Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ Loyalty ❯ Chapter 3

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

Chapter 09: Ruins

Footsteps echoed through the metal corridors of the underwater structure. Comet was fast, but Misty had no intentions of letting him escape. She reached the end of the hallways that gave way to another large chamber and there was a bright flash of red light.

Gyarados, Comet's first pokemon obtained as a Magikarp from his father to keep as a pet when he was very young, the power house. Scyther, captured and trained continuously, the master of speed. Zangoose, a pokemon that almost perished to protect his master on a day when a valuable lesson was learned, he lived thanks to Ash's assistance in Comet's mission, the fierce protector. Absol, a pokemon obtained as an egg, skilled and smart, the cunning trickster. Krookodile, intimidating, aggressive, yet ultimately tame and friendly, though only outside of battle, a pokemon obtained during a special mission in a distant land, the devourer. Zebstrika, speedy, wild, feisty, a pokemon caught by Pixel in that same Unova mission, later given to Comet to join his team, energetic, stubborn and impatient, the hyper racer.

"What is this?" Misty stopped cold, facing the six pokemon. Was it a challenge?

"It has already begun," Comet reminded. "It's not a hunt as much as a race though, your call." He kept a cool attitude the whole time, as if he was used to this, even amused by it.

"A race it is," Ash voiced and the red beams once again returned to call the six titans back into their dwellings.

"In that case... I'll be off to the next location. There is nothing here... only ruins..." Comet left, disappearing down another narrow corridor in pitch darkness.

This time Misty let him go, turning to look at Ash with questioning eyes. "What was that about? He looked ready for a war for a second and then he left. What is this hunt? This race? What has begun?" She was angry, frustrated, excluded from things that Ash apparently understood which she felt concerned her very much.

"His mission and, being his partner I would guess Pixel's mission, have already begun," Ash revealed. "Their Rocket mission," he smiled in a mix of annoyance and amusement if such a paradox was even possible to be contained in a single expression. "This is something we do for each other. Comet, Pixel, Laiki, Jessie, James and some others who are my friends in Team Rocket all have a great loyalty to my father, but also to me. That can only be possible as long as those loyalties don't interfere."

"How can they not?" Misty inquired with impatience.

"Because we respect what we need to do." Ash concluded, his face flickering serious for a second before once more appearing relaxed. "A hunt is when we are all after the same prize, they'll interfere with me even if I don't seek a confrontation. A race is when we go our separate ways and don't need to fight unless the prize is in sight. This is a race, we're looking for clues and we were just given another. I don't know what those ruins Comet mentioned are about, but it was a free hint worth exploring."

"I see," Misty frowned. "Then he was warning you that you stand as enemies for the time being, even if you're also friends?"

"Yes," Ash nodded as he headed towards another metal hallway next to the one Comet had gone through. "It's more like being rivals, kind of like how it was with Gary, except the competition and the truce are more clearly defined."

"And he enjoys the competition," Misty huffed. "He's my relative; my parents were his relatives too. Uncle Luke is his father. My sisters always looked to him for protection and support; they can never stop caring about the kind uncle that reassured them after our parents' deaths. Honestly, neither can I. To think he's a Rocket, to think he's loyal to Giovanni?" She trembled in tension as if not knowing how to interpret her own emotions. Her teeth and fists were clenched as she stood unsure.

"Loyalty means tolerating a disagreement; I learned that the hard way, but I'm glad I did. Mom always said that if you live life thinking it's all or nothing, then you'll most certainly get nothing," Ash recalled.

Misty sigh, unsure, upset, yet intrigued. "You've grown up..." she concluded, not certain if that was a good thing or not.

"I had to," Ash grinned, showing that same face that Misty remembered, older, but the same. "Look on the bright side; we're a little closer to solving the mystery, because sometimes competition is exactly what's needed to move forward."

He wasn't so different after all, she noted. "You still love competition."

"It brings improvement with each challenge," Ash approached the dark tunnel where there were stairs. "Let's have a look at those ruins..." He didn't know why there would be ruins below the facility, but surely they must have something to do with the reason for which the laboratory was built there in the first place.

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The metal walls evolved into stone walls the further down the stairs they went. There was a low hum in the atmosphere giving the dark place an eerie feel. It sounded off as crashing waves, but that couldn't be it given how deep underwater and far from the shore they were. There was a heavy pressure in the atmosphere, as if the ocean was pushing against the old structure threatening to crush it and it probably was.

The stone walls of the chamber the stairs led to were carved with pictures of human figures in various poses as if performing some kind of ritual and representations of many different water pokemon from all over the world. It was surreal, it was enchanting, it was powerful... Among it all Ash felt something, it was frightening, sorrowful, angry. His aura abilities felt awake and aware, as if his instinct was warning him that there was something sinister there, something terrible, something tragic.

The floor of the stone temple that looked very old and worn, inexplicably built so long ago and sunk into the ocean to be rediscovered hundreds of years later, had many circles like ripples in water carved into it. The circles varied in size and distance from each other holding water in their canals as it dripped in small drops from the ceiling and walls. It was a wonder the structure was still standing and full of breathable air.

