Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ Loyalty ❯ Chapter 2

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Disclaimer, I don't own Pokemon.


Chapter 05: Anger

The unexpected predicament had begun when the Azure Alliance, secretly being manipulated by the police, kidnapped Delia. As he rushed to his mother's rescue, Ash never would have guessed that those to blame for the abduction would turn out to be Misty and her sisters. Her reasons to take such harsh actions were unclear, until the red haired Cerulean gym leader revealed that Team Rocket, hinting specifically at Giovanni, had been responsible for her parents' death.

It was obvious that the accusation struck a chord with Delia. She knew something, she remembered a vital event. Being pushed to talk by her own son's eyes, Delia spoke softly. "It was a long time ago, there was a..." how could she properly say it? "A fight..."

"You don't need to sugarcoat it!" Misty yelled in angry frustration. "My father was a part of Team Rocket, after meeting my mother he wanted to clean up his act. He wanted to start anew and live an honest life with his family. Giovanni wouldn't let him go, he knew too much." At this point, misty could no longer hold back her tears and allowed them to flow freely down her face. "Giovanni murdered my father and that's all there is to it. He murdered my mother as well soon after. I was still a baby; I can't even remember their faces! I was given to my grandmother as a baby, with my sisters remaining in the Cerulean gym, tended to by relatives. They got every material thing they wanted, but that's it. Then when I was considered old enough, I was returned to the gym with my sisters so that grandma could rest without the work of raising a child in her old age."

Misty sobbed, gasping for air. "We lived alone receiving help from relatives, but they only thought about giving us money." More so to the three oldest, Misty had always been left out, though she never understood why. She concluded that perhaps there simply wasn't enough room in the budget to spoil four girls, but there was room for three. It didn't matter too much though, they still lacked love. "Our uncle, father's cousin whom we thought of as our uncle, was the only one who ever showed true compassion for us, but Team Rocket took him away too when I was very young. They killed my parents, they killed my uncle, they took everything away and left us without an explanation thinking we would never know!"

Delia shook her head, her eyes downcast in compassion and guilt. "That's not quite how it happened. The truth is-"

"I don't want your twisted version of the truth!" Misty screamed desperately, her hand resting on one of the pokeballs on her belt.

"Stop!" Ash ordered and the atmosphere appeared to turn into an unbearable stillness as he spoke. "If what happened was so long ago, if it took you this long to find out, then the information can be false." He tried to reason with Misty.

Trying to tame her wild emotions Misty took a deep breath, leaving the pokeball to rest on her belt untouched. "I will listen," she finally decided.

Delia let out a deep breath having an internal debate with herself. Should she tell the truth? She couldn't bare to lie to her son who clearly wanted to hear the full truth. "Your father didn't simply want to leave Team Rocket in peace; that might have been negotiable with a little compromise. He tried to sell out the organization to the police at a critical point. Many Rockets were put in harm's way because of his betrayal and it was one of the biggest police raids Team Rocket underwent. Because of that, choosing to protect his organization and avenge his followers, Giovanni killed your father. One shot through the heart, it was quick."

"That's supposed to be a consolation?" misty growled through gritted teeth.

"Please try to understand what he did," Delia pleaded. "Giovanni's action was harsh and extreme, wrong, but it could have been worse for many others if things were left as they were. Tidus had become an enemy to Team Rocket, he-"

"Don't even say my father's name," Misty's voice was low and bitter. "Not if you're going to make up excuses. My father did what he thought was right, he didn't run away. I can't accuse him for that. Even if it was to defend his organization, I can't let Giovanni's actions pass either. This wasn't just limited to my father, it was about my mother and father's cousin too. Why did they have to die? Are you going to tell me they became enemies of Team Rocket too? What do you claim they did?"

"She tried to kill me," there was a bitter edge to Delia's voice as she revealed the truth. "Worse yet, she tried to kill Ash. Of course you wouldn't know, you were a baby. I don't blame you if you don't believe me, I'm just tainting your sweet memories built on theories. The one who chouse your mother's sentence was me." Delia's confession brought forth gasps of surprise from both Misty and Ash, their eyes locked on her. "Coral tried to avenge Tidus by killing me. Given that I was pregnant and very close to giving birth I was unable to put up much of a fight. I nearly drowned and Ash along with me. The reason why she was able to go that far in the first place was because I foolishly ran off in anger leaving my guards behind. I had a bad argument with Giovanni about Tidus' sentence, but following Coral's actions, I admit I lost all pity for them."

"You're lying..." Misty's voice was barely above a whisper while her faced betrayed the words. She knew Delia was telling the truth, somehow she simply knew. "Giovanni killed my father and you killed my mother?"

"Indirectly," Delia admitted, "I suppose that doesn't make it better, if anything it makes it worse. I barely made it out of that experience alive. Labor was induced to save Ash and all the while I gave birth and the doctors ran around doing what they could, I wondered if my baby would survive, I wondered if it was too late or if he would suffer the terrible effects of my near death experience with his own death or with some irreparable damage. I was grateful when my son was miraculously born healthy. For the unforgivable crime of putting Ash in danger, I sentenced Coral to life in the dungeons. There she struggled to survive for several years until she finally died."

