Hey everybody! Thanks for all the reviews, favs and follows last chapter. It meant a lot. Anyway, it took more than three weeks to get this out, so I hope that it makes up for the long wait!


Chapter Two: The Forest



That was the only thing Ash, Natalie and Jack did for six hours straight in the Centre's training field – well, it was mainly Ash and Natalie who trained their pokémon, since, much to Jack's disappointment, Einstein the Abra was inside his pokeball in one of his eighteen-hour naps and Buford the Mankey only worked out for two hours before succumbing to his need for Twinkies. Still, Buford had impressed the group of trainers by his fine use of Karate Chop and Seismic Tossing Natalie's Charmander over the field.

Ash had always thought training was easy, but now he knew.

While Natalie had worked on teaching Charmander Metal Claw, Ash had focused on helping Saur make his in-bred moves more powerful and helped Delphi do whatever Oak had told him. Saur spent most of the time either letting loose a flurry of leaves at rocks scattered around the place or lashing at other objects with his vines. Power Whip and Magical Leaf were coming out well, but the same couldn't be said for Leaf Storm.

The first time Saur had used Leaf Storm, he'd almost decapitated everyone. The dinosaurian pokémon was furious with himself, and spent the next half hour trying to perfect at least a diluted version of Leaf Storm, until Ash told him to stop when he saw the entire place shrouded with leaves.

He didn't even realise it was nightfall when he ended the training session; it was only when he dropped to his knees and fell flat on his back did he see the stars coming out, declaring night-time. As goose pimples erupted on his skin as the wind blew over him, he turned to his exhausted pokémon. "You guys did great today. I'm really proud of you. Take a rest now, okay?"

Saur simply wheezed as Ash recalled him inside his pokeball; even Delphi was too exhausted to get angrily at Ash for putting her into suspended animation. The bird absolutely despised the device, and Ash didn't argue with her staying out. He didn't want to be at the receiving end of one of her Night Shades.

Ash stumbled to the front desk of the Pokémon Centre, his legs too sore for him to run. He was glad when he finally saw Nurse Joy's smiling face in front of him.

"Hello, Mr Ketchum. I assume that you are done with training for the day?" she said.

Ash just nodded dumbly. He was too tired to even say anything.

Joy smirked. "Why don't you sit down? I'll have your pokémon healed in no time."

Ash muttered a thank you and trudged to a nearby table. His eyelids were heavy and he stifled a huge yawn. He was so tired. It wouldn't hurt to sleep...

His head bumped against his chest once, twice, thrice... Just for some time...

Suddenly something sharp poked him in his ribs and Ash squealed in pain, waking up abruptly. "Ouch!" Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, he glared at his attacker. His scowl didn't lessen when he saw Jack's face looming over him, leftover crumbs of Twinkies spread around his lips.

"Wake up, lazybones," he said. "Nurse Joy's been calling for you for fifteen minutes."

That definitely woke him up. "Wha – why didn't you wake me sooner?"

Jack snorted. The entire Centre was empty He brought out his hands from behind him and tossed two pokeballs at Ash. "I took the liberty of getting your pokémon. Who's your best bud?"

"Don't answer that." Ash turned to his right to see Natalie plop down beside him. "But, Jack, that was a nice thing you did."

Jack feigned shock and anger. "What? I simply ooze niceness, Summer! I'ma—"

"—eat some more Twinkies?" Ash joked. Natalie burst out laughing, and even Jack snorted in amusement.

"Maybe." He inhaled a few more of the stuff. Then he yawned, giving Ash a full view of the half-eaten Twinkies mashed in his mouth, soggy crumbs stuck between the grooves of his molars. That was a visual he could've done without. "I'm tired. Let's call it a night, guys."

Natalie yawned too. "Fine. I never knew training could tire you out so much."

"At least you got to train," Jack said darkly. "I bet Einstein's going to wake up at three in the night and demand he trains. Da—"

Suddenly the lights went out and everything turned pitch-black. Ash frowned in confusion. "A power outage?" the boy said.

"I don't know," he heard Natalie say. She sounded worried.

Then there was a loud crash and the trio flinched at the sound. They looked up to see the skylight broken, and when their eyes trailed down they saw three silhouettes directly below the broken skylight – a man, a woman and a...a Meowth. The humans wore similar uniforms – a white uniform with a large red R on the chest.

Ash's blood ran cold. "Team Rocket!"

Nurse Joy snarled. "You two've got some nerve, this place while I'm on duty!"

"Three," the Meowth corrected, pointing at itself with a claw. "You forgot ta include me."

Ash was so surprised when he heard the Meowth talk that his lower jaw threatened to dislodge from his upper one. Jack's eyes widened in shock and dropped the Twinkie in his hand.

"Puh-lease," the male drawled. He had neck-length Violet hair and a feminine body language. "What are you and that pink egg going to do, huh? Sit on us?"

His female companion snorted. "Hand over all the pokémon you have, Nursie. And you three kids – hand over whatever pokémon you have, and maybe we won't beat you up."

"Nice joke," Natalie hissed. "You want our friends, you have to get through us."

The lady smirked. "Pffft. Get through you. Yeah, right. Looks like we got some heroes, eh, James?"

James cracked his knuckles. "Let's teach those kids a lesson they'll never forget."

Ash, Natalie and Jack glanced at each other and nodded. At once there were six flashes of light as each trainer pressed the release button on their pokeballs, and their pokémon materialised on the floor.

"Alright, Saur," Ash told the little grass type. "Let's beat these Rockets up."

James's eyes widened once he saw their pokémon, then his face twisted into a smile. "Not rare, but incredibly uncommon. The boss will love these little monsters, Jessie."

Jessie nodded and released a larger-than-average Ekans. It coiled instantly on the floor and rattled its tail, hissing to reveal a forked tongue that ran along its sharp fangs. It fixed its bright yellow eyes onto Ash and the purple scales on its body glittered in the moonlight.

James smirked and sent out his own pokémon – a Koffing. The noxious creature's hide was the same colour as Ekans' scales, only a shade lighter. It kept pumping puffs of noxious gases into the air every few moments and, like most of its species, had a dreamy expression on its face.

Ash didn't know much about the two pokémon in front and of him, so he ran down everything that he knew to himself: Ekans and Koffing. Poison types. Ekans have powerful bites and are quite fast. Koffing have tough bodies, and are known to Selfdestruct.

"Saur," Ash told his friends, "take Ekans. Hit it with Power Whip, but if it comes close use Tackle. Delphi, take on Koffing. Don't get close to it. Strike with Night Shade from every direction with the help of Teleport. Got it?"

Delphi chirped in acknowledgement while Saur growled deeply. His eyes narrowed and two vines extended from under his bulb.

To his left, Natalie's Charmander was brandishing his claws and his pupils were narrowed to slits. Zephyr was shrieking a challenge to the Rocket pokémon as she flapped her wings to stay in the air.

Buford the Mankey was jumping excitedly, his paws curled to form fists. Einstein the Abra was fast asleep in his pokeball.

"Let's go!" Jack yelled.

It was complete pandemonium. Attacks sprayed across the room, causing the trio of trainers and Nurse Joy to drop to the floor to avoid them. The Rockets, however, were still standing up and laughing at them, at least until Saur – accidentally, of course – smacked James in his gut with a Power Whip that probably knocked his stomach into his butt.

Saur and Charmander were attacking Ekans with a continuous onslaught of Embers and Power Whips that made the serpentine beast wince in pain whenever the two starter pokémon scored hits on it. The Ekans wriggled uncomfortably, then lunged at Saur and Charmander once again.

"Dragon Dance," Natalie ordered. "Then Metal Claw!"

Charmander squeezed his eyes shut as he focused his minute draconian energy into his core, glowing a faint shade of scarlet and purple. The entire process took twenty-five seconds, leaving the reptile open to Ekans' attacks, but Saur helped out his companion by countering Ekans.

Then Charmander lunged at a much faster pace and slashed his partially-metallic claws at Ekans. The serpentine pokémon winced in pain, but Charmander continued to slash at it.

Each time he scored a hit, Charmander's claws hardened further.

Koffing, however, seemed to be much stronger than its companion pokémon. Buford, Zephyr and Delphi seemed to equally match the gas pokémon. Delphi kept dodging its Tackle attacks by teleporting away, but Zephyr and Buford were not so lucky. The Pidgey seemed to be struggling to stay conscious from both the toxic fumes exuded from Koffing's body and the tough hide that collided against him every so often. Finally, Koffing slammed into him once again and knocked the bird out.

Natalie let out a howl of rage and ordered Charmander to direct his attacks to Koffing. Unfortunately, that left Saur alone against Ekans.

"Power Whip!" Ash ordered, but Ekans slithered away from the vine, which struck the floor and cracked a tile beneath it.

"Bite!" Jessie called out. "Put that Bulbasaur down."

