Author Archives: Rebecca M. Horner

About Rebecca M. Horner

A spinner of yarns (of the story sort, though I do crochet...and sew, and learning to make armor...)

Review: Kimiko and the Accidental Proposal

And I’m back! This time with a continuation of a series that I enjoy, particularly when it continues a one-shot fanfic that I adored and was so excited to see continued.

Kimiko and the Accidental Proposal picks up a a few years after Tsumiko, following a new reaver. This time, it’s the daughter of modest shrine keepers, with some of the women having big ambitions…except Kimiko, who is content with her lot and finds her happiness in the little things. That is all turned on its head due to a series of circumstances that lead to her courting the Starmark Clan’s youngest tribute, Eloquence, as both of them attend a trial school that is meant to bridge the divides between reavers, Amaranthine, and the rest of us. But more is going on under the surface, particularly some familiar characters, and it looks like there is more trouble on the horizon.

According to one of my professors, the hardest thing you can do is write a sequel. I can usually see where she is coming from. You have to have an overarching story for your main characters, or cause new problems without making your first book pointless. One way to get around that problem is to completely skip around and have new protagonists and antagonists, just set in the same world. That is sort of what forthright did. The focus is definitely on the Starmark clan and the school in this book, but there is such a heavy callback to the earlier book, it isn’t as cleanly divorced as the idea would imply. So this is sort of almost a third way of handling it, because it isn’t following the exact same set of characters, though they make appearances and in some cases feature heavily in subplots, but they aren’t all brand new either.

There are pros and cons to this. On one hand, it’s great for characters who barely got a few chapters to get a little more attention, and Argent’s reappearance and the outside perception of him was fascinating, I always love those sorts of things. (True fact, best Christmas present to me from RP partners is points of view from other characters besides mine in key scenes.) It also gave us an idea of how tightly protected characters like Tsumiko are protected, versus Kimiko who is on the opposite end of the spectrum. But at the same time, it felt like there was a split focus between what was supposed to be our main story, which is that of Kimiko and Eloquence, and instead a lot of focus on what was going on with the side characters, such as Akira and Suuzu. This is what is called “ensemble writing,” and this is definitely more Ginny O.’s specialty than mine, so it’s hard for me to say if it was done well or not. It sometimes annoyed me, having to dig for Kimiko or Eloquence, but it never pushed me so far that I no longer enjoyed the book, so in that regard, it was a success.

Ugh, the characters though. I loved them. Like, as attached as I was to the first group, I love these even more. Kimiko in particular is my precious baby and I want to hug Eloquence. More than anything, I like that even if they find their families are embarrassing, none of the family groupings have been the “evil step-family” sort of situations yet. I feel like that sort of trope is a crutch that a lot of YA clings to, and so I’m excited that instead we’re seeing good examples in these stories without them all being nuclear families. Even the more “comedic” character, or at least more than we’d previously had, of the monkey half-Amaranthine, half-human hybrid just made me snicker and snort in amusement, especially his line drop at the end.

Also, FUCKING MIDORI. AHHHHHHHH!!! (I screamed in person too while reading. I want THAT story.)

World building, I felt like this helped explain a lot of the gaps that I had in the first book, which was excellent, while also adding elements that I hadn’t even thought about. That’s always a huge thing to do, especially as another writer reading it. It also created some cool layers and dimension, and I love how the information sometimes came from unexpected sources. (Like….Kimiko, she was really good at it, actually.) Nothing seemed overly contradictory to me, so that was thankfully balanced out to where if something did contradict the first book, it was so minor I missed it during multiple re-reads. There are also just enough gaps left that I am still left wanting more of this world.

So, out of all of this, what problems do I have? It comes down to Akira and Suuzu. I feel like they horned in big time on the story, taking a lot of the focus away from the “main” pairing, which is ironic since part of the point of this story is Kimiko coming under scrutiny and attention where she was previously considered unremarkable, and look what is happening to her in her own book! This is probably series set up, big time, which I totally respect. It just felt like the subplot started to take over, and I’m worried that this is going to be a reoccurring problem until Akira and Suuzu are resolved. Maybe it was because of the added subplot of the wolves and the dragon representative that just threw the balance off. I don’t know…

Overall, I loved this book even more than I did the first in the series. The first had the challenge of establishing a world and altering a story I already knew, which is hard, but because this second wasn’t hampered by more than a one-shot, it had a lot more breathing room. There was a little bit of a balance issue between the main plot, the subplots, and what was supposed to be our center focus, but overall, I think this is an excellent read, even without having read the prior book. (Which is about the highest praise you can give a sequel.)

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Early Close to NaNo ’18

Well, this is not how I intended my try at this year to go.

Admittedly, 2018 has been a hard year for me. Lost my dog, lost my older cat. And while I am going to keep out details for privacy reasons, I have a relative that it is past the point of dreading a call if it will be bad…and knowing that the next could be the call saying it’s over. My mother had surgery around her throat, which is terrifying. I am going through a rather painful part in your late twenties that no one tells you about, where you no longer have the energy to maintain ALL THE THINGS, especially with difficult relationships. Basically the last, oh, six months or so have either been me being an emotional wreck, or me trying to be emotional support. Sometimes within a week of each other!

But despite all of that, I thought that NaNo would actually help me recharge my batteries. My goals for NaNo are never about the word count. For me, it’s about writing everyday, even if it’s just a few words. It’s about focusing on one project primarily over others. It’s basically calibrating my writing habits so for the next year or so, I am in a better place than I was.

Here is where things went wrong this year. For me, writing is emotional work. You have to have something to start with. And I’m running on empty, between all the sheer crap that has happened in the last six months, in addition to work and all my projects in the fire. I just don’t have the energy. I went through what I had in stores…and ran out. Which now leaves me in a problem of not wanting to write at all, and I have too many projects on the burner to let that happen.

So what’s the solution? Well, I’m calling this year early. I’d rather revert back to posting reviews and commentary once a week than leaving you all with no content for another few weeks. (Plus I have a new Amaranthine Saga book burning in my pocket for a review.) I should know what is going on with Sun’s Guard sometime before the end of the New Year (or so I HOPE, jeebus), and can get a plan/timeline set up accordingly–that dragging out as long as it has is not helping with my stress level. And I can start pulling some irons out of the fire so I’m not so exhausted emotionally that I have no stores.

One thing I’m definitely doing is finishing playing the game and getting graphics for the posts built. I’ve hit the point where I really need to start adding my own side-flavor and arcs to the characters, and until I finish the game, I don’t know where to put them. And with the graphics done, that’s less busywork for me to get distracted with. Also, I can return the game I borrowed, because I’ve had it way too long as it is. That’ll aid my ability to succeed at this whole thing I’m doing.

I hate admitting to something like this. I’m your stereotypical Capricorn–perfectionist, wants to succeed, will push and push and push until the job is done. But that isn’t going to work this time. I’ll stop writing for a huge stretch afterwards if I push to work on Evangeline despite not being a place creatively to do so. (Look at that, we’ve learned since grad school!) But as much as I want to put that story out for you all, it isn’t original work, and as a result, the MMO project with Ginny and (more importantly) my books have to take priority.

There is some sort of Camp NaNo, which I think is like NaNo just in April? Oh well, I can make it work like that, or at least dedicate the month to the Nuzlocke if the timing is right. I’ll keep you all informed if it looks like I’m in any condition to continue then. Hopefully before then I’ll have news on Sun’s Guard: Ten, have finished the first draft and possible edit of Sun’s Guard: Page, and have made some decent progress on the MMO. Come back next weekend for a review!


NaNo 18 Day 11 & 13: Reflection Cave

Caves weren’t nearly as bad as forests in Evangeline’s opinion. While it was more dangerous in terms of cave-ins and potential Pokemon encounters, it was less dangerous in terms of her mental health. Of course, she was thinking of the pictures she had seen of the inside of Mt. Moon, or even the small caverns she had walked through to get to Ambrette town or to hunt for fossils. These connecting caves (albeit lacking in a clever name) were of a completely different cut, and she was being literal.

Unlike the brown, dark stone of other caves, this was nearly blue, with more of the same crystals she’d seen on Route 11 emerging from cracks and crevices. As she walked down the path, she almost let her bike fall in shock. She grabbed it just in time, and tilted her head at what she was seeing in the glow of the crystals. Was that a mirror, in a cave…?

No, it was the wall.

In quiet disbelief, Evangeline walked over and pressed her fingertips lightly to the rock surface. It really was like a natural mirror, the inside of the stone smooth and polished. Maybe every stone in here was a proto-crystal that hadn’t had a chance to find the inner glow? She wasn’t a scientist, so she had no way of knowing. Either way, it reminded Evangeline of something she’d heard about–mirror mazes, where it was hard to know where there was a legitimate doorway and where it was just another wall.

Suddenly, she wished she was in Mt. Moon.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” a voice asked, and she turned. A backpacker, he had a huge yellow pack that was almost as big as him, and he was staring at the wall with an amazed smile. “The whole cave system is this way! I’ve traveled all over Kalos, and it still is just as inspiring as it was the first time.”

