Malik was happy to see that his arrival was mostly well received by the other collective gym leaders that preceded and followed after him, returning the gestures like Liam's hug and Nordin's nod. It wasn't long after that there would be another handful of dynamic entrances, finding himself particularly impressed with Moira's Dragon Dance and the exhibition from Fiona's Flying-types and clapping quietly with the performances. A gathering of stars such as theirs only occurred every so often, and while they were each their own rivals in that regard, it was the feeling of unity from the ceremony that he always loved. Nothing could have possibly spoiled the night for him; that is, until his mind drifted to the rather haughty greeting that he'd received from one Hestia Quintell. 'Of course,'
he thought to himself, internally rolling his eyes. 'Somethin's always up with her.'
The Espeon that was perched on his shoulder, however, did not seem to share any of his previous compliments, as Lady was also not the greatest admirer of Moira's dragons. His hand rose to stroke the feline's head, a light chuckle passing his lips. "Heheh, don't worry, we'll get 'em this time,"
he reassured his little friend.
Cereus Rothschild had been hard pressed to quickly usher the gym leaders into their respective preparations, and it was only a matter of time until the ceremony truly began in earnest. Though he would not be taking the pitch as one of the main attractions, Malik didn't have a problem with staying outside of the spotlight in the last few years. He watched on as the familiar stature of the Chairman announced the commencement of the Gym Challenge and began to introduce each gym leader one by one, only counting seven out of the total eight. 'Teach?'
It came off as a shock to him that Elijah of all people was absent, but the magnitude of the situation only seemed to worsen when it was apparent to everyone that Victoria was also
missing from the ceremony.
It was an awkward predicament for everyone to be in as the stadium was clearing out; he could even hear the theories begin to chatter up among the attendees, and it was an entirely different landscape on social media. Malik was leaning against the wall in the corner of the lobby as he dialed Elijah's phone number, frowning when it took him straight to the voicemail. He was even more disappointed to receive the same outcome when he tried to call Victoria, sighing heavily. "Hey V, what's goin' on? Gimme a call when you can,"
he was in the process of leaving a voicemail for Victoria when he was cut short by the arrival of a familiar face, cutting the message short and stuffing the phone back into his pocket."I knew I'd see you out there, Malicia,"
Malik smiled towards the person who approached him, crossing his arms together. The purple-haired girl mirrored the same motion, her lilac eyes brimming with confidence.
A distinctly patterned Dreepy circled around her average stature before stopping between them, its curious eyes studying him closely. He looked at the Dynamax Band on her wrist that he'd given to her along with his endorsement, nodding towards it. "Hope you're ready to put that to some good use, you're gonna need it. Not many other challengers have one.""That's because there aren't any other challengers like me,"
Malicia whipped her hair to the side with a conceited gait forward, calling the Dreepy back to her presence. The small dragon twirled around her hands before climbing onto her shoulder, letting out a small cry. "Make sure the Champion comes back by the cup so I can take the title and make it actually mean something."
Malik simply laughed at the girl's elevated faith in herself. "Get through the eight gyms and I'll consider it.""Well, I beat you, so I don't see myself having any sorta problem,"
Malicia never seemed amused with any answer that she received, even if it was in jest. She turned around, looking over her shoulder as she showed off the number '1' on the back of her uniform. "So when I make it to the Cup, I'll just beat you again."
Before he had the chance to respond, the purple-haired girl had already walked off, disappearing beyond the masses. Scoffing, Malik opted to join up with the rest of the gym leaders that were situated at a different part of the lobby, feeling the familiar rumbling at the side of his belt again. 'I don't like her.' "I know, I know,"
he brushed off the words of concern as he reunited with the others, catching onto their ongoing discussion about finding a place to dine. "Mmm, sushi,"
Malik added to the rumbling, feeling the pangs of hunger clip at his stomach. "Haven't gotten 'round to tryin' out that place yet. No objections from me."