“Heracross, use Rock Slide!”
The blue armored beetle began mercilessly pounding the ground, breaking it apart and sending chunks of the stadium’s ground at the intimidating purple scorpion across from it.
“You can take it, Drapion!” Drapion’s trainer, a woman with dark purple hair wearing a black beanie and a black jacket shouted. “Power through it and use Fire Fang!”
Drapion, crossing its large arms in front of its face, powered forward on its four legs, being pelted by rocks as it did so. Soon it was right in front of Heracross and it opened its mouth, its fangs beginning to glow red.
Heracross’s trainer, a woman with long black hair tied into a ponytail and dressed in a martial arts gi, shot out her hand. “Now’s your chance, Heracross! Use Megahorn!” Heracross reared back its head, building power in its forked horn.
Before it could slam it into Drapion, the scorpion used its large claws to hold Heracross in place, then bit down into the beetle with red-hot fangs. The impact created a massive burst of flames, and when the smoke cleared…
“Heracross is down!” The nearby referee shouted. “Mel is out of usable Pokemon! Once again, Raleigh is the champion!”
The crowd in the stadium went nuts as the League Champion was declared the victor of this exhibition match. Raleigh, the purple-haired woman, recalled Drapion into its Pokeball, the red light enveloping the Poison/Dark-type before it became one with it and zoomed back into the ball.
“It’s hardly a surprise, but that didn’t make the fight any less exciting!” sounded the voice of the announcer over the PA. “Mel certainly held her own, as to be expected from Feystone’s Gym Leader, but Raleigh’s team hardly even broke a sweat!”
Mel approached the downed Heracross, putting her hand on its carapace in a soothing manner. “Good job, Hera. You didn’t let me down.”
As the Gym Leader recalled her own Pokemon, Raleigh stepped into the center of the arena, which had a Pokeball pattern on the turf (though a good chunk of it had been torn apart by Heracross’s Rock Slide and an earlier use of Earthquake) and raised her hands in a gesture to quiet everyone down.
“Thank you. Thank you, everyone,” she spoke loudly as the cheering died down. “I’d like to thank Mel for the battle. But more importantly,” she said to the now silent audience, “I have an announcement I’d like to make…”
The morning sun rose over Shorvul Town. The suburbs were situated on a corner of land with a river to the west and the ocean to the south. Nestled against the dry field to the north, the brownish-red rooftops gave the town the appearance of rusted metal from above. The town itself was not big or bustling. If one were to see this town and only this town, it would feed the stereotype of Allanza being the nice, quiet next-door neighbor of Orre.
The Allanza Region’s age requirement to receive a Trainer license was 14 years old, sort of a happy medium between Kanto’s requirement being 10 and the Unova region’s more strict 16. For Oliver Clairmont, his 14th birthday could not come soon enough.
The black-haired boy was facing away from his bedroom window, allowing him to easily ignore the rising sun shining in. It was the weekend, after all, and he didn’t have his license just yet, so he didn’t exactly feel the need to wake up at a timely hour, and figured he could sleep in.
It would seem the two small Pokemon who entered the room disagreed.
The door was swung open telekinetically courtesy of Ralts. The small, white, humanoid Pokemon with red, disc-like horns rolled her eyes from under her green hair that resembled a bowl cut. She turned to the other, a Joltik, which bobbed its yellow fuzzy body, as it didn’t exactly have a head to nod.
On its four legs, it swiftly hopped up onto Oliver’s bed and tapped on his head impatiently. Oliver merely groaned in response. Glaring at him with his four compound eyes, Joltik delivered a small electric shock. Not a severe shock, it was more the kind of shock you’d get if you touched the metal bit of a trampoline with your bare hands. Nonetheless it had the desired effect and Oliver jolted awake.
“All right, all right, I’m up! Geez…” Oliver rubbed the back of his neck where the electrical shock had taken place. Joltik had since crawled over to Oliver’s left shoulder where it was sitting smugly. Oliver blinked a couple times then began feeling around on his nearby desk.
Squinting his hazel eyes, he peered at his desk and then frowned. “Either of you guys remember where I put my glasses?” Ralts waddled over to the desk and peered around it until she saw the missing eyewear, which Oliver had set on top of a notebook the night before that had the same black color as the glasses’ frame, thus causing it to blend in.
