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Knights of Galar: A Pokémon Shield Nuzlocke Chapter 18

Chapter 18: Ruby vs. Hop

Bede was completely forgotten about as Ruby and Hop sat on the wall together eating their ice-creams together. It was so funny how in the world of children, all it took to forget your problems was to gorge yourself on sugary treats and talk with friends together. But as they talked together, it was like the whole incident with the disqualified trainer had never happened at all. Now he was gone for good and being taken to a juvenile centre where he'd spend the rest of his childhood rotting away in, it was easy to move on from what he'd done and have him out of mind.

Once Bede had been arrested, Chairman Rose had quickly passed the message on to the rest of the Galar region to let them know he'd been apprehended and that they could drop the search. It was safe now and all Gym Challengers still in the circuit could breathe easy knowing that he was no longer a threat. Out of all the Gym Leaders, nobody had been more relieved to hear this than Opal back in Ballonlea. As the one who had raised the alarm in the first place, she was the happiest to hear that Bede had been caught.

"Thank goodness…" she'd said, "At last none of the other Gym Challengers will ever experience what he did to poor Ruby."

As Ruby and Hop ate their ice-creams, they chatted together on how many badges either of them had and how they'd won their Gym battles. Hop was sorry to hear that Houdini the Noctowl was currently out of action due to being poisoned and he hoped he would make a swift recovery. He was also happy to hear that Marnie was progressing through the Gym Challenge well, having defeated Opal's Gym just before Ruby arrived. At least they had a friend that was still in the Gym Challenge that they could get on with. Then Ruby decided to ask Hop on how he'd defeated Bede while she was making her way over to Hammerlocke. She hated bringing him up again but she'd been curious to hear how that fight had gone.

"I challenged him to a three-on-three match and I literally curbstomped all three Pokémon he sent out at me with just my Rillaboom!" the purple-haired boy exclaimed excitedly, "I didn't tell you that I'd evolved my Thwackey into Rillaboom, did I?"

"You haven't. I'm really happy to hear that!" Ruby cried supportively, "Now both of us have fully evolved our starters! It truly feels like we've watched them grow, doesn't it? Starting off as our first Pokémon back in Postwick Town and now here are they, fully evolved and still growing strong. And Rillaboom must be strong if he singlehandedly defeated Bede by himself!"

"I had him use Brutal Swing over and over and every blow he landed knocked Bede's Pokémon out in one hit." Hop explained, "I'd say he's very strong now! How about Bugs?"

"I'm about to find out as I've been saving him for the Ice Gym." Ruby replied, "I haven't really had a chance to use him yet. The Ice Gym will be a good time for him to show off his new power."

"Do remember that Melony won't have just Ice types, mate." Hop advised, "Like me, I'm sure you've seen her Gym battles on TV and seen that a lot of her Pokémon tend to have dual-typing."

"I know, some of her Pokémon are half-water types to mitigate their weakness to fire." Ruby answered, "I'll save Bugs for the Pokémon that don't have a water typing as well. As for her Lapras, I bet Freddy will have an easy time taking that out…" she mused.

She knew full well that Melony's ace was a Lapras, a Water/Ice type Pokémon that was often used to carry people across the oceans, especially travelling trainers. An electric type like Freddy would be just the ticket to defeating it, even if it Gigantamaxed. She was supremely confident that the next Gym would be a cinch for her.

"How about you? Do you have any Pokémon that can handle Melony's team?" Ruby asked.

Hop was about to answer but the conversation was cut short as a familiar face approached them. The two smiled as they saw that it was none other than the lovely Sonia, the lab assistant looking happy to see the two again. She approached them, her heels rapping on the stony floor. Her face lit up with a bright smile of pleasure as if seeing the two always managed to brighten her day.

"Heya!" Sonia said merrily, "How goes things? Especially you Ruby." she added, glancing over at the teen girl, "I heard what happened back at Ballonlea. I was given Opal's message and I took some time out my research to look for Bede. I couldn't believe what he'd done to you! How are you feeling?"

"Much better, thank you." Ruby said, meaning what she'd said, "It was really frightening being tied up in that forest and left behind but thanks to my Coalossal, I was able to escape and warn Opal, who in turn warned all of you. Thankfully, Hop was on hand to slow him down long enough for me to kick him in the groin and then let the Chairman deal with him. He's going to be locked up for a long time now so I'm glad I've finally seen the back of him."

"I was glad to hear he'd been caught when the Chairman informed us all that the search was over." Sonia said with relief, "First wrecking that mural and now this…I'm so glad you're alright Ruby. And Hop, I bet your brother will be happy to hear how you helped in stopping Bede." she added, smiling at Hop.

"I'm going to tell Lee the next time I see him!" Hop said brightly, "He'll be happy to hear how strong I'm getting over the course of this journey! So what brings you here?"

Sonia fingered a lock of her hair as she gave her answer.

"I just happened to see you both so I thought I'd let you know how my research is going." she explained, "I've been studying about the ruins in Stow-on-Side. The sword and shield…what kind of Pokémon were they and where are they now? That's what I've been asking myself."

Hop looked confused so Ruby quickly filled him in on the statues they'd seen after Bede had knocked the Stow-on-Side mural down. Hop was especially intrigued in how Ruby had recognized one of the statues as the Pokémon they'd seen in Slumbering Weald the other day.

"I thought it was a Pokémon we saw that day!" he cried, "So if the one we saw as a shield Pokémon, where was the sword Pokémon when we saw it…?"

"No idea." Ruby said, shrugging, "So have you found any answers yet, Sonia?" she asked, turning back to the ginger woman.

