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Knights of Galar: A Pokémon Shield Nuzlocke Chapter 26

Chapter 26: Ruby vs. Hop: The Semi-Finals

To give Hop's Pokémon more time to recover, the next battle was scheduled to take place in a couple of hours rather than a single hour. His battle with Victor had been quite intense and he needed the extra time for his Pokémon to heal up and get back into shape for the second round of the semi-finals.

In that time, Ruby had been sitting by herself just swimming in her own thoughts. Naturally, after Hop's amazing victory over Victor, she'd been full of praise for him and practically screamed herself hoarse to let him know just how happy she was that he'd won. Now she was sitting in the changing rooms thinking about the upcoming battle that would determine who would progress into the Champion's Cup for the chance to challenge Leon. As happy as she was that her friend had won and shown what he was truly capable of, a part of her now wished he'd lost. She would've been far more comfortable facing against Victor for the right to challenge the Champion instead of her closest friend and neighbour. Hop had made it clear that he wouldn't mind who won and that he wouldn't hate her for beating him at this stage, but it didn't mean she'd feel a little guilty for crushing his dream of becoming the new Champion like his brother before him. Ruby wondered if she'd be a good friend by letting Hop win. But Hop would probably feel cheated if he only won because she let him. How could he feel like he could face his brother if he didn't win on his own merits? Ruby shook her head. No, the two friends had promised a great battle and they were going to give one, to themselves and all the people watching at the stadium today!

As Ruby was sat lost in thought, a pinging sound from her Rotom phone snapped her back into reality. She looked as the Rotom-possessed device floated in front of her. It was a text from her sisters. It read:

Hi Ruby! Many congrats to U and Hop for making it to the next round! Hope U both give us a great battle to watch when U get back on the pitch! Wishing U lotsa luck!

Emerald and Sapphire X

That made Ruby smile despite herself. If there was anyone who she could count on to make her feel better, it was always her beloved sisters. She didn't know where she'd be without them. She sent a quick reply to them and then pocketed her phone. As soon as she did, a Macro Cosmos employee suddenly approached her. Ruby looked up, wondering what the man was here for. He had a friendly smile as if the two were old friends, even though they'd never met each other.

"Miss Silverlock?" he inquired politely.

"Yes, that's me." Ruby confirmed, "Is it time for the battle to begin?"

"Not yet. You've got another 45 minutes yet." the man answered, "I do come bearing gifts. Three different Pokémon nurses from three different cities sent these to me and asked me to bring them to you. They're apparently Pokémon you had to leave behind to recover from previous battles but they've recovered enough to leave the Pokémon Centres, so they can be returned to you."

He held out three Pokéballs, presumably containing the Pokémon that the nurses had given to him. Ruby's eyes widened with surprise as she realized what this meant. A wave of excitement and joy swept over her body as she took the Pokéballs from the man. She didn't think she'd see these Pokémon again until maybe after the Galar League itself, but it seemed they'd all recovered faster than expected.

"Thank you so much! That's really made my day!" she squealed.

"You're welcome." said the employee, "Just to warn you though, the nurses say they still need some time away from battles so don't use them in this next one. They just thought you'd appreciate getting to have them back and that they'd want to watch you battle."

"That's fine with me." Ruby said brightly, "They can join three of my other Pokémon up in the audience. Thanks for delivering this news to me! I'm so glad to have these guys back!"

The man just smiled graciously, glad he could've brought happiness to this young girl. Making people happy was the best part of working for the Macro Cosmos Company in his eyes. He turned and walked away, his work now done. The moment he left, Ruby eagerly opened up the Pokéballs to release their returned occupants. She beamed with joy as she was reunited at last with Chomps the Drednaw, Houdini the Noctowl and Sydney the Galvantula. All three of them looked equally as pleased to see her as she was them.

"Hey Ruby! I'm glad to be back!" Chomps cried excitedly.

"Many congratulations on ascending to the semi-finals, dear Ruby." Houdini complimented, his voice full of pride for his trainer.

"Lucky for us that we can come back to you so we can watch your next battle." Sydney said brightly.

"Hey guys! It's good to see you all again!" Ruby cried happily, hugging each and every one of them, "I've missed you all so much! How do you all feel?"

"My leg still hurts a bit, but I can at least walk on it now." Chomps answered, "The nurse really took good care of me in that centre."

"I am completely cured of the Weezing's poison." Houdini replied.

"And my cold's cleared up." Sydney said, "Nurse Joy was quite impressed with how quickly I managed to recover from it."

"I'm so glad you three could come back to me!" Ruby exclaimed, "I thought I'd have to wait until this season was over before I'd see any of you again. Welcome back everyone!"

She giggled as Chomps nuzzled her huge head against her cheek. Despite being a large turtle-like Pokémon, Chomps looked more like an overgrown dog nuzzling its owner at this moment. It was clear to her that her Pokémon had missed her terribly in those Pokémon Centres and were so glad to be back with her. With the three returned to her, her team now felt that much more whole again.

