B4 — 7. The Rookie Crusher


1:  Rhea (Our Bombshell Blonde!)

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

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7:25 a.m. October 19th, Monday, 106 PH (Post Hoopa Event).  Day 132.

Events:  Rhea and the girls have had an eventful 60 days of hardcore training!  What’s changed?  What new things have the squad uncovered?  Let’s find out!  Our girl started her journey on the 9th of June, and the end of registration for the Winter Indigo Cup is December 5th (46 days away).

Rhea groaned as Amira’s voice called her out of a lovely dream, where she and Jason had been hiking up an endless mountain and taken shelter in a waterfall cave.  The swirling mist against her cheeks and welcoming cries from the army of cute Carbink were replaced by the yawning redhead as she motioned above the window at the clock.

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“We’re… just about to arrive at Saffron.”

“Oh, okay…”  Stretching out on the folded down, cushy train seat, she found all of her Pokémon bundles around her with the exception of Mya, sleeping on the floor; the steely girl probably rolled off during the night, making her chide herself for not putting up the safety rail.  “What are we doing first—check in at the Gym?”

She scooted her back against the semi-cushioned wall, Alice and Nova stirring next to her and at her feet.  Lori seemed to have rolled over to where Amira had been sleeping, back turned to them with a low grumble; her Pokémon seemed to be in their own little world, as well, with the exception of Terri.  The little fluff ball of adamant energy was at her Trainer’s back, gently jabbing the purple-haired girl’s shoulder blade to get her up.

“I’m up, I’m up… just five more minutes, Ter…”

Rhea giggled before fishing out her sleepy puff ball, nestled in her usual spot inside her shirt front, where the little cloud could hear her heartbeat.  Amira showed her phone tabs as an answer to her previous question, displaying a picture of the Gym, the hotel she’d booked to freshen up, and the ramen store that was owned by Ash’s friend for a late breakfast.

“Got it,” Rhea whispered, giving her a thumbs up and shifting her ponytail around to her front before kissing Lulu’s head.  “Morning, girls.”



“Lopunny?  Lop-lop.”

The bun used her long ear to tap Mya’s snoozing second mouth, making her jerk and peek open an eye.


Slowly rousing, Rhea greeted each of her and Amira’s Pokémon in the somewhat cramped space with them all out, but it didn’t take them long to return to their Poke Balls.  She pulled up the blinds on the window to see the natural rocks lining the tunnel that illuminated the space in dazzling colors; the Diglett really did try to make the place nice, which was probably a point of pride for the Pokemon.

Lori forced her butt awake once they stopped, throwing on her backpack and cleaning up the cabin with them before trudging out and into Saffron Diglett Express Station, located at the edge of the city.  The crowd mumbled to one another about the strange stop they’d experienced earlier that day that had delayed their arrival by an hour or so.  No one had a clue what the reason was, but the local breaking news stations were talking about it on the station’s TVs.

The building was connected to the city entrance, so they checked in and walked into the bustling, giant, business-oriented metropolis.  They took a moment to take in the view; it was a bit chilly, with storm clouds coming in from Power Bay, which wasn’t totally surprising since the Storm Conductors were also meant to provide a decent amount of rain to Meadowview Town and its farmsteads.

That being said, Rhea had somewhat forgotten how active the rather cramped place was, taking her back to how much better Viridian’s city planning had been executed.  Towering skyscrapers loomed overhead as they walked through the morning bustle to one of the public bus routes.  Boarding it as the gloomy morning storm swept over them, they pulled out their umbrellas from their backpacks for when they left the bus.

Rhea leaned against the window to look at the sea of umbrellas outside on the sidewalks, Flying Pokemon taking shelter wherever they could near the businesses and porches.  Most Trainer Pokemon had their own umbrellas, and Fighting Pokemon from the dojo were out in mass from the dojo, doing odd jobs to increase their skill set.

