Hey everyone! Gallade is back and ready to update this more frequently :) I finally have more of a handle on my new schedule and have decided to set an entire day aside just for writing so that I can get my fics out to all of you lovely readers

Here's chapter 11: Next stop: Cyllage City. Am I ever going to get a new badge?

-Gallade


Sakura's emerald green eyes opened a crack before she softly groaned and turned over, pulling the covers up around her. The pillow was just so nice and cool and the blankets were perfectly warm... if she could have a bit more sleep, everything would be perfect.

As much as she tried to drift back to sleep, she knew that she was too awake for that now.

What time was it, anyways?

She didn't really care all that much, as she had no real obligations today. It was funny - the first day of traveling ended with a stay in the Pokémon Center with Ino. Her injured back had ensured she didn't get restful sleep, and Ino made plans in the morning so they were up and out at a certain time. When she camped out with everyone on Route 7, she was awake when everyone else was up.

This was her third time waking up on her own accord since the start of her journey, with the first being Lumiose and the second being her stay in Camphrier. With the stressful day yesterday, it was about time she slowed down and relaxed a little!

She couldn't help but wonder what Neji was up to, though. After yesterday's craziness with Team Flare, the Glittering cave, and the brunette's sprained ankle, they had made it back to the Ambrette town Pokémon center. by nighttime It was dark by the time they left the cave, which made traveling back that much more difficult. They'd spent hours in Glittering Cave without even realizing it.

In the Pokémon Center, Neji had received painkillers, ice, and a proper brace for his ankle, and the two of them rented out neighboring rooms to spend the night. Now that it was morning, she found herself wondering how he was feeling.

It was a strange feeling to be so concerned for him, especially after all the crap he'd put her through. He was rude to her once again and revealed that he was only nice because Ino was watching. That was infuriating! Despite his rudeness, the pinkette still willingly helped Neji explore Glittering Cave, and together the two of them had interrupted Team Flare's plans.

Sakura's eyes snapped open. Team Flare! Whatever they were up to, it surely wasn't good. Team Rocket's actions back in Kanto made the pinkette super wary about organized criminal groups like Team Rocket and Team Flare. The fiery suit-clad Flare members were only collecting fossils in the cave, but there was definitely something more sinister in their motives.

Sakura sat up in bed, blinking the sleep from her eyes and stretching her arms before getting up and taking her clothes and toothbrush to the bathroom to get ready.

...

She closed the overnight room behind her and glanced over at the room next to hers, making certain the number matched Neji's room number before knocking.

There was no answer.

Sakura frowned lightly and knocked again. "Neji? Are you alright?" She called softly. She didn't want to wake him if he was resting, but it also was a bit later in the day than she initially thought. He should have been awake by now.

She heard nothing in the room and slowly tested the doorknob to see if it was open. It turned and the door opened, revealing a spotless room with no sign anyone had been in here recently. The pinkette frowned worriedly. The bed sheets were completely smooth and it was obvious Neji hadn't been here at all.

She closed the door behind her and adjusted the bag strap on her shoulder before walking to the Pokémon Center lobby.

Approaching the nurse's desk, she cleared her throat.

"Good morning! How was your stay at the Ambrette Pokémon center?" The nurse asked cheerfully.

"It was great, thank you," Sakura said politely. "Maybe this is a weird question, but have you seen a guy my age? A little taller than me? Long brown hair and pale eyes?"

"Your friend?" The nurse asked.

Sakura gulped, not realizing this was the same nurse from last night. All of the Pokémon Center nurses looked eerily similar, and she'd (incorrectly) assumed the nurse from last night didn't have the morning shift as well.

"Yeah, the guy I came in with, the one with the twisted ankle," the pinkette said sheepishly. "What time did he leave this morning?"

"Oh, um..." the nurse began. "He never came back last night. He left an hour or so after you guys checked in and I haven't seen him since then. I'm sorry."

"Oh, thank you," Sakura said, feeling the familiar anxious pit return in her stomach. "Anyways, are my Pokémon ready to go?"

The nurse nodded, smiling. "I'll bring them right out," she said.

The pink-haired nurse walked into a back room and returned with a tray holding Sakura's three pokéballs. "Here you are," the nurse said. Sakura nodded and accepted the pokéballs. "Thank you," she said softly.

"We hope to see you again!"

Sakura turned to leave, but paused for a second in realization. "Oh! Quick question! Do you happen to know where the next Pokémon gym is?" She asked.

