Re: The Journey Never Ends
They Journey Never Ends
Chapter 29: Aboard the Emperor
Soon, my girl. Soon, you will belong to me. The shadowy, steel face of The Creature of the Cape glared at her from the darkness. Its glowing eyes pierced into Allie's soul. She wanted to scream, wanted to run, but she couldn't do anything except die.
Allie awoke in a cold sweat. She hadn't had that dream in months, not since arriving in Celadon. The busyness of earning her second badge and preparing to infiltrate the Dante Club had left her too tired to think about what happened that night at the cape.
It was a horrible dream to have. She was feet away when Mina had disintegrated before her eyes. Only through Ash's and Forrest's intervention had she escaped the same fate. The girl managed to push most of the memories of the incident out of her mind, but that dream brought the vivid terror of the night back.
Allie rolled onto her side, and her hand came in contact with bare skin. It wasn't her own.
Someone else was in her bed.
Anyone but Lucian, was her initial thought. Of course, there were worse bedfellows, The Creature and Dante among them, but Lucian was the only person who seemed likely. Maybe she left the door between their rooms open accidentally.
Not sure whether the person next to her was awake or asleep, Allie decided she should try to slip out of the bed right away. She gently moved the covers off her, and slid toward the side of the bed.
As soon as her feet touched the ground, the other figure leapt up. Taken by surprise, Allie tripped backwards and landed by the door. She watched passively as a body stood on the bed, looking down at her. In the darkness, she couldn't see anything but a dark silhouette.
"It's a bit early to wake up, isn't it? I thought cruises were supposed to be relaxing," a familiar voice came from the darkness.
Allie, still slightly overtired, felt like she should recognized the voice, but she couldn't figure out from where. Definitely not Lucian, so that at least was a relief.
"How did you get in here?" the blonde-haired girl asked from the floor.
Allie crawled backward to the wall and, reaching one arm up, found the light switch. She was both astonished and delighted to see Janine, gym leader of Fuchsia City, standing on her bed. The ninja looked well, although slightly underdressed for polite society.
"What are you doing here?" Allie asked incredulously. She suddenly felt wide awake. "I thought you were staying at the gym."
Janine grinned. "I decided that getting an idea of the world would help me to become a better gym leader."
"But how did you find us?"
"That's simple. You mentioned it to Nurse Joy when you left Fuchsia. I decided to follow along. I caught a boat out here, and slipped on deck last night."
Allie raised an eyebrow. "Isn't that illegal?"
"Not for me," Janine replied, pulling the heart shaped Soul Badge from her pocket. "I spoke with the captain when I arrived, and he told me that it would be an honor and an asset to have a gym leader on board. He's a weird old man, though. He kept saying how dangerous the waters are these days."
In the silence that followed this ominous claim, the girls realized that they hadn't moved from their places.
"Perhaps we should talk outside," Janine suggested, picking her outerwear off the floor. "The sunrise will be soon, and it's supposed to be very pretty from the ocean."
Allie nodded her head. "Agreed."
They got dressed and headed outside. It was still dark out, but they could hear the crashing wake of the waves far below them. The two walked to a spot at the bow of the ship, found two lounge chairs, and sat down.
"How has traveling with Lucian been?" Janine asked curiously.
Allie laughed weakly. "Oh, it's a whole different kind of adventure, that's for sure."
"In a good or bad way?"
"Different. Just different. He's as different from Ash as he could be."
The cold, salty breeze buffeted their faces.
"You mentioned Ash Ketchum before you departed my home. Were you familiar with him?"
"We were travelling companions," Allie explained. Most people reacted with surprise or disbelief when she told them, but Janine just nodded knowingly. Of course, she came from a family of gym leaders, so it came as no surprise to Allie that the ninja girl was familiar with her mentor.
"The way Lucian screamed at you after the battle, I was astonished when you left together."
"Me too," Allie said thoughtfully. "Our first night traveling, he gave me one of his contest ribbons." The purple silk prize was still sitting on the bedside table in Allie's room. "It's kind of weird. Sometimes he acts like he cares, but other times he's just a jerk."
Allie recounted of how a little girl had run into the coordinator during the first day on the ship. Lucian had screamed at her, bringing the excited girl to tears. He had only stopped when Allie knelt down to comfort the crying girl. After the child had left, Lucian at least had the grace to act ashamed when Allie glared at him.
"So will you continue to travel with him?" Janine wondered.
"I gave him my word I would," the blonde girl sighed. "I just wish he wouldn't act so cruelly. Ash was cold, but he was never cruel."
"For what it's worth, I plan on traveling too. Perhaps one companion more would make him less intolerable?"
Allie's eyes lit up. "You want to come with us?"
"Only if you'll have me."
"Of course," the trainer agreed excitedly. "That would be awesome." Janine was her first female friend of the same age since Mina, it would be great to have someone who understood what it was like being a girl trainer.
"It's settled then. Incidentally, where is this ship heading?" Janine inquired.
"Cinnabar. Cinnabar Island."
As the sun rose in the east, it draped orange over the massive volcano far, far in the west.
The SS Seagallop Emperor was the newest and finest ship in Kanto. Owned by the same company which revolutionized ferry service to the Sevii Islands, the Emperor was the company's first endeavor into the cruise industry.
The hull of the ship was painted whitest white, decorated with images of Lapras, Dewgong, Kingdra, and Emploleon. When Allie and Lucian first saw it in port, they had been awestruck by the majesty of it. Allie had never even seen the ocean before, and adored the way the ship rose majestically out of the water. Even Lucian, who claimed to be an experienced traveler, was amazed by the beauty of such a humongous ship.
It was the fourth day of a weeklong cruise to Cinnabar Island. After watching the sunrise, Allie and Janine decided to head back to bed, although this time Janine used a bedroll on the floor.
In the room next door, Lucian pulled a red polo over his black swim trunks. He ran a comb through his dirty-blonde hair, the same way he did every day to get the perfect flow. Checking himself out in the mirror, he decided he was all ready to meet Allie.
Although the gift of his precious ribbon had eased tensions and brought them closer, he and Allie were still very uneasy around each other. They hadn't really spent much time together, as the girl enjoyed spending time at the ship's practice battlefield and the boy preferred spending time at the ship's entertainment venues.
But today was different, he decided. If they were going to be partners on a journey, they needed to spend some time together.
Not even he understood why he kept trying so hard for her. She beat him in a contest, and carried his weight in a gym battle. And yet, there was something pure and likeable about the girl. It wasn't that he had feelings for her, but he did want to spend time with his first ever traveling companion.
Sighing, he grabbed a canvas bag containing towels, sunscreen, and his Pokéballs. He cherished his Pokémon, but didn't usually take them everywhere like Allie did. This led to several awkward moments over the past week where Allie suggested letting their Pokémon play, and Lucian had to respond that he left them in his room. Minor disagreements had already arisen between the two on the best way to raise Pokémon.
He stepped out into the hallway and made for the door next to his own. He knocked three times. While he waited, he admired the ship's interior design. Beauty was something he could understand.
When the door finally opened, it was not Allie who stepped out. Lucian's usually pasty face glowed red as Janine stepped out, no more dressed than how Allie had found her.
"Hello again, Lucian." She tilted her head, not entirely sure why he was embarrassed. Her life had always been so sheltered within her Pokémon gym, and didn't fully understand certain social conventions. "Is something the matter?" she asked the boy.
"Um… no, of course not," he murmured, not wanting to have to explain. "What are you doing…"
"Here?" the ninja finished. "I have decided to accompany you and Allie for a while. I hope you don't mind."
He actually didn't know how he felt, but he was sure that he'd say something regrettable if he responded now, so instead he just asked for Allie.
"Hold on just a moment," Janine told him, disappearing back into the room.
A few minutes later, Allie stepped into the doorway, tired and groggy in her pajamas. "Sorry," the girl apologized regarding her appearance and exhaustion. "I had an early morning wakeup call." She gestured behind her with a thumb.
"I see. You'll have to tell me about it."
"What's up?" Allie asked, trying to be more of her peppy self.
"I was wondering if you wanted to spend the day with me on the Lido deck." Either his friend didn't understand the terminology or was too tired to recognize it, so he added, "The pool. Both of you are welcome, obviously."
"Okay, sure," she responded, again surprised by the effort he was putting into their companionship. "I just need to get ready. Do you want to meet there in an hour?"
"Alright," Lucian accepted. "I'll see you then."
As Lucian turned and walked back down the hallway, Allie reentered the room.
"I guess we're going to spend the day with Lucian," she told Janine. "He wants to hang out by the pool. Are you up for it?"
"I don't see why not," Janine responded from where she sat stretching on the floor. "I've never really taken a vacation."
Allie began digging through her backpack for supplies, when she realized the one article of clothing she forgot to pack.
"Did you bring a bathing suit with you?" she asked the ninja girl.
"No. There isn't much of a need for one around Fuchsia."
"I don't have one either," Allie admitted. As a little girl, she used to love to swim in the abandoned quarries near Pewter City. That was before her father left though, and she rarely used her suits after that. "I guess that can be our excuse to go shopping."
"Ooh, exciting," Janine purred, leaping to her feet.
There was no shortage of stores on the gigantic ship. The girls found a trendy shop selling beach gear, and had fun picking through the selection. They would have liked not to have been under the time constraints, but Allie had promised to meet Lucian.
And so it was that, still early on in the morning, Allie and Janine met up with Lucian on the Lido Deck. Allie had selected a light purple strapless bikini, complete with a dark purple bottom that reached her shins but had a sharp cutout revealing her thigh. For once, her hair hung freely down her back. The gym leader wore a lavender two piece, which recalled her usual ninja outfit.
Lucian greeted them with a minimal smile. "Hello," he said pleasantly. He gestured to a set of three lounge chairs his bag was leaning against. "Shall we?"
Even in the morning, the Emperor's Bridge was alive with activity. Officers and crew members rushed about checking the ship's position and status. As the ship's captain entered with his morning tea, the crew saluted him. He waved them off so they could get on with their duties.
He was an old man; he didn't have time for excessive formalities. His tea trembled in his wrinkled hands, but once he sat down in his captain's seat, he was as strong and bold as always.
When one of his men approached him, the old captain stood up.
"Captain, we've found something unusual on radar," the young officer told him.
"Well, speak then, boy," the wizened old man ordered. Even in his old age, he could command a ship better than anyone in the world. This was to be his final journey, however, before he reentered retirement. The maiden captainship of the Seagallop Emperor was a retirement present given to him by the cruise company: a tribute to his decades of service. Then, he could finally relax in his seaside cottage and enjoy his final years.
"The radar is displaying some unusual shapes, sir. Pokémon, sir," the lad added hastily.
"We're in an ocean: a living, breathing, growing environment. Of course there's Pokémon."
"Captain, I know. But look at the shapes." The officer handed his captain a printed image of the radar.
The old man's grip on the paper tightened as he recognized the contents. "But we're in Kanto. And there are so many." Recognizing his show of uncertainty might be perceived as weakness, he hastily passed the papers back to his officer. "Keep an eye on the radar. If the shiver comes any closer, send an SOS to the mainland."
The officer saluted and began to walk away when he remembered another question. "Erm, sir? What should we tell the passengers?"
"Start clearing the lower cabins. If the threat becomes imminent, keep all the passengers at suite level. Gather any trainers in case we need their assistance."
"Sir." The officer walked away to alert his crew members of the situation.
"Peeko! Come to me, my darling!" the captain shouted. A Wingull awoke from its perch next the map table. It stretched its tired wings. The old bird was even farther along in its lifespan than the ancient captain. "I need you to take a fly over the starboard sea. See if you can spot anything out of place in the waters."
The Wingull nodded weakly, but the look in Peeko's eyes was as determined and loyal as always.
"Thank you, my darling," he called as Peeko flew out an open window. He had imagined his final cruise to be relaxing, enjoyable. But in truth, there was little fun in captaining a simple voyage. Still, he reflected as he stroked his long white beard, the coming hours might be a little too exciting.
