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Sooo- today I discovered the clothes customization in New Horizons and-… I practically spent hours designing both the Queen of Hatred and Nothing There suits- …. the Sobble was the first design I did in game!

Still- I love how they turned out and wanted to share! :,>

I’m just in love with the customization of this game aaa-

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Random Pokemon SWSH character headcanons:

Piers:

- speaks with a thick cockney accent

- practically a night owl

- good luck waking him up before 11

- actually don’t, he’ll be grumpy as hell if you do


Leon:

- Lowkey himbo

- is pretty dense at times

- master of terrible puns and cheesy pick up lines

- able to get lost on his way to the bathroom and end up in the reverse world

Milo:

- 100% a big sweetheart

- will give you the shirt of his back if you need it

- rarely gets angry but is pretty scary if he does

- gives people wooloo eggs he sometimes cone across


Raihan:

- is very laid back when not in a gym battle

- Ball guy kinda freaks him out but he wont admit it

- baby talks to his pokemon

- the meme king

Allister:

- likes to have tea parties with Opal

- has a super cute smile

- Thinks of Bea and Marnie as his big sisters

- pranks people with Gengar


Marnie:

- don’t challenge her to a staring contest, you’ll loose

- loves bad puns

- if she trusts you enough she’ll allow you to feed Morpeko

- secretly a huge comic nerd


Bede:

- spends a lot of time preening to make sure he looks his best every morning

- likes spicy foods

- after he becomes the fairy gym leader he mellows out a bit and tries to genuinly uplift his gym trainers to help them be better

- but he still remains prideful as ever most of the time


And thats all for now folks

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i decided im gonna stop overthinking my art cause it hurts my art more than anything

i also decided im just gonna use my main username for my signature on things cause im hella lazy, might change its style but sticking to the same signature. we’ll see where that goes

to celebrate these trying times: have a piers. idk im bad at this

feel free to tag as kin/me/etc.

thetalesfromunder
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Part of Pokemon Retold. Find it on AO3.

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

————

It wasn’t long before Gloria found herself on the train with Hop to Motostoke. It was where the Opening Ceremony for this season’s gym challenge would be held, as they all were, and all the up and coming gym challengers were expected to take part in it! Not that she minded. Although the idea of facing massive crowds unnerved her, she couldn’t shake an insatiable thirst deep down for the attention that being a gym challenger could bring.

“I can’t believe it! We’re goin’ to Motostoke! That’s where Kabu, the Fire Gym Leader, is, you know,” Hop explained. He leaned back in his beige and red booth and folded his arms behind his head. His eyes closed and he gave a slight smile. “He’s the third gym leader. But likes getting to host the introductions at his stadium every season.”

Gloria nodded. “Who’s the first, d’you know?”

Hop nodded. “’Course I know. That’s goin’ to be Milo. He specializes in Grass. Then there’s Nessa, with her Water types… And of course Kabu, but after him… Bea, the Fightin’ type… Opal with her weird Fairy types… Ah, I can’t seem to remember who’s in Circhester, but I know the last one! Raihan! Oh, oh, and before him there’s Piers!”

“Everyone knows Raihan,” Gloria grinned. “Lots of people seem to think he’s goin’ to do Leon in this year, you know.”

“Ha!” Hop put a hand to the table and pumped a fist. “Not if I get to him first!”

The train lurched to an abrupt stop. Hop was shoved onto the table from his rather unstable position, and the drinks they had sitting on the table between them fell over and spilled across the wood. Hop cursed under his breath as he scrambled off the table. Soda dribbled down his coat, staining the wool sticking out from his jacket’s interior with dark, sticky fluid. “Damn it,” he growled, “that’s just great…” Gloria would have been laughing but some soda had rolled down her legs too.

“We’re sorry to report, but the train’s been stopped by a flock of Wooloo on the tracks. We have rangers on the way now to try to safely clear them away from the tracks,” came a nasally voice over the intercom. “If you would like to continue on your own, we are stopped near the Wild Area Station, and trainers are welcome to traverse the Wild Area to Motostoke.”

Hop grumbled. “Well, I think I’d like to do that, so I can maybe set up a camp and change my clothes,” he said.

“Besides, maybe there’s some cool Pokémon out there,” Gloria pointed out. She had picked up some Poké Balls from the Wedgehurst Pokémon Center before boarding the train. “You do have Poké Balls on you, don’t you?”

“Of course!” Hop assured her. He finished gathering his things and stuffing his bag and then tossed it over his shoulder. He exited into the narrow hall out of the train and Gloria followed. Once out of the train, they had to walk just a few feet to reach the actual entrance to the Wild Area Station. Gloria glanced up ahead and couldn’t help but giggle at the enormous flock of Wooloo that had converged on the train tracks. They looked like one large mass rather than individuals.

“Hey, Hop, want to let your Wooloo out to play?” Gloria joked.

“Ha, ha,” Hop rolled his eyes. “Wooloo gets to stay in her Poké Ball unless we’re indoors or I’m watchin’ her close from now on. Bloody Wooloo about killed me that day. Literally.”

They checked in with the man behind the help desk in the Train Station, and as they each had at least one usable Pokémon, were cleared to enter the Wild Area unassisted. Both stood at the edge of the massive swathe of untouched land and Gloria listened as Hop sucked in a deep breath of the earthy, wild atmosphere.

“Alright! Gloria, I’ll race you to Motostoke!” he challenged, whirling to face her. He stuck his hand out to shake hers. “We’ll see who catches the most Pokémon on the way! You ready?”

Gloria grabbed his hand and gave it a hardy tug. “You got it, Hop!”

And with that, off they went, bolting uninhibited, all on their own, into the vast wilderness. Unbeknownst to them, a certain redhead had also been on that train, and had watched with nostalgic pangs as they discussed their race. Sonia drew a hand across her hair to pull a stray strand back. She had decided to take the train to Motostoke that day to see if she could find anything to research there. She and her gran, Magnolia, had had a rather nasty argument shortly before leaving for the train that morning. As usual, Magnolia was telling her that she was doing nothing with her life, that she was pointless, the usual. All while Sonia slaved away at Magnolia’s laboratory as her assistant.

She sighed. Watching Gloria and Hop reminded her of when she, Leon, Nessa, Piers, and Raihan had set out on their gym challenge. Leon had always been the star of the group, even long before he earned himself the champion title in his premier debut into the gym challenge. He was lively and charismatic, capable of making fast friends with virtually anyone, and being only ten years old, he had an endearing innocence about him. Sonia had been thirteen herself, while Nessa was fourteen. Raihan and Piers had both matched Leon’s age, and as such, the three were thicker than thieves most of the way, Piers occasionally following at a distance, while Nessa and Sonia tended to flock together. But Sonia couldn’t help but gravitate toward Leon whenever he just so happened to be around.

In fact, when Leon had just started, he bumped into Sonia leaving to enter the Wild Area. He had demanded a battle right then and there. Although he’d never admit it, Sonia was certain he had done it to impress her. She smirked, remembering how he had tossed out a young Charmander, and she released a strong Drizzile. The look on Leon’s face as he realized the mistake he had just made was priceless. She would later learn he had received the Charmander only a few hours before and it was Leon’s only Pokémon at the time. But instead of backing down, Leon fought hard. Not that it mattered. Sonia’s Drizzile made quick work of it with a simple Water Gun.

