Sinnoh region, Veilstone City…
For every Gym Leader, sooner or later would come the time to step down and pass down their title to a successor. Whether it was for retirement, to settle down, or to aim for an Elite Four spot or Regional Champion title, the Leader always had to be sure to leave the Gym in good hands. Many of them were passed over through family members for several generations, but that wasn't the case for the Veilstone Gym, which also doubled as a martial arts dojo. The tradition dictated that the Gym was to be passed not from parent to child, but from master to the strongest disciple.
Maylene couldn't believe she had been picked. When she first arrived, she was just a little pink-haired girl whose small size made her an easy target for bullies, and being the daughter of a compulsive gambler in debt with pretty much everyone in Veilstone didn't help. But one day, she couldn't take it anymore and decided to literally knock on the Gym's door to learn how to defend herself. She begged the then Gym Leader, Kanoi Tanimoto-sensei, to take her in as a disciple, willing to do anything to earn her keep. Surprisingly, Tanimoto-sensei accepted her without a second thought.
Almost ten years had passed since then. At age nineteen and a half, Maylene wasn't particularly tall or busty, but her petite yet athletic frame certainly gave her a rather unique charm, for it evidenced the years of hard training. By mimicking her Pokémon's movements, she had developed her own martial arts style, which earned her several wins in many local tournaments, and helped relieve a good chunk of her father's debts.
At the time, she was practicing katas with her Lucario, as usual following his movements whenever he performed one of his attacks. She was dressed in her usual training attire, a blue and black sleeveless leotard, matching fighting gloves, and a pair of baggy white pants. As always her feet were bare, which was part the reason for her nickname 'the Barefoot Fighting Genius'. She and Lucario were in front of a pair of training dummies, the second one made of more resilient material to better withstand Pokémon attacks.
At her command Lucario pulled back his right forepaw, and delivered a powerful forward thrust, sending a short-ranged blast of green energy. Maylene did the same, hitting the dummy's chest with her palm as strong as she could to push it back.
Next, Lucario pulled back his right leg, engulfing it in flames, and then jumped and performed a spin kick, leaving a blazing trail in its wake. Maylene followed suit, except without the fire, and they both delivered a spin kick to their respective dummy's neck. After landing, both she and Lucario took their stance once more.
Lucario took his distance and formed in his paws a blue energy orb. Since Maylene couldn't throw energy the same way, she just followed his movements by crouching slightly and cupping her hands together, and then thrusting them forward in unison with Lucario to deliver a double palm strike to her dummy's stomach. . In a real fight, this would have probably left the opponent without air or at least pushed them backwards a couple feet. At the same time, Lucario threw his Aura Sphere forward, hitting on the right same spot. Afterwards, both Pokémon and trainer relaxed and took a deep breath.
She then heard some clapping nearby. Maylene turned around to see a young man who seemed to be in his twenties, with dark purple hair in a ponytail, wearing a pale pink shirt, gray pants and a green apron, smiling at her and clapping heartily. She couldn't help but smile herself.
"Enjoying the show, Reggie?" she asked.
"Just a little bit." The young man, Reggie, chuckled as he approached her. "Ready for your big match tomorrow?"
"I hope so," said the pinkette. "I still can't believe it, the sensei chose me over his own son?"
"Why are you so surprised?" Reggie shrugged. "You're the best fighter in this dojo, and the strongest trainer to boot."
"Kiya doesn't seem to agree," Maylene replied. "He's not happy with Tanimoto-sensei's decision."
"Are you worried?" asked Reggie. "Your Pokémon can trounce any of his any day of the week; I don't think you could have a problem with beating him. Well, his Machoke is the only one who could give you trouble, but still, you have Lucario to deal with him."
Maylene smiled again as she glanced at Reggie's eyes. It meant a lot that he believed in her like that. After Kiya had spoken against his father when he announced her as the successor, he challenged her for the right to become both Gym Leader and heir to the dojo. The former part had to be settled in a Pokémon battle, and the latter in a sparring match between the two.
"One way or another, Tanimoto-sensei trusts me," she said. "I owe him so much, so I can't let him down with this."
"Don't worry," said Reggie. "Kiya might have a few years of experience on you, but you've got something he doesn't have: the heart of a real fighter."
Maylene wasn't sure as to what to say to that, but she smiled in gratitude. Reggie always seemed to have the right words to lift her spirits whenever she felt unsure or uneasy about something. A bit odd, since a few years ago, he was a completely different person. Too competitive for his own good.
