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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27. Kanto 8 Part 3

"But, what other natural means are there?" asked Bill.

"None that could explain something like this," snorted Sebastian. There's nothing natural about this situation."

"Well, if it wasn't natural, is it possible that they could have been destroyed?" asked Austin as he folded his arms in a confused manner.

Ash immersed himself within his thought process as Sebastian responded by shaking his head.

"There would be leftover ruins or at the very least fragments of debris," said the scientist. "Destruction is typically messy after all, and destruction of that level always leaves scars. There are none, though. So, it's highly improbable that we are dealing with decimation."

"Well, if they didn't vanish naturally or unnaturally, what other option is there?" asked Austin.

"Supernaturally," interrupted Ash with wide eyes.

"You took the words right out of my mouth," added Sabrina while surveying Ash with calculating eyes.

"A supernatural cause, eh?" questioned Bill as he scratched his chin. "I guess that's the only thing it really could be."

"Hold on a second…" drawled Austin with a look of bewilderment, "when you say supernatural, what exactly are you implying?"

"Honestly, I'm not one-hundred percent sure," said Robert with a frustrated sigh. "However, it has to be some kind of pokemon. At least, that's the only logical explanation I can think of."

"Logical!" blustered Austin, "how is that logical!? What pokemon could make an entire archipelago suddenly disappear?"

"The kid has a point, Dad. Even a surplus of elite level mystic-types couldn't pull off something of that magnitude," angled Bill. "Only a Legend—"

Bill stopped himself mid-sentence when a small smile formed across Robert's face.

"…Bloody hell."

"Now we're getting somewhere," interjected Sebastian as he examined all of the astonished faces in the vault. "I'm surprised it took you so long to figure it out. The entire premise of this conversation has revolved around Legendaries. We brought this incident up on account of the fact that we were discussing protection from them."

There was a brief moment of silence as everyone took a moment to work it out on their own.

"Wait," said Austin, severing the lack of noise, "you think a Legendary did this?"

"There's no other answer," retorted Sebastian as he looked the teenager in the eyes. "Only something with unimaginable ability could do something like this. It is outside the realm of normality, which is where Legends reside. Only a Legendary could do this. It's the only feasible explanation."

"Sebastian is right," reassured Robert. "Obviously we're not a hundred percent sure, but the culprit of the disappearing islands is probably a Legendary. They're the only beings capable of such a feat."

"Okay…" drawled Ash, speaking up as he racked his brain, "so let's say it is a Legendary. Which one do you think it is? Do you have any in mind?"

"We do," retorted Robert, "there are multiple possibilities, but we think we've narrowed it down to a few."

"And?" queried Bill. "Would you please share them with us?"

"Of course," answered Robert while straightening out his sleeves, "Sebastian, would you tell them what we've come up with?"

The scientist scratched his chin in thought before answering. "Well, like the boss said, we have a few theories. However, there is one that I am presently leaning towards…"

He took a breath as he removed the shaggy hair from his eyes.

"I believe I mentioned the Legendary classification system, right?" asked Sebastian with a raised eyebrow.

He acquired a collection of nods in response to his question.

"That's what I thought," said Sebastian. "Now, without confusing you guys, I would like to explain that not just any Legendary could pull something like this off. We're probably looking at an S-ranked Legendary or higher. The classification system is based off of power, duty and lore. If the system is correct, anything classified as A or lower wouldn't be capable of a feat of this magnitude."

Just like everyone else in the room, Ash simply nodded his head. Sure, he had a lot of questions that he could ask. But, at this point, he just wanted to get to the point. All of the fluff could be explained later. Judging by the fact that nobody else asked any questions, Ash assumed that their logic was operating on the same wavelength.

"Based off of where we are in the world, and the fact that the Legendary is most likely S-ranked or higher, we are probably dealing with Mew," said Sebastian matter-of-factly.

Their jaws dropped at the mention of the celestial psychic.

"M-m-mew?" questioned Bill with wide-eyes.

"Damn…" drawled Austin, "really!?"

Sabrina had a small smile depicted across her face. She had probably read Robert and Sebastian's minds a while ago and found out what Legendary they suspected, so she didn't look too surprised. However, she was a psychic specialist, and several legends clearly suggest that Mew is one of the strongest psychics in the world. It's only natural that she would be happy at the prospect that the Legendary's existence was real and not just a myth.

"Why Mew?" asked Ash, unable to suppress his curiosity, despite the fact that he was trying to limit his questions. "Other than the fact that Mew is rumored to live in this part of the world, and it is an S-ranked Legendary, what other evidence do you have?"

"Its skill set," retorted Sebastian without hesitation, "Mew is said to be an astronomically powerful psychic. On account of the fact that the islands disappeared unnaturally, without any sign of destruction, we have reason to believe that they were teleported, especially when you factor in the next day disappearance of the Nurse Joys working out of small town and rural pokemon centers."

Ash scoffed as he soaked in the newest bit of information.

"The people that disappeared were Nurse Joys?!" questioned Ash.

Even Sabrina looked surprised as Ash's question echoed off the walls of the walk-in vault.

"Yes, Mr. Ketchum," said Sebastian with a solemn look on his face. "The day after the archipelago vanished, thirty-three Nurse Joys suffered a similar fate."

"Thirty-three!?" blustered Bill, "bloody fuc—"

"You mean to tell me that thirty-three Nurse Joys have been missing for a year, and this has been kept a secret from not only the public, but also the majority of Kanto's League officials!" shouted Sabrina, raising her voice.

"That would be correct," said Robert, "insane, right? I do not blame Lance for his decision to keep it a secret, but it blows my mind that he managed to pull it off. The Nurse Joys were replaced the following day, and the family vowed to remain quiet. Despite their considerable loss, they trust that they are out there somewhere, and Lance will find them."

"How were they replaced so fas—" said Ash before cutting himself off, "never mind, conspiracies regarding the Joy family aren't really appealing to me at the moment."

