Chapter 50: Lucas vs. Roxanne

The road to the Hoenn League was starting to be an interesting one for Lucas. The teen from Cherrygrove had only been there a little more than a week and a half and had managed to rescue a professor, shut down a roving Pokemon gang, become the star of a commercial and get his first Gym badge. Now he stood in the Gym of Rustboro City, prepared to win his second.

His opponent was Roxanne, the local Pokemon School teacher and the only Trainer in Hoenn to receive a perfect score on her Trainer test, the long exam required to obtain a Pokemon License and legally become a Trainer. After an incident at the school their battle became more than about a badge, it became a battle of ideology. On one side, Roxanne and her almost fanatical belief that a proper and thorough education was the only way to become a first-rate Trainer. On the other, Lucas and his staunch belief that anything you learn on the street was just as valuable as anything in a classroom. During their first round Lucas managed to KO the young teacher's Graveler without much difficulty, but as their second round began Roxanne seemed unfazed.

"Go Rhyhorn!" Roxanne threw out her Pokeball and out came the large rhino-like Pokemon. And like the Graveler, this rock-type was also in its mid-twenties.

Lucas decided to change strategies and recalled his Marstomp, "Good job Bruce, let's give it a break for now. Go! Grotle!"

The grass and ground type tortoise appeared before the crowd of children, eying the Rhyhorn with as much determination as his Trainer, waiting for the first command, "Grotle! Use Razor Leaf!"

"Rhyhorn! Use Earthquake!" Roxanne commanded in response. Grotle's move did heavy damage to its opponent, but the high powered ground type attack shook the entire Gym violently. Once again, despite type advantages Lucas' Pokemon took a heavy blow. As Lucas snarled against the damage, Roxanne looked at him smugly and once again addressed the group of children seated in the Gym's bleachers, "Now class, normally a Rhyhorn won't learn Earthquake until it's level 52, but remember you can always modify a Pokemon's moves with a TM. Which is what I did with my Rhyhorn. Also, usually because of the type differences a ground move won't work very well on another ground type like a Grotle, and even worse with a type disadvantage like with a grass type. But because Earthquake is such a powerful move, with your Pokemon's attack being high enough, you can overcome type advantages. Of course, that kind of information comes from studying breeding and nature theory, which is extremely advanced information. But luckily in addition to my very high quality Pokemon School studies, I've been taking courses on Pokemon biology at the university. I take it you've never been to a university, right Mr. Lucas?"

"Nope, I'm a high school dropout," Lucas sneered with almost a bit of pride. Roxanne's eyes narrowed again, "Grotle! Razor Leaf!"

"Rhyhorn! Use Earthquake again!" While Roxanne may have trained her Pokemon for attack, Grotle had a slight speed advantage. The more powerful grass attack knocked out the Rhyhorn before it could attack again. Now the Gym Leader was down to her final Pokemon. Lucas was wary but unconcerned. For all her posturing, he still managed to knock out two of her Pokemon very quickly while his team was largely still intact. But he wasn't stupid. He knew a Leader's final Pokemon was always the trump card and Roxanne's smug smile suggested she still had an ace up her sleeve, "Go Probopass!"

The Leader's final Pokemon was a huge beast that looked like a giant statue. Despite its size and clearly rocky nature, the creature seemed to be floating in midair. But a rock type was still a rock type, "Grotle, use Razor Leaf again! Let's get this over now!"

Roxanne was doing everything in her power to suppress her giggling as the land tortoise's knife-like leaves seemed to bounce harmlessly off the Probopass's rocky sides. Lucas tried his best to hide the stunned expression on his face as he tried to process why the grass move was so useless. The teacher answered for him, "You look confused, Lucas. Did you not learn about every known Pokemon while making your way to the top of Sinnoh? You're telling me that stuff like that wasn't part of your 'trial and error' method of Training? What a shock. Class, does anyone know why Mr. Lucas's grass move failed so utterly and entirely?"

"Probopass is part steel type, so grass moves aren't very effective against it," One of the little girls from Roxanne's class answered.

