Categories > Anime/Manga > Pokemon > Awakening

Part 6

by Milia 0 reviews

Category: Pokemon - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Published: 2014-03-13 - 14259 words


Chapter 16: Limit Break

The sunrise found Ashimi in a corner of the guest room of the Lavender Town pokemon center, still looking scared. She was taking deep breaths in big gulps of air that made her look and sound like a Magikarp out of water. The feeling of helpless sadness wasn't as strong at the pokemon center, but she still felt very uneasy. She had showered and changed out of her pajamas, though even that simple task was not as easy as it would normally be. She kept fumbling with her clothes clumsily, then she dropped the soap at least five times and nearly slipped on several occasions. Ashimi's pokemon were all around her, trying to be as supportive as they could, though their worry shone through. Zero tried to cheer her up as well, but he was feeling like a mistake that should have never been activated and the frustrating uselessness that plagued his system didn't make the task any easier.

Jonathan paced the room impatiently. He made sure Ashimi ate something, though her lack of appetite, a sharp contrast with her usual deep enjoyment of food, made him worry even more than he already was. His stress threatened to consume him as thoughts of his sister and her tragic life surfaced to join his current worries. When they had returned to the pokemon center the previous night, Jonathan found that he had several missed calls on his cell phone. The calls originated from the Cerulean City gym and he assumed that Ashimi must have even more missed calls from her parents. Being unable to reach her, they must have tried to contact him instead. Ashimi had been asking for her father, so Jonathan returned the call. It was Misty who answered, she had told him that Ash had already left, insisting that he had sensed something troubling, then she flooded him with questions about the whereabouts and state of health of her daughter. He had assured her that Ashimi wasn't injured or in any immediate danger, but she was inexplicably scared. Not long after the call with Misty ended, Jonathan got a call from Ash. The pokemon master assured that he was on his way and would be there soon.

The door was suddenly open and Ash made his way across the room to his daughter. "Daddy!" She jumped into his arms, holding on tightly. "Everything feels so strange, Sabrina said I had to master my aura, please teach me!"

"Ashimi..." Ash tried to keep his voice at a soothing tone for Ashimi's sake. "Tell me what happened." He looked into her eyes as she nodded and narrated the events that took place in the graveyard the previous night. Of course, she left out Johnny's conversation with Jaina because she had not witnessed that, thus didn't know anything about it. She also left out Zero's berserk moment, since she had settled into the idea that it was just an error and he could fix it with more debugging. Instead, she just said she fainted while running away from Gengar and Zero woke her a little later. She didn't remember her use of aura to make him regain control, not that there was any way to explain that, because Zero was not alive in the traditional sense anyway.

Ash frowned, "I can't believe she would do that," he growled in unforgiving anger. If his father had put Sabrina up to this, he would have a thing or two to say to him. "Listen, Ashimi, I'll try to explain this as well as I can. I've studied some of this over time, but the true knowledge of aura is a lost art. As I've said before, every living creature has some aura in them, though it is usually not enough to be projected and remains in a dormant state. At times it can wake up during moments of crisis or danger, that's how people sometimes inexplicably gain the knowledge or strength that saves their lives, their aura gives them clarity and power. However, there is a sort of seal that keeps aura deep within so that it isn't used up, as that can be life threatening. That seal is something natural and necessary for the aura's protection, though it also numbs the extra sensory perception it can provide. "

"When I use aura, the seal is still there, but there's enough aura to seep out and be projected. I've learn to control it to the point where I can call it out at will," Ash explained. "What Sabrina did to you was that she broke the seal, leaving your aura exposed. Instead of learning to coax it out you felt it all at once. You were in a graveyard, a place of sadness and dark energy, all of that overwhelmed your senses. When your friends became worried about you, you felt their worry and their fear for you, and that only made it worse. Without the seal to protect your aura, you're basically hyper sensitive to the flow of energy and emotions of those around you. You can also call out all your aura at once, but if you did that you would..."

Ash couldn't complete the sentence, but Ashimi understood, "I would die," she finished. She let out a breath and continued. "I can sense it, your energy flowing into me. I see the worry in your eyes, but I feel nothing but peace coming from you and it's not just me, it's everyone here, your energy is making them all calm down."

Ash nodded, a small smile forming on his face for his daughter's sake. Pulling off that technique was not easy, he was stressed and worried, but he needed to keep those emotions to himself and project nothing but peace. It was also why he insisted that Misty should wait at the Cerulean gym. Naturally, she would be concerned about her daughter, but then Ash would have one more person to calm with his aura. Ash knew that if he tried to train Ashimi to suppress her aura she wouldn't be receptive to it. She wanted to wield it, not hold it back, she had always dreamed of having the same power her father had. But it was too dangerous, without a limit to hold back the bare essentials of her life force, she could consume it all with frightening ease.

The only way she could be properly trained was if he could find a way to restore the natural seal, if there was even a way. For now, Ash had to buy more time. If she was in any dangerous situations or even in a particularly exciting pokemon battle, he feared that the emotional high would make her project too much of her aura and set off a deadly chain reaction that would leave her drained, in a long coma, or dead. "I'll train you, but you'll have to take a break from your pokemon journey, it's important that you learn to control your aura now that it has awakened, so we need to head home for a while."

"Okay..." Ashimi agreed, thinking that it was an imperative detour and by no means a permanent one. She reasoned that after the training was done she would go back to her quest for more badges.

Thus Ashimi's pokemon journey reached a pause. She and Ash returned to Cerulean City. Jonathan and Zero accompanied them on the trip and stayed for a while before heading off to Saffron City to meet up with Jessie and James and work on some Rocket business. Ash contacted Giovanni about Sabrina's actions, he claimed not to know anything about it and Ash concluded that his father was telling the truth. Angered by the danger Ashimi was put in, the Rocket boss sent his agents out to hunt for Sabrina, but she was not at her gym and locating her would prove to be a very difficult task.

xoxox xox xoxox

A few days later, Zero returned to the Viridian Rocket headquarters in hopes of getting some form of patch or upgrade, though the fact of the matter was that he couldn't. The virtual human project was canceled for a reason, it was simply too difficult to emulate the complex human psyche with the existing resources. "I'm sorry Zero, but I didn't actually program you, no one did. You were made from two brain scans, the computer produced an AI from there, taking random traits from both sets of data. The data was deleted for security reasons, though only personality traits and not actual information was passed on. Basic knowledge was installed and that was it. I do not have the brain scans anymore, and even if I took them again, they wouldn't be exactly the same. In fact, even if I had them, they wouldn't mix exactly the same. You are unique, a one time achievement."

"Can't you look into it? Ashimi said I was acting nonsensical," Zero wasn't sure what that meant, he knew it was bad, but he didn't know how bad. He placed his hand on the metal cylinder before him, the container from where the voice came.

"That's only because you tried to override your AI simulation for your convenience. You can't turn off emotions, that's also part of the deal that comes with your realism." The metal cylinder opened up and out stepped a woman. She closed off the cylinder again and examined her reflection on the smooth mirror-like surface. She looked very much human, good, no one needed to know at a glance how many machine components she had. She started out as a hacker for Team Rocket who had to climb from the bottom. Over time she turned into a sort of technological jack of all trades, and master of none, she would joke. Then when the chance presented itself to become a cyborg... She held back, waited for the technology to become stable and then she joined the project. "I didn't program you, I can't make heads or tails of your data, I wouldn't know what to fix because I don't know what it's supposed to be like. It's far too complicated, that's why I used a brain scan instead of just programming, because I couldn't have made something this complex."

Zero pouted cutely. "Why didn't you just deactivate me after the project was cancelled, I'm no good to Team Rocket."

Pixel reached out and ruffled his hair. "Because you're cute, that's why I decided to keep you."

"But then you sent me away..." Zero continued to pout.

"Because being with Ashimi would do you some good. See the world, make friends, then you might just..." She decided to leave the statement hanging, there was no simple way to explain that she hoped something inexplicable would occur. "I have to prepare for a mission, Comet is already getting the others up to speed. When we're back, we'll play with you, okay?"

