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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38. Kanto 12 Part 3

After striking the sauropod with a technique that it had learnt during evolution, which was a phenomenon that rarely occurred, Pidgeot used Quick Attack to briskly reach Meganium. It was no longer under the trance of Petal Dance. However, it was extremely confused, sporadically switching between struggling to its feet and smashing its head into the ground.

While the grass-type helplessly wrestled with itself on the ground, Pidgeot landed behind it before holding both of its wings out in front of himself, parallel to one another. Forming within its wings was what started out a small, condensed, purple Twister. Then, Pidgeot rapidly spread its wings as far as possible, causing the minute Twister to grow exponentially.

Hissing like a thousand steam kettles, the Twister continued to grow until it was as tall as the avian's oversized body and as broad as his ample wingspan. Over the grating sound of the Twister, Ash could barely hear Erika, who was crying out to Meganium, begging it to come to its senses and move out of the way.

Ash also thought he heard a plethora of outcries coming from outside of the barrier. Up until now, he had almost forgotten about his friends that were watching the battle. Hopefully, after this last move, Eevee would be more than convinced by his ability as a trainer, and the Worthingtons would be even more confident that the silver kit would be in good hands.

"Finish it!" cried Ash at the top of his lungs.

Pidgeot let out a prideful squawk that gave Ash goosebumps before throwing his wings downward, dropping the overpowered Twister on top of Meganium. There was a loud gasp when the tempest hit. If there was a cry, Ash couldn't hear it amidst the impact of the attack.

He was forced to cover his eyes as soil spurted in every which direction—indiscriminate towards who or what it hit. It wasn't until the aftermath of the attack cleared out that he realized the battle was truly over.

Standing over Meganium's unconscious body, flapping his wings and puffing out his chest, was the newly evolved Pidgeot. He let out a triumphant squawk while staring down at his prey. A smile crept across Ash's face at that moment. He was happy to see that Pidgeot hadn't changed after evolving.

"Great job, Pidgeot!" exclaimed Ash as he sprinted out to meet him in the middle of the battlefield. "You did it!"

The monstrous beast looked back at his trainer with an enthralled expression before lightly flapping his wings and lowering his head so that Ash could pet him. He could see it in his eyes that he was emotional. After all, becoming a powerful Pidgeot was his dream.

While Ash reached up to stroke Pidgeot's plumage, he realized just how big the fully evolved flying-type was. Even when he leant over, Ash had to get up on his toes to reach his face. He wasn't the best at estimating height, but Pidgeot likely stood at least ten feet tall. If it weren't for their history together, Ash would be terrified, and he would be lying if he said he wasn't slightly intimidated.

Other than his overwhelming size and gorgeous crest, Ash noticed that his tail feathers were now completely red and that his beak and talons had gotten a lot sharper. The black feathers around its eyes now went all the way down to his neck rather than stopping just passed his eyes, and Pidgeot's eyes looked a little more focused and dignified.

"You look incredible…" drawled Ash. "Do you feel a lot stronger?"

Pidgeot nodded his head while disemboguing a joyous chirp. This was the happiest Ash had ever seen him outside of battle. It melted his heart to see the savage, sadistic pidgeotto he had found in one of Viridian Forest's trees excited about what he had become. It made Ash feel a certain level of fulfillment that he had never experienced before.

One of his friends had reached their final evolution. It was just another milestone that at one point felt so far away that they had at long last achieved. It was an indescribable feeling.

"Whoa…" muttered Erika as she walked over to Ash. "The closer you get, the more you realize just how much of a giant it is."

It was while Erika made her way over to him that he noticed that she had already returned her fallen Meganium. Her line of sight was stuck on Pidgeot as she appeared to be trying to get a grasp over his existence.

"I know, right?" said Ash. "I knew he would be enormous once he evolved. I mean, it's not like he was average sized when he was a pidgeotto. But, still…this is crazy."

"Crazy," retorted Erika, "crazy doesn't even come close to doing it justice. I've seen my fair share of pidgeot, and it's rare that they're more than five feet tall."

She paused as she pointed at Pidgeot with a nervous finger, "Yours is at least ten feet tall! I've never seen anything like it!"

"Yeah, he's special," answered Ash with a smile.

"You can say that again," inserted Ruphus as he, the rest of the Worthingtons, and Eevee walked over to him and Erika. "Quite the match, Ash. All of your pokemon were impressive, not just Pidgeot, although I was rather blown away by his size. Like Erika said, I've never seen anything like it."

"Thanks," replied Ash, "that means a lot. And Pidgeot's size is due to a rare genetic mutation called the king's nature. I'd rather not take the time to explain all of the details, but essentially he's a giant compared to most of his species.

He paused as he looked back at his friend, "Although that part is kind of self-explanatory."

"The king's nature…" replied Ruphus, raising an eyebrow, "that sounds famil—"

"Oh my God, Ash, that was an unbelievable battle!" blurted Skylar, placing Eevee's pokeball in Ash's hands and interrupting her father. "I was so nervous!"

She glanced down at the silver fox that was looking up at Ash in a contemplative manner, "So was Eevee! You definitely impressed her!"

Ash didn't know Eevee well enough to even attempt to guess what she was thinking, but Ash had a feeling that she was trying to figure out what to do with herself. This was the first time that they had interacted since before their battle, and it was obvious that she felt awkward. He was her trainer now after all, which would take some getting used to.

He folded his arms and smiled while looking at Eevee with a soft expression.

"So, what do you think?" he asked. "Are you happy with your decision?"

Eevee nodded hesitantly as she slowly walked a little closer to Ash. Her personality seemed to differ a lot from what he had seen the first few times he had met her. Oddly enough, she was acting kind of shy.

Ash crouched down, looking at Eevee as amicably as possible, "Don't push yourself. I know it will take a little while to get used to having me as a trainer. How to act around each other doesn't always come naturally. We'll figure it out. As long as you hang in there with me and follow my lead when it comes to training, everything else will work its way into place."

Eevee responded by wagging her bushy tail and letting out an agreeable yap.

"Well, wasn't that just darling!?" uttered Ellen as she reached down to wrap Eevee and Ash up in a three way hug.

"Oh, no you don't," said Ruphus with an amused smile as he swiftly grabbed his wife by the waist and pulled her close to him. "This is their moment. The last thing they want is one of your deathly hugs."

She pouted as she folded her arms and looked away from him.

"I was in control that time! You're such a fun sucker, Ruphus!"

Ash forced himself not to laugh as he witnessed Ruphus dramatically roll his eyes without his wife noticing.

"So, I'm guessing you just got this stunning little eevee?" questioned Erika while Ash stood up from his crouched over position.

"Yup," replied Ash before giving a quick little summary of the circumstances involving how he became Eevee's trainer.

"I see…" drawled Erika as she pivoted her glance between Pidgeot and Eevee, "so you have an Ivysaur, a king's something or other pidgeot and a silver eevee. You're quite the lucky one, aren't you?"

"You could say that," answered Ash sheepishly as he scratched the back of his head. "It would be a lie to say that I caught them all with skill alone."

"No need to be bashful," said Erika with a cheery smile. "Great trainers don't become great trainers without a little bit of luck. There's nothing wrong with that."

