Welcome! This fic is also on FanFiction(dot)net and my username there is Kit the Pokemaniac, so you can read it there as well. I hope you like this. I will be updating the one on here once a day until it catches up to the one on FanFiction. XD Check back for updates once a day for now, but as soon as this catches up to the one on FF(dot)net, I will be updating randomly! Hope you enjoy! CHAPTER ONE: Pretty Much a Prologue ... "The boy should be there by tomorrow." He reported, running his fingers through his slick, black hair. It was streaked with silver-that was his trademark. "Understood. And the girl?" She inquired, running dark purple lipstick over her pale lips. She wore similarly colored eye shadow, matching her dark violet eyes. Black eyeliner gave her a cat-like look. He smiled, but it didn't have the warmth a smile should carry. Instead, his smile looked creepy. His stark white teeth glinted in the dim light provided by the moon. A thin, pale scar made its way down his left cheek, adding to the menacing look. "Oh, she'll be here. Two minutes or so, I suspect." A dark look crossed her face, and she smiled cruelly. She reached into the folds of her coat and retrieved a shiny black object. "You do the boy. I'll take the girl." "Right." He nodded and disappeared into the deeper shadows of the alleyway. She, meanwhile, stepped further into the moonlight. The alleyway was dark enough that no one would be able to see her face, much less recognize her. The dark makeup helped, of course. There, not ten yards away from her, was the girl. Her target. She was walking down the street, holding a small Pokémon in her arms. The woman held up the black object. It was half concealed by her hand, but there was no mistaking what it was. She kissed the barrel of the gun and took aim. ... Perhaps six hours later, the man stood behind the house. His breath turned to fog in the crisp morning air, and he pulled his coat tighter around him. The long, dark garment had loose arms and reached well below his waist, and the hood concealed his recognizable hair. He had carefully streaked his face with charcoal-just below the eyes and around the mouth. If he were to be seen, getting away would not be a problem; the disguise was so his looks could not be accurately assessed by any onlookers. Similarly to the way his female colleague had done, the man reached into the folds of his coat. But rather than pulling out a gun, he retrieved a small, ropelike item and held it between two fingers. The boy... he would be asleep now. Perfect. The man struck the match against a board on the house. Once. Twice. Then a small flame appeared, licking at the edges of the wood hungrily. It wouldn't last to long in this cold weather, though... A small canteen lay on the ground at his feet. Reaching down to pick it up, he sprinkled the liquid contents on the slabs of wood that made up the house. The flame grew considerably, and would continue to grow. "Gasoline," he said, flashing another creepy smile. "And fire. Lovely, lovely." There was no need to conceal any evidence. As long as he did his job, it didn't matter if people knew this was arson or not. He dropped the match and the empty gas canteen on the ground. Pulling out an XTransceiver, he pressed a button. For a few moments, all he could see on the screen was static. However, an image soon came into focus. It was his female comrade. "The job is done." He stated. "Same here." She replied. Part One of the project was complete. ...... Okay, here is the next installment of The Ash Conspiracy: Down in Flames! And if you really want to stay up-to-date with the story, check it out on FanFiction(dot)net, where my username is Kit the Pokemaniac. ... CHAPTER TWO: The First Shot ... "Okay, Pikachu! Use Iron Tail on that rock!" "Pika. Chu, pi-KA!" Stress fractures spread on the rock's surface for a moment. Then it shattered beneath the force of Pikachu's Iron Tail attack. "Whoa! Great job, Pikachu!" Ash cried, pumping his fist into the air. "You're getting stronger and stronger!" "Pika!" The little Pokémon titled his head upward and smiled at Ash, who rubbed his best friend's head affectionately. "Cha!" Ash leaned down, gesturing for Pikachu to hop onto his shoulder. As soon as Pikachu was settled, Ash straightened up and began to walk. "Man... sure is lonely traveling without friends, huh, Pikachu?" Ash said wistfully. Pikachu nodded and sighed, agreeing