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Mirror Adventures: A Tragedy of False Smiles [Anime Mirrorverse AU]


Impressionist Bakuphoon
Hello everyone, and welcome to Mirror Adventures: A Tragedy of False Smiles! This is a Pokémon fanfic based on the Kalos saga anime episode "The Cave of Mirrors", which features an alternate universe where everyone's personalities are the opposite — or "mirror image", so to speak — of their real-world ones. Mirror Adventures intends to explore this concept further by not only focusing on the mirror versions of Ash Ketchum and his companions from the Kalos saga, but also those of other characters from the anime, and possibly those of characters from other continuities of the franchise as well. Additionally, this story will also explore how everyone's mirrored personalities affect the choices they make, and how the consequences of those choices affect other characters and the wider world around them.

There are a few things that readers should know about Mirror Adventures before diving in:

: Mirror Adventures will be a traditionally chaptered story, with its narrative being split between two main characters. With some exceptions, each chapter will be focused specifically on one of these main characters. That said, both narratives are interconnected with each other in various ways, and they're also both connected to a larger story going on behind the scenes. With that in mind, it's highly recommended that you read Mirror Adventures from the beginning and in its entirety in order to obtain a full understanding of the story.

Second: This will not be a direct re-telling of the anime except with mirror characters. There is simply too much changed in this universe for such an approach to be realistically possible, and honestly speaking, I don't believe that it would make for a particularly good story anyway. That said, that doesn't mean that elements of certain episodes won't possibly inspire stories in Mirror Adventures, or that characters from said episodes may never appear elsewhere in different roles that are fitting for their mirrored personalities.

Third: Although the first few chapters will have content consistent with an EVERYONE (Bulbagarden) or K+ (FF.net) rating, it should be noted that the content for individual chapters will vary wildly as the story goes on and will encompass all rating levels including EVERYONE, TEEN, and MATURE. In other words, it is very possible to have an EVERYONE-equivalent chapter be followed directly by a MATURE-equivalent chapter, and vice versa. Additionally, although the first few chapters will remain squarely in EVERYONE/K+ territory, there will be a point in the story (around chapter four) where potentially objectionable and disturbing content will start appearing with increased frequency, and things will get significantly more intense from there. Consequently, the story will have a higher number of TEEN- and MATURE-equivalent chapters as it goes on, and it's extremely likely that the majority of chapters — and the fic as a whole — will have MATURE-equivalent content by the story's end. Please keep all of this in mind should you choose to invest yourself in this story; per forum rules, detailed descriptions of potentially objectionable or disturbing content will be available for each chapter when applicable (although note that some of them may be placed in spolier tags).

As far as content ratings go, most chapters will generally contain one or more of the following:
  • Mild-to-moderate depictions of violence, including but not limited to: slightly more intense and realistic battle sequences than the canon anime, minor depictions of blood, Pokémon-on-human violence, and the use of firearms and other realistic weapons,
  • Occasional crude or impolite language, as well as more directly insulting language that may be either partially or completely censored per forum rules,
  • Instances of character death, including deaths of main characters (basically, any character can die at any time, for any reason),
  • Low-to-medium-level depictions of mature themes, including occasional suggestive jokes or references; explorations of real-world themes such as war, crime, corruption, and sociopolitical conflict; and mild but nonetheless potentially disturbing depictions of bullying, child abuse, and neglect of an emotional, psychological, and (less frequently) physical nature.
Meanwhile, chapters with more mature content — per mod approval — may contain one or more of the following:
  • Unflinching depictions of violence, including graphic descriptions of blood, gore, and death, and full depictions of the effects of Pokémon attacks, firearms, and other weapons,
  • Strong language that will almost certainly offend at least some readers, all of which will be merely referenced and ultimately completely censored per forum rules,
  • Full depictions of mature themes, including more graphic and explicit explorations of everything mentioned previously, but not including sexual content (which will be limited to kissing, hand-holding, and suggestive references at worst).
With all of the above said, let's begin. The first chapter can be found in the next post, while a table of contents for all currently posted chapters is available below:

Mirror Adventures: A Tragedy of False Smiles
[Table of Contents]

[Chapter 1] A Burning Light in the Darkness! Mirror Ash's Adventures at Summer Camp! ~Prologue, Part 1~ (01/25/2020)
[Chapter 2] Mirror Ash and Mirror Serena! The Perils of a Dangerous World! ~Prologue, Part 2~ (06/05/2020)
[Chapter 3] The Oak Legacy! Professor Oak VS The Great Warrior of Light! ~Mirror Professor Oak Interlude~ (05/08/2021)

[Notes and Updates]
Chapters 1 and 2 have been merged into a single new Chapter 1 entitled: "A Burning Light in the Darkness! Mirror Ash's Adventures at Summer Camp!" Several edits have also been made since the last revision, most of which are small but some of which are significant (the basic plot and characters remain unchanged, however).
Last edited:


Impressionist Bakuphoon
[Chapter 1]
A Burning Light in the Darkness! Mirror Ash's Adventures at Summer Camp!

~Prologue, Part 1~

Ladies and gentlemen... boys and girls... we're just one battle away from watching history being made here tonight! For those of you who are just tuning in, our challenger for the title of Champion of Kanto — Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town — has just defeated the second-to-last Pokémon of our defending Champion! That leaves only one — yes, just one! — Pokémon standing in his way to becoming the new Champion, the first in over a generation! He's swept the Pokémon League Challenge and he's conquered the Elite Four... could he even overcome the strength of our legendary Champion? We're about to find out, right here and right now!

The challenger named Ash Ketchum stood on the battlefield, his eyes filled with fire and his spirit driven by purpose. Ash was just a young boy — barely older than ten, in fact — and yet here he was, in the middle of one of the greatest trials that anyone, at any age, could face. He, like many boys and girls his age, had a dream. A dream to journey across the world with Pokémon, and to visit many fascinating places and make wonderful new friends. A dream to capture as many Pokémon as possible and train them to surpass all others, and to overcome any and all obstacles in their way. A dream to conquer every gym and earn the right to challenge the most powerful trainers in the world: the Elite Four and the Champion. A dream to become a Pokémon Master; the best, like no one ever was.

Ash — through a combination of courage, skill, and a little bit of luck — managed to accomplish every part of that dream... all except for one. Now the only thing that stood in his way to becoming the best was one last opponent; the opponent that he was about to face with his loyal Charizard by his side. The Pokémon — a large orange dragon with a mighty flame erupting from its long tail — gave a ferocious, earth-shaking roar in anticipation of its final challenge, and deep inside, Ash could feel the same kind of roar erupting from within his soul as well.

There's no running away from this one, Ash told himself. Not now... not ever again.

Looking straight ahead of him, he could see the distant figure of his opponent on the other side of the stadium. Dressed in an imposing black hooded longcoat, the defending Champion of Kanto...

...wait a minute; what was this guy's name again?

Our Champion is about to release his final Pokémon; you all know what it is! This is definitely going to be a battle for the ages, ladies and gentlemen...

That's weird, Ash thought to himself as the roar in his soul was quickly replaced by the feeling that something wasn't quite right. How could he not know who the Champion of an entire region was; the Champion that he was in the middle of battling right now!?

But Ash had little time to think about that as the Champion of Kanto threw a Poké Ball into the air. With a pop and an audible surge of energy, a flash of light emerged from the Poké Ball and materialized itself as a Pokémon on the battlefield, revealing itself as...


Ash froze upon hearing the mighty cry of his final opponent: a massive yellow dragon with relatively small wings... deceptively small wings. It stood on its two legs with a powerful and dominant posture, staring down at Ash with a dark, almost murderous glare.

But as Ash shifted his eyes away from the frightening dragon, he immediately caught another glare, from his human opponent. And it was at that moment that he realized exactly who this person was...

"P-Professor Oak!? What are you doing here!?"

The Champion of Kanto lowered his hood in response, revealing the face of what was indeed the famous Professor Oak. Silver hair and an aged face defined the man, but nothing stood out to Ash more than the death glare that the Professor gave him; one that was practically as fierce as that of his Dragonite.

"What am I doing here!?" Professor Oak barked, loud enough to reverberate across the entire stadium. "I'm the Champion; I deserve to be here! What are you doing here is the question, Ash Ketchum! Shouldn't you be with your mother right now?"

"N-No...!" Ash blurted out, his voice small and tentative compared to that of the Professor's. "I-I deserve to be here too!"

"Of course you do," Professor Oak replied with a smug, sarcastic smile. "Crybaby."

He then turned his attention to Dragonite, his face serious and decisive.

"Let's show him what a real trainer is, Dragonite. Finish it!"

Professor Oak's Pokémon then lifted itself high above its trainer and began inhaling a seemingly impossible amount of air, before a massive white sphere of energy started to form around its mouth. Dragonite was about to perform Hyper Beam, one of its most powerful and devastating attacks. With his Pokémon League victory hanging in the balance, Ash knew that he had to make a move now...

...but he didn't; he couldn't. He could only stare in awe at Dragonite as its Hyper Beam grew bigger and bigger, eventually becoming nearly as large as Dragonite itself. Finally, the dragon unleashed its powerful attack, and in an instant, the beam connected not with Ash's Charizard, but rather with Ash himself. The beam exploded on impact, engulfing Ash and his aspirations of Pokémon League victory in flames.

Well, that's it, I guess. I've failed. My dream is over...

Those words were more correct than he knew. Because as it turned out, it was just a dream after all...
* * * * * * *
Ash awoke to the warmth of thick bedsheets covering his body, a far cry from the warmth and heat of the Hyper Beam that was thankfully as much of a reality as his hopes and dreams. His actual reality was made all too clear by the time displayed on the Voltorb-shaped clock next to his bed: 8:25 AM. Or in other words: just over half an hour before he was due to arrive at Professor Oak's annual summer camp.

Ash felt a sickening sensation grow in his gut as he contemplated this reality. Were Ash an average, typical kid, that feeling would instead have likely been the raw, youthful anticipation that every child felt when something exciting was about to happen; the kind that either kept them hopelessly awake all night, or made them intensely eager to go to sleep so that the next day would come faster.

But when it came to the idea of summer camp, Ash was neither an average kid nor a typical one. So as the light of the rising sun crept into his room and became brighter and brighter with every moment, Ash crept further and further underneath his bedsheets, basking in the warmth and safety they provided from the cold, cruel world outside. And as the hands of his Voltorb-shaped clock crept closer and closer to 9 AM to signal the start of a new and beautiful day, Ash could feel anticipation creeping closer and closer to the very center of his heart, an anticipation that was very different from everyone else's. Because while most kids would imagine adventure, friendship, and fun when thinking about Professor Oak's summer camp, Ash could only imagine fear, embarrassment, and failure, which seemed to be the three great constants of his life.

The morning sun reached just the right position in the sky to send brilliant golden rays of light through the windows of Ash's room, which bathed everything in their glow. And as Ash felt the warmth of the rays even from the deepest depths of his bedsheets, it almost felt to him like the universe itself was trying to tell him what he already knew he needed to do.

And so with a sigh, Ash kicked off his bedsheets, climbed out of bed, and walked over to his closet...
* * * * * * *
Roughly five minutes later, Ash was out of his room and walking downstairs. He had chosen a simple red-and-yellow T-shirt and dark blue shorts to wear for the day, a perfect fit for the warm weather that he knew he was likely to encounter on this summer's day.

As he approached the bottom, he could hear the sounds of voices distorted as if coming out of a speaker, all loud enough to fill almost the entire first floor. And as Ash approached the room's large tube TV blaring out said sounds, he could see a figure in a long, pink bathrobe in a deep sleep on the couch in front of the TV. The figure, a woman, appeared to be lying in a rather uncomfortable position on the couch, but it didn't appear to affect her ability to sleep at all, if her slow and gentle snores were any indication.

Moving as quietly as he could, Ash walked over the TV and slowly dialed down the volume before turning off the TV altogether. Right after the TV clicked off, however, a loud, long yawn erupted from the figure and her eyes opened ever so slightly as she started breaking out of her sleep. Before he knew it, Ash was staring straight into the woman's fiery brown eyes, which were nearly the spitting image of his own. That, of course, was because they belonged to...

"Mom!" Ash cried out in surprise. "Um, g-good morning..."

"Morning..." replied Delia Ketchum, the mother of Ash Ketchum, but it barely qualified as a response as a massive yawn overwhelmed her words.

"Man, what a night... I need some coffee."

As Delia rose from the couch and began walking over to the kitchen on the other side of the room, she stopped suddenly, staring curiously at Ash's clothes.

"Um, Ash? Are you going somewhere?"

"Uh, s-summer camp!" Ash rather hastily replied, his heart skipping a beat. "It's today, remember?"

He ended up saying last part a bit more forcefully than he would've liked. His mother appeared unfazed, though, instead giving the barest recognition that she even heard what Ash just said as she fought off the beginnings of another yawn.

"Ah, that's right," Delia lazily replied, ultimately losing her fight against said yawn. "Almost forgot about that..."

She then approached the kitchen counter and placed a cup into the nearby coffee maker. Hitting the "on" button, the machine filled the kitchen with a quiet hum as it performed its work. A sigh escaped from Delia as she rested herself on the kitchen counter, a pensive look forming on her face.

"Time sure flies, doesn't it?" Delia said ostensibly to Ash, even as she stared off into the distance like she was talking to an invisible friend instead. "It feels just like yesterday when I was eight years old and everything was so innocent and carefree. I mean, when you're eight years old, you can do whatever you want and be whoever you want to be; the whole world's your oyster."

Another sigh escaped her, one much heavier than last time. "How times have changed..."

BEEP! The coffee maker was done. Delia took out the cup right as the last drop of coffee fell from the machine, hot steam hitting her face as she took in the aroma of the drink in front of her.

"Technology is incredible, isn't it?" said Delia, again to no one in particular. "Thank God for one-minute coffee..."

As Delia took her first, long sip of coffee, Ash took this as his cue to step away and leave for summer camp, which was about to start at any moment.

"Wait a minute, Ash!"

"Huh?" He stopped in his tracks at the surprisingly clear sound of his mother's voice; obviously, the coffee had done the trick for her.

"While you're out there," said Delia, "do try to make a new friend out there or something. You know, since it's summer camp. Everyone's going to be there."


"Please don't, Ash; I'm tired," Delia interrupted. "Last night was rough for me, and I'd really like to hear something good for a change. I mean, you only have one real friend anyway. Do you really think that you're going to survive in this world with just one friend?"

An increasingly uncomfortable silence crept into the room as Ash struggled to find a response for his mother.

"Well, Ash?"

"N-No..." Ash ultimately said.

"Right," Delia replied simply. "So go find one. Do something that you can be proud of today."

She took another sip of her coffee before addressing her son again.

"I guess you'd better get going now, huh?"

"Yeah," Ash responded as he reached again for the door handle. "See you later, Mom."

"See you," said Delia, shifting her attention back to her coffee as Ash opened the door and left the house.
* * * * * * *
A gentle breeze greeted Ash as he stepped out into the outside world. From his doorstep, Ash could clearly see the expanse of mountains that flanked the north side of Pallet Town near Route 1, all covered in a seemingly endless expanse of evergreen trees. The view of the mountains juxtaposed with the plains of Pallet Town made the town look larger and grander than it really was, but in reality, the houses and pavement on the ground in front of Ash summarized almost the entirety of what the town had to offer.

There was, however, one exception: Professor Oak's laboratory. The town's sole and defining landmark, the lab was situated on top of its own little mountain right in the middle of Pallet Town, overlooking everything. One could have mistaken the lab at first glance as simply a larger version of one of the near-identical houses on the ground if it weren't for the sheer size of the structure: a two-story monstrosity split into a smaller space about the size of Ash's house on the right, and a much larger, much taller section on the left that almost resembled a giant barn in Ash's eyes. The rounded metallic red roof of the larger part of the lab, along with the building's muted yellow facade and its large open windows, drove the difference home. Perhaps the single most distinguishing part of the lab, however, was the massive wind turbine located just behind the building, towering over it and all of Pallet Town. Its bright yellow blades spun slowly yet dutifully with the help of the gentle breeze sourced from the ocean waves in the south, providing both the lab and the entirety of Pallet Town with its sole source of energy.

Professor Oak's laboratory, however, would not be Ash's destination for the day, as he knew all too well. Rather, he started walking towards the west side of Pallet Town, where he soon spotted a wide expanse of trees in the distance, all forming the border of a massive forest. A pair of bright yellow cones marked an entryway into said forest: a large, dark void from which not even the slightest glimmer of light could be seen.

Ash's heartbeat grew faster and faster with every step that he took towards the trees. And with every step, he fought back the ever-growing urge to turn around and run away; away from the forest and away from summer camp altogether. Those thoughts remained with him as he eventually reached the bright yellow cones and found himself staring straight into the dark void in front of him.

The unknown was in there, Ash knew, and he literally shuddered at the thought of it. But then, he knew that all of his hopes and dreams were in there, too. Because if he couldn't make it through this forest, he realized, then he could never make it through Viridian Forest, Mt. Moon, or even Route 1, let alone ever make it through the Pokémon League Challenge or stand on the same stage as the Champion of Kanto. And if he couldn't fulfill his dream...

Ash shook his head. No! he told himself, a sudden fire rising within him. I can't be a crybaby. I will make it through this forest!

He took a single step towards the void.

And summer camp too!

His one step become two, then three, and then four...

I'll beat every gym, and the Elite Four, and the Champion!

...and then his steps became a steady walk, straight into the void.

I will become a Pokémon Master!

And so, not looking back, Ash disappeared into the darkness and began his journey inside.
* * * * * * *
Ash had only taken a few steps into the forest before the burning fire within him was replaced by an overwhelming sense of dread. Although the forest wasn't actually as bad as Ash had been expecting — instead being well-lit and even kind of pretty with bright beams of morning sunlight bursting through the tree leaves above — he couldn't help but fear the possibility of something horrible happening to him in these woods. He had heard stories of people getting ensnared in the labyrinth of Viridian Forest, or making a wrong turn in the deep, dark caverns of Mt. Moon, never to be seen again... or rather, never to be seen alive again. And as Ash pondered over the fates suffered by those unfortunate souls, he wondered what the chances were that he would meet one of those fates himself, in this dark and creepy forest where wild Pokémon were almost certainly—


That sound — a loud, rapid crunching sound — snapped Ash out of his current train of thought, all while instantly eliminating what little solace he may have found over the past few moments. His fear returned in their place, fueled by the realization that there was only one thing in the forest that could make a sound like that: a wild Pokémon.

crunchcrunchcrunch... the sound continued. Ash could easily tell where the sound was coming from; it was somewhere to his left. Did he dare turn around to look? Or, Ash thought, should he just run and get away right now? But maybe then that would make it angry, Ash reasoned further; he couldn't decide what to do.

crunchcrunchcrunch... still the sound continued, and still Ash stood there, paralyzed by indecision. After a little while, however, his curiosity got the better of him as he slowly, daringly turned his head left towards the source of the sound. There, about five feet away from him, was a tree covered with leaves, and on top of one of those leaves was a Weedle.

A Bug-type Pokémon with a small, bright yellow larva-shaped body, Weedle was currently busy munching on one of the many leaves covering the base of the tree, confirming the source of the crunching sound. Ash recognized this particular species of Pokémon immediately, as it was one of the many Pokémon that he, along with every other child in Pallet Town, learned about in school. While he couldn't recall everything that he read about Weedle, he most definitely remembered its two sharp stingers — a large one on its head and a smaller one on its tail — and how they both held a potent venom that Weedle used to ward off both attackers and anyone unfortunate enough to step on it.

That last fact in particular made Ash want to get away from Weedle as quickly as possible, and as it turned out, it apparently didn't even notice that he was there; he had an opportunity to run. But he couldn't help but keep staring at Weedle as it continued to munch on its breakfast of leaves. With each bite, Ash could hear Weedle quietly utter a high-pitched sound that vaguely resembled its name: wee... wee... wee... Even with the limited facial expressions that Weedle were capable of compared to humans or most other Pokémon — it barely even had a visible mouth, for instance — Ash could tell that it was in utter bliss at the moment. It appeared completely relaxed and carefree, with its eyes closed as if it was in the middle of a idyllic dream; each of its sounds might as well have been light snores. For a second, Ash actually thought that Weedle looked kind of adorable there...

...and then it noticed him.

The Pokémon, upon spotting Ash, immediately stopped eating its leaf and stared straight at him, its expression blank and completely unreadable. Ash was struck with fear as he instantly regretted not fleeing from the scene back when he had the chance. He then began wondering if he had made Weedle angry with his presence, and if he was about to incur its wrath in the form of an assault with one of its venomous stingers. But he didn't have much time to contemplate that as Weedle suddenly leapt from its current position — a seemingly impossible feat for a creature that small — and landed near the base of the tree, a mere two feet away from Ash.

Ash himself, who had nearly expected Weedle to impale him with one of its stingers right then and there, cried out in both surprise and panic. If there was any time to run, he knew, now was it. But he couldn't; he could only stand there completely petrified with fear as Weedle continued to stare at him with that same blank, unreadable face. Unfortunately for Ash, things became even more frightening for him as Weedle suddenly took a single, tiny inch towards him. And then another. And then another, and another, and another, each time accompanied by that same high-pitched cry:

wee... wee... wee... wee... wee...


