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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9. Kanto 4 Part 1

With Growlithe sitting anxiously by his side, Ash stood outside of Vermillion City's eastern conduit. The arching metal gate was old and rickety. It definitely wasn't what you'd expect from one of the three main entrances to a major city. The passage lied in between a wide gap in the city's encompassing walls. Suspended by the gate's upper arc was a tacky looking tarp sign that read: Vermillion City.

"Vermillion City...the city of sun," said Ash, as he glanced down at Growlithe. "We're finally here."

Growlithe responded with an aberrant yap. Ash could tell by the puppy pokemon's vocal inflection that he was nervous. Either Growlithe was over-excited for his gym battle, or wigged out because of the upcoming array of people. More than likely his anxiety stemmed from the ladder.

Ash crouched down to Growlithe's level. "Remember what we talked about…we have to face this fear head on. There's going to be a lot of people watching the league tournament."

Growlithe nervously nodded. In order to be a leader, he had to be brave. The puppy pokemon would do whatever it took to overcome his silly phobia.

Ash serenely smiled, before proudly patting the tuft on Growlithe's head. "That a boy...Just remember...I'm always right by your side."

The puppy pokemon forced out a confident grunt in attempt to trick his rising nerves.

"Would it help if I released Charmander?" asked Ash. "He'd be one more friend to help distract you from the anxiety."

Growlithe took a brief moment to mull it over, before nodding hesitantly.

Ash encouragingly smiled, as he detached Charmander's pokeball from his trainer belt. He proceeded to release the orange fire-lizard, who immediately scanned his surroundings.

"We've reached Vermillion City," reported Ash. "We're about to enter city limits. Would you like to walk with us?"

Charmander cheerfully squealed, as he hastily nodded his head up and down.

"Awesome," replied Ash, while reading the digital clock on his xtranceiver. "You guy's ready to get going then? I'd like to reach the Pokemon Center before noon."

Both fire-types grunted their consent, before following Ash through Vermillion City's shoddy entrance...

The city's eastern border was under heavy construction. Ash had been exploring within city limits for at least fifteen minutes, and had yet to see a single building that was up and running. There were construction workers everywhere, frenziedly engaged in different projects that varied in size and construction phase.

Most of the construction zones seemed to be industrial or commercial. Few sites were in there fitting-out or commissioning phases. The majority were either under groundworks, or just being topped-outAsh saw numerous trained pokemon helping with some of the more arduous labor. He observed several muscular machoke using their incredible strength to aid with the heavy-lifting.

The dark-haired boy was blown away, as he watched two machoke effortlessly haul a massive steel beam that must have weighed more than a ton. While pointing out the impressive feat, Ash all of a sudden noticed that Charmander's demeanor had at some point polarized. Something had caused the fire-type to tense up. His eyes deviated from a warm and friendly gaze, to a desolate, icy stare.

"What's wrong Charmander?" asked Ash, as he waved his hand in front of the lizard-pokemon's fixed line of sight.

Charmander used his tremulous claw to point at one of the gray, reptilian faced, humanoid pokemon. The many preoccupied machoke were oblivious of the fire-lizards contempt. The superpower pokemon's presence drew out a side of Charmander that Ash had never seen before. It was frightening...the fire-type's malignant behavior consummately contradicted his usual easy-going personality.

"The machoke...?" asked Ash in a manner of confusion. "What's wrong with the machoke?"

Charmander gave Ash a pained look. In correspondence to the lizard pokemon's bizarre behavior, the boy could tell that there was a heavyhearted story.

…Something significant must have happened involving a member of the machoke species.

Growlithe fought through his social anxiety in order to check on his fellow fire-type. He communicated to Charmander with a series of barks and yips, trying to use conversation to calm his troubled friend down.

Charmander retorted in his own form of speech, explaining to Growlithe the reason behind his antipathy. The puppy pokemon's initial reaction was a look of surprise, but he quickly suppressed it. Ash watched, as the puppy pokemon reasoned with the fire-lizard. Ash couldn't understand a lick of what they were saying. But judging by their body language and vocal-tone, it was pretty evident that Growlithe was trying to talk down Charmander's rage.

It took a while for Growlithe to get through to the fire-lizard. Throughout the intervention, Ash debated returning Charmander several times. He ultimately decided to let it play out. The dark-haired boy figured it would be more beneficial to address the problem now, than to unwisely let it fester over time. He wasn't quite sure what the details of the issue pertained, but right now that didn't matter. The boy's only concern was the abrupt change in the lizard pokemon's disposition at the sight of an innocent machoke.

Once Charmander was calm enough for Ash to make sense of; the boy interjected. "Maybe I can help…is there any way you can explain what's going on?"

Growlithe stepped back, allowing Charmander to portray his pain. The fire-lizard stood in front of Ash, using his sorrowful inflection in accompaniment with a multitude of gestures to create an image for his trainer.

Ash tried to follow, as Charmander used a complex arrangement of charades to explain himself. It took quite some time, but Ash was finally able to decipher a story that actually made sense.

And if what he'd interpreted was accurate…Charmander's animosity was understandable.

"So it was a machoke, eh?" questioned Ash — still skeptical of his deduction. "You're telling me that a machoke is responsible for the condition that I found you in?"

Charmander nodded, once again confirming to Ash that he had correctly deciphered what the fire-lizard was trying to say. The dark-haired boy momentarily paused, careful when coming up with an appropriate plan of action.

"Do you really think that those machoke have anything to do with the one that hurt you?" queried Ash, as he sternly looked Charmander in the eye. "I'm a human — the same as Damian. Do I have anything to do with the trainer that abused and abandoned you?"

Charmander's eyes quivered, the fire-type was clearly conflicted.

"Just because something looks the same, doesn't mean it is," insisted Ash. "You can't judge a book by its cover. What lies inside is the only thing that matters…"

Charmander dropped his gaze, folding under his trainer's intensity.

"I didn't mean to intimidate you," said Ash. "I just want you to understand that everybody's different. Those machoke have done nothing wrong. They cannot be held accountable for every single member of their species."

Ash could tell by Charmander's change in behavior that he had gotten through to him. The fire-lizard's scorn had turned into guilt. His eye's turned solemn and his body language depicted shame. Charmander's pure heart convicted him of his abrupt outburst of hatred

The dark-haired boy had a feeling that the comparison of himself to Damian is would sealed the deal. If Ash could be the polar opposite of that egotistical prick — even though they belonged to the same species; than two machoke could be inverse in character, regardless of whether or not they're identical in appearance.

