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Emerald Knights: A Pokémon Sword Story Chapter 8

Chapter 8: Rival Battles

Sapphire had effortlessly made her way through Nessa's Gym Battle, finding it just as easy as Emerald had earlier. She'd only used two Pokémon throughout the whole fight, Zao the Linoone and Bolt the Boltund. Both Zao and Bolt had evolved during Sapphire's moment alone to cool down from her gay panic episode. Sapphire had spent that time training to get herself back under control and during that training session, she'd gotten Zao and Bolt to evolve. Zao had Seed Bomb, an attack he'd learnt from a TR Sapphire had picked up in the Wild Area and Bolt was an electric type anyway so both of them had effortlessly carried the blue-haired trainer through the Gym Battle. As flustered as Sapphire was by Nessa's half-naked appearance, she'd gotten completely absorbed into the battle and hadn't lost her stride or concentration. The battle had ended with Bolt and Nessa's Drednaw Dynamaxing and Bolt won with a single Max Lightning attack. Nessa was annoyed to have lost again so soon after her last match, but she congratulated Sapphire and handed her her Water Badge.

"You know, with both you and Emerald competing in the Gym Challenge this year, I think Ruby's reign may end sooner than we think." she said with a smirk, "Both of you are really showing a lot of promise."

"Blimey…that's some h-high praise right there…" Sapphire mumbled bashfully, "But neither me and Em are in this with the specific goal of succeeding Ruby. We're just in it for the fun and adventure of Pokémon training."

"And that's just as fine as doing it for the sport." Nessa said kindly, "I hope you both continue to have fun on your adventure and have many more great battles."

Sapphire thanked Nessa and left the arena to get changed back into her regular clothes. Upon leaving the changing rooms, she was greeted by an excited Emerald. The green-coloured sibling practically pounced on the blue-coloured one and squealed the house down with delight. Sapphire took it and chuckled, glad that she could've won her second Gym Badge like she did. Half an hour later, they arrived at the Captain's Table to have some dinner. Both girls were starving and they remembered how Ruby had recommended that they dine here as it was a place that served great food.

They ordered their meals and as they waited, they gave Ruby a call to let her know how everything had gone. They told her about their battles with Nessa and how they'd required their second Gym Badge.

"That's great news, girls." Ruby said proudly, "I wish I could've watched you two in there but…you know why." she added quickly.

"Yes, we do." Emerald said understandingly, "How did it go by the way? Was Penny really nice? Was it fun being the special guest?"

"Penny was the PERFECT host." Ruby said, and meant it, "She was polite, didn't ask any uncomfortable questions and was very professional. Being in the studio with her was definitely a fun experience. Or it was until we have an unwanted call from a pair of jerks calling me and Sonia frauds…" she said, scowling.

"Frauds? What did they call you that for?" Sapphire asked, outraged that someone had dared to even suggest that her sister and the professor were liars.

"They think Sonia's book is full of lies and that we're trying to change history." the Champion muttered, "Penny soon shut them up once she challenged them on having no evidence to back up their claims. Seeing her hang up on them was so funny." she said with a smirk.

"Good on her!" Emerald cried, "Nobody calls my sister a liar and gets away with it! Who were those people?" she demanded.

"A pair of brothers called Sordward and Shielbert." Ruby explained. She could see the smiles spreading across her sister's faces and quickly interrupted, "Yes, seriously. Those are their names. I thought they were joking too."

"Who in the name of Galar calls their kids "Sordward and Shielbert"?!" Emerald snorted, laughing loud enough to turn heads in the restaurant.

"A really sadistic parent if you ask me." Sapphire concurred.

"Regardless, I have a nasty feeling I won't have heard the last of them." Ruby said grimly, "Something in my gut tells me they might try and take revenge. I know Bede was like that whenever he got humiliated…" she cringed just remembering him, "I don't know what the two look like so I can't give you anything more than a warning. If you come across anyone with those names and if they try giving you any grief at all, let me know and I'll come kick their arses from here to Alola."

"We'll keep a look out." Sapphire declared, "We won't let anyone with names that silly spoil our fun."

"Of course." the silver-haired teen said brightly, "So where are you now?"

"At the Captain's Table just as you requested." Emerald said with a wink, "I'm sure ready for when my dinner comes! My stomach's turning itself inside out at this point!"

Ruby laughed.

"Trust me you two, you'll be glad you took me up on my offer." she insisted.

The food came shortly after and the twins hung up so they could eat. Emerald had decided to try the fish and chips as Ruby had done when she'd eaten here while Sapphire had ordered a seafood risotto that contained cod pieces, prawns and calamari rings. The food, as Ruby had promised, was delicious. The twins savoured every mouthful as they ate. Did every trainer that visited Hulbury dine here? It was certainly the perfect place to dine after a Pokémon battle with the Gym Leader. It was too bad that Ruby had shared a table with Chairman Rose at the time she'd eaten here. That no doubt soured the memory for her. At least they weren't sharing a table with a manipulative creep like him so they could enjoy their time eating in this place with nothing to ruin the experience.

After eating, the twins left the restaurant, paying for the food with the money they'd won from their two Gym wins and they headed off out of Hulbury and to the second Galar Mine that would take them all the way back to Motostoke. They planned to explore the mine, see what Pokémon they could catch in it and then go to Motostoke and back into their hotel room in the Budew Drop Inn to sleep for the night. It was already twilight so the girls knew they wouldn't want to be up for too much longer.

They entered the mine. Just like many people that came here, the twins couldn't help but feel that the second mine just looked so dull and underwhelming compared to the first mine. The purple colouring and sparking crystals still held a beauty of their own, but the first mine was so much brighter and more colourful by comparison so this mine didn't really match up. Emerald felt that the cave looked somewhat fantastical in nature due to its purple interior. She half expected to come across an elf or a wizard hiding somewhere in the caverns.