A thick silence hung in the air for several minutes. "I still want vengeance," Misty whispered. "I guess there's nothing more left for me but to live and fight or die. I'm an enemy of Team rocket, aren't I? If I am to be hunted, I might as well go on a hunt of my own."

"It's not too late for you. I'll talk to Giovanni this once. Lay low and move back into your normal life. Your unlawful record will be frozen, if you prove yourself to be trusted to stay out of trouble, you'll be left alone." Delia offered. "This will take a great deal of convincing on my part, don't waste your chance."

"I don't think I want your so called mercy," Misty whispered bitterly, the fight was gone from her eyes, at least for the time being. She didn't even bother to continue her interrogation asking about her father's cousin, who had played the role of an uncle for her and her sisters. She didn't want to hear some story about him being some terrible traitor that had to be punished. She didn't want to hear anything more from anyone related to Team Rocket.

"Too bad because you desperately need it!" Ash suddenly snapped harshly. He was past the point of denial and into the territory of anger with his temper having become more noticeable in the recent years.

The flare of anger in Misty's eyes was immediate as her gaze met Ash's. "you're in no position to talk, you're-"

"The son of a murderer?" Ash snapped in anger, not willing to listen to anything anyone said. His choice of wording brought an upset gasp from Delia which he ignored. "You should talk, you're the daughter of a murderer yourself, or at least a would be murderer." All his tensions were coming undone and he couldn't help it but to unleash his anger. He stepped forward glaring fiercely. "If you're given a chance take it and use it well. You're in no position to protest!"

"You can't abuse your father's power with me!" Misty yelled back, raising her hand in a moment of aggressive instinct to slap Ash's face. Her palm made contact harshly, the echo of the hit being followed by a scream of pain coming from Misty as Pikachu gave her a harsh shock which knocked her back several feet. This was different from Pikachu's power from her younger days traveling with Ash. The static clung to her every cell and Misty found herself trapped in a paralysis that left her limp on the cave floor.

"Please stop!" Delia shouted, but refrained from any further arguments as the atmosphere became still again.

Misty twitched as she tried to force her aching body to respond. This was the same Pikachu who refused to battle her in as much as a friendly match even if Ash had asked him to do so in the past. The same pokemon now attacked her without his trainer's command in defense of that same trainer. That was what he had been taught it seemed, pokemon too had their own loyalties.

Ash was frozen in shock for some time. His hand slowly traveling to the affected area of his face adorned in a stinging shade of red. "Don't count on me," his voice was barely above a whisper at first, then turned harsh. "We're not friends anymore Misty, don't count on me to defend you if Team Rocket hunts you down, I'll just look the other way!" He turned away and once more released his Charizard from his pokeball. "Mother, let's go."

With a look of shock and fright, Delia was unable to move for a few seconds. "Ash..."

"I said let's go!" Ash snapped harshly, taking Delia's wrist and pushing her to hurry climbing on Charizard's back. He climbed on himself, "hold on," he made only the shadow of a pause to allow his mother to do so before he commanded, "take us home as fast as you can." By that he meant the Viridian City gym, Charizard already understood that 'home' was no longer Pallet Town. The powerful fire pokemon took off, disappearing in the skies above.

In the cavern, left behind to drown in her thoughts, Misty got to her feet and stretched. Her every muscle ached, Pikachu had certainly gotten stronger while her pokemon got little training aside from choreographies designed to amuse a crowd and battling amateur trainers with impossible dreams to become pokemon masters. This was thinking of Ash alone, never mind the armies that stood behind him uniformed with red Rs.

She leaned against the cavern wall and sat there for a moment contemplating her next move until the arrival of cautious footsteps snapped her out of her deep thoughts. She was relived when the source of the footsteps came into view. Daisy, Violet and Lily were back, Misty knew it was only a matter of time before their will to escape for the sake of the greater good gave in and they came rushing back into what could be inevitable captivity for her sake.

Misty stood wordlessly and gave her sisters a bitter forced smile. "I need to have a long talk with you." A part of her knew that what Delia said was true, but a part of her didn't want to believe it. First things first, she needed to know exactly what happened. Either way, she would never justify her parents' death, but if she at least understood the full extent of the circumstances surrounding it she could better decide what to do without the foolishness of following anonymous leads that could be traps from the police. It made sense; they must have dug out some old records and put them into use for their benefit.

The four sisters retreated into their little hideout in Cinnabar Island to recover some of their energy and decide their next move. Misty knew the revelations she had to share would be shocking and harsh, but her sisters deserved to know the truth.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 06: Hope

To say Giovanni was displeased was quite an understatement. He was angry and when the leader of Team Rocket was angry, the dangers that could break loose at any given moment were unpredictable at best. Delia and Ash had just finished explaining the recent happenings involving Misty and her sisters, with Delia elaborating on most of the narrative, given that she was far better informed about the past. Her speech also seemed more objective than the way Ash would add in his surprise or disbelief about Misty's actions and his optimistic theories about her intentions.

