Chapter 15: Behind the Mural
Sonia watched intently as Ruby and Bede sent out their first Pokémon to battle with. The lab assistant was furious with Bede for attempting to wreck a historical monument, even if it was something as tacky looking as the Stow-on-Side mural, but at the same time, she was keen to see how this would go. She had yet to watch Ruby fight so far, making this a special occasion for her as she'd finally get to see for herself what a wonder kid this new trainer had become. She was tempted to send Yamper out to teach Bede a lesson herself but decided not to. She had a feeling Ruby could handle this.
"Raven, teach that arsehole a lesson!" Ruby cried, throwing her first Pokéball.
"Duosion, warp your enemies!" Bede cried at the same time, throwing his Great Ball.
Both Pokémon materialized onto the battlefield and took their positions, staring each other down as they prepared to fight. Ruby could see that Bede had grown a little since last time they'd thought for he'd actually bothered to evolve his Pokémon this time. His Solosis, which she'd beaten effortlessly before, had now evolved into Duosion. Not much had changed about the Pokémon's appearance aside from it growing a torso and stubby little arms and the gel-like blob surrounding it being a little bigger than before. Ruby knew she would have zero trouble with this Pokémon, even if it had evolved, as Raven was the perfect counter for it. She even smirked at Bede to emphasize how much he was going to go down hard in this battle. Bede frowned.
"What are you smiling at you silver-haired freak?" he demanded.
"Look who's talking." Ruby scoffed, noticing the hypocrisy in a silver-haired boy like Bede using the fact she was silver-haired as an insult, "Anyway, you're a Psychic-type specialist, right? That means you're utterly screwed. I just got off of my latest Gym battle against Allister, who's the Ghost-type specialist. I cherry-picked my team specifically to counter his Ghost types, which means you're absolutely going down hard!"
"Talk about being pre-prepared!" Sonia added with a smile, "Show him what for Ruby!"
"Gladly." Ruby replied, "Raven, use Shadow Ball!"
"For once in my life, I'm going to actually enjoy something." Raven said, a demonic grin of pleasure spreading across her face.
It was the first time since Ruby had caught her that she'd ever smiled. It just showed how much Ruby and her team hated Bede if the idea of making him suffer was enough to make even RAVEN of all Pokémon smile! She held out her clawed hands and built up a powerful ball of black and purple energy. It seemed funny how she'd just gotten off of finishing a couple of fights with a Shadow Ball attack back in the Ghost Gym and now she was doing yet another one against her trainer's biggest rival. At the very least, it was making Raven feel good about herself as she was seeing plenty of use at the moment.
"Azarath…Metrion…ZINTHOS!" she cried, launching the ectoplasmic energy ball at her opponent.
The Duosion fared no better than its pre-evolved state did against one of Ruby's Pokémon, taking the full force of the attack head on and being brought down in a single hit. The Psychic type Pokémon was knocked back and sent crashing down at the feet of a very irritated Bede. He glared at his defeated Duosion as if its loss had somehow been its fault and not his. He returned it in annoyance and drew out his next Great Ball. Sonia stared, impressed at how swiftly Ruby's Haunter had brought the fight to an end. She could see how the young girl from Postwick town had achieved her perfect winning streak. If this was how powerful just ONE of her Pokémon was, she could see Ruby was a trainer worthy of challenging Leon himself. The Copperajah that Bede had been using to wreck the mural was watching the match too, seemingly relieved that it wasn't the one fighting Ruby at the moment.
"You may be well-prepared for me as you say, but you're not winning this battle! I won't let you!" Bede declared, "Gothorita, warp your enemies!"
He threw the Great Ball and out came yet another Pokémon of his that had evolved since the last time he'd fought Ruby. His Gothita had now become a Gothorita. It sported the same black and white colours and purple face and blue eyes of its previous form but had grown a little bigger, sporting a longer body, longer arms, though she still had no hands, longer legs and actual feet and a bigger "hair-do". It occurred to Ruby that the Gothita line could almost be considered the closest thing to getting Marnie as a Pokémon due to her Goth style and she wondered if Marnie had one of these herself. As easy as it would be to just keep using Raven, the Postwick girl decided to give her other Pokémon a chance to fight as she didn't want to overuse a single Pokémon and leave the others struggling to catch up. She returned Raven and brought out her next Pokémon.
"Get ready for this one." Ruby declared, "Sparkles, you're up next!"
She threw the ball and summoned forth the electrifying Sparkles. The battle-hungry Manectric bared her teeth and took up a battle ready stance, eager to fight. She hadn't seen use since Ruby had used her to take out a few of the Gym Challenger's Pokémon so she was buzzing with excitement, and that wasn't because of the electricity coursing through her body.
"Hey look, it's that jerk again!" she cried, "Lucky me, now I get a chance to make him cry!"
"You do indeed." Ruby crowed, "Use Bite!"
Sparkles didn't hesitate even for a minute. She launched herself through the air and landed directly on top of the Gothorita. She opened her jaws wide, showing her sharp, white teeth and bit down hard on the Goth-themed Pokémon. Gothorita wailed in pain and flailed about wildly. The attack was doing the damage to her and Sparkles was biting down as hard as she could, deliberately going out of her way to hurt it as much as possible to spite Bede. Instead of showing concern however, the silver-haired boy decided to seize an opportunity that Ruby had unintentionally presented for him.
"Thanks ever so much for putting your Pokémon in firing range." he sneered, "Use Psybeam!"