She paused as she shifted her line of sight over to her sister, Millie, who had joined them in the middle of the battlefield while Ash was explaining to Erika how he got Eevee, "Millie, could you give Ash his prize?"

"Of course," she answered before reaching into the sleeve of her yukata, just like her older sister, and pulling out a tiny multi-colored trinket.

It was shaped like a flower with eight different colored petals emerging from its silver core. Celadon Gym's badge was by far the prettiest one that he had earned thus far.

"On behalf of your victory at the Celadon Gym," said Erika she took the badge out of her sisters hand, "I hereby reward you with the Rainbow Badge."

She flashed him an earnest smile before gently placing the badge in Ash's outstretched hands, "You gave me a wonderful battle, Ash. I look forward to seeing how you fare at the conference."

"Thanks, Erika," replied Ash gratefully as he examined his new badge for a bit before sticking it in his jacket pocket.

He'd put it in his badge case later. He still had a few questions he wanted to ask Erika before he and his friends left. She had promised him that she would tell him more about the other trainer from Pallet after the match. Moreover, there was something else that he had been dying to know ever since the beginning of the battle.

"Hey, Erika..." said Ash in a way that suggested that he had something he wanted to get off of his chest.

"Yes."

"I have a question."

"What is it?"

"Where exactly do you keep your pokeballs?" he asked in an oblivious manner. "You kept reaching into your sleeve, but that doesn't exactly make sense. Do you have clips in there or something?"

"Can you keep a secret?"

He nodded; it must have been some kind of top secret technology.

Catching him off guard, Erika leant over and whispered something in his ear.

The second he heard what she had to say, his face lit up as red as a the top half of a pokeball.

"Oh…"

XXX

"How much longer do you plan on staying in Celadon?" asked Skylar as the two of them waited in one of the Pokemon Center's lounges for his friends to get healed.

"I was planning on leaving tomorrow," said Ash, "but we ended up staying at the gym a lot longer than I thought we would."

He paused as he let out a light chuckle, "I never would have guessed that I'd have so much to talk about with Erika. She's a lot different than people make her out to be."

"Yeah," replied Skylar, "her reputation has taken a hit because of some of the decisions she's made, but she's a really nice person, and a lot better at battling than people think. She's still young, but I think that she will become a gym leader that people look up to eventually."

"I can see that," answered Ash. "Anyways, I still have some stuff that I've got to get done before I leave, so I probably won't leave for Fuchsia until the day after tomorrow."

"What do you have to do?"

"Err…make some calls, check out Celadon's southeastern district, and let my pokemon rest a bit before our next big trip."

"Gotcha'," chirped Skylar. "Have you thought about how you're going to get to Fuchsia?"

"What do you mean?" queried the dark-haired boy. "I usually just walk…"

"That might be a bit of a problem, though," said the pretty girl in a curious manner. "You do know that in between Routes 16 and 18 is the Cycling Road, right?"

"Cycling Road…" drawled Ash, confused, "I've never heard of it."

"You're kidding me," she retorted, clearly surprised. "How have you never heard of the Cycling Road? It's extremely famous! Like, everybody knows about it!"

"Everybody except me…I guess," said Ash, leaning back in his chair. "What is it?"

"It's an incredibly long bridge that you can only access if you have a bicycle," replied Skylar. "I've never actually been on it myself, but I've heard that it's really cool. A lot of trainers hangout on it, so it's a great place to go if you're looking for battles."

"How long is it?"

"I think it takes most people a couple of days to cross," answered Skylar, "but that's just what I've heard."

"Gotcha'," replied Ash, nodding his head. "Well, I don't have a bike, and money is kind of an issue right now, so I guess I'll just have to find another way to Fuchsia."

"I can ask my parents if they wouldn't mind lending you some money to buy one," offered the pretty blonde. "I wish I could lend you mine, but it's broken."

She paused as she let out a cute giggle, "Besides, it's pink, and I have a feeling you don't want to cross Cycling Road with a pink bike."

"Yeah, I'll pass," answered Ash. "Your parents have already done enough for me. I'd rather not ask them to buy me a bike. What are the options for people that don't have a bike?"

"There's a ferry service that takes a water route from Route 16 straight to Fuchsia," said Skylar. "That's what most people that don't take Cycling Road do."

"I'll do that, then."

"It's not a horrible idea," replied Skylar. "The only drawback is that its about a week long trip. The ferries aren't exactly high-quality. It's not like the ones that take people to and from the Cinnabar or the Seafoam Islands."

"A week!?" queried Ash. "Are the ferries big enough for me to train on?"

She looked at him with a dumbfounded expression.

"It's a ferry…not the SS Anne."

Ash gulped as horrid memories of fear and death invaded his mind. She would use the SS Anne as an example.

"Ash, what's wrong?" asked Skylar, concerned. "Did I say something wrong?"

"I-it's fine," stammered Ash. "I mean, I'm fine."

He paused as he thought up a lie, not wanting to discuss his experience involving the sunken ship, "I just can't afford to ride a ferry for that long without being able to train. I'm going to need to train as much as possible if I want to beat Koga, especially after hearing what everyone's been saying about him."

"Well, I don't know, then," retorted Skylar. "If you can't walk there, and you can't take a ferry, what else is th—"

She stopped mid-sentence as Ash looked at her with an elated expression.

"Pidgeot, he finally evolve!" blurted Ash.

"And?" questioned Skylar.

"Well, even though he was big enough as a pidgeotto, I wasn't able to ride him for too long because it was hard for me to go bareback. But, now that he's a pidgeot, I can buy him a saddle. Problem solved; I'll just take Pidgeot to Fuchsia."

"That's a great idea!" exclaimed Skylar.

Her expression went from excited to serious in the blink of an eye.

"What's wrong?" asked Ash.

"Didn't you spend all of your money on TMs? You're faced with the same problem as buying a bike? Getting a saddle that's big enough for your pidgeot won't be cheap."

"Dammit…" cursed Ash, realizing that she was right.

They sat there for a moment in silence, trying to think of a way to make it work without having to borrow money from Skylar's parents, when Ash's xtranceiver started to ring.

"Ring…"

"Ring…"

"Who is it?" asked Skylar.

Ash looked down at the screen in a curious manner. It read: Bill Montgomery.

"I'm going to take this," said Ash as he stood up out of his chair. "It might take a little bit. Do you mind?"

"Not at all," Skylar responded, understanding that it must be important.

"Ring…"

After making sure that Skylar wasn't offended that he was taking a call in the middle of their conversation, Ash walked over to the far corner of the lobby, putting enough distance between himself and the next closest person so that he wouldn't be overheard.

Once he found a spot that was to his liking, he received the call.

"Click."

"Hey, Bill!" exclaimed Ash as a close-up of his friend's fresh face appeared on screen.

"Ash, my friend, how goes it!?" exclaimed Bill.

His expression was priceless. It looked as if he was on the edge of his seat, and the level of excitement he was giving off was overwhelming. It was as if he had spent the last couple of weeks waiting to make this call.

"I'm good," replied Ash with a smile. "I'm glad you called. I was going to wait until tomorrow to call you, but this is fine."

