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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35. Kanto 11 Part 2

Wartortle let out a grunt of annoyance. It's not like he didn't know that he would have a tough time against a grass-type gym leader. He wasn't irritated because of anything Ash had done. If anything, it was the situation that was getting to him.

At least, that's what Ash guessed was going on inside of the glacial turtle's mind. He could never know for sure, though. His water-type wasn't the easiest pokemon to read…

"Anyways," said Ash, trying to get back on topic, "for the next few days, we are going to be using the Center's training facility to get some last minute practice in."

He gestured toward his surroundings, "I rented this room for today. I had to get up pretty early to make sure that we would get it, but it should be worth it. It's not your average training room. There's only a few like it in all of Kanto, and Celadon is the only city that has one in its pokemon center."

Every single one of his pokemon gave him a quizzical look. As far as they could tell, the training room just looked like an average-sized room with black, marble tile, four pearly white walls and a tall, aqua blue ceiling.

In addition, there was a stainless steel door that occupied the center of one of the four white walls. It almost looked like it could be the entrance to a vault; however, it had a small checkered screen in the center of it. In the middle of the screen was the outline of an oversized handprint that was roughly three times the size of Ash's hand…

In reaction to his friends' skeptical expressions, Ash smirked.

"I know, I know," said Ash with a slight chuckle as he scratched the back of his head. "It doesn't look like much, does it?"

All seven of his pokemon simultaneously nodded their heads, agreeing that there didn't seem to be anything special about the room that Ash had rented.

"Understandable…" drawled Ash as he walked over to the vault-like door and loosely pointed at the checkered screen, "but the moment I place my hand on the screen, you'll see why I had to reserve it for us."

With his pokemon watching him, Ash placed his palm into the middle of the screen. At first nothing happened, but after a couple of seconds the screen lit up, and the handprint outline slowly shrunk until it was the same size as Ash's hand.

Once the outline and Ash's hand were perfectly in sync, the screen flashed a bright, blue light that shined throughout the entirety of the room before it started.

Ash turned around with a grin, watching while his friends looked at their surroundings with astonished eyes.

At the same time, he couldn't help but be amazed as well. Even though he already knew what was going to happen, he had never experienced it himself.

His eyes pivoted in every which direction as he witnessed the four white walls slowly recede into the ground. While they dropped into the marble surface, they gradually unveiled what looked like an infinite amount of white space. Once the walls had sunk all the way into the tile, the aqua blue roof slowly started to lower into the ground as if it was going to ruthlessly crush them.

His friends began to panic as the space between them and the ceiling became less and less. However, as it got closer to them, its solidity started to fade, and it began to take on the form of a transparent layer of gel.

"Don't be scared," said Ash as the membrane-like ceiling started to bend and arc, closing around the marble tile in the shape of a dome. "It's about to stabilize."

When the bizarre, transparent film touched the marble's cold, sleek surface, it flashed a bright red light before dissolving into what appeared to be nothingness. Left in its wake was a smiling Ash, and a handful of flummoxed pokemon.

"They call it the White Room," said Ash as he surveyed the endless amount of open, white space. "Like I said, we'll be in and out of here a lot the next couple of days."

He paused as he gave his friends an opportunity to wrap their minds around their current location. Other than the marble surface and the stainless steel door, there was nothing. For what appeared to be miles and miles upon end, all that could be seen was white. It was as if they were in a different dimension...one that lacked everything.

"I'm sure you're wondering what this is," said Ash as he took off his backpack and set it down on the ground next to him. "Now, I only know a little bit about it, but basically we're inside of a massive depository case. It also resembles the inside of a pokeball; however, we haven't been put into suspended animation."

In response to his words, his friends looked at him as if he was spouting nonsense.

"Okay, okay," repeated Ash, scratching the back of his head, "I know it's confusing, but that's okay. Just know that you can go all out in this space, and it's completely safe."

All seven of his friends simultaneously blinked, unable to shake off their baffled expressions.

"Oh, come on," said Ash, in between laughter, as he gestured toward the pokeballs on his belt, "Is it really that unbelievable? I mean, you guys spend a good chunk of your time resting in spheres the size of ping-pong balls."

His friends glanced at one another in a curious manner before synchronously nodding. It was apparent that they got the point; technology was amazing...

Ash subconsciously rolled up his sleeves and turned his cap backwards, suddenly changing gears.

"Well, then…" drawled Ash, beaming from cheek to cheek, "we can either continue to spend the day asking how and why, or we can get started?"

He took a deep breath, "I'd prefer the latter."

XXX

"Well, it looks about right," said Ash to Clefairy as he watched his fairy-type encompass her body in a thin-layer of pinkish energy. "Now, let's find out how well it works.

They had started working on Cosmic Power toward the end of their trip to Celadon. So far, they hadn't had too many problems figuring it out. There were a couple of small hiccups here and there, but for the most part it was coming to her naturally.

