Silence hung in the air as both Jonathan and Beatrice took in what had just happened. Ampharos just landed a Thunder Punch knocking out Clair’s Dragonair. Clair had been defeated and Jonathan had won his final Gym Badge.
Beatrice jumped up and down in the stands.
“You did it! You did it!” She yelled and cheered.
“Wow, I actually did it,” Jonathan muttered to himself.
He walked up and put his hands on Ampharos.
“We did it. We won,” Jonathan said.
Both Jonathan and Beatrice turned towards Clair who was knelt beside her Dragonair.
“No! This cannot be. I can’t believe it. There must be some mistake. I do not lose,” Clair said as tears began to well up in the corners of her eyes.
“Clair, that was a hard fought battle -” Jonathan began, but he was cut off.
“There must be some kind of mistake,” Clair said rising to her feet.
She opened her Pokéball and Dragonair disappeared in a flash of light.
“Clair?” Jonathan gave her a curious look.
“I do not lose. I am a Dragon Master,” Clair said as her words got louder and louder. “I do not concede this battle. You do not deserve The Rising Badge. You do not deserve this victory.”
“Woah. That’s not fair,” Beatrice said as she walked up next to Jonathan. “Jonathan won the battle fair and square.”
“It is true. I defeated you and now you must reward me with the Blackthorn City Gym Badge. Those are the rules,” Jonathan said.
“I do not care,” Clair said. “You are not strong enough to take on the Pokémon League and until you are, I will not hand over this badge.”
“You’re just a sore loser,” Beatrice said.
“You don’t know what you are talking about. You don’t know how powerful the Pokemon League Elite Four are,” Clair said.
“What do I have to do to prove I am strong enough?” Jonathan asked.
“Jonathan, you don’t have to do anything else. You won,” Beatrice said.
“Let’s just hear her out,” Jonathan said.
“To prove you are truly worthy of this final Gym Badge, you must take on The Dragon Master Challenge,” Clair said.
“What’s that?” Jonathan asked.
“Behind the Blackthorn City Gym there is a cave called The Dragon’s Den which is the home to many Dragon masters as well as Dragon-Type Pokémon. In the center of the Dragon’s Den is a small shrine. Go there. If you can prove yourself to the Dragon Masters, then I will admit you are worthy of a Gym Badge,” Clair explained.
“Fine I’ll do this,” Jonathan said.
“Bea, if this is what I must do, then I’ll do it. I’ll enter the Dragon’s Den and prove I am worthy of this badge and worthy to take on the Pokémon League. I’m not afraid of a challenge,” Jonathan said.
Beatrice sighed and then nodded.
“Fine but I’m coming with you,” Beatrice said.
“Only select Pokémon Trainers may enter the shrine,” Clair said. “Those are the rules.”
“If you don’t have to follow the rules, then neither do I,” Beatrice said.
“Fine, fine,” Clair said. “Just go quickly.”
“Are you coming too?” Jonathan asked.
“I’ll be there,” Clair said before turning around and heading back towards the back of the Gym.
She stepped on the stone pedestal and it descended into the floor, leaving Jonathan and Beatrice alone in the Pokémon Gym.
“Let’s go,” Jonathan said grabbing Beatrice’s hand and pulling her towards the door.
Jonathan and Beatrice made their way to the back of the Pokémon Gym where they noticed a hole in the mountainside. Standing in front of it was a gentleman wearing robes of a similar blue color that Clair was wearing.
“Hello,” The gentleman greeted them. “What can I do for you two?”
“I just came from the Blackthorn City Gym and Clair told me to take on the Dragon Master’s Challenge,” Jonathan explained.
“And I’m with him,” Beatrice said grabbing onto Jonathan’s arm.
The man nodded.
“You may enter. Good luck,” He said before stepping out of the way.
Jonathan gave him a nod and entered with Beatrice walked by his side. They entered a dark, rocky tunnel with water seeping down the sides, but it wasn’t long before they stepped out into a large, underground lake. Torches similar to the ones in the Blackthorn Gym lined the walls of the cavern and similar statues lined a pathway to a building near the center of the lake. Water tumbled down the sides like waterfalls and small whirlpools were stirred up in the water.
“Woah,” Jonathan said taking it all in.
“This place is incredible,” Beatrice said.
