((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...))
Epilogue: Friendship and Goodbye
"You know, it was really nice of Gary to buy us lunch," Misty commented as she hitched her pack up a little higher. "Sometimes you think you have someone pegged as a total jerk, and then they go and do something that makes you think they've got just a little bit of decency in them."
As they hiked along the trail leading out of Nerima, Ash humphed, not really wanting to concede anything to Gary. "Well, he owed us for saving his hide and his Pokemon from Team Rocket." He paused, thinking. "Ranma was right, though. That friend of his, Ukyo--she can sure cook up a good meal."
"I'll say..." Brock added dreamily. "We should come back here sometime. She was really beautiful..."
"There he goes again," Misty sighed as she walked.
"The Pokemon thought the meal was good, too," Ash interpreted, watching his friends gambol about. He'd let them out to play a bit as they walked to the next town that afternoon "Hey, Misty, maybe Ranma should be a Pokemon trainer. The way he clocked Charizard a good one for burning Ukyo's countertop..."
"You shouldn't have let that orange menace out of his Pokeball, good meal or not!" Misty scolded. "But...you're right, though. Charizard sure didn't goof off with Ranma around."
"He almost doesn't need Pokemon to fight. He's so strong even Charizard respects him! He'd make a great trainer, don't you think?"
"Maybe too great," Misty said softly. "He seems like the kinda guy who could do anything if he set his mind to it--just like you, Ash."
"Aw..." Ash blushed and pulled his cap lower over his face.
"Speaking of Ranma, do you think you'll be able to get by until this curse wears off?"
On the ground, Bulbasaur and Squirtle were whispering to each other as they walked along behind the humans.
"I guess," Ash replied. "I can manage. Ranma's been living with his curse for a year. I think I can survive a few days, or even a week or two."
"Are you sure?" Misty asked, concerned.
"Yeah!" Ash stood up straighter and looked confident. "I'm Ash Ketchum, a great Pokemon trainer! I can handle anything. A little magical changing for every once in a while won't bother me."
"Squirtle squirt!" Whooosh!
"Ack! Squir-tuuuuul!" Ash's voice rose in a shrill soprano screech of indignation.
"Squirtle-squirtle-squirtle-squirtle!" the Pokemon laughed, fleeing the scene.
"Get back here, Squirtle! You'll pay for that!" Ash snarled, quickly giving chase.
"Don't hurt him!" Misty cried, fearing for the Water Pokemon's safety. "Wait up you guys! Ash, if you hurt that Pokemon I swear--!"
"Pikapi! Pi pikachu!"
"Ash, you said you could handle this! He was just playing a joke!"
"This is not funny! I'll get you for this, Squirtle!"
* * *