Categories > Anime/Manga > Pokemon > Awakening

Part 7

by Milia 0 reviews

Category: Pokemon - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Published: 2014-03-13 - 16309 words


Chapter 19: Wild Safari (Part 1)

Having recovered from the blast off, the next day, Ashimi, Jonathan and Zero decided to visit the Safari Zone, after Zero had suddenly declared he wanted a pokemon of his own. The notion had seemed illogical to him at first, how could a virtual android who didn't even function properly do what was meant to be done by a human? Yet Comet and Pixel had suggested it, so in the end he decided, why not? If an explosion and being thrown across the sky was the worst that could happen, and it didn't happen all that often, then it wasn't so bad. Besides, maybe the pokemon wouldn't care about his origins, his friends and their pokemon didn't.

"Here we are, the Safari Zone!" They had gone through the front office and made it to the expanse of land designated for the special zone. Ashimi grinned widely as the memories associated with the place swam through her mind. "I haven't been here in over a year, last time I was having a picnic with dad. Actually, we used to come yearly, right around this time." Her eyes sparkled and her friends knew what was coming. "Let's have a picnic! We didn't bring a basket, but we could probably find one at the gift shop, dad always says the shop gets bigger every time he sees it. We'll fill it with treats and get a checkered blanket too!"

"Pizza burgers!" Jonathan and Zero cheered in unison. The peculiar combination started out as one of Comet's experiments when he ate at the Viridian HQ cafeteria, and ended up as a hit dish distributed through various regions by a fast food chain secretly owned by Team Rocket.

Not long after the sudden unanimous choice of a picnic, the three friends had raided the Safari Zone shops and now had a big picnic basket in their possession. Jonathan held the basket while Ashimi navigated the tall grass, looking for the same spot she usually ate at with her father. The grass had really grown since she was last there and she wondered if the clearing even existed anymore or if it had been invaded and consumed by the grass around it.

"A pokemon!" Zero suddenly exclaimed.

Ashimi noticed then that she had lost track of him in the tall grass. It had been allowed to grow so much that she couldn't see over the top. 'Not even Johnny can see above this grass,' the thought reminded her that he held their picnic basket and, even if she found the elusive clearing, there wouldn't be a picnic without it. "Zero! Johnny!"

There was some rustling in the grass, but it seemed to be moving away. "Ashimi, Nidoran's getting away! I got him by the tail!" Zero's voice came from somewhere in the tall grass. "Come back here!"

The rustling sped up, moving away quickly, until Ashimi could no longer hear it. "Zero? Oh man, I don't want to miss this! Johnny, which way did he go?" There was no reply, "Johnny?" She pouted, "great, I lost them both." She kept going forward and finally made it out of the tall grass. Yet this wasn't the clearing she remembered, instead she found a pair of small ponds. A Magikarp was hopping out of the water from one pond to another. Tired from the exercise, the Magikarp's jump fell short and he flopped helplessly on the grass. Realizing that someone was watching, the Magikarp paused, then tried to hurry along back to either of the ponds, seemingly embarrassed. Ashimi couldn't help it but to giggle at the creature's antics. "Here you go little guy," she picked up the fish and put him into the nearest pond. The Magikarp swam around before once again jumping to the next pond and back. "That's some work out, keep at it!"

Ashimi continued on her way, letting out an annoyed breath at the tall grass that turned the Safari Zone into a maze. "Man, when was the last time they mowed the lawn around here? If I had to take a guess, I'd say it was right before dad and I came on that picnic last year." Once again she braved the tall grass, trying to continue on in a straight line. After a while, she finally reached a large clearing. It wasn't the same one she was looking for, but she gave up on that as she suspected that her clearing had been invaded by the overgrown grass and could no longer be called a clearing. At least she made it out of the tall grass and found Zero.

"I'm going to catch you, Nidoran!" Zero was chasing a small male Nidoran around, though the Nidoran didn't appear to be taking his challenge seriously.

"Do you even have any pokeballs with you?" Ashimi inquired.

"No, but that's okay, I want to walk with my pokemon, I'll get a pokeball later." Zero made a jump for the Nidoran, but the pokemon playfully dodged him. "Oh forget it, I'll never catch him." Zero sat down, looking solemn.

"Aw, c'mon, don't give up so easily," Ashimi tried to cheer him up. "Here," she pulled a pokeball out of her bag and gave it to him. "Take this pokeball and try again."

"It's alright, I'll just live without a pokemon." Zero closed his eyes and remained still while Nidoran gave him a curious look.

"Are you debugging again?" Ashimi stared in curiosity. "I guess maybe it's kind of like high tech meditating... Not my specialty, with all the sitting still and everything."

Nidoran approached cautiously, wanting to continue their game, but not wanting to get caught so easily. Then suddenly in a fast motion Zero pounced on the pokemon. "I was only kidding about giving up, and now I got you!" The Nidoran squirmed, but was unable to free himself, so he bit Zero instead. "Ouch, not fair!" The pokemon jumped a few feet back, staring at the virtual boy with challenging eyes.

"Do you want to borrow Pichu?" Ashimi offered.

"No worries, I can do this on my own, let's not forget I'm part pokemon myself," Zero reminded.

"I thought you were only virtual, I mean just because the first virtual life form that was made was Porygon and served as a base for any other virtual life forms, does it really make you part pokemon if you can't use pokemon abilities? You can use pokedex abilities and you're certainly as adorable as a pokemon, but..." Ashimi mused aloud.

"Details, details!" Zero waved off her theories and picked up a stone from the ground, "rock throw!" The Nidoran dodged the rock at the last moment, only to find himself as the target of another. Soon there were rocks, pebbles, sticks and even blades of grass flying in his direction.

"That's one way to have a pokemon battle..." Ashimi laughed, "alright, go Zero!" She decided to cheer him on despite his unusual strategy.

xoxox xox xoxox

Meanwhile, Jonathan had made it out of the maze of tall grass. He was sure he heard Jaina's voice, but now he wondered if he had just imagined it. He looked across the field where several Tauros were eating grass. "No one here but the pokemon..." He was about to turn around and go back into the tall grass to try to find Ashimi and Zero, but then a flicker of light from the corner of his eyes caught his attention. He looked into the distance beyond the Tauros where the light became brighter as it got ever closer. When the source of the light was close enough to be identified, Jonathan saw that it was a Rapidash, and the person riding her was none other than Daala. "Daala, what are you-" His line of questioning concerning her reasons for being there was interrupted by the Tauros running away from the fire pokemon in a sudden stampede. As survival instinct kicked in, Jonathan's primary concern became not to be flattened under their hooves. "Go Vaporeon!" Along with Vaporeon, Jolteon also jumped out of her pokeball. "Hey, I was only calling for your brother!" Yet the twins had been inseparable in their days as Eevee and evolution had not changed that.

Finding himself surrounded by wild pokemon, Vaporeon was at a loss for what to do, so he melted into a puddle of water at Jonathan's feet, which caused him to slip and fall. Jolteon, who was generally more feisty than her twin, decided to shock the Tauros, which only got their attention. The heard realized that the Rapidash was no longer chasing them and instead turned their attention towards their attacker. They were at peace enjoying the fresh grass and the fire pokemon had caught them by surprise and startled them, but now they were ready to stand their ground.

"Ow..." Jonathan picked himself off the ground to realized he was surrounded by angry Tauros that were glaring at him as if he was some unworthy rookie matador. Maybe taking Foxtrot's younger siblings along wasn't such a great idea after all. He thought it was when he saw how they battled for his parents, but that was different. Because of his special bond with the elder of Growly and Flare's children, the younger two looked at him as if he was the same as Foxtrot, another pokemon brother. They knew he was human, but they didn't acknowledge him as such and instead of listening to him in battle they turned it into one big game. "I should have known you two wouldn't change."

One of the Tauros decided to end the glaring contest by running towards Jonathan. The teenager dodged, trying not to slip on Vaporeon. "Pull yourself together Vaporeon!" As he was surrounded, the Tauros that charged and missed him, ended up running into the one behind him. The two massive beasts locked horns and pushed against each other, tails whipping wildly. Some of the spectator Tauros were hit by the tails of the two who were fighting and decided to join the battle.

Pretty soon the Tauros had forgotten all about Jolteon and her companions, and were locked in combat against each other. "Jolteon, Vaporeon, return! Let's get out of here!" Jonathan recalled his pokemon and clutched the picnic basket close. He tried to look for an opening in the mayhem that had formed. something hit him hard, probably the dull side of a horn, or a hoof, he wasn't sure. What he did know was that it knocked the wind out of him and threw him to the ground, the basket escaping his protecting embrace. "The basket!" He tried to reach for it, but it was too late, as the picnic basket and its delicious contents were crushed by the berserk Tauros and Jonathan had a feeling that soon he would be crushed too.

He tried to stay on his feet but he kept getting knocked to the ground and a particularly heavy Tauros stepped on his ankle, making walking or even standing a very painful experience. He was knocked to the ground again. He wanted to call Foxtrot for help, but how could he? Starting a fire wouldn't help the situation, the Tauros were so crazed by that point that they probably didn't care if they were burned, besides, where would Foxtrot even stand? He would probably get stepped on by those monsters the second he was out of his pokeball. Jonathan felt Foxtrot's pokeball vibrate, "stay there, don't come out," he insisted as he tried to crawl out of the chaos. He forcefully met the ground and the last thing he saw before passing out was a red flash.

xoxox xox xoxox

The pain that assaulted him prevented Jonathan from continuing in the land of blissful unconsciousness. He felt something small and fuzzy licking his face and slowly opened his eyes to see Nya. In a flash of panic, he wrapped his arms around the lavender kitten in an effort to protect her from the threat that had already passed. The teen looked around to find himself in an entirely different area of the Safari Zone. In the distance, he saw a heard of Tauros fighting among themselves and even further still a flame that moved this way and that, as if searching for something, or someone. Nya purred and rubbed her head on his chin.