That was enough for Ash. With absolutely no hesitation whatsoever, Ash made a beeline towards the end of the path of the yellow cones, not once looking back to see if Weedle was following him, or possibly flying through the air again to attack him with one of its stingers. And even as he ran many, many feet away from where Weedle last stood, Ash could practically feel the sensation of a sharp object impaling him in the back practically every other moment, although nothing like that ever actually came to be.

Before long, Ash stopped in his tracks, leaning down and resting his hands on his knees in total exhaustion. His heart was beating so fast that if he had ran any faster or if Weedle had frightened him any greater, he might as well had received that stinger...

"There you are!"

Hearing a voice to his side, Ash turned around to see a familiar face, but not the one that he had been expecting. He assumed he would eventually run into Professor Oak somewhere, but instead he found himself in the presence of Daisy Oak: the granddaughter of Professor Oak.

"Hey there, Ash!" Daisy greeted with a radiant smile on her face. "Long time no see! You're literally just in time. I guess all of that running back there did the trick, huh?"

Ash didn't respond, having not entirely recovered from what he had just experienced not too long ago. His condition wasn't lost on Daisy, who looked at him worriedly.

"Um, are you OK, Ash? You look like you just saw a ghost or something."

"I-I'm fine..." Ash hastily replied, still panting from all the running he had done. Daisy, however, looked rather unconvinced.

"Ash, were you running from a Pokémon back there?"

No way... how could she know that?


Even though he was certain that Daisy would see right through that lie, he couldn't find the strength to admit that he had in fact been running from a Pokémon... and a tiny bug one, of all things.

"It was a Weedle, wasn't it?"

Darn it... she even knew exactly what Pokémon it was! But how!?

"Ash, you don't have to be afraid to tell me. I promise I won't laugh at you or tease you about it, OK? Now, was it a Weedle?"

There was no getting out of this one, Ash knew. With some hesitation, he lightly, barely nodded.

At first, Daisy said nothing and did nothing, appearing completely and strangely unfazed by Ash's response. But before long, Ash could see a smile forming on her face, which soon gave way to giggles, and then finally to flat-out laughter that Daisy could barely control. So much for that promise...

"Oh, Ash! Weedle are completely harmless! They're one of those don't-bother-them-and-they-won't-bother-you type of Pokémon. You didn't try to kick one or anything, right?"


"Great, then you didn't die!"


"Ha ha! Just kidding, Ash!" Daisy laughed again, apparently ignoring the wide-eyed look on Ash's increasingly distressed-looking face. "But seriously, they really won't hurt you. Now Caterpie, on the other hand; those things are vicious! They'll crawl up your leg and stare at you with their little cute-face, and just when you think you've met the most adorable Pokémon ever... faaawooosh! They'll trap you with their String Shot and make you their dinner! And don't even get me started about Butterf— oh."

Daisy could now see Ash practically shaking where he stood, his eyes just a few seconds away from exploding in an ocean's worth of tears. She scratched the back of her head in embarrassment as she realized that she probably went a bit too far with her description there, and she couldn't help but laugh at her own over-enthusiasm.

"Sorry about that, Ash," said Daisy, placing a gentle hand on Ash's shoulder. "Why don't we just get out of here and meet up with the others?"

Ash nodded in agreement, very much relieved at the idea of finally leaving the forest. And with that, the two continued walking through the forest together.
* * * * * * *
It wasn't long into Ash and Daisy's walk through the forest before an awkward silence began to creep in, the result of neither of the two saying a word to each other since their walk began. It also wasn't long, however, before the latter broke the silence.

"So Ash," Daisy began, "how's life been treating you?"

"OK," Ash replied, not in a particularly enthusiastic manner. He knew exactly where a conversation like this would go — "How's school? Have you made another friend yet? How's your mother been doing?" — and so he hastily followed through with a question of his own:

"H-How did you know that I saw a Weedle?"

"Well," Daisy began, "wild Pokémon don't really appear in this part of Pallet Town; not usually, anyway. Gramps and I have been doing experiments here to see how Pokémon from the wild adapt to different habitats. We had Caterpie and Rattata here a few weeks ago — and wow, you don't want to put them together — but we chose Weedle this week because we figured that they wouldn't bother anyone coming through for summer camp. You know, since they're so docile and all."

"Oh," said Ash, not really understanding much of anything that Daisy just said, but trying his best to sound like he did anyway. He was, however, rather curious about Daisy's earlier claim about Weedle, namely:

"Do they... r-really not bother anyone?"

Daisy blinked at Ash's question, confused. "No, they really don't. Why do you ask?"

"I-I think one of them tried to attack me..."

"That's... pretty unlikely, Ash," Daisy replied simply. "You'll probably find this strange, but if I had to guess, I'd say that it was probably trying to be your friend. They can be... well, kind of over-enthusiastic about things at times."

Daisy said that last part with a smile, but Ash — try as he might — simply couldn't share her joy in talking about a Pokémon like Weedle. He shuddered at the thought of it and was simply thankful that the conversation about Weedle was most likely over at that point, even if it meant that Ash and Daisy no longer had anything to talk about, and that awkward silence would no doubt start to creep in once again.

"Hey, you found Ash!"

Or so he thought, before a new figure suddenly appeared in the distance and started running over to join him and Daisy.

"There you are!"


It was indeed Gary Oak, the younger brother of Daisy and the grandson of Professor Oak. Standing right next to each other, Ash could see that the two siblings were the spitting image of each other in many ways — the same deep, barely visible viridian eye color; the same dark auburn hair — yet in many ways they were quite different — Gary's narrow, piercing eye shape vs. Daisy's more bright and open ones; an almost impossible-looking spiky hairstyle vs. long, feminine waves running slightly down the back and framing the face.

"You were right, sis!" Gary said to his sister. "He really was in the forest the whole time!"

"I told you he would be," Daisy replied happily. "Now you know what that means: you owe me some Pokédollars, mister!"

"Wait, what!?"

"Yeah, remember you said that Ash was probably still in bed this whole time, and then I said 'wanna bet he's in the forest instead?'" Daisy replied with an increasingly wide grin on her face, seemingly ignoring the increasingly incredulous expression on her brother's. "And then you said 'you're on!'"

"I-I w-was just kidding with that, sis!" Gary protested.

"Oh no, Gary!" Daisy countered as she playfully wagged a finger at Gary. "You can't back out of a bet; not with your own sister! Now, I think that ten Pokédollars sounds fair?"

"Ten Pokédollars!?" Gary cried out. "That's crazy, sis!"

"Winners choose the terms," Daisy shrugged. "Now show me the cash!"

"Right now!?"


Gary sighed as he began reaching into his pocket. But before he could cough up any Pokédollars for Daisy, she abruptly took him by the arm and pulled him into a tight, sisterly hug, all while laughing hysterically.

"Oh, Gary; I knew you were kidding back there! You gullible thing, you..."

Ash, having witnessed the entire exchange in confused fascination, expected Gary to blush in embarrassment at his sister's antics, but was surprised to see a hint of sadness appear on his face instead.

"You... wouldn't really trick me into giving you ten Pokédollars, right?" Gary asked his sister, surprising her somewhat and leading her to respond with a rather worried look her face.

"What? Of course not," Daisy replied, squeezing her brother tighter as her smile began to return. "You know I always like to mess with you, Gary."

"I know," said Gary, his melancholy gradually giving way to a smile of his own.

"Don't take it so hard, okay?" said Daisy as she let go of her brother, but not before quickly and playfully rubbing her hand through his thick spiky hair, much to his chagrin. "Now, you should really be heading over to Gramps right now. You know how much he hates waiting—"

"Huh?" Ash interjected, startled by what Daisy just said. "Gary, aren't you going to summer camp?"

Unfortunately for Ash, the increasingly less-than-happy expressions on both Oaks' faces almost immediately answered that question for him.

"Sorry, Ash," Gary replied. "I never got a chance to tell you, but... I'm not gonna be at summer camp this year. Gramps is making me do something for him and—"

Ash's heart sank at the revelation, to the point where the whole world disappeared for him at that very moment. While he had been dreading the thought of going to summer camp from the moment he realized that he was going, he had also been holding on to the knowledge that Gary would be there, as he had been every year. Unfortunately, Ash now knew that he wouldn't have that support to hold on to; he was alone.

"Um, Ash? Are you alright?"

Ash was thrust back into reality by Daisy's voice, who along with her brother stared at him with an increasingly concerned look on her face.

"Y-Yeah, I'm fine!" Ash hastily answered. "But, w-who's gonna be my partner for summer camp?"

"Hmm... I'm not sure, Ash," said Gary, looking thoughtfully into the distance as he contemplated his friend's concerns. "Oh, wait a minute! You could try talking to that new girl that's here! You know, the one with the blonde hair, blue eyes, and big straw hat? You know who I'm talking about, right?"

Ash shook his head, having absolutely no idea who Gary was talking about.

"Well, you can't miss her!" Gary continued. "You'd better get over there; she might even have a partner already! And I'm sure she can use a friend and all, so she'd be great for you. Right, sis?"

"Well, she's, um... let's just stay optimistic about it, right?" Daisy rather nervously replied.

"Um, right," Gary replied to his sister, looking thoroughly confused at her reaction. "Now," — he turned back to Ash — "I've really gotta get going before Gramps gets mad at me."

He then charged in the opposite direction towards the forest, waving to his friend as he ran. "Smell ya later, Ash!"

"See you..." Ash waved back, but by the time he answered, Gary was already gone. Now alone with Ash again, Daisy turned to him with a sympathetic look on her face.

"Hey Ash," she said to him, "I know you're disappointed that Gary isn't going to be at summer camp this year."

"But hey," Daisy continued, her smile returning, "At least you'll get the chance to make some new friends! Just... be careful with that new girl, OK? I hear she can be a handful."

Ash nodded, after which Daisy turned her attention to a large grassy clearing several feet in front of both of them, surrounded by trees and occupied by a large circle of children around Ash's age.

"Now, everyone's right down there," said Daisy, pointing at the clearing for Ash to see. "They've been waiting for you, so let's not keep them waiting for too much longer, okay? I'll be right behind you in a bit."

Ash simply nodded again as Daisy ran off towards where Gary went, leaving him alone for now. He continued forward towards the clearing and towards his fellow summer camp participants, and as he came closer, he was immediately greeted with stares; some from people that Ash knew from school, and some from people that he had never seen before.

One person, however, didn't stare at him at all, which caught Ash's attention. Sitting relatively isolated from everyone else in the circle was a girl with golden blonde hair, a long pink dress, and... a large, pink-ribboned straw hat.

So that's who Gary was talking about, Ash realized. She seemed rather uninterested in interacting with any of the other kids around her, even as everyone else appeared to be quite interested in her, for reasons that Ash was unaware of. He could see several of his classmates stare at the straw hat girl every once in a while and have low, whispered conversations right after, which Ash could only assume were about her. She didn't seem to have many friends here, Ash thought, which made him wonder if maybe he himself could befriend this girl and perhaps get to know a little bit more about her.

As he started to walk over to where the straw hat girl was, he began thinking about how he would approach her without completely embarrassing himself.

Hi! My name's Ash, and I've heard that you're new here. I don't know if anyone's talked to you yet, but I was wondering if maybe you and I can be friends?

That sounded simple enough, Ash thought, but he could already feel his fear returning as he sat himself next to straw hat girl and opened his mouth to speak. Knowing that it was now or never before said fear overwhelmed him completely, he turned around to the straw hat girl, took a deep breath and...



The straw hat girl turned around to Ash, her light yet radiant blue eyes meeting his.

"M-My name's Ash," he went on. "I-I've... heard that you're new here..."

He could see the straw hat girl's face darken ever so slightly at his last few words. Nonetheless, Ash continued:

"Um, I-I don't know if anyone's... t-talked to you yet, but I was wondering if... m-maybe you and I can be frien—"

"Hmph!" the straw hat girl sharply and suddenly replied, turning away from Ash with her arms crossed tight. Ash, completely blindsided by her response, only managed to eek out a quiet "o-okay, n-never mind..." before looking down at the ground in shame. Needless to say — and to Ash's great disappointment and embarrassment — he would not be making friends with her anytime soon.

"Don't worry about her too much," Ash suddenly heard a voice above him say. "She's been acting that way with all of us."

Startled, he looked up to see a familiar face staring at him: a long-haired brunette girl with a signature bright white-and-red hat, its design roughly resembling the bottom half of a Poké Ball.

"L-Leaf?" Ash exclaimed in surprise, recognizing her instantly from the many classes at school that he shared with her.

"Yep, that's me," the young girl named Leaf replied as Ash stared curiously at the rest of her attire, a rather sporty outfit that seemed more fit for a marathon than an innocent day at summer camp. "You didn't think I wouldn't be here, did you?"


He could hear a light sigh escape from Leaf at his response.

"You weren't actually supposed to answer that, Ash."

"S-Sorry," Ash replied weakly, but Leaf seemed to ignore him as she sat herself down next to him. She remained silent long enough afterwards for Ash to assume that she was done speaking with him, until he turned around to see Leaf looking in his direction with a rather concerned look on her face.

"Ash, where's Gary?" she asked Ash, locking eyes with him again as she noticed his stare.

"H-He's, um... n-not coming to summer camp this year," Ash stuttered, caught off-guard by Leaf's sudden question.

"What!?" Leaf cried out in shock before crossing her arms in frustration. "Phooey! I was looking forward to crushing him at whatever we're doing this year."

Leaf didn't elaborate any further, and Ash chose not to inquire further. However, one question did come to his mind:

"Um, Leaf?" Ash tentatively whispered to her. "W-Who exactly is this girl anyway?"

Leaf went wide-eyed almost instantly at his question, every inch of her face exploding in complete and utter incredulity.

"You don't know who she is?" Leaf hissed back to Ash. "Seriously!?"

He shook his head.

"Ash, do you even watch TV at all?"


"Helloooooo, everyoneeeeee!"

That was Daisy's voice, which echoed from the distance sounding loud and rather distorted, almost as if it was being amplified by a megaphone. And indeed, everyone turned around to see Daisy Oak entering the circle with a giant megaphone in her hand. She appeared as enthusiastic as her greeting suggested (maybe even too much so, if the bewildered expressions on everyone's faces said anything), and a smile adorned her face as she prepared to speak again, this time — and perhaps thankfully — without the megaphone.

"Hello again, and welcome to another year of Professor Oak's summer camp! I'm sure that all of you are excited, right?"

A loud chorus of cheering sounded in response. Ash didn't join in — only managing a weak attempt at a smile — and he suspected that the straw hat girl didn't either, but he didn't dare look in her direction to find out.

"Great!" Daisy continued. "Although I'm sure some of you are wondering where Professor Oak himself is right now. I mean, it's not called Professor Oak's summer camp for nothing, right? Well unfortunately, I've got some not-so-great news for you all. Professor Oak... won't actually be here for summer camp this year."

That statement went considerably less well with the children, who became increasingly unruly as they complained loudly about the news.

"OK, quiet everyone!" said Daisy, trying to take back control over the situation. "Quiet! Alright. You see, Professor Oak is working on a really big project right now. Like, really big. So he simply can't make it to summer camp this time. Sorry! But... someone's gotta take over summer camp, right? Well, that someone's gonna be me, Daisy Oak!"

Dead silence categorized everyone's response this time; clearly, no one felt particularly enthusiastic about that.

"Not too excited, huh?" Daisy responded to her audience, cheerful-sounding as ever, although Ash caught a brief flash of disapproval on her face. "Well, that's OK; I understand. I'm no Professor Oak, after all. But if you can't get excited about me, then let's get excited for our first activity of the day: a treasure hunt!"

That seemed to command everyone's full attention again, much to Daisy's immediately evident pleasure.

"Alright, some excitement from you guys this time! Now, I'm sure you all know how a treasure hunt works, right? There's a whole bunch of stuff that I've hidden in this forest here. Your goal is to find as many items as you can and bring them all back here. The person with the most items in the end wins! Simple, right?"

"I have a question," Leaf piped up. "How are we supposed to actually carry all of this stuff? I mean, if it's a treasure hunt, we're supposed to have a lot of things, right?"

That actually was a pretty good question, Ash thought. Daisy, however, didn't really seem to have an answer for Leaf, if the increasingly nervous look on her face was any indication.

"Well, I, uh... just carry as much stuff as you can, OK?"

"But that means that we're all gonna have the same amount of items!" another girl responded from the opposite side of the circle. "How is anyone gonna win?"

"Don't worry about it!" Daisy responded again, this time looking considerably more flustered than before. "This isn't a competition or anything; we're all just here to have fun!"

"But winning is fun!" yet another kid squealed, this time a boy a few persons down from Ash. "What's the point of a treasure hunt if someone doesn't wi—"

"I said don't worry about it!" Daisy suddenly shouted, this time using the megaphone. Her amplified voice crackled through the phone and cut sharply through the air, sending many of the kids' hands flying towards their ears to block the incredibly painful sound. And as Ash did the same, he could swear that he saw fire rising in Daisy's eyes as she said her words. But said fire ultimately faded almost as quickly, replaced by the same friendly eyes that Ash was familiar with along with a smile on her face, all as if nothing had even happened just a few seconds ago.

"Wow, I actually surprised myself there!" said Daisy in her normal, non-amplified voice. "Sorry, guys! But seriously, don't worry about it. Anyway, you'll all have thirty minutes to explore this forest and find as many items as you can for the treasure hunt! You can go anywhere you want, so long as you don't go past the cones and yellow tape; you'll know it when you see them. And if you're one of those people who are worried about getting lost in the forest and getting eaten alive by a Rattata or something like that," — she then winked at Ash with a quick and mischievous smile, causing him to flinch in place before blushing in embarrassment — "then simply stay within the cones and yellow tape! And when there's only five minutes left, I'll let you know! Just listen for the sound on my voice on the megaphone; you won't miss it!"

Ash was quite sure of that, given his still-fresh experience with the power of said megaphone. But his thoughts turned elsewhere as he began to wonder how he was actually going to go about doing this treasure hunt. He could already see his classmates converse amongst themselves with determined and plotting faces, almost certainly forming teams; teams that he was sure he was about to be left out of. In a burst of desperation, Ash turned over to Leaf, only to find that she had already run off with someone else. And so in another burst of desperation, he turned over to the straw hat girl...

"So if everyone's ready," Daisy's voice called out, "let's get this treasure hunt started! On the count of three: one, two, three!"

At "three", the circle of children exploded into chaos as everyone executed their plans to achieve treasure hunt victory. Ash, meanwhile, was left in the proverbial dust as he simply remained where he was, paralyzed by indecision and anxiety. Even the straw hat girl was gone, Ash realized, having obviously run off in some direction; with whom, if anyone, he had no idea. All he knew, and all that mattered, was that it wasn't him, and that he was alone once again.


He turned around to see that Daisy was still standing there, staring at him with a perplexed look on her face.

"Um, what are you still doing here, Ash?" said Daisy. "You're gonna fall behind if you don't get started! Go on and win that treasure hunt!"

Ash didn't share her excitement, but he knew that he had little choice. He turned towards a random direction into the forest and ran off, being greeted by many extremely thick bushes and other exotic-looking flora that were a far cry from what he had traveled through earlier.

"Don't forget about the cones and yellow tape!" the now-very distant voice of Daisy echoed as Ash disappeared into the new dark and intimidating part of the forest ahead of him.
* * * * * * *
Ash found that he didn't really have any meaningful strategy for the treasure hunt as he began the first few minutes of his search. He ended up simply randomly scanning the area to see if he could find any typical hiding places for treasure hunt items, but all he could see was trees, more trees, and not much else. And it didn't help that he wasn't sure about what he was supposed to be actually looking for, either.

As Ash took his search to some bushes and found nothing there either, he felt himself feeling increasingly depressed at his utter lack of luck. Were treasure hunts always this hard, Ash wondered, or was he just that horrible at them?

...yeah, that was it, Ash concluded. He couldn't do anything right, could he? He couldn't make any new friends, he couldn't go five minutes in a forest without being frightened by a Weedle of all Pokémon, and he looked like he wasn't going to be able to find even a single thing for this treasure hunt, either. He could hear the laughter of his classmates already...

Speaking of which, where was everyone? Ash thought, realizing that he hadn't seen anyone else the entire time he had been searching so far. Surely he should've run into someone by now; the forest couldn't be that big, right? Especially with the cones and yellow tape around...

Actually, where were the cones and yellow tape, anyway? Ash realized, scanning for them before coming up empty. He shouldn't be that far into the forest if he could find them, right? But if that was the case, then where exactly was he right now?

He did wonder why the forest was so dark, and in a moment of realization, he knew why. It was because he was deeper into the forest that any child should've been allowed to go into, and there were no cones or yellow tape to stop him. He had no idea how he managed to get himself to this point, but ultimately, the reason didn't matter. What did matter was a single resultant fact, one that Ash was now keenly aware of as he stared at the seemingly endless expanse of trees and bushes surrounding him.

He was lost.
* * * * * * *
Ash wandered around the forest, unsure of what to do. He considered simply waiting until Daisy's voice sounded on the megaphone, after which he could simply follow the sound back to camp. But if he really was lost, Ash thought, then he could be so deep in the forest right now that he may not even hear it. But if it actually was loud enough for him to hear, then—


Ash heard a weak, high-pitched cry just below him, one that could have easily belonged to a baby. He looked down to see a tiny blue Pokémon that barely reached past his knee, its body shaped like a circle and its stomach sporting a distinguishing swirl pattern. Like Weedle, Ash recognized this one from his studies at school; its name was Poliwag, a Water-type Pokémon. It stared straight at Ash with its large eyes, looking neither displeased nor particularly happy to see him, and in fact appearing rather confused at his presence.

