B1 — 34. To The Rocky City
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PoV:

1:  Rhea (Our Main Trainer!)

Pokemon Map: 

Spoiler

I loosely follow this map as a visual guide; the creator made it in paint?!?!  It's insane!  Some errors here and there, but I follow its design for the most part.  Areas can be further apart, some cities are in the wrong places or not listed, and the regions aren't nearly so close.  The best map I've found, though!

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Recap:  

Spoiler

Well, boys and girls ... Rhea and Nova lost their first Contest but talk about sweaty competition?!  This is their first gig, c'mon!  Mya is also getting a BIG head and wasn't so nice to Nova when she needed support.

Well, hopefully, things will get better with our Mawile.  Now, we're going to meet up with the Wooloo Girls and introduce them to Jay on our way to Pewter City!  Oh, no ... we're getting close to the first Gym Battle.  How will this go?

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I'd like to thank my patrons for continuing to support me:

David, Don't_like_to_Talk, WeirdWhirl, CHoobler, AchroniaXenia, Howldawg, GreatestSin, and my other Patrons!

Family Tree / Characters

Spoiler

Rhea Everhart (Swablu) - Main Character.  Long blonde hair, coral blue eyes.

Maya (Mya most of the time) - Mawile, female.  Hyper-aggressive competative personality.

Nova - Eevee, female.  Very impressionable and seems to have taken a rather attention seeking personality from Rhea showing her off.  Can turn into all Eeveelutions.

Mother - Christie Everhart (Very Low Master-tier Trainer, renowned Breeder, and Scientist; a daughter to Drake and Glacia; younger sister of Cynthia)

No Pokemon Listed

Father - Keith Everhart (Grandmaster Trainer; family not mentioned yet)

Franky - (Main Team) Gengar, male,  Keith's Starter.

Jeffery - (Main Team) Fearow, male.  Keith caught him when starting the Hidden Master Village.

Vilora - (Main Team) 5”11 Butterfree, female.  Knows Teleport.

Frisky  -  (Main Team) Medicham, female.  Very shy about meeting new Pokemon.

Sabin - Rhea's older brother by 3 years, a Platinum-tier Trainer.

Atreyu - (Main Team) Houndoom, male.  Sabin's Starter that he caught with his father, Keith, near Mt. Silver.

Luna - (Possibly Main Team) 4”11 Mismagius, female.  Sabin recently caught her in a secret cave near the edges of Mt. Silver.  Knows Imprision.

Unnamed - Kangaskhan that beat Katelin’s Roserade

Cynthia (Cindy) - Rhea's aunt and one of the Top-Tier Legendary Trainers of the world.  She's the Active Champion of Sinnoh, tutoring Dawn to take over the position in time.  Age - Late 40's.

Lila - (Back-up Main Team) Spiritomb that is on the average level of her main team.
Esfforia - (Main Team) Her 14”7 Garchomp, female.
Melina - (Main Team) 50”11 Milotic, female.
Unnamed Togekiss - (Main Team) 8”11 
Unnamed Lucario -  (Main Team)
Unnamed Roserade - (Main Team)
Unnamed Eelektross - (Main Team)
Unnamed Gastrodon - (Back-up Main Team)
Unnamed Braviary - (Back-up Main Team)
Unnamed Glaceon - (Back-up Main Team)
Polic - Unknown Pokemon.  Weaker Pokemon that Cynthia brings on visits to help push Sabin.

Bianca - Rhea's cousin, Master-tier Trainer, and Cynthia's daughter.  Age 26.  Having a difficult time living away from a major city with making exotic and new dishes.  Rhea's pretty close to her.

Unnamed Stoutland - 4"6 at shoulders.

Hilbert - Bianca's husband, Former Champion of the Unova League (replaced by Iris).  Rhea believes he's kind of clumsy. 

Grandpa Drake - Rhea's Grandfather, Cynthia and Christie's father, and Glacia's husband.  Apparently, he's a Former Legendary-tier Trainer.  He's lost a lot of his former strength over the years but is still a terror if he's serious.  Owns a boat that he built himself as a young man.  Married to Glacia; Active Hoenn E4, Rank-1, but Glacia is trying to get him to retire.  He won't until someone worthy can take his spot.

Grandma Glacia - Rhea's grandmother on her mother's side.  She is a match for Drake, although, the type advantage might play a role in that.  She's still easily Champion-tier in her youth and holds an E4 position.


Amira Rocket (Mew) - A part of  Rhea's Team.  She is the granddaughter of Giovanni and Ariana Rocket, and the daughter of Lyra and Silver Rocket.  She's really reserved about friends, very responsible, and shy.  She has a habit of putting on her sunglasses to adopt a persona to protect herself from criticism and rude behavior.  She loves her family dearly.

