Knights of Galar: A Pokémon Shield Nuzlocke Chapter 24

Chapter 24: Ruby vs. Marnie


Wyndon City was huge; Ruby had no doubt about that. But actually arriving at the city and seeing it in person had given her a whole new perspective on how big the city was. Seeing things for real had a tendency to defy expectations and this was such an occasion for the country girl.


Ruby's eyes widened as Tiger carried her into the city and she ran her eyes over the giant metropolis all around her. Motostoke and Hammerlocke had nothing compared to Wyndon. The whole city felt as if someone had taken the previous two cities and increased their sizes by 100. Everywhere Ruby looked, she could see buildings that seemed to be fighting for space on the street corners with many of them reaching to great heights and carrying electronic billboards flashing many different advertisements on the screens. There were crowds of people making their way around the city, most of the noise coming from the citizens that seemed to fill up every square inch of Wyndon. There were numerous shops and restaurants all selling different items and promising the best cuisine that any Galarian could get during their visit to this colossal concrete jungle.


Ruby could see the monorail system in operation. It was a long rectangular train with each end and the coaches looking vaguely like a bus and sporting Pokéball shaped windows. The track stretched for miles around the city, offering any passengers onboard a breath taking view of the city as the train travelled over. There were statues of Corviknight in a stone circle just outside the monorail station with many people sitting by them to take photos or have any food and drink they were carrying. Ruby spotted the tall clock tower that she knew belonged to the famous Rose of the Rondelands Hotel nearby. It was tall enough to peer over any nearby buildings and could be seen for miles around various parts of the city. The clock tower bore a striking resemblance to London's Big Ben clock tower but this one had four faces with stars in place of hands and numbers. Ruby heard it chiming as the time ticked to another hour. The sound of the bells was beautiful, providing a very pleasant tune that carried over the din of the city.


She also spotted the popular Wyndon Eye Ferris Wheel attraction, a giant structure that clearly resembled the London Eye and was used for the same function as the famous London landmark. The wheel turned slowly, allowing all its passengers to get a good long look at the fantastic views that they could get from the heights of the wheel. To Ruby, it looked like a giant silver coin balancing on its side. She wouldn't go on it herself as why would she need to when she had flying Pokémon to give her a good view from above? What caught her attention was the giant tower with jade spiral patterns leading up to the domed top of the skyscraper. It was easily the tallest building in Wyndon and seemed to be its equivalent of London's Shard skyscraper. Ruby had seen it on her way over from Route 10. It was so tall that it was the only building that could be seen over the entrance gates to the city up on a hilltop in Route 10. She knew what it was of course. It was Rose Tower, the headquarters of the Macro Cosmos Company. Ruby could scarcely imagine what it was like to work there, sitting in an office with views from way up high in a giant tower such as this. She also knew that Pokémon battles were often held at the top of Rose Tower. The domed structure sitting up top was where the battles were held and the size meant that it was possible for Dynamaxing to take place. Ruby wondered what it was like to have a battle up in a tower so high. Maybe one day, she'd get a chance to experience it.


Speaking of Pokémon battles, Ruby had no trouble spotting the very place she had to be next for the next stage of her journey to Champion. There, standing proud and making no attempt to lose itself in the over-abundance of buildings and skyscrapers, was Wyndon Stadium itself. She'd seen it on TV many times when live Pokémon Tournaments were held so she recognized it no problem. Much like the city itself, she had no way of understanding how big it was until she saw it in person. Wyndon Stadium dwarfed all other stadiums in Galar, making even the Gyms look tiny by comparison. It was huge and pink with an open roof, petal like decals and curved points all around the top. It sported the familiar logo of the Galar League above the doors and had a huge arch curving over the stadium itself. There was the usual Pokémon Centre standing outside the stadium and several souvenir stands lead the way to the stadium itself.


Ruby's journey had given her many highlights to remember it by. Seeing Wyndon City in person was easily one of them. Despite coming from a small town and living in a mostly country area, Ruby was blown away by the sheer size, scope and power that Wyndon City boasted. She could feel the energy of the city buzzing all around her, both from its people and its many features. She climbed off of Tiger and stared all around her in wonder.


"This is the most amazing place I've ever seen…" Ruby gasped.


"How many Pokémon get to experience a place like this when they leave the Wild Area to join their trainers…?" Tiger mused with interest.


"I can't believe I'm actually standing here, in the heart of Galar itself!" Ruby added, a rush of adrenaline coursing through her veins, "Oh my gosh, it's like I'm living a dream! I'm actually here in Wyndon City itself! Oh I wish my family was here to enjoy it with me!" she squealed excitedly.


"If you get to the final, I bet they'll make their way over here to watch you." Tiger suggested.


"Oh you bet they will! There's no way they're gonna miss the chance to see me fight the Champion in person!" the semi-finalist cried, "They wouldn't miss that for the world! I wonder if Hop's on his way at all." she added, turning around to see if he was coming, "It doesn't take him long to show up anywhere, and I speak from experience…"


Right on cue, Hop suddenly appeared behind Ruby and called out to her. He'd finally finished buying himself supplies in the gift shop back at the train station and had made his way through Route 10 to finally catch up to Ruby. The two teens met face-to-face as Ruby turned around to answer him, both grinning at the fact they were both here in Wyndon together, just as they'd hoped.


