Knights of Galar: A Pokemon Shield Nuzlocke Chapter 8

Chapter 8: Gains and Losses

Naturally the first thing Ruby did after winning her Grass Gym Badge as rocket over to her father's flower shop to let him know about it. What other reaction would she have in this situation, especially as he was so close by? When presenting the badge to her father, he'd congratulated her and spun her around for joy.

"I'll bet it's the rose that did it! Anyone who buys from my shop always seems to win their battles in that gym!" he laughed.

"I doubt it was all luck dad considering how ridiculously prepared I was for that gym." Ruby giggled, "But it still felt amazing that I won! I bet you felt the same way when you won your first Gym Badge too."

"Like you wouldn't believe, kiddo." Dad said with pride, "It felt like the start of something incredible for me when I held that badge in my hand. I may have given up being a trainer…"

He paused as he reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a gold medal that contained all the Gym Badges he'd won in his time as a trainer. Ruby gasped at seeing it. Despite him having had it for so long, the badges still looked pretty new as if no time had passed. Whoever makes Gym Badges sure knew how to make them last.

"…I never got rid of them." he continued, a sense of pride in his voice as if they weren't just badges, but valuable treasure to him, "They're one of the few pleasant reminders of my time as a trainer, the good times I had in winning these and the battles I had…just how could I throw these away?"

"I'll treasure my badges like you did, dad!" Ruby cried.

"You better. They'll be more valuable than you realize as you collect all eight and keep hold of them as you get older." her dad said, patting her head, "Now how's about we have some tea together and we'll call your mother and sisters to let them know of your victory?"

So for the next hour, Ruby and her dad sat down at a table together with a cup of tea each and Ruby got out her Rotom phone to call her mother and sisters. Once they answered, Ruby showed the badge to them and explained everything about her first Gym Battle victory, not sparing any details at all. Emerald and Sapphire were ecstatic of course, barely able to contain their excitement. Her mother was equally as proud, as well as happy to have a chance to talk to her husband at the same time.

"You and I both knew she'd accomplish great things, didn't we?" she said proudly.

"Didn't we just, Annie?" her dad said with admiration, "And I bet our special little girl will go on to achieve greater things from here on out."

"Makes you almost want to go out and be a trainer all over again, doesn't it Michael?" Annie said.

"Yeah…almost." Michael said uncertainly.

Of course Annie knew what he meant. She'd been told the stories of the Pokémon he'd lost and how the death of his Raichu had been the straw that broke the Camerupt's back for him. To avoid the conversation taking a down turn, she quickly changed the subject.

"You make your way over to the next Gym Ruby and win your next badge." the brunette woman said proudly, "Your father and I will be supporting you every step of the way."

"Thanks mum. I'll call you again once I reach Hulbury." Ruby said.

Once the conversation had ended, Ruby finished her tea and kissed her father goodbye as she was no longer going to stay in Turffield. The Gym Battle was done and it was time to move on. Her dad waved her goodbye as Ruby set off from Turffield and head over a small arched bridge to Route 5. Route 5 linked Turffield to Hulbury and it wasn't a long route so Ruby would be there in an hour or so.

While she was making her way through Route 5, Ruby noticed a single building standing on the left side of the path she was walking across. It seemed strange to walk across a country path and suddenly see a building out of nowhere before she'd made it to Hulbury. The building had sloped, tiled roofs and pink brick walls with an egg-shaped window on the door. A logo consisting of three eggs perched above the door and was written with the words "Pokémon Nursery." Ruby knew what Pokémon Nurseries were about. Many people left their Pokémon there to level up and get stronger and some people used them for breeding purposes. Many a story she'd heard about people leaving any Pokémon they wanted with a single Ditto and let nature take its course. Ruby wasn't interested in that kind of stuff but decided to take a look anyway as there might be something interesting in the Nursery.

Upon entrance, she was met by a brunette woman wearing grey overalls and a yellow and black t-shirt and gloves. She was carrying a Pokémon in her hands and she seemed surprised to see that the nursery had a visitor. Clearly it had been a while since anyone had last come to this place.

"Blimey, a new visitor! Sorry about that, luv, we haven't had anyone 'ere in a while!" the woman exclaimed.

"It's OK." Ruby said casually, "I just saw this place and decided to see what it's like. I'm new around here and I've never been in a Pokémon Nursery before."

"Then allow me to explain what it's like here!" the woman said jovially, "If you have any Pokémon you'd like to leave here, we'll raise them for you until you want them back! You can leave up to two with us and don't worry, we'll take good care of them for you. We look after Pokémon of any and all kinds here."

"I'm not here to leave any Pokémon, but thanks anyway." Ruby said politely.

She then noticed the Pokémon the woman had in her hands. It looked like an infant imp of some kind with purple skin, two-fingered hands, two-toed feet, a spiky head and a little tail. It had a lightning bolt symbol on its forehead The area around its bottom was a lighter shade of purple to the rest of its body, making the Pokémon look almost like it was wearing a nappy, adding to its infantine appearance. Ruby had never seen this Pokémon before, one of the few times there was a Pokémon that was completely new to her. All she knew was that she liked it already.

"What Pokémon is this?" she asked.

