B1 — 38. Pewter Gym 1
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PoV:

1:  Amira Rocket

2:  Holly (Our Adorable Comfey!)

3:  Amira

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

Mallory maneuvered a confrontation between Amira and Lucian; they got into a bitter battle after some heated comments and big stakes.  Lucian actually had a solid strategy to take Amira out, but unluckily, his Venomoth didn't have a Poison Move and Amira played into his strategy to provoke Holly into stalling out their attacker.

Holly was mortified about her behavior, which was sad, but we also got to see Lucian's POV and just how insecure he is.  He's really struggling and needs people to really help him through the abandonment mentality he has and how he hangs his entire identity on getting his parents, especially his mother's, attention.

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

Liam K, Alex Griffin, Emjayw, Kriden, Dantalia, Howldawg, Brain, Merpmerp, Lars Sprenger, Lu, 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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11:49 A.M. June 23, Wednesday, 106 PH (Post Hoopa Event)

Events:  The Preliminaries for the Joint Kanto and Johto Indigo Summer League have concluded; 105 Trainers and their Pokemon have advanced from Bronze to Silver.  A week of celebration is to follow, marked with events put on by the Indigo League, after which the Summer Round Robin Cup will begin, to crown the best of each Tier among those that advanced.  The battles begin on the 27th.  Rhea started her journey on the 9th of June—she’s been a Trainer for 15 Days.

 

Amira watched Lucian walk off, hiding a smirk; the fact he wasn’t sticking around to try and banter meant this really had gotten to him.  He probably was doing a lot of self-reflecting, but she had to admit, his strategy wasn’t bad, and she’d been worried for a minute there.

She’d just obtained a massive financial boost while he was on the verge of ruin; considering the hype he’d put into this match, Amira thought one or both his parents were watching—that’s what posturing got him.

The nine of them moved into the hallway as the crowd filed out to allow the next match between Silver-tier Trainers to get ready.

Passing back into the hallway, she pulled a few loose locks behind her left ear to face Len.  “Lucian took off; have you guys made an appointment for the Gym already?”

Len hissed a breath through his teeth, scratched the back of his neck.  “Honestly, Jason and I did, but he was holding out—guess this is why.”

Jason groaned.  “Yeah—I figured he was trying to hold off and learn more about Forrest’s strats or something, but after that bet … It’s not lookin’ good.”

Rhea, being the worried cute Chansey she tended to be, turned her attention to Jason.  “Shouldn’t you go after him?  He’s probably not doing well right now.”

Amira held her arm behind her back with a small smile.  “I could always refund the bet.”

“Eh,” Len gave her a forced laugh, “yeah … I wouldn’t bring that up to him.”

“I mean, if he needs the money,” Lori commented, giving Amira a sly look.  “He brought it on himself, but if Amira’s kind enough to return it … I’m just sayin’,” she shrugged at Len’s expression.

“Lori, c’mon—he’s been embarrassed enough.  The dude’s got issues, but he’s not Ghetsis.”

“My bad!  My bad!”  she laughed, waving her hands.  “Okay, I’ll drop it.  So, what are you two gonna do?”

Rhea nodded.  “Yeah, I think you guys should go make sure he’s alright … I just kind of feel for him after all those people were booing and yelling at him.”  She looked down at Nova in her arms as she chirped, ears laying back while looking up at her Trainer.  “... I know, Nova—he did look like he was about to cry.”

“I don’t know about that,” Amira mumbled, frowning as she thought back to the stone-cold glare he gave her on the way out.  “He’s probably just sulking.”

Jason shot a concerned look at Len as they moved downstairs; Rhea’s friends were at their tail, talking to one another about the battle itself more than the drama behind it.  “I don’t know—What do you think, Len?”

The boy brushed back his black white-highlighted hair, staring at the floor.  “Naaa—Lucian needs his space to chill—best thing we can do is let it sit in the past.  He’s gonna do what he needs to blow it out, but this ain’t gonna stop him.  He should have just enough to get on the grind again.”

Amira felt Lori’s rolling eyes that said, ‘It’s a shame,’ purple hair blocking the boy’s view.  

“Well, okay,” Rhea sighed, sliding her fingers through her hair.  “I felt something was wrong, though … He’s just so up-tight—like he’s super stressed about something.”

“That’s simple,” Amira replied, “it’s his parents.”

The girl’s pearly blue eyes creased.  “I guess—maybe there’s something more to it, though.”

“Not my problem,” Lori grunted.  “Anyway, we headin’ to a Center?  The treatment center here’s got a fee,” she mumbled, glancing at the private restore area as they reached the front lobby.

Amira nodded, done with giving Lucian space in her brain.  “We’ve got time.  In fact, the Gym Center is free when its Leader is scheduled; it helps save a trip and gives a reason for people to go inside and see the hype.”