They passed by the hospital that cared for Terri, making Rhea sigh and hold a hand against her heart while remembering her visit to the comatose woman’s bedside.  It made her glance to her left, where Lori and her Kubfu listened to music together, the Wushu Pokemon sitting on the girl’s lap.  It made her smile, remembering how touched Lori had been about the sad story that she’d named her Legendary Pokemon after the Dojo Grandmaster.

She felt the warm flame of V light within her as the hospital went out of view.  Maybe we can do something now that we’ve opened the First Gate…  I won’t know unless I visit and see how she’s doing.  We need to focus on Sabrina’s Badge before anything, though…  It’s going to be hard.

It took them a good thirty minutes to reach the Gym, arriving at 8:40 a.m.  Unfurling her umbrella as she stepped off the bus, she heard the pattering of light rainfall and the wet mist that was swept up by the moderate breeze.

Rhea breathed deeply to take in the muggy scent before following Armia and Lori.  Lulu rested on her head, bouncing up and down while poking at the see-through umbrella to watch the droplets slide off.  On the other hand, Melody and Terri held their umbrellas, held in their Trainers’ arms.

They didn’t get much interaction from the crowds that flocked to the giant Gym since prep was already underway for the Bronze Tier category.  Fortunately, they still had a good three hours before Silver started; plus, Amira and her were near the end of the lineup, around 1:30 p.m., so they had time to relax and unwind from their overnight trip.

Parting away from the giant packs of people to reach the private check-in station designated for challengers, Rhea was glad the Gyms had different desks for other departments since the line was huge to purchase tickets.  Naturally, all the good spots were sold out weeks in advance, which meant Lori would be near the top rows.  Once checking in, they left the Gym and entered the storm; their hotel wasn’t far from the stadium.

Rhea didn’t feel the chill as the cold October wind swept over them, making Amira and Lori shiver.  “You okay?” she asked, stepping closer to the pair when entering the throng.

Lori hugged Terri close to her chest.  “Haha.  It’s gotten Mukin’ colder, I swear.  Is it going to snow, Amira?”

“No,” the redhead chuckled, picking up their pace through a crosswalk as the timer indicated the light would change soon.  “It’s rare that it snows in Saffron, even in winter.  Usually, it’s carried a bit north due to the wind currents and funneled into Sable National Park before thinning out and melting.  It travels along Meadowview River.  Thunderstorms are common during this time of the year, though.”

“Perfect,” Lori grumbled, glaring up at the dark sky.  “I hate the snow.  We turn into Mukin’ Snorunts in the Greater Castelia Metropolitan Area during winter—the Vanillite capital for weeks…  Oh, I know; maybe you can use your Victini magic and fix the whole world into a summer paradise.”

Amira snorted at the plan, drawing their smiles.  “Haha!  When did you go full Aqua and plot to flood the world by melting everything, Violet?”

“When I become a snowman, Cinnamon Bun!”  she shot back, bumping into the redhead.

“Sure.  Sure.  Let’s just make most Ice Pokemon go extinct.  I’m sure that won’t cause anyone problems.  Besides, how much power are you giving Rhea here?  You plan on her becoming the boss of the next big bad syndicate?”

Lori’s eyes brightened as she swapped Terri to her shoulder, turning down a street Amira pointed them to.  “Ooooh.  Yeah, I can totally see the evil leader Ms. Honey Pot, plotting to spread sunshine around the world!  Wait…”  Her mouth became a line as she looked up at the storm.  “If Magma succeeded and awoke Groudon—even if their previous attempt was a failure and they’re still at it—then wouldn’t that dry up the oceans?”

Rhea chuckled.  “Uh, yeah?  That’s the plan.  Gotta get more real estate for expansion and connect regions.”

Amira rolled her eyes and took them into a hotel to pick up their key cards.  “Like a desert planet is so much better than one with water.  Let’s not forget all the rivers that would dry up and the greenery that would die.”

“Now who’s Team Aqua?”  Lori laughed, getting in line behind the sole group in front of them for the desk and getting weird looks from them.  “I knew you’d come around!  Join the dark side and become a mermaid with us!  Rhea can create an underwater kingdom of boiling water fish people.”  

