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Glorious Departure

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BREAKING NEWS: Champion Ye Qiu bids farewell to the League

Ye Qiu, the reigning Pokémon Champion for the past eight years, has just announced his retirement.

“We are sad to see such a bright talent leave,” says Chairman Tao, “but we respect Ye Qiu’s decision and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”

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Su Muqiu doesn’t find out about Ye Xiu’s retirement from his social media feed, which is a good thing, because otherwise he might have punted Ye Xiu off his balcony when he dismounted from One Autumn Leaf.

It’s a good thing Ye Xiu is already inside his house when he drops the bombshell.

“I’m retired.”

“Right,” Su Muqiu replies absently, more concerned with thanking Autumn Tree for putting the kettle on. He has no idea how Mucheng and Ye Xiu live without having an extra pair of hands around, really –

“What did you just say?!”

“I’m retired,” Ye Xiu repeats, casually taking a cookie from the box on the coffee table that Su Mucheng keeps stocked. “Do you not watch the news or something?”

Su Muqiu splutters, grabbing his phone to confirm that, yes, all the news outlets are reporting the same press coverage right now.

“But why retire?” he asks, accepting a freshly brewed cup of tea from his Delphox. “Oh, thank you.”

Ye Xiu just shakes his head, taking his own cup from Autumn Tree. “I’m tired,” he says simply, instead of explaining how being chained to the job day after day, his achievements paraded in front of meet sponsor after sponsor, like he’s nothing but Chairman Tao’s money tree has worn away at him – how none of the past eight years has been what he envisioned when he ran away from home to set off on his Pokémon journey a decade ago.

Su Muqiu, whom he met on Route 1, nods like he can hear everything Ye Xiu has left unsaid anyway. Ye Xiu won’t be surprised if he does understand, either. Of all the Gym Leaders, only Su Muqiu has been there with him since the start, since Brother Tao was just the owner of the PokéMart on Route 5 instead of Chairman Tao of the Glory Pokémon League.

“What will you do now?” Su Muqiu asks instead.

Ye Xiu shrugs. “I guess… visit other regions?”

He’s always wanted to see Pokémon from other regions.

“New message, new message!” his Rotom Phone chirps in his pocket. Ye Xiu appreciates his Rotom’s caution; the last he wants is for his phone to fall off his Charizard while they’re in mid-air.

“Play message,” Ye Xiu says without first checking the sender. On hindsight, that was a mistake.

“Bastard older brother, just come home already!! I –”

“Rotom, delete message.”

Yu Wenzhou lives in a seaside cottage a short Surf away from the Blue Rain Gym.

He’s already standing on the patio when Ye Xiu arrives on his Charizard, and he doesn’t look particularly surprised.

“Is this a social call or business?”

Ye Xiu pauses in surprise, and then laughs.

“As expected of you, Little Yu. But can’t it be a little of both?”

Yu Wenzhou smiles, somehow making it seem simultaneously mild and terrifying. “Senior Ye,” he chides gently.

“Okay, okay.” Ye Xiu relents easily enough. It’s good that Yu Wenzhou has an inkling of the reason he’s dropping by already, as that will make things easier to explain. “As you might’ve heard, the various regional Pokémon Leagues are thinking of coming together to host the inaugural Pokémon World Championships next year.”

“And our region has been too stagnant in the past near-decade,” Yu Wenzhou finishes. “I see. You’re retiring now so that in the upcoming year, everyone will feel the drive to improve.”

“It’s good to be less complacent,” Ye Xiu agrees, glad that Yu Wenzhou understands immediately. He doesn’t have the time to explain, since –

“You should probably be on your way. Shaotian will be here any time.”

As if summoned, Huang Shaotian’s voice floats from the distance. “Old Ye, PK PK PK PK! Troubling Rain, I choose you –”

With a beat of his powerful wings, One Autumn Leaf takes off from the dock, narrowly avoiding a shower of Water Shuriken. Seated on his Charizard’s back, Ye Xiu gives Huang Shaotian – soaking wet, having clearly Surfed all the way from his house to Yu Wenzhou’s the moment he spotted One Autumn Leaf – a jaunty wave.

He has one last stop to make.