"You got to wonder how this mine got its purple colouring." Emerald wondered aloud.

"True that." Sapphire agreed, "Caves don't normally look like this. Still, I wonder what Pokémon we'll find in here."

"I remember Ruby telling us she found Soundwave here." Emerald recalled, "So we know Noibat live here. I wonder what else lives here?"

"I recall that Shellos and Gastrodon can be found here." Sapphire thought, "And I believe that Chewtle and Drednaw live here too. Oh, and Stunfisk live here too so watch your step." she added quickly.

Emerald knew what her sister meant. Galarian Stunfisk were vicious Pokémon that often lay in wait and snap shut on unsuspecting people or Pokémon that might step on them. Ruby had very nearly been a victim of one of them until Chomps, her loyal Drednaw, had saved her. Neither she nor Sapphire fancied experiencing what being clamped on by one of those would be like. Emerald didn't heed Sapphire's warning on watching her steep so before she knew it, her foot came down on something. She let out a scream that made the stalactites in the ceiling shudder and the thing she stepped on scurried off in a hurry. It shot into a nearby hole to hide. Thankfully, it hadn't been a Galarian Stunfisk. Emerald had seen a flash of purple and silver when the thing had run off. She had some idea on what it might've been, even if it had moved too fast for her to see it. Sapphire sighed.

"Didn't I just tell you to watch your step?!" she snapped.

"Sorry!" Emerald said feebly, "But hey, no worries! It wasn't a Stunfisk at least!"

"No, but you probably scared that poor Pokémon as much as it scared you." Sapphire said grimly, "I wonder what it was?"

They soon got their answer for the thing Emerald had stepped on earlier poked its head out of the hole nervously. It looked up at the girls with large, round, yellow, anxious eyes. Emerald and Sapphire gasped in wonder as they saw what Pokémon they'd run into. It was a Wimpod, a Bug/Water type Pokémon that was originally discovered in the Alola region. Wimpod looked like arthropods with four silver plates on its back, purple antennae and spikes on either side of its head, a long prickly purple tail and four short legs underneath. They were cowardly by nature, hence their names, but were known to approach people or Pokémon if they were standing still. They were extremely fast, which helped with getting away from their enemies. They were also Pokémon in a similar vein to Magikarp or Feebas in that they were pretty weak as they were, but became very powerful when they evolved. The twins remembered seeing some Gym Challengers use a Golisopod in their battles with one of them using one to fight Leon with during his time as Champion. Emerald had found Golisopods to be pretty scary, yet cool looking Pokémon and loved how big and strong they often appeared. She was glad to have found a Wimpod and wanted to add one to her team.

"A Wimpod! I didn't expect I'd step on one of those!" Emerald said gleefully, "I'd love to have one!"

"Don't blame you. Their evolved forms are real powerhouses." Sapphire agreed, "But you might not be able to coax this one into joining you after you stepped on it."

"I'll try. Maybe I can at least show it I'm sorry for stepping on it." Emerald said.

She got down on her knees to appear smaller to the Wimpod and made no attempt to get closer to where it was hiding. She knew it would only retreat back into the cave if she moved. She held out a hand to show the Wimpod she meant no harm.

"Please come out little guy. I promise I won't hurt you." Emerald said softly, "I'm very sorry I stepped on you. It was an accident, honest."

The Wimpod could tell this human was telling the truth. She looked harmless enough with her gentle expression and kind voice and she was making no attempt to try and grab it. The water bug crept slowly out of its hole towards Emerald. The teen trainer stayed still so she wouldn't frighten it away. The Wimpod came fully out of its hole and approached the young girl. It sniffed at her hand. Emerald kept still as it studied her.

"I-I believe you." the Wimpod said, speaking in a meek voice, "I thought you stepped on me on purpose, t-trying to s-squash me or something. I r-really should've s-stood somewhere else."

"Do you get stepped on a lot?" Sapphire asked sympathetically.

"Not a lot, b-but it happens." the Wimpod mumbled, "S-some people don't a-always watch where they're going and they s-step on us W-Wimpods. As we're p-pretty small and flat, it's e-easy to not n-notice us."

"That's sad." Emerald said glumly, "I'm very sorry about stepping on you. I would never hurt a Pokémon on purpose, battles no included. Speaking of that, I was wondering if you would come with me. I'd like to have you on the team."

The Wimpod shrunk back nervously.

"Oh no, I-I-I c-couldn't go with a t-trainer." he said anxiously, "I-I'd be n-no use to you. I'm s-such a coward that I'd j-just run away instead of f-fighting."

"Don't worry about it! If you join us, we could train you up and help you get stronger and braver!" Emerald insisted, "We could even help you evolve and become a Golisopod. You'll be very strong as one of those."

The Wimpod still wouldn't budge, shaking its head timidly.

"Oh no. No, no, no, no. I really w-wouldn't b-be any g-good to you, m-miss." he whimpered, "I'm t-too cowardly and a P-Pokémon battle w-would be t-too scary for me."

Emerald wanted to continue trying to convince the Wimpod otherwise but Sapphire put a hand on her shoulder.

"Please Em, just let it go. We shouldn't force it to come with us." she said, her face sad to show that she didn't want it to be this way, but knew it had to.

Emerald nodded. Forcing the Wimpod to join her would only make him hate her and probably become disobedient as a result. Also what example would that set to the rest of her Pokémon? They'd probably hate her too if they knew she forced this Wimpod to come against its will. She looked back at the Wimpod sadly.

"OK…if you don't want to come, that's fine. I'm very sorry for troubling you." she said solemnly.

She got back to her feet and walked off with her sister, leaving the Bug/Water Pokémon behind. He watched the girls go, appreciating their kindness and how they left him alone. He scuttled back into his hole to hide for a while, intending to come back out once it was safer and there were no more trainers coming by. Emerald and Sapphire walked on, the former feeling down after the Wimpod had refused her request.

