Chapter 79, everybody! Sorry about missing last week, life happened, I'm sure you understand.

Moving on…yes that's a thing with restaurants. And homeopathic remedies definitely have a place, considering that's how medicine started off to begin with. And duck confit is a thing, which in the Pokémon world I'm going to say is a Kalos dish. Although Psyduck is technically a platypus….

Also due to popular demand, the current team listing:

Ash: Pikachu, Lenny (Gyarados), Patches (Nidorino), Frenzy (Parasect), Vee (Eevee), and Gastly. Lewis (Riolu) is currently with the team registered as a baby Pokémon, and therefore doesn't battle. Currently boxed: Charmeleon, Venonat, Aerodactyl.

Misty: Horsea, Staryu, Oddish, Squirtle, Psyduck, and Omastar. Togepi, like Lewis, is registered as a baby Pokémon and therefore doesn't battle or count towards the carry limit. Currently boxed: Goldeen and Tentacool.

Brock: Geodude, Onix, Zubat, Bulbasaur, Drowzee, and Vulpix. Currently has no extra companion Pokémon or boxed Pokémon, as the ones back home are either gym Pokémon or his siblings'.

Moving on to reviews: thank you DeathCrawler, Dragonkeeper10, Selet, Silverwing23, Allseer, talesfanjmf, Reader, epantoja521, Chryssal, and forward-smash for the reviews! Glad to see Frenzy is still the fan-favorite. XD

Pokémon © Game Freak; Nintendo

And now, for something completely different:

In other news, many older Pokémon theories are being debunked with increasing rapidness. Unovan researchers credit raising the starting age from ten to fifteen.

Travel went much easier with an actual Fire type (and yes there was a noticeable difference in the food's flavor, which was weird), but it did leave Ash wondering if he should bother swapping out for Charmeleon, even if his main focus was on improving everyone for a hopefully-inevitable encounter with Blaine.

In the meantime, he was hunting for information on which lesser gym he could challenge next, tugged down a bunch of numbers from advertisements on the Pokémon Center board before trying them one by one. It was not a positive outcome.

"Well?" Brock asked, when Ash trudged back to the couch he and Misty were sitting on, waiting on their Pokémon to be given the green light by the nurse doing the checkups.

"Let's see," Ash said, sorting through the numbers. "Closed, closed, closed, closed, out of badges, closed—and this guy told me some stuff and I'm not sure what it means, but I'm guessing from the tone that it wasn't anything good."

"Probably not," Brock agreed, offering Ash a bag of chips before pointing at the seat next to him. "But we'll think of something."

"Yeah," Ash muttered, having a moment of silence before staring in the bag like it could offer some insight. Debate a bit about swapping out for Charmeleon…decided against it still, they were still planning on crossing a lot of water and without another definite goal in mind besides hunting down Blaine he didn't really feel enthused about trying to train the recalcitrant lizard Pokémon.

"There's an idea," Misty said, startling Ash out of his musings—look to see she was focused on an ad playing on the TV. "I could take Psyduck to the daycare, leave him for a bit of training."

"Or you could do it yourself," Ash pointed out, still stuck on his thoughts of Charmeleon.

"I could, but there's something to be said for letting a professional take care of it."

"What's wrong with just putting a bit more effort into it?" he asked her, aware that that was kind of hypocritical considering his current dilemma.

"Sometimes it's better to let someone else handle things," Brock said, standing as the nurse called for them. "Because they know more than you do. You ask us for advice, and we're professionals."

Ash considered this as they went over to the counter. "I guess that's a fair point."

"Then it's settled," Misty said—picked a Pokéball out of the tray the nurse gave them, released Psyduck to examine him. "Come on, Psyduck, let's get you fixed up."

"Psyayayi?" Psyduck noised, clutching his head.

They were evidently not the only ones who saw that ad.

"Wow, that's a lot of people," Ash observed.

"I'm guessing some of them are here to drop their Pokémon off for vacation," Brock said, observing a few people with suitcases next to them. "The rest must have been just as impressed as Misty was with that ad."

"Boy, I hope they still have room for Psyduck," Misty said, holding Psyduck.

"Psyai," Psyduck quacked.

"I still think you could do it yourself," Ash pointed out. Togepi, currently in his arms (and with a clean bill of health), made a little chirp of agreement.

"Believe me, I'd like to think so too," Misty said, adjusting her hold on Psyduck. "But part of being a good trainer is accepting when you can't do something, and knowing when to outsource."

"Hmm….Maybe I ought to get Charmeleon back and leave him here for a while then."

"I think they'd have to be a certain caliber of awesome to pull that off—let's see with Psyduck first."

"Right. Brock?" Ash noised, turning to look for the older teen; he found him looking over the plaques on the wall.

"Well, they look legit," Brock said, arms crossed.

"What do you mean?" Misty asked.