Jonathan looked at the kitten with perplexity and not really expecting an answer he wondered, "how did we get here?" Nya only let out a soft high pitch meow and resumed her purring as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. In the distance, the flame of Daala's Rapidash became a wall of fire as the tall grass was ignited. "We better stop her, go back in your pokeball where it's safe, Nya." After returning the Purrloin to her pokeball, Jonathan called out Vaporeon. He wasn't surprised when Jolteon popped out as well, since one always followed the other. Unlike most Rockets, he didn't want to lock his pokeballs, not only because his pokemon could get him out of a jam if he found himself in a situation where he was unable to let them out, but also because they were his friends and locking them up didn't feel right.

"Vaporeon, put that fire out! Jolteon, cover him!" The two eeveelutions began to playfully tackle each other, laughing merrily. "Are you even listening to me?" Jolteon was pulling her brother's ear, she let him go, went on her hind legs and jumped on Jonathan, wrapping her forelegs around his neck and nibbling on his ear. "Stop it, Jolteon!" He stumbled back as Vaporeon began to pull on his pant's leg. "Stop it, both of you! Foxtrot!" The Flareon jumped out of his pokeball and chased the two younger eeveelutions off his trainer. "Thanks, Foxtrot," Jonathan got up and dusted himself off, glaring at the mischievous pokemon twins. "The fire is spreading!"

"The fire is here!" Rapidash stopped a few feet away, her rider glaring at the Rocket, with flames burning behind her. "I'm not sure how you escaped the Tauros, but you won't escape me!" Daala challenged.

Vaporeon and Jolteon started pulling at Jonathan's pantlegs again, but on that occasion he wasted no time in shaking them off. "Stop it, both of you! If you repeat that incident again, I'll-" He couldn't think of a threat that he was actually willing to do and would somehow scare the twins into obedience. Foxtrot intervened and pointed out the obvious danger, which caused the twins to get into defensive positions. Vaporeon nodded at his older brother and dashed off to put the flames out, though he occasionally glanced at his sister. Jolteon's fur was full of sparks, ready to put up a fight.

xoxox xox xoxox

Some distance away, Zero and Nidoran were exchanging attacks, while Ashimi and Pichu cheered them on. Suddenly, a third contender joined the fight, the same Magikarp Ashimi had encountered before flopped and hopped, until it bumped into Nidoran in a sad attempt that couldn't quite be called a tackle. Nidoran slapped the fish away and got hit by a rock from Zero in his moment of distraction. Not wanting to be left out, Magikarp went on the attack again. "Hey! This is between me and Nidoran!" Zero complained as Nidoran batted the fish away with his tail.

"That's one stubborn Magikarp," Ashimi mused aloud. "Feistier than any other Magikarp I've ever seen."

The battle of Zero versus Nidoran evolved into some sort of odd wrestling match. The pokemon and the virtual boy were rolling around on the grass, with no rhyme or reason to their fight, just random tackling. Surprisingly, the same Magikarp returned, flipping around out of breath and clearly bruised. Zero and Nidoran were tangled in a mess of limbs, dirt and grass when the Magikarp hopped on top of the pile and wheezed in exhaustion, unable to do anything else.

Ashimi and Pichu fell into a fit of laughter at the scene before them. "It looks like Magikarp is going for the gold!"

"Maybe I should catch Magikarp instead," Zero considered.

Magikarp seemed to regain his energy at the words and quickly flopped off them. He hopped over to Ashimi and rubbed against her leg in his best impression of a cat, which wasn't all that great. "Looks like Magikarp likes me best." She grinned proudly and picked up the fish which promptly attempted to, eat her face? She pulled him off by the tail and threw him on the ground, "ew!" She wiped off the fish spit furiously.

"Oh yes, I can see he's madly in love with you, that would explain the kissing." Zero started making silly faces and exaggerated kissy noises. Nidoran rolled around laughing and soon joined in the teasing. The icing on the cake was Magikarp blushing bright red.

"Oh no... No-no, no-no, no-no, no!" Ashimi stepped back and frantically shook her head. "My father had pokemon fall in love with him and tackle him, and pop out of their pokeballs, and jump on him, and obsess over him, and all that stuff, and at times it gets to be a lot to deal with! If a pokemon must be in love with me why must it be a Magikarp?!" Ashimi dramatically declared.

With tears in his eyes, Magikarp flopped away as fast as he could, disappearing into the tall grass. "I think you hurt his feelings..." Zero stated obviously.

Nidoran nodded his head in agreement and shook his clawed finger in a scolding motion, as if saying, 'shame on you!'

Ashimi pouted, "but I wanted to catch him!"

"You did?" Zero blinked in surprise.

"Yeah!" Ashimi exclaimed as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Magikarp evolve into Gyarados and that little guy had some real endurance and determination. He'll evolve into something awesome!" With that declaration left in the air, Ashimi ran off into the tall grass to look for Magikarp.

"Wait for me!" Zero ran after her to witness the rest of the hilariously ridiculous soap opera.

"Nido?" Nidoran pouted, feeling ignored. Wasn't that stubborn weird kid trying to catch him? They didn't even reach a definite result to their battle. Determined not to leave things as they were, Nidoran hurried after them through the tall grass.

xoxox xox xoxox

Daala released Houndour from his pokeball, to even out the field two on two. Rapidash, Houndour-" Before Daala could give an order, a scream interrupted their fight. Not too far from them, they spotted Jaina, surrounded by fire, with Gastly floating beside her.

"Vaporeon, help Jaina!" Vaporeon stared at his trainer. Foxtrot tried to enforce the instructions, but his younger brother didn't move. Jonathan let out an impatient breath. "Jolteon, go with him." Once his sister joined him, Vaporeon finally did as he was told. Those two functioned as a team or not at all, and even then they didn't listen to him as much as to his parents. Foxtrot's alarmed warning caught Jonathan's attention just on time for him to dodge out of the way of Rapidash's horn.

Foxtrot and Houndour became locked in a fierce battle, scratching, biting and tackling each other like ferocious beasts. Rapidash didn't turn back to attack Jonathan, instead she continued dashing off with Daala on her back. The flaming unicorn jumped over Vaporeon and Jolteon, landing right next to Jaina and shooting a fireball point blank at Gastly.

Gastly fell to the ground as if deflated and Jaina let out a cry of alarm. "Gastly!"

Daala extended her arm, leaning over the side of her mount and grabbed Jaina. The fierce rider threw the redhead on her Rapidash like a sack of potatoes and loudly announced, "all traitors to Tornado will be executed!" Then she dashed off again.

Houndour tried to follow his trainer in her get away, but Foxtrot refused to let him go. "Show him who's the strongest, Foxtrot, fire fang!" Then as soon as the Flareon had sunk his teeth into his opponent, "fire blast!"

The fire came from so close it caused enough pressure, friction and heat to hurt even a fire pokemon. Houndour was engulfed in flames and Foxtrot had to jump back. With a pained yet furious howl, Houndour rolled on the ground, got the fire problem under control and got back in the battle. He knew his orders were to flee and follow Daala, he knew his trainer would be concerned if he stayed behind, but he was so angry that he couldn't bring himself to run away. Enraged, he shot one fireball after another as if to redeem his fire's power and prove that it too was very strong.

Yet Foxtrot still had his trainer to guide him and keep him from getting so caught up in the battle that strategy was entirely forgotten to anger. "Keep your distance!" Foxtrot held back the urge to finish the fight and hung back, dodging the fireballs. Then when Houndour was forced to pause for breath, "now, finish this with strength!" Jonathan grinned victoriously and added, "repeatedly." Foxtrot was all too eager to finish the fight and attacked with everything he had until Houndour was knocked out.

xoxox xox xoxox

Some distance away, Daala stopped and jumped off Rapidash. Jaina got on the ground too and stretched. "You didn't have to throw me around like a sack of potatoes, you know," the redhead complained. "Ugh, any potatoes unfortunate enough to be transported by you will end up as mashed potatoes!" Noticing the other girl wasn't paying attention to her, she questioned, "Daala?"

"Where's Houndour? I thought he was right behind me. What if Team Rocket got him?" Without another second to waste, she hurried back to find her missing pokemon.

"What about the plan?" Jaina called after her.

"Rapidash, stay here and help with the plan," Daala disappeared into the tall grass.

Jaina let out an exasperated breath, "great," she grumbled. The original plan was for Daala to attack Jonathan and for Jaina to go to his rescue and nurse him back to health. Then he would trust her and they could use him against Ashimi. However, that plan didn't work out, as for some inexplicable reason, Jonathan was able to escape the Tauros.

Instead they came up with an alternative plan, Jaina would pretend to have broken her alliance with Tornado and Daala would be getting rid of the traitor. Surely then Jonathan would be concerned for his sister and run off to save her. Even if he wouldn't find himself in her debt that way, perhaps playing hero would help soften him up a bit and shake the foundation of his loyalty, or at least that's what Jaina and Daala were hoping for.

"Okay Rapidash, I'm going to pretend I fainted, when Jonathan gets here, fight him with everything you have." If Rapidash actually won, Jaina would go back to the original plan of playing hero and if Jonathan won, he would play hero for her.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 20: Wild Safari (Part 2)

Jonathan rushed off to find Jaina, having Vaporeon extinguish the remaining flames along the way. Daala came out of a patch of tall grass from the opposite direction. "What did you do with my Houndour, Rocket?"

"I knocked him out back there. What did you do with Jaina?" Jonathan demanded to know.

"Go find her yourself!" Daala ran past him towards Houndour.

Worried that Jaina was caught in some sort of trap, Jonathan decided not to pursue Daala, and instead went to find his sister. He dove into the tall grass, from which Daala had emerged, and got across to a clearing on the other side. There he found Jaina laying motionless on the ground, with Rapidash as her guard. "Jaina!"

From another patch of tall grass on the other side of the clearing, Ashimi emerged. "Johnny! Have you seen a Magikarp with kamikaze tendencies around here?"