Needless to say, when someone else's speech seemed optimistic making Delia's appear slightly pessimistic by comparison; one could conclude that the other person was being way too optimistic. Delia was a hopeful by nature, though she had her moments of coming to terms with reality, she tended to look on the bright side more often than not. "After all that, they're still out there plotting to cause more trouble. Delia, I don't want you wandering off outside the guarded properties. If you insist on vacationing away from the busy atmosphere of the city, which I would prefer you wouldn't do, but you're stubborn enough to try, it will be done with a team of competent guards to tend to your security." A few years ago he might have simply told her to stay where he left her, but he knew that would just make her run off faster if only to prove that her kind disposition didn't mean she could be bossed around.

"Was it true?" Ash blurted out pacing a little across the Viridian gym office. Giovanni still sat behind his desk where he had been found yelling into the phone something along the lines of mobilizing the troops when Ash and Delia entered via the large window. Naturally, he would have preferred to be informed immediately upon Delia's rescue, rather than waiting for his son and wife to make the trip back before knowing that Delia was indeed alive and Ash was not doing something stupidly reckless and counterproductive in an attempt to save her.

Giovanni glared and got up from his desk, making his way at a luxurious pace to the liquor cabinet that sat forgotten in a corner of the office. He barely had time to breathe lately, let alone have a nice refreshing drink. He proceeded to serve himself a beverage, completely ignoring the other two inhabitants of the office, certainly not in the mood to deal with another bout of denial from Ash. Wasn't he past that stage already? Shouldn't he be combusting with anger and challenging every living creature he laid eyes upon to a battle in an attempt to solve everything with power, a concept for which Giovanni blamed himself with little regret?

"Ash, honey," Delia patted the empty space on the fancy little couch in the corner of the office, elegant and formal. "Sit down, sweetheart."

Huffing in annoyance, Ash did as he was told, crossing his arms in vexation. When his mother took that sweet tone with him as if speaking to a child, it was her sugar coated way to say, 'these are the facts, like it or not, you have to deal with them.' Perhaps he would have preferred the dry and direct version of the statement if only because he was old enough to understand that it would all lead to the exact same conclusion, only faster.

"Tidus did betray Team Rocket, he did some bad things, selling out his comrades to the police and interfering with important business deals." Delia patiently explained, trying to put on a mask of reassurance past her own disturbing worries about things that happened so long ago she had, feeling guilty upon the realization, forgotten about. "That's why your father did what he did, although I was certainly not happy about it, I accepted it. As for Coral, perhaps she is the key to making peace with Misty."

"I doubt it," Ash mumbled bitterly. "Even if her actions against you," he paused and corrected himself, "against us, were terrible and deserved a punishment, telling someone that they're mother's a killer who deserved to die doesn't seem like a way to make peace with them."

"I lied," Delia admitted and for a moment Ash couldn't figure out to what specifically she referred to. "I did indeed have Coral locked in the dungeons, but as far as I know she didn't die." Delia paused and looked at Giovanni. "Did she?" Her husband ignored her in favor of his drink and she continued. "I just didn't want Misty to get any crazy ideas about rescuing her. That would certainly put her in a bad position and we are trying to give her another chance, aren't we?" Delia once again looked at Giovanni, this time her eyes much more insistent and demanding of an answer than before.

"No, we're not, these annoyances need to be dealt with," Giovanni finally spoke. His anger was still very much present, not even diminished by a single drink no matter how much alcohol it contained. He slammed his glass down on top of the cabinet. He turned to face his wife and son, his gaze staring a hole through Ash, who promptly closed his mouth after he had opened it to protest. Anyone would think it was a sign of obedient resignation, but Giovanni knew better than that. "Don't you even think about running off to do the rescuing yourself," he warned Ash. "I don't even know if," he paused remembering the name that he had disregarded long ago and just recently recalled when Delia mentioned it, "Coral is still alive."

"Don't you keep tabs on your prisoners?" Ash accused, his angry tone half controlled by this point.

Giovanni took a seat on the couch leaving Delia in the middle between Ash and himself, as a barrier of calm that would hopefully prevent his sometimes rebellious son from giving him a headache. His precious Persian strode over to be petted because regardless of the situation and its implications, he thought that there was no excuse for neglecting giving him constant attention. "It was a long time ago; I had no use for her. I was only humoring your mother in keeping her alive. I'll have someone check and in the mean time you're going downstairs and training. I'll be expecting a full result of whatever training exercise you choose, I'll leave the training program up to you."

