Twisted Paths, Forgotten Pasts

Chapter 7

They'd been on the road for a while now, driving through the country of 'Sorten'. They'd left on Thursday and it was now Monday. Ash had to admit he was getting tired of driving half the time, sharing shifts with Jay. They drove for most of the day, only breaking occasionally to stop in a town at night to sleep, then off again on the next day. Although the car was roomy, driving was not Ash's preferred mode of transportation.

Ever since he was ten years old, he'd been traveling the world, either on foot, or by pokemon. Although not the most efficient modes of travel, those were his favorites. You could stop when you wanted to, there was plenty of time to look around, the air was fresh, and there was plenty of room to stretch around. But in a car? Scenery flashes by, giving you little or no time to admire it, the air isn't exactly 'fresh', unless you open the windows, and then it rushes in, blowing your hair all over the place... And stretching? In the car, one is cramped. When you get out, you feel like you've been locked in a sardine tin...

Currently, Jay was driving, with Jyp lying on his lap, asleep. In the back, Akira and Taie were also in dreamland, Akira using Taie's shoulder as a pillow. The pokemon too were asleep. Even Pikachu, curled up in a little yellow ball of fur and electricity on Ash's lap, had decided to take a nap... That left just Jay and Ash awake, the both of them silently watching the dusty road they were driving on go by.

Paved roads weren't all that common... Despite the many technological advances that had been made recently, people still preferred Pokemon for traveling, except in more high-tech countries, like 'Tiris'. There, although pokemon were still bountiful, people were more 'foreword', but Ash wondered, what was the joy in technology? Yes, cell phones made it easier to keep in contact with people, and cars were fast, and did not need rest. But, there was just something about pokemon, something that made you want to ditch your car jump onto that Pidgeot!

Ash sighed. He wondered how his other pokemon were doing... He'd need to find some way to reunite them with him... Lapras, Blastoise, Venusaur, Pidgeot and Charizard, those were his main remaining pokemon, other than Pikachu, that he spent the most time with. Being a Pokemon Master, he had learnt a few years back, was more than just winning the battles and being the best of the best... It was also about spending time with the pokemon, knowing about them, knowing how to handle them, *loving* them. It had taken him some time to realise that *that* was what it meant to be a pokemon Masters.

He smiled fondly, remembering the 'good ol' days' when he, Misty, Brock, and at one time, Tracey, had traveled around their little corner of the world, catching pokemon, getting into all sorts of trouble and battling gym leaders. That was one of the highlights of his life. He'd had a lot of fun then, and it was on that journey, or rather, those journeys, that he had learnt many of the skills a Pokemon Master needed. First, you needed to love your pokemon. Second, you needed to understand them. Third, you needed to *know* about pokemon, and not only think about winning. The last one was the one that had taken him the longest to understand... He'd learnt that one when he was sixteen... He'd finally taken a break off pokemon training, and decided to go back to school. A special one for pokemon trainers. That was the turning point in his life.

It seemed so far away, yet it was just under a decade ago... Come to think of it, that was quite far away, but wait, he was going off topic again. How far he had come! From the naive little boy with his pikachu, to Pokemon Master. And now? He sighed. Now, he wasn't too sure who he was, *what* he was even... His mind was still muddled, filled with the memories of many men... He was thankful that he did not 'inherit' the memories of all his ancestors, but only those who had realised who and what they were. That excluded his father.

But who was his father? Ash wondered. His mother had never told him, and when he asked her, she just went silent, and changed the topic. Ash believed he was old enough to know, but she refused to tell him for some reason. Was she ashamed? He wasn't sure, but he believed that he deserved to know who his father was...

"Hey, Ash." Jay said, speaking a bit quietly, so as not to wake his sleeping passengers.

Turning to look at Jay briefly, Ash responded. "What?"

"What were you thinking about?"

"Who I am," Ash replied sullenly.

"You're Ash Ketchum, Pokemon Master and, more recently, Ash Ketchum, Guardian of Akira. What else is there to know?" Jay replied as if it were a well-known fact.

"Yeah, but-"

"But what? You're Ash, and that's all that matters." Jay said in an end of discussion tone.

Ash sighed. He was getting no answers out of Jay, though he suspected the gym leader knew more than he was letting Ash believe. The electric mouse stirred in his sleep, and opened one tiny eye, peeking at Ash.

"Chuuu..." He said sleepily, yawning. "What you doing?" He asked. He spoke haltingly, as he always did when speaking English.

"Just thinking... You know, Pikachu, you don't have to speak English." He tousled the pikachu's fur on his head playfully. "I understand you fine when you speak normally... You don't have to push yourself."

