A/N: This is the first chapter of Essence. This story will be a much more proactive and aggressive take on Ash's journey. Some things may be similar to the anime, but a lot of it will be entirely new. Before you begin to read, please understand that this is my story. If you don't like it that's fine; I don't even care if you trash the story with trollesque reviews. Just know that I will not be doing any polls, and just because it's fanfiction doesn't mean that I'm going to ask my readers what direction to take the story. On that note, enjoy the first chapter.

Disclaimer: I don't own pokemon.

Kanto 1—beta read and re-edited as of July 3, 2015. Special thanks to Pwnerbrad for helping me retrospectively filter out the mistakes in the original chapter.

Kanto 1: Essence

He took a deep breath to calm himself down as he entered the professor's lab. This was the moment he had been waiting for. For the majority of his short life, he had dreamt of the day that he would start his journey as a pokemon trainer. That journey was about to begin; therefore, it only made sense that his emotions were jumbled together in what felt like one giant knot of hyperactive confusion.

The boy only had a short moment to take in the familiar scenery of the well-organized laboratory before he was greeted by one of the professor's assistants. He recognized the tall, greasy haired man as the assistant that supervised the Trainer Qualification Exam a couple of months ago.

"Nice to see you again, Ash," the man spoke with a quiet tone and a bland expression.

Ash desperately tried to remember the assistant's name, but had no luck. He reached out to shake the man's hand as he truthfully replied, "Same to you. I'm embarrassed to say this, but could you remind me of your name?"

The assistant scratched the back of his head as he sighed. "The names Thomas. I can't blame you there; the only person working at this lab with a recognizable name has the damn building named after him."

Even though he could see the truth in the statement, Ash simply ignored the comment not knowing how to respond. The only famous name out of Pallet was the good, old Professor Samuel Oak, which was something Ash was hoping to change.

The assistant scientist led Ash through the main hall of the lab, which was embellished with all sorts of fancy scientific equipment and pokemon apparel. They slowly approached a door in the way back of the hall that oozed confidentiality. Oak's assistant, Thomas, timidly knocked on the door. Moments later, a lively elderly voice rambunctiously answered.

"Come in, the doors always open!"

Ash's thoughts quickly erased any impression of confidentiality that he had picked up on moments earlier.

Once they entered the new room, the dark-haired boy immediately recognized the owner of the cheery voice as Professor Oak. The professor hastily pushed aside whatever paper work he was attending to before jumping up from his desk to greet Ash.

"Goodness gracious, Ash, you're thirty minutes early," said the professor. "I thought I clearly stated nine o'clock on the email I sent your mother."

Thomas subtly took this as his cue to leave Ash in the hands of his boss. He exited the room quietly and shut the door behind him.

The dark-haired boy gave the professor a slight smile before replying, "Come on, professor, give me a break. I was too excited to wait. Besides, have you ever known me to be late for anything?"

The professor merely shook his head in a manner that portrayed disconcertion. He expected nothing less from his grandson's childhood friend. Nevertheless, Ash's sense of responsibility always impressed him.

"Your character never seizes to be refreshing, Ash," jeered the professor. "Although, in order for things to be fair, I can't present the starters until the specified time."

The newly eligible pokemon trainer flashed the professor an inquisitive look, "But, professor, would it be unfair if I chose not to pick from the three standard Kanto elemental starters?"

The professor raised a curious eyebrow, "Elaborate please?"

Ash suppressed a jolt of excitement while being careful not to get too carried away. If he knew the professor, and he did, he was one good explanation away from getting what he wanted.

"I want a journey of excitement; it doesn't make sense for me to start the same way everyone else does," said the boy passionately. "Nothing against the Kanto starters, but I'd like to be different."

Oak hadn't had a request like this in quite some time. The professor thought it over for a brief moment before giving an answer, "Well, I suppose that would be alright. What do you have in mind, Ash?"

Ash didn't hesitate, "That depends on what you got?"

The professor placed his hand under his chin, making it obvious to Ash that he was mulling over different possibilities. "Well, we're never short on pidgey?"

Ash quickly declined, "No, I'll catch one myself. Besides, I don't like the idea of having a flying-type as my starter."

Oak didn't take too long to spit out another option. "I think there are a few young nidoran. You can pick from either gender?"

Once again, Ash thought it over for a brief moment before declining. "I'll pass. I like nidoran, but I'd rather have my starter be a little less rash."

"Understandable; loyalty and compatibility are very important when you first start out," replied the professor.

Unfortunately, Ash could tell that Professor Oak wasn't sure how many more suitable options he had. He mentally pictured himself walking out of the building with several unseemly starters before he saw an enlightened expression on the professor's lived-in mug.

"If loyalty is what your looking for, Ash, my arcanine just hatched a couple of growlithe pups a few months ago," stated the professor with a smirk.

Ash listened to the professor intently.

"I was planning on giving one to Gary as a late birthday present. I suppose you could have the other," offered the professor.

Ash nearly jumped out of his shoes in excitement at the idea of having a growlithe of his own. He had always admired Professor Oak's arcanine. It was one of many pokemon that Ash, and his best friend Gary, grew up playing with. The dark-haired boy also was aware that the species was typically brave and faithful, which was the type of characteristics he wanted in his starter. Before he could make a decision, though, he would have to meet the young fire-type canine.

"Can I meet it first, professor?" asked Ash, delighted by the suggestion.

Professor Oak smiled, approving of Ash's request. Oak reached into the side pocket of his pristine, white lab coat and took out some sort of miniature, mechanical mechanism that resembled a key. He told Ash to wait where he was and walked out of the room. A few minutes later, the professor returned holding a red and white spherical device. It was perfectly symmetrical, designed in such a way that one half was red and the other was white. The two halves were scrupulously meshed together by a streak of black that lined it's way around the circumference of the ball. The release button was located in the center of the carefully constructed figure.

The professor warned Ash to take a few steps back while he wasted no time in releasing the growlithe from the confines of its pokeball. Ash wiped off the sweat that anticipation had produced upon his forehead, and gazed at the resulting flash of bright, white light emitted by the release. The incandescent light faded, leaving a medium-sized, quadruped pup in its stead. The pup had an orange coat with beautiful black stripes that barred across its back and legs. The long regal fur on its head and chest matched the off-white creamy color of its tail.

The growlithe immediately felt Ash's presence and cocked its head slightly to the side. It looked Ash over curiously with its lambent, grey eyes.

Ash adamantly looked Growlithe in its eyes by the use of his own. He would admit that he didn't have an extensive amount of knowledge on the loyal fire-type, but he knew enough to understand that in order to procure Growlithe's allegiance smoothly, he needed to gain its respect. Ash always felt that respect and first impressions often relied upon each other. A good first impression usually led to respect. A prior lack of respect for another, based off of assumption, usually tainted a first impression.

Without breaking eye contact, Ash crouched down and signaled Growlithe over to him.

The intensity in the dark-haired boy's deep brown eyes caused Growlithe to hesitate momentarily. Nevertheless, it didn't take long for the young pokemon to recognize the care in the boy's posture. The boy had brought his body down to nearly eye level, making sure that the first encounter was on equal terms. Growlithe saw this and recognized it as a good-hearted gesture. Most of his experiences with humans made him out to feel inferior.

This one was different. The boy was thoughtful.

The growlithe decided that it was safe to get closer. It slowly made its way towards the young boy, desiring the child's will power. But...it was not quite yet ready to submit.

Ash made the decision to let down his guard, softening his facial expression with a smile. He slowly reached out his hand, and gently ran his fingers through the soft creamy colored tuft that sprouted from the growlithe's head.

Growlithe didn't resist, allowing the human boy to do as he pleased. All anxiety was put to rest when it saw the boy's friendly grin.

While petting the young growlithe, Ash turned his attention back to the professor.

"Professor, if it's okay with Growlithe, I would love to start my journey with it by my side," said Ash, with a smile. "I think we would will make a great team."

Growlithe caught on to what was happening and wagged his tail in excitement. This human boy had all the properties of a good companion. Maybe he could be to him, what Professor Oak was to his mother. Growlithe broke any boundary of personal space with a lick of approval to Ash's face.

Professor Oak didn't need any further convincing. Growlithe were born understanding human speech, so he knew that there wasn't a communication error. It was obvious that the young fire-type had no problem being Ash's partner.

Oak couldn't help but smile at the two newly acquainted friends.

"I think it would be an injustice if you had any other starter," said the professor. "I approve your request. You may have him."

Ash gave Growlithe a big hug of acceptance. Growlithe returned the act of affection with another lick to Ash's face, resulting in a room full of laughter.

Professor Oak finished the acquisition by registering Growlithe's pokeball under the name Ash Ketchum, along with providing the newly registered trainer with five empty pokeballs and a starter pokedex—activated through Ash's newly acquired trainer account. In addition, Professor Oak gave a brief review of some of the basic functions of the pokedex. There was no need to go in depth, since preknowledge of the tablet sized supercomputer was needed in order to qualify as a trainer.

Last of all, Oak handed Growlithe's pokeball to Ash.

"Alright, Ash, your all set," said the professor. "I would like for you to return Growlithe as you exit through the main lab. However, I think it would be a good idea to release him as soon as you exit...that way you two can get to know each other better."

Ash agreed with the professor and asked Growlithe if he would be okay with going back into his pokeball for a little bit. Growlithe didn't seem to hate the idea, so Ash returned him.

Professor Oak walked Ash back to the entrance of his lab. He proceeded to ask Ash to give him a call when he reached Viridian City. Given that it's the only rational way to go, all trainers starting in Pallet Town traveled to Viridian City at the beginning of their journey.

Ash nodded his head in agreement, respecting the professor's wishes.

As Ash exited the building with his very first pokemon resting in the lone pokeball attached to his belt, the professor and the newly registered trainer said there goodbyes.


Ash and Growlithe cheerfully walked down Pallet's dirt path together. Before they could set off to Viridian City, they had to stop by Ash's house. He still had to pick up his backpack and say goodbye to his mother.

Since the walk from the lab to his house was decently long, he decided that now was as good a time as ever to become more acquainted with his starter. He figured the best way to do that would be to share everything he could about himself. The dark-haired trainer shared his goals and desires. He told Growlithe about how he aspired to be a pokemon master. He admitted that he wasn't quite sure what that looked like yet, but figured a good place to start would be Kanto's Gym Circuit.

Amongst the many things Ash had told Growlithe, the piece of information that stood out to the canine the most was Ash's goals for his pokemon. Ash was extremely passionate about potential. He felt that any pokemon he caught needed to be trained to reach its limit. He desired that by the time he retired as a trainer, he would be able to tell all of his pokemon that he tried his very hardest to make them the best he could. This was an attitude Growlithe could get behind. Most trainers desired to strengthen themselves; the best trainers pursued the strength of their pokemon.

Ash also explained to Growlithe how unique it was to start with a member of his species. He did his best to ensure that Growlithe understood that things would be fun, but not easy. Both of them needed to give their maximum effort. Ash expected Growlithe to be a leader amongst his future friends.

Growlithe yearned for the challenge. He wanted to take Ash to the top. He wanted to be the Pokemon Master's powerful starter.