"Yeah, Sabrina called me and told me that you would be calling soon," explained Bill. "She also filled me in on your encounter with the bloody ninetails—freaking nuts if I say so myself. Anyways, I was going to wait until you called, but I got too excited! I had to find out how you were doing! And well…there's some other stuff, but your wellbeing comes first!"

"Thanks," answered Ash, "like I said, I've been good. My time in Celadon had been great. I just got done at Erika's gym, and now I'm waiting for my pokemon to get healed up."

"I take it you won?" questioned Bill, knowing the answer.

"It was close, but I managed. If Pidgeotto wouldn't have evolved at the end, I would have lost," replied Ash, getting an interested look from Bill. "Anyways, what's the other stuff that you mentioned? What do you have to talk to me about?"

"Pidgeotto evolved!" cheered Bill, unable to contain himself. "I'm calling at the perfect time, then. Destiny really likes you, you know?"

"Huh?"

"Ever since I got back from Saffron, I've been working on a saddle for Pidgeot. Well, I guess he was a pidgeotto at the time, but now it's Pidgeot. When I saw Pidgeotto, I mean Pidgeot in Saffron, I figured he'd evolve soon."

"Wait, so you're saying that you made Pidgeot a saddle?" asked Ash for clarification purposes.

Bill wasn't always the easiest person to understand.

"Yeah," replied the pokemon researcher, "we had a conversation back in Saffron about you needing a saddle, so I figured I'd use some of my free time to make one."

He paused, "I made one for Dragonite, too! They came out rather nicely if I say so myself. Pidgeotto's, I mean Pidgeot's, should fit. I made it adjustable since I didn't know his exact size. How big is he by the way? I reckon he's at least ten feet—"

"Bill," interrupted Ash, elated, "have I ever told you that you're an awesome friend! I was just having a conversation about needing a saddle but not having the money; it's like you read my mind! You're a godsend!"

"A godsend, eh?" queried Bill with a smile. "An awesome friend and a bloody godsend. You're too kind, my friend."

For a second, Ash thought that Bill was going to tear up, but he didn't. There was a bit of a glimmer in his eyes and knowing his friend's track record for crying over any comment involving their friendship, Ash wouldn't have been surprised. However, one way or another, Bill kept his emotions in check.

"Ash, you're in the lobby right now, right?"

"Yeah," answered Ash with curious eyes. "Why?"

"Go find an available PC," said Bill matter-of-factly.

"A PC?" questioned Ash, "I've never used one of the Pokemon Center's PCs. What do you want me to do with it?"

"Just go find one," retorted Bill. "I registered you to use the PC system for transporting items. You haven't had to use the PC, since I terminated your carry limit. But, it would be wise for you to learn how to use it anyway. It's a rather important tool for pokemon trainers."

"Oh, gotcha'," said Ash, understanding where Bill was coming from. "Give me a second to go find one."

"Yuppers."

Ash pressed the mute button on his xtranceiver before walking over to Skylar to let her know what was going on. After giving a brief summary that lasted less than a minute and listening to Skylar give him a hard time over how lucky he was, Ash made his way over to the small, open computer lab that was directly to the right of the lobby's front desk.

Out of the eight PCs in the lobby only two were being used, so Ash didn't have a problem finding one. Due to the spacious nature of Celadon's pokemon center, it didn't surprise him that it was easy to find an available computer. As a matter of fact, there was a full-fledged computer lab in the Recreational Wing that you could go to if you planned on utilizing a PC extensively. These PCs were primarily for quick usage.

Once Ash had settled into the stationary chair in front of the PC of his choosing, he pressed the mute button for a second time, allowing Bill to hear his voice.

"Alright," said Ash, catching his friend's attention, "I'm at a PC."

"Good," answered Bill. "Now, the PC itself should already be on, so what I want you to do is press the small little button in the bottom right hand corner of the monitor."

Listening to his friend, Ash pressed the button as described in Bill's directions. The screen on the black, flat-screen monitor lit up, revealing the PCs desktop. On the desktop were several icons scattered about a pink, digital wallpaper. Ash wasn't too familiar with computers, so he didn't recognize most of them. But, he was able to identify the universal symbol for internet and a couple others.

"What do I do now?" asked Ash.

"You can see the desktop, right?" questioned Bill, making sure that Ash was following him.

"Yeah."

"Alrighty, then," muttered Bill. "Do you see a pokeball icon somewhere on the screen?"

It was on the top left corner of the screen, in-between an image of a pokedex and the internet browser icon.

"I see it."

"Use the mouse to select it, double-click, and wait for it to load," explained Bill.

Ash did as he was told, dragging the small, black device – which corresponded to a little, moveable pointer icon on the screen – over the pokeball before double-clicking the button on the left side of the mouse. He may not have had too much experience with computers, but he knew enough to understand that the left button was used for selecting while the right opened up a tab full of options.

After double-clicking the pokeball icon, there was a short loading period before a new screen popped up. The new screen had five primary options: Deposit Pokemon, Withdraw Pokemon, Deposit Items, Withdraw Items, Log Out. In the top left corner of the screen was a little bubble that read, Please insert pokedex into dock before selecting an option.

"Once it loads, look for the pokedex dock and put yours in it. It should be somewhere on the desk next to the monitor."

"Found it," said Ash, who had taken his pokedex out of his jacket pocket while he was listening to Bill explain what he had already found out on his own.

Ash inserted the pokedex into the dock, making sure to put it in correctly. As soon as the pokedex was connected, the information in the bubble on the top left corner of the screen was replaced with his name and Trainer ID number.

"Okay, I plugged my pokedex in…what do I do now?"

"Click on Withdraw Items," said Bill. "After it takes you to a new screen, there should be two options. Click Item A and Item B; it should place them both in a box that will pop up."

"Done and done," said Ash as he clicked on the two available options.

In subsequence, a small box appeared in the bottom right corner. Right above it were the words Check Out, whereas inside of it items A and B were listed.

"So, if one of these items is the saddle, what's the other?"

"The copy of The Prophecy of the Chosen One," replied Bill matter-of-factly. "It took me a while to track it down; my libraries a bloody mess."

He paused, "I read through a lot of it last night; some curious stuff in there. If you are the Chosen One, you've got quite the road ahead of you. Your journey will be nutty as hell. It's rather exciting actually."

"Your sending me the prophecy, too!" blurted Ash, surprised. "Dang, Bill, you're on a roll today."

"Damn right I am," snorted the researcher with a look of accomplishment on his face. "I'm Bill bloody Montgomery. There's nothing I'm not willing to do to help out a friend."

He paused, "That might be a bit of an exaggeration. I can think of a few things that I wouldn't do to help out a friend, but most of those are entirely inappropriate or just flat out unethi—"

"Okay, okay, stop!" interjected Ash before his friend got too carried away. "You really need to learn how to keep thoughts like that to yourself."

There was a long break in conversation as Bill seemed to be contemplating Ash's suggestion.

"…why?"

Ash shook his head in an amused manner. What was he thinking? Of course, Bill couldn't wrap his head around the concept of having a filter.

"Anyways," said Ash, trying to get back on topic, "I've selected both of them, and they're in the 'Check Out' box. I'm assuming I click on the 'Withdraw' icon underneath it."

