Chapter Five

Hi Everyone!

Apologies again for the delay, my life has just been hectic lately! Either way I hope you enjoy.

Thank you so much for all the support thus far!

Love, Jacqui x


For a moment Ash forgot how to breathe as he turned to face the man that stood before him. Not much about him had changed in the years since last Ash had seen him, but it didn't stop the fluttering of his stomach and the sudden quickening of his heartbeat.

"You— How did you find me?" The man's expression never changed, features frozen into a twisted sneer.

"Didn't those Galactic fools already tell you? We've been watching you, Mr Ketchum. It's oh- so wonderful to see you again."

"Not sure I can return the sentiment... Lysandre."

Ash could vividly recall his last encounter with the Team Flare boss. He could remember the excruciating pain that had enveloped him - the way he'd tried to break his spirit and control him as though he were nothing more than a puppet. He and Greninja had barely made it out of that in one piece. Had it taken any longer for Alain to intervene, they probably wouldn't have made it out at all…

Although nearly two years had passed since then, the thought still made his palms sweat and his fingers tremble.

"Ash? Is this?" Gary growled,

"Lysandre" Ash spat. "Yeah…" Gary's eyes widened in recognition. Ash had told him all about this man, about what he'd done to him, how he'd tried to use him to destroy Kalos.

"You son of a bitch!" He snarled, "Blastoise, let's go!"

"Gary-"

"Feel free to join in if you want, but I've a score to settle with this piece of shit!"

"Oh my, adorable, you've gotten yourself a bodyguard. How amusing! Honchkrow, Pyroar, let's put these foolish children in their place. I'm afraid you'll be coming with me, little champion of Alola!"

Gou snorted, "Yeah right, over our dead bodies."

Lysandre gave a twisted smirk, "I mean, that can be arranged."

"You won't touch them!" Ash snapped.

Gou visibly gulped at Lysandre's words but refused to waver, continuing to stand his ground. "Cinderace, we need to protect Ash!"

"Guys…." Seeing the way they both stood before him, their arms outstretched as though preparing to shield him from all harm…. Ash could feel his resolve strengthen.

This time, it was his turn.

"Thank you- but I need to settle this myself!"

"Ash-"

"Just leave it to me!"

Although reluctant, both Gary and Gou complied, they could see the flames blazing in the depths of Ash's amber eyes. This was Ash's fight - they couldn't deny him that.

"Fine, he's all yours - but should you need back-up-"

"I've got the two of you. I know." He smiled then, big and wide and brighter than Gary and Gou had seen in quite some time.

"Kick his ass, Ash!" Gou yelled enthusiastically.

"With pleasure. Dragonite, Dracovish, let's end this!" Both Pokémon materialised in front of their trainer with triumphant roars. Ash stood with squared shoulders and clenched fists.

"Dracovish, Fishious Rend on Pyroar, Dragonite, Hurricane, disrupt Honchkrow's flight. If he can't fly, he can't fight. Go, now!" His partners complied almost immediately, darting into action. Dracovish's strong jaw clamped decisively onto Pyroar's flank, causing the fire feline to scream out in pain.

Ash couldn't disguise the smug smirk that momentarily danced across his features. He allowed that familiar thrill to travel through him, the joy of battle, and in that moment, everything else faded away. His fear, his doubt, the uncertainty of where the path he now walked would take him - all of it disappeared, consumed by the shadows cast by the early evening sun and dispersed by the sudden flames of determination that burned within him.

He was Ash Ketchum, champion of Alola, he was one of top trainers in the world, his ranking amid the top twenty only further cemented that fact.

There was no way he'd lose to someone like Lysandre - criminal leader or not - he was nothing more than another opponent. One he had to defeat.

Dragonite's Hurricane met its mark, catching Honchcrow within its sharp, unpredictable gusts and it struggled to stay aloft. Meanwhile Dracovish's Fishious Rend had weakened Pyroar significantly-logically Ash's victory seemed inevitable, but Lysandre was unpredictable and that made him one of the most dangerous men Ash had ever met. No matter what, he couldn't let his guard down.

