(5/13/2019) I thought I should redo my opening author's note since it's been a few years since I started and things have changed. As of this writing, the story is nearly finished, with the goal to finish by the end of June. I want to start by writing out some essential information for new readers/for any others who might be interested by it.
The character's ages for this story and how time works are as follows:
Each of Ash's journeys have taken 1 year to complete, with Kanto/Orange Islands/Johto totaling 2 years. This leaves Ash at 14 years old when the story begins at the very end of his Sinnoh journey.
In Sinnoh, the age rule for new Trainers is 12 years old instead of 10. I'm aware that this is directly contradicted by the DP canon, but please bear with me. Following the one-year rule, that means Dawn is 13 at the start of things.
Max appears here and there in this story, and I have aged him up to 8 years old during the Advanced Generation events. The original way that I wrote this story and the revised timeline came into conflict with his age, since he would've been 10/11 when he first appears in a couple of chapters. By following my one-year rule, he has just turned 10 at the conclusion of Diamond & Pearl.
If there are aging errors in earlier chapters, it is because of the way I originally wrote the story. I am not dedicated enough to scan every single chapter for minor age discrepancies, so please ignore them if you find them. Some, but not all, have since been corrected.
The basis of The Journey Continues:
The story is a diversion from the Diamond & Pearl canon in which Dawn decides to continue her journey with Ash and Brock rather than accept the modeling offer she received. The Journey Continues initially borrows some concepts from the excellent story Another Road, which can also be found in the archives. The story, however, will progress differently.
A key piece of the story is the development of Ash and Dawn's relationship from close friends to love interests, but it is not the focus. It will be a while before anything of that nature happens, and both characters make do until then with their own internalized feelings. Rest assured, we eventually reach payoff. There will also be some dark elements here and there, most prominently in the middle section of the story. There also will not be any lemons.
Finally, I am aware that some things may end up confusing. This story went through a lot of changes in the first half of its writing, and some sections may reflect that. I am choosing to leave them as they were. I have long since decided on the overarching plot of the story and there are pitfalls that come with it. Whether you enjoy what I have written is up to you, not me. I am grateful regardless for every reader, and have tried my best. I hope you'll consider that.
Thank you for visiting, and without further ado, The Journey Continues...
The Journey Continues
Memories Are Made of Bliss!
Sinnoh Region - Twinleaf Town
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
A female hand reached over to the bedside table and clicked the off button on the Starly-themed alarm clock. The eyes of a certain blue-haired Coordinator fluttered open lazily, and she focused her glance to see the time, finding that it was the early morning.
So tired..., Dawn thought. She placed the clock back on the desk and quickly flipped over, blocking the sun from her eyes and burying her face in the pillow.
Some movement at the bottom of the bedspread indicated that Piplup had crawled out of his cozy shelter. The Penguin Pokémon had indeed done so, and stretched out its body to work out the morning kinks. Piplup grumbled with a yawn, waking up fully. Dawn tightly closed her eyes, certain that Piplup would either go back to sleep or find his own way out of the room. The small padding of Piplup's ovular feet, though, disproved this theory, but Dawn assumed that the water-type would simply curl up next to her like he always did early on in the night.
Unfortunately, Piplup tapped its round beak on Dawn's shoulder blade. Dawn groaned, "Five more minutes..." but Piplup continued affectionately tapping her. "A little longer, Piplup, please..." Dawn complained, trying as hard as she could to fall back into the sweet release of sleep.
Piplup huffed. She would go to the trouble to set an alarm-which woke him up-but she wouldn't wake up herself? This, obviously, was unacceptable. The Penguin Pokémon readied its Peck attack, lengthening its beak in doing so, and then tapped repeatedly with much more force than before, poking Dawn relentlessly.
One, two, three pecks, and Piplup continued going. Dawn furiously woke up and threw the bed sheets up, sending Piplup soaring through the air and into the couch on the other side of the bedroom. As Piplup made an unceremonious landing, Dawn grumbled, sulking in her messy bedhead, "No one knows how to wake me up quite like you do."
Then something ticked in the back of her mind. Dawn looked to her left, and then to her right, and realization swamped her over. Excitement washed away her sulking, "Piplup, I totally forgot we were back home!"
After spending a little more than the past year on the road, it was no wonder that she had managed to forget that she had gone to sleep the previous night in her own bed. Piplup fed off her excitement and hopped back over to the bed, following Dawn to the nearby window and pushing it open with her. This was the Dawn he'd expected! Warm sunlight poured into the room, banishing the cool air inside. The comfortable visage of Twinleaf Town greeted them, as they got ready to greet the day.