Much like Minimize and Stored Power, Cosmic Power was a technique that required Clefairy to manipulate her thaumaturgic energy. In order to properly use Cosmic Energy, Clefairy had to expel a steady stream of thaumaturgic energy while molding it in such a way that it tightly wrapped around her exterior.

The defensive technique took a lot of concentration, albeit in comparison to the intricacy needed to perform Minimize, it was fairly easy. Clefairy was already at the point where she could consistently envelope her body in an even layer of thaumaturgic energy.

All she had left to do was learn how to freely alter the cloak's density in accordance to the level of the attack she was being hit with.

After all, Cosmic Power required a lot of energy. At Clefairy's current level, she couldn't use it too much without exhausting herself, especially while engaging her opponent with other techniques.

"Alright, Growlithe!" yelled Ash, catching his starter's attention. "I need you for a second!"

Growlithe, who had been busy engaging in a light spar with Charmeleon, loped over to Ash's side. He looked up at his trainer with eager eyes, ready to help out however he could.

"When I say go, you're going to fire an Ember at Clefairy," explained Ash before pivoting his attention over to Clefairy.

"Put a little bit of distance between the two of you, and let go of your Cosmic Power," said Ash as he gestured for Clefairy to back up.

The fairy pokemon took a couple of steps backward as she dissolved her thaumaturgic energy.

"Once Growlithe releases his Ember, I need you to gauge its strength, and cloak yourself in an efficient layer of thaumaturgic energy," said Ash as he moved out of the line of fire. "Remember, we're just looking for a boost in your defenses. Don't try to completely nullify the attack. This technique isn't meant for that; it would take too much energy."

He paused, "Don't forget...we're at a Pokemon Center. Any damage you take can be easily healed by Nurse Joy's restoration machine. Something like this won't affect your battle against Eevee."

Clefairy nodded; she didn't need Ash to convince her to take Growlithe's Ember head on.

"Alright, then!" hollered Ash, turning his attention over to Growlithe. "Hit her with an Ember! It doesn't matter how strong it is! She'll have to adjust to whatever you send her way!"

Growlithe let out an affirmative bark before loading his maw with a stringent flame. Right away, Ash could tell that it wasn't a full power Ember; however, it definitely wasn't weak either. The pup was planning on hitting her at about half strength.

"Let's see what you've got, Clefairy!" exclaimed Ash, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

The moment Ash finished his sentence, Growlithe let out a sizzling flame. Even though it wasn't that big, it was highly condensed. Ash had misjudged it. The Ember Growlithe had conjured up was somewhere between half and full strength.

This would be difficult for Clefairy to deduce…

Ash watched with analytical eyes as the Ember approached Clefairy at a precipitous rate. It would be silly for him to think that she would get it right on the first try. So, what was it going to be? Would she overestimate it, or would she underestimate it? Knowing Clefairy, she would…

Clefairy's body shined with a thin, bright, purple light as she delved into her mystic energy. The cosmic layer was even finer than what Ash had been expecting. It was obvious that she had chosen to be efficient with her internal power.

At the moment of impact, Clefairy let out a conspicuous cry and was knocked back a couple of feet. Just as Ash had thought…she had underestimated the attack.

As the flame subsided, and Clefairy's slightly charred and grimacing form was unveiled, Ash jogged over to his fairy-type's side.

"Are you okay?" asked Ash with a small frown.

Although she had taken some damage, it wasn't like she was in need of medical attention or anything like that. If this was an actual battle, she could handle several Embers of that level.

Be that as it may, it was training, and Ash was never a fan of getting his friends hurt during training.

Unfortunately, sometimes it was unavoidable…

Clefairy let out a quiet growl and looked up at him with an annoyed expression.

"Don't give me that look," said Ash, flashing an impish grin. "I'm not the one that misjudged it. I may have told you not to overdo it, but you underestimated that one way too much."

Clefairy shot him a quick glare before having her attention snatched away by a barking Growlithe, who bounded over to them with a curious expression on his face.

In response to Growlithe's yapping, Clefairy nodded before jumping back into a defensive position. Judging by that exchange, it was obvious that they were about to give it another go.

"Sounds good to me," said Ash with a chuckle as he back pedaled out of the way. "Change it up this time, Growlithe! Keep her guessing!"

Growlithe let out a confirmatory yip, whereas Clefairy concentrated on the pup…

Obviously, Clefairy still had some work to do before she mastered Cosmic Power. But, as long as she kept working at like this, she'd have it down in no time.

XXX

"Good job," said Ash, smiling at his undemonstrative water-type. "You've almost completed it."

