Remi eventually found herself walking down the cobblestone paths of Vareena towards the gym. The sun was lower in the sky - it’d taken time (and a whole lot of water, soap, freshly bought bandages, burning pain, a concerning amount of blood in the sink, and a very
horrified reaction from an employee in a convenience store bathroom) for Remi to clean herself up after her little encounter with the Shaymin. There were still blood spatters on her black top, invisible but for the stiff circles dried and hardened in place. Sliding her bomber jacket on had been a slow, painful process, each movement sending angry shocks through her arms. But eventually, she’d managed to hide the bandages under the pink fabric.
She hid her hands in her pockets as she walked, careful to keep her arms still. She watched the cobblestones pass under her feet.
Were they… multiplying?
Remi squeezed her eyes shut. When she opened them again, she forced her vision back into focus. It wasn’t easy, what with her steadily growing headache. Remi tightened her jaw. She breathed in. Out again. Counted her steps as she walked.
She had to get out of this damn town.
Looking up, Remi squinted against the sun. The gym grew bigger at the end of the path. She wasn’t leaving until she had the grass badge in hand. Her mind flashed back to the first time she and Tack had battled against Kara’s new Leafeon - her sister hadn’t even told her that she’d evolved her Eevee. She’d wanted it to be a surprise
. Remi saw her smug expression the first time Tack’s electric attacks all but bounced off of the grass type.
The gym grew closer. If her breathing grew more and more unsteady, Remi told herself that it was just the anticipation.
There was a group gathered in front of the building. They seemed… agitated. Remi didn’t bother listening to their conversation, but whatever it was about, they could’ve done it somewhere other
than in front of the door. Her eyebrow quirked in irritation as she maneuvered around the crowd. Remi had never been a fan of large groups of people - she’d learned not to trust them after all the times her sister had convinced her friends of some new way to torment her.
Pain shot through her arm. Remi hissed between her teeth, immediately flinching away from the person she’d accidentally bumped. She threw a half hearted glare over her shoulder at whoever it was, before hurrying along and through the doors of the gym.
She paused. Just for a moment. Felt the warm, humid air, smelled the wafting scents of flowers and fresh dirt, listened to the chirps of grass Pokemon. Echos of fire reverberated through her arms. Her eyebrows furrowed as she forced her vision into focus again.
Then she marched to the back, ignoring the gym trainers to find the leader. She found a young girl - younger than Remi at least - in what looked to be priestess robes. Remi’s hands tightened into fists in her pockets.
Another breath.“I’m here for the gym challenge. Available for a match?”
Saki finished taking care of the flowers she had been attending to before turning around to meet Remi’s glare. She handed one of her attendants the watering can and bowed lightly in respect to the approaching trainer. “Of course, but may I ask who I’m speaking to first?”
Remi lifted her chin slightly. “Remi Kubo. From Galar.”
Her right hand was clutched tight around the two pokeballs in her pocket, warming the smooth material with her heat. Her thumb dug into the ridges of Trouble’s luxury ball. She felt her own pulse thrumming through it. ”It is nice to meet you Remi, I am Saki Matsutsuki. Now if you wouldn’t mind following me to the gym’s arena. Battling here could cause stress to these flowers or risk harming them, so I must insist.”
Saki said as she began walking towards a more official looking arena with chalked lines indicating the positions that the trainers would take. A referee showed up to stand alongside the arena and officiate. Saki took note of the fact that Remi only brought two pokeballs before selecting three of her own pokemon.
After the referee explained the rules and stipulations of the match, Saki gripped her bulbasaur’s pokeball in her hand. “Are you ready, Remi Kubo?”
Fighting to keep the pain off her face, Remi slowly pulled her hand out of her pocket - holding a stark white premier ball. She clicked the center button and it enlarged to fill her hand with a bright metallic ting.
Saki nodded as well before sending Bulbasaur to the field. From the pokeball emerged a litany of blooming flowers before the grass type showed itself. “Good luck to you Remi, let us have a good match!”
Remi raised her arm (don’t shake don’t shake don’t shake
) and her Pikachu emerged in a flash of light. Tack shook out his fur, taking in his new surroundings. His ears twitched as he sniffed the air - then his head turned sharply to look back at Remi. He sniffed again, nervous electricity dancing from his cheeks. The light ball hanging from his collar glowed. Remi clenched her jaw. She knew what he was smelling on her, even if she’d spent the better part of an hour trying to scrub it off in a public restroom.
