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June 5th, 2010 (5:01 PM).
Oatmeal? Are you CRAZY?!
In the middle of nowhere.
Belle arrived in Celadon City with newly-evolved Primape, Dugtrio, and Pidgeotto, as well as a reluctant Oddish that had quickly turned into a Gloom. Despite her overwhelming sadness, she couldn’t help but marvel at the huge buildings that surrounded her. She had felt this way in Saffron, too, especially next to the Silph building.
At the PokéCenter, Belle had to grab onto Charmy’s claw to keep from losing him among the mass of bodies (she had taken to letting Charmy out of his Ball to be her traveling companion). She wondered vaguely where she would sleep tonight as she allowed Nurse Joy to heal her Pokémon. When she finally left the Center, she breathed in a sigh of relief and set off on the busy streets to explore the town.
Derrick would no doubt be looking for her…she had to leave as soon as she could, and that meant defeating the gym…well…now. Coming to this conclusion, Belle wandered the streets of Celadon, trying to determine where she should go. She passed some strange, random mansion; the towering Department Store; the Rocket Game Corner, which sounded suspicious to her; and the PokéCenter again. Crap. She was lost.
It was so loud…how could anyone stand it? Belle moved out of everyone’s way and stood by the PokéCenter, rubbing her temples; Charmy hurried to stand beside her. She wished she could find a quiet spot to just…be alone. How many people could fit into one city?
Belle slipped down beside the Pokémon Center, entering a place between the trees and the building. There was a path here; she walked along it, gratefully hearing the noise behind her drop away. Soon, she found herself at the back entrance to the Celadon Mansion. What was this? Some sort of servant’s entrance? Why was it here? Not thinking, she tried the door. It was unlocked.
“Should we go in?” Belle asked Charmy, who held his claws out in a classic “I don’t know” gesture. “Worse-case scenario, I get thrown out. Right?”
Charmy cocked his head at her. She stared at him for a while before opening the door and finding herself in a small room containing nothing but stairs. Wonderingly, she climbed the stairs to find herself in yet another small room containing nothing but stairs. The next room was the same way; and then, she climbed a flight of stairs and was on the roof.
“This is weird,” Belle said. “What is that building?”
,” Charmy replied. They both looked at the small, rectangular building, squatting close to the flat roof. It was white, with gray-and-blue walls. Belle walked around it to find the door.
“Well, we’ve come this far,” she said, before stepping inside.
She walked into what looked like a classroom; there was a desk and a chalkboard, and a small table off to the side with a Poké Ball sitting on it. A man stood near the desk. He had brown spiky hair and wore a white headband with karate clothes, and he didn’t seem to notice her, even though she was standing practically right in front of him.
“Um…hello,” Belle said. “Is…is it okay that I’m in here?”
“There is nothing that I don’t know, like I wrote on the blackboard,” the man told her. “I know about the world of Pokémon! Get together with your friends and enjoy trading Pokémon!”
Belle blinked. She glanced down at Charmy, who shrugged, before moving carefully around the man (he didn’t move) and going towards the table with the Poké Ball. “What’s in this?” she asked, but the man didn’t answer her. She picked it up and an Eevee burst from it immediately, making her cry out and leap backwards. The little brown Pokémon looked up at her expectantly.
“What—?” Belle shouted. It shrank back, trembling with fear, and flattened its ears against its head. “Oh, sorry,” she murmured, and got to one knee. “Come here, I’m sorry, my bad.” The Eevee timidly walked towards her and nudged her hand with its nose. “Is that dude your trainer, or what? What are you doing here?”
The Eevee didn’t show any signs that it had heard or understood her; instead, it pressed itself against her stomach and promptly fell asleep. Belle looked over at Charmy, dumbfounded. She half wished that she hadn’t left Derrick back in Lavender so that she could talk to him about this. Thinking about leaving Derrick in Lavender Town made her remember her sense of urgency, and she stood quickly.
Belle returned Eevee to its Poké Ball and turned to look at the man. “Hey, dude, uh…what’s up with this Eevee?”
The man didn’t reply. She walked past him again and stood in front of him. “There is nothing that I don’t know,” he said when she came back into view. In frustration, Belle reared back and punched him in the jaw.
“Ow! What the hell?” the man cried, stumbling. “What is your problem?”