"What a pity. I would've loved to have a Golisopod to use in the Gym Challenge." Emerald said sadly.

"Maybe you'll find another Wimpod in this mine." Sapphire suggested, "There'll be plenty more to find here and it might be more willing to join us."

"Yeah, perhaps." Emerald said, still sounding glum.

"I guess you two were what that noise was about."

The girls yelped in surprise and jumped about a foot in the air at the sudden voice that had spoken to them. A second later, they relaxed for they realized who it was that had spoken to them. To their surprise, Paul was in the mine as well. The Sinnoh boy had been looking for Pokémon to add to his ever growing team and had heard Emerald screaming when she'd stepped on the Wimpod earlier. Curious, he'd looked around for the cause of the noise and now he'd found the twins. Emerald's smile returned to her face.

"Hey Paul! Didn't expect to see you here!" she said brightly, "How are you? Did you win your Gym Battle with Nessa too?"

"Of course I did." Paul snorted, "How could I lose to her when I had a Grass-type on my team? My Grookey evolved long before I got here so it was easy for me to defeat her."

"Awesome, your Grookey evolved too? So did mine!" Emerald piped excitedly, "I bet your Thwackey's really powerful like mine is!"

"I honestly think he could give my Torterra back home some competition." Paul thought, "Ruby was right to tell me that I'd made the right choice in picking Grookey as my Galarian starter. So what were you screaming at?" he asked.

Emerald blushed with embarrassment.

"Oh my, you heard that? Sorry, I stepped on a Wimpod and it made me jump." she said sheepishly.

"Wimpod, huh? I saw one too but I didn't fancy catching it." the purple haired boy muttered, "It seemed too cowardly for my tastes."

"Oh Wimpod may be cowardly by nature, that much is true, but you're missing out on a potential powerhouse, mate." Sapphire said sternly, "When they evolve into Golisopod, they become quite powerful."

"They do?" Paul murmured with interest, "Maybe I should consider catching one after all. In the meantime, I suppose you want a rematch, Emerald?" he asked, looking over at the brunette girl.

"Like you wouldn't believe!" Emerald declared, "I've been itching to fight you again since the day we met in the Wild Area! I've been training hard and I've managed to win my first two Gym Badges with no trouble at all! I'm ready for you this time!" she cried, clenching her fists.

"Let's see then." Paul said with a smirk, "You set a good impression the first time so I'm curious how you'll perform this time."

The two rivals stood opposite each other, ready for their rematch. Emerald could feel her stomach tingle with a mixture of excitement and anxiety as she was about to face Paul again. The Sinnoh teen had shown his strength and intelligence as a trainer and he had experience from three previous regions with him. This fight would hopefully show she was worthy enough to take him on and hopefully win.

But just as they were about to fight, another voice called out.

"Hey! Hang on a minute! Mind if I cut in for a sec?"

Emerald and Paul turned, wondering who'd said that. Sapphire beamed as she saw that Emerald wasn't the only one who was going to have a rematch in this mine. Ashley Benson was in the mine too! The Unovan Champion had been making her way through while studying what Pokémon lived here until she'd heard Emerald and Paul talking to each other. She'd ventured over out of interest and had come to see the twins and the teenage boy about to face off.

"Ashley! You're here too! How…um…wonderful!" Sapphire said, trying not to trip over her words.

"What a coinky-dink!" Ashley agreed, "I'm just here minding my own business and you two are here! I didn't think I'd see you so soon after I ran into you at the Gym!" she said, looking at Emerald.

"Neither did I." Emerald said happily, "Me and Paul were just about to face off. Have you met him?"

"I saw him at the opening ceremony, but I haven't really "met" him." Ashley replied, "So you're here too, huh?" she said, looking at Paul, "I've heard a lot of things about you, especially in how you're quite a powerful trainer."

"You've heard correctly." Paul confirmed, "I value power above most else, although Ash has shown me that there's more to Pokémon training than just strength. I've been hoping I'd run into you at some point, Champion of Unova." he added, his voice full of respect for the teenage girl.

"So you know who I am." Ashley said, showing no surprise that Paul knew, "I guess you'll wanna challenge me too given my status?"

"I do." Paul confirmed, "But that'll have to wait. Me and Emerald have a battle to do first." he added, nodding at Emerald.

"How's about we have a rematch while they have their fight?" Sapphire asked, "Emerald did tell me you were hoping we could battle again."

Ashley put a finger to her lips in thought.

"I was, but given you three are here, I've just had a brilliant idea…" she mused, "Why don't we make it a tag-team battle? It could be you two against me and Paul! Rivals vs. rivals, if you see what I mean!"

The twins felt giddy with excitement. That was a great idea! How could they say no to that?! Paul shrugged casually.

"At least it'll give me a chance to study your battle style for when we fight." he said nonchalantly.

"We accept the offer!" Emerald squealed excitedly, "This is gonna be so awesome! The four of us battling together! Isn't this awesome, Sapph?!"

"You bet it is." Sapphire agreed, "So what rules shall we play by?"

"We'll all use three Pokémon each. First team to lose all their Pokémon loses." Ashley explained, "Substitutions are allowed. Is that OK?"

"Perfectly!" Emerald cried, "Let's get going! Mei-Mei, let the fun begin!" she cried, throwing her first Pokéball.

"Elsa, shining time!" Sapphire concurred, throwing her own Pokéball.

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

"Tranquill, time to fight!" Ashley yelled, throwing her Pokéball.

Four beams of light simultaneously flooded the dark mine and formed into the shapes of the chosen Pokémon. Mei-Mei and Elsa stood side-by-side while Perrserker and Tranquill took up their positions, the latter flying above the ground. Emerald and Sapphire eyed up their opponents with interest. It was going to be a tough battle with them using unevolved Pokémon while their rivals had evolved Pokémon.

