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Emerald Knights: A Pokémon Sword Story Chapter 25

Chapter 25: Emerald vs. Paul

A picture of Emerald vs. Paul

It only just dawned on Emerald that everything on her journey had potentially been leading to this moment. From her first encounter with Paul to the numerous other occasions where their paths crossed to the tag-team battle she'd had against him and Ashley with Sapphire beside her to her being rescued by him in the Wild Area from Team Royal and then watching him and Ashley battle each other outside of Spikemuth, it seemed inevitable that her semi-final run should begin with a battle between her and the boy from Sinnoh.

Emerald was excited at the prospect of getting to have her first full six-on-six battle with Paul but at the same time, she was quaking in her shoes. She'd even struggled to sleep the night before the match. She and the other semi-finalists were staying at the Rose of the Rondelands Hotel and despite the comfortable beds, they didn't help Emerald doze off as her nerves were going hyper. She ended up wishing that Margot would pour another test tube of Sleep Powder on her just so she could sleep. Instead she'd been lying awake tossing and turning in her bed while Sapphire was snoring away in her own bed. At least SHE had it easy! In the end, Emerald had given up trying to sleep and went outside to stare up at the moon, perhaps wondering if it could comfort her somehow. It was a beautiful night and the moon was glowing brighter than Emerald had seen it shine before.

"This is it…I'm out of the Gym Challenge and in the semi-finals…this is where it really gets going." Emerald murmured to herself, "Can I really do it? Can I win the semi-finals and make it into the Champion Cup, then win my way to Ruby?"

The moon gave no answer. Emerald sighed, feeling a little embarrassed to be out here talking to herself with no one listening. It just felt good to let it out in some way instead of lying in bed worrying about her match tomorrow. A couple of minutes later, Emerald looked up at the moon again.

"I don't know what will happen in my next battles, but what I do know is that I can show Ruby how much I've learned from my adventures. I'll make her proud of me, and I'll give Paul a battle he'll never forget." she declared.

She'd felt a little better after that and returned back to bed. She'd managed to sleep the rest of the night but had to be woken up early to have her breakfast before the battle with Paul was to begin. To Emerald's annoyance, Paul looked well-rested and didn't seem to be nervous at all. If only she could have his kind of confidence! The Sinnoh boy didn't speak to her as she and Sapphire ate together. Emerald presumed Paul was just focusing on the match ahead and didn't want to waste time with small-talk with his opponent. That would come later. Ashley at least was more sociable, sitting with the twins with her own breakfast tray. Sapphire stared at Ashley's plate which was stacked with pancakes with a side of sausages and bacon and drenched in syrup, some wholemeal toast with the butter already melting on it and a huge slice of grapefruit. She even had a mug of coffee to wash it down with, and it wasn't the decaffeinated kind either.

"Bloody hell Ashley, do you really need all that?!" Sapphire exclaimed.

"Sue me, I'm Unovan. We Unovans have big appetites." Ashley retorted, "Besides, I need all the energy I can get for my battle with you later today!"

"I think your Pokémon need that energy more than you do!" Emerald laughed, "It's them that'll be doing all the fighting, not you!"

"I'm still the one with the strategies and the commands." Ashley noted, "I'll need to be on my A-game and a good breakfast to keep me wide-eyed and awake always does me good. You two will need to be on your A-game too." she said, her tone clear that she was merely offering friendly advice and wasn't trying to be rude or antagonistic; "Me and Paul ain't no Gym Leaders. You know what we're capable of and neither me or him will go easy on you two. We wanna get a chance at challenging your sister too, you know."

"Well prepare to be disappointed because it'll be me or Sapph that gets to her!" Emerald declared, "We're both gonna give you an example of a true Galarian showdown, you see if we don't!"

"Why don't you save it for the arena?" Paul retorted from where he was sitting, "Then you can put your Pokémon where your mouth is."

And so a couple of hours later, Emerald and Paul were making their way out into the huge, grassy arena of Wyndon Stadium. The two could see just from walking in that this stadium was much bigger than any of the stadiums they'd visited to battle the Gym Leaders. The smell of the grass tickled their nostrils and the tumultuous, thunderous sound of the crowd was everywhere. There were thousands of people jumping up and down in their seats with many fans crying for both Emerald and Paul. Paul was the favourite to win but Emerald seemed to have the bigger fanbase cheering for her. Maybe because she was a newcomer going against a trainer with at least three regions worth of experience under his belt and thus, the "underdog" of this match, more people felt the need to be here to support her today. Paul's face didn't change while Emerald found herself swallowing nervously. Drinking all that orange juice hadn't done her a bit of good as her throat still felt dry. Why couldn't she stop feeling so nervous about this match?! She was so on edge that she was sure the pounding of her heart was louder than the audience cheering for her!

The two took their places in the centre of the pitch and faced each other. It still felt weird for Emerald to see Paul in the Galarian Gym Challenger uniform as the clothes really didn't suit him at all. Ruby was up in the audience, keen to watch her sister in action. She wasn't going to miss this for the world! Sapphire and Ashley were also watching too. Both of them could get a chance to watch the two in action and think on how they'd battle either one depending who made it through to the next round. In Sapphire's case, she just wanted to cheer for Emerald. Ashley couldn't help but pity the poor girl. She couldn't begin to imagine how Emerald was feeling right now with the pressure of going up against a seasoned veteran and with so many people watching her.

"I really hope Emerald manages out there…" she whispered to herself.

Down on the pitch, Emerald took a deep breath to try and relax herself.

"So uh…did it feel as intense as this back in the Sinnoh League?" she asked meekly.

"I've had three regions of experience before then. I'm used to this by now." Paul muttered, "If you have any hope of defeating me, I suggest you don't let the crowd get to you."

"Sorry, it's just nerve-racking for me." Emerald said glumly, "I've never done this before. This is my first big Pokémon tournament! I'm bound to be nervous…" she added weakly.

"Just focus on the battle and don't pay any attention to the crowd." Paul advised, "You were strong enough to catch a Legendary Pokémon, so you'll be strong enough to handle this."

Emerald was surprised but grateful to Paul for trying to help her like this. She also supposed he was right. While she never officially caught Zacian, she just offered to join her, he was right on how strong she was. If she could tame a Legendary Pokémon and stop her from going berserk, than she should be able to handle the intense pressure of a little tournament! Smiling graciously, Emerald held out a hand.

"Let's make this a fight that neither of us will forget, OK?" she said softly.

Paul paused for a moment, and then he shook Emerald's hand.

"I intend to." he said with a confident grin.

They separated and took their places as the announcer's voice boomed out of the speakers to introduce the contestants.

"From Postwick Town, Emerald Silverlock." boomed the electronic announcer's voice over the speaker systems, "From Veilstone City in the Sinnoh region: Paul Shinji."

Cheers exploded from all over the stadium for the Galarian newbie and the Sinnoh veteran. This was going to be an explosive match to kick off the semi-finals and everyone knew it!

"Pokémon Trainers: Standby."

Emerald and Paul waited for the signal to go. The audience fell silent, which came as a relief to Emerald as the noise had been a bit much for her. It felt good to have a temporary break from it for now. In that brief moment of quiet, she allowed her thoughts to gather together as she mulled over her options. Paul was going to be a tough opponent, so she would have to strategize and keep on her toes. Brute strength wouldn't be enough. She was going to give Paul a good battle and she wasn't going to let him push her around!

"Three…two…one…BEGIN!" came the announcement.