Ekans hissed furiously and lunged at Saur, its enlarged fangs gleaming black, but Ash wasn't having it.

"Saur, jump!"

At the last second, Saur pushed his heavy body upwards, both with his stubby legs and his powerful vines, and Ekans utterly missed him, skidding across the floor. The snake yelped in pain when the Bulbasaur landed on its scaly body, crushing Ekans under his weight.


Ash wheeled around in horror to see Meowth hanging off Natalie's back, its claws digging into her skin. The girl was furiously trying to shake Meowth off her back, but the feline creature's grip was like steel. It was not letting go.

Ash mentally smacked himself. He'd completely forgotten about Meowth. How could he be so stupid?!

While Ash looked at the scene with horror, Charmander rushed to the aid of his trainer and delivered powerful slashes at Meowth with his powerful claws. Meowth screeched in pain and immediately let go, but the damage was done – the back of her top was shredded and blood was tricking out of the wounds.

Before Ash or Jack could make a move, however, a flash of bright light filled the room.

"ENOUGH!" a feminine voice yelled.

A pink blob hurtled across the room a crushed Koffing beneath its weight, then headed towards Ekans as the poison gas pokémon slowly deflated, unconscious. It picked up the serpentine pokémon by the tail and whirled it in the air before throwing it to the ground and jumping onto it.

Nurse Joy took a menacing step out of the shadows, her hair a mess and a furious expression Ash thought he'd never find on her face. "I will say this once," she snarled, breathing heavily. "OUT!"

The two Rockets quickly recalled their fallen pokémon and scurried out of the Pokémon Centre.

Nurse Joy wiped a bead of sweat from her forehead. "The next time I see them, I swear to Arceus..."

She turned and glared at the trio of trainers. "As for you three!" she snapped. "What made you think you could take on a criminal organisation?! You're lucky they were just lower grunts, and not admins that could pound you into mush!"

Ash and Jack looked down guiltily, but before Nurse Joy could continue to rant Natalie dropped down like a sack of rocks.

Nurse Joy paled at that and immediately forgot about shouting at the kids. Instead, she told the pokémon the took out Ekans and Koffing – Blissey, she called it – to bring out a stretched and ordered the two boys to recall their pokémon so that she could heal them. Apparently slashes from a Meowth were just too much for a ten year old, so Natalie had to spend the rest of the night in one of the recovery rooms.

"Women," Jack told Ash sagely as they made their way to their rooms in the Centre. "They switch moods so quickly."

Ash gulped. For what seemed like the first time in eternity, Jack was correct.


Ash woke up early the next morning and rushed to the front desk to receive his pokémon. While he was scared that they had been thoroughly beat up from the battle against the Rockets, Nurse Joy had told him that they'd suffered only minor injuries. He immediately sent out Delphi and Saur, who greeted their trainer in a series of growls and chirps.

"Nurse, how's Natalie?" Ash asked tentatively, scratching Saur's head.

"Ms Summers?" The nurse's eyebrows creased. "She was released an hour ago! She headed to the Battle Club I told you about with Mr Fernandez."

"Wha?" Ash blinked. "They just left me? Nurse Joy, could you tell me where the Battle Club is?"

"It's on the eastern side of the city, a few blocks away from the gym," she said, not even looking up from the computer.

Ash dipped his head and rushed to the cafeteria gobbling down a hasty breakfast of sausages before returning his friends and exiting the Centre. He wanted to train Saur on Natalie and Jack for leaving him alone at the Pokémon Centre, but first he had to find them. Filled to the brim with energy, he raced behind the first speeding taxi he saw, accidentally scaring the driver by waving at her when he caught up to the cab.


During the drive to the Battle Club, Ash browsed through his brother's TM case. He'd never actually known what TMs Red had put in there, aside from Energy Ball, which he'd given Jack to use on Einstein so that they could catch a pokémon. Hopefully Red had given him attacking TMs, and not copies of Double Team.

Energy Ball, Toxic, Iron Tail, Steel Wing, Stone Edge, Shadow Ball, Mega Punch and Protect. Ash shrugged. Red had packed him a good collection of TMs. Maybe when he'd catch a varied team, he could use these TMs on them, but for now his team was limited.

According to the TM case, Saur could learn Energy Ball and Toxic and Protect. Energy Ball would be a good move to attack from a distance, since Magical Leaf and Leaf Storm were practically just stronger variants of Razor Leaf. Toxic would be another good move, but to immobilise opponents. Unlike other toxins, Toxic delivered a potent and lethal dose of poison into the target's system. It didn't matter how powerful the pokémon was – if it couldn't get rid of the poison or if it wasn't immune to it, it would be finished in a matter of moments.

Delphi was compatible with Shadow Ball and Toxic. Shadow Ball was technique that involved the user to collect alien, unworldly energy to form a concentrated sphere of said energy. Delphi already knew Night Shade, which involved the same ghostly power, so the Natu wouldn't take time to master Shadow Ball.

In the meantime, Ash had just one thing on his mind: train. Unlike yesterday, he now knew exactly how to help his friends get stronger. He just wanted to get to the Battle Club; according to Nurse Joy, the place had much more facilities than the Pokémon Centre and focused solely on helping trainers train their pokémon.

"Here is your destination," the driver said in a monotonous voice.

Ash quickly got out of the cab and paid the fare to the driver. Although the distance to the Battle Club wasn't that great and he could've walked instead, Ash didn't want to expend any of his energy. He wanted it to save it so that he could really get into training. Pockets considerably lighter, Ash turned around and his mouth fell open.

The Battle Club was enormous. It looked more like a gym than anything, with a big glass dome encompassing the back. The main building seemed like a small dot in a wide, grassy area. It was circular in shape and had more glass windows than Ash cared to count. A logo of a slightly stretched battlefield, half grey and hand red, was shown above the sliding glass doors that gave trainers entrance.

"Whoa." Ash grinned. Without wasting another second, he rushed inside.

The interior was even more impressive. There was a large gymnasium which contained everything from treadmills to punching bags to dumbbells. Two large swimming pools allowed water type pokémon to show their prowess. A door connected the building to several battlefields at the back, should trainers battle each other, and a library with multiple computers and millions of shelves of books for researching pokémon.

The best part was the large cafeteria, which Ash immediately hit to order a quadruple-decker bacon-and-cheese grilled sandwich.

Ash inhaled his food in three chomps, wolfing down the chunks and not even bothering to finely grind and chop the food. A few trainers shot him uneasy and nervous looks, but Ash didn't care. He loved food.

"Arceus, I knew I'd recognise you by the way you eat," a disapproving voice said. Ash whipped around and saw Natalie, her face stuck midway between disgust and an urge to laugh, and Jack, who – predictably – had a Twinkie in his mouth.

Natalie wrinkled her nose in distaste. "Don't you ever stop eating?"

"Tell that to Jack!" he shot back.

"That oaf won't change no matter what," Natalie replied calmly and disdainfully, ignoring said boy's irritated glare. "We can only hope that he doesn't get worse."

Jack snarled. "You shut your mouth, you little—"

"Hey, how come you guys ditched me back at the Centre, huh?" Ash asked to drown out whatever Jack was going to say, annoyed.

Natalie looked utterly unabashed. "You overslept," she said simply. "We didn't want to waste further time. Besides, Jack needed to restock on his Twinkies, or else he and Buford get really cranky."

Ash chuckled. "Yeah. Twinkies are like drugs for Jack."

"I am not dependent on Twinkies!" Jack exclaimed hotly. "I just – it – I mean—"

Ash and Natalie listened patiently as Jack struggled to rant for fifteen minutes about how he wasn't obsessed with Twinkies until they decided to move on and begin their training session. On Ash's shoulder, Delphi crooned in delight as she nibbled on a potato chip. The boy petted her lightly and she chirped once again.

Ash cracked a grin. He couldn't wait to get started. Norse Joy had hyped him so much since yesterday, and he would be let down if the Battle Club was an understatement.

"Come one, girl." Ash looked at the Natu on his shoulder. "We've got work to do."

With that, Ash recalled her into her pokeball and walked to his first stop – the training rooms.


Ash made his way to the second floor of the Battle Club, which held only private training areas. According to the guide, it was open for trainers for an entire day, but, since nothing came for free, trainers had to dish out money to rent the rooms for a day. $850 was a steep price, and Natalie and Jack had shied away from renting a room, but Ash was ready to pay the amount if it would help his friends to get stronger.

Ash swiped the access card against the reader, which beeped and caused the door to click open. Ash pushed his way inside, switched the lights on and glanced at the room with a slight smile.

Ash took out Red's old TM Case from his bag and ran his fingers across the disks of data in the case. He'd made his decision to give Saur and Delphi TMs so that they could widen their move pool. Almost all of Saur's moves were in-bred, so it would only be when he was an Ivysaur or a Venusaur when he would be able to actually use them. At such a young age, all Ash could hope for the seed pokémon was to at least master whatever he could right now, however flimsy it may be.