"Pika." He replied, sighing with relief. "Pikachu pika piii, chupi." He said, grinning mischievously.

"We have a strange language? Little rascal!" Ash exclaimed, careful not to raise his voice too high.

"Chu ka pi chu?" He asked, looking out the car window anxiously, then back at Ash.

"I dunno... I guess I'll have to ask Jay." He turned to the older man. "Pikachu wants to know if we're almost there yet."

"Who knows where there is?" Jay replied, with a serious look on his face, then he looked at Ash, who was looking puzzled, and grinned. "But enough of the cryptic nonsense. According to the map, we've got about half an hour left before we hit the next town."

"Pika-pi chuka chupi pika pii pikachu chupi pika..." Pikachu murmured, rolling his eyes. A direct translation would have been around the lines of: "Which obviously means we have an hour to go if he doesn't get lost again..."

Ash laughed, and Jay was left wondering what the two of them were up to.

Resting his head back in his seat, Ash stroked Pikachu's fur, thinking again about his pokemon, and then about this whole 'guardian' thing. What did it mean? Why did he have all these new memories? And was someone going to instruct him, or was he supposed to figure it out all on his own?

As if he had heard Ash's thoughts, Pikachu looked up with a wry look on his face, and said, "Pika-Pi? Chupika chuka pika chu kapi pika chuka ee pikachu kapika, pika chu ka chupi."

Need a translation again?

"Ash? Stop thinking about things you can't do anything about right now, and go to sleep." Of course, that's a loose translation.


Taie woke up with a start. She'd been dreaming about the past again, and not about the good times. Not about the days when things were fine, when they lived together in harmony. No, she had been dreaming of the days right before she died, and of the day she died. She remembered it like it was just yesterday, the pain, the agony... She had watched her friends, her children, die right before her eyes. She had embraced death, but embracing it had not made her passing easy... Putting one hand over her heart, she felt it thumping in her chest for the dream had been so real, as if it was happening all over again.

"Taie? You okay?" Akira asked worriedly, tapping Taie on the shoulder.

"It's...nothing..." Taie replied, turning to look out of the window.

"What do you mean its nothing? You're pale, and you look terrified!"

Taie turned to Akira, a worried expression on her face. "I don't want to loose you again Akira..." She pulled Akira into a tight hug. "I dreamt about the day we died, and I don't want that to happen again... I just want to meet with the others, I just..." She trailed off, sobbing gently in Kira's shoulder.

Kira hugged the slightly older woman, not sure what to do. "Don't worry Taie... We're all safe now... We're all alive."

"But will we continue to be alive? We don't know whats going to happen... Taie answered doubtfully, withdrawing herself from Kira's arms, and then wiping her eyes. "I'm sorry..." Then she added wistfully, "Sometimes, I think you're lucky that you do not remember the past."

Rika woke up abruptly looking at Taie with a sleepy and confused eye. /Mo-...Akira, what's going on?/

/Taie dreamt of her death.../

/I remember that day well.../ The dratini suddenly tensed up.

Taie noticed the dratini's reaction, and reached over Akira to pick up the dratini and hug her. "I'm sorry Rika, for reminding you..."

"Dratini ti." Rika replied nonchalantly, as if it were no matter, but Taie noticed the sad look in her eyes.

Jay suddenly turned around, looking at them. "None of you are going to die." He said firmly, quickly turning his eyes back to the road. "Maybe we should spend some more time than usual in the next town. We've had enough car travel for some time..." He continued without looking back at them.

"I think that would be good..." Taie agreed, nervously tucking a strand of her streaked hair behind one of her ears. She wanted out of the car, and fast. She'd had enough of the vehicle, they needed a new form of travel, something less restrictive...

"Taie?" Akira asked quietly.

"Yes Kira?"

"Tell me about the past. The *good* days." Akira looked at her with a nervous smile on her face. "No one really tells me anything..."

"The good days... Well..." Taie paused, looking at the ceiling of the car thoughtfully. "My 'husband' was called Serai. An odd name, I know. We all called him 'Rai' though. He was such a nice man, but we weren't really meant for each other..."

Her interest peaked, Akira continued to inquire. "What did he look like?"

"Hmmm, he was taller than me, and looked quite like a bird actually." She said with a slight smirk. "He was a bit on the thin side, but quite muscular at the same time, and *very* graceful. His hair was the same color as mine, but lighter. And he had white and blue eyes."

"White and blue?"

The older woman smiled. "Like the sky... Kinda like mine."

