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Emerald Knights: A Pokémon Sword Story Chapter 10

Chapter 10: The Third Gym

Ruby had warned Emerald in advance that the Motostoke Gym was going to be hot. Emerald now saw for herself just how hot it was in the stadium.

The air was sticky and humid, almost like being on a tropical island with no way to escape from the heat. Emerald was sweating before she even reached the centre of the arena. She wiped her forehead and tugged at her shirt as it started to stick to her body. Kabu definitely took his position as Fire Gym Leader seriously! Perhaps too seriously. Emerald hoped she'd be able to concentrate on the battle despite how hot it was. She looked up at the audience that had gathered here to see this Gym Battle and wondered how they were up in their seats. Were they boiling as well or did they get the luxury of air conditioning to keep them cool?

After Sapphire had won her Gym Battle, she'd downed a whole can of lemonade before talking to anyone. Her throat had been dryer than a region that had been stricken by a Groudon's Drought ability and needed to quench her thirst before properly celebrating her win. Emerald and hugged her in delight, congratulating her on a brilliant win with her newly evolved Nidoking and claiming the Fire Badge. Even Ashley and Paul had congratulated her on winning.

"Well done Sapph! That was an awesome win!" Ashley cried.

"Your Nidoking certainly has a lot of power." Paul acknowledged, "I should bring my own over so we can see who's Nidoking is stronger."

"I'm up for that in the future." Sapphire said brightly, "I've got to say, Spike's Max Airstream came as a godsend in that arena! How does Kabu put up with such sweltering heat in there?!"

"Maybe he thinks it's good for the Fire Type Pokémon that live in the Gym?" Emerald suggested, "You sure seemed fine despite everything."

"It wasn't easy." Sapphire admitted, rubbing the back of her head, "I was fighting to stay awake a few times as the heat was making me feel a little drowsy. Still, I'm glad I won that battle and got my Fire Badge. Once you get yours, Em, we can make our way through to Hammerlocke City and then head to Stow-on-Side for the next Gym!"

"And as we have a Sword pass, we'll be facing Bea when we get there." Emerald noted, "I bet she'll be a tough opponent with her strong Fighting-types."

"I wonder if she'll be any stronger than Maylene." Paul wondered aloud.

"Who's Maylene?" Emerald asked curiously.

"The Fighting-type Gym Leader back in my home town of Veilstone City." the Sinnoh boy explained, "She was supposed to be tough, but I defeated her easily with my Honchkrow and Magmar. Curiously enough, I heard she seemed to have gotten much stronger after she had a battle with Ash. Next time I go home, I should see this new strength for myself…"

Emerald and Sapphire nodded with interest. So the Sinnoh region had a Fighting-type Gym too. If they ever visited Sinnoh, they should see how this Maylene person fared up to Bea. Paul had supposedly beaten her easily but they were sure he wouldn't find Bea easy, even if he already had a Corvisquire on his team.

Sapphire, Paul and Ashley were sitting together in the lobby to watch Emerald's fight, just as she had done with Paul and Ashley when Sapphire had been on moments ago. The Postwick girl could imagine them watching the TV screen now and seeing how much she was sweating. Hopefully they weren't worrying about her. It would take more than sweltering temperatures to weaken her resolve!

Emerald took her position and tried not to look as if the heat was getting to her. Her opponent stood opposite her, looking completely composed despite how hot it was. Emerald had to wonder if Kabu was cold-blooded by nature and the heat was actually perfect for him. How else could he bear it when nobody else could? The teenager took in Kabu's appearance from his surprisingly toned body, his aged face, grey hair and his Gym Leader uniform that made him look more like a sports coach than a Gym Leader. It always surprised her how a man as old as him could look so fit.

"And so I'm here against the third Silverlock." Kabu acknowledged, a faint smile on his wrinkled face, "I have to say, Sapphire was completely unstoppable when I faced her. She only used her Nidoking and that was it, my Pokémon were just no match for her!"

"Sapph told me she'd only used one Pokémon." Emerald said, "Either she really wanted to show off Spike now he'd evolved or maybe she wanted to challenge herself by seeing if she could win with just one Pokémon. I prefer to let as many Pokémon in my team as possible have their spotlight so I won't be doing that."

She raised her fists to chest-level and smiled confidently.

"I hope you enjoy our battle Kabu! It's going to be hotter than your Gym!" Emerald declared.

"Ha, ha, ha! I love that kind of enthusiasm from challengers!" Kabu chuckled heartily, "You clearly have a fiery spirit on par with the Champion! She gave me a good fight last year, so let us see your battle."

