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Knights of Galar: A Pokémon Shield Nuzlocke Chapter 25

Chapter 25: Hop vs. Victor

Only an hour had passed before Hop and Victor were now making their way onto the pitch for their semi-final battle. In that time, Ruby and Hop had quickly met up with one another so they could congratulate and wish each other luck respectively. Naturally, Hop had been impressed with how easily Ruby had beaten Marnie, though he acknowledged that it helped she had practice with her previously.

"I hope if we face each other in Round 2, I'll put up more of a fight." Hop said, "As your best mate and rival, it only makes sense that I give you a tough battle."

"Well we'll just have to see if you win this one." Ruby noted, "I dunno anything about this Victor person but given he's a semi-finalist too, he must be good. At least with me, you've had plenty of practice so you know what to expect. Victor's a complete unknown to both of us so who knows what Pokémon he has up his sleeve."

"He can throw whatever he has at me!" Hop declared, "I'll only spring back and show him why I'm the one who's gonna defeat Leon! I'll see you when the battle starts."

"I'll make sure I get a front row seat so I get a clear view of you." Ruby said, "Good luck out there Hop."

"Cheers." Hop said graciously before leaving to the changing rooms to change into his Gym uniform. As he turned to leave, he suddenly stopped and looked back at Ruby.

"Oh, and Ruby? Did I ever mention how good you look in your Gym uniform?" he added, winking.

Ruby blushed. She didn't think Hop would make a comment like that. She appreciated it anyway. It was definitely clear that her suspicions on him seeing her as more than just a friend might be true. She left Hop to get changed while she headed out to find a seat in the audience so she could watch the battle.

She was there right now, front row seat as she'd promised, with Bugs, Gene and Raven sitting beside her as they watched Hop and Victor make their way onto the battlefield. For the first time ever, Ruby got to see Hop in his Gym uniform as he made his way to the centre of the pitch. She found herself drawn to him as if the sight of her neighbour in those clothes attracted her. The sporty clothes suited Hop much better than they ever suited Marnie and Ruby found herself appreciating just how lean and fit he looked in them. She imagined Hop might have the same thoughts about her in her uniform. She shook her head furiously. Think those thoughts at a more appropriate time, she was meant to be watching her friend have a Pokémon battle!

Hop and Victor took their places in the centre of the pitch and faced one another. Hop could already feel the heavy weight that was placed on his shoulders. He could see legions of fans up in the audience chanting for him, the brother of Champion Leon, to win the battle. He even saw that Leon himself was in the audience watching him, clearly keen to see his little brother in action. Hop waved to him, grateful that Leon was here. He suddenly felt a lot more confident in himself knowing that his brother was there and watching.

"Hey mate, let's give the audience a fight to remember." Victor said.

Hop snapped out of his gaze and turned to Victor as if remembering he was still there. Thank goodness it wasn't a battle otherwise getting distracted like this would've caused him some trouble!

"Naturally." Hope replied, "My legend has been unfolding and it isn't going to end here. I'm going to make it to the second round and then make my way to Leon! You, my friend, are looking at Galar's next champion!"

"I sure hope to see what Galar's next champion has to offer." Victor said coolly.

Was that meant to be a compliment or a direct challenge? Hop wasn't sure. He and Victor took up their positions and awaited the signal to go.

"From Postwick Town: Hop Dande." the announcer barked, his tone of voice sounding slightly enthusiastic as if to emphasize what a big deal it was that the Champion's brother was competing today, "From Wedgehurst Town: Victor Masaru."

Both Hop and Victor received cheers from the crowd. Although Hop clearly had the bigger fanbase, it was still possible to hear Victor's name being chanted out loud among them. It was clear that despite being a complete nobody throughout the Gym Challenge that neither he nor Ruby had met or even heard of until now that Victor had garnered his own following. Hop imagined that he'd earned that reputation over time and he was about to see for himself just how powerful this mystery trainer was. His stomach tingled. This was it, his chance to continue his road to Leon! Would his legend end here or did it have another page for him to fill? This battle was going to determine if this was the end or the continuation of his tale…

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

"Alright-y! Let's get this show on the road!" Victor cried excitedly, "Rhyperior, for victory!"

He threw his first Pokéball and summoned his first Pokémon to the field. The audience all gasped in amazement as they bore witness to a Pokémon that many of them had seen in teams from not just trainers, but Leon himself. Hop of course recognized it as he knew Leon's Rhyperior. He'd known it since it was a Rhyhorn. The Rhyperior flexed its huge arms and gave an enthusiastic roar of determination. It was ready to fight and clearly dared any trainer to try their luck against it. Rhyperior was a huge, bulky beast of a Pokémon, looking like a stony, dinosaur-esque creature with two horns, one larger than the other…although it was more accurate to describe the larger horn as a drill. It even spun like an actual drill and Hop grimaced as the Rhyperior's horn spun now, making a whirring sound like the actual tool it resembled. It had stubby legs, huge arms that looked almost like cannons complete with holes in the hands to "fire" out of and a thick tail with a rocky club at the end like an ankylosaur. It was also covered in orange, stony plates all over its body. Rhyperior was the final form of Rhyhorn, an evolution that could only be achieved by evolving a Rhydon while it was holding the Protector item, an item that resembled the orange plates around its body. Ruby stared from her seat.

"Wow, a Rhyperior!" she gasped, "Victor's lucky to have one of those! I bet Hop knows how to counter it given his brother has one."

"Yeah, Victor's not made a great first choice." Bugs agreed, seeing where Ruby was going with this.

Down on the pitch, Hop smiled confidently as he made his decision on who his first Pokémon to send out would be.

"Unlucky for you Victor, I know just the Pokémon to combat that Rhyperior." the purple-haired boy crowed, "Rillaboom, hop into action!"

