A/N: I'M ALIVE LOL. But damn all the new pokemon releases this year have really pulled me back into the fandom. So here's the third chapter.
Disclaimer: I DO NOT own Pokemon or any of its characters.
The next day Pikachu woke particularly early, hoping to confer with the professor before starting his search for Palkia with Ash. The idea of locating and confronting a legendary was daunting; one he wouldn't have even considered undertaking had Ash not been the one asking for help. Nonetheless, just the thought of travelling with his friend and trainer once again left him breathless and he couldn't help the slight skip in his step as he sauntered downstairs. A quick scan of the lower floors led him to the kitchen, where the elderly professor was already setting up breakfast. He hadn't even taken one step in before the man turned to stare him down.
"I really wish you'd wait for Muk to come back before leaving."
Pikachu sighed. Whilst he understood the Professors concerns – even with his presence the trip remained dangerous for Ash – they didn't know when the poison pokemon would return and he wasn't willing to postpone the trip to wait. The professor had requested Muk accompany Gary on his latest research expedition a week ago, and those were known to last for months on end based on past experiences. Pikachu wasn't sure Ash would be willing to wait that long. Heck, he wasn't sure he could wait that long.
"You know why we can't do that Professor."
"At least bring another person with you." The professor insisted, refusing to let the issue drop.
Pikachu felt his patience wear thin, and tried to calm himself before he started a commotion that would wake Ash from his much deserved rest upstairs.
"Who, Professor? Who? Are we really going to call up Misty? Or Brock? You know they're both busy with their own things."
Collaborating with the police force to control the crime rates in Kanto wasn't an easy task after all. Following the bizarre evolution of Pokemon, the concept of Pokemon Leagues and its gyms had long since faded. For one, capturing pokemon with pokeballs was no longer physically possible, their new bodies preventing the capsules from working. This meant pokemon both wild and previously captured now roamed free and unrestricted by humans, which could be considered both a good and bad thing. Whilst the threat of being caught and controlled was now gone, many pokemon took the privilege too far. Their transformations had given them the physical appearance of a human (well to a certain extent as many retained features they had as pokemon) and had even boosted the intelligence of others, but their strengths, defenses and abilities remained intact. An incredibly dangerous aspect to this evolution if he were being honest. Many pokemon abused this power they now had over humans, some seeking revenge for their mistreatment (Pikachu was fine with that truthfully) whilst others (mainly wild pokemon with no proper comprehension of human society) now lived and acted however they wanted, claiming land occupied by people as their territory and terrorizing towns and villages on a whim.
This was all accompanied by Team Rocket's growth in status. Giovanni and his crime circle had responded quickly to the pokemon crisis, taking advantage of the world's confusion to slowly expand their contacts and develop weaponry that far surpassed that of the police force. When they returned a few years later to scene, they easily outmanoeuvred the police and started a heavy crime spree throughout Kanto. It was a dark and dangerous time for all.
But the world was not without salvation. Though quite a few pokemon now no longer wanted anything to do with humanity, or spent their time plotting against them, just as many remained with the human trainers they had loved and befriended. The bonds between trainers and pokemon were not yet all erased, and there were several cases where wild pokemon had successfully integrated themselves into human society, the creatures realising the advantages and improvements offered by human settlements and facilities to their standard of living. (Pikachu didn't know how he had lived his whole life without a comfortable bed and hot shower every day.)
Thus, many trainers and the pokemon that remained with them banded together with the police to combat the growing chaos of Team Rocket and issues brought by the new changes to pokemon. The gym leaders and their partners were some of the best members out there, Misty and Brock successfully raiding a Rocket base just a few weeks ago. They were truly a small but highly appreciated source of hope and justice in these trying times and they needed to focus on their work. Bringing Ash back into the picture would only be a distraction for them, both mentally and emotionally, something Pikachu made sure was known to the professor.
"And is it really okay to just reintroduce Ash like this? Show everyone a person they believed had been dead for over 7 years? The others aren't exactly as level headed as you professor, no offence, and to force them to face him again when he's not even going to stay for long, isn't that just cruel?"
Pikachu was breathless by the time he finished. It was best they kept the situation between as little people as possible. He wasn't being stubborn for no reason.
