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.
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.
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.