Zero found it in himself to smile, "okay..."

xoxox xox xoxox

Later that night, while Zero remained at headquarters, Pixel, Comet and two younger agents made their way into a building in the northern side of Pewter City. It was suspected to be the hiding place of one of Sabrina's minions, who could possibly have information on her whereabouts. Pixel was well attuned with machines, being partially one herself, and would be giving the other agents guidance from the rooftop, watching everything unfold through various security cameras inside the building. Comet was a high ranking spy whose missions often involved infiltration and the theft or recovery of various valuables.

The younger agents were Jonathan and Dorme. He had reported to headquarters as per Giovanni's orders, who claimed Jessie and James could do their duties without additional help and he could be placed in a more productive position. Jonathan was plagued with doubts and mixed feelings about Team Rocket that he was having a hard time coming to terms with. Dorme was called back from her unsuccessful hunts for Daala and Jaina. It felt as if they had dropped off the face of the earth, probably spooked into hiding by the heavy Rocket activity as they combed Kanto looking for Sabrina. They were searching in other regions too, but Kanto had always been Sabrina's home and it deserved special attention. Plus Giovanni happened to know that teleporting was a lot easier for Sabrina in familiar territory. Her teleportation would consume a lot more energy per distance outside of Kanto, and would be less precise, though she was still a formidable opponent.

Dorme seemed all too eager to participate in the Sabrina hunt, albeit she didn't actually expect to find anything. This was the suspected location of a minion, not Sabrina herself, and most leads had turned out to be duds anyway. Even so, the blond was still energetic about the mission since Johnny would be her partner and Comet, one of the nicer high ranked agents, would be on the field with them. Plus Pixel was directing the mission and usually gave good reviews. This was their chance to score some points in their Rocket careers. Dorme and Johnny's part of the mission was simple. All they had to do was provide backup in case Sabrina's underling really was there and tried to escape. They waited in the first floor of the closed office building, leaning against a cubicle wall. "I heard he's a werewolf," Dorme commented about Comet.

Jonathan couldn't help it but to roll his eyes. "High ranked Rocket spy, fact, Misty's relative, fact, nice to the rookies despite his rank, fact, werewolf, definitely fiction, as all werewolves are."

"It was just a rumor, it's not like I actually believed it," Dorme pouted. "Comet is obviously not a werewolf, he's not hairy enough. As for all werewolves being fiction, I doubt that, they're just extinct. I happened to know for a fact some years back, before we were born, a female was found, she had fangs and claws and everything and purple hair!"

"It was probably just some weirdo furry," Jonathan laughed.

"Was not!" Dorme stomped her foot. "I asked Laiki about it because if the werewolf was real, then surely Team Rocket must have gone after her. Even if Laiki was a toddler at the time, she would know, because she makes it her business to know every piece of gossip and Team Rocket going werewolf hunting sounds like a hot topic to me. But you know what? She didn't outright deny it like I thought she would. She got all uncomfortable and clammed up, Laiki never clams up! She definitely know something but she won't tell."

"Right..." Jonathan laughed. "Why are we discussing Comet's possible species anyway. I thought it was pretty clear he's a human."

"He would look older by now," Dorme pointed out.

"Don't tell me you think he's a vampire," Jonathan joked.

"Of course not, he doesn't sparkle in the sun," Dorme shook her head.

Jonathan looked downright offended. "Dorme," He looked so serious that it made Dorme uneasy. She wordlessly nodded her head and waited in silence for him to continue. "Vampires do not sparkle in the sunlight or sparkle at all. If they go out in the sun they burst into flames and die." Dorme looked as if she was going to open her mouth to protest and cite some modern legend from her mother's youth, but Jonathan raised his hand in a sign of silence and repeated, almost obsessively. "They burst into flames and die." Dorme had no choice but to nod solemnly. An uncomfortable silence passed, during which Jonathan maintained the same serious look and Dorme shifted awkwardly. When the quiet finally got to Jonathan, he added, "I don't think he's a vampire either."

"Huh?" Dorme blinked, then was able to pick up on the thread of conversation they were having before. "Oh, I don't think so either, but then how do you explain the way he looks? He should look older."

"He has white hairs," Jonathan pointed out.

"But he has the face and body of a twenty-something," Dorme specified.

"He works out," Jonathan logically suggested.

"His face? It's flawless!" Dorme dramatized.

"Plastic surgery?" It felt unlikely, but he had to guess.

"Nah, he's not the type to go through the trouble and if he was, he'd dye his hair too," the blond mused.

"Um... he... takes his pokemon chewy vitamins every day?" Jonathan guessed.

"I doubt that alone would work," Dorme breathe hopelessly, though she still made a mental note to take her vitamins every day. "It makes sense that Pixel looks twenty-something, she's an android after all."

"Cyborg," Jonathan corrected. "Androids are human-looking robots, cyborgs are humans with mechanical enhancements. Please Dorme, get it right."

"Sorry if my collection of digital comics isn't as big as yours," Dorme crossed her arms and threw her head back. "How many drives do you have anyway?"

"A bunch..." Jonathan admitted. "All together they're maybe an exabyte... or two... or three," he saw Dorme giving him an impatient look. "Okay fine, it's seven, but they're really high definition, so yeah..."

Dorme's jaw dropped, "sheesh..."

"The theories will have to wait, we have confirmation, there's a psychic here!" Comet's voice came through Jonathan and Dorme's ear pieces.

"Theories? I thought these things were set to receive only, he was listening?" Dorme felt her face grow hot with embarrassment. Pixel was probably listening in too. 'Way to look like an idiot rookie,' Dorme mentally berated herself.

"Jamming signal detected on the third floor. It looks like there's a machine that can amplify psychic waves being used to jam the pokeball mechanisms," Pixel's voice warned.

"What?!" Dorme hurried to try to release her pokemon from their confinement inside the red and white capsules, but it was already too late. "It won't work. I thought Team Rocket had defenses for this! Why isn't Pixel fixing it? Is she busy with something else?"

"We must be too close to the source of the jamming signal, let's go!" Jonathan hurried towards the elevator. "Pixel, are the elevators usable, are you controlling them?"

Noises filtered in, originating from Comet's location. There were arguments, yelling and the sounds of a struggle, then the communication channel from Comet was cut. "Stay in the first floor until further notice," Pixel ordered, then ended the communication between them as a whole.

"What happened to Comet?" Jonathan asked, but received no reply. "Come in Pixel," nothing, "she cut us off, or the enemy did."

"I'm getting all antsy just standing here," Dorme paced back and forth a little. She tapped on her ear piece, but it remained unresponsive.

"We don't want to get stuck in the elevators if Pixel isn't controlling them, let's take the stairs," Jonathan started moving towards them.

"What?" Dorme gasped. "We can't disobey a direct order! We already look bad enough by chatting on the job like that. Pixel said to stay here!"

"The communication is out and there's nothing to prove that Pixel cut it herself. Maybe she intended to say something else but didn't have time. The pokeballs aren't working, Comet is fighting the psychic alone, shouldn't we be giving him some backup?" Jonathan reasoned. He didn't wait for Dorme's reply before rushing up the stairs.

"Comet knows what he's doing. If we get scolded for poking our noses where they don't belong, it's going to be all your fault!" Dorme hurried after Jonathan despite her protests.

The two young Rockets arrived at the third floor quickly. The place was dark with desks and chairs overturned, piled against the walls as if thrown aside by a tremendous force. Up ahead there was what could only be described as a false wall. It was wooden and not very thick, but it was painted to look like the concrete structure of the rest of the building. The room was large, encompassing the entire floor, and it would be difficult to tell that there were a few feet of it missing, sealed off towards the back. The false wall had been broken and there was a deep darkness beyond the hole. Jonathan and Dorme ventured in. There were shelves with cabinets, though they took no time to look through them.

They found a ladder going down and took it. The part that corresponded to the second and first floor was hidden in the center of a fountain. The pillar with water that went up and down in spiraling lines with invisible transparent tubes that made it look as if gravity and physics ceased to exist, reached from the floor of the first floor to the roof of the second. It was decorative and most would attribute its thickness to the mechanisms needed to guide the water in such a seemingly magical way, the building's workers never suspected there was a ladder in its hollow center.

The ladder led to a hidden basement that was not reported in the official plans of the building. A tall door stood before them with a red R engraved on it. "Team Rocket..." Dorme whispered.