Akira looked closely at Taie's eyes, and noticed that her eyes were not one, but two colors. "They're beautiful."

"Not as beautiful as yours though, Akira. You're very unique, remember that."

Akira blushed. "I don't know about-"

"Some people never change!" Taie exclaimed. "You should learn to stop denying what I say. I don't take to complimenting women often, so when I do, I am being earnest. You *are* unique, Kira. You are the Mother of all Dragons. That in itself is unique."

Kira nodded.

"Now, what else should I tell you... Ah! The world in those days was beautiful, untouched by any technological nonsense. The air was clear and fresh, the waters were pollution free... And animals were not so rare as they are now."

Confused, Akira tilted her head to one side. "Animals?"

Taie nodded. "Like pokemon, but without the same abilities. Fish are animals for instance."

"Oh." Akira looked a bit skeptical.

"Pokemon are like magical animals. When pokemon began to multiply, they became more dominant, and were favored over animals by humans, resulting in the decline of animals in the world. There are a few isolated areas were animals and pokemon live in harmony, but mostly, pokemon have taken over the ecological system." Taie sighed.

Akira wondered what animals were like now... Taie said that pokemon were like them, but with 'magical powers'. So pokemon were magic? She felt a slight pang of sympathy for those 'animals', to be wiped out of existence like that... "So, they died out?"

Taie laughed. "Far from that! Some actually managed to crossbreed with pokemon, slightly changing the pokemon species that bred with them, but mostly for the better. Others, like I said, live in harmony with wild pokemon in isolated areas. At least, that's what I've been told. You know, my favorite animal back then were the-"

"There's the town!" Jay exclaimed, turning his head to grin briefly at the girls. "We'll stay there for the day, maybe even stay there tomorrow too. I think we've all had enough of this van."

Jyp woke up. He had been asleep on Jay's lap for most of the trip. "We there yet?" He asked sleepily.

"Almost." Jay replied.

Taie finally relaxed. They'd be out of the car for some time, that was good. She needed to walk around a bit, spend some time with Akira... The poor girl needed a good friend, Taie could sense that. She must be so lonely, having her current life hometown burning down like that... She'd asked Ash about that the day before, and Rika had confirmed her suspicions that Kira needed someone to talk to. Well, Taie was definitely going to be that friend that Akira needed. After all, she was lonely too.


As Ash walked through town with Pikachu, he reflected over what had happened since they arrived in town. He and Taie practically fought over who would be 'escort' Akira through town. Taie wanted to befriend Akira, and Ash wanted nothing more than to be around her, so he could guard her. It *was* his 'destiny' after all...

Finally, they reached a decision. Taie and Akira would get an hour alone, and then after that, Ash would join them, so, right now, he was just browsing around, looking for nothing or no one in particular. Jay and Jyp had disappeared right after they had found hotel rooms. One would think they'd be worried about them. They were, after all, in their care.

Ash felt like he was being watched, so he turned around, but saw nothing but empty road... He continued walking, trying to get his mind back to what he was originally thinking about, but he couldn't shake off the feeling of being followed. Turning his head again to look, he didn't notice the man walking in the opposite direction and bumped into him, falling down on his back.

"Hey, you should watch were you're going Pokemon Master." The much taller, and stronger, man leaned over and held out a helping hand to Ash, yanking him up. "What's your name? I'm Rosc."

Rubbing his now sore arm, and then his back, Ash replied. "My name's Ash."

"Ah, Ask Ketchum? Taking some time away from Pokemon Island? Or rather," The man paused dramatically. "Misty Waterflower?"

"Very funny... We broke up a while ago, we're just friends." Ash replied grimly, glaring at the man.

"Whatever you say. I'll see you around maybe, pokemon master." Grinning, the strange man winked and then left.

"Weird person..." Ash muttered, still unable to shake off tthat uneasy feeling. "Pikachu, is it just me, or are we being watched?"

The pikachu on his shoulder nodded in agreement. "Chu, pikachu."

"I thought so." He wandered into the town park which was just a block ahead of him, settling down on the soft green grass in front of a pond and watching the Farfetche'ds. The strange flying pokemon were swimming around lazily because of the heat of the day, although a couple of younger ones were play-fighting with some branches they'd found lying around.

Without warning, they all started swimming to a far corner of the pond, eventually wading out and hiding in some bushes. Surprised by their apparently un-provoked fleeing, Ash turned around, and found himself looking down at a pair of glaring red eyes. Startled, he yelped and stood up in a hurry, forgetting that he had been sitting near a pond, and falling in.