Delphi was something else. He knew she wouldn't stand a chance against Brock's rock-type pokémon, so he'd have to train her on travelling trainers in the Viridian Forest. Ash was betting that almost all of them would be "Bug Catchers", so the bird would grow a fair bit stronger in the forest.

He booted the Energy Ball TM first, then inserted Saur's pokeball in the required slot. The machine whirred for a few seconds, shaking a bit until it stopped, and Ash happily took out the Bulbasaur's pokeball and the Energy Ball TM, replacing them with Delphi's pokeball and the Shadow Ball TM respectively.

Once everything was done, Ash let loose his two friends, who growled and chirped happily at their trainer. Ash grinned at them and petted the two before standing up, the two pokémon waiting for his commands.

"Alright, we've got work to do." Ash grinned at them. "I've given you guys new attacks, so we'll try them out right now. Okay?"

Saur nodded, his scarlet eyes gleaming at the prospect. He stomped at the ground in excitement while Ash walked over to a digital pad on the wall, pressing the 'start' button after pressing the number '3' on the keypad. The boy was just glad that the manager – a huge man who went by the name of Don George – explained how the training room worked, so he wouldn't be wasting much time trying to figure it out.

At the back of the room, three slots let out targets to practice on. They had the primary shape of a human, although they dummies weren't as fragile as they looked. According to the manager, they were carved out of solid rock and could take a better beating than the average human. At this stage, all Ash could hope for was for Saur and Delphi to destroy them.

"Saur, you're up." Saur nodded and trotted over to face the target at the extreme right, while Delphi hopped onto Ash's shoulder, causing the boy to wince slightly as her talons dug into his skin, although it didn't hurt more than prick him.

"Energy Ball."

Saur closed his eyes for a few seconds, focusing as the bulb on his back glowed green faintly. A moment later, he opened his maw, drawing light to form an orb of green energy before releasing it and blasting the target with it. To Ash's delight, cracks spread from the point of impact until the dummy seemed to be covered in a cobweb.

"Great job, Saur!" Ash congratulated. Delphi chirped in agreement thrilled in happiness. The boy then looked at Delphi. "You're next, girl."

The Natu nodded and hopped to face the same target which Saur had practiced on. She eyed it eagerly before her eyes glowed a deep purple and she formed an orb of black, alien energy in her beak. With a piercing cry, she fired it at the target, engulfing the stone dummy in smoke as the ball of ghostly energy blasted upon impact.

A good chunk of the target was blown to pieces, with only about three-fourth of it remaining, so now it looked like a zombie. Still, Saur and Delphi had done quite well for their strength. Ash had no doubt that they would be powerhouses in a few months time.

Ash grinned. Those were big dreams, but now he had to focus on the present. "You guys did great. Keep it up and Brock will be a piece of cake."

A series of growls and chirps met his statement. Now that he was sure that there had been nothing wrong with the TMs, the boy decided to focus on training them for their other moves. "Saur, practice Power Whip on another target. We've got a lot of time, so keep focusing your energy in your vines as long as you can before letting it loose, but don't do it for too long. Got it? Delphi, you come with me. We'll be working on Drill Peck."

Ash watched Saur lash the target a few times before being jarred back to reality by Delphi, who nipped at his fingers to get his attention. Ash sucked his bleeding finger for a moment before focusing on the Natu.

"Drill Peck!" he ordered. Delphi leapt high into the air, her beak glowing a bright white as it began to extend in length and harden. She began to spin mid-air, but a second into the attack the bird lost her balance, completely missed the target and ended up stabbing Saur in the butt.

"Are you guys alright?" he asked concernedly as Saur and Delphi began resurfacing. Saur was glaring angrily at the Natu as he absent-mindedly caressed his posterior with one vine, while Delphi was shrieking aggressively at Saur in return.

It took a while for Ash to stop the two from going to attack each other, which involved Ash promising Saur extra food for lunch and dinner. He wouldn't be surprised if his two friends would have some bad blood between them for some time at least.

"Okay, Delphi." Ash pursed his lips. "Why don't you just try getting that spinning motion, huh? Professor Oak said that it'd be easier to learn Drill Peck that way."

Delphi simply shrugged and hopped over to her place in front of the partially-destroyed dummy. She puffed out her chest proudly, crouched, then launched herself into the air.

This time was much better. As soon as she reached the maximum height, she began to spin in a corkscrewing motion. Ash caught her just before she would've slammed into the rock-hard dummy, which was perfectly safe since her beak wasn't powerful enough to stab him.

A few tries later, Ash and Delphi decided to take one step further. Delphi tensed her legs, and then she pushed up, springing herself into the air.

She spun like a drill and slammed into the target, causing no visible damage save for a small gouge where she pecked it. The Natu puffed out her chest, proud of herself for performing the attack. Ash tossed her a treat and let her go at it a few more times so that he could turn his attention to Saur.

Saur grunted at Ash and retracted his vine, waving it at Ash as if to say hi. Ash waved back at his friend. "Okay, Saur. Show me Power Whip."

Saur nodded and grimaced in concentration as his vine glowed. Unlike the previous few times, his vine was glowing a fine shade of purple as he focused all his strength in it. Then fast as a viper Saur lashed out at the target, swinging downwards and breaking it in half. The two halves creaked for a few seconds before finally breaking apart and falling to the ground.

"Great work, Saur. I guess you've got the hang of Power Whip, however crude it is, so start working on Magical Leaf. Its basically Razor Leaf charged with a some amount of potential energy. So start by learning Razor Leaf, and then..."


Ash stifled a yawn as he handed over the access card to Don George, who said, "Hope to see ya again!" and walked off, leaving Ash in a deserted corridor. He'd practically spent the entire day in the Battle Club's training room, taking a break only for a quick lunch before Saur, Delphi and he went back to the Battle Club to continue training. By the end of the day the three of them were dead-tired, and Saur didn't even remember Ash's promise about giving him extra food.

Natalie and Jack, who weren't as crazy about training as Ash was, had headed back to the Pokémon Centre two hours before Ash had. He'd met Natalie at the cafeteria after giving his pokémon to Nurse Joy and eaten with her before collecting his pokémon from the nurse.

Ash quickly took a shower and cleaned his friends, too. Delphi had first shied away from a bath, but once she felt the pleasantly warm water on her small body, it was all over.

Once Ash, Saur and Delphi had dried up they'd made their way to their room. Since there were more trainers than usual this week, Ash and Jack had been asked to share a room, which the two boys didn't have a problem with.

Jack was already sleeping on the bed, spread-eagled and covering nearly three-fourths of. Neither Einstein nor his Mankey were released, which meant that Buford the Mankey was too hyperactive to sleep and that Jack's Abra's sleep cycle was up. That wasn't the same with Ash's pokémon, however. Delphi immediately hopped onto the perch in the room and fell asleep, while Saur dozed off on the pillow and bedsheets Ash had set for him the previous night.

Ash yawned and dropped onto the bed. He set his hat on the hanger before darkness overtook him and he drifted off to sleep.


The next morning, the three of them woke up simultaneously at the crack of dawn to get ready. Ash had set the alarm to be extra noisy so that they'd able to cover more ground that day. The only problem was that they'd forgotten to pack their supplies last night, so they hurriedly made their way to the pokémart to stock up.

It took about half an hour to get everything; Natalie was in charge of basic necessities like repels, potions, etc., while Ash and Jack visited the local supermarket. Natalie had told them to get stuff like sandwich supplies, orange juice and pokémon food, but they'd also purchased ready to cook meals, packs of cheese curls, cola, and (obviously) a bunch of Twinkies.

Finally, they were ready to tackle the forest. Ash, Natalie and Jack were jumping with excitement. It was a half an hour walk to the Viridian Forest gate, and it was only nine-thirty in the morning, so they could walk at a leisurely pace instead of rushing.

In any case, they had to discuss strategies along the way and help each other out. Whatever people said, Brock was no slouch. His parents were skilled trainers, so Ash was sure that they'd began shaping him into a Gym Leader at a young age. Like Red had said, trainers only thought of them as being at the bottom of the food chain since beginning trainers normally hit there first to win a gym badge, so he wouldn't underestimate him.

Not to mention that, if he lost his very first gym battle, Gary would mock him till his dying day.

Ash let loose Delphi, who ruffled her tiny wings and squawked at Ash upon coming out. Ash petted her once before informing her about his plans.

"Well, you know the drill," Ash told her with a smile once they finally reached the gate. "Let's get through this forest."

His pokémon chirped and crooned in agreement. Ash grinned as the Natu hopped onto his shoulder, then plunged through the gate with his friends.