The two took up their positions and stood by as the announcer introduced the audience to them.

"From Postwick Town, Emerald Silverlock. Her opponent: Gym Leader Kabu."

A mixture of fans for both Emerald and Kabu cheered, showing their support for the Gym Challenger and Gym Leader that were ready to do battle. Emerald wondered what would get them fired up more, the heat of the arena or the sound of the crowd. She wiped her forehead again as sweat started to snake down it. God, she couldn't wait to get out of this oven of a stadium! Fresh air would feel like heaven at this point!

"Pokémon Trainers: Standby."

Emerald pushed all thoughts about the heat and how thirsty she felt as she fixed eyes on Kabu. Her battle was about to begin and she wanted to have all her attention focused on it.

"Three…two…one…BEGIN!" bellowed the announcer.

"Here we go, young Emerald! Show me your fiery spirit!" Kabu cried, "Ninetales, set the arena ablaze!"

He threw his first Ultra Ball and out came his first Pokémon chosen. Emerald smiled a big wide smile of delight upon seeing Ninetales materialize into view. She had been planning to evolve Vixey eventually so this was a neat little preview for what was to come in a way. She thought Kabu's Ninetales was one of the most beautiful Pokémon she'd ever seen. Its fur was glossy and neatly combed and trimmed, its eyes seemed to sparkle and its namesakes were big and bushy. Vixey would look just as beautiful when she became a Ninetales!

"Just like when you fought Ruby." Emerald noted, "I may not have a Barraskewda like she did, but I'm sure this one will win just fine!"

She threw her first Pokéball and brought out Steelclaw the Drilbur. The tiny mole Pokémon bared his claws and took up a battle stance. He was ready for his first Gym Battle and was determined to make a great impression. At only one foot in height, he looked a little ridiculous out here in such a big stadium with this large, nine-tailed vulpine creature opposite him but as any Pokémon enthusiast knew, size never mattered in a Pokémon battle. Kabu knew that Emerald had made a good choice. Drilbur was a Ground type Pokémon so even if it was unevolved, it had the type-advantage. It would just depend now if he had the power to defeat Steelclaw before he could win against Ninetales.

"Go Ninetales, use Will-O-Wisp!" Kabu cried.

Ninetales raised its big, bushy tails and conjured up some magical flames that started to grow out of the tips. At first they were the size of candle lights, then they gradually grew to the size of fireballs. Ninetales sent the flames floating towards Steelclaw. Steelclaw braced himself as the flames came near and started to circle him like a swarm of bees. Will-O-Wisp didn't do damage, but it did inflict a burn on opponents so the pain would come later. The flames brushed against Steelclaw, making him flinch as he was burnt. Then they vanished, disappearing as if the whole thing had been some dangerous magic trick. Emerald knew Steelclaw was fine for now, but the burn damage would make things tricky if the battle prolonged at all. She'd try and end it quickly.

"That Will-O-Wisp won't bother us!" Emerald declared, "Use Drill Run!"

Steelclaw leapt into action, charging towards Ninetales and spinning through the air like a drill. He pointed its claws forward as he spun. Somehow, he even seemed to be making a high-pitched whirring sound like an actual drill would when it was spinning. To the audience, he looked like a giant bullet that had been fired towards Ninetales. Steelclaw slammed into Ninetales, knocking it off its feet and sending it sliding towards Kabu. It was an incredible sight to see this tiny Pokémon effortlessly knock the larger Ninetales across the arena like that.

Back in the lobby, Sapphire cheered while Ashley gasped in astonishment. Paul sat silently, his observant eyes studying Emerald and her Pokémon so he could plan on how to battle her next time they fought.

"That's incredible!" Ashley exclaimed, "How does that Drilbur know Drill Run already? It takes them ages to learn that!"

"Drilbur in Galar have it lucky." Sapphire explained, "Drill Run can be taught via TRs so we Galarians can teach them that move much sooner than they'd normally learn it."

"That's so handy." Ashley said, sounding impressed, "We don't have those TR things in Unova so anyone with a Drilbur or Excadrill will have to work harder than you guys to teach them Drill Run."

"It shows that despite Emerald's overly cheerful personality, she's a lot smarter than she seems." Paul observed, "Teaching powerful moves to her Pokémon before they evolve will catch any opponent off-guard. They won't be expecting a powerful attack from a Pokémon at its first stage."