Pikachu, who was glad that he hadn't been on Ash's shoulder, tentatively walked up to the strange pokemon. He smiled pikachu style, then extended a paw in greeting. Unfortunately, the creature did not seem to take much of a liking to the yellow pokemon, and instead just ignored him, walking over to the edge of the pond and waiting for Ash to climb out.

The pokemon master, soaking wet with dirty water, climbed out and sat down on the grass again, looking disdainfully down at himself, then accusingly at the pokemon, who simply cocked it's head to one side, waiting for him to do something.

"Pleased with yourself, aren't you?" He asked bitterly, wringing water out of his hair.

In response, the pokemon nodded once, then moved close to him, touching his leg with her little black nose. Looking up at him, she erased the what seemed to have been a glare from her eyes, but she still did not look in any way happy.

"Well, I'm glad that you're pleased with yourself, but I need to go dry off." Ash stood, picking up Pikachu, carefully so as not to get the electric mouse wet, and placed him back on his shoulder, where the pokemon gingerly perched on his soaked shoulder. "If you dare shock me now Pikachu..."

"Pika? Me?" Innocently, the pokemon blinked, causing Ash to roll his eyes. "Pikachu, pika pi?"

"Forgetting something? What am I forgetting?"

The pokemon's turn to roll his eyes. "Pika-pi, you're a pokemon master..."


"Chu pika pika chu ka pi!"

Wincing, Ash immediately took out his pokedex and pointed it at the pokemon. He had forgotten that one of his duties as pokemon master was to catalog any unusual pokemon...

*"Unidentified species of pokemon, may be a natural hybrid, or a lab experiment, or possibly a new breed. Type unsure, seems to be part lightning."*

Bending down, Ash carefully reached out to touch it, glad that it did not flinch away. Petting it, he noticed that some of its glossy black fur was covering it's eyes a little, and as he brushed it away, he discovered a small gold lightning shaped charm on it's forehead. "A persian lightning hybrid maybe?" He wondered aloud, noticing that it looked a tiny bit like an eeveelution, although a little less foxy, and a little more feline. "Do you think it'll come with me?" He asked Pikachu.

"Pika." His friend replied noncommittally.

"Well, let's see if it, or rather, I believe she, will follow me." Turning, he started to walk away, and much to his surprise, she started to follow, trotting behind him as if she'd been doing so for all her life. "Cool!" He exclaimed, for wild pokemon rarely took to humans so easily.

"Pika-pi, pikachu pika pi chu pika?"

"Pokecenter? What for?"

"Chu pika..." The pokemon sighed, wondering why despite that fact that he'd grown more mature, Ash had still retained much of his denseness.

"Oh, vaccinations, and a check up!" Ash was about to bend down and pick up the pokemon, but then remembered that he was wet. "Maybe I should go to the hotel dry off first?"

"Chu." His buddy nodded in agreement.


Ash emerged from the hotel, dry and clothed in a new attire, with Pikachu perched on his shoulder, and the black pokemon cradled in his arms. As far as he could tell, it seemed content to be held from him, by as much as he could tell by looking at its blood red eyes.

Looking at his watch however, Ash winced. "Oh shit! I'm supposed to meet Akira and Taie in fifteen minutes!" Immediately, he started running down the road, searching for them for they had not arranged a meeting place.


Taie and Akira were waiting for Ash outside a candy shop a few blocks away from the hotel when he came running around the corner, skidding to a stop besides them.

"Sorry about being late!" He panted, sitting down on a bench that was right outside the store.

"That doesn't matter. You're here now, right?" Akira said, glad that he was okay. She had been worried about him... "Say, what's that you're holding?"

"Huh?" He asked, startled. Then he noticed that she was pointing at the new pokemon in his arms. "Oh, her!" He smiled, petting the pokemon fondly on the head, hoping that it wouldn't mind. "I'm not very sure what she is, but she seems to have taken a liking to me..."

Almost as if she understood, the hybrid pokemon licked Ash on the cheek and gave a short 'bark'. Actually, it sounded like a cross between a bark and a meow, but more like a bark.

"What's strange about her though, is not only does she appear to be a hybrid, but she doesn't speak at all... That was the first sound I heard her make." Ash frowned thoughtfully, then shrugged.

Akira looked at her curiously. "She's kinda cute, although her red eyes are a bit spooky."

"I agree about the eyes, though I must admit she *is* kinda cute. She's also a bit young, isn't she?" Taie asked.

Ash nodded.

"Chu." Pikachu agreed from his normal spot on Ash's shoulder.

"Anyway, I suppose we should be walking around town a bit, shouldn't we?" Ash asked, getting up from the bench. "I'd like to stop by a Pokemon Center, if you don't mind... She needs to get vaccinated and to have a check up."