Lyra Rocket - Amira's Mom.  Her daughter classifies her as a stalker that went after her dad.  She's very hyper-active and doesn't know when to not push boundaries.  A High Champion-tier Trainer, she traveled with Legends like Ethan and Kris.

Zelri - 4"11 Porygon-Z, female.

Silver Rocket - Amira's Dad.  Not much known other than him being a caring father that works for his father.  High Master-tier.

Ariana Rocket - Amira's grandmother on her dad's side.  She's the highest-ranking Administrator in the Rocket conglomerate.  Possibly between Master and High Master-tier.

Giovanni Rocket - Amira's infamous grandfather on her dad's side.  He's gone through a lot since his criminal days and now has a legitimate business that has built up the Viridian, Pallet, and Pewter City-States to their current glory.  Grandmaster-tier Trainer and the Gym Leader of Viridian.  No one has been able to beat him since Chase, the current Champion.


Mallory (Lori) Medina - Rhea's final teammate.  Not much is known about Lori so far, except that her parents died when she was young and Grimsley took her and her sister in.  She takes after the bright, devious side of her step-dad.  Seems to have some subtle attention needs from her sister since she was always too busy to hang out.

Shauntal Medina - Mallory's older sister, and Unova E4, Rank-4 Member.  She's an author, too.  Grandmaster-tier.

Grimsley Brooks - Mallory and Shauntal's step-dad and Unova E4, Rank-2 Member; High Grandmaster-tier.  He's in many underground circles.  Married to Karen Brooks, but they don't live with each other.

Karen Brooks - Wife of Grimsley Brooks, notorious party-girl, and Kanto's Active E4, Rank-1 Member.  She's Mallory and Shauntal's step-mom and Casey Brooks' mother.  High Grandmaster-tier.

Casey Brooks - Mallory and Shauntal's step-sister.  She's in the Starter Award Program with Rhea's team.  Casey is a notorious national party-girl mess that streams herself doing stupid and ridiculous stuff, taking after her mother. 


Jason - Rhea's best friend growing up in the Hidden Master's Village.  He's pretty outgoing and cheery.

Katelin (Kate) - Jason's older sister by 3 years and Sabin's girlfriend.  Rhea used to really dislike her for taking her brother's attention away but started to warm up to her recently.  Platinum-tier Trainer with an Encrusted Platinum Soul Badge to her name.

Jace - (Main Team) Noctowl
Fabio - (Main Team; Lead Pokemon) 6”10 Ampharos
Noral - Male Roserade that was beaten by Sabin’s Kangaskhan

Annila - Jason and Katelin's mother.  She's a picture fanatic and obsessed with Gym Leader Viola.  Master-tier Trainer.

Unnamed - (Main Team) Yanmega
Reon - (Main Team) 6”8 Poliwrath

 Kent - Jason and Katelin's dad.  Not much known, but assumed within Master-tier.


Lucian Allard - On a team with Jason and Lenard (Len/Lenster).  He's a very cocky boy that has something to prove to his parents.  He's rude and insufferable to most.

Diantha Allard - Lucian's mother, Siebold's wife, and Active Champion of Kalos.  She's supposed to be a decent Trainer within the Champion-tier bracket.  She doesn't have a lot of time to spend with her family between being Champion and an actress.  She's not on good terms with Rhea's family right now.

Siebold Allard - Lucian's father, Diantha's husband, and Kalos Active E4 Rank-3 Member.  Grandmaster-tier.  Owns a 5-star restaurant.

Ludovic Malet - Siebold's nephew and Lucian's cousin.  Seems to somewhat look up to Lucian and follow his mannerisms ... just not as insufferable.


Lenard (Len/Lenster) Hart - Best friends with Mallory and on the same team as Jason.  He enjoys creating music and partying, just not in the same way as Casey.

Elesa Hart - Len's mother, Gym Leader in Unova, and cross-regional musical superstar.


Blue - Legendary-tier Trainer that appears to have a deep hate for Giovanni.  He had some unknown tragedies that happened during the Ultra War that caused him to turn to alcohol to cope.  He's married to Leaf, and they had some ups and downs with their relationship, but seem on the recovery.  Rhea dislikes him for ruining her 8th birthday and the special card her mother made.  He works with Red in Alola at the Battle Tree.

As much time as I have at the moment to make this; I'll continue to increase the data in time.

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6:03 A.M. June 19, Saturday, 106 PH (Post Hoopa Event)

Events:  The end of the 2nd week in the Joint Kanto and Johto Indigo Summer League Preliminaries.  Last day of the Summer Indigo Cup Qualifiers.  Five days after Ho-Oh’s Viridian appearance, which healed everyone.  One day after Rhea and Nova lost their first battle.

