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A Trio of Trainers : Origins

Chapter Text

"You guys have the absolute worst timing." Winter briefly pouted and hid her face behind her hair as usual. Though her face remains hidden, there was surely a hint of loneliness in her voice.

 

"Don't worry, we can send messages online through our PokéNavs." Marie held up her yellow device in the air, and with that, a screen of her contact list reflected on her hazel eyes.

 

"It'll be fine, Winter. I mean, at least you get to stay in the main hub. The wireless connection is so much better here in Mauville. Besides, Slateport City and Verdanturf Town aren’t even that far." Aya fiddled with her cap for a bit then took it off while trying to maintain her signature ponytail.

 

"Still, it won't be the same. You’re right though, visiting won’t be much of a problem at least." Winter scratched the back of her head with her eyes glued to the ground. The dark redhead paused as she finally looked up towards the dusk sky. The brunette switches off her device and a plum haired girl with a cap stares up as well.

 

"Well, Aya, since you're gonna be at coastal area, that means we can have a beach day. And Marie, we can have a picnic in the flower fields too." Winter spoke up with a small smile.

 

The two fell silent but returned warm reassuring smiles to their friend. "I can't believe our time at the academy is almost done. I'm so glad we finally get to show what we can do with our pokémon." Aya grinned and tossed her pokeball, releasing her surprisingly cheerful Mimikyu. Though Marie was not too fond of the ghost fairy being’s spooky pranks and antics at first, she eventually came to care for it as well.

 

Marie then did the same and cradled her little newly hatched Togepi in her arms. Winter stared at the heal ball in her hands, inside was a Dratini she had somehow rescued a year back while she was on a field trip with her friends and classmates. She threw it into the air and out came a creature with a scar wrapped around its tail. Dratini coiled itself around her owner's arm.

 

"They are all so cute I could just squish em'. Ugh." Marie cooed at the trio of baby pokémon that were out and about.

 

Winter felt the tears forming in her eyes but quickly wiped them away. They were all thirteen now, and once the season would end, they'll all be finally allowed by their parents to leave for their very own adventure with their own trainer licences. But also by that time, both her friends Aya and Marie will have moved in at their new places as well.

 

In most cases, a bunch of kids would have left by the age of ten to eleven in the Kanto or Johto region, but some get sent to a trainer's school or academy for another year or so until the age for extra precautions.

 

"We should head back home. Video call later?" Winter petted her pokémon one more time before returning it to its heal ball.

 

"Yep. Probably should." Aya sighed then placed Mimikyu atop her shoulder. The tiny pokémon nuzzled into her cheek.

 

"Togepi kind of needs his rest soon, yeah." Marie put back the sleepy baby pokémon in its cozy nest ball. The girls had linked their arms like they used to when they were much younger and began to make their way back to the residential area in Mauville City.

 

Three kids walked peacefully along the aged marble slated sidewalks in a comfortable silence as the sun was setting. All of them were hoping for the best since they’ll soon part ways for a while to begin preparations for their long journey as a team, after their final summer as non-trainers would come to an end. It was a dream they had all been chasing, ever since the age of six, when they first became friends. The summer was fleeting, yes, but they managed to fill in the gaps with beach days, afternoon picnics, and wishes for a bright future.

Chapter Text

It’s been about eight to nine years since then.

Each of them look back to that memory fondly and cherish the times they had visited each other over summers wherein they would take a short break from their journey, especially since they took up different routes in life. Though, nothing had really beaten the first year when they had chosen to travel together in the Johto region. Apart from the days they spent with each other over the break, the trio had interesting experiences in their own time.

During the summer before their journey, their parents had prepared a small present for them. Three little Eevees nestled in a cozy weaved basket were shown to them. It was definitely a welcome surprise to the kids and they couldn’t be any more grateful. In the first month of their break, Marie was frantically chasing her energetic Eevee at one point and it had accidentally stumbled upon a thunderstone in the field which in turn had made it become a fitting Jolteon.

