Knights of Galar: A Pokémon Shield Nuzlocke Chapter 11

Chapter 11: A Rival Battle and a Gym Battle


It was night time by the time Ruby made it back to Motostoke City to retire to her room at the Budew Drop Inn. She could hardly believe just what a day she'd had. How had she gone through a whole day that involved beating two gyms, losing Ariel the Gyarados and Chomps the Drednaw for two different reasons, gaining lots of new Pokémon, having dinner with the Chairman himself and even an encounter with Bede and Team Yell in a single day and only NOW was she feeling like she was about to drop dead? It was as if her body suddenly realized what a tiring day it had been and now said tiredness was catching up to her. She yawned loudly as she arrived at the inn, fighting to keep her eyes open as she didn't want to collapse onto the pavement and fall asleep there.


Ruby had felt a little down after leaving the Pokémon Centre. Despite Chomps being alive and making a steady recovery, it was still sad that she had to leave her first ever catch behind to recover. The journey wouldn't feel the same without the toothy turtle in her team. She had a feeling the others would miss Chomps too. At least they'd actually get to see her again when she was better. Right now, Ruby just wanted sleep more than anything. She'd never felt so exhausted in her life.


But as Ruby entered the inn, she saw that there was someone in the lobby already. She rubbed her eyes as her vision was a little clouded by her tiredness. To her relief, it was someone she knew and it was someone who she was actually pleased to see for once. It was Marnie. The Goth girl was admiring the statue of the armoured warrior wielding the sword and shield that stood proudly near the entrance so any and all visitors would see it when they walked in. Her Morpeko was beside her as usual. Ruby wondered how Marnie's day had been. Despite a desperate need to go to bed, she could spare a minute or two to chat with her.


"Hey Marnie." Ruby said wearily, "Nice to see you again."


Marnie spun round as if surprised that anyone else was here. Her Morpeko turned round and smiled cheerfully, clearly happy to see Ruby.


"Oh, uh…Ruby Silverlock is it?" Marnie asked, "Out giving it your all, even this late huh? No offence, mate, but you look like something the Meowth dragged in." she added, noticing how tired Ruby looked.


"You have no bloody idea how ready for bed I am!" Ruby said, half-smiling, "It's been quite a day, and not all of it good too. True I have two Gym Badges now but I've had to say goodbye to two dear Pokémon on my travels."


Marnie gave Ruby a sympathetic look, the first time she'd shown a genuine emotion aside from a blank stare since Ruby had met her.


"Oh no, what happened to them?" she asked sadly.


Ruby explained everything. Marnie was glad to hear that Chomps was alive but had nothing but sympathy for Ruby when she explained what happened to Ariel.


"That's so rough Ruby. Nobody should have to go through that." Marnie said sadly, "I know I'd have been gutted if that had happened to my Pokémon, especially my gorgeous Morpeko…"


She looked down at the hamster-like Pokémon with clear affection in her eyes.


"She was a gift from my brother. She means more to me than anyone in the world." the Northern girl said affectionately, "I'd do anything to keep her safe from wild Pokémon attacks."


Ruby smiled graciously, touched to see that Marnie had as much love for Pokémon as she did. She could see why Marnie would be so close to this Pokémon if it was a gift from her brother and she had to admit that Morpeko was quite cute. How ironic would it be if she or her sisters ever caught one of them?


"I'm glad you feel that way. To me, love for a Pokémon is the most important thing between trainer and Pokémon." Ruby said, stifling a yawn.


"Pity some don't share that sentiment." Marnie said grimly.


Ruby agreed. Bede was one such person. He didn't seem to love or care for his Pokémon. They seemed to just be a means to an end for him.


"Well, it was nice talking to you but I really need to get to my room. I feel as if I'm about to collapse!" Ruby cried, again stifling a yawn.


"I was going to ask if you wanted a battle but with how exhausted you are, I can wait until tomorrow, if ya want?" Marnie asked.


That took Ruby by surprise and she hesitated for a moment.


"You want to battle me? What for?" she asked.


"Oh, nothin' really. I just want to see if I'm ready for the next leg of the Gym Challenge." the Goth girl said innocently, "That and battling with strong trainers can help with training, y'know?"


Ruby nodded. She knew full well on how true that statement was. Most trainers had friendly battles with each other to get stronger and train their Pokémon up some more. Ruby couldn't see why she shouldn't fight Marnie. It'd be as much for her sake as herself and it'd be nice to have a battle with a friendly face for a change.


"OK then. First thing tomorrow morning, we'll battle." Ruby promised, "I wouldn't want to set a bad impression by battling you when I'm so worn out right now. I'll see you in the…"


She yawned one last time and then promptly collapsed into Marnie, who held her arms out to catch the sleepy girl and yelped in surprise as she caught her. She was already snoring the moment she fell on top of her. Marnie grunted, surprised that Ruby was a little heavier than she expected and she propped her onto her shoulder so she could carry her to her room.


"Blimey, she really must've had a tough day! Poor thing couldn't stay awake long enough to get to her room!" Marnie grunted as she carried the exhausted Ruby to the lift, "Maybe she should take it easy in future. It'd be awful if she dropped dead from over-exertion or summet…"


A few minutes later, Marnie made it up to the hotel rooms and fumbled through Ruby's pockets to find her room key. She felt a bit awkward doing so but it was the only way to get her to bed. She found the key and opened her room door with it, then she carried Ruby over to her bed and left her alone to sleep for the night.


Luckily for Ruby, it was a peaceful, dreamless sleep that allowed her to rest away the tiredness of the day and come the morning, she felt completely refreshed and ready to face the next day. It surprised her to see she was in her bed when she woke up but she quickly worked out what had happened. After going downstairs for breakfast, she saw Marnie and the lobby and rubbed the back of her head sheepishly.


"Hey, sorry I fell asleep on you." she said weakly, "I was clearly more tired than I thought."


"No probs. I'm also sorry I had to go through your pockets for your room key." Marnie added, "It felt a bit dodgy but how else could I get you in?"


"Don't worry about it. At least you weren't someone trying to mug me." Ruby said dismissively, "So, you ready for that battle then?"


"In a mo, I'm just having my brekkie first. I'm starving!" Marnie replied as she got herself a tray to get something to eat.


