Knights of Galar: A Pokémon Shield Nuzlocke Chapter 14

Chapter 14: The Fourth Gym


Ruby and Hop had just come to the end of another friendly match and the battle had ended with a pleasant surprise for Ruby as another of her Pokémon was now evolving. She and Hop watched as the Pokémon emerged from its ball, still a dazzling ball of light so they couldn't see who it was yet. The crowd that had watched their battle earlier was equally as interested, wondering what Pokémon they were about to find themselves looking at. There was especially one member of the crowd who was taking a keen interest in the sight before them. The figure was dressed in a hooded poncho that obscured most of its face and had a pair of flip-flops on its feet. Its shapely, muscular legs were the only parts of the person that were uncovered by the poncho.


The white light finally began to take shape and Ruby smiled the biggest smile she'd ever done since the day she'd received her first Pokémon. It was an appropriate reaction as that was exactly who had just evolved! Bugs the Raboot was no longer a Raboot, his appearance completely different now he'd reached his final stage of evolution. He gave a big stretch, seemingly unaware of what had happened to him at first. He cricked his neck and flexed his arms.


"Hoo boy, does it feel good ta be outta dere for a moment!" Bugs cried, "I feel like I could run fer miles and still have enough in me ta play football! Curiously enough, I feel like something's changed about me. I mean, I feel alright but it's like I'm different somehow…"


He then noticed that Ruby was staring at him with the biggest smile he'd ever seen and her eyes dazzling as if she'd just discovered gold.


"Um…what's up, doc?" he asked.


"Isn't it obvious?!" Ruby exclaimed excitedly, "You evolved Bugs! You're a Cinderace now!"


"I evolved?!" Bugs exclaimed, only just realizing what had happened to him.


He looked himself over and surely enough, he had indeed changed from a Raboot to a Cinderace. He had a more humanoid appearance and had grown much taller than before, now actually the same height as his trainer. His torso, arms and most of his head were white with a tuft of red sticking out from his forehead. His ears were much larger than before, as was the fur on his cheeks and he had thick, powerful legs with red thighs and blue lower-legs and feet with the toes being red like his thighs. He looked like he'd be able to kick a telephone pole in half with how powerful his legs looked. He had a navy patch of fur over his shoulders that connected at the chest. This colour combination made him look as if he were dressed from the waist up with the rest of him being bare. If he was a human, that was probably how he would look. Bugs beamed with excitement, already loving his new body.


"Holy galoshes, I look amazing!" he exclaimed, "Look at me! I'm much bigger and I feel like I could kick a meteor back in ta outer space! I can feel da fires burning deep inside me, bigger den any fire I've ever had before! I can't wait ta test my new self in battle!"


He hopped up and down excitedly, itching to show off what he could in this form.


"Neither can I!" Ruby said enthusiastically, "I've been so excited to see you as a Cinderace and here you are! Oh Bugs, I'm so proud of you!"


She proceeded to throw her arms around her newly evolved Pokémon, embracing him tightly and earning a chorus of "aww" from the crowd. Even Hop smiled tenderly at the sweet moment before him. It was truly a picture perfect example of the loving, strong bonds between trainer and Pokémon. All trainers loved seeing their Pokémon fully evolved as it truly felt as if their bond and training had brought the Pokémon to its peak. Ruby had trained Bugs well and it had rewarded her with him reaching his final stage. The caped figure looked impressed at what it had seen too, eyeing Bugs up with clear interest.


"I won't be using you just yet as I'm up against the Ghost Gym next, but I know that you'll get a chance to show your might as you are now." Ruby said eagerly, "I have a feeling you're going to blow everyone away Bugs."


"I think "set everything alight" would be a more fitting metaphor fer me, but OK." Bugs chuckled, "You could use me when we get to da Ice Gym later in da circuit. I'd be great in dat Gym!"


"My thoughts exactly." Ruby said.


"Hey Bugs, congrats on evolving!" Hop said, deciding to chip in and offer his own words of congrats for Bugs, "I can't wait until my Thwackey evolves and then both me and Ruby will have a fully evolved-starter each!"


"Thanks Hop, and good luck on Thwackey reaching his final stage too." Bugs said kindly, "I'd like ta see how a fight between us in our fully evolved forms would go." he added, winking.


"You got it!" Hop said, winking back, "Thanks again for the battle Ruby and good luck in the Ghost Gym! I've held you up long enough so I think I'd best get on my way and let you go now. I'll be right in after you've won your Ghost badge!"


"Thanks Hop. I'll see you whenever." Ruby said brightly, "And I hope you win the Ghost badge too."


The two friends shared one last hug together before Hop turned on his heels and made his way over to the nearby Pokémon Centre. He'd want to give his Pokémon time to heal so they'd be fighting fit for Allister's Gym. As soon as he went, Ruby returned the newly evolved Bugs to his ball and put it back in her bag. After obtaining a new evolution, she was feeling very good about herself and was all pumped up for the Gym battle awaiting her. She wondered what kind of Ghost Pokémon she'd be up against when she went inside. But just as she was making her way towards the Gym, the cloaked figure approached her from behind and cleared her throat.


"Greetings. I wish to congratulate you on your Pokémon evolving." the figure said, speaking in a clearly female voice.


Ruby gasped and spun around, surprised to see the figure before her.


"Gah! Don't scare me like that! I thought that's what Allister was for! He's the Ghost Gym Leader after all!" Ruby exclaimed.


"My apologies." the figure said quickly, "I just wanted to offer my congrats, is all. So you're the next Gym Challenger who'll be facing Allister?"


"Yes, why do you want to know?" Ruby asked suspiciously.


"As this is a day where he runs the Gym, I take my days off to interact with Gym Challengers and get to mingle with the populace for a bit." the figure explained, "I have to be secretive as you can see as it's hard to enjoy my downtime when everyone's watching me, especially when I just want to enjoy a bag of sweets in peace."


"Wait a minute…" Ruby said curiously, her brain whirring as she was struck be a realization.


She nearly blurted the name out but she remembered that the figure had said she had to be secretive so she kept her mouth shut. Instead, Ruby leaned in and whispered.


"You're Bea, aren't you?"


"The karate prodigy herself." the girl replied, pulling her hood back slightly so Ruby could see her face.