 

Rhea slowly awoke, Mya and Nova still fast asleep, cuddled up on her bed; the noise of the small city was more pronounced than in Lyra’s house and far louder than her tiny home in the forest.  Naturally, Amira was up, but she seemed to have slept in for at least 15 minutes because she was still in the bathroom.

Shifting her weight a little, Nova’s paws tightened around her left leg under the blankets, Mya sleeping on top, weighty mouth-like horn lying across her stomach.

Closing her eyes, Rhea rubbed her eyes before adjusting her pillow and taking a long breath as the events of yesterday came rolling back.  Mya had been less of a brat as the day went on, and Rhea tried to be strong for Nova, but it wasn’t like their first loss hadn’t affected her, too.

Mallory, Amira, and Jay had been there to try and cheer her up, yet for some reason, she found it difficult to text Sam, Hannah, and Jade about it, much less post it to her family.  Deep down, it agitated her—Jason had been down after they’d beaten his team, but he didn’t act like it was the end of the world.

The only people she knew that had never lost a battle were her aunt and Leon—they were exceptions, though.  If you counted each other, Red and Ethan had gone back and forth, which showed even Legendary-tier Trainers weren’t invincible; even if she felt like her aunt was, the legend shot that idea down repeatedly since Rhea’s childhood.

Still, it felt different today.  She had to be there for Nova yesterday, defending her from Mya’s own frustration.  Today, lying in bed with both her Pokémon sound sleeping, she felt sapped of energy, which didn’t make sense since she just woke up.

Her chest rose as she filled her lungs with air before blowing it out in a long, soft stream.  We lost—honestly, she should have, considering how strong they were … It’s not like it will affect our bounty or Battle Rating, though.

The problem wasn’t that they were beaten—they were dominated, and these were still Bronze-tier Trainers, exceptional, sure, but still, Bronze—Gym Leaders and their aides were on a whole other level.

Reaching over to the bedside table to snatch her phone, she saw dozens of notifications waiting for her, causing Rhea to grimace; her family somehow learned of her loss.

Unlocking it without going through them, she searched on the Kanto Contest website for yesterday’s performance and looked up her match.  She dimmed the bright holographic screen to keep the light down, lips tightening while watching the Ralts utilize her Moves.

Jewlya kept at a safe distance, predicting Nova’s direction and positioning appropriately to weave around her Eevee’s attacks.  She had perfect balance, like a dancer, which made sense considering their opening act.

Double Team, Confusion, Hypnosis, Disable, and Disarming Voice were the only Moves she used, but she’d also copied Nova’s Adaptability with Trace, further strengthening her attacks.  Rhea hadn’t expected the Ralts line to be so powerful, but considering Diantha’s ace was a Gardevoir, it made sense.

To think our first loss would be in a Contest and not a real battle … And in front of thousands of people.

Her nose burned just thinking about all the screaming people cheering her opponent on, but that was what she signed up for.  The crowd had been on her side in the Starter Award match.

Releasing tension with a low groan, she shifted her long ponytail to the left side of her bed, falling off to the side before swapping back to her messages to read them.

Amira exited the bathroom, wearing her bathing suit; her thick wet hair was already brushed out and slowly drying.  Her red eyes shifted to Rhea with a small smile.  “Morning,” she whispered, turning her back to study herself in the mirror.

“Morning…”  Rhea returned in a low mumble.

Rhea couldn’t see a mark on Amira’s smooth skin, and she was reminded how fit the Rocket girl was; Amira had a tight figure and took excellent care of her natural beauty.

Turning her attention back to her phone, Rhea’s brow lowered—her aunt had left a message at 5 A.M; Elite Island, where the Sinnoh League was located, had two hours on where they were in Kanto’s time-zone.  Of course, who knew where her aunt currently was, considering she could teleport vast areas at a time and travel at supersonic speeds with her Pokémon.

Dropping the volume, she played the recording.  “Hey, Rhea!  So, I heard about your first contest and tuned in; you did really well.  Heh, I saw what you did there in the Showcase.  Give me a call!”

“You good?”  Amira asked, pulling Rhea’s focus back to her as she brushed Amber’s damp fur out on the sink counter.

Rhea gave her a fake smile.  “What do you mean?”

“... You just seem a bit down,” Amira replied, scratching the inside of Amber’s left ear; Holly was just exiting the bathroom, spinning in circles with a smile on her cute face.  “Still worrying about that loss?”

“Kind of,” Rhea admitted, lips falling a bit to stare at her screen.  “It’s not really that we lost—it’s how we lost.  Nova wasn’t even able to evolve to show off her stuff, and—I can’t help but think it was my fault.”

Amira’s full lips tightened before setting her brush down and walking over to take a chair near Rhea’s bed, crossing her bare legs and adjusting her bikini while sitting; Holly and Amber began talking as the Comfey tried using the brush Amira had left to help out.

