Chapter 4: They Call Me Mr. Popular

It was with a fair amount of sadness that Ash said goodbye to Cynthia the next day. With the main event of the Guardian festival over and a considerable amount of personal time already taken, she was eager to get back to her work. As Champion, she was involved in a certain amount of League planning and oversight with respect to her region; it wasn't simply a title to be held. She also had her own interests she wanted to get back to.

That aside, she'd imparted her words of wisdom to the younger trainer, and promised that when they met again they would surely have another battle to see how he'd progressed.

"Practice your dancing too," she added with a parting smile before shooting off into the sky on her Garchomp's back. Ash's response died in the air, but the prospect of seeing her again certainly left a warm feeling in his chest.

As did the quickly jotted contact resting in his pocket.

Fortunately, Ash had much to do to take his mind off the distracting blonde, the first of which being a meeting with a friend he hadn't seen in quite some time.

"Long time no see, Scott!"

"Likewise Ash, how's it been?" said the owner of the Battle Frontier, standing up to greet him. Scott was as he always was, a stout man who likely had some Walren blood in him given his tendency to always be dressed for the beach no matter what climate he popped up in. His personality matched the weather he dressed for, sunny and ready for something interesting. The sunglasses were, for a change, hanging from a chest pocket.

They were presently meeting at one of the fancier restaurants in Rota, one with multiple floors that had separated dining spaces for privacy. It was here that the Pokemon trainer had been led by a server after arriving with a curious look on his face. Honestly, why was he so seemingly recognizable? It couldn't just be Pikachu, right?

"Well enough, I suppose," he returned, shaking the man's hand with a smile. Scott motioned to the seat across from his own before pouring him a glass of locally made fruit juice. "I can't believe you came all this way just to talk to me."

"Hah! I should be thanking you!" Scott said jovially, downing his own drink in seconds before moving to refill it. Ash noted there were no menus but Scott continued and he refocused. "I was worried I'd have to cover half the globe to catch you somewhere. Watched you compete in the Sinnoh League and figured you'd have been in Unova or somewhere similar by now. I never expected you to be a few days away. Heck I even drove here." There was an unsaid question in his explanation.

"After Sinnoh I kind of took a break to do a lot of reflection," Ash said after a few seconds of consideration, thinking back to his time at the monastery. "I helped Cynthia out with something and got a couple new Pokemon, but I'm not really interested in doing another League yet. I guess I'm just trying to better myself."

Though he'd said it to himself and his Pokemon, saying it to someone who so readily expressed confidence in him was difficult. He honestly felt the desire to apologise. Scott headed him off before he could get another word out though.

"Of course, completely understandable," he said with a knowing nod. "Even the most talented trainers in the world need time to figure things out. It's just a part of growing up, you know? The fact you're doing that for yourself, instead of having it forced on you is a great thing."

"Thanks, Scott," Ash said, his spirits rising significantly. "So what did you want to talk to me about? I'll be honest, I've been trying to think of what it could be, but I don't have a clue."

"That's right." Scott cleared his throat and gave Ash the most serious look he'd ever seen on the generally cheerful man's face. "I'll be up front with you, Ash, I want to offer you a job."

"A job?" The words were certainly a surprise, but the pieces clicked quickly. "You mean with the Frontier?"

"Yes, but there's more to it than that. You see, I've been getting more involved with inter-regional organizations lately, and there's a lot of big plans that people are going to be putting into place over the next decade. The Frontier is really just the tip of the iceberg!"

"And you want me to be a part of that?" Ash guessed.

"In more ways than one. Interested?"

Taken aback at the sudden question, Ash backpedaled a bit.

"Um, could you tell me a bit more about it?"

To his surprise Scott laughed.

"See, that's how I know you're growing. You're learning to get more information about the current situation, even when it catches you off guard!" Ash couldn't help but give the man a flat look, but it only made Scott laugh more. "You know, I actually watched your battle at the Sinnoh league in person. Front row. A crushing defeat, your opponent was quite strong."

"So why aren't you talking to him?" Ash said grumpily. Paul was not someone he fondly remembered.

"By that logic, why not find anyone who's beaten you before?" Scott chuckled, making the teen grimace. "Relax, Ash, there are plenty of reasons. First of all, if you want to work with the Battle Frontier you still need to beat it in order to even be considered. That was one of the founding rules I've never compromised on. Do you know how many people have actually done that?"

