28 Doubts - Part 2
Machop smashed its arms into the Deceiver Pokémon, which caused it to keel over, clearly knocked out. As Machop and Haunter retreated back to their trainer, clearly worn out from the battle, Janina recalled her Mawile with a smile on her face. Before they could ask why, there was a roar. Onix reared its head and glared at the two Pokémon in front of him.
"Congratulations on defeating Mawile." Janina complimented Sam and Mellanie. "Yet you haven't beaten Onix yet, and your Pokémon are tired." As if in agreement, Onix roared loudly.
"Onix, Rock Slide."
"Haunter, fly above it and use Shadow Ball." Sam ordered.
"Machop, dodge." Mellanie commanded with a grin.
Machop looked back at its trainer, before registering the grin on her face. He surged at the sliding rocks, leaping from rock to rock, completely negating Onix's attack. Janina's eyes widened in shock, and she froze for a crucial moment. Haunters Shadow Ball smashed into the Rock Snake Pokémon, and as Onix recovered, he found Haunter directly in front of him.
"Hypnosis followed by Dream Eater." Sam commanded.
Unable to look away quickly enough, Onix was soon caught by Haunters Hypnosis once again, but this time as he slumped, Haunters eyes glowed and a shadow flew through Onix. Whilst the attack drained a great deal of health, Onix remained asleep.
"Cross Chop" said Mellanie with a smile.
Machop smashed into Onix and sent the Pokémon skidding back across the field. Onix wearily reared its head, before lowering it again as it felt the pain of the attacks. Before it could recover any more, Haunter sent a final Shadow Ball into Onix, causing the Pokémon to crash to the ground once again. Machop closed in, before Janina called out.
"Stop!" Machop skidded to a halt in front of his opponent, before looking at Mellanie in surprise. Janina held out a Pokéball, and recalled Onix. "I forfeit. I was unable to win that fight. Congratulations to both of you."
She stepped away from the field, and Mellanie and Sam looked at each other, before grinning. They then heard a voice from across the room. "Don't celebrate too early; you still have to defeat me." They turned and saw Jasmine stepping into the trainer's box. "And believe me; I'm better than Janina, although she is getting very good. Steelix, Magneton, this is yours."
Mellanie and Sam quickly recalled their own Pokémon as an even larger snake appeared on the field, Magneton next to it. Sam didn't even think, before he threw out a Pokéball. "Quilava, I choose you!"
Mellanie took slightly longer, looking down at her belt. Eventually she pulled out a Pokéball and threw it.
"Geodude, come on out!"
As the Pokémon appeared in front of her, he sized up Steelix, who simply grinned down at him. Quilava simply smirked at Magneton.
As the attacks fired in, Magneton simply floated above everything, before looking down at the battling Pokémon, whilst Jasmine simply smiled. As the smoke cleared, Steelix was gone and Quilava and Geodude were looking around for him, the only evidence being a hole in the ground.
"Thunder." The gym leader stated calmly.
"Geodude intercept it!"
As Magneton fired a Thunder down at the two Pokémon, Geodude was able to get in the way and took virtually no damage, whilst Quilava's Flamethrower caught the Magnet Pokémon off-guard. Magneton fell towards the ground, but Jasmine's smile was unshaken.
The Iron Snake Pokémon surged out from underground, wrapping his tail around Magneton and flinging his partner at Quilava, whilst throwing himself at Geodude. Magneton was sparkling with electricity as he closed in on the Volcano Pokémon. As the two Pokémon reached their targets there were explosions. As the smoke cleared, Sam and Mellanie could be seen to be grinning along with their Pokémon. Magneton was lying on the ground, clearly knocked out, whilst Steelix had been sent reeling back across the room. For the first time in the battle, Jasmine's smile was wiped from her face.
"Geodude, Stone Edge."
Steelix roared in pain as the two attacks smashed into it, and crashed back to the ground. As he reared his head once again, his two opponents fired their attacks once more. This time there was no recovery, and Steelix lay on the ground knocked out as well. Jasmine shakily recalled both of her Pokémon, before moving out across the battlefield to shake her opponent's hands. Sam and Mellanie were grinning together,
"What happened?" Jasmine finally asked.
