After breakfast, with the sun now shining high above their heads, the gang set off on the road toward Castelia City. Ash was marching in the front of the group, humming the current Pokemon theme song with his stomach full and spirit high, Pikachu lounging on his shoulder. Cilan was walking beside him, currently looking at the map. Iris and Misty walked side by side behind Cilan, chattering away like a couple of Starly. Meowth trailed in the very back with an ecstatic bounce to his step.
Ash rolled his eyes when he glanced back at Iris and Misty as they gossiped and giggled.
"Hey Ash," Misty spoke up, breaking off from her conversation with Iris. "Wreck anymore bikes lately?" Playfulness danced in the redhead's eyes, transforming into a wide smile as he became flustered.
"Ugh, the bike thing again?!" he groaned, throwing his hands up dramatically. "I've only wrecked two after yours."
"ONLY two?" Misty echoed with a laugh. "Did he wreck your bike too Iris?" she turned to her and asked.
Iris blinked in confusion. "No, I don't have a bike. Who needs one when you can climb trees to get around?"
"Oh, that's true," Misty realized and then noted the confused look on her new friend's face. "That's how Ash and I met. I fished him out of the river and then he 'borrowed'-" she used her fingers to indicate air quotes at this word, "-my bike and ended up frying it! So after that I just followed him around, demanding that he pay me back for it."
Ash sighed irritably. "Isn't the bike deal ancient history now?"
"I'm just telling the story, Ash." Misty shrugged.
"So did he ever pay you back for your bike?" Iris asked, looking genuinely interested in the story. "Bikes sure don't come cheap."
"Well, a Nurse Joy fixed it for me so technically HE didn't pay me back."
Ash scowled at her but she ignored him and went on.
"But I still had my bike fixed so I was happy-" she stopped herself mid sentence, "-actually I wasn't happy because my sisters forced me to come back to the gym while they went on a world tour. That was the end of my journey until now." Misty sighed when she had finished, catching the wistful frown that Ash gave her.
"But now you's guys are all happy together. So it all woy'ked out for 'da bettah'," Meowth piped in cheerfully.
"There is no point in mourning over the past; instead just look forward to the future," Cilan advised with words that most likely made Iris's heart melt, Misty guessed.
"Yeah, you're right." Misty smiled contently. Cilan was right, she just needed to live for the moment and enjoy being able to travel with Ash again, rather than being sad about the days she was unable to.
A silence fell upon the group; but it was a comfortable silence, allowing the sounds of nature to reach their ears and calm their souls.
Finally, Misty broke the silence when spotting a Tympole in a nearby stream. At first sight of it, her heart skipped a beat, thinking it was Azurill. But when she realized it was only a Tympole, her body ached with sorrow from her head to her toes. The Pokemon's round shape and blue body reminded her too much of her missing baby. Not even the fact that it was a water type that she could potentially add to her team cheered her up.
"Hey guys," she spoke up, forcing her tone to sound happier than she felt. "Weren't we going to look for Azurill today?"
"Oh yeah," Ash spoke as if he had forgotten. He fished a Pokeball from his belt and threw it up in the air. "Go, Tranquill!"
The bird appeared in a flash of light. "Tranquill!" it cooed.
Cilan and Iris mimicked Ash's actions and sent out one of each of their Pokemon.
"Pansage, we're in need of assistance."
"You help out too, Emolga!"
The two fore-mentioned Pokemon materialized from the light.
"Tranquill, I need you to look for Azurill, okay?" Ash called up to his bird.
"Quill?" It blinked at him in utter confusion.
"Huh? What's wrong?" Ash asked and was now just as confused as his Pokemon.
"I don't think it knows what Azurill is, Ash," Misty guessed. "After all, it never met Azurill."
"None of our Pokemon have," Iris added.
"Plus there are very rarely any non-Unova Pokemon in this region." Cilan scratched his chin in thought.
"Ducklett knows Azurill," Misty pointed out. "But if Ducklett has to go with the others, they can't split up to search..."
The group stood pondering possible actions with a vocal 'hmm' that hummed through the trees like a Combee's buzzing.
