Chapter One

Fire… All Ash Ketchum could see was fire, searing hot and endless. Above his head smoke curled in coils, choking him, burning his nose and throat.

"Gou? Gary?" he tried to call out to his friends, desperate to be heard, though the only thing that greeted him was a deathly silence.

He struggled forward, stumbling blindly as around him clouds of ash danced, flurrying like a midwinter snowfall. "Lucario, Pikachu? Where are you? Where did you go?" Ash's voice echoed all around him, coming from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

'Come hero, hear me.' the words rumbled from beneath the earth as though sourced from the land itself and Ash glanced around timorously, seeing only remnants of crumbled stone houses, some still flickering with the remains of amber flames. No stars illuminated the murky sky, not even the slightest hint of a crescent moon.

Was this Pallet Town? Was this his home? It couldn't be. It was wrong, all wrong...

Despite the haze, he could smell no smoke and suddenly, beneath the singed wood-forged arch that stood before him, he could just make out the outline of a figure. They appeared to be hunched over, their back to him, clothed in dark robes that reached their ankles. Wisps of silvery hair escaped the confines of a tightly cinched hood as they turned to face him, their long, white, leathery fingers outstretched and grasping.

At that moment Ash wished to do nothing more than find his friends and flee, but something had a hold on him, one so strong he didn't dare fight against it. So he stood there, frozen, eyes searching desperately for any sign of his Pokémon, for Gary, for Gou.

"Fear the flame that knows no bounds for darkness slumbers like an ancient god"

The next thing he knew, the ground beneath his feet lurched violently, accompanied by the flash of a golden feather. Then eyes of crimson glowed amidst a sea of black and suddenly Ash was falling, down, down, down into an abyss of oblivion.

He woke with a start, heart pounding, head reeling. Slowly he ran a trembling hand through unruly raven locks, exhaling shakily. Next to him Pikachu continued to snooze soundly, snoring slightly between muffled 'Pika, pikas'.

"Hey buddy, c'mon, it's time to wake up, we've got some serious training to do!" He ran his fingers across the yellow fur atop the Pokémon's head, and slowly Pikachu's eyes flickered open as it gave a sizable yawn. "You ready?" A nod, "Great, we're gonna have the whole place to ourselves until Gary and Gou grab the stuff they need for their newest expedition, so let's make the most of it alright?!"

The electric mouse trilled happily, climbing onto its trainer's shoulder and nuzzling Ash's cheek.

The Alolan champion dressed as quickly as he could, throwing on his jacket and cap before bounding down the stairs excitedly, furiously running his goals for today's training over and over in his head in a desperate bid to forget the frankly terrifying nightmare that had plagued his usually peaceful sleep.

The remnants of the town he'd dreamt of were far too similar to Pallet town than he liked to admit, and the thought alone unnerved him terribly. He shook his head to rid himself of the terrifying thoughts, imagining them being swept away on the currents of the fresh, early morning breeze that caressed his skin. After all, it had been nothing more than a silly dream.

Immediately he released his team from their pokéballs, Sirfetch'd, Lucario, Dracovish, Dragonite and Gengar lining up patiently before him with excited cries.

From the depths of Professor Oak's conservatory, his other Pokemon traipsed out, each excited to be involved in Ash's training in any way they could. "Oh man, it feels like its been ages since we last did this sort of thing! Okay guys, partner up! Charizard and Lucario I want you two up first!"

"Ash could practically hear Lucario's confused 'huh' as it tilted its head curiously."

The young champion simply smiled in response. "I know Lucario, you're at a double disadvantage, that's the reason I paired you and Charizard up to begin with. He's gonna help us come up with some kinda strategy! The ranked battles are only going to get tougher from here on out, so we need to make sure we're ready for anything! Okay?"

His words seemed to calm any of Lucario's previous qualms and his partner growled determinedly, smirking at the large fire type Pokemon that stood before him with the quick wave of a spiked paw.

"Great, okay then, let's start with double team!"

Immediately Lucario leapt into action, multiplying itself over and over until it had Charizard surrounded. The fire type roared in response, letting loose a powerful flamethrower that ripped through Lucario's doubles as though they were nothing more than paper.

"Good work Charizard! Now fly!"

The fire dragon complied instantaneously, flapping its large wings as he prepared to launch himself into the sky.

"Okay Lucario, you ready to try something?" The Jackel Pokémon gave an impassioned cry, awaiting further instruction from its trainer.

"Just what I wanted to hear bud, now, double team once more, then follow it with Extreme Speed! Use the wind from Charizards wings to launch yourself into the air!"