She telekinetically levitated the glasses over to Oliver. “Thanks, Ralts.” He put them on and stood up, stretching. Joltik had since moved down from his perch and was now rummaging around in a drawer in that same desk, before finally tossing a AAA battery out and onto the floor. Oliver smiled as the little bug jumped down to it and started feeding off of the electricity from it.
“Joltik’s got the right idea, let’s go get some breakfast,” Oliver said as he picked up Ralts and proceeded to head downstairs to the kitchen. Ralts could walk on her own, of course, but she rather liked being carried.
“Morning honey!” Oliver’s mother called, her loose, unkempt hair the same black color, though a bit lighter with age.
“Morning, mom. Did you send the wake-up call?”
“Yeah, I did. I didn’t want to go up and get you while I had food on the stove.”
“Why couldn’t I just sleep in?”
“Didn’t you remember? Our new neighbors’ boat arrived today and they’re going to start moving in soon.”
Oliver’s eyes widened. He completely forgot! A new family was moving next door from the Galar region and he had volunteered (read: was volunteered by his mother) to help do the heavy lifting. Normally a moving company would come in with some Machoke or something, but the family had opted to do the move the old-fashioned way.
Besides, they had a girl about Oliver’s age and he could use more friends, his mother had reasoned.
Oliver hurriedly stuffed some hard-boiled eggs into his face and rushed back upstairs to get dressed. Now, Oliver didn’t really spend that much time thinking about girls, but he did want to make a good first impression, and showing up to do some heavy lifting was a good way to do just that. Or so he had heard.
A couple minutes later, he dashed back downstairs dressed in a forest green windbreaker and khaki cargo pants. He also had a black backpack which Ralts was riding in, looking quite relaxed, while Joltik had resumed his post on Oliver’s left shoulder. The boy and his two Pokemon went out the door.
The move had already started when he arrived at the formerly vacant house, seeing a large, brick-shaped man lifting a sofa opposite a young man who looked to be about 3 years Oliver’s senior.
“‘Scuse me,” he said, walking towards them, “You guys the Taylors?”
“Aye, that’s us,” the man said, smiling warmly at the new arrival. “Ye mist be Oliver, if ah'ament mistaken.” He turned his head back towards the dock where they were moving their things from. “Gies a haun, wull ye? We aye hae a lot o' boxes left.”
“I understood maybe half of that, but okay.”
The boat was only a short walk away, as the house wasn’t too far from shore. Luckily most of the boxes were already out on the dock. Oliver set his backpack on the ground and let Ralts out. “Alright, your psychic powers might work on some of the lighter stuff, so help out with that, alright?” Ralts nodded.
“And Joltik? Maybe stay up here, don’t want anyone to accidentally step on you again.” Joltik gave another full-body nod.
Oliver approached one of the boxes and crouched down to lift it, only to hear a girl’s voice nearby.
“Na, na, na, dinnae tip ower, please na, oh f**k oh f**k oh sh**e-”
Not batting an eye at her pottymouth (he heard worse on an average school day) he turned to see someone holding a rather tall box that was on the verge of tipping over. Acting quickly, Oliver ran over and steadied it.
“You okay there?”
“Aye, thank ye, this is richt fragile, ah dinnae wantae break this. By th' wey, who the f**k urr ye?”
Oliver chuckled. “I’m Oliver. And you?”
“A’m Moira. Nice tae meet ye! Ye mind helpin’ me carry this?”
And with that, the two began awkwardly moving towards the house, the two of them looking like two Krabby as they shuffled with their awkwardly-shaped package.
They soon made it into the house and set the thing down, and Oliver finally got a good look at Moira. She was a couple inches shorter than him with brown hair in a bob, wearing a black shirt under a red hoodie and a pleated purple skirt.
“Thanks again,” Moira said, rubbing her hands to get the soreness out of them. “Kin ye help me shift th' rest o' thaim?”
“Well I mean… that’s why I’m here,” Oliver said, running his hand through his hair, trying to sound smooth but only managing to vaguely confused. Moira chuckled.
“A' richt, let's git tae it then.”
The rest of the move went pretty smoothly. It was half past 10 when they finished, and they invited Oliver to stay for lunch, which he accepted. He learned that her older brother’s name was Stephen and that they had moved here because Moira’s mother worked for a shipping company, the name of which Oliver didn’t recognize.
But more importantly…
“A'm a Pokemon trainer, whit aboot ye?”