Bea had a round, cutesy face that made it surprising for anyone who saw her that she was actually a karate master who was the leader of the Fighting Gym and was exclusive to those who held a Sword pass. Ruby recognized the grey eyes and stern, disciplined expression that she always sported with her only expressing true emotions when with her partner Pokémon. It was said that when she smiled, she had a very pleasant one, though very few had seen it. It was funny how Ruby had just moments ago been wishing she could've challenged her and now she was actually talking to the Fighting Gym Leader herself! Ruby was tempted to go all fangirl and gush over her as Bea was one of her favourite Gym Leaders but she could see Bea was serious about wanting to remain anonymous. The fact she lacked her trademark knee pads and was wearing only a cloak said as much. Instead, Ruby kept herself calm and talked quietly so nobody would hear her. It was surprising to Ruby that Bea wasn't that much taller than herself despite being older than her.


"It's great to meet you, though I guess in your case, you'd say "it's an honour"." she said softly, "I'm a big fan of yours and your fights tend to be my favourite to watch on TV. I'm afraid I won't be facing you as I have a Shield pass, but it's still great I got to meet you!"


"I appreciate the compliments." Bea said graciously, a small smile appearing on her lips, "I've heard much about you, fellow challenger. You're Ruby Silverlock, the new rising star of the Gym Challenge. I wish I could see your skills in battle myself as I bet a fight with you would be a legendary one."


"Maybe I'll get lucky in the future and get an exhibition match with you." Ruby said thoughtfully, "I'd love the chance to get a good throw down match with your awesome Machamp! That's a Pokémon I've always wanted to either battle or catch for myself!"


"I'm sure my Machamp would be flattered to hear that." Bea said brightly, "I won't hold you up any longer Ruby. I just thought I'd catch you up before you went in to face Allister. While my Fighting Pokémon give many trainers a challenge, his Ghost Pokémon can be just as formidable. I wish you the best of luck in there."


One of her hands emerged from inside the poncho and she handed something to Ruby. The teen trainer took it. It was a simple bar of chocolate, this particular brand being one of Bea's favourites. It still impressed Ruby that someone who took fitness very seriously like Bea had a secret sweet tooth.


"Just a token of thanks for not giving me away." Bea said, winking, "I hope we get to battle one day Ruby. I shall see you whenever our paths cross again."


She concluded their meeting by bowing politely, to which Ruby decided to mirror as she thought it would be good manners of her to bow as well. Bea then turned and headed back into the market square, pulling her hood up so her face was obscured again. She was quickly swallowed up by the crowd, no one noticing that one of their Gym Leaders was literally among them. Ruby stood there clutching the chocolate bar as if she'd been handed a bar of gold. It was amazing to think that despite having a pass that meant she wouldn't get to face Bea at all, she still got the chance to meet her. This was one moment among many on her Pokémon journey that she was going to cherish forever. Maybe the next time they met, they'd get to battle and show off their Pokémon's strengths to each other. Smiling brightly, Ruby headed off into the Stow-on-Side Stadium.

__________________________________________________________________________________


Later on, Ruby had made her way into the stadium and was now in the changing rooms getting herself ready for the Gym Challenge. She was all dressed in her Gym Challenger uniform and was now picking the perfect team of Pokémon to go up against Allister. As a Ghost-type specialist, she would need any Pokémon that knew either Ghost or Dark attacks and she remembered from watching the Gym Challenge on TV that Allister's strongest Pokémon was half-poison type, which made it susceptible to Psychic attacks so at least one Pokémon with a Psychic attack would be a good idea too. In the end, she selected a team consisting of Gene, Sparkles, Raven, Lancelot, Houdini and Hawk Moth. She had her chosen six out of their Pokéballs for the moment so she could discuss tactics with them.


"OK guys, this is it, our fourth Gym battle." Ruby announced, "I'm proud of everyone for the fact we've made it this far and now we're going to get even further! I've picked you all especially because you're either a type that's super-effective against Ghosts," she looked over at Raven, Lancelot and Gene, "Or at least has type-coverage to handle Ghosts." she looked over at Houdini, Hawk Moth and Sparkles, "So with you guys as my team for this Gym, I'm confident we're going to win."


"I hope this time, I'll find someone to akumatize while we're here…" Hawk Moth purred, stroking the top of his cane with a sinister look in his large, red eyes.


"I won't let you down Ruby! I'll bust those Ghosts for you!" Sparkles declared, her body crackling with electricity.


"I swear, if one of you dares to sing that "Ghostbusters" song while we're here, I'll haunt you all till the day you die." Raven muttered, rolling her eyes.


"Nah, too obvious." Gene agreed, "Although I've always wanted ta say "I ain't afraid of no ghosts"!" he added, folding his front limbs."


Ruby giggled.


"Well I'm glad you're all ready for this." she said appreciatively, "OK, let's get out in that stadium and give Allister a…"


She suddenly stopped as she saw something move in the corner of her eye. She turned and saw that Lancelot was rummaging through her backpack, clearly looking for something. The Dark/Steel type Pokémon fumbled through the bag and seemed to be eating something for Ruby could hear him crunching away inside. She darted over to the backpack.


"Lancelot, what are you doing in there?" she asked.


Lancelot poked his head out the bag and looked up at his trainer.


"My apologies, honourable trainer. I was merely seeking out the EXP candies you collected back in the Dynamax Dens." he explained, "I just wanted to make sure I was strong enough to assist you in battle."


"How much do you eat?" Ruby asked, her voice etched with concern.


"You had a whole box full of medium candies. I ate the whole box." Lancelot replied.


"Oh Lancelot, why did you do that?!" Ruby cried, "Those were meant for EVERYONE, not just you! And because of how much you ate, I bet you'll be too over levelled for me to use you in this Gym now!"


The moment she'd finished that sentence, Lancelot's body suddenly burst into an explosion of white light that engulfed him and everyone in the room stared in awe as they watched the magical process happen. Ruby hadn't expected to be seeing this happen again so shortly after Bugs evolved but here she was, watching yet another Pokémon evolve. The stash of EXP Medium candies that Ruby had collected had levelled Lancelot up so much that he was now changing from a Pawniard to a Bisharp. As the light died down, Lancelot admired himself all over, thrilled with his new appearance.