"I think I know what this is," Jonathan recalled the place being mentioned by his parents. "It used to be a Rocket hide out, but it's too small and not in use anymore. The Rockets now go to that breeding center near the gym. Brock comes and goes, but since taking over the Pewter gym again he hasn't been there as often. He plans to go back to the breeding center full time, even if he had to work with Team Rocket to keep it, after Brand is old enough to manage the Pewter City gym. I doubt even a psychic could hide here for long, he must have broken in recently." Jonathan pushed the large doors aside, they were unlocked and open a crack. He opened the doors just enough to slip through and went in, followed by Dorme.

The basement was rather large, but empty. It was dark, humid and it smelled of dust and abandonment. A lone light flickered in the middle of the room. The two young Rockets ventured further in. There was an odd armor-like machine with wires and circuitry sticking out, sparks were still coming from it, as if it had been ripped apart recently. "Stop!" A desperate voice pleaded and there was a sound of someone being thrown against a wall, but it was too dark in that corner to see from afar. Jonathan turned on a tiny flashlight, which provided considerable illumination for being so small. "No, don't come any closer!" Approaching the voice they found a young man, a rookie psychic at best, in a corner cowering in fear. He looked up at the Rockets, "I surrender!"

"Wow, this guy's pretty bloody and beaten, looks like a few bones are broken too," Dorme observed, the helpless psychic was simply in too much pain to focus enough to use his powers anymore. "Was it Comet?"

"There's no one else here," Jonathan voiced. "It's a bit of overkill, but I suppose this guy must have done something to make him mad." The helpless psychic gasped and looked up fearfully. Quiet steps approached behind Jonathan and Dorme. The Rockets turned to look and found a very angry looking Comet. Before they could even blink, Comet grasped both their throats and lifted them off the floor.

"Comet!" Pixel suddenly made it into the room. "Put them down, they're our allies." She was wearing her armor now, black with a red R on the chest and silver on the boots and forearms, the armor held all the necessary components to act as a computer she could use for her role of tech support during missions. Comet's grip on their throats loosened but he didn't let them go. Dorme and Jonathan kept trying to pull his hands away, utterly confused about his inexplicable actions, but they couldn't get free. Comet was usually described as one of the 'cool' agents, who didn't throw his rank around if he could help it and was looked upon with a trustful sort of respect by the younger Rockets. "Comet," Pixel repeated, her tone softer now, as she removed her helmet. Comet dropped the two young Rockets, who took in gasping breaths of air, and turned his attention fully towards Pixel. "I know you're still in there, wake up."

Comet approached with a somewhat feral look still reflected in his eyes, as if he was unsure if the woman was a threat or an ally. He stepped closer, breathing deeply as if taking in her scent, a mix of a machine-like scent and something sweeter. "Pixel?" He blinked. "Weren't you stationed on the roof?" He looked back at Dorme and Jonathan, "and weren't you two at the first floor in case he tried to get away?"

"He's not going anywhere," Pixel voiced, looking towards the beaten psychic. "It looks like he fainted from his injuries.

"Looks like it..." Comet scratched his head in confusion then grinned at Jonathan and Dorme, "did you two rough him up?" The younger Rockets could offer no answer beyond an uncomfortable step back. Comet paused, looking at their frightened expressions with concern, "did I do something weird just now?"

"We'd best talk about it on the way back to HQ," Pixel suggested.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 17: Picking Up The Pieces

Comet made his way down the long hallways of the Rocket headquarters, underground beneath Viridian City. The tunnels ran through all of Kanto, forming an ever growing city under the streets above. He passed next to a security elevator, taking a moment to pause and look at it. He had access to it, but had not used it in a long time, he had no reason to go down there anymore. If a mission came up where he had to recover, or more likely steal, some kind of chemical or genetic substance, then he might find himself personally delivering the precious cargo to the scientists working at the laboratories below. But that hadn't happened lately, most of his missions dealt with retrieving information, blueprints and such, which went to different areas for analysis. The last time he was down there he visited Binks' live-in laboratory, the man just couldn't be kept away from his studies even after he regained enough clarity of mind to get around without an escort. Although, he never really went anywhere alone, as he was always seen in the company of a rare Zoroark with a violet mane.

The apartment lab had been remodeled and integrated into the research space next to it long ago, as it had been a little over a year since Binks' passing. Aayla, his once human, Zoroark companion, fell ill and passed away soon after his death. Comet continued walking. Three times, the problem the elderly scientist had warned him about had occurred three times so far. The first time it happened, the first time he lost himself, Pixel was close enough to talk some sense into him. He still found the occurrence to be strange, that and the white locks in his hair. He expected to get white hair eventually, but the white locks were thick and appeared very fast. He disregarded it at first, joking that at least he could rest assured that he would probably never go bald, because the white hair was somewhat thicker and stronger than the strands of soft orange he still had, yet later he wished he would have investigated immediately, not that it would have made a difference anyway.

Comet was one of several clones copied from Luke, a Rocket agent that had been there since the founding of Team Rocket. The others were modified by having elements added to them, which resulted in their rapid aging to adulthood, mutation, loss of control, insanity and eventual death. Urban legends still remained of the feared serial killer one of them came to be known as, even though it happened decades ago. Comet grew up slowly, at the rate of any normal boy. Nothing was added to him, but something was removed. When the cloning project was declared a failure, only he remained within Team Rocket. Luke, his original, took him in as a son, and it wasn't until Comet was all grown up that he learned the truth about his origins. Binks, the scientist who oversaw the cloning process, having gained experience after working under Dr. Fuji's direction, had assured Comet after the truth was revealed to him, that he was indeed fully human.

Comet's ease when it came to adapting to various situations, how training was never difficult for him, his agility and endurance, were due to certain limitations and negative genetics being removed, however, nothing was added, thus he was expected to live his life as a normal human, a rather athletic one, but normal nonetheless. For most of his youth that's how it was for Comet. Yet a time came where the first signs of age began to manifest. First it was his hair turning white, but he still felt strong, and had the same face and body he had at twenty-five, despite being in his late thirties. The genetic alterations were fine during his youth, but as he became older his body interpreted the smallest signs of aging as a threat and fought to take action against it. The adaptations were a rapid form of evolution that was too fast to end in anything other than chaos. He was becoming like his lost brothers, inhumanly strong, insane and dangerous.

"I'm sorry for unknowingly lying to you, telling you that you would live out the rest of your life as a human." Binks, weakened by years of poor health, had fallen ill again that time, unable to continue his studies for weeks. That time, he would never recover. "There is a way though, you can restore the limitations, but it is likely the process will damage you, leave you quite frail for the rest of your days." Binks did not wait for Comet's reply, he already knew the answer. "But of course, you won't agree to that. You're a Rocket to the end. You and Pixel both. How is her percentage of technology now? Does her biological side still prevail?" Binks laughed, "you kids... Such lovers of chaos, the peace and serenity of old age is not for you. You'll live in chaos until it claims you." He feared that even with their youthful faces, they wouldn't live long lives, yet he tried to stay optimistic. After all, both Binks and Aayla had lived through a lot and survived for far longer than they had expected, so maybe there was a chance for Comet and Pixel to live long lives too.

Despite the news he had received, despite knowing that his end would most likely not be a peaceful one, Comet smiled. "You're right, Pixel and I are agents of chaos, but more importantly, we're Rockets and we'll make the best of it for as long as we can. And who knows, maybe Pixel will stick around for a long time, she does fit in very well with technology and then she can keep me as me."

After Binks died, Aayla took to sleeping all the time and slowly became weaker. She was at peace though, assuring that both she and Binks had lasted longer than they had expected and found some semblance of happiness in the end.

In the present time, as Comet made his way to his and Pixel's room at HQ, he reflected on how much Team Rocket had changed around him yet he had not noticed. Perhaps he and Pixel had changed along with the world, while remaining in the same stage of their lives, the stage where they constantly chased after what was new and exciting. They were not left behind to look at the world from a different perspective, perhaps missing out on those experiences, but that was alright, because they were not looking for their place, seeking the next stage, they were where they belonged. He dropped onto the bed and closed his eyes.

Pixel sat beside him, nodding at her Porygon-Z, Prim, that she would continue what they were working on later. "You okay?" Peachy, her Pikachu, had ran off to visit Giovanni's Persian couple at his office.

