Guzma had Moon in a headlock. Her hat was on the ground and he was messing up her hair while she laughed.
Meanwhile, Leon laid flat on his back, staring vacantly up at the branches of the tree above him. Hop was kneeling on his chest and gently poking at his brother's cheek.
"Lee? Ye ok?"
Leon blinked a couple times as he rebooted. An enormous smile spread across his face.
He grabbed the scrawny child and hugged him cheek to cheek.
The boy giggled as he desperately tried to squirm free from the bone crushing embrace.
After another minute of struggling and snickering, the two kids were released and sitting opposite the men.
Moon, who had pulled her hat back on without even trying to fix her hair, said, "Happy to see you two getting along."
She side eyed Guzma.
"Also, Z'Goose, this is Lee's brother. You didn't get to meet him the other day over at the Shady House."
The boy leaned across with a hand outstretched and said, "Well met, mate! Ah'm Hop!"
Guzma's initial, gut reaction would be to scoff, say something cocky, and swat his hand away. But, he made the mistake of meeting the boy's eyes for a mere fraction of a second.
His big, bright, golden eyes.
Guzma clutched the boy's (much) smaller hand in his own and simply replied, "Guzma."
"Hop's one of the strongest trainers in Galar!" beamed Moon proudly.
He elbowed her in the side and rubbed the back of his head bashfully.
"Ah'm no that good...is no like ah'm champion or anything..." he mumbled.
"And Guzma is the strongest Bug trainer I've ever known!"
The Team Skull Boss' head snapped back to Moon.
What did she just say? Did she just introduce him with a compliment?
She didn't make some crack about him being a washed up crime lord? Their local burnout? Or the island's patron saint of perpetual unemployment?
He narrowed his eyes and interrogated, "You ok Moon? Fall off ya mudsdale again?"
"Just statin' the facts my dude. I've been to four different regions at this point and no one I've fought can shake a stick at you."
The boss rolled his eyes but smiled. As much as she gives him a hard time, she's a real sweet kid.
"So," she went on, clasping her hands together, "shall we discuss the donphan in the room?"1
Guzma and Leon exchanged apprehensive looks.
She clarified, "Leon...why are you dressed like an absolute wanker?"
"Oh c'mon!" the champ whined while Guzma laughed.
He was laughing partly at that reaction and partly at the absurdity of the word 'wanker' being said in the girl's accent, or lack thereof.
"Moon! Dinnae be like that!" Hop scolded while motioning to his brother, "Ma big bro's a right handsome bloke in awthing he wears!
Besides, if anything makes him look like a wanker it's that stuffy battle tower uniform."
"Hooooooop!" Leon whined again reaching over and mussing up the boy's purple hair with both hands.
"Battle tower uniform, eh?" inquired Guzma with his brow raised at the punk-dressed Galarian.
"Do ya wanna see pictures?" asked Moon.
"Naw he disnae!" pleaded Leon.
"Yaw he does-yae!" countered Guzma.
The former champion just laid back down with his hat over his face while Moon showed Guzma some photos on her phone.
"Wow...just, wow...and right when I was running out of things to tease you about."
Leon blindly flailed his arm around until his hand eventually found Guzma's knee. Finding his target, he punched him half-heartedly.
"Hey, could be worse," mentioned Guzma with a shrug, "At least it's a more distinguished look than that chad-ass, gym rattata outfit ya wear."
Leon made a noise behind his hat that Guzma could only describe as completely unintelligible yet unmistakably Galarian.
Hop grabbed his brother's hand and pulled him back up.
"Hey, Lee! Lee! Guess what we did today! Guess!"
The corner of Guzma's mouth curved upward.
It's funny...the kid sounds just like he did in that story Leon told him.
"Oh, I dinnae Hop, whit did ye do?"
"We came tae watch ye at the Battle Royal Dome and it looked like fun so we entered some matches!"
"Brilliant! How'd it go?"
Hop crossed his arms and announced proudly, "I won the most rounds!"
