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Chapter 3: A Lily in DistressEdit

Now, Ash knew that the gym leaders didn’t fight matches with their pokemon the way they were presented as doing so in the “Gotta catch ‘em all” line of video games that were the current bestsellers on the consumer market. For one, pokemon often didn’t fight one at a time; it was all out. Second, fights weren’t to the finish; often the loser was the one who lost a pokemon first and wanted to save face or else avoid a crushing defeat by an overpowered opponent. Third, they were fast. They hardly gave you any time to think.

And of course, gym leaders were supposed to be master tacticians who knew how to utilize pokemon the best. Ash was a Novice with no badges. So supposedly, he wasn’t worth dirt to this Giovanni, gym leader for earth types.

The Viridian City gym was a towering structure, several dozen meters tall, wider than it was tall, and longer than it was wide. Inside, Ash found himself in a stadium complete with audience benches – some of which were filled – all around the sides, and powerful stadium lights illuminating the playing field. What was eye-catching was that the center looked a total mess. There was dirt and debris everywhere, even the markings of the edge of the field were buried under upturned sand, and rocks scattered the landscape. Two trainers were currently standing on two sides of the field; one was in a business-man’s suit and looked smug (Ash assumed him to be Giovanni) and the other was a thirteen-year-old acquaintance from back at Pallet – one of the new Novices – who was scampering from place to place as the earth perpetually cracked, re-shifted, or erupted from below. Ash could not see a single pokemon in the arena, though there were many holes and tunnel exits all over the place.

I’m supposed to fight on THAT field?

Ash looked uncertainly at Charmeleon, who looked back, just as uncertain but quite ready to take its rage out on any opponents.

Suddenly a Nidoran was thrown erupting out of what Ash presumed was a below-ground tunnel network. It crashed into the ceiling before tumbling back to earth, and Ash winced as he heard a terrible cracking of bones. What attack was that? He didn’t have long to wonder, however, as the announcer proclaimed in the middle of nonstop coverage of the match, “And Giovanni’s Sandstorm uses a wonderful combination of Dig and Seismic Toss to smash the opposition!”

He was greeted by a stark silence. The audience was chillingly quiet, shocked by the fact that this Nidoran was dead – or, if not dead, had its spinal cord snapped so that it would soon be dead unless given immediate medical attention, the best that the pokemon center had to offer. The Novice trainer forfeited, rushed over to hug his pokemon, and began crying out loud as he recalled his near-dead pokemon and rushed as fast as his legs could carry him to the Poke-Center next door.

“Next?” challenged Giovanni. Ash looked on as several others – mostly people he recognized from back at Pallet Middle School – exchanged questioning, dubious, and scared glances.

“Do you want to fight against him?” Ash asked Charmeleon, crestfallen. There’s no way I can defeat someone with pokemon that skilled, in a field that works totally to the advantage of his earth pokemon!

To his relief, Charmeleon acquiesced. Together, they slunk out of the gym, deciding to forgo this particular badge until later and go on to Pewter City and try his luck out there. Though I doubt it will be any easier than this….

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They were lost in Viridian Forest. As Ash took out his map for the ninth time that day, he tried once again to get his bearings. How did I become so slack as to get lost? He mentally whipped himself. This is pathetic. A pokemon trainer and his pokemon, lost in the woods! We’ve been out and about for three days since Viridian City and we still have yet to see a single road. This was all my stupid idea to be off catching pokemon…

On every tree they passed by, Charmeleon left several scratch marks so that should they end up going in a circle they would realize it. So far, though, they hadn’t.

Suddenly, they came across a Caterpie, a green, crawling bug pokemon the size of a baby - and one that was quite pathetically weak. Upon making eye contact, it squealed in fear, then proceeded to rush back the way it came, moving pretty quickly for a bug half a foot long. “Oh well, guess we ought to get something if we can’t get to the road,” Ash said, eyes lighting up in expectation. “Charmeleon, get your practice!” Instantly Charmeleon leapt in pursuit, with Ash following. They came upon a tree covered in Caterpies and Metapods, which, for the moment seemed too intent on leaf-chewing to notice him. The latter possessed hardened carapaces and were the intermediate stage between a weak and undesirable Caterpie and a flashy, airborne Butterfree.