"Yeah," Comet assured. He was always cheerful and carefree, like his father, his original. "The boss didn't find out this time."

"It only ever happens in particularly deadly situations," Pixel reminded. "You should be fine on your usual missions, getting in and out unseen. That second time was priceless though. As much as I would have liked to have been close by to snap you out of it right away, someone had to put Thor in his place," and no ordinary human could.

Comet temporarily losing his sanity was nothing to laugh at, but he did anyway. Thor had been the one to restrain him, as he was probably the only one strong enough to do so, and got a few bruises to show for it. Comet did too, but his healing was much faster and the signs of the struggle were gone in hours, while Thor had to walk around yelling at rookies with a black and blue face for a few days. "I apologized to him for the trouble and that pissed him off more," Comet grinned.

"Figures," Pixel laughed. "I think it'll be okay this time," they didn't know if the next time would be okay too, but they did know it would come sooner or later. "I'm pretty sure we can trust Johnny and Dorme to keep the secret, I wasn't too sure about her, but Laiki said it would be okay. She's a pretty good judge of character," which wasn't surprising with the amount of personal data the pokemon doctor knew about everyone.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, at Cerulean City, during the last few weeks, Ashimi was busy with small concentration exercises. Ash made sure to tell her time and again how important it was not to let all her aura escape her and especially not to push it out harshly. He didn't have an easy time of training his daughter since she wanted to learn how to shoot big blasts of energy from her palms and read minds, despite mind reading not actually being a part of the aura abilities, though emotional reading was.

Delia had gone over to stay at the Cerulean gym for a few days. She was always cheerful and kind, looking upon just about any situation with optimism, so she would be good to have around. One afternoon, Ashimi was taking a break from training, helping her grandmother decorate gingerbread cookies. It wasn't Christmas and the cookies felt a bit out of season, but they were delicious. The young girl sighed and put down the frosting pen. Instead of gum drop buttons, the cookies had red Rs, one had blue-violet frosting on its head, another yellow and another lines of blue and orange.

"Those are very nice cookies," Delia complimented, but it was clear that her granddaughter's thoughts were elsewhere. "What's wrong, honey?"

"What's with grandpa making Sabrina public enemy number one?" Ashimi finally asked. "She was kind of mean, really, she could have teleported me out of the graveyard before unlocking my aura, but I'm still thankful to her. Without her help who knows when I would have been able to use my aura? Ten years from now? Twenty? Never?"

"Ashimi, sweetie, I'm sure you would have figure it out without going to the extremes," Delia softly replied. "As for your grandfather. He's only sending out the army because he loves you, although I agree that it's excessive to declare Sabrina a traitor and sentence her to immediate execution. I tried to tell him we should talk to her and ask her to undo what she did. I'm no expert, but if that natural aura seal Ash mentioned is there for protection and he can use his abilities while having it, then so can you."

"Or I could just master it like this," Ashimi formed a ball of light in the palm of her hands. Her father kept telling her not to make it too big, but she kept wondering how big it could be. "It's so easy, the energy just flows out!"

"That's kind of the problem, I think," Delia reminded.

"I won't use it all up, but I must have enough to spare for a few special abilities," Ashimi assured. She let the ball of energy fade, the aura retreating back into her being. "Dad's the only one who can truly teach me to control it and he's only letting me take baby steps."

"I know it's frustrating, but the path to such a great power can't be easy," Delia gently reminded.

"I know..." Ashimi let out a tired breath, all that waiting and moving slowly was getting to her. "Where did dad go anyway? He's been gone for two days now and he wouldn't even tell me what exactly he was researching or where."

"I'm sure we'll hear about it soon," Delia tried to encourage her. "Then you'll have new things to learn with the aura." She could tell that Ashimi was becoming frustrated with the slow pace of her father's cautionary teachings, but his worries were not without a good reason. If Ash used up his power, he would likely faint and take a while to recover, but if Ashimi used up her power, she would die. "For now, how about we made some cinnamon chocolate milk to go with the cookies." Despite her impatience, Ashimi couldn't say no to the suggestion. Her grandmother made the best cinnamon chocolate milk, she could drink a barrel of the stuff and still want more.

A short while later Misty arrived at the kitchen after having very easily dispatched a cascade badge hopeful. She didn't mean to be harsh on the poor kid, but the boy needed to do some serious training if he wanted to get into the Indigo League. She joined her mother-in-law and daughter in making treats. At least Ashimi got more treats than usual, probably because they wanted to keep her calm and happy, as being even a little upset would feel significantly worse in the sensitive state of her aura. Ash was very worried about what could happened if the flow of energy was corrupted. It wasn't only a matter of keeping her aura in her body, but also keeping it pure, which was no simple task when any darkness that may be in the atmosphere could grip it so easily without its natural protective barrier.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, Ash arrived with Giovanni. Ashimi was surprised to see her grandfather there as he rarely came for visits and instead when she wanted to see him, she had to go to Viridian City. Giovanni gave her a small box that seemed like so much more than an ordinary gift. "These are very rare, don't lose them," he instructed.

Ashimi opened the velvet box to find a pair of earrings inside. They were simple in design, two orbs in a pretty shade of blue. They looked like pearls, except they weren't the normal color of pearls, but they were smooth and round, unlike how most gems were cut. "They're beautiful."

"Ashimi," Ash spoke seriously, which made his daughter look at him curiously. She wondered what was going on. Her grandfather wouldn't make his way there unless he had a good reason and it looked like her father was aware of what that reason was. "Never take them off."

Ashimi looked at her father and grandfather with curiosity and slight confusion. She had been holding the box the whole time, not knowing what the earrings within really meant. Slowly, as if expecting something grand to occur, she touched one of the smooth orbs with the tip of her index finger. The effect was instantaneous. There was a sort of peaceful feeling contained in the unusual gems. "What are they?"

"Aquamarine's pearls, an item of legends. They form a protective shield around your aura to purify any negative energy that may try to corrupt it. In your case, you won't get any additional protection, but you will have an equivalent to the natural protection Sabrina removed. Your aura will be more difficult to coax out with them on, though you should still be able to do it with what you've learned so far. These are not meant as a hindrance to a true aura user, so the difficulty you may feel at first will be imperceptible once you establish true control over your aura." Ash explained, he had tested the pearls' authenticity with his own aura. "It's very important that you do not remove them and especially do not lose them, they cannot be replaced. It will be more difficult to activate your aura, but that's how it's supposed to be, you have to promise not to try to take any shortcuts by taking them off."

Ashimi paused for a moment. She felt all the eyes in the room on her. "Alright, I promise," she finally agreed. She knew she didn't have a choice.

"You better not break that promise," Giovanni warned. That explained why he was there, to take the oath so to speak.

Yet it took Ashimi by surprise, as she thought he would be more open to the thought of a shortcut to power. "It'll take me a lot longer to master using aura," she pointed out.

"There are no shortcuts to power," Giovanni stated firmly. "You may manipulate it for a while, but it will not stay. The only power that is truly yours is the power you earn." It was something he had learned the hard way through many years of trial and error. "Besides," he added with a challenging grin. "I wouldn't want to think that you're not strong enough to master this on your own, how it was meant to be. When did you become afraid of challenges?"

"I'm not!" Ashimi ascertained. "I can do this, thank you," she put the earrings on, and the hyper sensitivity she had to the world around her faded. "You said they would protect me, but I can't sense a thing now."

"That's because you never could," Ash revealed. "Sensing things with aura is like," he tried to come up with a simple example. "It's like learning to open a window and looking out, but you haven't been doing that, you just had a really big hole on the wall. Now I can teach you how to really make aura flow instead of pushing it out with little direction. Precision would have been necessary for more advanced techniques anyway and if your aura just flows out in every direction, you wouldn't have been able to learn them. In the long run, you'll get more out of it this way."

"What about my pokemon journey?" Ashimi inquired.

"After I've taught you some techniques, you can continue with your journey and practice along the way, on one condition," Ash decided. Ashimi watched him expectantly, "you have to pass a test."

"What's the test?" Ashimi eagerly asked.