"Hey Ruby! Nice Arcanine you have." Hop said, glancing over at Tiger, "Route 10 was right chilly, but it was worth the trip through just to make it to this place! I mean…wow! Wyndon City itself!" he cried, running his eyes over the giant metropolis he'd arrived in.


"I know, I can't believe we're actually here!" Ruby cried, "And not just that, but both of us! Here we are, the teens from Postwick Town having started off with only our starters and now we're here, with full teams of Pokémon and all eight Gym Badges, in the capital of Galar itself! Can you believe that this is all really happening?!" she shrieked, grabbing Hop's shoulders and bouncing up and down ecstatically.


"I always believed I'd end up here someday, just as my brother did." Hop said brightly, "Doesn't make it any less incredible that we're really here though. I'm glad we could both make it as it wouldn't have been the same without you."


Ruby smiled appreciatively. She felt the same about Hop. Without him, her visit to Wyndon wouldn't have been quite as special as it would've felt as if she was missing something, a friend to enjoy the experience with.


"So what do you fancy doing first?" Ruby asked, "Should we have a look around for a bit and then make our way to the stadium, or would you rather we go there straight away?"


"I think going there right now would be the best idea so we know if we'll have time to do anything before our matches." Hop suggested, "I'm keen to know who my first opponent will be!"


"As long as it's not me as I'd hate for either of us to go out in the first round." Ruby said, half-chuckling although she hadn't meant it as a joke.


The two teens made their way over to Wyndon Stadium with Ruby returning Tiger to his Pokéball. In a matter of minutes, they'd arrived at the enormous building, gaping at the sheer size of it. It was easy to imagine Dynamax battles happening in the stadium for it was more than large enough for it, just like the Gyms were. Before they entered, Ruby put an arm around Hop and the two gave giant, cheesy smiles as her Rotom phone floated in front of them to take their picture. Hop had his phone do the same, the two phones snapping the picture at the same time. The photos made them look as if they were on the most fantastic holiday they'd ever experienced. Once the pictures were taken, Ruby sent hers to her family, adding a quick message to go with it:


I'm at Wyndon City at last! Both me and Hop have arrived at the stadium to see what's going down. Hope you'll see us both on the telly! Loving you lots! Ruby. XXX


Hop did the same, sending his picture to his and Leon's mother back home with his own message wishing her lots of love and that he hoped she would be watching him and Ruby when the semi-finals began. Now they were done, they went into Wyndon Stadium. Upon entering, they were met with a huge reception desk that was hexagonal in shape with a tower displaying pictures of various Pokémon in action poses all around. There were a lot of people milling about the area from visitors to staff members. Ruby noticed that Marnie was already here, the Spikemuth girl standing casually by the desk with another boy. He was lean and about the same height as Hop. He wore a red shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, blue jeans with a tear in one knee, a grey woolly hat and brown loafers. Ruby assumed he was the fourth Gym Challenger to win the Challenge and secure the final spot for the semi-finals. Ruby was glad to see that Marnie was here as her reaching the semi-finals would be a big deal for the girl who was hoping to bring more publicity to Spikemuth Town and bring it out of its crippling state of poverty. Ruby and Hop approached the two semi-finalists.


"Hey Marnie! I'm glad to see you made it too!" Ruby said brightly, "How was it fighting your brother and Piers?"


"Hard." Marnie said bluntly, "My bro didn't hold back, though neither did I and although I beat him eventually, Raihan really gave me the fight of my bleedin' life! I guess you've seen the power of his Dragon and Rock or Ground combos as you've clearly thought him too."


"I have. His Pokémon took out my Haunter, Obstagoon and Cinderace." Ruby muttered, "They're perfectly fine but they're not well enough to fight again so I've got to leave them on the side for now. It would've been nice if they could've joined me here, but at least they'll be able to cheer for me as I've been allowed to keep them."


"That's nice." Marnie said casually, "And I see that yer buddy, Hop, is here too. I bet yer hoping that you'll be able to challenge your bro for the Champion title." she said, looking over at Hop.


"I wouldn't be here for any other reason." Hop confirmed, "My legend has been building up to this moment! Once I clear the semi-finals, I'll go on to challenge my brother and become the next champion, carrying the title with my family name as he did before me!"


"Confident, aren't you?" the boy in the red shirt said with a chuckle, "I bet you'll give a great fight on that pitch with enthusiasm like that."


"That's Hop for you, always full of energy." Ruby laughed, "I don't believe we've met, by the way. You're the fourth Gym Challenger to make it to the semi-finals, I gather?"


"Absolutely." the boy said, holding out a hand, "The name's Victor Masaru. You're Ruby Silverlock, right?"


"That's me." Ruby said, shaking Victor's hand, "Let me guess, the silver hair gave me away?"


"Pretty much." Victor chuckled, "I must say, you've been building up a massive reputation amongst us trainers. I think out of us four, you're the only semi-finalist with an unbroken winning streak! Even I wasn't able to win all my Gym battles on my first try!" he cried, sounding amazed to be admitting that.