Although the end of typhoon season was not generally the best time to cruise, the Weather Institute of Hoenn had predicted beautiful maiden voyage for the Seagallop Emperor. And for once, the weather men got it right.
The sun blazed in the bright sky above the majestic ship. And on the ship's Lido Deck, Allie, Janine, and Lucian lay sunbathing. Allie was enjoying the warmth and relaxation, but was truthfully very bored. She had been enjoying spending time on the Battle Deck, and would have been perfectly content to spend all her time there. But today she had agreed to spend time with the others.
The others were enjoying their time in the sun much more. Admittedly, they needed it more than Allie. Although the blonde girl was fairly light skinned, Lucian and Janine looked pasty beside her.
She rolled onto her stomach to give her back a chance to get some color. Lucian was on her right, and as she turned, their eyes met.
"Enjoying the sun?" the boy asked, not unkindly.
"Mhm," she replied, acting satisfied.
"It'll do well for you," he said. It took an admiration for beauty to be a great Pokémon coordinator, and he tried to demonstrate this for his companion. "A darker tan will bring out the color in your hair. You should try it more often."
"Tanning more would be good for your appearance," Lucian clarified, still oblivious to his mistake.
"What's wrong with my appearance?" Allie's eyes narrowed dangerously, but the sign went unnoticed by the coordinator.
Lucian propped himself up by the elbow. "I'm just saying that you could look better if you were more devoted to your appearance. You looked pretty fine during the contest, but you almost never put any effort into your style. You're good looking when you try." This time, as soon as he finished, he face filled without horror as he realized what he had said.
Allie's boredom seemed to have shortened her fuse. She stood up and glared down at her companion. "Lucian, I'm not one of your Pokémon that you can dictate the looks of. I'm a Pokémon trainer. I spend most of my time training in the countryside. Forgive me for not looking pretty enough to travel with you." She stood up and began stomping off. When she was a few feet away, she turned around and shouted, "And if I wanted you to judge my appearance like I was in one of your superficial contests, I'd let you know, okay?"
The coordinator watched regretfully as Allie left the deck. Most of the passengers around him were staring by now.
"That could have gone better," Lucian said to Janine, who too was staring at him from across Allie's empty spot. "I didn't mean it in a bad way!"
The gym leader rolled her eyes and walked to the pool then waded in.
Allie, meanwhile, found her way to the spot on the bow she had sat with Janine at sunrise. She lay down on one of the lounge chairs. Most of the passengers were off playing shuffleboard or enjoying the pool, so the bow was rather empty. The girl found that she enjoyed the isolation. It was a lot nicer to sunbathe when it was for her own enjoyment rather than because Lucian asked.
She knew she shouldn't have gone off on him, but the coordinator was out of line. It was like he only occasionally spoke his mind, but when he did, it hurt.
Regardless, Allie was finally enjoying the relaxation part of the voyage.
Until, that is, a siren pierced the silence. It was incredibly loud, and Allie had to cover her ears to keep them from hurting. She could hear speakers crackling to life, and then a voice came on.
"All crew members report to the bridge. All passengers to the upper decks. If you are an experienced Pokémon trainer, please meet by the life decks. This is not a drill."
The voice proceeded to repeat the announcement several times before finally cutting off.
Allie reluctantly stood up and left the bow. What kind of emergency could they be facing? It wasn't like there were any icebergs in this part of the ocean. She remembered hearing tales of ships sinking in the sea south of Kanto years ago, but the details were mysterious. Surely they weren't about to sink.
As Allie gathered with the ship's other trainers, she spotted Lucian on the other side of the deck. Unwilling to speak with him, Allie remained where she was. The group around her was about forty strong.
At the front of the crowd, Janine and a bald old man with a long white beard stood on the deck's raised edge.
"Thank you all for coming," the old man spoke. A Wingull swooped down and landed on his shoulder as he began talking. "I am the captain of this ship. It is my duty to inform you all that there is currently a large group of Sharpedo approaching the ship. For those of you unfamiliar with nautical Pokémon… even a single one could sink us."
Murmurs and panicked voices followed this proclamation.
"Now, Sharpedo aren't native to these waters. Therefore, the Seagallop Emperor set sail without the safeguards a ship in Hoenn would have," the captain explained. "I can't say why they're here, but we're the only defense this ship has."
More concern rose among the trainers. Allie looked out to the horizon, where the ocean met the sky, and recalled meeting other Pokémon who didn't belong in Kanto. The scar on her arm tingled where the Mightyena had torn at it.
"I implore you to help us protect our ship. While my officers and I fight the Sharpedo in the sea, the rest of you must fight any which attempt to attack the gunwales. This ship's not small, but a Sharpedo could launch itself right up to where we are now. If you don't want to help, go back with the rest of the passengers."
A few people shifted uncomfortably where they stood, but no one wanted to back away from this challenge. The ancient captain pointed to the ninja girl beside him, still clad in her bikini.
"This lass beside me is Janine, the gym leader from Fuchsia City. You can challenge her to the battle after this is done," he growled at the trainers whose eyes lit up at the opportunity for a badge. "She's volunteered to coordinate the defense of the decks. Follow her lead, and we'll remain safe." He paused as if he was finished, before adding, "Today may be a dark day. But with your help, we shall prevail. Godspeed, trainers."
Sorry I missed last week's release. I originally meant to do this as a single chapter, but it got a bit long. Therefore, next week's chapter will have all the excitement this one was supposed to have. Unless the ship sinks and everyone dies. Probably not. The revisions will take place over Thanksgiving so that I have more time to devote to them. My profile is always updated with the latest plan.
10/20/12 – Sharpedo Ahoy!
10/27/12 – Landfall
If you have a moment, I'd really appreciate a review. Even something small to let me know you're reading. Thanks.
RESPONSE QUESTION: What's your favorite character or myth from the Orange Islands?
Next Time: Sharpedo attacks… still more enjoyable than a conversation with Lucian.
Re: The Journey Never Ends
The Journey Never Ends
Chapter 30: A Battle At Sea
The captain of the Seagallop Emperor was soaked with the spray from waves breaking against the ship. He and the rest of the crew stood at the base of the ship, ready to defend their vessel from the Sharpedo threat. They floated together on the back of a dozen Wailmer, preparing to direct their water type Pokémon in battle. Water licked their boots whenever a wave crashed against the Wailmer. Only the captain rode a Wailmer of his own, and was trying to coordinate a defense against the coming attack.
The fate of the SS Seagallop Emperor hung in the balance.
"Sir," a voice came through the captain's radio. It was the young officer he left monitoring the radar. "They're right below you."
The old man held the radio to his lips and spoke softly into it. "Thank you, officer. You've been invaluable to this crew."
"Thank you, sir. Good luck."
The captain reattached the radio to his belt. "My friends, it's been a pleasure," he said to those around him. "If this is our last stand, let's make it one to be sung of in the shanties."
High above the sea level, Allie and Wartortle were also preparing for the coming gauntlet. Most other trainers had all of their Pokémon out and ready for battle, but Allie's team was limited. Ruby was weak to water attacks and Vigoroth would just as soon destroy the ship himself, so Wartortle was her only option.
"Are you ready?" she whispered, kneeling beside her partner. "This isn't going to be like a normal battle."
Wartortle nodded confidently, grinning a wide smile. He had grown up so much from the shy little Pokémon Allie started with. She was proud of his new courage; it made her feel stronger at times like these.
Allie looked across the deck and saw Lucian. There were about five trainers defending this deck, and at purely by chance, he was one of them. They hadn't spoken since he had told her she needed to work harder at her appearance. Allie hadn't been offended per say, as she didn't care that much. All the same, she really didn't want to talk with him right now.
He turned around and they made eye contact. Great, thought Allie as he began walking toward her.
A huge tremor rocked the ship, throwing all of the trainers to the floor. Allie struggled to her feet amidst what felt like an earthquake, and was immediately flung against the railing of the ship. As she grasped the rail to help her keep her footing, she looked down at the raging sea below.
There was barely anything to be seen apart from sea foam and mist. Evidently, a massive battle was occurring. The captain had said that the trainers would only have to defend the ship if the Sharpedo tried jumping, but what if the crew failed to defeat them?
Even as Allie watched, ship shook violently. It seemed that the shark Pokémon were ramming the bottom of the boat. Just as she was about to turn around, a speck above the water caught her eye.
She pushed away from the edge just in time to keep from losing her head. An enormous Sharpedo had leapt from the water below, its sharp teeth tearing at where she had stood just a moment before.
The large water type landed on the deck and started thrashing about violently. Lounge chairs and cocktail tables were smashed and crunched by the mighty fins and powerful jaw.
Unable to stand up because of the tremors, Allie tried to crawl like a Krabby away from her attacker. The small red eyes locked onto her, and the Sharpedo moved toward her faster.
"Tortle!" the trainer heard, and a blast of water hit Sharpedo in the face. The water, though ineffective, was enough to stun the Brutal Pokémon long enough for Allie enough to get back to where the other trainers stood transfixed. Lucian moved towards her and helped her to stand. Her bare midriff tickled as he put his arm around it to keep them both stable. Now wasn't the time to get in another fight, so she ignored it.
"Use psybeam, Kirlia. Escavalier slash at it," Lucian ordered, pointing with his free hand.
Kirlia's technique seemed to have no effect on its target whatsoever. Escavalier also made a bold attempt to attack, but the rough shark skin left scratches on its lances and armor.
The other trainers were unable to pull themselves together, and so their Pokémon stood by uselessly. They clearly weren't very experienced, Allie noted disappointedly. She was so used to danger at this point that it had practically become part of her daily expectations.
Wartortle was still blasting water at Sharpedo, but the monstrous shark was fighting the current more and more successfully. Lucian's Pokémon, too, maintained their assault to no avail.
"Someone do something!" Allie shouted. Somehow the only trainers with the courage to battle were stuck with Pokémon that were ineffectual.
Just as Sharpedo opened its jaw to lunge for the trainers, there was a bright light and the noise of a Pokéball opening. In the mist and confusion, Allie and her companions couldn't tell what had happened.
"Rooooth!" Allie heard the roar through the pandemonium, and recognized it at once. She instinctively reached to her belt, but felt only the hemline of her swim skirt. Her Pokéballs were in her bag across the deck, and somehow, one of them had opened.
Vigoroth had again inexplicably broken free from his Pokéball, and had launched itself onto Sharpedo. He gripped the dorsal fin and slashed at his opponent from above, but roared in pain as the rough skin began to affect him.
"Be careful, Vigoroth!" she shouted. "Don't use physical attacks!"
The trainer didn't think her words would do any good, given that the white Pokémon wasn't keen on obedience, but she couldn't watch him in such agony without trying to help. She was proved wrong a moment later, however, as a loud bellowing came from Vigoroth. It was thunderous, and all the trainers covered their ears in discomfort.
"What's it doing?" Allie yelled. She didn't even know he could use such an attack.
"The move's called uproar," responded Lucian over the painfully loud sound. "Watch what it's doing!"
Visible sound waves came pouring out of Vigoroth's mouth, directly at Sharpedo. The water type flailed in agony, but Vigoroth was unyielding.
Finally, under the combined assault of Allie's and Lucian's Pokémon, the Sharpedo finally collapsed. Slakoth hopped off victoriously, slashing his opponent's soft underbelly for good measure.
"Enough, Vigoroth, you won," Allie tried to calm him. She had feared this would happen again. "Come over here and we'll treat your injuries." In addition to the usual scars running up a down his arms, his stomach and hands were in bad condition from holding on.
He ignored her sympathies, but did leave Sharpedo alone. He found himself a broken lounge chair to rest on, and closed his eyes. Not even his trainer dared approach at the moment; he was always unpredictable after battles.
