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Emerald Knights: A Pokémon Sword Story Chapter 4

Chapter 4: The Girl from Unova

The next day went much better for the twins.

After a good night's sleep, Emerald felt like her old self again and she was happy to see that Vixey had made a full recovery. She felt much warmer to the touch than last time and could produce flames hot enough to light a fire for the twins to cook their breakfast with. It was as if her little dip in the lake had never happened at all. Emerald's other Pokémon were thrilled to see Vixey looking so healthy and invited her to play with them after breakfast. Emerald stayed with the tent while Sapphire went off to find some Pokémon of her own to catch. Her eyes twinkled with glee at the adorable sight of her Pokémon playing together. Kerchak tackled Vixey to the ground and playfully tickled her stomach, his little paws rubbing her vigorously. Vixey giggled and squirmed, trying to push the little monkey Pokémon off of her.

Katana and Mei-Mei traded blows with each other, the Bug-type Pokémon trying to jab her with her claws while Mei-Mei kept dancing out of the way. It was rather comical to watch the little panda-like Pokémon just effortlessly dodge the speedy cicada Pokémon's attacks. Despite Katana's speed, Mei-Mei's dance-like moves made her too tricky to hit. She hopped from one foot to another as Katana lunged at her. Katana then tried a roundhouse slicing manoeuvre but Mei-Mei just back flipped out of the way, giggling merrily as if this was one big game for her. Emerald laughed too, seeing that Mei-Mei was going to be a fine addition to the team with that kind of battle-style. Katana started panting, feeling worn out from trying to hit Mei-Mei. She'd have to practice trying to hit Pokémon with dance moves as their battle-style if she was to succeed against any opponent like that!

Blue was in the lake practicing her swimming so she could keep her strength up and become a better swimmer, contrary to what her old school believed of her. Her little tail paddled furiously as she swam in circles around and around in the lake. Misty was watching her. She thought Blue was swimming just fine and didn't understand why her old school shunned her like so. Blue smiled in appreciation. It had been a while since anyone had said anything nice to her.

While Emerald and her Pokémon played, Sapphire had ventured over to some old ruins of what had once been a watchtower. She'd read in her guidebook that Ghost-type Pokémon liked to hang out near these ruins so she decided to look here for now. It didn't take her long to find out as out of a patch of tall grass popped out a Duskull. Duskull were Ghost-type Pokémon originally found in the Hoenn region and were seen as Hoenn's equivalent of the Gastly species. Duskull were black, ghostly creatures with a skull mask and a single eye that floated between the skull's eyeholes. They were considered to be very creepy Pokémon, possibly the closest equivalent they had to the Grim Reaper. Despite its creepy appearance, Sapphire knew she had to catch it. Thanks to some help from Zao the Zigzagoon, the Duskull was weakened sufficiently and Sapphire was able to catch it with a single Pokéball. Satisfied, Sapphire named the newly caught Duskull "Phantom" and carried on seeing what else she fancied catching around the Watchtower Ruins.

Her next catch came in the form of another Pokémon originally found in the Hoenn region. It was an Ice-type Pokémon named Snorunt. It was a small Pokémon with a ovoid shaped body, a yellow coat that gave it a triangular outline, small blue eyes and wide teeth. Ironically despite its typing, it always looked to be shivering as if it couldn't handle its own cold temperatures. Sapphire also noticed this Snorunt seemed to like singing for she approached it and it was sitting by itself just singing joyfully to itself. The voice indicated it was female, which was what Sapphire wanted for female Snorunt could evolve into the beautiful Froslass, a Ghost/Ice type Pokémon from the Sinnoh region. Sapphire wanted a Froslass of her own so she knew she wanted to catch this Snorunt. Unlike before, she didn't need to fight it for the Snorunt decided to join her willingly. It had always wanted someone to sing to and was glad to see that a trainer would be that person. Delighted, Sapphire took the Snorunt in and welcomed her to the team, nicknaming it "Elsa" due to being an Ice-type Pokémon with a lovely singing voice. Coincidentally enough, Elsa's singing even sounded similar to the popular Disney character so it worked out well for her.

Sapphire returned to the camp and showed Emerald her latest catches.

"Oooh, a Snorunt and a Duskull!" Emerald said excitedly, "Nice catches! I bet they'll get you far into the competition."

"Thanks Em." Sapphire said appreciatively, "I've always wanted at least one Ghost or Ice-type Pokémon for my team. You'll like Elsa especially, she can sing really well."

Then as if right on cue, Elsa suddenly started to sing. Emerald was blown away as the little Snorunt effortlessly burst into a song from the movie Frozen II. It was amazing to hear a big, powerful voice coming from a small Pokémon like this.

Into the unknooooooooown!

Into the unknoooooooown!


"Wow, that's fantastic!" Emerald cried, "Just like Ruby, you have your own singing Pokémon! Freddie liked his Queen music whereas this one seems to like Frozen songs."

"Not just those. She was singing a Christmas song when I found her." Sapphire explained, "I guess she likes any song that can be connected to winter or snow in some way."

