B1 — 5. A Friendly Start To Independence

POV: Rhea Everhart (our 17-year-old protagonist about to start her Bronze-tier journey)

Pokemon Map:  I loosely follow this map as a visual guide; the creator made it in paint?!?!  It’s insane!  Some errors here and there, but I follow its design for the most part.  Areas can be further apart and the regions aren’t nearly so close.

Recap:  Rhea got her first two Pokemon, a unique Eevee and Mawile.  They’ve been genetically modified and thoroughly bred to be the most powerful they could be … however, there’s a downside to this awesome advantage … they’re super energy dependant in their early stages.

Rhea named her Eevee Nova, and her Mawile Maya (Mya for short; full name used when angry, hehe).  They require the effects of a Master Ball to stay alive since if left on their own, they don’t have enough resources to sustain their extremely high energy demand, draining Rhea’s to stay alive.

Her mother revealed a lot in the last chapter, and Rhea actually evolved!  She no longer requires tuning stones to Mega Evolve her Pokemon, a Z-Ring, or any other tuning device (Steven Stone would be sad).

Now, we finally get to our girl’s independence!  How will her first trip to a (air quotes) “big city” like Pallet be?

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The conversation moved to her new Pokémon the moment Rhea descended the stairs; Katelin was starstruck by Nova and vowed to pester her mother until her dying day to get an Eeveelution stabilized Eevee of her own.

Rhea grew quieter as the time passed; with both Nova and Mya out, her body felt like it was being slowly squeezed, and over the next forty minutes, she’d grown increasingly sore.  She also noticed significant growth in her two new Pokémon at that time.

Sabin stood before the group, hands weaving as he told his Mt. Silver tale.  “… So, Trever and I were allowed to skirt the edge of Route 28, and it was pretty intense!  I mean, I expected there to be some Hoenn Pokémon, but there were Pokémon normally found in other regions as well, and they were crazy strong.  There was an Ursaring that was eight feet tall, and…”

To Rhea’s surprise, it was her brother’s girlfriend that first noticed the stress.  “Rhea … you aren’t looking so good,” Katelin whispered, hands folded across her knees as she leaned forward to give her a concerned stare.

Nova and Mya stirred next to Rhea, shifting to look up at her with big eyes; they’d been listening intently to Sabin before this point.

Rhea’s tight hands pressed against her thighs as she forced a laugh, doing her best not to look worn out.  “It’s just a little hot in here.”

Sabin and Jason frowned, turning their attention to her at Katelin’s prompt.

“I mean, you did just get those Pokémon, right?”  Jason asked, folding his arms.  “Hey, Sabin, isn’t it pretty rough to have more than one Pokémon out for a while?”

“No, no,” Rhea protested.  “My brother had his first Pokémon out for days when he first started.”

“Mmh…”  Sabin moved around the table to sit on the sturdy wooden surface, studying her.  “I didn’t have genetically modified Pokémon with whatever else Mom gave you … now that Kate mentioned it … yeah, you look pretty drained.”

Katelin nodded.  “I thought so, too.  Rhea, you don’t have to try and tough it out,” she soothed with an encouraging smile.

Both Nova and Mya talked softly, and Franky floated out of the ceiling to butt into their conversation.  Rhea’s lips tightened, glancing at Nova as her ears pulled back, responding to the ghost.

“Nova and Mya were just born … I want to give them a chance to experience the world a little,” she mumbled, stroking both her Pokémon’s heads.

Sabin gave her an understanding smile.  “Yo, Sis, you know Pokémon get to experience things around them through you while in their pokéballs.”

“Yeah, but it’s not exactly the same,” Rhea mumbled.

“Maybe not,” Katelin promptly responded, “but time in their pokéballs is also significant since it helps the bonding process.  They’ll better understand you by focusing on the world through you, and you can start to feel their emotions better.  When Pokémon are outside, there are so many distracting things that can get in the way of that bond.”

Yeah, but the Master Ball forces a link … oh, well, I suppose that is a lot different than actually emotionally bonding.  Mom said it allowed them to pull energy from me, and I guess it is a lot more demanding while outside.

“Umm,” Rhea paused, shifting a little to try and stretch her muscles without it looking obvious she was trying to relieve tension.  “I … guess you might be right.  I, eh … what do you think, Mya, Nova?”

They both chirped with concern, nodding their heads.

Taking a big breath, Rhea hoisted herself up, feeling a little unsteady as blood rushed to her head, but she managed to play it off by scooting around Sabin’s legs.  “Oh, well, I need to go get them from upstairs real fast,” she chuckled, legs feeling like she’d gone out on a jog with her dad.

