Chapter 2: The Pokémon in the Woods
"Oh brudder!" Bugs exclaimed as he took in what they were looking at.
Ruby and Hop shared the Scorbunny's worried look as they could easily see what had happened. The Wooloo that had been tackling the gate earlier had broken through and had wandered off into the Slumbering Weald. Wooloo weren't particularly bright Pokémon but they hadn't expected one to be so dim as to keep tackling a gate until it broke open and then wander off aimlessly. Ruby now wished she'd done something about the Wooloo instead of expecting it to just stop eventually. The Slumbering Weald was not a place that anyone wanted to just wander into. It was a scary, foreboding place with rumours speculating that there were really scary Pokémon living in there.
"What did that silly Wooloo do that for?" Hop muttered, "This place is off-limits, nobody's supposed to go in there!"
He turned to Ruby.
"I remember one time when the professor's granddaughter went in once and she came back in a real state." Hop explained, "And that was nothing compared to the earful she got from the professor afterward!"
"And we're no doubt gonna get an earful ourselves if we go in there but we can't just stand by while that Wooloo wanders into whatever danger's in the Slumbering Weald! We've got to save it!" Ruby declared.
"Well if you tink we should go in dere, doc, den I'll be right beside ya!" Bugs declared, flexing his muscles, "I'll protect you two from whatever Pokémon could be lurking in da woods!"
"I'm glad you've got our backs mate." Ruby said graciously, "Let's go and save that Wooloo!"
The two children and Bugs ran up the path towards the Slumbering Weald.
The first impression Ruby got was that the Slumbering Weald was a lot creepier when you was actually walking through it than just seeing it from a distance away. To anyone living in Postwick, it just looked like a dark forest but up close, it was somewhat spooky due the many trees that were devoid of any life in them and a strange fog that seemed to hang in the air. That puzzled Ruby for it was a bright sunny day back in Postwick but in here it was dark and foggy. Was a Pokémon living in this area causing the fog or was this place cursed in some way? And stranger still, Ruby found herself shivering and she pulled her jacket closer around her. It was as if this forest had magically banished any form of heat from the sun's rays so no warmth could get in.
"Brrr, why'd it get cold all of a sudden?" Ruby asked.
"I could ride on your shoulder if ya want. Us fire types can keep our trainers warm just by bein' in close contact with them." Bugs offered.
The silver-haired teen liked that idea so she held an arm out and Bugs hopped onto her shoulder. Bugs sat down and Ruby instantly felt the warmth from her fiery companion generating from his body. It spread from her shoulder down her arm and side. She felt gladder than ever to have picked Scorbunny to start with. Having a fire-type like him was proving most handy.
"Thanks Bugs." Ruby said, "That's much better. How are you Hop? Are you cold?"
"I'll be fine. My jacket's warm enough." Hop replied, pulling his sleeves down so he could keep his arms warmer, "I can't help but notice that fog's getting thicker…" he murmured, looking around to see that it was getting harder to see the trees around them, "If we don't find that Wooloo soon, this might be trouble."
Ruby could see what he meant. It looked to her like a blanket of white was slowly swallowing the surroundings up, threatening to take away everything in sight and leave only a featureless void to walk through.
"If it gets too thick for us to see each other, Bugs can use his fire powers to light the way." Ruby decided, "If we hurry, we can find the Wooloo and get out of here before the fog gets worse."
"I hope we ain't too long. Dis place gives me da creeps!" Bugs said, shuddering.
"You and me both!" Ruby concurred.
She and Hop set off further into the Slumbering Weald. Despite the foggy atmosphere and somewhat spooky appearance, Ruby couldn't help but feel that there was a strange kind of peace to this place. It may look like a creepy forest but due to being off-limits for many, many years, it remained as a rare example of a piece of nature long untouched by human hands. The only sign that humans had ever been in this place was a small rock bridge over a tiny stream that the children crossed over. Aside from that bridge, nothing man-made could be found in this forest. It was just so…beautiful in a way to see nature at its purest with undisturbed wildlife and scenery. Ruby had often wondered what true nature looked like and she had to admit, the Slumbering Weald was a good example even if it made her uneasy walking through it. The fog was thick so she and Hop couldn't see too far ahead of themselves and as peaceful and quiet it was, it also made the forest even more eerie as neither of them knew what to expect. Anything could be hiding in this forest, Pokémon or not, and they could likely be very dangerous Pokémon.