"It doesn't matter where I go or what I do. I'm just glad I get to have fun with all of you." Marie gave an earnest grin.

In the beginning, she truly had a hard time keeping up with her two energetic pokémon but she still loved them anyways. There were times when Togepi would ride on the Jolteon’s back in her backyard and she would let them play with the other docile wild pokémon in the grass. Her parents were a bit worried since Marie had barely let any of her pokémon really train in a proper fight and partly also since they had caught sight of her team on numerous occasions just playing around. With the travel just around the corner, they couldn’t help but feel a little concerned. One month was down, but regardless of how things were, Jolteon and Togepi were truly delighted to have Marie as their acting trainer.

During the vacation, Aya had taken along with her a playful Eevee and Mimikyu to a park she visited overseas with her mom during that same summer. Hers had suddenly evolved into a Sylveon after having its first grooming session. Mimikyu was elated by the fact it had another fairy type friend in her roster and the two became the best of buds. While being in a foreign region known for its culture and traditional style, also formally known as Johto, this sparked Aya’s interest after having a glimpse of the sights and scenery.

And in that one week trip, she sent tons of scenic pictures in their group chat; her friends were just as enamoured as she was. It was because of that, they had agreed to start their gym challenge in the Johto region instead of their homeland. Her mother strongly urged her to go to another region and maybe settle down there at some point. Though it was an interesting idea for sure, Aya still wanted to go to other places until she was satisfied. It was way too early to pick one area and she’d be damned if she couldn’t get the chance to explore the other regions as well.

Aya smirked to herself. "One day, I'll get to go to places and see many different faces. With my two best friends and pokepals."

Winter, on the other hand, didn't really know what evolution to choose, even though she had a firestone that could potentially make her Eevee become a Flareon. Seeing that her friends made theirs evolve so spontaneously, she was beginning to feel a little left behind.

On one morning, she gave Dratini and Eevee time to play while she was preparing some supplies for the journey. She was stressing out over missing one of her full heals and her pokémon tried their best to calm her down. For a moment, she had almost lashed out at the two but held in her frustrations instead. They didn’t deserve that.

She had been training them on scheduled days for the past two months during the time her friends were away and still adjusting to their new homes. Her pokémon were very patient with her and she wondered if she was really suited to the trainer life since she’s already beginning to feel the immense pressure. With her other younger siblings not choosing the trainer lifestyle, she took responsibility as the eldest to simply go for it and help out pokémon instead.

“I’m so sorry for being such a… stressful trainer. Pretty sure that everyone else is doing better than me.” She sighed in defeat.

The two pokémon tugged at the edge of her shirt to get her attention. They shook their heads vigorously to comfort the young girl and led her to the pond on the outskirts of the city. Dratini had dived into the water immediately but Winter started to worry when her pokémon didn’t resurface. Winter herself was about to frantically jump in when Eevee pulled at the back of her sock. To her dismay, her other small pokemon jumped in the water after.

“What are you guys up to…? This isn’t funny, it’s making me way more worried than before y'know!” Her heart was pounding, she threw her bag aside and tossed her shoes into the bushes. Winter sprinted into the pond and beneath its surface was a dazzling glow before her.

A Dragonair flew up into the air along with a damp Eevee riding on for dear life on its back. The sight was memorable and breathtaking. When Dragonair made her landing, a glowing Eevee plopped right into her arms. The light eventually faded only to reveal a lavender pokémon with a round red gem on its forehead. She eyed her team incredulously unable to suppress a hearty laugh at the shocking evolutions. The girl definitely had to call her friends about this.

Chapter Text

The first year of their adventure was spent on trying for the gym challenge in the Johto region, a land that was foreign to the three. It was also then that Marie realized she wasn't too happy when each of her pokémon was getting hit from the battles and training sessions with strangers. At the time, they were staying in at the Cherrygrove City pokémon center, gathering supplies and advice for trailing to the next place they needed to go to: Violet City.