Jonathan wasn't even sure he wanted to ask what that was about, "not really."

"Oh legendaries, he got away!" Ashimi pouted and after taking a second look at her surroundings she noticed the situation beyond the focus of her Magikarp hunt. "What's going on?"

"Jaina betrayed Tornado!" Maybe she could join Team Rocket and live a life that made up for the past. She might never forgive Giovanni, but she could still become friends with Ashimi, who would one day take his place. "I need to save her!"

Ashimi didn't quite understand Jonathan's determination, though she supposed that if Jaina was to be captured and questioned, she would need to be saved from a possible execution ordered by Tornado. Zero arrived soon after Ashimi, followed by Nidoran. "What did I miss?"

While Ashimi got Zero caught up on the recent happenings, Jonathan began the battle. "Go Vaporeon, water gun!" Vaporeon whimpered in response, exhausted from all the water he used to put out the fire before it continued to spread through the tall grass of the Safari Zone. He was looking rather dehydrated. "Okay, you can take a break." Jonathan decided not to recall Vaporeon and instead let him stay out beside him along with Foxtrot, since Jolteon would probably feel more comfortable with her twin around. Foxtrot had quite a battle with Houndour, so Jonathan let him rest and called upon Jolteon instead. "Jolteon, thunderbolt!"

Jolteon yawned uninterested and shot a burst of electricity that was easily dodged by Rapidash. The lightning passed close to Jaina, but it didn't strike her. Jolteon's ear twitched in curiosity as she repeated the motion, this time clearly missing Rapidash on purpose. Ashimi stood by, watching the happenings, she didn't want to interrupt Jonathan's battle but he was going nowhere fast, then there was the fact that Rapidash was without a trainer, though Ashimi assumed she was Daala's pokemon.

"Why won't you listen to me?" Jonathan asked in frustration.

To the teen's surprise, his eeveelutions actually gave a straight answer this time, which was translated by Zero. "They say it's because you always play favorites for their older brother. You even gave him a nickname to make it clear that when you called, you meant him and not all three of the Eevee."

"If I play favorites it's only because Foxtrot actually listens to me!" Jonathan defended.

Zero looked at Vaporeon and Jolteon, who were quick to argue in return. The virtual android continued to translate, "they're saying that you were always playing with the pokemon, so they saw you as another pokemon to play with, rather than a trainer. That's why they didn't do what you said, they just wanted to play. Then later when they were ready to accept you as their trainer you didn't give them a second chance and only wanted to train their brother."

"Is that how it is?" Jonathan looked at the eeveelutions. Foxtrot was saying something, Jonathan realized that he didn't need Zero to make a translation for the Flareon, he knew his loyal companion was trying to defend him. "It's okay, Foxtrot, you don't need to make excuses for me. I should have given them another chance to battle for me when they gave me another chance to prove myself as a trainer. Vaporeon, Jolteon, I'm sorry, can we try this one more time?" The water and electric eeveelutions looked at each other as if having a silent discussion of consideration, then they nodded in agreement. "Thanks, I won't let you down! Now lets finish this battle, thunderbolt!" Jonathan pointed at Rapidash, who wasn't sure how to react without Daala. She was the newest addition to her team and didn't have as much experience as her other pokemon. Jolteon shook her head and pointed at Jaina, "be careful not to hit Jaina," Jonathan agreed, but Jolteon only shook her head again.

"What is it?" Zero inquired.

Jolteon considered telling him, but then decided against it. She wanted her trainer to learn to understand her how he understood her older brother, without the need for a translation. Then suddenly she got an idea and signaled to Vaporeon. Foxtrot looked at the younger eeveelutions suspiciously, but everything happened too fast for him to stop them. In a matter of seconds, Vaporeon and Jolteon had succeeded in pulling Jonathan's pants down to his ankles. He was not expecting the assault and ended up tripping and falling flat on his face. This was worse than the last time it happened.

Laughter filled the area with Ashimi's being the loudest. "Wait till I tell Dorme about this! Hahaha!"

"Don't you dare!" Twice had Ashimi witnessed an occurrence like this, the last time being attributed to the same pair of culprits. But at least on that occasion he had managed to stay on his feet, unlike now.

Jaina's face turned red with the force of her contained laughter, which she couldn't hold back any longer. She let it all out in a loud flood that proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that she was indeed very much awake. Her laughter was even louder than Ashimi's.

Jolteon explained herself to Zero, who, between laughs, informed Jonathan. "Jolteon says that she saw Jaina flinch when the lightning passed close to her, so she wanted to let you know she was awake, but also wanted you to understand her without help, like you understand Foxtrot."

"Well you could have found a different way to tell me!" Jonathan protested. "These things take time, I'll learn to understand you eventually, but please don't pull my pants down every time you want to get my attention!" Laughter coming from the tall grass made the group turned their heads in that direction. Seeing that she had been discovered, Daala stepped into the clearing. Jonathan grimaced when he saw her, "you didn't..."

Still giggling, Daala admitted, yes I did, I saw everything," she confessed. She had arrived around the time Jonathan apologized to Vaporeon and Jolteon, which intrigued her, as it was not the kind of behavior she expected from a heartless Rocket. She watched quietly from that point on, until she was unable to contain her amusement and her laughter gave away her position.

"No..." Jonathan frowned in embarrassment. His friends, his sister and even the enemy had been a witness to that? This was not his day.

"Oh yes," Daala gave him a mocking grin, "black with little red Rs, I didn't even know they made Team Rocket boxers."

Jonathan's face turned bright red. "My choice of underwear is nobody's business but my own! Now can we please get back to the battle?"

"Fine, but I'm not deleting the picture I took," Daala declared with a mischievous grin.

Jonathan gasped, his eyes going wide in horror, "you took a picture? That's not fair!" Just when he thought his day couldn't be any more mortifying. Vaporeon and Jolteon whimpered in apology, they didn't mean to cause this much trouble. Jonathan glared, "you better be sorry. Let's just get this battle over with, I got run over by a bunch of Tauros, my privacy has been totally invaded and I'm not in a good mood right now. Jolteon, electrocute that Rapidash until she lights up like a lightbulb!"

Jolteon started to build up her electricity for a massive attack. Jaina quickly scrambled to get out of the way and Daala began to pronounce the first syllable of her counter measure for Rapidash. All of that took place in the same split second that a Magikarp jumped out of nowhere and lashed onto Rapidash's muzzle. Time felt as if it stood still as the group witnessed the unexpected act.

"Magikarp!" Ashimi cheered at having found the pokemon she meant to capture.

"That's the kamikaze Magikarp you were looking for?" Jonathan couldn't help it but to agree with the description.

Jolteon had held back her attack in light of the unexpected situation and she was surrounded by sparks of accumulated energy. Daala felt into a pause of silent shock and Rapidash all around freaked out. The unicorn started kicking around wildly and shooting fire in every direction. Daala rushed to her side to try to aid her, but it was useless. Before the Tornado agent could pull Magikarp off, she was tossed aside by a painful kick to the stomach from her own pokemon. Daala fell on the ground, out of breath, clutching her abdomen, while Rapidash ran off wildly, leaving a trail of flames in her path. "Rapidash, no! There's too much fire, it's getting out of control!" Daala got to her feet with a heavy breath and ran after her crazed pokemon.

"This is insane!" Jaina threw her arms in the air, their plans went up in smoke and the same could be said about the Safari Zone if the fire wasn't stopped. Clearly, Daala had decided to make that her priority now, since Tornado was supposed to be an enemy of Team Rocket, not of Kanto. She usually didn't mind a little collateral damage, but a major fire that destroyed the entire Safari Zone and all the pokemon that lived in it was too much. Jaina decided to support Daala's new priority and ran off after her.

"I'll have to agree on that," Jonathan voiced. "You sure have a talent for attracting odd pokemon, Ashy. Vaporeon, sorry to make you work so hard in one day, but give it your all to put the fire out! Foxtrot, Jolteon, help out with sand attack!"

"Not fair! Daala is stealing my Magikarp! I saw him first!" Ashimi loudly complained. "Squirtle, I choose you! Put the fire out!" Squirtle shyly stepped forward, his nerves once again threatening to get the best of him. "It's okay, I'm right here by your side, I'll protect you," Ashimi assured. "Water gun, full force!" Squirtle nodded and began his assault on the flames.

Nidoran was uneasy, he had friends in the Safari Zone and it had been his home since he hatched. "It's okay, Nidoran, we'll put the fire out," Zero assured. "You can help too, just kick dirt into the flames." Nidoran was about to point out that he didn't know sand attack, but Zero already realized it and encouraged him anyway. "Just do what the others are doing." Nidoran jumped forward and joined the efforts.

"That's right, we need all the help we can get," Ashimi released all her Pokemon from their pokeballs. "Do your best to help put the fire out, everyone!"

Together they continued to advance against the fire, until they reached a group of trees that were being consumed by the flames. The fire had climbed up to the branches, causing sparks and flaming pieces of wood and foliage to rain down on the area below. A scream pierced the air as they spotted Jaina trapped in the middle of the inferno. Her talking Gastly was doing her best to keep her trainer safe, but there really wasn't much that she could do.

"Jaina!" Jonathan called out to her, his voice full of concern.

"Johnny!" Jaina spotted him beyond the barrier of flames, but there was no way that she could get to him.

Jonathan desperately tried to find a way to get to Jaina, but the trees were so tall and lush, putting the fire out completely would take time. The wind was blowing the smoke away from Jonathan, Ashimi, Zero and the pokemon, but Jaina was coughing heavily, ready to pass out, and she was trapped. "Keep up the efforts, everyone!" Jonathan ran around the fire and began to climb a tree on the opposite side. It was on fire on the branches that stretched out to touch the neighboring trees, but the trunk was not on fire yet. He made it to a steady branch that was high enough to get over the curtain of flames. He heard Ashimi telling him to be careful, or questioning his reckless actions, he wasn't sure. Zero might have said something too, but he was too focused on the task at hand. His eyes stung, since he was in the path of the smoke now.

