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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6. Kanto 3 Part 1

"Do you miss it?" asked Ash, curiously.

His fairy-type looked up at him in a confused manner. Her wings glowed, as she absorbed a small concentration of lunar essence from the alluring full moon.

"Mt. Moon… do you miss it?"

Clefairy shook her head left to right, after comprehending her trainer.

"Really, what about your parents?" questioned the boy, with an amiable under-tone.

Clefairy darted her eyes in the direction of the sleeping grass-type. There's no way she would show emotional weakness in front of her new comrade.

"Don't worry about him, he's out cold," chuckled Ash. "Since Growlithe's still recovering, Bulbasaur's been traveling with me all day…seems his first day away from the spa wore him out."

The fairy-type sighed; it was obvious that her trainer was fishing for vulnerability. She trusted him, and since the saurian was asleep she decided to comply. She nodded her head affirmatively, signifying that she did in fact miss her parents.

Ash frowned. "You know, I've never really known my dad. But before I left on my journey, I had never gone a single day without seeing my mom."

Clefairy listened intently.

"For the majority of my life it was just me and my mom," said Ash. "We did just fine, she's a bit nosy and kind of over-the-top sometimes, but I love her."

The dark-haired boy gazed at the beautiful moon, as he reflected aloud. "And no matter how far apart we are that'll never change."

He looked Clefairy in the eyes with care. "I can't ever replace your parents, but I'll try and do my best to care for you in a similar way."

Clefairy processed her trainers' words. The moonstone definitely had answered her prayers.

Her trainer was so thoughtful. She missed her family, but she was sure that Ash would do a great job of filling a similar role in her life. Ash was right, he could never replace her parents, but she looked forward to finding out what it was like to have a wise older brother.

"We're building a family Clefairy," said Ash. "I'm glad that you're a part of it."

The fairy-type smiled, as she filled the capacity of her wings. She had always wanted to see the world; that gift by itself was enough to make her happy. The fact that she had gained a family in the process was something she would always cherish.

"I don't know how long you'll be the only girl around," said Ash. "But in the meantime, I need your feminine perspective."

The dark haired boy scratched the back of his head sheepishly, including himself in his comment. "Boys can be a little careless sometimes."

Clefairy lightly chuckled, before nodding to her trainer. She would do the best she could to provide a cushion for their impulsiveness.

They sat at the campsite in silence for a while. Ash and his Clefairy stared out at the full moon entrancingly. They say happiness will come to those that see a Clefairy under a full moon, but the one that was overjoyed was the precious fairy-type.

XXX

"That's it!" hollered an excited Ash. "Now let's try it one more time at full power!"

Pidgeotto keenly focused from above. He measured out the perfect amount of draconic-energy, before actualizing an immense whirlwind. With the use of both wings, he merged the two powers together. The fusion of elements created a menacing purple-tinted tornado; it roared like a freight train, before finally fizzling out in mid-air. The result was satisfying. All of their hard work had finally come into fruition.

…Twister had been mastered.

The rest of the team howled in celebration. Growlithe and Clefairy knew how hard the bird had been working the past couple of weeks. Bulbasaur had only been around for a couple of days, but that didn't matter. The grass-type was no stranger to the arduous chore of mastering a new skill.

The morning had been productive. Pidgeotto was the last participant of four one-on-one training sessions.

He had worked with Bulbasaur first. At some point during the past couple days of travel, Ash had used his pokedex to figure out Bulbasaur's current move-set and ability. The squamata reptile was relatively balanced. He knew two physical attacks, in tackle and vine-whip. From what Ash had seen over the past couple of days, the grass-type was extremely talented with the ladder. Bulbasaur also was the bearer of three status altering techniques. He had great control over his leech-seed and growl; in addition, his poison powder was extremely potent.

The seed pokemon's ability was extremely rare. Most bulbasaur were born with the ability overgrow, which is a status boosting condition that activates when the carrier is pushed to exhaustion. Ash's Bulbasaur, however had an unusual ability called chlorophyll. According to the pokedex, roughly three-percent of the species was born with it. Apparently, chlorophyll uses the light from the sun to create an organic steroid in its bulb. It then facilitates the steroid into its leg muscles, doubling its speed. This explained why Bulbasaur was uncommonly agile compared to the rest of his breed. It also would be a massive help as Bulbasaur grew; Venusaur weren't normally praised for their mobility.

Since Bulbasaur had satisfactory control over his entire current move-set, Ash spent their time together learning two new techniques. The first was sleep-powder. Bulbasaur's species definitely had a strong physical prowess, but their true strength lied in their bulb. The seed pokemon's evolutionary line was known for being able to manipulate status conditions at ease. The numerous biological chemicals, brewing within its bulb, gave the species a lot of options entailing learnable status techniques.

Ash figured sleep-powder was a good and easy way to start tapping into that potential. By the end of their session, Bulbasaur had a good idea of what chemicals he needed to mix together, in order to create a potent sleep inducing fragrance. It was still far from finished though, finding the right measurement for each ingredient would take some time.

The other technique they worked on was takedown. Ash wasn't a huge fan of attacks that caused recoil because of their unpredictability. However, Bulbasaur needed a stronger non-elemental physical attack, and takedown would be quick to learn. It was basically a more reckless form of tackle, so there wasn't all that much to teach. He figured Bulbasaur would have it down fairly soon.

Ash's time with Growlithe was highly beneficent. The fire-type had finally recovered from the poison, and was fresh from all of the rest he had gotten the past couple of days. The puppy pokemon was still ironing out flame-wheel. At this point, there was really nothing Ash could do to help. From a technical stand point Growlithe was exceeding expectations. All of the trouble they were having was completely based on experience and power. Growlithe was the youngest of his pokemon, and in the category of pure strength it showed. Bit by bit his inner-flame was growing, Ash just had to be patient. Growlithe's elemental techniques would come into their own with growth. In the meantime all they could do was grind.

Clefairy still had her hands full with minimize. Her grip on her thaumaturgic energy was getting better. She was now capable of drawing it in to her cells, which was great progress. The struggle now was entirely control related. She needed to figure out how to manipulate and maintain. Shifting the amount of reduction took a tremendous amount of concentration. Maintaining a stable reduction was absolutely exhausting, because of the necessary continual flow of thaumaturgic energy required to sustain.

Ash was very pleased with Pidgeotto. Now that he had successfully mastered twister, he could move on. Ash would give Pidgeotto the rest of the day to celebrate his triumphant victory over the elemental attack. Tomorrow they would begin learning the tedious technique feather-dance; a bizarre status move that covers an opponent in a mass of molted down feathers to soften their physical attacks.

Ash signaled Pidgeotto to come down from the skies. He personally applauded the avian on the brilliant display, before addressing his team. "Good work this morning guys. I don't know about you but I'm starving, how about some lunch?"

…There were no complaints.

Ash raked through his bag. He prepared all of his friends their bowls of pokemon food, before whipping together an easy meal of dried fruit and nuts for himself. Ash was still trying to figure out the whole cooking thing. Right now, he had no way of keeping meals frozen, so he had to live purely off of dried food. During his next trip to a city, he planned on picking up some rice and oatmeal, that way he could put together some more satisfying meals.

As they ate, Ash watched how his friends interacted. Bulbasaur was fitting right in. Clefairy and Growlithe both got along extremely well with the grass-type. The two more level-headed pokemon appreciated Bulbasaur's desire to get stronger. Unlike Pidgeotto, they had heard his story. They knew what kind of challenges the saurian would face.

