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Gaiien Region: Gods and Demons: Chapter 3

by Keleri

Keleri Gym battles and gym battle-related shenanigans.
Chapter 3

Boosting / We Waited / Shedding / ==>Matt: Give doughnut.

June 18th-19th 128 CR

The three of them had lunch in the pokémon center cafeteria. There were about a dozen trainers and locals using their trainer licenses to get the free meal: spaghetti with tofu in tomato sauce, doled out on plastic plates, and an apple and mass-produced brownie. There were some nicer additions for a few hundred yen arranged temptingly at the end of the line; Moriko almost succumbed to the pastries shining beatifically under a display light but somehow held firm.

"What did your friends have to say?" Matt asked Russ.

"Angela and Dave and them all got their badges," Russ said, between bites of chewy pasta. "We should be all right."

"We should go sign up for matches after this," Matt said. "Doesn't look too busy now but there isn't much to do in the village. The wild pokémon are acting shy here too, I'm hearing."

"Not again—I wanted to catch another pokémon before I fought this gym leader. My pokémon both have double weaknesses to ground," Moriko said.

Matt scoffed. "Dude, you were not planning."

Moriko felt color hit her face, but there was nothing to be said for it. There was no way she'd trade away Rufus or Tarahn, and she didn't have the money to buy a pokémon outright, to say nothing of the potential pitfalls of that type of transaction. A bug- or water-type from Seawood would have solved most of her problems, but the wild pokémon had had other plans.

"We had other stuff on our mind. Lots to plan for," Russ said diplomatically.

Matt drummed his fingers on the tabletop. "Well, the next gym is plant-type so that's no problem. Let's just keep things moving. Why don't you use Maia?"

Moriko inhaled a bit of water and coughed to clear it.

Boosting—borrowing or renting pokémon temporarily to get past a gym—had a long history and a gray reputation. It was debated and excoriated furiously online, but the more you dug the more it was obvious that lots of famous trainers had gotten their start using older relatives' pokémon, or that pokémon who were famous in their own right just used a succession of trainer puppets to organize their battling.

Even with that justification, it still felt… weird, to contemplate.

"Would she even listen to me?"

"Can't hurt to ask."

"Sylvia will," Russ said, putting her pokéball on the table. "No problem. You've seen her battle tons of times."

Moriko pressed her lips together, considering. She couldn't help watching Sylvia's pokéball hungrily, its green-leaf decal half peeled off.

"…I'll check with them."


Rufus and Tarahn were hurt, no matter how much she tried to explain about the type matchup.

They understood the double weakness, and they fretted instantly about withstanding powerful sand and mud attacks, but they were hurt, too.

Tarahn sulked, stalking away into the long grass outside the small area of the pokémon center exercise area.

Rufus dropped his head and pawed the dirt. "Don't you trust us to try?" he managed to say.

"I do, I do," Moriko said desperately. She knelt and tried to look him in the eye, but he kept swinging his huge, metal-plated head away. "Russ and Matt want to keep moving, it would be nice to just one-shot this gym. If I lose the leader will know I have you two, so I'll have to come back with new pokémon—and we couldn't find any. No one can find a wild pokémon around town either, everyone's talking about it."

"We finally get out of the city and you wanna use someone else's pokémon," Tarahn said, walking back up to them. He sat, the bells on his tail ringing discordantly as he whipped it from side to side. "You can't stop talking about gyms and then you don't want us."

"Do you think we're weak?" Rufus muttered.

"Not at all, I just—the next gym is plant-type, you guys will blow it up, right? Fire and poison." She started to reach out to pet Tarahn and then dropped her hand. "I'm sorry, I hurt your feelings, I just—Russ and Matt want to keep going, there's nothing to do in this town if we're stuck here—"

"We waited for you a long time, Moriko," the burnox said. "You said, a few more weeks, a few more months, and here we are, and you say to wait again. Are we going to train? Are you just going to use other pokémon?"

"No—of course we'll train—we battled in the park—"

"I was so bored," Tarahn groaned. "For months and months I was bored, and police pokémon just got into my face when I tried to do something. I want to battle for real. Are we going to?"

