Chapter 72, everybody! In which we finally make it to the gym after a few distractions…also a nice big chapter so yay! :D

Pretty sure that the Pokémon world has a mailing system since the Gen III games do have mail you can give to your Pokémon before you trade them. There is a body wash that smells like sticky buns—also most of these perfume names are riffs on Victoria Secret stuff (they had a good line of body wash/cream/sprays before they scuppered them). Yes as a matter of fact you should spray your perfume on yourself to see about the smell, as a person's individual chemistry will affect how the perfume smells. Unova Candles here are in reference to Yankee Candles.

Did do a minor rewrite on Darkrai's dialogue, as the more I considered it the less I liked it—Ash is quoting Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? there. In other news…I think I might have looked at a summary of the episode to get an idea of what happened—haven't really watched it again since I first saw it and honestly don't care to, the whole forced crossdressing thing made me uncomfortable even as a kid. :\

Moving on to reviews: thank you griffin blackwood, LongNightDragon, Viruz pirate, Cyan Quartz, talesfanjmf, BackSet, epantoja521, forward-smash, Crazydude13 (guest), and Luckenhaft, thanks for the reviews! Glad we're all in agreement how hypocritical Game Freak is by removing the game corners but adding in gacha elements. :\

Pokémon © Game Freak; Nintendo


And now, for something completely different:

The Pokémon League would like to remind you to exercise caution when interacting with strange plants. Pokémon Centers are reporting an upswing of trainer status effects due to not properly identifying strange plants as Pokémon, resulting in startled attacks. A good rule of thumb is to check and see if the plant has eyeballs—that is generally a good indication that you are interacting with a Pokémon.

The Pidgeot Depot fortunately didn't take very long as far as a stop went—and upon seeing what the rates were for trainers, Ash ended up rooting through his pack to send all nonessentials home. Misty was long done by the time Ash had filled a small box—Brock had kept telling him he'd probably need something he was getting ready to send home.

"The comic books you could probably send back," Brock said as Misty came up.

"But I like my comics," Ash protested.

"There was a bookstore in the department store—you can get fresh ones."

"All right," Ash sighed, tucking his comics into the box and trying not to think of the gaping hole he had recently blown into his account.

"What are you sending home?" Misty asked, looking into the box.

"Mostly odds and ends we've picked up—I thought I'd send some of it home."

"I see," Misty said, looking at a nearby trash can. "And what happened there?"

"Apparently I need to clean out my bag more."

"You should any time you're at a Center, honestly," Brock said. "No one wants to haul around five pounds of spent wrappers and bottles."

"And Brock won't let me put some stuff in the box," Ash said to Misty.

"It's stuff you might need."

"Might being the operative word."

"Okay, better question: would you rather not need it and have it, or need it and not have it? And besides, I'm the one doing all the heavy lifting around here."

Ash and Misty both looked at Brock's backpack, which could have held both Ash and Misty's pack, and probably Ash too for good measure.

"All right, fine, I concede the point," Ash said, holding up an odd stone he had picked up.

"You have two of those and none of your Pokémon can use it, so yes, put it in," Brock said.

"How much longer is this going to take?" Misty asked.

"A little bit," Ash guessed.

"All right," Misty said, heading for the vending machines. "Then I'm going to go get a soda."


It took a little more than a little bit, but eventually they were heading for the perfume store.

"I'm not sure if I want to go," Ash mused. "I mean, perfume is more for girls, right?"

"I wonder if they sell cologne," Brock wondered.

"Maybe we can get you boys smelling better," Misty said, pointing the shop out as they neared.

"Do we have to go in?" Ash asked.

"I'll go in by myself," Misty sighed. "If I'm not back out in half an hour, send a search party."

Ash watched as Misty went in.

"Is it really such a big deal?" he asked Brock after a few moments. "I mean, not everyone wants to smell like a bunch of flowers."

"Some perfumes smell like sticky buns," Brock pointed out.