"Simple." Sam replied. "When you attacked, Quilava waited until Magneton was close then used Eruption. Magneton wasn't able to stand up to that kind of firepower, so was knocked out."
"And when Steelix tried to hit Geodude, Geodude dodged and then used Stone Edge to knock him back."
Jasmine was taken aback at the simple strategy that was so brutally effective. Laughing lightly, she handed the pair of them Mineral Badges, commenting that she had clearly underestimated them. Sam and Mellanie thanked her, before heading out of the Gym, and towards the port for a ferry to Cianwood City.
Ash Ketchum stood watching his Pokémon. They were training hard once again, as they invariably did in the aftermath of something that had caused them to miss training days. And there had been a lot of those in the last two weeks.
The removal of Cynthia a week ago had made Ash's job as Pokémon Master far, far harder. He knew that he needed a replacement for her, but he wasn't sure who. Cynthia was the best choice, and he knew that.
Yet her removal had been simple as far as he was concerned. The reasons he had given were sufficient, but there were more; she couldn't get away with challenging him. That would set a terrible precedent. He had to be the authority that was unquestionable in public. He had thought that she understood that, but she had not. And so she was replaced.
Espeon, firing Psybeams at Alakazam who was manipulating them and sending them back, started to intrude on his thoughts. She had been there when he had fired Cynthia. She had read the Sinnoh Champions mind, and that had shown Ash that whilst Cynthia did show remorse for her actions, she had been planning to ignore him all along. That was unacceptable. He hoped that Cynthia did understand that.
However, he also hoped that somebody would defeat her soon; he didn't want a disgruntled Champion, because that would instantly cause him to have a whole regions Elite Four unhappy as well. That did not fit into the Pokémon League Ash was trying to create.
He remembered when he had first set out on his journey, he had been utterly clueless.
He now knew that if he had the chance for proper guidance by somebody who he was forced to respect, he might have listened. Somebody beating him would be enough to give most kids respect for that person. As a result, the Gym Leaders were the perfect candidates for what he felt was needed; a group of people who were easy to get in contact with and yet skilled enough to teach.
There had been a few exceptions, and Ash had simply replaced them. He knew that he could have given them some warning, but equally that wasn't good enough for him. His Pokémon knew what he expected; nothing less than the absolute best. The new Gym Leaders were all strong trainers and all reliable.
And crucially, they owed him because he gave them their jobs. They would never go against him, never oppose his schemes unless they were proven to be bad. And that was what he needed. He didn't need his every move questioned, but he did appreciate that having people watch him wasn't necessarily a bad idea.
Ash turned and strode into the midst of his Pokémon. He wanted to train himself, and there was a perfect candidate. Machamp was a Pokémon that Ash enjoyed sparring with. The Superpower Pokémon was a fearsome opponent, especially since with his four arms he had an edge over Ash.
Yet when Ash used his aura, he was stronger, and so used that to his advantage; the only real advantage that he actually had. Machamp was just as quick as Ash, and as good at recovering. They tended to be quite close, although Machamp had never actually beaten Ash.
As Ash stopped in front of Machamp, the Pokémons eyes lit up. He always enjoyed sparring against his trainer. Respect for strength was something that he had always had, and Machamp had always struggled to work out why he could never beat this human.
Adopting a fighting stance in front of his Pokémon, Ash leapt forwards, crashing his fist down. Machamp caught the fist in one hand, and the arm in two more, managing to stop it, and hold Ash in the air, until the human's body rotated in the air, causing him to come down on the Pokémon.
Both rolled away, and threw themselves at each other once again.
After a few minutes, Machamp was struggling to keep up. Ash hadn't realised it, but the agitation he had felt since he had removed Cynthia, the fear that he was going to be forced into a desk role, organising things and not able to complete his planned revitalisation of the Pokémon League, all of it was causing him to move faster, hit harder and simply be stronger.