"In other words I should keep myself busy and out of trouble," Ash pouted, his tone slowly losing its edge. He would have to wait to find out more about Coral and if she was indeed still alive. Until he knew, there was no use in moving without a proper plan. Besides, if he stopped to think about it logically for a split second, he could deduce that the dungeon in question wasn't even in the Viridian underground base or else he would know about it as he had made it a point recently to visit every area of the vast facility. Given how little he knew, it was best to wait impatiently, because waiting patiently was an impossibility for him. "Alright, I'll stay out of trouble." With that assurance in the air, Ash exited his father's office and headed off to find someone that could cover for him while he did exactly what he knew he shouldn't be doing.

Sure, he said he would stay out of trouble, yes, it would be stupid to go on a wild Farfetched chase for Coral without even the smallest truly significant clue concerning her whereabouts, if she was even still alive, but he wasn't going to do that anyway. Ash was going out to find Misty and he was indeed going to keep his word and stay out of trouble, because you're not in trouble unless you get caught.

xoxox xox xoxox

Taking an elevator down to the lower more accessibility controlled levels of the Viridian Rocket base, Ash stopped at the unofficial information center, also known as the infirmary. If the person he was looking for wasn't there, he could most likely at least learn of his location. "Have you seen Comet?" He inquired peeking into the white room that was simply too white for comfort, especially with how the red stains stood out in a trail from the door to a bed behind white curtains with red droplets, the hallways having already been cleaned. Morbid curiosity reared its ugly head and Ash had to add another question. "What's all this blood about?"

"Hey princey!" A blond woman, who served as Team Rocket's resident pokemon doctor at Viridian City, ignored the question momentarily instead supplying a greeting for an answer. She twirled a strand of green dyed hair, the two matching locks framing her face in the same color of her eyes. "It's an infirmary; it's supposed to be bloody." She finally replied, though the explanation was less than satisfactory. She paused as if asking silently if Ash was sure he wanted to know.

"I don't think I-" he was about to say he didn't really want to know, his curiosity giving way to the self defense of one who doesn't wish to hear an unpleasant fact that they can go on living without knowing.

It was too late as with an obnoxious smile Laiki elaborated. "It was a Slowpoke, or I should say is, as he still lives. Some rookie wanted Slowpoke tail and instead of just requesting it at the cafeteria she went and tried to play chef, which turned out badly. She then dumped the bloody creature in my care, because everyone always brings their bloody junk to the doctor, and ran off. I told her the Slowpoke died, which is a lie. I still need to have someone come over to mop up this mess because I'm not doing it myself, I just finished getting cleaned up after taking care of the pathetic patient." Needless to say she was nothing like Nurse Joy.

Ash's nose twisted in disgust before he inevitably tried to look on the bright side. "At least the Slowpoke was confiscated alive."

"Yeah, the cafeteria staff will make good use of him eventually, just keeping the meat fresh," Laiki joked with another annoyingly morbid smile.

Ash shuddered before he could stop himself, he enjoyed a good old Slowpoke burger as much as a Taurus one, but he didn't need to witness the messy side of it all. "I asked where Comet is?"

"I don't know, maybe having some fun with Pixel?" She winked, leave it to Laiki to find a way to twist every conversation into something morbid, or suggestive, or both. "I should be asking you something too, princey, where are the goods from your hot Pallet pal?"

Ash took a moment to realize who Laiki was talking about. Of course, she meant Gary, whom she shamelessly flirted with any chance she got, much to Gary's annoyance as he was used to being admired with awe, not... cornered by an experienced hunter, for lack of better term. "I forgot to bring the goods..." Ash realized, he took off in a hurry leaving Gary with the payment and taking nothing in exchange. Not that it mattered too much, Gary would have the results of his research ready and safe until someone officially picked them up.

"Oh goody! I get to go pick them up myself," she licked her lips and Ash instinctively backed away. Laiki was his friend, but she could be a little disturbing at times. She was beautiful with a figure that caught the attention of many men, but she was so forward and confident she could somehow manage to intimidate even the most womanizing Don Juan with the loosest morals, which he wasn't to begin with. "Hey, don't give me that look princey, I'm not going to pounce, after all, your daddy did say, and I quote, 'if you lay a finger on Ash, I'll kill you' and I'm not feeling particularly suicidal, nor am I expecting such a mood to strike."

"Right... Well, Comet's not here, so I'll be on my way. Try not to drive Gary up a wall," Ash requested knowing full well that his appeal would fall on deaf ears.

"No problem," Laiki grinned indicating that she was about to throw out another mischievous remark." If he doesn't like it against the wall, I'm perfectly alright with using the be-"

"Goodbye Laiki!" Ash left the infirmary, not in the mood for any more of Laiki's peculiar remarks. He wanted to go search for Misty but he needed someone to cover for him just in case, hence why he couldn't take off without finding someone to excuse him should anyone inquire of his whereabouts. He felt like a child asking a friend to call his parents and say he was sleeping over when he was in truth going somewhere else entirely.