Ruby was just as hungry so she went to have some breakfast as well. The two girls sat and ate together, chatting about what they were going to do today and how they were going to challenge the next Gym. It was the Fire Gym next for both of them and they knew that Kabu was going to be a tough one. Some Challengers tended to drop out when losing to him due to him being a tough Gym Leader to face. Both Ruby and Marnie declared they wouldn't give up so easily.


Once they'd finished eating, they were now ready to have that fight that Marnie had asked for. Both trainers stood opposite each other in the lobby with a couple of Team Yell members cheering for Marnie as they were meant to do, what with being her personal fan club. Despite this, Marnie's face remained neutral, making it impossible to tell if she was enjoying the cheers or not. The black-haired girl made the first move, taking out a Dusk Ball and throwing it. Dusk Balls were Pokéballs that had a higher chance of catching Pokémon in dark places like caves or at night, hence their names. When a Pokémon was summoned, the energy was black and purple rather than white.


"Croagunk, you're up first!" she cried.


In a flash of black and purple, her first Pokémon materialized in front of Ruby. Croagunk was a dark blue frog-like Pokémon with yellow eyes and had white bands around its chest. It was unique for being the only Pokémon in the world to have the dual Fighting/Poison type. It was even said that this Pokémon's poison made for an effective ingredient in creating a remedy for lower back pain. Ruby smiled with admiration at the sight of her new, unique opponent.


"Wow! A Croagunk! I've never battled one of these before." Ruby said brightly, "I think my dad had one of those when he was a trainer…"


"Your dad was a trainer too?" Marnie said with interest, "Guess being a Pokémon trainer runs in the family."


"Pretty much." Ruby confirmed, "But I digress. Let's see how Croagunk fares up against my Haunter."


She threw a Pokéball and out came Raven the Haunter, looking as stoic as ever but quietly pleased to be out for a battle again. Raven eyed up her opponent and shrugged.


"Looks interesting enough, I guess. This should be fun." she said casually.


"Lucky to you to have a Haunter." Marnie complimented, "They and Gastly are often tricky to catch."


"True, but this one was all too happy to join me when I asked her to." Ruby said, thinking back to how Raven and she had first met.


Marnie nodded and then gave the first command to her Pokémon.


"Croagunk, Sucker Punch!" she barked.


"Raven, use Shadow Ball!" Ruby commanded just as quickly.


Both Pokémon obeyed, but Croagunk moved first. It shot straight into Raven, its fist glowing black as it moved. It then punched Raven square in the face, knocking her back and making her cry out in surprise rather than pain. Sucker Punch was a Dark-type move, making it super-effective against Raven as she was a Ghost-type and it was a move that always hit first, but only if the opponent was about to attack as well, which Raven had been. Raven shook her self and held her floating hands out. The move had done some damage but not much and Raven was unhurt for the most part. She built up energy between her hands as she built up a Shadow Ball attack.


"Azarath, Metrion…ZINTHOS!" she yelled.


She launched the attack at Croagunk and much to Ruby's surprise, that was all Raven needed. Her eyes widened as the frog-like Pokémon was struck by the Shadow Ball and brought down in a single blow. That was unexpected as Ruby hadn't even used a type-advantage move on Croagunk. It wasn't weak against Ghost-types but the single Shadow Ball had knocked it out! Maybe she'd trained Raven better than she thought or Haunter was a Pokémon more powerful than she knew. Marnie was just as amazed, staring at Croagunk as if the fact it was now unconscious was shocking to her. The Team Yell Grunts looked more disappointed than the girl they were cheering for, booing Ruby viciously for taking her Pokémon out so quickly. Marnie shot them a death glare to make them stop. The two grunts recoiled, making Ruby giggle. How did a girl like Marnie come off as so threatening to a couple of adults like them?


"Boo her again and you can sod off home to Spikemuth." Marnie warned, "You can cheer for me but that doesn't mean you can put down any trainer who beats me. Do you want me to look like a sore loser to these Gym Challengers?"


The Yell Grunts realized their favoured Challenger had a point. If they booed her opponents just for beating her, it wouldn't exactly set a good example for her. Spikemuth was already struggling as a rundown town with a Gym that didn't even have a Dynamax spot so they could do without any more negative publicity. Marnie turned back to the battle and returned Croagunk.


"Good shot Ruby." she complimented, "Now let's see how you handle this one."


She threw her next Dusk Ball and out came her second Pokémon, this one a Dark/Fighting type called Scraggy. It was a bipedal, lizard-like Pokémon with a primarily yellow colour scheme and some loose yellow skin sagging around its waist, giving it the rather comical appearance of someone struggling to keep his trousers up because they didn't fit. In the wild, this was a strange way of garnering respect as the saggier the skin was, the more respect they garnered. It also had a reputation for head-butting anything that made eye-contact with it, though Headbutt wouldn't do it any favours in this battle as Normal-type moves didn't work on Ghosts. Ruby observed her new opponent with interest.


"I don't know a whole lot about Scraggy but I do at least know what type it is." she murmured, "And unfortunately for it, Raven's got Dark types covered. Raven, Dazzling Gleam!" she commanded.


"Flippin' heck!" Marnie gasped, "You taught it a Fairy-type move?! You're quite a smart trainer!"


Ruby just smiled modestly. She already knew that much about herself and didn't need reminding. Raven conjured up a ball of dazzling pink, sparkly energy and fired it from her mouth. She hit the Scraggy square on, the fairy magic sapping away its strength instantly and knocking it down in a single blow. The unfortunate side-effect of Scraggy's Fighting/Dark typing was that it took quadruple damage from Fairy attacks as both types were weak to it. That plus the sheer power that Raven the Haunter possessed meant it never had a chance of taking the hit and being able to carry on. Scraggy lay on its back, dazed from the hit and completely devoid of any energy to battle some more. Team Yell were disappointed of course but they didn't dare show it as Marnie would only scold them for it again. Marnie herself was just taking in what had happened and quietly accepting it, seeing for herself that she was against a truly skilled trainer. She returned Scraggy to its Dusk Ball and beckoned for Morpeko to come to her. The hamster-like Poke scampered up beside her feet and waited for further instructions.