"So, who are you battling next, Ruby?" Houdini asked with interest.

"I'm against Hop. Both me and him won the eliminator rounds so now we'll be fighting to see who will qualify for the Champion Cup and get a chance to challenge the Champion." Ruby explained, "I guess it's only appropriate that the two challengers endorsed by Leon himself should be the last Gym Challengers competing for that chance."

"Whoa, you two have come so far!" Chomps cried, "I remember when I was battling him back at the professor's house. You two were just starting out and now you're both in with a chance to make it to the big leagues!"

"I only wish we could be a part of it." Houdini muttered, "But I imagine you have plenty of other Pokémon to choose from for this next battle."

"I have." Ruby confirmed, "And a lot of them are new faces that you'll probably see for the first time as I go along. You three can watch from the audience with Bugs, Raven and Gene. They'll be very happy to see you again."

"So they have to sit out as well?" Sydney asked, "At least we won't be alone in that regard. Nevertheless, we'll be happy to watch you in that battle."

"I hope you and Hop have a great one and won't worry too much about fighting each other." Chomps added.

"Hop's made it very clear that he won't hold it against me if I win." Ruby said brightly, "He'll be rooting for me if I'm the one who'll be facing Leon."

"Very sporting of him." Houdini said approvingly, "Your friend's quite mature despite his excitable tendencies."

"Yeah, he's grown quite a bit since we started." Ruby said, her tone sounding very admiring of her friend.

She thought back to the boy she'd known since the day she was born. Having grown up with Hop all this time, she'd seen him grow from boy to teen and he'd certainly become a more confident and level-headed person since his Pokémon journey began. Maybe it all started with Bede defeating him and bringing him down. Whatever it was, she liked how Hop was now and a part of her even thought he was more…attractive that way. She couldn't wait to see that person again on the pitch. It had been great watching him face Victor earlier and now hopefully, he'd bring his new skills to this battle…


It was finally time for the battle to start. Hop's Pokémon had made a steady recovery in the Pokémon Centre and he'd chosen his desired team to go into this battle with. Ruby had chosen her team carefully too, knowing that Hop wasn't like the Gym Leaders she'd fought before or the Dark-type specialist Marnie in which they mostly had a single type to work with. Hop had a varied team so Ruby knew she'd be relying much more on her team as a whole instead of needing maybe one or two to finish the fight. Her returned Pokémon were in the crowd with Bugs, Gene and Raven, the three delighted to see them again and happy to have them join them in the crowd to watch Ruby. Houdini, Chomps and Sydney took their places and watched their trainer enter the arena.

The two friends met in the centre of the pitch and took up their positions. It was hard to believe for both of Ruby and Hop that this was really happening right now. Their journey had started off in a humble town like Postwick, and it had led them to here, Wyndon Stadium with a crowd of fans screaming their names and chanting for them to win the right to challenge Leon. Ruby was amazed that she had a fan club that was actually making just as much noise as Hop's. She'd expected his fans to drown everyone else out. As the Champion's brother, it made sense he'd have the most supporters and yet it seemed their fans were equal. Ruby guessed that she was the dark horse that was pulling off upset-after-upset and that had endeared her to many people, making her just as worth watching as the Champion's brother. She daren't imagine what the noise would be like if she was to reach the finals.

While she looked nervous, Hop looked pretty excited, like he'd always dreamt of being in this situation. As he desired to be the one to take his brother's title, it was easy to see why he was so full of adrenaline. The purple-haired boy took in the noise of the crowd and the energy of the stadium. It was like nothing he'd ever seen before. Even though the crowd was no bigger than his previous battle, it somehow seemed to have grown in the past two hours.

"Can you believe it Ruby? We're both here, right now, the final two Gym Challengers fighting it out for a spot in the Champions Cup!" Hop said eagerly, "It might sound weird to say this but, if there was anyone I'd be challenging for that spot…I'm glad it was you."

"It does sound weird, but I know what you mean." Ruby said with a smile, "This whole journey started with us getting out first Pokémon so it only seems right that it should end with us battling together for the right to face Leon. I'm glad that we're here together too. I wouldn't have enjoyed being here as much if you weren't here with me today." she added kindly.

"Aw, thanks Ruby!" Hop said brightly, "You know the right things to say. Now then, let's give everyone here the fight to prove who Galar's next Champion will be!" he declared.

"Given Leon himself is watching, yeah!" Ruby cried excitedly, "He'll want to see us at our best so let's give him our best!"

She was right. Leon himself was in the audience watching just as he had been when Hop and Victor had had their battle. He was keener than anyone to watch the battle unfold as he had been the one to endorse the two from Day 1. He remembered when the two had their first battle together back at his house. This fight was going to be the fight to show just how far they'd come on their journey.

"I can't wait to see you two in action." Leon said, his voice full of anticipation for what was to come.

"From Postwick Town: Ruby Silverlock and Hop Dande." the announcer boomed, making his introduction short and simple as there was no need to introduce them individually due to them both coming from Postwick Town.

