The Kanto Journeys

Chapter 11

"Are you sure you're not pissed at me for not telling you?"

"Ash, for the last time, I'm not pissed! A little irritated, maybe, but not pissed. I understand why you didn't tell me."

His eyes lit up. "You do?"

She nodded. "I do."

He sighed. "Thank Arceus. I wouldn't know what to do if you took it badly."

"You'd probably say something stupid, and then I'd punch you for it."

"Yeah- hey!"

She chuckled a bit to herself. Honestly, she wasn't pissed at Ash for not telling her about his meeting with Daisy in the park, but she hadn't been lying when she said she was a bit irritated. She couldn't help but be jealous of the girl, even if Ash had insisted that there was nothing between them but friendship. What had gone down at the restaurant the night before their supposed meeting made Misty a bit hesitant to trust Ash's words.

"So... she's really an Aura Master, huh?"

He nodded. "Yeah, she is. Last night was the first time I ever actually told her about my powers. She took it well, and actually wasn't too mad about me keeping it a secret until now. She told me that she'd help me learn to control my powers. I mean, total control takes more time than just one practice session, but she said that she can teach me how to keep my powers under control when I'm in a normal mood."

"Just a normal mood? I thought your goal was to learn to control your powers when you were angry, so what happened with Benjamin doesn't happen again."

"Well, yeah, that is my goal, but Daisy said that if I don't learn to control them completely when I'm not in a mood, I'll never be able to control them when I am in one."

"I see."

Misty still didn't completely understand this whole Aura thing. Ash had told her about his being an Aura Master a long time ago, but she'd always thought it was nothing more than the ability to communicate with Lucario or something. She'd never thought that it was something this big. If she had, she would have forced Ash to get help a long time ago. Then again, she wasn't sure if Ash even knew about the full extent of his powers before now.

"Misty?" Ash's voice jolted her out of her thoughts.


His eyes drifted down to the ground. "Listen... I'm really sorry about what happened with Benjamin and everything. I didn't mean for it to happen, I swear. I just... lost control. When I found out about how Benjamin had pretty much given you a free pass, I got jealous.

Jealous? Jealous of Benjamin? Could that mean...

"I didn't understand why you, an average person, was getting special treatment while I, the World's Greatest Pokemon Master, wasn't."


"It was stupid of me to act like that, and I'm sorry. Every time I look at you and see the marks that I left, I feel so bad. If I could make one wish right now, it would be to go back in time and stop that from ever happening."

Misty subconsciously raised her hand to her face, which was swollen and bruised from Ash's punches. Her fingers rubbed the damage in tiny circles, sending tiny waves of aching pain through her face. She winced slightly, but did not lower her hand, almost as if in a trance. She recalled the previous day's events. How terrified of Aura Ash she had been. The feeling of her best friend's fist connecting with her face, over and over again.

Slowly, Ash reached over and grabbed Misty's hand. She jerked back reflexively, only to relax when she realized that there was no danger. He lowered her hand down to her lap, although his eyes never left her face.

"Maybe you should go see a doctor," he suggested quietly. "You might have a fracture."

"I'm alright," she murmured. "It doesn't hurt that bad."

"But it still hurts, right? I think there's a human doctor right next to the Pokemon Center. Why don't I take you over there, and you can get it checked out while I train with Daisy?"

She was about to say yes, but stopped. She didn't like the thought of leaving Daisy alone with Ash. Even if Ash insisted that he thought of her as "just a friend", it had been apparent to her when she had met Daisy that the girl had a crush on Ash. Jealousy began burning in her heart. If she left Ash and Daisy alone together, who knew what would happen?

"I can't," she whispered. "You might need me here."

"We'll be fine," he assured her. "I know that you're worried about me losing control and hurting Daisy when there's no one else around, but you shouldn't. She's an Aura Master, too. If something happens, she can handle it."

If only you knew that it was so much more than that.

"Come on, Mist," he pleaded. "You already helped me catch the five Pokemon I need on my team to battle Benjamin. Let me do something for you now, please? I couldn't stand the thought of having you stay here, only to find out later that you actually do have a fractured bone or something."