"That Haunter's really well-trained." Marnie complimented, "That's the first time since I started the Gym Challenge that anyone's one-shot more than one of my Pokémon in a single battle."


"I'm pretty sure it's down to Haunter just naturally being powerful." Ruby said modestly, "I doubt her being this good is down to me, though I did teach her Dazzling Gleam so that has helped her immensely."


"Indeed. Dark types are no longer a threat to her as she has them covered." Marnie agreed, "But this fight isn't over yet. I've still got one more on me to turn this around. Morpeko, it's all up to you now!"


Her Morpeko scampered forwards to take its position opposite Raven for the next battle. It chirped eagerly and its cheeks sparkled with electricity as it waited its master's commands. Ruby could see it was very fond of battling and she imagined it had some powerful electric attacks to use. It was also part-Dark type so it posed a threat to Raven if it didn't go down instantly. But this was Marnie's favourite Pokémon and Ruby didn't want to upset her too much by taking it down. She came to a decision.


"Raven, use Dazzling Gleam again but don't make it quite as powerful." she commanded, "I don't want to hurt Morpeko too much. It's Marnie's first and favourite Pokémon."


Raven shrugged casually.


"M'kay, I can do that." she said bluntly, "I wouldn't want to hurt it too much anyway. I'll admit it's kinda cute."


Morpeko beamed, appreciating the compliment. It started to charge up electricity as Marnie prepared to order it to attack. But it never came for Raven hit the little Pokémon with Dazzling Gleam and despite following Ruby's orders to tone it down a little so as not to hurt it too much, it was still powerful enough to knock Morpeko down in a single hit. Morpeko weren't the best Pokémon at taking hits due to rather mediocre defences so taking a Dazzling Gleam, which was already a super-effective attack, from a second-stage Pokémon was going to be enough to take it down. Ruby just felt glad that the fight had ended as quickly as it had started so that Morpeko wouldn't be in too much pain. If anything, she'd spared it from a lot of pain in a way by one-shotting it as she had done the others. Morpeko lay on its back, wondering which way was up and what had hit it. It had no energy left to battle, making this another victory for Raven and a total clean sweep for Ruby. The silver-haired teen was amazed at how well she'd done in this battle. To take out THREE Pokémon with a single Haunter was incredible!


Team Yell groaned, disappointed for their sponsored trainer that they had cheered for and supported in the battle, yet ironically enough they seemed more disappointed than Marnie herself. While she was bummed at how easily she'd been beaten, her face gave nothing away and she just seemed to quietly accept the fact that she'd taken on a skilled trainer and had lost. Marnie picked Morpeko up and patted its head to give it some comfort so it wouldn't feel too bad that it lost.


"And so you beat me. You're a really good trainer." Marnie said, her voice neutral though Ruby could tell that she was impressed, "If that's the power your Haunter has, I can hardly imagine what the rest of your team must be like!"


"I'll just say that my team's been getting me through the Gyms quite easily." Ruby admitted, returning Haunter, "I do hope I didn't make you feel bad or dampen your spirits in anyway. I would NEVER go out of my way to make anyone look bad in a battle." she insisted.


"Nah, if anything, you've just given me an idea on what the competition is like so that I can train harder and get better." Marnie said casually, "My bro would always say that any loss can be turned into a victory later on."


Ruby sighed with relief, glad the Goth girl was taking it well.


"At least you're not a sore loser like some other Gym Challenger I've encountered." she said grimly.


"Who's that then? Is it that Bede chap that's been giving others a hard time?" Marnie asked curiously.


"Why yes! Yes it is!" Ruby exclaimed, "How did you guess that? Have you met him too?"


"Unfortunately." Marnie spat, "He challenged me to a fight just before I got to this place last night and I took him down effortlessly. The little bugger then accused me of cheating and demanded a do-over. I punched him in the nose for that. I think I might've broken it when I did so for he was bleeding quite badly after I did it. Still, the nerve of that guy! Can I help it if my team's practically tailor-made to handle Psychic types? It's not my fault he has such a shallow team of Pokémon that I happen to have a type-advantage over!"


Ruby snorted with laughter upon hearing the story. Just the image of Bede with a broken nose was enough to have her hysterical.


"Gosh, I wish I could've seen that! That would've been hilarious!" she laughed.


"It was…for me that is." Marnie said dryly, "But enough about him. I think I've held you up enough now. You should be on your way to the stadium to fight that Fire Gym, right? I warn you, that Kabu chap is a red-hot contender. Some Gym Challengers never even make it past him."


"I'm not going to be one of them." Ruby declared, "I may have lost two powerful water-types before facing him but I still have other counters at least. Thanks for the battle Marnie, it was fun getting to battle you!"


She was about to leave but Marnie stopped her by grabbing hold of her arm. Ruby was about to demand angrily what the hold-up was but she quickly saw that Marnie had something to offer her. She was holding a couple of Burn Heals, an item that was often used to heal Pokémon from any burns they might get from a fire-type Pokémon.


"Here, take these. You might need them." she said.


Ruby smiled gratefully, taking the two Burn Heals and stuffing them into her pockets.


"Thank you. That's very kind of you." she said appreciatively, "I'll win that badge and I hope you win it as well Marnie. I'd love a chance for a rematch should we make it to the semi-finals."


"I hope so too." Marnie said with a small smile, "See you around Ruby. It was nice to meet ya again."


Ruby and Marnie shook hands before the leather-clad girl turned on her heels and left the inn to take on Motostoke Gym. She'd heard from a text she received from Hop after getting dressed that he was already on his way and she imagined he'd probably made it through by now. She thought back to how easily she'd beaten Milo and Nessa's Gyms yesterday. Would Kabu be any easier or would he mark the moment where the Gym Challenge got more challenging and that the Gym Leaders wouldn't all be push-overs…?

__________________________________________________________________________________


Ruby arrived at Motostoke Stadium only minutes later after leaving the Budew Drop Inn. Of all the Gyms, this one had been her shortest trip yet as Motostoke Stadium was just a brisk walk away from the inn. At least she could just get straight to the Gym and challenge it already instead of having a long journey to get to it like the previous two. It felt like it had only been five minutes ago when Ruby had been at the stadium signing up for the Gym Challenge and then making her way onto the pitch for the opening ceremony the day after, and now she was here to face the Gym Leader! After that, she'd be making her way over to Hammerlocke City in which she'd begin her journey to the next five Gyms, starting from the Stow-on-Side Gym and circling all the way back round to Hammerlocke to challenge the last one. It was what made the Gym Challenge so pleasant to partake in for many Gym Challengers, the fact the circuit was so easy to navigate.