Misty stepped into the center of the chamber where the smallest circle was and she heard a voice. She couldn't understand what it was saying, but it was pained, ghostly, detached, otherworldly. "Do you hear that?" She turned around from her visual explorations, spinning inside the circle where she stood to face Ash.

"Yes," Ash confirmed his face focused and... pained? "I can feel it, I can hear it, but why can you? Unless it's calling out to you..." No, this wasn't directed at him, it was directed at her, he could only hear it because of his abilities. "You shouldn't be here," he cautioned as he closed the distance between them. "This feels terribly sinister." His head was spinning, his stomach hurt, the concentration of negativity was making him sick.

"Pika..." Pikachu went from his shoulders to his arms in fear. This was terrible, even for one so brave.

Ash took another step forward. A barrier of glowing see-through blue emerged from the circle on the floor. "Misty!" He reached out to her but was harshly thrown back.

"Ash!" She saw him get thrown against the wall. She saw Pikachu attack the barrier with electricity to no avail. She saw the scene becoming twisted and blurry, then she disappeared. Misty was no longer there.

Ash bolted to his feet. "Misty!" He dashed to the center of the circle were there was nothing now. The presence of dark intent, or sorrow, of vengeance, of... evil? Was still there, albeit it was faint, hiding, guarded. "Misty!"

"Chu!" Pikachu let out another bolt of lightning at the spot where she once stood as if that would bring her back. "Pikapipi!"

Ash raised a hand in a gesture to stop and Pikachu ceased his efforts instead hurrying to climb back on his shoulder. Ash sat down on the circle where Misty had stood when she disappeared and closed his eyes in concentration. Pikachu hopped off his trainer and stood next to him, guarding him.

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"Ash? Ash!" Misty called out at the top of her lungs, but her voice remained unheard. She looked at her ghostly semi-transparent hands. She was still in the ruins as far as she could see; Ash and Pikachu were also still there. Yet at the same time she was somewhere entirely different.

"Misty..." she turned to find the source of the voice. This voice was not the one that called her there. It was very different, sorrowful, but gentle, resigned yet melodious, merciful, concerned, motherly. "Misty..." The woman of long blond hair and ocean blue eyes stepped towards the redhead, wrapping her arms around her.

"Mother!" Misty exclaimed as she recognized the other ghostly presence. "Mother, is it really you? What is this place? How did we end up here? How do we go back? What's happening?"

"Shh..." Coral gently soothed. "My little Misty, I'm so sorry..." Her face was filled with sadness, as if a terrible fate had befallen her youngest child.

"Mother, please," Misty tried to calm herself to allow Coral the chance to explain. "Tell me everything. About father, about you, about Team Rocket, about this place," she listened.

Coral closed her eyes and nodded expression solemn. She opened her eye again, bright orbs of endless azure. "For you to understand, you must know the story of your ancestry. Long ago, before people could even dream of what a pokeball would be, long before the skyscrapers and the roads were built, there was a village in the coast. It was a peaceful place, the home of the Azure Tribe, your ancestors from long ago. The tribe was home to people who might have been called shamans by some. They communicated with the water pokemon with a special regard for them as they believed that water was the source of all life."

"There was also another tribe, a tribe of alchemists who abused the power of their concoctions and called forth black magic. The terrible sorcerers sought to enslave the water pokemon and conquer the Azure Tribe. However, a legendary water pokemon became enraged and attacked the land with massive tidal waves. Many tragically perished and those few who survived no longer knew a distinction between the Azure Tribe and their enemies. They worked together to rebuild their land, missing the help they used to get from the water pokemon that no longer heeded their call."

"Eventually, the people faced so much hardship that they became divided, accusing one another of evil alchemy and sorcery, as what had brought forth the calamity from the sea. A terrible battle broke loose among them and from its ashes there rose the new Azure Tribe. They blamed the ocean and its inhabitants, seeking vengeance and to forcibly tame the pokemon that lived there. Many pokemon perished in their efforts until finally the Azure Tribe was destroyed."

"The land now known as Kanto used to stretch far south in a large peninsula. That land was swallowed up by the sea and this temple along with it. This place holds the sorrow of humans, of friends who became enemies when loyalty was broken in the face of a disaster. This is the place that represents the broken trust of those who held on to what seemed convenient and beneficial at each moment and chased after revenge. It is not the pokemon or the ocean that seeks vengeance. The legendary that was angered was appeased with the demise of the sunken peninsula that was swallowed up by the sea, leaving only the peaks of its tallest mountains to be seen above the waves, now known as the Sevii Islands and Orange Islands."

"The true Azure Tribe will not forgive the one who brought corruption to their peaceful life seeking power and ruined their alliance with the sea. You are the chosen one to carry this burden. You are the most suitable vessel out of all the descendants of the Azure Tribe leader," Coral's eyes were filled with tears. "The ghosts of the past have chosen you to avenge them, to erase the seed of the sorcerer whose alchemy started it all. You are the new shaman the new vessel of sorrow and I wish it wasn't so."