 

Each had donned their default outfit for the sake of comfort and mobility during their travels.

 

Marie tucked a bit of her medium length dark brown hair and excitedly showed off her new silver stud piercings on her right ear, but still decidedly wore her trademark mustard-colored hoodie paired with some denim capris and a bright pair of yellow running shoes.

 

Winter, with her right eye partially hidden by her lengthy dark red hair and small bit of hair tucked on her left, had settled for a plain black t-shirt with pale blue shorts that had black leggings underneath as an extra layer, while keeping on her favorite red sneakers and also additionally wearing a small golden necklace half-hidden under shirt.

 

Aya sported a look that seemed casual and travel-ready; she had her plum high ponytail inserted into a white cap with a semi-pokeball symbol on top that had a visible lining of baby pink on its rim, and a teal teardrop necklace stays atop of her light gray halter top matched with her dark ripped jeans along with well-worn white leather sneakers.

 

They were ready and excited to explore the unknown territory (to them at least) that Johto had to offer in the style that best suited each of them.

 

"Guys, I know that it's a normal thing but I don't want to see them get hurt. The gym leaders must be something else altogether. I'd rather see my pals play. " She slumped in her seat.

 

"You're not going to bail on us, are you?" Winter visibly huffed across her friend.

 

"No! Don't get me wrong, I still plan to travel with you guys but whatever happens after this region, I have no clue. Don’t know what my parents would think of this either." Marie shrugged.

 

"Look, it's fine. You don't have to force yourself to battle. What I do suggest is that you at least try the first gym. If anything, at least you can be in charge of playtime duty with all of our pokémon on most days." Winter stuck her tongue out.

 

Over the course of the first month, they all had somehow managed to gain a new member in each of their teams. Marie caught a friendly Sandshrew while they were camping out near the entrance of a small cave. Aya got herself a rare Lapras when they were trying to fish for the first time by the sea in Cherrygrove City. Winter begrudgingly took in a persistent hungry Vulpix by the forest path.

 

"Baby pokémon are the cutest. Ugh. Their fur is so soft." Marie proceeded to cuddle the various tiny pokémon in their group.

 

"Okay, it's time to settle down." Aya dusted off the picnic blanket and called the pokémon over.

 

The two noticed their friend was nowhere to be seen, along with her own pokémon. "Why does she always go off on her own?" Aya raised her cap. Both she and Marie just sighed.

 

"I swear, I wonder how she's both so responsible and kinda careless at the same time. I thought we covered that all by ourselves already." Marie chuckled.

 

"Hey, pokébirds of the same feather, flock together." Aya wiggled her eyebrows. She suddenly had a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

 

"Battle me. It’ll be quick! Come on, Winter's kinda scary to battle sometimes, especially when she's stressed. It also wouldn't hurt to let your pokémon exercise too." The tall plum-haired girl whined and declared openly to the already reluctant brunette.

 

"Aya, you know I don't really want to battle. Like ever." Marie rolled her eyes. Her friend continued to pout and sulk.

 

With no sign of the dark redhead coming back anytime soon, she groaned and called out for her Jolteon. "Bud, let's try our best, okay?"

 

"Yeah, let's do this! Get ready to play Sylveon! " Aya grinned triumphantly. They headed towards a clearing to carry out the battle.

 

The two Eeveelutions took a playful stance towards one another, as if they were about to play like they used to as baby pokémon. Both brother and sister seemed so eager to start the battle and do their best for their respective trainers.

 

"Dazzling Gleam! Go!" Aya took the initiative in starting the battle as well as having the determination to end it. Sylveon quickly prepared for its attack but Jolteon had sped up its tempo too.

 

"Jolteon… counter that brightness with Spark!" Marie felt a bit anxious at first but remembered her pokémon was out there to have some fun and exercise with his fellow sister.