"Not yet. I have so many questions still." Sonia replied thoughtfully, "I was even thinking about taking another look at the tapestries in…"

She was rudely interrupted as all of a sudden, the entire city seemed to shake all round them. A loud rumble was hear and Sonia stumbled alarmingly as the ground shook beneath her. Ruby and Hop nearly fell off the wall they'd been sitting on and dropped what was left of their ice-creams, yelling in surprise. Thankfully, the tremor had been very brief, ending as quickly as it had started, and the three friends looked around wildly. Some of the nearby citizens were as taken aback as they were, their eyes wide with horror. This was NOT a natural occurrence. The Galar region NEVER had earthquakes outside of Pokémon using the Earthquake attack in their battles! Galar was not situated in an earthquake zone! So what had caused the tremor?

"What was that?!" Sonia exclaimed.

"Whatever it was, I thought I was about to get catapulted off this wall!" Ruby shrieked.

"Did it just come from the power plant?" Hop asked, clutching his chest as if worried his own heart had leapt out of his ribcage.

They all looked over at the nearby stadium, taking in the enormous tower that continuously brought energy in and down to the power plant below. It seemed likely that the tremor had occurred over there. But why? Sonia took out her Rotom phone and glanced at it with concern as it gave her some results on its screen. She didn't like what she'd seen.

"Huh? A Power Spot?!" she gasped, "I didn't think there was anything here…"

"A Power Spot? As in, where you can Dynamax?" Ruby asked.

"Exactly like where you can Dynamax!" Sonia answered, "I have a Power Spot Detector on my phone for things like this and I'm getting readings from the stadium. Does that mean Dynamaxing is possible here?"

"This could be chaotic!" Hop said worriedly, "What if Pokémon start Dynamaxing around the city?"

Before Sonia could answer, it seemed that the solution to the problem had come in the form of a very frantic Leon as he ran up to the kids and Sonia. Fortunately, he had been in the area at the time and had been alerted by the tremor so he'd been rushing off to see what was wrong. His eyes brightened at the sight of his brother, neighbour and former rival.

"Hey Sonia! And Hop and Ruby too!" Leon cried jovially, "You all felt that shaking too, right?"

"How could we not?!" Hop said exasperatedly, "We were just talking to Sonia when it happened!"

Leon looked over at Hammerlocke Stadium grimly.

"It would seem the Chairman's testing something again." he mused, "It would be nice if he'd give us warning in advanced whenever that thing happens."

"Is it anything to do with Project: Eternatus?" Ruby asked.

Hop stared at Ruby as if she'd asked a strange riddle that nobody was meant to figure out. However, Leon folded his arms and gave a grave look over to the silver-haired girl.

"So Chairman Rose has mentioned it to you too, eh?" he acknowledged, "I didn't think he'd share Project: Eternatus with anyone else but me and the professor."

"And Gran shared it with me too." Sonia put in, "He says that Project: Eternatus is meant to be for the good of Galar and he seems to need a lot of Wishing Stars for it so the testing could be down to that. I hope it won't start causing Pokémon to Dynamax in the middle of the city…" she said worriedly.

"We'll have to let him know as a precaution." Leon declared, "Sonia, you come with me so I don't get lost."

Sonia smirked. It was good to see that Galar's world famous champion was willing to acknowledge his own flaws, especially when it came to his infamously bad sense of direction.

"Can we come too?" Hop asked.

"No Hop. You and Ruby are best off making your way to the next Gym." Leon said sternly, "This is something for me and Sonia to handle. I'd love to stay and chat about how you're doing, but we best be off. I hope we can talk later."

"Same here. See you both later." Ruby said with a polite wave.

The two kids stayed put as Leon and Sonia headed on over to Hammerlocke Stadium to warn the Chairman on the tremor that had just occurred. Once the adults had left, Ruby and Hop looked at each other.

"So…I guess we just do what they said." Ruby said, shrugging, "I mean, the Champion's on it so he'll handle it. It's really nice that we have a Champion that's willing to get down to the nitty-gritty of things, isn't it?"

"Yeah, my bro's not just the Champion of Galar, he can be a bit of a hero at times." Hop agreed, "I wanna be just like him some day, a Champion and a hero to the people. For now, let's do what he said. Let's get that next Gym Badge!"

Ruby nodded. She was keen to get going to Circhester to take on the Ice Gym. Bede had already taken much of her precious time when he'd kidnapped her back in Glimwood Tangle. She imagined that there wasn't much of the day left. The leather-clad teen was about to make her way to the next town but Hop quickly stopped her be taking hold of her arm. That was surprising to Ruby. It wasn't like Hop to be the one asking people to wait for once.

"But just before we go, one quick thing if you don't mind." the Champion's brother said, "If it's OK with you Ruby, do you mind if we have another battle, you and me? Think of it as a warm-up before we go to the Ice Gym!"

"Another battle? I don't see why not." Ruby said casually, "I'd rather just get to the next Gym already but I'm sure we can spare the time. That and I'd really like to see your Rillaboom in action." she added.

"Then let's get going!" Hop cried eagerly, "We'll have the battle on the bridge to Route 7. That'll be a good place for us to have the battle."

The two teens headed west out of Hammerlocke to have their battle together. As they walked out of the city, Ruby took one last look at over Hammerlocke Stadium as if she was expecting something to happen again, like something bursting out of the tower or a Pokémon to suddenly Dynamax in the middle of the city. Although it was good that Leon and Sonia were going to warn the Chairman about what was happening and that the situation was in good hands, it still made her feel nervous about the tremor that had occurred earlier. If Project: Eternatus was responsible for this, then how exactly would causing tremors and creating Power Spots be for the good of Galar? The Chairman had said it would benefit the region, but now Ruby was beginning to have doubts on how "beneficial" it was really going to be. It also annoyed her to think that a big, ambitious project that a good man like Derek Rose had Bede contributing in some way for he'd provided some of the Wishing Stars that Rose needed for Project: Eternatus. If the project was what he said it'd be, then she'd have the begrudging notion of giving Bede some of the credit for Eternatus's success. How annoying that would be! On the plus side, at least it would be a case of something good coming out of something bad. That is, if it was even good in the first place. Ruby was still curious on who or what "Eternatus" even was and what the name meant for the project. Did "Eternatus" even mean anything? It had her brain whirring but she knew it was pointless to ponder. There was no way of knowing until the project was unveiled so she'd have to wait until then.