There was a pause as the audience cheered for the contestants. Ruby and Hop braced themselves, waiting for the all-go signal to start the battle. This was it! The battle to end all battles! They'd had plenty of training with each other over the course of their journeys and now this battle would determine who would progress and who would see their run come to an end.

"Pokémon Trainers: Standby."

After the announcer had said those words, the audience fell silent as if to set a tense atmosphere to hype the contestants up for the battle. As they fell silent, Hop patted the sides of his head and gave a focused expression to show he was serious. Ruby knew he was mimicking his brother as he would always do that before a battle started. For some reason, it made him look kinda dorky when he did it, but she liked Hop for that.

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

"Alright, my legend has been building up to this moment and it's time for it to unfold!" Hop cried, suddenly becoming more animated as the battle began, "Dubwool, let's hop to it!"

He threw his first Pokéball and brought out his first Pokémon and closest partner, Dubwool. Ruby was glad to see it here. Dubwool was the perfect representation of Hop she thought: someone that had grown up a lot and come a long way since the journey had begun. It was appropriate that Hop should bring his first Pokémon to their final battle of the season. She wished Bugs could be a part of it so that both her and Hop could be using their first Pokémon for this. Instead, she had to make do with what she had and luckily, she knew who to use first.

"I bet you was saving Dubwool for this moment." Ruby said, "I wonder how well it'll fare up against this one. Spearhead, you're up first!"

She summoned forth the kooky Barraskewda that was much more than he seemed, Spearhead. Spearhead gave a dance of delight as he was brought forth, making Dubwool stare back in confusion. Hop remembered the first time he'd soon Ruby use Spearhead. He'd found him rather funny. He tried not to laugh as Spearhead danced about, flopping on the ground like a fish-out-of-water. Once he'd finished dancing, he took up his position and waited for Ruby to give an order.

"OK, Mon Captain, I'm ready to go! Just say the magic words and I'm gone!" he cried.

"Use Brick Break!" Ruby commanded.

"Got it! Hey cotton-face, here's what being hit by a wet fish feels like!" Spearhead hollered, launching himself towards his opponent like a torpedo.

He moved so fast that Dubwool barely had time to react. The large sheep-like Pokémon bleated in surprise as Spearhead came to him and karate chopped him on the head with his tail. It was the only way a Barraskewda could realistically use Brick Break. It was astonishing to see that this Pokémon could learn such a move but here it was! Dubwool staggered back, shaking his head from the attack. How did a small, nippy barracuda like that hit so hard?! Hop was glad to see that his beloved partner wasn't down despite the super-effective hit. Spearhead could hit hard, but not quite hard enough it seemed. He knew just what to do in response to make sure that Dubwool didn't go down so easily.

"Use Cotton Guard!" he ordered.

Dubwool obeyed and gave a loud bleat as his woolly coat began to expand in size and he glowed as energy built up inside of him. Ruby knew what was happening. Dubwool was increasing his defences. Cotton Guard could raise defences by three stages, making it one of the best moves for doing so. Ruby smiled approvingly at her friend's tactics. Hop was definitely fighting smarter than before. Once Dubwool had finished with Cotton Guard, Hop took a moment to use a Hyper Potion to heal Dubwool. With Dubwool back at full health and with increased defences, this battle was going to be far from a walk-over. Ruby waited until Dubwool was fully healed as she knew it would be dirty to attack while it was recovering. Once it was done, she made her next move.

"Use Brick Break again!" she cried.

Spearhead obeyed, repeating his first move. He hit Dubwool with Brick Break again, but unlike the first time, it didn't hurt as much because of Dubwool's increased defences. It did the damage, but it was obvious that Spearhead would have to work harder than before. Spearhead used another Brick Break on Dubwool, but despite the super-effective hit, he still took the hit and was fine to keep on battling. Satisfied, Hop ordered Dubwool to use Body Slam. The walking cotton ball leapt into the air and crashed down on Spearhead, flattening him against the ground and making him pull a comical face with his tongue sticking out and his eyes bulging as if they were going to pop out. It was a good hit from Dubwool but Spearhead was perfectly fine. He shook himself off and giggled as if the whole thing had been amusing to him.

"Ha! It'll take more than a rolling mutton chop to squish me into the dirt!" the silly Barraskewda laughed.

"Let's see if we can end this." Ruby said, "Use Liquidation!"

Spearhead surrounded himself in water and rocketed towards Dubwool. He slammed into the sheep-like Pokémon and due to the damage done by the previous two Brick Break attacks; it was enough for him to knock Dubwool clean out. He rolled backwards like a stone that had been rolling down a hill and he came to a stop at Hop's feet. He knelt down beside Dubwool and patted his head softly.

"It's OK pal, you did the best you could." he said brightly.

"Dubwool is unable to battle! Barraskewda is the winner!" the announcer cried.

"Yes! Score one for the Torpedo Guy!" Spearhead yelled with delight.

"Your Dubwool did a good job Hop." Ruby complimented, "It was clever of you to raise his defences so Spearhead had to work harder to win the battle."

