The two of us, Terri and I, neared the gym. It was in the shape of a giant Vileplume.
"I heard there was a fire here about a year ago," said Terri, "but it looks like the gym's back to usual."
"Good," I said, "I really need more badges."
"But I also heard rumours that some of the local stores have their perfume manufactured in this gym. I hope it's not true. Perfume makes me sick."
"Vul," agreed her Vulpix, sniffing delicately.
I was mildly surprised, as she seemed to be wearing rather a lot of makeup, and this, coupled with her body piercings, didn't make her seem the type who would condemn perfume.
A pair of women were waiting at the door, and one of them stepped forward.
"Did you just say perfume makes you sick?"
"Yes," began Terri, "see, ever since I was young, I've been -"
"We don't allow anyone in here who insults our perfume!"
"Not very open to criticism, are you," I muttered so just Terri could hear, and she grinned, before lecturing the guard.
"Excuse ME, you didn't let me finish. For your information, I'm not the one trying to get access here, my friend here wants to challenge your gym leader for a badge. Whether or not I like your perfume has nothing to do with the situation. In fact, I'm willing to stay outside while -"
"I'm glad you're willing to stay outside," snapped the lady, "because neither of you are coming in!"
She slammed the door. Terri pounded on it, but she just whistled and pretended not to hear. After, we wandered into the gardens around the gym and fumed. Well, Terri fumed, I was just kind of bewildered.
"Those jerks, they didn't even let me explain, I'm ALLERGIC to their stupid perfume, that's why I didn't want to go in, but they didn't have to ban you too. Hang on, they didn't necessarily ban you... see if you can get in the gym by yourself. I'll wait here, and if you don't come back in ten minutes, I'll assume you got in and I'll meet you back at the Pokemon Center."
I was a bit nervous about facing the guards again, but I went around to the front of the gym and tapped on the door. One of them opened it and glared at me.
"Excuse me, didn't you, like, hear me the first time? We're not letting people who diss our perfume in!"
"I didn't insult your perfume. I have no problem with perfume. I just wanted to challenge for a badge."
"Wait!" I said, shoving my foot in the doorway to stop the door from closing, "one of my friends is in there, he'll be waiting for me."
"He?" she said, puzzled, "we don't allow males into our gym unless they are challenging Erika."
"Erika, that's the gym leader, right?"
"Why would a person come into the gym if they weren't challenging Erika?"
"Some of them come on our tours, some come for Erika's lectures on Pokemon empathy and some come for our children's classes."
"And you don't let boys in." I stared at her levelly, in some disbelief. She got flustered.
"Of course not! That would destroy the whole atmosphere of -"
"Of learning? What, don't boys deserve to learn about empathy and grass Pokemon too?"
"I'm not paid to stand around here arguing with you!"
"Then what are you paid for, shutting out innocent people who have a right to be here?"
"Shut up!" she sputtered, and slammed the door again.
I trudged back to Terri.
"Those girls overreact too much," I muttered, and she nodded weakly.
We tried several times that day, but without success; the girls at the door stopped us on every occasion. I was mad and frustrated. Terri was livid.
"This is so not fair," she snarled, pacing, "I mean, it's not even your fault. It's not even MY fault I'm allergic to perfume. This gym is irresponsible and immature, and it doesn't even meet the Pokemon League's guidelines. Every gym leader is supposed to "allow the challenge of any trainer during the gym's open hours, provided they are not posing an actual threat to them or their gym", for example, Team Rocket. Uggh, this makes me cross! Someone should report them to the League!"
"Why don't you?"
She looked at me for a moment and then brightened. "Well, thanks for the suggestion there, I do believe I will!"
I mentally kicked myself, but she was on a mission now.
"I'm on a mission now," she said, "I'm going to find a phone box."
"Inspiring mission," I agreed, "I'm going to find a fire hydrant."
She looked at me, and I laughed. She smiled kind of sheepishly, before running down the street, Vulpix at her heels.
We found a phone box, which was occupied, and the person within - a middle-aged lady - seemed to have no intention of moving.
"Yeah, Jean, I knowww," said the lady, "oh, I know! Yes, I was most disappointed, but life goes on."
"Your life won't if you don't shut up," muttered Terri, and I giggled.
"Oh, I know! Yes, yes. That would be fine. Ah, they grow up so fast, don't they. Yes, but you only live once. Seize the day, Jean!"