 

Electricity and sparkles flew across the field. The light of the two pokémon instantly clashed, causing each side to recoil and gain a bit of damage. Pokémon cheers could be heard from their teammates at the sidelines of the field. Aya and Marie felt pumped up by the atmosphere and also because their competitive nature against each other hasn’t changed that much.

 

A dark redhead peered through the trees and smiled while observing her friends battle. Her Dragonair leaned its head on her arm, as if to ask why she was watching from afar.

 

"I just needed some time away. Seems like they needed this fun fight. Don't worry, I'll step in when it's time." Winter chuckled softly. Espeon, just like her trainer, silently watched them continue the battle and would step in when needed.

 

The exchange of moves during the battle was well-countered on both ends. Neither side wanted to give up, so Marie decided to go for a surprise attack.

 

“I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE I ACTUALLY AGREED TO THIS! JOLTEON USE FLASH!” She tried to cover her eyes but the wide-ranged effect was devastating. The light overpowered the battle field, causing not only the pokémon to be temporarily blinded, but also the trainers too.

 

Aya couldn’t see anything at all but she still resorted to a sure-fire move in her competitive spirit. “Sylveon- USE FAIRY WIND!” A sudden gust of glitter picked up and swept throughout the entire field. With flashes of light and puffs of glitter all around the area, an irritated redhead from afar could only facepalm at the sight.

 

The pokémon that were cheering on the sidelines were now all dazed and confused. Winter nodded to her Espeon and it had formed a temporary Protect around them as the cloud expanded. When the foggy cloud of light and dust faded, the trainers saw that both Jolteon and Sylveon were both floating in the air. It was faint but the two were held up by a lilac-colored aura, and that only meant one thing: their older sister Espeon was nearby.

 

Over on the far left where the other pokémon were, they could see Winter rubbing her temples, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, while standing alongside her equally exasperated Espeon.

 

“Esp, use Morning Sun.” Jolteon and Sylveon floated gently onto the ground, the natural rays of the sun brightened for a moment, casting a restorative healing effect on the pokémon. The two gratefully ran around Espeon, who only gave a curt mewled response to acknowledge their thanks.

 

Winter smirked then proceeded with a playful eyeroll. “Arceus, you guys are absolutely Meltan nuts. Try to make the battles less... explosion-y next time, alright? There are other pokémon in the forest, too.” She chuckles, trying to make her tone less curt and more light.

 

“Whoops. Got a lil’ out of hand, didn’t we?” Aya nudged Marie, with Sylveon’s glitter still coated all over them and the ground.

 

“Honestly, I’m still surprised I even went that far. I had fun, I guess.” Marie gave them a withered look and tried to pat off the layer of dust on herself. Aya and Winter giggled at their friend. Togepi jumped back into her arms and she instantly returned to her relaxed state.

 

"You guys did good. Just need some fine-tuning, that's all. Sorry I had to cut it short, though. Was about to get messy, y'know?" Winter returned an encouraging smile.

 

Aya's eyes widened in a jarring realization, "Wait. Where were you, by the way? And um- How much of the battle did you see?"

 

Winter slowly narrowed her eyes. "I'm scary, huh?"

 

The two friends visibly gulped and knew exactly what to do.

 

"RUN!" They both fled from the scene and called back their pokémon. There were echoes and short fits of giggles and laughter as the kids ran back to their small campsite.

Chapter Text

Two weeks later, and after awkwardly dealing with numerous annoying bug pokémon trainers, the trio made their way from Cherrygrove City to Violet City.

“Winter, I swear to Mew if you agree to another bug trainer battle, I’m gonna have a headache.” Aya’s face scrunched up in disdain.

“What? We get free money. And besides, they were asking for it.” Winter crudely answered.

Marie heavily sighed. “I don’t know, Winter. That area was unnecessarily full of them. Please try to remember that I really dislike bug pokémon in general.”