Ash smiled, "you'll find out soon enough."

xoxox xox xoxox

Several more weeks passed and Ashimi continued to train her aura with Ash. He showed her basic techniques for summoning her aura, sensing and the like. It was challenging, as only a relatively small amount of Ashimi's aura would readily respond to her, though Ash assured her she was making good progress. She had inquired about the origin of Aquamarine's pearls. They were said to have belonged to princess Aquamarine, who lived centuries ago. Some say they were formed from her tears, other say they were her eyes, and the most well known legend claimed that the pearls were the crystallized souls of Aquamarine and her beloved. Whatever their origin may be, they did hold a mysterious power to them that only aura users could benefit from. They were not easy to obtain, but Team Rocket had its ways.

The day of the test finally came and Ash revealed what it would consist of. "A pokemon battle," the announcement made Ashimi all too eager to take the test. "Not with me though, I'll be the judge."

"I'll be your opponent," Misty announced, she and Ash had planned this in secret, to come up with a proper way to see how far Ashimi had gone. "You'll need a water pokemon for this, since this battle will take place under water." The pool's glass walls rose up, it was the stage Misty and her sisters had used for under water plays in the past.

Ash gave Ashimi a bright yellow balloon, "in the distant past, the Aura Guardians were the protectors of the people and pokemon, so here's something to protect. If it pops you lose, if you let it go and it floats away, it's game over if you don't recover it before it reaches the surface."

Ashimi looked towards her mother, "where's yours?"

"I'm not the one taking the test here," Misty teased with a smile. She handed Ashimi a mask with a device to breath underwater, she also had one for herself. "You have to stay under water, you can breathe with this," Misty knew her daughter had used the device before, so she was already familiar with it.

"Okay, so I have to swim around underwater without surfacing, I'll also have to protect this balloon, which would probably pop pretty easily, and all the while you'll be trying to pop it." To top it all up, Ashimi would be paired with Squirtle, who needed some serious training. She couldn't help it but to feel as if this was all done on purpose.

"That's the basic idea," Misty nodded. "Don't forget you have to knock out my pokemon before yours is knocked out," the Cerulean gym leader added. "You can help Squirtle in any way you want, and I can help Starmie too."

Though Ashimi tried to stay positive, she knew that the challenge ahead was not an easy one and she wouldn't be able to continue her pokemon journey until she won. Ashimi made sure the mask was secured over her nose and mouth and stood at the edge of the pool. The silver mask reminded her of the ones the ninja wore in Mortal Kombat 25, which she played in secret at Johnny's house, as her mother would probably insist that she was too young for such gore. Honestly, it wasn't the gore which made her want to play, it was the fact that it was forbidden, though she still insisted the blood looked like ketchup. She had changed into a bathing suit and Squirtle stood nervously beside her. "It's okay, Squirtle," her voice sounded a bit odd under the mask, but being able to speak underwater would certainly be useful. "I'll be there underwater with you, you don't need to worry, just do your best."

Misty had gone to the opposite side of the pool with a mask like Ashimi's and Starmie was beside her. "Begin!" Ash called out from the glass pool's side.

Misty, Ashimi and their pokemon dove underwater. Ashimi allowed herself to fall on her back, shielding the yellow balloon with her body from the impact of the water. She held it, feeling the rubber move and stretch as it tried to float away. 'Aura shield, keep the currents soft...' It was an ancient technique and a relatively simple one. People believed water to be a source of life, that is beyond the physical necessity for it. As such, the ancient Azure tribe, where Aquamarine was said to have lived, spent a lot of time studying how to influence water with their aura. 'Calm the tides...'

"Starmie, water gun!" Misty took the initiative. Squirtle squeaked and retreated into his shell. The current harshly pushed Squirtle away to crash against the side of the pool, which was thankfully made of reinforced glass.

"Don't give up, Squirtle!" Bubbles came out of the small machinery on the mask, as Ashimi tried to get her pokemon to seriously battle. "You can do it Squirtle, counter attack with a water gun of your own!"

"Starmie, tackle!" Misty went on the offensive again. Starmie spun rapidly underwater and crashed into Squirtle harshly.

There was a cracking sound, though only Ashimi was close enough to notice what it was. 'Squirtle's shell... It's taken too much punishment over the course of the journey, but I won't ask mom to go easy on me and I won't risk Squirtle getting hurt either, I'll just have to do this myself.' "Squirtle! I'll show you there's nothing to be afraid of! Use ice beam, then you can hang back if you want, you won't have to fight anymore if you're not ready. It's up to me to train you after all, to lead with the example."

Both Squirtle and Misty were puzzled by Ashimi's words. The little turtle took the opportunity and peeked out from his cracked shell, letting out an ice beam under water. "Watch out, Starmie!" misty warned, but the pokemon was able to dodge the ice beam without any problems.

A line of ice appeared were the beam passed, freezing the water into a sort of icy spear. Ashimi gave the balloon to Squirtle, "protect this, make sure it doesn't pop, don't move, I'll take care of things now." Ashimi grabbed the ice spear, the contact was not pleasant on her hands, but she gripped it tightly anyway and kicked her legs to move herself through the water. She was a fast swimmer, having begun to learn to swim at the same time she learned to walk.

'I definitely shouldn't have told her she could help in the battle,' Misty thought, the fact that Ash had gotten so into the battle that he started cheering along with Pichu and Pikachu at the clever move wasn't helping either. 'Like father, like daughter.' "Starmie, dodge that ice spear!" Misty rushed forward, intent on taking the weapon out of her daughter's hands. Just as Starmie dodged Ashimi's charge, she threw the ice spear it, focusing her aura to try to throw it harder. "Starmie, reverse!" Starmie would spin as it moved underwater, it made approaching it dangerous and added a boost in speed, but sudden changes of direction were not so easy to perform. It was too late, the spear of ice crashed against Starmie and then shattered on impact. Misty tried to end the battle quickly. Ashimi would probably throw herself in the way of Starmie's attack to save the balloon, so much for those aura meditation exercises calming her rashness, then again, they didn't change that in Ash either. "Got you!" If Misty could restrain her daughter while Starmie popped the balloon Squirtle gingerly held, then the battle would be over.

The strange part was that rather than flailing to escape, Ashimi brought her arms and legs close to her body, bending her elbows and knees in a fetal position with her hands under her chin. Misty expected her to put up a fight when she wrapped her arms around her shoulders, but she was still. Then suddenly, she stretched out her arms in a fluid motion to free herself and stretched her legs to push herself forward, away from the stunned Misty. The elder swimmer didn't even fell that much strength in the move, yet Ashimi managed to slip away. "Sorry mom, but Dorme gave me some pretty good martial arts pointers when she taught me how to wear makeup." Ashimi shot forward while Starmie made it past the floating shards of ice, moving towards Squirtle. "Down, Squirtle, sink on your back!" The small turtle obeyed, protecting the balloon from the friction of the water.

Misty knew that no matter how fast she went, Ashimi couldn't possibly make it in time to intercept Starmie's attack. "Starmie, water gun at the balloon!" The strong current should be enough to pop it.

"Let the balloon go! I'll take the hit!" Ashimi rushed over, but she wasn't going to make it on time. Instead Squirtle shielded the balloon, which continue to float upward. Ashimi rushed towards it instead and was able to hold it before it reached the surface. The rubber was stretched and pale in some areas. She would have to protect it with her aura shield at all times now, or it would pop at any second. Squirtle was below and Starmie was closer to Ashimi. If she could conjure a ball of aura of sufficient power in her hands, she could throw it at Starmie, but she couldn't, and a small portion of aura just wouldn't be strong enough. "Squirtle, are you alright? You took the hit..."

Misty saw the slight change in the current around Ashimi and the way the water around the balloon softly glowed. Popping it would be more difficult now that it was under her aura's protection. However, it looked like Squirtle wasn't doing all that great. As sorry as she felt for the little turtle, she had to end this battle. She promised herself she wouldn't go easy on Ashimi, it was the only way to know that she would be able to safely continue her journey. "Starmie, knock out Squirtle, water gun!" As expected, Squirtle retreated in fright. Before the turtle could recover, she'd send Starmie to tackle him and that should finish the battle. Just in case, Misty began to swim towards Ashimi, to try to make her drop the balloon if it came to that. The bright yellow color was stretched to near white in some areas, it wouldn't withstand being exposed to the currents without the protection of the aura shield.