Moriko watched them, aghast. "I'm sorry, I—I didn't know—I didn't know you were so unhappy—" But she was angry too: it was so hard to just survive the school year, and these two sitting in pens, lazing around in the sun—

But it was her fault, wasn't it? They couldn't do anything without a trainer. She wasn't holding up her end of the bargain.

"You're right," she said. "I'll do what you guys want. I'm sorry, I just—I'm sorry."

Rufus and Tarahn looked at her and then put their heads together, whispering—or the pokémon equivalent, excluding her from the broadcast.

Eventually the raigar lifted his paw and let one purple claw extend dramatically. "Alright," he said, "the types are a problem. We probably... it will be frustrating. Fine. Let Sylvia boost you, but you're training us, right? It's us after this."

"Yes, absolutely."

"And if Sylvia loses we get to laugh at you," Rufus added.

"And you would be right to do so," Moriko agreed.

The burnox nudged her shoulder and turned to energy, recalling himself, and Tarahn shortly followed.

Moriko stared out at the prairie, still kneeling in the dirt and feeling the loose stones sharply on her skin. Images swirled in her mind's eye: Matt smirking, the hind ends of fleeing wild pokémon, and her own pokémon watching her, hurt and disapproving. Her stomach was a tight knot of shame and dismay.

Maybe she should go home, if she'd messed it up this bad right at the beginning.

But she thought of her aunt and uncle, of everyone ignoring her at school unless it was for mockery, of her one foolish college application and summary rejection, and if a new and glorious resolve didn't stab through the self pity, well, spite sure did.

Moriko rose. I'm going to make this work, she thought. This is what I wanted. I'll be better. It will work after this.

She knew what was back there; time to take a chance on the forward.

Inside the pokémon center, Sylvia was instantly cooperative. She started listing off all of her techniques and making recommendations about the situations to use them in.

Moriko smiled sadly at her enthusiasm, thinking of how she'd spoiled that of her own pokémon.

"Maia could go, also," Matt said. "The gym leader will propose single battles with one or two pokémon per trainer at this level."

Russ laughed. "If she wants to fight two-on-two I'll have to bother Maia as well."

"Do you mind, Maia?" Moriko asked. "We might have to go back to the pokémon center in between battles, but I'm sure it won't be too bad since you have the type advantage."

The tibyss tilted her head, appraising. "Very well. That won't be necessary, I'll be in perfect health after my battles," she rumbled.


Umber Village had a number of stores and restaurants down its main street, with the pokémon center and the fueling station at one end and the gym just across from them. Like several of the other buildings it was concrete and dug into the ground, a remnant of the days when weather manipulation was poorly understood. Now the old bunkers were merely a curiosity.

The gym seemed larger from the inside, the battle arena surrounded with a few forlorn rows of empty bleachers. The arena was a tank of sand, the usual setup favored by digging pokémon.

They jumped at the sound of stone on stone; a large, gray pokémon stumped out of a corner somewhere, glancing at them.

"Ugh, more trainers," the rhydon said. "You're here for your tier one battles?"

"Uh, yes," Moriko answered.

"Tierra will be here in a couple of minutes," it said, and took up a spot next to the arena.

As promised, the gym leader appeared from the far end of the arena, buckling on her trainer's belt. "Welcome!" she called to them. "Sorry for the wait, it's that time of year—everyone's done school and setting out for the first time. Had to get everyone healed up from the last battle." She shook their hands enthusiastically.

Tierra was stocky and full-figured, with brown skin and genehan hair in chestnut and dark green. She hadn't gone for an elaborate costume, just comfortable hiking clothes and a fishing vest dotted with pockets.

"So, I assume you all are looking for a battle," she said, grinning.

"You'd be right," said Matt, with a hint of impatience. "One-on-one for all of us."

"Great! Who's going first, then?"

Matt volunteered immediately.

"No problem, take some time to get set up and we'll get started. Dia will be the referee, unless you have any objections? She's more likely to rule against me, just to be contrary." She winked.

Matt shrugged and followed the gym leader to the arena, taking his spot at the challenger's side. He tossed Maia's pokéball from hand to hand while the gym leader trotted over to the far spot.