"Hey, Ruby! Watch it!"

Hop's voice brought Ruby out of her train of thoughts and she yelped as she nearly bumped into a bridge post. The teen trainer held her hands out to catch herself before she could walk into it. She and Hop had arrived at the bridge to have their battle but she'd been so deep in thought that she hadn't even noticed. Thankfully, Hop had caught her attention just before she could walk into the bridge post. Ruby frowned and slapped the side of her head in annoyance. Come on girl, focus! Don't trail off like that!

"You were miles away!" Hop cried, "Good thing I called out to you or you would've bumped into that bridge post! Are you OK?"

"Oh I'm fine, fine! Honest!" Ruby said hastily, "I was just lost in my own thoughts for a moment. Really should watch where I'm bloody going, shouldn't I…thanks for warning me. I would've liked pretty silly walking into my next Gym with a huge bump on my head…" she giggled weakly, feeling pretty silly already for nearly doing so in the first place.

"What was you thinking about?" Hop asked curiously.

"Just Project: Eternatus and what it's all about." Ruby explained, "The Chairman's been pretty vague about it. All he said to me is that it'd for the good of Galar. If it's what caused that tremor earlier, I'm starting to feel unsure just how "good" it really is."

"You don't need to worry about it, mate." Hop said softly, "If it's the Chairman's project, we know it'll be for good. And Leon's already taking care of the shake-up earlier, there's nothing to worry about. Just forget about it for now and focus on the Gym Challenge, OK?"

"I'll try to." Ruby said, trying to sound optimistic, "Ready for that battle then?"

"After kicking Bede's arse earlier? I feel ready for anything at this point!" Hop exclaimed, "Let's go!"

The two trainers took up their positions on the large, long bridge and prepared to summon their first Pokémon into battle. Hop had to admit that he was in an interesting situation. Here he was having defeated one rival and now having a battle with another, though this one was different as Ruby was also his friend. He was going to have a much better time with this battle than the last one. At least with Ruby he could expect a good battle and wouldn't just win everything in one hit. There was also something else about Ruby that made him enjoy battling her. What was it? Maybe it was just getting to see her in action and being continuously impressed at how strong she was? Or maybe it was something a bit more than that…

He observed his opponent for a moment, taking in how cool and collected she appeared with her neutral face, relaxed body language and display of patience as she waited to begin. Ruby always looked so cool to him, and also…strangely attractive too. Hop frowned. Why did he suddenly think that? Ruby was just his friend, nothing more! He pushed the thought out of his mind and threw his first Pokéball.

"Here's one that you'll find a really cool catch! Go Trevenant!" Hop cried.

The ball opened up and its occupant materialized into the form of a very unusual looking Pokémon. Ruby recognized the familiar figure of Trevenant, a Ghost/Grass type Pokémon that resembled a possessed tree, complete with a singular eye, clawed hands, six spider-like legs and a body covered with bark and leaves. This was a Pokémon that looked like something out of a horror story or a dark fairy-tale. When watching Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Ruby liked to imagine that the creepy trees that Snow White ran into during the forest scene were actually Trevenants lurking there waiting to get her. Unlike Snow White, this tree-monster didn't scare her. Very few Pokémon actually did. She threw her first Pokéball.

"You're up first, Scorponok!" she yelled.

Hop stared in amazement as he watched Scorponok the Drapion make his grand entrance, materializing onto the bridge opposite his Trevenant. Scorponok flexed his bendy body and bared his sharp claws.

"Is it time for another battle?" he asked, "I hope I can win this one without causing too much harm to my opponent."

"That's so cool! You have a Drapion!" Hop complimented, "I remember how much you love those. Bet it feels good to have one of your favourite Pokémon in your team!"

"You bet it does." Ruby said, beaming, "I feel very happy to have Scorponok with me. And your Trevenant is awesome too." she added.

Trevenant looked surprised as if it wasn't expecting to receive an actual compliment from somebody. In the wild, Trevenant were often feared and avoided so getting actual compliments often came as a surprise to them.

"Thank you. He came in handy when I fought Allister's Gym back in Stow-on-Side." Hop explained, "He's proven quite a capable Pokémon for me."

"That's great!" Ruby said brightly, "Now let's see him in action. Scorponok, use Night Slash!"

"My apologies if this hurts too much, fellow opponent." Scorponok said, his claws glowing with black and purple energy.

Hop braced himself, knowing that this fight was very likely to end quickly. Of course Ruby had a type-advantage over Trevenant and was going to exploit it! She was the kind of girl that took advantage of any weakness she could find! Scorponok skittered quickly towards Trevenant and sliced through his ghostly body with his Night Slash attack. The dark energy that formed the attack caused great pain to the Ghostly tree Pokémon and he stumbled backwards, giving a low haunting groan as if he was a ghost crawling out of his grave and looking for someone to haunt. Ruby shivered, now feeling sorry for her opponent for that groan wasn't pretty to listen to. Trevenant stood where he was for a moment and then collapsed onto his back. Scorponok had managed to take it out in a single hit. Hop wasn't surprised at all as he returned his first Pokémon to his ball.

"Still as strong as ever." he complimented, "At least a loss to you isn't as bad as losing to Bede."

"Of course, as I won't mock you for losing unlike him." Ruby agreed, "I wish I could've seen that Trevenant in action a bit first rather than taking it out in one hit. It would've been cool to see what kind of power he had."

"Maybe next time when I'm closer to your level." Hop said casually, "But I know for a fact I have a Pokémon that'll definitely get to show you its strength!"