Five minutes passed by and there was still no sign of the Wooloo. However, Ruby and Hop experienced their first Pokémon encounter in the woods as something jumped out of the tall grass nearby and pounced on Ruby. Ruby screamed and flung it off of herself. Bugs leapt off her shoulder and braced himself to attack, livid that a Pokémon had dared to attack his master like that. The Pokémon in question was a Skwovet, a squirrel-like Pokémon with chubby cheeks, big teeth and a huge, bushy tail. The Skwovet had a mean look in its eye and chirped viciously. It was clear it didn't like having its territory invaded and wanted to scare the intruders off.
"A Skwovet!" Ruby cried, "And it looks pretty mad! Bugs, can you handle that thing?"
"Sure can doc." Bugs said confidently, "I never liked dem Skwovets. Greedy little tings that love biting people…"
Ruby agreed. She could recall a time her family had had a picnic together and a Skwovet had tried to steal their food. They'd shooed it away, but Emerald had gotten a nasty bite on the arm in return. Ruby wondered if this was the same Skwovet that had bitten her sister. If so, it would be satisfying to make it pay for doing it to her. She also noticed that Bugs seemed oddly keen to fight this Skwovet. She could practically see the fire in his eyes, and that wasn't down to his typing. Did Bugs have a bad history with the squirrel-like Pokémon?
She watched as the Skwovet scampered towards Bugs, its buck teeth bared and ready to bite. It was unnerving to see how an adorably chubby squirrel could look so vicious. But as the Skwovet came towards Bugs, the Scorbunny dropped his venomous stare and stood still, his hands behind his back and a smug smile on his face. Then he stepped to one side, leaving the Skwovet to charge straight past him and crash headfirst into a tree. The rodent-like Pokémon lay slumped on the ground, stars dancing around its vision and a dopy smile on its face as it was well and truly conked out. Ruby and Hop giggled.
"Dat's da best ting about dealing with them big-mouthed suckers. Dey're not very bright." Bugs gloated, "Before I was caught by Leon ta be given as a starter, I used ta mess around with dese guys all da time. Dey never got da best of me."
"As funny as that was, I'm glad we got that out of the way." Ruby said, looking at the dazed Skwovet, "I really didn't fancy being bitten by that thing. It was horrible when my sister, Emerald, got bitten by one…"
Bugs cringed in response.
"Oooh, yeah, yer poor sister really was unlucky ta experience dat." he said sympathetically.
Ruby nodded grimly. She, Hop and Bugs went on further into the forest to look for the runaway Wooloo. The Skwovet lay where it was, out cold from having conked itself out against the tree.
A few minutes later, Ruby and Hop still hadn't found the Wooloo. On their trek through Slumbering Weald, they had encountered a wild Rookidee and another Skwovet. Both encounters had been brief with Bugs shooing the Rookidee away with a blast of Ember and tricking the Skwovet into crashing into another tree. He hadn't even received a hit from them. But as they went along, the fog was continuing to thicken. It seemed to get worse the further they travelled into the woods. Now Ruby and Hop could barely even make out the trees in the surrounding area. They stood close together so as not to lose sight of each other in the fog. Bugs was back on Ruby's shoulder, his ears twitching for any sign of danger. Both he and his trainer could feel their hearts thumping a little faster as the fog drifted around them, threatening to eclipse them all in white. It felt as if the world was disappearing and they were going to end up trapped in some kind of endless white limbo if they didn't escape now.
"This is mad! I can barely even see my own hand in front of my face!" Hop exclaimed, "I see now why this place is off-limits…"
"The fog's getting too thick! I'm sorry Hop but we need to go back." Ruby said, holding her own hand out to see if she could still see it, "The Wooloo's long gone and we'll just end up lost along with it if we carry on."
"Y'know mate, when you're right, you're right." Hop agreed, "It's not worth risking getting lost for a single Wooloo. That or the sheer amount of trouble we'll be in with our mothers if they…"
The kids were interrupted by an eerie sound that seemed to come from everywhere at once. Ruby and Hop were so startled that they nearly jumped out of the skins. Was it their imagination or had the sound been some kind of…howling noise? Bugs looked around wildly, clutching tightly to Ruby as if she could somehow save his life.
"Yipes! What was dat?" he whimpered.
"I don't know…" Ruby said worriedly, "It doesn't sound like any Pokémon I've heard before."
She and Hop looked around for what had made that howling sound. It was fruitless to do so as the fog was making it near impossible to see anyway. They'd likely never know what it was that made the noise. It was best for the both of them that they got out quick before whatever it was could get them. And then suddenly, a huge shape emerged from the fog and stood before them with hard, piercing yellow eyes. Ruby and Hop turned, the sound of its footsteps alerting them to its presence. They gasped as a huge, lupine creature stood there, staring intently as if wondering why they'd come to this part of the forest.