“What?!”  Rhea’s sides hurt as she doubled over, Lulu mirroring her.  “This is getting wild.  First, I’m supposed to eradicate snow, and now you want to flood the world so I can rule a… boiling sea?”

Lori shrugged as Terri hopped off her shoulder to put away her umbrella.  “It’s a work in progress.  We can sort out the details later.  Oooh.  I wonder how it would be to dance with a long tail…  Nova, we’re going to have to figure out some underwater dance moves for you.  We’ll need the instruction when our new blonde overlord starts the new boiling ocean world empire.”

“You’re ridiculous,” Amira giggled, stepping forward to check them in as Lori settled down.

“Well, on the bright side,” Rhea jumped in, “we’ll be heading down to Vermilion next, and it should be decently warm.  How long is the train ride on the Diglett Express, Amira?”

The redhead signed the document the man produced, still listening to them, and to be fair, a couple of teenage girls with Legendary or Mythical Pokemon wasn’t probably the most comforting conversation to hear when talking about world domination.

Amira handed her pen to Mariah as she tried to write her own name below her Trainers.  “Probably two or three hours at most since it’s a direct path.  You’re getting so good at writing your name, Mariah!  If we keep going at this rate, then we’ll get you speaking our language soon.  Meowth’s new language program seems to be working.”

“Mel-mel!”  the songstress chirped, handing the pen back to the sheepish man with pride.

“Alright, let’s go drop our stuff off.”

Lori started on the opposite ridiculous evil organization-building strategy from the Magma side as they went up, going over Rhea’s dominance in the wastelands of the Great Viridian Desert, and how they controlled the oases with a shining smile that would blind anyone on first look or her golden hair striking fear in the hearts of marauders.

Going into their rather nice three-bed hotel room, Amira took the first shower since she was the quickest and used cold water.  Rhea sat on the edge of her bed with Lori standing nearby, making extravagant gestures at her fantasy of them riding atop a colossal Groudon as they battled the Wooloo girls, who were on the side of justice—yeah, apparently, she was the bad guy, which had her laughing.

It didn’t take long for Amira to swap out for her since Lori took the longest and hottest showers.  On the other hand, the Unovan girl took the least time getting ready, doing almost no after-shower maintenance other than swiftly brushing her hair and applying lotion.

Ready to take on the day at 9:40 a.m., they left their packs in their room, extended their umbrellas, and walked to the nearby ramen shop.  Lulu decided she wanted to try holding the umbrella and was almost swept away by the wind before Rhea managed to catch the rod.


“Haha.  Maybe we should hold it together.”

Her cosmic puff cloud nodded earnestly, settling into her blouse front to hold the rod at an angle with her, letting the pole rest against her collarbone as they walked.

“Ne-ne?”  Lulu chirped at their other Buddy Bonded Pokemon, looking for recognition from them.

“Meloetta.”  The Melody Pokemon waved, showing a small smile from Amira’s arms.

Terri vigorously pumped Lori’s umbrella up and down from her shoulder, making the Unovan girl balk.

“Kub!  Kub!”

“Terri, stop!  You’re flinging water all over my skirt…  What do you mean, it’s all for training?  Muk… that doesn’t even make sense!  I don’t want to have a wet butt.”

The Kubfu roared with vigor, and Rhea had to wonder what her mom was thinking when sending Lori this hyperactive Fighting girl to Buddy Bond with.

Arriving at the restaurant, Rhea waved at the man behind the counter.  “Hey, Kyle, how’s business?”

The black-haired owner’s lips parted at their entrance, boisterous voice pulling quite a few looks from his other customers in the fairly packed shop.  “Girls!  I was wondering if this would be the day you showed up.  I saw the match in Cerulean!  Intense battles.  I can’t believe she used Trick Room on you.  Are you scheduled for the Saffron Gym today against Sabrina?”