Ruby smiled to herself. She knew Hop would chose Rillaboom to go up against Rhyperior. What better Pokémon to use against a Rock/Ground type Pokémon than a Grass type? Rillaboom materialized onto the pitch, beating his massive chest and twirling his drumsticks around in his hands. He seemed just as fired up as his opponent was and ready to have a good, solid throw down. The gorilla and dinosaur like Pokémon stared each other down. It was like the Pokémon version of King Kong down on the pitch with the two. All that was missing was for there to be someone to act as Ann Darrow.

"Let's wrap this up real quick!" Hop cried, "Rillaboom, use Drum Beating!"

Rillaboom obeyed, banging his drum kit and sending huge vines shooting up from the ground. They snaked their way towards Rhyperior, ready to smack it down into oblivion. As a Pokémon with a quadruple weakness to Grass, Rhyperior would go down in one hit…or so Hop hoped. Victor smiled coolly as he gave his command.

"Protect!" he cried.

Rhyperior held up its massive arms and formed a barrier around itself to block the deadly attack. Rillaboom's vines just banged feebly against the barrier, unable to do any actual damage to Rhyperior for the time being. Hop gritted his teeth in annoyance. How he hated it when his opponents had that move! Many trainers often felt like Protect was the most annoying move a Pokémon could learn as you couldn't always see it coming and it was just a cheap, easy way to stop their Pokémon taking damage. Even Ruby groaned, sharing Hop's frustration.

"Ugh, it's so annoying when trainers use that…" she sighed.

"N'yah, it's just delayin' da inevitable." Bugs insisted, "Hop's still got dis."

Down on the pitch, Rhyperior's barrier faded away now that Protect was over and it was free to make the next move.

"Now Rhyperior, use Fire Fang!" Victor ordered.

The audience gasped. Ruby's eyes widened in horror as the rocky rhinosaurus creature thundered towards Rillaboom with its fangs blazing with fire. No wonder Victor seemed so chill despite the type-disadvantage! He had type coverage! Hop cried out as Rhyperior bit down on Rillaboom, its fiery fangs scorching his grassy gorilla badly and making him cry out. Rillaboom staggered back from the attack and clutching his shoulder, wincing from the burns. He'd taken damage, but it wasn't too serious. That was lucky. Both Hop and Ruby had worried that would be it. Rillaboom's defences had thankfully held up.

"You OK, buddy?" Hop asked worriedly.

"Rillaboom feels badly burnt, but Rillaboom is still fighting fit!" Rillaboom replied.

"Good on ya, mate! Now use Drum Beating again!" Hop ordered.

Rillaboom repeated his earlier attack, banging his drums furiously and sending vines rushing towards Rhyperior. This time, he hit with no time for Victor to order it to use Protect. The vines slammed down on Rhyperior heavily, its bulky, rocky hide doing nothing to protect it from the onslaught. The damage was done and the hit had been super-effective. Hop watched as Rhyperior collapsed onto one knee, weakened by the attack. Rillaboom watched intently. Was the attack enough to end the battle? It didn't seem so for Rhyperior, against all odds…stood back up again! It got back on its feet and roared, showing it still had energy left. Leon raised an eyebrow with interest as he watched from his seat.

"That Rhyperior's as tough as mine!" he commented, "I bet it has the Solid Rock ability…"

He was right. Victor's Rhyperior had withstood the hit because of Solid Rock. It was an ability some Pokémon had that weakened super-effective hits. It didn't weaken it by much, but it had been enough for Victor's Rhyperior to take Rillaboom's Drum Beating and carry on fighting. Hop frowned. He was so sure that that would be it, but it wasn't! He watched helplessly as Victor ordered Rhyperior to use another Fire Fang. What could he do? The Rhyperior's Fire Fang could potentially end the battle! Then he realized something else. Of course! Rhyperior wasn't just weak against Grass types! He could hopefully exploit another weakness it had before disaster could occur.

"Quick, use High Horsepower before Fire Fang hits!" Hop cried.

Rillaboom obeyed, lowering his head and charging towards Rhyperior as if he'd been shot out of a cannon. Ruby beamed excitedly. So Hop had taught his Rillaboom High Horsepower. It was clever of him to do so as it meant Rillaboom now had type-coverage against any Fire types that would threaten him. Both she and Leon watched with baited breath as Rillaboom and Rhyperior closed the gap between each other. Who was going to hit first? Both Pokémon slammed into each other…but Rillaboom using a super-effective move won out in the end. High Horsepower hit Rhyperior, stopping its Fire Fang and throwing it back across the pitch. Hop knew as well as anyone else that Rhyperior's half Rock typing made it weak against Ground attacks, hence why he'd chosen that move. He was glad to see that it had worked too, the Rhyperior lying defeated and out cold at Victor's feet. The Wedgehurst boy was incredulous, unable to believe one of his strongest Pokémon had been taken out so early.

"No way! He's down already?!" he cried.

"Oh yeah! Score one for Hop!" the Postwick boy cried out.

"You've sure grown a lot since the day I endorsed you." Leon said to himself, smiling approvingly at his brother, "Great job Hop."

"Rhyperior is unable to battle! Rillaboom is the winner!" the announcer cried.

"Yay! Go Hop!" Ruby hollered, "That was awesome!"

"He's getting really good at this." Raven complimented, "Battling you has certainly taught him plenty."

Ruby nodded in agreement. She was glad to see her friend was doing so well. But she didn't dare get too excited. This battle was only just beginning. Victor returned Rhyperior to its Pokéball and drew out his next one. This one was different for it was a Pokéball that had been customized by himself personally. It had a snowflake symbol on the top.

"That's a powerful Rillaboom you have!" Victor complimented, "It sure hits like a tank! But it's gonna be no match for my beautiful Glaceon."

