Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ Awakening ❯ Part 3 ( Chapter 3 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Chapter 7: Tower

Upon their arrival at Vermilion City, Ashimi requested, "let's stop at the pokemon center. I think I got some mud from when you made that sudden turn."

"Me too... And it was your fault the mud was there to begin with." Jonathan reminded in a joking tone. He wasn't upset about the terrible crime of messing up such a great car anymore, as he had convinced himself that it could be fixed.

After a quick stop at the pokemon center to get themselves cleaned up, Jonathan announced that he was going to have the car cleaned. He would be content watching it and examining any other cool cars that might be in the establishment, but he knew cars only interested Ashimi when they were moving fast. It was the speed itself she loved more so than the means to achieve it. She'd probably get bored watching cars being washed and polished.

The redhead nodded and considered her options for a moment before coming to a choice. "I think I'll have a look around the city and maybe find someone to battle with before heading to the gym."

"Okay, see you later," thus they went their separate ways, with Jonathan heading to the carwash and Ashimi going off on foot to search for possible challengers.

xoxox xox xoxox

Ashimi headed to the Vermilion plaza, where she heard the sounds of a pokemon battle. Two boys around her age had just finished their match. It was Pidgey versus Rattata and the Pidgey won. However, the rodent had put up a good fight and the bird seemed tired. Ashimi made her way through the crowd of kids and teenagers as it began to disperse. "I want to battle too!" She announced.

The boy with the Rattata didn't turn back, assuming the victor was the one being addressed. The boy with the Pidgey shook his head. "Some other time, I don't think Pidgey can take another round right now," he admitted.

"Oh... Okay..." Ashimi realized that the boys didn't really keep more than one pokemon. Though they could battle, they were more so pets, probably not as strong as pokemon that battled more often and were specifically trained to be effective fighters. After the boys had both left and the crowd dispersed, as no challengers stepped up right away, a little boy approached Ashimi.

"Hello," the boy greeted. He was dressed a little oddly with a trench coat, a hat and big sunglasses.

Ashimi giggled, "hey kid, are you playing secret agent?"

The boy smiled, "yup! I'm going to be a secret agent and a pokemon trainer when I grow up. You're a pokemon trainer on a journey, aren't you? I want to go on a journey some day too!"

Ashimi guessed that the boy was around five, it would still be a few years until he could challenge any gyms, but maybe he could keep a pokemon as a pet and train it to get ahead of the game. "Do you have any pokemon?"

"Not yet," the boy replied. "But your pokemon looks super cool! Can I pet him? Please!"

Ashimi laughed, feeling a bit like a celebrity. Though her father had only taken his place as champion behind the elite four on a few occasions, it was enough for him to sometimes be recognized and for kids to ask him about pokemon training and even for his autograph. "What do you say, Pichu?" Pichu hopped into the boy's arms, amused by how enthusiastic Ashimi's new friend was. "What's your name?"

"Zero," the boy replied as he petted the little Pichu.

"I'm Ashimi," she automatically introduced herself with her nickname, not giving it any further thought.

"Your Pichu is awesome, miss Ashimi," Zero complimented. "Do you have more pokemon? Can I see them?"

"Sure!" Ashimi let Furball and Zubat out of their pokeballs. After some deliberation she let Squirtle out too. The little turtle looked around a bit scared, but seeing as there didn't seem to be a battle going on, he calmed down. Ashimi decided not to let Clefable out, least the pink pokemon embarrass her with her usual disrespect.

"Wow! So many pokemon, you must be an amazing trainer!" Zero exclaimed.

"Kind of," Ashimi feigned modesty.

"Can you show me what they can do? Pretty please?" Zero pleaded in a cute childish voice.

"No problem, prepare to be amazed!" Ashimi began to show off some of her pokemon's best traits, such as Zubat's speed, Furball's mastery of various elements and for Squirtle, she just had him retreat into his shell and pretended it was an advanced defensive maneuver that made him almost invincible.

While Ashimi coordinated the three pokemon, Zero offered Pichu some candy. Without any suspicion, the yellow pokemon ate it and felt very sleepy. A small crowd gathered to see the performance, clapping by the time Ashimi's improvised show was almost done. She intended to show off Pichu's power at the end, using his thunderbolt to simulate fireworks, but when she looked for Zero she didn't find him.

Assuming the show was over, the crowd dispersed and Zero remained missing. "Pichu?" Ashimi called out in disbelief. Her phone suddenly played the sound of an incoming text message and she looked at it. "I have your Pichu," the message read. "Meet me at the main Silph building in Saffon City if you want him back. Don't tell anyone, or I can't guarantee Pichu's safety." Ashimi looked around wildly, her eyes wide in shock. "This can't be happening!" She shouted at the top of her lungs, causing several passer-bys to stare at her oddly. She recalled her other pokemon into their pokeballs and began to run.

'My father spent years traveling around with Pikachu, defending him from experienced kidnappers and here my Pichu gets stolen by a kid! What an embarrassment!' With her thoughts racing, Ashimi rushed to the outskirts of the city. 'Silph is controlled by Team Rocket, if I can't get my Pichu back unnoticed, what will grandpa say? He's going to be so disappointed! Why didn't Pichu defend himself? Was he sedated or something? How did I not notice? Maybe if I hurry I can still catch up!' At least, she was in good shape from all the swimming she did.

When Ashimi reached the outskirts of the city, several realizations hit her beyond the haze of the panic. How did the kid know what number to text and why did he challenge her to chase him instead of just running off with Pichu and keeping quiet? "He can't be working alone," she concluded. If the little boy was working for someone else, that someone possibly had a car or some form of fast transportation and no matter how fast she ran, she wasn't going to catch them on foot. As for knowing her number, it had to be someone who had been watching her, someone who had a motivation to watch her. "Daala!" Ashimi gasped. "That little brat must have been Daala's lackey... When I get my hands on them!" She growled angrily. "Note to self, catch a flying pokemon big enough to ride." But for the time being she would have to work with what she had, "taxi!"

xoxox xox xoxox

Night fell over Saffron City and a storm settled in. Ashimi had texted Jonathan telling him that she had some stuff to do and would call him when she was done and ready to go to the Vermilion gym. He had been curious about what her business was, but Ashimi silenced him by saying it was girl stuff he wouldn't understand, though she wasn't even sure what that meant herself.

The taxi pulled over next to the Silph headquarters, which was closed for renovations. The driver whistled, "this is some storm." Lightning flashed across the distant sky and light rain began to fall. "Are you sure this is where you should be, kid?" The taxi driver didn't know who she really was or why she was there. "I thought this place was empty."

"Mostly," Ashimi made up an excuse. "My father is part of the renovation team, I'm going to meet him here." She paid the bill and the driver didn't question her any further. She exited the taxi and went around the building, searching for a way in.

"Welcome..." The back door opened on its own, controlled by the electronics integrated into the whole building. The voice coming from the telecom next to the door belong to that little boy from before, Zero.

Since the building was filled with surveillance cameras and audio detectors, Ashimi new she was being watched. How Daala and her allies managed to take over the building was something she didn't understand. "Where's your leader?"