Lucas regained his calm. He refused to feel stupid for the mistake. Yes, he messed up, but he had no way of knowing what he was up against, he had never encountered the Pokemon before. There were hundreds of Pokemon in the world, more discovered every day, and he very much doubted the prissy Roxanne had seen or knew every Pokemon either. She was just trying to psych him out, and he wouldn't let that bubble of doubt that was growing in his stomach boil over. So Probopass was a steel type. Unfortunately, despite Grotle being a ground type, it didn't know any ground type moves. He did what he could, "Tackle, Grotle!"

"Probopass, Magnet Bomb!" Roxanne responded. Poor Grotle was in too bad shape from the previous Earthquake attack and the steel attack knocked it out.

But Roxanne hadn't triumphed yet, he still had five more Pokemon left on his team. If Roxanne thought she pulled a surprise with her part steel Pokemon, he'd use a pinch hitter of his own, "Go, Diablo! Finish this fight!"

The Poochyena came into the battle ready for a brawl. It glanced back at Lucas and nodded determinedly, ready for whatever command his new-found hero had for him. The young Leader looked far less impressed and drolly turned to her class to give their analysis, "Class, let's analyze the situation, shall we? Who is at an advantage in this match?"

"The Probopass. Dark type moves aren't very effective against steel moves, and Poochyena at that level don't know much more than normal moves, which aren't effective against rock types,"

"Also, there is a big level difference between the two. Mr. Lucas' Poochyena is only level 17, while Miss Roxanne's Pokemon is level 28,"

"And evolved Pokemon are typically having better stats than unevolved Pokemon,"

"That is correct, children. Mr. Lucas has made a mistake since the beginning of the battle. Like I said time and time again, a battle is never determined by its first match. It is determined by the final one. It is important to strategize from the very beginning. By losing the first two rounds, I have seen most of his team and his battle strategy, and now that I know that, I'll be able to defeat him and his entire team. You must know type advantages, item use and battle strategy before you can become a first-rate Trainer. And to master all of those you have to study that information for years and years," Roxanne lectured. Lucas couldn't help but smile as the girl blathered on. She really had no idea what she was in for. Finally after her monologue she called out her next command, "Probopass, use Rock Tomb!

"Diablo, Rock Smash," Lucas could actually see Roxanne's jaw drop as the tiny Poochyena dodged the attack and slammed into the Probopass. The fighting move's two-tiered advantage, plus the small Pokemon's determination overpowered the Probopass and knocked the creature out. The Gym match was over, Lucas had won.

Roxanne stood stunned, as though she could barely comprehend what just happened. She still hadn't even recalled her defeated Pokemon. She just stared, moving her line of sight back and forth from the Poochyena to the tattooed Trainer in front of her. But as they both stood, the small Poochyena started to glow and within the span of a minute, the creature evolved into a Mightyena.

The children sat and whispered in awe of the match, and seeing a Pokemon evolve firsthand. Lucas saw this opportunity to give a little lecture of his own, "Okay kids, let me explain to you a thing. Lesson number one isn't that a match isn't determined by the first match only the final one. That's lesson two. Lesson one is never, ever underestimate your opponent, no matter what they throw at you. I don't care if they summon a Caterpie or a Magikarp, never take anything for granted. A battle is more than about analysis and type advantage and Pokemon natures. Just because it looks like you could win a match on paper doesn't mean much in real life. Books cover TMs and items, but Pokemon can learn all sorts of moves that you wouldn't expect them to, and you don't learn that unless you experiment and deal with real Trainers and real life experience. And strategy is good and all, but you have to actually take into account what's actually going on in front of you. Sticking to something just because it's worked before and is a time-tested strategy is going to guarantee you defeat. 'Winging it' is sometimes the smartest thing you can do. And you won't learn any of this stuff until you actually start having your own battles with your own Pokemon. There's only so much you can learn from seeing what other people have done or said. So endeth the lesson,"

The whispering ended and the kids stared at the older Trainer in awe. It was a funny feeling to have people admire him for a change, but it was a good one, too. Roxanne on the other hand still looked at the Trainer in contempt, "Since you defeated me I am required to give your rewards and your badge. This is the Stone Badge, and I also present to you the TM for Rock Tomb. I don't need to bother to tell you what it's for. You've clearly proven your point. Experience is more important that education. I've learned my life is a lie,"

