B1 — 6. The Contenders Pt. 1

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, come cities are in the wrong places or not listed, and the regions aren’t nearly so close.  The best map I’ve found, though!

Recap:  Our girl, Rhea, made it to Pallet, boiz!  What did she find?  A bunch of sick boys and girls!  Seems being a Trainer in this Pokemon world isn’t so easy as it seems in the games >.> dang you, Red, makin’ everything look like a breeze!

Rhea notices a bunch about the city, pondering on all the stuff she’d learned, finally able to see it with her own eyes and experience it.

Of course, Sabin messed up her hair (typical older brother >.>), forcing her to fix herself at the nearest Pokemon Center, where she met a ton of very sick girls.  Nova showed off her unique/adorable appearance, soaking in the love while allowing her Trainer time at the mirror (a good Contest Pokemon and she won her first battle for her Trainer!  So talented!).

After which, she met three girls named Sam, Hannah, and Jade, depressed while mumbled about Rhea’s incredible looks, pedigree (unknown, but probably Master-tier to them), and Pokemon.

Marching up to them as they talk bad about themselves, hyping her up, Rhea says she doesn’t think they’re weird and weak!  In fact, she thought she’d be the weird one, to their shock.

Ding, ding, ding!  First friends outside the village acquired!

After helping them to the clinic, she heads toward the Oak Institute!  Who are the girls our MC could be paired with?

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A small smile lit Rhea’s lips as she exited the small clinic in the Center, passing dozens of sick boys and girls; each bi-seasonal start was usually filled with elation and sickness across the regions.  Nova was positively glowing with positivity after receiving so much attention while Mya was still as a gentle brook, conserving her strength.

Shifting the pack on her back, Rhea glanced around, soaking in the commotion of the most crowded place she’d ever been.  She thought it would be more terrifying than it turned out to be once she’d entered, and there were clusters of Trainers from other regions spotted between groups.

Rhea left the Pokémon Center, moving further into the heart of Pallet; the entire city was growing more congested by the minute with tourists, new Trainers, and every News station imaginable, but she expected as much.

Her focus shifted between the large bands of teens with their parents, knowing many of these new Trainers would become her competition, and the rivalry between the regions was palpable this year with the new initiative.

The concept of battling didn’t really frighten her since she’d grown up around high-tier matches, but it did make her a little hesitant when adding one’s public image into the equation, especially with taking part in the new event that marked this year’s tournament.

Her vision followed the flat displays in the air, held and powered by several Magnemite, their Trainers contracted by the organizations.  Dozens of news companies had converged on the city once Kanto was announced as the first region to host the International Bronze Division with the International Bronze Cup as its prize.  Even Kanto’s Indigo Summer League was being overshadowed by the event; of course, it would probably take center stage once the preliminaries were over.

Rhea slowed on the side of the road, staring up at The Poké Dudes’ Show, hosted on KPN, one of Kanto’s major networks.  The butterflies in her stomach swarmed; in just a few minutes, the league would begin, and she’d have an hour to make it to the lab for Oak’s orientation before the opening ceremony.

She still had some time to kill, though, and she suspected Sabin brought her early to give her time to calm down after experiencing the city.  A lump dropped down her throat while watching the popular show, hands gripping her backpack straps as other people slowed to a stop around the sidewalk to learn the newly released information.

“… And we’re back,” said Jof Sullivan, a twenty-year-old green-haired news commentator with his older brother, Luis, sitting beside him.  A screen behind them displayed ‘International Bronze Division’ in bright gold letters.  “Yo, Luis, what do you expect to happen when the list is revealed?”

His handsome older brother gave the camera a smirk.  “Aye, we all know what’s gonna happen here!  How many regions were confirmed to participate at the United Indigo Summit, bro?”