Whispers flew around the restaurant as the groups at tables glanced their way before opening up their phones to scan for further information about who they were.  It wasn’t hard for their names to be passed through conversation with how much media coverage they’d gotten from their unique Pokemon, travel with Ash, and the hype revolving around their family and jumping into the Silver Bracket.

Rhea was first in line, holding her elbow behind her back as Lulu floated above her, attempting to fold in the umbrella.  “Mhm.  Amira and I will be some of the last to battle during the bracket.  Quite a few Bronze challengers but not a lot of Silver that I saw.”

Kyle finished serving his current customer before turning to her with a nod.  “Yeah, there was a big influx last month of Bronze Trainers attempting to follow in Lori’s footsteps, but Gym Leader Sabrina squashed that like a Bug.”

“Discrimination!  Bugs rule Psychic!”  cried one of the Bug Catchers off to the side; it got a few laughs and jokes passed between him and a few others near his table.  “Just you wait; we’ll show you the true power of the insects!”  the Bronze Team boasted.

“Oh?”  asked a fashionable woman nearby, resting her fist against her cheek with a smirk.  “We hear Bug Specialists say that Muk all the time, but tell me, why are you here instead of facing Gym Leader Sabrina?  Not confident enough in your Bugs to go for the Encrusted?”

Figuring there might be a bit of a bias in Saffron against Bug Trainers due to Psychic Pokemon being weak to them, Rhea tuned out the banter between the visiting Trainers and locals.

“Huh,” she whispered, pointing at the menu behind the boisterous owner for the bowel she wanted.  “I was thinking about stopping by and visiting Terri before leaving.  Do you mind texting me a time when I can visit?”

A warm smile lifted the man’s eyes as some of the chatter quieted down at the mention of the orange-haired former Grandmaster of Saffron’s dojo.  “I’m sure she’d like that.  Yeah, I’ll call the hospital and send you a time.  Tomorrow?”

“That would be wonderful,” Rhea chimed, gesturing at the enthusiastic Kubfu on her teammate’s shoulder.  “I think Lori wanted to visit the dojo for her Terri, as well.  So we should be mostly free tomorrow, and hopefully, we won’t need to stay around for another week for round two with your Gym Leader.”

Kyle threw a thumbs-up as he slid her bowl over the counter.  “I look forward to the battle.  We’ll be watching,” he said, pointing at the TV, already showing the Bronze Bracket challengers getting destroyed by the Rookie Crusher.  “A lot more Bronze Trainers have been winning since Lori’s victory—well, those that stayed in Bronze-tier.  I think you girls have sparked a Trainer resurgence.  Hype is building after all your battles this circuit.”

“Glad to hear.”

Rhea took her giant bowl upstairs, intending to share part of it with her Pokemon.  She was a bit hungry but didn’t want to overdo it.  Soon after, Lori and Amira joined her, and they began finalizing their strategies.  It went without saying which Pokemon she’d lead with.

Talking things over and getting two more helpings of ramen as her appetite grew, she left the establishment around 12:10 p.m. to give themselves an hour’s prep inside the locker room.  The storm had broken, leaving the pavement wet, with the moderate sun’s rays gradually evaporating the liquid.

Lori waved them off at the private challenger’s entrance and wished them luck while running off to take her high-rise seat.  It was finally time to get her fourth Encrusted Gym Badge, and, of course, it had to be against Sabrina, the Rookie Crusher.

“Mmgm.”  Now starting to feel the stress of the upcoming battle, Rhea rubbed her stomach, seeing the exact same look on the other girls in the locker room.

“She seems even more scary now than she did last year,” a girl whimpered, hugging herself and staring at the display as the black-haired woman floated in the air, locks hovering off her shoulders.

Dressed in a red leather-themed outfit, there was a small smile on her lips as she engaged in sewing a doll of herself with psychic energy in the middle of a battle.  If that wasn’t enough, she was gradually spinning in a circle, gravity seemingly unable to touch her.

“Does she have to spin all creepily like that?”  a woman groaned, arms crossed tightly against her chest.  “No one has won a single battle yet… and it’s my turn.”