“Well, how about that!” Ash sounded delighted. “A whole lot of pokemon to catch!” In a flash he had an unassigned pokeball out, and would have tossed it if it weren’t for a high-pitched, feminine scream from just nearby.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you!”

“Huh? Who was that?” Ash and Charmeleon both looked around, utterly confused. There was no one else in sight. “Where are you?” he called out.

“I’m up here!” the girl screamed.

“Huh?!” Ash looked up – and saw that a girl was indeed up in the tree, fifty feet above them, mostly hidden from view in all the foliage. “What are you doing up there?”

“What do you think I’m doing, I can’t do anything! She screamed at the top of her lungs.

“Wow, she sounds like she’s in trouble,” Ash noted, mind whirring furiously in trying to find a way to resolve this problem. “Hold on, we’re coming for you!” Ash and Charmeleon both turned to look at the tree right next to them. “Think you can climb that? Without setting the tree on fire?” Charmeleon nodded. “All right then, take it easy…”

“Oww…” said Ash as he lost his footing and fell from ten feet up. “I… don’t think I can make it. I’m no good at climbing trees!”

“Just get me down, you slowpokes!”

“Hey, we’re not pokemon!” Ash retorted angrily.

“I think she wants us to leave her alone,” Charmeleon added with an angry smile. “I think we should oblige her on that.”

“What—NO! That’s NOT what I meant! Get me down!”

“Sure, lady... After I catch a Metapod,” said Ash, remembering why he had come here. He could just imagine it. These shiny green cocoons would soon turn into wonderfully useful and pretty Butterfrees… “You just wait.”

“No, don’t you DARE!” the girl screamed.

“Why not?” after finding a Metapod whose back had already started splitting open, revealing the bluish-white glow of metamorphosis in progress, Ash tossed a third pokeball at it. The moment it struck the hard shell, it opened up, sending out a flash of red light. The light impacted the Metapod, but to no effect, and the pokeball returned to Ash’s hands. “What the…?”

His words were drowned out by the sudden sound of a klaxon wailing. Now everything in this part of the forest was wide awake…

Ash rushed over to the fake, metallic Metapod and cracked it open, revealing a pressure alarm system. “Oh no, someone’s set a trap here,” he realized a moment too late. Just then, two black-robed figures appeared, looking equally menacing. Then they took up awkward poses and chanted, alternating their lines, something that was part song and part motto:

“To infect the world with devastation,”

“To blight all people in every nation,”

“To denounce the evils of truth and love,”

“To extend our wrath to the stars above!”

“Jessie!”

“James!”

“Team Rocket blast off at the speed of light!”

“Surrender now or prepare to fight!”

A Rhydon thumped up from the bushes between them and let out a roar. “THAT’S RIGHT!!” it boomed.

“Team Rocket!?” exclaimed the girl, still up in the trees far above. “I didn’t know you were still here! Isn’t leaving me to my fate all alone up here good enough for you two?” she whined. “You scum of the earth, you used me for trainer-bait, didn’t you!” She struggled, making some rustling sounds, but other than that it was quite futile.

“See Jessie, I was right with regards to our plan,” said the male. “Now, hand over those poke-balls, twerp, or you’ll suffer the consequences.”

“Not a chance!” Ash's courage instantly faded away as he found himself looking into the barrels of two guns. “Err… on second thought, take whatever you want…” sweat formed all over his forehead as he raised his hands in surrender.

“That’s more like it!” said Jessie, taking away Ash's pokeballs and recalling the Charmeleon, while James proceeded to pat down Ash and take away his pokeballs. “And now, you can join your friend up there and get us some more unlucky people. Go, Spinarak!” A reddish, tarantula-like pokemon materialized and quickly set to work binding Ash in its tough silk. Moments later, it had clambered up the tree and began pulling Ash up with incredible ease.

Only when he had been pulled up to the top and stung with a paralyzing venom was Ash able to see the girl for the first time. She was one of the quiet ones back at Pallet, he recalled. Always left out of the loop because of her shyness, Lily possessed a face that was both cute and beautiful, as well as a svelte, petite frame. But right now she looked like a total disaster, with numerous bruises and cuts, and her hair was a dangling golden mess. Around her was wrapped the same silken tangle that now bound Ash, and although Lily was able to exercise her muscles, the bonds were just too strong. He wasn’t sure, but Ash believed that he had just fallen in lust for her… maybe…

Soon, the footsteps of Team Rocket had receded, where to no one knew, and Ash felt free to begin talking. “So… what’s going to happen now?” It was with difficulty that his near paralyzed jaw muscles could allow him to speak.