“Well, we’re pretty close to Violet City so you guys won’t have to worry too much. The training was good for Vulpix anyways.” She simply chuckled at the frustrated responses of her friends.

“-Hey look! A group of amateur trainers!” A boy with a straw hat and a Weedle on his shoulder and another boy in a similar fashion, though instead had a Caterpie on his head, ran over to where they were.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me! We’re almost there!” The tall girl threw her cap to the ground.

Marie decided to move further away from another upcoming battle. "So uh- You guys just do your thing."

Winter simply threw a look into Aya’s direction and she reluctantly nodded with a heavy sigh. “Fine, we’ll battle but it’s gotta be a double battle, okay guys?”

The opposing trainers excitedly nodded and called for their bug pokémon to move forward. And Winter was sure she heard one of them say how easy this fight was going to be. Aya released her intimidating Mimikyu and Winter brought out her nimble Vulpix.

The two girls winced when they saw the baby Weedle and Caterpie shaking in fear of the pokémon from their team.

"Okay, this ain't right. Your pokémon are clearly newly caught, don't you think they need to train more before a proper trainer battle?" Winter took pity on the smaller pokémon.

"Nah, they'll be fine. Don't mind our pokémon and try to focus on yours. Geez." The bug trainer lazily replied.

Aya looked to her friend. "I wanna mess up the trainers, not the pokémon."

"Same, though it seems like backing out now would be a pain. Let's just get this over with." She glanced at the nervous-looking Caterpie and Weedle. "Sorry little bugs, I tried. We'll make this quick." Winter whispered in a frustrated tone.

After one swift Shadow Sneak and a small but effective Ember, the two opposing pokémon fainted in one go. The bug trainers yelped and hurriedly left the losers’ battle fee with Aya. Winter gave them a short scolding before they could actually leave the scene.

"That's awful." Marie concluded after hearing her friends talk about what transpired earlier. Two of her friends were deep in thought, probably still irked by the attitude of those careless trainers. Who can say that there weren’t tougher trainers out there who would actually do the same thing?

Marie herself was also lost in thought, she knew things weren't going to be easy but she never thought about dealing with trainers like that at all. An idea suddenly popped up, she released her Togepi and got questioning looks from Aya and Winter. "Heal Bell".

The happy egg pokémon emitted a soothing aura and her friends got the message. "If there's bad trainers like em', well at least there are good trainers like you guys to make sure less of that stuff happens." She offered a sincere grin.

Walking side by side, they were amazed at the touch of the oriental style and wooden structures along the pathway. They entered Violet City without any more obstacles and hindrances. Distracting themselves from the events from that morning, they decided to do some sightseeing for the day then properly settle down for the night at the local Pokémon Center.

There was a light downpour as they began their short excursion around the city. Marie quickly lifted up her hoodie and Aya was shielded to some degree by her cap so the two happily ran through the streets in the somber weather. Meanwhile, Winter lagged behind to pull out her gray umbrella with a white pokéball stamped on its top and continued to walk in their direction. Pretty little droplets hung from the edges of the arched roofs and the tall evergreen trees.

“I can’t believe it. C’mon guys, the Sprout Tower should be close by.” Aya excitedly dragged them along to the famous historical site.

Winter tapped the edge of her chin. “Hmmm…. Shouldn’t we save that area for later? I think there are a few statues we can look at first before going to the tower.”

“So you mean… save the best for last?” Marie blinked.

“Yep. That’s it.” Winter quipped.

“That’s a great idea! I think there is one worth seeing. The Growchiko statue, y’know the one in that story where that little Growlithe waited for its trainer to return at the crossway until it finally passed away?” Aya’s eyes twinkled in delight.

“What? The sad story, that made us all cry? I don’t know if I should be amazed or just be plain sad.” Marie looked at her incredulously.

“Dude, you can probably do both.” She received a confirmatory nod from her red-haired friend. The taller plum-haired girl simply raised her thumbs up with a cheeky grin.