The time sped by and before either one knew it, Dawn and Piplup were happily hopping down the steps one at a time, the former dressed in her usual outfit. Her beanie and hair clips, though, were conspicuously missing, something she had almost never done during her constant traveling. Happily, Dawn greeted the people in the room, "Good morning!"
Brock stood up from examining some of the furniture against the wall. "Good morning, Dawn!" Brock concurred. Pikachu suddenly rolled over, balancing on some kind of ball that he had managed to find. "Pi-ka!" he greeted energetically.
"Good morning, Dawn." Johanna said, "Would you like some breakfast?"
"Sure thing, Mom...hey, does anybody know where Ash is?" Dawn asked. The Trainer had been conspicuously missing from the downstairs floor.
"Ash is still fast asleep." Brock said. Pikachu hopped off of the ball he'd been balancing on. The fact that Ash was still asleep wasn't surprising in the least, but Pikachu being awake was unusual. The electric mouse greeted Dawn and Piplup again, giving a laughing purr.
"Wow, Pikachu, you're up early." Dawn commented. Pikachu answered with a happy "Pi-ka-chu!" and Dawn came upon a mischievous idea. She squatted down so that she was near the two Pokémon's eye level, "I say...we go wake up Mr. Sleepyhead!" Pikachu and Piplup agreed with a joyous cry as Johanna stepped over, carrying a bowl of food.
"Dawn, you could let him sleep in, you know." Johanna offered, but Dawn and the two Pokémon were already heading up the stairs, neither of them even acknowledging that Johanna had offered an alternative. The journey to the guest bedroom was quick, and the door was open just a crack.
That must be how Pikachu got out, Dawn thought. She gently pushed the door completely open, revealing Ash curled up in a position that couldn't possibly be comfortable. "Hmpf, sound asleep, all right." Dawn grinned deviously. Pikachu chattered a few words and Dawn immediately understood, "Pikachu, you wanna do the honors?" Pikachu happily agreed and carefully stepped inside the room, sneaking over to the foot of the bed. Dawn and Piplup tried to stifle relentless laughter as the electric-type smirked mischievously. Pikachu started to charge up a Thunderbolt.
"Piiiiii-kaa..." Pikachu purred as he spun around, releasing the Thunderbolt, "CHUUUUUU!"
Ash jumped straight up out of the bed, feeling the scorching electricity shock him to the bone, before falling unceremoniously back onto the mattress, sparks of lightning crackling harmlessly around his body. Pikachu hopped up right next to the Trainer's head, chirping happily as if he'd done nothing wrong in his life, "Pi-ka-chu."
"Oh, man...hey, Pikachu. Good morning." Ash said dizzily.
"Nothing like a Pikachu-style wakeup call, huh, Ash?" Dawn asked, arriving at the bedside and cocking a hip outward, "Somehow I thought you'd like to know that it's breakfast time."
"Breakfast?!" Ash shouted, "Well why didn't you just say so? Pikachu, c'mon!"
Ash grabbed Pikachu by the hand and vaulted out of the bed, clearing the distance to the door in about two steps and disappearing around the corner, laughing as he went. Pikachu complained as the teen dragged him. A second later, there was a terrible crash as the pair fell down the stairs, rolling down both sets of stairs and hitting the hardwood floor of the kitchen. Dawn and Piplup ran after them, ending up on the landing connecting the two sets of stairs. "You okay, Ash?" Dawn called.
"Believe it or not, there's no need to worry!"
"Boys, the boat to Kanto leaves this afternoon, so you won't want to be late!" Johanna said. Ash and Brock answered with a shared affirmation, and Brock went on.
"I want to be sure that I buy enough Sinnoh gifts for everyone," Brock said, referencing his jumbo-sized family, "So let's get an early start, whaddya say, Ash?"
"Right, good idea, Brock." Ash said.
Piplup looked up from his bowl of Pokémon food, absolutely stunned by what he was hearing. Ash and Brock were leaving? But, this couldn't possibly be so, right?! "Well, you don't have to rush outta here too quickly." Dawn suggested. She wanted to spend as much time as she could with the pair who had traveled with her for the past year.
"I wanna thank you two for everything you did for Dawn on her journey with you two. I can't imagine what a wonderful experience it's been for her, as both a Trainer and a Coordinator." Johanna said.
Ash nodded and smiled, "There's no need to thank us, Johanna. Traveling with Dawn's been lots of fun."