She sighed. There was just no winning with him, was there? She appreciated his concern, but his timing was bad. Why did he have to suddenly become so adamant about going to see a doctor? Why couldn't he have waited to have that realization until after his practice session with Daisy?

"Fine," she huffed. "I'll go see a doctor."

He smiled. "Thank you, Misty."

She went to stand up, only for Ash to take over for her. He grabbed her by the arm and slung her over his back, much to her surprise.

"Ash, what are you doing!?"

"Giving you a ride." He charged off down the street and away from the park bench they had been sitting on.

See, this was what had Misty so confused. One moment, Ash would be striking her like he was an abusive father or something. Then the next moment, he'd be carrying her on his back down the street, laughing. He was so unpredictable. She was pretty sure that it was because of his Aura, but what if there was something more to it? Something that Ash wasn't telling her?

Despite having the heavy weight of Misty on his back, Ash made pretty good speed, and they were at their destination in no time. Thankfully, the Pokemon Master had been correct in his assumption that there was a doctor's office next to the Center. Misty felt a pit form in her stomach when she saw the words "DR. OLIVER - FAMILY DOCTOR"printed in big bold letters on the sign.

"Welp," Ash said. "Looks like I was right."

"Inflate your ego much more, and you'll pop."

He stuck his tongue out at her. "Ha-ha."

She smacked his lower jaw, causing his teeth to snap together on his tongue. He cried out and grabbed at his face.

"Ow! Whath was thath for?"

She grabbed him by his shirt collar and dragged him inside. "For calling yourself a man when you still stick your tongue out at people."

The inside of the office smelled exactly how Misty had expected- sterile and unwelcoming. Air fresheners had been plugged into the wall in an attempt to mask the smell, but they weren't really doing a good job of it.

Misty had always hated the doctor. Her parents had picked the worst doctor in all of Cerulean to be the family doctor. He was old, hard of hearing, and had zero tolerance for crying, screaming, or anything but sitting and being quiet. He was one of those doctors who stabbed the needle in the patient's arm rather than gently pushing, which Misty thought was the source of her needle phobia.

Ash and her walked up to the receptionist's desk. She looked young, about Misty and Ash's age. Misty wondered how she had ended up in such a job at such a young age. Most Pokemon Trainers didn't retire until they were at least in their early thirties. Even after they had families, many continued battling and training their Pokemon. Unless, of course, this woman never went on a Pokemon journey, in which case Misty just felt bad for her.

Ash tapped on the desk, getting the receptionist's attention. She smiled warmly at them, which made Misty feel a tiny bit better. "How can I help you two?"

Ash cleared his throat rather melodramatically, which made Misty giggle. He glared at her briefly before returning his attention to the woman behind the desk. "My friend here hurt her face."

"I can see that, Mr. Ketchum."

For a moment, Misty wondered how the lady knew Ash's last name, only to remember how famous he was. The only reason why he had been free of the paparazzi for the past week or so was because they were so preoccupied with documenting who was in the lead in the Tournament. Misty thought she saw some kind of emotion flash in Ash's eyes, but it was gone before she could be sure.

"Well, can we see the doctor? Dr. Oliver?"

The lady shook her head. "I'm sorry. Dr. Oliver takes patients by appointment only."

Misty's spirits soared. Maybe she wouldn't have to go to the doctor after all!

Ash narrowed his eyes and leaned a bit over the desk. "Does Dr. Oliver have children?"

"Yes, but they're all grown up."


"One. She's eleven."

"Tell Dr. Oliver that if he fits us in between appointments, I'll give him my autograph to give to his granddaughter."

Misty looked at him. Ash wasn't the type of guy to use his celebrity status to take advantage of other people, so this surprised her. It also irritated her, since she had really been hoping that she'd get out of going to the doctor.

The receptionist looked thoughtful for a moment, before nodding. "I'm sure he'd be willing to take you if an autograph was thrown into the equation."

Ash smiled. "Great, thank you. How long of a wait do you think it will be?"