"I don't understand..." Misty voiced in a barely audible whisper.

To be Continued

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Chapter 10: Legends

Ash was perfectly still, surrounded by a faint glow as he tried to find Misty or at least reopen the supernatural gateway that had swallowed her up.

Not far from him, but in a different plane of existence that was parallel yet not physical, Coral continued her revelations to Misty. "The spirit of vengeance had entered your father. The Azure Tribe demanded that the leader acted. It was because of his mercy that the alchemist sorcerer was not stopped years ago; he forgave too much until things got out of hand. They blame him as their new leader, just as now they will push you to avenge them."

"But I..." Misty tried to focus, to grasp the situation. "I'm not even the oldest. Are my sisters in danger too of the same thing?"

"No, you are the leader; it is not about who is the oldest, but about who is the most suitable. Back then it was your father." Coral's face was full of sadness at the bitter memories. "He cause great trouble to Team Rocket, not for the pursuit of justice, but because he was trying to kill Giovanni, the descendant of the enemy. Tidus did not want to betray him, the spirit that possessed him forced him to. Giovanni would not believe it, though he was the cause. He was the one who sent your father to investigate this place not knowing of his connection to it while he was still in Team Rocket. I was caught in the fight. When Giovanni killed Tidus, I swore to get revenge. He took the one I loved so I tried to do the same to him."

"That's why you attacked Delia..." Misty realized. Ultimately, Delia was not directly the cause of her father's death and in a sense Giovanni was retaliating. Of course, Tidus was not to blame either if he was possessed.

"She and I are not so different," Coral admitted. "We would give up the world for our family."

"What do you mean?" Misty asked, but before her urgent question could be answered, she heard a voice. This was not the angry voice that now slept within her. This was the voice of her childhood friend calling her name like in their adventures of the past. "Ash? Ash!"

"Misty!" Ash was there, ghostly and see-through just as she was, but he was glowing. His body was no longer sitting where it should be, only Pikachu was there, waiting impatiently for his trainer's return. "We need to go back, we can't survive here for too long, I can sense it!"

Ash extended his hand to Misty and she took it without hesitation, her other hand holding her mother's. Ash focused on going back, on forcing the gateway open with his abilities. He appeared again in the physical plane in the ruins, falling to the floor with Misty landing on top of him, both breathless from the strain of crossing over to the plane where they belonged. They got to their feet and Misty searched for her mother. "Mom?" She saw a light and a silhouette. "Mom!" She jumped to her feet and tried to reach the shadow of light as it faded. "Mom!"

Misty felt Ash's hand on her shoulder. "She's gone..." he gently voiced.

"Gone?" Misty questioned fiercely, with tears forming in her eyes. "What do you mean gone? She was right there. Why didn't you bring her back along with me?"

"I did," Ash tried to explain. "But it was too late. She had been there for too long, her physical body had already been reduced to dust... She has... passed on." He knew this wasn't easy for her. Thinking her mother was dead and finding her only to lose her again.

"How did she become trapped there? What must I do?" Misty cried. "The Azure Tribe... what does this all mean? Did you hear it? Could you hear what she was saying?"

"Yes..." Ash admitted, as he petted Pikachu's soft fur. "I don't fully understand it, but it looks like our ancestry is more complicated than I thought. We'll have to remove that."

"Remove what?" Misty inquired, drying her eyes and trying to focus on what needed to be done. Something had been set in motion, she could feel it. Her mother's admission about giving up the world for her family bothered her. What did it all mean? What really happened back then?

"I can sense it; a vengeful spirit made of a collection of spirits now sleeps inside you. It was here." Ash looked into Misty's eyes with an intense gaze. "Let me try."

She nodded, closed her eyes and remained perfectly still. Ash place his hand on her head and closed his own eyes in focus. He tried to call out to what was inside her, to appease it. "Aura!" A voice screeched in their heads. "How dare you wield the power of aura, unworthy son of the sorcerer? It is an insult!" The surreal voice echoed. "You must die!"

Ash felt a sharp pain as if he was being crushed from the inside. Pikachu was in alarm. Ash tried to speak, but couldn't find his voice, he and Misty still as statues. Finally, he pushed his vocal cords to function and dragged out a quiet command of "thunder bolt..." The shock of electricity sent Ash and Misty in opposite directions to the floor. Ash sat up, seeing Misty do the same, "I don't think I can coax that thing out of you after all. I'm just making it angrier."

"It's... not your fault..." Misty breathed. "But I do need to know more about this. Your parents must know, maybe even Luke knows something too.

"Maybe," Ash admitted, he looked very troubled.

"What is it?" Misty knew that this was a lot to take in, especially for her and Ash somehow ended up being linked to it in an unexpected way too, but there was more to it than that. "What's troubling you? Aside from the obvious I mean."