"What were the rest of you doing?" Lucian hollered at the other trainers. "She could have died. What good is being a Pokémon trainer if you're so thoroughly useless in an emergency? Your Pokémon would have been more useful if they weren't looking for directions from cowards like you!"
Allie gave her companion a look that silenced him at once. He knew he had taken things too far yet again, but still felt his severity was vindicated.
"I know battles like these are scary," Allie told them all, much more calmly than Lucian. She held up her arm to reveal where the Mightyena had savaged her at the start of her journey. "I've faced things like this before, and they aren't fun or exciting. But danger is part of this world now, and we have to accept it and face it for the sake of everyone around us.
"There are thousands of people on this ship, and right now, they're depending on us to protect this ship. We're Pokémon trainers with responsibilities to do good in a world filled with bad. If anything else gets onto this ship, we need your help or we might not win next time."
She paused, looking at the small group around her. Apart from herself, Lucian, and their Pokémon, there were two scared preteens and an anxious looking adult scientist. Perhaps they had seen Pokémon battles, but this was something else.
"We need your help. For the sake of everyone on this ship, and for yourselves and your Pokémon, please help us."
She took a step away to let them consider their desperate position, and Lucian followed her.
"Allie, your scar, I never…" he whispered, unable to complete the sentence.
"It isn't something I think much about," Allie admitted. "I got it trying to meet Professor Oak for a Pokémon. Ash was the only reason it wasn't worse."
"About what I said earlier," Lucian began, looking to his sandaled feet remorsefully. "I never meant to insult you."
The girl still wasn't sure how she felt about the issue, but she decided to wave it aside. It was so trivial compared to their current situation, and really kind of petty anyway. Allie opened her mouth to forgive him, but was cut off by her own starter Pokémon.
The turtle Pokémon's frantic cry returned everyone's attention to the matter at hand. He was at the deck's edge, pointing down. Wartortle leapt back toward his trainer as soon as he had everyone's focus.
Just seconds later, another five Sharpedo landed on the deck, each one larger and scarier than the original. They glowered at the trainers as if daring them to run.
Without turning around, Allie asked the trainers behind her: "Are you with us?"
No words answered her call to arms, but she heard each of them step next to her in turn.
"Let's do this," she said, as Vigoroth hopped off his throne to do battle yet again. "Go!"
All at once, the deck became fluid in motion once more, this time on a greater scale. Each trainer led his or her Pokémon together against one of the giant menaces. If it wasn't for their experience level and type disadvantages, they would have had a total advantage. Unfortunately, the brutal Pokémon were aggressive enough to keep the fight fair despite being outnumbered. Allie hadn't ever seen a Sharpedo before, but these seemed larger than the ones in books.
An even fiercer battle thundered at sea level.
"This will not be another Saint Anne!" the captain roared. The adrenaline of the fierce battle had brought vigor and youth back into his old bones. There was an excitement he hadn't felt for a long time. "Wailmer, water spout! Knock them out of the sea!"
A huge jet of water sprung from in front of his Wailmer, sending half a dozen Sharpedo hundreds of feet into the air.
Janine fought equally hard on the bow deck. She dodged Sharpedo attacks gracefully, while Ariados used its string shot like a lasso to whip them back into the sea. The fight wasn't going well, and Janine noticed that these creatures seemed to be unnaturally large and hostile.
She wondered why they were behaving as such. Could they belong to someone? Or were they experiments gone awry?
Now wasn't the time to think about it, the ninja remembered, as a close call almost cost her a leg.
Back on Allie's deck, the trainers' Pokémon were holding their own.
Vigoroth and Escavalier each used their arms to defend against the onslaught of teeth. Wartortle was preoccupied using hydro pump to block any other Sharpedo that tried to jump up.
Allie heard a sickening crash from behind her. She turned around to look, and was shocked by what she saw. Part of the deck had been bitten away by an especially violent Sharpedo. The railing and wood flooring were gone, and nothing remained but a jagged hole leading to the ocean below.
"Allie, look out!" Lucian screamed.
Allie had never heard his voice quite so panicked. She whipped back around to the main battle and was horrified to see another Sharpedo coming straight at her.
She tried to evade it, but the monstrous water type was too fast. Had its jaws been open, she would have been torn to shreds. But Sharpedo had adaptations other than their teeth. Allie screamed as her exposed skin made contact with the rough blue scales. Her face, her chest, her legs burned with pain. She could feel blood trickling onto her new bathing suit.
The collision didn't stop the Sharpedo, which kept going, and took Allie with it. The girl was knocked back, and lost her footing. She braced herself, for she had seen what was coming next. The spot behind her had no railing. It took only seconds for them to begin falling.
Falling, falling, falling.
The drop was a long way down, all the way to the ocean below. They had been fighting on one of the highest decks, and now they were falling past the painted face of Empoleon, then the curled tail of Kingdra.
Falling, falling, falling.
They finally crashed into the cold ocean water. Sharpedo disappeared for a moment, and Allie swam to the surface to catch her breath. The fall had winded her, and the salt water stung as it entered her abrasions. It was the pain that first reminded her of the danger she was in. Her stomach, arms, and face were chaffed and bleeding into Sharpedo invested waters.
Without her Pokémon, she was like a raw feast of meat for the ship's attackers. It didn't take long for them to come.
Huge fins were circling now as she struggled to keep afloat. The Wailmer and sailors were all occupied fighting other Sharpedo. Allie was totally stranded from everyone else.
This is it, Allie thought. This time, I'm actually done for.
The fins turned toward her. A dozen red eyes peered out at her from the water level, all staring hungrily at her.
The girl had faced many dangerous scenarios before, but this time, no one was around. Knowing the inevitable horror was coming, Allie closed her eyes. She didn't want to watch as her body was torn apart.
The wait felt like hours.
Allie was waiting.
Waiting for the teeth to come like daggers.
Waiting for the end to come.
Waiting for the storm of horrors.
Thunder cracked and lightning hissed. A storm? Allie didn't remember seeing any storm clouds in the sky. Opening her eyes to steal a peak, she saw the second bolt descend upon one of her attackers. A third and a fourth struck others.
She felt an electric tingling in the water from the electricity, but it wasn't passing straight into her. There was such control, power, and precision to the thunderbolt. Allie had only ever seen one Pokémon capable of such attacks.
But how could it be Pikachu?
The four Sharpedo struck by the thunderbolt sunk into the water, unconscious. The ones remaining around her made the smart decision to retreat into the deep water below. Comforted by their withdrawal, Allie was finally able to relax.
She floated for a while, wondering what was going on around the rest of the battle front. When would someone figure out where she was? Did Lucian see where she fell, or was he too preoccupied battling the invaders? Were her Pokémon alright without her? She hoped so, but wasn't able to help them from here. Another Sharpedo might come by any moment, but for now, she was safe.
Especially if Pikachu was really here somewhere, as unlikely as it seemed.
"Up we go, lass."
A strong arm hoisted her out of the water.
"Looking a bit worse for the wear, aren't we?"
It was the old captain, employing strength beyond his age to pull her onto his Wailmer. He, too, was soaked with water and blood. Allie was shocked when he waved to check that her eyes were in focus. The bloody hand was missing a couple of fingers: just fresh stubs remained. The old man noticed her staring and chuckled weakly.
"Just a flesh wound, lass. Nothing ta worry about. The salt water will slow the bleeding. We should get some medical treatment though."
"They're all gone?" Allie asked the captain.
"A couple bolts of lightning struck near you, and the others just left. The sea shines in our favor today."
A miracle, Allie though in amazement. She collapsed on Wailmer's back and stared at her damaged body. Patches of skin were missing all along her front and her bathing suit had some rips, but all things considered, it wasn't too bad. If a couple of fingers were just a flesh wound, then she was totally fine.
As soon as they were back on board, they were greeted by the ship's cheering passengers. Allie's Pokémon were there. Somehow, Wartortle had even convinced Vigoroth to come. Their Pokéballs were pressed into her hand by one of the trainers she fought beside, the pale scientist. He smiled at her before slipping away into the crowd.
Allie returned her Pokémon to their balls, thanking them for their efforts. She looked up and saw Lucian pushing toward her through the revelry. He was covered in sweat and sea grime, and Allie almost made a comment about putting more effort into his appearance. His grin stopped her; he seemed genuinely glad to see her.
"Allie, I'm so relieved you're okay," he said. "I can't believe you survived that."
"I'm a lot tougher than you give me credit for. I've faced worse."
"But how did you get away from those things?" he interrogated her. "And it was such a long fall."
"I got lucky, I guess," she told him as she was hurried away by a medic. "We'll talk later."
She, of course, had her own theory as to how she survived. Those thunderbolts had to have belonged to Pikachu, but why wouldn't Ash have revealed himself if he was onboard? And why would he be on the Emperor?
Later that night, after her wounds had been treated, Allie had confided her beliefs in Janine. The gym leader was battered herself; one of her eyes was blackened from some shrapnel and a hard fall had left her with an obvious limp.
"You really think Ash is on this ship?" Janine repeated to make sure she had understood correctly. It was an unlikely scenario, and Janine was a bit dazed anyway from getting knocked around.
"I just can't believe that was a coincidence," Allie admitted. "He gave us the tickets, so he knows we're here. I know it sounds impossible, but he kind of is that way."
"Yeah," Allie laughed.
The Violet City Institution was a dismal place, even on the best of day. But in the dark, thunderstorm, it was almost terrifying. Located on the outskirts of the city, far, far away from the happy residents, the Institution was home to many miserable mental patients. It wasn't the nice, modern, psychiatric hospital. It was an asylum, in the worst sense of the term.
And on this night, one man had infiltrated the building, despite electric fences and bars on the windows. He was cloaked in black, and a dark hood obscured his face.
By jiggling a final lock, the trespasser made his way into a dark room, padded with soft foam on every edge. According to the records he had seen, this was the right place.
"Thought you might come looking for me," giggled a young woman in a bed. She looked far older than her mid-twenties. Her hair, once beautifully blonde and curly, was greasy and filthy. She wore the robes of a patient, but the cloaked man knew her to be one of the most dangerous women alive. Or at least, she once had been.
"How did you know?" the stranger inquired, not actually expecting a competent answer.
"News travels, even in here. You'd be surprised how many Team Rocket members have been locked away here over the years. Most of them are here because they outlived their usefulness. Some of them did actually lose their minds. Others needed to be silenced."
The man was impressed by her competence. "And you?"
"I'm a psychopath." The woman giggled again.
"You're Domino, the Black Tulip of Team Rocket."
"Impressive. I know who you are too. I know all about what you've been up to."
"That will do for introductions." He returned to his main purpose in being there. "What do you know of the Mount Quena Operation?"
"I remember absolutely nothing. Eight years ago, we found ourselves near Purity Canyon, with no recollection of why we were there. We returned to base."
"Did anyone ever remember what happened? Did Giovanni?"
The young woman's face broke into a huge smile. "No, not that I'm aware of. I do miss that man."
"I don't," growled the other. Domino took his warning without question.
"How do you still know about the operation, if you had all forgotten it?"
"Although all of our footage and data had been wiped, along with our memories, I still had a feeling something important had occurred," she bit her lip, as if she wasn't sure if she should go on. "After Team Rocket fell, I spent some time working with psychics, but they just told me there was something powerful blocking my memories, and they were unable to help me recover them. I concluded the operation involved a powerful psychic Pokémon, most likely legendary.
"Since I knew we were near Mount Quena when it happened, I decided to go back and investigate. I took a trip to Johto to see what I could find there. The next thing I knew, I was here in bed. I've been here for months."
She leaned closer to him and started whispering secretively. "I've heard the news. The monster that took the Danford girl and all the others… I would bet that's the same thing that got me."
"I know. That's why I'm here."
I fell ill again over the last week, so sorry for the minor delay. This chapter's action should make up for the serenity in the last one. Plus there's the mysterious Domino segment at the end, which was a total surprise.