The following morning…
Since her first arrival to the Veilstone Gym, Maylene had a set daily routine: she got up, brushed her teeth, took a bath, had her breakfast and went to do some stretching exercises before getting to her actual workout. From Tanimoto-sensei's teachings she had learned that being a Pokémon trainer and a martial artist had many things in common: both required a lot of discipline, hard work and strength of character, as well as a drive to improve oneself and one's Pokémon.
"It's time," she said as she fastened her belt and adjusted her fighting gloves. She grabbed her Pokéballs, took a deep breath, and then made her way to the battle arena area.
The students were already there waiting for her, along with Tanimoto-sensei and Kiya. Maylene was surprised to see that Reggie was also among the attendees. The breeder gave her a thumbs up to wish her luck, and she smiled at him. She then glanced at her opponent, who was already in his position, not very happy to see her.
Kiya was a near-spitting image of his father in his prime, having the same blond hair and gray eyes as Tanimoto-sensei, although his demeanor radiated more arrogance instead of calmness and wisdom like his father. He was already dressed in his black and red training gi, and a red headband held his hair upright.
"So you finally show up," he said. "I don't plan to let you take what's rightfully mine."
"May the best one win, then," said Maylene, as she took her position on the arena. Kiya followed suit and Tanimoto-sensei stepped forward.
"This will be an official Pokémon battle for the right to become Gym Leader. Each of you is allowed to use up to three Pokémon. Substitutions are not allowed."
"You just watch me, Father." Kiya took his first Pokéball. "I'll show you there's nobody better than me to inherit this gym and dojo. Go, Hitmonlee!"
"Lee, lee, hitmonlee!" Kiya's first Pokémon appeared on the field, delivering a few kicks for show.
"Medicham, go!" Maylene threw her own Pokéball.
Tanimoto-sensei raised his hand. "Ready? FIGHT!"
"Hitmonlee, Double Kick!" Kiya called.
"Hitmonlee! Lee, lee, lee, lee!"
"Detect!" Maylene countered.
As Hitmonlee jumped forward and tried to unleash a barrage of kicks on Medicham, the meditating Pokémon's eyes glowed green and she dodged every single hit without problems. Maylene had to resist the urge to slap her forehead. Kiya was a good trainer and fighter, but one of his major flaws was his predictability; he would always start the match trying to deliver the first strike. His philosophy was "hit first and hard before the opponent can counter".
"Zen Headbutt!" Maylene called.
"Oh no, you don't!" said Kiya. "Hitmonlee, Double Team!"
Taking advantage of her type, Medicham attempted to smack Hitmonlee's head with her own, while glowing in a blue light. The attack missed when many after images of Hitmonlee appeared all over the field, trying to confuse them.
"Meditate, now!" said Maylene.
"Cham!" Medicham took on a relaxed stance and closed her eyes as she began glowing. Aside from trying to power up, the meditation had another purpose: to radiate the psychic aura so as to sense Hitmonlee's movements when he tried to approach. Even with the Double Team, he wouldn't be able to hide forever between the clones: he'd have to get up close to attack. They just had to wait.
Hitmonlee charged, ready to deliver a powerful axe kick, but Medicham opened her eyes and blocked the strike with her left arm. The Pokémon winced slightly, but the kick didn't seem to faze her otherwise.
"Fire Punch!" Maylene called. Medicham engulfed her right fist in flames and punched her opponent hard. Hitmonlee staggered backwards, with a scorch mark right in the middle of his eyes, having to blink a few times to regain his focus.
"So you wanna play with fire? Blaze Kick!"
Hitmonlee engulfed his right leg in flames and delivered a high roundhouse kick. Medicham dodged it, but a second one followed from the opposite direction, and then a third right to the chest, forcing Medicham to guard herself crossing her arms. The last kick was hard and pushed her back, but she still wasn't down, so Kiya decided to keep pressing forward using the burning kicks to wear her down.
At first glance, it seemed that Hitmonlee had full control of the fight, unleashing a barrage of fire kicks and forcing Medicham on the defensive. While those kicks were indeed fast and strong, Medicham and Maylene were just waiting for a clear opening to begin their counterattack, and letting Kiya and Hitmonlee believe they were winning was just part of their strategy. Taking the hits head on while cushioning the damage was one way to deal with an opponent stronger than you, forcing them to waste their energy on strong attacks from the beginning, and leaving nothing for defense later. Hitmonlee delivered a backflip Blaze Kick to Medicham's jaw, sending her backwards, and Kiya grinned, seeing this as a chance to deliver a finishing blow.