"Oh that's a Toxel." the woman explained, "It's a Poison/Electric type Pokémon that's like having your own little baby! They're very cute but can be quite electrifying, especially this one here."

"You're not kidding on it being cute." Ruby agreed, staring in awe at the purple Pokémon, "Look at it, it's so adorable!"

Then suddenly, to Ruby's shock and amazement…the Toxel spoke!

"Yes, thank you darling, I get that a lot." the imp-like Pokémon said, "But I'm more than just adorable. I'm fabulously talented and completely irresistible to watch when I perform."

"Great galloping Giratina!" Ruby exclaimed, putting a hand over her chest in surprise, "I didn't expect it to talk like that! It sounds like bloody Freddy Mercury!"

This was true. The Toxel not only spoke, but somehow spoke in a flawless impression of Queen's legendary lead singer. He even had his mannerisms down to a tee, even including Freddy's trademark use of the word "darling".

"I did say this Pokémon was electrifying." the woman said sheepishly, "Yes, weirdly enough, this Toxel has developed a huge interest in Freddy Mercury. It learned how to talk like him and everything. Whenever I put the TV on, it only ever wants to watch Queen Videos."

"Well can you sing like him, little guy?" Ruby asked with interest.

"Can a Pikachu use Thunderbolt, darling?" the Toxel retorted.

The woman put the Toxel down on the floor so he could perform. He sat where he was and pulled out a toy guitar seemingly from nowhere and started to strum. Then, in a completely flawless impression of Freddy's singing voice, he started to sing.

This thing…called love…I just…can't handle it,

This thing…called love…I must…get round to it,

I ain't ready!

Crazy little thing called loooove.

This thing…called love…it cries…in a cradle all night,

It swings. It jives.

It shakes all over like a Jell-i-cent

I kinda like it!

Crazy little thing called loooove.

Ruby was utterly spellbound. She had heard Queen tribute bands and while many of them were good impressionists, they utterly paled in comparison to this baby-looking Pokémon before her. His impression was perfect with no faults with his singing at all! She'd never seen a Toxel before, but this single one had left a great first impression of the species for her. She picked Toxel up.

"That was bloody incredible!" Ruby cried, "It's like Freddy's back from the dead in the form of you!"

"Why thank you, darling. I know I'm fabulous, you don't need to gush over me so much." the Toxel said casually.

His tone was matter-of-fact with not a hint of arrogance in his voice, like he knew he was talented and didn't need a legion of fans to tell him that. Ruby turned to the woman.

"Please let me have him! I want him! He's too amazing to go without!" she begged.

"Steady on luv, don't get so excited!" the woman said hastily, "If you want this Toxel so badly, he's all yours! I bet you'll take very good care of him."

"I'll treasure him from now til the day I die!" Ruby cried, "Thank you so much miss! I'll take great care of him!"

"Good, at least I can get away from this drab place." the Toxel muttered, "Maybe if I travel with a trainer, I'll have an actual audience to perform for."

"You better believe it Freddy, because I'm on my way to the next gym and an Electric type like you will be most valuable for my team." Ruby said with a wink.

"So you're calling me Freddy then? Thank you. I want that to be my actual name from now and forever." the Toxel said graciously.

"Well you're practically Freddy Mercury in a Pokémon's body so why not?" Ruby giggled, "Come Freddy, we have lots of training to do to get you as strong as my other Pokémon."

She left the nursery with her new Pokémon, keen to get started with him. With a musical Pokémon like Freddy on her team, her journey was going to get a lot more fun and enjoyable for her…

Ruby spent the rest of the day getting Freddy up to speed. She'd spent so long at it that it was dark by the time she'd done. She'd been training him well by having him go up against some Pokémon that weren't too tough for him to handle and having him share EXP from other Pokémon she used while training them up too so he was able to level-up a little faster. To make sure everyone had a chance to level-up, Ruby rotated her roster constantly so everyone had a session of training, not just whichever six she was carrying at the time. She'd also caught a Minccino, a Normal-type Pokémon resembling a chinchilla and had nicknamed it Debbie, but she wasn't sure if she could see herself using it much. It still didn't hurt to have some extra Pokémon on hand.

It had been a long, hard session but Freddy was now on an even level with his fellow teammates. While he didn't have the hardest hitting moves ever, Nuzzle and Acid being the best he could do, he was getting there and Ruby knew he'd learn some good moves when he levelled up. All Pokémon did and there were also TMs and TRs she could use to give him any new moves if he could learn them. During training, she'd given a couple to some of her other Pokémon. Ariel the Gyarados had been given Waterfall so she had a powerful Water attack to use and Sparkles the Electrike had been given Thunderbolt, one of the strongest Electric attacks a Pokémon could learn. She really did feel as if things were going her way and that it was all going up from here. Plenty of Pokémon to train, many of them having evolved by now, a lot of them getting strong and learning new moves, it just couldn't be better!

After training for the day, she'd decided to set up camp and call it a night as she didn't fancy wandering around at night time on her way to the next gym. She set up her tent and curry pot and made a sweet sausage curry for herself and her Pokémon to eat before they went to sleep. Of course, Freddy couldn't resist singing to himself as she made the delicious brew for everyone.

Can anybody fiiiind meeeeeeeeeeeeeee…somebody toooooooooooooooooooooooooooo…LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE… he sang as Ruby dished up dinner.

