"Scraggy, Hi Jump Kick!" Ash cried.
"Dodge it, Axew!" Iris ordered in the same manner.
Both trainers gritted their teeth as Scraggy lunged towards Axew, its knee glowing. At the last second, Axew sidestepped out of the way, having Scraggy's attack miss by less than an inch. Ash watched in dismay as Scraggy kept going and slammed onto the ground. The young Pokémon cringed in pain. Iris was quick to take advantage of Scraggy's weakness.
"Now Scratch!" she yelled, throwing her hand toward her baby dragon.
"Axew!" Axew confirmed, charging toward his training partner.
His tiny claws glowed before Axew raked them across Scraggy's head. Scraggy fell to the ground, not knowing what hit him. Ash noticed Axew was making the mistake of staying near its opponent for too long. Having faith in his Pokémon, Ash called out, "Scraggy! Get up and use Headbutt!"
Scraggy's eyes were shut tight, but after hearing his trainer's order, they shot open. The rebellious Pokémon jumped to its feet and head-butted a distracted Axew right on the forehead. Axew cried out in pain and stumbled backwards, holding its throbbing head. Iris cried in dismay. Ash was just about to order for another attack until Cilan's call from the other side of the clearing interrupted him.
"Guys, lunch is ready!" the teenager hollered.
"Alright!" Ash immediately exclaimed. He dashed toward the portable table filled with food without a second thought. His loyal Pikachu followed him, leaving Axew and Scraggy standing alone in the clearing. Along with Iris, of course.
"Ash!" Iris cried. "What about our battle?"
"Eat first!" Ash replied.
Iris watched after him, twitching. Finally she let her body go limp with a sigh. She signaled Axew and Scraggy to follow her as she trudged toward their supplies. But when she sniffed the food's aroma, she found herself sprinting toward Cilan much like Ash.
The door opened with a long creaking sound. The building was well-furnished and looked new, but the intruder had an idea it was actually quite old. The building looked like a small hotel or a fancy bed-and-breakfast. It was two stories with a dozen rooms on each floor. The rooms varied: some would be studies, lounging areas, bedrooms, etc. And of course, some looked better than others: some would look like a ruined apartment; others would look like a regal suite. The owner had interesting taste.
The intruder was on the second floor now. This floor was mostly bedrooms, but most of them were run down. He calmly walked toward the end of the single hallway. He was cautious, but he understood the owner wouldn't be coming back soon. So why waste time on your toes?
Finally, the intruder came to a wooden door. He jiggled the doorknob to see if it was locked. It was open, not even some sort sensor or back up lock. Pathetic.
He crept inside into the bedroom. This one wasn't regal or ruined—more like a room one would find in a plain cabin. The walls, ceiling, and floor were all made of wood; some parts polished while there was some rot in the corners. A small desk rested on each side of the head of the king-sized bed that rested in the center. The bed had a post on each corner, metal bars connecting the tops. A thin ivory canopy hung over the bars, but the curtains were pulled back to reveal the center.
Cuddled on top of the satin white sheets lay a boy. He was probably not much older than ten. He wore black pants that reached to his ankles with a blue and white jacket. It was unzipped at the moment, showing an all-black T-shirt. He had spikey raven black hair, and even though they were closed at the moment, the intruder knew he had chocolate brown eyes. The intruder noticed a pair of shoes, gloves and a hat thrown at the foot of the bed. The boy was completely motionless except for the gentle rise and fall of his body as he breathed.
He looked peaceful—which he probably was—but the intruder understood he needed to be awakened. Anyone else would have assumed the boy trespassed in order to get a good night's sleep—he was even made to appear that way—though that was not the case. The intruder snapped his fingers.
"Persian," he called. Immediately an ivory-colored cat that came to his knees crawled out from behind him. A gleaming red jewel was impeded in its forehead, looking like a lost treasure. The cat's blood-red eyes peered up at the boy with curiosity. The intruder didn't even glance at his Pokémon as he ordered, "Screech."
The cat stepped forward and opened its jaws. At the same moment, an awful, high-pitched raking sound filled the room. The heart of the noise was focused on the poor boy.
The group gobbled down their food in a matter of seconds. The Pokémon, also having their lunch break, finished likewise. Ash fell back on the ground, stuffed. He opened his eyes to peer at the sky far above him, white puffy clouds lazily crawling across their blue canvas. The sun glowed brilliantly, drawing colors throughout the land. Ash wanted to stay like this forever, but he was well aware he had a battle to finish.
"Ok, let's go!" he exclaimed.
He threw his legs into the air and slammed his feet into the ground, propelling him into a crouching position. He straightened and whirled around, trotting back to his spot on the battlefield.
"Pika!" Pikachu cried, racing after him. Scraggy was not far behind. Iris glanced at them.
"Really, Ash?" she sighed. They just finished lunch; he couldn't wait for just a few more minutes? Ash and his team got to their positions.
