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The Trainer From A Far Away Land

Chapter Text

"Regular Speech"

'Poke Speech'


“Ready to go buddy?”

“Pii…” ‘Yeah..’

“Cheer up Pikachu.  It’ll be just like our first time starting out……again.” 

Pikachu tried to perk up, he really did, but losing all your hard earned strength and starting over at a level that you had surpassed ages ago, repeatedly, tended to bring down even the most cheerful of creatures.

He still had his moves, his knowledge, his experience, but everything felt so much weaker now, so much slower.  So much weaker.  Thanks to that Arceus-damned Zekrom, it felt as if everything he had previously regained in Sinnoh was shoved down into a hole so deep, he’d need to learn Flash to see it again.  His mind could still see and process things faster than ever, but his body just couldn’t keep up with what he wanted much less needed to do.

To top it all off, he had lost to a starter, while clearly raised up better and longer than most of the starters from other regions it was no less humiliating, with a new trainer almost as infuriating as that rather nasty purple-haired human his partner had called ‘Rival’. 

The times in Sinnoh and Hoenn had been worse with an incredibly heavy toll taken on his body by injury and the overload of electricity, but it had really been a long time since he had been cut off from his own power so effectively barring the rare moments of illness. 

He could still feel the electricity coursing throughout his body, else how would he even be alive?  But during that last battle, it was there bubbling just under his skin.  His skin which may as well have been heavy duty rubber for all the good it did.  All that could be forced out were a few pitiful crackles.  It had taken so much effort and concentration too.

The lack of access to his electricity in general had slowed his movements greatly as if those few pitiful crackles were the last of his reserves. The speed of the impulses that flowed within his body allowing him to move with that much more speed, that much more power were like a clogged stream now instead of the rushing rapids they had been.  It was time to start clearing away the debris…for the third time. 

*sigh*

Now his wallowing had brought down his best friend into the same mud pit of self-pity.

“Sorry.  Looks like it back to the basics for us. Man, this really sucks.”

“Pika Pikapi.  Pipikachu pika.” ‘It’s alright, Satoshi. It’s a new start.’  He tried to reassure, gently patting his partner’s cheek.  

“Pi chuka pipipika kachupipika pikachu pi?” ‘No one knows who we are here and it doesn’t matter does it?’

“You’re right! We here to take on a new league, have new adventures, and make new friends.  We’ll haven’t let this get us down before and we’re not going to start now.”

The sad contemplative look was gone and replaced by an oh so familiar, and far more suitable in the opinions of any of his numerous friends, grin and determined eyes.

“Yeah!”

“Chu!” ‘Yeah!’

With matching cheers, two fists simultaneously punched the air as Satoshi continued to walk on with Pikachu balanced his shoulder.

“Heh. Thanks buddy.”

“Chaaaaaa…” Pikachu replied rubbing his cheek against Satoshi’s.  ‘Anytime.’

“Soooo……same as last time? Four moves?” 

“Pi.” ‘Sure.’ A nonchalant shrug that the boy couldn’t see but could definitely feel.

“How about Volt Tackle as your main move, Quick Attack for getting around, Iron Tail for rock-types, and…Thundershock for your long range attack?”

“Pi. Pika.” ‘No. Too weak.’ A shake of the head.

“Then what about Thunderbolt?”

“Kachu.” ‘Better.’ A nod.

It was an unspoken rule that Thunder, had been, and still was off limits unless there were extenuating circumstances.  No matter how weak he got, Thunder just seemed to release all the blocks on his power at once.  How would Zekrom have been able to handle that?

 Seeing as how he could fry ground types with it years ago, it was much too dangerous to be used against inexperienced pokemon. Actually, it was probably now too dangerous to be used against anything not an obscenely high-level pokemon or a legendary.  Best to not be remembered for obliterating everything with a single Zapdos-level attack or they’d probably pick up the attention of strangers that were far worse the Team Rocket trio who continued to stalk them over the years.

“What about Agility?  That’s not an attacking move.  Would that be okay too?”

“Pika…” ‘Maybe…’

Further ahead of the pair, a bush began to rustle.

“Hey.  Is that a pokemon?”

Chapter Text

"Regular Speech"

'Poke Speech'

"Pokedex Speech"


There had been rumors of agents from a foreign organization coming to Isshu. Agents from Team Rocket of Kanto. Team Rocket did not have the great goal of liberating pokemon like Team Plasma did, rather they selfishly used them for their own gain. However, they had far more experience in taking away pokemon from cruel and resistant trainers with the added bonus of being an unknown party. So Team Plasma would inconspicuously welcome them into this land and when the time came…liberate all the pokemon Team Rocket had gathered for themselves. Some of the higher-up members had been assigned to contact them and keep an eye on their movements.

Yet even the grunts of a foreign organization had to have pokemon and they could be considered 'trainers' as despicable as that sounded. Foreign trainers meant foreign pokemon. Even if logic dictated that they would be using native pokemon so as not to stand out, there was still a chance that they would have brought along some of their more powerful pokemon as back up. Or maybe they could be masquerading as tourists and as such have a pokemon as a pet. Even if N did not love, much less like, trainers, he certainly loved pokemon.

There was no need for N to be here. In fact, he should not be here. He should be continuing his search for the great legendary dragons, Reshiram and Zekrom. He should be searching for the other 'hero' who would awaken one dragon and oppose him in a fated battle.

After all, N already held all that was necessary to be the first 'hero'. It was only a matter of time now until a dragon chose him. He had even found two promising trainers. Brown-haired twins. A brother and sister who were on their way to earn their third badge the last time he saw them. He should be keeping an eye on them most of all as the brother, Touya if he remembered correctly, quietly asserted and lived by what he considered the 'truth' and his sister, Touko, spirited and wild swept through her path with her 'ideals'. They were practically the embodiments of the values of the legendaries. Either one could become the other 'hero'.

So N who should not be here in Striaton City was here in Striaton City trying to covertly find traces of foreign trainers with foreign pokemon. It was unlikely that he would meet anyone who would blow his cover here anyways. He also had many 'friends' who would come to his aid if needed. There was little to worry about.


It’s the Pikachu.  The first defining feature of this wide-eyed boy is the Pikachu perched on his shoulder, short stubby claws gripping onto the jacket below its paws.  With a creature so out of place in the land of Isshu, attention is instantly diverted to the boy like a beacon.  Its shiny yellow coat and lightning bolt tail draws eyes like metal to a magnet.  Bright red spots like stop signs on either cheek make it that much more noticeable.

The boy himself is for the most part, unremarkable. No matter how you look at him, he looked like new trainer just starting out on his journey with his first pokemon.  Everything about him is eager and open for the world to see.  From his eyes to his movements, he is constantly in motion as he tries to take in everything, and then some, all at once. 

Could that be a Team Rocket agent?  Masquerading as a tourist or trainer? Was he even just a visitor? It was possible that the boy had good connections and was given the Pikachu on his shoulder.  If so, the boy might be from Isshu and someone from far away might have sent it, no him, not it, him.  Now that the boy had turned, the flat edge of the Pikachu’s tail is enough to show that it was male.   

It wasn’t exactly uncommon for family members to gift their younger relatives with a starter that wasn’t one of the three famous ones.  In fact, many people started and ended their journeys without ever obtaining a Snivy, Tepig, or Oshawott.

The only reason that so many chose to travel to Nuvema Town for the famed starters of the Isshu region was the allure of, and here N frowned at the thought, the Pokedex. The machine used to record and display information about any pokemon the user came across.  The machine that was used as the excuse for the capture of countless pokemon over in years all in the name of research.  Trainers who had one tended to have a much bigger advantage than those without.

If people really wanted to learn more about pokemon though, why couldn’t they even make the effort to learn how to talk to them?  N had and as such he was not limited to the help of any particular pokemon other than his own. 

The only upside, if there was any as far as N could tell, was that people who used them were automatically limited to six pokemon. The seventh caught pokemon would be locked into the pokeball and be unusable for battle until another one had been switched out.  He had even heard that in the other regions, the pokeball would actually be transported away and the trainer wouldn’t even get to do more that hold it for a few seconds. The caught pokemon would then be healed.  It was a small consolation at best, but better than nothing.  At least this way, the trainer would be unable to battle with a most likely injured pokemon.


N had no qualms about approaching the pair.  They had most likely been approached by plenty of people already.  One more wouldn’t make a difference and while he might be remembered, there would surely be a steady stream of other people the boy would meet if only to make comments on the Pikachu and N himself would just become another face in a crowd. Just another distant or forgotten memory.

“Do you see anything Pikachu?”

“Pikapika chu. Pikapi.”  ‘Just ask for directions already, Satoshi.’

Still, Pikachu pricked his ears up and stretched himself a little taller as if the few added inches would make a difference to finding their goal in this new city.

“I know. I know.  I’ll ask the next person ‘kay?”

N froze.  Had he just found someone like him?  Could this boy speak with pokemon too?

The boy, no Satoshi, N had a name now, reached up and scratched under his partner’s chin who responded with a cooing. “Chaaaaa...” ‘Okaaaaay…’

Well, there was only one way to find out.

"Your Pokémon... Just now, it was say-"

Startled, Satoshi whirled around, Pikachu clinging to his hat tightly, cheeks sparking in surprise.  N stepped back as well.  Good reflexes he noted absently. 

It probably hadn’t been the smartest idea to approach from behind.  Pokemon had taught him that sometimes you shouldn’t try to move quietly as that would make you seem suspicious. Like a predator about to sneak up on his prey.  If N had more knowledge of modern human expressions, the thought about kicking himself for making such blunder probably would have passed through his mind. 

Instead, he immediately tried to relax himself.  Loose hands. Palms face forward and open.  Eyes open and friendly.  A small smile with no teeth.  Baring teeth was a big no-no.  While smiles were recognized by many pokemon as an affable thing, showing off teeth was akin to a threat and tended to set them on edge.  The fact that N is towering by nearly a head over the, admittedly short, boy doesn’t do a thing for the image he’s going for, but that couldn’t be helped.

I’m not an enemy.  I’m not a threat.  I’m not here to hurt you…I…I……

The boy (Satoshi. It was Satoshi. Damn it, the boy had a name.) and the Pikachu both had startling eyes.  They were not normal eyes.  Not normal was not to be used in the usual sense like a rare eye color or blind eyes. They were brown, a shade so dark, it was almost black. At least until you came closer and realized that they were…absolutely brilliant.  There was a fire to those dark orbs that burned brightly like the flames of an Emboar’s beard. 

One could tell a lot about a person with just one look.  And that one look showed that Satoshi (Finally, the name was sticking.) was a passionate person. Open and trusting.  In fact, his eyes were almost like a pokemon that had never seen a human before. Unafraid because he did not know better. Curious. Pure. His Pikachu was more guarded and while both were starting to relax, he continued to watch N with a suspicious gaze. 

How interesting. Usually, it was the other way around.  Humans were naturally suspicious of other humans, but pokemon could usually tell that N was more like one of them despite his human shape and tended to open up to him.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. It’s just that I’ve never seen a real Pikachu before.”

The boy and the Pikachu both seemed to breathe out at once and the tension in their shoulders eased.

“It’s alright.”  Satoshi smiled sheepishly.  It was a wide one with no teeth either, and as he seemed to shrug off any apprehension he might have had at talking to a stranger, so too did his Pikachu who was giving him the same grin.  “We’ve been getting that a lot lately.”

“My name is Satoshi and this is my precious partner, Pikachu.”

“Pika!” ‘Hello!’

This was becoming more and more interesting.  N had heard that a pokemon who had been with a human long enough tended to take on some of his or her characteristics and mannerisms.  He had seen and heard of good pokemon turned afraid and untrusting by cruel and vicious trainers, but this was definitely a first for him.  A suspicious creature turned trusting by a human?  And the words Satoshi had chosen to call Pikachu…

“Hello. Satoshi. Pikachu.  I am called N.” Normally for N, a pokemon’s name came first, but some humans took offense to that.  Why he could not fathom, but if he wanted to talk to this Pikachu, then he would have to carefully use all of his, admittedly, limited social skills with the trainer.  The black haired trainer with glasses had mentioned that he talked too quickly, so this was something he would have to deal with patiently. It had been surprisingly hard to slow down his normal speech, but he did not want this boy to be scared away yet.

“Een-neh.” Satoshi drew out the name as if he was testing it.  How strange.  N had never heard his name spoken this way before. Was this what people called ‘having an accent’?  He knew that humans and pokemon alike sounded different from area to area, even if they shared a common language, but the lilts and variations in Satoshi’s voice were unlike anything he had ever heard before.

“Not quite.” He shook his head. “N. It’s shorter. One sound.”

“Een-ne.”

“Almost.” This was accompanied by a small encouraging small.

“Eene. Een.  En.” There is still a lilt to the end, but N supposed that this is the closest he’s going to get.

For his efforts, N rewards the boy with a bigger smile and is taken aback when Satoshi gives him a beaming grin that is so big it shuts his eyes.  There are teeth this time, but the younger boy gives off such a feeling of accomplishment and pure joy that it is in no way threatening.

“Pi ka!” ‘Good job!’

A loyal and encouraging friend.  This Pikachu gives off the same feeling of happiness that the pokemon of Touya and Touko do, but it is far more intense. The bond between him and this boy is far stronger.  They have been together for a long time and it is clear to see.  It feels like what he has with his own partner and closest friend.

“Chu. Ka.” ‘Hey. Ask.’ Pikachu nudged Satoshi’s shoulder.

“Hmm? Oh right. Do you know where the gym in this city is?”

N stiffened a little.

“You are a trainer?”

“Yup.  We’re from Kanto.  Masara Town to be exact and we’ve come to take on the Pokemon League here!”

Captures. Battles. Horrid, horrid Gyms. Injuries and scars on oppressed pokemon who don’t know any better.  The questions ‘Why here? What’s so great about being a trainer and challenging gym leaders?’ wants to come out.  ‘Are you from Team Rocket?’ is another, but instead…

“There’s a sign post behind you.” N points up to the tall metal pole with several plates of metal attached to it.  The highest one is the street name. Below it are important places and their distance from the pole with arrows denoting the general direction.

Satoshi and Pikachu both look up and stare in confusion.

A minute passes.  Satoshi’s eyes strain a little harder.

Can he not see it?  Does he have bad eyesight?

Amidst the chatter of the sidewalk and the general hustle and bustle of the city, even N’s sensitive ears do not pick up Pikachu’s quiet murmuring.

 “Pika chu.  Pipika pika pika chukachu.” ‘It’s no use. I can’t make heads or tails of it either.’  Pikachu shook his head. “Pika.” ‘Just ask.’

“Ummm…”

Satoshi turned around and gave N a sheepish grin.

“I’m kinda new here and I still don’t know exactly what’s what. Could you tell just me where the important things are?”

“Over there is the police station.” He waved an arm to the left.

“The department stores and pokemon center are ahead of us and-”

“The pokemon center is the one with the light blue glass and red roof right?” Satoshi interrupted. 

N blinked in surprise.

“How did you know?”

“I can see the red roof and the plus on it.  Most of the pokemon centers I’ve been to have the same color and sign even if they look different.”

N took a moment to find it amidst the sea of colorful over hangings and tinted glass from nearby stores.

Ah. Now he could see it too.

“Yes. That’s the pokemon center and the…gym…is northwest from here about fifteen blocks away.”

If either Satoshi or Pikachu noticed his pause before and after the word ‘gym’, they ignored it in favor of looking at the direction N was pointing to.

N blinked and watched as the boy began to shake.  Pikachu was just as tense, but he couldn’t tell if the little mouse was shaking himself from the way Satoshi was practically trembling. Nervousness? Fear?

“Are you alri-“

“Thank you very much!”

“Pikachu Pika!” ‘Thank you very much!’

Any further words N had died before they were even formed at the sight of the boy bowing to him.  Pikachu clutching to his hat, head bent as well.  The simultaneous sounds overlapped and the words were heard as one voice.  Before he could begin to unravel what he had heard, Satoshi had taken off down the street, feet pounding the pavement as he dodged pedestrians and poles alike.

As Satoshi’s and Pikachu’s backs were lost to the crowds and distance, N glanced back up at the sign post.  ‘Striaton Gym’ is the third from the top right under ‘Pokemon Center’.  Police Station, Striaton Shopping Department…the list went on.

If Satoshi could pick out the logo of the pokemon center roof from the red coverings of the stores surrounding it from here...he should have had no trouble with the sign in front of him. Was he far-sighted? Or was it something else?  Could he even read?

‘N.’

A tiny yellow spider-like creature poked its head out from N’s hair.  Electric blue eyes followed N’s gaze.

‘Should we follow them?  The whole reason we came back was to look for new pokemon.’

“And we already met one. We should leave now.  Besides, they are going to a gym.  You know how I feel about those.”

‘And I know you.  You didn’t get to talk to the Pikachu, but if you go and watch them, maybe you’ll get a chance to talk to him later.  Like when he’s in the pokemon center.’

“How do you know that they’ll be there?” Even as he questioned the Joltik who had climbed out of his hair and onto his shoulder, N’s feet were already carrying him to the direction of the Striaton City Gym.

Many people actually kept out small pokemon carrying them in their arms or on their shoulders, like Satoshi did with Pikachu, so no one paid any mind to the green haired man or the tiny Joltik on his shoulders. Although, if one were to look closer, they might have noticed that the depressions on the man’s shoulder were caused by something bigger and heavier than the tiniest pokemon in Isshu.


Satoshi did not slow down until he realized that he was lost.

“Awww…I think we’re lost.”

Pikachu promptly facepalmed.

“Pi. Kachu.” ‘Yes. We are.’

“We got carried away didn’t we.” It was a statement not a question to which Pikachu could only nod.

“I should have asked En-nuh to take us there.  This whole ‘not being able to read thing’ is gonna make things a lot harder than I realized.”

Despite a couple weeks of cramming, Satoshi could only remember some of the characters for this strange new writing.  He knew enough to write his name and basic things such as numbers, but more complicated things were undecipherable.  Unfortunately, studying had never been his forte either.  But still, he remembered the characters for ‘Pokemon Center’ yet he forget the ones for ‘Gym’ of all things.

Professor Ookido and his mother had explained that it would be hard for him. Professor Araragi said that it wouldn’t be impossible, difficult yes, but not impossible.  Satoshi was not the first visiting trainer nor would he be the last.  His new pokedex had a feature that allowed the text to be displayed in his native language.  It had also been modified with an added feature that would scan and translate the local text into characters he could read.  Still, it would be inconvenient, not to mention a little strange, to constantly have his pokedex out for just about everything not dealing with pokemon. 

Some places, where tourism played a more prominent part of the economy, would have features more suited to their visitors such as signs with dual languages.  Isshu also imported several products from other regions that Satoshi was very familiar with.  Restoratives like Potions and Full Heals came in the same spray bottles with the same colorings.  And well…Satoshi rarely ever read newspapers or magazines anyways.  If he needed anything, he could just ask the shopkeepers or locals for help.

Although all of them had suggested that he stay a little longer to study up more, Satoshi had been too impatient to wait another few weeks to learn more of the vernacular.  It was a decision that was definitely coming back to bite him hard.

Money was not a concern.  Pokedollars were still used, but most trainers had a credit based account with cards.  Satoshi could access his as long as he had his pokedex which doubled as his ID.  He could pay for whatever he needed and as he hadn’t exactly been a lavish spender over the years, he had saved up a large amount of money.  While not rich, Satoshi was well off enough with his earnings from the various leagues he had participated in.

He had a new sleeping bag.  New clothes.  More pokeballs.  Some basic healing items. Pokechow.  Preserved fruits, ration bars, jerky, and water bottles.  The old bento box filled with mementos from his travels and wrapped in the pink handkerchief Takeshi had given him.  His old containment capsules still worked so he saw no reason to get more.

Shaking his head to banish the thoughts, Satoshi began looking around once more.

“I wonder what the gym leader’s like?  What kind of pokemon can I battle? I can’t wait!”

“Do you even know where the gym is?”

“Iris!” Satoshi turned in surprise. “Where were you?”

“Where was I?  Where was I?! You were the one who got excited and took off running for the city and left ME behind! Geez! You’re just like a child.”

“Uh…Sorry.”

“Pika… ‘Sorry…’

She didn’t seem too annoyed with him as she fed her Axew an apple.

“Wow, an Axew, huh?”

A green haired stranger carrying a tote bag filled with groceries approached the small group.


N watched the group from a distance.  The girl who had joined Satoshi had a young Axew in her hair.  Axew-Girl for lack of a better name seemed to be Satoshi and Pikachu’s companion if the way she had berated him was any indication.

 The green haired boy, here N narrowed his eyes and made sure that he did not stand out from the people loitering to the side of a nearby café, was one of the three gym leaders famous for running a restaurant that doubled as their gym.

The gym leader was now guiding away Satoshi and Axew-Girl.

Here N stepped away from the wall and proceeded to follow them to the Striaton City Gym, only to stop right outside the tall double doors.

‘Well? Are you going in? You stalked the boy all the way here so it would be a waste not to go all the way.’

“Heroes do not stalk others.  I am a hero.  Therefore, I am not stalking him.  I am…just…curious…about the Pikachu.”

‘Riiiiiiight.  So following him for ten blocks at a dead run, watching him get lost, ducking into dark alleys whenever he made a turn, and now considering going into a place that you swore that you would never step foot in without the intent of destroying it was aaaaaallllll just curiosity.’  There was an exasperated air surrounding the Joltik who rolled two of its four eyes.

N grimaced as he abandoned that line of conversation and tried to reason on exactly why he should NOT go in.

“I didn’t go in to watch any of Touya’s and Touko’s gym battles.”

‘Touya and Touko didn’t have a Pikachu.’

“But-“ His hand was already touching the door.

“AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!! I want to have a gym match at the Striaton Gym!!!!!!”

N jumped and the Joltik on his shoulder fell off transforming to a dark fox-like creature as it landed onto the ground. That was Satoshi!

It was quiet for all of half a minute. Suddenly, there was dramatic music being played followed by loud effeminate squeals.

N and Zorua traded glances.

What was going on in there? 

N’s initial apprehension had tripled, but even then it was soundly crushed under the weight of his curiosity.  What probably made Zorua his closest friend was the fact that, for better or worse, they both had a ridiculously inquisitive nature that would occasionally land one or both in trouble. With a shaky hand, N pushed open the door.  He and Zorua peek in only to see several empty tables and the back of Axew-Girl disappearing through a doorway.   

Zorua has returned to hiding in plain sight. This time as a Pidove perched on N’s shoulder.

N reaches the balcony in time to see Satoshi scanning the gym leaders’ pokemon with a pokedex.  The sight of Satoshi using it makes him wince as does the automated voice reading off their descriptions.  He should have known, but he had hoped that Satoshi wouldn’t be one of those trainers who relied so much on their pokedex.  Those who went without usually took the time to learn more about their pokemon individually.

“The fire type Pansear, the grass type Pansage, the water type Panpour…”

The sheer admiration in Satoshi’s voice for all of them is enough to take the sting out of N’s feeling of…of…disappointment? Betrayal?

“Huh? Who are you?”

N gives a start as he realizes that Axew-Girl is talking to him.  How could he have let himself go so easily? Heroes were supposed to be cool and brave and wise, but here he was as jumpy and nervous as a young Deerling.

“I-I’m-“

“Ennu?”

Satoshi and Pikachu are looking at him in surprise as well as every other living thing in the room.  Despite having even more unwanted attention, he feels surprisingly calm and settled now with Satoshi’s inquisitive gaze on him. 

“It is not Ennu. It is N.” He calls down. “And I came to watch your gym battle.” That’s right.  A hero should be confident and not show any signs of weakness.

“………”

“I…i-if you don’t mind.” And he had tried so hard too.

“Course not!”

“Pi ka!” ‘Course not!’

There was the overlap of poke-speech and human tongue again.  The words come though clearly at the same time and even ‘Pidove’ Zorua tilts his head to get a better look at them.  N is given another eye-closing wide grin from both of them and the tension drains from his shoulders a little.  How odd.  It was a comforting feeling.  Almost like being in the presence of an Audino.  Aside from Zorua, they were the only, somewhat, familiar things in the room for N.

“So who will you choose?”  The gym leaders vie for his challenge and they, along everyone else, are surprised when Satoshi declares that he will fight all of them.

“Please!”

“Pikachu!” ‘Please!’

 There was the half bow again.  The voices don’t overlap, but echo this time. N isn’t sure what to make of this strange boy and his equally strange Pikachu.  Satoshi is open and trusting and makes N feel like he is in the presence of a pokemon of all things.  But he loves battling and gyms like every other trainer and his Pikachu seems to share his sentiments.  He had even chosen to take on three battles for his first gym challenge instead of the customary one. What was the point of making all that effort just to fight?  It was time consuming and even more pokemon would be injured now.

N shakes his head as the gym leaders accept.  He wants to leave, but he had said that he came to watch and he would keep his word.  After all, heroes were supposed to keep their word.

Axew-Girl, who has been introduced as Iris, shakes her head as well.  Her disbelief at the actions of the trainer from Kanto mirror his own, but this is not their fight and thus not their place to say anything.


The first battle starts off one-sided.  Tepig is easily overwhelmed by Pansear, but he is just as persistent as his trainer and follows commands almost overeagerly.  As if…as if he is afraid to lose. There are clear signs of neglect that N has come to recognize.  Recently, this Tepig had been badly starved and abandoned.  Not long enough for more obvious signs of malnutrition to show such as patchy fur and trembling limbs, but his body is leaner than it should be and there is a tightness around his snout and a general sense of worry.

N squeezed the railing in front of him with both hands as he grit his teeth.  Iris and Axew did not notice as they were engrossed in the battle below. 

The battle soon turns in Tepig’s favor as he gets up from attacks that should have kept him down over and over again.  He wins and N lets out a breath that he hadn’t realized he had been holding. His arms are actually trembling.  Tepig gives a fiery snort in front of his trainer, his stance proud and determined and…protective? 

“Tepig? But a water type like Oshawott would be more advantageous.”

“I had decided beforehand to use this little one in the first battle of the first gym.”

“Why?  He could have ended the battle faster with a water-type.”

“Well, he did promise.” 

N glanced at the girl next to him and she elaborated without prompting.

“His Tepig was abandoned by its trainer for constantly losing battles and the rope used to tie it down had wrapped itself around its mouth.  Tepig was unable to eat anything for a couple weeks and spent his time running around trying to get free until we found it.”

Satoshi’s words and expression from the beginning now make sense.  This Tepig might have been taken in by Satoshi after being abandoned by a previous trainer.  The signs of neglect are obvious to someone who has grown up with so many others just like that Tepig.  Satoshi’s choice was a gambit taken to restore Tepig’s faith in himself.  It was a risky one, but it has clearly paid off.  There is pride and joy, and most importantly confidence in Tepig’s eyes now.  N still isn’t sure what to think of Satoshi, but the respect N had for this human, this trainer is clearly growing.

“Still, that was incredibly chancy battle.  That Tepig’s certainly a tough one.  He’s only been getting full meals for two days now.  I didn’t think it’d be ready for an actual gym battle so soon.”

“Hmm? Two days?”

“Yeah.  It was so skinny and fast that the cameras only shadowed silhouettes of it.   Satoshi had even thought it was an Umbreon at first.”

That was another little known pokemon.  He would love to meet a real one for himself.  Eevees and their evolutions were popular all over the world.  Not quite at the level of a Pikachu or the starters of each region, but even he had heard of them.

“What kind of trainer is Satoshi?”

“A childish one.”  The reply was prompt.   “Reckless, but his pokemon seem to really like him.  He’s not too bad of a battler even if he ends up making such easy mistakes that kids in daycare know not to do.  Must be that ridiculous luck of his.”

Satoshi is different.  Like Touko. Like Touya. 

There is a searching look in Satoshi’s gaze.  It is watching and waiting for something from Tepig himself throughout the battle.  Whatever it is, Satoshi, and Pikachu too now that he takes a closer look, seemed to have found it sometime shortly before Pansear had been taken out and now they both set on reassuring and praising the little fire-type without being smothering.  Satoshi taking the lead and Pikachu as a supporting character in a scene that seems as earnest as it is rehearsed.  Like this is something they’ve done over and over many times in the past.  It’s still too early to tell, but N wonders if this isn’t the first time they’ve done this.  He probably shouldn’t make judgments yet.  Satoshi, and by extension Pikachu, are slowly making him reevaluate his view on humans.

The red haired gym leader, Pod, thanked his Pansear kindly, despite its loss, as he recalled it.  Perhaps, he would have to reevaluate his view on gym leaders as well.

The next fight against Corn and his Panpour is just as one-sided and even more painful to see.  Despite the type advantage, Pikachu isn’t fairing well, almost as if he was overreaching himself.  While the others watch the pokemon, N watches Satoshi.  He is clearly focused on the battle, but there is an internal struggle that only N seems to notice.  But he is not the only one who notices when it has been settled. Satoshi straightens up and there is now a decisive air about him as he calls out his next instructions to Pikachu who is still struggling off the ground.

“Pikachu! Double Team!”

“Pi?” ‘Hmm?’ Now there was something he hasn’t heard in a while.

The matching looks of ‘knowing’ and ‘decisiveness’ unsettled Panpour who suddenly felt as if he was facing two opponents on the battlefield instead of one. Corn did not pick up on his unease or the increased focus in his challenger, but he knew a change of strategy when he saw one.

“Pika chu!” ‘You got it!’

There are suddenly five Pikachus.  Then as the others look on in amazement, there are ten, fifteen, twenty scattered around the rocky field.

Satoshi grins and twenty Pikachus match his expression.

“Agility.”  It really was time to go back to the basics and use every trick in the book or in his case, every move in his moveset.  It was somewhat of a bitter thought for both of them as it sank in that they would really have to start over as if they were just beginning again.  They probably shouldn’t be relying on pure power as they had done in the past.  Pikachu was no longer as powerful as he was four years ago, but…with experience under their proverbial belts and a lot of hardwork, he could surpass that.

“Pikapikapikapikapikapikapika” The Pika chant echos around the room from the pasture of rippling yellow and brown that the battlefield has become.  There were no words N could understand from this, but he understood that it was sort of a focus for the electric rodent as well as a an extra way of adding to the confusion of battle field.

“What the?” It’s only Pod who speaks as the others seem to have lost their voice, but his words express their thoughts perfectly.

“Quick Attack!”

The command seems to bring Corn back to the battle and he snaps out a command of his own.

“Double Team, Panpour! Dodge it!”

The audience watching from the balcony can clearly see that it’s hopeless as the blue islands that form are quickly swallowed up in a sea of streaking yellow. N did not realize that he was leaning forward, ‘Pidove’ Zorua stretched out even further on his shoulder.

Panpour is buffeted back and forth as if waves are crashing into him from every which way.  Pikachu keeps him trapped in the middle, using the small boulders scattered across the field to ricochet off and change direction.  Finally, the assault stops as one last Quick Attack sends Panpour tumbling head over heels towards his stunned trainer.

“Get up Panpour!”

Miraculously, battered and bruised as he is, he does as his opponent’s trainer calls for a new attack.

“Thunderbolt!”

“Water gun! Aim for its feet again!”

This is the decisive move as everyone knows that neither pokemon can afford another hit and Panpour musters up all of his flagging strength to shoot off the most powerful water gun he’s ever done before. There’s something different though.  The water gun is taking a little longer to fire off and it is warm.  Uncomfortably warm.  It’s also much wider and far more forceful.

“That’s Scald! Panpour’s learned Scald!”

Everyone is in awe. Even Corn widens his eyes in surprise at the size and force of the steaming stream. There is no way for Pikachu to dodge as the spray is wide enough to encompass his entire body thrice over.

The only one who has not lost his focus is Satoshi whose own pokemon have performed the same desperate miracles time and time again.  He knows exactly how it feels to be on the losing end and the lengths a pokemon will go to protect the faith and trusts its trainer has placed on it.  However, he has also had much more experience in snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

“Iron Tail!”

In midair, Pikachu stops the Thunderbolt, tucks himself into a ball, and proceeds to spin, his jagged lightning tail now taking on a metallic sheen and creating a wicked razor sharp saw that meets the first part of the stream head on and cleaves the rest of the attack into two arcing sprays as he rolls down the path of the Scald.

Panpour ceased the attack as he realized that Pikachu was not stopping.  He braced himself for the impact and stumbled back startled when Pikachu was no longer in front of him.  There is a shadow passing over his head.

 “Pika.” ‘Hiya.’

The cheerful tone did nothing to help the terrifyingly unholy grin on Pikachu’s face as his cheeks sparked.  No command is needed for Pikachu to fire off a very belated Thunderbolt. 

“CHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!”

With the war cry, the room lights up and several people shield their eyes until the attack has finished.

It’s clear who the winner is, but it still takes a moment for Dento to find his voice.

“The winner is Pikachu and Satoshi! Congratulations Satoshi! You’ve earned the-“

“Not yet! Not yet!”