And it wasn't like it was an easy task, contacting their friends and companions. Professor Oak made it sound as if the rest of them weren't split halfway around the world. Whilst Misty and Brock remained in Kanto as well as a few others, most had departed the region long ago. And he did consider contacting Delia upon realising Ash would be sticking around for a bit. But when he recalled the corpse-like woman walking around town, moving but not really living, Pikachu had to reconsider the notion. Perhaps she of all people deserved to move on the most.
Ash's death had hit everyone hard, but it was without doubt Delia who struggled the most. It was only months after her son's death that she sold her house and fled to a neighbouring region, Kalos if he recalled correctly. Staying in a town which constantly reminded her of all the things she'd lost had been too painful. No one could really blame her for her choice. She had offered him a chance to come along, but unlike Delia who wished to escape the heartbreaking depression and despair that surrounded her in Pallet, Pikachu needed it. He needed the pain as a constant reminder of what he failed to protect, what he'd lost, and more importantly, as proof of Ash's existence burnt into his very soul. He couldn't bear to move away, to remove the only remaining aspect of his friend from his life, eventually moving on and forgetting. Perhaps it made him a masochist, but he wasn't going to abandon Ash, not like the rest of them did.
Pikachu couldn't even remember the last time he'd seen another of Ash's previous pokemon (excluding a select few), each member eventually departing from the corral one by one. It wasn't like their friendship towards the end was something to be proud about (Ash would have been in tears had he seen the mess that became their group). But after all their trainer had done for them, you'd expect them to come pay his grave a visit once every while.
Pikachu sometimes wondered if they the pokemon were another reason leading to Delia's eventual departure. The responsibility of caring for Ash's remaining team had not been easy, though he had to admit perhaps the fault lay with them rather than Delia. She treated them kindly enough. Every day she visited the corral, bearing delicious snacks and warm smiles despite dealing with her own personal grief. But in the end she could never compare to her son and their rejection must have been harsh on the already miserable woman. It was cruel, but the love and companionship previously lavished on them by their trainer could never be replicated.
What once was a bunch of bright and lively pokemon became a group of cold and jaded individuals. The change in personality amongst them was jarring. Though the older and more battle experienced pokemon had always been somewhat distant, they as a whole had been warm and welcoming, taking after their kind-hearted trainer. But with Ash's passing came a shift within them. A slight darkness that was previously missing was now present in their eyes. Ash had always made the world seem like a fantasy. Accompanying him on his journeys were always the best of adventures, perhaps a bit dangerous, but never too scary when Ash was constantly there to protect them and save the day. He truly attracted and conveyed the best of humanity, and it was so easy to forget the truth of reality (one they'd learnt so early on in the wild) when immersed in that fantasy. But their trainer's death had been a real wake up and Pikachu would have been truly delusional if he believed they could return to the way they had been before.
It didn't help that many of them struggled with the new circumstances presented by the foreign transformations, depression and frustration eventually creating a tension that was almost unbearable within the corral. They had lived all their lives as pokemon of many different sizes and origins, and to be forced to continue the rest of their lives as human was difficult. Ash had always been the one to pull them through trying times like these, and without him, they were simply a bunch of lost and scared children. The stability, unity and compassion that was once so prominent in their group was gone and the family that had once bled, sweat and fought together quickly unravelled into nothing. The pokemon would begin to leave the corral, some because there was nothing left for them there and others because they needed a change in setting to overcome the traumas that haunted them.
It was sad to see them go, even if his relationship with the others had deteriorated greatly after Ash's passing. He knew quite a few of them blamed him for their trainer's death, or at least believed his contribution to it to be big. His confrontation with Charizard in the fields prior to Ash's funeral had been witnessed by many, and the fire lizard's accusations coupled with Professor Oak's rather vague explanation of the events had led many others to rethink their feeling towards him. They never really spoke of it out loud, but Pikachu could see it in their eyes and hear it in their whispers whenever he entered the corral. And it wasn't like they were wrong. Pikachu could never really find it in him to refute the rumours and accusations that flew around, his own guilt and conscience constantly reminding him of his failure to protect his friend. It was his silence that cemented their doubts on him and secured his position as local outcast within the group, despite both Bulbasaur and Squirtle's attempts at mending things.
