Tag Archives: Team Flare Grunt

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.

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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 17, Day 26: Grief, and Learning to Move On

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.

Hikari (Flabebe)

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.

Stephanie (Meditite)

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…”