Perrserker was the evolved form of Galarian Meowth. It was a Steel-type Pokémon with a Viking like appearance and hardened metal fur that looked like a giant beard. It had sharp claws that could extend in length. The twins imagined that Paul caught it back in Route 4 as Galarian Meowth could be found there. What they didn't know was that he'd only just evolved it. It hadn't been a Perrserker for long.

Tranquil was the evolved form of Pidove and was native to the Unova region. Tranquil looked a little like a pheasant with great feathers, pink markings above its beak and a black stripe on its wings. It was easy for the twins to guess how Ashley had acquired one as Pidove and Tranquil could be found in the Wild Area.

For a moment, nobody moved. It was hard for the two teams to decide what to do first. Everybody had a type advantage over the other with Mei-Mei being strong against Perrserker, Perrserker being strong against Elsa, Elsa being strong against Tranquill and Tranquil being strong against Mei-Mei. Any side could win this fight, but it all depended on who made the first move. Paul broke the silence.

"Use Iron Head on Snorunt!" he commanded.

The Viking-like Pokémon lowered its head and charged, moving with surprising speed towards Elsa. Elsa yelped in fear as this steel-coated feline just thundered towards her. Even Sapphire hadn't expected a Perrserker to move so fast. Paul must've trained this one to be very swift in battle. Elsa braced herself for impact, knowing that she was going down. An Iron Head from a Perrserker would knock her out in one hit. But the impact never came as Emerald's quick thinking saved her.

"Mei-Mei, defend Elsa!" she commanded.

The panda like Pokémon somersaulted through the air, landed perfectly on her feet and held out her paws, grinning determinedly.

"Halt in the name of me!" she yelled.

The Perrserker slammed into Mei-Mei, knocking her down. The Fighting Pokémon grimaced and landed on her back, winded by the attack. She felt as if she'd been punched by a Machoke. But due to being a Fighting type, the attack hadn't been effective. She got back to her feet and smiled conceitedly. Paul couldn't help but smile himself. He had to admit, it was clever of Emerald to cover Elsa's weakness to Steel types by having her Pokémon take the blow herself. Satisfied, Emerald gave the next command.

"Use Low Sweep on Perrserker!" she yelled.

"Elsa, use Icy Wind!" Sapphire commanded at the same time.

The twins looked over at each other with delight. It felt good to be in a tag-team and work together like this. Their coordinated efforts were going to show Paul and Ashley how good they were! Mei-Mei ran towards Perrserker and launched a powerful kick at her opponent's legs. Despite her small size, she packed a lot of power and the Perrserker felt it. It fell over, wincing in pain from the attack. Not only did Mei-Mei do damage, but her attack lowered the Perrserker's speed a little. Low Sweep had that side-effect when it was used on opponents. After that, Elsa opened her mouth and blew a powerful gust of ice cold wind at her opponents. Icy Wind was an attack that hit all opponents so Sapphire was able to hit both opponents at once with the attack. Icy Wind didn't do much to Perrserker, but it was super-effective on Tranquil. The pheasant like Pokémon winced from the icy attack. If Elsa had been a Glalie or a Froslass, the attack would've been much more powerful. Tranquill shook itself off and flapped its wings to get rid of the ice.

"Use Air Cutter on Pancham!" Ashley commanded.

Tranquill obeyed. It flapped its wings furiously, conjuring up a huge gust of wind that spiralled towards Mei-Mei. It was called Air Cutter due to the wind being razor-like. To anyone caught up in the wind, it would feel like they were being cut to pieces. Mei-Mei braced herself for impact as the attack come towards her. As a Fighting type, she wouldn't stand a chance against the attack. But then Sapphire mirrored Emerald's earlier tactic by ordering Elsa to shield Mei-Mei. The Snorunt took the attack with no problem at all as Flying attacks weren't effective against Ice-types. Mei-Mei gave her a thumbs up, appreciating the defence. Now Sapphire ordered Elsa to use Ice Shard, an ice attack that always moved first. Elsa conjured up a large chunk of ice from nowhere and threw it straight towards Tranquil. She scored a direct hit, knocking the Flying type Pokémon out of the sky. Ashley watched in astonishment as her Tranquil crashed down onto the ground, knocked out by the Ice Shard. Even Sapphire took a moment to realize what had happened. She, a rookie, had just managed to take out one of the Champion's Pokémon?! How amazing!"

"Am I imagining things Em, or did that seriously just happen?!" Sapphire exclaimed.

"I'd be worried if we were both imagining things because I'm pretty sure it did!" Emerald cried, "That was incredible!"

"Seriously girls, ya act like it's shocking you knocked one of my Pokémon out!" Ashley chuckled, returning her Tranquil to its Pokéball, "Come on, just cause I'm a Champion, it doesn't mean I'm invincible!"

"I know, but it's still impressive on my part that a complete newbie like me just pulled that off, and with an unevolved Pokémon no less!" Sapphire gasped.

"Don't get full of yourselves." Paul warned, "This battle's far from over."

The twins agreed. They had to knock all of Paul and Ashley's Pokémon out. Just one knockout didn't mean victory was theirs yet. They watched as Ashley brought out her second Pokémon. This was a Gurdurr, a Fighting type from the Unova region and often considered to be the Unovan equivalent of Machoke. Gurdurr's appearance evoked a circus strongman complete a big red nose and bulbous features resembling a clown's curly wig. It had very thick arms and small legs, emphasizing its muscular physique and it carried a large I-beam girder in its hands, hence its name. They were often found in construction sites, but were far better at destroying things than building ironically enough. Emerald and Sapphire knew what it was as the whole Timburr family lived in Galar as well as in Unova and they knew they were very strong. They were also rather slow too so maybe they could defeat it before it could unleash its sheer strength.

"That Gurdurr will pose a problem." Sapphire declared, "We should take that out first."