"Here we go, time for me to give you a battle worthy of your battle with Ash!" Emerald exclaimed, whipping out her first Pokéball, "Gemstone, let the fun begin!"

"Rillaboom, standby for battle!" Paul commanded.

The two trainers summoned their first Pokémon. Gemstone the Starmie and Rillaboom materialized onto the pitch and stared each other down. The audience buzzed with excitement as the battle was beginning. What an interesting start this was going to be. Emerald was starting out with a Pokémon that was exclusive to another part of Galar while Paul was starting with the first Pokémon he'd received on his visit to Galar. Sapphire felt uneasy. Paul already had a type-advantage and the battle hadn't started yet! Gemstone wouldn't be much of a threat against a Grass-type. Then again, she didn't know all of Gemstone's moves. Maybe Emerald had taught it an Ice attack to cover its weaknesses? Her eyes fixed on her sister while Ashley sat with her legs crossed and her arms folded, her own eyes sweeping from one to the next. She wanted to see them both in action.

"Use Frenzy Plant!" Paul called, determined to get the first hit in.

He wasn't going to underestimate Emerald and let her get a chance to take an early lead. He would have the first knockout and show that girl who was going to win!

Rillaboom's body glowed green and he roared as huge vines ripped their way up from under the grassy pitch and snaked their way towards Gemstone. Emerald watched with worry. Frenzy Plant was the strongest Grass attack and Starmie weren't Pokémon notable for good defences so if the attack hit, it would be a one-hit KO for sure! The vines came towards Gemstone, threatening to snatch the starfish Pokémon up and entwine it until it fainted. Then Emerald suddenly remembered something. What was it that Sapphire did to stop Kerchak from using Drum Beating on James Pond the last time they'd battled each other? Yes, that was it!

"Quick, use Ice Beam on the vines!" Emerald yelled.

The audience watched with amazement as Gemstone aimed the top point if its body and fired a bitingly cold beam of icy energy at the Frenzy Plant vines. Even Paul stared in awe as the Ice Beam froze his Pokémon's attack solid. The vines had been transformed instantly into ice sculptures that sparkled in the sunlight peering through the open roof of the stadium. Sapphire cheered, recognizing where the tactic had come from. She was impressed that Emerald had thought to do that. Ashley put a finger to her lips in thought. That was clever of Emerald. How was Paul going to spring back from that? Rillaboom panted, feeling drained of energy as a result of Frenzy Plant. Any Pokémon that used it needed to recharge afterwards so for now, Gemstone was free to whale on Rillaboom as much as it wanted to. Emerald punched the air excitedly. Yes, that was just what she was aiming for!

"Let's make the most of this while Rillaboom's drained!" Emerald cried, "Use Ice Beam on him before he can move again!"

Gemstone pointed its top point at Rillaboom as if it was pointing a gun at its opponent. The purple starfish shot the icy beam at its opponent. Rillaboom could only stare helplessly as Gemstone's attack closed in. It couldn't do anything as it was too tired to move for the minute! But Paul seemed to have other ideas.

"Block it with your drum!" he ordered.

Rillaboom obeyed. It had just enough energy left in him to pick up his drum kit and hold it up as Gemstone's Ice Beam hit. He grimaced as he felt the chilling ice against his hands from his drum freezing completely over. The drum had done its job, protecting Rillaboom from the attack and leaving him still in the fight. Emerald stared incredulously at what just happened. Trust Paul to use his Pokémon's accessories in ways like that! She never would've thought of doing that with Kerchak! Ruby nodded grimly as she watched from her seat.

"I see why Paul has such a big reputation amongst the community. He's something alright…" she murmured.

"Good work. Now throw your frozen drum at Starmie!" Paul ordered.

Rillaboom obeyed, picking the frozen drum up and launching it straight at Gemstone like a huge icy missile. The drum hurled towards Gemstone but it missed as Emerald ordered her Pokémon to jump out of the way. Unfortunately, she'd fallen right into Paul's trap. He'd WANTED her to do that. Now Gemstone was airborne, Paul ordered Rillaboom to use another Frenzy Plant on his opponent. He'd completely recharged so he could move again and use the attack once more. Rillaboom summoned the giant vines again, smashing through the frozen ones from earlier, and because Gemstone was still in the middle of a dodge, it was too slow to react. The vines launched out and hit the Starmie square in the centre of its body. Emerald cried out in horror as Gemstone was stricken. The vines pushed down and sent Gemstone crashing down onto the ground. It was like being pummelled by enchanted plant life. Emerald looked back as the vines retracted. Gemstone lay where it was, firmly driven into the ground and completely wiped out. The gem in its centre flashed several times to signify that it was unable to battle. The Postwick girl's face fell in dismay. She'd hoped to get a good first start but Paul had managed to claim the first win. Not a good start for her at all.

"Starmie is unable to battle! Rillaboom is the winner!" boomed the announcer.

Paul's fans exploded with joy at seeing their beloved trainer claim the first win. Sapphire leaned back in her seat sadly.

"That's too bad. I really thought Em using my tactic of stopping Kerchak's Drum Beating would've decided the fight for her."

"It would've if Paul wasn't so quick on his feet like that." Ashley acknowledged, "He clearly knows his Pokémon's strengths and weaknesses and has trained to work around them. Improvising ways to stop an opponent's attack from landing while Rillaboom can't move is a handy way around Frenzy Plant's drawbacks."

"Too right." Sapphire agreed, "I wonder if my sister can spring back from that…"

She watched as Emerald returned her Pokémon. She gave a soft smile at Gemstone's Pokéball.

"Don't worry sweetie. Your efforts won't be in vain." she promised.

She was about to summon her next Pokémon but to her surprise, Paul recalled his Rillaboom. She understood why. He would be unable to move again after Frenzy Plant's drawback so Paul would want to work around that by using a Pokémon that could attack immediately. She decided to wait and see who he was going to send out next so she could work around that.

"Perrserker, standby for battle!" Paul commanded, throwing his next Pokéball.

Emerald watched as Perrserker materialized onto the pitch. The Steel Pokémon roared with a burning desire to fight and break its opponent to smithereens. She remembered Perrserker all too well. Paul had used him in the double-battle with her, Sapphire and Ashley. She'd defeated Perrserker with Mei-Mei back when she was still a Pancham. She was confident that she could defeat it again.

"This time, I'M going to have the advantage! Vixey, let the fun begin!" Emerald cried.

She threw her Pokéball and out came Vixey the Ninetales, looking as radiant and graceful as ever. She'd already been planning to use Vixey before Paul recalled his Rillaboom so the fact he was using Perrserker didn't interfere with her plans in anyway. Steel-types were weak to Fire as well as Grass-types so the result would be the same: Vixey emerging victorious. Or at least Emerald hoped so. Paul wasn't concerned with the type-disadvantage he was presented with. As he knew, advantage wasn't everything in a Pokémon battle.

"Use Swords Dance!" he commanded.

Perrserker's claws extended in length and the Viking Cat Pokémon danced about while swiping at the air with his claws. Emerald once again felt the creeping sense of dread that came from facing a skilled opponent. Swords Dance drastically increased a Pokémon's Attack, so now Perrserker could potentially land devastating blows to Vixey if she wasn't careful. Emerald decided to try taking advantage of her opponent while it was in the middle of its Swords Dance. She commanded Vixey to use Flamethrower. If she could land a decisive blow while he was still dancing, she could hopefully take Perrserker out before it could do anything with its boosted attack. Vixey opened her mouth and sent the huge tongue of flames shooting out towards Perrserker. She was a fraction too slow for the Steel Pokémon had finished Swords Dance and Paul was able to quickly command him to use Dig. Perrserker dived down into the ground and dug out of the way of Vixey's Flamethrower. The vulpine Pokémon gasped upon seeing her opponent had disappeared. She looked around frantically for any sign of Perrserker. He could be anywhere underground at this point!