"Well, there's a lot of daycares out there that are officially sanctioned by the League—that the people have the proper training, that their facilities are up to date, that sort of thing. But there's a lot more that are just fly-by-night joints."

"So you're saying it could be a scam?" Ash asked.

"Theoretically, but these all look legit—see? Have the League stamp and everything. And if you move around, the stamp is shiny—it's hard to fake that."

"So it's legit," Misty said.

"I'd say so."

"Perfect!" she cheered, finally reaching the counter. "Hi, I'd like you to take care of my Psyduck—he can't battle unless his headache is really bad, and I was hoping to be able to work around that."

"Certainly!" the lady behind the counter chimed. "Oh, isn't he just the darlingest thing! Don't you worry about him none, we'll have him all perked up for you in a couple of days!"

"Wow, it only takes that long?" Misty asked.

"It does in the hands of trained professionals!"

Misty looked like she couldn't decide between being insulted or being depressed.

"Great!" Ash said quickly, feeling like an interception was in order. "Thanks a bundle!"

"No problem hon! Are you wanting to leave that Togepi with us for a spell too?"

"Uh no, just Psyduck," Misty said, quickly grabbing Togepi.

"All righty then," the lady said, taking Psyduck. "We'll be needing his Pokéball too, hon."

Misty handed it over, gave a little finger wave to Psyduck as he was taken back. "Be good, Psyduck! I'll see you in a few days!"

"Psai?" Psyduck noised, clutching his head and looking worried. Ash waved goodbye to him too—it seemed like the thing to do.

As soon as they were outside, Misty handed Togepi over to Brock so she could stretch her arms up over her head, humming happily.

"Well, I'll tell you this much—if they can get Psyduck past that headache, they'll be worth every penny!" she declared happily, accepting Togepi back.

"Kind of weird that he keeps having that problem though," Ash said.

"Not really," Brock said, glancing around as they walked down the street. "Psyduck tend to have horrible headaches—it's supposed to be their psychic powers developing."

"Wouldn't that mean that all psychics have that problem then?"

"You would think, but the Psyduck line is pure Water—psychic moves aren't exactly easy for them to pick up."

"What a bummer," Ash said.

"Pika," Pikachu noised, before sniffing the air, standing on Ash's head to better do so.

"What is it Pikachu?" Ash asked, before smelling it too. "Man, whatever that is smells good."

"Let's go check it out," Misty suggested, following Pikachu's pointing paw to a restaurant up ahead. "It's been a while, so we can treat ourselves."

"You guys know that eating at restaurants is more expensive," Brock protested, following them in.

"Maybe not," Ash posed, looking around. "No one's here."

"Ah, sorry," a guy said, coming out from the back. "We're closed—I'm getting ready to go on vacation."

"Oh," Misty noised. "We just smelled something nice from this place."

"That was my lunch—I'm the head chef here."

"It does smell good though," Brock said. "Are you sure we couldn't trouble you for a meal before we left?"

"Pretty sure—like I said, I'm getting ready to close up."

"But the doors were open," Ash pointed out.

"They have to be while someone's in here—in case of fires."

"That makes sense." Especially considering his last experience with a building fire.

"Well, sorry to have bothered you," Misty said, bowing slightly. "Where are you going on vacation, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Not at all—the Orange Islands. I'm off to see my favorite Pokémon!"

"Really? What is it?" Ash asked, brightening. "Maybe we have it."

"Not sure you do—most people don't bother with it. Have you ever heard of Psyduck?"

Ash had to cough to restart his heart.

"Did you say Psyduck?" Ash asked, glancing at Misty, who had gone dead still.

"See, that's everyone's reaction."

"No, no—it's just—I have a Psyduck," Misty said.

"Really?" the guy said, brightening up. "Can I see it?"

"Er…no. No, actually, you can't—I left it at the Daycare. For his headache?"

"Ah, that's a pity, that is—kind of wish you had swung by here first; I know a homeopathic remedy for those headaches."

Misty blinked several times. "You do what?"

"I know a way to fix those headaches ailin' your poor Psyduck."

Misty groaned and flopped down on the nearest bench seat. "Ah, man—now I wish we had swung by first."

"Tell you what—I don't leave until the morning," the guy said. "If you can get your Psyduck over here before then, I'll fix him up something nice. Hey, I'll even fix you guys up something nice, free of charge!"

Everyone perked up at that, giving him their undivided attention.

"You will?" Misty asked.

"Sure—I'll have the stove fired up anyway, might as well."

Misty was immediately up on her feet and pumping the man's hand. "You have yourself a deal! Come on guys—let's go get Psyduck back!"

Getting Psyduck back was going to be easier said than done.

"Closed?" Misty squawked, staring at the sign in the door. "How could they be closed already? It's too early!"

Ash tried the door. "Huh, guess they don't keep theirs unlocked in case of a fire."

"They can't be gone for the day!" Misty insisted. "Let's try around back—maybe there's a parking lot or something?"