The girls agreed with Paul's observation. Whether this was part of a plan Emerald had or just coincidence, they didn't know but it was still good thinking on the brunette girl's part. The only trouble was, as they watched on the TV screen, Steelclaw was still a first stage Pokémon so he wouldn't land as powerful a Drill Run as Emerald hoped for. The attack had hit hard, but Ninetales was able to take it as it was a fully evolved Pokémon and thus had more endurance to take hits. If Steelclaw had been an Excadrill, and if he hadn't been burnt by Will-O-Wisp, the fight would've been over. Ninetales got back to its feet and bared its teeth. Steelclaw winced as the burn from Will-O-Wisp kicked in, sapping away some of his strength. Emerald frowned.

"Looks like it won't be quite as easy as I thought." she muttered.

"I do like to pose a challenge." Kabu said smoothly, "It wouldn't do for me to be the third Gym Leader and not give Challengers a good fight. Now Ninetales, use Ember!"

Ninetales opened its mouth and fired a small fireball at Steelclaw. As he was a Ground type, Ember wouldn't do much to him but because of the Burn from Will-O-Wisp, every attack that Ninetales landed would count against him. If Kabu could slowly but surely whittle his health down, then the Burn would simply finish him off. After Steelclaw was hit, he retaliated by drilling into his opponent with another Drill Run. He came in fast and hard just like before, knocking Ninetales down and making the audience gasp in astonishment. Many of them were even cheering for Steelclaw, seeing him as David against Goliath and really pulling his weight despite his small size. Many fans loved seeing the smaller species really pack a punch as it was fascinating to watch how powerful they were in spite of their size.

Ninetales got back up again but Emerald could see that the damage had been done. It was struggling this time, grunting and straining slightly as it got up. It was nearly defeated! Just one more hit would do the trick! As soon as Ninetales stood up again, Kabu commanded the fiery vulpine to use Fire Spin. Ninetales blew a fiery tornado towards Steelclaw and he held up his huge claws in front of his face as if hoping to protect himself. The attack hit him and the fire began to spin fiercely around him as if hoping to keep him trapped in a blazing inferno forever. Fire Spin did damage and trapped its opponent in a fiery vortex that would do extra damage at the end of every turn. Emerald could see that Steelclaw was in trouble now. With Fire Spin and his Burn sapping away his health, he would eventually fall victim to the fiery power of Ninetales. She had to end the fight and now! She wanted to use another Drill Run but decided against it. There was a chance Steelclaw could miss. She would rely on an attack that was guaranteed to hit to finish the fight.

"Use Crush Claw!" Emerald commanded.

Steelclaw obeyed, bearing his large claws and running towards his opponent. His claws seemed to glisten in the light of the stadium. He jumped into the air and came hurling towards his opponent like an incoming missile. He then raked his claws across Ninetales's face. Crush Claw was a Normal type attack that did damage and occasionally lowered the opponent's defences. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to finish the fight. Ninetales shook its head and remained standing, ready to launch another attack. Steelclaw grimaced as the damage from Burn and Fire Spin kicked in, sapping away more of his strength. If it carried on, it would be over for him! Emerald called to her Pokémon.

"Time out for a minute!" she cried.

Steelclaw came over to his trainer. Kabu stood by patiently, waiting for his opponent to finish. It was within the rules for trainers and Gym Leaders to use potions to heal their Pokémon occasionally and during that time, nobody was allowed to launch any attacks until the opponent was finished. Emerald had a Super Potion on her and she used it to heal Steelclaw. While it wouldn't stop the effects of Burn or Fire Spin, Steelclaw at least now had his health restored so he could remain in the fight.

"That feels much better, thank you." Steelclaw said graciously.

"Welcome." Emerald said brightly.

Steelclaw returned to the field, signalling to Kabu that it was OK to continue the fight. The Hoenn man ordered Ninetales to yet again use Ember. He didn't have much else that Ninetales could use so as ineffective as it was, he may as well just keep using it and hopefully whittle down Steelclaw's health again. Ninetales landed the attack but like before, it barely did anything and Steelclaw shook it off easily. Then Emerald ordered him to finish the fight with Rapid Spin. Rapid Spin was a move that did damage and also shook off the effects of moves that bound or trapped the opponent in anyway, such as Fire Spin. It could also get rid of arena hazards like Spikes or Toxic Spikes. Steelclaw spun around, becoming a black and grey blur as he became this spinning top of a Pokémon that was hurling itself towards Ninetales. Kabu watched as the flames of Fire Spin were blown away from Steelclaw as he used his attack. Now it wouldn't do extra damage to him every so often to further weaken him! Ninetales was also on low health so the single Rapid Spin was enough to finish the fight at last. Steelclaw hit Ninetales with the force of someone throwing a large rock through a window. The majestic fox Pokémon collapsed onto its side and didn't get up again. Steelclaw returned to Emerald's side, panting but feeling very much triumphant.