Ash gently patted Charmander on the head. "It's okay. We all have emotions…and emotions are bound to spiral out of control every once in a while."

Charmander looked up at his wise young trainer. Judging by the tears in his eyes, it was obvious that the fire-lizard was still distraught over his behavior.

Ash bent over with soft eyes, intently meeting Charmander's line of sight. "Look on the bright side of things...nobody got hurt. And luckily, the construction equipment was too loud for any of them to eavesdrop."

Charmander examined his surroundings, like his trainer said, his conniption had gone unnoticed. The machoke and construction workers went about their laborious work unknowingly, remaining entirely engrossed in their duties.

Charmander smiled, his cheeky orange dimples caused the tears under his eyes to rapidly fall from his face. The fire-lizard subsequently used his arm to wipe off the remaining liquid residue. He quickly made a mental promise to his inner-self that he wouldn't procure another reason to cry any time soon.

Ash curiously looked at Growlithe. He seemed to have discarded his anxiety in order to help him address Charmander's unexpected, emotional upheaval. The ten-year old boy internally giggled, he didn't quite have this scenario in mind when he said that Charmander would serve as a distraction for his puppy pokemon's apprehension.

"Are you okay to keep traveling?" asked Ash, as he brought his attention back to the fire-lizard. "As interesting as this construction site is, I'd like to get going…"

Charmander grunted, before decisively shifting his line of sight to the west. He lucidly conveyed that he was ready to move forward.

"Let's get going then," insisted Ash. "We've still got a long ways to go before we reach the Pokemon Center."

Both pokemon concurred, beckoning their trainer to lead the way.

As they finally cleared the entirety of the expansive construction site, the city opened up into a busy sea port. For the first time since entering city limits, Ash was able to get a visual of the ocean. He took a deep breath; breathing in the fresh air that was associated with the large body of water. No matter how many times he encountered the ocean, the awe-inspiring feeling he got from it was always just as satisfying.

As the boy ambulated through the enormous port, he bumped into all sorts of interesting individuals. Vermillion port was doubtlessly diverse. From hundreds of cargo workers to thousands of tourists, the multi-use port was brimming with people.

Ash periodically checked on Growlithe, who was desperately trying to overcome his phobia. The puppy pokemon trembled, while following as close to Ash as possible. The boy suppressed his desire to return his starter. Amidst his mixed emotions, Ash was able to acknowledge that short-term relief wouldn't help provide a long-term answer.

Charmander on the other hand, seemed to enjoy the active port. He was especially enthralled by the industrious freight workers that occupied the cargo harbors.

"Do you know what they're doing?" asked Ash, in reference to the cargo workers.

Charmander shook his head. The fire-lizard simply respected the tough grind of general hard-work. Anybody that pushed themselves to their limit, at any respective task, was worthy of his adoration.

"You see those ships," said Ash, as he pointed. "They're loading all types of cool stuff onto them. Every region has its' own unique resources, making international trade essential in our world. Cargo ships, like the ones over there, are one of the many ways that us humans export and import different goods overseas."

Ash watched, as Charmander seemingly processed what he had just said.

"Does that makes sense?" questioned Ash.

Charmander nodded; for the most part he understood everything that Ash had just explained to him. The humans were basically sending stuff back and forth to other humans that lived faraway — simple enough...

Ash indicatively pointed at a specific cargo ship. "That one over there…Do you see the writing on the side? That's its name. It's called the S.S. Sinnoh Conveyor. It must be a ship from the faraway Sinnoh region that's currently delivering some of our requested imports."

Ash took a momentary pause to check on Growlithe. The poor little guy was too busy trying to overcome his social anxiety, to pay any attention to Ash's brief synopsis of the international trade-system.

As they passed through the final cargo harbor, and crossed over to the sea port's smaller cruise zone, Ash was able to make out the city's primary commercial district. In the distance he saw numerous buildings and skyscrapers; the streets looked to be flooded with an absurd amount of vehicle traffic.

Ash had never been to Vermillion City before, so the spectacle was actually quite amazingTo his left lay the ocean. Docked in the port's cruise zone were two internationally famous cruise ships — the S.S. Anne and the S.S. Aqua. Ash wasn't quite sure what Vermillion City's docking schedule looked like, but he figured that it was a rarity that both colossal luxury ships were docked at the same time. Maybe there was some kind of upcoming special event….

The heart of the city was to his right. It was lively and boisterous. Ash could hear the distinctly rowdy sounds of honking car horns and wild people. No matter how many trips he made into a major city, he always had the same astonished reaction. Culture shock was a very real phenomenon, especially after entering a big city in subsequence to a long duration of rural travel.

Ash responsibly checked the digital map on his xtranceiver. The pink dot that signified the closest Pokemon Center was just a few miles northwest of his current location. The dark-haired boy took one last look at the harbor, for now, before motioning Charmander and Growlithe to follow him up into the bustling commercial zone.

Even though the streets were much busier than the port, Growlithe seemed to be calming down. Either the fire-type was responding well to the intense session of exposure therapy, or he was shutting down. But judging by the puppy pokemon's frequent communication with Charmander, Ash figured that Growlithe was beginning to pave the way towards a non-phobic response.

"How do you guys like Vermillion?" asked Ash, as they passed by a collection of street vendors. "I think it's pretty cool."

Charmander squealed elatedly, expressing his admiration for the lively city.

Growlithe quietly nodded. Regardless of how simple the response was, Ash took it as a step of progress. The fact that the canine pokemon could even acknowledge his surroundings around this many people was a breakthrough.

"Good," continued Ash. "Now keep your eyes peeled. The Pokemon Center should be coming up any second now."

Ash, Growlithe, and Charmander continued to walk down the active streets of Vermillion City. Every once in a while, they would stop to partake in some window shopping or listen to the frequent street performer. But for the most part, they moved along briskly. Ash's anticipation for his gym battle was rapidly beginning to get out of control. He couldn't wait to arrive at the Pokemon Center. That way he could quickly get his pokemon restored to full-strength, before heading over to the Vermillion City Gym.

Growlithe was the first to locate Vermillion City's Pokemon Center. It was situated on a sectioned off street corner. Ash figured that the League was being cautious towards young trainers. It made perfect sense, given that the Pokemon Center was located in a very busy commercial district. The League, more than likely, didn't want to acquire any unnecessary lawsuits, because they didn't bestow appropriate safety measures regarding traffic.

