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Exquisite Corpse 2020: Ash Betrayal II

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
You thought the betrayal had ended? Fools. The betrayal knows no bounds. It transcends time, space, and logic. Thus the stage is set on our young protagonist Ashura Ketchum, destined to face the fires of treachery once again. Six great and powerful authors have come together to weave this epic tale, knowing only the final two lines of their predecessor, as well as the precious few Pokemon to remain at Ash's side. You will find the authors alphabetized below:
Dragonfree
Namohysip
Negrek
The Walrein
Umbramatic
windskull
The author of each segment will be spoil-tagged at the bottom of their creation, so that you may keep yourself in suspense as to their true identity until the time is right. No epic tale would be complete without an audience--all comments and reactions are welcome in this thread. Are you ready? The betrayal begins anew...

Thousand Roads' Exquisite Corpse 2020
Ash Betrayal II

Ash had stopped by his old house in Pallet Town, and was currently eating sandwiches with Pikachu as he explained his latest adventures to his mother. “...and so we finally found Lusamine, but her head was stuck inside this Nihilego, and her hair had turned a different color, and she was really strong, so we figured she must have undergone some sort of super-saiyan-like transformation by fusing with the Ultra-Beast!”

“Mmm-hmm. Is Nihilego the one that looks like a big steel tower, or is it the little origami one?” Delia asked, half her attention focused on solving yesterday’s crossword puzzle.

“Come on mom, pay attention! Nihilego are like Tentacruel, except they sort of look like a floating white wig wearing a sun hat. I dunno, they’re weird. Anyways, Lillie wanted to try to talk to Lusamine, but Sophocles said that wouldn’t work and we should just try to blast her out of it, and he’s watched way more episodes of Dragon Ball Z than Lillie has, so Pikachu and I thought he’d probably know what to do best in these sort of super-saiyan-fusion situations. So I got out my Z-crystal, but then it started sparking and suddenly transformed into this super-ultra Z-crystal which let Pikachu do an even stronger Z-move than normal, which was like a thunderbolt but a hundred times stronger, so we called it Ten-Million-Volt-Thunderbolt!”

“Chuuuuuu!” Pikachu cried, reenacting the scene with a minor discharge of electricity that briefly made the lights in the house flicker, an event Delia ignored with practiced calm.

“And so the thunderbolt hit the Nihilego, and it let go of Lusamine and went away, and Lusamine was somehow totally fine despite getting hit with an attack that could kill a dozen Copperajah! So everything worked out great!”

Delia took a sip of tea as she filled in seven down. “That’s nice, dear. You sure do have an active imagination.”

“It’s not my imagination, mom, it all really happened!” Ash insisted.

“Pika, pika!” Pikachu confirmed, nodding solemnly.

“Uh-huh. So can I see this… what did you call it, that super X-crystal of yours?”

“Z-crystal! I’d show it to you, but it suddenly turned back into a normal Z-crystal after the battle so it doesn’t look special anymore.”

“I’m sure. Did you manage to catch and bring back any of those Ultra-Beasts?”

“We caught loads of Ultra-Beasts! But we had to release them all back into Ultra-Space.”

“Mmmm, I see. Well, I’m glad you had fun during your vacation in Alola.”

Ash finished up the rest of his sandwich and got to his feet. “Yeah, it was great! You know, I bet if you got me some Dragon Ball Z DVDs, I could’ve come up with that plan to save Lusamine instead of Sophocles!”

“Maybe when your next birthday comes around...” Delia said, eyes twinkling.

“Aw, but mom, you know that’ll never happen!” Ash protested.

Delia chuckled. “Now now, everyone grows up some day! And, oh, I just remembered! Before you head out of town again, Professor Oak called to say he wants to see you about something or other. Some sort of new research project, apparently the sort that ten-year-olds can help with.”

“Okay, I’ll go see what he wants. Thanks for the sandwiches, mom!” Ash said as he headed out the door.

“Pika!” Pikachu cried as he followed him out.

***​

When the two got to Oak’s lab, they were immediately informed by one of his aides that he was running an errand elsewhere in Pallet Town. Rather than sit at the lab and wait for him to get back, Ash and Pikachu decided to go out looking for Oak. The two tore across Pallet Town, barging into stranger’s houses and leaping over hedgerows, but couldn’t find any sight of the old professor.

“Dang! We’ve been searching for fifteen minutes and we still haven’t found him!” Ash said, checking his watch. “If we don’t find him soon, Team Rocket will show up since they haven’t already within the past twenty-two minutes, and then we’ll be stuck dealing with them for the rest of the episode! We’ve got to do something fast!”

“Chu?” Pikachu asked.

“Hmm…. I know! How about you stay behind for a bit, and then I’ll step into the tall grass north of town! I bet the instant I leave town without a Pokemon, Professor Oak will appear and yell at me for it!”

Pikachu nodded in assent. “Pika, pika!”

Ash traveled to the town’s northern border, demarcated by a wall of waist-high grass. He took a deep breath, then took one step outside the town.