On the ground below, he saw the panicked Gastly, circling Jaina, who was on her knees with her hands over her mouth and nose, eyes closed from the pain in her throat. Thankfully, he had his grappler hook on his belt, hanging between the pokeballs. He shot the hook towards a thick branch on the other side and swung, dodging the flames and grabbing Jaina by the waist. The grappler's cable retracted, pulling them towards the other branch, but the fire had reached the branch and it couldn't hold their combined weight.

The branch cracked dangerously before breaking. "Squirtle, water gun!" Ashimi called out urgently, pointing at Johnny and Jaina, rather than the flames, which were too tall to be put out completely before they fell on them. Squirtle reacted just fast enough and the blast of water pushed Johnny far enough so that he and Jaina landed on the grass, instead of the fire.

Another flaming branch fell, from right above where Nidoran was, "Nidoran, look out!" Zero dove forward, pushing the small pokemon out of the way.

Ashimi was just starting to breathe easy, seeing that Jonathan and Jaina made it back safely, when she heard the commotion and turned to look in Zero's direction. "Zero!"

Zero was trapped under the flaming branch, he disintegrated into blocks of blue code and floated through the branch and the fire as if he was there but at the same time wasn't, like a ghost. The blocks of rapidly flickering code slowly took on the shape of blocky polygons that became more detailed, until Zero was back. He was no longer wearing his civilian clothes, instead clothed in black armor with red boots, armbands and the letter R. The glitch had short circuited his graphics driver and caused him to go back to his default appearance. Nidoran stare at him with wide eyes before bolting away as if he had witnessed something terrifying. "Nidoran! Come back, it's okay, it's just me..."

"Zero..." Ashimi felt a strong ripple of energy course through her. That was dangerous, Zero's energy, it nearly disappeared completely. She always had trouble sensing him, probably because he was virtual, but little by little she had started to see just the smallest spark of life in him, but just then, it was nearly extinguished. His aura flickered inside him like the tiny fragile flame of a candle that a strong wind threatened to put out. It wasn't unheard of for life to appear where there was initially no true life, there were several pokemon that were like that, and Zero was the same, Ashimi didn't doubt it.

Zero was only a lifeless program when he was made, but now his experiences had brought out a supernatural occurrence like the others that had taken place in their world before. Yet Zero was different from pokemon, the persona of a human was too complex, too filled with emotions and conflicting thoughts. That was simply how humans were, never purely black or white, always a constant storm of, not only shades of gray, but every other color. Thus it was harder for such a new life to become stable. 'Zero, I won't let your life fade, I won't let you become nothing but data again.' Ashimi walked over to the virtual boy, "are you alright?" She asked gently.

Zero was frowning, his small chibi-like features making him look heartbreakingly cute. "Pokemon don't like me, I can't be a real trainer."

"That's not true, you know some of my pokemon didn't warm up to me right away either. We'll find a pokemon that's just right for you, don't give up," Ashimi smiled, trying to encourage him.

Zero didn't look convinced, but he didn't want to worry Ashimi. "It's okay, no big deal, I'm alright." Ashimi could sense it wasn't true, but she was determined to make it true.

Finding herself in an area clear of the smoke, as the wind continued blowing it away, Jaina took in big gasping breaths until her burning lungs didn't feel so desperate. She looked at Johnny, who had gone through so much on that day. The impulse from the water gun had saved them, but it must have hurt to be hit with such pressure. "You... You saved me, you risked your life for me." Her words were filled with awe and disbelief.

"Of course," Jonathan smiled reassuringly. "I couldn't let anything happen to you. Are you going to be okay now?"

Jaina nodded slowly. "I'm not hurt, just a bit bruised and I have a sore throat from all the smoke, but I think I'll be fine."

Her Gastly floated next to her protectively with sadness in her eyes. "I'm sorry I couldn't get you out of there myself."

"It's okay," Jaina assured. "It's not your fault."

"Your face is still red from all the heat," Jonathan observed. "You better go rest , I'll be there as soon as Ashimi, Zero and I are done putting the fire out." Ashimi would most likely head to the pokemon center after this and perhaps it was time to tell her about Jaina. "We can talk at the pokemon center and if you're up to it we could go out for ice-cream, maybe that will make your throat feel better."

A few tears escaped the corners of Jaina's eyes, "thank you..." She watched Jonathan return to the front lines beside Ashimi. "No one..." she whispered sadly under her breath while she put some distance between herself and the burnt area. "No one has ever done something like this for me." She fought to stop the rush of emotion that overtook her, yet she couldn't help it but to cry. "No one has ever cared for me..."

"That's not true," Gastly argued.

Jaina shook her head, "isn't the only reason why you follow me because he appointed you to? So that he may act through me and continue to live in non-existence? Some leader he is."

"Be careful," Gastly warned, narrowing her eyes.

"I don't fear him," Jaina scuffed.

"Be careful of the boy," Gastly repeated her warning. "The look in your eyes is not one of trickery. Would you prefer to live as his sister or as an agent of Tornado?"

Jaina clenched her fists in frustration. "I... I want neither!" Then she ran as fast as she could, with Gastly trailing behind her.

xoxox xox xoxox

When the fire was completely extinguished, Jonathan went to find Jaina, but she was nowhere to be seen. "She's gone..."

"I heard ice-cream being mentioned," Ashimi teased. "Were you asking her out? Man, this is too weird, it's starting to feel like one of those crazy harem anime. Dorme has a thing for you, Daala had no problems snapping a picture of you pantless-"

"Don't remind me," Jonathan grumbled in embarrassed frustration.

"And now Jaina's all flustered and all like," Ashimi made a silly impression of an overly love-sick tone, "oh, my hero!" She joined her hands, placing them over her heart and batted her eyelashes.

Jonathan blushed, "It's not like that! Jaina's face was red because of the heat and she was a little emotional because... Because of an entirely different reason. She doesn't see me that way, it's impossible, and Daala was just being mean or looking for blackmail or something," he quickly excused.

"Dorme's going to freak out," Ashimi shook her head.

"Do you have to tell her?" Jonathan pleaded.

"Nah, it's really none of her business who sees you in your underwear," Ashimi mused.

"That was an accident!" Jonathan insisted.

Ashimi laughed, "I know, I know, I'm just teasing you. But really, Jaina was giving you some interesting looks back there."

"I told you, there's an entirely different reason for that," Jonathan's face turned serious and Ashimi could sense the uneasiness in his aura.

Her complexion turned serious as well. "Jonathan."

He instantly looked into her eyes, she never called him by his full name, to her he had always been Johnny, or 'oni' when she was a toddler. "Ashley," he spoke in return, her true name felt alien to him.

"Your aura..." Ashimi trailed into silence, unsure of what to ask. She swallowed her nervousness and treaded forward carefully. "I sense uneasiness and doubt..." She paused, taking a deep breath, then adopted a grave look of deep concern that was well beyond her years. "I also sense that you care for her... Could it be... Did you..." She took a big breath, as if she had just ran a marathon and asked, "are you in love with her?"

"What?!" Jonathan yelled, shocked. "Are you crazy? She's my sister!"

Ashimi gasped and stared, "I thought that was just an act, are you saying it was actually true?" Zero, who was rather quiet and not in the mood to talk, had a similar shocked expression to Ashimi as he listened.

"Her hair, she's not just copying mom's hair, and her eyes, the fact that they're the same color as dad's is no coincidence. It's not a disguise, she's my twin, her death was a lie," Jonathan revealed.

Ashimi took a moment to regain her voice. "Your sister," a million questions floated through her head. "I guess I still need more practice in reading auras, I sensed affection but I didn't realize it was family love. But I don't get it, how could it be? I thought the real Jaina had passed away a long time ago. Where was she all these years and how do you know it's true?"

"I feel it, I can't explain it, I just do. Her story is complicated," Jonathan felt silent, but he could feel Ashimi and Zero's eyes burning into him, looking for answers. "I'll explain everything, let's just go to the pokemon center before we're blamed for what happened here. If I remember correctly, the Safari Zone management changed earlier this year, and if the overgrown grass taking over is any indication, they're not taking care of the place like they used to, but I doubt that they'll ignore the obvious signs that there was a fire here. Daala doesn't seem to be around, maybe she fled after things got out of control and hoped that we would get blamed for this."

Ashimi and Jonathan recalled all their pokemon, save for Pichu, who took his usual spot on Ashimi's head. "I agree, we better get out of here. We can talk at the pokemon center," Ashimi paused, feeling unsure. "If you don't mind," she sensed this wasn't easy for Jonathan. Her skill at sensing aura was not yet fully developed, but she could tell that much at least.

"I want to tell you," Jonathan insisted. "There was just a lot going on at the time when I found out and I couldn't tell you before, but you're my best friend and I trust you more than anyone."

Ashimi smiled, she would believe his words, aura or not, but it felt nice being able to sense the sincerity in them. "And I know I can totally trust you and count on- eep!" Her foot caught on something that was rather charred and she stumbled.

Jonathan caught her and steadied her on her feet. "That's right, you can count on me," he gave her a cocky grin. Ashimi stuck out her tongue and playfully punched him on the arm. "Ow, easy, I'm still sore, I did get run over by some Tauros today."

"Really? Well at least you can say you have some pretty good endurance. I'll try some of my aura healing on you at the pokemon center, that should help at least a little. Now that I think about it, you do have a bit of a limp," Ashimi noted.

"I can feel my ankle swelling, but I don't think it's broken, I can take the walk back to the car. I guess I should thank Thor for his painful endurance training." The last part was spoken with heavy sarcasm. No matter how beneficial the training might be in the long run, Jonathan couldn't bring himself to muster any feelings of gratitude towards the harsh general.