"You only won the most 'cuz ya kept stealing my kills!" argued the girl.
"Bloody hell Moon, do ye gotty phrase it like that?"
"Hop! Watch your fucking language!"
Man, she has got to stop hanging out with him.
The younger boy proceeded to info dump all about the intricacies of today's battles to his brother.
Leon sat and listened carefully, genuinely engaged in their conversation.
Guzma tried to follow along too but...damn! This kid is intense! Does he ever take a fucking breath? Boy's got enough energy fit to rival Hau!
Guzma shuddered at just the mere thought of what it'd be like if they were both in the same place at the same time...
Moon scooted herself over to be on the opposite side of her white-haired friend.
"Howzit?" she asked.
"Not bad. You?"
"Been managing...um...Plumeria texted me and said ya took the deal...but I didn't expect to see you two gettin' so familiar so quickly."
He looked over at the smirk on her face.
Guzma paused and then said, "You saw that?"
"Only all of it."
He sighed and said flatly, "He was asking me about honi."
"And you know I'm shit at explaining stuff..."
"It's easier just to do it than put it in words sometimes!"
"Sure G....whatever ya say..."
He shoved her shoulder while she snickered.
"Hop and I were surprised when we saw Lee bolt out the dome after his last match. I take it he was on his way to meet you?"
Guzma just looked at her.
"It was pretty funny though. He ran out the front and turned right, like going toward route 6. Then Charizard let himself out of his ball and started dragging him in the other direction."
He chuckled and swung his arm around the girl's small shoulders.
"Enough about that. Ya gonna tell me about how ya lost to Galar Jr. over there?" he sneered.
"I didn't lose! Er...not really anyway...It's not like it was a real battle. It's just the Battle Royal..."
Champion or not, Moon had always been trubbish at the Battle Royal.
"You're way too impatient, ya know."
"Me? Impatient?! That don't got nothing to do with it!"
She put her hands to her temples in frustration.
"It's just stupid! The whole concept it stupid!
Oh, look! Everyone used protect and substitute on the first turn!
Who could've seen that coming?!"
She threw her head back and groaned.
"Just let me land a freaking hit for Arceus sake!"
"Take it easy lil miz Champion. Ya can't be the best at everything."
He hugged her against him with his one arm, causing an eruption of unsolicited 'awes' from the (apparently) eavesdropping brothers.
"Wow Guzma, didnae take ye fer such a softy!" teased Leon.
"Mind ya business, crumpet muncher!" Guzma shot back, snatching the cap off Leon's head.
The pale man was now standing with the hat in one hand and the other on Leon's chest as he desperately tried to reclaim it.
Even though Guzma's still convinced the Galarian's physique is mostly vanity muscle, he's still pretty strong. This was evident as he felt the soles of his feet slide backwards in the dirt and how he felt the muscles ripple under his palm as the man tried to reach for his hat.
Guzma threw the hat like a disk and the girl jumped up and caught it. She began to run, only to be intercepted by the younger Galarian.
As soon as he had let go of the hat, Guzma jumped back, causing Leon to lose his footing and stumble forward. He ran over to where Moon was struggling with Hop, who was now at her back trying to reach the hat over her shoulder as she pivoted on one foot to prevent him from coming round.
She successfully handed off the item as the Alolan rushed by.
Meanwhile, Leon recovered and tried to tackle him, but Guzma managed to dodge.
Before anyone could do or say anything else, the white haired man vanished.
Hop and Leon looked around frantically and then exchanged flabbergasted looks.
Moon just eyed them with her arms crossed and a self-satisfied look on her face.
They heard a whistle.
The two Glarians slowly looked up toward the source of the sound.
Guzma was standing on a branch at the very top of the tree, gingerly leaning against the trunk and lazily fanning himself with Leon's snapback.
"Alola: one. Galar: nuhtin', bitches!" he announced, tossing the hat back down with an ostentatious flick of the wrist.
Leon snagged it out of the air with a huff.