"Get stuffed, I'm the only one who's never lost a battle?" Ruby gasped, "Bloody hell, I had no idea I was THAT good…"


"And now you'll show all of Wyndon just how good you are." Hop noted, "I bet you'll be bringing your brilliant skills and powerful Pokémon to the pitch when the semi-finals begin."


"I hope all of us will!" Ruby cried, "We should give this crowd an insight as to why we're the top four Gym Challengers here today! What do you say guys? Let's give it all we got, no matter who's facing who in the finals!"


"That's what I trained for." Marnie said matter-of-factly.


"You won't get anything else from me." Victor remarked.


Now the semi-finalists were all here, they turned to the Macro Cosmos man at the desk to show off their Gym Badges and sign themselves in for the finals. The man quickly confirmed that their badges were all real and signed them all in with no problems whatsoever. Once that was done, a screen rose up from the desk and flashed up with the four faces of the semi-finalists. They were lined up in a straight-line across the screen in the order of Ruby, Hop, Marnie and Victor.


"Now you're all checked in, it's time to see who will be facing who." the man said, "Watch carefully for the screen will randomly select the match-ups. There'll be no alterations once the results are up so I hope there won't be any complaining."


The four teens watched as the screen started to scramble the faces, shuffling them quickly like a magician shuffling a deck of cards. Nobody dared to speak as they waited to see what the results were going to be. After 30 seconds, the scrambling started to slow down. Then finally, the results were displayed. Round 1 was going to have Ruby up against Marnie with Round 2 featuring Hop vs. Victor. Ruby was glad that she wasn't going to be facing Hop in the first round. It would've felt more rewarding if she and Hop were the last two challengers fighting it out for the title instead of either of them going out first. But at the same time, she was hoping she would've been up against Victor. As she'd only just met him, she wouldn't have minded beating him. But Marnie was a friend of her's who had an important reason to want to become Champion. She was doing this to save her town. It was true that she was going to do something about Spikemuth's condition, but Ruby still would've preferred it if she could've avoided having to face Marnie whatsoever. It was going to be difficult having to face someone who she wanted to help out. Marnie seemed to be reading her thoughts for she put a hand on the other girl's shoulder.


"Hey, don't worry about winning the battle, kay?" she said, "I haven't forgotten yer promise to me and Piers. If I win or you win, Spikemuth will be saved anyway."


Ruby smiled with reassurance. So Marnie remembered and didn't mind how the battle went as Spikemuth would benefit either way. That certainly made things easier for her.


"That's great Marnie." Ruby said, putting her own hand on Marnie's shoulder, "I would've preferred battling someone else but hey, we'll give a great battle to kick off the semi-finals, won't we?"


"We sure will." Marnie agreed, "Though don't take it personal when I kick yer butt. I won't go easy on you just because we're mates, OK?"


"I wouldn't ask you to anyway." Ruby said casually, "We'll give the audience a fight to remember!"


"I can't wait to watch you two." Hop said eagerly, "I bet you two will have a great battle together!"


"Good luck out there you two." Victor said supportively, "Kick off the semi-finals with a bang, won't you?"


Ruby and Marnie nodded. They were indeed going to start off the semi-finals on a high note and show the people at Wyndon why they were the Gym Challengers who were going to start things off. The two girls headed off to the locker rooms to get into their Gym outfits and make their way to the pitch. The match was due in a couple of hours so they may as well get ready for it…

__________________________________________________________________________________


Ruby and Marnie made their way onto the pitch, both awaiting the grand battle that was going to unfold between them. It was quite a sensation for both girls as they'd fought their way to win a right to compete in this legendary stadium. Being in a Gym was one thing, but this was a whole new experience that they'd never get anywhere else. The pitch had actual grass instead of floors, the size of the stadium was much bigger than any of the Gyms and the crowd that had gathered to watch the first of the semi-final battles was enough to make both combatants feel the pressure as they were not only competing in Wyndon Stadium itself, but competing for a crowd that made the crowds at the Gyms feel small by comparison. The noise was almost too much to bear. From every inch of the stadium, somebody was shouting at the top of their lungs, chanting in support of the trainers or whistling. There was also the continuous flashing of lights all over the stadium as people snapped pictures of the first two semi-finalists that were going to duke it out to begin the Champion Cup. The road to facing Leon himself began here and the crowd couldn't have made it more obvious how excited they were to watch it happen.


Ruby noticed that, of course, much of Team Yell was in the audience chanting Marnie's name and waving their flags. It still annoyed her to see them as due to the team being a nuisance for her and many other Gym Challengers, she would happily see the back end of them. But she didn't let it bother her for she knew that they had good intentions for supporting Marnie so much. She wondered if Piers himself was anywhere watching this fight. The Dark Gym leader surely wouldn't miss the chance to see his little sister compete for a chance to reach the finals? The Postwick girl also saw that just as they'd arranged, Bugs, Gene and Raven had their own seats in the audience and were watching her with anticipation. Somehow, they looked more keen for the battle to start than their trainer did, and they weren't even in it!


Ruby looked back over to Marnie, noticing that despite the atmosphere of the stadium, she once again looked neutral as if this meant nothing to her. Ruby had to wonder how someone could be in a packed stadium like this and look so clam about it. Maybe having little emotions just made it so easy to put up with things like this. She also thought that the Gym uniform she was wearing didn't suit her. Seeing Marnie in anything outside of her usual attire just looked odd and not like something she would normally wear. This was a girl born to wear dark clothing, nothing sporty whatsoever. Ruby and Marnie took their positions on the pitch and prepared for battle.