He threw his second Pokéball and summoned forth a Pokémon that was notorious for being lazy, but also very powerful. Ruby gasped in amazement as she cast her eyes over the enormous, rotund figure of Snorlax, a Normal type Pokémon from the Kanto region that was as powerful as its huge appearance suggested. Snorlax looked like massive, overweight bear-like creatures with pointy triangular ears, blue-green fur, cream-coloured bellies and feet and a voracious appetite. Snorlax were infamous for gorging themselves on ridiculous amounts of food just to sustain themselves and they could eat a huge amount of food at a time. They were also very easy to please when eating as they could eat just about anything, even mouldy food. In the wild, they would usually gorge themselves until they were full and then sleep for hours on end. Despite being lazy, fat creatures, Snorlax were not Pokémon to be taken lightly as they could take a hit and packed very powerful punches. Ruby's first memory of seeing a Snorlax was watching a trainer fight Leon with one in a Championship match. She'd watched it take out at least half of his team with just a single Snorlax before his Charizard finished it off. She knew that her friend had given her a very strong opponent and the silver girl cursed herself for not changing her team up from yesterday. She still had the team she'd cobbled together specifically to handle the Fairy Gym so she had no Pokémon with Fighting moves that she could use to properly take down Snorlax. She'd just have to improvise for this one.

"You've caught a Snorlax! That's really cool!" Ruby complimented, returning Scorponok to his ball as she knew he wouldn't be enough to handle Snorlax, "I bet he's gonna be a really strong opponent."

"You better believe it." Hop said, winking, "Snorlax has been my ace-in-the-hole for quite a few of my matches already! I think even you might struggle against him!"

"I will as I have no Pokémon on me currently that will be super-effective against it." Ruby muttered, "But I'm sure Vesuvius will be enough to handle it!"

She threw the ball and brought to the battlefield the very Pokémon that had rescued her back in Glimwood Tangle. Vesuvius roared with excitement and looked around to see who her opponent was. She noticed Hop, recognizing him from the brief time she'd seen him in Stow-on-Side, and waved to him.

"Hey there, I remember you." the Coalossal said jovially, "You're that kid Ruby battled with before the Ghost Gym."

"That's me." Hop said with a smile on his face, "And I just wanna say a major thank you for getting Ruby untied back in that forest. She told me that you found her when Bede left her for dead and you rescued her."

"I did indeed!" Vesuvius said proudly, "It felt good to be saving my trainer from a cruel fate like that! Where is Bede anyway? Has he been dealt with?" she asked.

"VERY dealt with!" Ruby said with a dark smile on her face, "All I can say is thanks to you Vesuvius, I was able to warn everyone and then Hop defeated him in a fight and then the Chairman arrested him so we'll never see that jerk again."

The Coalossal smiled with even more pleasure than before.

"I not only saved my trainer, I ended up setting up events that led to his arrest! I really am a hero, aren't I?" she said with pride.

"A very big hero." Ruby agreed, "But now, we're in a Pokémon battle. Let's give Hop a chance to show us your true strength this time!"

Vesuvius nodded. Last time she'd been in battle with Hop, Ruby had had to switch her out because Hop had a type-advantage with his Cramorant. Now she was facing his Snorlax, Vesuvius could give Hop a proper demonstration of her capabilities. She was interested to see that she was facing a Snorlax. Something this powerful was going to make for a worthy opponent. The heavyweight titans lowered their heads and stared each other down, waiting for their trainers to give the commands. Ruby and Hop could hardly wait to get started. This was well and truly going to be a clash of the titans!

"Let's start off with High Horsepower!" Ruby ordered.

Vesuvius responded instantly, pawing the brick work of the bridge with her foot and then charging towards Snorlax. All one had to do was stick a drill horn on Vesuvius and she'd look exactly like a Rhydon on a rampage at this moment. But then Ruby got the biggest surprise of her life as to her amazement...Snorlax jumped to one side and dodge the attack! Vesuvius screeched to a halt, crying out in alarm as she hurtled straight past the gluttonous Pokémon. Neither she nor Ruby could've anticipated that a Pokémon that big and heavy was able to dodge an attack that fast approaching! Snorlax just yawned casually as if what it had done was no big deal for it. Hop smiled with pride.

"As I said, Snorlax is one of my aces." he said proudly, "He's more than meets the eye. Now use Stockpile!" he ordered.

Snorlax obeyed and stood still for a moment as an orange glow swept upwards over his enormous body. Stockpile was an ability that raised the Defence and Special Defence of a Pokémon that used it, a way of "stockpiling" on power as the attack implied, and it could be used a maximum of three times in a battle. Ruby was impressed. Hop was clearly getting better. Maybe Leon had been right to suggest for her to be a "real rival" to his brother for it was clear that all the battles she'd had with Hop were only leading to him getting better and better. She was even beginning to feel that Hop could well score his first victory against her, which she wouldn't have minded naturally as it'd really show how far he'd come since the day their journeys had begun. But Ruby wasn't going to give in without a fight. She'd show Hop that this battle was going to be a legendary one!

"Snorlax maybe a little harder to take down now its defences have raised, but I'm confident we can pull through! Use High Horsepower again, Vesuvius!" Ruby commanded.

Vesuvius stampeded towards her opponent again, moving surprisingly fast for a Pokémon of her size just as before. Snorlax wasn't fast enough to dodge this time, wincing as this huge, walking volcano barged straight into him, sending him skidding backwards across the bridge. Despite the sheer power put into the attack, Snorlax had taken very little damage. High Horsepower was a powerful attack, one of the most powerful Ground attacks a Pokémon could learn, and yet Snorlax had taken it as if he'd been hit by a bouncy ball. Ruby imagined that all that fat made him able to cushion blows and the fact she had no super-effective attacks to exploit his weakness to Fighting types didn't help her cause. Snorlax retaliated by using Body Slam. He stumbled towards his opponent, the bridge shuddering with every footstep he took, and then the Normal-type Pokémon jumped up into the air and landed straight on top of Vesuvius. Vesuvius cried out as several tonnes of Pokémon landed on top of her but not even Snorlax's great weight could make a Body Slam attack very effective against a Coalossal. Her rock-solid body and her typing being largely unaffected by Normal types made Vesuvius able to take a hit like Body Slam with ease. Now that was done with, Ruby tried another attack to see if it would make any difference.

