Erica entered the ice gym. She found this one to be the biggest puzzle (physically) out of any gym that she had come across yet. Brett was about to walk forward to challenge the gym leader, but his friend put her hand on his shoulder to stop him.
"I wanna go first." Whined Erica, but it didn't seem that he was giving into her demands at the moment. She then puffed up her eyes like some kind of anime chibi, and then Brett caved in.
But instead of just simply letting her go ahead of him, he held out his fist.
"How about Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spok?" Erica knew that she wasn't going to get it much better than this, so she responded with her own fist.
Erica's hand was a Paper, and Brett's was a Spok. Paper disproves Spok, Erica wins. Brett reluctantly slouched over and walked towards the gate to wait there. Putting aside the fact that the gym somehow resembled a colony from Gundam UC, it appeared as one massive puzzle. Pressing the tiles behind each trainer would shift the angle of the next floor.
"Ok, how hard can it be?" Said Erica to nobody in particular.
Back in the cave of Pokémon Village, Mewtwo had pressed a giant rock in the entrance so that nobody would bother it. Floating in the air, it appeared in some position of meditation. Truthfully though, it was watching Erica's upcoming battle from afar with its psychic abilities.
'Let me see if you are really as good as Keith says you are.'
It took her some time, but the blonde did successfully reach the end of the puzzle. She was prepared for the sight of the gym leader waiting patiently awaiting her arrival. But instead she got the sight of Wulfric napping on a chair of ice blocks.
'I wasn't that long.' She looked back, hoping to see her friend patiently waiting. But got nothing else than the sight of her friend leaning against the wall, sleeping.
"One of these days." She pulled out her pokeball and released Phoenix.
"Would you kindly torch them a little?" Asked Erica innocently. Her avian friend seemed a little curious, but obliged anyways.
The flaming avian flew over to Brett and torched the wall next to him, and then she blew fire on his ice chair. Brett instantly jumped off of the wall and began a stop-drop and roll.
"Erica! Why did you do that!?" Yelled Brett as he was rolling.
"Because ten minutes isn't that long! Besides, the flame didn't get that close to you!" She turned her attention to the gym leader who was somehow, still sleeping. Immediately the blond thought that he was just faking it, but he still slept through the flames.
Erica's patience and doubt had all but vanished as she ran over to put out the surrounding flames. In a matter of seconds, the ice-type gym leader jumped out of his chair like a cartoon character and began to stop-drop-and-roll on the floor. When Wulfric finally stopped his silly little rant, he turned to Erica with a serious face.
"You, young lady! How did my chair catch on fire!" Demanded the gym leader as he pointed to Erica.
"W-well you see, I wanted to challenge the gym and you were sleeping." Admitted the blond challenger, a little guilty about torching him. Her Talonflame also felt a little guilt.
"I see, so you're the challenge that he warned me about." Stated Wulfric.
"Yes, I am Erica Tamashii from Vaniville town." She held out her pokeball.
"Very well, I accept your challenge."
Wulfric released his snowflake pokemon with a creepy face (shivers), Cryagonal. Erica sent out Phoenix. Instantly, she was aiming to utilize type advantage.
"Phoenix, use flame charge." The fire bird built up the flames and rammed into its opponent.
"Cryagonal, use light screen." The giant snowflake built up a barrier of light to block any more attacks.
"Darn, use acrobatics." Phoenix dive-bombed against its target, cryogonal suffered major damage. "Counter with night slash." Cryogonal spun and rammed into phoenix, leaving a critical hit.
"Use roost." The fire type encircled feathers around it to restore health. "Now, use flame charge again." The Talonflame impacted and defeated its opponent.
Wulfric retrieved Cryogonal. He almost laughed at how this challenge was going.
"You seem to know what you're doing." Complemented the gym leader. Erica smirked at the complement and didn't hold back to brag.
"Well, I did learn from two experts. I have been through a lot." But that didn't exactly discourage the ice-type gym leader.