"Dr. Oliver is currently in with a patient doing a physical, so it could be anywhere from five to fifteen more minutes."

"Alright. We'll just wait here, then."

Ash guided Misty over to a couch, where they both sat down. Misty ached to ask Ash why he had resorted to using his celebrity status like that. There was really no need for him to have done that, since she doubted that Dr. Oliver was the only doctor in all of Vermilion.

They both waited quietly. All of the other patients kept stealing looks at Ash and whispering among themselves. One girl even came over and asked if she could sit next to Ash, to which he obliged, leaving Misty to be sandwiched in between Ash and the armrest, a rather uncomfortable experience. She glanced over at her companion to see if he truly was okay with this girl glued to him like this. She couldn't have been older than twelve, and Misty knew from experience how annoying pre-teen girls could get when they saw some celebrity guy they were a fan of. She'd seen it all the time when she dated that one actor from Kalos.

Ash didn't look super annoyed, but Misty could tell that he was getting a bit tired of all of the attention. She couldn't blame him. This Tournament was supposed to be the perfect way for him to escape all of the drama surrounding his celebrity status, and yet here he was.

Thankfully for them, the doctor didn't take much more than five minutes to come out. He called Ash's name, to which Ash responded by standing up rather quickly for someone who was comfortable. Misty followed him as he walked over to the doctor.

"This is Misty Waterflower," he introduced. "She's the one with the injury, as you can see."

He nodded and extended his hand. Misty shook it. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, young lady."

She nodded. "The pleasure's all mine."

Ash huffed. "Well, I have to go back to meet Daisy, so I'll see you later, okay?"

She nodded. "Okay."

As he wandered out of the doctor's office, Misty tried to convince herself that letting herself be separated from Ash and Daisy was the right choice.

The problem was, she couldn't.

"So yer problem is that you ain't connected with yer inner self?"

"Yeah. Yeah, that's it. I think."

Daisy pursed her lips. "Well, connectin' with yourself ain't an easy thing to do. But, we can at least get started."

Ash nodded.

Daisy lifted her legs up onto the park bench so she was sitting criss-crossed. She closed her eyes and bowed her head.

"The first thing ya gotta do is block out everythin' but yerself. If ya let the outside world in, the inside world gets let out, ya know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I know."

"Good. Now sit like I'm sittin'."

He did.

"'Kay. Now, the next thing ya gotta do is find yer inner spirit. That's what controls yer Aura. It got a mind of its own. If ya ain't connected with it, it'll do whatever it wants."

"So how do I find my spirit?"

"Just let yer innermost thoughts roam free in your mind. Think about yer ideals, your truths, and your desires."

Ash closed his eyes and bowed his head as Daisy had. He pictured himself standing on the beach of his island home. His Pokemon were all around him. Pikachu, his beloved partner, was sitting on his shoulder. He was in his swimwear, but still dry. He hated going in the ocean, since the salt stained his swimsuit.

He felt someone tap his shoulder. At first, he thought it was just Pikachu's tail, and waved a hand at the yellow mouse. But the tapping persisted, to the point at which he turned around. Much to his delight, there behind him were all of his friends.

One of them stepped forward. Blake. Ash felt a wide grin stretch his face. He hadn't seen his cocky friend since he had left his home for Kanto. Blake too was smiling as he handed Ash a newspaper. The headline was circled in red marker. Taking it in his hands, he couldn't believe what he saw.


He stared at it in absolute disbelief for what felt like an eternity. Everyone waited patiently as he read the news article. Apparently, fed up with the paparazzi and the hype surrounding him, Ash had sent in his official resignation from the World's Greatest Pokemon Master position. Surprisingly, it had been accepted. Some kid named Keith had been chosen to take his place.

As soon as he lowered the paper, everyone surrounded him, cheering. He cheered along with them, overjoyed at the prospect of being freed from his celebrity prison. They lifted him onto their shoulders and carried him toward a boat that Ash was sure hadn't been there before.