The nurse nodded and reached under her desk for something. After rummaging for a moment, she pulled out a fold-out brochure-style map. She spread it out on the front desk and pointed to a town. "This is Ambrette town, where we currently are," she explained. She traced her finger up the coast and stopped not too far away from Ambrette. "And this is Cyllage city, where the closest gym is."

Sakura gasped softly. She hadn't realized how close it was! It seemed like forever since she last challenged a gym. She wasn't sure why the Santalune and Cyllage gyms were located so far from one another, but she'd made it this far!

"Thank you," she said to the nurse.

"Take the map with you," the nurse said kindly. "I've got plenty more."

"Wow, thanks!" Sakura said, a huge smile gracing her features. "You have a good day now."

"You too!"

The pinkette walked out of the Ambrette town Pokémon Center with the map in hand, suddenly feeling very empty and a little homesick despite the excitement over the gym. She'd come so far and yet there was still so far to go. She looked around at the scenery and realized just how vastly different it was to any other environment she was used to so far. Central Kalos was leafy and full of trees and forest, and the air was clean and smelled of nature. It reminded her of the heavily forested land back in Kanto.

Coastal Kalos was beautiful, but very different. The air was cool and a breeze was always blowing off the nearby ocean. It tasted salty and felt so different on her skin and it definitely needed some getting used to. Ambrette town and the nearby routes were on rocky ground rather than grassy soil.

She valued her alone time, but a tiny part of her wished she had someone she knew with her in this unfamiliar terrain. Even Neji's company would have been welcome, as strange as that sounded. In fact...

She brought her Holo Caster out and bit her lip, looking at it. Neji had all but disappeared, and on an injured ankle nonetheless. It would be a lie to say she wasn't curious about where he'd run off to.

She dialed up his contact and anxiously waited for him to pick up.

It rang a few times and clicked. "Hello?" A smooth male voice asked. For whatever reason, he wasn't turning the hologram part on.

"Neji?" Sakura asked.

"Yes?"

"It's Sakura," the pinkette said. "I was just wondering how you were feeling and what you were up to. I was gonna ask this morning but you weren't here."

Neji chuckled. "I appreciate you checking in on me," he said. "My ankle is a lot better. The pain meds they gave me are working nicely. I'm just out on route 6 now, that's all."

Sakura frowned lightly. Why had he gone all the way back to route 6?

"That's pretty far," she said. "You made it all that way past the cliffs on a twisted ankle?"

"It wasn't that bad," the brunette said. "And yeah, there was something I wanted to do out here. Anyways, I have to go now, I'll see you. Thank you for checking up on me."

"Okay, bye," Sakura said softly. Neji hung up, leaving the pinkette alone once again. She sighed and took a deep breath, the salty air hitting her tongue and throat. Neji had been polite on the phone, which was reassuring. She was curious about what he just had to do on route 6, though.

She stared at the Holo Caster again. In fact... there was something else she'd been meaning to do as well.

She dialed up the professor's number again, a small smile forming on her face.

"Sakura?" The professor's smooth voice asked, a hologram of the handsome man appearing on the Holo Caster.

"Professor Hatake!" She said eagerly. "I just wanted to call and catch you up on a few things!"

The masked man smiled at her with his eyes, causing the pinkette's stomach to do flips. He was so devilishly charming. "What's up?"

"Well, I don't know if he's made it back to the lab yet, but I ran into Yamato yesterday," she began. "He upgraded my pokédex."

"That must mean you've made it to the coast!" Kakashi said, sounding a little impressed. "Good for you. He hasn't made it back to the lab yet, so this is the first I'm hearing of it. What do you think of coastal Kalos so far?"

"It's definitely different," the teen trainer admitted. "I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. It's beautiful, but a lot of crazy things have happened in such a short period of time."

"Like what?" The man in his 20's had a voice like butter, and it made Sakura's insides feel melty.

"Well..." the pinkette sighed, "for starters, I nearly lost my Espurr on the cliffs. It fell off and I just barely saved it. Next, Neji and I went to explore the glittering cave and he sprained his ankle on the way." She felt it was best to leave out the part where her neighbor had been a jerk to her.

"That is quite a lot," Professor Hatake nodded in agreement.

"Oh! And the main thing I wanted to tell you about," she blurted. "We were in the cave and... we ran into these Team Flare guys."

"Team Flare? I've never heard of them."

Sakura frowned. "This is the first I've heard of them too," she said. "But I don't like the feeling they gave me. Something's wrong. They were these guys in reddish orange suits and sunglasses and they fought Neji and me. We were able to beat them easily, but..."

"But what?"