Each of them, both trainers and pokémon, saw a lot of action on the first day. They battled a lot of trainers, and while most of them (about 99% of them) were bug catchers – trainers who simply caught easily available bugs in the surroundings and battled with them – they battled a few trainers who had varied teams than the generic bugs. Ash, Natalie and Jack were irritated of battling bug catchers again and again, but since there weren't any other types of trainers they had to make do with them.

The main reason bug catchers were so irksome were that they had only bugs on their team – and not high-levelled bugs, mind you; bugs like Caterpie and Weedle and Paras that would get crushed easily by the simplest of blows. The more annoying part was that the bug catchers would whine once they lost and throw a tantrum for a few minutes before the winning trainer would threaten to train his/her pokémon on them and take their prize money.

Which meant that the trio of trainers had to face grown kids cry on their loss every single time.

However, he mused that he shouldn't have been too surprised. Bug catchers caught and trained bug pokémon because they evolve very quickly – at the most in a matter of three weeks. This could be the reason why said bug catchers were so sore about their loss: they obviously didn't know why their bug wasn't evolving after mere hours of training.

Natalie had an easy time through the forest. Her Charmander could easily torch them with a single Ember and knock them out, and he seemed to grow so much stronger that he began knocking out the chrysalis stages – Kakuna and Metapod, for example – with a single flame. At this point the girl had sent out Zephyr, and the Pidgey took her teammate's place by singlehandedly knocking out a team of two Caterpie, a Weedle and a Kakuna with a series of Wing Attacks.

Jack also had a fun time battling in the forest. Buford's rage was just too much for the weaker bugs, so during those fights Jack sent out Einstein, who was fortunately awake at that time, instead of the Mankey. It took several Energy Balls to win each battle, but Jack was just happy that his Abra had no lost a single fight.

Ash's pokémon took utter joy in thrashing the bugs. Saur didn't let the type disadvantage deter him and proceeded to obliterate every single bug catcher he faced. His Power Whip had certainly improved, so it was now a horrendously scarier version of Vine Whip. His Energy Ball was also perfect, and he'd proved that when he'd snagged a foe Spearow out of the air.

Delphi was also doing much better, although not at par with Saur. Ash figured that she was just handicapped by her evolutionary stage, since her wings and body weren't fully developed right now. She'd be able to use her full potential when she would eventually evolve into a Xatu.

Still, she wasn't a slouch. She had effectively defeated all her opponents with her crude-yet-effective Drill Peck. She was finally getting the spinning motion right, so it would only be a matter of time before she would hone it into a weapon of devastating power.

Ash watched with glee as Delphi took down a Ledyba by a well-aimed Night Shade to the chest. The bug type's eyes rolled in the back of its head and it dropped to the ground, unconscious.

A smug expression played across Ash's face as the opponent bug catcher grumbled as he pushed a wad of cash into the boy's hand. He recalled his fallen Ledyba and walled away, probably to hang out with the rest of his bug-catcher friends.

"Want to set camp now?" Jack asked. Ash looked up at him, coming to a halt as he wiped a bead sweat from his grimy and dirty face. The sun was setting, painting the sky orange as it touched the horizon. Natalie dropped down onto a cluster of rocks, chugging water from her flask.

Ash shrugged. "I don't know. I was thinking of catching a pokémon before calling it a night."

Natalie yawned. "I'm tired. Why don't we go and catch some pokémon tomorrow? Anyway, it's not like you'll find anything other than Ratatta or those bugs. The best you could hope for would be a Spearow."

"Actually," Ash said, "I was planning to catch a Pikachu or something. Professor Oak told us that there's this feature on the pokédex with which we can track—"

"But Pikachu are really rare and elusive in Viridian Forest, right?" She pursed her lips. "I don't know, Ash. Maybe we should just wait until morning. It'll be clearer to catch a pokémon, too."

Ash glanced at Jack, who just shrugged, like, Just go with it.

"Okay," Ash relented. "Fine."

About half an hour later camp was ready, with a crackling, warm fire in the centre, encircled by stones. They'd picked up a nice spot in a clearing, but the only thing they didn't have was fresh water. It was a good thing that Jack had insisted on carrying four litres of cola, although the boy had already finished one litre all by himself.

When they finally were done chatting, they let loose their pokémon and began to train – it would take about two and a half weeks for them to trek through the forest, so they to utilise all the time that they got. The many battles during the day had obviously made each pokémon much stronger, but they still needed to hone their skills.

Sine there wasn't any equipment on hand, the trio of trainers and their pokémon proceeded to obliterate their surroundings. Jack took Buford and Einstein (who was thankfully awake at the time) to a cluster of boulders, where Buford could teach Einstein Seismic Toss. Ash didn't see how that was possible, but since Jack said that the pokédex said so, Ash had to take his word for it.

Natalie had Charmander scratching at a rock so that he could master Metal Claw. The fire-type could now gouge rocks pretty well, but according to Natalie it wasn't perfect yet and Charmander still had to practice it a lot. Zephyr kept flying speedily in order to learn Quick Attack.

Saur was doing well overall, but Ash had found a new exercise for him. Before setting on his journey, Red had told Ash numerous ways to train a Bulbasaur. Some of it was too extreme and suitable only for aa Venusaur or Ivysaur, but Ash remembered some of the exercises for a Bulbasaur. Saur was now lifting rocks for a long amount of time to strengthen his vines. His longest record was seven minutes before Ash lost count, and Saur now kept lifting every heavy item he found.

Moves like Power Whip and Magical Leaf were still far from complete, although Saur took a few seconds less to muster up the required energy for the attack. It would probably get easier when he evolved.

Delphi was improving as well. Her Drill Pecks were on point, and her Night Shades and Teleports were perfect, so Ash made her keep attacking trees. Every time she jumped, slipping into the spinning motion became easier.

Once they were all exhausted and done training, they had a quick dinner and changed into their night clothes. Everyone was too tired to say anything as Natalie doused the fire and slipped into their sleeping bags.

"G'night, guys..." Ash yawned as Saur burrowed into him, wrapping his vines around his trainer in a protective manner while Delphi hopped onto a tree branch to keep a lookout for trouble. Her ability allowed her to remain awake for long periods of time before she would have the need for sleep.

However, Ash did not have any such abilities, and as soon as he closed his eyes he fell into a deep slumber.


"Pssst. Hey Ash. Ash! Pssst!"

Ash frowned and awoke to someone continuously prodding him in his side. He blinked the gunk out of his eyes as he waited for them to adjust to the light, except for the fact that there was no light.

Instead, it was very, very dark. By the looks of it, it was midnight and Ash couldn't see a thing except for vague silhouettes for objects.

A figure was standing above him, an inch away from each other. Ash couldn't recognise him, but the shock of curly hair was unmistakable.

"Jack?" Ash whispered, incredulous. "What're you – why aren't you sleeping!"

"Shhhhh!" Jack hissed, quickly putting a finger over his lips. "Man, stop talking like you were born with a loudspeaker in your mouth! I don't wanna wake up Natalie." He glanced nervously in the sleeping girl's direction.

"Okay..." Ash eyed Jack sceptically. "What are you doing, anyway?"

Suddenly Jack burst into a fit of giggles and snorts and clutched his sides. Ash was confused as Jack went on sniggering until Natalie shifted in her sleep and muttered something about Charmander.

Once they were sure that Natalie was fast asleep, Jack began with his story. He giggled a bit before Ash glared at him and told him to get on with it. "S-So, I woke up so that I could c-catch a pokémon," he said, still snickering slightly. "I took out my pokédex and put the flashlight on, 'cuz it's really dark, ya know. So I tried to search for a Hoothoot and I was searching for one for an hour until I finally found one!"

Jack fell into another fit of giggles, but Ash just stared at the boy. So far, he hadn't found anything even remotely hilarious.

"So," the curly-haired boy continued, "I told Einstein to attack, but he missed a couple of times until the Hoothoot just gave up and flew away. I tried to catch it by throwing a ball at it, but it missed and hit a branch instead."

"And?" Ash probed.

"The pokeball obviously fell down – 'cuz, y'know, gravity and all that – but then this sleeping Pineco fell out of the tree, landed on the pokeball, and captured itself!"

This time Jack didn't bother to keep himself quiet, exploding into a round of laughter, but Ash prepared himself for that. He lunged onto Jack, covering the boy's mouth with his hand and locking Jack so that he couldn't make any noise by moving.

"Are you saying," Ash hissed into Jack's ear, "that you woke me up at midnight—"

"One AM."

"—at one AM just to tell me that you accidentally captured a Pineco?!"

Jack nodded and smirked.

Ash sighed. "Go back to sleep, Jack."