"I know that with you, I have to strategize a bit." Hop said, appreciating his friend's compliment as he returned Dubwool to his ball, "And part of my strategy is to use type-advantage like you do. This next one will be a winner for sure!"

He threw his second Pokéball and summoned forth the spiky, electrifying Pincurchin. The sea-urchin like Pokémon flexed its spines, ready to unleash all the electricity it had in its body to take down its opponent. Ruby returned Spearhead to his ball and exchanged it for another one.

"This one's for you, my hero." Ruby said affectionately, "Come on out Vesuvius!"

She threw the ball and Vesuvius the Coalossal materialized onto the pitch. It was rather amusing for her that the last time she'd been brought out into battle, she'd fought an electric Pokémon. Last time it had been Marnie's Morpeko. Now she was facing Hop's Pincurchin, just like the last time when Ruby and Hop had had a battle. Pincurchin looked nervous, clearly remembering what had happened last time the two had fought. It didn't look as if it had much hope of winning and its fears were confirmed as Ruby made the first move.

"Use High Horsepower!" she called.

Vesuvius did just that and just like the first time she'd fought Pincurchin, it was all over very quickly. She slammed into the tiny sea-urchin and knocked it out in a single hit. Pincurchin landed on its back after flying through the air, comically getting stuck in the grass by its spikes. It lay where it was stuck, unmoving after the single blow. Vesuvius looked sheepish.

"Oooer, that wasn't too hard, was it?" she asked nervously.

Hop knelt down by Pincurchin and observed the spiky Pokémon. While clearly unable to battle, it didn't look badly damaged or anything. He gave a reassuring smile over to Vesuvius.

"Don't worry, it wasn't too hard." he said, "You really are one of Ruby's best Pokémon, you know that?"

"I know I think so." Ruby agreed.

Vesuvius just smiled modestly, flattered by the comments.

"Pincurchin is unable to battle! Coalossal is the winner!" the announcer barked.

Leon folded his arms and gave a smile of delight, showing clear interest in the battle that was unfolding. He knew that Hop was putting up a good fight but he was impressed with how much power Ruby's Pokémon seemed to have.

"She's a fine trainer, that Ruby." he complimented, "I can see her going all the way at this rate…"

Down on the pitch, Hop returned Pincurchin and whipped out his next Pokémon.

"Let's see how you feel facing him again!" he crowed, "Go Snorlax!"

Vesuvius gulped as Snorlax materialized onto the battlefield, looking as big and imposing as before. He gave out a loud bellow of anticipation as he was ready to battle again after a well-deserved rest from his defeat to Victor's Raichu. Vesuvius remembered all too-well the battle she and Snorlax had had back outside Hammerlocke City and what a drawn-out brawl that had been. She waved her hands frantically.

"Aw hell no! I ain't fighting that thing again!" she shrieked.

"Too right!" Ruby agreed, "Snorlax has Hammer Arm and High Horsepower! You won't stand a chance against him!"

It was true. As a half-Rock type, Coalossal had a weakness to Fighting types and being a Fire/Rock type would make her cannon-fodder for a Ground attack like High Horsepower. Ruby returned Vesuvius to her Pokéball and whipped out Spearhead's, returning him back to the battlefield. Hop could see what Ruby was thinking. Using Spearhead's Brick Break to score a super-effective hit would be the best way to handle his powerhouse of a Pokémon. He was curious to see how Snorlax would fare up against Spearhead. Would he take the hits and take him down before Spearhead could make use of his type-advantage?

"Use Brick Break on Snorlax!" Ruby ordered.

Spearhead obeyed, shooting towards Snorlax as he had done earlier with Dubwool and he delivered a powerful chopping attack with his tail to Snorlax. Snorlax grunted from the attack and despite the super-effective hit, it wasn't a one-hit KO just as Ruby had suspected. Snorlax were very bulky Pokémon and could take hits well, even the super-effective ones. Snorlax shook off the hit and flexed his arms. Ruby had a feeling she knew what attack Hop was going to order Snorlax to use. She was proven to be correct as the Postwick boy ordered his Pokémon powerhouse to use Hammer Arm. Ruby watched on, expecting that this would be the end for Spearhead as Hammer Arm was an extremely powerful attack and the Barraskewda species didn't have great defences. Snorlax raised his arm high and swung it straight down on top of his opponent as if he was using a hammer to smash through concrete. Despite the powerful blow, Spearhead barely seemed to register that he'd been hit. His kooky nature had probably made it so that it was easy for him to overlook pain or whenever he was hit. He just stood where he was, still grinning dopily to himself and swaying as if on a rocky boat on a stormy sea.

"Hee, hee, hee, that felt like being hit by a coconut tree!" Spearhead giggled.

Hop was astonished, as was the audience as they'd never seen anything like this before. How does one simply take a blow and act like it was nothing?!

"That's unreal Ruby!" Hop exclaimed, "Snorlax gave it the biggest Hammer Arm he could and he acts like it's all fun and games to him! How did you catch a Pokémon like that?"

