Gloria never could get used to traveling by airplane. It's not that she wasn't experienced with flying, since she had flown thousands of times on the back of her own Pokémon or in the cab of a Corviknight taxi. But riding inside a huge metal structure that wasn't powered by Pokémon just felt so strange to her.

In fact, if not for the small window next to her seat, it wouldn't feel like flying at all.

Peering out through that porthole, she watched the landmass of Galar come into view, or at least the northern part. In the distance, the whitecapped mountain peaks between Circhester and Wyndon stood tall and proud.

Nearer than those majestic mountains, crowded onto a narrow spear of land jutting into the ocean like a marina pier, was the small town of Spikemuth. Gloria instantly recognized the mall-like structure that made up the bulk of the town, but something seemed a little off about it.

Looks like they repainted it, Gloria thought. It looks nice, in a punk sort of way. Then her jaw dropped. In the few short years since she left Galar for another journey, Spikemuth had changed.

Surrounding the sprawling purple and black building were dozens of smaller structures, too small and mismatched to be houses. Market stalls with awnings? And are those berry trees?

Gloria giggled and said, "With a steady supply of berries around, maybe Marnie can keep her little Morpeko from going all hangry."

A tightness gripped Gloria's chest, not quite a hunger pang. Marnie, huh? I'd like to see her again. I'll visit her as soon as I'm done with my meeting in Hammerlocke.

"Ugh, that meeting with Chairman Rose ran way too long," Gloria groaned, stretching her arms over her head. Her green wool beret almost toppled from atop her warm brown hair, but her reflexes were sharp as always and she caught it in time. "I think I'll walk to Spikemuth and work out this stiffness."

She'd barely settled into her stride when someone stepped out into the path ahead. A trainer, huh? I guess I can give them a battle to remember. It isn't every day you get to face a former Champion.

"Hey, Gloria," said a familiar voice. Black leather boots crunched on the gravel path. Above them were bare and slender legs and the bottom of a pale pink dress, the rest covered by a distinctive black leather and silver-studded jacket. There was no mistaking the glossy black hair in two long pigtails and half-bangs, or those vibrant green eyes.

"M-Marnie?!" Gloria stammered. Some of the shock came from the unexpected appearance of the very girl she'd been heading to meet. But the bulk of her surprise came from something else. Was she always this… gorgeous? Marnie had always been cute, yeah, but she had apparently blossomed into something downright beautiful.

Gloria pushed that aside for now and said, "It's great to see you again. I was actually just on my way to Spikemuth to meet you." She raised an eyebrow. "But how'd you know I'd be here?"

Marnie's lips moved ever so slightly in what might have been her attempt at a smile. "News travels fast in Galar, and there ain't much more newsworthy than the Champion's return."

Gloria wasn't convinced. "Maybe my arrival was newsworthy, but the fact that I'm walking Route Seven?" She glanced around pointedly. "Not seeing any newscasters about."

Marnie shrugged. "Remember Team Yell? Well, those diehards are still helpin' me out. A couple of 'em called me up when they spotted you leavin' Hammerlocke on foot."

"That still doesn't explain—"

"Why I'm here?" Marnie cut in. "I know you're tryin' to see Spikemuth, but before you do, I have somethin' I need to explain." She gave a beckoning wave, her hands looking so small in her oversized jacket, inviting Gloria to walk at her side.

As the pair made the scenic journey through Route 7 and entered the Route 9 tunnel, Marnie recounted the major events of the last few years. Not long after her brother Piers passed the title of Spikemuth Gym Leader to Marnie, he left Galar to tour with his rock band. In his absence, the people of Spikemuth all looked to Marnie for leadership.

"I don't know why, but that lot really looks up to me," Marnie admitted. "So I've been tryin' my best to revitalize Spikemuth and be a proper gym leader."

Gloria opened her mouth, planning to tell Marnie that she seemed to be doing a good job, but Marnie raised a hand.

"Don't start patronizin' me. Let me finish," she growled. Then her tone softened and she continued, "Without a Power Spot, we still can't Dynamax at our gym, so people look down on us. But we don't mind. Punks are used to bein' outcasts, and we like it that way."