He took a step towards her and Remi shook her head - sending pain shooting through her skull. Remi squeezed her eyes shut. When she opened them again, she nodded in the direction of the Bulbasaur behind him. Tack hesitated… then obeyed. Getting down on all fours, he waited for the referee’s whistle.
It cut through the air, high and sharp. “Double team!”
Tack disappeared. “Poison powder.”
Purple spores erupted out of the bulb on the grass type’s back, aimed haphazardly at the places where Tack flashed in and out of existence around the field. The doubling effect of Tack’s speed didn’t help Remi as she struggled to keep her vision in focus.“Thunder wave!”
From everywhere at once, electricity crackled through the field. The Bulbasaur was caught in a net of golden light, muscles contracting as it cried out.“Coat the field, Bulbasaur.”
Face tense in concentration, two thick vines shot out from its back. Their movements were sudden and jolting, but still they swept through the air - through the poisonous spores still wafting. Soon enough, the entire field was covered in an even blanket, and Tack had nowhere to hide. In the half-moments Tack was visible, Remi saw him wincing and coughing, the poison taking effect. Her arm shot up to cover her mouth as the spores got perilously close to where she stood at the edge of the field - only to immediately gasp as pain shot through her arm, her fresh wounds pulling under her jacket.“Electro ball,”
Remi called through grit teeth. But Tack was still reeling, blinking the poison out of his eyes. An orb of crackling light burst forth from nothing, fired at the Bulbasaur. It was slightly off-center, though. The Bulbasaur was still struggling to move, but it managed to jump to the side enough to narrowly avoid the electro ball’s impact. It crashed into the ground where the Bulbasaur had been. “Reflect,”
the gym leader ordered. Strategies and past battles ran through Remi’s foggy mind as a shining rectangle flashed into existence in front of the Bulbasaur. She and Tack had never battled a Bulbasaur before, but she could guess at its strengths - it had nothing on Tack’s mobility. Reflect made sense - hunker down, soften whatever blows it had to take, probably use a health stealing move. If Tack’s strategy was to hit hard and hit fast, then the Bulbasaur’s strategy would be to outlast
. Her arms felt like fire. She had to fight to focus on the battle, to keep her mind and vision clear. Reflect… reflect was for special moves, wasn’t it? It was hard to remember past the pounding in her head. It would make sense though - electricity had a harder time impacting grass types, but Tack’s most powerful attacks would be electric. Take away the opponent’s offense, in the same way Tack had taken the Bulbasaur’s mobility. “Quick attack!”
Tack darted forward, finally visible just as he collided with his opponent. The blow was softened though - slowed, as he’d had to push through the shining barrier.Shit!
There wasn’t time to wallow in her mistake though.“Giga drain!”
Green vines wrapped around Tack’s form, catching him just as he tried to dart away. His sharp cry cut through the air and the vines glowed, stealing his health.“Electro ball! Break loose!”
Tack growled as electricity filled the air. The ball of lightning collided directly into the Bulbasaur, unavoidable at point-blank range. The two little Pokemon went flying apart, Tack landing in front of Remi. He was panting. His ears were still twitching, but they drooped slightly, like he was struggling to stay alert. Between the poison and the giga drain, he didn’t have much fight left in him.
She felt like his mirror - pushing through pain, fighting to stay upright, raging against a losing battle. It was a familiar sensation. Here, in this beautiful gym surrounded by flowers and greenery, Remi looked across at her opponent. She wasn’t
Kara. She didn’t know if that disappointed her or not.
Remi pressed her lips together. Go down swinging.
“Electro ball again!”
Tack heard the force in Remi’s voice, the renewed vigor. He answered it with his own. Tack growled as he drew electricity, ozone crackling through the air. The light orb at his collar turned frenetic, lightning dancing wildly with a near blinding intensity. “Giga drain!”
Saki repeated, hoping to stop the attack in its tracks. But of course, it was too slow.
Tack’s electro ball shot through the air, quick as lightning and heavy as thunder. The Bulbasaur didn’t try to dodge - either because it was unable to, or it had simply resigned itself to taking the hit.
When the dust and static cleared, the Bulbasaur was charred and ashy, wincing as electricity thrummed through its body. It looked hurt, to be sure - but its vines had still found their way to Tack, wrapped and glowing around the Pikachu’s limp body.