"So, Ash, are you gonna battle in another League soon?" Dawn asked.
"I'm not sure..." Ash said, briefly flashing back to the crushing loss he'd suffered at the hands of Tobias, "First I have to go back to Pallet Town and thank all of my Pokémon. They put in so much work and battled really, really hard."
"And I'm certain your mother is looking forward to you returning home," Johanna concurred, "And you as well, Brock."
Only horror existed in Piplup's eyes. They really were leaving, and more likely than not they would never come back to Sinnoh.
"Hey, maybe I could go to Kanto with you and Brock, too!" Dawn realized.
Dawn's words dashed all of the fear in Piplup's eyes, banishing the quivering tears that had threatened to fall from the Penguin Pokémon's eyes. Yes, they would be going to Kanto too! Happily, the water-type went back to eating, until Johanna spoke up.
"Oh, Dawn, I almost forgot. Something came for you in the mail." Johanna said. Piplup looked up as Johanna grabbed a magazine out of the stack on the table. Johanna handed the magazine to Dawn.
"Poké Chic?" Dawn said.
"That's right. You remember Hermione, the editor from the Hearthome Collection?" Johanna asked.
"Oh, that's right. I do remember." Dawn said, "She was the Poké Stylist with the Lopunny."
"And you won the Hearthome Collection, too. Pikachu and I entered, but..."
Dawn giggled, "Hehehe, you two sure got a lot of laughs!" She briefly flashed back to Ash and Pikachu's tribal getup that they'd donned for the Collection, giggling again just at the thought.
Brock's eyes formed hearts, "Though personally, I was much more interested in Paris, the Pokémon Stylist! Oh, she was-"
The poison-type jabbed Brock's lower back, sending piercing toxins into his body. The Breeder stiffened, his muscles failing him for a moment, "Since when is it against the law to dream?" Brock's chair quickly tipped over backwards, crashing into the floor with a loud bang. Croagunk growled apprehensively, his fist still glowing purple. Everyone watched with puzzled indecision, but they were so used to the occurrence that it seemed to have no major effect on them. Dawn turned to her mother once again.
"So, when did you talk to Hermione?"
"I talked to her about a week ago...she said that she wanted to talk to you about your Buneary." Johanna explained.
"Luuup...?" Piplup whimpered. Just like that, his hopes had been dashed again. He now had a whole new situation to worry about, and from what he could remember of the Hearthome Collection, he didn't exactly have a reason to be optimistic.
Buneary bounded around in an orange vest, jubilation on her face. "Buuu-uuuuun-eary!"
"Buneary, you look amazing!" Ash praised.
"Right, being picked to be a Pokémon Model is quite the honor!" Brock concurred. Buneary buried her face in the fluff of its body, cooing with a twinge of embarrassment.
"Hermione said that they wanted to take pictures of Buneary in Hearthome City right away!" Dawn said, "Buneary, do you want to be a Pokémon Model?"
"Well, that's settled!" Dawn decided. Piplup chirped out a complaint, but wasn't acknowledged. Ash continued on, praising Buneary further.
"That's awesome, Buneary! Promise us that you'll let us know when the magazine comes out!" Ash said. Piplup flipped its gaze to Ash, chirping again. Things were going south fast! Neither Ash nor Brock answered him though, his cry falling on deaf ears all around.
"I guess this means we won't be going to Kanto together, huh?" Brock said. Piplup's beak dropped open as his worst fear was confirmed. Even worse, Dawn concurred without any shred of sadness.
"Yeah! It's too bad, but this is Buneary's big chance, don't you think?" Dawn asked. Brock agreed by joking that they should get autographs now before Buneary blew up as a big star. Piplup, though, would have no more of the ridicule he was enduring. This just would not do. With a wild cry, Piplup burst out in anger, bouncing back and forth and up and down and flailing his flippers angrily. Finally, his outburst garnered the attention of the other Pokémon and the three humans on the porch. "Piplup, what's wrong?" Dawn cried. Pikachu bounded forward to try and console the water-type, but Piplup quickly rejected the mouse after a short struggle. Piplup summoned forth a Whirlpool, much to the protest of Dawn, and fired the vortex at the group, providing a perfect smokescreen for him to run away as fast as he could.
After the tidal wave calmed down, Dawn looked up, finding Piplup missing. All of her clothes, as well as Ash and Brock's, were completely soaked. "What...what was that all about?" she asked aloud. The screen door opened and Johanna walked out, having heard the commotion.
"Dawn, what happened?" Johanna asked with a frown, "My goodness, you're all soaked to the skin!"