A soft, faint smile bloomed on Marnie's face. "We even planted a load of non-native berry trees around town to continue that rebel streak. They're a lot harder to grow, and they ain't really thrivin', but…"

Marnie trailed off, then stopped walking too. She leaned against a cave wall, then the corners of her eyes teared up, and she whispered, "I know I have my fans, but I still felt so alone. Waitin' all this time…"

Gloria stopped as well. "Waiting? For what?"

"For you, dummy."


"Lemme finish, before I lose my nerve!"

Gloria raised both hands in submission.

"I've been feelin' it all this time, ever since you beat me in the Champion Cup. And it only got stronger when you left. But I'm not… I'm not good enough to have these feelin's. You deserve better." Marnie was nearly shouting now, her voice echoing off the cave walls, but she wasn't slowing in the slightest.

"I'm not cut out to be a gym leader, and I'm definitely not cut out to be the closest thing Spikemuth has to a mayor. I mean, I'm only 19! Barely an adult and a far cry from a leader. And I was just a kid when I took over the gym! I feel like I've accidentally tricked everyone into thinkin' I'm more capable than I am."

Gloria grabbed Marnie by the shoulder and firmly said, "You wouldn't have gotten it this far if you weren't capable." Then she moved her hands to Marnie's red and tear-damp cheeks and tugged her lips into an awkward but adorable forced smile. "The only thing you're lacking is confidence, and the first step is to smile, even in the face of sorrow."

Then, while Marnie was standing in shock and trying to smile, Gloria stepped back and said, "I need to clear the air on some things too. I wasn't coming to see Spikemuth. I mean, I did spot it from overhead and I was curious about the cute little shops I saw, but… I came here to see you."

Marnie blinked vacantly, but Gloria could tell she was shocked. If she had been a more expressive person, she probably would have been wide-eyed, slack-jawed, and babbling.

Gloria continued, "And I know how you feel, about not feeling as capable as people see you. I struggled with that a lot on my journey, and even after I became Champion. There was always a voice that said, 'Why do I deserve this over all these amazing trainers? I'm just some nobody from the sticks.' And I only got there thanks to all the help from others. From amazing and selfless people like Hop, and Leon, and Sonia. And Marnie."

She took Marnie's hand and pulled until they were moving through the cave again. "I've heard people say 'fake it until you make it', and maybe that's good advice for some people. But I already made it. And so did you."

Marnie shook her head, keeping her gaze low as they stepped out of the cavern and into the bright afternoon sun. "No, I lost. I didn't become Champion, and I only inherited my gym by default. I've let everyone down."

Gloria stopped and pointed at the town up ahead in the distance, at Spikemuth. The old structure had been repainted a shocking black and purple, with a long glass skylight gleaming over the mall walkway. The building was surrounded by small, quirky shops and unusual trees, most with spiky branches or weird-shaped berries. Visitors relaxed on benches and wandered from shop to shop, arms full of purchases. Staff in diverse and unique punk outfits smiled and greeted them.

"Look at all of that. The last time I was here, it was a single grungy box, covered in graffiti and half shuttered and abandoned. You did something amazing." She put a hand on Marnie's back. "Tell me honestly, do you think anyone else besides you could have revitalized Spikemuth, brought in so much life and cheer, while also keeping its rebellious nature, its heart?"

When Marnie didn't speak, Gloria continued, "Piers couldn't do it. But he knew you could, and that's why he entrusted Spikemuth to you. And you made it amazing."

Marnie fought back a sniffle. "You think so?"

"I know so. Now how about we take a step back from all this heavy stuff, and go somewhere fun, just you and I?"

There was a glimmer of hope in Marnie's green eyes. Then it faded. She was convinced that the former Champion was just trying to cheer her up, that this was all platonic, that her confession had been heard by sympathetic ears, but not returned.