But it was perhaps his friendship with Charizard that had been most unsalvageable. Their relationship had crumbled quickly, giving way to pure animosity for the duration Charizard remained at the corral. They argued over many things, from Ash's death to issues that had long been rooted in their pasts. There were many sighs of relief when the fire lizard chose to return to Charicific Valley. Some appreciated the silence that came whilst others were simply happy they didn't have to worry about imminent death should the two power houses of Ash's team come to physical blows.
Surprisingly enough, following Charizard's departure was Sceptile, who left saying little to nothing. There had only been a brief nod of farewell, none too surprising considering the aloof nature of the green pokemon. Pikachu assumed the grass type would be returning to Hoenn, where he left behind the tree that was once his home and his fellow Treekos. Sceptile had probably been the quickest to distance himself from Pikachu (not that he was a close pokemon by nature, Ash most likely being the only one that knew him beyond his cool demeanour) but he never did partake in the hushed whispering and accusatory glances the others were so prone to. He was simply cold and detached, and Pikachu never did figure out the grass pokemon's feelings towards him at the end of it all. He liked to think Sceptile didn't hold things against him, but considering the circumstances, he wouldn't blame him if he did. But it didn't really matter in the end, as he could only watch in silence when the green haired ex-pokemon left, carrying nothing but the two tall katanas that was once his mighty leaf blades. To his amazement, Infernape and Torterra both accompanied him. A part of him wondered when the three of them had even got close enough to do that.
Unfezant and Bayleef were another few that departed early on, both girls following Delia when she left. Though he himself had rejected the woman's offer to move away, the two female pokemon had really connected with Delia's motherly and feminine nature and thus willingly followed her when she left. Others such as Corphish, Donphan, Gible and Scraggy also went along with her, the young pokemon drawn to the kind woman with the same beautiful and loving eyes as their deceased trainer. It was for the best. Delia would have company whilst in the new region and the younger and more emotional of the pokemon would have a supportive care-taker. Pikachu was happy for them. And with the likes of Greninja watching over Kalos, he felt secure in their safety.
But one by one Ash's pokemon left the corral, and soon he was the only one that remained, opting to stay and help Professor Oak in exchange for somewhere to live. Which left them with their current predicament. They had no one to ask for help. Ash's human friends were preoccupied with their duties whilst his pokemon ones were all but gone.
He heard the professor sigh.
"You don't get to decide whether they can see him or not Pikachu. But I digress, Misty and Brock are busy. Their recent raid has left them with a whole new bundle of leads to follow."
Pikachu nodded, thinking the professor had finally seen his way and relieved at ending their spat.
"But that doesn't mean we have no one, despite how you want to see it Pikachu."
He opened his mouth to protest but the professor quickly cut him off, forcing through with his argument.
"Bulbasaur's back." He intoned softly, almost as if her were afraid of Pikachu's response to the revelation.
He needn't worry. Hearing the news about his old teammate, one that he hadn't seen in over 2 years, left Pikachu somewhat speechless. Bulbasaur was one of the last people to leave the corral, held back by his own memories of the place but also by his concern for Pikachu. Along with Squirtle, he had been an incredibly helpful source of support that kept Pikachu grounded through his loss and grief. He always wondered how they found the time to deal with his moody tantrums despite having their own issues to work with. Nonetheless, the Kanto trio had tried their best to maintain the corral and its inhabitants. But when the fields finally grew empty, Bulbasaur too had to depart. Logical as always, he left pursuing a career that would benefit the greater good.
"I'm leaving the corral tomorrow."
Pikachu turned from his position at the top of the hill to face his long-time friend. The twenty or so year old male that stared back was one he still couldn't quite associate with his once four-legged friend. But with the years between them living and working together, it was a face he'd slowly begun to get used. It was always strange to Pikachu that despite remaining in his initial starter form, Bulbasaur's human transformation left him slightly older than Pikachu. It was a bit off putting if he were being honest.
"Is that so?"
Bulbasaur's departure had long been coming and Pikachu had already come to terms with it a while back. After all, he had much practice watching the others leave.