"That's correct," replied Bill, "but before you do, locate the transporter pad. There should be one somewhere close to the PCs. If not, go ask Nurse Joy. It may be set up somewhere behind the front desk."

Ash surveyed the open computer lab in attempt to find what Bill was describing. He settled his eyes on a decent-sized table that was set up next to the farthest PC to his left. Resting on top of the table was a bulky, heavy-duty printer and what looked like an oversized digital scale.

"Does it look like a weight scale?"

"Yeah, but it should have a clear, gel-like surface."

"Do you want me to get up and check?" asked Ash.

"Eh, it doesn't really matter," answered Bill. "Just keep an eye on it. If it is the transporter pad, your items will appear on top of it after you click on 'Withdraw'. I just wanted you to find it if it was out in the open. You don't want some bloody cock-up to swipe your stuff. If that's not it, it's in a secure place behind the counter."

"Gotcha'."

He dragged the mouse so that the cursor was on Withdraw before looking into his xtranceiver for Bill's approval.

"Go ahead," muttered the curly-haired researcher.

Double-clicking on the tab, Ash waited with anticipation. As a new window opened on the screen that had a revolving pokeball in the center of it, acting as the loading icon, and underneath it read, Withdrawing, in bold, white print.

His line of sight shifted from the PC's screen to what he assumed to be the transporter pad as a flash of white light, sounding and looking like a pokeball release, was emitted from the surface of the machine. At that moment, Ash stood up from his chair, ignoring Bill's curious chirping in the background.

He made his way over to the machine. By the time he got to it, the flash of light had ceased, and two depository cases sat atop the platform.

"I should be looking at two depository cases, right?" asked Ash into his xtranceiver as he stood over the transporter pad.

"Yup, the system gives you the option of using depository cases for items that are too big for a transporter pad. I probably could have gotten away with depositing the book without a depository case, but I thought I'd save myself the trouble just in case the Pokemon Center had a small transporter pad."

"Oh, okay," Ash responded as he picked up both of the depository cases and examined them, "did you have to use two?"

"Technically, no," replied Bill, "but those aren't my depository cases. They're the systems. And if you use the system's depository cases, every item has to be placed in a different one so that it can account for the number of items."

"Huh?" questioned Ash. "That doesn't make sense."

"Actually, it does," retorted Bill, "but there's no need for you to strain your brain trying to figure it out."

"Err…okay," snorted Ash. "What do I do with them after I retrieve the saddle and the prophecy. They belong to the system, so I can't keep them, right?"

"It's a pretty simple process," said Bill. "I'll explain it to you after you get the items out."

Ash proceeded to go through the process of withdrawing the saddle and prophecy from the two depository cases.

The prophecy came out first, having been released by the bright blue light that was emitted from one of the depository cases. Ash didn't bother opening it up, but he did take a moment to look over its exterior.

It was a thick book with plenty of pages; however, he'd read through textbooks bigger than it when he was studying for the Trainer Qualification Exam. The front and back cover were made out of worn, black leather, and scattered about on both sides were strange golden characters.

Out of all of the book's external features, the golden characters were definitely what stood out to him the most. Each one of them was distinctive, and they looked symbolic and ancient. At the same time, Ash couldn't help but feel like there was more to them than a simple translated meaning. It was as if they were alive, ready to leap off of the book at any moment.

"What do these characters mean?" Ash asked Bill curiously.

"They're insignia of the Unknown—a legendary power that is said to exist everywhere in our world," answered Bill, scratching his head. "At least, that's what I've been told. My specialty isn't ancient legends and prophecies. You'd have to ask an expert."

"Oh, okay…" drawled Ash, clearly confused.

"Whatever, I'll look through it later," he continued as he took off his backpack and put the book inside. "Anyways, let's take a look at this saddle. I'm excited to see what it looks like."

"I'm excited to see your reaction!" exclaimed Bill with a massive grin on his face. "I think you'll love it!"

Nodding his head, Ash released the saddle from the confines of the depository case. As it came into view, his eyes instantly widened and his jaw dropped. He was speechless; it was remarkable.

"Wow…Bill, I don't know what to say."

"There's no need to say anything," he answered with a smile. "Friends help friends out. That's all there is to it."

"I know," stammered Ash, "but this…well, it's amazing."

The saddle that Bill had put together for Pidgeot was absolutely incredible. Its base was dark green in color, made out of what looked like polished dragon scales. As a matter of fact, they almost looked like they could belong to—

"Are those Dragonite's scales?" asked Ash with a look of realization on his face.

"Yup," said Bill with closed eyes and a nod, "I got the idea while I was working on Dragonite's saddle. You wouldn't believe the amount of loose scales that guy has. He grows them at a bloody ridiculous rate. And when you factor in his size, the quantity is out of this world. I figured that if I polished the scales until they were silky smooth and welded them together, it would make a good, protective skirt to go underneath the saddle's seat."

"Awesome…" drawled Ash.

At this point, he was getting stares from several people in the lobby. Well, technically it was the saddle that was drawing the attention, but still…a bunch of people were looking at him, including Skylar, who had been paying close attention to him ever since he retrieved the depository cases from the transporter pad.

"What's the seat made out of?" asked Ash, wanting Bill to explain it to him as fast as possible so that he could store it in one of his depository cases. The interested gazes of the lobby's onlookers were starting to bother him.

"The seat is made out of mamoswine fur," informed Bill with a wink, causing Ash's eyebrows to rise. "We had a couple of rugs made out of different species' fur at the lighthouse. Apparently, my grandfather had a thing for collecting pokemon hides."

Ash grimaced, "Sounds like quite the hobby."

"Yeah…" muttered Bill, noticing the strain in Ash's voice, "I called my dad about that. He claims that gramps got the hides from already deceased pokemon, but who knows. He wasn't exactly a tender hearted man."

The ten-year-old boy gulped. Bill's grandfather and Robert's dad didn't sound like them at all…

"Anyway," said Bill, attempting to get back on topic, "it was just rolled up in a closet collecting dust. It doesn't matter how we got it; that hide will be way more useful protecting you from the grind of riding Pidgeot than it was at the lighthouse."

He paused, "Go ahead and feel it."

All Ash needed to do was look at the seat on his new saddle to know that it was comfortable, but he listened to Bill, bending down and running his fingers through the brown and white fur that was thickly layered in the center of a bed of dragon scales.

"Bloody soft, right?"

"Whoa, I never would have guessed that mamoswine fur was this cushiony," he said, impressed by the hide's consistency and texture.

"I know, right!?" blurted Bill. "You'd think it would be way more course!"

Ash couldn't help but smile. He could see in Bill's eyes how much he loved talking about stuff like this. Even though he could be a bit ridiculous and melodramatic at times, Bill really was a good person. If he treated others the way he treated Ash maybe people would have a better opinion of his personality.

After checking out the seat, Ash took off his backpack and searched for the depository case that he wanted to put it in. Once he found it, he went through the various steps necessary in order to properly deposit the saddle before turning his attention back to his xtransceiver.

"We'll talk about the saddle in more detail the day after tomorrow," said Ash. "I'm going to need your help in order to figure out how to put it on Pidgeot."