And then… nothing! Well, it was worth a shot, Ash thought. He turned to head back into Pallet, then gave a start of surprise. Standing in front of him was a tall, red-eyed teenager wearing blue jeans, a red jacket, and a Pokemon League cap much like Ash’s own. Sitting on his shoulder was none other than Pikachu, who was glaring at Ash with an expression of contempt that took him aback.

“P-Pikachu? Who’s that?” Ash asked, mouth hanging open.

“I’m Red, Ash!” the teenager said, striking a surly pose. “I’m just like you, except cooler in every possible way! I don’t have any annoying hanger-ons like Misty or Brock because I travel alone, except for all my Pokemon, which I have a lot of because I never release any of them and always make sure to get all the most popular and powerful ones in every region! When I make Pokemon battle, sometimes they die, because that’s gritty and realistic! And instead of fighting goofy, uniform-wearing “teams” I fight real criminals who use guns, except I also still fight Team Rocket but they’re an edgy, dangerous version of Team Rocket who perform sick and twisted experiments on Pokemon, some of which turn them into deadly gun-wielding cyborgs, who use guns!”

Ash’s head spun as he tried to process all of it. “W-wait, you make Pokemon die? That’s evil! Pikachu, what are you doing with him!?”

“Pika, pikachu! Pik, pika-pi! Chu! Chu!” Pikachu snapped, sparks emitting from his cheeks.

“You abandoned him, Ash. Tossed him aside like he was so much garbage. Was it any surprise that he’d decide to join up with the most bad-ass trainer in town instead of come crawling back to you?”

“I only left you behind for like two seconds so I could try the plan to get Oak to appear!” Ash pleaded, tears starting to stream down his eyes.

Pikachu stuck his tongue out at Ash while making a rude gesture Ash hadn’t known the physiology of his paw allowed for.

“Come on Pikachu, let’s ditch this loser,” Red said, and started to shove his way past him onto route one.

“Pikachu, wait! You can’t just leave me like this! We shared so many good times together!” Ash cried, reaching out to grab him off of Red’s shoulder.

“CHUUUUU!” In response, Pikachu zapped him with a powerful thundershock that made Ash’s hair stand on end and sent him sprawling to the ground. He tried to get up, but his muscles spasmed and he collapsed again. Stunned, Ash stared up into the sky as Red’s footsteps receded into the distance. A light rain began to fall, the cold water running down his face and mixing with his tears.

“Ash! There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you! What are you doing lying down on the ground?”

Turning his head, Ash saw Professor Oak striding towards him, a genial smile on his face. With his assistance, Ash got to his feet, and suppressed his sobbing long enough to communicate what had just happened.

“My my, that Red character sounds rather dreadful! But no need to worry! I’ve got something back at the lab certain to resolve this situation!” Oak said.

Ash wiped away his tears. “Really? You can help get Pikachu back?”

“Of course! Now, just follow me...” The two made their way to Oak’s lab, where he ushered Ash into what appeared to be a cluttered storage room. He removed a vial from a shelf and poured something into his hand. “What I want to show you is… this!” Oak whirled around and threw a cloud of fine powder into Ash’s face. He coughed and staggered backwards.

“Parasect spores? How will that help get Pikachu back?” Ash asked, as his vision began to fade. Oak only grinned as Ash slowly slumped to the floor.

***​

When Ash came to again, he found himself dangling in midair, suspended by a rope tied around his waist and arms. Looking around, he was in a cavernous, windowless room filled with large machines and equipment of indeterminate purpose. Hearing a harsh grinding sound, Ash looked directly below to see a large metal box filled with whirring buzzsaws, mechanical arms wielding syringes and scalpels, and ruby-red laser beams. Sitting at a desk next to the box was Oak, looking intently into a computer monitor.

“Oak? What… what’s going on?”

Professor Oak turned his attention towards Ash and beamed. “Science, Ash! Science is going on! You see, it hasn’t escaped my notice that you’ve been adventuring for over twenty years now, but have still retained the mind and body of a ten-year-old child. Obviously, there’s some special factor endowing you with eternal youth, and I aim to discover it! So to that end, I’m going to put you into my Science Machine, so I can do a Science on you and resolve this mystery!” Oak hit a button on his keyboard. A creaking sound emitted from above Ash, as an automated winch began to turn, very slowly lowering Ash towards the bowels of the device.

Ash stared down at the gnashing saws and sinister apparatus. “Uh, this Science Machine thingy doesn’t look very safe,” he noted.

“An apt observation. I expect the process to be one-hundred-percent fatal. But the benefit to humanity will be more than worth the cost.”

“I don’t understand – how can I benefit from getting Pikachu back if I’m dead?”

“What are you talking – oh. You see, Ash, I tricked you. This has nothing whatsoever to do with getting Pikachu back,” Oak said.

Ash gasped. “You tricked me?”

“Indeed. It wasn’t difficult.”

“But – why? How could you betray me like this? I’ve helped you so much with your research over the years! Think of all the Pokemon I’ve sent back to you!”

Oak scoffed. “Oh yes, suddenly having to take care of those thirty Tauros you sent back that one day was a huge boost to my productivity. And it certainly is a big aid having to spend half my grant money feeding that Snorlax you conveniently drop off here every time you don’t need him for a battle. Why, with all the help you’ve given me, I barely had the time and funding left to build this Science Machine!”