Growlithe promised himself to do everything within his power to create that reality. Ash wanted to raise Growlithe to an elite level. That way, one day, Growlithe could be recognized as the strongest arcanine in the world.

The two new friend's conversation was cut short right in front of Ash's house. There was a massive group of people who he recognized as several of his neighbors. They hoisted large poster board signs reading his name and wore all kinds of ridiculous accessories. It didn't take long for Ash to recognize the woman in charge. It was his mom.

He instantly felt like turning around and walking the opposite direction, but elected to face the embarrassment head-on instead of insulting his mother.

She turned around just in time to see her son approaching. He was supposed to be at the lab, so she was initially surprised. However, it didn't take long for her to figure out why he was already back. That question was answered by the cute little growlithe that was following him. She was slightly bummed that she wouldn't get to surprise her son at the lab. But, she quickly discarded any negative thoughts. She could never be upset at the sight of her baby.

After taking a closer look, she noticed that Ash was wearing the outfit that she had put together for him a couple of days ago. The dark gray pants and black, long-sleeved shirt looked rather good together. She wished he would keep his hair combed for once, but unfortunately, that was a fools dream. Ash never went anywhere without his tattered, old Pokemon League cap.

"Mom, what's going on?" asked the young boy as he neared his mother.

She waved off the neighbors as she stepped up to greet her son.

"We were going to go to the lab to see you off," she smirked. "Come on, Ashy, you know that if I do something, I do it big."

Ash couldn't help but laugh.

"That's true I guess," he looked at the neighbors and mentally chuckled at what they were wearing. "Was it really necessary this time, though; and why are they dressed like that?"

The neighbors shook their heads, not knowing the answer to that question themselves. Delia Ketchum had a way of getting what she wanted...when she wanted it.

His mother simply disregarded the question and brought her attention back to Growlithe.

"Ash, don't be rude. Please introduce me to your friend," requested his mother.

The dark-haired trainer introduced Growlithe and his mom to each other. He then proceeded to fill his mother in on everything that had happened at the lab. His mom listened, all the while, she was bent over running her fingers gently through the cream colored tuft of fur atop Growlithe's head.

Growlithe could see where Ash's thoughtfulness came from. His trainer's relationship with his mother reminded him of his own.

Ash's attention shifted when he realized that his mom was wearing his backpack.

Delia caught onto her son's change of focus, and took off the pack and handed it to him.

They packed for this journey the other day. He had made sure to pack all that he could for his first trip to Viridian, and his mother made sure he didn't forget anything important.

Delia smiled, "You packed well, the only thing I needed to add was a couple more clean pairs of underwear."

Ash's face lit up to a vibrant, tomato red. He waved his arms back and forth frantically as he shouted, "Mom, how many times have I told you!? Please don't say things like that in public!"

Ash could hear the remaining neighbors snicker. They would miss this: the mother and son comedic duo that never got old. Their humor was one of the many reasons that they were loved by everyone in town.

The mood changed from lighthearted to solemn like the flip of a switch. Goodbyes between mother and son seemed to have that kind of effect. There was no longer a reason for Ash to go inside. Now that he had his backpack, it was time for them to be on their way.

Part of her wished that Ash could stay home forever, but he was ten now. So young, but old enough to see the world for himself.

Change was hard...

Ash's mother was now in tears as she embraced her son with a tight hug. He did his best not to cry. Ash had always felt uncomfortable crying in front of other people, especially his mom. Besides, he knew that if he were to shed a single tear, his mother would probably completely break down in public.

Before Ash could leave, Delia bent down to say goodbye to Growlithe. The look she had on her face portrayed seriousness, "Growlithe, I expect you to take good care of my son."

The puppy pokemon barked firmly to reassure her that he would take good care of Ash. He wouldn't be able live with himself if he let the strong-willed woman down.

His mother then brought her gaze back to Ash.

"You're not off the hook either, Ash," she spoke to both of them, "you guys are partners now. You need to take care of each other."

The two friends nodded in agreement, understanding that they both had a brand new responsibility. It was a responsibility that depended on them working together to strengthen their teamwork and grow as individuals.

Ash gave his mother one more big hug before saying goodbye one last time.

His mother excused the remaining neighbors, and blew Ash a kiss, before going back inside her home.

Ash and Growlithe continued once again down Pallet's dirt path. They headed north towards Viridian City.


Ash and Growlithe had just about reached the edge of town when Ash heard a familiar voice coming up from behind.

"Ashy-boy, wait up!" yelled Gary Oak as he closed the gap in between he and his friend.

Gary was the grandson of Professor Oak as well as Ash's best friend. Ash turned around to find a panting Gary. The brown haired boy was bent over, breathing heavily, while grasping his knees.

"Shouldn't you be at the lab, Gary?" Ash asked dryly.

After taking a moment to catch his breath, the brown haired boy replied, "Um, I would be, but someone decided to set off on his journey without a proper goodbye."

Ash had actually thought about that before he left, but figured they'd run into each other sooner or later. His friend Gary tended to be a little bit over dramatic.

"I wanted to get a head start," said Ash with a shrug.

Gary crossed his arms with a scowl, "It looks to me like you went to the lab early to make a special request."

The brown haired boy transitioned his attention from Ash to Growlithe, "So Gramps let you take one of the new Growlithe pups, how'd you talk him into that?"

Ash smiled, "Well, I went to the lab early to see if I could start with something different..."

He then bent down and pet his new friend, "I wasn't expecting a growlithe, though. Your grandpa was generous enough to let me start with this little guy."

Gary's scowl turned into a smirk, "Well, if you want my opinion, I think you made the right choice. You guys look like your already comfortable around each other."

Ash nodded, "Yeah, Growlithe's a great pokemon. I can't wait to start training him."

The puppy pokemon would have blushed if he were capable. He really lucked out. He was going on a journey with a human that meshed with him perfectly. That was practically every pokemon's dream. But, he was also slightly lost by the conversation. Ash had yet to talk about Gary at all, so Growlithe was curious to learn about this human that Ash treated like a brother.

"Gary, shouldn't you get to the lab. What are you going to do if someone chooses the starter you want?" asked Ash.

Gary sighed, "Oh please, Ashy-boy. I called ahead of time and told Gramps which one I want."

Gary flashed Ash a cocky grin, "Do you really think I, the great Gary Oak, would let the pokemon I want slip through my fingers?"

The dark-haired boy laughed.

"You've always been dramatic," Ash continued, "I guess something's never change."

Gary flipped his hair before answering, "I try not to change what should always stay the same."

Ash changed the subject, "How do you feel about a battle in Viridian? I hear the gym leader only takes challenges if you have seven badges."

Gary attentively was listening.

"Since there is no gym battle, it would be nice to have some kind of challenge to kick start our journey," said Ash.

Ash's eyes met Gary's and radiated with intensity. Gary didn't back down and leered right back at his best friend.

Gary reached out a hand, "Challenge accepted! Ash Ketchum, we will always be best friends, but today marks the beginning of our rivalry as trainers."

Ash confidently smirked as he firmly grasped his friend's hand, "Couldn't have said it better myself."

Gary crouched down to Growlithe's level.

"And you, my friend, need to get strong. You're Ash Ketchum's starter after all," he chuckled, "that makes you Gary Oak's number one threat."

He patted him on the head, "Besides, Ash is going to put you in some tough situations. Trust me, I've been covering for his ass for almost ten years."

Ash rolled his eyes, "Don't listen to this joker, Growlithe. I'm the one thats always been doing the covering. "

The boys glared at each other—only to burst out into laughter moments later. They exchanged a little more friendly small talk before deciding that it was finally time to go their separate ways. Ash and Gary wished each other good luck and then headed in separate directions.

Before Gary could get too far, Ash turned around quizzically, "Gary, I forgot to ask, what pokemon did you reserve?"

The brown haired boy stuck his tongue out and snickered, "Nice try, Ashy-boy! But, you're going to have to wait until our match."

The two boys turned back around and continued walking toward their destinations. Although their paths were momentarily different, the two young boys were both thinking along the same lines. They would give the world something to get excited about. One day, they would battle in front of everyone—and it would be legendary.

Growlithe was just as excited as the two boys. He had a feeling that Gary would be one of their biggest obstacles. Good thing he thirsted for such a challenge.

Before stepping past town limits, the young boy and his Growlithe stopped and looked back at Pallet one last time. It would be a long time before they returned home.


Ash and Growlithe were around halfway between Pallet and Viridian. The air was clean, and they were surrounded by nothing but nature. The trees that guarded the path were just starting to lose their leaves, signifying the end of summer and beginning of fall.

The walk to Viridian had been nothing but enjoyable. He and his pokemon simply relished each other's company while taking in the gorgeous scenery. Ash spotted a clearing a little bit off path that would be a perfect place to stop and train. He filled Growlithe in on his idea and escorted the puppy pokemon to the location. It was around midday, and Ash wanted to at least figure out how he was going to train his starter before lunchtime.

While preparing for his journey, Ash didn't really take into account that he could be starting off with a growlithe. Therefore, his knowledge on the species wasn't quite where it needed to be. Fortunately, in order to pass the qualification exam, you had to have at least some general knowledge on all of the pokemon from your home region. He wasn't exactly starting from scratch. Nevertheless, his internal information on the fire-type was rather limited. Good thing he had a pokedex.

The miniature supercomputer was about the size of a standard paperback chapter book. It had several button controls on its frontside, along with a six-by-six inch screen. The side of the device was a portable scanner and the model was red in color.

Ash didn't waste any time and pressed the power button. The LED screen lit up. "Salutations—Pokemon Trainer...Ash Ketchum. I am model number 73419, also known as Dexter. I will be serving you in many ways over the course of your travels. My primary functions are to act as your trainer account manager, personal identification, and pokemon encyclopedia/database. I have several more features for you to uncover over time."

Ash figured that the initial information was probably provided to all trainers that started their journey in Kanto. He wasn't sure, but he figured that other regions had their own pokedex models. Now that the pokedex was activated, Ash held it over Growlithe and pressed down the scan button.

Dexter lit up once again and analyzed. "Growlithe – the puppy pokemon – growlithe have a brave and trustworthy nature. They often stand up to bigger and stronger foes and repel enemies with their bark or bite. Growlithe have an amazing sense of smell. It is fact that once a growlithe smells something's scent, it will never forget it. It is also rumored that growlithe can use their olfactory sense to determine the emotions of living beings. This growlithe is male. Current moveset: Bite, Ember, Leer, Roar and Odor Sleuth. Ability: Intimidate.

Thanks to the pokedex, Ash had a broad idea of where Growlithe was at in terms of battle capability. This gave him a general idea of how they would train. For now, given that it was just the two of them, all they could really do was build a physical foundation as well as work on refining Growlithe's current moveset.

Ash trained Growlithe for something like an hour before calling it quits due to hunger. During that time, they were able to begin kicking Growlithe into shape physically. He also got a chance to see Growlithe's Bite and Ember. He didn't really have the means to gauge the other three attacks.