Gothorita stopped screaming and flailing and focused her attention on the Manectric biting her. Her eyes glowing pink and waves of psychic energy swept over Sparkles, making her let go and stumble back from the attack. Psybeam was a powerful psychic move that had the potential to confuse the opponent at the same time. Despite being momentarily disoriented, Sparkles was unaffected. She hadn't taken much damage and she hadn't been confused by the attack. If anything, she looked more determined than ever to take her opponent down.
"OK, now you're asking for it!" Sparkles snarled, "Ruby, permission to bite it again?"
"Granted." Ruby said bluntly.
Sparkles did just that, jumping on her opponent and biting it a second time. This time, it was final. Sparkles's powerful jaws diminished the remainder of Gothorita's health, bringing it down onto its back and leaving it unable to fight anymore. Sonia whistled, impressed with Ruby's skills as a trainer. Even though that hadn't been a one-hit KO, she'd still ended the battle very quickly and was constantly relying on super-effective attacks. This was a trainer who clearly knew her match-ups and how to exploit her opponent's weaknesses. She smirked at Bede as he returned his Gothorita.
"I'd give up now and save yourself further embarrassment." the ginger woman sneered, "You're clearly out of your league against Ruby here."
"He's been out of his league since the first time we met!" Ruby boasted, "I kicked his ass on two separate occasions, and both times were a clean sweep! He's never been a match for me and this time's no different!"
"Boast all you want you insufferable little girl, you'll only have reason to regret your hubris when I crush you for good!" Bede snarled, drawing out his next Great Ball, "Hattrem, warp your enemies!"
He threw the ball and out came yet another evolved Pokémon in his team. His Hatenna was no longer a Hatenna, but a Hattrem now. Hattrem was a pink and blue Psychic type Pokémon with a small body and limbs, an oversized "hat" and equally as oversized pigtails that it seemed to use in place of its actual legs. Ruby was quick to see that the Hattrem looked nervous, as if it was scared at the possibility of fighting her again. She'd used Gene to take it out twice as a Hatenna, so maybe it was expecting her to use him again. But Ruby didn't change her Pokémon. The silver-haired girl kept Sparkles out on the field, knowing that she could handle this Pokémon.
"You may not be against Gene again, but Sparkles is still going to bring the hurt to you." Ruby said grimly, "Another Bite attack Sparkles!"
"My teeth are getting so much use today!" Sparkles laughed, pouncing towards her opponent.
She landed on top of Hattrem and bit it on the hat-like structure on its head. Hattrem wailed in pain, waving its tiny limbs around wildly and trying to shake Sparkles off. The Manectric was far too big for it to do so, as well as too strong so Sparkles was there to hold on as tight as possible with no chance of her being thrown off. Bede tried to command Hattrem to fight back but the Psychic Pokémon had become a victim of one of Bite's secondary effects. Sometimes, Bite caused the opponent to flinch, a handy way of preventing them from fighting back. Hattrem had done just that, standing frozen on the spot and shaking in fear from the attack. It couldn't move. The flinch was only momentary of course but flinching even for a moment was enough to break a Pokémon's fight. This was the case for Hattrem as since it couldn't move, Ruby just ordered Sparkles to bite it a second time. It was all she needed for the Electric Pokémon finished it off with that one last Bite attack.
Hattrem fainted, its health completely depleted by the attack. Bede stared in annoyance, unable to believe that his best Pokémon hadn't been able to cut it for him. How was this insolent girl constantly besting him no matter what he did? He'd evolved his Pokémon and even that hadn't been enough to stand up to her! She'd barely taken a hit from him and had swept through three Pokémon of his effortlessly! What did he have to do to win this match, catch a Legendary?! He drew out his last Great Ball. Remembering their last bout, Ruby already knew what was coming.
"Enough is enough! This is where you perfect streak ends Ruby! I'll bring this entire town to the ground if it means defeating you! I WILL NOT BE HUMILIATED A THIRD TIME, YOU HEAR ME?!" Bede screamed, his voice sounding as if he was on the edge of hysteria. It was clear his losses to Ruby were starting to affect his mental state.
"Weird how the one who doesn't want to be humiliated is going out of his way to do it himself." Ruby taunted.
Growling angrily, Bede threw the Great Ball as if he was trying to launch it straight at his enemy's face. Of course, it didn't get anywhere near as the ball opened up in mid-air to release its occupant. As Ruby had predicted, his last Pokémon was the only new one he'd managed to catch since the last time they'd seen each other. It still saddened her to see a beautiful Pokémon like Ponyta in Bede's possession. Such a graceful Pokémon like that deserved a better owner. However, seeing the Ponyta made Ruby raise an eyebrow in confusion.
"Hang on, you evolved all your other Pokémon but your Ponyta's still a Ponyta?" she asked curiously, "Talk about favouritism! Is Ponyta your least favourite or something?"
"Shows how much you know." Bede retorted, "Ponyta always take a while to evolve! It's got a lot more training to go through before it becomes a Rapidash!"
"Just saying, if you can put the effort into evolving the others, you can do the same for Ponyta." Ruby snorted, "It just shows how behind you are if your Ponyta's still a long way from evolving. Never mind, let's just end this fight."
She returned Sparkles and picked out one last Pokémon for the job.
"Freddy, it's show time!" she cried, throwing the ball.
The Pokéball opened up and released the show-stealing Toxtricity himself, Freddy. He stood where he was, his arms out to the side and a proud smile on his face.
"I say darling, is it time for my next performance already?" he purred, "I've got just the song in mind for this one."