Moriko and Russell sat down on the bleachers and had a good view, looking down into the low surface of the battle arena. The tier one gym was at around level thirty, so they would be safe from elemental attacks, but if Tierra's other pokémon were as big as the rhydon the physical ones could pose a problem. The pokémon referee was unusual but every gym battle was recorded and could be reviewed by the league if necessary, so presumably it was legal.

"Trainers ready?" the rhydon called out in a gravelly voice. "Begin!"

"Go, Maia!"

"Go, Aisha!"

Matt's tibyss emerged in a burst of red light, sinking a little in the sand and casting her glance over the arena in a quick assessment. Her opponent was a dog-sized hedgehog-like pokémon with blue-gray spines on its back and big digging claws.

Duspine, the spike pokémon. A ground-type pokémon, it evolves to dusquill near level 28. This pokémon can become a serious pest, digging into and damaging the foundations of buildings, but they are often put to work to rapidly excavate tunnels.

"Maia, use bubblebeam," Matt said calmly.

"Dodge and—"

The words were barely out of Tierra's mouth when Maia hit the duspine with a flurry of bubbles that struck with gunshot pops and swept it backward across the sand. It rallied admirably, summoning stones for a rock-type attack, but the tibyss leapt on it and clamped her jaws around the duspine's head, frost crackling between her fangs.

Tierra hastily recalled her pokémon.

"Match goes to the challenger," the rhydon said. "Not bad, kid."

"Well," said Russell.

"Holy crap," said Moriko. She pointed her pokédex at Maia, which estimated her level at about forty. Makes sense, I guess, she thought, needles of regret in her throat. Should've trained, should've—

Tierra seemed to be unable to speak for a moment, but when she did she'd regained her jovial air. "Very nice! You two really prepared for your journey. I think you'll be more at home when you get to tier three. Catch!" She tossed him his badge, which glinted in the light as it flew across the field.

Matt caught it easily in one hand. "Thanks," he said politely, and recalled Maia. He turned to join Moriko and Russell on the bleachers.

Approaching, he raised an eyebrow at Moriko and spun Maia's pokéball in his hand. "So? Still want a boost?"

Heck yes, Moriko thought, but Matt had a devilish look—maybe his regular face was that challenging, appraising expression—and she hesitated, sensing a trap. But she grabbed the ball, annoyed, before he could change his mind. Matt's eyes just flicked down, and he grinned.

"Who's next?" Tierra boomed.

"My turn," Russ called back.

Dia watched him come up and take his place with new interest, but Russ's battle probably wouldn't be as one-sided as Matt's.

"Go, Sylvia!"

"Go, Athena!"

Sylvia appeared, all long legs and drooping branches in comparison to fully-evolved Maia. Her opponent was a turfowl, another local pokémon; it had long legs like a roadrunner, and its drab feathers were offset by the bright orange plumes on its head that matched its huge, staring eyes.

Turfowl, the burrowing pokémon. A ground- and air-type, it evolves from earchick near level 25. It typically lives in old duspine burrows but can dig its own. It is quite shy and will often flee rather than fight, but if cornered it will put up a considerable resistance.

The air-type was a shame for Russell—it would take normal damage from Sylvia's plant-type attacks.

The turfowl and timbark circled each other for a moment before Sylvia lunged for the bird. It leapt into the air, hovering out of range of her physical attacks.

"Sylvia, use howl," said Russell.

"Peck, Athena! Go for the eyes!" said Tierra, some of her affability gone after that earlier defeat.

Sylvia put her head back, the eerie sound making Moriko's skin prickle. Sylvia whipped around and snapped at the turfowl as it passed, blocking the main attack but catching a few slashes from its claws.

"Now use razor leaf!"

"Dodge and wing attack!"

Sylvia shook herself, shedding leaves that twirled briefly, falling, before whisking toward Athena. The turfowl turned in a wide arc, dodging clouds of leaves but sustaining several smacking, slashing hits from them. It dove screeching at Sylvia and struck her hard in the side, but the timbark caught it on the rebound with her long front claws and bit it savagely.

Athena managed to escape Sylvia's attack and return to its side of the arena. The two pokémon circled each other, but the turfowl was looking tired, its graceful hover now abrupt and uneven.

"Use gust, Athena!"

"Finish it off, Sylvia!"