Sabin, Katelin, and Jason all watched her slowly walk upstairs; she hoped they thought her slow rise was just her being casual.  Nova and Mya were by her side, concerned chirps to one another, giving her away.

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Halfway up, she called back.  “Hehe, hey, uh … you don’t suppose Dad teleported out with Vilora, his Butterfree, in secret to do something?”

“Uh … yeah, that would be like him,” Sabin muttered, walking to the foot of the stairs.  “You sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah, no problem!”  She assured, making it to the upstairs hallway.  “Eh, have you seen Mya and Nova?  They’re getting pretty big already, aren’t you two!  Whatever Mom put in those treats must really work.”

“Mmh … not entirely, Rhea,” Katelin hesitantly replied as Rhea snatched Nova and Mya’s pokéballs from her bed, taking a moment to stretch out her sore back.

“No?”  Bending down, she gave her two Pokémon a bright smile.  “Why don’t you try out your new homes?  I heard pokéballs are supposed to be like luxury houses.  Maybe these ones are even better than normal pokéballs!”

She was a little surprised when Nova hopped up on her bent knee to press her head against the ball, going inside; not soon after, Mya lifted her second mouth to tap her own, disappearing inside.

“Huh…”  Rhea swallowed, feeling a significant portion of the weight compressing her body release as the Pokémon settled within, and she instantly felt a lot better.

Shrinking the two pokéballs, she walked into her closet to loop a lace-up crochet-paneled belt around her waist; most belts these days had the proper polarization metal woven in to provide a fashionable appearance, and she attached the two balls to her side.  Her final debate was whether to add a phone attachment to the belt or not and after a moment, she decided it would help.

She smiled down at her two Pokémon, feeling a burning next to her heart that made her think Mya and Nova were happy with the pokéballs.

Returning downstairs, Sabin, Jason, and Katelin were standing by the stairs, waiting for her.

“Feeling better?”  Sabin asked, noticing her new accessory.

Rhea nodded, laughing apologetically.  “Yeah, sorry to make you worry.”

“Cute white crochet belt!”  Katelin grinned.  “It really goes with your clothes, don’t you think, Jason?”

“Aye, why are you askin’ me?”  He asked, eyes widening while stepping back.  “I mean, yeah, uh … Rhea usually wears pretty nice clothes.”

“Noticed, huh?”  Katelin teased, nudging her brother with an impish smile.  “You know, you and Rhea are going to be rivals today!  There’s an individual and team score.”

“Wait, what?”  Rhea asked, glancing between them.  “Oh … umm, and what did you mean, not entirely, Katelin?”

“Ho’boy,” Katelin chuckled softly, giving Sabin a look.  “You wanna take this one?”

“Alright, alright,” Sabin brushed his hair back, glancing at the front door, down the hall.  “Umm … hey, why don’t we sit back down.”

The four returned to their seats; Rhea still felt slightly sore, but it was slowly getting better.

Sabin sat back, sucking on his lower lip while gathering his thoughts.  “Uh … so, you both know how…”

He trailed off as Franky reappeared in-between the tables, pointing toward the door.

“… Shoot,” Sabin muttered, taking out his phone to check the time.  “Yeah, if we’re going to make it to the meeting on time, then … oh, uh … so, Dad sent me a message…”

“Okay?”  Rhea mumbled, glancing at his projected screen, but she couldn’t catch the words from her angle.

“… He’s gone off to grab Mom … yo, Grandpa’s with her … they just got off the Magnet Train.”

Rhea’s heart started pounding.

Mom’s actually back in the country?  To get here from Hoenn overnight … did Grandpa fly her out?  I mean, if he’s here, then … but he’s usually super busy.

“Why would Grandpa be here?”  Rhea asked, trying to find a more comfortable position on the couch.  “He’s usually too busy with League stuff.  Is Grandma handling it?”

Sabin shook his head, left eyebrow lifting.  “No … Grandma Glacia is with him.”

Jason whistled, glancing between Sabin and his sister.  “Wait, two active Elite Four members, leaving their region … isn’t that like super rare?”

Katelin hummed.  “Yeah … I’ve never heard of it happening before … well, except for…”

“For war,” Sabin muttered, “but Grandpa Drake and Grandma Glacia … together?”

Rhea knew it was kind of shocking news, but the simplest answer popped out of her mouth.  “Well … hasn’t Mom been trying to get Grandpa to retire for years?  I know Grandma’s a bit younger than him, but she’s still older than most active Elite Four members; she’s only stayed in because Grandpa refused to hand-off the torch until someone could beat him.”

She gave a weak shrug.  “Maybe that happened?”