Dawn stood up with a quivering lip. "M-Mom, something's wrong. Piplup got angry all of a sudden and ran off!"
Johanna sighed sadly, "Maybe Piplup doesn't want to have to say goodbye to everyone..." The Trainers all turned to each other and silently agreed that that must've been the case. "You three should go find Piplup right away before he gets lost!" Ash and Dawn nodded, calling out their Pokémon.
The two flying Pokémon cried and Pikachu eagerly hopped onto Staraptor's back. Buneary turned to Dawn and whimpered worriedly, fearing she was to blame for Piplup's sudden outburst.
"No need to worry, Buneary. This isn't your fault, okay? Just leave everything to us." Dawn returned Buneary and tucked the Poké Ball away. A moment later, Ash, Dawn, and Brock were running into the Twinleaf Woods as Togekiss and Staraptor searched from the air. They had to find Piplup!
Piplup padded along down the path as fast as he could, doing his best to fight back the tears.
"Pip, pip, pip, pip, pip, pip, pip, pip, pip-lup!"
There was a whooshing in the sky, and from it, Pikachu looked around from Staraptor's back. The mouse suddenly spotted the little blue penguin running along. "Pika, pi! Pikachu!" Pikachu cried, pointing out the water-type to Staraptor. Staraptor and Togekiss quickly changed their course and headed down the path after Piplup. Staraptor dipped close to the ground. "Staraptor!" he cried, getting Piplup's attention.
Piplup cocked his head back as he ran, tears welling from his eyes. He should've known that they'd come after him with flying Pokémon. He had no chance at getting away now, but that didn't mean he wouldn't try. The Penguin Pokémon skidded to a stop and fired off a Hydro Pump directly at Staraptor. The Predator Pokémon barrel rolled out of the way, forgetting entirely that Pikachu was on its back. The mouse went flying straight toward Piplup, smacking into the water-type and sending them both to the ground. The two Pokémon recovered and Pikachu tried to grab at Piplup's flippers and talk sense into the water-type.
"Piiii-ka." Pikachu tried. Piplup sniffled and then pushed Pikachu away. Right now he wanted nothing to do with anyone, and the water-type began lumbering away as he shook his head rapidly. Suddenly, he ran right into a soft body, stumbling backward. A pair of wings reached out and caught him in midair, setting him gently on his feet but not letting go of their warm embrace. Piplup reluctantly looked up, seeing the motherly Togekiss looking down.
Piplup sniffled, more tears welling out of his eyes, before finally breaking down and burying his round head into Togekiss' belly, bawling uncontrollably. Pikachu purred at Staraptor and the flying-type turned around to go find their Trainers. As Staraptor flew off, Piplup turned around to glance at Pikachu, suddenly charging forward and latching onto Pikachu to continue crying. The water-type beat its flippers repeatedly on Pikachu's chest, tugging at his hands briefly as he did so. The message was clear: Pikachu, not to mention everyone else, couldn't just up and leave him.
Piplup's overwhelming sadness was contagious, forcing tears to slip out of Pikachu's eyes. In another instant, the mouse joined Piplup in his bawling. Togekiss padded over and pulled the two crying Pokémon close, its motherly nature rolling off of it in waves as it cooed, doing its best to soothe the two distraught Pokémon.
"I know how ya feel..." a familiar voice sighed.
The three Pokémon were drawn to the edge of the path, where one talking Meowth covered his face while spilling tears into his arm. "Nothin's harder than sayin'...goodbye...!" Meowth bawled, "Ya know I relate much more ta ya than you'll ever, ever know..."
Suddenly, Meowth's head flashed up, his eyes churning with malice, "So that's why I'm gonna make sure you stay togetha like glue!"
A net shot down from the sky and wrapped around Togekiss, Pikachu, and Piplup, trapping them in their place together. It was a trick!
"Friends 'till the very end!"
All three Pokémon complained, demanding to be set free as the Team Rocket balloon circled overhead, tugging the net up into the air. Meowth hopped forward, latching onto the net and garnering the attention of the three trapped Pokémon, "Hey, chill out! Look at it as a way for you yokles to bond with each other to ya hokey heart's content!" The Scratch Cat Pokémon climbed up quickly and vaulted into the perch under the balloon, joining his two crooked comrades.
"Right, see? We did you a favor!" James declared.
"And without a twerp in sight, let's take flight!" Jessie concurred.
Ash, Dawn, and Brock appeared on the path with Staraptor in tow, each of them looking up in shock at Team Rocket. The crooks deadpanned and James groaned out loud, "Ugh...! Speak of the Giratina."