She nodded silently, letting her hand fall.

He turned to look at her, and his eyes gleamed when he noticed her gear. “How about a battle? Let you get used to the reflection in your battles now before you get so deep in the system that you can’t get back out.”

That sounded more than fair to Evangeline. Reaching for a Pokeball, she said, “Etienne, let’s give it a shot.”

The big blue dinosaur type came out with a trill. Only he also quickly got distracted. Walking over to the wall, he cooed, flipping his ear frills at his own reflection. Evangeline clapped her hands over mouth to muffle her giggles. “Etienne, focus, sweetie,” she chided once she had control over herself. Shaking her head, he gave her a sheepish smile and looked towards the backpacker, who was letting out his Linoone.

It wasn’t necessarily a hard battle, just a tricky one. Much like her own Ella, this Linoone was a fast bugger, and Etienne had trouble keeping an eye on him so he could use any attacks. Finally, though, one placed Aurora Beam attack knocked the Linoone out.

“Easy now,” she murmured to Etienne, coming to stand beside him as the backpacker checked his Pokemon. He smiled at her and recalled the Pokemon, confirming that it was just a knock-out, nothing serious. Evangeline returned the smile and recalled Etienne. He gave her the required payout, and with a wave, went to go heal up his Linoone.

The caves gave ways to levels…and wild Pokemon. It didn’t take much for her to turn up a new friend–a Fairy type mixed with rocks that reminded Evangeline of a rabbit. Due to the rock, she thought of the pun of the rabbit in the moon and decided to nickname it Usagi. It didn’t appear to have a gender–it didn’t even have a mouth, so she used the French gender-neutral pronoun of “on,” or one in reference to a person, when referring to it out of respect. It seemed thrilled at the acknowledgement.

Usagi

It was the last bit of peace that they had. There were levels to the cave that had to be navigated, and sometimes the way up was actually to go down. In addition, the wild Pokemon were absolutely relentless, and the trainers were down here as a tourist attraction or for practice even more so. Evangeline tried very hard not to cry in relief when one woman offered her healing services rather than asking for another battle.

Bless her heart, she noticed. “That’s why I’ve stationed myself here,” she said sympathetically. “I wish the Elite Four would send a more official nurse station put in. The wild Pokemon and all the trainers can be overwhelming for someone who isn’t prepared for it. Even for some who are!”

“I’ll mention something to Korrina when I get to Shalour City,” she promised. “With my personal experience attached to it. I don’t know what I would have done without you to heal my team.” There was a donation box, and Evangline didn’t hesitate to put some money in it to help this kind girl replenish her Potion supplies.

She hadn’t walked too far past her (and had yet another set of battles) when a familiar voice called her name from down the hallway.

“Hey Ladybird!” Tierno called, running up. “How are you doing in the Reflection Cave?”

Evangeline made a face.

He laughed. “Yeah, I get yah. Maybe I can help you out a little.” He reached into his pocket and held out a TM. “If you use the move Flash, not as many wild Pokemon will turn up,” he explained.

She took the TM, twisting it in her fingers. “Really? That’s handy.”

He grinned, rubbing the back of his head. “I kinda depend on Flash. I’m still not very good at battling, so I keep running into trouble. I sure wish I could be as good as you.”

“Yeah, well, I needed to get some help, so don’t judge yourself too hard,” Evangeline tried to reassure him with a smile. “This cave is hard on us Trainers!”

He smiled back at her, and if she were to guess, he did look a little brighter. “You’re right, I shouldn’t beat myself up too much. Especially with all the trainers around here.”

“Exactly.” She gave a firm nod, glad she wasn’t going to have to argue with him about it. “Have you had a chance to look into the Coordinators like I told you about?” she asked, changing the subject.

“Oh yeah!” he said, and he was eager to talk to her about what he found out as they walked. He paused though when he saw a group of wild Pokemon who were in a weaker level. “Hey, I’m going to see if those Mime Jr have any dance moves I can use.”

Considering they were the baby form of the miming Pokemon, Evangeline was going to say that was a safe bet. She waved him on and decided to keep going to try and get out of these caves sometime today.

Of course, the other trainers seemed to have something else in mind. She sighed when a man in a white gi came running up, bouncing on his toes as he flexed. “Battle?” she guessed.

“Yah,” he agreed. His accent was thick, and neither French or like Evangeline’s. It made understanding him difficult, and he seemed to struggle with her accent in return, but they managed.

Or rather, she managed survival. He had only the one Pokemon, but it took her rotating out her entire team and applying potions in order to get through the fight. She recalled Kakashi as the last one, rubbing her forehead and feeling the cool sweat that had gathered there. “You did great,” she told him, speaking a little slower to help him understand. “Hard battle.”

He laughed, boisterous and loud. Not the least put out that he’d lost, probably because it used her entire team to do it. “Good battle,” he agreed and pointed at her. “Hard opponent.”

She waved her hand sheepishly, making him laugh again. Igor patted her on the back so hard that she stumbled forward to keep on her feet, and went back to his training. And left Evangeline with a dilemma. She didn’t have enough Potions to get everyone to full health, but if she backtracked through the tunnel, it would mean longer in the caves and more battles due to the distance, even with Flash.

Time and battles weren’t worth the risk to her team. She healed up one member enough to face anything she met along the way and went back to the woman from before.

“Let me guess,” she said dryly as Evangeline handed over the team’s Pokeballs. “Igor.”

“At least I won?” Evangeline said with a tentative smile.

“Well, you’re the first this week,” the woman said with a scowl, puttering about her clinic. Rei’s ears laid back and he puffed up when she slammed a box down–this was no Nurse Joy with her easy way about taking care of her patients. But Evangeline wasn’t going to argue with free care in this out of the way spot, and just ran her hand soothingly down the back of Rei’s head to help him calm down. “I swear, that man has caused more incidents than any of the wild Pokemon, and his French is so poor that I can’t tell if he understands me when I tell him to knock it off and go somewhere else for his training.”

“What is his native language?” Evangeline asked curiously.

“Russian,” the woman said blandly. Evangeline could only shake her head, since that was way out of her wheelhouse in being able to help. She took back her team, and went back into the tunnels. There was no sign of Tierno, so he must have already gotten out of the cave. With a deep breath, she tried to push through too, though she did have a pause between battles to eat her lunch and share with her team. With all of the fighting, she was sure they needed the energy!

At last, there was an opening up ahead, and it took all of Evangeline’s will not to run towards. Finally, freedom from the Reflection Cave! Inwardly, she swore that she would not be revisiting, at least in the form of using it as a path between Cyllage City and Shalour City. There had to be an easier way.


NaNo 18, Day 10 & 11: Geosenge Town and Route 11

The stone arch gave way to perhaps the oddest town layout that Evangeline had ever seen. Oh, it was filled with a rustic charm, with log cabin homes and stone lined paths, but it was also laid out in a circle of all things, no signs of a grid. And it was a circle around tall tower-stones in grey that chilled Evangeline to even look at them. The Pokemon Center was thankfully nearby, letting her check in. It wasn’t even close to being done for the day–she wasn’t even ready for lunch–but she knew the Centers at home kept bento boxes for Trainers on the go.

She lucked out. Nurse Joy had bagged lunches that didn’t need refrigeration–apples, hard smoked cheeses and meats, and a flaky croissant. Evangeline had a knife so cutting it all up later wouldn’t be a problem, and her water bottle was refillable. Theo was definitely not coming with her, so a few baggies of food were enough to keep her friends fed while she ate too, even if she ended up spending the night in a cave or wood grove somewhere and had to dip into her emergency rations.

There was no reason to stick around, but Evangeline decided to poke her nose around. Especially after meeting all those Team Flare grunts on her way here. That had been a red flag back at the mines, and she felt like it was probably applicable to them in general.  They were immediately around, and no one she talked to seemed to realize they were around, but that didn’t mean they weren’t!

There was a path that led around the village that she decided to follow. It was almost like a shared yard between the houses. A very…strange…shared yard, but it at least gave her an idea of why it was set up that way. Hitting the north end of the path, she considered turning around. But a flash of orange caught her attention, and she ran forward to confirm it.

Unfortunately, she had failed basically every stealth class she’d ever sat in during her visits to the academy with Mother. She was spotted almost instantly. He twisted around to see her clearly, scowling. “Not you again!”

She prepared for more trouble herself, reflexively grabbing Kakashi’s Pokeball. “I could say the same thing.”

“Hear this, pipsqueak! Team Flare is gonna use the stones on Route 10 and a fantastic treasure to make everyone on our team happy!” he said authoriatively. “In this world, the ones who have power are the ones who win with flare!”

“So that rules you out, doesn’t it?” she pointed out.

He threw a smoke bomb at her in answer, making her cover her mouth and cough to wait for it to clear the air. Jerk.