“Oh, me? I mean, I’m not 14 yet, but I’m turning 14 in a couple weeks. Then I can get my license. Then I can use my Pokemon in actual battles-”
“Wait, hauld yer Mudsdales, fourteen? A got ma card a while back... oh sh**e, will mine e'en work here?” Moira asked with a worried expression.
“Oh, don’t worry,” Oliver reassured, waving his hand in the air as though swatting an invisible fly. “Allanza’s pretty lenient about this sort of thing, if it’s valid in Galar they’ll let you keep it.”
“Och, that's guid tae hear,” she said in a sigh of relief.
“Hey, if you’re already a trainer, does that mean you’ve got Pokemon?”
“O' coorse ah dae!” Moira proudly replied, producing two simple red Pokeballs. “Only thae twa though. Th' rest ur wi' mah uncle. Thay wouldn't let me bring th' rest wi' me,” she explained. Oliver nodded. Galar was incredibly paranoid about invasive species and its border policies were famously strict about what Pokemon were allowed in or out of the region. He remembered hearing the story of one unfortunate fellow who was detained for trying to bring a Dunsparce, of all Pokemon, into the country.
“Well, let’s see them!” Oliver eagerly asked, Ralts (who was currently eating a sandwich twice as big as she was) and Joltik equally curious to meet their potential new friends.
“Sure thin’. They probably want lunch ower. Come on oot!” she exclaimed, tossing the Pokeballs nearby, releasing a flash of red light as her Sobble and Wooloo came into view.
Sobble was a timid blue lizard with a round head, a yellow fin on top of its head, and big, innocent, teary eyes. Wooloo was almost perfectly spherical and covered in soft white wool with black spots, as well as having four cloven hooves and rectangular eyes on its black muzzle. The two looked around curiously, Sobble looking rather uncomfortable with his new surroundings, and Wooloo was annoyed because Joltik had already leapt into her fur and began to feed on the static electricity buildup within it.
Oliver laughed at Joltik’s first impression as Ralts made to calm Sobble down from his panic. All in all, the first introduction went pretty smoothly once they fished Joltik out of Wooloo’s wool.
It was then that an important question occurred to Oliver.
“Were you planning on taking the Gym Challenge?”
“O’ coorse, bit dinnae a neit tae get a sponsorship tae tak part?”
Taking a moment to translate her accent, Oliver realized there was that hiccup. But then he smiled and waved his hand in the air again. “Don’t worry. We should be able to get Professor Pine to help us with that. She lives in Searrow, the next town over. My old babysitter Scarlet works for her, and she’s still a friend of the family. She’ll vouch for us. Tell you what, I’ll give her a call,” he added, pulling his phone (a year-old Rotom phone) out of his pocket.
“That's guid tae hear. Whit's yer champion lik'?”
“Oh, Raleigh? She’s awesome! She became the champ six years ago and hasn’t lost a match since.”
“Soonds kinda lik' Galar’s auld champion Leon. He ne'er lost a match 'til some bairn cried Gloria teuk him doon a peg.”
“We need to work on that accent,” Oliver said as he unlocked his phone. Moira looked like she was about to fire back when Oliver got a strange look on his face. He tapped on the phone’s screen, read something to himself, and suddenly the color drained from his face.
Oliver turned the phone around so Moira could see. It was opened to a news article on the internet. She read the headline and gave a low whistle.
LEAGUE CHAMPION ANNOUNCES EARLY RETIREMENT!
Raleigh Gardener, age 27, has just announced that she intends to step down from her position as the champion of the Allanza Region’s Pokemon League. After becoming champion, Raleigh successfully defended her title for six years without suffering a single loss.
“I understand a lot of my fans will be surprised, and quite frankly, upset by my decision,” she stated, “But I feel like I already hit my peak, and I just don’t get the same satisfaction out of victory anymore. I believe my own team feels the same as well. Besides, I feel like the Gym Challenge could do with some fresh blood.”
When asked if she plans to retire from Pokemon training altogether, Raleigh affirmed that she does not intend to do so, though she expressed doubt she would take part in many official events in the future.
This announcement was made just two weeks before the start of this year’s Gym Challenge, so it can be expected that the number of applicants will be much higher than the past few years. The Elite Four, the other four trainers who manage to place in the finals in every year’s tournament, could not be reached for comment.