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[Pokémon] A Change of the Season


one more time
Author Notes: Here's a fic that I've been writing on-and-off for a while (read: couple years at least)! It's actually had its full draft finished some months ago, but I've given it a rest before going over it again, and then beta reading as well. It's a chaptered fic, longer than Fairy Tale but not quite the monster that TRoPC ended up being. As chapters come out (which won't be swift - the rest needs further proofreading!) I'll update an index.

For those who've read said works, this one isn't a comedy. So that's unusual for a chaptered fic by me. =p I enjoyed writing it out slowly but surely though, and the story was something different for myself (and hence a useful exercise), so I hope this'll be enjoyable to you readers as well. I'll also note that there'll be a music reference in each chapter title (I can't resist some silliness), so if you catch them do point them out!

What isn't different is that as usual this fic has a basis on the games canon - HGSS, to be specific. (While there is GSC, curiously a bunch of NPCs got renamed in the remakes. I went with the HGSS names.) I hope you'll enjoy my what-if musings involving NPCs with a couple of lines each in the games!

Thanks to Jess and Astinus for feedback provided during beta reading. Guess worth giving credit to Camp NaNoWriMo last year as well, during which a chunk of this was written. Let's go with a rating of PG for this - mild language, battles, etc, but nothing too risque.

A Change of the Season

Chapter 1 – A Hazy Shade of Winter

Riiiinnng. Riiiinnng.

I awoke with a start, greeted by the familiar screech of my alarm clock. I chose to ignore it for a while longer, far preferring to stay snuggled within the warmth and comfort of my bed than to brave the cold air that awaited me. Sure, the shrills were annoying, but I could almost convince myself that they didn't exist by burrowing my head further into my pillow. When I had still been living with my parents, they had been astounded by my ability to stay in bed. Dad in particular often grumbled to Mum on how his own daughter didn't take after his habit of beating the sun up.

What the pillow couldn't protect me from was Bessie, who bounded into my room a moment later, clambered onto my bed and barked happily at my face. She then slapped my feet with her tail for good measure.

"Fine, fine, I'll get up," I grumbled as I rolled to the side and reached my hand out to pet the Dewgong on the head. "Just five more minutes, alright girl?"

Bessie tilted her head at me and frowned slightly before she resumed her loud yelps. When that failed, she moved in and licked my face with her big, sloppy tongue. By instinct I jerked my head away from her to prevent her from licking my hair as well. I had braided it the night before - I didn't want that effort undone so quickly.

"Agh! I see there's no convincing you then." I sighed before I flopped out of bed, feeling somewhat more awake now. I fumbled for the alarm, switched it off on the second attempt and turned to Bessie. She looked back at me with her large, silly grin and bounced lightly on the bed in anticipation. I glanced worriedly at the squeaking bed frame. While it had always managed to support her weight, I didn't want to risk it falling apart.

"Yes, yes, I haven't forgotten to feed you. Come on, I'll go-" Before I could finish she had clapped her flippers together in approval and bounded back out of the room. I laughed and moved to the wardrobe, listening to the Pokémon slide down the stairs with a series of soft thumps. After grabbing a gown I considered going back to the bed and nabbing a few more minutes of rest, but decided against it and followed my Pokémon downstairs. The last time I had done that she hadn't been very pleased to find myself snoring again and had sprayed my face with Water Sport. That had left my face smelling like fish for a good while, and my bed for even longer. It had enough trouble supporting a Pokémon larger than myself jumping on it.

Bessie was waiting for me in the kitchen, thumping the ground loudly with her tail and staring at the small refrigerator intently, as if trying to will it open. She then watched me open the door and produce a fish. I tossed it to her and watched her swallow it whole before I washed the gloves to remove the smell as best I could. If there was one thing that unnerved me about Bessie, feeding her was it. I couldn't imagine consuming anything just like that, bones, scales and all.

"No, there's no more for now," I said firmly when I noticed Bessie was once more looking at me expectantly. "You know how it is – one fish for breakfast only, or you'll get fat!" I playfully prodded her belly as I retrieved a block of cheese and bread from the fridge and moved towards the toaster. "You'll get more for dinner anyway... unless you'd rather have some of this cheese." A belch of disgust confirmed to me that she wasn't that hungry after all.

After managing to convince the toaster to work without burning my bread, I made my sandwich and took a bite before carrying it over a plate towards the calendar hanging in the dining area. It was one of the cheap ones you got from the two dollar shop that had a consistent motif, be it of cat Pokémon doing cute things, or scenery, or the like. This one had been a Mahogany Town themed calendar, which I had been initially quite taken by. The first month's picture had been a nice photograph of the Lake of Rage, and the next a bird-eye view of the town. But I clearly should have bothered to check the rest of the images before buying, given the sudden slump in quality in the latter half of the year. November's picture had been of a rusty stop sign, and I was glad that the beginning of winter brought about a change in month, and soon a change of year and hence calendar.

However I couldn't deny being tempted to change it back once I saw that December's display was of a sleeping hobo on a park bench. I regarded it as I ate my breakfast. Bessie flopped towards the calendar and tilted her head.

"I don't get it either." I sighed. "Right, we'll leave once I get changed properly, so wait right here." She nodded in reply and rolled over into a more comfortable position as I jogged upstairs.


Now armed with a few more layers of protective clothing, I walked down the path with Bessie sliding on the ground around me. Winter had arrived slightly early this year, but there hadn't been much snow to speak of just yet, so what was left today was now an ugly slosh of gray-white barely covering the ground. A few blocks ahead I could see the town's public cleaner's Pidgeotto flitting about, darting forward and back quickly while giving short, sharp cries as it created gusts of wind to blow the snow off of the paths. I glanced down and noticed some small splatters of snow fall upon the path I was walking on. Bessie then whizzed past and chattered with glee, sending more snow flying around her.

"Come on, Bessie. You know he hates it when you undo his hard work." She sniffed, perhaps sceptical of the notion it was hard work, but settled down nonetheless.

"Hello, Jill!" someone called from up ahead. I looked up and smiled.

"Good morning, Mr. Jones," I replied. "How are you?"

"I'm fine, thank you," the elderly man said cheerfully. "Just taking old Nibbles for a walk." He motioned to his Raticate. I couldn't help but be amused that he would give the Pokémon a daily walk as it didn't seem too interested in doing much of anything, but I kept the observation to myself. A low growl from Bessie distracted the two of us; she was clapping her flippers loudly at Nibbles, who responded with its own series of growls.

"Hey girl, calm down," I said softly, but she instead started barking loudly. I sighed and began walking again and nudged Bessie to follow me. She continued growling for a while before eventually she started to follow me. "Have a good day," I added to Mr. Jones as I hurried off.

"You too, kid," he said, before he also continued on his walk. I felt my cheeks reddening as Bessie continued her angry protests long after Nibbles had disappeared from sight, and I flicked her nose in annoyance. She rubbed it with her flipper and blinked a few times in confusion before looking up at me. I frowned and shook my head which seemed to get the message across; she fell silent as we walked (or in her case, slid) onwards.

I was still feeling embarrassed by Bessie's behaviour as we reached our destination. It was one of the other complaints I could make of my Pokémon; she was extremely defensive and would aggressively target any Pokémon she was not used to. It had taken a good while to get her to relax even slightly in the presence of the other Pokémon she was used to, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't proud of the progress made in that, but any Pokémon she had not met at least a few times she instantly treated harshly. She was more or less fine with new humans by now, but she usually ended up directly encountering Pokémon she didn't know well. I mused about whether I should take her in her Poké Ball next time I walked here, but she loved sliding about in winter, and I didn't feel it fair to restrict her like that.

"Hey there, Jill!" Gerardo said as I walked inside and removed my hoodie. He was the only one here; the receptionist that usually manned the desk was nowhere to be seen.

"Hello," I said, returning his bright smile. Bessie meanwhile barked happily. She leapt onto the icy floor next to us and began to play. "First as usual, I see. What's up?"

"We're to begin work on the Gym setup!" he said cheerfully. I nodded, recalling that fact now.

"Oh, so Pryce got the plans for this year's challenge done then?" another asked loudly. I turned and greeted Deandre as he approached us.

"Yes. Here they are!" Gerardo said. He motioned to a sheaf of papers stacked on the reception desk near the front door. The three of us fell silent as we examined the instructions and layout left for us.

"Huh, so it's three separate rooms this time around," Deandre muttered.

"On first thoughts, I preferred last year's, but I guess this could be interesting. Looks like the first room is for the challengers to get used to the conditions and the general idea, and the others are to combine the battles with the puzzle," I mused. We continued to pour over the plans.

The rattle of the doorbell a few minutes later distracted myself and Deandre for a moment as the other two trainers, Diana and Patton, arrived. The former snuffed out a cigarette and strolled over while Patton sat down and removed the snowboard from his feet.

"Morning! What are you up to over there?" Diana asked.

"New Gym plans," Gerardo answered without raising his head.

"Ah, of course, it's prep week, isn't it..." she murmured as she examined the papers. "Looks fancy. And I see we're part of it as well again, unsurprisingly..."

"What's the puzzle solution?" Deandre asked.

"Pryce said he's leaving that to us to figure out as we make it."

"Also unsurprising," Diana drawled as Patton came over as well. "Supplies arrive yet?"