Emerald giggled, seeing the funny side of how appropriate that was. The twins spent the rest of the day at the campsite letting their Pokémon play together with Sapphire's joining in with Emerald's to make this one big Pokémon playgroup. Phantom and Elsa were made very welcome by the rest of Sapphire's team. Not even Phantom's rather spooky appearance bothered anyone as most Pokémon were familiar with Duskulls anyway and were used to the rather creepy looks of Ghost Pokémon. During one play session, Katana spotted something twinkling in the spotlight and flew over to see what it was. It was lying in the grass on top of a hill nearby and the Ninjask picked it up to see what it was. Emerald noticed this and ran over to Katana to see what she'd found. To her delight, it was a Thunder Stone. She could tell by the lightning bolt symbol on the beautiful stone. There were certain stones that could make Pokémon evolve just by touching them against the Pokémon and certain stones only worked on certain Pokémon types. Emerald eagerly packed the stone into her backpack.

"Thanks for finding this, Katana." she said gratefully, "I plan to catch a Pikachu at some point and with this, I'll be able to evolve it!"

"Raichu are very reliable Pokémon." Katana agreed, "With one on the team, we will be powerful indeed."

Come the next day, the twins made their way over to the gates of Motostoke. Today was Friday, the day the giveaway event that Emerald and Sapphire had signed up to would end so the girls wanted to see if they'd won. There was a Macro Cosmos man standing by the gates as usual and he looked happy to see some travellers in the area to talk to. Emerald and Sapphire approached the man and explained that they had texted to the competition two days ago. The man paused as he took out his own Rotom phone and looked through the list of winning entries that had been randomly selected from all the trainers texting to the giveaway. His face told the two the good news before he even spoke a word.

"You'll be happy to know that you two are among our lucky winners." he announced, "You'll receive a Pokémon exclusive to either the Isle of Armour or the Crown Tundra!"

Emerald and Sapphire were so thrilled by the news that they hugged each other excitedly. What were the odds that they just happened to BOTH win the competition after signing up?! They'd expected at least one of them to win but for both of them to be winners was unexpected! The man had a belt of Pokéballs and he held it out for the girls to pick one. Emerald and Sapphire both chose a Pokéball each from the belt. Now came the moment of truth: which area did the girls pick a Pokémon from? They both threw the Pokéballs.

Emerald's chosen Pokémon was a Staryu from the Isle of Armour, a Water-type Pokémon that was common in many regions around the world. Staryu were brown star-shaped Pokémon with a pinkish-red gem in the centre of its body. They were quite beloved by Water-type specialists for their pretty appearances and for being incredibly fast Pokémon. Their evolved form, the swift and powerful Starmie, was another reason they were popular catches for Pokémon trainers. They were also Pokémon most popularly associated with the Water-type Gym Leader Misty from the Kanto region as she often thought her challengers with a Staryu and a Starmie respectively. Emerald was delighted with this gift and happy to add the Staryu to her team.

"Aww, it's a beautiful Staryu! I love it!" Emerald cried, hugging the star-shaped Pokémon graciously, "I'll take very good care of it! Thank you sir!"

Sapphire's chosen Pokémon was a Nidorino from the Crown Tundra. Nidorino was the second stage evolution of the male Nidoran species from the Kanto region. Nidorino looked like a poisonous rabbit-like creature with four legs, large, spiny ears, a large spike in the centre of its head, a row of spikes pointing behind it on its back and purple skin. Nidorino could evolve into the mighty Nidoking, one of the biggest Pokémon powerhouses that were famous for their extremely wide move pools that allowed them to learn almost any attack there was to learn. Sapphire patted the Nidorino's head softly.

"Awesome, a Nidorino!" Sapphire exclaimed, "I love the Nidoran line so it's great to have one of them for myself!"

The man smiled appreciatively, glad that the girls were pleased with their prizes.

"I bet you'll get a chance to use them both in the upcoming Gym Challenge." he said with a wink, "You best make your way into Motostoke City so you can get ready for the opening ceremony tomorrow."

"We will do." Sapphire said, "We just dropped by to see if we'd won first. Thanks so much for the prize Pokémon sir! Me and my sister will definitely raise them well and give them plenty of battles to strengthen their skills."

"I know Gemstone will be great to use in Kabu's Gym…" Emerald said thoughtfully.

The two girls made their way through the gates to enter Motostoke City.


Motostoke City was as big and as busy as ever with its many citizens going about their daily lives. It was quite an experience for Emerald and Sapphire to be in an actual city as they were only used to the quiet country life of Postwick. Seeing so many people and Pokémon around started to feel overwhelming, making them wonder if Ruby felt the same way when she'd arrived here herself last year. Motostoke was huge with all sorts of places to visit from the local Pokémon Centre to the clothes store and most importantly of all, the Motostoke Stadium that stood proudly in the centre of the city, carrying banners with the symbols of the Galar League and all the Gym Leaders. The opening ceremony took place here as well as Gym Battles with Kabu, the Fire Type Gym Leader. The ceremony was tomorrow so the twins didn't need to go to the stadium now. They were instead going to get checked in at the Budew Drop Inn to rest for the day and settle down ready for the big day tomorrow. Ruby had recommended it after her stay there so the twins were going to try it out themselves. They made their way through the crowd and arrived at the inn. It was easy for them to find due to its green logo with a neon light Budew in the centre. They walked through the doors and headed towards reception to get their rooms booked.

But Emerald and Sapphire soon saw they weren't the only ones staying at the Budew Drop Inn for the night. There was another girl here too and she was just getting checked in. She was fifteen years old with fair skin and a huge brown ponytail sprouting from the back of her head. She was dressed in the kind of outfit that made one think she clearly enjoyed the outdoor life, wearing a white tank top with a black open vest over it, a white cap with a pink beak and pink Pokéball logo in the centre, black wristbands with a pink stripe around the end, tiny blue denim shorts that provided a generous view of her legs and ankle-high boots with pink soles and laces. She had a pink satchel slung over her shoulder. It was the kind of look that suggested this girl was gusty and adventurous but still had a feminine side.