"Sweet Mother of Arceus!" Ruby shrieked.
"What in the-?!" Hop exclaimed.
"I ain't never seen a Pokémon like dat before!" Bugs cried, "Dat is…if it's even a Pokémon at all!"
The thing they were looking at was a quadrupedal creature with a clear resemblance to a wolf. It had magenta fur with a white underbelly, a huge plume of blue hair on its head and a blue, furry tail. The most striking feature about the canine creature before them was its neck. It was unusually thick and was shaped somewhat like a shield. It seemed to carry scars from previous battles and even had a chunk of its left ear missing. This was a mysterious creature that had clearly seen plenty of conflict in its life and carried the scars to prove it. With the plume on its head and its shield-shaped neck, it had a somewhat knight-like vibe to its appearance along with the threatening and mysterious presence of a wolf. It howled, a clear warning to the children to leave right away or it would attack. The howl felt like it cut right through the children, an ice cold shiver running through their bloodstream. Ruby held her hands up defensively.
"P-please…f-forgive us f-for d-disturbing you." she stammered, "W-w-we were j-just looking f-for a runaway P-Pokémon. A-are you a P-Pokémon too?"
The lupine beast didn't answer. Maybe it couldn't even talk. All it did was just stare at her and Hop. Curiously, it didn't seem to be in any hurry to attack them. If anything, it looked…studious, like it was trying to figure them out. It was an unnerving experience for Ruby didn't know whether to leg it or see what the thing wanted. Then Bugs hopped off her shoulder and took up a battle-ready stance.
"Not talkin' eh?" he said, "Well den, if you're not in da mood ta talk, how's about we battle?"
"No Bugs, you have no idea what you're up against!" Ruby cried, "If it's a Pokémon, it could be too powerful for you!"
"And if it is a Pokémon, I could potentially get you your foist capture." Bugs retorted, "If it's really powerful den you'll be a champion in no time!"
"We should let him fight." Hop agreed, "I doubt that thing's willing to let us go easily. If we turn our backs on it, it could pounce!"
The teen girl could easily see Hop's point. If Bugs could at least scare the beast away, they'd have a chance of escaping with their lives. Of course Bugs could just die himself but what other choice was there? Try to run and risk the creature slaughtering them right now or at least fight it off and have a chance of getting away once it was down. Ruby preferred to take her chances with the second option.
"OK…it's risky but let's go." Ruby said cautiously, "Bugs, use Ember!"
Bugs obeyed, coughing out a big ball of flame from his mouth and launching it towards the mysterious Pokémon. But then the strangest thing happened. Bugs's attack…went straight through it! The sassy Scorbunny stared incredulously at what had happened. The wolf creature just stood there, completely unaffected by Bugs's attack. Hop and Ruby shared his astonished stare.
"What?! The move had no effect?!" yelled Hop.
"Is it a ghost?!" Ruby shrieked.
"But my attacks should still hurt it, even if it is a ghost!" Bugs said frantically, "Ghost type Pokémon can still get hurt!"
"So maybe it isn't a Pokémon at all, or at least it's a weird illusion we're fighting…" Ruby murmured, "Let's try another move. Try tackling it instead!"
Bugs didn't fancy the idea of getting up close to the threatening figure before him but he obeyed his command anyway. He lowered his head and threw himself straight into the wolf thing. Once again, his attack went straight through the creature. He didn't even feel anything as he tackled it. Whatever he was fighting, it clearly had to be an illusion of some kind, or maybe this thing was able to make itself intangible so it could never be harmed. Bugs hopped away from the lupine entity and shuddered.
"N-n-nothing h-h-happened!" he stammered.
"I bet no matter what I do, it'll just keep phasing right through it!" Ruby deduced, "We can't fight it!"
"Then we run!" Hop cried, "We probably won't outrun it but if we can disappear into the fog, we might just make it!"
But nobody was able to do anything as the magenta-coloured beast suddenly threw its head back and howled. As it howled, his jaws opened wide to show off its sharp, glistening fangs. As it howled, the fog suddenly got thicker and thicker. The creature was clearly controlling it. Whatever it was, it had powers beyond any Pokémon Ruby and Hop had ever seen or heard of! Was it some kind of legendary Pokémon that no Pokédex in the world had information on? They didn't have time to ponder that as the fog grew so thick that everything became white. Nobody could see anything at all, not even their own nose at the end of their faces. Even the wolf creature had vanished from view. Could it still see or was it blinded by the fog too?