He couldn't simply call, not with his cell phone being part of the Rocket network as much as the receiving cell phone was. Ash shrugged and continued on his way down to the living quarters, a row of small rooms where Rockets inhabited under the unsuspecting streets of Viridian City. He was pretty sure he would have his cover up ready soon and would be on his way to perform the much more difficult task of finding someone else, because he really had no clue of where to look for Misty; she couldn't still be in Cinnabar Island, could she?

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 07: Clues

Only the sound of constant typing was heard in the room of many screens. The images were holographic, floating in mid air above the projectors as if glass rectangles were levitating, showing pictures moving in them, except these weren't pictures. They were codes, codes that made Ash's head spin if he looked at them for a second too long, and two seconds felt like long enough. The many technologically oriented Rockets in the room remained focused in their respective tasks, the nature of which remained imperceptible to Ash. Finally, he spotted a blue haired girl in front of one of the floating images, typing into a keyboard that looked like it had a few extra keys in comparison to a regular one. "Pixel," instantly, Ash felt glares on him as the eerie quietude, aside from the sound of typing, was broken.

They were so used to the sound of the keys being rapidly pressed that those present in the large room could easily ignore it. They had gotten used to the constant clicks of nails on keys too, and this girl was one of those who made such sounds with blue painted long nails. As soon as it sunk in who the so called intruder was, the Rockets returned to their tasks not daring to glare further. "Be right there," with a rapid succession of key strokes, Pixel saved what she was doing, logged off and walked out of the room.

Out in the hallway, Ash shook his head to clear it. "I'll never get used to those codes; honestly I don't know how you can understand them."

Dark eyes showed amusement as she grinned, "it takes practice."

Going to the business at hand, Ash inquired, "do you know where Comet is? Laiki said he was with you."

"He's out on a mission," Pixel replied as a matter of fact, not hinting at the fact that she had information that Ash might want to know... yet. She couldn't tell him, she was under orders not to. Even so, it was only a matter of time before Ash realized it.

"Oh," the timing was inconvenient yet at the same time too convenient. Ash always asked Comet to cover for him, twisting the situation around not to actually get him into trouble. The young man, whose red-orange hair ironically reminded Ash of Misty's color had been a Rocket all his life. His father was one of the first few members of Team Rocket to join under Giovanni's leadership. "Do you think you could do me a favor then? Could you cover for me?"

"Right," Pixel chuckled, "I should tell your father if he asks that we're off training our pokemon... can do, except that might be painful."

"How so?" Ash inquired unsure.

"Because I'll have to hurt you as proof, you know I do have a liking for collateral damage during a fight and I tend to break the rules and aim for the trainer. It wouldn't be believable if you're uninjured," Pixel grinned happily, like a child in a candy shop.

Ash opened his mouth to comment and closed it again. He really didn't want to deal with a sadistic computer geek right now. "Right, then just say I'm hanging out with Gary." Ash retrieved his cell phone from his pocket. "As for the location tracking issue, I suppose I could drop this off and-"

Ash was interrupted when Pixel snatched away the phone. "I can hack up a fake signal. Happy mystery hunting." With a bright smile, that made Ash wonder just how much she knew, Pixel returned to the high tech room where she was before. He considered inquiring further, but let it go.

xoxox xox xoxox

As he left the Viridian Gym, Ash spotted Jessie and James heading out and ran over to them. "I heard you two took a detour to the dungeon," he asked with concern. Dealing with Jessie and James was part of his training in his younger days and later they became his true friends. He looked at Jessie's belly, "are you okay? Are they okay?"

"We're fine," Jessie spoke with a regal calm tone to her voice. This was, despite the recent happenings, ironically one of her good days. Her massive mood swings knew no boundaries and rarely followed any semblance of logic, sending her in a random chaotic turmoil of emotion for no apparent reason in some days. In other days, like today, she was cool, calm and collected with a sea of patience and tranquility that nothing short of the apocalypse could disturb. "And how are you, twerp?" She smiled.

"Relieved to see you in good spirits," Ash admitted, chuckling slightly at the silly nickname that Jessie still used even after he grew taller than her. Last time he caught Jessie in a bad mood he ended up with a black eye, James already had two of those on that day. His father had laughed and commented on his poor reflexes having been unable to dodge. Ash had pouted profusely, but was relieve that Giovanni wasn't angry about the occurrence, but rather amused, offering to give Ash what he called a much needed boxing lesson, which the Indigo champion politely declined.

"We just recently talked to Delia," James revealed. "She sent this," James handed Ash a sealed envelope. "I'm glad we ran into you, this mission as pretty easy." If only all missions were as easy as delivering an envelope. "But I still have the feeling that we're forgetting something..."

Ash fingered the envelope with anticipation and began to tare it open full of curiosity. "Where's Meowth?" It was odd not seeing the talking Pokemon with the pair. It would be just as odd for them not to see Pikachu on Ash's shoulders as he always was. The small yellow electric pokemon leaned to look at the letter his trainer pulled out of the envelope.

