Loud.

Very loud.

Ear-splittingly loud.

The roar of the crowd wasn't what had me by the ear. For what it stood for, that was the reason I loved every second of it.

I could've guessed there to be around fifty-thousand people cheering, and their lungs were really giving it their all. Coupled with the victorious theme music playing, the ambience alone would've been enough to take someone off their feet.

Big celebrations happen often, but this... this had to be the biggest I've seen in a long time. And I couldn't be prouder to be a part of it. And not just a part of it. The part of it.

Because I was the one they were cheering for.

Well over my expectations, the turnout was unbelievable! I mean, I've seen huge tournaments on TV, I've even placed in the top several positions of a few, but in this stadium under this night sky... I couldn't remember anything quite like it.

The lights. Flashing so many colours, I thought I was about to have a seizure!

The sounds. Loud enough to make your ears numb, but not loud enough to keep you from appreciating it.

The air. Crisp like every clear night, but as soon as I saw a few balls of colour flying up from atop the stadium, I knew I'd be breathing in some fireworks.

As the sky lit up, I brought my head down to look to the crowd. More specifically, the front rows. I saw so many familiar faces. All ranging in gender, age, even species! But what came to my mind when I saw all of their joy-filled expressions was how much they supported and helped me to get to where I was. Whether in person or in spirit. Some I've known my whole life, and others I've known since I was ten years old, when it all started...

When it all started.

When it all started.

When... it... all...

"Ngh!"

A single heartbeat sent a fierce jolt through my entire body.

The blood rush must've knocked something on its way, because all of my friends and family started to go out of focus. Squinting, I tried to keep my vision, but as the seconds went on, it became harder and harder to see. The huge smile I was wearing a few moments ago had disappeared, and I couldn't feel control over any of my muscles. As everything became more unfocused, the sounds of fireworks, crowd cheers and music started slurring. I couldn't tell whether I was having some sort of adrenalin rush, but, at that moment, all I could feel was... weak.

My eyelids drooped so low, I thought they would close completely, but I did my best to keep them open. I could feel my eyes glaze over, and what's worse, my legs started acting up.

The shakiness I felt was getting more uncontrollable. I couldn't tell if I'd stand for much longer.

With the vision I still had, I saw the faces of my friends and family. But for some reason, all they were doing, and continued to do, was cheer in excitement.

Didn't they realise, or even see, that I was losing consciousness? While their whistles, waves and hops became blurrier, I suddenly found my legs giving way.

Time slowed down...

Every person watching me slowed down...

The sounds hitting my ears slowed down...

My heartbeat slowed down...

Everything became completely distorted. What was happening to me? When would I know? Who... or what was... causing this? Why... was this... happening?

Why... am I... here...


A quick intake of breath and my eyes snapped open.

I was looking at a white ceiling.

I furrowed my expression, knowing that, out of all things, that wasn't what my brain was telling me I should be seeing. Blinking a few times, I gathered my thoughts. Something I couldn't do just a... few minutes... ago...

I slowly sat up, my muscles straining in doing so. Looking around, I recognised it to be a hospital room.

...What?

Most things in the room were pale white, a muted TV played in the far corner and a wide window was to my right.

I glanced at the clock on the wall. Almost nine-thirty.

Through the window, I could see what appeared to be a small town. Although it was dark out – so it's nine-thirty at nightI could still make out some trees, grass and gardens. As well as a number of short houses, buildings and the outline of a windmill on the dim horizon. I immediately recognized it as Professor Oak's la-

...I'm in Pallet Town...

As soon as that dawned on me, my mind went blank, yet it was filled with questions at the same time.

For what seemed like ages, I just sat in my bed, staring out to my hometown with an unchanging expression.

Finally, I pulled the sheets off myself, got out of bed and slowly approached the window. As I did, I felt the pulse monitor unclip from my finger.

Keeping my headache from swaying me, my hands latched onto the windowsill and I tried to focus. A few people were all I could see on the streets.

Blinking, I darted my eyes from one building to another, one tree to another, one house to another – I couldn't deny it even if I wanted to.

It was Pallet Town. I was back in my hometown. And I was in Pallet's hospital.

But...

How did I get here? Why am I here? Who knows anything about this? And why am I-

I almost choked on the sharp gasp.

The shock nearly had me fall over. My eyes convulsed erratically and a cold sweat fell down my head.

With the reflection of the window right in front of me, I finally got a good look at myself. My eyes were in bigger proportion to my face, my hair wasn't as long as I last had it, and I could swear I was shorter.