"To be honest…I have no idea." Ruby said sheepishly, "I just fished him up in Hulbury and, here we are. I guess it's my luck to have a Pokémon that can take a hit and smile about it."

"I wonder if there are any other Pokémon out there like Spearhead…" Hop murmured. It would definitely be nice if he could catch a Pokémon that could take a hit and somehow laugh about it.

"You never know." Ruby said casually, "Maybe there are. But we're digressing…use Brick Break again, Spearhead!" she ordered.

"WET FISH!" Spearhead shouted in an over-the-top manner.

He rocketed towards his opponent and hit him again with Brick Break. The attack was enough to finish the fight as Snorlax was knocked clean out by the hit. Unlike the earlier battle with Dubwool, Hop hadn't given Snorlax a Defence boost so he hadn't been able to last as long. He couldn't have done it even he'd wanted to as his Snorlax had no Status moves to buff up his stats, he only had attacking moves. Snorlax fell over on his back, his great weight making the stadium shake as he fainted. Both Ruby and Hop fell over comically as they struggled to keep their balance. They only laughed as they picked themselves up and brushed themselves down.

"It sucks that Snorlax lost, but it's still funny when he falls over like that!" Hop chuckled.

"Especially when we go down with him!" Ruby laughed in response.

"Snorlax is unable to battle! Barraskewda is the winner!" the announcer declared.

"Yay! I ascend to greater heights! The great spirits of the sea sing down on me this very day!" Spearhead hollered, dancing about merrily for joy.

Ruby giggled. Spearhead's silly dances and inane babbling were just too hilarious at times and she wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world. From his seat, Leon was also amused by Spearhead's antics.

"That's one funny Pokémon." he remarked, "And also a hard hitter. Goes to show that the silly ones can be ones to look out for…"

He looked over to Hop to see what he would do next. His brother was certainly having a tough time down there. Ruby had wiped out half his team with barely a scratch received in return. It would be impressive if he was to somehow turn this match on its head like he did with Victor when he looked as if he was going to win. Hop switched Snorlax out for his next Pokémon, which for this one was the very Pokémon that had helped him score his amazing victory over Victor's Hydreigon in the previous round. Corviknight was out on the pitch once again and he looked just as ready as ever for a battle, his huge wings flapping furiously and his beak opening up into a loud caw that let the audience know he was more than eager to battle again. Due to him being the one that helped Hop win his previous battle, most of Hop's fans began cheering for Corviknight. Corviknight just bowed his head in response, appreciating the applause.

"Thank you, thank you faithful subjects! Sir Corviknight is honoured by your cheers!" he preened, "Now, my Lord Hop, who am I doing battle with this time?" he asked.

"We've gotta battle with Ruby again, mate." Hop said, "And I'm sure you'll give her a good battle!"

Corviknight nodded. He'd never won a battle against any of Ruby's Pokémon in the times she and Hop had battled each other, but he was determined to make this the first time he would triumph. After defeating Victor's Hydreigon, he felt as if he could handle any Pokémon and win.

"Alright, fair maiden, let the battle commence!" Corviknight declared.

"Don't call me maiden." Ruby muttered as she returned Spearhead back to his Pokéball a second time.

She remembered how last time she and Hop had battled, she'd used Freddy to defeat his Toxtricity, so why not use him again? She summoned him to the pitch and the purple and yellow Pokémon looked around to see what kind of audience he'd be performing for today. He'd never been in a stadium as big as Wyndon before so seeing this crowd made all the crowds in the Gyms feel small by comparison. It was going to be quite a feeling performing for an audience as big as this one!

"I always wondered if I'd get to perform in THE big stadium itself." he murmured.

"Give everyone a show to remember, buddy." Ruby encouraged, "Use Overdrive!"

Corviknight gulped. He knew that this battle was over before it could begin. Last time the two had fought, Freddy had taken him out in one hit. This time was no different as Freddy let out an explosion of electricity that sept over him, electrifying him and making him squawk loudly in pain. Ruby and Hop had to shield their eyes from the bright electric attack as it was too much for their eyes to handle. As Corviknight was zapped, Freddy once again broke into another Queen hit as he strummed his chest organs merrily.

One Vision

So give me your haaaaaaaaaands, give me your heeeeeeeeearts!

Cause I'm ready!

There's only ONE di-rec-tiooooooooooooooooon!

One world, and one natiooooooon

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah, One Vision!

No hate, no fight, it's just ex-ci-tation

All through the night, it's a cel-a-bration

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, yeeeeaaah!

"Ha, ha! I see Freddy still loves to make a show out of his battles!" Chomps giggled from up in the audience.

"Yeah, evolving just made him a bigger showman, and also one of Ruby's real aces too." Bugs said proudly, "He's never let her down in any of her battles."

"I'm impressed how much power he packs in him." Sydney said with admiration, "I only wish I could unleash electric attacks THAT powerful!"

