The sun was going down and I found myself at the Pokémon Center once again. The same nurse greeted me with a friendly smile and I handed my Pokémon over to her to be healed.
“Back again so soon?” She smiled wryly.
“Yeah, Shinx had a few battles in the Labyrinth so I wanted to get him feeling better.”
“Oh, you have a Shinx! They’re so cute.”
“Yeah.” I scratched my head. I supposed that Shinx was cute, but I hadn’t really thought about it before.
“Well, did you win?” She asked. The machine behind her whirred and the spaces that held Poké Balls emitted a dazzling light.
I held out my newly acquired Pokédex and flipped it open. “Yeah, this was my prize.”
“That’s just so amazing. You must really be talented.” She removed the Poké Balls from the machine and handed them back to me. “Your Pokémon are fighting fit!”
“Thanks.” My stomach rumbled. “Hey, you wouldn’t know a good place to eat around here, would you? Or someplace to spend the night?”
“Actually, I do.” She looked around me to make sure no one else was standing in line, waiting to be helped. “There’s this really neat place down the street called Odd-ish Eats. All the locals go there. It’s a play off the words Oddish and odd, and well, ish. You see it’s because they serve food there’s that’s sort of unusual, but well, not that unusual that you wouldn’t want to eat it but, you know, it’s still pretty good.
She was rambling. I nodded my head a few times to make sure she understood that I was definitely listening to everything she was telling me.
“And well, so yeah, definitely get the Energy Ball Brew. It’s really good and non-alcoholic.” She smiled, breathing in and out like she was out of breath.
It seemed like she had finished talking. “That definitely sounds good; I’ll have to check it out. After I eat though, I have to figure out where I can stay the night.”
“Oh, you silly.” She looked around again. The place was empty. “Pokémon Centers such as this one often have spare rooms on the second level. We keep these rooms specifically for young, traveling trainers who may not otherwise be able to afford a hotel room. If you’d like, you may use one of those rooms. We already have one trainer who is staying with us for now.”
“Yeah, that sounds good. What do I need to do?”
“I’ll just take your name and any contact information.” She took out a plastic key card and placed it on the counter beside me. “Just use this key to get into the room and return it when you’re done.”
The room was small, but it was definitely better than spending the night wandering the streets or under some bridge with all the Trubbish. I placed my bag down on the bed and plopped down next to it. There were a few paintings mounted to the walls, one of Lugia soaring over a deep blue ocean and another of the majestic Xerneas in one of the forests of Kalos. Both of these were very well known paintings that were probably being displayed in some gallery somewhere, these were just nice replicas.
My stomach gurgled. It was time to get going. I stepped outside and noticed Cassity walking out of the room next to mine.
“Oh, you’re staying here, too?” She seemed surprised.
“Yeah, I just got in. Gonna go grab something to eat now, actually. The nurse at the front actually suggested a place.”
“Odd-ish Eats? I’m actually headed over there right now. Wanna make it a date?”
I cleared my throat a bit. “Yeah, sure.”
I still wasn’t familiar with everything around the city, so I allowed Cassity to take the lead. It turned out that the restaurant was actually right across the street from the Magnes City Gym.
“Have you challenged it yet?” I asked her as we took our seats.
“The gym? No, have you?”
“Not yet. I was planning to tomorrow.”
“Same here.” She turned to the waiter. “I’ll just have a Fresh Odd-ish Water for now.”
“I’ll take the same.” I flipped through the menu. Everything was named after grass Pokémon which was a funny twist. The waiter promptly brought our refreshments and Cassity was already ready to order.
“I’ll take the Serperior-ly Cut Steak, with Weepin Hot Fries for my side. Medium rare.” She closed her menu and handed it to the waiter.
“And for you, sir?”
“Um, I guess I’ll do the Victree Burger. Just regular fries for me.” I handed him my menu.
“Not Odd-ish Fries?” The waiter looked stunned.