Leon had been embarrassed by being beaten so easily, but Sonia had helped him to the Pokémon Center, and from then on, they battled whenever they met. Sonia was never able to pull another win over him after that. She came close their second battle, but he stole it out just from under her at the last second. Somehow, Leon grew by leaps and bounds, while she felt like she grew by teetering footsteps.

Then, she sighed, he won that damned championship, beat her in the first match of the semifinals, and it was like their closeness faded. Although he was still friendly enough with her whenever he happened to run into her and she had his phone number, it was difficult to try to talk to him. He seemed untouchable, on another plane, and she always felt trying to call him would be pointless or just drag him down. He was always busy, after all; he didn’t even come home but perhaps one to three times a year. She had been pleasantly surprised to see how much time he was spending with Hop just a few days ago.

She looked at the ground sadly and scuffed her feet. She had given away that Drizzile—an Inteleon following the gym challenge—and the rest of her battling team a year or two after that humiliating semifinals defeat. It had become clear to her that battling would not be her forte. The only problem was, she never found one after that, either. She still felt lost as ever all these years later. Part of her wanted to be a bit angry at Leon, for having stolen a path out from under her feet, but another part of her knew that was silly. She could have definitely stayed in the rat race and kept battling and pushing for that title. But she just didn’t have what it took. So, she had thrown herself into being Magnolia’s assistant, doing her best to force herself into the role; it was the only other one she knew.

Her and Magnolia’s fight that morning, however, had reawakened those old anxieties. She was rubbish as a trainer, she was rubbish as a professor, so what now? Perhaps she would just have to go back to what she had always done. Work harder than everyone else around her to try to gain the same achievements. She pulled her jacket a little tighter and began to walk out across the Wild Area. Though she didn’t have a true battling team anymore, she still had Yamper, and he could help her out of tougher situations well enough.

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Part of Pokemon Retold. Find it on AO3

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

————

Gloria rubbed her eyes. She had slept horribly that night before. Her dreams had been haunted with visions of that nightmarish creature she and Hop had stumbled across in the woods. Hop was fuming at her side. “Can you believe it?” he was saying. “Mum kept me home all night! Lee might be tryin’ to endorse us after we get this Pokédex, and she’s all, ‘you got to sleep, kid! You’ll run yourself ragged!’ The nerve!”

Gloria snorted in amusement. “Yes, how awful of her,” Gloria agreed, secretly glad Hop’s mother had done that. She had been exhausted and had wanted nothing more than to sleep for a while following their detour into the Slumbering Weald.

They then stopped just in front of the Pokémon Lab. Leon strode out from its automatic doors and grinned at them. “Get a good night’s rest?” he laughed. “Anyway, c’mon in!”

They eagerly followed him. Inside, the lab was gorgeous, Gloria thought. It had a pleasing, dark wood aesthetic contrasted against sheer white walls and tiles in certain areas. A library on the second floor stood proud, and machines littered the desks throughout the building. It was very open and welcoming.

“Yamp! Yamp-er!”

Gloria looked at the stairs just in time to see a bumbling Yamper struggle to get a grip on the hard wood floor, its claws scrabbling madly before finally catching some leverage, and it made a beeline for them. It bounced at their feet adorably, wiggling its yellow rear to wag its stubby tail for attention.

“That there,” Leon said in a mockingly dramatic tone, “is Sonia’s Yamper.” He ran a hand down from the Pokémon’s head to its back. “Such a cute Pokémon. Me and this Yamper go way back.”

“What about Sonia…?” Hop asked, looking genuinely bewildered.

“Oh, Sonia?” Leon seemed surprised. “Oh… she makes good curry, that’s for sure.”

“Oh, Lee!” a woman huffed at him. Gloria and Hop looked over at the staircase and saw that now a red-haired woman was standing there. She had her hands planted on her hips over a tan trenchcoat, and she looked none too amused by Leon’s little charade. “We were gym challengers together! Remember?”

“Oh!” Leon said loudly, slapping a hand to his forehead. “My bad, Sonia, I just have such a bad memory. So much to keep track of, bein’ champion and all.”

“I beat you once!” Sonia blurted out. Gloria laughed, and Hop gave a serious glare in her direction.

“That’s not funny! Nobody’s ever beat him,” Hop practically growled.

“In his professional career,” Sonia said and cast a wicked grin Leon’s way. “I beat you once~”

“That was my first battle after I got Charmander,” Leon said hotly. The cool playfulness had melted away.

“That’s more like it.” Sonia, seemingly satisfied at having miffed Leon, turned her attention to Hop and Gloria. “Now then, I assume you lot are here for a Pokédex, hm?”

Hop nodded, though it was clear he was struggling to keep from giggling at learning Leon lost to Sonia years and years ago. “L-Lee said that if we ever really want to become gym challengers, best to start with a Pokédex!”

“And right he is,” Sonia agreed. “You both have got Rotom Phones, yeah? If you’ll hand ‘em over for a sec, I can get them updated with the Pokédex.”

“We’re gonna have a Pokédex in our phones?” Gloria was mystified. “That’s so useful!”

“Right?” Sonia beamed. “Though, really it’s my gran who developed that. You lot should go thank her after this. She lives in a house just off Route Three. I’m just her assistant, really. She had me here cleanin’ up today.”

Sonia gently grasped their phones and carried them over to a desk with a laptop sitting open. It had enough cords spiraling out of its back to nearly obscure the fact it was a laptop at all. She plugged each phone in individually, would type a few things on the computer, and then wait. The phones would light up and Rotom would give a little bzzzrrt! of excitement. It would then lift the phones into the air, levitating around Sonia’s hair. “Yes, yes, you’re welcome,” Sonia giggled. “Now go home, ‘kay?”

The phones zipped back to their respective owners, and Gloria immediately checked out the new installation. The app was blank for now but had a massive list that could be filled out.

“There you go. That’ll tell you all you’d ever need to know about any Pokémon you catch, and even a little bit about ones you just see.” Sonia nodded encouragingly at them and smiled. Her smile vanished as she looked over Leon, though Gloria still felt like she wasn’t upset at him. “And you. Is that how are you goin’ to repay me for lettin’ you stay over last night? By actin’ like you don’t even know me this mornin’?”

“Aww, it was funny,” Leon teased. Hop and Gloria shared a look and snickered. He then turned his attention to his brother and Gloria. “Alright, let’s go, on to Route Three!”

“C’mon Lee, you got to endorse us! We got a Pokédex now!” Hop begged. Gloria just looked at Leon hopefully.

“Let’s go thank Magnolia, don’t be in such a rush,” Leon waved them off. “Now, ah… help me to Route Three, would you, Hop?”

Hop rolled his eyes and strode ahead of his brother. He had to admit, he was a lot more annoyed about being forced to wait for Leon’s response than he let on. “Sure, sure.”