At last, Misty snapped her fingers in realization as an idea hit her. "I've got it!" In a flash she ripped off her jacket - shocking everyone with the bright yellow of her Hoenn outfit that was under it, after seeing her in black and gray colors for so long - and began digging through her Spheal bag hidden beneath it.
She retrieved the item she was seeking, which was in the form of a piece of paper. "I drew a picture of me and Azurill a while ago so the Pokemon can look at that and get an idea," Misty explained to the confused faces gathered around her.
She flipped the paper around to present it to the group, revealing a rather badly drawn picture with Misty as a stick figure and Azurill as a blue blob.
The group, including the Pokemon, all sweat-dropped at its quality.
Ash put his hands over his mouth, his cheeks puffing up and his eyes squinting in an obvious attempt to stop himself from laughing.
Misty's eyes narrowed into a deathly glower directed Ash's way. "I'd like to see YOU do better," she growled in a dangerously low voice with a twitching eyebrow. "The point is just for them to get the basic idea of what Azurill looks like. Do you guys get the idea?"
The Pokemon nodded though they still looked slightly unsure.
"Then let's get started," Iris rallied. "Split up and find us if you see any sign of Azurill."
The Pokemon cheered their respectful cries and set off to search.
"You go with them Ducklett," Misty ordered.
"Toge toge!" Togetic chirped.
"You want to help too, Togetic?"
"Toge!" It nodded cheerfully and flew off after Ducklett and the others.
"Now we should look on the ground and split up as well," Cilan suggested.
"Yep, let's go." Misty nodded and put her jacket on before running off in a random direction. "Azurill!" she called as she searched with a heart laden with hope.
Hours seemed to have gone by when the group gathered together again. "No sign of Azurill?" Misty asked sadly, although already knowing what their responses would be.
Everyone shook their heads, both humans and Pokemon.
"Not'in," Meowth responded with a shrug.
"Sorry Misty, but Azurill must not be anywhere in the area," Iris sighed.
"That's alright; we'll find it someday..." Misty muttered, refusing to give into despair.
Suddenly, a plunger with a rope connected to it shot Pikachu in the back before yanking it off of Ash's shoulder and to the original source.
"Pikachu!" Ash cried out as he instinctively grabbed for his buddy but missed by an inch.
A duet of evil laughter rang out just as the group spun around to see what happened to Pikachu. There, standing atop a large Galvantula robot, were Jessie and James. Although it was just a robot, Misty began trembling at the sight of the bug Pokemon it resembled.
'Out of all the Pokemon they could have made it to look like, why did they have to choose a bug?!' she wondered in dismay.
"We haven't been able to find your Azurill either," Jessie stated in a voice full of mock sympathy. "But even if we did, we wouldn't give it back to you." Her lips curled into a twisted smirk.
"Because it would make a great present for the boss," James continued for Jessie, standing back to back with her.
Misty's eyebrow twitched. "Great, here goes their stupid motto again..."
But before they could begin reciting it, Meowth leaped up angrily.”Hey! What's you's two doing here?!"
"What are you talking about Meowth?" Iris huffed. "They're ALWAYS after Pikachu. You've been with them long enough to know that."
"Oh yeah... Right," Meowth muttered and averted his eyes.
Jessie and James gave Meowth a sharp look that Misty recognized as the 'shut up' look, as she had used it many times before. She blinked, looking at her comrades to see if they had noticed the look too but saw that they were too focused on the fact that they had Pikachu. 'Did Meowth try to say something that they didn't want said?' She shook away the confusing thoughts and joined in her group's concern for Pikachu, who was currently trapped in another one of their pika-proof cages.
Team Rocket went through their motto again before holding up their plunger guns - what they had obviously stolen Pikachu with - and getting ready for their next move.
"Give back Pikachu!" Ash demanded.
Jessie pulled down her eyelid and stuck her tongue out in a mocking manner. "In your dreams twerp."
"Instead of giving Pikachu back, we'll just take the rest of your Pokemon," James cackled and aimed his plunger gun at the group in sync with Jessie.