"Sounds like a good idea to me."

He made a face that clearly portrayed curiosity, "Are you getting some reactions?"

"Yeah," replied Ash. "Too many actually…it's a little much."

"Positive or negative?"

"They seemed mostly positive," answered Ash, interested as to why Bill was asking.

"Hmm…I see," murmured Bill in a contemplative manner, "and you definitely like it, right? You're not just humoring me?"

"I like it a lot, Bill," retorted Ash. "Why are you being so self-conscious?"

"It's nothing like that. I'm just gathering data. Depending on how your saddle holds up, I'm thinking about starting a new company. Good saddles are hard to come by you know. I think I may be onto something."

Ash blinked a couple of times before letting out a sigh. Bill was unpredictably predictable.

"Follow your heart, Bill."

Tears welled up in Bill's eyes that caused the dark-haired boy to sweat drop, "Are you crying?"

"N-n-no," stammered the overdramatic researcher, "I just got something in my eye!"

"Something in your eye, really?" queried Ash, amused. "Is that the best lie you could come up with?"

"Ahhh, nothing gets passed you, Ash!" cried Bill. "It was just…that was some of the best advice I've ever gotten.

"Follow your heart, Bill," he repeated to himself in a theatrical manner while closing his eyes and holding both of his hands out in front of his as if he was surrendering to something. "That was so bloody inspirational!"

In attempt to break his friend free from his downward spiral of outrageousness, Ash held the PC system's two empty depository cases in front of his xtransceiver so that Bill could see them.

"Hey, Bill, I don't mean to interrupt, but could you explain to me what I do with these now?"

"Oh, yeah, no problem," replied Bill, snapping out of his trance of extremely dramatic behavior as fast as he entered it in the first place. "Just place them back on the transporter pad, go back to the PC you were using earlier, and double-click 'Deposit Items'."

Unsurprised by his ability to easily divert his friend's point of focus, Ash followed Bill's rather simple instructions and returned the depository cases to their rightful place.

"So, what are you going to do now?" asked Bill, realizing that they had accomplished what they needed to.

"I'm pretty hungry, so I think I'll get a quick bite to eat before winding down for the day. It's been a long one."

"Understandable," replied the researcher, "I'll let you go then. I should probably get back to working on Dragonite's saddle anyway. I promised him that it would be finished before we go flying tonight."

"Gotcha'," said Ash with a smile. "Good luck with the saddle. Remember, I'll be calling you in a couple of days so that you can explain to me how to put on Pidgeot's saddle."

"I'll be waiting, my friend," responded Bill, reciprocating Ash's grin.

"Thanks for everything, Bill. Talk to you later."

"Bye, Ash. Enjoy the remainder of your time in Celadon."

"Click."

The screen on Ash's xtransceiver displayed that the call had ended before fading to black. Now that he was done talking to Bill, he made his way back over to Skylar.

"Thanks for being patient," said Ash with a slightly guilty face.

He couldn't help but feel bad. Even though his conversation with Bill was essential for his journey, he was in the middle of hanging out with Skylar, who had been adamant about spending time with him before he left Celadon. Hopefully, she wasn't upset.

"No problem," chirped Skylar with glimmering eyes, catching Ash off guard. "I saw the saddle. It was gorgeous!"

"I know, right!?" answered Ash, relieved. "Bill may be a goofball, but he's a miracle worker when it comes to stuff like this."

"I see that. You're lucky to have someone like that as a friend."

Ash nodded, flashing Skylar a smile.

"Anyways," said Skylar, "while you were talking to Bill, I checked to see how your pokemon were doing. Nurse Joy told me that she'd have them back to you in about a half-hour."

"Really?" queried Ash. "That soon?"

"Yeah, although the battle was tough, apparently there weren't any significant injuries. I'm guessing they'll still need to rest for a couple of days, but I reckon you don't need me to tell you that."

"I know," answered Ash politely. "They won't be doing anything for at least two days. And even after that, their training will be light until I'm sure that they have recovered enough."

He paused as he stood up out of his seat, "For now, why don't we go get something to eat at one of the cafeterias? I'm starving, and by the time we finish eating, my friends should be good to go."

"Sounds good," murmured Skylar. "Can I make a request, though?"

"What is it?" asked Ash curiously.

"Can we go to Cafeteria B? My parents went to go eat at Cafeteria A, and I'm kind of enjoying this time away from them. They've been a little overbearing ever since the incident."

She let out a sigh, "Especially my mom."

"Yeah, of course," answered Ash with a grin. "We haven't gotten to spend much time one-on-one anyway, and I'm having fun talking to you. I really like your parents, but this is nice. Even if it's just thirty minutes, I'd like to be alone with you for a little bit longer."

"Uh…y-yeah," stammered Skylar as her face all of a sudden turned bright red.

"Awesome," replied Ash obliviously. "I wonder what's for dinner? The cafeterias have been putting out some great stuff the last couple of days. Mac and Cheese sounds great right now…maybe a tofu burger. Gahh, I'm so hungry!"

He paused as he realized that Skylar still hadn't gotten up out of her seat, "Is something wrong?"

"N-nope!" managed Skylar, abruptly leaping out of her chair.

Her face was still as red as a hot coal.

"Are you sure?" asked Ash pointing at her face. "You look a little red. Do you have a fever or something?"

"I feel fine!" exclaimed Skylar, getting even redder.

She folded her arms and stormed off in the direction of Cafeteria B, "Let's go, Ash!"

"Okay…" drawled, needing to jog a short-distance in order to catch up.

Girls sure were strange sometimes.

XXX

After spending the day making phone calls and exploring Celadon's mostly residential southeastern district with Skylar, Ash found himself sitting across from her at a small noodle shop, not too far from the Pokemon Center.

Despite the fact that he didn't have any money, Skylar had insisted on buying him dinner, since it was his last night in Celadon. He attempted to be polite by ordering the cheapest item on the menu, but Skylar saw through him in a heartbeat, unwilling to settle for anything less than one of the restaurant's pricier ramen dishes.

It was delicious, but Ash couldn't help but feel guilty while eating it. Having to mooch off of friends wasn't something he was used to. Until Celadon, he had been smart with his money. Sure, he had been given a plethora of gifts from people throughout his journey; however, being unable to buy his own meal was something that he hadn't experienced until now.

It sucked. Regardless of the fact that he had a Silph Co. Platinum Card, he wouldn't let this happen again. Purchasing helpful TMs wasn't an excuse. He couldn't be doing things like this. There were just too many instances where he needed actual money, especially when he was in a city like Celadon.

"Did you have fun today?" asked Skylar, breaking him free from his rumination.

"I did," replied Ash with a smile. "It was peaceful. There wasn't as much to do in comparison to the other districts, but the scenery was nice. It was a great way to cap off my time here."

"I understand where you're coming from," said Skylar. "It's a quiet part of the city. I don't find myself down there often, but when I do, it's refreshing."

Ash nodded, agreeing with her.

His time today with Skylar really had been nice. For the most part, they hadn't been entirely alone. Eevee spent a lot of the day on the outside with them, which was necessary. Not only did Skylar want to spend time with her silver coated friend, but it was beneficial for Ash and Eevee's relationship to have someone that knew the kit so well acting as a mediator.