"My leader?" The boy chuckled. "In the same place where your leader is."

Ashimi crossed her arms, displeased with what she interpreted to be meant as a rude remark, yet it was quite literal. "Where's Daala? She has Pichu, doesn't she?"

"I don't know who you speak of." The Silph building was dim and empty, the voice being projected echoing from everywhere and nowhere.

Ashimi's heart pounded, this was worse than when she faced Sabrina, this time Pichu could be... killed... "Where's my Pichu?!" Ashimi demanded to know.

The boy chuckled again. "He's here, at the top of this building. Come and get him if you dare!"

Of course she dared. Ashimi rushed towards the elevator doors that opened as if inviting her in, then she stopped. If the boy or whoever was with him was controlling the building from its main computer system, it wouldn't be a very smart move to jump into the elevator. She backed away then looked around for the stairs. She dashed towards the door behind which the emergency stairs awaited and tried to pull it open, but it wouldn't budge. Without wasting any time, Ashimi called out Furball. "Furball, cut this door down!" The Meowth exposed his claws, slashing at the wooden door, he kept cutting deeper until the door was no longer an obstacle.

"Stay on your guard." Ashimi looked at the spiraling stairs before her. The lamps were on but only dimly. There was at least more light than in the lobby, but not by much. The girl and her feline companion rushed up the stairs, then suddenly the stairs went flat and they slid down. "This won't stop us!" Furball jumped up on the metal banister and Ashimi held on to it to pull herself up. They made a lot of progress until the lights went out completely.

An odd sound was heard and Ashimi had a bad feeling. Furball hissed and the area was lit up by his thunderbolt. The object that had been rolling towards Ashimi, a wooden barrel, was broken open, spilling a multitude of pokeballs. "Woah!" Ashimi climbed onto the banister, stretching her body on it and wrapping her knees around it. "Okay... This is just like playing on a messed up jungle gym... Furball, you can see in the dark, right?" The feline made a sound of affirmation, his eyes glowing in the darkness. "Use a little spark, I'll follow that light." The golden coin on Furballs' forehead reflected the light as his whiskers moved in the static of the electricity. Ashimi followed him for a while, occasionally hearing more rolling barrels go by.

The banister abruptly became electrified, causing the Meowth and the girl to fall off it and slide down. Another rolling barrel was heard and Furball broke it. Once again it spilled pokeballs in its path, which made it even harder for them to stay on their feet, but it would have been worse if they were hit by the barrel. The banister remained electrified, so Ashimi couldn't use it to hold on to. "Someone has to be throwing those barrels from the top of the stairs. Go Zubat! Take Furball with you and stop whoever is throwing those barrels. Zubat, screech and create a diversion, Furball, since whoever is moving those barrels must be pretty strong, use a water pulse first, then a thunderbolt to make it more effective." Ashimi recalled Furball into his pokeball so Zubat would be able to carry him.

Taking the pokeball along, Zubat flew up the spiral of stairs to the top and released Furball there. They found a Machop had been throwing the barrels, but not for long! While the Machop was distracted by Zubat, Furball emerged from his pokeball and used water pulse. The Machop turned his attention away from the loudly screeching Zubat, but he was too slow. Furball was already charged up to attack and released a thunderbolt without delay. The Machop guard was knocked out instantly.

Ashimi grinned as she heard the sounds from above. Since she couldn't use the electrified banister as support and the flattened stairs were too slippery to stand on, she resorted to crawling her way up. It was slow, but at least she was getting somewhere. Once she reached the top of the stairs, light filtered in from the door leading to the rest of the floor. She saw the fainted Machop and commended her pokemon on a job well done. This wasn't the top of the building though. The spiraling stairs only went so far, since the higher levels were restricted. They shouldn't be closed up too tightly at the moment, because the building was being renovated and operations had been temporarily moved, but she would have to make her way to a different set of emergency stairs.

Ashimi opened the door to the next set of stairs, finding it unlocked, these stairs had a square winding style to them, instead of spiraling. She found the unlocked door to be very suspicious and held out an empty pokeball. She threw it and it collided with the wall, setting off several sensors as it moved through the air. Knives became embedded on the walls of the staircase, a deadly security measure. In the quiet of the night, the soft clicks of a reloading mechanism were heard. "I don't think I have enough things to throw to activate all the knives and who knows how many there are." After trying to think of a way to obtain safe passage, she released Squirtle.

Squirtle didn't like the eerie silent atmosphere and whimpered, his eyes watering. "It's okay Squirtle, this is the night when you learn to be brave!" Ashimi coaxed. The small turtle gave her a doubtful look. "This will be really simple, all you have to do is tug your head, arms, legs and tail into your shell and stay very still. Whatever you do, don't peek out, especially if you feel tapping on your shell, in fact, no matter what kind of conversation you hear, stay in your shell. When it's okay to come out, the password will be Pecha berry." The Squirtle looked visibly relieved. He wasn't sure about how useful this training exercise really was, but it sounded very easy. This was his chance to prove himself, so he eagerly did as he was told, assuming it was some kind of test of obedience.

"Okay..." Ashimi picked up Squirtle like a shield. "Furball, get on my back, Zubat, on my shoulder. I want you two to work together. Furball, try to see through the darkness for any marks on the walls. Zubat, use your super sonic waves to try to feel where the mechanism is hidden, just make sure you don't hit us with them. And Squirtle, no matter what, stay inside your shell until I say the password to come out. Here we go." Ashimi walked slowly and cautiously, crouching and shielding herself and her other pokemon with Squirtle's hard shell as much as she could. Zubat pointed at a spot on the wall and Furball squinted at it and nodded. "Where else?" Ashimi asked in a whisper.

The bat and the cat repeated their examination until they could pin point the location of the nearest series of attack mechanisms. "Furball, aim for the sensors and thunderbolt fry their circuits." Taking care not to shock his trainer, Furball released his electric power towards the trap. "Zubat, what do you sense?" Zubat gave a soft screech of alarm. "As I thought, the traps are too strong to be so easily disabled. The building's renovations are not finished, but they have some pretty good security in place. It looks like the traps only activate when the sensors pick up solid matter, so energy won't trigger them. Okay, I trust you were able to figure out the pattern, let's do this!"

Dashing forward, Ashimi held Squirtle's shell to her upper right and the knives shot from the wall bounced off it. Then she lowered it to her left, to the middle right, lower left, upper left, lower right and she pressed herself against the next door. No traps were triggering, it looked like the space between floors next to the door that led to each floor was safe. "Next round..." Thus it happened, as they went from one floor to another in the upper levels of Silph. They reached the final stretch at last, then Zubat let out a screech of alarm with more urgency than before. Furball used a small thunderbolt, not against the traps, as it wouldn't work, but to point out their location and light the way for Ashimi. "Above?!" Ashimi held the shell overhead and dashed forward, crashing into the door ahead in her haste and pushing it open.