“What’ll happen now? I’ll starve to death, that’s what! And all because you were so caught up in catching pokemon that you didn’t think of rescuing me first!” she shouted fiercely at him.

“Hey, whoa, it was your fault you were being so nasty to me earlier, calling me a slowpoke and all that,” retorted Ash.

“So what?”

“So!? If you had been nice, like damsels in distress ought to, maybe I would not have decided to catch that alarm of a Metapod.”

“YOU! So it’s all MY fault, IS it? Why you—“ Lily attempted to kick him, but flailed futilely against the bonds that were holding her in place.

“We’re in this situation, and you’re still thinking of blaming each other? Get a grip, Lily!” exclaimed Ash worriedly. “Okay, I admit, it wasn’t all your fault, I was to blame too, I should have been more careful…I’m sorry… Okay?”

That did some good at calming her down. Lily spoke in a sad tone, “You don’t have to apologize. We’ll just have to wait out the paralyzing venom in your bloodstream and hope that this time the Spinarak didn’t do so good a job binding you as it did to me.”

A long silence passed, during which Ash tried fruitlessly to move a single muscle other than his mouth, his diaphragm, and his heart.

“How did you get caught?” Ash asked, trying to switch to a different topic.

So Lily began her story. “…and suddenly these black-robed figures that were just here earlier came out of nowhere and pointed their guns at my head! It was so frightening, I must have fainted! By the time I could concentrate clearly I was paralyzed by some venom and suspended at this frightfully high place! And you know I’m afraid of heights, Ash! And… I’ve been held captive here for two days now,” she broke down and sobbed helplessly, unable even to brush away her tears. “I’ve starved to the point that my stomach could no longer feel any pain, and then starved until that pain got so bad my stomach could feel it again! And now it’s just getting worse!”

“Hey, who’s snared up there?” called a voice.

Ash knew immediately who it is. “Gary! Thank goodness you’re here! Get us out of this mess, do it softly, don’t try to catch those pokemon, watch out for Team Rocket!” Ash blurted out.

“Oh shit, this is just as bad as you predicted, Ralts,” Gary let out when he realized the situation they were in. “Go Butterfree, drop sleep powder the entire area around us, Go Eevee, free my friends,” he commanded quickly and calmly. A toddler-sized butterfly pokemon flew up into the sky and vanished amongst the trees. Ash could tell that Lily had fallen in love with Gary just from that. And, of course, even more so when they were safely down the tree and liberated, courtesy of his Eevee. “Get out of sight,” Gary told them before either could express their gratitude, which they did by obeying.

Satisfied that Butterfree had done its work, Gary took out a pokeball and tossed it at the Metapod on the tree. The alarm went off, and Gary too went to hide in a thicket. Soon all three were able to hear footsteps… slowing down…

“Jessie, it’s time for midday nap, you know…”

“Hmm, yes, but there’s an alarm!”

“But Jessie, I’m tired,” the male voice said pathetically.

“Oh all right, it was probably just a – hmm… We’re being DRUGGED! Go Pidgeot! Don’t breathe, and get us out of here ASAP!!”

“Darn it,” muttered Gary when Team Rocket was gone. “So close… That particular Jessie sure knows what she’s doing…”

“Thanks so much for saving us Gary, we can’t ever repay you, you know…” Ash sounded pathetic, and he blushed, for he knew it too well. Gary was a rival, after all, even if a friendly one.

“Don’t thank me, that was my duty. Now, I believe you both lost your pokemon. If it’s the least I can do…” Gary took out Ash’s hand and placed an occupied pokeball in his palm, then did the same for Lily. “I can give you two a new start. Ash, that’s a Ralts, lvl. 14. The reason I could get to you was because it sensed Lily’s emotional distress. Lily, that’s a Butterfree, lvl. 16. If you keep it free, it’ll be able to fly off and get help in case you get in trouble. Promise me you’ll be careful.”