"Keep calm Vixey! Just focus and listen out for Perrserker! You might be able to avoid that Dig if you listen for him!" Emerald suggested.

Vixey closed her eyes and listened out for the sound of Perrserker tunnelling away underneath her. Ninetales were Pokémon with excellent hearing so she had no trouble pinpointing where her opponent was. She could hear a faint crumbling sound as earth was moved from under her feet. Then she heard the sound get louder and start to rise up. Perrserker was right underneath her and was coming up fast! She jumped back just as the ground begin to break open underneath her. Perrserker jumped up back into the open air and growled in disappointment that he had missed his opponent. Paul was quietly impressed with Emerald. She'd clearly taught her Ninetales well in dodging attacks to avoid Dig like that. He wasn't deterred as he ordered his Perrserker to use Close Combat on Vixey. Perrserker's body glowed red and he charged viciously towards Vixey. He bared his teeth and raised his claws. With a powerful move like Close Combat plus Perrserker's earlier boost from Swords Dance, Emerald knew this was going to be a huge blow for Vixey to take, and one she might not withstand too. Thinking fast, she ordered her Pokémon to use another Flamethrower. At least now, Perrserker couldn't dodge as he was in the middle of a charge.

Vixey blasted at Perrserker a second time with her flames, this time scoring a direct hit. But to Emerald's amazement, Perrserker kept on going! He ploughed through the flames, but not effortlessly as they were clearly causing him a lot of pain as the scorching attack heated his steel body up immensely and left him wincing. But Paul had trained Perrserker to have a lot of endurance and part of that training had involved going straight through an attack and not letting it bring him down. Eventually, Perrserker reached Vixey and threw a flurry of punches and kicks at the kitsune Pokémon. Vixey cried out as she was pummelled heavily by the steel-coated fists and feet of her opponent. Every blow moved so fast that she didn't see them coming and the pain didn't come until seconds after a punch or kick had landed. It felt as if she was being clobbered by a steel pipe. Perrserker then threw one last punch that knocked Vixey off her feet and sent her sliding across the grass towards Emerald. Perrserker flashed blue to signify the side-effect of Close Combat had kicked in. A user's Defences went down after use, which made them more vulnerable to retaliation from their opponents. Also the Flamethrower had clearly done the damage for despite everything, Perrserker wasn't in the best shape. He panted, clearly worn out from the effort of trying to handle his weakness and land that Close Combat. But could Vixey take advantage of this? Emerald was worried that Perrserker's attack had been too strong for her to handle and she was out of the fight.

Vixey didn't move for a moment, grunting from the pain of Close Combat. Sapphire leaned closer in her chair, worried that her sister was about to have another defeat against her. The audience fell silent as they watched. Could Vixey get up again? Paul knew that it wouldn't be as easy as that. In his battle with Ash, his Electivire had brought Ash's Infernape down and despite the referee coming close to calling the match in his favour, Infernape had stood up again and continued the fight. Lo and behold, that was what happened now. He watched as Vixey somehow managed to get back to her feet. Emerald cheered excitedly. Yes! The battle wasn't over yet! Vixey strained to get up but looked keen to carry on. She clearly wasn't going to let a mere Close Combat take her out.

"Yay! You can still fight!" Emerald hollered, "Now use Flamethrower one more time!"

Vixey opened her mouth and blasted Perrserker with Flamethrower once more. Perrserker had been too worn out from earlier to react so he was hit straight on. He felt as if he'd been thrown into a volcano and left to melt in the boiling lava. The flames sapped away what was left of his energy and he was brought down onto his back. Unlike Vixey, Perrserker didn't get up again. Once again, he'd fallen foul to one of Emerald's Pokémon without winning against any of them. Emerald jumped up and down ecstatically while Vixey smiled with pleasure, glad she'd held out in the end. The crowd cheered in awe of the amazing resilience of Vixey. They thought it impressive she'd held up like she did out there.

"Perrserker is unable to battle! Ninetales is the winner!" the announcer boomed.

"That poor Perrserker. It just can't win against my sister, can it?" Sapphire chuckled.

"Yeah, seems an odd coincidence that Emerald just happens to beat it twice in a row." Ashley remarked, remembering when Mei-Mei had beaten Perrserker back in the Galar Mine, "Maybe Paul shouldn't use it against her in the future."

Paul returned Perrserker to his Pokéball and exchanged him for his next one. He was going to overwhelm Emerald with his next choice.

"Dragapult, standby for battle!" he called, throwing his next ball.

Ashley had no reaction as she watched Dragapult materialize onto the field. She left that to Sapphire, whose eyes widened in astonishment as the ghostly amphibian/stealth bomber creature appeared before her sister. Emerald matched her expression down on the pitch, surprised to see Paul using a pseudo-legendary Pokémon like this.

"A Dragapult?! When did Paul get a Dragapult?" Sapphire exclaimed.

"Beats me. All I know is that I knew he was gonna bring it to this battle." she murmured, "Why wouldn't he when he's in a big important battle like this?"

"Wait, you knew already he had a Dragapult?" Sapphire asked curiously.

"Sure! He used it when me and him stopped the rampaging Gyarados in Hulbury." Ashley explained, "He was very clever in how he used it too so I imagine Emerald's gonna have her hands full."

The girls looked down at the pitch to see how this fight would go. It seemed pretty hopeless for Emerald as Vixey was already weakened while Paul was here with a powerful Dragon/Ghost type Pokémon to make life harder for her. But Sapphire knew her sister wouldn't give up easily. Paul made the first move.

"Use Dragon Dance!" he commanded.

Dragapult glowed with purple energy and then started to spin around like a tornado on the spot. Emerald grew even more nervous. Dragon Dance was a move that boosted the user's Attack AND Speed stats both at the same time. Paul was going with strength and speed to win this match so Dragapult was bound to give her even more grief than Perrserker earlier. She was determined to at least land a hit on Dragapult before anything could happen. Luckily for her, Vixey knew a Ghost-type move in the form of Shadow Ball so she at least had a super-effective move to use on her opponent. Emerald gave the command and Vixey shot a purple and black ball of ectoplasmic energy at Dragapult just as it finished Dragon Dancing. The attack landed and Dragapult grimaced but otherwise seemed unhurt. Dragapult weren't known for good defences but they were still able to take a hit if necessary. Emerald tried another Shadow Ball but Vixey wasn't able to hit it again as this time, Dragapult was ready. Using its newly boosted speed from Dragon Dance, it was able to zoom out of the way of the attack and leave the Shadow Ball to just shoot towards the end of the stadium and harmlessly break away into nothing. Paul ordered Dragapult to use Phantom Force. The ghostly dragon Pokémon conjured up a black and purple void under itself and shoot down as if transporting through a portal to another world. It was gone and Vixey was left wondering where to look out for her opponent. This wasn't like Perrserker earlier when she could listen out for its digging, she had no way of anticipating Dragapult's movements. Even Emerald found herself feeling the hopelessness of Vixey's situation. How could she prepare to strike back when Dragapult could be anywhere?