It was then, however, that Ash had an idea.

"H-Hey... I'm lost," he said to the Water-type Pokémon. "Do you know if there's a way out of here?"

In retrospect, Ash realized that trying to talk to Poliwag was a rather foolish idea. It wouldn't have been able to say anything back to him — anything other than its name, anyway, as was the case with all Pokémon — which meant that asking it for something like directions would've been completely futile, assuming that it actually knew anything in the first place. And perhaps most relevantly to Ash at that moment, Poliwag were never renowned for their friendliness, a fact that Ash was about the learn the hard way. He was caught off-guard by the Poliwag's increasingly angry face in response to his question, but it was the deep breath that it took almost immediately afterwards — as if preparing to launch an attack — that alerted Ash to the full extent of its feelings, and signaled that he was about to be in serious trouble.

The very next second, a mighty, high-pressure jet of water launched out of Poliwag's mouth, headed directly towards Ash. He ducked, barely dodging the attack as it instantly took out a patch of the thick bushes behind him, leaving a deep hole in its wake. Panicking, Ash turned around to the closest opening he could find and ran off, once again finding himself running away from a wild Pokémon. This time, however, he didn't have to wonder whether or not he was being followed as he heard Poliwag's cry not far behind him, the small yet surprisingly agile Pokémon keeping up with Ash easily.

Before long, Ash felt the ground beneath him decline as he found himself running down a steep slope. He could see the bottom just a few feet from where he was, but before he could think about anything else he felt something hard hit his right foot, and before he knew it he was in the air, now flying rather than running down the rest of the way down the slope. He was ultimately released into a grassy clearing bathed in rays of sunlight, and Ash yelped his pain as he landed squarely on his left knee and skidded some inches on the ground after impact, marking the end of his brief yet frightening flight.

Barely a moment after Ash landed, Poliwag caught up with the young boy and stopped mere feet in front of him with its most agitated expression yet, before taking another deep breath. Ash, being in no position to run any further, resigned himself to his fate and braced himself for Poliwag's Water Gun attack...

...but instead, he found himself being "attacked" in quite a different way.

"Poliwag!" the Pokémon yelled at Ash, its cry ferocious even in its almost childishly high pitch. "Poli Poilwag! Poli Poli Poli!"

"I'm sorry!" Ash cried out to the angry Poliwag. "P-Please don't hurt me!"

Poliwag, ultimately, did nothing of the sort. Rather, it simply turned its nose up at Ash before strutting back into the forest, leaving him alone again.

For what felt like an eternity to him, Ash just laid there on the ground, completely overcome with shock at what he had just experienced. His body ached all over from the fall, but nothing ached more than his left knee, which he knew probably looked horrible right now; there would almost certainly be a scar there. Tears formed in Ash's eyes as he began to process the full extent of his pain — physical and otherwise — and even though he held them back as hard as he could, he knew that it was a losing battle; he was the "crybaby", after all. Eventually he gave up trying, and before long he began to sob loudly and uncontrollably, soaking the ground beneath him with an endless stream of tears.

Ash's crying was soon interrupted, however, by the sound of rustling in one of the bushes at the edge of clearing, causing his fear to return yet again. Had Poliwag returned, Ash wondered, or did it bring friends with it this time, too? As infinite possibilities rushed through Ash's mind, the rustling sound became ever so louder, and its source ever so closer to Ash. Not knowing what he else he could do, he closed his eyes and prepared for the worst.

The rustling sound occurred yet again, louder than it ever was. Ash knew that whatever was in the bushes had just come out, and that it was almost certainly right in front of him at that very moment.


It was a soft voice. And most importantly, it was a girl's voice, not a Pokémon's...

"Hey!" the voice practically shouted at him, this time in a clearly more irritated tone. It was then that Ash realized: his eyes were still closed, weren't they? With some bravery, he opened his eyes to the girl in front of him...

...and found a pair of piercing blue eyes staring straight at him, belonging to none other than the straw hat girl.

[continued on the next page...]
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Impressionist Bakuphoon
The sight of her startled Ash and sent him jumping back several feet, an act accompanied by a brief but high-pitched cry that seemed more befitting of a wild Pokémon than an eight-year-old boy. He would've never imagined that he would meet this girl again under these circumstances — or at all — and he was in no way whatsoever prepared for the encounter. All that he was able to say was:

"W-What are you doing here?"

He instantly regretted saying those words as he watched the straw hat girl's expression change from almost fascinated confusion to flat-out annoyance.

"Huh!? I'm explorin'! Wassit to you, anyway?"

Her voice... it was the complete opposite of what Ash had expected. Or rather, her speech patterns were; they almost made her sound like she belonged to another region, or — if Ash had to be completely honest with himself — like she came from some backwater country region or something. Where does this girl come from!? Ash wondered. But then a more immediately relevant question came to mind:

"Exploring? But, w-what about the treasure hunt?"

"What about it?" the straw hat girl almost immediately snapped back, startling Ash with the sheer speed at which she answered him. "It's a stupid game anyway; just runnin' around in circles lookin' for some stupid, worthless stuff. But what are you doin' here, if you're so worried about that treasure hunt? You explorin' too or somethin'?"

"I-I fell and... h-hurt my knee..." Ash told her, his tears returning as he was reminded of his pain.

"Lemme guess; you tripped on a rock or somethin'?" the straw hat girl replied, clearly unmoved by said tears. "Quit cryin' already; it can't be that bad. I mean, I fell from a tree as high as that one once," — she pointed at a seemingly random tree above — "and I never cried!"

"But it really, really hurts!" Ash cried out, which merely earned him a heavy, exasperated sigh from the straw hat girl.

"If it's really that bad," she told Ash, "why don't you just go back to camp and get it checked out or somethin'?"

"I-I'm lost."

"Ah," the straw hat girl lazily replied, before turning around and pointing in the direction that Ash originally came from.

"If you go up that hill and take a left through those trees," she told Ash, "you'll see those cones that they put everywhere. Follow them and they'll lead you right back to camp."


"Uh-huh. Now if you excuse me, I've got some explorin' to do..."

And with that, she began walking towards the opposite side of the clearing to go deeper into the forest. Ash, meanwhile, was more eager than ever to get out of the forest, even with the embarrassment of knowing that he would most definitely not be bringing anything back for the treasure hunt at this point. That became the least of his worries, however, as he took his first step and felt a stinging, paralyzing pain in his knee, which, of course, was his injured knee. An involuntary cry of pain burst out of Ash, catching the attention of the straw hat girl just as she was about to disappear into the bushes.

"You've gotta be kiddin' me! You can't even walk!?"

Clearly, Ash had caught her ire as well. Against his better judgement but in the face of bitter reality, Ash shook his head no. He expected to earn yet another irritated look from the straw hat girl, but instead she stared off into the distance, indeed looking slightly annoyed but also rather conflicted, as if she was torn between helping Ash again or just leaving him there. Before long, however, she made her choice; with a sigh, the straw hat girl walked back over to Ash.

"Lemme take a look at that knee..."

It wasn't a request. Before Ash even could even think about objecting or doing anything else, the straw hat girl was already right in front of him and in the middle of crouching down to his knee.

"Hold still," she ordered as she took an up-close look at Ash's injury. It was then that he realized that he never actually saw it up-close himself; he had been too busy crying over it to actually look. He joined the straw hat girl in observing the wound, and it was ultimately everything that he had feared it would be. His knee had been scraped well below the skin, with blood and dirt visible all over. Just looking at it was painful, and the straw hat girl, who winced noticeably at the sight, clearly would've agreed with that assessment.

"Okay, maybe this is kinda bad," she conceded, looking at the wound with worry. "I've got an idea, though; don't move!"

The straw hat girl looked down at the long pink dress she was wearing, and frowned at it. She then grabbed one of its edges and, with a strong, merciless tug, tore it straight across the front before going sharply and abruptly down, ultimately breaking a large piece of her dress apart. Ash, witnessing the act, stared wide-eyed at the straw hat girl with complete shock and disbelief, his eyes beginning to fill with tears yet again. The straw hat girl, meanwhile, didn't even flinch at either his reaction or what she just did as she lifted up the broken piece of dress for Ash to see.

"Never liked that one anyway," she told him simply. "Now hold still... and please stop cryin', okay?"

Ash sniffled in response, which the straw hat girl took as enough of an affirmative to shift her attention back towards Ash's injured knee. She then took the broken piece of dress and — with a surprisingly gentle hand, contrary to what Ash would've assumed from a girl like her — placed it on top of Ash's bleeding wound, creating a makeshift bandage out of it.

"This'll keep it from gettin' infected," the straw hat girl explained to Ash. "Trust me, you don't want that to happen..."

Ash took her word for it, not wanting to imagine what an infected version of his knee would look like. He watched as the straw hat girl then looped the makeshift bandage around the back of his knee and began making a knot there, and Ash had a sneaking suspicion about what she was about to do next.

"This'll hurt a little," the straw hat girl warned Ash before she rather abruptly tightened the knot on the bandage, causing Ash to wince in pain at the pressure. So much for a gentle hand...

"Told ya," said the straw hat girl, having obviously sensed the pain in Ash's face as she completed her amateur patch-up session. She then stoop up and began admiring her handiwork, ultimately appearing rather pleased with what she had accomplished. Ash, while not exactly feeling that much better, couldn't really find any reason to complain; on the contrary, she had done arguably one of the kindest things that anyone had done for him the entire day.

"Not the greatest bandage ever," the straw hat girl remarked, "but it'll have to do. Now, we're gonna wanna head back to camp and get that checked out by someone who can really fix that up."

Ash nodded in acknowledgement, right before he realized exactly what the straw hat girl had just said.

"Wait, w-we!?"

Ignoring Ash's surprise, the straw hat girl turned around and — rather inexplicably — lowered her back in front of him.

"Get on," she told Ash simply.


"On my back."

"On your back!?" Ash cried incredulously at the straw hat girl. "But—"

"Just do it," she snapped, startling Ash yet again with her ferocity. "I'm a strong girl; I can handle it."

Ash had his concerns about that claim, but he was in no position whatsoever to argue with the straw hat girl, let alone right after she agreed to do something that she clearly didn't really want to do. He lifted himself up from the ground — avoiding putting pressure on his left knee while doing so — and, with some hesitation, placed himself on the straw hat girl's back, grabbing at her shoulders for support. She grunted slightly at the weight, but after lowering herself a bit more, she managed to keep Ash steady on her back; clearly, she actually could handle it.

"I can't carry you up that hill back there, y'know," the straw hat girl informed Ash, who did wonder how she planned on carrying him up such a steep slope. "We're gonna have to find another way back."

Ash nodded, but the straw hat girl didn't seem to actually wait for his response before turning towards where she was originally about to leave. With a deep breath, she then pushed forward with Ash in tow on her back. Just as they were about to pass through the bushes, Ash suddenly realized that the entire time, he had neglected to ask the straw hat girl something very important: what her name was. She would've left without either of them even knowing each others' names, Ash realized in shame, and he knew that he should do something about that now, even as he could feel his usual anxiety rising up at the thought.

"Hey, I, um... n-never got your name..."

The very question made Ash feel incredibly uncomfortable, and he could only imagine what the straw hat girl was feeling right now, given how much of a hostile state she was in already. He was surprised, then, when she stopped and turned around at Ash with a completely puzzled look on her face.

"You... don't know who I am?"

Ash shook his head no, wondering why she would ask such a strange question; they definitely hadn't met before. The straw hat girl then shifted her gaze away from Ash and stared into space as if thinking deeply about something. Eventually she looked back at Ash, and it was then that she gave him something that Ash would have never expected from her in a million years:

A smile.

"I'm Serena."

Serena... what a strange name for someone who was anything but calm, Ash thought to himself.

"And what was your name again?"

Ash couldn't help but smile himself as he realized that he might not actually return to camp with nothing after all. And so, with some inevitable but brief hesitation, he answered her:

"I'm Ash."

[chapter end]
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Impressionist Bakuphoon
[Chapter 2]
Mirror Ash and Mirror Serena! The Perils of a Dangerous World!
~Prologue, Part 2~

The summer morning sunshine was out in full force as Ash and Serena travelled through the forest together, the former on the latter's back. Feeling rather disoriented at his unique position off the ground at first, Ash soon found that — in a funny sort of way — he actually kind of liked riding on Serena's back, even as an increasingly intense feeling of pain on his left knee reminded him why he was there in the first place.

As the minutes passed by, however, Ash could see his line of sight moving closer and closer to the ground as Serena finally began to struggle underneath Ash's weight.

"You can get off now..." said Serena, her voice strained and weak. "Please..."

Having just reached a grassy clearing surrounded by small trees and bushes, Ash let go of Serena and allowed himself to slip off the side of her back and land on his side onto the soft grassy ground below. Serena, panting in complete and utter exhaustion, threw herself onto the ground, taking in every moment of relief as she laid there.

"Wow," she said in-between breaths. "You... are... heavy!"

"I-I'm s-sorry..."

Ash didn't really mean to cause this girl so much trouble, and he couldn't help but feel guilty as he watched Serena crawl over to one of the edges of the clearing, nearly directly opposite from where Ash had himself just rested.

"Why do you say sorry so much?" Serena suddenly asked as she rested herself against a nearby tree.

Ash felt a brief urge to look away from Serena before he realized that curiosity, not annoyance, defined her face now. Rather caught off guard by her question — one that he had never really even thought about before — Ash could only manage to say:

"I-I, um, well..."

"Don't worry about it too much," Serena interrupted. "It's not really a problem, you bein' on my back. I mean, I've carried things almost as heavy as you before."

"Wait, what!?"

"Mm-hmm. I lived on a farm for years, y'know; since I was little. We did a whole buncha stuff, and we had to carry a whole buncha stuff. It was hard, but it was kinda fun, too."

A somewhat sad smile started to appear on Serena's face, but it quickly disappeared as she started talking again.

"Oh, and that's also why I've got..." She looked down at the ground, hesitating. "...well, y'know."

"Have what?"

Annoyance returned to Serena's face almost immediately as she rather loudly replied:

"An accent, of course!"

"A w-what...?"

Serena sighed. "Y'know how I'm kinda lazy with my words and say some of 'em wrong?" she said. "That's 'cause of my accent. Northwest Johto accent, if you wanna be exact about it."

So that's where she comes from, Ash realized to himself. He then noticed Serena looking down at the ground again, after which he somewhat hastily replied:

"I-I don't think you sound that different."

Serena looked back up at Ash and sighed again.

"You don't have to lie about it," she said. "I mean, it's not like I can hide it or anythin'; everybody knows about it. You're just too nice to talk about it."

Ash quickly realized that his comment didn't really make Serena feel any better, and a feeling of guilt quickly washed over him.

"I-I'm sorry—" he began to say.

"Again!?" Serena suddenly shouted, startling Ash. "Jeez, you don't have to say sorry for being nice! What's wrong with you?"

That particular outburst ended up being too much for Ash to handle, who responded by burying his head underneath his knees and crying again.

"Oh, man..." Ash heard Serena say. "Look, I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry. Just stop cryin'... please?"

Ash, however, didn't stop. A few seconds later, he heard Serena get up from her resting place and walk over to where he was, sitting herself down next to him.

"Look... it's not bad that you're nice or anythin'," Serena's voice said. "'Cause y'know, you're the only one who's been nice to me this whole time, so... thank you. For bein' nice."

After a few more sniffles, Ash slowly emerged from his hiding place, his water-filled eyes meeting Serena's ones. To his surprise, there was no hint of annoyance or contempt in them this time; rather, they were surprisingly warm and open.

"Do they bully you, too?" Ash suddenly asked Serena, feeling oddly compelled to do so. She didn't respond, but Ash could see a flash of sadness appear on her face as she stared pensively into the distance; the answer was clear.

"Y'know," Serena started to say, meeting Ash's eyes again, "my grandma used to say to me: 'Serena! Y'know it's good to be strong, especially when you're a girl! But you don't have to act strong all the time, y'know! Why don' you try bein' a lil' nicer every once in a while? It doesn't hurt to be nice, Serena!'"

She sighed yet again. "I didn't know what she meant by that, but I think I know now. I'm just too strong for my own good sometimes. I mean, I don't wanna be, but... sometimes I've gotta be."

"I think that you're a nice person, Serena," Ash told her.

"Nah, that's just you bein' nice again," Serena responded. "I mean, I've been treatin' you like dirt all day and I shouldn't have. You're not like the rest of 'em."

"But you can't be that bad," Ash replied. "I mean, you fixed my knee and let me get on your back and—"

"Y'know I was gonna just leave you there, Ash," Serena interrupted. "Like I said, I'm not nice."

"But you came back," said Ash. "And you said sorry for everything, too..."

Serena simply scoffed at him. "Like that means anythin'."

Ash then watched Serena stare off into the distance, looking rather angry. Not at him, he could tell, but rather about something else on her mind.

What a weird girl, Ash thought. But she really isn't that bad...

"You are kind of a crybaby, though," Serena suddenly piped up as she met eyes with Ash again, crossing her arms at him. "Tell me somethin'... you got any dreams or anythin'?"


"Like, what's your dream?" Serena repeated. "What do you wanna be when you grow up?"

Ash hesitated as he looked down at the ground again. "I, um, don't really have anything..."

"Oh, come on!" Serena shouted, startling Ash yet again; a brief flash of guilt appeared on her face before she took a second to relax herself somewhat.

"Everyone has somethin' they wanna be," Serena continued, slightly calmer this time. "Are you scared to say it or somethin'? C'mon, what's your dream?"

"I-I..." Ash stuttered, the words sticking over and over again in his throat before finally:

"I-I want to be a Pokémon Master."

Serena didn't respond immediately, instead staring at Ash with an expression that he couldn't read. Before long, however, Ash could see her start to chuckle a little bit.

"Ha ha, that's so funny..."

Ash started to look down in shame again.

"...'cause that's my dream, too!"

Ash lifted his head up, amazed. "Really!?"

"Hm-hmm!" Serena replied, a proud smile appearing on her face. "I was born with a Poké Ball in my hand! There's nothin' I'd rather be than a trainer, and then one day, the Champion! Guess that means we're gonna be rivals, huh?"

"Maybe," Ash replied, feeling depressed all of a sudden. "If I was any good at anything."

Serena sighed. "Lemme give you a lil' tip," she said to Ash. "If you really wanna be a Pokémon Master, then you've gotta stop being such a crybaby. Your Pokémon aren't gonna believe in you if you don't even believe in yourself!"


"Nuh-uh!" Serena cut him off. "No more of that crybaby stuff! You wanna be a Pokémon Master or not?"

"I-I do," Ash replied. "I'm... just not sure how. I'm not very good at this Pokémon stuff."

"Well, you're in luck," said Serena. "I may not look it, but I'd say that I'm pretty darn good at Pokémon battles. And I can't be havin' a crybaby rival, so y'know what? I'll help you."


"Yep!" Serena happily replied. "I'll teach you everythin' I know! Where do you wanna start?"

"Well, I..."

He paused.

"Wait a minute; how long have we been out here?"

Serena shrugged. "I dunno; twenty minutes, maybe?"

"Oh no!" Ash practically shouted in response, his heart skipping a beat. "The treasure hunt's probably over by now! We've gotta get back before—"

"Oh, calm down!" Serena interrupted. "They're not gonna get angry if we're just a lil' late, 'specially 'cause of your knee and all. And I betcha half the guys here got lost too."

She then got up from where she was sitting before taking a few steps towards the bushes outside of the clearing.

"C'mon, let's beat 'em to camp, and make 'em look bad instead of us!"

"O-OK..." Ash replied, carefully lifting himself up before limping over to Serena, reaching for her shoulders.

"Not on my back, Ash!"


Serena sighed as she extended an arm out to Ash instead, inviting him to her side for support.

"You really do say sorry too much," said Serena as Ash took her hand, prompting her to pull him over to her side. "But like I said, it's not a bad thing that you're nice..."

And with that, the two continued walking through the forest together.
* * * * * * *
"OK, so you're here... she's here... Leaf is here... so far, so good..."

Daisy was currently going down a list of all of the summer camp participants, having called everyone back from the treasure hunt with her megaphone.

Guess I didn't do too bad with choosing a treasure hunt, huh? she thought happily to herself as she looked around to see children with many items cradled — or hastily stuffed — in their arms. I thought I was so screwed when I told them!

As she reached the end of the list, however, she noticed two people conspicuously absent from her count.

Hmm... it looks like Ash is taking a bit longer for the treasure hunt. Don't know about that straw hat girl, though. I'll give them a little bit longer.

Around ten minutes passed as Daisy waited. She saw the children become increasingly restless as the minutes went by, obviously wondering why they were all just sitting there.

"Leaf, have you seen Ash anywhere?" Daisy eventually asked the girl. "Or Serena? You know, the girl with the straw hat?"

"No," Leaf replied. "Is something wrong?"

"Um... no, I don't think so," said Daisy, not entirely convincingly as Leaf gave her a concerned look. Feeling quite anxious all of a sudden, Daisy turned to the rest of the campgoers.

"Have any of you seen Ash?" Daisy asked them, more urgently than last time. "Or Serena? Ash or the girl wearing a straw hat, has anyone seen either of them at all?"