Remi ignored the pain that lanced through her arm as her hand shot up to recall Tack to his premier ball while simultaneously sending out her Dreepy. Trouble’s serpentine body came spiraling out in a flash of light.“Infestation,”
she ordered before Trouble had even finished materializing. He didn’t need any more than that. Trouble darted through the air like an arrow, straight at the injured Bulbasaur. Just as they’d practiced in the forest outside of town, the eager little dragon swarmed around his opponent, nibbling and using his ghostly body to dart around and through and out of reach. Disoriented and overwhelmed, the Bulbasaur cried out and swatted wildly in the air with its vines, but it couldn’t seem to land a blow.
Her trembling hand back in her pocket, Remi’s thumb rubbed small, soothing circle’s over the surface of Tack’s premier ball.Sorry. You did good.“It can’t dodge a poison powder!”
Saki reminded her Pokemon. The Bulbasaur seemed to hone in on her voice, stilling its movements. Then familiar purple spores shot out from its bulb again, filling the air around it.
Trouble darted away, floating in the air above the field. He coughed, shaking his little head, trying to blink the spores away.“Push through it!”
Remi called. Trouble’s battling experience was limited - he’d never been poisoned before. “Trouble, confuse it!”
Trouble looked down at the Bulbasaur, angry at the spores it was still trying to get rid of. He reeled back his head before darting forward again, an eerie ray of ghostly energy filling the air in front of the Bulbasaur’s eyes. It seemed mesmerized, suddenly unsteady on its still paralyzed limbs. “Focus, Bulbasaur! Find your opponent. Giga drain!”
But Remi could tell from the Bulbasaur’s wandering eyes that it was no use. Its vines shot out again - only to curve back and collide with its own face. It collapsed to the ground, unconscious.
Trouble spun through the air, giving a victorious chirp. Saki recalled her Bulbasaur, holding the ball up to her face. “Well done,”
she murmured. Putting it away, Saki held up her second pokeball. “Lombre, your turn!”
Quite possibly the ugliest Pokemon Remi had ever seen appeared on the field. They had Lombre in Galar, of course… she’d just worked very hard to never be this close to one. It blinked with its dull, sleepy eyes, smacking its lips like it’d just woken up from a nap. “Infestation again!”
Still wincing through the poison, Trouble obeyed and flew down to swarm the Lombre. “Water gun!”
It took time to aim, as Trouble darted around it head, but eventually the Lombre managed to land a clean shot. Trouble was pushed back. He steadied himself in the air, dripping with water and giving an angry chirp. He flew back at the Lombre to continue his infestation - slower, this time. The poison was still seeping through his spectral body.“Astonish,”
Remi called. Still half-phazed in the Lombre’s body, Trouble’s little arrow-point head appeared directly under the Lombre’s face. The Lombre gave a squawk, stumbling backwards and tripping over a bit of rubble that had been kicked up from Tack’s electro ball. Trouble flew up in the air, pulling himself from the Lombre’s body as he hissed with laughter.“Water gun.”
A jet of water shot up at Trouble, hitting him square in the face - and knocking him out of the sky. It was only Remi’s quick (though muddied, at the moment) reflexes that kept Trouble from falling to the ground.
Her hand was shaking as she held the luxury ball. The battle was over. She’d lost. But there was no time - no energy
to feel sorry for herself.
As the adrenaline drained from her, Remi’s body seemed to remember itself - her breath was uneven and shallow. Fire seemed to burn through her arms. There was a light sheen of sweat on her face, and the world seemed to be tilting on its axis. Like hell she was passing out in a grass gym
. Stay upright, stay calm, don’t shake, don’t fall, don’t wince, move, move move -
Remi hid her hand back in her jacket pocket and turned on her heel.“Good match,”
she said out of habit. Was her voice steady? Were her words clear? Had she been loud enough?
All of her attention was on placing one foot in front of the other, finding a bathroom, or a corner, or a bed
, somewhere she could hide and no one would be able to see her collapse, and her time was running out. She looked over her shoulder at the blurred figure that was Saki - only to see a small patch of red blooming on her jacket’s pink sleeve. Shit.
“Expect me back.”“Wait!”
Saki shouted as she noticed the trainer’s state. “We keep bandages and ointments on hand, you’re free to them and a private room to rest if you need.”
It would be irresponsible of her to simply allow an injured trainer to walk out without offering aid.“I can clean myself up,”
Remi managed - stubborn, but not harsh. Maybe not even audible
Whatever the response was, Remi could no longer hear it. She couldn’t hear anything
past the ringing in her ears. Her face scrunched in pain and concentration as she forced herself forward, through the gym, past the trainers, almost there, almost there
she made it out of the gym and back into the open air.
And then Remi collapsed.