"Meowth!" James suddenly exclaimed with a look of realization. "I knew I was forgetting something, I forgot to let him out of the pokeball where we had to keep him during the... detour." Taking the pokeball from his belt, James activated it with Meowth emerging from its red beam. Before anything could be said, another red beam came from a different pokeball James was carrying and the shape of a Victreebel formed. The pokemon, promptly attempted to swallow James whole, leaving him to kick around upside down, half his body trapped inside the creature.

Ash had to look up from the process of reading the letter. "Some things never change. See you later!" Waving goodbye, Ash headed to his orange sports car with Jessie smiling as she saw him off and rubbing her belly, she was expecting twins. Ash could barely hear James bidding his farewells from inside his confinement while Meowth tried to get over his disorientation as he was not used to being put inside a pokeball. His mouth was running away with him, it looked like he certainly missed having someone to talk to. Ash paused and decided against using his car, instead taking to the skies on Charizard. His mother's letter wasn't only a letter, it included a map.

xoxox xox xoxox

Some time later, Charizard landed on Cinnabar Island and Ash dismounted, thanking the pokemon and returning him to his pokeball. He looked ahead to the busy tourist filled streets. A few people recognized him and came over to ask for an autograph. Landing in the middle of the busy area was a bad idea. He didn't want to disappoint anyone or cause unnecessary suspicion, so he played along as he searched the area with his eyes. To his surprise, he found misty very easily. She was sitting at an outdoor table at a cafe with a milkshake she had barely touched on the table in front of her. She was alone, having probably come up with some excuse to make her sisters leave her.

Ash understood, she wasn't hiding because she wanted to be found, she was willing to face him. She was probably motivated by the prospect of her sisters' safety more so than anything else and perhaps a little by their past too... or a lot. He slowly made his way through the crowd, shaking hands and signing his name, or rather the name that he was famous with. Eventually he reached Misty's table and sat down, with people coming and going from his side.

For several moments they didn't speak, not with their voices and not even with their expressions. They kept up an act of being inconspicuous and pretending they were just another pair of ordinary friends, except one was a champion and the other a gym leader, yet as such, their association would not be anything unusual to those who knew nothing of the hidden truths. Ash ordered something to eat and spent most of the time when he wasn't consuming his food, tending to the requests of curious tourists.

Finally, the pair left as if they had planned this meeting all along. Misty led the way with Ash walking in silence next to her. They reached a crowded hotel and headed for the elevator. As soon as they were inside and moving up, their expressions turned serious. Yet they waited before speaking any words. The elevator doors opened after what felt like an eternity and they stepped out to a long hallway adorned with a painting of Magmar with a volcanic background. The fiery colors were all over as they made their way to a door which Misty unlocked with a keycard.

They entered the room and the door was closed behind them. Their silence was replaced with the unbearable need to say something. "All this secrecy, all these years..." Misty accused.

"Listen Misty," Ash wasn't even sure what he could say. Her glare was piercing and fierce and his face was set in seriousness, as if carved from stone. "I don't know what happened exactly and I'm not going to pretend that everything is all good and nice, but..." His argument fell apart because he didn't know what his argument was.

"But what?" Misty snapped. "Why are you even here?"

"Why are you here?" Ash snapped back, throwing the question back at her face. "You knew I would come, didn't you? You wanted me to find you so you stayed there in plain sight. What if it backfired? What if I wasn't the one to find you?" He reproached. "Don't give me that look of distrust!" Pikachu jumped off his shoulders as the tension in his body increased. "I never told you for your own good, to keep you safe from this. This is my destiny and that I have always known. As for the past... you can't say your side is completely without blame, not that I'm justifying mine."

Misty's hands balled into fists and for a moment it looked like she would punch Ash, but she didn't. "I know; dad was careless about choosing his battles, apparently. As for mom, she was understandably upset and vengeful. She was enraged, as am I, but she shouldn't have tried to kill Delia... and you. Regardless, Team Rocket is still my enemy. If you are Team Rocket then..." she paused as if this was harder to say than she expected, "so are you."

"I am Team rocket," Ash accepted without a hint of doubt or denial. "But I'm not your enemy. I'll do this for you; I'll help you find your mother. She could still be alive."

Misty gasped, her face becoming hopeful, then distrusting, "but Delia said..." she fell silent.

"She wasn't sure," Ash explained. "She assumed the worse so as to not get your hopes up, but there's still a possibility. Can you set your bitterness aside and work with me to investigate this?" His serious expression changed into a hopeful one.

Then Misty saw it, she saw a clear hint of the boy she once knew. He was still there; he was still very much alive in the young man standing before her. She slowly nodded her head, pushing her voice to function, "yes." Making a small pause, she added a valid question, "where do we even start?"

Ash produced a folded piece of paper from his pocket, revealing it to be a map, "here," he pointed to an X that was on the map. The location was near the Sevii Islands. "Mom gave me this as a clue. She hates taking sides. It really bothers her when dad and I have a disagreement. I think she's just evening the score by giving me this information, making the argument a little more balanced. I don't know what we'll find there, but it's a start."