They all boarded the boat and set him down. He leaned against the railing, laughing for no particular reason. Cilan stepped up to man the boat, while everyone else fished drinks out of a cooler. Someone passed Ash a can of beer, which he gratefully cracked open. It had been so long since he had tasted beer, since part of his contract had stated that he was prohibited from drinking alcohol to "keep up his image".

As the boat propelled itself away from the island, the clouds parted to reveal a bright sun. The warm rays beat down on Ash's exposed skin as he caught up with his friends. They cracked jokes and cans in equal measure, until every ounce of soda, beer, and ice tea had been consumed. And on top of it all, Brock was grilling up a storm of steak, burgers, and fish. Ash didn't know how his friends had managed to get a grill the size of that one on a boat so small, but he didn't care. He was having the time of his life. And the best part?

No paparazzi. No screaming fans. No Pokemon League pushing him to do this and do that.

The sun was starting to go down, but the party continued. As Ash took a seat on one of the benches lining the interior, someone came up to sit beside him.


She was wearing a bright red bikini, which immediately caught Ash's attention. He hadn't seen her in such attire in over ten years. Even on T.V., she often wore something over her swimsuit so as not to draw too much attention from passing men. Unlike her sisters, Misty had never been crazy about dating. Sure, she loved romance, but the idea of having a relationship scared her. At least, that was what she said five years ago on an interview. Whether or not she still felt that way, Ash was uncertain.

She looked at him and smiled. "Isn't it nice, Ash? Being free from the celebrity life?"

He nodded. "Yes, it is. It's great, actually. I've wanted this for years."

The moment he said that, the entire world dropped around him. The scene around him spiraled into something different. He found himself standing on the edge of a cliff. The wind was pushing hard at his back, as if urging him to jump.

He teetered on the edge. Below him was nothing but darkness, like the wide mouth of a cave. Bleak mountains surrounded him on all sides, and the sky above was black and starless.

"Ash Ketchum," a voice hissed. "Jump, Ash Ketchum, and you will get everything you want."

The Pokemon Master looked around frantically, but could not locate the source of the voice. It sounded as if it were coming from everywhere at once.

"It's your escape, Ash Ketchum. Jump, and it's all over. No more paparazzi. No more fans. No more celebrity. Isn't that what you want?"

"I-" He stopped. He did want to be free of all of that, but by this method? He knew perfectly well what this- this thing was telling him to do. Take the easy way out. Jump, and give in to the darkness. Embrace it, and everything bad in his life would end.

But so would the good. He would lose his friends, his family, and most importantly, his life. There were no second chances with this method.

"Jump!" the voice screamed. Its voice was shrill. Inhuman. "Jump, and you will be free! Jump! Jump!"

Ash clenched his fists as he realized what was happening. He was being faced with both sides of his personality. The party and his being freed from his position symbolized the kind, calm part of his personality. On the flip side, this voice urging him to jump resembled his bad side. His Aura. The part that he had to conquer. Everyone was born in harmony with their good side, but against their bad side. It was up to them to change that.

"Stop it!" he screamed. "Stop it!"

The wind grew stronger behind him. His feet started to shift toward the abyss below.

"You can't stop it, Ash Ketchum! You can't stop it, so jump! Jump and give in to your darkness. Accept your fate!"

He squeezed his eyes shut. "I said stop it!"

"If you wish to conquer me, you will have to be stronger than that."

"Stop it!"

"But alas, you are not strong enough. You never were. You were born weak, Ash Ketchum. You really think that it was your own talent that got you to where you are now? Hah! If only things worked like that. Your battle was rigged, just like every other one was and always will be. Once the public gets tired of the current Greatest, the Pokemon League selects a new person. Then, they pay the current Greatest a huge sum of cash to rig the battle and ensure that their opponent wins."

"That's not true!" Ash screamed. "It's not true!"

"But it is, and you know it. You're nothing, Ash Ketchum. Nothing."

Ash set his jaw. Arguing with this thing wasn't the answer. He might as well be arguing with himself. He had to conquer it. They couldn't be equals. Only one could rule. And that person had to be him.