“What is my problem? What’s your problem? What are you, a freaking robot?” Belle put a hand on her hip. “So, what’s up with this Eevee?”
“Just take it,” the man said. “Geez, that’s what it’s there for. It’s yours now. It’s got seven evolutions, though.”
“Yeah, I know that.” Belle waved this fact away. “What’s up with this little rooftop thing? And why don’t people get in trouble by coming up here? Why do they get rewarded with Pokémon instead?”
The man shrugged. “I don’t know. This is just my day job.”
After the punch, the man didn’t seem too keen on giving Belle directions, but he had grudgingly told her how to get to the Celadon City Gym—it was tucked away in a quiet corner, surrounded by trees and flowers. She approached it timidly, with Charmy by her side and Eevee hanging on her shoulder, where it had insisted on falling asleep.
“Okay…I don’t want to give away my strategy,” Belle told Charmy. “So I’m going to have to put you in your Ball.”
Charmy eyed Eevee, and Belle sighed. “All right, I’ll put this thing up too.” But when she returned the Pokémon to their Poké Balls, she felt a bit lonely.
The inside of the gym was carpeted with lush green grass, and the air was permeated with the sweet scent of flowers. Belle closed her eyes and felt strangely happy for a moment, standing in the middle of this indoor meadow. How could trees and flowers grow inside?
And there were girls—they were everywhere. Mommies, daughters, teenagers, old women, every shape, size, and age. No one in the gym was male; Belle suspected even the Pokémon here were female. A pregnant woman stood with a Chansey, smiling as she picked a flower; until now, Belle had only seen a Chansey in the PokéCenters. A woman and her teenage daughter sat cross-legged across from each other, playing with a litter of baby Bulbasaur…cubs? Were cubs what they called them? It made her miss her own mother a little.
In the center of it all was a woman with a kind, gentle face and dark black hair, which was held out of her eyes with a dark pink headband. She wore a light yellow kimono and held a bouquet of flowers. As Belle watched, she bent and gave the bouquet to a very small girl, who laughed and ran away. The woman smiled and stood, sighing as she tucked her hands into her sleeves. That must be Erika, Belle thought, moving toward her. She remembered the sign outside—The Nature-Loving Princess! Perhaps an indoor meadow was going a bit too far.
Erika stood with her eyes closed contentedly as Belle approached, and she didn’t move or even notice her. Belle stood there awkwardly for a few moments before clearing her throat. “Um…excuse me…are you Erika?”
She didn’t answer. After a while, she opened her eyes and looked towards the sky; and turned, startled, to Belle. “Oh dear…you startled me.” Her voice was as kind, calm, and gentle as her face. It was smooth, like wind whispering through tree leaves.
“I’ve been standing here for a while,” Belle said.
“Oh…I must have dozed off.”
How do you doze off standing up? Belle wondered.
“Well, at any rate…I am Erika, the Gym Leader here, and also an expert in the art of flower arranging. Are you, by any chance, interested in flower arranging?”
“No, I’m here for a gym battle,” Belle replied.
“Oh! A gym battle! By all means, yes…but I warn you. I’m quite strong.”
“I believe it,” Belle replied.
Erika smiled. “Good. I will ready the gym.” She snapped her fingers; immediately, two tall boxes rose from the ground and a stadium floor appeared. Every woman in the gym scattered and turned their attention to it. Belle felt a little nervous. She had never battled in front of a large audience.
“Please climb into your box,” Erika said, gesturing towards Belle’s box as she walked away. Belle did so; her legs shook as she climbed the stairs, but she stood proudly in the box, trying not to show her fear. She wasn’t afraid of heights, but apparently, she did have stage fright.
A woman in a referee outfit stood by the stadium floor, holding a flag in each hand. “This will be a three-on-three battle. Switching out is allowed by the challenger, but only between matches for Erika. Erika, are you ready?”
“Indeed I am.” Erika smiled, but a certain edge was now in her features as she held up a Poké Ball. She liked winning.
“Very,” Belle answered, pulling a Ball off her belt and feeling it enlarge in her hand. She felt the thrill of battle in her stomach, and she forgot about the people watching. Belle liked winning too.
“It is your time to shine, Victreebel!”