Sure enough, the old stone statue was positioned near the tower and was also not too far off from the next gate that led to another route. The three took pictures and paid their respects to the loyal pokémon, each carefully making a small slow bow. Winter’s Vulpix suddenly sprang out of its ball and whimpered with a small sad whine.

A sudden realization crossed Winter’s face. “Did you guys know that Ninetales, live up to a thousand years?”, She crouched and softly patted the little fox. “I just realized that maybe… a Vulpix can live a long life too.” Her pokémon gently nudged her side, looking at her as if it had expectations out of her, eyes shining and seeing something that she currently can’t see.

The Vulpix calmly huddled itself into her arms and she whispered closely, “Glad you got to see your old friend again.”

Chapter Text

They silently left the statue and continued their excursion to the Sprout Tower.

“Woah. This place is super cool! I wouldn’t be surprised if it was haunted.” Aya exclaimed by the wide wooden entrance of the tower.

“That would be pretty cool. Also, it did say in the travel guide that some of the monks here like to tell stories, so that might be fun.” Winter perked up and looked around with interest.

“You know what? You guys go enjoy that. Can’t I just go to the small Bellsprouts over there?” Marie gestured to the group of pokémon nearby.

Winter raised her brow, “Aren’t those sacred in here?”, and pointed to the sign in giant letters stating ‘PLS DO NOT MIND THE BELLSPROUTS’.

“Oh.” Marie deflated and Aya couldn’t hide her giggles at all. The two began swatting at each other with the brochures they had on-hand, and again, neither one wanting to give up. As they climbed up the stairs, Winter simply watched over them with idle amusement.

“Okay guys, keep it down. They might-” A monk suddenly appears and begins to chastise them.

“Youngsters these days. From the looks of it, all beginners too. No access to the top until you’ve managed to beat all of the sages here. And only then can you begin your gym challenge.” The elder monk scoffed at the trio.

They found themselves back outside the tower.

“So much for finishing our sightseeing today. What an old grump.” Winter mumbled.

“Man, I think I’m actually getting nervous about the gym challenge now.” Aya nervously chuckled and both friends eyed Marie.

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll do it and try.” Marie shoved her hands into her hoodie’s pockets.

The remainder of their afternoon was spent on polishing movesets and helping each other train.

“I can’t believe we have to deal with all of those old monks.” Winter sighed.

“It’ll be fine, Winter. I checked it out online and look-” Aya held out her device and the forums made it apparent that the monks are only allowed to use level 10 Bellsprouts.

“Wow. Even Togepi can take em’ on.” Marie absentmindedly scrolled through the post.

Winter pondered deep in thought, all of them had trained for a while before going to Johto so the levels that their teams currently started with had varied from 20 to 30.

“Since this is the starting area for most newbies, we definitely have some leverage. Okay. Let’s beat those grumpy geezers tomorrow.” The dark redhead concluded and held out her fist.

“Agreed. Let’s.” Aya grinned, then connected a fistbump with Winter.

On the day after, the battle between the monks and the young trio proved to be a mundane affair. Togepi, Vulpix, and Mimikyu easily went through the battles without a scratch, giving their trainers well-earned respect and now the right to face the gym leader of this city.

“He’s a flying type user. Here are some herbs to help replenish a bit of energy for your teams.” The old monk gently wrapped the leaves and handed each bundle to them.

“Thanks, mister.” Winter gave a small bow and the other two followed in tow.

“It’s nothing. You three hurry now and get that badge, ya hear?” The old man waved them off.

“The old guy’s pretty nice. Guess he just wanted to see if we were okay enough to handle the gym.” Marie thoughtfully commented as they strolled along the sidewalk.

“We should head there while it’s still early in the day.” Aya reminded as she took a quick glance at her watch.

“Alright.” Winter, unnoticed by her friends, muttered and began to fidget with her hands.