One last move from the turfowl: it flapped its wings, creating a miniature windstorm that kicked up sand and buffeted Sylvia, but she charged her opponent and leapt, dragging Athena to earth with her jaws around one of its wings. She whipped her head around, smashing the bird's body onto the sand, and Tierra recalled it.

"Match goes to the challenger," Dia said. "Good show, less cheap than that other guy."

Tierra barked a laugh, and again as Sylvia bounded back to her trainer and licked his face eagerly despite her injuries. "Nice work! I have Athena just for kids with a plant-type starter, but she's a little fragile and you exploited that well." She reached into a pocket and tossed Russell his badge.

"You weren't too bad yourself," he replied. "Now I know why the first gym has a tough reputation."

"Ha! I do my best here at tier one, though I do prefer when I get an S-tier challenger. Then my old friends get to party. You'd better get going, I bet your friend is itching to battle."

Moriko was itching to battle, but she was caught between that desire and the fear that she was about to screw it up in front of her friend and her unpleasant traveling partner—and in front of Rufus and Tarahn, silently judging from inside their pokéballs. She headed down to the arena with anxiety knotting up her stomach.

"So, Maia or Sylvia?" Russell asked, as she approached.

"I…" Moriko weighed her choices—Sylvia knew her better, but Maia's win had been so decisive. And she hadn't been injured. "Maia. Thank you, though."

"No problem, good luck."

"Are you ready?" Tierra called, as Moriko made it to the challenger's box.

"Hope so," Moriko said.

"You're going to have your work cut out for you," said Tierra, grinning. "Six straight losses is bad enough, but seven? Not gonna happen! Go, Fell!"

Moriko smiled at the cliché trainer banter—it was straight out of the Legendary games or Kanto Quest.

"That's what you think! Go, Maia!"

Tierra raised an eyebrow and then slapped her leg, laughing. "Oh ho! Fair enough, trading is legal. Let me guess, you chose volcalf?"

Moriko smiled nervously, realizing how impertinent it must have been to do this right in front of the gym leader in a nearly consecutive match, but she seemed to be allowing it.

Fell was a soiote, brown with chocolate socks and dark green dorsal stripes. Tarahn hated them; he had a serious type disadvantage and he'd always had to run from them. He had some dark-type attacks that would have been useful, though. Too late to go back.

Soiote, the coyote pokémon. A ground- and psychic-type, it evolves from dirfox near level 28. A quick and adaptable pokémon, it is found in a wide range across Gaiien and Tanos. It uses its psychic powers to confound enemies and make quick escapes.

"Trainers ready? Begin!"

Images of Fell multiplied across the arena as it used double-team without prompting.

Maia scanned the crowd of copies and exhaled an icy wind attack in a broad fan, dissipating most of them and leaving a few stragglers that scattered to opposite corners. Bored, Maia trotted after the nearest one and started firing off bubble attacks. Isolating the real soiote only took a moment, and she hit it with a strong bubblebeam—

—and it disappeared too.

Fell rocketed out of the sand under Maia and caught her hard in the belly. Moriko saw Matt stand up out of the corner of her eye; Maia got to her feet again, winded, just in time for the rock tomb to hit her with a resounding crunch.

"That's for Aisha," Fell said, wheezing a laugh.

Maia snarled and leapt, but bounced off a protect technique and staggered back on her jammed paws. She was mad now, her fins up and shuddering and her broad tail lashing.

"Let's fall back, Maia," Moriko called. "Bubblebeam from a distance!"

The tibyss ignored her and pounced again. Fell disappeared into the sand, and dust flew as she dug ineffectually, frustrated.

"Maia! Get out of there!"

Maia finally heeded the warning, and took a more glancing blow from the following dig attack. She lunged, clamping down on Fell with a crackling ice fang and shook her head, getting her teeth in.

"Confuse ray, Fell!"

A flash of purple light, and Maia dropped the soiote, staggering backward and looking around wildly. Fell was crusted with ice and bleeding, but it followed it up with a quick psychic-type attack that pushed at Maia's head and made her paws splay apart.

"You've almost got it, Maia! Use icy wind!"

The tibyss aimed the attack approximately in the direction of her opponent, but it was able to hobble out of the way, still hanging on. Maia shook her head and started toward the soiote uncertainly, and tripped again as an invisible force dragged at her paws.