“Wha-” Dento was cut off again.

“I haven’t fought you yet!”

“But you already won the two battles you needed for the badge!” Iris shouted from above.

“I said it before and I’ll say it again. I want to battle many different pokemon. Your Pansage is the only one I haven’t faced yet.”

The room went quiet as the last gym leader made his decision.

“Alright.” Dento consented.  “We did agree to have three matches and even though you’ve won the badge, I won’t be letting you leave with a clean sweep for this challenge.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The cheerleaders are absolutely ecstatic at this announcement. As the participants prepared for the final battle, ‘Pidove’ Zorua nudged N.

‘That was pretty amazing wasn’t it?’ He cooed softly. ‘You’re squeezing the bar again and you’re all sweaty.’

N blinked and looked down, noticing that his knuckles were white.  He let go, watching the color return.  A drop of sweat that had rolled down his cheek unnoticed plopped onto his hand. 

Satoshi had already won his badge, yet he still wanted to fight like a senseless trainer.  N had seen Satoshi win.  He could leave now and just wait for him at the pokemon center.  The trainer has shown that he is kind enough to bring his pokemon to be healed instead of forcing more training on them.  But, N found himself unwilling to leave.  He had never imagined that he would actually want to stay and watch an unnecessary battle, a gym battle of all things.

‘Can we stay? This is really exciting!’

N really didn’t feel like he had a choice as the battle began and his hands soon found their way to the railing again.


 “The battle is over! The winner is Satoshi!”

“YEAH!  WE DID IT!”  Satoshi cheers for his Oshawott as if he had won the decisive battle for the badge not Pikachu.

It’s finally over.  N finds that his palms are sweaty and his heart is still pounding.  He can feel the heat lingering on his cheeks still flushed with excitement. His fingers are stiff from gripping the bar so tightly for so long.  If this was how it felt just watching a gym battle, what was it like to be the one participating in it?  Was this strange nerve-wracking thrill the reason why so many chose to go on the path of pokemon training? 

Immediately, he felt guilty.  No. Pokemon were hurting others and being hurt in turn. Despite how proud they are from winning, they just didn’t know.  Didn’t know that a better life was possible for them far, far away from humans.

With a feeling of disgust at himself, he quietly slipped away amidst the wailings of the girls and congratulations of the gym leaders. Still, despite the fact that it was gym battle of all things, this experience wasn’t a waste.  There’s clearly a rapport between this trainer and his pokemon that N has only witnessed in people who have been with their pokemon for several years or…people like Touya and Touko. 

The admittedly strange victory cheer and pose drags out a small quirk at the corner of N’s frown and the sight of happy pokemon, battered as they were, fills his heart with a familiar warmth.  With a soft shake of his head, N headed out the great double doors, never realizing that his eyes had softened at the sight of Satoshi receiving a well-earned badge.

‘Weren’t you supposed to have a chat with the Pikachu?  It was the only reason you even stepped foot into the gym, remember?’

Eight and a half blocks away, N froze in mid-step as he processed the query.

With a half strangled sound of frustration dying in his throat, N whirled around, his raised foot stamping down like a Bouffalant readying to charge, and headed back at a brisk, no he was NOT running, walk towards the gym.

Inwardly snickering, Zorua decided that he wasn’t going to remind N that trainers generally took their pokemon the Pokemon Center after gym battles and Satoshi was most likely already gone, heading away in the opposite direction from N.

N is his best friend. There was no denying that, but in the past few years he had changed.  The kind compassionate human was still there, but he was now weighed down by this whole concept of ‘perfection’.  Playful, cheerful, a little impatient and prone to foot-stomping temper tantrums, the N of before was drifting farther and farther away from the N of now. His forehead wrinkled more often than not these days and his eyes were often seeing things only he could see far away. Far away from the now and especially far away from Zorua. 

What was wrong with the way N was before?  Before N became ‘perfect’.  Before N became a ‘hero’. 

Back when ‘N’ was his only name, what the young boy had chosen to call himself.  Back when the only things they thought about were where the best Pecha berries grew, who could tickle old Darmanitan without waking him the longest, and how they were going to sneak more batteries out of the human settlements for the Klinks and Klangs.  Back before the human who claimed to be N’s sire came.

Really, though.  This whole ‘Hero’ business with Zekrom and Reshiram was just too serious.  Legendary pokemon weren’t something to be trifled with.  All pokemon understood that.  But this was very important to N and N was very important to Zorua so Zorua would help with him with all his might. 

Still as grand a dream as helping all pokemon… Still a great a goal as creating whole new worlds… Still…

What’s wrong with staying here?  What’s wrong with staying together? What’s wrong with staying with me?


N arrived at the Pokemon Center, cradling a sleeping Zorua in his arms.  His illusions had faded soon after coming in contact with the floating pink particles falling throughout the city.

“Nurse! Nurse!“ Some grunts had once mentioned how the women of this pink haired family dedicated to healing pokemon all shared the same uncanny likeness in both name and appearance. Even overseas.  What was her name again?  Something about happiness? Happy. Happy.  Joy.  Joy?

“Another one?”

There is Satoshi in front of the counter with Pikachu.  Dento, the Pansage trainer behind him.  Iris, as well as several other people now that he looked around, were all holding pokemon in the same state of unending slumber as Zorua. 

A woman with long black hair, was showing them Axew’s dream through her Munna’s dream smoke.  Doctor Makomo, if he remembered correctly.   A scientist who studied the realms of dreams and the effects of the dream smoke given off by her pokemon’s evolutionary line.   He had heard that she was still living in the city, but could this incident have anything to do with her?

Zorua, along with the rest of the pokemon in the center where awakened by Munna and N’s interest had piqued at seeing the dreams of the various pokemon around him.  More and more people were coming in though, bringing sleeping pokemon with them.  Whatever was causing this had to be stopped at its source.

“Zorua. The Tricky Fox Pokémon.  Zorua, the Tricky Fox Pokémon. Zorua hides its true form by changing its shape into people and Pokémon, and loves to surprise people."

N turned at the sound of Satoshi’s pokedex.  His lips twisted slightly in distaste at the sight of the red and black machine.  Iris and Dento were a little farther off watching Makomo and Munna work, but Satoshi and Pikachu were behind N gazing down at the digital screen.

“Eh? Really? I thought that was only him.  Guess it’s in their nature huh?” Satoshi murmured softly.

“Pi Pika. Pikachu.”  ‘Guess so,’  agreed Pikachu.  ‘Then again he was still just a cub.’

“Heh.  Sorta like when we first met.  You sure gave me all sorts of trouble.” There was a teasing lilt to his tone.

Pikachu scoffed.  ‘Not like you didn’t deserve it.’  His cheeks sparked as he gently rubbed it against Satoshi’s face and quickly snatched off his hat.

“Hey!”  Satoshi’s hair was now sticking up at all angles making him look rather strange and Zorua couldn’t help snickering out loud.

Strangely enough, only N and Zorua had witnessed the pair’s teasing exchange.  They were now grinning sheepishly.  Satoshi rubbing the back of his head at the rather intense look N was giving him.  Pikachu quickly groomed Satoshi’s hair down, tiny sparks dancing between his claws as he neutralized the charge he had given his partner.  The hat was hung from his tail as he worked and was snuggly settled back on top of the black hair once he was done.

“Hi, Zorua.  I’m Satoshi and this is my buddy, Pikachu.”

“Pika!” ‘Hello!’

It was a little astonishing to witness a human address a pokemon as if it was human itself.

“Zoru!  Zorua zor ru.” ‘Hi!  You two are funny.  I like you.’  He leapt up from the floor onto N’s shoulder.  ‘I saw your battle earlier.  You’re both pretty good.’

“Pika chu!”  ‘Thank you!’

“Zorua!” ‘I’m kinda curious as to how you’ll do against us.’

What on earth was he saying?  Was Zorua implying that he wanted to battle? With N? Against Satoshi and Pikachu?

N frowned.  “Zor-“

“Pikapi!” ‘Satoshi!’

“Eh? A battle huh?”  The light that had burned in Satoshi’s eyes during the gym battle flickered to life.  “Alright when do you want to do it?  We’ll take you on any time!”

Either Satoshi really did understand pokemon or Pikachu could communicate everything he wanted in a single word.

“I don’t wa-“ 

“But first I got a question.  Zorua, can you speak human?”

N jerked a little.

“What?”

“We’ve met a Zorua and his mom not too long ago.  They could speak human. I was just wondering if all Zorua could do it too?”

Zorua shook his head.

“Zor.” ‘No.’ 

“Hmmm.  I guess they were just special then.  Kinda like Lucario.”

 Another little known pokemon.  Maybe Satoshi could tell him about them? Wait.  He was getting off track.  He had to focus on his most pressing question.

“Satoshi.  Can you spe-“

“Satoshi! N!”

Apparently, this was interrupt N day.

Makomo arrived, her Munna looking a little stuffed like it had just been gorging itself on a large feast.  Which it apparently had, if the number of awakened pokemon greeting their respective humans were any indication. 

“There’s just too many of them.  We need to head to the source of what’s causing this phenomenon.”

“Right.”  Satoshi quickly checked to make sure that he had his bag before leaving with the others who had already gathered their own things.  While the others were heading out, N watched Pikachu who was subtly ensuring the recently returned pokeballs were the right ones with a discreet sniff.  He watched as Pikachu picked up each one he had deemed okay and handed it to Satoshi who in turn shrunk and clipped it to his belt holster.  He watched as Pikachu participated in a long practiced ritual to ensure that these were truly his comrades under the guidance of their trainer.  He watched as Pikachu gave his nod of approval and leapt onto Satoshi’s shoulders as the boy turned away, fully trusting in his partner’s judgement.

The group trooped out the automatic double doors only to be met by an Officer Junsa who informed them to keep their pokemon with their pokeballs.

Here Satoshi hesitated. 

“The thing is, my Pikachu doesn’t like being in a pokeball…”

The others stared at him for a moment, before N added with an…approving? look towards the boy.

“Neither does Zorua.”

Makomo quickly remedied that with hats and N had to smile a little.  Dr. Makomo wasn’t a bad human, but it was unfortunate that more people couldn’t be more accepting like her. 

Minutes later, N found himself squeezed into the back of a police car next to Satoshi.  Dento on the other side of the young trainer and Iris next to the opposite window form N. Technically, it was only meant to hold three as that was the number of seat belts there, but this Junsa apparently didn’t mind a little rule breaking at the moment.  Especially in an emergency like this and they couldn’t leave anyone behind as everyone had been rather insistent.  N had never actually been in a real car before, much less as police car and as such had never actually worn a restraint of the kind for a moving vehicle, so it never really passed through his mind as more than a curious thought.

This was as good a time as any to start up a conversation now that Makomo had given explanations of the ill-fated research lab from the past and everyone had sunk into a contemplative silence.

“Satoshi.”

“Hmm?  What is it En-ne?”

“It’s N. N.”

“En-nuh.”

“N.”

“Ennu. En-“

N grimaced a little inwardly. He didn’t want to get sucked back into this conversation at the moment.

“Close enough.  How often does Pikachu go into his pokeball?”

“Eh?  Never really.  He really doesn’t like being in it and I don’t want to force him to do something he hates.  In fact the last time he was in one was…”

At this Satoshi and Pikachu both looked at each other and sank into a thoughtful silence.  Memories of the Spearow flock, a cold cave in the middle of a blizzard, consequent captures by Team Rocket, and many many more times where he should have been returned if only for his own safety flashed through their minds.

“…the day Pikachu and I first met each other.  The day we started our journey together.”

His eyes were a little off gazing back down memory lane before snapping down to meet Pikachu’s.

“That’s right buddy.  We’ve been together for a long time haven’t we?”  It wasn’t really a question.  More of a soft statement.

Two sets of dark brown eyes gazed at each other, warm and meaningful and so very loving. Both lost in their own little world.

“Pika chu.” ‘Yeah. We have.’ Pikachu’s reply was just as soft as tiny paws gripped tightly onto Satoshi’s gloved hands.

N hardly dared to breathe.  He wanted to ask more.  How long have they known each other? What other pokemon had they met?  What kinds of things did they believe in? But he was afraid.  Afraid to break such a moment.  Afraid to shatter the powerful aura that kept everyone else silent in the cramped backseat of a police cruiser.

For just a heartbeat, his convictions cracked as he gazed at something that was against everything he believed in.  For just a heartbeat, he wondered if he was wrong for wanting to separate something so beautiful, so pure, so…natural.

Yet for several heartbeats afterwards, he felt lighter than he had in a long time.  More relaxed and oddly enough happy.  How long had it been?  He hadn’t realized how stressed he was.  Could emotions be infectious? 

It didn’t matter as the moment was broken anyways by their arrival to the Dream Yard.


Was it a coincidence? Or was it just a small world that Satoshi and Pikachu seemed so intimately familiar with these particular members Team Rocket?

The battle was over soon enough without unnecessary injuries or involvement in his and Zorua’s part.  Pikachu and Munna’s tag team efforts worked wonderfully.  Musharna’s affection for Makomo and vice versa was clear to see and he felt a slight pang that more humans couldn’t truly care for pokemon like this.

More questions had arisen though.  How and why did a Meowth learn human speech? Was it due to a human’s meddling? He wasn’t sure if Meowth were psychic pokemon, but generally psychics preferred to speak mind to mind.  If the Meowth wasn’t…then it was rather odd and maybe even unnatural.  He wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt though and would have to find some way to arrange a meeting without the feline’s human companions.

What was Team Rocket’s purpose here?  Should Team Plasma try for liberation from them first?  Either way, they were a bit more dangerous than expected and these were only minor questions shoved to the side for the moment while he absently pondered on the Meowth Quandary as he called it. 

N and Zorua had said their good byes, turning down the offer for a ride back to town.  The car hadn’t exactly been a comfortable fit, and he wanted to take a look around the ruins of the lab.  He should also be making his way back west to check on the progress of the other potential, and here his eyes hardened at the thought, trainers.

By the time they leave, N realized that he had forgotten to ask if Satoshi can talk to pokemon.  Nor has he had a chance to really talk to Pikachu.

He said something that he had overheard from a grunt when he was younger. Something that Concordia had scolded him harshly for.  “Heroes shouldn’t say such foul things!”

He still felt that maybe the heroes of old would agree with him for his choice of words at this moment.

“Damn it.”

Zorua just snickered.

‘Guess we’ll just have to follow them a little longer huh?’

N groaned in frustration.  Zorua’s possible offer for a battle earlier came to the forefront of his mind.

“Zorua. Did you plan this?”

The little fox-like creature gave him a far too innocent look and tilted his head cutely as he continued on, ignoring the question.

‘He’s a pokemon trainer isn’t he?  All we have to do is get to the closest city with a gym and wait.’

“There are several different ones he could choose from.  There are more than eight gym leaders and at least a few smaller towns with gyms. The closest one would be Nacrene City, but there is no guarantee they will head there first.”

‘Maybe if we hurry, we can catch up before they’re too far from town then.’

“Zorua.” N’s tone was a little admonishing even as he picked up his pace

‘Hurry up!  Or we’ll miss ‘em!’

N sighed as he began asking the local Pidoves for any sightings of a bright yellow rodent together with a human with a red hat, his previous query forgotton.


 (1)So who hasn’t slacked off and ditched what should be your main priority for something more interesting or fun?  With such a high rank in Team Plasma there aren’t many that in it that will say no to him. Several even seem to genuinely care for him.  So he’s can sneak off back to the earlier towns and odds are no one will say a word no matter what they think.  Plus most of them are further ahead, getting in the way of the game protagonists or preparing for the confrontation with Team Rocket from the cancelled episodes.

(2)Remember way back in the first season when Ash caught Krabby?  It’s pokeball disappeared, but when he catches Sewaddle in Best Wishes, the pokeball just locks itself.

(3)Ash’s character design was redone to have lighter eyes in this season.  That really bugged me for a while until I finally sat down for a BW marathon week.  His eyes have always been brown, but you couldn’t really tell unless they decided to do a close up of them in a really serious or touching scene.  It’s the same with Pikachu. I just decided to go with the older designs for his eyes.

(4)I’m pretty sure that Ash will have some sort of heavy accent.  Although it’s probably not noticeable in the show since everyone speaks Japanese/a common language, accents can vary even within one state/province.  Then there’s the running gag with Kenyan, but everybody gets his name wrong so that probably doesn’t count. This is probably going to be the same with N and Ash. 

(5)N froze because he was surprised.  Bowing is more commonly done in Asian countries (especially Japan) and you don’t see as much of it in America which is where Isshu is based off of.  People in Team Plasma don’t count as he’s probably gotten used to anyone in that uniform doing it.  They’re most likely kneeling instead of bowing anyways.

(6)The first season clearly has legible Japanese signs and characters, while the writing in Isshu seems like strange text about as decipherable as the footprint runes from the mystery dungeon games.  I’m not sure if Ash can actually read a thing in this new region. Dento seems to be the one doing it and he’s usually reading it out loud for the others.  Ash is probably looking more for familiar symbols than anything else, like red roofed pokemon centers and restaurants with several pictures on their menus.  Here N is the first person to catch on that Ash can’t read most of the text here.  No one else is going to notice for a while. Not a big deal now, but it’s a small set up for a later event.

(7)Taking a little something from Dragonball here.  Ever wonder how Brock managed to have a whole table and rice cooker with him at all times or how Ash and the girls had sleeping bags, when their back pack was barely big enough to hold more than a few sets of clothes or how your character managed to fit a bicycle and 999 of over half the items in the game into a messenger bag?  I’m guessing if they  can turn living creatures into pure energy and stuff it into shrinkable balls, then they can do the same thing with inanimate objects.  These storage capsules are for larger/heavier items and are part of the starting package that trainers get along with extra pokeballs and the pokedex.  More can be bought, but as they are somewhat expensive, most trainers only carry the basics of what they need along with a set of clothes.

Ash never really seems to use his pokedex to actually look up his pokemon’s moves and stats even after Paul brings it up in Diamond and Pearl.  I’m not sure if it’s done offscreen, he actually forgot, or if he just likes the feeling of discovering something new on his own.   On another note, Ash can run into more rare pokemon on a weekly basis than most people ever see in their entire lives and he never really brings them up.  Do the professors who are supposed to be studying that data just stick his old pokedex on a shelf and go back to whatever they’re doing at the time? 

Interesting trivia from Bulbapedia:

--The date of Ash's birth, according to Takeshi Shudo's anime novelizations, is 10 years, 10 months, and 10 days exactly prior to the day he began his Pokémon journey. Being that the same novelization declares that Pokémon Trainers obtain their first Pokémon in April of the year following their 10th birthday, and the anime itself began broadcast on the first of that month in 1997 in Japan, Ash's birthday, if April 1 was the first day of his journey, would be May 22.

I averaged his age by the movies.  In the short mini from the 3rd movie, the group has a party and Ash tells Pikachu, it’s their one year anniversary together.  So I averaged that for every 3 movies, he gets a year older.  Given the info above, he probably should be 15 in this fic, but I have an anniversary/birthday scene planned out for the future.  So for now Ash will be 14 and turn 15 later.

More character ages.

Trip/Shooti-Age: 11

Most trainers seem to be older than 10/11 as the protagonists in the games actually look like teenagers.  I think the standards for age appropriate things are different here the way same way America and Japan have differing views for what’s acceptable for kids to watch.  They might actually have the same rules, but maybe it’s tradition for starting trainers to be a little older here.

The reason I set Iris at 11 is because I feel that she is probably considered mature enough to actually go off on a journey alone and survive.  Iris has been shown running in a jungle with wild pokemon and brawling with them at an early age unattended by adults. 

Touko(White)/Touya(Black)-Age: 15

They are twins and travel together taking on the gyms.  Touko is the older more spirited one and Touya is the quiet younger brother.  They may get fleshed out a more if they appear as something other than passing mentions.  Currently about two cities ahead of Ash. Childhood friends to Cheren and Bel.

Cheren-Age:15

Bianca/Bel-Age:15

Chapter Text

“Regular Speech”

‘Pokespeech’

“Pokedex Speech”


All in all, it hadn’t taken more than a few hours to track down Satoshi and Pikachu.  Probably since they had already left town, for N and Zorua it was practically a straight line to their location.  Unfortunately, the pair seemed to have picked up another follower.  The gym leader, Dento.  How and why weren’t as important as what N would have to do now.  The more people there were, the harder it would be to engage in a private conversation with either one of them.  So he resigned himself to trailing behind unnoticed from the forest. 

It was surprisingly difficult.  Satoshi for all his obliviousness back in town, was remarkably perceptive and while not wary, definitely more alert here in the forest.  He kept looking back every now and then.  Pikachu seemed had picked up on it as well and would occasionally turn to scan his surroundings, ears twitching.  It could have passed as them simply being excited or cautious in a new environment, wanting to take in all the new sites, if the direction they kept looking at hadn’t been in his particular location. 

Satoshi and Pikachu were constantly distracted by the question and answer session his green haired companion had initiated and N and Zorua would take the time to move to different places, ahead, behind, left, right, left again.  It didn’t seem to matter though.  At least one of the two was paying attention at all times, occasionally leaving lingering glances in his current hiding spot and he was forced trail farther and farther, only relying on the wild pokemon to keep him informed of the group ahead.  He wasn’t close enough to hear more than murmurs of their conversation so it wasn’t too big of a loss.  Iris seemed to have picked up something too.  Not as acutely as Satoshi and Pikachu seemed to sense him, but occasionally she would glance around, never too long though and usually not with the accuracy the others had.

It was quite impressive, really.  Other trainers didn’t seem to notice that the pair had been tracking them.  In fact, they hadn’t seemed to notice at all.  The pokemon informed  N, that neither the Pikachu nor his trainer showed their same level of wariness now that he was far enough away.  Half a mile away.  Iris had stopped at a quarter of that distance. 

N had been careful as well.  He made sure that the pokemon in his vicinity kept an acceptable noise level. Never too high or too low to alert the travelers that anything was amiss.  Some that the group had passed by quieted, but that was natural as well.  Zorua had even occasionally resorted to his illusions to let N move around unnoticed. While he wasn’t perfect, he could definitely pull off some rather impressive ones.  The illusions didn’t do much for Satoshi though.  At one point N had frozen, certain that he had been caught with the way Satoshi’s gaze seemed to look straight at him.  He was careful not to blink and barely breathed until the moment had passed and the younger boy had looked away.

‘Do you think he actually saw us?’

“I don’t think so.”

‘Then how were they following us?  Even the Axew-girl noticed something.’

“I don’t know.  The girl seems to have spent quite sometime in the wilderness before.  You can see it in the way she moves with both confidence and caution.  Her hands have many callouses as well.  The same ones that come from climbing trees without gloves.  Satoshi and Pikachu are a different matter entirely.  What did you use for the illusion earlier?”

‘Which one? The one where you were a branch from a tree and I was a Sewaddle? Or the one where we were boulders by a stream? Or do you mean the one where you tried to cross the open path behind them and he was looking straight at you?  ‘Cause that was the same open and empty path.’

“…”

There really wasn’t much he could to say to that.  It was a curious matter, but not the most pressing one.

‘Hey doesn’t this area look familiar?  Isn’t this were that Snivy lives?  You know.  The one we met a few months ago. The one who wanted to leave her trainer?’

N blinked and took another look around.

“Hmm? Oh yes.  I think it is.”

‘Want to go say hi?’

“Only if we see her first.  Our priorities are Satoshi and Pikachu.”

‘Okay Mr. Stalker.’

“Zorua!”


By the time they’ve caught up, Satoshi and Pikachu were engaged in battle with said Snivy.  N and Zorua, still covered by illusions, stayed in the tall grass, watching as Satoshi protected Pikachu from her Vine Whip attack.

Using a Leaf Storm, Snivy vanished, leaving behind the party whose food she had stolen.

“You know, Snivy is a very clever pokemon and I heard it sometimes abandons incompetent trainers.”

Even as Iris and Dento explained more about the grass pokemon’s tendency to leave those they did not consider worth following, Satoshi and Pikachu became more and more motivated and immediately left to go track it down.  Lunch was forgotten as the pair impatiently waited for their companions to repack.

Apparently, they were too distracted to keep an eye on their surroundings and N and Zorua were able to follow at a much closer distance than before.

They continued up a small steep hill and N watched as Satoshi places the Oshawott on his head.

“Save your strength for the battle.  I’ll carry you up.”  And he did.  The trainer was obviously fit and knew how to find steady foot holds on the side of the rocky hill, but his focus was solely on reaching Snivy.  N and Zorua were less than fifty feet from the persistent trainer who was now further ahead from the other humans.

The pair reached the top, before Satoshi did though.  N glanced back down and saw that the gym leader and dragon girl were also making their way up just in time to watch the battle.

Clearly, Dento had more faith in this interesting trainer than Iris at Satoshi’s choice, but Oshawott lost and everyone was on the move again.


It was both worrying and heartwarming, when Satoshi fell into the swamp and made sure that Pikachu was standing on top of him, even as it added weight forced the boy to sink faster.  Iris and Dento tossed Satoshi the same vine that had snapped during his last swing, but as they tried pulling their friend back, the vine snapped again just below the pair’s gripping hands and Satoshi nearly tumbled back further into the swamp.

N was moving before he realized it; his hand shooting out to grab vine and with a great heave, hauled Satoshi and Pikachu back onto the solid ground in one pull.

“Pikachu! Are you alright?”  Receiving his partner’s confirmation, Satoshi and Pikachu looked up to their savior.

“Enne!”

“Pika” ‘Enne!’

“Satoshi. Pikachu.”  The man heaved a sigh.  Whether from the mispronunciation or the fading adrenaline rush, he wasn’t exactly sure.  “It’s N.”

“Ennuh?”

“N.”

“Ennu.”

“It’s just…nevermind.”

Zorua snickered.

“Are you two alright?”

“Ah!”  As if just remembering what had happened, the pair thanked him, their voices overlapping and harmonizing as one again.

“But what are you doing here?”

“I was traveling this way when I heard shouting and decided to take a look.”  Technically none of it was lie.

“Lucky for us, eh buddy?” Satoshi smiled down at Pikachu.

“Pika!” ‘Sure is!’

“What were you doing to cause you to end up there though?”  As if he didn’t know, but there was no way he was going to tell them that he had been stalk-following, yes following, them for miles already.  They could really move when they put their minds to it.

“We’re trying to catch this really strong Snivy!”

As his companions tried to convince him otherwise, a fire lit in the boy’s eyes.   The chase seemed to have only made him more stubborn and no one could dissuade him.


The next confrontation was at the riverbank and N could already tell that Tepig would be no match for his opponent despite his type advantage.  

After all, this was a Snivy specially born and bought from a breeder to be given as part of a set to a rich girl starting out on her journey.  She, like the Alomomola and Purrloin, had already been trained beforehand; because the girl’s worried and sensible parents had wanted to give their child a bit more protection from the wild pokemon.  Unfortunately, the girl herself was a different story.  Throwing a fit whenever she lost a battle and putting the blame on her pokemon for her own poor judgement and battling skills, Snivy soon became fed up with the treatment and decided to leave, with a bit of help from N and Zorua of course, but who was going to tell? 

The girl never saw the pair.  Zorua had helpfully stolen all three pokeballs and N had permanently released them, smashing the hated signs of enslavement.  Snivy insisted that she wanted to do hers first and N let her shatter her own ball against the ground.

That had been over four months ago.  Snivy was already the most powerful of the three and apparently, she had grown stronger since then.

Something was different with this battle though.  Snivy had looked bored and annoyed at the previous ones, but now…she was smiling. Or smirking.  It was a little hard to tell, but she actually looked like she was enjoying herself.

“Sni-vy.” ‘Try again.’

Definitely enjoying herself if the ‘come-at-me’ gesture was any indication.

She had given no recognition at the sight of N and Zorua other than the slight narrowing of her eyes though.

At Pidove’s crow, Satoshi looked up and clearly understood her intention and N once again remembered why he was stalk-, dammit! He was not stalking the boy!  This was all Zorua’s fault.

The battle began and Satoshi ordered for damaging attacks that didn’t touch Snivy.  Why?  Apparently, he had been waiting for a chance to blind the grass type before landing a hit.  She had shown her flexibility and quick reaction time earlier, so Satoshi’s impressive, and more importantly experienced, battling skills showed up. 

And Snivy…Snivy let herself be caught.  In a pokeball. With a smile.

With a victory pose not unlike the one he did upon receiving his badge, Satoshi held up the pokeball with Pikachu and Pidove joining in his cheer.

“Nice to have you with us Snivy. Let’s aim for a victory in the Isshu League together!”

“Snivy.” ‘Alright.’

The smile was still on her face.


The group decided to make an early camp for the night and Satoshi changed into a fresh set of clothes while his mud caked ones were rinsed in the river.  Pikachu’s fur and feet were cleaned as well.  N noted that Satoshi paid special attention to the areas between his toes.  Another point for this intriguing boy.  How long did it take for trainers to learn that raising pokemon involved more than battling with the occasional trip to the Pokemon Center?  Nutrition, proper grooming, personalities and preferences, and many many more things.  Those all came with time and experience to good-as much as that was an oxymoron-trainers. 

N and Zorua joined them for the admittedly delicious dinner.  He idly wondered if this was why they had brought the gym leader along, as he bit into a fluffy Oran berry muffin.

The pokemon were having their own conversation as well and N listened with one ear as the other was preoccupied with his tablemates talk about the day.

‘That was impressive.  You’re pretty good at battling.’ Pikachu praised.  ‘We haven’t had to chase after a pokemon like that in a while.’

‘You’re not too bad yourself.  You’ve clearly got some power if that Quick Attack was anything to go by and I could see the sparks from your Thunderbolt building.”

‘Hey! I’m strong too!  I could have beaten you if you hadn’t cheated and used that Attract.’ Oshawott was ranting as he waved his muffin at Snivy.

Snivy narrowed her eyes.  ‘It’s called strategy.  Using what you have and making the most of your situation.’

‘How? You just hit me and left!’

‘That’s what most wild pokemon do.’  Pidove stopped pecking at her food for the moment.  ‘When confronting humans, we usually battle just long enough to get away.  We still have other things to do once a battle is over.  Such as finding food or building nests or battling for more territory or even finding a mate.  Getting injured will make these necessary things harder to do.’  She tore off another beakful of muffin.  ‘I must admit, having a human trainer does make life much easier. This is delicious.  What is this called again?’

‘Muffin. Yours is a Pecha berry muffin.’ Helpfully supplied Tepig.  He had already downed seven of them and was working through his eighth.  ‘Humahs shur moo,’ he swallowed and continued, ‘make tasty food.’ 

‘Yeah!  My trainer is one of the best! Panpour and Pansear and I would help Dento and his brothers cook. Lots of people come to the restaurant, not just for battles, but for the food too!’  It wasn’t an empty boast.  Pansage had actually helped with their meal, preparing some of the dishes without further instruction than what Dento wanted.  He and his fellow monkey pokemon knew most of the recipes by heart.

‘Tasty food or not, if a trainer isn’t competent, there’s no point to staying.’  Snivy glared down at her Cheri berry muffin as she began to think of her old trainer.  With a shake of her head, she turned back to Oshawott. ‘A terrible trainer can turn the best pokemon into a failure.  Your trainer doesn’t seem too bad at battling though, but you were too slow at charging up that Razor Shell.’

‘It’s not that easy you know!  It takes time.’

‘You should have knocked away my vines first then and used that opening to attack.  I’m already at a type advantage.  Surely you knew that a grass type attack would do more damage than normal if you got hit?’  There was a condescending tone to her voice and Oshawott bristled.

Axew looked worriedly between the two and scooted back a bit from his place between them, grasping his bowl tightly. 

‘Now, now. There’s a time to battle and a time to eat and right now, it’s time to eat.  You can argue later.’ Pikachu, ever the mediator as they would later learn, tried to soothe them before they upset the young dragon.  ‘Give Oshawott some time.  He just needs more experience.  He hasn’t been out of the lab for long.’

‘Don’t patronize me!  I’m plenty experienced!  I can hold my own just fine!’

‘That certainly explains a lot.’

‘Grrr…’  Oshawott’s muffin began to crumble under his crushing grip as he glared at Snivy.

Axew by now had picked up his bowl and was edging towards the humans.

‘Don’t waste food!’

The cry startled the two out of their glaring match and everyone turned to look at Tepig who was wearing a disapproving look on his face. 

‘Wait a minute! Didn’t you come from the lab too?’ Oshawott pointed at him. ‘I remember you now!  You got picked a little after I was sent there!’

‘Yeah…but you know what happened. He didn’t want me anymore and I was abandoned.’  He stuffed another muffin into his mouth and swallowed.  ‘They’re right you know.  Of the five of us you’ve probably had it the easiest.  Before Satoshi, I spent a month with my old trainer before he abandoned me and three weeks after that with a rope around my mouth.  It had wrapped too far up my snout for me to be able to burn it off.  No matter how much I rubbed and scraped at it, it wouldn’t come off and I was hungry. So, so hungry.  I got weaker and weaker.  To the point that I had no strength for even a spark of an ember and all I could do was blow smoke.’

