Where to start was…a little overwhelming. When she’d first started this journey, she’d been able to bring a new Pokemon up to match the rest of the team pretty easily. But with a new Gym on the horizon, not only did she have to get her old team up to snuff, but she had to get five new Pokemon to their level to.
Evangeline decided the best thing she could do was break it up like her old situation as much as she could. Picking one of the new Pokemon at random, she built a supporting team of more experienced battlers around them. Then once the new friend was up to challenges on the same level as the older members, she could switch out one of the old guard for someone else. Kakashi grumbled next to her, leaning his head against her shoulder. “This looks like a lot of work,” he complained. “Nap instead?”
She shrugged that shoulder to jostle him. “No, no naps,” she scolded teasingly. “I know this down time hasn’t been necessarily restful, but we need to get going again.” It wasn’t just Evangeline who needed a chance to grieve the lost of her Vivilion, Cho, but the entire group. She was determined to ease them back into their journey, though.
“So, setting up a picnic spot?” Kakashi guessed. “Like you did outside of Santalune?”
But Evangeline shook her head. “No. We rushed down that last route so fast, I’m sure there are trainers who are upset that they didn’t get a chance to battle with us. We’re going to back track, taking on the trainers and wild Pokemon we missed last time.” She looked to him. “And I thought to go back to the river. The Pokemon are a little less…assertive, there, and that seems like a better way to ease the new ones into our style.”
He nodded slowly, crossing his arms. “Take it slow, if you need to,” he cautioned her. “We all understand, and would rather you be a little more protective than to lose someone else so quickly.”
“I will,” she promised, standing up. “Okay, let’s get the first team ready to go. I think I’ll keep Haruka with me regardless, he’s been a bit clingy lately.”
“Isn’t he technically a baby Pokemon?” Kakashi asked as they walked over to the computer.
Evangeline hummed. “Something like it, and I think his evolution is based off of how well cared for he’s feeling. Maybe that’s why he’s wanting to stay close to me. It can’t hurt to indulge him a little.”
So Kakashi, Haruka, Felix, Lars, Hikari, and Antoine came with her as the starting team. And the number of trainers she missed was a little staggering. That, or more had come out over the last couple of days. She couldn’t be sure which. Either way, her team gave it their all–even the newcomer Lars caught some of their excitement, even if he didn’t get as much action as Evangeline had hoped. But there was an infestation of Psyducks, and she wasn’t about to risk him against a Water-Type! (The cute little idiots sometimes pulled power moves at the weirdest timing.)
As a result of all the fighting, Evangeline was more than happy to flop down into a field of flowers. “Somehow, this wasn’t exactly how I planned for today to go…” she muttered. The blossoms fluttered around her, as if hearing her comments.
Wait, that was a lot more literal than she thought.
Sitting up, Evangeline blinked at the little heads poking out of the various flowers. “Oh, hello,” she said quietly to the group of Flabébé that surrounded her. “I’m sorry, did I disturb you?”
They giggled and spun around her a bit, shy but not aggressive. Tilting her head, Evangeline remembered that this was around the area that she caught her own Flabébé, one that she’d barely had a chance to meet. She reached for her bag, hitting the appropriate switch and letting Hikari out.
She blinked up at Evangeline in surprise. “Another battle?” she asked in her little voice, the petals of her flower wilting a little in exhaustion.
That made Evangeline feel better about her decision. “No, I think it’s some old friends of yours, but they seem shy.” She said, pointing to the surrounding group of Fairy types.
Hikari floated up to look and squeaked in happiness. She was off in the group before Evangeline could blink. Smiling, Evangeline also released a certain Frogadier. Before Kakashi had a chance to disrupt the reunion, she flopped back down and pulled him to lie down beside her. “Okay, now you can nap,” she promised. “Just until we all have a chance to catch our breath. Then training time.”
He grinned, snuggling up close so he could lie his chin on her stomach. “Right, as much training as you want,” he promised. He grunted in complaint when she reached to let Haruka out too, but the little bud was all to happy to snuggle on the other side of her like a toddler for his own nap in the sunshine.
When they woke up, Evangeline lived up to her promise and ran her team through their paces. The nearby daycare had a computer that they let her use to shuffle the team along as they got tired, so she could get the others out to run their own paces. (Or in Emi’s case, give Evangeline a chance to learn how to curb her enthusiasm.) One of the workers suggested a nearby berry farm when Evangeline inquired if they had any sort of cafe or if she needed to go back to Ambrette or Camphier Town to visit their Pokemon Centers.