“I know it might sound a bit harsh, but it kind of was,” Amira said with a forced smile, “and that’s not really bad.”

Rhea pulled her eyes away to look up at the ceiling.  “Hmm … What did you get out of it—what should I improve on?”

Amira pointed at their teammate with a short giggle.  “Mallory gave you everything you needed, but both of you focused too much on what you would do, rather than what your opponents might use; you already knew who your competition was.”

Lori was in her usual restless position on her back, somehow managing to flip to the side of her bed during the night to have her bare legs dangling over the side.  She had a cute smile as she dreamed, hugging her pillow close to her chest with Miky and Gables snuggled against either side.

“True…”  Rhea mumbled, opening the Pokedex App and Ralts’ data to passively stare at it.  “I could have at least looked at what Moves and Abilities she had to be prepared.”

“At the same time,” Amira sighed, inspecting her hair, “it might have helped you last longer, but I seriously doubt it would have won you the competition.  They are way more experienced in Contests and Battles.  I’d just take it as a learning experience.”

“Thanks,” Rhea chuckled, rumbling stomach causing Mya to moan and flip to the opposite side, large jaws opening a bit more.  “I guess I figured as long as I’ve got such a big energy advantage that we shouldn’t have been—well, steamrolled.”

Amira shrugged.  “Knowing Ralts learns Hypnosis early on could have given you a warning, but the only option would have been to temp-evolve into Glaceon and try to power through since Jewlya had a decent defensive and long-distance fighting style.  Yawn might have been a decent play, but I bet she would have countered it somehow, which meant you had to be careful when to spring it on her.”

“Yawn,” Rhea mumbled, eyes widening.  “I didn’t even think about that…”

“Heh, well—it’s not difficult to intercept with another Move, to be honest,” Amira admitted.  “Sure, it can be good, but it’s a pretty slow attack that she could have used Disarming Voice to cancel out; it could have blocked the Move and powered through with Adaptability to force you to change positions, putting you on the defensive.”

Rhea nodded.  “Yeah … I need to take advantage of Nova’s Adaptability and Run Away Abilities more … Thanks for the talk, Amira.”

“Anytime,” Amira smiled, getting up to continue getting ready.

Not wanting to move and wake Nova or Mya yet, Rhea called her aunt, holding the device up to get a better angle for her camera.

It rang three times before she answered.  “... Rhea, darling!”

Her aunt’s beaming face came on the holographic display; she was dressed in a warm black-themed coat, and a blizzard raged behind her, causing Rhea’s low-volume speakers to go crazy.  Of course, her aunt was utterly unphased by the phenomena.

“Aunt Cynthia…”  Rhea greeted with a smile.  “On Mt. Coronet?”

“Hmm?”

“Mt. Coronet?”  She repeated.

“Mt. Coronet?  Nope, the Winter Woods, by Cameran Palace,” she replied, turning her phone to a new angle to catch Milina, her 6’4 Glaceon, in the background.

Rhea’s brow furrowed.  “The Rota Kingdom northwest of Pewter?”

“Uh … One moment…”  Micky, her aunt’s 8’11 Togekiss, came out of his pokeball and generated a psychic barrier and platform for her to sit on, significantly diminishing the background noise of the ferocious wind.

“There we go, and mhm!  There were some things I was looking into over here—you know there’s a whole underground network within the mountains dedicated to Mew?!  It’s so interesting … Anyway, how are you doing?”  She questioned, looking up at the sky for a moment.

Rhea sighed, forcing a smile.  “Feeling a bit down, but I know I can do a lot better.  I talked with Amira, and I think I should have prepared better by looking up Ralts’s Move Pool and Abilities.”

Her aunt giggled.  “That’s a good attitude—past performances if they’re well-known, too.  Although, don’t feel too down!  He-he, your opponents were really tryhards for a Rookie Contest, and I have a feeling you weren’t going into it expecting that type of competition.”

“You got me,” Rhea laughed; her aunt always knew how to make her feel better.  “I thought it would be more fun at this level, but it turned out to be really sweaty.”

Cynthia’s lips fell a bit.  “Actually, I think you helped your opponent more than you think; Ralts’ Trace Ability has a very high skill ceiling, and Adaptability is quite powerful if used properly—almost every Ability has at least one hidden gem locked within them.”

“Ah, right, right,” Rhea mumbled, remembering back to some of the things taught to her at school.  “I heard she got a lower score from the judges because she misjudged the extra damage Adaptability gave her and hurt Nova.”

“Unfortunately, that was the case,” Her aunt folded her arms, glancing to the left with a low hum.  “She looked like a hard-working girl; what you saw was skill, not talent, but she’d obviously never dealt with Adaptability before, which was why they mismanaged it.