Lucas rolled his eyes and approached the young woman directly, Gizmo still sitting peacefully on his shoulder and Diablo pacing behind him loyally, "Clearly you haven't learned a damn thing," The class gasped at the swear word, "Sorry," and readdressed the Gym Leader, "My point wasn't that education is stupid, my point was that books and classes aren't the only way to learn things. Like I said before when I was starting out I made a lot of really boneheaded mistakes. Like I had completely forgotten that winning a battle entitles you to part of your opponent's money. And I lost a Gym match because I didn't plan for all contingencies and just assumed I'd have an easy time because of type advantage. I felt so bad about it I almost quite Training. If a friend hadn't kicked my ass," another gasp, "Sorry. I would have given up on my dream. Listen, if it's easier for you to understand something by reading it in a book, that's great, but for some people they need to do something before they learn it. Learning is vital. Learn as much as you can so the mistakes you do make are small ones. But learning one way isn't automatically better than learning another way, get it?"

Roxanne's expression softened and she nodded her head slowly, liking like she was about to cry, "I'm so sorry I disrespected you like that Lucas. I had absolutely no right to do that. I hope you'll forgive me,"

"Sure, I've got no beef with you. Only shows you never really stop learning, right?"

"Right," Roxanne smiled and shook her opponent's hand. With that, Lucas took his prizes, waved goodbye to the children and left the Gym.

Lucas headed to the Pokemon Center and prepared for the next leg of his Journey, having had all Rustboro had to offer. He sat on one of the Center's couches with Gizmo and Diablo sitting on either side of him as he planned where he was going next. Using the new apps Steven Stone had installed in his Pokevice, Lucas started flipping through the maps and digital region guide. Because of the web-like nature of Hoenn's road and ferry system, he had two perfectly valid options. His first was heading east to the Rusturf Tunnel which connected Rustburo with Verdantuf City and the Verdanturf Gym. His other was to head back through the small Petalburg Forest and head south to the Gym on the island of Dewford. After a few minutes of consideration, the teen went with the former option. He was not fond of backtracking unless he really had to. He gestured to Gizmo to jump on his shoulder and when he got up he found himself knocked to the ground. Diablo had jumped on his back. The flabbergasted Trainer pushed the large Pokemon off of himself.

"Diablo, dude, seriously, what are you doing?" The Pokemon looked to the Eevee on his shoulder and once again tried to climb on the opposite shoulder of his Trainer. That's when Lucas realized what he was doing, "Diablo, are you trying to come up here with Gizmo?" The Pokemon's ears dropped slightly, "Sorry pal, you're too big to ride on my back like Gizmo does. You're too heavy," The Pokemon whined and thudded himself stubbornly in Lucas' lap, dropping his head on his Trainer's knee. The teen let out an amused sigh and scratched Diablo's dog-like head, "Unfair how we can't do things once we grow up, right? Well, you can still follow behind me. Just because he rides up top doesn't mean I like Gizmo better. Okay?"

The answer seemed to satisfy the Mightyena somewhat and the group headed out of the center to leave the city. Lucas was finding his Pokemon's personality change quite amusing. When he first caught the determined Poochyena, he had not taken to the idea of being a trained Pokemon at all. Now the Pokemon was downright clingy to his Trainer. It was endearing in its own way.

Once heading north to exit Rustboro, the Rusturf Tunnel was just east of a few patches of grassland. Lucas ran into a few low level Trainers that had thought challenging him was a good idea and caught a wild Nincanda in the grass. As he approached the tunnel he noticed a crowd gathered around a nervous looking man in a suit and a few workers in hard hats. The crowd seemed to be turning nasty and in front of the mob was a neatly dressed woman with a microphone being shadowed by a slacker type with a camera, "Mr. Mayor, it's been two weeks since the collapse of the Rusturf Tunnel and it's still closed to residents and Trainers. Can you please explain to the public what's the holdup? You promised last week that it'd be reopened by now,"