Then the portal opened up again behind Vixey and she let out a scream of pain as Dragapult shot up from behind her and slammed its ghostly tail into her back. Emerald grimaced, feeling the pain just by watching her Pokémon. Dragapult's boosted attack made the Phantom Force even stronger and it was more than enough for Vixey to be taken down. The fiery fox lay on her stomach and passed out, unable to battle any longer. Ashley just shook her head sadly for Vixey, knowing that she'd never stood a chance. This match was always going to be Dragapult's no matter what.

"Ninetales is unable to battle! Dragapult is the winner!" boomed the announcer.

"That's such a shame, and she fought so hard too." Sapphire said glumly.

"Don't worry too much." Ashley said reassuringly, "Em's still got four more Pokémon left. She can turn this around I'm sure."

"True." Sapphire agreed, "She does at least have Pokémon that know Dark attacks, or are Dark types in general, and she has her own Dragon-type to use so she can still turn this match around. That Dragon Dance won't have made Dragapult invincible after all."

Ashley nodded agreeably. Boosted stats didn't mean you were unstoppable. Emerald had proven as such by defeating Perrserker despite its boosted Attack earlier. The Champion and the newcomer watched on as Emerald chose her next Pokémon. Sapphire was expecting her to summon Razer. But she surprised everyone by sending out Thor instead. The high and mighty Raichu materialized onto the field and waved his long, lightning bolt tail around happily. Paul was taken aback by this choice. Why use a Raichu of all Pokémon against a Dragon-type? They weren't every effective! Sapphire however had an idea on what Emerald was planning.

"Hmm…I wonder if she's aiming to slow Dragapult down by paralyzing it…" she murmured.

"You think that's what she's planning?" Ashley asked curiously.

"Possibly." Sapphire confirmed, "Thor has the Static ability so she might be aiming for Thor's ability to paralyze Dragapult once it makes contact. That'll at least nullify its increased speed from Dragon Dance."

"Guess we'll see if it works…" the Unovan teen murmured thoughtfully.

Of course, Paul had no idea that Thor had such an ability so he immediately ordered his Pokémon to use Phantom Force on its opponent. Dragapult disappeared into a ghostly portal again and Thor was left wondering where his opponent was going to pop up from. Unlike Vixey, he at least had some idea on what to look out for. He sneered cockily.

"Heh, I bet 100 Poké-dollars that that thing pops up right behind me…" he crowed.

Thor spun on his heels and just as he'd predicted, Dragapult emerged from the shadows directly behind him. Trust Paul's Pokémon to use such a predictable battle strategy! He tried to retaliate with a Thunderbolt attack but Dragapult's boosted speed made it too fast for him to land the first hit. The Dragon/Ghost Pokémon's tail lashed out and walloped Thor with enough force to send him flying. Emerald watched in astonishment as Thor was sent spiralling through the air as if launched out of a cannon. He cried out as he came crashing down onto the grass. He came down so heavily that he felt the wind had been knocked out of him. He coughed heavily and grimaced as he felt his sides ache from the impact. The electric mouse Pokémon was grateful that he hadn't broken a rib when he landed. Dragapult loomed menacingly over its opponent, ready to launch another attack. But then…it happened. Dragapult suddenly found itself cringing in pain as crackles of electricity danced over its body. Emerald punched the air with triumph. It was paralyzed thanks to Thor's Static ability, just what she'd been aiming for! At least Dragapult would be slower now because of the paralysis! Things seemed to be going according to plan and hopefully it'd get better for her as the battle went on.

Feeling confident now her plan had worked, Emerald ordered Thor to use Thunderbolt on Dragapult. Thor complied and zapped the ghostly dragon with as powerful a jolt of electricity as he could fire. As expected from the effects of Static paralyzing it, Dragapult was too slow to dodge and it was hit by the Thunderbolt. Dragapult grimaced from the attack but it was able to take it. Dragon-type Pokémon were resistant to electric attacks so as far as it was concerned, Thor may as well have given it a slight jolt rather than trying to do serious damage. Dragapult shook off the attack it had received and Paul retaliated by ordering it to use Dragon Darts. Dragapult took aim with the Dreepy missiles in its head and fired. The two missiles came whistling through the air towards Thor. The poor Raichu had no chance of surviving the hits. He was bombarded by the missiles and what little health he had left from Dragapult's earlier attack was sapped away in an instant. Thor could only give an apologetic look over to Emerald before he collapsed onto the grass, another Pokémon knocked out on Emerald's side of the field. Emerald was starting to worry now. Paul had knocked half of her team out already and she'd only managed to knock one of his out! The odds really were stacked against her for now. But the battle was far from over.

"No…don't give up yet Emerald…you can pull this around. It's not over til it's over!" Emerald muttered under her breath to keep her confidence boosted.

She returned Thor to his Pokéball and threw out her next one. As Sapphire predicted, she had chosen now to bring Razer the Haxorus to the field. Now Dragapult had been slowed down by Thor's paralysis, Razer had more of a chance of exploiting its Dragon-type weakness first. Sapphire had to admit it was a clever plan on Emerald's behalf. Now it remained to be seen if Razer could finish this in one hit. Paul took in the scars on Razer's face. How had she got those? He didn't see Emerald as the kind of trainer who used cruel methods to train her Pokémon so she wouldn't have done that to Razer. He dismissed it and returned his focus to the battle. All eyes were on the two trainers as they ordered their Pokémon to attack. Emerald commanded Razer to use Outrage while Paul ordered Dragapult to use Dragon Darts. Razer launched into action and stampeded towards Dragapult, her body glowing with blue and orange energy. Dragapult failed to act as the paralysis from earlier kicked in and stopped it from moving. It could only wince as its body momentarily locked up from the electricity crackling around its body. Razer was thus given an open invitation to land her attack. She crashed straight into Dragapult and knocked it down onto its back. It skidded across the pitch, kicking up a mound of dirt and grass as it carved a neat dent through it. Dragapult picked itself up, but with obvious difficulty as it was very weak from the earlier damage done by Vixey and Thor and now from Razer. It still didn't seem keen to give up yet. Paul wasn't ready to give up yet either.

"Use Dragon Dance again!" he cried.

Dragapult jumped up into the air and started spinning around just like earlier, glowing with dragon energy. Emerald could see what Paul was planning. He was aiming to try and take her down with one hit by boosting Dragapult's attack even more! Too bad for him that Dragapult was still paralyzed so that would hopefully screw with his chances. Razer was still in use of Outrage as it was an attack that lasted two or three turns so she came back round for another charge. She stampeded towards Dragapult while it was still Dragon Dancing. There was no way that it would be able to dodge in time now! But to Emerald's astonishment, it WAS able to dodge! Dragapult used the spinning from its Dragon Dance movements to weave up and over out of Razer's way. Now that was done, Dragapult turned around and aimed with its Dreepy missiles once again as Paul commanded another Dragon Darts attack. This time, it was successful in launching them with paralysis not stopping it this time. Razer turned around and came at her opponent again with a third Outrage attack. The Dragon Darts homed in on her and they landed, crashing into her in the middle of her next charge. But thanks to the energy of Outrage, they didn't do as much damage as Paul had hoped for. Razer was able to keep going and take the damage long enough to land her own attack. She hit Dragapult and that was enough for her to finally take it out. Dragapult was brought down onto its back and it was left staring up at the sky as if trying to admire it before it feel into unconsciousness. Razer roared with delight, satisfied with her win. The crowd exploded with tumultuous applause. Paul's Dragapult had seemed unstoppable for the moment but Emerald had finally defeated it! They couldn't help but cheer for her.

"Dragapult is unable to battle! Haxorus is the winner!" boomed the announcer.