Upon entering the stadium, Ruby changed into her Gym Challenger outfit again and sent a quick text to her family to let them know she was about face Kabu. Then she made her way into the arena to begin her third Gym Battle. Unlike the previous two Gyms, Kabu had no Gym Challengers to face so Ruby was allowed to go straight into the arena and challenge him right away. She didn't mind this of course as it meant her Pokémon could get straight into the action and face Kabu completely fresh with no prior battles potentially wearing them down. She was curious as to why Kabu was so lenient by comparison. Maybe because so many Gym Challengers failed to get past him, he thought getting rid of the Gym Challengers would make it easier for them? Or maybe Kabu was a man so sure of himself that he didn't need Gym Challengers to wear his opponents out and could handle them by himself.


Upon entering Motostoke Arena, Ruby could see easily that this was a Fire-type Gym. The Gym was primarily red in colour with flame patterns on the walls along with images of Kabu himself, a fiery centipede like Pokémon that was presumably his ace and the trademark logo of the Fire Gym which looked like a samurai helmet with a fiery cross on it. To Ruby, it looked almost like the helmet was about to shoot a Fire Blast attack at someone. She could also see that Kabu took the Fire typing very seriously for upon entering the arena, she was hit by a blast of hot air that seemed to hang all around the Gym. She was already sweating before she reached the centre of the arena, wiping her forehead and tugging at her shirt as it started to cling to her thanks to her sweat. She was thankful the clothes were lightweight and loose fitting otherwise she'd have melted by now.


"Phew! I know this is the Fire Gym but come on! Would it kill Kabu to turn the heat down a little?" Ruby complained, fanning herself with her hand though it wouldn't do her any good.


"Everyone knows that a Fire-type Pokémon performs at its best when it's hot." came a gruff, gravelly voice from the other side of the arena, "You'll just have to put up with the heat for now, honoured challenger."


Ruby turned to see an elderly man jogging into the arena. That was the weird part about his entry, he didn't walk in, he was literally jogging! She could see that this was a man who took fitness very seriously. The man reached the centre of the arena and turned to face his challenger. Ruby was surprised to see that despite his age, he looked to be in good shape. He had the physique and appearance of a football coach due to his sporty clothes, high-top socks, shorts and his rather fit appearance. His grey hair and wrinkled face suggested he might be in his 50's or 60's but he still looked as if he could go for a good run and keep going for a while. Ruby could also see from his face that he wasn't native to Galar. This was because he came from the Hoenn region, a region home to many beloved species of Pokémon and notorious for having a lot of water to travel across in order to complete the Gym circuit and reach the Elite Four and the Champion. The man stood before Ruby, his back straight and his arms behind him. He showed a lot of discipline in the way he stood as if determined to be on his guard despite the fact he was only greeting his next challenger.


"Welcome! I am Kabu, the Fire-type Gym Leader." he introduced, his accent adding more credence to the fact he was originally from Hoenn.


"My name is Ruby Silverlock." Ruby introduced, bowing politely, "I've come to challenge your Gym, as you no doubt guessed already."


"Of course." Kabu said briskly, "Just the fact that you are here means you've bested Milo and Nessa's Gyms. They tell me that you clean-swept the both of them on your first try! I haven't seen skill like that in a while, Ruby. I hope you will display that skill here today as it would be a great honour to see it for myself, here in my Gym."


"I'll be coming at you with everything I got, Kabu!" Ruby declared, "Just you watch me!"


"Then let us see your true potential, honoured Gym Challenger." Kabu said approvingly, eager to see what this new challenger would bring to the table.


Both opponents took their places and fixed their eyes on each other as the announcer's electronic voice boomed out of the speakers, introducing the two to the audience that was watching the match.


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


Once again, Ruby received much applause from the audience. It was easy to see why with her being the girl that bested two Gyms without breaking a sweat so the audience was going to enjoy seeing what she brought to this battle with the third Gym Leader. Ruby took it all in with just a casual wave, seeing the applause as nothing more than motivation to win the battle to show everyone watching today that they were in for a good show. She knew that with only a single Water-type and a single Rock-type that this wouldn't be quite as easy as before. In the previous Gyms, she had several counters but here, she only had two. Hopefully, they'd be the only counters necessary. She'd brought along some extra Pokémon in case of emergencies too, namely Houdini the Noctowl and Freddy the Toxel though Freddy was mostly there to gain more EXP points and hopefully evolve, if he was able to. Ruby wasn't sure if he could as she didn't know if Toxel could evolve but it helped to have him earn EXP points anyway to see if he could. Ruby sighed to ease her nerves as she waited for the battle to start.


"Pokémon Trainers: Standby." the announcer declared.


Ruby and Kabu stayed still, their eyes never leaving each other as a tense stillness filled the hot air hanging over the Gym. Despite the heat, Ruby wondered if her sweating was down to anticipation for the match as much as it was the arena being hot. To her amazement, Kabu didn't look as if he was sweating at all despite the heat. Either he was used to it or he had low body temperature. Maybe being the Fire type Gym Leader made it easier to put up with the heat here.


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


"Let us start with a Pokémon that'll give you a good first impression." Kabu said eagerly, drawing out an Ultra Ball from his belt. Ultra Balls were black and white with a yellow H pattern on top and they were the balls that had the highest catch rates of any Pokéball. They could catch almost anything.


"Ninetales, set the arena ablaze!" Kabu called, throwing the Ultra Ball.


The ball opened up and his chosen Pokémon materialized onto the battlefield. Ruby was spellbound as she found herself looking at the fabulous, attractive Pokémon known as Ninetales. Ninetales was a Pokémon that evolved from the common Vulpix breed that could be found in a wide number of regions, though they were indigenous to the Kanto region. Ninetales was also a Pokémon that could only evolve through the use of a stone, a Fire Stone naturally due to their typing. Ninetales looked like a yellow-furred fox with, as its name implied, nine tails, owing to the legendary kitsune of Japanese folklore. They were beloved for their beautiful appearance and graceful looks, making them an extremely popular breed of Pokémon for trainers to use. Even Ruby couldn't help but wish she had one of her own as she loved the look of Ninetales.