Sapphire was entranced at the beauty of this girl. Everything about her just seemed perfect to her from her fit, agile figure, wide hips and long slender legs. She could feel herself heating up inside. She'd never seen a girl so beautiful looking before in her life.

"Wow…" Sapphire murmured under her breath.

Emerald turned to her and giggled.

"And just when I was done teasing Ruby about falling in love." she sneered, "Looks like you've become twitter pated yourself, Sapph!"

Sapphire blushed bright pink and hid her face behinds her hands.

"Em, keep your voice down!" she hissed, "Do you want her to hear you?!"

"It's OK Sapph, just go over and say hi to her! Maybe she'll like to meet you." Emerald encouraged, "You never know if you don't try."

"N-no, I d-don't think we should bother her." Sapphire said feebly, "She's clearly ready for a good rest so we should…"

"Oh don't be silly, Sapph!" Emerald said, grabbing her firmly by the arm, "You clearly like the look of her so come over and say hi!"

Sapphire tried to protest but Emerald was already taking her over to the girl. She'd just finished checking in and had just been given her room key. She was about to head off until she noticed two girls coming to her. One seemed very excitable while the other looked as if she wished she could detach her arm from its shoulder and run away. The girl sighed.

"Look, if yer fans of mine, please give me some space." she moaned, "I've had enough fanfare already, I just want a moment of peace."

She spoke in a thick Unovan accent. It seemed Paul wasn't the only trainer from abroad taking part in this year's Gym Challenge. Emerald coughed nervously.

"Oh no miss, we aren't fans. We don't even know you." she said sheepishly, "We're new trainers and we were just about to get settled in and then we noticed you were here so we thought we'd say hi. Isn't that right Sapph?" she added, playfully nudging the blue-haired girl.

Sapphire just looked away in embarrassment. The Unova teen just chuckled.

"Hey, it's cool. I get that from both the guys and the gals." she said casually, "The fact both sides seem to think I'm attractive is no big deal to me."

That made Sapphire relax a little. Sighing, she looked back at the brunette girl.

"I can see why, if you don't me saying so. You are really pretty…" she said, trying not to mumble.

"Aww, thank you!" the teen said, giving Sapphire a bright smile that made her feel weak in the knees, "Say, judging from your accents, I guess you're locals. I must really stand out to you with my accent." she added, sounding embarrassed to admit it.

"We won't judge." Emerald said kindly, "You must be from the Unova region. What brings you to Galar?"

"No reason, I just wanted to see what other regions had to offer." the girl explained, "I've already been through Unova and even conquered it so I sought out new challenges and, well, here I am! I'm currently the Champion of Unova so I'm gonna see what the Champion of Galar's like."

Emerald and Sapphire stared incredulously at the Unovan visitor.

"Shut up…you're an ACTUAL Champion?!" Sapphire exclaimed.

"The one and only." the girl said modestly, "My name's Ashley Benson and I've been the Unovan Champion for a year now. Sadly, I hardly get any damn peace because my fans just love to swarm me whenever they can." she muttered, "At least you two aren't crazy fans for a change."

"Like I say, we don't know you." Emerald replied, "While we've heard that Unova's previous Champion was dethroned, we didn't really know who it was. Unovan news doesn't really travel far around Galar."

"Fair enough." Ashley said with a shrug, "It's nice not to be recognized for once. What's your names?" she asked politely.

"I'm Emerald and this Sapphire." Emerald introduced, "We're new trainers setting off for the first time ever. We only got our starters earlier this week, but we've been catching plenty of Pokémon."

"We're going to enter the Gym Challenge and win our way to the Champion Cup so either me or Em can have a shot at facing our sister for the title of Champion." Sapphire explained.

Ashley looked as if she'd been electrocuted as the surprise of what she'd heard sank in.

"Get outta here, you two are the sisters of the Galarian Champion?!" she gasped, "You're related to THE Ruby Silverlock?!"

"That's what I said." Sapphire said sheepishly.

"That's amazing!" Ashley exclaimed, punching the air in excitement, "Ohmigosh, I've heard a lot of amazing things about Ruby! Didn't she save the world from some all-powerful Pokémon that threatened to create an eternal darkness or something?"

"Absolutely!" Emerald said, her voice full of pride for her sister's heroism, "We'd all be dead if it wasn't for her."

"I still remember when those black skies threatened to come over to Unova…" Ashley thought, shuddering at the memory, "I thought it was Team Plasma with a new scheme but then the reports came in that it was some Pokémon that we Unovans have never heard of. Thank Arceus Ruby stopped it or else we wouldn't be here talking to each other…"

The twins nodded. They practically woke up every morning silently thanking Ruby for the fact they were here to this day. Ashley bumped her hands on her hips.

"So if you two are the Champion's sisters, would you give me the pleasure of a Pokémon battle?" the Unovan girl asked, her tone clear it was a request and not a demand, "I know yer new and I'm a Champion so it's unfair but I've started over anew so my Pokémon won't be too advanced for you both. I want to get through this region without having a head start, after all."

Emerald and Sapphire couldn't help but be tempted. How cool would it be to have a go at facing an ACTUAL Champion from another region? It was nice of her to not have a huge advantage by starting anew too so at least it would be a fair fight. Emerald wanted to accept, but she knew who would actually like to have a go at battling Ashley. She stepped back, leaving Sapphire contemplating the thought. Sapphire realized what had happened and cried out awkwardly. She rubbed the back of her head queasily.