Everyone slowed a bit, splitting up to allow the four other girls to catch up, and Jay piped up.  “Umm … I actually had a question about that…”

“Shoot,” Amira said, tugging her glasses out of her shirt front as they made it back to the sunny streets and entered traffic; it couldn’t even be called that since she was so used to Viridian’s crowds—this was light.

Jay adjusted her tropical dress a little and rubbed her arms as she shivered, the chilly breeze that blew down from the nearby mountains pulling her hair to the side.  “I … Muk, it’s cold here—umm, what’s up with the whole Gym thing?  I’ve heard some foreigners that want to make it more of a thing in Alola, but yeah—we weren’t exactly given that much information on the site,” she chuckled.

“No way,” Sam mumbled.  “They really didn’t tell you anything?”

Mallory lifted an eyebrow, pulling up the site as their large group caused others to curve around them.  “Hmm … I swear they had a Gym section on here … Oh, it’s only like a single page, linking to the Gym locations and saying it’s mandatory for the League Qualifiers.  Huh…”

A sad smile moved the girl’s lips.  “Mhm—in fact, I heard about Contests from some Trainers in Dark City and decided to give it a try since it sounded fun, but—heh, that didn’t turn out like I thought…”

“Yeah…”  Rhea’s lips pulled in.  “Heh, umm, I’ve lived in Kanto my whole life, and it wasn’t anything like I thought either.”

Lori turned her bright expression to Amira.  “Okay, our resident expert; what’s the rundown on Gyms?”

Amira smiled at the sentiment; it was nice having people ask her real questions instead of rolling their eyes at her more detailed explanations.  “Hmm … What do you want to know, Jay?”  she asked, adjusting her bag as they stopped at a light.

Jay hugged her Bounsweet closer to her small chest.  “Umm—Well, the Island Trials are less about pure combat and more about learning a lot of skills and bonding with Pokemon—learn about the Islands and stuff.  I’ve heard the various regional battles are way more brutal.  I mean, the Totem Battles are rough, but that’s for the more advanced challengers—understanding the Wild and stuff.”

“I see…”  Everyone went silent to listen to her as Amira gathered her thoughts; it cleansed her mind of Lucian and warmed her heart that they’d consult her.  “Gyms are essentially meant as a training course for a region’s military might—conscription is a real thing, and it used to be a problem in ancient times … Am I saying something wrong?”

The group was staring at her with wide eyes and open mouths.

Rhea shook her head.  “No!  No!  I’ve heard about the whole training for war and stuff, but not the other part.”

Mallory scratched under her left breast as they started walking across the street before adjusting her bikini under her dress a little, drawing a few looks from men that she ignored.  “Eh, I mean, the only thing they taught in public school was that battling was a way to get closer to your Pokemon and make a lot of money—I learned from the League members that it was all propaganda.”

“All of that conscription stuff is news to me,” Jade mumbled, her other two teammates nodding in agreement—Hannah had her phone out, typing away again, but it was good information to jot down.

Amira shrugged.  “It’s simple logic, really.  Regions were far less stable, and there were a lot of wars back in the day—I mean, look at the whole Ransei continent.  It’s been in self-isolation since anyone can remember, and all we know is that it’s been in a constant state of war from what little comes out of the place.”

Jay hummed.  “I’ve seen Ransei on the map, but we never really covered it beyond it being inaccessible to travel due to their strict no-foreign interaction agreement.”

Jason smiled as he jumped into the conversation.  “Oh!  Some say it’s shaped like Arceus!”

“It is,” Len stated, pulling out his phone to look up a satellite image for Rhea, Sam, Jay, and Jason to see while Amira continued her explanation.

“Anyways, have you ever wondered why Centers and other social safety nets related to Training are always funded under the League Defense Act?  It’s because its purpose is to train, categorize, and facilitate a certain mindset for the region’s defense, and it’s been that way for centuries.”

She followed the advance of the Pewter University students as large clusters of them started appearing around the shopping district they were entering.  “In short, Gyms have a set standard the League creates for each Tier, and most of the public think it's about career opportunities, fame, and freedom … When it’s actually a means to generate the next generation’s soldiers to protect regional interests.  Who pays the best?  The League.”

“That’s pretty intense,” Jay mumbled, stroking her Pokemon’s small leaf with troubled eyes.  “So … Does that mean Alola’s joining that mindset if we’ve created a League and united with the other regions?  Is this a trial for us?”

Amira’s lips pulled in for a moment at her tone.  “... Well, I’ll put it this way—if we didn’t have that type of system, the world would have been conquered during the Ultra War.  It’s actually the Trainers that get hurt the most by it, but they also get to live an extraordinary life, yet that doesn’t protect them from public and media attacks, social expectations, and Trainers going through mental disorders or suffering from depression are dragged through the mud.”