"If I had one of those, my sisters would've gone gaga." she said with a smile, "Shame I have to fight a Pokémon this beautiful looking but that's the way it is as they say."


She took out her first Pokéball and threw it.


"Spearhead, you're up first!" she called.


The ball opened and out came the recently evolved Spearhead, still pleased with himself for becoming a Barraskewda and grinning gormlessly as always. Kabu's face remained blank, not at all surprised this challenger had come into his Gym with at least one water-type Pokémon. Spearhead looked around, curious where he was and he sniffed.


"Geez, dull much?" he muttered, "Why so much red in this place? It makes it look like the whole place is covered in blood! A bit of blue would liven the place up a bit!"


"This is a Fire-type Gym Spearhead, that's why it's coloured red." Ruby said tightly.


"Hang on, a Fire-type Gym?" Spearhead asked curiously, "Oh no, whoever I'm up against better not think they can burn me alive and have me for lunch! I ain't bein' barbecued today! I got fried alive once and it wasn't fun the first time! At least I lived after that."


Once again, Ruby wasn't sure if Spearhead was being serious or not. It was true that some people hunted Barraskewda because their flesh supposedly tasted nice but she doubted that Spearhead was literally fried alive and lived to tell about it. She put the thought aside and focused on the battle. She could see that Kabu was ready to make the first move.


"Ninetales, use Will-O-Wisp!" he ordered.


"Quick, Dive out the way!" Ruby commanded in return.


Spearhead obeyed and shot straight down towards the floor, digging his way through it and disappearing before Ninetales could burn him with its Will-O-Wisp attack. The fiery wisps flew right over the hole Spearhead left and hit the floor harmlessly, the flames disappearing in a quick poof. Spearhead had just used Dive, a Water-type Pokémon's equivalent of Dig. Despite being called "Dive", the move actually involved the Pokémon digging underground while surrounding themselves in water and then striking the opponent, the force of the attack and the water surrounding them combining together for a truly powerful onslaught. Ninetales looked around helplessly, wondering where Spearhead was going to pop up. Even Kabu had no idea where his opponent was. For all he knew, Spearhead could be directly underneath him! The audience held its breath, waiting for Spearhead to show up and strike. Ruby grinned, pleased to see that her opponent was on the ropes. Now was the time to strike.


"OK Spearhead, let Ninetales have it!" she cried.


Ninetales had no time to react as the ground suddenly cracked in front of it and Spearhead shot up from underneath, upper-cutting it in the face and throwing it backwards while throwing water over it at the same time.


"I AM A ROCKET ON MY WAY TO MARS! WHOO, HOO! PREPARE TO BLAST OFF!" Spearhead cried jovially at the top of his voice as he erupted from the ground.


Kabu watched as his Ninetales landed on its back and grunted, the impact of Spearhead's collision and the water he'd thrown over it at the same time having done a huge amount of damage to the vulpine Pokémon. So much in fact that the Ninetales wasn't able to get back up again. It let out a defeated sigh as its head slumped on the floor, its health depleted from the single attack it had received. Spearhead danced about for joy, clearly happy he'd taken his opponent out so quickly.


"Yay I won, yay I won! This new body of mine is awesomely strong!" he sang cheerfully.


"Ninetales is unable to battle! Barraskewda is the winner!" the announcer declared.


The audience let out a chorus of "Oooohs", impressed that this trainer had managed to one-shot Kabu's first Pokémon. Even Ruby hadn't expected Spearhead to defeat Ninetales so easily. She knew Barraskewda were heavy hitters, but she couldn't have anticipated they hit THAT hard!


"Wow! Well done Spearhead, that was incredible!" she praised.


"Thank you very much, silver girl!" Spearhead said appreciatively, "It's nice to be called something other than "stupid" for once!"


That again made Ruby ponder if there was more to Spearhead than met the eye. He clearly seemed to have issues with being seen as an idiot and was appreciative of being called something nicer for once. Maybe his gormless act really was just an act and he wasn't as dumb as he came off as. Kabu returned Ninetales to its ball, giving a small smile of congratulations to Ruby.


"That was most impressive, child." he complimented, "You're the first person to one-shot any of my Pokémon in a long time. Not even Leon's brother was able to pull that off when he challenged me an hour ago."


So Hop had already been here. Ruby wasn't surprised that her neighbour had already fought Kabu and beaten him. The purple-haired boy was never one to waste time and wait around for long after all. It seemed so weird on how often Ruby found herself tailing Hop in this circuit as she'd challenged Milo immediately after he'd done so, same with Nessa and now today with Kabu! She had to wonder if every Gym battle of hers was going to be immediately after Hop had his. Kabu took out his next Ultra Ball.


"Ninetales is just a warm-up, if you'll excuse the pun." the Hoenn man declared, "This next one will be more of a challenge I assure you. Arcanine, set the arena ablaze!"


He threw the ball and out came his next Pokémon. Ruby found herself with a mixture of emotions as she was left staring at the powerful, proud, graceful, fiery Pokémon that was Arcanine. Like Ninetales, Arcanine was another Pokémon that required a Fire Stone to evolve, evolving from the puppy-like Growlithe when exposed to the stone. Arcanine was a huge Pokémon resembling a canine of some kind with orange fur and black stripes giving it a tiger like appearance and a big, billowing tail bent in the middle. Its tail was coloured beige as was its mane, underbelly and some tufts of fur around its legs. Ruby loved Arcanines, finding them to be beautiful Pokémon. But seeing one reminded her of her father's story about the first Pokémon that had died on his watch. That had been an Arcanine. She remembered him explaining how it had been dragged into a lake and drowned by a Milotic on his travels and now she was being reminded of Ariel's death yesterday as it was that that had led to him discussing it. Her face fell sadly and Kabu noticed it with concern in his eyes.


"Ruby? What's the matter? Is there something wrong?" he asked softly.


Ruby suddenly realized that he was talking to her and she shook her head.