“If you don’t know, you’ve been living under an Onix!”  Jof counted off his fingers with a grin.  “We’ve got three-hundred rockin’ seventeen-year-old competitors arriving from each of their home regions; we’ve got Hoenn, Sinnoh, our hound dogs across the sea in Unova, shout it out!  Our Alola thugs, trippin’ Galar, the royal losers from Kalos, and even those country fools out west in Johto, bro!”

Luis held up his hands in a sign.  “Kanto, east side represent!”

“Yo, we’re talkin’ twenty-one hundred foreign Trainers jumpin’ in this Muk, my east side Dudes!  The next league could be in every one of those regions, but this year, we got the home turf advantage with over forty-five thousand young Bronze registered dudes ready to ride on these fools!  Aye, yo, bro, put me in!  Know what I’m sayin’?!

“Aye, aye,” Luis chuckled, “I’m with ya, but we gotta wait for the International Silver Division to hit, bro, but know we’ll be there; what you thinkin’, bro, ride on them Kalos fools!”

“For real!”

“Yo, yo, but check it; I know what all dem Trainers reppin’ south side Galar be spittin’, though, Dude; sayin’, yo, yeah, three-hundred of our finest!”

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Jof chuckled, stomach shaking.  “Naw, naw, bro, dem Kalos preps be holdin’ their pinkies up at us, Dude!  I ain’t got time for that Galar Muk!”

“Weak!”  Luis snickered.  “Aye … yo, bro, it’s almost time for the list!”

Rhea’s lips tightened; everyone was now glancing up at the displays, showing different feeds from the various regional News outlets; she had between now and fifty-five minutes to reach the Pallet Research Institute, but it was only a ten-minute walk according to her phone.

Jof cleared his throat, looking to the right at another screen off-camera.  “Three dudes from each region were selected by a regional Master’s poll to be the front-runners of the competition!”

“And yo, this Muk was tight-lipped, my dudes!  We only got one leak, and that’s from dem preps in Kalos…”

“Mukin’, Kalos,” Jof grunted with a derisive shake of his head.

Luis waved his stiff hand at his throat.  “Aye, but it’s big news, bro!  We got ourselves a Kalos star tryin’ to make his name in our backyard!  Aww, can I get a Fairy no, my dude!”

“If you haven’t heard, then I don’t know where you’ve been!  I’m talkin’ the son of the Fairy of the Film Industry, Queen of Fashion, acting Champion of the Kalos League, and Grand Mukin’ Duchess, Diantha Allard herself, and her husband, the Smooth Fangirl Slayer, Cool Blue Player, Duke of the Kitchen, Siebold Allard, 3rd Ranking Kalos Elite Four washout’s son, Lucian Allard!”

An image of a light-brown haired, bright blue-eyed young man plastered across the screen; he wore a white suit with a black bowtie, making him look like a stuck-up noble that much of the Kanto news liked to criticize.  He was more than handsome with his sharp looks, but the image had a negative view in Kanto.

“Kalos,” Luis rolled his eyes.  “It had to be…”

Jof’s brow suddenly shot up.  “Aye, aye, Dude!  VCN just dropped a bomb!  Giovanni Rocket just left Viridian on a new type of Rocket H-Series Jet!  You don’t think…”

Luis’s lips parted in a wry grin.  “Oooh!  Bro, you think Amira Rocket made the list?  No … I mean, with Rocket’s reputation among the Master-tier Trainers?”

“Hey,” Jof interrupted with a grin, “VCN called it a month ago … wait, yo!  VCN is killin’ it; Former Champion Lyra was just spotted leaving Viridian airspace with Amira!”

“For Pallet?”

“… The list just … there she is!  What’d I tell ya, Dudes?”  Jof snapped his fingers.  “I’m telling you, this is gonna be one crazy League!  Wait … yo, the two Kanto slots are no last-namers, bro!  Check it…”

“Rhea and Jason … yo, who?”

“… Uh … na, look at the other stations; yo, everyone’s confused, my dudes?”