Another leap, and she hit squarely—on another protect shield.

"Don't get mad," Moriko said, as much to herself as to the tibyss. "Use bubble, it's nearly done!"

Fell's luck finally ran out as Maia blindly filled the arena with bubbles, her markings glowing orange as she kept up the attack. It skittered backward, trapped as the water-type attack closed on it and burst. It collapsed, finally, its form growing indistinct and glowing as Tierra recalled it.

"Match to the challenger," the rhydon said. "Sloppy."

"Well, I saw that coming," Tierra said. "Gave you a better battle, though, didn't we?"

Maia growled a little, tired, and let Moriko recall her.

Moriko blew out a breath. "You could say that."

"Make sure to use your volcalf on the next gym, all right?" Tierra winked and tossed Moriko the Dust Badge as well—it was a stylized dust devil on a blue backing.

"Thanks for the battle," Moriko said politely. "I plan to." She raised a hand to Tierra and headed for the bleachers, where Matt and Russ were coming down the stairs.

"Sloppy is right," Matt said. "Thanks for getting my pokémon beat up."

Moriko clamped her jaw—several weak-sounding retorts collided in her mind and were about to come out totally garbled—and handed him back Maia's pokéball.

"The soiote saw the first battle from inside its ball," Russell said mildly. "It wasn't going to be a clean battle on round two." He clapped his hands together. "Tier one down, seven to go!"

"Probably just five more, this summer," Matt said, checking his pokédex. "And Moriko might even get to use her own pokémon on the next one."

"I get it, you're gonna hold that over me the whole summer?"

"Great idea," said Matt. "Anyway, let's hit the trainer stores and get ready to leave tomorrow."


Moriko went looking for Russell and found him in the shared room. He saw her coming and watched warily, his bag half-full in his hands.

"Russ," she said, a furious, sibilant whisper, "I want him gone."


"He's such a shit. Please. I can't stand him."

He smiled weakly. "He's been useful, though, you can't deny it," Russ said, teasing her.


Russell sighed; he looked around the dorm at the vacated beds. "He can't go alone. He's going to be stuck here for days waiting for the right group to come along."

"Good, because he's a jerk, and people are rightly judging—"

"We need a third person."

"No we don't, we have the pokémon—"

"Only three pokémon without Matt. What happens when they get hurt or tired? Some of the paths are days of walking in and out, and they need to battle to keep up their strength for each tier. We need three."

"We planned for two, we planned for months—"

"Two is borderline—and look at the ranger boards, weird stuff has been happening."

She glared, but Russ nodded at her pokédex. She launched the site, and it was true: there were various seasonal advisories, but also many closed paths and yellow-condition areas, places where ronin had been spotted—including back at Seawood, after all. More than last year, she thought; they'd started talking seriously then about doing the gym circuit and had looked at the ranger and league sites obsessively.

Moriko bit her lip in frustration. "Well—then—why don't we join up with a bigger group?"

"If we find people who want to," Russ said lightly. "Going the right way."

"Why wouldn't they be going from the tier one gym to the tier two gym?"

Russ waved a hand.

"Well, what then? We need more people, we're good with three—?"

"I mean, if you talk to someone and they're looking"—an empty guarantee, Russ knew she wouldn't talk to anyone if she could help it—"I'm open to more people. Otherwise, let's try to get along, and we'll watch ourselves in the wilder areas."

"He needs to get along!"

"I'll say something," Russ said, placating.

"Thank you," she said and stalked off.

Matt. Their last-minute addition. The endless comments had her on edge; he always had something to say or to correct. It was as bad as school. This was supposed to be an escape, a reprieve, and she had brought it with her.

What had Russell been planning, if he'd always thought they'd needed more people? Well, they'd seen a fair number of other groups along the way, it would have been enough to be friendly and travel with another party in a loose formation. Too many people would be slow, but five or six could deal with someone twisting an ankle or a ronin a lot more effectively.

She was angry with Prof. Willow, too, who'd roped them into this. Well, maybe she didn't know. Matt had seemed fine at first; maybe he thought the endless sniping and interrogation was chummy or something. He should have gone with Angela and them, he'd fit in.