"Good call," retorted Sebastian, "let's refrain from opening up another can of weedle."

"Hold on a second," interrupted Austin. "How do you know that these two events are related? Couldn't it just be a coincidence that they occurred so close together?"

"There's a chance, but it's highly improbable," answered Sebastian as he scratched underneath his chin. "First of all, the islands most likely vanished by means of teleportation. It's literally the only remaining logical answer for the archipelago, and the Nurse Joys were definitely kidnapped by teleportation."

"Okay…" drawled Austin, "I understand why the only logical option for the islands is teleportation, but what makes you think the Joys were teleported. Do you have proof?"

"We do," said Robert, "there are videos."

"Videos?" asked Austin.

"Of what?" questioned Ash.

"All pokemon centers have security cameras," answered Robert. "Whatever kidnapped the Joys was sloppy. It didn't destroy the cameras. Therefore, at all of the Pokemon Centers in which Nurse Joys were taken, we found footage of what took place."

"Really?" said Ash, "what did it show?"

It was quiet for a second as Robert evidently mused about a solid description.

"All of the Nurse Joys were standing at their respective front desks when it happened. Simultaneously, at thirty-three different pokemon centers, a white light, identical in appearance to the light emitted during teleportation, appeared out of nowhere and seemingly swallowed them. When it faded, they were gone, and there were no living eyewitnesses. If it weren't for the cameras, we would have no idea what happened. Whatever took them did it at a time when all of the pokemon centers were void of any visitors, and the rest of the staff was in the medical wing."

He paused.

"Scary isn't it," continued Robert. "Thirty-three Nurse Joys and an entire archipelago gone within forty-eight hours. The only proof, other than the fact that they're missing, is thirty-three different pieces of security footage, which all look nearly identical, albeit the fact that they happened at different pokemon centers in Kanto. This is like something straight out of a horror flick."

"When they vanished, did you catch a glimpse of whatever teleported them?" asked Ash.

"No," retorted Sebastian, "nothing else is on the video, just the light and the Nurse Joys. The league's most brilliant tech experts have even managed to diminish the light in the video, and there is no being within it. Despite the fact that it sounds absurd, it appears that whatever performed the teleportation did it from a distance."

"Isn't that impossible?" asked Austin, "I know a powerful psychic doesn't have to touch what it teleports, but doesn't it have to at least see what it's doing. Could the culprit have found a breach in each camera's line of sight and been hiding somewhere within the room."

That's unlikely," said Sebastian. "The cameras are placed strategically, so that they can see every part of the centers, including the medical wing. Besides, whatever took them was probably not aware of the cameras. Otherwise, it would have destroyed them."

"Keep in mind," said Sabrina as she looked Austin in the eyes, "just because a psychic of my level needs to be relatively close to what it's teleporting, If Mew is the Legendary responsible for this, it is bound to operate on an entirely different set of rules. I may be strong, but Mew is an ancient Legend for a reason. I wouldn't even begin to put a cap on what it is capable of."

"Wisely spoken," answered Robert, with a smile, before using his eyes to look over everyone in the vault. "An S-ranked Legendary, like Mew, can't be put in a box. Who truly knows what kind of power it wields."

"Why, though?" questioned Ash. "I thought Mew was a peaceful creature. Isn't that what the legends say? What motive could it possibly have for relocating an entire archipelago and kidnapping a bunch of Nurse Joys? Something doesn't add up."

"Didn't," said Sebastian with a smirk, "something didn't add up. However, a few things have been unveiled over the past week that could explain it."

A light bulb turned on in his head as Ash instantly figured out what Sebastian was referencing.

"It was the abomination…" muttered Ash, "it was the beast that Sabrina saw in Ariana's thoughts. The one who's DNA was spliced from Mew."

"That's the conclusion that we've come to," answered Robert with a frown. "Mew may not have a motive to do something like this, but a creature born with similar qualities by an organization like Team Rocket…Well, I'm sure you know where we're going with this."

"Shit…" cursed Bill, "we're in trouble, aren't we?"

"Something around the same power level as a Mew is under the control one of the biggest criminal syndicates in the world," articulated Sabrina with troubled eyes, "so, I would say, yes, we're in trouble."

Ash glanced over at Austin, who was clearly disturbed by the direction that the conversation was going. The ten-year-old boy's mind all of a sudden jumped back to the conversation he had partaken in with his teenage friend on his first night in Saffron, when Austin was fretting about the reason Team Rocket was going after the Master Ball.

It had turned out to be even worse than they imagined. Team Rocket had either gone after the Master Ball in order to take away Kanto's only defense against the abomination, or they needed the Master Ball to help control their creation themselves. Who knows, maybe it was a combination of both.

Nevertheless, whatever the reason was, one thing was made clear, the Master Ball was essential for Kanto's survival.

If the monster ingrained in Ariana's head was actually responsible for the disappearance of the archipelago and the Nurse Joys, Team Rocket's plan was momentous, dangerous and complex. No one outside of the organization knew exactly what they were up to, but hopefully they would find out more as Sabrina continued to examine Ariana's mind.

"Essentially," retorted Sebastian, continuing the conversation and penetrating Ash's rumination. "At the very least, Kanto has been threatened, and that threat is what birthed the Master Ball."

"Therefore…" interrupted Robert as he fixed his suit, "to answer your question that originally started this conversation, Ash, the Master Ball's existence is absolutely necessary. Despite the trouble it has caused us, we would be in a much more hopeless position if it hadn't been created. Its value is priceless. If it wasn't, Team Rocket wouldn't have come out of hiding to try and attain it."

Ash simply nodded his head. It seemed as though all of the trouble he had been through over the past couple of weeks was for a lot bigger of a purpose than he had originally thought. He hadn't just helped save Robert. He hadn't just helped shutdown Team Rocket's greed and deny them a fancy capture device. He had been a part of protecting the region, which was something way bigger than himself.