Immediately Lucario did as asked, shooting itself into the sky, expression momentarily morphing into one of shock as it did so. "Incredible Lucario! Now, dive and use Thunder Punch! the momentum of the fall will strengthen your blow, give it all you've got!"

Lucario's fist glowed a vibrant yellow as it cut through the air hurtling towards Charizard with unyielding speed. It hit its mark, the blow immediately sending Charizard crashing to the ground below. He barely managed to catch himself in time, spreading his wings and gliding at the last minute. Though mere meters above him Lucario fell in a hopeless freefall.

"Try using Aura sphere to control your landing!" Though the command came too late and Ash barely managed to cushion Lucario's fall, though despite that, they both smiled widely.

"That was incredible Lucario! All we gotta do now is figure out how to stick the landing!" Lucario growled happily in agreement, it's eyes bright.

"Gotta say Ashy, I've seen a hell of a lot of things on my journey, but I reckon that's the first time I've ever seen a flying Lucario!" Ash smirked as he turned to see Gary strolling leisurely toward him.

In contrast Gou sprinted in his direction, grinning widely. Both researchers were still clad in their expedition gear, their slender frames practically drowning in their oversized corduroy coveralls. Their tanned hiking boots made their footsteps echo loudly.

"Gahh! Ash, Lucario, that was so awesome!"

Ash beamed as he offered the two an enthusiastic wave. "Gary, Gou, welcome back!"

"We woulda been here sooner were Goulash here not such an amateur."

"For the millionth time, my name is Gou you imbecile G-O-U"

Gary scoffed, "Pfft it's all the same to me!"

Ash gave a tired sigh and massaged his temples, glancing between the two exasperatedly. "Seriously guys, its been six months, you're both on the same expedition team, would it kill you to just get along?!"

"YES" both huffed in perfect harmony.

Ash simply rolled his eyes good naturedly, choosing to say nothing further.

"Uh Ash, you doing okay, you look kinda um...tired?" Gou's voice was soft, almost tentative. Ash blanched, bringing a hand up to brush across his cheek. Was it really that obvious?

Gou's words seemed to garner Gary's attention, and he studied Ash's face curiously. "Huh, Goulash is right, you look like shit!"

Ash felt his face flush a vibrant red. "Seriously, of all things, that's what you both agree on?"

His companions merely shrugged in response.

"Well whatever, it's not something you guys need to worry about anyway, I just had a stupid nightmare."

"About what?" Gary questioned,

"I uh, I don't really remember," Ash lied, averting his gaze. Both Gou and Gary appeared unconvinced, though didn't push the matter any further.

"Anyway, didn't you guys tell me you were sticking around to support me until my next match? So I'd appreciate if we could stop our babblin' and get to battlin'"

"Oh well, if you insist, Ashy boy, I'd be happy to oblige! Umbreon, let's go!"

"Oh, now we're talking, Pikachu, for old time's sake, let's do this!"

"How about we show your little buddy over there how the prides of Pallet town fight, no holding back!"

Ash snorted, "We never do!"

"I'll start off then if you don't mind"

"Be my guest!"

Okay then, Umbreon, Dark Pulse!"

"Brace yourself Pikachu!" A ring of dark purple energy launched itself at the electric mouse.

"Dodge it, then Electro Ball!" In an instant Pikachu was in mid-air with a crackling ball of electrical energy advancing towards Umbreon at a terrifying pace.

"Get outta there Umbreon!" Umbreon darted left, the electric move missing it by an inch.

Ash gave a thumbs up in the younger Oak's direction, grinning broadly "Nice dodge!"

Gary returned it in earnest. "Nice Move!"

"Alright Umbreon, Shadow Ball!" Gary commanded.

"Deflect it with Iron Tail Pikachu!" Ash countered.

"Skunktank, Nightshade!"

"Purugly, Fake Out!"

It was as though they'd come out of nowhere, completely catching the Pallet natives off guard. "Excuse our interruption boys."

Ash would recognise those faces anywhere, though they seemed taller than he remembered and far better dressed, though the cruel glint in their eyes seemed more prominent than before and the thought made him uneasy.

They were clad in form fitting black uniforms and thick leather boots, their hair falling loosely around their shoulders.

"No way!" Ash muttered,

"It's not possible!" Gary exclaimed, "They arrested you two when Cyrus got trapped in the Distortion World. How in the name of Arceus did you escape?!"

"Now, now, now little professor, loose lips sink ships you know." Jupiter retorted

Mars' attention momentarily became focused on Gou who gazed upon the scene unfurling in silence. Ash could almost see the gears turning in the other boy's brain. "Oh my, I see you've collected another stray. How adorable! You do seem awfully fond of collecting little, lost souls!"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Gou spat.