"Ha, that'll teach you! Now, use High Jump Kick and finish her!"
"Hitmonlee!" Hitmonlee jumped as high as he could and came down ready to strike Medicham with his knee. Maylene waited until the last possible second to let him celebrate his victory for a little bit.
"Now!" she called. Medicham opened her eyes, which glowed green from the use of Detect, and quickly rolled out of the way, causing Hitmonlee to crash on the ground and wince in pain. The padded floor cushioned the damage somewhat, but it still hurt him badly.
"Drain Punch, go!" Maylene called, as she herself threw a punch, mimicking Medicham as she struck the still helpless Hitmonlee in the back.
"Hitmonlee, get out of there!" Kiya yelled, but it was too late. The green glowing fist connected, sucking the energy out of Hitmonlee to replenish Medicham's. This compounded with the previous damage from missing the High Jump Kick ensured that he'd be in no condition to keep going, so Maylene decided to end this round and not to prolong his suffering more than necessary.
"Zen Headbutt!" she called, and Medicham's head started to glow blue.
One single head slam on Hitmonlee was more than enough. The kicking Pokémon's eyes began spinning, and he stumbled around for a bit before slumping into unconsciousness, much to Kiya's ire. Tanimoto-sensei raised his hand towards Maylene.
"Hitmonlee is unable to continue! Medicham is the winner!"
"Return!" Kiya recalled Hitmonlee into his Pokéball. "You just got lucky this time, but it won't happen again. Primeape, you're next!"
"Primeape!" The simian-pig appeared on the battlefield, and just like Hitmonlee, decided to put up a little show of skill, except with some punches instead of kicks, before staring down at Medicham. Maylene decided not to switch, Medicham seemed well enough to endure another assault, and she was saving her ace for the last.
Tanimoto-sensei raised his hand again to begin the next round. "Ready? FIGHT!"
"Primeape, use Taunt!"
"Prime!" Primeape's eyes glowed with a dark light, as he performed a 'bring it on' gesture with one of his hands. The same glow appeared on Medicham, causing Maylene to bite her lip. That was bad: Taunt disabled her Meditate and Detect, meaning she'd have to fight Kiya in his own field for a while.
"Let's see how you like this! Punishment!"
"Prime!" Primeape's fists glowed purple and he charged at Medicham.
"Counter with a double Fire Punch!" Maylene yelled back.
"Cham!" Medicham set both of her hands on fire and rushed towards Primeape as well.
Both Pokémon engaged in a close punching combat, with fire and dark energy flying all over the place, trying to hit each other's faces and bodies and at the same time covering themselves from the foe's hits. Primeape managed to get the first hit with a hook to the liver, but Medicham quickly countered with a fiery cross at the nose, making Primeape stagger back. Primeape replied with a couple of right jabs to the face, causing Medicham to step back a bit, and then he got ready to deliver a left hook.
"Medicham, Zen Headbutt!" Maylene called.
Right when Primeape's punch was about to connect, Medicham managed to intercept it with her head. The energy collision knocked back both Pokémon, but Medicham seemed to take the blunt of it. Primeape had to shake his left fist, while Medicham was left in a daze and wide open.
"Close Combat!" Kiya called.
"Primeape!" The simian pig raised his fists and jumped on the still dazed Medicham, unleashing a barrage of rapid-fire punches and kicks, finishing with an uppercut that sent her flying backwards. She struggled to get back up, but finally made it, staring down at Primeape. She was hurt, but still willing to continue.
"I've got to hand it to you, Maylene, your Pokémon isn't as weak as I thought," said Kiya. "But she's not gonna last much longer against mine."
"We'll see about that," said Maylene. He might have figured out Medicham's biggest advantage, but that didn't mean she didn't have other tricks in store. She would be hard-pressed to try and use Drain Punch again, since Kiya wouldn't fall for the same trick twice. Time to change the approach.
"Punishment!" Kiya commanded.
Primeape once again coated his fists in dark energy and charged forward, more than happy to keep using Medicham as a punching bag. This time, the Psychic/Fighting-type made no effort to counter the hits for a while, until Primeape was ready to deliver the finishing blow.
"REVERSAL!" Maylene called.
"WHAT?!" Kiya gasped.