Ash almost never used his aura up to full strength, and he still wasn't here, but he was definitely using more than usual. The Pokémon around the sparring pair were in awe, both of their trainer and Machamp. None of them had ever had the chance to watch him fight like this, although he had done it before when he fought alongside them. Machamp was as supremely fit as the rest of the Pokémon, but even so, the pace of the fight and the numerous impacts he had received had caused him to slow just slightly.
That was all that Ash needed, as he ducked under an arm, with one of his, parried another one, and then leapt up, smashing his arm across Machamps chest. The Superpower Pokémon fell to the ground, and rolled to get up. Ash watching could see that Machamp had taken damage, but still wanted to continue. Despite this he simply stepped back.
The bout was over. The other Pokémon returned to their training and Ash stepped up to Machamp, using his aura to quickly heal the Pokémon's wounds. Machamp nodded his thanks, bowed to Ash which was returned and then turned to face Aggron in a training bout. Ash, smiling as he walked back through his Pokémon returned to his previous vantage point, but this time Espeon was at his side.
"What's wrong?" The Sun Pokémon asked. "You've never fought like that before."
Ash looked down at his Pokémon. "Don't worry Espeon; it won't happen again for a while. I was just thinking about a few things and so lost focus for a bit. Machamp will be fine; I think he rather enjoyed it."
Espeon just looked at her trainer, causing him to smile slightly. "I'm fine now. I have a couple of months at least until I can realistically make more changes, so I will wait. In fact, I will wait until after the Johto League, I will be able to make a speech highlighting any further changes I want to make to the Pokémon League. Until then, I guess it will just be business as usual."
Still unconvinced, Espeon looked at her trainer, and then padded away. The Sun Pokémon was annoyed as she started training once again. She wanted to see Ash redevelop his friendships, but he never had. He had just pushed away the only human he had ever allowed close in the time that she knew him. Espeon knew that she had to try to get him to forgive Cynthia, but also knew that even if he did, he would never take her back in the same role.
At most she could be a complete subordinate, with none of the autonomy that she had enjoyed, and Espeon knew that would never happen.
Steven strolled into Lance's office, receiving an irritated grin from the Dragon Master. It was something that Steven took great delight in doing, irritating his colleague. Lance gestured to the chair in front of him, before putting down the form in front of him.
"Steven. What can I do for you? I mean, with two regions to your one, I'm so much busier than you..."
Steven kept his face perfectly level. "Of course Lance, you have to work hard. I feel for you, I really do." Steven looked Lance in the eye before he cracked up, laughing. Lance, watching him, let out a chuckle.
"As much as I love your sense of humour Steven, is there anything I can actually do for you?" Lance asked. "Only it's that I'm nearly a week behind on the preparations for the Johto League, thanks to the events in Goldenrod. I'm trying to catch up."
Steven leant forwards, suddenly serious. "It's about Goldenrod I wanted to talk to you about" the Hoenn Champion said, suddenly serious. "More importantly, 'Champions' reaction to it. Cynthia has been sent back to Sinnoh." Lance looked up sharply, causing Steven to nod before continuing. "I thought you might not have found out, given your work load. 'Champion' said that the reason was an internal one, in the press conference."
"Slow down." Lance said. "Press conference? 'Champion' doesn't give those."
"He did for this. It's caused quite a stir. As long as Cynthia remained in place, she was giving tacit approval for the changes across the regions. That was enough to convince the waverers that what he was doing was right. His changes, such as replacing Gym Leaders have caused issues, but not enough for there to be massive opposition. The problem will come if there are any more changes, without Cynthia there will be no more goodwill following from her popularity. I foresee an increase in unrest."
Lance groaned. "Just what we need."
"Only if he makes any mistakes. Thus far he's been pretty good." Steven said.
"I know. Anyway, do we know what she was fired for?"
"I haven't been able to speak to her. I think it must have been more than we thought. 'Champion' wouldn't fire her for just disobeying him. Would he?"
"I have no idea Steven." Lance said. "I barely know him. In fact, I'm not sure anybody really knows him."