“Contests are to show off the beauty and skill of your Pokémon, not harm or degrade your opponent; she used her Hypnosis to make Nova do a few decent dance moves to lighten the mood from your previous attacks.  That’s why the most high-rated Contests have both sides working together to create beauty while amid battle … On that note…”

Cynthia gave her a light glare, and Rhea nodded knowingly while scratching her temple.  “I know—we figured out Mud-Slap was the wrong play pretty soon after using it.”

“That’s not to say Mud-Slap can’t be used in a competition,” her aunt chimed, expression brightening.  “In fact, I’ve used it myself!  It just needs to be utilized correctly, and Ground or Rock-based Pokémon can combine it into marvelous ways.  All in all, though—honey, you were fantastic, and the judges caught the skill behind that unstable Stored Power, even if the fans did not.”

“Eh…”  Rhea shifted her phone to her other hand.  “You know I got that from watching one of your old Contests, but we didn’t have all the Moves to follow up with it to really copy it.”

Her aunt’s smile turned kind.  “You can’t pull off a Triple Rainbow, Shattering Diamond Radiance in a Rookie Contest, my little Swablu; I get you’ve never really seen lower-tier matches or competitions, but everyone starts out in Bronze, honey.  Be patient with yourself.”

“I know, I know…” Rhea grumbled.  “It’s hard, though—Mya was pretty hard on Nova yesterday; she thinks she’s invincible, and we should never lose.”

“Hmm…”  Her aunt reached out to stroke Micky’s head with a fond smile.  “I know what that’s like—she’ll learn soon enough that everyone is vulnerable.”

Rhea didn’t like the way that sounded.  “You mean—we’re going to lose again pretty soon?”

“... You know, I’ve lost a match before—an important one.  Ethan, Red, Blue, Yellow—even Leon will tell you he’s lost.”

“Uh … That’s news to me,” Rhea mumbled, lifting an eyebrow while thinking about the flashy Champion.  Mallory stirred a bit with a low groan.  “Leon’s hyped up as being invincible by Galar.”

Cynthia nodded.  “He’s solid, for sure, and on his way to Legendary-tier without a doubt, but there are Pokémon out there that could crush every Legendary-tier Trainer on our planet without batting an eye.  I just have a feeling Mya’s little bubble will pop soon enough.  Now, to get onto a brighter subject—I heard you’ve been hanging out with Lyra!”

Rhea’s frown flipped in an instant, and Amira turned to glance her way for a moment before returning to her morning maintenance.  “She’s awesome!  I really like Giovanni, too; in fact, all of the Rocket family seem really nice and nothing like everything I heard back home.”

Her aunt folded her fingers across her crossed legs.  “Oh, everyone has their dark side that you need to be cautious of, Rhea, but Rocket has changed a lot over the years with Lyra’s influence—she really is a rather cheeky girl,” she mused.  “I really want Dawn and her to get a bit closer, but it’s nearly impossible to get the girl to leave Sinnoh or Lyra to leave Kanto.”

Mallory released a morning moan, spreading out across her bed and sitting up to give them a wave while yawning.  “I’m gonna get ready, Rhea…”  She whispered, Gables and Miky joining her.

“How is Dawn?”  Rhea asked, watching the purple-eyed girl unbind her hair to shake it out on her way to the bathroom, giving Amira a bright grin.

“Same ol’ Dawn,” Cynthia snickered.  “Goes out training every day and forgets at least one thing that she beats herself up over…”  Her vision narrowed slightly, staring off-screen.  “I knew it … Hey, gotta go, Honey!”  She chimed.  “If you want to use me as a soundboard for future Contests, then shoot me a text.”

“Bye…”

Rhea dropped her phone on her chest with a sigh as the image cut off.

“Feeling better?”  Amira asked, proving she was far more flexible than Rhea with the poses she took, stretching to get ready for the day’s hike; Amber and Holly were trying to mirror their trainer without success.  “Also—thanks for what you said about my family.”

“Of course,” Rhea giggled, shifting her pillow to scoot up on her headboard.  Nova’s iron grip around her ankles meant the Eevee was pulled up with her, still fast asleep, and Mya rolled to the side of the bed, arm and horn hanging off it.  “I only said what was true.  Your mom’s really awesome.”

“Yeah—she’s great,” Amira whispered.  She moved to her red dress, inspecting it.  “What do you want to do for the next few days?  We still have a bit of time to get to Pewter, but if we keep going at this pace, we’ll start losing days to get to each Gym by the end of the year.”

“Hmm … I get that,” Rhea mumbled.  “What do you think about heading straight to Pewter?  Should we stop by one of those unofficial Gyms in Dark City?”

“Kas or Yas?”  Amira asked.  “Umm … naa.  The prizes aren’t all that great for us; I mean, we don’t need the credits right now.  We need to get our Encrusted Badges.”