Closed tunnel. That meant that Lucas would be heading for Dewford Town instead. He would start heading back through the other way in a moment, but he wanted to hear what the mayor was going to say about the situation. The reporter shoved the mike further into the mayor's face, "Uh, I. Miss Gabby, the situation is still very fluid and clearly a cave in isn't the same as clearing snow or fixing a road. In addition to clearing the rocks that are blocking access to Verdanturf, we have to insure that there won't be any future potential for danger. These things take time. We can only give an estimate and hope we can stick to it,"

"But what about the cause of the cave in? Investigators from the geological department in Slateport and representatives of the Pokemon League have come to check out the situation and there is still no official report. Is there some kind of cover up, Mr. Mayor?" the reporter continued.

The frazzled official's temper started to flare, "Miss Gabby, I am not at liberty to comment about the situation. All I'll say is that neither myself nor the Pokemon League will allow the tunnel to reopen until we are satisfied with our investigation and can guarantee its safety. The minor details of the situation are not anything you or any of our citizens have to worry about,"

"The public has the right to know!" the reporter chirped.

"I've said all I needed to say. Now goodbye and get out of here, the tunnel is still closed," the mayor gave a dismissive gesture and followed the two workers that had remained silent on either side of him back into the tunnel. The reporter let out a growl of exasperation and motioned to her cameraman to cut. As the crowd parted with a murmur of frustrated whining, Lucas continued to remain. He was having a bad case of deja vu. The last time he was faced with a situation like this was in Sinnoh. In an attempt to go to Sunnyshore City, Lucas discovered the ways in were blocked off because of 'electrical problems.' In reality the city getting cut off was a plot by the nefarious Team Cosmic to forcibly recruit the Gym's Leader, Volkner. His gut instinct told him something was wrong, and he would need to be on high alert in Hoenn as he had back in Sinnoh.

As the reporter and her cameraman were the last to walk away from the tunnel's entrance, she looked towards Lucas grimly before a moment of realization passed her face. She beamed and approached the teen in the same aggressive way she had confronted the mayor.

"Excuse me, but by any chance are you Lucas, the new Sinnoh League Champion?" the woman's in-your-face tactic made the teen feel a bit more sympathetic to the suspicious official.

"Uh...yeah?" Lucas replied warily.

The woman briefly turned towards her cameraman, "Man oh man, when you're good, you're good. Not only do we have an updates for this tunnel story, I'm going to be the first reporter in Hoenn to interview the Sinnoh League Champion—and all in the same day!" Before Lucas could say anything the woman was already shoving the microphone in his direction, "My name's Gabby and I'm the number-one reporter on Hoenn's most popular television program, Hoenn Today. I would absolutely love to do a one-on-one interview with you. What do you say?"

"Um, thanks, but I'll pass," Lucas said as politely as he could manage.

Gabby looked astonished but not discouraged, "Oh come on! You're famous! Everyone wants to know about you. Don't you want to be on TV?"

"Not really," Lucas replied, far less polite this time. The teen Trainer, honestly, was not interested in fame. He already barely tolerated the press conference after he first became Champion and the barrage of questions the reporters had asked him then. He had become a Pokemon Trainer because he liked it, not because he thought it would make him rich and famous. He wanted basic respect, not idolization. His brother was the attention whore, not him. And the tattooed young man already felt silly for agreeing to be Steven's new spokesman, and that was only because he felt dishonest for taking a free house. Looking back, he should have just given back the house.

"Well, I can see you're not in the mood to be interviewed now. I can respect that. So we'll just do this another time," Gabby said lightheartedly.

"No, I don't think you understand-" Lucas tried to explain. He had no interest in being interviewed, ever. But before he could finish the reporter interrupted him again.

"We'll be seeing you, Lucas!" she said far too cheerfully.

Lucas turned to Gizmo and then to Diablo for some answers, but they seemed just as lost as he was. He sighed, shook his head and headed back towards Rustboro to start traveling to Dewford. There was something about the way Gabby said she'd be seeing Lucas that knotted his gut almost as badly as the situation with the tunnel. And as he walked he was fairly sure he'd be running into that reporter again far sooner than he'd want.