Ashimi stepped back and looked at the charred thing on the ground. "What did I trip on anyway?" She poked it with the tip of her foot, she had an odd feeling about it, then she sensed it. "Hey, this thing is alive!" She poked it again until it wiggled. The thing opened its eyes and began to flop around, trying to shake off the ash and brown grass that clung to its burnt body. Then Ashimi finally recognized the creature. "It's Magikarp! A Magikarp that survives all that will definitely evolve into a strong Gyarados, I'm taking him with us!" With the decision made, Ashimi caught the Magikarp in a pokeball. The little guy really needed to be taken to a pokemon center anyway.

As they were nearing the exit of the Safari Zone, a small Nidoran approached. 'Wait for me!' He called out, in the language of pokemon.

"Nidoran? Why are you here?" Zero questioned. "Do you want to go with Ashimi too? She's a great trainer, I'm sure she'll make you strong."

Nidoran shook his head, 'I want to go with you, aniki. Can I?'

"With me? But I'm..." Zero thought he might as well come clean. "I'm not even human, I'm not a pokemon either, but..."

'It doesn't matter!' Nidoran interrupted. 'You're strong, and brave, and smart, and loyal, and, and, and that's all it takes to be a good trainer. I feel I can trust you, so can I come? Please, aniki?'

Zero smiled wide, and with a big grin replied, "nope, you can't come with me."

"What?" Nidoran, Ashimi and Jonathan chorused, though for Nidoran it sounded to the others as 'nido?'

Then Zero laughed, "I'm kidding! Of course you can tag along, but what's with that aniki stuff?"

'You're a Rocket! A real tough yakuza, and you're my blood brother, so I call you aniki,' Nidoran cheered. 'Do you prefer boss? Cause I can call you boss, boss.'

Zero laughed and Ashimi wished she could understand both sides of the conversation. "I'm not the boss, Ashimi is the boss, or the future boss anyway. I guess aniki is alright." He held out the pokeball Ashimi had given him, "hop in." Nidoran ran over and willingly jumped into the red beam. Zero's face lit up with joy, "I caught a pokemon!" He cheered and realized, "and I made a new friend. Go Nidoran!" Now that he was officially captured, Zero let him out again. "You can go back in your pokeball when you get tired, but let's just walk for now."

Ashimi and Jonathan both congratulated him, and Ashimi hugged him. "You'll be the most adorable pokemon trainer ever! Look at you, you're a black and red tiny version of Megaman, that's so cute! I should get Nidoran some gijinka hats to match yours, although it can't really be called gijinka if a pokemon wears them, but who cares about the details, it's cute!"

"I'm a real pokemon trainer now, not a virtual doll." Technically Zero didn't look old enough to have a pokemon, nor was he anywhere near old enough chronologically, but who cares? Rockets didn't play by the rules anyway.

"But you're still as cute as a doll!" Ashimi ruffled his hair.

"Aren't you a lucky one, the princess gives you all the attention," Jonathan teased.

"You both better watch out from now on," Zero playfully held up Nidoran's pokeball. "I have a pokemon so I can challenge you to pokemon battles!"

Ashimi was all too eager for the idea. "We should totally have some pokemon battles later, but first let's go to the pokemon center, and we should get some food too, I'm starving!" The thought of food reminded her of something. "Wait a minute!" She shot an accusing glare at Jonathan, "didn't you have our picnic basket?" With all that had been going on, the picnic had been forgotten, until then.

"Um..." Jonathan nervously took a step back. "It kind of got flattened by a bunch of Tauros..." He kept backing away.

Ashimi's jaw dropped, "my pizza burgers... No!" She broke into a run as Jonathan dashed away and Zero followed. "Agent Johnny, how dare you fail such an important mission, the future boss is very angry at the loss of the precious cargo!"

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 21: Burning Passion (Part 1)

"So we're going to do nothing?" Ashimi argued in frustration. Jonathan had told her everything that Jaina had revealed to him about her past.

"Lower your voice, or Joy will come in to scold us," Jonathan quietly warned.

Ashimi let out an exasperated breath. They were at the Fuchsia City pokemon center at one of the guest rooms. Ashimi let herself fall into a sitting position on the bed. "It's odd," she spoke in a softer voice now. "It's really strange because I know about Team Rocket's past, or a portion of it. People getting jailed for Team Rocket's crimes even though their only crime was to oppose them, people getting executed. I know it in my head what that means, but I don't feel it, I don't comprehend it. It doesn't feel real, it's like the plot of a movie, like something that's so far away you can't tell if it's real or just a story. Something that doesn't really affect anyone, except it does. But grandpa said that as long as his work wasn't lost I could be any kind of queen I wanted. Was he just humoring me and expecting me to change as I grew up, or did he truly believe it could be done? Can Team Rocket turn the world into a prosperous kingdom?"

"It already has, few resist anymore, all that Team Rocket needs is a new face to go out in the open and withstand the time of adaptation. But not much will change, Team Rocket already controls everything," Jonathan assured. "That's also why I don't want to do anything, I trust in the future you want to make, so there's really no reason to rock the boat now, it'll be better that way. Let the past be the past. Giovanni knows that if someone is going to sweep Team Rocket's past under the rug it can't be him, but still, the fact remains that history is written by the victors. It's up to you to be the face of victory."

"I heard that was the plan with Ash," Zero added. "A champion becoming a king might have been well received, since the general public has a positive opinion of him, but now it falls to you."

"So I need to be a champion for everyone?" Ashimi wondered if she could do it, though she usually tried not to let the doubts in. "I don't have my father's power or his mysterious ability to attract legendaries. They flock to him like Jumpluff in the wind!"

"It's okay, you can do it," Jonathan insisted, we're all behind you in this.

"Yeah, you'll be a great queen one day!" Zero agreed.

"I guess I'll just have to do my best..." Ashimi concluded. "We should probably get some rest now. Tomorrow we leave for Cinnabar Island!"

xoxox xox xoxox

The next day, Ashimi, Jonathan and Zero found themselves at the Fushcia City port. Jonathan patted the indigo car and gave it a sad look as it was left in storage until their return to the main land. Walking through the port, they considered their transportation options. Ashimi had been on cruise ships before, but she was hoping for a faster form of transportation this time around.

"Like look at that, it's like the Rocket princess, I totally thought you would like come by here, you know?" The sounds of a man's voice and his footsteps on the dock made the group turn around to find Luke. He was Misty's relative, and therefore Ashimi's, as well as the one responsible for Misty's older sisters developing a favor for the world like, as he was often with then when they were little, though Misty had been too young to pick it up. He was a member of the original Rocket gang before it grew into the world-wide organization it was today. He had retired recently, though he was still in contact with Team Rocket and unofficially kept an eye on the business dealings happening between Fuchsia City and Cinnabar Island, under the pretence of traveling from his home at Cinnabar to visit the main land on his yacht. Being the original subject for the cloning project, he looked a lot like Comet, or rather, Comet looked like him. He had blue eyes and his hair had been the same color as Misty and Ashimi's in younger days. He still had the same big smile and cheerful personality he was known for.

"Uncle Luke!" Ashimi cheered as she rushed over to greet him with a hug. "We were on our way to Cinnabar Island, do you know of a fast way to get there?"

"Like totally, the best way to travel is like on a pokemon, you know?" Luke cheerfully replied.

"I caught a Magikarp recently, but I haven't evolved him yet," Ashimi pouted, she could really use a pokemon she could ride on right about now.

"That's like no problem, you can like ride on the Rocket Gyarados that like guard the trade route, you know?" Luke approached the edge of the pier and tossed in what looked like a yoyo. It was black with a red R on it, identifying it as having been made by Team Rocket. The device sunk like a rock, stretching the string it was attached to. The water lit up, it's blue hue becoming transparent and revealing the sea floor below in a great spectacle of an underwater flare. Gentle waves moved outward from the center of the light with vibrations that communicated a message like a submarine's sonar, the light becoming the beacon for the pokemon it summoned. The light flashed three times before fading, and the yoyo-like device was retracted.

Soon, three Gyarados emerged from the waters at the edge of the pier. "These kids were like hatched from Lilly and Comet's Gyarados at the Rock On breeding center like at Pewter City, you know?" The place had been under Team Rocket's influence for a few years now. One of the Rocket shops even sold t-shirts celebrating the 'alliance'. "Like taking them out to sea and like raising them was like my last mission before I like officially retired, there's like a lot of them out there, you know? They like patrol the trade routes like around Cinnabar Island, you know? I'm like technically like retired, but I like totally have fun taking care of them, so I like still do."

The Gyarados looked ferocious and starred in the horrific tales of sailors. Any suspicious activities near the shores of Kanto would mean the ship in question being cornered by the beasts, resistance would mean a sunken ship and becoming the Gyarados' dinner. The docks had become nearly deserted as people ran inland to get away from the sight of the terrible beasts. Yet to Luke they were as tame as goldfish, he always had a talent for pokemon training.

"You three like take totally good care of Ashimi, Johnny and Zero, okay?" It was funny seeing the massive Gyarados trio bend down to be petted and it made it hard to picture those same beasts devouring sailors that dared to get on Team Rocket's bad side. They were bigger than most Gyarados and more robust, some said it was because they were raised in the salty sea with Luke living on his yacht more often than on land during that time. Other rumors said the sea serpents were big and strong because of all the sailors they had eaten.

They were carnivorous alright, though Ashimi preferred to think they didn't have too much of an appetite for humans. "This is great! Now I can get to Cinnabar and win a badge!" Without giving it any more thought Ashimi jumped on the back of one of the Gyarados.

"This will be an awesome ride!" Jonathan hopped on a Gyarados as well.

"It'll be lots of fun! Make sure you don't fall off, Nido," Zero jumped on the third Gyarados.

Nidoran paused, then finally joined his trainer, 'gotta be brave, like aniki.'

"Thanks for the ride!" The three young pokemon trainers chorused before leaving.

"You're like welcome. Hey, Zero," Luke called and the virtual boy gave him a curious look.