"Not many?" he guessed.

"Almost none," Scott said, much to the teen's surprise. "Putting aside the fact that the Frontier is only a few years old, it takes time and dedication like any League, the Frontier stretches across the Kanto region, few commit to challenging them all. But it does happen and even fewer have claimed what you have. Only two since you've done it. The brains have been dedicated to surpassing gym strength, and in many places they do just that. We've got a few who have their eyes on positions like the Elite Four of their home regions. No doubt they'll get it too."

Well, that was certainly news.

"But also I know you. You're talented, yes, but also have a strong heart and work ethic. I'm not expecting you to instantly be there but with a goal and a few years, you'll be groovin to your own tune. What are your goals right now? Do you have any?"

Ash paused as the conversation suddenly turned to him. What did he want?

"I'm… not sure," he said honestly. Previously he'd felt the drive for what felt like something so grand, but for the life of him he couldn't name what it was. Pokemon Master? After everything he'd been through, what did that even mean anymore? "I want to become a better trainer. I want to train my Pokemon to their very best, but I also want them to accomplish their goals. And Gardevoir…" He paused as he considered the psychic-fairy hybrid. She was always on his mind in one way or another. "She needs help."

"Is that it?"

Suddenly a wry smile made its way to his face. "I guess I want to impress Cynthia the next time I see her too."

Scott considered him for a few silent seconds before grinning. "You're a cool dude, Ash Ketchum."

"Thanks?"

"Well, let me tell you what my goals are," said Scott, his smile widening to show teeth. "I've started construction of an eighth Kanto Frontier facility to the west of Route 1. It will be a colosseum, and headquarters for the Battle Frontier across the world. It'll take a few years," he said with a disappointed sigh, "but that's the price for good work on a big project. We're also about to launch the opening of the regional Battle Towers which will put some Frontier presence in every region around the world. Much easier to set up than what we've done here in Kanto, and it'll boost not only the popularity of the Battle Frontier, but draw more people in to challenge the Kanto Brains. They'll get stronger from the competition and the Frontier will grow its prestige as a top tier 'league' of its own! It's a win-win for everyone!"

"You've… been busy." Honestly, what else could he say? "And so you want me to-"

"Be the eighth Brain," Scott summarized shortly, making Ash's eyes go as wide as possible. "It's fairly close to your home town, too. Nice, right?" He took in the gobsmacked expression on the teens face before continuing in a more serious tone. "I offered you this before and, fortunately for both of us, you declined. You weren't ready to take on that kind of responsibility, and I wasn't ready to support you as the owner of the Battle Frontier. I was excited at how successful my new organization was running, but didn't think about what would happen if someone actually won. You helped me take a step back and rethink things. We went our separate ways at that point, but there was no way I was going to lose track of the very first victor of my Battle Frontier."

"...Wow."

"Sorry, sorry," Scott apologized sheepishly. "I get excited about this stuff and it's overwhelming. What I really wanted to say though was that technically if you take the job now the only thing I need for you to do is become that better person you're aiming to be. Train yourself and your Pokemon, find the things in your life that you want to devote time to."

"Really?" Ash couldn't help but tilt his head slightly in confusion. "Just like that?"

"Just like that," Scott nodded. "Think of it like you're being scouted but not quite old enough to compete yet."

"I'm sixteen," Ash said, unable to hold back an amused smile. "By trainer standards that's practically old and rusty you know."

"Hah! What does that make me then?" Scott quipped. "Anyway, I know you don't need to be committed to anything, but I don't think you'll find a better deal anywhere in the world. The colosseum won't be ready for years, so you do whatever you need in the meantime. Anything that comes up I'll let you know. I will need to keep in touch with you easily though…"

The man paused to reach into a bag at his side and pull something out, sliding it across the table. A rotom phone. Top of the line.

"Perks of the job," he added with a wink, as Ash picked up the device. "I doubt you've gotten one since we last spoke, and if I recall correctly, you can have any of the Pokemon Professors sync your Pokedex with it so that you only need the phone. It'll add the functionality seamlessly!"

"Only if I take the job though, right?" Ash said with a raised eyebrow, making Scott laugh.