"Oh, sorry! Everything's fine, really!" she said quickly, "It's just seeing an Arcanine is making me think of a sad story my dad told me. He had one once but he lost it to a Milotic when he was a trainer. It's nothing to do with you, honest."


Kabu nodded understandingly. He could see why the appearance of his Arcanine would bring back sad memories for Ruby.


"I am sorry that your father had to lose his Arcanine." he said sympathetically, "I would never forgive myself if my own died on my watch. This Arcanine is most precious to me."


"I bet it is." Ruby acknowledged, "But enough being sentimental. We've got a battle to do."


Kabu nodded agreeably. They could save this kind of conversation for when the fight was over. Now wasn't the time for it. Ruby returned Spearhead, something that interested the Fire Gym leader for he expected her to keep using him. What else did his opponent have up her sleeve? He soon found out as Ruby threw her next Pokéball.


"Matilda, I choose you!" she cried.


The Pokéball opened up and released its occupant onto the battlefield. Matilda the Boldore flexed her three, stony legs and gave a cry of anticipation, clearly eager for a fight.


"Aw yeah, it's finally my time to rock!" she cried, "Let's get this show on the road!"


Ruby was glad that Matilda was just as enthusiastic about this battle as she was. She decided not to delay and give a command.


"Matilda, use Rock Blast!" she cried.


"Arcanine, use Will-O-Wisp!" Kabu ordered.


Arcanine and Matilda both carried out their attacks but to no one's surprise, Arcanine was faster and landed its attack first. Arcanine were notoriously fast Pokémon and a slow Rock type like Boldore was never going to out-speed it. Arcanine opened its mouth and hit Matilda with a fiery wisp that surrounded her and made her flinch as it started to burn her. Will-O-Wisp was a status move that inflicted burns on the opponent. While it did no damage upon being used, the burns it inflicted would do some damage over time and that was what made Kabu such a tricky Gym Leader to battle. His tactics would often rely on whittling his opponent's health down piece by piece so he could go in for the kill. Ruby wasn't going to let that happen, knowing that Matilda's strength and the fact she had a type advantage would deal with Arcanine before the burns would do any real damage to her.


After Arcanine had made its move, Matilda retaliated with the Rock Blast that Matilda had ordered from her. The rocky Pokémon fired a barrage of rocks at Arcanine, hitting it five times with each rock she threw at him. Every blow felt like a sledgehammer to the face for Arcanine but to the amazement of Ruby, Matilda and the audience, it had managed to withstand the onslaught. The Rock Blast had done the damage, but Arcanine was far from down. It shook its head, sending bits of rock and gravel scattering onto the floor and it bared its teeth, ready to continue the fight. Kabu smirked, clearly not surprised that Arcanine had taken the hit so well.


"You'll find my Arcanine is quite a hardy soul, honoured challenger. He does not go down so easily, even with a type-disadvantage." he explained.


This just made Ruby even more impressed with Arcanine. She always looked at them as powerful Pokémon that were worth a catch but to see they had such good defences made them envy her father for having one during his time as a trainer. She would love it if she could get one for herself later on. Matilda recoiled in pain as the burns from Will-O-Wisp flared across her rocky body. It sapped away a bit of health but it would hardly be a problem for Matilda as she was at full health. She'd remain standing for a while.


Kabu made his next move by ordering Arcanine to use Bite. He knew that using any of Arcanine's Fire attacks against Matilda would be useless as fire wasn't effective against rock so it wouldn't do much. He also hoped that having the fiery canine bite Matilda would make her flinch to keep her from using any other attacks she might have. Arcanine pounced on Matilda and bit her as hard as he could. Ruby stared in amazement, unable to believe that something like that could bite onto a Rock-type like Boldore and somehow NOT break its teeth by doing so. Maybe biting moves created some kind of magical shield to prevent any teeth from being broken. The Bite attack did some damage to Matilda but her high defences made whatever damage she'd received practically null and void as Arcanine had barely managed to do anything to her. Matilda retaliated by using Smack Down, a Rock-type attack that did damage and could ground opponents that were flying around or hovering above the ground via the Levitate ability. It didn't effect Arcanine in that way as it was already grounded but it did do a lot of damage to the orange and beige Pokémon. Arcanine was still able to carry on fighting but it didn't have a lot of health left. One more attack would finish it off. Kabu ordered Arcanine to Bite again, the powerful Pokémon doing just that as Matilda's burn inflicted more damage to her. Matilda was barely hurt by the attack and still full of health whereas Arcanine was close to zero. Ruby was about to order Matilda to finish the fight until she suddenly had an idea on something that could help finish her next opponent off quicker. If Kabu's last Pokémon had defences as good as Arcanine, it would help to do some damage to make it likelier that it would go down easily. Smiling confidently, Ruby gave the command.


"Matilda, use Stealth Rock!" she commanded.


Matilda was surprised that Ruby had ordered her to do this. She wasn't the kind of trainer to use status moves but she supposed her trainer had a plan. Matilda closed her eyes and focused hard, magically conjuring up a bunch of floating rocks that surrounded Arcanine. Kabu frowned, having seen this kind of strategy before from opponents that had faced him. Stealth Rock was a move in which floating rocks would endlessly float around the opponent and if they swapped Pokémon or brought out new ones to join the battle, the rocks would cut into the Pokémon and do some damage before any trainer could make the first call. Arcanine would be OK but the moment he summoned his next Pokémon, he'd be caught up by the Stealth Rock. He just had to hope it wouldn't screw his chances with his opponent at all when he brought out his ace.


The battle with Matilda and Arcanine didn't last much longer. All Kabu could do was order him to use another Bite attack, which once again barely did much, while Matilda finished the battle with one last Smack Down. The heavy Rock attack sapped away whatever was left of Arcanine's energy and the mighty dog-like Pokémon was finally brought down, collapsing onto its side and grunting in defeat as it had no energy left to battle. Matilda whooped excitedly, hopping about on her three legs with glee.


"Aw yeah, that's what I call a great battle! I got burnt and bitten several times and I didn't go down while I won with a few heavy blows from my rock attacks! Ain't nobody ever gonna mess with Matilda the Boldore! Oh yeah!" she cheered.


"Arcanine is unable to battle! Boldore is the winner!" the announcer called.