Remember, I reserve the right to be evil to my characters :P
I'm not sure when my next chapter will be, but I expect to do one at the beginning of November, and one at the end, with a revision of older chapters over Thanksgiving.
Blogging – I've started a tumblr to use as a place for extra author's notes, sneak peeks, and bonus content. The name of the blog is "Beyond the Journey," and the link is warasjourney.tumblr.com. I'm trying to be pretty active on it, and all extra information regarding the story will go there. Should be worth a look if you're enjoying the fiction. All info regarding November releases will be available there and on my profile.
Pokemastercroatia-Thanks for posting. I don't think Ash's adventure will ever end, hence the title. When you say Akira, who are you referring to? If you mean, Allie, then perhaps, as she aspires to hold Ash's title of champion.
Thanks for reading, and please leave me a review to let me know how I'm doing and what you'd like to see. -Waras
Re: The Journey Never Ends
The Journey Never Ends
Chapter 31: Two Heated Battles
On the hillside of Mount Silver, a small cabin stood in the middle of a grove of trees. Apart from the smoke rising from the fireplace, there was no way to find it. The building was miles from any city and wasn't connected to any roads or power lines. It was totally isolated from all human existence.
I suppose this is why no one has ever found her, a young man reflected, stepping out silently from behind a tree. After taking his leave of Domino, he had decided that he needed to do more investigating. The trail had led him here.
He calmly and silently walked to the cabin. Without knocking, he pushed the door open and slipped in. The cabin had only one room, and it was relatively small. Heat radiated from a fireplace next to the bed, and a small wooden desk was the only table. Two chairs sat on either side of it. Across the room was a woman dressed in a black robe. Her long, magenta hair was fading to gray, but it still left no doubt that he had found the correct woman. She was oblivious to him, cleaning dishes in a corner of the room.
"Miyamoto," he spoke gently.
The woman dropped a plate and spun around to face the intruder.
"How did you find me?" she whispered quickly, suddenly very alert. Her blue eyes were surrounded by the wrinkles of time.
"It wasn't easy, but I have more resources than most." He noticed her glancing at a fire prod leaning against the wall. He walked toward it and picked it up before she had the opportunity to use it as a weapon. "I'm not here to hurt you."
"Do you know what you have done, coming here? Even if you aren't here to kill me, someone else will be soon."
"Team Rocket has been gone for years," the young man reassured her. "And I'm no friend to them, anyway."
"Ha," the woman chuckled, her wrinkled hands trembling. "You might think they're gone."
"I wasn't followed," he promised her. "And I would sooner die than reveal your location. You're a brave woman, to have been here so long."
"So you know my story?" Miyamoto asked, returning her attention to a water pot on the stove.
"Not all of it. I'm here to learn more."
The aging woman sighed, and pulled two tea cups off a shelf. "It's a long, sad story. But if you've come all the way here, I suppose you deserve to hear it. Let's sit down."
The two sat down on either side of the table. Miyamoto poured her visitor a cup of tea before starting her story.
"I had my daughter when I was at a young age. I knew I could never be the right kind of mother to her. I joined Team Rocket in order to provide for her. I became an elite agent, and eventually, they assigned me the most important missions."
"Years ago, I was assigned to track down a rare Pokémon."
"Mew?" the visitor guessed from his research into Miyamoto's past.
"Yes. After years of searching, I met Mew in the Andes Mountains. I tried to convince it to come with me, so that I could go home to my daughter. It refused, and rightly so. I knew what Team Rocket wanted to do to it, but I needed to take care of my daughter." Her hands trembled violently. "There was an avalanche. I would have died without Mew's protection.
"After that, I swore never to hunt another Pokémon. I bought this cabin from a hiker, and I've hidden here ever since. To avoid suspicion, I continued reporting to Madame Boss from time to time."
"Yes, his mother." Even after all the years, she couldn't bring herself to use their names.
"Miyamoto, what did Team Rocket want with Mew? Did they mean to sell it or experiment on it?"
"I… I can't speak about it. I'm sorry," the old woman apologized. "There is a lab on New Island. If you go there, you will find the answers you seek."
"New Island? I've never heard of it."
The blue-eyed woman laughed. "If you found me, I'm sure you can find it. Search the seas south of Cinnabar Island."
Cinnabar. The Emperor will have made port by the time I arrive.
"I've always wondered what was happening in the outside world. Is there any chance you've met my daughter? Her name is…"
"Jessie." The man looked to a shelf containing a photo. A little girl with long red hair looked down at him. "We've… met. She's doing very well. You'd be proud of her."
"I always have been," Miyamoto smiled sadly.
Her visitor stood up and looked around. "I need to be going.
"Now that you've found me, I must leave this place," Miyamoto lamented. "My life is no longer safe here."
"I can offer you protection."
"No one can. I'm safer on my own. I always have been," Miyamoto responded.
"Good luck with everything," the visitor said, standing up to take his leave.
"Thank you, and may Mew watch over you. If you ever see my daughter again… please tell her I love her."
"You have my word."
The SS Seagallop Emperor's loud horn could be heard across the port island. Hundreds of people came to watch the conclusion to the magnificent ship's first journey. The passengers were collecting their baggage then making their way to the exits.
"Before you go, I want to thank all of you for your efforts aboard the Emperor," the captain said, shaking each of their hands in turn as they disembarked the ship. "Without your help, we may not have made it through."
When Allie reached him, he held her hand for a moment. "Cinnabar Island is famous for its hot springs. Not so much as Lavaridge Town in my dear old Hoenn, but they're remarkable springs all the same. It would probably be good for your injuries to relax in them." He took out a slip of paper and handed it to Allie. "The company gave me this for my retirement, but I think I'll catch the next ferry to Hoenn. You keep it."
"Gull," Peeko chimed softly.
"Thank you so much," Allie replied graciously thanked him, accepting the gift.
As soon as they stepped off the ramp, Allie spotted a Pokémon Center. They made their way toward it, but a massive swarm of people blocked their path.
"What's happening over there?" Allie wondered aloud. They found an empty bench on the corner of a street and sat down.
"From what my father told me, Cinnabar Island's been a tourist attraction for years," Janine explained.
"Apparently, it's so bad that even the Pokémon Center is more of a hotel."
"There's a gym here, right?" Lucian asked, using his Xtransceiver to search for a map.
Allie realized she didn't actually know. "I'm not sure. Ash just sent the tickets; he didn't say why he thought we should come here. Is there one, Janine?"
"I know there used to be," the gym leader replied, twirling the end of her scarf. "A man named Blaine ran the gym for years, and when the island became overpopulated, he moved it to the inside of the volcano."
"In the volcano?" Allie repeated, amazed. She gazed up at the massive landform towering over the rest of the island. While on the ship, the medics had instructed her to remain still to avoid further damage to her chaffed skin. Although the trainer in her would have preferred to work with her Pokémon, she knew it was a bad idea. She spent most of the remaining trip alternating between her bed and a lounge chair. Watching the volcano grow larger on the horizon had become her favorite activity.
"Yes, but I'm not sure how to get in, or even if it is still there," Janine said apologetically.
The trainers stood together in the mass of travelers, completely overwhelmed by the crowded city. Their cruise had been a success, and, with one notable exception, very relaxing. The Sharpedo hadn't returned, so they enjoyed a nice end to the trip. Now though, they had no idea what it had led to.
Lucian was the first to speak again. Without looking up from his Xtransceiver, he asked, "What did the captain give you?"
Reminded of the captain's paper, she took it out of her pocket. "'Redeemable for one complimentary night at the Big Riddle Inn,'" Allie read aloud.
"Hopefully it's a nice place," Lucian commented unnecessarily.
"I'm sure it is," Allie tried to say, but she stopped as a passerby approached them.
The newcomer stared at Lucian, and for a moment, the boy was so focused on Xtransceiver to notice. Finally, the coordinator looked up to see the girl standing over him. She wore a black bikini top with jeans, a large brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Her curly red hair cascaded down her back. Allie felt like she looked familiar, but wasn't sure where she would know her from. Lucian, however, certainly did know her. His face transformed immediately into a scowl when their eyes met.
"Samantha." Lucian's voice was more unpleasant than usual.
"If it isn't Lucy," she taunted him. "Long time no see. Strange to see you here in Kanto."
Lucian stood up, his gloved hands curling into fists. "I go where I please, Sam."
The girl grabbed the Xtransceiver out of his hand and pushed him back down onto the bench.
"Still using this old thing?" Sam laughed obnoxiously. She reached into her pocket and made a show of pulling out a shiny device. It looked similar to the Xtransceiver, but more streamlined and high-tech. "This is the new Silph Jet, and it far outclasses any Xtransceiver. I bought it with my contest winnings." She emphasized the last two words, to Lucian's fury. "Not that you'd know anything about winnings, considering you lost the Dante Cup to an amateur."
Allie tried to protest, to explain the circumstances of her victory, but Lucian's hand tightened around her wrist. She took the hint.
"You've changed so much since the old days, Lucy. You used to have all the fancy gear. Without it, you're even more of what you always were: a loser."
"Shut up, Sam," Lucian growled.
"Oooh, getting mad at me again, are you?" his acquaintance purred cruelly. She turned her attention to the girls sitting to Lucian's right. "You two should ditch this loser right now. He's the worst kind of person.
"Get out of Kanto, Lucy," she finished, throwing his Xtranseiver back in his lap. "This is my home, and I will drive you from it."
Samatha turned around and vanished back into the sea of people. The three sat in total silence for several minutes before Janine voiced the question on the girls' minds.
"Who was that?" she asked offhandedly, trying to downplay what had just happened.
"Fellow coordinator from the contest circuit," he growled. "She thinks she's all that just because of her older sister." He paused, reflecting on his memories. "I don't really want to talk about her right now."
Janine still looked curious, but Allie decided it was best not to inquire further for the time being.
"I guess we're going to go to the inn," the blonde decided. "It's getting too hot out here with the sun." She quickly searched the location on her own Xtransceiver. Regardless of what Samantha said, she had no need or desire for a Silph Jet. Her device was still new, worked perfectly fine, and most importantly, was a gift from Ash.
And so, the three companions followed the directions for about a mile to the very base of the volcano. It towered over them now, and directly between them and it, a small building stood. When they entered, a tall man with long ginger hair and sunglasses greeted them. He was clearly the owner: a Cinnabar local taking advantage of the tourism. Allie presented him with the coupon, but his face fell immediately.
"We don't have many rooms left, I'm afraid," the man apologized. "Every year, more and more tourists come. These days, even my humble inn is full."
Lucian began to protest, but Allie interrupted him. "No, that's alright. Do you know any other places where a group of trainers could stay?"
"Trainers?" the local noted, looking at the Pokéballs attached to their belts. "Well, there is one room, but it won't be very comfortable. I'm sure the three of you won't mind."
"That's awesome," Allie replied graciously. "We'd be happy to sleep on the floor if we had to." She gave Lucian a warning glance when he rolled his eyes.
He pulled a small chain from his pocket. "Well, here's the key. Go up the stairs and it'll be the last door on the right."
Allie took the key, and turned to her companions. They were about to go to the room when Lucian had a sudden thought. "We've heard that there might be a gym on this island. Do you know where it is?"
"The gym's long gone kids. Been that way for close to fifteen years now."
"But what then happened to Blaine?" Janine wondered. "I met him several years ago at the Pokémon League, and he still seemed to be a gym leader then. Incidentally," she smiled, walking closer to their host, "I am Janine, daughter of Koga, and leader of the Fuchsia Gym."
The man's eyebrows rose at this revelation. "I'm honored to have such a high ranking guest in my humble inn. If there's anything you need, please just ask."
"Well, we would appreciate some help with our bags," Janine finished, holding out her own for him to take.
Allie was a bit perplexed that Janine would use her title to get help, especially since they only had a single bag each.
"Of course," the owner laughed awkwardly, accepting Janine's satchel. "I can take those, too."