Ashimi took a deep breath and looked over her pokemon. They were all alright. "We made it... Pecha berry." Squirtle came out looking confused and a little dizzy. "You did really well, Squirtle." She patted his head softly. "Get some rest in your pokeball now." She glanced at his shell briefly before recalling him and made a mental note to have the scratches polished off at the pokemon center and have a coat of hardening varnish added just in case. "Zubat, Furball, great team work back there, you were amazing." She hugged them, then placed them on her back and shoulder respectively. "There's no telling what lies ahead, so be on your guard."

Ashimi walked across the dark lobby-like area. She couldn't hear it at the enclosed, reinforced structure of the emergency stairs, but now the sound of the rain invaded her senses as it pounded against the glass windows. The wind had picked up too and thunder rumbled in the distance, becoming ever closer. The room was in an obvious state of renovations with paint buckets in the corners and large rolls of carpeting laying around. She looked at the large door at the end of the room. It was the door to the control center, the most highly secured room in the whole building. She approached the door and it opened by itself.

Inside the control room she found Pichu happily devouring a slice of extra cheese and pepperoni pizza while Zero spun around on one of the swivel chairs in simple amusement. He was still wearing his big sunglasses despite it being nighttime, though he wasn't wearing his vintage movie detective disguise. His hair was blue with orange stripes and he wore a black armor suit with red boots, belt and armbands... and a red R on the chest.

"Pichu!" The little yellow pokemon happily waved his trainer over and motioned towards the large pizza box near by, as if offering her and his fellow pokemon slices.

The screen behind them was the most perplexing part of the scene, as it showed a familiar woman with blue hair and dark eyes, wearing a familiar black uniform with a very familiar red R. The Rocket who went by the codename Pixel appeared alongside two of her pokemon, Prism, a Porygon-Z and Peachy, a Pikachu, who so happened to be the mother of Ashimi's Pichu. "Ashimi, hi! How nice of you to join us!" Pixel greeted casually. "I thank you for your assistance in helping me test the security system's installation process."

"You... what?" Ashimi blinked in confusion. "What's going on? Wasn't Pichu kidnapped? Is this kid a Rocket agent? But he's so young, I thought Team Rocket wouldn't allow anyone to become an agent at the age of five."

"I'm not five," Zero corrected.

"Oh? You're a midget then?" Ashimi grumbled at the interruption, she was talking to Pixel, not him.

"I'm two," Zero finished.

"That's impossible! You can't be two years old!" Ashimi shouted, her patience drained.

"Nope, he's two months old," Pixel's words left Ashimi more confused than ever.

"Zero is not a human, but not quite a pokemon either. He was made and materialized using a program similar to that of Porygon with an enhanced high definition graphics engine that better reflects the current era. His AI was created from the combined brain scans of two humans. He is essentially a prototype virtual android. Unfortunately, since the graphics and human persona take up so many resources, he doesn't have any sort of special powers like a virtual pokemon would. He was made as an experiment for research purposes, but the tech department no longer requires him to stick around... So I'm letting you borrow him for a while. Well, have fun, bye!" Peachy said her goodbyes in turn with her trainer and the screen went black.

"Did grandpa tell her to do this?" Ashimi wondered aloud. "Or did Pixel act of her own accord? Nah, this has to be some random test. Well, since I got to the top of the building I guess that means I passed, and hopefully that will make up for losing Pichu in the first place, right?" She didn't wait for a reply, "right!" She glanced at Furball and Zubat, who had gotten settled in along with Pichu, enjoying slices of pizza. She let Squirtle out, he deserved a snack for his efforts too. While the pokemon ate, Ashimi directed her attention to Zero. "Okay, your mission is done, so now you can be a good little virtual android and behave."

Zero stuck out his tongue. " I'll do what I want!" Zero spun around on the chair laughing and Ashimi fumed.

"Stop it!" She scolded, holding the chair in place. "Listen up, you little brat, and pay attention!" She snatched the sunglasses he was wearing, even if he was probably perfectly capable of seeing everything around him in high definition with them on anyway. Then she saw his eyes for the first time. He had no pupils, or maybe he had no irises. The big glassy orbs looked like the eyes of an anime doll, the circles filled with shades of color in a gradient that was black at the bottom and blue at the top. She gasped then squealed in delight, "look at that high definition! Your face; it's amazing!" The next thing Zero knew, he was being squished into a big bear hug.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 8: Thunder and Rockets

After things were more or less resolved between Zero and Ashimi, they managed to track down an umbrella in the building and intended to leave Silph and spend the rest of the night at the pokemon center, where they had proper beds. Zero didn't mind as long as he had a quiet corner to sit and run his debugging programs and an electric outlet to stick a straw into and feed. He could eat normal food, but he did so for the taste rather than for the energy. He actually wasted energy disintegrating the food once it was in his mouth, as his body had no use for it. Ashimi was very much looking forward to getting a good night's sleep.

When they reached the front exit, no one was out in that weather so no one would see them anyway, Zero paused as if remembering something, then approached the elevator and pressed the button to call it. The doors opened and out crawled a light green haired boy with oddly colored eyes, one being brown and the other being somewhat pink due to lack of pigmentation, though they were still very much human eyes and elicited no special reactions from Ashimi.

The fifteen year old boy dizzily stood up, using the wall for support while Ashimi watched on with questioning eyes. Zero turned towards her and pointed back at the teenager with his thumb. "He followed you here muttering something about becoming the future boss' right hand man. That was when you were battling it out with the stairs. He was actually stupid enough to take the elevator, so I trapped him in and kept the elevator going up and down really fast this whole time."

Ashimi observed that the teenager was wearing a Rocket uniform. He dizzily looked towards her and saluted, or tried to. His hand flew over his head on the first attempt, then collided with his nose on the second, before he finally gave up and just held on to the wall. "I'm here to assist you, Madame Ashimi, loyal as always!"

Ashimi tilted her head in confusion, "do I know you?"

"You don't remember?" The green haired boy looked hurt.

"Of course I know you..." Ashimi tried to come up with a name that matched the face, but she wasn't quite sure. "You're Vincent, right?"

"That's not my name," the boy frowned.

"According to my data his name is... That's odd, I have two entries for that. Is it Cecil or Bartz?" Zero inquired.

"No and no!" The teenager pouted.

"Oh well," Ashimi shrugged. "I don't want any help anyway, I have to go through my pokemon journey my own way. Transportation is okay, but that's just about it and I already have Johnny to take care of that. See you around... um... Squall." She yawned, "let's go to the pokemon center, I want to get some sleep already." Her pokemon were already sleeping in their pokeballs, save for Pichu, who was sleeping on her head. "C'mon Zero, get under the umbrella."

"I'm not going to catch a cold..." Zero reminded.

"It doesn't matter, friends share their umbrellas," Ashimi stated. Zero shrugged, not questioning her logic any further and they both left.