"Way ahead of you. Mei-Mei, use Circle Throw!" Emerald cried.

That was a smart move. Circle Throw was a Fighting type move that did damage and also forced the opponent to return to its Pokéball. If they could pull it off, they would get rid of Gurdurr for the time being and deal with it later when they had Pokémon that were better equipped to fight it. But Paul had decided to adopt their battle style and he commanded his Perrserker to block Gurdurr so it would take the hit instead. Mei-Mei grabbed Perrserker and threw it over her head with a kick, sending it flying high into the air and crashing down just in front of Paul. The earlier damage from Low Sweep and Icy Wind meant it couldn't take the damage from this attack. The remainder of its health went down and Perrserker passed out, unable to fight any longer. Emerald was puzzled. Why had Paul just scarified Perrserker like that? Now both opponents had one Pokémon less! Surely it would've been better to try and take Elsa out instead! But then she realized. Because Paul had taken the blow for Ashley, she had a free shot to do whatever she wanted. Ashley took advantage of this by commanding Gurdurr to use Bulk Up. The muscular Pokémon tensed itself and its body glowed with energy. Bulk Up boosted a Pokémon's Attack and Sp. Attack, so now Gurdurr would be even stronger than before! Sapphire knew Elsa wouldn't stand a chance against it so she returned her to her Pokéball.

"This one should help out." Sapphire declared, "Spike, shining time!"

At the same time, Paul summoned his next Pokémon.

"Corvisquire, standby for battle!" he commanded.

The two new Pokémon came to the field. The twins stared at Paul's Corvisquire in astonishment. Not only was it surprising to see him using a Pokémon Emerald herself had, but this one looked different to her's. It had silver feathers instead of blue and as it came out of its Pokéball, it sparkled as if in a dazzling show. It was possible for Pokémon to have different colours than the usual species, though those were extremely rare encounters. Due to their sparkling entrances, they were often nicknamed "shiny" Pokémon by trainers and fans.

"Wow, he has a Corvisquire too!" Emerald cried, "And it's the shiny variant!"

"How the hell did you find that?!" Sapphire cried, "The chances of finding shiny Pokémon are one in a hundred!"

"I got lucky." Paul said casually, "Its colouring isn't the only thing special about it as you're about to find out."

He ordered his Corvisquire to use Drill Peck on Mei-Mei. As it was a Flying type, Corvisquire had the type-advantage over the little panda Pokémon. Corvisquire flapped its wings furiously and then shot forwards as if fired from a gun. It moved so fast that Emerald barely had time to blink before it slammed into Mei-Mei. Its beak was spinning like a drill as it pecked its opponent. Mei-Mei winced in pain and crashed down onto her back. She tried to get up again but the damage had already been done. Paul's Corvisquire had proven powerful enough to win the battle with that one hit. Mei-Mei passed out, groaning dopily. Emerald returned her dancing Pokémon, disappointed that she had to go down so easily. Sapphire decided to make a move while her sister was choosing her next Pokémon. She ordered Spike to set up a Toxic Spikes trap for her opponents. At least now if they switched or brought out new Pokémon, they would get poisoned and suffer extra damage. The poisonous spikes scattered around the rival's side of the arena, lying in wait for their first victim. Paul remembered how in his faithful battle with Ash, he'd relied on a similar tactic with his powerful Drapion. It wouldn't slow him down in this fight.

After Toxic Spikes had been set up, Emerald brought out her next Pokémon. She'd chosen Thor, knowing that he'd have a type-advantage over Paul's Corvisquire in this battle. Thor pointed his tail at his opponent, keen to let loose a terrific Thunderbolt. Emerald gave the command and Thor fired his Thunderbolt at Corvisquire.

"By the power of Asgard!" he yelled in a clear imitation of his namesake.

But he never hit his target. To Emerald's annoyance, Paul blocked the attack by ordering Corvisquire to use Protect. The Thunderbolt hit the surrounding barrier that shielded Corvisquire and did nothing else. She HATED it when trainers did this as it was just a cheap way of blocking a perfectly good attack! After that, Paul ordered Corvisquire to use Hone Claws, an attack that boosted the user's Attack and accuracy. The twins could see that this battle was going to go south very quickly if they didn't act now. Both Ashley and Paul's Pokémon had boosted attack! Determined to end this quickly, Emerald ordered Thor to use Thunderbolt on Corvisquire again. Ashley ordered Gurdurr to take the blow for Paul but Sapphire was ready for her. She ordered Spike to tackle the Gurdurr and stop it from getting in Thor's way by using Fury Attack. Spike charged towards the circus strongman Pokémon and jabbed it in the sides with his horn. Gurdurr cried out and keeled to one side, leaving Thor to successfully land his attack on Corvisquire. The crow-like Pokémon squawked loudly as it was electrocuted. The single Thunderbolt had been enough to bring it down. Paul watched as it crashed down on the ground, completely fried by the electric attack and twitching from the attack. Corvisquire didn't get back up again. He was surprised that he was down to his last Pokémon already, and both had been taken out by the same trainer. Emerald really had grown stronger since they'd last met! He wondered if she would be as powerful as Ash if she kept this up.

As Paul returned Corvisquire, Ashley made her move. She ordered Gurdurr to use Rock Slide. In Double Battles, Rock Slide hit both opponents at the same time and thanks to the boost from its earlier use of Bulk Up, the attack hit much harder than it would've done. Gurdurr hit the ground with its huge girder and sent rocks flying towards Thor and Spike. The two Pokémon were bombarded heavily by the attack. Every rock that hit them came like a sledgehammer to the face. Both opponents were knocked down but they weren't out yet. They picked themselves up and shook themselves off, showing their trainers they were far from finished. Before anything else could happen, Paul brought out his third Pokémon.

"Lairon, standby for battle!" he called.