As the three approached the gym, they grew quiet and nervous. This was their first gym and it was the official start on their lives as trainers. A young man by the entrance notices them.

He makes his way and approaches them with a warm smile. “Hello new friends! Are you here to challenge the gym?” A Pidgey perches on his shoulder while staring questioningly at them.

“Yep. The three of us plan on challenging the leader today. Is that possible?” Winter spoke up.

“It’s pretty early so- yeah! You guys are the first challengers of the day. The gym leader’s reserve pokemon are all available right now so it’s definitely possible.” The upbeat male leads the way and brings out some water bottles along with a few snacks.

“How long does each battle take?” Marie glanced curiously as they were ushered to sit on a platform with a row of seats.

The man pondered with his Pidgey. “Depends on the trainer, really. But since there’s three of you, the gym is off-limits to any other challengers for an hour or so.”

Aya’s eyes widened. “... Wow. I’m actually getting really nervous again.”

“Oh, now don’t be! Usually, a gym like this is packed with newbies but since it’s quite early, there’s less people to spectate. Consider yourselves lucky.” He grinned once more.

“That also brings me to another question, which one of us is going first?” Winter sighed.

“It doesn’t matter much. You guys just pick between yourselves and call me up when you’re ready. The leader won’t reveal himself til’ the battle’s been decided.” He and his pidgey hopped off the platform to give them some space to talk.

It was obvious. All of them were quite nerve-wracked just by seeing the scale of how huge the gym was. Aya and Marie turned around then suddenly gave pleading gazes to Winter.

She closed her eyes and let out a soft chuckle. “Should’ve seen this coming.”

“Oh right! My name’s Devin. And for what it’s worth, I think you kids will be alright.” Devon alerted his Pidgey to call for the gym leader.

Another cool-looking young man with cerulean hair and bright eyes, probably in the same age range as Devon, rises out of a traditionally designed wooden platform. “Welcome to the Violet City’s gym, young challengers! Do not fear, try to enjoy the forthcoming battles and observe the prowess of flying types!”

Chapter Text

Goldenrod City was lively and bustling to say the least. The trio decided to stay for about one week in the area, stumbling across new surroundings and taking in the sights the city had to offer. The city certainly lived up to its name, bricks and concrete all in a dull yellow or golden hue. Famous for its train railway to the Kanto region, a lively set of citizens, and the enormous radio tower that caters to the whole region, its stands proudly as an important symbol for Johto’s interconnectedness. 

 

Once again, the three girls roam around together and eventually battle it out with Johto’s gym leader of normal types: Whitney. The whole gym itself reflected the leader’s style; it seemed to have a theme of golden lining, sparkles, and pink .

 

It was Marie's turn to go against the gym leader first. The girls, more so specifically Winter, decided to make it fair as to who gets to go first in challenging each gym leader by taking turns. 

 

"You got this, Marie." Aya gave a strong encouraging pat on her back. 

 

Winter's curious expression turned into one of worry. Her brows slightly furrowed with her lips forming into a thin line. "It'll be okay, you've done pretty alright so far. Just don't let your guard down I guess."

 

This gained Aya's attention and the redhead simply just shrugged it off then whispered as Marie left for the platform, "We'll just have to see how things go." 

 

"Is it about… that ?" The taller girl asked. 

 

"Well, you know how she feels." Winter looked back with a deadpan stare, and that was all that was needed to answer her friend's question. 

 

As they've heard, Whitney was well-known for using her Miltanks in gym battles, though at times she may rely on a Clefairy, so it was no surprise when the one on one challenges on that day presented a pink sturdy-looking pokémon with a healthy glow. 

 

Marie fussed for a short bit with her pokeball belt. Then finally, she threw out her pokémon of choice. "Jolteon, let's go! Thundershock!"

 

It was nail-biting challenge, that's for sure. Miltank and Jolteon went back and forth dishing out attacks on each other. 