The green haired teenager was left standing there looking frustrated, his name wasn't Squall either. "Jonathan..." He growled the name of his most hated rival.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, at Vermilion City, after spending the day making sure that by some twist of fate the carwash employees wouldn't discover the lethal customizations of the car, Jonathan was, for once in his life, ready to stop paying attention to vehicles. He locked the secrets away and set the car's system to blend in, so unless they looked under the hood they wouldn't know and that was locked too, but he was still uneasy, so he had been with the car the whole time. The employees assumed he was just a kid who took his father's car for a joyride and wanted to make sure it was fixed and returned in secret. At least the interiors were as good as new and he had the rest of the night to himself. He wasn't sure what Ashimi's business was that guys wouldn't understand, but perhaps his confusion was all the proof he needed that he would indeed be unable to comprehend whatever it was. Ashimi was a bit of a tomboy most of the time and despite occasionally calling her princess, Jonathan did at times forget that she was a member of the ever perplexing female species.

A storm was hitting Vermilion City harshly and Jonathan considered spending the night at the pokemon center resting. But it was about time to send the boss something good, and if Ashimi returned in the morning wanting to rush towards the gym, he wouldn't have much time to do anything big if he waited. He scanned Vermilion City's official website looking for ideas. The weather report was linked to the front page, which was not surprising given how fierce it was, people would want to know when the storm was expected to pass. The large group of clouds reached all the way to Saffron City, though the storm was still relatively gentle there. Vermilion City was definitely getting the worst of it and people were advised to stay indoors. Ignoring the warning, Jonathan continued examining the website.

After looking through a few pages featuring upcoming activities, holidays and advertisements for the local commerce, he found that there would be an exhibition on a newly remodeled museum not too far from the pokemon center. Fossils had become rarer as time went by and the few that were preserved were already dug up. He had heard stories about how one of Team Rocket's past rivals, Team Plasma, was said to have revived a fossil pokemon originally from Kanto and upgraded it to a whole new level. Rare pokemon fossils were classic valuables that he knew would always be welcomed into Giovanni's collection, so it would be a good idea to steal them.

With that plan in mind, Jonathan put on his Team Rocket uniform and snuck out of the pokemon center through the window... And got soaked to the bone. It was a short run to the museum, but picking the lock with the rain beating down on him so harshly, took longer than he thought. At last he let himself in through the back door and tried to wipe away some of the rain water from his face. "Should have brought an umbrella..."

He moved forward, leaving little puddles of water where he stepped. His uniform this time was black, though he also had a white version he used during the day when dark colors wouldn't make much of a difference in blending in. Yet the bright red R on his chest would still let everyone know what organization was responsible. It didn't do much to help Ashimi turn the public opinion around about Team Rocket in the future, but for the time being there was the present to think about and Jonathan had his duties as a Rocket to fulfill.

He reached the main exhibit room, which had two doorways on the sides, and there he found a figure stuffing the main fossil, a kabuto, into a sack. The person looked ready to get away until the lights suddenly came on. Jonathan ducked at the entrance to the room and observed quietly. The person with the sack was Daala. "Hold it right there!" A blond boy wearing military style clothes called out, he had been the one to turn on the lights from the opposite side of the room.

Daala looked at the new arrival, neither she nor he had noticed Jonathan. "You..." She glared, "you're the gym leader."

"That's right, I'm gym leader Volt and I won't let you steal the fossil!" The blond declared, his teal eyes glaring.

"You fool!" Daala chided. "The Vermilion mayor intends to gift this fossil to Giovanni in exchange for favors from Team Rocket!"

"Johnny?" The sudden whisper in his ear and the warm breath on his neck made Jonathan jump in surprise and nearly yelp.

Fortunately, he swallowed the sound on time and managed to remain quiet. "Dorme, what are you doing here?" She was also in her Team Rocket uniform. He blinked, taking note of a peculiar fact. "How are you dry?"

"I had a raincoat," Dorme pointed at the discarded wet plastic garment a few feet away. "Are you here to steal the fossil?"

"Yes, but Daala, that girl with the sack, stole it first. She said the mayor was going to give it to Giovanni," Jonathan quietly explained.

"That's true, but the boss doesn't want it like that. He wants that guy out of the race and if he can't even guard the exhibit, that will make people think less of him. Volt wasn't a part of this plan." Dorme shook her head. "I don't know how you know Daala, but I've been keeping tabs on her and another suspicious individual. They appear to be working separately, Daala seems to be on her own. I dropped some information about the fossils and here she is. I was going to let her get caught by the cameras, maybe chased by the local Jenny, then take the fossil for the boss."

"I was just going to steal it..." Jonathan admitted. He was curious about the other suspicious person Dorme mentioned, but the arguments and noises from the exhibit room became more intense and caught his attention. Daala and Volt were battling.

"Let's see if Volt is as tough as his brother..." It was clear that Dorme intended to let the battle continue without interruptions.

"Brother?" Jonathan felt somewhat out of the loop. He knew Surge had two sons, but other than the youngest being gym leader Volt, he didn't know anything about the oldest.

"Thor," Dorme spat the word out like venom between clenched teeth.

"Thor? As in General Electro? That's Surge's elder son?" Jonathan did not have pleasant memories of the man. He had never spoken about his family or about anything at all that was even remotely personal. "Everyone just assumes he's a Rocket experiment gone wrong or some sort of angry deity. It's hard to believe that man was actually born from human parents."

"I know what you mean. He's the head of the Rocket military, the most feared Rocket agent trainer in the whole organization. Last summer was hell," Dorme shuddered.

"At least you didn't get stuck with the winter training. Worse two months of my life," Jonathan got nightmares to even think about it. "A bunch of us got fed up with his overly critical attitude and tried to teach him a lesson. There were at least twenty of us between fourteen and twenty years old and he somehow managed to beat us all like it was nothing! I've never been so sore in my life, even my bruises had bruises."

Dorme could feel identified with the experience. "Do you have any idea how many times I had to practice kicking? My feet hurt so much I could barely walk. The rumors say that Thor and Volt don't get along and that Volt is on the fence about Team Rocket, while Thor is all too happy to lead the military. None the less, Volt respects his father a lot."

After their brief conversation, Dorme and Jonathan grew silent, instead focusing on the battle going on between Daala and Volt. Daala had called out her Houndour, while Volt commanded a Raichu. Unlike Surge's Raichu from years prior, Volt's Raichu had been trained for speed as a Pikachu and only just recently evolved. "Raichu, use thunderbolt!"

"Houndour, counter attack with flamethrower! " Daala commanded. The fire and lightning collided, but the electricity broke through the flames, reaching the target. "Houndour!" Attacking from a distance wouldn't work. "Get close and bite him!"

"Evasive maneuvers, Raichu, quick attack!" Raichu sped out of the way as Houndour dashed towards him on the offensive. Moving very fast, the electric pokemon collided with the fire dog from the side, knocking him to the floor.

"Houndour, bite him, quick!" Daala voiced, but it was too late.

"Raichu, Thunder!" The electricity surrounded Houndour, leaving him paralyzed. "Finish him with brick break!"

Seeing as there was no hope in this battle, Daala quickly recalled her pokemon. "Houndour, return!" The Raichu's strike collided against the floor, breaking the tiles. "I'm not finished yet, go Donphan! Roll up and bulldoze that Raichu!" Being a ground type, Donphan was protected from Raichu's electric attacks and he had though armor against his physical attacks. Donphan rolled towards Raichu, who put everything he had into quickly evading.

