Ruby's getting kind of tired of the bumping of the truck on the trip to Johto, and how it keeps interrupting his knitting, but it's nothing he wasn't expecting to deal with. What he's not prepared for is the gold-ringed portal that opens up right in front of him and swallows him and his Pokémon whole, and deposits him and his freinds somewhere entirely different from the southern region he was just entering.
“No, it doesn’t. That portal seems to have taken me farther afield than I thought.”
She produces a bean out of her sleeve, and flicks it at him.
“Language bean, ride to the city, you go bother someone else?”
Ruby catches it, deftly. This woman isn't exactly polite, but he has a fairly good grasp of her character by now, and she's not likely to try and trick him with this. He shrugs, subtly moves it so that he catches a whiff of the sent without having to visibly sniff, and if there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it, eats it.
"I didn't know you could do that."
“Good for you,” she says, in a suddenly-comprehensible foreign language. “Now get outta my house; got a carriage outside, it’ll take you where you wanna go.”
A carraige, huh? Kinda rustic, Ruby thinks to himself, but at least it’s rustic in an elegant sort of way; if it was a csrt, even walking might be better. At least this way it probably wouldn’t be too long until they had some proper civilization where Nana, Coco, and Ruru could show off their beauty.
He heads outside without voicing complaint.
There is, as promised, a carriage - one shaped like a pumpkin and entirely lacking in horses, for whatever reason, but still a carriage.
It lacks any obvious engine, but once he's seated within it, it starts moving very quickly. Eighty miles an hour, at a guess, although it's difficult to ascertain precisely.
It's hardly the modern conveyance that Ruby tends to prefer, but there's no denying the aesthetic taste of the designer; eccentric, certainly, but hardly ugly. He bites back his suggestions, and refrains from calling out his pokemon; this woman seems hardly likely to appreciate their radiant beauty. Instead, he pulls out some of his papers and starts plotting potential appeals.
Barbara seems content to maintain a sort of uncomfortable silence.
They reach their destination. The door slams shut in his face, and the pumpkin speeds away.
The city around him is... different.
The streets are paved with a strange black wood, rather than with anything more modern, and almost every building seems primarily wooden in construction; hardly any of those buildings are taller than three stories. On those streets, there are people - most with fashion senses leaning towards fur, glittery gemstones, metal jewelry, and copious exposed skin - and other pumpkin carriages. The sidewalks are dotted with trees, and almost every building seems to have a heavily landscaped ‘front yard’ regardless of its status as a residence.
The sign on the building in front of him - which most closely resembles a sort of three story log-cabin with prettily-engraved steel in the gaps between logs, surrounded by attractively looping paths through a blue-themed flower garden - reads ‘Accommodation of Recent Immigrants’.
The architecture and fashion here is definitely bizarre, but it was already obvious he was far away, both from Johto and from civilization in general. The sooner he can figure out where he is, the sooner he can get somewhere with a reputable contest system.
Ruby steps out of the carriage and heads towards the immigration building. He has no intention of staying here, but this should give him the information to find out where he needs to travel to.
The woman at the front desk is blonde, chipper, and - for whatever reason - wearing realistic cat ears,
”Hello!” she chirps. “How may I help you?”
“I arrived in the area unexpectedly, and don’t know where I am. I was hoping you would have a map, and maybe a public phone.”
“We aren’t nearly well funded enough to have instant communication, but we do have plenty of cartography!”
She gestures at a wall with four maps, framed and arranged in a grid - one labeled 'Frosch', one labeled 'The Land of Beer', one labeled 'The Empire', and one labeled 'The World'. Each one has a cheerful little 'you are here!' dot, indicating the location of the office, and each one is completely unfamiliar.
The map of the world, in particular, shows three major continents - or five, depending on how you count the weird one with three distinct sections, connected by narrow bands of land, and an internal ocean - instead of some more familiar number.