Vermillion City's Pokemon Center was thus far the biggest he had been to. The center was three stories tall and immense in gamut. It was similar in design to the other major city's Pokemon Centers — no matter the location, the off-white exterior walls and bright pink roof never ceased to betray the norm. Ash assumed that there was some kind of official mandate enforced by League officials, concerning the external appearance of their pokemon centers.

Ash could tell that his pokemon were extremely excited about their arrival at the pokemon center. While Ash approached the center's door, Growlithe and Charmander were jumping up and down gleefully. There were very few things in this world that brought as much joy to his friend's hearts, as Nurse Joy's restoration machine.

The lobby was hectically swamped with trainers. Growlithe immediately began to quiver; so many people in such close proximity seemed to enhance his symptoms. This time, Ash decided that he'd return his friend. The puppy pokemon had already had a pretty hefty helping of exposure therapy today. Besides, he would have to return him soon anyway. Most pokemon centers required a trainer's pokemon to be in their pokeballs in order to use the restoration machine.

While Ash and Charmander waited in the line to see Nurse Joy, the boy eavesdropped on several other trainers' conversations. The most interesting sliver of information he picked up, was the reason behind the docking of both the S.S. Aqua and the S.S. Anne.

The S.S. Aqua was simply following typical protocol. Apparently, the ship was docked to perform its usual duties of taking people, to and from, the Johto region's main sea port in Olivine City. The boy was able to learn that the luxury cruise ship departed every Wednesday and returned every Sunday. Since tomorrow was Wednesday, the S.S. Aqua would be departing for the neighboring Johto region soon.

The docking of the S.S. Anne was much more interesting. Ash actually had its agenda explained to him by a stocky red headed girl waiting directly behind him in line. The S.S. Anne was supposedly docked outside of its usual schedule. The freckled girl elucidated that the gargantuan cruise ship was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. In honor of its fifty straight years of flawlessly transporting people back and forth from the far land of Sinnoh — the League was funding a week long trainer getaway. The ship would circle the entirety of the region. Throughout the trip there would be all kinds of spectacular events, including a single elimination tournament — in which all trainers onboard would be permitted to enter.

"So when does the ship leave?" asked Ash, as they slowly neared the front desk.

"It leaves Saturday," replied the short female trainer. "Originally it was supposed to leave on Thursday, but apparently not enough people could afford the outrageous ticket price."

"How does pushing back the departure date help fix a problem like that," said Ash. "Wouldn't it be more beneficial for the League to just lower the ticket cost."

She smirked. "That certainly makes sense…but the Champion came up with another solution.

"Lance did?" questioned Ash with a raised eyebrow. "What did he come up with?"

The redheaded girl chuckled. "Lance thought it would be a brilliant idea to have trainers battle for a ticket. I guess anyone that can manage to defeat Lt. Surge this week, gets a free pass aboard the ship."

Ash scoffed. "You're kidding me...So all you've got to do is beat Surge, eh?"

"Easier said than done," retorted the freckled girl. "Surge isn't exactly a pushover…Why do you think the Pokemon Center's so packed right now…?"

Ash quickly cleared up the misunderstanding. "I didn't mean it like that. It's just...how could something like that possibly benefit the League. It hardly seems like a good financial move."

The girl shrugged. "Who knows? Whatever the reason is...I'm not complaining. A fair chance at an all-expense paid vacation is pretty damn awesome. A deal like this is usually only offered in one of those border-line, impossible sweepstake giveaways."

"Fair enough" replied Ash.

The ten-year old boy spent the rest of the time in line considering whether or not he could realistically afford to take a week off from his travels. A week was a considerable amount of time. The only thing making it possible was the fact that it was an event planned for trainers. There would without a doubt be some kind of training facility on board. Not to mention the single elimination tournament sounded like it would be good experience for his friends.

As Ash finally approached the front-desk, he decided to push off a decision until after his gym battle. The dark-haired boy figured he still had three days before the ship departed. And as of right now, he wasn't even in possession of a ticket. If he wanted a chance to board the S.S. Anne, he'd have to focus on defeating Surge first. The surprising, once in a lifetime opportunity to ride the S.S. Anne, didn't alter his original plan of action. The reason behind his stop in Vermillion City was the Thunder Badge. He'd worry about recreational fun later. Right now he had to take care of business.

XXX

After checking into the pokemon center and getting his pokemon healed by Nurse Joy's restoration machine, Ash waited in a long line outside of the Vermillion City Gym. He would be lying if he said he wasn't annoyed. Surge's gym was significantly backed up because of the valuable reward of an S.S. Anne ticket. Ash worried that unless the line's pace suddenly picked up, he'd be stuck outside of the gym until sunset.

As Ash gradually approached the large, modern, dome-shaped structure; he carefully observed the mannerisms of the many trainers that continuously poured out of the gym's automated glass-doors. The majority of the challengers walked out sluggishly, failing to exude an attitude that portrayed triumph. Every so often, a trainer would skip out with a smile on their face. Throughout the entirety of Ash's wait, he counted only seven trainers that presented a demeanor exhibiting a win. The ratio was hardly in the challenger's favor, given that there were at least a hundred people waiting in the long line.

After several hours of cursing under his breath, Ash finally reached the gym's front door. Above the entrance was a massive insignia of a lightning bolt. It was welded vertically onto the face of the building, conveying an almighty illustration of electricity stabbing through the heavens. Ash took a momentary pause to soak in the moment, before being pushed along by an impatient trainer standing directly behind him.

Upon entrance into the gym's dim foyer, Ash jerked when he abruptly came face to face with a tall, rough looking man. His hair was buzzed, and he was wearing an unbuttoned black leather-jacket with no undershirt.

"Welcome to Lt. Surge's gym!" howled the intimidating man. "How many badges, kid?"

Ash jumped at the sudden loud voice, before gathering himself to reply. "Just one…"

"Just one, eh?" reiterated the ruffian, before turning around with a shout. "You here that Surge? You gotta use the league registered team!"

"I heard you dammit!" thundered a voice from somewhere in the back of the dark room. "I'm not friggin' deaf!"

Ash squinted, as a bright light suddenly switched on, unexpectedly making the large room visible. The gym's original lighting made its access look like an entrance hall; apparently his eyes were just being deceived by an artificial, dusky mirage. The entirety of the gym was one commodious room. In the center laid its only feature — a large dirt arena. It was covered in evident proof of battle. Ash saw various craters and blemishes that seemed to be allegedly created by a hodgepodge of elements. It was very clear that the gym had been extremely active as of late.