Her gaze shifted to Rhea as she squeezed Nova closer to her breast, nodding at her explanation.  “Yeah—the public can be vicious and cruel.”

“You can say that again,” Lori grumbled.  “It’s like the higher Tier of Trainer you are, or if you have anyone in your family, then you’ve gotta literally be a god and quit being a human being.”

Hannah’s eyes widened, fingers pausing on her phone.  “... Is it really that bad?”

Jay hummed, shifting her arms to adjust her sunglasses.  “I can see that, now that you mention it … You asked me if I knew Inoa, and—well, yeah, but I’ve only heard bad things—I bet they’re not all true, though…”

“Inoa’s awesome!”  Jade interjected in a defensive tone, causing Sam, Hannah, and Jay to jump.  “She tries really hard to be normal, but everyone shuns her because it’s hard to control her—umm, no, she’s just awesome!”

“I-I’ll take your word for it,” Jay replied, forcing an awkward laugh to try and diffuse the situation.  “I didn’t mean to offend—well, no, I didn’t mean to make fun of her—I just heard a bunch of stuff that got her pulled out of school.”

Rhea jumped in, trying to smooth over the discussion.  “Right!  You were with Inoa and Ellie in Viridian Forest, weren’t you?”

Jade nodded, reaching up to scratch Mimi, her Pichu, as she nuzzled her cheek.  “Yeah … Inoa’s had it rough.  She’s super nice and sensitive to everyone else—it hurts her knowing exactly who’s afraid of her when they’re nearby and they put on an act, trying to make her think they’re friendly—talk about her behind her back,” she whispered in agitation.  “People don’t know her.”

“No, you’re right!  I’m sorry,” Jay mumbled, vision dropping to the sidewalk.  “... I feel you—it felt bad when I heard all the stuff Kanto says about Alola…”

Len waved his hand dismissively.  “That’s everywhere; I bet they say all sorts of stuff about Kanto and the other regions back in Alola—we got it in Unova.”

“The double standards,” Lori winked.  “No place is perfect, yet they act like their home is while ignoring the bad.”

“I guess,” Jay sighed. 

“Ahem,” Amira tried to pull the conversation away from the subject.  “In any case, Gyms provide a metric by which the League can categorize potential.  They didn’t know that much about fortitudes back when Gyms were first created; the strong were just put in power to keep the peace or took control by force.  Now, things have changed a bit with the installment of the set regions and League System.”

Jay gave her a thankful smile.  “Thanks for explaining it.  I can see why it’s there now—Usually, the Guardian Deities and the Kahuna would handle all the threats if Alola was in danger, and the Trial Captains helped handle the area stuff, but from what I heard, the Ultra War was bad for Kanto and Sinnoh.”

Sam laughed.  “Yeah, my parents talk about those times a lot, but I don’t remember a whole lot except supply shortages and stuff like that—Pallet made a bunker after the Shinjo incident, but how’s that supposed to help us, am I right?  There was a lot of criticism for it.”

Hannah hissed, vision darting to Amira.  “... Which was placed on the Master Trainers … I see where you’re coming from now.”

Amira shrugged again.  “It is what it is.  People lash out when they’re afraid, and the Master Trainers or Gym Leaders are the easiest targets.  Getting off this topic, though,” she blatantly stated, “let’s return to the Gym.”

“Right!”  Jay smiled.  “I was super unprepared for the Contest.  What should we do?”  Poppy gave a questioning chirp in her arms, looking for answers herself.

Amira chuckled.  “You and I should have a fairly easy fight, all things considered.  Your Bounsweet is a Grass-type.  Watch what Forrest is doing in the match with me because the Aide you’ll be going up against won’t be nearly as tough.  You just need to land your Grass Moves, like Holly’s Leaf Tornado or Vine Whip, and you’re golden.”

“Eh—he-he-he…”  Jay’s expression turned forced, Poppy’s leaves falling in defeat.  “Well, you see…”

Lori and Len winced as Jason sucked in a breath.

Rhea looked ahead of them as the Gym came into sight.  “Oof—Don’t tell me…”

She nodded.  “Yeah—Poppy and I don’t have any damaging Grass Moves—We’ve got Splash, Play Nice, Rapid Spin, Grass Whistle, and Accupressure.”

Sam enthusiastically jumped in.  “Wait, isn’t Splash a water-like Move?  Can’t that help?”

Amira wanted to facepalm but knew it wasn’t nice and restrained herself.  “Eh, no, Sam—It may look like a Water-type Move, but its energy typing is Normal and is one of the most useless Moves there is until you get to a higher control cap when it can be used as a sort of weak Protect.”