Wulfric's next pokemon was an Abomasnow. And it was big, if not, bigger than the one that they met in Frost Cavern. The blond couldn't help but tie the similarities between the pokemon and the gym leader. Despite its daunting size though, Abomasnow had a four-times weakness to fire. Erica greatly took this opportunity for a strike.
"Yosh, Phoenix, use flame charge." The pokemon obeyed its trainer and charged into the giant. But the attack didn't see as effective as it should've been.
"Use water pulse." Abomasnow reared its left arm up and launched a water pulse attack that surprised the blond and knocked back the Taloneflame.
"And finish it with rock throw." The giant snowman punched into the ground and pulled out a rock that it threw towards the flaming avian. Phoenix was launched back to the ground.
Erica quickly pulled her pokemon back. She took a few moments to think, and she couldn't figure out how Abomasnow could withstand an attack like that. Wulfric caught onto this and stroked his mustache in a mocking manner.
"Certainly you must know that this is the prime result of a strong bond between a trainer and a pokemon." Her head perked a little at hearing that. Erica had seen the bonds with her pokemon prevail when she needed it too the most, and now she began to doubt if she shared those bonds well enough.
In its cave, Mewtwo continued to watch the match with disgust. It was not impressed as this trainer didn't live up to what it had seen in Keith's memories. The legendary pokemon felt it necessary to contact Keith and mock him.
Keith sat on his chair in the center when he could feel the psychic feeling penetrating his mind. This time though, he was prepared for an argument.
'I thought that she would do better than that.' Said the psychic type.
'She will do better.' Promised the trainer. However Mewtwo didn't buy into that.
'How do you know?'
'Just keep watching.' The clone pokemon felt like that really was the only way it would get its answer.
After she pulled back Phoenix, Erica had to analyze the situation. She had only seen another Abomasnow in Frost Cavern, so she had very little to go off of. But that didn't stop her from trying.
'A giant torso...strong arms...stubby legs...' Thinking about that would give her exactly the answer she needed. An attack strategy formulated in her mind as she pulled out her most loyal pokemon.
"Go Psyedge!" She threw out her psychic-fighting type.
"Use calm mind." The Gallade closed its eyes and focused energy, he didn't feel it necessary to ask for permission to attack this time.
"Abomasnow, use ice beam." The grass-ice type roared a thin beam of energy towards Psyedge.
"Counter with pyscho-cut." Psyedge drew up energy into his right arm and launched it towards the grass-ice type.
The attack sliced through the ice beam and knocked Abomasnow back. "Now rush in with a power-up-punch, aim low."
Pysedge jumped right infront of his opponent and delivered a crushing blow at the ground. The giant snowman pokemon stumbled back and fell to the ground. And at that moment, Psyedge jumped up and landed a power-up-punch into the grass-ice type. Knock out!
Wulfric sighed and retrieved his defeated pokemon. 'I was hoping that I wouldn't have to do this.'
He pulled out a third pokeball and launched it. The pokemon that came out looked like an upside down glacier with a head and feet. The massive ice pokemon, Avalugg.
"Wow, that thing is huge." Gawked Erica as she could feel herself shrinking down.
"Be warned, Avalugg here is strong enough to tear down this gym." Said Wulfric.
The blond challenger shook off her frightened demeanor and stood strong. "This wouldn't be the first time."
"Very well. Avalugg, use blizzard." The giant pokemon roared and a mighty storm blasted through Erica and Psyedge. The intensity of the storm forced both trainer and pokmeon to keep their eyes shut.
"What is this!?" Erica opened her eyes to discover that Psyedge had fallen down on one knee. Avalugg stood in front of him, proud and powerful.
'I'm sorry Erica-sama.' Apologized the pokemon before fainting on the ground. The girl was left with no other choice but to retrieve her fallen partner.
Erica bit her lip in worry and in shock. 'He wasn't kidding, that pokemon is crazy strong. But how in the world did it pull that off?' She began to brainstorm for some answers, any answers.
Brett stood on the far side of the gym. He had a serious, almost analytical, look on his face.
"But no strategy is without flaw."