Pidgeotto, however, enjoyed Bulbasaur for an entirely different reason. Whenever they had free time the two new comrades would play a game of tag. Bulbasaur loved to use his vines to hastily evade the flying-type. Pidgeotto simply enjoyed the mock hunt. Ash didn't mind it either. It allowed Pidgeotto to release his instinctual desires as a bird-of-prey in a much more placid way. Besides, Bulbasaur actually enjoyed the thrill. It was the perfect stress relief.

"Alright, so we are a little bit more than half way there," said Ash.

The dark-haired boy showed his four pokemon a map of Kanto that was programmed into his pokedex.

"That blinking red dot is us," said Ash, as he pointed at the screen. "I'd guess we have a little bit more than a week left of travel before we reach Vermillion City.

Ash's pokemon concentrated and observed, trying to follow what their trainer was telling them.

"You see this pink dot," said Ash, as he pointed. "That's a pokemon center. If we get moving soon, we should be able to make it before dark."

Ash's eyes lit up. "A nice meal and a shower sounds awfully great right about now."

His pokemon were sold. A well-deserved trip to a pokemon center was just what they needed. Their sore bodies were screaming for Nurse Joy's restoration machine. They finished up their meals and began their pursuit. It was time for a quick pit-stop

XXX

Ash looked atop the large boulder. He frantically checked his pokedex to make sure he wasn't seeing things.

"Charmander (the lizard pokemon) -The flame at the tip of its tail indicates its emotions. The flame wavers when Charmander is enjoying itself. If the pokemon becomes enraged, the flame burns fiercely. It is also an indicator of the lizard pokemon's life force. If it is weak, the flame on its tail will burn weakly"

The recently confirmed charmander lied on top of the stone peculiarly. It was curled up in a ball; the flame on the tip of its tail was less than mundane. Its orange body was battered and bruised, and its cream-colored belly looked pale. The bipedal lizard's short stubby arms were fidgeting, and its eyes were shut.

Ash's chest tightened; he had a bad feeling about this. "Growlithe go check on it!"

The puppy pokemon sprang into action. He quickly grappled the big rock and closely examined his fellow fire-type. Ash watched, as Growlithe nudged the charmander multiple times. There was no response. The puppy pokemon yelped at his trainer. Ash could tell by Growlithe's reaction that they had a serious problem.

The ten-year old boy frantically scaled the rough stone. At a closer vantage point, Ash could clearly see the severity of the situation. The charmander was in critical condition; they had to act quickly.

He returned Growlithe and released Pidgeotto onto the ground with no time to waste. He thought about applying a potion, but came to the conclusion that it wouldn't help. The charmander needed a trained professional. He gently picked up the battered lizard pokemon, before facing Pidgeotto.

"I need a ride right now!" commanded Ash. "It doesn't have much time!"

Pidgeotto prepared for impact as Ash jumped from atop the boulder onto his back. Ash painfully grimaced in response to the recoil of the impulsive stunt. The charmander fidgeted in his arms - it didn't respond well to the sudden movement.

…Ash didn't have a choice though. If they didn't hurry - it would die.

The distressed boy desperately pointed south. "That way as fast as you can go without killing us! Look for a pokemon center, it should be close!"

Ash used one arm to hang on to Pidgeotto's neck and the other to carry the charmander. He ignored the pain, as he burned his dominant hand while trying to secure its tail-flame. It was the only way to keep his avian from being slowly cooked.

The raptor-like avian launched itself into the air like a breakneck jet. Ash's cheeks rippled in response to the high accelerated climb. He desperately clung to Pidgeotto, while enduring the grinding affliction of riding without a saddle. He couldn't look out at his surroundings. The dark-haired boy had to focus on hanging on to the lizard pokemon.

…His trust had to lie with Pidgeotto's keen eyes.

The charmander convulsed; Ash worried that he didn't have much time before the little guy entered cardiac arrest.

Pidgeotto whizzed through the air at a tremendous rate. He used his eyes to scan through the trees from a birds-eye-view. Ash said that it was close, so the avian figured he should be nearing a visual.

A clearing approached. He could see the trees begin to thin out into a commodious glade. As he raced through the skies, he used his acute optics to zero in on what lied ahead. He saw it; a large cabin-like building with a rosy pink roof. The avian shackled his wings to his body, as he entered a steep descent.

The wind howled. Ash held on tight as he felt their altitude begin to shift. The charmander moaned in distress, clearly in a lot of pain. The tail-flame Ash was securing was beginning to dwindle. They had to hurry.

Pidgeotto expelled his wings in preparation to land. He began to gradually slow down as they neared the pokemon center. He noticed the gaze of several idle humans as they watched the giant's rapid approach. He fought back the fiendish urge to throw a light gust their way as he neared the ground.

The landing was rough. Ash gnashed his teeth as Pidgeotto's talons slid through the gravel. The distressed boy ignored the annoying onlookers, as they came to a jagged stop. Ash didn't wait for Pidgeotto to lower himself. He jumped from the bird's elevated posterior, ignoring the jarring shock when his feet collided with the ground.

"Wait out here!" vociferated Ash, as he sprinted to the pokemon center's front entrance. He accidentally used his burned hand to pry open the door. He winced, as he felt the sharp aggravating pain of the cold metal making contact with his bubbling skin.

Ash caused a ruckus as he barreled into the pokemon center's lobby. He had tunnel vision while he zoned everything out except for the front desk. Nurse Joy jerked, reacting to the loud commotion. Ash watched, as her eyes focused in on the pokemon in his arms. She turned to the large pink egg-shaped pokemon to her right.

"Get the rest of the medical staff!" bellowed the pink-haired nurse. "Tell them to prepare for the worst! I need and EKG and a coagulation panel!"

She scampered from the lobby desk and ran out to meet Ash. She held out her arms in preparation to receive the severely injured lizard-pokemon. "I'll be taking it from here!"

Ash didn't argue. He relinquished responsibility to nurse Joy and gave up the charmander. He watched as she swept it away frenziedly, rushing back behind her desk and vanishing through a white door that must have led to the medical wing.

Ash bent over as he panted. The adrenaline from the alarming emergency had masked his exhaustion until now. A couple of other kids tried to near him to find out what had happened, but he unknowingly ignored them. All he could think about was the injured charmander.

He came to his senses and remembered that he had left Pidgeotto outside. The boy hastily exited the pokemon center, and without a word returned his friend. Pidgeotto at the time was receiving a surplus of dumfounded stares from an encompassing crowd. Ash shook his head - it was like none of them had ever seen a giant pidgeotto before.

He walked back into the pokemon center and made his way over to the waiting room. Ash ran his fingers through his hair as he tried to process the last fifteen minutes.

…A lot had happened.

The ten-year old boy's hand quivered, as he reached for Growlithe's pokeball. He wanted his best-friend right now. Hopefully Growlithe could distract him from all of the intrusive thoughts. Seeing a pokemon in such bad shape was difficult to handle. Pokemon obviously picked up injuries in battle - some more serious than others. But charmander was beaten up to a point of borderline lethality.

Ash had no way to tell what the circumstances were. It was possible that Charmander was beaten to a pulp by a wild pokemon. If that was the case, it most likely had to be a group ambush. This theory was highly unlikely though. There really weren't that many savage wild pokemon in these parts.

Another thing to keep in mind was that wild charmander were very rare, and they absolutely were not indigenous to this part of Kanto. Charmander could only be found in hot mountainous parts of the region, which pretty much limited their possible habitats to a few of the southern islands. This truth brought Ash to the conclusion that unless this charmander was a nomad that had somehow figured out a way to cross the sea. It had to be a trainers.