His coal colored eyes darkened. The look in Tepig eyes reminder Zorua of a Timburr he had met not too long ago.  Whenever he thought of his old trainer, a little girl who had no use for a pokemon that wasn’t cute like Emolga or elegant like Swanna. 

‘But that didn’t mean I could rest at all.  I still had to battle other trainers and wild pokemon.  You don’t get a break when you’re a wild.  It doesn’t matter if you’re handicapped or not.  You’ve still got to fight and fight and fight.  There are fights for food and fights for territory and fights good places to sleep for the night…and fights for your life because some other creature thinks your misfortune is funny.’ The pig looked positively miserable, but he shook his head with a smile. ‘But then I met Satoshi! He made everything better!’

‘Doesn’t he?’ grinned Pikachu.

‘Yeah! He’s so nice and he doesn’t get mad if I lose!  He even promised me the first fight of his first gym battle!  I knew that I couldn’t let him down!’

‘That’s great!’ Pikachu smiled at him.  ‘I’m counting on you and everyone else to do your best and help Satoshi.  We’re all friends now and we’re all a part of Satoshi’s team.’

The silence after that was comfortable. The previous argument was nearly forgotten in favor of happier topics.  Still, Oshawott made sure to carefully finish every crumb, Tepig’s words tumbling through his furry head.

‘Speaking of battle, who do you think would have won if Pikachu and Snivy fought?’  The question posed by Zorua had been something Snivy had wondered about herself but it had been shoved to the back of her mind.  One Vine Whip had been enough to take out Oshawott, but even two hits to Pikachu’s face hadn’t knocked him down.  Sure he had stumbled, but he was still standing.  Speaking of Vine Whip…she gave a glance at the back of her new trainer.

‘Right now?’  Everyone else turned to look at Pikachu coincidently missing the look. 

Snivy gave him a speculative onceover.    He was different.  Then again, his kind weren’t native to this land.  An electric rodent.  Small and fast like her.  His coat was clearly healthy and clean.  No visible scars or odd tufts of distinguishing fur.  He looked back at her and Snivy realized that he had caught her looking at Satoshi.  He had rather innocent and expressive eyes.  Clear and knowing without arrogance or doubt.  He had a sign of intelligence that Oshawott seemed to be lacking.

‘It could go either way.’ Pikachu polished off his Sitrus berry Muffin.  ‘I’m not at my best at the moment and it’ll be some time before I can get to the point where I can confidently say that I can beat her.  By the time I reach that point though, she’ll be much stronger as well.  It’s a never-ending cycle.’

Everyone took a moment to digest this.

‘How do you train?’ It was a good question that Axew had brought up. Snivy’s old trainer had expected them to be all powerful and hadn’t taken her losses well once she moved on from fresh-from-the-lab trainers to people with actual experience.  She hadn’t thought to memorize more than a few moves and more often than not, called for impossible things.  Not to mention, she was a horrible strategist as well. Honestly…she couldn’t use Razor Leaf and the move was Slam not Slash.

‘Depends.  Mostly by practice battles with other pokemon.  If there’s something special like a specific move you’re trying to learn, Satoshi will have a one-on-one training session with you.  You’ll see.’  He added looking at the other’s expressions.  ‘He may not be a move tutor, but he won’t give up on you.  Any of you.  In fact, he’ll probably put more effort into your training than you do.’  There was a note of confident finality to that.

If that was true, Snivy supposed she could get behind a human like that.  N, though, would take a little explaining.  She had been feeling his and Zorua’s stares for a while now, but refused to acknowledge them for the moment.


After dinner, Dento brought up something that N wished he hadn’t. It ended up making him too curious for his own comfort.

“Satoshi. Why don’t you use your pokedex to see what other moves Snivy has?”

“Hmm?”

“She knows Leaf Storm Satoshi.”

Satoshi gave Iris a confused look.

“Yeah. I know. I saw her use it.”

At this Iris sighed. “That’s a high level move. Remember when I said she might have had another trainer?”

“Mmhmm. She’s pretty powerful huh?” Satoshi smiled at the pokemon who were spread across on the blanket that had been laid out for them.

“Geez, you’re not getting it at all! You’re such a kid.”

“Hey!”

“What she means,” interjected Dento. “,is that Snivy may have other moves than the ones that she’s shown.”

“Come to think of it, I haven’t seen you use your pokedex for anything other than scanning new pokemon.” Iris mentioned.

“Eh?” Satoshi pulled out the red-and-black machine and N bit his lip to stop from protesting. “I’ve never really used it for more than that though. I guess I keep forgetting about it.”

He flipped it open and the others leaned in to take a closer look at the small screen.

“Wha-what is this? I can’t read it at all!”

“It’s kanji, the native language of Satoshi’s homeland. Isshu imports many things from there. Sometimes, my brothers and I have to order ingredients from faraway places, so we’ve learned how to read it. In fact, didn’t you say that you came from Masara Town? The place where Professor Ookido, the inventor of the pokedex, lives?”

“Yup! I grew up there. My mom used to be his student and his grandson and I were rivals. Professor Ookido takes care of hundreds of pokemon from other trainers. He has a huge ranch for pokemon to live outside so most of them stay there instead of in their pokeballs.”

“Really? That’s pretty cool.”

“Were rivals?” It seemed that N was the only one to catch that, but the fact that a seemingly nice sounding man could have made such a detestable machine nearly made him miss it.

“Ah. Yeah. Shigeru decided to quit being a trainer a couple of years ago and turned into a full time researcher like his grandpa. He mostly studies rare and legendary pokemon now.”

Satoshi noticed that N was staring at the pokedex with a rather intense look.

“Do you want to see?”

No. No, he didn’t, but Satoshi was holding it out to him with a smile and he couldn’t bring himself to outright refuse.

“I can’t exactly read this either.”

“I think this has dual language. Hang on.” He continued to fiddle with it, but it seemed that he had no clue how to change it.

“May I take a look?”

“Sure.” It didn’t seem to bother him and he handed it to Dento.

“…Satoshi. I think your pokedex is a bit different from the ones here.”

“Really? I got it from Professor Araragi though. It looked just the others. I know they added some sort of translation program, but what else is different?”

“Translation program?” At this, all the humans looked at him.

The boy looked a little sheepish as he scratched the back of his head. “I can’t read the writing here. They added something that lets me scan and read things in my own language, but it’s kind of a pain to take it out for everything.”

“Eh?!” The collective cry had all the pokemon looking over at them.

“Yo-you’re kidding right?” No one was more shocked than Iris and N felt the satisfaction of being right about his suspicions. “How were you planning to make it here?”

“It’s not impossible. I can just ask people for help.” The issue had already been settled as far as Satoshi was concerned and he didn’t put much more thought into it. There were more important things to think about, like pokemon. “I can read a few words like Pokemon Center and I can fill in a tournament form which is the most important thing.”

The others just continued to stare at his unconcerned manner.

“Um…I think I’ll just leave it on this language then, but this is what I was asking about. Your pokedex…you have ‘The National Dex’ and it says that you own over fifty different pokemon…”

“Oh that? It counts any pokemon I’ve ever caught, traded or evolved. See?”

He scrolled down the screen. “This is Caterpie. It’s the first pokemon I ever caught.” He held up the screen to show them a green worm like pokemon with a red ‘Y’ antennae.

“Caterpie, the Worm Pokémon. Caterpie uses the suction cups on its feet to climb trees and feed on its favorite leaves.”

Satoshi blinked in surprise. “Huh? I was pretty sure it said something different the first time…maybe they updated the descriptions.” He decided to ignore it for the moment.

“Anyways, he evolved into Metapod.” Pushing a few buttons, Satoshi showed them a green pupa with eyes.

“Metapod, the Cocoon Pokémon. Metapod is the evolved form of Caterpie. Using a hard shell to protect its body, it prepares for its next evolution.”

“Then he became a Butterfree.” The final picture showed a purple butterfly with red eyes and white and black wings.

“Butterfree, the Butterfly Pokémon. Butterfree is the evolved form of Metapod. The scales covering its wings help it to shed water.”

Despite himself, N’s eyes greedily drank in the small digital pictures of new pokemon, coveting the scraps of information provided from the tinny electronic voice.

“This counts it as owning three pokemon when I only captured one. It only registers the types of pokemon you’ve had, not how many.”

“I believe the National Dex is only for trainers who’ve earned at least eight badges from a single region though.”

“Eight badges! You?! You’ve earned eight badges?! How?”

“I’m not that bad of a trainer.” Satoshi looked a little miffed.

“Then why do you keep making such rookie mistakes? It’s like type advantage are a myth to you.”

“Hey! Type doesn’t mean everything you know. Remember the battle for this?” He showed her the badge pinned to the inside of his jacket. They glared at each other.

“You relied a lot on luck there. If this is how you battle now, then how bad were you then?”

“…” Satoshi looked rather contemplative. “Come to think of it…about half of my first badges were given to me for helping out the gym leaders with a problem. A lot of those battles required rematches. Some were interrupted and we never did finish. Maybe I should go back and battle them again…” The last sentence was mumbled more to himself than his audience, who were gaping at him in amazement. Satoshi obviously had some ridiculous luck going for him.

To break the silence N tried to change the topic. “So where are the rest of your pokemon now?”

“Back at Professor Ookido’s lab. Any new pokemon I catch here will be transferred to Professor Araragi’s.”

“Wait a minute. If you have more pokemon, why didn’t you bring them here?” questioned Iris.

“I wasn’t actually planning to stay. Professor Ookido was coming to meet Professor Araragi and he offered to let Mom and me come with him. It was supposed to be a vacation, but Pikachu and I decided to try for the league here. They’ve gone back home though and I’ll go back once I’m done.”

Satoshi gained a contemplative look then. “Maybe I should have brought Gible though. He’s had the least amount of training…”

“Gible?”

“The last pokemon I caught before I came here. I’ve only had him for a few months.” He held down a button for a long while, eyes flicking over the names rapidly flashing by. “Here.” He pressed another button and the electronic voice spoke out.

“Gible, the Land Shark Pokémon. Gible once lived in the tropics, and to avoid cold it lives in caves warmed by geothermal heat.”

Dento leaned in a little closer. “It also says that it’s a dragon and ground type.”

“You have a dragon pokemon! And you didn’t bring it here!” Iris looked aghast. “Why?”

Yes. Why? agreed N.

“Uh…Gible is kinda…kinda…He’s strong, but he tends to go overboard and well…” Satoshi smiled sheepishly. “I didn’t want him accidently come out and eat the plane we were riding on.”

“…What.” Her flat statement summed up their thoughts.

“Gible’s really friendly, but…he likes to bite people to show it. He also likes to eat…anything. Once he ate about ten times his weight in sheet metal and wires and didn’t stop until I recalled him.”

“Oh.” There really wasn’t much she could say to that.

The silence was a bit awkward until Dento remembered something.

“Uh…Snivy?” How had they gotten off track?

“Oh. Right.” Satoshi switched his pokedex to ‘Party Mode’. It displayed the current pokemon he had on hand.

“Snivy. Level 28.” He read aloud. “Her ability is Overgrow and she knows…a lot.”

Tackle, Leer, Vine Whip, Wrap, Growth, Leaf Tornado, Leech Seed, Mega Drain, Slam, Leaf Blade, Leaf Storm, Attract.

It was an impressive list with some moves that she had clearly been bred for. Some had been taught with TMs, but most had been naturally learned at the appropriate level for the small serpent.

Snivy was also the strongest pokemon, with Pikachu at level 23, Oshawott at 20, Pidove at 17, and Tepig far behind at 14.

“Level 29?” N was a little confused.

“It’s the strength estimation of a pokemon measured by a series of complex programs,” explained Dento. “This is a basic meter that gives you a general idea of how powerful a pokemon physically is. The higher the level, the stronger the pokemon. It can also let you know when a pokemon will most likely be learning a new move and give you an idea as to their breeding. For example, Snivy learns Vine Whip at level 7, but doesn’t learn Leaf Storm until level 43. Since she’s currently level 29, you could assume that she learned Vine Whip by leveling up, but at least one of her parents knew Leaf Storm and so you can say that she was born knowing this ‘egg move’ before she would have learned it naturally.”

“It doesn’t take experience into account though. She could have seen another pokemon use Leaf Storm and taught it to herself. Or maybe something happened and she was forced to learn it.” Explained Satoshi.

“Well, Snivy are considered as incredibly clever pokemon,” conceded Dento, “but forced?”

“Sometimes when you’re in a pinch, you might be able to draw out an unknown strength and come up with something interesting.”

“That’s pretty rare though.” Iris seemed more open to the idea than Dento, but was still skeptical.

“It happens more often than you think.” For a moment, Satoshi sounded oddly wise and knowing, not unlike an elder back in her home village. She could almost believe that this boy really had the skill and persistence to obtain eight badges.


While a campfire was being prepared, N and Zorua managed to get Snivy alone for a private conversation under the pretense of gathering more firewood.

“I’m surprised that you let yourself get captured.  I thought that you hated humans.”

“I have nothing against humans or trainers.  I just didn’t like her.”  The note of bitterness and disgust was still there. “If a human can prove to me that he or she is has the qualities of a great trainer, then I will gladly lend my strength.” 

“What makes you even want to be the pokemon of a trainer?  Especially after her.”

“All pokemon want to become strong.  It’s ingrained into us and a pokemon trainer is one of the easiest and most fulfilling ways to do it.  Battling, whether you like it or not, is a natural part of us.  It is why almost every pokemon born can use at least one attack from the moment we hatch.  It’s instinctive.  For food, for territory, for mates, for survival.”

“I-I think I understand what you are saying, but-but it doesn’t have to be like that! What makes having a trainer so special?  What makes it worth trading your freedom for slavery?”

She was quiet.  How to explain to a human?  She supposed she could understand his point.  He was still human after all.  The top of the food chain as it were.  For all that he could understand their language, he couldn’t seem to understand their hearts completely.  Hearts of pokemon who had a taste of the strength and the confidence that came with it.

Their meandering path brought the trio to several trees heavy with fruits and berries.  Satoshi didn’t notice them as he was directing not just his own pokemon, but Pansage and Axew as well.

A large basket sat beside several smaller ones on the ground.  Some were filled already, but the others were nearly empty with just a padding of leaves on the bottom.

Pansage was pointing to an apple hanging off the tip of a branch by a long stem.

“Alright Oshawott!  Remember.  Concentrate on making your Water Gun smaller, but try not to lose the power behind it.  Your target is the stem.  Not the branch and not the apple. Axew! You get ready too!”

The cries of the pokemon affirmed his orders.

With Pikachu, Pansage and Tepig cheering, Oshawott took on a look of concentration.  Axew, holding a small empty basket, looked as if he was readying himself for a race.

“Oshawott!”  It was more of a war cry than any particular word.  He fired a steady stream of water upwards towards the apple.  The Water Gun was a third of the size of the attack that N had witnessed in the gym battle.  Unfortunately, it was still too wide and soaked the apple and branch.  The force had lessened as well and in the end, the apple simply swung back and forth above them, dripping wet.

Axew put his basket back on the ground with a sigh.  Another failure.

Oshawott looked incredibly disappointed.  Satoshi crouched by the little otter and placed a hand on his head.

“Don’t worry.  You’ll be able to do it with practice.  How about we try again?”

“Satoshi?”

“Enne!”

“It’s N.  What are you doing?”

“Ah…”  Satoshi stood up and N realized that the ground and trees around them were soaked.

“We’re getting food for breakfast.  Dento wanted to gather the ingredients while we still have light so we won’t have to forage as much tomorrow.  Iris is getting more water and she’ll join us once she’s done. Are you done getting the fire wood?”

“Yes.”  He held up the bundle of dry twigs and branches he had picked up along the way.  Snivy held her smaller bundle with her vines.

“Great! Put them in here.”  He brought over the largest basket and waited patiently for them to deposit their kindling.

“Why are Axew and Pansage here though?”

“Iris is getting more water.  She’ll join us once she’s done.  Dento told Pansage to come with us and make sure we only pick the ripe ones.  We’ve only been taking some of the berries and fruits from others areas so that we don’t over pick them.  Then we found this place which has enough for us to finish up here.”

“Over picking?”

“It’s something I picked up in Johto.  Trees like apples, oranges, and peaches would be fine, but if too many berries, like these…” Satoshi held up a small basket full of Oran and Pecha berries. “…are taken from a single plant at one time, it’ll wither and die until a new one is planted.  I’m not sure why, but it’s a good thing they grow fast though.   A new Oran tree can sprout within a day and it’ll even have fruit in no more than a week as long as it gets enough nutrients.  But we’re leaving some behind for the wild pokemon too and they know how much to take before it’s too harmful.” 

Satoshi looked around the clearing.  “You know, fruit trees are a lot more plentiful here.  Back when I first started out in Kanto, sometimes it would take weeks to find wild fruits trees like this.  I didn’t know what berries were either and there weren’t as many growing as there are now.”  He huffed.  “Would of made things a lot easier if we didn’t have to worry about having enough food or medicine to reach the next town or pokemon center.”

‘You said it.’  Pikachu agreed as he finished lining a basket with leaves and dragged it beside him.  ‘Being hungry isn’t fun at all.’

“But what exactly are you trying to do here Satoshi?  I thought you were just gathering food.”

“We are.  We’re just getting some training in while we’re at it.”

Pikachu ignored the humans to deal with the current problem.  ‘Oshawott. Try it again.’

‘Why am I trying to make my Water Gun smaller for?  If it’s big enough to hit the opponent, then it’s working right?’

‘Depends on the situation.  What we’re trying to get you to learn is compression and control.  Bigger isn’t always better.  Sometimes you can get a lot more done with small precise hits instead of one big wasteful one. For example…’

Pikachu smacked a small rock the size of Oshawott’s scallop high into the air with his tail.  A bolt of electricity thrice as wide as Pikachu hit the rock, blackening its sides as it fell back to the earth.  It crumbled into pieces as it tumbled across the damp grass.  The other pokemon stared in surprise and perhaps just a little awe.

‘That was a regular Thunderbolt.  If I used that, I’d end up taking off an entire branch and probably burn the apples on it as well.  I want to use less power though. Just enough to bring down the apples without hurting the tree.  I don’t want to cook the apples either, so I’d do something like…THIS!’

He spun quickly, slapping the basket with his tail and sending it spinning under another apple laden branch.

A series of small electric shocks struck the stems of the apples, dropping them into the basket as it spun by underneath.  It wobbled to a stop just before hitting the base of the tree, several bright red fruits neatly cushioned by the leaves within. 

“That’s it Oshawott.  See how Pikachu’s not using more energy than he has to?  He still got the job done, but this way, not only will he last longer, he’ll still have strength to call on.  Just because a fight is finished doesn’t always mean that the battle is.”

Making sure that all the pokemon were paying attention to him, Satoshi continued.

“Most of you guys just saw your first gym battle.  Those were one-on-one matches where the winner takes all.  In most gym battles, you’re only fighting one person who could have a whole team of pokemon.  That means that if your comrade is defeated, you’ll have to take their place until all of your opponent’s pokemon are knocked out.  The first pokemon sent out isn’t just a battler.  It’s a scout that’s getting a feel for the opponents.  Trainers can usually call back their pokemon if the matchup isn’t working out well and send out another one, but the first pokemon may have to return to fight if the second loses.”

His eyes were sharp and serious conveying the gravity of his next words.

“My pokemon and I have seen lots of battles together over the years.  There were times when a trainer is faced with someone of overwhelming strength and an entire party of six pokemon could barely lay a scratch on one.  Other times, they’re draws or close calls.  Evenly matched.  There’s many ways a battle could be won or lost.  Everything from using up all your energy in one shot…”

Up close and in person, the Onix looked so big.  Not at all like the one on tv…but Pikachu had given his all just to be able to char that Geodude and they couldn’t possibly send out anyone else…

“…interference by something out of your control…”

They had escaped Team Rocket and barely made it in time for the match, but Pidgeotto was exhausted.  She had pushed herself beyond her limits to bring her partners here.  The last hour of flight was harrowing for all of them.  She had dipped and swerved and jerked, wings straining with the effort to stay aloft, but she refused to stop until her precious trainer was safely in the stadium floor.  Sometimes they would all wonder though…if it hadn’t been for Team Rocket, if Satoshi hadn’t been forced to rely on Charizard instead…would they have won that battle against the boy that was so similar to Satoshi?

“…finding new ways of doing something…”

It was all down to Noctowl now.  But as long Noctowl couldn’t see Matsuba’s Gengar long enough to use Foresight, the gym leader still had the upper hand.  So it was time to think outside the box.

“Noctowl! Use Confusion throughout the entire gym!”

Confusion wasn’t meant to be used like this.  It was just supposed to be an attack on a singular opponent.  No one had ever told Satoshi this little bit of trivia before and the boy was on his own when it came to using Psychic-type attacks.  Unfortunately for the Enju City gym leader, the closest thing to a guide for psychic moves that Satoshi had was his friend’s  headache-inducing Psyduck that may or may not have been a little-just a little- mentally deficient.  So Matsuba-who thought that he knew more about Psychic-type attacks than most due to the fact that they were one of his Ghost/Poison pokemons’ stronger threats- learned something new.

“...or even just plain desperation and the will to not give up and give in.”

It was probably the craziest idea the gym leaders, Fu and Lan, had-or would ever have -the opportunity to watch in action.

Pikachu and Swellow knew that they were going to lose if they couldn’t break through the double defense from Solrock and Lunatone.  But they were pokemon and they enjoyed battling and they enjoyed winning.  So as insane as the plan was, they would carry it though, because this was Satoshi and they trusted him above all else. 

“Thunder Armor!”

Then Satoshi blinked and gave a small grin and his spellbound audience returned to themselves.

“All I want is for you guys to give it everything to you’ve got and have fun alright? For now we’ll just go through the basics and learn some new moves.  Later, we can work on coming up with new ways to use them. ‘kay?”

A chorus of pokemon cries answered him.

“Alright!” The trainer was fired up now and pumped his first into the air.  “Let’s get back to work everyone!  And get our breakfast!”

The cries were more enthusiastic this time and N was startled to realize that he had joined in as well, excitement and determination coursing through his own veins.  Satoshi was unexpectedly charismatic and without realizing it, he was starting to get sucked into the boy’s charm.  He would have to be more careful. 

“Enne!”

Bright-eyed and practically sparkling with life, yet down to earth and oh so real, Satoshi waved him over.

“Hmm?”

“Why don’t you and Zorua join in?”

“Zor ru?” ‘Us too?’

“Why not?  The more the merrier! Ack!”  As the boy turned, he was knocked over by a flailing tangle of Oshawott and Tepig-somehow they had managed to collide together while attacking-and slipped on the wet grass, crashing backwards into a tree trunk.  The apple above, a previous failure that was now weakened by Oshawott’s constant Water Gun attacks, finally succumbed to gravity and landed on Satoshi’s head.

“Iii-t-taiii...”

Itai?

“Satoshi!”  As his companions cried out and rushed over, the boy sat up and rubbed his head with one hand, the other holding the apple.

“Are you alright?”

 “I’m fine. I’m fine.  Don’t worry guys.” He looked at the apple in his hand, then up at the tree and finally at the wet grass all around him.

“Guess you got an apple after all huh Oshawott?”

“Osha…” ‘Sorry…’  The small pokemon looked at his trainer guiltily and Tepig shrunk back a little keeping his gaze on the wet greenery below him. 

“Maa, maa.  It’s fine.”  Satoshi set the apple aside and placed a gloved hand on each of their heads and rubbed gently.  “It was just an accident.  It’s not your fault.”

As Satoshi gently smiled and reassured the pokemon, Tepig’s own eyes lifted up, tiny pools of tears clinging to the bottom of his round eyes.  Further proof that he was lucky to have been found by such a kind person.

Zorua grinned.  This boy was good and kind person that pokemon did not feel threatened by, but strong and experienced enough to lead and guide them as well.  They could feel safe and protected and loved.  Satoshi hadn’t been in Isshu long, but already he had gained many new friends and was-or would be loved- by the pokemon that surrounded him.  Watching a smiling N reach out a helping hand for Satoshi to take.  Zorua wondered how long it would take for N to realize exactly what he found to be so soothing about Satoshi.  After all, N was the closest human he knew to having a pokemon’s heart.

Snivy let a pleased smile slip onto her face.  This was a trainer she could support wholeheartedly.  It faded when her sharp eyes saw the way the boy had stiffened and tensed a little.  He was quick to hide it though from the others though.  She did notice that Pikachu was subtly herding the others as well, taking a more active role in teaching and making sure that his trainer didn’t have to bend over or carry as much weight as the others.

Her eyes met N’s, whose eyes had over a decade of experience in spotting subtle injuries on pokemon noticed as well, but a sharp look from Pikachu, brown eyes flicking to Tepig and back, kept their mouths shut. 

Tepig.  Of course.  Out of them all, he was the most fragile and desperate for Satoshi’s acceptance and approval having been abandoned by his previous trainer for being inadequate.  If he had realized that he had hurt his precious trainer, even by accident, at this stage, all the progress he made with his self-esteem could regress.

When it was time to leave, she made surely to sneak some of the fruits out of her trainer’s basket and into some of the smaller ones.  N insisted on taking a heavier load as well, claiming that he was bigger and mostly likely physically stronger as well.  It helped that Iris had returned to the group by then and Pikachu gave them a quick nod of thanks when the others weren’t looking.  But there was still enough that the weight that would be more than uncomfortable for the boy.


Pikachu managed to handle that as well.  He had found a large broken branch with several small, but still decently sized, twigs on the ground, probably from the storm a week ago.  It was a bit away from the rest of the group

‘Snivy.  Pansage.  Can either of you use Razor Leaf?’ 

Snivy shook her head.  ‘No.’

‘What about Cut? Slash? Fury Swipes?’

‘Nope.  Not yet.  Why? What do you need that for?’ asked Pansage.

Pikachu looked at the branch pensively.  ‘Nevermind.  I’ll take of care this. Just help me carry them back.’

‘What?’  Snivy and Pansage looked at each other and back to Pikachu who was moving back. 

He dashed forward in streak, his bright yellow tail now a jagged metallic saw.  Slicing off similar sized twigs and ultimately reducing the entire branch into finely cut kindling, the afterimages of the electric mouse faded as Pikachu came to a stop.

The grass-types stared with just a bit of awe.

‘How did you do that?’ exclaimed the monkey.

Pikachu stepped over to the pile of wood, inspecting the smooth edges of the now leafless twig.  ‘I can’t exactly use any of those moves either, so I had to improvise.  Iron Tail for the actual cutting and Quick Attack to boost my speed and make sure that I don’t splinter the wood instead of slicing it.  I can’t ask the others either.  The only one who could have also done this is Oshawott, but he doesn’t have the skill or finesse to make precise cuts right now. Not to mention that Razor Shell would probably soak the wood too.’

‘N and I already gathered wood though.’

Pikachu shrugged.  ‘Can’t hurt to have a little more.  That’s actually not enough to last for the morning meal.  But these-‘ He held up the twig that was as tall as him. ‘-aren’t for that.’  He grinned, the tip of a tiny fang peeking out.  ‘I’m in the mood for a snack.  Something roasted would be nice.’


“I think that’s enough for now.”  Iris sighed, wiping the sweat from her forehead.  “I had no idea that you had so many baskets though.  It makes carrying these a lot easier.”

“Sure does.  I got new ones before coming here.  You can use capsules for things besides large items you know.  And these baskets are part of a set so they’re easy to stack together.”

“Maybe I should get some too.”

Whatever else they had planned to say was forgotten as lightning lit up the area.

“That was a Thundershock!”

The humans looked around frantically for their pokemon and realized that they were all gone. 

“Zorua!”

“Axew!”

Cries came from the direction of the lightning and the humans headed towards it.

“Pikapi!”  ‘Satoshi!’

“Pikachu?”

“Pi-ka.”  ‘Here.’  He handed his trainer a stick.  Roasted oran, sitrus, and pecha berries were stacked on it.

‘N!’  Zorua tugged his friend over to where several more fruit kabobs haphazardly stuck out of the ground, tiny burnt stakes with darkened jewels.  ‘Try some!  Pikachu roasted them for us!  They’re tasty!’

N looked around and realized that a quite bit of fruit had been used.  At least two entire baskets worth.   But none of the smaller baskets were empty…

Later he would find that Satoshi’s large basket now had wood instead of fruit and was also significantly lighter.


Preparations done for the night, Satoshi recalled the empty baskets into his capsule.

The humans looked over the red cube in Satoshi’s hand.  About the size of his pokedex, it had rounded corners and a few small buttons on one side.  A blank digital screen took up another.  He showed them how he could see and pick an image of what he wanted from the screen and with the push of a button, a beam of light shot out from yet another side with a dark lens-like circle.  The light materialized into a metal pail and another button returned it into the cube.  He passed it Iris, letting her turn it over in curiosity.

“I’ve never seen one like this before.”

“That’s because they were just released here six months ago.” Explained Dento.  “They’re fairly new and have new improvements such as letting you select the item you want without having to use so many individual buttons like ours do.”

“But why are they called capsules?”  Iris held up the cube.  “These look more like boxes.”

“That’s because the original design was based off the pokeball.  They were changed to a more oblong shape to distinguish them-because trainers would end up grabbing it by mistake instead of their pokeballs-and they eventually evolved to what you see now.”  Dento thought for a moment.  “There are actually different shapes for aesthetic purposes, but the box shapes became more popular because you could stack them.”

From his bag, the gym leader took out a carefully wrapped parcel the size of a tissue box.  Pulling off the cloth revealed a padded hinged box and inside that was a green rectangular box that had multitudes of buttons on the two longer sides.  On top was a screen and at one narrowed end was the dark lens. 

“This is was previously the latest model released in Isshu .  Each button is assigned to a specific item and the screen shows the item and text, which you have to set yourself.  This one is for my tent.  This is for the table we used.  Pokemon food, sleeping bag, and pretty much everything you’ll need, but the more one can hold, the more expensive it is.  Satoshi’s is supposed to take up less space, but at the same time hold more items without having to have so many buttons.”

“Really?  I’ve been seeing the one you have in stores since I was eight.  The one I have now I got in Saffron City when I went there with some friends two years ago.  This had been out since I was twelve and they were having a sale at the time.”  Satoshi pointed at his capsule.

“Saffron?”  Dento tapped his chin thoughtfully.  “That’s where the Silph Company’s headquarters is isn’t it?  In Kanto?  It would make sense that people there get new products sooner.”

At this N perked up.  “Silph Company?  That sounds familiar.”

“It should.  They’re the leading manufacturer for Pokemon technology.  They’re mostly known for the production of commercial pokeballs as well as medicines, such as potions, and TMs.  They have branches all over the world and supply most pokemarts with their wares.  These capsules would also be part of their production line. Ah…I’d really like to visit one day!”  He gave an almost dreamy sigh.  “Most of the technological innovations here actually come from foreign regions like Kanto and Sinnoh.  But there’s the Devon Corporation in Hoenn too.  Not to mention the famous Mossdeep Space Center. Oh! And I can’t forget the Magnet Train that runs between Kanto and Johto!”

As the gym-leader drifted off into his own little world of scientific innovations, N looked down at the red cube that had been passed to his hands.

So both pokeballs and pokedexes originated from Kanto?  These capsules were incredibly useful-he even had a marigold one himself-, but it still seemed that the main symbols of pokemon oppression all came over from a foreign land.  It was troubling that Satoshi had come from such a place.  N genuinely liked the boy and Satoshi would have made a nice addition to Team Plasma.  But a lifetime of being raised there could have clouded his views on Team Plasma’s doctrines.

N let his gaze rest on the boy and Zorua let his gaze rest on N.


The fire had been doused and almost everyone was now asleep.

Satoshi sighed and turned on his side.  His back still throbbed slightly.  Falling into the tree wasn’t too bad.  His clothes offered protection from rough bark and he had a ridiculously high pain tolerance even as a kid.  It was really Snivy’s Vine Whip that had hurt and the fall only aggravated it, but he pushed it to the side.  He would just sleep it off and the bruise-because he knew it was going to bruise-would fade in a few days and all would be well.  He had had worse before.

If Takeshi or Kasumi-or any of his previous companions actually-were here, they’d have already made him strip and would have applied some sort of medicinal compress to his injuries by now, but he hadn’t quite built a rapport of that level to his new companions yet.

Feeling a little more comfortable, Satoshi’s slowly began drifting off to sleep.  Until he felt a tiny paw shaking him.

Blinking sleepily, he looked up and met Pikachu’s concerned eyes.

“I’ll be fine.”

Pikachu put on his best honey-I’m-worried-about-you-so-please-don’t-give-me-any-more-grief-and-just-do-what-I-say face.  The one he had learned from Satoshi’s own mother, Hanako. The paws placed at his non-existent waist just completed the look.