 ——————-

Alright, Leon, after this, you’ve got to tell them point blank you’re not endorsing them this season, a voice was saying in the champion’s mind. You’ve got to stop stringing them and yourself along!

They had just arrived ahead of Magnolia’s house. It was the only one on this route, so at least, he hoped it was Magnolia’s house. Pants with directions, Hop’s words echoed in his mind. He rolled his eyes and smiled a little.

Leon knocked on the navy-blue door. “Just a second!” called a rattled, frail voice from inside. As they waited, a soft pnk! caught Leon’s attention. He glanced behind him and saw Hop bent over something on the ground. He picked it up and examined it in his palm.

“Lee, what is this?” Hop said, holding up two fragments of a purplish rock. It glowed a faint pink.

The door in front of Leon creaked open and a hunched over woman with salt and pepper hair looked out. She traced Leon’s line of sight and once she saw what Hop was holding up, brushed past the champion blithely, tugging his cape slightly off kilter as she did. Leon sputtered something after her, but she ignored it completely. He adjusted the cape and scowled after her.

“My child! That’s a Wishin’ Star,” she said.

“A Wishin’ Star?” Gloria echoed.

“Yes, a Wishin’ Star! They’re what Dynamax Bands get made with, what allow trainers to do that,” she nodded. “Lee, show them yours, would you?”

Leon was taken aback by how she ordered him around. He supposed he hadn’t been around Magnolia in quite some time. He stuck out his right arm and then pulled the white cuff around his wrist back to reveal a black bracelet that had a glimmering, violet stone like the ones Hop clutched tight in his palms. Once Gloria and Hop were finished gawking, he slid the white cuff back over it.

“Wow! And it landed right in front of me, too!” Hop was brimming with pride.

“They say when those fall for someone, that person’s dreams will come true,” Magnolia warned. “But if you hand those to me, I can fashion you and your friend here Dynamax Bands.”

“Awesome!” Hop exclaimed.

“Yes! Can you imagine, Hop? Bein’ able to Dynamax a Pokémon of our own?”

He hunched over slightly and curled his fingers into something that resembled claws. “Big Grookey!” he said, waving a hand at her as if to poke her like he was holding a stick.

“Ah, Magnolia…” Leon began. He was realizing a critical error he had just made. He had not told Magnolia before arriving that he didn’t intend to endorse either Hop or Gloria yet, and Dynamax Bands wouldn’t exactly be of much use to them before starting the gym challenge. But Magnolia was blissfully unaware of Leon’s predicament and seemed interested in keeping it that way, for she ignored him entirely and invited Hop and Gloria into her home. Leon followed halfheartedly, still trying (and failing) to get Magnolia’s attention.

“Now, now, Mr. Champion, it’s rude to interrupt,” she warned him. Her eyes glittered. She turned back to Hop and Gloria and held up two black bands in her other arm. “The Chairman developed these here bands, somehow the technology in them is able to draw out a certain energy from these rocks we call Wishing Stars. The rocks seem to have boundless amounts of it, so one Wishing Star could last a single trainer a lifespan of eighty years, and that’s if they dynamaxed three times a day from birth to death.” She shrugged and fit a stone into each band respectively before clamping them down over Hop and Gloria’s wrists. “Yet the chairman’s complaining about some power crisis in the future. That idiot,” Magnola chuckled at Leon.

“Magnolia,” Leon said through gritted teeth.

“Oh, Lee, you’ve just got to endorse us now!” Hop cried, practically bouncing up and down at his brother’s feet. “You’ve seen us battle, we’ve got Dynamax Bands, it fell at my feet, for Arceus’s sake! I can’t let you down now!”

“Oh, Lee!” Magnolia said, finally acknowledging him. Her eyes were still glittering in a way Leon couldn’t place, but he knew he didn’t like it. “Why won’t you endorse them? Worried about your brother comin’ for your throne?”

Hop pumped a fist in the air. “He’s right to be worried about that!”

Leon felt the blood draining from his face. “Magnolia, it’s—”

“Please?” Hop and Gloria both were begging now. Leon gave an audible groan, unable to look Hop or his friend in the eyes. He was still able to glare at Magnolia though. He was onto her game now. She had done this on purpose!

Leon shakily reached into a pocket in his pants where he kept prewritten recommendations. He had yet to ever use any, but kept them handy just in case he came across some truly astounding trainer. His palms were sweating a little as he handed Gloria one, and then his brother. Hop recreated Leon’s signature pose in frightening detail, his endorsement letter clutched in the hand he pointed to the sky.

“Yes! I won’t let you down, Lee! You’ll be seein’ me in the finals!” Hop declared, pointing at his brother. Leon just swallowed hard. Gloria was a little more reserved about her excitement, but he could see she too was thrilled in the way she trembled and her eyes practically glowed.

“Now, Hop,” Leon finally managed to find words through his dry as dust mouth. “I know you’ve got a tendency to obsess over little things, but you’ve got to let some of that go, okay? Gym challenge is about growin’ up and growin’ stronger. Poké Ball throws, striking poses, they’re all the theatrics, understand?”

Hop paused and gave a nod once Leon had finished. “Oh, I know, I just want to make you feel more confident in me! Gloria!” Hop whipped around to face her. “Let’s battle! Let’s show Lee he’s made a good choice!”

“You’re on!” Gloria grinned.

 —————–

“You did all of that on purpose,” Leon accused Magnolia once Gloria and Hop had left. They had shown him a rightfully passionate battle, but Hop had once again been felled by his childhood friend. He had seemed to take it well, but the stuttering in his words had betrayed him.

“You’d have never endorsed the poor chap otherwise,” Magnolia said simply. “You doubt him and you’re overprotective. Arceus knows what you’re so afraid of, though. He can’t even get to the more dangerous areas on his own without the right clearances. We’re not stupid. Everyone knows gym challengers need some protection, both from the environment and themselves. That friend of his should keep him straight too.”

“But why’d you have to go and mention it in front of ‘em like that? Couldn’t we have talked beforehand? Ugh,” Leon put a hand to his forehead and sat in a chair that had been jostled next to a desk. “It’s not just that I’m worried about. Hop’s so… he just cares so much about everythin’. I just feel like he’s goin’ to get ripped to shreds out there.”

“There’s that overprotectiveness I was talkin’ about,” Magnolia smirked.

“Did I tell you about the Slumberin’ Weald? Those two bolted off into the Slumberin’ Weald to save a wooloo. A wooloo, Magnolia!”

“So? A Pokémon’s a Pokémon, Mr. Champion.”

“What if I hadn’t found ‘em?” Leon demanded.

“The only thing fatal about that scenario is the fact they had you and only you lookin’ for them,” Magnolia remarked scathingly. “You can’t find your way out of a wet paper bag, how on Earth did you find them in the Slumberin’ Weald?”

Leon sputtered in annoyance but couldn’t quite figure out just what he wanted to say. Probably because he knew she was right.

“Anyway, onto other topics. When are you goin’ to marry Sonia?”

Leon choked on the very air in his lungs. “Marry? Sonia? What are you on about now, woman?”