My name is Ash Ketchum. I am twenty years old. I was born in Pallet Town, Kanto. I was a Pokemon Trainer until I beat Paul the second time. Then I became the World's Greatest Pokemon Master. I am the Chosen One. I am the hero. I am the leader. This is my world. I am the Chosen One. I am the hero. I am the leader. This. Is. My. World!"

Ash flew backwards, straight into a lamppost. He screamed, grabbing fistfuls of his hair and pulling. His whole body felt like it was exploding. His head was full of emotions. It felt like he was turning into Aura Ash all over again, except this time he had a bit of control.

Ash jumped as someone touched him, swinging his arm out in an attempt to knock the person away. The person cried out in surprise. Ash's eyes widened as the familiarity of the voice dawned on him.

"Daisy!" he cried. He sprang to his feet. "Did... did it work?"

She chuckled. "Only you can tell that, Mr. Pokemon Master!" She frowned. "But, lookin' at ya, I reckon somethin' happened."

Slowly, Ash looked down at himself. He nearly jumped out of his own skin when he saw that his entire body was glowing a faint blue. "Wh-what the hell!?"

His friend smiled. "That happens to me after I meditate, too. It's perfectly normal."


She nodded. "I ain't lyin', mister."

Ash continued staring at himself, more out of curiosity than fear now. "So that was meditating? What I just did?"

"You mean to tell me you're an Aura Master an' you never meditated before?"


She hit him softly on the arm. "Shame on you, then!"

He snorted. "I don't have time for stuff like that. If you haven't noticed already, I'm extremely busy."

"No one's ever too busy fer meditatin', mister! But answerin' yer question, yes, that was meditatin' that you were doin'. A more advanced form of it than most regular people use, but still meditatin'. Do ya feel any different?"

He thought about it. "Yeah, I guess so."

"How so?"

"Well..." He tried to figure out the best way to put his feelings into words. "I guess I feel a bit... stronger? When I first came out of my, uh, state, I didn't have full control. But I was fully aware, and I felt like I had more control than I did the last time I went into Aura mode."

"Good! Yer makin' fast progress, then! A few more times and ya should be nearly done!"

"With the no-mood stuff, you mean?"

"Yeah. After that comes the hard stuff."

Great, Ash thought. Just what I need. More challenge in an already challenging competition.

By this point the blue glow that had enveloped Ash's body had faded. He felt a bit more aware, like the world was swimming back into full focus again. When he had first come out of his meditation state, the only thing he had been aware of were his immediate surroundings. Now, he was fully aware again. He almost felt like his senses had been heightened, too, which wouldn't surprise him. He'd heard a lot about the wonders of meditation.

"Ash! Hey, Ash!"

The man turned to see Misty running down the sidewalk toward him and Daisy. Ash immediately ran over to meet her, eager to hear about how things went at the doctor's.

"Did the practice session help, Ash?" she asked.

He nodded. "Even after just one time, I feel like I'm gaining control over myself. When I'm not in a mood, of course."

She grinned. "Which is pretty much never, with you."


She shrugged. "Just saying."

"I could say the same thing about you! You're always in a mood."

This earned him a swift kick to the stomach.

He coughed a little bit before righting himself again. "So... how did the doctor's go?"

Before Misty could answer, Daisy jogged up to them. "Howdy, Misty! Jeepers, what happened to yer face?"

Ash bit the inside of his cheek as he waited for Misty to make up some cover-up story for what happened. The one detail Ash had left out of his and Daisy's conversation the previous night was that he had hurt Misty while under the influence of his Aura.

"I was playing soccer with a few of my friends, and one of them kicked me in the face by accident."

Daisy cringed. "Ooh, that sounds painful."

She nodded, wincing. "Yeah, it was."

Ash looked down at his shoes.

"Anyways, my appointment with the doctor went fine," she went on. "He said that I'll have to go to a facial trauma expert for a CT scan, since he doesn't have the equipment nor the certification to do that in his office. He referred me to some guy in Celadon City. Dr. Kingston, I think. He gave me his card and told me to call him to schedule an appointment. Apparently they're going to use the CT scan to see how bad the damage to my cheek is."