"From Postwick Town, Ruby Silverlock. From Spikemuth Town, Marnie Yami." the announcer declared.


The audience cheered with both sides chanting for Ruby and Marnie. It was clear that both trainers had managed to get quite a fanbase each, and for Marnie it wasn't just Team Yell that was chanting for her. This was an audience that was keen to see either side win and only one side would get to cheer while the other would fall silent in disappointment.


"You ready for this?" Ruby asked. She wasn't sure why, but she felt the need to say something.


"More than I've ever been." Marnie replied, "Coming from poor, run-down Spikemuth Town, I never thought I'd actually be here with a chance of winning my way to Leon. Both me and my bro thought it seemed an impossible dream…"


"I know the feeling." Ruby agreed, "Never in my life could I have expected I'd actually be standing here in this stadium with a chance of competing in the Champion Cup! I guess the most I can say now is that we give each other a good match and let the best trainer win."


"Naturally." Marnie muttered, "Yer gonna see me at my best for this one, Ruby. Don't take it personally if I kick yer butt out here."


"At least I'd be losing to a good trainer." Ruby complimented.


"Pokémon Trainers: Standby." the announcer cut in, almost as if he was purposefully interrupting their conversation.


Ruby and Marnie stood still and waited for the signal to go. The audience fell silent as they too waited for the match to begin. The silence was unnerving, making both Ruby and Marnie feel as if somehow, an entire stadium of people had just disappeared and left nothing behind. How could so many people make so much noise and suddenly be so quiet when the need arose?


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


This was it, the beginning of the semi-finals! The noise of the crowd returned as they voiced their excitement of the match that had finally begun. Marnie whipped out a Dusk Ball and made the first move.


"OK team, it's time we gave Wyndon Stadium a true taster of what Spikemuth Town has ta offer!" Marnie declared, sounding more energetic and animated than she'd ever sounded before. It was as if being in a Pokémon battle brought new life to her and gave her a reason to display real, genuine emotions, like this was the real her. Ruby had to admit that she liked it. She thought Marnie seemed more human this way.


"Liepard, bring darkness to yer enemies!" Marnie cried, throwing the ball.


In an explosion of black and purple light, Liepard emerged out of its ball and onto the field. Ruby remembered the purple and yellow feline from the last time she and Marnie had had a battle. Bugs remembered it too, thinking back to how he'd taken it out with a single Double Kick. He imagined he'd be down on the field to do it again if he wasn't out of action.


"I wonder who Ruby will use ta fight dat Liepard dis time." he thought to himself.


He soon got his answer for Ruby summoned her first Pokémon to the field.


"Hawk Moth, you're up first!" she cried.


The audience was more interested than ever in what was happening. It was very rare that a Gym Challenger who had won a place in the semi-finals brought a simple Pokémon like Butterfree with them. Most winning Challengers that got this far had much stronger Pokémon with them so something like Butterfree would be a bit of a wildcard. Then again, this was the famous Ruby Silverlock that was using a Butterfree and most audience members knew that she was the girl with the unbroken winning streak and had clean-swept the first half of the Gym Challenge so chances were, this Butterfree would have a few surprises to bring to the table. Hawk Moth twirled his makeshift cane around in his tiny hands and narrowed his eyes.


"You may not be Meowth Noir, but if I could corrupt you and make you my faithful little akuma, you could be a valuable ally in my quest to get those Miraculous!" he purred.


Marnie's Liepard stared at Hawk Moth in confusion, looking as if a Pokémon had literally used Confusion on it. Even Marnie looked perplexed at Hawk Moth's insane babbling.


"Y'wot?" she asked in puzzlement.


"Sorry, he's a bit of a nutcase." Ruby said sheepishly, "Don't mind what he says. Really."


"'Kay." Marnie said, shrugging her shoulders, "Liepard, use Nasty Plot!" she commanded.


Liepard obeyed and stood where it was, purposefully filling its brain with bad thoughts in order to raise its Special Attack. That was how Nasty Plot worked. Ruby watched as the Liepard flashed with an orange glow that swept upwards to signify its raised stats. Nasty Plot raised the Pokémon's Special Attack by a lot so whatever attack Liepard used now would be more powerful than it would've been if it hadn't used the move. It was a good way to start, but Ruby wouldn't let the Liepard have a chance to use its enhanced Special Attack.


"Let's make it quick Hawk Moth. Use Bug Buzz!" Ruby ordered.


"Yes…that will definitely bring this poor Pokémon under my control!" Hawk Moth declared, cackling devilishly, "Dark Wings, RISE!"


He flapped his wings furiously, creating a horrible buzzing sound that made the audience wince as it hurt their ears. Bug Buzz was a powerful Bug attack that involved the Pokémon flapping its wings to create a damaging soundwave that had a side-effect of lowering the opponent's Special Defence at the same time. Liepard cringed as the awful noise tore through it, feeling like its ears were about to burst. Once the sound was over, Hawk Moth stopped flapping his wings and waited to see what would happen next. To his disappointment, he hadn't managed to mind-control the Liepard and it promptly collapsed onto the grass, wiped out by the single move. Marnie stared incredulously. She had no idea that Butterfree could be so powerful! The audience felt the same way. Who knew a basic Pokémon like Butterfree could launch such a powerful Bug Buzz? Ruby just smiled. She knew full well that Hawk Moth was a great Pokémon and was glad to show the audience just how good he really was.