"Uh, heh, heh…I guess I'll be doing it then." she said meekly.

"Glad you are." Ashley said, drawing a Pokéball out of her satchel, "You seem like a cool gal, Sapphire. Let's see if you're a cool trainer too. Tepig, time to fight!" she cried, throwing the Pokéball.

Emerald and Sapphire were gifted with the sight of a Pokémon that they had never seen before. This was a Pokémon that couldn't be found in the Galar region so this was their first exposure to this particular species. Tepig was the Fire-type starter for new trainers starting out in the Unova region. They resembled pigs, as their name would suggest, complete with a dark pink snout and a curly tail with a dark pink sphere at the end. They were orange in colour with dark brown on the top of their heads and rear end and they had a yellow stripe on their snouts. The Tepig grunted, keen to meet these new trainers. Emerald cooed at it in awe while Sapphire studied it thoughtfully.

"Why don't we get anything like that here? It looks so cute!" Emerald cried.

"No arguments there." Sapphire agreed, "I was honestly expecting her to bring out a Galarian starter like Paul did."

"I was tempted, I'll admit." Ashley explained, "I did quite like the look of Scorbunny especially, but I decided to stick with what I know. This Tepig was specially bred from my Championship winning Emboar I have back home so you'll find it quite a handy fighter."

Sapphire understood how this Champion winning trainer somehow had an unevolved starter on her. So Ashley liked to breed her Pokémon? This should be interesting. Some Pokémon only learnt certain moves through breeding with others so it stood to reason that this Tepig might know something it wouldn't normally be able to learn. The Galarian girl suddenly began to feel nervous. Was she out of her depth fighting against an actual Champion? Could she REALLY do this? She sighed and narrowed her gaze. If anything, Sapphire could at least try and impress this girl. She wasn't going to let her think she was a quitter!

"This'll be an interesting fight to be sure." Sapphire declared, "But I know just how to handle that Tepig. I'm guessing it's a Fire-type due to its colour scheme so lucky me I have a Water-type to deal with it!"

She threw her own Pokéball and summoned forth James Pond. The little Sobble stared at the little Tepig in curiosity. He'd never seen anything like it before so he had no idea what to expect. He was nervous, just like his trainer was, but he tried not to show it. He got down on all fours and raised his back in a battle-ready stance. Tepig pawed at the floor. Ashley smiled with anticipation. So this girl had a Water-type Pokémon! Good thing she'd prepared for that, as Sapphire would soon find out! The receptionist peered over his desk to watch the battle. Last time a fight had happened here, it had been Ruby and Hop dealing with the rowdy antics of Team Yell. He hoped that the fight wouldn't get too messy. Some of the other hotel guests gathered to watch the fight as well. What a match-up this was going to be, the Galarian starter vs. the Unovan starter! It was like watching two different regions challenge each other for the right to declare whose region was the best. Many assumed Sapphire would win easily due to type-advantage but they had no idea that Ashley was no ordinary trainer. Only Emerald knew this fight wasn't going to be as straight forward as expected.

"Let's make this one quick." Sapphire declared, "James, use Water Pulse!"

During their time on Route 2, Sapphire had trained her Sobble to the point he'd learned some Water attacks. First he'd learned Water Gun, but then training in the Wild Area had helped him learn an even stronger Water attack. Water Pulse was middle-of-the-road in terms of power and had the helpful side effect of confusing the opponent from time to time. James started to build up the Water Pulse, opening his mouth and preparing to launch the water. Ashley just folded her arms and calmly gave her first command.

"Sucker Punch!" she ordered.

Sucker Punch was a Dark-type attack that allowed the user to always hit first if its opponent was using an attack. That was a move Tepig could only learn through breeding. Tepig charged towards James and butted him sharply in the stomach with its snout, the only way it could realistically "punch" anyone. James cried out and stumbled backwards, landing on his back and shooting the Water Pulse attack up into the ceiling where it splashed harmlessly and briefly made it shower down over the hotel guests. Emerald winced, thinking that attack must've really hurt. It was clever of Ashley to stop that Water Pulse by having Tepig use an attack that let it hit first! Sapphire was undeterred.

"Try again, James! Another Water Pulse!" she ordered.

James obeyed, his second attack more successful this time as he launched the watery pulse move at his opponent. Tepig was splashed by the attack and sent skidding backwards. It shook itself dry and prepared to attack again, not down by a long shot. Ashley was glad to see that Tepig was still fighting ready. Her Pokémon were never ones to go out easily!

"Use Flame Charge!" she ordered.

"You what, mate?" Sapphire asked incredulously.

It was ridiculous! Ashley was the Champion of Unova! Why would she be making a rookie mistake such as using a Fire attack against a Water-type? Fire was weak against Water! But Ashley wasn't using Flame Charge in the hopes it'd be effective. The Tepig surrounded itself in flames and charged straight into James Pond. Of course, James barely felt anything from the Fire attack and quickly shook off the pain. Then came the realization of Ashley's strategy. After the attack, Tepig's body flashed with orange to signify an increase in one of its stats. Sapphire gasped. Of course, now she remembered! Flame Charge had the side-effect of boosting a Pokémon's speed every time it was used! That was what Ashley was planning! If Tepig could move faster, it could hit James Pond more quickly.