"Sorry sir!" wailed the man in the leather jacket. "It won't happen again!"

"You've been saying that for years!" roared the giant of a man. "Maybe it's time I find a new doorman!"

Ash took a good look at the lieutenant. The man was absolutely humongous — perhaps the biggest human-being he had ever seen. He was at least seven-feet tall, and his bronze body appeared to have been chiseled out of a slab of stalwart granite. The gym leader's blonde, spiked hair was doused in gel. He wore a tight, sleeveless, army-green muscle tee and a pair of official camo pants. His pants were neatly tucked into a doublet of black, heavy-duty army boots. Hanging from his trunk-like neck was a collection of tattered military dog-tags.

"But sir…" whimpered the delinquently dressed door-man.

"Lighten up, Jace!" boomed Surge, in a burst of laughter. "It was just a joke!"

"Right…" stuttered the man known as Jace, as he awkwardly wiped the nervous sweat from his forehead. "I knew that…"

Surge placed both of his hands on his hips, as he continued to laugh like a cannonade. "Your face tells a different tale! You look like you've just seen a friggin' ghost!"

Ash held back a chuckle, before Lt. Surge pointed at him. "What do you think kid? Doesn't he look like he's about to crap his pants?"

Jace's face was bright red, clearly exuding embarrassment.

Ash briefly glanced at Jace, before looking back at the giant gym leader honestly. "Pretty much...yeah, he does."

"Dammit kid," whispered Jace, as he kept his eyes on Surge. "Don't add fuel to his cruel sense of humor."

"You're awfully blunt kid! I like that!" thundered Surge. "What's your name?"

Ash ignored Jace's quiet comment, responding quickly to the lieutenant. "...Ash Ketchum, nice to meet you!"

Surge unclipped one of the many pokeballs securely fastened around his black, rope-like belt. "—Ash Ketchum, eh? Well nice to meet ya kid…now tell me, have you come here for the thunder badge...or the blasted ticket?"

Ash smirked. "Both."

Surge fiendishly smiled. "Hmm I see…you're a greedy one. Tell me...which do you want more?"

"The badge," replied Ash. "I just found out about the ticket earlier today. I've been waiting for a chance to earn the Thunder Badge my whole life."

Surge's sadistic smile turned into an expression of satisfaction. "Well damn...let's not waste any more time then! Jace hurry your ass into the officiating box, it's time to battle!"

The officiate zone was safely established off to the side of the arena. Jace scurried over to the risen platform, before addressing Ash. "Do you know the rules kid?"

Ash nodded. "Two-on-two, right?"

"Exactly, also once a pokemon is released, they cannot be returned until they're unconscious — unless you wish to forfeit them."

"Gotcha," retorted Ash, before pivoting his gaze back in the direction of Surge. "I'm ready whenever you are!"

Ash calmly removed Bulbasaur's pokeball. He had already predetermined that he would start the battle off with his grass-type.

Surge enlarged his pokeball in quick response, clearly waiting on Jace's cue.

"This is a two-on-two official battle between challenger Ash Ketchum, and gym leader Lt. Surge! The battle will end once one trainer has lost both of their pokemon! Let the carnage begin!"

With a look of determination, Ash hoisted Bulbasaur's pokeball out onto the nearest half of the arena. The dark-haired boy simultaneously watched, as Lt. Surge's spherical contraption was lofted onto his half of the battlefield at a casual velocity.

Ash stared straight ahead, meticulously analyzing, while the bright lights corresponding to both releases faded into obscurity. Left in wake of the vibrant flash was Ash's assiduous Bulbasaur and Lt. Surge's smug-looking voltorb.

Lt. Surge raised an eyebrow at the sight of the saurian grass-type. "A bulbasaur, eh? I haven't seen one of those in years!"

Ash ignored Surge's comment and carefully observed the voltorb. The half red, half white, spherical specimen, rolled around the dirt heedlessly, consciously emitting a trail of electricity wherever it went. Ash watched Bulbasaur's scarlet-red eyes dart back and forth, analyzing the bizarre creature's movements.

"Vaporize it!" boomed Surge.

Voltorb instantaneously rotated, while enveloping itself in a coat of seething electricity. It momentarily paused, glaring at Bulbasaur for a split-second, before unleashing a violent spark attack.

Bulbasaur's eyes grew wide, as he brusquely dodged to the right. He barely avoided the first spark of electricity, before quickly maneuvering around a second. The saurian fleetly slid across the gravel, stirring up an airy cloud of dust in the process. He glared down a third attempt, while dexterously protruding his vines. The nimble grass-type smacked his rope-like appendages against the ground, using them as an impetus to launch himself into the air.

Ash watched, as Bulbasaur tactfully wafted above the ground. He examined voltorb, who was preparing to load another spark attack.

"Leech seed, now!"

Bulbasaur promptly fired a plethora of high-velocity, emerald-colored seeds. They whisked through the gym, desperately yearning for a host.

Ash grimaced in response to Voltorb's quick deterrence. The electric-type projected an accurate sonic boom, scrunching its face as the leech seeds exploded in mid-air.

Bulbasaur skillfully landed — keeping his eyes cemented on the ball-pokemon. He proceeded to impel a second flurry of seeds. They cut through the air like a barrage of missiles, honing in on their targeted host.

Voltorb squint its eyes — pulling the trigger on a second sonic boom. The burst of energy whistled through the air and exploded upon contact, disarming the majority of the attack. Unfortunately for Voltorb, a single seed penetrated the sonic explosion. It made contact with the living sphere, instantaneously sprouting into a web of parasitic vines. The energy-draining net pulsated into a bright-green color, immediately signifying that its mission had been initiated.

Surge's Voltorb spun out into a bypass, intentionally screeching throughout the process. Bulbasaur howled, as the screech pierced his eardrums, causing him to momentarily become distracted. Voltorb took advantage of the forced opening, firing a quick succession of sparks in attempt to deal damage to the grass-type.

The grass-type was belted by the anterior spark, but managed to shake off the buffet quick enough to dodge the rest of the enfilade. He jetted across the arena, allowing the leech seed to drain another installment of Voltorb's energy. The ball-pokemon squinched its eyes, as the entanglement of vines once again oscillated. Bulbasaur felt the stolen energy pulse within his bulb. He facilitated it throughout his body, healing the minimal damage he had taken from the blast of electricity.

"That thing's friggin' fast!" bellowed Surge, as he clenched his fists. "Voltorb, smash it with rollout!"