Ash was starting to get nervous. "What if it's real bad?"

"Then they'll have to do some extensive surgery. Even if it isn't that bad, they still might have to do some surgery to make sure everything heals correctly. If it doesn't, then I'll have some cosmetic issues."

"Cosmetic issues?" Ash echoed. "Like... you can't put makeup on anymore?"

"No, blockhead. It means that side of my face won't ever look quite the same. If the bones don't rearrange themselves properly or whatever when they are healing, then they won't look right when they are fully healed. If the end result of my cheek healing is a severe alteration to my facial structure, as the CT scan will tell the doctor, then they'll have to do surgery to prevent it. But if the end result of the healing process is a small change, then no surgery. I'm hoping for the latter, since surgery will put me behind in the Tournament. If it's bad enough, they might make me drop out."

That made Ash feel great.

An awkward silence followed Misty's words as the trio took in the idea of Misty having to drop out of the Tournament because of needing surgery. If that happened, Ash was sure he'd never forgive himself. He wished he could go back in time and kill himself for doing what he did to his best friend.

After a few moments, Daisy broke the silence. "Well, I need to get goin'. Daddy's expectin' me back at the house to help with lunch. See ya around, Ash. And good luck with your face healin', Misty."

The duo waved goodbye as she jogged off.

Ash opened his mouth to say something about Misty's condition, but Misty spoke before he could. "I'm just as concerned as you are about what's going to happen, but for now we have to stay positive. I'm not going to let my issue ruin your battle with Benjamin."

"If he's even still willing to battle me after I almost killed him," he spat bitterly.

Misty pursed her lips. "You have to believe that he will, Ash. He might not even really remember what happened that day. You knocked him out cold, so he might have lead himself to believe that he saw you in a dream, and that some accident was the result of his trauma instead. Or he might not even remember at all due to a case of... what would they call it? Situational amnesia?"

He didn't respond.

She sighed. "Be Mr. Pessimist all you want, but we're still going. We didn't spend our entire morning catching Pokemon for nothing."

"Please state your full name and date of birth."

"Ash Norman Ketchum, May 22, 1988."

"Challenger cleared for participation. Please step up onto the battle stand, Mr. Ketchum."

Swallowing down his fear, he did as the computer program told him. He was no longer as nervous about Benjamin as he was about the active battle. All Misty had been willing to tell him was that Benjamin's Pokemon were well-trained, but under-leveled. Ash himself had Pokemon that were both under-leveled and not very well trained... yet. He hoped that his experience as the World's Greatest Pokemon Master would be enough.

On the other side of the battle field, a door swung open. Out of it came Benjamin, dressed in what Ash assumed to be the standard Battle King getup. He was wearing medieval style clothing, a golden crown, and polished dress shoes. Ash narrowed his eyes.

Without a word, Benjamin stepped up onto his own battle stand. He reached into his costume and pulled out a Poke Ball.


The Bird Pokemon appeared in a flash of light, letting out a cry that brought back memories of Ash's own Pidgeotto, now a wild Pidgeot.

Ash reached for his own selection. He had thought long and hard about what Pokemon he had wanted to start with, and was almost entirely sure that he had made the right decision.

Of course, he still had his doubts.

"Spearow, I choose you!"

His own choice appeared in a flash of light much as Pidgeotto had. Its cry was much more shrill and unattractive, but also more intimidating. It circled a few times before coming to a rest hovering over the battlefield.

"The coin toss has determined that it is the challenger's pick of move," the computer announced.

Ash took a deep breath. This was it. This was the moment that truly started the Tournament.

"Spearow! Let's start it off simple! Peck!"

The Flying-type Pokemon's beak glowed and grew longer and sharper as it dove down toward Pidgeotto.

"Pidgeotto, Protect."

A clear shield formed itself around the Pokemon. Spearow slammed into the force field with all of its might, but to no avail.

Ash gritted his teeth.

"Pidgeotto, Steel Wing."

The Bird Pokemon flew down toward Spearow, wings glowing.

"Spearow, dodge it!"