Sonia looked at Ruby curiously. Why would she choose Toxtricity to fight against a Psychic type? Poison types were weak against Psychic types! Then again, Toxtricity was a fully evolved Pokémon and Ponyta was at the first stage so maybe Freddy would have the power to make type-advantage meaningless. After all, type-advantage only worked if the Pokémon had the power to make good use out of it. She watched as Bede made the first move.
"Ponyta, Psybeam!" he ordered.
Ponyta obeyed, its fabulous mane glowing as it fired a psychic beam towards its opponent. Freddy just stayed where he was, acknowledging that a powerful attack was coming his way and accepting it. He folded his arms as if daring the Psybeam to try and take him out. The Psybeam struck him and as Ruby had expected, it wasn't strong enough to finish him off. Freddy was too powerful for Ponyta to make good use of its type-advantage over him. It was a super-effective attack, but it may as well not be as it didn't faze Freddy much at all. He'd even remained in his stiff, arms-folded pose as if nothing had happened. Bede stared incredulously at Freddy as the lizard-like Pokémon brushed himself off and shot a sneering look of arrogance over at him.
"Is that seriously all you got?" he crowed, "I've seen over-excitable fans that put up a better fight than that."
"Freddy's the best and you're gonna see why!" Ruby declared, "Freddy, use Sludge Bomb!"
Freddy did so, picking this opportunity to burst into the new song he had in mind. He strummed the knobs on his chest, playing a rocking tune while simultaneously launching a giant blob of purple sludge from his mouth towards Ponyta. He bopped his head in time with his own music as the Sludge Bomb attack hit Ponyta, the poisonous attack draining all its health away and knocking it out in a single hit. Bede watched, outraged and incredulous that his precious Ponyta had gone down to a Pokémon it should've had the advantage over as Freddy sang away.
All we hear is…Ra-di-o Ga-Ga
All we hear is…Ra-di-o-Ga-Ga!
Ra-di-o what's neeeew?
Soooome ooone stiiiill loooooves yoooooooooooooooooou!
Sonia couldn't help but applaud Ruby and Freddy for both a great match and the fantastic singing performance of Freddy. She'd never heard a Pokémon sing so well before, especially in a perfect impression of Freddy Mercury!
"That was incredible Ruby!" Sonia complimented, "You're an amazing trainer! I see now how you've got your amazing winning streak! You handled Bede like he was nothing!"
"That's precisely the point Sonia: he IS nothing." Ruby scoffed, returning Freddy to his Pokéball, "I'd almost feel sorry for him if he wasn't such an arsehole."
"At least now we've stopped him from wrecking the mural." Sonia said brightly, "We should report him to the Chairman for this."
As the girls talked, Bede fell to his knees in defeat, unable to understand how he could've lost so easily yet again. He was the one endorsed by the Chairman! He was the one to defeat the Champion! How had he been bested on three occasions by this complete nobody from a drab old place like Postwick Town?! What did she have that he didn't have?! He pounced the ground angrily.
"There has to be some mistake! I demand a do-over!" Bede cried pathetically.
"Why? So I can rub your face in the dirt some more?" Ruby sneered, "Be my guest if you want, but I really am not in the mood for any more of your crap Bede. Just grow the hell up and admit you're not the son of Arceus or whatever you may think of yourself! You lost, so deal with it!"
"I won't ever be satisfied until I see you defeated and out of the Gym Challenge!" Bede snarled, "I'll be back again with my Pokémon stronger than ever and next time, YOU will be the one on your knees and wallowing in your failure!"
"That's it, prepare to get your Voltorbs crushed again!" Ruby snarled, storming towards Bede with her foot itching to kick him in the groin once more.
"Ruby! Stand back, we can handle things from here."
The voice had come so suddenly that Ruby and Sonia jumped and spun around in surprise. Bede got to his feet and his eyes widened in horror as the absolute worst thing imaginable could've happened. It was bad enough he'd just lost to Ruby a third time, now Chairman Derek Rose was there with Oleana and two Macro Cosmos men! Bede could see that the Chairman wasn't looking too happy with him at all. If anything, he looked…disappointed. Ashamed that the very challenger he'd endorsed had resorted to vandalism. Ruby was glad to see him here, knowing that he would handle this situation perfectly. She was also glad to see him in his trademark suit again and not in his tacky disguise for once. The Copperajah Bede had been using looked delighted to see the Chairman, making Ruby wonder what its deal was and why it seemed happy to see him. Oleanna was the first to speak, her face neutral as usual.
"When you asked to borrow the Chairman's Copperajah, I hadn't expected you'd use it to destroy a historical site." she said coldly, "What have you got to say for yourself?"
Ruby gasped in astonishment.
"Wait, wait, wait, wait! THAT'S Chairman Rose's Copperajah?!" she gasped, "I didn't know the Chairman had his own Pokémon!"
"So few people actually know that about me, dear." Rose said, returning the Steel elephant Pokémon to its ball, "So Bede, it's bad enough that you threatened to assault an innocent trainer," he glanced at Ruby, "And now I hear that you've been using MY own Pokémon to wreck a historical site. I must say, I'm appalled. Do you have any idea how serious this is? Using Pokémon for vandalism is a serious offence, historical or not! When I endorsed you, that did not give you freedom to do whatever you wanted."
"Oh who cares for some ancient ruin when the next thousand years are at stake?!" Bede said dismissively, "I'm only doing the job you untrusted me with! That mural's not worth preserving if it means getting Wishing Stars for you!"
"Did you even make sure there actually WERE Wishing Stars behind the mural or did you just go out on a limb and assume so?" Chairman Rose asked sternly.