With that in mind, it's not like Ash and Eevee's relationship had started out on uneven ground. But, Skylar was able to help navigate them through the awkwardness of getting to know each other. By the time Eevee was ready to go back inside of her pokeball, Ash was rather confident that their partnership would be a good one.

There were parts of her personality that would definitely be interesting to deal with during training; he'd known that before, but it was becoming more and more evident as time went on. Be that as it may, Ash was excited. He couldn't wait to get her out of the city where he could truly get to know her without any distractions.

Speaking of getting out of the city, Ash couldn't wait to set out for Fuchsia. It was time. He could feel it in his bones. He was itching to enter into the next phase of his journey. Disregarding the Game Corner, he had seen all there was to see in Celadon. When it came to the city itself, there was nothing left for him to do.

He planned on setting out early in the morning. The Worthingtons would see him off. Ash told them that it wasn't necessary, but that wasn't how they felt, which made him happy. For the past week, the Worthingtons had been great to him; almost to the point where they felt like extended family.

He wanted to spend as much time as possible with them until he left. After all, there was no telling when he would see them again. He didn't plan on coming back to Celadon any time soon—at least until the situation with the Game Corner had been taken care of, and the aftermath of whatever epic battle took place had been resolved.

Ruphus had offered to drive him to the city's western exit, which was where he'd chosen to depart from. When he had decided that he would fly with Pidgeot to Fuchsia, he had originally imagined taking off from anywhere in the city. But, he had changed his mind when he realized how debilitating being dirt poor was.

He wouldn't make any money unless he battled against trainers, and he likely wouldn't find any soaring through the skies. So, instead of flying the whole way, he had decided to travel through Route 16 on foot before flying over the Cycling Road to Route 18, which he would also trek the old fashioned way.

Not only did this give him an opportunity to make some money, but it also offered him more time to prepare for Koga. If he left things how they were now, he wouldn't be ready to take on the poison-type expert. Erika had been difficult enough. According to more than one source, the overzealous Koga hadn't even lost a match using his League-registered team. What kind of stupidly powerful pokemon would Koga unleash on someone like him, who had more than three badges?

Ash had to admit, he was nervous to find out—

"Jeez…" drawled Skylar, catching Ash's attention, "that's his fifth bowl."

"Huh?" queried the dark-haired boy, confused as to what she was talking about.

"The guy at the bar," whispered the pretty blonde. "He came in at the same time as us, and he's already eaten five bowls of ramen."

"Really?"

"Yeah, I've been paying attention," she smiled as a look of amusement breached her facial expression. "Look at the bartender's face. He's blown away."

She paused, "I think he just ordered another one."

"How's that even possible?" asked Ash. "It's not like the bowls are small…I could barely finish one."

It might have come off as slightly bizarre that they were paying such close attention to the random stranger stuffing his face at the bar, but since he was the only other customer in the shop, it was kind of hard not to notice. He may have slipped passed Ash's radar before on account of his busy mind, but now that Skylar had pointed him out, it was impossible to ignore him.

He didn't know what was more amazing; the fact that he was on the verge of devouring six bowls of ramen or that he could accomplish such a feat while looking the way that he did. If someone were to present him with the fact that there was a man capable of eating six humongous bowls of noodles, Ash would answer with, how fat is he?

However, as far as he could tell, this person was in extraordinary shape. It was hard to gauge his height because he was sitting down, but Ash estimated he was pretty close to six-feet tall. His physique was lean and toned; all it took was one glance to tell that he was athletic.

In terms of appearance, he was a fairly good looking guy with dark-brown eyes and long brown hair that cascaded down to his shoulders. He wore a fashionable black suede jacket over a navy blue t-shirt, and grey tapered pants that looked extremely pricey. If Ash were to guess, he'd say that he was in his late teens, possibly early twenties.

There were very few times that he diverted his attention from the noodles in front of him, but when he did, his mannerisms portrayed that he was a rather happy-go-lucky guy, having fun interacting with the bartender.

It wasn't until the man got up and walked in the direction of the restroom that Ash realized he was a pokemon trainer. The backside of his belt had been covered by the back of his jacket and the bar seat, but now that he was moving around, Ash could see the plethora of assorted pokeballs attached to his trainer belt.

On account of the quantity and variety of capture devices docked onto his belt, it was obvious that he wasn't an average trainer. He saw pokeballs, great balls, ultra balls and even a few other capture devices that he didn't recognize.

Since ultra balls weren't allotted to the general public, Ash had all the proof he needed to conclude that he was someone of importance. Taking into account that the man had at least a dozen visible pokeballs on his person, it was clear that – just like Ash – his carry limit had been nullified, likely meaning that he was a proven trainer with a good reputation from the League.

As the man vanished behind the bathroom door, Ash turned to Skylar, "Did you see the pokeballs around his belt?"

"Yeah," replied Skylar, "what about them?"

"Well, he had ultra balls," said Ash, pointing out one of the things that stood out to him the most. "You can't get ultra balls unless your a big deal."

Of course, Ash had gotten ultra balls of his own from coming in third in the SS Anne tournament, but that was a special event sponsored by Robert Montgomery. Under normal circumstances, you would have to be someone that the League deemed suitable to use such a powerful capture device, typically a high-ranking official; even then, there was talk concerning Robert's unwillingness to distribute them in high quantity to the League.

Simply put, they weren't something that even a great trainer could get their hands on unless they had some noteworthy connections within the League.

…Who in the world was this guy?

"I see…" drawled Skylar with a curious look on your face, "he sounds interesting. Why don't you talk to him?"

Skylar had a good point. If Ash wanted to know who he was, the best thing he could do was introduce himself. He wasn't the best when it came to striking up conversations with strangers, but he had gotten better as of late. It's not like it would be too weird. Other than Skylar, he was the only other person in the shop after all.

Just as Ash made the decision to try and talk to the intriguing man, he stumbled out of the bathroom. He was gingerly grabbing his stomach, muttering something about indigestion when he abruptly and awkwardly locked eyes with Ash.

On impulse, Ash wanted to look away as if he had just been caught checking out a pretty girl, but he stopped himself, understanding that he would only be making things more awkward.

"Hey, kid?" said the man, catching Ash off guard.

Like an idiot, Ash pointed to himself, acting as if there was a possibility that he wasn't the one being talked to, "Me?"

"Yeah, you," he retorted before shuffling over to Ash and Skylar's table.

"W-what is it?" stammered Ash—thrown off by the man's brisk approach.

There was a moment of silence as the man looked back and forth between both Ash and Skylar with a contemplative expression.

He cleared his throat before shifting his focus on solely Ash. His eyes were as fierce as a gyarados right before battle.

With an assertive tone of voice, the man looked deep within Ash's soul and asked, "Are you on a date?"

Ash just about fell out of his chair; he couldn't believe the words that just came out of the man's mouth.

"N-no!" blurted Ash, glancing at a bright red Skylar. "We're just friends!"

Skylar didn't say anything, turning redder and redder with every second that went by.

"Really?" asked the man in a sly manner. "That's not what the lady's face says."