Ash's Pokemon moved to dodge the attack, but was too slow. Pidgeotto's wings slammed into Spearow, sending it flying backwards into Ash's battle stand.

"Holy shit," he muttered. "Misty was right. His Pokemon are fucking strong."

Spearow struggled to its feet, cawing. Its eyes sparked with anger and determination.

Taking a deep breath, Ash called out his next attack. "Spearow, Aerial Ace!"

"Speaaaaarrrr- ow!"

Ash smiled as the attack made contact. He had bought a few TMs from a local dealer to teach to his new Pokemon. He figured that it would take more than his Pokemon's starter moves to win, and he was right.

However, his smile quickly faded as Benjamin called out his next order.


Bright, glowing feathers surrounded Pidgeotto, which it quickly absorbed.

Ash's mouth dropped open in shock. It knew Roost? Shit.

"Spearow, Aerial Ace again!"

"Pidgeotto, Protect."

"Dammit!" he spat.

Spearow cawed angrily, reflecting Ash's emotions.

Ash set his jaw. Think, Ash, think! Regular moves aren't working, so come up with something new!

"Pidgeotto, Quick Attack."

The Bird Pokemon darted toward Spearow at lightning speed. Ash prayed that it wouldn't be too much for his Pokemon as the attack landed.

Thankfully, Spearow managed to hold on, although it had taken a lot of damage. It shook as it stood up.

Suddenly, Ash had an idea. A small smile curved his lips as he called, "Spearow, fly up near the lights!"

It took more effort than it should have for Spearow to fly up to the ceiling. Ash watched it to make sure that it wasn't too much for it to handle. He could always exchange it for another Flying-type if he needed to, but he also didn't want to recall it if it could still fight.

"Pidgeotto, follow it!"

"Spearow, stay there!" Ash called. The Pokemon obeyed, flapping its wings occasionally to keep itself elevated.

Pidgeotto sped toward Spearow, screaming.

"Pidgeotto, Steel Wing!"

"Wait for it..." Ash murmured. As Pidgetto drew within the desired distance, he called, "Spearow, behind the light!"

Spearow darted behind the light. Pidgeotto instinctively changed its direction. By the time it realized what was going to happen, it was too late.

Pidgeotto slammed into the light with all of its might. The glass covering shattered. Shards flew everywhere. Spearow darted away itself, but its opponent wasn't so lucky. One of the stray shards cut into its wing. It cried out and, unable to keep itself elevated with just one wing, flew down toward the ground below.

"Pidgeotto!" Benjamin cried.

"Spearow, Aerial Ace!"

"Spear!" the Pokemon cried, darting toward its falling opponent. "Speaaaarrrow!"

The opponent's Pokemon cried out in alarm as Spearow slammed into it, sending them both crashing against the ground.

Ash leaned forward, waiting to see if Spearow had made it through the fall.

As the dust cleared, Ash saw that both Pokemon were laying on the ground. He set his jaw. Come on, Spearow.

Almost as if his Pokemon had read his thoughts, it started to get up. It looked like it was just about to faint. Ash prayed for it to hold on, just a little longer.

A few moments later, Pidgeotto started to get up. It too was shaking, and looked close to fainting as well.

"Pidgeotto, hang in there!" Benjamin called. "Just a few more moments!"

Ash said nothing. He knew that his Spearow knew what was expected of it.

The two Pokemon stared each other down, as if daring each other to faint first.

After what felt like an eternity, they both gave in.

"Pidgeotto and Spearow are unable to battle," the computer voice said.

Both Benjamin and Ash recalled their Pokemon. Despite the disappointing tie, they both carried on with the same passion as before. Ash continued having to come up with alternatives to the regular battling method in order to stand a chance against Benjamin's Pokemon. Benjamin began getting more aggressive with his battling as he realized that he wasn't dealing with an amateur Trainer. The battle raged on for what felt like a lifetime, until finally both sides were down to their last Pokemon. For Ash, his Piplup. For Benjamin, his Grovyle. A bad matchup from Ash's perspective, but he was famous for taking bad matchups and turning them in his favor.