"Da new guy sure loves da sound of his own voice, eh?" Bugs side, sounding more irritated than entertained by it.

"You hush, he's just enjoying himself." Ruby said sharply, "Besides, he's really good and I love Queen music so let him sing!"

"Yeah Bugs, don't be a stick in the mud!" Chomps the Chewtle said crossly, "I like his singing too!"

"It's OK I guess. Better than listening to a bunch of ghost Pokémon making "whoooo" sounds in unison." Raven the Gastly said, "Believe me, THAT is torture to listen to, and I'm a Ghost Pokémon!"

"The real achievement I think is that that little Toxel can sing like that!" Ariel said in amazement, "How does a voice that big and powerful come out of a little baby Pokémon like him?"

"Your guess is as good as mine." Ruby said, shrugging, "As is, I'm already loving having him on the team. His musical talents really do add some fun to the journey."

"As long as he don't overdo it, I'm fine with dat." Bugs said grimly, turning his back on everyone as he was given his dish of curry to eat.

Ruby ignored him and turned to Ariel.

"So, how does it feel being a Gyarados at last?" she asked.

"It's wonderful! I feel like I can actually be of use to you and the team and I feel as if I've achieved a lifelong goal!" Ariel said excitedly, "I feel so strong, so powerful…like I could take on any Pokémon and win!"

"That's great Ariel." Ruby said, patting her on the nose softly, "But remember, you're not valuable to me just because you're a Gyarados now. You were always a valuable member of the team, even as a Magikarp. I know you couldn't do much, but you gave it your all and your hard work paid off. I'm proud to have you on the team Ariel."

The huge Gyarados smiled with pleasure and gently nuzzled Ruby, having to be careful so as not to knock her over. Upon seeing this, Freddy was inspired to sing something else. Strumming his toy guitar, he burst into another song.

Ooooh, you make-a me liiiive!

Whatever this world can give to me

It's yoooooou, you're all I seeeeeee!

Ooooh, you make-a me liiive now, honey!

Oooh you make-a me liiive!

Oooh, you're the best friend that I ever had.

I've been with you such a long tiiime.

You're my sunshine, and I want you to know,

That my feelings are true!

I really love you.

You're my best friend!

Ruby giggled in response.

"That song applies to all of you! You're all my best friends! Good choice Freddy!" she laughed.

Once he'd finished singing, Ruby and her Pokémon spent the rest of the evening eating their dinner before Ruby returned them all to their Pokéballs and went to sleep in her tent. The next morning came, grey and overcast but still warm as if the world wanted people to think it was still OK to go outside. Ruby zipped her jacket up in case of rain as she was sure it might do so later on, judging from the colour of the clouds. She packed her camping gear away and set off to continue her journey to Hulbury. She planned to have some more training on the way but didn't want to stay training in this one spot any longer, wanting to see if there were any new Pokémon to challenge further up the route. But the leather-clad girl found herself groaning in annoyance as she saw that she had some considerably less challenging opponents to face.

She had come across a long bridge that stretched straight ahead and she could see two members of Team Yell harassing a grey-haired man who looked fed-up with their antics. It was two of the male grunts with none of the females in sight. Of all the insufferable nitwits, why Team Yell again?! Freddy was riding on her shoulder at the time, not wanting to go in his Pokéball, and he looked at the two Team Yell grunts.

"So who are the weirdos with the dodgy hairdos?" he asked.

"Members of Team Yell, a hunch of over-obnoxious fans cheering for Marnie, one of the Gym Challengers." Ruby muttered, "What's their game now?"

She ran closer to see what was going on. One of the Yell Grunts was, well, yelling at the grey-haired man.

"Oi! Just hand over that bike already!" he yelled at the man, "We need it to cross this long bridge!"

"We're gonna use that bike to chase around other Gym Challengers! It'll be a scream!" yelled the other Grunt.

"I'll not let you use the bike for such foolish pursuits as that." the man said wearily, "Besides, it wouldn't work as you two clowns don't even have a Rotom with you."

"OY! You two! Leave him alone!" Ruby interrupted, stepping in to stop the Grunts from what they were doing. The duo looked at Ruby and growled in annoyance, clearly recognizing her from a couple of days back.

"Hey, you're the silver-haired brat from the hotel!" Grunt 1 exclaimed.

"Why don't you just make yourself useful and piss off? Haven't you got a Gym to get to, girlie?" Grunt 2 sneered.

"I have, and I'm not making my way over to the Gym knowing you two are causing trouble again." Ruby said firmly, "Do you want Marnie to know what's going on here? I doubt she'd approve of this."

"She'll never know." Grunt 1 said confidently, "Besides, it's for her benefit and no one else's. If we make you Challengers all tired, only she'll make it to the finals and win the Gym Challenge!"

"Wow, your plan is so unbelievably flawed that only you two twits could've thought it up!" Ruby jeered, doubling over in laughter over how incomprehensibly stupid that idea was, "Seriously, who cares if the Gym Challengers get tired from being chased by a bike? They'll just use their Pokémon to get them around or call a Flying Taxi! If anything, you'll just wear yourselves out and screw YOURSELVES over instead of the others!"