"Okay, that one I'm interested in."

"You should smell it on a girl. I think I'll go in."

"What? Why?"

"I told you earlier—I want to see if they have cologne."

"What's that again?"

"Guy perfume."

"Oh," Ash noised, following him in and glancing around. "Are you sure it's the cologne you're after?"

"It may be a contributing factor. Why are you covering your face?"

"I don't like the smell," Ash said, voice somewhat muttered by his shirt.

"Give it a few years, you'll get used to it. Hi there," Brock said, switching to smooth as soon as a girl came over. "I don't suppose you know if there's any cologne around here, do you?"

"Right this way," the lady said, smiling as she escorted Brock away.

Ash sighed and drifted over to Misty.

"I don't know," Misty said, glancing up at the movement in her peripheral vision before going back to the perfumes in front of her. "What do you think of 'Dreamy Bellsprout'?"

"I'm all for whatever gets us out of here the fastest."

"Why didn't you wait outside? I thought you didn't like perfume."

"I found out that I'm no good by myself."

"I can't argue with that," Misty said, spraying some perfume on her wrist before smelling it.

"How can you smell that in here?"

"By dint of being a girl—girls have better focus."

"Sounds hokey but okay. And why on you?"

"Believe it or not, different people have different body chemistry, which means some perfumes smell different on them. I don't like this one," she decided, putting it up and picking up the one next to it. "'Bellossom Romance.'"

"I'm all for anything that doesn't have romance in it."

"You do realize you're in a shop that caters to women, right?"

"So? You're a girl, and I haven't seen you be romantic."

"I've been spending ninety-percent of my time around Pokémon, you, and Brock. Think about it."

"Are we finding everything all right?" the attendant said, coming up to the counter with Brock in tow.

"Fair enough."

"What do you have?" Ash asked Brock.

"Axew deodorant," Brock said, holding it up. "Apparently, this is my best fit."

This said with a tip of the head at the attendant, who giggled lightly before ringing him up.

"And how are you doing?" a different attendant asked, coming up on Misty.

"I'm having a hard time deciding, honestly. These all smell wonderful!" Misty said, testing another perfume.

"We make them all right here in Celadon City!" the girl said happily.

"I like this one," Misty said, holding her arm out and pointing at a spot on it. "What do you guys think?"

"Beautiful women make any perfume smell nice," Brock said to the store at large, earning him a round of tittering and some eyeing.

"I think it smells," Ash opined.

"What?" someone in the store asked flatly.

"It smells," Ash repeated. "It's too much—like—like when they sell Unova Candles. It's just all together and it stinks."

Five minutes later Ash found himself on his ear in front of the store, wondering what, exactly, just happened.

"Are you okay?" Misty asked, upon exiting the store with Brock in normal fashion.

"Why am I on the ground?" Ash asked.

"If I had to guess, insulting the perfume."

"Oh. Hey, wait a minute! That's not fair!" Ash yelped, sitting up. "They can't just throw someone out for expressing an opinion!"

"Apparently they can."

"Oi," Ash muttered, standing up and dusting himself off. "Well…forget them. We still have the gym to tackle."


A little while later, they found themselves at the gym's front doors.

"For the record, she's going to have a contingency plan for type weaknesses," Brock pointed out.

"That's all right," Ash said. "Even if we haven't had a chance to use any of the TMs from the department store yet, Lenny still knows Ice Fang. Kinda."

"And gets an effect spore to the face."

"Yeah, there's still that…."

By then, they were in the lobby and in the line for gym signups.

"So what," Misty asked. "You want to back out and train some more?"

"If I do that, then you'd buy every single Poké-doll in the department store," Ash pointed out.

"You say this like it's a bad thing."

They had reached the counter, which had two women chatting behind it.

One started at seeing Ash. "Oh no, it's you!"

"Your reputation precedes you," Misty told him.