"Try using Flame Charge!" Ruby cried.

Vesuvius surrounded herself with flames that burnt deep within her body and charged towards Snorlax again. Like with High Horsepower, it wasn't a very effective move that did much damage but at least with this attack, it had better accuracy so Vesuvius was less likely to miss and Flame Charge's additional ability of boosting her speed up every time it was used was a happy bonus. Ruby was also banking on the slight chance that if Vesuvius hit Snorlax with a Fire-type attack enough times, she might inflict a burn on Snorlax and do extra damage that way. After Vesuvius had used Flame Charge, Hop ordered Snorlax to use another Stockpile. Ruby frowned. His defences had increased again so now he'd be even harder to defeat! Hop was not going to make this easy for her! She really liked this new Hop as he carried out the battle. He seemed more confident, coordinated and like he'd truly learnt from his previous battles. No wonder he'd effortlessly defeated Bede earlier! She also couldn't help but think that there was something kind of…charming about seeing him in action here. What was it? Ruby wasn't sure but she had to admit, it wasn't like her to have such thoughts about her friend. She put the thought aside to focus on the battle, ordering another Flame Charge from Vesuvius.

Vesuvius repeated her previous move and hit Snorlax again, doing little damage but getting another speed boost after she'd completed the move. Snorlax Body Slammed his opponent again, also doing little damage. As neither opponent had a weakness to exploit, it was all the two trainers could order their Pokémon to do. This was well and truly an endurance match, a match determined only by who could last the longest. Vesuvius hit Snorlax again with Flame Charge and Hop ordered Snorlax to use one last Stockpile. He wouldn't be able to use it again now he'd used all three turns. At least he couldn't boost his defences anymore, but that didn't mean the battle would be any easier. His defences had gone up enough times to make any attack Vesuvius landed almost meaningless as she did such little damage to him. Ruby tried ordering Vesuvius to use Heavy Slam, but that of course did very little as Vesuvius and Snorlax were both heavy opponents so Vesuvius hardly outweighed him at all. Snorlax retaliated with another Body Slam attack…which ended up proving to be a big mistake. Vesuvius had the Flame Body ability, an ability that allowed her to inflict burns on anyone who made physical contact with her. Snorlax had been constantly using Body Slam on her, so it was only a matter of time before she finally landed that burn on him. Snorlax flinched, a nasty burn mark on his belly from Vesuvius's hot body and he lost a bit more health thanks to the burn damage. This made things a little easier now as Ruby kept ordering Vesuvius to use Flame Charge on Snorlax and while Snorlax kept taking the hits and using Body Slam in return, he was also getting damaged by his burn so his health was starting to dwindle down quicker than Vesuvius.

Eventually, it got to the point where Hop used a Hyper Potion on Snorlax to heal him and restore his health. Ruby smiled grimly at her friend. Like her, he was making use of potions and healing items to keep the fight going. Definitely a step-up from his previous fighting style! Vesuvius groaned in annoyance. She'd almost defeated Snorlax and now she had to do the damage all over again! At least he still had his burn as Hop hadn't used anything on Snorlax to cure it. Did he not have any Burn Heals or Full Heals on him? Ruby ordered Vesuvius to use Flame Charge again and Snorlax retaliated once more with Body Slam. The trainers watched intently as their colossal Pokémon traded blow after blow, both hitting each other as hard as they could but doing very little. They could feel the bridge shake beneath their feet with every blow landed. If this match get any more intense, they'd bring the bridge down! But then suddenly, Snorlax crashed down on Vesuvius with another Body Slam and the Coalossal flinched as what appeared to be a brief flash of electricity crackled over her body, making her stiffen in pain. Ruby understood immediately what had happened. Body Slam had the side-effect of paralyzing the opponent. Sometimes it happened quickly and sometimes it needed a lot of uses before finally doing so. Ruby wasted a precious turn to use a Full Heal on Vesuvius to prevent the paralysis from being an issue for her. The last thing she could afford is Vesuvius being unable to move because she was paralyzed and thus, giving Snorlax an extra turn to attack. Vesuvius was now cured of her status condition, but Snorlax still had his so Ruby intended to exploit that by landing enough blows on Snorlax for the burn damage to finish him off in the end.

Both opponents traded some more blows before taking a moment to catch their breath. A small speck of lava trickled down Vesuvius's head, making it look like she was literally sweating lava. Snorlax panted, looking ready for one of his kind's infamous long naps when this was over. Both Vesuvius and Snorlax were starting to get worn out, even if they had some health left. Ruby and Hop decided to let them rest a minute before carrying on.

"You're doing great Vesuvius! Just hang in there a little longer!" Ruby cried.

"I will do…but that Snorlax…really knows how to take a hit!" Vesuvius panted.

"If only I had Bugs with me. His Double Kicks could've save me so much trouble…" Ruby muttered, "Screw that Bede kidnapping me earlier so I didn't have time to change my team up! As is, we're just going to have to keep at it. Snorlax is still suffering from his burn damage so we have the advantage at least."

"Yeah…a little extra damage for us to bring the fight to a close." Vesuvius agreed, "We can win!"

And so once the two Pokémon had caught their breath again, the endurance match continued. As expected, it was just more Flame Charges and Body Slams being traded between them until finally, Snorlax's burn damage whittled his health down low enough for Vesuvius to draw this very long, drawn-out match to a close. Vesuvius rushed in with one last Flame Charge, moving the fastest she'd ever moved in her life thanks to the multiple speed boosts from using the move over and over. She slammed into Snorlax, knocking the gargantuan beast off his feet and bringing him down with an earth-shuddering crash onto his back. The bridge shook and small cracks appeared in the brickwork, making the teens wonder for one horrifying moment if the entire structure was going to give way and they'd plummet to their deaths. But the bridge held firm. It had been specially built to withstand Pokémon attacks back in the day as the architects knew that some people would use the bridge as a battle arena, so it had to be ludicrously strong to handle the heavy blows that some Pokémon could land. Snorlax lay where he was, his head slumping to one side as he was finally knocked out. Hop stared sadly at his powerful Pokémon. He was so sure that Snorlax would be the one Pokémon to finally win a match with one of Ruby's but in the end, Vesuvius had endured the longest and had emerged victorious, and all thanks to her ability giving her some extra damage to exploit. The Coalossal was happy to have won but otherwise could only raise her arms tiredly in celebration. She was too exhausted to celebrate for real.