"Really," Ash confirmed, determination burning in his eyes. Iris shook her head and lifted her hands in defeat. Even though, she smirked in amusement.
"Such a little kid," she commented. She got to her feet and walked to the other side of the clearing across from Ash. Axew followed her until he came to stand before Scraggy. Both turned toward their opponent, their determination mirroring Ash's. On the side of the clearing, Cilan was cleaning up but was glancing at them over his shoulder. The group of their Pokémon was clustered to the side, watching with awe. Finally Iris made the first move.
"Axew, Outrage!" she cried.
Axew's eyes snapped open to reveal glowing red eyes burning with fury. A red aura surrounded his body. Suddenly the little creature charged at Scraggy at impossible speed. But Ash was ready. He threw his hand up and was about to call an order until something stopped him. Suddenly a ringing sound filled the trainer's hearing. He winced, but tried to ignore it.
He couldn't finish as the ringing suddenly intensified. Ash cringed. It wasn't a soft noise; it was so loud and intense it hurt. The boy's body was rigid and his face was screwed with pain. His vision was blurry, but he could see Axew slamming into Scraggy, sending the Shedding Pokémon flying. Ash wanted to cry out for his friend, but only ended up screaming in agony as the ringing became even more severe. Finally the boy fell to his knees.
He barely heard his friends' startled yells. His vision was so blurred he could barely make out his surroundings. The ringing sounded like raw steel scraping against each other within his skull. It felt like the horrible screeching was digging into his soul and it drowned all his senses. He made himself look up, only to witness a horrifying sight.
It was like someone was rapidly switching a light on and off. One moment Ash would see a light, fresh forest, and then the next his vision was dark and gloomy. Everything was becoming worse and worse until he couldn't take it anymore. He threw his head back and let out a yell.
Ash shot up. The screeching finally stopped, but Ash's body still trembled and his vision was so blurry he couldn't see anything. All he could tell was that he was somewhere dark. He heard a noise and it took a couple moments for him to decipher it as words.
"You're awake, good," a voice praised.
Ash blinked a couple times, but it only improved things a little. He was so disoriented he felt like he was going to throw up. He couldn't even talk. Finally after several long moments, Ash began to recognize silhouettes of some sort of bedroom. Twitching his fingers confirmed soft sheets beneath him, signaling he was sitting on a bed. He noticed a tall figure facing him at the foot of it. A person?
"Who's there?" the boy was finally able to croak. A formal, reassuring voice answered him.
"It's okay, my boy," it said. "You're safe now."
That really didn't answer his question. And safe? Safe from what? The last thing Ash remembered was training with his friends. Wait a second, so how did he get here? What was going on? The more Ash tried to remember and figure out things, the more his headache worsened and the more disoriented he became. He started to panic.
"What's going on?" he screeched.
He started to thrash. What he was fighting against, he didn't know, but he didn't care. He heard the voice trying to shush and calm him, but he ignored it. He wanted answers. Suddenly he heard a growl-like noise and the voice barked, "Persian, Hypnosis!"
Ash's racing panicked thoughts suddenly calmed and disappeared from his mind. His body froze when numbness and weakness crawled into his limbs. He was almost lulled back into sleep until the spell suddenly disappeared. Ash blinked, now alert and awake.
Like he thought, he was in some type of bedroom. It was simple, the entire room made of polished wood. He sat on a king-sized bed with satin white sheets. Ash looked up to the figure at the end of the bed again, but this time its features were clear and the boy saw it was a tall man.
He was dressed in an expensive-looking greenish-gray suit with some gold and purple touches. His expression was stern, but seemed to be making an attempt to be soft. He was well-built and the visible parts of his skin showed he was tanned. He had well-cut, sleeked-back dark brown hair and piercing black eyes. Ash noticed a Persian sitting by his side. The man was nodding in approval.
"Well done," he complimented.
Ash moaned and cradled his head. "What happened?" he finally asked.
"You were kidnapped," the man answered simply, but was still trying to be soft. "I know you're confused. Your captor has a psychic Pokémon. He used it to create illusions and false memories for you."
"You know this how?"
The man smirked with an arrogant snort. "I had fortune of running into him outside. He really doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut, not to mention it was simple to connect the dots. When your kidnapper basically confessed he kidnapped you, I came in here."
Ash blinked several times, trying to piece it together himself. The memory of training with Iris and having lunch was fading fast. So that was all a dream… He tried to remember something that wasn't faded.
"I can't remember anything," Ash whimpered.
"Part of the psychic's fraud."
Then Ash realized something. Memory especially came back when the boy witnessed the Persian refusing to leave its master's side. Ash looked frantically around, searching for the yellow fur of his tiny friend.
"Pikachu!" he wailed. It only got worse as Ash's search led him to his belt. His Pokeballs were gone. "My Pokémon! Where are my Pokémon?"
"I caught our friend when he was fleeing in his truck. He had Pokémon with him. Most likely yours along with other victims'."