"Team Rocket! Give them back now!"
"Sorry, no can do!" Meowth denied teasingly, "Handing 'em over to a twerpy troop of Trainers could be bad for our health, and we like being healthy, so-"
All three Team Rocket members gasped and looked forward to see Staraptor racing at them in a veil of blue flames, tearing straight through their balloon with ease. The balloon broke apart and plummeted to the ground. "Torterra, come out and use Leaf Storm!" Ash called. The Continent Pokémon spawned from the airborne Poké Ball and fired off a quick Leaf Storm at the falling net carrying Togekiss, Pikachu, and Piplup. The net was shredded to pieces and Togekiss swiftly caught the two smaller Pokémon, flying back toward the Trainers with a gleeful chirp.
"Are you all okay?" Ash and Dawn both asked the Pokémon together.
Meanwhile, the Team Rocket Trio crashed into the ground, just as the Trainers and their Pokémon all reunited happily. Jessie shot up first, followed by James and Meowth. "That won't do!"
"Here's a solution!" James added.
"Make you not okay!" Meowth declared, his claws unsheathed and glowing.
"Seviper, Yanmega, it's twerp time!" Jessie declared, sending out her two Pokémon.
"Carnivine, don't let them get ahead!" James added. The grass-type spawned from the Ball but unsurprisingly latched onto James instead. The Rocket complained, "I don't want you to get my head! Use Bullet Seed!" Carnivine detached from James and hovered in the air, spitting forth a Bullet Seed volley.
"Pikachu, use Thunderbolt!" Ash commanded. Pikachu hopped forward and launched a blast of lightning. The lightning bolt tore through the Bullet Seed attack, but Carnivine easily dodged the blast as it came close to it. Togekiss swooped in in response, seeing the opportunity for an easy hit. Dawn called for an Air Slash attack, and Togekiss sent Carnivine flying at the ground with a well-timed attack. Yanmega swooped past Carnivine as Jessie called for it to attack.
"Yanmega, use Steel Wing!" Yanmega surged forward with two glowing wings. Ash countered with a call for Aerial Ace from Staraptor, and the two flying Pokémon clashed harmlessly against each other. Meowth came sprinting forward next, his claws brandished.
"I'm rampin' it up to give ya my Fury Swipes!" Meowth declared.
"Sudowoodo, use Hammer Arm!" Brock called. The rock-type tree jumped out and faked low, tricking Meowth into diving forward with a Fury Swipes attempt. Sudowoodo then lifted itself up and slammed a brutal Hammer Arm into the back of the normal-type's head, ricocheting Meowth off of the ground and sending him bounding back toward his crew.
"All right, Seviper, use Poison Tail!"
Seviper zipped forward with a glowing purple tail, gnashing its huge fangs together. "Se-viper!"
"Torterra, counter with Energy Ball!" Ash called. Torterra roared and spat a crackling ball of energy at the poison-type snake, striking it with ease and sending Seviper crashing back toward Jessie along with the rest of its fellow Pokémon, leaving everyone in a closely knit pile.
"Pikachu, use Volt Tackle!"
"Piplup, Hydro Pump, now!"
Pikachu raced forward with a Volt Tackle at the ready, while Piplup launched a powerful Hydro Pump from behind. The two attacks suddenly fused together, adding a pristine blue tail to the Volt Tackle as Pikachu raced towards the crooks with a battle-hungry "Pika, pika, pika, pika, pika!" The crooks of Team Rocket and their Pokémon all recognized their imminent doom like an old friend, and Pikachu crashed into them at full force, sending them flying away.
"Well, that didn't go well..." James groaned.
"We don't even have a gift for da boss!" Meowth concurred.
"We're blasting off agaaaaaaaain!"
Down on the ground, Pikachu and Piplup exchanged an excited high-five, laughing happily with each other.
"Piplup." Dawn said, getting both Pokémon's attention. Piplup immediately whimpered, feeling a mixture of embarrassment and emotional torture. His friends were all going to leave soon.
Dawn pulled out Buneary's Poké Ball, calling out the Rabbit Pokémon. Buneary popped out, still clad in its fashionable vest, and Dawn walked over to Piplup. Buneary followed, and Dawn sat down on the dirt in front of her beloved partner Pokémon. Piplup and Buneary chirped with confusion, and Dawn smiled.
"Okay, you two. Let's talk it out."
"Dawn, are you sure?" Johanna asked for confirmation, not at all upset. "You understand what kind of opportunity this is."