“Can’t this wait? They won’t last long.  They never do.”

“Pi.” ‘No.’

“Fine. Fine.”  Sighing tiredly, Satoshi dragged himself out of his sleeping bag and digging around in his bag, found an old capsule that he stuffed into his pocket.

He walked with Pikachu out into the darkness of the forest.

When the last of their footsteps began to fade away, N got up to follow.


Snivy dozed off for a while, but woke and was unable to continue sleeping.  So she laid there and continued to think over her day and her new companions.  Especially Pikachu who was most likely Satoshi’s starter.  The pokemon that had the strongest rapport with their trainer was usually their starter, but she had never seen any bond so strong before except possibly N and Zorua. 

She realized something.  Pikachu was smart in a way that many pokemon weren’t.  It would take years of contact with humans or higher thinking pokemon communities to be able to even think much less pull off what he had just done.  The control over his electricity, the anticipation he had of Satoshi’s thoughts and needs, his resourcefulness and wisdom all showing his experience without being obnoxious or overconfident.  How old was Pikachu really and exactly how strong was he?

And Satoshi…

The memory of her vines striking his protective back, his persistent chase to capture her up mountains and over swamps, his accidental tumble into the tree…

Most pokemon would be able to shrug that off within hours, but Satoshi was human and humans tended to be more fragile than most pokemon.  They bruised and bled easily and it took much more time to recover.

She opened her eyes in annoyance and sighed.  Then sat up as she realized that neither Pikachu nor their trainer were there. 

 ‘Snivy?’  Zorua was up as well, awakened by the shifting of the snake.  ‘What’s wrong?’

‘My trainer’s gone. Pikachu too.’

‘What?’  He looked around.  ‘Maybe they’ve gone to find a place to relieve themselves.  You know humans are picky about that.  They don’t like being around other humans when they do it.’

‘N too?’ 

As if just realizing this Zorua nearly yelped for his friend, but Snivy quickly wrapped a vine around his snout.

‘Quiet.’ She hissed. ‘Or you’ll wake up everyone else.’

‘Where did they go?’

‘I don’t know.  You’re the one with external ears.  Listen for them.’

Zorua closed his eyes, focusing for the sounds of movement.   Scrabbles of nocturnal pokemon.  Snapping twigs.  Striding footsteps in a way that was unique to N. Running water. There.

‘N’s heading to the river.  But he sounds like he’s alone.’

‘Better than nothing.  Let’s go.  Don’t wake anyone else up.’

Bounding across the thin strip of forest that separated the camp from the river, they came across N peering at the missing trainer and pokemon from behind a tree.

‘And he says he isn’t a stalker,’ muttered Zorua under his breath.  Snivy raised a brow at that but ignored him and gently tapped N’s shoulder with a vine.

He started in surprise but didn’t make a sound as he crouched to their level. 

‘What are you doing here?’

‘I should be asking you the same thing.’

‘Following Satoshi and Pikachu.   After the others fell asleep, they got up and picked some berries. Then they came here.’

N laid on his belly, propping himself up by his elbows.  Together the trio shuffled some small foliage out of the way to see them. 

‘Satoshi must have very good night vision, because he didn’t stumble or walk into a thing on the way here.’

The moon was bright, bathing everything below in a silvery glow and the darker silhouettes of Satoshi and Pikachu were easy to see.  For some reason, Satoshi wasn’t wearing a shirt though and his tan skin shone, nearly as pale as the shining wet stones of the river.

A small metal bucket gleamed by their side and they could see Pikachu reaching in a pulling out some sort of fruit.  He took a bite out of it and proceeded to chew.  Satoshi took one as well.

‘They’re just having a picnic in the moonlight.  This is what you got up to stalk them for?’

‘I don’t think that’s all this is, Zorua.  And I don’t stalk them okay!’

 He gave his partner an annoyed look, but Snivy narrowed her eyes and stood up.

‘Snivy?’ N turned his head at the sound of rustling grass.  ‘Where are you going?’

She threw a look over her shoulder, red eyes gleaming silver in the moonlight.

‘To fix a problem that I caused.’


Along the way, Satoshi had retrieved a small metal pail from his capsule while Pikachu sniffed out and plucked Sitrus berries, as they had better curative properties than Oran berries, dropping them in from the branches.

Once he was satisfied that they would have enough, Pikachu headed towards the direction of the river, ears twitching as he focused on the sound of rushing water.  Satoshi followed behind with closed eyes, avoiding obstacles by applying just enough of his aura to ‘see’ them.

They were focused enough on their task, that neither really noticed N, who had taken a wandering path anyways.

Settled by the riverbank, Pikachu watched as his partner removed his black T-shirt. 

“How does it look?”

At least it was a warm night, but the moonlight wasn’t exactly helping with distinguishing the colors very well.  Still, Pikachu could see some areas that looked darker and slightly puffy lines.  He gently moved his paw across Satoshi’s back, taking note of which places made his trainer stiffen or flinch, but never say a word.

Reaching over for the capsule-a old red and white one that looked like a compact mirror- and flipping it open, he selected a flashlight which was nearly as tall as him.

Cradling it under a short furry arm, he flicked the switch and took note of the red crisscrossing welts and bruises that had formed earlier.

Satoshi was right.  They would be completely gone in a few days, especially if they kept up a steady diet of Oran and Sitrus berries whose restorative properties worked on humans as well as pokemon.  But they had to be eaten raw or applied directly to the injury for the maximum effect.  Dento had cooked most of the berries picked with only a few sliced for garnishes or toppings.  Pikachu had ‘cooked’ his as well.  While losing some of the healing benefits, his flash-cooked berries still did more good than Dento’s lunch and dinner combined.

Thank Arceus for Takeshi.  Without his guidance over the years, Pikachu would have had no idea what to do at this very moment.  He still wished their friend was here though.  At least he could have made sure that his stubborn trainer took care of himself.

Still, Satoshi had taken blows meant for him.  The trainer may have had the ability to use aura, but he didn’t exactly know how to wield it as well as Sir Aaron or Gen did.  If he had that kind of control, he probably could have made it into a shield for his back.  As it was, most of Satoshi’s aura was used for navigation and sensing things.  It still made him much hardier than the average human though.  Satoshi healed at a rate that would leave doctors scratching their heads over it, but that didn’t mean that he was invincible and no one understood this better than Pikachu.

Pikachu turned off the flashlight and gave Satoshi his observations though a series of pantomimes and chitterings that Satoshi couldn’t exactly understand, but got the general gist of anyways.

“See?  It wasn’t that bad.  Nothing to worry about.”  He grinned and Pikachu sighed and handed him a berry.  While Satoshi would eat them and have it heal his body from the inside, Pikachu would apply it back and take care of it from the outside. 

He vigorously chewed the chunk he tore off his berry and spat it back out onto his paw.  Then he rubbed the yellowish clump onto the lower welts.

“Ack!  Couldn’t you just squeeze the juice on me?”

“Pika-Chu.”  ‘Takeshi.’

That’s right.  Takeshi had said something about keeping the berry on the affected area since the juice would dry, losing some of its effectiveness and Pikachu couldn’t exactly use a mortar and pestle the way a human could.  Otherwise Satoshi could have mashed it up and…well, his trainer didn’t carry one anyways.  Takeshi always did so it didn’t really matter to them.  Still, it would be helpful if one of their new companions had some sort of medical skill.

Satoshi sighed as he felt the berry taking effect already.  His skin tingled, but it felt cool.  A relief from the aching heat previously.

“Ahh.  That feels nice.”

The soft scrape of feet across stone had Pikachu on alert.  Wild pokemon?

From the forest approached a tall humanoid figure.  N?  What was he doing here?  With Zorua and Snivy too.

For a moment the two groups just stared at each other silence.  Then Snivy stepped forth and spotting the flashlight, turned it on and held it up with her vines.  She frowned at the sight of her trainer’s injuries.  Injuries that she had caused, even if he was at fault as well for jumping in the way. 

A bubble of guilt sank to the bottom of her stomach.

“It’s kinda ugly right?”

Satoshi craned his head over his shoulder and grinned at her.

“I don’t exactly bruise easy you know.”

The grin grew wider. 

“But that just means that you’re really strong.”  His eyes shined with something akin to admiration as he looked back at Snivy.  “I bet you could crush boulders if you put your full force into it.  I can’t wait to have a real battle with you.”

Snivy stared back at him in stupefaction.  Too stunned to say a word.  So N asked for her.

“Aren’t you mad?”

“Why would I be?”

Most people would.  But Satoshi wasn’t most people as N had come to realize.

“You’re hurt.  Have you been dealing with this the entire day?”

The trainer gave a flippant wave.  “I’ve had worse.  This actually isn’t too bad all things considering.  After tonight, most of these should be gone and I’ll be fine by morning.”

“Why didn’t you use a potion? Or ask someone to help?”

“Well I didn’t expect to run into a pokemon as strong as Snivy here so a lot of them were used on the others after they battled her.  I’ve still got some left, but I want to save those because I don’t know how far the next pokemon center or place to restock is.  If a pokemon gets hurt, I’d rather have some on hand right away.  Besides, these Sitrus berries are free.”

“And the others?”

“They’re good people and they love pokemon, but they’ll end up making a fuss about this.  Otherwise I probably wouldn’t be here in the middle of the night with Pikachu chewing up Sitrus berries.  I would have let the others help patch me up.  Tepig needs to focus on getting his confidence and strength back.  He’s at a point where he’s come to trust that I won’t abandon him just because he doesn’t win a few battles, but I don’t want him distracted by something that was an accident.  He’ll probably feel guilty for this and won’t be able to concentrate on training properly.  If he doesn’t do well at that, it could make him depressed or set impossible goals for himself.  Then it’ll just turn into a never-ending cycle.  I want to nip that in the bud now.  Once he feels a little more secure with himself, I won’t have to sneak around like this anymore. It’s kinda the same for Snivy, but something tells me that she probably doesn’t have this kind of issue though.  Although…”

Satoshi scratched his cheek sheepishly.

“Once we all get to know each other better though, they probably won’t let me go too far without one of them staying with me at all times.”

“Why?”

“I tend to get...” The boy thought for a moment as he tried to grasp for a suitable word.  “…involved in things.”

“Involved in things?”

“When a problem comes up, I want to help.  Some people have said that I have a hero-complex, but I don’t think that’s it.  When someone is having trouble, it’s only natural to lend a helping hand isn’t it?”

N smiled.  Perhaps there was hope for this boy after all.

“Yes.  Yes it is.”

*Squish*Squish* Squish*

“Eh?”

The humans looked over and saw that the pokemon had managed to find and a large flat rock. They were pounding away with small rocks turning the berries on it to a pulp.

“What are they doing?”

“I think this is faster than having Pikachu chewing up Sitrus berries one by one.”  N stood up and rolled up his sleeves.  “Eat your berry Satoshi.  I’ll spread the rest on your back.”


‘Why didn’t you do this earlier?’  asked Zorua.

‘There was only the two of us out here.  I didn’t want to risk attracting unfriendly pokemon.  But now that there are more people and pokemon they most likely won’t come over.’

‘It would have taken you a long time.’ Snivy pointed out.

‘Maybe.  But my best friend would be the one in pain tomorrow for taking a hit meant for me.  Oh don’t look so sad Snivy.  You’ll find that Satoshi can be incredibly reckless.  So it’s up to us to help keep him safe.  This isn’t first time he’s gotten hurt from a pokemon and it’s definitely not going to be the last.  Trust me on this.  I caused him more pain and grief on the first day of our journey than most pokemon could ever do to their human in their lifetime.’ 

‘What? Really?  What did you do?’

For a moment, Pikachu stopped trying to pulverize the splattered mess in front of him. 

‘It’s really more of what we did…but that’s a story for another day.’


Satoshi shuddered as the cold mashed fruit was smeared over his bruises and welts.  Then sighed and relaxed as the tingling feeling swept over them. 

 “You sound like you have quite a bit of experience with…hurt pokemon.”

“Mmmm.  I guess you could say that.  It’s not the first time I’ve seen something like this.  I don’t understand how anyone could be so cruel though.  If they could just be friends with their pokemon, they’d all have a lot more fun.  Just like the way we do.”

Satoshi gave a fond smile to Pikachu who smiled back.

He took another bite out of his Sitrus berry.  Juicy, but not particularly sweet.  He’d rather be eating Pecha berries.

N noted that the bucket only held one kind of berry though.

“So how did you learn that these berries would help with your injuries?”

 Satoshi blinked in surprise as he dragged himself out of his thoughts.

“Hmm? Oh.  One of my old friends used to be the one who dealt with these kinds of things.  He used to handle all the cooking and medical issues.  After being with him for so long, you can’t help but pick up a few things.”

“And where is your friend now?”

“At his home in Nibi City, working on getting a medical license.  He used to want to be a breeder, so he knew all sorts of things about caring for all sorts of pokemon even if no one in our group had a particular type.  But a few months ago, he decided that his skills would be better put for healing and is going to become a pokemon doctor.  He has a much better grasp treating of injured pokemon than most people who had been to nursing school for years.  In fact, the local Nurse Joys come to him for advice even though he isn’t officially a doctor yet.”

By the time Satoshi had finished talking, N was rinsing his hands by the river edge.

“How long do you have to keep this on?”

“Probably around half an hour.  That should be enough time to make the bruises turn yellow instead of blue and purple.  I heal fast anyways.  Even without this, I would have been completely better in about three days.”

Satoshi gave a sheepish look.  “Still, I didn’t expect you guys to find out about this.  I thought everyone was asleep.”

“We were.  I’m just a light sleeper and these two found me.”

“Sorry for waking you guys.”

“Don’t be.  Your health is more…” N trailed off as he realized that Satoshi was no longer paying attention to him.  He was gazing off into the distance, slightly more alert.  Pikachu had caught on as well as was peering in the same direction where a bright yellow light could be seen flashing between the treetops.   The light came closer, leaping down from the tree.  As it made its way closer, the group could make out the bright yellow bands over dark fur and glowing red and yellow eyes.

“Ah! I left my pokedex at camp!  What’s that?” 

“A Watchog.  They evolve from Patrats.  They have very good night vision, but if they still can’t see well enough, they’ll light up their surroundings.”

“Eh? Really?”

Satoshi looked at N and then back to the glowing pokemon.  “So they’re like their own night lights.  That’s really cool, but…what’s that around it then?”

The Watchog came closer and N realized that it was carrying something on its back.  Several smaller lumps huddled against it as the glowing figure made its way to the river. 

‘N.  Zorua.’  It gasped out.  It was a she.  A mother Watchog that he had met in passing not too long ago and the small lumps were her children.  They looked exhausted and worried, but none more so than the mother who lowered a wounded Patrat to the ground.

‘Please.  Do you have the magic human mist?  The one that cures injuries faster than any berry?  The children stumbled upon a Scolipede nest and were attacked.  My son was poisoned.  I gave him Pecha berries and Oran berries, but he is still ill.  Nothing I feed him will work and he will no longer eat or drink.  His wound will not close and he has not woken since this morning.  I need the human mist to save him.’

N dug through his pockets, desperately searching for his own capsule.

“Enne? What’s wrong?”

As if just realizing that the human she had been searching for had company other than that of a pokemon nature, the Watchog recoiled in fear and her offspring bravely tried to shield their ill brother from the new human’s sight.

“I need medicine.  Maybe a super potion and a full heal.  This Watchog’s child is sick.  She says he won’t eat or drink and he keeps getting worse.”

Unnoticed, Pikachu handed the capsule to his trainer who rapidly began pressing buttons. 

N snarled in fear and anger as he realized that he only had a few basic potions, antidotes, and paralyze heals.  He had used quite a bit on the random injured pokemon that had come to him over the last few weeks.  Unfortunately, as he did not fight trainers often and never fought gym leaders, he didn’t have a steady income that would allow him to buy more and it had been some time since he had used his card to make a withdrawal from the Team Plasma funded account.

 There wasn’t much time left for the Patrat.  He’d never be able to make it.  The only other option would be to put the Patrat in a pokeball, bring it to a pokemon center and then return him to his mother after he had been healed.  But the nearest pokemon center was back in Striaton City.  At least a day’s travel away.  He didn’t know if it would survive the journey either.

“Here.”

N looked up surprise.

Satoshi had stood up, ignoring how the mashed clumps of fruit slid onto the ground with a plop, and was slowly approaching the injured pokemon.  The other Patrats shivered but held their ground and the Watchog hissed, placing herself in front of her brood threateningly.  Her front stripes lit up even brighter and the pokemon and humans alike had to turn away lest they be blinded by her Flash.

“Nngh.  I just want to help.  I heard that you need something strong to help your child and I’m not an expert, but this should be able to take care of him.”  Satoshi’s tone was gentle, but firm and reassuring and slowly the blinding light died down to a more manageable level.

N blinked rapidly, trying to restore his eyesight as he focused on the other boy.  He was holding out something in his hands.  A spray bottle of some sort and N couldn’t have been more relieved.

It didn’t seem like she was going to move though, but the rasp of the ill Patrat changed her mind.  Slowly the Watchog moved aside, but hovered close by, muscles coiled to attack if the human should try anything suspicious.

N watched in surprise as Satoshi gently crouched over the Patrat and began to apply the spray.  Then he reached to turn the Patrat over with his free hand and in a flash, the Watchog had the base of his thumb clamped in her jaws.  Her large front teeth glowing with a Super Fang ready to sever it if the trainer continued.

N was about to step in when Pikachu tugged at his pants firmly and shook his head.  Watch and see.

“I need to turn him over to spray his back.  Look.  His front is healing already.”  Warm kind eyes met her glowing red and yellow ones without fear, doing their best to convey that he had only the noblest of intentions.  She could feel how he laxly let her hold his hand hostage.  He only smiled, careful not to show teeth.

“Let’s get him fixed up and once he’s better, we can all sit down and have some Sitrus berries.  We’ve got lots more.  See?”

Pikachu had taken a couple fruits out of the bucket and came up to them, apparently unconcerned that she could and would easily take off his trainer’s thumb if her incisors bit down just a little harder.

The Watchog refused to let her eyes drift away from the human, but her children were now peering around her to look at the yellow mouse curiously.

“Pika Pikachu. Pi.” ‘The sooner you let him go, the sooner he can finish healing your son.’

‘Fine.’ She spat as she released the hand.  ‘But if the human does him more harm, I have the right to tear his throat open.’

Pikachu’s eyes narrowed threateningly. ‘And I have the right to defend my partner.  Satoshi will never willingly hurt a pokemon.’ 

“Pikachu.  It’s fine.  Help me turn him over.”

The wild pokemon moved out of the way and Satoshi gently turned over the Patrat, blinking in surprise when a second set of hands joined his.

“They had originally come to me for help, but I couldn’t do anything.  At least, let me contribute with this.”  N looked so remorseful that Satoshi couldn’t help but feel bad.

“Sure.  Two pairs of hands are better than one.  Actually, it might be better if you hold him up.  I don’t want his front to touch the ground until the medicine finishes its work.”

As N picked the Patrat up, they noticed the thin long gash across his back.  It was crusted with dried blood and scabbed over.  Satoshi frowned.

“We need to clean this first.  Snivy.  Bring me the flashlight.”

To prevent another attack from the fretful mother, N began to translate and Pikachu and Satoshi looked at him in surprise.

“You can talk to pokemon?”

“I…well. Yes.”

“That’s so cool!  That’s why they came to you right?  Because you can understand them and get them help that they normally couldn’t get in the wild.”

“But I didn’t-“

“Don’t start with that.  Your presence is more than enough.  If you weren’t here, this Watchog would have never come to another human for help and then where would her son be?”

“I…”  As if he knew what N was going to say, Satoshi steam barreled him over, not letting him have time to think much less formulate a response.

“It’s okay N.  No one’s perfect and you’ve been the biggest help.  Because of you, this pokemon was able to take the first step to recovery and everyone knows that that’s the most important one.  Nothing will ever change if you don’t take that first step.”

Satoshi smiled and it was as reassuring as always.  Zorua was never more grateful than he was at that moment.  N wasn’t always able to save a pokemon even if he had to resort to the dreaded pokeball and he always took it especially hard when he failed.  Sometime when he succeeded though, he’d still brood over how he couldn’t have done better and it resulted in a driven depressed N for days.  Satoshi seemed to be good for his friend.

Snivy clicked on the flashlight and Satoshi’s brow crinkled in worry and displeasure.

“It’s infected.  This is more than strong enough to cure him though.”  He waved the spray bottle in N’s face.  “But I want to wash his wound first before I apply it.”

They carried the Patrat to the bank, with the Watchog following, and Pikachu was pulling out more things from Satoshi’s capsule.  The other Patrats watched in awe, muted chatterings about how human’s had the most amazing things filled the air.

‘Can any of you use a fire attack?’

‘I can use Flamethrower.’ Zorua stepped up.  ‘It’s not very powerful though.’

‘Can you use it well enough to heat a bucket of water?’

Snivy, understanding what Pikachu wanted, emptied the rest of the Sitrus berries out onto the ground and used her vines to dip it into the river, filling it in a single scoop. ‘Heat this up, but don’t melt the metal.  They need warm water to wash the Patrat.’

Zorua remembered the earlier training session and realized that this was exactly what Pikachu was talking about.  Control over power.

He gave a determined nod.  ‘My flames aren’t big, but they will be perfect for this.’

He took a deep breath and focused a steady stream of fire onto the out edge of the bucket.

Snivy was now pointing the flashlight back on the Patrat.  Pikachu had retrieved a wash cloth and, as soon as he deemed the water warm enough, dipped it into the bucket.  N took it from the mouse and gently rinsed away the dried blood from the scout pokemon in Satoshi’s hands.  His scabs reopened and dark infected blood spilled out.  However, the Patrat flinched in discomfort which was a good sign even if he hadn’t opened his eyes yet.  At least he was a bit more responsive now.

When the man deemed it clean enough, he rinsed his hands and sprayed the pokemon’s back.  The Patrat hissed, but before their very eyes, the wound began to slowly close and N looked on in surprise.

“What is this?” He held the bottle into the light and stared at the green label.  “Full Restore?”

“It’s the best commercially available potion in the market and doubles not only as a potion, but a Full Heal.  It’s also the most expensive at three thousand pokedollars a bottle.”  N looked up from the bottle and met Satoshi’s eyes. 

“I’m not a good healer.  I’m never going to be a good doctor or nurse or anything like that and I only know how to treat the most basic problems.  That’s why I have Full Restores.  I don’t have many of them and I rarely have to use one, but every now and then something serious comes up and I’m more than happy to have one on hand at those times.”

“Most people wouldn’t use such an expensive potion when it’s easier to let them die.”

N couldn’t help but feel as if he was paralyzed under a Glare attack, even if Satoshi wasn’t glaring at all.  He was only frowning, pinning N under his stern gaze.  “No amount of money will ever be worth more than a pokemon’s life.”  And N couldn’t help but feel both very small and very happy at the same time.

The wound was no longer bleeding, but N squeezed another spray of medicine and suddenly the Patrat cried out, clamping its sharp teeth onto Satoshi’s hand.

“Satoshi!” He wasn’t the only one calling in worry.  The other pokemon rushed over in alarm, but the trainer shushed them, gently stroking the Patrat’s head.

“It’s fine.” He gritted out.  A trickle of blood leaked out from under the point of Patrat’s incisors.  “There’s something in potions that sterilizes wounds.  It stings when you put them on injuries.  He’s just uncomfortable.  It’s not his fault.  Do it again.”

“But Satoshi! You’re bleeding.”

“This is nothing.  We can deal with my hand after making sure this Patrat’s okay.  He’s almost fully healed now.”

Not wanting to argue, N sprayed the rodent one last time and then winced as the pokemon dug its teeth deeper into Satoshi’s flesh.  The dark-haired boy didn’t even flinch though, focused on the way the pokemon’s skin smoothed itself out, almost as if someone had taken an eraser and rubbed away all traces of the injury from existence.  Running his free hand over the damp furry back, Satoshi noted that he couldn’t even feel a scar under his fingertips. 

They sat in silence and Satoshi continued to gently stroke the pokemon, making him loosen his hold.  Finally, the Patrat shivered and began to lick at the blood.

Pikachu hurried over, taking a bite out of a Sitrus berry and chewed on it.  Then he spat it out and began to trickle the juice into the Patrat’s mouth.  A small black nose twitched and sniffed the air and the Patrat released the hand to lap at the more enticing liquid.

Pikachu was about to take a second bite, when the Watchog stopped him.

‘I’ll feed him. Go take care of your human.’

Without a second thought, Pikachu handed her the berry.  Snivy took the Patrat and lowered him to the ground and Zorua lent his body as a makeshift pillow to keep the rodent’s head elevated while N was torn between checking over Satoshi or continuing his care for the Patrat.  The Watchog gave him a meaningful look and gestured towards the other human, her eyes softening as she looked at the teen who was busy reassuring his pokemon.

“See? I told you it wasn’t that bad and-iitatai!  Pikachuuuuu.”  Pikachu ignored the whine and forced his trainer to wash the wound first. Rinsing it with a fresh bucket of hot water, before gently patting it dry with a clean towel.

“Ah.”  Satoshi turned his hand to look at it.  The bite had stopped bleeding and was now an angry red line.  “It might leave a scar at the most, but I don’t think it’ll be too bad.” 

A larger calloused hand grabbed his and Satoshi blinked.

“Enne?”

N didn’t answer as he continued to study the injury as if it held some of life’s greatest secrets.

“Uh…En-nngh.”  He grimaced as N suddenly sprayed his hand, the stinging sensations making him twitch.  The cut closed and N sprayed it once more to make sure that it was fully healed.  There wasn’t even a scar left.

“Thanks Enne.”  At N’s satisfied smile, Satoshi decided not to mention that the curative properties of Sitrus berry juice would have work just as well, if not a bit slower, on a small injury like this.


The Patrat had woken up not long after everything had been cleaned up, much to the jubilation of his family.  All the used towels were put into a basket labeled ‘Dirty Laundry’ then returned to his capsule.  Satoshi washed off the rest of the dried berries on his back and for some time the group sat in companionable silence, eating the leftover berries together with the Watchog and her children. 

N glanced over and saw that the now healed Patrat had chosen to sit on Satoshi’s lap, next to Pikachu.  He was very small.  Probably around six or so months old.  Now he’d have a chance to live even longer.

The Watchog herself and taken a seat next to Satoshi who seemed perfectly fine with having several enthusiastic young pokemon clamber over him and even managed to get everyone involved in a convoluted game of ‘Catch and Release’ where the punishment for being caught by a human involved being simultaneously tickled and cuddled.  Needless to say, the previously ill Patrat was the one who got caught the most.  N wasn’t sure if he had ever had so much fun with another human’s company.


They had parted soon after the last berry was finished, the previously injured Patrat coming up to give Satoshi one last hug before the family returned to the forest with the soft glow of the Watchog’s stripes lighting their way.

The group made their way back to camp and did their best not to wake anyone as they returned to their sleeping places.

Satoshi drifted off first and one by one the others followed.  Except for N who memories replayed the last few hours over and over again.

“…I’ve still got some left, but I want to save those because I don’t know how far the next pokemon center or place to restock is.  If a pokemon gets hurt, I’d rather have some on hand right away…”

Today, it was a trainer that had saved that Patrat.  Despite what Satoshi had said though, N knew that it was Satoshi who had provided the most crucial thing.  But Satoshi claimed that it had been a coordinated effort between humans and pokemon.  Together they had saved a life.  Satoshi was a good person.  Even if he loved to battle…

“He’s just uncomfortable.  It’s not his fault.”

“This is nothing.  We can deal with my hand after making sure this Patrat’s okay.”

“No amount of money will ever be worth more than a pokemon’s life.” 

Satoshi was the possibly the best trainer that ever existed.  If only more humans could be like him.

He closed his eyes and dreamt of being small again and playing with all his friends back in his toy room.  Sometimes Anthea and Concordia were there too, sitting on chairs or joining in some of the games.  Then the great riveted door opened and this was where his father would step through and the dreams of his fun filled days in his toy room would turn to dreams of dragons and heroes and legends and splitting apart humans and pokemon forever and ever and how he would never see anyone again.  How he would never see Zorua again. 

But something was different this time.  It wasn’t his father who came through that door.  It was Satoshi. On his shoulder was Pikachu and by his feet were all of his pokemon.  The Watchog was with him as well and all the little Patrats scurried and scampered about his legs.

The trainer stepped into the room and the heavy door swung shut leaving out all the pokemon except Pikachu.  N’s friends rose up to stop him, but Satoshi smiled and they stepped aside for the trainer who stopped in front of the green haired man sitting on the ground.  Then Satoshi reached down and picked up a wooden block.

“Let’s build something together.”

He walked back to the door carrying his block and tried to open it, but it had no handle.  He frowned.

N tried to tell him that it couldn’t be opened from the inside, only the outside. Then the door creaked open and N realized that the pokemon outside were slowly pushing it in.  They were attacking it with all their strength.   Leaf Storm and Ember and Water Gun and Air Cutter blasted at the door, forcing the heavy metal sheet inwards.  Behind them the Watchog and her brood cheered them on.  Finally Satoshi grabbed the edge and Pikachu hopped off his shoulder to add a powerful thunderbolt to his friends’ attacks.  With a great deal of effort, Satoshi forced it all the way open and N could no longer see.  It was as if someone was using Flash just outside the doorway.

Then Satoshi put the block down and stepped away. Everyone stopped their attacks.  The door swung shut again sweeping the block along and N braced himself for the inevitable resounding bang, but it never came.  Just the thuds of a heavy objects hitting wood.  N opened his eyes. The door was closed…but it wasn’t completely closed.  The block that Satoshi had placed was keeping it wedged open.  N could see a stream of light coming through the gap, but it was no longer blinding.

“Well that won’t do.  It’s no fun playing by myself.” Satoshi waved his hand. “Come on Enne.  What are you waiting for?”

N continued to stare at the light and the not quite closed door.

“Enne.”  Satoshi looked so serious.  “Nothing will ever change if you don’t take that first step.”  Satoshi smiled encouragingly.  Pikachu was beckoning him over now.

“Enne. Come on.”  Zorua wanted to play with them too. He picked up a block with his mouth and placed it in N’s hand.  Then he picked up another one for himself.

‘N. Get up.’ Said Zorua. He was nudging him forward now and then…

N woke up.

‘N. N.  You need to get up.  Breakfast is almost ready…you okay?’

N wasn’t quite sure if he knew himself so he settled for blinking up at Zorua’s concerned face in silence.

Turning to the side, he saw that Satoshi was still fast asleep, his youthful face completely at peace.  At least until Pikachu decided to shock him awake. 

“Pikachuuuuu…” He groaned, small zips of electricity jumping from clump to clump of spiky black hair.  Pikachu just shoved a slice of Chesto berry into his mouth.  Then a Lum berry-where had he found that?-for good measure.

N could only gape at the electric mouse who looked entirely unapologetic and Zorua just laughed.


“Nothing will ever change if you don’t take that first step.”

“Satoshi?”

“Yeah Enne?”

“I- that it is…there are a lot of injured pokemon in this land.  Zorua and I often travel around helping those in need and I was wondering, since you happen to be heading in the same direction that we are, if you couldn’t mind having us in your group?  Just for a little bit as we’ll be heading to meet up with some friends later and-” Oh Arceus.  He was rambling, but he was feeling oddly nervous.  Heroes were supposed to keep calm and cool and collected and, and…

“Sure!  Glad to have you with us!  The both of you!”

Satoshi was smiling and Pikachu was smiling and N felt so relieved that he forgot all about how heroes were supposed to be.

“You know, come to think of it, I think all of my traveling partners have always just invited themselves on my journey.  But even though we might have gone our separate ways now, we’re all still friends for life.  I know that we won’t be any different either Enne.”

And N was smiling a happy smile that reached his eyes and made him look like the old N and Zorua was smiling too now. 

Satoshi was good for N and Zorua would do his best to keep N by his side.


Later that day, N would mentally kick himself for the missed opportunity.  He had forgotten to ask Satoshi if he could speak to pokemon again.  When he realized this, Zorua only snickered. 

‘Don’t worry.  You’ll have plenty of opportunities now that we’re traveling with them.  But that doesn’t mean that you aren’t a stalker anymore.’

N glared at the black fox-like creature in annoyance, but ignored him in favor of asking Satoshi questions about the pokemon of Kanto.


Ash is using some of his aura capabilities, because it’s plain stupid not to use something like that when you’re walking through places with limited human contact and tons of wild creatures that can potentially end your life even if they weren’t going after you specifically.  Pikachu may not be able to sense auras, but he’s in tune with Ash and after sitting on someone’s shoulder for nearly five years, you’d think he would be able to pick up nonverbal cues.  He doesn’t actually use it as much as he should though.

His pokemon will be learning moves and combos that never happened in the anime, but they will also not learn some of the actual game moves.

