--Chapter 1: A Rude Awakening--
Sara had finally finished the first half of her round-trip tour of the Sinnoh region, and man, was she worn out! Her journey had taken her through practically ever major city in the area, along with several of the smaller towns and bordering islands. She had fought in every gym battle and participated in a number of Pokemon contests. She'd even visited the famous Fullmoon Island and caught a glimpse of Cresselia, a legendary Pokemon. This, of course, was followed by six grueling hours of non-stop searching for Cresselia, in hopes of capturing it. At the time, Sara hadn't even considered what would have happened had she actually discovered where Cresselia was hiding, let alone the end result of her small group battling a legendary Pokemon. That last bit of insight made her feel somewhat relieved that her search was fruitless.
The Old Chateau hadn't been much fun, either. She wasted more time dealing with the ghost Pokemon and their mischievous tricks than actually looking for Rotom. In the end, she had to call off the search when her backpack levitated into the air above her, and then went sailing out the second story window. Fortunately, none of her pokeballs were inside the backpack at the time, but a sizable chunk of food was missing when she'd finally found it stuck in a tree the next day. When Sara angrily stomped away from the weathered old building, she could've sworn that she'd heard faint giggling coming from inside the house.
Throughout her journey, there had certainly been more than a few setbacks. Even so, Sara still managed to get the complete Sinnoh experience. And now, she was about to do it all over again. She just needed a few days to relax and calm her nerves.
Thankfully, Twinleaf Town had developed enough over the past couple of years to have a decent Pokemon Center and a small hotel for traveling trainers. This came as a relief to Sara, because she couldn't bear the thought of sleeping in the "great outdoors" for another night. The last time she slept outside, a Chimchar wandered by and thought it would be a good idea to set her tent on fire. Sara and her Pokemon all made it out okay, but her entire supply of food, her pokedex, and most of her clothes weren't so lucky. It was especially frustrating trying to replace all of her lost gear, which delayed her for a week and caused her to miss out on a special Pokemon festival in Veilstone City; the very one she'd been looking forward to all year.
To her, it was just another case in a very long string of bad luck.
Pushing away her thoughts for a moment, she trudged though the small town, waving politely at any passerby that happened to notice her. She didn't bother with words; she wasn't planning on being around for very long. Not much point in making any friends if they were all going to leave, right?
She hated it when they left.
Sara was still tangled up in her thoughts when she reached the front doors to the Pokemon Center. It was a small building, as she'd expected, completely whitewashed and cleaned with the exception of some jagged sketches of flowers and cheerful-looking Pokemon that children had drawn on the walls near the main entrance. Sara couldn't quite place some of the Pokemon in the pictures, but the dancing Pikachu and juggling Turtwig were fairly easy to recognize.
"Oh, that's so cute," Sara thought aloud as she pushed open the front door and walked in, smiling inwardly.
The man behind the counter was completely caught up in a Pokemon battle playing on a portable television when she entered the main lobby. When she finally did reach the counter, he didn't even notice her until she rung the bell sitting on the counter twice.
"Oh! Um, sorry, miss," he said, straightening up, "What can I do for you?"
"Uh, yeah. Can I get a room, please? I'm a trainer."
"No problem, ma'am. And how long will you be staying?"
"Just three days, sir," Sara answered politely, presenting her trainer ID. He accepted it with an equally polite smile, and checked her information on a computer. Being a veteran trainer, Sara was already pretty familiar with the whole check-in procedure. Fortunately for her, most Pokemon Centers were still doing the "free-room-for-trainers" policy, because she really did not want to sleep outside again.
"Okay, then," the man said as he continued his work, "Sara Tolson, age 19, Honen resident. And how many Pokemon do you currently have?"
"Just three, but I'm hoping to catch a Turtwig or something in this area."
"Sounds like a plan," the man commented, returning her ID card, "we got plenty of Turtwigs around here. Help yourself."
"Thanks, I will," Sara replied with a half-hearted smile. She thanked the man once more, and with a final courteous bow, left the Pokemon Center.