Zero knew who Luke was, so it didn't surprise him that Luke would call him by his name. He was still closely linked to Team Rocket even if he only kept an eye on the Gyarados because he wanted to, as he didn't really have any official duties anymore. Yet there was something more, "yes?"

"Come by to like visit after Ashimi is like done like collecting badges and you like have some free time, okay?" Luke smiled.

Zero nodded with a big smile on his face, "I'll definitely come visit soon!" Then he was off, along with his friends, heading to Cinnabar Island.

xoxox xox xoxox

The next few days were spent at the Cinnabar Island beach, training, though Ashimi was the one doing most of the training. Zero was mostly playing with Nidoran, and Johnny managed to snatch a few pokemon to send to HQ. He even stole few valuables so as to not get out of practice. Currently the blue haired teen was resting at the beach, half buried under a sand castle that Zero and the pokemon built on top of him. Foxtrot was napping next to his trainer, though only his head was visible, as the other pokemon had already buried him. All of the pokemon were out of their pokeballs for the occasion. Ashimi returned to the shore and observed the structure of which Johnny was the base. Though she was very quiet and the sun had not woken Johnny so far, somehow Ashimi's shadow did. The shadow left his field of vision and returned with a handful of trinkets. "I need a break, can I put these on Zero's castle?"

"No way, those jewels and evolution stones are for the boss!" Johnny tried to get up and the realization that he couldn't made him wake up completely.

"Don't move!" Zero exclaimed, patting the main sand tower as if to steady it.

"Who said anyone could build a castle on me?" Jonathan pouted.

"C'mon, be a sport," Ashimi started to decorate the sand castle. "Why do you even play thief anyway? When I'm queen you'll have to be an honorable knight."

"All the more reason to run around getting into mischief before my position in the law shifts," Jonathan grinned. He squirmed a little more and both Ashimi and Zero reached over to steady him.

"How's the training going?" Zero casually asked.

"Alright, but as you can see," Ashimi glanced over to the pokemon, "Magikarp hasn't evolved yet. Having a Gyarados for the fire gym would come in handy, but I still need to head to Viridian City for my last badge after that. Plus the break I took for training during the whole aura incident set me back some time too. Maybe I should just head on over to the gym. I have been training all my pokemon, not just Magikarp, and it's been weeks."

xoxox xox xoxox

At the base of the largest Cinnabar Island volcano, in the very heart of the isle, Ashimi, Jonathan and Zero entered the gym. It held a long tunnel made of special glass that took many years to develop and resisted the heat of the lava. It was refrigerated to regulate the temperature and people boarded an elevator surrounded by lava to get to the arena in the center of the volcano. The elevator reached the surface and the occupants stepped out, crossing the bridge into the square floating in the center of the lava. The gym leader should know they were there as the tunnel detected when someone entered and was equipped with cameras. A thin platform attached to a helicopter mechanism emerged from a tunnel on the opposite side of the arena and Ashimi wondered if the gym leader would be battling long distance by teleconference.

An holographic image appeared on the platform, it was purposely dark and only the silhouette of a man could be seen. Through the darkness that gave him an air of mystery, his voice echoed from the speakers on the platform. "Young madam, I shall not grant you a battle until your business is settled." The image went blank for a few perplexing seconds, then showed another area of the volcano where a girl was messing with a control panel in an area labeled as being accessible to employees only. The control panel was fake, but she didn't seem to be aware of that. The projection changed again and showed a map, directing Ashimi to the girl's location.

"Daala!" Ashimi dashed across the arena, followed by Jonathan and Zero. Despite the mystery, Ashimi was pretty sure the man was Archer and Ariana's son. She also knew that he wouldn't cut her any slack, not that she wanted him to. They disappeared into the tunnel on the opposite side of the arena.

xoxox xox xoxox

The glass maze surrounded by lava opened some of its barriers and closed others, guiding the opponents to each other. They had closed the attraction to the general public and it became a battle field. Ashimi dashed forward as the spiraling barrier ahead opened up in the pipe like an antique camera shutter. The second she had crossed the barrier, it closed up again, leaving Jonathan and Zero on the other side. Ashimi stopped and looked back, then got the message, she could only think of one possible explanation, she had to prove herself. "Johnny, Zero, it's okay, follow the path he sets for you, we'll meet up later!"

Ashimi continued on her way until she reached the end of the tunnel. It opened up and the tunnel was filled with mist. The cold steam poured out from the tunnel, canceling out the heat from the large circular chamber outside. Wind began to blow until the mist was pushed into a tunnel around the end of the pipe. A glass-like bridge extended from the tunnel Ashimi was at to another at the other side. The place was still under construction and not entirely safe, but safe enough to support the lava around them. She stepped into the bridge and looked to the other side, but her opponent was not Daala, instead she found herself facing Jaina.

Jaina didn't speak a word, she cut right to the chase and called out her pokemon. A red beam of light emerged from the pokeball and took the shape of a Dragonite.

"Dragonite?" Ashimi exclaimed. "Where did you get that pokemon?"

Jaina looked at the Dragonite with a bittersweet look in her eyes. Ashimi's tone made it obvious she thought it was stolen, but it actually wasn't. "He was given to me," Jaina breathe. Then she smiled as if a happy occasion approached beside a bitter one. "Ashimi, this will be our last battle, I owe it to Tornado to try one last time, but this isn't for the leader, it's for Daala."

'So they do have a leader after all...' Ashimi knew that even if she asked, Jaina wouldn't reveal any names, so she asked something else instead. "Wasn't Daala your enemy? Didn't she prove that in the Safari Zone?"

"Not at all, she's..." Jaina pause as if thinking of the proper word. "I think I can say that she's my friend. I stayed behind at the Safari Zone of my own free will, neither of us guessed I would become trapped. I'm leaving Tornado, but I want one last battle before I retire to a blissful life of high society hypocrisy. This is for Daala, because she was understanding when I explained the real reason why I was leaving. It's not about money at all, it's about..." Jaina's breath caught in her throat and she blushed. "It's about love."

Ashimi didn't quite understand what exactly was going on, but from what she could gather, apparently someone had offered Jaina a rich life in exchange for leaving Tornado. 'Did some high society guy fall in love with her and try to buy her off?' She theorized. 'Maybe she took his bribery at the start and later fell in love with him, is that it?' Something felt off, her instinct told her that her theory was wrong, but there was no time to think about it now. Jaina was starting to look impatient. "Chari, I choose you!"

'This is my last chance to accomplish my mission, I'm not even sure that it should be Team Rocket that I hate, but I don't care anymore, I'll fight with everything I have!' Jaina quickly went on the offensive. "Aqua tail!" Dragonite dashed across the thin glass bridge within the steamy wind tunnel and swung his massive tail at Chari. Chari jumped back to dodge the hit, but she knew she couldn't keep backing away forever. The Dragonite spun, swinging its tail again, but only a few drops of water from the liquid whip that stretched out from it reached the target.

"Chari, use inferno, aim low!" The Charmeleon retaliated with her flaming attack. The fire reached across the glass bridge, heating its surface, but causing no damage to the structure, though it did get to Dragonite's feet. The dragon jumped and took to the air to avoid having his feet burned, beating his small wings strongly. Yet the wind tunnel didn't provide a lot of room for the massive creature, Dragonite's antennae touched the top of the wind tunnel first, getting caught on the cutting tornado of hot steam. Dragonite roared in pain and landed, his feet going into contact with the flames below. The large dragon stumbled back and fell sitting next to his new trainer, front paws holding his antennae while he blew cold air at his sore feet.

Jaina didn't like how the battle started. "Get up, Dragonite!" She shouted in frustration. "Thunder punch!" Dragonite got on his feet and rushed forward, electricity collecting in his claws.

"Chari, get down then use dragon claw!" The thunder punch flew above the Charmeleon's head as she ducked low. Then she jumped, stretching out her claws in an uppercut dragon claw attack across the Dragonite's chest and throat.

"Outrage!" Dragonite roared in anger, he released a massive amount of fire that Chari couldn't dodge on time. His claws flew at her through the flames until the fire pokemon was tossed back, beaten and bruised.

"Chari!" The Charmeleon had landed by Ashimi's feet. She rushed to her with concern, but the stubborn fire pokemon wasn't out of the fight yet. Chari got up once more and glared at her opponent. "you didn't train Dragonite yourself, there's no way you can beat us!" Ashimi challenged.

"Isn't this ironic? Isn't Team Rocket supposed to view pokemon as nothing more than tools?" Jaina mocked. "It doesn't matter if I didn't train him, this Dragonite is a lot stronger than any of your pokemon!"

"We'll see about that! Inferno!" Chari released another massive burst of flames.

Now Jaina was ready and reacted on time, "outrage!" Dragonite's flames pushed Chari's flames back. It looked like the fire pokemon was just about out of breath.

'No way!' Ashimi looked at the flame on her tail, it flickered and went lower due to the effort. This wasn't a bunch of small fireballs being tossed out at intervals, the constant roaring fire was draining her energy without giving her a split second to recover. The wind tunnel was disturbed by the flames, the fire forming a spiraling tornado around the glass bridge. Ashimi could feel herself sweat as her breaths became heavy, surely Jaina was feeling it too, but she obviously had no intentions of holding back. "Chari, aim high!" The Charmeleon obeyed, though her trainer knew she couldn't keep this up without pause for long. "Sorry, Chari, this might hurt a bit, but I can't think of any other way. Roll under the flames and use fire fang!"

Chari ceased her flaming breath with a final burst. Dragonite's aim was high to counter her attack, but the fire was encompassing the whole space. Still, she avoided the worse of the flames as she rolled across the glass bridge, the high tech microscopic cooling circuitry inside it glowing in pulses of blue light. It made the structure look like magical ice that could not be melted. In a fluid motion, Chari jumped to her feet and attacked Dragonite, sinking her fangs into his neck. Of course, the dragon could not continue the attack any longer. Dragonite roared in pain, though the sound came out choked. He reached out to pull Chari off him as Ashimi urgently called out to her. "Flame burst and come back!" Chari released what little of her fire she had left and quickly retreated to Ashimi's side, narrowly avoiding Dragonite's claws sinking too deeply into her scales, though she was still scratched.