Medicham caught Primeape's last punch right when it was about to land. A spiraling energy began to glow around Medicham's hands and she looked right into Primeape's eyes, which widened in shock and fear of what was about to come. With a loud cry, Medicham delivered a double palm strike right to Primeape's face, sending him flying over Kiya's head and crashing out of the arena. He let out a pathetic moan while struggling to get back up, only to fail.
"Primeape is unable to continue, Medicham wins!" Tanimoto-sensei declared.
Medicham and Maylene allowed themselves to smile as they saw Kiya's expression of anger. Two down, one more to go. However, a few seconds later, Medicham was unable to keep up with the strain and fell to her knees. The damage sustained, coupled with the energy spent on using that last Reversal had taken its toll. She had won, but at a high cost.
"That's enough," said Maylene holding up her Pokéball. "You've done your part already, good job. Now take a rest."
"This can't be happening… when the hell did they learn that attack?!" asked Kiya, shocked.
"We've been practicing for two weeks. I thought it might come in handy right now," Maylene replied.
"Oh yeah?! Well, I still have one more to go, and that's all I need to beat you! Go Machoke!"
"Machoke!" Kiya's final Pokémon flexed his muscles and took his stance.
Appearing on the field, Lucario looked into Machoke's eyes. In their sparring Pokémon battles, the two had developed a rivalry, having fought against each other ten times, and each having five victories and five defeats. This was the decisive duel to determine who was the strongest. Even though Maylene still had one more Pokémon in wait, she was counting on Lucario to win this battle, given that he was the only opponent on the same level of Kiya's Machoke. But in preparation for this battle, she had been studying and practicing some new moves, specifically to counter Kiya and his Machoke.
"Machoke, Focus Blast!"
"Machoke!" Machoke cupped his hands together and began forming a yellow energy orb. Maylene and Lucario decided to reply in kind.
"Lucario, Aura Sphere!"
"Grrrr!" Lucario cupped his paws forming his own energy orb, albeit blue instead of yellow, making it grow more or less the same size as Machoke's. Both Pokémon unleashed their attacks at the same time, and the collision made them explode, cancelling each other. Once the smoke was clear, they stared each other down.
"Thunder Punch!" Kiya called.
"Machoke!" Machoke's right fist began crackling with electricity, and he charged forward to deliver a powerful punch.
"Lucario, counter with Bone Rush!"
"Grrrr!" Lucario brought his paws together and spread them to form an energy bone, holding it like a bo staff. As soon as Machamp got close enough, Lucario used the bone to hit him on the wrist to deflect the Thunder Punch, and then delivered a few swift strikes: to the stomach, shoulder and knee to knock him off balance.
"Now, Force Palm!" Maylene called. Still holding his bone with his left paw, Lucario readied himself to deliver the palm strike with the right paw, aiming for Machoke's chest.
"Counter!" Kiya yelled.
Machoke crossed his arms in front of his chest and began to glow with an orange aura. As soon as the Force Palm connected, Machoke just flinched a little bit, and all the energy was channeled to his right punch, delivering a haymaker right to Lucario's face and sending him flying backwards. Maylene's Pokémon managed to right himself in midair, landing on three points and still holding his energy bone.
"Earthquake!" Kiya called.
Machoke raised both of his fists into the air and violently slammed them on the floor, sending out powerful seismic waves all over the place. Reggie quickly held onto his seat, and some of the students almost began to panic at the rumbling ground, but Tanimoto-sensei, Kiya and Maylene seemed unfazed. Lucario gritted his teeth and endured the pain of the attack, squinting at Machoke through one eye.
"Extreme Speed!" Maylene called.
Once the Earthquake ended, Lucario flash-stepped and got behind Machoke before he could turn around to shoulder-tackle him in the back. Maylene had him follow up with a few Bone Rush strikes, and then he jumped up to deliver one to his head.
"Block it!" Kiya yelled.
Before the bone reached him, Machoke stopped it with his bare hands, much to Lucario and Maylene's shock. He immediately grabbed Lucario to trap him into a bear hug, taking advantage of his superior build and strength and quickly took him rolling into a Submission attack, ending by crushing him under his weight against the floor.
"Give it up now, or I'll have Machoke break every single bone in Lucario's body!" Kiya threatened.
Maylene gritted her teeth. Machoke had Lucario pinned against the ground, but she wasn't going to give up that easily. Lucario still had his paws free, and there was one way to get Machoke off his back.
"Lucario, double Force Palm against the ground!"