Voltorb briefly circulated in place, before launching itself towards Bulbasaur like a cannonball. It crashed back to the ground just short of the saurian, preparing to create a turbulent collision.

Bulbasaur once again used his vines to catapult himself into the air. He soared above the arena, upside down, observing as Voltorb jarringly cancelled its' rollout. The grass-type looked down, as another increment of the voltorb's energy was snatched away from its being and absorbed into his bulb.

"Poison Powder!" commanded Ash, as he witnessed Bulbasaur incidentally float into perfect positioning.

Bulbasaur caught onto his trainer's plan, unsealing his poison powder's designated secretion sac.

LT. Surge's eyes lit up, as he reacted to the command. "Get out of there!"

"Enhance your scope!" howled Ash. "Emit a widespread release!"

The grass-type expanded his secretion sac, while instantaneously expediting more of his stored, custom-made toxin. He dispensed his loaded batch, showering almost half of the arena in a potent cloud of purple.

Voltorb screeched, as the intense poison seeped into its body through its' narrow eye-sockets. Its' orb shaped body simultaneously convulsed, as it was hit by the duel influence of leech seed and poison powder.

Bulbasaur fell back to the ground, landing within the dissipating cloud of poison. Ash smiled — pleased by his saurian's incredible display. The focus required in order to magnify poison powder's range, without contaminating either trainer, was exhaustively scrupulous. As the cloud completely vanished, Ash could see that Voltorb was in bad shape. The ball-pokemon periodically broke out into spasms, while he fought the two burdensome conditions.

"Crap!" cursed Surge, while lowering his eyebrows. "I forgot how friggin' troublesome a bulbasaur can be."

"I'm glad that I've been able to refresh your memory," angled Ash. "Now Bulbasaur, hit it hard with a takedown!"

Bulbasaur sprinted towards Voltorb, aimlessly kicking up dirt in the process. Voltorb's eyes grew wide, as it watched the saurian grass-type bound towards him at an expeditious rate.

"Eerie impulse!" thundered Surge. "Dodge if you can!"

Ash knew exactly what the electric-type specialist was up to. Eerie impulse was an electric-based status technique. The user essentially creates a peculiar off-set thunder wave that seeps into a pokemon's elemental tract; thus creating a thin electrical coat that is emitted at the focal point of the targets elemental attacks.

The ten-year old boy thought about changing up his plan of action, so that he could avoid the bizarre technique — but ultimately decided against it. He didn't want to run the risk of getting hit by an eerie pulse, without causing any damage to voltorb — which was entirely possible if Bulbasaur was caught off guard by an unexpected command.

Voltorb disembogued the strange yellow wave of electricity. It squiggled through the air like a worm, before making contact with an imprudent, airborne Bulbasaur. Bulbasaur felt the strange electricity percolate within his bulb — locating the access point to all of his available elemental techniques. He simultaneously was hit by a nasty recoil, as his body heedlessly collided with the rigid ball-pokemon.

Ash winced, as Bulbasaur painfully shook off the afflictive recoil. Voltorb rapidly rolled across the arena confusedly, blatantly nearing unconsciousness. It finally passed into comatose, once its' remaining energy was snatched away by an unmerciful combination of both leech seed and the toxins within its body.

Lt. Surge smirked, as he knowingly returned his first pokemon.

"Good job Bulbasaur!" yelled Ash, in response to the victory. "How are you feeling? Do you think you can keep going?"

Bulbasaur nodded with a grimace, while enduring the after-effects of take-down.

"That's a tough pokemon you got there, runt!" boomed Surge with a sadistic smile, as he unclipped his second pokeball from his belt. "Its' got a good handle on its status techniques!"

"Thanks!" exclaimed Ash. "We've worked hard on them!"

"If you teach it some more elemental attacks it could grow into a real monster," suggested Surge. "Until then, it's going to have a tough time with my next pokemon!"

Surge heaved his second pokeball out onto the battlefield. Right before it made contact with the ground it rapidly snapped open, releasing an energetic display of bright light. When the luminous flash faded, a raichu stood in its wake.

Ash knew it was coming — Surge's raichu was practically a living legend. There were very few league registered pokemon as infamous as the fully-evolved electric mouse. The brute was well known for its hard-hitting electric attacks and ruthless lack of mercy. Voltorb was merely an opening act — Raichu was the Vermillion City gym's petrifying main event.

Raichu's vehement black eyes leered at Bulbasaur. Its facial expression reminded him of Pidgeotto, as it fiendishly smiled at the grass-type. Judging by its countenance, Ash could tell it breathed for nothing but battle. With every second that went by the blood-thirsty look Raichu advertised grew more and more barbarous.

The bipedal mouse pokemon's dark orange fur erected, as it diffused two arcs of electricity out of the yellow pouches on its cheeks. It pounded its two, round, dark-brown paws together, while intimidatingly whipping its bolt-shaped tail violently against the ground. Its bifurcated yellow and brown ear's quavered, reacting to Raichu's sudden crouch. It arrogantly got in a four-point stance in preparation to dispatch.

Surge swiftly pointed ahead with fire in his eyes. "Crush it, Raichu!"

Raichu exploded out of its stance, bursting toward Bulbasaur as fast as a speeding bullet. The grass-type frantically struggled to keep up with the mouse-pokemon's movements. He tried to stay calm, as the rodent seemingly vanished out of sight. There was a brief pause, before Bulbasaur felt a looming presence. He quickly turned around to find an impending Raichu. It appeared next to him bearing a perverse smile, intentionally unveiling itself in order to instill fear. All of a sudden, he felt a sharp pain in his side. The saurian watched out of the corner of his eye, while Raichu viciously struck him with both of his paws.

"Bulbasaur!" Ash blustered, as he watched his grass-type involuntarily soar across the arena

"That's gotta hurt!" heckled Surge, while Bulbasaur simultaneously crashed onto the hard tile that lied outside of the arena. "Raichu's slam is as nasty as they come!"

The dark-haired boy cringed in response to the clamorous impact. He helplessly watched Bulbasaur roll across the gym, while forcing his eyes to remain open throughout the entire crash. When the saurian's momentum finally came to a stop, the grass-type wrestled to his feet. He was bruised and battered — his legs wobbled as he fought to stand up.

Raichu folded his arms, while continuing to grin malevolently. He beat his tail against the ground like a whip-cracker. As the tip made contact, it caused streaks of electricity to discharge across the dirt. Ash gritted his teeth in response to the discordant hiss of electricity. The grating sound it created was even more jarring than the sound of nails on a chalk-board.