The battle started off with Grovyle coming hard at Piplup with a Leaf Blade. Ash retaliated with a Bubble attack to the face, which blinded Grovyle enough to allow Piplup to dodge. Benjamin ordered for an Aerial Ace next, which hit spot-on. Piplup shot back with a Double Team, an attack it had learned through one of the TMs Ash had bought. However, it was nothing more than a minor setback for Grovyle, who used Bullet Seed to wipe out all of the copies and hit the original.

Seeing that the Grass-type move had severely weakened his Water-type Pokemon, Ash decided to bust out his idea. He called for Piplup to stand directly in front of Ash's battle stand and remain there. As Grovyle came toward Piplup with a Leaf Blade, Ash ordered it to jump. It did as it was told and jumped, landing on Grovyle's back. Ash ordered it to hit Grovyle in the back of the head with Bubble. Grovyle, distracted by both the attack and Piplup's presence, didn't notice that it was heading straight for Ash's battle stand and slammed right into it. Piplup jumped off of Grovyle then, continuing its Bubble attack as ordered.

Once Grovyle had recovered from hitting the battle stand, it turned its attention back to Piplup. Benjamin ordered a Bullet Seed attack, which Piplup countered with Bubble. Both attacks canceled each other out. Grovyle went next for a Leaf Blade, and Piplup for a Peck. Piplup managed to get inside of Grovyle's attack and hit, while Grovyle was unable to do the same thing. It fell to the ground, seemingly defeated. However, Ash knew better than to trust his assumptions.

Sure enough, Grovyle managed to get to its feet. However, that was short-lived as Piplup hit it with one final Bubble attack. The Grovyle fell to its knees, eyes wide, before falling to the ground. The computer voice announced that Grovyle was unable to continue, thus making Ash Ketchum the winner of the battle.

Upon hearing of the victory, Ash immediately jumped down from his battle stand and raced to Piplup, wrapping it in a hug and thanking it. Misty cheered, while Benjamin clapped.

As Ash recalled Piplup to its Poke Ball, Benjamin approached him. "Congratulations, Ash."

He smiled. "Thank you, sir."

The man smiled and extended his hand. Ash shook it.

Afterwards, he reached into his costume and pulled something out. A stamp and an ink pad. "May I see your Victory Card, please?"

Ash nodded and pulled his Victory Card out of his back pocket. He handed it to Benjamin, who stamped the first slot before handing the card back to Ash. Looking at it, Ash saw that the stamp was a star. Smiling, he thanked Benjamin and put the card back in his pocket.

Benjamin cleared his throat. "By the way... I remember what happened yesterday."

Ash froze.

"I know enough about you to know that you are a good man. I know you would never hurt anyone. I recognize that what happened yesterday was because of a strange power you possess. No man would be able to do what you did yesterday without some kind of help from another force. I know you probably think that I'm going to report you, but I am not. I am above being a stool pigeon. I won't say anything, but I will advise you to be more careful about your emotions."

Ash let out a sigh of relief. "Thank you."

He nodded. "And finally, now that you have defeated me and received your Victory Stamp, I am required by the rules to give you a hint about the location of the nearest Battle Center."

Ash nodded.

"The place where Don sells a lot of goods."

Ash stared at him, totally confused. "That's my hint?"

Benjamin smiled. "Yes, it is."

"But that makes no sense!"

"It will if you think about it. Trust me. Good luck, Ash."

He blinked. "Uh... thanks?"

He chuckled. "You'd better go. You can't let the other competitors get ahead of you! Remember- only the first 16 get into the finals!"

Ash huffed. "I know that. Come on, Misty!" Without bothering to wait, he sprinted toward the doors.

She jumped to her feet. "Ash, wait!" She glanced helplessly at Benjamin, who laughed, before running after her companion.

Benjamin laughed as he watched them. They would both go far, he was sure. Especially Ash. He had a lot going for him. Then again, he wasn't the World's Greatest Pokemon Master for no reason.

Little did he know, however, that he wasn't the only one watching Ash.

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