"So, now that we know all of this," said Bill, "is there anything we can do to help?"

Robert shook his head before answering. "At the moment, no, there isn't. Once we get more information, we will revisit this topic. As for now, let's show the boys the rest of headquarters, so that they can get going. I wasn't expecting to have this conversation with them yet, and I don't want to hold them up on their individual journeys any longer."

"I agree," added Sabrina as she ran her fingers through her hair, "there is nothing we can do about any of this until we learn more."

"Which is entirely up to you and your psychic powers," retorted Bill as he stuffed his hands in his pockets and formed a sarcastic smirk. "No pressure."

Sabrina shook her head in annoyance while Robert interjected.

"I know this has been a lot to process for all of you," said the head of the Montgomery family, "but it's really important that you continue to live life in pursuit of your dreams. Time will unveil your roles in all of this, and everything will work out. Let Sebastian and I worry about all of the little details, and when something big comes up, we will let you know. For now, let's get moving."

"Okay," said Ash as he tried to ingest all of the information that had just been thrown around.

"Understood," stammered Austin with an overwhelmed expression on his face.

Ash readjusted his backpack as it became clear that after the long conversation, they were about to start moving again.

"It was nice meeting you guys," said Sebastian as he eyed Ash and Austin, "and after the conversation we just had, I'm sure I will see you again. I'm going to hang back in the vault for a bit. I have some notes filed away in here that I would like to review."

"Nice meeting you, too," retorted Austin as he reached out to shake Sebastian's hand, who quickly reciprocated the gesture.

"Thanks for being open with us," inserted Ash as he intercepted and shook Sebastian's hand before the scientist had a chance to return it to his side.

"Of course," retorted Sebastian, "any friends of Robert are friends of mine. It was nice getting to talk about my work."

Ash smiled at that while Robert spoke up. "Thanks for your time, Sebastian. See you soon."

"Mhmm…" replied Sebastian as Robert began to lead the group out of the vault.

Right as Ash and the rest of the group were about to reach the door, the ten-year-old boy heard Sebastian's voice call out from behind them.

"Hey, Mr. Ketchum!" bellowed Sebastian, causing Ash to quickly turn around. "Don't forget to look into that stuff about you being the Chosen One! Just in case you really are, I think you should find out as soon as possible!"

"Gotcha'!" retorted Ash, with a wave, before turning around and continuing to follow the group outside of the vault.

Sebastian was right. He needed to look into the fact that he may be part of an ancient prophecy. However, for now, he wanted to focus back in on touring Silph Co. headquarters.

He couldn't look into the prophecy until he got a copy from Bill anyways, and presently there was nothing he could accomplish in regard to Team Rocket's abomination, so he figured he might as well focus in on the here and now.

In his opinion, that was the best thing he could do.

XXX

After seeing the rest of the impressive upper labs, Ash found himself standing in front of Robert's personal desk, which was pushed up against the far wall of the building's luxurious top floor.

Robert's office was a lot smaller than the rest of the floors, but that didn't mean it was any less interesting.

They stood atop magnificent pearly white tile, and for the most part, the walls consisted of sturdy, transparent glass, gracing them with a beautiful view of the city. The only two walls that didn't consist of glass were the wall that bore the elevator and the wall directly behind Robert's desk.

The two walls that weren't made out of glass were actually Ash's favorite features in the room. They were designed similarly to the Montgomery Lighthouse's front door, albeit the walls depicted hieroglyphic-like images of what appeared to be every pokemon known to Kanto, instead of just fully-evolved species.

Painted on the ceiling was a ravishing mural, nearly identical to the painting of the three elemental birds of legend at the Montgomery Lighthouse. The only differences included its size and colors. The mural was massive, occupying the entirety of the top floor's ceiling, whereas the colors were much brighter and appealing to his eyes.

Displaced around the room were multiple pieces of standing décor.

There were a couple of life-sized statues of pokemon. The one that stood out to Ash the most was a granite carved statue of a dragonair that was coiled up alongside Robert's desk. Its eyes were made out of sapphires, causing it to have a noteworthy air of mystique.

In addition, there was a large, marble globe in the center of the room. Ash didn't really get a chance to examine it, but hopefully once Robert was done giving them their gifts, he would let them explore the room a little bit before they took off.

Ash didn't know when he would get another chance to see Robert's office, so he figured he should get a good look while he had the opportunity.

"Well, boys…" said Robert as he sat down in the most extravagant swivel chair Ash had ever seen, "what did you think of Silph Co. headquarters?"

"It was amazing," retorted Ash as he spotted Austin, out of the corner of his eye, staring at the two small, exquisitely wrapped presents sitting on top of Robert's immaculate desk.

"Yeah," stammered Austin, "it was unbelievable. Thank you for showing us."

"No thanks necessary," said Robert with a giant grin, "the fact that you enjoyed yourselves is all that matters."

Ash and Austin both smiled at Robert's comment before Bill spoke up.

"What was your favorite part?" asked Bill. "Is there anything that specifically stood out to the both of you?"

"The Master Ball," answered both of the boys, in unison, without batting an eye.

"Really?" questioned Robert. "Even considering the serious chat that we had?"

Both boys nodded as they looked at each other.

"Other than the initial shock of the disappearances, I think we're just happy to know the truth," said Ash.

"Yeah, we've suspected that the existence of the Master Ball had to do with Legendaries for a while now," retorted Austin as he turned his attention over to Ash. "Neither of us knew the severity of the situation, but now that we've had a little bit of time to process things, I think we're relieved that we know what's going on."

"Yup," said Ash, "but just because it was our favorite part doesn't mean that I want to keep talking about it. I don't know if it's just me, but I'm tired of serious talk. I just want to enjoy my last moments with you guys before I hit the road again."

"Same," added Austin as both boys used their eyes to survey the group.