Bisharp was a grey and red steel-coated Pokémon with a huge gold and silver blade on its helmet, pointed shoulders, blades on its forearms, flipper like hands with thumbs so they could pick things up, a pair of blades in its stomach as if somebody had shoved them in there and hadn't been able to take them back out again, thick thighs and cloven hoof-like feet. Bisharp looked like powerful knights and as they were often the leader of Pawniard packs in the wild, they certainly had the appearance of a powerful leader. Lancelot smiled with pleasure, already loving his new appearance.


"Yes…look at me now! I'm now a mighty Bisharp! I'll be much stronger and faster than before and my armour will no doubt protect me from the biggest of attacks!" the newly evolved Pokémon cried excitedly, "No opponent will be a match for me now!"


Ruby was in a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, it was wonderful to see her latest catch fully evolved into a Bisharp. She knew that it would be great to use in battle due to its great strength and high attack stats. On the other hand, Pawniard evolve at Level FIFTY-FIVE! If Lancelot had gobbled up enough EXP candies to the point he evolved, then he was way too strong to use in Allister's Gym. His strongest Pokémon was only level thirty-six and she only had three Gym badges. With those three, Pokémon up to Level Fifty would obey her, but Lancelot was over that level. If she tried using him now, he'd be disobedient and it would likely cost her the fight. As much as it annoyed her, she would have to save Lancelot for later.


"It's great that you evolved Lancelot, but now you're too over-levelled. I can't use you in this Gym battle." Ruby muttered, "I'm sorry, I really did want to use you, but I'm gonna have to box you for now."


Lancelot looked disappointed to hear this.


"And I was hoping that I'd get a chance to show off my new power as a Bisharp." he sighed.


"Don't worry, you'll get your chance when we reach Wyndon Stadium!" Ruby said cheerfully, "I know your strength will be very useful there against some really strong opponents as we fight our way towards Leon for the championship title! Don't feel too bad about it Lancelot, I'll bring you out again when it's the right time to do so."


She then returned Lancelot to his ball and used the Pokémon Box Link to send the ball away to a box at Magnolia's lab. At least she knew Magnolia would take good care of him in the meantime. She'd been doing a wonderful job looking after any Pokémon that was boxed at the time so Lancelot would be in good hands. Now that was done, Ruby put the Box link back in her bag and turned to her other Pokémon.


"Ok, so we're going in with one Pokémon less than I'd hoped to go in with." the silver-haired trainer said grimly, "It's OK though, I'm confident we can still win regardless. All of you will be strong enough to win that Gym battle!"


"Yeah, we will be!" Sparkles cheered, "Let's get this party started!"


"I feel sufficiently primed for this forthcoming Pokémon battle." Houdini said, spreading his wings, "And I hope that it'll be a challenge worthy of my prodigious power for once. I feel as if I haven't had a significant challenge since I was recruited to be a part of this team."


"Be careful what you wish for Houdini." Ruby warned, "You might regret it later. OK everyone, let's get that fourth Gym badge!" she cried excitedly.


Her Pokémon cheered with her. They were ready to go and no Ghost Pokémon was going to stand in their way, no matter how creepy they were…

__________________________________________________________________________________


It only took a matter of minutes for Ruby to make her way into the arena for her battle against Allister.


Having selected her team, Ruby went up against the usual Gym Challengers that served as obstacles to overcome before the main event. She'd gone up against three trainers named Clive, Lynne and Roy respectively and despite having an interesting selection of Pokémon to battle, not one of them had managed to give Ruby a serious battle. In fact, nearly every battle had ended in a one-hit KO for Ruby with only one of her Pokémon ever actually taking a hit, not that it mattered as Raven the Haunter took the blow no problem. Even so, she'd given her a potion just so she'd be fighting at full strength.


When trainers fought in the Stow-on-Side Gym, there were two doors to go through. One had Bea's Gym Logo on it and the other had Allister's Gym Logo. The doors would lock depending on who was running the Gym at the time, leaving only the one door open for said Gym Leader. Bea's door was obviously locked and wouldn't open until tomorrow when it was her turn to run the Gym again for the Sword pass Trainers. Upon entering through the Ghost door, Ruby had found herself walking through a room that looked as if it was made by somebody who was too obsessed with Halloween for his own good. The walls were all a ghoulish purple colour just like the colours of the Stadium outside and there were decorations everywhere from Frankenstein hands to Jack-o-Lanterns that made everyone think they were being watched by a bunch of Pumpkaboo as they walked through and of course, lots of ghosts.


Upon fighting the Gym Challengers, Ruby could've sworn she heard voices throughout the room and kept looking over her shoulder to see what was making the noise. What made it even creepier was the fact no one was actually there…or so it seemed. She still couldn't shake off the feeling that for some reason, she was being watched. She was even sure she'd spotted a Gastly lurking in the shadows somewhere. Steeling her nerves, Ruby pressed on.


"Come on Ruby, it's the GHOST Gym, you should expect to see Ghost Pokémon about!" she muttered, "Don't let it get to you!"


She kept those words in her mind as she made her way into the arena to take on the main man himself…or boy in Allister's case. The arena had the same dark purple walls and floors that the previous room had and the centre of the floor had what looked to be a dark sun symbol, a grim metaphor for how Ghost Pokémon had dark, mysterious powers and were often known to lurk in the shadows preying on unsuspecting trainers. Ruby took her position and watched as the very Gym Leader she had come to face came creeping out to take his position.


She was amazed at the fact that Allister was clearly still a child. All the other Gym Leaders were adults, but not this one. He looked barely older than ten, yet he was the next Gym Leader with whom she was competing for her next badge for! It just went to show that Pokémon trainers of any age could be skilled and worthy opponents.


Allister was deathly pale, looking almost like a ghost himself with how white he appeared. It was a sharp contrast to the tanned, darker look of Bea, along with the fact that she was an adult while he was a child. The two Gym Leaders couldn't be more opposite each other! The Ghost Gym Leader was dressed in a long-sleeved black and purple shirt, matching shorts, a black and purple glove on his left hand, suggesting that unlike most Gym Leaders he was left handed, white ankle-length boots and most visually unique of all, his trademark mask. The mask was white and had three holes for his eyes and mouth respectively and it looked as if it was hollowed out from a Corsola shell. It was a fitting feature as Corsola in the Galar region were Ghost types instead of Water types like their Johto counterparts. Nobody had ever seen what he looked like without it. Allister was notorious for being very shy, which was probably why he wore a mask to begin with as he clearly didn't feel comfortable without it.