"Keep moving, Raichu, don't stay still!" Forced to be on the defensive, Volt couldn't see any opportunities to strike.

"It looks like the battle is turning around, wouldn't you say, Johnny?" Dorme turned to look at her fellow Rocket, only to realize that he was no longer next to her. She looked around for him and spotted him quietly making his way over to the sack with the fossil, hiding behind several displays and information panels.

While Daala and Volt were focused on their battle, Johnny grabbed the sack and quietly made his escape. It looked like he was going to make it back to Dorme unnoticed, until the effects of running around in a wet uniform caught up to him and he sneezed very loudly. He quickly dropped behind one of the displays, but knew he wouldn't be able to remained unnoticed for long. Alerted by the sound that didn't belong, Daala and Volt began to look around. Their eyes were immediately drawn to the source of the sound in Jonathan's direction. He wasn't visible from their angle, but it was obvious that there was enough room for someone to be hiding there.

"Achoo!" Dorme loudly faked a sneeze, jumping out of the doorway. She held her raincoat bundled up in her arms as if hiding something, though it was actually empty. "Oops... bye!" She attempted to make a hasty escape as if she had the fossil with her, but Daala and Volt wouldn't let her go that easily.

"Donphan, stop her!" At Daala's command, Donphan changed course and rolled towards Dorme.

"Raichu, catch her first!" Raichu dashed forward, stepping in front of Dorme. At the same time, Donphan came up from behind and tripped her up, rolling on top of her. Raichu got caught under Dorme and was flattened under Donphan's weight as well.

"Ow..." was all Dorme could say. As she fell she had dropped the raincoat in front of her, right on Donphan's path, and the heavy pokemon had rolled over it.

"You destroyed the fossil!" Volt rushed to examine the discarded raincoat, blaming Daala's pokemon for the incident. However, when he looked at the raincoat, he realized it was empty. "It's... not here..."

A bright light from the other side of the exhibit's main room caught Daala and Volt's attention. Behind a curtain of fire a figure could be seen holding something. "Is this what you're looking for?" Jonathan asked in an exaggerated fierce voice , knowing they couldn't see him clearly enough behind the fire to be able to recognize him later. Daala most likely already knew him, as she knew Ashimi, but he didn't want Volt to know he had been involved in the fossil theft later when he tagged along with Ashimi for her gym battle. He turned around and began to walk, with Foxtrot creating more fire effects on his way. Once the fire was enough to cover their escape, they made a run for it. Hopefully, they would leave Dorme alone and chase after him, since he had the fossil.

"Ow... Walking through the fire like a video game villain... That's so hot..." Dorme meant it both literally and metaphorically, plus Jonathan didn't abandon her. Granted, she had done the same thing for him first, but she was still happy he would help her escape by providing a distraction.

"Donphan, after him!" Daala commanded. Seeing as there was someone standing there moments prior, Donphan assumed that the curtain of fire was very thin and he could roll through it with some help from his defense curl and if he caught a bit of the fire, it would be put out so quickly he wouldn't even feel it. The elephant pokemon didn't realize that the Flareon had added more fire to the hallway beyond the first series of flames, closing off the route so that they couldn't be followed.

"Raichu, thunderbolt them before they get too far!" Volt urged. Donphan rushed forward into the fire while Raichu ran to get closer to the hall to try to get a shot at the retreating thief.

While the others were distracted, Dorme slowly got on her feet and called out a pokemon. "Hitmonlee..." The pokemon kicked the air energetically, ready for a battle. The command that his trainer gave him, was not what the fighter was expecting. "Carry me..."

Finding more fire than he could handle, Donphan rolled back the way he came, covered in flames. Raichu didn't expect the ground pokemon to go on the retreat and was caught off guard with Donphan running over him and leaving some of his flames on the electric mouse. Raichu panicked just as much as Donphan was and started rolling around the floor much like Donphan. The two pokemon were focused on putting out the flames and not paying attention to each other or their trainers. Just as the flames on the pokemon were put out, Donphan ran into Raichu, Raichu automatically released an electric attack and they knocked each other out.

Though the pokemon were safe from the fire the museum wasn't. The fire had spread over the room, leaving only a small space to escape through on the other side. Coughing from the smoke, Daala and Volt recalled their respective pokemon and rushed to get out of the building. They saw no sign of the Rocket girl who had served as a decoy. Outside, the rain had stopped and Daala wasted no time in throwing a pokeball high with the skill of a big league pitcher. The ball landed on the ceiling of the shop next to the museum and a large pokemon emerged from it.

Just as Volt was about to stop Daala, officer Jenny called out to him, arriving at the scene on her motorcycle. The fire department got there as well and they quickly got to work on putting the fire out. In that small moment of distraction, the large pokemon that had been released on the ceiling extended a pair of vine whips and lifted Daala onto the ceiling as well. She recalled the grass type and ran, jumping from one roof top to another. "Come back here!" Volt shouted after her.

"Volt! What happened here?" Jenny demanded to know.

Volt frowned, even if he managed to catch that girl, she wasn't the one who got away with the fossil in the end. There was no sign of the real thief, whom he assumed to be a Rocket, as the girl who created a diversion was wearing their uniform. They were both gone, the fossil was lost. "Team Rocket..." He growled at Jenny, "it was Team Rocket."

Hidden on the rooftop of the building across the street, Jonathan and Dorme watched the scene unfold. "Looks like everything worked out in the end... Sort of..."

"Speak for yourself..." Dorme grumbled, rubbing her sore back. "Hitmonlee, you really have to learn to give those massages were the therapist walks all over the patient's back. I could use one of those right about now," she breathe. "About that fossil..." She eyed the bag with the prize.

"I thought you might bring that up... I was kind of planning to run off with it," Jonathan admitted, then added, "until I messed up by... ah... achoo!" He sniffled and continued. "I guess I owe you one, so it's yours."

Dorme snatched the sack away and looked inside. "I'm no archeologist, but this thing looks pretty valuable, the boss will be pleased. I guess I could mention you helped me get it so he doesn't think you're slacking off too much. We make a pretty good," she was interrupted by his sneeze, "team..."

"I guess so... But right now I only one to team up with a soft pillow, this cold is making fast progress." Jonathan looked at the horizon where the first few rays of the sun were barely beginning to peek out. "If Ashimi decides to go to the gym in the morning, it's going to be a long day." He began to make his way down from the roof, before it became too bright for it to be an effective hiding place.

"Ashimi..." Dorme paused, unsure if she should say anything.

"What is it?" Jonathan inquired.

His curiosity was on her and Dorme knew that she wouldn't be able to take it back now. "Yesterday at the plaza, some kid stole Ashimi's Pichu and she ran off in a panic like a crazy person. I tried to follow the boy, but he slipped away and before I knew it, I lost track of her too."