"RAAAAAHHH!" Lucario raised both paws and coated them in green energy. He slammed them into the floor to push himself and getting Machoke off of his back. As soon as he was back on his feet, Maylene took her chance to press on the offensive.
"Keep it up! Rapid-fire Force Palm!"
Still having the green energy in his paws, Lucario began assaulting Machoke alternating palm strikes to his chest, giving a step forward with each consecutive strike and increasing the rate and force to push Machoke back.
"Blaze Kick!" Maylene called. Lucario's right leg set ablaze and he delivered a backflip kick to Machoke's jaw. The muscled Pokémon fell hard on his back, and Maylene saw this as her chance to end the match once for all. "Aura Sphere, full power!"
"You too, Focus Blast!" Kiya retorted, as Machoke struggled to get back on his feet.
Both Pokémon began charging up their attacks, their energy orbs growing more or less to the size of beach balls. Unfortunately for Machoke, Lucario finished charging his Aura Sphere first and threw it, hitting Machoke before he could launch his Focus Blast. To add insult to injury, when he fell backwards again, Lucario jumped over him and delivered one last Blaze Kick for good measure, landing on his stomach and knocking all the air out of him. Machoke's eyes were left blank and he slumped into unconsciousness.
"Machoke is unable to continue!" declared Tanimoto-sensei. "Lucario is the winner, thus victory goes to Maylene!"
All of the students began cheering and clapping. Maylene and Lucario breathed in relief, while Kiya returned his fallen Machoke and snorted in anger.
"Shut up!" he yelled to everyone, and then turned towards Maylene herself. "Don't celebrate just yet! Your Pokémon might have beaten mine, but you still have to beat me for the dojo!"
Maylene rolled her eyes. She knew it wouldn't be an easy fight, but Kiya was a lot like his Pokémon. Strong and skilled, but prone to give in to his anger and make mistakes, and she could capitalize on that. Of course, that could also be a double-edged sword, as he could get very violent when angered, so she had to be careful not to push his buttons too much.
"Step forward you two," said Tanimoto-sensei. Both of them walked to the center of the arena. "Officially, the Gym's leadership has been passed to Maylene. But we still have to determine which of you will inherit the martial arts dojo."
Maylene and Kiya glanced at the sensei, and then at each other. The now Gym Leader kept her cool, but Kiya scowled at her, giving her a nasty glare that clearly said "You're going to pay for this". Maylene almost regretted she had to do this. Almost, because Tanimoto-sensei had taken great pride in running this Gym and dojo, but somehow his son didn't share his same ideals. The old master had placed his hopes in her to knock some sense into Kiya by defeating him now.
"Maylene, there's a reason I chose you as my successor to both the Gym and dojo. It's true my son has remarkable talent, but his skills have made him… arrogant and violent at times. He's only interested in power and proving his superiority to others. I've done my best to pass down the teachings of my predecessors to all of you, and there's no one else I could trust more to carry on my legacy. Please, I need you to teach my son that skills must be tempered with patience, humility and compassion."
Those had been Tanimoto sensei's words after Kiya protested about the decision. Maylene was still a bit uncertain about being picked as the successor, but one thing was for sure: she couldn't let someone as arrogant as Kiya tarnish their reputation.
"You will fight by the dojo's standard rules," said Tanimoto-sensei. "Win by KO or ring out."
"Don't think I'm gonna hold back just because you're a girl!" said Kiya.
"You don't have to," Maylene replied, as she took her stance.
Just as he heard the word, Kiya lunged at Maylene to deliver a barrage of punches. Maylene crossed both arms in front of her face to block them as she jumped backwards, cushioning the damage. Kiya was undaunted and followed with a low sweep kick. She jumped back to dodge it, and Kiya pressed forward with a three-kick combo similar to Hitmonlee using Blaze Kick. So she wasn't the only one who learned from her Pokémon, it seemed.
From the sidelines, Tanimoto-sensei glanced at both of the combatants. The two were evenly matched in terms of general skills. Kiya had the advantage in raw strength and a few years of experience, while Maylene was more agile and her petite frame helped her in dodging hits. Like in the Medicham vs Hitmonlee battle, she was trying to get Kiya to waste his energy in strong attacks to wear him out, and then, she would begin her counterattack.
"Hold still!" Kiya yelled. Maylene just remained calm and continued to dodge and parry his strikes. Enraged, he charged at her and tried to grab her arm for a judo throw.
