A young Pokémon trainer named Tamaro stood facing the Blackthorn City gym. It was late morning, and the mountainous region in which Blackthorn sat was just beginning to become comfortably warm. At all times, Tamaro travelled with his friends, his Pokémon. In particular, the first Pokémon he ever caught could be seen beside him always. But this morning his Vulpix was not at his side. The previous day he had encountered a Sneasel, a very tough one. Tamaro and Vulpix had both come out of the deal injured. Taped onto the side of his face was a pad-like bandage. Vulpix was back at the Pokémon center now. Nurse Joy had assured him that Vulpix would just take awhile to recover, but Tamaro couldn't help but worry about her anyway.
From behind him came a voice, the voice of a woman. He turned to face her. "You must be a Pokémon trainer." she said knowingly.
"Yeah, how could you tell?" he asked in return.
"Many trainers tend to stand here awhile before finding the courage to head in and try for a badge," she said with a smile.
"Actually I was just taking a walk," he paused, "You're Clair aren't you? The Gym Leader here?"
"That's right. How could you tell?" she asked, somewhat surprised.
"Just a hunch. Gym Leaders often have a certain something about them," he said to her.
"Intimidated then?" she teased.
"I probably would be if I had my heart set on getting a Rising Badge, but that's not why I'm here in Blackthorn," he informed her.
"Really? A trainer who visits a city with an official gym but doesn't want a badge? That's unusual. What brings you here then?" she inquired further.
"My travels have brought me here, nothing more. It's just the way my journey has led. But while I'm here I would like to learn a bit about the history of Blackthorn and the legends of Dragon Pokémon," he told her.
"Huh," she said with a mix of surprise, disbelief, and respect, "Well if you feel like a good battle while you're here, feel free to stop by."
And with that she walked away and into the gym. Tamaro returned to the Pokémon center to check up on Vulpix and get a bite to eat. As he sat there with his Pokémon around him, he started to think about the past.
When Tamaro had first set out on a Pokémon journey, it was the average trainer's journey. After collecting a Rainbow and Boulder Badge however, he decided that was not the path for him. On his second (and still ongoing) journey, collecting badges was a very insignificant part. As it was, here in Johto he had collected a Plain Badge and a Fog Badge, but if he was serious about Johto League competition, he would have waited in Mahogany Town a few days for Pryce to return from a trip. Instead, he had gone straight ahead to Blackthorn. Gym badges really didn't matter much to him. And so he wondered why he was dwelling on the subject.
After awhile it hit him. The way Clair had ended their conversation wasn't just an invitation, it was a challenge. But he wondered why she would challenge him in such a way.
"It doesn't matter to a Gym Leader, Clair doesn't have to prove herself to anyone..." he thought to himself.
Nevertheless, after thinking about it long enough, Tamaro decided that Gym Leader or not, Rising Badge or not, it would be a great challenge.