A series of steps came running up behind her, resting his hand on her shoulder. The smell of powder in her nose had her reflexively reaching for the kunai that should have been strapped to her thigh… Only nothing was there. Because she wasn’t at the academy. She was in Kalos, and the person behind her was a friend.

Sort of.

Xavier made sure she was standing up on her own and breathing properly before he relaxed. “Evangeline, are you okay?” When she nodded, he looked over head in the direction she had been talking to the moron. “Was someone from Team Flare here just now?”

“Yes,” she managed to cough out, straightening up as her lungs finally cleared.

His expression was…skeptical, to say the least. “You said he was here, but he isn’t anymore, is he? There’s only a dead end up ahead…” he pointed out.

“He was there!” she insisted, glaring up at him, annoyed at the insinuation. She wasn’t crazy! There had been a Team Flare member here, and now he was gone. Evangeline may not know where he went, but as much as she was awful at being sneaky, the academy had taught her all about secret passageways and entrances. Just because they couldn’t see something, didn’t mean it wasn’t there.

Wisely, Xavier held up his hands. “I believe you!” he quickly corrected his tone by assuring her. She humphed, making it clear that was the right answer or they were about to have a real problem. He shifted the bill of his hat up so he could look over the area more. “I wonder where that Team Flare guy went…” he mused.

“I don’t know, but I’m content to tell the nearest Officer Jenny and her police force, and stay the hell out of it unless forced,” she said, crossing her arms to hug herself. “We’ve been lucky, Xavier. These are grunt level in a terrorist organization, they barely know what they are doing and they aren’t the strongest trainers. Their more elite members, much less their boss? There’s no telling what would have happened.”

“Speaking from experience?” he asked, raising his brows at her.

She shrugged awkwardly. “My parents dealt with a similar organization in their youth,” she said. “The local champion managed to step in at the time, but it was dicey for a while.”

“The Kalos Champion isn’t well known, but I imagine whoever they are, they are keeping an eye on the Team Flare situation,” he said soothingly. “I’m going to push on, I’ll catch up with you later, okay?”

Evangeline hadn’t expected him to even be here considering the time advantage he’d had, so she nodded in agreement. He scurried away, and she walked over to where she had last seen the Team Flare member. There was nothing here that stood out to her as being a secret entrance, but it may be further on ahead too… She shook her head. Nope, she was leaving this to Officer Jenny, as soon as she found one.

Walking back out of the circling path thankfully spat her out close to the road leading out of town. She was just walking under another stone arch when the cry came behind her.

“Lucario! What are you doing?”

Turning around, Evangeline grinned as a familiar Lucario came running over, his trainer and fellow Lucario just behind him. “Running away again?” she asked. He scuffed at the dirt of the road, his head ducked bashfully.

Korrina skid to a stop in her roller blades, looking at Evangeline with wide eyes. “Hey! You’re that trainer from Route 5!” she realized, looking at her Lucario who kept seeking Evangeline out. He wasn’t a lot of help, twisting to look up at the sky as he grumbled under his breath, too faint for Evangeline to hear and understand him.

Not that it stopped Korrina. “I’m not exactly sure, but I think Lucario says he wants to battle with you,” she said slowly, and then looked at Evangeline with bright eyes. “Would you battle with us?”

Oh, why not? It wasn’t like her journey had to be measured in terms of time rather than accomplishments. “Sure,” she agreed, reaching for one of her team’s Pokeballs.

“So, I have two Lucario… But do you know which is the one that has taken a shine to you?” Korrina asked with a teasing glint.

Evangeline managed not to roll her eyes. It was a little obvious. But she wasn’t going to start a verbal argument. Instead, she called out Hikari.

“A fairy?” Korrina said skeptically.

“What is it with people judging by appearances?” Evangeline muttered, and the battle was on. Perhaps because of Korrina’s dismissal, Hikari threw herself into the fight with abandon, making Evangeline have to hold her back more than anything else, as she set about destroying both Lucario. Grabbing the fairy before she could turn on Korrina, Evangeline laughed. “You know, you didn’t have to beat them that badly,” she said.

“They made fun of us!” she argued in a squeaky voice. Still laughing, Evangeline patted her consolingly on the head and let her return to her Pokeball to stew in silence.

Or well, near silence. Korrina clapped her hands as she reached an epiphany. “Okay, now I get it!”

“Get what?” Evangeline asked, clueless as to what Korrina had actually figured out. Maybe that Evangeline understood what the Pokemon were saying?

“I see why Lucario likes you so much!” she said with a sunny smile. Well, that made one of them. Evangeline still wasn’t sure why someone else’s Pokemon kept seeking her out. “So, do you remember that I’m the Gym Leader in Shalour City?”

Evangeline nodded, deciding that was the best answer she could give to the question.

“Once you get past the cave just beyond here, you’ll be there, so stop by and say hello!” Korrina demanded, reaching out and taking Evangeline’s hands in hers. She didn’t let go until Evangeline quietly agreed, and then skated off.

Shaking her head, Evangeline reached up and scratched under the brim of her hat. Was the newspaper in Cyllage just an anomaly? Or did Korrina pay as much attention to the news as her father did to Johto? (Which unless it dealt with certain topics, was not at all.) Either way, she figured it couldn’t hurt to let Korrina maintain her current beliefs. She could break it to her later.

Route 11 had postings also calling it Miroir Way, describing how people could feel the power of the earth’s interior thanks to the crystals that had poked out of the ground, exposed to the surface by time. It was climbing back up the mountains, basically, amusing Evangeline at how she came all the way down, only to have to go back up. It really highlighted to her why the different Pokedex classification systems existed here, with how the region was divided geographically.

There were a handful of trainers along the route, though thankfully not as many as there had been leading up to Geosenge Town. She’d barely been walking through the tall grass at all when she stirred up a wild Pokemon–a Chingling that she caught and nicknamed Yvette.

Yvette (Chingling)

Flipping through her Pokedex as she pushed her bike up the steps, Evangeline was shocked when a beep came from her Holo Caster alerting her to an incoming message.

It was too early to be Aunt Aya, and a part of her dreaded that it was that creepy Lysandre. To her relief, the call actually shaped up to be from Professor Sycamore. “Hello there!” he greeted with a casual wave.

“Hello, Professor,” she returned with a shy smile, glad to hear from him. “How are you?”

“Doing well. According to your Caster, it looks like you’ve almost made it to Shalour City. That’s fantastic!” he congratulated her. She flushed, thankful that the hologram wouldn’t be able to translate the change in her complexion over. “You look happy,” he added with a softer expression. “It looks like your journey with your Pokemon around the Kalos region is going swimmingly.”

“I’m glad I came to Kalos too,” she agreed, wishing she could explain more. But she was too flustered with competing emotions, most of them ones she was unfamiliar with. It almost made her feel dizzy.

He nodded, and then got to his point. “I wanted to tell you about a person in Shalour who knows a great deal about Mega Evolution. People call him the Mega Evolution guru.”

That got her attention out of her emotional wallowing. “Then why did you bother sending us to Camphier Town?” she asked sharply.

“You needed to go through anyway, and I may have known about a certain reoccurring problem in the area that I thought you could handle.” He winked at her. She huffed in mild annoyance. Evangeline should have known Sycamore was meddling–professors were notoriously nosy. “Anyway, I’ve told everyone else about him, so if you have a second, you should give him a visit!”

“I’ll add it to my list of things to do,” she said with a sigh, but she nodded.

He grinned at her, and the call ended. She looked at the looming cave entrance, and wondered if she should have warned the professor she was about to enter a set of caves, so he wouldn’t have gotten so excited. But steeling herself, she walked her bike inside to navigate her way to Shalour City.


NaNo 18, Day 9: Ninja Daughters Are Prepared!

(Note: I goofed in last time’s post. I thought the Reflection Caves were next, rather than realizing those were the Connecting Caves outside of the gym. I’ve edited the previous blog post to correct this.)

The next morning dawned bright and clear, and Evangeline happily rode her new bike out of town…at least as long as the paths were going to let her. (Nurse Joy had given her a warning on her way out the door.) Route 10 was labeled as Menhir Trail, and it wasn’t a very long road at all according to the map. Of course, neither was Route 9 and look at how long that had taken her. It was littered with strange stones and tall grass–not ideal for navigating with her bike. But it was fun to ride it a little on her way out of town, as thanks for one of the citizens.

She stopped as she passed under a wild berry tree. This seemed like as good of a place as any to switch over to being on her feet. She reached up and snagged a fruit to snack on as she walked.

“Hey, that was mine!”

Startled, Evangeline jerked to look behind her. Stepping out of the tall grass was a brown mammal-type Pokemon, it’s fur striped in a different pattern than Ella’s had been, its ears much bigger. She didn’t need her Pokedex chiming into recognize this newcomer. It was an Eevee.

He growled at her, crouching down like he was prepared to tackle her. “That was my berry!” he repeated himself.

That berry had been way too high for him to reach. But if wanted a fight… “Kagura, help me out,” she said, releasing the sword-shaped Pokemon out to battle.

