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.