"Ruby? Bugs? Where are you?! I can't see you two anymore!" Hop cried, his voice distant as the fog was snatching his words away.
"What's happening? Where did the creature go?! Where are you Hop? Are you OK?!" Ruby called out.
And then they both cried out in horror as they were completely eclipsed by the fog…
Ruby had no idea what had happened. It was as if one minute she'd been trying to fight her way through the fog, the next minute she was waking up. Curiously enough, she was suddenly lying on her stomach and opening her eyes as if waking up from a curious dream. She groaned as the mother of all headaches surged through her skull and she tried her best not to throw up. Bugs lay beside her, his face groggy as he tried to register what had happened. Ruby got up onto her knees and massaged her temples. The headache was easing off already, thank Arceus, but she couldn't help but feel uneasy over everything that had just occurred. First the mysterious Pokémon or whatever it was, then the fog and now this? Had she and her Pokémon just fainted out of the blue during all that?
"Ugh…that was surreal…" Ruby murmured, "What happened, Bugs?"
"No idea doc. It's just like dat, we were fighting dat weird creature and den…we woke up." Bugs replied, "I wonder if it made us faint when it did its ting?"
"I'm outright questioning if what we saw was real or if it was all a bloody dream." Ruby sighed, "At least we're alive. I hope Hop's alright."
Then as if to reassure her, Ruby heard another groan coming from her right side and she turned to see Hop sitting up and running a hand down the side of his face. He opened one eye to see if he could even see at all and then opened the other. He gave a weak smile as he saw his neighbour and her new Pokémon were just fine. Both Ruby and Hop stood up together and gave a quick embrace, glad they were alive and able to stand again.
"Thank goodness we made it through that!" Hop cried, "Whatever that was, that was freaky and not like anything I've seen before!"
"I'm not sure if what we saw even really happened." Ruby murmured, "It feels like I just woke up from a strange dream or something, but I know that's not it as I wouldn't be waking up in the middle of Slumbering Weald! What was that creature we saw? And why did it just create that fog and leave?"
"I'm guessing it was just warning us. Telling us ta go away or something." Bugs guessed, "When I attacked it, it must've decided ta enforce dat warning da hard way. I'm thankful it didn't kill us!"
"If it even could…" Ruby said cryptically.
She still couldn't get her head around what exactly had happened. How does a Pokémon attack another and have no effect? Had it all been an illusion and the whole thing was some sinister form of magic to scare people away? Was this entire place an enchanted forest like one might read about in a children's fairy tale? Before the children could ponder any longer, a voice called out to them. To their relief, it was a human voice and one that they recognized.
Their hearts leapt with relief as they saw the familiar figure of Leon coming towards them, emerging through the fog like some sort of superhero coming to rescue them. He rushed over to the two and grasped his brother and neighbour in a hug of both delight and relief. He had clearly feared the worst and was glad to see that the children were alive.
"Oh thank Arceus I found you both!" Leon said breathlessly, "What the Dickens are you two doing here? You both know this place is off limits!"
"We're very sorry Leon." Ruby said, her voice full of guilt, "We'd noticed a Wooloo had tackled through the gate and we came here to rescue it."
"I'm glad you're here big brother." Hop said, "But how'd you find us? You're pants with directions. You always get lost."
"Oh that's nice to hear from the little brother who's had me worried sick!" he said indignantly, "I'd been waiting for you two and you never showed! Of course I came looking for the both of you! I even had Charizard guide me through this place so I wouldn't get lost."
He beckoned over to his faithful companion. Charizard was standing nearby, sharing his master's relieved expression that Hop and Ruby were safe. He also had another Pokémon standing just beside him, bleating contently as if everything was right with the world and there was nothing to worry about. It was the runaway Wooloo. Ruby and Hop sighed, glad to see the woolly Pokémon that had lead them here was fine and that their trip hadn't been a waste.
"And as you can see, the little chap's fine." Leon added, "So you're what all the fuss was about eh? We'll have to try and secure that gate again so it doesn't wander off into this place."
The Galarian Champion looked back over to Ruby and Hop, his golden eyes full of concern.
"What happened out here? Did you two run into any dangerous Pokémon?" he asked.
"Well, strangely enough, we came across this big, magenta coloured creature that looked wolf-like." Ruby explained, "We think it might've been some kind of Pokémon we've never seen before. It just came out of the fog and stared at us. It didn't attack or anything, but it clearly looked as if it wanted us to go. Bugs tried to attack it but nothing happened."