"Ashimi is... achoo! In trouble?" Jonathan coughed. "Why didn't you say so? I have to find her!" He tried calling Ashimi's cellphone, but by that time, the situation at Silph was resolved and Ashimi was sleeping at the pokemon center with her phone on silent. "There's no answer, but her phone's GPS says she's in Saffron, why did she go back there?" Not waiting for a reply, or even expecting one, Jonathan hurried towards the parking lot behind the pokemon center where he had left the car.

Dorme frowned as she watched him go. "Me and my big mouth..."

To be Continued

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Chapter 9: Fiery Spirit

Jonathan stopped in front of the pokemon center at Saffron City. Ashimi's cellphone GPS was still located there, she hadn't moved the whole time. He parked the car and got out, he wasn't in such a rush anymore, as he figured Ashimi had to be okay if she was still at the pokemon center after all that time. Surely she had recovered Pichu, or else she would still be, as Dorme said, running like a crazy person, looking for him. She wouldn't have lost her cellphone, right? Who in their right mind goes anywhere without their phone? He had the sense to throw on a jacket to cover his uniform's red R before walking into the pokemon center.

"Welcome... Oh dear..." the resident Joy walked around the counter and placed her hand on Jonathan's forehead. "You have a fever, you should be going to a human doctor instead of coming here," she scolded.

"It's not that bad," Jonathan assured. He knew he always looked a mess when he caught a cold and being short of sleep didn't help, but it's not like he was dying or anything.

"Johnny?" Ashimi cheerfully came from the guest area, with Pichu on her head, followed by Zero. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh, he's a friend of yours?" Joy interjected. "You should get him to a doctor!"

"No worries, I'll take care of him!" Ashimi grabbed his arm to make him hurry out, away from the nosy Joy. Once outside, she asked, "what are you doing here? And are you as sick as you look?"

"Looking for you and no?" Jonathan replied with a yawn. "Why didn't you tell me Pichu was stolen?"

Ashimi's face turned bright red while Zero smirked. She gave the virtual boy a glare and grumbled, "you'd be in trouble if you weren't so adorable." Before Zero could say anything as a reaction, she continued, "I had the situation under control!"

"Who's the kid? And why didn't you just tell me, Ashy, I could have..." The world turned blurry.

"Johnny!" Suddenly she was angry and her abrupt shout seemed to be enough to make him focus. "What did you do? Stay up all night?"

"Yeah, you could have told me," despite being out of it, Jonathan knew that Ashimi sounded angry, though he didn't believe he was in the wrong. "I'm supposed to be there for you, princess."

"Stop it!" Ashimi felt a mix of anger, frustration and guilt. "I don't need to be taken care of like a little child. I don't need to be protected by a Rocket bodyguard. I don't need to be a princess. I don't need you!"

"Ashy..." He wasn't sure what he should say to the outburst.

"Go home... Go home and rest. I'll continue my journey alone as I should." Before she could be contradicted, she added with finality. "Don't follow me!"

"Fine!" Jonathan turned away then stopped.

They both looked at the car until Ashimi spoke. "I know, I know, grandpa won't let me drive yet, he thinks I'll get myself killed... You can take care of the car. I'll find my way around." He looked back at her for a second unsure, so she felt the need to insist. "Quit treating me like a kid!" Then she ran as fast as she could.

Zero blinked in confusion at the drama he just witnessed. Then after a short pause, he ran after Ashimi. He found that she had stopped further down the street and was talking to someone on her cellphone. "Don't worry, I'll be okay on my own. Yeah, we're still friends..." Her expression showed that she wasn't entirely sure of if she was telling the truth or not. "Okay, bye..." She ended the call and let out a breath. Jessie could get a bit protective at times, surely it wouldn't take long for her to find Jonathan and drag him home to rest. Then again, tired as he looked, he might not put up much of a fight. She looked at Zero and tried to put on a smile. "I'm going to win a badge at the Vermilion City gym, want to come watch?"

"Confident, aren't you?" Zero laughed. "Okay, I'll tag along, it's not like I have any plans anyway."

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Ashimi and Zero were on their way to Vermilion City. The girl occasionally muttered something or other about over-protective friends and proving that she's a capable pokemon trainer who doesn't need people to go out of their way for her. She was moving on foot, taking out her bad mood on any wild pokemon that dared to cross her path. She didn't catch them though, she was picky and preferred to keep only a few pokemon with her that she could really focus on training. "C'mon Squirtle, you have to be braver than this! Just shoot a water gun!"

The little Squirtle stepped forward behind Pichu and Furball with Zubat flying overhead. Clefable had been called out to train, but she was as uncooperative as ever, so Ashimi had to shove the stubborn pink pokemon back in her pokeball. Squirtle looked at the target ahead, he knew there was a wild pokemon hiding in the tall grass and wondered if it was a Pidgey. Maybe if it was startled by the water gun, it would fly away and Squirtle wouldn't have to actually battle it. "Squirtle squirt!" The little turtle tried to be brave, even if it was for just a moment as he stepped into the front line. 'Get ready, Pidgey!' It warned, to give himself confidence more so than to threaten the wild pokemon.

Zero grinned, he was able to understand Squirtle's words, having been made in a similar process to that used for the virtual pokemon Porygon. "Not Pidgey..." He whispered, quietly enough that Squirtle didn't hear him. Ashimi was standing closer to him and did hear, reacting with a curious look, wondering if he had some kind of integrated, basic pokedex functionality. Zero waited expectantly, the pokemon hiding in the tall grass was definitely not a Pidgey and it probably didn't have the temper of one.

After taking a big breath and solidifying his resolve, Squirtle shot a water gun attack at the tall grass. The pokemon hiding there let out a yelp of surprise that was distinctly unlike that of a Pidgey. The creature, which was actually a Mankey, rushed out of the grass and glared at the attacker. With a fierce war cry, the Mankey dashed towards Squirtle, who could only step back and retreat into his shell in fright. The Mankey pushed past the other pokemon, knowing that the Squirtle must have been the culprit for the water gun, and began to attack relentlessly.

"Squirtle, fight back! Do something!" Pichu, Furball and Zubat looked at Ashimi as if asking if they should interfere or give Squirtle the opportunity to fight. Upon hearing the commotion, a group of Mankey and Primeape rushed over to join the other Mankey in bullying Squirtle. "What? Primeape too? This is too much, help him!"

Without any specific commands, as Ashimi had called out very hastily in sudden worry, Zubat wasn't sure what to do. Pichu's first instinct was to use a thunderbolt attack and, seeing his intention, Furball decided to do the same. Given the large number of opponents, they went all the way with the electricity, the bolts colliding and spiraling up into the sky after passing through the unfortunate group of Mankey and Primeape. Zubat was caught by the electricity and fainted. The bat fell and landed on Pichu's head. The yellow pokemon had been focused on the attack and was startled into making it stronger. Furball felt the increase in electricity and added his own burst of extra power, the electricity piling up and flashing high into the sky.