"We've been watching you for quite some time, Champion of Alola, you've been quite...busy."

Her words unnerved him, and he struggled to maintain his composure.

"Less of your little games Team Galactic, now square up so Ash and I can put you back into whatever hole you crawled out of!"

Jupiter tutted with a smug smirk. "Not so fast, little sapling, we've no business with you. So I'll give you a choice. In the next five minutes your grandfather's grand conservatory will be engulfed in flames. If you get moving now, you might get all the Pokémon out!"

"You're bluffing!"

"Oh really? Are you sure that's a gamble you want to make though?" she snickered

"What the hell is wrong with you people!" Gou growled, Cinderace's Pokéball poised to be thrown.

"Oh the stray speaks-"

"Why you-"

"Gou!" Ash cut him off. "It's not worth it. You and Gary go make sure the other Pokémon are safe! I can handle them myself!"

"But-"

"Trust me!"

Gou gnawed on his lower lip almost nervously, "Ash-"

"I'll be fine, I promise!"

"Don't screw this up Ashy, we'll be counting on you!"

The raven haired teen smirked, "Just leave it to me! Okay, Lucario, Pikachu, you're up!" From its trainer's side, Pikachu gave a determined cry "Alright Aura Sphere on Skunktank, Pikachu, Iron tail on Purugly!"

As if on queue, a deafening boom rattled the earth beneath his feet. From the depths of Professor Oak's conservatory, wisps of smoke curled upward, dancing high above the trees. For a moment Ash could feel his stomach clench, his mind racing as he remembered his unsettling dream. Could this have been what it had depicted, would Team Galactic really go that far?

The Alolan champion could have sworn that in that moment the surrounding air rippled, whispering to him to get it together, to focus. He pushed his dread as deep down as he could, turning his attention back to the battle at hand. Gou and Gary would take care of it, he knew that, yet...

He shook his head, his Pokémon's attacks staggered his opponents, pushing them back ever so slightly. He needed to buy some time, to hold them off. For all he knew, they could have some other scheme up their sleeves should he defeat them too quickly and he couldn't take that chance.

They were counting on him, so stall he would.

"Skunktank, Poison Jab on that pesky Pikachu!"

"Purugly, Shadow Ball"

"Pikachu, Lucario use Double Team, Pikachu you use Quick Attack, Lucario Extreme Speed, run circles around them!"

"Attack them all!"

"Keep Moving, wear them down, outlast them, I know you can do it!"

He could no longer tell how much time had passed. "Come on Gou, Gary any time now…"

"Ash!" He visibly exhaled as next to him his friends sprinted into view.

"The water Pokémon helped us put the fires out! Everyone should be safe now!"

"Okay Pikachu, Lucario, finish this Thunderbolt! Aura Sphere." The moves met their mark and the opposing Pokémon fell unconscious at their trainers' feet.

"Toxicroak, let's go!"

From behind him another voice emanated, "Our objective is to secure the champion, Hyperbeam now, we've no use for the little researchers."

Ash could feel his heart pound as suddenly time stood still, Gary and Gou seemed to be stood, frozen. He had to reach them, somehow; he had to protect them, had to get to them.

Without a second thought, he dived toward them, arms outstretched, amber eyes squeezed shut as he awaited the impact. Though it never came and finally he worked up the courage to slowly open his eyes.

In front of his now glowing hands, a thin blue film had formed, effectively absorbing the impact of the oncoming attack.

"I-I wha-"

"My, my Little Champion, you truly are quite the marvel! Jupiter, Mars, we must retreat at once. It seems the adept is more developed than the boss estimated."

"U-Understood commander! Dragalge, come out, use smokescreen!"

And just like that they were gone, just the stale smell of smoke remaining.

"Ash- wh-"

"I-I don't-" Without warning, the searing pain that shot through his skull caused his knees to buckle and he cried out. He was vaguely aware of the feeling of his friends' fingers digging into his shoulders and could hear their frantic voices calling his name. Though he couldn't respond, tears leaked from the corners of his eyes, slipping down his cheeks.

"Ash? Ashy, hey snap out of it, c'mon! You're okay, you're fine!"

"Ash-?"

It was too much, the pain, the noise, it was as though the atmosphere was literally whispering to him...

"Come on Ash, you've got to keep your eyes open okay, stay with us!"

"I'm sorry I-"

"Ash, snap out of it!"

He didn't speak, he could feel the last of his energy leave him as he shook his head slowly, succumbing to the boundless darkness that awaited him.


Hey Guys I hope you enjoyed the opening chapter!