George and Delia, after such an exciting and eventful day, were peacefully sleeping in the master bedroom. It had been such a long time since they were together that they smiled in their sleep, holding each other close.
George groaned as the blissful moment was interrupted by a strange sound, one he never wanted to heard for a long time.
He reached for his open backpack on the floor next to the bed, and pulled out his cellphone. He was looking at the clock as he did so: 3:30 AM. As soon as he pulled the antenna and pressed the button, he whispered one word,
George got up slowly (so as not to wake Delia), put on his bathrobe, and crept into the hallway. It wasn’t safe to talk in the house, so he quietly went outside into the front yard. He frowned as he put the receiver to his ear and said,
“Skip the slogan, and talk.”
“It’s Butch,” said the person on the other line.
“I know who you are. What is it?”
“Uh.....we’ve got a little problem...”
“Yes, we do,” was the sarcastic reply, “I have underlings who can’t even follow a simple order. I thought I told everyone that I would be the one doing the calling.”
“I...I understand, sir. But...you see....it’s an emergency.”
Giovanni’s frown became lined with concern when he heard this. “Go on.”
Butch began to relay his message.
“What, escaped?!” Giovanni shouted. He then checked himself and turned towards the upstairs windows to see if anyone woke up, but all was quiet, “When did this happen?” he whispered furiously.
“J...J...Just a few minutes ago,” Butch stammered, “The cellblock is completely empty. We’ve assembled a search party to find them, but they haven’t...”
“Don’t you dare give me any excuses, you’re beginning to sound worse than THEY are!” Giovanni hissed, clenching both his teeth and his fists, “Now, you listen to me, Butch. You had better have them back in their cell BEFORE I return, or I assure you that you and your partner will both be taking their places! Do I make myself perfectly clear?!”
Butch paused before answering, “Yes, sir, crystal clear.”
“Oh, and Butch?”
“You do know what happens to those who fail too many times, do you?” Giovanni’s voice was cold as ice, and flowed with a sense of doom.
Butch remembered alright: the last Grunt to fail so much disappeared five years ago; the Boss had taken him and one of his Guards for a drive, but only TWO came back. Whenever anyone asked what had happened, Giovanni would only give a menacing smile and say, “If you don’t want to find out, don’t fail me.” The mere thought sent cold shivers all over his body, and he gulped and clutched his throat.
“Good. Now find them, or else,” and Giovanni hung up the phone. The whole time, however, he failed to notice a faint blue light emitting from the nearby trees, and a pair of mysterious eyes watching his every move...
Suddenly, the front door slowly opened. George hastliy put the phone away and turned around, just in time to see Ash walk outside, rubbing his eyes and yawning.
“Dad,” Ash yawned, “what are you doing out here?”
George wasn’t hasty in fabricating an excuse, “I just had a bad dream and came out for some fresh air, that’s all,” he said smiling gently, “What are you doing up?”
Ash yawned again, “I was thirsty, so I got up to get some water. But I saw that you weren’t in bed, so I came looking for you.” He paused, and looked down at his feet, “I know this may sound stupid, but...for a moment...I thought you might have left me again.”
George instantly walked up to Ash and gathered him in his arms, a look of surprise and understanding resting upon his face.
“Don’t ever think such a thing! I would never dream of leaving you or your mother like that.” Then he took Ash’s face in his hand and made him look into his own face, “You are both more precious to me than anything else in this world. If anything ever happened to you...I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.”
“But why did you leave so long ago?” Ash asked, “I hated it when you left us.......when you left ME.”
George gathered him closer and kissed his soft, black hair, “I’m sorry, son. Believe me, I was hurting just as much as you were. But, you see, the situation was beyond my control; I couldn’t possibly take you with me. I would have been taking you away from your friends, your home, everything you've ever known and loved. You didn’t want that, did you?”
“No,” Ash replied sadly, “I guess not.” Then, he started to doze off.
George noticed this, “Come, let’s go inside and get back to sleep.”
The figure in the bushes vanished soon after both boys walked sleepily into the house.
The following morning, right after breakfast...
“Mom, Dad, I’m taking my Pokémon for a run! I’ll be right back!”
Ash, Pikachu, and Eevee bolted out the front door. As he watched the other Pokémon burst out of their Poké Balls, he let out an embarrassed chuckle at Snorlax, who lay fast asleep on the grass.