He kissed the Pokéball for good luck and threw it out to summon his next Pokémon. This was the graceful Ice-type Pokémon known as Glaceon. It was one of several different evolutions that the Normal-type Eevee could evolve into. Eevee evolved through the use of an Ice Stone into this species. Glaceon was a very adorable looking Pokémon, looking like some mammalian creature with icy blue fur, a teal crest on its head with two dangling flaps that looked like some kind of hairdo and long, pointy ears. It had a pointy tail with a rhombus shaped marking at the tip and also bore a rhombus shaped marking on its back. Many of the audience members awed at the Glaceon. Of the Eeveelutions, Glaceon was very popular for its beautiful appearance. Ruby raised an eyebrow with fascination.

"A Glaceon…good choice. I wonder if Hop has a counter for it." she murmured.

She soon got her answer for Hop returned Rillaboom to his Pokéball. He knew it was suicide to use a Grass Pokémon against an Ice-type. He hadn't brought any Fire-types with him to deal with Ice-types like Glaceon, but that was OK. Ice-types weren't just weak against Fire-types and he knew it.

"You're just the Pokémon for this match." Hop said, whipping out his second Pokéball, "Go Snorlax!"

He threw the ball and the huge, gluttonous figure of Snorlax made its appearance on the pitch. Snorlax scratched his tummy and yawned lazily. It somehow looked like it was ready for a sleep again, even though Snorlax did nothing but sleep outside of battles. Seeing these two Pokémon on the pitch invited much laughter from the audience as it was pretty comical to see the tiny Glaceon against the giant Snorlax. Ruby was thrilled to see Snorlax again. Having experienced it herself, she knew Hop had gotten herself a very powerful Pokémon so Victor's Glaceon was in for a battle! But why did Hop choose Snorlax in particular? Was he going for brute strength or did Snorlax have any moves to exploit Glaceon's weaknesses? She watched as Victor made the first move.

"Now Glaceon, kick things up with Ice Beam!" he ordered.

Glaceon opened its mouth and fired a freezing cold beam of ice towards its opponent. Snorlax took the blow, barely even flinching as Ice Beam hit. It was as if Glaceon was trying to shoot through a wall but was completely unable to thanks to the wall being too thick. Victor frowned. He had hoped the Ice Beam would do the damage. Hop smiled happily at his Snorlax's resilience.

"Good thing you have that Thick Fat ability!" he praised, "Really helps out against these Ice-types!"

Thick Fat was an ability some Pokémon had in which Fire and Ice attacks were weakened. Ruby thought back to Vesuvius's battle with Snorlax and how no matter how many times she'd hit it with Flame Charge, it didn't seem to do much. It all made sense now! Hop's Snorlax had the Thick Fat ability the whole time! It was certainly helping against Glaceon as the Ice Beam barely even tickled Snorlax. Hop then retaliated by ordering his huge Pokémon to use Hammer Arm. Now Ruby understood Hop's plan. Ice-types were weak to Fighting attacks and Snorlax just happened to have one! She imagined that it would be a one-hit KO too for Glaceon didn't have fantastic defences. She was proven right as Snorlax lumbered towards Glaceon and slammed his huge arm down in a downwards chop on top of Glaceon. To the Ice Pokémon, it was like being crushed by a meteor. Snorlax's Hammer Arm hit hard and as Ruby had predicted, it was all over. The single blow had knocked it clean out. Glaceon lay on the pitch, completely wiped out. Victor looked disappointed that another Pokémon of his had gone out so soon.

"I was hoping Glaceon could truly show her stuff." he sighed.

"Glaceon is unable to battle! Snorlax is the winner!" the announcer barked.

"Well done Hop!" Leon cried happily, "That was a good move! You're doing great out there!"

The Champion was now finding himself looking forward to the possibility of challenging his own brother for the title. Hop would certainly give him, as he would say, a Champion time if this is what he had to offer! Victor returned Glaceon to its ball. He smiled at the ball affectionately, showing he wasn't mad with it for losing. He then took out his next Pokéball, this one also customized with a lightning symbol on the ball.

"You're more powerful than I expected!" Victor remarked, "This is the most intense battle I've had since my journey started! Now this one's gonna create a shock for you all!" he yelled, throwing the ball.

Hop watched with anticipation. He was starting to get excited, and also nervous, about what Pokémon his opponent may possibly have next. This new one he'd summoned to the field ended up being something that he wouldn't have expected. He was anticipating a powerful species of Pokémon or maybe a Fighting type of some kind. Instead, his next opponent…was a Raichu. The Electric Mouse Pokémon stood in the centre of the pitch and stroke a haughty pose, smiling proudly as if it knew it was going to win its next fight. Raichu were the evolved form of Pikachu, evolving by use of a Thunder Stone. Raichu resembled a kangaroo rat with orange fur and two brown stripes on its back. It had a long, thin black tail tipped with a huge lightning bolt, brown curly ears with yellow innards and yellow circular cheek markings like the red ones its predecessor sported. Seeing a Raichu on the field made Ruby wince as a pang of despair hit her heart. Now she was reminded of her dad's first Pokémon and how its death had led to him quitting his life as a trainer. How would he have felt if he was here watching the battle now? Seeing a Raichu would no doubt make him uncomfortable. Of course, Hop had a completely different reaction.

"Wow, a Raichu! This is gonna be a cool battle!" Hop declared, "Leon told me much about Raichu and how powerful they are."

"Believe me, this one is definitely powerful." Victor confirmed, "Allow me to show you. Use Thunder Wave!"

Raichu obeyed, tensing its body up and its cheek markings glowing yellow as they crackled with electricity. It then shot a bolt of lightning at Snorlax, making it wince in pain while also stopping it dead in its tracks. Snorlax took no damage as Thunder Wave wasn't a damaging move. It was however a Status move intended to inflict paralysis on the opponent. Hop decided to give Snorlax a command, hoping the paralysis wouldn't stop him from moving completely. Snorlax aimed another Hammer Arm attack at its opponent. But unfortunately, Thunder Wave's paralysis kicked in and Snorlax stopped, grimacing as electricity crackled around his body. He couldn't move. Victor smiled with pleasure.