“Dude … there goes my Kalayna bet … still, High Master Erika’s daughter will be in the crowd, I guess,” Luis mumbled.  “Muk, not even a picture for them; that’s pretty rare.  Wait, all the regions had to cooperate to have equal gender representation, right?”

“Yeah … for the teams.  Let’s just hope we don’t get a Kalos kid with one of our Kanto dudes!”

Rhea’s lips pulled in; a lot of the News coverage would depend significantly on who she was randomly paired with.

Luis hummed with a suspicious eye.  “Still, Amira Rocket?  Yo, Tory’s gonna be pissed!  Two girls and a boy?  Huh.”

Rhea glanced down at her phone; she probably should be heading out soon to be sure, but she wanted at least a bit of information about the twenty-three other Trainers and the eleven potential girls she could be paired up with.

“… Alright,” Jof chuckled, cracking his fingers.  “You can say the Rockets are up to foul-play, but Former Champion Lyra?  Naw, that woman’s as clean as it gets!”

“… Silver,” Luis said with a strained smile, “Ehh, ya know?  I mean, we can’t assume anything, right, but, uh … yeah, bro.”

“Yeah … okay, but bro, let’s get down to the list, and to start it off, we’re already on fire with the controversy in our own backyard, Kanto!  For the dudes on the home team, we got Rhea, Jason, and you know her, Amira Rocket!”

Luis still seemed to be stuck on the Rocket bit.  “My guys, if our region gets shafted because someone calls Rocket B.S., then … anyways, to our northern dudes in Sinnoh, holdin’ it down!  We got … woah, an all girl’s selection?”

Jof forced a chuckle.  “Eh … I mean, Active Champion Cynthia, and her pupil, already Champion-tier, Dawn; talk about role models representing the female Trainer-base.”

“Dude, no joke!  We got some awesome reps comin’ in from our east side brothers, though!  Let’s kick it off; Karen Brooks, Johto’s our rank one, E4 party star’s own daughter throwin’ it up,” Luis laughed.

A video of a gorgeous teenage girl with silvery-blue eyes and hair, her locks even thicker than Rhea’s, popped up on the screen.  She was recording herself on social media while dancing in a club, clearly intoxicated with her laughter and rosy cheeks, singing to the punk-rock song.

“… Girl’s got style!”  Jof laughed.  “If you followed that Livestream three weeks ago, Casey Brooks avoided the Goldenrod authorities for three hours before finally being caught after passing out behind a couch.”

Luis picked up where his brother left off.  “Some stiff media personalities—you know who I’m talkin’ about, GCN—might call Casey Brooks a wreck, but who doesn’t love hearin’ every story that hits, and when she pops up in the News, you know it’s gonna make you laugh!

“Then, we have Former Champion Lance’s nephew and Gym Leader Clair’s son entering the stage with Gym Leader Morty’s son, finishing off our east side reps!  We’ve got Angel Villarreal and Mark Krahl.  Eh…”

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Jof gave his brother a forced smile as the two pictures popped up.  “Yeah, sometimes I question if Angel is a guy or a girl with those looks … I mean, Former Champion Lance registered him as a dude, but uh … ya know?”

“Aye, bro, no h***, but that dude sends some mixed signals to my brain, yo!  Both boys haven’t made many waves, so we can’t tell you much other than their parents are High Masters, and the Dragon-type specialist is bordering on Grandmaster.”

“Some speculate High Master Clair will challenge the Kanto and Johto E4 soon for a position!”

Rhea frowned upon watching Johto and Kanto’s reveals; she’d met Karen frequently with her visits to the village but only met her daughter a handful of times. The Gossip App was filled with events regarding the wild girl’s activities.  Describing her as a wreck was about half right.

Her mother was like most Dark-type specialist Grandmasters she’d met, more than a little shady and carefree to a fault while being sharper than a tack.

It didn’t surprise Rhea that Casey was selected, though.  Rhea just didn’t know if she could keep up with the party girl if they were placed in the same group.