Akira looked at the pokemon sadly, then, without asking, plucked her out of Ash's arms. The hybrid growled and snapped at Akira, but Rika glared at the young pokemon, causing it to settle down a bit. "Hmmm, she seems a bit on the skinny side..." She turned the pokemon over, checking her fur for hidden injuries. "Poor thing." She remarked as she handed it back to Ash.

Taie looked around. "I believe the Pokemon Center is somewhere down the street. Lets go.


Taie had been right about the location of the Pokemon Center, and they entered the center, surprised at the number of people there with Pokemon. Because of the large number of people, they ended up having to sit and wait. Taie was extremely glad she had chosen to leave her pokemon behind, keeping him still in a room full of other pokemon would have been a miracle, especially around other flying types.

The person sitting next to Akira was holding a pokeball in his hands, and he seemed very worried, glancing at the pokeball every now and then and groaning. She watched him for some time, then finally decided to ask him what had happened to his pokemon.

"He was attacked by a gyrados while swimming in a lake," The poor trainer replied, tears forming in his brown eyes. He seemed to be about thirteen or so.

"What kind of pokemon is he?" She asked.

"A dragonite... He's my father's actually..."

Rika immediately perked up. A dragonite? She longed to see how her children had changed over the years. The picture she had seen in the textbook told her they were no longer as graceful as they used to be, which saddened her, but did not change her love for her species.

"Can I see him?" Akira asked the trainer. "Oh, my name's Akira, and this is my dratini Arika, Rika for short."

"Cute dratini." He replied with a small smile. Then, nervously fingering the pokeball, he depressed the release button, and a red light beamed onto the floor, a dragonite taking form where the light touched. The dragonite had several bad bite wounds, and seemed to be losing blood. It looked up sadly at its trainer, but when it saw Akira and Arika, it suddenly perked up, and its eyes were bright, as if it was happy to see them.

"Dragonite!" He exclaimed, about to get up and walk over to her, when his trainer stopped him, as he was injured. "Nite..." He said sadly, still staring at them.

"Dratini ti." Rika said softly. /Hello, my child... You will be well soon, do not worry./ She said in her mind. Akira heard, but it seemed the dragonite had heard to, for he flapped his wings joyfully before his trainer recalled him.

"Beautiful dragonite." Akira said. "I hope he gets well soon."

"I hope so too..." The trainer said. "He seemed to like you a lot though, are you a dragon pokemon trainer?" He asked, but before Akira could answer, a Nurse Joy called him up and he had to go give them his dragonite. At around the same time, Ash too was called up by another Nurse Joy, and they all went up together.

"So, what's wrong with your pokemon?" She asked. She seemed tired, and the whites of her eyes were red from either lack of sleep, crying over the loss of a pokemon patient, or both.

"She's got several cuts, and bruises." Ash replied, putting the hybrid up on the counter.

Joy gasped. "That's a really strange pokemon!" She reached for the pokemon, but it growled at her and barred its teeth. "Umm... Maybe you should hold her in for me so I can sedate her? She doesn't seem to like me very much..."

"She doesn't seem to like very many people," Ash said, picking her up, then turning to the others. "I think I'll stay here with her for some time, you guys go back into town. I'll catch up later. I think Pikachu might want to go with you guys too." He looked at the electric Mouse, who nodded, then jumped into Akira's arms.

"Sure?" Taie asked. Though she really didn't mind Ash going staying behind. She and Akira had things to discuss.

Ash nodded. "You two can take care of yourselves." And he picked up the black pokemon and followed the Nurse Joy.

She led him to a small room, and instructed him to put his pokemon on the table. It was while he was putting the hybrid down that she noted the Pokemon Master silver bangles on his wrists. "You're a Pokemon Master!" She exclaimed.

He nodded. "My name is Ash Ketchum."

"I've heard of you! I can't believe you're here in our town! What brings you to a small place like this?"

"Uhhh..." He scratched the back of his head nervously. "I'm just... on vacation."

"Oh." She said, as she filled a syringe with a sedative. "Mind holding her still? I don't want her biting me."

"Sure." He replied, holding the hybrid tightly. She looked up at him with a questioning expression on her face, then winced as she felt the needle prick through her skin. "There, all done." He told her.

"So," Nurse Joy said as she began cleaning the wounds with an antiseptic. "What's her name?"

"Her name?" Ash blinked. He never really named his pokemon... Just called them by their species.

"Yes, her name. Doesn't she have one?"