The dark-haired boy didn't want to believe it. He knew that the world had some sick people, but to abandon a pokemon in that condition was completely heartless. He hoped he was wrong. But after hearing from Melanie what had happened to Bulbasaur's parents, he was a little doubtful towards humanity.

Growlithe eyed his trainer. All it took was one glance at Ash's expression for the puppy pokemon to be able to tell that the lizard's condition must have been as serious as he anticipated. He curled up close to his trainer, and gently rubbed his head up against Ash's pant-leg. He could tell Ash needed some support.

"Thanks buddy," said Ash, as he tenderly scratched behind Growlithe's ears. "I'm just worried about the little guy, that's all."

Growlithe nodded - he didn't need an explanation.

Time passed by slowly. The waiting room began to get quiet as the conflux of trainers gradually retired to their rooms. Ash and Growlithe just sat there - long after arrival. The windows were dark, signifying that the sun had set. Ash's legs were stiff as a result of going such a long time without stretching his legs.

His eyes were locked on to the white door that Nurse Joy had passed through. It had been close to three hours since she shambled out of sight with the limp charmander in her arms. Ash just needed to hear some kind of news. Sitting in limbo for so long was causing a significant amount of anxiety.

It took about another hour for Nurse Joy to finally emerge from behind the white pivot door. She calmly approached Ash, before flashing him a kind smile.

"I'm happy to say that we managed to stabilize the charmander," said the nurse. "It still remains unconscious, but with a couple days of rest here it should fully recover."

Ash breathed a massive sigh of relief, as he thanked an unknown higher power.

Growlithe reacted similarly, just as alleviated as Ash.

Joy's facial expression turned from an amiable smile, to a venomous scowl. "While we were working on Charmander we were able to deduce with our technology that it is a captured pokemon."

Ash's earlier hypothesis was correct. The charmander had been abused and abandoned.

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't report you to the league for pokemon abuse," scolded the pink haired nurse.

Ash waved his arms back and forth frantically. "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! you've got it all wrong! Nurse Joy, that's not my charmander."

"Then who's is it?" asked Joy skeptically.

Ash frowned. "I have no idea. I found it like that about a mile north of here."

She sighed. "You seem to be telling the truth, but I'll have to run your information regardless. Since this charmander has without a doubt been captured, there will be no need to have you investigated if your trainer account says that you've never captured a member of its species."

Ash willingly complied, handing Nurse Joy his pokedex.

He followed Joy as she walked over to the front desk. The pink-haired nurse placed Ash's pokedex in a portable scanning slot that was connected to her computer with a thin black wire. She pressed a few buttons on her keyboard, while mumbling to herself.

"Let's see here kid," muttered Joy, as she analyzed whatever was pulled up on the screen. "It says here that you are in possession of a growlithe…"

She paused, breaking her concentration to quickly examine Growlithe before continuing. "A pidgeotto, a clefairy…hmm don't see that every day, and a bulbasaur - also rare."

"I don't see a charmander registered under your name, so you must be telling the truth," said Joy. "It seems you're a hero, not a rotten pokemon abuser."

Ash scratched the back of his head. This pokemon center's Nurse Joy was definitely bolder then any he had met before.

"Well, since that's been cleared up," said the nurse, as she handed back his pokedex. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"Actually, there is," replied Ash. "Can you please treat my pokemon and book me a room for the next couple of nights. We've been on the road for quite some time, so they're a bit worn out. And I don't feel comfortable leaving before I know that Charmander has fully-recovered."

"Sure thing," retorted Joy, as she reached under her desk and pulled out an aluminum tray with six spherical slots. "Place your pokeballs on the tray and I will take care of them."

Ash did as he was told. He returned Growlithe with a tranquil smile, before placing all four of his pokeballs in the slots on the tray. Nurse Joy handed them to her assistant chansey, before beginning to sift through a drawer in her desk.

Ash watched, as the pudgy pink egg-pokemon plodded through the door to the medical wing.

Nurse Joy rudely waved a keycard in Ash's face, garnering his attention. "Earth to kid, here's your room-card."

Ash instinctively reached out to grab the card with his dominant hand. As his bubbling extremity was suspended in front of Nurse Joy's face, her eyes lit up. He quickly drew back his hand in attempt to conceal it from the nurses' vision.

"Oh...no you don't," said Nurse Joy. "Let me see it."

It was no use, he'd been caught. Ash placed his right hand on the counter, letting Nurse Joy analyze it.

"My goodness child," gasped Joy. "Those are considerable burns."

Ash frowned. "Yeah I got them while I was carrying Charmander."

"Why didn't you say anything earlier?" asked the nurse, as she pointed at Ash's palm. "I mean…that has to be excruciating. You burned straight through your epithelium into your dermis; those are legit second-degree burns."

"You had your hands full," replied Ash. "I didn't want to take any attention from the charmander."

"This is a hospital," orated Joy. "We have more than one doctor on staff."

Ash bashfully lowered his gaze. "Oh…can I have someone take a look at this then?"

"Duh," said Nurse Joy, as she gestured Ash over.

Ash rolled his eyes, as he followed Nurse Joy behind the front desk. She led him through the white-pivot door and down the medical wing. The dark-haired boy didn't really know how he felt about this pokemon center's Joy. She saved the charmander's life which he couldn't thank her enough for. However, her personality was rather acrimonious.

The medical wing's hallway was long and linear. The corridor was busy, as doctors in blue and green scrubs shuffled around frenziedly. There were several chansey, and many doors that looked to lead into individual doctor's offices. Nurse Joy led Ash about a quarter of the way down the hall, before escorting him into a small doctor's office.

The pink-haired nurse wasted no time. She immediately sat Ash down on a risen navy blue patient table.

"Alright, now let me see it again," said Nurse Joy, as she put on a pair of bifocal glasses.

The ten-year old boy turned his hand over, voluntarily revealing his palm to Nurse Joy. It was moist with oozing blisters. The flesh was a nasty combination of the colors pink, red, and white.

"I mean it could be worse," Ash quipped in attempt to lighten the mood. "They could be third-degree burns."

Nurse Joy squinched her eyes. "True… But this is actually about as painful of a burn as you can get. A third-degree burn destroys both the epithelium and the dermis, completely killing all of the nerves in the burned area. Most of the time you can't feel anything."

"Wow…really?" asked Ash.

"Yup," replied Joy. "You're just lucky that you got burned in a relatively non-sensitive area."

Ash gulped - he didn't think about that.

The petite nurse reached up into one of the office cabinets, extracting a small amaranth-pink colored spray-bottle. She tested it on a paper-towel; Ash assumed that the medical expert was making sure that it was the right concoction.

"What's that?" asked a slightly anxious Ash.

"It's a regenerative potion," answered Joy. "It basically quickens the human healing process one-hundred fold."

Ash had never heard of such a thing. "Is it like the potions that we use on our pokemon?"

Nurse Joy shrugged. "Kind of…only it's way stronger."

"Is that because our bodies don't heal as efficiently as a pokemon's does?"

"Exactly," replied Joy, as she slipped on some rubber medical gloves. "Pokemon don't need quite as high of a dosage. Their cell's regenerate at a much faster rate."

"This stuff sounds a bit too convenient," said Ash. "Are there any drawbacks?"

Joy placed her gloved hand under her chin. "I wouldn't say there are any drawbacks necessarily."

Ash watched as Nurse Joy reached out for his hand. He willingly gave it to her, excited for the pain to finally cease.