"Agreed." Steven said. "I'm going to be around for the next few weeks, there isn't much happening in Hoenn at the moment. If you need any help organising, shout." And with that, the Hoenn Champion got up and left, leaving Lance to his contemplation of the fate of their third colleague.
Misty and Gary reached Professor Oaks lab, walking through the entrance to be greeted by the elderly Professor. As they moved through the lab, they realised that quite a few people were around in Pallet; May and Drew walked in a few minutes later with Delia Ketchum and Caroline Maple, whilst James was with Tracey from the reserve.
"So what brings you two back to Pallet?" Tracey asked, whilst Delia was busy getting various drinks for all the guests.
"Misty's considering entering the Johto League." Gary answered. "I thought we should drop in before we headed off."
"Really?" May asked from across the room. "You're going to head across Johto?" A nod from Misty confirmed it. "Mind if Drew and I travel with you to the region? I'm going to enter the contests there."
"Aren't you a bit late for the Grand Festival?" Gary asked. "I mean, will you be able to get all the ribbon you need?"
May smiled. "Nope. But Dawn isn't in this season, so it means I'll get a chance to get some practice in before I go up against her."
"Dawn? You're finally going to challenge her?"
"Yep." May said, with a wide smile. "Drew and I think that some competition might do her some good."
This brought a smile from Misty; she knew just how irritated people had been getting at Dawn's bragging. The bruenette did have an excuse, having won several Grand Festivals without a defeat, but even so, it was enough to drive people crazy. Almost as bad as Max, somebody whom she was glad wasn't here.
Caroline walked back in carrying a cup of tea, and Misty looked curiously at her.
"Caroline, where's Norman? Wasn't he staying in Pallet?"
Caroline had the grace to look slightly embarrassed. "He is still maintaining that he was done an injustice by 'Champion'. He has gone to try to find somebody who he thinks might agree with him. This drew a curious look from Drew, which she then clarified. "He's gone to Sinnoh, to try to get an audience with Cynthia. He feels that she will sympathise."
Misty raised an eyebrow. "And, if you don't mind me asking, what are your views?"
"I think I owe May an apology." She turned to her daughter. "You tried to warn me, but I didn't want to listen. Since then, I've had a chance to think, and accept it. Norman is still trying to get over that."
May smiled at her mother. Whilst she knew that there had been a change of heart there, it was still good to hear it.
James strolled in to the room with Tracey, and smiled at the gathering there. "I didn't realize that a whole year had gone around, is it another full reunion?" he said jokingly. "We should've invited Jessie."
"How's the store in Goldenrod going for her?" Misty asked.
"Alright. I'm thinking of heading over to visit soon."
"Why don't you come to Johto with us?" Gary offered. "Misty, May, Drew and I are all heading over. Misty wants to challenge the Gyms whilst May is heading for contests."
"It'll be just like old times." May said with a grin. "You could even grab a balloon and try stealing Pikachu again."
The mention of his name caused the little Pokémon to sit up from Misty's lap, and glare at May, causing her to chuckle lightly. James was watching with a careful eye.
"I don't think so. Pichu would murder me if I tried. You want to see him Pikachu?" The mouse's nod was all the confirmation James needed to realize his Pokémon. The two of them dashed off, outside ignoring James call to try to avoid breaking things. Misty smiled to see Pikachu so excited, she knew that his life wasn't exactly the most interesting.
"James, where's Meowth?" Gary asked.
"With your grandfather, doing some translating. He says he enjoys it."
"Fair enough. So, do you want to come with us to Johto?"
"Why not. I'll stay with you till you reach Goldenrod, and come and watch you at the Johto League. Just for once I won't have to be selling things in the crowd!"
Misty burst out laughing. "I can't believe you used to do that, you could have just watched like normal people."
"Yeah, but we had to pay for all of Meowths machines somehow!"
"We wouldn't have had to keep paying for them if you hadn't kept on blowing 'em up" a voice came through the open door, as Meowth and Professor Oak stepped through. "By the way James, Pichu is about to get thrashed again."