"Yay! You did it Razer, you did it!" Emerald screeched excitedly, "I thought I'd never be able to defeat Dragapult!"

Razer didn't reply. Emerald could see that as was expected, her Pokémon was now confused. It was an unfortunate side-effect from Outrage, that once it had finished being used, the opponent was left confused afterwards. Razer was looking around dopily as if puzzled where she was.

"Huh, who said that? Where am I?" she burbled.

Paul returned Dragapult and smirked confidently. Emerald's Haxorus was currently confused. That would hopefully give him a chance to exploit Razer's condition. He also had just the Pokémon to handle a Dragon-type Pokémon like Razer.

"Beartic, standby for battle!" he yelled as he threw his next Pokéball.

Ashley stared intensely as Beartic came to the field. She had experience first-hand with what a powerful Pokémon Paul's Beartic was so she was interested to see how Emerald would fight it. The polar bear Pokémon gave out a barbaric roar that let everyone watching know that it was ready to battle and was going to smash anyone who got in its way to pieces. Emerald could see what Paul had chosen this Pokémon. What better Pokémon to fight a Dragon-type with than an Ice-type? She hoped that Razer would be strong enough to take Beartic down before it could exploit her Ice weakness.

"Razer, use Outrage again!" Emerald ordered.

But Razer was still suffering from confusion. She hear Emerald's order but her brain wasn't sure how to carry it out. She instead ended up hitting herself, swiping the air with her tail and hitting herself in the back of the head with it. Emerald cried out in worry at this while Paul seized his chance to have Beartic set up Hail. In a matter of seconds, the sky had turned dark and hail was sprinkling down into the stadium. Emerald saw the hailstones fall down onto the pitch and disappear into the grass. She remembered from Paul's fight with Ashley that his Beartic had the Slush Rush ability so she wasn't surprised he'd set up a Hail to trigger the ability. Once again, Paul was relying on a stat boost to give him an edge in the battle. He really knew how to fight strategically and use his Pokémon well! Emerald was brought out of her thoughts by Razer suddenly shaking her head and staring her opponent down. She looked more focused and aware of her surroundings now. She'd managed to snap out of her confusion! That was lucky, so now Emerald could attack again. She ordered Razer to try again with Outrage. The axe, dinosaur Pokémon charged towards her opponent, blazing with draconian energy again and closing in fast. Paul ordered Beartic to use Icicle Crash to try and stop her before she could finish her attack. Beartic opened its mouth but Razer slammed into it before it could launch the attack. She knocked it off its feet and sent the ursine Pokémon flying backwards. But then Beartic aimed with its mouth as it was soaring backwards and fired its attack. It had managed to launch its attack anyway despite Emerald landing the first hit.

The huge shard of ice crashed into Razer and made her stagger backwards, the cold biting into her scaly skin. She shivered uncomfortably but the attack hadn't taken her down. She was still standing. Beartic had landed on its back further up the field and it had got back up. The two were ready to go at it again despite the damage sustained. Razer came at Beartic again with the second stage of Outrage while Beartic used another Icicle Crash. Due to the greater distance between the two, Beartic had more of a chance to land its attack first. The icicle shard smashed into Razer and stopped her dead in her tracks. Razer skidded to a halt and grimaced from the biting cold. She also turned away and whimpered. Icicle Crash had a chance of making the opponent flinch and that was what had happened now. She couldn't move! Emerald watched helplessly as Paul finished the fight by ordering Beartic to use Play Rough. Beartic surrounded its opponent with a Fairy mist and then pounced on Razer, lashing out with a flurry of punches over and over while they were both surrounded by the mist. Emerald cursed herself mentally. How had she forgotten Beartic knew a Fairy-attack as well? It didn't matter for Beartic's attack had been enough to finish the fight. The mist cleared to reveal an unconscious Razer lying down on her side. Despite her best efforts, it hadn't quite been enough. Beartic roared in triumph while Paul's fans chanted their excitement over another win for the Sinnoh teen.

"Haxorus is unable to battle! Beartic is the winner!" the announcer boomed.

Emerald returned Razer to her Pokéball and smiled affectionately.

"You were amazing, darling. Get a good rest now." she said softly, "I won't let your hard work go to waste."

She drew out her next Pokéball.

"Hey Paul! How's about we have a bear battle, you and me? I have a bear of my own too!" Emerald cried, throwing her next Pokéball.

She'd chosen Mei-Mei the Pangoro to take the stage now. The fun-loving Pangoro danced about excitedly at the chance to be competing in such a big battle. Sapphire was incredulous.

"What?! That's suicide! Pangoro have a double weakness to Fairy attacks so why is Em using Mei-Mei?!" she cried, "Surely she knows that's a dumb idea considering Paul's Beartic can use Play Rough!"

"True, but at the same time, Pangoro are half Fighting-types so Emerald's got the advantage too." Ashley noted, "And Beartic's already taken damage from that Haxorus of her's. I think your sister's banking on being able to land the most decisive hit first."

"I doubt she will with that Hail boosting Beartic's speed…" Sapphire murmured worriedly.

The hail was still falling all around the arena. The audience watched intently as Paul and Emerald prepared to make their first moves. Paul seemed to be feeling the same way Sapphire was about this match-up for he couldn't understand why Emerald was using a Dark/Fighting type Pokémon when his Beartic knew a Fairy move. Then again, her last Pokémon was probably Kerchak and that would be no good against an Ice-type Pokémon so she really had to go for broke here. He'd make this quick and easy instead of delaying the inevitable. But he and Sapphire soon saw how wrong they were to underestimate Emerald's choice. As Paul ordered Beartic to use Play Rough again, Emerald smirked. The fairy mist surrounded Mei-Mei and Beartic charged in to attack, once again moving faster than normal due to its Slush Rush ability. But as Beartic was about to land the hit, Emerald gave her command.

"Dance out of the way of Beartic's moves!" the Postwick girl yelled.

Mei-Mei obeyed instantly and started jumping around and spinning out of Beartic's way. The audience couldn't see what was happening thanks to the Fairy mist obscuring everyone's view of the two Pokémon. Emerald only knew that Mei-Mei was successfully dodging the hits because she couldn't hear her Pokémon grunting in pain from any blows landed. The mist soon cleared and to both Paul and the audience's amazement, Beartic hadn't landed a single hit on Mei-Mei. It was still swiping and punching at the panda Pokémon but it just couldn't hit her. Mei-Mei was laughing the whole time, perpetually mocking her opponent every time it missed. She weaved to one side as Beartic tried to punch her.

"Oop! Nearly got me!" she taunted.

Beartic growled in annoyance and punched again but Mei-Mei back flipped out of the way to dodge.

"Come on, are you actually TRYING to hit me?" she sneered, "I had a harder time keeping up with Katana the Ninjask, and I was still a Pancham back then!"

Beartic punched a third time but once again, Mei-Mei dodged by spinning on her toes like a ballerina. It was quite a sight to see this usually intimidating big, powerful looking panda creature dancing around merrily like a happy little schoolgirl. The audience even started to laugh. Sapphire relaxed, seeing now why Emerald had chosen Mei-Mei. Her dance battle style was perfect for avoiding Beartic's attacks! Paul took in what was happening with observant eyes. He had to admit, he couldn't have seen that coming, a Pokémon that incorporated dance moves into its battle style.

"You're just like Ash, he was always unorthodox in his methods too." Paul commented.

"Being compared to a legendary trainer like him is quite a compliment!" Emerald said graciously, "Now Mei-Mei, use Superpower!"