To her horror, every single person either said or shook their heads "no".

Oh no...
* * * * * * *
"So y'know I said that I fell from a really tall tree once?" Serena asked Ash as the two slowly progressed through the forest.

"Yeah," Ash replied.

"Well, I really did. And I really didn't cry neither, even though I wanted to. Y'know why I didn't?"

Ash shook his head.

"'Cause I knew there was worse that could happen than falling from a tree," Serena replied. "And if I cried at that, then I'd cry at everythin' else, too. I'd never become Champion if I did that!"

"I guess that's true," Ash replied quietly, feeling rather downcast at Serena's answer before she suddenly stopped in the middle in the road, pointing towards a faint opening in the woods to her right.

"This way," said Serena. Ash followed along as she turned in that direction, only for her to abruptly stop again.


Ash felt Serena's body tense up next to him, her eyes locked at a faint black blob coming into view from the trees ahead of them. Before either of them could do anything, the blob burst out from the trees, revealing itself to be a large moth-like Pokémon with two large white wings, both larger than its dual-segmented purple body. Two red, blank eyes stared straight at Ash and Serena, its expression completely unreadable.

"Is t-that—"

"Don't move!" Serena suddenly hissed at him, her voice sharp and authoritative. "This is Butterfree..."

She then let go of Ash, forcing him to support himself as she took two slow, careful steps towards Butterfree, right before falling on her knees with her hands outstretched.

"Um, Butterfree, ma'am... we're really sorry for botherin' ya. Now if you jus' let us walk away, you won't have to worry 'bout us again..."

"H-how do you know that it's a gi—"

"Shut up!"

Ash flinched at Serena's sudden and panicked outburst, but that didn't compare to his reaction to seeing Butterfree slowly start to approach the two.

"Oh, crap!" Serena cursed under her breath. "Ash, take my hand!"

Ash hesitated, staring at Serena's outstretched hand, then at Butterfree, and then at Serena's hand again.


He obeyed, grabbing Serena's hand as tightly as he could.

"When I say go... GO!"

Serena charged back into the forest, dragging Ash along with her and forcing him to run in order to keep up and get away from the Butterfree that was now pursuing them. He winced with each step, feeling constant and intense pain on his injured left knee as he ran.

"Ash, I know it hurts, but you've gotta run!" said Serena as she pulled him harder. "That Butterfree's 'bout to have us for breakfast!"

"What!?" Ash shouted in surprise, his steps suddenly becoming ever so faster and his pain ever more tolerable after hearing Serena's words.

"They do this for fun!" Serena shouted back. "They're one of the most dangerous Pokémon you can ever meet!"

"How do you know all of this stuff!?"


Serena had just tripped on a rock that she didn't see, sending her and Ash flying straight towards the ground. The force of the fall broke them apart and sent Ash landing a few feet away from Serena, who moaned in pain as she struggled to recover from what was evidently the worst part of the fall.

"Serena!" Ash cried out, lifting himself up before turning around to help her.

"No!" Serena practically screamed at him. "Just get outta here!"

"But I can't—"

"Go, you idiot!"

Ash flinched at those words — even knowing why she said them — but nonetheless, he followed her orders and ran as fast as he could in the other direction.

"To your right!" Ash suddenly heard Serena shout, and with a sharp and painful turn, he obeyed and turned to his right.

As he kept running, Ash turned around to see a rustling of leaves moving past where he had just turned, followed by another rustling of leaves a short distance behind that. Serena's intentions were clear: she was trying to lure Butterfree away from him.

"C'mon!" Serena's distant voice sounded behind Ash, obviously directed at Butterfree. The sounds of the two became increasingly inaudible as Ash kept running, and by the time he stopped some seconds later — having reached the limits of how far he could run with the stinging, burning pain in his left knee — he could no longer hear them at all. His own fast and deep breaths were the only things that he could hear, and a feeling of solace began to wash over him as he took in the stillness of the forest around him, far away from the dangers that he had been fleeing from not long before.

That solace soon vanished, however, when a loud shriek suddenly filled the air, followed quickly by a dull thump! in the distance, the sound of something hitting something very, very hard.


Without thinking, Ash charged straight in the opposite direction as fast as he could, wincing with each step of his injured left knee. It took about a second for him to realize that he was doing something extraordinarily stupid right now, but a strange momentum kept him going, even as every other part of him told him to turn back.

He froze suddenly as he heard a loud, furious screech not far ahead of him. Butterfree, Ash knew as he lowered himself into the tall weeds of grass beneath his knees, hoping to avoid its gaze. Inching closer, he stealthily made his way through the grass, and before long he found himself in view of a new clearing in front of him, where he found an extremely disturbing sight.

Ash found Serena there, slumped in a painful-looking position against a tree splotched with a sickening patch of red right above her. A trail of blood trickled down the side of her face from her disheveled honey blonde hair, grimly revealing which part of her body hit the tree first. She appeared disoriented if not nearly delirious, as though she was fighting off the inevitable unconsciousness that a lesser soul would have already succumbed to. Even in this state, however, Serena was able to spot Ash peeking out from the bushes, not far behind the Butterfree that was slowly but surely approaching her. She didn't speak — Ash didn't know if she even could right now — but in her eyes, Ash could easily tell what she was trying to say to him:

Run, Ash! Run away and don't come back for me again! What are you waitin' for already; get outta here and save yourself!

At first, Ash obliged, slowly retreating back into the bushes where he could sneak away unnoticed. But as he watched Butterfree get closer and closer to Serena, he found himself strangely unable to move away, and after a while he could feel the same momentum that brought him here drive his body forwards, rather than backwards.

Before he knew it, Ash found himself out of the bushes and into the open field, mere feet behind the Butterfree that was itself now right above Serena. And without thinking, he suddenly found himself reaching towards the ground, grabbing a nearby rock.

Ash, what are you doing!? Serena said without words, her eyes wide in shock as Ash raised his arm into an arc, his hand shaking. Butterfree, noticing Serena's stare, turned around to see what she was looking at...

...right as the rock reached Butterfree, hitting it directly in its face.

The next second, Ash found himself looking straight at Butterfree, its attention shifted away from Serena to him. And even with its blank, unreadable glare, Ash could tell one obvious, very much immediately revelant fact.

It was pissed.

If Ash would've been able to see Serena's expression at that moment, he knew for sure that it would've said something to the effect of: You idiot! But he never saw it, because he was now running back into the forest as fast as he could, not waiting for a second to see how Butterfree would respond to what he had just done. He realized that it hadn't been a moment too soon as he took in the sounds of wings fluttering furiously behind him, followed by the sight of a light golden powder suddenly surrounding him. Not knowing what this powder would do but certainly knowing that it couldn't be anything good, Ash covered his mouth and began holding his breath to avoid breathing in the fumes. This proved to be an increasingly difficult task as the powder reached him and began stinging his eyes, prompting him to close them shut. He was forced to run blindly through the forest now, not knowing or caring where he ended up as long as it was far away from Butterfree.

Before long, he began to feel the heat of sunshine on his face, just as the feeling of brushing against bushes suddenly became replaced with the feeling of open air. He continued running — taking in a deep breath of the clean air as he kept his eyes closed — but then he suddenly began to experience something else: the feeling of water splashing from underneath his feet, soon followed by the feeling of moisture seeping into his socks and shoes.

Stopping in his tracks, Ash opened his eyes to find an endless expanse of water ahead of him: the river at the very edge of Pallet Town and something that he had absolutely no hope of crossing. And turning around, he found Butterfree mere feet in front of him, the Pokémon having never missed a single step the entire time he had been running.

It was the end of the road now, in more than ways than one.

At least Serena's safe... Ash thought to himself, his only solace as Butterfree moved to approach him, its intentions clear.

All of a sudden, Butterfree stopped, its antennae spiking up. Turning around to its right, a loud, panicked screech suddenly burst out out Butterfree as it swerved swiftly in the other direction...

...right before an explosion of white burst out of nowhere, consuming Ash's entire world with blinding light and blistering heat. And as Ash covered his eyes to shield himself, a familiar, frightening feeling washed over him... a feeling that he once had this experience before.

Eventually, the light vanished and the air returned to normal, prompting a frightened Ash to slowly move his arm from on top of his eyes and slowly open them. And once he did, a spectacular sight awaited him.

Right in front of him, a straight, burning line could be found running across the ground with black smoke emerging from its edges... smoke nearly as black as the line itself.

To the left, he could see Butterfree — or rather, what was left of it — flying in the air with a gaping, smoking hole where one of its wings used to be, blood slowly appearing along the edges.

And to the right, towering over everything around it, was the great dragon from Ash's dreams, along with its master; both of whom Ash could recognize from anywhere.

Professor Oak — the one and only, and in the flesh — stared at the wounded Butterfree with bloodlust in his eyes as his Dragonite gave a mighty roar that reverberated throughout the entire forest. Butterfree, clearly knowing that it was completely outmatched here, began to fly away, struggling with its one good wing.

"Dragonite, destroy that thing now!" Professor Oak commanded, even as the dragon already took several labored breaths to prepare another attack; alas, nothing came out of it.

"Damn!" Professor Oak cursed as he helplessly watched Butterfree escape into the woods. Dragonite mirrored its trainer's frustration, giving another loud roar before resting itself down on the ground in defeat.

Hyper Beam, Ash knew. Not even a Pokémon like Dragonite could escape the crippling drawback of such a powerful move.

Before he could think about anything else, however, Professor Oak suddenly appeared just a few feet ahead of Ash, marching towards him with an almost frightening urgency.

"P-Professor Oak, I-I—"

The Professor stopped right in front of Ash, silencing him instantly with his fierce, towering presence. With ideas about what would happen next swirling wildly though his mind, Ash awaited his fate. Ultimately, however, Professor Oak had only one thing to say to him, a simple question asked with a quiet yet potent intensity:

"Where is she?"
* * * * * * *
Ash had been reduced to practically crawling by the time he returned to the clearing where Serena was. She was still and silent, which scared Ash for a moment before a slow, barely visible breath confirmed that she was still alive.


She stirred in response, a light moan escaping from her as her head moved slowly in Ash's direction.


"It's okay, Serena!" Ash told her. "Butterfree's gone now. Professor Oak's here; just hold on a bit longer!"

Serena's eyes fluttered open, staring weakly into Ash's worried ones. It became increasingly difficult for her to keep them open as she struggled to say something, the words repeatedly dying in her throat.

"A-Ash..." Serena's almost startlingly weak voice finally called out. "I-I... I-I..."

Whatever Serena was about to say, she had finally run out of strength to say it, or to do anything else. She went limp within the next second, her head rolling to the side as she slipped into unconsciousness.

"Get out of the way!" shouted Professor Oak from out of nowhere, shoving Ash aside before he could even think about responding. Landing on his back, he could only watch helplessly from the ground as the Professor observed Serena's unconscious form, eventually reaching for her wrist.

"Thank God; she's alive..."

He then spotted the light patch of red on the tree above Serena, narrowing his eyes at the sight of it. Reaching a hand slowly behind Serena's head, he pulled it back a few seconds later only to find a large patch of fresh, wet blood on his hand.

"Dammit, there's no time..." Ash heard the Professor say to himself, barely enough for anyone else to hear. "We're going to have to fly."

The Professor then carefully scooped Serena into his arms, lifting himself up with an audible grunt before carrying the unconscious girl towards Dragonite.

"Dragonite, take her!" Professor Oak commanded, lifting Serena into the dragon's arms. He then darted over to Dragonite's side, preparing to mount onto its back.

"Get on," Professor Oak said to Ash before mounting. "Unless you'd like to find your way back home through the forest!"

He most definitely didn't. With what little strength he had left, Ash powered through to Dragonite's side, allowing Professor Oak to rather roughly lift him up to join him on the dragon's back. Ash practically sunk himself onto the Professor's back in exhaustion, prompting a sigh from the Professor as he himself grabbed onto Dragonite's neck.

"I suggest you hold on tightly," Professor Oak told Ash. "Very tightly."

"Tightly? W-what do you—W-W-W-WWWAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!"

Ash held on for dear life as he suddenly found himself rising hundreds of feet into the air within mere seconds, the forest below him becoming little more than an indistinct blur of brown and green. Nearly feeling like he was going to be sick, Ash closed his eyes tight as Dragonite rose even higher, sending fierce gushes of air flying about as it flapped its wings in flight.

Eventually, Ash could feel Dragonite charge forward, the force of inertia pushing him slightly backwards as he continued to hold on. As Dragonite began to slow down somewhat, Ash — with some courage — slowly opened his eyes.

Ash looked at his surroundings in wonder, not believing how high in the air he was right now. He could actually see the sparkling blue ocean in the distance, far beyond the forests and mountains surrounding Pallet Town. And as Dragonite flew gracefully and effortlessly across the skies, Ash — for a few wonderful moments — almost felt like he was Dragonite himself: free, fierce, and powerful.

Looking below, Ash could see a faint flurry of dots on the ground, all heading towards Professor Oak's lab not far ahead of them. Daisy, Ash figured, along with the rest of the campgoers, of course. For a while, he could swear that he could see the dots slowly grow larger as he stared at them, right before he felt Dragonite slow down and lower itself towards the ground near the lab, its flight ending as it reached its destination.
* * * * * * *
Ash felt tense with worry and anticipation as he sat on a bench in the hallway of Professor Oak's lab. He had been staring intensely at a certain door for the past several minutes: the door that Professor Oak entered with Serena in his arms several minutes ago and hadn't left since, except once to briefly give Ash a bandage for his left knee. Even with said bandage, he could still feel the sting in his knee as he constantly moved his legs around, becoming increasingly restless as he fought off the urge to get up and look through the door's narrow vertical window to see what was happening inside.

Finally, the door opened and Professor Oak came out, but Ash couldn't even get a single syllable out before the Professor turned sharply in the other direction, vanishing into a nearby corner shortly thereafter. Ash soon found himself staring at the corner, then back at the door, and then the corner again, before finally he burst out from where he was sitting and ran straight towards the door.

Reaching it, Ash peeked through its window to find what looked to him like a doctor's office of some sort, with almost blindingly white walls starkly juxtaposed against shiny, clinical-looking metal tables and counters. Also noticed by Ash was an equally shiny and clinical-looking bed in the right-hand corner, flanked by an array of machines and medical equipment that Ash could never hope to identify. But much more important was the occupant of said bed, which Ash could very much identify as...


She was still unconscious, except this time Ash could see bandages peeking out from under her matted, unkempt honey-blonde hair, both stained with tinges of red. The sight of the blood alarmed Ash until he noticed another machine right above Serena and her bed: a heartrate monitor, displaying a slow but steady heartbeat.

Ash sighed in relief — at least he didn't kill her — but his relief would be short-lived, for a pacing of footsteps sounded just behind him and within the next second, he found himself staring into the eyes of none other than Professor Oak.

"P-Professor! I-I, u-um—"

"Do you know what that girl's name is over there, Ash?"

Caught off-guard by the sudden and unexpected question, Ash wasn't quite sure how else to respond other than to give the obvious answer.


Professor Oak didn't have to change his expression an inch for Ash to know that it was the wrong answer. He continued:

"Do you know what Serena's last name is?"

Ash had no idea, so he shook his said no, dreading Professor Oak's response.

"Grace. As in Saki Grace, the famous Rhyhorn racer. And that, over there, is her equally famous child, Serena Grace."

Every part of Ash's face exploded in shock at Professor Oak's words. Serena's... famous!?

"I see that you're starting to recognize our problem here," Professor Oak continued, having witnessed Ash's expression. "Now, what do you think will happen when a rich and powerful woman like Saki Grace sees her daughter lying there, knowing that she may never wake up?"

"Never wake up!?" Ash exclaimed. "But she's fine right now... r-right? She's breathing and everything!"

Professor Oak sighed. "Have you ever heard of a coma, Ash?"

"A coma?"

Before Professor Oak could respond, a pair of hurried footsteps could be heard from the other side of the hall; the two turned around to see an exhausted-looking Daisy Oak approaching them.

"I counted everyone, like, three or four times downstairs," Daisy breathlessly said to Professor Oak. "Everyone's accounted for."

"Wonderful," Professor Oak replied in an almost startlingly flat and emotionless manner, his face barely moving an inch. "Now, would you care to explain how we got here?"

"H-How we... got here?"

"Oh yes," said Professor Oak, now practically staring daggers at his granddaughter. "After all, you were the one responsible for all of those children downstairs, correct? Including Ash here, and, of course, Miss Serena over there. And I'm sure that a certain important someone would like to know why her daughter is lying unconscious in bed with bloodstained bandages wrapped over her head, yes?"

"I-I, um... oh boy..."

As an increasingly distressed-looking Daisy struggled to find some sort of response for her grandfather, Professor Oak turned back to Ash, daggers now pointed at him.

"This is a family matter," said Professor Oak. "Leave us."

Ash did so without a moment's hesitation, practically running for the nearest exit.
* * * * * * *
About half an hour had passed since Ash joined the rest of his fellow campgoers in the waiting room downstairs. The room was consumed by whispered conversations, everyone no doubt speculating about what happened for their summer camp experience to end so abruptly. But Ash, knowing full well why, could only think about Serena's current state, and the likelihood that she would stay in this "coma" forever because of him.

Not far from where he was sitting, Ash spotted Leaf, who was currently staring into nowhere with boredom in her eyes, making an occasional huff! of annoyance every so often. Having a question that he was sure only she could answer right now, Ash crawled over to her on his one uninjured knee and called out to her:


She turned around, flinching suddenly as she realized that someone was there.


Leaf appeared rather shocked to see him, much to Ash's confusion. He shook it off, however, as he pushed through with what he had come over to ask her:

"W-What's a coma?"

"A coma?" said Leaf, looking rather taken aback by Ash's question before composing herself. "It's, well... like a really long sleep that you never wake up from. It's kinda like dying, only worse."

Ash shuddered at the thought, while Leaf looked at him concernedly.

"Is that what's happening to Serena, Ash? Is she in a coma?"

"H-How did you kn—"

"We know," said Leaf simply. "You and Serena were the only ones who didn't come back."

Having received his answer and the horrifying truth behind it, Ash looked down at the ground in shame. "This is all my fault..."

Leaf looked at Ash with some concern in her eyes but said nothing, instead spending the next several moments looking down rather awkwardly at the ground herself. Eventually, however, Leaf looked back up at Ash and said:

"You know, Ash, if she really is in a coma, and if her mom finds out, then you should really figure out what you're gonna say."

"W-What I'm gonna say?" said Ash nervously, looking back up at Leaf. "To who?"

Leaf shrugged. "I don't know, the police?"

"The police!?" Ash nearly shouted, panicking. "W-Why them!?"

"Well, you see—"

"Don't scare Ash like that, Leaf!"

Both Ash and Leaf looked behind them in surprise to see Gary Oak approaching them, the boy ultimately sitting himself right between the two as he confronted Leaf with a startling fierceness in his eyes.

"He doesn't have to worry about anything," Gary continued, "because Serena's gonna wake up soon! Right, Ash?"

"R-Right..." said Ash, somewhere between tentativeness and awkwardness. Leaf, meanwhile, simply sighed.

"Leave it to Gary to not worry anything about everything," she said. "Where were you all this time, anyway? I was bummed out that you weren't here!"

"Well..." said Gary, hesitating slightly, "Gramps had me do something for him."


"We were, um, looking at a Pokémon."

Leaf sighed again. "Top-secret, huh? You and Professor Oak sometimes. Speaking of which, you know that Ash saw a Butterfree out there, right?"

Ash could see Gary flinch ever-so-slightly at the name. "A-A Butterfree?"

"Uh-huh," Leaf answered, her face looking increasingly serious. "Do you know anything about that, Gary?"

"No," said Gary, shaking his head. "Why would I know anything?"

Leaf suddenly started eyeing Gary intensely, as if trying to look directly into the very depths of his soul for the answers she was looking for. Gary, meanwhile, looked increasingly nervous at Leaf's stare before she finally replied:

"Because I think that Professor Oak might have something to do with all of this!"


"Yeah!" Leaf continued. "I mean, you know that Butterfree are really dangerous, right? Like, people actually make sure that they don't show up in cities and stuff. Don't you think that Professor Oak's doing the same thing here in Pallet Town?"


"Exactly. So you know what I think? I think he let that Butterfree out on purpose!"

"What!?" Gary practically shouted, appearing completely flabbergasted at what Leaf just said. "Why would he do that!?"

"I don't know, but look. I know that he's your grandpa and all, but... I don't think that Professor Oak is all that he says he is. I mean, if you've heard what my mom says about him—"

"That's just one person, Leaf!" Gary countered. "You can't say that someone's doing something just because of one person!"

"She's my mom, Gary."

"And he's my gramps!"

For a few moments, neither one of the two children said anything, with Leaf retaining her serious expression while Gary appeared increasingly upset at how the conversation was going.

"Gary, are you totally sure you haven't seen anything weird?" asked Leaf, breaking the silence. "Because if he's doing something bad—"

"He's not!" Gary countered again.

"—then you might be the only one who can find out!" Leaf finished.

Gary blinked. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that I think you need to go into Professor Oak's lab to see what's really going on."

"What!?" Gary shouted as loudly as he had yet, any sign of him holding back completely gone. "I'm not doing that! No way!"