"But it does have its limitations," confessed the middle-aged woman. "It only works on non-vital flesh wounds. Doctor's have yet to find a human equivalent to the full-restore. Also, if the injury would have scarred during the natural healing process, it will scar after the potion is applied."

Ash pondered the interesting concept over, as he watched the nurse point the spray bottle at his hand.

"I'll warn you now, this is going to sting like hell," admitted the female doctor.

Ash nervously swallowed.

The pain was gut-wrenching. His palm felt like it was being boiled in acid, as the potion made contact with his burn. He screamed in agony, while the skin promptly grew back. The affliction he felt from the restoration potion was worse than the original scalding. The process was quick; if it was much longer his guess was that he probably would have passed out from the pain. However, the relief he felt when the healing finally finished was blissful. The dark-haired boy looked down at his palm. There was very little scarring, but the discoloration was apparent. The new patch of skin was a couple of pigments darker than the rest of his body. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with his left-hand, as he repetitively opened and squeezed his right. It was a little sore, but for the most part painless.

"How does it feel?" asked Nurse Joy, as she removed the rubber gloves from her hands.

"It feels awesome now," replied Ash. "But you definitely underestimated how painful that would be."

The slender woman shrugged. "I told you it would hurt like hell, what else was I supposed to say?"

Ash frowned. "Good point."

Nurse Joy proceeded to wrap a piece of white cloth around where the new skin had grown. "Keep this on for a couple of days. The skin will be a little sensitive."

Ash nodded. "Okay, thank you Nurse Joy."

Now that the burn had been taken care, Joy led the way back to the lobby's front desk. Ash continued to open and squeeze his hand. He had to admit the rapid healing from the potion was convenient. But for a lesser injury, he'd rather have it heal on its own. The restoration potions' agonizing bite wasn't worth it unless the wound was severe.

Nurse Joy picked up the room-key off of the counter and handed it to Ash.

"Now that your hand has been taken care of, here is the key to your room," said the pretty faced woman. "You're in room nine. I'll call your room when your pokemon are ready."

Ash thanked Nurse Joy and headed down the lodging wing. It didn't take him long to track down his room. It was much more expansive then any of the other pokemon center hostiles he had stayed in. It was a single person suite, which meant that he could let Growlithe and Bulbasaur sleep outside of their pokeballs tonight. Pidgeotto was too big, and Clefairy preferred to sleep in suspended animation.

The room had its own bathroom with a shower. Ash wasted no time - he had been waiting for this moment all day. Stripping himself of his clothing and bandage, he hopped in the shower. The overall gratifying feeling of the hot water splashing against his skin, drowned out the slight irritation it caused his recently healed palm.

While Ash was getting dressed to head back to the lobby, Nurse Joy called his room. His pokemon were ready and restored. He swung by the front desk to pick up his pokeballs, before heading down to the cafeteria to get a bite to eat.

The pasta was consummately delicious. It was only the second hot meal to reach the depths of his belly in the past week. Ash was just about to leave after finishing his food, when he overheard an unpleasant conversation.

"Damn bro!" blurted a low-toned male voice. "You've got quite the collection."

"Damian's like some kind of prodigy man," admitted a kid with a nasally inflection. "How many pokemon do you have now, like fifty?"

"Fifty-three," bragged an obnoxiously arrogant voice. "No wait…fifty-two I almost forgot that I got rid of that weakling."

"Scum," muttered Ash under his breath.

"Which one did you release this time?" said the low-toned voice. "I remember you were having problems with your spearow."

"pshhh…I bet it was that kakuna you caught a while back," snorted the nasally kid. "That stupid shell just didn't want to evolve."

"Na… Kakuna finally got his ass into gear and evolved into beedrill," said the kid known as Damian. "And spearow won his last battle, so he can stick around for now."

Ash frustratingly clenched his fists, as he turned around to take a look at the triplet of menaces. In the center of the booth, in between two other boring looking pieces of trash, sat the boy known as Damian. His black beady eyes were callous and the clothing he wore gave him the appearance of a spoiled rich kid. His hair was long and dark blue; held out of his face by a pair of expensive looking sun-glasses. His countenance was worm-like - Ash could tell he was cold-blooded just by looking at his face.

"Oh wait," said the kid with a nasally voice. "It's got to be that chicken-hearted charmander."

Ash's blood was boiling. He was going to explode if Damian was the one.

"Bingo!" howled Damian, while pounding on the table like a barbarian. "I left that sorry little lizard back in the forest after getting its ass handed to it by some stupid chick's machoke."

Ash detonated out of his seat and stormed the malign brat. He had to use every little bit of restraint he had not too sick Pidgeotto on the heartless prick.

"What's your deal nerd?" mocked Damian, as he noticed a pissed-off Ash barreling towards him.

Ash wedged his way past Damian's two lackeys. He dragged the brattish filth out of the booth by the collar of his deep-pink shirt. During the scuffle, Damian's arms flailed out, jumbling his illegally massive pile of pokeballs that were lying on the table.

"You disgusting fool!" bellowed Ash. "That charmander's in the pokemon center's ICU right now! It almost died because of you!"

Ash noticed Damian's two friends rapidly jump up out of the booth.

"Get your filthy hands off me!" wailed Damian, as he tried to shake off Ash's grip.

"Try and make me!" threatened Ash. "I'm going to make you pay for the way you treated that charmander!"

Before things got out of control, and Damian's punk friends jumped in to the fracas, a large burly man in a chef-outfit pulled Ash and Damian off of each other by their shirt collars.

"What the hell do you think you're doing in my cafeteria!" boomed the powerfully built chef, as his mustache quivered and his face fumed red.

"This punk just attacked me out of nowhere!" complained Damian, as he tried to smack the brawny chef's hand off the back of his collar.

"He's a piece of trash, a pokemon almost died today because of him!" shouted Ash.

"I don't have the time to figure out which one of you little brats started it," said the powerhouse chef. "I'll let Nurse Joy sort this one out."

The chef dragged the two brawling boys out of the cafeteria, and down the hall. As they were towed roughly by their shirt collars, Ash noticed Damian's friends sneak off as soon as they got a chance.

…Scum was hardly loyal, especially when put to the fire.

Ash looked to his right to see Damian viciously scowl at his cowardly underlings.

After an uncomfortable ride, they were dropped off in front of Nurse Joy's desk by the tempered chef.

"What's going on here Sal?" asked an irritated Nurse Joy, as she took her eyes off of the computer screen. "I thought I told you to stop doing that."

Sal gave Nurse Joy a dirty look. "But these unruly children were causing a ruckus in my cafeteria!"

"Don't you mean my cafeteria," retorted Joy, with leering eyes. "Don't forget who you work for pal."

Sal challenged Joy with his stare for a split-second, before eventually diverting his gaze. "Yes mam…"

"Good," muttered Joy. "Now leave the boys to me."

The brawny chef stormed off down the hall, back towards the cafeteria, and out of site. Ash was glad the man left, he'd spent enough time around this Joy to know not to mess with her. No matter how large the man was, something about the center's Nurse Joy made her much more intimidating.

"Mr. Ketchum, did I waste my potion on your hand only for you to use it in a fight," scolded Joy. "Because if that's the case, maybe I should have left your skin boiling in blisters."

Ash gulped - she was horrifying.

"And just who the hell are you?" asked Nurse Joy, giving her attention to Damian.

"I'm the kid that was just assaulted for no reason," hissed Damian. "This prick put his hands around my throat like some kind of fiend."

"Is this true, Ash?" asked Nurse Joy.