Ash brightened considerably at that. "I have a reputation?"

The counter girl, meanwhile, was pointing. "That's the one, Erika! That's the one that was insulting your perfumes!"

Ash felt that this was about to go sideways. "I wasn't insulting it," he decided to clarify. "I was just saying I didn't like it. What's wrong with expressing my opinion? And besides, I'm a guy! I don't have to like perfume!"

"Give it five years," Brock declared.

"So you're a boy with no taste," Erika declared, eyeing him. "Probably not even for gym battles. Don't you touch that roster."

"Why not?" Ash asked, hand frozen in the act of reaching for the pen.

"Because I'm the gym leader, and I have the right to refuse any challenge. And I'm refusing you."

"And why not?"

"Because you obviously have no taste!"

"What kind of reason is that?"

"We make the perfumes here," the counter girl said primly. "And as you insulted the perfumes, you insulted the gym leader."

"All I said was that they stink! What kind of reasoning is this!?"


Five minutes later, Ash found himself on the ground in front of the gym.

Brock and Misty followed in the normal fashion, stood over him.

"You've got to stop leaving buildings like this," Misty said.

"I agree," Brock said. "I mean, there's the dramatic points, but eventually it gets old."

"Agreed," Ash moaned, sitting up—ow. "What was that? Banned for life? Because I didn't like some stinking perfume?"

"Let's be honest, you could have been more tactful," Misty pointed out as Ash struggled the rest of the way up.

"Ash has a point though," Brock said, holding a finger up. "Erika can't just kick Ash out for not liking her perfume. It's unprofessional. Why are you guys staring at me like that?"

"I'm surprised," Misty said simply. "I didn't think you'd go against a pretty girl."

"I prefer girls who are pretty both inside and out," Brock declared, fist against his chest. "Erika's only got one of those covered."

"Right," Ash muttered, deciding to move on. "I need that badge. I need eight badges to challenge the league."

"There are smaller gyms you could challenge," Misty pointed out.

"Yeah, but that's not the point. Now it's the principle of the thing."

"Oh boy," Misty muttered, hands on her hips. "And how, pray tell, are you going to get that badge? Stage a sit-in protest? Crash through the roof? Dress like a girl?"

"No," Ash said, ignoring Pikachu's snickers. "But I am going to get the help of someone who's used to being duplicitous."

"Wow, that was a pretty big word."

"Thanks—you can thank Darkrai for teaching me when we see him."

"Oh. Oh no…."


"So," Darkrai said, floating out with his arms crossed when they were in the forest. "How'd it go—" Snort when they came close. "You smell like a Victreebel puked you back out."

"Some people have no taste," Misty said, glaring at him.

"This is true, and makes me glad that I'm technically not 'people.' Back to brass tacks—wasn't there supposed to be a gym battle thing going on right about now?"

"I was kicked out of the gym," Ash said, before a thought occurred to him.

"Is that all gyms, or just the one?" Ash asked Brock.

"Just the one, I would think," Brock answered, scratching his face with a finger. "But that's really very unprofessional, to be honest."

"It's very unprofessional," Misty agreed. "So we're brainstorming ways to give her her just desserts."

"You could always dress Ash up as a girl and send him in that way," Darkrai suggested.

"Yeah, no," Ash said. "We were figuring that you would have a really awesome idea as to how to get back at her."

Darkrai considered this before sliding a glance at Misty.

"What?" Misty asked.

"I'm waiting to see if you're ready to shoot down all the really good ideas," Darkrai said.

"What are you planning?"

"Set the place on fire—"

"No."

"Give her nightmares for a few years—"

"Definitely not."

"Scare her witless—which honestly, sounds like it wouldn't take very long."

"I'm still waiting for something conductive."

"Now hold it," Brock said, holding a hand out. "That's not really a bad idea."

"Getting a more conductive idea?"

"Scaring her witless. Pop quiz: what's the one thing a gym leader is most afraid of losing?"