Mei-Mei suddenly stopped dancing and giggling and growled menacingly as her body glowed with red energy. She then charged straight into Beartic and threw a powerful punch that could've rivalled the power of a Legendary Pokémon. Beartic cried out as it was hit and it was thrown off its feet by the punch. Beartic hurled backwards and flew straight past Paul, who had to jump aside to avoid being hit. Beartic crashed into the far end of the stadium and got stuck in the wall for a moment. Then the polar bear peeled away from the imprint it had left in the wall and collapsed onto the grass. It didn't get up again. The earlier damage from Razer had weakened it enough for Mei-Mei to finish it off with the single Superpower attack. Mei-Mei flashed for a moment to signify a drop in stats. The downside to Superpower was that her Attack and Defence went down when she used it. It didn't matter for she'd won the battle anyway.

"Beartic is unable to battle! Pangoro is the winner!" boomed the announcer.

"That was very well done, Em." Ruby complimented, "I have to say, using a Pokémon as a dance battler is quite a clever idea. I might have to watch out for that…"

Paul returned Beartic to its Pokéball as the hail disappeared from the arena, the sun peeking back out through the clouds now it was gone. This battle was so far starting to remind him of his battle with Ash back in the Sinnoh league. He'd given a good battle but Ash kept turning things around with his trademark out-of-the-box strategies and surprising use of his Pokémon. Emerald was certainly proving to be on par with him, if not better! At least she was delivering what she'd promised. He drew out his next Pokéball. Let's see if she could handle this one…

"Runerigus, standby for battle!" he called.

He threw the ball and summoned forth the Ghost/Ground type Pokémon Runerigus. Ashley stared at it with interest. Of course she'd seen the Galarian variants of the Unovan Pokémon Yamask on her travels but she hadn't seen what they evolved into until now. Galarian Yamask evolved into a whole new Pokémon instead of a new version of Cofagrigus. While Cofagrigus was a Ghost-possessed coffin, Runerigus was a ghost possessed rune painting. It looked like an oblong shaped slab with a stylized serpent drawing on it but the slab was able to break up with two pieces of the slab on each shadowy tendril acting as arms and a smaller piece of the slab tipped at the end of a long, shadowy tail. The serpent drawing's face even protruded out from the slab a little. The piece at the end of the tail was the same piece that Galarian Yamask carried around with them. Emerald was puzzled at Paul's new choice. A Ghost Pokémon wasn't a good match-up against a Dark type like Mei-Mei. Did Paul have some kind of strategy in mind to overcome this? She wouldn't give him chance to use whatever strategy he had in mind.

"Let's make it quick Mei-Mei! Use Night Slash!" the brunette girl cried.

That was a good move. Not only was Night Slash super-effective, but it had an increased critical hit ratio so Mei-Mei could mitigate her lowered attack by hopefully landing a critical hit to do extra damage to Runerigus. She ran towards the Ghostly opponent with her hands glowing with dark energy. She then slashed at the possessed rune painting, the dark energy in her hands sapping away from of Runerigus's energy. It wasn't a critical hit this time and Runerigus was a surprisingly bulky Ghost Pokémon so it had managed to take the hit, but the hit had still done the damage. Runerigus shook off the pain and Paul gave his first command.

"Use Power Swap!" he ordered.

Runerigus held out its ghostly hands and its body glowed with a psychic pink aura. Mei-Mei glowed as well and she began to feel uneasy as something happened to her. She had no idea what was happening, just that something was happening to her. Emerald didn't understand either, but both Ruby and Ashley knew exactly what was going on for they'd experienced this before. Power Swap was a tricky move that swapped the user's Attack and Special Attack stats with their opponent's. Paul was clearly aiming to make Runerigus stronger by doing this for by nature, Pangoro had stronger Attack power than Runerigus did so by weakening Mei-Mei by swapping its lesser Attack with her superior Attack, Runerigus would have a bit more of an advantage against her. Mei-Mei felt herself over, noticing that she felt a little weaker than normal. Paul smiled confidently.

"Now use Body Press!" he ordered.

Runerigus jumped up into the air and came hurling down like a falling meteor towards Mei-Mei. Emerald frowned. Of course Paul would've taught his Pokémon a Fighting move to mitigate its Dark-type weakness! Fortunately for her, Mei-Mei's speed hadn't been lowered by Power Swap so she was able to avoid it by ordering the panda Pokémon to dance out of the way again. Mei-Mei pirouetted and spun to one side before Runerigus could crash down on top of her. But Emerald soon saw that Paul had his own surprising strategies for just as Runerigus was about to miss Mei-Mei and hit the ground, its tail coiled up like a spring and as Runerigus landed, the tail pushed out and sprang it back up into the air. Mei-Mei only just had time to look up in astonishment before Runerigus crashed down on her with Body Press. The audience gasped in amazement. They'd never seen a Runerigus battle like this before! Paul smirked with satisfaction. He'd naturally trained his Runerigus to deal with missing opponents like this and it had paid off wonderfully in many of his battles getting to this stage. Mei-Mei grunted from the attack. Not only had Runerigus hit her harder than normal because of Power Swap, but her defences had lowered from the earlier Superpower so she hadn't been able to take it as well. Emerald could see that this match could potentially go very badly for Mei-Mei. She had to think fast on how to stop Runerigus before it could turn the match around.

She ordered Mei-Mei to use Night Slash again. Hopefully she'd land a critical hit this time and do extra damage. Mei-Mei obeyed and sliced at Runerigus again with Night Slash. This time, she did land a critical hit but her attack wasn't as high as before due to Runerigus swapping its attack with her's so it hadn't quite been enough to take it down. If her attack had been her usual attack, it would've been over for Runerigus. She still did a lot of damage as Runerigus recoiled and was left swaying on its base for the moment. It recovered and Paul ordered Runerigus to use another Body Press. The ghostly slab jumped up in the air and aimed for Mei-Mei. Emerald was about to order her to dodge with another dance move but she changed her mind. Runerigus would just spring back into the air and land the attack anyway. She had a better idea.

"Catch it before it hits!" she yelled.

Mei-Mei saw what she was thinking and she jumped up in the air just as Runerigus was closing in. She grabbed the Ghost/Ground Pokémon as if she was playing catch and her opponent was the ball. Paul gasped. Even at this stage, Emerald was still surprising him with surprising strategies. Now Mei-Mei had hold of Runerigus, it couldn't use its Body Press on her. Mei-Mei landed back on the ground with Runerigus in her hands. Despite how heavy it was, she didn't seem to be straining as she held it. Now it was vulnerable, Emerald ordered Mei-Mei to use another Night Slash on the phantom rune painting. Mei-Mei let go with one hand so she could use the attack. Runerigus was helpless as it was sliced by the Night Slash for a third time. This time, the damage was enough to eat away the remainder of its health. Runerigus's arms and tail folded back up and it lay on the grass, looking once again like an ordinary slab with a serpent painting on it. It didn't move afterwards.

"Runerigus is unable to battle! Pangoro is the winner!" the announcer cried.

"Wow, that was excellent thinking on Em's part!" Sapphire cheered, "Catching Runerigus before it could hit Mei-Mei was an excellent strategy!"

"Yer sis is certainly a girl of unexpected battle tactics." Ashley complimented, "I think she could even give ME something to worry about if we battle each other!"

"No chance Ashley. If anyone's battling my sister, it's me." Sapphire said teasingly.

"Not if I beat ya, that is." Ashley teased back, playfully elbowing the blue-haired girl in the ribs.