"Well done Hawk Moth! That was great!" she cried.


"I suppose it was, even if it didn't generate the results I desired." Hawk Moth said casually, "At least I have proven how powerful I am. Orbeetle and Meowth Noir will fall to my power if I ever get to face them and take their Miraculous!"


"Uh…yeah, let's go with that." Ruby said meekly.


"Liepard is unable to battle! Butterfree is the winner!" the announcer boomed.


Team Yell wasted no time in showing their disappointment as they booed Ruby while Marnie's other fans just waited to see what would happen next. After all, this fight was only just beginning. Marnie had a chance to turn this around. Marnie returned Liepard and drew out her next Dusk Ball.


"Good show Ruby. Now let's REALLY get started." Marnie declared, "Morpeko, you've got this one!"


She threw the ball and out came her beloved Morpeko, looking as cute as ever and dancing merrily as it eagerly anticipated its first fight of the semi-finals. Ruby smiled with awe, happy to see the little Morpeko in action again. It had easily been her favourite Pokémon in Marnie's team and it wouldn't have felt right to be facing her without it being there. While she was sure Hawk Moth could handle Morpeko, she knew it would be risky at the same time. Hawk Moth was half-Flying type, which made him weak against Morpeko's Electric types. He too could exploit Morpeko's Dark-type weakness to Bug-types of course, but why risk seeing who could take advantage of who's weaknesses when she could have no weaknesses for Morpeko to exploit? She returned Hawk Moth and chose her next Pokémon.


"Alright Vesuvius, you're up next!" she cried.


The mighty Coalossal materialized opposite Morpeko, making the hamster-like Pokémon feel nervous at the fight of such a huge opponent. It was certainly a ludicrous scene to behold, a giant, fiery rock golem up against a tiny, electric rodent. Pokémon battles often brought up hilarious match-ups like this that often produced surprising results. The audience watched to see how this fight was going to go. It seemed obvious that Vesuvius had this in the bag but of course, size didn't matter in Pokémon battles. It was all about the power.


"Morpeko, use Spark!" Marnie commanded.


It was a hopeless command to give. Both Marnie and Morpeko knew full well that Spark wouldn't do much against a Coalossal but what else could they do? Morpeko let loose whatever amount of electricity it had in its tiny body and hit Vesuvius with all its might. But it may as well have been trying to knock down a stone wall with what little damage the attack did. Vesuvius didn't even flinch from the attack, standing there as if nothing had happened. The audience gasped, amazed that the Coalossal seemed so resilient. True, Morpeko wasn't using a super-effective move but Electric attacks could still do damage to Rock types. This Coalossal was clearly well-trained.


"Use High Horsepower, but try not to hurt it too much." Ruby insisted, "Morpeko's really precious to Marnie."


"Don't worry, I'll make sure the attack doesn't hurt too much." Vesuvius replied.


She lowered her head and charged straight towards Morpeko. Marnie could only watch as the huge Pokémon hurled herself straight into her first Pokémon and took it down in a single blow. Morpeko was never one to withstand powerful Ground attacks after all. To the amazement of the crowd, Morpeko was sent flying into the air by Vesuvius and then, as if this had been some kind of circus act, the Electric/Dark Pokémon landed straight into Marnie's arms as she held them out to catch it. Ruby was glad that Marnie had managed that as it would've been less painful for Morpeko to land in her arms than on the ground. The Goth girl looked down at her beloved Pokémon, hoping it was OK. Morpeko just smiled weakly at Marnie, showing that it was fine but clearly unable to battle. Marnie just stroked its head affectionately as the announcer declared the winner.


"Morpeko is unable to battle! Coalossal is the winner!"


Morpeko gave a soft squeak, seeming to apologize for losing to its opponent and for letting Marnie down. But Marnie didn't show any signs of anger, disappointment or sadness as she stroked her Pokémon to make it feel better.


"At least yer OK after that." she said softly, "Don't feel too bad mate, it was just a bad match-up for us. At least you tried."


"Is Morpeko OK?" Ruby asked.


"She's fine, don't worry about it." Marnie said, returning the hamster-like Pokémon to its Dusk Ball, "That Coalossal of yours is quite a powerhouse."


"And a real life-saver too." Ruby said, looking over at Vesuvius with pride as she thought back to when she'd saved her back in Glimwood Tangle.


"Really? What do you mean?" Marnie asked curiously.


"It's a long story. I'll tell you later when this battle's over." Ruby said, knowing now wasn't the time to tell it."


"Fair enough." Marnie replied, "In the meantime, I know just who can handle a power Rock-type Pokémon like that Coalossal of yours."