"Oh, no, I can-" Allie began to protest.
"I'm sure it's no trouble for our gracious host," Janine cut her off, and so Allie relented.
"Absolutely none," the man huffed, struggling with the combined weight of their gear.
They followed the struggling man up the stairs and to their room. As soon as Allie pushed the door open, he tumbled into the room, too weak to carry the gear. He quickly stood up and brushed the dust off his robe. He started to leave, but Janine stood in the doorway with an unimpressed expression.
"Now that we have privacy, can you please tell my friends who you actually are?"
A frown crept across the man's face, but the dark sunglasses hid the look in his eyes.
"How do you know who I am?" he asked the purple-haired girl.
"A wig may fool most of your guests, but a ninja knows a disguise when she sees it," was the response.
Sighing, the man tugged at his hair. It came off, and Allie and Lucian finally realized it wasn't actually attached. He removed the glasses next, and his small dark eyes glared at the girl who identified him.
"Who are you?" Lucian demanded, taking a step closer. "Why did you hide your identity?"
"I'm Blaine, of course," he said quickly, disgruntling Lucian. His voice was harsher now, and it made him sound more critical. "If not for Janine, you would've never figured it out. You're lucky she was here."
"You're the gym leader," Allie realized, her hand going to her mouth in surprise.
"What kind of gym leader hides his identity from challengers?" Lucian scoffed. "He's a coward."
"He's a fan of mysteries and riddles," Blaine said of himself. "And as gym leader, he is allowed to test his challengers however he wants. And so far, trainer, you're failing."
Lucian was about to fire back, but Allie again tried to calm him. The boy crossed his arms and rolled his eyes. He was still clearly ill-tempered from their encounter with Sam.
"I'm Allie Dogwood, and this is Lucian Andrews," she introduced them. "I guess you already know Janine." The ninja girl bowed her head in acknowledgement. "We'd like to challenge you in a gym battle."
Blaine put a finger on his chin, considering the request. "I don't get many challengers, mostly just tourists. Perhaps I will do battle, but on a condition."
"You will have to find the entrance to my gym, without Janine's help," the gym leader instructed them, his gaze lingering on his colleague.
Janine had the grace to agree to the condition. Blaine put his disguise back on and pushed past her. They saw him still fixing the wig as he walked down the hall.
"That was unusual," Allie whispered, closing the door.
"Indeed," Janine agreed.
Lucian was still too busy fuming to contribute to the conversation.
They looked around the room and understood why Blaine had told them it wasn't particularly cozy. It was more of an attic than a room. Perhaps it was part of Blaine's test. There weren't any beds, so the trainers would have to use their sleeping bags on the concrete floor. Lacking windows or an adequate light source, the room was dark. It would be a rather uncomfortable stay.
"On the positive side, I noticed there were hot springs out back," Janine suggested.
The others agreed, so Lucian went down ahead of them to change into his swim trunks. That left Janine and Allie in the room to change into their bathing suits. The cruise company had altruistically replaced the ones damaged in the Sharpedo attack with identical new ones. Several minutes later, they met near the front desk, and were awkwardly aware of Blaine watching them keenly.
Once outside, boy and girls went to opposite sides of the divider and began stripping. All the other inn guests were out on the town at this time of day, so they had the spring to themselves. Towels wrapped around each of their bodies, they slowly entered the water.
Allie's body tingled as the hot water cleansed the patches of damaged skin on her chest and face. The feeling was incredible. A soft moan from Janine indicated that she felt the same.
"Enjoying the water, ladies?" Lucian's cackling voice traveled over the barrier. Apparently he had heard the gym leader.
"Yes, it's very nice," Allie said calmly, ignoring the crudeness.
Janine, meanwhile, had drifted to the edge of the spring, grabbed a bucket, and filled it with water. "We shouldn't be so selfish, Allie." A mischievous grin was plastered across her face. "We should share what we have." She swung the bucket, and the water flew over the divider.
They heard Lucian whimper a few seconds later as the hot water splashed over his head. "Totally unnecessary," he grumbled.
Allie saw Janine raise an eyebrow and mouth the words, "Totally necessary." They both started laughing.
"Whatever," Lucian shrugged, lowering his shoulders into the water.
They were quiet for some time, just enjoying the spring. Eventually, Allie decided to ask about Samantha. She instinctively felt like Lucian wanted to talk about her, he just didn't know how.
"So Lucian," she began delicately. "Who was that girl earlier? You said she was a coordinator."
There was absolute silence for several minutes, and Allie began to regret her question. Just as she was about to apologize, a response came.
"Do you remember how I said you were the first person I traveled with?" Lucian finally asked. "I lied. Sam Natochenny was."
"Back when I was twelve, we traveled together. We had met the year before at the Grand Festival in my home region, Sinnoh. I had entered a couple contests, but didn't win enough ribbons to compete. Sam was in the same situation, so we watched the festival together. It was… incredible.
"We decided to travel together in Hoenn, competing in contests. It was great until the first time we faced each other." The boy made a miserable noise. "Until then, one of us had always lost before the final round. I lost the contest. And I lost my self-control. I screamed at her. I don't even remember what I said or how I justified it.
"Anyway, after that, we went our separate ways. Every time we met during contests, she beat me. Sam's a great coordinator, but she doesn't seem to enjoy it as much as she used to. It's my fault she's bitter like that, and as much as I hate to admit it, I deserve everything she says about me."
It wasn't the first time Lucian had expressed his sensitive side, but it was the first time Allie could understand the reason for it. This girl was why he promised Allie he would work so hard for their companionship. Their friendship had ended so badly that both were still carrying the scars from it. At least Allie and Ash had parted on good terms. The trainer found herself wishing that none of her friendships would ever end in such mutual betrayal.
"You mentioned she had a famous older sister?" Janine recalled.
"Her sister, Solidad, is one of the world's top coordinators. She's even better than May," the coordinator explained.
The name meant nothing to Allie and Janine, who never followed contests. But if Solidad was better than May, she must be an incredible coordinator.
"I'm really sorry Lucian," Allie said softly.
"It was a long time ago. It really doesn't bother me anymore," he lied again.
A sudden splash interrupted their conversation, showering them all in hot water. When they looked up, the barrier had fallen away from the center of the spring, leaving Lucian and the girls staring at each other awkwardly.
Quick as a flash, Janine grabbed a pebble from the edge of the spring and flung it at Lucian's face. The small rock hit him directly between eyes and he was temporarily blinded.
"Turn around!" the girls yelled at him.
"Fine," he grudgingly consented, not eager to be hit by another stone.
They changed back into their swimsuits, then turned around and let the boy do the same.
"What happened to this place?" Allie wondered aloud once they were all standing together again.
The whole scene had changed. The Gyarados fountain on the girls' side, which had been acting as a little waterfall into the spring, had shifted position. A large chunk of the volcano's side, which had formed the back wall of the spring, was gone. And of course, the gender specific sides of the spring were merged by the absence of a divider.
"Looks like you found the secret entrance," Janine hummed pleasantly.
"Excellent," Lucian grinned and started to walk into the passage.
"But Janine, Blaine said you couldn't help us find it," Allie protested, grabbing Lucian's arm to prevent him from entering.
"But the entrance, how did it open?"
"It seems to be connected to the Gyarados statue. When you pull down on the statue, the volcano opens up," Janine explained.
"But I didn't touch the statue," Allie reminded her.
"Neither did I."
"Can you two please stop worrying about who pressed the button and come along? I'd like my badge sooner than later," Lucian grumbled. His sensitive self again disguised, the boy resumed being obnoxious.
"Alright, let's go I guess," Allie agreed, leading the others into the tunnel.
As they entered the volcano, a Pokémon watched them from the bushes near the spring. Its round eyes sparkled mysteriously before it disappeared into the shadows.
The group, meanwhile, descended deep into the heart of the fire mountain. The walls radiated heat, and the trainers felt like they had gone from a hot spring to a sauna. Finally, the volcanic tunnel opened up into a massive room. There were torches along the walls, illuminating a huge pit of lava with a metal battlefield suspended above it by chains.
"I guess we found the gym," Allie said as she looked around.
"You have indeed found my secret gym." A harsh voice from the other side echoed throughout the room. Allie knew immediately that it was Blaine. His disguise was nowhere to be seen. "Which of you will be my first challenger?"
Allie started to step forward, but Lucian put his arm in front of her. "I'd like to go first, if that's okay. I don't want to win because you weakened him for me."
Even though she thought that an unlikely scenario, Allie agreed. "Alright, good luck."
He winked at her and said, "Never need it."
As he stepped into the challenger's box, Blaine motioned for Allie and Janine to go to rock ledge near the middle of the field which evidently served as the gym's observation area.
"Janine, would you care to act as referee?"
The young gym leader, who had performed the task many times in her father's gym, nodded and approached the very edge of the pit.
"The battle between Lucian Andrews of…" she hesitated, not knowing exactly where he lived.
"Hearthome," he told her.
"Lucian Andrews of Hearthome City will challenge Cinnabar Island's Gym Leader Blaine. Each trainer will use…"
"Three," Blaine injected.
"Three Pokémon will be used by each trainer. Only the challenger is allowed substitutions," Janine finished.
The battlers each released their first Pokémon. The coordinator sent out Fraxure, a Pokémon which Allie had never seen him use.
The battle was over fairly quickly. Fraxure devastate Blaine's first two Pokémon through a strategy only a coordinator would use. Allie felt like she was watching a contest. The tactics of both trainers were evidently very well designed. Finally, Blaine sent in Magmortar, and Fraxure was defeated by a well-timed Giga Impact. Kirlia fared better, using psychic to repeatedly bring the huge fire-type to its knees.
Before Kirlia finished Magmortar off, however, Blaine hollered, "Enough!" His challenger stared at him suspiciously. "The battle is over. You've proven your skill, and will be presented with the Volcano Badge for your effort. Well done." He signaled Janine.
"Blaine has declared the battle over," the newer gym leader announced. "The challenger is victorious. The next battle will be between Allie Dogwood of Pewter City and Leader Blaine of Cinnabar. Challenger, please approach the battlefield.
Allie walked from the observation area to the challenger's end of the arena. As she went, she passed Lucian.
"Congrats Lucian," she whispered.
"He's a lot stronger than Janine," Lucian warned her. "Good luck."
"I don't need luck either," the girl replied, grinning.
When she reached the rock overlooking the battlefield, she turned her attention to the gym leader.
"Are you ready, trainer?" Blaine called from across the pit of lava.
"Always!" Allie responded instinctively. Her face was covered with sweat from the heat of the volcano, but she clenched her fists defiantly.
"Then let our battle… begin!"
But she didn't win. Blaine's Magmortar, still weak from its battle with Lucian's team, had defeated all three of her Pokémon without trouble. Vigoroth, despite his fighting spirit, fell from lack of experience. Ruby's flamethrower was no match for Magmortar's fire blast. Even Wartortle, whose type gave him an advantage, was defeated through Blaine's superior tactics.
Her Pokémon had the power to win; Allie knew it. Wartortle, at least, should have won. It was her weakness as a trainer that cost her the battle. If she had been better able to counter Blaine's aggressive strategy, perhaps she would have won.
Janine tried to comfort her, but Lucian couldn't overcome his pride enough to avoid smirking. He had finally surpassed her as a trainer, it seemed. He had earned the badge, and she hadn't. Allie had waved them off, told them she would be fine, but she wasn't sure if she was.
That night, Allie sat in the hot springs alone, letting the warm water soothe her damaged skin. It was just a battle, she kept telling herself.
The full moon cast light across the inn's rooftop, and Allie found herself staring at a single spot on the roof. There was something there. A Pokémon, perhaps?
Not that it mattered.
The Pokémon turned around, and Allie caught a glimpse of a jagged tail.