"Clever of you to raise your Pokémon's speed. I just hope James is still faster." Sapphire murmured, "Use Growl!"

James opened his mouth and let out a terrible growling noise that made Tepig wince uncomfortably. Its speed may have increased but Sapphire was banking on lowering its attack so that it wouldn't be able to strike back as hard. Tepig flashed blue for a minute to signify said drop in attack. But it was ultimately meaningless for Ashley's next command wasn't a physical attack.

"Time for our secret weapon! Use Grass Knot!" the Unovan teen commanded.

"No way! That thing can learn Grass Knot?!" Sapphire shrieked in astonishment.

It was true. Tepig and its evolved forms were capable of learning Grass-type moves to cover their weaknesses such as Solar Beam and Grass Knot. Ashley had taught this Tepig Grass Knot to cover its Water-type weaknesses. Grass Knot was a move that did more damage depending on how much the opponent weighed. Sobble were lightweight Pokémon so James wasn't in too much danger but the super-effective move still came keen and left him lying on the floor, grunting from the attack. It was such a surprise to see a Fire-type Pokémon use a move like this and the guests that were watching stared in surprise. This fight was certainly getting more interesting as it went on! Emerald watched anxiously. James wasn't looking too good. This fight wasn't going to last much longer, that she could tell. If Sapphire didn't end this and fast, it would be Ashley's win! James Pond picked himself up, keen to show he wasn't down yet. Sapphire smiled.

"It's not over yet." she declared, "We've still got this. Use another Water Pulse!"

"Use Sucker Punch!" Ashley commanded in response.

That did it. James Pond never got the chance to launch his next attack as Tepig's Sucker Punch allowed it to move first again. It charged forwards into James Pond and knocked him back. Already weakened from the first Sucker Punch and the earlier Grass Knot, the second Sucker Punch was enough to finish off the chameleon like Pokémon. James lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling as if contemplating what went wrong before slipping into unconsciousness. He didn't get up again. Sapphire stared in amazement. How did she have a type-advantage and still lose this battle? She could see how Ashley had become the Unovan Champion with skills and strategies like this. All this just made her admire the girl all the more. The watching guests cheered for Ashley, congratulating her on such an amazing win. Ashley didn't seem to notice for she just picked her Tepig up and patted it softly.

"Great job buddy. You were great out there." she said happily.

Tepig just grunted, glad it could please its trainer like so. Sapphire picked up James Pond, the little Water Pokémon looking disappointed in himself again.

"I lost again…I'm really no good to you." he moaned.

"Nonsense! Don't say that about yourself!" Sapphire dismissed, "I honestly expected to get my arse kicked out there given this is no ordinary trainer we're up against. I'd say we did well enough considering the competition."

She and Ashley approached each other and shook hands. Emerald beamed. At least her sister was taking it well despite the loss.

"Thank you for that match, Sapphire! It was a really good battle!" Ashley complimented, "You keep at it and you'll be amazing."

"W-well uh…th-thank you. W-what else can I say?" Sapphire said, blushing with pleasure.

"I really hope we get to battle again." Ashley said enthusiastically, "I can't wait to see what else this region has to offer! You and your sister have a goodnight and I'll see you two at the opening ceremony tomorrow, I guess?"

"We'll be there!" Emerald confirmed, "Goodnight to you two and thanks for giving Sapph a good battle!"

Ashley smiled graciously and headed off towards the lift to go to her hotel room. Sapphire watched her leave, hoping that the next time they met wouldn't be too far away. Not only was this girl absolutely gorgeous but she was so cool and skilled in battle! She definitely wanted to see her again. This battle had also taught her a very important lesson that she was going to keep with her on her journey. The competition was going to be big this year with the experienced Paul and the Champion Ashley taking part. She and Emerald had A LOT to live up to if they had any hopes of challenging Ruby! She was determined to train her Pokémon up to the best of their abilities and hopefully bring them to the high standards of trainers like Paul and Ashley. Who knew being a Pokémon trainer could be as exciting and also as nerve-racking as this? The next few days were going to be busy with a lot of training involved. Sapphire thought about that as she and Emerald went over to the reception desk to get their room booked. Ruby had had quite an adventure as a Pokémon trainer and a lot of competition along the way. She had a feeling that she and Emerald were going to be part of a League that could potentially top even that…


Later on, the twins were sitting in their hotel room to settle down for the night. As tomorrow was a big day for everyone, they wanted to get as much rest as possible. Sapphire also wanted to give James Pond a moment to recover from his battle with Ashley's Tepig. The little Water Pokémon was still looking gloomy, clearly feeling very sorry for himself that he'd lost the battle despite a type-advantage. Sapphire let him curl up on the pillow of her bed and have a nice long lie down to rest while she gave him a potion to regain some of his strength.

The Budew Drop Hotel was famous for its comfortable and inviting rooms, hence why so many trainers recommended going there whenever they needed to rest for the night. The fact the hotel was a convenient place to sleep while so close to Motostoke Stadium also helped. Emerald could see why so many trainers thought this as she perched herself on the bed to get a good feel of the mattress. It almost seemed to sink under her weight and it felt almost like sitting on a cloud to her. She had a feeling she'd fall asleep in minutes in a bed this comfortable.

"I always thought the rooms looked nice when we called Ruby on her first night in this place." Emerald said, "Seeing it for myself, this really is a cosy hotel room."

"Just for place for trainers and Pokémon to wind down." Sapphire agreed, her attention still focused on James.