"And if he is doing something bad, you're just gonna let it happen?" Leaf shouted back at him, having begun to lose her composure herself. "What if someone else gets hurt next time? What if it's me, or Ash?"

"Leave Ash out of this, Leaf!"

Leaf ignored him and turned over to Ash, who, having listened to Leaf and Gary's entire conversation, had been reduced to practically a deer in headlights at this point, unable to move clear of their chaos if he wanted to.

"What do you think, Ash?" Leaf asked him, her voice calm and measured as if she had never been shouting at someone just a few moments earlier. "If you thought something bad was happening and that someone might get hurt, wouldn't you do everything you could to stop it?"

"Come on, Leaf; leave him alone!" said Gary, inching closer to Ash. "Don't you think he's feeling bad enough already?"

Before either Leaf or Ash could respond to him, the loud, shrieking voice of one of the other campgoers filled the room:

"Look, it's Professor Oak's Dragonite!"

The room exploded as everyone ran towards the window on the far side of the room, including Leaf who gave Gary a brief, serious-looking glare before following the others. Ash and Gary didn't join them, instead watching as everyone struggled for a looking spot at the small windowsill.

"Lucky," Gary said to Ash as he made himself comfortable on a nearby, newly-free chair. "She didn't bother you too much, did she?"

Ash shook his head, but he could still see some concern on Gary's face, right before a light but palpable boom suddenly shook the building.

"Wow, that was Dragonite's Hyper Beam attack!" squealed one of the children over at the windowsill.

"What was it aiming at, though?" asked another.

"I saw a little dot there a second ago," yet another child piped up. "It was moving kinda weird."

"I saw it too!" the first child said. "But I don't see it anymore; where'd it go?"

Ash could hear Gary sigh quietly next to him, looking rather depressed all of a sudden as the children continued their conversations.
* * * * * * *
The waiting room was marked by an almost eerie quiet as Ash sat there alone, the other campgoers having long since been picked up by their parents. He had lost track of how long he was there, but he could see that the sun had moved quite a bit from the window since the children were there before.

As he was in the middle of contemplating everything that happened to him today, he heard the door open some distance away from him. Turning around, he saw Daisy there, who did a double-take at the sight of him.

"Whoa, I didn't know you were still here, Ash!" Daisy said in surprise. "Your mom hasn't come to pick you up yet?"

"No," Ash answered simply. He could see Daisy frown somewhat at that answer before he decided to change the subject.

"I-It... wasn't too bad, was it? You and Professor Oak?"

Daisy sighed. "I'll live. But on a happier note, I've got some good news for you. Serena's going to be alright!"


"Yep!" Daisy replied with a smile. "Better than that, actually; she's already been patched up and everything! She's not awake right now, though, in case you were wondering. Her mom's on her way to pick her up tonight."

Ash felt himself flinch at that last part.

"She's... leaving already?"

"Well, yeah," Daisy replied. "Summer camp's cancelled now, so I guess her mom figured that there's no reason for her to stay anymore."

"Right..." Ash quietly responded as he felt his heart sink slowly at what he was hearing.

"I guess that you'll want to say goodbye to her, huh?" said Daisy, noticing Ash's increasingly sad expression.

Ash shook his head. "I want to say sorry to her."

"Huh?" Daisy blinked.

"If I wasn't such a crybaby," Ash replied, "then Serena wouldn't have gotten hurt and none of this would've happened. I ruined summer camp for everyone and it's all my fault!"

"Your fault!?" Daisy exclaimed. "Ash, absolutely none of this is your fault!"

She then paused for a moment as a sullen look appeared on her face. "It's mine."


"I... didn't have a lot of time to prepare for all of this," she explained. "That's no excuse, but... I rushed things and messed up on the cones. I guess that's why you never saw them and got lost."

Daisy sighed. "I failed you today, Ash, and I failed everyone else, too. Because if things had gone worse than they did, then... t-then..."

Ash could see tears start to form in Daisy's eyes, but she quickly wiped them away before suddenly kneeling down to Ash, meeting him at eye level with a very serious look on her face.

"I'm gonna make a promise to you, Ash," said Daisy. "I promise that I'll never, ever put you in that kind of danger again. Hold me to that, OK?"

Ash nodded, not really knowing how else he could respond to that.

"And in exchange," Daisy continued, this time with a much brighter expression, "I want you to make me a promise, too. Never blame yourself for something that's not your fault."

"B-But I—"

"Promise me?"

Ash sighed. "I'll try..." he ultimately responded, not entirely sure how well he could actually keep a promise like that.

"Alright!" Daisy replied, seeming confident enough in Ash's answer as she stood back up, smiling brightly at him.

"Don't let life get you down too much, Ash," said Daisy. "We all made some mistakes today, and yeah, some of them were pretty big. But we dodged some serious bullets, too. So let's celebrate a little! All's well that ends well, and may nothing like this ever happen again!"

Ash simply nodded, finding at least some conviction with the last part of what Daisy said.

"Oh, and I have something I want to show you," said Daisy as she reached into her pocket for something, ultimately producing a small, crumpled-up sheet of paper.

"I think that Serena wanted to give you this," Daisy explained to a rather confused-looking Ash before presenting the paper to him. Looking to see what was on it, Ash found something scribbled there rather messily to the point of being barely legible, but he could nonetheless make out:

Serena GRACE
103 Rue des coeurs étincelants
75006 Lumiose


"It... looks like an address," Ash thought out loud, staring curiously at the region in particular. "Does this mean that I can write to her?"

"I think that you can!" Daisy replied, smiling happily at Ash. "Looks like the two of you are going to be the best of friends now, huh?"

Ash couldn't help but smile back this time, but it didn't last long as a series of loud knocks sounded near the door.

"Don't move!" Daisy suddenly ordered, right before she snatched Serena's paper out of Ash's hand and stuffed it rather crudely back into her pocket. Ash, shocked at what just happened, opened his mouth to say something before being ssshhh!!!-ed by an increasingly anxious-looking Daisy.

"Anything you send to Serena, send it through me, okay?" Daisy whispered to Ash, looking nervously behind her every few seconds. "Don't let your mother know."


"Trust me," Daisy said before running over to the door, composing herself with a deep breath before opening it.

The one behind it — none other than Delia Ketchum herself — promptly let herself in.

"Hello, Ms. Ketchum," Daisy greeted with a smile on her face, albeit one that looked more... off than Ash would've expected from her. Delia, meanwhile, didn't return it.

"Where's Professor Oak?" she asked, tenseness radiating from practically her entire body. "I need to speak with him right now!"

"He's, um... busy right now," Daisy answered, still smiling, albeit increasingly less so by the second.

"I'd imagine," said Delia, looking rather irritated at her answer. "But where is he exactly, Daisy? I need to speak with him now!"

"Well, he's probably outside, in the forest," Daisy replied, her smile having faded completely at this point. "You can try looking for him there if you like."

Delia gave Daisy a rather funny look at that answer before turning around to her son.

"Time to go home now, Ash," she said, walking over towards him before suddenly tumbling onto the floor, groaning and laying her hand on her forehead in pain.

"Dammit... agh!... not another one!"

"Are you alright, Ms. Ketchum?" Daisy asked concernedly — although again looking more off than Ash would've expected — as she walked over to Delia and offered a hand to her.

"It'll go away," Delia responded simply as she lifted herself up. "I mean, I'm sure that kids your age can... agh!... relate to this kind of thing."

Daisy sighed. "No, I don't really think I can," she said, barely enough for anyone to hear. Delia didn't respond, turning her attention back to Ash instead.

"Come on, Ash; let's go," Delia told her son, stretching out a hand to him that he promptly took. As the two walked towards the door, Delia looked back at Daisy.

"Do tell your grandfather — wherever he is — that I need to speak with him now."

"Will do," replied Daisy, giving a rather sad look at Ash as he and his mother left the room.
* * * * * * *
"So, did you manage to find a friend at summer camp?" Delia asked Ash as the two walked down the road outside, illuminated brightly by the light of the afternoon sun. Ash, who at one point shuddered at the very thought of making a new friend at summer camp, was now positively brimming with confidence as he answered:

"Yeah, I did!"

"Really?" said Delia, raising an eyebrow in surprise. "Well, then; what's their name?"


"Wait, her!?" Delia practically shouted as she stopped dead in the middle of the road, startling her son who felt his heart sink at her response. After a while, however, she relaxed herself, taking a deep, reserved breath.

"Whatever; I'll take that. Congratulations. Too bad you're probably never going to see her again."

"Yeah," said Ash, looking down in disappointment for more reasons than one. "But that's okay, because..."

"Because what?"

Ash felt the words on the tip of his tongue, but then he remembered what Daisy told him and realized that it was probably best that they stayed there.

"Nothing," he ultimately said, earning a confused stare from his mother before the two continued down the road towards their house.
* * * * * * *
The day ended the same as it began for Delia: sprawled out on the living room couch fast asleep, wearing the very same pink bathrobe that she had been wearing in the morning. The TV watched her as the nightly news blared out from the speakers, loud enough to drown even Delia's rather loud and heavy snores.

For Ash, meanwhile, it would be much longer before he would be asleep. He spent the night in his room, the space illuminated by nothing other than the glow of the moon outside and the glow of the TV that Ash's eyes had been glued to for hours. He was watching an epic Pokémon League battle from long ago, recorded on videotape. Countless other tapes found their home in Ash's room, some neatly stacked inside the TV stand, and a handful of others scattered about on the floor. They were well-loved and well-worn, with the scratchy, spotty picture of the currently playing tape only barely holding itself together on the TV screen. They were much like Ash's dreams: faded, fragile, and fleeting... but not quite finished yet.

One day, Ash thought to himself, staring determinedly at the TV screen, that's gonna be me. It's gotta be! I will become a Pokémon Master!


That last word lingered in Ash's mind as he threw in the towel for the night, clicking off the TV after fighting off many yawns. As he buried himself beneath his covers, he prepared himself for the next day, and for the many more after that before the one day he was waiting for above all others...

...the day that he would become a Pokémon trainer.
* * * * * * *
It was deep in the middle of the night. All was quiet in Pallet Town, with every light turned out and every citizen of the town fast asleep.

That is, except for one light, and for one particular person who was anything but asleep.

Professor Oak was currently toiling away at a desk inside his laboratory, observing a pile of documents that he alone in Pallet Town could even begin to decipher. As he flipped towards another page, however, a series of loud, hurried knocks sounded from the door on the other side of the room, interrupting his task.

Lifting his head at the disturbance, Professor Oak looked over towards the door and smirked.

"You're here early."

The door burst open, revealing none other than Delia Ketchum behind it as she furiously marched over towards Professor Oak.

"What the hell happened out there today?" Delia practically shouted at him, banging a clenched fist onto his desk. "Do you know how much trouble you could've caused me with that thing?"

Professor Oak, not even flinching at anything that just happened, merely scoffed in response. "Like you give a damn."

"...about Butterfree?"

Professor Oak smirked again — this time in full view of an increasingly agitated Delia — as he returned his attention to the documents that he was working on before.

"I said what happened out there?" Delia shouted again.

"Do you really want to know?" said Professor Oak, looking back up at Delia. "Alright, then... someone broke into the lab and released Butterfree."

"Someone... saw the lab!?" an absolutely horrified-looking Delia responded. "Oh, God... do you who it was, at least?"

"Yes, actually," Professor Oak replied. "But you needn't worry; they've been taken care of."

If Delia didn't look like she was on the verge of a complete mental breakdown before, she most certainly did now.

"...I don't even want to know."

Professor Oak shrugged. "You asked," he replied simply, ignoring Delia's pale-looking face as he shifted his gaze back downwards. "Is that the only thing you came here to tell me?"

"Not at all," Delia replied, her face becoming serious. "You know who came over to my house last night?"

"I can't possibly imagine."

"A Jenny!"

Professor Oak looked up at Delia again, a wave of interest flashing across his face.

"Oh? And what kind of business would a Jenny have with someone like you, Delia?"

"What do you think?" Delia practically shouted again. "They freaking interrogated me!"


"About you!" Delia replied. "You and... whatever you do in that lab of yours."

"And what did you tell them, exactly?"

"Not a damn thing!" said Delia. "I mean, what could I even say to them, anyway?"

"Nothing of value, I'd presume."

"Samuel, I swear if you don't get all of this nonsense together—"

"Again," Professor Oak interrupted, raising a hand up to silence her, "you needn't worry. But I suppose that does explain why you weren't at summer camp along with the other parents."

"Huh?" Delia blinked.

"I thought that it might've had something to do with that crybaby son of yours, but I think I know now... you took another swim last night, didn't you? If you know what I mean. Had to dry up with some of that morning coffee of yours again, right?"

A long, heavy silence came over the room as Delia stood speechless — catatonic, even — at what Professor Oak had just said. After a while, however, she recovered, and did so with a quiet yet potent vengeance that showed all over her now twisted, furious face.

"I'm leaving now," said Delia, turning towards the door behind her in a heavy, hurried strut.

"Know thyself, Delia!" Professor Oak called out to her as she left. "Or any victory you achieve will also be defined by loss!"

"Whatever," Delia spat back as she disappeared into the darkness beyond the door, slamming it shut behind her.

A light snicker escaped from Professor Oak as he got up from his chair and turned his attention towards other things, namely the large, hand-painted portrait of himself behind his desk that dominated practically the entire wall. Professor Oak, however, wasn't interested in admiring said painting, and instead he placed his right thumb on a seemingly random and innocuous spot on the wall next to it. An inexplicable beep sounded at his touch, followed by a "click!" as the painting popped open to reveal a secret compartment — or more like a hole — dug deep into the wall.

Inside the hole were three rather peculiar items. The first item was a thick black book, its length alone daunting to all but the most disciplined and scholarly of readers. On the front, emblazoned in stark golden letters, was its name: "The Art of War, by Sunzi".

The second item, placed on top of said book, was a small black handgun, fitted with a suppressor and accompanied by a pair of magazines with which to load the deadly weapon with. A few boxes of exotic-looking ammunition were scattered about, including a conspicuously empty box.

The last item, situated at the very back of the hole, was a picture frame. It was placed face down on the floor, barely visible in the darkness of the hole.

Professor Oak reached his hand into the hole, grabbing for the item that he was looking for. Having finally retrieved it, he pulled it out and looked down at the object with a dark and serious face, thinking deeply about what he planned to do with it.

The faces of his grandchildren — Gary and Daisy Oak, much younger than they were now — smiled back at him. Pure happiness radiated from both of their faces, as if they didn't have a single care in the world.

At the sight of them, Professor Oak could only sigh.

"Ten years from now... it'll be one of you."

He returned the picture frame to its home — face-down as it always was — and closed the secret compartment door.

[chapter end]
Last edited:


Impressionist Bakuphoon
[Chapter 3]
The Oak Legacy! Professor Oak VS The Great Warrior of Light!

~Mirror Professor Oak Interlude~

"Gary, what do you suppose the game of life is?"

"The... game of life?"

"Yes," Professor Oak replied, turning his attention from the fishing rod in his hands to his grandson Gary Oak next to him. "As in the game that best represents what life is all about."

"Um... chess, maybe?" answered Gary, letting down the fishing rod of his own that he was holding as he stared off towards the vast and pristine lake in front of him. "I mean, you have to plan and strategize a lot, and only a few people are really good at it. And even if you are good, that doesn't always mean that you'll win... right?"

"I see. And what about you, Daisy?"

"Me?" Daisy Oak's voice called out from the other side of Professor Oak, a fishing rod in her hands as well. "Well, I'd say golf. Because it can be a lot harder than it looks, and it requires a lot of practice and patience, even if you're really good at it. And there's a whole bunch of things that can change the game at any time, like the rain and the wind and all that. You can't do anything about those, and even the best players can get tripped up by them, but there's always a chance to succeed with each new hole. It's tough, but also forgiving... and kind of hopeful, too."

"Hm. For my money, the game of life... is fishing."


"Yes," said Professor Oak, calmly responding to the shocked faces of his grandchildren. "You see, the thing about chess and golf is that those games require a great many things that not every person in this world possesses. Skill. Intelligence. Foresight. Imagination. These are exclusive things, and therefore chess and golf are exclusive games that only an exclusive set of people can be truly good at, let alone actually win. But fishing? Fishing doesn't require skill, intelligence, foresight, or imagination. It's a predictable game, you see, once you understand how it works. After all, no matter where you go, or what type of fish you aim to catch exactly, the rules are always the same. As is the goal: catch something."

Professor Oak's fishing rod then twitched a little in his hands, leading him to slowly start reeling the line in before he continued speaking.

"It doesn't matter how you do it, or how well you do it. It doesn't even matter what kind of fish you catch, so long as it's the one you want. A bigger fish is harder to catch, yes, but you don't have to catch one to win. All you need is enough for you to survive to the next day, and anyone can survive on little. But some people need that big fish, for reasons that have nothing to do with survival but rather about... something else. Something primal, deep inside; the kind of thing that only those who possess that feeling can truly understand."

The fishing rod suddenly jerked forward, prompting Professor Oak to steel himself before continuing to reel in the line, this time in a noticeably more aggressive manner.

"All that said, the point is this. The game of fishing — and thus, the game of life — is only as hard as you make it. And so if you possess that minimum amount of skill..."

The water suddenly exploded in front of Professor Oak, nearly soaking him and everyone else as his catch was revealed.

"...then you can live a perfectly fruitful and satisfactory life."

Daisy and Gary recognized their grandfather's catch instantly: it was a Magikarp, a hard-scaled orange fish Pokémon.

"Now, consider the Magikarp that I just caught here," Professor Oak continued as said Magikarp flopped around on the fishing line, struggling to break free. "It's the kind of Pokémon that most people would consider weak, pathetic, and useless, and indeed, it is very much all three of these things. It's a miserable choice for a pet, you see, and it's a very poor choice for food as well. But above all, it's absolutely terrible in battle, being only capable of splashing up and down on the ground, or in the nearest body of water if you're lucky. Even a drowning human could accomplish that."

"But for the rest of us? Well, you tell me, Daisy. What Pokémon does Magikarp ultimately evolve into?"


"Indeed," replied Professor Oak. "And Gary, would you say that Gyarados is a weak, pathetic, or useless Pokémon?"


The Professor smiled. "Hell no. You see, most people in this 'game of life' would throw a Magikarp right back into the sea when they catch one, dismissing it as weak, pathetic, and useless. Some might even take pleasure in doing so, practically making an art form out of how much they can abuse, belittle, and humiliate it before they move on to find something more 'worthwhile'."

Professor Oak then raised the fishing rod into an arc, seemingly preparing to do exactly what he just described before turning around at the last second, swinging the fishing rod down towards the ground behind him instead. The Magikarp landed hard on the rough-grained shore, startling Gary and Daisy with the sound it made before the Pokémon began flopping weakly and ineffectually, all in a desperate and utterly hopeless attempt to escape back into the lake.

"But then a thousand men's Magikarp is one man's Gyarados," said Professor Oak, ignoring his catch as he addressed his stunned-looking grandchildren again. "And what does it take to make a Gyarados out a Magikarp? Skill. Intelligence. Foresight. Imagination. Exclusive things that only an exclusive set of people in this world possesses, and yet aren't things that are necessary to 'win' the game of life. Why so, you might ask? Because the truth is that this so-called 'game of life' is nothing more than a bad joke. A game so pathetic that even mediocrity can be considering 'winning', so long as there are enough people playing who are capable of little more than that."

The Magikarp laid still on the ground now, its breathing slow and shallow. Daisy looked down rather nervously at the Pokémon behind her, then back towards her grandfather; his glare didn't break.

"Now, remember that feeling I mentioned earlier; that primal thing deep inside that only a few people who possess it can understand? That's the drive to be great; to rise above mediocrity and instead play the game of life on a completely different level: one where the rules are defined entirely by you. And so if you do possess the skill, intelligence, foresight, and imagination to not only make a Gyarados out of a Magikarp, but to bring one to a game of Goldeen and Poliwag and Squirtle..."

Professor Oak smiled again.

"...then you have truly, utterly won the game."

And with that, Professor Oak took a Poké Ball out from his pocket and tossed it at Magikarp, the ball hitting the Pokémon before it was sucked inside with a flash of red light.
* * * * * * *
"Well, that was definitely a fun fishing trip today, huh?" said Daisy, walking alongside her brother down the shore not far from Professor Oak a few feet in front of them.

"But I didn't catch anything," Gary replied, looking down at the ground in disappointment. "How am I supposed to win the 'game of life' that way?"

"Well, Gramps said that you have to catch something," Daisy answered, "but he never said that you've got to catch something every time! There's always going to be days where you don't catch anything, Gary!"

"And what happens when you don't catch anything, ever?"

"Oh, don't be silly, Gary!"

"Or if you do catch something, but it's not good enough?"

Daisy blinked. "Good enough for—"

"Gramps," Gary finished for her.

A bit of a pause crept in before Daisy answered:

"I'm sure that Gramps would be proud of anything that you do, Gary."

A light grunt was Gary's only reply to his older sister, who herself sighed in response, more at herself than anything else.

"Speaking of Gramps," Gary suddenly piped up again, "Don't you think that he was acting kinda... I don't know, weird today?"

"Well, you know how, um... theatrical he can be sometimes," said Daisy, almost laughing at her choice of words.

"Yeah, but even for him—" Gary began, right before the sudden sight of Professor Oak standing right in front of him stopped him in his tracks.