Even though Growlithe was extremely talented with his Ember for such a young pokemon, he had a long way to go before his accuracy was up to par. In addition, although he had what Ash assumed to be, good technique with his Bite; Growlithe lacked physical jaw strength, which came with experience and hard work. One thing was most certainly made clear by their training session. Growlithe had a massive amount of latent potential. Unfortunately, it was impossible for him to age any faster. So, they were going to have to rely on hard work to overcome the natural bonuses that came with experience.


After finishing up with lunch, and allowing their bodies to digest their food, Ash had Growlithe practicing his Ember. Right now, all Ash had Growlithe focused on was distance. He wanted maximum control out of his partner. So, it was important that Growlithe understood how much power he needed behind his Ember to reach different targets at various distances.

Ash was careful not to have Growlithe aim towards anything that could possibly be flammable. One of the nicest things about this spot was that for the most part it was dirt and mud—which was the perfect terrain to practice with a fire-type without having to hold back.

For the most part, Growlithe was doing pretty good. There were definitely a few times where Ember got away from him, but the majority of his attempts were landing in the right spot. He wasn't using any type of target. At this stage, a target would most likely frustrate Growlithe due to accuracy issues. It was much more beneficial to just point to a general area and have Growlithe shoot.

About a half an hour into the training session, Growlithe was starting to get tired. His accuracy was dissipating because of fatigue, causing his Ember to dangerously veer all over the place. Ash was preparing to put an end to it, but that's when it happened. A lone spearow was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was out of sight, so Ash didn't see the attack land.

Unfortunately, it wasn't necessary. The bird pokemon flew up from the backside of the large rock it was resting behind and screeched at the top of its lungs. Ash had to cover his ears, and Growlithe wanted to bury his head in the mud to escape the viciously loud noise. At first, Ash thought that the shriek was beginning to echo, but then realization struck him.

"Growlithe, we've got to go now!"

Growlithe didn't need to be told twice. The two friends had gotten themselves stuck in quite the predicament. They weren't willing to look behind themselves because they couldn't afford to be slowed down. However, it didn't take a genius to figure out that there was a large flock of spearow chasing after them. Ash wasn't surprised; he knew that if there was one spearow without fail there would be more. Spearow were pack oriented flying-types. They compensated for their lack of strength by traveling in fairly decent-sized groups.

Ash and Growlithe weaved their way around various obstacles to get back on the main path. Ash hoped that once they reached it, the spearow would end their pursuit. They didn't. As a matter of fact, they were getting closer. The dark-haired trainer and his pup were now running for their lives in hopes of reaching Viridian before the spearow caught up to them.

Ash began to gasp and cough. He wasn't in the kind of shape to endure this kind of pace for too long; but, he didn't really have a choice. He estimated that there was roughly twenty-five spearow. Even if his growlithe was fresh, which he wasn't, they didn't stand a chance if they turned around and fought. In this situation, quantity would severely out match quality. Even though spearow were not necessarily strong battlers, they were inherently relentless. Scientists hypothesized that thousands of years of rivalry with the stronger pidgey evolutionary line had caused spearow to genetically turn jealous and bitter.

They had been running for quite sometime now and somehow ended up off trail once again. With every step they took, the spearow gained on them. Ash figured that Growlithe could probably get away if he wasn't holding them up. He debated letting Growlithe escape by distracting the flock himself, but discarded the idea. He'd only spent a little bit of time with his starter, but he had learned enough about him to know that he would never leave him to die.

So he just kept running. His body screamed that it was done, but his brain wouldn't let him slow down. They were going to make it; they had to. He was going to become a master, and Growlithe was going to grow into a strong arcanine. He tried to calm his breathing down enough to be able to think straight. It was difficult, especially while exhausting his body further; but by sheer will, he managed to see things a little clearer.

Ash looked around at his surroundings. To his left was Growlithe. It was obvious that the pokemon was in poor shape, but He probably had a few more miles left in him. Straight ahead was nothing but nature. He occasionally saw the shadow of a wild pokemon or two, but he couldn't make out what they were. He looked to his right. He was astonished to see an azure river. He must have been too delirious to notice it sooner. Luckily, he caught his second wind.

The boy thought hard, weighing over his limited options. That's when it hit him—an idea that just might save them. His hope lied in the river's current. It was strong. A current couldn't be that strong if it had nowhere to go. Ash heard a loud crashing sound in the distance. About at the same time, he noticed that the air was becoming much more crisp—almost like the after-effects of a heavy rainstorm.

He realized that the earth was getting greener as they got closer to the booming noise. Ash was almost completely positive that his assumption was correct. But, he couldn't bet everything, on this one ludicrous plan, until he saw it with his own to eyes. He turned his head to the left, in the direction of Growlithe, and desperately tried to force words out of his mouth. With heavy strain, he managed to say what he wanted.

"Do you trust me?"

The loyal canine managed a grunt of assurance.

Ash reached for his belt where his Growlithe's lone pokeball shook violently, obeying the laws of physics. He fumbled it in his hands a few times before gathering a safe grasp. He felt the presence of the spearow gaining on them rapidly. Ash heard what sounded like malignant laughter as they closed in on their prey.

The cliffside gave them no warning as Ash and Growlithe went plummeting towards the water. The sound of the massive waterfall behind them was unmistakably clear. The dark-haired boy gathered himself in midair. He couldn't waste anytime being crutched by fear. He quickly located Growlithe falling a few feet away from him. The impact was going to be hard, and there was no way to predict where they would land. He had to return Growlithe or risk getting split up.

He pressed his finger down on the return button. The first try failed. He took a deep breath as the second try failed too—missing slightly to the right. Right before they hit the water, he managed to get it right. The pokeball enveloped Growlithe in a ray of ruby red light.

The collision was anything but comfortable. Ash had to fight just to stay conscious. All the while, he had to desperately hold on to Growlithe's pokeball or risk losing it. He managed though, which was nothing short of a miracle. He battled his momentum, which was pulling him deep into the abyss of the natural pool. His adrenaline shielded him from the cold temperature of the unequable body of water. Once the aftermath of the collision subsided, Ash was able to conquer the conventional gravity levels of the pool and swim to the surface.

The boy had never felt so out of breath in his life. The miles of running, on top of nearly drowning, had his lungs feeling like they were being squelched by a machamp. Once he had caught his breath, he looked up.

...No spearow.

He then brought his attention to the rim of the waterfall. How had he survived such a fall? He muttered something resembling a prayer under his breath as he began to drag himself to shore. Once he reached land, he looked back in the direction that he'd come from to make sure he wasn't being followed by the menacing flying-types. He figured they must have assumed he was killed from the fall. His plan had worked; somehow, they had survived.

He just lied there, soaking in what had just happened. He had to wait a while before he could muster up the energy to move his body. Once he had gained back control of his limbs, he released Growlithe from suspended animation and gave him a big hug.

Growlithe was confused. One second he was falling...the next he was safe beside his soaking wet trainer. He remembered being enveloped by a beam of red light. Ash must have returned him at the last second.

But, how did he manage? They were falling at a high-speed. To be able to find him in the air and have the coordination to return him, all in a matter of seconds, was almost inhuman.

But then again, Growlithe had never really spent a lot of time around humans. So maybe it was? Growlithe's memory flashed back to the chase. The words Ash had said while they were running echoed in his head.

Do you trust me?

Did he know that they were going to fall? If so, his observation skills were uncanny. Even Growlithe, who had extraordinary hearing and gifted olfactory glands, wasn't aware that the waterfall was coming. How could Ash have known? He was running for his life. There was no time to rely on anything other than instincts.

Growlithe decided to stop being so analytical. They were alive; that's all that mattered. If he didn't trust Ash earlier, which he thought he did, he definitely did now.

His trainer had saved his life, and he had a feeling he would again. He just hoped that next time, he would be the one to protect his friend.

The two friends lied on the ground...looking up at the gorgeously clear sky. They simultaneously spotted a large and majestic rainbow shaded bird passing over them—about eight-thousand feet above. Ash didn't recognize what had to be a legendary. He reached for Dexter frantically. The waterlogged pokedex screen lit up, "My database has no records of that pokemon. Some pokemon we have yet to discover or have too little information on to make public."

Ash was astonished. He'd almost died...and seen a pokemon that was apparently so rare that Dexter didn't even know what it was.

Growlithe was having near identical thoughts—just as surprised.

They say a trainer's first day sets the tone for the rest of their journey. If that was the case, they had signed up for a thriller.


The sun was beginning to set when they finally arrived in Viridian. They were tired and desperately hungry. All of the food was in Ash's backpack, and it was destroyed when he fell into the water. Luckily, everything else was waterproof, and they didn't starve since they were close to the city. He made a mental note to invest in some Ziploc Tupperware.

After asking some stranger on the outskirts of town for directions, Ash and Growlithe found themselves standing out front of the city's pokemon center. Viridian wasn't really that much bigger than Pallet. He didn't quite understand what went into deciding if a settlement was a city or town anyway. He always thought it had to do with population, but he couldn't see how Viridian could possibly have that many more citizens.

One major difference that Ash picked up on was that there were many more paved roads. The architecture was also a lot more modern in comparison to Pallet's more rural feel. Ash pried open the door to the Pokemon Center, and held it for Growlithe before following closely behind.

He didn't pay much attention to the Center's décor. He was pretty sore, so it wasn't really worth the effort to look at anything other than the front desk. Not that he was all that interested in that sort of thing in the first place.

When he reached the front desk, he asked the pink haired nurse in charge if he could get a room. Pokemon centers not only acted as pokemon hospitals, but they were also hostels for visiting trainers. All you needed was a Trainer ID number, which most trainers had digitally programmed into their pokedex. Pokemon centers were another one of those things that you had to do research on in order to qualify to become a trainer. The League politicians didn't want to be responsible for some kid or pokemon dying because they weren't aware of their resources.

Ash gave the woman his pokedex and watched her place it into a slot plugin designed specifically for the device. She ran his identification through some kind of security database—probably to make sure he wasn't a fraud. Trainer identity theft was becoming more common after all.

Once she was done scanning Ash's pokedex, she handed it back to him along with a room key, "Mr. Ketchum, you're all set."

She then shifted her attention to the medial sized growlithe lying down at Ash's side, "Would you like to check in any of your pokemon while you're here? If you have a Trainer ID number, all medical work is completely paid for by the League."

Ash inspected Growlithe. He could definitely use medical attention. There were no serious injuries, but he was definitely worn down. Between training and escaping from the devastating flock of spearow, he had utterly exhausted himself.

"That would actually be great. He's pretty worn out," said Ash.

Nurse Joy flashed him a smile, "No problem," she reached over to the shelf behind her and placed a tray on the counter. " If you would please return your Growlithe and place his pokeball on the tray, I would be more than happy to take care of him."

Ash probably could have used a check up too, but ultimately decided against it. There were no issues that a good night's rest wouldn't fix.

Ash bent down and reassured Growlithe that everything would be completely fine. Growlithe trusted Ash with his life after the events from earlier, so he didn't need much convincing. Ash returned Growlithe and handed his pokeball over to the nurse. She promised that he was in good hands. Next, Nurse Joy asked Ash to either wait in the designated waiting room or his lodge—where he would get a call when Growlithe was ready to be picked up.