The two called for room service so they could have some dinner before bed. While they waited, Emerald decided to give some of her Pokémon a nice groom to make them look their best. They wouldn't be attending the opening ceremony of course as they would be in their Pokéballs but she still wanted to make them look nice anyway. She started off by using a comb to brush Kerchak's fur and check for anything that might be stuck in his fur like grit or dirt. The monkey like Pokémon was pretty clean for the most part, though he did enjoy the feeling of the comb through his fur. Then Emerald gave Vixey a brush to perm her fur and make her look as neat as possible. The Vulpix loved the feel of the brush as Emerald softly dragged it across her back. You certainly never got treatment like this in the wild! Emerald even filled up the bath to let her newest Pokémon, Gemstone, sit in it and enjoy a good soak. She had to run the water cool as most Water-type Pokémon preferred cold water than hot. Gemstone sat in the bath and lay back to enjoy the cool water. Emerald noticed that Gemstone either couldn't talk or preferred not to as it hadn't said a word since she'd received it. As long as Gemstone seemed to be happy, she was fine with it not speaking.

Sapphire had brought her newest Pokémon out to spend some time with him and get him used to her and the rest of her team. She'd decided to call the Nidorino Spike, owing to the spokes on his back and the large horn on his head. Spike liked the name and he didn't take long to like his new owner as Sapphire gave him gentle massages behind his large, rabbit-like ears. She wondered if he'd still enjoy that when he finally became a Nidoking. Spike noticed James Pond was still moping by himself on the pillow and took pity on the down-hearted Pokémon.

"What's the matter with the little guy?" he asked.

"He's really bummed about losing to Ashley's Tepig." Sapphire said sadly, "I insisted to him over and over that he's not weak, we were just outclassed due to Ashley being a Champion and having more experience than us but he still feels like he's no use to the team. He feels that if he can't even beat a Fire-type, then why should I still keep him?"

It genuinely hurt having to repeat those words. Sapphire didn't want James to think so lowly of himself. It wasn't like he'd never won a battle at all so he didn't need to put himself down THAT much! Even Spike looked sympathetic, eying the curled up Sobble sadly as if he understood what he was going through.

"As a species, we Pokémon often enjoy a good battle." Spike said, "And while most of us are good sports, some Pokémon just take loss really hard. I know before I evolved, I was a sore lose myself back in the wild. I didn't feel like I was any good until I became what I am now."

"I'm not sure if evolution will make him feel better." Sapphire said glumly, "Come tomorrow, we'll get down to some real hard training to improve everyone's skills ready for the Gym Challenge. I'm sure some of that will lift his spirits up some more."

She reached out and patted James on the back. James lifted his head up from the pillow and looked over at his trainer.

"What do you say, mate?" Sapphire asked softly, "Don't feel too bad about today's loss. Just see it as an opportunity for you to get stronger and become a more skilled Pokémon. If we train real hard, we might be as strong as Ashley."

"I'm not so sure we'll ever get to that level…" James mumbled gloomily.

"Not with that kind of attitude." Sapphire said bluntly, "If you're worried about letting me down, I'm just going to make it as clear as possible: you won't let me down. As your trainer, it's ME who should be worrying about letting YOU down! It's often said a Pokémon's only as good as their trainer, and as your trainer, I vow that I'll help you and everyone else in the team to be as strong as you can be!"

The uplifting message made James feel a little better about himself. If Sapphire wasn't going to let today's loss bring her down and wanted to carry on despite the heavy competition, then what was he doing moping and feeling sorry for himself? He couldn't disappoint his trainer by feeling melancholy all the time. He sat up on the pillow and gave a small smile, despite still looking uncertain of himself.

"Well if that's how you feel, I won't give up either." he said, trying to sound optimistic, "Tomorrow is a new day and all that?" he asked sheepishly.

"Exactly." Sapphire replied, patting him on the head, "And it'll be a new day for plenty of training as we make our way over to Turffield. Mark my words James, things will look up for us. I'm sure of it."

Emerald had heard the whole conversation while she was bathing Gemstone and it warmed her heart to hear that Sapphire and James were going to keep at it despite today's loss. It was like how losing to Paul didn't change anything about her place in this year's Pokémon League. If anything, it just meant both twins had someone to compete with, someone to inspire them to train as much as possible and not take things lying down. Ruby no doubt felt the same way on her own journey. Emerald couldn't wait for tomorrow, not just for the opening ceremony but to also see how things went for her and Sapphire. They were really going to get started on training for the Gym Challenge and with the Galar Mine as a good place to look for new Pokémon, they would have plenty of opportunities to continue building their teams. They maybe newcomers, but the twins would show that they weren't to be taken lightly…


The next day came soon enough and both Emerald and Sapphire were already at Motostoke Stadium getting signed up for the Gym Challenge.

Despite their best efforts, the two hadn't been able to sleep all that much and had decided to just get ready early instead of trying to force themselves to carry on sleeping. After breakfast, they'd gotten dressed and made their way over to the stadium. They were quickly signed in by a smiling man at the reception desk who seemed to find it fascinating that this year's Gym Challenge was going to be featuring the Champion's sisters upon being told that's who he was talking to. Emerald and Sapphire were given a Gym uniform each, the familiar white and white sports shirts and shorts combo that all Gym Challengers wore during Gym Battles and the Champion Cup. The clothes looked more fitting for a game of football than Pokémon battling. Emerald's Gym uniform sported the number 143, chosen as a reference to her's and Sapphire's birthdate, the 14th of March, while Sapphire's uniform sported the number 200, which was her personal favourite number as it always sounded like a cool number to her. Once they'd gotten changed, they made their way out to the pitch for the ceremony itself.