"Understandable," said Robert. "Anyways, other than what occurred on the fourteenth floor, is there anything else in particular that you liked?"

Ash took a moment to reflect on everything that he had seen while Austin answered immediately.

"I liked the factory," blurted Austin. "I thought it was interesting to see how efficient everything was. It was the first time I've ever seen anything like that before."

"Ah, yes, the factory is definitely an interesting place to visit," explained Robert. "It shines a light on all of the hard work that goes into making most of the items that you use on a daily basis."

They nodded in agreement as Robert pivoted his focus over to Ash.

"What about you, Ash?"

"I really liked the TM Lab," said the ten-year-old boy. "There were a lot of cool things in there."

"Yeah," replied Robert, "the TM Lab is rather sensational, and the scientists I've got working in there are brilliant. It's almost impossible to walk out of that place without being impressed by what they have accomplished. They're quite the overachieving group."

Ash nodded his head once again to what the billionaire CEO had to say before Bill interrupted.

"Those are two of my favorite floors to visit as well," said Bill. "I don't think I could pick one over the other, though."

He paused as he shifted his line of sight over to his father.

"Anyhow...Dad, what do you think? Should Ash and Austin open their gifts now? I know they're dying to find out what is inside, and it's about time for them to get going. We don't want to waste anymore daylight. If we wait too much longer, it'll be dark before they reach city limits."

"The idiot's right," added Sabrina, speaking for the first time since they entered Robert's office, "the boys' thoughts are starting to stir. They're ready to see what is inside the boxes. Besides, if you want to take them to the roof, we've got to get moving. Daylight is a precious thing while on the road, and I'm afraid this tour has taken way longer than originally anticipated. If we wait around too much longer, they'll be forced to leave tomorrow, unless they want to travel in the dark."

Ash watched Bill huff at the fact that Sabrina called him an idiot while Austin responded to Sabrina. He also couldn't help but smile at the fact that he was going to get to go to the very top of Silph Co. headquarters. The dark-haired boy knew that very few people got the opportunity to look out from the highest point in all of Saffron.

It was supposed to be one of the greatest experiences Kanto had to offer. Ash had to admit, despite all of the trouble he had gotten himself into at this point in his journey, he had also been extremely lucky. Not everyone got the opportunities that he did, and experiences such as this one were important to him.

Not only was it his dream to be a pokemon master, but he also wanted to see everything that his home region had to offer, and thus far, he was well on his way to accomplishing that goal.

"Yeah…" drawled Austin, "there's no way I'm going to fly to Johto at night. That's way too sketch. I trust Fearow's eyes, but still…"

"That would just be stupid," retorted Ash as he severed his rumination, "especially since you're going to be flying over Mt. Silver."

He took a breath as he reflexively placed his hand over Growlithe's pokeball.

"I don't plan on traveling in the dark either," said Ash, "but I'm anxious to sleep under the stars with my friends again. It's been way too long. I definitely want to hit the road today."

"I understand," retorted Robert with soft eyes. "There's no need for you to convince me."

He paused as he made a small hand gesture towards the beautifully wrapped gifts, "Go ahead. Open them."

Both boys' expressions brightened up on account of anticipation. They simultaneously reached forward before exclusively picking up one of the gifts that were right in front of them. Neither of the gifts had names on them, and Robert didn't correct them, so Ash figured there wasn't an issue in regard to which gift belonged to whom.

Once they each had their present in hand, it didn't take long for Austin to start ripping apart the golden wrapping paper like a kindergartener on their birthday.

Despite the hilarity in the scene, Ash wasn't surprised in the least. Austin had shown him numerous times that he was extremely materialistic, and there are very few things more exciting to a materialistic person than opening up a present.

Nevertheless, although he was internally making fun of Austin for behaving like a five-year-old, Ash proceeded to follow suit, tearing off the wrapping paper with zero regard for its precedent artistry. He was a kid after all. What else was he supposed to do? The wrapping paper would just be thrown away after anyway…

When the golden paper that had covered the gifts had been completely removed from what it was once concealing, two small, black boxes were unveiled. They looked almost identical to the TM box that Sabrina had given him after their match, albeit the bold, white, printed words read, "Silph Co".

"What's this?" asked Ash as he held the black box in his hands.

"Open it up and find out," replied Robert with a smirk while leaning back in his desk chair.

"Huh?" questioned Austin, causing Ash to quickly open the box before his friend spoiled the surprise, "a gift card?"

Just like Austin, Ash was confused. Inside of the box was a plastic, platinum colored card. The dark-haired boy removed it from the box to exam it further. What he found was that it had no detailed features. It wasn't like a credit card or a debit card. There was no name or company etched into it. It had a magnetic stripe on the back, but other than that it was blank, consisting of nothing but its platinum shade.

"I don't mean to be rude," said Ash, "but I don't get it. What is this card for? It's blank."

"Yeah," added Austin as he carefully observed both sides of his card, "I'm confused…what do we do with it?"

Robert smirked as he sat up in his chair and placed his elbows on his desk. "Well, my lads, those are Silph Co. Platinum Cards. Never let them out of your sight. They have just become the most valuable item the two of you own."

"The most valuable item we own?" asked Austin as he held his Platinum Card in between his index and middle finger, "but it's just a piece of plastic…"

"True," said Robert with a smile as he pointed at the card in Austin's hand, "it is just a piece of plastic. However, what that piece of plastic can do is head and shoulders above any other gift I could give you. The Silph Co. Platinum Card has just opened up the door to all kinds of new possibilities for you guys. Less than forty people in all of Kanto have one of those, and all of them are either high-ranking League officials or top shelf Silph Co. employees."

He paused as he took a breath and leaned back in his chair, "You two are now the youngest people in the world that have been issued one of those by me."