with his trainer. The two were on their way home from the Kalos Region. It was the nearing the end of summer, and Ash's mother had wanted her son to come home for a little while so they could spend time together before the weather became cold again. Ash had happily obliged. He had hoped Clemont, Bonnie, and Serena could come, too, but they had taken the opportunity to go back to their own families. "It's high time I took on a gym challenger myself, anyway," Clemont had said. "That's right," Bonnie agreed. "I'm sure my mom would want to see me again. It has been awhile since I saw her." Serena had reasoned. Ash was kind of bummed out about it, but he didn't mind so much. He was going home, after all! Now, as he walked the little dirt road leading through the Viridian Forest toward Pallet Town, Ash was feeling more and more lonely. He'd thought that perhaps some training with Pikachu would make him feel better, and it did-just not very much. "But, hey!" Ash said excitedly. "We won't be lonely much longer! We're almost there!" "Pika!" Ash reached the crest of a hill, and there was Pallet Town, spread out before him! "All, right!" Ash started to run down the hill, as did Pikachu. But about halfway down, Ash tripped and then tumbled head over heels for a couple of feet. As he sat up, rubbing his head, Ash looked up and found himself face-to-face with none other than... "Ash! Are you all right?" A deep, husky voice exclaimed. "Brock!" Ash's face lit up. "Hey, what's up?" Brock laughed. "Not you, apparently. Let me help you up." As Brock hoisted the boy to his feet, Pikachu bounded over. "Chu! Pikachu!" The Mouse Pokémon exclaimed happily. Brock smiled and picked Pikachu up. "Well, Pikachu's sure looking healthy! As an aspiring Pokémon doctor, you can trust me on that." Brock noted. Ash grinned his trademark bright-eyed, excited, lopsided grin. "Great! So, why are you here, anyway?" Brock tapped his chin. "Well, see, I've been wanting to see what working in a Pokémon lab was like. The school board at the college I'm in said it would be good experience, considering the fields I am pursuing, and so now I'm working with Oak as an assistant and caretaker!" Ash cocked his head. "I don't really think I understood most of what you said. But I think it means you're working at Professor Oak's lab, and that's great!" "And Ash," Brock added. "Your mom thought it would be cool to invite some of your friends over. Well, all of your friends." Ash stared for a moment. "Wait... you mean, everyone's there? At my house?" Brock grinned. "That's right! Misty, May, Max, Dawn, and two others whose names I have no clue." Ash jumped up excitedly, startling Pikachu. "Yeah! All right! I'm so psyched! I can't believe Mom did that for us. C'mon, let's go!" Brock nodded and jogged after Ash. He realized Ash had said "us". "Us", meaning Ash and himself, or Ash and Pikachu? Brock decided on the latter. It was the most likely, anyway. Ash never used the word "me" anymore so much as he used "us", because he just didn't do anything without his best friend and partner. Just one more thing proving how amazingly close Ash and Pikachu really were. As Ash pushed open the door to his house, several voices yelled "SURPRISE!" and many familiar faces popped out from all around the room. Max tumbled out from under the couch. May peeked out from behind a bookcase. Cilan stepped in from the kitchen, a delicious-looking serving dome in his hand. Misty popped out from behind a chair, and Iris backflipped down from the ceiling, where she had somehow managed to climb up to. "Guys!" Ash exclaimed. Then he paused, frowning. "Hey... where's Dawn?" Ash's mother stepped into the room from the kitchen, where she had most likely been helping Cilan to cook. "Ash!" She cried, rushing over to her son and hugging him tightly. Ash stiffened for a moment, surprised, then relaxed and wrapped his arms around his mother. "Hey, Mom!" He said with that crooked grin of his. "Long time, no see!" "Ash, dear! It has been so long..." Ms. Ketchum replied, sounding somewhat wistful. She shook her head. "If you were wondering about Dawn, she couldn't come. An important contest of some kind." Ash stuck out his bottom lip, a bit upset. "Aw, darn it! I was hopin' to see Dawn again!" Brock scratched the back of his head. "Me too. That's disappointing." Ash turned to the rest of his friends. "Hey, guys! So glad you're here!" May