“Um, whatever is regular here?”
“Well sir, nothing is regular here, but the Victree Burger generally comes with Odd-ish Fries.”
“Well, I’ll take that, then.”
“Very well, sir.”
Cassity stared into my eyes. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to have a staring contest or if it was something else, so I opted to give her the win just in case and I looked down.
“So, how many Gym badges do you have?” Cassity asked in between sips.
“None, this will be my first.”
Cassity’s eyes widened. “Wow, really? Well, you’re lucky in a way.” She took another sip of her drink. “The Gym Leader will go easy on you since you don’t have any badges yet. Me, on the other hand…”
“How many do you have?”
“I’ve got three already. This will hopefully be my fourth, but I don’t know. I’ve heard that Lacey can be really tough.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes. I pondered over our soon-to-be gym battle. Cassity already had three badges, but she was still worried. I wondered if I was actually prepared enough with just my two Pokémon. It wasn’t long before our food arrived, and we both eagerly dug into our entrees. The lettuce on my burger curled and hooked over the top bun to resemble a Victreebel, and the burger itself was delicious. Cassity’s steak was less novel, but looked great nonetheless.
When the waiter came to check on us, I asked for some Pokémon food to go. Cassity and I paid our separate bills and went on our way.
“It’s getting late.” She looked into the calm night sky and sighed. The stars were twinkling brightly, like a thousand pinpricks of light trickling through a dark blanket. “Let’s go to the Gym together tomorrow, what do you say?”
“Yeah.” I smiled. “I’d like that.”
It was hard to fall asleep that night; the anxiety of my first Gym battle was killing me. Cassity knocked on my door earlier than I expected, and I stumbled out of bed to answer.
“C’mon, we’re going to be late!” Her brunette hair was pinned back with a bow and she had a brown and black scarf draped over her neck.
“Is it cold out?” I mumbled.
“What? No, silly.” She pointed at her scarf. “This is just my lucky scarf. I wear it every time for Gym battles.”
“Oh, right. Well if you want to wait outsi—“
Cassity strode in and plopped down on the bed. “I’ll just wait right here.”
Well, I supposed that I could just as easily get dressed in the restroom. Still… I picked up my things and went to the bathroom. I splashed some cold water on my face and dried it off with a towel. My eyes were red from lack of sleep but my body was ready. I threw on my clothes, black shirt, orange and black jacket and jeans. I dug around in my back and found something I didn’t remember being there—an orange hat, with a white Poké Ball insignia. I put it on and stepped outside.
“You look good. Took you long enough.”
“Thanks.” I picked up my bag and slung it over my shoulder. “Let’s go.”
“Welcome to the Magnes City Gym, Champions in the making!” A short man with bushy black hair greeted us as we entered the Gym. “Lacey loves battling, so you won’t see many trainers here to stand in your way. In fact, most of them just tend to the plants! And in case you didn’t know already, Lacey will be using grass type Pokémon. How kind of her to let me inform you, right?”
We nodded in unison. Just past the front entrance to the Gym, a long, narrow tunnel of vines stretched as far as the eye could see. Only trickles of sunlight slipped through the cracks in the tendrils. The dirt below our feet was moist, and I could feel clumps of it sticking between the grooves on my shoes as I walked. Up ahead, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, a piercing radiance that would surely blind us if we ran into it headlong.
As we neared the exit, the light slowly intensified, and my eyes adjusted to the increasing brightness. It wasn’t just the light though; it grew warmer and warmer with each step until finally I began to sweat.
The exit grew larger and finally we were upon the exit, after several minutes of walking. Sunlight beamed down upon us through the tall, plated glass ceiling. That explained a lot. This large room at the end of the tunnel was nothing but a gigantic greenhouse, lined with plants and flower bushes that were being tended to by various gardeners. Further in the room there was a slightly elevated, grassy platform.