The noise of the stadium was incredible. It was impossible for anyone to hear themselves think with how much noise the audience was making and how loudly the music was blaring through the speaker systems. If the excitement of the crowd could be converted into energy, then the ex-Chairman Rose would never need to worry about Galar's energy levels again. As he was still behind bars from the disastrous results of Project: Eternatus, he wasn't the one hosting the opening ceremony this time. Instead, the former Champion Leon was there on the pitch with Ruby by his side. The silver haired girl just took in the noise and the energy of the audience watching her, feeling as if she was back here being announced to the crowd like she had been when she'd attended the opening ceremony last year. How had it already been a year since she herself had been one of the new Gym Challengers and now she was here hosting the ceremony along with Leon? The two stood together, striking their own trademark poses to just hype up the crowd some more. The noise they made was enough to make anyone wonder how nobody had lost their voices yet. Leon started off, waiting until the noise died down before speaking.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Pokémon fans of all ages! I am Leon Dande, former champion of Galar and current owner of the Battle Tower in Wyndon City!" he announced, "And beside me is the very girl who dethroned me as Champion of Galar, Ruby Silverlock!"

The way he spoke made it so clear that even after a year had passed, he still had nothing but respect for Ruby and had no qualms about being defeated by her. Ruby waved back to the crowd as they cheered for her. Her fanbase had only grown bigger since she'd become the Champion, so much so that she was willing to bet that over half the audience attending today's ceremony were fans of her's.

"It gives both me and Leon the great pleasure and tremendous honour of being the ones to host this year's opening ceremony." Ruby continued, "Everyone here from those in the audience to those watching at home have been aching for this moment so without further ado, we declare that this year's Galar Region Gym Challenge will finally begin!"

A loud fanfare blared from the speakers. The audience threw up their hands and chanted with excitement. Those glorious words never failed to get all Pokémon enthusiasts riled up for the wonderful moment where the Gym Challenge finally began.

"We share your excitement, audience." Leon took over, addressing everyone the same way he would normally do after winning a match during his Champion reign, "We all can't wait to see what this year's challenge has to offer. As you know, we have ten Gym Leaders with all Gym Challengers having eight of them to battle in order to win the eight badges needed to enter the Champion Cup later this season!"

"And two of those Gym Leaders are exclusive to those carrying a Sword or Shield pass." Ruby added, "Let's welcome the Gym Leaders to the pitch everyone!"

Last year, the Gym Leader line-up had consisted of the Grass Gym Leader Milo, Water Gym Leader Nessa, Fire Gym Leader Kabu, Fighting Gym Leader Bea, Ghost Gym Leader Allister, Fairy Gym Leader Opal, Rock Gym Leader Gordie, Ice Gym Leader Melony, Dark Gym Leader Piers (who never showed up in person to these events) and Dragon Gym Leader Raihan. This year's line-up only had one difference, that being Piers's little sister Marnie now taking his place as the Dark Gym Leader. Unlike the former Dark Gym Leader, Marnie was here now with the other Gym Leaders waving to the audience as they were welcomed onto the pitch. Marnie had gathered her own fanbase, and not just those from Team Yell, during her time in the Gym Challenge and her status as a semi-finalist had brought some increased publicity to her home town of Spikemuth. The fact she was now the current Dark Gym Leader just made her even more popular with audiences.

The Gym Leaders stood in a line together in the centre of the pitch. Ruby and Leon continued the announcements.

"As usual, not all Gym Challengers will be facing the same eight Gym Leaders." Ruby explained, "Those with a Sword pass will face Bea and Gordie, while those with a Shield pass will face Allister and Melony. The other six remain the same for everybody so let's see who has what pass this year!"

"Quite right Ruby. Ladies and gentlemen, give a warm welcome to this year's Gym Challengers!" Leon bellowed, sounding as enthusiastic as everyone in the audience was to welcome this year's Challengers to the pitch.

Emerald and Sapphire made their way onto the pitch, unable to believe that this was really happening right now. They could feel all eyes bearing onto them as they walked out from the side-lines. Everybody here was watching them, probably committing their faces to memory so they knew who they would be cheering for as the competition began. Pokémon battles weren't just a sport, they were an event for these people and they couldn't wait to see what awesome battles these promising Challengers would bring to the table. Emerald looked around curiously. There were many other Challengers, both boys and girls of varying hair-styles and skin colours, walking alongside her and Sapphire. There were a lot of Gym Challengers this year! She had no idea just how big the competition was going to be until now! But she was looking out for two people specifically. Where were they?

Then she spotted one of them. Sapphire followed her gaze and saw that as promised, Paul was here among the other Gym Challengers. He was in a Gym Uniform of his own, his shirt and shorts sporting the number 468. Emerald didn't think the clothes suited him at all. This wasn't a boy that was at home in sports gear and she imagined he didn't think so too. Paul seemed to be staring straight ahead, presumably at Ruby. Emerald imagined he was committing her face to memory, assuring himself that this was who he had to fight his way towards in this Challenge. Having experienced Leagues previously, it was no surprise Paul looked so calm and serious despite the adrenaline of the crowd surging through the entire stadium.