tackled Ash with a hug. "Ash! It's been so long!" Max walked up, too, and leaned over Ash. "Hey, Ash! Guess what? I'm gonna get my starter Pokémon this April! Isn't that great?" Ash raised an eyebrow. "You are, huh?" As he and May stood up, he ruffled the young ten-year-old's hair. "You were only seven when I last saw you. And I was only 11, wasn't I?" "I can't believe it! Has it been four years?" Misty stepped over to Ash. "You were just a clueless 10-year-old when I last traveled withyou." Ash grinned at her. Then he turned to Iris and Cilan. "Well, it hasn't even been a year, and not surprisingly, you're still a kid." Iris chided, wagging a finger at Ash. "Still full of that battling spirit, I see?" Cilan observed. "You bet!" Ash responded eagerly. The fourteen-year old really hadn't changed much in the four years that he had been traveling-except that he'd gotten far stronger, and created stronger bonds with his Pokémon. The day passed fairly quickly. Cilan, Ms. Ketchum, and Brock served the food-which turned out to be M'n'M cookies-and Ash and pals chatted the day away. Of course, there was a bit of nostalgia, and at one point Max and May broke into a bit of a fight. But eventually, the day had to end. "Okay. The boys can sleep in Ash's room, girls in the guest room." Ms. Ketchum dictated. "I imagine you'll all be heading home tomorrow, is that correct? It will be a long journey, so you all ought to rest." Everyone soon got situated in their sleeping bags and the lights were turned out. But May wasn't ready to go to sleep yet. "Misty," she whispered, tapping the redhead on the shoulder. "Misty... I was wondering something." Misty sat up, rubbing her eyes. "What is it, May?" She mumbled. "Misty, it's... it's about Ash." Misty blinked and looked at May, surprised. "About Ash? What do you mean?" May took a deep breath. "See, I was wondering... Well, you and Ash traveled together for... quite a while. Are you... are you two...?" Misty's face reddened as she realized what May was implying. "Well... Well, I, you see, I..." "You-you don't have to tell me," May said quickly. "No..." Misty shook her head. "It's okay. Ash and I got off to a bad start... it, um, involved my bike. Which ended up getting fried." May blinked in surprise, but kept listening. A bike, huh? Well, I guess mine wasn't the only one to get barbecued. "But we got to be really good friends and-well, I thought I really did like him. You know, that way. But... Well, I had to go home to the gym, and he kept traveling, so I suppose it just... wasn't meant to be. And I really don't think he ever really liked me that way, anyway." Misty looked away. May's eyes widened. So that was it. "So... we're in the same boat." Misty looked up at May, surprised by the brunette's response. Her face softened, and she touched May's hand. "Ash is... an amazing guy. I mean, would you look at all the close friends he's made in four years? And it's not just those of us here, either. It's like he draws people to him..." Misty trailed off. May nodded. "You're right, Misty. You couldn't be more right." Then the two girls finally settled into sleep. ... "Brr, it's awfully chilly tonight." Dawn muttered. "Pip!" Piplup shivered. "Pip pip pip pip pip, LUP!" Dawn laughed as she walked down the street. She was on her way home from the contest that had just been held in Sandgem Town, and her house was just up the road. "Well, someone's awfully cold! No need to worry, though, Piplup. The house is just up ahead-in fact, I think I can see it!" Suddenly Dawn stopped, thinking she heard something. Piplup frowned at his trainer. But Dawn shook her head and kept walking. "I'm sure it was nothing," she reassured her partner. Opening her hand, Dawn admired her newly earned ribbon. She'd be doing her third year of contest competing this year, and here was her first ribbon already! Dawn kept walking down the street happily. It happened far too fast. Dawn had no time to react. A loud bang rattled through the air, and pain exploded in the back of her head. She felt herself falling, heard Piplup crying out, and heard a commotion as people awoke to the deafening sound. She was on the ground, writhing in pain, feeling a thick, sticky liquid washing over her neck and onto the ground. Dawn screamed. The last thing she saw was her Piplup, standing over her, crying out to her, shaking her, with tears spilling down its little blue face.