The brown-haired girl’s cheeks flushed.  “Oh—my bad…”

“No, you’re good!”  Rhea comforted, bumping into her a bit to take her mind off it.  “Heh—You know, my brother tries to teach me all this advanced stuff, too, and he … No…”

Amira glanced at her teammate as she trailed off, Rhea’s focus near the colossal underground Gym front entrance where a group of people stood; two famous faces stood out in an instant, drawing everyone’s attention.

Jade gasped.  “Rhea, is that…”

“Sabin Evenhart,” Mallory interjected, saving Rhea from the girl’s shocked response.  “Huh—Wonder if he’s here to challenge the Gym?”

“He’s with Katelin Jennings, too,” Hannah squealed.  “I love her!  Oh, have you seen her Encrusted match against Janine?!  Wait … she’s Sabin’s girlfriend, which means … OH!!”  Her eyes darted to Rhea in fangirl excitement.  “Oh!”

“Huh—Who?”  Jay asked, trying to puzzle out what was going on.

A smile brightened Amira’s lips as she saw Rhea’s conflicted expression; Amira had always wanted a sibling, but for whatever reason, her parents only had her, and she’d never brought up with her mother.

She had no doubt Rhea wanted to rush over to her brother and give him a hug because that was what she saw in her eyes, yet the confused, conflicted aspect of having her family hidden put a huge block between them since her brother operated in the open.

In truth, Hannah had put together something Amira hadn’t; it didn’t occur to her that Katelin could become Rhea’s sister-in-law in the future, especially with how the public talked about the accomplished Platinum-Tier power couple.

“That’s one possibility,” Amira replied to her teammate’s earlier comment.  “Anyway, we should probably be going inside.  You good, Rhea?”

“Uh—umm—no, yeah—yeah, I’m good!  Heh, I just, umm … yeah…”

Amira held out a hand in surprise as Rhea stumbled forward while trying to walk again.  “Woah!”

“No—No, I’m good!  I’m good!”  she sheepishly laughed as the others gave her worried looks.

Len was more focused on Sabin, though.  “Aye, you know he went to Unova for his Gold Journey and beat my mom’s Gym, right?”

“Wait, when did that happen?”  Lori asked in surprise.  “He got an Encrusted Badge from your mom?”

“Heh, no, no, no!”  Len waved his hand.  “No, he beat one of her aides.”

Lori’s eyebrow lifted, lips pursing to the side as they made their way toward the pair.  “Which one?”

Ampère.”

“Huh—she’s one of the better Masters,” Mallory commented with an impressed nod.  “Okay, I see him.  What about Katelin; she joined him over there?”

“Yeah,” Rhea mumbled, pulling everyone’s attention.  “Her group and his were going through Unova together.  He got the Encrusted Wave, Basic, Insect, and Legend Badges while she got the Toxic, Basic, Jet, and Wave Badges.”

“Ah,” Jay giggled.  “Are you guys fans of theirs?”

“Yeah, somethin’ like that,” Len chuckled.  “We should get going, though; it’s getting close to the time we need to be inside.”

Amira noticed Sabin and Katelin’s gaze followed them inside; Sabin knew his little sister was going inside, and they paused at the door as they called out, Rhea’s body going stiff.

“Hold up!”  Katelin laughed, breaking away from them.  “Aren’t you three in this year’s Oak Starter Award?  Man, Sabin, that take you back?”

The carefree, handsome face of Rhea’s brother settled on them with a bright grin.  “Ah, what’s up, Kate?”

“The Starter Award kids,” she pointed, pulling his arm their way.  “Let’s go say hi!”

The reporters were ablaze with other questions.

“Sabin, are you here to challenge Forrest for the Encrusted Platinum Boulder Badge?”

“Over here, Sabin!  Are some of the recent reports about you taking your Master Journey to Galar true?”

“Katelin, is Jeniffer’s Gossip piece about the proposal from Ace Trainer Hansen true?”

The two dismissed the throng, cleverly using them as a means to escape their frenzy of questions for the famous pair.

Sabin jogged over with Katelin pulling his arm.  “Woah, hey—I got it, Kate,” he laughed.

“Not fast enough!  Hey, girls!  Oh, and you’re Len, right?  Your mother’s Gym was pretty rough for me, but I learned some good strats from some of them!”

Len rubbed his chin.  “Ah, yeah, she talked about it during dinner that night—So, what’s up?”

The journalists saw that they were being stonewalled and swapped targets, trying to separate Len from their group.

“Len—Len Hart!  Are you here for the Encrusted Badge, too?”  one asked, assuming the power couple was here for that reason.  “Your mother’s an Electric-type High Master; how are you going to handle the Rock-type status of Pewter?”