"I just don't know. They remind me of Team Rocket in a way," the pinkette explained. "Back in Kanto, there was this criminal organization called Team Rocket. I don't know if you know about them or not."

Kakashi chuckled again, running a hand through his wild silver hair. "I know about Team Rocket, yes. They were a thing back when I traveled through the Kanto region. This team Flare must be up to no good, then."

"That's the feeling I get," Sakura nodded in agreement.

"I'm going to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. Thank you for warning me about them," the masked man said. "I have to get back to my work, but I appreciate you calling and giving me a heads-up. Take care now, keep researching mega evolution when you can, and give me a call if you find anything."

"Will do! Bye professor," Sakura said sweetly as he hung up.

She let out a controlled stream of breath and blinked a few times. That was kind of refreshing! It was always nice calling the professor and telling him about her adventures.

Though, it would be very nice if she was able to tell him stories in person! She practically blushed at the thought of sitting at a cafe with the professor, exchanging stories and battle experiences...

When was the next time she'd be close to the city, anyways?

She opened the foldout map that the nurse gave to her and checked out where to go. This map was huge and incredibly detailed! From what she could tell, Cyllage City was just up the coast from Ambrette Town, so it wasn't going to be much of a walk to her next destination. As for when she'd be near Lumiose City next...

Her face fell. She was about as far west as she possibly could be from Lumiose. It would be a while before she could make that fantasy a reality. She'd have to settle for phone calls for now.

She folded up her map and made her way through the small cliffside town. A thorough exploration of the town revealed that the only way down onto the beach and next route was through the aquarium, which Sakura found a little strange but also a little exciting. There weren't any aquariums where she came from.

She discovered that the aquarium was a building directly to the left of the Pokémon center - a white building with blue accents. It was round in shape and she could see that it led to the bottom of the cliffs. She entered and found herself in a dimly lit room with tanks of water illuminated from the inside. The entrance was on the top floor, which had a teal carpeted floor and a cylindrical tank in the center of the room. The back wall was entirely made of glass, water, and the sea life beyond the glass.

The pinkette wandered the aquarium, making sure to observe the exhibits as she made her way through the two-tiered building and down onto the sea-level floor. She could definitely imagine having a fun day trip to this aquarium with her friends.

It was a strange feeling - her shyness was slowly going away and she found herself actually wanting to spend her time with Ino, Shikamaru, Choji... even Neji. That little camping trip they took the other night was really fun. Hopefully there would be more of those in the near future.

She passed the large golden Magikarp statue on the bottom floor and headed through the doorway to the outside. She was immediately greeted with a rush of sea air and a gust of wind. She shut the aquarium door behind her and felt the warm sun gently shining on her face as she descended the steps down to the beach.

It was going to be a good day.

She adjusted her hat to shield her eyes from the sun and took a few steps onto the beach before realizing the sand was a bit too loose to walk on in shoes. She knelt down and made quick work of untying and removing her shoes, tucking her long socks into the shoes before sticking them in her bag. The long scratch she'd gotten in the Santalune Forest incident was still visible all along the lower part of her leg, but it was definitely healing well. It felt nice to let the wounded skin breathe.

The pinkette sighed contently and curled her toes in the silky white sand. "If this is how the weather's going to be over here, I could use a change of clothes..." the pinkette said to herself. At the very least, she'd appreciate some sandals!

There was a wooden sign nearby that read: "lower Route 8; Muraille Coast. North to Cyllage."

There was also an arrow on the sign that pointed up the beach, so the pinkette decided to follow that.

Now that she was on the move again, Sakura was feeling a bit more motivated. She was itching for another gym battle and wondered who the Cyllage leader could be. It wasn't Lee - he said he was the Shalour gym leader, which was still a good distance away. Just how far did he go on those roller blades? The pink-haired trainer widened her eyes for a moment as she thought about that. He must have cut through Lumiose and was just skating out on route 5 for fun or something, because there was no way he navigated the cliffs and sand on skates, right?

Sakura wiped a bead of sweat from her forehead and took off her magenta hat, opting to fan herself with it. It was pretty humid out here! At least the sand felt nice on her feet as she made her way along the coast, the sea to her left and the cliffs of upper route 8 to her right.

As she ventured further on the route, she looked up and saw a familiar narrow rocky outcropping on the cliffs above.

"Just yesterday I was walking up there myself," she thought to herself. "I wonder if I can find the place where Espurr almost fell."

With her neck craned to look at the tall cliffside, she continued to walk along the sandy beach.

The pink-haired girl walked in a sort of side-step, not at all watching where she was going, until she collided with something and fell onto her backside.