Even as Marnie climbed on the back of a breathtaking Galarian Articuno, even as she wrapped her arms tight around Gloria's waist, she could only think, It's not like this is a date, or anythin'…

The time flew by nearly as fast as the ground below, as wide lilac wings cut through the air and carried Gloria and Marnie from landmark to landmark. First they went north to Wyndon Tower, surprising an idling taxi driver and his Corviknight when they dropped from the sky right next to him. After taking the elevator and quietly enjoying the view from the top of the massive tower, Gloria pulled Marnie on to the southwest, to Glimwood Tangle.

The trees of the Tangle were so dense that Articuno had to set them down outside near the town of Stow-on-Side.

"Thanks, Articuno. Return!" Gloria said before turning and looking fondly at the foreboding entrance to the deep, dark wood. "I've always loved this place. The contrast of vibrant light and dark shadows, the balance of cute and dangerous. And it always reminded me of you."

"Wha? Uh, I guess I can see that," Marnie stammered, hiding her hands in her black leather sleeves. "I like it too."

They were quiet as they walked the winding forest path, avoiding the misleading forks and offshoots that had earned the Tangle the nickname of 'the Luminous Maze'. Giant bioluminescent mushrooms provided the only light, since the dense canopy of branches overhead blotted out even the brightest sunlight. The sounds of rustling leaves and distant Pokémon added to the calm yet mysterious atmosphere. This was a natural place, settled into its own equilibrium, removed from humanity and independent from the rest of the world. It was a home to countless creatures, a spectacle to visiting trainers, and a truly beautiful treasure.

After Gloria spotted a red and purple Pokémon scurrying away from them into the shadows, she shot Marnie a sneaky smile. "Don't tell Piers I said this, but he always kind of reminded me of a Morgrem, with his lanky slouch and covered eye. And with all that hair…"

"He could evolve into a Grimmsnarl!" Marnie finished. Then she burst into giggles, startling a nearby Shiinotic from its rest. The huge sporecap let out a whining cry and toddled off in a huff, which only made Marnie laugh harder, and soon Gloria joined in. It seemed that Marnie's laughter, while rare, was highly contagious.

After the giggle fit finally passed, the two women took a looping path back to the entrance. As Marnie shielded her eyes from the sudden brightness of the sky, Gloria spoke.

"My feet are getting a bit sore from all the walking. How's a visit to the Circhester hot springs sound?"

"Lovely," Marnie answered.

Marnie was not a stupid person. She could react on the fly during a battle to come up with new strategies and find creative solutions to anything a challenger threw at her. She had solved hundreds of problems, small and large, for the people of Spikemuth, even if some of those had been caused by her own rambunctious fanclub, Team Yell. Marnie was intelligent, no question.

But as she glanced across the steaming water at Gloria's naked body, as she realized that Gloria had just dragged her halfway around Galar to her favorite places, and capped it all with a naked dip in a private hot spring, Marnie felt very, very stupid.

She had told herself it couldn't be true, that Gloria was just trying to cheer her up. Marnie had prevented herself from even hoping that this was a date, protecting her heart from further pain. But now it was very painfully obvious.

"Hey… Gloria?" Marnie said cautiously. "Do you… like me?"

Gloria smiled. "I do."

"As a friend, or…"

"As a friend and—" The smile grew. "—hopefully more."

"And that's why you took me on a date to all these romantic places?" Marnie put her face in her hands. "I can't believe I'm so dense…"

Gloria shook her head. "No, I should have communicated better, so there was no room for misunderstanding." She moved closer, and faced Marnie directly, then said, "Marnie, I like you. Will you go out with me?"

"Yes!" she answered instantly, pulling Gloria into a hug. After a second, she realized they were naked, pressed together breast to breast, and she started to pull away. "Sorry."

Gloria pulled her back in. "Don't be. This is what I've wanted. This and… hopefully more."

Feeling daring, Marnie answered with a kiss, a wonderful and nearly eternal kiss that felt so right and natural that they both felt foolish for not seeking it out sooner.

They stayed like that for a moment, until the heat of their bodies and the water was too much. Then Marnie rose to her feet and started pulling Gloria by the hand. "Um, it's real late. We should head back to our room."

"Our room? We haven't booked a—" Gloria cut herself off. "Oh. Yeah, let's book a room."