“...so if you admit I’ve helped you so much, then why are you-” Ash started.

“It’s called sarcasm, Ash.” Oak sighed. “Look it up. Or rather, don’t, since you’re about to get ground into convenient Science-sized chunks in just a minute now.”

“Oh,” Ash said.

With a puff of smoke, Arceus teleported into the room, hovering in midair beside Ash. “ASH! YOU ARE THE CHOSEN ONE! ONLY YOU CAN SAVE THE WORLD!” they boomed.

“I’m the chosen one again!? Wow!” Ash exclaimed.

“YES. IT COMES WITH THE POWER TO UNDERSTAND THE SPEECH OF POKEMON, AND ALSO TO GET TEN PERCENT OFF ALL ORDERS OF NINE-NINETY-NINE OR HIGHER AT ARBY’S. BUT ONLY AT PARTICIPATING LOCATIONS!”

“That’s cool. Does it come with any powers that would be useful for getting out of this situation?” Ash was getting alarmingly close to the spinning saws now, almost to the point where he’d have to lift up his legs to stay clear of them.

“NO,” Arceus said.

“Okay. Could you use any of your awesome god-like powers to help me out here?”

“NO. FOR COMPLICATED REASONS I DON’T HAVE TIME TO EXPLAIN AND WHICH YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND ANYWAYS, I ACTUALLY WANT THE WORLD TO END! SO FOR THAT REASON, I DECIDED TO JUST ‘CHOOSE’ THE FIRST PERSON I CAME ACROSS WHO LOOKED LIKE THEY WERE IMMEDIATELY ABOUT TO DIE, AND YOU FIT THE BILL.”

“Oh, really? Dang!”

“‘DANG’ IS RIGHT. GOODBYE ASH, AND GOODBYE, WORLD! A-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!” Arceus cackled, and disappeared in another puff of smoke.

“So, uh, now that you know the whole world’s going to die if I do since I’m the Chosen One now, are you going to not kill me?” Ash asked Oak.

Oak gave a derisive snort. “Don’t be ridiculous, Ash. I’m a scientist! We don’t believe in Arceus! In fact, I’m one-hundred-percent convinced everything I just witnessed was some sort of bizarre shared hallucination!”

“Oh.”

A door burst open at the edge of the room, and Delia Ketchum ran in.

Ash gasped. “Mom! You’ve come to save me!”

In response, Delia shook her head. “What? No. I just wanted to know what was taking Sammy so long to get the anti-aging solution!” she said.

Oak hemmed. “Now, now, Science can’t be rushed, you know! The incredibly protracted and dramatic rope-lowering sequence is a critical part of the Science Machine’s operation!”

“Mom? You’re also betraying me? But I’m your only son!” Ash cried.

“And you’ve been my only son for thirty-four years, now! Do you know how much it takes to raise a child in today’s day and age? Especially one who’s on a never-ending Pokemon journey? That premium Pokemon Center subscription isn’t free, you know!”

“I can’t believe this! Why is everyone suddenly turning against me today!?” This had to be some sort of nightmare, Ash thought. He bit down on his lip, hard. With a poof of smoke, Darkrai materialized in the room.

“Ash! You were correct! This is all a nightmare of my design!” Darkrai cackled.

“I knew it! Now I just have to focus really hard on waking up, and - OW!” Ash yelped as a saw-blade cut into his foot. “That really hurt!”

“Ha! Psych! This isn’t a dream!” Darkrai said. “I just came here to tell you that I’m betraying you too!”

“Were we ever even friends?” Ash asked.

“I dunno, maybe in one of the movies? There’s, like, a lot of them,” Darkrai said. “Haven’t seen them all myself, but I heard the one with Lucario is pretty good. Too bad you’re never gonna watch it ‘cause you’re about to die! A-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” With another puff of smoke, Darkrai dematerialized.

A Spearow flew into the room through the open door. “Ash! It’s me!” she squawked.

“Um, sorry, do I know you? And, whoa, cool, I guess that understand-Pokemon power really works!”

The Spearow flew over to Oak’s computer and pecked at a button. Immediately, the winch reversed direction, and started to lift Ash out of the machine. “I’m one of the Spearow who was attacking Pikachu back in episode one! We were trying to warn you about his traitorous nature!” she yelled while fending off Professor Oak’s attempts to swat her away and regain control of the machine.

“Oh, cool! So you’re not betraying me?”

“Yes, that’s right! I’m doing the opposite of that! Whatever that’s called! Now swing over the side of the machine!”

“Um, okay...” Ash swung his legs back and forth like he was on a swing set, and eventually gained enough momentum to where the apex of the arc took him out from over the Science Machine. Seeing this, the Spearow turned her attention away from Oak and bit through the rope supporting Ash when he was over the floor. He crashed to the ground, and managed to struggle free of the ropes with the Spearow’s assistance.

“Stop him, Tauros!” Oak cried, throwing down a pokeball. A Psyduck emerged in a flash of light.

“Psy!” the duck said, clutching their forehead. Oak groaned.

“Wait, aren’t you Misty’s Psyduck? What are you doing here?” Ash asked.