"It's that thing..." Ash wasn't even sure how to refer to the spirit. "Misty... Keep your will strong, don't let it overtake you. I'll free you from it," he looked into her eyes. "That's a promise."

She knew she could count on him just like she had in the past. "Why? Why are you doing this for me? Is it that you somehow feel responsible?"

Ash shook his head, his determination clear. "Because I want to. That's all there is too it. You were my traveling companion and my friend. I'd like to think that you could still be. We didn't choose to be enemies and we can choose not to be. I know I said I wouldn't help you, but I was just upset about mom. She was alright in the end, I know you wouldn't have hurt her. I'll do this for you; I'll make sure you're not controlled by that terrible spirit. I'll get it out of you somehow. It's not out of guilt or responsibility; I'll do this because I want to."

Despite it all, Misty couldn't help it but to smile. "Some things never change. You can't see a problem and leave it alone; you're always wanting to help. It's like... loyalty."

"I guess so," Ash grinned the familiar cocky smile that he use to have back when he turned his hat backwards as he threw out a pokeball in a battle he fully expected to win. "For now, let's get out of here."

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After finding a way out of the underwater facilities, Ash and Misty returned to Pallet Town. Misty called her sisters to assure them that she was alright and that she would take a while to return. If it was up to her, she would keep them out of all this danger. The cafe where Delia used to work and live was closed and the house had not been inhabited in many years. Instead they went to the Oak residence where Misty remained while Ash returned to Viridian City to further investigate the past.

The words access denied flashed across the screen and Delia sighed. "I can't access the files, but I know someone who can." She offered.

The door to Giovanni's office burst open at that very moment and the Rocket boss himself entered. He found his wife and son at his desk crowded over his computer. His meeting with the main executives of Team Rocket was obviously expected to last longer than it actually did. He gave them a stern look and inquired with a voice that demanded the truth. "What are you doing here?"

Ash confessed with no resistance. "Searching for an explanation about Coral. It's obvious you know more than you were letting on."

Giovanni went to the sitting area of the office and sat down. Ash hurried after him, standing in front of him impatiently while Giovanni reached over to pour himself a drink from the bottle that had been left on the coffee table before. Under the watch of Ash's impatience, Giovanni revealed, taking a calm sip of his drink. "Coral was imprisoned in a secret underwater facility built over legendary ancient ruins. Theories concerning Lugia, Kyogre and several legendary pokemon surrounded the ancient shrine, but none were proven to be true. Tidus knew something about that place, yet he took that information to the grave. Coral refused to reveal what she knew, thus she was kept there. An experiment was conducted to try to communicate with the strange forces that inhabited the ruins and she disappeared during it, never to be seen again. That is the whole story. You have been there, haven't you?"

"I have," Ash admitted. He sat down next to his father as he came to a realization. "You permitted it. Even if you sent Comet ahead to check out the area you didn't do anything to stop me."

"Yes," Giovanni admitted. "This was a mystery that could not be solved. A mystery that was seemingly taking up more resources than it was worth. You have a knack for unraveling legends. How many have you discovered over the years?" Giovanni paused, looking to Delia who was still occupying his chair behind the desk. "The password is a2u12e7r1b3."

Curious and surprise, but not too much, Delia entered the password. "I guess this means you've already given Ash a mission." She concluded as she looked over the files.

"Yes," Giovanni confirmed. "Unravel this legend," he tasked his son with a new mission. "Report all that you find. If there is a legendary pokemon involved, I want to capture it. As for Misty, not she or anyone else will be able to take Delia hostage again. As long as there is no carelessness involved, the Azure Alliance doesn't really represent a danger. If anything, they'll keep the police occupied chasing after a gang that they can more realistically take on and reduce their useless, but still annoying, efforts against Team Rocket."

"Does this mean that you'll tell me what you know?" Ash insisted.

"Yes, it is all in the system. Something about ancient tribes and superstitions," Giovanni replied with a calculating voice.

"I know that part already," What followed was Ash's narration of what he heard being spoken by Coral's ghost and thus as a consequence, the revelation of her ultimate fate. "So you see, Tidus didn't want to betray you, he was possessed and now Misty is too. But I intend to save her."

"You say that power is not from a pokemon, but from embittered humans of ancient times?" Giovanni mused over Ash's words. Delia had come to join them and was listening intently. "So it was all set in motion by our ancestor?" He wore the shadow of a grin as if considering if that was something he might do in his ancestor's place, though he would have been more careful and cunning about it.

"Do you believe me?" Ash asked with a touch of seriousness and at the same time, the inexplicable assurance that he would be believed.

Giovanni chuckled lightly. "You've told me stories of stranger things and I have even witnessed some. There is no reason for me to doubt what you have told me. I'll make you a deal. The Azure Alliance may continue causing trouble to other criminal organizations and the police, but is to avoid all contact with Team Rocket. Bring back information; I want this mystery to be solved."

"There are no legendary pokemon to be captured this time," Ash reminded.