It can't be. I must be getting overheated, she thought, attributing the appearance to the hot springs. Yet as she continued watching, a cloud partially covering the moon moved. In the increased moonlight, there was no mistaking the long ears, thunderbolt tail, and mousy face.
She stood up hastily and wrapped a towel around herself. Pikachu glanced down at her, and leapt off the roof, away from the girl.
"Wait!" Allie shouted, pursuing Pikachu to the front of Big Riddle Inn. She saw a shadow running down the deserted road in front of her, and ran after it. It was hard to see in the dark, but every few minutes, she caught a glimpse of the yellow Pokémon, silhouetted in the darkness. The girl kept running until she reached the main street of Cinnabar Island. Even at night, the plaza was packed with tourists. Catching sight of Pikachu's tail disappearing into the mass of people, she continued on.
How peculiar she must have looked, dashing through a crowded town in nothing but a towel. And yet, what she wouldn't give to see Ash right now. She ignored a group of laughing teenage boys. She saw a Silph Jet's camera light flash beside her, but paid it no attention.
She felt a hand on her shoulder. "Allie?" a familiar voice spoke from behind her. Her slim body trembled with anticipation as she turned around.
Re: The Journey Never Ends
The Journey Never Ends
Chapter 32: A Trainer's Burning Heart
After her devastating loss to Blaine, Allie Dogwood saw a Pokémon she knew must be Pikachu. She pursued it across Cinnabar Island, not caring that she was wearing only a towel in the massive crowds of tourists...
The girl felt a hand on her shoulder. "Allie?" a familiar voice spoke from behind her. The girl's slim body trembled with anticipation as she turned around.
"Ash!" she cried, absolutely overjoyed. She flung herself into his arms and buried her face in his chest.
"I guess you must miss him."
Allie looked up immediately and was horrified to see Lucian Andrews's face. She pushed herself away from him, but tripped over the street curb and fell into a gutter. Frantically trying to fix her towel from the wet ground, she suddenly became painfully aware of the hundreds of people around her, many of whom were laughing at her.
Her face burned with shame and embarrassment. She began to cry, desperate and alone. Allie felt something land on her body, and realized it was Lucian's black jacket. She pulled it over her shoulders, grateful to be able to cover herself.
"Clear off, all of you." Lucian's voice was powerful and authoritative, and the people around him felt its impact. They immediately dispersed, casting sidelong glances at the unfortunate girl.
Unbeknownst to Lucian, Samantha Natochenny, his old rival, smiled sadly in the crowd before vanishing into the night.
As soon as they were all away, the coordinator knelt down and helped his companion to her feet. "Are you okay?" he whispered in her ear.
She shook her head. She had completely broken down. It had escalated so quickly that she had no idea what happened. One moment she was in the spring, recovering from her defeat, the next she was running through town. Despair and hopelessness had directed her rather than her own mind.
"Please tell me this is a bad dream," she moaned, once they were off the main street and there were less people around.
"I wish I could without lying," the coordinator answered.
When they arrived back at the Big Riddle Inn, Lucian helped Allie up the stairs and into their room. Despite the warm humidity of the night, Allie allowed him to place a blanket over her as they sat down on the floor.
"I can't believe I did that," Allie mumbled, covering her face with her hands.
"What were you doing out there?" Lucian asked concernedly. His eyes were filled with an unmistakable sincerity that wasn't usually there.
"It was so stupid. I… I followed Pikachu," she confessed.
Although she knew he'd likely ask that question, the tone was far different than she expected. Instead of being condescending or confused, Lucian seemed intrigued.
"Ash's Pokémon," Allie explained, hiccupping.
The girl didn't know what he meant, but she nodded anyway.
"I thought I saw Pikachu near the inn, so I tried to catch up with him. I wasn't paying attention to where I was. I just kept thinking about losing to Blaine and the possibility of seeing Ash again. I can only imagine how stupid I must have looked. I don't know if I can continue travelling anymore."
"No, Allie," Lucian interrupted her before she could further despair. "You lost control of yourself, and that's not good. But I've seen you train and battle; you're strong enough to keep going. Who cares who saw what happened out there? Someday, you'll be able to beat them all in a Pokémon battle. They'll remember you for your accomplishments, not for your mistakes."
Even though Allie felt like Lucian was just saying it to make her feel better, his words did kind of comfort her.
The coordinator stood up. "I'm going to get Janine. We'll bring you some hot cocoa. Is that alright?"
She nodded meekly from the floor.
"Lucian, why did you say it was interesting that I saw Pikachu?" she asked when he was almost out of the door.
The boy turned around with a contemplative expression on his face. "Because I saw a Pikachu too," he explained.
Allie was shocked by what he said. Was it possible?
"There was one playing around on the men's side of the hot spring, but I didn't think anything of it. I always heard how rare they were, but that was the second time I've seen one in the past week. There was one in the Safari Zone, too. I was trying to catch it when I saw the Tauros approaching you. In a way, it was because of that Pikachu that I found you."
Videos of the Cinnabar Island "Towel Girl" began appearing on the Silph's new video sharing service not long after the incident. A man watched them miserably, and then sent an email to one of his colleagues. Within minutes, every video of Allie on Cinnabar Island was permanently erased from existence. Satisfied with this deed, the black-haired young man resumed his work.
"How are you feeling?" Janine asked as she walked into Allie's room. As soon as Blaine found out what happened, he moved the blonde girl to one of his inn's nicer rooms. Instead of sleeping in the attic, Janine and Lucian had taken turns standing outside the room, making sure she was okay. It was almost nine in the morning, and Allie had just woken up. This was the first time any of them had spoken to her since Lucian left her side to get help. She had fallen asleep before they returned.
"I'm much better," she promised, taking a bite of an apple. "What are you guys doing today?"
"Lucian and I decided to go to the Pokémon Lab," the ninja explained. "We would invite you, but Blaine thought it would be best for you to avoid the busy part of town for now."
Allie frowned unhappily, but knew it was true. After last night, she didn't even want to be seen in public. She looked around the room glumly, acquainting herself with what she expected to be her surroundings for the rest of the day.
"Do you want to talk about what happened?" Janine asked, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
Although Allie was glad for Janine's support, she had already said most of what there was to say to Lucian.
"I lost it for a little bit," said Allie simply. "If not for Lucian, I'm not sure what I would have done."
"It was lucky you let him travel with you."
"Yeah," Allie said wistfully, starting to believe that it was more than fate that had brought them together. Had Pikachu really led Lucian to her? Was Ash still protecting her from afar? "I guess I'll see you later then?"
"Yes. Take the day and rest up. We'll see you this evening." Janine waved and departed.
After showering, Allie sat around her room for a while, bored out of her mind. There was nothing to think about but the previous night and the possibility of Pikachu bringing her and Lucian together. One thought was depressing, the other improbable.
Deciding that she would be miserable if she had to spend the day inside, Allie pulled her jacket on and left the room. She walked downstairs to the lobby, but Blaine was nowhere to be seen. She walked out back to the hot springs for some fresh air.
She stared at the volcano. Just to the right of the hot spring, there was a narrow switchback trail winding its way up the rocky face of the volcano. Even though she was tired and needed to be resting, she had a sudden urge to climb it. It wasn't a good idea, but she felt like she needed to prove to herself that she could still accomplish something. And so, she started the uphill hike.
On her way up, she thought about the past few days. Her trip to Cinnabar hadn't been as much of a vacation as it could have been. The cruise had been attacked by non-native Pokémon, she lost the gym battle, couldn't find Pikachu, and ran around town in a towel. Not a particularly pleasant week. Still, it was a comfort that Lucian was finally being kinder.
Had Lucian actually seen Pikachu, or was he just trying to comfort her and protect her sanity? The boy had seemed rather confident, and he wasn't the kind of person who would lie just to make her feel better. On the Seagallop Emperor, Allie thought she had been saved by a thunderbolt resembling Pikachu's. But it wasn't really likely that Ash and Pikachu were aboard the ship, was it? And she wondered if she actually did see Pikachu last night, or if she simply saw what she wanted to.
Her group kept seeing traces of Pikachu, but why would he be around them without joining them? And was Ash there too, or was he somewhere else entirely?
She finally made it to the summit. She could look in the volcano's crater and see lava boiling below. The view was incredible as well. Based on the sun's position, she figured she was facing north. Far across the sea, she saw a peninsula with buildings on it. Though she didn't know it, she was facing Ash's hometown of Pallet.
"You shouldn't have come here," a gentle voice told her. "You were through a lot last night. You should be resting."
When Allie turned around, she was staring at Blaine, dressed in his hippie disguise. His voice was disguised to be lower pitch than it was usually.
"I needed to do something," the girl admitted. "I couldn't just sit around. I've spent so much time recovering since I started on my journey. I guess I just wanted to keep pressing forward."
"So you made your way to the mouth without words," he reflected, referring to the volcano's rim. "Maybe you need the recovery because you keep pressing yourself so hard."
The trainer was silent for a moment, considering his words.
"But if I don't work harder, how can I ever win be the best I can be?" she wondered as a warm breeze tickled her face.
"If you work yourself to death or lose the joy of training Pokémon, what good is working hard?" the gym leader asked her. "Moderation is important to training as well. And there's no shame in losing a Pokémon battle as long as you try."
"But I got beaten so badly."
"You're a new trainer, right?" he asked knowingly. He didn't wait for her to nod before adding, "You've still got ages to improve."
She didn't answer right away, so Blaine continued.
"Everyone loses sometimes. Even the Pokémon League Champion was defeated by me the first time we battled. Now he can beat me with just his Pikachu."
"Ash?" she instinctively asked.
"Ash Ketchum, the very same."
Even Ash lost battles. The idea seemed perverse to Allie, who had come to idolize him as the greatest trainer ever. Then again, it was ten years ago that Ash fought Blaine; he was six years younger than Allie at the time. As she reflected on it, the fire returned to her eyes. She knew what she had to do; what Ash would do.
"Battle me again." Her words were filled with a confidence she thought she had lost.
"I thought that we just agreed that you should be more careful in your ambitions," Blaine replied without emotion.
"I know, but this is something I really need to do."
"Your Pokémon need rest."
"And they'll be better by tomorrow."
"You should take time to train."
"It isn't my Pokémon who were too weak. It was me."
"How are you different now?"
"I faced defeat."
They stared at each other unflinchingly. Finally, the corners of Blaine's mouth rose under his false moustache. "There is no other answer you could have given that would have made me accept your challenge. Tomorrow at noon, we will again battle in the heart of the volcano. Come prepared."
"I will," she resolved as the leader turned toward the edge of the cliff.
When Allie reached the entrance to the gym the next day, she found Lucian and Janine waiting outside. She had told them anxiously about her impending rematch the previous night at dinner.
"Ready?" she asked them grinning.
Janine frowned and responded apologetically. "Blaine asked us to remain out here. He would like to battle you without an audience."
Lucian placed his hand on Allie's shoulder in a rare sign of friendliness. "You'll do alright. You're good enough to beat him. I know it."
"Thanks guys," Allie said appreciatively. She pulled them both into a hug, which Janine responded to in-kind and even Lucian returned reluctantly.
As they watched the girl descend into the passageway, Lucian sighed.
"You've been a lot nicer to her recently," Janine commented, leaning against the Gyarados statue.
"Why does it matter to you?" he snapped spontaneously, his critical personality returning. He looked away awkwardly as he realized that he had gone too far again. "Sorry. I guess you're travelling with us too."
"I am," the ninja replied stiffly.
"I just feel bad for her. She must feel like I did when I lost in the Dante Cup. I joined her so that I could see her experience my frustration, but things changed."
"I don't know if I'd say that, but Allie's a hard person to cheer against," Lucian explained as he twirled a Pokéball in his hand. "I thought I'd be thrilled to see her lose to Blaine, but I was just happy I won. I started to gloat, but realized I didn't want to anymore."
"You changed," Janine repeated, this time more certain.
"Maybe," the coordinator grunted back. "But anyone would have felt bad seeing her the way she was that night."