"Okay…" drawled Ash as he kept his eyes glued on the shiny piece of plastic, "so obviously it has a special purpose…"

"A special purpose," spat Robert with a quirky smile, "that would be an understatement. Those two cards give you free access to anything that can be bought at a pokemart and then some. All you have to do is show your card at any pokemart or Silph Co. owned company, and they will give you whatever you want for free."

"Anything we want…" drawled Austin, completely entranced by what Robert had just said.

"…For free" added Ash, equally as shocked.

"Yup," retorted Robert, "pretty mu—"

"There are only two exceptions," interjected Bill as he held an identical Platinum Card up to the boys, showing them that he had one of his own, which didn't surprise Ash.

He was Bill Montgomery, Robert Montgomery's son; of course he was one of the select few that got to carry a Silph Co. Platinum Card.

"Exception number one is actually more of a comparative rule of thumb than an exception," said Bill. "Be reasonable with how many items you get at one time. Other trainers need to buy supplies at the pokemarts too. Don't completely clear the shelves. I know it'll be hard not to overstock your supplies, but try and be respectful."

"Good point, Bill," added Robert while he winked at the boys. "We're placing a lot of trust in you guys. Trainers need supplies, and Silph Co. still needs to make a profit. Don't run rampant with those cards. Take care of the company, and we'll take care of you, got it."

"No problemo," said Austin—his eyes sparkling as he continued to examine the Platinum Card. "I promise not to go crazy with it."

"Same," inserted Ash with a look of gratitude. "You can trust me."

"Of course I can," said Robert. "I never thought for a second that I couldn't."

He paused as he turned his attention back over to Bill.

"Anyways, Bill, would you please finish what you started? Tell them what the other exception is."

"Sure," retorted Bill as he leaned up against his father's desk and looked the boys in the eyes. "Exception number two is much more concrete and will not require any diligence to abide by. The Platinum Card cannot be used to acquire TMs. I'm afraid from this day forward it is the only Silph Co. product that you will still have to pay for."

"Why's that?" asked a bemused Austin.

"Yeah," said Ash, "I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but why are TMs the only items that are off-limits?"

"Well, there are a couple of reasons," retorted Bill, "but the primary reason that the Platinum Card won't work for TMs is because it is our only product with more than one developer. Silph Co. only owns half of all TMs' copyright. Therefore, it is against the law for us to give away any TMs that haven't previously been purchased. It would cause friction in our partnership with Zeta Corp, whose scientists are partially responsible for the birth of the first Technical Machine."

As soon as Bill mentioned the name Zeta Corp, a light bulb went off in Ash's head. This, of course, wasn't new knowledge to the ten-year-old boy. Zeta Corp was another large-scale, global corporation that operated out of multiple regions across the world. It wasn't quite as big and influential as Silph Co., albeit you would have to be living under a rock not to know its name.

Like Silph Co., it was a trainer-oriented company, although it focused primarily on the production of apparel. Nevertheless, Zeta Corp had its scientists, and every once in a while, they would come out with a product that was more revolutionary towards the progression of the pokemon trainer such as TMs.

Ash remembered reading somewhere that the first TM was actually designed by a Zeta Corp scientist, but they didn't have the proper technology to manufacture it. Zeta Corp did specialize in clothing and accessories after all. Despite the fact that it had a department of science that didn't mean that it had the resources to develop something like a TM.

No, Zeta Corp's science department was more suited to come out with things like customized pokemon food and vitamins. In order to properly manufacture something as complex and big as TMs, they would have to bring in another party. That's when the partnership between Silph Co. and Zeta Corp was established.

The CEO of Zeta Corp, whose name presently alluded Ash's memory, reached out to Robert Montgomery. And Robert, being the revolutionary that he is, obviously jumped all over the opportunity.

The rest is history. Zeta Corp and Silph Co. have shared a healthy relationship for quite some time now, having collaborated in regard to TMs ever since their birth.

"Oh, that's right…" drawled Ash, "I knew that. In that case, I understand. It only makes sense that you would need Zeta Corp's approval for something like the authorization of free TMs."

Austin simply nodded his head, probably finding Ash's response suitable enough.

"Correct," retorted Robert, taking back control of the conversation from Bill, "and that is something that I don't quite feel comfortable asking Sage. His company isn't quite as financially secure as ours at the moment, and I would rather not stir the pot in any way, shape or form. Our relationship is good right now. I'd like to keep it that way."

As soon as Robert said the name Sage, Ash was able to put a full name together. The name of Zeta Corp's active CEO was Sage Zeller: head of the Zeller family. Ash didn't know too much about him, other than the fact that he was the face of the Zeller family, which is one of the richest families in the world.

"I get it," said Ash, "there's no need to justify yourself. Thank you for this gift. TMs or not, it is more than I deserve. I couldn't be happier."

"Good," replied Robert. "That puts a smile to my face."

He paused as he locked his eyes on Austin.

"What about you, Mr. Turner?" queried Robert with one eyebrow raised. "Are you happy with your reward?"

"Please!" scoffed Austin, "Of course, I am! This is awesome!"

Robert smiled as both of the boys shined bright with genuine gratitude.

"Besides, free TMs might have been a bit overboard anyway," said Sabrina with a small smile of her own. "Let's not make money completely irrelevant. This way, you have a little more incentive to beat traveling trainers. Of course, the desire for experience should always be enough motivation, but it's nice to know that you are working towards something else."

"Yeah," laughed Robert with a wink, "Sabrina is right."

He paused for a second.

"Also, Ash, don't forget where you're headed. Not only is the Celadon Department store in your near future, but so is the Game Corner. There are some awesome prizes that you can earn if you are willing to fork up some cash, including rare pokemon. Now that you have a Platinum Card, you can use that to get essentials. Have a little bit of fun. Take some risks with your earnings from the SS Anne, it could pay off."

Ash would be the first to admit, he wasn't much of a risk taker when it came to something like money, but Robert had a point. Now that he had a Platinum Card, money was no longer a crutch.