"I do hope you two learned some valuable life lessons today," said Professor Oak, a smile far more elusive than earlier in the day. "Now, Gary, it's time for you to head back to Pallet Town. Daisy and I have some business to attend to in the forest."

"Business?" replied Gary. "What kind of business, Gramps?"

"Adult business," Professor Oak replied simply.

"But Daisy's not even an adult!" Gary began to complain, before a sharp glare from Professor Oak silenced him instantly.

"She's sixteen, which is adult enough," the Professor replied sternly. "Now head back to Pallet Town, like I told you. We're going to be a while."

"You can take Lucky with you if you want," Daisy told her brother, withdrawing a Poké Ball from her pocket. "Just so you won't be afraid of getting attacked by a wild Rattata or something, you know?"

"Whatever, sis!" replied Gary, just as a giggling Daisy clicked the Poké Ball open and released its occupant next to Gary in a flash of red light. The light vanished to reveal a large, rotund pink Pokémon with an egg and pouch for half of its body: a member of a species called Chansey.

"Chansey!" the Pokémon chirped, giving Daisy a smile that was happily returned.

"Hey there, Lucky!" said Daisy. "Could you do me a favor and make sure that Gary gets back home safely, please?"

Her smile fading almost instantly, Lucky the Chansey turned around to see Gary next to her, the sight of whom prompted Lucky to cross her tiny arms and "huff!" in obvious disapproval.

"Oh, come on, it's my brother!" an exasperated Daisy replied. "You know Gary, right? He's a good kid; you don't have to worry about him."

Looking at Daisy, then at Gary again, and then back at Daisy, Lucky made a low groan of annoyance before she relented and inched over towards Gary.

"Alright!" Daisy happily replied as Lucky began leading Gary away.

"Wait a minute!" Professor Oak said suddenly, catching everyone's attention right before he tossed a Poké Ball towards Gary. Extending himself to catch it, Gary stared at the Poké Ball, and then back at his grandfather curiously before the latter said:

"That Magikarp I caught today... I have no use for it, so it's yours now. May you one day be able to make a Gyarados out of something as useless as that thing."

"T-Thank you, Gramps..." said Gary, looking almost like he was about to cry at the gift he just received. But as Daisy witnessed her brother's reaction and felt quite happy for the special moment he was experiencing — His first Pokémon! she remarked to herself — she also noticed Lucky staring rather intensely at Professor Oak with what almost looked like contempt in her eyes, all while muttering something barely audible under her breath. Professor Oak noticed Lucky's glare and returned a seemingly unaffected look before shifting his gaze back to Gary, nodding in recognition of his gratitude.

"Now I'll need you to be heading back," Professor Oak told him. "Time is of the essence for what Daisy and I are about to do."

"Yes, Gramps!" replied Gary, grinning from ear to ear as he turned towards the direction of Pallet Town, a still-frowning Lucky following close behind.

"See you later, guys!" Daisy shouted at the two once they made it some distance away. "And watch out for those wild Rattata, Gary!"

"Whatever!" Gary shouted back from the distance, his voice small and echoing as he and Lucky became increasingly obscured by the trees in the forest, before soon disappearing from view entirely.

A silence crept in for a little while after that, before Professor Oak broke it.

"I don't like that Chansey of yours," he told Daisy. "It acts like it's forgotten who its master is."

"I'm not her master," Daisy replied, shaking her head "no" at her grandfather's words. "I'm her friend. I don't make her do anything that she doesn't want to do."

"Perhaps that's part of the problem," said Professor Oak. "A Pokémon should never be given that kind of power. They need to understand their place in society... or rather, in the hierarchy."

"Gramps, you're not saying that Pokémon are... inferior to humans, are you?" asked Daisy, her eyes completely wide at what she just heard. "Or that humans are superior?"

"Absolutely not," replied Professor Oak. "You'll understand what I mean after today."

And with that, Professor Oak turned his attention to other things, leaving a rather uncomfortable-looking Daisy to contemplate what he just told her. He reached behind his back to retrieve the bag that he had been carrying throughout the day before heading towards the forest, going in a different direction from where Gary and Lucky went.

"So what kind of super-secret thing are we doing today, Gramps?" asked Daisy, following her grandfather as she shook off any feelings she had from their previous conversation. "Is it another one of those forest experiments we used to do, except with a really powerful Pokémon this time? Or maybe with something super-rare, like a Farfetch'd or something?"

"Nothing of the sort," replied Professor Oak, before zipping open his bag and retrieving something out of it: a rather strange-looking electronic device fitted with a pair of retractable antennas, along with an LED screen that lit up and displayed a series of complex, inscrutable-looking graphs once Professor Oak clicked it on with a nearby switch. Before Daisy could comment, she could hear Professor Oak zip his bag closed before he turned around and abruptly shoved it into her arms, causing Daisy to step back both in shock and at the surprising weight that remained in the bag.

"Take it," Professor Oak ordered to his very confused-looking granddaughter. "Don't open it until I tell you to."

As Daisy nodded in recognition and began working to move the bag into a more manageable position, Professor Oak began walking through the thick trees and other flora ahead of him: an entryway into a rather dark-looking part of the forest.

"Follow me," Professor Oak's voice called out from within. Daisy obliged, following her grandfather through the trees before soon disappearing into them herself.
* * * * * * *
A feeling of déjà vu crept over Daisy as she and Professor Oak continued their increasingly long trek through the forest, despite her never having gone this deep before. She could remember the closest she had gotten on a certain summer day two years ago, when she was making preparations for Professor Oak's summer camp. She, nor anyone else she knew besides her grandfather, never went any further than the edge of the forest, but because of the many failures she committed on that fateful day, there was one person who did.

Was this how Ash was feeling when he was out here? Daisy asked herself as she walked. Was he this scared?

But before Daisy could think any more about that, she suddenly felt a bright patch of sunlight hit her face as she realized that they had just exited the forest and were now in a new, yet very familiar place: one that was unmistakable for anyone who lived in Pallet Town.

"Gramps... is this Route 1?"

"Indeed," Professor Oak replied, continuing to walk along as Daisy observed her new surroundings. They were in the middle of a large open field, stretching in every direction in front of them for a least a mile or more; this was familiar from the few times that Daisy had traveled down Route 1 before. But unlike any of those times, there were no roads, rivers, or even any trees to speak of, nor any signs of life at all besides Daisy and her grandfather. Only an endless expanse of grassland — punctuated by the occasional patch of bushes nearby and the mountains of Mt. Moon in the far distance — distinguished the eerily quiet and lonely place.

Just as Daisy began wondering what they could possibly be doing in a place like this, however, she suddenly heard Professor Oak's device emit a high-pitched and increasingly repetitious noise, to which its owner responded by slowing down as he looked intently at his surroundings.

"Gramps, what's goi—"

"Shhh!" Professor Oak shushed, right before his device suddenly exploded with sound, its noises now so great in frequency that its repetitions became completely indistinct, blurring together into a single high-pitched whine.

"The time has come," Professor Oak said to no one in particular before clicking off his device, silencing it. He then turned around to Daisy, his face now as deadly serious as it had been the entire day.

"You can open the bag now," Professor Oak told her. "Take out the very first thing that you see, carefully."

Opening the front pocket of the bag, Daisy took a peek inside... and nearly did a double-take at what she saw.

"Yes, it's what you think it is," said Professor Oak. "Take it out now."

Extending her hand into the bag as if she was afraid that it would bite it off, she grabbed for the item and slowly took it out, revealing it in its full, terrifying glory.

A small black handgun, fitted with a suppressor, was now in Daisy's hands.

"This is a gun," Daisy said almost flatly, belying the increasingly nervous expression on her face as her eyes stayed glued to the deadly weapon now in her possession. "W-Why do we have a gun!?"

"We'll be needing it today," Professor Oak replied simply. "You see, I've been—don't point that thing at me!"

"I'm sorry!" said Daisy as she abruptly jerked the gun towards the ground, away from Professor Oak's face. "I-I wasn't paying attention—"

"No, you weren't!" Professor Oak yelled again, causing Daisy to shrink at his rage. "Rule number one of guns: never point at anything that you don't intend to destroy! Do you intend to destroy me today, Daisy?"


"And rule number two of guns," he continued, staring angrily at the gun again, "Never put your finger on the trigger until you're ready to fire! Unless you'd like to let everyone know that we're here, which, given what we're about to do, would not be a very wise idea!"

"S-Sorry..." Daisy apologized again, carefully moving her index finger off the trigger and away from the gun entirely. "But, what are we about to do, Gramps? What's all of this about?"

"Today," Professor Oak replied, "we're going to catch a Pokémon."

Daisy felt the slightest bit of relief wash over her with that answer; she almost thought that they were about to commit a murder or something.

"But not just any Pokémon," the Professor continued. "This is one that I've been tracking for a very long time, and now it's finally within my grasp. It's a Pokémon so powerful that even humans have fashioned a name for it: the Great Warrior of Light. And it's named as such, it's said, because 'light' is practically the only thing anyone has ever seen of this Pokémon, and is likely the very last thing you'll ever see if you do. This Pokémon will kill us without hesitation if we're not prepared for it, which is why we have the gun, and why I brought you here, Daisy. Simply put, I cannot catch this Pokémon alone. I'll be relying on you today, which is why you must do absolutely everything that I say, when I say it, without hesitation or discussion."

"O-OK, but... a gun!?" replied Daisy. "That's pretty crazy, Gramps! I mean, I don't even know how to use this thing..."

"Oh, it's very straightforward," said Professor Oak. "Simply aim for the target and pull the trigger, or in other words: point and shoot. Anyone can do that. Which leads me to rule number three of guns: make sure that you actually hit whatever you aim at. You wouldn't want to hit something else instead, such as me, for instance. Or a tree that bounces the bullet back to me, or to you, for that matter. Nor would you want to miss whatever's trying to kill you, especially when that thing is nearly as fast as a bullet itself."

Staring incredulously at Professor Oak, then at the gun in her hand, and then at Professor Oak again, Daisy nearly looked like she was about to faint at everything she just heard, and at the implications of all of it.

"This is insane..." Daisy trailed off, before taking a deep breath and composing herself. "I mean, I'm sure this Pokémon is really powerful and all, but... we don't really need a gun for this, do we Gramps?"

"If only you knew," replied Professor Oak. "Now keep that gun and keep it close. Once we're finished today, you'll be glad you had it with you."

Daisy prepared to say something else in response, but she was stopped by a sudden loud rustling in the bushes a few feet in front of them, a rustling that could only come from one thing.

"In those bushes, quick!" Professor Oak suddenly ordered, pointing to another set of bushes to his right. Daisy, momentarily stunned by this turn of events, shook it off and obliged, charging into the bushes while ignoring the leaves that threatened to scratch and tear at her skin as she dug herself deep there. She would happily take that, she decided, over which she could only assume was the fearsome "Great Warrior of Light" that they were about to face. What kind of Pokémon is this? she wondered, her heart beating fast in anticipation.

She didn't have to wonder for long, however, as the rustling became louder and louder, the approach of the "Great Warrior of Light" imminent. With both Professor Oak and Daisy staring intently at the bushes in front of them, something suddenly burst out from there in a flash, and then...


"A Pikachu!?" Daisy exclaimed under her breath, staring at the smiling mouse Pokémon in front of them with a mix of shock, wonder, and confusion. "That's the Great Warrior of Light!?"

A light, barely audible "shh!" came from Professor Oak, who apparently heard her. Staying quiet after that, Daisy's reactions continued in her thoughts as Pikachu titled its head sideways a bit, observing the human in front of it with a "Pi-ka?".

It's... actually kind of cute! Aww...

But then she quickly remembered the rather frightening things that her grandfather had said about this "Great Warrior of Light", and as she wondered how something so adorable could be so dangerous, Professor Oak proceeded to address the still-smiling Pikachu in front of him, his hands outstretched as if welcoming it.

"Pikachu, O Great Warrior of Light! Your reputation precedes you! I want you to show me your strength in a Pokémon battle! One-on-one, you versus my Dragonite, a mighty warrior worthy of someone like you. Do you accept my challenge?"

Almost instantly, Pikachu's smile turned into what Daisy could've sworn was almost a smirk — and an arrogant, rather creepy-looking smirk, at that — before it turned around and began charging back into the bushes.

"Um, did it accept the challenge?" asked Daisy.

"Oh, very much so," Professor Oak replied, turning to Daisy with a very satisfied look on his face right before his expression turned serious again.

"Now listen to me, and listen well," he told her. "We've just crossed the point of no return. There's no backing out of challenging a Pikachu, which means that life and death will be determined by what we do, and don't do, in these next few moments."

"With that said, you will stay in these bushes right here," he went on, pointing to where Pikachu had come out from earlier, "and not come out for any reason, no matter what, unless I tell you to. Pikachu can't know that you're here under any circumstances, unless you'd like to know what ten thousand volts feels like. Do you understand?"

Daisy nodded.

"Furthermore, once the battle begins, keep that gun locked on Pikachu at all times. Should things go to hell, you know what you have to do."

"Wait, you mean shoot it!?"


"B-But, I can't kill a Pokémon!" Daisy began to protest. "How could I?"

"Either you kill Pikachu," the Professor coldly answered, "or Pikachu kills you. Or were you not paying attention to anything that I was saying before?"


"Do you want to live or do you want to die, Daisy?"

Stunned into silence by that simple, morbid ultimatum, Daisy stared blankly at Professor Oak for a few tense, awkward moments before finally giving the only reasonable answer to such a question:


"Then do as I say," said Professor Oak, "and never question me again, do you understand?"

"Y-Yes, Gramps—"

"I'm afraid that 'Gramps' isn't going to cut it for this one," an increasingly agitated-looking Professor Oak replied. "I'll ask you one more time: do you understand me, and will you do what needs to be done?"

A long pause... and then finally, Daisy answered:

"Yes, Professor."

Professor Oak nodded, a faint trace of a smile appearing on his face. "Now that's more like it."

And with that, Professor Oak walked forward into the bushes towards Pikachu on the other side. Following her grandfather through there, Daisy carefully made her way to the edge of the bushes, where she could see Professor Oak at one end of the large makeshift battlefield that he and Pikachu had created, devoid of anything at all besides the two. Professor Oak then reached into his lab coat pocket, producing a Poké Ball.

"Dragonite, it's time!" said Professor Oak as he tossed the Poké Ball into the air, which soon popped open to release what was indeed Professor Oak's chosen Pokémon for the battle. Materializing on the battlefield, the dragon, upon seeing at its tiny mouse opponent on the other side, gave a mighty roar.

"Remember our training," Professor Oak hissed to Dragonite before turning his gaze towards Pikachu, the two's eyes now locked on each other.

"Who will make the first move?" Professor Oak shouted out to Pikachu, who responded with a "Pikaaaaaaa...!" as it began discharging electricity from its cheeks. Smiling, Professor Oak turned to his Pokémon and gave his first command:

"Dragonite, Sword A!"

And at that, Dragonite burst into the air with a single powerful thrust of its wings, just in time to dodge a bolt of electricity that blasted right through where Dragonite once stood, past Professor Oak's head, and then mere feet away from Daisy who nearly screamed at the sight before the bolt finally terminated a few feet behind her. Holding her gun tight, Daisy kept her eyes locked anxiously at Pikachu as it hopped a few feet forward and gave another "Pikaaaaaaa...!" as it prepared to launch another bolt of lightning — its Thunderbolt attack — at Dragonite.

"Stone Edge, now!" commanded Professor Oak.

"...chuuuuuuu!!!" screamed Pikachu as it fired its Thunderbolt, an attack dodged effortlessly by Dragonite with a light strafe in the air before an aura of bright white light began to surround it. The light then expanded out of Dragonite before soon morphing into the shape of multiple sharp, jagged stones, all aimed directly at Pikachu.

Pikachu, realizing what was about to happen, focused all of its energy into its legs and broke into a swift run, clearly preparing to dodge the impending attack. But Dragonite's aim was precise, and the stones quick and merciless as they all descended one by one straight towards Pikachu, with the first one soon finding itself just mere feet away from striking the mouse Pokémon with a direct, seemingly unavoidable hit.

"Whoa!" Daisy cried out as she watched the first stone land right at its target, an explosive cloud of dust and dirt marking the hit as it impaled the ground and everything else in its path. Everything except for Pikachu, Daisy soon realized, as it instead appeared several feet away from the landed stone, completely unharmed and still running as if nothing had even happened a second ago.

"W-What—!?" Daisy exclaimed as the second stone came crashing down, again with Pikachu right in its path. But with a brief, nearly imperceptible flash, Pikachu dodged this stone effortlessly, suddenly appearing on the other side of it completely unharmed, all before Daisy could even blink.

"Did it just... teleport!?" Daisy said incredulously at the seemingly impossible sight she just witnessed, to which Professor Oak turned around at her with a frown.

"It's Agility," he corrected her. "Didn't I say that Pikachu was fast?"

Turning back around to the battle, Professor Oak watched as Dragonite continue to fire stones at Pikachu, and Daisy continued to watch it all herself as Pikachu, against all logical expectation, proceeded to dodge each one again and again without fail, its Agility proving too much for even Dragonite's ferocious aim and speed to overcome.

Before long, Dragonite exhausted its stones and proceeded to observe the dust-covered battlefield below, searching for its opponent. With a strong flap of its wings, Dragonite sent the dust flying, revealing dozens of stones sticking out from the ground below. Pikachu suddenly hopped out from behind one, leaping on top of another one right in front of it as it stared down its opponent with fierce, determined eyes, not even looking tired from its multiple successive dodges earlier.

"Excellent," said Professor Oak, smiling with strange satisfaction at sight in front of him. Strange to Daisy, at least, who had no idea how he could be feeling that way right now. They didn't even hit anything! she thought to herself. But there were soon more important things to worry about as electricity began sparking from Pikachu's cheeks again, the mouse Pokémon clearly preparing another attack.

"Shield A, Dragonite!" Professor Oak commanded, his Pokémon swiftly obliging as it shifted its body into a defensive stance in the air, expanding its wings as far as they could go while shrinking the rest of itself inwards.

"Pikaaaaaaa...!" the mouse Pokémon cried out as it was about to fire its Thunderbolt at Dragonite, right before Professor Oak issued another command:

"Dragon Dance, now!"


Another bolt of lightning burst out from Pikachu, which was again easily dodged with a strafe in the air by Dragonite right before an aura of orange light began to surround it this time. And then Dragonite, closing its eyes almost as if it were meditating, began to spin and glide in the air in a rather peculiar yet also graceful manner, indeed much like a dance.

Pikachu, meanwhile, gave an especially low growl of "Pika..." at the apparently displeasing sight above as it prepared another Thunderbolt, releasing it rather quickly this time with a forceful "chuuuuuuu!!!" as the attack reached for its target in a flash once again. But the attack didn't even come close to hitting Dragonite this time as it continued its Dragon Dance, circling over the battlefield in a series of effortless movements that seemed to become faster and faster by the second.

"chuuuuuuu!!!" Pikachu screamed as it fired yet another Thunderbolt at Dragonite, which again missed its target by a mile. And with another "chuuuuuuu!!!", Pikachu began a series of successive Thunderbolts aimed at Dragonite above, each one becoming faster and seemingly more desperate by the second, yet also seemingly more fruitless as every single one failed to hit Dragonite, who practically made a mockery of its opponent's efforts with its graceful Dragon Dance in the air.

"Wonderful," said Professor Oak at the proceedings before him, leading a still-confused Daisy to pipe up this time:

"Um, how is this wonderful? I mean, we haven't even hit Pikachu yet. It's too fast!"

"Pikachu might be fast," said Professor Oak, continuing to observe the battle, "but you see how there's a little pause before each of its attacks? It's only as fast as it can discharge. And when we're in our domain, the air, its Thunderbolt is the only way that it can hit us. And yet in the air, we can dodge all of them easily. We're untouchable!"

"But you still can't hit Pikachu either, right?" replied Daisy. "I mean, if you could, wouldn't you have already done so by now?"

"Weren't you supposed to be paying attention to Pikachu this whole time?" Professor Oak sneered, turning around to look at her this time. "Look closer!"

Focusing her eyes on Pikachu, Daisy could see that the mouse Pokémon's breathing was becoming heavier and more labored by the second, its attempts to hit Dragonite clearly taking its toll on it.

"It's tired," Daisy realized, to which Professor Oak nodded in confirmation.

"I know what Pikachu's domain is as well," he said, just before Pikachu stopped firing Thunderbolts at Dragonite all of a sudden. Panting in exhaustion at its wasted efforts, the mouse Pokémon shot a glare of frustration at Dragonite as it ended its Dragon Dance and stared down its opponent with barely any hint of tiredness at all.

"It's always frustrating when you can't even hit your opponent, isn't it?" Professor Oak laughed at Pikachu. "What are you going to do now, little mouse?"

He then turned back to Dragonite, a glint of excitement flashing in his eyes as he gave his next command.

"Now, Dragonite! Sword B! Exterminate that rat with your Outrage!"

Dragonite roared in affirmation, speeding like a bullet towards Pikachu with bloodlust in its eyes as a deep red aura began to surround it. Pikachu leapt from the stone it was standing on in an attempt to dodge the impending attack, but right as it did, Dragonite punched right through the mouse Pokémon's path like a meteor, with absolutely zero mercy given as a small crater was formed in the ground in its wake, with dust and dirt flying everywhere.