"Zubat, return!" Ashimi recalled the fainted bat. "Looks like Squirtle got caught in the middle of that too, return!" Now she had two knocked out pokemon and one disobedient pokemon, but at least the remaining two were something fierce. "We need to work on your team coordination." Pokemon battles were mostly one on one events and in the occasions when teams were allowed, generally each trainer commanded one pokemon. But Ashimi was a born multi-tasker and liked to train her pokemon all at once, so that they could all progress and make good use of the training time. Thus in the wild, she sometimes guided more than one battle at once. She didn't overwhelm her opponents with numbers, as that would defeat the purpose of seeking a challenge, but she didn't wait for one battle to be over before starting another if an opponent made its presence known.

"Ashimi, I think all that lightning disturbed their flight..." Zero pointed upwards. "They're strong... very strong," he warned.

"Who?" Ashimi looked up, expecting to find a flock of Pidgey and Pidgeotto passing overhead with peculiarly unfortunate timing, but what she saw was something else entirely and it was quite unexpected. The large looming shadow descended upon her with great speed, snatching her from where she was, leaving Zero and the pokemon on the ground. The Charizard spun around rapidly in mid air and even tossed the girl up, much to the worry of those who watched from the ground below. With just as much agility, the Charizard snatched her up again in mid air and landed, placing Ashimi safely on her feet. At the same time, two other Charizard landed as well. "Charizard!" Ashimi giggled, "it's so nice to see you! She smiled at the other fire pokemon as well. Charla, Charchar, Chari!" She greeted them one by one. "Look at you, Charchar, you've gotten bigger since I last saw you!" She looked around, she had assumed Chari was with the family. "Chari? There you are! You're a Charmeleon! That's awesome!" Chari gave a short greeting that hinted at her bad mood, but also implied that it had nothing to do with Ashimi herself, or her pokemon.

"You know them..." Zero stated more so than inquired. Seeing as it was okay, Pichu and Furball came over to greet the family of Charizard (and Charmeleon) as well.

"This is my dad's Charizard, well, he's a free pokemon who comes and goes as he wishes, but dad was his trainer. Sometimes he comes to visit with his family, it's been a while since I last saw them." Ashimi introduced each one, "this is Charla, she motioned towards the adult female. Their son, I call him Charchar." Though now he was a Charizard, he had been in Ash's care for a while in past years when he was a young Charmander. He had always been very strong, though cocky. "And here's Chari," Ashimi pointed at the female Charmeleon, who was clearly the youngest of the family.

Charizard gave Zero a curious look and sniffed him, speaking something that only pokemon could understand. "I guess I would be like a Porygon, but different, I'm a virtual human prototype, but they didn't make anymore, it's easier to just train pokemon and humans to do stuff than to try to stabilize one like me." Zero quickly moved on, disregarding the statement before more details were requested, "yes, I can understand you. Really? I bet she'll be happy to hear that!"

"What's going on?" Ashimi curiously asked. "Charizard over here is saying that he was taking his daughter to train with Ash, but if you're already on your pokemon journey, then she can tag along with you, if you don't mind."

"Are you kidding? That's totally awesome! Welcome to the team, Chari!" Ashimi cheered. Chari still looked a bit cranky, and seemed unsure. She glanced at Pichu and Furball, then appeared to reach a decision and nodded towards Ashimi. If the pokemon trained by Ashimi were strong, as they had witnessed, then the little girl she met as a Charmander was no more, the daughter of Ash was a real pokemon trainer now.

As the youngest in a family of strong Charizard, she felt that she was challenged to measure up to them. Her older brother, who was particularly gifted with power at a young age, had been nothing but fully supportive. He was cocky, and had the power to back it, but he also had a soft spot for his little sister. As for Chari, she was beginning to become frustrated by her progress. She was by no means weak, but the comparison between her and her family was still ever present, especially when it came to her gifted older brother and her father's achievements alongside Ash. When her father suggested sending her out of the Charicific Valley to spend some time with his previous trainer, she was all too quick to agree. She could use a break from all the expectations and it would be a breath of fresh air to be around pokemon other than her own kind. Perhaps it was for the best to be trained by Ash's daughter. Even if she had considerably less experience, she was apparently in the middle of a journey and the traveling would make the training interesting. Chari looked forward to the day when she earned her evolution and soared across the skies instead of having to ride on her parents' or brother's back.

Ashimi celebrated the reunion with a picnic, then after a while, Charizard, Charla and their son took off, to give Ash a visit at Cerulean City. Chari hopped into a pokeball without protest and soon Ashimi was on her way. She didn't capture any of the knocked out Mankey. They didn't seem particularly strong, at least not in contrast with Pichu and Furball, albeit that was a pretty tough comparison. Then again Squirtle wasn't exactly strong either, or rather, he didn't even try to be, but Squirtle was given to her, he was already her pokemon and Ashimi couldn't simply abandon him. The Mankey had their pack in the wild, they could take care of themselves and become stronger, but Squirtle wouldn't last long in the wild.

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Once again, Ashimi arrived at Vermilion City. This time she didn't have any encounters with Daala during her travels from one city to another and for that she was thankful. Another day had gone by, so she headed to the pokemon center. Clefable was as uncooperative as ever, having dinner away from the rest of the group. Her constant glares in Ashimi's direction made it clear that the issue was with her, rather than with the other pokemon or Zero. Chari was feeling better, since she was on her way to getting stronger and just the thought of having a trainer made her feel reassured. Yet her attention was caught by the Clefable's behavior and the Charmeleon curiously approached and started a conversation. She wondered why anyone wouldn't be thrilled to be trained by Ashimi if she truly was similar to her father. 'What are you so mad about?'

Clefable opened her mouth to harshly say it was none of her business, but she thought twice about it when she took a better look at the Charmeleon. Though she was calm, Clefable had a feeling that the Charmeleon he heard the others call Chari, didn't have much patience for rude retorts. Chari didn't needlessly pick fights for the sake of testing her power, that was more so her brother's department, but she did have a temper of her own. Her wrath was not ignited without reason, but when she was given what she considered to be reason enough to feel challenged, Chari was fierce in combat. 'I didn't want to be caught...' Clefable finally admitted.

'Have you tried to tell Ashimi that? I don't think she's the type to keep pokemon around against their will. If you're having trouble letting her know, that boy can understand us.' Chari pointed out.

Clefable shook her head. 'I could escape if I wanted. She lets me out for walks now and then and only calls me back to the pokeball if I hit her. Besides, I'm sure you noticed that the pokeballs are not locked.' It was a mechanism that was later implemented to the design of pokeballs. Even if they still looked basically the same on the outside, with a shinier glow to them, the inner changes were much more significant. The capsules came with a locking mechanism that could make it so that pokemon could not pop out on their own.

Albeit most pokeballs allowed pokemon to hear what was happening outside, some had the option of putting them in a state of suspended animation for longer travels during which for whatever reason they couldn't be allowed out, or in the case of the creature in question being caught as a collectible rather than a companion. Ashimi wasn't like that. As pokemon digitalization became more stable, advanced and commonly used, establishments like that of Gary Oak were less needed as places where pokemon could be kept, fed and exercised. As a result Gary did more researching than caring for pokemon than Samuel had done in his time. It also raised concerns about the pokemon's well being, albeit it was assured that suspended animation was painless and the pokemon would wake up just fine even if they remained that way for a long time. Given those facts, it was a generally accepted technology and quite a convenience, except for the lethal damage that would occur should the servers storing the pokemon be damaged or destroyed, but as that rarely happened, few people thought about it.