After spending close to forty-five minutes watching Charmeleon spit Ember after Ember at Wartortle's nearly perfect Protect, it was time to take a break. Even though Wartortle had yet to get tired, Charmeleon's internal flame had significantly diminished due to fatigue, and Ash had gotten tired of watching the same thing over and over again.

In response to Ash's praise, Wartortle shot him an icy glare. He'd been like that ever since Ash had addressed his team. It was obvious that he was more than irritated about the fact that he wouldn't be participating in the upcoming gym battle.

Ash frowned, and his eyebrows lowered.

"Gahhh, cut it out! You're being a—" he spat, raising his voice before stopping himself mid-sentence.

He paused, taking a deep breath in order to calm himself down, "How many times do I have to tell you? You'll get your chance."

Without changing his facial expression, Wartortle let out a frustrated snort.

While Wartortle was busy throwing what could be called his version of a fit, Ash tried to think of some ways that he could cheer him up. If any of his pokemon were capable of holding a long-lasting grudge, it would be Wartortle.

Even though they had experienced a few breakthroughs – as far as their relationship went – all Ash had to do was remember that Wartortle's cold personality was the direct result of a grudge he still had against his old trainer. When Ash thought about it that way, it was easy for him to make the decision not to let moments like this linger for too long…

After a couple of minutes of intense thinking, Ash finally thought of something that might curb Wartortle's disappointment.

"Hey, Wartortle," said Ash, causing his turtle pokemon to look up at him with the same aggravated eyes, "I've got something for you."

It appeared as though Ash had at least somewhat piqued Wartortle's attention when his eyes went from looking really irritated to slightly less irritated.

"Okay..." drawled Ash as he walked the short-distance over to his backpack, picked it up, and brought it back over to his impersonal friend.

"I was planning on waiting until after we left Celadon to use this on you," said Ash as he unzipped his backpack's back pocket and pulled out his recently purchased TM Case Mk II, "but you've almost mastered Protect, so I think you can handle it."

Now, mastering a TM move wasn't even close to being as difficult as teaching a pokemon one of the techniques in their learnset. As soon as the TM was applied, the pokemon that had acquired the information would be adept enough to physically perform the technique.

However, there was no guarantee that they would immediately have the kind of control necessary to use the move efficiently and accurately.

Moreover, nine times out of ten, the TM move would cause a high level of exhaustion or unnatural recoil. Just because the mind of a pokemon could process the information within a TM, and manifest it into a legitimate technique, didn't mean that the pokemon using the technique was at a level where they could wield the move without any repercussions.

With all of that in mind, Ash had a feeling that Wartortle was more than ready to learn one of the TMs he had bought for him. As a matter of fact, taking into account their location, Ash couldn't think of a better time than now.

Now that he had almost completed Protect, it wasn't likely that he would get overwhelmed. Not to mention the fact that Wartortle was an impressive specimen with an uncanny talent when it came to learning moves quickly. He would be just fine; it was unnecessary for him to be cautious. The time to teach Wartortle his first TM move was now.

"This is a TM Case," said Ash as he flipped the metal latches that we're locking it shut. "With this, I'll be able to teach you a brand new technique."

As Ash opened it, Wartortle looked at the pristine, black case skeptically. It was obvious that he was unfamiliar with the intriguing object in front of him.

Inside of the case were two distinct sections...

The thin, top half had four rows of protective sleeves that were made out of a strange, transparent fabric. Nine of them were occupied by small, circular discs; this part of the TM Case wasn't all that different from a standard CD case. Each disc was categorized by a uniquely designed label. All of them had the name of the TM as well as an exclusive image related to the technique.

The bottom half was much denser than the top half, and it consisted of the most important part of the TM Case: the console. The console wasn't all that complicated looking. In the center was a slot that you put the TM in. Above the slot was a small, rectangular screen, and underneath it were two buttons and a directional pad.

To the right of the console was a small compartment, which held the headgear needed to apply the TM to the pokemon. The headgear was made up of a cord that jetted out of the side of the console. The cord branched off into two separate wires that had what looked like electrode pads at each end.

"The first step is to fire it up," said Ash, pressing one of the two buttons below the screen.

In subsequence, the screen lit up before displaying a menu with five options. From top to bottom, they read: Apply, Save, Load, Eject and Delete. Without pressing anything else, Ash reached for one of the nine discs that he had organized in his TM Case the night before.

A smile breached his face as he took the TM he wanted out of the protective sleeve and examined it. He had read the instruction manual the night before, so he already knew what to do with it. Taking a moment to soak in the fact that this would be his first time using a TM, Ash stuck it into the slot.

The machine made a faint, fan-like sound as it loaded the TM. After a couple of seconds, a small icon that looked like a disc showed up in the top right corner of the menu screen, letting Ash know that the TM Case was done processing the information.

"First things first, I need to save it," whispered Ash to no one in particular, using the directional pad to highlight the save option before pressing the select button. "That way, I can use it as many times as I want."