“Well, most of them anyway,” Ash said as he called back Snorlax. He was soon leading the five Pokémon down the dirt road towards the fields; Pikachu and Eevee right beside him, Meganium and Quilava behind them, and Croconaw bringing up the rear (heaving as it did so).
“Oh, George, why not?” Delia asked her husband, “He’s much older now, and he’s gotten more mature during his travels.”
“True, angel-girl,” George said uneasily, “But, I still don’t think I can. I’ll be so busy, we won’t even have enough time for each other. And what about you?”
“I’ll have Brock and Misty to keep me company, and Mimie’s great around the house. As for you being busy...well...it never stopped you before, remember?”
George smiled and chuckled, “Yes, I suppose you’re right. Okay, when he gets back, I’ll ask him.”
Ash turned his head and saw how slow Croconaw was going.
“Hey, Croconaw,” he called sarcastically, “Did you have too much to eat yesterday? Better pick up the pace or I’ll be forced to put you on a diet. Come on, let’s see some hustle!”
At the word diet, Croconaw panicked and began to jog faster.
“That’s better.........wait! Eevee, where are you going?!”
At that moment, Eevee gave a delighted squeal and ran into the woods, to their left. Forgetting about the exercise, Ash and the others soon started chasing after Eevee (Croconaw groaning with exhaustion).
They raced deep into the woods; dodging low branches, skipping over rocks, hurtling over short bushes, side-winding around tree stumps. At one point, Ash thought he had lost sight of Eevee in the brush. As he stopped to get his bearings, the Pokémon came to a screeching halt, nearly knocking him into a nearby shrub (I say nearly with the greatest relief, because that bush was a thorn bush; and you can imagine what would happen if he HAD fallen in).
Croconaw came pelting up behind the group, and flopped right onto the ground. Suddenly, the sound of water flew past its ears (or whatever it had for ears), and it perked up. It knew that there was a pond nearby and bolted ahead, hoping for a drink and a swim. However, Ash, who also knew about the pond, grabbed Croconaw before it could go too far.
“No, Croconaw, don’t go in there. That pond is filthy; you’d get sick if you went in THAT water!” Ash knew this for a fact: as a kid, he and Gary used to go there to look for frogs every summer. To prove it, he led them into the clearing where the pond was located. When they got there, they suddenly stopped, their eyes and mouths wide open.
What Ash expected to find was a large pond, completely overgrown with dead plants and the water dark-green from algae: put simply, a place absolutely unfit for man or beast.
Instead, the entire clearing was a bright and lively green. The once-dead cattails and waterlilies thrived in the bright sunshine. The water was a crystal-clear blue, and so clean and sparkling that they had to hold their hands (or paws) in front of their eyes; the sun danced happily on the water. The only green came not from algae, but from the salvayo weed which flourished on the bed of the pond.
“Eevee!” Ash shouted suddenly. At the edge of the pond was Eevee, who was happily lapping up some refreshing water. It turned as soon as Ash spoke, and ran into his arms with glee.
“Eevee, I’m glad you’re okay. Don’t ever do that again.” Ash then surveyed the scene again, “Still, what happened to this place?”
The Pokémon seemed to take no notice of his question as they began to take long drafts of water (and Croconaw swimming to its heart’s content).
As it finished its drink, Pikachu noticed something floating in the middle of the pond.
“What is it, Pikachu?”
Without answering right away, Pikachu dove in and swam towards the object. It came back almost immediately, carrying the thing in its mouth.
Ash took the object in his hand and looked at it. It appeared to be a lock of hair, no thicker than a magic marker and no longer than Ash's hand. It was also the most beautiful color he had ever seen; a mixture of aquamarine-blue and royal-purple, and like the pond itself, it sparkled brightly in the morning sunshine.
He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of silver ribbon he had saved from yesterday’s party. He tied the ribbon around the hair and put it in the inside pocket of his vest.
Kneeling down by the edge, he took some water in his hands and sipped it slowly, savoring every drop. It was so crisp and cool, one might think it came from a mountain spring.
Ash reached into the other pocket and pulled out the PokéGear he got from Professor Oak, “Hello?”
“Ash, honey, it’s Mom. Listen, your father and I want to talk to you. Can you come home?”
“Sure, Mom, I’m on my way.” Ash hung up the PokéGear and turned to his companions, “Okay, guys, time to head home.”
After a few attempts to get Croconaw out of the water, the six friends started their trek home, with Ash still wondering who was responsible for cleaning up the pond.