Lori’s tired voice came through the closed bathroom door.  “Umm … by the way, I’m down to 3,602 credits, guys.”

Amira’s red eyebrows darted up.  “Huh?  Hold up!  Didn’t you have like … over ten thousand?  What happened to it all?”

The shower started as she talked, water sloshing around inside as she washed.  “Eh—well, I was up to like 25k, and then the pass cost 15k for the Seasonal Bronze Pass—it was on sale!  I made some bad bets and, well—yeah, but it’s no problem!  I’ll get it back; there are some underground betting rings in Dark City I saw on a message board that I can use to win some back!”

“You have to be kidding me…”  Amira grumbled, shaking her head.  “You know, my Grandpa has a bunch of Casinos around the world—Celadon City is huge into gambling, and guess what—the House always wins.”

“Hehe, yeah,” Mallory giggled, “but there are tricks you can use to get around them!  My dad’s been playing them for years.”

Amira scratched her forehead.  “Mmh … I don’t know.”

“Wait!  What’s the gambling age in Kanto?”  Lori asked in a panic.

“Seventeen—you’re fine…”

“Wow—thought I’d have to go for my Plan C there for a bit; never mind, we’re good!”

“Plan C?”  Rhea asked.

“Mhm, beg you guys for cash,” Lori laughed without a hint of shame.  “The underground ring in Dark City requires a 5k buy-in, and they don't ask about age—so, as long as I could've borrowed 1.5k from both of you… What?  I can make it all back.”

“Unbelievable…”  Amira sighed.  “She’s an addict…”

Rhea went through her messages as Amira and Mallory argued about gambling, the redhead utterly against it since there were much better ways of making money by marketing, investing, and saving, which was far more stable; Mallory called that approach boring and slow.

Many of the texts were encouraging; Jade, Sam, and Hannah had discovered the match through social media trending—Mallory and her loss were currently ranked 14 with people posting memes about them getting owned, connected to the Oak Starter Award symbol.

Her friends linked different parts of her performance in GIFs, saying what they liked, and her family members soon followed, her great grandmother asking for instructions on the GIFs.

A smile brightened Rhea’s cheeks and the hate slid off her like water; she didn’t really care what most people said, so long as her family and friends were on her side.

Nova and Mya got up to take a warm shower with her, which swiftly grew cold since Mallory had used up most of the hot water; she was a glutton for heat, which was kind of funny since every morning Rhea saw the girl’s blankets and sheets a complete mess, not even close to covering her body.

They got ready by 7:30 A.M. and hooked up with Jay; Jade, Hannah, and Sam messaged them that they would probably make it to Dark City by the time they did.

Jay didn’t find it too challenging to keep up with them on their way back through Shadow Woods; it really was something, going from bright morning sunlight to utter darkness.  Their trail was only lit by the lamps on the side of the road, which gave the forest an eerie vibe, and the chattering Pokémon didn’t make the atmosphere any better.

Staying on the path, they made it to Dark City by 10 A.M., meeting up with their friends; it seemed some people figured their bounty had been claimed by the loss or it wasn’t worth battling them because the groups of Trainers along the road didn’t appear to be interested in a match.  Mallory may have allowed her bounty to be reset, but Rhea’s was still open for the taking.

Rhea noted the reason could have been tied to it being the final matches of the Bronze League Qualifiers, and most Trainers they saw were glued to their devices as they walked, mumbling amongst themselves.

Mallory went with Hannah and Amira to one of Rocket’s Casinos, Amira feeling a little better than Lori's underground suggestion.

“We’ll be back with a killing!”  Lori cheered.  “Hitmon Hold’em is the game!”

Jay, Rhea, Jade, and Sam took a short break to visit a few of the sites in Dark City, like the famous Red Ketchup Bottle of the legend Tom Ato and his companions, Anne Chovi, and Caesar Salad.

If there was one thing she learned from Dark City—they loved their ketchup.  The item that had apparently brought an end to the Kas and Yas street gang violence led to the city’s reconstruction and expansion.

A statue of a fierce-looking Pikachu was erected at the town center, calling down a bolt of Thunder that seemed to have some historical significance.

Rhea didn’t have a clue what it all meant, but it was kind of funny.

Sam challenged Rhea to a battle once they got to Pewter; her Pokémon still wanted time to prepare, and Mya was all for it.

Hector and Nova spent some time together, the Pineco encouraging her on the performance, while Poppy, Tera, and Mya chilled together.  Mimi was a bit shy around the two groups, and so Orin stayed with his teammate, keeping her company as she rode on Jade’s shoulder.

Jay and Sam hit it off pretty fast, and their group got lunch, Rhea paying; she was down to 11,267 credits at this point, which seemed like a fortune, yet the prices of things were a lot more expensive than she thought.  Back home, all she had to do was make a list of things she wanted, and her parents would buy it, but it was a little different when handling the money herself.