The screen changed, showing the image of a rotating disc. After a brief moment, the virtual disc came to a halt and turned green, signifying that it had successfully saved the information from the disc onto the TM Case's drive.

Once it automatically returned to the main menu, Ash used the directional pad to highlight the apply option before turning his attention over to Wartortle.

"Now that it's been saved, all that's left is for you to put this on and for me to press a button," explained Ash, reaching for the headgear.

Although Wartortle's expression was cold and blank as always, Ash could see the incitement in the turtle pokemon's eyes when he removed the headgear from the TM Case. He then peeled off the pads' protective films – that preserved their stickiness – and gently placed them on both sides of Wartortle's forehead.

"This will probably feel strange," warned Ash as he hovered his finger over the select button. "However, once this is done, you'll have the information needed to use a brand-new technique."

He smirked as he used his finger to point at his own head, "I know I haven't told you what TM move this is, but you'll know the second it uploads into your brain. It's more interesting that way."

Wartortle simply nodded; as long as he got stronger, he didn't care whether his trainer was secretive or not.

"Okay, then," blurted Ash, looking Wartortle in the eyes and placing his finger gently on the select button, "on the count of three!"

Ash thought he saw Wartortle gulp as he started to count, "one…two…and…"

He drawled for dramatic effect.

"Three!"

"Click."

Within the blink of an eye, Wartortle's body stiffened, and his eyes suddenly snapped open as wide as possible while emitting a light blue illumination. There weren't any signs of pain, but Ash could tell that the application process wasn't comfortable.

It lasted for about a half-minute before subsiding. When Wartortle's eyes stopped glowing, and his posture went back to normal, Ash gleamed in surprise.

For a fraction of a second, there was a minute smirk on Wartortle's face. It was the first time Ash had ever seen his turtle pokemon show emotion through anything other than his eyes. Apparently, applying the TM had done more for Wartortle than Ash had originally thought.

"How does it feel?" asked the ten-year-old boy in a curious manner.

Wartortle nodded as his eyes sparkled with satisfaction.

"Awesome," said Ash, grinning from ear to ear. "Want to try it out?"

Wartortle exhaled a deep, frigid breath, causing the temperature around them to drop before responding with a grunt.

The water-type could now use Ice Beam. Now, it was time to figure out how far away he was from mastering it.

XXX

Ash watched with a smile as Haunter wriggled his fingers in the direction of Clefairy, emitting a bright, purple energy.

Despite the fact that Haunter had a plethora of similar looking techniques in his move pool such as Hypnosis, Night Shade and Confuse Ray, this was a brand-new technique.

After nearly three weeks of patiently harboring it in his backpack, Ash was finally able to use the TM that Sabrina had given him: Psychic.

Now, only about an hour had passed since TM29 had been uploaded into Haunter's consciousness, and he was already on the verge of mastering it. Ash wasn't sure if this was because of his ghost-type's extraordinary talent, or if it was a direct result of the exposure he had gotten to the technique during his mental barrier training with Sabrina.

Whatever the case may be, all Ash cared about was the fact that Haunter was now more than capable of unleashing a high-level psychic assault.

Not only did it give Haunter another powerful technique to use in battle, but it also opened the door for the rest of his pokemon to acquire mental barriers.

Granted, Ash didn't plan on starting mental barrier training with the rest of his friends until after he left Celadon. However, it was nice to know that pretty soon he wouldn't be limited to using Clefairy and Haunter against psychic-types…

"How'd that one feel?" asked Ash, approaching his jolly apparition.

While levitating around his trainer, Haunter let out a burst of cacophonous laughter. It was obvious to Ash that his friend was having a great time with Psychic.

"Good!" exclaimed Ash, unable to hold back his excitement. "I never would have expected you to get the hang of it so easily!"

He couldn't help but laugh as he witnessed his ghost-type do some sort of outlandish celebration, using his hands to perform a strange, ghoulish jig.

"On second thought…" managed Ash in between laughter, "maybe I should have known you'd respond well to the TM. You are Haunter after all. Everything comes easy to you."

Haunter placed both of his hands up against his giant mouth in a bashful manner before fading in and out of corporeality. Even though he was essentially blushing, Ash doubted that he had actually managed to fluster Haunter. More than likely, this was just Haunter trying to be entertaining.

Of course, it worked.

After about a minute straight of nonstop laughter, he tried his best to clear his mind before setting his eyes on an equally amused Clefairy.

"What do you think?" asked Ash, trying his best to keep a straight face as Haunter made funny faces in his peripherals. "Do you think it's ready for battle?"

Clefairy nodded while letting out a quiet snicker.

"Gotcha'," retorted Ash with a smile.

All of a sudden, a thought crossed his mind. "You know, since I got the TM Case Mk II, I can use the Psychic TM again."