"They're all out the back, and before you ask, Pryce isn't here. He went to his usual spot."

"That's also unsurprising," Patton interjected, earning a light punch from Diana.

"I guess we might as well get started then," I said, walking over to the ski supplies. "It'll probably take us a while after all, and we'll need to leave the ice some time to set once we've got it all ready. Then the builders can help prepare the rooms around the ice arenas."

"Fair enough," Patton said as the others nodded and went to grab their gear as well. I noted that the builders the League hired to assist with Gym puzzle construction had already set up the ice bases over the weekend. Large sections of the Gym were covered in ice, while in the past it had also been covered in snow regardless of season, and so moving about tended to be easier on snowboard or ski rather than foot. We never let the Gym challengers know that however; that would have just ruined the fun of it, as well as the challenge. Moving about also wasn't a problem for our Pokémon - as all of them were Ice types or at least going to be when they evolved they were quite accustomed to the conditions. Underneath the ice sections were pools of water, kept cold to allow some of our Water-Ice dual types an additional arena in which to battle if the ice was broken.

I kept an eye on Bessie as the other trainers sent out their Pokémon, but this time she remained quiet upon their arrival, even with Diana's Jynx, which she didn't know as well as the others yet. I smiled approvingly at her. It was warming to see that she had improved with them at least.

"Okay, girl, we'll need to get the more stable ice blocks set up first, so we need to start cutting them to size," I instructed once I had donned a pair of skis and grabbed a tape measure. The others followed suit and moved to the large blocks of ice that took up the supply room, and made a few marks on the block. "Cut along here with the other Pokémon, and make the rest as you want it – just make sure it's this wide."

We watched as the Pokémon set to work on the task, interrupting every so often to give extra instructions, begin work on a new block or rescue Gerardo's newly acquired Shellder after it curiously gave one of the blocks an unfortunate lick. Despite the mishap Gerardo remained his typical self, ensuring that everything was in order and up to Gym standards, while Patton and Diana were more interested in making creative shapes for the wedges. I didn't bother; experience told me that enough would be destroyed during the odd battle to require many replacements.

Once each block of ice was completed they were moved by Diana's Jynx, whose Psychic powers saved us the trouble of pushing them into place ourselves. The other Pokémon then worked together to glue them into place with concentrated Ice and Water type attacks. The first room was nearly done when the doorbell rang again and a young man strolled in.

"Where is the Gym Leader? Or the person you go to sign up for battles?" he asked loudly, likely referring to the empty reception area.

"Pryce has gone out, and she's not in today," Patton answered. This seemed to throw the youth. His face contorted into the strangest expression of puzzlement I had ever seen.

"He's not allowed to be gone," he said eventually. "Gym Leaders should always be ready for battle, and I'm challenging the Gym!"

"So why did you ask where he is if he isn't allowed to be gone?" Diana asked pointedly, producing a splutter from the young teenager. I glanced at Bessie and tried desperately to avoid laughing at her remarkably successful attempts at mimicking his facial expression.

"Besides, you didn't even say hello," Patton continued, pretending to assume an air of indignation. "I don't think Pryce would like people who don't say hello, would you, Jill?"

"No, I don't think he would," I answered with a grin.

"Well I want to beat him up!" the newcomer said. A few of us exchanged glances as Gerardo returned. He had left earlier to check the storeroom before the youth had arrived. The kid turned to him. "Hey! Can you tell me where Pryce is – I want to battle him."

"You are not currently able to do that, I'm afraid," Gerardo said. He glanced at me as if to say 'is this kid for real?'. "Did you see the sign outside? The Gym is closed for the week due to the annual preparations, as is every other Gym."

"So I'll battle him outside of the Gym! I have all these, after all – I have the right!" With a huff he opened his jacket wide and revealed a number of badges hanging from his shirt. He puffed out his chest proudly.

"That's nice, dear," Diana said, before turning back to her work.

"Gym battles are also suspended by the League during the week," Gerardo continued somewhat more helpfully. "Rules are rules after all."

"Well... that's stupid," he spat eventually. "I'll just have to go find him myself then. Where is he?"

We looked to each other again. It wasn't usual for challengers to act so rudely, but it seemed the type continued to turn up every so often. It was almost a shame that Pryce wasn't here already to set him straight.

"Well, he's outside," Patton offered.

"Actually," Diana interjected, "we might as well take a break and take him to Pryce." I looked at her in surprise and she winked.

"Yeah, why not. We have to let the ice sit for a while anyway so they're firmly stuck in place," I replied pointedly, making sure everyone else got Diana's drift. "Did you say he went to the usual place, Gerardo?"


"What is he doing all the way out here, anyway?" the trainer grumbled as we walked through Route 44. Part of the lake within it had already started to freeze over, but a few fishermen were still diligently making use of the available fishing spots to try and find something not called a Magikarp. The large pile of red fish flopping on the land behind them indicated they weren't having much luck.

"Training, of course," Diana said. "Did you expect him to do all of it indoors or something?"

"Why do you need a week to set up the Gym anyway?" he continued, ignoring Diana's question. His tone was becoming quite aggravating, and judging by the grimace Deandre wore I was not alone in being irritated.

"It's a League rule," Gerardo explained patiently. Evidently he was better at handling the annoyance. "Some Gyms take a long time to perform maintenance and set up new, different gym puzzles for challenges. Just look at our one – ice is not the easiest thing to work with."

"And I can assure you there's no such thing as a foolproof NeverMeltIce either," Patton grumbled. All of us sans Diana involuntarily shuddered. I recalled the case of a trainer telling their Magmortar to use Overheat which resulted in a number of us swimming in water that chilled to the bone. Only our Pokémon had seemed to enjoy that experience.

"And there's other things to tend to as well," I added. "At any rate, it's the League's decision, and as they're in charge-"

"Is that him?" the trainer interrupted suddenly. We followed his gaze to the entrance of the Ice Path. A small figure had just emerged, slowly walking in our direction with cane in hand. Before any of us could answer the trainer had already taken off, hurtling at full pelt down the road. I shook my head as Bessie stared after him in puzzlement, clearly not sharing quite the same levels of excitement over seeing Pryce.

"You know, I wouldn't mind if Pryce made an exception with that trainer," Deandre growled. I glanced at him.


"Because taking his Pokémon down would be oh so satisfying," he said. He then jogged ahead to follow the challenger.

"But wouldn't we just battle him in a week anyway?" Patton asked, scratching his head once Deandre was out of earshot. "Sure, the guy's annoying and kinda rude, but..."

"Can't say that comment surprises me, coming from him," Diana drawled, nodding at Deandre. "Let's go after him before he says something stupid in front of Pryce."

"Good idea," I said and we picked up the pace. I was a bit bemused by the comment myself, but as Diana said it was a sort of thing Deandre was prone to say. He had only joined our group a few months ago and had quickly established himself as the brashest. The only other member of our group that was newer was Diana. She joined us only a couple weeks ago, and she had settled into the routine far quicker. And she did get on rather well with us, which was more than could be said for Deandre. He instead spent half of the time talking about his father, some apparently distinguished former Gym Leader, and the other half talking about himself.

A couple of minutes later we reached the others. Deandre scowled at the back of the challenger's head as he babbled about how he absolutely had to have a battle with Pryce now rather than a week later. Pryce meanwhile merely sat down on a large rock, spinning his walking stick in his hand as he paid attention to the young man. He nodded gently to us as we came into view.

"...And I don't care about any League rules, I just want to battle you now! My Pokémon are ready for some action!"

"Alright then," Pryce said, "that's all well and good. May I ask, however, one question: why?"

"Huh?" the boy blurted out belatedly. Deandre smirked.

"To clarify, why must you have the battle now?" Pryce said.

"Well... I just said-" the challenger began louder than ever, complete with exaggerated hand gestures.

"I heard what you said. It hasn't convinced me." Pryce stood up and began walking back towards Mahogany. "If you can give me a reasonable answer for why you must – absolutely must - battle now instead of later, then I'll consider your request. But I'm afraid, young man, that simply wanting to battle now is not going to convince me. I'll see you a week from now."

Pryce sure knows how to give answers, I thought. The challenger stared at Pryce's back.

"Well, damn you!" he shouted suddenly, stamping his foot. I blinked in surprise and Gerardo sighed as we glanced at Deandre, noting him approach the challenger. He looked ready to let fly but Diana quickly punched him lightly in the arm and glared at him, getting the message across to hold back for a moment.

The only one who didn't seem to react was our Gym Leader. He just kept hobbling onward in his own slow way. "Two weeks," Pryce said evenly a moment later, without a break in pace. The challenger paused for a moment, seemed to think better of further compounding his troubles and stormed off in the opposite direction.

"I wonder if he knows that way leads to Ice Path?" Patton asked once he was out of earshot.

"Maybe we'll ask him in two weeks," Diana said as we rejoined Pryce. We walked quietly for a few minutes down the flight of stairs and the dusty path bordered by trees before Pryce sighed.

"They haven't changed all that much from my younger days, I'll tell you that," he said. "Deandre, I'd rather next time that someone doesn't need to remind you to avoid taking personal offence to other people's actions. The world is full of fools, and if you worry too much about them then it just makes matters worse."

"...Yes, Pryce," Deandre said quietly.

"Don't worry too much about it," Pryce continued. "Just keep it in mind next time. Now, let me see how much work you've done on setting up the puzzle."