“Swifter, let’s go!” Belle tossed her Poké Ball into the air as her Pidgeotto burst from it, crying out and expanding its wings.
“Vine Whip, please, Victreebel.”
“Swifter, let’s give ’em an Aerial Ace!”
Having the type advantage, Swifter won easily; Erika frowned as Victreebel was proclaimed unable to battle, and the red light from the Poké Ball swallowed it as she reached for another Pokémon. Belle was unsure as to whether she wanted to keep using Swifter or switch to Charmy, but Erika threw her Poké Ball too fast for her to decide.
“What the—?” A Pokémon that looked like a walking bundle of knots stood on the stadium floor, its many vine-like appendages wriggling in the air. Belle frowned down at it.
The vines suddenly looked a heck of a lot more formidable wrapped around Swifter’s wings and talons. Swifter cried out in alarm, struggling to beat its wings as it was pulled rapidly towards Tangela.
“Come on, Swifter, fight it!” Belle shouted, grabbing onto the rail of the box. “You can overpower it!”
“I’m afraid it can’t,” Erika replied. “You see, Tangela is quite strong.”
Frustrated, Belle banged her fist against the rail. “Swifter, Peck its vines!”
The Pidgeotto leaned down and thrust its beak into the vine wrapped around its talon; with a strange squeal, Tangela pulled it back. Swifter was able to use this as a distraction and wiggle free of the other vines; it flew up, out of Tangela’s reach. There was no way Belle would be able to get close to Tangela again to attack it; she needed an attack that had range to it, one that she could use while standing far away from it…
“Swifter, return!” Belle cried, holding out its Ball. With her other hand, she quickly loosed Charmy’s Ball from her belt. Once she had his Ball in her good hand, she threw it, yelling out his name.
The Charmeleon stood a little bit taller than the Tangela, and he leered down at it, baring his fangs menacingly. Belle glanced at Erika to see a grimace pass over her face. She didn’t have any tricks up her sleeve for a Fire-type.
“Get out of reach of it, quick!” Belle shouted down to Charmy, who leaped backwards immediately. “Use Flamethrower!”
It didn’t take long for Tangela to go down; Erika returned it to its Ball and brought out the next one.
“That’s the evolution of Gloom,” Belle said, leaning over the rail to get a better look. She didn’t particularly like the look of it; the large pink petals on top of its head were unnecessary and obnoxious, and why was its body so small and dark? “Hey, how did you get that?” Belle asked, pointing down at the Vileplume.
Erika blinked at the interruption of the battle. “I used a Leaf Stone on my Gloom.”
“It doesn’t just evolve into Vileplume on its own?”
“Um, no,” Erika said uncertainly. “But if you use a Sun Stone on a Gloom, it will evolve into Bellossum.”
“Oh. Okay. Thanks. Flamethrower, Charmy!”
“Wait—what? Vileplume, use Bullet Seed!”
But Vileplume was too late; it had a burn on one of its big, obnoxious petals. Belle gripped the rail in front of her hard, trying to force down her excitement. If she started thinking she’d won too early, she would get ahead of herself and lose.
“Vileplume, use Pursuit!”
Belle’s mind whizzed quickly. That was a Dark-type move. How did Vileplume know a Dark-type move?
The move hit Charmy like a ton of bricks and sent him sprawling across the stadium floor. The women in the gym cheered; suddenly, Belle was all too aware of them. The hand gripping the rail in front of her started to sweat, and her legs began to tremble. Maybe she was afraid of heights…
No! No, she couldn’t choke! She couldn’t let Charmy down, or her mother, or Derek, or her father! “Ch-Charmy!” she called out. The Charmeleon sprung to his feet, eager and ready for more. Belle took a deep breath to steady herself.
“Uh—Burn them if they get to close to you!”
What was she doing? Think, dammit. She squinted down at Charmy as he swept a seed out of the air with his tail. The seed bounced against the large, obnoxious petal that had the burn, making Vileplume wince and stop its barrage of seeds.
“Now’s your chance, Charmy! Go around behind it, use Flamethrower!”
In a spectacular move that Belle was quite sure she hadn’t taught him, Charmy leapt into the air and did a front flip, touching his claw to the ground briefly and using it to catapult him over and behind Erika’s Vileplume. He let loose a monstrous Flamethrower that hit Vileplume square in the back and sent it tumbling in flames.