Angela and them—ugh, there was another thing to be bothered about. They had those small bags, so they must have one of those new storage devices, ones that could hold anything as energy: food, clothing, bicycles, whatever you needed up to a certain weight.

Of course her aunt and uncle would do that, they'd try to swipe her pennies—she thought of that phone call from the bank again and felt sick—and when that didn't work, turn around and fund her cousin's gym circuit so it was more comfortable and more successful than hers.

She bit her knuckles. It didn't matter. She'd worked for this, she'd done everything she could, she'd gotten her first badge, she'd get the second one cleanly without games. It was going to work; it was what she'd wanted for so long. And when the summer was over… well, she'd figure it out.

It sounded like Angela's group was a couple days ahead now, skipping the first regional park. With luck she wouldn't even have to see them again.


Tarahn's pokéball bounced and released him, and he twitched his tail. "All right, that gym battle is over with, so—"

He squeaked as Moriko hugged him and planted exaggerated kisses above his eyes, and he pretended to struggle and hit her with his pawpads.

"Who's ready to fight? Who's ready? Is it you?"

The raigar wriggled happily as Moriko scratched his head and behind his ears. "Noooooo, I'm a lazy boy," he groaned.

He leapt to his feet as soon as Moriko let Rufus out to give him the same treatment, scratching where his metal plates met skin and in the small spaces around his eyes. Tarahn pretended to sharpen his claws on the burnox's armor, who blew a cloud of smoke in his face.

Tarahn sneezed. "Okay okay, where are we going?"

"Let's look for our first victim," Moriko said, clapping her hands together.

A couple of trainers in town accepted a battle, and soon Rufus had traded a couple of flame charges with a zebstrika, an electric zebra pokémon from Unova. Tarahn tried to face his fear of a dirfox, soiote's previous evolution, and he managed to get a few good hits in with dark-type attacks although the fur was standing up on his back the whole time.

Dirfox, the kit pokémon. A ground- and psychic-type, it evolves to soiote near level 28. A shy pokémon, it spends a great deal of time in its burrow and uses confusion-causing attacks and illusions to fool enemies.

After a heal at the pokémon center they went walking outside the village, checking for wild pokémon. Tarahn fought a similarly-leveled warhare long enough that Moriko had a pokéball ready in her hand, but it too finally fled, diving into a nearly invisible burrow. She got down to inspect it while Tarahn sniffed around and sent a thunder wave down another entrance, but it looked like the warhare was long gone. Moriko vowed to only run on the path, you could break your leg putting a foot down in a hole like that.

Warhare, the hare pokémon. A normal-type, it evolves from clawbit near level 20 and to wartinger near level 32. They use their broad claws to dig burrows and fight enemies. Wild warhare have dull claws, but they take on a razor edge with a trainer.

Her good mood evaporated as she returned to town, seeing Matt outside the pokémon center. He waved to her cheerily and she intended to keep walking.

"Moriko! I brought you a doughnut!"

God dammit.

Matt held it out, its chocolate icing glistening in the sun. It was transporting; there was surely an angelic choir of light-type pokémon singing its praises.

"Thanks," she said politely, accepting the pastry. Cream-filled. You can't buy me with this, buddy.

Well, she could be civil, if he was. If he was.

"Good job today in the gym," Matt said. He reached behind him and scratched his ursaring's shoulder, who was noisily licking honey out of a condiment packet. "You struggled but you did it, with an unfamiliar pokémon."

"Thanks!" she said, surprised. "I took Rufus and Tarahn out training. I'll keep it up so we'll be caught up for the next gym," she added, a little defensively.

Matt nodded. "Be careful looking around here for pokémon, the gym leader uses a lot of local ground-types and she probably releases them once they're too high level for her gym. These low-level gyms can be real revolving doors."

"I wish, that would be convenient to pick up a gym leader's old pokémon."

"Probably less than you think. Training a traded pokémon, as it were, has its own problems. Pokémon that think they're smarter than you, or compare you to their last trainer constantly or both. Doubly so when they used to belong to a gym leader. Actually, you have to consider—"

Moriko smiled, resigned. Well, this was the price of a doughnut.


A/N: As always, thanks for reading! Check my profile for the pokédex entry for the Clawbit family.