The restaurant they went to had the Gold-tier Loser’s Bracket playing, where Mitch Jones and Corrin Irina were currently facing off; it was a hot rivalry this season, both flaming each other on social media over the past two weeks.

It ended with Mitch Jones coming out on top, calling himself The Law, and that Platinum Threads should be worried because he’s coming, naming Sabin and Katelin among those he’d beat in the Winter Cup.

Rhea just laughed at the prospect; if this match was the best he had, then she couldn’t see him getting close to beating her brother, but some Trainers could build their strength quickly.  Still, she wasn’t all that impressed; her friends, on the other hand, seemed excited to see the future match.

Once they finished eating, their group met back up with Mallory, Hannah, and Amira, trying to dodge questions about Rhea’s unique Pokémon along the way.

Mallory was bright-eyed and filled with energy, while Amira looked utterly drained.

“What happened?”  Rhea asked, shifting on the sidewalk to let a Machoke by.

“Eh…”  Hannah chuckled.  “It was up and down.”

“I’m positive 1.2k credits!”  Mallory cheered.

Amira looked dead inside.  “She lost 57.3k total … She won, lost, won, lost again—it’s too stressful seeing that much money passing around; we should have left when you got the 13k pot…”

“Nah, we had to get that to jump to the 100k pot table to get the buy-in!”  Mallory laughed.  “Man, that was so much fun; so, what’s next, Girls?”  she asked, looking between the group.

“Pewter!”  Amira instantly responded.

Mallory hummed.  “I guess I could gamble a bit more in Pewter…”

A forced smile came upon Sam.  “Pewter City-State actually doesn’t allow casinos and the like—so…”

“Exactly,” Amira jumped in.  “Let’s take what we have and go get our Encrusted Earth Badge; it costs 3k credits to enter a Gym Battle at Bronze-tier, and we have to assume we’ll at least lose once.”

“Pfft, 3k is nothing!”  Mallory scoffed.  “I got plenty.”

“Nothing…”  Jade whispered with a sigh.  “My sister had to give up on her Bronze journey because she ran out of funds to challenge the Gyms.  I thought it was 1k per Gym Challenge?”

Hannah piped up.  “Oh, it is for a normal Gym Badge, but Encrusted are 3x the rate on all Tiers.”

Sam’s hand slid through her straight brown locks.  “Wow, I guess keeping a budget is a pretty good idea then.”

“Thank you!”  Amira groaned, clearly unable to get through to the gambling addict.  “I didn’t expect one of us to be this low at the start of our journey,” she mumbled, doing the math in her head.  “Umm … what about a gambling budget, Lori?”

“Gah,” Mallory waved her hand dismissively.  “If you don’t go big, then you won’t get the prize!  Sometimes you just gotta roll the dice.”

“Why did you go off the card games?”  Amira asked.

Hannah nodded.  “Yeah, I was wondering about that, too; you were raking in a bunch.”

“Eh…”  Mallory chuckled, rubbing the back of her neck.  “Well, they started adding a few decks.  So…”

Rhea’s mouth opened.  “Oooh … You can count cards!  I saw something about that in a movie.”

The seven of them laughed and chatted for a bit, Amira finally calming down after the stress of watching Lori gamble.

She was a little surprised the Rocket girl was so against it since her grandfather got a considerable portion of his wealth through the business.

Amira responded with, “If you own a bakery and eat all the bread, then what do you have to sell?  A casino makes its profit off the people stupid enough to waste their money; I know how casinos operate and would never put my credits on those slim chances!”

“It’s just so much fun, though,” Mallory countered.  “It’s less about the gains and more about the sport of it—the atmosphere!”  she said with stars in her eyes.

In the end, Amira won, dragging them north toward Pewter; on their way out, they popped into both Yas and Kaz Gyms to discover when Len won the contest, he’d received the Grand Prize, a newly hatched, top-bred Tyrogue looking for a partner.

Mallory laughed maniacally at the news, messaging her best friend hints that they’d discovered his 2nd Pokémon.  Of course, the male trio was still deep inside Viridian Forest and out of service.

They exited the city, walking the rest of the way to Pewter City; they took a rather casual pace to allow Jade, Sam, and Hannah to keep up, but they seemed to be doing much better than the first day they’d traveled together.

Jay was captivated by the various Pokémon they passed along the meadows of Route 2, bonding with a Diglett she named Jude on their 2nd day of the trip after Amira recommended looking for one to cover her type bases when they passed by the Diglett Caves.  Poppy could handle the first two Gyms, and Jude would help against the third.  Jude was a culture shock to Jay without the blonde hair-like attachments the Alolan variant had.

The seven of them went through a few mock battles along the way at Rhea’s suggestion, mirroring things she’d read from Jason’s messages about even using travel time to get stronger.