Squirtle did little more than endure the hit of Starmie's water gun. He always got scared and didn't react fast enough to dodge, despite Ashimi calling out to him in warning. His shell cracked deeply, but Misty had her eyes focused on Ashimi and didn't notice, she would have called off the battle if she had known what was going on with Squirtle. Pain rippled through Ash's senses and he gasped. Starmie's water gun came to an end and the pool was filled with bubbles, he couldn't see what was happening to Squirtle but he could sense the pokemon's great distress. He opened his mouth to call out and tell them something was wrong, to end the battle, but he didn't have time to do it. As soon as Starmie's water gun concluded, Misty had ordered a tackle, but Ashimi had already positioned herself to kick Starmie in the center of the jewel before it could initiate the next attack, while still protectively holding the balloon in her arms. Ashimi might have Misty's red hair, but she certainly had Ash's spirit.

The kick delayed Starmie's attack, but Ashimi saw her mother swimming towards her and knew that if she tried to steal the balloon she'd be in trouble. Misty had a look in her eyes that just screamed tickle fight and Ashimi knew that she'd lose her concentration, and with it the aura shield, if it came to that. "Squirtle, bubbles!" Ashimi tried to swim away as fast as she could while maintaining the shield. A spray of bubbles assaulted Starmie and formed a barrier separating Misty from Ashimi.

Ash snapped himself out of his wonderment with the battle and refocused on Squirtle. "Misty, Ashimi, Squirtle is-"

"Going to win this!" Ashimi interrupted. She had made it to Squirtle, with one arm around the balloon and the other on his shell, holding it closed and easing the pain. Being underwater somehow made defense and recovery techniques easier to perform simultaneously. "Bubbles! Ice beam!"

'I can't see through these bubbles!' Misty tried to swim through the bubbles, but didn't make it to Starmie in time. "Starmie, be careful!" She knew her pokemon wouldn't be able to know which way to move with all the bubbles, but she was in the same situation and couldn't offer directions. Finally she spotted Ashimi with a spear of ice heading toward Starmie, still keeping the balloon protected. "She's coming from above and to the right, dodge that ice spear!" Ashimi's hit missed as the bubbles finally cleared up enough to see, the only thick bubbles still present were below, closer to Squirtle, as if making a futile effort to hide his location.

This time Ashimi didn't throw the spear as hard, probably because she was focusing her aura on shielding the balloon. Misty was able to grab onto the ice as it went past its target, holding on to it despite how uncomfortable the cold felt. "This ends now! Starmie, charge!" Misty pushed herself deeper into the pull towards the bubbles. If she tried to go after Ashimi again, she was far enough to make a getaway, so she would change her tactics and target Squirtle. Ash was right, those hands on pokemon battles were certainly exciting! 'If Starmie doesn't knock Squirtle out, I'll do it myself!'

"Now, Squirtle!" Behind the bubbles there was another spear of ice. Squirtle pushed it forward with his strongest water gun. The ice shot up like a big ice bullet, flew next to Misty and found its target at the center of Starmie's jewel. Starmie finally had enough, the jewel flashed on and off until it turned dim, the sea star pokemon had fainted.

Misty stopped in her charge, eyes wide in disbelief. "I... I lost..." Despite not having won, a smile formed on her lips. "Congratulations, Ashimi!"

"Thanks mom, that was an awesome battle! Can I stop protecting this balloon now?" Honestly, Ashimi was quite tired of it.

"Of course, the battle is over now," Misty laughed.

Ashimi let the balloon go, the rubber deflated and rose to float on the surface of the pool. She made her way to Squirtle and hugged him. "It's okay Squirtle, I'll get you all healed up. We need to work on your dodging, but you're pretty tough, so you can be proud of that!"

"What?!" Misty gasped. "His shell! But how? I didn't notice that before!"

"It's a fake shell anyway, I guess an imitation isn't as good as the real thing. Squirtle lost his real shell before I got him and is scared of battling, but taking hits is harder than dodging them, so he's tougher than he knows." Ashimi smiled at the little turtle, who for once, actually felt accomplished, even if he was close to fainting.

"That's what I was trying to say," Ash pointed out as the pool was lowered into the floor and Misty and Ashimi surfaced. Misty had recalled Starmie, while Ashimi had Squirtle in her arms. "I sensed there was something distressing Squirtle, but now he's happy, he's glad to have faced his fears." Let me heal him, then we can get him a new shell at the pokemon center. It won't be as strong as a real one, but he'll probably get a new one if he evolves."

Ashimi smiled. "See, Squirtle? All you needed is a little confidence."

"Still, you're pretty reckless," Misty ruffled her daughter's wet hair.

"Aw c'mon mom, you loved using the ice spear, I saw it in your eyes when you got a hold of it," Ashimi giggled.

"I think she's got a point," Ash teased.

"I guess a certain someone has rubbed off on me," Misty playfully countered. "By the way, when did you wear makeup? I don't recall seeing that."

"Not for long," Ashimi shrugged. "I thought the martial arts advice was more interesting," she admitted, which seemed to amuse her mother. Ashimi was a bit of a tomboy at times, much like her sisters would claim Misty was.

"Let's not forget this," Ash held out something in his closed palm to Misty, who took it.

"I hereby officially grant you a cascade badge," the Cerulean gym leader gave the water drop shaped badge to her daughter.

"Wow, really? I thought it was just a test, I didn't know it counted for a badge battle!" Ashimi was overjoyed.

"You've come very far on your journey and I know you'll continue to improve," Misty commended.

"If it pleases my beautiful mermaids, how about we go out to a celebratory dinner after we're done at the pokemon center?" Ash knew exactly what the answer would be.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 18: Who's That Pokemon?

With a cascade badge to add to her collection, Ashimi was ready to continue her pokemon journey. Jonathan and Zero met her at Cerulean City and once again they were on their way. Their next destination was Fuchsia City, where Ashimi would challenge the gym leader for a soul badge. Ashimi shared stories of her training, though she admitted she was looking forward to giving the whole aura deal a more hands on approach. "Did you go on any interesting missions?" She asked.

"You could say that," Jonathan replied. Interesting was certainly one way to describe what had happened. "We managed to catch a psychic, but he didn't have any useful information. It turns out he couldn't take Sabrina's training and left the Espers. He was trying to join Tornado, but he was apparently never in direct contact with their leader, if they even have a leader. Their whole perspective about being an organization without a real structure, a very dispersed and disorganized organization, is making them very slippery. They move like small time vigilantes that would normally have no effect on Team Rocket, but are aiming for the top. Either way, Sabrina is still the main target since she was the one who dared to make a move against you." All through that, Jonathan didn't mention, that he still kept all his confusion regarding Jaina. He worried about his parents' possible rash and dangerous reaction, so he had not told them.

"Things have gotten so complicated," Ashimi mused aloud. "But I guess they were never truly simple in the first place. What about you, Zero, did you do anything interesting?"

"Nothing unusual," Zero admitted. "I took a break and played lots of video games."

"Sounds fun," Ashimi smiled. "I made sure to pack all my handhelds too."

"Of course, you play games while I drive you around and meanwhile I barely get any game time. I'm going to fall way behind my guild on every MMO if I don't do some serious level grinding soon," Jonathan complained.

Ashimi only grinned, "I could take the wheel," she offered.

"Not until the boss says it's okay." The mention of Giovanni made Jonathan sink back into his thoughts, as his conversation with Jaina that night at the Lavender Town graveyard replayed in his mind, and he grew quiet. Ashimi didn't find his sudden silence to be strange. She thought he was just getting a little melancholy due to his lack of MMO leveling lately.

xoxox xox xoxox

The road trip continued pretty calmly. With Team Rocket still on the hunt for Sabrina, it looked like Daala and Jaina were not feeling in the liberty to make a move. Thus, with nothing to delay them, Ashimi, Jonathan and Zero made it to Fuchsia City without any problems. It was late at night so they went to rest at the pokemon center. When the morning came, Ashimi was eager to leave towards the gym. Zero followed her without protest, but Jonathan had to drag himself out of bed. The good news was that he caught up with the MMO guild he was in, the bad news was that he didn't get any sleep until half an hour before he had to get up. Yawning with every step he stopped at a cafe near the pokemon center for coffee. Ashimi settled for a large muffin that she had to hold with both hands due to its size, the same could be said of Jonathan's ice coffee, which was piled with cream.

