22 Chapter 22

Emmet and Leaf stepped away from Ash and his friends, creating some distance before Leaf whirled around, her eyes narrowed. "Okay, spill. Did Ash really earn those two badges? Because if so, I've seen wild Pidgeys with better battling strategies."

Emmet sighed and shook his head. "You could say that. I overheard at the Pokemon Center in Cerulean; Brock gave Ash the Boulder Badge after he sorta cheated by using the gym's sprinklers. As for the Cascade Badge, Misty gave it to him because he helped defend the gym from a low-tier Team Rocket invasion."

"Aha! So that's what your snide remark was about earlier," Leaf said, rolling her eyes. "Honestly, I can't believe he's been allowed to go this far without really learning anything. What he did to Butterfree was borderline criminal. If you weren't the one fighting him, Butterfree could've been seriously hurt."

Emmet shrugged, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully. "I get your point, but it's not our job to babysit him. Ash is either going to sink or swim against Lt. Surge. And let's be honest, he'll probably sink at first. But something tells me he'll find a way to pull through eventually."

Leaf raised an eyebrow, skeptical. "Why are you so sure? Think he's got a lucky star or something?"

Emmet looked at her, puzzled. "He landed a sponsorship from Professor Oak, just like us. If Oak thinks he's worth investing in, then maybe we're the ones who are missing something."

The next day —

Emmet stepped into the bustling Pokemon Center of Vermilion City, his eyes widening at the chaos around him but keeping his expression irritable. Trainers were rushing in and out, hurriedly checking their Pokemon, probably beaten to a pulp by Lt. Surge. The vibe was intense and it didn't help that the place felt like a revolving door of defeated dreams.

Emmet glanced at his Pokegear to check the time, mumbling to himself. "Gym battle's due soon." He and Leaf had managed to schedule their battles so he'd challenge Lt. Surge today and she would go up against him tomorrow. Hopefully, they could leave town without too many hitches.

As Emmet navigated through the crowd, he overheard a boastful trainer bragging about his Diglett making quick work of Lt. Surge's Gym. Emmet mentally scoffed. "Sure, buddy, your Diglett's the next Champion," he thought as he moved on to speak to Nurse Joy.

Approaching the counter, Nurse Joy greeted him warmly. "Hello! Are you here for the Gym battle with Lt. Surge?"

"Yeah, that's me. Could you also check the condition of my Pokemon? Just a precaution," Emmet replied, handing her his Pokeballs.

Nurse Joy returned his Pokeballs after a few minutes. "Your Pokemon are in great shape. But be cautious, Lt. Surge is on a winning streak. Don't let your pride lead your Pokemon into danger," she advised.

"Thanks for the advice, Nurse Joy," Emmet said, snapping his Pokeballs back onto his belt. He didn't even stick around to read the special reports on his Charmeleon, Firefly, and Cleffa. Time was ticking.

Emmet wasn't considering using his Sylveon for the third Gym in a row. He had promised Firefly a Gym battle and he felt Lt. Surge would be an excellent test for her.

According to his research, Lt. Surge was a powerful but predictable Trainer. He relied on brute force, perhaps explaining why he was restricted to challenges up to the 6-badge level. Emmet figured anyone above that tier would have developed the skills to best him.

Exiting the Pokemon Center, Emmet set his eyes on the Gym, his gaze sliding over the towering electric spires en route.

Spotting Leaf engaged in conversation with some local kids, he headed in her direction.

Leaf saw Emmet approaching and waved him over. "So, you ready for your big showdown?"

"A bit anxious, actually. Lt. Surge is the type who loves breaking down overconfident Trainers," Emmet admitted.

"Please, you've got this. Worry about the 4-badge challenges and beyond; those are the real hurdles," Leaf said dismissively.

He just nodded, redirecting his focus to the path ahead.

Entering the Gym, they were immediately blinded by spotlights and drowned out by loud, thumping music. Then, Lt. Surge made a dramatic entrance.

"Look what we got here, rookies! You think you can beat me? I'll shock some sense into ya!" Lt. Surge taunted.

Rolling his eyes at the trash talk, Emmet chose Firefly, his female Charmeleon, for the battle, while Lt. Surge sent out his Voltorb.

"Haha! Your Charmeleon looks like it could use a jolt of energy!" Lt. Surge mocked.

"Firefly, Flamethrower!" Emmet retorted with a smirk.

Voltorb skillfully dodged and fired back with a Thunderbolt. Firefly narrowly escaped, her scales singed but still intact.