"Works every time." he said confidently, "Now use Brick Break while it's immobile!"

Hop gasped. The last thing he would've expected was for that Raichu to have a Fighting move! He could only watch as Raichu bounded towards Snorlax and karate-chopped him in the face. It was a ludicrous scene with the tiny electric mouse karate-chopping a fat, bear-like Pokémon with only its stubby arms but David won out against Goliath in this match as Snorlax staggered back from the surprising power Raichu packed in it. Snorlax wasn't down yet as his defences were strong enough to hold up but the Brick Break attack had done much damage. It looked as if Snorlax was going to be on the back foot for this battle. The audience watched, interested to see where this was going. Maybe the Champion's brother wasn't going to have a clean sweep victory like Ruby before him. Hop acted fast, desperate to save the battle while he still could.

"Try using High Horsepower!" Hop cried.

That move would definitely finish Raichu off. A hard hitting Ground attack like that would certainly stop an Electric type like Raichu dead in its tracks. Unfortunately…Snorlax never got the chance to use it. Paralysis kicked in again and Snorlax flinched from the electricity crackling over him. He couldn't move once more, leaving him wide open for Raichu to use Brick Break again. Raichu bounced into the air and slammed its tiny but powerful fist on top of Snorlax's head. Snorlax let out a deep bellow of pain as Raichu's attack landed. He staggered back, his head spinning from the blow. Raichu grinned smugly, seeing clearly that this fight was very soon going to be over and it would be another victory in the bag. Snorlax swayed for a moment and then collapsed onto its back, the stadium shaking as several tonnes of Pokémon simply dropped down in a faint. Hop nearly fell over, fighting to keep himself balanced. He looked over at Snorlax, seeing that his powerhouse of a Pokémon was out of the match, gazing dopily up at the sky. The audience was impressed. Nobody would've expected a Raichu to win a battle against a Snorlax! Even Ruby couldn't believe her eyes.

"No way, that Raichu won?!" she gasped, "I had no idea they could be so powerful!"

"Lots of Pokémon can defy expectations, doc." Bugs noted, "Da little ones especially can be quite surprising."

"Snorlax is unable to battle! Raichu is the winner!" the announcer's voice crackled from the speakers.

"You've always been a great Pokémon in my battles, Raichu! Great work!" Victor praised.

Raichu just smiled conceitedly as if it knew it was powerful and didn't need reminding. Hop returned Snorlax to his Pokéball, still amazed that he'd lost. He still had four Pokémon left at least. This match wasn't over by a long shot!

"That Raichu sure caught me off-guard!" Hop exclaimed, "But as it happens, I made sure to bring a Pokémon that could handle Electric types like that. It's you now, Sandaconda!"

Ruby smiled with interest. So Hop had evolved his Silicobra after all. She'd been curious about that since fighting Raihan's Sandaconda back in Hammerlocke. She watched as the snake-like Pokémon materialized onto the pitch, hissing delightedly and flexing its neck pouch. It was a good match up. Raichu was weak to Ground types and it couldn't use Thunder Wave to paralyze Sandaconda for Ground types were immune to Electric attacks. Hop clearly had this match in the bag! The golden-eyed boy clearly thought the same for he threw his arms aside with anticipation.

"This will be a cinch!" he declared, "Sandaconda, use Bulldoze!"

Sandaconda obeyed, slamming its head down heavily on the ground to create a huge shockwave that punched its way towards Raichu. Bulldoze was essentially a weaker version of Earthquake but it was still a powerful move that had the side-effect of lowering a Pokémon's speed upon impact. Raichu was hit full on by the attack and thrown into the air. Victor gasped, unable to believe that Sandaconda had actually managed to land a hit. Raichu crashed down at Victor's feet but despite the clean hit and super-effective attack, the orange Pokémon wasn't down yet. Raichu picked itself up and shook itself down. It didn't have much health left so it wouldn't last much longer against Sandaconda. Its speed also lowered from the attack, a blue flash sweeping down to signify that. Victor was confident he could still win though.

"It's not over yet Raichu!" he cried, "We can turn this around! Use Grass Knot!"

Hop was stunned. This Raichu knew how to cover its opponents! First it had Brick Break for Normal types and now it had Grass Knot to cover its weakness to Ground types! Grass Knot was a Grass attack that did more damage depending on how much the opponent outweighed the user. Sandaconda was a VERY heavy Pokémon compared to Raichu so to nobody's surprise, it went down in a single blow. Grassy vines reached up from the ground and tripped Sandaconda, making it crash down heavily from the fall. The impact was enough to knock it clean out despite the promising start. Sandaconda lay on its side, its forked tongue hanging out dopily. Hop was aghast. He was so sure that he had this battle in the bag and yet Raichu had defied expectations again by pulling this off! Victor had clearly trained it well!

"Sandaconda is unable to battle! Raichu is the winner!" the announcer boomed.

This drew a lot of gasps of awe from the audience. Nobody would've expected a Sandaconda to lose to a Raichu! Leon bit his lip, hoping his brother wasn't losing his cool down there. Victor and his Raichu stood where they were, looking as if this battle was already theirs despite Hop having three Pokémon left. Hop returned Sandaconda, unable to believe that what should've been a clear victory ended up turning against him. Victor seemed to be very much like Ruby, a trainer who's Pokémon performed beyond what was expected of them and always relying on type-advantage. But he knew he could pull this around. That Raichu was definitely weakened by Sandaconda's Bulldoze attack! All he had to do was finish it off.

"Time for you to return to the field, buddy!" Hop cried, throwing Rillaboom's ball out again.

Ruby and Leon both nodded approvingly. It was a wise decision to bring Rillaboom back to the field as they'd already seen earlier that Rillaboom had a type-advantage over Raichu due to knowing High Horsepower. Raichu's Grass Knot would be useless against another Grass-type and Raichu weren't capable of learning attacks that were super-effective against Grass-types. Raichu stood no chance against Rillaboom! Victor was clearly going to give it another go and show he wouldn't go down without a fight.