The grey-haired man couldn't help but laugh too. Ruby had such a good point and it was just hilarious that a single teenager had handily destroyed their entire plan just by explaining how ludicrous it was. The Yell Grunts weren't happy at the notion of being mocked and their plan being thought of as stupid so one of them drew a Pokéball out.

"We'll show you who's stupid around here!" he rasped, "Zigzagoon, put her in her place for me!"

The Grunt threw his ball and out came Zigzagoon. Ruby sighed. So it seemed Team Yell had made zero effort to change up their roster in the time that had passed since she'd last met them. She almost didn't want to bother fighting them as it would be a waste of time but then they'd just harass the bike man some more and cause some more trouble. At least she'd be able to set them straight. Ruby drew out a Pokéball and summoned forth Raven. Freddy hopped off her shoulder and stood on the side-lines, deciding to provide battle music to go along with the fight. He strummed away, playing a cool riff as Ruby and the Yell Grunt prepared to fight.

Steve walks wearily down the street, with the brim pulled way down low.

Ain't no sound, but the sound of his feet

Machine guns ready to go!

Are ya ready? Hey! Are ready for this?

Are ya hanging on the edge of your seat?

Outta the doorway, the bullets rip!

To the time of the beat, yeeeeeeeah!

"Raven, use Dazzling Gleam!" Ruby commanded.

"Azarath…Metrion…ZINTHOS!" Raven screeched, summoning forth a collection of sparkling lights that formed into a giant ball of energy and firing them from her mouth.

The attack hit the Zigzagoon full on and knocked it out in one hit. The raccoon-like Pokémon collapsed onto its side, wondering which way was up. The Grunt was livid and he returned his Pokémon as Freddy sung the chorus.

Another one bites the dust!

Another one bites the dust!

And another one gone, and another one gone!

Another one bites the dust!

Hey! Gonna get ya too!

Another one bites the dust!

"Dat little cretin will be singing a different tune when I'm through with you!" the Grunt yelled, "Thievul, your turn now!"

He summoned forth his next Pokémon, the Dark type Thievul. Thievul was the evolved form of Nickit, resembling an adult fox with a long bushy tail, eye markings that made it look like it was wearing a bandit mask and sporting a sly, cunning expression to fit with it resembling a fox. Ruby raised an eyebrow in confusion.

"Wait, what? You evolved your Nickit but your Zigzagoon's still a Zigzagoon? How bloody stupid are you?!" she cried exasperatedly.

"Yeah, that kind of incompetence can only be found in people as dumb as this." Raven concurred.

"Ah well, let's just put Team Yell out of their misery. Dazzling Gleam again Raven!" Ruby cried.

Raven obliged, all too happy to finish this pathetic excuse for a fight. The Ghost/Poison Pokémon hit Thievul with Dazzling Gleam but didn't take it down in one hit. It didn't matter as the Thievul didn't even do anything meaningful with what little health it had left. It just used Tail-Whip, which lowered Raven's Defence but it didn't matter as Raven just finished it off with another Dazzling Gleam. It made her feel so good that she had a Fairy-Type move to mitigate her weakness to Dark types, making it so satisfying that the once threatening Dark types now folded like paper to her. No Dark type would ever be a threat to her again! The Thievul fainted from the hit, no energy left in it to fight. Of course, Freddy rubbed its defeat in its face by singing the chorus again.

Another one bites the dust!

Another one bites the dust!

And another one gone, and another one gone!

Another one bites the dust!

Hey! Gonna get ya too!

Another one bites the dust!

"You'll bite the dust next, girlie!" the second Grunt declared, "Sableye, destroy her!"

He summoned forth Sableye, a Dark/Ghost type Pokémon from the Hoenn region. It resemble a small, purple, goblin-like creature that literally had gems for eyes and a sinister smile on its face. For a long time, Sableye had been one of the few Pokémon with no actual weakness until the Fairy type had been discovered in other regions. Fairy types were the only Pokémon that were super-effective against Sableye. Of course, Ruby knew this and quickly exploited it by once again ordering Raven to use Dazzling Gleam. To nobody's surprise, the Sableye went down in one hit. Raven's reaction was one of sheer boredom, like the easy win wasn't even worth getting happy about.

"Hey, maybe next time you could actually TRY to be challenging?" she sneered, "I'm insulted that you think Pokémon like that are worth my time."

The Yell Grunts groaned and stamped their feet in anger as Freddy continued to mock them with his song.

There are many ways you can hurt a man, and bring him to the ground!

You can beat him, you can cheat him, you can treat him bad, and leave him when he's down, yeah!

But I'm ready! Yes, ready for you, I'm standing on my own two feeeet!

Outta the doorway, the bullets rip! The rhythm to the time of the beat, OOOOOOOOOOH YEEEEEEEEAH!

Another one bites the dust!

Another one bites the dust!

And another one gone, and another one gone!

Another one bites the dust!

Hey! Gonna get ya too!

Another one bites the dust!

"Well said Freddy." Ruby said, patting his head affectionately.

The Yell Grunts wasted no time in sticking around, deciding to beat a hasty retreat rather than suffer further humiliation from the silver-haired girl. Despite wanting the bike to cross the bridge, they just ran across it anyway which made it questionable why crossing it seemed so daunting a task to them earlier. The grey-haired man turned to Ruby, impressed with how easily she'd defeated the duo.