"Maybe when we're able to battle again, Ruby can train you to be as powerful as that musical chap is." Houdini said encouragingly.

Down on the pitch, Freddy bowed as the audience applauded his singing talents and the fact Ruby had drawn another battle to a swift end by one-hit KO-ing the opponent. Corviknight collapsed onto the grass, twitching from the electric shocks.

"Once again, Dame Ruby makes a court jester out of me…" he mumbled as he drifted into unconsciousness.

"Corviknight is unable to battle! Toxtricity is the winner!" the announcer declared.

"And another swift win…" Leon murmured to himself, "If Ruby wins this, I think I'm gonna have a real battle to defend my title! That girl's sure come a long way since the day I gave her that Scorbunny…"

Hop returned Corviknight and whipped out his next Pokéball. He had a big smile on his face as if he was somehow having a good time on the field despite being the one who was losing at the moment.

"Funny you should bring Freddy out, cause it's time for my own Toxtricity to give us a show!" he cried, throwing the ball.

Freddy's eyes widened with interest as he found himself looking at another Toxtricity, this one the Low Key version so at least they didn't look identical. The two Toxtricitys took a moment to check each other out, taking in each other's colour-schemes and what differences they had between them.

"So Hop has one of his own too." Freddy acknowledged, "Can it sing like me?"

"I sure can, mate." Hop's Toxtricity confirmed, speaking in a Liverpudlian accent to match his love for The Beatles, "I hear you like singing too. Maybe we could do a duet after the fight's over."

"I'd love to see you two perform together." Ruby said happily, "But that can wait. Freddy, return." she said, holding up his Pokéball for him to return to.

Hop understood why Ruby was switching out. What good would having two Toxtricitys fight each other be? Neither one would have the advantage over each other due to being the same types. He was expecting her to bring Vesuvius out again to use High Horsepower to win the fight. But instead, Ruby brought out someone completely different. She threw the Pokéball and out came Tiger the Arcanine, the very Pokémon he'd seen her with when he'd arrived in Wyndon City. That was interesting. Why did she pick him in particular? Knowing his friend as well as he did, he imagined Ruby had given Tiger a type of attack that would exploit one of Toxtricity's weaknesses. It was the kind of trainer she was after all.

"Let's whip up a storm, mate!" Hop declared, "Toxtricity, use Boomburst!"

Toxtricity obeyed, strumming his chest organs and creating a huge soundwave that swept over Tiger. Ruby remembered how powerful that Boomburst had been when he'd used it on Victor's Hydreigon previously. Hop's Toxtricity had the Punk Rock ability to increase the power of sound-based moves so Boomburst ended up hitting a lot harder than normal. Tiger winced as he was pounded by the loud noise. He felt as if someone was using a pneumatic drill on his ears. Up in the audience, Bugs, Raven, Gene, Chomps, Houdini and Sydney all winced from the noise. They weren't in the battle themselves but as they were Pokémon, Boomburst was still hard for them to put up with. They could only imagine how Tiger must be feeling down on the pitch. Once Toxtricity had finished, Tiger shook his head and tried to ignore the ringing in his ears. It was as if someone had hit the mute button for him for all sound just seemed distant and far away to him. He couldn't even hear Ruby calling to him for a second. Once his hearing finally cleared up, he heard her.

"Are you OK, Tiger?" she was asking him.

"Despite that terrible noise, I still feel capable of battle." Tiger replied, "I'm amazed I'm still alright after that…"

"Yeah, that Toxtricity's Boomburst is really powerful!" Ruby exclaimed, "I thought that would be it for a moment…but we're still in it! Use Psychic Fangs on him!" she commanded.

So Hop was right. Tiger DID have type-coverage! Arcanine were able to learn Psychic Fangs through TRs and Ruby had collected or bought many of them over her journey so it wasn't surprising she'd managed to find a Psychic Fangs TR at some point. He watched as Tiger pounced on Toxtricity and bit down on him, his teeth glowing purple with psychic energy. Toxtricity winced from the bite. Psychic energy seemed to tear through his body and weaken him. However, Hop wasn't going to let him go down without a fight.

"Try using another Boomburst!" he ordered.

Toxtricity strummed his chest organs with his free hand, the noise blasting into Tiger and throwing him back. It felt as if he'd been hit by a Conkeldurr swinging its concrete pillars into him. Tiger crashed down onto his back and lay still. But at the same time, Toxtricity also collapsed, the damage done by Psychic Fangs enough to wipe it out. Ruby and Hop both gasped in amazement as the incredible truth set in for them. For the first time ever, their Pokémon had fought to a draw! That had never happened in any of their previous bouts! Even Leon looked amazed at what had happened. He'd expected at least one of them to win but instead, they'd both collapsed! It had been a while since a draw had happened in any battle he'd seen.

"Both Arcanine and Toxtricity are unable to battle!" the announcer barked.

The audience let out a mixture of gasps and cries of astonishment as they took this in. Ruby and Hop returned their Pokémon, speechless that it had gone in this direction.