Blood seeped from the wound on Dragonite's neck as the creature roared. He lost his temper and began to beat his winds wildly in a hurricane attack. Jaina retreated into the tunnel behind her and tried to stay close to its wall desperately, to avoid being tossed off the thin bridge that connected the two glass pipes. "Dragonite, no!" The pokemon didn't stop, he relentlessly dashed forward in an outrage attack, while still simultaneously continuing the hurricane with his wings.

"Chari, hold on!" Chari tried to grip the glass bridge, but it was slippery. Her scales were covered in sweat from the extreme heat rolling through the fire, which was too much even for a fire pokemon, and she couldn't sink her claws into the special glass. Then the heavy steps of Dragonite dashing towards her resonated and she tried to get back on her feet to dodge, but that only made her lose her balance. "Chari!" With the glow of aura around her, Ashimi dove after her pokemon and grabbed her arm before she fell into the cutting steaming wind tunnel wall, beyond which was boiling lava.

Ashimi felt her earrings become hot and vibrate as they tried to prevent the last drops of her aura from leaving her body and rendering it lifeless. She pushed the aura out anyway, she had no choice but to use it, because there was no way she could grip the edge of the glass bridge without it. Chari roared as if telling her trainer to drop her and somehow Ashimi knew what she was trying to say, but refused. "I'm not letting you go, there's no way I'll let you die." Pichu's electricity sparked as he prepared to defend his trainer and fellow pokemon against Dragonite. He was too small and couldn't possibly lift them up onto the bridge, but he could do his best to keep Dragonite occupied. "No, Pichu, we'll win this battle fairly, one on one," Ashimi insisted. "Chari, climb up my back and win this!" Chari was on Ashimi's back when Dragonite peeked down from the bridge above, savoring the helplessness of his pray.

It was taking everything Ashimi had to support their combined weight and keep her grip with her aura, even if she could use both hands now. Yet there was no way she would be able to keep that up if Dragonite broke her hands or blasted them with fire or some other attack. She reacted fast in the only action that could bring her hope. "Rip off his antennae!" Chari hurried to jump off Ashimi and grabbed at Dragonite. The large dragon sunk his claws into her sides and tried to pull her away from his face, but she pulled herself forward, even if his claws left deep gashes along the sides of her body. She grabbed hold of one of his antennae in her mouth and held a flame in her bite, which caused Dragonite great pain. The large dragon trashed wildly until he finally managed to throw the bleeding Charmeleon off himself, though she still had one of his antennae in her mouth.

At the same time, Pichu was trying to pull Ashimi up to the bridge despite his small size. She only had her own weight to pull up, but she was simply too tired to lift herself up. Her aura was retreating into the far corners of her soul, exhausted beyond what she was ready to give. Several red beams went up from the pokeballs on her belt to the glass bridge and all her pokemon held on to her. They were mostly small, but together they pulled her up into their protective embrace. "Everyone, thank you..."Ashimi saw Dragonite freaking out over the loss of one of his antennae. Jaina stood on the opposite side, mouth agape, unable to react as Chari threw the bloody antennae at her feet with a huff. "Sorry about that, we don't normally battle this harshly, but you did try to kill us."

Dragonite growled and spat out a ball of fire that Chari dodged despite her injuries. She was hurt, yet somehow she felt invincible. With a mighty roar, Chari's tail flame flared up suddenly and her body glowed, growing larger. Where the Charmeleon once stood there was now a Charizard, her large tail flame burning proudly. She retaliated with a breath of fire of her own, filling the tunnel with flames. Burnt and beaten, Dragonite rushed forward for one last desperate attack. He tried to slash at Chari with his claws, but she caught both paws in hers. She ducked her head out of the way as the taller dragon tried to hit her with a thunderbolt point blank, then stretched her neck and attacked with fire fang. With one last growl of pain, Dragonite fainted. "You did it, Chari! You evolved and won!" Ashimi cheered as she and her pokemon gathered around Chari to congratulate her.

"No way... I lost... How could I lose with this pokemon?" Jaina sunk to her knees in defeated frustration. "Dragonite, return, you useless pokemon!" The crimson haired girl threw away the pokeball in anger. The red and white capsule collided with the windy tunnel and bounced, partially melted from the hot steam.

"Dragonite, no!" Zubat reacted quickly and snatched the pokeball, dropping it as quickly as possible due to its temperature. The ball rolled a small distance on the bridge and stopped at Ashimi's feet. "Nice catch, Zubat, you didn't get burned too badly, did you?" Zubat shook his head, though he certainly wasn't in the mood to perch anywhere for a while. Squirtle walked over to the hot pokeball and gently emitted a stream of water from his mouth. It was too soft to be a water gun, but the liquid was effective in cooling the pokeball without pushing it across the bridge. "Thanks," Ashimi picked up the capsule and examined it. "I think it's stuck, but Dragonite should be alright if we get him out of this damaged pokeball. We should be able to do that at the pokemon center." She put the pokeball in her bag and glared at Jaina. "Chari, let's get out of here and let's take her with us. Everyone else, return!"

Chari hurried across the bridge and grabbed Jaina by the waist. She flailed around, but it was completely useless. Her captor growled at her and shook her like a snow globe. The action was enough to make the girl whimper in fear and offer no further resistance. Once Ashimi had recalled her other pokemon and Pichu was once again riding on her head, she approached Chari, whispered her plans of a get-away and waited for the tunnel's barriers to be opened. Then she jumped on Chari's back and the newly evolved pokemon took off full speed through the glass tunnels. She didn't slow down as a light became visible and didn't land immediately when they got out of the volcano.

They landed some distance away from the volcano and Chari tossed Jaina on the ground. "Are you going to kill me?" She asked through her tears.

"No," Ashimi frowned. "I should hand you over to Team Rocket for interrogation," the possible fate seemed to frighten Jaina even more. She was so fearless before, but now it was different. Back in the Cerulean City bakery she had nothing to lose and now she had something, the life she claimed to be looking forward to with her mystery man. "I really should... but I won't," Ashimi's words took Jaina by surprise. "I will take your pokemon though. Dragonite would be dead if his pokeball melted any further, I just hope I'm right about being able to get him out of there."

"I doubt that thing will listen to you," Jaina grumbled.

"I'm not going to keep him myself, but that's not the point, hand over your pokeballs!" Ashimi demanded. She didn't see any on Jaina's belt, but she assumed she was hiding them somewhere.

"I don't have any, search me if you don't believe it," Jaina bitterly replied. "Gastly was never truly mine and I gave Exeggutor to Daala. I didn't think I would need him anymore, I thought Dragonite would be enough for my final mission. So, what do you intend to do?" She tried to hide her worry.

"I..." Ashimi let out a hopeless breath, in disbelief with herself at the words that came out of her own mouth. "I'm letting you go. I had to get you out of the volcano so that the Rocket executive in charge couldn't get to you. I'm letting you go for Johnny's sake, because you are his sister. Go, retire to a peaceful life and never cross my path again. If you do, I'll hand you over to Team Rocket without a second thought! And if you... if you ever decide to talk to Johnny, I won't stop you, but don't you dare cause him any trouble. Now go!"

Jaina got to her feet unsteadily, then dashed away with her heart beating wildly. She couldn't believe her luck, her life had flashed before her eyes. 'It looks like you saved me again, Johnny,' she thought, as she got further away from Ashimi. 'She must care about him if she defies her own family for his sake, too bad that he'll completely forget about her soon.'

xoxox xox xoxox

After having left Ashimi to face her battle, Jonathan and Zero made their way through another series of tunnels. This was the will of the Rocket executive in charge of Cinnabar Island, thus they were following orders from a superior, but it also had to be a test, because otherwise he would have sent some grunts to tend to the intruders instead. Jonathan found himself exiting the volcano and going into a hot springs area which had been closed to the public as soon as the intruders were detected. Daala was there, but she didn't seem to have intentions of going into the volcano. She looked more as if she was waiting, as if she had nothing to do but felt uneasy about leaving. "Daala!" Jonathan exclaimed, if she was there, who was with Ashimi? 'Could it be that Ashimi is battling Jaina? No, impossible, Jaina left Tornado, she must be battling someone else.'

"Looks like you found me," Daala glared. "Well, I might as well put up a fight even if it wasn't in my plans, "go Rapidash!" The flaming unicorn emerged from the red beam of her pokeball.

Jonathan reached for one of the pokeballs on his belt, but Zero stopped him. "Let me take this battle," he requested.

Jonathan nodded and decided to let him, it was clear that Zero was really eager to have his first real battle. He had trained with him and Ashimi, but this was different, it was a real fight, not just practice. "Alright, give it all you got!"

"You bet I will! Let's win this, Nidoran!" Zero was filled with determination.

Nidoran jumped forward eagerly, 'I'm ready for battle, aniki, just tell me what to do and I'll fight like a Rocket!'

'Rapidash is stronger than Nidoran, so we'll have to weaken her first,' Zero thought. 'From what we saw at the Safari Zone, she can be a bit clumsy.'

"Rapidash, flame charge!" Daala commanded.

'Aniki?' Nidoran asked nervously.

"Stay still... still... side-step!" Rapidash's horn passed inches away from Nidoran, who paled at the close call.

The flaming unicorn came to a sudden halt as she realized she missed entirely. She had closed her eyes at the last second as she prepared to impale Nidoran with her horn, her body covered in flames. She didn't expect him to simply side-step out of the way. "I have to teach her to change course at the last second," Daala grumbled. "Don't just stand there Rapidash, use a fire blast!"

"Too late! Poison jab and retreat!" Before Rapidash could fully aim her fire, Nidoran dashed between her hooves and stabbed his horn into her hind leg. The flaming pokemon kicked as an immediate reaction. Nidoran had already started to retreat, but was caught by the hit, albeit it certainly wasn't enough to knock him out of the battle.