Bede opened his mouth to speak…and then he closed it again. The Macro Cosmos founder was absolutely right. He had just assumed instead of making sure of things first! Chairman Rose turned to Ruby.
"Ruby, Bede tells me that your hair glows when near Dynamax energy. Can you stand next to the mural and confirm to us if there are Wishing Stars behind it?" he asked.
Ruby glared at Bede, annoyed that he'd gone telling him about her mysterious ability behind her back. Still, she wasn't one to refuse an order from an important man like the chairman so she went right up to the mural and pressed herself against it. Her hair didn't do anything. There wasn't even a tiny glow coming from her head this time. She came away and shook her head.
"My hair's not glowing. There's nothing behind the mural." Ruby confirmed.
"So you basically just tried to commit vandalism, and it was all for nothing." Rose said, looking more irritated than ever, "Bede…I truly am disappointed. When I found you back in that orphanage, I saw talent in you. You even reminded me of myself when I was young, hence why I sent you to that school to hone your skills. But you've abused the power you have and the endorsement I placed on you. This thing you've done has proven you have NO love for Galar at all."
He shook his head gravely, looking as if he was about to pass judgement on the purple-coated boy. He was the executioner with the axe and he brought it down hard as he gave Bede his final punishment.
"Bede…you've struck out twice already and now this is the third time you've done so. I have no choice…but to disqualify you from the Gym Challenge. Go home. You're not worthy to continue this wonderful competition anymore."
Ruby stared at the Chairman as if he had just descended from heaven to make her dreams come true. This was the best news she'd heard since the challenge had started! Now she would never have to deal with Bede again! She was so overjoyed with the news that she punched the air triumphantly.
"YES! In your face, arsehole!" she jeered.
But Bede didn't seem to have heard. He was so horrified at what the Chairman had said that all his senses were going out of whack. He began to feel faint, the ground shifting beneath his feet.
"N-n-no…no, you can't be serious!" he cried, "You're disqualifying me?! But sir, there were a hundred different ways we could've settled this! Why are you choosing the worst possible one?!"
"Because we need to make an example of you." Rose said firmly, "I will not tolerate Gym Challengers who vandalize historical monuments like this and show no remorse for their actions. You two, get whatever Wishing Stars he's gathered from him. At the very least, we'll take those for Project: Eternatus."
The two men with him obeyed, marching towards Bede and seizing his bag from him. They emptied the entire bag of Wishing Stars he'd collected on his way over to Stow-on-Side and handed them over to the Chairman so he could take them with him. They tossed the bag back to Bede but the enraged boy didn't even bother to pick it up. He just shot an accusing glare over at Ruby, his fists clenched with rage.
"THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!" he roared.
Ruby was outraged with this declaration.
"What?! How is it my fault?! I'm not the one trying to wreck the mural!" she snapped.
"If you hadn't stuck your nose in my business, this wouldn't have happened!" Bede spat, "Mark my words, next time I see you, I'm so gonna…"
"You will go nowhere near Miss Silverlock young man!" Rose snapped.
Ruby recoiled, surprised to hear the Chairman sounding so angry. It was the first time she'd seen him get this serious and firm with anyone. It was clear that this was a side of the man that very few people got to see, and hopefully it would be the last as Ruby found herself feeling intimidated by the Chairman. At least it wasn't her dealing with his anger right now.
"You will go home and go nowhere near Ruby or any other Challenger." Rose said firmly, "If I hear you so much as looking at Ruby when you shouldn't be, I may have to confiscate your Pokémon too. Come now, do you really want to let yourself down even more than you have?"
Bede said nothing. He had nothing more to say. He just hung his head down and began to walk away. Rose ushered to his two men to follow him just to make sure he did go home as he was told to. Ruby watched as her arch-enemy was taken away and marched down the stairs and through Stow-on-Side to go back home. She watched him disappear into the crowd, sighing with relief that this was going to be the last time she'd ever see him again. At last, he was gone for good! It made her feel much more at ease just thinking about it. The only thing she had to wonder was why couldn't it have happened sooner? Her journey would've been so much more pleasant that way. Chairman Rose turned to Ruby and Sonia as if realizing that they were still there. He looked grim, the whole incident clearly leaving him downtrodden.
"Ruby, Sonia, what a terrible shame this all is." he said sadly, "I cannot apologize enough, especially to you Ruby, for how much trouble Bede has caused. After that experience, I'm certainly going to thank very carefully about who I endorse in the future. He's truly let not only me down, but himself too."
"He only has himself to blame." Ruby agreed, "I'm sorry I got involved with him again, sir. I know you told me twice already to avoid him but it couldn't be helped this time. He was wrecking the mural and I was the closest trainer to the situation so I…"
"Don't apologize my dear, you were right to get involved." Rose said, his voice softer and kinder now as he addressed the teenager's concerns, "Thanks to you, we caught up to him before it was too late. We need more trainers like you in this circuit Ruby, trainers that are willing to take action when rules are being broken and show a clear love for our glorious region. I really don't know how I can repay you for your selflessness. How's about I endorse you instead?"
Ruby looked away shyly, shifting her feet uncertainly.
"Y-you don't h-have to do anything. I-I'm just glad I c-could help." she said bashfully.
"You're so modest. I like that about you." Rose said approvingly, "You're a skilled trainer and a very good person, yet you seem so casual about it. I always viewed arrogance as a sign of weakness and I'm glad that you lack that appalling trait that others sadly have too much of."
"I'm just lucky I have two wonderful parents who taught me well." Ruby said thoughtfully, her face full of clear love and adoration for her parents.