None the less, Ashimi thought that it wasn't very nice to keep pokemon endlessly frozen in time, only to wake up in a world decades older than the world they knew, if they were ever woken up at all. Catching many pokemon brought a whole new set of implications. She knew her father's pokemon were well taken care of, let out of their pokeballs regularly to run and play in the extensive Oak land at Pallet Town, but she found the whole rotating through pokemon strategy to be somewhat ineffective. Like Ash, she loved pokemon and like Giovanni, she craved power. Though power could be achieve by numbers, she figured enough pokemon were being caught by Team Rocket already, she knew her grandfather had vast databases full of pokemon in digital storage, frozen in time. If they were to become hers eventually, she had her hands full already. Yet at the same time, it wasn't enough.

Ashimi wanted an elite team of her own. She found the balance by catching only a few pokemon and focusing on making them strong. She would think of numbers later if it came to that, for now, she would concentrate on her elite team and make them as powerful as they could be. Clefable was her pokemon too, her pokeball was always unlocked but she refused to come out uncalled. Then when she was called, she misbehaved or acted rudely, yet she didn't leave. The pink pokemon's attitude perplexed Ashimi and she wondered if she was being judged as a trainer. She wondered if Clefable was observing her before deciding if she should simply leave, or become a part of the team. Ashimi wasn't one to turn down a challenge, so she didn't tell Clefable to leave.

Chari looked at Clefable with confusion. 'I don't understand. If you don't want to be here and you know you can leave, why don't you? You can return to your home if you want.'

'I can't... That girl... She was willing to fight me herself, not just with her pokemon and she doesn't back down or show any fear when I attack her. She didn't catch my younger siblings even though she could have, it's like she wasn't interested. She's done that a few times since, passing up the opportunity to catch pokemon. She even uses her healing supplies on wild pokemon when she thinks the battle was a little too harsh, even if she intends to let them go. She's pretty tough for a human, but strangely gentle at the same time. I want to see just how sincere she is,' Clefable confessed. 'I was told humans are not to be trusted, I was told they are weak creatures that hide behind our power, but she seems so different... I'm not convinced though, she has to be an exceptionally tricky human and I'll unmask her even if I have to follow her to the ends of the world!'

Chari was reminded of a story her father once told her and her brother. He was mistreated by his original trainer and rescued by Ash. As a Charmander, he relied on Ash, but as soon as he evolved, he became confident and developed an air of superiority. He didn't need Ash anymore, he assumed, but Ash never gave up on him, even after Charizard cost him a crucial battle at the Indigo League, which ended his quest for the championship that year. Ash continued battling and when Charizard realized he did need him, Ash was always there. He had earned Charizard's trust and loyalty, but he wasn't selfish about it, allowing Charizard to pursue his own path in life, instead of making the pokemon follow him. That's why Charizard would always return to Ash, their bond could never be broken.

'What is it?' Clefable asked after a few moments of silence had passed. 'What are you spacing out about?'

'I was just remembering something,' Chari shook her head. It would be of no use to try to convince Clefable that not all humans were the same, that was something she would have to see for herself. At least Chari's doubts were gone, it sounded like Ashimi was indeed living up to the legacy of her father and adding her own style to it.

"Chari! Come watch videos with us!" Ashimi called out from the opposite corner of the guest room at the Vermilion pokemon center. "Just a few more and then we'll get some sleep, we can't spend the entire night watching battles on Poke Tube when a real gym battle awaits in the morning! You can come too, Clefable, but only if you behave." Clefable glared, then looked away in response, making a growling sound of displeasure. Chari left their corner and joined Zero and the pokemon as they crowded around the tablet laptop Ashimi held. "Hey... This is... It looks like it's from a camera that was set up at Nolan's... It's one of dad's battles... Articuno versus Charizard! Hey Chari, that's your dad!"

As the video played, everyone was focused on it, but Ashimi took a moment to look at Chari, who seemed to be hanging back, not wanting to draw attention all of a sudden. She placed her arm around the pokemon, offering her support and whispered reassuringly. "I know what it's like to carry big expectations, but I won't give up and neither should you. Who knows, maybe someday it'll be you and me taking down a legendary." Chari looked into Ashimi's eyes and at that moment, she knew beyond a doubt that traveling with her was definitely the right thing to do.

To be Continued

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Chapter 7: Ashimi's last line in this chapter is from Wreck It Ralph, one of the funniest movies I've seen. I love the animation, the characters, the video game references, everything; so I just had to include a fun reference to it and this felt like the perfect opportunity. The part with the barrels was partially based on the original Donkey Kong, the one where Mario was still called Jumpman. The knife trap staircase was in part inspired by the arrow corridor in the game Sweet Fuse: At Your Side, though I'm sure similar scenarios have been present on many games and movies before.

Chapter 8: The names Ashimi and Zero incorrectly guessed for the green haired boy, are all from Final Fantasy. The pokemon mentioned with Team Plasma are Kabutops and Genesect. Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII and Shizuru from Phantasy Star Portable 2 are some of the video game villains who have done the whole walking through the fire scene. Volt and Electro's name were chosen based on electricity, obviously, and Electro's nickname, Thor, is based on the mythological character.

Chapter 9: Charizard's son appears in Don't Give Me Diamonds, though as I said before, you can still understand this story even if you haven't read that one. This story marks his daughter's first appearance in any of my stories. Charizard is my second favorite pokemon after Pikachu, so I'm glad to welcome one of its evolutionary family into Ashimi's team, plus it will be a fun relationship to explore. We also learned more about the progress of the world's technology and Clefable's attitude... Charizard's battle against Articuno was in the anime, you can find it on Poke Tube, I mean You Tube, if you haven't seen it.

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Zero: An odd little boy who looks to be about 5 years old but definitely doesn't act like an average little kid. He has spiky blue and orange hair, his eyes have no visible pupils and are colored with a blue to black gradient. He is in fact a two month old virtual android made with a process similar to that used for Porygon. His artificial intelligence was created from the combined brain scans of two humans. He was used for research purposes, but is no longer needed at Rocket HQ.

Volt: Surge's 13 year old son. Like his father, his team's main focus is electric types and he recently became the Vermilion City gym leader. He has teal eyes and blond hair. His greatest rival is his older brother, General Electro alias Thor, who is quite the military man.

John Doe: The son of Butch and Cassidy, a 15 year old boy whose name no one seems to remember, and their guesses are all over the place. He was born on the same day as Johnny, being only a few hours older, and claims to have been overshadowed by him since that very day. He wants to impress Giovanni's granddaughter to climb the ranks, but things don't often go his way. He has light green hair and unusually colored eyes, one being brown and the other being somewhat pink (due to lack of pigmentation) though they are still very much human eyes.