Ruby had noticed that the way he walked matched his status as a Ghost Gym leader. His movements were loose and slow, his arms hanging down as he walked. He looked like a zombie with these movements. He eyed Ruby up curiously through his masked eyes.


"Pretty girl…you're my next challenger…h-here I go…" he droned.


Ruby shuddered uneasily. The way Allister spoke was even like that of a ghost, low-pitched and ominous as if he was warning a foolish mortal to go away or they would die. She also wasn't comfortable being called "pretty" by this boy. She nevertheless did her best to remain polite as she didn't want to lose good faith by being rude to a Gym Leader.


"My name is Ruby Silverlock, and I'm here for the Ghost badge." the girl from Postwick declared, "I hope to give you a good battle, Allister."


"Good battle…yes, good battle. My Ghosts always give good battle…they tell me as such when I sleep…" Allister droned again, his voice cryptic and unsettling.


Ruby was starting to see why this kid was the Ghost Gym Leader. He was as spooky as a Ghost Pokémon! But she could see that he wasn't being malicious in how he was acting and he wasn't going out of his way to try and scare her. She even wondered if it might be an act to put up with his shy nature. Perhaps it boosted his confidence putting up a front like this instead of being himself when there were so many people watching in the crowds of his Gym Battles. The town-based girl breathed in and out slowly to put herself in a state of calm so she could prepare herself for the battle as the announcer's voice introduced her and Allister to the audience.


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


Ruby wasn't surprised to receive much applause as many of the audience members recognized her as the rising new hot-shot trainer that was quickly becoming the one to look out for with three easy victories on the trot with not a single Pokémon defeated on her part. She noticed that for the audience members that supported Allister, they made ghost noises rather than actually cheering and applauding, creating an unusual sound that dominated the atmosphere of the arena as there was a mixture of cheers and people going "whooooooo". Ruby imagined this is what a sports event in a graveyard might sound like. Allister clearly seemed to enjoy it though.


"Those cheers…for me…like the ghosts that haunt us all are on my side…" he purred.


"I think that boy's been hanging around too many cemeteries…" Ruby said uneasily.


"Pokémon Trainers: Standby." the announcer declared.


The audience fell as silent as a grave as they anticipated the beginning of the battle. Ruby kept a listen out just to see if any ghosts were hanging around now that it was quiet enough to hear them. She half-expected a Gengar to show up from nowhere and give her a fright. But nothing happened. If there were any ghosts around like she expected, maybe they decided not to scare anybody so they could sit back and enjoy the show. Then the countdown began.


"Three…Two…One…BEGIN!"


"Pretty girl now fights for the Ghost badge…" Allister droned, his stance hunched over with his arms drooping as if he was a ghoul lurking in the woods waiting for his next victim, "Give her a good battle like we promised…"


He drew a Dusk Ball, appropriate for the Ghost-type Gym Leader, and he held it delicately in both hands, still maintaining his hunched over, zombie like stance.


"Yamask, haunt my opponent!" he cried, the first time since Ruby had come into the arena that he actually raised his voice below a haunting drone.


He tossed the ball into the air limply with both hands and out came his first Pokémon. Yamask was a Pokémon native to the Unova region, but this version that he owned was exclusive to Galar. The traditional appearance of Yamask was that of a shadow-like Pokémon with tendril-like arms, red eyes and a tail-like appendage holding a golden mask. The creepy fact about Yamask is that the mask it held was actually something containing the face it once had when it was a human. This disturbing fact implied that Yamask were Ghost Pokémon that had originally been humans before they'd died and somehow come back as a Pokémon. They would display great anger at their mask being taken away or lost in any circumstances.


None of this applied to the Galarian variant of Yamask in which it had purple eyes instead of red and held a piece of an ancient clay tablet instead of a mask. Said tablet piece was directly attached to its tail rather than held like its Unovan counterpart and the complete tablet the piece came from was said to have cursed engravings that absorbed Yamask's dark powers. Another difference between the two Yamasks was that the Galarian Yamask had a different evolved form to the Unovan version. Allister had said evolution but he wouldn't be using it here as Ruby only had three badges. Gym Leaders had Pokémon teams of varying levels depending on how many badges they had and Allister's team was for trainers with three badges so Ruby wouldn't be facing his evolved Yamask here in the Gym. She would be facing Yamask as it was for this one.


The teen trainer eyed up her opponent and drew out her first Pokéball, knowing exactly who to use to take it down.


"This one should be a piece of cake." Ruby declared, "Raven, you're up first!"


She threw the ball and out came Raven the Haunter, looking as deadpan as ever as if this whole thing was nothing interesting to her whatsoever. Not even the sound of the audience excitedly cheering for the battle that was about to commence could stir up any feelings for her. She just took one look around and shrugged.


"So that's what a Gym battle looks like. Don't see why everyone has to get so excited about it." Raven muttered, "Looks the same as a standard Pokémon battle to me."


"It pretty much is, minus the stadium and the huge crowd watching along with us being allowed to Dynamax at the first available opportunity." Ruby explained, "Let's start off with Shadow Ball! Go for it!" she commanded.


Raven obeyed, conjuring up a black and purple ball of energy between her floating hands as if she was a magician about to perform a magic trick. Allister watched with keen interest, excited to see that his challenger also had a Ghost Pokémon. This was definitely going to be a fun contest, especially as Ghost Pokémon were super-effective against each other, meaning ANYONE could win in this match!


"Azarath…Metrion…ZINTHOS!" Raven cried, launching the Shadow Ball at Yamask.


The shadowy Pokémon was completely helpless to stand up to its opponent as the Shadow Ball slammed into it, its dark energy draining away all its health in a single blow and making sure that this particular ghost wouldn't be hiding in anyone's closets for a while. The Yamask collapsed onto the floor, the tile attached to its tail the only part of it making any sound whatsoever as its body wasn't solid. It lay still, completely unable to fight back. Allister's face was unreadable due to his mask though Ruby imagined he was disappointed that his first Pokémon had gone down so easily.