"Yeah, Mom, I thought it over." Dawn confirmed, looking past her mother to see her two traveling partners on the other end of the room. They both appeared calm and stoic, as if waiting for a monumental revelation. "This is what I want to do, and I talked to Piplup and Buneary. They're both behind me."
"All right then. Here's Hermione's business card. It came with the magazine. You'd better hurry and call her on the videophone." Johanna told her daughter, handing her the plain white card. The blue-haired coordinator stepped over to their family videophone, glancing down at the card a few times as she punched in the necessary numbers. The screen then went from black to grey and showed a little animation in the corner, apparently a substitute for ringing.
After a short moment, the icon disappeared and suddenly the screen showed Hermione on the other end. She smiled, "Why hello Dawn, how good of you to call."
"Hi, Hermione, it's great to see you again too!" Dawn responded cheerfully, but then the seriousness of what she was about to do hit both her mind and her face. "But listen, Hermione…there's something I should tell you."
"Is everything all right, dear?" Hermione interrupted, not quite grasping the situation.
"Yes, I'm fine…but I have decided to turn down your offer." Dawn said quickly, her face turning to near stone as the stylist on the other end pondered what she'd just said. Awkwardness ensued, so Dawn took it upon herself to speak once more. "I am extremely appreciative of the opportunity, but the fact of the matter is that I am still too young to enter the professional world, and the same goes for my Buneary. I've decided to continue traveling not just Sinnoh, but the world as well, while my entire life is ahead of me."
Hermione immediately seemed to understand as Dawn finally trailed off. "Hmm, I understand Dawn. That's a very mature decision of you. I respect it. But you should know that in the future if you desire to work with my company and I, this offer will stand for as long as you like. There are few Trainers with Pokémon who radiate as much potential as you and your Buneary do."
Dawn beamed, "Thank you, Hermione! Take care!"
Dawn cut the videophone feed, before staggering backwards, the weight that she had just rejected an incredibly profitable opportunity hitting her now.
"Well, it would seem that it's settled then." Brock spoke up, breaking the tension.
"Yeah!" Dawn returned to life, color filling her face again as she beamed, "I'm coming to Kanto with you and Ash!"
The television crackled to life, broadcasting the final match of the Champion League. With the conclusion of the Lily of the Valley Conference, victorious Trainer Tobias gained the opportunity to challenge the Elite Four and ultimately the Champion, should he manage to go that far. However, the enigmatic winner of the Lily of the Valley Conference had never shown up, and his whereabouts were unknown. With the conference champion not present, the members of the Elite Four began the second leg of the Champion League, in which the Elite Four challenged each other in order to change the order of their line. This year, Flint defeated Lucian, and took the latter's place as the final Elite Four member that a challenger would have to beat in order to challenge the Champion. Still not satisfied, Flint challenged Cynthia herself.
At the moment, Flint was at his final Pokémon, Infernape, and faced off against Cynthia's Garchomp.
Ash, Brock, and Dawn watched intently as the battle commenced with Flint taking the first move: Flare Blitz. The super-powerful Infernape gnashed its teeth as it summoned hungry orange flames to surround itself, and the fires quickly heated up to a blistering blue hue. Infernape charged, airborne, at the Dragon/Ground-type, who narrowly dodged and summoned a massive Draco Meteor. Returned to the ground, Infernape dodged the barrage of fiery blasts, which also send up volleys of rocks and dirt.
Flint shouted an indecipherable command and Infernape grappled upward to Garchomp, landing what appeared to be a Mach Punch to the dual-type Dragon. The pair grappled fiercely for a moment until Cynthia called for Garchomp to deal out a devastating blow with the blade on its arm, striking Infernape in the back of its head and sending the Fire/Fighting-type plummeting to the ground.
Recovering quickly, Infernape soared out of the dust with bewildering speed, a glowing Mach Punch charged up in its fist. Garchomp couldn't even blink before the Fire-type was on him, landing an excruciating blow under its chin. Recoiling, Garchomp struck back with its arm blades. Infernape fell to the ground again, only to land swiftly on its feet in a cloud of dust and launch itself back upward. It landed another volley of hits onto Garchomp, grabbing one of its arms and swinging the Dragon/Ground-type. Angered, Garchomp suddenly channeled Stone Edge, this time landing a brutal special hit on the Fire-type.
Flint, gritting his teeth, called for a final attack: Flare Blitz. The flaming ape roared to the sky, its corona of flames billowing in the wind as it did so, and summoned the brilliant blue flames once more as it went airborne. Cynthia calmly responded with a call for Giga Impact, and the two Pokémon charged.