Unfortunately, Kiya didn't realize Maylene allowed him to grab her on purpose and didn't fight back the throw. Instead, she used the momentum to reverse it and suddenly it was the sensei's son the one who found himself flying through the air, landing on his rear with a thump. It was lucky that they were fighting on padded floor, or that would have hurt a lot more.
Both of them returned to their starting positions and once again took their stances. Kiya seemed just mildly annoyed that Maylene had gotten the first hit, but the match had just begun. Maylene decided it was time for her to attack first now. Compared to Kiya, she didn't have much punching power, so she went for a two-kick combo, first to the chest and then to the stomach, that he easily blocked. Kiya countered by lifting his right leg to deliver an axe kick to her shoulder, but she sidestepped and performed a palm thrust to his chest. The hit, while not very strong by itself, did cause him to momentarily get stunned, giving her the chance to deliver a sweep kick to his ankles and bring him down once again. Maylene could have gone for another strike while he was down, but instead she stepped away and waited for him to get back up.
"What's the matter? Afraid to finish me off?" he mockingly asked, though inside he was boiling in rage.
"Maybe just a little," she admitted.
"Then I'll give you something to be afraid of!"
Once again, Kiya went for the offensive, delivering a barrage of kicks and punches that Maylene just parried or dodged, but this time he was going a lot more aggressively. From the sidelines, the sensei looked at his son and felt a tinge of disappointment. Maylene was fighting in complete control of her emotions, showing exceptional skills, while his son was losing his patience and getting more and more enraged as the girl continued to evade his blows.
'This has dragged out for too long,' Maylene thought. 'I better end this here and now.'
She waited until he lunged with his strongest punch. She dodged it by crouching, preparing a double palm strike. Using the full force of her legs, she pushed forward, directly to his chest, causing him to stagger back. He managed to avoid tripping backwards, but Maylene immediately ran forward and before he could defend himself, delivered a flying double kick on the very same spot, knocking him back and out of the lines.
"Ring out!" Tanimoto-sensei declared. "The winner is Maylene!"
Once again, everyone began cheering her. Maylene was happy it was finally over and she didn't have to go too far about hurting Kiya to defeat him. Kiya remained sitting on his rear, rubbing his chest on the spot Maylene had given him that last kick. It certainly hurt a lot, but maybe not as much as his ego. Then again, that part was inevitable.
"It's over," said Maylene, approaching him, and extending her hand for a friendly shake. "You put up a good fight, well done."
No matter how disrespectful he had been, she wouldn't stoop to his level. She would properly show him the due courtesy. That was how martial artists should act, as Tanimoto-sensei had taught her.
Grave mistake: rather than taking her hand and gracefully accept defeat, he clenched his right fist.
"I don't need your pity!" he yelled, throwing a surprise punch.
"Aaargh!" Maylene yelped in pain, unable to properly raise her guard as she felt the fist colliding against her nose, and everyone present gasped in shock. Reggie almost ran off after Kiya, and had to be restrained by Tanimoto-sensei. Maylene stepped back, and when she looked again, she saw Kiya's eyes had become bloodshot in pure anger.
"I can't lose here! Not like this, and especially not against you!"
"Kiya! That's enough, you can't…" Tanimoto-sensei was about to intervene, but Maylene raised her hand, begging him to stop.
"Sensei, wait. Please let me handle this."
"But, Maylene, you're hurt!" Reggie piped up.
"This is nothing, and if he wants to fight for real… then I will fight for real."
Reggie wanted to protest again, but Tanimoto-sensei placed a hand on his shoulder, and shook his head. Reggie got the message: they had to trust her. She could handle this by herself. She had to.
"You're not going to steal my birthright!"
Kiya lunged at her again, unleashing a barrage of furious punches and kicks one after another. Maylene just kept dodging and using her right hand to parry a few, trying to deal with the pain in her nose at the same time.
No point in holding back; she kept dodging until she saw an opening. When he tried to deliver another punch to her face, she stepped back, quickly raised her right leg and delivered an axe kick to his shoulder. Instantly, a cracking sound was heard.
"AAARRGHHH!" Kiya was left on the floor, holding his shoulder and crying out in pain. Everybody else remained silent until he finally stopped screaming. Tanimoto-sensei was the first to finally react, and helped his son get back on his feet, causing him to wince in pain when he touched the injured area.
"You and I are going to have a very long talk, but first, I'm taking you to see a doctor," the old master said. "The rest of you, stay here until I return. Come on."
Tanimoto-sensei dragged Kiya out of the dojo, and Reggie took the chance to approach Maylene, still holding her nose.
