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By Hugo Reed

Chapter 1


by: Hugo Reed

Chapter 1: Sixteenth Place

Ash stood across the field from his friend, and greatest rival so far, Riche. He was down to his final pokemon and Riche's Charmander stood facing him.

I can't use Bulbasaur against a fire type, and if I use Pidgyotto or Kingler, Riche will fry it with his Pikachu. I suppose I could use Charizard... I really don't have a choice.

"It's risky but it's my only hope so go Charizard!"

He threw the pokeball hard to the half-way point on the field. Charizard appeared, fire shooting from it's mouth angrily.

"Don't give up Zippo!" called Riche.

Ash couldn't make out Riche's face, but he stood stock still, frozen with fear. Ash was more afraid than Riche, but refused to show it. The battle moved forward, already completely out of Ash's control, softly he swore to himself.

"I should've used Pidgyotto, this is too far out of my range."

Charizard saw the little Charmander and shot a mouthful of fire at the little creature, forcing it to flee from the intense heat. Ash's hearing cut out as his heart thudded in his chest. He saw Riche recall the Charmander and throw out another pokeball. After an intense flash of light, he saw Riche's Pikachu standing, ready for battle. Ash tried to give Charizard warning and encouragement, but couldn't remember what he said, even right after the words left his lips.

Once more, he was forced to watch, helpless as Charizard refused to battle, and went to sleep instead. Anxiously he turned to the judge. He saw the man raise the red flag high and his heart sank. He ducked his head as tears fell and recalled his giant lizard.

"Damn you," he hissed. "The most important battle of my life and you cop-out on me."

He heard Riche coming over and hastily wiped the tears from his eyes. By the time Riche reached him, his eyes were dry.

"Ash," Riche said softly.

Ash perked his head up, pretending to be happy like always. Riche had just won the match after all, no need to make him feel bad too.

"Guess you won!"

"Guess so."

Ash could tell Riche still didn't buy the act. As a last ditch effort he held out his hand, and as Riche took it, he congratulated his rival on the match. Ash excused himself and walked towards the exit, Pikachu on his shoulder.

"Pikachu," he said softly. "Stay with Brock and Misty for a bit, I'm going to go for a walk for a bit, I'll catch up at the pokemon center before nightfall."

Pikachu looked as though it was about to resist, but thought better of it. It ran off, taking Ash's pack and other pokemon with it. He walked straight through the stadium lobby and out into the early morning streets. He didn't really have any destination in mind. All he wanted was to get away, and to stop thinking. He'd worked so damn hard and lost all because of his stubborn Charizard.

"No," he said softly. "It's not just Charizard's fault. I haven't proven myself to it. I need to become a better trainer. I've always said that, it's not just the pokemon. It's the trainer that choses attacks and which pokemon to use. I could really use a meal, and something to get my mind off this."

There were hundreds of sideshows during the pokemon league contest, so he had quite the collection to chose from. Lots of magician and musicians, people showing off their pokemon, and even some carnival games crowded the streets, but none of them caught his attention. He heard his pokedex buzz in his pocket and nearly jumped.

"What's going on?" he wondered allowed, then flipped it open.

The pokedex's electronic voice filled his ears.

"Congratulations Ash Ketchum. You've reached the rank of the 16th best challenger to compete in the Indigo Plateau. We hope to see you again next year!"

Ash almost smiled. The sixteenth best in the league didn't sound so bad. He'd done better than Gary at any rate. He found a bench and leaned against it to rest. People, trainers and their families mostly, passed him while he relaxed himself.

Most of them threw out a "Good match kid," or "Nice try. Better luck next year."

Ash ignored them, and eventually they stopped walking up to him. Too tired to move anymore, after battling team rocket and Riche, he closed his eyes to get a couple minutes of shut eye.

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