Spontaneously, the giddy Galarian Ponyta was levitated up to the Gym Leader’s box to be gently set on the ground; the pony jumped up and down below the Psychic Grandmaster, waiting with anticipation for her gift.  Sabrina lowered herself to the ground to present the doll to the happy pony, a smile brightening Rhea’s face at seeing her making the toy for her Pokemon.

The doll floated onto her back to ride around with the happy Unique Horn Pokemon as she jumped through the door to exit Sabrina’s private box, likely to play with it in the Gym Leader’s personal room.

Amira returned with a bottle of water, handing it to her as she sat and crossed her legs to see the crowd’s reaction to the adorable replay.  “That was cute.  I heard Kanto got a new influx of Gym Pokemon from Galar.  I guess she’s welcoming them into the family in her own unique way.  Nervous?”

“A little,” she admitted with a strained laugh.  “Our battle against Misty showed me that the Gym Leaders are willing to seriously bump up the difficulty to match our gains.  I’m afraid she may just throw me right into Gold or something.”

“Mmm.”  Amira drew her braid over her shoulder, glancing at the many Gold-tier Trainers entering the locker room; all of them looked ill, as well.  “I doubt any of the Gym Leaders will force you into a full Gold-tier match since then they’d need to change the full bracket format.  What they can do is exactly what Misty or Forrest did to you and add elements of the higher Tiers.”

Rhea nibbled on her bottom lip, watching the last battle before hers started; the previous Galarian Ponyta had been near the upper echelon of Silver-tier, having a few Breeding Moves that had done a killer combo with her Hypnosis and Horn Drill.

“I guess Sabrina will have already seen through our tactics and just wants to know how well we can handle a seemingly impossible battle…  Man, Encrusted Challenges are brutal.”

Amira showed a soft smile as she nudged shoulders.  “They’re meant to be, but we’ve done a lot of training.  Sure, it’s going to be tougher.  It also means we get to put what we’ve learned to the test.  I should be the nervous one because Sabrina counters my style of battling the hardest.”

“True…”  Rhea gulped as she took a sip of her water while watching the remainder of the current challenger’s battle.

She led with a Pinsir, which was a strong start against the Gym, only to be met by a Mind Zap Musharna with Daze.  If that wasn’t enough, Yawn, Psybeam, Confusion, and a Rock Slide TM Move totally dominated the poor Bug.  Her Butterfree second Pokemon didn’t fare much better, making Amira wince at the 4x Weakness to Rock as the butterfly had its mind hammered by psychic waves that disrupted him and forced him to the ground.

Sabrina didn’t even have to reveal a second Pokemon to handle the challenger; the girl tried to overcome the Mind Zap and Daze combo with a Sleep Powder to put the Musharna to sleep… but it was a Musharna, and a Sleep Talk ended the battle with rocks materializing out of the air to flatten the poor butterfly.

Not feeling the most confident, Rhea bumped fists with Amira and set her resolve.  Saria had been her entry into Silver-tier, which was kind of like a middle ground between Bronze and Silver.  Her battle against Janine had been brutal and showed her what they were up against with the corrosive salamander that could even Poison Steel Types.  Misty came in hot with an intense fight that had her wondering if it was just due to her pregnancy hormones or if Sabrina was about to turn it up to 20.

Fiddling with her chosen disguised Master Ball, Rhea took a deep breath as Lulu cheered her on from atop her head.  She passed the teary-eyed girl on her exit, giving her an encouraging smile; it was probably the most dominant battle of the day, which made her want to hug the woman with how humiliated she must have felt.

It made Rhea remember how Lori felt after her first match against Misty.  Rhea paused just before reaching the spotlight, turned, and jogged after the girl to give her a hug.


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“Hey, it’ll be okay,” she said, boosting herself up by trying to help the spiraling woman.  “It isn’t the end of the world if you lose.  I lost to Forrest in my first Gym Challenge, and it was sooo hard.  Just look back at this fight and see what Sabrina was trying to teach you because there was a way to win, and if you find it, then next time you will win!”