"I know they'll be very proud of you once they hear of this." Sonia said with a kind smile on her face.
"As is, I hope that for the rest of this circuit, the competition will remain fair and sportsmanlike." Rose said hopefully, "I hate it whenever I have to disqualify anyone but it cannot be helped, sadly. I hope next time we see each other, it'll be on more pleasant terms."
"I do too, Mr. Rose." Ruby agreed, "Once again, I'm sorry that it's come to this. It really must've been hurtful to see your endorsed trainer result to this."
"Like you said, he only has himself to blame." the suited man sighed, "I hope this will teach him a firm but important lesson. Such talent like his own would be a shame to waste…"
He and Oleana turned and headed away. There was no need for them to stick around now that the situation had been handled. Ruby and Sonia waited until they'd left before turning to each other. Despite Bede being gone, he was still very much on their minds for the moment and Ruby felt the need to address the big Copperajah in the room regarding him.
"The chairman said he found him in an orphanage." she acknowledged, "I had no idea Bede was an orphan. Do you think that's why he turned out this way?"
"Possibly." Sonia muttered, "I know being an orphan can be…hard. Having no real family of your own and pretty much feeling an outcast, I can't really imagine what that's like. However, this does not excuse his behaviour in anyway." she added, her voice firm to emphasize that point in case Ruby worried she was trying to defend him.
"Exactly!" Ruby agreed, "There are lots of orphans in the world, and they don't turn out like him! In fact, back in infants school, one of Emerald's best friends was a boy named Tony. He was an orphan and she got on very well with him! So much so that Tony even gave her a cute nickname, little gem, that he still calls her whenever they chat together. They got on so well that even though they're not at school anymore, they still message each other from time to time. I even met him once and he was a really lovely boy! So if Tony can be an orphan and still be a nice chap, Bede has no excuse."
"None at all." Sonia said, nodding, "Though sadly, not everyone deals with their troubles the same way. Whatever it was that troubled Bede back then, he clearly didn't know how to deal with it. I hope that he takes a good long look at himself and decides to turn things around so that he can become a better person and save himself anymore grief."
"I doubt he'll learn, but it would be nice to see him as a nicer person than the jerk that he is." Ruby lamented, meaning every word she'd said.
It was an interesting thought to ponder. What would their relationship be like if Bede hadn't been a jerk? Would they have been friends? Would they be getting along together and having a lovely chat about Pokémon battling and sharing battle tactics instead of fighting and insulting each other? She wished things could've gone that way instead of how they had done.
"One can hope. People CAN change for the better." Sonia said reassuringly, "Maybe he can too. But enough about him, let's get down to what we came for." she said quickly, "Good thing the mural's intact despite what Bede did so maybe I can still study it for my research."
The lab assistant turned to the mural so she could have a good look at it. As Ruby had described, it was something that did indeed look more like something a six year old painted than a historical landmark. The mural itself was a picture of what looked like colourful flowers, a purple and blue circle that was possibly meant to signify the Darkest Day and a streak of purple, yellow and blow painted down one side, presumably a Wishing Star falling from the sky. It was a total mystery who had painted this image and while it wasn't considered good by many, it was still a valuable part of history and many visitors to Stow-on-Side liked to see it for the historical aspect, not necessarily for the art. The only blight on its appearance now was the huge cracks that marked where the Copperajah Bede had borrowed from Chairman Rose had hit it. Sonia imagined a lot of historians would hate that it been vandalized like this. Ruby eyed the cracks grimly.
"I may not think it's very good, but even I wouldn't have ordered an innocent Pokémon to try smashing it." Ruby murmured, "Don't know why Bede got that stupid idea in his head that Wishing Stars are behind it. I also don't know why he felt the need to blab to the chairman about my hair…" she added bitterly, still annoyed that he'd been telling Rose that.
"Maybe he thought that he could use you in some way and hoped the Chairman would be on it." Sonia suggested, "A silly thing to do really as the Chairman isn't a man who uses people in any way. I have to wonder the same as you though, what DID give him that idea that anything was behind it?"
Ruby nodded agreeably. She'd been puzzled about that since the incident had happened. Why would Bede have ever assumed the mural was hiding Wishing Stars? There was nothing that remotely suggested it was hiding anything. Then she suddenly realized something that had slipped her mind. When she'd come into Hammerlocke City, Oleana had asked Bede to come with her and the two had gone away privately to talk. Had it been HER who suggested this? Was it because of Oleana that he got disqualified? Ruby frowned. No, that didn't make any sense! Why would Oleana ask Bede to destroy a mural and get him disqualified? She certainly wouldn't have let him borrow her boss's Pokémon to do the job! Oleana would never go behind the Chairman's back! Plus, Bede hadn't blamed Oleana for what had happened so maybe the chairman's right-hand woman was innocent and Bede really had gotten the idea in his head somehow.
She was dragged out of her thoughts as a terrible crumbling sound suddenly came from the mural. The cracks that Copperajah had left in the stonework were slowly spreading, opening wide and reaching out as if they were some hideous creature trying to escape from whatever prison it had been trapped in. The flowers split in half, the Darkest Day storm cloud started to crumble away and the cracks reached up to the top of the picture. The damage done had clearly been enough for the ancient relic was struggling to hold together much longer. As the impact had been down lower down, the mural was quite literally crumbling under its own weight. Ruby screamed in horror as a chunk of rock crashed down metres in front of her.
"Get back, Ruby!" Sonia shrieked, throwing herself around Ruby and pulling her away.