It wasn’t a hard fight–the Eevee wasn’t as tough as he was making out. But it took effort for Kagura to hold back enough to just weaken him enough for the Pokeball to work. Evangeline held her breath as the ball swayed precariously, the Eevee obviously not happy about the containment. But it was enough. The ball’s button clicked shut in a sealed lock.

“Yes!” she squealed, hugging Kagura. “Thank you, Kagura.” The Ghost-Type flushed and returned to her ball. With a lot of consideration, Evangeline sent one of her more established team members back to the computer storage, letting her hang on to the Eevee’s ball. She released it back out, reaching into her bag for a potion.

He growled at her. Rolling her eyes, Evangeline reached over and held out the berry. “Here,” she said. “Eat this while I treat your scrapes and bruises.”

That got him to stop growling, though it was in shock. “But…” he trailed off, taking the berry in his mouth as she sprayed the potion on his paws and body. “But you didn’t have to give it to me now.”

Reaching up to the tree, she pulled out another berry for herself. “There’s plenty to go around,” she pointed out to him as she took a bite.

His ears wilted. “Not around here…” he complained with a grumble. She offered him another berry and he took it before continuing, “There are so many Eevee, and lots of bird types too.”

Ahh, that explained his crankiness. Covertly feeling his belly, she decided one more berry couldn’t hurt and fetched it for him. “Well, with me, you won’t go hungry,” she promised. “I take good care of my friends. So what do you say? Want to go back to the grasses, or with me on my journey?”

He snorted. “Like that’s a decision. I’m sticking with you.”

Evangeline bit the inside of her cheek. He was so spunky compared to the normal Eevee! “How about Rei, for a nickname?” she asked. She had to explain that what it meant in her home language, but he agreed. Evangeline let him rest inside of his Pokeball now that his stomach was full, shaking her head in amusement at the newest addition to her crew.

Rei (Eevee)

There were only a few other trainers out and about this early, psychics and tourists, but plenty of wild Pokemon were making themselves known. Evangeline wasn’t surprised–it seemed the shortest routes were the busiest! The mysterious stones were taller than she was, very much so, and were like great planks, laid out in a pattern. She carefully touched on as she circled it, feeling chilled at the contact.

She had just passed through a row of hedges when a familiar, eye-searing shade of orange appeared. Hissing between her teeth, she tried to go duck behind the hedge, but it was too late. “Stop right there!” he ordered, running up to her and glaring at her from behind his orange sunglasses. “I remember you! You’re the one who foiled our fossil-finding plans!”

“If you want to call them plans,” she muttered.

He glowered at her, standing up straighter. “And now you’re here, standing around these stones. Do you have any idea what they even are?” His tone was patronizing, derisive. She flinched, which only made him even more smug. “Of course you don’t. You know nothing about the legend of three-thousand years ago that says…” He paused, looking upwards. “Wait, what does it say?”

Evangeline snorted before she could help herself. His effect was ruined, all without her having to do anything.

Swiping angrily at the air, he tried to take back his threatening air. “Oh, whatever! Who cares about all that? It’s time for me to get revenge…with style.”

She grimaced. So a battle it was. Rather than let him try to get the advantage, she selected the appropriate Pokeball. “Kagura, let’s go!”

“Houndour, finish her this time,” he ordered, releasing his own Pokemon.

If only for this guy’s dignity, she wished she could say it was a difficult battle. But it really, really wasn’t. Between Kagura, Hikari, and Etienne, she wiped the floor with his Houndour and Golbat. He reeled back at his defeat, staring at her in shock before it turned to his standard glare. “What? How could I lose again to some punk like you?”

Evangeline crossed her arms, glaring at him. “Substance over style, maybe? All I see is a fashion disaster who can’t even battle well.”

Outraged, he held his hand up to his chest like he was seriously affronted by what she said. “What are you, some kind of Trainer prodigy or something?”

“Or something,” she muttered. But she wasn’t going to explain to (what was effectively) a terrorist!

A beep came from the guy’s wrist. He walked away, tapping at a Holo-Caster as he held it up. She couldn’t see his message or call–that wasn’t how the system worked. All she could hear was his side. Not that he gave away much. “I see… Roger that!” He turned to look at her over his shoulder, sneering. “Time for me to scram, kid.” And he suited action to words.

“Kid?” she repeated, offended herself. She was sixteen! And a certified trainer, one with badges under her belt. (Well, ten year olds used to journey in her home region,  that nonsense was shut down ages ago.) But she didn’t chase after him, not wanting to risk this going from battling an annoying group of thugs to something a lot more dangerous. She had to settle for muttering and adjusting her bag strap. Alerting the police to these jerks was the first thing she was doing, as soon as she got to the next town.

Her bike alongside her, Evangeline tried to navigate the rest of the path in peace. Or well, relative. There were other trainers to fight, lots of wild Pokemon to stir up. And two more of these Team Flare goons to defeat. The first girl went down with very little effort. It was the second and her Gulpin that caused the issue. It didn’t take a genius to recognize it as a Poison type, and Evangeline’s maternal line were experts in them.

It was a value she definitely recognized as she managed to chase off the second girl. “Etienne, Hikari, come here,” she ordered the two poisoned Pokemon, kneeling down as she dug in her bike. Ettiene limped over, his eyes glossy, and Hikari managed to flutter over, looking wilted and dim in color.

She pulled out the white plastic case that had been her mother’s gift to wish her luck on her journey. Flipping the lid open, she grabbed two syringes–one large and thick at the needle base, the other much more delicate and technically meant for the smallest of Pokemon. She had to hope these would work. A pair of latex gloves went on, actually two gloves per hand for safety, and she grabbed two sterilization packs as well. Grabbing the type of antidote needed for sludge-type Pokemon and their particular strains of poison, she inserted Hikari’s syringe first since it wouldn’t take more than a little to dose her.

One wipe carefully cleaned Hikari’s arm, and she inserted the needle with care. The relief on Hikari’s face was almost immediate as the poison’s effects stopped causing her pain. Using the wipe to clean her hands, it took her the rest of the bottle to fill Etienne’s syringe. She decided to apply the poison the same way that she would to a Rhyhorn or the Pontya line–going for the top of the shoulder. Etienne cringed a little as she was forced to throw her weight behind the needle to get it through his skin, but sighed as soon as she pressed the plunge.

“There…” she whispered to the two of them. “That should get you to the Pokemon Center in Geosenge Town.” They nodded and were easily recalled to their Pokeballs, just as the sky opened up to begin to drizzle. Glancing up, Evangeline reached into her bag for her raincoat, but she didn’t bother pulling it on. Instead, she draped it over her head and her bike handles so it would stay on as she jogged towards the stone arches in the distance. The sooner a nurse saw her Pokemon, the happier she would be.


NaNo 18, Day 7: Princess, But No Successor

The sun seemed especially bright outside when she stepped out. Though that might have been because it was hitting the waves as it set, throwing golden light wherever it still touched. Tugging her hat where it wouldn’t glare quite as much, Evangeline pulled out her map for a quick consult. Tapping Cyllage City absently with her pointer finger, she eyed the route that she was expected to take and made a face. It was just long enough, she didn’t want to risk it. Folding the map back up, she set it into her bag and climbed up on her bag to make it back to the Pokemon Center. She’d stay here for the night and call Aunt Aya, then set out in the morning.

Nurse Joy was happy to see her again, and congratulated her on the Gym win. Flushing, Evangeline thanked her and quickly found a corner of the Center to hide in for dinner while seeing to her Pokemon. Cerise was eager to show off a new move she’d figured out, and the others were slowly starting to adapt to the new friend, to Evangeline’s sweet relief. While they played around a center rug that had a series of Pokemon-safe toys, Evangeline took off her Caster and set it on the table, rearranging it so it would be able to take a steady picture. Unlike with her calls home to her parents, she didn’t have to have a landline connection to reach Aunt Aya in Vaniville. All she needed was her sequence, which she’d gotten when they’d bought the Casters in the first place.

The screen fussed for a moment as it alerted her aunt to the incoming call, but at last, a holo-projection of her great-aunt from the shoulders up appeared in blue. “Hey there, Evangeline! I was hoping you’d call soon.”

“Hi, Aunt Aya,” she said with a shy smile. “How are things for you in Vanville?”

She waved her hand dismissively. “Same old, same old. I’m actually enjoying this little vacation, if you can believe it. It’s giving me a lot of time to consider the Academy’s curriculum and how we can make it better. I’m usually so involved with the day-to-day side of things, I don’t get to think about it.”

“Well that’s good,” Evangeline said, feeling something inside her unclench as she realized that her mother’s request wasn’t upsetting Aya’s life like she was afraid.

“Enough about my boring vacation in suburbia, how is your journey going? Where are you?” Aunt Aya asked eagerly, leaning forward. Much like the rest of her family, she hadn’t gone on a Pokemon journey or really traveled much, just settling in to family expectations. A part of Evangeline wondered if her great-aunt was trying to live vivaciously through her.