Professor Oak chuckled in satisfaction at the sight in front of him, but then his laughs abruptly subsided as nothing moved from inside the smoke, the opposite of what one would've expected from a Pokemon's Outrage. And then the dust cleared, revealing Pikachu right at the edge of the crater, appearing rather shaken as it managed to dodge Dragonite's attack by almost literally mere inches.

"Damn!" Professor Oak cursed as the red aura began to fade from Dragonite, signaling the premature end of its Outrage. His previous plans ruined, the Professor quickly issued a new command:

"Dragon Claw, and actually hit it this time!"

Dragonite, itself looking extremely irritated at its failure, responded with a ferocious, unexpectedly quick swipe at Pikachu, enough that it actually came within mere inches of hitting its target this time. Pikachu froze for a split second, having been startled by that unexpectedly close call, but a split second also happened to be how long it took for another Dragon Claw to arrive.

"Pikaaaaaaa!!!" Pikachu screamed as the Dragon Claw hit its target, sending it flying several feet towards one of the stones littering the battlefield, which it bounced off of with a dull, hard thud. Before Pikachu could even reach the ground, Dragonite was already closing in on it from above with an unusual swiftness, nearly matching that of Pikachu itself. Another Dragon Claw then descended on the downed Pikachu, who managed to dodge it this time with a well-timed Agility. But just as soon as it disappeared, it reappeared again mere feet away in front of another stone, which it had barely avoided crashing head-first into as it blocked its path.

"Where are you going to go now, Pikachu?" shouted Professor Oak as Dragonite zoomed over to Pikachu in a flash, gliding over the stones as it prepared yet another Dragon Claw. And it was then that Daisy realized her grandfather's strategy.

"You're cancelling out its speed!" said Daisy. "You tired out Pikachu earlier, used Dragon Dance to up Dragonite's speed, and now you're using those stones to keep Pikachu from using Agility!"

"Yes," confirmed Professor Oak. "Now we can hit it."

Pikachu managed to dodge Dragonite's Dragon Claw, but it was another close call as the mouse Pokémon was indeed unable to use Agility now. Forced to rely entirely on its natural speed, Pikachu ran as fast as it could towards another stone, hoping to take cover from the next Dragon Claw that Dragonite was now preparing. But the exhaustion from its earlier efforts wore hard on Pikachu, leaving it wide open for another successful strike from Dragonite that again sent it flying.

"Pikaaaaaaa!!!" Pikachu screamed again as it flew slightly above the stones this time, before gravity sent it back to earth near the other side of the battlefield, far away from everyone else. Dragonite didn't give its opponent a moment's rest as it sped once again towards Pikachu with yet another Dragon Claw at the ready. It took an additional second or two for Dragonite to fly from the middle of the battlefield, however, giving Pikachu a brief moment of respite as it got up from the ground, and then...

...it suddenly vanished with a flash, leaving nothing for Dragonite to hit as it descended on Pikachu's former location.

"Huh?" said Daisy, surprised to see Pikachu use Agility again as Professor Oak growled at what just happened, with Dragonite roaring angrily in turn. She soon realized that, having been knocked over to the edge of the battlefield, there were no longer any stones around to stop Pikachu from using it anymore; such was the cost of Dragonite attacking Pikachu with such abandon.

But then she soon realized something else: Pikachu hadn't shown up again yet.

"Did it run away?" Daisy asked Professor Oak; he shook his head.

"They're too proud for that," he replied. "It'll come back."

Professor Oak then turned his attention back to Dragonite above, who awaited its trainer's orders.

"Just stay in the air, Dragonite!" Professor Oak shouted out to it. "It can't hit you while you're in the— oh, damn it!"

Having finally reached the limits of how long it could fly, Dragonite's wings drooped low as it began falling back to earth. Landing on its feet with a thud, Dragonite panted hard in exhaustion as it took in every moment of relief that it could.

"We don't have time for this!" Professor Oak screamed at Dragonite. "You think that Pikachu's just going to wait for you!?"

It was then, however, that he came up with a new plan.

"Alright, then! Dragonite, Shield B! Safeguard and wind shield, quickly!"

"Wind shield?" Daisy repeated quizzically, having never heard of a move like that before. She didn't have to wonder about it for long, however, as Dragonite immediately began flapping its wings in a slow, repetitive motion at the same time that it started to glow a bright blue, facing straight in the direction where Pikachu disappeared to.

"You're going to have to go faster than that, Dragonite!" shouted Professor Oak. "Come on!"

A few seconds after that, Dragonite's relatively modest effort evolved into a fierce motion that belied what even a Pokémon like Dragonite — or any Pokémon at all — could seemingly handle, producing a fierce wind so strong that Daisy could actually see the air around Dragonite bending at its might.

"Come on, you little rat..." Professor Oak hissed as he stared anxiously into the distance, taking an occasional look at his Dragonite who dutifully continued producing its "wind shield", even as it looked increasingly tired from the effort. "Don't you be a cowa—"


A streak of light suddenly flashed on the battlefield, faster than anyone could even process it as Pikachu crashed into Dragonite at unimaginable speeds. The attack connected with Dragonite for a split second before Pikachu rather violently bounced off of it, flying a few feet backwards before landing on all fours.

"Volt Tackle; impressive!" Professor Oak called out to Pikachu, seeming strangely unconcerned with what he just witnessed. "You truly are worthy of your title, O Great Warrior of Light!"

"Pika!" Pikachu exclaimed in triumph, only to jump at a massive roar from Dragonite in reply, as if nothing had even happened to it just a few seconds ago. Because indeed, nothing did. The Safeguard and "wind shield" had worked exactly as planned, leaving Dragonite completed unharmed.

"But we have power too," Professor Oak told Pikachu, who stared wide-eyed at both him and Dragonite with a mix of shock and frustration. "And now it's time to unleash it!"

He then turned to his Dragonite, just as a very irritated Pikachu began discharging electricity from its cheeks again.

"Sword A; no mercy! Dragon Pulse!"

A blue sphere of energy then formed inside Dragonite's mouth, the sphere being fired just as Pikachu fired its Thunderbolt. The two attacks collided with each other, creating a large explosion with an equally large plume of smoke to match, obscuring Dragonite's vision as Pikachu disappeared completely from view. Dragonite leapt backwards to dodge the smoke, soaring away from it with its wings but also clearly struggling to use them, only managing to reach slightly above the ground. And then Pikachu suddenly burst out from the smoke, electricity sparking from its cheeks yet again as it landed on the ground not far from Dragonite.

"This isn't going to work," said Professor Oak under his breath as he watched Dragonite start to fall towards the ground again, its wings drooping just like before. But as Pikachu itself panted hard in exhaustion, struggling to produce another Thunderbolt, Daisy could see another plan forming in Professor Oak's head.

"Dragonite, let's catch this little rat in a trap!" Professor Oak shouted as his Pokémon reached the ground. "Use Twister!"

At that command, Dragonite beckoned towards the heavens and gave a mighty roar as the clouds above it started to turn gray. Pikachu, startled by Dragonite's roar, looked to see what its opponent was up to, only to spot a massive vortex start to descend from the sky, a ferocious gale forming in its wake.

"Pika!" Pikachu shouted in panic as it ran like hell away from the descending twister, but even the lightning fast mouse was no match for its might as the wind almost immediately tore it off the ground and launched it straight into Dragonite's Twister. Professor Oak laughed in satisfaction as he watched Pikachu be tossed all around the twister, its cries echoing throughout the battlefield as it was buffeted mercilessly by unimaginable winds.

"Ha! Speed isn't much use in a twister, is it, Pikachu?" said Professor Oak, before addressing his Dragonite again. "Now let's set this thing on fire and end this! Flamethrower!"

And at that, Dragonite, standing at the very heart of the twister that it summoned, raised its head towards the sky once more, taking in a deep breath as it prepared to set the vortex aflame with Pikachu inside. But just as it was about to do so, Dragonite noticed flashes of lightning bursting out of the clouds above, right before seeing Pikachu discharge electricity of its own from its body as the lightning bolts above drew closer and closer to Pikachu. Panicking, Dragonite unleashed its Flamethrower just as the lightning connected with Pikachu, surrounding it with an aura of white light. Dragonite's flames, meanwhile, circled around the vortex as they ascended towards the bright white light that was now Pikachu, which illuminated the darkened battlefield with an almost heavenly shine right before the fires closed in Pikachu, snuffing out the light and replacing it with a hellish red glow.

"And now it's over!" Professor Oak proclaimed, and as Daisy witnessed the sight in front of her with utter dread in her heart, she certainly hoped that it would be over soon. What kind of battle is this? she thought to herself.

But just as Professor Oak had declared the battle over, a familiar light began to shine again from the center of the fiery twister, revealing that the battle was far from over. The light then began to shine brighter than it ever had before, quickly overtaking the red glow of the twister before soon exploding in a dazzling display, taking the twister itself out with it.

And right there at the center, now visible from where the now-fading light once shone, was Pikachu, completely unharmed.

"What... the... hell!?" Professor Oak shouted, watching the scene dumbfounded as Pikachu descended from its position, electricity sparking from its cheeks as it prepared a Thunderbolt on its way down. Dragonite, without waiting for a command from its trainer, hastily launched another Flamethrower just as Pikachu unleashed its Thunderbolt, the two attacks meeting each other halfway. The two forces struggled for about a second before they combined and created a massive explosion in the sky, enough to send wind and particles flying as far as Professor Oak's position and beyond. As he and Daisy shielded themselves from the fallout, Dragonite steeled itself as the explosion nearly sent it flying. But Pikachu, not being able to do anything from its precarious position in the air, ended up getting caught in the blast, which sent it flying slightly upwards in an arc before it descended back to earth at a dangerously high speed.

"Pikachu..." Daisy uttered under her breath, her heart aching with worry for the Pokémon seemingly about to meet an unpleasant end or at least a very painful landing, despite it technically being their enemy. But just as it was about to hit the ground, Daisy could see Pikachu's tail suddenly glow white, and within the next second it landed tail-first, said tail taking the brunt of the fall as Pikachu slid across the ground from there, a long, deep line being dug there in its wake.

"Alright, enough of this!" Professor Oak growled, his eyes flaring at the weakened but not yet finished Pikachu before turning to his Pokémon once more.

"Now, Dragonite! Gamma Z! Rend the earth to shreds and finish the fight!"

At that command, Dragonite's eyes started to glow white just as it suddenly gave a single powerful flap of its wings, causing it to rise a few feet off the ground before falling back down again. And once it returned to earth, the ground beneath it utterly imploded in its wake with a bone-shaking BOOM!, the impact creating a series of massive, powerful shockwaves that tore apart everything in their path like tissue paper and warped the very earth itself to their destructive wills. Mountains were erected, valleys were formed, and fissures were cracked open as effortlessly as breathing. Such was the power of Dragonite's Earthquake, a super-effective move against the defenseless Pikachu who, in its current state, could never hope to run fast enough to escape the all-consuming waves of earth and elements that threatened to crash down on it, nor the barely stable ground that became increasingly less so by the second and would soon cease to become ground entirely.

But in the face of this imminent danger from which there was seemingly no escape, Pikachu didn't even flinch. Instead, with a deep breath, it planted itself deep on all fours and made a powerful wave of its tail as far into the air as it ever did before, the tail glowing an ever-familiar white. And with a leap and another ferocious swing of its tail towards the ground, Pikachu performed the Iron Tail of its life — perhaps literally — and shot itself into the air like a child on the most powerful trampoline ever invented, rising high above Dragonite just as the first wave of weaponized earth reached where Pikachu once stood not even a second earlier. As impressive as this was, however, it still wasn't enough for Pikachu to dodge the full force of Dragonite's Earthquake, and before long Pikachu found itself staring at another twisted, ruined mess of earth ready to come down on it and destroy it.

Pikachu, however, was ready, and with another deep breath and a swing of its tail, it unleashed yet another Iron Tail that it had been preparing while it was high in the air, aiming for the largest spike of earth that it could find. It was a risky move; just as easily as such a spike could've acted as a support for Pikachu to make another leap from, it could've just as easily broken under the sheer power required to make such a leap, which would doom Pikachu to be swallowed whole by Dragonite's Earthquake.

Its aim proving to be true, Pikachu was able to reach a spike with its Iron Tail, and the tail dug deep into there, threatening to break through it entirely. But with yet another powerful swing of its tail, Pikachu broke free, obliterating the spike as the mouse Pokémon was launched high upwards once again... but it couldn't do so quickly enough to avoid the mass of earth that ultimately crashed down on it. And as Pikachu disappeared underneath, it appeared that the battle was finally over...

...only for Pikachu to blast out from the earth just under a second later, having just completely escaped one of Dragonite's most powerful attacks effortlessly.

"What? Whaaaaaaat!?"

Barely having any time to even process what just happened let alone react to it, Dragonite could only stare dumbly at its now-airborne opponent as tell-tale sparks burst from Pikachu's cheeks once more, heralding the release of another Thunderbolt attack. And this time, there was nothing to stop it from reaching its target.

Professor Oak screamed in fury as he watched the Thunderbolt hit Dragonite, who roared in pain as it experienced the full power of what ten thousand volts could do. The attack consumed it and the entire battlefield with a blinding, radiant yellow: a spectacle truly worthy of the Great Warrior of Light.

A few seconds later, the light dissipated, signaling the end of the attack as Pikachu landed on all fours on Professor Oak's side of the battlefield, laughing in mad satisfaction at what it just achieved. Dragonite, a few feet in front of it, writhed in agony as it attempted to avenge itself with an attack, its eyes filled with bloodlust at the gloating Pikachu. But then Dragonite froze as sparks suddenly flashed around its body, right before it ultimately shrunk back down to the ground, unable to move.

"Goddammit, it's paralyzed!" Professor Oak furiously observed. "Our only advantage is gone! It's over."

The Professor then reached into one of his pockets, taking out a black and yellow colored Poké Ball.

"Time to expedite things," the Professor growled before silently tossing the Poké Ball with surprising strength into the air, straight towards Pikachu. Still facing Dragonite with its back turned, Pikachu seemed to be completely unaware of what Professor Oak just did, and as gravity sent the ball downwards towards Pikachu, it seemed prime to reach its target...

...right before Pikachu suddenly leapt into the air with its tail glowing white, striking the Poké Ball with an effortless swipe of its Iron Tail and shattering it into thousands of pieces. Landing on all fours, Pikachu then turned around to stare down the person who threw that doomed Poké Ball, first with confusion, and then with pure, unrestrained rage, accompanied by an especially low and vicious growl.

"Oh crap!" Daisy cried out.

"Indeed," hissed Professor Oak as Pikachu motioned towards them. "Daisy, shoot it. Do it now!"

Right after that, Pikachu burst into a run, shooting towards Professor Oak with murder in its eyes. Daisy, who had a clear shot from her position in the bushes, aimed her gun at Pikachu and laid her finger on the trigger, but just as she was about to fire...

"I can't..." Daisy uttered, tears forming in her eyes as the gun shook in her hands. "I can't!"

"Daisy, pull the damn trigger!" Professor Oak screamed at her as Pikachu got closer. "Do it!"

With all of the willpower she could summon, Daisy closed her eyes tight and squeezed the trigger, and she screamed as the bullet blasted out from the muzzle, its report piercing her eardrums and the whole airspace around her in the form of a dull yet potent crack. And as the gun nearly flew out of her hands in recoil, the bullet shot straight towards Pikachu...

...and then proceeded to completely miss its target, flying yonder with a whoosh! past Pikachu.

"Goddammit Daisy, shoot it!!!"

But Daisy froze as Pikachu turned its head towards the source of the gunshot, its eyes widening upon realizing that another human was there. Pikachu's eyes met Daisy's at that moment, leading the mouse Pokémon to suddenly stop in its tracks as it stared down the newest human with what appeared to be confusion, and then curiosity, in its eyes. Its head kept going up and down as it looked at Daisy, then at her gun, and then at Daisy again, as if trying to piece two and two together.

"Daisy..." Professor Oak growled from the distance, prompting Daisy to steady her shaking hands and squeeze the trigger again, but...

"N-No..." Daisy whimpered, her voice breaking as Pikachu kept staring her down. "No, I can't!"


Hearing Professor Oak's furious shouts, Pikachu swerved its head towards his direction with a "Pika!?" right before two gunshots suddenly rang out loud in the air. Daisy had fired twice more at Pikachu, again with her eyes closed tight. But the bullets missed again, not even coming close to hitting their target. Pikachu flinched at the gunshots, looking fearfully at Daisy for a split second before it dashed forwards towards Professor Oak and then suddenly disappeared with a flash.


Before anyone could even process what happened, Pikachu suddenly appeared mere feet away from Professor Oak, who jumped in shock with wide, unbelieving eyes as Pikachu leapt towards him.

"Pikaaaaaaa...!!!" screamed the Pokémon as electricity burst out of its cheeks once more, just as it was about to—


And with that roar, Professor Oak's Dragonite flew in from out of nowhere towards the startled Pikachu, the latter barely having any time to react before being struck by a swift, powerful Dragon Claw. The attack launched Pikachu straight across from Professor Oak like a rocket, far away from him before gravity ultimately sent it down towards the ground where it slid painfully for several feet before stopping. Pikachu then laid motionless there, seemingly unconscious.

Dragonite gave another mighty roar at its successful attack, but not long after that it began writhing in pain again, crouching down to the ground as it struggled to move even a single muscle of its body. Professor Oak, regaining his breath after that near-brush with almost certain death, turned swiftly towards Daisy, who herself had been rendered nearly catatonic at the epic events unfolding before her eyes.

"Full Restore in the bag, quickly!" Professor Oak ordered, and Daisy, shaking off her fear, obliged as she began sliding Professor Oak's bag from her back, down her left arm, and towards her free hand, the other still clutching her gun. She was about to reach into the bag before a jolt of electricity suddenly struck her in a flash, causing her to yelp in pain as she froze on the spot. Swerving to her side, she saw Pikachu approach from where Dragonite had launched it earlier, limping somewhat as it slowly, weakly walked towards her direction. Her heart skipping a beat, Daisy raised her gun towards Pikachu and—

"No, Daisy!" Professor Oak screamed, his shout catching Pikachu's attention as it shifted its hateful glare towards him. Electricity sparking weakly yet no less dangerously from its cheeks, it began inching towards Professor Oak now, the Pokémon growling at him with an almost primal ferocity.

"Pikachu, O Great Warrior of Light!" Professor Oak shouted out to the mouse Pokémon, his hands outstretched again. "Please forgive me; I only wanted your strength! You're so strong, Pikachu; so strong! Let's not end it all like this; let's not fight! Come with me, Pikachu, and let me show you what you can really do!"

But Pikachu was having none of it, and in the next instant, its intentions were clear. Planting itself prone on all fours, Pikachu prepared to charge into Professor Oak again, and this time, there was nothing to stop it from obliterating its target as the still-paralyzed Dragonite could only watch the dire state of affairs helplessly. Professor Oak himself could only watch — a flash of fear visible in his eyes — as Pikachu gave its merciless, murderous cry:



Professor Oak turned around in shock towards the source of that ever-familiar crack in the air; the sound of a gun being fired. A gun fired by his granddaughter, whose eyes were already watering with tears as she watched Pikachu slump to its side upon being struck by her bullet, whimpering briefly in pain before falling still and silent.

"Oh my God..." Daisy uttered as Professor Oak, recovering after standing in shock for a while, rushed over to the fallen Pikachu. "What have I done!?"

"You've just saved all of our lives, is what you've done," said Professor Oak, still slightly breathless from what just happened as he observed Pikachu. "Didn't I say that it would be either you or Pikachu?"

"I-I just killed a Pokémon... I just killed a Pokémon!"

"Oh for God's sake, calm down..."

"How can I calm down!?" Daisy screamed. "I'm a murderer! That Pikachu's dead... because of me!"

Sighing, Professor Oak focused his attention towards Pikachu again, seemingly ignoring Daisy's increasing whimpers of guilt while running his fingers across Pikachu's body, as if searching for something.

"Look closer," said Professor Oak suddenly, and just as Daisy summoned enough courage to look down at Pikachu, she witnessed the Professor pluck something out of its fur, but whatever it was, it was so small that she couldn't see it, almost as if he was holding nothing at all. And then, to her shock and disbelief, she witnessed something else.

Pikachu was breathing. Slowly and weakly, but breathing.

[continued on the next page...]
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Impressionist Bakuphoon
"This is a tranquilizer dart," Professor Oak said, frowning as Daisy finally saw what looked like a thin, hypodermic needle between his fingers, a spot of blood visible at one end. "Did you really think that I would ever have you kill a Pokémon as valuable as this Pikachu?"

"Valuable!? B-But it's just a Pikachu!"

"Just a Pikachu!?" Professor Oak shouted, startling his granddaughter as he tossed the needle down on the ground in anger. "Daisy, did you even see anything that was happening out there? That Pikachu brought my Dragonite to its knees! A mouse defeating a dragon; think about that! This is no ordinary Pikachu!"

"But if there weren't real bullets in that gun," said Daisy, sniffling as she wiped tears from her eyes, "then why did you make it look like I was going to kill Pikachu?"

"Because I needed to know whether or not you could do what needed to be done," Professor Oak replied, "and whether or not you were mature enough to follow my orders without question. You hesitated when I first told you what to do, but that's to be expected. And when the time came for you to actually follow through with my commands, you passed with flying colors. Congratulations."