He paused as a smirk formed across his face, "Cosmic Power hasn't been too challenging for you, and you're able to learn Psychic with the help of a TM. Want to add it to your plate?"

Clefairy's eyes widened and she bobbed her entire body up and down.

"That's what I thought," answered Ash with a sly smile.

Haunter let out a loud surge of discordant laughter as he raised both of his hands up in a celebratory manner. Apparently, he was excited about the prospect of Clefairy learning Psychic, too.

"Well, what are we waiting for!?" exclaimed Ash, running over to his TM Case. "Let's do this!"

As Ash picked up his case and made his way back over to his friends, a thought repeatedly reverberated within his mind...

TMs were fun!

XXX

"Hey, Ash!" exclaimed Skylar, smiling as she habitually twirled her hair. "Are you excited for your match against Eevee?"

"I can't wait," replied Ash, giving her a smile of his own as he approached the front desk of the Pokemon Center's training facility.

He paused as he looked her over…

Just like when he had seen her a few days ago, all of her external wounds had been taken care of. If Ash didn't know better, he would have no clue that she had been brutally attacked by Team Rocket less than a week ago.

Since he knew where to look, though, he could spot some more subtle signs of an attack. Her eyes still carried an air of mistrust and trauma that likely would stay with her for a while, and anytime someone she didn't know walked too close to her, Skylar would flinch.

Nevertheless, it was apparent that she was doing better than she had been a couple of days ago, and it was nice to see her up and out of bed.

"How does it feel to finally get out of that hospital bed?"

"Amazing…" uttered Skylar with wide-eyes and a serious expression, "I know it was only a couple of days, but I felt like I was going to go crazy."

"I can understand that," replied Ash, thinking back to the time he spent at the pokemon center in Saffron. "Hospital rooms have a tendency to get to people, especially if you enjoy being out and about."

"You can say that again…" drawled Skylar as her eyes were suddenly drawn to Growlithe, who was sitting loyally by Ash's side.

She blinked at him a couple of times – in a way that exhibited to Ash that there was at least a slight bit of recognition – before eventually settling on a look that portrayed that she was meeting him for the first time.

"And who might this be?"

The memory didn't stick. Somewhere deep within her subconscious, she probably knew that Growlithe was with Ash when he saved her, however, she wasn't ready to remember too many of the details.

"Oh, that's right, you haven't met him yet," said Ash, trying to be sensitive to Skylar. "This is Growlithe. He's my star—"

Ash didn't get a chance to finish as Skylar abruptly knelt down on both knees and wrapped Growlithe up in a tight hug. Just by looking at it, Ash could tell that it wasn't quite as suffocating as Ellen's embrace. But, he couldn't help but think that she resembled her mother at least a little bit when she hugged Growlithe.

"Oh my God, Ash, he's so cute!" gushed Skylar—her pink sundress brushing up against the puppy pokemon's fur.

Ash smiled in amusement when Growlithe looked back at him with confused eyes. The ten-year-old boy proceeded to give him a thumbs-up without Skylar noticing.

"I know, right?" retorted Ash facetiously. "Isn't he just adorable?"

In response to Ash's words, Growlithe shot him an annoyed glare.

"Anyways," said Ash in attempt to take some of the attention away from his friend, "where are your parents?"

Skylar loosened her grip on Growlithe as she answered, "They should be here pretty soon. Both of them took Eevee to Nurse Joy in order to use the restoration machine. Eevee's been busy training herself over the past couple of days, and my dad wanted to make sure that she was completely healthy for today's battle."

"Gotcha'," retorted Ash with a nod as he stuffed his hands into his pockets.

Listening to Skylar tell him about Eevee's willingness to train made him even more excited for today's battle. Self-motivation was one of the biggest characteristics that Ash looked for in a pokemon, and it was apparent that Eevee possessed this quality.

"So, Ash…" muttered Skylar, letting go of Growlithe and standing up from her position on the ground, "are you going to use Growlithe against Eevee?"

"Nope," replied Ash, shaking his head and folding his arms. "I need Growlithe at full strength for when I take on the Celadon Gym. I'm not quite sure how strong Eevee is, but I don't want to risk using Growlithe against her. I need his type advantage against Erika's grass-types."

"Makes sense," said Skylar with a smirk, "although I hope you're not underestimating Eevee. She may not have gotten consistent training from my dad, but she is still pretty strong. Don't go thinking that she'll be a pushover."

"Trust me…" drawled Ash, "I'm not expecting it to be an easy battle. Just because I'm not using Growlithe doesn't mean I'm planning on going easy on her. I've had the pokemon I'll be using for almost as long as Growlithe and she's not the type to let me down. Eevee will have her hands full."

"I hope you're right," retorted Skylar with a smile, "I'll definitely be rooting for her…"

She paused, scratching her head and looking at Ash in a curious manner, "What kind of pokemon is—"

"Ash, Skylar, there you are!" interrupted a cheery, female voice from directly behind them. "We've been looking all over for you!"