"Use Thunder Wave!" he commanded.

"Use High Horsepower!" Hop commanded at the same time.

Both Pokémon prepared to use their attacks. Raichu started to build up a Thunder Wave to paralyze Rillaboom but unfortunately for it, his decreased speed at the hands of Sandaconda's Bulldoze earlier meant Rillaboom was too fast for it to hit first. Rillaboom charged into Raichu full on and knocked the electric rodent back. To Raichu, it was like getting run over by a bus. It cried out as it was knocked back and it crashed down outside of the arena markings, rolling to a stop on its side. Victor stared and ran towards his defeated Raichu. He leant down by its side and picked it up.

"Are you OK, buddy?" he asked worriedly.

Raichu didn't reply. It had been knocked out by Rillaboom's High Horsepower. His Raichu had performed adequately, but it was the end of its winning streak. Many of Victor's fans voiced their support, congratulating his Raichu on fighting so well before being defeated.

"Raichu is unable to battle! Rillaboom is the winner!" the announcer screeched.

"You truly pulled that one around, Hop." Leon said happily, "I have a feeling that he could truly make it to the top at this rate…"

On her side of the stadium, Ruby was cheering along with the rest of Hop's fans as they were glad to see him pull off a victory despite Victor's Raichu turning the battle on its head for a moment. Now Victor only had two Pokémon left while Hop had three. Who would the teen from Wedgehurst send out next? All eyes were on Victor as he returned Raichu and drew out his fourth Pokéball, this one decorated with a fire symbol. Hop wondered if he did this to his Pokéballs just to make it easier to remember who was who. For him at least, it just made it easier for him to tell what typing he was up against.

"Your Rillaboom may have type coverage, but I bet he'll be no match for my first." Victor declared, "You're up next, Cinderace!"

Ruby stared in astonishment as Victor brought out his own Cinderace to the field. Bugs looked equally as interested. He knew too well that Hop's Rillaboom had had a poor track record against him so it was going to be fascinating to watch how he'd handle someone else's Cinderace. Hop cursed in his head. Of all the luck, he just had to be up against someone with a Cinderace, didn't he?! It was clear Ruby wasn't the only one who'd picked Scorbunny as her starter for this season. It almost felt like a slap in the face to him. His Rillaboom hadn't managed to beat Ruby's Cinderace once and now he was here with another one to fight! It was like Victor was mocking him, though of course that wasn't true as Victor couldn't possibly know that he was friends with another trainer who had a Cinderace. Victor's Cinderace already showed a clearly different personality to Bugs, looking nonchalant as if it wished it could have a real challenge for once, a far cry from the sassy arrogance of Ruby's starter. It folded its arms and looked at Rillaboom with a look of indifference. Hop imagined it would've had the same expression if it was up against a Legendary. Hop considered switching his Pokémon out for another but at the same time, he thought it might be possible he could win this fight after all. As Victor acknowledged, he DID have type-coverage. Maybe he'd be lucky and pull it off.

"OK Rillaboom, let's see if this Cinderace is as good as Ruby's!" Hop declared, "Use High Horsepower!"

That interested Victor. If he won this battle, he'd be interested to see how Ruby's Cinderace fared up compared to his own. He watched as Rillaboom thundered towards his opponent just as before. He knew from experience that Cinderace couldn't take a lot of hits, especially super-effective ones as they didn't have the best defences so he had to act fast. He knew just what to do.

"Protect!" he ordered.

Hop groaned in annoyance. Trust Victor to have yet another Pokémon with that move! Rillaboom slammed into Cinderace and did no damage as the barrier of Protect shielded the fiery rabbit from the grassy gorilla's attack. Cinderace's face remained blank, looking more bored than anything. Now that was over, Victor made his move.

"Cinderace, use Pyro Ball!" he commanded.

Hop knew that his game would be up if he didn't act now. He knew from experience just how powerful a Cinderace's Pyro Ball attack was. Rillaboom would go down in a single blow if he didn't figure something out and quick! Ruby clutched the sides of her seat, her knuckles turning white as a result. She felt the same way Hop did and was silently begging for him to act now before it was too late! Cinderace kicked a pebble from one foot to the other, building up the giant fireball that would spell doom for Rillaboom. He then kicked the fireball towards his opponent. With no other option, Hop tried the only thing he could at this moment.

"Dodge it!" he ordered.

Rillaboom obeyed, leaping to one side and leaving the Pyro Ball to shoot right past him, slamming harmlessly into one of the walls at the end of the stadium. It was as if someone had fired a cannon at him and missed. Pyro Ball's accuracy wasn't perfect so despite its power, it wasn't always guaranteed to hit. Victor frowned as his Cinderace missed with his Pyro Ball. He was so sure that he would hit and take Rillaboom down! Even his Cinderace looked surprised, unable to believe that he missed. It proved to be a costly miss too for Rillaboom retaliated once more with High Horsepower. The grassy ape thundered towards his opponent and sent the fiery bunny hurling off his feet. Bugs winced as he watched this, feeling as if that were him baring the full brunt of that attack. He considered himself lucky that he always won his previous bouts with Rillaboom so he didn't have to experience a High Horsepower form him. Victor's Cinderace crashed down onto his back and skidded to a halt, digging up grass and dirt around its head as it did so. Victor gasped as he saw his starter Pokémon had been taken out in one single move. He had been so sure that he had this in the bag but Hop continued to surprise him. He was clearly the Champion's brother!

"Cinderace is unable to battle! Rillaboom is the winner!" the announcer declared.

"Alright! We did it! Way to go Rillaboom!" Hop cried excitedly.

"Rillaboom so happy that he's fighting so well!" Rillaboom said happily.