"Yamask is unable to battle, Haunter is the winner!" the announcer barked.


"Pretty girl has powerful Pokémon…the spirits of the afterlife are strong with you…" Allister murmured, returning his Yamask.


"I wouldn't say that really. I've just trained my Pokémon well and helped them get strong." Ruby said modestly.


She wasn't one to believe that somehow, spirits from beyond were helping her in anyway. The Postwick girl waited to see who Allister would bring out next. She imagined Yamask was just a warm-up and the real power of his team was about to come. The child Gym Leader took out his next Dusk Ball, throwing it again in that same limp motion.


"Cursola, haunt my opponent!" he cried.


The ball opened up and a blob of black and purple energy escaped from inside to materialize into the spooky form of Cursola. Cursola was the evolved form of the Galarian version of Corsola, which Ruby had seen earlier when facing the Gym Challengers. While the Johto Corsola thrived happily and were common Water type Pokémon to find, Galarian Corsola were Ghost Pokémon with a very tragic story to them. Due to pollution in the oceans, the species had died out and the Ghost-versions of Corsola that roamed Galar were a grim reminder on what damage pollution did to the environment. Many trainers felt sorry for these Pokémon and loved catching them to give them happier lives to try and make them feel better after their unfortunate deaths. While Johto Corsola couldn't evolve, Galarian Corsola could, presumably some kind of power given to them by becoming Ghost types.


Cursola looked like a Corsola that had broken out of its shell, an ectoplasmic body extended up from the shell and forming branch-like appendages around its head. It had stubby arms and the face of its pre-evolved form. It was a chalk white in appearance and the ectoplasmic body was see-through. Ruby stared at her opponent thoughtfully, wondering if she should risk using Raven against it. Raven was strong but unlike Yamask, she was now facing a fully evolved Pokémon. Cursola's power could be enough to take a hit and then dish it back even harder to take Raven out. No, better to save her for later and use someone else. She had just the Pokémon for the job as she returned Raven and drew her next Pokéball out.


"You won't be cursing this one." Ruby said determinedly, "Gene, it's your time to shine!"


She threw the ball and out came the quirky Gene the Linoone. He stood up on his hind legs and grinned enthusiastically, glad to be in a Gym battle once again.


"Alright, I'm in a Gym battle! Time to show everyone what the Linoone-meister is capable of! Whoo!" Gene cried.


The crowd grew more excited upon seeing the black-and-white badger-like Pokémon. Some of them recognized him from his awesome victory over Nessa's Drednaw back in Hulbury so they knew they were in for a great battle to watch this time. Gene got down on all fours and gritted his teeth, awaiting his trainer's commands.


"Gene, use Night Slash!" Ruby ordered.


"One Night Slash, coming up M'Lady!" Gene cried, his front claws glowing with dark energy.


He bounded towards Cursola on all fours and raked his claws across the ghostly form of his ectoplasmic opponent. Cursola winced, the Night Slash dealing damage and sapping some of its health but despite the attack, it hadn't gone down yet. Its form remained as it was, wobbling around like some hideous puppet and it narrowed its eyes in determination. Gene braced himself, annoyed that his opponent was still standing. He was sure that Cursola wouldn't have anything that could do him serious harm but with Ghost Pokémon, you couldn't be too careful.


"Cursola, Curse him…" Allister commanded.


That proved to be a huge mistake for the Gym Leader. Cursola waved its branches and arms around, purple energy dancing around its head as it began to form and then it pointed all its limbs at Gene. The energy was sent rushing towards Gene and it swept over him. Gene didn't feel anything but that wasn't the point of Curse. The pain could come later for him as Curse was an attack that sapped away health with every turn that lasted on the field. Unfortunately, it had a crippling side-effect for Ghost Pokémon. Whenever they used Curse…it sapped their health away too, a literal sacrifice to make the attack work. Cursola had taken heavy damage from Gene and using Curse had just sapped away whatever health it had left. This ended up making it look as if it had committed suicide just to try and beat Gene. Allister hadn't expected that Cursola would run out of health after applying the Curse. He thought that his Pokémon would've held on at the last minute. He watched as Cursola's ghostly body shrunk back into its shell, its face looking up at the ceiling in disappointment. Maybe next time, it would get to score a victory over someone.


"Cursola is unable to battle, Linoone is the winner!" the announcer declared.


"How often does one win a Pokémon battle because the opponent defeated itself?" Ruby gasped, running a hand over her hair in astonishment. She'd certainly never seen this before and hadn't had any opponent lose to her like this!


"I guess this is a literal case of "knocking yourself out"." Gene remarked.


Allister returned Cursola and took out his third Dusk Ball.


"An unfortunate turnout…this one will make a turnaround…" he said vacantly, "Mimikyu, haunt my opponent!"


He threw the ball and out came one of the creepiest Pokémon that ever existed. It was the Ghost/Fairy type Pokémon originally found in the Alola region known as Mimikyu. Mimikyu was said to be a really lonely Pokémon that just wanted to make friends, so it would disguise itself as a Pikachu to try and win people over. The disguise ironically enough made it look creepy instead of endearing. It was simply wearing a rag with a smiley face drawn on a wooden stick shaped like a Pikachu's tail. What was even creepier about Mimikyu was that anyone that saw its true form underneath the disguise would suffer misfortune later in life, hence why it was so lonely as no one dared to hang around it. The disguise at least made it possible to be with people without hurting them. Ruby had fond memories of Mimikyu, remembering them as a fun, spooky ghost story that her dad liked to tell around Halloween to get into the mood. She'd even dressed up as one when going trick-or-treating one time, only for Emerald and Sapphire to mistake a real Mimikyu for her and get a real scare when they realized their mix-up. At least no harm had been done and they ended up getting a good laugh out of it. Fighting this Pokémon would be like seeing her childhood again, this time in a Pokémon battle and not during trick-or-treating.


"A Mimikyu, huh? This will be fun." she thought, returning Gene to his ball, "It's part Fairy type so it's best to save Gene for later. It's risky, but Raven might be able to handle it."