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 08: Discoveries

The location on the map was in the open sea where there shouldn't be anything, but Ash didn't question it for a second. He and Misty rode upon his Charizard as swiftly as the fire pokemon could carry them. They eventually reached the location marked on the map and found, water... Ash examined the map again, he and Misty had traveled in silence occupied by their own thoughts. The proximity at riding on Charizard's back felt odd as they tried to stay away from each other without risking falling at the high speed.

Charizard flew in circles over the spot until Ash finally spoke, "Maybe this isn't the place."

"Only one way to find out," Misty jumped off Charizard and dove into the ocean below before Ash even had time to react to her comment or interpret her intentions. A few seconds later, Misty's head emerged from the water with crushed hope. Hope because she had found something, crushed hope, because she crushed it herself. She didn't want to set her heart on something only to find that the reality was much harsher. "There's some kind of underwater facility. It's actually pretty tall." She demonstrated what she meant by moving to stand on the top of the tallest chamber, making the ocean water only reach up to her waist. It was a low tide today.

"We just need to figure out how to get in," Ash hopped off Charizard, who growled in annoyance at being splashed with sea water as Ash landed next to Misty. "Thanks for the ride," Ash recalled his pokemon.

A short and uncomfortable moment of silence passed. They knew who they were and the position they were in, but traveling together, despite this being for a very different reason, reminded them of their adventures of the past. Misty had her reasons to be bitter, she kept reminding herself of that, yet she knew she couldn't really blame Ash for the past. On the other hand, he did stand with his family despite what they did, yet they had been kind to him at least, she mused.

Misty knew that though Delia was human and as such made mistakes, she was a good mother and a kind hearted person. She simply chose loyalty over justice. Yet the bitterness didn't go away completely with those thoughts. Why couldn't things be changed? If not changed then at least she could... Misty's thoughts were interrupted as the floor beneath her feet disappeared and she sunk deeper into the ocean along with Ash. She was a strong swimmer, but she couldn't resist the current pulling her down like suction.

Ash, Misty and Pikachu were pulled down through a transparent pipe. The ocean water was thankfully drained from it as they went along. They were eventually thrown into the floor, the pipe making a curve at the end, which helped to reduce the impact of the fall like a slide. They tried to get back on their feet, coughing out the sea water that had made it into their lungs as the area around them lit up.

The structure resembled a mix of metal dungeon and experimentation laboratory right out of a mad scientist movie. However, the machines looked poorly maintained, as if the facilities had not been used in a long time. Ash and Misty almost expected guards to come running towards them but no one did. None the less, if the lights were on there might be someone there albeit the mechanism could have been somehow automatic or triggered by their combined weight standing above the pipe; maybe it was simply an old structure that gave in.

Silently they began to explore the structure, heading from the large tall chamber down a narrow corridor. The silence was so deafening and the questions so imperative that Misty simply had to ask. "Have you ever thought to defy him? Your father?"

"Yes," Ash replied with sincerity and smiled as if fondly remembering mischief. "It was fun at times, and very stressful at others." His expression turned serious. Letting out a breath, he looked at misty and voiced. "I think I should explain myself. I'm sure you think I must have changed a lot."

"Your morals especially," Misty commented bitterly.

"That has not changed," Ash firmly insisted. "There are many things that Team Rocket used to do and still does that have been reduced if not changed because of my mother and my insistence and our efforts to find alternatives. It's an odd feeling; it's a contradiction that I can't explain. How can you admire someone and feel resentment at the same time? I asked myself that many times and mom told me the answer she found. I can admire who he is even if I disapprove of what he does, the genius, the idea, the ambition, not the methods, not the sacrifices. But if I walk away from everything then I'll miss the part of my life that I like and won't be able to change what I don't like."

Misty listened silently, trying to grasp everything that Ash was saying. He sounded very sincere.

"We've had our harsh disagreements," Ash admitted. "It was especially hard on mom, she hates seeing us fight. It got pretty hard. For a period of time I was Team Rocket's number one enemy and I thought I hated my father, except I could never really hate him. I suppose we got past that over time and I grew up. I learned why Team Rocket is needed and saw the beneficial side of it. I want to make it different. The law isn't always effective and rules sometimes needs to be bent if not broken. But that doesn't mean it has to be evil. I can prove myself to dad, prove I'm capable, prove I'm not naive or ignorant and show that I can make my ideas work. Team Rocket is his life's work and I can't destroy it, I'll make it better. Does that count for anything?"

Misty found herself feeling reassured, "it does. I guess you're not so different after all, not as much as I thought." She let out a breath in a mix of stress and relief. "This still seriously bothers me though."

"Understandable and it bothers me too," Ash admitted. "I've just had a little more time to deal with it, to be prepared. Not that I ever could be completely, but..."

"I think I get it, you do what you can," Misty understood. "That's what I told myself when I started the Azure Alliance; we need to do what we can. I suppose, I don't have as much bitterness for you specifically as I thought."