Ash thanked Nurse Joy and decided he'd wait in the waiting room. Just like everyone else in the world, he had heard of Nurse Joy beforehand. This was just the first time he had ever actually seen what she looked like. He didn't think the restoration process would take too long. He figured he might as well just sit down and get a feel for the Pokemon Center's lobby.

Now that Ash had nothing better to do, he stayed stationary and observed. The first thing he noticed was that the Center was rather empty. He figured that was probably due to the fact that the city's gym leader, Giovanni, only accepted challengers if they had seven badges. Since the season had just started today, it was physically impossible for anyone to have that many. He also factored in the fact that, unless you were coming from Pallet this time of year, travel was relatively slow. Since he was one of only three trainers that left for Viridian that day, and the rest were probably all still traveling, it made perfect sense. He thought for a moment about the possibility of Gary or the other trainer arriving before him, but Ash came to the conclusion that it was impossible. He had a good hour head start on them and that was if they were to leave the moment they got their pokemon. He also sprinted nearly a quarter of the way, only stopping for a couple of hours to train.

The next thing he noticed about the Center was that it was rather bare. There were very few decorations and the ones that were hung up gave the building a big time hospital feel. Technically it was a hospital, so Ash figured most people wouldn't be put off by it. To the right of the front desk were videophones, which reminded him to give his mother and Professor Oak a call before he went to bed. In the center of the lobby, there was a makeshift lounge with a television. Nobody was over there, so the television was off—probably to conserve energy.

There was a hall to the left of the front desk. It had a sign with an arrow pointed forward that read: Rooms/Trading Center/Cafeteria. Ash thought about heading to the cafeteria, but decided against it. He didn't want Growlithe to think that he was having a great time while they were a part.

Ash, all of a sudden, was hit with an internal wave of loneliness. Realization struck, this was the first time all day that he didn't have Growlithe on him. At first, Ash was slightly ashamed for feeling this way. He felt weak. But, after giving it a second thought, he came to a healthier conclusion: Growlithe was his friend, and friends covered for each others weaknesses.

He needed more friends like Growlithe—pokemon that he could count on and always have at arms reach. He wasn't so desperate as to catch anything, though. If anything, this intramural reflection would cause a more selective approach to catching pokemon. Strength was important, but he also wanted diversity. He needed to be able to adapt to any situation. If today was any indicator, he was in for an interesting expedition.

Ash's in-depth cerebration was put on pause when he heard Nurse Joy's voice over the annoyingly loud intercom.

"Ash Ketchum, please report to the front desk. Your pokemon are ready."

Ash listened to directions—all the while wondering why the use of an intercom was necessary in an empty pokemon center. After retrieving Growlithe's pokeball, Ash thanked Nurse Joy and headed straight to the cafeteria. He got a quick bite to eat. Nurse Joy had already fed Growlithe, so the pup wasn't hungry.

The tofu burger and fries were actually pretty good, which surprised Ash. Given that it was made in a cafeteria, his expectations weren't all that high. He wasn't quite sure if there were any rules to having your pokemon out of their pokeball while in the cafeteria. However, the cook didn't seem to mind—and other than him, nobody else was around—so Ash figured it was okay. He loved having Growlithe's company; it made him feel safe. It was worth the risk of one of the other nonexistent consumers complaining.

Before leaving, Ash examined his growlithe. He was completely refreshed. The quality of work Nurse Joy did in such a short amount of time was amazing. It wasn't sorcery; all pokemon centers had restoration machines. But, nevertheless, technology was something that Ash would never quite be able to grasp.

His conversation with his mom was short and simple. He basically just let her know that he had reached Viridian City safely. She tried to get more details out of him, but he played the tired card. He didn't feel like telling her about the spearow. It would just cause her to worry.

The conversation with Professor Oak was a little bit more extensive. For the most part, they talked about pokemon to look out for when he entered the Viridian Forest.

After talking to Professor Oak, Ash headed to his room. The lodge was actually much nicer than he expected. It was small, but cozy. It even had its own bathroom with a shower that Ash took full advantage of. There were four empty beds for multiple trainers...but since he was the only person, he had the whole room to himself. He offered Growlithe the opportunity to have his own bed, but the fire-type felt more comfortable sharing with Ash. The ten-year-old didn't complain; he was actually pretty fond of the idea himself.

He shut off the lights. By the time his body made contact with the mattress, his eyelids were beginning to get heavy. He fought off drifting into comatose long enough to mutter a heartfelt goodnight to his new friend. It had been a long day, and they deserved the rest.


With Growlithe following closely behind, Ash wiped the sleep from his eyes as he entered the lobby. Apparently, the timing was perfect because standing at the front desk, retrieving two pokeballs from Nurse Joy, was Gary oak—who had yet to notice him. Ash snuck up behind him, trying his best not to be spotted. Growlithe wasn't quite sure what was going on. He followed Ash's lead and moved quietly. Ash lightly tapped Gary on the shoulder. Just as he expected, his best friend's entire body jolted while he gasped exasperatingly.

He turned around to find Ash keeled over laughing alongside his partner in crime Growlithe.

"Dammit, Ash, you know I hate it when you do that!" shouted Gary.

Ash managed to stop his convulsive laughter before replying, "I'm sorry, Gary, but you make it way too easy."

His friend had never had the best sense of awareness thus making him one of the easiest people to get a rise out of.

Gary scratched his head—turning slightly red. He quickly changed the subject, which was something that Ash obviously picked up on, "So, Ash, when did you get to Viridian?"

Ash answered, "Last night...I don't remember exactly what time, though."

He was never the best at small talk, but carried on the conversation, "What about you?"

"Eh, I actually just got here," said Gary with a fidget. "I had to take care of a few things before I left Pallet."

Ash thought Gary seemed slightly put-off by the fact that he was the second to arrive.

"So, how was your first night camping?" asked Ash, slightly curious.

Gary shrugged indifferently.

"A lot less comfortable than a bed—that's for sure," he then looked down at both of the pokeballs that were in his hands, "but...I guess that's not what being a pokemon trainer is about."

Ash just nodded. Unlike Gary, camping was one of the aspects of being a trainer that he was the most excited about. Ever since he could remember, he'd loved being outside. The prospect of sleeping under the stars, for weeks at a time, was actually rather appealing to him. One of the many reasons that Ash had ultimately decided to travel alone was the fact that Gary would rather spend the money to sleep in a five-star hotel every night than camp on the occasion. Ash gave him the benefit of the doubt because of how he was raised, howbeit it still irked him. Regardless; Gary was the dark-haired boy's best friend, and the fact that he was slightly spoiled wouldn't change that.

Gary's face lit up out of the blue, "Ash, we both have pokemon!"

Ash's face scrunched—not understanding where he was going with this, "Um, yeah, we do. What's your point?"

Gary clenched the pokeball in his dominant right-hand, "Ashy-boy, what's the one thing we've wanted to do together since we were like five?"

Ash finally caught on.

"Obviously, I'm in," said Ash. "Aren't I the one that suggested a battle in the first place?"

Gary ignored Ash's question and enthusiastically smiled, "On my way here I spotted a public battle facility. The main offices were closed, but I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem if we used their outdoor training ground."

Gary turned around and eyed Nurse Joy, "Do you have to be a member, or something, to use the outdoor battle facilities across the street?"

Nurse Joy replied kindly, "Nope, only if you want to use their private, indoor training center. The outdoor facilities are for the public."

She pointed at them in a motherly sort of way, "And if you two battle, don't forget to come back and heal your pokemon. Also, I'm sure your sponsor already told you, but you can register for this year's Gym Challenge here or at any other pokemon center in Kanto."

Ash and Gary both mentally kicked Professor Oak. This was the first time they had heard anything about registration. They both kind of figured that all they needed to do was show up at the gyms. Well, at least this explained how the League could calculate the statistics concerning how many trainers successfully completed the Circuit each year.

The two friends told Nurse Joy that they would register for the League when they got back. That way, they had something to do while they were waiting on their pokemon. Besides, they didn't want to risk wasting any time. It was possible that somebody else could get to the practice field before them, and they were eager to battle.

It took the boys practically no time at all to reach the training ground, due to the fact that it was literally across the street. Although the surface was mostly just dirt, the training grounds were a lot nicer than Ash expected. There were paint boundaries and trainer boxes, which made the battle seem much more official. It was the perfect place for their first battle.

Ash and Gary both picked a side and stood in their designated trainer box, "The battle's going to have to be one-on-one!" shouted Ash from across the mock arena.

Gary gave Ash a lame thumbs-up, "Sounds good to me!"

Gary thought about giving Ash a hard time for only having one pokemon, but decided it would be stupid. Gary's situation was kind of unique. He would only have one pokemon as well if he didn't have the best grandfather in the world. He also factored in how picky Ash was and figured that there probably wasn't any pokemon in between Pallet and Viridian that he would consider catchable.

Ash decided to make the first move. He figured he might as well, since he didn't have surprise on his side. Gary knew he only had Growlithe.

Ash gestured Growlithe forward, "Go ahead, buddy. Time to show him what you got."

Growlithe confidently walked out onto the battlefield—ready to win his first battle. He felt like he owed it to Ash. The boy had treated him so well since they left Pallet, making him desperate for victory. Although he hadn't gotten the chance to train in-depth with Ash yet, he still felt like he had enough experience sparring with his brother to come out on top.

Gary racked his brain in attempt to make a decision. He could use his starter and capitalize on the type advantage, or he could go the more unique route and mirror Ash. He decided to play it safe. He lofted his starter's pokeball in the direction of Ash. Once the bright flash of light succeeding the release vanished, a proud squirtle appeared.

Ash whipped out his pokedex and analyzed: "Squirtle – the turtle pokemon – squirtle's shell is not merely used for protection. The shell's rounded shape and grooves on its surface help minimize resistance in water—enabling this pokemon to swim at high speed. Squirtle shoots water out of its shell when in the water and withdraws into its shell when in danger. It shelters itself in its shell, then strikes back with spouts of water at every opportunity."

The young trainer formulated a plan of action. Elemental moves would be, for the most, part useless. He was going to have to rely mostly on Growlithe's superior speed and physical prowess. Ash sifted through his options. Of Growlithe's five available moves, there were only three that he could technically use. He was definitely going to have to be creative in order to pull out a win.

Gary's squirtle attacked first by firing a forceful Water Gun at Growlithe.

Ash didn't need to give Growlithe a command as he dodged the attack on his own. Growlithe then charged up an incandescent flame and projected it towards the turtle pokemon.

The turtle pokemon shot a second Water Gun that met the fire attack head-on. The result was an explosive, iridescent cloud of mist.

Ash and Gary both could tell that Growlithe and Squirtle were just feeling each other out. Neither pokemon was trying to inflict damage. They were simply trying to get a grasp over each other's reflexes.

Growlithe took the offensive. He transferred all of his centralized power into his hind legs before taking off in the form of an orange and black blur. Ash could tell that his speed had significantly increased, since they trained the day before—probably the result of the artificial restoration process. Pokemon, unlike humans, were constantly evolving. Most muscle-bound species significantly strengthened their muscular fibers every time they are forced to their limit.