Sara fell back on her bed, running fingers through thick brunette hair, and tried to calm herself down. After relaxing for a moment, she rolled over and reached into her backpack, producing a small, silvery, rectangular container. The container held six badges, each one a hard-earned symbol of the hardships that Sara had endured during her journey across the Sinnoh Region. They were both a constant reminder of battles that she'd fought and won, and visible proof of her strength as a trainer, even in spite of the glaringly malevolent hand that fate so often dealt her. However, despite feeling a sense of pride in her miniature trophies, Sara couldn't help but feel a bit dissatisfied with her current progress in the region. And for good reason, too.
'Six...isn't enough,' she thought with an audible huff, 'I still need two more. Without all eight badges, I won't be finished with my journey in Sinnoh.'
It had probably been against her better judgment to move on to the next town after her defeat in the Veilstone City gym at the hands of Maylene. At the time, she'd simply reasoned that she could just wait until her return trip through Sinnoh to make another attempt for the badge. And then, when it happened again with Roark in Oreburgh City, she had thought the same thing. It had been so easy to make those promises back then...
...but, now it was finally time to make that return trip.
"Argh!" Sara cried out, rubbing her eyes in frustration, "They'll probably kick our butts again the next time we face them!" Sulking, she reached for a pokeball on her belt, and tossed it to the ground. "Jane, come out! I need to talk to you!"
In a flash of light, a Typhlosion appeared in front of the bed, looking almost puzzled by its sudden emergence. It took a quick glance around to figure out where it was, and then strolled around the bed to Sara's side, a wide grin on its face. "Typhlosion!"
"Hey, Jane. How's everything?"
"Ty, Ty. Phlos?"
"I'm doing good. Just feeling a bit down."
Jane placed a gentle paw on Sara's forehead worriedly. "Typhlos?"
"No, I'm not sick. It's just...we're going to have to face those two gym leaders again, and I--"
"Typhlosion! Ty!" Jane exclaimed, gesturing toward the door with a paw, "Phlosion!"
"Guess we do need to get out and train, right, Jane?"
Jane placed a paw on Sara's head again, covering her eyes this time. "Ty pho, Ty."
"I'm not going to be able to sleep right now, Jane. My nerves are shot."
"Typlos, Phlos. Ty."
"Okay, fine," Sara said with a huff, "We'll go out, then."
Sara rolled herself out of bed, put on her shoes and jacket, and tightened her belt, giving each Pokeball an affectionate touch. Then the young trainer walked to the door with the Typhlosion at her side, tipping her cap down before reaching for the doorknob. She absolutely hated it when people saw her face. Sara's deep hazel eyes in particular gave her far more attention than she ever wanted, and worrying about others watching her would only serve as a distraction.
If she couldn't sleep, then she might as well move on to the next step in the plan. It was time to add to her family.
"Come on, Jane," she said with a grin, "Let's go catch some new teammates."
Cyndaquil trotted down the dirt path without a word, Tomas close on her heels. They were still a good distance away from their destination, but she figured that it wouldn't take very long to walk to the rest area just outside town, where her master's campsite stood. This forest wasn't even close to the size of the one she was born in, and compared to the long, arduous journeys she had made in her youth, this was nothing more than a brisk walk. In fact, the tree bordering the clearing where her master had set up camp was already starting to come into view.
'Just wait 'til he sees what I brought him this time,' she thought with glee, 'A real live Umbreon!'
"Whoa! Watch out!" Tomas yelled out from behind her, "I almost fell over again!"
Cyndaquil was all too excited to see Todd's reaction. Grinning, she imagined the stunned expression on his face as she came sauntering out of the forest with this new Pokemon in tow, beaming with pride. And once Todd met her new friend, she just knew that he would welcome the Umbreon with open arms. If there was anyone she could trust to help Tomas with his problems, it would be her master. No doubt about it.
After all, he had saved her when she was in trouble that one time...