The process of Gym puzzle construction was a distant memory by the time two weeks rolled past. The moment they had, the youth reappeared to challenge the Gym. We learnt from the receptionist that his name was Alex. And currently we were learning that he was quite the handful. He had swept past Diana's and Patton's teams with ease, and was currently doing the same with Gerardo's Pokémon.

"Hang in there, Cloyster!" Gerardo shouted. He tugged at his shirt as he watched his Pokémon slide across the ice and come to a halt at an ice block. It wobbled uncertainly and spat out a few jagged icicles at its opponent. The challenger's Ampharos, however, simply responded by enveloping itself in a blanket of electricity which shattered the projectiles before they could reach its body. It then heaved its body forward and threw the sparks at the Cloyster. It had no chance to avoid the attack and once enveloped its shell slammed shut.

"Good work," the challenger muttered as he recalled his Pokémon.

"Good match," Gerardo offered, but the kid was already on his way, sliding around the ice cautiously in the search for the path towards Pryce. Pryce was in plain view upon a raised platform at the back of the room, but we had set up the ice and polished it in such a way that movement was practically restricted to linear paths if you just relied on regular footwear. Of course we didn't mention the fact that we didn't forbid trainers from using any tricks to navigate through, but this trainer had not thought of any. Instead, he kept triggering the rule that stated if a challenger ever stood next to us, the Gym trainers, they had to battle.

"Not a bad effort, Gerardo," Pryce said from his icy platform. "He overcame your Cloyster by taking advantage of its immobility. Try to focus on addressing that problem over the next few battles; it's a disadvantage, but only if you let it become one!"

"Alright." Gerardo nodded and then left the room to heal up his Pokémon.

The approach trainers took in challenging our Gym usually differed. Some purposely went and battled all of us to get their Pokémon more used to the conditions, as well as gain more battling experience. Others would try to avoid everyone in getting to the end. Here however it seemed to be a case of the challenger just not knowing where to go. I spent the next few minutes finding amusement in the challenger repeating his circular navigation, until he eventually took a different tack and ended up next to me.

"I guess there's no other way to get to Pryce without going here and challenging you then," he sighed. I simply shrugged and grabbed my Poké Ball.

"Alright, Bessie, go out and do your best!" I said as I pressed the button. Without breaking anyone's face this time, I added mentally. She appeared and instantly glanced around for an opponent.

"Hah, another Water type," Alex smirked. "Alright, Sparks, go and zap it with a Thunderbolt like before," he said, sending out his Pokémon and stepping backwards to give more room for the battle. The Ampharos appeared, hopped about for a moment as its feet felt the icy ground, and then began summoning a ball of electricity from its paws. I smiled.

"It won't be that easy," I said, moving away from the arena myself. "Bessie, dodge to the side and use the ice blocks!" A second later the sphere of electricity flew at my Dewgong who simply slid across the ice to safety. A second attack was promptly sent at my Pokémon who turned again and bounced off an ice block to avoid the attack. "Right, use Mist to obscure its vision!" I commanded.

Bessie decided instead to bark loudly and fling herself at the Ampharos' head to bash it with her own. It cried out loudly as it stumbled backwards and only just managed to keep its footing as Bessie landed back on ground with a loud thump.

"Bessie!" I hissed loudly. "Mist, now." She begrudgingly complied this time around but maintained an angry glare at her opponent. The Ampharos steadily disappeared from view save for the light glowing from its horns and tail as cold, misty air was expelled from Bessie's mouth.

"Hey, no fair," Alex complained as he disappeared from my view. "Spark, brighten things up with Flash and then attack again!" At once the room lit up again, although everything was still considerably hazy.

"Keep yourself calm, Bessie; nothing's going to hurt you as long as you do that," I said quickly. "Icy Wind." Bessie nodded and breathed out a jet of cold air which wheezed its way to the Electric type, producing more bleats of pain. Bessie slapped her tail on the ground and for once seemed to be happy about the battle rather than angry at her opponent.

That changed a moment later as a sudden burst of sparks engulfed her. This time it was Bessie's turn to shout out, before she lunged forward with a bellow.
"You're not staying calm!" I shouted unhelpfully as I tried to make out the two silhouettes. It seemed that Bessie was angrily slapping the Ampharos with her tail, and the electric type was trying to bat her away by waving its stubby arms quickly rather than listen to its own trainer as well.

"Do something!" he shouted. "Another Thunderbolt!"

"Aqua Jet away from there!" I shouted, and suddenly she listened, blasting water from her mouth and flying backwards from the force of the action, sliding back to a safe distance. Whether by luck or purpose was not clear, but the water had also struck the Ampharos on the head once again, and this time the sheep Pokémon tilted backwards and fell over, waving its arms about weakly before falling still

"Come back, Sparks," he said, returning his Pokémon. "Not bad, overcoming my type advantage like that."

I just nodded and looked at Bessie. "See, if you listen then you can win without having to get yourself into a frenzy," I told her. Bessie sniffed at me and charged forward again. Startled, I looked up and saw that Alex had already sent out another Pokémon; this time it was a Primeape.

"Bessie, get back!" I yelled as the Dewgong ran straight into the Fighting type's chest, again striking with a Headbutt. How many Pokémon does he have with a type advantage over Bessie? I wondered.

"Karate Chop!" shouted its owner. Bessie continued to thrash about but yelped when the Primeape composed itself and slammed its arm into my Pokémon's body, sending her across the gym into a block of ice. A powder of white briefly hid Bessie from view.

"Aw great," Deandre grumbled. "We're going to need to replace that one again." I tried to ignore his complaint and instead began to move towards Bessie.

"C'mon girl, just calm down," I whispered, but I felt the usual weight in my stomach when she was in this state of anger. You could tell it was particularly bad when you could see the frigid air fuming from her nostrils. I wasn't particularly surprised when she responded by firing a beam of ice that missed her target by a significant distance and charged forward once again. The smaller Primeape was ready this time and stepped forward with an outstretched fist, but missed narrowly as Bessie jumped in the air in the last second and above the Fighting Type. She crashed into her opponent and began flailing haphazardly.

Well, maybe she could win that way, I thought for a moment, as the Primeape stumbled about upon taking hit after hit. It was sometimes able to land a strike, but was hindered by the icy surface in getting into any really dangerous position. But I don't want to risk any serious injury to Bessie, nor anyone else's Pokémon... She's not responding to my voice though so how do I get through to her? I looked around and briefly considered hurling a lump of ice at her, but then realised a simpler idea and whistled as sharply as I could through my frosty lips.

It had an instant effect; Bessie was often curious about that sound and as usual turned her head suddenly at me. I sighed.

"Good, now get back over here-" I began, but unfortunately she had forgotten about the battle a bit too well, and was promptly sent into next week courtesy of a haymaker from the ape Pokémon. She flew across the ice and fainted before she collided with another ice block, the thud of the hit echoing around the room. The Primeape panted a bit, clearly tired out by the onslaught and its attack, but it soon proudly beat its arms against its chest.

"Sorry, Bessie," I said as I recalled her. I glanced up and noticed the challenger looking expectantly at me. It took me a moment before I realised that he thought the battle was still ongoing.

"I only have the one Pokémon," I explained.

"Oh, I see," Alex said. "Well, good match; that Dewgong is pretty darn strong." He shook my hand before glancing around to see how to progress now in his Gym challenge. I raised an eyebrow; he hadn't said a thing to the other trainers after their battles. As he slid off I glanced at Pryce, expecting some criticism.

"Not a bad effort; your Dewgong's getting very strong there now. I'll say more to you later though at our private training," he said in his usual measured manner.

"Alright, thanks," I said, before I departed to pay the Pokémon Centre another visit.


"Oh Bessie," I said as I handed over her Poke Ball to the nurse. I mused that the whistle had proven useful; if only I had thought of it earlier on in my training. I supposed even Pryce hadn't suggested it, however. Maybe it would be a new technique to try. If only she didn't require it...

"She bash her head into another Pokémon until she fainted again?" the nurse asked drily.

"Well... almost, Sarah," I responded with a smirk. "I snapped her back to her senses a few times this battle, but she's still got work to do. And that person's team was pretty tough too. She nearly overcame both an Ampharos and Primeape."

Sarah raised her eyebrows as she handed the Poke Ball to her Chansey, who happily chirped a greeting to me and inserted Bessie's ball into the healing machine. "That's pretty good, actually. Maybe you don't need much more training from Pryce?"

I shook my head. "Nah, I still think there's a lot to learn from him, and I'm not yet ready to move out from here anyway." I had arrived a bit over a year ago now and was fairly content with my steady job as a Gym Trainer. The pay wasn't the greatest, but it was an enjoyable livelihood when all was said and done. Back then Bessie had only been a Seel, albeit still a very aggressive Seel. There was a lot more to improve on – after all, she only listened some of the time.

"Fair enough then." Sarah shrugged. "You can come back for her later if you want; I think she's had enough of battling for at least a few hours."

Nodding my thanks, I returned to the gym, just in time to see Deandre's own Dewgong land the finishing blow on a large Kingler belonging to the challenger. The Dewgong waved its tail happily as the oversized crab was returned to its Poké Ball. I bet Bessie would still be carrying on if she won, I thought.

