Poni Island was definitely a mysterious place. From the strange way plants grew to the unusual weather patterns, trainers often went to take advantage of the unique environment in hopes that they could tap into the island’s secrets.
Hapu was showing Ash and friends around the island when one such strange phenomenon took place.
“The mist,” she described, “is Tapu Fini’s special power. It can connect people to those who have passed from this world. Be careful, guys. If you get lost in the fog, you might never come out. Seeing the people you lost only to lose them again can be so painful that you yourself don’t wish to return.”
The fog swirled around the group, an air of unease settling over each member. In particular, Lillie and Mallow were both intrigued and nervous about what the fog had in store for them. Lillie had hopes to see her deceased father. Mallow, years before, had parted with her mother on poor terms, and wasn’t sure if she really wanted to see her again.
Tapu Fini was in charge of their fates. Their decisions, their desires, had no influence on what would happen to any of them.
Sophocles was the first to point out that some of their friends had disappeared. “Hey, where are Ash, Lillie, and Mallow?”
Hapu went pale. “They were chosen.”
Kiawe swallowed. “I know Lillie and Mallow wanted to see people, but…what about Ash?”
It was just Ash and Pikachu. Neither could see particularly well through the fog. “What happened to Torracat?” Ash asked offhandedly. He hoped the cat was back with his friends, whom he had clearly been separated from.
He froze at the sound. “That voice…I know I’ve heard that voice before.”
He started walking in the direction the voice had come from. It continued to call to him, and he broke into a run. Realization was slowly starting to dawn on him. “No…no way…please, no!”
He broke through the trees and into a clearing. “It’s good to see you again, Ash.”
Standing in the middle of the clearing was a familiar girl dressed in red and blue. Her short hair was just like he remembered it, with that same red had resting on her head. Tears threatened to pour from his eyes.
”The mist is Tapu Fini’s special power. It can connect people to those who have passed from this world.”
He ran towards her, wrapping her in a hug. “Serena!” He let the tears flow, holding her tight. “This can’t be right! There’s no way!”
She gently pushed him away, giving him a gentle smile. That same smile she’d given him as she went down that escalator back in Kalos. “It is. And it’s okay.”
He dropped to his knees. In all his years, of all of the goodbyes he’d said to friends and pokemon alike, he’d never felt a grief like this before. It was overwhelming. “H-how…” he whispered.
Serena knelt down next to him, gently rubbing his back. “There was an accident. On my way to Hoenn, my plane crashed. There were no survivors.”
Braixen, Pancham, and Sylveon slowly stepped out of the fog as well. Pikachu made a sad sound, one of shock and disbelief, of grief and pain. The four Pokémon stood together, looking solemnly at each other.
“Ash,” Serena whispered, “there’s something I wanted to say to you for a long time, but I didn’t have the courage. Now that I’m here, I feel that you deserve to know.”
He felt a heavy pit in his stomach. He hoped she wasn’t going to say what deep down he knew she would.
“I love you, Ash.”
The dam burst. All of Ash’s emotions began to flow freely. He started screaming, tears spilling onto the grass below him. He slammed his fists against the ground. “It’s not fair! It isn’t fair at all!”
Serena wrapped her arms around him, trying to calm him down. “I know it’s not. Sometimes that’s how things go…things just aren’t fair. I’m sorry it has to be this way.”
He threw his arms around her again, sobbing into her shoulder. “I should have brought you with me! You could have come home to Kanto, and then to Alola! I shouldn’t have let you go!” He squeezed her tightly. “I’ll never let you go again.”
Serena bit her lip and shook her head. “Sorry, Ash. I can’t let you do that. You have a life to live, a destiny to fulfill. You can’t stay with me.”
Anger coursed through his veins. “But Serena! I—”
“No buts, Ash.” She pushed away from him and stood up. “There are people here who need you. Your Pokémon need you. You have too much to live for.”
“But…so did you…” he muttered, standing.
“It was my time, Ash. But it isn’t your time yet. Live. For me. For all of us.” She pressed her hand against his chest. “I’m always with you, Ash. I’m always here for you, cheering you on.”
He looked down at her hand and gave a sad smile. “Always in my heart, huh? Okay.” He looked into her eyes and closed the distance between them, pressing his lips against hers. They stood there for a second, ignoring the world around them.
Pikachu noticed the fog begin to fade, the trees around them becoming more visible. He waddled over to Ash, nudging his leg gently. “Pika…”
Ash broke the kiss and looked around them. Serena had begun to fade too.
“Goodbye, Ash. I’m glad I got to see you again.”
He smiled at her. “See ya later, Serena. Oh, and one last thing.” He pulled her into a hug. “I love you too.”
The fog cleared. Serena and her Pokémon could no longer be seen. Ash, Lillie, and Mallow were back with their friends. Gladion was there as well. While everyone talked, Ash looked over the water into the sunset. He felt a warm peace in his heard. He placed his hand on his chest. “Always in my heart.”
Pikachu climbed up onto his shoulder and rubbed his face against Ash’s. “Thanks, buddy,” he said, giving Pikachu a scratch behind the ears.