“Maybe…”  Sabin muttered, glaring down at the table.  “I can count the number of Trainers that beat Grandpa on two hands.”

Rhea smirked.  “Counting Grams?”

“Of course,” Sabin chuckled, adopting their grandfather’s gruff voice, “the only woman that’s ever frozen my blood before lighting a fire in it!”

“Did he actually say that?”  Katelin mused as the surprise tension eased.

Rhea giggled.  “It sounds like something he’d say.”

Sabin cleared his throat, giving her a toothy grin.  “Okay, Sis, you ready to go?  Dad’s with Mom, so I’ll be your taxi.”

The news made Rhea’s frame lock-up.  “On Rovane?”  She asked, reflexively shivering upon remembering the sharp gusts the back passenger felt from her brother’s Aerodactyl’s enormous wings.

Jason winced, recalling a few conversations she’d had with him about the previous experience.  “Sis, we’ll be using Jace, right … your Noctowl?”

“Uh … no, Mom wanted to take you on her Yanmega.  You know she’ll take a million pictures!”

“… Oh, thank Arceus,” Jason whispered, just loud enough for Rhea to hear nearby.

“Hmm?”

“Nothing!  Uh … just, I haven’t seen Jace in a while.”

Katelin grinned.  “Oh?  Maybe I can convince Mom to let me take you!”

“N-No, no, it’s cool!”  Jason stammered, and Rhea envied the smooth ride he’d experience.  “I wouldn’t want to make her feel bad.  I’m leaving home, after all!”

“Yeah … okay,” Katelin sighed.  “Maybe another time.”

“… Eh, what’s up with that look, Rhea?”  Sabin asked, smile turning forced once Katelin finished.

“Mmh,” Rhea scratched the back of her neck, feeling the soreness in her muscles return upon imagining the ride, “don’t get the wrong idea, Sabin, but … Rovane isn’t, uh … not the most gentle flyer…”

Sabin waved his hand with a dismissive huff.  “Naaw!  You haven’t ridden on Rovane for like eight months … he’s improved a lot in that time.”

“Sure,” Rhea sighed, getting up while releasing a low groan.  “We’ll see … I’ll go get my pack and meet you out front.”

Jason grinned, getting up before holding out a fist.  “Well, see you there, Rhea!  My team’s gonna win the Bronze League Cup!”

Rhea lifted an eyebrow, a smirk lighting her lips as she bumped it with her own.  “Okay, but you’ll be going up against every Bronze-tier 17-year-old and Bronze repeater in the region.  You sure you can even beat me?”

“We’ll see!  What do you say?  You and me, the first battle once I pick my Starter?”

“Hmm?”  Rhea gave him a teasing stare.  “Who are ya gonna pick?”

“Hehe, you’ll see!”

Katelin and Sabin smiled while watching them.  The two guests soon left, heading home to prepare to depart themselves.  Rhea shut the door as Sabin went out to ready their ride.

She stopped at the foot of the stairs, staring down at her two Pokémon on her belt; it felt like they were still right beside her.

Jason can’t counter Nova, which means … well, he can’t change his pick, and he has talked about Water-types more, but ever since he’s gotten into those Galar League matches it’s been Fire-types all the way … yeah, it’s gotta be a Fire-type!  Oof … it’ll counter Mya.

Rhea grinned as she walked up the stairs; there was a fierce heat coming from her connection to Mya, itching for any kind of challenge.

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Who knows how hard battling will be, but if there is going to be a battle, I need to take it easy until then to give her my all.

She found it a little funny how excited she was getting at the prospect of starting her journey and knew that a part of that had to be from Mya’s urge to test herself.  Nova was far more relaxed but also radiated the desire to explore and learn.

Grabbing her pack straps, she slung it over her shoulders, wincing a little at the weight.  She was a hundred and twelve pounds, and usually, lugging around forty pounds wouldn’t be that big of a deal; Sabin’s starting pack was eighty pounds.

The average female Trainer recommended starting with twenty pounds, but she found that pack much too light when doing the tests with her dad, and most Oak Starter Award girls took thirty to forty pounds since their physical fortitude was greater than the typical girl’s.

Taking it downstairs, she left the house to greet Rovane; her brother was strapping a long-distance flight saddle on him from the shed beside the house.  Most of the time, Trainers would rent one while away from home if it was needed.