"That was very good, fellow trainer." he said, "Do you have a Rotom with you?"

"Yes I do, why?" Ruby asked curiously, returning Gastly and picking Freddy up.

"Well as a token of my thanks, I'd like for you to have the bike they wanted to steal from me." the man said, "It'd be better in your hands than those guys. It's an ordinary bike upon first glance but with your Rotom, it can give the bike a boost and make you go faster. What do you say?"

Ruby didn't wait to be asked twice. A bike would be very handy for getting around so why not? She took the bike graciously and thanked the man for his offer. The bike was red in colour and was just a standard bicycle but with an attached motor for the Rotoms to use. It looked like it was very sturdy and would get her anywhere in a heartbeat. Ruby took her Rotom phone out of her pocket and the Rotom instantly inserted itself into the bike's motor. Ruby climbed on and peddled away across the bridge, waving bye to the man as she left. The view from the bridge was incredible, many areas of the Wild Area clear to see from this height and the length of the bridge made zooming on her new bike in a straight line immensely enjoyable. Ruby had never travelled so fast and it made her stomach leap. It was an amazing feeling getting to move so fast. Ruby whooped with excitement as she picked up speed, the wind whooshing over her and playing with her hair. Freddy hung onto her back, naturally having another song for this situation.

Biiiiiiiicyle! Biiiiiiiicyle! Biiiiiiiicyle!

I want to ride my bi-cy-cle, I want to ride my biiike!

I want to ride my bi-cy-cle, I want to ride it where I liiiiiiiiiike!

But the bike ride didn't last long as Ruby saw a familiar figure up ahead. She braked hard to stop the bike so she wouldn't ride straight into the person and dismounted. She left the bike leaning beside the bridge post and approached the person on foot. She quickly saw that it was none other than Hop, who had taken a break from his journey to just admire the view. He noticed Ruby was there and turned to face her.

"Hey Ruby!" he said cheerfully, "Given you're on this Route, I guess you won that Grass Gym Badge?"

"Just like you, did it in one." Ruby said with a wink, "Now we've both won a Gym badge each."

"And I see you got a new bike." Hop noticed, looking over at the bike Ruby had arrived on, "Where'd you get it?"

Ruby filled him in on her latest encounter with Team Yell.

"I thought that's why they were running away like rabbits." Hop chuckled, "They charged right past me and I thought, "I bet that was Ruby". It was mean of them to harass that guy like that. No wonder he let you have the bike."

"And that's not all, I got a new Pokémon from the Pokémon Nursery." Ruby said, motioning to Freddy who was sitting on her shoulder, "He's a Pokémon I've never seen before so he's been an interesting new addition, and the most fun."

"Are you a fan of Queen music too, darling?" Freddy asked, startling Hop as he hadn't expected that kind of voice to come from the baby-like Pokémon, "I know them all. I can sing if you want me to."

"Crikey, I never thought I'd hear a Pokémon talk like Freddy Mercury!" Hop exclaimed, "You must feel glad to have gotten something like that."

"Like you wouldn't believe." Ruby confirmed, "So, are you gonna be going to Hulbury or…"

"Given you're here, I think it'd be great if we had another battle." Hop suggested, "We could see how strong we both are now we both have a Gym Badge each!"

"You sure? I mean not that I don't want to battle but I think it'd be best if we just head off and train some more to prepare for the next gym." Ruby said unsurely, "That and I don't want to make you feel bad again if I win."

"Nonsense! Every defeat just means I can train harder so I can come out on top!" Hop said dismissively, "Come on, let's go for it!"

Ruby shrugged. She remembered how Leon wanted her to push Hop and be a "real rival" to him so she'd only be helping him out with another battle. As he said, every win she had would just inspire him to train harder and push himself further. She placed Freddy down behind her and drew out a Pokéball while Hop summoned his first. To no surprise whatsoever, he had chosen Wooloo first. Ruby rolled her eyes.

"Again with that bloody Wooloo. You're too predictable Hop." she sighed, "You really shouldn't start every battle you have with Wooloo. Being predictable is how you lose Pokémon battles."

"I don't need you to tell me that, I'm not stupid!" Hop retorted, "Besides, Wooloo's my ace! Why not start with him?"

"If you say so." said Ruby as she summoned forth Raven to be her first Pokémon in this match.

Raven took one look at her opponent and looked over at Ruby nonchalantly.

"Seriously? That's my opponent? I'm insulted. Try using me when I have a REAL challenge." she muttered.

"Don't be rude Raven! Hop's my mate and I can do without you making him feel bad!" Ruby hissed.

She noticed that Hop looked hurt to hear the stoic Gastly saying that. He was the brother of Galar's champion and meant to be Ruby's rival in this challenge, and this cheeky little Ghost Pokémon was saying he wasn't a "real challenge"?! It was the worst insult that he could get from either a person or a Pokémon. He tried not to let it bother him as the fight began.