"I understand, but none the less there is power. If not for the sake of obtaining a power, then for the sake of adverting a threat," Giovanni vaguely explained, hinting at something unsaid.

"But you said the Azure Alliance was..." Ash paused, coming to a conclusion. "There is something else you know of that you're not saying." He glanced at the computer on the desk.

"Look through the files if you wish, but that last piece of information..." Giovanni revealed with a look of confidence, "exists only in my memories." That wasn't entirely accurate though, there was one other who knew and another who was very close to a vital aspect of the hidden truth without knowing it.

To be Continued

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Chapter 11: Danger

Later... Ash, Misty and Gary were at Pallet Town discussing their next course of action. Ash thought Gary might be able to come up with an idea. They were all sitting outside in a sunny day that looked much calmer than it was. The information in the Rocket database was nothing Ash did not already know from what Coral revealed. He wasn't even sure where to start and Misty, despite being the one possessed, held no communication with the spirit inside her.

"Do you think Agatha might be able to help?" Gary suggested. The situation was surprising to say the least, but Ash really did have a knack for getting caught up in legends and the supernatural.

"Maybe..." Ash considered going to her for help, this was different from a situation concerning a ghost pokemon, but there was a sort of ghost involved.

The plan could not be placed into motion, as a loud noise pierced the air unexpectedly. There was a loud bang and a sharp pain overtook Misty as she collapsed to the ground in a growing pool of blood. All heads turned towards the source of the noise where there was a woman holding a gun, red hair, blue eyes... The woman stepped back and broke into a run with more agility than a pregnant woman should have.

Ash considered going after her, but Gary was already on the chase, ordering his pokemon to stop her. Yet a cloud of smoke overtook the area and when Gary managed to get through, she was nowhere to be seen. He was quick to put his pokemon on the job of searching every inch of the Oak lands, Pallet Town and the surrounding areas.

"Misty! Hold on!" Ash attempted to use his aura abilities to help her, but it wasn't completely effective.

"Make way, princey!" Laiki arrived out of seemingly nowhere. Though her job was treating pokemon, she had a fair amount of knowledge in human medicine as well. "Aren't you glad I disregarded what you said about not spying on Gary? I bet you're glad I'm here now!" She was swift in her actions, providing much needed first aid, though it was only temporary. It wouldn't be enough to help Misty recover completely, but it would be enough to keep her alive until she could be taken to a hospital.

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The whiteness of the room was asphyxiating, he hated hospitals. At least Misty was stable, Ash consoled himself in that. Her face was pained yet serene as she slept with machines keeping track of her vital signs. "Keep an eye on her." Ash headed towards the door of the hospital room in Viridian City where Misty had been moved via helicopter.

Gary and Laiki stood aside to grant him exit. The flirty blond woman replied with more cheer than the situation should merit. "Will do!" She linked her arm with Gary's, pulling him too close for comfort.

Gary slipped away from her grasp, "I'm pretty sure Misty is as safe as she could be here in Rocket territory, unless Giovanni dictates otherwise. But if it'll make you feel better, Laiki and I can take turns guarding her."

"Or we could guard her together," Laiki suggested with a wink of her green eyes.

Gary grinned with the look of one who had already grown accustomed to having to fend off such advances from this particular source. "Not happening."

Feeling reassured despite their antics, Ash nodded in gratitude, "thanks guys."

Out in the hallway, just outside the room, Gary stopped Ash for a short moment longer. "Where are you going?"

"To get to the bottom of this," Ash's face was set in strong determination.

"I don't think that woman was really Jessie," Gary pointed out. "She shouldn't be able to move like that with how close to giving birth she is. Something like that would leave her panting out of breath in her current condition."

Ash nodded in agreement. "That wasn't Jessie, but if I'm going to find out who it was and why she did this, so I can make sure to give her what she deserves, the real Jessie might have a clue."

"Revenge," Gary theorized, which caught Ash's attention. "She could be someone who wanted to get revenge on Jessie by framing her and provoking you to anger against her. Who has a grudge against Jessie?"

Ash thought about it for a moment as a look of realization invaded his face. The answer was as clear as day. "Jessiebelle..." Realizing the implications of this, he moved closer to the window and called out Charizard, aiming the red beam outside. The large pokemon appeared in mid air, flying next to the window. "Jessie and James might be in danger!" Ash exited via the window and jumped on Charizard's back, with Pikachu on his shoulder as always. He had no time to waste.

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Charizard landed in front of Jessie and James pokemon daycare center, which was in reality a small checkpoint for Team Rocket. It was also their home away from home for they spent most of the time at the main Kanto base in Viridian anyway. Everything was quiet and calm; it was in fact too quiet. Usually the yard would be filled with small pokemon running around playing under the watchful eye of a more experienced pokemon from Jessie and James, sometimes Meowth himself.