"It seemed loads stronger than any Pokémon I've ever seen." Hop added, "It had this sort of…presence. As Ruby said, our attacks didn't even touch it! They just passed right through it!"
That made Leon fold his arms and purse his lips with interest. He of course knew of the many tales of powerful Pokémon that had mysterious presences and power greater than anything ever seen. Every region had Pokémon like this from Mewtwo of the Kanto region to the creation trio from Sinnoh. This was certainly and intriguing story.
"Your moves passed right through it?" he asked, "So, the fearsome Pokémon they say live in the Slumbering Weald…are they actually illusions or something?"
"We thought so too, but it was able to control the fog and it caused us to pass out." Ruby explained, "I'm not sure an illusion could do that…"
"Whatever it was, if you two get strong enough, you could be the ones to reveal the truth someday." Leon said softly, his voice tinted with pride for the two children he'd given a Pokémon each to.
Ruby fell silent as she took this in. What a start to her Pokémon journey this was turning out to be! Getting her starter and coming across what was possibly a legendary Pokémon with a hidden mystery behind it! How many trainers imagined their journeys starting off so big like this?
"For now, let's simply get out of this place." Leon said quickly, "You'll be alright now that I'm here with you!"
He turned to leave and beckoned for his Charizard to come along. The orange dragon-like Pokémon followed, taking the Wooloo with him. Ruby and Hop, with Bugs riding on Ruby's shoulder, followed behind Charizard and Leon, not wanting to hang about any longer. It was time to go now the Wooloo had been found. They also didn't fancy lingering to see if the wolf-creature would show up again. As they trailed behind Leon, Hop leaned towards Ruby and whispered to her.
"Despite getting an earful from Lee, what an experience!" he hissed gleefully, "This'll make a pretty fine first page in the tale of my legend!"
"Oh yeah sure, a great first page." Ruby retorted, "I can see it now: My journey started when I and my neighbour foolhardily ran into a strange, misty forest and fainted after encountering a mysterious Pokémon! I bet a tonne of readers would laugh their heads off reading that part!"
"Oy, don't be like that!" Hop grumbled, "You have to admit it was pretty big for the both of us to discover something like that so soon after getting our starter Pokémon."
"Yes, quite, and I really hope we don't get a repeat of this as it wasn't fun the first time." Ruby sighed, "Although I would be interested to find out what exactly it was…maybe Leon's right, maybe we will be the ones to reveal the truth someday."
Everyone walked together as they headed out of the Slumbering Weald. Nobody noticed as a wolf-like shape peered out of the fog and stared at Hop and Ruby, watching them leave with something like interest in its steely eyes. It stood and waited until the mist swallowed them up, and then it turned to leave itself…
Later on, Ruby and the others were out of Slumbering Weald and Leon was fast making his way over to Wedgehurst with Hop close behind. They were going to the Research Lab to see the professor and her granddaughter so Hop and Ruby could receive Pokédexs. But Ruby had gone home first as she still had her promise she'd made to her family. She was already putting all thoughts of her experience in Slumbering Weald out of her mind as she approached her house with Bugs in her arms. She didn't want anyone to think that something had happened and would rather not talk about it again. As she reached for the door handle, she looked down at Bugs.
"Just a friendly warning mate, my sisters go gaga for cute things so don't be too frightened if they feel an urge to cuddle you like there's no tomorrow." she said.
"As long as dey're gentle, I'll play nice but I'm not dat much of a hugger." Bugs said grimly, "I always prefer a nice pat on da head myself. Still, if yer family's nice den I'll enjoy getting ta meet 'em. I've never really known what it's like ta have a family…"
His face fell as if it pained him to admit that. Ruby could see that whatever he was thinking about was upsetting. Maybe Bugs never really had a family of his own. How lonely had he been without them? She decided not to ask as she didn't want to upset him even more.
"Well I hope me, mum and my sisters can set a good example." the silver-haired girl said kindly.
Ruby opened the door and walked inside.
"Mum? Emerald? Sapphire? I'm back and I've got my first Pokémon to show you!" she called out.
A pair of heads poked up from the sofa in the living room. Emerald and Sapphire had been sat reading together and upon hearing their sister's voice, they quickly ran over to see her. As soon as they saw her, they noticed the white and red rabbit-like Pokémon in her arms. Ruby could swear that their eyes turned into literal love hearts as they stared at Bugs and beamed with awe at him.
"Oh…my…ARCEUS!" both sisters exclaimed in unison.