She threw her next Dusk Ball out and summoned forth the Dark/Fighting type Scrafty to the field. Ruby remembered it instantly. Just like with Liepard, she'd used Bugs to defeat it back in Spikemuth and in the Gym itself, she'd used Raven to defeat one that Piers owned. Bugs remembered it too, thinking back to how he'd defeated it rather easily despite not having a type-advantage and Raven remembered when she'd fought Piers's Scrafty. She, Gene and Bugs watched with interest to see who Ruby would bring out next. Ruby returned Vesuvius, knowing full well that she wouldn't be of much use against Scrafty.


"It's a pity I don't have Raven's famous Dazzling Gleams to help me out here." Ruby said bluntly, "But I still have something to take advantage of at least one of Scrafty's two types. Go Soundwave!"


She threw her next Pokéball and the audience let out a chorus of "Oooohs" as they saw the magnificent sight of Soundwave the Noivern materializing onto the field. Soundwave let out a mighty roar of anticipation as he spread his wings and flapped them excitedly. Marnie could guess immediately what Ruby's plan was. She knew a Noivern when she saw one and she knew all too well that Noivern were part Flying type…a type that Scrafty was weak against thanks to its half-Fighting typing. She wouldn't be surprised if this Noivern had a Flying attack to use. Her suspicions were confirmed as Ruby gave the immediate command:


"Use Air Slash!"


Soundwave flew towards Scrafty and slashed at the air, making Scrafty wince as he drew a neat line across the air and its body with his wing. Soundwave had moved so fast and landed his attack so suddenly that Scrafty's body didn't register any pain until after he'd been hit and sent staggering backwards. It was if one minute he was fine, the next it wasn't. And it certainly was NOT fine for that single attack had been enough to take it out. Scrafty's legs buckled and it fell onto its back, eyes becoming swirls as it fainted. The audience was amazed at the sheer power of small town girl. How did a trainer coming from such a humble, farm town like Postwick come to raise such incredibly strong Pokémon? She was just knocking Marnie's Pokémon out one-by-one with barely a scratch in return! Marnie wasn't surprised at all as the last two battles she'd had with Ruby had been clean-sweep victories but she had at least hoped to give the audience a good fight and not lose to Ruby so easily. What would that say about Spikemuth?


"Scrafty is unable to battle, Noivern is the winner!" the announcer boomed.


"Soundwave: superior. Scrafty: Inferior." Soundwave purred in his guttural voice.


Marnie returned Scrafty to its ball without saying a word. She drew out her next ball, her face unchanging so Ruby had no idea what she was thinking or feeling at this moment. She hoped she wasn't irritating her or making her feel bad about this battle.


"I doubt this one will fare any better against that Noivern, but anything's worth a shot at this point." Marnie muttered, "Toxicroak, poison your enemies!"


She threw the ball and Toxicroak was brought to the feel, puffing its cheeks out and croaking loudly with anticipation. It raised its clawed hands and adopted a battle-ready stance. It looked like a martial artist ready to deliver a savage beat down that its opponent wouldn't soon forget. Like the last time she'd thought it, Ruby remembered that Marnie's Toxicroak was a Pokémon that loved to fight. It looked just as battle-ready as the first time she'd seen it. Although Bugs wasn't available to use his Zen Headbutt like last time, she still had a Pokémon with a Psychic move that would exploit Toxicroak's quadruple weakness to the type. She returned Soundwave and exchanged his Pokéball for another.


"I bet nobody expected I'd be bringing him out a second time but here goes…" Ruby murmured, "You're up again, Hawk Moth!"


She threw the ball and Hawk Moth was returned to the field. The audience was surprised to see Ruby bringing him back out. One would think she'd keep out the vastly superior Noivern to win this battle. But some of the audience members knew Butterfree well enough to see why Ruby had brought Hawk Moth out again. Hawk Moth eyed up his opponent and pointed his cane at the frog-like Pokémon.


"He looks powerful…he'll make a fine Akuma to serve me in my quest to get those Miraculouses!" he declared.


"Not right now Hawk Moth, you can deal with that later." Ruby said tightly, "Use Psychic!"


Marnie had a feeling that was why Hawk Moth had been brought out again. She knew from watching Gym battles with Piers that Butterfree could learn Psychic attacks. It was one of many things that proved why this cute, butterfly like Pokémon was more than met the eye. Hawk Moth twirled his cane as his antennae twitched and a wave of psychic energy began to build up above his head. He took aim and fired the psychic energy at Toxicroak, pink waves of energy sweeping over it and causing immense disorientation and pain. Toxicroak had no idea what was happening. The psychic waves were making it feel as if the arena was spinning all around it and that down was now up. Hawk Moth cackled with delight, glad to see that his attack was proving to be quite powerful. Then after he was done, Toxicroak swayed on its feet, dizzy and with no energy left to fight. It stood there, swaying for a moment. Then it finally keeled over and fell onto its side. The audience gasped and cheered in amazement. A fourth clean victory in a row and still with no losses for Ruby! It was easy to see why this girl had conquered the Gym Challenge. With power like this at her side, she could easily compete against Leon at this rate!


"Toxicroak is unable to battle! Butterfree is the winner!" the announcer declared.


Team Yell booed loudly in frustration, annoyed that Ruby was making their beloved Marnie look bad. Would it kill the girl to at least not make winning against her look so easy? If only she'd let Marnie win at least one fight just to be fair! Marnie glared at Team Yell, annoyed that they had ignored her strict orders not to boo her opponents just because they were winning. She didn't want anyone to think she was a sore loser. The Goth girl returned Toxicroak to its ball and took out her last one.