Ash recalled Charizard into his pokeball, thanking him for the ride and went for the front door. Rather than the chimes of the little bells on the door as it open, he got nothing, the door was locked from the inside. He tried again. "Jessie! James!" There was a click and a few steps back. James stepped aside to allow Ash passage. The scene inside the front counter room of the day care center was not a favorable one at all.

Jessiebelle was there, holding a small Eevee hostage at gunpoint. The little one was terrified. The other pokemon had been placed in pokeballs at Jessiebelle's command. Jessie was glaring at her from a corner of the room as if she wanted to rip her look alike's head off. If not for the hostage she would have tried and, angry as she was, possibly succeeded. "I thought you would come and I beat you here. I guess that detour caused by Misty slowed you down, didn't it?"

Ash gave her an even deadlier glare than Jessie, if that was even possible. "Why are you doing this?"

"Revenge..." Jessiebelle stated simply and bitterly. "Don't you know I'm doomed? I invested in Team Rocket some time ago as you might have heard. Giovanni found out I've been leaking information to the police. I was the one who told Jenny all about how to get to Delia and Giovanni knows. I was also the one who built a connection between Jenny and the Azure Alliance. Their original anonymous informant was me, before I passed on the duty to Jenny. She was my pawn you could say... But it's all over, Giovanni knows it all. I'm sure Team Rocket will come hunt me down soon."

"If you're angry at Team Rocket, then why didn't you shoot me? Why did you shoot Misty?" Ash shouted with challenging anger. His opponent was armed, but it didn't faze him in the least. His eyes at that moment were very much like his father's eyes.

"I hold no grudge against Team Rocket, I only hate that traitor," she motioned towards James with her gun, then to Jessie, "and the witch that stole him from me!" Then she aimed the weapon at Ash, who showed no physical reaction to it. "They are stupidly loyal Rockets. Do you know what would hurt them more than even their own deaths? Sorrow for their precious leader, the death of his son; but it wouldn't work if they couldn't see it. That's why I had to make you follow me, I knew you would find me if I gave you a clue in the form of my disguise."

Jessie and James' eyes grew wide in realization. "You plan to kill Ash!" James exclaimed with great worry and fear.

Jessie fumed, "now listen here, you sad excuse for a copycat, we're not going to let you lay a finger on the twerp!"

"Would you sacrifice your precious little pokemon then?" Jessiebelle's gun was once again aimed at the Eevee's head. That Eevee was the child of James' Growlithe, Growlie, his life long companion and Jessie's Flareon Flare, a pokemon she got from Ash. "Why don't you make the choice for them, Ash? Are you going to forsake this sweet little pokemon? It's just an insignificant Eevee, I'm sure your father could give you a hundred more if you just ask him nicely."

Ash remained silent, his bravado starting to fade. He wasn't afraid for himself, but he was terrified for Eevee, Jessie, James and the other pokemon. That Eevee was the child of the Flareon he trained since she was an Eevee. He later gave her to Jessie so that she could be with Growlie. Besides, no life was insignificant. He couldn't throw away Eevee's life; he couldn't cross that line, for he feared it would be the point of no return. It was a border that his father had surely crossed years ago, a border that he never wanted to cross himself. "Let Eevee go, your fight is with me."

"How stupid, putting your life on the line for just one pokemon," Jessiebelle mocked. "You are truly pathetic; your father would be ashamed!" A loud bang pierced the sound waves and a bullet Jessiebelle's head, the glass window behind was shattered and all eyes moved from the collapsing corpse to the man standing at the window.

Everything happened in a split second. Jessiebelle lost her grip on Eevee and the gun. She fell lifeless to the floor, blood gushing out from the back of her head, mixing with the crimson of her hair. She fell, Eevee fell, the gun fell. The pokemon hit the ground narrowly avoiding being caught under the weight of the dead body. The small pokemon scrambled towards James, who was the nearest safe person. Simultaneously a second shot rung out as the gun hit the floor and went off on its own.

Giovanni stood at the window, face set in disapproval. He looked like he was about to scold Ash for his foolishness but he spoke no words, he froze in place, the whole room froze as if the world was moving in slow motion. The second gunshot, the accidental gunshot of Jessiebelle's discarded weapon caught Jessie at an odd angle piercing her belly though not deeply, the bullet brushing her abdomen and coming out diagonally.

Jessie gasped, her voice was caught in her throat and she did not have the strength to scream. Her hands automatically went to her belly as her knees gave out and she fell to the floor in a growing pool of blood. It all happened in seconds, yet it felt like an eternity that would never be forgotten. James was by her side immediately calling her name, but she heard nothing, everything was a distant echo for her. All that Jessie could focus on was her own agony.