He took the load from her, noticing her wince with a worried frown.  “… You know, your Pokémon shouldn’t be drawing so much energy from you.  Are you sure you’re alright?  Wait, are you trying to force your fortitude through the connection to expand it quicker, cause…”

“No, no, it’s nothing like that,” Rhea mumbled, opening the back while her brother held it to extract her daylight/night filter flight goggles; it swapped between modes automatically.  In the beginning, the technology was touchy and unreliable, but after thirty years of advancements, it was seamless.  “Mom said this would happen.  She told me not to have Nova swap between forms until I get used to it.”

“… Okay … just don’t push yourself too hard.”

“You worried ‘bout me?”  Rhea asked, chest flaring at the sentiment.

Sabin gave her a soft smile.  “Of course, I am.  What kind of big brother would I be otherwise?  I know before everyone heads off on the route there’s a battle, and it’s there that rivals are usually born, but … just try not to draw the fight out.  You can’t handle a battle of attrition … woah, hey…”

Rhea jumped forward, chest pressing against her pack as she hugged him.  “Thanks, Sabin … umm, I … is it scary being out there … alone?”  She asked, burying her head in his shirt front.

“… Umm,” he shifted the bag around so he could lower it to the ground, allowing her to step closer as he wrapped his arms around her.  “Hey, you won’t be alone,” he soothed.  “You’ll have two other girls with you.”

“Random girls,” Rhea mumbled, and all of the excitement turned to dread in an instant.  “What if they don’t like me?  What if they think I’m weird?”  A lump dropped down her throat.  “… I don’t want to be alone.”

“… Rhea,” Sabin’s muscular chest rumbled, vibrating against her ear.  “You’ve got Pokémon now.  You’ll never be alone … they’re so close to your heart.”

Rovane gave a low rumble to their right, and Rhea couldn’t help but giggle as he carefully moved closer to wrap his wings around them, blocking out the sunlight, trying to get in on the hug.

“Really?”

“Really, and as far as I know, there’s never been a group put together in the Oak Starter Award that broke up before completing the Bronze League.”

“… So, what you’re saying is I’ll be the first.”

“Wha … how did you get that from…”

“Hehe, I’m joking,” Rhea laughed, tightening her grip around her brother’s chest while ignoring her sore muscle’s weak cries.  “… I love you.”

“I love you, too … and you know you can always call me, right?”

“I’ve got your pictures, too!”

“Eh … yeah, yeah, those, too,” he mumbled with another forced laugh.  “Seriously, though.  Call if you’re feeling down, okay?”

“Okay…”

“Ready to go?”

“… Just give me a second,” she whispered, relishing her brother’s warm arms wrapped around her back.  Her smile grew as Sabin’s grip tightened around her body.  “… Okay, okay, uncle!  You win!”  She squealed as he picked her off the ground.

“Hehe, just a little more!”

Separating, Rhea’s flushed, smiling face studied her brother as he secured her bag to Rovane’s saddle.

How long will it be until I can hug him again after today?  A few months … a year, maybe?  Wow … that’s so long, but…  She glanced down at the two pokéballs on her belt.  At least I have you two.

She could feel the two presences near her heart close in, encircling her with a warm embrace as a response.

Putting on her goggles, Rhea mounted Rovane with Sabin’s help.  The Aerodactyl bent down and jumped into the air, massive wings pumping to lift them into the sky.

The rush of air sent her bound blonde hair streaming back as the Pokémon soared above the large trees of Indigo Province Forest, and they soon passed the steep ocean cliffs, flying over the expansive gap of Pallet Bay to reach the peninsula.

Sabin hadn’t been lying; Rovane’s skills had undoubtedly improved, but it was far from the comfort of their father’s Fearow, and Rovane was still two feet shorter than the huge Flying-type Pokémon.

The trip only lasted thirty minutes over the ocean before they reached the opposite shore, and Rhea spotted several dozens of various Pokémon along the way, doing her best to catch every different type; her brother often played the game to see how many they could each spot.  It only counted for a single Pokémon, not the number they’d actually seen since that’d be too many to keep track of.

Along the way, she caught sight of Butterfree, Pidgey, Pidgeotto, Spearow, two Gyarados fighting over territory, a Natu, Hoppip, Skiploom, Mantine, Beautifly, Taillow, Wingull, and to her surprise, three Wailmer making thirteen Pokemon over the ocean.

She frowned, noticing dark clouds on the horizon as the wind picked up; the forecast hadn’t shown a storm, but meteorology was seen as a pretty dubious science, to begin with, since Pokémon could cause unexpected and extensive weather changes that could drastically change the global environment.

Once they reached land, she began to notice signs of life; she caught a glimpse of at least two boats with a few men and women near a beach with two other groups before losing sight over the southern Pallet Forest.