"Whew…that was a tough match." he puffed, "So that's what a Gym Battle is like…"

"Sure is." Emerald concurred, "And you were awesome out there! Great job!"

She hugged Steelclaw graciously while Kabu patted Ninetales, reassuring it that he was proud of it despite the loss.

"Ninetales is unable to battle, Drilbur is the winner!" the announcer barked.

"Whew, how close was that?" Sapphire cried as the announcement came through the TV screen, "It really did look like it was anyone's game for a moment!"

"She should've used Drill Run again. That would've finished the fight sooner." Paul scoffed.

"Yes, but Drill Run isn't super reliable as the opponent can't always see when using it and can likely miss." Ashley noted, "I guess Emerald wanted to make sure her last moves wouldn't miss. Plus using Rapid Spin was clever on her behalf as it got rid of Fire Spin."

"But Steelclaw still has Burn damage." Sapphire noted, "It might be best if she switches for another Pokémon."

Miraculously, Emerald seemed to have heard her for she returned Steelclaw to his Pokéball and whipped out another. Kabu drew out his next Ultra Ball, ready to bring his next Pokémon out. They both threw their balls simultaneously.

"Blue, let the fun begin!" Emerald cried.

"Arcanine, set the arena ablaze!" Kabu yelled.

The two Pokémon materialized onto the field and stared each other down. It was yet another case of David vs. Goliath for Emerald had the small Palpitoad going up against the rather large Arcanine. Arcanine was so big that a child could ride on its back easily while Blue was barely any bigger than Steelclaw, only by about a foot and seven inches. But once again, size wouldn't matter as Blue had the clear type-advantage, being both a Water and a Ground type so Emerald would be able to exploit two of Arcanine's weaknesses with this match-up. The fiery dog-like Pokémon lowered its head into attack position, looking as if it was about to pounce on its opponent. Blue refused to be intimidated. She'd come so far and proven she was worth more than her former school ever thought her to be so she wasn't going to let Arcanine think she was scared.

"Use Will-O-Wisp!" Kabu ordered.

So it seemed that the Fire Gym Leader was hoping to duplicate his strategy from last time. It wouldn't work this time! Arcanine conjured up a magical flame from within its jaws and shot it towards Blue.

"Dodge it quick!" Emerald cried.

Blue did just that, leaping surprisingly high up into the air and out of the attack's way despite her little legs. Blue wouldn't be suffering from a burn this time. She landed back on the floor and looked back to see Will-O-Wisp harmlessly fade away now there was no target to hit. She felt very pleased with herself.

"I had no idea I could jump like that!" she exclaimed.

"When you evolve, you'll learn lots of things you can do now." Emerald said brightly, "Now use Bubble Beam!"

Blue obeyed instantly. Her mouth formed an O-shape as she sucked in air and breathed out again. A huge beam of bubbles fired from her mouth, shooting towards Arcanine like bullets out of a machine gun. Arcanine was bombarded by the bubbles. Only a Pokémon could somehow make something as harmless as bubbles a dangerous weapon. Every bubble that hit it felt more like being pelted by rocks. Arcanine staggered, momentarily unable to stay standing from the attack. Kabu was impressed. Not even Ruby had managed to land such a big blow on Arcanine this early on. He had the feeling one last Bubble Beam would finish the fight. He still had a way of turning the tide in his favour despite everything.

"Use Will-O-Wisp again!" Kabu ordered.

Emerald could see what he was up to. Even if she beat Arcanine now, Blue would suffer damage from a Burn and that would soften her up a little for his ace, which would no doubt be his trademark Centiskorch. She ordered Blue to try dodging again but this time, the Arcanine had expected the move so as Blue jumped to one side, it aimed the attack to where Blue was heading so that it would still hit. Blue grimaced as the fireball hit her and inflicted her with a Burn. She landed just as the flames dancing around her faded away. After that, Emerald ordered Blue to use Bubble Beam again. As Kabu thought, it was more than enough. Blue hit Arcanine square on with the attack and that was it. Arcanine was soaked by the bubbles and unable to battle any longer. It swayed on its feet and then keeled over, passing out from the attack. Blue cheered, wagging her little tail gleefully. Emerald cheered too, impressed she'd managed to take Arcanine down so quickly. Even Ruby hadn't managed to pull that off in her battle last year.

"Arcanine is unable to battle! Palpitoad is the winner!" the announcer declared.