The net several days passed without much event, if you didn't count battling countless bug catchers ever so often. Trainers grew varied as they trekked through the undergrowth of the forest, having more than just bugs; Ash encountered one that had both genders of Nidoran, and another who pulled out a Growlithe, who Ash lost to. Most of the trainers had much more powerful pokémon than the ones they'd encountered earlier in the forest. Many bugs catchers now sported bugs like Beedrill and Ariados, while few had exotic pokémon from regions like Sinnoh or Unova. There was a memorable incident when a bug catcher had brought forth a little crustacean that its trainer had called "Dwebble", although its rocky shell proved no match for Charmander's claws.

All of their pokémon had progressed a lot. The numerous battles had toughened them up and made them stronger in both mind and body. Zephyr had grown in size and a small, red tuft had grown on his head, while Charmander's skin had taken a darker shade and a bump was present on the back of his head. Both their evolutions were nearing.

Saur was nearing evolution as well. The symbiotic plant on his back had grown larger and the tips of the sepals protecting the plant had turned a light pink. He had also mastered Poison and Sleep Powder, which would be valuable attacks in battle. Although they probably wouldn't do much to the tough, craggy hides of rock pokémon, the spores would be able to incapacitate foes with ease.

Delphi had grown too. Her wings had grown considerably larger and her previously-blunt beak was slightly sharper. She had also finally perfected Drill Peck, and Ash had happily given her as many treats as she had wanted that day.

Although Jack was more lax about training than Natalie or Ash, his pokémon had grown strong too, although they didn't seem to be on par with the other's' pokémon. According to Jack, Einstein could finally communicate a bit with his trainer, which showed that he was going to evolve into a Kadabra in another two weeks or so. Buford's muscles were bigger and he packed more powerful punches. Jack's Pineco, whom the boy had dubbed as Diego, was far behind his other two partners but he certainly was no slouch in the battling department.

Although Ash had made a note to capture a pokémon, it hadn't been easy to do so, and the hours he'd spent looking had little to show: Pidgey, Rattata, Caterpie, Weedle, and the odd Spinarak – nothing worth catching. Ash kept wondering if these were the only pokémon in the world, because it really felt like it. Ash wanted to catch something worthwhile, like a Pikachu, but he never got to even see one.

Currently they were waiting for Jack to finish his battle with a travelling trainer just like them. Jack had pitted Diego against the trainer's Sandshrew, who seemed much more experienced than the bug type.

"Poison Sting," the trainer drawled lazily. The tip of Sandshrew's tail glowed purple and it rushed at Diego, stabbing the Pineco's hard shell.

Diego gurgled in pain, but it continued to keep standing. Jack looked downright nervous, and he frantically yelled out, "Selfdestruct!"

Ash and Natalie hit the ground as Diego glowed violently, storing energy in his form. The foe trainer tried to order his Sandshrew to knock out the sacrificing pokémon, but in vain.

Diego exploded with energy, kicking up dust as all the humans lay flat on the grassy ground. Ash wiped the mud out of his eyes before looking up at the devastated scene.

Diego was obviously out cold, and so was Sandshrew. Both trainers recalled their pokémon, but since the battle was a draw, neither trainer gave the other their prize money. Sandshrew's trainer simply looked at Jack in distaste before he walked away.

"Idiot." Natalie glared at Jack. "Why did you have to tell your Pineco to Selfdestruct?"

"B-But Diego was gonna get knocked out!" Jack stuttered. "I didn't wanna lose!"

"You could've taken the loss like a man instead of taking the coward's way," Natalie hissed.

"What're you, Miss Motivational Speaker of the Year?" Jack snapped hotly.

Ash sighed. "Stop it, guys. Can't you two lay off of each other for five minutes? It's driving me crazy."

Both of them looked at Ash with offended expressions, but Ash didn't stick around for more drama. He had already began walking away, and the other two trainers had no other choice but to follow him, albeit at a newer pace.

Maybe it was because of their situation, but their dirty clothes, matted hair and grime-stained faces had something to do with their frayed tempers. Serves them right, Ash thought to himself angrily. They never stop arguing... It'd drive anyone mad...

Being closer to their destination had made them overexcited about finally reaching civilization, and impatient too. Squabbles and arguments broke out frequently among the trio, most of them on petty things. Their pokémon too were becoming restless as time went on in the forest.

They couldn't wait to get to Pewter.

In any case, they couldn't shorten the forest, so they spent most of their time training or battling trainers and wild pokémon. A few times Ash saw a Pikachu in the distance, but it skittered away almost immediately.

In the afternoon, they stopped for a quick lunch of tuna sandwiches that the three of them had prepared in the morning. Their pokémon quickly finished their tins of pokémon food, since their trainers were too tired to prepare anything for them. In any case, neither of their pokémon complained, since Jack was too nervous to not give Buford his share of Twinkies.

After an hour of rest, the trio of trainers packed up the remaining sandwiches and recalled their pokémon. Ash brushed off the bread crumbs on his shirt and addressed the other two. "Hey, guys," he said. "I want to catch a pokémon now. What do you say we go hunt for one now?"

Natalie nodded. "Sounds good. I want to capture a grass type, actually. It'll help me defeat Brock. Probably."

Ash grinned. "Alright, then. Let's get going!"

"Nah, you guys go ahead," Jack said, heaving a sigh. "I don't need to catch another pokémon right now."

Natalie put her hands on her hips. "Nuh-huh. You've got to come with us. You might get lost!"

"Jeez, Nat!" Jack exclaimed. "I don't need another mom in my life." But he agreed to go with them.

Ash nodded. "Let's get looking."


They'd spent a little over two hours searching, but so far Ash hadn't gotten lucky. Natalie, however, was a different matter altogether. They'd found a Shroomish basking in the sunlight half an hour before they had begun their search and Natalie's feet had barely touched the ground as she charged at it. Zephyr took it out in about ten seconds and received a few berries as a treat.

Ash spent another hour searching for a pokémon before he decided to give up. He turned and was about to tell his friends that they should just keep moving when a cry pierced the air:


He instantly whirled his head to the direction of the sound. That wasn't like any call in the forest he was used to – he was utterly bored of Rattata whining and Caterpie mewing. He practically tripped over his own feet as he ran towards the noise, Jack and Natalie and his own pokémon not too far behind.

"Baa-aa-aa!" This time, the noise was closer. Ash kept running, and a good idea of what that pokémon was formed in his mind. It probably was as good as a Pikachu and Ash was glad to find a decent electric-type in the forest.

He turned around a corner and saw a Mareep grazing. It was around two feet tall, probably a good bit above his knees, and had a mass of fluffy, cream-coloured wool covering its entire body, as well as a curly tuft of wool in the middle of its head, which was blue, just like its four legs. Its tail was striped black and yellow, and had a red orb at the tip which glowed. Two conical horns jutted out from the side of its head, and they two were striped black and yellow.

It wasn't aware of the group's presence, mostly because they were extremely quite. Even Saur, who was itching for a battle, remained quiet. Delphi was perched on her trainer's shoulder and was eyeing the Mareep with interest.

"Okay, you two," Ash told Saur and Delphi in a voice that was barely a whisper. He didn't want to alert the Mareep. "Saur, hit is first with Vine Whip. If it tries to get away, catch it with your vines. If it does get away, it's up to you, Delphi. Teleport next to it and attack with Night Shade. Don't hold back. Got it?"

Saur growled softly in agreement; Delphi simply fixed her eyes determinedly at the grazing Mareep.

Saur's vines snaked towards Mareep through the grass, sliding around flowers. They were completely camouflaged by the tufts grass on the ground and it didn't look like Saur was giving anything away. Ash's heart skipped a beat when Mareep's tail twitched, but it didn't run away and now moved onto a sunflower.

A second later, all hell broke loose.

Saur whipped Mareep with such ferocity that the sound echoed like a gunshot and a few Pidgey flew off in the distance. Mareep cried out in pain and Ash winced as he saw the expression on its face.

Saur grinned and lashed out again, catching the pokémon in the neck. The Mareep was thrown to the ground, where it fell on its side and groaned in pain.

It didn't get knocked out, though, which made Ash want to catch the creature even more. It got right back up and looked around until it finally fixed its intelligent black eyes on the group.

Ash dropped to the ground to avoid a thin bolt of electricity that headed in Saur's way, and the Bulbasaur grimaced as he was shocked by the Thundershock. But Saur was made up of much stronger stuff, and he proved it by striking it again by Vine Whip.

This time, however, the electric-type was ready for the attack and jumped back, evading Saur's green tentacles. Its horns sparked with electricity, but then it thought better of it; instead, it turned away and scarpered. It was really fast.

"Go!" Ash yelled as he picked himself up from the ground. "Go, go, go!"

Delphi instantly vanished. Ash could see Mareep as a small, cream-coloured blur in the distance, but he was happy to see it halt and jump back in pain. Apparently Delphi had already reached it.

Mareep was loosing electricity in every direction, but Delphi was doing a good job teleporting away from the Thundershocks. She was firing black beams of ghostly energy from her beak that kept striking the Mareep on its body. A few times Ash saw Delphi firing perfect blobs of alien energy, and Ash took pride in the Shadow Balls she fired.