"How the bloody hell ye get up there so fast?!"
"What can I say except I'm awesome," he sang in a booming, but controlled, baritone voice.
The three of them watched on as he descended.
He moves incredibly gracefully from branch to branch, despite being such a big guy.
Leon took note of this.
Guzma hooked his legs on a lower branch and swung himself upside down in front of the irritated man.
With a toothy grin he said, "Now that I think about it...it's actually two for Alola if ya count our bet from earlier."
The head-strong dorks stood/hung there, leering at each other like rival Tauros during rutting season. Guzma didn't even flinch when his shades slid off his head and hit the ground.
"Would y'all just give it a rest!" Moon lamented, "Why's everything gotta be an Arc-damn competition?"
"Killjoy," grumbled Guzma with a shrug.
He unhooked himself from the branch and landed on the palms of his hands. He slowly lowered himself, as if doing a standing push up, and grabbed the temple of his glasses between his teeth. Then he sprung up, landing on his feet.
What a show off.
Replacing his shades and pulling his tank down over his exposed stomach, he turned to Moon and said, "So, what ya fakas up to te rest te night? Gonna camp out or head back to Melemele?"
"Actually"-she turned to Leon-"Hop said Gloria has an exhibition match tonight-"
"Can we come tae yer room and watch it, Lee?! Please?!" Hop finished for her, barely able to contain his excitement.
As he said this, he wandered over and lifted both kids up and sat them on his broad shoulders in one smooth motion.
Hop laughed in earnest while Moon rolled her eyes.
What were the odds she'd ever meet someone that's just as much of a show off as the boss?
They walked back to the hotel.
Hop and Moon were too restless to ride on Leon for very long. They ended up just walking between the men most of the way.
They all chatted about this and that and the other thing as they made their way down the route.
Moon rambled off some blatantly incorrect information about araquanids to get a rise out of Guzma.
He, of course, took the bait and adamantly argued that multiple peer reviewed, published research articles show absolutely no significant evidence to suggest that araquanids deliberately drown non-prey items in the water bubble around their heads.
Also that every recorded incident of injury of a human by an araquanid was a direct result of said humans disturbing their nest during hatchling season.
Moon stopped listening since, after all, she knew all this already; she just wanted to make him go off. Leon and Hop, on the other hand, listened intently.
Guzma's shit about explaining things...except when it comes to bugs.
It's true that Moon takes a little bit too much enjoyment out of annoying her old, former enemy, but she mainly incited this whole discourse because she wanted to gauge Leon's reaction to the Alolan thug spouting off facts and jargon like the expert that he is.
She's just a nosy little shit like that.
Although, she could've guessed this result. Hop and Leon are so alike. They both stared at the man with wide, bright eyes as they hung onto every single word he said like it was gospel.
Hop's eyes were shining with curiosity. Leon's eyes were shining with...something else...
Moon just shook her head and chuckled to herself.
After no time at all, they made it to the intersection of the route and the main drag on Heahea city. Guzma started to walk in the opposite direction of the rest of them.
"Z'Goose! Where ya goin'?" called out Moon.
"What ya mean? It's late, I'm going home."
All three of them started shouting things like 'C'mon!' and 'Boo!' and 'Old man!' in attempt to convince him to stay.
Moon ran over and grabbed his hand.
"Come on Guzma, I know ya ain't never seen a dynamax battle before! It'll be fun!"
"I dunno what te fuck you's talkin' about."
"Exactly why ya gotta come!"
"Pass," he said, pulling his hand away.
As he turned to leave again Moon called out, "The guy fighting Gloria mains a centiskorch!"
He paused and turned back toward her. She had a smug expression on her face.
"Sometimes I hate that you know me so well," he mumbled as he walked past her, hands in his pockets, to rejoin the others.
Back up in Leon's room, the kids were out on the lanai visiting with Charizard, Golisopod, and Hop's Dubwool. Leon himself had gone in to take a shower while Guzma laid just chilling out on the bed with Snom on his stomach.