Ash rushed towards her with a glow in the palms of his hands. He pushed his power to somehow connect to the lives that were in danger, to Jessie and to her children. He held on to those lives with his own as tightly as he could, begging them not to let go. Everything was a blur. The ambulance arrived quickly, the paramedics summoned by Giovanni surrounded Jessie, giving her the best first aid science could provide. Ash didn't let her go the entire time, he kept his power focused on her, focused on those small flickering lights that were startled almost out of existence. He blocked out the rest of the world, he was unable to hear any of their voices, he kept his focus strong, he held on for as long as he could, until he was so exhausted that all he saw was darkness.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 12: Bittersweet

Ash wasn't sure for how long he slept. This was a consequence of pushing his abilities too far, of wanting to do more than he was meant to do. It was his attempt at bending destiny and it always left him in exhaustion. The worse part this time was that he didn't know if he succeeded and he feared that he failed. "Ash, honey... how do you feel?"

Ash slowly turned his head to the side, his head hurt and his vision was just starting to clear up. He slowly sat up, the room was white, the endless white of a hospital. "I have a headache, but I'm okay." He responded to his mother's gentle concern. Ash searched for answers in his own memories, but couldn't find them. He must have passed out before anything was definitely known. "How is Jessie?"

Delia's face was a mix of relief and sorrow as she tried to find a way to explain. There was no way around it, no way to change the truth. "Jessie is alright," she replied honestly yet incompletely. "She is recovering; the doctors say she'll be fine. The wound wasn't deep, her vital organs were unaffected, it was only a flesh wound for her." The hint of something more, something worse, was left hanging in the air for a few more seconds.

"And?" Ash's vision was clear now. He could clearly see his mother's expression. Her face was tired as if she had gone without rest for a considerable amount of time, perhaps a whole day or two, he wasn't sure for how long he slept.

Delia looked into her son's eyes. Her eyes were still slightly red, she had been crying before, it was easy to notice. "And the little boy will be alright as well." There was another moment of silence and it was obvious it pained her to say anything more.

Ash's face held a frown. "The little boy... one child, only one..." His twin didn't make it out of the ordeal alive. It was a great relief that Jessie and her son were going to be alright, but the other child, the loss was bitter, tainting the occasion.

"Ash..." Delia stumbled over her words. "I..." She trailed into silence, her own thoughts so jumbled together that she couldn't organize them into words. "Your father..." Ash got to his feet and Delia stopped him. "You just woke up; you shouldn't be getting up so soon."

It was when he felt a tug on his arm that he realize there was a drip. He removed it, pulling out the needle hurriedly and cringing at the feeling of pain. "I'm fine," he insisted with the stubbornness that Delia had become all too familiar with in both the son and the father. "I want to see Jessie and the child. I want to talk to James and call Misty." He paused, giving his surroundings another studious glance. "Where am I?" He knew he was in a hospital, but he didn't know where.

"Viridian City," Delia answered simply. "Misty is still here, Jessie, James, the baby and Gary. Laiki has gone back to headquarters though, the doctors insisted because she was... scaring the patients and Gary... albeit in different ways."

Making the patients think they were worse off than they were, to vent her frustrations with their worries was something Laiki would do. As to what she could do to spook Gary, Ash quite honestly didn't want to know, but he guessed that it possibly entailed high rated, inappropriate use of medical equipment for non-medical indecent purposes. Laiki wasn't a bad person really, not evil at least, but she wasn't exactly a caring soul beyond the few exceptions that she truly held dear and she held a rather loose set of morals that were peculiarly adjusted to the convenience of the situation and her whims.

'I see..." Ash finally voiced as he once again started for the door. "Get some rest mom; I won't leave the building for a while, so you don't have to worry." He smiled for her sake, trying to tell her that the worse was over... but it wasn't.

xoxox xox xoxox

Out in the seemingly endless hallway of the hospital, Ash found himself face to face with Giovanni sooner than he expected. The Rocket boss was walking over from the opposite side of the white hallway, heading in the direction to his room where his mother still was. The atmosphere was quiet as this area of the hospital was off limits to most, save for a few trusted visitors and the top ranked doctors and nurses. Ash didn't stop; he wanted to check on everyone and didn't have time to get into a discussion and possibly an argument with his father right now. He didn't breathe a word as he focused on the path ahead, continuing to put one foot in front of the other in an automatic rhythm.

"Ash," it was his father's voice which made Ash stop cold, even if he was determined not to speak with him at the present time. "Say it," there was a slight hint of annoyance in his voice, but there was mostly exhaustion, frustration and disappointment.

Ash's lips parted to speak, for a split second he thought the disappointment was directed at him and he was ready to either argue back or make up an excuse like he usually did, except this time he wasn't sure which of the options could best fit the situation he was in. Then he realized that Giovanni's disappointment wasn't directed at him, it was directed at himself. "Father?" He questioned unsure.

"Just say what you're going to say," Giovanni insisted unenthusiastically. "Get it all out of your system, do it now."

Ash tilted his head to the side in confusion. "What is it that you want me to say?" Maybe he was still tired, but he didn't understand at all. It was the calm after a storm. It was a time following the tension that had been so great, that they couldn't muster too much anger afterwards because they were simply tired. It was a bittersweet moment, a small truce to recover their bearings and go back to discord, or move on to a semi-satisfactory resolution.

