Champion Strategies, chapter 4
[read the entire fic here!]
The next morning Leon teaches his brother to shave. Hop gets a kick out of it, laughing at how silly they look with their faces covered in shaving cream. He shaves his lower legs, too, even though Leon tells him he doesn’t need to.
“I just wanna make sure I’m doing it right, that’s all.” He runs his hand on his shin. “Wow. It’s so smooth!”
His good mood seems to be strong, because he doesn’t complain a bit when Leon has to take a call about the Battle Tower. Al Rent’s rain team is having some trouble, and he wants to give them a vacation. He’s got a sandstorm-based team ready to substitute, if that’s alright.
“Of course. You should give all the teams a vacation; they deserve it. No need to worry about substitutes.” That is what the owners of other regions’ battle facilities would say, right? “Ah, I’m sorry, I just got a message.”
Al cheerfully thanks him and hangs up.
The message, it turns out, is not related to work. It’s from Raihan.
[Raihan:] How’s the little guy doing?
[Leon:] He’s good. Seemed moody yesterday but he’s fine today
[Raihan:] Glad 2 hear it. Im gonna be in wyndon today, can I come over at 3?
When Leon enters the living room, he finds Hop giggling over his phone.
“What are you looking at, buddy?”
Dutifully, Hop hands over his phone.
It’s a video of Gloria. She’s standing in front of a mirror, holding her Eevee in one hand and the phone in the other. She’s making silly faces, which Eevee copies as best as it can.
“Oh. This is her TikTok?” Of course Gloria would be making videos for it. She’s at that age where a lot of her peers are on the site; being there is a way of keeping up with kids her age even when champion duties keep her busy.
Leon pulls up the app on his phone. He’d made his own account about a month ago, looked at some cute Yamper videos but hadn’t posted anything himself. Now is the perfect time to change that.
“Hey, can you teach me how to make a TikTok video?”
Hop looks up in surprise. “You have an account? What’s your username?”
“Leon-dot-Wyndon.” He would’ve chosen @ChampionLeon, @Leon1, @CharizardFan1, or even @LeonReyesOfficial, but somehow every one of those has already been taken.
A soft ping announces that @HopReyes189 has followed him.
“Okay, I can show you how to do a dance, and then I’ll record you on your phone and you can post it.”
The dance Hop teaches him is called the “Ribombee.” It has a lot of quick movements, and it takes a few tries for him to remember them all in order.
“Alright, now I’m gonna play the music, and you do the dance when I tell you to.”
The music is cheerful, with a nice beat and lyrics so fast they’re hard to make out. He likes it.
The whole dance takes about twenty seconds. His professional training has taught him to smile and keep eye contact with the camera, but this is a rare non-battle instance where he actually likes what he’s doing.
Hop gives the signal to stop.
“How’d I do?”
“You need to do it again.”
“Because nobody posts their first take of a meme,” Hop says, matter-of-factly. “You have to do it a few times and pick the best one.”
“I see, I see.”
They record four more takes of the Ribombee. Together they agree that the second take was the best. Hop shows him how to upload, what hashtags to put in the caption, and how to highlight it.
“A lot of people will probably follow you when they realize it’s really your account. It’s like Chattr but there are a lot of teenagers, so don’t feel too bad if they make fun of you. Later I can teach you about sea shanties.”
“Sounds good. Wait. You’ll teach me about what?”
At three, Raihan arrives. He’s got that cat’s-mouth expression Leon knows so well, and he’s holding something behind his back. Rotom floats beside him, camera aimed at Hop.
“What are you hiding?”
Raihan slaps his left hand to his chest, a movement of mock insult. “I’ll have you know that I am hiding nothing... well, okay, I do have some amazing news, but I was trying to build up to it. You know?”
“Oh, really.” He leads him to the couch in the living room, remains standing even as Raihan makes himself comfortable, quickly hiding the mysterious object in the pocket of his hoodie. “Let me guess. Some magazine wants us on the cover again?”
“Ah-ah-ah! This good news isn’t for either of us. It’s for your little bro.”
With one long motion, he pulls out the object. It’s a large envelope, printed with rust red and dark blue. Hammerlocke University colors.
Hop takes the envelope with wide eyes. He looks at the addresses, then tears it open and pulls out the papers.
“Is this…” A gasp. “I got accepted!”
Raihan says, “He applied to Hammerlocke. Hammerlocke asked me if the kid who applied was the same one who battled my gym. They were definitely impressed.”
Leon is still processing it. “You applied there? When? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“A-a few months ago. I was only going to tell you if I got in. I thought you didn’t like Hammerlocke University, you know, because of…”
Raihan and Leon glance at each other. They laugh.
“No, it’s a great school. Of course I’m worried about you being on your own, but… I know you’ll be fine. You survived the gym challenge, didn’t you?” He rubs his knuckles on the top of Hop’s head. “Good job, Hopscotch.”
Raihan leans back. “I won’t lie to you, being Leon’s brother didn’t hurt your chances. But Hammerlocke is putting you on their league team, meaning they think you’re good enough to represent them in front of the whole region.” He preens a little. “I was on their team during undergrad. You’ve got a lot to live up to, little champ!”
“Oh, please.” Leon grins. “When Hop gets there, everyone’ll be be calling him the best Hammerlocke ever had!”
He pats Hop on the back. His brother is grinning widely, face flushed from the excitement.
“And I’ve got another surprise for you.” Raihan goes back to the door, sticks his head out, and calls, “You two! We’re ready!”
In three seconds, Gloria and Sonia are in the flat. They’ve brought bags full of colorful items. Gloria has cupcakes. It looks like the three of them have planned it all out. Leon isn’t mad, though. This is the perfect situation for a small surprise party.
Hop greets his friend with an expression of pure joy on his face. It’s wonderful to watch. Leon stands with the other adults as the kids talk about what this means.
“How long have you been planning this?” he asks in a low voice.
“Raihan got the news yesterday morning. We came today because Gloria got some free time.” Sonia puts her hand on her cheek. Her fingernails have been painted rust red and dark blue. “We figured telling him here would make the whole thing more exciting.”
“Thank you, both of you. For today, but also for everything you’ve done for him. I… I’m so glad he has you two to look out for him.”
Raihan gives him the soft, friendly smile that he never shows online. “Hey. He’s got the best big brother in the world, too.”
The celebration lasts for a few hours, with the five of them talking and laughing. Eventually Gloria yawns, and Sonia takes the opportunity to say goodbye and take her home. Raihan follows with one last “congratulations” to Hop.
Then they are alone.
Leon looks at Hop, and his chest hurts from just how much he’s feeling. Joy, affection, pride, love — it’s overwhelming. His little brother is so smart. So talented. So amazing. He’s so lucky to have him.
Leon hugs his brother tight.
“I’m so proud of you. I love you so much.”
Hop hugs back. When he pulls away, he’s smiling.
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