"Impressive little champion, you're as skillful as I remember."

"Wish I could return the compliment, but you seem to be a little rusty! Looks like all those years away caused you to lose your touch."

Lysandre didn't flinch - his face not giving even the slightest twitch. Despite his precarious position in the battle at hand he didn't seem even remotely bothered- an observation that was becoming increasingly more concerning.

"Fire Fang on the Dragonite. Thunderwave on the other. We've only just begun afterall!"

"As wonderful as that is, I think it's about time we wrapped this up." Ash sniped, "Places to be, people to see y'know."

Lysandre simply bared his teeth in a wide grin, not dignifying Ash with any form of a response.

"Dragonite hurricane once more, throw him off balance screw with its aim! Dracovish, counter with Hydro Pump!"

"Lysandre, come in zrrt...Commander Lysandre, retreat, we've gathered enough data."

The man swore loudly, though his eyes flickered with an almost twisted sort of humour. "Really Ariana, your timing couldn't be more poorly, things were starting to get quite exciting over here and you just had to go and interrupt!"

"Oh my apologies Lysandre." Came the snarky response, "Now hurry up and return to base, you've done your job perfectly."

"If I must. Pyroar, Honchkrow, return." They disappeared in a beam of light before Ash's moves could connect and Lysandre simply smirked in his irritatingly smug manner. "As always it's been a pleasure Mr Ketchum. Until we meet again little adept and I can assure you sweet boy, this time you will not escape my control!"

He fiddled with something on his wristwatch and in a flash of blinding light, Lysandre and his Pokémon were gone.

"Godsdamn it!" Ash clenched his fists, he could feel his anger consume him, suddenly everything around him was far louder than before, every shape and landmark was crisper, clearer. He felt that recently all-to-familiar tug of his gut like a rising wave.

"Ash-" Gou's soft voice came from behind him, ripping him from whatever reverie he'd been entrapped in. He whirled around quickly to face him; "Ash-" Gou breathed.

"Your eyes." Gary finished.

Slowly Ash brought his fingers up to touch the skin beneath his lower lashes. "W-what about them?"

"They look-" Suddenly Gary was right in his face, staring at him intently, "Their colour-"

Immediately Ash brought his hands up to shield them from his friends' view.

"He really pissed you off, that much huh?" Gary said softly.

Ash closed his eyes, breathing deeply as he did so, slowly he exhaled, reopening them and meeting Gary's gaze. He felt that rising pressure fall as that feeling slowly begun to disappear. No longer did his senses feel so...heightened...

"Well look at that!" Gou smirked, "turns out you can control it, a little bit at least! Your eyes look like yours again!"

"Ah I -"

"Ash, listen to me." Gary's tone was uncharacteristically gentle as he wrapped his fingers tightly around Ash's forearm, holding him firmly in place.

"Huh?"

"No matter what that bastard says, he'll never be able to control you! You're too strong for that!"

"Gary-"

"You're nobody's toy, or their little powerful plaything. Not Lysandre's, not Lance's -But unless you figure out how to control this-this aura or whatever-"

Ash gave a shaky sigh, "They might figure out how to control it first and in turn...control me…"

"Exactly. I don't think you should trust anyone- For now at least. Not until you know who truly has your best interests at heart."

"And what about you two?"

"Of course you can trust us!" Gou practically shouted.

Gary gnawed his lower lip almost nervously. "I know I've never been the best at showing you but I… Ash, I've always had your best interests at heart, I always will!"

Ash laughed softly-

"Hey-I'm out here baring my heart to you, you dumbass!" the youngest Oak squawked.

"I'm sorry Gar- I just- Of course I know that! Of course I can trust the two of you-I"

He paused… He looked between them, eyes gently. "I-I'm counting on you." He reached out a hand toward them both - palm facing down and slowly Gary and Gou outstretched theirs to rest upon his. "Thank you, for everything!"

"To Sinnoh then!"

There was an exchange of toothy grins.

"Yeah, to Sinnoh."