Ash has lost his battle to Paul in the Sinnoh League. Throughout his journey through the Sinnoh region, Ash had been animated with the burning desire to prove to his rival, Paul, that through bonding and training alongside them, any pokémon could become powerful. But is efforts have failed. What will become of Ash, his friends and his pokémon? Read to find out.
Chapter 1: Burned to Ashes
Chapter 2: Daybreak's Lonely Light
Chapter 3: A Pallet of Blues
Chapter 4: Nuvema Showdown
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Chapter 1: Burned to Ashes
Dawn could barely believe the words she’s just heard. She couldn’t believe it. For a moment, she thought it might have been her mind playing tricks on her or the din of the crowd coming off in waves behind her. The roar of the crowd swirled around her like, smothering her in noise. But as she looked up at the scoreboard, her stomach dropped: she knew she hadn’t imagined what the referee had just said. Infernape had been declared unable to battle, and Paul was declared the winner of the battle. As the crowd erupted in cheers around her, all Dawn felt the seat beneath her disappear, so did the floor and soon, the entire stadium. She felt motionless and weightless, floating in the silence of confusion. Ash had lost.
She’d said out loud, softly, like a creeping sound barely on the edge of whisper. As the words left her mouth, they sunk into her mind, as though slowly swallowed by quicksand. Ash had lost.
She sat, immobile, paralyzed by the weight of what she’d just witnessed, the implications not yet registering. After all the hard work she’d seen him put into raising his pokémon, after all the times she’d seen him train alongside them, after all the battles they’d been through, Ash and his pokémon had lost.
She was brought back to reality by the crowd growing silent.
“Ash, get up,” screamed Ash’s oldest friend, Brock, who’d been sitting right next to her stoically throughout this tournament.
Dawn turned her eyes back towards the battlefield. She saw Ash, on his knees, trying to find the strength to breathe. She could see him clenching his knuckles, turning them as white as a Snowpoint City blizzard. She stood up and tried to scream something at Ash, tried to make her voice heard in the midst of this noise, but no words came.
She felt something that felt like velveteen touch her hand. As she looked down, she saw the deep inquisitive blue eyes of her Piplup. They’d both been together since she started travelling.
“Just like Ash,” she thought.
After spending the better part of the year traveling with the older trainer from Pallet Town, Dawn could barely recall a time where she didn’t know Piplup and Ash. Those days felt like a distant memories, light years away, from where she was now. Both Piplup and Dawn had watched Ash has he’d try for the past year to prove to his rival Paul that he was just as good a trainer as he was, that Ash could get just as much as Paul, if not more, out of pokémon, by being friends with them, by believing in them. All those efforts, all those sparring matches, all those battles, it was all for nothing. Ash had lost.
“Pip… lup…” she heard her pokémon let out, almost as a pained sigh. She could tell he was feeling the same way.
She was shaken out of her thoughts by the boy on her left standing up and shouting.
“He did it,” said the blond teen, enthusiastically. “Paul really did it. He beat Ash. I knew only a superior trainer like Paul could beat me. He was really awesome, don’t you think?”
“What did you say?” she screamed. “Barry, you know Ash gave his all out there. Just because he lost doesn’t mean he’s less than Paul.”
She couldn’t believe her ears. She could feel anger boiling inside her. She’d known Barry for years, and she never thought she could feel so angry at him.
“Please,” scoffed Barry. “Paul totally outclassed Ash. He only lost two pokémon in the battle. Only Ash’s Pikachu and Gliscor managed to take out some of Paul’s pokémon, because, as usual, Paul’s caught the strongest pokémon, so he’s the strongest trainer.”
“Well, at least Ash managed to take out some of Paul’s pokémon,” argued Dawn, angrily responding to Barry’s praises. “You didn’t even manage defeat one.”
She breezed past him. She wanted to get away from him, from the crowd, from the entire stadium of fans cheering for a trainer she’d seen abuse his pokémon with her own eyes.
“Hey get back here or I’m fining you,” said Barry, but Dawn ignored it. Swiftly followed by Brock, she made her way to the trainer’s rooms in the stadium.
“Wait for me,” screamed Barry, who was running after them.
