[Vol. I] 7. You’re A Gym Leader?
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Thanks to dealing with that duo in black, Joe was behind schedule. He would’ve made it to Pewter city quite late, but it could’ve been done within the day. Not now though. He sighed while readjusting his bag. If he’d known something like this might happen then he would’ve gotten a bigger bag and carried a small tent with him.

Once Joe came across a clearing in the forest he took out a map of Kanto he’d bought while on the ferry. Using the light of the setting sun, he observed a river on the map. It ran straight through Viridian Forest, as well as Viridian City and Pewter City, and should be east of his current position. Even when night falls, following the river up should be easier than trying to navigate through a sea of trees.

“Are you lost?” A feminine voice came out of nowhere.

Saying he was scared was an understatement. Joe spun around faster than he’d ever moved before and jumped back, away from whoever had spoken. Once his racing heart calmed, he replied. “N- No, I was just thinking I wouldn’t make it to Pewter anytime soon.”

He observed a young woman, perhaps around his age, with short orange and black hair. She wore rugged orange shorts and something like a green poncho over her torso. “Oh, sorry, did I scare you? I thought I made enough noise when I approached.” She then chuckled to herself. “But I guess not.”

“Are you lost?” Joe asked in return.

“Nah, just out for a stroll.” Seeing the young man confused, she continued. “I own a cabin nearby. You could say I’m on holiday right now.”

“In a forest?”

“Of course! This is the perfect place to relax.” With a smile, she put her hand out in a gesture for a handshake. “Name’s Gardenia.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Joe.” He accepted the offer and shook the woman’s hand.

“So you need somewhere to sleep for the night? My place has spare rooms.”

That was a huge help. Joe accepted and offered his gratitude for the help. Gardenia led the way and before long they reached a shallow part of the river, on the other side was a large cabin that could be mistaken for a regular house. It looked big enough for a large family, yet this woman seemed to have it all to herself.

Passing through the shallow water, Joe and Gardenia arrived at the front door, which she unlocked and let Joe inside, with Absol close behind.

“You want something to eat?”

“I hate to be a bother, but if you don’t mind…” Joe said, reluctantly.

Gardenia just laughed in return. “Don’t worry about it, I figured you’d need something to eat. In return, battle me tomorrow morning before you leave.”

“Is that it? I can pay, you know.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine! A battle’s more than enough.”

So Joe took Gardenia up on the offer. They casually spoke about their lives over the meal prepared by the host, which was a healthy salad. Gardenia mentioned that she’d battled countless amounts of Trainers and it’d been fun every time. She was surprised to hear that Joe had a run-in with Raikou, and he explained how something seemed off with the electric beast. As far as he knew there weren’t any rumours of it attacking civilians out of nowhere.

He also brought up the duo in black and, the moment he said they had a red ‘R’ on their shirts, Gardenia told him they were Team Rocket. She told him to avoid them at all costs, but that wasn’t going to be possible. Absol sensed danger and Joe was helping the Pokemon out, so if this Team Rocket was causing problems then Joe would end up trying to stop them.

She inquired as to whether Joe was going to challenge the gyms, and he nodded. “Some people only tackle one region’s gyms before calling it quits. How about you? Any plans to go to other regions?”

“At the moment, yes. I want to become as strong as possible to help others out, along with Absol. The more people we battle the stronger we’ll get.”

“Hm, then I guess it’s a good thing you’ll be facing me tomorrow.” She said with a smile.

After that, they continued to speak in the living room, eventually going to sleep in different rooms. The bright sun leaking through the curtains woke Joe and Absol up. They all ate breakfast together and then went outside to have that battle.

“I didn’t think I’d get into many battles during my holiday so I only brought a few stronger Pokemon. Because of that, you can use all of your Pokemon while I’ll just use one of mine.” She said while stretching.

Just how strong are her Pokemon…? Joe was interested but dropped the thought of having an all-out battle. It’d probably end with him being utterly defeated. One thing he had decided on was using Absol as little as possible for now due to him needing to train up the rest of his team. Understanding it wouldn’t be involved in this battle, the shiny Pokemon chose to lie down near the steps of the cabin. This meant Joe had 4 Pokemon for this friendly match.

“Then, Cyndaquil, you’re up!” He tossed the ball out and the little bundle of joy popped onto the grass, starting up the fire on its back and letting out a cute call.

Using his fire-type was completely on purpose. Gardenia spoke about how much she loves exploring forests and using grass-type Pokemon last night, so she probably had a strong grass-type with her right now. Even though Joe’s Cyndaquil didn’t know any fire moves, Gardenia didn’t know that. He could put pressure on her from the get-go if his hunch was right.

“Good choice.” Gardenia complimented, sending out a Roserade. “But type matchups aren’t everything. Don’t be surprised if we completely outclass you. You ready?”

“Of course.” Joe smiled, and Gardenia smiled back. “Cyndaquil, Smokescreen!”

His little fire starter had grown, learning a new move after it went against Steenee. A thick, black fog burst out of Cyndaquil’s mouth and covered the area, blinding both Pokemon.

“Roserade, Sludge Bomb.” Gardenia seemed calm when giving orders.

A large sphere of purple poison was launched, but due to the black fog, the grass-type couldn’t aim and missed the fire-type.

“Cyndaquil, Tackle!” The little Fire Mouse burst out of the smoke as it began to disperse and hit Roserade right in the face, knocking it back. However, it didn’t do much at all. Roserade retaliated with Leaf Storm, knocking out Cyndaquil in one hit.

Kakuna didn’t fare much better, and Shinx managed to get a few tackles in by darting in and out of the dwindling Smokescreen left behind by its ally, but Tackle just didn’t deal enough damage. Shinx ended up getting hit by a Hyper Beam and was taken out of the fight.

Ralts probably performed the best, using Confusion to knock back a Shadow Ball. The Feelings Pokemon also managed to use Teleport to avoid being hit for a while, but ultimately got taken out by Leaf Storm when Roserade predicted where Ralts would teleport to.

With all said and done, the two Trainers shook hands.

“I thought it’d be a tough match, but I didn’t think you’d be that strong.”

Gardenia rubbed her nose with her spare hand and grinned. “Well, I am a Gym Leader.”

“Wait, what?!”

“I said I’ve battled a lot of people, right? That’s because it’s my job. You come to Sinnoh and you’ll have to go against me, but I’m sure you’ll be a fine Trainer by the time you get to me.”

And with that, they said goodbye to each other and went their separate ways, wishing the other the best of luck.