“That must be the shrine, Clair was talking about,” Jonathan said pointing forward. “Let’s go check it out.”
They walked over a wooden bridge lined with blue-flamed torches into the building which style resembled the old buildings in Ecruteak City. Inside there was a large statue of what looked like Lance’s Dragonite. In front of it was a man dressed in similar black and blue robes. He was an elderly man with a white beard.
“Hello trainers,” The man said with a gentle smile. “What brings you here to The Dragon’s Den?”
“My name is Jonathan and this is Beatrice. We have traveled the Johto Region together as I completed the challenge of collecting eighty Gym Badges. However, after I defeated Clair, she told me she would not give me my eighth and final badge, unless I came here and completed The Dragon Master’s challenge,” Jonathan explained.
“She did, huh? Well Clair has never learned to lose with dignity,” The man said. “She is very sure of herself.”
“You can say that again,” Beatrice said.
The man let out a chuckle.
“But you are here now, so you might as well take on the challenge,” He said.
“Is it another Pokémon Battle?” Jonathan asked as he reached for his Pokéballs.
“Oh no. I am far too old to take on Pokémon trainers like yourself in a battle. This is a different kind of test,” The Dragon Master said. “I just want to ask you some questions.”
“Oh, alright,” Jonathan said.
“First I want you to tell me what you have learned on your journey.”
“What do you mean?”
“You have spent months traveling around Johto battling trainers, raising Pokémon, and collecting Gym Badges. What have you learned in this time?”
“Well I guess I’ve learned that being a Pokémon trainer takes a lot of work. You have to balance training with your Pokémon and taking care of them. You have to make sure you don’t push them too hard, but that they live up to their potential,” JOnathan said.
The Dragon Master nodded.
“What else,” He said.
“You have to have a balanced team with all different types of Pokémon. All Pokémon have weaknesses and strengths and a great trainer can figure out the best Pokémon for the situation.”
Jonathan turned to look at Beatrice.
“People are like that too. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and you need to surround yourself with all kinds of people so you can reach your true potential,” Jonathan said squeezing Beatrice’s hand.
“What about Pokémon that seem weak or seem menacing?” The man asked.
Jonathan took a moment to think. He thought about the different Pokémon and trainers he had met along the way. He thought about the eight Johto Gym Leaders all with their different personalities and Pokémon. He thought about Team Rocket and their mission to capture Pokémon and control Pokémon evolution. He thought about Mega Evolution and how it takes a strong bond between Pokémon and trainer to Mega Evolve. He thought about Silver who was always fighting to be the strongest and would shove aside Pokémon he thought was weak.
“Jonathan?” Beatrice placed her hand on his arm.
Jonathan snapped back into focus.
“I don’t Pokémon are inherently weak or strong. I also don’t think Pokémon are inherently are good or bad. Pokémon are molded by the environments they grow in and how the trainer treats it. Any Pokémon can become great if a trainer is willing to put in the work and figure out what the Pokémon does best. Sometimes Pokémon can be used for bad purposes or even used by evil trainers, but that doesn’t make them bad. Those Pokémon just were lead to do bad by bad people. People who weren’t inherently bad but maybe fell into a bad situation or was pushed towards evil by forces they couldn’t control.”
Again the man nodded.
“One final question,” The man said. “Do you think you are ready to take on the Pokémon League and become the Pokémon Champion?”
Again Jonathan took a moment to think. He had been on this journey to travel the Johto region and collect these Gym Badges, but he wasn’t sure he was ready.
“I don’t know,” Jonathan said.
The man smiled.
“I enjoy the honesty,” The Dragon Master said. “Well Jonathan, you seem to have a good head on your shoulders and you seem to be surrounded by good people who really care about you. You seem like a capable trainer with a large heart who really cares about your Pokémon.”
“Does that mean I passed the test?” Jonathan asked.
The man thought for a moment.
“I do believe that you have passed my test; however, I do sense uncertainty in your path forward like there is some unfinished business you need to address before you can truly take on the Pokémon at full strength,” The Dragon Master said. “I would advise you fix whatever you need to before heading off towards the Pokémon League. As for today, you have passed the test. Congratulations.”
“What? He passed?”
Jonathan and Beatrice turned as Clair walked up to the Dragon Master.