She was like a mother protecting a child from a terrible catastrophe that was happening before them. Sonia and Ruby's ears winced in agony as a terrific crash shook through their bodies and made the ground shudder beneath their feet. The mural was falling apart, crashing to the floor piece-by-piece. The noise was terrifying, like nature itself was coming down and trying to make as much noise as possible to scare off intruders. Ruby and Sonia could scarcely imagine what anyone down below must be wondering with the sound of crashing rocks. Thankfully it was over as quickly as it started, the historical relic completely obliterated by Bede's actions. Ruby and Sonia looked up to see the aftermath…and got the biggest surprise of their young lives.
Both girls stared in wonder and curiosity as they saw that while the mural hadn't been hiding Wishing Stars…it HAD been hiding something else entirely! No longer was there a painting about the Darkest Day. Instead, there was an impressive statue depicting two wolf-like creatures holding a sword and a shield respectively. One wolf was hiding behind the shield as if expecting somebody to attack it while the other wolf held the sword in its mouth, its jaws wrapped around the handle. Statues of two kings stood behind the lupine-like figures, the stone people depicted with crowns and robes to emphasize their royal status. The statues looked old and their fine craftsmanship that had gone into making these stone figures was amazing. It looked like a lot of work had gone into making the statues and Ruby immediately wondered why THEY hadn't been the historical monument this whole time as unlike the artwork on the mural, the statues actually looked professionally made!
"Wow…so all this time, these statues were there?!" Ruby exclaimed, "As much as it sucks that Bede succeeded in wrecking the mural after all, this is quite a discovery!"
"A very, very interesting one too…" Sonia concurred, her head spinning with thoughts as she mulled over what this possibly meant.
She thought back to the tapestries she'd seen in Hammerlocke Vault. The story of the Darkest Day, the fact there appeared to be two heroes instead of one, the kings that had resulted from the end of the storm…and yet this statue was depicting a pair of wolf-like creatures holding the legendary sword and shield the hero of Galar was supposed to have wielded while the two kings were behind them. Could this mean…? Sonia's eyes lit up with excitement as an idea struck her. Yes, it made perfect sense now!
"It looks as if we were wrong this whole time! The hero of Galar was indeed two people, but instead of people, it looked as if the two heroes were actually Pokémon!" the professor's granddaughter exclaimed.
"It only makes sense!" Ruby agreed, "Those two creatures holding the sword and shield are clearly Pokémon of some kind. And yet…"
She stared at the one holding the shield, curious as to why it seemed familiar to her. Had she seen something like this before? That couldn't be the case as she'd never seen this statue before. But Ruby was sure that something about this statue was ringing a bell for her. She thought back to the encounter in Slumbering Weald and the strange Pokémon that had appeared in her dream last night. Hadn't that been a wolf-like creature with a shield too? Ruby snapped her fingers in realization.
"Of course! That Pokémon with the shield! That's like the one me and Hop saw in the Slumbering Weald the other day!" she cried.
"Oh my gosh, is it?" Sonia said eagerly, "You sure it's the same one?"
"Positive!" Ruby cried, "So me and Hop actually saw one of Galar's heroes and we never knew about it! I wonder why we saw it that day and why it seemed interested in us…" she murmured.
"Well all I can say now is that more than any statue of a hero or old tapestry, these ruins made in truly ancient times must show us the real truth." Sonia declared, "I imagine that the sword and shield combined with those Pokémon and history just treated them as the same thing. But then what? They just faded from history?" she asked.
"It's like someone tried to hide this from future generations." Ruby deduced, "But why? Who'd want to cover this up?"
"Very good questions, Ruby. I hope that I can come up with very good answers." Sonia mused, "There's the two kings, the sword and shield Pokémon and the fact their stories are depicted in artwork despite this thing here being covered up. It proves without a doubt that there's more to the legends of Galar than we were led to believe. I'm going to dig up the whole truth and I won't rest until I do!"
Ruby couldn't help but admire Sonia's determination. It was reminding her of her own determination to win the Gym Challenge. She had every faith that Sonia would get to the bottom of this and reveal the whole truth at last. The ginger woman patted Ruby on the shoulder, smiling brightly.
"I definitely think we've discovered something big today!" she cried, "Thank you for joining me for this. You were a big help in confirming that one of the statues here depicts the Pokémon you and Hop saw in the woods. You get going to Ballonlea so you can get your fifth Gym badge now. I'll carry on my research and let you know if anything else comes up."
"That's great Sonia." Ruby said brightly, "I'm glad I could help, though I doubt I really added all that much. I'll see you later. Good luck on your research!"
"And you with your next Gym badge." Sonia replied.
Ruby headed on down the steps to make her way towards Glimwood Tangle so she could get to Ballonlea to challenge the Fairy Gym. As soon as the four-time winning trainer had left, Sonia turned back to the mysterious new statues that the mural had once concealed before revealing them to the world at last. She could imagine that the mural would very quickly be replaced as the hot new tourist attraction and would definitely get many historians rethinking things about what they thought they knew. It had given her plenty to work with and she was definitely getting more and more enticed by this mystery the further she looked into it. All she could wonder was what took her so long to get into something like this? This was much more exciting and gun than even her time as Leon's rival in the Gym Challenge! Sonia smiled determinedly to herself as she ran a finger over her chin.
"Mark my words, I'm going to get to the bottom of this and bring the true story to the light." she declared, "Who were you, mysterious Pokémon? And why has your story been covered up for so long…?"