The boy waved his hand, dismissing the question.  “Sorry, guys, but I’ve got places to be; contact my agent if you want to set up an interview.”

His reply silenced many journalists, likely wondering who his agent was to do something like that but not wanting to look like idiots.  It was a good bluff, giving room for Amira to bustle them inside.

“... I have the first match coming up in a bit; I need to get ready…”

“Ah … Right, right,” Sabin mumbled, following them inside.  “Heh, thanks for getting us out of that storm.”

Katelin expelled a pent-up breath in a long drag.  “Riiight?!  I can’t believe it—We flew in, and they swarmed us like Insect Pokemon defending their territory!  We were having such a good time on Mt. Moon, too … Oh, well.”

Sam, Hannah, Jade, and Jay were utterly silent, not knowing how to proceed with the conversation.  Rhea swiftly regained her senses, though; Amira laughed at how awkward the girl was sometimes.

“H-Hey!  Uh—yo, so, we’re just—you know, going to challenge the Gym, heh…”  she stammered, fidgeting a little with her bound, waist-long blonde hair like Amira’s mother did when nervous.  “What are you guys doing here?”

Katelin’s eyes narrowed teasingly as she nudged her boyfriend.  “Oh, we’ve been getting into trouble on Mt. Moon and exploring a bit of the area.”

He smirked, leaning over to kiss her on the forehead since he was taller than her.  “Yeah, she’s basically kidnapped me the last few days.”

She winked at them.  “Shh!  Don’t call the cops; it’s consensual, I swear!”

“Where have I heard that before?”  Lori snickered, catching Rhea’s red cheeks.  “Are you two here to challenge the Gym?”

“Bah!”  Sabin shook his head.  “Na, we just needed someplace to get away from the Mandibuzz.  We’ll stick around, though.  Might be fun to see some Bronze matches.”

“Is it really that fun?”  Jay blurted out.

“Oh?”  Kate asked, focusing on the girl.  “Who’s this—Oh, are you one of the Alolan girls they sent over?”

“Eh, yeah, sorry—I just—people don’t usually say they’re into Bronze matches.  I was just a little surprised,” she chuckled, probably trying to not be the odd one standing by saying nothing in the group.

“It really is fun,” Sabin defended, smiling at Rhea before turning it to the other girls.  “It keeps you level-minded, knowing where you’ve come from and where they might be someday.  Who knows, maybe one of you will jump past Kate and me.”

“Pfft, I don’t know about that!”  Sam chuckled, finally entering the discussion.  “We’ve got a long way to go.”

“We all started where you are,” Kate encouraged.  “You just gotta persevere and work on yourself and your team!  It’s less about what Pokemon you have and more about the bond and strategies you can develop, so don’t be too hard on yourself or your Pokemon if you lose.  You just gotta jump into the Training grind and find out where you need to improve on!”

“Thanks for the advice!”  Jay chimed.  “It’s been a bit of a culture shock—coming to Kanto and all, but I’m starting to like it more and more.”  She grinned at Rhea.  “I’m meeting all sorts of friends.”

“Glad to hear,” Sabin whispered, and Amira caught a proud twinkle in his eyes as he appraised his sister’s new friends.  “Anyway!  Kate and I are gonna go get a good seat…”

“If we can!  Hurry before everything’s taken!”  Kate groaned, pulling him toward the counter.

“Later!”  he laughed, waving them goodbye.

“Yeah—bye…”  Rhea weakly mumbled, returning the gesture; Amira was sure she really wanted to drop the whole thing and run over to hug him by the look in her eyes.

“C’mon, Kate!  Heh, it’s Pewter Gym; they got seats for days!”

“Hmm?”  Kate gave him a slight grin.  “Didn’t know the University schedules classes to be free when Forrest has his matches, did you?  There’s three Gold-tier challenges at 6 P.M., too.”

“Oh—okay, maybe we do need to get going to find a good seat,” he mused.  “Ya got me!”

“What would you do without me to keep that battle-head straight?”

Amira made her way to the in-Gym Center to heal Holly’s defensive matrix before heading to the challenger location, causing the other girls to follow her; she’d already scouted out the proper areas to go when signing up.

Sam, Jade, Jay, and Hannah waved them off since their matches were tomorrow during an aide block.  The three teammates were a bit thrown off by Jay’s questions, asking for help on preparing for tomorrow.

Amira, Rhea, and Mallory had left their items in the hotel room to avoid any locker fees.  They made their way out to the ringside soon after being called; there were seventeen other participants beside their party, but all of them had scheduled their match at the furthest priority, excluding Len that had been shifted to the slot just after Rhea.  It would be Amira first, Mallory second, and Rhea third, then Len and Jason.