"Darn it!" the kid exclaimed. "Good battle, I guess. I'll have to come back tomorrow to finish this," he added with a huff. He skated back off the icy ground and departed. Deandre meanwhile was grinning from ear to ear.

"Told you I'd beat his Pokémon!" he crowed.

"Yes, you're right about that,' Pryce said, approaching us. "However, don't forget you were fighting a fairly weakened team there, particularly thanks to the work of Jill's Dewgong."

"Yeah, she put up a good fight," Gerardo quipped as Diana and Patton walked in from the second room in the gym. I shrugged.

"Well I guess we beat his Pokémon then," Deandre conceded. "But I finished the work!"

"Yeah, congrats," Diana said drily. "Say, anyone up for lunch then given he wiped out the rest of our Pokémon? Silly guy didn't have a clue in how to avoid us, or how to get to Pryce..."

No other challengers turned up that day, so the rest of the afternoon was uneventful. I picked Bessie up on the way back home and let her out of her ball once we were back safely in the warmth of my home.

"Oh, you silly Pokémon," I told her as she curled up on the carpet and yawned. "You still need to control that temper of yours in battle, otherwise you'll get way more whacks in the face like that." She made a small sound of disagreement, and I sighed.

"We'll talk some more about it tomorrow with Pryce," I said, giving her a scratch behind the neck. "Right, how about some dinner?" She gave an enthusiastic nod and rushed off to the kitchen. I stayed for a moment longer to adjust the heating before heading after her.

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(Posting in both forums =P)

It seemed the Dewgong was angrily slapping the Ampharos with her tail, and the electric type was trying to bat her away by waving its stubby arms quickly rather than listen to its own trainer as well.

Since this is in first person, I think "the Dewgong" sounds weird. "My Dewgong" sounds better.

You mentioned doing a premise relating to the Gym trainers, and finally glad to finally see this being posted! The first few chapters have this relaxed and laid back feel (Jill and Bessie's interactions are cute! ) and later a nice look of how Mahogany Gym's puzzles are constructed.

Alex sure is impatient, haha (Pyrce sure stumped him there). I do like Jill having a bit trouble having Bessie listening to her on occasion, so it should be interesting how she'll overcome that.

This is shaping up to be a very enjoyable fic so far, looking forward to more!


one more time
(Posting in both forums =P)
Replying in both forums! =p
Since this is in first person, I think "the Dewgong" sounds weird. "My Dewgong" sounds better.
Fair point there! Changed it a while back after you pointed that out, haha.
You mentioned doing a premise relating to the Gym trainers, and finally glad to finally see this being posted! The first few chapters have this relaxed and laid back feel (Jill and Bessie's interactions are cute! ) and later a nice look of how Mahogany Gym's puzzles are constructed.
Yay for laid-back feel, I can agree with that. As for the Gym puzzles, if you recall those Gym Construction articles I put out a while back you may see why I was thinking about those now. ;p
Alex sure is impatient, haha (Pyrce sure stumped him there). I do like Jill having a bit trouble having Bessie listening to her on occasion, so it should be interesting how she'll overcome that.

This is shaping up to be a very enjoyable fic so far, looking forward to more!
Alex and that issue will certainly feature in the story (although the latter somewhat more. Bessie and Jill are the main characters (TM) after all, they get more focus!).

Nice to hear you're looking forward to more. Thanks for the review, Bay!
Hey, thought I'd drop you a review.

You've done an excellent job with this piece. Jill and Bessie both have wonderful characters of their own. In particular, Bessie is an excellent example of characterization through action, from her bounding goofiness to fits of fury.

The pacing of the story is very smooth; curiosity about the strange trainer is built very well into the story's tension, and both the battle and the results felt very satisfying.
Cheers for the praise here! Hopefully your feelings about those aspects will continue to hold.
My first piece of advice is to tighten up the word choice a touch. There aren't many superfluous words in your piece, but there's the occasional adverb that you could get rid of. Here's a few examples where the adverb can fall right off, or other modifications can be made:

I used to never use the word said. I hated how nondescriptive of a word it is. However, said is almost invisible. It's such a commonly used word in stories that our eyes gloss right over it. Bulkier words, however, such as interrupted, declared, stated, etc. interrupt the flow of the story. I would recommend switching to said here and using more complicated dialogue tags only when it adds to the tone of the dialogue. If you wish for a character to have a particular tone, the best choices are either A: to color the dialogue before hand or B: to use the dialogue itself to convey the meaning. As an example, compare the following two quotes: "Go to hell," he said pleasantly versus He smiled, gave his brother a light punch on the shoulder, and said "go to hell." Which path you wish to take largely depends on how much emphasis you want to put on the voice.
Hmm, I'll certainly consider that. (I also was a criminal avoid-er of the word 'said' in earlier work until it was pointed out then too. I blame school teaching me not to use the word!). That said (joke unintended), one of my betas did suggest changing some saids to something else. I'll be keeping the points you made in mind at any rate.
This sentence is a bit messy, mainly due to how long the sentence runs on. I would recommend breaking the sentence in two and changing the verbe tense of landing a strike. Also, "managing to" and "sometimes" carry a redundancy; they both imply a difficulty in hitting the dewgong. Saying "sometimes landing a strike" has the same meaning for less word count.
Fair enough there, I'll work on it when I edit.
Generally, if you're using an adverb with a verb, odds are there's a word that absorbs the adverb. There isn't a good word here; nevertheless, you can get rid of the word slowly without impacting the sentence. Another option, if you wish to give the trainer a bit more characterization, is to describe how he skates away in more detail, giving descriptions of his body language as he skate-limps away.
Good point there too!

As one last bit, I noticed that you use a considerable amount of present participles - bounding, saying, other -ing words. I would recommend altering your sentence structure to reduce the quantity of these -ing words you're using. It's not a large issue, rather, it's a quirk of your writing style that has the danger of inundating your story. Ugh, and now I'm noticing when I'm doing it. Note, however, that present progressives and present participles aren't the same. I was using this sentence, providing you with an example of both being used in one sentence. To be + verb-ing is present progressive; verb-ing by itself, a present participle. And there goes the grammar nerd in me, my bad.
Yes, it's true I like my -ings, maybe too much so. I'll look into that for future chapters.

Anyways, that's that. I am really stoked to see more of this story, and I'll be happy to provide more critique if you're looking for it.
Thanks! The feedback is much appreciated, so please do if you're willing and reading more when it's posted!


one more time
Here's part two. There's a swear in here, so cover your eyes!

Thanks again to Jess for beta reading!

Chapter 2 - Showdown

The challenger returned early the next morning. He strode inside as soon as the Gym opened. This time we all stood in the last room together, save for Deandre who had not been defeated yesterday and had resumed his regular position. However, Alex appeared to have more purpose in his movements, and in a few minutes he had made it to the other side of the room without having to re-battle Deandre. The Gym trainer huffed as he slid off to join us. Now the entire room became the battlefield, and so we all had to vacate our usual positions.

"Bet he used gymfaqs or something to figure it out."

"Quiet," Diana whispered, watching Pryce. "It's about to start." I focused my attention on him as well and made myself comfortable. It was always fun to watch the final Gym battle.

"Well done," Pryce said. "I hope that the break taught you a bit about patience."

"I suppose it did," the trainer grumbled quietly.

"Don't worry too much about the time you may have lost in your journey," Pryce continued. "Think of it as just part of the experience. Since I am your elder, let me show you what I mean. I have been training Pokémon since before you were born. I do not lose easily. I, Pryce – the Winter Trainer – shall demonstrate my power!"

"He really likes using that speech," Patton whispered, earning an elbow from Diana.

"Shush!" Gerardo agreed.

"Right, bring it on!" the youth shouted as he sent his Ampharos into the middle of the arena. It shivered a bit before it buzzed loudly and emitted a few sparks from its body.

"I'll open with this one," Pryce said quietly, throwing his own Poké Ball into the fray. A moment later the excited cry of his Pokémon sounded. The challenger frowned slightly.

"A Seel? C'mon, I have four of these!" he said loudly, allowing himself another opportunity to point at his badges. Pryce ignored him and continued to watch silently.

"So... why isn't Pryce giving any orders?" Diana whispered, scratching her head. "And why a Seel?" Gerardo and I, however, leaned forward in anticipation.

"That's Sansa," Gerardo said.

"Well," I added to Diana, "you'll see in a moment, probably."

After a moment Alex realised Pryce wasn't going to open himself, and so yelled "Thunderbolt it, Ampharos!" The Gym Leader's eyebrow moved upward ever so slightly.

"Behind the ice block, Sansa," he said. The Water type slid quickly to safety. A chunk of the ice was blasted off a second later by the Electric attack. The Seel stuck her head around the corner and poked her tongue out.

"Hmm… Try again!" the trainer shouted.

"Same move," Pryce said nonchalantly. History repeated itself; while Ampharos managed to generate the ball of electricity quicker this time, it was still far too slow to be able to hit the Seel. Pryce waved his hand and his Pokémon skidded away from its hiding place, circling the lamb Pokémon.

"Try another Thunderbolt!" the challenger tried. "Make sure to hit this time!"

"Make sure to dodge this time," Pryce mimicked quietly, earning a glare from the trainer. It elicited the same result, as it did another three times. Ampharos had little hope of hitting the smaller Pokémon, especially as it was now forced to rapidly rotate about on the ice to keep the Seel in its sights.