“I betrayed Misty and joined up with Oak! All the cool Pokemon are doing betrayals now! Psy!”

“Misty betrayed Ash recently, so to keep consistent with betraying her, you should not help catch Ash!” the Spearow said.

“Wait, she did? And, wait, you aren’t one of the ‘cool Pokemon’!” Ash said.

“Ignore him, he’s an idiot,” Spearow said.

“Yes, I noticed that a long time ago! Psyduck!”

“Hey!”

“Let’s just hurry up and get out of here! Go!” Ash and Spearow raced for the exit.

“You’re being selfish, Ash! Think of all the good your body could be doing if it was getting ground up in that Science Machine now instead of escaping from my lab!” Oak yelled after him.

“Sorry, I’m not really into that whole ‘thinking’ stuff!” Ash called back. He slipped past his mother and raced down the corridors of Oak’s lab. He made it to the lobby, but stopped short when he saw a wall of Oak’s lab aides standing in the front of the exit, each of them with powerful Pokemon out.

“We’re also betraying you!” the aides chorused.

“Not me! I’m an unpaid intern only doing this to get ten-year-old murdering experience to put on my resume for when I apply to Team Rocket!” one of them said.

“It’ll be tough getting past that many Pokemon. Any ideas?” Spearow asked.

“I know!” Ash reached into his pocket and pulled out his Electrium Z. It emitted yellow sparks, then suddenly changed into a Flyinium Z. “Ha! And my mom said I was just making it up!” he said gleefully. “Let’s do it, Spearow! Supersonic Skystrike!”

“I have no idea what just happened there, but whatever!” Spearow glowed bright with the power of the Z-move, then charged forward with a rush of wind, bowling over the aides and their Pokemon. Ash sprinted out of the lab after her.

“Now what?” he asked.

“We can hide from them in Viridian Forest! Hold on, I know Fly!” Spearow called. Ash grabbed hold of her talons, and the two flew north until they reached the middle of the forest. They descended through the canopy and touched down in a small clearing.

“Wow, that was intense! Thanks for the help!” Ash said.

“Don’t be so quick to thank me, Ash. I’m doing this for my own reasons,” Spearow said. “You see, unlike Arceus, for incredibly complicated reasons I don’t have time to explain right now and which you probably wouldn’t understand anyways, I don’t want the world to end! Which means I have to keep you from dying, since you’re the Chosen One now!”

Ash puzzled this over for a moment. “Wait, why do you need complicated reasons to not want the world to end? Doesn’t pretty much everyone want that?”

Spearow’s eyes narrowed, and she cawed in a low voice. “No. You see, the reasons I don’t want the world to end are related to my troubled, tragic, and incredibly, incredibly long and detailed backstory, which I have no doubt will be thoroughly explored in future chapters of this fic.”

“Oh,” Ash said, although he still didn’t really understand. “So, what do we do now?”

“Now? Now you die, Ash!” a voice called out from the woods surrounding the clearing.

“What? Who said that!?” Ash yelled, peering into the dense foliage.

“Do you remember me, Ash? I was once one of your staunchest supporters and most loyal allies. But then you abandoned me, Ash. Tossed me aside like I was so much garbage!”

“Oh, it’s you. Of course. I should’ve known you would end up joining the Arceans,” Spearow spat, glaring at something Ash still couldn’t make out. “I’m just surprised you’re bold enough to confront us so directly. Where was that courage during the battle of Mt. Coronet, I wonder?”

You’re certainly one to talk of courage, Spearow. If you’re so brave, where are all your allies, little birdy? Or did none of them manage to survive your cowardice?” the voice shot back.

“Um… should I know what’s going on here?” Ash said.

“No, this war has been brewing for longer than you’ve been alive, even taking into account your unnaturally-protracted youth,” Spearow growled. “You have no idea how deep the Lopunny hole goes, Ash. No. Idea!”

“Like, a few feet, maybe? I’m pretty sure Shovelby are the ones that dig deep holes,” Ash replied.

“We’re getting off-topic,” the voice in the woods said. “As I was saying, Ash, after you so rudely abandoned me, casting me aside the instant you found someone better, I was left to scrounge in the garbage, fighting with feral Magnemite for the batteries I needed to survive. And that was where I found someone else you’d betrayed and cast aside, a broken shell of their former self.”

“Wait… that voice… I recognize you now!” Ash gasped. “You’re...”

Dexter! That’s right, your old Pokedex!” Dexter cried. They slowly rolled out of the trees, perched on top of the seat of...

Misty’s old bike!? You’re here too!?”

“That’s right, Ash!” Dexter said, staring him down with their cold, mechanical camera eye. “But I’ve given her a few, shall we say, upgrades. Now, prepare to be betrayed and reduced to garbage the same way you betrayed us! By a salvo of heat-seeking missiles!” Dexter the Pokedex cackled madly from atop their seat on Misty’s old bike, as missile after missile shot out of launchers strapped to the bike’s frame and screamed towards Ash and Spearow.

The Walrein
----​

Ash screeched to a halt, eyes wide in horror as the missiles converged, all flying right towards him. But then he smirked and slapped a fist into an open palm. “You think I wouldn’t come prepared for this? Bring it on!”