She knew Mimikyu were pretty strong Pokémon despite their unassuming appearance so it could potentially give Raven a tough battle but she didn't have anything else that would be super-effective against the disguised Pokémon. Nobody in her team had any Steel or Poison attacks so it was best for her to use Raven to take advantage of its Ghost-type weakness. Ruby summoned Raven to the arena again, the Haunter looking genuinely surprised that she was out again so soon. She eyed up her opponent, the Mimikyu staring blankly back at her with its disguise's unblinking, scrawled on eyes.


"Hello little Pokémon…will you play with me?" it cooed to her in a creepy, sing-song voice.


"Ugh, I'd rather get Shadow Punched by a Golurk than play with you." Raven shuddered, "Even for a Ghost Pokémon like me, you're unnerving!"


"Don't let it creep you out Raven. We can do this!" Ruby said confidently, "Use Shadow Ball!"


"Baby-Doll Eyes…" Allister commanded in response.


Mimikyu moved first, its Baby-Doll Eyes attack always moving first when it came to certain moves that could be learnt. A pair of eyes conjured themselves up from nowhere and stared at Raven, weeping profusely in front of her as if trying to make her feel sad and guilty over what was about to happen. The move lowered her Attack stats, a blue aura sweeping down over Raven as it happened. This was meaningless to her as Raven was a Special Attacker, not a Physical Attacker and she was using a Special Attack move so Shadow Ball's power remained unaffected. The ball of purple and black energy slammed into Mimikyu, knocking it back slightly and sending the head of its disguise flapping around wildly. Thankfully, the disguise didn't fall off. Mimikyu straightened itself up, though the head of its disguise flopped to one side, making it look like an undead creature that had had its neck broken at some point. Ruby shuddered. Did her opponent even feel any pain from that attack or had it just taken it and not registered what had happened? The Mimikyu swayed vacantly from side-to-side.


"You hurt me…I'll hurt you back for that…" it sang.


But it didn't get to do so for Allister ordered the Ghost/Fairy Pokémon to use Baby-Doll Eyes again. Ruby had to wonder why as surely Allister knew it wasn't actually doing anything to Raven. An experienced Gym Leader like him had to realize that! Then again, he was only a child so he was bound to be more prone to making mistakes than the other Gym Leaders. He hadn't been doing this for as long as the others due to his young age so he wouldn't be as experienced. Mimikyu's Baby-Doll Eyes came and went and like last time, it did nothing to Raven as Ruby ordered her to use another Shadow Ball. Raven did just that and the Mimikyu wasn't able to withstand a second onslaught. The Shadow Ball hit and the creepy Pokémon was brought down to the floor, its disguise slumping as it keeled over. The only sound that could be heard was one last sing-song as it drifted into unconsciousness.


"Oh dear, oh dear, I wasn't strong enough to fight it off. Maybe next time, next time, I'll get them back…"


"I hope there won't be a "next time"." Raven said grimly, "Just facing that thing ONCE was enough."


"I dunno, I think it's kinda cute with how weirdly ominous it is." Ruby said, sweat-dropping nervously.


"Mimikyu is unable to battle, Haunter is the winner!" came the electronic announcement once again.


"My very last Pokémon…how lonely…how frightening…" Allister groaned, sounding more like a ghost than ever as he withdrew his defeated Mimikyu.


Ruby braced herself, knowing this last Pokémon could be anything. She hadn't watched many battles with Allister on TV so she didn't know what his ace was. Allister threw his last Dusk Ball into the air and Ruby soon got her answer as the black and purple energy materialized into the form of the ever common and extremely popular Ghost/Poison type Pokémon…the haunting, always grinning Gengar.


Gengar was a purple coloured Pokémon with pinkish-red eyes and small arms and legs, a tail, large pointy ears and a spiky back. Gengar was the fully evolved form of Haunter and the final stage in the Gastly line. They were known to be mischievous pranksters but otherwise weren't malicious by nature. With their big smiles and sinister look in their eyes, they always came across as a Pokémon that nobody wanted to mess with. They were found in practically all Pokémon regions and some versions of Gengar were capable of Mega-Evolution if the trainer had the right item to use on them. This Gengar wouldn't be doing so but that didn't matter as it had another kind of super-powered form it could use instead.


Seeing Gengar felt like an act of mockery from Allister as Ruby hadn't evolved Raven into a Gengar of her own yet. They were only capable of evolving by being traded and she hadn't found anyone to trade with so Raven was stuck as a Haunter for now. She was sure that she could still take it down regardless, but knew that using Raven would be suicide against her evolved form. She returned the Ghost/Poison type and drew out the second Pokéball she'd used earlier.


"Gotta go with a guaranteed win here." Ruby declared, "Gene, show this Gengar that he hasn't got a ghost of a chance!"


Some of the audience members groaned at the terrible pun but Ruby didn't care. She'd always wanted to say that as it was so gloriously corny to say that how could she not? The ball was thrown and Gene the Linoone was back on the field for a second outing. Gene took one look at the Gengar and he arched his back in a battle-ready pose, knowing that this last opponent was no laughing matter.


"Ooooh, a Gengar! Mean customer that is! They love haunting people and pranking them out of their hides!" he growled, "This one ain't gonna creep ME out!"


"It sure won't as we're going to Dynamax and take it out!" Ruby declared, "Get ready Gene, it's time for you to grow!"


She held his Pokéball out and her hair started to glow once more as the Dynamax energy in the stadium surrounded her wrist and made the Pokéball grow in her hand. Allister had the same idea, holding his Dusk Ball out and activating his Dynamax band.


"Gengar…Gigantamax…Swallow everything in darkness…" he said hauntingly.


Both opponents waited until their Pokéballs had grown to the sufficient size and then they threw them into the air. Both Gene and Gengar grew to twice their normal size, towering over their trainers and the audience and making them whoop excitedly as they knew the battle was going to get real for this final match. While Gene simply grew bigger, Gengar changed in appearance as he grew in size. Like Kabu's Centiskorch, it was capable of Gigantamaxing and Ruby stared open-mouthed as she saw for the first time in her life what a Gigantamaxed Gengar looked like. It's body was much bigger than before and it looked like it was coming up from the floor, its arms and hands separate from its body. Its mouth was a gaping maw with its tongue hanging out as if it was about to swallow everything in the arena whole. It made Ruby think of the Cave of Wonders from the Aladdin stories she'd read when she was younger. She half-imagined that she could walk inside this Pokémon and somehow find a magical lamp inside.