"Now, move forward and Aqua Jet just below the chin!" Pryce shouted suddenly, power emanating from his command. Sansa barked and changed directions within a second, and fired the spurt of water at her target.

"Duck!" Alex yelled. There was no way for the Ampharos to avoid the attack when it had the added momentum from the Seel's motion behind it, and it was instead knocked over onto its back. I smiled a bit, amused that Pryce had elected to use the same strategy that Bessie used to knock the Electric type down.

"Good," Pryce said "Icy Wind." As the challenger tried to urge his Pokémon upright again, Pryce's Seel breathed out a concentrated gust of air at the fallen opponent. Within seconds the water on its body from the Aqua Jet attack had turned to ice and partly frozen the Ampharos' upper body. The Electric type tried to push itself up, but was unable to move its arms to push against the icy floor, and so all it could do was begin shivering heavily as it flailed.

"And now Aqua Tail." With a loud cry Sansa leapt into the air and came crashing down on top of the Ampharos with a loud thump, tail-first. The Electric type cried out and fell limp.

The challenger's face was priceless as he recalled his Pokémon.

"Well, try this then!" he shouted after a moment of pause, summoning his Primeape. "Get in close and pummel it with Karate Chop!"

"Keep your distance, Sansa," Pryce ordered, remaining as cool as a cucumber. The Primeape began to clumsily chase after the Seel who easily kept away from the Fighting type. Every so often she fired a few bursts of water on command at her opponent's face.

"Come on, try to keep up!" its trainer cried. Roaring loudly as it was hit again by an attack, the Primeape wiped the water from its face and slowly changed direction, before it charged straight through an ice block in an attempt to intercept the Seel.

"Ice Beam its legs," Pryce said. Sansa turned her head as she slid along and shot a beam of white, the air around the ray sparkling briefly as it travelled across the gym. Once again there was no chance of the Primeape to avoid that attack, and it shouted as its legs were paralysed by the freezing attack. It tried to shake its legs free of the ice, but could only stumble about as it continued to slide forward.

"Aqua Tail from above." Just like before the Seel jumped up and spun around, twisted in a somersault and landed her attack on the back of the Primeape's head, slamming the Fighting-type face first into the ice. This time no sound came from the Pokémon, although there were a few ominous cracks as the ice around the fallen Pokémon began to splinter.
"Arrgh!" Alex raged as he recalled his second Pokémon and prepared to send out his third. Pryce merely congratulated Sansa for her efforts thus far.

"Yeah... I guess you can see now," I whispered to Diana.

"That Seel's amazing, and Pryce's tactics match it too!" she breathed. Gerardo merely shook his head.

"Not too sure about the last bit; what he's doing for the most of the battle is just keeping Sansa away from attacks. Thing is, the trainer isn't coming up with a way to combat it."

"And he made the mistake of thinking that an unevolved Pokémon would be weak," I added.

"Right, take it away, Kingler!" The crab Pokémon popped out of its ball and instantly swung out the larger of its claws at the Seel, managing to land a slight hit and bump the Seel back a few feet.

"Just edge away for the moment towards where the Primeape was last," Pryce said. The Kingler shuffled forward, continuing to throw its pincer about. We could all hear the gush of air with each strike it threw while the Seel seemed to toy with her opponent, slowly moving backwards and sideways barely out of harm's way. Once Sansa was close to her destination Pryce seemed satisfied.

"Another Ice Beam now, to its claw," Pryce ordered. Another Ice Beam was fired, coating the Pokémon's nipper with a thick layer of ice. Kingler stared at its own arm and clicked loudly as it tried to shake the ice off.

"Ugh," Alex said, rubbing his temples as he tried to think. "Keep trying to hit with it if you can? Or get the ice off by hitting it against the ground!" The Kingler stalled for a moment, trying to decide which move to perform before opting for the latter option and crashing its arm down. Pieces of ice fell off instantly, and it flexed its claw in triumph. It glanced around in search for the Seel before realising it was gone.

"Whoops," Deandre said drily. During the distraction Sansa had jumped into the air once more, and this time came flying down body-first, crashing into the ice behind the Kingler and bouncing off harmlessly.

"Ha, lucky it missed!" Alex grinned.

"Did she?" Pryce said softly.

"Huh?" As if on cue the ice around the Kingler cracked loudly and disconnected from the rest, and the Pokémon suddenly slipped out of sight into the water underneath. With a cry of delight the Seel dived into the gap she had helped create and disappeared too. The youth gave a cry of dismay and moved forward to try and spot his Pokémon, but the hole was too far away from the platform he was on, and the remaining ice too thick to show anything other than two dark shapes.

"Hang in there!" he shouted. "At least he should be fine in the water, being a Water type..." he murmured.

"So is my Seel," Pryce said pointedly. To prove that as well, a moment later a fainted Kingler was sent flying out of the hole and landed with a rattling clatter on the ice. The Seel shot out of the water and slid happily back to Pryce, and we all gave it a loud cheer and round of applause.

"You won," Alex conceded, frowning as he recalled the Kingler. His shoulders had visibly slumped, and his voice was somewhat shaky. "That Seel was way too strong for my Pokémon..."

"Not so," Pryce said with a sigh. "Your Pokémon… Well, firstly, how long has it been since you started your journey?"

"I don't know, probably a few months," he answered with a shrug. Sensing a lecture was to come from Pryce, we fell quiet ourselves.

"Alright. Alex, your Pokémon are quite strong themselves, and that wasn't why you lost."

"So why?" he asked. "They were clearly dominated by your one Pokémon!"

"Yet, as you said, you had four badges. People don't get those by accident," Pryce pointed out. "However, the reason that you lost today's battle was because of your lack of tactics." Pryce paused for a moment, but continued when Alex remained silent.

"I am guessing that you often used type advantages and powerful moves to overcome your previous opponents in general. After all, throughout this gym challenge you had Ampharos use Thunderbolt, and Primeape to fight in close quarters and use Fighting Type moves, right?" Alex nodded. "And as shown in some of the previous battles with the Gym trainers they were very good at that. Your Pokémon are good at those moves and are strong, that's true. When presented with a different situation, however, they weren't able to adapt. Ampharos was unable to hit my Seel in these conditions as it was much too fast for it; why then continue with such attacks, when it would have sapped its energy? Primeape was also clearly unable to navigate easily on the ice here, and so a different approach should have been used.

"As such, my advice to you is to work on different strategies. Teach your Pokémon how to respond when their usual method of winning won't work, teach them how to use other moves, and teach yourself how to respond so you can properly direct your Pokémon. Battling is more than just blasting the opponent with strong moves until they fall, after all."

"Huh. Well... thanks for the advice," Alex said after a moment, starting to go red in the face.

"Don't take this loss to heart, mind," Pryce added. "I went fairly hard on you in that battle, and only because I felt I would not be properly testing you for this badge if I didn't." The Gym Leader sighed again and looked at Alex for a while. "You may leave. And good luck," he finished. Alex jumped at the opportunity and scurried across the ice and towards the exit, the door closing loudly behind him.

I bit my lip. "I have to say I feel kinda sorry for him now, despite his previous attitude."

"Yeah, he got a smack down from Pryce there," Diana agreed, nodding. "Never fun to get a wake-up call, I suppose. Probably the first time he got criticism for himself rather than for his Pokémon."
Probably the first time he got criticism, period, I thought to myself.

"Serves him right," Deandre muttered. Patton rolled his eyes.

"Okay," Pryce began as he glided over to us. "It will take a while to fix up the damage to the floor so it is fit for the challenge we have later today. I'd like you all to get to work on that, and in the meantime, Jill, we'll have that training session. At the Lake of Rage this time, I think."

"Alright," I agreed, and followed him out as the rest grumbled to themselves and got to work.


Bessie wagged her tail happily as she emerged from her Poké Ball, excited to see that the lake now had a large section covered in a layer of ice and the grass around it well covered in snow.

"Yes, you can go explore it for a short while; just come back when I say to," I told her with a smile, and she barked happily and galloped forward. I turned to Pryce and noted his small smile.

"She's getting very strong now," he said at length, as we watched her dive beneath the ice. "Dare I say it, stronger than most of my Pokémon."

"Really?" I asked, and blinked at the unexpected compliment. "Well... she did hold her own against those two Pokémon yesterday, even if she did lose her focus."

"That is still holding her back, I feel," Pryce said. "Not that one can blame her, and she has made a lot of progress since you first got her. That being said, there is still a way to go."

I felt my mouth go dry. If there was ever any better opportunity to say it... I forced myself to swallow and blurted, "I've been thinking..."

"What is it?" Pryce asked, his smile dimming.

"Well, maybe battles aren't right for Bessie, if she can't fully control her anger and keep snapping like that."

Pryce shook his head slowly. "I disagree." He quietly threw a Poké Ball out to the side and shouted towards the lake. "Come here, Bessie!"

Bessie popped out of the water with a piece of seaweed draped across her head and barked happily. We both laughed, and the serious tone was broken for a moment.

"Okay," Pryce continued, "what's that, Bessie?" he said, pointing at his Seel that he had sent out. Bessie barked loudly and came charging out of the lake, but almost instantly recognised it was Pryce's Pokémon. She slowed down and happily whined instead. Pryce motioned to his Seel to join Bessie and then turned back to me.