"You changed," the other said for a final time, knowing she spoke the truth.
Allie felt a drop of sweat fall from her bangs to her nose. Her concentration was absolute. The battle was intense, and far more evenly matched than the previous. The girl had learned from her mistakes and was responding quicker to Blaine's aggressive and adaptive tactics.
Each trainer had two Pokémon remaining now. Ruby had fought hard, managing to defeat Blaine's Growlithe. She had been unable to outpace her evolution, though, and fell to Ninetales' fire spin. Not long after Wartortle joined the battle, he was hit by a Will-o-wisp attack.
"Wartortle, finish this with aqua tail!" Allie shouted, her voice reverberating against the warm rock walls of the volcanic chamber.
Ninetales tried to leap away gracefully, but even with its speed advantage, the blue turtle managed to hit it with the stream of water erupting from his tail-hole. The large fox reeled in pain, and collapsed near the edge of the battlefield.
"We did it!" Allie cheered. She watched as Wartortle turned around in apparent triumph, then fell flat on his face. Will-o-wisp's burn had taken its toll on him.
The trainer immediately blamed herself for forgetting about the burn, but there had been nothing else she could do at the time. She returned him to his Pokéball, whispering thanks to the red and white capsule. Then, aware that she had only one Pokémon left, she released Vigoroth.
The gym leader pulled another Pokéball from the pocket of his lightweight shirt. From it burst the fiery behemoth which had defeated Allie's entire team two days earlier. Magmortar and Vigoroth stared at each other on the field. Both trainers resumed calling orders to their Pokémon
"Vigoroth, attack it!" Although the sloth started attacking, he was strangely cautious. Allie noticed he wasn't taking the chances required to win such a close battle. Comprehension came at last when Allie saw a look of absolute terror in her Pokémon's eyes as it dodged flamethrower.
He's afraid of the fire, Allie realized. Last time, Allie had been so focused on the battle that she didn't notice his fears. This time, he had lasted long enough for his trainer to witness the terrified expression on his face every time a fire attack came near him. It made sense, of course, Allie thought as she remembered the blazing inferno the Dante Club was reduced to. She had pulled him from the burning building, but he still sustained serious burns. If not for Allie, he would have been buried in the rubble.
"Vigoroth, keep dodging, but listen to me," she ordered. His ears twitched, a sign she took to indicate that he was listening. "I know that you're scared. So am I. Fire can be terrible. But we need to face our fears. For me, that's defeat and failure.
"I lost, and I acted stupid as a result," she admitted to herself and to her Pokémon. "But now I'm not afraid to lose. We lost two days ago, and now I know how I have to deal with defeat. And you, you can deal with fire the same way you deal with everything: fight it with everything you've got.
Just as she said this, Vigoroth dodged a fire punch and countered it with a slash. Magmortar roared in pain and stumbled toward the edge of the suspended metal battlefield.
"Keep it up!" she cheered, before continuing. "We haven't been together long enough for me to know your full potential. I suppose I don't even know mine. But I do know that you have the fighting spirit required to win this battle."
Her voice, proud and determined, resonated throughout the room. The echo gave her an idea.
"Magmortar, end this!" Blaine shouted from the other side of the battlefield.
"Use uproar, Vigoroth!" Allie countered, remembering how effective it was against the Sharpedo.
The white sloth opened his mouth and bellowed as loud as he could, creating an echo that reverberated throughout the whole room. His trainer was forced to cover her ears, and Blaine did the same. But Magmortar, who had been preparing an attack, was unable to cover his ears with his cannon-like arms. An expression of pain covered his face, and he toppled backwards into the magma, unconscious.
Vigoroth immediately stopped his attack, and nodded to Allie. She returned him to his Pokéball, incredibly proud of his courage. The gym leader walked around the lava pit and approached Allie.
"Allie Dogwood," Blaine started, "You've won this battle, and come very far as a Pokémon trainer in the few days I've known you." A piece of metal glinted as he pulled it from his pocket. "You're not done losing. None of us ever are. But you've overcome one of the hardest parts of battling: fear of failure. This Volcano Badge now belongs to you," said Blaine as he handed the younger trainer her prize.
Allie pinned the flame-shaped badge to her tank top. She planned to move it to her jacket collar with her three other badges as soon as she got back to her room.
She and Blaine walked back up the tunnel, discussing the intricacies of the battle. About halfway up, they found Janine and Lucian waiting eagerly to hear the results. They grinned when they saw the badge shining on Allie's chest. Lucian patted her on the back, and she gave him a hug.
"Thanks for the other night," she whispered into his ear.
He nodded and said, "Any time."
After they finished congratulating Allie, Blaine told the companions he'd buy them dinner at a famous local restaurant. Even after her rough night, Allie felt happy enough to go out on the town. They took the gym leader up on his offer, and continued walking up the volcanic tube.
As the trainers and gym leaders stepped out of the volcano, they were temporarily blinded by the bright sun. But as soon as their vision returned, they saw a Pokémon standing on the far side of the hot springs.
It was Pikachu.
The unmistakable Pokémon stared back at them, seemingly taken by surprise.
"Pikachu?" Allie asked, shocked.
There was no mistake this time. The yellow Pokémon's astonishment hardened into reluctant resolve. He nodded, and then gestured for them to follow him.
This time, he didn't run to get away from Allie and her friends. He walked at a pace that made it easy to follow him. They travelled through the streets of Cinnabar Island until they reached a giant hotel. They ran up the staircase until they reached the top floor. Lucian and Blaine were panting, but Janine was in better shape and Allie's excitement alone kept her going. Finally, Pikachu stopped in front of one of the doors and knocked. The little mouse closed his eyes solemnly.
"It's open," a voice called from within.
Allie Dogwood pushed the door open. When she stepped into the dimly lit hotel room, she felt her heart miss a beat. Her mouth fell open, and her legs seemed like they would give out.
Ash Ketchum, Pokémon Master and Indigo Conference Champion, stood before her wearing an expression of genuine surprise on his face.
Re: The Journey Never Ends
The Journey Never Ends
Chapter 33: Return of the Master
After Allie won her rematch against Blaine and earned her fourth badge, she and her friends had emerged from the volcano to find Pikachu waiting outside. It was evident that Pikachu had not expected them to return so soon. Although he was taken by surprise, the electric mouse reluctantly escorted them to a hotel in downtown Cinnabar. He stopped in front of a certain room and knocked on the door.
"It's open," a voice called from within.
Allie Dogwood pushed the door open. When she stepped into the dimly lit hotel room, she felt her heart miss a beat. Her mouth fell open, and her legs seemed like they would give out.
Ash Ketchum, Pokémon Master and Indigo Conference Champion, stood before her wearing an expression of genuine astonishment on his face.
In the silence that followed Allie opening Ash's door, Janine tugged at Blaine's and Lucian's sleeves. She nodded her head at the elevator, and they took the hint. The two gym leaders and coordinator slipped away to the lobby in order to give the two reunited companions a moment alone.
"Ash," she whispered in amazement. After so long, it was strange to see him. His hair had grown longer and wilder than Allie had ever seen it. Despite the heat of the island, he was wearing a black cloak in place of his usual sweatshirt and jeans.
Allie had never seen Ash so surprised. It was clear that he didn't know she was coming. "Allie, how did you…" He saw Pikachu standing at Allie's feet. He shot his Pokémon a look that said, "I'll talk with you later." Pikachu looked down, abashed.
The girl wanted to wrap her arms around his neck and hold on to him. And yet, she didn't. He was on the island and knew she was, and yet had made no effort to contact her. "Why didn't you tell us you were here?" she asked accusatively, crossing her arms.
"I meant to," Ash lied, glancing away. He really had wanted to see Allie, but thought it would be a terrible idea given his mission. Even now, he felt bad hiding the truth from her, but it was better that she didn't know. When it was all over, he'd tell her everything. "So much has happened that I just can't explain right now."
Allie stepped closer to him, her eyes narrowing.
"Ash, I want the truth. Where were you?"
The master felt the girl's soft hand seize his wrist, and smiled slightly, recognizing the strength she had gained in his absence.
"Allie, so much has happened. Most of it would put your life in danger if you knew."
"What about your life Ash? Aren't you in danger?"
Ash's sad smile grew. "Yes. But it's my duty to take those risks."
No, you stubborn idiot, Allie wanted to scream. Your life matters too much to just throw it around. "We're companions Ash. Why do you keep doing things alone?"
"Because of what happened at the Cape and the Dante Club. My journey is more dangerous than yours has to be, and I can't keep dragging you into dangerous situations."
"We're companions, Ash. Our lives are connected no matter what happens. I've been in danger even when you aren't around. I feel safer when you are."
A shadow passed across Ash's face. But you aren't, he reflected miserably.
"So you're not going to tell me why you left," she assumed.
"It was something I needed to do. That's all I can say. As for me leaving, you need to know that I never abandoned you – that I would never abandon you."
"The tickets and text messages," she remembered. Seeing the electric rodent still hovering in the doorway, she realized something else. "You left Pikachu to look after me didn't you?" she figured out.
This truth hit Allie hard. That Ash would send his constant companion to watch over her while he did his mysterious work alone proved that he really had been taking care of her from afar.
"Congratulations on your victory," Ash added, his eyes pausing on the shining Volcano Badge still pinned to Allie's tank top. "It took me two tries to defeat Blaine," he chuckled.
"Same for me," Allie admitted meekly. The two shared a short laugh.
Ash touched her face where the abrasions from Sharpedo were still evident. "How?"
"I told you. I just can't stay out of trouble, even when you're not around," she laughed. When Ash smiled and rested his hand on her shoulder, the girl decided to ask a question. "Blaine invited us to dinner at a popular restaurant. I know it's bad manners to invite someone else, but under the circumstances, do you want to come?"
Ash looked into her eyes. The light blue spheres were pleading with him. It was a look that moved even his hidden heart.
"I'll meet you all there once I finish a few things. I won't be too long." He felt the power of Allie's gaze intensify, and added, "I promise I won't leave without telling you."
The smile he received made his answer worth it.
"Alright then. See you in a bit."
Ash waved and turned back to his work. There were dozens of papers on his desk. They were the reports Oak had been sending him. Even though he hadn't responded to them, the champion analyzed each and every one as it arrived.
The champion turned back around to see Allie still leaning in the doorway. He raised an eyebrow in acknowledgement of her query, and she came running toward him. She threw her arms around him, and he reciprocated the embrace.
"I'm glad your back," she whispered into his chest.
Ash couldn't respond. It was all he could do to keep a tear from escaping his eye.
Allie and her friends were already waiting for their meals to come when Ash arrived. Blaine, dressed once more in his disguise, stood immediately and bowed in a show of respect. Ash greeted the old man whom both he and Allie had lost battles to. They shared a laugh about old times, with Ash ultimately challenging Blaine to a battle once things settled down.
Next, Janine approached the champion and explained that her father had gone on a journey and left the gym to her. Ash nodded as she spoke, then congratulated her and wished her luck as gym leader. The purple-haired girl beamed when he told her how much she reminded him of Koga.
Lucian stood next and shook Ash's hand. "So you're the one who's been looking after Allie while I've been gone," he chuckled. "Well done. I wasn't nearly as good at keeping her out of trouble." It wasn't exactly a true statement; Allie had faced danger with both of them. But Lucian smiled, happy that he had been able to contribute to the companionship. Ash also complimented him on his contest skills from the Dante Cup; although the champion wasn't a coordinator himself, he had witnessed enough of his friends' contests to recognize talent. Allie laughed and told Ash to stop before Lucian's ego grew any larger, and the coordinator elbowed her playfully.
"Coffee and tea, for the sirs and misses," a waiter said, pouring the warm beverages into their glasses.
"Thank you," said Blaine, sipping his drink.
The others continued their conversation, with Allie and Lucian elaborating on the events aboard the SS Seagallop Emperor.