The blonde-haired girl seemed to be having a nervous discussion with her Pokemon; Mya wanted to be the one to go in, which was a good choice, but her attitude was troubling—she seemed to think that it would be just as easy as her other matches.

Amira touched her breast as Holly sent a warm, hug-like sensation that wrapped around her like the Pokemon was literally embracing her.  Aww … You really are adorable, Holly.  We’re gonna go with the big setup strat we worked out.  Okay?

She responded with confidence; they would play the defensive route by setting up for a clean sweep and use everything at their disposal—it’s what her grandfather would do when heading into a serious battle.  Forrest had strategies to combat his own weaknesses just like her grandfather did.

If she wanted to win this, even with a Type advantage against most Rock-types, there were combinations he could use that would throw her off.  He wouldn’t know her Pokemon, and she wouldn’t know his exact choice, either, but it would be some kind of Rock-type at the very least.

Amira gazed around at all the women that had gathered to face the Gym Leader; Len and Jason went to the male locker rooms.  There were three other girls beside them, which seemed to be from Kalos.  These girls weren’t anything like the previous ones they’d seen, though—in fact, one was throwing up from the stress she was feeling, her friends comforting her.

They mostly kept their distance, and eventually, the time came for Amira to go out; Amber was doing her part to amp Holly up, giving the Flower Pokemon confidence.

Amira went forward, breaking away from the rest after being given instructions when signing up; the announcer calling the shots had a deep, showy voice.

“Ladies, Gentlemen, and Pokemon!  Put your hands together for Wednesday’s Leader Bronze League Kickoff!”

Tens of thousands of people were filling the stands, which was a vast difference compared to the numbers she saw in the streets, but considering how hard it was to get good seating for Gym Leader days, it wasn’t all that surprising to Amira.  Their cheers made her heart beat faster, and she knew her family was watching after the text she sent them last night.

Okay … We can do this.

The spotlight hit her, and she walked to the lowered platform with a confident smile, wearing her sunglasses to dim the bright lights that were cast upon her in the dark underground stadium that was built to have Master-tier matches, which meant it was colossal—it had to accommodate for a full six-team if the challenger wanted that format.

She felt sweat in her armpits, but she couldn’t help it with how hot her body was; this was one of the biggest stages in Kanto and attracted a world audience—she couldn’t make her family look bad.

“We have a treat for you tonight!  Last week we had our first run-in with the Oak Award Winners, and this week is no different!  We have Viridian’s Red Flower and the Viridian Ruby, Amira Rocket!”

Amira tried not to roll her eyes or sigh in exasperation at the nicknames people had given her over the years—the announcer was obviously one of the pro-Lyra fans because only they called her by those titles.

The field comprised many rising rock formations and places where a Pokemon could hide or use to its advantage.  He might use the blind spots to attack you, Holly, and do something I can’t see—of course, as a High Master, he can see the whole Muking field and know what’s happening.  It really is a tough challenge.

Holly told her she’d do her best with Amber’s encouragement.

Losing isn’t the end of the world—But we don’t plan to lose.  Let’s do this.

When Forrest came out from the back to stand at the slim console, Amira was a little taken aback; she’d seen Brock’s brother around Viridian but never actually saw the man in person.

He wore a simple business suit, which was very unlike his older brother and was quite a bit more serious, and his fashion was just her type.  Somehow her heart beat a bit faster upon seeing his business-like cadence, and his voice was smoother than the announcer singing his praise from the speakers above.

“Amira, it’s a pleasure to meet you…”

She put Holly and Amber into the analytics machine that would measure their strength which would release a set of Pokemon in his console that was strength appropriate for the match.

“... I see you know how this works,” he chuckled, his lips only rising a little.  “You’ve scheduled a single’s match—one Pokemon.”

“I did,” she took a deep breath, setting her brow.  “Don’t go easy on me.”

He studied her from across the enormous gap that separated them, and Amira’s mind soon began blocking out the shouts of the crowd with the presence of the High Master across from her; it was something her grandfather could do that had always made her curious—they could somehow draw in their opponent and make you focus only on them.

“I’m not going to raise my standards because of who your family is, Amira,” he evenly replied.  “You are here to be tested, and I am the tester.”

He reached down and picked a pokemon from the options he had before him.  “Are you ready to show me what you’ve learned from your family?”

Amira took a moment to respond, composing herself with her Pokemon sending her ‘go’ signals.  “... I am…”  She selected Holly, taking her out of the scanning device.

“Then show me you have what it takes to take my Badge.”

The announcer saw Forrest was ready and made the countdown.

“And … Here we go, folks—three, two, one, begin!”

 

* * *

 

Holly released from her capsule, tuning out of Amira’s senses to focus on what was in front of her.  What was released was something rather strange, but she’d seen it in the museum before; her Trainer’s response wasn’t good, though.