...The dark-haired boy racked his brain in attempt to come up with a strategy.

"Bulbasaur! Are you okay?" bellowed Ash, making sure his grass-type was still able to continue.

Bulbasaur painfully nodded, as he slowly plodded back over to the arena. He stared down Raichu, while brewing a new batch of poison powder in the process. He debated using sleep powder, but quickly excused the idea. He probably wouldn't get more than one opportunity to make an impact on Growlithe's battle, and he figured he shouldn't risk using his most recently brewed sleep powder against a formidable opponent like Raichu. If the sleep powder was a dud — it would be a missed opportunity. Poison powder was a much more plausible choice.

As Bulbasaur breached the arena, the electric mouse instantaneously took off in a blur. Ash's stomach dropped when he realized that he wouldn't have enough time to give a command. The dark-haired boy watched, as a shaft of lightning precipitously appeared above the battlefield. Ash heard the sound of Surge's booming laughter in the background. The gym leader was obviously enjoying the battle.

Raichu's thunderbolt cackled and shrieked, while it conjured in the air. The boy suddenly caught a glimpse of Bulbasaur's expression, as the bolt of electricity tore through the atmosphere. The grass-type smirked serenely — erupting from his bulb at the moment of impact was an expansive blast of purple. Its chemicals created a sparkle in the air, while it ascended in the shape of a cylindrical pillar.

Raichu's countenance portrayed a slight glint of fear, as he was enveloped in Bulbasaur's full-power poison-powder.

The grass-type was synchronously struck by Raichu's thunderbolt. Ash flinched, while listening to Bulbasaur's high-pitched clamor.

When the chaos finally ceased, Raichu stood resolutely in the arena. The only differences in his appearance was that his eyes looked slightly tired, which was probably caused by the foreign toxins that were now coursing throughout his bloodstream. In addition, his coat had a slight purple-tint to it — an obvious byproduct of the several grains of poison powder that were presently embedded in his fur.

Bulbasaur lied still — he was slightly charred and blatantly unconscious. A beam of red-light shot across the dirt arena, as Ash returned his grass-type to his pokeball. The dark-haired boy looked down at Bulbasaur's pokeball proudly. It sat in his sweaty hand idly, ready to be clipped back to its designated spot on his trainer belt.

"You were awesome," praised Ash, while he clipped his friend's pokeball back to his belt. "I couldn't be more proud of you."

"That's a hell of a Bulbasaur, kid!" bellowed Surge. "I've never seen one with that much power stored in its bulb!"

"He's definitely special!" retorted Ash, as he handled Growlithe's pokeball. "Now let's finish this!"

Surge smiled ferociously. "It's your move Ketchum!"

Ash responded by lofting Growlithe's pokeball into the air, triggering his release. After the blast of bright light subsided, the puppy-pokemon stood in the arena regally. It took him a split-second to recognize Raichu's presence, before he crouched into a defensive position. Growlithe expelled an abbreviate blast of fire out of his maw, while preparing for a vicious battle.

"A Growlithe, eh?" queried Surge. "Should be interesting…"

Ash wasted no time. "Ember barrage!"

Growlithe called upon his inner-flame, before firing a surplus of high-temperature fire balls. They streaked across the arena, whisking through the air like a fleet of gastly. Ash watched Raichu grimace, as the poison in its body assaulted his insides. The fully-evolved rodent quickly shook off the pain, before using a quick attack unconventionally to avoid the enfilade of fire.

The puppy-pokemon reacted quickly, enshrouding himself in an array of scorching hot fire. He used flame wheel to promptly close the distance between Raichu and himself, meeting the electric mouse head-on in a fury. Raichu's eyes lit up, as he witnessed Growlithe keep up with his incredible speed. The electric-type was simultaneously hit by another wave of toxins, as the poison-powder continued to damage him from the inside-out. Raichu's momentary flinch created an opportunistic opening. Growlithe's flame wheel collided with Raichu, causing the electric-mouse to painfully shriek. It was launched across the arena, landing jarringly on the opposite side closest to Lt. Surge.

"Raichu get up now!" ordered Surge. "Use electro-ball!"

Raichu used his paws to nimbly spring himself back up to his feet. With a stiff upper lip he raised his tail into the air, initiating the formulation of a crackling sphere of electricity. The orb grew at the tip of its tail, remaining stationary because of the magnetizing power of Raichu's rear extremity.

Growlithe dashed across the battlefield expeditiously, leaving a trail of fire in his wake. He wasn't going to just standby leisurely and allow Raichu to hone in on a definite location. Out of his peripherals, the fire-type witnessed the electric mouse propel his electro-ball. It ripped through the air, hissing like an ekans. The large ball of electricity rapidly closed in on him; Ash wondered if Raichu was somehow facilitating some type of heat-seeking energy into his technique. However, he decided to respond otherwise, there wasn't even close to enough proof to act on such a foolhardy whim.

"Flame wheel to dodge!" roared Ash, as he witnessed the proximity between Growlithe and the electro-ball quickly shrink. "Hit it if you can!"

Growlithe bolted toward the electro-ball at full tilt. Right when the sphere of electricity was about to make contact, the puppy-pokemon sheathed himself within an unrestrained flame wheel. He spun head over once, before using his front paws to sling himself into the air. The canine glided over the electro-ball, looking like an inflamed meteor blasting through the atmosphere.

Ash watched Raichu scowl, as the electro-ball barely missed its target. The mouse pokemon was then forced to use his quick attack to dodge, before deciding to counter with a curt, jabbing thundershock.

"Growlithe dodge!"

Ash's plea was too late. Growlithe was hit by Raichu's quick-fire electric strike as he concurrently expelled his flame-wheel. The puppy-pokemon winced, while the high-voltage electricity coursed throughout his body. Growlithe shook off the pain — not allowing it to dictate the battle whatsoever.

"Counter with another ember barrage!" bellowed Ash, while he watched Raichu once again make a wry face because of the poison that flowed throughout his veins.

The puppy Pokemon released another plethora of fire-balls. They navigated through the air at an astonishing rate. Each individual ember spread out sporadically, making it nearly impossible to decipher their different landing points. Raichu endured another knife-like poison strike, while darting his eyes back in forth in attempt to find a weak point in the battery of fire.

"Over there!" thundered Surge, as he pointed at a gap in the barrage that was on the opposite side of the battlefield. "Hurry!"

Ash thought he sensed a little bit of uncertainty in Surge's voice. For the first time today, he could tell that the lieutenant was nervous. "More fire, Growlithe!"