Han Wenqing is already standing in front of Tyranny’s Gym, arms folded, when Ye Xiu touches down.

“My eternal rival,” Ye Xiu says, pressing a hand to his chest as though moved. “What would you have done if I didn’t show up?”

Han Wenqing’s impressive brows pull together in the scowl he is famous for. “Then I will drag you back from wherever you’ve holed up.”

Ye Xiu just laughs, even though he knows Han Wenqing is dead serious. “One last battle for the road?”

In lieu of a verbal response, Han Wenqing just pushes the door open, showing that it’s already unlocked.

Ye Xiu pats One Autumn Leaf on the flank, who stomps over to its usual spot on the battle court while Han Wenqing deploys Desert Dust from its Pokéball. There’s no one to act as referee, but they’ve fought each other so many times that they hardly need one by now. All it takes is a glance at each other, and as one they both issue their orders.

“Use Iron Head!” Han Wenqing instructs.

“Dodge, and then Dragon Claw!” Ye Xiu orders immediately. He barely flinches from the unholy screech of draconic claws on steel, because –

“Press on! Close Combat!” Han Wenqing shouts. Instead of disengaging, Desert Dust simply grabs One Autumn Leaf by one of its forepaws, slamming the Charizard down with devastating power.

Ye Xiu can’t help but laugh in incredulous delight. “As bold as ever, Old Han!” he compliments. “Trap Desert Dust with Fire Spin!”

Han Wenqing doesn’t bat an eyelid when his Kommo-o has to let go, snuffling in alarm at the fiery maelstrom whipping up around it. The Z-Power Ring around his wrist lights up, a second before Ye Xiu realises what he’s about to execute next. “Desert Dust, let’s go, Z-Move: Clangorous Soulblaze!”

“Oh, nice!” A tidy solution to a situation where Desert Dust’s unable to make contact. Unfortunately for him…

“Evade it with Dig!”

“What?” Han Wenqing exclaims as Clangorous Soulblaze completely misses its mark. “When did you teach –”

Ye Xiu smirks, the Mega Bracelet on his wrist lighting up. “My turn! Mega Evolution, One Autumn Leaf!”

The Charizardite X mounted on One Autumn Leaf’s headpiece glows in response, a veritable whirlwind kicking up around the Charizard as its claws grow to thrice their original length.

Han Wenqing grits his teeth. “End it, Desert Dust! Use Close Combat again!”

“That’s my line!” Ye Xiu calls. “One Autumn Leaf, finish it with Dragon Claw!”

The two Pokémon crash into each other with a deafening din, but Ye Xiu already knows what the result will be before the dust even settles.

Han Wenqing sighs, shaking his head as he strides over to pet his Kommo-o on the snout. “Rest up, you did well,” he reassures Desert Dust, putting it back into its Pokéball. At the same time, One Autumn Leaf nuzzles against Ye Xiu as it returns to its usual size so that Ye Xiu can reach over to pat its flank and hand it a Sitrus Berry.

Han Wenqing shakes his head again as he reaches out for the customary post-battle handshake. “Just last month you were still using Charizardite Y.”

“Well, I was hardly going to use Solar Beam against a Kommo-o,” Ye Xiu retorts. “Have you never heard of Type Effectiveness, Old Han?”

Han Wenqing rolls his eyes, but he doesn’t rise to the bait. They make their way back outside the Gym in a comfortable silence, and it’s not until Han Wenqing has locked the door again that Ye Xiu decides to break the silence.

“So –”

Han Wenqing interrupts his awkward attempt at a farewell by simply reaching over and pulling him into a gruff hug.

“You… take care of yourself.”

“Old Han, we’re only in our mid-20s,” Ye Xiu feels the need to point out. “It’s not like you’ll never see me again…” Sooner than he expects, too, if the preparations for the World Championships go well.

Han Wenqing ignores him, as he is wont to do on occasion. “Take care of him,” he instructs One Autumn Leaf, who chirrups in agreement and spreads his wings proudly, the traitor.

“You up for one last flight?” Ye Xiu asks, and when One Autumn Leaf nods, mounts up for one last time that night.

Han Wenqing stands there in front of the Gym, unmoving, until Ye Xiu can no longer see him.

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