He didn't even have to look to know that the voice belonged to Ellen; the energy that it carried was one of a kind.

Her husband let out a deep sigh as they approached Ash and Skylar.

"No, we haven't, honey," said Ruphus, rolling his eyes. "The meeting place was at the training facility's front desk. We knew exactly where they were going to be."

"Is that so?" queried Ellen with a look of befuddlement on her face. "And here I was thinking that we were on a hunt."

Ruphus placed one of his hands on his forehead as he responded, "Of course you did, sweetheart."

He then shifted his line of sight over to Ash before reaching over and grasping him on the shoulder in a friendly manner, "How's it going, Ash? Did you have a good last couple of days?"

"I did—" managed Ash before being interrupted by Ellen, who was squealing loudly behind him.

"Ash, is this your growlithe!?" blurted Ellen obnoxiously, "what a darling!?"

"Yeah…" muttered Ash as Ruphus gave him a wink.

"Sorry, Ash," said Ruphus, squinting as he held his thumb and index fingers together. "She's just a wee extra jittery today. The anticipation for this battle has her in rare form."

"Oh, really?" asked Ash, raising his eyebrows. "I didn't take her for someone that would be interested in battles."

"Are you kidding me?" snorted Ruphus, shaking his head in an exasperated manner. "She loves this kind of stuff."

"Well, hopefully Eevee and I don't disappoint," retorted Ash, scratching the back of his head sheepishly.

"No need to worry about that," said Ruphus with emotional eyes. "This match isn't about something as petty as entertainment."

"You're right," replied Ash as he readjusted his cap. "There's a lot riding on the outcome of this match."

"Exactly," said Ruphus, pivoting his line of sight in the direction of the front desk. "Anyways, we should probably reserve a mock battlefield before they all get taken."

"It's already been taken care of," inserted Skylar, winking as she brushed Growlithe's loose fur off of her dress. "I reserved one while I was waiting for Ash."

"Good thinking, Sky," answered Ruphus with a smile and a nod. "Let's get things rolling then."

He paused as he looked Ash in the eye, "Are you ready for this?"

Ash smirked as he subconsciously rested his hand on Clefairy's pokeball.

"Do you even have to ask?"

XXX

Ash detached Clefairy's pokeball from his belt as he stepped in one of the standard mock battlefield's two opposing trainer boxes. He felt Growlithe lightly brush up against his leg before lying down comfortably next to him, ready to witness the highly anticipated battle.

Across the battlefield stood Eevee all by her lonesome. She glared at him with fiery eyes, waiting eagerly for Ash to unveil her opponent.

Standing as far to the right as possible was Ruphus, Ellen, Skylar and a beautiful, sleek espeon, belonging to Ruphus, whose role was to protect them from any stray attacks.

Ash had to admit, he was a little surprised when Ruphus elected not to stand in the trainer box behind Eevee. But, after thinking it through, he could see the logic behind Ruphus' decision.

This was Eevee's battle, not his…

Moreover, Eevee's strength was something that she had achieved on her own. Ruphus hadn't been there to prepare her for this battle, and battling together wasn't something that they were comfortable with.

When Ash thought about it that way, it only made sense that she took on this challenge as an independent pokemon…

"This will be a one-on-one battle between Eevee and Ash's choice of pokemon!" announced Ruphus, assuming the role of the battle's referee. "The battle will start when Ash releases his pokemon, and it will end when one of the participants is no longer able to battle!"

He paused as he pivoted his glance between Ash and Eevee, "Are both sides ready!?"

Ash nodded while enlarging Clefairy's pokeball, whereas Eevee let out a confident yip.

"Ash, it's on you!" blustered Ruphus. "Let's go!"

By the time Ruphus had finished his sentence, Clefairy's pokeball had already left Ash's hand. It rotated in the air for a brief moment before snapping open and unleashing a blast of incandescent, white light.

When the light from the release was no more, Clefairy stood confident and dignified in the middle of the battlefield. Her eyes immediately locked onto Eevee as she raised her fists for battle.

The moment Clefairy entered the field of battle, Eevee's demeanor became even more intense. She focused her line of sight on the fairy pokemon, and her muscles tensed. She was ready to burst out of her stance at a moment's notice.

Ash let out a light chuckle as he heard a couple of feminine squeals coming from his right. Without a doubt, it was Ellen and Skylar blubbering about Clefairy. Even though he couldn't hear them clearly, he had been training Clefairy long enough to know that she had the tendency to melt the hearts of any females that got a chance to take a look at her.

"Alright, Clefairy!" said Ash, raising his voice. "The time to battle Eevee is here! Show her what you've got!"

Clefairy emitted an affirmative grunt, letting Ash know that she wouldn't let him down.