Feeling more awake, they made it into the Fuchsia gym, which was decorated dojo style. They expected various traps to be set up, but it looked like the ninja were not up to their usual tricks. The gym had been passed down from one ninja to another in the clan and sometimes more than one served as an active gym leader, taking turns with the battles. Upon reaching the arena area they found two ninja at the other side. Their black clothes hid their identity, with their faces and even their hair concealed. They both wore odd metal chokers that looked too distinctly mechanical to be mere decorations. Ashimi could tell that the ninja were a man and a woman, but that was all she could figure out just by looking at them.

The two ninja made a series of poses, then they each held out a pokeball as if challenging her without spoken words. "Two on two?" Ashimi interpreted, but the ninja shook their heads in unison. She thought they meant it would be one on one and they intended to decide which of them would battle based on what pokemon she sent out. Zubat had won her a boulder badge, Pichu a marsh badge, Chari a thunder badge, Furball a rainbow badge, Squirtle a cascade badge, but since they started getting along Ashimi hadn't participated in a big non-training battle with Clefable and she was certainly looking forward to it. "Clefable, I choose you!" The pink pokemon emerged from her pokeball, eager to battle.

The two ninja responded by releasing both their pokemon from their pokeballs. The pokemon also had strange collars, though they were slightly different and bulkier than those worn by the ninja. The fact that they were wearing collars was about all Ashimi could see of the pokemon just by looking at them. The pokemon were surrounded in a black mist and appeared as nothing more than ghostly shadows, but that didn't mean they were ghost types. It was the machines around their necks which concealed their identity. "Who's that pokemon?"

Ashimi pulled out her cell phone and activated the pokedex app. However, the device's only response was to say, "pokemon unknown."

Ashimi looked at Zero, who stared intensely at the shadowy figures on the arena, then shook his head. She stared at the pokemon as well, reaching out with their aura to try to sense their types. She felt no heat, or chill, or jolt or anything. The Fuchsia gym was known for its poison type pokemon, but if they were going to stick with the program it wouldn't make sense to hide their pokemon like that. Suspiciously, Ashimi noticed that several small lights on the two pokemon collars lit for a moment, then went out again. She tried to focus on the ninja, trying to get some sort of clue from their energy, but she got a similar reaction from the collars they wore and no new information about their pokemon's identities.

The ninja grew impatient and went on the attack, "tackle." The female ninja commanded, her voice was warped and unrecognizable, an effect added by the collars the ninja wore.

"Be careful, Clefable!" Seeing as both mysterious pokemon were attacking at once, Ashimi assumed this was a two on two battle, with both pairs battling at the same time. She was about to call out another pokemon, when the ninja signaled for her to stop. "What? This is supposed to be two on one?" The two ninja nodded in confirmation. "Fine, we can deal with that, right, Clefable?" The pink pokemon, who had safely dodged the attacks so far, replied with the same determination her trainer held. "Sing!" That should slow down the attackers and it would get them both at once. Clefable's melodious voice run out through the arena, in a lullaby that was making the pokemon, the ninja, and the spectators all sleepy, save for Zero, who could resist it due to his unusual nature. 'Stay awake, stay awake!' Ashimi mentally shouted at herself, trying to focus her aura on resisting the sweet melody.

"Sand attack..." The male ninja muttered sleepily, the two black clad figures leaning on each other to stay on their feet. The mysterious pair of pokemon kicked aside one of the tatami floor boards of the arena to reveal the sand below, it would be easy to dig through, albeit that was obviously not their plan. The pokemon kicked up quite the storm of sand despite their movements being sluggish with sleep at first.

Clefable tried to keep up her sweet tune, but the sand was too much and she began to cough and covered her mouth with her pink paws. As the song ended, the rival pokemon became more alert, kicking up more sand and threatening to suffocate Clefable with it. The sand wouldn't be much of a problem if it wasn't flying through the air, it was time to go on the defensive, then attack again. "Clefable, dig!" Tossing aside another of the tatami mats closer to her as she had seen the other pokemon do, Clefable prepared to go under the area. Unfortunately, she was met with the unpleasant surprise of poisonous gas spraying up from beneath the floor. The purple gas hit Clefable right in the face and made her stumble back, trying to catch her breath and coughing wildly.

"A trap..." Ashimi realized all too late. 'How could I have missed that? This gym is known for its traps, just because the ninja didn't activate any on the way to the center of the dojo, doesn't mean that the traps at the arena itself were disabled too.' She was normally more intuitive than this. Shouldn't she be able to perceive more now that she had the aura? But not even her father used the aura all the time. Then she recalled what Sabrina had said, there was always a price to pay. It was no wonder Ash didn't rely on the aura all the time despite its effectiveness, he didn't want to dull the value of plain old observation. She had been so sensitive to aura for so long lately and so focused on learning how to control it, she forgot to use it as a complement to more commonly practical means. "I'm sorry, Clefable, that was my fault, but it won't happen again!"

"Quick attack," both ninja called out at once, intent on putting an end to Clefable's opposition as fast as they could.

The poisonous gas stopped, but Ashimi wouldn't fall for the same trap twice. surely there was someone watching the battle and controlling the traps to aid the ninja. It did fit the theme of being outnumbered. Thinking outside of the box, Ashimi tried to stretch her senses and felt a presence behind the wall on the opposite side of the arena, but it was too far for her to tell who it could be at her current level; though whoever it was, wasn't wearing any devices to hide from her, as if they assumed she wouldn't look too far. "Clefable, the poison gas might come out again at any second, pick up the tatami mat... now swing!" Clefable swung the tatami mat like an oddly shaped bat and the two pokemon got their heads stuck on it. They move in coordination, almost as one, though there were clearly two of them.

Though the ninja's faces were covered, their change in posture expressed surprise. Ashimi grinned, she had warned Clefable about the poison, told her to pick up the tatami mat, but she had no intentions of putting it back in its place like the ninja assumed. "Clefable, run behind them and use heal bell while they're distracted!" It seemed illogical to waste time moving away if Ashimi's intention was to go on the defensive rather than attack, but she had a good reason to do so. Clefable decided to trust her, the tatami mat idea had worked after all. So far the attacks that the ninja's pokemon had use were not very telling of their true identity. But after struggling with the tatami mat, the ninja would know that they had to step up their game and Ashimi would get an idea of what she could expect if Clefable did get too close to the other pokemon.

The male ninja looked at his female ally and she nodded as if approving of his silent suggestion. Then he went on the offensive, "water gun!"

"Dodge it Clefable and use thunderbolt!" The fact that the ninja's pokemon had to turn around before it could fire its water gun at Clefable, after it had freed itself from the tatami mat, gave the pink pokemon just enough time to dodge and counter attack. She was cured from the poison thanks to the effects of heal bell, so she didn't have to worry about that slowing her down. Thunder attacks had become Ashimi's signature move, as they were for her father, and if there was a chance that a pokemon of hers could learn it, she would certainly be glad to train them for that purpose. After all, while she trained her aura, her pokemon did take a break, but they didn't lazy about all day. Seeing their trainer working hard, they took the time to train too and Pichu even got some pointers from his father, which he shared with his friends.

"Volt switch!" The female ninja called out at the last second. The other mysterious pokemon was quickly on the move. The shadowy creature pushed its ally out of the way, using its own electricity to attract Clefable's attack and return a portion of it. Clefable was hit by the electric bolts, though so was the other pokemon, albeit it was not very effective.

"An electric type and a water type," Ashimi voiced. Because of how they moved around, Clefable was now closer to the spot where the opponents' sand attack had taken place. Yet digging was too risky, who knew what kind of traps were under the arena, then she got an idea. Ashimi went on her knees, touching the edge of the arena with her open palms. "Dig, Clefable!" She closed her eyes and sensed. "Stop, move right... keep going... slowly... slowly... turn... turn... some more... keep turning... don't stay still... forward... that's it... get ready for your specialty... keep moving... don't stop... careful... that's the way..."

The ninja's heads turned to look at each other, then back at the arena. They didn't know where Clefable was, but Ashimi was guiding her to avoid the traps under the tatami mats. That meant she had to be under one of the mats that wasn't set as a trap. They knew the layout of the arena, so they began trying to pinpoint where Clefable was. "Dig her out!" The male ninja commanded.