He didn't offer a smile or any other outward signs of affection towards Daisy, but even then she could tell that he was legitimately satisfied with what she did today. Daisy, however, couldn't share his satisfaction as she watched Pikachu struggle to stay awake against the force of whatever was in that tranquilizer dart. And as Daisy watched Professor Oak reach into his lab coat for something, Pikachu's eyes suddenly met hers, causing her to flinch. A feeling of guilt began to wash over her as Pikachu's glare suddenly switched to that of a sad, desperate pleading. Saying something weakly — "pika... pika, pika..." — under its breath, Daisy, even without knowing anything that it said, understood exactly what it was saying to her in its eyes:

"Please... help me, please..."

But Daisy didn't do anything, instead simply looking sadly at Pikachu with the words "I'm sorry..." at the tip of her tongue but never making their way out. Pikachu, in response, gave a low growl of "Pika..." at her, its eyes flaring in contempt before the tranquilizer finally finished its work. Pikachu's eyes fluttered for a while before they soon closed entirely, the mouse Pokémon's head tilting to its side as it went into a deep sleep.

"Finally," said Professor Oak, just as he retrieved what he was looking for in his lab coat pocket: a Poké Ball. Tapping the ball on Pikachu's body, the mouse Pokémon was soon sucked inside with a flash of red light, the ball then wiggling three times with a strange squeaking noise before a click! confirmed the capture.

"Now you're mine, little mouse," said Professor Oak, grinning in satisfaction at Pikachu's Poké Ball in his hand. "But don't worry; your strength won't be wasted with me."

And with that, Professor Oak stuck the Poké Ball into his pocket and got up from the ground with a grunt before walking over towards Daisy.

"The bag," he said to her simply, to which Daisy obliged by handing it over to him as he approached. Taking the bag, Professor Oak then made his way over to Dragonite, who gave a light growl as it still struggled to move with its paralysis. Sticking his hand into the bag, Professor Oak retrieved a small green spray bottle — the Full Restore — and sprayed a generous amount of the medicine on the battered and bruised Dragonite.

"Didn't I say that Pikachu would be tough?" said Professor Oak as he continued to apply the Full Restore. "I bet you believe me now. A worthy opponent indeed, just like the good old days..."

"Good old days..." Daisy repeated under her breath, reacting to her grandfather's words with incredulity as he suddenly turned back to Daisy, having heard her.

"Is there something wrong?" said Professor Oak flatly, his glare belying his words. And at that moment, a torrent of emotions suddenly exploded out of Daisy all at once:

"What the hell was all of that, Gramps?" she practically screamed at him. "I mean, that battle was crazy... just crazy! Earthquakes!? Fire tornadoes!? Guns!? Just how valuable is this Pikachu, really? Why are we doing all of this!?"

Professor Oak, in response, gave a light sigh with a strangely downcast look on his face — strange for Daisy, at least, who had rarely ever seen him look like that — before he turned back towards his Dragonite once more.

"Time for a rest," Professor Oak told the dragon, taking out its Poké Ball from his pocket. "You've certainly earned it."

Replying with a quiet roar, Dragonite allowed itself to be summoned back into its Poké Ball, disappearing in a flash of red light. Professor Oak then turned to address Daisy again, a serious look forming on his face.

"Follow me," he told her. "We're about to have a very important chat."

And with that, Professor Oak began walking over to a new part of the area, away from the ruined battlefield where unthinkable things had happened mere moments ago. Daisy followed close behind, the eerie silence after all of the chaos she witnessed giving rise to a strange feeling of foreboding in Daisy's heart as she walked. Before long, Professor Oak stopped next to a large, flat rock: a rock just large enough for two people to sit comfortably on.

"Here," said Professor Oak as he took a seat to the left, motioning a hand towards the remaining spot on the right. Daisy found her way there, taking a seat as she let go of the gun in her right hand and allowed it to fall into the grass next to her. Relieved to finally be free of that awful weapon, she put her hands together and took a light sigh of relative relief before she turned around to meet eyes with her grandfather. Professor Oak met eyes with her in kind, graveness informing every part of his expression as he began to speak.

"There comes a time in everyone's life," he said, "when it is time to let go of childish things and to learn how the world really works. Some people might argue that sixteen is too young for that. I, meanwhile, am not one of those people. And so today—"

"Gramps, before you say anything else," Daisy interrupted, making Professor Oak raise an eyebrow, "I'm sorry, but I've just got to know: why did we have to do all of this? Why did we have to capture that Pikachu? Why did we have to hurt it?"

At that, Professor Oak gave a light sigh at his granddaughter; one not necessarily of annoyance, Daisy realized.

"You're persistent, aren't you?" he replied. "Alright, then."

And then, after taking a deep breath as if preparing himself, Professor Oak said:

"Your name."


"Your name is not Daisy Oak," said Professor Oak. "It's Nanami. Ookido Nanami."

"Nanami...?" Daisy repeated. "That's my middle name."

"No. It is far more than that."

"I-I don't understand—"

"Samuel Oak. Gary Oak, Ash Ketchum, Delia Ketchum, Leaf Green, and so on. We all have our masks, one for every occasion. And they all come in many forms indeed."

Seemingly ignoring Daisy's utter confusion at his words, Professor Oak continued on.

"Names are our most basic mask in this life. Consider mine: Samuel Oak. Former Champion of Kanto, world-famous professor, the Pokémon Authority. That's who I am. But then, 'who I am' and 'what I am' are two very different things. A difference that the common man has had difficulty appreciating for a very long time, to my advantage."

"W-What...?" Daisy said, feeling very uncomfortable all of a sudden. "Gramps, you're scaring me... what on earth are you talking about?"

"Are you ready to know 'what I am' behind the mask of Samuel Oak?" Professor Oak asked Daisy, his face earnest. "Once I tell you, there will be no turning back. I'm giving you a choice."

Daisy couldn't help but feel skeptical at that possibility, even as it was also a weirdly tempting one. "Do I really have a choice?" she asked.

"Honestly... no," replied Professor Oak. "Not unless you consider time to be a choice, and innocence is always a fleeting thing. I'm giving you the chance to bury it on your own terms, to the extent that you're able to."

"Well, in that case..." said Daisy, trailing off before sighing in resignation, realizing that she indeed had no choice. Professor Oak, taking that as an affirmative, then cleared his throat as if preparing to tell a long, epic story as he had done many a night before when his grandchildren were much, much younger. Daisy had a feeling, however, that she was about to hear something very different from the stories of those innocent days as Professor Oak began to speak.

"Now, then; about my mask. Professor Samuel Oak. There are many things that you need to know about that, but let's begin with the easy part. To start: my name isn't really Samuel Oak... it's Yukinari. Ookido Yukinari, that is. Family name first, as, until quite recently, it has always been, but I digress."

That sounded simple enough, Daisy thought, if a bit weird. But it was clear that Professor Oak was far from done, and so she watched him with anxious anticipation as he continued on.

"Now for the not-so-easy part. My name isn't really Samuel Oak... and I'm not really a professor. Or a doctor. Or hakase, the proper term until also quite recently, but again, I digress. To put it simply, Daisy, there is absolutely nothing real about the mask that I wear. 'Professor Oak' is a sham, a hoax, a fraud, whatever you want to call it. I'm as much of a professor as that Magikarp I caught was Arceus himself. It's all one big lie."

"Y-You're... not a real professor!?" a completely wide-eyed Daisy exclaimed, not quite believing what she was hearing.


"B-But... what about everything that you did? All of that research, the lab, the Pokédex—"

"The Pokédex!?" Professor Oak practically shouted, and for the first time that she could remember, Daisy actually saw the Professor laugh out loud right then and there, enough that he nearly fell from where he was sitting in sheer mirth.

"Oh, of all the things you could've chosen, Daisy! The Pokédex! Oh God, ha ha ha! Allow me to recite a few excerpts, from memory, of what my, ahem, 'Pokédex' tells budding young trainers!"

And with a loud mock clearing of his throat, he began to do just that.

"Grimer, the Sludge Pokémon! Once mere city waste, it was brought to life after being exposed to X-rays from the moon!"

"Magcargo, the Lava Pokémon! It has an internal body temperature of 10,000 degrees Celsius, two times hotter than the surface of the sun!"

"Wailord, the Whale Pokémon! The largest mammal on earth, it floats on water and weighs... 400 kilograms, ooh ha ha ha ha ha!!!"

For a while after that, Professor Oak continued to laugh seemingly uncontrollably, before he suddenly stopped as his face flashed into a extraordinarily tense and furious expression, nearly the complete opposite of how he had been barely a second ago.

"Do you really think that anyone with any actual intelligence or insight would ever write complete crap like that?" Professor Oak burst out, his eyes livid with rage. "You'd think that a ten-year-old wrote those! But then, that's not really too far from the truth..."


"Indeed," confirmed Professor Oak, this time in a relatively more relaxed manner. "You see, every spring when I give young trainers their Pokémon and send them off on their way, I also give them a Pokédex. You already know that, of course. What you don't know is that for half of those trainers, I give them a blank Pokédex, and they, well, fill in the blanks for me. Which then go into the Pokédex that the other half gets next year, and so the cycle continues. They're so eager to do it for me, wanting to show how smart and knowledgeable they are, like all children do. What they write is about as absurd as what I've already told you, but absolutely no one gives a damn. In fact, everyone laps it up like candy, while I lap up the glory. Do you know why that's possible, Daisy?"

She shook her head, not knowing how she could even begin to respond to all of that.

"Then I suppose that you didn't learn any valuable life lessons from our fishing trip of ours today," Professor Oak sneered. "Let alone the important lesson of all: that this world is run by fools. Fickle, ignorant fools who don't care about things like facts, intelligence, or anything else of worth, but rather about one thing and one thing only: getting what they want. Even when they don't even know what they want, or when what they want changes like the wind. Feelings drive fools, Daisy, which means that if you understand feelings, then with some work and a little bit of luck, you can make fools do whatever you want. And whoever controls fools, controls the world, or at least your own world. For people like me, that is what it means to win the game of life."

"Y-You... don't really think that everyone's just a fool, do you?" asked Daisy, her voice breaking harder with every syllable.

"It's not about what I think, Daisy," replied Professor Oak. "It's about plain fact. If intelligent people ruled the world, then I wouldn't be able to be Professor Oak, and I wouldn't need to be. If intelligent people ruled the world, then I wouldn't even be here in this God-forsaken town! No, I'd be at the Indigo Plateau right now, sitting undefeated in the Hall of Fame."

"The Hall of Fame... as Champion?"

Professor Oak nodded.

"There is one thing that I neglected to tell you about the game of life," he said. "I said that you could bring a Gyarados to a game of weak, mediocre Pokémon and utterly win the game, and that's true. What I didn't say is that it's not enough to win just once. The game of life, you see, isn't something that you just win and then walk away from with riches and spoils in hand. No, in order to remain the winner, you have to catch another Gyarados. And then another, and another, again and again for as long as you live. And not only must you do that, you must do it better than you did the last time, also again and again."

A somewhat pensive look began to form on Professor Oak's face this time, Daisy noticed, before he continued on.

"This is a lesson that I learned the hard way, back when I was Champion. For ten years I sat at the top, crushing anyone who challenged me. No one even got close! And for a time, everyone loved for me it. But eventually, they hated me for it. They got bored, you see, watching me win over and over again. Or maybe they just wanted to watch me lose. But then no one was actually worthy of defeating me, and so again, no one did. My dominance was deserved, and in a world that values things of worth, that dominance would have been rewarded. But instead, people went out of their way to try and take me down, plotting against me over and over again. Yet still, I remained Champion, until one day when it all ended thanks to one shameful, pathetic trainer... but then I could spend all day talking about him."

A barely-concealed fury defined Professor Oak's face now, as if everything from his past had happened only yesterday. But it quickly subsided as Professor Oak composed himself, although Daisy could still see the slightest flash of fire in his eyes.

"Now, how is all of this relevant to you, you might ask?" said Professor Oak. "Well, the truth is that my life has always basically been about exchanges. I give people what they want, and in exchange, they give me what I want. Everyone has that one thing that they want, you see, above all else. Love, money, power, fame... what do you suppose it is for me, Daisy?"

"I-I—" Daisy couldn't get the words out. "I-I d-don't—"

Professor Oak raised a hand to silence her, right before giving his answer:

"A legacy, Daisy. What I want is a legacy. For the name 'Oak' to mean something."

"M-Mean something...!?"

"Indeed. And that's where you come in, Daisy. You see, the truth is that one day, and one day soon, I won't be doing any of this anymore. I've been at this for a very long time now and, honestly, I'm getting too damn old for it. But then the lab isn't just going to run itself, is it? Professor Oak, and all that name stands for, isn't just going to run itself. The things I've started, my dear, aren't the kinds of things that you can just simply stop. They're the Gyarados that must be caught again and again, and soon those Gyarados will be yours to catch, for the sake of the Oak family name."

"Y-You mean—"

"Yes. You will be the successor of my legacy."

"M-Me...?" Daisy finally said, having been previously stunned into a long, wide-eyed silence at Professor Oak's words. "Y-You've got to be kidding me... you don't think that I can live a lie like that, do you? That I can do... whatever you do?"

"Oh, I know you can, my dear," replied Professor Oak. "And of course I wouldn't leave you unprepared for it. You'll have my many associates at your beck and call, all of the vast resources of my lab, the money from my inheritance—"


"Oh, but have you forgotten? You're sixteen now, an age that grants you certain rights and privileges that mere children don't have, which is doubly true if you're a Pokémon trainer. And one of these rights, if you're a trainer, is the ability to receive an elder's inheritance. As in my inheritance, Daisy."

"But how's that even possible!?" Daisy exclaimed, barely believing what she was hearing. "I'm not even a Pokémon trainer!"

"You were given a trainer's license when you were ten," said Professor Oak. "That makes you a trainer."

"Even if I am," Daisy responded, "I don't want any of that dirty money! God only knows how you got it!"

"And God only cares," replied Professor Oak. "All money is dirty money, Daisy."

"Of course you'd say something like that!" Daisy spat back. "I mean, I can't even believe you right now, Gramps! Who are you, even? How could you possibly be the same person who raised us for all of these years? The same person who raised my dad!? When all of this time you've been a fake professor, doing God-knows-what, about to do God-knows-what to that poor Pikachu! And now you want me to continue your 'legacy'? Are you insane!? No way! I refuse! In fact, what's stopping me from going to a Jenny right now and telling them everything?"

"Oh, I don't know; why don't you ask Delia Ketchum?"

"A-Ash's mom?" Daisy stammered, caught completely off guard by the seemingly random mention. "What about her?"

At that, a light chuckle found its way out of Professor Oak, who seemed almost amused at Daisy's question before he proceeded to answer it.

"Delia and I have a very special relationship," said Professor Oak. "A symbiotic one, that is. I depend on her, and she depends on me. This relationship has granted me with many great rewards and opportunities: ones that I could have never attained on my own. And of course, the same holds true for her as well, even if the exchange of power is far from equal between us."

"Now, you and I also happen to have a symbiotic relationship, Daisy," Professor Oak continued, his face growing more serious this time. "I'm depending on you to continue my legacy while you depend on me for, well, everything. The clothes you wear, the bed you sleep in, and even your friend Chansey all exist because of me and what I've done. Things that I've been able to do because of my name, a name that you also share. Now, what do you suppose would happen to you if the Jennies knew what that name really meant? Or better yet, what would happen to Gary?"

"Gary..." Daisy repeated under her breath, her brother's name haunting her as a long, dark shadow suddenly made its way over everything.

"Do you really think that the Jennies would be so concerned for your welfare?" Professor Oak went on. "About the welfare of tainted children, raised by a criminal? No, the truth is that if I go down, you and Gary will go down right with me, if you're lucky. Or if you're unlucky, they'll throw you right out into the street to fend for yourselves, without any of the privileges that my name provides. Or in other words, my dear, you will know what it means to be an Ookido, and not an Oak. No money, no parents, no Pokémon; nothing to help you stay afloat in this cold, cruel world of ours. Now, perhaps you could survive a life like that. In fact, I know you would. But Gary? Mmm... you already know what'll happen to him, don't you?"

And at that, Daisy was struck utterly silent, turning away from Professor Oak as her brother's name again haunted her and any plans she might have had to defy her fate. Her silence was all the answer that Professor Oak needed.

"You're not a stupid girl, Daisy," said Professor Oak. "Naïve, perhaps, but not stupid. Far from it, in fact. You understand what's important, and you've got what it takes to protect that, as you proved so definitively today with Pikachu. Think about it, Daisy; why do you think I chose you over Gary? I could've waited until he turned sixteen, and told him everything that I'm telling you right now. I could've had him prove himself to me, but the truth is that there's no need. I already know what would've happened, and why it would've happened. I did have high hopes for that boy at one point, but the truth is that, deep down... I always knew that it would be you."

Daisy didn't respond, still staring deep into the distance ahead of her with a growing flare in her eyes. And so Professor Oak went on:

"You might not think it, Daisy, but you and I are quite alike. Even now I can see the fire in your eyes; that drive, that life in them. That willingness to do anything to protect what's important to you; to go where no ordinary person would go. What would crack a lesser soul would only make you stronger, and what would crush a lesser spirit would merely give you even greater resolve. Not a damn thing on this earth can stop people like you and I, Daisy. You're not just some innocent girl, or some weakling that can be made into a mere victim: a causality of this game of life to be used, thrown away, and forgotten. No. You, my dear, are a killer."

At that, Daisy could only shake her head, her eyes now flaring in open disgust at her grandfather's words.

"I'm nothing like you," she said, not even bothering to look back at him. Professor Oak, meanwhile, merely shrugged in response.

"I'm afraid you don't know me very well," he said. "Or yourself, for that matter. But believe me... you will."

With some courage, Daisy finally turned back around to her grandfather, with her nearly flinching at his glare — a deep, almost earnest, yet fearsome one — and everything that it now meant for her. But her own glare was unwavering as she faced down what she now knew would be her future.

"What would you have me do?" she asked him.

"Oh, nothing for now," replied Professor Oak. "There's still much for you to learn before you can become worthy of the name 'Professor Oak'. But the future draws near, my dear, and that future is not just in you, but in the Pikachu we caught today. It is the key to everything, more than you could possibly imagine."

Daisy's eyes narrowed at hearing Pikachu's name, disgust quickly returning to them. Professor Oak matched her with a particularly deep and piercing glare of his own, before proceeding to ask her one final question.

"When the time comes again," he said, "can I trust you, again, to do what needs to be done?"

She remembered that question from the previous time he asked it, with her having no idea then just what she would end up actually doing. And yet even with her knowledge of that frightening unknown now, she didn't hesitate this time as she gave her answer:

"Yes, Professor."

A sickening feeling came over Daisy upon uttering those words. Fate-sealing words, she knew.

"Can we... just go home now?" she quickly added, wanting nothing more than for everything to be over at this point.

"Certainly," said Professor Oak. "But, aren't you forgetting something?"


"You still have my gun."

Her heart skipping a beat, Daisy turned to her side to find that Professor Oak's gun was indeed still in her possession, sitting idle in the grass. Staring at the gun for a second before slowly reaching for it, a dark thought came to her mind as she wrapped her fingers around the handle, with one finger inching towards the trigger.

With one well-timed pull of that trigger, Daisy knew, she could end all of this right now, and run away with Gary somewhere far away where Professor Oak couldn't reach them. They could clear Viridian Forest by nightfall, she thought, or maybe they could escape by sea if they went south, stowing themselves away on a boat until they reached another region entirely, possibly even somewhere really far away like Unova, Kalos, or Galar.

Looking down, Daisy could now see the gun in her hands right in front of her; it was now or never. Turning around to Professor Oak, Daisy moved the gun towards him, her finger squeezing the trigger more and more as she got closer and closer, and then...

...with a light sigh, she handed the gun over to him.

Taking the weapon away, Professor Oak rose from where he sat and gave one final look to his granddaughter, accompanied by the slightest signs of a smile.

"I knew I could count on you," he said, right before making his way back into the forest towards Pallet Town. Daisy, giving one last sigh to herself at everything that happened today, followed him close behind, a new and uncertain chapter in her life having just begun.
* * * * * * *
As two people left Route 1, two remained, watching from their vantage point behind a mass of bushes near the trees at the edge of the forest leading towards Pallet Town. The two had heard everything, from the explosion that sent one of them running in fear for their friend and the other in fear for their sister, to the very last syllable that Professor Oak spoke.

"Daisy..." Gary uttered under his breath, quiet enough for only Lucky the Chansey next to him to hear. That one word — and the hushed, breaking voice with which he said it — summarized everything that Gary felt at that moment, his world having been utterly shattered upon learning the devastating truth behind everything he held dear right along with his sister. He couldn't bear to say anything more, and he couldn't even bear to look at his grandfather as he and Daisy walked past several feet ahead, both of them oblivious to Gary and Lucky's presence in the bushes.

But Lucky, being a Chansey, didn't need words to know Gary's feelings and emotions at that moment. Nor did she need them to know those of her friend in the distance, or those of the man who was responsible for them and would surely be responsible for them again — and then some — in the very near future.

And so as Lucky, with one arm, led Gary away back towards Pallet Town before anyone could realize that they weren't there, she, with the other, reached for her egg close at hand, making a most violent vow for the sake of her friend before disappearing into the darkness.

[chapter end]