"Maylene, maybe you should go too. That doesn't look good."
"I'm fine," the pinkette said. "Better than him, at any rate."
"No you're not. We better go see a doctor just in case. Come on, I'll accompany you."
As much as she tried to deny it, her nose was hurting like hell. She at least hoped that punch from Kiya didn't break anything, because she was certain her kick had most likely done a number to his collarbone. Reggie stayed close to her, so as to make sure she'd get to the hospital safe and didn't get into a shock or something.
Two hours later, at Reggie's home…
"Ow, ow, ow! That hurts, ow!"
"I told you it would. Now please hold still… there." Reggie placed a band aid on Maylene's nose. "How does it feel?"
"This ointment burns my nostrils," Maylene replied.
"Deal with it. Trust me, in a couple days, a week at most, the pain will be gone."
"Thanks." She tried to smile.
Luckily for Maylene, her nose wasn't broken, though she could still feel the aftermath of that punch. At least she was better off than Kiya; his collarbone would take a while to heal. Maybe she had gone a little too far, but Tanimoto-sensei didn't hold it against her, and admitted Kiya had asked for it.
Maylene glanced around the room. This was the first time she visited Reggie's place in a long time, and it had changed quite a bit. Namely, there were more photos around, showing him and his younger brother Paul as they grew over the years.
"Changing the topic, how's your little brother been doing lately?" she asked, wanting to forget about the fight with Kiya as soon as possible.
"Not too bad, I guess," said Reggie. "Though I get the feeling he's a little bitter about something."
"Why is that?" Maylene asked.
"I'm not exactly sure, but in his latest calls, he's mentioning something about a trainer who beat him," said Reggie. "His exact words were 'I can't believe I lost to such a weak trainer'. He also said something about that guy picking up cheerleaders or something."
Maylene tilted her head, but Reggie's expression told her he had no idea of what that meant either, so she didn't press any further. She had known Paul for almost as long as she did Reggie, but she was surprised when he decided to leave Sinnoh and start his Pokémon journey in Kanto of all places. All that Reggie said about the matter was that he wanted to distance himself for a while, and find his own way to do things.
"Are you worried about him?" asked Maylene.
"Just a little bit," said Reggie. "Maybe he's not as much of a sore loser as Kiya, but… he definitely doesn't take defeats well. I should know; I was a lot like that."
Reggie glanced at one of the largest framed photos on the wall. Maylene recognized it; the photo showed the aftermath of Reggie's battle with Casey Snagem, an older rival-turned-friend, and who despite never winning any major leagues managed to make himself a name as a novelist after retiring from competitive battling. Apparently, losing to him taught him to handle defeat much better, and inspired him to find a different path when he felt he was losing his edge.
"Not everyone learns to cope with defeat the same way," said Maylene. "If Paul is like you used to be, maybe there's hope he will learn."
She couldn't think of anything else to say to him now. To be honest, Maylene didn't exactly get along with Paul, but she was willing to tolerate his attitude for Reggie's sake. She was rather surprised when the younger brother was chosen for a Pokédex by Professor Rowan himself. Maybe the scientist was getting soft in his old age. But then again, if Reggie could change, Paul could do so as well. Perhaps even Kiya, although admittedly, maybe she was a little too optimistic about the latter.
"Well, how about that I treat you to all you can eat, to celebrate your new position? It's almost lunch time anyway, so…"
"Oh yeah, I'd love to," said Maylene. "After everything that happened today, I feel like I could eat like a Hippowdon."
Reggie chuckled at the comment. Maylene always kept a rather slim and athletic build, and even though she could eat a lot at times, she always made sure to burn the excess fat with training and convert the rest into fit muscle to keep in shape.
One month later…
It went without saying that Tanimoto-sensei wasn't happy that Kiya had disgraced the name of their gym and dojo with that dishonorable attitude. After he was out of the hospital, Kiya left in anger, promising to return one day to reclaim what he believed was rightfully his, off to train on his own and perhaps develop his own fighting style just like Maylene did.
Tanimoto-sensei planned on staying as the dojo's instructor for a few more years, but Maylene had proved herself more than ready to take over as Gym Leader, thus he allowed her to carry out those duties full time from the get-go. That way, he could focus on training the rest of the disciples. That was fine with her, she enjoyed more the thrill of the Pokémon battles anyway.