"We need to find them! Where is he?"
Ash's savior shrugged. "Beats me," he rumbled. "I wasn't exactly able to hold him back."
The distressed trainer's mouth gapped with he stared at the man with dismay. No memory, no Pokémon, no way to find them. To Ash's amazement, the man didn't seem that concerned. He opened his closed eyes and peered at Ash. The man's eyes made the child feel like a dagger was digging into him.
"Don't worry," the man assured. "I think I know how to find him. Can you walk?"
Ash was about to reply that he could, but suddenly a wave of weakness enveloped his legs as if in protest. And just thinking about walking made him dizzy. Guess this "psychic Pokémon's" illusions were more powerful than he thought. Determined to find and save his friends, Ash pushed the spells away. He slid his legs over the side and dropped to the floor. Right when Ash's feet hit the wooden floor, a powerful wave of nausea hit his mind, making him sway. The man leaned forward, as if he was preparing to lunge to Ash's aid.
Ash assured him he was okay as the attack subsided a little. When the trainer was confident in his strength, he walked around the bed to his accessories dumped on the floor. The man waited patiently while Ash slipped on his shoes, gloves and hat. After zipping his jacket, he nodded to his savior. The man nodded back, and they exited the room.
As they traveled toward the lobby with Persian trailing behind them, Ash asked, "Who are you, anyway?"
The man glanced at him. "Giovanni."
Ash nodded. "I'm Ash!"
"Nice to meet you," Giovanni grumbled, but Ash sensed the man was just mocking him.
To fill the silence and learn more about his mysterious savior, Ash continued the conversation.
"Ssoo… why are you all the way out here?" Ash pointed towards his suit. "You're not really dressed for travel."
"I wasn't planning to travel long. I was taking a short trip while staying on the main roads. But when I noticed a building in the middle of nowhere, I got curious. Didn't know I was walking up to a thief's hideout; barely got out of the way of his truck when he tried to run me over." Suddenly Giovanni glanced at Ash curiously. "How do you know where we are? Didn't you say your memory was wiped?"
Ash blinked. How did he know that? He closed his eyes in concentration as he rubbed his temple. He only glimpsed images of what he knew were his surroundings. He opened his eyes and announced, "I must've been able to see where I was before he knocked me out."
Giovanni grunted in understanding. Seconds later they found themselves outside. It was midnight, showing the land as a shadowed realm. The only light was the stars filling the black canopy and the quarter moon shining brilliantly. The building rested on the side of a rocky hill similar to Professor Oak's laboratory, looking over a wide road and forest below. Ash looked around, only to be disappointed with no sign of the thief or his Pokémon.
"Now what?" Ash asked.
Giovanni didn't reply. Instead, he reached into a pocket and pulled out a red and white Pokéball the size of a walnut. He pressed the button to expand it to fill his palm and tossed it toward the ground in front of them. A blob of blue-white light swirled before a Pokémon materialized.
It was a canine the same size as Persian, its dark fur gleaming in the moonlight. Two thick black stripes cut through gray fur, stretching from its head to its bushy tail. It owned fierce yellow and red eyes that glared at everything at sight. Sharp, white teeth flashed as its black lips were slightly drawn back. Ash recognized it as a Mightyena.
Wait, wasn't that a Pokémon from Hoenn? What was it doing here? He did have a chance to voice his questions as Giovanni didn't hesitate to get right to it.
"Mightyena, Odor Sleuth," he ordered.
The Bite Pokémon snorted in confirmation and bent its head down. It sniffed the ground madly for a few minutes, even crawling several feet away. Meanwhile, Ash peered up at Giovanni. The man noticed his questioning glance and explained.
"Mightyena are known for their great tracking abilities," he informed. "Odor Sleuth will help strengthen Mightyena's tracking and find the thief."
"But you said he could be anywhere!" Ash protested.
"My Persian wasn't happy when he tried to kill me. It was able to damage his truck. That should slow down his process, or even stop him altogether."
Ash looked back at Mightyena, a little skeptical. A few minutes later, the dog suddenly froze and threw its head up, giving a couple excited barks.
"Mightyena found the trail," Giovanni announced.
"Then let's go!" Ash exclaimed. Maybe things weren't so bad after all. Ash was about to jump into a sprint, even taking a step forward, until he was abruptly pulled back by his collar. Ash couldn't help but gag as it tugged on his throat.
Ash stumbled but was able to regain his balance as Giovanni said sternly, "Hold on, I'm not running all the way there."
"But he's getting away!"
"Whether he's in a racecar or on foot, his destination is all the same. We'll follow his trail, which should lead us to him. I'm too old to sprint for several miles for no reason. Besides, our confrontation won't be very heroic if we're sweating and panting."
Ash sighed, knowing he had a point. Even though it killed him, Ash stayed by Giovanni's side as Mightyena led them into the forest. The humans and Persian walked casually as the canine trotted several paces ahead, its nose buried in the dirt.