((LEGAL STUFF: Ash Ketchum, Brock, Misty, Pikachu, etc., are all property of whoever owns the Pokemon franchise including Nintendo, Game Boy, and the anime/cartoon version (it's such a large collective I'm not sure who owns what). I don't intend to infringe on anybody's rights, and I'm not getting any money out of this. Ranma Saotome, Akane Tendo, Mousse, Shampoo, and the other Ranma 1/2 characters are property of Rumiko Takahashi (hope I spelled that right). Again, this story is for reader enjoyment only. No profit is being made. Thank you, have a nice day...))
Part 5: Battle and Shame
Ash Ketchum stood ready at one end of the basketball court, his semi-friendly nemesis at the other. The court was a little small for a battle ring, but it would do for this one. It'll be short, anyway, Ash thought smugly.
"You can choose first, Ash!" called Gary Oak from the other side. "Be easy on me!"
His sarcasm was not lost on Ash, who was aggravated by Gary's superior attitude. "You'll regret that, Oak!" he yelled out. He turned to look at Pikachu, who was sitting by his side. "Sorry, Pikachu, but I'm not going to use you this time."
"Pika?" Pikachu cocked his head quizzically.
"You're electric, and if I choose you Gary might pick a rock Pokemon. I don't want you to get in a bad fight with a rock Pokemon until we train with Brock more."
"Go sit with Misty until it's over, pal," Ash said. When Pikachu darted off, Ash reached for a particular Pokeball. He hurled it to the ring with experienced dexterity. "Bulbasaur, I choose you!"
"Bulbasaaaaur!" The little plant-dino leaped forward, standing ready to attack.
Gary smirked. "Is that it? One little Bulbasaur is all you've got? Wait'll you see this!" The older trainer pulled out a Pokeball. "Wartortle, go!"
"Warrr-tortle!" the big water Pokemon growled menacingly.
"A Wartortle?" Ash whispered. "I didn't know his Squirtle had evolved! Still, why would he use a water Pokemon against a plant one? Makes no sense. Maybe he's just showing off..."
"Contenstants ready!" the announcer boomed. "Begin!"
"Wartortle, tackle attack!" Gary ordered. The big turtle Pokemon dashed forward, trying to collide with Bulbasaur.
"Bulbasaur, dodge him!" Ash yelled. Bulbasaur jumped aside, and the Wartortle skidded right past him. "Vine whips, now! Trip him up!"
Bulbasaur extended his vines, wrapping the Wartortle's legs and sending it crashing to the ground. "Saaaur!" Bulbasaur crowed, withdrawing the vines.
"Waaaar. War-tor-tul!" the Wartortle retorted, withdrawing to prepare another attack.
"Bulbasaur, use your vine whips again! Knock him over!" Ash shouted quickly.
Bulbasaur's vines extended again, whipping out at the Wartortle. The Wartortle ducked instinctively, the vines whistling over its head, just grazing the shell.
"Wartortle, grab those whips! Use the attack I taught you--Pull and Pound!" Gary bellowed.
The Wartortle clamped a hard paw onto one of Bulbasaur's vines, yanking the little plant Pokemon off-balance and reeling him in. Then the Wartortle swung Bulbasaur back and forth and slammed him against the asphalt repeatedly.
Ash gritted his teeth. "Bulbasaur, use your other vine whip! Pull his legs together!"
Weakly, Bulbasaur complied, entwining the Wartortle's legs for a second time and giving a yank with all his strength. The Wartortle crashed over again.
"Bulbasaur, you alright?" Ash called, worried.
"Bulbasaur!" The plant-dino shakily got to his feet, then nodded, ready for more. But Ash was a little less convinced.
"Bulbasaur, do you need to return? We can go to second pick!"
"Saur! Bulba-saur!" Bulbasaur shook his little head emphatically.
Gary grimaced as his own Pokemon recovered enough to attack again. "Wartortle, water blast! Now!"