Paul returned Runerigus to its Pokéball. It had certainly been a while since he'd been in a battle as close as this. His battle with Ashley had been mostly a walkover for her and his other battles in Galar had been pretty one-sided in his favour. But this one was looking like anyone's game for now. Both he and her had two Pokémon left each. His Rillaboom had taken no damage from earlier and he had one Pokémon that hadn't battle yet while Emerald had one that hadn't battled yet and Mei-Mei had taken damage so on paper, the odds were still in his favour. But he wasn't going to let that get to his head, not after losing to Ash back in Sinnoh.

He threw his sixth Pokéball and brought out his Aggron to battle next. The twin-horned metal dinosaur creature roared menacingly as it prepared to fight. Emerald wasn't sure how to fight this Pokémon. Aggron had been the one to save her when Team Royal had trapped her inside a Cofagrigus so how could she fight it? It would feel like beating up one of her heroes. But she couldn't let that get to her. This was a Pokémon battle, a mere sport to determine who was the strongest. She wouldn't be coming off as ungrateful for fighting Aggron in this situation. She was sure that Mei-Mei could win this battle given Aggron had a double weakness to Fighting attacks.

"Let's go Mei-Mei! Use Superpower and make this a done-in-one!" Emerald commanded.

Mei-Mei's body glowed red again as she charged furiously towards her opponent. She drew her arm back and punched at Aggron with so much force that the Iron Armour Pokémon had to wonder for a moment if she would break through its tough hide. Aggron was thrown down onto its back by the attack and it skidded across the grass, kicking up mounds of dirt as it came to a stop in front of Paul. Mei-Mei grimaced as her Attack and Defence lowered again from the hit. Emerald watched with baited breath as Aggron didn't seem able to get up again. Was that it? Had she managed to make it a one-hit KO like she'd planned? The audience was convinced that Aggron was down and was starting to cheer for Emerald.

But then suddenly…Aggron got back up again! Unfortunately for Emerald', Mei-Mei's lowered Attack from the first time she'd used Superpower had left her too weak to make it a one-hit KO. This plus Aggron's high Defences left it with just enough health left to carry on fighting. Aggron stood up and growled, making it clear it wasn't down yet. Satisfied, Paul ordered Aggron to use Iron Head on Mei-Mei. The iron dinosaur creature lowered its head and stampeded towards Mei-Mei like an enraged Triceratops. Emerald ordered Mei-Mei to dance out of the way but unfortunately, Mei-Mei was too worn out to try and dodge. She could only limply leap to one side as Aggron thundered towards her. Aggron quickly turned to one side and hit her, knocking her down onto her back effortlessly. Mei-Mei's Defences had been lowered too much for her to take the hit despite not being weak to Steel attacks. She lay on her side and looked over sadly at Emerald, looking sorry for losing. Then she passed out. Mei-Mei had finally been taken down.

"Pangoro is unable to battle! Aggron is the winner!" the announcer yelled.

"Aww, what a pity…" Ruby said sympathetically, "Mei-Mei was doing so well too. And now Em's down to her last Pokémon. I hope it can turn this battle around…"

Emerald returned Mei-Mei to her Pokéball and smiled graciously at it.

"You were simply amazing out there. I couldn't be prouder." she said softly.

She exchanged the ball for her last Pokéball. It was all down to this one now. Emerald kissed the ball for good luck.

"I'm counting on you my sweet. It's all up to you Kerchak!" the semi-finalist cried.

Kerchak was brought to the field and he pounded his chest with enthusiasm. Paul wasn't even surprised to see him here. Of course the girl would bring Kerchak to her big battle with him! Why wouldn't she? Their first battle had been between their two Grookey so she would've wanted this fight to end with their Rillabooms fighting each other. But first, Kerchak had to get past Aggron. The battle didn't last long for Emerald ordered Kerchak to use Brick Break. It was another Fighting attack and Aggron had already been weakened heavily by Mei-Mei earlier so the single attack was enough to bring Aggron's battle to an end. Sapphire especially wasn't surprised that the battle ended so quickly for she knew from her last battle against Emerald that he could use Brick Break. Aggron was brought down onto its back and unable to fight anymore. Kerchak pounded his drum excitedly, banging out a victory tune that the audience couldn't help but bob their heads in time to.

"Aggron is unable to battle! Rillaboom is the winner!" the announcer declared.

So this was it, both opponents down to their last Pokémon each. It all ended here and only one would emerge victorious. Paul returned Aggron to its Pokéball and brought his Rillaboom back out for another chance to fight. The two grass gorillas stared each other down, bearing their teeth.

"I've been waiting for the chance to fight you again…" Kerchak hissed venomously. He still remembered their first battle back when Emerald and Paul had first met and had been aching for a rematch since.

Rillaboom just smirked tauntingly as if to say "Ready to lose again?" to his opponent. Paul chuckled dryly.

"I bet you wanted it to end like this, our Rillabooms against each other for the final battle." he deduced, "That's why you have Kerchak here. You wanted the chance to make it up for the first time our Grookey battled."

"You bet Paul! I didn't want this fight to go any other way!" Emerald declared, "This battle will end how our rivalry started all the way back when we first met! And this time, we're gonna win!" she cried confidently, punching the air excitedly.

"Humph. You seem so sure of it this time." Paul sneered, "We'll let our Pokémon decide who's truly the strongest…"

The two trainers returned their Pokémon and activated their Dynamax bands. Sapphire stared excitedly as the Dynamaxing was about to begin. This would be her first time seeing Paul use Dynamax so it was going to be cool to watch him as well as her sister in this fight. Even Ruby could feel the adrenaline of the crowd rushing through her. Her heart pounded in anticipation as Emerald and Paul's Pokéball grew in size and they threw them. She finally got to watch her sister in a Dynamax battle! This was going to be almost too much to handle! The balls opened up again and the two Rillabooms Dynamaxed. The ape drummers grew to giant sizes and their bodies glowed with Dynamax energy. The stadium rumbled as both Kerchak and Rillaboom roared loudly, their voices amplified from their Dynamax forms. As the battle was about to begin, both Sapphire and Ashley wondered how Emerald would win this. They remembered that Paul's Rillaboom knew Acrobatics, a Flying-type move so he had a super-effective move to use on Kerchak. Did Kerchak have any super-effective moves to use on Paul's Rillaboom? The answer came as Emerald gave her first command.

"Let's win this Kerchak! Use Max Flutterby!" Emerald cried.

Ruby, Sapphire and Ashley all smiled in realization. So Emerald DID have type coverage after all! Kerchak knew the Bug-type move U-turn, which was lucky for she had a Bug-type attack to use against Paul's Rillaboom. Kerchak pounded on his drum and conjured up a flock of energy constructs shaped like butterflies. He sent them all flying towards Rillaboom, the butterflies eating away at Rillaboom's health like a swarm of moths devouring a wardrobe of shirts. Rillaboom grimaced from the impact as every butterfly that came in crashed and cut into him. Rillaboom swayed on his feet for the moment but was far from down yet. The Dynamaxed Pokémon still had enough energy in him to carry on fighting. Rillaboom regained his composure and Paul gave his command.

"Use Max Airstream!" he cried.

Due to knowing Acrobatics, Paul's Rillaboom of course had the Flying-type Max Move at his disposal. He pounded on his drum, summoning a tornado of winds spiralling towards Kerchak. The wind was so strong that the audience worried for a moment that they might get blown out of their seats. Ashley even held on to her hat to stop it blowing away. But as the attack came towards Kerchak, Emerald gave a surprising command.