Her brother touched them down on the city’s outskirts, landing in a clearing beside the broad road leading north to Viridian City; it was mostly used for truckers to bring supplies between locations since few people required cars other than industries shipping goods from Viridian manufacturing facilities.

“Alright, I don’t want you to be seen with me going in,” Sabin said with a sad smile as he dismounted to remove her gear.

Rhea knew what he meant; her family was still trying to keep her identity a secret.  “Hehe, embarrassed of your little sister?”

“Aww, c’mon,” Sabin groaned, giving her an impish grin.  “By the way, might want to go into the nearby Center to fix your hair.”

“Huh … man…”  she moaned, reaching up to find her hair a bit of a mess, even with her preparations.

“Just sayin’,” Sabin chuckled, taking off her pack with one hand before gently plopping it in front of her, “Kate usually has a flying cap.”

“Yeah, yeah…”  Rhea grumbled, messing with her windswept locks that stood up in several places.  “I’ll fix my hair and meet you there.”

“Know where it is?”

“Heh, really?”  She asked with a smirk.  “Everyone knows the main road leads to Oak’s lab; it was practically the first building here, or that’s what the internet says when you PokéSearch Pallet.”

“Got it all worked out, eh?”  Sabin said, reaching out to ruffle her hair.

“… Hey!  Cut it out … geez,” Rhea fumed, swatting his hand away.  “… You messed it up more!”

“Success!”  He cackled, jumping back on Rovane’s shoulders in the blink of an eye.  “I’ll be in the crowd with Kate; you know Daisy, Blue’s sister?”

“Why would I?  Has she come by the village?”

“Eh, no … right, umm, just ask Professor Oak where it is!  Mom, Dad, everyone will be there to see you off before you head out.  Mom wanted to meet the girls you’ll be traveling with!  See ya at the party,” Sabin yelled as Rovane took to the air.

Rhea sighed, watching him go, and once he left her line of sight, she removed her goggles, storing them in her bag before hoisting it over her shoulders.

She took out her phone from the belt attachment on her side, finding multiple texts from her parents, sending pictures of them at the Indigo Magnet Train station, and her smile grew as she zoomed in on her mother’s parents in the background.

Her grandfather was wearing the same ripped black coat with gold trim that she’d seen him wear most of her life, showing the teal inner color on the folded over collars.  His black pants and gold themed belt were something Glacia had given them on their seventieth wedding anniversary, the year before, and his combat boots were brand new.

His trademark Captain’s hat was in place, something Rhea thought was basically attached to his head at this point.  His sharp blue eyes and bushy white mustache brought back many memories of when she was a little girl.

Her two grandparents had been at or near Legendary-tier decades ago, but time eventually caught up to even those powerful Trainers.  Currently both at Grandmaster-tier, Drake and Glacia had retained her lovely appearance over the century, despite the degradation to their fortitude.  Proving their strength, both her grandparents didn’t show a wrinkle at over a hundred years old.

Of course, they weren’t as old as Grandmasters Agatha, Hala, or Bertha, and Oak was said to still edge into the Champion-tier, but from what she’d seen on their histories, her grandparents were only a few decades younger, and all of those former legends had already stepped down from their active roles within the government, the last being eight years ago for Bertha, allowing the newer generation of Grandmasters fill their seats.

Her grandfather was among the last of the old guard.  Once her grandparents retired, it would leave Drasna, Koga, Bruno, Lucian, and Olivia as the most senior active members of the Combined Pokémon League, in the order of eldest to youngest.

The message was basically telling her the same thing Sabin did about the meet-up location, but unlike her brother’s suggestion, her father had attached a GPS tag on where to go.

She was about to put her phone away when she noticed the 5,000 credit deposit notification in her account, putting a grin on her cheeks; the Starter Award money had come in, and she had money.  5,000 was the maximum amount Bronze-tier Trainers were allowed to begin their journey with.

Before she forgot, she messaged Sabin the number of Pokémon she saw over the bay, expecting another victory, but the response damped her cheer.

Where did he see an Octillery?  Maybe there was one near the shore … next time, I’ll win.

Rhea made her way to the paved road with a light hum, looking up and down the elevated pathway; it was rarely used by Trainers since only the weaker Pokémon in an area remained near the heavily traveled area, and they were intelligent to know truckers didn’t stop to catch Pokémon.

She glanced around, taking in the sights while walking down the street; her body had actually recovered a decent amount since Mya and Nova were in their pokéballs, and she wanted to let them out, but Sabin’s warning about the upcoming battle made her side with biding her time.

The feeling she got from Mya was that the Mawile was more than willing to remain comfortably in her pokéball until a fight, and Nova was peacefully resting, seemingly more tired than Rhea first thought after the stabilization process.