The twins were astonished. So it seemed they weren't the only ones with a Pokémon outside of mainland Galar. Lairon was a species native to the Crown Tundra just like Nidorino was. Did Paul win that in the same contest they'd entered earlier this week? Lairon was a Rock/Steel type Pokémon with a somewhat dinosaur like appearance. It was heavily armoured, coated in iron armour on top of its head and its back. It had blue eyes, huge jaws and stood on all fours. It looked very powerful. Emerald frowned. Thor didn't have any attacks that would be particularly useful against Lairon so this would be a tough battle. Sapphire was more disappointed than Emerald was for Lairon was part Steel type, which gave it an immunity to poison. The Toxic Spikes were useless and couldn't do anything to it as a result! They would have to fight hard to try and win this battle.

"Thor, use Thunderbolt on Lairon!" Emerald commanded.

"Spike, use Peck on Gurdurr!" Sapphire ordered.

Both Pokémon launched their attacks and were able to successfully hit their opponents. For Thor, he was able to do a little damage but not a whole lot as Steel-types weren't weak to Electric attacks. Lairon's poor Special Defence at least meant it couldn't stand up much to the Thunderbolt. Spike on the other hand did land a super-effective hit but Peck wasn't a powerful move so the Gurdurr didn't take as much damage as it could've done. Gurdurr retaliated by using another Rock Slide attack. Just as before, the attack hit both opponents at the same time and this time, it was enough to finish the job. Thor and Spike couldn't handle a second Rock Slide and both were taken out simultaneously as the rocks clobbered them into submission. The twins returned their Pokémon and exchanged them for their next ones. Emerald was down to her last one while Sapphire still had two, though Elsa wouldn't be useful against any of her opponents. It would all depend on how these two performed. Emerald had chosen Katana the Ninjask and Sapphire had chosen Bolt the Boltund. Emerald had enjoyed watching him battle against Nessa back in the Gym and she was sure Bolt would help them out in this match.

Boltund was the evolved form of Yamper, looking more like a hound dog than a corgi like its predecessor. It was black, yellow and white in colour with spikes on top of its hind legs and a thin tail that took on a lightning bolt shape whenever it used any electric attacks. Boltund were famous for being fast Pokémon and packing a lot of voltage in them.

Emerald was the first to move, ordering Katana to use Aerial Ace on Gurdurr. While it was foolish to bring a Bug/Flying type into a match with an opponent that knew Rock Slide, Katana was much faster than Gurdurr and knew a Flying attack. That would give her an advantage. Katana moved at a blinding speed, zooming so quickly towards Gurdurr that Ashley didn't even see her. One minute she was by Emerald, the next she had hit her Pokémon, it was as simple as that. Gurdurr winced as Katana sliced across its chest with her bladed legs. Unlike Peck, Aerial Ace was a much stronger move and it left Gurdurr staggering back in pain. It used its girder to support itself before it could fall down. After that, Sapphire ordered Bolt to use Charm on Gurdurr. Charm was a Fairy-type move that lowered a Pokémon's attack. Gurdurr flashed blue as its attack went down, effectively undoing the effects of Bulk Up earlier. Ashley smiled with admiration.

"Clever of you to do that." she complimented, "I boosted Gurdurr's attack earlier and you've just completely nullified that with Charm. You really know the right moves to use, Sapph."

"Th-thank you." Sapphire said, blushing with pleasure.

Emerald rolled her eyes. Couldn't her sister focus on the battle first and her crush later? Paul made the next move. Unfortunately for the twins, it seemed Ashley wasn't the only one with a Pokémon that knew Rock Slide. His Lairon just happened to know the attack as well and it used it. The steel-coated Pokémon launched the attack at both opponents just as Gurdurr did. However, it only managed to hit Bolt as Katana was able to dodge the attack. Her great speed allowed her to weave out of the way of the rocks before they could hit her. That was great for Katana would've gone down instantly if the attack had connected. Bolt winced from the attack but was otherwise still fit to fight. Sapphire beamed, glad her electric canine wasn't down yet. She ordered Bolt to use Spark on Lairon. Spark was essentially a Tackle attack, only electrified. Bolt scampered towards his opponent, charging as if he was a hound on a fox hunt and he'd just spotted the fox. Lairon lowered its head and stood its ground, actively daring Bolt to come and get it. Bolt slammed into Lairon but the attack barely even so much as shifted the powerful Pokémon. Lairon felt the blow but it hardly meant anything to it. Its physical defences were very high so it could take a mere Spark attack like that.

While that had been going on, Emerald had ordered Katana to use another Aerial Ace on Gurdurr. Katana zoomed in, moving even faster than the first time thanks to Speed Boost kicking in and she neatly sliced across Gurdurr's chest again. The Fighting type Pokémon grimaced and fell to its knees. It wouldn't be able to take another attack like that so Ashley would have to take Katana out and fast.

"We'll win this, no worries! Use Rock Slide one more time!" Ashley commanded.

Gurdurr obeyed, sending rocks flying towards both opponents again. Unfortunately for Emerald, Ashley was able to land a hit. An ironic reversal of events occurred as this time, Bolt was the one that dodged the attack but Katana didn't. The rocks hit her and thanks to having a double-weakness to Rock attacks, the speedy Ninjask was taken out instantly. She crashed down onto the ground and fell into unconsciousness. Emerald gasped. Her last Pokémon was down! That now meant Sapphire was on her own! She returned Katana and stood back as her sister was left to try and fend off both opponents by herself. She ordered Spike to use Spark on Gurdurr, sensing that that was the weakest link after being weakened by two Aerial Aces earlier. But as Bolt charged towards Gurdurr, Paul intervened by having Lairon run him down with Iron Head. The metal/rock creature charged into Bolt like a thundering Rhyhorn, knocking him off his feet and throwing him across the cavern. He crashed into a nearby wall and lay still. Sapphire watched with dismay, willing for Bolt to get up again. Bolt strained heavily, trying to gather what strength he had left in him to carry on. But it was hopeless. He couldn't go on anymore. He collapsed and lay still, showing that he was unable to battle. Sapphire returned Bolt and weighed up her options. She couldn't possibly win this fight now. Emerald was out of the match and her only Pokémon left was Elsa, who was weak to Steel and Fighting type Pokémon. She'd never win against either of them! Sighing sadly, she looked down at her feet.

