Chapter One: Caterpillar
Castelia City stood high and wondrous, with the newly completed Skyarrow Bridge to the south finally open. The budding city was expected to explode soon, no longer being a playground of the rich, but an everyman’s city.
The biggest attraction to the city was the Pokémon Gym, led by Athena. The Gym had an affinity for the Bug-type, and every Gym Trainer was of extreme skill. Every day, dozens of trainers would challenge the Gym, and only a portion would get by even Burgh, Athena’s 8-year-old son. On average, only one or two trainers managed to secure a match against Athena every week; only about half of them won the prized Insect Badge from her.
Today, however, Athena needed a favor.
“Just go and battle him, you stupid Caterpillar!” Athena yelled at the red-headed boy.
“Shut up, you old hag!” the teen shot back. “Why can’t you make Burgh do your stupid chores?”
“Because the challenger already handed Burgh’s ass to him on a silver platter!” Athena dissolved into a coughing fit afterwards. “Look, Caterpillar. The kid needs a match today, and if nobody shows up, I have to give him the Insect Badge without a fight. I’ve never just handed out the Badge, and I don’t intend to start now. And even a stupid, spoiled Caterpillar like you has a powerful team.”
“Stop calling me Caterpillar, you old hag! And just give Burgh your team! He knows them all.”
“You should know that Burgh may have a knack for befriending Pokémon, especially Bug-types, but controlling my Volcarona? Out of the question. So just shut up, go to the Gym, explain things to the ref, and challenge the kid.”
The boy pouted, but sighed. “Fine.”
Jasper rode the elevator to the top of the Castelia Gym. The interior of the Gym was a tower, with each of the ten levels owned by the Gym holding a challenge. Surviving them all had been the hardest fight of his short career as a trainer yet.
But stepping off the elevator and on to the battlefield for the Badge Match was breathtaking. High above the rest of the city, Jasper could see the Arrow River to the south, the stretching expanse of the city to the north and east, and the desert to the west. The wind blew his shoulder-length blue hair out and ruffled his clothes. He turned round and round, taking the beautiful scenery in, before turned to the Gym Leader.
To his surprise, it wasn’t a greying, stone-faced woman, but a young, fiery-haired young man, looking about the same age as Jasper.
“Athena’s sick,” the youth said. “I’m her replacement today.”
Jasper nodded. “I’m Jasper. What’s your name?”
Before the youth could answer, the referee walked out, and the giant electric screen that displayed battle information lit up.
CHALLENGER JASPER VS LEADER PROXY CATERPILLAR
“Caterpillar” gawked at the screen for a moment, before exploding. “That bitch! Ref! Why isn’t my real name up there?” Jasper found himself trying not to giggle.
The referee chuckled. “Well, uh, this was the way your information had been entered in the database by Athena… we didn’t have time to create a new file, so we just used this one.”
The fiery-haired youth scowled but shook his head and turned to Jasper. “I understand you only carry five Pokémon. Thus, this will be a five-on-five match. You may switch out at any time, while I may only switch out after a Pokémon has fainted. Got it? Good. Ref, start the match.”
The referee held up two flags, one green, for the challenger, and one red, for the Leader. “GO!”
Jasper had debated which Pokémon he would start with, and had decided that his usual approach would work fine. He grabbed a Pokéball and slung it onto the field. It split open to reveal a small, blue and tan creature, Palpitoad.
The youth released a long, powerful-looking Scolipede. The purple insect glared at the tiny toad with disdain.
“Palpitoad, Rain Dance!” Jasper commanded, setting up the keystone of his team’s power. The tiny toad let out a musical vibration that summoned storm clouds… eight stories below. They were too high for the storm!
The red-haired youth smirked, before sending his Scolipede in a headlong charge towards Palpitoad, its horns glowing with power. The single attack was more than enough to K.O. Palpitoad.
Jasper was awestruck. The fights in the tower had been tough, yes, but nowhere near this level… and this wasn’t even the real Gym Leader! He withdrew Palpitoad, trying to think of a way to take down Scolipede. He decided a Steel-type might turn the tide. “Go! Klang!” The Gear Pokémon appeared in front of Jasper, ready to take on his opponent.