Unfortunately, Evangeline knew she was rather boring, so it wasn’t going to be that much excitement. Not to mention there was a good chunk of current events that she was desperately hoping her great-aunt wasn’t going to find out about. “Cyllage City, it’s up on the coast,” she said, then ducked her head. “I faced my second Gym today.”

“Oooh, how did it go?” Aya asked, and wouldn’t let Evangeline say just fine. She asked questions and commented until Evangeline told her the whole story, and even insisted on seeing her badge case now that there were two inside of it. She rested her chin in the balm of her hand, sighing. “Your parents are going to be so happy that this is going so well. I’m really proud of you, you know?”

Evangeline flushed in embarrassment at the praise, and a knot in her stomach rolled. She didn’t think she was worth all of this fuss. She was good, sure, she also grew up in gyms. And she’d lost Cho, and struggled with Felix for a bit there. (He was still a moody little bugger.) But she didn’t think she could tell Aunt Aya that. “I called my parents last night,” she finally settled for changing the subject slightly. “Mother is with Grandfather until you’re time to call, but Father answered.”

“Ah, how is the great feather-butt?” Aya asked with a tsk, making Evangeline giggle. That seemed to be enough for Aya, who waved her hand. “Never mind, I’ll see for myself soon enough. So Janine went to go see my big brother. She is such a daddy’s girl still.” Pausing, Aya murmured softly, “I wonder if that’s genetic?”

“I am not a daddy’s girl,” Evangeline argued, mortified.

“No, but you get along with him better than your mother,” Aya pointed out with a sad little smile. “I can’t blame you, I’ve seen how hard it is for you to fit the role she wants, remember? Actually, I think both of them have smothered you a little. It’s why I was so in favor of you going on this journey.”

“Father seemed better with it, last night,” she admitted.

That made Aya pause. “Well, good. He should be. You’re doing great, Evangeline, and you need to believe that. Part of this journey is you figuring out who you are, so you can figure out where your place is.” She leaned forward. “And that may not be in Violet or Fuschia City. Okay?”

Evangeline’s mind felt greasy even considering it. “But, but Father, and Mother…”

“Can only tolerate each other and need to figure that out already,” Aya said firmly. “When Koga retires from the Elite Four, I guarantee you he is going to want his Gym back, and where will your mother be then? And both of your parents could use some more variety to their team structures. And if they took over Violet City Gym together, maybe they’d have other children to take the pressure off of you. They are both young yet–”

“I’m not listening to this!” Evangeline squealed, covering her ears. “Aunt Aya!”

She snickered but subsided for her great-niece’s sake. “The point is, let that pressure stay back in Kanto and Johto, okay? Yes, you are still their gyms’ little princess, and you always will be, but you don’t have to be anyone’s successor unless you want to be.”

It made a lot of sense. Father had never shown any interest in anyone else, and… Well, it was hard for her to say on Mother. And hadn’t that been her complaint, wanting to do more than just the one solid type that they both wouldn’t budge from? She rubbed her forehead, feeling actually more stressed even thinking about not trying to fit into either role her parents wanted.

“But I’ve said too much.” Aya flashed her a V-for-Victory sign. “Don’t worry about us, okay? Keep up your good work! The rest will sort itself out.”

Evangeline sheepishly returned the symbol. “I’ll do my best,” she promised.

“Good. Now where is that Froakie of yours?”

Hearing himself mentioned, Kakashi had no problem leaving the play to run over to the table, craning his head around Evangeline’s shoulder. “Hi, Aunt Aya!” he greeted waving his hand as the Caster picked him up for the holo on the other side of the call.

“Oh! Well he isn’t a Froakie at all!” Aya laughed, clapping her hands in delight. “I’d let Nidoqueen say hi, but she’d probably burst into tears, and I’d never get her calmed down. Next time, okay? Or maybe you can pay a visit if you circle back around!”

“I’ll see what happens,” Evangeline promised. “Call you in a few days?”

“I’ll be waiting,” Aya said and waved good-bye before the call ended.

Shaking her head, Evangeline set the Caster back on her wrist. “Part of Lumiose was shut down when we were there, and I’m sure they have a gym. We can backtrack from there to see Aunt Aya,” she promised Kakashi quietly.

“She’d like that,” he agreed with a nod. “We can take Felix too, and some of the others to show that you know how to have diversity. That’ll help her lay hints on your parents.”

Giving her starter a glare, Evangeline lifted her bangs out of the way to give it more effect. “You are not going to help my great-aunt play matchmaker with my parents, are you?”

“If it’ll make you happy, I will. And anything that makes you less stressed is good in my book.” He stuck out his little pink tongue at her. “But unless they can understand me, I’ll have to be subtle. Sneaky. Like a–”

“Please do not say a ninja,” Evangeline groaned. “I get enough of that whenever I visit Mother.”

“…You know, I’m not even going to ask. But yes, like a ninja.” He puffed up his chest.

She laughed a little. “Even if you are the wrong type, Mother is going to love you.”

No matter how much Kakashi pleaded and demanded, Evangeline refused to explain what she meant. She instead focused on getting everyone to bed at a decent time so they could get going early in the morning. She had a lot ground to catch-up on!


NaNo 18, Day 6: Cyllage City Gym Battle

Evangeline stumbled to a halt once she saw the inside of the gym. It was like a cave that had been expanded and stabilized for the purposes of the gym, without losing any of the natural wonder. A waterfall in the back led to a pool of water that no doubt drained underground into the sea. The caverns inside were high, leaving plenty of room inside for a gym… or in this case, for a rock climbing wall. A series of rock climbing walls, one on top of the other in some imitation of a tower. (She’d know, Johto was famous for towers.)

“He is so lucky I’m not afraid of heights instead of bugs,” she muttered, hands on her hips as she looked up.

Nearby, a man coughed to smother his laughter. She looked at him, and he gave her a shrug. “Gym Leaders,” he said as if that summed it up. And in a way, it did, and made this seem relatively normal as a result. She still made a face at him and walked over to see what all she needed. He helped slip a safety harness in white and grey over her hips (though she buckled herself), and slipped a white helmet on her head while she put her hat in her bag. “Do you know how to climb?” he asked, gesturing to the wall.

“It was part of trainer certification, though it wasn’t nearly this much of it,” she assured him, eyeing the long series of walls with unease. “Please tell me there are break-spots?”

“Of course,” he said with a grin. “You might have to battle on them, but there are plenty of breaks with water and benches to catch your breath at. We’re not completely insane. Grant got a little enthusiastic, but he’s also a fitness nut. We had to remind him what normal people are capable of.”

“Trainers are normal people?” she asked with an innocent flutter of her eyelashes. That got her a spark of laughter, and with a grin, she set the harness on the line and started her first climb. Like the helper had promised, there were ledges for her to stop at, whole paths even, and helpful mats that indicated where to jump down and unclip from the wall and move somewhere else in order to continue her advanced upward. Despite the seeming insanity of it, there was logic there. And it wasn’t that much different from the platforms and steps that were the inside of her father’s gym, so she really couldn’t complain too much. (And at least it wasn’t a spider’s web!)

The battles were against the techs who also served as trainers learning under Grant. Some were younger, like her, but there also a few of the hiking types who probably were around as much for the caves as they were the Pokemon battles. Kakashi, with a little help from Haruka, took care of them without breaking a sweat. Although, Evangeline wished she could say the same. She felt like she had to be dripping with it by the time she reached the top, sitting down on the ledge with a whoosh of breath at finally reaching the platform. A bottle of sports drink tapped her shoulder, and she took it with gratitude to sip it. “You do this every day?” she asked in disbelief as Grant sat down next to her.

“Most days,” he corrected her with a sheepish shrug. This close, she saw that this eyes were actually a clear, crystal blue. Interesting. He was twisting the cap to her drink around his fingers as if fidgeting. “Though I prefer if I’m climbing outside. But sometimes I have bike races, like today. Sometimes Viola calls up and I get be hassled into pictures for the day, for some reason I barely understand.”

“Been there…” she muttered, turning to look over the cavern pool and falls.

Grant snorted in amusement. “Yeah, Viola’s a character.” He looked up towards the cavern ceilings, where pitons held lights that shown down on his gym, carefully wired to case the least damage as possible and yet still be aesthetically pleasing. Additional steel beams insured that the roof was stable and not likely going to come crashing down on their heads. “As long as I can spend time with my Pokemon, I call it a good day,” he continued.

She smiled softly into her drink, feeling a bond with this gym leader that she hadn’t really felt with anyone else aside from Professor Sycamore since she reached Kalos. “Smart way to view your time, I only wish more people looked at life that way,” she said, and stood up. “Come on, let’s get to the battle.”

He smirked, offering her the bottle cap. “Not too tired?”

She took it from him, finding a smidge of bravery to tap him on the tip of the nose with it. “I don’t climb mountains every day, but you could say Gym battles are in my blood,” she said with sly smile.

The expression seemed to surprise Grant, who blinked and flushed before backing off to his side of the field. “Right. Amaura, let’s show her what we’ve got!” he called out, throwing out a Pokeball. His Amaura was a little bigger than Etienne, female, and full of confidence.