The crowd began to cheer, really getting hyped up by this battle now. The challenger had taken two of Kabu's Pokémon out without much difficulty while Kabu had barely managed to do anything against Ruby's team. Kabu returned Arcanine to its ball and drew out his last Ultra Ball.


"It has been a while since a challenger has put up a battle was valiantly as you have, little Ruby." he complimented, "Not even the heat of the arena is managing to break your stride any."


"I'll admit I'm dying for a drink when this is over." Ruby said, wiping her forehead.


Her mouth was dryer than a landscape that had been subjected to a Groudon's Drought ability and swallowing now felt like trying to swallow sandpaper to her. The heat may not be breaking her stride, but she was looking forward immensely to getting out of it when this match was over.


"As is, my best is coming up next and this Pokémon will certainly kick up the heat some more." Kabu declared, "Centiskorch, set the arena ablaze!"


He threw the ball and summoned his last, and his best Pokémon for the Gym Battle. Ruby wasn't at all surprised to see that her last opponent was Kabu's ace, the sizzling hot Centiskorch. Centiskorch was a red centipede like Pokémon evolved from the tiny Sizzlipede. It had the same fiery cross on its face that the Fire Gym logo sported. It had the same fiery cross on its tail too, rows of little legs and circular markings on its underbelly that looked a little like hobs on an oven. Ruby could imagine it using those to cook its food alive when it caught its prey. Centiskorch's flames could reach up to 15,000 degrees Fahrenheit and was known to attack anything that came near it, constricting its prey or using the organs on its belly to burn them alive. Even though it was on the other side of the arena, Ruby could already feel the heat emitting from it, showing that it was definitely not a Pokémon that one could simply approach.


Ruby had seen Kabu use this Pokémon in many battles on TV to burn its opponents and win the battle and now she was getting the chance to have a shot at it. She smiled triumphantly as the Stealth Rocks sliced into Centiskorch, making it flinch in pain as it was cut by them. Just as she'd planned, she'd shaved off some of its health before the battle had even begun. Now any attack she landed meant she would have a quicker time taking it out than she would have normally. She returned Matilda to her Pokéball and took out a third ball.


"Matilda would've been great against it, but this one will be perfect for a Bug type anyway." she declared, "Houdini, you're the Grand Finale for this match!"


She threw the ball and out came Houdini the Noctowl. The owl-like Pokémon spread his wings proudly and hooted to the audience. Some of the audience members recognized him from the Gym battle with Milo as they'd watched him evolve after Ruby had beaten him yesterday. No sooner had Houdini come out of his ball, he was suddenly stricken with the heat of the arena and he flapped his wings to try and cool off.


"By my soul, it is most hot in here!" he said indignantly, sounding irritated by the heat, "I would feel much better if I was participating in a battle with a more frigid atmosphere! Why may I ask is it so egregiously balmy in this place?"


"Take a wild guess." Ruby retorted, folding her arms and frowning.


Houdini noticed Centiskorch and quickly realized that he had the answer to his question right in front of him.


"I see. We are engaged in combat in the Gym of the Fire-type variety." he acknowledged, "No matter, the searing temperatures here shall not impede my battle prowess in any way!"


"Good because you're going to be the one to finish this battle." Ruby said, "Get ready to Dynamax Houdini!"


Houdini braced himself as Ruby held her Pokéball out and the Dynamax band on her wrist kicked into life once more. Kabu had the same idea for he held his Ultra Ball out and stood by as Dynamax energy circled his wrist. Both opponents waited until their Pokéballs grew in size and then they threw them, the Dynamax energy causing Houdini and Centiskorch to grow in size simultaneously. As usual, Ruby's hair began to glow in reaction to the Dynamax energy that was being used to grow the two Pokémon to giant sizes. Houdini was now a giant Noctowl, his already deep voice now even deeper than before as he gave a booming hoot of excitement over his Dynamaxed state whereas Centiskorch had done more than just get bigger. It had done another form of Dynamaxing known as Gigantamaxing. It was the same as Dynamaxing, except that the Pokémon's appearance changed a little as well as their size increasing. Gigantamax Pokémon were slightly more powerful too and had G-Max moves, special attacks that often had a secondary effect unique to the Pokémon using it. Gigantamax Centiskorch was much longer than its ordinary self, now stretching to several feet in length and its colour scheme had become completely red and orange in colour with the fire cross on its face much longer than before. Its body also seemed to be even hotter than its normal self, the heat enough to dry up a lake in a matter of hours if it was near one. Ruby had always been wowed by the appearance of Gigantamax Centiskorch, likening it to looking like a cross between a Chinese-style dragon and a centipede with its long body and fiery appearance. Of course she wasn't intimidated by it for she knew that Houdini would be enough to handle it.


"Let's make this quick! Houdini, Max Airstream attack!" Ruby ordered.


"It is time for me to extinguish the scorching flames of my insectoid adversary!" Houdini boomed, his voice like an earthquake with how deep it was.


He opened his beak and a giant tornado erupted out towards Centiskorch. The blustery winds of the attack came as a relief to Ruby as she felt it sweep over her, chasing away some of the sweltering heat that was hanging over her. Kabu shielded his eyes as Houdini's attack hit his Centiskorch, the tornado of wind tearing through his Pokémon and swiftly eating up whatever health Centiskorch had left. Thanks to the damage it had taken from Stealth Rock earlier, it didn't have enough health to withstand the hit. It might've gone down in one hit anyway but the Stealth Rock had more than sealed its fate before the battle could begin. Centiskorch was well and truly beaten and it flailed about as the Dynamax energy inside it ran out, returning it to normal size and leaving it as an ordinary sized Centiskorch slumping on the ground at the feet of an astonished Kabu. Houdini returned to normal size as well. He looked over himself and gave a huff of disappointment.


"I was rather enjoying the feeling of being at a gargantuan size." he lamented, "I do hope I get to experience it again in a future battle."


"I'm sure you will Houdini." Ruby said reassuringly, "Well done Houdini! You took it down in a single blow, just as I'd hoped!"


"You say that as if you doubt that my prodigious power would've failed to have felled that Centiskorch so swiftly." Houdini said with a huff, "I'd have thought you of all people would know how much power a Noctowl such as myself possesses."