"I forfeit." she mumbled, the words tasting bitter in her mouth.

So that was that. The fight was over and Paul and Ashley had managed to score another win against the twins. Emerald nodded approvingly at Sapphire, feeling she'd made the right choice. It was senseless to just throw another Pokémon into the fray when it had no chance of winning so it was better that she surrendered instead of letting Elsa suffer some more. The rivals returned their Pokémon.

"You've definitely gotten stronger." Paul complimented, his tone of voice genuine for he meant what he'd said, "Bringing me down to my last Pokémon was not what I was expecting, Emerald. You really have potential in this tournament."

"W-wow…that's really nice of you to say." Emerald said, feeling a little better despite the sting of defeat, "Thank you Paul. That was such an awesome battle!"

"You bet it was!" Ashley agreed, "You two worked beautifully together and kept us both on our toes! I'm definitely convinced that the four of us will probably be the ones duking it out for the right to challenge Ruby!"

Emerald couldn't help but agree. It was clear to anyone that the four of them were clearly the strongest trainers in this year's Gym Challenge. If the semi-finals were going to have any four trainers competing in them, it would be her, Sapphire, Paul and Ashley without question. The semi-finals could even be the next time they face each other. What a show the audience would get with these four competing for entry in the Champion Cup! Ashley looked over at Sapphire, noticing she still looked very disappointed. Taking pity on her, she approached the Galarian girl to try and make her feel better. Paul seemed to be in no mood to hang around, already making his way out of the mine for there was nothing to stay for. Ashley put a hand on Sapphire's shoulder. Sapphire looked up at her crush, feeling wobbly as this was the closest she'd ever been to her. She could see just how perfect her face looked and how shiny her eyes were. How had she turned out so beautiful?

"Hey, don't sweat it Sapph. You did great out there!" Ashley insisted, "You don't need to feel sorry for yourself."

"Yes I do." Sapphire said bitterly, "What kind of trainer am I if I'm stuck in a situation where I need to wuss out? Having to forfeit like that…it was really humiliating to me. Ruby would never have done that if this had been her fighting. I bet I must look real pathetic to a Champion such as yourself, Ashley." she said sadly, looking down as if too ashamed to look Ashley in the eye anymore.

"Oh don't give me that crap!" Ashley said firmly, "You are NOT pathetic Sapphire! If you ask my opinion, having to surrender when you knew you had no chance of winning shows greater strength than someone who fights a losing battle. Also, it proves you value your Pokémon to the point you'd rather give up then let them fight a battle they can't win. That is FAR from pathetic! Love and compassion for your Pokémon is always a strength and never a weakness. A true trainer knows when to quit and doesn't force their Pokémon to fight on when there's no way they can win. If anything, I admire you for showing great common sense out there, Sapphire. Don't see your forfeiting as a bad thing. See it as a sign of knowing your limitations. A trainer that knows his or her limitations is always going to succeed more than a trainer that just rushes in and expects to win despite impossible odds."

Sapphire took all this in with admiration. Not only was Ashley a beautiful, nice, skilled trainer, but she was very smart too. Could this girl get ANY more desirable?! She saw Ashley's point and felt that she was right in the end. It wasn't pathetic to give up when it was impossible to win. She'd have only looked incredible stubborn and idiotic if she'd carried on knowing she couldn't win. THAT would've made her look pathetic! She looked up again at the Champion, her purple eyes twinkling with gratitude.

"Thank you Ashley. I really needed that." she said with a smile.

"No prob!" Ashley said, beaming, "As a current Champion, I feel it's my duty to help out rookie trainers and offer helpful advice to help them on their way. Just remember what I said Sapph, you're not pathetic and I won't have you thinking that way. If you remember that, you'll keep being as great as you are."

Sapphire nodded, appreciating the Unovan girl's kind words. It was so nice that despite the fact they barely knew each other, she was willing to help her out and bring her out of her funk. Sapphire wanted to give her a hug but decided against it. She didn't want to make things awkward and spoil the moment. Instead, she and Ashley shook hands.

"Until we meet again, I guess." she said optimistically.

"Totally." Ashley said, "Oh, and given you have a Nidorino on your team, I think you'll need this more than me."

She reached into her bag and took something out of it. She handed it to Sapphire. The blue-haired girl gasped in amazement. The thing she'd been given was a Moon Stone, a type of stone that evolved certain Pokémon when it was used on them. This was very handy for her for Nidorino was one of those Pokémon that evolved with a Moon Stone.

"Oh my…a Moon Stone!" Sapphire gasped, "Oh Ashley, thank you!" she cried graciously.

"Where did you find it?" Emerald asked.

"Some guys digging around in the Wild Area dug it up for me." Ashley explained, "I don't need it as I don't have any Pokémon that evolve with a Moon Stone so I was gonna sell it at some point. But given Sapphire has a Nidorino, I thought she should have it. Consider it a token of thanks for a great battle, you two!"

"Pleasure's all ours!" Emerald concurred, "We hope to see you again soon."

"I don't think it'll be long until we meet again." Ashley said as if knowing what the future held for them.