“Hello Clair,” The man said. “I’m glad you showed up. I wanted to talk to you.”
“What about them?” Clair pointed towards Jonathan and Beatrice.
“They are both wonderful trainers with big hearts and exceptional Pokémon knowledge,” The man said. “You on the other hand denied Jonathan his Gym Badge, did you not?”
“Yes, I did, but -”
“No buts, Clair. You are a Dragon Master and a Gym Leader. It’s time you start acting like it. You are not going to win every battle and you must learn to accept defeat and learn from it. Denying someone a Gym Badge they have properly won is against the rules of the Pokémon League and could get you in a lot of trouble,” The man said. “Do you want me to call on your cousin, Lance?”
“Lance….no…no you don’t have to tell him anything!” Clair said going into full panic mode. “I’ll give him the badge!”
“Very good,” The man said gesturing to Jonathan. “Give this trainer the badge he rightfully earned…twice.”
Clair turned to Jonathan and held out a small, metallic badge which resembled the head of a Dragon.
“Here. This is the Rising Badge. It’s the final badge you’ll need to get into The Johto League Championship,” Clair said.
“Thanks,” Jonathan said taking it from her.
“I’m sorry I didn’t just give it to you after you defeated me,” Clair said as she hung her head. “I wasn’t expecting you to defeat me and I just couldn’t handle it. Then you go and complete the Dragon Master’s challenge which is something I haven’t been able to do myself. I guess I have a lot to learn.”
“It’s alright, Clair. I understand,” Jonathan said. “Losing is not the easiest thing to do and our emotions sometimes get the best of us.”
“Yeah,” Clair said. “Anyway, good luck or whatever. I have training to do.”
She stormed past Jonathan and Beatrice without saying another word.
“Hi to you too,” Beatrice said.
“Don’t mind Clair. She is a very talented trainer, but she still has a lot to learn,” The Dragon Master said. “One more thing. Jonathan, I have something I want to give you.”
The man turned towards the Dragonite statue and pulled something out of a shrine at the foot of the statue.
He turned back and handed Jonathan a Pokéball.
“Here, I want you to have this,” He said. “This is the Dragon-type Pokémon Dratini. It might not look like much, but it can grow into Dragonair and then evolve into Dragonite. When trained wisely, Dragonite can be one of the most powerful Pokémon.”
“Thank you,” Jonathan said taking the Pokéball. “I’m happy to add Dratini to the team.”
“You have a lot of training ahead of you if you want to get Dratini ready for The Pokémon League,” The Dragon Master said. “Good luck on whatever journey you will take next.”
“Thank you so much. I really appreciate it,” Jonathan said.
The man then turned to Beatrice.
“And maybe one day you will be the trainer coming to me to earn your eighth Gym Badge,” He said with a smile.
“Uh…maybe,” Beatrice said as she blushed.
“No matter where your journey takes you, make sure you are with good people and good Pokémon,” The Dragon Master said.
And with that, Jonathan and Beatrice left The Dragon’s Den. Jonathan had received both The Rising Badge and Dratini. Now with his eighth and final Gym Badge, he had his thoughts set on the Pokémon League.
They walked to the edge of Blackthorn City where they saw Clair waiting for them.
“Clair? I thought you were training,” Jonathan said.
“I’m always training,” Clair said. “I just thought I’d give you some advice before you head off for the Pokémon League.”
“Yeah it’s nothing. Just listen for a second. You’re from New Bark Town, right?”
“Yeah, how did you know that?” Jonathan asked.
“Lance might have mentioned it to me the last time he was here,” Clair said in a whisper.
“Lance? He’s your cousin right?” Beatrice asked.
“Look, don’t change the subject, ok? Just… before you do anything else, I suggest you head to New Bark Town. Maybe talk to your family or whatever, ok? That’s all I wanted to say.”
Again Clair turned and stormed past Jonathan and Beatrice as she made her way towards The Blackthorn City Gym.
Jonathan let out a sigh.
“Well I guess we should head back to New Bark Town,” Jonathan said. “That way we can share the good news with everyone.”
“Sounds good,” Beatrice said with a smile.
Header Photo Credit to anakomb on DeviantArt
Rising Badge Image credit to Zexion21 on DeviantArt
All photos of Pokemon and related content used were taken from Bulbapedia