Of course, getting third place in the SS Anne tournament had given him a pretty big cushion. However, that didn't change the fact that money had a way of getting away from people, especially if you weren't careful with it.

However, as of right now, that cushion had just gone from big to colossal. No matter what balance his trainer money management account read, he would always have his Platinum Card. The means to survival were now free, leaving him with plenty of leeway to use his money on luxury items and recreation.

He'd heard plenty of stories about trainers walking away from the Game Corner with incredibly rare pokemon. Now, he had an opportunity to be one of those trainers. He wouldn't be stupid. He wouldn't blow all of his money, but he could now afford to spend a good chunk of it.

"Damn…" cursed Austin, flashing Ash a look of jealousy, "Celadon would be your next destination. How lucky can you get? You're going to have so much fun with all of that cash, especially now that you don't have to worry about how much you spend."

Ash responded with a chuckle, "Ah, come on…don't be like that. No one's saying you can't come with me."

"I wish," angled Austin, "unfortunately, if I want to compete it the Silver Conference, I can't wait any longer. I'm already three weeks behind schedule because of everything that has happened. I have zero regrets, I'd do it all over again if I had the choice, but I have to get back to Johto ASAP."

"I know," Ash snickered, "I was just kidding. Besides, it's not like all of your prize money is going anywhere. You can always make a trip with Fearow once you get all of your badges."

"True," said Austin with a devious look in his eyes, "I could, couldn't I—"

"Boys," interjected Robert, "I don't mean to interrupt, but if you want to hit the road before dark, we really should get going. That is, if you guys still want to go up to the roof. If not, take your time."

"We're done," retorted Ash."

"Yup," said Austin, "I have nothing left to say."

"Alrighty then," cackled Robert as he stood up from his desk chair. "Well, now that you've received your Platinum Cards, let's finish the tour."

Everyone nodded before following Robert out of his office and back over to the elevator.

XXX

"Wow, Growlithe, look at all of that," said Ash as he and his starter looked out at the city from the roof of Silph Co. headquarters.

Growlithe let out a playful yip while soaking in the beautiful scenery. The pup had his head poking through the railing in order to get the best view possible.

It was wondrous. The sun was still shining radiantly in the sky, and the temperature was absolutely perfect. It was a little windy, but that didn't deter him from the moment. In fact, it actually enhanced the mystique of the setting, giving Silph Co. an overwhelming resemblance to the peak of a great mountain—except, instead of a rural valley, they were looking out at a bustling cityscape.

The others were scattered about, enjoying their own moment on top of what felt like the world.

Austin was basking in the view with Golduck by his side, whereas Robert and Bill were getting some quality father and son time on the opposite side of the roof.

Sabrina was the closest to Ash in terms of proximity, albeit she seemed the furthest away because of the way she stared at the sprawling city as if there was nothing else that existed.

"What a great way to close out our time here," said Ash, leaning up against the roof's thick metal railing, "so much happened here. It's kind of surreal to think that we're finally leaving."

The puppy pokemon let out a decisive grunt that signified that he agreed with what his trainer had said. Growlithe had been with Ash since the beginning, and he knew more than anyone that their time in Saffron had been different than everywhere else.

They had been involved in things that weren't even on their radar when they had first started out on their journey. Saffron had forced them to grow up. It had exposed them to a whole new side of the life that they lived, plunging them into the thick of evil plots, League matters and primordial legends.

Saffron was an important benchmark in their adventure together, and no matter how many times they revisited it, they would never forget their first experience, putting their lives on the line in order to stop Team Rocket.

However, even though a lot had happened in Saffron, Ash was practically salivating at the thought of setting out for Celadon. As he gazed out at the lively city, his craving for contingency ricocheted against every fragment of his existence. He wanted to see new places. He wanted to meet new pokemon, and he wanted to discover the depths of his pokemon's potential.

It was time to move forward. He had been stagnant for way too long.

"Take one last look, Growlithe," said Ash as he kept his eyes fastened on Saffron, "It's time to go."

Growlithe didn't make a sound as Ash could practically feel him immersing himself within the moment.

The ten-year-old boy gave his first pokemon a couple more minutes to enjoy the view before giving him a soft pat on the head.

"Come on," chirped Ash with a smile, "It's time to say goodbye to the others."

Growlithe nodded as he gave his trainer his undivided attention. The view was nice, but his yearning for the road shifted his focus in a second.

XXX

"Good luck, Ash," said Austin as he stood in front of the elevator. "Have a fun trip to Celadon. Keep in touch."

Just like the teenager had promised earlier, he wanted to stop by Sushi Deluxe before he departed. It was pretty obvious to Ash that Austin had a fascination with sushi, judging by the fact that he was still trying to fit it in his schedule even though the sun was nearing its time of descent.

"Thanks, I'll give you a call sometime soon," retorted Ash. "Have a safe trip to Johto. Take the Silver League by storm."

"Oh, I will," crowed Austin with a wink. "No doubt about it. Also, make sure to let me know if anything weird happens. Between Sabrina's palm reading and all of that prophecy crap, it's pretty clear that there will be a lot on our plate in the future."

"That's for sure," replied Ash, "I'll also let you know if anything happens involving that creation of Team R—"

"Don't worry about that right now," interrupted Robert, grasping both of the boys' shoulders. "We'll keep you filled in. Just focus on your journeys for now."

Both boys nodded as they sensed the sincerity in the elder Montgomery's voice.

There was a quick moment of silence, while they assimilated the sudden surge of seriousness, before Bill terminated the quiet atmosphere.

"Sayonara, Austin," said Bill with a solemn look on his face.

Ash's thoughts immediately shifted back to the time he was leaving the Montgomery Lighthouse. Back then, Bill had gotten extremely emotional when Ash was saying goodbye.