"Whoa, I didn't see that coming! Did you?!" Hop exclaimed.

"No! That's never happened in any of my battles I've had, either with you or with anyone else!" Ruby gasped, "I know it happens sometimes that both Pokémon will be unable to battle, but I never thought I'd experience what that's like!"

"As is, I'm now down to my last Pokémon while you have five left." Hop said, his voice grim as he acknowledged how hopeless the battle seemed for him, "But I'm still gonna give it everything I got! This fight's been fun, but we know it's gotta end eventually."

He drew out his last Pokémon, which Ruby was able to instantly predict for who else would it be? To nobody's surprise, Hop brought out his trusty Rillaboom to finish the fight. It seemed only fitting that the last battle that she and Hop would have in the Galar League would include the grassy gorilla Pokémon. It would've been even nicer if she could've had Bugs to battle him with. At least he was watching from up in the audience. She looked over to see him waving to her. She waved back and turned back to the battle. She took out her next Pokéball.

"Tiger would've been ideal to fight Rillaboom with, but he's out of action for now." Ruby acknowledged, "Good thing I also have this one to deal with Grass-types. Soundwave, it's all on you now!"

She threw the ball and out came the mighty Soundwave. The powerful Noivern screeched with excitement and flapped his wings furiously. Hop felt the wind from Soundwave's wings sweep over him. What must it be like to ride on this Pokémon and go for a flight? With wings that powerful, Noivern were no doubt very fast fliers! Hop could see why Ruby had brought Soundwave out. As a half-Flying type, Rillaboom's High Horsepower wouldn't work on him and he no doubt had Flying attacks to exploit the Grass-type weakness to Flying-types. It also seemed incredibly ironic that his Rillaboom had been up against a Dragon in the previous battle and now he was facing another Dragon for this one. Soundwave locked eyes with his opponent as if trying to figure him out.

"I remember you…" he purred, "I was still a Noivern and you were still a Thwackey the last time we fought."

"Yes we were! But this time, Rillaboom is going to win!" Rillaboom declared.

"We'll at least try, won't we?" Hop said optimistically.

Ruby smiled at her friend. How lovely was it to see that despite being on the backpedal of this battle, he was still full of confidence and wasn't letting his losses weigh him down any? He had well and truly earned his place in the semi-finals and she couldn't be happier he was here with her today. Both trainers activated their Dynamax bands and held out their Pokéballs. The crowd watched with excitement as they waited for the Dynamaxing to begin. What a sight this was going to be! A big grassy gorilla against a speaker-eared wyvern! Awesome imagery like this was what made Pokémon battles so exciting to watch for many. As the two activated their bands, Hop noticed Ruby's hair glowing in response to the Dynamax energy swirling around her. It had been the first time he'd seen it do that since the day they'd gotten their Wishing Stars over at Magnolia's house. With the Dynamax energy around her wrist and her glowing hair, Ruby truly did look like a sorceress in the middle of an incredible spell. And somehow that seemed to make her look…beautiful to him. The two's Pokéball finished growing and the kids threw them. Then after that, Soundwave and Rillaboom both grew in size, nearly filling the entire stadium with how big they had become. Even Rillaboom's drum kit had grown in size too. Ruby imagined that if Rillaboom played a tune now, the resulting noise would make the stadium fall to pieces. Soundwave and Rillaboom stared each down, waiting for their trainers to give their commands.

"Go for it Soundwave! Use Max Flare!" Ruby ordered.

Soundwave opened his jaws and unleashed a tornado of flames that swept over Rillaboom. He well and truly looked like the stereotypical image of a dragon as he did so. The Max Flare was such a blazing move that the audience could feel the heat from where they were sat. Bugs was naturally entranced by the move due to being a Fire type himself. He had to admit that watching a Max Flare attack from another Dynamaxed Pokémon was quite a sight to behold. But despite the power of Soundwave's attack, Rillaboom had managed to hold on with a bit of health left. His defences were just enough to prevent it from being a one-hit KO. Glad to see his Pokémon was still in one-piece, Hop gave the next order.

"Use Max Strike!" he cried.

Rillaboom struck the ground and sent a wave of energy ripping through the pitch towards Soundwave. Max Strike was a Normal-type Dynamax move and when it hit, it had the side-effect of lowering a Pokémon's speed. It wouldn't mean much to Soundwave as his speed stats were very high so it would take a while to lower them enough for Rillaboom to out-speed him. The attack had been a good hit, but nothing that would seriously threaten Soundwave. Ruby then ordered Soundwave to use another Max Flare. It was all that she needed to do. Soundwave blasted Rillaboom with another tornado of flames. Rillaboom was helpless to stand up to them as the flames hit and he was brought down. The Dynamax energy depleted and he was returned to his normal size. After that, he collapsed onto the pitch in defeat. Soundwave returned to his normal size too and raised his wings in triumph.

"Soundwave: Superior. Rillaboom: Inferior." he crooned.

"Be nice Soundwave, I don't want you upsetting my best friend." Ruby said sternly.