Angel Villarreal was a pretty shy boy for being the son of a fierce Dragon-type legendary family with a long history, including his mother, Clair, and uncle, Lance, but he seemed nice during the few times she’d met him.

On the other hand, Mark Krahl was a complete mystery to her.  Morty never actually talked to her when he came by the village, which was strange for most visitors, and considering he seemed so charismatic whenever on the News.

Rhea glanced to the left as cheers sounded around town; chants of Casey’s name could be heard a few streets over, taking the spotlight of the reveal.

However, she assumed Amira was a much more recognized name than Casey, especially with the older generation’s obsession with Rocket.  The organization was in just about every region, and smear campaigns were run against them on repeat.  Rhea had personally never met any Rocket except Former Champion Lyra, and she was only attached to the Rocket name by marriage.

A few years ago, an ad mentioned the granddaughter of Giovanni, but it was enough to go viral; although, the company that ran the ad had been bought out by a corporate hostile takeover of the shares and dismantled the following day.  The event sparked much stricter ad legislation that was pushed through the United Code of Business Conduct that same month, restricting the use of minors in media or smears.

If the video was to be believed, Giovanni’s influence had rubbed off on his grandchild.  The clips showed several pieced together video footage from teens at a public school; Amira shoved a girl, cursing at others, and started a fistfight with a boy, which was more than one-sided by the beautiful girl that had obviously taken martial arts classes since a young age.

The information about it was mostly scrubbed from the web, but she’d seen it when it aired, and even Rocket’s resources couldn’t keep it restrained for a time.

Jof waved his hand dismissively after the pictures passed the screen.  “Dude, and hasn’t Pallet been poppin’ off the last few years?  Hotels, resorts, inns, you name it, and they’re booked!  If there’s one good thing Rocket’s done, it’s the work they’ve done improving city infrastructure and travel, but Muk, that girl’s gonna be a target by foreign media and Trainers alike.”

“Hehe,” Luis shrugged his shoulders.  “Hey, I’m sure Giovanni’s granddaughter can take care of herself, right?  Everyone in Kanto’s seen the video, and she’s legal now … don’t take us down, Grandmaster Giovanni,” he said with a forced smile, “I’m just sayin’ what everyone’s thinkin’!”

“Yeah, Dude!  We’ll be covering every moment of your girl’s run…”

“… Ahem,” Luis continued.  “Uh … Kalos, we have Lucian Allard, Jean Trouvé, and Ludovic Malet … how do you even pronounce some of these names, man?  Gah, ya know it, Active Champion Diantha, yeah … and, Jean’s High Master Korrina’s nephew … yo, I’m sensing some Kalos nepotism here, bro…”

“For real, Dude,” Jof growled, glaring at the screen while it popped up to reveal the well-dressed Trainers.  “Grandmaster Siebold’s son and nephew … let’s just skip by the clear Mukin’ corruption, and move on to our western dudes across the sea, Unova represent!”

Luis’s eyes lit with excitement.  “Yo, yo!  Talkin’ about Casey, we got the wild party pair of the north, Mallory Medina and Len Hart jumpin’ into Kanto to tear it up!  Mallory, younger sister of the famous author and Unova E4 4rd Rank, Shauntal!

“Then we got the supermodel, renowned electro-genre hoppin’ artist, and High Master … the accolades are just too long, bro!  You already know who I’m talkin’ about, Gym Leader Elesa Hart is sending in her son, Len Hart, droppin’ the region into the Shadow Realm for a legendary rave!”

Both men started performing moves in their chairs while singing, lights dimming while lights flashed across the room.

“… I just wanna say I’m sorry; some days I know I get out of hand.  Wish I was anyone else; I’m a wreck, but you understand.  I can’t help myself; I’m just not well, my own worst enemy.  Can’t help myself, think I’m going to the Distortion Realm; I’ll probably never leave!  You know I hate it when I’m left alone, but you always find the best part, best part of me!”