"Whoo hoo, that was incredible! You've got this Hop!" Ruby cried ecstatically from the audience.

"Dat boy sure has grown a lot since da day you two started out." Bugs acknowledged, "I tink ya might have yer work cut out fer ya if he makes it to da next round!"

Ruby nodded. It was so clear that the Hop she was watching on the pitch right now wasn't the same Hop that was a bit reckless and loved to run off into things without thinking first. His journey had changed him just as much as it had changed her. She was more excited than ever at the prospect of facing him for the right to enter the Champion's Cup. If he was fighting this well now, who knew how he would perform in the second round? Victor returned his Cinderace. He drew out his last Pokémon, and it was clear this was one that he had been saving for last for his face become a mask of sheer confidence as if he knew this one would be the Pokémon to turn the tide of the battle in his favour. Hop noticed immediately that this Pokéball had a dragon's head symbol on it. So it seemed he had a Dragon type…but which one? Whichever it was, it would give him some trouble for Hop had no counters for Dragon types. He braced himself.

"You've been the best opponent I've ever faced." Victor complimented, "You should be proud of yourself Hop. I bet Leon is, watching you from up in the audience over there."

He beckoned towards where Leon was sitting.

"It's easy to see why you're the one he endorsed along with Ruby. Both of you have been big stars for this season." Victor went on, "But I'm afraid it'll be me who will be facing her next round. This Pokémon is my ace, and one that has never lost a fight on my way to the semi-finals. Come out and finish the fight, Hydreigon!"

The audience let out a chorus of gasps as it sunk in on what Pokémon Victor had been saving up. They all watched as he threw his last Pokéball and one of the most terrifying Pokémon that had ever lived materialized onto the field. It was the Dragon/Dark type Pokémon native to the Unova region known as Hydreigon. It was a truly terrifying force of nature that had an infamous reputation of being among the Pokémon that Team Plasma's nefarious leader, Ghetsis, had used in his schemes to take over the world. Hydreigon was a three-headed monster with dark blue scales, six long, thin black wings for flight, small legs with feet that looked atrophied and a seven-pointed fuchsia-coloured collar around its middle head. The curious thing about Hydreigon was that its other two-heads looked more like arms with heads in place of hands. The three heads all roared in unison, creating a terrifying, yet awesome sound that made everyone shudder in their seats. Ruby found herself unable to take her eyes away as Victor's last Pokémon appeared on the pitch.

"No way…how in the name of Arceus did Victor get a bloody Hydreigon?!" she shrieked, "Those things usually take ages to evolve!"

"I guess Victor had a lot of spare time he devoted ta raisin' it up." Bugs suggested.

"I hope Hop has anything that can handle it. Hydreigon are tough Pokémon that have a lot of power!" Ruby cried.

Hop looked equally as concerned. He had seen his brother face trainers with a Hydreigon before so he knew from experience that they were ludicrously powerful. If only he had a Fairy type to deal with it! Hydreigon's dual typings were BOTH weak against those so it would go down easily to a single Dazzling Gleam from a Fairy type! However, Hop had two Pokémon left that had yet to see battle and he still had Rillaboom on the field. Maybe he could win through endurance as Victor was down to his last while he had three left to use. There was still hope he could pull through in the end.

"I know we're against a Dragon type, but I'm confident we can pull this off!" Hop declared, "Use Drum Beating!"

Rillaboom obeyed, banging his drum kit and sending huge vines sweeping across the pitch towards his fearsome opponent. The vines slammed down hard on Hydreigon, doing their best to inflict some damage. But in the end, it wasn't even worth the effort. Hydreigon had a resistance to Grass attacks, meaning they did very little damage. Hydreigon took each and every blow from the vines with barely a flinch. Rillaboom felt very nervous. If Hydreigon could take the blows like this, then how could he possibly defeat it in the end? It ended up proving to be the end of Rillaboom's match as Victor made his move.

"Use Flamethrower!"

Hydreigon opened its three mouths and shot a torrent of scorching flames towards Rillaboom. The heat of the attack was so intense that the audience could feel it from up in their seats. Leon and Ruby watched in despair as Hydreigon's attack hit Rillaboom and burnt the poor drum-playing Pokémon alive. He'd already been damaged by Rhyperior's Fire Fang earlier and now Hydreigon's Flamethrower was merely finishing the job. The flames sapped away all of Rillaboom's remaining health, leaving him as little more than another Pokémon collapsing in defeat on the pitch. He lay sprawled on the grass, groaning dopily at his master's feet.

"Rillaboom officially hate dragons now…" he moaned, drifting off into unconsciousness.

"Rillaboom is unable to battle! Hydreigon is the winner!" the announcer boomed.

"Aww, poor Rillaboom. He thought so hard." Ruby said sympathetically.

"If only I could be down there to help him." Raven muttered, "My Dazzling Gleam would fix that Hydreigon easily."

"Sadly, Hop's on his own out there." Ruby said worriedly, "I really hope his last two Pokémon can turn this battle around for him."

Hop returned Rillaboom, smiling in thanks at the Pokéball that contained him.

"You were amazing out there. Thank you so much." he said kindly.

He put his Pokéball away and exchanged it fourth Pokéball. He had two Pokémon that were completely fresh left to use. With any luck, both of them could turn this match around.

"It's now or never, guys." Hop acknowledged, "Go Toxtricity!"

He threw the ball and out came his very own Toxtricity. Ruby's face lit up with delight at the sight of it. So Hop had evolved his Toxel as well. She noticed that Hop's Toxtricity was different to her's for it had blue markings in place of yellow, smaller cheek spikes, a longer neck and a twin electric Mohawk instead of the singular one Freddy had. He also only had four knobs on his chest instead of six like Freddy. This was Toxtricity's Low Key form, a form that differed from the Amped form of Toxtricity but was nonetheless just as powerful. Ruby couldn't wait to see it in action, especially as when she'd thought it as a Toxel, it sung like The Beatles. This fight would become a show just like anytime she brought Freddy to the field.