James smiled and got to his feet. "I'm going to go and watch."
Misty got to her feet as well. "I'm going to watch. If Pikachu is going to be battling with me, I want to see how he chooses to fight."
The group followed Misty and James outside to where the two electric types were facing off against each other. James stood behind his Pichu, but caught sight of Misty shaking her head. "Leave them James. Let them fight by themselves."
Pikachu smirked across the field at Pichu. The smaller electric Pokémon was powerful; Pikachu did have to admit that. But then he had been trained by Pikachu himself. Pikachu had taught him new moves and the like. Yet despite this, both Pokémon knew that Pichu couldn't compete with Pikachu. Pikachu had the greater endurance, and power.
Pikachu tested his opponent with a Thunderbolt that Pichu simply dodged. Pikachu smirked, and then fired another two attacks, both of which were dodged. Pichu grinned at Pikachu, and then charged forwards.
Pikachu waited, and then dodged at the last second, swinging an Iron Tail at Pichu which sent the smaller Pokémon skidding back across the battlefield. Pichu picked himself up and then fired his own electrical attack at Pikachu. As the two exchanged attacks, the gang watched. As the battle wore on, Pichu began to tire, and James eventually stepped in to end it.
Pichu looked exhausted, whilst Pikachu simply grinned at his opponent. After his friend had recovered, Pikachu would talk through the battle with him once again, and discuss how to improve. It was their favourite part of sparring.
The following day, the group headed off towards Johto. Misty to win badges, and May to win ribbons. As Misty walked she remembered the first time she had done the trek; they had been on foot, with Ash, exploring and enjoying the journey.
Now, years on, they moved far, far quicker. They had decided against the Magnet train, but that didn't mean that they couldn't use easier modes of transport than foot. Gary was grinning as he drove along.
"Why are you so happy?" Misty asked.
"It's good to be travelling again?" Gary said with a grin, but Misty shook her head.
"I know you better than that Gary Oak." She said. "Why are you so happy?"
"The irony." Gary chuckled. "I never thought I would be driving you along."
Misty looked at him, and he just grinned at her. She rolled her eyes, and looked out of the window.
"How far are we taking the car?" James asked.
"We'll leave it with Professor Rose at the lab in New Bark Town. We can go on foot to Violet City, and from there we'll see. I think the train network might be open, we could use that."
"Open?" Misty's attention was drawn back into the car. "I thought..."
"Nah, apparently it's ready to be opened, so they are accepting passengers." Gary said, before Misty could give away anything about the last time they had been on a train. Misty looked at him for a moment, before going back to looking out of the window. After some hours driving, they reached the top of a hill, where Gary brought the car to a stop, much to the surprise of the passengers.
"Gary, why have we stopped?" Drew asked.
"For Misty" came the simple answer, which drew a glare from the red-head.
"What do you mean for me?" Misty snapped. "I don't remember asking you to stop."
"No, you're right, you didn't ask me Red." Gary said smirking at his girlfriend. "Just look over the hill"
Misty turned and looked. In front of her she saw a sign which read 'New Bark Town'. She did a double take. It had been years since she saw that sign. Ten years. The last time she had been stood there, she had been with Ash and Brock, as they first started their first trip through Johto.
Misty looked beyond it, and there was a town. She felt the memories well up inside her. Pikachu leaped off shoulder, to get a good view of the path. Just like Misty he remembered there trip there, with the dense, naive young trainer that they had both loved.
Some memories time could never replace. Drew, May, James, and Meowth stood watching, slightly bemused. Misty felt an arm around her and turned to see Gary.
"It's ok Misty. We all miss him as well." Gary said.
Misty looked at him. "Thanks Gary." She said, her mood picking up once again. "And for this. It means a lot." She turned to the rest of the group. "Let's go get registered, right May?"
The brunette nodded, and the group got back into the car, and headed into the town. Pikachu was still watching the spot sadly. He would never forget his trainer. In addition to his other reasons, he did acknowledge one other reason he wanted to enter the Johto League. He wanted to do what Ash never did, win.