"Alright Mr. Big-head, no need to gloat about yourself." Ruby said, rolling her eyes, "Just take the bloody compliment when I give it to you for once…"


"Centiskorch is unable to battle! Noctowl is the winner!" the electronic announcer's voice boomed, "The winner of the Fire Gym Challenge is Ruby Silverlock of Postwick Town and she progresses to the next Gym!"


The audience exploded with applause for Ruby, cheering and chanting her name with glee. The more they saw her in action, the more they were finding themselves rooting for her and eager to see her progress even further in the Gym Challenge. Kabu returned his Centiskorch to its ball to let it have a well-earned rest. He gave a sigh of dismay, disappointed he'd been beaten so easily but he nevertheless had nothing but praise to give to his opponent.


"Great Pokémon and a great trainer! It's no surprise that you won!" he remarked.


"Oh please Kabu, you're too kind." Ruby said shyly, "You don't need to oversell me. I'm just glad I did as well as I could."


"You're a potent trainer and yet you're so modest about your abilities." Kabu said approvingly, "That is very admirable of you. A true trainer doesn't let his or her skills get to their heads I say."


He and Ruby approached each other and shook hands. Ruby could tell that Kabu was a strong man just from that handshake she had with him. He had a tough grip that suggested he was not one to mess with in an arm-wrestling match.


"I'm often regarded as the first real roadblock in the Gym Challenge, and yet you beat me!" Kabu complimented, "I would say, young lady, that you've more than earned your Fire Badge."


He then handed Ruby the Fire Badge, a gold piece that sported a fire emblem in the centre just like the other badges she'd received. Ruby looked admiringly at the badge that was now resting in her palm, unable to believe she now had the first three badges already. Her journey had only just begun and she'd achieved so much in such a short span of time! Did all trainers start off as lucky as her or was she just a special case among them? Whatever it was, she couldn't wait to see how her next Gym Battles would go.


Ruby was about to cheer over her victory but then something happened that made her victory even more special. She noticed one of her Pokéballs glowing and she picked it out, staring in wonder as she realized what this meant.


"By Arceus, it looks like I've got another Pokémon evolving!" she cried.


"What a way to end a Gym Battle." Kabu remarked, "I wonder what Pokémon of yours is evolving right now…"


He soon got his answer for the ball opened up and out came what should've been Freddy the Toxel…only he was no longer a Toxel. He materialized onto the arena in a ball of energy and he threw his arms up, bursting into song once again to celebrate what had just happened to him.


FLASH!


AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!


Saviour of the universe!


FLASH!


AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!


Underwent evolution!


Just as Ruby had hoped the EXP her Pokémon had received from the battles with Kabu she'd just had had been enough to evolve Freddy at last. He was no longer a Toxel, but a Toxtricity. Gone was the baby-like, impish Pokémon that she'd received from the Pokémon Nursery. Freddy was much taller than before, now actually the same height as Ruby herself and he had a long, slender body with long arms, short legs and a head of electricity that made him look as if he was sporting a Mohawk. He had spikes on his wrists and around his waist, making him look as if he was wearing spiked wristbands and a spiked belt. He was still purple in colour but he had a yellow belly, yellow palms and yellow markings on his legs. He also had long purple spikes stretching out from his cheeks and six purple knobs on his chest that he could strum like a guitar. He had an appearance that made him look like some kind of lizard mixed with a punk rocker. This was one of two versions of Toxtricity that were available. This was the "Amped form" and the other was the "Low Key" form. Low Key Toxtricity had blue in place of the yellow on Amped Toxtricity, four knobs on its chest instead of six and smaller spikes on its cheeks. In order to achieve either form, it all depended on the nature of Toxel and Freddy's Impish nature was one of the natures that evolved him into the Amped form.


Ruby beamed with excitement. As she'd never seen a Toxel before, she had wondered if it could even evolve and was glad to see her hunch had been right. She was already loving Freddy's new look and this was her first time ever seeing a Toxtricity, making this an extra special occasion for her.


"Wow Freddy, you evolved! You look amazing!" Ruby cried, bouncing up and down ecstatically.


"Amazing? No darling, the word you're looking for is FABULOUS." Freddy preened, "I look better than ever! And look, I even have my own built-in guitar in this new body!" he said happily, strumming the knobs on his chest.


As he did so, they made a sound exactly like a rock guitar. It was clear he wouldn't need his old toy guitar anymore now he basically had a guitar on his chest he could play.


"Imagine how fabulous I'll look whenever I sing again in this new form." Freddy said brightly, "I'll certainly create an electrifying performance that no one will forget anytime soon."


"You sure will, especially as I already have a great idea on when I'm going to use you again!" Ruby cried eagerly, "An evolved poison type like you will be great to use in Opal's Gym later on. Do you know if you can evolve again or can Toxel only evolve once?" she asked.


"We only get one evolution, darling. That's it." Freddy answered, "We go from Toxel to Toxtricity, no more than that. A good thing too as I doubt anything could top THIS body I have now." he said, admiring himself all over again.


"Well I like you this way and I'm so proud of you for evolving Freddy!" Ruby cried gleefully, "Why don't you give the audience a song to wave us off before we leave this Gym?"


Freddy didn't need to wait to be asked twice. As if he'd turn down the chance to perform for an audience again! He began strumming the knobs on his chest, playing a new tune as he broke into a new song to entertain the audience. Kabu just watched him, his face blank but deep down, he was quite blown away by what a showman this Pokémon was.


"I see what Nessa meant when she said that Ruby has a Pokémon that likes to perform." he said to himself.


Ruby just danced along to Freddy's song, the heat of the arena no longer mattering to her. She was enjoying herself too much to care about it now. She'd gotten her third badge and a newly evolved Pokémon all in the span of a single morning! What better way to start the day off could there be than that?! She looked forward to seeing where her journey would take her next from here as she would soon be off to Stow-on-Side to take on the Ghost Gym…but not before making a return to the Wild Area as she would need to head to Hammerlocke first. With more of the Wild Area to explore once she arrived back there, she would be in for plenty of new Pokémon to catch…Pokémon that could aid her well in her next five Gym Battles…

______________________________________________________________________________


Pokemon evolved: Freddy the Toxel, now Freddy the Toxtricity

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