Getting dressed was certainly awkward. Being covered was the opposite of what they both wanted. A little part of Gloria considered skipping the clothes and wearing just a towel on the way to the front desk and the lobby. If not for needing to talk to the receptionist to book a room, she might have done it.

Instead, she got dressed faster than Marnie then rushed off, saying, "I'll get the room. Wait for me by the elevators."

A few minutes later, Gloria approached the elevators with flushed cheeks. "Sorry."

Marnie tilted her head. "For what?"

"Well, the receptionist recognized me as a previous Galar champion, and insisted on giving me a special room at the regular room rate."

"Why are you sorry about that? A fancy room sounds nice."

Gloria squirmed a little, then said, "Maybe it's nothing, so I'll let the room speak for itself."

Their room, located on the top floor of the hot springs hotel, was numbered 315 and nicknamed the 'Champion Room' for some reason. As soon as Gloria opened the door and looked in, that reason became very apparent.

The room was large, but also surprisingly empty. The walls were lined with normal hotel amenities, like a TV and a desk, but the center of the room was bare except for a single circular bed. The bed was made up with a red comforter over white sheets, and the cover had been folded back to the halfway point, giving the entire bed a very Pokéball-like appearance.

But when Gloria noticed the turf-green color of the carpet, she started to suspect there was more to the 'Champion Room' than just a Pokéball-shaped bed. She considered the walls more closely and noticed for the first time that the wallpaper wasn't the noisy abstract pattern she had first taken it for. The perimeter of the room actually depicted an entire Pokémon stadium as seen from the inside, featuring banners, spotlights, and stands filled with cheering spectators, all carefully painted with just enough detail to set the scene without giving any individual fan a recognizable face.

"Oh," Marnie said, realizing the situation at the same time as Gloria. "This room is for people who fantasize about being top-tier competitors. Ain't that special to those of us who've actually been there."

"Um, I think there's more to it than that," Gloria groaned. "Look at the bed again."

Marnie walked to the circular bed and sat down on the plush mattress. The motion shook a round silver tray that had been acting as the center circle of the bed's Pokéball impersonation. Upon that tray sat two replica Gym Challenger wrist-bands, two prop Dynamax bands, and…

"Is that a bottle of lube?" Marnie asked.

"Yep. Seems so. And a few other intimate accessories I'd rather not name."

Marnie jumped to her feet. "Right. I guess this room is for people with fantasies beyond just bein' League Champion." She eyed the wallpaper with new understanding. "Makes the crowd a bit creepy, huh?"

"Oh yeah. Let me see if…" Gloria walked to the corner of the room, where a vertical bundle of royal red cloth had been stowed, attached to a track in the ceiling. "Yeah, we can cover them up with this curtain." She immediately set to pulling the curtain along its rails until the entire painted-on crowd had been hidden away.

"Much better," Marnie sighed, relaxing again. Then she stood next to the bed with a glimmer of a smile and a dramatic stance. "Hey, former Champ! Fancy a grand rematch against the Spikemuth Gym Leader?"

Gloria approached, shaking her head. "No, but I'd love a little 'training' with a woman called Marnie."

"Good call. I don't like mixing business and pleasure," Marnie quipped. "Too bad there's nothin' to be done about this silly bed."

Gloria grabbed Marnie's jacket collar with both hands. "I think we can help each other forget all about it…"

As Gloria predicted, the silly themed room was forgotten in a hurry. She undressed Marnie one spiked-leather item at a time, and the rest of the world vanished from their thoughts. After Marnie's jacket, she made quick work of the black-leather choker and tossed it aside, then started pulling up on the bottom of Marnie's little pink dress.

"Whoa, so assertive…" Marnie gasped, yielding to Gloria's grasping hands.

"What can I say? You bring that out in me," Gloria said, capping the sentence with a kiss.

Marnie returned the kiss, then stepped it up further and kissed back even harder, more passionately. After a moment, she broke off, licked the mixed moisture from her lips, and said, "It's not as fun when a match is completely one sided."