"Uhhh... It's Sorrow." He blinked again. Where did that come from? He looked at the newly named 'Sorrow' and she just looked back innocently at him.

"Sorrow huh? It sorta suits her..." She had finished dressing the wounds and had now started bandaging them. "She has nice fur, doesn't she? Kinda like a Jolteon."

"Yeah... Have you ever seen anything like her?"

The Nurse shook her head. "Nope, never. Especially not with red eyes like her's..." She began to check once again for broken bones, and found none. Then she began to search through her fur for any parasites such as ticks, or anything she'd missed, but when she got to her forehead, she felt something under the fur. "Now what's this?" She gently lifted the fur that fell over that area, and frowned when she saw the lightning shaped charm. "Look." She told Ash.

"Oh, that! I have no idea what it is... Think she might be a persian hybrid?"

"I suppose so..." She looked doubtfully at the pokemon. It was very unusual, and she wished she'd be able to study it. "Say, we need some help around here, and you're a Pokemon Master... Maybe you could stop by and help us some time? Tomorrow maybe?"

Ash thought this over. They were going to be around tomorrow, and he doubted that Jay would object. "Sure! Maybe I could even get a friend or two to come along."

"Great!" She exclaimed, and for the first time since Ash had seen her, she looked a bit more relaxed and less stressed. "Its trainer season and we keep getting more injured pokemon than we can handle. Thank you."

"No problem." He picked up the drugged Sorrow. "Well, I have to go now. See you later!" And he left the little room and walked out of the Pokemon Center and into the town. Now, he'd have to find the others...


Taie, Akira, Pikachu and Rika were starting to get bored... The town wasn't the most exciting in the world, and it was in the middle of nowhere...

"Taie?" Akira asked as they stepped into a small souvenir store. "What does Ash being my Guardian mean?" She picked up a tiny glass Onix figure, looking it over and then putting it down carefully.

"Chu, pikachu, pika." Pikachu said, implying that he wanted to know too.

"Well..." Taie frowned thoughtfully. "In the Past, there was a young man who was your sworn Guardian. He was a Lightning/Normal hybrid."

"Hybrid?" Akira asked, confused.

"Yes, or a dual type as they now call them. However, he never fathered a pokemon species like many of the others." She smiled smugly. "I think he was in love with you..."

Kira blushed, and her dratini snickered on her shoulder.

"Anyway, he was like a brother to you. He always followed you around, kept you out of trouble, made sure Calisin treated you right, made sure you were safe..." She paused to look at a glass figure of a Fearow. "Like I said, he was your sworn guardian."

"What does this have to do with Ash though? He's a pokemon Master!"

"And the descendant of Lial! Somehow, I don't know how, but it seems that his abilities are inherited by his descendants. Ash seems to have inherited Lial's instincts to protect you... Don't ask me how though." She picked up a tiny glass pikachu figurine. "I think you should get this for Ash! Isn't it cute?"

"Pika!" Pikachu agreed from his place on Taie's shoulder.

Akira picked it carefully from Taie's palm. "Its so tiny... How do they get all the details in something this size?" Then she noticed a miniature growlithe. "Aww! Look at this one! I think I'll buy these. I have a little money left..." She put the figures down and searched through her pockets. "I have just enough money to buy them." And she walked up to the counter to pay for them.

Taie browsed around while Akira paid for hers and had them wrapped. The store was such a cute little place. There were maps of the town, and guidebooks, there were all sorts of things made by people who lived in the little place.


She spun around, and gasped. "Rosc!" She exclaimed, her eyes nearly bulging out. It was Rosc! This was definitely not the place she'd have expected to find him, she'd thought he'd be in a... more rocky environment.

He looked puzzled though. "How'd you know my name?" He asked.

"You... You don't remember me Rosc?" She sighed, for it had been foolish of her to expect that he could remember. "Nevermind then... I'm Taie."

He nodded. "Nice to meet you Taie. You aren't by any chance traveling with the Pokemon Master, are you? We dont get many travelers so I assume youre a group."

"I am, actually, he's a friend of mine." She looked at Rosc with a faint smile on her lips. He hadn't really changed from the past, still tall, sturdy, with grey eyes, short black hair...

Akira walked up to Taie, leaning close to her and asking her in a low whisper, "Who's he?"

"Akira, meet Rosc, Rosc, meet Akira... Oh, and the dratini is Arika, and the pikachu is, well, Pikachu."

"You and your dratini have very similar names, Akira." He remarked, smiling pleasantly.

Kira grinned. "You can call us Kira and Rika if our names confuse you." She turned back to Taie. "We have to go." She told her.