Growlithe used his speed to confuse the tiny turtle pokemon. He understood that he didn't have the type advantage; therefore, he was entirely prepared to rely heavily on his speed and wits. Upon inspection, Growlithe started to pick up on Squirtle's severe lack of experience. He was Gary's starter after all. It was entirely plausible that this was the squirtle's very first taste of battle. Growlithe, on the other hand, had been battling since the day that he hatched. His mother knew that one day he would go on a journey of his own and wanted to ensure that he wasn't leaving wet and inexperienced. He still had a long way to go, especially in terms of accuracy and strength, but that didn't change the fact that some experience was always better than none.

Growlithe closed the distance between Squirtle and himself while preparing for a Bite. Just before Growlithe was able to sink his jaws into Squirtle's arm, he had to pull up.

Squirtle withdrew his body into his shell—not giving Growlithe any flesh to get a hold of. The young squirtle then proceeded to startle Growlithe. He emerged from his shell, almost as fast as he concealed himself, and fired two high-speed Water Guns at the fire-type in quick succession.

Growlithe didn't have enough of a warning to completely dodge the first shot. The attack managed to skim his left side—slightly trimming his fur. The second one wasn't a problem. The canine gathered himself and took off again at maximum speed. This time he was able to make contact and catch his maw onto the sky blue turtle's head.

Ash and Gary both winced. Although it was their first battle, there was no lack of intensity.

Ash saw an opportunity and decided to give the first trainer command of the battle, "Point-blank Ember, now!"

Growlithe heard his trainer's request and doused the turtle's head in flames. Squirtle tried to shake Growlithe off, but the grip the canine had on his head was too strong. Normally fire wasn't very effective against water-types, but at such a close distance almost any attack would do damage; unless the targeted pokemon was flat out immune.

Unfortunately for Squirtle, he wasn't immune—and the Ember was used in combination with the already painful Bite.

Gary watched as his squirtle grimaced in pain. He frantically tried to think of a way to separate the two opposing pokemon.

His conclusion wasn't very creative, but he didn't have any other ideas, "Squirtle, jump up and slam it on the ground!"

Squirtle listened to his trainer and used his short stubbly legs to spring himself and his opponent into the air. He came down forcefully to the ground, headfirst, all the while withdrawing as much of his head as he could to limit the forthcoming recoil.

Growlithe yelped in pain as his body collided with the hard dirt surface. He rolled a couple of times in the direction of his trainer before woefully pulling himself back up to his feet.

Ash and Gary both watched as both of their pokemon were visibly exhausted. Growlithe was in slightly better shape. The recoil from the botched Seismic Toss had done a lot more damage to Squirtle than Gary had anticipated.

The two pokemon proceeded to partake in a long-ranged shootout. Squirtle clearly had the upper hand in this kind of battle. Not only was his Water Gun more effective than Growlithe's Ember, but he was much more accurate.

As Ash watched the two attacks clash, one after the other, he racked his brain in attempt to come up with a way to end the battle. He had an idea, but was reluctant to try it. It seemed rather difficult to pull off.

He went for it anyway, "Growlithe, Ember at full-power, now!"

The fire-type dug deep into his internal flame and propelled the largest Ember he had ever summoned.

Squirtle's eyes lit up. He took the defensive by attempting to neutralize the oncoming flame with a heavy dose of Water Gun. The by-product was a massive, condensed explosion of sizzling steam.

The first phase of Ash's plan worked out perfectly. The second phase was either going to work or fail tremendously.

Ash waited until the light from the sun was being refracted, through the steam cloud, towards Squirtle, "Growlithe, direct your Leer at that cloud."

The puppy pokemon's eyes glowed with intimidation. The light from the sun counteracted with the lustrous pillar of steam—projecting a colossal mirage of Growlithe's pressure felt stare. The young squirtle froze in place, being trapped under a trance of fear.

Growlithe used the façade as a diversion and raced around the outside of the image. He followed up with another combination of Ember and Bite—this time sending Squirtle into the realm of unconsciousness.

After shaking off a look of astonishment, Gary returned Squirtle and accepted the loss.

Growlithe stumbled his way back to his trainer before lying down exhausted by his side. Ash bent down and gave Growlithe an affectionate scratch under the chin as he congratulated him on their first victory.


The rest of the morning consisted of registering for the Gym Circuit, healing their pokemon, and restocking on supplies. The majority of the money Ash had spent was on food. He made sure to purchase enough pokemon food to hold over at least two pokemon between Viridian and Pewter City. He also shopped for himself, using the earnings he received from Gary to purchase a set of Tupperware. Therefore, following through with his internal promise to avoid repeating yesterday's blunder.

Before going their separate ways, Ash and Gary got a bite to eat at the Pokemon Center's cafeteria. Ash could tell that Gary was still pretty upset over the loss. He would never openly say anything, but Ash knew his best friend.

Just like Ash, he didn't handle losing very well.

Ash's guess was confirmed when Gary told him that he was planning on sticking around Viridian for a few days to train at the battle facilities. Ash didn't see any reason to stay, so he told Gary that he was going to head to Pewter City.

Once they were done eating, Ash and Gary said their goodbyes. They promised to get stronger, so that next time their battle would be even more spectacular. With a parting handshake, the two best friends went in opposite directions.

Ash headed in the direction of the Viridian Forest: the gateway between Viridian and Pewter. Gary stayed behind with intention to pursue the strength to defeat his rival and best friend.


The sun had been vacant for quite a while on his second night away from home. Ash had Growlithe use Ember to start a fire, setting ablaze the wood that he had just finished collecting. Their campsite was rather basic...just a fire and a warm, thick sleeping bag.

The ten-year-old boy and his pokemon had spent the majority of the day traveling. They stopped a few times, accepting the challenges of a few other traveling trainers. Most of them carried nothing but bug-types, so Ash and Growlithe had no problem defeating every single one of them.

The two friends just lied there cozily. Both of their eyes were fixated on the beautiful, shimmering, bright lights masterfully painted amongst the evening sky.

Ash abruptly broke the long period of silence, "It really doesn't get much better than this."

Growlithe didn't react at all, but Ash could tell that he agreed. He didn't think the puppy pokemon knew how to respond.

It was then that Ash decided to allow himself to become vulnerable. Growlithe was his starter...and nothing was going to change that. They had been together for a couple days now, and he knew that he should let Growlithe know how he felt.

"Growlithe, I promise to always look out for you."

The puppy pokemon looked up at Ash curiously.

Ash blushed slightly.

"I'm not very good at being sentimental," he patted Growlithe on the head as he spoke. "When I made the decision to take you as my starter, I meant permanently. No matter where my journey takes me, I hope to always have you by my side."

Growlithe nodded his head in affirmation. Ash's words meant a lot. He wished he could express his own feelings with words. Unfortunately, all he could manage was to cuddle up closer to his trainer and friend.

Ash continued, "Also, I know I told you – when we were walking to my house from Professor Oak's lab – but I want to remind you that I need you to be a leader."

Growlithe listened.

"It's just, when we make more friends, there are going to be times where pokemon is going to need to be accountable to pokemon. I'm afraid I most likely won't be able to relate to every single pokemon I catch."

Ash sighed, looking up at the stars, "I wish I could, but that's not realistic."

Growlithe looked Ash in the eyes intently. He was actually quite honored that Ash had this much faith in him.

"Growlithe, the moment I met you, I knew you could handle this responsibility. Please let me know if my expectations ever become overbearing."

The growlithe looked up at his trainer with a hint of fire in his eyes. He could take this burden on himself. As a matter of fact, he wanted this burden. If he didn't have the presence of strength to lead now, he would make sure that he acquired it. Growlithe naturally was a born leader. His mother was one of the most influential pokemon within Professor Oak's corral.

He would make her proud. Even more importantly, he would make Ash proud.

Before they put out the fire, Ash continued to talk to Growlithe as his eyelids began to get heavier. Ash could barely keep himself awake as the only thing providing light was the plethora of stars in the sky. It was time to sign off for the night. The two best friends drifted off into oblivion. The last thing on Ash's mind was just how much he loved the soothing aroma of the forest and having his pup by his side.


It was about the middle of the day, and they were in the epicenter of the forest. Ash and Growlithe were determined to find the second member of their team. Viridian Forest was home to an array of bug-types. Unfortunately, the only bug-type in all of Kanto that interested Ash was scyther—which do not happen to be indigenous to their current location.

Thankfully, there still happened to be a pokemon native to the forest that Ash wanted to get his hands on. Ash wanted one of the three pokemon belonging to the pidgey evolutionary line. Of the various different flying-types that were home to Kanto, they were his favorite.

Ever since he was a little boy, he had a strong admiration for the magnificent, fully-evolved pidgeot. The way the oversized flying-type effortlessly soared through the skies of Kanto, at tremendous speeds, had always amazed him. Their majestic plumage and glossy off-white and brown feathers were a sight to behold.

He also appreciated their thirst for battle and overall skill in combat. Ultimately, that was what interested Ash the most: their ability to balance power with speed while in the air. Outside of the rare dragonite and the three, nearly mythical, elemental birds of legend; they were uncontested in the skies of Kanto.

But finding one wasn't going to be easy. He knew discovering a fully-evolved pidgeot in the wild would be extremely difficult. Wild pokemon of that ability usually couldn't be found unless they wanted to be or if the seeker had done his homework. Besides, even if he somehow came across one, chances are it would be out of their league.

So what he was looking for was a pidgey or pidgeotto—preferably the latter. He didn't have any tracking skills; so for the most part, he was working blind. He hoped that Growlithe's superb sense of smell could help him out. But, without a reference scent, it would be difficult for him to rely on his starter.

After about an hour of Ash basically walking in circles like a novice, Growlithe had picked up on his first lead. Underneath the shade of a rather large oak tree, the puppy pokemon had found a talon like print indented into the ground's earthy surface.

At first, Ash was very confused. It was seldom that an avian claw print was found on the ground. Bird pokemon, like pidgey and Pidgeotto, usually warranted a good reason to land on anything near the earth's natural floor. Then Ash recognized something. The print was faded and lone—which meant that it didn't stay long enough to leave a solid print and that both talons didn't touch the ground. This caused Ash to believe that it merely grazed the surface...probably during a hunt.

With Ash's approval, Growlithe picked up the scent.

Growlithe followed the new smell off-trail and deep into the forest with his trainer trailing closely behind. The light from the sun began to fade as the abundance of trees blocked its pathway. The only source of light was a small leftover refraction, resulting in a luminous, orange glow.

During the search, Ash could feel the leering eyes of the many bug-types hidden within the depths of the forest's plant life. They simply stayed still—not allowing the details of their forms to be seen by the human. Ash never felt threatened. He figured it was most likely because he was in possession of a fire-type. But, he could be wrong, maybe they had other reasons.

The dark-haired boy could tell that they were getting closer by Growlithe's expression. The pup was much more focused and confident in all of his movements. They say a growlithe's olfactory glands could pick up on emotions. If there was any truth in that, he figured Growlithe could manage to track a bird.

Ash cursed under his breath as the search continued to prolong itself. They had been at it for a couple of hours, and the boy was now racking his brain trying to think of how they were going to get back. He assumed Growlithe could lead them with his nose, but he wasn't currently in a position where he wanted to interrupt Growlithe to ask. The pup had now been attentively trailing the scent for what seemed like a long time.