"Down to my last Pokémon already…I hope it'll be the one to change everything." Marnie said grimly, "Feast your eyes on this Ruby. This is a Pokémon I've been keeping to myself for a while to make it a surprise for my opponents. Grimmsnarl, you're the one to win this match for me!"


She through the Pokéball and Ruby's eyes widened as she found herself staring at one of the most unusual looking Pokémon she'd ever seen in her life. She knew what it was of course, but this had been her first time seeing one since her journey had started. Marnie's last Pokémon was the Dark/Fairy type Pokémon, Grimmsnarl. It was the fully evolved version of Impidimp and Morgrem. Grimmsnarl looked like a troll, humanoid in shape with large crescent shaped ears, a long pointed nose and large, three-toed feet. Most of its body was covered in large, dark purple hair that left only its face and feet uncovered. It was a slender Pokémon in appearance but the hair covering its body made it look much more muscular and powerful in appearance. Funny enough, the hair actually worked like muscle fibres in order to enhance its strength. And like its previous forms, Grimmsnarl was a male-only species. Ruby thought that Grimmsnarl looked like something out of a fairy tale, like something that would lurk in the forest and snatch children to take away to its dark lair. Grimmsnarl were often featured in scary ghost stories among children and some even viewed it as the Pokémon version of the bogeyman. This Grimmsnarl just looked ready for a battle, nothing more. Ruby was impressed with Marnie. She hadn't suspected for a minute that she had a Pokémon like this. But unfortunately for Marnie, she knew how to counter it. She'd caught Fang the Morgrem back in Glimwood Tangle and due to the species being registered in her Pokédex, she knew what typing it was: Dark/Fairy. Grimmsnarl was no different, so she had the perfect counter for it. Ruby returned Hawk Moth and whipped out her fourth Pokéball. It just occurred to her how weird it was that until this point, she'd only used three Pokémon against Marnie. She hadn't expected the fight to be THIS much of a walkover!


"I was hoping I'd have a chance to debut my newest catch." Ruby said brightly, "Shard, it's time to make your grand entrance!"


She threw the ball and the audience let out loud gasps of surprise as a Duraludon materialized onto the field. Even Marnie was completely gobsmacked to see this from her opponent. Shard flexed his small arms and stomped his feet, roaring viciously. He looked around to see the audience all watching him in amazement. Clearly these people hadn't expected to see anyone like him to show up!


"No…flipping…way!" Marnie gasped, "You caught yourself a bloody Duraludon?! How the hell did you manage that?!"


It was one of the few times that she'd displayed a genuine emotion, her eyes wide with astonishment and her voice rising to a shout. Ruby almost laughed at Marnie's reaction, having expected some form of surprise in response to her newest Pokémon.


"I was just really, really, REALLY lucky!" she chuckled, "I was just travelling through Route 10 on my way over and I found one! I'm hoping to use him against Raihan later on as it'd be awesome to have my Duraludon go against his."


"I'm still reeling over what a tough time he gave my Pokémon with that thing…" Marnie muttered, "His Duraludon nearly took out my whole team. Oh well, maybe I'll have better luck with this one as it's a Duraludon not owned by a Gym Leader this time."


Ruby nodded. Marnie wasn't exactly wrong. Just because she had a Duraludon, didn't mean it would be as good as Raihan's. This could still be anyone's match. Both girls held out their Pokéballs and activated their Dynamax bands. The audience watched with excitement as red and pink energy surrounded the girls and swirled into their bands. It was Dynamax time here in Wyndon and it was going to be against two big and powerful looking Pokémon. This was going to be amazing! Ruby and Marnie waited until their Pokéballs grew in size and then they threw them, both holding the balls above their heads to throw so they ended up looking like mirror-images of each other. Shard the Duraludon began to grow in size, though unlike Raihan's he didn't change in appearance too as he couldn't Gigantamax. That was already one huge difference between Ruby's and Raihan's Duraludons that would make all the difference. Marnie's Grimmsnarl however COULD Gigantamax. Ruby watched as its appearance changed as it grew in size. It looked much more slender in appearance than its original form with a rather tall and lanky appearance and much more hair surrounding it. Only its face and chest marking was uncovered now with two strands of hair on each leg acting as its feet. Its hair around its head pointed upwards. Grimmsnarl let out a booming, fearsome roar that echoed around the stadium and made the audience shudder in their seats. Ruby thought that the Gigantamaxed Grimmsnarl was one of the most amazing sights she'd ever seen.


"Wow, that is one epic looking Pokémon…" Ruby murmured.


"And powerful too. This will be a fine test of my strength!" Shard boomed eagerly.


"Yes it will." Ruby agreed, "Let's see what you've got Shard. Use Max Steelspike!"