In the end Mareep just fell on the ground in exhaustion and was struggling to get up. Saur restrained it with his vines to make sure it was completely trapped. It couldn't move.

Ash grinned as he hurled the empty pokeball in his hand at the Mareep. The pokeball bounced against Mareep's forehead and sucked it in the form of red energy.

One shake, two shakes, three shakes, click.

The orb didn't move.

Ash put on a grin so huge that it was a wonder that his face didn't tear in half. He walked casually to the pokeball and picked it up, clipping it to his belt after minimising it into its diminutive form.

Jack grinned at Ash and clapped him on his shoulder. "Awesome catch, man." Natalie gave him the thumbs-up.

Ash smiled back at the duo. "Now that I caught my pokémon, let's go. Pewter awaits us."

Jack chuckled. "Man, that sounds like a really nice way to break up a chapter! It'd be a shame is someone ruined it by adding something lame." He munched on a Twinkie. "Jus' sayin'."


Later that day, after Ash, Natalie and Jack had set up camp and had their dinner, Ash decided to send Mareep out and make friends with it. It was probably tired and hurt from the brutal beating it'd received from both Saur and Delphi, so Ash needed to heal it up too. Maybe they'd even bond with each other, like Delphi and he had after the ruthless thrashing she'd got from the hardy grass-type.

Ash licked his plate clean and walked over to the running stream near where they were sleeping to wash his plate. They'd picked this spot because they'd run out of water and they didn't want to wash their utensils with cola. Ash washed his plate and packed it in his Hammerspace backpack. Recent developments in technology allowed for backpacks to have the same type of technology as pokeballs, so Ash could easily pack a bicycle if he wanted to without worrying his backpack getting heavy.

Ash quickly called Saur and Delphi, who were busy playing with Natalie's and Jack's pokémon. The two trotted – leapt, in Delphi's case – over to Ash and looked inquisitively at him.

"Okay, guys, I'm gonna let out Mareep." Delphi chirped in acknowledgement while Saur's eyes lit up in remembrance of the electric-type he'd faced earlier that day. "Be nice, okay? Don't attack unless it does."

The two nodded and stared at the pokeball in Ash's hand. He quickly tapped the release button and a beam of white energy burst forth.

Ash would've been electrocuted if it hadn't been for Saur. The grass-type leapt in front of Ash and took the Thundershock head-on. He winced in pain as electricity passed over his body, and the next second later he lashed out his vines at Mareep.

Mareep cried out in pain as Saur's tentacles wrapped around his fluffy body. Saur's vines were completely buried in Mareep's wool and his grip on the creature tightened, causing its eyes to bug out.

"Don't hurt him!" Ash cried out. He didn't want his newest partner hurt any more unless it was absolutely necessary. "He's just scared."

Saur hesitated, but slackened his grip on Mareep a few seconds later. He let the electric-type down, but his vines were still hovering around Mareep warily.

He would not let his trainer get hurt. Never.

"Hey, Mareep." He kept his tone light. "Feeling good?" he asked, but he mentally smacked himself a split-second later. Obviously, with all the visible bruises on its body, Mareep wasn't feeling good.

Mareep simply glared at Ash. The boy noticed that its legs were trembling as they struggled to keep the creature upright, and he immediately felt a pang of guilt.

He removed a few potions from his bag. "Can I heal you? You don't look so good."

Mareep didn't do anything except for nod curtly and Ash went to work. He sprayed the potions on all of its wounds, which began to heal and fade within a few minutes. A particularly harsh mark was etched on its neck and Ash paid extra attention to it until it finally disappeared.

"There," he said, patting it slightly on its head. The Mareep glared at him for that. "Don't you feel better already?"

Mareep didn't respond at all. Instead, he kept watching Ash warily, but at least it didn't attack.

"Look, I'm not going to hurt you," Ash said softly. "I just want to be friends with you. I'm your trainer now, and these guys—'" he pointed at Delphi and Saur, "are your partners. Please listen to me. I just wanna help you get stronger."

Mareep's tail twitched and its eyes lit up at that. Ash grinned. He finally hit the spot.

"Okay, Mareep," he said soothingly, "I'm on my way to become the strongest trainer ever." Saur and Delphi snorted, like they knew this routine. "Will you help me on my journey?"

Mareep's eyes gleamed at the prospect and it nodded eagerly. Ash grinned wider and he patted Mareep, who at first shied away but then bleated under his touch.

Ash then took out his pokédex and flipped it open. When Mareep looked at it inquisitively, he told it what he was about to do. That seemed okay with it and continued to interact with Saur and Delphi, who were no longer angry with it for trying to hurt Ash.

Mareep, the wool pokémon, the pokédex said. Mareep's fluffy coat rubs together and builds up a static charge. The more static electricity is charged, the brighter the orb on its tail glows.

This Mareep is male and knows the moves: Thundershock, Tackle, Thunder Wave, Agility and Cotton Spore. Its ability is Static, which causes attacking pokémon to have a chance of being paralysed in battle.

Ash nodded and closed the pokédex. Mareep didn't sound like much, but a good bit of training would make him an invaluable member on the team. Not to forget that he was already good friends with him.

"Hey, Mareep," Ash said suddenly as a thought sprung in his mind. "D'you want a name? Saur and Delphi do."

Mareep thought about it for a moment before he nodded. Ash went tough countless names – Storm, Lambda and Sparkle to name a few – but Mareep didn't seem to like any of them. Finally he thought of one that his mom had read to him as a kid. "Does Zeus sound good to you?"

Mareep thought about it for a few seconds before nodding in agreement. The newly-designated Zeus trotted over to him and nozzles against Ash's body, setting his hairs on end. Ash carefully petted Zeus, trying not to wince in surprise at the occasional light static shock he received. Ash didn't want to brag by naming his pokémon after a lightning god, but he was sure that his friend would live up to the na—


Ash was literally shocked out of his senses. Mareep had flinched at the sound and sent a powerful shock of electricity into his body. His everything-resistant shirt and jacket absorbed most of the electricity, but it wasn't that resistant to absorb everything and trails of energy passed into his body.

Ash yelped and fell to the ground as the shock made him spasm and jerk. Every muscle in his body twitched uncontrollably as he rolled on the ground. His eyes were bugged out as he continued to undergo the effects of the shock.

Across the fire, everybody was in hysterics. Natalie was rolling on the floor with laughter and Charmander was chuckling like his trainer. Zephyr was squawking in amusement while Buford was making loud, grunting noises, probably chuckling. Einstein was simply hovering in the air and watching the scene with his closed eyes.

Even Ash's own pokémon were busy laughing at their trainer. Saur was laughing so badly that he was lying on his back, while Delphi was chirping in amusement. Zeus was gurgling in laughter at Ash's movements.

The person who was laughing the hardest, however, was the prankster himself – Jack. He was clutching his sides in pain and his face was contorted in mirth. His laugh was probably more amusing than the joke itself.

Then suddenly there was a violent explosion that jarred everyone to their senses. Ash got up – his right eye was still twitching uncontrollably – and saw Diego the Pineco's unconscious form on a patch of blackened earth, wisps of smoke rising from him. Apparently he'd self-destructed out of mirth as he had been watching the scene, and the explosion had resulted in Natalie knocked to the ground with her hair in a mess. She rose from the ground like a demon, her face twisted in rage.

"I just got my hair done this morning!" she shrieked. "I'm going to kill you!"

"Same here," Ash added, pushing himself up. "How about I hold him while you punch him?"

Natalie smirked. "Deal."

Their pokémon watched as the duo chased Jack around the warm, blazing fire, and it was late at night when they put out the fire and went off to sleep.


The next day followed the same routine: they battled trainers and wild pokémon, occasionally taking breaks due to exhaustion. The trainers they encountered seemed to be those who were going back to Viridian, so they had a tougher slew of pokémon on hand.

Jack had his fair share of battles, losing few, winning more, until he finally decided enough was enough. He gave his three pokémon time to rest and vowed to not get into a battle until they reached Pewter City, which was just a few miles away according to their town maps.

From that point on it was just Natalie and Ash and their pokémon. The girl had proved to be quite well against the experienced trainers and lost three of her eight battles. Ash kept winning with the aid of Zeus, Saur and Delphi, and lost only one match out of his total of six against a trainer who'd pulled out an Onix she'd captured at Mt Moon.

"What do you say we stop for some time?" Ash said. He sat down on the ground and drank some water, then poured some over Saur. The grass-type cooed in delight as the water trickled over his body.

Jack shrugged. "Okay. But let's not stop for long, 'cuz I wanna reach Pewter before nigh—"

"Hello. Would you there be trainers from Pallet Town by any chance?" a new voice asked suddenly.