"Fire!" She ordered and shot out a plunger with a rope connected to it. The plunger hit Ducklett and it was yanked off of Misty's shoulder before she could grab it. "Ducklett!" She cried.
Axew hid in Iris's hair to prevent itself from being captured.
"My turn," James sang and shot his plunger gun toward Togetic.
"Fly away Togetic!" Misty cried and turned to watch it fly away quickly.
But James's aim was way off and the plunger instead hit Misty's butt. She yelped as she felt something hit her and was suddenly yanked off the ground.
"Since when did Togetic get so heavy?" James complained, not yet noticing his error as he reeled Misty in. When he reeled her in, he was shocked to meet the face of a highly enraged Misty. "Wha-? You're not a Pokemon!" He stated stupidly.
Misty was hanging upside down by the plunger, her face red both by the blood rushing to her head and her intense anger. Her cropped hair draped down as her hat had fallen off of her head. "No Shinx Sherlock!" She snarled and attempted to swing at him but found that that only made her sway unsteadily. "Put me down before I make Gyarados fry you both!"
"James! You imbecile! You're supposed to catch Pokemon, not the twerps!" Jessie spat.
"Oops, my mistake," James chuckled sheepishly and released the plunger's grip on Misty, making her crash to the ground with a yelp.
"We've got enough Pokemon now anyways, let part two of the plan commence," Jessie said.
"Oh yeah, I had almost forgotten about part two," James said and the two then put their plunger guns away, coming back with a different, odd looking invention.
Misty rubbed her lower back with a wince from the ground before glaring up at them. "What's that? Another stupid invention that will most likely backfire on you before the end of the day?"
"Not this time," James huffed before holding the gun up proudly. "This is the Stick-o-Matic Web Glob 5000, designed to make you twerps, STICK around," he cackled.
"Why would we want to stick around and listen to your lame jokes all day?" Iris sighed.
Misty grinned back at her. She was learning well in the ways of an insult.
"Oh, WE won't be sticking around, but YOU will," Jessie said and grabbed the gun from James.
"Hey, I wanted to shoot it," James wailed and tried to grab the gun back.
Jessie gave James a scathing look. "Your aim is horrible, James. If I let you shoot it, you probably would get the trees. If you want something done right, I guess I have to do it myself." She sighed as if a huge burden had been put on her before grinning evilly down at the group. "They say friends should stick together. We can help with that." She blasted the gun, which shot out a huge glob that extended into a web like substance. Before anyone had time to react, the web crashed onto the group, covering them all in a highly sticky substance.
"I can't move!" Cilan gasped as he struggled to get free.
"My arms are stuck to my sides," Iris said, struggling as well.
Team Rocket laughed maniacally. "You're in a sticky situation now," James taunted.
"We've finally done it James! We're finally going to capture Pikachu!" Jessie cheered, her eyes twinkling joyfully.
"Yes, Team Rocket is finally the winners!" James enthused before stroking his chin in thought. "But what's different?"
"Well, Meowth isn't with us... Maybe Meowth was dragging us down the whole time," Jessie mused.
"Hey!" Meowth spat indignantly from the ground. "I can still hear you ya' know! And I was 'da brains of 'de operation; if anyt'ing, it was James dragging us down!"
"Me?! Why you..." James growled and glared down at Meowth, his fingers twitching as if he wanted to strangle the cat.
"Who cares?" Jessie waved her hand in dismissal. "We've done it. Now let's get out of here before you screw something up," Jessie said.
James turned the robot around to start leaving before glaring at Jessie. "What do you mean before I screw something up?! You-"
"I what, James?" Jessie snarled threateningly, her teeth looking comically sharp. He looked away.
"Nothing," he muttered, knowing better than to insult Jessie. The robot began crawling swiftly away.
"No, they're getting away!" Ash said and struggled violently under the sticky web. "Pikachu!"
Misty struggled as well but to no avail. "Ducklett!" She cried.
The cries of their Pokemon had become faint and the robot was now out of sight.
"Argh, I can't move my hands to reach my Pokeballs," Misty groaned.