He should've asked when the match started earlier. Due to the time difference between regions, it's not on until midnight.
He looked at his watch.
"11:43," he muttered.
At this rate, he'd have to spend the night here, which isn't a huge problem. It just means he'll have to deal with Plumeria's shit eating grin when he does get back...
He looked over to see the young boy holding onto the larger segment of Goli's forearm. The giant isopod lifted him into the air and began poking and prodding through his purple hair with his mouth parts while Hop laughed.
Snom was eyeing him with her head tilted slightly.
He smiled and stroked the top of her head.
"See ya brother over there?" he asked her, "He's almost as bad as me with trustin' new people."
The little bug chirped.
"He took to that Galar kid real quick though..."
"Yeah, I guess he did take to Leon pretty quickly too..."
He laid his head back down and let out a sigh.
Almost immediately, he heard the sliding door open and the kids rush inside. Next thing he knew, they were on the couch wrestling for the TV remote.
Guzma went over and picked them both up by the back of their collars and suspended them until they settled down like a couple of newborn littens.
"Yes Guzma..." they answered.
He dropped them back onto the couch and then lifted himself over the back, seating himself on Moon's right.
He rested his arm up on the back of the couch while Hop and Moon tried to figure out the remote and find the right channel. After a minute or so, he felt something cold tap his hand.
Leon was standing behind him with a bottle in each hand. He was smiling warmly and had his hair pinned up. Guzma supposed he must've taken a shower without washing his hair. He was also wearing his pajamas from the night before.
The Team Skull Boss accepted the icy beverage.
"Cheers, mate," he said with smiling eyes.
"Cheers, Cuz," he replied as they clinked the bottle's necks together.
Guzma felt a pang of disappointment when he realized the cap was already off. Part of him really wanted to see the Galarian do that thing with his teeth again.
He stared off into the distance for a moment while chewing gently on his bottom lip.
He only snapped out of it when Moon tugged on his sleeve.
"Can I try some?" she asked sweetly.
Guzma looked at her, then at the bottle, then back at her again. He shrugged and handed it to her.
Leon, who went to sit on the opposite side of Hop, shot him a look and Guzma just gently tapped the tip of his nose with his index finger.
After taking a drink, Moon's expression twisted up in disgust.
"That is honestly the worst thing I've ever tasted! How the hell do you drink that?!" she groaned handing it back to him.
The two men silently nodded at each other.
Finally, the match was beginning.
Arceus! The stadium was huge! It was easily triple the size of the Battle Royal Dome!
Two tiny figures entered from each end of the pitch.
The camera panned in when they got to the center to show them shake hands and exchange a few words before turning back to their respective sides.
On the right was the girl from the photograph Moon showed him way back when. On the left was an older man with silver hair.
"Who's that?" he asked turning to the other three.
"That's Kabu, the fire-type gym leader! He's awesome! And he's super nice too!" answered Hop eagerly.
The apparent gym leader's got an intense look in his eye. Guzma isn't usually into older dudes but he's got two eyes that can see and he admits that this silver Delphox is damn good looking.2
The first part of the match was pretty standard. Dude threw out a torkoal to set up drought...girl threw out something that barely looked like it was a living creature that Moon informed him is called a 'runerigus' and is the evolved form of Galarian yamasks.
Torkoal went down and he sent out a Salazzle. She made quick work of the Runerigus with a couple well-timed Foul Plays in conjunction with a focus sash.
Over all, the other three were super into it but Guzma was still kind of meh about the whole thing. It's late and he's tired. His eyelids started to feel heavy.
Finishing off his drink, he set the bottle down on the coffee table and closed his eyes.
After a couple minutes, Moon grabbed his shoulder and shook him.
"Wake up grandpa; check it out."
Guzma looked at the screen and saw that Kabu had one pokémon left while Gloria was on her second to last.
He perked up when he saw the centiskorch out on the field.