The commentators broke into laughter as the lights returned to normal, and Jof continued, “Elesa Hart’s hot new single, Best Part, toppin’ charts in Kantos, Johto, Unova, and Sinnoh after it dropped last week, and it’s still there, boys!  Unova’s sendin’ us their own versions of Casey Brooks to rock the clubs and keep authorities on their toes!

“Oh, and we’ve also got Barry Ford, grandson of High Master, Gym Leader Clay joining them, but we gotta get back to these bars, my dudes!”

Rhea chuckled as they burst back into song, throwing out moves, but it didn’t last long before they moved onto the next region; she still had more than enough time to get there, so she decided to only listen to one more reveal, and it happened to be from her aunt’s region.

“Our northern sister be sendin’ some of their finest ladies!”  Luis replied, still busting moves from the soft music playing in the background.  “Which flower of Sinnoh we talkin’ about first, bro?”

“Aye, we got a triple whammy flyin’ in; all High Masters and Gym Leaders, Gardenia, Maylene, and Candice are representing from the north!  High Master Gardenia is…”

Knowing each of the girls, Rhea left for the research center, pondering on the information.

Her aunt was known to have the most influence out of any Champion in shaping the Trainers in her region, followed by Leon of Galar.  Almost every notable Trainer in Sinnoh was mentored in some way or fashion by Cynthia, which means Rhea had heard enough about them and many had been to her birthdays.

The brothers seemed to have skipped several details about Casey’s family tree, but it was probably for a reason.  Unova’s Dark-type Grandmaster, Grimsley Brooks, was Casey’s father.

From everything she’d heard from the whispered conversation between Masters, Karen and Grimsley had a bizarre relationship, to say the least.  They loved each other, and their flirting was heavy when around one another, but they just couldn’t live together.  So, they kept their distance, and Casey often moved between regions to spend time with her parents.

There were several things the news wouldn’t know about Mallory’s private life either that Rhea was privy to, growing up in a secret gathering point for Masters.

For one, she preferred to be called Lori by friends, not that Rhea was incredibly close to her, and that both Mallory and her sister were Grimsley’s step-daughters since their parents died when the two were very young; with no relatives, it caused the Grandmaster to take them under his wing.

As such, Casey and Mallory had grown up as step-sisters; although, Mallory was a very different type of rebel than Casey, taking more after Grimsley’s mannerisms.

Rhea’s thoughts moved to the Sinnoh results; the 4th E4 position was currently held by Dawn, but she was only a placeholder when Grandmaster Bertha retired.

Dawn was more than qualified for the position; in fact, she was qualified to become a Champion, but her aunt had held the Active title for decades for a reason; she far surpassed Champion-tier, standing in Legendary-tier.  Still, Dawn filled the position while Cynthia was away from the region.

Her aunt was actually quite displeased about the current E4 positions, not that Dawn was bad, but the problem in Cynthia’s eyes was that she overqualified for the position, which meant she couldn’t go all out and had to hold back on challengers, not that many ever reached her.

Some speculations were being tossed around online that some of the High Masters were training to take the position, but Rhea wasn’t so sure.

Giovanni was one of the first examples of a Grandmaster refusing to take an E4 position upon qualifying, choosing to return to his Gym Leader status, which had its issues; however, there were other speculations as to why he wasn’t in the post.

Similarly, the Sinnoh Gym Leaders all loved their gyms, representing their home cities.

Auntie would have been involved in the voting, and Wake’s son should be around seventeen, so he’ll be coming to Kanto, too; kind of odd that Amy was picked instead of Tanner, though.  Still … if those girls are coming, then yeah, I don’t have to worry about standing out too much…

She paused after passing another News station from Johto that had the list of all twenty-four candidates by region with their most famous relative; this was probably the information the Sullivan brothers had been reading from.

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