Suddenly, a light-bulb went off in Erica's head. She looked back to the giant pokemon and noticed its key feature, size.
"Alright, Dragulong!" She sent out her dragon-poison type. Wulfric gawked, dragon types are weak to ice types. Just what was she thinking?
"Use sludge bomb." Dragulong summoned a massive amount of energy from his entire body and shot a giant sludge ball at ice type took the hit no doubt, but it was left with poisoned status.
"No matter, this battle will be over soon. Blizzard one more time."
Avalugg repeated its earlier strategy of blinding its opponent. Erica squinted her eyes again, but not without a smirk.
The blizzard quickly cleared and left a questioning sight. Both trainers were there, but the only pokemon was Avalugg. Wulfric's face was colored with surprise. He looked around almost frantically for the opponent. And he soon spotted a slight change in the floor.
"Avalugg use take down on the ground!" The glacier pokemon reared its left side into the ground, and into the poison dragon. Dragulong suffered under the one thousand, one hundred, and thirteen pounds of his opponent.
The teenager couldn't bare to see her friend being crushed like that. Quickly, she whipped out a pokeball and retrieved her Dragalge. She began to feel the doubt from earlier again, were her bonds not enough? Uneasiness quickly pulled Erica down from her confidence.
A shaking feeling on the side of Erica's belt pulled out of her thoughts. What was causing the vibrations was the pokeball that had Jirai inside it. Holding it in her hand, Erica could feel what her most trusted ally was telling her. Suddenly the unease had vanished from her mind.
"We're not done yet!" She launched the pokeball and her pokemon out.
"Jirai, use water shuriken!" The water ninja placed his hands on his hips to draw energy and launch the shuriken.
"Take it Avalugg!" The glacier stood against the attack. "Now counter with your take down."
Jirai was knocked back into his trainer, who stood against the impact to help up her partner. She had learned not to give up.
'Why is it that you believe in her so much?' Keith gave the pokemon the attention it wanted.
'She has the same thing that all trainers have when they start. Passion and confidence.' Mewtwo appeared a little shocked at that answer.
"You have competed well, but your pokemon isn't strong enough. Blizzard again." The chilling wind came up again. Instead of smirking or being surprised, Erica's face bore focus.
When the wind cleared, Wulfric could see Erica standing in front of a frozen Greninja. But the facial expression was not changed at all.
"Now!" Suddenly the shadow behind of Avalugg released Jirai as he knocked the giant pokemon over. The gym leader was surprised at this, he turned to see the frozen Greninja fall apart.
"Finish with hydro pump!" From above, Jirai launched a jet stream of water that hit the underside of the ice type and finished it.
Wulfric stood surprised at this sight. Retrieving his pokemon, he walked over to congratulate Erica.
"It seems that you've learned well. Here is the Iceberg badge." Congratulated Wulfric as he handed Erica her final badge.
With a proud smile on her face, Erica jumped up in the air with her froggy friend. They ran back to Brett and showed off the proof.
"Are we good or what?" Bragged Erica. Brett nodded with a proud face.
"That was a good tactic that you used." He placed his hand on her head and rubbed it. She playfully knocked his hand off.
They left the gym to regroup with Keith. Erica felt it necessary to show off her eighth gym badge that she had won with her pokemon. Keith was happy for her, and pretened that he didn't see it all through psychic imaging. They checked in to the hotel for the night. Hours passed by and the two champions had fallen asleep, but the blond couldn't fall asleep at all.
She felt like a little kid with a new toy. Reaching into her bag, she pulled out her badge case and took a look at the eight badges that shined from the moonlight. Bug Badge, Cliff Badge, Rumble Badge, Grass Badge, Voltage Badge, Fairy Badge, Pyschic Badge, and now the Iceberg Badge. Looking back to the night stand the excited teenager noticed her pokeballs, each containing one of her most valued partners that had teamed up with her along the way.
Satisfied with that last glance, she put her badge case away. Before falling into sleep she gave a silent thanks to her friends. Both Pokémon and human. As she fell asleep though, an empty feeling started to stain her heart.