Mya was more than happy to chase the other Pokémon around and show how strong she was; between them, they had enough healing items to keep up the practice and stocked up a bit more at a Trainer Station along the route.

Both of her Pokémon felt a bit stronger after all the practicing, and they were becoming more accustomed to their Moves in combination; they also used the time to look up a few Bronze matches at the Pewter Gym.  Mya didn’t feel that threatened, but Rhea and Nova realized they were in for a tough battle in the coming days.

It was 4 P.M. on Tuesday, the 22nd when they made it to the large gray stone walls of Pewter City.  The hike was starting to get to Jay, Sam, Jade, and Hannah as they climbed higher and higher above sea level, eventually making it to the 5,673-foot elevation of Pewter City.

The landscape was surrounded by towering mountains, Mt. Moon’s colossal presence far in the distance, resembling Mt. Silver’s own imposing sight.

At the leveled out ground of Pewter, they could look back and see Dark City far in the distance; Viridian Forest was a sprawling valley of massive trees, rising and falling with the hills that hid certain parts of it from view.

Sam whistled as they finally made it to an observation point built near the leveling point of Pewter.  “Wow!  Do you see that massive river over there?!”  she asked, pointing deep into the western half of the forest.

“Mmh…”  Jay nodded.  “Yeah, this is just—crazy … I’ve lived on an island all my life and never seen anything like it—it’s huge!”

Hannah directed their attention north of the vast, winding river.  “I think that’s the entrance to the Rota Kingdom, right?  There’s supposed to be a huge festival and there; oh, and a ginormous castle surrounded by water, too!  I so want to go visit … I heard they dress up in old historical outfits and have battles and everything!”

Rhea’s mind flashed back to the conversation she had with her aunt that morning; she’d been just northwest of Rota City, in its frozen winter woods that remained cold year-round.

“It is pretty fun,” Amira mumbled.  “My grandma took me there to see what it was like when I was seven, and we have a villa there since it’s where my family roots come from.”

“Wait … Really?”  Hannah asked, swiftly taking out her phone to write something down.  “I didn’t know your grandpa came from Rota!”

Amira nodded, folding her arms as her gaze wandered over the dense forest.  “Well, not really my grandpa—my great grandma on my dad’s side came from there.  Apparently, not even my grandpa knew her real name, but when he was eight years old, he went to…”

She trailed off, cheeks darkening as her hands reached up to fiddle with her sunglasses.  “Ahem … anyways, yeah … Rota’s a really nice place,” she mumbled.

Rhea giggled; she liked learning more about Amira, and she was opening up more every day.  “Well, I can’t say that about anywhere since I’ve never gone more than several miles away from where I grew up.  It’d be great to explore it, though.”

“Maybe after our Bronze Journey,” Lori chimed in, squinting while trying to see beyond Dark City.  Gardenia City was blocked entirely by the mountains around it, but a desert-like environment could barely be seen through gaps in the distance.  “We can take public transportation at that point.”

Excitement bubbled up in Rhea’s breast.  “Yeah!  I’d really like to travel a bit, and maybe we can hop over to the next International League to check out that place, too.”

“I’m game for that,” Hannah cheered.  “You two?”

Sam and Jade agreed, but the blue-haired girl was a bit hesitant.

“Umm, I like that,” Jade whispered, “but—I’m trying to also save up some money, too.”

Jay adjusted her Alolan skirt with a bright smile.  “I’d like to travel a bit, too; it’s why I came here in the first place.  Maybe I can join you guys; well … I guess it depends how well we do in this tournament,” she sheepishly chuckled, glancing down at her two Pokémon, still getting to know each other.  “There’s so much to explore.”

The seven of them nodded in silence, continuing to watch the valley as an orange tint started to cast over the landscape with the falling sun.

Rhea took a few more minutes to take in the fresh mountain air and sights.  It really was kind of magical, and the flying Pokémon that dotted the skies in their own packs made her smile.  Everything was so peaceful.  The imposing figure of Mt. Moon to the east and its surrounding mountains had a majestic beauty.

Viridian and its skyscrapers were too far away to spot, the only reason they managed to make it this far so quickly was because of Rocket’s well-maintained route they’d created for transport.

Rhea could see the two roads winding in parallel from Dark City through the meadows and trees, crossing over rivers to reach the massive gates below.  From what she’d learned in school, a fork near Pewter went to the Rota, and a caving system through the mountains had been built with the assistance of Brock and his family, carving a route to the kingdom.

Her focus returned to Viridian Forest, lips coming together.  Jason and the others are out there somewhere … If I could peel back the trees, how many Pokémon and humans would be within eyesight?

After several minutes of silence, they climbed down the tower, passing a few other tourists on the way before entering Pewter City.


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