"Yeah it is," grumbled Ash, as he darted his enraged eyes at Damian. "And I would do it again. This is the trainer that abandoned the charmander!"

Nurse Joy gave Damian the same look she had given Ash when she thought that he was the one who had abused the fire-type.

"Is Ash telling the truth?" questioned Nurse Joy.

"Of course not," lied Damian. "I would never abandon a pokemon."

Nurse Joy looked at the weasel dubiously. "If you're telling the truth, I'm sure you won't have any problem handing over your pokedex so that I can check your trainer account."

Damian scowled. "Are you calling me a liar, I've never owned a charmander in my life?"

"No… I just simply want to make sure that you are telling the truth," explained Joy. "Now give me your pokedex, or I'll call Officer Jenny. There's a police station right down the trail."

Damian shrugged as he passed over his pokedex. "Psht…fine. What's this useless piece of hardware going to tell you anyway?"

"Obviously you don't know anything about it," said nurse Joy. "It records every pokemon you've ever captured."

Ash noticed Damian's facial expression exude anxiousness. Joy didn't notice the boys fear, as she slipped the pokedex in the scanning slot.

...The devilish boy's fate was sealed.

"Hmm…let's see…Damian Ross, eh?" mumbled Nurse Joy. "Your trainer account lists that you've caught quite a few pokemon. "Numerous pidgey, a sandshrew, a couple of metapod, a butterfree, nidoran, a spearow, a machop, six geodude, gloom, raticate, pinser, and what's this…?"

Nurse Joy looked Damian in the eyes ferociously. "It says here that you do own a charmander. I thought you said you've never owned a charmander in your life."

Damian was sweating feverishly, as he slowly started to creep away from the desk.

"I'm calling Officer Jenny," swore Joy, as she picked up the phone on her desk. "You can explain yourself to her."

Damian darted out of the building in a frantic frenzy. Ash started to pursue, when he heard the voice of Nurse Joy.

"Ash, stop right now!"

He turned around to face a no-nonsense Joy. "But he'll get away!"

"He's got nowhere to go," said Joy. "He doesn't have anything on him, and the next town is miles away. Let the authorities take care of him."

"But…"

"But what?" interrupted the nurse. "What are you going to do? Order your pokemon to attack a defenseless boy?"

Ash tried to explain. "I was just..."

"You're a good kid Ash… but right now you're not in the right mindset to make a wise choice," lectured the stern woman. "Officer Jenny will take care of this. Your help is most needed here, waiting for Charmander to wake-up."

Ash forced himself to calm down. The nurse was right. Damian was practically guaranteed to have his trainer's license revoked. The league had a zero-tolerance policy when it came to abandonment and abuse. After the arrest, it most likely would take no time at all for the league to have Damian's pokemon released back into the wild. Normally there would be a trial, but do to the fact that there was indisputable proof and a league certified eye-witness in Nurse Joy, a trial most likely wouldn't be necessary.

Therefore, Ash wanted to be there for Charmander. Chances are he would wake up extremely confused. Also, given that Charmander was more than likely born into domestication - unless Damian had taken a trip down to the southern islands to catch one - it would struggle to survive in the wild. Ash had saved Charmander's life, and if the league would let him, he'd like to give him a new one as well.

"You're right," said Ash. "I'll trust Officer Jenny and stay here."

"Good choice," replied Nurse Joy. "Now it's really late, you should go get some rest. I'll call Officer Jenny and figure out what we're going to do about Damian."

Sleep definitely sounded good...but Ash wasn't sure.

"Are you positive?" asked Ash. "I mean…don't you think officer Jenny's going to want to talk to me?"

"Probably," replied the pretty-faced woman. "But it's eleven-thirty at night, whatever officer Jenny wants from you can wait until morning."

Ash had absolutely no desire to argue - he was exhausted.

"Alright then, I'm going to go to bed," said Ash. "But if Officer Jenny needs me for anything tonight, feel free to wake me up."

"Will do," replied the nurse. "Goodnight Ash."

The boy waved, as he started to make his way toward his room. "Yup, see you tomorrow."

"Wait a second kid," inserted Joy.

Ash hesitantly turned around. "Yeah…?"

"What you did today was really something, you know that?" said nurse Joy.

"I just did what any decent person would," answered Ash.

Joy shook her head. "That's just what I'd expect someone like you to say."

"What do you mean?" asked Ash.

"You'll figure it out eventually..." answered Joy. "For now just get some sleep."

Ash said one final goodnight to Nurse Joy, before heading to his room. He wondered what the pink-haired nurse meant by her last comment. In his mind he didn't do anything today that garnered any praise...

Room nine's bed entangled his aspirations. The dark-haired boy released Growlithe and Bulbasaur, before shutting off the light and crawling into bed.

"Today was chaos…" whispered Ash.

Growlithe grunted.

Bulbasaur didn't react at all. Ash assumed the grass-type had no idea what he was talking about.

After some quiet individual self-reflection, the three friends drifted off, snuggling up against each other like a litter of teddiursa.

XXX

Ash woke up with a startle, in response to a heavy blustering knock on the door. The hair on Growlithe's back erected as he dutifully snarled. Bulbasaur jutted out his vines in preparation to protect.

The lodges' phone annoyingly rang. Ash grumbled to himself as he lazily picked it up.

"I tried to let you sleep in Ash," said a voice belonging to Nurse Joy. "But that obnoxious woman won't take no for an answer."

"What are you talking about?" asked Ash.

"League police open up!" there was a second cruelly loud drubbing on the door, accompanied by a rough female-voice. "I've waited long enough!"

Ash sighed, as he spoke into the phone. "Oh…"

"Growlithe, Bulbasaur, stand down," commanded Ash, as he hung up the phone and got up to answer the door. "It's regarding yesterday's fiasco."

Both pokemon relaxed slightly, respecting the directive of their trainer. However, they were not so naïve as to completely drop their guard. They both quietly remained fortified just in case the unexpected occurred.

"Ash Ketchum I presume," said the young woman standing in the hallway, when Ash swung open the heavy door.

She was absolutely gorgeous. Her eyes consisted of an enticing deep amber red; Ash could see his reflection shimmer about on her beautiful irises. Her facial features were fine and unlined, perfectly complimented by her well-formed cerulean teal-hair. The officer's uniform consisted of a tight blue vest that crisply lied over a white short-sleeved dress shirt, neatly accessorized by a tiny black tie. She wore dark-tinted leggings underneath her abbreviate black shorts. Ash couldn't help but notice the holstered black hand-gun safely strapped to her belt.

"That's me," answered Ash. "I'm guessing you're Officer Jenny."

She tilted the police cap that sprucely sat on top of her head. "That would be correct."

"Nice to meet you," said Ash, as he shook the officer's hand. "I'm assuming you're here to talk about Damian."

"Sort of," replied Jenny, as she took a peek inside the room. "But that can wait… For now it would be nice if you'd just get ready. I don't exactly find this hostile a suitable place to talk about league matters."

"Um…okay," said Ash. "Where do you want to talk then?"

"Meet me at the front desk in five minutes," replied Jenny. "We'll talk in Nurse Joy's office."

"Alright," agreed Ash. "I'll be there."

Officer Jenny nodded, antecedent to walking back in the direction of the Pokemon Center's lobby.

Ash returned Bulbasaur, before hastily getting ready for the meeting. Like Nurse Joy, Officer Jenny came off as the kind of woman that couldn't be overstepped.

...It didn't take him very long - he was a boy after all.

The dark-haired boy with Growlithe by his side, reached the front desk within the specified amount of time. He watched, as Officer Jenny and Nurse Joy cut their conversation short because of his arrival.