"Their Pokémon?"

"Their badges?" Ash guessed.

"Their Poké-mart discounts?" Darkrai guessed.

"Pika pi?" Pikachu added.

"Their gym," Brock said, cutting through the haze of suppositions. "A gym leader without a gym is just another trainer. It takes a lot of work and red tape to become a gym leader, and a lot to lose the title—but one of the fastest ways to take the title away is to get the League involved."

"So we call the League?" Ash asked. "You know their number?"

"I do, but they won't come down for this," Brock said. "Maybe once major infrastructure gets fixed up, but not right now—there's too much major stuff to take care of. But!" Brock added, halting their protests dramatically. "If they were to be forced to address this issue, they would be very upset, and be forced to give Erika a call—and when they did, they would sound very much like a certain irate Legendary."

"Ah," Darkrai noised, sounding enlightened. "I like this idea."

"What? What is it?" Ash asked.

"Think Ferris Buizel's Day Off."

"Ah…."

"Good, we all agree," Brock said, waving them all closer. "So, here's what we're gonna do…."


Roughly half an hour later, Ash was barging back into the gym, Misty and Brock flanking him.

"You again!" Erika squawked. "Can't you take a hint? Beat it!"

"Nuh-uh!" Ash said, jabbing a finger at her. "I'm an official gym challenger, and I'm not leaving here without a real fight!"

"I thought I made myself clear—I don't battle boys with no taste."

"I'd hold off on that if I were you," Brock called over.

"Says who?"

"Says me and him," Misty said, stepping forward and pointing at Brock. "I'm Misty of the Cerulean Gym, and that's Brock of Pewter Gym. And I've got news for you—you have no right denying a person a gym battle for anything less than suspected Pokémon abuse. Which means that banning Ash for not liking your perfume is a serious no-no."

"Really?" Erika said, smiling. "And tell me—what are two backwoods gym leaders going to do about it?"

"We already did it," Brock said, as Ash leapt to catch Misty and keep her from running over to punch Erika's lights out. "News flash: the League gives us just as much weight as they give you. And let me tell you: they weren't happy when two gym leaders called to complain about you."

Erika's face went pale at that. "You're bluffing."

"Oh really? Take that call and find out."

Erika looked nervous as one of her gym trainers ran up with a phone and stammered "It—it's uh, for you."

Ash tried not to smirk as she picked it up like it was going to explode, and tried very hard not to laugh as she squeaked a nervous 'hello' only to get blasted—Ash could hear Darkrai from clear across the way.

"Is this Erika of the Celadon Gym?" Darkrai demanded.

"Y-yes," Erika managed.

"Do you have any idea what we're going through up here in upper management!? Tournaments to organize, regulations to monitor, roads to repair! And then we get complaints about you and your gym policies? DO YOU THINK WE NEED THAT!?"

"I-I don't—"

"WE'RE GETTING COMPLAINTS ABOUT YOU BANNING PEOPLE OVER PERFUME! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA OF HOW THAT REFLECTS ON THE LEAGUE AS A WHOLE!? IT'S BAD ENOUGH NO ONE EVER GETS THE EARTH BADGE BECAUSE OF AN AWOL GYM LEADER—NOW WE HEAR THAT YOU'RE SITTING PRETTY IN YOUR GYM AND NOT DOING A GOLDUCK'ED THING!?"

"I—it's just a couple of—"

"NO, IT IS NOT! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MANY CALLS WE HAVE BEEN RECEIVING ABOUT YOU!? YOU ARE ON PROBATION UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE—AND IF WE HEAR ABOUT ONE MORE TRAINER BANNED FOR NOT LIKING THAT STENCH YOU CALL PERFUME, YOU ARE FIRED!"

"Talk about someone really getting into their role," Misty muttered, hiding her mouth with her hand.

"Is this really going to work?" Ash whispered to Brock. "I mean, she isn't going to call and validate or something?"