"So what do you say?"

xXx

Cynthia let out a happy sigh. It felt good to be back in her home region once more, despite the amount of anonymity she was usually able to squeeze out of light disguises going down to effectively nothing. Someone always recognized her eventually. Fortunately people respected her enough to give her space when she wanted it, and now she was taking advantage of that very thing, seated in the grass along a pleasant stretch of road just outside the Sunyshore Gym. The city was vibrant as ever, and the weather was warm enough to enjoy with thin layers. She watched a number of trainers walk determinedly to the Gym for a battle, far more than she knew there used to be. Volkner's disinterested funk was a distant memory. Good thing too, or she'd have had to step in personally.

All thanks to a well traveled teen who carried a Pikachu on his shoulder. Seriously, how much did Ash Ketchum get around? It was absurd.

A light buzzing in her pocket had her digging for her phone, noting the unknown number it was displaying. Odd, considering that very few individuals actually knew her number in the first place. It could be a wrong number, they did happen from time to time. Wait, unless…

"Hello?"

"Hi, Cynthia?"

The familiar voice brought some warmth to her chest that had nothing to do with the beaming sunlight above her.

"Does this mean that you've finally gotten a phone, Ash? Or is it a public one?"

"Yeah, Scott gave me one," came the explanation that only caused her to have more questions than she started with. "Don't look at me like that, I know you are," he added, making the Champion stifle a laugh. She was indeed looking at her phone with reproach.

"I'm glad you've called me so soon, I'm taking a pit stop in Sunyshore before going to the League HQ in Jubilife," she said, leaning back against the grass. No one passing by spared the relaxing blonde a glance, automatically assuming she was a typical teenage girl chatting away on her phone, oblivious to the world around her.

Which she technically was, though certainly not the typical part.

"I'll never get over how fast Garchomp is," Ash said in amazement. "Or how sturdy your butt is. I was sore for days when you flew me to the Monastery." There was an awkward pause as Ash realized where his mouth had run away. "I mean, uhh… You sound happy you're back."

"Very much so," Cynthia agreed, quietly clearing her throat. "But don't try to change the subject, tell me about your meeting with Scott."

And so he did with great enthusiasm. She was shocked, to say the least, but pleased for him. She'd known about the Battle Frontier facility that was built in her region, but not the scope of Scott's full plan. Or that Ash had actually completed the thing.

"Ah, but you know he probably didn't mean for me to go and spread around his plans," Ash said sheepishly. "I mean he didn't tell me not to say anything, but could you keep it to yourself?"

"Of course," she agreed without resistance. "I still owe you quite a bit for helping me out so much, it's the least I can do."

"I told you not to think about it like that. What're friends for, right?"

They continued to chat like this for some time. She told him what her immediate plans were with the League, and he detailed ideas he'd come up with for training with his Pokemon.

"I was wondering, actually," he said suddenly during a lull in their conversation. "Did you get to see Lark again before leaving Kanto?"

"I did stop by," Cynthia confirmed, unsurprised that he'd guessed it. "Skipped the steps for a change."

"Of course you did…"

"But she wasn't there," the Champion continued with a small frown. "Apparently she left a few days before I got there. I wonder where she went?" From what she knew of the woman, it wasn't like Lark did much traveling in general.

"I see..."

"Huh, you really are out here in the grass…"

Cynthia was jolted out of her reverie by a sudden voice from close by. She sat up quickly only to find Volkner standing a number of feet away with his arms crossed. He was regarding her with an interested amusement.

"When one of my challengers said that they saw the Champion laying out on the grass outside talking on her phone I honestly didn't believe it. Since you're here though... got a second?"

The young woman suppressed a sigh as she realized her `free time was probably over.

"Looks like I have to go, Ash. I'll talk to you later, alright?"

"Sure thing, Cynthia. Take care."

The Champion set her expression with a disapproving frown as she got to her feet, brushing out the back of her clothes, and turned the full force of it at the interrupting Gym Leader. To the man's credit he only winced a little bit at the teen nearly ten years his junior.

"Alright, Volkner, tell me what was so important that you needed to interrupt my phone conversation."

xXx

"Ash? Trainer Ash from Pallet Town?"

Ash looked up in curiosity as the deep voice broke his train of thought. Having just gotten off the phone with Cynthia put him in a contemplative state that caused him to zone everything out around him. An accomplishment considering he was sitting near a fountain in the village proper. There were people everywhere.

The man the voice belonged to was flanked by two others who regarded him with neutral expressions. All three bore the armor of the Rota castle guard.

"Yes?"

"The Queen requests your presence."

It was clearly not a request.