"S-s-skylar?" managed Ash.

She looked down at the table, unable to make eye contact with him

"Kid, kid, kid," he repeated, shaking his head disappointedly, "don't let your inexperience mess with the girl's head. Be a man; acknowledge her feelings…"

"What the hell are you—"

All of a sudden, Skylar lifted her head, giving the man a look that said, say one more word, and I'll kill you.

"Ah, I see," he replied with a frown, "it's one of those situations…"

Without permission, he pulled a chair from one of the tables next to them and sat down. Ash noticed him glance down at the pokeballs around his waste, "So, you're a pokemon trainer, eh?"

Ash nodded.

"Do you travel with this girl?" the brown eyed man asked as he gestured his head toward Skylar.

"Nope," said Ash, "we only became friends recently…why?"

Ignoring Ash, he turned his attention to Skylar. "Better tell him before he leaves. There's a lot of pretty girls out there; it would be a shame if you missed out. Of course, if you traveled with him, you could prevent something like that from happening. But, you can't do that in Celadon….that is, unless you—"

"I get it! I get it!" yelled Skylar, leaping out of her chair. "Can you please just stop!?

"Hey, now, little lady, I was just helping you out…" he replied, raising his hands in the air like he was about to be arrested.

At this point, Ash had a feeling that he understood what they were talking about. He wasn't the best at understanding girls, but in this situation, he didn't have to be. It was being spelt out for him.

Thanks to the man sitting next to him, Ash now knew that Skylar had a crush on him. However, at least for now, it was obvious that she was trying to keep it a secret from him. He'd never been in a situation like this before, so he didn't know what to do. That's when something deep within him shouted, change the subject!

"You're a pokemon trainer, too," stated Ash nonsensically. "What's your name?"

"Andrew," said the man with a smirk.

It was apparent that he knew what Ash was doing, but luckily he went along with it anyway, "What about you?"

"Ash Ketchum."

As soon as Ash said his name, the man's eyes lit up with recognition.

"Ash Ketchum, eh?" he queried. "You're that rookie that Kent's been raving about; the one that found out about what's been going on in Celadon and helped rescue Robert Montgomery. I was hoping I'd run into you."

It was then that it finally clicked, and he remembered the name of the first-class ACE trainer that had been sent to Celadon to take care of the Game Corner: Andrew Gerdes. Ash was sitting next to the man that was said to be on par or even stronger than Kent Barringer.

He looked across the table at Skylar, who seemed to still be in a daze regarding their previous topic of discussion. Nevertheless, he didn't want her to hear anything that she had no business knowing, especially since she had been hurt by Team Rocket. He didn't think Andrew was dumb enough to bring it up in front of her, but then again, he seemed to have a rather laid back personality.

Who knew what he would do in this situation?

"Yeah, that's me," said Ash, "and you must be Andrew Gerdes of the ACE Corps."

"As I suspected, you've heard of me," he replied.

His expression turned from carefree to serious in an instant, "Must be Sabrina; rumor has it she's quite fond of you."

He paused, "Anyways, would you mind stepping outside with me for a moment? I have a few things that I'd like to discuss with you. We can do it right here, but I have a feeling that the little lady's in the dark..."

Once again, Ash glanced over at Skylar. She looked at him with an expression that portrayed that she understood. Ash had a feeling that she knew more than he thought she did. At the very least, she had her suspicions.

"Yeah, no problem," replied Ash before standing out of his chair and shifting his attention back to the pretty blonde, "I'll be right back. This shouldn't take long.

Skylar nodded while Andrew stood up out of his chair as well.

Don't worry," the ACE trainer said with a quirky smile, "We'll make it quick. I'll have your boyfriend back to you in no time."

"B-b-boyfriend," spluttered Skylar, turning red once again.

Ash's face flared up as well.

This guy was something else…

XXX

"That girl in there's the one you rescued from those shitty Rocket grunts, isn't it?" questioned Andrew, initiating the conversation.

"You know about that," replied Ash, adjusting his jacket.

It was starting to get cold, evidence that winter was just around the corner.

"Sabrina told me when she called to follow up," he said with a nod and a funny facial expression. "First time I'd seen her face since I was ten…damn, she's fine."

Ash ignored the bit about Sabrina's looks before asking a question of his own.

"How long have you been in Celadon?"

"Since yesterday," he replied with a shrug. "Just long enough to visit the Police Department and do some recon on the Game Corner."

"You talked to Officer Jenny?"

"Briefly," answered Andrew. "I spent most of my time chatting with those grunts that you defeated. Those assholes were stubborn, but I got what I needed from 'em."

"What's that?"

He smirked, "The exact location of the hideout inside of the Game Corner. I figured I wouldn't waste my time snooping around for something I could get from those shit heads."

"What was the recon you did at the Game Corner, then?"

He laughed, "I guess recon isn't the right word. I actually spent the day gambling. That place is a blast, you know."

Ash couldn't help but laugh, "You spent the day gambling in the enemy's base?"

"Damn right I did! One of the perks about being an ACE trainer is that almost no one knows your identity. I'd have to be an idiot not to take advantage of something like that. Besides, by the end of tomorrow that place will be up in flames. It's infested to the core with Rockets. No use in trying to preserve anything."

"It's happening tomorrow?"

"Yup, there's nothing left for me to do here but destroy that bastard Petral. You know that slimy little shit walks around the Game Corner like he's God's greatest gift to earth. I can't wait to show him what a real badass is like."

If those words came from anyone else, Ash would say that they were cocky. But, there was something about Andrew Gerdes that made him feel like he could trust every word that came out of his mouth. His confidence was through the roof, but every word of it was believable. Ash had only known him for a short while, but there wasn't a doubt in his mind that he would crush the Game Corner. Despite his quirky personality, his presence was that impressive.

"Where are the rest of your men?" asked Ash curiously.

"Eh, most of them are back at headquarters," stated Andrew, "the rest are on other assignments."

Ash's eyes widened, and his jaw dropped.

"You don't mean—"

"It's just me," he interrupted with a massive smile.

"J-just you?"

"Yup, just this guy," Andrew replied, using his thumb to point toward himself.

"…How are—"

"Don't worry, kid, missions like this are my specialty. When it comes to situations like this, my men would just get in the way."

Ash was speechless.

…Was this really okay?

"Anyways, before I forget, there's a specific question that I really want to ask you."

"U-um, yeah?" stuttered Ash, still at a loss for words.

"Are the rumors true?"

"What rumors?"

He crouched down to Ash's level, so he could look him directly in the eyes. "Is Executive Ariana really as sexy as they say she is?"

Ash buried his face in his palm, "You've gotta' be kidding me?"

XXX

After talking with Andrew Gerdes, walking back to the Pokemon Center, saying goodbye to Skylar for the day – who was still a bit flustered about what had happened back at the noodle shop – and taking a nice hot shower, Ash lay underneath the covers of his bed as Growlithe and Eevee played on the ground beside him.

He couldn't help but smile. Ever since Eevee had watched Growlithe battle against Erika's vileplume, the two new teammates had gotten along splendidly. Eevee seemed to admire Growlithe as the leader of the team, and his puppy pokemon was doing a good job of treating her with respect and kindness.