"You picked a Scorbunny! They're so cute and this one's the cutest thing I've ever seen!" Emerald hollered.
"Can't say I'm surprised you went with the fire-type starter. Red was always your colour, and kinda your name too." Sapphire joked.
"Can I cuddle it? He's too irresistible!" Emerald shrieked.
"Oh brudder, I'm about to experience what it's like to be smothered ta death by adoring goils…" Bugs said in a tone that made him sound like he'd accepted his fate and wasn't going to try and fight it.
"Please Emerald, you're making him feel uncomfortable." Ruby said quickly, noticing Bugs's worried stare, "Just ease off a little, OK? I know he's cute and all but not all Pokémon like to be smothered to death."
Emerald understood and backed away, guilty that she'd probably frightened Bugs a little.
"Sorry. You know what I'm like with cute things…" she mumbled.
"We know." Sapphire said, "So what have you called it? Did you give it a name?"
"I named him Bugs." Ruby explained, "He just reminded me a lot of Bugs Bunny so I couldn't resist. He even talks like him too!"
"I talk like who now?" Bugs asked, confused, "I've always talked like dis since da day I hatched! I ain't copying' anyone's speech!"
"I guess we'll chalk it up to coincidence." Sapphire chuckled, softly patting Bugs on the head, "What's it like being with our sister? I bet you two are friends already."
"We are. Ruby's really nice and quite knowledgeable about Pokémon." Bugs answered, "She and Hop had a battle and I won against his Wooloo and Grookey."
Emerald gave an excited smile in response.
"You already had your first fight?" she cried, "That's cool! I hope Hop wasn't a sore loser or anything."
"He took it quite well actually." Ruby replied, "I filmed the whole match if you want to see." she added, taking her Rotom phone out and handing it to her sisters, "Where's mum?"
"She's in the kitchen baking flapjacks. She thought you'd want to take some with you on your journey." Sapphire answered.
"I taut I could smell something sweet when we walked in…" Bugs mused.
Ruby headed into the kitchen, still holding Bugs while Emerald and Sapphire watched her battle with Hop on her phone. Upon entering the kitchen, Ruby was hit instantly with the delicious smell of freshly baked flapjacks. They were her favourite food in the world and her mum always made the best ones. Her mum placed the tray on the table and looked up, her face brightening upon seeing her eldest daughter back and with her first Pokémon in her arms.
"Ruby! I'm glad you're back." she said, walking over to her and hugging her, "I just finished baking flapjacks for you to take on your journey."
"They smell delicious as always mum." Ruby complimented, "Here's my first Pokémon. I named him Bugs."
Her mum looked at Bugs. The little Scorbunny just gave her a casual smile in return. Mum's eyes twinkled with adoration for the cute little Pokémon and she patted his head softly.
"Well now, isn't he just a sweetheart!" she cooed, "Aww, he's adorable!"
She then lightly tickled the back of Bugs's ears. The fiery Pokémon beamed with pleasure as her gentle fingers rubbed his ears lightly. He was enjoying the feeling so much that his feet began twitching excitedly.
"Ooooh…Ooooh dat's nice. I ain't had a scratch behind the ears in ages! Tanks for dat, doll!" Bugs said graciously.
Mum giggled, glad that Bugs was liking this. She looked up at Ruby again.
"Leon dropped by a minute ago. He says you're off to Wedgehurst next, right?" she asked.
"That's right." Ruby confirmed, "I need to get a Pokédex from Professor Magnolia before I can set off on my journey."
"Well before you go, you'll need some money to take with you." Mum said, "All Pokémon trainers need to buy items that can help them out in their adventures, especially potions to heal their Pokémon."
She handed Ruby a wodge of pound notes to put in her bag. Ruby looked at the amount of money she'd been handed and her eyes widened.
"You sure you can spare that much?!" she cried, "I wouldn't want to put any financial strain on you!"
"Oh don't worry about that dear. Your father and I had been putting some money away for the past year in preparation for your Pokémon journey." Mum said reassuringly, "It's no skin off my bones."
She then cut a few squares of flapjack out of the tray and wrapped them up in tin foil to put into Ruby's bag. Once that was done, she gave one last look at Bugs and patted his head again.
"You look after my little girl while she goes on her journey Bugs." Mum said, "With you by her side, I can rest a little easier knowing she has a her own Pokémon with her."
"Mark my woids ma'am, I'll fight to da bitter end ta keep her safe from harm!" Bugs declared, giving a mock salute as if he was addressing a military general.
Mum giggled at Bugs's salute and she gave Ruby one last hug before she could set off again to begin her journey.
