It was a long night. Evangeline couldn’t sleep, and her remaining Pokemon took shifts with her. The only one who stayed up the whole time was Kakashi, which spoke of how worried they were, if the one who loved nodding off stayed up with her. Even the new Fairy Type got in on the action, though Evangeline didn’t have the heart to offer her a nickname even in gratitude for the way she offered cuddles. Thankfully, Antoine and Haruka took over, using a computer to pull up a list of names that they thought Evangeline and the Flabébé could both like, settling on Hikari for the new little one.
The Meditite was trickier, but she also eventually came around during the odd hours after midnight. She fetched water and food for whoever was on shift, and while she didn’t know Cho herself, she realized how much she met to the Pokemon who had been on the team longer, listening to the stories that they quietly told each other. When asked, she admitted to having a nickname once before, given to her by a Trainer who had let her go after catching a stronger Meditite. Rather than change it completely, Henri was the one who came up with enough changes to it that she felt comfortable with it.
The Inkay never left the box.
Nurse Joy was efficient in the morning with walking Evangeline through the burial process. Due to Cho’s excitement when her wings came in, they decided to scatter the remains to the winds. Being on a cliff-side town just made it easier. Even if it was hard for Evangeline to stay standing the entire time. There was a neat little form that let her get an engraved plate for Cho to put on display.
Xavier found her around noon, playing with the plate of food Joy had set in front of her despite protests. “Hey,” he said softly. “Sorry about your Vivilion.”
She nodded to receive his sympathy, but didn’t feel like saying anything else.
He sighed as he sat next to her. “I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but it really was an accident,” he said, keeping his tone gentle rather than trying to pick a fight. “Even the best of Trainers can have them.”
“It was going okay, and then…” Evangeline whispered.
“It went bad in a hurry,” he said with a sigh. “I’d hug you, but your Pokemon might hurt me. The Charmeleon in particular seems rather irritable.”
“Cranky teenager phase, can’t talk, doesn’t know how to express himself,” she muttered. “Felix means well.”
“They usually do.” Xavier sat opposite her and picked some of her food off of her plate with a spare fork. “I don’t know your grieving patterns, so what would you prefer? To be left alone for a few days? An escort home?”
She absently used her own fork to smack the back of his hand so he’d leave her lunch alone. Evangeline wasn’t completely sure about her grieving patterns, so how could she explain them to Xavier? Stalling for time, she took a few bites of the food, surprised to feel a little bit of energy returning. Maybe that was the trick. “A distraction?” she suggested.
He blinked, and leaned back in the chair. “Distraction, huh?” Xavier watched her eat a few bites, though whether because he was thinking or because he wanted to keep her from accidentally starving herself, she didn’t know. Tilting his head, he pulled out his map of the town and looked it over. “How about the fossil lab?” he suggested.
She craned her neck to try and look at the map. “They have one of those here?”
“Yeah, the mountains around here are full of fossils.” He let her look, pointing out where it was. South of town, obviously where she hadn’t gone already. “Let’s go check it out, see what they have going on.”
Evangeline nodded and turned to go figure out who to take with her on such a trip. She hesitated when she saw the Inkay still in the box. Maybe… Maybe she’d be able to deal with it when she got back. Due to the mountain climate, Evangeline pulled all her Water and Grass Types together, as well as Felix since he was feeling particularly clingy and you never knew when a Steel Type would show up. Henri and Kagura also insisted on coming along, rounding out the team.
They set out together, walking the streets. Evangeline had to tell herself that no one was staring. The lab was a grey building, oddly shaped but functional. They walked inside, where yellow tile floors tried to warm up clinical white walls, racks of fossil bones on display. Evangeline looked over them briefly weaving her way back to the main lab.
“Wait for me,” Xavier hissed when he fell behind.
“Then don’t get so distracted,” she hissed back, hoping her smile kept it teasing, despite how lackluster she still felt.
He sniffed and walked ahead of her, like that was really going to irk her. Rolling her eyes, she let him be the one who caught the attention of the two scientists. The woman seemed calm, but the man was excitable. “Welcome, future archaeologists!” he greeted. “You were drawn here by the mystique of fossils, no doubt!”