“Kagura, you’re up,” she said, releasing the Honedge. The Ghost-Type twisted in the air, singular eye blinking as she took in her opponent.

For once, the battle was a challenge. Grant didn’t just expect to blow past her defenses despite her type advantages, and he was smart with what he did. She ended up pulling back Kagura for Hikari to finish the fight against the Amaura. Grant grinned and tried to press his advantage with Tyrunt. Evangeline considered it a good head’s up for Xavier’s capabilities if he ever got the fossil turned around. She didn’t bother with games, sending in Kakashi to wrap it up.

Grant tucked his hands into his pocket as the battle ended. “Well, that was…” He shook his head and laughed, reaching out to take her hand. “One of the best battles I’ve had in a while!”

She grinned, accepting his hand. “Agreed,” she said. “I hope my Etienne gets to the same level as your Amaura. He’s still going through some growing pains.”

Ducking his head a little, Grant managed a sheepish smile. “Yeah, she gets enthusiastic.”

“Will you have to retire her soon for a new one? I know the fossils must make that difficult…” she asked curiously.

But then Grant looked at her oddly. “You know that Gym Leaders trade out Pokemon to maintain difficult?” he asked in disbelief. “Most people assume these are my personal team.”

Evangeline bit her lower lip. Oh damn. Damn, damn, damn. She got too comfortable, and a lifetime of knowledge on how to run a gym had slipped out. “I just assumed… I mean, Gym Leaders are professional battlers, you’d be able to outstrip someone who was just starting out if you didn’t try to maintain levels along the journey, right?” she asked, her voice weak.

“That’s the logic of it,” he agreed, his eyebrows still raised. “The League sets those across all the regions.” He snapped his fingers. “Oh, speaking of the League, you’ll be wanting your badge to prove your victory here in Cyllage.” Out of his multitude of cargo pockets, he pulled out the badge, pausing and flushing. “I know it isn’t the prettiest in the region. I redesigned it, but there are limits to the changes you can make.”

Accepting the badge, she twisted it around. “I mean, I can tell where I got it from,” she said honestly. “It reminds me of rock climbing, and of the beaches here at the same time. It isn’t as literal as Viola’s… But I think that’s a good thing.” It was a little more modern art, a little more classic. Plus, not going to give her nightmares.

Judging by his smile, Grant appreciated the praise for what it was. “If you want to climb down, I won’t stop you, but there is a skid path down, if you’d rather,” he said, pointing towards the other side of the platform than she climbed up. “It’s an easier trip, but watch out, its fast even going at a walk.”

She raised her brows at him. “You tried to ride your bike down it, didn’t you?”

He shrugged. “I was bored, and it was raining outside. Gotta keep the other Trainers jumping.”

Shaking her head, she laughed. “Take care of yourself, Grant,” she scolded, waving over her shoulder as she headed towards the skid path so she could head out.

Grant raised his hand to wave back, trailing to a stop as she disappeared from sight. “You too…” he murmured, his eyes lingering. Such a little mystery, that Evangeline. He recognized her pictures as Viola’s latest obsession, and he knew the media were trying to create a buzz around her. But they might have mislabeled her, too eager to cast her as the unknown talent. He wondered if maybe he ought to give Sycamore a call… Nah. Shaking his head, he smiled at the air. It’d be more fun to find out on his own.


NaNo 18, Day 4: Cyllage City and Bike Drama

The surprises for the day weren’t done once Evangeline put on her normal clothes and continued down the beach-road along the coast. There were other trainers itching for a battle, and two of her Pokemon just waiting for a chance to evolve. She wasn’t sure if Ella was jealous at how quickly her fellow original members were evolving or if she just ran for it. Either way, her sleek new form ran in excited circles around Evangeline’s ankles.

Ella (Linoone)

The second was more a surprise. She had just finished a battle with a fisherman, and Hikari spun around her flower thoughtfully. Evangeline watched, letting the little fairy do what it needed. Finally, she hugged it close, and immediately burst into white light. Startled, Evangeline ran through the clingy sand to reach her side, just as the petals of her flower spun to break it up.

Hikari (Floette)

She beamed up at Evangeline, spinning her flower like Evangeline remembered spinning parasols when she was a child. Laughing, she clapped her hands and offered Hikari a hug in congratulations.

Cyllage City was built on various levels, and rather than the dirty or cobble roads of the other places she’d been so far, they had hard pavement that was better for tires. Most of the houses were residential, though she did find a clothing boutique that she poked her head in. The shop girl was able to give her directions to the Pokemon Center, thankfully, and Evangeline checked in with Nurse Joy for a check up. Her team was grateful for the chance to rest, especially as she gossiped with some of the locals. The city’s gym was Rock centric, so she was happy Haruka and Hikari had evolved. They would be needed as back-up for Kakashi. Kagura and Etienne insisted on coming, and she was keeping Cerise nearby until the little Vivilion had a chance to learn some more about battling.

Once she was set for her upcoming Gym battle, Evangeline started to circle around the town again to explore. Everyone was friendly, at least, though there were so. many. bikes. She found out why as she spotted a store front with wheels on the store front and a bike sign. So that’s where the outlet was in Kalos. Debating for a minute, she decided to at least go in and see how close she was to being able to afford a bike.

Or at least, that was the plan until the owner behind the counter spotted her. “Oh, oh, oh! Welcome, welcome!” he said eagerly leaning over the counter. “Come here, please, Miss Evangeline!”

He knew her on sight. Not good.

Reluctantly, she walked over to the counter, holding tight to her bag strap. “How do you know my name?” she asked in confusion.

Flipping open the newspaper on the counter, he pointed to an article about the photo expo of an up and coming trainer by Viola, written by Alexa. They’d interviewed Sycamore, who thankfully kept his mouth shut about her parents and as the only one who knew, she was safe on that front. Still, it was enough to make her whimper in embarrassment.

“They find the VR video you made with your Frogadier and have been running it too,” he added with a grin. “You’ve got a lot of people interested in Pokemon journeys again, and the younger kids are really looking up to you.” He folded the paper decisively. “Which is why I have something special, just for you.”

“What…?” she asked weakly, following him as he walked over to a corner of the store. The most popular colors for bikes were green and yellow, though she saw a couple of other colors tossed in there. Most were all-terrain models, though there were a couple of speed types and extreme mountain riding too.

He paused by a pink all-around bike, the exact same shade that Evangeline favored. “This is for you,” he said, holding up a hand before she could argue. “And in return, I want you to tell everyone where you got it if you are asked in an interview how you get around. Consider it an endorsement.”

“I-I-I… I don’t know what to say,” she stammered, holding her hands over her heart. Oh, this was bad. So bad. “It’s a beautiful bike, sir–”

“Custom color,” he said with a wide smile. “And I’ve had three different girls asking for it since I got it in and put it on display in hopes you would walk in here. Without even mentioning your name.”

So just by traveling with it, she’d get him business. Reassuring, since she was going to be avoiding journalists like the plague now, at least until she finished her badge collecting. “I’m just a Pokemon trainer!” she tried to argue, refusing to stomp her foot. Her nanny used to whack her on top of the head with a dictionary if she stomped her foot, helping break the childish habit, but sometimes, she was so tempted. This wasn’t what she wanted!

“You’re a girl Trainer,” he argued back. “We don’t see nearly enough of those making their rounds between the gyms, no matter how much pushing the government is doing in the schools. They tend to stick close to home, their parents too scared to let them go out into the world. Well, you are proving that they can and be just fine. I’ve decided to help drive it home. Maybe it’ll get my own daughters out to discover a bond with Pokemon.”

Great, now she was being used as an example. She sighed, realizing she was not going to win this argument. “Just… Spread the word that I don’t want the help?” she begged. “Pokemon Centers are one thing, but this is more than I feel comfortable accepting.”

He laughed. “That, I can agree to. I don’t think anyone was quite as eager as I was, so you should be safe.”

Oh thank God. She breathed out and held out her hands. “Alright, I’ll take the bike.” He grinned and unlocked it from the stand, letting her wheel it out. She sighed as she looked down at it. “I am not telling Aunt Aya about this,” she muttered. Evangelin would make up some sort of contest and winning the bike first.

She’d ridden a little back in Johto, so with a little practice, she was able to go up the bike paths that lined the cliff. The going was different from the smooth streets of Violet City, but she managed. She did blink and skid to a stop when an unfamiliar male came running up from another path on foot.

“Hey!” he said, waving. His dark skin had a healthy glow to it, and his dark curls were twisted and rolled with a collections of stones. He wore rock climbing gear in functional greys with orange accents. “If you’re here for the bike race, I’m afraid you’re too late.” He paused and looked over her bike in question. “Nice ride, by the way. Custom paint?”

She flushed, not wanting to answer that. Apparently he hadn’t been poking around in his own city’s bike store.

“The race is over, I won first place,” he factually told her, resting his hand on his hip. “I feel bad that you missed it.”