"Zap her when she comes out!" The female ninja added. The two pokemon cloaked in shadows began working together, lifting the tatami mats that the ninja pointed out to them. The water type dug, while the electric type stood by in vigilance, ready to attack at the first sign of something pink beneath the sand.

They were doing the same thing Ashimi had done, trying to rely on something big and forgetting to use it as a compliment to something basic. They had the full knowledge of the traps and they thought they could use that as a resource to outwit her, but they were in fact revealing the traps. As for Ashimi, if she focused hard she could sense some of the traps nearest to Clefable, her energy resonating off the pokemon, rather than crawling and scanning the floor as her posture deceivingly hinted. But hey, the ninja were playing mind games with her and being all misleading too, so why shouldn't she? Other than a few of the traps, Ashimi didn't know where the others were and she was worried about a domino effect being set off, so she relied on secretly guiding Clefable through the same area, turning back and forth with such carefully phrased commands that they may not be so easy to figure out, unless her opponents paid close attention. Yet they were so focused on the field advantage they had, that they didn't try to take the other small advantages that might present themselves.

"Where is she?" The male ninja voiced.

"She's moving around too much!" The female ninja impatiently complained.

Clefable had gotten the hang of the deception, moving between the same safe areas and listening to the sounds above her to make sure she wasn't under the area that the opposing pokemon were searching. Ashimi could leave Clefable to her own devices for a moment and search for more information to help her. It was a good thing she did, because she sensed something changing in the flow of energy from whoever was beyond the opposite wall. Her aura was not sharp enough to figure out the person's intention like her father might be able to do, but her instinct told her this was bad. When the ninja told their pokemon to stop digging, Ashimi's suspicions peaked and she urgently called out to Clefable. "Now Clefable, jump out and attack with metronome!" After the tunnel had been dug, Clefable could move around, as the dirt below the first layer of sand was thicker and wouldn't collapse in itself as easily. The ground above where Clefable was had been disturbed, but that didn't reveal her path because the same could be said for all the areas were the ninja's pokemon had dug. Her time moving back and forth gave her the chance to prepare for what Ashimi referred to as her specialty, metronome. With her fingers already glowing, the pink pokemon jumped out and released the energy she had accumulated.

There was a flash of light and an explosion as the two shadowy pokemon were tossed left and right. Their collars cracked and ceased to function, damaged by the direct proximity of the attack. "I knew it..." Jonathan whispered under his breath. He had not known about this beforehand, but he caught on almost immediately.

Ashimi's suspicions were confirmed. "I know who you are..." The traps in the gym weren't active, only the ninja clan knew how to operate the dojo they built, even if they were allied to Team Rocket. If Rocket agents came by after her intention to battle at the Fuchsia gym in the near future was known, they might only have time to learn how to operate the arena traps. Plus she would get a false sense of security by making it to the arena easily. The collars were too convenient at blocking aura and also at detecting its intensity, as they lit up whenever she used it. Yet only a few people should know Ashimi even started using aura, or that she even could, as it wasn't always inherited by a descendant of an aura user. This was a test from Giovanni to see how well she had adapted, and how useful her new skills could be in battle.

Ash had tested her defense, now Giovanni had sent some Rockets to test how well she could break through their defenses, of course they would volunteer, they always volunteered for every mission they could when they weren't busy with their regular Rocket duties. Plus there were the poses at the start and the look of recognition on Johnny's face. He must have realized something and must have had a good reason why he couldn't say it. Now, seeing the male Vaporeon and female Jolteon without their shadowy cover, Ashimi recognized them right away. They were Foxtrot's siblings, a pair of mischievous twins that Jonathan had to closely guard his candy stash from, ever since their days as Eevee. They were a bit rowdy in their play and sometimes used attacks indoors, which was against the rules established by Jessie and James, for the sake of avoiding property damage. It was up to their older brother, Foxtrot, to keep an eye on them, when they slipped away from Growly and Flare. "Jessie and James!"

Seeing as they had been discovered, they saw no reason to continue hiding. Jessie and James, removed their masks and collars, tossing them aside with a glamorous flare. The one controlling the traps behind the far wall opened a hidden door and jumped out, Meowth held a control pad with a small screen on it, were he could see the entire arena via a hidden camera on the ceiling. Once again, for old times' sake, Jessie made a pose, "prepare for trouble!"

"The likes of which you'd never foresee!" James continued, also posing dramatically.

"Coming at you times three!" Jonathan joined in.

"Johnny!" Ashimi half scolded, stifling a giggle.

"Sorry Ashy, the oath is a family tradition, I can't resist," Jonathan made it to the other side of the arena, making poses along with his parents.

Ashimi laughed, "I can't hold it against you, it does look fun." She looked at Clefable and made a discreet gesture with her hand, which went unnoticed by everyone else other than the intended recipient of the message.

"To protect the world from devastation!"

"To unite all people in the Rocket nation!"

"To fill the world with great elation!"

"To denounce the evils of truth and love!"

"To extend our reach to the stars above!"

"And become the brightest thereof!"




"Team Rocket blasts off at the speed of light!"

"Surrender now or prepare to fight!"

"You can never win against our might!"

"Meowth, that's right!"

"Purrrr!" Nya popped out of her pokeball just on time to accentuate her father's final line of the motto.

"Bravo!" Zero clapped.

"Great performance!" Ashimi applauded.

The Rockets took a vow, then Jessie and James called out simultaneously, "Attack!"

Jolteon and Vaporeon charged forward. "Thuderbolt!" Jessie commanded.

"Water gun!" James swiftly added.

"Metronome!" Ashimi cheered. Clefable had spent the entire duration of the motto charging her psychic energy until she thought she would burst. Not only her fingers, but her entire body was glowing brighter than ever before. She released the massive energy in an explosion of light, her telekinesis momentarily going wild with the great force. Tatami mats were sent flying in every direction and several of the traps on the arena became active, causing a chain reaction. Meowth gasped as the control pad he was holding began to spark, he threw it in alarm and it exploded in the air along with several other traps. Clefable's out of control burst of telekinesis had unearthed the bombs, which exploded simultaneously in a brilliant flash of light.

The rooftop of the gym was blown clear off and out flew Jolteon, Vaporeon, Jessie, James, Johnny, Meowth, Zero and even Ashimi. "We're blasting off again!" Jessie and James' voices echoed as they took to the skies. Unlike his parents, Johnny had never been sent blasting off before, though he had heard the stories. Ashimi knew the stories as well, and as she was thrown across the sky, she wondered what her father did to make sure he didn't get caught in the blasts all those times in the past.

Back at the Fuchsia gym arena, or what was left of it, Clefable looked around in a daze, standing in the middle of the destruction. "Fable?" She saw Nya calmly grooming her lavender fur in the middle of the arena, unhurt, as if the explosions didn't just happen next to her. Clefable didn't understand, sure, she was glad the cute young pokemon wasn't hurt, the little Purrloin was a sweetie to everyone, but still, the pink pokemon couldn't figure out how she managed to come out of the blast unharmed. "Clef..." Clefable let out a breath and decided to be thankful for the small miracle. She hoped the others didn't have too much of a harsh landing.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 16: The female werewolf Dorme mentioned is Aayla from Don't Give Me diamonds, who was not actually a werewolf at all, but was mistaken for one... and she wasn't a furry either, she was a... Read the story if you haven't already and find out, either way, it's only a small reference that you don't need to understand in order to follow the plot of Awakening. I thought it would be nice to thrown in some continuity, even if it's just in small details. We all know James collects bottle caps... Johnny collects comics, but this story takes place in the future and paper is already outdated today as it is, so he collects them digitally. Of course, Dorme knows what an exabyte is because each generation is more technologically proficient than the last, so this is not an odd term for them. If you haven't heard it before, the most simple explanation is that an exabyte is a thousand petabytes, a petabyte is a thousand terabytes and I'm sure you can take it from there. The armor Pixel wears in this chapter looks kind of similar to Calhoun's armor in Wreck it Ralph.

Chapter 17: Dr. Fuji is the scientists from Mewtwo Strikes Back. Binks, Aayla, Luke, Comet and Pixel are all original characters, part of the supporting cast of Don't Give Me Diamonds.
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