"We have to do something. We can't let them get away!" Ash said and bit the sticky stuff to try and tear his way through, resulting in his mouth becoming stuck in it.
"Meowth, can you claw your way through?" Iris asked, looking at the cat.
He tried before staring at his paws in despair. "Yow! 'Dis stuff is so sticky 'dat my claws won't even come out!"
Misty sighed miserably. "Since when did Team Rocket get so smart?"
"I could get Axew to use Dragon Rage," Iris suggested, hoping that the dragon Pokemon wasn't too stuck in her hair to use a move.
Cilan gave her a panic stricken face. "Don't do it Iris! We'll all be blown up."
"Well, what else can we do?" She asked desperately.
Suddenly a flash of light appeared from Misty's bag and formulated outside of the web into Psyduck.
"Psyduck, this is NOT the time-" she was about to yell at Psyduck again but stopped herself as she realized that it wasn't stuck like them. "Wait, Psyduck can you get us out of this stuff?"
Psyduck cocked its head at her with a blank stare. "Psy yi yi?"
"Try a Water Gun," Misty urged. It blinked at her. She sighed. "You can't do it, huh? Try your Scratch attack then."
Psyduck nodded and held its hand up, its small claws glimmering in the sunlight, and struck down on the sticky stuff. It paused for a moment before realizing that its claw was stuck in the goop. It tried pulling it out but found that it couldn't so it decided to put its foot on the goop to pull its claw out, resulting in its foot getting stuck too. It dangled there awkwardly with one claw and one foot stuck before realizing its situation and flailing its free limbs around in a panic. "Psyyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyi!" It quaked.
"How are we going to get out of this mess when everything we do gets us more stuck?" Iris sighed.
Ash said something but no one could understand him due to the web in his mouth.
"Togeticu!" A voice cried and Togetic flew down from its hiding place in the trees.
"Togetic, you got away," Misty said with a smile.
"Toge." It nodded and then began to glow.
"Togetic?" Misty blinked.
Suddenly, leaves surrounded in a purple glow appeared out of nowhere and began slicing through the web, dislodging it from everyone's bodies.
"What's going on?" Misty asked.
"It seems that Togetic has learned Magical Leaf," Cilan observed.
"Magical Leaf?" Misty echoed and stared at Togetic in wonder. Days of unexplained attacks returned to Misty's mind and she remembered how she always suspected that Togepi was the cause for them. Seeing Togetic now, she realized that her suspicions weren't so far fetched (no pun intended
) after all.
Soon, they were free of the sticky webbing and found that they could move again. "Thank you Togetic! That was totally amazing," Misty cheered, pulling her baby into a hug.
"Mithy! Mithy!" Ash cried, his speech impaired by the sticky web in his mouth. She turned to him and he frantically pointed into his mouth.
Misty gave him a sly, teasing look and crossed her arms. "I don't know Ash, I think I like you not being able to talk for a while."
He gave her the dirtiest look but she just laughed. "I'm kidding Ashy-boy," she said, grinning when he became even more flustered at the nickname. "I don't think it's a great idea for Togetic to use Magical Leaf in your mouth though..."
Ash shook his head rapidly with a look of fear crossing his face.
Misty frowned in thought before brightening. "Go, Staryu!" She tossed the ball and out came her starfish Pokemon. "Use Water Gun in Ash's mouth," she said and pointed.
Ash waved his hands about frantically and protested with impaired words but Staryu ignored him and shot its attack from its top at full force; Ash made a gurgling sound and got knocked onto his butt in the process.
He sat up with a grimace and stared at Misty as he sputtered and spit the soaked webbing out of his mouth. "Bleh. Thanks Mist," he grumbled and coughed some more.
Misty didn't like his tone. "Well, you wanted it out and that's what I did," she stated and smiled at her Staryu. "Great work, return." She ran her fingers through her fiery hair to realize that her hat was still missing from her head. Her eyes searched the clearing and she gasped when spotting a black crumpled heap in the grass. "Oh no!" She ran over to it.
"What's wrong?" Iris asked in concern and stared after her.