Natalie frowned and looked around, trying to locate the speaker. "Um, yeah, but I don't see how that matters. Who is that, anyway?"

The voice laughed triumphantly. "At last, my search is over! HAI-YAH!"

The sound of two metals scraping against each other filled the air as a large, blue blur leapt out of a tree branch and soared towards them. The three of them screamed as they saw a long, shining blade held above the figure's head. Ash jumped away from his spot as the stranger slashed at him with raw ferocity. The blade cut through clean air and a few inches of it sank into the ground.

Jack looked utterly flabbergasted. "What the—"

The intruder was a kid clad in samurai gear, with a real blade held in his arms. The boy, who was barely as tall as Ash, was pointing his sword at each of them for every two seconds. His helmet was hanging lopsided on his head, but all that mattered to Ash was the blade pointed right between his eyes. "I am Samurai!" the stranger yelled. "I am an honourable trainer of these parts! I am — oomph!"

But Ash didn't get to know what else Samurai Boy was, as Saur slammed the boy in the midsection with one of his vines. The boy clutched his stomach painfully as Saur growled furiously and tripped the boy on his back. The grass-type type snatched the blade out of Samurai Boy's reach and stabbed it into the ground. Ash quickly called him off before he would really hurt the guy.

"Saur, stop! He's not hurting us!"

"What's wrong with your pokémon?!" Samurai Boy exclaimed furiously. "Control it before I call the authorities to put it down!"

"Are you serious?!" Natalie exclaimed angrily. "You pull a sword on us and you expect our pokémon to not attack? What kind of an idiot are you?!"

The boy's face turned red and he motioned to grab his sword, but Saur slapped his hand away. Samurai Boy glared at the Bulbasaur in anger, but didn't say anything.

"As I was saying, I am Samurai!" the kid exclaimed in an authoritative voice – well, it would've been authoritative if his voice didn't crack so much. "I have been defeated by a trainer of Pallet! Now face me in battle so that I may redeem myself. Get ready!"

"I'll take this one." Ash walked over to face Samurai. "Get ready to get defeated."

The kid's face reddened in anger as he enlarged a pokeball. "Paras, defend my honour!"

Ash blinked when he saw the orange, insectoid creature appear on the ground. Like every other of its species, it had tochukaso, red-and-yellow parasitic mushrooms, on the back of its segmented body. It tapped its claws against the ground and cocked its head at its trainer.

Paras were normally found in caves, but if a forest had enough humidity for its survival, they could thrive in it. Since Viridian Forest didn't fit into either of the categories, Samurai Boy would've had to have gotten his Paras from Mt Moon. Kanto was a very dry region and had nothing like tropical/damp rainforests, unlike Hoenn or Alola. Instead, it was made up of two extremes: too hot and too cold.

Ash brought his attention back to the pokémon in front of him. He could think about Kanto another day. Right now he had to focus on his battle. He figured that the one who would do best against Paras would be Delphi, so he tapped the release button on her pokeball and sent her out.

"That little bird will be no match for my Paras!" Samurai exclaimed. "Paras, use Scratch!"

Paras skittered towards Delphi and Ash stifled a laugh at the pitiful event. "Delphi, Teleport."

The Natu immediately shimmered and vanished, and Paras struck at thin air. It looked confusedly at the spot where Delphi had been and clicked its claws together.

"Drill Peck," Ash ordered. "Wrap this up."

Delphi, who was on the other side of the field, leapt high up in the air and began corkscrewing towards Paras, her beak lengthening and glowing white. Paras shrieked when the Natu stabbed into its shelled back and slumped to the ground.

"Using super effective moves is a tactic unbecoming of a true warrior!" Samurai said, his face turning scarlet.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Ash said. He held his hand out and Samurai reluctantly gave out the prize money for winning.

Samurai recalled his defeated Paras and took out another pokeball. "You will not be able to defeat my next fighter!" he commented. "Get ready!"

"This one is mine," Natalie said, taking Ash's place. "You can't have all the fun!"

Ash grinned and let her battle Samurai's next pokémon. Meanwhile, Jack was fooling around with the kid's katana and calling himself 'Samurai Jack'.

"Pinsir, to me!" Samurai said fancily. A large, bipedal insect burst forth from the ball and clicked the pincers on top of its head menacingly. Natalie simply smirked and sent out Charmander, who bared his fangs and flashed his claws at Pinsir. Samurai paled for a moment, but didn't allow the type disadvantage to deter him.

"Pinsir, begin!" the kid called out. "Use Earthquake!"

The trio's eyes widened as Pinsir's pincers glowed faintly, charging up energy in them. It seemed like Samurai Boy had beefed up his pokémon on TMs.

"Jump exactly before Pinsir hits the ground, Charmander!" Natalie ordered. While Pinsir didn't seem very powerful enough to let loose a full-powered Earthquake – the amount of time it was taking to charge up the required energy showed that – the move could still inflict devastating damage on Charmander, being a fire-type.

Charmander jumped up just before Pinsir slammed its pincers into the ground, causing a small earthquake to erupt around the field that sent all four trainers falling on their butts. The Earthquake caused a few trees around the clearing to uproot and fall on the ground with loud thuds.

"Ember!" Natalie shouted. Charmander, who had easily avoided the weak tremor that Pinsir had caused, hissed furiously at Pinsir as the flame on his tail rose to an immense size. He quickly spun around and swished his tail, causing a small stream of fire to fly at Pinsir from his tail flame. The fire splashed against the armoured carapace's torso and made it screech in pain.

Pinsir was struggling to stay upright and Natalie was smirking. "Charmander, end this. Em—" But her voice was drowned out by a loud buzzing that seemed to come from above. Ash looked at Jack in puzzlement, but within seconds his confusion was replaced with fear that crawled through his entire body within seconds. The strange buzzing noise was obvious, and Ash dreaded to look up.

There was a swarm of Beedrill right there.

About fifty Beedrill were flying towards them, with huge, poisonous lances resting on either arm. The tips were leaking clear, potent poison and Ash was pretty sure that they weren't doing that to make juice.

Their red, compound eyes gleamed menacingly and a gigantic stinger rested on the bottom of the thorax. It, too, was dripping clear poison, lethal enough to kill all of them within seconds.

Then Samurai Boy voiced what all of them were thinking.


The second he uttered those words, the four of them quickly recalled their pokémon and bolted away from the scene, with Samurai ahead of them. It was really strange to see someone with such heavy armour on him move so fast, but Ash didn't rely care about that right now. All he cared about was getting away from the swarm of Beedrill that was chasing them relentlessly.

"FOLLOW ME!" he heard Samurai yell. "I know a rest house not to far from here! They have rangers and stuff!"

Ash didn't really trust this guy, but right now anything other than being stabbed by killer Beedrill sounded good to him. He took a few twists and turns, and was doing a great job at running away from the Beedrill – until he tripped over a tree root and tumbled on the ground.

Ash gasped as pain shot up his ankle and his breathing turned ragged and harsh. He'd twisted his ankle probably, which wasn't good thing while running away from pokémon with murderous intent. The others turned back in panic and stared at Ash, hesitating to run further.

"Go!" he managed to shout, gritting his teeth in pain as he cradled his ankle. "I'll be fine." The words sounded hollow in his mouth.

"Like he'll you will!" Natalie yelled angrily. "Zephyr, Charmander, go! Protect Ash! Attack those Beedrill."

Charmander roared furiously and rushed at Ash on all fours while Zephyr flew at the Beedrill at lightning speed. He beat his small, powerful wings and brewed a gale of wind that knocked down few Beedrill out of the swarm of twenty or thirty.

Charmander was firing embers so quickly that he looked like Delphi while she was attempting Drill Peck. He managed to down several Beedrill, but it seemed like every time one fell another took its place. Eventually he and Zephyr would tire out, which would leave them at the mercy of the Beedrill.

Ash sent out his own pokémon, ignoring the pain in his ankle. Saur, Delphi and Zeus quickly registered their surrounding and glared at the Beedrill, and Ash didn't have to tell them to attack. They launched themselves at the Beedrill with righteous fury.

The Beedrill were fighting to kill – for whatever unknown reason – so Saur, Zephyr, Charmander, Delphi and Zeus weren't going to hold back. Saur whipped a Beedrill so badly that he tore off its wing in the process; Delphi easily Drill Pecked through a Beedrill's thorax; and Charmander was slashing at them so many times that after some time his claws were covered with bug blood, which glistened green on his metallic claws.

One Beedrill, however, managed to make it through the wall of pokémon and scratched Ash on the knee with its stinger.

It was a tiny cut, but Ash's leg exploded in pain. The knee hurt the worst, but it still felt like his entire leg was set on fire. Ash was grasping at his knee and was gritting his teeth so badly that he was afraid that they would crack, but he didn't care. All that mattered was the pain.