Shard obeyed, raising his arms and unleashing a trial of huge, metal spikes that tore up from the ground and trailed their way towards Grimmsnarl. The spikes tore into Grimmsnarl, making it roar in pain and flail around wildly. Marnie watched as her Gigantamaxed Pokémon was stricken and it swayed alarmingly back and forth, looking almost as if it was going to fall backwards onto the audience. Of course, the audience was in no danger thanks to force fields protecting them from stray Pokémon attacks or Dynamax Pokémon falling backwards, but it would still be scary for anyone to watch. Thankfully, Grimmsnarl didn't fall backwards and instead just leaned over as the Dynamax energy in it depleted and it was returned to its original size and form. The single Max Steelspike had knocked it clean out. As soon as it was returned to normal, Grimmsnarl fell forward and fainted on the grass. Marnie shook her head sadly. She'd been training her Grimmsnarl so hard to be her personal ace and yet it hadn't been enough. It had still fallen just as easily as everyone else. She supposed it was inevitable as it had been against a Pokémon as powerful as Duraludon. Not many could go against a pseudo-legendary and win after all.


The audience took a moment to realize what had happened and then they cheered, amazed that Ruby had performed such an effortless clean sweep against a Gym Challenger that had been pretty impressive on her way to the semi-finals. They'd expected a great battle to start off the semi-finals, but they hadn't expected anything like this. Even Ruby was astonished she'd won so effortlessly.


"I really didn't think I'd win so easily against her…" she murmured.


"Grimmsnarl is unable to battle! Duraludon is the winner!" the announcer barked, "The winner of the first round of the semi-finals is Ruby Silverlock of Postwick Town and she progresses to the second round!"


The audience exploded with joy. Galar's rising star was continuing to rise further and further to the point she was now in the second round of the semi-finals! Marnie's fans naturally were disappointed to see her go out, and so easily no less, but they applauded Ruby for an excellent battle nonetheless. Team Yell were less than gracious in Marnie's defeat but their boos and jeers were barely audible amongst the crowd's cheers so Ruby barely even heard them. Marnie returned Grimmsnarl and Shard returned to his normal size as the Dynamax ended. Ruby returned him once he was back to normal and she turned to Marnie, wondering what her reaction would be. Thankfully, it wasn't one of anger or annoyance. If anything, she looked really chill about it as if she'd had fun despite losing. The two girls met in the centre of the pitch to congratulate each other.


"OK, so I lost…but I got to see a lot of the good points of you and your Pokémon!" Marnie said, sounding genuinely enthusiastic.


"Thank you." Ruby said appreciatively, "I'm sorry I made you look so weak out there. I really should've gone easier on you to let you show your stuff."


"Meh, it just shows that I've got a lot to learn yet." Marnie said casually, "Still, while we were battling…during all that…everyone was watchin' us…I heard them cheering for me and my Pokémon…"


She paused a moment to drink in the atmosphere. It was like she wanted to savour this feeling for a little longer as it would be ages before she'd even up in this stadium again.


"It was nice…I may have lost, but at least we drove the audience wild!" the Goth girl cried "Guess that's not so bad!"


Ruby smiled graciously, glad to see Marnie was taking it so well.


"So, in regards to your promise, how do you intend to help my town recover from its financial troubles?" Marnie asked.


Ruby had hoped she would bring that up. She had just the thing in mind.


"If I become Champion, which is honestly starting to look likely given how I just keep on winning and winning…I'll donate all my winnings to Spikemuth town. No matter how many fights I have, ALL money I earn will go to Spikemuth." Ruby explained, "I imagine that, plus the fact that a trainer from Spikemuth made it to the semi-finals and had a battle with the new Champion should hopefully draw more attention to your town and increase public interest to help you guys out. After all, I'm not in this for the money that we trainers earn from our victories so it'll be put too much better use helping you guys out. I know it won't solve Spikemuth's troubles overnight, but I'll be happy to help anyway I can."


Marnie nodded, taking all of this in with a warm feeling of gratitude tingling inside her. She liked Ruby's idea of donating all money she earnt from her victories to the town and her suggestion that her being a semi-finalist that had gone up against the possible new Champion of Galar could still generate interest in Spikemuth. The generosity of Ruby Silverlock, plus this would definitely improve the town's economy and improve the lives of Spikemuth residents everywhere. Marnie was so grateful to Ruby's kindness that she embraced her again. The crowd awed at the tender scene in the pitch. Even Team Yell was touched by Ruby's kindness and how she was willing to help out, some of the members even crying over the heart-warming scene down below. They regretted booing her earlier and would give her nothing but cheers from now on. Bugs, Raven and Gene all smiled, glad that their trainer was showing everyone in the stadium just what a big-hearted girl she was.


"Dat's our Ruby." Bugs said proudly.


"A great trainer and an even greater person." Gene agreed.


"It's honestly beautiful to see how generous people can be." Raven said, clearly touched by what she'd witnessed.


"I wish all people could be as kind as you Ruby." Marnie whispered, sounding on the verge of tears, "Thank you so much. This will mean a lot to both me and Piers. I really hope you'll become Champion and make this possible."


"I'll win that title, for you and everyone at Spikemuth." Ruby promised, hugging her friend back, "I promise, you won't have to live in poverty for the rest of your life."


The girls seemed to hug each other for a while before they finally separated and headed off the pitch to go to the changing rooms. Now their fight was over, they could kick back, relax and watch the next fight when Hop and Victor made their way to the field. Ruby knew who she would be rooting for when the fight commenced…

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