"OK buddy, Dragon's aren't effected much by electric attacks so we're best off using our Poison moves. Maybe we'll get lucky and poison it!" Hop declared, "Use Sludge Bomb!"

Toxtricity obeyed, opening his mouth and launching piles of filthy, purple sludge at Hydreigon. At the same time, he began strumming his chest knobs and singing. As it was the Low Key form, the noise it generated sounded closer to that of a bass guitar, unlike the rock guitar sounds that Amped form Toxtricity made. Ruby and Leon bobbed their heads in time with the music:

Baby's good to meeeee, you know,

She's happy as can beeeee, you know, she said so.

I'm in love with her, and I feel fiiiiiine!

Baby says she's mine, you know,

She tells me all the time, you know, she said so.

I'm in love with her, and I feel fiiiiiine!

Iiiiiiiiii'm soooooooooo glaaaaaaaaaad, that she's my little giiiirl!

Sheeeeeeeee's soooooooooooo glaaaaaaaaaaad, she's telling all the world.

That her baby buys her things, you know,

He buys her diamond rings, you know she said so.

She's in love with me, and I feel fiiiiiiiiine!

The Sludge Bomb hit Hydreigon and despite not doing much, it was a far more meaningful hit than Rillaboom's earlier attack. Hydreigon shook its heads to shake off the sludge and it gritted its teeth. The attack hadn't inflicted poison damage as Hop had hoped it would. Victor retaliated by ordering Hydreigon to use Dragon Pulse on Toxtricity. Hydreigon's three heads opened up and fired a powerful shockwave attack that hit Toxtricity. Toxtricity weren't weak to Dragon attacks so Toxtricity was able to take the hit, but it still did the damage as Hydreigon's huge attack stats were enough to make it a powerful hit anyway. Toxtricity shook his head and awaited Hop's next command. Hop decided that rather than trying to poison Hydreigon, he'd try something else.

"Use Boomburst!" he cried.

Toxtricity strummed his chest organs again, creating a huge, explosive sound that made the audience clutch their ears in pain. It seemed to boom all over the stadium, almost making it shudder in response. Boomburst was a Normal type move that was pretty much attacking the opponent with a terrible, damaging soundwave. But this Boomburst seemed more powerful than usual. Hydreigon was only damaged normally by Normal attacks, yet somehow this attack was hitting it a lot harder than it should've done. That was thanks to Toxtricity's incredibly helpful ability known as Punk Rock. Punk Rock powered up sound-based attacks by 30%, meaning that a hard-hitting move like Boomburst hit even HARDER. It didn't knock Hydreigon out but it still did a lot of damage. If Toxtricity could use it again, he might be able to win the fight. But Toxtricity wasn't able to land another blow. After his Boomburst was over, Victor gave his next command.

"Use Earth Power!" he cried.

That certainly did it. Toxtricity's two typings, Poison and Electric, were weak to Ground attacks so the poor Pokémon was never going to stand a chance against a Ground attack like Earth Power. Hydreigon focused its attention on the ground just beneath Toxtricity and, as if using telekinetic powers, made it erupt. Toxtricity felt as if he'd been punched into the sky by a fist that had punched its way up from under his feet. He cried out as he was sent hurling upwards by the attack. He flew straight up and landed straight back down again. As soon as Toxtricity landed on the ground, he weakly droned out one last song before he drifted into unconsciousness.

We all live in a Yellow Submarine

A Yellow Submarine

A Yellow Submariiiine…

Hop could only watch in dismay as Toxtricity passed out, no energy left to continue the battle.

"Toxtricity is unable to battle! Hydreigon is the winner!" the announcer boomed.

Hop returned Toxtricity, already feeling as if this battle was over. How could he possibly defeat that Hydreigon? It was just too powerful! His only Pokémon left was his trusty Corviknight, and that wouldn't help! Corviknight had a weakness to Fire-types thanks to its half-Steel typing so Hydreigon would just wipe it out with Flamethrower! He had no type-advantage over his opponent. It was hopeless. How could he win with no way of turning this match on its head? But then he thought again about his options. Wait…maybe there was something he could use to still turn this battle in his favour? Hop considered. It was risky, but it might just work.

"You give up yet?" Victor crowed, "Just about all my opponents give in when they realize my Hydreigon is unbeatable."

"No Pokémon's unbeatable." Hop retorted, "And I may have a strategy that could turn things around for me. Corviknight, I'm counting on you!"

He threw his last ball and the majestic sight that was his Corviknight appeared onto the field, spreading his steel wings proudly and cawing loudly. He took one look at his opponent and grinned excitedly.

"Zounds! Tis a villainous dragon that I am faced with! This mighty knight shall slay the dragon and claim victory in the name of my king!" he cried.

Due to the knightly appearance of Corviknight and the fact he was facing a Dragon-type Pokémon, it truly was like something out of a medieval tapestry or painting, a brave knight about to challenge a terrifying dragon. The audience was keen to see if the knight would slay this one. Ruby doubted Hop could pull this off. She too knew that Hydreigon's Flamethrower would wipe Corviknight out in one fell swoop. But she watched on to see if her friend had a strategy. Victor folded his arms, looking like he'd already won despite the match not starting yet.

"Let's wrap this up, my friend." he said to his Hydreigon, "Use Flamethrower!"

Hydreigon opened up its three mouths and began to build up the Flamethrower. Ruby closed her eyes. She couldn't bear to watch her friend lose. Leon kept his gaze fixed on his brother to see what he was going to do. Hop tried to make a move but he was a fraction too slow. He cried out in horror as Corviknight was hit full on by the Flamethrower. The crow knight squawked as his body was bathed in flames and the hard steel of his body began to get uncomfortably hot. It felt like he'd just fallen into the fiery pits of hell itself. After that was over, Corviknight slumped on the grass, looking as if this was the end. He panted heavily, grunting from the attack. His steel body was scorching hot from the flames and it hurt to move. Leon leaned forward in his seat. Was this it? Was his brother's match over? Hop grew increasingly nervous. It seemed Corviknight was down before he could use his strategy after all. It was a pity that his tale would end like this, literally up in flames. And he'd fought so hard too!