The audience cheered excitedly. It looked as if much like with Ruby and Sapphire, Emerald was going to pass through the third Gym with ease and without a single defeat on her hands. It would truly bring the family full circle if all three of the sisters managed to pull off the same achievement! Sapphire watched on with her eyes wide with excitement. Her sister had this match easily! She couldn't possibly lose!

Kabu returned Arcanine to its Ultra Ball and drew out his third and final Ultra Ball.

"Most impressive, child." he complimented, "Just like your sisters, you have me backed against the wall. But I warn you, a cornered trainer is when he or she is at its most dangerous!"

"Oh I'm not relaxing just yet. I know the battle is only just beginning!" Emerald declared, "Bring it on, Kabu!"

"With pleasure." the elderly Gym Leader said, sounding as heated up as the stadium he occupied, "Centiskorch, set the arena ablaze!"

As predicted, his last Pokémon was his personal ace. Emerald watched as the scorching centipede Pokémon itself, Centiskorch, made its grand appearance onto the battlefield. It reared up menacingly and screeched viciously, the flames on its head and tail flickering wildly. Emerald cringed. She always thought Centiskorch looked a little creepy and seeing it in person just made it even worse. Even seeing it move and wriggle its little legs made her skin crawl. But she tried to ignore it. She wouldn't let it scare her out of a win! Emerald returned Blue and exchanged her for another Pokémon.

"It's best I use one who isn't burnt." the joyful girl deduced, "And this is a good time for me to let my prize Pokémon show its stuff. Gemstone, let the fun begin!"

She threw the ball and summoned forth Gemstone the Staryu. She'd been training Gemstone a lot since winning the starfish Pokémon in the Isle of Armour and Crown Tundra Pokémon Prize Draw the other day and she was keen to see if that training would pay off. Gemstone flexed its arms and did a little spin to show it was ready for battle. As Gemstone had no face, it was impossible to tell what it was feeling. Was the Water Pokémon excited or nervous? Emerald could see from Gemstone's body language that it was ready to fight. She only wished Gemstone could talk so it could tell her how it felt right now.

Gemstone soon got something to experience some kind of emotion over for now came the most exciting part for many people who attended these Gym Battles. Emerald and Kabu returned their Pokémon to their Pokéballs and activated their Dynamax bands. All attention was focused on the trainers as the Dynamaxing of their Pokémon began. The Pokéballs grew in size and once they stopped growing, the two trainers threw them. Then out came their respective Pokémon and the stadium was once again filled with gigantic Pokémon as Gemstone and Centiskorch grew to incredible sizes. Gemstone was now so big that if it was to lie down, several people could ride on it like a giant surfboard across water. The gem in the centre of its body glowed with the Dynamax energy radiating inside. Centiskorch had Gigantamaxed as usual, becoming a much longer and more powerful form of itself. It looked like a mix of a Chinese dragon and a centipede with its great length and fiery appearance combined with its insect body. Seeing how long it was made Emerald feel uncomfortable. She was back in the mine being wrapped up by Henry's Gyarados again, a memory she didn't want to remember any time soon. But this was different. Kabu's Centiskorch wouldn't hurt her at all so she didn't have to worry. Centiskorch hissed, a low rumbling sound amplified by its Gigantamaxed appearance, while Gemstone made no noise at all.

"Let's make this quick and easy!" Emerald cried enthusiastically, "Use Max Geyser!"

But it wasn't quick and easy. Once again, Emerald was using a Stage 1 Pokémon against a fully evolved Pokémon so despite type-advantage, Gemstone just wasn't powerful enough to take full advantage of it. The Dynamaxed Pokémon conjured up a huge watery attack, forming a small orb of water in the centre of its red gem and gradually growing it until finally, it fired. A huge jet of water splashed all over Centiskorch and made it cry out as the water threatened to extinguish its flames. The attack created a brief shower of rain that fell over the trainers and the arena, briefly reliving Emerald of the unbearable heat. If Gemstone had been a Starmie, it would've been a one-hit KO. But it wasn't, so the attack hadn't finished Centiskorch off like Emerald hoped it would. The Gigantamaxed Pokémon used the heat in its body to make the water around it evaporate, making it looks as if it had never been hit at all. Emerald gasped in amazement. Imagine bringing this thing out during a flood! It could probably clear it out in an hour or so!

"The fire within you always burns strong, my friend!" Kabu complimented joyfully, "Now Centiskorch, use Max Flutterby!"