Misty picked up the ruined article of clothing. "My hat is ruined! Team Rocket's robot must have stepped on it," she wailed in despair. "Daisy is NOT going to be happy about that..."
"Forget the hat; we have more important things to worry about!" Ash yelled.
Misty rolled her eyes. 'Says the one who worships his hats as if they were legendary Pokemon...'
"Besides," he began more silently and Misty could have sworn she saw a light shade of pink creep onto his cheeks, "you look better without the hat."
Misty blinked, clutching the hat and not sure whether to be annoyed or happy about his comment. 'Wait, did he just compliment me?' She felt her own face grow hot from the blush that was inevitably appearing.
"Come on guys, he have to go after Team Rocket," Iris reminded them.
Deciding that finding Team Rocket and saving Ducklett and Pikachu was more important, she put the tattered hat in her bag and pushed her confusion of Ash's words to the back of her mind.
"Right," Ash said and looked around in frustration. "Which way did they go?"
"Never fear," Cilan said, tweaking his bow tie arrogantly before suddenly appearing in his detective clothing. "I am a detective connoisseur and I will solve this mystery," he stated and looked through his magnifying glass.
"Great, here we go again," Iris sighed.
Cilan began looking around the clearing with the glass before stopping at a certain point. "Ah hah! Footprints!"
The group rushed over to see large gorges in the earth leading away into the trees. "The robot must have made these," Iris mused.
"Yes, so all we have to do is follow these footprints and we'll find Team Rocket," Cilan said.
"Let's go," Ash said impatiently and began following the footprints. The others were close behind him.
'Don't worry guys, we're coming for you.'
By the end of the trail, they found the abandoned robot with Jessie and James nowhere to be seen. Upon wandering a ways from it, they discovered a building with a large fence around it and people in dark clothing, some in Rocket uniforms, swarming around the outside.
"What's that place?" Ash asked.
"'Dat 'dere is one of Team Rocket's bases. If I'm correct, I t'ink its where 'da boss is stationed," Meowth explained, looking at the base through the bushes in which the group hid.
"What?! You mean to say that Team Rocket could have already given our Pokemon to your boss?!" Misty gasped.
"Most likely," Meowth said.
"No, it can't be..." Ash mumbled with his chocolate brown eyes trembling in emotion. He put his head down so that his hat covered his eyes.
Misty found herself sharing his emotions. She had failed her Pokemon again. Azurill was already gone thanks to her, and now she had lost Ducklett too.
"We'll get them back," Iris assured them. "We always do."
Ash looked at Iris with a stricken expression. "You don't understand, Iris. For all the years that Team Rocket stole Pikachu, they had NEVER gotten this far. Pikachu had never actually been given to their boss before."
Misty nodded slowly and sadly.
"We can't give up on them now, even if their boss has them. We have to get them out," Cilan said.
The fire seemed to ignite in Ash's eyes again and he looked toward the base in determination. "You're right. We'll get them back even if we have to break into their base."
"Wait! 'Dese Rockets ain't like Jessie and James, hundreds are in 'dere and 'da boss is 'da most powerful of all of us," Meowth warned Ash.
But Ash ignored him and looked as if he was about to run head first to the base. Misty grabbed his hoodie before he could run away and yanked him back with amazing force.
He glared at her. "Let me go Misty!"
She only clutched the fabric tighter. "No way! Don't you DARE rush into that base headfirst! Now we are going to sit here and make a plan whether you like it or not!" She snarled.
"Geez, you're more snappish than usual," he growled.
She gave him an intense look full of anger and deep sadness. "I refuse to let you jeopardize our chances of getting them back because you don't look before you leap. I already lost Azurill and I am going to save Ducklett if it's the last thing I do!"
They stared each other down for a moment and then an unspoken understanding seemed to pass between them. He nodded and relaxed his muscles, his eyes seeming to soften.
Misty let go of his hoodie and looked at the rest if the group. "Right, so how should we get them out?"
"Well, it's obvious that we need to go inside and break them out," Cilan said.
"Yeah but we can't ALL go in without directing unwanted attention toward us," Iris pointed out.
"Then I'll go in," Ash stated with an impatient glance over toward the base.