“Something like that. I’m Xavier, and this is Evangeline,” the male Trainer introduced them both. “We’re researching Mega Evolution. Do you know anything about it?”
“Oho! So you’re Professor Sycamore’s students,” he said, adjusting his glasses. Evangeline glanced at Xavier. Is that what they were? He shrugged back, just as confused. “I’ve heard about you. Mega Evolution, you say… I’m sorry, but all I know is that it has something to do with mysterious stones…”
It was a disappointing answer, but not unexpected. If the answers were readily available, the professor wouldn’t have them poking their noses into it all.
“Still, since you’re students of the professor, you must know about Pokemon fossils, correct?” the research asked eagerly.
“Yes,” Evangeline said with a nod. While she hadn’t ever visited the museums, she knew something about them. In fact, a lot of museums were having to argue to keep their fossils as just that rather than awakening them into Pokemon.
“Wonderful! I expect no less from Professor Sycamore’s students!” he said with a grin. “Fossils are the legacy of prehistoric Pokemon.” He gestured to the shelves behind him, which held some impressive skulls and bones but no complete skeletons. “You should really go to the dig site and see the real thing firsthand.”
Xavier nodded, trying to look polite. “Is that so? Well, if you don’t know anything about Mega Evolution…”
Evangeline rammed her elbow into his ribs, making him yelp and cutting him off before he said anything even more insulting.
The female scientist looked up from her paper work, glaring behind her own glasses. “Hold on! Pokemon that can be restored from fossils just might have something to do with Mega Evolution. The assistant in Glittering Cave right now might know about that!” She gave Evangeline a look, who just shrugged helplessly. She was Xavier’s friend, not his keeper, and she had no interest in being promoted, if you wanted to call it that. She also wasn’t going to throw him under the rug, not when he was being nice and distracting her like she asked.
“Well…” he said, tucking his hands into his pockets. “As long as I’m here, I guess I’ll go see that assistant.” He glanced at her. “Heading to Glittering Cave, Ladybird?”
Translation, was she up for the trip. Thinking about it, she nodded. Yeah, a trip to some caves shouldn’t be too bad.
Unlike her, Xavier hadn’t grabbed the right Pokemon for a mountain trek. He urged her to continue on by herself. She waved her hand to agree, and went ahead without him. Unfortunately, as soon as she stepped out of the main building, it started to rain. Swearing, she dug in her bag and pulled out her raincoat, slipping on the powder pink vinyl and tucking the hood over her hat just in case the wind picked up with it. Her boots were tall enough, she wasn’t too worried about her legs getting soaked.
The poor Rhyhorn waiting at the beginning of a rather hazardous trail, though, looked miserable. They shook some of the water running off their stone hides, grumbling under their breaths. A saddle was on each of their backs to make riding more comfortable, and there was a sign overhead indicating that the path ahead was only travel-able on Rhyhorn back.
“Excuse me,” she said, walking up to the nearest one. “Would you mind taking us on to the Glittering Cave? Or is the rain too big of a hassle?”
“Us?” he grunted.
“My team and me,” she clarified, pointing to the Pokeballs on her bag.
“Ah, a Trainer.” He stretched and shook himself as if waking up from a nap. She giggled and held up her hands to block the deluge of water being shed in her direction. “Don’t see too many of those, mostly the white coats. Sure, not a problem. We’re used to it.”
“Thank you,” she said, and eyed the saddle. She’d never ridden anything like this before, but the basics looked to be the same. Swinging up on to his back, she saw that there were hand holds up there instead of a singular horn or smooth front bump, so she’d have something to hang on to.
“If we run into anything wild, chase it off, yeah?” he said as he started on the path, the stones in his way having nothing to offer resistance to his weight.
She swallowed around a lump in her throat. “Yeah, okay,” she agreed quietly.
He grunted, and with a lunge, destroyed a boulder that had fallen in his way. She grimaced and held on to the straps tighter as his whole body shook in the process. This was going to be a lot of work, even if she wasn’t the one doing the walking.