Neither Ash nor Lily could believe it. Gary was being THIS generous with such well-trained pokemon!? Although his first instinct was to be suspicious toward his rival, his mind told him that doing so would not be fair to Gary.

“Thanks… we will,” said Ash. Then he turned and saw that Lily was ogling Gary.

“Why you’re such a gentleman, Gary!” she exclaimed in utter surprise. “Is it okay if I accompanied you on your Journey? I mean, I’ll be able to keep you company, and you’re just so… wonderful!” There was a something in that expression that told Ash that she utterly longed to go with him and perhaps would even get on her knees to do so. At least – so Ash thought. She seemed to have a total crush on him… which was understandable, since he had just saved both of their lives, putting his own at risk, and then given them a pokemon each when they needed to have them the most. But still, deep inside Ash was having a crush on Lily.

It showed, because Gary’s reply, after giving Ash an askew glance, was, “Honestly, Lily, it was my duty to help you out and show you both some charity. I have plenty of pokemon, as Ash knows very well. I have them to keep me company. But if you join me, what about Ash? It will just be him and his Ralts. And if Ash doesn’t have a psychic inclination, that will be some incredibly boring company. Surely you will be a good companion for him?”

“What?” exclaimed Lily, stunned by his reply. “What do you mean? What has this got to do with Ash?”

“Oh, don’t say that, Lily, or you’ll break Ash’s heart!”

“Yeah right,” protested Lily.

“Hey, I don’t need you patronize me, you know,” interrupted Ash upon realizing where this was going, though his pink face belied his true feelings for the girl.

“No really, take a look at him,” said Gary, and when Lily did so, Ash felt so utterly embarrassed he couldn’t stand it any more.

“Oh, I get it,” Lily stumbled upon a spark of insight. “You just don’t like me!” Then she developed a weird facial expression that looked like she was about to burst into tears.

Gary then hit on an idea. “Okay, then, why don’t you come with me for a little while. Ralts, teleport us all to the place where the others are waiting, hmm?” The next moment, all three trainers had disappeared out of that section of the woods…

And appeared beside a smoldering campfire. Ash felt quite nauseous from the experience, and yet at the same time it was quite exhilarating. This was some incredibly useful skill! He could just imagine – Team Rocket appearing again, and pointing their gun at him, then breaking their gun in disgust when he suddenly vanished to somewhere far, far away…

His reverie was disrupted by a group of six well-groomed belles cheerleading for Gary:

“Gary, Gary, he’s our man,

If he can’t do it, no one can!”

Ash stood open-mouthed at this display of adoration for his rival, by a team of infatuated lasses, and yet somehow his anger couldn’t flow out that easily. After all, Gary… well, he deserved such treatment – just, how did he manage to get such a crowd so quickly?

Gary turned back to Ash and Lily. “See what I mean? I already have a crowd following me everyday now. And joining the paparazzi won’t be good for your self-esteem, or for your career,” he told her. At this, Lily just stood aghast. Here was her new obsession, already crushed!

“How did you manage to get so many adorers?” asked Ash, amazed and deep inside wanting such an entourage for himself.

“That Ralts you’re holding now holds the key to that mystery. Team Rocket has been doing this across the Viridian side of Viridian Forest. And if I hadn’t come along, they would have been quite successful. Instead, at least for each of these six girls, I managed to find them – with the help of my Ralts – free them, and then lure the Team Rocket teams that captured them into falling asleep so that my Spinarak could tie them up. It worked flawlessly the first six times – so I had no reason to expect it not to this time. I did manage to incarcerate the other dozen Team Rocket members currently active in this region, return pokemon to my fans here, and claim Team Rocket’s for my own.”

“Wow…” Lily blurted out, having now totally fallen for Gary… And then remembered that she stood no hope of winning his heart. After all, the six some of cheerleaders Gary already had with him were all exceptionally beautiful – how was she going to compete? Her own hair was still a tangled gilded blob… Without warning, Lily turned around and fled into the forest.

“Hey wait!” shouted Ash the next moment, and rushed after her, dashing through the woods.

“Glad to be of service,” said Gary with a lingering smile, before turning to the car where his fans had already gotten in. “All right, let’s go!”

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