Chapter Three

Lance's words chilled Ash to the bone.

The entire room seemed to have been stunned into silence, all glancing around mutely, no one knowing quite what to say.

Ash could feel Gou's grip on him tighten and he found himself absent-mindedly clutching the fabric of his friend's night shirt. He slumped slightly against Kukui's side, exchanging worried looks with Gary who appeared to be struggling to discern what to do next.

Lance's brow was furrowed, and his lips were pressed together in a thin, white line.

"H-how… How do I control it?" His voice was thick with tears, his entire being trembling.

"That Mr Ketchum, I'm still trying to learn. Though I feel consulting Riley in the Sinnoh Region may be a good place to begin."

"Is-is he an adept too?"

"Not quite, but he is an Aura Guardian and a powerful one at that. My hope is that he may be able to give you the tools necessary to understand exactly what that power of yours can do."

"S-So, he can help me?"

"I can't say for certain, but I do think he may be your best chance."

Ash's mind raced, there was so much he didn't understand, so many questions left unanswered. If he truly was as powerful as Lance seemed to believe - should he fail to contain it… He didn't want to have to think about it.

"I'll contact Riley as soon as possible and inform him of the situation! Will you be travelling alone?"

"I-"

"No way in hell!"

"Gary!"

The auburn haired boy merely shrugged, his usual smug smirk firmly in place. "What? Goulash and I told you we're gonna stick with you until your next battle, why do you look so surprised?"

"But-"

"Nuh-uh, no buts!" Gou piped up.

Ash merely looked between the two in silence, no idea what to say, though he got the feeling nothing really needed to be said.

"Mr Ketchum, there was one more thing I wished to discuss with you!"

"You're not gonna drop some other bombshell on me are you?" He joked feebly

Lance frowned slightly, shaking his head, "No, not quite. But Mr Ketchum, I didn't just seek you out because of the power you possess."

"Y-you didn't?"

"If I'm honest, I thought at most you may be an Aura Guardian, that what happened in the Tree of Beginning may have resulted from your desperation to protect the tree and all that lived in it." He paused, "Look Mr Ketchum….Ash...The main reason I'm here is because I've seen for myself how capable you are. Even back when I first met you, when you'd just started out on your journey, your bravery, your compassion, your strength of heart, they have always impressed me! Your reputation precedes you - particularly when it comes to taking down criminal organisations! Power or no power, you're someone I would love to have on my side!"

He offered his hand, giving the young man a pointed nod. "So Champion of Alola, please, lend me your strength."

Ash looked upon Lance's outstretched palm with wide amber eyes, before inhaling sharply and squaring his shoulders. Eventually he clasped Lance's fingers in his own, bobbing his head slowly. "I-I'll do all I can"

For the first time since he'd arrived, the Johto champion smiled.

"Thank you… Ash...I'll meet you in Canalave city five days from now! Give yourself some time to recover, however long you may need. What I've told you lately is, to put it mildly - well...quite a lot…"

"Tch you can say that again!" Gary muttered, only partially trying to disguise his disdain, Ash couldn't quite understand the reason for Gary's rather obvious stand-offishness, though whatever had gone down between Gary and the Johto Champion (If anything at all, considering the auburn haired teens frankly prickly personality in general) was none of his concern.

"Well I suppose it's time I took my leave then, until Sinnoh young champion!"

"U-until Sinnoh!"


Ash's sleep in the two days that passed had been fraught with Nightmares…

The dreams had started off normal enough, he'd been strolling through Viridian Forest, flanked on both sides by Gary and Gou who were talking animatedly.

Then the scene would shift suddenly, lightning flashing, thunder rumbling as rain fell from the boundless black sky in torrents.

His body was separated from his spirit and all he could do was watch, frozen. His entire being pulsed with an eerie purple glow, his eyes a blue so pale they were almost completely white… Though worst of all, at his feet Gary and Gou now lay, pallid flesh and crimson staining their skin. They stared unblinkingly upward, still...so terribly still.

He remembered nothing but he knew, deep down he knew… He had done this.

He woke constantly with violent tremors and tear-stained cheeks, wiping them away as quickly as possible and burying his face in the pillow so they couldn't see.

Sometimes he woke up so shaken he considered running to Professor Kukui or calling his mom hoping the cruise ship she and Professor Oak were on had docked somewhere with a decent phone signal.

In the end, he never did, how could he? It wasn't like there was anything either of them could do.

"Ash?"

He jumped, "Oh, uh hi Professor"

"How are you feeling?"

He hesitated, mulling it over, "I...um is it okay to say I don't know?"

Kukui gave him a soft smile, ruffling his hair. "Perfectly Okay. Look kiddo, if you need me to stay-"

He grabbed Kukui's forearm and gave it a quick squeeze, "Please don't worry, Burnet and Rei probably miss you- Y-you should go home to your family."

"You know you're family too, don't you?"

Ash could feel his amber eyes fill with tears and cascade down his cheeks. Professor Kukui huffed out a soft puff of air, wrapping his arms around the younger man and pulling him tightly to his chest.

"You're family too Ash!" He repeated with a whisper. "You always will be!"

He barely managed a choked 'thank you' before he pulled away slowly, wiping his eyes quickly.

"It's okay to be overwhelmed and it's okay to be scared! It's only human."

"Y-yeah, but what Lance said made me feel as though I'm not...human...Or at least not anymore…" He trailed off.

"It's okay to be overwhelmed, and it's okay to be scared! It's only human."

"Y-yeah" ,Though what Lance had said made him feel as though he wasn't human...Or at least not anymore…"

"It'll be okay!" Kukui smiled, ruffling the teens hair, "I promise...You're not doing any of this alone. Y'know, those two-" He gestured out the window to where Gary and Gou appeared to be arguing about something once more. They both were gesticulating wildly, their expressions continuously changing, Ash couldn't help but chuckle slightly at their antics despite himself. "They seem to be good friends to have by your side kid."

He turned to gaze upon the two once more, welcoming the warmth that felt as though it were blossoming in his chest. Though it was replaced with an icy chill as fragments of his recurring nightmares flashed through his mind.

He would control this power, whatever it took, no matter how many sacrifices he would have to make, he'd protect his friends, his family - until his lungs no longer drew breath.


A/N: Hey guys, as you probably realized this was more of a filler/pacer chapter since it feels like a lot happened in the last two chapter and I felt like things needed to slow down a little, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway! I kind of wanted Ash to sort of be in his head for a bit, to help us see just how much pressure Lance's little reveal has put him under.

Thank you so much for all the kind words so far, I've been trying to upload weekly, but just so ye know I have family coming to visit Saturday that I haven't had the chance to see since this whole pandemic started, so there may not be a chapter next Tuesday but I'll still try my best!

Thanks again for everything and sorry for the long note! Take care out there folks!