The collision resulted in an explosion of smoke and dirt, blocking the view of the two Pokémon from their Trainers. The smoke eventually cleared, with the two Pokémon standing on opposite sides with their backs facing each other. Both breathed heavily, trying to hold their balance as the evidence of recoil damage became clear.
And then, Infernape staggered, its knees weakening, before it fell unceremoniously to the dirt, knocked out.
"Infernape is down! Unable to take down Cynthia's Garchomp after defeating two of her Pokémon!" the commentator declared with energy in his voice.
Ash gritted his teeth at seeing Flint, a Trainer who had come to inspire him, lose in this way. The commentator's voice broke him from his stupor with another booming declaration.
"And so Cynthia once again defends her title as Champion Master and remains on her throne! Can anyone beat her?"
That question sent something primal into Ash's veins, and he shot up from his seat on the couch in Dawn's living room. "Yeah, I can!" he declared confidently.
"Huh? That came out of nowhere." Dawn remarked. Piplup added to the remark with an unceremonious chirp.
Ash turned to her with wildly confident eyes. "No way Dawn, it's always on my mind! Someday, somehow, I'm gonna win the Champion League and become Champion Master." Pikachu hopped up on his beloved partner's shoulder, purring agreeably. Ash seemed like he knew what the electric mouse was saying.
"You're right buddy, and that means I'll finally be a Pokémon Master." Ash confirmed.
Ash's speech stirred inside of Dawn, and she called out happily. "Your big dream! Awesome!" Piplup again chirped alongside its Trainer, this time much more happily. Brock then stood up, seemingly out of nowhere, and his presence attracted both Trainers' attentions.
"Hey guys, there's something I've been wanting to tell you." Brock told them calmly. "After everything that's happened, and with the incident on the ship back here, I've been thinking. After seeing you two go for your dreams, I've decided that I need to go for a dream of my own, too. So that's why I'm going to be using everything I know to become a Pokémon Doctor.
With that finally off his chest, Brock smiled internally. Ash and Dawn both looked equally surprised, but somehow approving. "A Pokémon Doctor?" they asked in unison, as if trying to be sure they'd heard correctly.
"That's right." Brock confirmed to them, "But to become a Pokémon Doctor, I'll have to study really hard, which means I won't have time to continue on our journey."
"I understand, Brock. Go for it!" Ash answered confidently, a fist raised. The Pokémon in the room chimed in with their respective cries, and Brock smiled, knowing he had the full support of his two friends.
"Thanks, you two." Brock said. Dawn then commanded the attention in the room.
"So, Ash is going to be a Pokémon Master, Brock'll be a Pokémon Doctor, and I'll be a Top Coordinator! Sounds good to me!" Dawn cheered, adding, "And there's no need to worry!"
"Y'know whenever you say 'no need to worry', that's when I worry the most." Ash butted in jokingly, but it went right over Dawn's head.
"No need, Ash, this time I'm right!"
The trio burst into joyful laughter, happy that they had all decided just what they were going to do with their lives ahead of them. Johanna then spoke up, interrupting the mood.
"It's three o'clock you three. Almost time to go!"
The laughter stopped, with each of the Trainers looking to the former Top Coordinator. The realization came over them that they were now done with their Sinnoh journey. Collectively, they all felt as if they'd only just gotten there, even if they were used to packing up and leaving places after such a short time. The notion hit Dawn especially hard. She had been overjoyed to leave home and journey around her home region nearly over a year ago, but now, she was really going to leave for a different part of the world, hundreds of miles away from home.
But somehow, Dawn felt more than ready for the challenge.
Wingull chirped collectively over the port, the evening sun giving the water a color like orange juice. Flocks of these port gull Pokémon flew back and forth, but they went unnoticed to the hundreds of bystanders who were boarding various ships.
The trio of Ash, Dawn, and Brock, as well as Johanna, finally reached the loading dock that would take them onto their ferry to Kanto. Johanna had tagged along to see her daughter and her friends off.
"Guess we're here." Dawn said almost somberly, still conflicted that she was really leaving home. She turned to her mother, the woman who had always cared for her since she was just a little girl, and hugged her.
"Thank you Mom, for everything!" Dawn whimpered into her mother's shoulder as Johanna hugged her back.
"Oh, darling, don't cry. I'll always be here for you to call if you need me. You've grown into such a strong young woman these past two years with your friends, and I couldn't be more proud of you. And now, you're going to have a whole new batch of experiences with your friends, and you'll meet so many new Pokémon on this new journey. I know that no matter where you go, your heart will always be here." Johanna preached.