His fire-type obediently emitted even more flames. They shot through the air similar to the previous barrage — this time filling in the gaps. With nowhere to go, Raichu was hit by a wall of fire. The electric-mouse screeched like the wheels of a car spinning out on asphalt, while being hit by the scorching-hot palisade.

Once the shriek subsided the gym was quiet. Ash watched, as the smoke from the attack gradually faded. When all was clear, Raichu remained standing. He was wearied and charred, barely able to remain on his feet. The dark-haired boy cringed, when he witnessed Raichu once again be struck by an intramural wave of poison.

Nevertheless, the electric-type somehow remained standing. Raichu achingly forced a sadistic smile, while raising his tail in the air.

"That's it Raichu, hang in there!" boomed Surge. "One last chargedup thunderbolt!"

Being contrived in the air was a large bolt of electricity. It crepitated above the gym, yearning for its release. Raichu snickered throughout the charge, coughing up poison infused muck in the process.

"This is it!" howled Ash. "Hit it with the strongest flame wheel you've got!"

Growlithe reached down into the core of his inner-flame, withdrawing as much fire as possible. He released it wildly from his maw and the rear eccrine glands situated in his hind paws. His body instantaneously erupted in fire. The fire-type's wheel was expansive, nearly twice its average-size. He had traded endurance for power; his body would without a doubt be exhausted after this.

…There was a momentary pause, before the elements finally commenced.

Growlithe detonated out of his stance like a savage, bursting across the arena with victory in mind.

Raichu catapulted his risen thunderbolt, while his insides churned under the influence of Bulbasaur's toxins.

Both trainers clenched their fists and gritted their teeth, as they anxiously observed the two powers clash. Raichu's thunderbolt had the initial edge — the powerful electric attack put a dent in Growlithe's wheel, causing it to become stuck in its tracks.

However, Surge's countenance turned from a smile to a frown, as Growlithe persevered. He pushed forward, using his momentum to push back the thunderbolt. The encasement of fire temporarily shielded him, while he gradually closed the distance between himself and Raichu.

The electric mouse simply stood there. He barely had enough energy to stand, let alone flea. The thunderbolt fizzled out, as fire won the battle between equal elements. Ash thought he saw a last second smirk appear on Raichu's face, before he was ran over by a voracious, flame enshrouded Growlithe.

"You've gotta be friggin' kidding me!" boomed Surge, when he saw a scorched and unconscious Raichu embedded in the dirt surface.

"Hell yeah!" shouted Ash with a fist in the air, as Growlithe expelled his flame-wheel.

"Raichu is unable to battle!" bellowed Jace from atop the dais. "All of Lt. Surge's pokemon have been defeated! The winner is challenger Ash Ketchum!"

The puppy-pokemon cheerfully yapped, while scampering over to his trainer. Ash leaned over, congratulating his starter with an affectionate scratch behind the ears. As Ash petted his friend he realized how exhausted he was. Growlithe's body was tense and he was breathing heavily. It was evident that the fire-type was going to have to get some good rest over the next couple days.

"You were great!" cheered Ash, as he continued to pet his fire-type. "All of the work we've put in definitely paid off today."

Growlithe happily licked Ash across the face, elated at the outcome of his very first gym battle.

Ash laughed in response to his starters' playful antics. "That tickles buddy!"

Out of the corner of his eye, Ash watched Surge return Raichu, before approaching him with a massive grin on his face. "That was a great battle Ash! Best rookie match I've had all season!"

"Thanks Surge," replied Ash, while standing up straight. "It was a blast!"

"Hell friggin'yeah it was!" boomed Surge, while suddenly turning around to face the officiating zone. Jace was presently climbing down from the risen platform in attempt to meet them in the arena. "Jace, go get me a badge and a ticket!"

The ruffian almost fell from his climb, after being jostled by Surge's thunderous voice. When he reached the ground, he scurried off toward the front desk — which was where Surge apparently kept his winnings.

"So what's your plan, kid?" asked Surge. "What are you going to do after the S.S. Ann?"

"Well, I'm planning on heading to Saffron to take on Sabrina," replied Ash. "But to be honest, I'm not quite sure if I'm going to use the ticket. I don't know how I feel about wasting a week of travel."

"Screw that logic," huffed the lieutenant. "You should be thinking of the ship as a chance to enhance your skills. There will be all kinds of tough trainers. Not to mention the fact that there's that single elimination tournament. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity runt…I wouldn't pass on it."

Ash mulled it over. "Yeah, I guess…but what about travel time?"

"Kid, the tournament is not until May," replied Surge. "You've got eight months. A week of free food and some good training ain't gonna hurt you. Besides, Sabrina is a damn hellion. You could use some extra training before you face her."

"Good point," said Ash. "I think I'll give it a shot."

"Good decision!" boomed Surge, as Jace scurried over and handed Surge the requested items.

"Before I give these to you…" said Surge. "I've gotta a question."

"Yeah," mumbled Ash.

The lieutenant pointed at Ash's xtranceiver"That thing's a phone, right?"

Ash nodded. "Yeah it's called an xtranceiver. It's a mobile video phone…my friend Bill gave it to me."

"Let me see it for a second," requested Surge, while he held his hand out in front of the dark-haired boy.

Ash shrugged, while unfastening the xtranceiver's strap. He handed it over to Surge, who instantly fired it up. The giant of a man used his long, bulky fingers to briefly fiddle around with the device. Once he was done, he nodded his head in satisfaction, before handing it back to Ash.

"What'd you do?" asked Ash, before looking at the screen with raised eyebrows.

"I put my number in there," retorted Surge. "I want a friggin' rematch at some point — full six-on-six. No restraints."

Ash smirked. "I can't say no to that...I've already got a rematch planned with Misty. I'll have to stop by sometime after I get all of my badges."

Surge laughed with a booming voice. "You're re-matching the shrimp, eh? That's a battle I'd like to see."

"The shrimp…?" asked Ash. "You know Misty?"

"Of course I know her…" replied Surge. "All of us gym leaders know each other. Besides, Misty's a friggin' beast. If it weren't for my type-advantage, I'd be a little more hesitant to battle her. Word is... she hasn't lost a match to a trainer with more than three badges all season."

Ash clenched his fists in excitement. "Now I definitely can't wait to battle her again!"

Surge smirked. "Don't forget about our battle kid."

Ash laughed. "I can be excited for more than one battle at a time."