"This person seems to talk in cliches," I muttered, and Terri giggled.
After ten minutes of this, Terri started waving her arm in front of the booth, pointing rather with unsubtlety at her watch. The lady turned away, irritated, and Terri began kicking the side of the booth instead.
"Will you excuse me, Jean," said the lady, "there are some young hooligans harassing me. I'm on a public phone, you know. Yes. Yes, we must do that some time. Yes, yes. Ring me! Bye bye! Yes, bye bye!"
"Young hooligans?" I mouthed in disbelief. Terri shrugged. The lady left the booth and glared at us.
"Excuse ME, young ladies," she snarled, "that was a private telephone conversation, and I consider it very improper of you to interrupt!"
Before Terri could fire something back - and I knew she was about to - she picked up her handbag, smacked us each in the head with it, and stormed off.
"And that was proper?" muttered Terri, "stupid cow. If every female in this stupid city is so darn prissy..."
"Come to think of it, where are the males?"
"Probably hiding. Wouldn't you?"
I grinned, and then we both squashed into the phone box. She picked up the tattered telephone directory and thumbed through until she found a list of potential numbers.
"Perfect," she said, "Pokemon League Administration Office."
"Uh, I guess they help administrate the League? Anyway, it's a place to start."
She dialed the number and waited. I leaned in close so I could hear. A polite female voice answered.
"Hello, Pokemon League Administration, how may I help you?"
"Yeah, I wanna make a complaint."
"Oh, that's a shame. With which of our services are you unsatisfied?"
"These rotten guards kicked me out."
I sweatdropped and took the phone away.
"Excuse me," I apologised, "my friend is a bit hot tempered." A bit! Terri glared at me. "See, our situation is that we were just turned away from a gym that claimed to be open. We were wondering where one could lodge a complaint about this."
"I'll pass you on to our help desk."
"Thank you very much."
She put me on hold.
"'We were wondering where one could lodge a complaint?'" mimicked Terri, making a face, "verrrry art-i-culate, Rora. You sounded like a twenty-year-old or something. Are you always that posh-sounding over the phone?"
We waited for a couple of minutes, listening to the annoying music, before someone picked up.
"I told you, Harold," spat out another female voice, "stop calling me on this number! I mean it!"
"Umm," I ventured, "this isn't Harold. Is this the help desk?"
The woman was silent.
A slight pause, before she recovered.
"Oh, yes, of course, I'm sorry about that. See, there's this guy at - well, anyway. How can I help you?"
"I wanted to lodge a complaint about one of the Pokemon League approved gyms."
"Certainly," she said, politely, "I'll just pass you on to our Trainer Queries department. They'll be able to help you much better than I can."
"But the person at the main office told me -" I was cut off by on-hold music.
"You know, I really hate telephoning official places," I said.
"Y'ain't kidding," she agreed, and I suspected she was about to launch into a dozen stories about past calls. We were interrupted by a smooth male voice.
"Good afternoon, this is the Trainer Queries department, how may I help you?"
"Ah! Thank you!" I said, relieved, "I would like to lodge a complaint about one of the Pokemon League approved gyms."
"Certainly, why don't you outline the problem first."
I thought I had better explain everything.
"Well, my friend and I are in Celadon City. I have been training my Pokemon and earning badges to qualify for Pokemon League. I was hoping to get a, uh -"
"Rainbowbadge," supplied Terri.
"Rainbowbadge here, but as we were walking up the steps to the gym, my friend commented that she had heard a rumour that this gym was responsible for manufacturing perfume, and hoped it wasn't true. See, my friend is actually allergic to perfume, so this is a reasonable statement. But the guards at the door of the gym overheard her, and took offense."
"I'm listening," said the man, sounding interested.
"They said they wouldn't let anyone in who insulted perfume, even though she didn't say anything particularly insulting. But they wouldn't let ME in either, even though I didn't say anything, just because I'm friends with someone who is allergic to perfume."
"Did you explain this to the guards?"
"I tried to. But they kept slamming the door in my face. Terri - that's the, uh, aforementioned friend - said that Pokemon League sanctioned gyms are not allowed to turn any potential challengers away during open hours, unless they pose a thread. I can assure you that we didn't pose any sort of threat."