“I’m old, I’m not stupid, that girl’s into you and she’s doin’ nothin’ with her life as my assistant. Give her some purpose, would you?” Magnolia shrugged.

“Alright, Magnolia, it’s been great,” Leon said as he got up and pushed the chair under the desk. “I got to go do somethin’ champion over in Hammerlocke.”

“Like get hammered with your buddies?” Magnolia narrowed her eyes at him. “Is that why they call it Hammerlocke?”

“Magnolia, stop,” Leon laughed anxiously. He gave a weak wave in her direction. “Bye!”

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Part of Pokemon Retold series. Find it on AO3.

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

—————

“You all ready?” Hop asked Gloria as she approached and adjusted his backpack somewhat. She nodded before she even reached him. “Then let’s—”

BAM!

“Oi!” Hop looked around until he spotted the source of the noise. Wooloo was battering her head repeatedly against an old fence gate. But not just any fence gate. This fence gate looked rotten with moisture, gained from years of sitting unmoved in front of a heavily forested pathway that led deep into somewhere known only as the Slumbering Weald. “Wooloo! Knock that off! You won’t like it in there one bit!”

“Is that crazy thing tryin’ to get into the Slumberin’ Weald?” Gloria asked. “That place’s scary. What on Earth’s it want in there for?”

“Who knows,” Hop sighed. “But based on our battle earlier, I doubt it can actually break in. Though one has to wonder why it’s just a little wood gate blockin’ that place off. Professor Magnolia’s granddaughter was in a right awful state once she came out of there! And she was lucky to even be found!”

“You could just… recall the Wooloo,” Gloria said, only half-joking.

Hop, with his Grookey half asleep around his neck, looked at her a little nervously. “I dunno, Wooloo’s been a pet to us for so long, it’s always been outside the Poké Ball. It doesn’t super like it in there.”

Gloria shrugged. “Fair enough—”

CRACK!

Hop glanced back over at the gate just in time to watch it give way and Wooloo roll into the dark and damp depths of the forest. “Wooloo, wait! Get back out here you bloody wooloo!” Hop began to chase after her. His heart was pounding. He had had that Wooloo since he was like, five! Leon had brought her home for him, almost just like Grookey. It hadn’t been exclusively his all those years, no, but… but… it was his friend! He felt pressure on his wrist and his foot skid from under him as he tried to run.

“What gives?!” Hop snapped as he found Gloria was holding his arm.

“Are you mad?” Gloria asked. “You’re goin’ to go runnin’ in there without lettin’ a soul know?”

“It’s bad in there, somethin’ could happen to her before we manage to get help! Please let me go, or help me?” Hop pleaded. His amber eyes were wide and round with worry. He could practically see the cogs in Gloria’s mind whirling to figure out if the risk was worth it. Finally, her grip slacked, and she nodded.

“Alright, alright, let’s go get it, but we go in there for Wooloo and come straight back out!”

“Of course! I don’t exactly want to be in there either, you know!”

Into the forest they went. Within a few feet, the light of the entrance was swallowed up behind them, and only the odd patch of sunlight gleaming through the canopy dared touch the floor. Earthy, leafy scents wafted up from the ground and assaulted their noses. Hop became keenly aware of a dense fog that was also gathered about the trunks of the trees around them.

“Wooloo! Come on, mate, this isn’t funny!” Hop squinted and began to press further into the forest. “It couldn’t have gotten far, could it?”

“Bloody thing can roll, it’s probably all the way at the bottom of the path by now,” Gloria moaned in annoyance. Hop groaned. He knew she was right.

“Yeah, you’re right. We’re goin’ to have to just keep goin’ til we find her.”

They continued their trek deeper yet deeper into the damp, foggy forest. The fog grew thicker and more menacing by the foot, it felt like. Hop continued to call for Wooloo, but there was only silence in response. There was the occasional rustle in the grass but Hop and Gloria both made sure to be careful to avoid disturbing anything wild. The last thing they needed was to waste time battling something here!

Hop recalled his Grookey out of anxiousness when the Pokémon started to get antsy. He didn’t trust it to not run off, and if it escaped, they’d really be in trouble then! Not unless Gloria was somehow as good at climbing trees as a Grookey that was, because Hop knew he certainly wasn’t.

That amusing thought was banished as fog abruptly rolled in even thicker, thick enough to cut through, it felt like. “Gloria, I can’t see a thing!” Hop called, grinding to a halt. Gloria’s footsteps ceased as well.

“Me neither, Hop, we… we should turn back…”

Liiiiaaarrdd!

An earsplitting howl silenced them both. Hop dared to barely breathe. His blood felt frozen. He couldn’t even see Gloria standing right next to him and that set his heart thumping even harder. That couldn’t prepare him for seeing the beastly Pokémon step just inches away from his feet and let out another piercing, menacing howl, though. It reminded him of a Boltund… but it was so much larger, and it was mainly blue. And much unlike any Boltund he’d ever seen, its eyes were narrowed and dark, in a way that screamed a vicious hatred. This… this thing seemed so angry…

“Gloria! We’ve got to go!”

“Way ahead of you, Hop!” Hop heard a Poké Ball opening and saw a flash of red light illuminate the fog around them briefly.

“You’re goin’ to try to fight this thing?!” Hop exclaimed. “Do I need to call Suicide Watch?”

“Calm it! You don’t think this thing would chase us down? Look at it!”

Hop shook his head. All he could imagine in his mind was that adorable Sobble being ripped to shreds by that beastly Pokémon’s cruel jaws, all while its equally as evil eyes watched him and his childhood friend unfeelingly. Yet no sounds of ripping flesh or scales came, and the Pokémon just stood there.

“My attacks aren’t doin’ anythin’ to it!” Gloria shouted.

The fog shrouded around them like billowing smoke. The Pokémon howled again. Hop’s head suddenly felt much heavier, and he stumbled a little. “Gloria…?”

“Hop… I don’t feel so good…”

Liiiiaaarrdd!

Hop’s torso felt too heavy for his legs. He staggered again and this time, hit the ground with his knees. He was briefly aware of the pain from landing so awkwardly, but his attention turned to the Pokémon ahead of them as it snarled at him. He clenched his eyes and raised his arms to defend himself, but no bite met his flesh. His arms fell slack  and that was the last thing he remembered.

 —————–

“Hop! Gloria!”

His voice carried through the forest poorly. It was blocked by far too many trees, as well as a dense, shrouding fog. Charizard with its bright tail and loud footsteps helped guide his way and kept wild Pokémon at bay. Any that seemed interested in him quickly changed their mind once Charizard bared his teeth their way. Leon rubbed his temple. He had come back after waiting at Sonia’s Lab for an hour and had seen the gate to the Slumbering Weald in splinters on the grass. He couldn’t shake the feeling something terrible had happened, and in the Slumbering Weald no less! His chest hummed with worry.