Finally Samurai saved the day. He released his Pinsir and ordered it to use Hyper Beam. Orange particles of raw energy started collecting in the stag beetle pokémon's mouth. About twenty seconds later the Hyper Beam burst from Pinsir's gaping maw and ripped through the air, cleanly hitting all of the remaining Beedrill. Ninety percent of them fell to the ground, unconscious, although two were still hovering in the air, but barely.

The two Beedrill seemed to be the smart ones of the group, because they immediately flew away from the group. Zephyr went to chase them, but Natalie called her down.

"Ash!" she called out, running to him. "What – oh, Arceus."

The cut was the smallest thing possible, but growing around it was a yellowish-green rash that was incredibly unsightly. The only thing more disgusting were the five Beedrill corpses decorating the forest floor, which were the works of their own pokémon.

No matter how evil pokémon were, Ash objected against them being killed. They were people just like humans, not dumb animals. Even now Ash felt remorse for the dead Beedrill, and he managed to force the bile back down as he stared at the yellow-and-black carapaces, their severed wings and their green guts spilled on the ground...

"Here." Ash looked up and saw Samurai holding out an antidote to Jack, who snatched I and quickly sprayed its contents on Ash's cut. It stung as the liquid was sprayed over the cut, although the poison stopped working its effects on Ash, but it was still itching like crazy. Not to mention his twisted ankle was throbbing in pain, too.

"His ankles still broken. We need to take him to the outpost," he heard Samurai say. "It's not too far from here."

Natalie, Jack and Ash nodded. Jack and Samurai lifted the boy up from the ground and recalled his pokémon before clipping the pokeballs to his belt. It was a long time before the disgusting odour of the Beedrill corpses left his senses.


"There. You're all set," the ranger said. As soon as they'd burst into the cabin – which was meant as a stop to heal up pokémon and was conveniently placed just fifteen minutes away from the other gate of Viridian Forest – the three rangers inside had quickly assessed the situation as a Beedrill attack and the healer had quickly got to work. Apparently several deaths had been caused due to trainers stumbling across the Beedrill nest of the forest, so the ranger corps had set up a minor base here.

It had taken around twenty minutes for the healer ranger to extract most of the poison from Ash's system, but the process was helped since Jack had healed it with the antidote. Then, the ranger had proceeded to mend Ash's broken ankle, but that had hardly taken any time since her Bayleef had simply used Heal Pulse to heal the wound.

While Ash was done being healed up, the rangers went to heal their tired and exhausted pokémon. It had taken half an hour and in that time Jack had challenged the head ranger to a match of chess, in which the ranger had won with ease. Then the other two rangers had come out with the pokémon healed and already cooped up inside their pokeballs.

"Stay safe!" a ranger called out as they opened the door to head to Pewter. "Don't forget that the immunizations will take some time to completely remove the poison from your system, so don't exert yourself. Take it easy, and you'll reach Pewter in an hour or two."

"Okay." Ash dipped his head in respect. "Thanks for your help!"

"Bye!" Jack called out as all of them waved at the rangers. "You play chess really well, though!"

Natalie playfully smacked him on the back of his head while Samurai chuckled. They finally turned away after a minute, and it wasn't long before they reached the gate that led to Pewter City.

"I guess this is it," Samurai said. "Just go straight and you'll reach Pewter City in an hour."

"Thank you for your help, Samurai," Natalie said, before adding in an undertone, "although you brought a pack of Beedrill on us with your Pinsir..."

"If you ever come back to these parts, don't forget to meet me." Samurai grinned at them. "Hopefully I'll be strong enough to beat you guys then!"

Ash smirked. "I'm looking forward to it."

With that, the trio waved Samurai goodbye, and the kid walked back into the forest, his sword sheathed. Ash wondered whether another trainer would face the same greeting as he had from the kid.

Saur tapped his shoulder with a vine and motioned for him to get moving. They could see Pewter City in the distance as the sun rose high in the afternoon sky. They were all tired from the day's events, and even the female ranger back in the forest had told him not to exert himself.

He would challenge Brock tomorrow, when he and his friends would be refreshed. Right now, all he could think was off the Pokémon Centre's delicious food and the warm, comfy bed that awaited him.


That's all for chapter two. I hope you liked it, so tell me how you guys thought about it! Constructive criticism is welcome. (Yeah. I'm just saying that so that I'ma get more reviews. #EveryFfnAuthorEvaa


I was about to give Ash a Pikachu, but then I though of something more original... Mareep. I bet this is the first Ash-Rewrite fic where he's got a Mareep, but I can say for sure. There are about a gazillion fics and I don't want to waste my time reading them.

Plus, while it may not look intimidating, Ampharos' wide electric move pool makes it a truly dangerous force, and it can also learn Dragon Pulse – which should be devastating after the STAB boost it gets after mega evolving into SSJ3 – I mean, Mega Ampharos. Mega Evolution significantly boosts this creature's special attack stat and adds on the dragon-typing, so don't mess with the hair (Sorry for the jokes, Ampharos).

The nickname: I was originally going to name him Apollo, cuz Ampharos' tail shines so brightly it can be seen in outer space, but Apollo is more the god of archery and medicine than the god of light and sun (which should rightly be Helios' title), so I changed to Zeus. Like I mentioned in the chapter, Ash will train his Mareep to be the strongest electric type there is – a force to be reckoned with.

I hope you guys liked the Beedrill scene! I wanted to show how battles can be fatal – this story is going to be more realistic, so there will be pokémon deaths and blood – kinda like how Traveller has it. Of course, it won't be overly done, or else I wouldn't have rated it T.

Next chapter will have the battle against Brock and Mt Moon – with a few surprises! Here are the review responses for chapter one:

Rockingchampif: Hey great start there...so ash has a brother who is a champion that would be awesome to have a battle with the champion before the leagues after he collects all gym badges...Bulbasaur was a different choice since everybody who is writing there version of ash in stories ...great start and loved the chapter i have always liked Stories with TM's on them...hope you provide the training method and a little training methods employed by ash that would be great...but for now i loved the first chapter it was great...

-Thank you! I'm glad you liked it! I hope the training scenes in this chapter satisfied you. Don't worry, as the story goes on the training scenes will have much more detail and will be much more complex. And I'm happy you liked the inclusion of TMs! I was pretty bummed when the anime didn't include TMs at all, and since several fits do have TMs it seemed like a great idea to me.

Generalhyna: Potentially awsome...can my oc also appear in this

-Thank you for your kinds words, although I don't know about the OC... I've pretty much planned out everything :)

Greasy Monkey: Seems like a start to a good fic. I read a few chapters of the Nomad, and I have to say that this is much better than that. Imma stick around for some more of this.A few questions: Will there be more rivals? Will trainers make early bird appearances? Will there be more exotic/international pokémon? Will there be megas and Blast Burn/Frenzy Plant/Hydro Canon? Anyway, keep up the good work! Update quickly!

-Thanks! I'm glad that this seems better than the Nomad. I hope you stick around for longer, though :)Now to your questions: More rivals? Yes there will! I've already made Misty one of Ash's rivals, but there will be many more to come. Will trainers make early bird appearances? Yes – I've made plans to include several of them, including a certain someone from Sinnoh (wink, wink). Will there be international pokémon? Ash himself will be catching several pokémon from outside Kanto/Johto, so that's a yes too. And Blast Burn/Frenzy Plant/Hydro Canon is a humongous YES! And you also got your wish!

Ashloveleaf: So... No leaf?

-Leaf is in this story, but she started her journey with Blue and Red.

PraetorFable: Great start! I'll be looking forward for more!

-Thanks a lot! I'm happy you liked it.

MechaRex 2.0: Oh man! This was really interesting. A Bulbasaur is a unique choice for Ash's starter because mostly people go for froakie or Charmander, etc. Natu was also an interesting choice. Will she be Ash's only psychic type in Kanto?I also hit a few hindrances, though. What's the intranet? I mean, someone wouldn't just capitalise three letters in the middle of the word for nothing. Also, is there a reason as to why Red is so strong? I wouldn't expect any trainer, no matter how much time he spent training a day, to end up as a true champion after just one year of training.Anyway, that's it for now. This may become a really good story, like Traveler, which is like one of the best out there. Please update soon!

-I can't keep finding different ways to thank people, but thanks a lot! Bulbasaur is my favourite Kanto starter, which is why I chose him. As for Delphi being Ash's only psychic pokémon in Kanto, yes she will, although Ash might get another one in Johto or Hoenn.The InTraNet stands for the International Trainer Network, which is basically like the Facebook, although it's only for trainers. People can set up conversations, stuff like that, and you can even put up a pokémon for the GTS, although you still need to get to a Centre to make the trade. I hope this covers it.As for Red getting so strong, there will be a chapter where this is unveiled, although after Ash gets all eight badges. I hope you stick around for that long to find out!

That's all for this chapter. Thanks for all the support, and I'll see you guys next chapter.