Chapter 4

The three of them walked along the path that led to Pewter City gym.  Brock slowly and cautiously walked up to his former gym.  The outside didn't change much, except that there was a large stone wall surrounding the back of the gym.

Ash and Misty walked behind him looking worriedly at their friend.

"I hope Brock doesn't lose his cool once we're inside," whispered Misty.  Togepi looked happily at Misty squealed with delight, oblivious with the serious situation.

"Me too.  But I also hope he doesn't lose it when he sees the new gym leader," replied Ash.

Pikachu, who was resting on top of Ash's head, replied with a worried "Pikachu-pika."

They continued on walking to the large doors of the gym.  A plaque hung on the large door.  The plaque read, "Pewter City Gym: Leader- R. Mineral, the leader with a heart of lead, cold and unfeeling."

Brock gulped and slowly pushed open the doors, some sunshine crept through the opening, and all three of them stepped in.  They gasped at what they saw.

The inside was dark and deserted, but soon he saw the lights over the fighting arena.  It looked pretty much the same, except for one difference.  There were stalactites, stalagmites, and stone pillars added to the terrain.

This new arena looks a lot more dangerous! thought Brock.  "I'm Brock!  Former Pewter City gym leader!  I challenge you to a pokemon battle!" he announced.

The nothingness did not answer him.

"Did you hear me?!  I'm Brock!  Former Pewter City gym leader!  I challenge you to a pokemon battle!" he repeated.

A high pitched laughter filled the room, more like a girl than a boy.  They fell down to the ground in surprise.  They got up quickly and looked to their right to see a dark silhouette seated on a throne made of rock.  The silhouette looked like a girl.

Huh?  What's the meaning of this?! pondered Brock.

The three humans and Pikachu were both confused, Togepi still continued to play happily in Misty's arms.

The girl figure got up from her seat and walked towards them.  Light from the open door reflected off two lenses, so she must have been wearing glasses.

The girl walked into the light.  She was about Misty's height, she had wavy black hair and deep brown eyes.  Everything she wore was a dull grey colour, even the glasses seemed to have a greyish tint.  She wore knee-high boots, a skirt, a vest just like Brock's, except it was zipped all the way up.  Where the left breast pocket was, there was a grey, metallic, heart shaped badge.

"Oh, hello little girl, can we see your older brother?" Brock asked.

"I am the gym leader," she replied in a stern and serious voice.  She reached into one of the pockets and pulled out an I.D. card.  "I am Roxanne Mineral, and I know that you are here for a match.  Come here to reclaim your gym?"  The girl's gaze scanned his friends, and stayed a bit longer on him.

Brock was stunned, it showed on his face and everybody else's.

"You're all surprised at my appearance and my reputation.  With the way I look, my opponents underestimate me, but it doesn't matter now because I always beat them, appearance or not.  I won't accept your challenge, unless she," Roxanne pointed at Misty, "will fight in your place."

"No way!" cried Brock.  "I fight my own battles!  And the rules state that you have to accept every challenge!"

"Yes, the rules say I have to accept every challenge, but they don't say I can apply conditions to the challenger.  And technically, you just refused the match!"  She suddenly pushed all of them out the open door.  They crashed to the ground painfully.

"Oh, what was that about?" asked Ash, as he got up and rubbed his bottom.  Pikachu clambered up to perch on his head again.

"It seems she prefers me over Brock and you, Ash.  And it seems that I'm the better trainer!" answered Misty.  She looked at Togepi again, making sure he wasn't hurt in the fall.

"I just have to fight her!  It's just what I have to do!" complained Brock.

"Since it seems she likes me better than you, I'll go see if I can talk her into a match," offered Misty.

"Thanks a lot Misty.  Just try your best to convince her that I can fight her.  You know that I have to do this."

"And while Misty is trying to butter this girl up, we'll go see if your family is okay," suggested Ash.

"All right.  We better get going now."

Ash grabbed Brock by the arm and started walking in the direction of his home.  Misty watched them until they were out of sight.  She looked down at Togepi and said, "What have I gotten myself into now?"

Togepi looked back up at her blankly.

Ash, Pikachu, and Brock walked side by side. Brock looked at the ground glumly.  Ash looked with concern at his friend.

"What's the matter?"

"You wouldn't understand, Ash, since you don't have any younger siblings.  I don't know how I can face my family, it's been a while, and now that I'm here, I have to tell them I turned down a match."

"But you know didn't turn down the match!  She did!"

"And I know what the rules state, so she's right," Brock sighed heavily.  "Beaten by the rules, and by a GIRL!"

"I know what you mean.  I thought that she was Misty's age, but it turns out that on her I.D., she's older.  Do you think it was fake?"

"No.  I mean if it was fake, she wouldn't be running the gym any more.  The Pokemon League keeps a tight leash that the trainers and leaders are following the rules and that they give the right information."

"Good thing I have Dexter to give out my information.  Oh, hey!  We're here!"

They were right in front of Brock's house.  It was a small, modest house, with rice paper walls on the inside and outside.  Flint saw them through a window, so he came out to greet them.

Behind him trailed all ten of his children.

Everyone was there, and things didn't seem to change much.  The twins were dusty and pouting because they had to take a bath, and Susie had a new rip on her dress.

Brock sucked up his courage and walked towards them with open arms.