Centiskorch obeyed. It shaped up its giant, elongated body into a radiator shape and its yellow underbelly glowed as it fired. Max Flutterby was the Bug-type Dynamax move that Dynamaxed Pokémon could use if they had a Bug-type attack as part of their move set. When it hit, it could lower the Special Attack of the opponent. Emerald watched with fascination and dismay as Gemstone was bombarded by hundreds of energy constructs in the shape of butterflies. In any other case, it would look funny to her to see a Pokémon be attacked in such a manner but as it was her own Pokémon, it was no laughing matter. Gemstone made no sound as the Max Flutterby attack rained down, but it was clearly feeling the pain from it. Gemstone staggered briefly but otherwise remained standing. It wasn't over yet. Emerald felt as if she could still wrap this up.

"We can still win!" Emerald declared, "Come on Gemstone, one more Max Geyser!"

Gemstone repeated its last attack, blasting its opponent with Max Geyser a second time. Centiskorch winced as it was drenched by the attack. The pressure of Max Geyser could potentially knock a house down if Gemstone wanted to. But despite everything, it still wasn't enough. To Emerald's amazement, Centiskorch was still standing! That was impossible! How could Centiskorch take two Max Geysers and still be standing?! Did Pokémon evolutions really make that much of a difference in strength? Now Emerald wished she'd found a Water Stone at some point before she'd got here. A Starmie would've ended this in one hit!

Like before, Centiskorch dried itself off in seconds thanks to the heat of its body. Its flames seemed to burn just as hot as before, as if Gemstone's attempts to put them out just wouldn't work. Kabu was glad this final battle wasn't going as easily as it did last year. Ruby had managed to knock Centiskorch out in a single blow from her Dynamaxed Noctowl, not helped by the fact she'd used Stealth Rock to gain an early advantage by taking away some of its health before the fight began. This time, it was putting up much more of a fight and he loved it.

"Finish up with another Max Flutterby!" Kabu commanded.

Centiskorch formed its radiator shape again and sent the energy construct butterflies swarming towards Gemstone. The starfish Pokémon was helpless as it was battered mercilessly by the fluttering butterflies. Emerald could only watch with despair as her prize Pokémon shrank back down to normal size and collapsed onto the floor, its centre gem bleeping to signify it was unable to battle. She couldn't believe that Gemstone had lost. She'd trained it so hard! She knelt down by her Pokémon's side and stroked it sadly.

"I'm so sorry you lost." Emerald said solemnly, "You take a good long rest now."

She returned her Staryu to its Pokéball as the announcer declared the result.

"Staryu is unable to battle! Centiskorch is the winner!"

Back in the lobby, Sapphire shared her sister's disappointment. She had banked on Emerald getting a clean sweep victory just as she and Ruby had but instead, that had happened. Ashley shook her head sadly.

"Goes to show that type-advantage doesn't instantly mean you'll win." she murmured, "Sometimes it's all about who's stronger that determines the win."

"You speak from experience, no doubt." Sapphire said.

Ashley nodded. She hadn't become the Unovan Champion without learning that important lesson herself.

"She should evolve that Staryu." Paul commented, "It'll be a lot stronger when it becomes a Starmie."

"We never found a Water Stone before we got here." Sapphire explained, "So Em couldn't evolve Gemstone even if she wanted to."

"Too bad it had to go against her here." Paul murmured, "Still, she has five Pokémon left while Kabu's down to his last. She can't possibly lose even now."

Sapphire agreed. Gemstone's defeat was hardly a victory for Kabu when Emerald still had plenty more to choose from. They watched as the Postwick girl sent out her next Pokémon. She had decided against bringing Steelclaw or Blue out again as their burn damage would only screw them over. This time, she'd brought out Abyss the Lanturn. This was a much stronger match-up. Now it was two fully evolved Pokémon fighting against each other. The audience knew that even if Centiskorch was still Gigantamaxed, it wouldn't help Kabu at all. It had taken too much damage from Gemstone and Abyss was in full health. The battle was very quickly going to end in Emerald's victory.

"You ready for this, Abyss?" Emerald asked.

She wanted to make sure he hadn't drifted off again and was fully concentrating on the match. Luckily, his head was out of the clouds for he responded immediately.

"As ready as the lights on my head are shining!" he cried, wiggling his antennae, "Gotta say, I wasn't expecting to fight a giant Pokémon today…"

He stared up at the Gigantamaxed Centiskorch. He felt puny and insignificant compared to this giant behemoth before him but he was determined to give it a good battle. Kabu ordered it to use Max Flutterby again. It was all he could do for now. Centiskorch launched the attack at Abyss. As he was normal sized, it looked to the audience as if Centiskorch was trying to squash an ant. The butterflies came in fast and hard and bombarded Abyss, threatening to smash him down into the floor. It was a valiant effort on Kabu's part, but ultimately not enough. Abyss took the hit and got back up again, the orbs on his antennae crackling with electricity to show how ready he was for this.