"Is there a problem?" he found himself asking as he stood. Pikachu rapidly climbed to his shoulder perch. A number of people around them watched in a mix of curiosity and apprehension, the latter of which he was feeling more and more each second. Was he about to be arrested or something?

"Please be at ease, it is nothing of the sort," the man continued, undoing the knot of tension in the air. "Her Majesty wishes to meet with you and there is some urgency. We will escort you, is this acceptable?"

"Uh, sure. Lead the way then."

It's just one thing after another these days

"Wonder what she wants with us?" he said to Pikachu as they made their way to the long bridge. The guards they occasionally passed saluted their group respectfully.

"Pika-pika-chu?"

"Of course I didn't do anything," Ash said automatically. "What do you take me for?"

"Pi-kaa… pi-pika-chu."

"That is totally not my fault," the trainer argued, unaware of the amused look that the guard behind him was giving the pair. "I do not go looking for trouble and if you tell me to make it double I'll throw you into the lake."

"Pika-chu?"

"That doesn't count."

"Pika… chu?"

"That doesn't count either."

"..."

"It doesn't! And the answer to everything else is those three."

The electric Pokemon just put an exasperated paw to his forehead.

"Can you blame me?" Ash said tiredly, already looking around once more but this time with a more critical eye. "They've been following us for years. Makes me wonder where they've been recently…"

"Are you in danger, sir?"

Ash perked up as the guard behind him asked this, blinking in surprise.

"Oh, no… the ones I'm talking about…" he paused, considering the criminal trio. "They're really weird friends of ours at this point. Don't worry about it." They hadn't bugged him in months, why complain?

It didn't take them much time to reach the large gates, though this time when they entered the castle they quickly entered corridors he didn't recognize. Suits of armor, glass cases filled with antiques, portraits ten feet tall or more, stained glass windows of blue and gold, wherever he was being taken was very different from the part of the castle that was regularly open to the public. Past what looked like an even more regal throne room and up some stairs, it was then that he began hearing a distant raised voice. One he immediately recognized as the Queen. The guards around him tensed perceptibly, and he honestly couldn't blame them.

The Queen sounded furious.

xXx

"Your Highness, I can't begin to describe the desperation-"

"I don't want you to describe it!"

"Sacar, hold your tongue!"

Ilene was, in a word, distressed. The Elders had moved behind her back to solve a crisis she still knew next to nothing about. Innocent lives had been lost in the process, a tragedy that she was fully responsible for answering to as Queen. The relationships that she and her Guardians maintained with Kanto, the other regions, the Rangers, and more were delicate things. To be put in a position like this both saddened and enraged her beyond anything she could remember in a very long time.

Before her stood the three Elders that made up their leading council. Sacar, a balding man with thin eyebrows who often enjoyed quoting long winded wisdoms to her, now partially cowed in the face of her fury. Clover, the youngest of all those who held the title. She was a tiny woman who even with the high set bun on her head barely made it to five feet tall. Unlike Sacar, she didn't even attempt to speak, simply waiting until she was addressed. Finally between the two others stood Lark, in all her busty glory. Surprisingly, the Chief Elder was also silent, though not because she was afraid to speak. Apart from telling Sacar to shut his mouth, it seemed that she simply had nothing to say, instead staring out in thought. It was a far cry from how the woman usually presented herself. Where had the once detached and proud Elder gone?

"For hundreds of years the Guardians have operated alongside the rest of the world," Ilene said slowly, fists clenched at her sides. "But that relationship is tenuous. Tolerated at best. Just because we have earned our respect around the globe does not mean we can do whatever we want. There are consequences to your actions, not the least of which is that you've knowingly taken the lives of three people!"

"Her Majesty has made difficult choices in her life as well," Clover said suddenly, only to clap a hand over her mouth as though she'd spoken without meaning to. The Queen rounded on her at once.

"Terrorists!" she snapped. "Criminals! Dangers to my people and my home! It is my duty as Queen to bury them in the earth at my Kingdom's feet! Your duty is to sit in a dusty building in the woods and find inner peace to preach about! Not figure out the fastest way for the World Government to drown us in sanctions!"

"Your Highness knows that isn't true," Sacar argued, offended by the remark, but was cut off from speaking further by a hand finding the back of his bald head. He glared at the Chief Elder but fell silent once more.