Fire/Bug is a cool typing. It's not as rare as Ice/Bug but it's still pretty uncommon. Guzma's never seen a centiskorch in battle, so he's actually pretty interested to see how this plays out.
The girl withdrew her fallen obstagoon and tossed out her last pokémon, a Noivern.
"Clever lass savin' Vern fer last," commented Leon, "She's resisting Fire with Dragon while getting that Flying type advantage."
"We just gotta see if it's enough tae counter the Gigantamax," added Hop.
Moon shushed him and pointed forcefully at the screen.
A vibrant light was encircling the older man and seemed to be absorbing into the ultra ball in his right hand. It grew to an enormous size. He placed his other hand gently on top of it and closed his eyes as the camera zoomed in. When he opened them, Guzma could've sworn he saw them burn with passion, and the gym leader shot put the ball several yards behind him.
"Damn, kapuna's got an arm on him," Guzma commented.
"I know right? Keep watching!" said Moon.
Out of the ball emerged a huge pokémon. Then it got bigger...and bigger...
Finally the connection between Pokemon and ball broke and monster of a being was standing on the pitch.
It roared in a deep timbre that sent a shiver down the Team Skull Boss' spine.
That thing's big.
He must've been staring with a dumbfounded look on his face because Moon laughed and shook his shoulder again.
He looked over at her and exclaimed, "WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT THING!"
"That's still a centiskorch, Guzma," Moon answered.
"Ain't ye never seen a Gigantamax pokémon?" asked Leon.
"STOP JUST SAYING WORDS!"
The camera panned out and was showing all of the people in the stands shielding their eyes from the heat. Some of them had sunglasses, others were holding up their arms, coats, and anything else on hand to block out the radiation emitted by the massive Fire type.
The M.C.'s voice reverberated across the stadium, "Whoa! Ladies and gentlemen, that is HOT!"
You can say that again, Guzma thought to himself.
"Centiskorch is lookin' great today, eh folks? No doubt that ever-burning man of fire has been training hard since his last defeat!" the announcer continued, "Kabu is only one K.O. from victory! But will his Gigantamax be enough to take down the new Champion?!"
Meanwhile, a similar phenomena was happening to the girl and her Noivern grew into a real live Kaiju.
Guzma grabbed Moon by the shoulders and started to shake her as he shouted, "WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!"
"Let go, G! I'll explain it all when it's over! Just freaking watch, ya lolo!"
For the rest of the match, Guzma was pleasantly surprised to find himself just as enthralled and invested as the others. They were all shouting at the screen, wincing whenever anyone landed a hit, and overall just having a festive time.
Suddenly, Leon became distracted.
He smiled to himself as he watched the other man laugh and yell and smile.
So unlike the reserved, disheveled bloke with the dark, sunken eyes he met for the first time just a week or so ago.
"Oi, Lee? Yer staring," Hop whispered into his brother's ear.
Leon had just taken a swig of his drink and almost choked when Hop said that.
He grabbed the back of the boy's jacket and pulled it up and over his head.
"Brat," he teased.
Hop fixed his jacket and leaned against Leon's shoulder. He pulled out his phone and typed something.
Leon felt his phone buzz and saw that he had a text.
[Ye ken ye ma brother nae matter what, richt?]
He let out a gentle sigh and put his arm around the boy's shoulders.
"Ye ken, ah'm yer elder. Thon the kind of thing I shid be tellin' ye."
Hop just shrugged and typed something else into his phone again.
[Ye always support meh. I just want ye tae ken I support ye too.]
Leon smiled and another text came in.
[I love ye Lee <3]
He pulled Hop up to sit on his knee and wrapped both arms around him. He leaned down and rested his face on the top of the boy's head.
He kissed his head and murmured, "I love ye too...ye wee brat."
They returned their attention back to the screen just in time to see Gloria's Noivern land one final blow.
The brothers laughed as Moon shouted 'Shoots!' and Guzma lamented 'Shit!' simultaneously.
After a moment, Leon typed something into his phone.
Hop looked at his new message and smiled up at his brother.