She turned around and headed on further into the mine to find the way out. As soon as she'd gone, Emerald and Sapphire decided to finish off the day by having some last minute training before heading back to the Budew Drop Inn for bed. They started off by letting their Pokémon that had lost the double battle rest up and regain their strength. It was lucky for them they had some Revives in their bags to wake them up again and they had plenty of Super Potions to use to heal them up again. Once that was done, Sapphire wasted no time in using the Moon Stone that Ashley had given her. She held it out for Spike to look at. She didn't want to force him to evolve. She wanted him to choose that on his own freewill so she waited to see if he would take the stone or not. Spike touched it, clearly wanting to evolve. His entire body glowed and he began to change as he was now evolving!

The twins watched with joy as the Nidorino changed into the mighty Nidoking. Nidoking was a Poison/Ground type Pokémon that looked like some kind of dinosaur with large ears, purple skin, a thick powerful tail and a row of spikes down its back. Nidoking was bipedal unlike its previous evolutions and it was a Pokémon that had a large reputation for being incredibly reliable. Their great strength and diverse move sets meant that Nidoking had plenty of uses and fighting them was very unpredictable as they could know just about any move and you'd never know what they would come out with. Spike roared loudly, flexing his new arms and swinging his tail from side-to-side. He loved his new body already.

"Oh yeaaaaaaaaah! Tough, toned and talented!" he roared, "I feel like a whole new Mon! I feel like I could win a whole bunch of matches no problem like this!"

"You look amazing, Spike!" Sapphire cried, "I'm so happy that you're a Nidoking now! You'll be great in the rest of the Gym Circuit!"

She hugged Spike happily. Spike hugged her back, glad he could do the gesture now he had arms and hands with this new body. Emerald couldn't resist snapping a picture of the two with her Rotom phone. That would make a lovely keepsake, a Pokémon and its trainer sharing a hug together.

Spike wasn't the only one who would be evolving tonight. Emerald had used her Box Link device to pick and choose six Pokémon she would bring into her Gym Battle with Kabu tomorrow. She wanted a team of Water and Ground types to go through the Gym with so she'd selected Blue, Abyss, Steelclaw and Gemstone while also selecting Misty and Katana as backup for in case she'd need them against Kabu's Centiskorch. She trained them all hard, having them go up against Galarian Stunfisks and whatever else they could find in the mine. An hour or so later, Emerald got the delight of her life as not one, but TWO of her Pokémon were evolving at the same time!

Abyss and Blue had gained enough strength to evolve and were now changing before Emerald's eyes. Abyss evolved from a Chinchou into a Lanturn. Lanturn was a Water/Electric type Pokémon that resembled an anglerfish, albeit a much cuter and friendlier looking one. It was blue in colour with a yellow jagged bottom half of its tailfin, a yellow mask around its red eyes and a Y-shaped antennae with two yellow glowing orbs on each end.

"So that's what evolution's like." Abyss said dreamily, "Feels good, I must say."

Blue had become a Palpitoad, a Water/Ground type Pokémon that looked a bipedal amphibious creature with large bumps on its head, an ovoid shaped body, small three-toed feet and a small white tail. Blue was thrilled with her new body.

"Look at me, I've evolved!" she cried happily, "I bet my old school would be amazed if they saw me now! I'm not as useless as they once thought!"

"Flippin' heck! I didn't think I'd have two Pokémon evolve at the same time!" Emerald cried happily, "And just in time for the next Gym no less! This is great!"

She hugged Abyss and Blue happily.

"I'd say that hard work deserves a good rest now." she said, "And I'm also beginning to feel shattered myself. How's about we make our way back to Motostoke now?" she asked, turning to Sapphire.

"Yeah, I could do with a good night's sleep." Sapphire said, stifling a yawn, "Those Gym Battles, that Double Battle and additional training has me pooped."

Emerald returned her Pokémon to their Pokéballs and the two sisters headed on through the mine to make their way back to Motostoke. The mine would take them out into a route that led back to the city so they would get there easily enough. The two just had to wonder if they'd make it back to the inn before they fell asleep just walking back. But they would have to stay awake for a while longer. Much to their surprise, something flashed out of a hole and straight towards them. It came up to them and waved its little legs frantically. Emerald gasped incredulously. It was a Wimpod! And not only that, but it was the same Wimpod she'd stepped on earlier and turned down the offer to come! He looked very scared. What was getting it so antsy?

"Whoa, slow down a minute!" Emerald cried, "What's wrong? Why are you acting so frantic?"

"You two have to do something!" the Wimpod cried, sounding half mad, "There's a man in the mine and he's attacking two innocent trainers! He's got a Galvantula and he's webbed one of the trainers up to the wall! You two are trainers so you can help them! Follow me, quickly!"

Emerald's blood ran cold. She had a nasty feeling she knew which trainers the Wimpod was talking about. She and Sapphire followed the Bug Pokémon as it led them to where it had seen the man. Their eyes widened at the scene that befell them. Emerald's hunch had been correct. The two trainers that were under attack were Paul and Ashley.

Ashley had been webbed to the wall, sticky web holding her hands and feet to the hard surface and an additional web had been used to gag her. She was struggling furiously and ranting angrily but the web held her mouth shut so she could only make muffled angry noises. Paul had been lucky. There were webs on the floor and walls suggesting the man had tried to web him up too but he'd managed to avoid it. He had his Lairon out and it was staring down the Galvantula that the man had used to ambush them.

The man himself was muscular and very top heavy, his upper body way too big compared to his lower half. He was wearing a black shirt bearing what looked like some kind of symbol, a circle with a sword and shield in the centre with the sword coloured blue and the shield coloured red. He had a nasty look in his eye, as if ambushing and webbing people up was some kind of sick game to him that he enjoyed.

Emerald and Sapphire frowned and gritted their teeth angrily. They weren't going to let the man get away with this!

"You thinking what I'm thinking, Sapph?" Emerald asked.

"Oh yes. We're gonna kick that guy's arse from here to Johto!" Sapphire declared.


Pokémon evolved: Abyss the Chinchou, now Abyss the Lantern

Blue the Tympole, now Blue the Palpitoad

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