Firefly growled, glancing back at Emmet for reassurance. Emmet nodded, signaling it was time for the next move.

"Voltorb, hit 'em with Sonic Boom!" Lt. Surge called out, a self-assured grin splitting his face.

"Firefly, dodge and hit it with Dragon Breath!" Emmet shot back, his eyes narrowed in focus.

With an agile leap into the air, Firefly dodged the incoming Sonic Boom. In the same fluid motion, she retaliated with a powerful Dragon Breath. The spherical Pokemon rolled to a halt, incapacitated.

"Voltorb, Sonic Boom, now!" Lt. Surge roared, his booming voice echoing across the arena.

"Firefly, dodge and hit back with Dragon Breath!" Emmet quickly called out.

In a nimble leap, Firefly dodged the incoming attack, exhaling a stream of dragonic energy right back at Voltorb. The attack hit its mark, leaving Voltorb incapacitated on the arena floor.

"Fine, you beat my Voltorb, but that's just a warm-up! Go, Electabuzz!" Lt. Surge shouted, clearly agitated, as he tossed another Pokeball into the arena.

"Electabuzz!" The yellow-and-black Pokemon appeared, flexing his muscular arms as he shouted his own name, like a rock star entering a concert.

"Firefly, Dragon Dance, let's amp you up!" Emmet instructed.

Firefly began a slightly goofy dance, hopping from one foot to the other. A dim purple light started to emanate from her body, signaling that the move was taking effect.

"Electabuzz, Shock Wave, don't let it power up!" Lt. Surge ordered hastily.

Electabuzz bellowed its name and unleashed a wide-ranging shock wave. However, thanks to her boosted speed from the Dragon Dance, Firefly was able to leap away from the area of impact.

"Firefly, use Smokescreen followed by another Dragon Dance!" Emmet yelled across the field.

"Keep spamming Shock Wave, Electabuzz! Blast through that smoke!" Lt. Surge gritted his teeth, clearly annoyed by Emmet's tactics.

Despite the constant electric attacks filling the arena, Emmet felt confident. Through their bond, he sensed Firefly was safely out of reach, readying for the next phase of their strategy.

"This isn't working! Electabuzz, jump into that smoke and unleash Shock Wave from inside!" Lt. Surge yelled, growing increasingly desperate.

"Now's our chance, Firefly! Use Fire Punch the moment Electabuzz jumps in!" Emmet signaled.

From within the thick, dark smoke, Firefly's voice rang out—"Charmeleon!" A moment later, the unmistakable sound of a fiery punch connecting echoed through the arena, followed by Electabuzz's cry of pain.

The force of the Dragon Dance-boosted Fire Punch was so intense that it blew away a portion of the smokescreen, revealing a small glimpse of the action within.

"Electabuzz, Thunder Wave! Paralyze it!" Lt. Surge was practically screaming at this point.

"Firefly, interrupt with Dragon Tail, don't let it get to you!" Emmet countered.

A surge of electric energy flowed from Electabuzz's flexing arms, but Firefly moved in with determination. Gritting her teeth, she whipped her tail around, landing a devastating Dragon Tail on Electabuzz.

Electabuzz, to his credit, staggered back to his feet—battered, burned, but still full of defiance, as if telling Firefly, "Is that all you got?"

"Firefly, distance yourself and let loose a Flamethrower!" Emmet barked the command, his eyes locked onto his Charmeleon.

"No way, Electabuzz, Thunderbolt—hit it while it's pulling back!" Lt. Surge yelled back, refusing to let Emmet seize the moment.

"Abort! Quick Attack, Firefly! Dodge those Thunderbolts!" Emmet urgently instructed, knowing full well the speed and accuracy of a Thunderbolt.

The audience and Lt. Surge alike could only gape in awe. There she was—a Charmeleon, not known for their agility—zigzagging through the arena with uncanny speed. Thunderbolts crackled and zapped around her like fireworks gone berserk, each narrowly missing as Firefly made her incredible evasive maneuvers. It was an electrifying dance of fire and lightning, and every eye in the stands was fixated on this improbable spectacle.

"Feh, fine then. Raichu, you're up!" Lt. Surge snarled, visibly frustrated. Emmet smirked, Firefly flicking her tail in anticipation for round two.

The tension snapped as Raichu lunged with Quick Attack, colliding with Firefly's Slash. The impact sent both Pokemon skidding back, their eyes locking as they prepared for the next move.

Glancing at Electabuzz, Emmet noted the Pokemon's increasing fatigue. Each successive Thunderbolt seemed to take more out of him, his shoulders drooping a little more each time.