If I had to take a guess, I would've said I was in my body, but... at ten years old...

I touched my face and pulled my hair up to inspect every bit of myself. I couldn't believe it. This just made me feel even more confused!

I tried to relax. Bringing everything that I knew of this situation into one mental pile helped, but it still didn't change anything.

I was in the Pallet Town hospital, I was ten, and I had no idea what had caused this, when this happened, or why it happened!

My arms hung at my sides. Standing still for a while, I looked up at the dark sky, seeing murky clouds beginning to merge. I took a deep breath and released a long, calming sigh. Looking back at my reflection, I couldn't help but just stare. And stare... And stare...

Slowly, I raised my hand and pressed it up against the ice-cold glass. At that time, I realised that my skin was a lot lighter. I stood there, thinking about everything that had happened. Remembering where I was a while ago didn't help, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary, other than my own thoughts.

Nothing looked changed or unusual at all. But to be here, and now – something must've changed. Why else would I be feeling this way?

Raindrops started hitting the window. I tilted my head up to look at the dark clouds above. As time past while I just kept standing and thinking, all I could hear was the rain. The streets were completely emptied and darkened now. I leaned my head forward to rest against the window. It had become much colder, but I didn't feel any chills from the contact. I closed my eyes.

A second later, my eyes opened and my ears peaked at the sound of a doorknob turning. I turned my head. As soon as I saw the person, I turned my whole rigid body around.

A damp raincoat and umbrella dropped next to a pair of shoes.

The woman standing in the doorway had a broken expression, but I could see it gradually begin to lighten. Her hair was raggedly tied back, her clothes were ruffled, and her eyes... So much focus was put into those deep, brown eyes as they stared right at me.

As if I could ever not recognize her, and yet, I found myself... amazed by what I was seeing.

'No...' I couldn't even put a thought together. 'This isn't...'

After ages of standing and staring, Delia Ketchum, my mother, nearly sprinted for me, catching me with a tight embrace.

As I stood there while my mother held me, I just breathed and held my expression – complete and utter shock.

When I felt my mother shake and choke back a sob, it brought me back to reality. I tried to back away, but she sensed it and tightened her hug one more time, sobbing, before she let go and held me at arm's length.

Looking at her reddened face, leaking so many tears, I felt as if I was about to break out as well, and I wouldn't even know why.

With a shaky sigh, she pulled me back into another hug and dug her head into my shoulder. It took another while, but she finally spoke.

"I'm... I'm so glad you're alright."

Mom whispered, her voice cracking. My expression didn't change, but one thing was sure – I finally had someone to talk to.

"What's... What's going on?"

And of course, my voice was just as it was at ten. Mom loosened her grip and moved back to look me in the eyes. She wiped away the tears she had before answering.

"Oh... honey..." She rubbed my hair, letting her hand rest on my cheek. "You've been... asleep... for a little while."

Mom read my confused face and went on.

"You see, sweetie, you've been... well... you've been... in a... a short c-coma... f-for a bit less than a day."

I could tell by her face that she didn't like the distraught and confused look I gave her.

"A... A-uh... coma?"

"Y-Yes," she shakily responded. "You've... been in the hospital since yesterday." Mom sniffled once, clearing her throat before continuing. "The doctor said that the i-injuries you suffered in the accident were... serious, and that you were exposed to a b-big... electrical shock. They said there might've been some effect to your brain, b-but they were confident that you'd pull through without any problems," she ended with a smile, even though she was still crying.

I was trying to process all of what she said.

I backed up and sat on the bed, shuffling up enough to let my feet dangle off the edge. Mom took a seat next to me, resting her still-shaky fists on her lap. I just sat there, holding my hands together.

I didn't say anything for a while, because I couldn't really think of anything to say. But I knew every second was torture for Mom, so I needed to reassure her that I was okay – at least okay enough to talk.

"Wh-..."

The slightest mumble had Mom straighten up. She hummed for me to continue.

"What's today's date?"

I couldn't exactly remember the date I started my journey, but-

My heart leapt in my throat the second something came to me, after the words 'started my journey' went through my mind...

Mom replied after another sniffle.

"T-Today's April second, Sunday night. Are you alright? Did you just remember something?"

Of all the things to not take notice of during that entire time, I couldn't believe I hadn't realised it sooner!

"...Where's Pikachu?"

Mom's expression changed to a shocked one, before it softened to a disheartened look. She faced the ground.

I kept looking up at her, waiting. If something were to come of this, good or bad, I needed to know where Pikachu was. No matter what.

"Ash..."

Just saying that with such a sad voice got to me.