The Gear Pokémon rotated rapidly, producing a high-pitched whirr, while Scolipede charged again. However, Klang swiftly dodged the attack, and counted on command by trapping Scolipede between its gears and rotating quickly, crushing the hide of Scolipede. Before long, Scolipede was down.
The redhead frowned as he recalled Scolipede. He tossed out another Pokéball, revealing a Durant.
Even though they were above the storm clouds, the powerful lightning below heeded the call of the Gear Pokémon and rose up, high above the building , and then arced down and crashed into Durant. The thunderclap added a secondary blow, dizzying the Iron Ant Pokémon and throwing up a cloud of dust while Klang readied another shot for when Durant was visible again.
The dust cleared. Durant was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, the ground erupted beneath Klang, and Durant thrashed about, taking down Klang.
Jasper was amazed that the Durant had been able to brush off that Thunder strike as if it was nothing. He returned Klang to its Pokéball, allowing it some rest until after the match at a Pokémon Center. Then he brought out one of his strongest Pokémon.
“Whimsicott! Show these Bugs how to fight!”
The bush of cotton grinned as it landed, readying itself for a fight.
“Cotton Guard!” Instantly, the giant ball of fluff on Whimsicott’s back doubled in size, and the main body of the Pokémon disappeared within. Durant tried to pierce the shield with an X-Scissor, but the move barely scratched the giant fluff.
The black storm clouds below began to swirl and rise above the skyscraper, and bits of the congregated in front of Whimsicott, before erupting forward in an explosive attack of wind, shredding Durant.
The youth grunted as the wind buffeted him, and recalled his Durant. “Very well. No more playing around. Leavanny, I choose you.”
The Bug/Grass Pokémon appeared in a flash of light, smiling.
The smile chilled Jasper to the bone, reminding him of serial killers in movies.
“Leavanny, Sunny Day.” The mantislike Pokémon crossed its blades in front of it, then swept them out, dispelling the clouds. Whimsicott replied with another Hurricane; however, without the power of the storm clouds, and Leavanny’s newfound speed, it missed entirely. “Swords Dance,” the youth said, and Leavanny’s scythes shone and sharpened. Whimsicott fired another futile Hurricane. “X-Scissor.” Leavanny rushed Whimsicott, sinking its long blades deep into the cotton… and eliciting a screech of pain from within. The cotton receded, revealed a knocked-out Whimsicott.
Jasper was dumbfounded. His Whimsicott had exceptional defenses, even without Cotton Guard. And yet Leavanny had taken it down in one shot, with only minor help from Durant?
In short order, Jasper’s remaining Ducklett and Eelectross also fell to the seemingly endless might of Leavanny. Jasper couldn’t even land a scratch on it. In the end, the referee’s flag went up the final time, declaring the match in favor of Castelia Gym.
Jasper was in shock. He thought he could at least put up a good fight- and he had, until Leavanny had destroyed his team. He’d had though he might not win, especially with the Gym’s reputation, but measuring his skills… he felt like his worth as a trainer had been crushed.
“Just so you know,” the youth said, “my Leavanny is easily my strongest Pokémon. It was the first Pokémon I received, and I’ve trained with it daily since then. But against Athena’s Volcarona, we wouldn’t stand the slightest chance before getting ripped a new one. There’s a reason we’re considered the final Gym before challenging the Elite Four.”
Jasper nodded numbly. Even with the Jet, Quake, and Bolt Badges, he didn’t stand a ghost of a chance against the Castelia Gym in his current state.
Athena’s proxy walked to Jasper and awkwardly put his hand on his shoulder. “Err… for what it’s worth, whenever you return to Castelia Gym, you can directly challenge the Leader without going through that dreary tower challenge. And, in a few months, you might just be able to catch Athena off guard and win.”
Jasper nodded. “Thanks, uh… what was your name, again? I never got it.”
“Call me Alder,” the youth said.