Most regions ran off clean nuclear power after Rocket developed a safe method; although, several cities around Kanto and Johto refused the cheap source of energy, continuing with solar and kinetic due to their distrust of the infamous conglomerate.

The innovations Rocket brought were more than visible throughout the region.  Their influence had risen to contend with all the major players, standing near the peak of most industries.

Giovanni had gone a long way over the years to improve his privately owned conglomerate’s reputation within the populace’s eyes, donating a great deal of Rocket’s annual earnings into philanthropy efforts and employee benefits.

One of the closer projects he’d personally had a hand in was dumping resources into the nearest cities, bringing work and security to the areas while allowing them the opportunity to become a political power in the region.  A small village like Pallet had developed into its own medium-sized urban city with Rocket’s substantial contributions, increasing its population from only a few hundred to over ten thousand in the past fifty years.

Rocket invested heavily in Viridian, Pewter, Pallet, and Dark City.  The project created accessible travel routes for vehicles to bring supplies to Gardenia City, Neon City, and Grampa Canyon, recently renamed Fossil Canyon due to the high volume of ancient artifacts that could be used to revive deceased Pokémon through Rocket cloning technology.  Kanto’s economy was booming.

Still, Giovanni had a vicious business reputation, regardless of the good he did for the region, and it showed when the news talked about him.  He was known to not have any chill when crossed, which showed when Trainers challenged his Gym.

The Viridian Gym was typically saved for the final badge challenge for a reason.  No Trainer had ever managed to get an Encrusted Earth Badge, showing you defeated the Gym Leader for your challenge instead of one of the Gym’s dozens of stand-in Master-tier Aides.

In fact, the Gym had gone through several League audits for its difficulty levels, but even when more restrictions were placed on Rocket’s notorious leader, not one Trainer had managed to earn the Encrusted Earth Badge in any Tier upon its re-establishment, including her brother.

Rhea could see the Rocket machinery hard at work performing construction tasks with automated programming, several supervisors making sure the equipment didn’t have any errors in their designated jobs, wearing the standard company uniform.

Dozens of individuals were going about their daily tasks, most with Pokémon by their sides.  The southern half of Pallet’s peninsula had become a major center of agriculture for the region’s growing economy, rivaling parts of Johto, and eco-friendly waterway infrastructure programs were in development.  Simultaneously, the city built a decent tourist community and Pokémon study hub with Professor Oak at the head of the Pallet Research Institute.

The further she went inside the modern city, the more she saw tourists from different regions, likely to follow the new yearly League from city to city, watching the matches live while placing their own bets on which Trainers showed the most promise to make it to the end.

Completing the Bronze League almost guaranteed you the ability to find a position in the area you most wanted to enter with all the benefits granted by the League Commission, which put a lot of pressure on kids to succeed.  Rhea, however, never really felt that urgency; by far, the biggest piece of any region’s market was the Training Industrial Complex.

Companies started up and failed all the time, trying to market their Trainer branded goods while pulling in any rising star Trainer to help promote their product.  Her brother had even been in a few, and according to him, it was all for the credits to get gear or TMs he wanted since they were so expensive.

She was a little surprised to see so many teens her age, and after seeing one incredibly cute boy, hurried to the Pokémon Center two streets down according to her phone.

The massive nine-story building was more than a little packed with crowds of teens getting ready for their journey, family, and friends circling them or talking over the toll-free PCs in a separate room with booths.  The first three levels of the front were designed to allow big Pokemon room in case of an emergency.

However, despite the relatively new construction of everything in Pallet, she was a little surprised at how far behind their public technology was; they were using old touch display monitors that had been outdated for several years.

Three big holographic displays that were two-generations old hung in the center of the large gathering area, showing local Battle Fields with current or old matches.  Rhea’s pearly blue irises didn’t even linger on the fights once noticing how low tier the contests were, heading for the nearest bathroom.

Entering the lady’s room, she found more than one sick looking girl, holding their stomach or in the stalls throwing up.  She paused, eyeing the scene with a lifted eyebrow.

Well … okay, then … I guess there are girls more nervous than I am.

Finding an open place by a mirror, she took out some of her supplies to touch up her looks before heading to Oak’s lab.  She shied away as a blue-haired girl stumbled out of a stall with a low groan, slumping against the sink’s counter next to her.

“Ugh … I didn’t think having a Pokémon would feel this bad at first…”

She started the sink, splashing water on her face while dampening her messy bangs, but she’d managed to keep any vomit out of her hair at least.  She turned her light brown eyes on her, noticing her two minimized pokéballs on her belt.  “Wait … two Pokémon?  Wow, that’s pretty impressive for your first day.”  She said with a weak chuckle.