"I know I pretty much said goodbye earlier but all the same, I hope you have an amazing time and you make many new friends on your journey." Mum said softly, "Come home to rest anytime you need and call us as often as you see fit. And don't forget that you can always visit your father at his flower shop in Turffield if you need him."
"Given the first gym's over there, I'll definitely run into him when I go to challenge it." Ruby said, "You, Emerald and Sapphire enjoy yourselves and don't worry too much about me. With Bugs beside me, I'll be fine."
She kissed her mother goodbye and set off out of the kitchen. She approached her sisters, the two having finished watching her battle with Hop on her Rotom phone so they handed it back to her. They looked like they'd enjoyed watching it.
"We knew you'd be great!" Emerald piped, "Just watching you and Bugs battle, it was like you were in perfect sync together and you really got into the groove very quickly! All that studying clearly paid off, didn't it?"
"Seriously Emerald, calm down, it was only a friendly battle with my neighbour. It's not exactly a big test of my skills as a trainer." Ruby said modestly, "That'll come when I get to the gym battles."
"Many of them look tough but we're confident you'll get through the Gym Challenge and make it to the final to challenge Leon himself." Sapphire said supportively, "I can already picture you wearing his trademark cape right now…"
"I think it'd be a bit big on me." Ruby said with a chuckle, "But I digress. I'm off to Wedgehurst to get my Pokédex and Leon's waiting for me so I'd best not dillydally any longer. I'll see you both whenever I call, OK?"
"You just get out there and be the awesome Pokémon Master we know you'll be!" Emerald cried, punching the air excitedly, "Catch some awesome Pokémon and kick some butt along the way!"
"But remember to have fun as well." Sapphire added quickly.
"I wouldn't have it any other way." Ruby said, hugging her sisters one last time.
She then turned and left through the door to head off to Wedgehurst. Emerald, Sapphire and their mother watched her go, waving to her until she disappeared down the road and towards the nearby town of Wedgehurst.
Minutes later, Ruby had arrived back in Wedgehurst to see the professor. It was funny how she'd just been here earlier today to see Leon arrive at the station and now she was back again, also seeing Leon again as he was waiting for her. How long had it been since she'd been here with Hop to see him arrive and have her first meeting with him? She still had no idea how long it had been since she and Hop had fainted after their encounter with the mysterious Pokémon in the woods. It could've been hours ago as far as she knew. She could see from the position of the sun that she hadn't lost too much of the day at least, it was clearly mid-afternoon or maybe a little later. Once she'd gotten her Pokédex, she'd have time to catch some Pokémon before the day was done.
The Pokémon Research Lab was very easy to spot in the little town. It stood out from all nearby buildings like football fan wearing red in a crowd of fans in blue due to the large Pokéball logo just above the door, it's early century exterior and purple, pointed roof. It was clear that the lab had existed here in Wedgehurst for many years and had seen plenty of use. Leon was just outside the door, still waiting for her. Her smiled as he saw the leather-clad girl and her new Pokémon approaching.
"And here you are at last!" he said brightly, "How'd your family take to your new Pokémon?"
"They loved him." Ruby answered, "My sisters especially wanted to hug the hell out of him. I convinced them to ease off though." she said with a giggle.
"Her ma was really nice too, especially giving me dat rub behind my ears." Bugs said brightly.
"I'm glad to hear it." Leon said, "You know, this makes me think back to when I first started my journey before I became the champion of Galar. My own mother adored the Charmander I got and was well impressed when I evolved into my beloved Charizard. To be honest, she preferred it as Charmander as it was much cuter in her eyes." he finished with a chuckle.
He and Ruby walked into the lab. Upon walking in, Ruby gasped as she saw what was inside. The Research Lab was full of bookshelves, each row filled to the brim with books upon books about something or another. If it wasn't for the glass windows showing some plant life growing in one corner of the room, Ruby would've assumed she'd walked into a library instead of laboratory. She imagined all the books would be about different subjects related to Pokémon and contain all sorts of historical and scientific readings and facts about any and all species. The lab itself looked pretty pristine, showing that whoever ran the place knew how to keep it tidy. Even Leon looked impressed as he ran his eyes over the place too. It had probably been a while since he'd last been in a laboratory given his life was dedicated to inspiring budding trainers and defending his title.
As they walked in, they were met with a greeting bark from a Pokémon that lived in the lab. Ruby looked down and smiled with adoration as she saw what it was. The Pokémon was a Yamper, an Electric type Pokémon that resembled a corgi in appearance with little white paws and brown and yellow fur. Its stubby tail was shaped like a lightning bolt. It barked happily at Leon, showing Ruby that it clearly knew him. She wondered if the Yamper belonged to the professor or her granddaughter.