The rest of Ruby's went quiet and peacefully as she made her way over to Ballonlea. After heading away from the newly revealed statues, she headed east from the Stow-on-Side Stadium and headed into Glimwood Tangle, the forest path that linked Stow-on-Side and Ballonlea together. She had heard from many people that Glimwood Tangle was a very beautiful forest and upon entering, she found herself agreeing with these people.
The forest itself was very dark with not much to see but what made it visually interesting was the multitude of glowing mushrooms that were dotted everywhere. They were huge and due to the fluorescent lights coming from them, they almost didn't seem real. They looked like they'd been taken out of a children's fantasy story and dropped off in this dark forest. They gave off some soothing, pretty looking lights with either blue, green or purple glows coming from them. Touching the mushrooms made them glow brighter, which helped in finding one's way through the forest. Ruby was spellbound by the mushrooms, her eyes fixed on the beautiful lights they emitted and she couldn't resist poking one to make it glow brighter. There was something warm and calming about the glowing mushrooms that she couldn't quite place. Somehow just being near them made her feel…content in a way, like nothing was wrong with the world and she had no worries.
On her way through Glimwood Tangle, Ruby caught herself another Pokémon that might come in useful later on. She'd caught a Morgrem, a Dark/Fairy type Pokémon that was evolved from Impidimp. Morgrem was a pink and green imp-like Pokémon with long purple hair dropping over one eye and a pointed nose and pointy ears. It wouldn't serve her well in a Fairy Gym but Ruby knew that Fairy types like Morgrem would have their uses elsewhere. She'd nicknamed it Fang and put it in a Box ready for if she'd need to use it at all.
After that, she made her way through the fantastical forest until she reached Ballonlea itself. Glimwood Tangle was merely a preview on what the forest town had to show. Ruby's jaw dropped as she found herself walking into a town bursting with colour in every direction. There were glowing mushrooms again, some small and some bigger than the houses that made up the establishment that varied in colour to provide a variety of lights that made the place look simply dazzling. There were also tiny floating lights, presumably fireflies are little fairies floating about the place to add that extra sense of wonder and whimsy to the town. Ruby watched one of the lights float past her. She'd never visited a place as beautiful, and strange, as Ballonlea before. She had a feeling no town she visited would ever top this.
"Blimey…it's like I'm in Alice in Wonderland!" she whispered to herself, "It's so easy to see why this place is home to the Fairy Gym!"
She wasn't the only one to think this as many trainers who came here often joked that Ballonlea looked like a place that had been built by fairies. There were many things that this Pokémon journey had given her that made Ruby glad to have started it and this was certainly one of them. She'd never have seen this place in any other circumstances! Before making her way over to the Gym, Ruby took several photos of Ballonlea with her phone as she knew her family would want to see this place in some capacity. She knew a mere photo wouldn't do this place justice but at least she could give her parents and sisters some way of seeing Ballonlea and the beauty it provided. To think that trainers like her and Hop got to carry on in the Gym Challenge to see this glorious place while Bede was missing out due to his own arrogance and stupidity getting him kicked out! She imagined he would somehow dismiss the beauty of this place and act like it's nothing.
Ruby made a quick visit to the local Pokémon Centre to make sure her Pokémon were in tip-top shape and then she headed on over to the Ballonlea Stadium. Of course it looked the same as all the other stadiums minus the presence of the Fairy Gym flag in place of the other flags and sporting a different colour-scheme. Ruby had to wonder if the architect who built these stadiums literally had just one blueprint to work with and decided that just the colours and flags would be enough to differentiate them. It was only on the inside did they ever show any differences to one another. The silver-haired girl walked into the stadium and got a pleasant surprise as she saw a familiar face walking towards her. She'd recognize the Goth clothes and twin-pig tailed look of Marnie from anywhere.
"Hey Marnie! Fancy meeting you here." Ruby said brightly.
Marnie looked up, only now realizing that someone else was here. Her face remained blank but Ruby imagined that she was at least a little pleased to see her.
"Oh, Ruby! This is a surprise." the Spikemuth girl acknowledged, "So, you got four badges Gym already? I guess I'm really gonna have to watch out for you, huh?"
She didn't need Ruby to tell her this as her simply being here at the stadium now was enough to tell Marnie that Ruby had four badges. She wouldn't be here otherwise.
"Not just me, I'm sure there are plenty of other good trainers out there too." Ruby said modestly, "How about you? Did you just defeat Opal?"
"Oh yes, I literally just won my Fairy Badge minutes ago." Marnie explained, showing the badge to Ruby as proof of her accomplishments, "It was certainly a tough one for me as my Dark types aren't the right type to use against Fairy types, but I managed in the end. I bet you'll be challenging her now."
"I sure am." Ruby confirmed, "I'm hot off the heels from defeating Allister and I feel fired up for another Gym Battle! And the best part is, neither of us will have to worry about seeing Bede again for the rest of this circuit!"
Marnie's eyes widened with interest.
"Oh really? What happened to that jerkwad?" she asked.
Ruby quickly filled the Dark-type specialist in on what had happened back in Stow-on-Side. After she'd finished, Marnie cracked a brief smile and snorted as if she was trying to laugh but couldn't quite get the sound out right. It was clear she'd forgotten how to do the real thing.
"I'd say I pity the poor sod…but that'd be a lie." Marnie sneered, "He certainly got what he deserved, didn't he? I only wish I could've seen you kick his arse back there."
"Believe me, you'd have loved it. I think it might've even brought a genuine smile to your face." Ruby said, "At least he's gone now and we'll never see him again. I was worried about the possibility of meeting him in the finals. That wouldn't have been fun…"
"Same for me." Marnie muttered, "At least now we only have to worry about facing each other, if you catch my drift."