Charizard gave a chuff and slammed its tail against the ground. The gentle sound of a Wooloo followed. Leon rushed to get ahead of Charizard and spotted Hop’s Wooloo nibbling on grass. “So, they are in here,” Leon said. He looked up and squinted through the fog ahead. Something on the ground caught his attention. He thought…

“Hop!” he called, bolting toward a figure sprawled against the ground. Before he finished reaching Hop, his brother stirred and slowly staggered to his feet. Just next to him, Gloria was still passed out against the floor. “Hop! What got into you two to be out here in the Weald?” He brushed Hop’s shoulders off and tugged at his coat, scanning his younger brother up and down for any notable injuries. Hop simply let him, seeming too groggy and confused to fend him off.

“I… we… we were lookin’ for Wooloo,” Hop slurred and shook his head.

Leon turned his attention to Gloria then, who had begun to twitch. He pulled her to her feet, which startled her awake. She stumbled backward and a pained squeak from her Sobble sounded. The little Pokémon skirted out from behind her and started to lick its tail. It also looked shaky and only half-awake. “Sorry, Sobble,” Gloria said quietly, “didn’t mean to step on your tail…”

“This place is off-limits for a reason!” Leon reminded them sharply. His hands found his hips and he gave them both a scathing glare. “Why are you lot in here? I said go to the Pokémon Lab.”

“Wooloo wandered in here,” Hop said softly. His eyes were fixated on his own shoes. “We were worried about it because this place is off-limits. I thought somethin’ bad might happen to it, Lee.”

“Is that right?” Leon asked and looked over at Gloria.

She met his round, worried eyes and nodded. “Yeah,” she said. “That’s it. And then we got attacked by this… this… thing…”

Hop nodded and he lit up in excitement. “It was so big, Lee! It towered over us! It kinda looked like a Boltund, but it had pointed ears, it was all blue, and it had such scary eyes!”

Leon frowned and tilted his head thoughtfully, rubbing his chin. “Did it hurt you? Like hit you or anythin’?”

“Actually… no,” Gloria said. “I was worried it’d chase us down since it looked so strong, so I sent out Sobble,” she paused so she could pick up Sobble and give it a reassuring hug. “And Sobble’s attacks didn’t seem to be able to hit it at all, but it didn’t move. I… I think—”

“I think you lot had hallucinations from all the fog,” Leon muttered. “Now let’s go, before it happens again.”

“What about Wooloo?” Hop asked worriedly.

Leon gestured to his Charizard. Charizard moved its wings to reveal the Wooloo safely tucked beneath it. “Chap’s just fine. Charizard and I found it on the way in.” Leon gestured for them to follow, and Gloria and Hop did just that. Charizard brought up the rear with Wooloo in its clutches. “I think you two did the right thing tryin’ to help Wooloo like that,” Leon finally said. He hated having to admit it—he had been worried sick!—but it was quite courageous of his brother to have enough desire to help another to face the unknown.

“Also, how did you find us, Lee? You’re pants with directions!” Hop asked, laughing hysterically.

Leon gave him a curious look. “That’s nice to hear from my little brother that had me worried sick,” Leon jibed. “Also, pants? What was in that fog, mate?” Leon ruffled Hop’s hair and he weakly struggled against his brother.

“Stop!” Hop gasped at last. Leon finally let him go and laughed.

“Alright, now once we get out of here,” Leon said, “you lot rest at home a bit. Then come to the lab. And I do mean actually come to the lab,” he added pointedly. “Hop, recall Wooloo, would you? Keep it from wanderin’ off.”

Although he had been speaking to Hop, he heard Gloria return Sobble to its Poké Ball. Hop sighed in defeat and agreed. “Alright, Wooloo, come back,” he said. Charizard set the Wooloo down in the path of the Poké Ball’s beam and away Wooloo went. “I just hate keepin’ her all cooped up, you know?”

“Better than havin’ her wander off into the Slumberin’ Weald,” Leon teased. Wooloo were definitely not the most intelligent of Pokémon, and just weren’t smart enough to understand not to wander off. His Charizard was disciplined enough to understand to stay at his side. Not that he thought Charizard would want to leave. He glanced at it. It was looking around them, as vigilant as ever. Charizard acted as his friend, battling companion, and personal bodyguard. He really was his right-hand man.

They finally found the bright exit from the desolate forest after wandering for a short while in the damp underbrush. Hop and Gloria found new energy and raced ahead of Leon. “Sunlight!” Gloria cried. “I thought I’d never see it again! Thought that wretched thing was goin’ to have me for dinner!”

Hop just made a beeline straight for his house. “C’mon, Gloria, go rest so we can go to the Pokémon Lab!”

“Don’t you want like, five minutes to enjoy bein’ alive?” Gloria hollered after him even though she knew he was already gone. She shook her head. “Thanks, Leon, for savin’ us back there.”

Leon grinned wide and struck that familiar pose, jabbing two fingers at the sky and looking dramatically toward the ground. His cape billowed as if the universe itself knew how much wind to blow Leon’s way whenever he struck that pose. Really, the secret was that he just hit it with his other hand shortly before jutting the other upward. It happened so fast that most wouldn’t notice. “No problem,” he winked at her. “I’ll see you lot at the lab later!”

Gloria stumbled back to her place, and Leon gave Charizard a pat on the head. “You think you can handle a flight to the lab real quick?” Leon asked.

Charizard allowed Leon onto its back, and once they were aloft, Leon sighed. Those two weren’t getting any recommendations from him this season, that was for sure. Appreciate his brother’s courage to save his Wooloo friend from an unknown threat he did, but it showed just how reckless his brother could still be. The gym challenge encouraged its members to embark in all sorts of dangerous environments and methods of capturing Pokémon. The idea of letting Hop, full of determination and reckless fervor, have free reign of the world at large was just plain scary. He shook the thoughts from his head. He was really looking forward to a good chat with Sonia after all of that!

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Part of Pokemon Retold. Find it on A03.

Prologue

—————————–

“Exhibition or not, Leon, your pristine record is about to end—when I beat you here today!”

“You know I don’t lose battles, Raihan! Charizard—DYNAMAX!”

Gloria couldn’t stay still in her seat. It was always a treat whenever Raihan and Leon battled—which, to be fair, was quite often even outside of the gym challenge seasons—due to just how intense both were. Raihan had an almost feral air about him once he got into battle, and Leon had such unbidden confidence. Though she was miles and miles away from where they were really battling in Wyndon, as she clutched the little Rotom Phone in her hands, she swore she could feel the crackling of the tension from the two in the air.

A harsh slam! pulled her nose from the device. Throwing a look over her shoulder and the back of the couch, she saw Hop rubbing his head and slowly closing the door behind him. She supposed he had ran into the doorframe. Giggling, she raised a brow at him. “Everythin’ okay over there, you Rapidash?”

“Haha, very funny! But hey, you better hurry up and come with me!” Hop exclaimed. He deftly rounded the corner of the couch and gestured for her to get up. “Oh, you’re watchin’ Lee and Raihan’s exhibition,” he said, “well, just record it! That’s what I do with all of Lee’s matches. But come on, come on!”

Gloria’s mother had now entered the room. She put her hands on her hips and cocked her head. “Now Hop, what on Earth’s got you so riled up?”