"Truth," retorted Surge. "Us gym leader's don't usually have trainers come back once they've earned our badge. So it should be a blast! Make sure you get stronger kid. Raichu just qualified for my main team a few weeks ago. You've got a long way to go until you can actually compete with me."

"I'm up for the challenge," replied Ash.

Surge chuckled at Ash's confidence, before graciously handing over the badge and the ticket. The thunder badge was relatively small — identical in size to the cascade badge. The center was dark-orange and shaped like an octagon. Around the edges of the eight-sided polygon was a repeating pattern of bright-yellow triangles. The emblem created a vibrant image of a sun, symbolizing the primordial meaning behind the city…

The ticket was relatively bland. For the most part it was just a typical looking admissions voucher. The only thing that stood out was the bright-blue, holographic image of a boat to the right of the event name.

"Thanks," said Ash, as he stuffed the ticket in his pocket and removed his wooden badge case from his backpack.

The dark-haired boy undid the latch to his case, before placing the thunder badge in its designated, red-velvet slot adjacent to the cascade badge. Once the badge was secure, he put the case back into his backpack for safe-keeping.

"Alright Ketchum, I think it's time you get going," said Surge. "As fun as it's been, I've got some more trainers to battle. I've gotta hurry up and get Raichu and Voltorb restored."

"You've got enough time to run to the Pokemon Center and back?" asked Ash. "How do you manage that?"

"That's usually what I'd do…" Surge sighed, as he pointed at the bulky contraption set up directly behind the front desk. "But with all these trainers trying to get free tickets, I had to ask Nurse Joy to set me up with my own restoration machine. It doesn't give them a chance to fully recover, but it heals them enough to get them through the day. As soon as I get the chance I'm going to treat Voltorb and Raichu to a week of rest, they deserve it."

"Makes sense," replied Ash with a nod. "Before I go though, I've got a message for you…"

"What is it?" asked Surge with a raised eyebrow.

"Officer Jenny wanted me to tell you that she is doing well," said Ash. "She was pretty adamant about me letting you know."

"Jenny, eh?" questioned Surge, "there's a lot of them, can you be more specific."

"I forgot the name of the town she's stationed at…" said Ash. "But it's small. And she said that you guys were old drinking partners."

Surge's eyes lit up. "Oh, that Jenny! That's great news! I haven't seen her in years…as a matter of fact I really should give her a call sometime soon."

"How do you guys know each other?" asked Ash.

"It's a long story…" Surge sighed. "And I don't have enough time to tell it right now — maybe another time kid."

Ash nodded, before returning a tired Growlithe to his pokeball. "No worries...I understand. I really should get going anyway. My pokemon need to get looked at before I go to bed."

"See you around Ketchum," said Surge, as he shook Ash's hand. "Let me know when you're ready for that rematch."

"I'll make sure to give you a call," replied Ash. "Thanks for today's battle, it was awesome."

"No, thank you kid," confessed Surge. "It was a damn pleasure."

Ash flashed the giant man a big smile, before saying goodbye to him and Jace. As Ash walked out of the gym, he whispered a quiet thank you to Growlithe and Bulbasaur's pokeballs. They had battled even better than he had originally hoped.

XXX

Ash and Clefairy watched in awe, as the S.S. Aqua disembarked from the Vermillion City Port. The ten-year old boy still had three and a half days until the departure of the S.S. Anne. He figured it would be a worthwhile occurrence to get an outsiders perspective, before his first-hand experience on Saturday.

"Pretty cool…don't you think?" questioned Ash, while they watched the colossal ship begin to drift away.

Clefairy nodded; she wasn't quite sure what the trip would entail. Nevertheless, as long as her trainer was excited, she would remain supportive.

"We've still got three days until we leave," said Ash. "There are a few things we need to get done."

Clefairy half-heartedly smiled, as she noticed a couple of gawking bystanders that passed by.

"Ignore them," said Ash. "People will always be looking at you. You're not exactly common…"

Clefairy frantically covered her sensitive ears, while the S.S. Aqua briefly interrupted their conversation with its loud, alto-toned horn.

When the cacophony subsided, Ash continued. "You're a special pokemon Clefairy...and people know it."

Clefairy slightly blushed — her trainer's kind words were reassuring.

Once the S.S. Aqua was out of sight, Ash glanced back down at Clefairy. "Let's go, we've got a lot to get done."

The fairy-type nodded, while realizing that she would follow her trainer to the stars and back if that was what it took to always stay by his side.

XXX

After taking a quick trip to the Pokemart to re-up on supplies, Ash walked the far-distance back to Vermillion City's southeastern boarder in order to finally take care of a long awaited matter of contention.

Just outside city-limits, the ten-year old boy discovered a decently vast clearing. He released Pidgeotto and Charmander, who were quickly filled in on the upcoming plan of action. The dark-haired boy had already explained his relatively simple plan to Clefairy, during their long walk toward the city's boarder. He would have released Growlithe and Bulbasaur if he could, but they both were still recovering from their battle with Surge. Ash didn't want to risk their health if Squirtle decided to run amuck. He wanted to be able to use Growlithe and Bulbasaur confidently for the S.S. Anne tournament, and if their injuries were to become more serious it could delay the healing process. Ash cursed under his breath, this was one of those times where he really needed Growlithe by his side.

Ash handled Squirtle's pokeball anxiously, as he rambled off a few quick reminders…

"Clefairy…if things somehow escalate use sing to put him to sleep," said Ash. "Don't jump the gun. Only use it if it's absolutely necessary."

Clefairy decisively nodded, signifying that Ash's orders were clear.

"Charmander...your typing is at a disadvantage," said Ash. "I really just need you to provide intimidation. You can use growl if you want, it's your call."

The fire-type grunted affirmatively, snorting a burst of fire in the process.

Ash laughed, before addressing his excited Pidgeotto. "Pidgeotto this is not a battle…I repeat this is not a battle. Please don't attack unless I say so. I know you've been itching for a new sparring partner, but this is not the right time."

The colossal flying-type disappointedly huffed, as he nodded his head hesitantly in agreement.

"Alright…let's do this," muttered Ash. "Remember, he's a teammate — no matter how he reacts."

His pokemon collectively grunted, while waiting anxiously for the upcoming affair.

Ash gently lofted Squirtle's pokeball up into the air, while his friends dutifully encompassed the release. When the bright array of light faded, a stone-faced turtle was revealed. He sat on the ground placidly, not making any sudden movements. The turtle pokemon was fully aware of his current predicament.

…He knew he had been captured.

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