At the last second, the spearow hopped off his shoulder, taking flight in front of him. A bright, shimmering barrier of light appeared in front them, and the missiles collided near-harmlessly against it. The tension in the air was palpable as smoke billowed up from the impact site. Pikachu narrowed his eyes, sparks flying out of his cheeks as they watched from atop the handlebars.

What happened next will shock you.

As the smoke cleared away, Ash stood arms crossed with his spearow resting on his shoulder, looking completely unfazed by the attack.

Smugly, Ash cocked his head. “Oh, was that supposed to tickle?”

“Th-that’s impossible!” Dexter screeched, practically hopping out of the seat with rage. “How could you block an attack like that?”

“Did you think I wouldn’t expect an attack like this after everything you’ve done? Of course, I’m teaching my new partner a way to protect herself.”

To punctuate his words, the spearow chirped, rubbing her head up against Ash’s cheek. Pikachu let out a low growl, cheeks sparking as the pokedex continued to sputter in anger. “H-how dare you! How could you betray us like this?”

“Betray you? I believe it’s you that betrayed me!” Ash jabbed a finger towards the bike accusingly. “You and Pikachu running off with Brock and Misty without me, going on about how I’d just been faking my friendship this whole time? I think you’re the fake friends around here! No, wait, you’re just a machine, not even good enough to be a fake friend. But that’s alright, because I have new, better friends now.”

Flashing a toothy grin, Ash reached into his pockets and grabbed a pokeball in each hand. He clicked the button once, waiting for them to grow to active release size, then threw them both in unison. Both pokeballs bounced against the ground, releasing the pokemon inside with a flash of energy. On his left was a riolu, bouncing excitedly from foot to foot. To his right was a raichu, who gave Pikachu a smug look.

Ash didn’t wait for Dexter to make some witty come back, because this isn’t some comedy Anime. Instead, he began barking out orders.

“Raichu, keep Pikachu distracted. Riolu and Spearow, go for the ‘dex!”

Each let out a cry of acknowledgement, Raichu bounded forward, sparking at the cheeks as it raced towards Pikachu with a devilish grin. Riolu dashed towards the right, using its Quick Attack skill to move at near blinding speed. Spearow, on the other hand, took to the air, circling high in the air out of Pikachu’s attack range, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.

Pikachu let out a startled cry, leaping away from the bike before striking at Raichu with a bolt of electricity. The blow didn’t even faze the raichu, however, who responded by dashing into Pikachu head-first.

As soon as Pikachu was away from the bike, Spearow dove, grabbing hold of Dexter with her talons. She struggled to take to the air, but Riolu stepped up to relieve her of her burden. He sped back to Ash, ignoring the pokedex’s angry cries. Alas, they had used up all their missiles.

Riolu calmly deposited the pokedex into Ash’s palm, then sat down beside him, watching the battle between Pikachu and Raichu play out with an amused grin on his face.

Ash sat the pokedex on the ground and placed his foot on it.

“Y-You don’t have to do this!” Dexter called out in alarm. But Ash stared down at him with a cold, callous look.

“This is for calling me stupid.” With a single, hard stomp, Ash shattered Dexter’s screen. There was the sound of electronic bits cracking and breaking apart, then nothing.

Ash glanced back up at the sound of a pained cry. Pikachu was on the ground, looking worse for wear. He looked up, saw the broken remains of Dexter and the now three pokemon leering down at him. Pikachu’s tail drooped. He let out a sad noise and then turned and darted into the bushes.

Raichu began to chase after him, but Ash called out for them to stop. “Don’t worry about him,” he called. “I don’t think we’ll be seeing anything of Pikachu after this.” His pokemon gave him a terse nod, then turned to walk back towards him.

Ash stepped over the broken pokedex, grabbing hold of the bike’s handlebars. “That was… disappointing,” he said with a shake of his head. “I can’t believe Dexter though I betrayed them. Me! I would never do that.”

Digging into his pockets, he pulled out a map. “Looks like we aren’t far from Pewter City. What do you guys say we give Brock a visit, see what he has to say for himself.”

His pokemon let out their own cries of agreement. Spearow landed on his shoulder, while Raichu chose to return to the pokeball.

Riolu smirked, following behind Ash as he began to bike towards Pewter City in search of Brock. With Dexter gone, everything was falling into place: soon, Ash would sever the remaining bonds with his friends, and then Riolu could reign supreme as mascot of all Pokemon.

windskull
----​

Riolu was just starting to work up a sweat when Ash's bike clattered from packed earth to the paving stones of Pewter's streets. Riolu ran alongside at a light, easy pace, enjoying the chance to stretch his legs. There would be many more days like this, with him alone at Ash's side. Already heads turned when the two of them passed. Of course--riolu were rare pokémon, rarer even than pikachu. It was only natural for people to take notice when one went past.

Ash's destination was obvious. Pewter's gym loomed above the town's humble slate-roofed buildings, casting a long, dark shadow in the late afternoon light. Riolu picked up speed, already grinning as he thought of the scene ahead, and as a result almost missed it when Ash turned down a side street and shot off in a different direction. Riolu skidded into a wide turn and dashed frantically after. What, had Ash caught sight of Brock out on the street? He wasn't having second thoughts, was he?