Ash glanced at Brock as they followed Misty around the building, saw him scowling at his watch. "Are you okay?"

"Misty's right—it's way too early for them to be closing according to their hours," he said. "Something's up."

This was confirmed when Misty couldn't raise anyone at the back door either.

"Okay, that's it, time to get the mallet," she declared, slipping Togepi into her backpack.

"Uh," Ash noised. "Before we do the breaking part, maybe we could try the entering?"

"How? The door's locked."

Ash glanced at the wall, where a Darkrai-shaped shadow shrugged before darting under the door.

The lock clicked, door swung open—Darkrai stuck his head out. "You rang?"

"I feel like you two get into more trouble than you're worth," Brock decided, following the others in.

"It's a gift," Darkrai said, a paw to his chest.

"I was going to go with it's a living, but that works too," Ash said. "So…what are we going to do about Psyduck and the daycare?"

"We'll leave a note, fudge a little and say we found the door unlocked," Misty said, checking the rooms. "Wait, where are the Pokémon? Don't tell me they're keeping them at a second location—why would they have an office here then?"

"They could transport the Pokémon off-site and then pull them back when someone picks them up," Brock said, lingering on an office room. "I don't know, something about this smells off."

Darkrai sniffed at the air. "It does—mostly because there are Pokémon here."

"Pika pi chu," Pikachu said.

"Besides you and me, you ninny."

Misty looked sharply at Darkrai. "Really? Where? And how do you know?"

"I'm going to guess acute Pokémon senses," Brock offered as Darkrai kept sniffing, Pikachu hopping down to sniff at the floorboards, pacing along. Finally sat in front of a door and barked at the others.

"Agreed," Darkrai said, opening the door to reveal a flight of stairs heading down. "Oh look, a basement."

"Is that healthy?" Ash asked.

"I'm going with no," Misty said, already heading down the steps, Pokéball at the ready. "But come on—I'm not leaving without Psyduck."

"Okay, what did I miss for her to feel this way about the duck?" Darkrai demanded.

"Free meal and a homo-something cure for Psyduck's headaches," Ash explained.

"Homeopathic," Brock said.

"Yeah, that."

"Ah," Darkrai noised, following them down the stairs. "You know, eating the duck would fix his headache problem too."

"I'm going to say we're not doing that."

"Why not? Psyduck confit is delicious."

"Any other unhelpful things you want to offer?" Misty demanded, glaring at him.

Darkrai considered this. "And Slowpoke tails are very tasty and people get too worked up over them getting chopped off. There, I'm done. For now."

"I've heard of the Slowpoke thing," Brock offered. "It made the news."

"Yes, yes, some sob-story group called Plasma saying how much it's an exploitation," Darkrai said, waving his paws around as they reached a door. "Slowpokes lose their tails all the time—how do you think they get away when they catch a Gyarados by accident?"

"I always figured they got eaten," Misty said, trying the door. "Locked again? What is this place?"

"Concerning," Brock said, as they looked at Darkrai. He rolled his eyes, shooed them aside—tugged the pins out of the hinges and tugged the door open that way.

"Nice," Misty said. "And worrisome."

"Yes," Darkrai agreed. "But I must use my powers for good, not evil."

"Could have fooled me," Misty said, feeling around for a light—

Brock stopped her.

"No overhead lights," he warned. "I haven't been able to shake a bad feeling about all this since we started."

"Usually a smart idea to go with those feelings," Darkrai offered, a Will-o-Wisp dancing on the end of a claw. Pikachu chittered, lit up his fur like he had at Grandpa Canyon—

"Wow," Misty noised. "When did Pikachu learn Flash?"

"Meowth taught him while we were stuck in that cave," Ash said. "Wait, HM moves can be tutored?"

"Guys," Brock said, voice strained. "Discuss that later."

Why he felt that way became clear when they saw the cages lined up.

"What's going on here?" Ash asked, peering into the first of the cages. "Hey, these are all filled with Pokémon!"

Brock looked sour.

"This isn't a daycare," he said. "This is a poaching ring. We have to alert the authorities."

"Point of order," Darkrai noised. "We found this out by breaking and entering."

"There's such a thing as anonymous tips."

"And there's hope for you yet."

"Great," Misty said, looking in each cage. "You do that, I'll find Psyduck, and then we get out of here."

"And hope for you as well. Now what's your excuse?" Darkrai asked Ash, who was busy fiddling with the cage doors.

"Let all the Pokémon out so they can return to their owners," Ash explained.

"Ash, some of their owners might be on vacation," Brock pointed out gently. "It might be safer for them if we let the police handle this part."

Ash made a face at that, rattled the door again before relenting, much to the dismay of the Wigglytuff inside. "Don't worry, we'll get you guys out."

"We will," Brock assured them. "But first—we've got to get out of here—"

He cut off abruptly at the sound of a door opening.

"Oh that's not good," Darkrai said.