Raven made the first move as Ruby commanded her to use Dazzling Gleam. Raven fired the beam of sparkling stars at Wooloo and knocked it back but the tough sheep Pokémon withstood the hit and remained standing, shaking his head after the attack had finished. Hop then commanded Wooloo to use Defence Curl, a move that boosted a Pokémon's defences to make them able to tank hits easier. He hoped that Wooloo would last a little longer after that move. Then he did something that made Ruby see he was learning from past battles. He used a Super Potion on Wooloo to heal him up from the earlier attack and keep him going for longer. Wooloo bleated bravely, new strength in his woolly body as he prepared to battle some more. It seemed her wins over him were having a good effect on him after all.

Ruby made the next move, commanding Raven to use Payback. Payback was a Dark type attack that did damage if the opponent was switching Pokémon out, using an item or if the user moved first. Raven hit the Wooloo hard with the attack but the sheep's boosted defences made it so that it could take the hit. However, Defence Curl only boosted Wooloo's defences. It did NOT boost his Special Defences and Ruby knew this. She then told Raven to use Dazzling Gleam again, a Special Attack and not a Physical one so Wooloo's boosted defences were meaningless in this moment. Raven hit Wooloo again and due to the earlier damage from Payback, he went down after that hit. Wooloo fainted and Hop sadly returned him, gutted that his beloved Pokémon had failed again. Ruby returned Raven and waited for Hop to make his next move.

"You'll find this match more interesting Ruby. I've managed to evolve a couple of Pokémon since last time we met." he declared, "Go Corvisquire!"

He threw his Pokéball and out came the Flying type Pokémon, Corvisquire. Corvisquire looked like a much bigger Rookidee with an anatomy closer to that of an actual bird than before and had a striking colour combination of blue and black for its feathers. It still had red eyes but boasted an impressive wingspan and looked like a fast flier. Ruby was impressed.

"Awesome, you evolved your Rookidee!" she complimented, "I bet that's how you beat Milo!"

"You win that bet, fair maiden!" Corvisquire boasted, "That Gym Leader's Grass types were no match for the superiority of us Flying types! My Lord Hop and I flew to victory with little trouble as I swept over his Pokémon!"

"I can't wait until he evolves into Corviknight! He'll be even more awesome!" Hop said excitedly.

"He will be." Ruby agreed, "But unfortunately for you, I have the perfect counter to Flying types…"

She threw a Pokéball and out came Sparkles the Electrike. The green and yellow canine Pokémon wagged her tail eagerly and bounced about excitedly.

"Oh boy, oh boy! I finally get to have a fight with a trainer!" Sparkles cried, "This is gonna be awesome!"

"Ha, lively one isn't she?" Hop laughed.

"Electric types are always the most energetic." Ruby giggled, "And Sparkles is one who lives for the fight. She LOVES battling."

"I'll bet." Hop said, "Corvisquire, use Leer!"

Corvisquire obeyed and stared intently at Sparkles. It seemed like nothing was happening but Sparkles felt an uncomfortable shiver turn through her bloodstream. She winced and shook herself off to get rid of the feeling. Leer was an attack that lowered defences. If Corvisquire was able to hit, it would do more damage than usual as Sparkles's defences had weakened. Ruby wasn't going to let Hop get the advantage so easily.

"Use Thunderbolt!" she commanded.

Hop was surprised. An Electrike shouldn't be able to know Thunderbolt! It couldn't learn Thunderbolt through levelling up! He imagined Ruby was lucky enough to get a TR so Sparkles could learn it. He watched as the dog-like Pokémon fired an incredibly powerful surge of electricity from her small body and struck Corvisquire dead on. Corvisquire squawked as he was electrocuted, making very funny noises and facial expressions as the Thunderbolt hit him. The whole scene looked like a more cartoonish appearance of someone getting electrocuted and Ruby stifled a laugh, not wanting to upset Hop by laughing at what was happening. Corvisquire crashed down to the ground, completely unable to battle after that Thunderbolt took everything out of him. Electricity crackled between his feathers and he twitched slightly.

"The brave knight is felled by his mighty opponent once again…" he said weakly, drifting off into unconsciousness.

Hop returned Corvisquire, disappointed he'd gone down so quickly. Sparkles looked more disappointed though, frowning at how quick that had been.

"Aww, is that it? I thought a trainer battle would be more exciting!" she whined.

"To be fair, I probably did overpower you a little by giving you Thunderbolt so early on." Ruby said sheepishly, "And you had the type advantage so it was going to be a quick one."

"This one won't!" Hop declared, "Thwackey, it's your time to whack the competition away!"

He threw his last Pokéball and out some his other Pokémon that had evolved since last time, Thwackey. Thwackey was the evolved form of Grookey, evident by the green colours and leafy hair. The leaves on his head were in the style of a Mohawk, his body was light green rather than dark green and he carried two sticks in his orange coloured hands instead of one. He was bigger than before and looked like he could pack a punch. Ruby smiled excitedly.

"You evolved your starter at last! He looks great!" she complimented.

"Thwackey appreciate the compliments!" Thwackey said gruffly, folding his arms and grinning confidently, "Thwackey much stronger now!"

"Maybe so, but I still have type advantage." Ruby said bluntly, "Time for you to come out Bugs!"

She threw another Pokéball and Bugs came onto the scene once again. He took one look at his opponent and instantly recognized what was happening here.

"Nice one, ya evolved at last." he acknowledged, "Unfortunately fer you, so did I so I'm still gonna be stronger."