“Oh!” Hop whirled around to face her. “My bad, miss. You see, uh, well… My brother Lee said he’s goin’ to give us both a Pokémon today! If that’s alright…?”

Gloria practically fell over the back of the sofa trying to climb over it to reach him and her mother. She grabbed Hop’s hands and made him face her. “Really? We’re—we’re getting a Pokémon today?”

Gloria’s mother let out a hardy laugh. “Yes, that’s fine, children. Just be careful, don’t hurt yourselves. Gloria, don’t forget your bag and phone.”

Hop grinned from ear to ear and pulled his hands free from Gloria’s grasp. “Yes! Come on, Gloria, get that bag of yours and let’s go! No time for dallyin’!”

Gloria nodded and scurried upstairs to find her backpack. She was already dressed for the day, and just needed to get that to carry some things in. Her mind was swimming. A Pokémon! She had avoided getting one up to this point since she felt she would have nothing for it to do and would waste its potential, but, well, if Leon was going to hand one out, she certainly wasn’t about to say no. No idiot would say no to a handout from the champion himself!

Once back downstairs, Hop began to laugh hysterically. “What?” she demanded. “What you laughin’ at me for?”

“That bag!” Hop rasped. “That thing looks like it’ll pull you to the floor!”

Gloria rolled her eyes. The bag had belonged to her mother during the gym challenge she had embarked upon during her teen years. It was massive, but at least it had room for everything she could ever want to fit inside it. “So, we goin’ or what?”

“We got to go get Lee from the Wedgehurst Station, he’s rubbish with directions and says his Charizard’s tired,” Hop said as he wiped amused tears from his eyes. “C’mon, the sooner we get him, the sooner we get a Pokémon!”

“Good luck, you too!” Gloria’s mother called. Gloria waved goodbye and ducked out the door in a heartbeat.

As soon as their feet hit the dirt and they no longer had to worry about her mother overhearing them, Gloria and Hop started chattering to one another. They were more excited and louder than a whole flock of Rookidee on an early Sunday morning.

“So, how’d this come about?” Gloria asked.

“Well, he apparently visited yesterday while I was away at Wedgehurst,” Hop said. “And as I was comin’ back from helpin’ at the station, he just started talkin’ to me and was like, ‘Hey, I’m goin’ to come back tomorrow. Want a Pokémon?’ Of course, I said yes!”

“Did he happen to say what they were? Maybe a Yamper, or a Skwovet? Rookidee would be awesome!” Gloria beamed. “Corviknight is just the most majestic Pokémon!”

“Corviknight?” Hop questioned. “Thought you said Rookidee?”

“Don’t be silly, come off it!” Gloria laughed. “Corviknight evolves from Corvisquire, which evolves from Rookidee.”

“Right, right! Sorry, blond moment there I think,” Hop apologized and rubbed the back of his head nervously.

It wasn’t long before they arrived at Wedgehurst. The two towns might as well have been one town, seeing as they were separated by just a short walk down an uninhabited route. You could practically throw a stone from one to the other, but Wedgehurst stubbornly remained outside of Postwick’s jurisdiction, and was home to its very own train station, a Pokémon center, a clothing shop—anything one could need, just about. Gloria and Hop found that today, its typically plain streets were brimming with movement, and it didn’t take long to see why.

A brilliant glow emanated from the center of town. It threw orange and red lights across the gathered crowd. The fire being blown sky-high was of course from Leon’s Charizard. Leon himself was standing ahead of the formidable Fire Pokémon, striking his unmistakable pose. Everyone nearby, including Hop and Gloria, mimicked him, throwing two fingers into the air. Hop took it just a step farther, however, showing how he had perfected the pose over the years.

“Galar has got the strongest trainers in all of the world!” Leon was bellowing across the crowd. “And I want to keep it that way! So, as always, I want all of you to train as hard as you can! Come after me in the Major League if you can! We can keep showing the rest of the world how to have a champion time!”

Raucous cheering followed. Gloria flinched a little from the sheer noise. She had seen Leon and his fans that seemed to converge from the woodwork whenever he was around before, but that didn’t mean she ever started enjoying the crowds he drew. They were noisy and people acted so strangely around him. She loved him too, but she was nowhere near confident enough to stride up to him and demand his attention like others did.

“Oh, and if it isn’t my biggest fan!” Leon locked eyes on Hop and casually strode over to his little brother. He ruffled Hop’s hair and winked at him. “You’ve grown taller, little boy.”

“Lee! You just saw me yesterday!” Hop remarked, moving Leon’s hand off his head. Leon’s Charizard landed behind Leon and appeared to be watching the gathered crowd carefully. His tail swayed irritably. Gloria acutely became aware of how the Charizard never seemed relaxed. It always seemed so tense and anxious…

Leon turned his attention back to the gathered Wedgehurst mob. “Thank you, thank you, everyone! Now, I’ve got some family business to attend to, so I’ll be seein’ you later!” He waved the people goodbye, then whispered something to his Charizard. And with that, Leon, Hop, and Gloria began to walk back to Postwick. Leon’s Charizard brought up the rear, following much more slowly.

“Oh, Champion Leon, please don’t go just yet! Please let me have an autograph!” A feminine voice practically screeched behind them. Gloria heard Leon’s Charizard growl and turned just in time to see it flare its wings wide and stand tall over the woman that had decided to try to follow them. Gloria couldn’t see the woman or Charizard’s face from where she was standing, but she was quite certain the woman’s eyes were bulging from intimidation, and that Charizard had embers curling from the edge of its muzzle.

“Charizard, easy,” Leon said sternly. “No autographs today, I’m afraid. Really, I’ve got to be home for a while.”

Charizard’s throat rumbled to emphasize his trainer’s point.

“Understood!” the woman choked. She pattered away back into Wedgehurst’s borders.

“Man, Charizard is so cool,” Hop said breathlessly. “And so protective!”

Leon didn’t seem to have much of a response for that. Gloria looked up at him with a bit of a frown, wondering why he had nothing to say about such a comment. Leon’s expression was suddenly very unreadable and stoic. She shook her head and silently followed, listening in as Hop and Leon talked a bit here and there. But even Hop didn’t seem to be able to carry a conversation with him. Leon always had lots to say in public, but Gloria always found it extremely hard to actually talk to him in the few times she had met him in private with Hop. He was so… unyielding…

Back at Hop’s front yard, however, Leon’s bright and sunny persona resumed. He joked a little with them both before chucking three Pokéballs from his belt to the grassy terrain. Hop and Gloria both gazed in wonder at the three creatures that emerged. They had only ever seen these kinds of Pokemon on TV!

——————–

Hop had never seen Pokémon like these in the flesh before! He had heard of them, of course, and seen their evolved forms in matches on TV. They were incredibly exclusive to Galar itself. Sobble, Grookey, and Scorbunny; the deceptively adorable pre-evolutions to the monstrous Inteleon, Rillaboom, and Cinderace respectively. The Sobble in front of him quickly found its way to a small pond that had formed in their yard, where it settled in and began to lazily paddle about. The Grookey scampered over to the tree overlooking the pond and clambered high up its branches. It grabbed hold of a stick with a few leaves clinging to it, and waved it about happily, spinning in circles. The Scorbunny rapidly tapped its powerful feet against the dirt of the battlefield in their yard, and then started to jog in place. Jogging quickly turned to a full-blown run and small embers kicked up behind the Pokémon’s paws. Nobody was all that concerned, as the flames quickly died out.