"I would agree only if she didn't enjoy battles at all, or never got along with any Pokémon, but as made clear by our training sessions and the battles she's had with the other Pokémon, she enjoys it when she's comfortable with the opponent, when she knows who she is fighting and trusts them to not be a serious threat to her health."

"Fair point," I accepted as I thought it over for a moment. It was true; she did enjoy battling and training with Pryce's Pokémon, and when I had raised the subject in the past she seemed more confused by the notion rather than in agreement of it. "But then-"

"Don't doubt yourself over Bessie."

Darn, he's good at mind reading, I thought silently.

"You're the right person to get her to overcome her problem," Pryce continued. "The battle yesterday is a clear example of that. Bessie lost because you got her back to her senses, but you did that to try and protect her, and that shows you truly care for her. That right there is the only sort of person that can overcome anything with their Pokémon." He paused for a moment and stared into the distance, as if recalling a past memory. "And I can attest to that."

"...A-Alright, if you say so," I stammered out.

"I do," he answered with another smile. "Just remember that Pokémon are smarter than typical animals... and sometimes even smarter than us. I look forward to the day when Bessie is fine with battling any Pokémon, and I'm sure that will happen. Now, let us start the training session!"

I called Bessie back and for the next hour or so we trained our Pokémon together. I was glad for the talk with Pryce; it certainly helped alleviate any fears I had about not being the best help for Bessie. Once Pryce was satisfied with the session we headed back to the town.

When we approached the Gym Pryce stopped for a moment. "Look there," he said quietly, and pointed quietly. I looked and saw the challenger – Alex – walking out of town with a large backpack, unaware of our presence. A moment later he disappeared from sight as he turned a corner and moved towards Route 44.

"Looks like he might be leaving town for a bit," I remarked.

"Indeed. I thought as much; he hadn't booked a rematch with the receptionist before he left, after all." Pryce continued to walk onwards again. "I hope that he will take his time to train before he returns."

"And... if he doesn't come back?" I asked carefully. Pryce breathed deeply for a moment before replying.

"Then I've failed in my role as a Gym Leader here."


Over the week or so I trained Bessie around Route 43, which lay between Mahogany and Lake of Rage, and attempted to focus on keeping her calm around the wild Pokémon that lived there. I let her attack if the wild Pokémon opened the battle, but otherwise made sure to praise her and give her a good scratch behind the head if she remained passive, and scold her when she didn't. She showed some slight progress, but all too often treated any cautious or innocent movement from any opponent as an attack. Some of the smarter wild Pokémon didn't decide to attack as soon as they caught sight of her, which helped matters somewhat. Sadly that wasn't the case with the more territorial species, like the Pidgey line. Bessie was now mostly at ease with the likes of Pineco, but I wasn't yet sure if she recognised them as Pokémon in the first place; after all, many of them had been completely motionless after getting knocked out of trees Bessie collided with headfirst.

At any rate, I mused as I walked to the Gym after an early-morning training session, she's getting better at nailing Pokémon with her Headbutt attack now. Bessie was thinking the same thing, making a sort of happy humming sound as she slid past me and into the Gym building. I walked in and was greeted by Diana perched on a ladder hanging mistletoe.

"Hey Jill," she chirped happily.

"Hello! Christmas decorations, huh?"

"Yep, I figured we might as well get festive! Christmas is only a few days away, after all, and I feel the place could use a bit more cheer," she said. "Besides, I got Pryce's permission to decorate before he left for his early morning training. Much to the chagrin of some," she added, grinning and tilting her head to indicate a quietly grumbling Deandre.

"I just think it looks silly, is all," he muttered. He kicked at some decorations on the ground and folded his arms over his chest. "Gyms are supposed to be serious places, not filled with tinsel and lights and..."

"Lights! What a grand idea. I'll string some around the boundary of the Gym rooms!" Diana crowed. She jumped down from the ladder and headed off to the storeroom.

"I'll help," Patton offered, and followed after her.

"Hey, I thought you said it was a silly idea too?" Deandre accused. Patton shrugged and continued to the storeroom, as I exchanged amused glances with Gerardo who had been quietly putting up his own decorations. Bessie, meanwhile, curiously sniffed the mistletoe and sneezed, before moving off to investigate what other work had been done to the Gym.

"Looks like we don't have much choice anyway, so you might as well help out," I told Deandre.

"Not with you all joining in like that," he grumbled, but he dragged his feet to the storeroom as well. Diana flashed a triumphant grin to me as she walked past with a bundle of cords and bulbs.

A good half-hour was spent by the five of us navigating through the Gym rooms and wrapping decorations around the ice. It took some effort to arrange it in a form that wouldn't get in the way of any battles or Gym challenges. As Bessie and the other Gym trainers' Pokémon tried their own form of decorations, a young teenager walked in and regarded the formless lump of ice they had proudly created.

"Oh, hi there," Gerardo greeted. "Don't mind us, we're just adding some...uh, Christmas cheer to the Gym."

"Ah, okay," she said. "Well, I'm here to challenge the Gym! If that's possible now, that is," she added. "I made an appointment..."

"Sure, just gotta wait for Pryce, our Gym Leader, to return first," Diana said. She glanced at her watch. "He's... a bit later than usual, actually, but he shouldn't be too much longer." The trainer nodded and found herself a seat as we continued our makeover.

Another half hour later passed before we finished up. We even satisfied Diana's standards in how the final room had been transformed into a visual assault of colour. After admiring her handiwork, Diana skipped over to chat with the trainer as we waited for Pryce to return.

"So, what is it like being a Gym trainer anyways?" the challenger asked.

Diana shrugged. "Pretty decent, I have to say, even though I haven't been one for that long yet. Fair bit of work to do, but the training sessions are good. Gerardo might offer a better answer though; he and Jill here have been here the longest."

At that point a man came running through the room, shouting something indecipherable. In his haste he slipped, went sliding across the ice, and slammed right into one of the ice blocks. We were startled, but we calmed down upon realising it was just the lively resident Gym advice guy. Every Gym had at least one person who would eagerly watch every single battle and offer advice to challengers. Some were talent scouts who came and left with trainers they believed to be worth stalking, and others were just huge fans of Pokémon battles. This fellow was probably the latter, and although he refused to tell anyone his name he was always keen to have a chat. As such we referred to him as 'Jimmy', for as someone had declared when we were trying to find a name for him: 'Jimmy is a fine name'.

"Well, I can assure you that doesn't usually happen," Patton quipped, earning a laugh from all of us. Deandre yelled at him to be more careful with all the decorations he had supposedly spent an age setting up.

"You can forget about worrying about that for now," Jimmy said, and gingerly picked himself off the ground.

"Yes, we know your usual spiel," Deandre said with an eye roll. "We should worry about this challenger's team, they will wipe the ice with our faces, and so on and so forth." He turned around and cursed quietly as he adjusted a misaligned string of lights.

I frowned slightly when Jimmy just shook his head. It was then that I realised that he wasn't wearing much warm clothing. That was just plain silly for this part of the Gym; we even loaned out jackets for free to challengers. Heck, it was silly for the whole region in winter. "What is it then?" I ventured. Jimmy was sweating – stranger yet.

"Well... you see, Pryce is dead." A clatter followed as Deandre dropped the set of lights.

"What?" Gerardo managed as the rest of us stood frozen in shock. After a moment passed with no response forthcoming, Jimmy continued, fiddling with his fingers and looking at the ground when he spoke.

"He... He was found in Ice Path. They think he... fell or something. Bumped his head on a rock, and probably died on the spot or soon after. He was found by a travelling trainer, and they got the Pokémon Centre staff to the scene, but..." He shook his head.

"Well, fuck," Diana said.

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?Bet he used gymfaqs or something to figure it out.?

I see what you did there, haha.

Alex and Pyrce's battle was quite enjoyable and I quite like the gym leader's advice to the challenger there. The scene with Pyrce and Jill was nice, too. Your take on Pryce I like a lot!

I also admit to chuckling at the appearance of Jimmy, and then the twist at the end. D= Thata's very unfortunate. Wonder what's going to happen next now, so I'm looking forward to more!
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one more time
Review reply made a while ago on sppf why did I forget to do the same here go me >_>

Chapter 3! Like before, there's another sole naughty word (mild frankly), and once again beta read by Jess.

Chapter 3 – Paint it Black

The rest of the day proved to be a right mess. It was full of sobbing from a number of us, myself included.

We collectively ran to the Pokémon Centre to see for ourselves, leaving the challenger forgotten for the time being, and were all bitterly disappointed to see that Jimmy had been accurate in his news. The quietness of Sarah's usually cheerful Chansey said it all. A few of us then went to Ice Path to check where Pryce had fallen and soon enough found the spot, which has been taped off by the town's police force. We stood there quietly in the cold, quiet cave, unsure what to make of the whole event.

"Well, it must have been after he did his waterfall training, since we're so close to it," Gerardo muttered.

"Waterfall training?" Diana asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Ah yeah, you weren't with us when he last took us here," I said. "Maybe we ought to show you." Gerardo and I walked forward after carefully navigating our way around the taped-off area, and Diana followed. A few minutes later of walking through a darker stretch of the cave with little more than our flashlights to aid our vision, we arrived at a pool of water that wouldn't have been any bigger than one of the Gym rooms. A cascade of water fell from above onto a small rocky platform that had not yet been eroded away.