"It's time for us to win another badge! Use Waterfall!" Emerald cried.

Abyss shot towards Centiskorch, surrounding himself with water as he did so. He hit Centiskorch with the force of a fish travelling up a waterfall, hence the move's name. Centiskorch screeched in pain. It was an incredible sight to watch this normal-sized Pokémon take out a Gigantamaxed Pokémon like this. It was like watching a fly knockout an elephant. Centiskorch reeled back from the attack and then collapsed, the remainder of its health completely depleted. Kabu watched his trademark Pokémon return to normal size and form, knowing that the battle was over and another Gym Challenger was going to walk away with a badge today. He didn't feel disappointed at all. If anything, he was thrilled to have had such an epic and intense battle. Losing to Ruby and both her sisters had shown that being skilled Pokémon trainers definitely ran in the family!

"Centiskorch is unable to battle! Lanturn is the winner!" the announcer boomed, "The winner of the Motostoke Gym Challenge is Emerald Silverlock from Postwick Town and she progresses to the next Gym!"

The audience cheered. Another Gym Challenger had conquered Kabu's Gym! They couldn't wait to see how much further Emerald would get. She could potentially go all the way at this rate! Sapphire and Ashley cheered for Emerald as they watched her victory.

"Great going sis, you did it!" Sapphire cried happily.

"You two will both be going on to the next Gym." Ashley said brightly.

Paul didn't celebrate. After all, Emerald was just another opponent to him and not a friend. He was only glad she won so they could potentially face each other in the semi-finals should they clear the Gym Challenge.

"She's still got a lot to learn." he said to himself.

Back in the arena, Emerald and Kabu met in the centre once again and shook hands.

"That was a truly marvellous battle, little Emerald." Kabu said briskly, "Your fiery spirit burns as brightly as both your sisters. I reckon either of you two could be challenging Ruby for that Champion title."

"Oh don't think that far ahead!" Emerald exclaimed, "I've still got five Gyms left and as Ruby has warned me, that's when the REAL challenge begins. I've still got a long way to go."

"Perhaps, but I still see great things for you if you keep at it the way you are now." Kabu said with a smile, "For now, here is your well-deserved Fire Badge."

He handed the badge to Emerald. The happy go-lucky girl admired it with pride. Three Gym Badges all in one week! That was great going for someone who wasn't necessarily trying to be the best Pokémon trainer ever! She was sure that she'd be clearing the Gym Challenge in no time, even if she knew the remaining Gyms would be much more difficult from here on out. Nevertheless, she was very excited about what would come next for her. This adventure was just getting more fun by the minute…


"You'll be happy to know that your Pokémon are fighting fit, dear." Nurse Joy said brightly.

After the Gym Battle had ended, Emerald had been keen to get out of the stadium as quickly as possible, and not just because she was desperate to get out of the heat. She wanted Gemstone to get treated at a Pokémon Centre right away so the Water Pokémon would be back in tip-top shape and not inside its Pokéball still suffering from its defeat. Sapphire had understood and so the twins had hastily said goodbye to Paul and Ashley as they had no time to chat. Ashley bid farewell whereas Paul simply waved them off. Upon arrival, Emerald had handed her Pokémon over to Nurse Joy and waited as she treated them. A couple of hours later, everyone was back to full health with no burns and Gemstone was out of its unconscious state. Thankfully she wouldn't need to leave anyone behind to carry on healing. She remembered that Ruby had had to do so on her journey and that it had been hard for her. At least she wouldn't go through the same thing.

"Thanks so much Nurse Joy!" Emerald said appreciatively, "Now everyone's alright, they can take the day off to rest until tomorrow, then we can train some more to get ready for the other Gyms!"

"That's a sensible idea." Nurse Joy said brightly, "Take care of yourself, dear and enjoy your day."

Emerald smiled with gratitude and said goodbye to the nurse. Now that was done, she and Sapphire could make their way over to Hammerlocke City. The next Gym was in Stow-on-Side, which was west of Hammerlocke so they needed to go there first in order to make their way to the Gym. Emerald put her Pokéballs back into her backpack and left the Pokémon Centre with Sapphire beside her. She turned to her sister.

"So, what do you want to do first?" she asked, "Should we go straight to the Wild Area right now or do something else and then go?"