Once again, Ash could tell that a similar experience was about to unfold. After all, Bill was the most overemotional man he knew. What kind of goodbye would it be if a few Montgomery tears weren't shed?

"See you later, Bill," said Austin. "It was nice getting to know you. Call me if anything comes up. You've got my number."

"W-will do, my friend," stammered Bill as he clearly fought back tears. "It w-was nice getting to know you as well."

The melodramatic pokemon researcher proceeded to lean over and give Austin a hug, sniffling throughout the entire process. Ash couldn't help but snicker under his breath. Austin's confused face was way too priceless. Despite all of the time that Austin had spent with Bill over the past week, it was clear that the billionaire researcher's theatrical personality could still catch him off guard.

"This is unbearable," interjected Sabrina in an emotionless voice. "Give the child some space, idiot. No one wants to get smothered in your causeless emotions."

In response to Sabrina's harsh words, Bill instantly let go of Austin and turned around with a face full of anger. "What did you say, witch!?"

"I said stop acting like a pubescent teenager," retorted Sabrina with a look of amusement on her face. "It's repulsive."

Right before Bill erupted, Robert quickly jumped in between the two quarreling siblings. "Bloody hell, both of you, shut it! Now is not the time. We're saying goodbye to a friend."

Both of them glanced over at eAustin, who was trying his hardest not to explode with laughter.

Sabrina was the first to shape up as she quickly realized that she was acting just as childish as Bill. "Sorry about that, Austin Turner. I wish you the best of luck during your travels and eagerly await seeing you again in the near future."

Ash watched as Austin couldn't help but shake his head and chuckle, "Bye, Sabrina, thank you for everything you've done for us."

"Likewise," retorted Sabrina before getting interrupted by a slightly less enraged Bill.

"Yeah…sorry about the outburst," apologized Bill as he gestured towards Sabrina. "I just can't help it sometimes; she rubs me the wrong way."

Austin laughed. "It's okay. The two of you crack me up. I'm actually going to miss this."

"Same," added Ash as he smiled and looked over both Bill and Sabrina.

This time, Sabrina actually managed to refrain from verbally retaliating. It was pretty obvious that she didn't handle being scolded by Robert very well.

Ash's train of thought was interrupted when Robert began to say goodbye to Austin.

The elder Montgomery held his hand out to Austin, who immediately reciprocated the gesture. "Fly safely, my lad, and have a splendid time in Johto. There are a lot of amazing places to see, and the pokemon are fascinating. If you need anything, give me a call."

"Thanks, Mr. Montgomery, I'll call if anything comes up…"

He paused as a small smile crept up onto his mug.

"Don't go getting yourself kidnapped again," jested the teenager. "I'd rather not have to make another trip to Kanto for a while."

Robert chuckled as he grasped Austin's shoulder. "Trust me, child, it won't happen again."

"I'll hold you to that," chided Austin as Robert lifted his hand from his shoulder. "Anyways, I'm gonna get rollin'. If I don't go now, I'll be spending another night in Saffron."

He pivoted his eyes from Robert and focused them solely on Ash, "Next time I see you, we'll have a rematch. I'm expecting a better battle than what we had on the SS Anne."

"Absolutely," retorted the dark-haired boy as he watched one of his best friends back up into the open elevator.

The teenager smiled as he pressed one of the buttons on the elevator's control panel. "I'll be waiting..."

A smile formed on Ash's face as the elevator door closed, and his friend was no longer standing in front of him.

He was quiet for a moment as he reflected on Austin's absence before he was jolted back to reality by the sound of Sabrina's monotonous voice.

"Well, are you guys ready?" questioned Sabrina. "Now that we've said goodbye to Austin Turner, I'll teleport us to the western edge of the city. We can say goodbye to Ash Ketchum there."

A grin stretched across his face as he once again relished in the fact that Sabrina would be rescuing him from a tedious trip out of the city. She had offered to teleport him on their way down from the roof, and he couldn't be happier about it.

"I'm ready whenever you guys are," retorted Ash.

"Go ahead, Sabrina," added Robert.

"Give me a second to prepare myself!" blurted Bill, "teleportation makes me sic—"

Sabrina didn't even give Bill a chance to finish his sentence as they vanished in a flash of incandescent light.

XXX

"Route Seven is a straight shot to Celadon," said Sabrina as they stood outside of Saffron City's western gate, staring ahead at the large expanse of rural terrain. "Just keep going west and you'll eventually get there. If you travel from sunrise to sunset at a good pace, you could make it in about a week. However, that is a bit unrealistic. Without looking into the future, I estimate it will take you about a week and a half."

Ash simply nodded his head; Sabrina wasn't telling him anything that he hadn't already figured out on his own.

"Well, Ash my lad, for the time being, I guess this is it," said Robert in a sincere tone, initiating the farewell. "I wish you the best of luck during your trip, and like I said to Austin, do not hesitate to call if you need anything."

"See you soon, Robert," retorted Ash with a smile as he reached for Growlithe's pokeball, which was fastened around his trainer belt like usual. "Thanks for everything. I'll keep in touch…

He paused before continuing, "Stay away from Team Rocket."

"Will do, my boy," answered Robert while reaching down and ruffling Ash's hair. "Don't worry about me. Team Rocket may have fooled me once, but it won't happen again. Just worry about taking care of yourself."

Ash let out a brief bit of laughter in response to Robert before Sabrina began to utter a goodbye of her own.

"Farewell, Ash Ketchum," started Sabrina, "I have thoroughly enjoyed the time that we have spent together. I have high expectations of you moving forward. Continue to walk the path that destiny has set out for you. Whether you are just another cog in the grand scheme of things, or you are the fated Chosen One, continue to grow. The potential I have seen in our short amount of time together is impressive…"

She habitually ran her fingers through her hair while a rare smile formed across her delicate face, "Call the gym if you need help teaching Haunter how to properly use Psychic. Also, make sure that Clefairy and Haunter get plenty of time to meditate. Their mental barrier training will be for naught if you don't do anything to maintain the foundation that we have already built."