For the next four weeks, she performed rather well, though it did get a bit repetitive to deal with rookies on a regular basis. She was hoping to get a decent challenger and perhaps even hand out her first badge as a Gym Leader. That day finally came with the arrival of a young man who called himself Sho (short for "Shotaro") and specialized in Electric-types. He had come for his third badge, and had put up a good fight so far. Now they were both down to their last Pokémon: Sho's Pikachu vs one of Maylene's Medicham.
The two Pokémon were panting heavily and stared down at each other. At most they'd probably have two or three more attacks left in them, so they had to make them all count.
"Medicham, Ice Punch!" Maylene called.
"Pikachu, Iron Tail!" Sho countered.
The electric rodent jumped with his tail coated in metallic energy, while Medicham followed suit using a freezing punch. Fist collided with tail, the fist won and Pikachu was pushed back, and his tail actually ended up frozen.
"Let's end this now, use Zen Headbutt!" Maylene called. Medicham's head glowed blue and he charged to ram Pikachu with it. Sho waited until the very last second before taking his chances.
"PIKAAAAA!" The mouse jumped over Medicham before he was struck and summoned a lightning bolt to fall on top of his opponent. Pikachu landed safely on the other side, while Medicham gave off sparks, still feeling the electricity coursing all over his body.
"Volt Tackle, now!" Sho pointed forward.
Pikachu coated himself in electricity and ran towards Medicham as fast as he could. Medicham attempted to use Detect, but after the green glow appeared in his eyes, even though he could see the attack coming, the paralysis kicked and his muscles didn't react. He had no choice but to stay there and literally watch how he was going to get beaten, in slow-motion and before it actually happened. Worst of all, the Volt Tackle was the strongest attack the Pikachu had in his arsenal.
Hitting Medicham right in the chest, Pikachu landed on all fours on the other side, cringing slightly as he felt the recoil damage, while Medicham continued to give off sparks until he finally slumped, unable to keep standing.
"Medicham is unable to battle, Pikachu is the winner! Victory is for Sho, the challenger!"
"Yes!" Sho pumped his fist in triumph. Pikachu did the same, but shortly after fell on his rear, the adrenaline wearing off. "You OK, partner? Take a rest, you've earned it."
As he recalled his fallen Pokémon, Maylene did the same, also congratulating Medicham for a job well done. She then took a deep breath and approached Sho as she reached into her pocket.
"Congratulations, Sho. I feel very proud to give you my first Cobble Badge as the Veilstone Gym Leader."
"Thanks." Sho grabbed the badge and took his time to admire it. "You know, for a Gym Leader who has just started, you're actually pretty good. I see those martial arts moves weren't just for show."
"What can I say? It's part of my own training. I have to grow stronger for my Pokémon."
"Speaking of which… is there any other Gym nearby that could give me a good challenge?" asked Sho. "I really need to toughen myself up, so the stronger they are, the better."
"Well, you could go to the Pastoria Gym. Crasher Wake specializes in Water-types, but even Electric-types are hard-pressed to beat them. I'm sure he can give you a run for your money if you're not careful."
"If you say so." Sho pocketed the badge and extended his hand. "Well, thanks a lot for the battle. Good luck on being a Gym Leader."
"Same to you. Godspeed on your future endeavors."
Maylene escorted Sho to the entrance. As the challenger walked away from the Gym, Maylene noticed someone else approaching: Reggie, smiling as ever.
"You look happier than usual today," he said.
"Why should I be? I finally gave out my first Gym Badge," she replied. "It's weird, isn't it? I didn't feel like I lost."
"When you lose to a good opponent, that's usually how it feels," said Reggie. "Of course, winning is great and all, but defeats help you grow more."
"Are you saying that from your own experience?" Maylene asked.
Reggie glanced at her, chuckling. It wasn't like he actually needed to answer that question; she knew that better than anyone. No matter how many times you failed, what mattered was to learn from the experience and get back up. Sometimes you had to fall several times for the lesson to stick.
"Speaking of… have you gotten news about Kiya?"
"Not really," Maylene admitted. "Only Tanimoto-sensei keeps in touch with him, and he won't tell us where he is. Apparently he needs to be alone to go on his 'self-discovery' journey."
"Wherever he is, I hope he's alright. And that he learns how to cope with defeat."
Maylene nodded. Some people took their defeats as a chance to learn and become better, others chose to either ignore or get enraged about them. Maylene was of the former, while Reggie took a while to learn how to cope with defeat. Hopefully, Kiya would see things the same way as them one day, and accept to learn from his mistakes.