"I really regret sending you those tickets now," Ash lamented, shaking his head. "I feel bad that you were in so much danger."
"There's no need to apologize," Lucian laughed. "It was still a good time. Except for when I learned not to suggest tanning to Allie."
The girl gently hit him in the head, smiling. She had long forgiven him for that transgression, but was glad he learned his lesson. He was a nice boy when he wasn't been obnoxious or rude.
"But why Sharpedo?" wondered Ash. "There shouldn't be any near Kanto. I'll see if Professor Birch will look into it before he returns to Hoenn."
There was a crash from the end of the table. Allie screamed when she saw Blaine writhing on the floor, clutching at his throat. His tan face was turning a ghostly shade of white.
Ash ran around the table and kneeled beside the older man. He checked Blaine's pulse, then sniffed the coffee.
"Drapion venom," he told them quickly. "Janine, you know what to do. Pikachu, stay here and keep his heart going."
The ninja nodded, and bent down over the Cinnabar Gym Leader. She began ordering the waiters and waitresses to bring her various spices and herbs from their kitchen. They hesitated at first, but moved a lot faster when Lucian intervened.
"This man will die if you don't help him," the coordinator shouted at all of them. "Do whatever Janine tells you to."
The restaurant staff began hurrying around, trying to gather the necessary antidotal ingredients. Lucian himself dashed to the kitchen to help, but turned around before he disappeared behind the swinging doors. His eyes met Allie's, and then they both watched as Ash ran out of the restaurant.
"Go with him," Lucian advised her. "He needs someone like you right now."
Allie needed no further convincing. Lucian and Janine would take care of Blaine. Her place was by Ash's side, whether he knew it or not.
She watched as Pikachu used his electricity to shock a heartbeat back into Blaine, and then vanished in pursuit of her teacher.
Ash, meanwhile, was already outside of the restaurant. Blaine alone had drunk the coffee, suggesting the poison was in the drinks. The observant champion had noticed the waiter duck out the front door a moment later, but didn't realize why until Blaine collapsed. He cursed himself for failing to be alerted by the suspicious behavior then.
He looked around, but it was hard to locate his target in the busy street. It was only when he saw a commotion a few hundred feet down the road that he knew where to look. He dashed toward where everyone was gathered, pushing past other trainers and tourists as he went. Reaching where the waiter had crashed into a ramen stand, Ash stood over the mess. Noodles were everywhere, and the waiter was one the ground, holding his leg in pain.
"FEEEEEEEERRRAAAAA," came horrible noise from the sky.
Ash looked up and jumped out of the way just in time to avoid being clawed by a Fearow's talons. From behind him, the massive bird had descended upon the crowd, sending tourists fleeing. A figure dressed in black rode upon the Fearow's back. The fake waiter stood up and tore off his garments, revealing a uniform Ash found far too familiar. It was a Rocket uniform.
The assassin laughed hysterically at the horror on Ash's face. He grabbed hold of one of the Fearow's talons, and was easily lifted off the ground by the powerful Pokémon. Fearow began flapping its wide wings even harder, and disappeared into the sky.
Ash released Pidgeot from his Pokéball, intending to pursuit the assailants. In the corner of his eye, he saw his blonde companion appear out of the crowd.
"Allie, stay," he barked, mounting his Pokémon.
"I'm coming too."
The champion turned around to glare at her, but the adamant expression on her face overpowered his resolution. He prayed it wouldn't be a mistake.
Ash helped Allie onto the giant bird. She sat in front of him, snug as the first time she flew with Ash. His long black cloak covered them both, keeping their body heat in. Pidgeot raised his powerful wings and began to ascend.
Last time Allie had ridden Pidgeot, she and Ash were flying toward Mount Moon for a day of training. Then, their flight had been relatively leisurely. Now, Pidgeot's wings beat rapidly, propelling them high into the sky. Allie watched as the ground fell away, then the clouds vanished beneath them. She had never been so high in the air, but in Ash's grasp, she felt secure.
"Do you see anything?" Ash called over the noise of the wind.
Allie scanned the sky. There was nothing below her to the left, but to her right…
"There!" she pointed at a small black speck far below them.
"Got it. Pidgeot, go!" the young man ordered, tapping the large bird's side with his heel. At once, they entered a steep downward dive.
Ash coughed as most of Allie's ponytail flew into his face.
"Don't let go!" he instructed her as their target became progressively nearer. "Sky Attack!"
At once, their speed became considerably faster. A harsh white light appeared around them, and they spiraled downward at their quarry.
Pidgeot rammed into Fearow at full speed. By now, they were only a few hundred feet above the ground, which was lucky for all four riders. The force of the impact had thrown them all from their mounts. The mysterious strangers quickly tugged on their black vests, and parachutes appeared as if from nowhere.
Ash and Allie weren't so well equipped.
"Grab my hand," Ash shouted to Allie. She couldn't hear what he said, but he was frantically grabbing for her wrists. Their hands finally found each other, but their descent was hardly slowed. Ash let go of one of Allie's hands for just a second to get a Pokéball. He threw it to the rapidly approaching ground ahead of them.
The ball, with less air resistance and a faster initial velocity, reached the ground just in time. Garchomp erupted from it, immediately aware of the situation. With just seconds left to act, the sand shark leapt into the air and caught both trainers. The three rolled as they landed, but Garchomp took the worst of the impact.
Pidgeot was still high above, preoccupied with his duel against Fearow. The assassins' parachutes had successfully deployed and were slowing their descent. They were still high above Ash and Allie, but their trajectory would make them land right next to the trainers.
Allie stood up, brushing dust off her tank top. They were certainly no longer in downtown Cinnabar. They were standing on a beach. It was long and wide, and she couldn't see an end to it.
"Where are we?" the girl asked.
The champion finished checking Garchomp for injuries, then returned him to his Pokéball. He pulled his Xtransceiver from a pocket and checked the map.
"About seven miles away from town. This must be a part of the island that hasn't been developed yet."
"How did we get so far?" she wondered, astonished at the distance they had covered.
"Pidgeot flies really fast, not to mention the air currents we probably caught on the way down. We were getting pushed by them for a while."
They looked around at their new surroundings. A giant wall of gray stood in stark contrast to the long sandy beach. "Look there," Allie pointed at it.
Ash turned to see. "It looks like a warehouse of sorts," Ash guessed, taking a picture of it on his Xtransceiver. "But according to the map, there's nothing but beaches out here."
"It's enormous," Allie whispered, stunned by the size of the warehouse.
"It is. I wonder what's hidden inside."
Allie looked in his eyes, trying to guess what he was thinking.
"Nevermind," the champion said distractedly. "Look."
The assassins were finally approaching the ground, about a hundred feet nearer to the warehouse. They cut their parachutes quickly and began running toward the metal structure.
"Stop," Ash shouted.
They turned around slowly as if they didn't know what to do. Now that they were not longer trying to escape, it was easy to see the uniforms they wore. Each had a black shirt on, with gloves and boots. There were slight variations to the cut of uniforms, so Allie could tell even from the distance that one was a girl. Embossed on each of their shirts was a giant red R.
The man reached to his belt and released a Krookodile. The giant maroon crocodile immediately roared as it burst from its Pokéball. A cloud of sand obscured the grunts as Krookodile dug its way under the ground.
Allie realized that it was using dig, but Ash didn't react. She tugged gently on his sleeve to make sure he was paying attention, but he hushed her. All the while, his eyes never broke contact with the people standing across from them.
The Pokémon could emerge from the ground at any time. Pidgeot was still too preoccupied with its battle against Fearow to help. Ash waited.
His well-trained ears suddenly picked up on a noise from beneath him. He leapt back, pulling Allie with him. There was a blinding flash of light as Ash opened a Pokéball.
Their dodge was just in time. A fraction of a second later, Krookodile erupted from the ground, snapping at them with his gigantic mouth.
Now, however, Bulbasaur stood between the trainers and the overgrown lizard. As it moved to bite them again, Bulbasaur unleashed a furious vine whip attack.
The attack was so brutally strong. Allie could hear the snap of the vines against Krookodile's scaly skin and shuddered at how it must feel to be hit by a vine whip. She couldn't even imagine it.
Finally, Bulbasaur relented. Using his vines to lift Krookodile off the ground, he threw it into their air. Krookodile hit the sand with a crash, unconscious. Immediately afterwards, Bulbasaur's vines stretched across the beach, grabbed the Rockets by their waists and pulled them to where Ash and Allie stood. They landed next to Krookodile, dazed and trapped.
Just a few seconds later, Fearow crashed to the ground, overwhelmed by Pidgeot's strength. Pidgeot was familiar with battling Fearow; it had fought several off while defending his flock.
Ash and Allie approached their captured opponents.
"Go over and see what she knows," Ash told Allie, indicating the female grunt. She agreed and walked away.
With her distracted, Ash got down to business. He crouched down next to the man, glaring at him dangerously.
"What are you doing here?" Ash asked in a deadly quiet tone. "And why has Rocket Nation moved into the open?"
"I was following orders."
The Rocket didn't respond. Ash decided that it was time to increase the pressure of the interrogation.
"Why did you poison Blaine?" Ash demanded, his boot crushing down on the grunt's windpipe.
The man grunted with pain, but a sneer still crept across his face. "The gym leader? We didn't realize that was him. Unexpected bonus."
Of course, Ash realized. The coffee had been served to all of them, and Blaine had been wearing a disguise. It wasn't the fiery old man they meant to kill. It was him.
The trainer dropped to his knees, not taking his eyes off the would-be assassin. He whispered something in the man's ear so that Allie couldn't hear. The smirk left the man's face at once.
"Who are you?" Allie asked her hostage more calmly. She was upset about the attack on Blaine's life, yet couldn't muster the rage of her companion.
"We are Rocket Nation, little girl. Soon, everyone will know our name."
It was strange that she called Allie "little girl." Although the blonde trainer would resent such a title under ordinary circumstances, the fact that the Rocket Nation operative was about the same age made it all the more insulting.
She decided to be more proactive in the interrogation. Instead of just asking what Rocket Nation was, she said to the grunt, "Tell me what Rocket Nation is."
"You should ask your friend," she said under her breath. "He knows more than he says."
The comment made Allie look back over to her companion. She watched for several seconds as he talked quietly with the male, then suddenly started beating the helpless man's face with his elbow. Blood flew everywhere.
"Ash, stop!" she cried, shocked at his sudden lack of restraint. He wasn't listening. She ran over to where he stood and shoved him off of his victim.
Her friend glared at her with a look in his eyes that she had never seen. Was it anger? Rage? Pain?
As quickly as the look appeared, it vanished. He straightened himself up.
"Bulbasaur, sleep powder," he commanded. He had acquired an immunity of it over the years, but his startled companion hadn't. He stepped behind Allie and covered her nose with the hem of his cloak.
The two Rocket Nation members fell asleep where they lay. One was still covered in blood, his nose bent sideways. Their fallen Pokémon lay next to them.
"Come on," grunted Ash, moving past the sleeping enemies. He had Allie by the wrist and was half pulling her along in his haste. They approached the giant warehouse and slowly crept toward one of the few windows. Ash at first held Allie feet away from the window, but his grip slowly loosened in stunned indifference.
Allie leaned up against him, and managed to get a peek at what he was staring at.
Inside the warehouse was a gigantic ship. Roughly the length of twenty Wailord, several stories high, the magnificent ship took up almost all of the space in the building. It wasn't a ship like the Seagallop Emperor, though. The red and black steel construction was outfitted with jet engines, rocket boosters, and wings. Near the back of it, a black tower overlooked the entire rest of the ship.
Allie had never seen anything like it, and judging by the astonished look on his face, neither had Ash.
The words painted on it turned Ash's blood cold.
Rocket Aircruiser Ubume.
Hi everyone. Hope you're enjoying the story. If so, please let me know what you think of it with a quick review. Thanks! -Waras