"This is our moment, Firefly! Use Quick Attack to close the distance and follow up with Fire Punch!" Emmet shouted, sensing the tide had turned.

"Electabuzz, brace yourself! She's coming in hot!" Lt. Surge's eyes widened, his voice tinged with desperation.

With a burst of speed, Firefly turned into a red-orange blur, dashing straight at Electabuzz. The arena vibrated with the impact of her Fire Punch, flames shooting out from her clawed fists. Electabuzz went airborne, burning and skidding uncontrollably across the floor, crashing into the gym wall and slumping down, unconscious.

The crowd erupted, shouts and cheers filling the gymnasium. Basking in her victory, Firefly tilted her head back and roared her name, "Charmeleon!" The noise from the crowd doubled, everyone caught up in the electrifying atmosphere.

Lt. Surge looked contemplative, his eyes scanning the arena where his Electabuzz had been defeated. He was used to teaching young upstarts a lesson, not learning one. And from a rookie trainer who had only used one Pokemon, no less.

Suddenly, his face broke into a wide grin. "Haven't had this much fun in a gym battle for ages!" he exclaimed. "Raichu, I choose you!" With that, he threw his next Pokeball into the arena.

As the Pokeball burst open, Raichu materialized, shouting its own name in high voltage excitement. Sparks of electricity danced around its body like mini lightning bolts. Across the field, Firefly let out a mighty roar. "Charmeleon!" Her tail flame seemed to leap in response, burning taller and brighter.

"Raichu, Thunder Punch now!" Lt. Surge shouted.

"Firefly, counter with Fire Punch!" Emmet retorted.

Both Pokemon lunged, their fists enveloped in elemental energy, clashing in mid-air and causing both to recoil from the impact.

Lt. Surge and Emmet locked eyes. The Gym Leader peered intently at the young trainer, his eyes probing, searching for something—anything—that would give him an edge. Emmet felt Firefly's fatigue through their bond, her energy sapped by Electabuzz's Thunder Wave. All Emmet offered in return was a confident grin, which only seemed to irk Lt. Surge even more.

"Raichu, Thunder, now! No holding back!" Lt. Surge barked.

Emmet opened his mouth to counter. "Firefly, use—"

But before he could finish, a bolt of lightning shot down from Raichu, slamming into Firefly as she shouted in pain at the unexpected attack.

Firefly crumpled to the ground, smoke wafting off her scales. Emmet's heart sank. He had battled his way through two Gyms, and now he was on the brink of his first defeat. Sure, he had other Pokemon to use in this specific battle, but losing here would be a morale killer, not just for him but for Firefly as well who had never tasted defeat in an official battle. And while a loss wouldn't derail his Gym Challenge entirely, as he was confident Sylveon would be more than capable of finishing Raichu, the foul aftertaste would linger.

Just then, Firefly's tail flame surged, glowing brighter. She rose to her feet with a roar of defiance, weakened but still in the game. Her eyes were ablaze, fueled by indignation over almost tasting her first official defeat.

"Charmeleon!" She roared while spewing flames. Needless to say she was a crowd favorite at this point judging by how frantic they were calling her name.

"Firefly, finish this! Dragon Claw!" Emmet hollered.

Raichu attempted to leap out of harm's way, but Firefly was quicker, using the still Dragon Dance enhanced Quick Attack to close the gap. Before Raichu could react, Firefly's claws raked through it, sending the Electric Mouse Pokemon tumbling to the ground, unconscious.

Lt. Surge looked at Emmet and seemed to munch on some words before his frown turned into a massive smile.

"You've got some real spark, kid. You've earned the Thunder Badge," Lt. Surge admitted, recalling his defeated Raichu and handing over the badge to Emmet. The young trainer thought he should have returned Raichu before talking to him, but who was the Gym Leader again?

Leaf rushed over to Emmet and threw her arms around him. "You did it! I knew you could!" 

Emmet smiled, ignoring the rising heat to his cheeks, but his eyes were fixed on Firefly. "We did it," he corrected, looking down at his triumphant Charmeleon.

As they made their way to the exit, Lt. Surge called out, "Hey, hotshot! How 'bout a rematch someday?"

Emmet laughed good-naturedly, it was hard to not like Lt. Surge. "Sure, but you better up your game, old man!"

Lt. Surge chuckled in response. "I'll make sure to note on your Trainer's report that you're punching above your badge level!"

Emmet groaned at the thought of tougher Gym battles ahead, but deep down, he was excited. If facing stronger Gym Leaders meant proving himself and his team's mettle, then bring it on.

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