Nurse Joy gave the messy haired boy an authentic smile. "Good morning."

"Good morning Nurse Joy," reiterated Ash.

Officer Jenny bypassed Ash with her eyes, and looked down at Growlithe. "A commendable choice young man. It seems you've got good taste."

Ash remembered that the Jenny family was well known for their conventional usage of growlithe. The species' loyalty and uncanny sense of smell made them the perfect comrade for a police officer.

"He's my starter," said Ash, as he leant over to pet his friend. "We've been together since I started my journey."

"I see," huffed Officer Jenny. "You two look rather good together."

"Thanks," replied a polite Ash. "Now what exactly is it that you want to talk to me about?"

Officer Jenny turned her head slightly, making eye contact with Nurse Joy. "Would you like to lead the way?"

Nurse Joy acknowledged Officer Jenny's comment, and led them through the entrance to the medical wing. This time the linear hall was relatively quiet. There was a lone female doctor rummaging about and a few ambulatory chansey, but compared to the day before the activity was rather dull.

"It's pretty quiet back here," stated the ten-year old boy.

"Yeah… things don't usually pick up until around noon," replied Joy, as she shrugged. "Apparently the world hates mornings."

"It's such a shame," huffed Officer Jenny. "Seizing the morning is one of the best ways to improve one's productivity."

Ash could practically feel the disdainful atmosphere surrounding Nurse Joy. It was fairly obvious that the female officer wasn't Joy's favorite person. The fresh-faced boy on the other hand, didn't necessarily disagree with Jenny. In his opinion, getting up early doubtlessly had its convenient benefits.

Nurse Joy's office was at the very end of the hall. Ash originally was under the assumption that her office was the room she had healed his hand in yesterday. But apparently that was just some general practitioner's office.

The nurse's private office was relatively good-sized, especially when put in contrast to the smaller bureau he had seen yesterday. There was some medical gear, but for the most part it seemed like a typical occupational workstation. The walls were embellished by hundreds of books, adhered by a finely crafted encompassing ligneous shelving unit. Her desk was disarranged by an abundance of paperwork, and there were several used coffee cups scattered about.

"It seems you've got some tidying up to do Joy," blurted Officer Jenny. "It looks like a tornado barreled through here."

"Why?" jabbed Joy, with a glare. "Nobody comes in here except for me."

"The Ketchum kid and I are in here right now, aren't we?" angled Officer Jenny. "Besides, a little order would be good for you."

Nurse Joy took a deep breath to calm herself, before taking a seat at her desk.

She changed the subject. "I don't really have anywhere for you two to sit, so I hope you don't mind standing."

"I don't mind at all," said Ash. "I can stand."

Officer Jenny seemed offended, but she didn't verbally complain. Ash figured that the stringent woman was probably catching onto how irritated Nurse Joy was.

"Why don't you fill Ash in on the topic of discussion?" said the pretty faced nurse. "I'm sure he's anxious to hear what you have to say."

"Isn't she here to talk about Damian?" inserted Ash.

"Damian's for the most part been taken care of," said Jenny. "We're just ironing out a few little details."

"I thought you needed my witness account?" questioned Ash. "And you found him?"

"Nurse Joy's deposition was credible enough. There's no need for another witness. Besides, it would be a lot easier if we didn't get a ten-year old boy wrapped up in all of this," explained Jenny. "As for finding that brat, it was easy… he's back at the station as we speak."

"What are you going to do with him?" asked Ash, clenching his fists. "After what he did to Charmander…"

"Obviously…all of his pokemon have been confiscated," said Jenny. "And his trainer's license has been revoked indefinitely."

Nurse Joy smirked. "From what I understand, you're currently working out a correctional institute…right?"

"That's correct," replied Jenny. "It's either an institute, or a juvenile detention center. We just have to wait for the league to make a decision on what his conduct deserves."

She paused for a short moment, before continuing. "One things for sure… he'll definitely never train a pokemon again."

"That seems like a reasonable punishment," Ash concurred. "But if you have all of that figured out, why do you need me?"

"We're planning on releasing the majority of Damian's pokemon back into the wild," answered Jenny. "But…we've had a tough time determining what would be the best thing for the injured charmander."

Ash listened attentively, while Growlithe cuddled up against his leg.

"It was born domesticated, so the wild wouldn't be a suitable choice," said Jenny. "We thought about sending it back to Damian's issuer in Saffron City, but Nurse Joy had an alternative suggestion."

Ash shifted his attention to Nurse Joy.

"I think you should have it," said Nurse Joy with a wink. "After what Charmander's been through…it deserves a trainer like you."

A large toothy grin started to formulate on his face.

"Besides, if it weren't for you it wouldn't be here," added Joy.

"After seeing the way your Growlithe looks at you," inserted Jenny. "I can't help but agree with her."

Ash's eyes gleamed. "Really…are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure," said Joy. "It was my idea after all."

"I already did a background check," stated Jenny. "I talked to your sponsor Samuel Oak, and he said that you are a good kid with a lot of character. With the type of integrity Professor Oak has, I have no reason to object."

"Professor Oak said that?" said Ash. "Wow…I promise to take good care of him."

Growlithe playfully yapped, excited by the prospect of having another fire-type around.

"The paperwork has all been finalized," informed Jenny, as she handed Ash some documents that he hadn't noticed until now. "We just need you to sign these papers, and ownership of the charmander will be transferred over to your trainer account."

Nurse Joy handed Ash a black ball-point pen. "You'll need this."

"This is so awesome," said Ash to Growlithe, as he placed the papers down on the desk to sign. "We're going to have another friend on our team."

Growlithe rubbed his head up against Ash's leg as a sign of elation.

Ash was about to put the pen to the paper, when he suddenly had a thought that caused him to freeze. There was one thing that he had to do before he signed the document of permission. "Before I sign this, I have to make sure that Charmander is okay with it."

"A noble gesture," said Jenny, as she turned her attention to Joy. "What do you think?"

Nurse Joy approvingly smiled. "I think that's a great idea. I'm impressed by your thoughtfulness Ash."

The ten-year old boy bashfully blushed in response to the compliment. "Charmander's been through a lot. I don't want to force him to do something he doesn't want to do."

"Like I said last night, you're a great kid," said Joy, before acknowledging Jenny. "Charmander most likely won't wake up until tomorrow though, is that okay?"

"No problem whatsoever," replied the female officer. "If everything goes as planned and the charmander agrees to travel with the kid, just fax me the paperwork."

"That works," said Joy. "Does that mean you're leaving?"

"It does," replied Officer Jenny. "Unfortunately, there are some matters relating Mr. Ross that I have to attend to. I need to get back to the station, so I really should be heading out."

"Well thanks for everything," said Ash shaking Jenny's hand, as he watched Nurse Joy quietly pump her fist in secret.

"No need for thanks," insisted Jenny. "I was just doing my job."

"Yeah thanks for figuring this mess out," said Joy in a sarcastic tone. "Remember to check your fax machine tomorrow."

"Will do," replied Jenny. "It was nice seeing you again Joy."

Jenny held her hand out to Ash. "And it was great meeting you kid. I hope everything works out with that charmander."

Ash reached for her hand. "It was nice meeting you as well Officer Jenny."

Ash, Growlithe, and Joy, escorted Officer Jenny back to the pokemon center's lobby. The lobby was a lot busier than before the meeting. Several trainers waited anxiously in line, while a chansey tried excruciatingly hard to fill in for Nurse Joy.