"Mom."

She blinked and traced her eyes back to my own, not moving an inch.

"Please... Where's Pikachu?" I repeated, feeling desperation take its hold on me.

"A-Ash... Pikachu is... gone."


Barefoot, wet and freezing.

I ran through the rain, never even thinking of stopping.

The dirt road had turned to mud and the trees struggled in the gale.

But out of all this, the feeling I had that told me something had happened to Pikachu... that was the coldest thing of all.

I didn't even let her finish. Mom looked desperate when she tried to keep me from escaping the hospital. I just couldn't listen anymore.

When I left, I sprinted through Pallet Town. I made it to the forest I had travelled through back when I began my journey. I may not've known exactly when I started, but the place where Pikachu saved my life was lodged into my memory.

Slowing down, I saw that I was finally there.

I coughed, choking up my exhaustion in loud, hoarse barks.

My ten-year-old body had enough, but my heart and mind were hell-bent on going on. They burnt with determination to pump my legs another mile if I needed, even if I was at my edge.

I looked all around the forest divided by the road. It had taken a while, but I finally made it to where I wanted to be. The site of one of the most important moments of my life.

But when I got there... Nothing.

No spearow. No fearow. No other wild pokémon to be seen at all... And no Pikachu...

I got here as fast as I could, tearing up my hospital pants and making my post-comatose condition worse in the process. But I couldn't find anything.

It was much closer to town than the way I first got here, when I swam down a river and took a bik-

It hit me...

As quick as a thunderbolt, I found myself worrying about all my friends. And as if I wasn't already in a state of despair, I was hit by another wave of grief.

Everyone... Every person I knew... Every pokémon I knew... Everything I knew...

I didn't know where they were. I didn't know if they knew where I was. I wasn't even sure I knew where I was.

This wasn't where I was supposed to be. My heart was telling me that I was at the site of the beginning of my journey, but my mind was telling me that I was supposed to be somewhere else. I started feeling a pain in my chest...

In the cold, hard-pouring rain, I fell to my knees, panting, physically and mentally drained.

Something snapped.

The questions of what was real and what was not collapsed onto my thoughts. I didn't know why, but for some reason all the bottled up aggression and confusion suddenly burst out of me.

With my chest still heaving, I gritted my teeth, coiled my hands into fists and brought them down to the ground so hard, it felt like my bones could've broke.

I stayed there, hunched over in sweat, rainwater... and tears.

"Where am I-I-I?" I screamed up to the dark clouds.

My throat felt like it would go numb, but I just kept going.

"Answer me-e-e!"

Mist formed every time I let out a coarse breath. I didn't know how long my lungs would last, but I screamed out as much as I could, as desperately as I could.

"I don't care what this is! Take me back!"

I got more and more desperate, making myself weaker and colder.

"Celebi! Mewtwo! Dialga! Somebody answer me! Take... Me... Ba-a-ack!"

After the longest scream I could muster, I shut my mouth and slumped over. I coughed so hard I thought I'd choke up blood.

Seething, I managed a few more words.

"Somebody... Anybody... Answer me... please..."

A light shined down the road behind me.

Through the chaos of my condition, I sensed it. I raised my head, breathing heavily and letting loose tears fall.

Slowly, I turned.

The light made the intense rainfall completely visible, but I could still see it coming closer. I couldn't hear anything as I stared at it. As it got closer, it got bigger.

But suddenly, I heard the sound of tires running over the muck road, and the single light divided into two.

I limply turned back around, losing all hope of something showing itself to me.

It was just a car. Just... a stupid car. Not a potentially helpful pokémon. Not a potentially helpful person. It was nothing.

My heart broke into cold shards. My muscles felt numb. The shreds of hope I was holding onto, I purposely let go of, knowing nothing would come for me. There was nothing I could do. Nothing...

Suddenly, someone I couldn't have lived without wrapped their arm around my shoulders.

I felt the rainwater stop pouring onto me.

I slowly raised my head, showing the person my broken form.

My mom's face looked just as broken.

She held the umbrella over us, while her other arm rested behind my neck, clasping my shoulder with her warming grip. Tears were rolling down her eyes too.

But the big difference between our expressions was the dark frown I had, and the small smile she had. It didn't take me too long to know what she was thinking.

I couldn't let myself keep this up. I had to be strong. Stronger than this. I am stronger than this. I knew I was.

I wrapped my arms around her, as she did to me.

I didn't really know what to do at that point, so I did the first thing that came to my mind. Through the rain and sobs, I whispered to her.

"...I'm sorry."


Waking up numb.