Riolu sped around the corner, only to find Ash parking his bike and dashing into a stone-hewn building, much smaller than the gym but easily the largest on the street. The pokémon center? Why would he be headed there?

In one, two, three bounding strides Riolu was through the sliding doors and dashing across the tile. Ash leaned against the counter, red in the face and breathing heavily, talking a mile a minute.

"I'm sorry, sir!" said the human behind the counter. A nurse: pink loops of fur, red and white crest. "Chan-chan will be back in just a moment. Dr. Brock's working on a very tricky case, but I'm sure he'll see you as soon as he can."

Riolu followed Ash over to one of the Center's cracking pink couches, jumping up and snuggling immediately under his trainer's hand. He was rewarded when Ash started to stroke him around the ears, staring thunderously at the floor. Riolu caught Ash's other hand straying towards the pokéballs on his belt and pushed his way closer, blocking its path.

"I can't believe it, Riolu," Ash muttered under his breath. "Gary, Professor Oak... and now Brock, too?"

"Ash!" Riolu didn't recognize the voice, but his trainer turned immediately, tensing as if for a fight. A red-white-crested chansey was leading a tall, dark human in their direction.

"Brock," Ash said, but if the other human noticed his cold tone, they didn't respond to it.

"Are you okay, Ash? Chan-chan said it was an emergency."

"It's an emergency," Ash said. "Professor Oak told me everything. He told me what you've been hiding."

"Oh? What I've been--what have I been hiding?" Brock frowned down at Ash and Riolu. "Where's Pikachu?" they asked.

"He's right here," Ash said, and this time Riolu's shove didn't deter him from grabbing Raichu's pokéball.

Brock took a step back when Raichu formed in front of him, stretching and shaking the last of the glowing energy from his fur. "Ash, what happened?" they asked.

"What happened is I realized I need to get stronger," Ash said, rising to his feet with fists clenched at his sides. Riolu watched him go, silently gleeful. Yes. Fight! "Pikachu did, too. We need to get stronger so we can fulfill our real destiny." Ash took a step forward, Raichu by his side, and Riolu realized he was being left behind. Scrambling to his feet, he leapt between his trainer and Brock, letting out a bark of challenge.

"Sorry, Ash, but I don't know what you're talking about," Brock said. "Hey, why don't we head over to my place? I can make some jelly donuts, and we can talk. I can see you're upset, but--"

"Stop lying, Brock!" Ash's hands shook, white at the knuckles. Riolu growled and let out another bark, trying to sound fierce rather than elated. "Professor Oak. Told. Me. Everything. It's over, do you understand me? Are you going to tell me the truth, or are you going to make me battle you for it?" Raichu crackled with electricity, tail lashing behind him while he advanced on Brock. Riolu summoned aura in dancing blue wisps around his paws and strode forward himself, staying one step ahead of Raichu.

"Ash, please!" Brock said, raising their hands and stepping back again. The chansey scooted out in front of him, chirping sternly. "Let's just talk about this!"

"There's nothing to talk about, Brock," Ash said. "It's time to tell me the truth. Who is my father?"

"I don't know! Ash, I don't know what Professor Oak said to you, but--"

"You're lying!" Tears ran down Ash's face, and he and Brock were now the center of attention for the whole building, surrounded by a loose ring of chansey, nurses, and staring trainers who'd simply come in for a routine heal. Riolu shifted his gaze between Brock and the watchers, daring any of them to break ranks and get involved. "You've been lying to me ever since we first met. I thought we were friends, Brock."

"We are friends, Ash! Please, listen to me for a minute!"

"Who is he, Brock? Who's my father? You know! I know you do! Professor Oak wouldn't tell me, but I know you know, and if you ever really cared about me as a friend, even a little bit, you'll tell me now!"

Brock shook his head. Riolu could see him glancing around as well, no doubt looking for backup. That was fine. Riolu was prepared to take on anyone. This would be his first big battle with Ash. Soon everyone would see he was the strongest, the most worthy pokémon there was.

"Please!" Ash said, and Brock looked away, sighing.

"Ash, I'm sorry," he said. "I wanted to tell you, but--"

"I don't care! Just tell me! Who is it, Brock?"

The human grimaced, and Riolu hoped they wouldn't say anything. Then Riolu would get to fight them and show off how much stronger he was than Raichu, and Ash would be one step closer to realizing who his only true friend was. Brock went on, though, slowly: "Ash... your father... it's Mew."

Negrek
----​

"...Which Mew?" Ash said. "We've met at least two of them."

"Beats me if I know," said Brock. "All I know is it's A Mew."

"Well we've got to find out before Tracey tries to kill us again," said Ash.

The two continued along the forest path they were on, Ash's Pokemon in tow, when Ash turned to Brock.

"Do I have... Mew powers?"

"Again, beats me. I only know about the aura ones."

"Can't Mew shapeshift? Hold on..."

He concentrated very hard, then shimmered rapidly as he transformed into a Riolu.

<That's just freaky,> said his Riolu.

<Ha!> Ash said. <This will give me the power to beat Tracey!>

"YOU RANG?" said a voice.