"Hey there Yamper, long time no see eh?" Leon said brightly, kneeling down to stroke the electric corgi's head.
"That makes both of us." came a voice from up above, "So what is it this time Leon? Looking for info on another never-before-seen, super strong Pokémon?"
Leon and Ruby looked up to see a strikingly attractive young woman up on the balcony looking down on them. She had ginger hair tied into a ponytail on one side of her head, dazzling jade eyes and was dressed in a brown cardigan, a green crop top and teal trousers skinny trousers that displayed the long, slender shape of her legs. A pair of sunglasses was perched on her forehead. She also had the sort of face that looked kind and welcoming, like she could be your friend very easily and would seldom lose her tempter. Ruby instantly guessed that this must be the professor's granddaughter. The ginger woman walked down the steps to ground level and approached her guests. Leon introduced her to Ruby.
"This right here is Sonia." he announced, "She's Magnolia's granddaughter and the one who owns the Yamper here. What can I say about her? Well, I like the way she cooks. She makes food you can gobble down in a flash."
Sonia fumed, clearly indignant that that was the first thing the hot-shot champion of Galar had to say about her.
"Oh come on, what kind of introduction is that?" she sighed, "Did you forget we were rivals during our Gym Challenge? It wasn't just Yamper helping you out. I did too!"
Ruby sympathized with her. She'd have hated to be introduced that way too. Sonia's mood quickly changed as she looked over to the silver-haired girl. She smiled in greeting. Ruby was sure that smile could brighten anyone's day, no matter how bad it was. How did she manage to look so friendly?
"Anyway, nice to meet you!" Sonia said jovially, "Leon already said my name. I'm the professor's assistant in this place."
"It's nice to meet you too." Ruby said, shaking Sonia's hand, "My name's Ruby Silverlock. I'm a new Pokémon trainer just about to start my journey."
"I see Leon already gave you your starter." Sonia noted, seeing Bugs sitting on her shoulder, "I imagine you've come here for your Pokédex, is that right?"
"Yes." Ruby confirmed.
"You'll need a Rotom phone if you want a Pokédex." Sonia explained, "If you have one, I can install the Pokédex feature on it for you."
Ruby handed the professor's assistant her Rotom phone. The phone floated in front of her as Sonia tapped away on the screen to install the Pokédex onto its systems. All it took was putting in the right codes on the phone and the Pokédex was installed. Sonia handed it back to Ruby.
"Just so you know, that Pokédex is a gift from my gran!" the ginger woman said, sounding proud to say that about her grandmother, "Could you let you know that you have one? She lives in a house down along Route 2, your Rotom phone's navigation app should lead you to it."
"We'll go there straight away." Ruby said, "It'll be nice to meet the professor. And while I'm at it, I could see what Pokémon I can catch along the way."
"You sure can kiddo, but you'll need some Pokéballs first." Leon noted, "Luckily, I have some spare so here's some on my behalf."
He handed Ruby 20 Pokéballs to store in her bag. Ruby stashed them all in a separate pouch in her bag.
"Thank you." she said, "I'll see you both at the professor's house. Bye!"
She then headed out of the lab to make her way to Route 2. As soon as she'd left, Sonia turned to Leon with a curious look in her eye.
"Is it weird for me to be puzzled by the colour of that girl's hair?" she asked, "I mean, it's unusual but it's honestly quite nice looking but still, I've never seen a silver haired kid before."
"Hop tells me that her mother tells her she was just born that way." Leon said, "Though I suspect that it's not like that at all. Silver hair or not, I still have good feelings about that kid. She's got the right attitude towards Pokémon and seems to know her stuff. She even beat my brother on her first try and he had two Pokémon at his expense!"
"Are you worried she might be the one to defeat you in the Champion Finals?" Sonia teased.
"Oh I'll be ready for whatever she might have in store. You know I don't lose battles Sonia." Leon shot back.
"There's a first for everything." the lab assistant retorted.
Leon nodded, knowing full well that his former rival was right. As much as it troubled him to think of what it'd feel like to lose for a change, he always welcomed the challenge and he loved to give anyone the chance to defeat him. Maybe someday, somebody could give him a battle he'd never forget. It could either by his little brother, or it could be the daughter of his neighbour. All he knew was that he was eager to see how much stronger Hop and Ruby could get on their journeys and what kind of battle they'd give him…