Ruby nodded. It was always the sad thing about Pokémon battles, that sometimes you had to do battles with your friends at some point. Ruby liked Marnie and hated the idea of having to face her in the finals as it could potentially damage the friendship they had. But she remembered how Marnie had been a good sport about her loss when they'd had that friendly fight back in Motostoke. Unlike Bede, Marnie wasn't one to make a big deal over losing so maybe things would go alright if they met in the finals.
"Well I hope we'll both get to that stage." Ruby said optimistically, "See you later Marnie, and good luck with your last three Gym battles!"
"You too." Marnie said casually, "See ya around."
She headed on out of the stadium, ready to make her way over to Circhester to challenge the Ice Gym. Ruby watched her leave, knowing that she would be following her there when she'd gotten through this Gym. The Postwick girl made her way over to the changing rooms and changed into her Gym outfit once again. She wasn't going to waste a moment longer, she just wanted to get in and get that badge before the day was done. It was already evening and night was fast approaching. Ruby wouldn't be surprised if she was literally the last trainer of the day for this Gym. As soon as she'd changed, she took a moment to run over the team of Pokémon she could bring into this Gym. She knew that Fairy Pokémon were weak against Steel and Poison types and she knew that Opal had a Steel/Fairy type Pokémon so having at least one Fire type would suffice. She decided on her team in the end and brought them out. She'd chosen Freddy the Toxtricity, Vesuvius the Coalossal, Scorponok the Skorupi, Houdini the Noctowl and Sparkles the Manectric.
"OK guys, you're going to be the team I'm bringing in to fight the Fairy Gym." Ruby explained "You all have attacks that can exploit their weaknesses to Steel or Poison and also have attacks that can exploit other weaknesses they may have like Fire or Electric. I'm counting on you all to give Ballonlea a Gym Battle they'll never forget!"
"You already know that I can do that for you, darling." Freddy purred, "I'm quite the show stealer as we know."
"I'm rather excited about this!" Vesuvius cried eagerly, "This will be my first ever Gym battle! Ooh, hoo, hoo, I can hardly wait!"
"I shan't let you down, honoured trainer." Houdini proclaimed, "I shall bring a swift end to our fairy foes with my exemplary strength!"
"And I thought I was the battle-ready one." Sparkles chuckled.
"So for now, I'm going to have my first taste of what one of these Pokémon battles is like." Scorponok murmured, "I wonder if they'll be as fun as they're made out to be."
"They are Scorponok, just you wait." Ruby said, winking, "However, I think you need a bit of a boost. I haven't had much time to train you so I'll give you some EXP candies I collected back in the Wild Area. That should help you catch up."
Lancelot may have eaten the entire stash of EXP Medium Candies back in Stow-on-Side, but Ruby had stashes of other candies on her so she could still spare some. To make sure Scorponok wouldn't over-level, she took it upon herself to feed him personally so she could watch how much he ate. She wanted her team to all be even in power by the time she started her battle with Opal as that was enough to be a match for her. She gave Scorponok a few candies and the scorpion like Pokémon ate them. They tasted pretty sweet and they had a pleasant crunch to them. Scorponok chewed slowly to let the taste roll over his tongue.
"Mmm…these are nice." he mused, "No wonder Lancelot ate a whole stash you had earlier."
"Yeah and I'm still annoyed that he did that." Ruby sighed, "I'll make sure you eat as much as you need so you don't level up too high."
She gave him one last candy and Scorponok ate it up. He could feel his strength increasing as the candies made him grow a few levels up. He certainly liked this way of levelling up over having to fight other Pokémon to do it. Much less violent that way! But as he ate the last candy, something miraculous started to happen. Ruby and the others gasped as Scorponok was suddenly bathed in a bright white light and he began to grow. She watched as the magical transformation commenced and Scorponok was changed from a Skorupi into one of Ruby's favourite Pokémon, Drapion.
Scorponok shook his head, momentarily disoriented by what had happened and he looked himself over. Drapion were big, purple scorpion-like Pokémon with huge white mandibles, three pairs of claws (one on each hand and one on their tails), four little legs, a flexible body and arms that seemed to grow out the sides of their heads. Drapion were notorious for being tricky Pokémon to battle as they were flexible and had three different directions in which they could grab opponents. And as a Poison/Dark type Pokémon, Drapion had only one weakness, and that was Ground types so they were often tricky to counter in battle too. Scorponok admired himself, impressed at how he'd changed and what his new body looked like.
"Great, fluttering Butterfree! I've evolved, and I feel absolutely terrific!" he exclaimed, "I have actual claws to grab things with and I have actual arms! I'm not the most battle-hungry Pokémon but I'm honestly keen to test my power in this form!"
"I know I'm eager to use you too!" Ruby said brightly, "Did I ever tell you Drapion are among my favourite Pokémon?"
"So I imagine you're doubly pleased with my evolution then." Scorponok said appreciatively.
"VERY much so!" Ruby exclaimed, "You're gonna be awesome out there along with the rest of my team!"
Vesuvius, Sparkles, Houdini and Freddy all congratulated Scorponok on evolving, making the newly-evolved Pokémon feel even prouder of himself. Now that was done and her team was all at the same level, Ruby returned them to their balls and headed on out to make her way into the stadium. It was time for her to win her fifth Gym Badge, and she knew that it was going to be as good as hers…
Pokemon obtained: Fang the Morgrem: Gender: Male. Nature: Sassy. Ability: Frisk (it can steal held items from opponents)
Pokemon evolved: Scorponok the Skorupi, now Scorponok the Drapion