"Rillaboom is unable to battle! Noivern is the winner!" the announcer boomed, "The winner of the second round of the semi-finals is Ruby Silverlock of Postwick Town and she qualifies for the Champion Cup!"

So that was it. Ruby and Hop had had their last battle together in the Galar League, and Ruby had emerged victorious. The crowd exploded with excitement, voicing their support for Ruby and her amazing victory. It was clear to all Pokémon fans and trainers all over Galar that this season was well and truly going to have a Dark Horse Victory with this nobody from Postwick progressing all the way to the Champion Cup without a single defeat under her belt! As for Hop, he returned Rillaboom to his Pokéball and sighed sadly. All his life he'd dreamt about the possibility of facing his brother and maybe succeeding him as Champion. But that dream was over now. And yet surprisingly…he didn't feel too bad about it. Maybe it was the fact someone close to him had been the one to defeat him. If it had been anyone else, the loss would've been even worse. But losing to Ruby never felt bad to him. As he'd sworn to her, she could beat him a thousand times and he'd still love her. This hadn't changed at all. As the two met in the middle of the pitch, Hop patted Ruby's shoulders and smiled in congratulations at her.

"Well…I guess that's that." he said casually, "You're the one who's going to be in with a chance to face Leon. If anyone deserved that right, it had to be you."

"Thank you Hop…really. Thank you." Ruby said appreciatively, "I really hope that I haven't like, crushed your dreams entirely by winning the battle." she said worriedly.

"I'll admit it does feel a little crushing." Hop said, "But I don't feel too upset about it. If anything, this loss will just give me something new to strive towards, I guess. I don't know what's next for me after this but I'm sure I'll think of something."

"I could see you being an amazing Gym Leader." Ruby suggested.

"Perhaps." Hop agreed, "But for now, I'll just be right beside you, supporting you all the way as you make your way to Leon. After everything we've been through Ruby and all the incredible battles we've had…I really hope you become our next Champion."

Ruby was so touched by her friend's kind words that she embraced him tenderly. Hop returned the hug. He had meant every word he'd said and was happy that Ruby was so touched by his words. The audience awed at the sweet scene before them. Even Leon couldn't keep the tears out of his eyes as he watched his endorsed challengers hug each other. It was one of the wonderful things about Pokémon. Despite the competitive nature of the sport, it was something that just seemed to bring people together. He was glad his little brother was taking it so well. He would've enjoyed getting to fight Hop, but he knew that getting to fight Ruby would be an interesting challenge for the Champion title. This was one title defence he was really looking forward to…


Meanwhile, Oleana was receiving a report she was not happy to hear. The Chairman's right-hand woman was up in Rose Tower at this very moment listening to a report concerning Project: Eternatus. The Macro Cosmos Company had been working almost non-stop on the project and sadly, it seemed they weren't getting any closer to completion. The Chairman had been growing impatient and was demanding results so Oleana had decided to call to see how things were going over at Hammerlocke.

"I dunno ma'am, it just seems that no matter how many Wishing Stars we give this thing, it doesn't seem to be enough!" the head scientist in charge of the project reported, "Maybe it'll never be enough. This thing is pure energy so it could probably take our lifetimes before we can awaken it!"

"We don't have a lifetime, Eugene." Oleana said firmly, "The Chairman is very anxious about Galar's future and if you don't get Project: Eternatus done, then maybe you'll have your own future to be anxious about."

"Don't get shirty with me, miss!" Eugene snapped, "We've exhausted all our resources! What else can we do? There's the girl with the glowing hair, I know, but she won't be hanging around the Wild Area anytime soon given she's in qualified for the Champion Cup tomorrow."

"So yes, we can't just wait for her to provide us a place to find any Wishing Stars." Oleana said bluntly, "But we can bring her to us at least…"

Eugene looked incredulous.

"You're not seriously considering kidnapping her, are you?" he gasped, "You know Mr. Rose won't approve of that!"

"He won't know, as long as we keep it between us." the blunt-faced woman remarked, "And who said it had to be a kidnapping? I'll just have one of my men tell her the Chairman wants to see her and she'll come straight to us."

Eugene nodded, understanding where the secretary was going with this.

"Once she's brought to us, we can use her to find all the Wishing Stars we desire. In fact, I bet that girl even has Wishing Star energy in her. It would explain her mysterious glowing hair…" Oleana murmured in thought.

Her lips managed a faint twitch that might've been an attempt to smile. Naturally, she'd forgotten how to do the real thing due to her emotionless nature.

"I don't like this…but as long as the Chairman doesn't know, I guess we're in the clear." Eugene said uneasily, "Just don't ask me to do anything to her. I won't abide experimenting on children."

"Of course." Oleana said dryly, "We won't let any harm come to dear Ruby once she's brought to us."

She switched off her tablet and slipped it into the inside pocket of her coat. She then took her out her phone and dialled a number. In a matter of seconds, the call was answered.

"Elijah? This is Oleana. I have a very special job for you…"

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