“Muk…”  Amira growled as Holly started to take her Trainer’s given energy and convert it into her songTyrunt … Is he trying to see if we went to the museum to learn about the Fossil Pokemon—it should be good, but it’s bad!”

Why?  What should I do?

The ferocious-looking Pokemon snapped his jaws as he ran behind a nearby rock alcove, disappearing from Holly’s view.  “He-he-he, another victim for my jaws!”  he roared.

Amira had told her she was quicker with her Moves than most people at this level, which made her happy, and the white glow of Lucky Chant shielded her from harsh attacks.

However, the Tyrunt soon appeared on top of a small rise, and a powerful, guttural roar similar to Mya’s exploded around the area as a red and pink aura erupted around his strange, uneven dance.  “Destroy!  Snap!  Break!”  he shouted, and the violence in his jumping frenzy made Holly retreat a little, preparing her next Move.

“He’s Rock/Dragon-type, Holly—he’s powerful but has a lot of weaknesses … You should be able to destroy him—We just don’t have the Moves at this level, and Forrest knows it.  It’s a hard match-up at our level—Is that Dragon Dance?!  This is getting dangerous.”

“Y-You’re kind of scaring me,” Holly mumbled, but all that met her was his intense eyes.

“You step into my territory!  King’s territory!”  His jaws snapped again, causing her to flinch as white surrounded her, swiftly turning green as her internal strength grew; she assumed King was this Pokemon’s name.  He was like the super aggressive Pokemon in the Nidorino’s territory in Viridian Forest.

A dark brown shimmer radiated below the fierce red and pink aura, causing King’s body to shine as if polished.  “I will crush you!”

He jumped down from the rocks, rushing her, and he was much bigger than she thought as his speed dramatically increased.  Amira was in her head, giving advice.

“He’s buffing to counter our buffs … Those are good Moves, too.  He will outspeed you at this point, which means you need to use your floating to your advantage.  Use the rocks as jumping points to float away and stay out of reach while finishing your buffs!”

Got it!  He’s so angry, though!

“Yeah, he’s pretty intense,” Amber mumbled.  “Make sure to keep away from those jaws.”

Holly squeaked; she couldn’t fly, only hover a set distance off the ground, which normally was around five feet.  She could use other things to levitate and float on the wind, though, but that didn’t help her in this underground area.

The 4’09” tall monster was gaining on her with every quick step of his powerful legs.  “Come into my jaws!”

“No, thank you!”  Holly said, floating up the rock and jumping off, but he leaped after her, and she had to pull back her tail before his jaws could snap around them to drag her back to the floor.

He landed with a slide and was back on the hunt soon after, charging his next Move.

Holly’s breast filled with strength as she converted Amira’s energy into power; it took so much time to gather the appropriate amount to make these big Moves, but Amira was adamant about it.

“He might be too heavy to blow back with your Leaf Tornado; zoning him won’t work that well, but maybe after charging up your Special Attack, it will help.  Leech Seed should be the next strategy…”

Four brown globes of light separated from King, forming into jagged rocks that launched at her in the air—she couldn’t dodge them.

Vine whip!  Pull yourself away!”

Holly reacted on instinct on the command, using her swift-acting Move as a grapple.  She barely managed to get away in time but judging by the white glow he received after it, Amira saw he was starting to way outpace their ability to keep up.

“I didn’t expect a stat race—Dragon Pokemon have insane innate energy pools, though.  He’s fast enough to grab your vine with his jaws if you try to attack them—it’s going to be hard on our energy, but go for another Growth to try and get more power behind your attacks.  If you get hit too much, it's over; we need to end this, and quickly.”

He was becoming so much faster than her that it wasn’t even fair; by the time the petals were blossoming around her spinning body, he was on top of her, sliding into a spin to smack her with his glowing tail and sending her smashing against a nearby rocky edge.

She winced, despair touching her heart as all the work she just put in was negated.

“Use Vine Whip now to throw him as far as you can!”

O-Okay, but he—he lowered my shield!

“You’re doing fine, Holly!  Stay focused.”

Her vines shot out as she tried to recover; he somehow knew her attack was coming because he shifted his momentum to leap to the left, but she still managed to snag a leg; it was like trying to throw a tree stump, yet she managed to toss him a quarter of the way back to his side of the field, beyond the jutting rocks.  A loud boom sounded as he landed out of sight.

I … I did it!  she cheered.

“Don't celebrate yet,” Amber advised.  “How he’s been moving, he probably landed on his feet and is rushing back.”

Amira hummed.  “His attacks are very linear; use a Leech Seed on him as he’s running toward you—the center of his chest.  His small arms can’t get it off.”

Holy took a shuddering breath to still her pounding chest; this was way more intense than her previous fight since she wasn’t the one enraged this time.  Okay!

