Having rebuilt the Gym, and helped fix the Pokémon Center, Chuck finally returned to his regular training schedule. There were no more distractions, and no more obstacles; he expected the best from both Brawly and Maylene.
They trio stood next to the mountain that had suffered from the alleged natural disaster, which was actually just Maylene’s foolish actions, a tribute to the day she met Gardenia, nonetheless. Maylene stood between Riolu and the ocean, while Brawly stood in front of the closed cave entrance, with Makuhita right in front of him. Chuck observed the two, the tension rising at the wait for a command from Chuck to start the battle.
And he seemed to be toying with them for his own enjoyment, often opening his mouth and pausing to exhale, which causes the pair’s attack orders to freeze in the air. At that very moment, though, Maylene was determined to prove herself; she had advanced way past the little girl who just wanted to punch the new Gym Leader to prove her strength and ability to become a Gym Leader to Cynthia, the new Champion back then, at that party.
It was a little ignorant of her to think that by just daring to assault an older man, she would become a Gym Leader, and as time progressed, and she came to know Crasher Wake, she felt sorry for trying to use him back then, even though it seemed like an innocent move. Back then, she was very ignorant, but Crasher Wake had trained her until she was able to command Riolu, and became connected with the Pokémon. And her Johto trip hadn’t been in vain; Chuck had taught her strategies that she planned on using, and Riolu had gotten considerably stronger. And the back of her head was filled with the times she battled her friends in Sinnoh, and lost and won many times.
With a bark, Chuck snapped her back into the battle as he commanded it to start, and with similar shouts that overlapped, Maylene and Brawly ordered their Pokémon, almost ready to run forward and battle with their Pokémon; something that Maylene had attempted before.
Riolu’s agile body allowed him to run through the sand with the most graceful manner. He ran from side to side, strafing to avoid Makuhita’s gaze; the Gut Pokémon had already prepared the attack in the form of a glowing fist, much too familiar to Riolu’s own fist.
With a small ripple that broke through the air, they clashed, their arms extending towards the other, and blocking any attempts of an attack. They were locked in combat, pushing against the other, while their trainers clenched their teeth.
‘Sand-Attack!’ Brawly shouted, quicker than Maylene had expected.
Makuhita’s foot drew back, and kicked up sand towards Riolu’s eyes, but the Pokémon and his trainer knew each other too well; a split second before Maylene shouted her order to duck, he had ducked, only to meet Makuhita’s rushing knee at an order from Brawly.
Riolu fell to the ground in a sudden slump, and quickly rolled over to dodge whatever attack Makuhita had planned. He dug his palms into the ground, and jumped back to his feet with an agile cartwheel. Another set of commands, and two creatures’ moment of peace was over.
This time, both of them rushed towards each other. The sand around them kicked up in piles of dust as they met in another clash, but with another quick move, Makuhita slid to the ground, and Riolu tumbled forwards, meeting another direct hit from Makuhita in his midsection, and he was sent flying back towards the trainers.
He hit the sand with another similar thud, and saw Makuhita rushing towards him out of the corner of his eyes. This battle was far from over, and Riolu wasn’t going to lose that easily, especially not to Pokémon that was almost his equal; Riolu had the advantage of speed.
And utilising it under Maylene’s attack command, he began digging into the sand, and quickly created a sinkhole that closed as he went beneath the ground. Makuhita knew this move; it had been used against him many times. He gathered all of his strength in his fists, and leaned forward, anticipating Riolu’s move.
And once again, Maylene’s thoughts had long since stemmed into Riolu, and infected his mind with the same nonsensical, unpredictable decisions. His feet shot through the sand, and Makuhita blocked them easily, but it was the rest of Riolu’s body that he didn’t consider.
His fists shot up beneath Makuhita, and grabbed the Pokémon as they turned in the air before Makuhita’s back smashed against the sand, and Riolu delivered a Force Palm that sunk Makuhita deeper into the ground, and sent Riolu flying, ready to descend and land his final hit.
Brawly’s familiar shout broke through the air again, and Makuhita kicked sand up to meet Riolu, causing his to miss his attack, and land on the ground. Makuhita rushed to Brawly’s side, while Riolu struggled back to his feet, the sand in his eyes slightly hindering his movement.
‘Now, Makuhita,’ Brawly grinned. ‘Rock Slide! The mountain!’
Makuhita copied his trainer’s devious smile, and jumped back towards the mountain. He delivered a quick punch, and sent a few rocks rolling down before he flung them at Riolu, who wished he had kept the sand in his eyes.
The situation was too familiar for Maylene, and Riolu. Memories of the rockslide they were in rushed through her head. The small rocks hitting her body, the painful scratch against the jagged mountainside, and the possibility of never being able to achieve her dream. Her tongue was twisted with fear, unable to emit a single sound.