Hop copped a smirk and crossed his arms. He looked at Gloria. “Why don’t you go ahead and choose? I’ve got my Wooloo already, after all.”

“Sobble,” Gloria practically spat before he had finished telling her that. “Sobble. It’s so cute. Please.”

Leon laughed and gestured for her to head over to the Pokémon. “Sobble’s all yours, Gloria.”

Gloria gleefully bounced over to the pond, where Sobble gave a start from her sudden movements. Gloria extended an arm slowly toward it, and the Sobble warily moved closer to inspect her hand.

“You goin’ to choose now, Hop?” Leon asked.

“Of course! I’m goin’ to go with Grookey!”

“Oh, you little git, you tricked me!” Gloria gave Hop a disbelieving smile. “You wanted me to pick first so you could get the starter that’s super-effective on mine!”

“You got it!” Hop snickered as he got closer, urging the Grookey to come down from the tree. It earnestly bounced down the trunk and landed on his shoulder, where it accidentally jabbed him with its favorite stick a few times. “Hey, ow—”

Scorbunny looked about the yard with a bit of confusion, and then its gaze settled on Leon himself and the massive Charizard standing at his side. It seemed to cower a little bit as Charizard leaned down to sniff its ears. “Haha, come now Charizard, you’re scarin’ it,” Leon said, walking over to the little Scorbunny. He scooped it up in his arms and scratched between its two ears. Its left foot began to kick rhythmically against his chest. “Charizard’s strict, but kind. It’ll be alright,” he reassured it.

Hop couldn’t help but smile wide at his brother. He was just so perfect with all Pokémon he came across. He seemed to know everything one would ever need to know about them and always made fast friends with new ones. He looked over at the Grookey currently chilling on his right shoulder. “I hope you and I will be good friends too, y’know,” Hop said. “You and me, buddy. Just like Wooloo. I’ll let you meet her soon!”

Grookey gave a happy squeak and bashed the stick against Hop’s shoulder a couple more times.

“Well, that kind of hurts… maybe I’ll get used to it,” Hop muttered to himself.

“So!” Leon clapped his hands and brought everyone’s attention back to him. “Everyone satisfied with their choices?”

Hop glanced at Gloria and saw she was cuddling her new Sobble tight against her chest, much to the creature’s apparent dismay. “Definitely!” she replied without ever looking up at them.

Hop nodded vigorously. “I like Grookey!” Grookey seemed to emphasize the point by jabbing Hop in the ear with its stick. Hop cringed and gently pushed the stick away from his head.

“Good! I’m starved. I’ll get the barbecue goin’, what you think?” Leon asked, slapping a hand to his stomach. He had handed his Scorbunny off to Charizard, who was doing its best to keep his tail flame away from the curious little Pokémon.

“Yes, please!” Hop begged. “I’ll go tell Mum and Dad!”

“Sounds good, I’ll get the grill goin’,” Leon said.

 ————————-

Another jab to the neck and Hop finally lost his patience. He gently removed the Grookey from his shoulders and set it to the ground. He blocked its advances to get back on him. “Look you,” he said, “you’re cute, but that stick bloody hurts. Stay off my shoulders or stop jabbin’ me, would you?”

It huffed at him and prodded his Wooloo laying next to them. They were outside still and had gathered beneath the shade of the big tree next to the shallow pond. Away from everyone else, Hop enjoyed talking to Wooloo, so he decided the best way to start off his relationship with his new partner would be to talk to it as well. Wooloo was less than affected by Grookey’s jabs. Her thick layer of wool meant the stick barely fazed her. She looked as unaware as ever.

“You know, it’s so weird havin’ Leon over,” Hop said, petting Wooloo’s head gently. He glanced past the two Pokémon over at his brother. He was leaned over the grill. He had begrudgingly removed his cape to prevent it from getting caught in the grill’s stray flames and had even pulled his hair back. A few people were gathered around him and Charizard was laying nearby, lazily flicking its tail to keep Leon’s Scorbunny busy. It appeared to be dozing off on occasion, but every time it did that, its tail would fall flat against the ground, and Scorbunny would seize the chance to land directly on it. In turn, Charizard would jolt awake, causing its tail to lash and throwing Scorbunny from on top of it. Scorbunny must have seen it as a game since it kept coming back.

Hop kind of wished he could have been over there talking to Leon, but some reservation kept him planted in place with his two Pokémon. He always found it hard to talk to Leon whenever it wasn’t private or with just immediate family. Leon had a slightly different persona when others were around and sometimes he could say things that didn’t quite make sense. Hop also couldn’t shake the feeling that he came off as annoying to his brother. Leon had to be dealing with people constantly, all day, every day; having your irritating little brother at your side constantly begging for attention probably wasn’t very fun.

He jumped as Gloria sat down next to him. “Oh, h-hey, Gloria!” he stammered.

“So, why you think Lee gave us Pokémon, anyway?” she asked, a mischievous glint in her eyes. “Do you think Lee’s goin’ to… endorse us?”

“Shut up!” Hop gasped. “You think he’s goin’ to endorse us?”

“I dunno, really,” Gloria giggled, “but why randomly give us three super rare Galarian-exclusive Pokémon if not to give us a head start on the gym challenge, hmm?”

“You’ve got a good point…” Hop said, rubbing his chin. “Man, I hope he does!”

Gloria fell silent for a moment as she looked over at the grill. “Who even are those people?” she asked about the small throng of people gathered around him.

Hop shrugged. “I’m not sure to be honest. But I’m sure they’re just good friends to him or somethin’.”

Gloria sighed. “Yeah, sounds about right.”

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Find more info about Pokemon Retold series here

Part of Pokemon Retold. Find it on AO3 

Pokemon Black on FFN

Pokemon Black on AO3

Pokemon Sword/Shield on FFN

Pokemon Sword/Shield on AO3

He’s chasing a ghost and she wishes he’d see sense. Follow Hop and Gloria as they discover themselves on a trek through Galar.

———————-

Pokémon Sword & Shield: The Novel

Prologue - Endorsements

Charizard huffed as its feet touched the ground. Powerful wings beat against the wind to keep it steady until it was supported properly by the earth below. Leon’s hands had been coiled deliberately around its horns, while he had sat safely between the Charizard’s shoulder blades. His legs had been swung around past the creature’s neck. Charizard shook its head and glanced back at Leon patiently. Leon chuckled in amusement and hopped off the Charizard’s back. He petted its muzzle gently, and thanked it kindly, recalling it so he could go inside and keep a low profile. Or attempt to. Being the champion, it was a little difficult to keep hidden, and to be honest, Leon enjoyed the attention and fame. Being surprised by suspiciously observant fans was a treat he guiltily relished.