"Wow…that's incredible!" she exclaimed, "So that's a Gigantamax Gengar…"


"It looks really silly with its mouth open like that!" Gene taunted, "How's about I shove something down its throat?!"


"No, no, don't do that!" Ruby cried frantically, "Use Max Darkness on it!"


"OK, coming up!" Gene boomed, his claws glowing with black and purple energy.


He raised his front legs as high as he could reach and then proceeded to throw them down, sending waves of dark energy towards the Gigantamax Gengar. Gengar was hit full on by the attack, grimacing as the dark energy swept over him and sapped away some of its energy. It felt like it was being hack away by evil magic that it was up against. Gengar wasn't a notoriously solid Pokémon, its defences not being the best out there, but it was still pretty tough. Gene's attack had done some damage, but hadn't taken it down yet. Maybe it was because Gene was a Stage 2 Pokémon and the Gengar was fully-evolved so Gene's power wasn't enough to knock it out in a single hit. The Gengar made a sound that Ruby could swear was meant to be laughter. Was it laughing as a way of mocking Gene for failing to knock it out? Or was it just trying to creep him out? Gene didn't seem bothered, the Dynamaxed Linoone remaining determined to win. Allister swayed as he commanded his ghostly giant to attack.


"Max Ooze…" he purred.


Gengar obeyed, waving his hands and sending a huge puddle of toxic slime spreading towards Gene. The toxic puddle struck him and Gene winced as he could feel the ooze stinging madly against his skin. It was corrosive to the touch, though it didn't leave permanent burns like acid would to a human, and it had a revolting smell that made Gene feel like throwing up. Despite this, he withstood the blow with minimal damage done to him. Poison attacks weren't too effective against him. It also hadn't done any additional damage such as poisoning him too so that was lucky. However, Max Ooze had another effect aside from potentially poisoning opponents. Ruby watched as a red wave of energy swept upwards from below Gengar and up to its head. Max Ooze had the secondary effect of rising Gigantamax Gengar's Special Attack when the move was used. Ruby wasn't sure what had happened, only that one of its stats had gone up.


"If its Defences or Attack stats went up, that could be troublesome…" she deduced, "Let's make this quick before it gets anymore stat boots. Gene, use another Max Darkness!"


Gene obeyed, sending another wave of dark energy towards his opponent. He cried out with enthusiastic glee as his attack hit the Gigantamax Gengar and, just as Ruby had hoped, diminished whatever health it had left. The Gengar's Dynamax energy wore out and it was returned to its normal size and form, collapsing onto the floor in defeat. Allister just stood there, unmoving as if trying to process what had happened. It had been a while since he'd lost a fight so he wasn't sure how to respond to that. At least Ruby couldn't see his face right now as he'd have been very uncomfortable with her seeing his disappointment. Gene returned to his normal size, gleeful at having had another chance at Dynamaxing in a battle and he sat up on his hind legs, grinning with pleasure.


"Now that's what I call Ghostbusting!" he crowed.


"You just had to, didn't you buddy?" Ruby giggled, patting his head softly.


"Someone had to say it." Gene retorted.


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


The audience exploded with joy, showing their congratulations and support for this new Gym Challenger as she had achieved yet another victory and was moving on up through the Gym Challenge. Ruby stood where she was, bursting with joy and unable to believe her incredible winning streak so far. FOUR Gyms won and without a single Pokémon defeated on her watch! Did anyone else have luck like her's?! It was clear she had the luck of Giratina on her side if she'd managed such a perfect winning streak so far! She had to wonder if Leon himself had ever been this lucky during his Gym Challenge that eventually led to his becoming champion. She and Allister met in the middle of the arena so that the winning trainer could be presented with her Ghost badge. It felt strange to her to be looking down at a Gym Leader for a change as Allister was the first Gym Leader who was younger and smaller than she was. Allister looked shyly up at Ruby through his masked eyes.


"You're strong…AND pretty…" he complimented, "Here…you've earned your Ghost badge."


He reached into his pocket and took out the fourth Gym badge that Ruby had earned so far. Ruby took it and looked at it admiringly. It was gold with a purple will-o-the-wisp image. The purple looked nice against the gold and Ruby had a feeling she'd be admiring this badge for a while. She shook hands with Allister, noticing how strangely cold his hand felt to the touch.


"Thank you! That was a great battle." Ruby said politely, "You maybe a little…um…unusual I'll say. But you gave me a fun battle. I bet you'll be even greater when you got older."


If Allister hadn't been wearing his mask at this moment, Ruby would see him blushing hard enough to make his head explode.


"Such a nice, pretty girl…" Allister replied bashfully, "Thank you. G-good luck! With…um…everything."


The two stopped shaking hands and Ruby turned to leave the stadium so she could set off for the next Gym. Allister turned and disappeared into the shadows of the arena so he could recuperate and have his Pokémon refreshed for his next battle…

__________________________________________________________________________________


Now she was back in her normal clothes and out the Stow-on-Side Stadium, Ruby was ready to make her way over to Ballonlea, the town that was just on the other side of a nearby forest from where she was now. The Fairy-type Gym was next on her map and she was keen to get there as soon as possible. She was feeling so good about herself at this moment. Four Gym badges and a perfect winning streak was enough to get anyone feeling like they could take on the world and win. She admired her four badges with pride, determined to treasure them forever. She could already imagine the last four badges joining them in her hands right now.


"I'm half way through the Gym Challenge already! How's that for good going?" Ruby said to herself, "This journey is just everything I hoped it'd be and more! I can't believe I'm doing so well! Oh my sisters are gonna love to hear this!"


She put her badges back in her pocket and was about to get her Rotom phone to call Emerald and Sapphire to let them know how she was doing until a voice called out to her.


"Hey Ruby! We've run into each other at a good time!"


Ruby looked up and her face brightened to see a familiar, friendly face coming towards her. It was Sonia once again, looking as cheerful as ever. Last time they'd seen each other, they'd been having dinner with Chairman Rose back in Hulbury Town.