"She'll be too scared to at this point," Brock said, as Darkrai continued to lay it on thick. "And I wasn't kidding when I said the League is kept busy. By the time anyone checks any of this, we'll be long gone—and if she does say anything, we can tell the League that she's been denying challengers over personal tastes, and that is against League rules."

"Ah," Ash noised, at about the time that the din finally stopped; he looked over to see a dazed Erika hand the phone back to one of her aides, who scuttled away with it like it was going to explode.

"Which one of you wanted the gym challenge again?" she asked, swaying slightly.

"Me," Ash said, raising his hand. "The guy with no taste."

"Right," Erika said—wow, so blown away that she didn't even take the jab. "Right this way."

Ash shared a surreptitious fist-bump with Misty and Brock and vowed to give Darkrai some sort of really awesome gift for this.

In the meantime, he had a badge to win.


Darkrai, meanwhile, was chuckling darkly as he hung up the phone.

"Ooh, I have to see how this ends," he muttered, flying away from the pay phone and to the gym. "And boy will he owe me big time—she'll be so rattled she can't see straight! Can you say thrown match, friend?"

Meanwhile, the trio hiding in the bushes popped out to watch him leave.

"Yes, yes we can," Jessie said, rubbing her hands together. "So what do you boys say? Try to capture the Darkrai while he's distracted or rob the gym while the leader's so floored she can barely speak?"

"I'm always for the easy sell," James said.

"Guys, remember da rule," Meowth said. "No Rocket shenanigans in Celadon—we don't need a police investigation findin' da hideout."

"We'll be fine," Jessie said, already dashing for the gym. "Besides, we're still incognito—no one will connect us with Team Rocket!"

"Except the twerps," James pointed out, hot on her heels. "But if we avoid the battlefield, we should be fine."

"I still question the wisdom of dis!" Meowth protested, chasing after them.

"Then why are you coming?" Jessie asked.

"I can't leave you two by yourselves—you'll fall off a cliff. Besides, I do like the idea—I just don't want da boss mad at us."

"Don't worry, we'll be fine. Now come on!"


So as far as Darkrai could tell from the skylights and tall windows he could peer through, Ash and company were being guided right straight back to the gym floor and walked through the usual rigamarole. Couldn't help but laugh at the sight of the gym leader—so shaken up she could barely give her underlings, let alone her Pokémon, an order. Or perhaps it had been so long—ah, your policy has come back to bite you, lady….

Something made him glance away, investigate a nearby door on the ground floor—

It was propped open, door handle saying it had been tampered with.

Ah, look at this—feel like going in and catching some thieves red-handed?

"Yes, yes I do," Darkrai said, squashing the feeling the memory threatened him with and instead slinking in, sliding along the shadows until he found who had busted in. Ah, those three again….

Darkrai burst out of the shadows and assumed the fiercest pose he had in his arsenal.

"FREEZE!" he bellowed, enjoying the way Team Rocket leaped into the air. "Put your hands in the air and get on the ground!"

They quickly did so—

Which revealed an arboretum full of Pokémon staring at him with alarm. And then hostility.

Oh boy.

"Hi there," Darkrai decided to try, waving a clawed hand.

Several Bullet Seeds prompted him to not stick around for pleasantries.


So this had actually been going badly until the Darkrai showed up.

"What was that?!" a Vileplume screeched.

"Dat? Dat was wat we was comin' in here to save you all from!" Meowth said, hopping up and capitalizing on Darkrai's sudden appearance. How had he even tracked them he was supposed to be distracted—"Dat's a Darkrai, da biggest, scariest, meanest 'mon around! We was comin' in here ta warn you all ta watch out for it!"

One of the odder-looking Pokémon, that looked like a bipedal mushroom-dragon, glared at them suspiciously, but the rest quickly fell to discussing the odd Pokémon that had just appeared.