"Rapidash, flame thrower!" Daala urged, she couldn't believe that kid was actually putting up a fight.

"Dig!" Zero flailed cutely in a way that would probably make Ashimi giggle. Nidoran scrambled to get underground, though his tail was still burned by the fire. "Keep going Nidoran, don't stop!" Zero knew that Nidoran was a speedy digger, they had been training after all.

"Flood that hole with flames!" Daala ordered, the aggression in her tone rising as her patience diminished.

"Come up, Nido!" Zero warned.

"Cook that Nidoran!" Daala insisted. Rapidash continued to shoot flames into the hole Nidoran had dug until she had to pause to catch her breath. The unicorn tentatively looked into the hole but saw nothing. She tossed in some more flames for good measure and bent over to stick her head in like a shy Doduo. She rose to her hooves again and shook her head at her trainer. "Did you actually cook him? Is he... dead?" Daala slowly inquired, she didn't think the attack would truthfully go that far. Rapidash ran her hoof along the edge of the hole in the ground, unsure, then laid down. The effects of the poison were starting to make Rapidash feel lightheaded. The fire pokemon didn't know if she should feel accomplished, embarrassed or just sad. Daala looked at Jonathan and Zero uneasily, "why isn't anyone saying anything?"

Jonathan shrugged, "I didn't want to interrupt."

"What about you?" Daala pointed at Zero with an accusatory glare. "That's your pokemon down there, aren't you concerned? How could someone so young be so heartless already? It's like you're not even human!"

Suddenly, Nidoran emerged from the bushes behind Daala. 'Don't insult aniki!'

The war cry was only understood as words by Zero, who tried to stop Nidoran, "Nido, no! You're supposed to be fighting Rapidash, not Daala!" Daala yelped as the Nidoran bit her leg. She managed to kick him off and he landed near Rapidash. Despite her dizziness, Rapidash got up, ready to fight. Nidoran had tunneled and emerged near the bushes behind Daala where he took a short nap and rested, unseen by his opponent. He had recovered from the burns and hits and was full of energy. "Thunder!"

"Overheat!" Nidoran released the attack he had learned when Zero trained with Ashimi at the same time as Rapidash used overheat. The flames covered the entire area around the two pokemon until the unicorn stumbled back. The flash of light from Nidoran's electricity had crashed into her horn like a lightning rod. The unicorn fell to the side, fainted.

Nidoran swayed dizzily, and coughed out some smoke. 'How was that, aniki? Am I a tough yakuza like you?'

"You did really great, Nido, and we won our first real battle!" Zero cheered. "C'mon, you better rest in your pokeball for a while."

'Okay,' Nidoran plopped on the ground, burnt and exhausted, 'I could... use a nap...'

"Return!" With the Nidoran recalled, that marked the end of the first round.

"This isn't over, Rapidash, return, go Exeggutor and Venusaur!" Daala called out the pokemon she had gotten from Jaina.

Jonathan's eyes went wide. "That pokemon..."

"You've heard about him, haven't you? Yes, this is the same Exeggutor that battled alongside Jaina when she was pretending to be Kirameki. Even if things didn't quite work out that time, I think these two make a pretty good team." Daala grinned confidently, she liked it when people looked shocked.

Jonathan clenched his fists in anger. Zero stared, he had not seen this side of him before. "Why do you have Jaina's pokemon?" Jonathan growled.

"Why do you think?" Daala challenged.

Jonathan gave her his deadliest glare. "Answer me!"

"You're in no position to make any demands," Daala disregarded his threats.

A million theories ran across Jonathan's mind, was Jaina dead? Had Daala truly killed her because she left Tornado? "You'll pay for this! Foxtrot, Vaporeon, Jolteon go all out! Foxtrot, burn Venusaur to ashes, quick attack and flare blitz, Jolteon, Vaporeon, tare Exeggutor apart, start with wild charge and giga impact, pretend he's a piñata!"

"Razor leaf! Seed bomb!" Daala called out desperately.

Foxtrot began to shot a massive amount of fire. Venusaur defended herself with razor leaf but the leaves just burned to nothing before they could reach Foxtrot. The speedy Flareon got ever closer to the large grass pokemon, with some sparks already landing on her leaves. Jolteon dashed towards her target with wild charge. She took most of the hits from the bullet seeds herself, but they were not very effective because the electricity that surrounded her body repelled them for the most part. The electric eeveelution crashed into Exeggutor, followed by her brother. The palmtree pokemon was knocked to the ground where the two eeveelutions continued to assault him, tearing off his leaves and kicking all his faces.

Foxtrot reached Venusaur, whose flower was now in flames. "Solar beam, Venusaur! Solar beam!" Daala urged her pokemon to fight back, but the relentless attack had come too fast. Suddenly, the area was filled with smoke. Daala took an unsure step back and before she knew it, she felt a rope wrapping around her body. With a click, the two magnetic ends of the rope found each other after wrapping themselves around the target and became locked. Daala struggled against the rope, but couldn't free herself. The smoke was too thick and she couldn't see the battle, save for the light of the growing flames.

"Tell me..." Daala tensed, the voice was coming from right next to her ear. "Tell me what you did to Jaina. Do not think of lying, I'm sure the interrogators at headquarters can get the truth out of you."

Daala swallowed and clenched her teeth. "What? Don't you have the guts to get the truth out of me yourself?" She knew she was in no position to make demands and the pained cries of her pokemon were a constant reminder of that, but she was too prideful to back down.

"That would be a mercy that I'm not willing to give you. As much as I hate you right now, I know that there are people who could think of worse things to do to you than me," Jonathan threatened.

Daala laughed bitterly, "you really love her, don't you?"

"She is my sister," for a second Jonathan noted the present tense and hoped that was not just a slip of the tongue and that Jaina was actually still alive.

"I wonder what she'll do about that," Daala mused with an ironic tone. "She worked so hard to get you to where you are, but... Alas, who am I to judge? If she's so desperate, I can't blame her for wanting what no one around her ever gave her. I wish I had known sooner, I wish I had been a better friend. But I know I can't stop her, if such filth is what she wants, no one can change her mind."

"What are you rambling about?" The smoke cleared out to revealed three tired eeveelutions and two fainted grass pokemon. Jonathan didn't even care that it was three on two. He didn't care that Exeggutor was Jaina's pokemon before, he didn't protect her, so he was just as bad as Daala. He was focusing only on the mission, recalling his training as a Rocket to get the job done by any means necessary. His goal now was not for Team Rocket, but it was for his family.

Daala grinned wickedly. "Go to her, go to your precious Jaina, she is waiting for you and when you find her, you'll meet a fate worse than death, by her own will."

"Liar! Jaina left Tornado, she wouldn't try to hurt me. I'm going to take her back into my family, I'll make up for what she missed out on!" Jonathan argued, though the anger and desperation in his voice lessened with the confirmation that Jaina was alive.

"You fool!" Daala chided.

"Look, up there!" Zero pointed at the Charizard that flew across the skies above, coming from the volcano. Ashimi was riding on her and she carried a crimson haired girl.

"Ashy! Jaina!" Jonathan quickly recalled his pokemon, "well done everyone, but we gotta go now," then he ran off in pursuit of the Charizard.

"Sorry to leave you all tied up, but we're in a hurry," Zero ran after Jonathan.

Daala glared after them, life had been too crazy lately. "Well, in Jaina's favor, I can at least say Johnny's got guts after all." She wiggled uncomfortably within the confines of the ropes until her hand reached one of the pokeballs on her belt. "Although," she mused aloud, "I guess there's no reason for me to call her Jaina anymore..." A red beam of light emerged from between the ropes and took on the form of Houndour. The pokemon didn't even need to be told what to do and immediately started biting the ropes that entrapped his trainer with tiny sparks of fire to help break them without harming her. She recalled her pokemon and decided to leave before some Rocket grunts decided to show up and try to take her prisoner.

xoxox xox xoxox

When she was far enough, Jaina stopped to catch her breath and tried to blend in with the tourists as she made her way to the port. She approached a luxury ship parked at one of the private docks and got on. She entered below deck and made her way to the main luxury cabin. There she found a woman with a glass cup full of wine in her delicate hands. "Is your business done?"

"Yes," Jaina replied.

"Good, I expect you to behave like a lady from now on if you are to become my daughter," the lady voiced.

"I understand," Jaina's responses were short and clipped, it was clear she wasn't too fond of that woman.

The refined lady stood from her chair and took a few steps towards the girl. "Do try to improve your posture, you're not standing properly." She set her wine aside and began to correct the girl where she stood. "Straighten your shoulders and raise your chin. Oh my goodness, your face is so dirty, go wash yourself. I will not tolerate this sort of thing from now on."

"Yes," Jaina growled between her teeth. She stopped in front of the adjacent bathroom's door and looked back at the lady. "Are you certain that they will bring him?"

"Hush, child, do not doubt their word. They are honorable people and they will deliver your fiancé as promised. Just because their son is a criminal," her refined tone gave way to a deep bitterness for just a second before she caught herself, "doesn't mean that the line cannot be repaired. Why, look at you, a peasant at best, and here I am willing to turn you into a lady. You're much better off with me than staying with your father. Let him die fighting against Team Rocket, I don't like them myself, but fighting them is a fool's dream. It is much more intelligent to try to form connections with them, not at the grunt level like your fiance's foolish father, but higher up, in high society."

Jaina laughed bitterly, if only the lady knew that she had tried to kill Giovanni's granddaughter just moments prior. She sighed and said nothing to the eyebrow that was being raised at her. "I'll behave," she promised. The details didn't matter, nothing else mattered as long as she could be with her fiance... Assuming he could be successfully rescued.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 19: Magikarp's "kiss" with Ashimi is a reference to a similar scene in Slayers, involving Lina and a fish person.
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