/Akira, that is the Father of All Rock types. I think he will be traveling with us. / Rika told her mentally, studying the man with her big black eyes.

Kira opened her eyes in surprise. "Umm... But, maybe since you live here, you could give us a tour?" She quickly added.

He grinned. "Anything for two beautiful ladies! And I've lived her all my life, I know it like the back of my hand." He boasted, his grey eyes twinkling.

"Well, that's that then." Taie linked arms with him, winking up at him with her blue and white eyes. She grinned when he looked at her with a surprised look on his face and blushed.

"Heh, well..." He coughed. "I suppose you ladies will like to see that shops first?" He lead them out of the store, and down the road, telling them the basic history of the town, who owned what store, who did what. He was a lot friendlier than Akira would have thought the Father of All Rock types would be...


Ash caught up with them half an hour later. He had found Jyp and Jay browsing through the local library, and had decided to do some quick research on Pokemon Hybrids. Unfortunately, he found nothing, and Jyp and Jay did not find what they were looking for either. They seemed to be done with what they needed to do, and Jyp reluctantly agreed with Jay to go find Akira and Taie with Ash.

Jyp somehow immediately recognized who Rosc was, and told Jay in Growlithe. Initially, Jay had been extremely surprised to find Taie and Akira touring the town with a man that was nearly twice the size of tiny Taie, but when he learnt who Rosc was, he was thankful that they had the sense to hold onto to him. Maybe by spending time with the girls, his memory might be triggered, and the same might happen to Akira. If only he knew what was blocking her mind though... Was it selective amnesia so she would not remember her death? Was it natural? Or had someone planted a mental block in her mind? Jay sighed, he'd find out sooner or later, but hopefully, sooner.

After completing showing the girls around the town, Rosc left, as he had to return to his home and tend to his pokemon, an Onix he had said. Jay realized that complicated things, for how was he to convince Rosc to leave the town he so obviously loved, especially if he did not regain his memory?

"Stop worrying about stuff. It doesn't suit you. You're supposed to be the optimistic one." Jyp whispered sharply, but the slight wag of his tail took away from his harsh tone. "Hey, could you carry me? My paws are getting dirty. You'd think they haven't heard of paved roads..."

Jay picked up the growlithe. "Stop talking." He scolded. "You're supposed to be a normal growlithe. If people find out you can talk-"

"Fine. I'll shut up. You never listen to me about anything anyway." And the growlithe clamped his jaws shut. There seemed to be some tension brewing between him and Jay, lately, but they hid it well.

"So, are you girls done touring the town?" Ash asked. "I'd like to try battling Sorrow against a pokemon, probably pikachu, maybe I can learn more about her by watching her fight."

Jay's eyes lit up like a meowth that had just been given a fresh piece of magikarp. "I'm sure Jyp wouldn't mind, would you Jyp?"

"Hey, wait a min-" Jay quickly used one hand to shut the growlithe up.

"I saw an empty field somewhere near the edge of the town where they can fight without any disturbances." He interrupted swiftly, his hand still holding the growlithe's jaws shut.

Ash wondered what Jay was up to, but followed anyway. When they reached the field, he set down Sorrow, whom he had been carrying. She looked around the field a bit, then looked at the Growlithe with a puzzled look on her face. "You're going to fight him." Ash told her.

She still looked puzzled, as if asking why.

Jay laughed. "She's a wild pokemon Ash. They don't fight unless they have a reason."

"Maybe we shouldn't fight her then?" Kira suggested.

"Don't worry." Ash replied. "I have plenty of experience with wild pokemon." He looked down at the black Sorrow, then at Jyp. "Have Jyp attack first." He told Jay.

"Jyp, tackle!"

Jyp ran at the young pokemon and tackled her, knocking her to the ground. He had taken her by surprise, but she immediately wriggled out from under him, then latched herself onto his leg with her teeth. The growlithe winced, and tried to shake her off, but she would not let go. Finally, he used ember on her, and she yelped in surprise, letting go of his leg. He tackled her again, and she retaliated with a lightning attack that Ash had never seen before, and then tried to bite Jyp again, but he swiftly leapt out of her way.

She whined in frustration, apparently annoyed by his ability to dodge most of her attacks. After a moments though, she ran full speed at him, imitating his tackle attack and succeeded in knocking him down. However, she realized he had let her attack connect on purpose and electrocuted him for that. He grinned at her, and it dawned on her that he was just playing with her.

Sorrow sat down defiantly and glared at him with her red eyes. Jyp just shrugged however, and winked at her before trotting back to Jay.