The wall of ice between them felt like it was lifting. Ash smiled a hopeful smile. His eyes were full of determination; it was a sentiment that assured that even in the face of adversity, everything would somehow work out. "I'm really glad to hear that."

Footsteps echoed coming from the opposite direction. Ash and Misty became guarded. Surely their presence had been noticed, their own footsteps had been sounding off clearly in the deafening silence. Then the one who was walking towards them came into view, one Rocket, just one, dressed in their classic black uniform with a red R. Ash let out a breath of relief, recognition invading his features. "I take it you're glad I'm not someone else?" The Rocket inquired with a smirk.

"Very," Ash nodded. Comet was another of the Rockets Ash got along with well. He was the one who usually backed him up if his latest attempt to modify Team Rocket before his time needed support. But without getting into trouble, without taking it too far, without any direct disobedience on Comet's part, that was why it worked. "I should have guessed dad would sent someone ahead. Why are you here?"

"Just to keep an eye on you," Comet admitted, then looked in Misty's direction, his blue eyes focused and curious. His hair was the same color as hers. "I didn't think you'd bring your secret lover here though. This place is pretty run down for a date," he joked.

Misty looked like she wanted to protest, but she couldn't find her voice. This young man looked almost identical to her father's cousin who had been supposedly killed, aside of course, from the age difference and another particular detail. Her uncle Luke always had a tan, he loved the beach and being outdoors. This Rocket didn't seem to get enough sunlight to tan, perhaps his missions mostly took place at night.

Ash huffed and shook his head. "Laiki?" He inquired and Comet nodded in response. Leave it to the local Viridian Gym doctor to spread all sorts of rumors right away. "Gossip... but nothing else is new, she spreads it in hopes of getting some real information in return, in hopes of confirming a theory."

"It's a valid espionage technique, infect the area with lies to force the truth out." Comet commented, well aware of Misty's curious eyes on him. He grinned knowingly at her studying gaze. "Do I remind you of someone?"

"Luke," Misty voiced, wondering if he would even know who she was talking about. With Team Rocket, she bitterly mused, anything was possible.

"I have been told before that I look a lot like my father." Comet revealed and misty gasped, he was expecting such a reaction and only grinned and took a few steps closer, as if giving her the chance to compare his face with the face in her memories.

While Ash looked back and forth between the two in confusion, misty pulled out a very wet old photo from her pants pocket. When she felt unsure after learning of who Ash was, of his connections, she looked at some family photos and thought. She carefully removed the photo from the other one it was sticking to. One was of her parents from a time before her birth and the other of her uncle and elder sister along with a much younger version of herself. He was actually her father's cousin, not his brother, but he had been kind to the Waterflower sisters. "Uncle Luke... was he just keeping an eye on us?"

"Yes," Comet admitted. "After Tidus' death and Coral's imprisonment, Delia was worried about their children, whom she thought shouldn't be blamed for their parents' actions. Taking them into Team Rocket was an option, but Delia opposed that choice. She asked my father to keep an eye on the four little girls and make sure they were alright. Eventually, his presence in their lives became complicated as relatives started asking too many questions and he had to cut all communications. It was for you too, the redhead was the one that reminded them the most of Tidus, of Luke, of Team Rocket..."

Misty's face was a mix of sadness and realization. "I brought back bad memories... That explains why I never even got a doll set to myself. Luke was in Team Rocket... is he still? He is alive isn't he?" Her resigned sadness and shock evolved into urgency.

"Yes," Comet replied. "You may speak to him if you wish. However," he paused, expression becoming serious. "Out of loyalty to Giovanni, I must prevent you from finding Coral, out of loyalty and friendship to Ash, I give you this information." Comet turned to leave, while Misty looked rightfully shocked.

"Wait..." Ash whispered in deep thought. "Wait!" He called out in realization and surprise. "Wait just a minute, you two are related?" He looked back and forth between Misty and Comet. Taking a better look at them, he could see the family resemblance. They were only distant relatives, but they obviously carried the same blood. "How come I never knew?"

"I didn't know until recently either," Comet confirmed. "Well, I really must be going now. I would advice against staying here. The structure is very unstable and could come apart at any moment. This laboratory and dungeon stopped being functional years ago, Delia can explain why." It was her influence no doubt, her request. He made a mock salute gesture with two fingers on his forehead and a playful smile. He had no malice, only amusement in everything he did. "I do hope we don't meet again, at least not until it's over... because it's already begun." Comet dashed away the same way he came, down the corridor, turning the corner and disappearing from sight.

"Come back here!" Misty finally got her voice to work, her words almost cracking to pieces as if it was difficult just to speak. She needed more information, she had to catch him!

Ash's eyes widened in realization. "Misty, no!" She didn't know what it meant, Comet's warning, but he did. He knew all too well, not just from him but from Pixel, Laiki, Jessie, James and several others.

To be Continued