The same was for Riolu, who was neither able to move, nor wanted to. He had to protect Maylene, even if it meant falling to the ocean, another aspect that seemed to repeat itself.
A blur of blue appeared in front of the pair, and a rush of watery sounds followed. Rocks splashed into the ocean, the water rushed though Maylene’s ears, and the shadow of Riolu swimming to rescue her. Almost on the verge of losing her breath, Maylene returned to the battle with a shout from Chuck.
‘The battle is over!’ he said, seemingly only to Brawly. ‘Did you forget what I taught you?!’
Maylene breathed a sigh of relieve. Riolu walked back to her side, and they shared a look with the round blue shape that, now that thinking clearly was an option, she recognised as Chuck’s Poliwrath. He had blocked the rocks with an attack of his, and the ground connecting him and Makuhita was a wet line of dirt and rocks.
Following Chuck’s orders, Brawly walked back to the Gym, and Chuck gestured for Maylene to follow. The group walked back slowly to the Gym, a sign that meant Chuck was going to do something that would affect the course of their training, a sign Maylene had seen enough of to realise that she did something wrong, but in this instant, it seemed to be Brawly who was getting the blame.
He was facing the sand, and walking unusually fast. Makuhita behind him frowned as he exchanged apologetic looks with Riolu, who returned them with a comforting smile and a nod; the pair did have a brutal fight, and it was very plausible that they would think the other was out to kill them.
Finally at the Gym, Chuck walked the pair to his office, and withdrew his Poliwrath there. Maylene stood next to the entrance and faced the two males that seemed to be about to reveal something to her.
‘Maylene,’ Chuck addressed her, bringing back the feeling that it was actually her that did something wrong. ‘I’m sure you think you know why Brawly is training here. Would you care to tell her, Brawly?’
He exchanged looks with Chuck, almost avoiding his sight, but not wanting to back down. Brawly knew that whether he had met Chuck’s eyes or not, he still had to tell Maylene; this must be part of Chuck’s training.
‘Become a Gym Leader,’ Chuck said. ‘I was brought here to train to become a Gym Leader.’
‘Again,’ Chuck added before insisting. ‘again!’
‘Again,’ Brawly sighed of frustration. ‘I was already a Gym Leader before I came here, one of the best actually.’
‘You were only one of the best because of the reason you’re here,’ Chuck said before turning to face Maylene. ‘I was impressed with his reputation as an undefeated Gym Leader, so I went to Hoenn to visit his Gym, and found out what he should admit.’
Brawly’s eyes travelled to his mentor again, almost condemning him for making him admit his mistakes. Just as he was about to speak, Chuck pointed at Maylene, signifying that Brawly was to admit to her, and not to Chuck.
‘I cheat in battles,’ Brawly said after facing Maylene. ‘Chuck found that out, and reported me, which got me fired, and then he promised that he’ll get me my position back if I stopped cheating in my battles; he said I had potential. That’s why he brought me here; to train into becoming a Trainer who doesn’t cheat.’
‘It’s a very thin line,’ Chuck said. ‘Between using strategies, and cheating. You’ve crossed that line many times.’
‘I knew you were injured in that rockslide, and it would probably bring back bad memories,’ Brawly said. ‘Chuck noticed that I instructed Makuhita to attack the mountain, and not use the rocks that were already lying around. I’m sorry, Maylene, it was a cheap move.’
‘Oh,’ Maylene couldn’t find another way to express her reaction; she felt betrayed by Brawly. He tried to use her fear against her, and he had managed to paralyse her long enough for him to win had Chuck not intervened. ‘Oh.’
Riolu’s gaze darted from Brawly to Makuhita, who didn’t seem to care about his trainer’s actions as much as he cared about pleasing Brawly. Even though the two Pokémon weren’t close friends, Riolu was still disturbed by the realisation.
‘The important issue is that he apologised,’ Chuck said. ‘I hope you can forgive him, Maylene.’
Chuck dismissed the trainers with a wave from his hand, and Maylene was the first out of the Gym. She didn’t care about Brawly using her fear against her anymore, but the fact that she was now weak. It wasn’t the rockslide as much as the outcome of it that scared her; being defeated by a man, and facing the threat of losing her dream of ever becoming a Gym Leader when her mother wanted to take her back to Sinnoh. She didn’t use to be afraid of anything, but Riolu realised that his trainer was officially facing a threat that shook her to the core, and that concerned both of them; anyone can use that fear to defeat her.
His hand reached Maylene’s, and he pulled it down to drag her attention, before nodding slowly, as if to tell her that it didn’t matter. She smiled at him, and he smiled back before dragging her to the rocks; this time, it was him who would be training her.
‘You’re the best, Riolu,’ Maylene said. ‘Together, we’ll be stronger.’