She batted Gloria's cap off her head, then peeled her sweater over her head and down her arms. Gloria wriggled out of the clinging cloth, then started grabbing at Marnie's hem again.

As tempting as it was to jump straight into things, to just push skirts up and panties aside, they both wanted the intimacy of skin-to-skin contact far more. Gloria undressed Marnie to her deep violet underwear, admired the silky sleek look for a moment, then assisted Marnie in doing the same to her.

"Sorry my dress doesn't come off as easy as yours," Gloria mumbled as she fidgeted with a large button upon her chest.

Marnie chuckled. "Don't be. It's like one of those presents with loads of extra ribbon tyin' it shut. It adds to the mystique."

The button finally gave way and Gloria's dress fell aside. Beneath, she was wearing simple white panties and a tan utilitarian bra. She'd filled out a bit in the last few years and needed the support.

"I, uh, wasn't expecting this today," she admitted, "or I would have picked something sexier to wear, like yours."

Marnie blushed, fighting the urge to cover her purple silk lingerie with her hands. "I wasn't expectin' it either. But I was hopin'."

"You've got good instincts," Gloria whispered as she nuzzled into Marnie's shoulder and nibbled at her neck. The skin there was so soft and delicate, unlike the spiked choker that normally covered it.

She kissed her way to a bra strap, then decided the whole bra needed to go. She reached behind Marnie and unclipped it with practiced ease, then slid her hands straight down along Marnie's back. She kept her thumbs on the outside of the panties and her fingers grabbed two cheeky handfuls as she pushed the cloth out of the way.

"Wait," Marnie begged. "I'll fall over at this rate." Her thighs were now tied together by her half-removed panties, and her balance was off from the constant barrage of kisses across her naked front.

"Oh really?" Gloria asked, not slowing. "Good thing there's a bed behind you."

Sure enough, Gloria had subtly maneuvered Marnie's back to the bed, with the mattress right behind her knees. With a grin and a little push, she toppled Marnie backwards.

"Wah!" Marnie almost landed on the tray of role-playing supplies, and jostled it enough to tip the lube over.

Gloria climbed onto the bed, straddling Marnie. She righted the little bottle of lube, then pushed the tray aside. The bed was large enough that the tray probably wouldn't bother them again.

Then she peered down into Marnie's gorgeous green eyes. "Whatever happened to this not being too one-sided?"

Marnie stared back, her gaze suddenly fierce. "I was just gettin' my bearin's. You're goin' down now." With one hand, she expertly unsnapped Gloria's bra, while the other started tugging at her panties.

"Not your first time with a girl?" Gloria asked, running one hand over Marnie's bare chest. Soft flesh and perky nipples welcomed her wandering fingers.

"I've fooled around with a Yell-girl or two," Marnie admitted distractedly, her focus still on getting every lingering bit of clothing off Gloria's body. "Though they always treat me like a fragile treasure to gently hold at arm's length."

"I'd rather firmly hold you, skin to skin," Gloria answered, letting herself fall onto Marnie until they were face to face with not so much as a single gap between them.

"This is nice," Marnie whispered. This close, anything louder would be excessive.

"You haven't seen anything yet," Gloria replied while her right hand maneuvered between them. Between Marnie's legs.

A lovely gasp escaped Marnie's lips as searching fingers found their mark.

"So wet," Gloria remarked.

"Some of that came from you. You're positively drippin'."

Gloria tugged on Marnie's lip with her teeth, and slipped another finger inside. "That's how much I want this. Want you."

Marnie grabbed Gloria's butt and bucked her hips upward. "Then get on with it."

The former Champion held all the power at first, bringing Marnie to multiple cascading climaxes, via fingers or tongue or both. But Marnie wasn't one to just sit passively. She was a fighter, a competitor, and whether she wanted it or not, a leader.

"My turn," she said, pulling Gloria's legs up from the bedspread until only her head and shoulders were still touching the bed. Kneeling, she set Gloria's legs over her shoulders, put her face between Gloria's thighs, and set to work.

Gloria gasped, then groaned, then melted into silence. The strange position felt amazing. Whether it was the feeling of helplessness or the blood rushing to her head, Gloria wasn't sure, but every sensation was heightened. "Oh wow…" she mumbled, already losing touch on reality.