An idea then began to formulate in Misty's mind. "Wait a minute, I'll go in," Misty said.
Ash looked at her in bewilderment. "No way, I'm going in!"
"Would you quit trying to play hero for one minute and listen to me?" Misty yelled, remembering then to lower her voice as the Rocket guards might hear her.
He scowled at her but still looked expectantly for her to go on.
"See how everyone is wearing disguises or their uniforms?" She prompted.
"Yeah," Iris answered for everyone.
"Well you guys would stick out like a sore thumb but I'm already wearing an undercover outfit. As long as I steer clear of Jessie and James, I should be able to sneak in without being questioned."
"That's an excellent idea," Cilan said.
"But what would we be doing then?" Ash asked.
She shot him an annoyed look. "Let me finish." She looked at the rest of the group again. "Once in, I'll look for Ducklett and Pikachu. When I find where they are being held, I'll find a window and have one of my Pokemon use a water move through it. Keep an eye on the building because that will be your signal. Once you see the signal, that's your cue to create a distraction. Once the members come to react to the distraction, I'll bust Pikachu and Ducklett out."
"What kind of distraction?" Ash blinked.
"I don't know, attack the base or something, but keep away from the entrance so I have a way to get out," Misty said.
Meowth raised his hand as if he were in school. "Can I stay in 'da bushes and keep watch? I don't really want to have 'da boss see me fighting against 'dem."
Misty nodded. "Actually, that's a good idea. You and someone else should keep watch in case something goes wrong."
"I'll do it," Iris chimed. "Since I can climb trees and swing through branches, I will keep watch from up there and be able to come to someone's aid in no time."
"Alright Iris, that would be great." Misty smiled.
"We should have a signal in case any of us are in trouble," Cilan suggested.
"What kind of signal?" Iris asked. "We can't just yell for help if our signal needs to be secret."
Everyone pondered for a moment before Ash snapped his fingers. "I got it! Misty, start imitating a Seel."
"Wha-?! We don't have time to fool around Ash! What makes you think I can imitate a Seel anyways?" Misty said.
"When Hypno hypnotized you, you thought you were a Seel and sounded exactly like one. Just try it," Ash said.
Misty sighed and half heartedly began imitating it. "Seel Seel, Seel Seel."
"Now clap as you do it." Ash grinned.
She glared at him. "Ash Ketchum, I swear-"
"Just humor me, k?" He interrupted and looked at her expectantly.
She rolled her eyes and began imitating Seel again, clapping her hands all the while. "Seel Seel, Seel Seel."
"Perfect! That's your signal!"
"Huh? You've got to be joking," Misty said.
"That's brilliant!" Cilan exclaimed.
"It is?" Iris asked.
"Yes, if we use Pokemon imitations as signals, the Rockets will think there's just a Pokemon making a bunch of noise, they won't suspect it as a secret code," Cilan explained.
Misty blinked. "Wow that IS pretty smart. I guess you can come up with pretty good ideas sometimes Ash. You could've fooled me."
He glared at her but simply responded with an imitation of Pikachu. "Pika pika, Pikachu! That will be my signal for if I'm in trouble.
"Ooh, ooh! I can sound like an Axew." Iris bounced up. As everyone turned their attention to her, she raised her voice high pitched and did an adorable impression of Axew. "Axew!"
Upon mention of its name, Axew poked its head out of her hair and blinked its huge red eyes at her in confusion. "Axew?"
"Awwww, how cute," Misty cooed, clasping her hands together at the adorable sight.
Cilan tweaked his bow tie again and did a little twirl, directing everyone's attention toward him. "I myself can do a superb impression of Pansage." He cleared his throat. "Pansage," he said in a scratchy voice like the grass monkey.
Iris giggled at the impression.
"And I'll just sound like myself. Well, a Meowth 'dat is." Meowth cleared his throat too. "Meeeeeoooowwwwth~" he sang.
Misty sweat dropped. "Well that works, but with a bit less singing." She looked at the group with determination burning in her eyes. "You guys ready for this?"
They all nodded a single, eager nod.