"I stand by what we did," Lark said, her voice even, though only Ilene could see her expression, positioned behind her fellows as she was. A face filled with regret. "We cured the Tree and saved thousands upon thousands of lives across this very Kingdom. Likely untold more beyond. It's a miracle that it happened as it did," she added with a twitch of her mouth, as though she were laughing at herself.

"And you're telling me that despite the dozens of Guardians who have earned their knighthood, hundreds more in training for that very thing, not one of them could have done a thing?"

"If they were the solution they would have been chosen."

They all looked at the small device that sat on the otherwise empty table between them. A compass with a quivering needle that they all knew was pointing to the Tree. It was built that way after all.

"It is unforgivable that you dealt with this issue on your own," Ilene said shortly, not compromising an inch on the matter. "I am not saying that anything would have necessarily been better by involving our Guardians, but-"

"It moved!"

Once again their attention was now drawn back to the compass, Clover pointing to it with wide eyes. Indeed, the needle was having difficulty making up its mind as to which way to point. One second it pointed to the Tree in the distant west, another in a seemingly random direction. It was only after it had swapped back and forth that it was clear the new direction was the same each time.

"Why is it doing that?" Sacar asked in curiosity. "So close to the Tree of Beginning, the point should be unwavering."

"He's here…"

Lark's quiet voice was suddenly heavy.

"He?" Sacar spared a glance to Lark before returning his focus to the quivering needle. "Who is here?" Clover however gave a small start of realization.

"Is it really-?"

A sudden knock at the door brought a swift end to whatever thoughts were floating through the room. The needle stopped dead, pointing to the door.

"Your Majesty, we've brought him."

IIene let out a long breath, pushing away her anger as she collected herself. Finally she could put her mind to the reason she's called the Elders in the first place. Learning of their actions…

"We'll continue this later," she said shortly. "I have someone I want you to meet. Enter!"

The door opened and Ash Ketchum walked in flanked by one of her Knights. The others saluted her respectfully from the corridor.

"Trainer Ash of Pallet Town, My Lady."

"Thank you, Sir Glenn, you may… Ash?"

For it was then that she noticed that Ash was not meeting her gaze but instead stared stonily at the three behind her. Even his Pikachu was regarding them coldly.

"You wanted to see me, Queen Ilene?" he asked, turning back to her, his voice as colorful as water.

Rapidly Ilene's eyes moved between the Pokémon trainer and the Elders, noting immediately how Lark's gaze was firmly at the teen's feet.

"Yes, Ash, I wanted to… do you know them?" she found herself asking. Her anger was rising once more. What else had they done?!

"Hard not to," he said shortly, bringing one hand up to placate a now sparking Pikachu. "They tried to feed me to a tree recently. Well, she did," he amended, nodding at Lark.

"The Incarnation..."

Clover's whispered words barely registered as the full picture began to form in Ilene's mind.

"Sir Glenn, you are dismissed."

The Knights saluted and, in as respectful a way as possible, retreated back to the safety of the corridor.

"Fascinating, the device truly does favor you," Sacar said, now holding the compass in his hand.

"Wait, so now you can talk in front of me?" Ash said, disgruntled.

"Before would have been highly inappropriate," Sacar said with a sniff. "Now though you are no longer Elder Lark's student. Surely you were told. This-"

"Sacar this is the last time I will warn you of your tone," Lark said sharply, making the man blink in shock. "Even if you cannot mind yourself before your Queen, at least make an effort to show respect to the boy who saved us all."

"Be silent, all of you."

They all froze. Ilene honestly couldn't tell if she was cold or hot with fury. More than likely she was both. Again though her control won out, reigning her emotions back to manageable levels. Barely.

"Ash, could you please explain to me how you became involved with them?"

He hesitated for a second, eyes still locked on Lark's bowed head before turning to her.

"Yeah, sure."

xXx

It didn't actually take very long for Ash to finish his tale, but by the end of it he felt a bit lighter. Whether it was because he was telling someone about it for the first time, the fact that it looked like there would be some justice for those that lost their lives trying to help the Tree, or just how emotionally involved Queen Ilene was in his story, he didn't know. Still, he was glad he did it, if only to see the Elders looking even more anxious than they had a few minutes ago.

Apart from Lark, of course. She still refused to meet his gaze.

"Thank you, Ash."

He turned back to the Queen who was regarding him with an open gratitude across the table they now all sat at.

"Once again you've put your life on the line for my kingdom. A duty that should at the very least fall to myself, if not its people."