The Rhyhorn wasn’t wrong about wild Pokemon. He stirred up a Sandile, making her cringe but Kakashi almost did all the fighting for her. The Frogadier actually hopped up to ride behind her as they rode when they stirred up another. With the third, she decided Fate was telling her something. With a sigh, she told Kakashi to hold up before he knocked the little brown lizard out. She’d stocked up on Great Balls, a stronger variant of a Pokeball, at the Center. It didn’t stand a chance. But rather than deal with it, she immediately sent the Sandile back to the computer. It could wait until she went back.
There was, of all things, a Pokemon Ranger waiting at the entrance to the cave. She quickly took charge of the Rhyhorn, offering him some food and shelter from the rain, and even offered to give some quick healing to Evangeline’s team before going into the cave. After what had just happened to Cho, she readily agreed.
The caves were dark, but dry. Evangeline took off her jacket, draping it over her bag so it could dry some while she walked. A dig in her bag produced her big flashlight, letting her watch the ground beneath her feet as well as above her so nothing would risk injury. She was expecting something like the roosting cave connection further north, but at least here towards the front, the caves were tight and twisting, with several dead ends.
And several wild Pokemon. Including a yellow and black Pokemon that curiously had two mouths–one on the normal face, a second disguised as a sort of ponytail. It was adorable, but fierce. She caught it with much more confidence than the Sandile. Her Pokedex identified it readily enough. “Mawile, the Deceiver Pokemon. Mawile’s huge jaws are actually steel horns that have been transformed. Its docile-looking face serves to lull its foe into letting down its guard. It can chew through iron beams.”
Shaking her head, Evangeline found herself actually excited to meet the new Pokemon addition to her team. The first Steel Type, and another Fairy to boot.
The narrow paths finally gave way to a much larger chamber. Looking around, she figured it had to be an abandoned mine of sort. That, or the fossil business required a lot more digging than she thought, and rather than dig directly into the mountain for it, they’d chose to expand on paths once they started hitting fossils. She wasn’t sure which was the truth.
She was distracted from further thought by seeing someone else among the reddish dirt and rock of the mountain side. Dressed in an orange suit with similarly dyed hair, he looked completely out of place. Especially with those orange sunglasses over his eyes! It was too dark for those, wasn’t it?
“What’s this?” he asked, walking towards her. “Well, well. What do we have here? A nosy little Trainer has come poking around.”
“Nosy?” she muttered, baffled. She hadn’t done anything!
He snorted and set his hand on his hip. “Listen up! We’re the fashionable team whose very name makes people tremble in fear: Team Flare!”
“Sounds like a Team Rocket spin-off,” she countered, taking a step back to brace herself.
“Ha! Those old has-beens? They overshot themselves.” He waved his free hand dismissively. “Who needs to rule the world? Team Flare’s goal is to make it so we’re the only ones who are happy! We don’t care one bit what happens to other Trainers or Pokemon.”
“That’s awful,” she told him, eyes narrowing. If anything, that made them worse than Team Rocket in her opinion.
“What do you know?” he dismissed her. “Get out of here, kid. Don’t you know not to play with fire?”
For her, there was no choice. “No, I’m afraid not,” Evangeline said, releasing her first Pokemon–Haruka the Budew.
He scoffed at her. “Getting my fancy suit dirty isn’t the stylish way to do things, but if you insist… I’ll obliterate you. Get her, Houndour!” he released his own Pokemon, a black and grey dog Pokemon that’s Fire typing was obvious.
The fight was quick and dirty. Evangeline traded Haruka out for Kakashi, at least to defeat the Houndour, but let him back out when it was defeated and replaced with a Zubat.
“What’s this?” the grunt said in protest, stepping backwards rapidly after his defeat. “You’re a pretty tough Pokemon Trainer, for a kid. But watch yourself! I’m not the only member of Team Flare around here!” He took off with a run down the nearest mine shaft.
Shaking her head, Evangeline frowned and looked to where the tracks led, trying to listen and see if she heard anything.
The only sound was her own Budew, asking quietly, “Evangeline? What are you going to do now?”
She took a deep breath. “I think we’re going to have to clear those Team Flare jerks out of this dig site, before they cause any real trouble.”
“As long as I don’t have to go up against another Fire Type,” he muttered, hopping up to be in her Trainer’s arms.
Evangeline carefully stroked the petals on top of Haruka’s head. “I’ll be more careful,” she promised. “Now come on, let’s see how bad it is…”