"Hey Sonia! Guess what? I just won my fourth Gym badge!" Ruby cried excitedly, "I just finished my battle with Allister. I won first time and with no losses again!"


"Wow, really?! You're incredible, Ruby!" Sonia exclaimed, "You've dominated half the Gym Challenge and all without a single defeat to your name! I really can't congratulate you enough on such an incredible performance. You'll be right up in Wyndon Stadium facing Leon for the title before you know it!"


"I daren't imagine what that'll feel like…" Ruby gasped, her legs feeling like jelly just imagining it. How could she even think of challenging Leon at this stage when she was still a long way away yet?! She imagined she'd barely be able to contain herself in that stadium.


"So, what's going on with you?" the teen girl asked, "You seem pretty eager to be here."


"That's because I'm here to see the historical mural here." Sonia exclaimed, "You know the one, right?"


"Oh, you mean that thing that looks like it was painted by a six year old?" Ruby asked, "I still don't get why that's a historical relic honestly. I've seen better drawings from my sisters, and neither of them can draw!"


"Well, your opinions on it aside, it's said to tell the story of the hero in Galar." Sonia explained, "It's actually a replica of the ancient art that used to be there. I'd be interested to see what I can dig up from that. Do you want to come? It'll be interesting to see what insight you can provide if you see it."


Ruby shrugged.


"Don't see why not. Anything to aid your research, though I doubt I'll offer much." Ruby said casually, "How is it going by the way? Did you find anything interesting?"


"I was in the vault at Hammerlocke a few hours ago and I was enticed by a quartet of tapestries that told the story of the Darkest Day." Sonia explained, "I noticed a contradiction in how the hero of Galar is depicted as one person, but the tapestries depicted two heroes."


"Two heroes?" Ruby repeated, "So I guess the story of the Darkest Day isn't quite complete."


"Exactly!" Sonia cried, "Maybe the mural here will have some new details we can add to the legends…"


That was as far as she got before a sudden crashing sound was heard from further up ahead. Ruby and Sonia gasped and looked around wildly, wondering what had just happened. It sounded like a giant fist had punched the nearby mountain.


"What the hell was that?!" Ruby exclaimed.


"It sounded like it came from the direction of the ruins…" Sonia said, her voice full of shock, "Oh no…somebody must be trying to destroy the mural!"


Both girls darted off up the stairway that led to the mural to see what was happening. Upon reaching the site of the ruins, they both got a big surprise from what they saw, and in Ruby's case it was a very unpleasant one.


The mural was indeed being attacked by something. Someone had taken a Copperajah out and was using it to try and destroy the historical monument. Copperajah was a pure Steel type Pokémon resembling an elephant with some Indian elements to its appearance. It was green and orange in colour and had a gigantic trunk that could punch through solid walls with ease. It was another Pokémon capable of Gigantamaxing but nobody knew if this particular one could do so. The Copperajah pounded against the mural, its massive trunk leaving cracks in the stonework.


"Destroy it! Destroy it all so we can get those Wishing Stars!" cried a young boy with silver hair and a purple coat who was standing by the Copperajah.


Ruby's heart turned to ice as she saw that to her utter dismay, the boy that was commanding the Copperajah was Bede. Why couldn't that stuck-up asshole leave her alone?! Was she cursed to have him follow her through her journey?! She knew that Chairman Rose wouldn't approve of this but she had to get involved. This stubborn boy was wrecking a historical monument, a valuable tourist attraction for those that visited Stow-on-Side! How could she stand by and let him do this? Sonia looked equally as angered to see what was happening.


"OY!" Sonia yelled, "What do you think you're doing?! That mural's a relic of Stow-on-Side's ancient past! You can't just go wrecking it like that!"


Ruby was surprised that Sonia had been the first to speak rather than her. Bede turned around, alarmed at the sound of another voice and the Copperajah stopped what it was doing, suddenly looking very guilty as it knew it had been caught in the act. Bede narrowed his eyes as he caught sight of Ruby, ignoring Sonia entirely. If hatred had a face, it would look exactly like Bede's expression of pure loathing as he saw his leather-clad nemesis again.


"Oh for Arceus's sake…not YOU again!" he snarled, "Are you determined to make my life difficult everywhere I go on this journey? It's bad enough that I have to miss my chance to challenge the Ghost Gym because of you, I don't need you getting in my way again!"


"First of all, you getting banned from the Gym was YOUR fault, git-face!" Ruby retorted, "You're the twerp that tried to punch me! And second, we just happened to hear you wrecking the mural and came to stop you so chalk it up to an unhappy coincidence for you that I happened to be here!"


Sonia was outraged to hear what Ruby had said.


"You tried to PUNCH her?!" she exclaimed, "Shame on you! What on Earth gives you the right to threaten violence towards another Gym Challenger?"


"You stay out of this, carrot-top." Bede snarled, "This doesn't concern you."


"Oy, don't talk to Sonia like that!" Ruby growled, "Now you have two choices: you can sod off and save yourself from getting into more trouble or you can stay around and get your arse kicked! I'd pick the first option if I were you. I doubt your precious endorser will approve of you wrecking an ancient relic of historical interest."


Bede just smiled smugly.


"He won't care about the stupid mural when I deliver to him a bunch of Wishing Stars that are behind it." he crooned, "And you're more pathetic than I thought if you think I'm gonna turn down the chance to teach you a lesson for all the humiliation you've ever caused me! We're gonna settle this with one last Pokémon battle…YOUR last that is!"


"Be my guest. You'll only have yourself to blame if you get in even more trouble." Ruby said coldly.


"Quite right." Sonia agreed, "Teach that horrible boy a lesson Ruby! Show him that being endorsed by the Chairman doesn't exempt him from rules and regulations!"


Ruby was all too happy to do so, drawing out her first Pokéball and staring Bede down with a look of pure venom in her eyes. She'd had enough of this impudent boy and she was going to put a stop to his atrocious actions once and for all…

__________________________________________________________________________________


Pokemon evolved: Bugs the Raboot, now Bugs the Cinderace


Lancelot the Pawniard, now Lancelot the Bisharp.

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