Growlithe felt the avian aroma keep getting stronger. The closer he got to its suitor...the more the scent revealed about itself. At first it was small; there was no way to separate its properties. But now the smell was much more potent and recognizable. Growlithe had been around plenty of pidgey before at Professor Oak's corral. He was positive that this fragrance belonged to a member of its species.

And then it became still. The prey's pheromone no longer dragged on. It was stuck.

...He froze in place.

Ash came to a stop mirroring his starter. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the chase was over. Ash observed his surroundings carefully, looking for any hint of moving life. At eye level, in all directions, he saw nothing. So, he looked up.

Perched up above, in a rather ominous looking tree, was a pidgeotto. The avian's plumes flowed gracefully with the wind as it inspected Ash. It was a humongous specimen, already about the size of a pidgeot. Ash could see its potential just by looking at it. He met the flying-type's piercing, black eyes with his own in attempt to delineate that their meeting wasn't by chance.

The pidgeotto knew why the human was here and glared back. It showed no signs of backing down. It did not plan to get captured by a human child, but would not disgrace itself by fleeing. Those that yearned to become valiant pidgeot were honorable. They did not shy away from a challenge.

Growlithe stepped forward after evaluating the situation. He didn't need Ash to tell him that he was needed.

The mammoth pidgeotto spread its wings and glided down to the earth's surface, landing a few feet shy of Growlithe. For the first time, as it dwarfed Growlithe, Ash was able to fully comprehend just how big the behemoth was.

Pidgeotto started things off by forcefully thrusting its wings down toward Growlithe—thus creating a pressure felt gust of wind. The orange and black canine barrel rolled out of the way, barely being able to avoid folding under the compression of Pidgeotto's flying-type attack.

Growlithe proceeded to try and incapacitate the pidgeotto with a menacing Leer, but it was no use. In order for Leer to work, there needed to be some sense of inferiority amongst the victim. It was obvious to Ash that the bird had no such feeling.

After the failed Leer attempt, Growlithe charged. He ferociously snapped his jaws as he tried to connect with the flying-type's raptorlike body.

Pidgeotto flapped its wingspan, precipitously propelling itself into the sky, thus leaving Growlithe biting at air. The avian formulated a Whirlwind and hurled it at Growlithe. The attack entangled the fire-type and tossed him in the direction of a neighboring tree.

Ash gritted his teeth, but sighed in relief, when he saw Growlithe gather himself in midair and plant his feet on the side of the tree. He followed the magnificent acrobatic display by using the tree for leverage before proceeding to spring his body back in the direction of the fight.

The raptorlike avian seemingly vanished from his spot, using a Quick Attack to meet Growlithe in the air. It used both of its talons to catch the surprised puppy pokemon, and this time gave itself no room for error by catapulting Growlithe towards the hard ground.

Growlithe yelped as he hit the ground hard. Ash winced at seeing his friend tossed like a rag doll. He managed to endure the collision, though, and got back up determined.

The fire-type answered by actuating a barrage of flames. Pidgeotto did its best to dodge, but couldn't manage to best the multitude of ephemeral fireballs. The flying-type took two hits to its right wing, at a high velocity, temporarily crippling it.

Ash saw his chance and pointed at a tree, "Grapple that tree and jump on its back!"

Growlithe didn't hesitate and took off—leaving an after-image. He used his momentum to run about halfway up the tree before forcibly pushing off.

Pidgeotto tried to dodge, but couldn't quite clear the entirety of his body. Growlithe lunged forward and managed to latch on to Pidgeotto's muscular, brown wing with his teeth, "Ember, now!" shouted Ash.

Growlithe fired an Ember at the same spot he had connected earlier. Except this time, it was from a point-blank vantage point. Pidgeotto shrieked as it fell the short distance to the ground. Growlithe let go of Pidgeotto's wing and safely landed on all four legs.

The normal/flying-type, although favoring its injured right wing, still had some fight left in it. From the ground, it used its left wing to throw powerful gusts of wind in the direction of Growlithe in hope of buying time.

Unfortunately, for the pidgeotto, its damaged wing grounded it—thus keeping the bird from accessing the sky.

"Ember to distract it, and get in close!" bellowed Ash.

Growlithe, once again, flung multiple Embers in the direction of Pidgeotto. He used each one, at some point, for cover as the oversized bird perilously worked on diverting the attacks with Gust.

Once Growlithe was in range, he fearlessly leaped in front of Pidgeotto's face and unleashed the biggest Ember he could muster.

It made perfect contact. All the while, Ash was frantically grabbing an empty pokeball from his backpack. He muttered something under his breath...frustrated that he didn't have one in a more convenient place.

By the time Pidgeotto hit the ground, Ash's pokeball was in the air at a high velocity. The homing system activated, and the capture device steered itself smoothly into Pidgeotto's chest. The barely conscious, wild pokemon could do nothing as its entire being was blanketed in a radiant, red light and vacuumed into the half red and half white sphere.

Ash watched as the ball shook: once…twice…three times…

And It clicked—signifying a successful capture. With a toothy grin on his face, Ash picked up his first catch ever.

He then doubled over and gave his exhausted starter a tight hug,"Great job, Growlithe! You were incredible!"

Growlithe responded to Ash's smile with a sloppy, wet lick to the face. In the canine's opinion receiving praise like this from Ash was something that would never seize to remain priceless.


Surprisingly, Pidgeotto wasn't all that difficult to get through to. After using a potion he had picked up in Viridian, and taking part in a complicated game of charades, the flying-type and Ash made a deal. Pidgeotto would swear his allegiance to Ash. In return, Ash would train Pidgeotto into the most powerful pidgeot on the planet.

Growlithe and Pidgeotto seemed to get along pretty well. After their battle, they both shared a mutual amount of respect for one another. Pidgeotto saw Growlithe as the one who had defeated him and submitted under that truth. Growlithe simply saw Pidgeotto as his new teammate and friend.

It had taken a few hours to find their way back to the main path. With Growlithe using his nose and Pidgeotto scouting overhead, it was rather easy to find. Sadly, it was still a long walk. Ash thought about saving time by flying on his abnormally sized pidgeotto's back, but didn't think he was quite ready to trust his new pokemon with his life.

By the time they finally got back to where they were before they went searching for Pidgeotto, it was getting dark. All that was left of the sun was a sliver; it buried itself behind the mountain peaks in the far distance.

Ash setup camp for the second time in the forest. The setup was the same as the night before. This time, he sent Pidgeotto to look for firewood. Once he returned, Growlithe did his job and started a fire with his ember. After the dark-haired boy finished his dinner, he reached into his pocket and dug out his pokedex. While Pidgeotto was eating, his rather large bowl of pokemon food, Ash scanned him.

"Pidgeotto – the bird Pokemon – pidgeotto claims a large area as its own territory. This pokemon flies around, patrolling its living space. If its territory is violated, it shows no mercy in thoroughly punishing the foe with its sharp claws. This pidgeotto is male. Current move set: Tackle, Sand attack, Gust, Quick attack, and Whirlwind. Ability: Big Pecks."

Ash made a mental note to research the ability Big Pecks when he got the chance. He recognized the name, but definitely didn't know any details about it.

Abilities are an inherent skill a pokemon is born with. You cannot do anything to change them and very seldom did a pokemon have more than one. Ash had heard rumors about elite level pokemon sometimes unlocking a second ability after years of experience and harsh training. During Ash's study to qualify as a trainer, he remembered reading somewhere that researchers hypothesized that abilities had a lot to do with a wild pokemon's status in their respective clan.

It made a lot of sense to Ash. People were often assessed, on what they can and can't do, based on talent. Pokemon were not much different in that regard. The more rare and powerful their ability was...the more respect they had amongst their kin.

Ash brought his attention back to the entry. He found the bit about a pidgeotto's perception of territory interesting. The dark-haired boy looked up from the device, "Pidgeotto, I want to talk to you."

The bird pokemon hesitated before peering up at Ash. Its eyes looked distant. Ash reckoned Pidgeotto wasn't used to pausing dinner for a conversation.

Growlithe looked up slightly interested. Ash wasn't a blabbermouth. He chose his words carefully and usually only spoke when needed to. Therefore, Growlithe had learned to always chime in when his trainer was verbal.

"This bit about territory, is this how you feel?" asked Ash.

Pidgeotto nodded. He had always felt the need to protect what was his; it was instinctual for a bird of prey.

Ash looked Pidgeotto in his eyes, "I want you to treat anywhere we are as our territory."

The boy had Pidgeotto's attention.

"I would like you to immobilize anything that approaches our camp without our invitation. We need to have some sort of protection on the road. Don't hurt anyone. Just make sure that they don't hurt us," said Ash.

Pidgeotto was slightly astounded. His new trainer spoke with the same safeguarding compassion that a mother pidgeot had, but also had the internal fire of a paternal provider and warrior. Pidgeotto puffed up his chest with pride accepting the requested duty.

Ash laughed and gently rubbed his large pidgeotto's plumage, "Great! I'm glad you like the idea."

He then looked at both Growlithe and Pidgeotto together, "I really don't want to tear away your instinctual desires. Let me know if there are any other duties I can give you that are similar to what you'd do in the wild."

Pidgeotto had a tough time comprehending just how thoughtful his new trainer was. Before being captured, he hated the idea of pledging fealty to a human. Now, he wasn't so sure. It would probably take time...but he could get used to this.


"Call it off! Call it off! Please, just call it off!"

Ash jolted up out of his sleeping bag at the sound of an unfamiliar outcry. His vision was hazy. It took the dark-haired boy a brief moment to discern what was going on. Pidgeotto had his beak clamped tight on a fully loaded suit of armor. The raptorlike avian dangled the mysterious boy in the air while being careful not to injure him, albeit firm enough to inflict fear.

Ash inspected the wailing boy. He looked to be about eleven-years-old and was slightly overweight. He wore a samurai styled suit of armor. The chestplate was still intact, and his toes were somehow still hanging onto his wooden clogs. Separated from his body, lying on the ground, was an ancient looking tin helmet. It had golden, decorative horns that Ash thought could be a product of the Meiji era.

A few feet away from the helmet lay a blade. The light of the sun reflected off of its exterior, creating a bright, white glare. Its hilt matched the golden color of the horns on the helmet. Ash walked over to the blade and calmly secured the dangerous object. He looked around the ground for a fallen scabbard, but instead found one hanging from the wielder's waste.

Ash wrapped his hands around his mouth, creating a flesh made megaphone, "Toss me the sheath, and Pidgeotto will let you go!"

The boy didn't argue. He untied the rope binding the sheath to his belt and listened to it ricochet off of the ground seconds later.

Ash picked up the black, metal scabbard and concealed the sword.

"Pidgeotto, please release him!"

The bird pokemon set the intruder down roughly; Ash didn't complain. The ten-year-old boy then dug the tip of the enshrouded blade into the ground and leaned up against it casually.

He took a deep breath before speaking with a firm tone, "Why on earth would you enter my campsite with a weapon?"

The boy weakly stood up. He brushed the grass and dirt off of his tattered armor before answering, "I was testing your merit. I wanted to see if you would be a worthy opponent."