"Thank you, Mom." Dawn whimpered as she pulled away, still holding onto her mother's arms like a child.
"Oh, and one more thing dear. Take good care of Ash." Johanna teased only slightly. Dawn tensed and blushed, confirming her mother's suspicions. Chasing away the color that had risen to her cheeks, Dawn turned and returned to her two friends near the loading ramp. The Kanto natives noticed her, and Ash turned to look at Johanna, clenching a fist confidently.
"Johanna, thank you for everything, too. I'll take care of Dawn, I promise." Ash nodded as he spoke, giving her a thumbs up. Brock simply nodded alongside Ash.
Ash, Brock, and Dawn then turned to look at the ferry, before turning to glance back at Johanna. The mother sensed how unsure they were, and gestured for them to get a move on. "You'd better go, darlings, or you'll be late."
"Right." Dawn said somberly, before motioning to her friends. The trio all turned at once and ran up the ramp to board the ferry, their suitcases and bags behind them. Brock was carrying an absolute mess of souvenir bags, having dropped hundreds of dollars at the portside shop to get a souvenir for all of his siblings back in Kanto. He was last aboard the ship, with the two teenage Trainers disappearing inside the ship long before he did.
Johanna watched as the ship almost immediately pulled away from the dock, drifting out into the water before throttling forwards at a Snorlax's pace.
Johanna bit back a tear as she watched the boat leave.
"Mom!" Dawn's voice called from the ferry, forcing Johanna to look specifically at the ship's back, where her daughter, Ash, and Brock were all standing, waving all together.
"No need to worry!" Dawn cupped her mouth and called, her voice carrying across the wind and to her mother's ears. Johanna smiled widely and then broke out into waving.
"You three take good care!" Johanna called back, watching and waving as the ship picked up its pace and drifted into the sunset. When she could no longer see the ship, she turned and walked her way home. Her daughter was now gone once again, but she had to admit, she couldn't be happier about the people she'd chosen to leave with.
Kanto Region - Crossroads
The trio walked down the dirt path, reaching where the path split into a T. A sign was placed against the cliff that the roads ran alongside, with two arrows pointed in opposite directions. The arrow on the right read "Viridian City", and in smaller letters underneath it, "Pewter City", while the arrow on the left read "Pallet Town".
"Guess this is it." Ash muttered, having lead the group to the split path. He turned around, and Dawn and Brock exchanged a sad look.
"Yeah…" Dawn and Brock both said together. Dawn strolled over to the left side of the sign, beside Ash, while Brock stood on the right. Ash was first to extend his hand, which Brock took in earnest.
"You can do it, Pokémon Doctor Brock." Ash said confidently.
"Pokémon Master Ash, you can too." Brock answered back. He turned to look at Dawn, "Top Coordinator Dawn, so can you."
Dawn smiled before taking Brock's newly empty hand and shaking it as well.
"Take care of yourselves out there." Brock added. Ash simply nodded before turning and walking with Pikachu on his shoulder. Dawn stood where she was, looking at Brock some more.
"I mean it." Brock muttered. "Don't hold back your feelings, Dawn. Make sure that he knows."
Without another word, Brock turned and began walking toward Viridian City. Dawn stood where she was, pondering what Brock had just said. Dawn turned to look at Ash's retreating form, before looking back at Brock. He had to have been joking, she was sure of it, or maybe she had completely imagined that he'd said anything?
Ash's call broke her from her trance. "Hey, Dawn! You coming, or what?"
Dawn scrambled to regain her composure, rattling Piplup as she did so. "No need to worry! I'm coming!"
The Twinleaf Town native turned and sprinted after the Kanto-born Trainer, her starter Pokémon waddling quickly along with her. She caught up with him, and slowed her pace, walking alongside her friend for what seemed like hours. Eventually, the forest broke into a clearing of hills, with the path going back and forth alongside the hills and through another set of trees before finally reaching an expansive settlement of land, with little houses dotting the terrain every few blocks.
"There's Pallet Town." Ash said absentmindedly, with Pikachu chirping in agreement. Dawn smiled at the quaintness of it all, before Ash broke her out of her thoughts once again. "Come on, Dawn!" he cried before sprinting down the path, forcing her to break into her own sprint after him. The coordinator grinned from ear to ear as she chased after the excited Trainer. Their Sinnoh journey may have been over, yes, but their journey together was far from it.