Welcome to A Tale of Two Trainers, a series where Features & Trending Editor merritt k and Fanbyte Contributor Eric Thurm play through Pokemon Sword and Shield as very different trainers with very different priorities. Previously, our heroes set off on their adventures. In this installment, they begin their Gym Challenges in earnest.
After a full night’s sleep, I awoke to perform my usual regimen. I begin with a micellar water cleanser, then apply a toner and chemical exfoliant. I gently pat a caffeine serum onto the delicate skin under my eyes. Finally, I apply a moisturizer with sunscreen. Sun damage is the number one cause of premature aging.
I returned to the arena to discover two things: first, that the Gym Challenge requires Trainers to wear uniforms; and second, that Hop had already chosen my number. I felt as if I were going to cry. This system works to the advantage of those without taste by reducing us all to the same common denominator. And now my entire Gym Challenge would be marred by the ridiculous number on my uniform. Before the ceremony began, I ducked into the bathroom and used some Energy Powder. I collected myself and emerged the picture of serenity, but feeling less friendly towards Hop than ever.
I could barely pay attention to the events of the opening ceremony. Was Hop secretly out to destroy me? To what end? Before I noticed, the ceremony had wrapped up and I was in my familiar, elegant clothing again. Someone bumped into me on the way out of the building, some smug but tired-looking fellow. I nearly went feral, but Hop pulled me away. He wanted to battle again.
It was a rout. How could it not be? My beautiful Wooloo trampled Hop’s, but it only seemed to redouble his motivation. Before he left, he handed me his League Card. I couldn’t believe it. The tastefully rounded corners, the vivid colors, the subtle sheen. How did a nimrod like Hop get such breathtaking League Cards? My jaw clenched. I knew at that moment that he was trying to destroy me. How else could I explain his tactics? The brother of the League Champion using only four Pokemon, not understanding Type advantages? Absurd. Well, I was on to him now.
I was horrified to learn that the only way forward on my Gym Challenge was through a working mine. A mine! Nobody else seemed to find this strange. Nonetheless, I added a number of Pokemon to my collection — Drilbur, Swoobat, Growlithe, Diglett, Gossifleur, and Rolycoly. These were simple matters, but upon encountering a Stunfisk I was first stymied, then enraged. Try as I might, I could not catch it. It wasn’t until I returned to the city to buy more Pokeballs that I was finally able to capture the creature. At that point, I didn’t even want it. A hideous, hateful thing, I sent it to my PC Box where it could never trouble my sight again.
Exiting the mine, I encountered the same person from the opening ceremony. Bede. He claimed to be my superior. It is my experience that if you have to tell someone you’re better than them, you probably aren’t. And this encounter was no exception, as Bede deployed a pitiful four Pokemon, none of whom could stand against the terrible might of my recently-evolved Linoone, Feral Karen.
Bede insisted he had been going easy on me. Sure. He was a fool, though perhaps another challenger to keep an eye on. Outside the Turffield Gym, I encountered Hop again. He had just emerged victorious against the Grass-type leader Milo. Previously, I would have thought this an indication of Milo’s weakness, but now I knew better. I entered the arena breathing deeply and slowly — in through my nose, out through my mouth.
Before I was allowed to battle Milo, I was assigned the task of herding Wooloo. My hands were shaking. This was an exercise in deliberate humiliation. But I completed it, and then defeated Milo without much of a struggle. One badge down.
I was reinvigorated. They could make me herd Wooloo, solve pointless puzzles, or throw any number of inane challenges at me. It didn’t matter. I rode my bike to Hulbury, a seaside town that reeked of fish. The air felt heavy with the salt from the ocean, and I worried at what it might do to my skin. My time here would be short. I navigated the Gym, defeated Nessa with the now-evolved Tuba, and was ready to move on when I was called in to a dinner with Rose, the Chairman of the Pokemon League.
The man is inscrutable. He projects this gentle facade, which seemingly fools most of his adoring fans. But not me. His secretary, too. Have they noticed my skill? Perhaps I am advancing through the Gym Challenge too quickly for their taste. After all, it wouldn’t do to have someone like me easily trounce the most powerful Trainers in the region. I know he’s watching me. But I don’t think he realizes I’m watching him right back.
From the journal of Pokemon Trainer Hunter
I write to you a scant few days after my previous letter, and already I have earned the first two badges in the Gym Challenge. It is, of course, understandable that you did not have time to reply — I thought it would be best to merely keep you abreast of my training.
After arriving in Turffield, I made quick work of the “Grass” gym. It’s like you always say: grass is for hippies and layabouts. In fact, in order to even compete in a battle with the gym’s weak-minded trainer Milo, I was forced to help round up several groups of rowdy Wooloo. Imagine, me — a farmhand? It was preposterous.
Still, I prevailed handily against Milo. Sweet Dee, the Rookidee I captured and named after an amusing character from my favorite series It Is Constantly Sunny In Slow-On-Side, proved most useful in the battle, achieving her enormous Dynamaxed form and tearing through Milo’s soft Grass types. It turns out that Lenny (the Pokemon) is not the only partner I will require on my journey.
It was good fortune to realize other Pokemon could be helpful in my quest. Lenny (the Pokemon) evolved into Drizzile, a sleeker, more vigorous form that reminded me of photos of you in your youth — but he would not be able to win every battle on his own. Lamper has been an excellent addition, as has Swiper, a crafty Nickit I grew into a Thievul. (His capacity to thrive off the honest work of other Pokemon reminds me of Galar’s disgraced PokeLabour leader Jeremy Corphish.)
After, I made my way to Hulbury, a dreadful town where everything seems on the verge of slipping into the sea, much like a lazy Slowbro or your old secretary Jeanette. There, I managed to take on the second Gym, which focused on Water types much like my Lenny (the Pokemon).
In order to advance to challenge the gym leader, I had to complete a simple puzzle using switches and water pressure, finding my way to Nessa in much the same way I found my way back home on Christmas Eve four years ago. The ensuing battle was terribly simple.
The Gym Challenge thus far has been quite easy, though I must admit I do enjoy the climactic battles. There’s simply nothing like defeating an enemy in a room full of people shouting my name, acknowledging my existence, showering me with affection. How bizarre.
I’m off to Hammerlocke now, where I suspect I shall once again be forced to battle against the dreadful Hop. Fear not — I take into account your many lessons about the potential temptations and corruptions of the PokeFlesh that await in the city, and I know I shall do my best to resist them and earn your praise.
P.S. How is your secretary Jeanette? I have heard mother mention her in passing, as you seemingly left with her on business. I do so wish I could help with your work.