“Please don’t, please,” she asked, cringing a little. “I actually only just got this bike, to speed up my traveling between towns. I’m looking for the local Gym.”

“Oh!” He laughed and rubbed the back of his head. “That would be me. Or, my Gym, I guess. Name’s Grant, and I’m the Leader for Cyllage City.”

“I’m Evangeline,” she introduced her self with a nod of her head, since he didn’t hold out his hand for her to shake.

“How about I walk with you up to the Gym?” he offered. “I can get in place while you are facing off against the trainers who work with me.”

She swung off of her bike to show her agreement, walking it next to her as she came to stand beside him with a smile. He cleared his throat and started walking down the path. “So, your accent isn’t native to coastal Kalos,” he said, a question disguised as a statement.

Evangeline bit her lower lip and said quietly, “My great-aunt and I had just moved to Vaniville when Professor Sycamore handed out starters to the latest class. I got roped in with them, since I was already registered.”

“Just moved? From where?” he asked.

She shrugged. “A lot of bouncing around,” she said evasively. Which was true. Before they were in Vaniville, they were on the boats. And before the boats, she spent roughly three-quarters of her time at one parent’s location, the other quarter…usually bouncing between the academy, her mother’s actual house, and her grandfather’s house. She rarely set foot in the Fuschia City Gym anymore.

He smirked. “A little mystery. I like that.” He paused outside of an impressive doorway literally cut into the cliff face. “Here we go, the Cyllage City Gym.” He gave her a mock salute with two-fingers. “I’ll see you inside.”

She grinned at him. “All the way at the top.” He ducked through the doors, and after she got her new bike taken care of, she followed him in, eager to lay claim to her second badge.


NaNo 18, Day 3: A Father’s Love

“Evangeline!” he greeted her, his voice more enthusiastic than his expression–but then, her father’s stern expression was nearly legendary. Overly serious by far, she could see a lot more of herself in him than her mother. But there was a softness there, affection for his only child, that had been present all her life outside of Gym battles when he had to be scary. “I wasn’t expecting a call from you and Aya for a couple of more days. Are you settled already?”

She winced a little. “Um, about that.” She ran her hands over her braid in nerves. “The nearby professor got word of me being here. Professor Sycamore. He, um, decided he could lump me in with the latest trainer class he was giving starters out to.”

His only visible eyebrow raised, and she could only tell because of how well she knew him that he was shocked. “So you have already started your journey?” he asked.

Evangeline nodded slowly. “Pretty much right away,” she admitted. “My starter is a Froakie, his name is Kakashi. Or, was. He’s already evolved.”

Falkner tilted his head. “I’m not familiar with that one, so not a Flying type in any evolution,” he said, his tone deceptively bland.

“No, Water,” she said, and quickly added. “Henri is the flyer, a Fletchinder.”

That smoothed his expression over, making her want to sigh in relief. “At least you have one,” he said, with a nod. “Your Maiko is doing well here, by the way.” Her heart swelled at the mention of the Pidgey-turned-Pidgeotto she had trained under her father’s guidance as a child. “I’m considering using her for Gym Battles, if you are okay with it. My current is ready to evolve, and she’s the best Pidgeotto in the Gym right now.”

“Of course,” Evangeline agreed. “I’d be honored.” Oh! Scrambling, she grabbed the case she’d brought with her from her room. “Speaking of Gyms, I faced the first one here, at Santalune City,” she said, and held up her case, letting him see her only badge so far. “I’ll be heading towards Cyllage City for my second in the morning.”

“Good work!” he complimented with a soft smile, making her sit up straighter in pride. But then he tilted his head like one of his Hoothoot. “Is that a beetle…?”

She whined, wilting at the reminder so her head rested on the table in front of the computer.

“Oh, my poor chick,” he said with a chuckle, though he turned serious again. “At least if you had stayed here in Johto, I could have talked to Bugsy for you.”

“I don’t want special favors,” she complained, voice muffled by the wood of the desk. “We talked about this, ad nauseam, before I left.”

“I know, but I promised the bird keepers I would ask their ‘hime’ if she was ready to come home yet,” he said. She snorted at him. If they were asking that, he must be talking about her as much as he talked Flying philosophy. “Evangeline,” he scolded.

Right, right, act like a lady. Sighing, she straightened up to pout at him. “I’m doing just fine here,” she muttered. “And I like that it’s different. New Pokemon, new places, new challenges. No one who knows who I am just by looking at me.”

Her father gave a slow nod. “I won’t pretend to understand,” he admitted at least. “I never had the desire to leave here, and just wanted to improve the Gym. But your grandfather Walker did, and it was quite some time before he settled here as the Gym Leader. Take your time, Evangeline, and follow your heart. It’ll lead you to your intended roost, just like it did him.”

“Yes, Father,” she promised and glanced at the clock. “I had better get to bed and let you get to work. I’ll call you in a couple of days?”

He nodded and added, “Make sure you call your mother sometime too. Or let Aya handle her, which ever you think is best.”

“Considering Aunt Aya was her idea, I’m tempted to just let them talk,” she muttered, but nodded in agreement before saying good-bye and hanging up. Neither of them were the type to casually mention their love for each other, but both knew it.

Evangeline sighed and went to go find a space in her own bed for her, between the cuddlers that made up her group of Pokemon. She’d call Aunt Aya in Cyllage to give her an update for her mother. Her father was too right, it would be easier for her to let Aya handle the communications back to their home regions as much as she could. If her mother wanted to talk to her, Aya could tell her that way.

*****

The aquarium’s collection was impressive. It made Evangeline wish she had a fishing rod. Of course, as she walked down the beach path, she found that desire was waylaid by the sight of the waves crashing up on the sand. She understood why Nurse Joy had pushed at her to consider taking some time to enjoy it. There was a small area that seemed intended for tourists, or at least those who might not have worn their bathing suit for their journey to the coast.

She let her Pokemon out as she struggled to get her hair up in a ponytail and out of the way. Kakashi gave a whoop and was off to the waves before she could stop him, Ella right on his tail. Shaking her head, she straightened the ruffle at the top of her one-piece swim suit–it formed the straps that sat just off of her shoulders, tying with a chord in the middle, and not exposing any cleavage but just highlighting her collarbones. It was in her preferred aqua blue, with white and pink flowers and navy leaves for the print.

Glancing around at the ever-so-fashionable other swimmers, never had Evangeline been more happy that Aunt Aya had insisted on a shopping trip before they even boarded the boat to Kalos. She hadn’t even owned a swimsuit before, and would have looked awkward in either her ninja gear or her hakama skirts trying to wade into the water. She already felt odd since she was so simple compared to high French fashion. But it worked for her, and she was going to be happy.

Kakashi and Ella were joined by Chiko, who seemed to be enjoying snapping at the spray with her larger-mouth and the splashing at the others with her hands. She didn’t even try to convince Haruka, figuring that salt wouldn’t be good for him, and he seemed content to guard her bag. Cerise stayed with him rather than risking getting carried away with the waves, being so small. Felix seemed torn between avoiding Cerise and avoiding the water, and settled for sitting away from the other two and far from the waves. One of the handful of stands that rented out equipment included beach balls. Evangeline was more than happy to purchase one for those in the waves to bounce back and forth.

Of course, keeping control of the ball was something else entirely. One wrong hit by Ella sent it crashing into a nearby girl who was splashing around herself. “Hey!” she shouted, spinning around and indignant. Her blonde hair was easily as long as Evangeline’s, but perfectly straight and cut in fashionable layers, contrasting with the tan of her skin. Her pink halter bikini exposed a lot more skin than her one modest one-piece, and it made Evangeline self-conscious.

But she wasn’t going to let her Pokemon get yelled at. “Sorry, it was an accident,” she said, stepping forward and folding her hands in front of her to give an apologetic bow. “We’ll move further down the beach and be more careful.”

“We?” the swimmer looked over and saw Evangeline’s team. “Oh, a trainer! You can apologize with a battle. My Pokemon will get me vengeance.”

“It was just a ball,” Evangeline protested, but didn’t try and argue. She just gestured for her own team to gather around. The swimmer released a Psyduck, and she barely refrained from groaning. At least she knew how to handle them. “Haruka, you’re on!” she called out. The Budew waddled over, his bud opening and closing as he faced off. Cerise came over to watch, which Evangeline only thought could do the Spewa good.

At least until the Wingull came out. Cerise squeaked at the sight of the bird, trying to hide behind Evangeline’s leg. Haruka quaked a little too, but Evangeline stood firm. “You can do this, Haruka!” she promised. “Just keep up your attacks!” Both of her littlest Pokemon looked up at her. The Grass-Type puffed up, and he set his mouth in a firm line. He faced down the dual type with a fierceness that filled Evangeline with pride in him. So when he burst into white light at the end of the battle, she wasn’t surprised.

Haruka (Roselia)

What did surprise her as Cerise inched forward to watch was Cerise copying him.