"Okay, Sorrow, come here." Ash called, and she ran towards him, glad the battle was over.

"She's quite inexperienced." Jay remarked, grinning. "But she has quite a temper. Kinda like Akira... Ow!" He exclaimed as the blue-haired girl punched him in the shoulder. "See what I mean?" He told Ash and Taie, who both laughed.

"Chupika." Pikachu said with a grin, agreeing with Jay.

"Hey!" Akira exclaimed. "Why's everyone gaining up on me?"

/Well, you *do* have quite a temper sometimes.../ Rika said.

"You too?" Akira asked, then she sighed. "Fine, so I have a temper... There's nothing wrong with that."

"Not when you hit people." Jay remarked, earning another punch from Kira. "Alright, alright. No more about your temper and hitting people." He surrendered.


"Is anyone else hungry?" Ash asked. "Pikachu's stomach is rumbling in my ear, and I don't know when was the last time Sorrow was fed."

"Hah! Excuses, excuses!" Jyp said with a snort. "You just want to have support so that we can go eat." The growlithe then looked at his own stomach. "Come to think of it, mine is rather empty too." He added ruefully.

Jay rolled his eyes and sighed. "If feeding you will keep you from speaking english in public Jyp, lets go eat." He opened his wallet and looked at the contents somewhat sadly. "You guys eat like you've been starved for months..." And he put it back in his jeans' pocket.

"I saw a nice looking place not too far from here." Taie suggested.

"Expensive?" Jay asked.

"Nah, didn't *look* expensive." She grabbed Jay's hand. "Come on, I'll show you!" And she dragged him out of the field and back into town, the other right behind.


That night, they had all long returned to the hotel, getting ready to sleep. Taie and Akira shared one room, Ash and Jay shared another. This night, it was Ash's turn to sleep on the couch, and although the couch was actually quite comfortable, he couldn't sleep. Something, rather, several somethings, were bothering him...

"Jay?" He called out, wondering if the gym leader was still awake.

"Hmmm?" The other man answered sleepily. "It's in the middle of the night Ash..." He added, sitting up and yawning.

"Where *do* you get your money? I know Gym Leaders are well paid, but you seem to have an awfully deep wallet for a gym leader..."

"I have other jobs." Jay replied in a dismissive tone, lying down to go back to sleep.

"What other jobs?" Ash asked, curiously.

"You really don't need to know Ash, lets just leave it at that." He paused. "I have a feeling you wouldn't approve anyway." And he closed his eyes to go back to sleep.

Ash knotted his brows in confusion. Jay had not answered his question, and had rather left him with more questions. He had a feeling that whatever other jobs Jay did, they probably weren't very legal... He sighed. These days were bleak days in their world, especially with the rise of Team Rocket. People now routinely not only kept pokemon for protection, but weapons... It'd been a very long time since people needed to carry weapons on themselves, and hired killers were quite common again. It wouldn't surprise Ash too much to find that Jay was one of those people, someone who killed for money... Although he didn't exactly strike Ash as the type, Jay had a fighter's body, and had obviously gone through training. He moved with the grace of someone who knew how to use a sword, and although he was a very easygoing person, he tended to be very cautious, as if expecting something to jump out and attack. Ash suspected he carried some sort of weapon, most likely a knife, with him at all times.

He rolled over, unable to sleep. There were too many questions on his mind... Firstly, he couldn't sort out all the memories in his head. It was like having read several biographies at once, and being confused as to what happened to who and when. Sometimes he wished he had never stopped by Reva to battle Jay, but then, he never would have met Akira... Ash smiled fondly. There was just something about her... He'd never felt that way about anyone, even Misty!

Misty... It had been some time since Ash had thought about her, been some time since he'd talked to her... He wondered whether she'd like how he'd turned out now. He didn't even know if he himself liked how he had turned out.

A soft whine distracted him, and he turned his head, finding himself looking into two bright red eyes. It was Sorrow. Obviously, she couldn't sleep either. Ash grinned and sat up slowly, so as not to disturb Pikachu who was sleeping on the other end of the couch, and picked her up from the floor. "Can't sleep either?" He whispered to her, which he knew was silly, for how could she understand him? "Well, no matter, we can stay up together." And he put her on his lap, stroking her spiky fur as he confided in the silent pokemon, whispering his doubts about all this to her. He didn't think she understood, but it felt good to tell someone, *anyone*, about what was going on in his head.

Eventually, the pair fell asleep, Sorrow curled up on Ash's lap, her head draped over one of his arms, and Ash sitting in the couch with his head titled back. One had to admit, they made a cute sight.


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