N’s Zoroark in Black/White knows Flamethrower, despite it not being a level up/TM/HM/Egg move.  He knows it as a Zorua here, but it’s fairly weak. Almost like an ember instead of an actual Flamethrower.

The pokedex entries are the ones used from the anime, but some are not from Ash’s original pokedex.

Right now, everyone thinks Ash only has eight badges for a previous league as he hasn’t really talked about himself as much. 

How the city names will work.  Anything in Isshu uses the English name.  Fourth gen places and back will use Japanese names.  Why is this?  Because I realized that I had the Isshu city names in English and I didn’t want to go back and re-edit the last chapter.

More Names:

Ecruteak City/Enju City

Pewter City/Nibi City

Gary/Shigeru

Morty/Matsuba

Tate/Fu and Liza/Lan

Brock/Takeshi

Misty/Kasumi

May/Haruka

Max/Masato

Dawn/Hikari

Delia/Hanako

Riley/Gen

Itai-Japanese version of Ow.  Another culture difference.  The same way Americans would say a cat goes ‘meow’, the Japanese would say the cat goes ‘nya’.

Chapter Text

"Regular Speech"

'Pokespeech'

"Pokedex Speech"


“Dento.  You okay?”

As the sommelier sat down with a slight wince, he waved a hand attempting to assuage their concerns.

“Don’t worry.  I’m just a little sore from yesterday.”

“What?  Why?”  Satoshi looked a little worried.

“It’s because a lot of city people aren’t used to lots of exercise.”  Iris explained.  “When I first went to stay in one, almost no one could really keep up with me except the people who did intense training and even then, I could outlast people twice my age.”

“…I think you’re a bit of an exception, but yes.  While my brothers and I spend a lot of time on our feet just to run the restaurant half of our gym, none of us usually have to do something so strenuous like that chase for Snivy yesterday.  I’m just not used to moving like that and last night was the first time I’ve slept outdoors in a while.”

“Ah.”  Satoshi rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.  “I totally forgot.  I kind of lose track of everything else when it comes to pokemon. Sorry.  I remember what it was like the first time I started my journey too.  I was aching for days and a sleeping bag just doesn’t compare to a bed.”

“Too true.  Not even the dinner and lunch crowds are like that and they can be pretty hectic.  I’ll be fine in a couple of weeks once I get used to this.”

“Really?  I thought running a restaurant in a city like that would have had you running around lot more.  Until Mimey decided to stay with my mom, she ran one by herself and I remember that it got pretty busy ‘cause it’s the only restaurant in my hometown.  It’s made her pretty strong.  I’m sure that she could even carry Enne across Striaton City if she had to and still be able to whip up dinner for a crowd on time.”

Iris and Dento looked at N, mentally comparing his height to Satoshi and themselves and then pictured a tall stocky black haired woman with the muscles of a Sawk using Bulk Up.

N focused on the more important thing. 

“Mimey?  Is that a pokemon?”

Fishing out his pokedex with one hand, as the other was still holding his bread roll, Satoshi searched for the entry to the pokemon.

“Mr. Mime, the Barrier Pokémon.  The evolved form of Mime Jr.  By rapidly moving its fingers, Mr. Mime can stop air molecules to create an invisible wall.”

“Mom never officially captured him, but she calls him Mimey and he does chores for her in exchange for food and a place to stay.  He also helps out at the restaurant sometimes, but mostly he’s stays to watch the house.”

“He lives with you mother?” 

“Yeah.  He sleeps in the guest bedroom.  Although I guess it’s officially Mimey’s room now.  I’m glad though.  Even though he doesn’t really battle that often he’s pretty strong or at least stronger than most of the wild pokemon around so I know that he’ll be able to protect her and he keeps her company which is the most important part.  This way, I know for sure that she won’t be lonely.”

If Dento had known Satoshi a little better, he might have grilled him a little more about his life previously, but he didn’t want to be rude and so he didn’t.  If Iris had been a little more open and trusting to her new companions, she might have asked about his days in Kanto, but she knew that they would have expected her to share her past as well and there were some things that she just wasn’t ready to talk about to people who were closer than acquaintances but less than friends, so she didn’t either. 

N on the other hand…

This was sounding promising.  A mother who lived in a symbiotic relationship with a pokemon without the use of pokeballs and a son who never put his partner in one either…well his main one anyways.

“Pokemon make the greatest companions don’t they?” 

“Yeah.  They sure do.”  And Satoshi smiled too. He gave a fond glance to the pokemon who seemed to be engrossed in a rather intense conversation of their own,  especially at Pikachu who was demonstrating something to the other pokemon with the brown pellets in his paws.

They turned back to the meal.  The rest of breakfast was filled with mindless chatter, lighthearted topics flitting back and forth like Pidoves, nothing going too deep as the new companions tested each other’s boundaries, slowly learning more without digging in too deep too fast. N was content to let the sounds of their voices wash over him as he munched away at his delicious meal-that gym leader really is a good cook-wondering how Satoshi seemed to have so much energy despite having so little sleep.


Snivy and Zorua made frequent glances over to the humans at the table, lingering especially on the black-haired teen and then back to Pikachu who was, to the unobservant, showing no signs of concern for anything other than his food.  Neither dared to speak directly about the previous night. Not in the presence of those who weren’t there, especially considering Satoshi’s assessment of Tepig’s current condition.  So instead, Snivy tried a different tactic.

‘Is he always like that?’

Pikachu swallowed.  ‘Like what?’

‘Who?’

Snivy eyed Tepig carefully before meeting Pikachu’s eyes meaningfully.

‘Our trainer.  He’s quite…energetic.’

Everyone glanced over to where Satoshi was gesturing wildly about something, spoon in hand.  He probably barely remembered that he was holding it Pikachu mused.  His ears twitched catching snippets of conversation and the pokedex’s recording.  Of course it was about pokemon.  The only thing that could really distract his trainer from food.

‘Yes. Yes he is.  He likes to sleep in, but once he’s eaten, he’ll be more alert and ready to go.  He’s much hardier than your average human.’

For a moment, Pikachu seemed to want to say something else, but changed his mind.  ‘Unfortunately, because of this, he’s far more reckless than most humans.’ Here, he gave an exasperated but fond sigh.  ‘That’s where we come in.  It’s our job to try to keep him alive and intact.’

Pidove blinked.  ‘How is that any different from keeping him safe?’

‘Intact means whole.  In one piece.  All his body parts still attached together.  This includes any bites someone might want to take out of him or melt off or burn off or shoot off or cut off or well…a lot of other not so nice things.  Alive…alive means what it does.  Breathing, eating, talking, walking, just moving. Existing.  That’s the most obvious part, but living, really living doesn’t mean doing just that.  The other part is keeping the…the spark or ember or, or whatever you call it, alive in a being.’

He frowned, looking down into his bowl as he tried to explain.

‘It’s the light in your eyes-if you have them-or the beating of your heart that comes doesn’t come from just living.  It’s what gives you a purpose.  Keeps you fighting.  Keeps you going through life and actually experiencing and feeling what you experience.   Sometimes things happen.  Bad things.  Things so bad, so painful that all you can do is go through the motions of living.  You don’t notice or maybe you do and that’s even worse because it means that you’ve given up completely.  You’ve lost all hope and you’re just waiting.  Waiting for the next breath.  Waiting for the next meal.  Waiting for someone to come save you.  Just waiting.  You don’t even care enough to want to live anymore.  You’ve lost your fight, your spark.  What makes you really alive.  And what’s a pokemon that isn’t alive?’

He looked up then, meeting each and every other pokemons’ entranced eyes.

‘A dead pokemon.’

The others froze and stared at the mouse, Tepig going so far as to let his mouth hang open enough for some pellets to drop back into his bowl.

‘Humans have the same thing inside and sometimes they feel sad and that’s fine.  Everyone has their ups and downs, even Satoshi as optimistic as he always seems to be. What’s bad is when they lose their spark.  It’s up to us to help them up when they need it the most and in turn, they’ll do the same for us.  That’s what it means to coexist with humans.  That’s part of our job not as pokemon, but as friends and partners. We work together to make each other stronger.’

Humans and pokemon as partners, all working together.  Pikachu’s philosophy was radically different from N’s.  That was the complete opposite of what N was planning to do.  The opposite of everything Team Plasma stood for, but Zorua couldn’t help but be swayed by Pikachu’s words the more he listened, no matter how guilty it made him feel.  Deep in his heart, that guilt twisted and coiled like the tentacles of a Frillish whenever he thought about how he wished that N would ultimately fail in his endeavors.

 ‘I…I have a spark?  But I’m not an electric pokemon.  And I don’t know any electric attacks…’

They all looked over at Axew who was probing his chest as if he could feel that pinch of electricity that Pikachu said that everyone had. 

Pikachu’s eyes softened.  ‘It’s not something like that.’ He explained gently.  ‘It’s such a basic thing but it has no known form.  You love Iris don’t you?’

The tiny dragon nodded enthusiastically.  ‘Of course I do!’

‘But can you describe what it looks like?’

Axew looked down, thinking hard.  ‘…no.’ He frowned sadly gazing into his half eaten bowl.

‘Well I can.’

Axew instantly perked up.  ‘Really?’ 

‘Yep.’  Pikachu gave him a confident nod.  ‘It’s easy once you know what to look for.’

He waited for Axew to respond, watching as the baby pokemon got more and more excited.

‘What?  What does it look like?  Can you teach me too?’

‘That’s impossible,’ scoffed Oshawott.  ‘You can’t see stuff like that.  Maybe an Attract attack, cause you can see the hearts, but that only last a little while.’

‘Of course it is.  You’ve been seeing it all this time even if you didn’t realize what it is.  It’s whenever you get a rub on the head even if the only reason is because you happened to be there at the right time.  It’s whenever you are sharing a meal with someone who will never begrudge you for asking for more food.  It’s whenever you are held and protected and kept warm because someone cares about you.  It’s whenever you are looked at and smiled at simply because someone is happy just to see you.  It’s whenever your name is called with energy and life and encouragement.   Satoshi loves us just like Iris loves Axew and Dento loves Pansage and Enne loves Zorua and they all show it in everything that they do.  And you all show it too when you respond back to that love and give your all and more in everything whether we are asked or not.’

Tepig suddenly began snarfing down the rest of his food as quickly as he could. 

‘Tepig?  What’s wrong?’

‘I-I’mmm-‘  He took a second to swallow.  ‘I’m gonna get some food for Satoshi to show how much I love him to-too.’  He grabbed the rim of his bowl, tilting it up to let the last of the brown pellets disappear down his gullet and took off at a run for the nearest apple tree-still carrying his bowl-even as his eyes teared up.  I’m loved.  I’m wanted.  Satoshi loves me.  My trainer loves me.  I’m loved.  He swore to bring back the biggest juiciest fruit he could find.

‘Wa-wait for me!’  Axew quickly stuffed the last of his meal into his mouth and chased after him still chewing.  ‘I want to get some for Iris!’

‘Hey!’  Oshawott followed suit.

‘I’m coming too!’  Pansage quickly shoveled away the last of it and bounded away, and just for the heck of it, took his bowl as well as everyone else seemed to be doing the same thing.  ‘You can’t reach the good stuff without me!’

In seconds, Pikachu, Snivy, Zorua, and Pidove were the only ones left.

Snivy delicately lifted a pellet and popped it into her mouth.  ‘By the time they’re done, the humans would have finished their food and they wouldn’t be hungry anymore.’

‘It’s the thought that counts.’

‘Is this part of your plan to help Tepig?’ questioned Zorua.

‘Help Tepig?’ Pidove tilted her head curiously.  ‘What’s wrong with him?’

‘There’s a difference between human raised and wild pokemon.  You didn’t come out of your pokeball that day, but remember when Tepig first joined us?  He had been abandoned by his trainer.  Tepig is a lab pokemon.  That means he was bred and raised specifically to be given to a human to be trained.’

‘Lab pokemon?’

‘The place that he is sent to is what humans call a lab.  Humans at labs make sure the pokemon that are going to be given away to new trainers are healthy and stronger than most of the wild pokemon nearby.  The day most lab pokemon look forward to is the day they are chosen by a new trainer.  This means that they are going on a journey to see explore the world and grow stronger.  Maybe even evolve much sooner than they would have been able to as having a trainer lets you concentrate on that since you don’t have to worry as much about food or shelter as that’s your trainer’s job.’

‘So he doesn’t know how to find food and shelter because he’s always relied on humans.’

‘That’s part of it.  But there’s more.  Being chosen as a starter pokemon-the first pokemon a trainer gets,’ he added at Pidove’s inquisitive look.  ‘There’s generally a stronger bond.  The trainer and pokemon together are taking their first steps to work together to fulfill their goals.  Your first and often times closest partner.  But sometimes…sometimes you get those trainers who only care for strength or looks.  They give up easily and toss away anything that they deem useless without ever looking back.  You could say that to be their pokemon is survival of the fittest, but…’  Pikachu shook his head sadly. 

‘That’s just cruel.  Some trainers don’t just break that bond-if it was ever even there in the first place-they break the hearts, hopes, and self-esteem of pokemon they get rid of.  If that discarded pokemon turns out to be stronger than expected, they sometimes try to take them back.  Tepig has lost these things with his first trainer, but Satoshi is building them back and he’ll be able to make them even stronger than before.’

Pidove cocked her head, observing the mouse with a thoughtful look and fluttered off to the forest.  Snivy stood up as well.  She gave Pikachu a searching look and seeming to find whatever she had been looking for, nodded once in understanding as she joined the rest of the rowdy pokemon in their harvest.

‘You sound so confident that he’ll be able to help.’  Remarked the black fox, not skeptical or condescending, simply stating a fact.

‘That’s because we will.  We’re working together as partners and together, we can do just about anything we put our minds to.’

‘So was this for Tepig?’

Pikachu hummed.  ‘Not really.  This is more for everybody actually.  But it just happens that Tepig needed to hear this the most.’

‘Then what was that whole thing about sparks and love about?’

‘A reminder…and a team-building exercise.’

‘Team?  Aren’t you all already part of one?’

‘No. Right now, we’re a bunch of pokemon that share a trainer.  Snivy and Pidove don’t even really love Satoshi yet, they just respect him and that’s okay.  They’ll come to love him in their own time.  Tepig likes him a lot but is still hesitant to love him although he’s a very resilient pokemon.  It shouldn’t take much longer.  He’s a simple pokemon and not prone to brooding over such negative things for long.  Oshawott…may be the only other one who truly does love Satoshi right now.  He’s a very…,’ for a moment, Pikachu struggled to find a nice word to describe the pretentiousotter. 

‘…simple pokemon in a very very different way than Tepig or Pidove, but his heart’s in the right place.  But Satoshi is a trainer and trainers aren’t just judged by how strong they are or how many pokemon they have.  They’re judged by their team. The loyalty each one has not just to their trainer, but to each other.  The kinds of bonds between various team members and the trainer that can create them is what the truly strong acknowledge.  We’re not a team yet Zorua.  But we will be. We will be.  Just you wait and see.’


Pidove eyed everyone else below her branch and then settled her speculative gaze back on the slowly-approaching Pikachu and Zorua.  Is this what Snivy and Tepig and Oshawott and Pansage and Zorua thought?  Is this what pokemon that had been raised by humans thought?  How they thought? How she would think?

She understood the basics.  The instinct that all wild pokemon had to a human.  Prove your worth and I will lend you my power.  It was ingrained in them the way battle was.  Both aspects were so closely tied to any pokemon that they didn’t need to voice it.  They just knew it.  It was a universal language between all pokemon and through it, they exchanged their thoughts and ways and through the pokemon themselves, humans could do the same, connecting in ways beyond any spoken word. 

But this, things like this, she had never thought about these kinds of things before.  Now that Pikachu had voiced it however, she understood as if she had known it all her life.  Being a trainer’s pokemon sounded like a lot of work, but…the rewards must be greater than she ever could have dreamed of if she could be as wise and happy as Pikachu seemed to be.

And evolution…well, she hadn’t expected to be able to reach that stage for quite a few seasons, but if what Pikachu had said was true then it would certainly be very nice. 


By the time Snivy and Pidove had arrived, a few of the previously empty bowls were filled with various berries and interestingly enough.  Cherries.  Actual cherries instead of the more common Cheri berries. 

‘There are more apple trees ahead of us.’ Explained Pansage.  ‘I’ve been through this route before some years ago.  Cherries are harder to find, but those capsules that humans have can keep things fresh forever.  It’s really convenient.’

‘That does sound convenient.  You could have food in the winter and it would be just as fresh when you find it in the spring.  I’ve heard about things like this from pokemon that live with humans,’ chirped Pidove. ‘,but I didn’t know that they could bring them along.  The ones I met said it was called a ref-refiger?’

‘Refrigerator,’ corrected the monkey.  ‘It keeps food cold and makes it last longer, but food will still spoil in there.  I’m talking about the blocks humans used to carry their things.  You saw it earlier didn’t you?  They pushed things and made it spit out whatever they put in earlier.’

She gave a quiet coo of comprehension as she plucked the riper cherries with a discerning eye and dropped it into Axew’s bowl.

‘Then what are years?’

‘I heard some of the humans say that before.  I think it’s how they measure their time.  Iris talks a little about things that happened to her a long time ago and she says that word, but I don’t know how long that is.’  The dragon looked at his elders wondering if anyone could explain it more clearly to them.

‘Ummm…I heard a human say that I was one year and two months old,’ offered Tepig. ‘But that was about…’ he tilted his head back in thought.  ‘…four months ago.  I think.  I was hungry for so long that I lost track of the days.’

‘I’m one year and five months old!’  proclaimed Oshawott.  ‘I’m older than you!’

‘Two plus four equals six,’ snapped Snivy.  ‘That means he’s one year and six months old.  An entire month older than you.’  You idiot, went unsaid but heard by everyone anyways. 

‘Oh yeah?  And how old are you?’ he challenged.

Pidove and Axew looked down but they didn’t want to interrupt the brewing argument.  Still, both were even more confused than before and Pansage wasn’t going to open his mouth lest he drew their attention.

The rustle of leaves stopped the one-sided fight before it could start and Pikachu and Zorua came into view.  Pidove sighed in relief.  Pikachu seemed to be a smart pokemon.  Maybe he could explain.

‘Pikachu!’  The mouse looked up.  ‘What’s a year? And what are months?’

‘They’re both how humans measure time.  Humans created something called a calendar to keep track of it.  A month is about the length of an entire moon cycle.  There are twelve months in a year.  You could also say a year is four full seasons worth of time and four months is about how long one season is although it varies depending where you’re at.  I could go into detail about it, but it’ll take a long time to explain.  Some humans even use different calendars so the time counted is still different.’ 

‘That sounds confusing.  Why don’t they just use one type?’

Pikachu shrugged.  ‘I never said they weren’t.  That’s why they’re humans. They come up with things that most pokemon never even think of.  Speaking of which, are you all done yet?  Ours will start panicking if they realize that we’re all gone.’

In the ensuing scramble to gather fruit, Snivy took the time to eye Pikachu who had taken it upon himself to bring the same red and white capsule from the night before and extracted the same pail from it.  He was directing everyone to put the cherries in it, leaving larger berries and apples in their bowls and arranging them so that they were balanced enough to not fall out when they were being carried back.  That showed the sort of intelligence and comprehensive ability that could only come with experience. 

Pikachu had deceivingly innocent eyes just like Satoshi and he was clearly nowhere near past his prime.  But he also seemed used to being in command and he was wise beyond his years.  How old was he anyways?  Surely not too far from her own age of three and a half years.


“Well, I guess we should start cleaning up now.  It’s still going to take at least three hours to get to the next town and I’d like to get there sometime before nightfall so that I can have time to restock and plan our meals for the next leg of our journey and find a place to wash these dishes.” 

“Alright then Dento.”  Satoshi stood up with a stretch.  “I need to pay a visit to the Pokemart myself.”

“Umm…guys?”  Iris glanced around.  “Where are our pokemon?” 

Snapping out of his daze, N’s head whipped over to where the pokemon had been eating only to see an empty expanse of grass.  Even the bowls were gone.

“Pansage!”

“Axew!  Axew, where are you?”

“Zoru-“

“Pikapi!”

“Pikach-ack!”

Satoshi was promptly dog-piled by most of his pokemon.  He sat up and Pikachu scrambled up his chest to take his place crouching on his trainer’s shoulder.  Oshawott hugged an arm, Tepig slid down from his chest to his lap, Pidove landed on his other shoulder and Snivy stood on the opposite side of the water otter, not touching anyone.

“What have you been up to?”  Dento asked holding out his Pansage at arm’s length.

“Pan!  Pansage!” ‘Fruit!  We got fruits for you!’  The monkey pointed at the pile of gathered fruit.

“Were you still hungry Axew?  Did you want more?” 

The dragon quickly shook his head. “Ax.  Ax. Axew.” ‘No.  No. Not for me.  For you.’ 

“I think it’s for us.  For all of us to share together later.  Isn’t that right?”  Satoshi beamed at his pokemon who gave a chorus of agreement.

“Well, if that’s the case, then thank you very much everyone.  I’m sure the effort you put into gathering this will make our meals all the more delicious.”  With that, Dento headed over to inspect the haul.

Axew scrambled over gesturing madly for Iris to follow and Satoshi stood up as well, making sure that his pokemon were out of his way first.

“You can understand what they’re saying?”  N asked him, almost trembling with the need to know.

“’Course I can!  There are just some things that you don’t need words to understand.”

“Pikachu!”  ‘That’s right!’

N watched stunned as the trainer and his pokemon walk away in silence, joining the rest of the group in putting away the fruit.

Satoshi had just said something profound.  Something that he should have known, did know, but at the same time didn’t.  Don’t need words?  How did you speak without words.  N had always been able to speak to pokemon.  To not be able to understand their words would make him no different than the other pitiful humans.  It was what had set him apart.  Made him special.  Made him a hero because he could hear their words and become their champion.  Because he was different.  Different enough to not be wanted by-

A weight scrambled up his back and settled on his shoulder, snapping him out of his thoughts.  It was a familiar presence and N found himself instinctively adjusting to make sure Zorua wouldn’t fall.

The fox opened his mouth and N reflexively scrambled to catch whatever he had dropped.  Cradled in his palms were several dark red cherries. He gazed at them for a long moment, then turned his head and met Zorua’s large eyes, nearly the same shade of blue as his.

“There are just some things that you don’t need words to understand.”

I…I think I understand this much Satoshi. 

He smiled at Zorua.  Thank you my friend.

Zorua smiled back, nuzzling N’s cheek gently.  You are welcome my friend.


“There’s a lot of apple trees here.” Satoshi commented. 

“Indeed.  But what about Kanto?  There’s quite a bit that doesn’t grow in this country and has to be imported.  In fact, Isshu imports a lot of things from other regions.  Especially the rarer berries.  There aren’t any major berry farms that I know of in Isshu as the main ones used by people are rather abundant everywhere.” 

“Well, fruits like these are usually grown in orchards and farms.  Berries trees are becoming plentiful in Kanto now, but you don’t see things like apples just on the road side like this. In fact…” 

Satoshi took a moment to look around.  Pikachu as well.  “…is this entire route full of fruit like this?”

“Yep.  It’s apples and Orans and Pechas all the way from here to Nacrene City.  Actually, there’s plenty of fruit all around Isshu.  Especially along the major routes that pokemon trainers frequent.”

“Hmmm.  That’s really convenient.” 

“Indeed it is.  In fact, there’s an old folk tale about this called Johnny Appleseed.  It’s actually based off a real person and the things he did a few hundred years ago.”

“That’s the one about the man who planted apple trees everywhere for travelers to eat right?”

“Johnny Appleseed?” At the twin expressions of confusion and curiosity from both N, Satoshi, and their pokemon partners, Dento began to explain.

“Yes.  Johnny Appleseed is, or well, was a man whose real name is John Chapman.  The stories of him planting fruit trees everywhere he went weren’t exactly true. He started up apple tree nurseries and left them in the care of neighbors only to return to tend to them every now and then.  Berries are considered a separate category of food although they could technically be classified as fruits.  They share characteristics such as miraculously rapid growth rates, guaranteed propagation with a single berry, and the strange trait of the entire tree withering away if the last one is picked.”

N’s mind flashed back to Satoshi’s earlier words. 

“But we're leaving some behind for the wild pokemon too and they know how much to take before it's too harmful.”

How strange.  That humans would know something so vital to life for wild pokemon.  Back before Father had taken him in and given him the Mission, he had known this hadn’t he?  Or rather he had known but didn’t understand the full implications until now.  The pokemon who had taken it upon themselves to raise him-his family-had hoarded food for the winter, but had never taken more than a certain amount from each bush or tree no matter how little they had.  Now N could understand that being hungry near the end of winter was a small price for not starving before spring’s arrival brought in the new crop.

“But I digress.” 

Dento’s voice snapped him out of his musings.

“Apple trees grown from seeds are rarely sweet.  In fact, most of them are sour or bitter.  So a mature sweet apple tree usually had a branch cut and then grafted onto a sapling.  This not only speeds up the time the tree takes to bear fruit, but you are guaranteed sweet apples.  At first, Johnny’s nurseries were just set up to start growing the trees for sale, but in his later years, the people who bought these saplings began to graft and plant them for travelers and pokemon alike.  Because the saplings mostly came from his nurseries, Johnny was attributed with the spread of the apple trees all across Isshu.  To this day, there are people who still like to continue the tradition although it’s becoming increasingly rare.  There’s even a group called the Johnny Appleseed Foundation where members travel around planting and tending to the apple trees just like he did.”

This was all very fascinating and N soaked in the knowledge like a sponge.  Who knew that there were humans doing such a good thing.  Perhaps some members of Team Plasma were a part of this Johnny Appleseed Foundation.  They should be rewarded if they were.

“But the really interesting part is this.  Johnny Appleseed loved all pokemon.  There are stories of how he cared for them.  Like the one where he started a campfire in his shelter during a snowstorm only to discover that a Beartic and her cubs were sleeping inside as well.  Rather than disturb them, he moved his fire closer to the entrance and slept in the open air.  There was also the story of how he heard that a Zebstrika was to be put down for being ill and its owners did not have the desire to spend the money for medicine to nurse it back to health, so he bought it along with a few acres of land and did just that.  Eventually he entrusted that Zebstrika to a person who promised to treat the pokemon properly.

Because of his generous nature to them, Johnny could cross through parts of the land that most humans wouldn’t for fear of attack.  It is said that Johnny talked to pokemon and…that he could understand them when they talked back.”

At this N’s eyes narrowed in on the gym leader.

“Talking to pokemon?”

Dento continued on, unaware of how focused the man was.  Satoshi and Pikachu glanced at N but didn’t interrupt.

“Crazy isn’t it?  But stories tend to get embellished quite a bit over time.  That’s why Johnny Appleseed is known as a tall tale.”

N was about to correct him.  He could talk to pokemon too!  He told people this all the time, but most never seemed to believe him.  Yet he never got the chance.  Satoshi and Pikachu were both still eyeing him and he hesitated for a moment.  Just a moment. Which was enough for Iris to put her two cents in.

“I don’t know if that’s too far from the truth.”

“What makes you say that Iris?”

“In the Dragon Village, everyone grows up learning to foster a connection with Dragon-type pokemon although some are better at it than others.  Most of the elders are adept at handling rowdy ones and it’s said the head of the village can even speak with them.”

“Really?” 

“I asked the Old Matriarch once but she just laughed and said that when I reached her age I might be able to answer that for myself.”

“It still seems pretty far-fetched to me though.”

Iris shrugged.

“Maybe.  But she can pull a full grown dragon pokemon out of Rage just by talking to it and I’ve seen her settle an argument between two angry Haxorus without ever involving another person or pokemon.”

More people who could talk to pokemon? So…he…wasn’t alone?  He wasn’t…unnatural?  No.  He was unnatural.  He was a hero.  He was-

“Dragon Village?  Is that like an entire clan of dragon Trainers?”

Satoshi again.  The trainer was becoming the biggest reason for the derailment of his thoughts.

“Kinda.  The pokemon our village reveres the most are the dragon types, especially since Isshu’s most famous legendaries are both dragon pokemon, but that doesn’t mean that everyone there only uses dragon pokemon.  Are there any such clans in Kanto?”

“Nope.  Not in Kanto, but there is Fusube City in Johto, the neighboring region of Kanto.  It’s set in the northern mountains and most of the trainers from there end up becoming dragon-type trainers because the clan lives there.  The gym leader, Ibuki, is one.”

“Really?  That’s amazing!  Axew!  We have to visit someday!”

“Don’t forget to try for the Rising Badge too Iris.  Ibuki’s the strongest gym leader in Johto and if you’re lucky the champion, Wataru may even be there.” 

“I’ve heard that Wataru is the champion of both Kanto and Johto,” Dento chimed in.

“Yeah, because Kanto and Johto share a league and the regions are only separated by a mountain range.  But each side has its own gym leaders and…”


N was quiet.  It wasn’t the broody, far away quiet.  Nor was it the I-failed-to-be-a-hero or I-failed-to-help-this-pokemon quiet.  This was the inquisitive quiet.  The quiet that involved N being as unobtrusive as possible so that he could take in as much as possible.  Zorua hadn’t seen as much of this quiet in a very long time.  Before the man who claimed to be his sire came, N would often fall into these silences as he tried to learn the ways of the forest and pokemon within.  Memorizing everything that he could and engraving the knowledge deep into his mind. 

N had a thirst for learning that few could truly rival.  It was part of why they were so close.  Not that N wasn’t close to other pokemon, but the two of them were constantly curious about anything and everything and so they had gone off on explorations together more often than the others combined.  Old Darmanitan hadn’t cared about why rain fell more often on one side of the mountain and not the other, only that it was coming and if he would be in his shelter before then.  Archen and Tirtouga preferred to search for food or sleeping instead of wondering why the moon was constantly going through cycles instead of keeping a consistent shape like the sun. 

It wasn’t until N had been taken in by Ghetsis that they had found the answers to these questions…but was finding out really worth the price of N’s freedom?

Maybe, maybe not.

Because while N may not realize it, Zorua had come to find that there were more ways to keep someone chained than physical restraints.  Ways far stronger than a pokeball could ever be.  He just wished he had learned this sooner…

But was it worth keeping N’s attention occupied with this surprising trainer and his equally surprising partner?  Absolutely.  As long as their new companions could keep up a relevant stream of interesting new topics, N would be far too distracted to even think of the Mission. 

So Zorua snuggled into N’s collar, feeling much better than he had in a long time.


Another day and night filled with excitement passed and N was the last to fall asleep in one of the pokemon center bunk beds.  He stared up as if he could see through the metal supports and mattress to the trainer who had almost died.  Again.

Yet Satoshi didn’t die.  He was alive and well.  Darmanitan had caught the bell with him and Pikachu and everything turned out just fine.  But N had been so worried that he had forgotten to ask about his main reason for following the foreigner and then there had simply been no time afterwards.

No opportunity had come up for him to tell Dento or Iris that he could talk to pokemon and Satoshi never mentioned it to them even when Iris had wondered what exactly  the Darumakka were saying.  Why?  Maybe he had forgotten in the aftermath of all the excitement and the way that what had happened had been a direct strike against what Ghetsis had been teaching him for the last decade and a half.

His thoughts would have continued to run in circles if he hadn’t simply passed out in exhaustion.


The group didn’t end up leaving the town until late morning as everyone had ended up sleeping in.

The activities of the previous day left N in a fairly good mood even if he was still trying to reorient himself.  Then Nurse Joy’s announcement that the bell tower would not only be renovated but made habitable for the Darmanitan and Darumakka only lifted his spirits higher even as it stunned him.

The people who could make a decision like that had to be both influential and rich enough to afford it.

Did enough humans really care to do such a thing?

Father had always said that humans would only harm pokemon in the end and the only true way to save them would be through separation, but ever since N had begun to travel for himself, he had come across something extraordinary.

Humans and pokemon working together willingly…it was like something out of a fantasy story.

First, Touya with his Snivy and Touko with her Oshawott, then there was Satoshi and Pikachu, and now a town was making allocations for the fire pokemon who had protected the tower for no reason other than the fact that they wanted too.

Or maybe it was just Satoshi.  Satoshi was special.  Satoshi was different.  Satoshi was set apart from the twins.  Was Satoshi a…hero? 

“Daru Daru!” ‘Thank you!’

“Darma!”  ‘Come visit us anytime!’

He watched the others who were shouting their joy to the pokemon waving from the tower and decided to join them while resolving to think about the matter later.


Satoshi was battle happy.  A part of N inwardly sighed later.  And just as battle happy was Pikachu.  They were so alike that in hindsight, their first meeting with him wasn’t just a coincidence.  With every moment that passed in their company, N found that they seemed to think alike, act alike, and even sound alike.  The trainer seemed to always be brimming with energy and it was like Pikachu was just as charged with it.

Satoshi had been constantly pestering Iris for a battle even after the whole debacle with the Scolipede and her pokemon. N hadn’t even had time to try to explain that it was all an accident before it had been flung away by Excadrill. 