Dawn blocked him out from her mind, she only focused on Ash. She needed to talk to Ash, tell him the same things he’d once told her when she’d experienced several crushing defeats in contests. He’d always been there for her, encouraging her. She wouldn’t have gotten as far as she did in the Grand Festival, or been the coordinator she was today without Ash. As she, Brock Barry and Piplup ran down the stairs and made a left towards the locker room, Dawn felt her heart racing. Images of Ash kneeling, pounding on the ground with his fists kept flashing into her mind. Who would she find behind the door?
She pushed open the metallic blue door that led to the locker room. She saw Ash sitting on a bench, starring at the ground. He looked lost in the labyrinth of his own disappointment; Dawn could read nothing in his vacuous stare.
“Told ya you wouldn’t get anywhere with Chimchar,” said the apathetic and snarky voice of Paul, Ash’s opponent. “Even though you’ve raised him into an Infernape, he’s still just the same loser he was back then, nothing special. You wanna know why I beat you? Because I didn’t waste my time playing around with my pokémon; I went out there, and sought out the strongest pokémon, the most unique. I didn’t just capture the first run of the mill pokémon I saw; I caught winners.”
Dawn was trembling in rage. On her right, she could hear Brock’s breathing getting heavier and his eyes growing narrower. She expected Ash to bounce off the bench, and let Paul know just how wrong he was, that any pokémon could become strong if you trained them with care and friendship. She wanted Ash to yell at him, to tell him he was wrong, but she just saw Ash fixating on the ground. While she couldn’t see his eyes, Dawn didn’t hear him cry. This worried her. Ash had always worn his heart on his sleeve, never hiding any of his emotions, good or bad.
“Paul, perhaps you should leave since you have that big match tomorrow,” said Brock calmly, but with authority. This wasn’t a request.
Dawn saw Paul nod to Brock and walk past her as he left the room. The three of them stayed immobile in silence as they heard the echo of Paul’s feet slowly dying off. For seconds that seemed to last a lifetime, there was no sound, no movement, just a cold stillness. Dawn could feel a wall being built, brick by brick between her and her two companions.
Breaking the tension, Piplup jumped down on the floor and ran towards the bench Ash was sitting on. His attention was solely on the badly bruised yellow rodent lying next to Ash. Dawn crept closer and took a look at the Pikachu, Ash’s oldest pokémon. He was covered in frostbites and seemed to be running a fever. Brock ran to check on the injured pokémon.
“Ash, we gotta get Pikachu to a Pokémon Center as soon as possible,” said Brock. “He’s been poisoned and we need to get him checked.”
But, Dawn didn’t see Ash moving a muscle, not even acknowledging their presence or Pikachu’s injuries. She could feel something was wrong.
“Ash, it’s me, Dawn,” she said sympathetically. “I know you’re disappointed, but we need to get Pikachu checked out.”
“Who cares?” said Ash. The two words hit Dawn like a slap in the face. It wasn’t just the fact that Ash had just said he didn’t care about Pikachu, his oldest friend, but the inhuman ease with which the words had left his mouth.
“Ash, listen to me,” started Dawn, but she never had the chance to finish her sentence.
“Just leave me alone,” shouted Ash, as he ran outside the door.
“Hey Ash, stop,” said Barry. But Ash only answered back by pushing him out of the way.
Dawn just stood, transfixed by what she’d just seen and heard. She saw Brock pick Pikachu up and grab her arm as he dragged her to Ash’s pursuit, as though knowing her feet wouldn’t have moved by themselves.
They finally found Ash standing outside in the rain, holding a pokéball in his hands. As droplets dripped from the tip of Ash’s cap, she saw him stare intently at the small metallic sphere in his palm. After a moment’s debate, Ash released the pokémon from his ball. Dawn saw a purple bat with immense yellow eyes pop out of the ball in a flash of light, which she immediately recognized as Ash’s Gliscor. The pokémon tried to jump and hug his trainer, but Dawn was shocked to see Ash forcefully push Gliscor away, who tumbled onto the muddy ground.
“You think this was good enough,” screamed Ash. “I trained you; I made you evolve; I sent you to be trained by the best, and this is how you repay me. With all of this effort, taking out only one of Paul’s pokémon was the best you could do? You’re nothing but a pathetic loser.”