"Block it with your drum, Kerchak!" Emerald commanded.

That got everyone going. The audience remembered when Paul had done so himself earlier and now Emerald was copying his tactic! Paul watched, impressed once more with Emerald's adaptability as Kerchak held up his drum in front of the Max Airstream attack. While it didn't protect him completely, the drum at least shielded him from the worst of the attack so it did less damage than normal. The winds pushed Kerchak back slightly but he was able to stand up to them and take it. Paul gave a dry smile in response.

"Using my own defence tactic against me…I was right when I thought you had potential when we first met." he complimented.

"It's always wise to use your opponent's tactics against them!" Emerald declared, "Use Max Flutterby one more time, Kerchak!" she cried.

Kerchak banged his drum again and the butterflies came swarming towards Rillaboom. Paul reacted quickly, ordering Rillaboom to use Max Airstream again. Rillaboom launched his attack, the huge gust of winds blowing towards his opponent. The attacks both landed with Rillaboom getting bombarded by butterflies and Kerchak being hit by the winds of Max Airstream. The two Pokémon winced from the respective hits and they staggered back. Both hits had been very powerful but for Emerald, she scored the bigger hit. U-turn was a stronger attack than Acrobatics so Kerchak's Max Flutterby was a slightly stronger attack than Rillaboom's Max Airstream. Indeed Rillaboom seemed to the one that was lower on health for the moment thanks to Kerchak landing the first hit earlier. Kerchak was still standing while Rillaboom was panting and concentrating all its effort into staying standing. Emerald could feel her stomach tingle excitedly. She was winning! Kerchak was going to beat Rillaboom! This battle was going to be her's! She was about to call another attack until Paul suddenly made an unusual call.

"Use Max Quake!" he cried.

Emerald was puzzled. Why was Paul using a different attack? He knew that Max Airstream was the only attack Rillaboom knew that was super-effective against Kerchak! Rillaboom punched down at the ground and sent a colossal shockwave that ripped through the ground towards Kerchak. The stadium shook furiously and the crowd clutched the edges of their seats to keep themselves from falling out. Thinking fast, Emerald countered by ordering Kerchak to use Max Knuckle on the ground. Kerchak did so, sending the huge energy construct fist punching down at the ground and it created its own shockwave that cancelled out the Max Quake. But Emerald had fallen into Paul's trap. He'd deliberately done that so Kerchak would leave himself wide open for another Max Airstream. Just as he planned, his Rillaboom launched the attack and Kerchak wasn't fast enough to block it due to being occupied with stopping the Max Quake earlier. He cried out as he was bombarded by the battering winds of Max Airstream. Now both opponents were on equal health with two successful attacks landed on each other. It was all or nothing for this next move. Emerald felt she might have the edge for a side-effect of Max Knuckle gave Kerchak an Attack boost so his Max Flutterby attack would be stronger than before. But Paul's Rillaboom had also gained a Speed boost from the last Max Airstream he'd used. Paul's Rillaboom would be faster, but Kerchak was stronger. Would strength win over speed in this match? Emerald breathed in deeply and gave her last command.

"One last Max Flutterby!" she called.

"Rillaboom, Max Airstream one more time!" Paul commanded.

Both attacks launched with Rillaboom's attack coming in a little faster than Kerchak's. The Airstream tornado hit Kerchak but he refused to give up that easily. He sent the Flutterby butterflies swarming towards Rillaboom despite the battering he was receiving and Rillaboom found himself also getting battered by the swarming bugs that came raining down towards him. Both attacks did so much damage that the two Pokémon's Dynamax forms died out and they were restored to normal. They were back to normal size and both were panting heavily. Emerald and Paul held their breaths. Who was going to faint first? Neither one looked as if they could go on any further. One of them had to take the fall. The audience watched intently as Kerchak and Rillaboom tried to remain standing. Sapphire held her hands close to her chest while Ashley gripped the sides of her seat in anxiety. Ruby leaned closer, feeling just as nervous as Emerald did. The stand-off seemed to last an age for Emerald and Paul. Eventually…one of their Pokémon took the fall. There was a chorus of gasps all over the stadium as one Rillaboom fainted on the grass while another Rillaboom remained standing. Emerald and Paul stared in shock as they took in what had happened. Ruby jumped out of her seat and Sapphire gasped in astonishment. Then came the announcement…

"Paul's Rillaboom is unable to battle! Emerald's Rillaboom is the winner!" boomed the announcer, "The winner of the first semi-final eliminator battle is Emerald Silverlock from Postwick Town and she progresses to the second round!"

There was a brief silence as the audience took in the result…and then the cheering came. A tumultuous explosion of applause surged all around the stadium from the crowd for the big winner of the match. Emerald fell to her knees in shock, unable to take in the fact that she'd managed to actually win against Paul. She was so surprised she won that she almost didn't believe it was really happening.

"I won…I actually defeated Paul…?" she murmured.

Paul was as astonished as Emerald was. But he recovered first and gave out a small smile. So that was that, he lost and Emerald won. It really was like fighting Ash all over again. He went over to his Rillaboom, who looked disappointed that he'd failed to win Paul the match. The purple-haired boy just held out his Pokéball.

"Thank you." he said softly, "It was an excellent battle."

He hadn't thanked any of his Pokémon since congratulating his Electivire for a hard-fought battle back in the Sinnoh League. As for Emerald, she was still in a daze and didn't seem to be aware of anything going on. She was still struggling to believe that she'd won. Kerchak walked up to her and gently shook her out of it.

"We won Emerald!" he said happily, "We really won! Listen to the crowd cheer for us!"

Emerald finally came back into reality and heard the cheers for her. She could even see Ruby and Sapphire in their seats cheering for her. She jumped up to her feet in excitement and hugged Kerchak tightly.


Kerchak hugged her back gratefully. The two almost looked like a father gorilla and his child having a tender moment together. Paul approached Emerald, his face blank but his eyes telling her that he was full of congratulations for her.

"You promised a battle we'd never forget, and you delivered." Paul complimented, "You really have grown stronger since we first met. I think you could give Ash a strong battle with the performance you put up today. You deserve to go to the next round."

"Aww, thank you so much Paul!" Emerald said gratefully, "And thank you for such an amazing battle! Your Pokémon were incredible and really tested my Pokémon's strength and skills!"

"Thanks, yours too." Paul replied, "Good luck against whoever you'll face in the second round. I bet Sapphire or Ashley will be tough to beat."

"Oh I know either of them will be!" Emerald agreed, "So what's next for you now?"

Paul shrugged.

"I lost, so there's nothing else for me here." he said casually, "I'll be catching the first plane back to Sinnoh once the tournament's over. I at least wanna see who'll be the one to face Ruby in the final."

"That's great!" Emerald said brightly, "And Paul…if you ever decide to visit Galar again, let's have another battle!"

Paul nodded agreeably.

"Yes, let's." he concurred, "And I'll win the next time."

"Don't be so sure of that." Emerald teased.

The two shook hands and left the pitch to return to the changing rooms. Sapphire watched them go, overjoyed with Emerald's victory. Now it would be her turn to battle, and she had a considerably tougher opponent than Emerald to deal with. She looked over at her crush, who was still applauding Emerald and Paul. Ashley was no ordinary trainer, she was a reigning Champion from another region. Ashley would give her the fight of her life and she knew that she'd have to rely on whatever strategies she could cook up to have any chance of winning. No matter what, Sapphire was determined to join her sister in the second round…

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