"Waaaar!" The Wartortle took a deep breath, then let loose with a torrent of water from its mouth.
"Bulbasaur, look out!"
Bulbasaur nearly collapsed trying to move, but dove aside just in time. Ash, however, had been standing behind him. The pressurized jet of cold water struck the young trainer head-on, throwing him back against the impromptu sidewalls of the ring with a yell that rose in pitch abruptly.
"Wartortle, stop! Now!" Gary ordered. As much as he disliked Ash, he realized the danger of a human getting hit with a Pokemon attack. The Wartortle obediently cut off its water blast, and Gary rushed over toward Ash.
Ash groaned, flat on his back in a puddle of water, his hat lying several feet away. Opening his eyes, he saw Bulbasaur standing protectively over him. "You...okay...pal?"
"Saur," Bulbasaur replied shakily. "Bul-ba?"
"I'm okay, I think," Ash said, half to himself. Then he realized Gary was standing over him, mouth open. Ash's tone rose in anger. "What'sa matter with you, Oak? You mad your Wartortle has such bad aim?"
"A-Ash?" Gary's mouth worked oddly.
"Jeeze, Gary, get a grip! I'm still...alive..." It was then that Ash realized that his voice--no, make that her voice--had returned to its girlish timbre. "Oh, no..." Ash looked down at herself, hat gone, in sopping wet clothes that were plastered against every curve...
"Ash--you're a girl?" Gary asked incredulously. "You're really a girl?" His voice took on a triumphant ring. "And all this time I thought you were such a tough guy! You were just a little girl! What's your real name, huh? Ashley?"
Ash leaped to her feet, quivering in anger. "Don't say that! Don't ever say that! You don't know what you're talking about! You don't know what I've been through!"
"Yeah, a lot," Gary mocked. "A little woman trying to make her way in a man's world!"
Ash was about to retort when she realized that the entire audience was watching, enthralled and amazed. She saw the shocked expressions of the crowd; saw Misty's angry, saddened, surprised face. Knowing that her embarrassing situation was now public knowlege, she shrank away.
"Hey, little lady, wanna keep on battling?" Gary mocked. "Maybe I'll go easy on you, since you're just a girl."
Ash gritted her teeth to keep the tears back, but to no avail. She gave a wordless cry of anguish and humiliation and fled, stumbling over the ring wall and dashing away from the school, leaving Gary laughing behind her.
The audience immediately began to mill about, wondering what on earth had just happened. In the commotion that followed Ash's departure, no one noticed the tall, black-haired teenage boy pick up the discarded baseball cap and head off after her.
* * * * *
Brock stepped back uneasily; Misty had murder in her eyes.
"Ooooh! That Gary!" the redhead growled, clutching Pikachu to her chest. She was livid with anger, her blue eyes snapping with fire. "If this wasn't a Pokemon battle I'd--I'd--I'd...go out there and punch Gary in the nose!"
"Easy, Misty, I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it..." Brock tried unsucessfully to calm her.
"Didn't mean anything?" Misty nearly screeched. "Didn't mean anything? Didn't you hear what he said to Ash? Didn't you see how Gary hurt him?"
Brock stood speechless. Pikachu moaned softly but didn't seem to want to escape.
"I've got to go find him." Misty scanned the area in the direction of Ash's escape route. "I've got to go after him..."
"Excuse me," said a soft yet familiar voice.
"Mousse!" Both Brock and Misty jumped around.
Mousse, the boy from the Cat Cafe, stood solemnly before them. "I'm sorry, but I think it best that you two don't go after your friend. I've sent a...an aquaintance of mine to go and talk to him. He's someone who knows what your friend is going through and should be able to help her...uh, him."
"Who?" Misty demanded. "Who on earth could possibly understand what's happened to Ash?"
"Ranma," said Mousse, a strange mixture of respect and dislike in his voice. "Ranma Saotome."
To Be Continued...