As he said those words, Dawn saw Ash take Gliscor’s pokéball and smash it on the ground, shattering it in a million pieces.
“Get out of my sight, nobody could ever want a loser like you for a pokémon,” screamed Ash.
Dawn could see Gliscor’s eyes puffing up and filling themselves with tears. Gliscor was obviously confused, and didn’t understand what was happening, and he wasn’t the only one.
“Just go already,” said an exasperated Ash.
Gliscor turned away from his trainer and took off into the sky, the rain or maybe the pain weighing him down. Dawn saw Gliscor disappear into the moonless night. She turned her attention back to Ash who was getting ready to take another pokéball from his pocket.
“Ash, stop,” she screamed, running towards him, holding his hand as he was ready to call out another one of his pokémon, obviously to have it suffer the same fate. “What are you doing? Stop this.”
“You don’t understand Dawn,” Ash said to her, looking straight at her blue eyes, “They’re weak.”
“But Gliscor defeated one of Paul’s pokémon,” she argued, unconvinced.
“But he’s nothing special,” said Ash, unemotionally. “There’s a million Gliscor just like him.”
Dawn remembered the first time she and Ash encountered Paul in Sandgem Town. After a heated battle between the two, which ended in a tie, Paul had released a Starly, despite the Pokémon having come victorious in the battle. That’s what he’d said, that there were millions of Starly just like it, that it was nothing special. Dawn couldn’t wrap her head around what had just happened. She couldn’t understand how Ash could have just released one of his pokémon in anger.
“Why’d you do that for?” asked Dawn, has she pushed long locks of blue hair off her face frantically. “What happened today wasn’t his fault.”
“You’re right, it’s not his fault,” said Ash, dryly. “He couldn’t help it, but lose because that’s what he is, a loser. That’s why it was bossed around as a Gligar, that’s why it had trouble flying, because he’s just pedestrian. I’ll never be strong without strong pokémon.”
“Don’t blame him for your loss,” said Dawn. She’d tried to make her voice feel as little reproachful as she could, but to no avail. Her voice betrayed her incomprehension and shock.
“Didn’t you listen to a word I just said,” Ash said. “I don’t blame him. I blame myself for ever lowering myself to train him and those other losers, for ever thinking they were good enough. They were just a waste of my time and so were you.”
Had Ash physically hit Dawn, he couldn’t have hurt her more. She felt all strength leave her body; the magma pumping through her veins when she’d seen Paul had been frozen. She felt almost dizzy. Her mind couldn’t comprehend what was happening.
“You’re just like them,” Ash continued. “You’re nothing special, just a whiny brat who cries every time she loses. You don’t deserve what you got; everything you ever achieved was handed to you on a silver platter. Zoey was always there to tell you the basic things any coordinator would know; showing you how to pull off your combinations, practically waging your battles for you. I was always there trying to convince you that you were good when I should have cut you lose a long time ago. You’re nothing but a leech, sapping my energy, always forcing me to stand in the front row of your ridiculous contests, watching you in your ugly pink dress doing some ridiculous sparkly appeals, knowing you’d never amount to anything. The only thing you ever did was hold me back.”
Dawn stood motionless as she watched Ash turn his back on her and walk away towards Brock. She saw Ash try to pick up his pokémon, but he was quickly stopped by Brock.
“I’ll take him to the Pokémon Center,” said Brock. “You can pick him up there later.”
Both left in opposite directions, leaving Dawn in the rain, dripping wet.
“Dawn?” she heard Barry say behind her. “Dawn, are you okay?”
For a few seconds, she stayed silent, the words not coming to her. She turned around to see Barry, whose wet blonds locks had fallen on either side of his face. He looked truly worried, but she had no words to reassure him.
“Dawn, talk to me,” he asked again. “I’m gonna fine you if you keep ignoring me.”
“No,” she answered softly, her voice drowned in the noise of the torrential rain. “I’m really not.”
Silenced by the downpour, paralyzed by the words she’d heard Ash say, the things she’d seen Ash do, Dawn was unable to say more. For the first time since leaving home, she felt totally and utterly alone.
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