“Vileplume!” Erika shrieked in a manner that was not calm at all. Now the Vileplume lay there as Charmy simply baked it.
Belle had a sudden flashback—a small table draped in white cloth; a black box; a little girl with tears running down her face; a small, lifeless Pichu; only now, she saw Erika, standing over the box, staring teary-eyed at a battered Vileplume—
“Charmy, stop!” Belle cried. “Stop!”
He did, snapping his mouth shut to immediately snuff out the flames before looking up at her apologetically. As their eyes met, Belle knew he knew what she was thinking. Don’t overdo it, she thought, staring down at her Pokémon.
“Vileplume is unable to battle,” the referee said, pushing thick blonde hair off her shoulder. “Challenger wins!”
Erika rushed down from her box and ran over to Vileplume, throwing herself on the floor beside it and placing a hand on its body. “That was a dirty trick you pulled,” she snapped at Belle as she got closer. “Acting as though you were interested in Gloom’s evolutions.”
“I am,” Belle replied. “I have a Gloom. And I didn’t mean to distract you. I’m sorry.”
Erika blinked. Obviously, this had not been the answer she was expecting. She turned away from Belle, checking Vileplume over. Finally, she returned it to its Poké Ball and stood, dusting her kimono off, and smiled like she had before, with that calm, serene look.
“You fought well,” she said. “My Vileplume will be fine. It could have been a lot worse…your Charmeleon has quite a Flamethrower.”
“Your father would be proud.”
Belle was taken aback. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Charmy, noticing her distress, immediately reached out and grabbed her hand with its claw.
“Yes, I knew your father. You are Daniel Caldwell’s child, are you not?”
Belle nodded dumbly. Now that Erika mentioned it, she did look around her father’s age…or, what his age would be if he was alive.
“Your father was a very good man. He battled me when I was still an aspiring gym leader.”
“Did he win?” Belle asked quietly.
Erika laughed softly. “No. I clobbered him. His Ivysaur was no match for my Gloom. Why you would pit Grass against Grass, I have no idea. But I assume he learned from the experience.” She smiled. “We are a lot alike, you and I.”
“You have been through much. So have I.” Erika smiled gently. “We both have black hair. We both miss your father.”
Belle swallowed hard. “What were…you…to my father?”
“An ex-girlfriend. The match I mentioned was the one where we broke up.” Erika laughed, but it was a sad laugh. “He and I were not meant to be…but he was a good friend, as was Terra.”
“You know my mother too?”
“After your father…was killed…we drifted apart. But I like to think we were friends at one time. May I see your Gloom, Belle?”
Belle let Gloom out of its Ball, and it stood on its little flat feet as drool slipped from the corner of its mouth. Erika smiled. “I think a Bellossum would suit you much better than a Vileplume. Here.” Out of a pocket, she pulled both a Rainbow Badge and a Sun Stone.
Belle took the gifts and turned to Gloom. “Gloom, would you like to be a Bellossum?”
Gloom seemed to consider. It rocked back and forth, unleashing its foul stench into the room. Belle pulled the collar of her T-shirt up over her nose, and Erika put her sleeve over her face. Finally, the Pokémon nodded, and Belle gently and timidly touched it with the Sun Stone.
In a show she had seen several times before, Gloom emitted a bright glow and transformed into something smaller and cuter. Bellossum soon stood before her, bursting with happiness. “Bellossum!” it cried.
Belle then decided to take her leave; she felt like she should hug Erika, but all she could do was bow her head in thanks. “Take care, Belle,” Erika called as she left.
It was late in the day when Belle left the gym, so she decided to stop by the hotel she had passed on the way to the gym and see if there were any vacancies. She couldn’t stay at the Pokémon Center—Derrick would find her there. She called Cassandra’s father to ask him for some money, which he gladly sent her over the PC connection.
It wasn’t until she was lying in bed about to fall asleep that Belle realized that she had never told Erika her name.
I got the Rainbow Badge. Erika gave me a Sun Stone and I evolved my Gloom into Bellossum. Swifter, Mankey, and Diglett evolved earlier than that. I got an Eevee in Celadon Mansion. Next stop is Fuchsia City for the Soul Badge.
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