"But..." Diana started, staring in disbelief, jabbing at the water with her finger as if to prove to herself the claim was real. "That water would be freezing cold! I thought maybe he would try that in Mt Mortar, but not here..."

"We didn't believe it either," I said. "But he does it often, and once brought us here and he showed us. He said he did it to strengthen himself mentally. He then asked if any of us wanted to try it; only Patton was brave enough." I remembered the event quite well; Bessie hadn't seemed impressed with my refusal, and I had to explain to her that unlike for her, cold water was not favourable for people, despite Pryce's own training.

"And... how long did he last?" Diana asked.

"About two seconds," Gerardo replied. We laughed softly, but it was hollow; Pryce's death was just too fresh for us to ignore.

"I never thought this would happen. Pryce dying, that is," Gerardo said quietly.

"Mmm," I managed in agreement. "He was certainly, well, old, but he seemed indestructible. He made us look unfit to begin with. Him dying just... never seemed like a thing that would ever happen."

"Agreed," Diana said. "And heck, to think that him just falling over was how it ended... not standing in waterfalls or some incident in a Pokémon battle or whatnot. Or catching a cold by coming here so often," she added, shivering. "Let's head back."

When we returned to Mahogany's Pokémon Centre Patton came forward to greet us. He had stayed behind with Deandre to talk to the police, along with the trainer who had found Pryce in the first place.

"Where's Deandre?" I asked.

Patton shrugged. "Guess he had enough and went home or to the Gym. Can't say I blame him. This whole thing is very… upsetting."

"You don't say," Diana retorted icily.

"Sorry," Patton said quickly, wincing slightly.

"What's the news?" Gerardo interrupted.

"Nothing too much new about his death at the moment… just that they are pretty sure he fell. They've contacted the League about it and they're taking over everything in a bit. Apparently his funeral will be in a few days."

"That's quick," Diana said quietly.

"As for us... well, I suppose for now we go deal with the Gym. Close it until after the funeral and all."

"I suppose," I said. We quietly walked towards the building.

"And what about," Gerardo said after a moment, "Pryce's Pokémon?" Patton's face turned a whiter shade of pale for a moment as he sighed.

"They're breaking the news to them as we speak."

"Shit," Diana repeated. "And just before Christmas as well..." I mused about that; we felt terrible about it ourselves, but imagining how Pryce's Pokémon would take it was almost too much. The thought of talking to Bessie about it later was intimidating enough; I didn't feel that I would have been able to do it with Pryce's own Pokémon, some which had been lifelong partners of Pryce. By comparison I was just someone he taught for a little over a year.

Then a mix of bellows and cries, screams of anguish sounded from the police station, and I involuntarily shuddered. They know now, I thought.


The next two days passed slowly and with a feeling of numbness. Having nothing to do after closing the Gym and checking on Pryce's Pokémon after they had some time to themselves didn't help either. I spent the first night at home with Bessie, quietly stroking her fur as I explained things to her. The next day I had a short walk with her but nothing more. Neither of us felt in the mood for training, and I suspected it was the same for the other Gym trainers. We were all doubtlessly entertaining various scenarios in our mind about yesterday. What if Pryce had one of his Pokémon out of their Poké Balls at the time? What if one of us had been with him? What if...

Conveying the news to Bessie had been harder than expected too. She had loved Pryce and was moping around the house. Neither of us felt like doing anything for a while, but we did seem to benefit from a cuddle session on the second night.

One thing that was immediately noticeable about Mahogany was that the small, sleepy town had suddenly woken up. Word had spread fast about Pryce's death and there were thoughts that nearly everyone would turn up for the funeral the following day. Some people also arrived in the town and wandered into the Pokémon Centre. I wondered what Pryce's family was like, or if he even had any; he never talked much about his personal life with us. He probably did go visit some during his time off.

The next day was cold but clear, and so as the afternoon rolled in the five of us met up at the Gym and walked together towards a clearing by the Lake of Rage where the event was being held, each of us in official Gym attire. The building intersecting the path from Mahogany to our destination had a large banner draped above the door, stating the details of the funeral starting time.

"So what will happen to the Gym?" Diana asked as we passed through. "As in, do we get a new Gym Leader?"

Gerardo, as usual, was the one to answer. "The Pokémon League decides who becomes the next Gym Leader. Often it's some talented trainer, or a person with a similar position elsewhere who is willing to make the move. Who that ends up being is anyone's guess though."

Deandre cleared his throat. "Actually, I was listening in yesterday," he piped up. "It looks like all the gossip is that a certain someone called Lorelei will take over our Gym."

"Isn't she an Elite Four member?" Diana asked, frowning.

"Former E4," Gerardo corrected. "She took a break for a while, and given she is an Ice Type user... it does make sense actually."

"Huh, Lorelei. Yeah, she's cool," Patton muttered.

"Well of course an Ice Type user would be cool," I said with an eye roll.

"Cool... hey, I swear the pun was unintended!" Patton said quickly.

"I guess it's here," Diana interrupted. We looked forward and noticed a temporary stage had been set up, and rows upon rows of seats neatly lined up in front of it. Many of them were already filled. Directly in front of it was a hole and a plaque placed in front of it; this was evidently the resting place Pryce had wanted.

"Do we sit at the front?" Deandre muttered as we looked for a spot.

"You do realise," Gerardo said, "that the people sitting there are Gym Leaders?"

"Really?" he replied. I looked more closely and noticed he was right; just about everyone in Johto had turned up, from the blue-haired Falkner to Goldenrod's Whitney, who was characteristically identified by her infamous habit of crying loudly. I didn't blame her for crying – I felt like doing so too – but I couldn't help but be somewhat amused that another Gym Leader who appeared to be Clair looked extremely awkward in having to sit next to the young girl.

On the other side of her was a man who was only in shorts and shirtless. I presumed he was Chuck, the Fighting Type Gym Leader. He was known to be frequently found all too often absorbed in his training. A few other people who looked like martial artists sat behind him, but they did not look as comfortable as he did in the cold. Perhaps they were his Gym trainers. Some also sitting in the front row appeared to be Elite Four members, as well as people from the Battle Frontier. I couldn't make out Lorelei, but to be honest didn't have that much of a clue of what she looked like in the first place.

"Didn't realise there'd be so many," Deandre said. Gerardo rolled his eyes and then made a strange sound as a man approached us. I raised my eyebrow slightly, recognising him.

"You would be the Gym trainers," he said matter-of-factly. We all nodded. "Good. You're to sit up on stage during the ceremony." He then abruptly walked off.

"Nice cape," Deandre drawled as he headed for the front.

"But... you..." Gerardo struggled as he followed. "You do realise that was Lance, the current Champion?"

"So Champions get to wear capes?" Diana asked quietly.

"Don't tell me you didn't recognise him too?" Gerardo spluttered, shaking his head.

"Well... I thought he'd be taller," Diana protested. "I guess he does have red hair…"

"I would suggest remembering the face then," Patton said. "Or at least the stature, or cape," he teased, earning a light punch from Diana. We sat down on seats that had our names on them set towards the back of the large wooden theatre. I glanced around and winced slightly when I noticed Pryce's Pokémon had gathered together on the side.

The ceremony started soon afterwards. A local priest opened the service solemnly, noting all of Pryce's achievements and how he had helped Mahogany throughout the years. Lance was the next to speak, going on at length about his prowess as a trainer.

"Without a doubt," he said at one point, "his battling style, and indeed himself as a person, was true to his middle name of Willow; flexible, and not easily broken. He told me that interpretation a few years ago, and I can reaffirm that it is most certainly true." I nodded silently as did Gerardo; we had heard the line before and agreed wholeheartedly.

Then each Gym Leader and E4 member took turns to come on stage and say a few lines about Pryce. The general theme of their messages was that he was wise and calm. A few like Falkner and Bugsy did not seem to know that much of him personally but recognised his contribution to the League, while Chuck surprised us all when he walked loudly on stage and proceeded to give a long story of how he had trained with the Ice type trainer himself, and had taken Pryce up on a waterfall training session challenge. He added mirthfully that it had been a draw, but that he was fairly sure Pryce could have kept on standing for a few hours yet, and as such he always remembered the man for his powerful resolve despite his years.

Once everyone had finished Lance took the stage again. "Now is the moment," he said, as a few men slowly walked down the middle aisle with a coffin upon their shoulders. I bit my lip but still felt my eyes burn. I didn't hear what the priest said; I just watched as Pryce was lowered into the ground, and the hole was filled in.


Long after, when the general public had paid their respects to Pryce and had left, we remained by the tombstone. Pryce's Pokémon remained quiet, watching from nearby. Lance quietly walked towards us and stood still for a moment, gazing at the grave.

"He was a good man," he said at length, before sighing. "You will miss him, yes?" We all nodded.

"Yeah, that's putting it mildly," I said. Again we paused.

"Well, although it may not be the best time... the League has other matters to see to soon, given the time of year. So is it alright with you to fill you in on the future of your Gym?"

"I... suppose it is?" Gerardo answered, tearing his eyes away from the tombstone and regarding Lance.

"Good. Shall we head to the Gym to discuss matters?" When we nodded again he motioned to the others and we slowly made our way back to town. It felt a bit odd to not only be walking as a large group into the Gym, but with such a specific crowd of Gym Leaders and Elite Four Members.