At the same time, the silver Eevee's eyes narrowed as she surveyed the two of them. She had zero intention of backing down.

Suddenly, Eevee exploded out of her stance, looking to be the first to initiate a combative exchange. She sprinted at Clefairy head on—teeth bared and eyes ablaze. From the very beginning, Ash could decipher Eevee's battle style: passionate and reckless.

This was going to be interesting…

In preparation to intercept Eevee's charge, Clefairy enveloped herself in a thin-layer of thaumaturgic energy. A small smile stretched across Ash's face as he watched Clefairy stand her ground.

"Cosmic Power right off the bat, eh?" whispered Ash to himself as Eevee rapidly closed the distance between the two female pokemon.

Right when Eevee got close enough to strike, the silver fox tenaciously leapt forward. There was no form in her heedless attack, so it was obvious that she was starting things off with a Take Down.

Ash shook his head in amusement; Eevee sure was brazen. Unfortunately for her, though, Clefairy was about to use it against her.

Just as Eevee was about to collide with the unshaken fairy-type, Clefairy used Minimize, shrinking down to about an eighth of her normal size. Still glowing on account of Cosmic Power's mystic cloak Clefairy immediately returned to her normal size before turning around and sprinting toward Eevee, who had flown by overhead and landed off-balance, having been caught off guard by Minimize.

In attempt to thoroughly counter Eevee's preemptive-strike, Clefairy then lunged forward and buried her fist into Eevee's side, causing the silver fox to let out a short, high-pitched cry. Following Clefairy's initial Pound attack, she tried to chain it with another, but Eevee briskly darted out of the way using Quick Attack.

In immediate succession to her evasive Quick Attack, Eevee halted her retreat before using all four of her limbs to violently push against the ground and spring herself back in Clefairy's direction. This time, however, instead of recklessly throwing her body at Clefairy, she flipped forward and unleashed a surplus of star-shaped rays of energy.

Unable to dodge Eevee's expansive Swift, Clefairy had no choice but to take the attack. As she was blasted by the golden stars, Clefairy disembogued an uncomfortable groan. If it weren't for her Cosmic Power, Ash would have been more worried. Compared to some of the Swift attacks that Ash had seen in the past, Eevee's was abnormally cogent.

"Endure it!" bellowed Ash as Eevee continuously sprayed Clefairy with Swift. "Use Defense Curl!"

Listening to her trainer's command, Clefairy compressed her body and rolled into a ball, trying to protect herself from Eevee's onslaught. Once Clefairy used Defense Curl, it lasted for about ten more seconds before the barrage ended.

Judging by the fact that Eevee was breathing heavily and her body was lightly trembling, Ash could tell that the long-lasting Swift had taken a lot of energy to keep up. At the same time, though, after coming out of her Defense Curl, Clefairy had accumulated some noticeable damage, which was to be expected after being hit by such an abnormally potent Swift.

There was a brief delay in the action, as both pokemon glared at each other, before Eevee once again went on the offensive. Within the blink of an eye, she erupted out of her motionless stance using Quick Attack.

Ash's eyes could barely follow as Eevee took the form of a sparkling blur, streaking across the battlefield at a speed that was borderline otherworldly.

"Use—"

Trying to utter a command was useless as Eevee pounced on top of Clefairy, using the momentum from the Quick Attack to deliver even more damage as she sunk her teeth into the opponent's side.

Ash cringed as he watched Eevee penetrate Clefairy's skin with Bite, causing her to shriek in agony. He'd seen Growlithe use Bite enough to know that the combination of devastatingly sharp teeth and dark energy was extremely painful for those that fell victim to it.

"Dammit," cursed Ash under his breath as he witnessed Clefairy try and shake Eevee off to no avail. "Knock her off with Pound!"

Trying her best to turn the tables, Clefairy used her tiny fist to repetitively clobber Eevee over the head with Pound. However, since Eevee's maw had sunk into Clefairy's flesh, every time the fairy-type hit her, Eevee's teeth grated even more against Clefairy's side causing the already significant wound to worsen.

Due to their abutting proximity, Ash thought about having Clefairy use Stored Power in order to blow Eevee away. But, so far, there hadn't been any status techniques used within the battle. Instead, rather than have Clefairy use force to get Eevee off of her, another approach came to mind.

"Freeze her with Psychic!" howled Ash.

Clefairy's countenance intensified as she used her entire body as a catalyst to emit a brief, albeit effective, surge of purple energy.

Before the battle, Ash had no intention of having Clefairy use Psychic. She had just learned the TM move yesterday, and she wasn't having nearly as easy of a time getting the hang of it as Haunter. Right now, all she could manage was a momentary mental freeze – against pokemon that were void of mental barriers – that lasted for barely a second.

Fortunately, at the moment, that was all of time she needed.

