithe. The stony-eyed turtle looked as if he could care less, and Growlithe already knew about it.

Ash also took into account Pidgeotto's expression, which livened up more than the others. However, due to the sadistic glint in his eyes, Ash could tell that he was excited for an entirely different reason.

The dark-haired boy simply shrugged; some things never change. It didn't take a genius to figure it that Pidgeotto was looking forward to testing the strength of the pokemon that had impressed his master.

"Sorry, Pidgeotto," said Ash, locking eyes with his avian, "but this isn't your battle."

The king's natured Pidgeotto narrowed his eyes, clearly upset.

Ash shook his head in annoyance, "Stop it; you'll get to stretch your wings soon enough.

The avian puffed out his chest and let out a frustrated squawk.

Ash simply ignored him as he refocused his attention elsewhere.

"Clefairy," said Ash with a smirk, causing the fairy pokemon to step forward, "I'm leaving the battle against Eevee to you. I know you've been dying to have another girl around. Here's your chance…."

Clefairy nodded as a look of determination pierced through her countenance. Failure wasn't an option.

"Okay," said Ash, holding up his index and middle fingers, "now that that's been settled, it's time we talked about the second battle…"

All of his friends conveyed inspired dispositions. Unlike the battle against Eevee, they knew what was about to come out of Ash's mouth.

"As soon as Clefairy beats Eevee," continued Ash with confidence in his voice, "we'll be heading to the Celadon Gym to battle Erika."

He paused, "As you guys know, this will be our fourth gym battle, which means that Erika will be free to come at us with everything she's got. We won't be taking on her League registered team. This time, all bets are off. This will be our first real gym battle."

In response to Ash's words, all of his friends let out prideful roars. He couldn't help but smile. They were clearly fired up.

"The average match between a gym leader and a trainer with three or more badges is a four-on-four battle," explained Ash as he placed his hands comfortably on his hips.

"The rules aren't set in stone, so we need to be prepared just in case Erika decides to switch things up," said Ash. "But, if it does end up being a four-on-four, I'm going to go with Growlithe, Charmeleon, Pidgeotto and Ivysaur."

In regard to the four pokemon that Ash called out, none of them looked surprised. After all, Ash had been telling them for a while now that they would be battling in the upcoming gym battle. However, Ash could tell that the pokemon he hadn't selected were upset, especially Wartortle.

Even though Haunter and Clefairy had taken part in the battle against Sabrina, it was obvious to Ash that they were still a little disappointed. It was Ash's first time taking on a gym leader without a handicap. It only made sense that they would want to be a part of it.

Nevertheless, they understood that it wasn't their turn.

Wartortle, on the other hand, had yet to be a part of one of Ash's gym battles, and Ash could see in his eyes that it was starting to really frustrate him. Unfortunately, at the moment, there was nothing that Ash could do about it.

If Ash were to put his turtle pokemon in the match against Erika, he would be at a major disadvantage. A pure water-type like Wartortle wouldn't fare well against Erika's grass-types.

"Wartortle, Clefairy, Haunter," said Ash, "I know it's disappointing that you won't be a part of this one, but don't worry. We still have four more gyms to challenge after this one."

He sighed as he focused solely on Wartortle, "Erika is a grass-type gym leader. I'm going with the lineup that gives us the best chance to win. It's nothing personal. Your time will come."

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