But then… against all odds…Corviknight stood back up again! Victor was so stunned that his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. Even Hop couldn't believe what had happened. Surely his Pokémon couldn't have withstood that! And yet, he had! The audience was amazed, unable to believe this fight wasn't over yet. Ruby opened her eyes and stared back at the arena. This whole fight had been full of surprises and this had definitely been the biggest one so far.

"Unbelievable!" Victor exclaimed, "How was that not a one-hit KO?!"

"I guess my Corviknight's tougher than we both expected." Hop said proudly, "He's always been proving himself to be surprisingly tough in my battles I've had."

"I can see!" Victor blurted, "But it won't last much longer! Another Flamethrower, Hydreigon!"

Hydreigon opened its three mouths to launch another attack. But this time, Hop was ready for him and he reacted just in time.

"Now, use Swagger!" he cried.

Corviknight held out his wings and pulled off a move that had two additional effects on Hydreigon. Hydreigon briefly flashed orange as its attack stats were increased…but at the same time, it became confused. The arena seemed to spin all around the Dragon/Dark Pokémon Swagger was a move that confused and irritated the opponent. While it also raised their attack, it was sometimes helpful in confusing the opponent to stop them attacking. As Hop had hoped, the move worked. Hydreigon was so confused that its three heads all aimed the Flamethrower at each other instead of Corviknight. Victor leapt back in amazement as his ace suddenly attacked itself for seemingly no reason. Flames swept over itself as the heads mistakenly aimed at themselves. As was common with confused Pokémon, Hydreigon had attacked itself in its confusion. The audience grew more interested than ever at what was happening. It seemed this fight wasn't going to be an obvious victory after all! Seizing his chance now Hydreigon was confused, Hop activated his Dynamax band and the audience watched as he Dynamaxed his Corviknight. Ruby could hardly keep the smile off her face as she watched Corviknight grow in size. She'd never seen Hop Dynamax his Pokémon before so it was great to see it for the first time.

Interestingly enough though, Hop didn't just Dynamax his Corviknight. It seemed that amazingly enough, his Corviknight was able to Gigantamax. As he grew in size, his appearance began to change too. His wings grew much bigger and displayed streaks of glowing red patches of Dynamax energy, his throat feathers looked more robust and the plate on his breast and belly separated into two adorned plates. He also gained eight feathers called "Blade Birds" that stored themselves on his back. They were capable of launching from his body and attacking opponents independently. Corviknight already looked cool, but his Gigantamax form just looked even cooler. He let out a booming, thunderous caw of excitement as the Dynamax energy flowed through him.

"By my sword, it's like I have the spirit of King Arthur himself within me!" he boomed, "I'll easily fell this nefarious dragon!"

"Here's hoping!" Hop agreed, "Use G-Max Wind Rage!"

Corviknight spread out his wings and the Blade Birds on his back formed a circle in front of him as he conjured up a huge tornado that swirled around furiously in the centre. Victor could feel the wind sweeping all around him as Corviknight's G-Max move activated. It was like a hurricane was building up in the arena. Corviknight aimed at Hydreigon and launched his attack. The blistering twister of winds slammed into Hydreigon, pinning it down to the ground as the G-Max move battered it helplessly. Corviknight's attack was much more powerful than it would've been thanks to his Gigantamax form and as Hydreigon hadn't Dynamaxed, it didn't have much defence to stand up to it. It had also taken a lot of damage from Toxtricity's earlier efforts along with hurting itself in its confusion so Corviknight was able to deplete what was left of its health. After the attack was over, Hydreigon was left sprawled on the grass, its three heads letting out soft growls of defeat. Victor stared at it worriedly. Was the battle over? He willed for Hydreigon to get back up again…but it never did. It had no energy left to fight anymore. At first, the audience was silent as they took on the incredible truth on what had just happened. Then they exploded with ecstatic delight as they congratulated Hop on an amazing and well-earned victory.

"Hydreigon is unable to battle! Corviknight is the winner!" the announcer barked, sharing the audience's enthusiasm, "The winner of the first round of the semi-finals is Hop Dande of Postwick Town and he progresses to the second round!"

"YES! Bravo! Well done Hop! That was amazing! You earned that victory!" Ruby screamed ecstatically.

"That as a Champion battle there, Hop! Great job!" Leon cheered from his seat.

Hop stood where he was, completely in a daze as it occurred to him that somehow, against all odds, he had actually won and was progressing to the second round of the semi-finals. Had this really happened? Was this whole fight not some incredible dream he'd just had? He murmured to himself.

"Whoa…I actually did it?" he said in amazement.

As for Victor, he returned his Hydreigon, amazed to be in situation where for the first time ever, it had actually lost a fight. So much for unbeatable! He was nevertheless full of gratitude for its incredible performance in the match.

"I'm very proud of you. Thank you for a great battle." he said softly.

He then met up with Hop in the centre of the pitch to congratulate him on his victory.

"You're an amazing trainer Hop! That was unlike any battle I've ever had!" Victor cried, "In fact, that was so amazing that I don't care that I lost!"

"I'm glad you're so gracious about it." Hop said brightly, "That was an epic fight we had! Thanks for a great battle Victor!"

The boys shook hands with each other. So the semi-finals were decided, Ruby and Hop would be the final two to duke it out for the chance to enter the Champion's Cup and fight their way towards Leon. Hop looked over to Ruby, noticing her cheering for him in the audience. It was going to be hard having to challenge his best friend for what was going to be a very important battle, but he was determined to give both her and himself a fight that they'd both remember for the rest of their lives…

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