Billowing smoke poured from the forest as Tracey emerged from it, wearing a ridiculous evil overlord outfit.

"FOOLS! EVEN WITH THE POWER OF MEW YOU CANNOT STOP MEGA GIGANTIMAX Z-POWER TRACEY! I WILL COMPLETE MY BETRAYAL OF YOU, ASH!"

<No! As Ash's only friend, I will stop you!> said Riolu.

He lunged himself aside, only for Tracey to effortlessly swat him aside with one finger into a tree.

<F,> said Spearow.

"PATHETIC," said Tracey. "I NEED A REAL CHALLENGE!"

"And you'll get one!" said Ash.

Brock produced popcorn.

Ash transformed into Ho-Oh and struck Tracey with a Sacred Fire. Tracey countered with a blast of eldritch darkness, and then the two clashed and writhed until Ho-Oh Ash pinned Tracey down.

"Now I've got you!" said Ash.

"FOOL!" Mega Gigantimax Z-Power Tracey said, "YOUR NEWFOUND MEW SHAPESHIFTING POWERS CANNOT PREPARE YOU FOR THIS!"

It was then Raichu, silent this whole time, pulled a gun on Ash, saying <This is for forcing me to evolve.>

Umbramatic
----​

Ash silently transformed into his black Mew form and took on a flaring blue glow. “So… you’ve all betrayed me.”

Raichu’s face contorted with hatred as he pulled the trigger, but Ash easily disintegrated the bullet with a flick of his tail before it could hit him. Raichu gritted his teeth, firing five more shots in quick succession. Ash evaded all of them with a stoic ease.

“You pathetic traitors,” Ash said as his eyes glowed and an Aura Sphere formed in front of him. “Once I wished to give you a chance, but I have realized now how foolish I was. You had this coming.”

The Aura Sphere hit Raichu square in the stomach, shooting him towards Mega Gigantamax Z-Power Tracey. Unfortunately for the drama of it all, Raichu only hit the gigantic Tracey’s knee, but it was the thought that counted.

Tracey carelessly punted Raichu away. “SO YOU HAVE ABANDONED YOUR SO-CALLED PARTNER TOO? YOU SUCK, ASH.”

With that, Tracey lifted his foot, preparing to stomp on the tiny Mewlike form in front of him. Ash looked up at the sole of his shoe, wreathed in blue fire, and then darted upwards.

“YOWCH!” Tracey yelled as Ash shot through his foot like a bullet, a spray of blood in his wake. “BUT HOW?!”

“I have trained, Tracey,” Ash declared. “For five years I studied the blade. And then I became a gun with my Mew abilities. You cannot win.”

“WHAT?!” the giant Tracey shouted. “WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN, ASH?”

“I’m warning you, Tracey,” Ash said. “Traitors get what they deserve.”

“I DON’T…”

Ash snapped his fingers, and instantly he had fired himself through Tracey’s heart.

“INCONCEIVABLE!” Tracey croaked. “IS THAT EVEN ALLOWED? I THOUGHT THIS WAS A KID-FRIENDLY STORY!”

Ash shrugged. “You’re the ones who brought a gun.”

With a final groan of pain and an earth-shaking thud, Tracey collapsed in all his massive, dancing, extra-frills glory. After a moment he shrank back into a teenager.

“That’ll teach you not to betray me,” Ash said, looking down at the boy’s fallen form.

“Actually… Ash… all I did was become Professor Oak’s assistant,” Tracey said, coughing blood onto the rocky ground.

“What’s your point? You still left me, just like everyone else.”

There was no answer; Tracey did not move.

“Good riddance,” Ash muttered. “Now where’d Raichu go? I have to get him back for pulling a gun on me.”

Dragonfree
----​

Ash traveled all the way back, because that was what his spirit was telling him. The sacred bond between trainer and partner, that bond between Ash and Raichu, once Pikachu, once so kind, still existed. It existed not because of the friendship they shared—no, that had long since evaporated. This bond was not something to be used for friendship.

It was to track him down. To put an end to this great threat.

And so Ash traveled. He could not afford to travel by plane or by Pokémon, because Raichu would surely sense it and take the plane down or attack the Pokémon on the way. No. It was just him, his Spearow, and his Riolu. They would travel together.

He crossed the oceans on foot. He scaled mountains with his bare hands. He walked through tall grass without ever summoning his Pokémon, for he did not need it. His menacing aura was stronger than any Repel. There were some useless NPCs in the way and Ash brushed past them—an act once considered to be impossible. But not for Ash. This was no longer about following the proper path.

This was the final battle of a great war.

~*~*~*~​

Palette Town was burning.

Cinders rolled across burning fields, abandoned homes collapsing into smoke to be reclaimed by the ashen earth. Whole streets were scorched with jagged electrical marks, Raichu’s calling card.

“Chu.”

And there he was. An electric aura filled the air with static, the crackling that snapped more harshly than the flames of his Charizard who had also abandoned him for that pointless family of his. Maybe after this he would see if he could get revenge for that betrayal next. The betrayals of Ash, one after the other, which all finally led to this, his Pikachu.