"Gosh, this is cold," Clair muttered when we entered.

"Yes, even I'll admit this is a bit much for me," Chuck remarked, bouncing lightly on his feet in what I took to be an attempt to keep himself from turning into an icicle right there and then. We quickly moved to pass out extra pieces of warm clothing and then arranged ourselves around the reception area. We barely had enough to go around.

"Nice decorations," one of the Leaders said quietly, craning his head to take it all in. I scratched my head; we had left the Christmas decorations up, and had forgotten all about them. They no longer felt fitting.

Lance glanced around as if to check that we were all paying attention. I quickly glanced around, wondering if the new Leader was already part of our group or not, but I was still unable to identify every person present.

"Alright, you may not be aware on how the process goes in how we select a new Gym Leader. The short version is that generally we decide from a range of candidates, but this normally takes us some time to agree on, and the chosen candidate must be willing as well. Given the circumstances, as well as the fact the year is drawing to a close, we've opted to select one of you as the interim Gym Leader until we arrive at a decision."

He paused to grin at our reactions to the statement. "It's something that has happened before, and there's probably no better replacement for the changeover time than someone who is actually working here. We expect our decision and arrangements with this to take a few weeks, maybe up to a month or so. But first, a question for all of you. As the Gym has been closed the last few days and Christmas is near," Lance continued, "we feel it would be best if it is reopened for tomorrow to allow through the few Trainers who were here to challenge it before we close once again for the Christmas and New Year break. Is that alright with you, given the circumstances?" he asked.

"Yeah... I suppose," Diana said after a moment.

"Agreed," said Patton. "There's no need to keep the other trainers from waiting further to have a shot at beating us up," he added, earning a light laugh as the rest of us nodded our agreement.

"Good," Lance continued. "You may keep the Gym closed for a few extra days after the New Year begins if need be as well. But I'm sure you're all curious as to which of you is in charge. Be it only temporary, this is still an official position as a Gym Leader." We nodded again. I gazed at the others, mulling over the possibilities. It wouldn't be Diana, and also probably not Deandre, I felt, as they were still relatively new. Gerardo was probably the best of us; after all; he easily knew the most about Gym policies. Although perhaps Patton would get it, because he was better at battling?

"So with that – congratulations, Jill Milburn."

That shook me out of my thoughts. "Congratulations?" I repeated blankly. Suddenly I was aware that my heartbeat was very loud and wondered if everyone else could hear it.

"Why yes, congratulations," he smiled. "Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the new caretaker Gym Leader of Mahogany Town!"

All the Gym Leaders and Elite Four members clapped, seemingly unsurprised by this. It took a moment for the others to react with a mixture of surprise and glee. Diana rushed forward and hugged me tightly while shouting loudly, Gerardo and Patton cheered, and Deandre seemed to be checking his ears.

"Me?" I managed weakly.

"Yes, you!" Diana laughed as she continued to hug me.


It took a while to calm down somewhat, but the last half an hour still felt like a blur.

By now Lance had taken me to the Gym's office room away from the others, and started to explain various parts of the job. He went through the details fairly quickly but clearly. I had been initially surprised when he mentioned the new amount of pay I would get, but it seemed to make more sense when he explained it wasn't just for myself but rather the upkeep of the Gym and by extension Mahogany. It was when he mentioned this that I chose to interrupt.

"Uh... excuse me, Mr Blackthorn..."

"Just Lance, please," he replied.

"Lance," I repeated, and gulped. "I'm not sure if I'm ready for... all this."

"Why not?" he asked softly. I paused for a moment in order to collect my thoughts.

"Well... I mean, I don't feel like I'm ready to run a Gym, even if only for a while. I don't know that much about maintaining a building, or a town for that matter. And as for battling? I only have the one Pokémon at the moment, and I have trouble keeping her calm half the time in battles as it is-" Lance then held up a hand and I stopped.

"It's alright to feel uncertain about it," he begun. "Nearly every other person appointed to the role of Gym Leader – even temporarily – at first feels roughly the same – overwhelmed. I can assure you I was in the same boat as you when I first became a Gym Leader, and again as Champion. But with the management aspect, I wouldn't worry. We have people that will be around to assist you through it, and I might add also keep an eye in case you say get overzealous with spending."

"Well... that's good to hear at least," I murmured.

"That's just League policy, so don't worry too much about that happening!" he laughed. "But back to the matter at hand, you'll also have contact with all of us. We work as a team, and when someone has a problem another can offer a solution. Although we are all leaving tomorrow morning, as the Gym Leaders have their own Gyms to close and so forth, we'll be in touch. I'll have video contact with you every week so I can get updates from yourself, and if need be maybe a Gym Leader will pop in at some point as well. As for your situation with your... Dewgong, was it?" I nodded. "Yes. Well, again, we took that into account, as did Pryce when he did his last yearly review not too long ago. I'm not sure if you are aware of it, but each Gym Leader has a yearly review to submit, and part of that includes nominating potential replacements for their role, including interim cases. He had recommended you as the replacement Gym Leader, and after reviewing video recordings of Gym battles and some discussion between ourselves, we were inclined to agree."

"He did?" I said at length, sitting deeper in my chair.

"Indeed. Furthermore, Gym Leaders are also in a state in growth after all. Take... say, Whitney and Bugsy for example, two young Gym Leaders in Johto. They still have a lot to learn, but in part they were chosen for their potential, and that is what you seemed to have." He took a sip from a glass of water and cleared his throat. "Pokémon take a long time to understand after all, and I don't think anyone can claim to know the best way to raise them, or to get along with them. And once you resolve your issues with your Dewgong, you can start to train other Pokémon as well."

"But then what if... it doesn't work out?" I asked.

"Whether it works out or not depends partly on yourself and the effort you put in. But if it doesn't, it isn't the end of the world! Mahogany won't fall apart in a month. And hopefully you'd still have benefitted from the experience. I suggest you just take this opportunity to improve as a trainer, above all else." He smiled, and I returned it.

"Thank you for your reassurance. Hopefully I can... well, do a good job of it, then."

"Yes, that's the spirit. Now, on a different tangent, would you be considering a Gym name?"

"A Gym name?" I repeated, frowning slightly.

"Yes... some Gym Leaders just like to have a name – or maybe a better way to describe it is a nickname - that reflects the typing of Pokémon they use. I'm not partial to it myself, and it's probably not necessary in this case, but it's a common thing done."

"I... see. I didn't realise, but all the same I think I like my own name..."

Lance nodded. "And lastly, I know I asked this of all of you before, but are you fine with starting right away tomorrow and allowing the trainers to have their attempt at winning the badge before the Christmas break?"

I mulled it over for a moment. "I suppose it is different considering having to do it as the Leader... but yes. How many trainers are there?"

"Three in total, I believe," he replied, glancing over some notes. "That'd be something you'd have to keep tabs on yourself, by the way." Three seemed a lot for one day, and even more so when I only had the one Pokémon to deal with, but I felt that it would just mean the battles would need to be one on one and spread out to allow for healing time, if they all managed to reach me.

"Yes, of course... I will try to get it all sorted after tomorrow and be ready for reopening next year." I tried a smile, and Lance nodded once more.

"You'll be fine."


After the initiation and arriving back home, it took a while to explain to Bessie that I was the new Gym Leader for a while. Once she understood though, her eyes gleamed and she clapped her flippers together happily, miming applause.

"Yes, thank you," I said with a small smile. I hung up the certificate stating my new appointment on the wall and gazed at it for a while.

"This is still going to take a while to take in. I think I'll feel..." I murmured. "Wrong, when I stand in Pryce's place... oh gosh, the puzzle may need a rethink then if we've one less person on it, wouldn't it Bessie?" She seemed to shrug. "Fair enough, I guess you don't need to worry about the Gym puzzle..." I moved to the fridge and gave Bessie her usual dinner of seafood which she gleefully set herself upon, and then washed my hands. After she finished I sat down next to her, and got her to look into my eyes to ensure I got her attention.

"Anyway, Bessie, we have to focus. We have up to three battles tomorrow to get through as I agreed to do them, so you'll have to make sure to do your best. Don't get too riled up against the new Pokémon you'll fight, alright?"

Bessie wagged her tail and smiled. I silently hoped that she would follow the request; I didn't want to screw up my first day as Gym Leader.



Then a mix of bellows and cries, screams of anguish sounded from the police station, and I involuntarily shuddered. They know now, I thought.

Indeed, poor Pryce's Pokemon. =< I assume Pryce's gym trainers will look after his Pokemon and they won't be used in gym battles anymore? I probably missed that part.

So Jill's the new gym leader, huh (or at least, temporary). Shouldn't be a surprise considering she's the main protagonist in this story. Shall be interesting how she'll handle this new responsibility. Looking forward to more!


one more time
Indeed, poor Pryce's Pokemon. =< I assume Pryce's gym trainers will look after his Pokemon and they won't be used in gym battles anymore? I probably missed that part.
This part hasn't been covered in here, actually, so you didn't miss anything! But basically, they're not Jill's and she's not going to be using them while she takes care of things.
So Jill's the new gym leader, huh (or at least, temporary). Shouldn't be a surprise considering she's the main protagonist in this story. Shall be interesting how she'll handle this new responsibility. Looking forward to more!
It shouldn't be, no. =P I Hope it wasn't too obvious however, haha. :B

Cheers, Bay!