Officer Jenny hastily said her final goodbyes, before exiting out the front door leaving Ash with Nurse Joy.

"Thanks for recommending me to take care of Charmander," said Ash. "It really means a lot."

Nurse Joy smiled, as she playfully punched Ash on the shoulder. "No problem kid, you deserve it."

"Thanks," said Ash. "You know you're a lot different than the other Joy's."

"Yeah I like to say I'm the coolest in the family," bragged Joy. "What are you planning on doing all day kid? Charmander won't come out of unconsciousness until tomorrow…"

Ash looked down at Growlithe decisively. "We're going to train."

XXX

Ash watched, as Charmander's bright blue eyes opened up to greet his own. The boy smiled, trying his best not to frighten the waking fire-type.

The lizard pokemon jostled, shocked by the unfamiliar human's face.

"It's okay Charmander," said Ash. "You've been asleep for a couple of days."

Charmander tilted his head curiously. What was the human talking about? Last thing he remembered he was in battle.

"Damian's no longer your trainer," confessed Ash. "He's been convicted of pokemon abuse. He can no longer be in possession of a pokemon."

Charmander remembered. He remembered the bastardized boy that treated him worse than dirt. He remembered the boy that never used kind words. He remembered the boy that didn't care about his health. He remembered the serpent that only acknowledged himself...could it possibly be over.

"I found you beaten on a rock about a mile north from here," bemoaned Ash. "You almost didn't make it."

Charmander painfully recollected. He was crushed… overpowered by a brute of machoke. He had angered his trainer; his unlovingunsympathetichard-hearted trainer.

...And then everything went black.

…Is it possible that he had almost died?

"We're at a pokemon center somewhere southeast of Saffron City," said Ash. "Nurse Joy's done a great job of getting you better."

Charmander slowly propped himself up; he was in a stationary pod-like apparatus. It was comfortable and warm, he felt like his body was gradually being rejuvenated. He noticed his tail-flame safely secured through an aperture on the side of the pod. The fire-lizard also identified a second human in the vast room. This one was female…she looked somewhat familiar.

Nurse Joy calmly approached the conscious charmander. "It's nice to finally see those pretty blue eyes of yours."

Charmander felt an external heat source coming from somewhere in the room. He scanned the room's scope, before settling his eyes on a growlithe sitting loyally next to the human boy's feet.

Growlithe looked at Charmander with inviting eyes. He was very aware of the kind of influence he had over the fire-type's perception of Ash.

"Ash here saved your life," boasted Joy. "If it weren't for him…"

Charmander nodded - he understood what the boy had done for him.

"I only did what was right," said Ash. "Don't feel like you owe me anything."

The boy's modesty was refreshing. On a daily basis, Damian did whatever he could to make Charmander feel like he owed him everything; simply for the sake of being allowed to live. He hated the way Damian treated him, he hated it…he hated it…he hated it…he hated him.

Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about it. Damian was the trainer destiny had picked for him. Shame would eat him alive if he were to rebel while he was bound to him. His species prided itself on honor. Unfaithfulness to a trainer meant total degradation. He would be debauched by dishonor.

He recalled what the boy had said earlier.

...Could it really be true that he had been freed from his torment?

...Is it possible that Damian finally got what he deserved?

"At this moment in time, you are no longer a captured pokemon," said Joy. "The league has completely exterminated Damian's status as a pokemon trainer. Right now they are currently working out a more exclusive punishment."

Charmander took a deep breath, before celebrating with an abbreviate flame-induced snort.

"Good news?" questioned Joy.

Charmander excitedly nodded - he hadn't been this happy in a long time.

Ash happily chuckled. "I'm glad you're handling this well."

"Now since you are still considered a league pokemon until your official release," explained Joy. "We've basically come up with three choices for your future. You can pick any of them, it's your decision."

The obedient charmander listened proactively. His honor bound him to oblige by the rules.

"Choice number one, which in my opinion is the worst of the three," said Joy. "You are free to find a niche in the wild. You weren't born in the wild, so I don't think this is the best fit for you."

Charmander for the most part agreed. He didn't like the idea of trying to make it on his own. The lizard pokemon wasn't bred for the wild - it would most likely be the same as suicide.

He shook his head left and right, affirming a negative.

"Wise choice," responded Joy. "Option two is a little bit better."

Charmander paid attention with an open mind.

"We could transfer you back to your distributer in Saffron City," offered Joy. "However, it would be difficult to find another trainer willing to start with an abused pokemon. So unless you are prepared to live your life at the lab in Saffron…it's a risky choice."

Charmander hated that idea with a passion. He loathed that lab ever since they had unwisely discerned that Damian deserved a pokemon. The fire-type also despised Saffron laboratory's idiotic professor. In his mind, the man was a rotten bigot that looked at pokemon as inferior beings, instead of valued partners.

…Charmander once again shook his head no.

"Okay, well then I would advise you to go with the third option," said Joy, as she directed her gaze towards the dark-haired boy. "I'll have Ash explain this one."

"There's really not all that much to explain," said Ash, with a shrug. "Option three is that you come with me."

Charmander perked up in the pod. He wasn't expecting that to be an option.

"I would like to give you a shot at a new life," implied Ash. "I think that you deserve a trainer that will treat you right and train you to your potential."

"Ash is a great young trainer and an even greater kid," inserted Nurse Joy. "He's the polar opposite of Damian."

Out of the three options, this one was definitely the best. If it weren't for the dark-haired boy, he'd be dead. Also, if he remembered correctly, the boy had said earlier that he'd been unconscious for a couple of days. That meant that the human had stayed the whole time, waiting for him to recover.

Another element to factor in was the growlithe. The fellow fire-type's species was well known for its loyalty and judgement of character. Given that the growlithe looked happy, he could tell that the boy known as Ash took good care of his pokemon.

Ash watched as Charmander shot his gaze towards Growlithe, while muttering something to the pup.

Growlithe communicated back, while animatedly nodding his head up and down.

Charmander was sold. The Growlithe spoke wondrous things about the boy Ash, and he was pretty sure that it was impossible for a Growlithe to lie. Therefore, he had no reason to deny the offer. Besides, regardless of what the boy said earlier, he felt like he owed him.

The moment the boy chose to save his life, they were bound together by Charmander's honor. Charmander had made a decision. With an enthusiastic smile and a playful growl, he accepted the offer.

Nurse Joy raised her arms above her head in celebration.

Growlithe eagerly yapped.

Ash light-heartedly smiled, while reaching out to pet Charmander's head.

A lone tear slowly dribbled down Charmander's scaly orange face. As he received more affection in that moment, than he had ever gotten from his old trainer.

Ash turned elatedly to Nurse Joy. "I think I'm ready to sign those papers!"

XXX

Ash, Growlithe, Charmander, and Nurse Joy stood outside of the pokemon center in preparation to part ways.

"Well Charmander, I guess it's time that I officially make you part of the team," said Ash, as he handled an empty pokeball.

This was a process Charmander was already familiar with, but for some reason things felt different this time.

Ash held the pokeball out to Charmander. "You made the choice, would you like to finish it?"

Charmander nodded, stepping forward towards his soon to be trainer.

"Whenever you're ready," insisted Ash.

"The paper-works been faxed and processed," said Joy. "Everything will be finalized after the capture."

Charmander nervously eyed Growlithe, whom gave him a confident gesture of affirmation.

Ash observed, as Charmander isolated one of his extremities and raised it up to the pokeball. He hesitated for a split-second, before tapping the button on the spheres smooth metallic surface.