A few other girls heard the comment, glancing around to stare at her.

“… Wait,” a red-headed girl mumbled, squinting her baggy eyes.  “I’ve never seen those types of pokéballs before?  I like the purple.  Is it a new brand?”

Rhea brushed back her blonde hair, now unbound to straighten it out, giving the curious girls a forced laugh; she wasn’t expecting to draw too much notice with so many people around.  “Umm … I don’t really know.  My Mom got them for me when she sent me my Pokémon.”

“Sent you some?”  A small brown-haired girl asked, popping out of another stall.  “Is your mom a breeder?”

“Really?”  The blue-haired girl asked, sickly eyes widening with a forced smile.

Rhea began to realize why the age restriction had been raised if these girls were having a hard time adapting on the first day; most of them would have likely fallen into the 32.95% of new Trainers that had medical complications if bonded with Pokémon at a young age, and that was the fourteen-year-old statistic, not the ten-year-old.

“Yeah, she kind of is,” Rhea replied, feeling a little awkward.  She’d never been around so many girls her age.

“Wow, and doesn’t she look pretty?”  The red-head mumbled.

Several other girls gave her a critical eye before nodding, causing Rhea’s cheeks to burn.

“T-Thanks, umm … you’re all pretty, too.”

“Me?”  The blue-haired girl released a long sigh while glaring at the mirror.  “Have you seen me?  I’m a mess, but … it does feel good to have my own Pidgey, and he’s been pretty supportive.  I really want him out, but I just needed a bit of a break … aww, I feel horrible just saying it.”

“No, no,” Rhea quickly replied, holding up her hands.  “I felt the same way an hour or two ago.  I’m resting for when I have to battle.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s a good plan,” the brown-haired girl mumbled, grinning while extending her hand.  “I’m Sam.”  Her fingers twitched all of a sudden, quickly withdrawing it before hurriedly moving to the sink.  “Oh, sorry, sorry … I’m just a little nervous,” she giggled, washing them.

A few of the other girls mirrored her.

The red-haired girl stepped around to stare at her pokéballs again.  “Umm … so, what’s your name?  I’m Hannah.”

“Rhea,” she replied, brushing back her bangs with a smile.

“Wow,” Hannah mumbled, giving her a sad smile while folding her arms under her small chest, “you’ve got a nice body, pretty smile, fashionable clothes, and no problem bonding with two Pokémon on your first day.  Your parents wouldn’t happen to be Masters, would they?”  She asked with a laugh.

“Aww, c’mon,” the blue-haired girl scoffed.  “The probability of that is just insane, .05%!”

Several girls followed her dubious chuckle, but it slowly died when Rhea only gave a weak laugh.

“Wait, are your parents Masters-tier Trainers?”  Sam asked with wide eyes, glancing at Rhea’s phone that hadn’t reached public circulation yet.

“… Uh, well, it would be pretty unlikely, wouldn’t it?”  Rhea tried to dodge.

“That’s not a no,” Hannah mused, cupping her chin while eyeing a few of the other girls that had gathered.

Sam’s smile widened, showing slightly crooked teeth, but they were well-maintained.  “Oh, oh, what are your Pokémon?  Can we see?”

Rhea held her hands behind her back, grip tightening around her fingers as her nerves spiked.  “I, uh … I’m trying to conserve my strength, but umm, I guess I can show you one.”  She tentatively responded, feeling Nova stir, and the feeling she gave made it clear she wanted to repeat her earlier performance with her brother.

The girls all crowded around, but Hannah quickly got everyone to give her some room to release her Pokémon.  She knew that the reveal would instantly mark her inside these girls’ memories and didn’t know how it would turn out since Eevee hit the popularity polls with young female Trainers extremely high.

“… So, this is Nova, and she’s, umm … yeah…”  Activating the pokéball, Rhea hesitantly tossed it on the ground, releasing her Eevee before the ball shot back into her hand.

The chatter in the outside hallway came into clear focus as all the girls’ eyes widened, breath held as Nova gave an almost smug smile while puffing up her chest.  Her expression screamed, I’m gorgeous; praise me!

Rhea was a little surprised that Nova didn’t require anywhere near the energy Mya did, but the pressure returned, reminding her sore muscles they hadn’t fully recovered.

“White…”

“Black…”

“A white and black Eevee?”

The breathless atmosphere surrounding the crowd of tense girls broke as Rhea called Nova to jump into her arms.

“… Arceus, she’s perfect!”  Hannah squealed.  “Can I pet her?  Please?”