 

The only advantage Marie had over Whitney was her Jolteon's good stamina, accuracy, and speed, whereas the Miltank had stamina but extra hp. 

 

"Miltank, my girl, use Defense Curl!" Whitney clenched her fists. 

 

Each side gave each other an adequate amount of damage, their pokémon reaching the limits of their stamina. A surprise Rollout had hit Jolteon hard but the electric pokémon quickly got up then brought down an effective Double Kick, which made the battle come to a close. 

 

With hands shaking, Marie called back her tired pokémon. Aya and Winter's gym battles went off without a hitch, Dragonair and Lapras proved to be effective hard-hitting pokémon in a fight. Though the two may still be developing their battle styles, they were getting used to managing their pokémon's movesets. 

 

Whitney cheerily congratulated them for the completion of their gym challenge in Goldenrod City and gave their badges. 

 

"Be sure to swing by the local ranch for some delicious Moomoo Milk. You three definitely earned it." She winked and left. 

 

"Let's heal up our pokémon first." Winter exited first. 

 

"Okaaay." Aya followed next and Marie simply kept quiet. 

 

As they handed their pokémon that participated in the gym challenge, Winter suddenly stopped in front of Marie. 

 

"What's up? Are you feeling sick or something?" She feigned innocence and raised her hand to the brunette's forehead. 

 

Aya, already getting a clue of what Winter was aiming to do, braced herself with a stiff smile. 

 

"It's not that… I'm starting to think that maybe I'm more cut out for something other than gym battles or battling in general." Marie sighed and grumbled in frustration. 

 

Winter quickly glanced at Aya and gave the same deadpan stare as if to say, 'Don't you dare say anything rash.'

 

"...How come?" Aya willed herself from saying anything more than that by biting her tongue. 

 

Both friends saw this coming, Marie's will to battle and train with her pokémon seemed to lessen after each gym battle. 

 

"What do you think you're more cut out for?" Winter's eyes slowly narrowed and her tone was more direct. 

 

"I don't know? Maybe I can make my own Pokefan club?" Marie seemed unsure then brushed a hand through her hair. 

 

Aya and Winter both sighed. "Let's just head to the ranch and talk more there, I guess." Aya used her cap to fan herself in an attempt to cool herself off from frustration.

 

“It’s okay, I don’t think we’re supposed to have it all figured out anyways. Just try to keep in mind on how your parents gave you this chance.” Aya offered a strained sympathetic smile to her troubled friend then moved ahead of the other two. Marie breathed out a sigh of relief.

 

“But, that doesn’t mean you should stop trying either. Doing half-assed life choices, on the other hand, is taking the easy way out. Please try to consider things wisely.” Winter carefully uttered as she passed by Marie and jogged over to Aya’s side. 

 

With Marie lagging behind the two, they eventually stumble upon a modern cattle ranch for Mareep and Miltanks. The open ranch still retained a golden touch on the fences, staying true to the city’s colors. A small cafe stood out next to the entrance.

 

Upon entry, the three flashed their newly acquired badges and a kind middle-aged man let them in. “Our gym leader is such a kind soul. We’ll get you kids some fresh warm milk.” A lady, most likely his spouse, comes out of the cafe. 

 

“My wife will entertain you for a while, I’ll return shortly with your drinks.” He smiled.

 

True to his word, the gentle middle-aged lady led them inside the open grass field, giving the kids a chance to play with the pokémon around them. Helpers of different ages tended to the care and playtime of the Mareeps and Miltanks.

 

Marie perked up just by being surrounded by the overall vibe and activities. She joined in with a smile plastered over her face, brushing the fur of the younger little pokémon contentedly. Aya and Winter smirked at each other knowingly. 

 

“Alright young ones, here are the drinks, as promised!” The older gentleman happily passed a mug of Moomoo Milk to each of them, and the couple watched in amusement as the three happily chugged down their drinks, warming their bellies and their hearts.