The samurai boy's face was bright red. Ash couldn't tell if it was because he was embarrassed...or if it was the after-effect of being held upside down by a giant bird for so long.

Ash looked at the young samurai quizzically, "Do you wish for me to be your opponent in a pokemon match...or a sword fight? Because I am struggling to see how the two relate."

The misunderstood boy shook his head in grief and picked up his helmet, "All forms of battle can be rooted back to the blade," he then flashed a hint of passion. "How can you lead your pokemon into battle if you are not willing to take up arms yourself!?"

Ash thought it over. It was a flawed point of view, but he could see where the boy was coming from. Too many weak willed individuals hid behind the strength of their pokemon. The dark-haired boy raised his hand to his chin as he evaluated the stranger. Even if he was a bit foolish, he was no serious threat.

Ash sighed and lifted the sword from the ground, "I'll tell you what. I will give you a battle if you promise to ditch the sword when challenging traveling trainers."

The samurai kid slightly hesitated before replying, "That sounds like a fair trade. What are the conditions of our duel?"

Ash scratched his head in thought, "How about two one-on-one battles?"

"Sounds good to me," shrugged the samurai, "when shall we begin?"

Ash mulled the question over before answering, "Just give my pokemon and I a chance to eat and pack up camp. Then we should be good to go."

It didn't take Ash long to feed his pokemon and himself. While they were eating, Ash explained to Pidgeotto and Growlithe that he somehow could tell that the samurai kid wasn't a real threat.

Growlithe was indifferent. Ash wondered if he had picked up on the boy's real intentions by smelling the emotions in his scent. Ash was really starting to believe that there was some truth to that rumor.

Pidgeotto basically felt the same way as Growlithe. The dark-haired trainer was pretty sure that the flying-type was just having fun from the beginning.

Ash tried to offer the boy something to eat, but he insisted that he wasn't hungry. Ash didn't buy it. The way the boy's belly growled, while they were eating, didn't give Ash any reason to believe he was full. But, who was he to put a dent in the boy's samurai pride? Despite the fact that he wasn't quite sure where in the samurai handbook it said that it was shameful to accept a meal from an opponent.

On the contrary, maybe he was looking at it all wrong. It's possible that it only becomes shameful once you sneak into an opponents campsite with an unsheathed sword before challenging them to a pokemon battle.

After Ash and his two pokemon cleaned up the campsite, they were ready to take on the samurai. The samurai boy led them to a vast clearing about a half-mile off the main path. From their point of access, Ash could see a small log cabin to the right. His guess was that it belonged to the boy. The rest of the clearing was dirt and open space. It was the perfect place for a battle.

Both boys calculated a reasonable amount of space for their pokemon to work with—and faced each other. They set no official boundaries. Before they started, Ash realized that he hadn't actually asked the boy what his name was.

"What's your name!?" Ash hollered.

"Just call me Samurai!" The samurai boy exclaimed.

Samurai then reached for a pokeball before shouting, "What about you!?"

The trainer from Pallet Town bellowed, "Ash Ketchum!"

Samurai initiated the battle by casting a pokeball. Erupting from the red and white sphere was a menacing pinser. The big, ugly stag beetle filed its large, white, thorny, protruding pincers together as it hissed its battle cry.

Ash reached for his pokedex and scanned the big, brown bug.

"Pinser – the stag beetle pokemon – it grips its prey with its pincers until it is torn in half. What it can't tear it tosses far."

Ash gulped and made a mental note to stay away from its pincers. Both of Ash's pokemon had type advantage. He figured his flying-type was the best option. Pidgeotto had more long-ranged attacks—which would make avoiding Pinser's alarmingly dangerous forceps a lot easier.

He called Pidgeotto to the battlefront. The massive, off-white colored avian glided down from its temporary roost atop one of the nearby trees. He peered down at the bug-type with a nasty glare.

The two foes didn't waste a speck of time. Pinser rumbled in the direction of the bird. He prepared his pincers with the intention to crush Pidgeotto's being.

Pidgeotto jetted in the direction of the bug, rapidly closing the distance. At the last second, he elevated in order to narrowly dodge the threatening insect's biological sheers.

The stag beetle squatted—loading its legs with power. It vaulted its body into the air in pursuit of Pidgeotto.

The raptorlike avian thrashed its wings downward in an attempt to use Gust to force its enemy to the ground.

Pinser squeezed its forceps together creating a drill like protrusion. It used this like a dagger, and stabbed the attack, piercing the wind with its sharp point.

Pidgeotto wasn't going to let a pokemon, classified under the inferior bug-type, break through his wind barrier. This time, using the entire force of his incredible wingspan, he powerfully beat his wings once again

It was too much for Pinser to resist. The bug-type crashed into the ground, at a high velocity, leaving a small crater in its wake.

Pinser tried to get up, but was met by an overruling Whirlwind; It violently forced his back into the ground. As Pinser lay belly up, Ash saw an opportunity to finish the first of two battles.

He commanded the colossal pidgeotto, "Use Quick Attack while it's on the ground!"

Samurai tried to beckon his warrior to dodge, but time was too short. Pinser took a grand, accelerated Quick Attack straight to the gut rendering him unconscious.

Samurai frowned and returned his precious bug-type to its pokeball.

Ash smiled and told Pidgeotto that he did a good job in his first battle before returning him. In his opinion, the large flying-type deserved a good rest in suspended animation.

The second of the two battles was what Ash would call a farce. The battle, if you could even call it that, ended just as soon as it had begun when Samurai summoned a metapod. The medial sized, motionless, forest green chrysalis tried its best to endure Growlithe's ember. Unfortunately, multiple attempts to make its exterior shell impenetrable only prolonged the inevitable conclusion.

Ash internally questioned Samurai's choice. Then he remembered the ridiculous scene he had awoken to earlier that morning. The decision to try and match a growlithe by sending out a bug-type incapable of movement kind of explained Samurai in a nutshell.

However, regardless of his intellect, Ash didn't dislike the kid. He didn't know why. Maybe it was because he had so much passion behind what he believed in. Or, possibly, it was because he was simply amusing.

Samurai looked at Ash with a slight look of disappointment.

The dark-haired boy held out his hand in preparation for a shake, "Thanks for the battle; it was a lot of fun!"

Samurai grasped Ash's hand honorably.

"No, thank-you," he tried to force a smile, "you've definitely shown me that I have a lot of work to do before I can consider myself a competent battler."

Ash shrugged, "Maybe it would have been different if both of my pokemon didn't have a type advantage?"

"I guess," sighed Samurai.

Ash could tell that the boy was pretty humiliated. Not only had he been given a fair battle after disgracefully sneaking into Ash's campsite while he was sleeping, but to top it off, he was also defeated pretty handily. Ash decided that it was probably a good idea not to fill him in on the fact that he had only been traveling for four days. As a matter of fact, he decided it would be better to leave the boy with something to work towards.

"Samurai, it's highly likely that in the next couple of days a few more trainers from my hometown of Pallet will be trekking through these woods," said Ash.

Samurai listened attentively.

"If you train hard and wait on the main path, you may be able to redeem yourself," Ash smirked. "One of them is my rival, so don't expect it to be easy."

The boy's face lit up vigorously at the chance to take back his honor, "I will do as you say. Except this time, I will challenge them in a more modern way."

Ash laughed. Now that Samurai's spirit had been rejuvenated, Ash felt comfortable enough to leave the fascinating boy alone to train for Gary and the other. He knew that the boy would have a tough time competing with Gary. Maybe he'd have a shot against the other kid. Ash just hoped he wasn't setting up Samurai to lose three straight battles. He didn't want to be responsible for completely destroying the boy's morale.

Samurai, Ash, and Growlithe accompanied each other during the trip back to the trail. Once they made it back, they said their farewells.

Samurai headed in the direction of Viridian City looking for a good spot on the trail to wait patiently for his chance at redemption.

Ash and Growlithe continued their expedition to Pewter City. The two friends hoped that, by the end of the day, they would reach the city that was home to Brock: the Pewter City Gym Leader.


From the peak of a hilltop, occupying the northern edge of the forest, Ash suddenly gasped. He could see Pewter City in the distance. Even from his vantage point, about a half-mile away, he could make out some of the large stone buildings Pewter was famous for. After Ash split off from Samurai, it had only taken him a few hours to get to his current location. He even stopped once to battle a traveling trainer's butterfree with Pidgeotto. The battle was a bit tougher than the one he had against Samurai, but that was probably because butterfree are capable of aerial combat.

Nevertheless, Ash was victorious.

The boy and his growlithe took in the breathtaking view, making sure to take mental pictures. Once they had their fill, they set off to enjoy the concluding moments of their journey to Pewter.

After peacefully hiking the trip's final stretch, the boy and his growlithe finally reached Pewter's outskirts. The city's outer edge was rather rural with the terrain being made up of mostly dirt and various sized stones. There were very few buildings, and most of them looked to be at least fifty-years-old and abandoned.

Ash even noticed a water well that looked like it hadn't been used in ages—along with a decrepit, old watermill that sat near the edge of a narrow, nearby riverbed. It looked to flow from somewhere deep in the forest. He didn't remember seeing anything like this when he was looking out from atop the hill. This part of the city had to have been drowned out by the tall city buildings.

Ash picked up on the fact that this portion of town was awfully empty. He had yet to see another person. It almost gave off the vibe of an eerie, old ghost town. As he passed through the district, he was cautious. He wasn't usually one to get paranoid, but the severe lack of people was ill-boding.

Unexpectedly, Growlithe stiffened up and began to snarl. Ash's head swiveled. He was looking for anything that could possibly cause such a reaction out of Growlithe.

"Would you be interested in some genuine Pewter City keepsakes?" asked a deep, scratchy voice from somewhere close to Ash.

Growlithe strangely relaxed as the scent revealed itself to be a shady looking man. His age was hard to estimate because of the burly, dark brown beard that settled upon his face. He was wearing old, battered outdoor wear and a thick, burgundy, wool snowcap. The hat was an interesting choice due to the time of year. Early fall in the Kanto region was anything but cold. It hardly provoked the need for the man's choice of clothing.

Ash replied; he didn't want to be rude, "Um, what are you selling?"

"Could you follow me please? My collection isn't far," he mumbled in a low tone.

Growlithe was no longer on edge. Therefore, Ash figured the man was to some extent credible. The boy's mother had always taught him not to judge a book by its cover. He didn't find it easy, but having Growlithe around dulled the risk considerably.

Ash followed the mysterious man, literally around the corner, to reach where he had setup shop. The ten-year-old boy was astonished and not in a good way. The man was selling rocks. Not gems. Not diamonds. Not even silver or copper. All that he had were plain, old, boring, gray rocks.

Ash was beginning to believe that the man was at least slightly deranged. Especially, once he saw each individual price tag associated with the different rocks. The man was asking a small fortune for every single one. Not to mention that he was trying to sell the rocks in a part of the city that was desolate. Ash guesstimated that the wooden shelf he was using, to display some of the smaller-sized rocks, was worth more than the merchandise itself.

"Is there anything that peaks your interest, young man?" asked the bearded man.

Ash said the first thing that came to mind, "Um, sir, you do know those are plain, old rocks, right?"