"There's nothing else to do here for now so we can go straight away." Sapphire said, "I bet Paul and Ashley are there already in the time we've spent in the Pokémon Centre and we don't want to lag too far behind them so we best get a move on."

"What, worried you'll lose your girlfriend or something?" Emerald snickered.

"Ha, ha, very funny." Sapphire muttered sarcastically, "So how's Gemstone? Stupid question I know as it's just been healed, but I mean how is Gemstone as a result of the battle?" she asked.

Emerald understood what the black twin meant by her question.

"Gemstone did look a little disappointed when Nurse Joy brought it out." the hat-wearing twin sighed, "Gemstone looked as if it was worried it'd let me down or something like that. If anything, I let Gemstone down. I shouldn't have used it against a fully evolved Pokémon like Centiskorch! It's my fault it lost the battle."

She looked down at her feet sadly.

"I bet I looked like a total fool out there." Emerald muttered, "I'm the Champion's sister and I go making a rookie mistake like that? It's just lucky I won in the end!"

"It was hardly luck when you still had five Pokémon left to use and Kabu was down to one." Sapphire retorted, "And don't be so hard on yourself, Em! It wasn't stupid of you to bring Gemstone into the battle despite it not being fully evolved. You had the type-advantage so you was still able to put up a great fight and you clearly wanted Gemstone to carry on getting strong and that's why you brought Gemstone out."

Emerald nodded. She knew that Pokémon didn't get stronger if they never got used and just sat in their Pokéballs so she had used Gemstone for that reason. It was just unlucky that it didn't pay off like it did with Steelclaw.

"You're right Sapph. I guess I'm just trying to make Gemstone feel better by placing the blame on me instead." the perky teen said thoughtfully, "I just don't want my Pokémon to feel bad about themselves, you know? When they're sad…it makes ME sad too." she said glumly.

"Understandable." Sapphire said sympathetically, "I know what you mean. Remember how upset James Pond got when he lost to Ashley the other day? It made me sad to see him that way too. But blaming yourself for their defeats won't make them or you feel any better. Just see this as a learning experience and a motivator for you to help Gemstone be stronger."

Emerald smiled appreciatively at her sister's uplifting words. Sapphire always seemed to know the right things to say. She hugged her tightly.

"Thanks Sapph. I really needed that." she said softly.

"Anything for my adorable sister." Sapphire said playfully, hugging her back, "So, three badges already, eh? That must feel like a big accomplishment to you!"

"No kidding!" Emerald cried excitedly, "I didn't think we'd get them so quickly! I can't wait to get the next badges!"

"It's quite a walk to Stow-on-Side so it'll be a while yet." Sapphire noted, "For now, we can chill out in the Wild Area for the rest of the day and then set off tomorrow. What do you say?"

"I'm up for it." Emerald said happily, "My Pokémon do need a rest after all and the fresh air will be welcome after the heat of that blooming Gym! I'm amazed I didn't melt in there…"

"Likewise." Sapphire agreed, "At least we're out of it now."

The twins headed on out of Motostoke City to return to the Wild Area and enjoy the rest of the day camping there and having some peace and relaxation. As the made their way through the city, they passed a man sitting at a café reading a newspaper. Only…he wasn't actually reading it. He was using it to hide himself from the crowd. The man looked up once the twins had passed him. They wouldn't see him now. The man was in his thirties with a five o'clock shadow and a thick, flabby neck. His portly appearance suggested he was someone who needed to get out more and stay in less. His stomach was so large that it almost reached his knees when he sat down. He was also wearing a jacket that had been zipped up so nobody would see the Team Royal logo on the shirt he wore underneath. He had recognized Emerald and Sapphire immediately and had taken his phone out to make a call. He put the phone to his ear as he was put through.

"Bosses, I've spotted the Champion's sisters. They're heading into the Wild Area." the man informed, speaking in a deep voice.

"Marvellous, Richard!" Sordward purred excitedly, "You remember what to do."

"Of course boss." Richard said darkly, "I'll inform Edward so that he can get one and I can get the other."

"Excellent." Shielbert put in, "Soon the Champion will be forced to bow down to the true Kings of Galar when she sees we have her sisters…"

Richard grinned, showing off rotting, nicotine stained teeth.

"Me and Edward will have them brought to you immediately." Richard declared.

He hung up. He decided to wait a little longer before going to the Wild Area. He didn't want the twins to think he was following them. While he waited for the right moment, he dialled another number and called Edward to let him know the plan was going to happen. Those poor, stupid kids would have no idea what was coming to them…

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