"Thwackey will prove you wrong!" Thwackey declared.

"Let's put that to the test." Ruby said eagerly, "Bugs, use Flame Charge!"

Flame Charge was a new attack Bugs had learned as he'd been training yesterday. It was much more powerful than Ember so Thwackey was in for a very bad burn. It also increased a Pokémon's speed every time they used it so Bugs could go from being a fast Pokémon to an even faster one just by using it. Bugs cloaked himself with flames and charged towards the Grass monkey. He slammed into Thwackey and knocked him onto his back, the attack simultaneously winding him and burning him at the same time. Thwackey was hurt by the attack but he wasn't down just yet. He managed to get back up and brushed himself off as he tried to fight off the pain from his burns.

Hop retaliated by telling Thwackey to use Screech. Thwackey opened his mouth and made an ear-splitting noise that made everyone on the bridge grip their ears in pain, a shudder surging through their bodies as the noise tore through them. Freddy started vocalizing to try and drown out the sound of the Screech. Once the noise was over, Bugs shook his head and patted his ears to ease the pain in them. The only effect Screech had was lowering Defences so Bugs wouldn't take hits as well as he usually did after that. But it didn't matter as Ruby knew what to do next.

"Use Quick Attack!"

Bugs obeyed, moving at a blinding speed and slamming into Thwackey one last time. His health was dangerously low already so Ruby felt she may as well tell Bugs to use Quick Attack to snipe that last bit of health. At the very least, it meant she could land the finishing blow before Thwackey could even more. With his health now gone, Thwackey fainted onto his side and groaned.

"Even when evolved, Thwackey still couldn't beat fire bunny man…" he groaned.

Hop sighed and returned his Pokémon. He had no more left to use, which Ruby guessed was because his other Pokémon were still too over levelled to use for now, so the battle was over. Ruby was victorious again and Hop was left wondering what it was that she had that he didn't.

"I don't get it…we both have the first Gym Badge, so how are you so much stronger?" he muttered.

"I don't know Hop. Sorry I can't give a better answer but that's all I've got." Ruby said, feeling guilty that she'd beaten him so easily again, "I hope I'm not starting to dampen your spirits in anyway."

Hop just gave her a small smile, showing there was no animosity from him at all.

"Why should I be mad at you? It'd be stupid of me to take it out on you. You're just being a good trainer and raising your Pokémon well." Hop said casually, "I don't know what your secret is but it's working well for you. Maybe on this journey, I'll find something that works for me too. And then…maybe I'll be on your level."

He put a hand on Ruby's shoulder.

"Thanks for the battle. Every fight we have just helps me grow and learn." he said graciously.

"Well um…you're welcome?" Ruby said, surprised Hop was taking it so well, "Keep at it Hop and you'll be greater than ever. You'll do Leon proud, I know you will!"

"Thank you! That means a lot to me!" Hop said brightly, "Well, gotta dash. I have a gym to be at once my Pokémon are healed up so see you at Hulbury!"

He turned around and ran off to make his way to the next gym. Ruby stood there in awkward silence, starting to feel uncomfortable about what Leon had asked from her. "Be a real rival" he said, "Push him and make the both of you stronger". The thing is…Ruby didn't really want to be a rival to Hop. He was her friend! Her neighbour! She didn't want him to use her as a pedestal to reach or see her as a level he had to surpass. She worried her wouldn't see her as his friend anymore. Would this "rivalry" damage their friendship? Would Hop start hating her because she was just constantly doing better than he was? It made her heart shrivel at the thought. She couldn't bear the thought of Hop disliking her when this was over.

Ruby returned Bugs and climbed back on her bike to cycle the rest of the way across the bridge. Upon reaching the other side, she left it leaning to one side and wandered by some tall grass to see what Pokémon were lurking nearby. Up ahead was a tunnel that would take her to Hulbury so Ruby planned to go there when she'd finished training. There was plenty of grass and a few trees around so she imagined any Pokémon could be waiting for a fight. For the moment, everything was silent and still. Then suddenly, a blue shape popped up from the grass nearby and gave a salute.

"Wooooooooooobbuffet!" it cried.

Ruby jumped in alarm and stepped back. What she was staring at was the Psychic type Pokémon known as Wobbuffet. They were considered one of the most unusual looking Pokémon ever, sporting a tall cyan body with long flat arms, four stubby legs at the base of its body, a black tail with a pair of eyes on it (curiously enough) and its face consisted of scrunched up eyes with a jagged upper lip. Ruby smirked confidently, drawing a Pokéball out from her jacket.

"Puh, a measly Wobbuffet. This'll be good for training." she crowed, "Ariel, it's time to train!"

She summoned forth Ariel and the water type Pokémon gave a stretch and a roar to intimidate the Wobbuffet. The Psychic type Pokémon shuddered, clearly frightened of the powerful Gyarados. Ariel seemed to share Ruby's confidence for she gave a fanged grin that radiated it.

"I bet defeating this thing will boost my strength up muchly." she said.

Ruby had noticed that ever since Ariel had evolved, she seemed much more battle-hungry and proud of herself. She was glad of course for she was proud of her too.

"Let's make this quick." Ruby said, "Ariel, use Bite!"