"Whew…finally made it! That was the toughest battle I've EVER had!" the Coalossal gasped.

"I know, right?!" Ruby cried, "I've never had a battle that lasted so long before! It just shows the importance of type-advantage in a fight! If you don't have it, the matches become a LOT harder!"

"Too right, my mate!" Hop agreed, returning Snorlax, "If I'd taught Snorlax any moves that were super-effective against your Coalossal, the fight would've ended much quicker. Still, I'm glad you got a great example of my Snorlax, Ruby. Now let's see what you make of my next Pokémon."

He threw his next Pokéball and summoned forth an Electric type Pokémon known as Boltund. Boltund was the evolved form of Yamper, looking closer to a hound dog than a corgi like its predecessor. It was yellow, white and black in colour with tufts of fur around the back and a long, thin tail that took on the shape of a lightning bolt whenever it fired its electric attacks. Boltund barked determinedly and prepared to battle.

"I'llwinthisbattleforyoumasterjustlikeIalwaysdo!" the electric dog Pokémon babbled at a tremendous speed.

Ruby burst into laughter, clutching her sides.

"Oh my gosh, how fast can that Boltund talk?! He talks at the speed of light!" Ruby laughed.

"Yeah, he's a bit of a motor mouth." Hop said sheepishly, "I don't always understand what he's saying but I get some of it. He's also fast at winning fights too."

"I imagine he will." Ruby said, returning Vesuvius to her ball so she could have a well-deserved rest. The Coalossal was far too tired to fight on anymore after that drawn-out battle with Snorlax so she decided it'd be best to rely on another Pokémon.

She drew out her first Pokéball again and returned Scorponok to the battlefield. Scorponok narrowed his eyes with interest.

"Hmm, didn't expect I'd be needed again so soon." he murmured, "My next opponent should be an interesting one."

"YoubetterbelieveitbecauseI'mgoingtowinformywonderfulmaster!" Boltund babbled quickly, "Bewaremymightyelectricattacks!"

Scorponok stared blankly at Boltund, having not understood a word he'd said.

"Never mind it Scorponok. Use Dig!" Ruby ordered.

Scorponok did just that. He tore away at the break and concrete right under his feet and tunnelled his way down into the bridge. Ruby then realized what a terrible idea that had been. Suppose he dug too far down and came out the other side of the bridge? He'd fall! But Scorponok was good at digging and could sense how close he was to the bottom of the bridge from the inside so he knew when to stop. Boltund was left looking around frantically, worried on where his opponent was. Scorponok could be anywhere at this point. He listened out, hoping to hear him coming. Then suddenly, the Drapion erupted from right underneath Boltund, making him yelp in a mixture of pain and alarm as he was whisked up into the air by his scorpion-like opponent. Some bricks and bits of concrete were thrown around the bridge and over the side. He crashed down onto his side and rolled to a stop at Hop's feet. He lay still, knocked out in a single hit by Scorponok's Dig. The Drapion looked guilty for a moment.

"Oh dear, did I hurt your Boltund too badly?" he said worriedly.

Hop just smiled as he returned him to his Pokéball.

"It's OK, Scorponok. Don't worry about it." he said casually, "In a Pokémon battle, the Pokémon always hold back enough in their attacks so they don't cause too much pain for them. It's not like Pokémon fighting in the wild where they can be a LOT rougher. Boltund will be fine."

Scorponok sighed with relief. It was certainly much better participating in Pokémon battles than in the wild if that was how things worked. It really was more fun fighting for sport than for survival. Hop brought out his fourth Pokémon to do battle with, this one a Fire-type Pokémon named Heatmor. Heatmor looked like a giant anteater with red, beige and yellow skin, huge yellow claws, a pipe-like tail and a long, fiery tongue. Heatmor were native to the Unova region and liked to hunt the Steel/Bug type Pokémon, Durant. Their tongues burnt through their steel bodies and allowed them to consume their insides. Ruby eyed her opponent up with interest. Heatmor was certainly a cool catch and she wondered where and when Hop had managed to find one. She had no water-types on her at the minute and Vesuvius was too tired to fight again so she decided the best thing to do would be to keep Scorponok on the field and use Dig again to exploit Heatmor's weakness to Ground types.

She gave the command, this time telling Scorponok to be careful when digging so he didn't fall out the underside of the bridge like she'd worried he would do earlier. Scorponok obeyed, jumping into the hole he'd dug last time to make sure that wouldn't happen. Heatmor stood away from the hole in which Scorponok had jumped up through earlier to take Boltund out. No way was he going to be stupid and stand there so he could get hit! The Fire-type Pokémon kept his senses alert for any signs of his opponent. He wouldn't be able to dig very far as they were on a bridge so it might be easy to pinpoint where he might be. Then the bricks under Heatmor's feet shook and he threw himself backwards. Scorponok burst up from the brickwork, just manging to catch Heatmor as he tried to dodge. He landed on his back, a few chunks of brick and mortar landing around him but unlike Boltund, he'd managed to withstand the attack. It had done the damage, and plenty of it, but it hadn't been a one-hit KO. Heatmor picked himself up and brushed himself down, flicking his fiery tongue.

"That's a tough Heatmor." Ruby acknowledged, "You found yourself a good one, didn't you?"

"Sure did!" Hop said brightly, "And he's gonna help me win that Ice Badge when we get to Circhester! Show her what we mean Heatmor by using Fire Lash on Scorponok!"