The blue-haired woman that could have been her mom laughed as she returned the embrace.  “I wanted to prove to my daughter that Silver-tier wasn’t so bad, but… I forgot how harsh Gym Leaders could be.  Thanks for the encouragement, Dear.  I’ll review it with her, and we’ll come up with a plan together.  Good luck.  Hehe.  And good luck to you, too,” she said as Lulu patted her on the head.


Breaking away, Rhea swallowed her fear, spun around on her heels, and marched up to the elevator that would bring her to the platform, the spotlights now shining down upon her.

“Ladies and gentlemen!  We have two more Silver Challengers attempting to claim the prestige of the Silver Encrusted Marsh Badge.  I’m sure you’ve seen their faces plastered on nearly every gossip and news station over the past few months.  Champion Cynthia’s niece and the spark that ignited the wildfire in the Bronze Bracket, our next challenger is none other than Rhea Everhart!”

Rhea stood tall as she inserted her Pokemon inside the machine, Lulu taking the spotlight and dancing around with her poofy arms.  

“Greg, am I seeing things, or is that a Cosmog dancing around Ms. Everhart?”

“Haha!  Have you been living under an Onix, Ted?  Our challenger’s whole party has its own unique Pokemon mascot!  Her mother is the legendary breeder, Christie Everhart, and you wouldn’t expect anything less than the best for her little girl.  We’re in for a treat tonight, folks, because her battle against Gym Leader Misty and Gym Leader Janine has become the talk of the circuit!”

Poor Saria, not getting mentioned, Rhea internally sighed, a lump forming in her throat as she saw the Challenge Rank flash on the screen above, a psychic-outlined Sabrina floating high into the air to cross her legs and look down upon her with a curious smile.

“Hot Muk—am I seeing things, Greg?”  Ted mumbled.  “Silver-8, folks!  Silver Eight!  We’re dealing with a Max Rank Silver Challenge, Greg!”

“That’s right, Ted, and if I’m not seeing things, there’s a + at the end of that!  Silver-8+, ladies and gentlemen.  Ho-ho-ho.  We’re in for a battle tonight!  What’s this?!  Is Gym Leader Sabrina’s microphone floating up?!”

A hush fell over the stadium as the mic hovered in front of the dark-haired beauty, ribbons on her boots weaving with her power as her soft, feminine, and deep, commanding voice overtook the crowd.

“I have been looking forward to this battle, Rhea.  Misty and Ash spent the morning with me, speaking to your growth and potential.  Your name has passed through the League and City-State meetings almost weekly, be in limitations on Nova or your cute Legendary cheerleader.  I anticipate the day she finally takes the stage…  Show me what you’ve learned.”

Holding out her index finger, she gently lifted it for an Ultra Ball to exit the box that opened, and a second rose out of it, showing she’d already predicted how this match would go.  Illuminated pink irises gleaming from the high-detailed monitors locked on her, the psychic’s lips curled into an impish smirk.

“Let’s have some fun.”

Greg’s hoarse voice was a whisper as the lights to start the match flashed purplish, showing the Gym Leader had taken control over them.  “This is an Encrusted Silver Challenge for the Marsh Badge—Single’s Format, Two Pokemon.”

Ted followed him.  “The battle will begin in three… two… one.  Throw your Poke Balls!”

Sliding out Mya’s Poke Ball, she drew back her arm, stomach tightening as dozens of Warp Pannels cycled off the ceiling to hover around the stage; they wouldn’t be stationary as they’d been for everyone previously.  She threw the capsule near the center of the ring to give her steely girl the chance to attack immediately—Sabrina chuckled and did the same, flicking her finger to land mere meters away from Mya.

Her Adamant girl exited her Poke Ball with a serious glare as her shiny, pink-skinned opponent materialized in front of her.  Goosebumps crawled over Rhea’s forearm as Greg shouted; this was going to be rough.



Mawile vs. Wobbuffet, folks!  Let’s get to it!”

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