"You haven't seen anythin' yet."

The next morning, as the pair was leaving through the front lobby, the hotel's receptionist ran up to Gloria in a panic. The blonde woman bowed deeply and quietly said, "I'm so, so sorry for giving you that strange room. I'm new here and didn't realize that it isn't really meant for real Pokémon competitors."

Gloria just smiled and shrugged. "It was fine. It helped bring out our old rivalry again."

Marnie kept moving and hid her blushing face behind her Morpeko. With any luck, no one else would realize she had stayed the night in a strange hotel room with Galar's former Champion.

"I have the worst luck," she groaned as she stepped into the morning sun and saw what had been waiting outside. A half-dozen punks in black and pink were standing around the hotel, and the second they spied her, they started cheering.

"Woo! Go Marnie! Get the girl!"

"You best treat her right, Champ!"

"Former Champ!" one of them corrected.

"Yeah, so don't go thinkin' you're a big deal, huh?!"

Gloria giggled and leaned close to Marnie. "Seems your crush wasn't very secret. It's nice that they support you though."

"Sure. Nice…" Marnie grumbled.

Gloria strode forward and addressed the little crowd. "Sorry, Team Yell, we've got one more place to go, and you guys can't follow."

With that, she summoned her trusty Articuno and pulled Marnie up onto its back. With a blast of its powerful wings, they shot away from Marnie's fans and the sleepy city of Circhester.

"Say… where are we goin'?"

"To meet my friends," Gloria answered vaguely.

They flew south, past the dark spires of Hammerlocke and the thriving Wild Zone, past the red bricks of Motostoke and the countryside houses near Wedgehurst. Only when they neared Postwick did Marnie have some idea of where they were headed.

"This was your hometown, huh?"

"Yeah. But that's not our destination."

They passed right over the small village of Postwick and reached a forest. A dense carpet of green extended out before them nearly to the horizon. Morning mist seeped between the branches of the old growth trees, and one spot in particular seemed completely covered in a thick, supernatural fog. To Marnie's slight terror, Articuno flew straight into it without regard for the tree branches that could be hidden within.

But it was actually a wide clearing, and Articuno set them down safely.

"Welcome to the Slumbering Weald," Gloria said as she climbed off the legendary bird.

A cheerful voice called out of the mist and a young man approached. "Hey! I wasn't expecting company!" He had tan skin, a layered spike of black hair, and intense gold eyes.

Gloria waved back. "Cheers, Hop! I know I just saw you yesterday at that meeting, but it's good to see you."

"Hey, Hop!" Marnie called out, then she elbowed Gloria and lowered her voice. "I already met Hop, y'know, back then. And we still talk every week or two."

"Look past him. Those two are the friends I mentioned."

Bounding along behind Hop were two massive beasts, both colored blue and gold and red. One was as broad as a royal shield, and the other held a huge branch in his teeth in a lopsided way that should have looked silly, but somehow completely natural. There was no doubt that they were legendary Pokémon, mythical protectors of Galar.

Gloria stepped forward and opened her arms wide. "Zacian! Zamazenta! I've missed you!"

The dogs rushed up to her and snuggle-tackled her from her feet. Despite their size and strength, they held back and didn't harm her at all.

Needless to say, Marnie was a bit hesitant at first, but the dogs quickly read Gloria's mood towards Marnie and decided they loved her just as much as they did Gloria. They pounced on her too, then slobbered and snuggled her into submission. Marnie couldn't help but laugh as they licked and nuzzled and pushed her around like a leaf on the wind.

After the dogs burned off their excitement and Marnie's giggling finally stopped, Hop said, "Hey Gloria, how come I never got to ride around on your Articuno?"

She answered simply and definitively, "Because you aren't my girlfriend."

Author's note:

Thanks for reading! This lewd chapter was funded by my pat reon, and released there a month early. If you want to read my next lewd chapter right now and vote for which lewd chapter I work on next, please consider joining at the $10 tier at pat reonDOTcom/Natron77