Amber was right, and he was soon jumping over a rocky hill.  “You think that’ll slow King?!  I’ll devour you!”

Aiming carefully, she waited for him to begin charging his Tackle before shooting it as the barrier was forming; just as Amira told her in one of their training sessions, there’s a transition phase where they can’t use Protect to block her attacks.

The seed struck, sprouting to enclose his body, but that didn’t stop the charging Tyrunt and Holly watched with wide eyes as he drove her into a nearby rock formation, breaking through it to hit the next one.

Coughing as he pulled back to launch another Tail Whip, Holly spun in a sharp circle, causing a harsh gale to force the Ancient Pokemon back as he lost his balance.  He’d smashed through at least forty percent of her shield with that single attack.  However, small balls of green defensive energy were already being pulled out of King and floating to her, slowly restoring it.

“Good!  That’s going to help us take more hits,” Amira cheered, but Holly could already tell she was running lower on the amount of energy she could give her; she hadn’t had to push her Trainer like this in any of their fights, and maybe the last one against Lucian had something to do with it, too, but they were in a troublesome match—Gyms were no joke.

King was back on his feet with a smooth trick of shifting his powerful tail to sending him flying a few feet into the air, but Holly was already on top of him, glowing body wrapping around his frame to leave a constricting white light—Amira had been teaching her how to use Wrap without staying attached to the opponent, which was something she’d never thought about before.

He chomped down on her body with his powerful jaws, but there was no energy behind it, so no damage—she was just as trapped as he was in her Wrap.

“L-Let go!”  she growled.

“He-he-he, I’ve got you now,” he mumbled through his locked jaw.

“Holly, use Vine Whip to pull his legs out and trip him!”

She did, but he refused to let go as they both collapsed to their side.  It didn’t work!

“Plug up his nose with them!”

Eww … But okay…

She panicked a little in the process as the brown energy balls started to form around them again; he kept her still to smash her with the Ancient Powers he could generate.

Her vines stuck up his flaring nostrils the moment they formed, and she couldn’t believe it actually worked!  The rocks slammed against the ground as he began to struggle, causing the Move to break.  “M-My nose?!”  He gagged, letting go, and she flew away, promptly spinning in a circle and sending more Leaf Tornadoes his way.

It was a tough battle at the start, but now things were looking up.  She managed to keep her distance; between the Wrap, Leech Seed, and Leaf Tornadoes while jumping off high rocks; she was swiftly draining his shield and replenishing her own.

He began to destroy the elevated stone platforms, but it was too late at that point, and in the end, she was standing over the unconscious Tyrunt, gasping and only partially lucid.  She’d used so much of her own personal energy in this fight that it was difficult to see straight; he was more challenging, tougher, and brutal than anyone she’d faced in the Wild or from Trainers.

She looked up as Forrest returned the Pokemon, realizing how loud the cheers were across the stadium at her victory—she did it … she won.

“You did so well,” Amber praised.  “You feel how proud Amira is of you?”

Y-Yeah … I’m so tired, though…  she mumbled.  I’ve never worked so hard in a fight—I never stopped running or using my Moves, and he dodged so many of my attacks by using the rocks as cover…

“You still won!”  Amber chimed.  “We got our first Encrusted Badge thanks to you!”

Heh … thanks, Amber.  I’m just happy to be of help!

 

* * *

 

Amira was floored.  We did it … Holly—we did it.

Amber and Holly were sharing a moment, and her little Flower Pokemon was exhausted.  Centers could only do so much to restore Pokemon Power, and with how enraged Holly was in their fight against Lucian, she had no restraint, causing this battle to be rougher than it had to be … and that was her fault.  She let Lucian get to her, which could have cost her this match.

She sighed.  I need to do better.

Her attention lifted to Forrest as he started to clap, causing the crowd’s noise to die down and he spoke over the speakers for everyone to hear.  “Amira Rocket, that was an excellent use of your Comfey’s Moves.

“It wasn’t perfect, but you managed to pull through when facing a very aggressive Pokemon that never let up on his attacks and used his environment to his advantage, even going so far as to make use of it yourself.  You’ve earned your victory.”

A genuine smile lifted Amira’s lips; for some reason, she needed that praise, and it was hard to keep the tears from leaving, her eyes hidden behind sunglasses.  “... Thank you, High Master Forrest—I’ll continue to improve.”

“I’m sure you will.  Now, I must face my next challenger.”

Nodding, Amira got off the stage to allow Mallory her turn; her phone buzzed in her clip at her waist—it was probably her mother and the rest of the family.  The moment the spotlight left her to Lori, she took her glasses off and whipped away a few tears of gratitude.  Thanks for working with me, Holly—I couldn’t have done this without you.


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