"Don't sound so cold," Bulbasaur joked lightly. He moved to sit next to the electric mouse, pushing a stray strand of light blue hair from his face as he did so. His dark green chest armour, that resembled the many samurai Ash would show him on film nights, jostled quietly. The once grass pokemon turned to face him seriously.
"I want to know if you'll be alright Pikachu." He started slowly, like he wasn't quite sure how to go about the conversation. Which was quite strange considering the no-nonsense person he normally was.
"You're my friend, and after Ash's…. After that, you haven't been the same. I know you're recovering, but I just wanna know if you'll be okay. Squirtle's leaving to return to his Squirtle Squad too after all."
Pikachu turned to face the view in front of him, leaving his friend in silence. Would he be okay? It was a loaded question; one he wasn't sure how to approach. If he were to answer honestly, it'd be no. He would never be okay, and suggesting that he could ever be was an insult to his and Ash's bond. But if Bulbasaur was talking about his capability of continuing the lifestyle he'd develop over the years then yes. He could maintain whatever illusion of living the others had set up for him. In the end, he knew which answer he'd give. Worrying his friend any longer was selfish, seeing as how both Bulbasaur and Squirtle had taken a break in their lives to remain with him in his time of need. They deserved to leave with a clear mind, void of concerns regarding their friend.
"Its…hard, but I think, no, I know I'll be okay. Even I'd have to come to terms with things eventually," he replied with a soft smile. "So it's okay to leave if you want to Bulbasaur. You and Squirtle have helped me out so much more than I deserve."
It was Bulbasaur's turn to leave him in silence, the grass type watching his friend carefully, as if he were trying to discern any lies in his statement. There weren't, not technically, and he meant it when he wished the best for his friend.
"You deserved our friendship you rat and don't you ever think or say differently."
The mood immediately lightened, and both friends laughed quietly.
"So, what are you going to do after this?" Pikachu asked curiously. "I assume it must be hard figuring out where to go from here. We've known this corral for so long."
"I- I want to help the world Pikachu. Make a difference for the better, like Ash did for so many of us." He spoke determinedly. "And this world is getting darker every day, we need it to stop."
After that, he went and joined the closest police department, something Pikachu thought suited the grass type quite well. Pikachu kept in contact with his good friend as he was stationed in Viridian City. But considering Bulbasaur's quick wits and resourceful nature, he was quickly promoted and sent to active duty. Last time he checked, Bulbasaur had been deployed in Unova to deal with the rise of another criminal organisation. He hadn't heard from him since. Pikachu didn't blame his friend, duty over social indulges any day, but it did hurt to be cut out of the grass pokemon's life even if it was unintentional.
"He can help Pikachu," said the professor, snapping him from his reverie. "If there's anyone who can help, who would help, it'd be Bulbasaur. Please Pikachu, just go see him and ask, if not for me, for Ash."
Pikachu felt his previous stubbornness waver at the thought of his friend. It would be nice to see the grass type again after so long – he never bothered making more friends with the people of Pallet and its pokemon population. And despite it all, he wanted this journey to be as safe as possible for Ash, and the additional manpower would certainly help. He sighed, knowing internally that the Professor had won this spat.
"Okay, I'll take Ash to see Bulbasaur first, happy Professor?" he relented tiredly.
"WE"RE GOING TO SEE BULBASAUR? AWESOME!"
Both males turned to the kitchen entrance, shocked when they saw Ash standing at it's opening. How long had he been there? It seems the distraction of their debate left them clueless to the awakening of their friend.
'Guess I have no choice but to go see Bulbasaur now' thought Pikachu humouredly. He just hoped his good friend wouldn't freak too much at the sight of Ash.
A/N: Another chapter finally finished. I have a general idea of which pokemon from Ash's teams I want to feature prominently in this story (there were always stand outs in every region for me) but if anyone has a particular pokemon they want to see just list it down in reviews or PM me. If its popular enough, I can try and work it into the story.
Hope you enjoyed the chapter. Please leave a review to let me know what you think.
Edited 25/12/2017: Since this is an alternate universe, Ash completed his journey in Kalos first (where things happened the exact same way as canon) before winning at the Unova League, which is why Pikachu refers to Greninja despite Ash's passing happening after his win at Unova. This change allows me to include some ideas i loved about the Kalos region into the story. Hope that doesn't bother anyone.