The man wagged his finger, "But you see...that's where your wrong, kid. These are plain, old rocks from Pewter City: the city of stone. They're genuine souvenirs."

Ash scratched his head.

"Um...whatever you say, sir," he then proceeded to lie. "I would buy one, but I can't afford it."

The man mulled it over, "Well, how much are you willing to spend? I may be willing to drop the price."

Ash internally laughed. If someone were to tell him – at the beginning of the day – that haggling for an ordinary, everyday rock was on his agenda; he would tell them that they were crazy.

But, Ash was nice...and he hated it.

"Um, how about fifty pokedollars for the small one?" asked Ash in disbelief that he was even considering this.

The man entered serious thought, "Seventy-five and you got a deal."

Ash retorted hesitantly, "Sixty and not a penny more."

The man smirked, "Sixty-five."

Ash frowned and handed him what little cash he had withdrawn from the trainer ATM back at the pokemart in Viridian City, "Fine, you win."

The man smiled and handed Ash a rock about the size of his palm, "It's your lucky day, son. You get to leave here with this beauty. And at a bargain price, too, might I add."

Ash had come to a conclusion. This man was, in fact, crazy.

The boy was pretty sure that he had just made the most idiotic purchase in the history of the world. The only way to justify it, in his mind, was to tell himself that he was generous when it came to the needy.

The man reached out a hand, "Pleasure doing business with you, son."

Ash hesitantly mirrored him, "Thanks for the rock."

The man pulled his hat up slightly so that he could make eye contact with Ash, "You know what? I like you, kid. What's your name?"

Ash half-heartedly smiled, "My names Ash. What about you, sir?"

"The name's Flint," He turned his attention to Growlithe for the first time, who a moment prior was starting to feel slightly ignored.

"What about this little fella? Does he have a name?" asked Flint.

Ash smiled at his buddy, "Nothing fancy; his name is Growlithe."

Growlithe wagged his tail. Attention was always exciting for the pup.

"Ash, I would love to show you the way to the Pokemon Center," said Flint. "Your Growlithe looks kind of worn out."

Ash was a little bit confused. He wasn't quite sure how he had gone from haggling over a rock to being asked if he wanted a tour. But, he reckoned he might as well accept. He felt a little more comfortable with the prospect of spending the sixty-five pokedollars on a guide to the Pokemon Center.

"Sure...that would be nice," he replied.

Flint gave Ash an awkward smile before heading towards the heart of the city. Ash followed—the whole time wondering...how in the hell was he convinced to buy a rock for sixty-five pokedollars?


The long walk to the Pokemon Center was rather pleasant. Flint didn't talk too much, which allowed Ash and Growlithe to soak in the altering scenery.

As they immersed themselves deeper into the city, it gradually changed from rural to contemporary. Most of the buildings grew in size. It was intriguing to see how the more current establishments contrasted with the early stone architecture that had stood since Pewter's birth.

The busy streets, carefully organized by painted roads and streetlights, rapidly became more congested. Pewter was a lot different than Viridian. It gave off much more of a big city vibe.

Every once in a while, Flint spoke up. He would share all kinds of little facts about certain parts of the city that they passed by as well as provide a timeline for when specific things were built. Ash was impressed. The man knew a lot for someone that sold rocks for a living.

Listening to Flint's few comments made Ash curious. Where did this man come from? What made him the way he was? Why did he choose to spend his time so far away from everything else? They were all questions that Ash found inquisitive, but he was too afraid to ask. He didn't know Flint well enough to be able to hypothesize what his reaction would be like.

Ash, Growlithe, and Flint finally arrived outside of the Pokemon Center. In terms of design, this pokemon center was very similar to the one in Viridian City. It was dome shaped with the roof resembling a pokeball. The large glass doors were constantly pivoting in response to non-stop activity. Unlike Viridian's pokemon center, Pewter's was annoyingly busy. However, the most evident difference was the drastic contrast in size. Pewter City's pokemon center was much bigger. Ash guessed that Pewter probably had a significantly larger budget than Viridian.

Upon entrance, the first thing that Ash picked up on was that the lobby was a mirror image of the one in Viridian. There were a few slight differences in décor. Other than that, it was all the same. This brought Ash to believe that the reason this pokemon center was so big was due to expanded lodging space, since the lobby was about the same size.

This time around, Ash was able to get a better feel for everything. The manifold of people gave him a much better visual example of how to use several of the different features that the Center provided.

There was a long line to see the Nurse Joy in charge of the Pokemon Center. Just like the lobby, she was identical to her family member in Viridian. The global anomaly involving the Joy and Jenny families was a hot topic within the scientific community.

Both families had some kind of genetic disorder. It entailed that every single female offspring was born identical. There were a few other families like this scattered across the different regions. Several conspiracy theories had popped up over the years. Most of them suggested some kind of secret cloning operation funded by the League.

Ash had to admit, it was rather strange. How could there be that many people that looked interchangeable? Not to mention the fact that they all had League administered jobs. Ash decided to shift his attention back to his surroundings. No matter how much time he spent trying to solve the mystery of Nurse Joy, he wasn't ever going to get anywhere.

Flint stuck with him the entire time. Ash figured he probably didn't have anything better to do. It's not like he had to get back to the rural suburb in fear of someone stealing his rocks.

Ash had returned Growlithe a while ago. It only took about five minutes of standing in line surrounded by people for Ash to tell that Growlithe was painfully overwhelmed.

During the wait, Ash had eavesdropped on several conversations. He uncovered that there were three reasons why the Pokemon Center was so packed.

Reason number one was obvious: there were several trainers that were registering for this year's Pokemon League.

The second of the three was that they had finally announced the month that this year's League Tournament would be taking place in. The tournament would be sometime in May. The League always took place between April and June. For the longest time, Ash didn't understand why they changed the date every year. The answer was revealed to him while he was studying for the qualification exam. He found it rather interesting. Apparently, it all had to do with weather. The League had its strongest certified psychics look a year into the future. The goal was to find out when the Indigo Plateau had a two-week span of decent weather.

The final reason for the congestion, inside the Pokemon Center, had to do with the fact that trainers were getting decimated by Pewter City's gym leader: Brock Slate. Ash was confident in his own abilities, but he couldn't help but gulp after witnessing all of Brock's victims.

It took the dark-haired boy nearly twenty minutes to finally reach the front desk. He handed Nurse Joy both of his pokeballs for restoration and got a room.

Flint decided that it was time for him to head back to his shop. Before leaving, he questioned Ash, "What's your other pokemon, kid?"

"I have a Pidgetto," replied Ash, "why?"

The bearded man shook his head, looking a little bit disappointed.

"Brock's a rock-type gym leader," he then raised a question. "How do you plan on giving him a good battle by using two pokemon with type disadvantages?"

Flint left Ash with that last difficult question reverberating in his ears. Ash knew what Flint was doing. The man was trying to force Ash to seriously consider his next course of action.

...It was working.

Ash hadn't actually told Flint anything about his plan to challenge the Gym Circuit. But, before labeling the man as some kind of mind reader, Ash came to the conclusion that it was probably pretty darn obvious.

Ash scratched his head. In all honesty, this was something that he had been thinking over for quite a while. Unfortunately, he still hadn't settled on a concrete plan of action.

One option was to catch a pokemon with a type advantage. If he chose to go that route—his options were water, grass, fighting, ground, and steel-type pokemon. The problem with this strategy, though, was that he would have to settle for a pokemon he really didn't care to train. This part of the region was pretty dry when it came to pokemon Ash desired.

Ash had struggled over this issue for an excruciatingly long time. He loved pokemon. Almost every single species bewildered him to some degree, but he wanted to be a great pokemon trainer. Even though he believed that all pokemon could be trained to a high-level, he recognized that certain pokemon had much more natural potential.

He was after pokemon that had an uncanny amount of unlockable, latent ability. Ash was looking for creatures naturally blessed with the ability to become the best in the world...

His second option was to train. He could find a good place, on the outskirts of town, over by where he had met Flint. It would slow down his journey, but he was fully aware that he was going to have to stop and train, for decently long periods of time, every once in a while anyway. The drawback, though, was that it would take weeks to accumulate the amount of strength that Growlithe and Pidgeotto would need in order to overcome the type disadvantage. That was time that Ash couldn't afford to forfeit so early on in his journey.

The final option was the least convenient, but possibly the only rational way to go. He could skip the Pewter Gym entirely, at least for now, and return later. By the time he returned to Pewter City, he would without a doubt have the right team to take on Brock.

He hated to admit it, but right now he really didn't have the proper players. It would take some kind of otherworldly miracle for him to defeat Brock's powerful rock-types with a young fire-type and a flying-type.

No matter how exceptional Growlithe and Pidgeotto had performed up to this point, he refused to set them up for failure.

As long as you are willing to put forth the effort to look, the League publicizes what pokemon each gym leader uses to a certain extent. A gym leader is required to register a team specifically for trainers with less than three badges. Only one of the two pokemon can be evolved, and the identity of these pokemon must be public knowledge. This is how Ash knew that Brock's challenge, for beginners, was one of the toughest in the entire Gym Circuit.

The first of his pokemon was a geodude, which was actually pretty reasonable. The small spherical rock-type usually didn't give trainers too much trouble. It was the second of Brock's two Pokemon that sent unprepared trainers to the Pokemon Center crying.

The gym leader was in possession of an Onix—one of the largest pokemon in all of Kanto. Onix were massive serpentine pokemon. Their bodies completely consisting of large, bulky stone. This was not the type of opponent Growlithe and Pidgeotto could will into submission. They needed a strategy.

Unfortunately...there wasn't one.

In time, Ash had no doubt that his two friends would be able to overcome various type disadvantages. But right now, they weren't ready. He wished he could will them to victory. He would do anything to be able to walk into the Pewter Gym and know that he had a chance to earn the Boulder Badge, but that wasn't realistic. He hated to admit it, but he had to be patient. The boy decided, then and there, that his only legitimate option was to come back later.

He would have to get his first badge in Cerulean City. The Cerulean Gym specialized in water-type pokemon. Growlithe would be at a complete disadvantage, so Ash couldn't rely on him. Luckily, there was a pokemon rumored to be located in Mt. Moon that he wanted. It would be extremely difficult to find given that it was one of the rarest pokemon in all of Kanto. Regardless, Ash was willing to seek it out. After all, Growlithe happened to have a legendary sense of smell.

The boy snapped back to reality at the sound of Nurse Joy voicing his name over the Center's intercom. He collected his two pokeballs, ate a late lunch in the cafeteria, then made his way to his designated room.

It was late afternoon, and Ash was in much need a power nap. He had the spare time. The only things left on his agenda for the day was a trip to the Pokemart and an evening training session.

Tomorrow morning he would head for Mt. Moon: the mountainous bridge between Pewter and Cerulean.


To be continued.


A/N: Well everybody, that's the first chapter of Essence. I hope that you enjoyed it. I will try to update monthly, I work full-time though and am getting married soon so it'll be hard. Either way, expect a chapter out once a month. They are long, so hopefully they hold you over. Also, please review. It lets a writer know that you like their story. It's a good way to motivate. Until next time.