Not that he thought there may be any here, however; he was standing just outside of his family’s home in Postwick. Tall hedges and a long, winding walkway with a steel gate at the end kept most nosy fans at bay. His Charizard had just landed over it and in front of the doorway. He was greeted by a noisy Wooloo skidding across the grass toward him as he approached the door to the house. The Wooloo gently headbutted his leg to say, “hello!”

Leon issued a short series of three knocks and then flicked the doorknob. Upon entering the house, he called out for his family. His mother and father both gave a startled reply, but Hop was silent. “We’ll be right down!” his mother called. “And Hop’s away at Wedgehurst right now; he was helpin’ with the tourists down that way!” his father added.

“Alright, I’ll go make myself at home then,” Leon laughed back at them cheekily. He went into a pristine, almost unrecognizable living room, and flopped on a blue cloth chair. When he had stayed at home last, the living room had constantly been in a state of busy disarray, thanks to his and Hop’s obsession with championship matches (both new and repeats – they often would watch matches again and again together or the rare recorded match from another region). There would often be myriad red solo cups scattered across every available furnished surface in the room and blankets and pillows would end up on the floor. Today, however, the room appeared untouched. Soft white carpet, only lightly brushed with aged stains here and there, covered the entirety of the room’s floor. A pastel blue couch lined the back wall and two recliners to match were aligned to each adjacent corner. A medium-sized flatscreen projected at a slight angle from the wall. The screen was blank.

His parents soon joined him. His father set a couple of mugs of coffee on the table on square Yamper coasters, and his mother moved over to hug him tightly. Leon happily obliged and curled his arms around her. He squeezed jokingly. She huffed and laughed, “Calm down Brutus!”

“Why couldn’t you have called first?” his father complained. “Hop’s away at Wedgehurst, he’s goin’ to be so upset he missed you comin’ home.”

“Oh, I was plannin’ to be here tomorrow, see,” Leon said smoothly. Really, his reasoning for avoiding Hop was a lot more complex than that. “It’s a bit busy, bein’ champion and all.”

His mother rolled her eyes. “Yes, yes, Lee, we know. We’re very, very proud. Now, what brings you today?”

“Well, to be honest…” Leon leaned forward and put a hand to his chin. “I’ve been thinkin’ about something lately and I can’t seem to figure it out. Hop’s friend, Gloria, I keep hearin’ about her and all the cool stuff she tells Hop, and I even met her a few times… She really seems like she’d be a good fit for the gym challenge, you know? Seems to really have her head on her shoulders straight.”

“But?” his father asked, giving him a knowing look.

“But… I’m not sure if I’d be comfortable with Hop gettin’ an endorsement—”

“That’s why you showed up while Hop was out,” his mother muttered.

“—because he just takes everything so to heart, you know? I feel like he’d have a really hard time findin’ his stride.”

“You’ve so little faith in him,” his father remarked. He took a sip of coffee; his hand obscured most of the Boltund image printed on the side of the dark blue mug. “He’s your brother. You’re the champion. Why aren’t you more willing to give him a chance?”

“And you want to endorse his best friend but not him? My, Lee, I think that would hurt a lot more than anything any random trainer or challenger could do,” his mother said, shaking her head. She sighed and looked at him in the eyes. “We’re very proud of you and Hop too. But Hop idolizes you. He just wants a chance to prove he’s got some worth. We know he’s got worth without provin’ anythin’, but he doesn’t. We’re honestly strugglin’ to keep him busy, and you know how he gets when he’s bored. Why don’t you just endorse him?”

Yeah, Leon did know how his brother acted when he was bored. He was prying, irritating, and somehow also became very depressing to be around. He would just mope because he had nothing to do, it was so strange to Leon; he loved it when he had nothing to do! He sighed and looked back at them without meeting their eyes. “Maybe I’ll just wait to endorse them both next gym challenge season,” he said a little weakly. They had no actual power over him, of course, and he knew that. Leon just enjoyed approval. Disappointment was foreign to him and the idea of it alone was enough to put a bitter taste on his tongue.

“Fine,” his mother huffed. “Now can we talk about literally anything except the gym challenge?” She scooped up the TV remote from the ornate coffee table. “There’s always—”

“I’m really sorry,” Leon interrupted her, “but I can’t stay much longer. I just really needed a quick chin-wag to get my thoughts clear.”

“We understand, son,” his father said and smiled warmly after him. His mother nodded after him, but Leon couldn’t quite shake the nagging feeling she was unhappy with him. He thanked them for their time and left the room, heading for the front door.

He felt a bit guilty for wanting to push back Hop and Gloria’s endorsements for season. It was only three months, but he had no way of knowing that he would be willing to do it then, either. He thought that perhaps he should do something else nice for them to soften the blow from him refusing to endorse them still. Maybe, he thought, he’d give them a Pokémon they could bond with in preparation for the next gym challenge season! Maybe then he would feel much more confident about sending them off with recommendations next season.

He snapped his fingers. “That’s the perfect idea!” he said aloud as he shut the door to the house behind him.

“What’s a perfect idea, Lee? Also, you’re here!”

Leon looked up and saw a thin figure racing toward him. He blinked and suddenly the breath left his lungs as arms tightly latched around his torso. He laughed and looked down at Hop. His younger brother was just so energetic… not to mention fast! Not that Leon himself was laid-back by any means, but he admired Hop’s enthusiasm. “Yes, yes, I’m here. And I was just thinkin’ that tomorrow I’ll visit again, and tomorrow… well, I might have somethin’ for you and your friend.”

Hop slowly let go and raised a brow as he looked up at Leon. He had puffy black hair that gave off an almost purple sheen in bright sunlight, much like Leon himself. His golden eyes glowed brightly in excitement. “What do you mean…?”

“Tomorrow,” Leon started and drew in a slow breath to up the tension, “I’ll be bringin’ you lot a Pokémon.” He abruptly started tickling Hop and shoved him a little. Hop began to sputter and push him away.

“A Pokémon? For real?!” Hop exclaimed once he was free, completely ignorant of every other detail of the conversation thus far. “You’re goin’ to bring Pokémon for us?! Like, one for battlin’? Not a Wooloo?”

“What other kind? You’ve already got a Wooloo,” Leon snorted in amusement. He ruffled Hop’s hair and adjusted his cape. “Alright, now while you ruminate over that for the night, I’ve got some business to tend to. I’ll see you tomorrow, alright, little bro?”

“You got it, Lee! I’ll definitely make sure we’re ready!”

“Good,” Leon snickered as Hop bolted into the house. The front door waved wildly behind him, as it was forgotten in Hop’s fervor. Leon shook his head and closed the door for them. Then he tossed out his Charizard again. The Pokémon calmly looked back at him and then spread its wings and leaned down. Although Charizard was strong, Leon didn’t like forcing it to carry him around too much, so he and Charizard had adopted an unspoken rule; if Charizard did what he was doing now, it meant Leon was allowed to ride him somewhere. If Charizard stayed upright or yawned, Leon wouldn’t even ask. He thanked the Charizard and got into place about the creature’s shoulders. It hoisted him up and off into the skies with ease thanks to its muscles that had been honed over fifteen years of battling.

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