Her breath caught in her chest, and she looked between both of them. Haruka finished first, shaking his new hands and then raising them up in happiness. Then he saw Cerise and quickly came running over as her wings flicked off the light with a gust.

Cerise (Vivilion)

Purple wings. Evangeline felt like she could collapse in relief. Apparently they had moved into a new region for wing patterns for Vivilion. She smiled softly as Haruka and Cerise danced together in excitement for their new forms, the others clapping and cheering. The swimmer sulked and tossed her some coins, which she went to go put in her bag.

She looked up just in time to see Felix approaching. Evangeline tensed, watching the Charmeleon pause behind Cerise. The new Vivilion’s wings fluttered anxiously. But Felix held up his clawed hands, delicately taking her much smaller paws in his. He gave them a little shake, ducked his head, and then went to walk next to the bag to sit again.

Evangeline grabbed him by the shoulders, hugging him close. “That’s my boy,” she whispered to him, making him flush before she ran to join the celebrations.


NaNo 18, Day 2: Responsibilities

The reactions to the napping Spewpa went… about as well as could be expected. Kakashi was leery, but he put his trust in Evangeline. Most of the newer Pokemon didn’t particularly mind one way or the other. Kanna became a doting aunt to compliment the proud papa Henri, perhaps as part of her need to apologize for what happened to Cho. Ella and Hiromi weren’t particularly happy, but they still listened to Evangeline, so she could only hope it would get better with time with them. Haruka, of course, was just happy for another playmate, even if this meant he had to share his spots with her. And that left Felix.

The Charmeleon was very obviously sulking, and he growled every time he so much as spotted the new Bug, who Evangeline had dubbed Cerise. He also growled at Evangeline, which she tolerated–she wasn’t going to get on to him for expressing how he felt.

It was when his Ember attack came too close to hitting her, and she saw him glance at her to see what she would do, that she had to draw a line. “Felix, come here,” she ordered when the wild Pokemon ran off. He paused, and so did all of the others who were playing around her sleeping bag and the nearest flower bed. He made like he was going to walk in the opposite direction, and she added with a touch of steel to her tone, “I mean it. Come. Here. Right now.”

Growling, he stomped over to her crossing his arms (a much easier task than when he was a Charmander and his arms were so short). Rather than match him defensive posture to defensive posture, Evangeline put her hands on her hips and gave him a stern look. “You can be upset,” she said. “I understand, and respect that. You can vocalize this upset as much as you want and physically can, and again, I will respect that as long as it doesn’t turn towards bullying one of the others. But you do not get to attack me over it. Are we clear?”

His eyes grew wide in surprise. She didn’t back down. Felix’s surprise turned to anger, and he opened his mouth–the threat visible, the fire lingering in the back of his throat and sliding forward. “Kakashi!” she shouted, and the Frogadier slid up from the others to stand in front of Evangeline defensively.

Felix stared at them, smoke rising from the corners of his mouth. And then he turned around, collapsing into a sit with his tail wrapped around his legs, chin up mulishly in the air.

Evangeline walked around to the side, spotting the tears at the corners of his eyes. “Oh, sweetie,” she murmured, moving to where she could cup his jaw. “I know this is hard, and you are twisted up from losing Cho, not to mention evolving. But I can’t have you around if you are going to hurt me or the others. You evolved so fast, but there is further for you to go. You have to learn to control your impulses now, and I’d be an irresponsible trainer if I didn’t pull you up.” She wiped at his cheek to catch his tears. “You will always be my friend and a part of this team, Felix. No one is ever replaced. We just grow.”

He sniffled, pouting for just a few more moments. And then he reached out to wrap his arms around her waist, tucking his head into her stomach and bawling. Sighing and wishing for just a moment he was still small enough for her to pick up, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and patted his head. “It’s alright,” she murmured, promising as much as she could. “We’ll figure it out.”

The rest of their day passed much easier, and slowly Evangeline made her way back to Ambrette Town as the sun began to set. She reviewed where everyone was at, and while Cerise was far behind, she thought they had made enough progress today that she could press on in the morning.

When she expressed that to Nurse Joy, she clapped her hands. “Oh, you should spend the morning at the beach, before you press on to Cyllage City,” she suggested with a wide smile. “The weather will be absolutely perfect for a little fun in the surf, and it’s on your way. They even have little tents where you can change in and out of your swim wear.”

“The beach?” she repeated, confused.

Nurse Joy nodded and pointed towards the map. “Muraille Coast actually has two parts,” she explained. “The cliffs which you passed through to get here, and then if you go through the aquarium and down one level, you’ll reach the other half, a beach front road that goes straight into Cyllage.” She folded her hands in front of her politely as she added, “Our aquarium has an impressive collection of oceanic Pokemon too that you might enjoy seeing.”

Evangeline hummed. She still wasn’t sold on one singular type of Pokemon like her parents, who were either Fly or Die in the case of her father and under heavy regulations on his Gym team’s strength since he was the first on the Johto route, or Poison and the resulting tie to Bug-types, who Evangeline had developed a bit of a phobia about, like her mother and grandfather. (She was going to be the family disappointment, she just knew it. Bad thing since she was the end of both family lines.) But the aquarium sounded interesting, and would give her an idea of what was in the local waters. Kalos being such a different region, she doubted it was nothing but Magikarp.

It did make her feel guilty for not writing or calling home. With all her recent battles, she had plenty of coin for postage, and it wasn’t like the Pokemon Centers didn’t offer free wireless calling. She did some quick math. Both of her parents were workaholics–they’d be in their respective Gyms by eight a.m. It was an eight hour time difference, and it was going on evening here. If she called before bed, they’d be just getting up and feeding their Pokemon and themselves. Nodding slightly, she thanked Nurse Joy and set about getting everyone dinner for the night. (Lo and behold, Theo actually ate a smaller meal than normal after finishing off all of the berry pies earlier that day, and went right off to sleep from exhaustion due to training. Maybe she had him handled too.)

By the time it was all done, she’d braided her hair for the night and slipped into her pajamas. No one else was staying in town, so she felt comfortable padding out in her slippers to the computer terminal. Nurse Joy waved at her, but stayed behind the counter in case of an emergency. Evangeline shut the curtain of one of the computer/phone booths and logged in with her trainer ID. The system took a long time trying to set up the connection through to Kanto, but finally she was able to reach the Nurse Joy who was responsible for communication. “Call to Fuschia City Gym, please,” she requested. “For Janine.”

“Of course, and who’s calling?” she asked, hitting a few keys.

“Her daughter, Evangeline.”

“Putting you through now,” the Joy confirmed with a wide smile. “Your mother will be happy to hear from you, I’m sure!”

Evangeline managed a tense smile. She hoped so, anyway.

The line rang for what felt like forever, until finally it answered in her mother’s office. But not to her mother’s expression. Instead, a very harried looking camper picked up, squinting at the computer screen as his eyes still adjusted to the light of the lamp and screen. “Fuschia City Gym. Who is calling the boss at this ungodly hour?” he demanded in Japanese.

“Good morning, Barry-san,” she greeted him in the same language, smiling weakly. Barry had been one of her baby-sitters, the rare times she visited home after the incident.

He immediately straightened up as he got a better look at her. “Evangeline-hime!” he yelped. “I am so sorry!” He rapidly bowed several times in succession to the computer screen.

“It’s alright, I know the time difference is awkward,” she assured him. “I just wanted to check in with Mother. Is she already training?”

His face fell as he looked up. “Oh, I’m sorry again, hime. She went to go visit your honored grandfather in his mountain retreat for some bonding time. She was set to be back in a couple of days to check in with Aya-sensei.”

That lined up with what Evangeline had already known, she just hadn’t expected her mother to be gone in the days leading up to that call. Well, as far as her mother knew, Evangeline was safe and snug in Vaniville and hardly in any danger, of course she’d feel comfortable going on a trip. She smiled rather than show her distress to Barry, who certainly didn’t deserve it. “Alright, thank you for letting me know. I’ll try again in a couple of days, then. Give her my love when you do see her.”

“I will be happy to, hime!” he promised, and the line went dead.

Sighing, Evangeline restarted the connection, this time tracing it to the Johto region. “Violet City Gym, please,” she requested as a new Nurse Joy picked up the line. (And she could only tell the difference because the uniforms were slightly different between Kanto and Johto.) It was an old hat at her to make the same requests, just switching the names, although when she was younger she had gotten it muddled a few times. “For Falkner.”

“Putting you through right now,” Joy said cheerfully, and the call went through.

It took much less time for there to be an answer. “Violet City, Falkner speaking.” The man on the screen was stern of expression and clean shaven, having finally grown into a square jaw and narrow eyes. His navy hair hung slightly in his eyes in a style she was more than familiar with, though the bulk of the length was pulled back to the nape of his neck. He dressed in traditional clothes, only the sky blue of his haori visible, and his teal eyes were the same as Evangeline’s own.

She swallowed thickly and bowed her head slightly to the screen. “Good morning, Father.”

(AN: Blatantly calling out the anime and how they handled the Charmeleon/Charizard situation there…)