"I see. Well, miss, this sort of thing has happened before. Celadon Gym is rather, uh, assertively feminine."
"Obnoxiously feminine," I agreed, "Pokemon training has nothing to do with whether you like perfume or not."
"Yes," he said, "well, what can we do for you?"
"You have more authority than I do, I thought perhaps someone from the League could call the gym or something and tell them to cut it out."
The call ended shortly after that, and I was slightly surprised, as he had agreed to check into it and sort out the situation. In my experience, official companies were rarely so helpful.
"Let's go back to the gym," said Terri, "if we walk slowly, something might have changed by the time we get there."
"Yeah," I said sarcastically, "and if we walk really slowly, maybe they'll decide to give us a million bucks."
"Now now," she scolded, "good things come to those who wait."
"If we wait too long, we won't be able to get into the League."
"Valid point," she conceded.
"Kerra'll be wondering where we are," I said.
"Nah, not him," grinned Terri, "he'll probably be too busy drooling over Erika and all the plant Pokemon to notice we're not there."
"IF he got in the gym," I added. "No boys allowed, remember?"
"Who knows," she said.
"Anyway," I said, with a smirk, "don't you mind?"
"Mind? Mind what?"
"That he's drooling over Erika?"
I nudged her. "I know that you like him a lot."
She laughed affectedly. "Hahahaha, nice try."
We started bickering, and I could see why Kerra and Terri found it so fun.
I pounded on the doors of the gym.
"Uhh, anyone there?"
We pounded and shouted for a while. After a couple of minutes, one of the guards from before appeared.
"You again! Can't you take no for an answer?!"
"I just... want to challenge for a badge... and meet my friend here. He IS here, right?"
She sweatdropped a little. "Eheh, well, as a matter of fact, I just found out that he is here. You guys delivered the Pokemon from Erika's sister, right?"
"We just got a call from the Pokemon League. Did you rat on us? Because I would NOT be pleased if our gym had to close down."
"You wouldn't listen to us," snapped Terri, "I'm allergic to perfume. You'd deserve to be shut down if you treat people like that."
"Ohh, you little fungus. I hate to let you in. But orders are orders. Get out of my sight."
She stepped aside and gestured to the door.
"Thank you for your generous hospitality," I said dryly. We walked through the doors and down a long green corridor. It wasn't hard to find where we were going. The corridor ended as an opening to a huge room, full of greenery that we could see even from the entrance.
It was like a forest. I could pick out a few grass Pokemon in amongst all the foliage. I knew Kerra would love this place. Where was he?
We walked into the room. The center of it was clear of plants, and a battling ring was chalked out on the ground. This was the challenging room, obviously. Paras jumped off my head and ran into the 'forest', clicking happily. I figured I wouldn't see it for a few hours.
"Wow, tropical," said Terri, "I can feel my eyes turning bloodshot. Bwahaha."
I looked at her and she shrugged, before sneezing. There was, come to think of it, a definite smell of flowers and pollen and yeah, perfume.
Then, over the soft sound of leaves rustling and grass Pokemon making their calls, we heard two voices.
"Bingo," said Terri.
Kerra and a lady who vaguely resembled Hannah - obviously the gym leader - were walking around the trees. The two were pointing various plants out to each other, engrossed in conversation, and both were surrounded by grass Pokemon. Kerra had all of his out, and I supposed those following Erika like a shadow belonged to her.
Kerra did look a little lovestruck, but more than that, he looked... happy. I guess this was like a paradise for him - a pretty girl who shared his passion, lots of grass Pokemon and lots of plants. I had a sudden wish to know what he was thinking, to know... to know him, I guess.
They didn't catch sight of us for a while, we just watched - okay, spied - on them. When they came close enough for us to hear what they were saying, it wasn't really enlightening. I didn't understand a word. Astronomy was my science, not botany.
It was Erika who saw us first, and she smiled, although the smile didn't reach her eyes.
"Hello," she said guardedly, "are you the two who kicked up a fuss about the perfume thing?"
"Hello," said Terri, immediately on the offensive, "the guards kicked up far more fuss than we did. I can't help being allergic to perfume."
"Okay okay," I said, "we're in now. If I hear you mention your allergies one more time..."
"But still, we shouldn't have had to take it to the League. I wasn't a challenger, but I might as well have been. In fact - I will be. I challenge you to a battle!"