Of course, in the mean time, she would just have to focus on keeping this strange Pokemon in one piece. He did seem a bit out of sorts when she'd first discovered him passed out under a tree, muttering to himself. Even asleep, he had seemed almost...terrified. And then, after waking up, he kept talking about dreams...
Did he really think that he was still asleep?
What could have happened to make him like this? Did he also have a trainer? If he did, then that would at least explain how he got here, especially considering that, like her, he didn't seem to be native to this land, this "Sinnoh."
'Maybe his trainer brought him out here and abandoned him in the forest!' Cyndaquil thought, wrinkling her muzzle at the very idea. 'A trainer abandoning their Pokemon! What kind of horrid person would do such a thing? No wonder he's so confused and depressed!'
She shot a glance back at the Umbreon, who was still struggling to keep his balance. His gait was stiff and awkward, each step made with obvious apprehension. It almost looked like the poor thing had never even walked on his own paws before.
'I should try to comfort him,' Cyndaquil thought sadly. It just wouldn't do if he tried something stupid or suicidal, like walking off a cliff or into a Charizard's belly, so she decided that it would be up to her to keep his spirits high during his time of need. She picked out her words of encouragement carefully, and then opened her mouth to speak.
Tomas spoke up first.
"Cyndaquil? I...have a question."
Tomas stumbled next to her and stared intently at her face. Cyndaquil glanced back, and looked away with a squeal. Why was he looking at her like that, with those piercing red eyes?
He leaned in closer, eyebrows furrowed. "Cyndaquil...uh..."
'Is...is he getting closer?' she thought, heart skipping a beat, 'Wait, am I blushing? Oh, Arceus, I am!' Cyndaquil felt her cheeks burning, and fought the urge to let the flame on her back swell with embarrassment. What was he...
...maybe, just maybe...he...
"...do all Cyndaquil have squinty eyes like that, or is that a condition that only you were born with?"
Cyndaquil just stared at the Umbreon, and then chuckled weakly.
"I'm sorry," he added quickly, "I'm just curious to know."
'Okay, maybe he isn't that depressed after all. But he's still confused. Very, very confused.'
"You know," she said, forcing a smirk, "you really ask some strange questions, Tomas."
"I've been told that before, I think. Sorry about that," he replied with a shrug, "Okay, I have a better question."
"You showed up right after I started this dream, right?"
"Dream? Are you--"
"Okay, let me rephrase the question," Tomas interrupted with a jaded sigh, "Were you watching me while I was...'asleep,' or did you find me after I...'woke up?'"
She stopped, and looked at him. "Well, to be honest, I did find you a little while before you woke up. From the way you were rolling around, I'd thought that you had been injured or something. I was kinda' worried about you, and it didn't seem right to just leave you there by yourself, so I kept an eye on you until you woke up."
Surprised, Tomas looked at her, and then down at the ground. "Really? I..."
A broad smile spread across Cyndaquil's face, and she added, "...but then you just woke up all of a sudden and starting lookin' around, talking to yourself! Kind of ungrateful, if you ask me! And you didn't even notice me--"
"Okay, okay! I got the message," Tomas replied with a laugh, "Thanks for the help."
"It's no problem, really. You know, I--" Cyndaquil stopped when she heard a branch snap somewhere behind her.
And then, they both froze when they heard a low growl rumble from the path behind them.
Sara stood on the outskirts of the small town, stretching her legs. She knew that it was important to be good and limber before wandering into a forest full of dangerous Pokemon that she had never seen before. That had been the very first important lesson that Sara had learned after years of being chased by vicious, blood-thirsty beasts in the wilderness; a cramped leg made it significantly harder to avoid being torn to pieces.
And with her horrible luck, she was probably going to need a quick escape.
'Maybe they don't like the smell of my deodorant,' Sara wondered as she warmed up, 'Maybe I should try a different brand.' She turned to her Typhlosion, who was also stretching a few feet away. "Are you about ready, Jane?"
"Okay, then! We're off on another journey, just you and me! Let's catch a new friend!"