And now, the Raichu, standing with a disappointed frown. He stood between the burning Pokémon Lab and the empty fields. It was just the four of them.

“Chu rai, rai raichu.”

“I know,” Ash said, fists shaking. He lowered his head so his hat obscured his eyes. “I know what this means. Only one of us will leave town alive. That’s how it has to end. And that’s how it will.”

“Churai. Rairaichurai, rai chu.”

The words stung like the electrical burns he was capable of, but he was just trying to get to him. A distinct metallic clicking snapped Ash out of his thoughts.

Raichu was leveling his gun, an AA764 Magnum 47, for Ash’s heart. Even though they were several feet away, there wasn’t a doubt in his mind that Raichu wouldn’t miss if he fired.

“Chu? Rai rai. Chu.”

Hot tears that Ash refused to acknowledge fell aggressively toward the ground. “So that’s how you want it to be?” he asked. “Fine.”

He dug through his pockets, and Raichu lowered his gun. His dark eyes watched for any sudden movements. Always attentive, Ash thought. But no, he would follow Raichu’s wishes one last time, and settle this honorably.

Two Poké Balls flew in the air. At their apex, the light poured onto the ground and formed the two remaining partners he had. Riolu was first, standing tall at four feet in height, already in a battle stance for the incoming battle. Spearow was on top of Riolu’s head, glaring at Raichu.

Finally, Ash curled his fingers into a loose ball, a wispy ball of cyan forming on his palm. “This is it,” Ash said.

“Rai.”

The wind blew, and Ash couldn’t make the first move. Once. Just one more question. “I—I need to know.” Ash took in a breath through his teeth, his tears leaving small craters in the scorched earth. “Why? Why did you do all of this?”

Raichu stared. The crackling of the flames were drowned out by their sheer presence, now. All that mattered was the four of them, together, for the final bout.

“Rai. Chu rai rairaichu, chuchu. Raichu, rai.”

Shock more than any Electric strike tore through Ash at that moment, and his Aura Sphere nearly dissipated. Nearly, but not enough. “A-all because… all because of ketchup?” he whispered. “Because I didn’t buy you any?”

“Chu, rai!”

“I…”

“Chu rai chu!”

“All for that…” Ash’s face screwed up into a snarl. “One mistake… over your stupid, pointless appetite…”

“Chu.”

“I guess so.”

And that was all. The hot winds blew. Another building, somewhere, fell. Both of them looked to the left, at a loose panel of wood, teetering on its balance, and waited. Seconds passed. Spearow shuffled. Riolu crouched, legs tense.

The wood fell, and suddenly everyone moved. Ash was first, hurling his Aura Sphere. It curved in the air, but exploded from an electric shock. Riolu was next, cupping his paws together and launching an Aura Sphere of lesser magnitude at Raichu’s side, but the electricity skillfully arced around and neutralized that one, too.

Spearow was next, opening his beak and launching an Aura Sphere where the electricity couldn’t get to. This time, it struck true, sending Raichu flying across the ground, only a few feet away from the roaring fire of the burning lab.

Everyone stood still for a few agonizing seconds where only the fire chased away the silence. Riolu panted; Spearow landed back on his head. Ash took the first step forward—

Raichu pointed his gun at Riolu and fired. An Aura Sphere struck Riolu in the chest; he fell instantly, and Spearow chirped in surprise and tended to his wounds. Ash cried out in anger and rushed for Raichu, who fired another Aura Sphere from his gun, but Ash smacked it out of the way. Then, he used his ultimate technique—the one he’d been hesitating to use for so long. Not anymore. Not after this.

“Aura…” Ash raised his hand, curled it tight, and slammed down. “FIST!”

A massive shockwave blew Riolu and Spearow several feet away, and several parts of the town had been flung so hard that they’d become nothing but distant specks in the sky. The air put out all of the fires and blew away the rubble, leaving nothing but ruins behind. A great crater remained where the Pokémon Lab once stood, and in the middle of it was Raichu, beaten into the ground. His gun was completely destroyed and in several pieces.

Ash stood at the top of the crater, holding his hat by its visor with one hand. Raichu grunted and pulled one arm out of the ground, then another, but couldn’t find the strength to fully stand up. Electricity charged in his cheeks…

Ash huffed and pointed down toward Raichu. “Omae wa mou shindeiru,” he muttered.

Raichu stared for a while longer, then closed his eyes, smiling. “Chu, rai.”

Ash gasped. “Nani?!”

The gun’s Aura Sphere that he’d smacked away curved around the sky and struck him in the back, exploding. The world, the cold, flameless world, moved in slow motion. Ash, mouth agape, fell forward and tumbled down the crater. He rolled and rolled and only stopped at the bottom, where he could only stare at the sky in shocked disbelief. Raichu was unconscious. Didn’t matter anymore. What mattered… was that Riolu stood atop the crater with Spearow perched on his head.

“All this time…” Ash said, weakly lifting a hand toward Riolu, so far away. “All this time… you manipulated me… by staying by my side. Was it all…”

Both of them smirked at him as clouds billowed over the cold, bitter skies. Ash’s final betrayal had finally come to light, and Riolu left with Spearow without ever looking back.

THE END
Namohysip
 
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