"And why were you the ones coming to warn us?" the mushroom-dragon demanded. "Who are you people?"

"We're uh…we're Team Rocket," Meowth said, figuring he might as well go for broke and ignoring the twin gasps of alarm behind him as he forged on. "We're busy tracking down da Darkrai before it does some real damage—seeing as how da League is too busy and all."

A green Pokémon that looked like a hula girl gave them a flat glare. "I've heard of Team Rocket—I heard they were no good."

"Ah, but the League isn't doin' anyting about dis guy, now are dey? We are!"

"I don't know, he has a point," a Gloom said, stubby arm-tendril to its face. "I mean, you heard the call Erika got—that was the first League call we've gotten in ages."

"No it wasn't," the mushroom-dragon insisted. "You all just think so because you have no concept of time!"

"I know how to tell time!" the Gloom said, insulted as it pointed up. "You see the sun up there? I can tell how many times it goes up and down—that thing is all I need to tell time!"

"Yeah!" one of the Weepinbell said, jumping on the conversation. "You can't just act like we don't know what we're talking about—do you smell something burning?"

Everyone who understood Pokémon blinked, turned to look—Jessie and James turned a few seconds later to see that the Bullet Seeds from earlier had hit a breaker box on the wall, which was sparking dangerously—

And then catching fire.

"AAH!" the mushroom-dragon yelped. "Everyone! Water Sport and Rain Dance! Someone get Erika!"

"Water don't work on an electric fire!" Meowth yelped. "Get someone to cut the power!"

"Wait!" Jessie yelped, throwing Ekans out. "Ekans! Use Mud Bomb!"

"Growlie!" James called, throwing out his Growlithe as what Jessie was planning became clear. "Use Mud Slap!"

The snake and dog quickly plastered the breaker box with mud—which was quickly being washed off by the Rain Dances coming into effect, but achieving the main purpose. Everyone backed off as the still-sparking box started electrifying nearby puddles.

"Someone still needs to cut the power," Meowth said, looking at the mushroom-dragon.

Said mushroom-dragon grit its teeth, like it didn't want to leave everyone alone, but finally nodded. "I'm getting Erika—I don't know who else went, but I need to. Everyone out of the arboretum! And you lot," it added, glaring at Team Rocket. "I don't know who you think you are, but our home is going up in flames because of that thing. You say you're after it? Then get going, before it gets away."

Meowth gritted his teeth briefly and resisted flexing his claws at the mushroom-dragon's tone. "All right—you just remember it was Team Rocket what helped you."

"We can't go out that way," James pointed out, indicating where the sparking puddles had spread to fill the hall they had used.

The mushroom-dragon eyed the nearby windows critically before launching a Solar Beam at it, shattering it effectively and melting some of the glass.

"There's your out," it said, as Meowth stared open-mouthed at the sight—even with Rain Dance lowering the effectiveness, that had been a powerful move, and Meowth hadn't noticed a Level 100 tag on the Pokémon. "Now go, and do not disappoint us."

"Uh…you got it," Meowth said, hopping onto James' back. "Now come on you guys!"

"Uh," James noised, glancing at Meowth.

"You guys got da boots, you can handle da glass."

"Right," Jessie said, returning Ekans and running for the exit. "Let's not wait for the grass to grow then."

James returned Growlithe and was right on her tail, Meowth only barely getting enough time for a backwards glance, to see the various grass Pokémon being herded out of the arboretum by the mushroom-dragon. A Venusaur he hadn't noticed before tried to neutralize the sparking box with a Solar Beam, resulting in an explosion that shot out smoke through their exit—even with several yards between them and the opening, the hot air gusting out was scalding—

And then they were knocked off their feet by the mechanisms behind the box exploding, causing part of the nearby building to buckle. Meowth went rolling to a halt in an undignified heap, managed to right himself and see the smoke now billowing out profusely.

"Guys," Meowth managed finally. "I tink people are gonna notice dis."