Zorua hopped off N’s shoulder, unpleasantly reminding him of the fox’s earlier offer for a battle. Before he could stop him though, Iris’s half exasperated, half sarcastic voice rang out.

“If you want to battle so badly, why don’t you and Pikachu do it?”

As the familiar fire came alive in the pairs’ dark brown eyes, N couldn’t bring himself to protest.  Mostly because he still couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“Eh? No way.  Are you serious?”

Her words summed up the rest of the party’s thoughts perfectly.

“Come on, Pikachu!  Thunderbolt!”

At least pokemon weren’t being hurt-because there was no way a human like Satoshi could truly hurt a pokemon as strong as Pikachu-so it was fine right?

“Alright!  Volt Tackle!  I’ll have a go too!”

…Right?

As they watched Satoshi get knocked down over and over only to get back up and try again and again, N and Zorua decided that maybe he was just crazy.

They both winced as Pikachu’s Quick Attack sent Satoshi flying into another tree trunk.

“Again!  This time let’s see if we can spice it up!”

Definitely crazy.


“Geez…what were you thinking? Even with Pikachu taking it easy, you’ve practically been barbecued.  I can still smell your burnt hair from here.” 

Iris continued to scold him even as she finished pouring her herbal remedy into a cup and handed it to the trainer who obediently sipped it. 

“Blegh.”  Satoshi stuck out his tongue in disgust.  “It’s bitter.  And spicy and sour.”

“That just means it’s good for you.  The spiciness comes from Cheri berries to make sure you don’t end up suffering from paralysis later and most of the bitterness is from Rawst berries to deal with your burns.  The Lum berries that Pikachu managed to find are a bit young, so they’re a bit more tart than usual, but they’re also ripe enough to be at full strength.”

Sighing, the trainer chugged the rest of the drink down, making a face as he did so.

“Eh.  It was worth it though.”

“Worth it?”  N eyed him oddly even as he spread Iris’s newly made burn salve on Satoshi’s back. He was feeling a serious case of déjà vu.  “How?”

“I know exactly where Pikachu is and what we need to work on the most right now.  That’s going to be the focus of our next training session.” 

“Pika chu!”  ‘I can’t wait!’

“’Kay then!  We’ll start right away!”

Grrrrrrooooowwwllll….

“Eheheh.”  Satoshi rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.  “After dinner?”

Pikachu’s stomach gave an answering growl.  For his small size, it could certainly make an impressively loud noise.

“Pika Pika.”  ‘After dinner.’

To quote Dento, they were a truly unique coupling. 

Despite how Satoshi wore his emotions on his sleeves and had a face like an open book, N found that he couldn’t truly read him at all.  Then again, he was starting to suspect that only Pikachu could. 


“But I can-”

“No you can’t!”

“How about-“

“No way!”

“What if-“

“No!”

“But-“

“Nonono!  No! Sit!  You need to keep the salve on for at least three more hours.  If we had shelter, I’d make you keep it on overnight, but we don’t so you’re going to keep it on until bedtime.”

“But Iris! it’s not that baaaaahhh-ed.”  He winced and pouted at an entirely unapologetic Pikachu who had not so subtly zapped him in the side where part of his wriggling had managed to dislodge some of the pungent green goop that N had caked onto him.  With a sigh, he stopped moving long enough to let a surprisingly quiet and patient N dutifully reapply it.

“Argh!  You’re just like a kid.  Just trust me on this okay?  I’ve been learning how to treat injuries as soon as I could walk.  While you aren’t that bad compared to some of the stuff I’ve seen, I wouldn’t even consider you in good health.”

“I don’t even know how you managed to keep going for as long as you did.  Doesn’t it hurt?” asked Dento as he shouldered the basket-like pack.

Satoshi frowned and rolled each shoulder twice before stretching and flexing the rest of his limbs, wiggling his fingers and toes to check as well. 

“Not that much.  It almost feels like a cross between a mild sunburn and like I’ve been scaling a hot cliff barehanded and bare footed all day.  I’ve had a lot worst so this isn’t too bad all things considered.  Pikachu’s been shocking me since the day we met.  You get used to it.  Sides, you won’t be able to tell that I was ever burned at all.  Maybe even by tomorrow.”

Iris sat back and stared at him.  “That’s…that’s not normal.”

He shrugged, unconcerned.  “Maybe…but what if Pikachu and I just-”

“Absolutely not! Geez, it seems like your pokemon have more sense than you do.”

She turned to Pikachu.

“Make sure that he doesn’t do anything stupid and set his progress back while we’re gone okay?”

Pikachu gave her a salute.  A distinctly human gesture that had N blinking in surprise.

“Pika!”  ‘Got it!’

“Hey!  I’m not going to do something like that.  You trust me on this don’t you Pikachu?”

Pikachu fixed his best who-are-you-trying-to-kid? look on his trainer.

“Aww.  But Pikachuuuuuu.”

The mouse’s cheeks sparked in warning as he crossed his arms and tapped a single foot.  Satoshi settled down heaving a resigned sigh.

“Fine.”


In the end, Ash was forced to stay behind with Pikachu while Dento, Iris, N and the pokemon headed off to forage for more supplies.

“That Satoshi.  I know kids who are half his age and still more mature than him.”

“Satoshi’s not that bad,” protested Dento.  “He’s just…”

“He’s a good trainer.” Defended N.  Zorua raised a red brow at the almost instantaneous reply.  Coming from N, that was practically glowing praise seeing as he didn’t consider any trainer as good.  Not even decent ones…until now.

The girl raised an eyebrow.  “I think the word you’re looking for is crazy. Still,” she sighed, “I didn’t say he was bad.  But it seems like he’s trying to give everyone heart attacks at least twice a day.  As far as traveling partners go, well, things are interesting with him around.  At least he’s constantly keeping you on your toes.”

“That’s only too true.” Agreed the gym leader.  “It’s this unique taste that convinced me to that I should come along.  At first he seemed like your usual rookie trainer.  A bold taste, spiced with passion and basted with dreams of making it to the top, but during our battle, I found that it was actually like a surprisingly unique taste.  A bit heavier than expected, but his various flavors are all complement each other and transition from one to the next smoothly.  Watching him battle my brothers, I could tell that there was something different about this dish, but it wasn’t until it was my turn that I realized what was so special…”

He trailed off and Iris would have thought that he was only do it for dramatic effect, but those green eyes had the far off look of reminiscence.

“What?  What’s so special about him?”

“Satoshi isn’t just a dish.  He’s a full course meal unto himself.  And an excellent one at that.”

“…What.”  It wasn’t even a question this time. 

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.” Agreed N.

“During a battle most trainers,” Dento explained, “can be considered as a single dish.  A single plate, maybe even like a burger, or ice cream cone at the most fundamental level.  You can get a general idea of what they’re like.  There are variations of course.  Like a burger with onions and swiss cheese instead of ketchup and pickles or chocolate dipped strawberry scoops with extra nuts versus vanilla soft serve.   With one battle, you see a part of the trainer or ‘taste’ a little of what he or she has to offer if you will.  Are you following me?”

At the nods, he continued.

“Generally, most trainers have a particular style that becomes apparent as the battle goes on.  A certain flavor if you will.  It might change a little to suit the situation, like adding lettuce or sprinkles but ultimately, it’ll still taste like the burger or ice cream cone. 

Satoshi is different though.  On the outside, he appears to look like a regular if slightly foreign burger.  Ultimately, it’s still the same.  Two buns with a patty set in between.  But when you pick up that burger to eat it-that is start the battle-you’ll find that the table you’re sitting at is actually full of food and far bigger than it looked from your seat. 

It’s covered in plates, bowls, glasses, utensils, and so many other things that you can’t see it all from where you’re sitting.  Most of it is covered so you can’t tell exactly what else is there, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still smell it.  Smell the aroma of possibilities. 

Everyone has that table, but how much is on it and whether it’s enticing or just plain disgusting varies from person to person. Satoshi’s of course, is very very appealing.  Simple fare that houses a not-so- simple taste.”

Dento was almost drifting across the ground, practically floating away in his admiration.

“And then you take a bite of that burger.  And another and another because you suddenly find yourself ravenous even if you weren’t all that hungry before.  The taste is strong, but not overbearing and it defies every expectation of what you imagined it would be in the best way possible.  And then you realize that he’s also giving you a drink and fries or chips to go along with your burger.  Alone these things might be tasty on their own, but together they make a wonderful meal worthy of a three-maybe even four star-restaurant even if each and every item is something that you could order from a fast food chain.”

He sighed happily.

“I’ve always been a bit more sensitive than my brothers when it comes to things like this.  It’s part of the reason I chose to become a pokemon sommelier, someone who’s skill lies in creating the perfect marriage between wine and food, pokemon and human.  You can have the most expensive one that any restaurant has to offer, but if it’s not a good match, you’ll end up ruining them both.  Sometimes the best ones can be unexpectedly simple.”

Not a good match…like Snivy and the girl N realized. 

“I had always hoped to meet someone like Satoshi.  I’ve heard rumors before, that some of the strongest trainers, Elite Four members, and champions are like this and even then it’s rare, but I never expected someone so young…”

“Young?  What rumors?”

Dento furrowed his brows as he tried to explain.

“You can compare losing to getting your bill and finding it to be very expensive, but you’ll gladly pay it if you can just experience that perfect marriage again because you are not just satisfied at the end of your meal, you are actually in too good of a mood to be upset by even the little things that would normally bother you to no end.  That in itself is a skill.  You could almost say that Satoshi is like a…battle sommelier?  No no, that’s not quite it, but it’s the closest comparison I can think of at the moment.  He’s an entire meal that matches itself to your taste in ways that you weren’t expecting.  Even if you didn’t like it at all, you can still appreciate it.  What’s more, I suspect that even people who don’t like it at first will start craving it again soon enough no matter how much they try to deny it.”

They had reached a suitable clearing surrounded by more fruit trees, but no one began to pick anything, too entranced by Dento’s personal exposition of their most passionate member.

“It’s...let me put it this way.  Iris.  You want to become a dragon master right?”

“That’s right.”

“You’d study up to learn all the weaknesses and strength of dragon pokemon.  Even if you have other pokemon, you put all your focus into creating a flavor suited for connecting with dragon types the most.  You’d try to find ways to get around their limitations and use their strengths to the best effect.  It’s the same with most gym leaders, Elite Four members, and even the Champions themselves that usually specialize in a certain pokemon type. 

Most trainers end up splitting themselves to create a balanced team to handle every type they’d possibly encounter, but it sort of turns into a ‘Jack of all trades, Master of none’ situation.  To negate this, a trainer would end up creating a core team that is trained and used more than the rest.  A balanced elemental team made up of the trainers closest, usually oldest and strongest pokemon.  They build a strong rapport with these pokemon in particular and the ones that are rarely used don’t end up with the same level of affection or loyalty that can only come with a lot of time spent together to learn about each other.  You’ll notice that Satoshi has already created one.  His sixth pokemon will most likely be some type that he doesn’t have yet.”

“Okay-hold up.  I get what you’re saying.  The pokemon he has now is what we’re going to be seeing the most of.  But aren’t you getting off track? What about the rumors?”

“No.  He’s getting to it.” Iris nearly jumped.  N had been so quiet that she had completely forgotten that he was there.  “Satoshi can connect with all types of pokemon as fast as any ‘master’, any ‘specialist’ could.  Is that what you’re saying?”

“Right.” Dento nodded as he crossed his arms.  “Watching my brothers battle and then lose is not an uncommon sight, seeing as we’re the weakest gym leaders in Isshu and our primary job is to test beginning trainers.  However, each of us has our own style, our own unique taste and preferences.  Our main modus operandi is actually to evaluate and prepare new trainers to learn how to overcome type disadvantages by sending out the weakness of a person’s chosen pokemon.  Usually that’s an Oshawott, Tepig, or Snivy as these are fresh trainers who choose to keep their pokemon out of their pokeball for protection or companionship on the first route from the lab.

It’s likely for them to have caught something like a Deerling, Pidove, or Patrat by then.  It’s less likely for someone who has a Tepig to show up with something like a Ducklett or Swanna at this stage where as most young Deerling have yet to learn a grass attack beyond Leech Seed so even Oshawott trainers may show up with one.”

“Wow.  You sure know a lot about this.”

Dento gave her a wry grin. 

“It’s a part of the parcel that comes with being a gym leader even as far down the food chain as the Striaton Gym is.  You have to know what most of your opponents will consist of and how to handle them accordingly.  Ultimately, my brothers and I are going to lose.  A lot.  But we still have to be prepared to the best of our abilities at a moment’s notice for any officials who come to test whether the gym is up to League standards or not.

None of us had ever faced a Pikachu before, so we were all eager to test our skills.  However, Satoshi requested to take on all three of us.  In consecutive battles even.  That meant he had enough pokemon that he was confident about sending into one-on-one gym battles.  How long has he had them Iris?”

“Eh?  Oh, well Satoshi only had Pikachu when I first met him.  He just started his journey and had only been in Isshu for a day.  Then…he battled and caught Pidove and Oshawott followed him from the lab so the professor just gave it to him.  That was on the second day we started traveling together.  On the third, he got Tepig who…was in really bad shape.  We spent an extra two days in Accumula Town to get Tepig all the health checkups from the pokemon center and a little physical rehab to try to build some muscle back.  Snivy was caught on the same day as your gym battle, so aside from Pikachu, I’d say a week at most.”

By this point, Dento’s brows had nearly crawled up to his hairline. 

“That’s even more impressive than my initial estimate.  Trainers who come to this gym only fight a single battle with one pokemon for a reason.  That’s usually their starter because any wild pokemon they’ve just caught is usually not experienced or strong enough to handle a human trained one unless they have prior training.  Even with Satoshi’s new pokemon having been owned beforehand, it takes time to learn about their individual quirks.

Tepig’s level was 14 after Snivy had been caught.  At the time Satoshi faced Pod, Tepig had to have been at least 6 to 8 levels lower than Pansear and his taste was a bold flavor with a strong impact. Exactly how Pod likes his food and his fights. 

Oshawott’s battle with Pansage was something that suited my preferences as well.  I love mysteries and what had seemed like a clear cut case for us turned into a stunning upset that we’ve only just begun to unravel.  It was truly a wonderful display of skill, luck and strength.”

Pansage gave an agreeing noise and Oshawott blushed happily with the acknowledgement even as he puffed his chest up.

“But the most impressive one of all was probably Pikachu.  Out of the three of us, Corn is the strongest trainer. He specializes in elegant techniques and perfect timing to bring out the optimum flavor at the most suitable moment. 

Pikachu’s use of his skills to keep off the ground and negate Mud Sport’s advantage can be seen as the same.  Combining both Double Team and Quick Attack to create moving illusions is an excellent strategy as the form created from Double Team fades when hit, but since he kept moving so fast, it was like watching thirty more show up for every one Panpour popped. To continue to maintain such a thing though has to take quite a bit of energy which is where the use of the rocks on the field to change directions for attacking makes it a functional one as well. 

Here’s where the timing part comes in. Pikachu would have had to memorize the angle and placement of every rock he used as a launching pad.  Rocks which he has had less than thirty minutes to see beforehand while Panpour knows the field like the back of his paw.  At the speed he was moving, if he misjudged even once, it could have broken both the illusions and the attack.  Too much strength and Pikachu would have winded himself upon impact, possibly even broken something, or over shot his target.  Too little and he wouldn’t have been able to launch himself off with enough power to damage to his opponent. 

Then there’s the use of his Iron Tail.  Traditionally, it’s used to shatter stone with a single powerful strike like a pick axe or sledge hammer.  However, this is the first time I’ve seen it be used to create a saw blade.  With enough speed and power, Pikachu could probably saw though trees and maybe even boulders as well.”

Snivy and Pansage traded glances unnoticed by the others but didn’t interrupt.

“And then there was the finishing move.  Thunderbolt.  From his spot, there was no room or time for him to pull off another Iron Tail with enough momentum to deal a finishing blow as the last one was still carrying him over and past Panpour.  Satoshi might have ordered it earlier, but Pikachu had to judge for himself what the best course of action to take would be. 

This is where you can tell just how well trained Pikachu is.  Most pokemon would have probably continued past Panpour, landed on the ground and turn around to shoot off another attack and that’s only with a trainer’s commands.  A lot of new pokemon don’t know how to function without a trainer telling them what to do and they often wait for the next order, making them waste time. Panpour would have been able to fire off another Scald or Water Gun in those few precious seconds and win the battle.

If Snivy hadn’t run the first time, I’m not sure I could confidently say that we would have still had to chase after her like that even if he was several levels below her.”

There was silence for a long moment as everyone tried to digest this new tidbit and N and the pokemon remembered Pikachu’s lessons.  The whole thing took on a different light when they realized just how much control he had to have been exerting over everything.  Not just the electricity used to knock down the apples, but the spin and power he had put into hitting the basket to catch every single fruit without bruising them.

“That’s-that’s insane.  And to think that he’s still doing things like trying to capture pokemon without weakening them first or using bad type match ups.  I can’t think of anything but a brand new trainer and then he goes and pulls something like that off…you still haven’t told us about that rumor yet though.”

“Ack!  I really have digressed this time.  The point is, even regular people who aren’t trainers or don’t deal with pokemon on a near daily basis generally have a particular affinity for certain types.  Even trainers who have a variety of pokemon end up favoring certain traits, skills, and personalities.  Satoshi though, has a flavor, an aroma unlike anything I’ve ever come across.  It seems like he can bring out the best in a pokemon and in next to no time at all.  A perfect marriage with any pokemon that takes months or years to achieve happens in minutes or days.  It’s like finding out that your bun is hiding a filet mignon prepared just to your taste instead of the fast food frozen patty that you were expecting.

What’s even more amazing is that it shows up the most when he’s at a disadvantage.  It’s almost like his entire style is based on fighting against overwhelming odds where he can’t afford to not give it his all and yet he doesn’t seem to survive it so much as he thrives on it.  I ‘tasted’ this during our battle, but when I tried to ask him about it, he couldn’t really give me an answer.   This is why I chose to leave the gym and travel with him.  I want to find what this hidden ‘flavor’ is, what is his secret to winning when it seems like the ingredients, the equipment, the audience, and even the very judges are stacked against him!”

His eyes sparkling in delight, Dento flung out his arms as he continued.

“Instead of having a thousand different flavors suited for a thousand different people, it’s a single one that suits the palettes of an infinite number of customers!  It’s the Ultimate Flavor!”

Iris could feel her eye twitching, but was unable to stop it.

“You got all this just from the first couple hours of meeting Satoshi?  And now you think that kid somehow possesses this legendary one-taste-fits-all Flavor?”

“Exactly!”

“So you’re saying that he’s also been deliberately handicapping himself this entire time just to create an unfair situation that would be actually be the best for him?”

“Ahh, not quite.  Here’s where it gets interesting.  I don’t think that’s it at all.  He’s already been through one league.  Eight badges would still take time to gather even if you traveled by some method other than your own feet which I doubt that he did.  His experiences have molded his style into what it is now and he’s simply subconsciously better equipped to handle it in his own unique way.  He had no idea what I was talking about or even how he pulled off those wins.  Just that he did.

As you have probably noticed, he’s capable of thinking rationally, but more often than not, he’s simply going by his instincts and emotions.  His heart over his head.  Serious situations will end up forcing him to focus, thus bringing them together and that’s when you see him pull off those ‘miracles’ of his.  He’s most likely a very competent trainer, but simple and rash enough to make it seem like he’s a rookie and unorthodox just subtly enough for most people to chalk it entirely up to luck.”

N’s mind whirled at the implications.  He had never heard of a pokemon sommelier until now, but with Dento’s lengthy, informative and, for the most part, logical analysis, a wave of excitement rose up from within threatening to break his composure. 

Legendary…one-of-a-kind…prevailing against overwhelming odds…all were things that could be used to describe heroes.  And Dento thought that Satoshi was special too...

Listening to the quiet burst of chatter from the pokemon below showed that they were just as excited about the possibility of being under the command of this oh-so-special trainer.

Even Snivy’s red eyes were gleaming just a little brighter.

“There’s just one more thing I want to know.” Said Iris.

“Hmm?”

“Why did you have to describe him with burgers?  Couldn’t you have just said that he’s interesting without all the food metaphors?”

Dento grinned, a little sheepish and a little sly at the same time.

“Where would the fun be in that?”


Snivy mused about her new traveling partners as she idly picked off fruits and berries from the trees with her vines and dropped them down to N’s basket below.

Pikachu, Satoshi’s starter.  Pidove, battled and captured just like her.  Tepig, abandoned and rescued by their trainer.  What about Oshawott?  Everything about him simply screamed lab raised and the obliviousness of the sheltered was clearly stamped across his freckled face. 

‘Oshawott.’ Snivy called.

‘Yeah?’

‘You’re a lab pokemon right?  Why did you decide to join Satoshi even though he already had a starter pokemon?’

‘Well…’ Oshawott blushed happily in reminiscence.  ‘He called me cute.’

‘…’

How…how superficial. 

‘Any other reason?’ Prompted N as if he couldn’t believe that it was that simple.

‘Nope.  Satoshi was the first person to ever call me cute.  He’s got good eyes.  No other human has been able to see just how great and handsome I am with just a single look.  I could tell that he was special right away.  Yep, Oshawott I said to myself.  He’s definitely a great trainer alright and I’m gonna follow him to the end of my days.’  And Oshawott nodded in a self-certain manner with cross arms and closed eyes.

He didn’t say anything about greatness and handsome is different from cute!

This pokemon is incredibly shallow…and incredibly stupid.  This was her new team mate?  Snivy could see N staring at the otter from the corner of her eye, his face a mix of incredulousness and confusion-the sort of expression that the breeder who had originally hatched her called ‘Does Not Compute.’ 

Zorua seemed to be faring a little better, but not much.


They returned to find Satoshi fast asleep…while sitting upright, his head lolling down to the side.  Pikachu…was exactly the same.  However, his ears twitched as they approached and he turned to wake his trainer with a yawn.

“Pikapi!” ‘Satoshi!” 

“Zzzzz-huh?”

‘Wake up!  They’re back!’

“Already?”

“We’ve been gone for a few hours now.  When did you fall asleep?”

Satoshi looked up into sky where the sun was setting.

“Well, it was about…3:45 when you left so…I’d say about an hour now.  Pikachu and I were discussing training ideas and when we tried to brainstorm for more, I guess we fell asleep.”

He rubbed the back of his head as he shared a smile with the mouse.  The dried paste cracked on his skin and flaked off with the movement.

Iris sighed. 

“I’ll go get more herbs and make you some more salve.”

“And I’ll start dinner.  It should be ready in forty-five minutes.”

“That’s more than enough time for me.  See you later.”  With a wave, Iris returned to the forest with Axew and Dento began setting up the table and his portable kitchen some distance away.

“Just keep Satoshi company.  Pansage and I can handle this.”  He said to N when he noticed how the man was hovering around, unsure of what he could do to help.

With nothing else to do, N took a seat in front of Satoshi.


“…”

“…”

“…”

“Uhhh…Enne?”

“…”

N, sitting on his knees and not noticing (or perhaps not caring) about the grass stains that were probably going to be staining his pants, continued to stare at Satoshi with unnerving intensity and unwavering focus. 

With their respective pokemon as their silent audience, the two humans continued to watch each other.  N’s fingers gripping his thighs as his eyes attempted to Glare Satoshi into paralysis.

This was…something entirely different from what they were getting used to dealing with when it came to this strange trainer.  Usually, it was pokemon who ended up hurt from battles, with the exceptions of accidents like Axew’s failed Dragon Rage that had caught everyone off guard earlier.  Here was the first trainer that N had seen who was more than happy to throw himself into one no matter how injured he got.

“Why?”  His voice tight, but quiet enough that Dento wouldn’t be able to hear over his own humming as he stirred a pot of stew.  “Why go to such lengths for a battle?  Especially when there’s the possibility of being injured or even killed.  Pikachu could have been hurt.  You are hurt and badly too.”

“Not that bad.  Really.”  He added at N’s skeptical look.  “Whatever Iris used, it’s working really good.”

N opened his mouth.  Whether to correct his wording of ‘good’ over ‘well’ or argue with him about the state of his injuries, he didn’t even know himself.

Satoshi cracked off a thicker piece of dried paste to reveal the unblemished skin underneath.  It looked a little red still, but nowhere near as dark as before. 

“See?  Almost good as new.  By tomorrow morning, you’ll never be able to tell.”

He was right.  In fact, neither Iris nor Dento had seemed too worried about the trainer after checking him over as he honestly…really hadn’t looked as bad as he should have.  For as long as the trainer had continue to fight, getting up over and over again, in the end, it was Pikachu who had quit first.  Had all but ordered his trainer to stop in a roundabout, but no less demanding way.  Did he realize this was going to happen?  Did they do this all the time?

N looked at Pikachu who met him with a steady gaze that gave nothing away.

“…Enne?”

“Why?...how?” he breathed out finally.

“Me using Volt Tackle?”  Even though it wasn’t what he wanted to know, it was a good a place as any to start the conversation, since N had no idea where to begin himself. He gave a tight nod.

“I’m not too sure myself.  Maybe it’s using my own body’s charge and amplifying it.  Like a full body static electricity that’s got nothing to ground itself on or jump to so it just builds around me.  ‘cept Pikachu does something to give us matching charges so when we try to hit each other physically, we end up repelling each other like magnets.  It’s awesome!  Did you see how far I flew?  If there weren’t so many trees around, I wonder how far I could have gone…”

The last bit was to himself more than his audience who were now staring at him with a sort of stupefied fascination.

“Anyways, it’s still needs some tweaking, but it’d be a pretty cool strategy to use if we can’t touch our opponent and I’ve gotten good enough to handle stronger shocks now too.”

Then he looked at his other pokemon, mistaking their dumbfounded silence as fear for being left out.

“Ah!  Don’t worry.  I didn’t forget about you guys. If there’s something that you’re trying to master, then I’ll help you out too.  You can count on me!”  He gave them one of his big ‘all-teeth’ grins, the one that forced him to close his eyes with how wide it stretched.

Pidove nudged Pikachu with a wing.

‘Is this what you meant when you said that he’d help us train?’

‘Kind of.  Usually he doesn’t have to get hurt like this.  This technique just happened to need someone a bit stronger than any of you are at the moment.’

Everyone stared at Pikachu with the exception of Satoshi who was asking Dento how much longer it would take before dinner was ready and thus missing the conversation and looks being thrown at him.

Satoshi was stronger than his pokemon?


Zorua had been oddly quiet ever since witnessing Satoshi and Pikachu ‘battling’.  (One-sided as it was, a battle was a battle.)

N glanced down to see Zorua who was watching the pair with an intensity that could only mean that he was thinking about the past again.   The past from before Zorua had become a wild pokemon.

‘Zorua?’

The fox shook himself and blinked.

‘I’m fine.  Just thinking.’

‘About what?’  Like he didn’t already know.

‘What would it have been like to have a trainer like Satoshi.  Not that I’d want to be his pokemon more than being friends with you.’ He added hastily. 

‘Just…what if I had an actual trainer who loved and encouraged me instead of an experimental training facility with their scientists and...’  He thought of Pikachu’s words about sparks and being alive and how the best and completely well-trained pokemon no longer had the light that shone in their eyes.  If they still did, it was often a cold and cruel light or one that would soon disappear.  A part of him shuddered.  If he hadn’t escaped when he did, would he have become a dead pokemon walking too? 

‘Would I be able to shine as brightly as Pikachu?’

‘Zorua…’

‘I know. I know.  Battling is bad…but I’d still like to be strong too.  If I’m strong, I could be of more use to you.’  And maybe you’d change your mind…

‘Do you want to battle them Zorua?  Battle Pikachu and Satoshi?’

‘...I think so.  Yeah.  I really think I’d like that.  I’d like to fight but I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose even though I’m nearly twice Pikachu’s level.’  Because two against one isn’t fair and Zorua knew that as long as N’s heart wasn’t into it, it’d almost be like fighting alone.  There’s no way he’d be able to come ahead, at least not without taking significant damage first and if what that gym leader had said was true, then his high level would probably be the catalyst needed to turn his near certain victory into defeat.

He gave a quiet huff of laughter.

‘Pikachu’s smart N.  Real smart.  But even more than that, he’s experienced and wise and I’ll bet all my fur that he’s even trickier than me.  He’s certainly craftier than his trainer and Satoshi can be pretty crafty himself.  I don’t know why his level is so low though. You don’t get that wise without going through some seriously tough times or seeing something so terrible that you can only try to do your best so that you’ll hopefully never have to see it again.’

‘…’

Together they watched as Satoshi finished washing off the rest of the old salve.  There was a gargantuan bruise in the making on his back, but the trainer continued to move about as if it didn’t exist.  Pikachu and Snivy helped to scrub wherever he couldn’t reach while Tepig kept the water warm for them.

Zorua tensing on his shoulder and flicking back an ear was the only reason N didn’t start when Iris suddenly materialized at his side.  She could be uncannily quiet when it came to moving through the land, her footsteps unconsciously mimicking the gait of a Deerling or some other common pokemon.

“Is he done yet?  I’ve got a different salve here.  It’s thinner and more for the bruise that he’s no doubt going to have, but we can wrap them so that he can sleep with it on tonight.  I don’t care how fast he claims he can heal.  He’s going to need all the help he can get.”

“I’ll help too.”

“Mmm.  Alright.  Worst case scenario, if he tries to do something stupid again, you oughta be big enough to wrestle him to the floor and sit on him.”

N was left staring at her back with an incredulous expression as Zorua hid his snickers in a mane of thick green hair.


“Satoshi?”

“Nngh?”  He rolled over and N couldn’t help feeling a pang of guilt.  The teen had to still be in pain and he should be resting, but N wouldn’t be able to sleep until he got his questions out.  This was the best time to do it too as everyone else was also fast asleep.

“Are you too tired?  I can wait.”

“No.  It’s fiiii-“  He yawned. “-nne.  What is it?”

“I have something to say….I…I don’t like battling.”  What was it that made him feel so guilty, so fearful about confessing this to the trainer?  He had never had a problem making his opinion clear to anyone before.

“In fact, I…hate pokemon battles.  I hate seeing pokemon getting hurt for no good reason.  I just hate seeing pokemon in pain and that’s what happens when a pokemon battles.  They get hurt.  Just-just like you did today.”

“…”

“Why…?  Why do you still battle even though you could cause irreparable damage to yourself and others…”

“…Why do you…how do you still keep going when you know the consequences?”

“………”

The silence stretched on for so long that N thought the trainer had fallen asleep again, so when he spoke, N couldn’t help but start.

“Did you know that there are some people who are afraid of pokemon?”

N turned to face him, but the trainer was still lying on his back, facing the sky with his eyes closed.

“I know.  I’ve seen them and I can’t understand why.”

“I can.  Pokemon are strong.  Most of them are stronger than normal humans. Some are so powerful that just passing by an area can cause damaging storms or tsunamis.  Sometimes a pokemon doesn’t know its own strength and can accidently hurt a human very badly.  And then there are the people with strong pokemon who do bad things.  The damage those pokemon can cause when no one else is strong enough to stop them…it’s…not a pretty sight.  Even when they are stopped, there’s almost always so much destruction left behind or…someone left behind.”

N sat up a little at that.  Has Satoshi lost someone before?

“Did you know that some people don’t care about them too?  Some people even hate them.”

“I…can’t understand that either.”

“Me too.  I grew up being taught that pokemon are wonderful.  For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a pokemon trainer.  Some people don’t see that way though.  I’ve met parents who couldn’t understand why their kids preferred pokemon over their studies and kids who thought their parents were lame for actively going out to battle.

But you know? I think they just haven’t found the right one yet.  The right pokemon to be their partner.  Sometimes it takes a lot of work and compromise on both sides.  Sometimes it’s a spark that happens at first sight and something just clicks between the both of you.  Heck, when Pikachu and I first met, I thought he was the greatest thing ever.  The cutest too.”

Satoshi chuckled softly, eyes still closed as he smiled in reminiscence.

“And he showed me exactly what he thought about having a new trainer who had no idea what he was getting into.  The point is there are a lot of people in this world.  Everyone has a different opinion, but that doesn’t make one better than the other…unless someone plans to hurt others, then their opinion is worse. 

You aren’t the first person I’ve met who hates battling and you won’t be the last either.  Just because you have a pokemon doesn’t mean that you’re a trainer and just because you’re a trainer doesn’t mean the only thing you can do is take on the gyms and the league.  That doesn’t mean that that’s all there is to being one.  You’ve got trainers who are also breeders, detectives, nurses, cooks, groomers, coordinators, and more.  But fighting, battling for trainers…it’s the same as living.”

“What?”

“It’s the same thing.  It’s all a part of life.  Getting to meet and connect with others.  Getting into disagreements and working them out.  Getting scared when something dangerous comes up, but pushing past your worries and fears to deal with it.  Getting hurt, but getting back up.  Always changing, always evolving with every experience.