“Welcome to my Gym, young Trainers.” A woman’s voice echoed through the room. Standing on the platform was a tall, slender woman wearing glasses, with long, blonde hair that she had pulled back. She had on brown shorts and a leaf green shirt, with a white, lab-style overcoat. “As you may know, my name is Lacey, and I take it the two of you are challengers?”
“Step right up here then, if you will.” She gestured for us to come forward. “Now, I’ll only take on one challenger at a time, so if you can decide amongst yourselves who the first one will be, the other can just wait on the sidelines here.
Cassity turned to look at me. “I’ll go first.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a belt of Poké Balls. “Maybe you won’t be so nervous if you see me battle first.”
Who said I was nervous?
A referee wearing a solid green shirt stepped up to the platform and walked to the center of the stage. “This platform will serve as the arena for this Pokémon Gym battle. Leader Lacey, challenger, please step to your respective lines and prepare yourselves.”
Cassity walked over to where a white line had been painted onto the grass. She rotated a Poké Ball slowly in her hand, her fingers bearing the tension of the rest of her body.
“Leader Lacey will be using three Pokémon,” the referee declared, holding up a small, white flag in his right hand. “When a Pokémon is unable to battle, I will raise this flag. When a Trainer’s entire party is unable to battle, the opposing Trainer will be declared the victor. Are there any questions?”
Cassity shook her head and Lacey just smiled.
“If there are no questions, then we will commence the battle. Trainers, begin!”
“Leafeon, I choose you!” A solid white Poké Ball flung from Cassity’s hand and opened up, revealing a cream and green, feline type Pokémon with leafy ears and tail.
“An interesting choice!” Lacey called out from the other side of the field. “Let’s do this, Tropius.” Lacey threw a blue Poké Ball down, releasing an enormous monster of a grass Pokémon.
I opened my Pokédex and studied both of their entries. Tropius looked like a dinosaur, with giant, leaf-like wings and a long, slender neck. It towered above Leafeon, but it didn’t look particularly fast given its size. Leafeon gritted its teeth and growled, waiting for its orders.
“Stand your ground Leafeon. She’s going to go for a long range attack; she can’t close in at this distance.”
“Tropius, Solar Beam!” The brown and green dinosaur Pokémon opened its mouth and a brilliant green beam of light shot out toward Leafeon.
“Protect!” Leafeon stretched its jaws and summoned an ethereal shield. The beam of light collided with Leafeon’s shield, stopping it dead in its tracks and scattering streams of energy in every direction.
“Well played.” Lacey smirked, her eyes focused on Cassity. “But how will you handle this? Tropius, use Earthquake, now.”
The monstrous Pokémon reared up on its hind legs and roared, bringing them down with a thunderous crash. A violent tremor rippled from the point of impact moving the earth like a wave rolling over the ocean.
“Leafeon, run towards the quake and jump over it!” Cassity called out to her Pokémon.
Leafeon dipped its head in affirmation, bolting towards Tropius. Cassity, however, had underestimated the sheer destructive force of the Earthquake, and as it grew nearer, the crest of the wave increased height, and it quickly became an uphill battle with Leafeon on the losing end. The earth folded down on Leafeon, burying it under a heap of dirt and debris.
Leafeon whimpered in pain, struggling to free itself from the rubble.
“Just a little more, Leafeon.”
“Tropius, use Fly.” The green, leafy wings on its back began flapping, hoisting it off of the ground and into the air.
“Let’s take it out of the sky Leafeon, use Aerial Ace!” Cassity shouted.
Leafeon, though clearly weakened, got a running start and leaped into the air, spinning like a wheel. It came out of its spin with its tail lashing downward and a slice of air shot forth, colliding with the airborne beast. The resulting impact hit hard, and Tropius was clearly having trouble maintaining flight. It roared out and began to fall, flapping its wings desperately to avoid crashing.
“Leafeon, look out!” Cassity called to her Pokémon, but it was too late.