"…You're welcome," he said, unable to think of anything else to say. "So you said you wanted me to meet them?" He motioned to the three Elders.

"I did," the Queen confirmed. "They are the Kingdom's foremost experts in the nature of Aura, something you've had more than a passing interaction with at this point in your life."

"That's an understatement," Ash said, a chuckle escaping his mouth. It lacked humor though, and the Queen understood it.

"Would you rather distance yourself from it altogether?" she asked.

"All things considered I don't think I have that option," Ash reasoned. "But even if I could I wouldn't. I get that my Aura is a part of who I am, for better or for worse. I won't run away just because it makes my life more complicated."

"Well said," Queen Ilene praised. She cast the Elders a disparaging look and added, "Incredible that a teenage boy has more integrity than the three of you combined."

"Your Highness, your point has been made," Sacar said tiredly. Much of his attitude had been worn away into resignation. "What's done is done. At least afford us the decency of not wiping away every positive thing we've done in the decades you've known us."

Though the Queen's expression was no less severe, perhaps it at least lost some of its rigidness at the man's words.

"Very well, Sacar, I'll have you all flogged tomorrow instead of later today."

"Flog-?!"

"She's joking you old fool," Lark interrupted, slapping the man's shoulder. Ash couldn't help but feel a measure of sympathy for the guy. He'd only spent around half a year in her presence, and the thought of having known her closely for decades made him shiver.

It was decidedly weird… seeing her here. The time spent away from the Monastery had brought so much into perspective, for all it was simply walking through a raging storm. All in all he felt he understood her. He didn't agree with what she did, but at least he could see her side of it. And in the end he truly didn't hate her for it.

Forgiveness was a long way off though.

"Well," the Queen continued, drawing Ash's attention back out of his thoughts, "since you aren't willing to run, can I instead offer you a different path?"

It took Ash a second before he understood what she was implying.

"You want me to join the Guardians?" he asked. The sense of deja-vu was kicking up quite a bit at the moment.

"I do," she said with a smile. "I don't know what you've learned of our organization from the Elders or elsewhere, but we work to preserve not peace, not order, but balance. Balance between humanity and nature; harmony in Auras throughout the world. We are not the nationalitstic regions, nor are we the idealistic Rangers or other like-minded groups. We go where there are problems and solve them to the best of our ability. Sometimes those problems are mundane, sometimes those problems are… more calamitous in scale, but Aura is something we all share, and we exclude nothing from the reach of our Guard.

"Ash, within you I see the same spark in my greatest Knights, as well as the potential to do incredible good for our world. Not to mention," she added, nodding to the ever distantly visible Tree of the Beginning through the nearby window, "you have a deeper connection than any I have known with the very heart of our organization. Are you interested?"

It took Ash a few seconds to realize that he'd been asked a question. A part of him was still taken in by the Queen's words.

"Yes but I, uh, I'm not sure." It was tempting, but… "I have other things I'm committed to that I can't drop."

"That's not a problem," the Queen said in understanding. "Many of our Guardians do other things as well. Most have families who live here in Rota. Rest assured I'm not trying to bind you here, Ash. You've already done more for me and my people than most will in their lifetimes. I just want to offer you a place to hone your potential and give you more chances to make a difference."

"If that means putting me with them again-"

"Not at all," Ilene interjected. "You'll be able to train here under a knight of my own. You're free to leave whenever you desire. What do you say?"

A place to continue his Aura training away from the Monastery. A chance to find something new to drive him forward while still committing to the goals he already had.

"Sounds good to me. I accept."

The Queen beamed at him.

"Wonderful."

The corner of his mouth twitched upward.

"Quick question. Being a Guardian, does it come with a phone?"

For the first time the Queen and the Elders exchanged baffled looks.

"A phone? No," Queen Ilene said, placing the tip of her finger to her lip in thought. "You do get a place to live in Rota though, so an apartment?"

The word bounced around in Ash's head a few times before he blinked and looked at his oldest companion.

"Pikachu, did we just move out without telling Mom?" he said in a low voice.

"Piiikaaaa…"

His head slumped in defeat.

"Yeah, we're dead."

XXXXXXX

Author's Note: Hi everyone, long time no write as they say. I'm still kicking and that's all that really matters. Ash is about to embark on a new adventure of discovery like never before. I hope that this was an enjoyable little chapter for you all. Light a candle for me in prayer as I start up the next chapter. Cheers =D