You’ll probably hit a low point in your life.  So low that you don’t think you’d ever be able to keep going.  You may get a second chance though.  Or a third.  Or a fourth or even an infinite number of them.  But you only get one life.  So why not make the most of it and give it everything you’ve got?  If there’s a chance to turn things in your favor, then go for it.  As long aaasss-“ He yawned. “-as you don’t give up, anything can happen…even…when it all seems…hopeless…”

“……….”

Infinite chances, but only one life.  And that one life was a battle.

What a novel philosophy.  It was just as interesting a thought as pokemon and humans coexisting together in peace and harmony.

I did not think that trainers could teach me anything but cruelty.  However, it seems I still have much to learn.  From Touya, from Touko, and from you…especially from you Satoshi.

“Somehow…I think I understand things just a bit better now.  Like the clouds that have been shrouding my mind and heart have receded a little.  Thank you for sharing this with me Satoshi.”

“……….”

“…Satoshi?”

“….zzzz…..”

N looked over to find that the boy had lost the battle and succumbed to sleep.  He smiled gently and curled back under his own covers.

Cracking open a lid, Zorua’s turquoise eye roamed until it settled on the sleeping trainer.

Thank you indeed.

Zorua closed his eye again and finally fell asleep.


“I-I don’t believe it.”

“Told you.  Whatever you gave me really works though.”

“I don’t believe it. There’s no way…it should take at least a few more days…”

“I feel great!  Like I could take on Pikachu all over again.  Right now e-”

“Don’t you dare!”

Satoshi flinched back from her yell.

“Your back is still just one big bruise and I don’t know if you’ve actually broken something.  Plus I haven’t had time to completely restock yet.  You’ve used up most of my medicine last night.”

“Sorry.”  The black haired boy deflated guiltily.  “But I pretty sure that I don’t have any broken bones.  I’ve been going through worse on a nearly weekly basis for years so I’ve gotten pretty good at telling if I’ve got anything fractured.”

“…how are you still almost completely unscarred like this?”

“I’ve always had someone who knew how to fix me right up traveling along.”

“And where is this someone now?” 

“In Kanto.  Takeshi’s been traveling along with me for years, but he decided to go get an official doctor’s license a couple months ago and needed to stay to study for the exams. ”

Iris’s faced screwed up as she pulled at her considerable curtain of hair, nearly dislodging Axew in the process.

“Argh!  There’s no way I can let you go by yourself now!  It’ll be like sending a defenseless kid-no toddler!-into the tall grass by himself!”

“Hey!  I’ll have you know I’ve been wandering through tall grass since I could walk.”

“Did you have any pokemon to protect you back then?”

“No.  But my grandpa was…”

As the pair devolved into bickering that N and Dento realized was quickly becoming a common staple of their relationship, they stood back and watched as the muscles on Satoshi’s back ripple while he moved about and gestured with his arms as loudly as his voice.  As if he didn’t even notice his injuries. 

His skin was only marred by the mostly yellow bruise that spanned half of his back and looked to be weeks old instead of the recent injury that had been accumulated the day before.

“He really wasn’t kidding when he said that he heals quickly.”  Dento shook his head.  “That’s just incredible.  I think I’m starting to get a better idea on how he ended up developing that particular flavor of his, but to think that he doesn’t even consider this even remotely serious…”  He frowned.

N was a bit thoughtful about it as well. 

“He just said that he’s been put through worse than this on a near weekly basis for years.”

“Then does this mean that he considers this to be a fairly tame week?”

“Satoshi and Pikachu could have both been heavily injured when they tried to restore the bell.” N reminded him.  Or killed.

“There’s no hesitation. It’s all do or die with him huh?  Like he’s got to give it everything he’s got because he knows that life can be cut short at any moment, but at the same time, he’s going to have no regrets because he would have enjoyed it to the fullest.”

They both watched as the younger members of their party finally managed to come to an agreement of sorts.  If turning their backs to each other in a huff could count as an agreement.

“As long as you don’t give up…”

What sort of hardships have you been through Satoshi?  How are you so certain of your path?


“Hey Satoshi.”

“Yeah? What is it Iris?”

“Don’t you think that you should at least try to learn a bit more about how to read the language here?”

“Hmmm.  Probably.  I kinda figured that I’d just use my pokedex.”

“That’s kind of inconvenient isn’t it?”

“Maybe.  But it’s not like I won’t be able to get by.” 

Dento watched him speculatively.

“If you’d like, how about we teach you the vernacular and practice writing during breaks and about local customs and pokemon on the road?  Maybe at least an hour a day for writing and in exchange, you can teach us about other pokemon that you’ve met before, the culture in Kanto, holidays, food, or anything else.  I need to brush up on my kanji as well.  It’ll certainly help pass the time faster from city to city.”

“Sure!  That’s a great idea.  Pikachu and I’ve met tons of pokemon on our journey.  Ask away!”

“Then what sort of Dragon pokemon are native to Kanto?  Have you seen any?” 

“Yep.  There’s one evolutionary line native to both Kanto and Johto.  It starts with Dratini which evolves into Dragonair and then Dragonite.”

Satoshi flipped open his pokedex and handed to her after selecting Dratini and showing her how to change pokemon.

“Professor Ookido has a Dragonite and so does Kanto and Johto’s champion, Wataru.  I think Wataru has more than one too.  Yuji’s, from the Orange Archipelago, most powerful pokemon is a Dragonite and the one he saves as his last.  There’s more of course, but these are the most famous ones in the around the area.”

After the basic information was played for all three pokemon, Satoshi continued.

“It takes a long time to fully evolve a Dragonite, but they’re powerful and can easily outlive their trainer’s great-great-great-great grandkids.  There was a huge one that we only really saw the silhouette of once.  It came just close enough for us to see how big it was, but it was too foggy to really make out much more than the outline.  Dragonairs and Dratinis…”

There was quite a bit of information that could have only come from meeting some before as Satoshi showed when he added facts that the pokedex did not have.  He had no compunctions about telling all that he knew as long as they asked.  Soon after, he moved on to Kanto’s equivalents of Patrats and Pidoves, Ratattas and Pidgeys.

By the time Satoshi was done detailing their moves and evolution lines, the party had just stepped foot into Current Town.

“You know, this town has a Battle Club.  It’s on a main road right to the east of the pokemon center.”

The trainer’s dark eyes lit up with a familiar excitement.

“Then what are we waiting for?  Let’s go!”

And he was off with Pikachu cheering him on…

“Not again.” Iris groaned even as she set off at a ground eating sprint.

“Is this go-going to regu-gular thing?”  Dento was starting to pant a bit.

“Probably.  Geez!  He’s such a kid!”

N noted their words, but pushed them to the back of his mind as he raced to keep up with the trainer.  For such a small human, he could really move when he put his mind to it.

‘Better hurry~.’  Zorua laughed from his shoulder.  ‘If you insist on being a stalker, the least you should be able to do is keep an eye on your quarry.’

‘Not.  A. Stalker.’ N hissed under his laboring breath.

His only reply was another laugh as the fox allowed himself to enjoy the wind rushing through his fur.


Google ‘The World According to Takeshi Shudo’ and browse through some of threads with the translations people have done. It’s basically revolutionized Satoshi’s pre-trainer background for both this story and another one I’m working. I’m just picking out the parts I like though. There’s too much contradictory info to include everything.

Masara/Pallet House-The restaurant owned by Ash’s mom. This is mentioned in Takeshi Shudo’s novelization of the pokemon series. For those who don’t know him, he’s the chief writer of the original pokemon anime, first three movies, and Mewtwo Returns. He died in 2010 of a subarachnoid hemorrhage. R.I.P. and thank you for one of the most fulfilling things in my childhood.

It’s my headcannon that Delia is both physically fit and stronger than Ash despite not actually roughing it like he does. That and Ash’s battle prowess actually comes from her as the novels state that his father and grandfather suck at being trainers. And when she tells Ash about his dad being a great trainer? She lied.

Delia’s Mr. Mime’s Japanese name is Barri-chan as the Japanese name for the species is Barrierd. However, since I’m using the English version of the pokemon names, this wouldn’t make much sense, so he kept the name Mimey here.

Johnny Appleseed! Tweaked to fit the pokemon world along with my headcanon for Berries of all things.

Lance is Claire’s cousin in the games, but not in the anime. However as this is going to incorporate elements from both, he is her cousin in this fic. It’s not really that important though.

Names:

Blackthorn City/Fusube City

Clair/Ibuki

Lance/Wataru

Drake/Yuji

I’m sure a lot of you now hate me for this, but that whole scene at the end of ep.9 about Ash pitting himself against Pikachu has a purpose much much later on. (besides establishing that he’s kind of crazy to his new companions) Also, it’s one of my favorite parts ever so I had to include it. Please excuse the bullshit science used to describe it. Neither Ash nor I can figure out how it works, just that it does.

Dento’s whole breakdown of his flavors and the taste of trainers and consequent fanboying of Ash came out of nowhere. He started talking and suddenly wouldn’t shut up, but now headcanon states that ‘It’s tasting time.’ is actually him stating that he’s going to unravel all the mysteries of his opponent’s personality and compatibility with their pokemon in 3 words and not just a catchphrase.

Ash is surprisingly philosophical when he’s sleepy. He’s much more straightforward when he’s awake. Maybe his thoughts are just meandering and there’s no filter between his brain and his mouth.

Look at that people. We’ve made it to Best Wishes Episode 9 story wise. Chapter 5 will start Episode 10 and Ash’s rematch with Trip.

Chapter Text

Hot damn. I am so sorry and I love that you guys are still patiently (or not so patiently) holding out hope for an update to a fic by an author that tends to drop off the face of the earth for long periods of time fairly frequently.

Long story short, had some real life issues and it took years to get back into the right mindset to write again. I actually had about 10,000 words written by the end of 2014 and tried to get this out the week before 2015 started but I obviously failed. I can't believe the 7 th  gen/Sun/Moon anime started (and is probably almost done) before I finished this chapter.

This was supposed to cover episodes 10-12, but the word count rose to ridiculous levels so I ended up cutting it and you only get the Ash/Trip rematch and a few  long  days of offscreen daily life. Despite having a good idea of how I wanted this to go, it just did not want to be written. Then I decided to switch up the order of some scenes and suddenly it started flowing together a bit easier so I could finally get this out to you guys.

I watched ep 10 over and over only to cringe and rage at Ash's loss while trying to figure out where Trip would have gone by the time Ash makes it to town and came to the conclusion that he doubled back to grind for a while since he had his 2nd badge by then. He couldn't have gone all that far yet if he ends up in the same town as Ash who not only started a day(s) after him, but is constantly taking detours and getting involved in random stuff.

After that, I spent way too much time trying to puzzle out what Trip's other 3 pokemon that he never uses against Ash would consist of. I figured that at this moment he'd be like most new trainers and try to fill up his party before getting picky about what to keep for his main team.

Then these unknown pokemon ended up kickstarting subplots and generated almost an entire chapter of stuff that's not quite filler, but not quite plot advancement either. It's possibly even foreshadowing.

A lot of early dialogue is lifted straight from the subbed episodes by the group Pocket Monsters. Please support this wonderful team because without them to supply my steady fix of not dubbed and very very well subbed pokemon anime, this fic probably wouldn't even exist.

I'm bumping up Iris's age to 13 since the anime revealed her backstory and kind of scrambled up some future plotlines. I really liked it so I adjusted this story to fit that in (and may have started a new AU story based off it) but I'm still keeping a ton of my own non canonical stuff in because it's basically everything I wished had happened but didn't.

Current Ages:

Ash: 14 (almost 15)

Iris: 13

Cilan: 16

Trip: 12

"Regular Speech"

'Pokespeech'

"Pokedex Speech"

Chapter 5: Worth of a Trainer - Part 1


Despite his views on humans, N could be properly grateful to them at times. Certain humans. Like whoever invented the air conditioner that was blasting a cool breeze through the automatic doors of the Luxuria Town Pokemon Battle Club.

He sucked in a deep lungful of air and slowly exhaled to try to calm his heart rate. Iris and Dento weren't doing much better themselves, but Satoshi looked perfectly at ease. Like he hadn't just dashed halfway through the town.

Just how much stamina does he have?

"Ahh!"

"What's with you, yelling like that?"

"It's Shooti! Shooti's here!"

Shooti? That didn't sound like a pokemon.

N frowned as Satoshi excitedly explained how the trainer-of course it was a trainer-was the first person he had battled in this land.

"It's decided! I'll battle Shooti once more!"

"Pika pika!" 'We'll make up for last time for sure!'

Battles…ugh. He was starting to understand just how much Satoshi and Pikachu seemed to enjoy them, but that didn't mean that he had to like it. Caught up in his displeasure, N barely noticed as Zorua squeezed tightly on his shoulder.

'Hmmm~'

'What?'

'He seems pretty happy to see this trainer. More so than anyone else so far.'

Zorua nodded towards the console where Satoshi was in the process of contacting Shooti.

N frowned as the teen's joy seemed to double in moments.

'Don't worry. I'm sure Satoshi isn't going to push you aside. After all, this Shooti may be his first rival in this land, but you're his first human stalker here. I'm sure that counts for something too.'

'Zorua!'


"I'll decline. At this point, battling a Pikachu who lost against a Snivy with little experience is meaningless. It'd be meaningless."

"No, no! Pikachu wasn't normal back then! He couldn't use his electric moves because of Zekrom!"

"Zekrom?" Dento asked Iris. "The pokemon they call legendary?"

"He said he met it in Nuvema Town."

"Wow. That's amazing!"

"Ze-Zekrom?! You've seen Zekrom? How?! When?! Where?!"

"E-Enne?"

N blinked, then realized that he had actually shouted out his thoughts aloud and was currently looming over Satoshi with a near manic gleam in his eyes. His hands clenched atop each shoulder in a vice grip, preventing the shorter trainer from leaning away from the man currently invading his personal space.

"In-In Nuvema Town. On the first day we came here. It hit Pikachu with its lightning and messed him up."

Pikachu flinched back, red cheeks letting loose faint crackles of electricity in alarm as N's intense gaze shifted from Satoshi to the mouse clutching onto his trainer's hat as if he would like nothing more than to hide behind it.

"Pii…ka chu." 'Yeah…it did.'

Whatever else he was planning to say was interrupted by Shooti's arrival and N loosened his grip in surprise allowing Satoshi to break free to confront the other trainer. The prospect of a battle with his new rival wiped out whatever previous apprehension Satoshi may have been feeling, but it did nothing to quell the maelstrom that N's own thoughts had become.

'Let's stay and watch. We need more information first.'

'…'

'One thing at a time N. He'll stay to heal his pokemon afterward and that'll be our chance to talk to him about Zekrom. Everyone still needs to restock on supplies. Us too.'

For once, N wasn't going to even to try argue against it. A part of him still cringed at the thought of watching more pokemon get hurt, but he couldn't deny Zorua's words and ruthlessly shoved it aside to focus.

'Alright.'


The first thing they went through was introductions and Shooti's inevitable scanning of Zorua with his pokedex. He didn't seem to hold much interest in N after learning that he didn't have any other pokemon with him. Or maybe it was because Satoshi was easily the most distracting thing in the entire room.

"A full six-on-six battle might benefit me too, after all."

"Full battle? Ah, we can't do that. I only have five pokemon on hand right now." Satoshi looked sheepish.

Why?

He had done nothing wrong. Satoshi was taking his time to help others and making sure that his pokemon were kept healthy and happy. Even though it was costing him several days, he clearly had no regrets and he was taking time to form strong bonds with each pokemon under his care instead of catching everything in sight only to have the extras put away in storage in those detestable pokeballs.

"Five?"

"But see, I've got one badge."

I don't like him.

"I've got my second."

"Eh? Two already?"

"Pi ka." 'That was fast.'

"That's basic, isn't it? Don George, I'm sorry but I will have to cancel this battle request."

"Cancel?"

So Shooti didn't want to battle. That was good wasn't it? They could ask Satoshi and Pikachu about Zekrom right away and no pokemon had to get hurt.

Still…

"Battling a trainer with one badge and five pokemon…"

He had such a condescending tone. Such as expected of an arrogant human. An arrogant trainer.

I really don't like him.

"You're not better just because you've got higher numbers! I won't lose to you!"

That's right. Satoshi may have had less pokemon, but he was a much better trainer. Maybe even the best one ever.

"Pika! Pika!" 'That's right! That's right!'

Irritation laced Pikachu's words.

"It's a mystery. Where does this baseless confidence come from? Are all trainers from rural areas like Kanto like this?"

If they were, the world was truly a better place for it.

I really really don't like him.

"I'll search for a more worthy opponent in the next city. So long."

Shooti turned to leave.

I don't like this  trainer . At. All.

"Battling him won't do any harm, will it?"

Iris folded her arms behind her head, her tone as light as if she was commenting about the weather.

"You've been kind of complaining about various things the entire time; those types of people are often children, you see…"

Her entire demeanor seemed mostly unaffected, but the goading words and sly patronizing smirk settled N's ire a little. It seemed that he wasn't the only one upset on Satoshi's behalf and despite Iris's usual disparaging of Satoshi's (lack of) maturity, clearly she too felt that he deserved more credit than the other trainer was giving him.

"Children?"

Shooti hesitated and glanced back, the word stiffening his shoulders in irritation.

"I'd like to see it too. A battle between the two of you I mean." Dento joined in to assist her. "Passion and calmness clash, producing a deep taste which is both fresh and sharp. That's how I expect the battle to be, but…"

Zorua grinned. How sly. Using the esteem Shooti had for his title as a gym leader to gently guilt trip an agreement to a match with their friend. It was mild and his descriptions of his hopes were worded so strangely that Zorua still couldn't understand it, but Dento was almost like the carrot to Iris's taunting stick. Or rather they were both sticks, but the gym leader phrased it in a way to seem like a carrot.

Shooti sighed in resignation and turned around.

"I'm sorry to keep troubling you. Please be our referee." He asked George. "Satoshi and I will have a five-on-five battle."

"Mmm. I got it."

"Thank you, Shooti!"

Smiles and happy expressions suited Satoshi more than upset ones Zorua mused. N obviously felt the same if the minute relaxation of his body was anything to go by.

"Well, I'd know the outcome even without doing it though. I suspect that this will be a completely meaningless battle."

Whatever tenseness N had managed to unwind came rushing back. That's right. This trainer had two badges and six pokemon already. Satoshi was going into a battle where his opponent's pokemon would all most likely be at least five levels higher than his. It would be a foregone conclusion if this was a normal trainer. Except…Satoshi wasn't a normal trainer and Pikachu probably wasn't a normal pokemon either.

"Pika pi pikachu." 'Let's make him eat his words.'

Determination burned in Pikachu's eager eyes.

"Yeah." Satoshi agreed.

A matching shine in his eyes answered him back.

There it was again. The amazing way the boy seemed to be able to understand his partner even without truly understanding his words. Then Pikachu grinned at Dento and Iris in thanks for their assistance in securing the rematch.

N would most likely have missed out on most if not all of the nuances in that conversation, but it seemed that Pikachu had managed to pick up on it just fine.

Zorua would have to explain it to his friend later. Really. What would N do without Zorua to guide him through these things? What would N do without Zorua?

The possible answers burned uncomfortably in the pits of his stomach and heart. Each and every one of them more unpleasant than the last.


The battle started off even worse than N could have imagined. Oshawott and Tepig were both instantly KO'd in overwhelmingly fast attacks boosted by Tranquill's ability Super Luck.

Zorua winced. 'At least it was quick.'

N didn't even deign to reply, too focused on Satoshi who was worrying over the now depressed fire pokemon.

"You really should start from scratch again. From the basics, I mean."

Shooti's condescending manner had N gritting his teeth even as Satoshi's drive to battle intensified.

"The battle has only just begun. Pikachu, let's show him our true power."

Zorua leaned forward in anticipation. Here's the pokemon he was looking forward to watching the most.

Tranquill continued to dodge Pikachu's attacks just like he had with Oshawott's and Tepig's.

Two Work Up boosted Aerial Aces knocked down Pikachu, but unlike his teammates, the yellow mouse managed to force himself back up.

"What a useless resistance. This will be my third victory in a row. Tranquill, Aerial Ace!"

Satoshi. Pikachu. What will you do? Better make it fast or N won't have any teeth left with the way he's grinding them.

"Pikachu! Grab Tranquill!"

Pikachu twisted away just in time, only taking a glancing blow on the cheek, but he shrugged it off and latched onto Tranquill's leg, forcing the bird to slam into the ground and driving up small clouds of dust.

"All right. Toss it away!"

With an impressive fling, Pikachu hurled his opponent away and Satoshi was quick to take advantage of it.

"Volt Tackle!"

"Dodge it!"

Still tumbling head over heels through the air, Tranquill was too disoriented to obey and instantly knocked out.

'Ooohh. I get it. Since he was able to dodge in the air, Satoshi had Pikachu even the odds by bringing him down to his level to beat him. What do you think N? Smart huh?'

'…'

Of course. He had gone quiet again. With the possibility that Satoshi was Zekrom's chosen hero, N had shifted his entire focus into observing and dissecting everything he could about the trainer. He wouldn't respond much, if at all for some time.

The next match started with Servine against Pikachu and despite his reluctance, Satoshi switched out his most trusted partner for Snivy when it seemed that Pikachu wouldn't be able to avenge himself for their last battle.

There was a look the two shared as Pikachu came off the field and if Zorua had to make a guess, it was full of apologies. In reality…

Sorry about this buddy. I know you wanted this rematch.

It's alright. There will be other battles for me to fight in the future.

Take a break for now. Because Snivy will most likely fall before the end.

I got it. I won't let you down, Partner.

The entire conversation passed in the blink of an eye and beat of a heart and Pikachu cheered on Snivy who handily defeated Servine. Then Pidove was sent out to face a blue Frillish, but lost nearly as quickly as Tepig and Oshawott had to Tranquill. And Snivy…

"Vine Whip!"

"Ehh?!"

"Don't, don't don't!" Iris shrieked.

"Satoshi wait!"

N made as if to leap over the barricade and straight onto the field, but Zorua nipped him sharply behind his ear to stop him.

'If you go out there, it's an instant loss for him!'

'But-but-he-!'

Whatever else they had planned to say was too late. Snivy's Vine Whip was sealed.

"You really don't know the basics, do you? Setting up such an attack against Frillish who has the Cursed Body ability…"

"Cursed Body?"

"It's an ability that threatens to block a move that attacks physically! You really are a child for not even knowing that!" Iris looked like she was about to fling herself out there as well while Dento gently tried to calm her down.

"Now, now. Don't get so excited."

Despite the type disadvantage, Frillish had clearly been well trained and the battle continued with neither side giving an inch. Until Satoshi decided to bank everything on a final attack.

"Leaf Blade! Go! Finish it in one hit!"

With its failure, the precious time it took for Snivy's Leaf Blade to be sealed let Frillish trap her in his Water Pulse and N flinched at her shrill cries of pain. It was one disaster after another as she became confused and then Shooti ordered a Hex. If N hadn't been digging his nails into the concrete barricade separating the viewers from the field, his palms would have been bleeding. He'd later find that some would be cracked.

"It's three-to-one now and your Pikachu's not exactly at tip top shape either. Are you sure you don't want to forfeit?"

Please say yes. N begged in his mind, but he knew better by now. Satoshi was burning brighter than ever.

"No way! It doesn't matter if it's six-to-one! The battle's not over until the last one falls!"

Together Satoshi and Pikachu jabbed a finger at the trainer.

"We'll fight until the bitter end!"

'We'll fight until the bitter end!'

There it was. The overlapping speech. Indistinguishable between human and pokemon. When Satoshi and Pikachu's hearts and minds became one.

N's own heart warmed and fluttered at that strange resonance even if he couldn't understand why.

Satoshi was an amazing trainer. He cheered on his pokemon for each victory, consoled them for each loss, and never ever failed to thank them for their hard work even if they were unconscious and in their pokeballs. Besides the Striaton City gym leaders, the last trainers N had seen this behavior from were Touya and Touko and neither of them could match the display he was witnessing now.

"Hmph. Suit yourself. Return Frillish."

Shooti on the other hand, did no such thing whether his pokemon won or lost.

"Go Deerling!"

The pink and white buck gave a loud snort as he pawed at the ground and eyed his opponent with interest.

"Work Up."

"Thunderbolt!"

"Dodge it and use Work Up again."

Two more thin bolts of electricity missed the nimble pokemon as it zigzagged out of range and Pikachu gave a tiny huff of frustration before Shooti made his next move. If only he had his former strength…

A single sweeping Thunderbolt would have been more than enough to knock out Deerling, mostly because it would have been enough to blast away half the field before the pokemon could outrun it. Overkill? Probably. But it would be so much more satisfying than what Pikachu was suspecting was going to turn out to be a battle of attrition.

"Take Down."

Pikachu gave himself a mental shake even as he continued to warily watch the Deerling snort and paw at the ground as he eyed him back. There was no room for self-pity here. Not if he wasn't going to let some upstart trainer get away with such blatant disrespect to his partner again.

Pikachu released another attack, this time just a Thundershock, fully expecting Deerling to dodge.

The red glow faded as the second Work Up finished taking effect and Deerling skipped out of the way of the next bolt as planned (and almost exactly to where Pikachu wanted him), then charged forth.

"We'll show you! Pikachu! Go for it! Quick Attack!"

Perfect.

"In a contest of raw power, do you really think you're going to wi-?!"

Pikachu shoots forward, narrowly twisting out of way just before contact and using his tail to pivot around and aim a Thunderbolt at Deerling who didn't have time to change his own course. Panicked and in pain, the pokemon continued to follow through with his last order until he slammed into the wall behind Satoshi with a bodily *Thwack*. He slid to the ground to reveal hairline cracks on the wall.

N flinched.

'Oooh. That had to hurt.' Commented Zorua.

'Ouch.' Agreed Axew.

"A double Work Up boosted Take Down. That definitely had to do some damage." Iris observed.

Deerling stood up on shaky legs and shook his head a couple of times before awaiting more orders, much warier than before.

"Deerling! Double Kick!"

"Agility!"

The missed attack left two small craters in the dirt field. The afterimages faded as Pikachu fired off a Thunderbolt from behind again and while Deerling cried out, it was obvious his failed Take Down had done more damage.

"Do I need to teach you that grass pokemon are resistant to electric attacks too?" Shooti mocked.

"I know that already!" Satoshi yelled back, his mind working in overdrive. Pikachu couldn't afford a single hit. With those boosts, it would mean their instant defeat. In Pikachu's current weakened state, Deerling was too fast for a normal attack and Iron Tail wasn't going to hit if Thunderbolt wasn't. Not without leaving Pikachu open for a counterattack. He would need to seal those movements somehow…somehow...

"If you're not going to do anything, then I'll make a move first. Deerling! Use Leech Seed, then Double Kick again!"

A brown seed the size of a large chestnut shot out towards Pikachu from the deer's mouth.

"Don't let it touch you!"

"Pika!" 'I know!'

He let loose just enough electricity to char the seed black and then Iron Tail-ed straight it back into Deerling's face like a baseball, forcing the pokemon to miss and leave more craters under his hooves.

"Deeeeeerr!"

"Deerling!"

Pawing at his face in irritation, Deerling only succeeded in smearing the black soot over more of his previously pink and cream colored fur.

"Iron Tail…burn…fire…That's it! Pikachu remember the first time we took on Haruka on her home field? During the appeal round! Remember what we did then?"

It took some time to recall, but Pikachu perked up once he did.

"Pi…pi…pika!" 'What…oh…oh yeah!'

"Heh! Get ready Shooti! We're going to defeat Deerling with fire!"

"What are you talking about?! Pikachu can't use fire attacks! Otherwise you'd have done so already!"

"Can Pikachu learn fire attacks?" asked Iris.

"Somehow, I don't think that's what Satoshi has in mind." Dento looked back towards the field where Shooti was staring at Satoshi like he had gone insane. "The aroma of this battle has been changing ever since Satoshi lost the rest of his pokemon and was forced to rely only on Pikachu. I think we're all about to taste something unique and even more exciting than his gym battle."

"We're not going to use fire attacks! We're going to use fireworks!"

"What?"

Shooti looked more confused than ever and he wasn't the only one.

"Let's give 'em a show Pikachu! Using your Pika-wheel Fireworks!"

"Pikachu!" 'I'm on it!'

He shot forward with Agility, then Quick Attack, letting a Thunderbolt build around him. Then he released it and turned back to add more and more, twisting the newly freed electricity into a ring. Then another and another and another.

It had been nearly a year since the last time he'd done this. They had tossed around the idea of re-using it for the Mikuri Cup in Sinnoh and practiced accordingly, but Satoshi had ultimately decided to go with a different appeal and pokemon for the preliminary round instead.

Pikachu was worried that he wouldn't be able to build up enough speed, hence his compensation with the Agility, and the rings were definitely smaller than he would have liked. He'd have to make up for it with numbers then, but…

'I've still got it.'

Years ago, the start of this combination might have even been the precursor to Volt Tackle before they ever went to Hoenn. A weaker attack, but with the benefits of both possible paralysis and no recoil damage. He'd have to talk to Satoshi about using it more often later at times they couldn't afford a Volt Tackle, but special combinations were used sparingly for a reason. Opponents could and would take and tweak these attacks for themselves. Like the Counter Shield. It was still way too early in the game to use that one. While his trainer had no problem with showing off new strategies to his rivals before a big match, Pikachu sometimes wished that he had just a little more reserve. Oh well. That's just a part of what made Satoshi who he was and Pikachu loved him all the more for it.

At least, Pikachu felt, Shooti would have a hard time replicating this one without the right pokemon, experience, and control needed. And besides, Shooti needed to know that the so called 'basics' he was so fond of toting about weren't everything.

"It's-it's a combination attack!" Dento gasped.

"A what?" N and Zorua looked to Dento for clarification but it was Don George who answered in his stead.

"Sometimes trainers come up with special variations to normal moves and name them something different to distinguish whether they want the normal version or the special version to be used. Combination attacks are so called because they combine multiple attacks in a specific sequence. It's faster than calling out each one individually and can give you an edge if your opponent doesn't know what to expect. There are two general categories. One is for multiple pokemon combining their moves together and the other is a single pokemon doing so like Pikachu."

"But what's the purpose of doing this now?" asked Iris.

"To seal Deerling's movements." N murmured.

"Huh?"

"Look." He pointed to the anxious Deerling who was glancing this way and that, trying to take in the location of all the rings scattered around him. "Because of each ring's placement, Deerling can't jump anywhere he wants anymore whether it's for an attack or to dodge. Nor can he simply use Take Down. Not without risking running into one. Aside from Pikachu and Satoshi, no one knows exactly how this combination attack will work."

"Now it's time to finish this!" Satoshi yelled, pointing straight at Deerling.

"Deerling. As long as you keep away from them, you'll be fine. Pikachu's lost most of the room for its evasion techniques too. Now use Jump Kick while he's still there!"

Pikachu charged forward, but instead of heading for Deerling, he approached the closest ring and slapped it as hard as he could with Iron Tail towards the pink and white pokemon. It missed when the deer jumped, but set off a chain reaction. Which was exactly what he had been going for. Rings of electricity skittered about, zigzagging this way and that only to clash with each other around the field with loud pops and crackles.

"Fireworks!" Don George exclaimed. "So that's what he meant. Satoshi wasn't actually done yet. He is from Kanto right? These Pika-wheel Fireworks are very reminiscent of a game that involves battling with spinning tops that are quite popular from his region."

"Whoa…look Axew! Aren't they pretty?"

"Ax!" 'Yeah!'

"Marvelous! This pleasant aroma brings to mind a wondrous light show after the fun and intensity of a long day at a fair."

N didn't say anything, too entranced by the scene to do otherwise. He had heard of fireworks. He had seen pictures too. He had even read a book on how they were made. But he had never seen fireworks in real life before. The Pika-wheels weren't exactly like the ones in the pictures. They hovered only a few inches off the ground and were made of bright yellow electricity, but they were all still so pretty to look at. He felt that if this wasn't a pokemon battle, he'd actually be enjoying this a lot more.

Deerling flinched and fumbled his attack as he crashed down and made the largest crater yet. He bleated in distress when realized that he was surrounded by three rings which began to close in with frightening speed. The bright lights, loud crackling noises, and reminder of the pain of Pikachu's Thunderbolts unnerved him to the point that he ignored Shooti's commands to get away and consequently got struck.

"Deeeeerrr!"

The rings had lost too much power to do much damage by then, but neither Satoshi nor Pikachu were about to let him go now that they had him where they wanted him.

"Deerling! Get out of there and use Double Kick!"

"Deeeer…"

He struggled to obey, but sparks crackled over his fur and his muscles seized up.

"No!" Shooti gritted out.

"Deerling's been paralyzed! Now's our chance. Pikachu! Iron Tail!"

"Pika!" 'On it!'