"Bye, Sabrina," said Ash. "I've enjoyed our time together as well, and I will try my best to grasp destiny's plan for me. I'll definitely give Clefairy and Haunter time to meditate, and I'll be sure to call the gym if I need help with Haunter."

"Last but not least…" replied Sabrina, "let me remind you to keep your eyes peeled for wild abra on your way to Celadon. They're rare, but you wouldn't be the first person to run into one on Route Seven. If you are one of the lucky few to find one, do not hesitate to have Haunter use Mean Look. Wild abra are very jittery and non-confrontational. They will teleport away in a heartbeat. The key to catching one is Mean Look, and your Haunter has that ability. Take advantage of it. The abra line would be a great addition to your team. Trust me."

"I'll keep all of that in mind," answered Ash as he handled Growlithe's pokeball in preparation to release him.

Ash couldn't wait to hit the road with his best friend by his side, especially since he hadn't gotten to spend much time with him today. There were too many rules involving which floors allowed pokemon, and which floors didn't, within Silph Co. headquarters that Ash figured it would be easier if he just let Growlithe rest.

Travel and training would be rigorous over the next week or so anyways. Therefore, Growlithe could use the time off of his feet. When they were on the road, his puppy pokemon was always by his side. Unlike the others, he didn't get many opportunities to rejuvenate inside of his pokeball.

Thus, other than the brief amount of time they had spent together on top of the world, today had been a rather dull day in terms of spending time with Growlithe. He couldn't wait to make up for lost time.

"Ash," drawled Bill as he abruptly stumbled out of a thick patch of brushwood.

Bill had barreled out of sight immediately after they passed through Sabrina's teleportation. He had muttered something about how he had to puke and had been gone for the past five minutes.

There were a couple of times that Ash thought he heard the sound of someone hurling in the distance, but he wrote it off as a squawking pidgey or spearow. It sounded way too inhuman to be Bill, but maybe he was wrong.

"A-Ash, I'm going to miss you," stammered Bill—sweat dripping from his face. "Have fun on your journey. I'll give you a call as soon as I get back to the lighthouse."

An uncomfortable expression crawled across Ash's mug as a sweaty Bill wrapped him up in a big hug.

"I-I'll miss you too, Bill," managed Ash as he tried to wiggle his way outside of Bill's grasp, "but I'm sure we'll see each other soon."

"You promise?!" blurted Bill as he reluctantly let go of his dearest friend.

He let out a sigh in response to Bill's overdramatic behavior. "Yes, Bill, I promise."

As soon as Ash finished his sentence, Bill quickly wiped the tears that we're starting to fall from his eyes, "Bloody hell, Ash, why didn't you say so earlier!? You got me crying for no reason."

Ash scratched the back of his head in reaction to Bill's outlandish behavior as he watched Sabrina and Robert roll their eyes out of his peripherals.

"Anyways…" said Ash as he pressed the release button on Growlithe's pokeball, "I'm sure Growlithe would like to say goodbye. After all, you're his friend as well."

Another series of tears began to cascade from Bill's eyes as Growlithe appeared in a flash. "Shit, I'm such a blighter—how could I have forgotten about my good friend Growlithe?!"

Bill crouched down and gave Growlithe a hug as he blubbered out a plethora of indecipherable nonsense. The things Bill said were hard enough to understand when he was emotionally sober. When the Pokemon researcher was having one of his frequent dramatic outbursts, it was almost impossible to make sense of him, especially when he had his face buried within Growlithe's thick fur.

Ash couldn't help but laugh at Bill's antics and the look of confusion that was depicted amidst Growlithe's current expression. Under normal circumstances, he would have let the moment drag out until either Growlithe got extremely annoyed or Bill got too tired to continue. However, right now wasn't a good time. He only had about another hour of daylight left, and he'd rather not setup camp so close to Saffron.

"Alright, Bill, I think that's enough," managed Ash in between laughter. "Growlithe and I really need to get going."

"Oh…alright," groaned Bill as he let go of Growlithe and took a couple of steps backward towards Robert and Sabrina.

The puppy pokemon proceeded to give Ash a quizzical look that half portrayed gratitude for saving him from Bill's animated clutches, but also cursed him for putting him in that situation in the first-place.

Ash just smirked. Despite the strange look Growlithe gave him, he knew he would have been more upset if he didn't give the fire-type the opportunity to say goodbye. As a matter of fact, he still vividly recalled the time that Growlithe had gotten mad at him because he didn't give the pup an opportunity to say hello to Bill over the xtranceiver.

Ash's thoughts were permeated when Sabrina, out of respect for Ash, got the attention of Bill and Robert. "Okay, now would be an appropriate time to leave Ash Ketchum be. Prepare your minds for teleportation; I will take us back to headquarters."

"Mother of—" managed Bill before erupting in the bright flash of radiant light that corresponded to Sabrina's teleportation.

Ash took a brief moment to process that his friends no longer stood in front of him before looking down at Growlithe. "Well, that was rather sudden."

The puppy pokemon let out a bewildered yip, agreeing with his best friend.

"So, they're gone…" Ash sighed as he looked down at the ground, "I'm going to miss them."

Growlithe retorted by cuddling up next to Ash's leg and releasing a quiet murmur, acknowledging Ash's doleful feelings.

The dark-haired boy leaned over and scratched his starter behind the ears while looking him in the eyes, "It's okay, buddy. We'll see them again soon. Besides, this moment should be exciting. We're off to Celadon: home of our first real gym battle!"

Growlithe's countenance immediately brightened up, mirroring his trainer.

The ten-year-old boy proceeded to stand up from his crouched position, adjusting his hat throughout the process.

He laid his eyes on the great, untamed domain that resided in front of him before taking a step forward.

"Follow me, Growlithe, we're headed west."

XXX

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