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At the Pokémon Center, he hands over the dusty and exhausted Pikachu to Nurse Joy and tells her sheepishly that Pikachu might be hungry. They all stare at her and she tells them she knows they're surprised by her similarity to the other Joys, though she thinks she is the prettiest of the lot. Brock quietly agrees, but then a small boy gets Joy's attention by rushing in with a knocked out Rattata. Joy takes it to join a large number of other battered Pokémon, telling them this is the 15th one this month, all victims of Lieutenant Surge - the Vermilion Gym Leader.

Misty asks Ash if he is scared, smugly telling him he only got his first two badges out of pity and he'll have a tough time getting his third. Ash disagrees, and she flicks his nose with a laugh, telling him to prove it at the Gym. Brock says he will have to be tough based on the casualties on display at the moment, and Ash's attempt to bop Misty on the nose are stopped by Nurse Joy who reminds them they're in a goddamn hospital. Joy notes to Ash and Misty that if two people fight, it means they really care about each other. They both react as you might expect, snapping that they don't care about the other, causing her to laugh. A tone sounds to let them know Pikachu (and other Pokémon being treated) are all healed up, and they go and find the fat little rat eagerly chomping on an apple. Ash is pleased to see Pikachu fighting fit, telling it that they need to go throw down with Lieutenant Surge. Just then another trainer and his battered Pokémon come racing in, and Pikachu starts freaking out at the idea of being sent into that lion's den.

Ash again shows a remarkable ability to understand Pikachu's jabbering, figuring that it is asking if he cares if it ends up like the other Pokémon that have thrown down with Surge in the past. He takes this onboard and agrees that he can see what Pikachu is talking about... then happily declares that Pikachu doesn't have to worry about this since they're going to win! He tries to haul Pikachu along with him, but it clutches onto the counter and then zaps Ash, who keeps on tugging. Misty notes in an aside to Brock that they must REALLY care about each other based on the way they are fighting, which is rather clever, really. Another massive burst of Thundershock absolutely kills Pikachu, and it suffers the same fate as the 16 other Pokémon over the last month - in hospital. At the Pokémon Center, Ash sits beside the bed that is comically oversized for the fat little rat, Brock and Misty standing behind him on either side. Ash is happy to see it awake again, but Pikachu is pissed off at taking an asskicking from its big brother. Brock and Misty try to explain the concept of emotional damage to a 10 year old boy, and he insists that next time they'll try their hardest. Misty notes that Pikachu kinda already tried its hardest the first time, but then Nurse Joy arrives on the scene with a suggestion - evolution!

She shows them a Thunder Stone in a little case, one she "stumbled across" at some point in the past. Ash takes the stone and considers his options - the Thunder Stone will evolve Pikachu into a Raichu and give it a boost in strength and power, as well as access to new moves. It's a one way trip though, once Pikachu evolves there is no going back, and Ash notes that if he does do this, he'll be just like Surge. He asks Pikachu what it wants to do, and Pikachu struggles to stand up, watched carefully by the kids, Nurse Joy and even Team Rocket peering through the window. Ash tells Pikachu he is happy for Pikachu to remain Pikachu, and it looks at the stone, then turns its back and angrily flicks the stone away, wanting no part of it. Turning back to Ash, it angrily starts ranting its own name, tearfully translated to Jesse and James by Meowth who explains that Pikachu wants to fight Raichu again... as a Pikachu, and on behalf of all Pikachu everywhere! James bursts into tears as well, the only one left dry-eyed being Jesse.

Ash grabs Pikachu by the paws and tells it that together they'll defeat Surge and Raichu. Brock tells him to change up his strategy and use a different Pokémon, but Ash insists that it is difficult, not impossible. As even Jesse gets a little wobbly-eyed at Pikachu's resolve, the Pokémon in question passes out from exhaustion and Joy tells them it needs a little more rest.

Out in the hall, Misty grabs a drink from a vending machine and says that she is nervous. Ash is angry and confused, since when has she been worried about him? She retorts she was talking about Pikachu, and then Brock speaks up. Surge mentioned that he evolved his Pikachu into a Raichu as soon as possible, and that gives Brock an idea on how Ash might be able to defeat him.

Fire and Ice

Ash is in his second preliminary battle, on the Rock field. Both he and his opponent are down to their last Pokémon. Ash sends out Squirtle, while the opponent sends out Nidorino. Both put up a fierce fight, but Squirtle manages to win with a Skull Bash, allowing Ash to advance to the third round.

It is revealed that Gary was watching Ash's battle with his cheerleaders. He says that Ash is acting like he won the whole competition after winning "two easy matches". He then says, "He better enjoy all his celebratin' now, 'cause when his luck runs out, Ash Ketchum won't have anything to cheer about. Unless he wants to cheer for me, right girls? Hah!" His cheerleaders chant his name happily at this. While he is speaking, he seems jealous and a bit spiteful toward Ash.

Ash and his friends search for a Pokémon Center so Ash can heal his Pokémon before the third round. The centers are crowded and many Nurse Joys and Jennies are everywhere in the streets. Brock's love meter skyrockets at this rate. Team Rocket relishes this opportunity to swipe Ash's Pokémon and they do so by opening a fake Pokémon Center. After Team Rocket reveals their true identities to Ash and company, they are about to escape with Ash's stolen Pokémon, but Brock's Onix stops them and gives Ash his Pokémon back. After biting open a hole in the balloon, Onix sends Team Rocket blasting off again! After fending off Team Rocket, the group then hears that new Pokémon will be admitted into the Pokémon Center. Ash takes this opportunity to heal his Pokémon.

Ash is now in the middle of the third round match with Pete Pebbleman in the Ice Field. Both Trainers each won the first round of the match. Ash uses Kingler for the battle, while Pete uses Cloyster for the battle. Ash tells Kingler to use Crabhammer, while Pete orders Cloyster to use Withdraw. This doesn't look good for Ash since Cloyster used Withdraw. Kingler will get worn out from using Crabhammer, butMisty and Brock encourage Ash to keep going, because Cloyster is still losing health despite the defense boost. Kingler keeps hitting Cloyster with its Crabhammer until Cloyster's shell finally cracks,knocking it out. Pete recalls Cloyster and sends out Arcanine. Kingler tries a Bubble attack, but Pete's Arcanine dodges it and uses Dragon Rage. Kingler is defeated. Ash recalls Kingler and sends Pikachuinto the battlefield. Pikachu uses Agility, but Arcanine is trying to stop it with a Fire Blast. The Fire Blast attacks melt the field. Pikachu dives into the water, then uses Thunderbolt. Pete's Arcanine is defeated, and Ash is heading for the fourth round.

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