More than one request followed as the weak and tired girls found enough energy to shower Nova in love.  Mya didn’t seem too left out; Rhea could feel that she was saving everything for the battle to come and wanted to be the one to face the challenger.

Rhea couldn’t help but wonder if the girl’s own Pokémon felt jealous at the attention they were giving Nova as she flicked her tail, prancing on top of the counter.  If Rhea didn’t know any better, she’d say Nova would be the perfect Contest starter by how easily she ate up the attention, learning what actions made the girls coo and squeal.

While Nova distracted the throng, Rhea managed to finish cleaning up and putting away her supplies.

“Alright, I need to go,” she chuckled, causing a wave of disappointed groans.

“Please,” Sam pleaded, “just a little longer?  Where did your … no, how did your mother breed her?  I’ve never seen an Eevee like Nova!”

“Yeah, spill the secret!”  Hannah said with pleading eyes.

Rhea shrugged her shoulders helplessly.  “I couldn’t tell you if I wanted to.  My mom does all of her breeding in private; she told me she’d send me all my Pokémon on my journey.”

“Aww … so lucky,” the blue-haired girl mumbled while scratching Nova’s left ear.  “I’m Jade, by the way.  Umm, do you already have a group?”  She asked with a hopeful smile.

“I’m sorry, but…”

“Oh, okay,” she said with a short puff of air.  “Uh … what about you, Sam, Hannah?”

Both girls shook their heads, staring at the floor thoughtfully.

“Want to join up?”  Jade asked.  “Registration should be starting soon!”

“Uh … sure, why not?”  Sam said after a moment.  “My older sister was trying to set me up with our neighbor, but uh … I don’t really think we’d get along that well,” she said with a forced smile.

“Yeah, what a story, right?”  Hannah laughed, lips suddenly becoming a line as she hurried back into the nearby stall, shutting the door.

“Oof … yeah, maybe we’ll need to head out in the morning,” Jade laughed.

The group of girls slowly started to break away as Rhea returned an imperial Nova into her pokéball.  She waved the two girls goodbye while putting on her pack, making sure her simple braid wasn’t undone in the process.

“See ya, Rhea,” Jade called out.

Just before exiting, she heard Sam mumble.  “… Man, did you see how pretty her hair was, too?  So thick and that glowing blonde color … she’s probably some Master’s daughter and thinks we’re weird and weak…”

Pausing at the door, Rhea’s lips bunched to the side, allowing two other girls to move around her before backtracking.  “No, I don’t think you guys are weird or weak,” she said with a concerned frown.

“Oh,” Sam gave a start, “you heard me?”  She mumbled, cheeks darkening as she fiddled with her hands in front of her blue dress.  “Umm … sorry, I’m just a little … uh, yeah, sorry, I”m not trying to judge you!”

Rhea shook her head.  “It’s fine!  Actually … heh, I thought I’d be the weird girl, ya know?”

Jade’s brow creased as she played with her bangs.  “Really?  Umm … you’re so pretty, and you’ve got a unique Eevee…”

“Well, this is the first time I’ve been to a city … what, no, really!”  Rhea doubled down at their expressions.

Hannah left the stall, looking like she’d gone two rounds with a Hitmonchan.  “Ugh … I feel so sick…”

Remembering some of her mother’s lectures, she hesitantly said, “Umm … you know, when a human experiences severe fortitude distress, their immune system response goes down.  You might actually have the stomach flu.”

“No … don’t tell me that,” she cried.

“Oof,” Sam winced, glancing around the bathroom.  “This place is a petri dish of bacteria, then…”

The few remaining girls in the room all rushed to the sink to thoroughly wash their hands.

“Maybe you three should take it easy today,” Rhea suggested with a concerned smile.

“Good plan … yeah, let’s go get some medicine … ugh, the price, though…”  Hannah moaned, staring at herself in the mirror.

“Yeah, but it’ll be worth it,” Sam reassured, rubbing her back.  “Wanna go together?”

“We’re a team, right?”  Hannah grinned.

Rhea walked them out, heading to the Center’s small human medical treatment area for further advice.  They probably didn’t have to go through the hospital, but a nurse recommended they stay for a quick check-up.

The three gave her a warm smile as she prepared to leave.

“Thanks for sticking with us to make sure we’re okay,” Jade weakly chuckled.

Sam nodded, looking the best out of the group.  “I hope we meet up later!  Oh, can we have your number?”

“Sure,” Rhea smiled, feeling good about finally making her first friends outside of the village or her family.

Exchanging contact information, Rhea returned to the street, making her way to Oak’s lab at the city’s center.


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