"Alright, you two, it's time for bed," said Ash, catching both of their attention.

Obeying his best friend, Growlithe hopped up onto the foot of the bed, snuggling up against his leg.

Eevee, however, looked at him with a confused expression. It was obvious that she was unsure of what she was supposed to do.

"You can either sleep in your pokeball," explained Ash as he pointed at the worn pokeball on the nightstand to his right, "or you can sleep in the bed with Growlithe and I."

He paused, "Lately it's just been Growlithe. But you're pretty small, so it shouldn't be a problem."

Eevee flashed him an aggravated facial expression, undoubtedly a result of Ash calling her small, before leaping up onto the bed and finding a spot next to Ash that was to her liking. Ash took that as a rather straightforward way of saying that she wanted to stay outside of her pokeball.

Now that everyone was comfortable, Ash reached over and flipped the switch at the base of the lamp on the nightstand. He felt Haunter's presence in the room intensify as he left his shadow and submerged into the darkness, ready to take away tonight's nightmares.

Not too long after the lights were out, Ash could hear the sound of Growlithe's gentle snoring. It was a sound that he had gotten accustomed to over the past three months. Ash wasn't even sure if he could sleep without it anymore; there was just something about it that was comforting to him.

On the other hand, due to the way that she was tossing and turning, seemingly having a difficult time getting comfortable, Ash could tell that Eevee was struggling to get to sleep. There was no way for him to know the exact reason, but if he had to guess, he'd say that it was because this was her first real night with him, where she wasn't inside of her pokeball.

It would take at least a little bit of time for her to get used to this new life. Ash knew it, and she knew it. She would get used to it; Eevee was tough. She wouldn't let something like this eat away at her sleep for too long. This was her decision after all. She wanted this.

Be that as it may, just because she needed to get used to being with Ash and his other pokemon, didn't mean that she was the only one with work to do. This new relationship worked both ways. And if Eevee was going to be smoothly integrated into the team, it would require Ash and everyone else's help as well.

With that in mind, he reached over to Eevee and used his fingers to scratch behind her soft ears. At first, she slightly resisted, surprised by Ash's actions. But, after the initial response from Ash's touch, she settled down, eventually falling asleep while he pet her.

Once Eevee was asleep, Ash couldn't help smile as he reflected on his time in Celadon. It really had been a fun time and a great change of pace in comparison to Saffron, but he couldn't wait for tomorrow. He felt nothing but excitement when he thought about venturing to Fuchsia. With every new city came brand-new challenges, and the journey to get there was always enjoyable.

By this time tomorrow, he would be camping under the stars...

He couldn't wait.

XXX

"Good luck, Ash," said Ruphus as they stood in front of Celadon's western gate. "You've got our numbers, so feel free to call anytim—"

"Bye, hon!" interrupted Ellen, expectedly wrapping him up in one of her suffocating hugs.

"H-h-help..."managed Ash before Skylar finally managed to pull her tearful mother off of him.

Growlithe let out a series of barks, making sure his departure wasn't overlooked. He had grown fond of the Worthington family as well. It was only natural that he was treated the same way as Ash, right?

"How could we forget saying goodbye to you, Growlithe!?" blurted Ellen as she caught him within her devastating clutches.

"Be careful what you wish for…" muttered Ash under his breath before Skylar softly grabbed him by the wrist, catching his attention.

"Th-thanks for everything you've done for me, Ash," stammered Skylar, slightly blushing. "I probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you."

"D-don't mention it," replied Ash, cheeks heating up. "I'd do it again in a heart beat."

"I know you would, th-that's what I like the most about you. You're a hero down to your very core."

"I don't know about that," muttered Ash, closing his eyes and scratching the back of his head sheepishly.

His eyes all of a sudden snapped open when he felt a soft, warm sensation on his cheek. It was Skylar. For a moment, her lips were pressed up against his cheek.

It was a k-k-kiss. As Skylar quickly pulled away, clearly embarrassed, Ash brought his fingers up to his cheek, subconsciously placing them on the spot that Skylar had touched with her lips.

Ash watched in astonishment as she briskly looked over her shoulder to see if her parents had noticed. Fortunately, Ruphus was too preoccupied trying to pry his wife off of Growlithe to notice.

"I-I know it was probably made obvious yesterday, but I l-l-l-like you, Ash."

At this point her face was as red as Charmeleon when he was swallowed by blaze.

"I-I-I—"

He was interrupted by Skylar as she pressed her index finger up against his lips.

"You don't need to answer me now," she said with a smile, "I just needed to tell you my feelings before you left. It was my way of making sure that you don't forget about me."

"I wouldn't have—you didn't have to—"

"I wanted to," said Skylar before showing him the cutest smile he had ever seen in his life.

All of a sudden, they were interrupted when Growlithe loped back to Ash's side. He was breathing heavily—an obvious sign that he had been excessively squeezed by Ellen.

"Ash, before you leave," started Ruphus as he and a guilty Ellen walked back up to them, "there's someone that I have to see."

Ash didn't have to think twice to know who Ruphus was referring to. He had been waiting for this moment. It was inevitable.

Unclipping Eevee's pokeball from his belt, Ash gave him a nod before releasing the silver kit. When the flash of white light faded, she looked around at her surroundings. She glanced up at Ash first before settling her eyes on Ruphus.

She knew what this was. This was it.

"Eevee," said Ruphus as he squatted down to her level, "I know we've had our differences, but I really am going to miss you. You're a good girl."

He reached out and patted her on the head, "Good luck out there, and don't forget to treat your new trainer with respect. I expect to hear nothing but good things from Ash next time we talk."

Ash couldn't help but feel a little guilty as he watched tears well up in Eevee's eyes. Was he coming between them?

At that moment, Ruphus looked up at him and nodded. There was a big smile on his face. It immediately reassured him that he was doing the right thing.

This was their decision. This was what was best for everybody.

Once the moment between Eevee and her previous trainer was over. Skylar and Ellen said their goodbyes. Eevee didn't seem to care about parting with Ellen, doing everything she could to avoid her embrace. However, Skylar was a different story. As far as Ash could tell, saying bye to Skylar was just as hard as saying bye to Ruphus

They were friends, and Skylar had done more for Eevee than anyone else. It was only natural that parting would be hard.

Nevertheless, they got through it. They had to.

In the moments after Eevee's farewells, there was one last round of goodbyes for good measure before Ash looked down at Growlithe and Eevee.

"Alright, guys, let's go."

As he started to slowly walk backwards through the gate, he noticed that Eevee wasn't moving. It wasn't surprising. The other side of the gate was the starting point of a new adventure for her. She was bound to be apprehensive.

While glancing back at Ruphus, Skylar and Ellen, who were staring at him with anticipative eyes, Ash made his way back over to Eevee before crouching down like he'd seen Ruphus do just moments prior.

He looked in her eyes softly before patting her on the head.

"Don't worry…this may be goodbye for now, but we'll come back someday. Just because you've got a new home with me doesn't mean that the old one disappears. They're part of your family…which means they're part of mine."

He looked up, locking eyes with Skylar, "We'll be back. I promise."

"...There's no way we'd forget Celadon..."

XX

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