The pokeball rapidly opened, simultaneously encasing Charmander in an effulgent array of red light. The pokeball seemingly inhaled, sucking the primary fire-type into sequester.

Ash watched, as the spherical apparatus fell an abbreviate distance to the ground. The pokeball remained steady, lacking any contentious movement. There was a metallic click, indicating a successful capture.

"Congratulations Ash," said Joy, as she watched the ten-year old boy pick up Charmander's new pokeball.

Ash light-heartedly smiled, showing his dimples to the pink-haired nurse.

"Well I guess it's about time you get going, eh?

Ash adjusted the straps on his backpack, in anticipation to travel. "Yeah, I want to cover at least some ground today."

"Understandable," replied Joy. "Besides, I got to get back to work. The rest of the staff's starting to get frustrated."

"Sorry about that," murmured Ash. "I guess I've been kind of distracting the past couple of days."

Don't sweat it," huffed Joy. "They'll get over it."

Ash chuckled, as he reached out for Joy's hand with his own. "It was awesome getting to know you Nurse Joy."

Nurse Joy surprised Ash by deferring his handshake, wrapping him up in a tight motherly hug. "It was a pleasure Ash, do great things out there."

He gladly returned the hug. "I'll try not to let you down."

Upon severance, Nurse Joy smiled. "Don't forget about the Joy stationed in the middle of nowhere. Have one of my relatives help you give me a call sometime. I'd like to know how you and Charmander are doing every once in a while."

Growlithe quietly whined.

Ash cackled. "Don't forget him."

Nurse Joy bent over and gently stroked the tuft atop Growlithe's head. "Oh I could never forget my friend Growlithe."

The puppy pokemon graciously absorbed the attention, before being interrupted by his trainer.

"Alright Growlithe it's time to get going," insisted Ash.

Growlithe pouted slightly, before scampering back to his trainer's side.

"I'll make sure to give you a call sometime soon," said Ash. "Until then, thanks for everything."

Nurse Joy gave Ash a warm smile. "See ya later kid, I look forward to hearing from you in the near future."

"Goodbye."

"Bye."

As Ash and Growlithe put distance between themselves and the pokemon center, the boy thought back to the negative first impression he originally had of Nurse Joy.

…He couldn't have been more wrong.

XXX

The dark-haired boy contentedly reflected on the past week, as he walked down the route's primary trail accompanied by Growlithe and Clefairy.

A lot had occurred...

He had made two new friends; pokemon that he had no intention of catching when he first set out on his journey. Not because he didn't want them, but because he thought that it would be nearly impossible to find either of them in the wild.

Bulbasaur were highly endangered. Prior to discovery, he had zero expectation of ever coming across one amidst the uncultivated wild.

Charmander was an option as a starter back at Professor Oak's lab. Their breed wielded an absurd amount of abeyant potential. However, they happened to be an exorbitantly rare species in the wild. His original assumption was that he had given up his only chance to train one, when he had uniquely elected to start with Growlithe. Thankfully…he was wrong.

Whether it was a product of fate, or just plain old luck, somehow he had managed to procure two of the three "original" Kanto starters. The boy wasn't foolish - he was fully aware that finding the right pokemon was ordinarily a very strenuous task. Regardless, he had to admit, the dice of travel had so far rolled his way.

Bulbasaur gifted him with the best grass-type option in the region. Ash no longer felt the need to seek out another grass-type in Kanto, especially since there weren't any other Kanto native grass pokemon that really caught his attention.

Charmander was a fantastic and valued new addition to his team, despite the fact that his presence didn't necessarily alter Ash's internal "pokemon to catch" list. Nevertheless, regardless of need, Charmander's promise provided him with great flexibility and versatility...

In addition, the past week of training had resulted in a sufficient amount of developmental growth for his pokemon.

Growlithe was agonizingly close to mastering flame-wheel. The progress they had made within the past couple days of travel was astounding. Ash's guess was that they were probably about a week away from completion. Hopefully, it would be ready before his battle at the Vermillion City gym.

Pidgeotto's ongoing development was exceptional. Not only had he mastered twister during the beginning of the week, but he was also having a relatively easy time with feather dance. The reality that he was a giant amongst his species, gave him an incredible advantage when it came to learning the technique. His tremendous size blessed him with an enhanced surplus of available molted feathers. The only thing left for him to get a handle on was the bizarre secretion of a natural sticky solution, that pidgeotto can create through the root of its pin feathers. He indispensably needed the solution, in order to get his feathers to instantaneously stick to his opponents.

His fairy-type was still grating through the process of learning minimize. Progress was limited over the past couple of days. For the most part, Clefairy was still calculating how to manipulate and maintain her reduction.

During the past couple days of travel, his saurian grass-type had successfully conquered take-down. Like Ash had assumed, Bulbasaur was quick to get the hang of it. The recoil was a bit unappealing, but he figured it would slowly diminish as Bulbasaur grew. Sleep-powder on the other hand, was severely more abstruse. Bulbasaur was still struggling to accurately decipher the perfect chemical computation. He was a little bit closer to comprehension than he was a couple of days ago, but the technique would still require work.

Over the past two days, Ash had learned a lot about his freshly caught charmander. The fire-type possessed the ability blaze - an ability that greatly enhanced a fire-type's inner flame, when the wielder's pushed beyond its limit.

Charmander's current move-set was surprisingly impressive in Ash's opinion. He knew scratch, growl, focus-punch, ember, and smokescreen. Four out of the five techniques were relatively basic. However, focus-punch was not typically in a charmander's learn-set. Ash assumed it to be an egg-move - a technique that a pokemon mysteriously procures during its embryonic phase. Focus punch gave Charmander a viable option against rock-types, which charmander's species was typically incompetent against.

The lizard pokemon's training over the past couple of days was light. Ash was wary to rush the fire-type after his near death experience. He had yet to begin teaching Charmander a new technique. The meager amount of training they had done primarily consisted of the evaluation of Charmander's current moves.

His scratch was solid.

Growl was above-average.

Ember and smokescreen were potent.

Focus-punch was more than useable, but still required some slight touching up…

Even though Charmander was at an acceptable place battle-wise, Ash was much more pleased with how he socially cooperated with the rest of the team.

Charmander and Growlithe got along vibrantly. Ash wasn't quite sure if it was simply because the two fire-types shared the same typing, or if their personalities candidly meshed well. Whatever the reason was, they behaved like two peas in a pod.

The lizard-pokemon seemed to get along relatively well with Pidgeotto. Despite the avian's less than secretive sadistic nature, Charmander found a way to relate with Pidgeotto's altered sense of honor.

Ash still wasn't quite sure what kind of relationship Clefairy and Charmander would have. At this point, they hadn't really gotten much of an opportunity to bond. Any free time Clefairy had, she chose to spend working out minimize. Ash figured that her social-life would remain slightly impaired, until she finally mastered the personally frustrating technique.

Bulbasaur and Charmander seemed to get along decently well. Charmander had tried to take part in Pidgeotto and Bulbasaur's game of chase. But he severely struggled to keep up. The fire-type couldn't wait until he evolved into a powerful Charizard, that way he could legitimately compete…

Moreover, Ash was semi-satisfied with the ground they had covered geographically. On the days that they had traveled, the boy thought that a lot of distance had been resolved between themselves and Vermillion. The map on his pokedex suggested that they were nearing the southeastern coast of Kanto, hinting that they were realistically about a week away. If they went straight there, without any distractions, Ash calculated that they could probably cut it down to about a five day trip. But…the ten-year old boy was starting to realize that his journey never quite went according to plan.

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