Mustering all his strength, Pikachu knocked Deerling upwards as high as he could. He didn't have to have an order to know what came next.

"CHUUUUU!"

When Deerling fell back to the ground, he didn't get back up. Around the battlefield, the remaining Pika-wheels began to dissipate.

"Deerling is unconscious." Don George announced. "Pikachu wins!"

"Alright!" Satoshi jumped, punching the air.

"Pikachu!" 'We did it!'

'Yeah!' Zorua cheered and even N managed to crack a smile despite his stiff jaws.

"What?! How did you manage to defeat him like that?!"

"It's called grounding." Surprisingly it was Satoshi who spoke up. "Grass pokemon may be resistant to electric attacks, but a lot of it is actually going into the ground. Sort of like a lightning rod. If a pokemon isn't actually touching the floor electric attacks will be able to do much more damage even to pokemon that it isn't very effective against. On the other hand, a pokemon that is weak against it can negate some or even all of the damage if it's done right."

Whether the expression on Shooti's face meant that he was dumbfounded about learning this advanced bit of battling knowledge or that it was coming from Satoshi of all people was up for grabs. With a frown, Shooti pulled out his camera and snapped a picture of Pikachu and Deerling. Then another of Pikachu and Satoshi.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm recording this moment so that I won't forget about the frustration I feel."

Combination attacks. Flashy moves that distracted and panicked opponents. Grounding. There were too many valuable lessons from this one battle that Shooti couldn't afford to forget. Not if he was aiming for the Champion.

Recalling his Deerling, Shooti contemplated on who to send out next. Pikachu should be fairly worn down by now, but he was still ridiculously fast. He wasn't going to risk it. Satoshi was also proving to be surprisingly decent with Pikachu. In this case, speed would have to take priority over power or he might end up with Deerling's situation all over again. Especially with that unlucky last minute paralysis. If he looked at it that way, then his next pokemon was actually the perfect choice. It wasn't as powerful as he was hoping it would be, but that's why he had spent a considerable amount of his prize money after the first gym to buy the TM for Work Up.

"Purrloin. Let's go!"

"Pu-pu-purrloin?!"

"Dento? What's wrong?"

"…"

Iris poked him when he didn't respond and he jerked away in alarm before deciding that he would be safe behind the concrete barricade that separated the viewed from the battlefield. Behind Iris and her considerable hair too.

"A purrloin did something terrible to me once."

"Something terrible? What did it do to you?"

"Don't ask. I don't want to remember. Just…Satoshi! You better be careful! Purrloin are devious pokemon and if you aren't careful, they'll bring you nothing trouble."

"Hey! That's not fair." N was insulted on behalf of all purrloin. "Purrloin aren't bad pokemon."

"Maybe. But until I meet one that isn't, I'm going to do my best to steer clear of all purrloin as much as possible."

'You have to admit. He is kind of right. At least about the devious part.' Zorua spoke up before N could work himself into one his righteous speeches. 'It's just in their nature.'

N was about to retort that he was still slandering their name with the 'nothing but trouble' part, when Satoshi's sleepy voice rang through his head.

"Did you know that there are some people who are afraid of pokemon?"

"…" He shut his mouth and Zorua watched him curiously, certain that he was going to have to head off a tantrum. Ah. Of course. Satoshi was always at the forefront of N's mind these days. It was not only a nice change of pace from the usual hero stuff, but it also brought a sort of lightness to the heart that they hadn't experienced in years.

"Purrloin?"

Satoshi pulled out his pokedex.

"Purrloin, the Devious Pokémon. Purrloin fools people into letting their guard down so it can steal their possessions. When angered, it uses its claws to fight back."

"I see…Pikachu."

Don't lose your focus.

Still keeping one eye on the sneaky looking cat, Pikachu half-turned and nodded.

I won't.

"Purrloin. Work Up."

The now familiar red glow began to surround Purrloin, but Pikachu was already off in a Quick Attack a split second after the first sound passed Satoshi's lips.

"Sand Attack! Then follow it up with Fury Swipes."

Purrloin had just enough time to send a wave of dirt from the floor into Pikachu's eyes, but not enough to get out of the way of the Quick Attack. He was sent tumbling head over heels back towards his trainer.

"Pikachu!"

The mouse rubbed at his eyes unhappily.

"Pikapi! Pikachu!" 'Satoshi! I can't see!'

"Purrloin get him with Fury Swipes now! Hurry! Before he regains his sight!"

"Puurrrr loin purr!" 'I'll scratch you up!'

"Pikachu! Focus and use your ears!"

The sting of the cat's claws lancing across a cheek made Pikachu jerk back, but he shoved the aside the pain to focus.

"Pi...!" 'Ah…!'

He could do this. Had done this before. This Purrloin was light on his feet, but he was a rather noisy pokemon as well. Not that young, but not very old either. Just…inexperienced. For all that he wasn't a strong battler, Team Rocket's Meowth could be much much quieter and much much faster than this.

A dark paw stomped forward harder than necessary at the same time a swipe whistled past and brushed an ear. A claw there pricked at his left cheek and the thump of an unseen tail lashing so far out that it hit the ground was heard from the opposite side.

It wasn't perfect. He was still racking up scratches here and there, but most were missing or much weaker than a complete attack. Purrloin's own impatience and irritation was giving away his position making this much easier than it would have been if say Meowth was the opponent.

"No way! Pikachu's actually dodging without looking." Iris's disbelieving awe and the chatter of the other pokemon in the background barely registered as Pikachu put all his attention into avoiding the Fury Swipes.

'Stay still you!' hissed the Purrloin, irritation bleeding into frustration in his voice.

The only reply Pikachu gave was a steady "Pi-pi-pi", a repeating mantra with every twist and turn of his body and even that faded as he steadily fell into a rhythm of dodging and ducking. His eyes were watering and slowly washing away the debris in his eyes, but he barely noticed.

"It's a stalemate." Commented Dento.

"What's Satoshi going to do now?" wondered Iris. "Pikachu can't keep this up forever."

Zorua took his eyes off the combatants to take a look at Satoshi who appeared to be just as focused as Pikachu. It was incredible just how much he and Pikachu seemed to be in sync. The more they fell into the zone, the more Purrloin and Shooti seemed to fall out of it. Satoshi's lips were twitching as if he was saying something and Zorua strained his ears to listen. At a range that no normal human would be able to hear was a steady, "Wait for it….wait for it…wait for it…wait-"

'I said stay stiiiilllll!' Purrloin yowled. He stopped his Fury Swipes and his claws glowed a bright white as he lifted a paw high in preparation for a Scratch attack even as Shooti shouted at him to keep going with Fury Swipes.

"Grab it!"

Pikachu's ears twitched and his paws shot out faster than anyone else could process to nab both of Purrloin's now stationary arms.

"What are you doing Purrloin?! I said to keep using Fury Swipes!"

"Thunderbolt!"

"Ngh!" Shooti's eyed widened as he realized what was about to happen. "Get away from there!"

"Chuuuuuu!"

Shrieking and yowling as Pikachu continued to pump a substantial stream of electricity into his body, Purrloin writhed, desperate to break free. Just when he managed to pull and stagger away…

"Iron Tail at ten o'clock!"

The crushing blowing from the still blinded Pikachu sent Purrloin flying and crashing into the ground several feet away.

"Purrloin!"

"Ten o'clock hmm? Truly, Pikachu is quite the vintage. Every time I see him battle, he reveals a wondrous new side to his taste."

"…can I get that in a language that I can understand please?"

Dento internally winced at Iris's deadpan but acquiesced and tried to find better words to explain it.

"A normal analog clock, like the one you often see on the walls of Pokemon Centers, goes by a twelve hour cycle. As humans, we use them to tell time. We also generally take it for granted. Most pokemon wouldn't know such a thing as they follow the sun and moon cycles. Diurnal pokemon rise with the sun and sleep with the sunset. Vice versa for nocturnal pokemon.

It would take time for most pokemon to learn how to adjust to the human concept of the modern analog clock, but Pikachu reacted instantly to the correct position. That is-the angle that Purrloin had moved to from ninety degrees, or twelve o'clock, which would be directly in front Pikachu. At the very least, you could say that Pikachu either has a rudimentary grasp of mathematics and time by human standards or has been trained to respond to clock positions. It's mostly likely both."

"Oh…so that means Pikachu's pretty smart huh? Sometimes I get the feeling that he might be even smarter than his trainer though. At least he seems to be more sensible."

"…I think you're being a bit harsh, but…I can't really disagree with that…"

N knew Zorua could read clocks too. He didn't exactly understand what they had meant at first, but he had later noticed that humans seemed to constantly be controlled by them. Most pokemon didn't know how, not when they were more attuned to the outside world and more concerned with procuring food, shelter, and mates, but clocks were useful in a way that allowed you to keep track time when you spent nearly all your days in one room with a ceiling and no windows. To think you could use the concept of telling time for battles too. It was all mathematics and formulas. Something that N truly loved applied to something that he truly hated by someone that he truly liked. He wasn't sure how to deal with such feelings.

Purrloin struggled to get up, electricity still crackling and setting his fur on end.

"Alright! It's paralyz-huh?"

The feline flicked his tail, shaking the last of the stray sparks off as he tried to smooth down his frazzled fur. Shooti smirked.

"Purrloin's ability is Limber. That means you won't be able to count on paralysis in this battle."

Pikachu rubbed his eyes clearing away the last of the grit even as he took in the new information.

So that's why his current opponent was chosen. That didn't change much. He'd just have to focus on taking out Purrloin without taking a hit. Shame. A paralyzed enemy was always a great thing for him.

"Pika chu!" 'I can see again!'

'You're so annoying,' hissed Purrloin. 'Because of you, my fur is going to take forever to clean and it'll need to be trimmed to get rid of the ruined hair.'

'What? This is a battle. On a dirt field. Of course it's going to get dirty. It's your trainer's job to make sure you get good food and help you maintain your coat afterwards. My partner does. Doesn't yours?'

The baleful (and maybe just a little jealous) glare Pikachu received answered that question.

"Purr…loin!" 'That's...it!'

"What the-?" Dento bit off his gasp as the realization kicked in.

"Purrloin's evolving." Said N, tone even with no trace of his agitation. "He's evolving into Liepard."

'He's channeling all his jealousy into energy to evolve huh?' commented Zorua. 'At least he's being productive about it.'

"Liiiiieeeee!" The newly evolved Liepard gave a triumphant roar.

Satoshi and Shooti simultaneously pulled out their pokedex.

"Liepard, the Cruel Pokémon and the evolved form of Purrloin. Well-known for its beauty, Liepard uses the element of surprise when battling opponents, attacking before they can react."

"Oh no." Iris fretted. "What's he going to do? Pikachu can't even be considered in good shape right now."

Dento shook his head in despair. "I knew purrloin were bad news."

Axew put his claws over his eyes and whimpered his agreement.

"Axew…" 'Bad…'

Young as he was, even he understood that evolved pokemon were stronger than unevolved pokemon.

N was too stressed to even try to argue back.

Shooti smirked as he finished checking Liepard's information. "Guess this means that this battle will be over soo-Why are you smiling?"

"Heh." There was Satoshi, grin wide and eyes bright with an almost feral gaze. "The stronger the opponent is, the more excited we get. Isn't that right Pikachu?"

"Pika!" 'Yeah!'

"And evolution is not the be-all and end-all to pokemon battles."

"What are you talking about? An evolved pokemon is clearly much more powerful than an unevolved pokemon. That's basic!"

"Then we'll just have to show you that the basics are good and all, but they aren't the be-all and end-all either! Pikachu!"

"Liepard! Pursuit!"

"Dodge it!"

Liepard's significant increase in speed and size allowed it to slam into Pikachu who bounced off the ground a couple of times before rolling to a stop in front of his trainer.

"Pikachu! Are you okay?"

"Pi…ka chu." 'I've…been better.'

He gave a quiet groan and shook himself off, a fine coat of dust and dirt puffing away.

Liepard's tail flicked back and forth as he stared down the mouse was a condescending smirk.

'Who's got a dirty coat now?'

Pikachu gave his opponent an odd look.

'That's what you're so smug about? I told you. It's a dirt field. We're going to get dirty, because we are battling in dirt. Dirty dirty dirty dirt.'

Zorua snickered.

'He's got you there.'

'Who asked you?' snarled Liepard.

"Liepard. Stop it. Your opponent is Pikachu not the peanut gallery. Use Assist."

Liepard held up a glowing paw and swiped it in the air. Slicing waves of energy from the newly formed Air Cutter hurtled towards Pikachu.

"Quick Attack!"

Dodging from side to side, Pikachu was making his way over at an alarming speed even as the Air Cutter cut crescent shaped grooves into the field and sent clods of dirt flying.

Attacks missed, Shooti called for another move.

"Fury Swipes!"

Pikachu aborted the attack, using his tail to redirect his momentum without his trainer's commands and proceeded to dodged with his usual impressive flexibility, but unlike before Liepard's claws weren't even close to cutting him. Instead his newfound posture and longer limbs gave Pikachu more to room to maneuver and when Liepard reared up and attempted to stand on his hind legs like he had as a Purrloin, Pikachu easily and painfully tripped him up with an Iron Tail.

"What's the matter with you Liepard?!" Shooti was definitely losing his composure. "Get him already!"

His answer was a cross yowl. 'I'm trying! You do it if you think it's that easy!'

Dento rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

"It seems that Shooti and Liepard have rather severe flavors."

"Huh?"

"What?"

N kept one eye on the battle as he tried to pay attention to the Sommelier at the same time.

"They are ingredients that could become compatible given the right conditions. Unfortunately this battle is not it. Like a wine's temperature that is not properly worked through during the fermentation process, this vat is quickly turning sour. Or should I say that it was already on its way there and the heat from this battle is just speeding up the process. Take a look at Satoshi's vintage. His best pokemon. Even though Pikachu seems worn out and warmed over instead of freshly chilled, his aroma and flavor is actually improving the longer he remains on the field like a wine that has been allowed to breathe before serving."

Everyone turned back to the battle.

"Agility!"

Pikachu back flipped out of the frustrated Liepard's reach and began to run.

"Pikapikapikapika."

The same chant from the Striaton city gym filled the room, but this time Pikachu was only focused on running circles around the growling feline who turned around and around trying to separate the original from the afterimages. It might have been more prudent to save his breath but every bit of trouble he could give his opponent counted, especially when he was trying to confuse as many senses as possible.

"Grrr…Again! Assist!"

This time a Water Pulse began to form on Liepard's paw.

"Iron Tail!" Satoshi made a wide scooping motion with his arm and Pikachu instantly dug his glowing jagged tail under the dirt clods lying about, shoveling hand sized scoops of earth at Liepard without losing too much speed.

"Oh ho. He's using the dirt loosened up from that Air Cutter to create his own Sand Attack." Don George nodded, clearly impressed. "That's an excellent way to take advantage of the terrain."

Assaulted on all sides, Liepard frantically tried to paw the debris out of his own eyes and the Water Pulse fired prematurely, shooting straight up into the air.

"Now!"

Pikachu dashed forward and slammed an Iron Tail onto Liepard's head, then ricocheted off and away just in time for the Water Pulse to come crashing back down on the stunned feline. Liepard, soaked through and through, gave an unhappy wail.

'I get what that gym leader means.' Zorua whispered to N. 'The longer this goes on, the less verbal orders Satoshi uses and yet Pikachu somehow still knows what he wants from him. They are completely in sync.'

"Ngh…" Shooti was clenching his fists and teeth in frustration. "Liepard! You've been dragging this out for too long already! Finish Pikachu off with Pursuit!"

"Agility!"

Satoshi made another grand gesture sweeping around before pointing straight ahead and Pikachu dashed around and away as the enraged Liepard bounded after him. The feline's new form was much longer, allowing him to cover more distance than before and he was quickly catching up, but he still wasn't able to make tight turns quite like Pikachu. That was fine. Satoshi had told him what he wanted and he knew exactly what to do.

'Can't catch me~.' He taunted.

A particularly twisty turn just five feet in front of Shooti had Liepard tripping over his own paws as Pikachu ran under and around his legs before putting as much distance between them as he could.

'You little rodent!' screamed Liepard. 'I'll maul you to pieces! Tear that tail right off and e-'

"Now! Quick Attack!"

Pikachu about faced and shot forward towards the Liepard who was leaping towards him, claws and teeth bared as he was surrounded by the dark energy of Pursuit.

"Go for it Pikachu!"

Pikachu dove, sliding right under Liepard's outstretched claws and into the crater Satoshi had pointed out earlier, the final one left behind from Deerling's missed Jump Kick. He let loose a Thunderbolt right as Liepard's momentum carried him into the air and over the electric mouse.

"CHUUUUUUU!"

"LLLIIIIIIEEEEE!"

As the blinding light faded, Liepard's body fell into the crater and on top of Pikachu.

"Liepard!"

"Pikachu!"

Don George hesitated for a few tense moments even though Liepard seemed unconscious. When nothing else moved after a bit, he raised an arm.

"Liepard is unable to battle. Pikachu is also una-"

"Wait!" Satoshi shouted.

In the center of the crater, Liepard's body began to rise up, only for it to turn out to be Pikachu pushing his way out from underneath.

"Chaaaaa…" he huffed out as he pulled his head free. 'I thought I wasn't going to make it.'

Satoshi's face somehow managed to show both delight and concern in a single expression. In the end, he settled for a relieved "Pikachu…"

Pikachu wiggled the rest of the way out and gave him a wave.

"Pikachu!" 'I'm alright!'

"Liepard is unable to battle. Pikachu is the winner!"

Shooti snapped off a few pictures before recalling his Liepard without a word. The displeased expression on his face as he looked at first his camera, then his pokeball had N tensing. He had seen those sorts of expressions on trainers before. They were the sort to cruelly push their pokemon too hard and not take responsibility for their own shortcomings.

Satoshi on the other hand, didn't seem like he was pushing Pikachu at all. Instead they were together in their endeavors and he honestly couldn't tell who wanted to win more. It was strange. It was almost like…like they were one despite being two separate beings. Like how Zekrom and Reshiram had supposedly been one long ago…

"Just one more!" Iris squealed.

"But look at Pikachu." Dento pointed out. "He's exhausted."

Don George nodded in agreement. "Even if he loses, there's no shame in doing so. He managed to take out three pokemon alone despite the disadvantages he faced, but…"

N understood perfectly. For the first time, he felt that he could truly understand the thoughts of a trainer.

"They're burning too brightly to stop now." Nothing will stop them. Courage in the face of adversity. The determination to continue fighting against all odds. The makings of a hero…

He-no. They. They were heroes. Heroes who continued to shine brightly even in the darkest of times. Satoshi and Pikachu were so bright to look at that it was almost painful and yet…yet he didn't-couldn't look away.

The match resumed with Shooti calling out for an attack before Frillish finished materializing.

"Frillish! Water Pulse!"

Pikachu dodged without being told. Unlike most pokemon who fired off orbs or wide rings of water that did damage on impact, Frillish trapped other pokemon inside his Water Pulse and caused the explosion from within. He couldn't afford to be trapped like the way Pidove had, couldn't afford to take a single hit in this final battle or it would all be over.

"Thunderbolt!"

"Protect!"

The green translucent barrier surrounded Frillish in time to block the bolt.

"Quick Attack!"

"Are you crazy?!" Shouted Shooti. "Normal type attacks aren't going to hurt ghost pokemon!"

"Who said anything about hurting ghost pokemon with a Normal attack?"

"What?"

Before his opponent could process it, Pikachu was high in the air, launching right in front of Frillish's face and in the perfect position to fire off a point blank-

"Thunderbolt!"

"Chuuuuu!"

Frillish screamed and fell out of the air, flailing a bit as he tried to rise back up.

"Maybe we can't touch you with physical moves, but that doesn't mean we can't use them at all! Now Pikachu. Show 'em the Pika-wheels!"

"Oh no you don't. Frillish! Destroy any wheel as soon as you see it with Water Pulse!"

Even though the Pika-wheels seemed to only hover a few inches off the ground, Shooti wasn't going to take any chances. As much as he hated to admit it, Satoshi's Pikachu was proving himself to be devastating in battle. It was like a completely different pokemon from the one Shooti had obliterated just a week ago. Had it really grown so much in such a short amount of time?

Rising up high again, Frillish sent orb after orb of Water Pulse slamming into the field below. The electric rings were making for frustratingly erratic targets, but some did dissipate into a shower of sparkly lights and steam.

"Keep going Frillish. Pikachu is exhausted. He can't keep this up much longer."

A part of Pikachu railed against that statement. Another part noted that it was true and then pushed it aside to focus. The rings weren't as big or numerous as before and Frillish was destroying them as fast as he could. However Frillish was far slower when it came to offense than defense. The jellyfish didn't seem to understand the concept of aiming where a ring would be instead of where it was and was simply firing off Water Pulses as fast as he could everywhere. This was perfect.

Vapor and flying dirt and dust clouded the field and normally Pikachu would use this time for a Volt Tackle or Thunderbolt, but right now, he had to trust in his partner one thousand percent if he was hoping to pull through. He had been battling and running for over forty minutes straight now. Everything ached but at least nothing had gone numb yet.

Bitterness lingered in the back of his mind. How he had once been able to last more than thrice as long against overwhelming opponents most of the world couldn't even imagine. But that was then and this is now. There was no room for self-pity or reflection, just the concentration to keep his failing body riding in sync with the wave of his partner's wishes and hopes and dreams. One more step along the road to become a pokemon master. This was just…one more…

There were stitches pulling at his sides with every breath and something was tickling with the hint of an upcoming spasm on his left leg. He wasn't going to last for more than a couple of minutes and even that was pushing it.

But…

"Knock them up with Iron Tail!"

Out of the steam, a wheel shot out and collided with Frillish who gave a shrill cry. Then three more were sent up, this time as constricting rings that would shock him if he so much as lifted a tentacle.

"Frillish! Night Shade!"

But…

"Friiiillll!"

Ghostly pink and purple energy pulsed, then enveloped and finally shattered the Pika-wheels ringing him in a spectacular display of glittery sparkles worthy of any contest appeal.

But…I'll keep fighting…

Three more rings flew out of the settling field, lining up neatly above Frillish in an arc, each one smaller than the last with the biggest the furthest away from the jellyfish.

I'll keep fighting for as long as I can…

"GO PIKACHU! IRON TAIL!"

Spiraling upwards like a living saw blade Pikachu dove through the rings, snagging each one on a notch in his tail as he passed through.

I'll give it everything I've got…

"Water Pulse again! Blast it out of the air!"

He could barely hear the other humans and pokemon shouting, cheering on the side lines. It was drowned out by the pounding of his pulse, the wind whistling past his ears, and crackling of his Pika-wheels that he clung onto so fiercely.

Until my very last breath…

"Thunderbolt!" Yet somehow Satoshi's voice still managed to reach him, cutting through everything else like the sharpest blade to reach his ears. Or was it in his head? His heart? Oh what did it matter how he heard it? Where he heard it. Just as long as he did.

"CCCHHHHUUUUUUUUUU!"

after all…I can't let down my most beloved partner now, can I?

Pikachu uncurled just before he slammed the Thunderbolt boosted Pika-wheels onto Frillish. For a split second their eyes met, ruby red to a deep coffee black. The ferocity and fire, the powerful desire to stay alive and win burning in those dark depths froze Frillish in place, completely mesmerized with the fully formed Water Pulse being held above his head forgotten.

*So bright…*

That was the last thought Frillish had as the first wheel collided with the water ball, the second helping to cleave through it, and the third striking through the opened path to drive them all into his unprotected gelatinous head.

The Water Pulse proceeded to explode, filling the area with smoke and steam and through his wavering consciousness Pikachu could feel himself falling.

Below him, Frillish's swirly eyes signified his undeniable victory.

I…did it Sato-ngh…

Pikachu's weak smile turned to a grimace as Cursed Body kicked in to seal his Iron Tail.

They hit the ground, Pikachu landing on top of Frillish as the cloud of smoke and water vapor descended alongside with them. His opponent's body was surprisingly comfortable even if it was a bit damp and squishy. The perfect cushion for a pokemon who was too exhausted to care. He was done.

"Pi-chu! -kachu! Pikachuuuu!"

Ah…that's right…he couldn't rest just yet…there was…one more thing he had to do…just one more…

His entire body felt like it had been replaced by rocks. Everything was so heavy. How did rock type pokemon like Geodudes manage to move like this?

Just…one…more…

Lifting one shaky arm, Pikachu fought his fading vision to give his partner one final sign.

Though the explosion had forced everyone to cover their faces, Satoshi only closed his eyes and focused on the center of the battlefield in a world turned blue.

Well done Pikachu. You fought a good battle.

Satoshi slowly opened his eyes. The aura of Pikachu's thumbs up fading as his arm fell and went still. Finally the field settled enough to reveal two unconscious pokemon.

Take a nice long rest.

"Both Frillish and Pikachu are unable to battle. This match is a draw!"

"Pikachu!"

Satoshi sprinted across the field so quickly it seemed like he was using a Quick Attack. Cradling the battered Pikachu like a precious infant, Satoshi pressed him close to his chest.

"Pikachu…"

A tiny snore was his only reply.

"Heh." Satoshi smiled at him tenderly. "You were amazing out there buddy. Thank you for everything."

The quiet pride and overwhelming love lacing his voice drained almost all of the remaining tension from N's body and he couldn't stop the relieved sigh at the fact that the battle was finally over.

The click of a shutter went off and Shooti lowered his camera.

For a moment he remained quiet before finally giving his opinion. "Your Oshawott, Tepig, and Pidove are definitely subpar. Snivy is okay and Pikachu-," he grudgingly admitted. "-is impressive."

Satoshi shook his head. "Pikachu and Snivy just happen to have more experience than the others. Give it a little time and lots of hard work and they'll all become winners."

Shooti recalled his unconscious pokemon in lieu of replying.

"Ah. I better get to the pokemon center now. Shooti. You're coming too right? Let's go together."

"Hmph. Alright. I need to get take care of some things there anyways."

N frowned, but didn't protest. No matter how much he didn't like this trainer, at least he was going to get his pokemon healed. The group said their goodbyes to Don George who praised both boys for the excellent battle they had put on before leaving.


"Hmm…"

"Don George?"

Don George tore himself away from the long gone visage of the trainers' backs through the glass doors of his facility, the bright red of the foreigner's cap still burning in his mind's eye. Even as battered as that Pikachu had been, his trainer refused to put him into a pokeball, citing how greatly his pokemon disliked them and had chosen to make a mad sprint for the Pokemon Center instead.

It's been some time since he'd seen a pokemon push itself so far for anyone. It had been much more than a hatred of losing. It had been guts, loyalty, respect, will power, and more than anything else, love that had Pikachu clawing out his place in a tie from almost certain defeat. Even if the unconscious rodent would never know, his trainer still respected his wishes and refused to betray his trust by doing what just about everyone else felt was normal. How long has it been since it was last in a pokeball?

He could certainly see why Pikachu fought so hard, pushed so far, and just refused to give in until his body gave out first. He hated letting down the ones he loved too.

"Sir?"

Don George blinked, returning to the present and to one of the many employees that worked for him.

"Hmm? What is it Jacob?"

"The kids using Battlefield Two are done. Miles and Benny are doing a quick once over but I don't think there's really anything that needs to be fixed. They're new trainers and only had some low level Patrats, Pidoves and Sewaddles. There's a bit of String Shot here and there, but those were already dissolving when I checked in with them. They were mostly going for straight forward attacks. Tackle, Bug Bite, the usual." Jacob shook his head. "Nothing special but at least we don't need to do much. How's your end?"

"Come. See for yourself."

Don George waved him onward and Jacob fell in behind the man until he was able to take in the mess that was Battlefield Three. The dust had since settled, laden down by the moisture in the air. The smell of ozone still lingered though it had been about ten minutes since the battle had ended.

He whistled, impressed, taking in the pockmarked arena, eyes lingering on the largest crater in the middle. It was no less than three feet deep and the rest of the field was damp and pitted with piles of earth shoved up here and there. A wide but shallow, perfectly circular trench had been dug out to the north eastern side of the field. He had no idea what or how that had happened beyond it being something created by pokemon.

"That much have been some battle huh?" He sniffed the air. "Somebody with an electric pokemon? I'd recognize this smell anywhere."

"Yes." Don George nodded. "A Pikachu. One of the trainers came from Kanto and he's decided to tackle the Isshu League."

"A Pikachu?! Aww man," groaned Jacob. "I want to see it. He brought anything else with him?"

"Not that I've seen. He only had five pokemon on hand and they're native. Pidove, Snivy, Oshawott, and Tepig."

Jacob blinked. "A full set of starters huh? Not bad. He's got a balanced team right off the bat and they're all supposed to be rare to boot."

"The others are new and it shows. The Pikachu is clearly his starter. He definitely had quite a bit of training beforehand. In fact, he's-" Don George swung a hand out to encompass breadth of the room, "-responsible for almost all of this."

Jacob whistled again, deeper this time.

"I gotta see the footage later."

"Damn straight ya do."

The men turned to see a young dark skinned woman-the only woman officially apprenticed here-in the Battle Club's uniform grinning at them, surrounded by an aura of unrestrained glee. Behind her were a few more of her fellow members.

"Hell, ya'll need ta see this."

"La-Neishah." Don George greeted.

"Aren't you supposed to be manning the security room?" questioned Jacob.

La-Neishah gave a flippant wave. "Nope. Lunch Break. We just closed up. But seriously. Ya'll need to see this match later."

"Battlefield Two's good and ready Boss." One of the men behind her spoke up. "And so are One and Four, Five and Six."

"Hmm. Then that just leaves Three."

There was a groan as the others took in the scene.

"Awwww. This looked like an awesome battle. Way better than Patrats tackling each other all day."

Everyone who worked here was a battle junkie through and through. They had no problems with fixing up and maintaining the place so long as they could watch great battles. Unfortunately, being in a location that was still fairly close to the beginning of a new trainer's usual gym route, they didn't often see such intense ones.

Don George ignored the moans of discontent in favor of listing off the things they would need to attend to.

"That panel needs to be replaced and will take the longest." He gestured at the portion of wall Shooti's deerling had cracked. Jacob pulled out a small PDA and began to tally up the repair costs, mentally taking inventory of their current supplies. "We have enough dirt bags in the storeroom to fill in the field and it won't take long to finish if we all work together. However, I believe this can be taken care of later tonight. For now, mark this room as unavailable. Go get lunch everyone."

"Yes sir!" chorused the others-aside from Jacob still jotting down notes-as they turned away, eagerly discussing potential restaurant choices.

"And La-Neishah…"

The young woman stopped, but didn't look back.

"Yeah?"

"When I say go get lunch, I mean 'go get lunch' and not to the pokemon center to pester that boy right away."

She winced, caught before she could even start.

"Yes sir."

Don George didn't turn around to see her leave, but sighed once she was out of hearing range.

"She's not going to listen is she." He stated flatly.

Jacob hummed and replied without looking up.

"Technically she will. You're the person she respects the most in this world and about the only one who can make her behave. If you say to go get lunch and not bother those trainers right away then that's what she'll do."

Satisfied with his current list, he saved the information and tucked away the PDA with a glimmer of amusement in his eyes.

"Of course, tomorrow is a different matter entirely."

Don George sighed again as he ran a hand through his hair.

"If that Pikachu boy is even still around by then...from what I've seen, he has a true passion for battles and most likely won't turn down anyone who asks. But the only pokemon he has that will really be able to give her a challenge is the Pikachu and it'll need at least another day of rest, maybe two, to be in peak condition again."

"Oooh. She won't be too happy to hear that."

"Yes. And he also only has one badge while his opponent has already gotten his second even though they started at the same time. In fact, it seems young Satoshi is a bit behind compared to most trainers who intend to challenge this year's league. While there're still several months to go, it's unlikely he'll stay in this town for more than another day or so."

"Yeah…" Jacob sucked in a breath between his teeth. "She's really really not going to be happy."


Decided to split Ch 5 into multiple parts because of how ridiculously long it was getting and every time I reopened this doc to work on it I had to scroll past 11k+ of words to get to the parts that needed to be written. Plus it was an eyesore when trying to edit.

If you've pampered your pokemon enough in Pokemon Amie/Refresh, they do amazing random stuff in battle like dodging attacks, getting critical hits, and shrugging off status ailments. I like to think Pikachu could do all that through pure willpower/love and eventually the rest of Ash's team will be able to as well, but at this point Pikachu is the only one who has the sort of close bond needed to achieve that.

I was watching an old DP episode and they actually outright say something that seemed to have been a video game mechanic only. The 4 move limit is referenced when Brock states that when Ash's Infernape learned Flare Blitz, he forgot how to use Flame Wheel. Let me tell you, this completely blew my mind and explains so much about why Pikachu never used Volt Tackle again after learning Electro Ball. Here the 4 move limit is something that's more of a suggestion than a universal law.

English/Japanese Names

Luxuria Town/Current Town

Wallace Cup/Mikuri Cup