When they deny having the funfing for a phone, Ruby holds out hope that this backwater town simply lacks in funds in general, and prepares for a long transit back to civilization. When he sees the map, however, that hope dies; there’s just no way they would be so out of touch by accident; this is either some elaborate ruse, or he’s much farther from home than he thought. He’d been meaning to run from home, but that was to participate in the Hoenn contest circuit, not to hang out in some primative alternate reality.
Almost desperately, he looks for some sign that things aren’t as bad as he fears, looking for some sign on the map of a location with a higher population density, and thus more advanced technology, than his current locale. His thoughts go back to the day before he left Johto with his mom, and the night spent at the edge of illex forest. He’s known the move would be a big deal, but he hadn’t expected this.
Their population density seems weirdly uniform throughout the globe! Cities and villages are pretty evenly distributed - a little less common in deserts, a little more common in fertile plains, but not by that much.
Are there any bigger cities near here?
This is kinda concerning for his plans. Sure, he hadn't wanted to stick around, but his method for doing that would have been to run around the Hoenn region performing for contest ribbons. Now it looks increasingly likely that that's no longer going to be possible.
Still, it's not all downsides. All his Pokémon are probably going to be exotic here, and there are probably many Pokémon he's never even heard of that he can get to perform with. Ruby turns towards the map of Frosch, looking for the Pokémon center, and the Contest building, if it has one.
As the city of Frosch remains a city and not a theme park, and is correspondingly sized, the building labels are in exquisitely small print.
If he’s dedicated to the task of map perusal, he can still eventually discern a building labeled ‘Center for Goblin Paegentry’, and another building nearby it labeled ‘Center for Goblin Control and Miscellany’.
He isn't, not really. If there's a Pokémon center here, he thinks, it's definitely going to be well labeled; a contest hall might well not be, but if there isn't even a center things are clearly different enough from the norm that he can't simply assume. There's clearly something important that's going to happen, but if it had been willing to explain it probably would have from the start. Instead, Ruby turns back to the front desk, and addresses the women with the odd skitty headband.
"Excuse, me, but what kind of lodging does Frosch have, and where would I find it?"
(Is it, really, a headband? It must be hiding under her hair, if so.)
“We have several rent-free instances of government housing!” she chirps. “But whatever you’ve heard about us nasty foreigners, we’re still plenty hospitable to children! We’d all die out, otherwise - you can knock on any door you like and get whatever you need, lodging or food otherwise.”
(He's not going to comment on it. His hat has been mistaken for hair more than once, and he's certainly not one to criticize someone for following through on their aesthetics.)
That's a weird way of phrasing it, honestly, but it's hard to tell if that's another translation glitch like he had earlier or something to genuinely be concerned about; if the former, it would probably be fairly rude to comment, while in unlikely the latter it might not be the best idea to.
"Where would you recommend, or where would I go for a recommendation?"
“You can stay at my residence, if you’d like!” beams the catgirl receptionist. “My wife should be home, and she’s making Sauerbraten, tonight - and I’m sure that we could spare an extra portion!”
This is honestly kinda weird; this isn’t that much more so than Johto, in that regard, but Johto is one of the most welcoming in the world on that scale. He does need a place to stay while he gets up to date on the fashion trends of this world so he knows just how to blow their minds, however, so it’s certainly convenient.
”If that’s convenient, sure. Where do you live?”
“The big, pale house with golden metalwork and the daffodils, just three blocks away - turn right as you go out of the office, then turn left when you hit an intersection, and then turn left again, and it should be on your right!”
When he sees the house, Ruby feels better about his decision. It’s hardly how he would design or decorate a house, but it’s far less ugly than most hotels in Johto; even if the rooms inside probably aren’t nearly a match for modern convenience, the external appeal of a residence is an important part of a location’s mood. Besides, he can always move out if he changed his mind. It’d be astonishing if there was anything even remotely as difficult to deal with as his dad on that, and he had been preparing to ditch the genuine article.
So steeled, Ruby steps up and knocks on the front door.