The path to the farm was a little narrow, so she wasn’t surprised she missed it before with Tierno and Trevor urging her to pick up the pace. The more common trees slowly gave way to an orderly grove, the trees short and squat. With numerous bug types leaping from bush to bush, sniffing the blooms…and eating any berry ripe enough to be plucked.
A little girl, her hair in pigtails, chased after them with a net. “Get away, get away!” she begged, waving the net wildly. “You’ll ruin today’s harvest!”
Evangeline just couldn’t sit there and wait. “Henri, come on out!” she called, throwing out his Pokeball. The Fletchinder came out with ease, and at the sight of the joint Fire and Bird type, the collection of bugs scattered. The girl stopped her running and spotted Evangeline. She waved and pointed to the base of a tree where another net was lying down. Seeing no harm in joining the fun, Evangeline grabbed it and joined Henri in his dash around the trees, swinging the frame to gentle rattle branches and shake out hiding Pokemon.
Including a Spewpa, who fell right into the net with a fearful squeal.
She acted first, thought later. “Oh shhh, sweetie,” she crooned, reaching in to pull the little thing into her arms. “It’s okay, shhh, it’s okay.”
Big ochre eyes looked up at her, and it sniffled. “S-sorry,” it–no, she, Evangeline had enough experience to know that tone was feminine for this species–whispered. “I’m just so hungry…”
It was like a fist squeezed around her heart. She tried to tell herself no. The rest of her team was going to be absolutely furious, see this little one as a replacement. Even if the personality was completely different. All they’d see was the same as their friend once was.
Henri fluttered over, perching where he could crane his head to see what she was holding. “You aren’t going to let her go hungry, are you?” he asked. “I mean, the others looked like gluttons. This one looks kinda scrawny…”
“No, no of course not,” she said quickly. “We’ll… We’ll share our lunch with her, how about that?”
He nodded, pressing his head against her cheek with a coo. She patted him gently so as not to accidentally burn herself, and carried her burden over to a nearby picnic table. There was a chalkboard set up near it, with a list of different prices for lunches (human and Pokemon friendly), and the nearby building had a sliding window that was open where she guessed she’d get orders.
“Hey!” the little girl said, running up to her while still carrying her net. “Wait right there, okay?”
Blinking, Evangeline could only nod in agreement. She took a seat nearby, Henri joining her and tickling the Spewpa, earning a series of quiet giggles. Well someone was bonding with the wild Pokemon. She eyed him in concern, but before she could argue, the little girl was back, carrying a huge basket that was probably used for the berry harvests, a cloth covering over it.
“Here,” she said briskly as she set it down. “Those Bug-types have been ruining the harvests for days now. If it wasn’t for you and your Fletchinder, we’d never have gotten them to go away. I talked to my grandparents, and they agreed.” She pulled back the cloth covering, revealing a veritable hoard of berry hand pies. “These are for you and your Pokemon. They keep pretty well for a couple of days even, so you don’t have to worry about them going bad if it takes you a while to go through them.”
Startled, Evangeline started to shake her head. “Really, you don’t have to try and feed us, we just saw you needed help–”
“And so has at least four other trainers who just turn around and leave, not realizing the bug population is too high so rather than helping pollinate, they are just being a menace,” the little girl argued, crossing her arms. “And I recognize you from Camphier Town gossip. Tell me you don’t have a Snorlax you are trying to keep fed. I dare you.”
Henri chirped in laughter, reaching in to grab a pie with his beak. “She has you there,” he said, almost swallowing it whole. “I know if we made a dent in Theo’s stomach, his handlers and the nurses would appreciate it.”
Evangeline groaned. She was out-numbered. “You and the others eat before Theo,” was her only condition as she pointed at Henri in a mock-threatening manner. “He can empty out the basket.”
He gave her a mock salute with one wing…and pulled out another pie. Rather than eating it himself, he reached over to dangle it in front of the Spewpa. Due to her lack of hands, it was obvious she appreciated the help in getting her own meal. Evangeline bit the inside of her cheek to keep from chiding him, getting her own pie to nibble on.
Only after the Spewpa was fed did Henri lean his head against her thigh, making his eyes as big as possible. “Can we keep her?” he whispered.
She stared down at him. “She isn’t a replacement for Cho.”
Ruffling his feathers, he rapidly shook his head. “Of course not! We… We can never replace her. But this little one needs us. Cho would never forgive us for leaving her behind, you know? Under that diva mask, she really did care.”
Sighing, Evangeline looked at the Spewpa who was starting to dose off in her arms. “Fine,” she agreed in a whisper. “But you get to tell the others.”
He winced, but nodded in agreement.