Heatmor extended his fiery tongue and swung his head around, the long tongue swishing through the air like a whip and whacking Scorponok across the face. It felt red-hot to the touch and made him wince in pain but it hadn't done a lot of damage. Scorponok had lost the Bug-type weakness to Fire upon evolving into Drapion, becoming a Poison/Dark type instead, so Fire Lash wasn't super-effective against him. Fire Lash also had the added effect of lowering a Pokémon's defence when used. It didn't matter in the end though as Scorponok finished the fight off by using Cross Poison on Heatmor. His claws glowed a dark purple colour and he wiped at his opponent with his arms held out in an X-shape, hence the attack's name. Heatmor winced in pain as he was sliced by the poisonous claws and what little health he had left was taken away, leaving him to collapse onto his back and lie there with his tongue hanging out. He now looked like an anteater that had fallen asleep after eating too many ants. Hop returned Heatmor and drew out his last Pokémon.

"And now here's the one you've been waiting for." he said eagerly, "Rillaboom, let's hop into action!" he cried.

He threw the ball and out came the very Pokémon he'd used to defeat Bede and get revenge for his kidnapping of Ruby. Rillaboom beat his large chest and grunted enthusiastically, excited at the prospect of having another match so soon after the last one.

"Ooh, ooh, Rillaboom ready to battle again! And Rillaboom happy that he's fighting against Hop's friend this time!" he said gruffly.

"And I'm happy I get to see you in action! You look AWESOME!" Ruby cried excitedly, "Wow, look at you! You're a big grassy gorilla with his own personal drumkit! You might be one of the coolest Pokémon that's ever lived!"

"Rillaboom appreciates nice girl's comments." Rillaboom said brightly, puffing himself up with his large hands on his hips.

"If only I had Bugs on me so he could see you now." Ruby murmured, returning Scorponok to his ball, "Ah well, he's not stuck in a Pokémon Centre so there's a chance you'll get to meet each other at some point. For now, you'll have to face Sparkles!"

She threw her Pokéball and out came the electrifying Sparkles the Manectric. She howled loudly and electricity crackled around her body with excitement.

"Aw yeah, finally! It's my time to shine again!" she cried, "And wow, my opponent's a big one, isn't he? This is going to be fun!"

Hop pursed his lips with interest. That was unusual. He wouldn't have expected a Manectric to be brought out to fight a Rillaboom. He remembered how last time they fought, Ruby had sent a Noctowl to fight his Toxel despite a type-disadvantage, only to see that the Noctowl had had type-coverage to make up for it. Was this the case here? He very quickly got his answer as Ruby gave her first order.

"Sparkles, Flamethrower!" she ordered.

Hop frowned. He was right, Sparkles had type-coverage! He was surprised to see that Manectric could actually learn Flamethrower. Some Pokémon could learn attacks that you would NEVER expect them to be able to learn. Sparkles opened her mouth and let fly a huge wave of flames that swept over Rillaboom. At this very moment, she looked like she'd turned into a Houndoom,a Fire/Dark type Pokémon that also resembled a dog. Rillaboom cried out as he was hit by the flames. Even though it wasn't Bugs using Fire attacks on him like all the other fights, it didn't make this attack any less painful. But maybe Sparkles not being a fire type ended up playing into his favour for despite the powerful move, Rillaboom wasn't quite down yet. The Flamethrower had done a lot of damage but otherwise, Rillaboom was still active. He had a bit of health left in him so the fight wasn't over. He brushed himself off and shook his head to shake off the feeling of the flames. Ruby gasped in astonishment.

"Wow, he's still standing! I thought that'd take him out in a single hit!" Ruby cried, "Your starter sure has evolved into a strong Pokémon, Hop!"

"Thank you!" Hop said appreciatively, "I bet you can see why I had such an easy time against Bede with him. He's really helped me out a lot in my previous battles!"

He pointed ahead at Sparkles.

"Now Rillaboom, use Drum Beating!" the Champion's brother ordered.

"Rillaboom gonna beat out a great tune!" the Grassy Gorilla declared, twirling his drumsticks in his hands.

He pounded on his wooden drum, playing a tune that echoed from all around the two trainers. Ruby wondered if anyone down in the Wild Area below could hear her opponent's drum playing. As Rillaboom played, a pair of vines grew out from his drum and snaked their way towards Sparkles. The vines were as thick as tree trunks and Sparkles quickly saw for herself that they were as powerful as they looked. She yelped in pain as the vines slammed down on her in time with Rillaboom's drum solo. Ruby winced and narrowed her eyes, feeling Sparkles's pain. She sure would hate to be a Pokémon on the receiving end of THAT attack! The vines finally stopped their attack and Sparkles was left sprawled on the floor, grimacing as she tried to fight off the pain from her opponent's attack. Rillaboom had displayed some immense power, nearly taking Sparkles out in a single blow. Her health had dropped down low, almost completely diminished. Ruby could see now that Hop had picked a great starter. When fully evolved, Rillaboom was a true powerhouse! She was glad that Hop had gotten to use him to make a fool out of Bede with. If only she could've watched that fight.

"Your Grookey sure evolved into a mighty Pokémon! Rillaboom's one hell of a hitter!" Ruby said exasperatedly.

"He is, isn't he?" Hop said, sounding very pleased with himself, "I couldn't be prouder of my starter Pokémon. I'll always love my Wooloo but Rillaboom's sure earned his spot on my team!"

"He sure has." Ruby agreed, "But we can still win this. Use Flamethrower again Sparkles!" the Postwick girl ordered.

"Quick, use Drum Beating again before Sparkles can use it!" the Postwick boy ordered back.

Both Pokémon launched their attacks, but to Ruby's surprise…Rillaboom was the one that hit first. What she didn't know was that Drum Beating had a side-effect in which it could lower the opponent's speed. Sparkles was fast, but Rillaboom was now faster because her speed had dropped. The Flamethrower died in Sparkles's throat as Rillaboom played his drum again and the vines slammed down on her once more. Her health was already critical so the single Drum Beating was enough to finish Sparkles off. The Manectric grunted, trying to stay standing once the attack had concluded but it was no good. With no health left, she collapsed onto her stomach and closed her eyes. Ruby put her hands to her mouth in astonishment. Even Hop looked amazed.