It was a wise move. Bite as super-effective against Wobbuffet due to it being a Dark-type move against a Psychic-type Pokémon. Ariel opened her mouth wide and bit the Wobbuffet as hard as she could. But then disaster struck. Ruby had been so full of herself that a critical fact about Wobbuffet had completely slipped her mind. This Pokémon…was capable of using a devastating move known as Counter Attack. Counter returned the damage done to the Pokémon that was attacked…and DOUBLED it. This wouldn't have been a problem if the Wobbuffet had gone down in one hit…which it didn't. It had miraculously managed to survive the blow and had retaliated with a Counter Attack. Ariel was walloped in the face by an invisible force that just slammed into her, shattering every tooth in her mouth and throwing her back from the blow. It was as if she'd been punched in the face by an invisible hand. Ariel keeled over backwards from the blow and lay still. Of course the Counter Attack had reduced her health to nothing but it had done worse than that. She was in a horrific state, looking more like she'd been in a terrible accident than a Pokémon battle. Ruby put her hands to her mouth in horror. The Wobbuffet didn't seem to show any remorse for what it had done, even smiling as if it had just committed a heroic deed.

"ARIEL!" Ruby screamed.

She threw herself onto her knees and placed her hands on Ariel's face. The stricken Gyarados didn't move. Ruby held her hand over her damaged mouth. She could feel no breath. She watched her body. There was no rise and fall of Ariel's stomach and mouth to suggest any life left in her. Ruby put her ear to Ariel's chest. There was no heartbeat. All of this meant only one thing…

"No…No…No, no, no…NOOOOOOOOOOO!" Ruby wailed, "No Ariel, please, you can't be dead! Please don't be dead! No!"

But it was hopeless. Ruby was just denying the reality of her situation and she knew it. Her newly evolved Gyarados was gone, never to battle again. The Wobbuffet's Counter Attack had killed her stone dead, the damage done to her too great to recover from. Reluctantly accepting what had happened, Ruby threw her arms around Ariel's dead body and wailed her heart out. She felt like she could cry for days and still keep crying after this. As she wept, a Pokémon came out of its ball and took revenge for what had happened. It was Raven. She'd sensed something was wrong and came out to see what had happened. Upon seeing Ruby crying over Ariel's body, she quickly put two and two together and snarled viciously at the Wobbuffet. It was the first time she'd ever shown any actual emotion aside from a nonchalant expression. She fired a Shadow Ball at the murderous Pokémon and one-shot it, the Wobbuffet fainting from the attack. Raven was about to attack it some more but she could see that it was down and it didn't need any more than that. Also she didn't quite fancy being a cold-blooded killer as it wouldn't make things any better. Sighing heavily, Raven ceased her next attack and sadly floated over to Ruby.

"Are you alright Ruby?" she asked concernedly.

"No…" Ruby said grimly, "I just need a moment. Thanks for dealing with that Wobbuffet."

"You're welcome." Raven said softly, "I'll leave you alone for a moment. If you need any of us, just call us out."

Ruby nodded. Raven returned to her Pokéball so she could Ruby some space. The teen trainer was now alone to grieve for Ariel. She stroked one of the side fins on Ariel's face as if hoping to give her some comfort before she transcended to the next stage. She breathed out slowly, trying to compose herself so she could say her farewells.

"G-goodbye A-Ariel…I kn-know you d-didn't do much…and you d-didn't feel like you w-was w-worth much…but just remember…" she paused to choke back tears, "…y-you was always a member of the team, e-even b-before you evolved! I…I'm s-so sorry I l-let this happen to you!"

She couldn't hold it back anymore, lowering her head into Ariel's scales and sobbing. Her cries of despair were heard only by any wild Pokémon nearby who saw the leather-clad teen sobbing over her Gyarados and felt sorry for her. They kept their distance, feeling it was sensible to give the heartbroken teen some space. The world itself seemed to be crying for Ariel as no sooner had Ruby started crying, the first drops of rain dripped down from the sky. Ruby didn't even notice as she was drenched by the rain, too grief-stricken to register anything else that was happening around her. She was already beginning to see what it was like for her poor dad when he'd lost his own Pokémon during his trainer days…


Ruby was frankly impressed she'd actually been able to stop crying long enough to get out of the rain and make her way back to Turffield. She'd been stricken with a desperate need to be with someone she loved and her dad was by far the closest person to her right now so it made sense to go to him. He was after all the best person to talk to about a situation like this. Upon arriving at his flower shop, she threw herself into her dad's arms, dripping water all over his apron and the floor, and told him the terrible news. Michael had given her a moment to let it all out before sitting her down and getting a towel to dry her off. She had to take her jacket off and hang it up to dry but her dad had managed to dry her off for the most part. He made some tea for his daughter, but Ruby didn't touch it. He sat down beside the grief-stricken girl and put an arm around her for comfort.

"I had hoped you wouldn't experience what I did." Michael said sadly, "I can't tell you enough how much it hurt when my first Pokémon died. It felt as if my heart had been crushed and could never be repaired. Nobody should have to go through this, especially a girl your age. I'm sorry it had to happen Ruby, but it's sadly the big risk that comes with Pokémon training."

Ruby looked back at her father with tear-soaked eyes.