"About Jessie and her children, about that child." Giovanni prompted with a slight hint of impatient that showed in his eyes, but didn't reach his voice.

"The one that didn't make it..." Ash understood. He closed his eyes, expression grave. Then he let out a deep breath and opened his eyes again. "It was an accident. I know it and I'm sure Jessie and James know it too." Yet that theory wasn't enough, not until he heard it from Jessie and James directly, if he even could. "It was Jessiebelle's fault, if she hasn't..." Ash paused, Jessiebelle, he had all but forgotten about her. She was dead. "You shot her..."

"You can't be realizing that just now." Giovanni looked at his son curiously. Had it not sunk in? That wasn't the main issue anyway; Jessie's child was, because Jessie and James were his friends.

"It didn't hit me right away," Ash admitted. There were other things going on, but that was no reason to disregard that particular happening. "I was so worried about Jessie that I didn't even think about Jessiebelle. Couldn't she had been stopped in another way?" Ash held no fire in his voice. The situation seemed hopeless; he had felt so very helpless that time.

Giovanni gave Ash a stern look. "You were ready to throw away your life for an Eevee, even if you should have known she would have killed the pokemon anyway. Not that saving it would have been worth it. What has your mother told you? What does she remind you of when you stupidly put yourself in danger thinking it's selfless and noble?"

Ash frowned, "that there will be worse consequences to pay with my sacrifice than what could have happened otherwise." The anger was back in his eyes for only a split second. "But that's not my wish!"

"Neither is it mine," Giovanni raised the volume of his voice to match Ash.

Ash looked at the floor, speaking in a softer tone. "I know. We disagree on things but... You would be upset if anything happened to me, I know that. Is that why you shot her? Because she intended to kill me?"

"Do you even require an answer?" Giovanni looked into Ash's eyes, scolding, angry, disappointed, yet concerned. "Sometimes I think I've failed to teach you common sense, but I shouldn't be surprised. You're a hopeless optimist like your mother, but you don't take things sitting down, like me. That's a very dangerous combination. Do not forget that your actions will affect other people, sometimes in ways that you don't intend, so don't do anything stupid."

"I'll try," it was an answer that Ash had given his father many times before and he really did try... but it didn't always work out exactly how he expected. No more words were exchanged between the two as Ash continued on his way.

xoxox xox xoxox

Ash took a peek into Misty's room. She was apparently sleeping on her bed, while Gary flipped through a pokemon science magazine on a chair next to her. He didn't even notice the door open a little and close again. He would have a word with Gary in a little while and Misty appeared to be in a stable health condition. He worried that Jessie and James were doing far worse, though not because of their physicals state.

He hurried towards Jessie's room and knocked on the door. James' voice from inside granted him entrance and Ash let himself in. The room was spacious, though there were so many there that it made it look smaller than it was. Jessie was on her bed, stirring awake as if Ash's arrival had woken her from a light nap. James was next to her with a small baby in his arms wrapped in a blue blanket. There were pokemon all around them, Meowth, Eevee, Flare, Growlie and the rest of their teams.

Ash approached Jessie's bedside, asking as he did. "How are you doing?" He felt like it was a stupid question, but he didn't know what else to say.

Jessie yawned, "I've had better days, but I'll be alright. Come see little Jonathan." She moved her head to glance at the newborn child. "I was so close to my due date that he was just fine with coming to the world a little early."

"Say hello to uncle twerp," with only those words as a warning, James handed the baby over to Ash. Ash stayed still as a statue when the tiny newborn was passed on to him. "Don't be so stiff, relax," James encouraged.

Ash tried to do so. He had held plenty of newborn pokemon in his arms before. Albeit pokemon, even in their first few minutes of life, didn't look this fragile. Jonathan was a healthy boy, but a human and newborn humans were especially delicate. Big blue eyes opened slightly to glance sleepily at this new person that was holding him. Those innocent eyes looked at him with curiosity in a small sweet face with a few strands of blue-violet hair atop his head.

Ash smiled at the child. It was clear that Jessie and James were holding on to him for hope. Yet he couldn't stay quiet about the darker event, but he didn't have to say anything either. As if reading the flicker of sorrow in his expression, which Ash would have guessed she was too drowsy with mediation to perceive, Jessie voiced. "It was an accident. Many more would have been lost if not..." She was sad, her sorrow was a deep one as was James' but they knew there was nothing more to be done and they still had one child to be grateful for.

Ash nodded, they understood, but he wasn't sure he did. James continued, placing a comforting hand on Ash's shoulder, though he felt he should be the one comforting them. "You were danger, you could have been killed and Giovanni couldn't allow that. This isn't even how he usually does things, he forces his opponents to face him, he gets information, he shows that he's in control; he doesn't just take a desperate shot. But he had to, because you were in danger and now that I have Johnny I can understand."

To be Continued

Pokemon belongs to Nintendo. Only my original characters are mine, Comet, Pixel and Laiki, plus the plot concepts, minus the Pokemon concepts.