The second person she was looking for was also nearby. Both twins saw Ashley was walking on the pitch with everyone else too. Her Gym Uniform sported the number 211 and unlike Paul, she looked right at home in these kinds of clothes. Sapphire thought she somehow looked more attractive in this uniform than her regular clothes. Ashley just happened to glance in her direction and she saw her walking with Emerald. She winked at her, making her blush and wave shyly back. The Gym Challengers were divided between passes with Sword pass holders on the left side and Shield pass holders on the right side. Emerald noticed that Paul and Ashley were on the left side with her and Sapphire. So it seemed all four of them held a Sword pass, meaning that all four of them would get to challenge Bea and Gordie alongside the regular six Gym Leaders. Ruby had been a similar position herself with her, Hop, Bede and Marnie all carrying Shield passes in their Gym Challenge.

The next few minutes seemed to blur into each other as Emerald didn't really know what was happening. The noise of the crowd and the excitement of being here in Motostoke Stadium with so many people watching and all the cameras trained on her had stolen so much of her attention that she didn't realize that the Gym Challengers were being introduced until Paul was called up next. The Sinnoh trainer detached himself from the line and approached Ruby and Leon, his face still neutral. Ruby instantly thought of Marnie when she saw his expression. She too was somehow able to be surrounded by all these people and barely show any emotions. She shook hands with Paul as he approached her. The cameras trained on the two to get a good shot for the audiences back home.

"I remember you. I gave you your Grookey the other day." Ruby acknowledged.

"That's right." Paul said bluntly, "I actually challenged your sister yesterday, my Grookey going up against her's. I won, of course."

"You did, did you?" Ruby said, sounding amused to hear this, "I knew it wouldn't take long for Emerald to make friends." she teased, glancing over at the brunette girl as she watched the two converse.

Emerald waved to her. Ruby turned back to Paul.

"I certainly look forward to seeing how you do in the Gym Challenge, Paul." she continued, "A trainer of your reputation has given not just me, but everyone here someone to look out for."

"I'll be the one to challenge you, and that's a promise." Paul declared, "I'll see you at Wyndon Stadium for the Champion battle."

He bowed politely and left so that Ruby could welcome the next Gym Challenger. Ashley came up next, looking more excited to meet Ruby than anyone else. Even the Champion looked keen to meet her, her face lighting up as they shook hands.

"So the Champion of Unova comes to Galar." Ruby acknowledged, "I'm really looking forward to battling you."

"Don't get too hopeful. I have to get to you first!" Ashley giggled, "I wouldn't be surprised if your sisters end up being the ones who get there rather than me!"

She motioned to the twins, who only waved back in response. Ruby nodded.

"Sapph told me about her battle with you last night." she said, "I'm glad you went easy on her despite your status. Going at her full force might've put a damper on her spirits a little."

"I've always believed in a fair fight." Ashley agreed, "I didn't become Champion through underhanded tactics. I wanna win this thing fair and square and have a good, clean battle with you if I reach that stage. I'd love for us to battle together, Champion to Champion!"

"Ditto." Ruby chuckled, "That'd make for some amazing TV for those back home. Good luck Ashley! I hope to see you at Wyndon Stadium for the Champion Cup!"

Ashley smiled graciously and left. Emerald and Sapphire were next and Ruby beckoned for them both to come up so they could be introduced together. The audience cheered for them, clearly excited to see that the duo would be Gym Challengers. They all knew they were Ruby's sisters as Ruby had always been public about the fact her sisters would become trainers in the future. Now they would see if either of them could duplicate Ruby's success from last year. Ruby hugged Emerald and Sapphire both at once.

"I'm so glad to see you both here today." she said happily, "I'm glad you're having fun so far and making some new friends."

"I wouldn't say Paul's a friend." Emerald said uncertainly, "But Sapphire would certainly say Ashley is, if not more so." she teased.

"Sh-shut up Em!" Sapphire grumbled, hiding her face behind her hands.

"Now you know how I feel concerning me and Hop." Ruby retorted, smirking playfully, "Regardless, I know you two are in this to have fun and make your own ways as Pokémon trainers. But let me tell you, if there's anyone I'd love to have on the pitch challenging me for the title of Champion, I really hope it's either one of you two." she said supportively, "Nothing would give me greater pleasure than having either of you succeed me as Champion."

"If we can beat you, that is." Emerald noted, "We can't promise we'll get that far, but we'll give it all we got just like you did!"

"And don't worry, we won't compete with each other over who gets to fight you." Sapphire insisted, "We both agree it doesn't matter as long as one of us gets that far."

"Naturally." Ruby laughed, "Good luck to you both and I hope you have a wonderful time on your adventures, and in this year's Gym Challenge too. Give the Gym Leaders a fight to remember for me!"

"We will, we will!" Emerald cried, "See you later Ruby!"

She and Sapphire walked away to let the next Gym Challenger be introduced. They saw that Leon was waving to them as well, wishing them luck as Ruby did. They stood along with the other Gym Challengers that had already been introduced and waited as the rest of the ceremony played out. The noise, the excitement, the tension, the cheering and the chanting, it just seemed to last forever for everyone on the pitch. Emerald and Sapphire took one last look at the Gym Leaders, who had been standing by eying up the competition they would be up against this year. From this point on, they had those people to battle and each Gym Leader would come with his or her own challenges to face. Today was certainly a good time to be training so that they would be ready for when their first Gym battle began…


Pokémon obtained: Gemstone the Staryu (Gender: N/A, Nature: Gentle, Ability: Natural Cure (All status conditions are healed upon switching out)

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