The very second that the wave passed through Eevee's existence, her entire body locked up. It was barely long enough for Ash to visibly notice, but he could tell it worked when Clefairy mercilessly smacked Eevee away like a rag doll. By the time she regained control of her body, she was turbulently tumbling across the battlefield.

While watching Eevee attempt to stop herself from skidding across the ground, Ash saw Clefairy take off in pursuit of the out of control fox.

This was their chance.

In a matter of a few seconds, multiple ideas clashed within Ash's mind like a hodgepodge of conflicting forces. Disarming Voice, Pound, Double Slap, Wake-Up Slap, Stored Power, Metronome, Psychic—all offensive techniques that Ash considered having Clefairy use to finish off Eevee.

How would he have Clefairy deliver the decisive blow?

"Sing!" yelled Ash at the top of his lungs as Clefairy dashed toward the faltering eevee.

Wasting no time, Clefairy murmured a centralized lullaby in the direction of Eevee. Before she even knew what hit her, she was forced into a slumber and rolled to a grinding halt.

"Finish her off with Pound and Wake-Up Slap!"

Subsequently, Clefairy leapt into the air, winding back her fist with intention of pummeling Eevee to a point where the victory would be hers.

"That's it!" bellowed Ruphus as a streak of red light shot across the battlefield, blanketing Eevee and returning her to her pokeball. "It's your win, Ash!"

As Clefairy gracelessly landed on the ground and stared at Ruphus in a confused manner, Ash focused his line of sight on the head of the Worthington.

"It wasn't a K.O.," said Ash, raising an eyebrow. "The battle wasn't over yet."

"She fell asleep, Ash," said Ruphus, walking over to the ten-year-old boy with Eevee's pokeball in-hand. "In my mind, that means she is unable to battle."

"But, in an official battle—"

"This wasn't an official battle," retorted Ruphus as he glanced in Clefairy's direction.

He paused, "Besides, we all know what was about to happen…"

"I guess you have a point," said Ash with a shrug as he raised his pokeball and pointed it in the direction of Clefairy.

"Great job, Clefairy, you were awesome!" exclaimed Ash as he pressed the return button on Clefairy's pokeball.

His fairy pokemon flashed him a proud smile as she was blanketed in a ray of red light. The moment she was returned to her pokeball, Ash turned around to find that Skylar, Ellen and the espeon had walked up alongside Ruphus.

"Wow, that was just marvelous, Ash!" exclaimed Ellen as she gave Ash one of her devastating hugs. "I knew you'd be good, but that clefairy of yours was absolutely dazzling."

Her hug was so tight that Ash couldn't even manage to get a word out. At the same time, Ash saw out of his peripherals that Growlithe was purposely keeping his distance. After the hug that he had gotten in the training facility's lobby, Ash couldn't blame him.

"Oh, dear Mew, what is wrong with me!?" wailed Mrs. Worthington as she leapt back and hid her face in embarrassment. "I'm sorry, Ash!"

He had to take a moment to catch his breath, while Ruphus and Skylar scolded Ellen for unintentionally incapacitating Ash for the umpteenth time.

"I-it's okay," said Ash, trying his best to reestablish his breath. "Like I've said before, I'm used to—"

"Here," interrupted Ruphus, stepping in front of the rest of the Worthingtons while holding out Eevee's pokeball, "this belongs to you now. The only thing left for you to do is sign a document the Pokemon Center's front desk, and it will be official."

Ash gazed at the standard, red and white pokeball with eyes of astonishment as he reached out and waited for Ruphus to place it in his hands. On account of the heated battle, he had almost forgotten about the prize.

It wasn't until Eevee's pokeball rested in his palm that it finally hit him. His family had just grown by one. His eighth pokemon came in the form of a ravishing, silver fox with an unyielding personality.

Moreover, he had finally caught another girl. Clefairy was no longer the only female in their family. She now had a sister—one that could match her confidence and adamant fighting spirit.

"There's not a doubt in my mind that Eevee will grow with you in a way that she never could with me," added Ruphus as Ash continued to fixate on the pokeball that sat in his hand. "I couldn't be happier that she now has a place on your team."

Ash looked up at Ruphus with earnest eyes.

"And I couldn't be happier that you are entrusting her to me," replied Ash as he shrunk Eevee's pokeball and attached it to one of the empty slots on his belt.

All of a sudden, Skylar pushed her way in front of her father, eyeing Ash with a look of admiration.

"Congratulations, Ash," said Skylar as she firmly grabbed his hand. "Now, please, promise me that you will take good care of Eevee."

Tears flowed from her eyes as she shifted her line of sight between Ash's eyes and the pokeball that had recently been placed on his belt, "She's been a great friend to me."

A large grin stretched across Ash's face as he looked at Skylar with a sincere expression.

"I promise."

XXX

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