"Wow…I actually managed to beat one of your Pokémon for once?!" he gasped, "Whoa…I didn't think I'd actually do it! Way to go Rillaboom!"

"Rillaboom mighty and powerful!" the ape-like Pokémon preened, flexing his muscles.

Ruby ran over to Sparkles and patted her on the back. She had become so used to winning against Hop that she wasn't sure how to process what had happened. Hop was truly getting better and better! He'd now managed to knock at least one of her Pokémon out! It seemed he was going to prove himself a worthy challenger after all. What would Leon think if he saw this?

"Aw…I lost." Sparkles muttered, "I really thought we had it in the bag! Sorry Ruby, I don't know how I lost that one."

"It's OK Sparkles. To be honest, I always felt bad on how I'd always beat Hop so easily. It's nice that we can let him have at least one victory for once." Ruby said softly, "I'm glad my friend's getting so good at this now."

She returned Sparkles to her Pokéball and took out another one. She knew that she only needed one particular Pokémon to finish the fight with Rillaboom. If Vesuvius hadn't been worn out from the Snorlax battle, she'd have chosen her but she still had at least a couple of Pokémon that would still be effective against Rillaboom.

"Well done Hop! That's the first time you've managed to beat me in any round we've had!" Ruby congratulated, "But it's sadly going to be a short-lived one. Freddy, you're up to finish the fight!"

She threw the Pokéball and out came Freddy the Toxtricity, the lizard-like Pokémon looking as energized as ever with his electric Mohawk crackling excitedly. He eyed up his opponent and smiled with interest.

"Nice drum kit." he said, "Maybe when this fight is over, you could use it to join in with a song I have a mind."

"Rillaboom would love to make music!" Rillaboom replied eagerly.

"I think you two would sound great playing "We Will Rock You" together." Ruby said, "But first things first, we have a battle to finish. Freddy, use Sludge Bomb!"

Freddy opened his mouth and coughed up a pile of toxic slime that splattered all over Rillaboom, depleting what little health he had left and ending the fight right then and there with a single move. Rillaboom staggered backwards from his drum kit and fell over onto his back, completely defeated from that last attack. Hop was disappointed at this, but he knew that it was inevitable that it would happen. He was down to last Pokémon that had already taken a lot of damage so the fight was never going to last much longer. And besides, he couldn't be too disappointed. He'd put up his best performance against his mate so far. That was something to be proud of at least. He returned Rillaboom to his ball and gave Ruby a smile to show that he wasn't annoyed or mad at her for winning again.

"That was the best fight we've had so far I think!" he cried, "We both gave it our all out there and I actually managed to keep you on your toes a bit! All that training sure is paying off, don't you think?"

"It sure is Hop." Ruby said, returning Freddy to his Pokéball, "I'm so proud of you, mate. I know I beat you, again, but this time wasn't as much of a clean sweep like the previous ones. You even managed to take at least one of my Pokémon out!"

"I know, I wasn't expecting to score any victories against you!" Hop cried, "I hope Sparkles is OK though. I'd hate it if Rillaboom hurt her too badly…"

"I think you've only wounded her pride. She'll be fine." Ruby said dismissively, "She loves to fight so maybe a loss will teach her not to be so battle-hungry all the time."

The two friends approached each other as they no longer needed to be spaced apart for a Pokémon battle. As soon as they came within arm's distance of each other, Hop suddenly reached out and took Ruby's hands into his own. He looked his friend in the eyes, only just realizing just how beautiful they looked. They were like a sparkling pair of rubies to him. Sparkling ruby eyes for a girl named Ruby, how appropriate.

"I just wanna say thanks for battling me again." Hop said graciously, "I may not be getting stronger as quickly as you are, but every fight with you makes me feel as if I'm truly getting somewhere. Thanks to the drive you give me, I really do think that I'm gonna be as awesome as my brother is!"

"I'm glad I could give you that drive." Ruby said kindly, "Leon wanted me to be a "real rival" to you, though I'd rather be your friend honestly. I think now I see what he really meant. If the battles we have together is helping you out so much, then I'm glad I could help out and play a part in your getting stronger. I really hope we'll both make it to the finals together."

"I wouldn't want it any other way, mate." Hop said brightly.

The two then shared one last hug together before Hop turned on his heels and waved goodbye, heading off towards Route 7 to make his way to Circhester City. Ruby waited for him to go so she could let him have a good, long head start before she started making her way back to Motostoke City to let her team heal at the Pokémon Centre before going to Circhester. She placed her hands in her pockets and sighed happily to herself. After a horrible start to the day with Bede kidnapping her and tying her to a tree, the day was turning much better for her with another fun match with Hop and the path to her next Gym ahead of her. She couldn't help but think back to the way Hop had taken hold of her hands and looked into her eyes before he'd left. It wasn't how he usually acted around her, not that she minded. Did Hop maybe see her as more than a friend?

Ruby doubted it, but she liked to think she was right. She supposed if she had a boyfriend, she'd want it to be someone like Hop. He was fun, cheerful, kind of a dork but in a cute kind of way and a very understanding guy. She constantly beat him in battles, yet he held no animosity towards her. At the most, Ruby could see she was glad to have a neighbour like Hop. How lucky was she and her family to live close to a family that had nice guys like Leon and Hop in it?

She was still thinking about Hop as she made her way over to the Motostoke Pokémon Centre. He was great to have as a friend and with how chill he was by nature, maybe Ruby didn't have to worry about him hating her if she beat him in the Pokémon Tournament after all…


Pokemon lost: Sparkles the Manectric. Lasted: Level 14-Level 41. Location of incident: East side of Hammerlocke City. Cause of defeat: Beaten by Hop's Rillaboom using Drum Beating.

Loss count: 4

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