"Ouch!"

Her eyes shot open, realizing that the voice wasn't her own.

There was a red bikini-clad girl on the sand in front of Sakura, sitting in the same "just fell over" position.

Sakura's heart sank with the realization that she'd just walked straight into this poor girl.

Scrambling to her feet, the pinkette cleared her throat. "I'm so sorry! I just walked right into you."

The girl shook her head and smiled good-naturedly. "It's quite alright. The scenery here is definitely distracting."

Sakura's embarrassment only grew. Dammit! This girl was so nice about it! Somehow that made her feel guiltier.

"But I wasn't watching where I was going," Sakura admitted. "It's totally my fault. Are you alright?"

"I'm okay." The girl stood up and dusted the excess sand off of her legs before extending a hand. "My name's Arianne."

Sakura smiled and accepted Arianne's handshake. "Mine's Sakura."

Adrianne smiled warmly. "Sakura..." she repeated. "That's a beautiful name. Anyways, it was my fault too. I was too busy looking for treasure."

"Treasure?" Sakura asked with genuine curiosity. Was there actual treasure to be found around here?

Arianne's eyes lit up as she nodded fervently. "I'm dowsing for buried treasure by using my itemfinder! I know we just met, but do you wanna help?"

Sakura fought the urge to turn down Arianne's offer, but reminded herself that she was trying to get over her shyness. This was the perfect chance! It was a beautiful day and she had nothing urgent to do.

"It sounds like fun," Sakura agreed.

...

Sakura was really thankful that she stopped to treasure hunt with Arianne after all. Arianne's bubbly and outgoing personality reminded the pinkette of Ino and it made her easy to get along with. The two ended up uncovering a few pearls and some beautiful heart scales before the blonde had to leave for her home.

As Arianne headed off, Sakura continued to explore the coast more thoroughly. It was a gorgeous, warm day and this leisurely walk on the beach reminded her of why she liked this journey so much. There was a really good chance that she wouldn't have experienced this part of Kalos if she hadn't set out to explore with Froakie. In all likelihood, she'd still be at home with mom living a rather monotonous life.

The sea cut through really close to the cliff farther up the beach, with a tall, wide arch of rock passing overhead. The path was barely wide enough for a person to cross through without having the waves lap at their feet, and Sakura was thankful that she decided to take off her shoes!

It was also at this part of the beach where Sakura began to see more people. "Cyllage must be close by," she concluded.

The beach here was definitely more tourist-y, too, which led the Kanto-native trainer to believe that this was the main beach near Cyllage. Now that the sun was higher in the sky and it was closer to the hottest part of the day, there were so many others here enjoying the sunshine and water. Sakura almost felt out-of-place wearing normal clothing instead of a bathing suit. She was overdressed and it made her stick out like a sore thumb.

"Hey you!"

Sakura turned her head at the sound. Was someone calling her? Or someone else?

"Yeah! You in the red hat!"

There was a blonde woman jogging her way, holding a mesh bag with a few pokéballs in it.

As the girl caught up to Sakura, the pinkette cleared her throat. "Um... did I do something wrong?" She asked. They were right in the middle of the busy beach and people were staring now.

The girl chuckled at the question. "Not at all! You just look like a trainer, that's all."

"I am," Sakura replied, feeling relieved. Her lack of swimsuit did make her stand out after all, but it wasn't necessarily in a bad way.

"The name's Genevieve. I want to battle you!" The girl shouted, holding up the mesh bag of pokéballs for Sakura to see. "Is that alright? I've been dying for a battle all day."

Sakura smirked in determination. "That sounds great, actually," she said, reaching into her bag and feeling her three occupied pokéballs.

Genevieve reached into her mesh bag and tossed a pokéball. "Go, Wingull!"

In a flash of light, the white-and-blue bird Pokémon appeared on the sand in front of Genevieve. It had a long, thin black-tipped beak and equally long and thin wings.

Sakura had faced a horde of Wingull back on the cliffs of route 8, so this was a confidence booster. She knew exactly what to expect. "I think Frogadier can handle this," Sakura said, pulling out her starter's pokéball. In a flash, the blue frog with the bubble scarf around its neck appeared. It crouched and waited for its first command.

It still shocked Sakura to see Frogadier standing in Froakie's place. Even though the two were similar enough in appearance, Frogadier was definitely larger and more streamlined.

"Start this out with a quick attack, Frogadier!"

The blue frog leapt at the seabird Pokémon with shocking speed.

"Dodge it, Wingull, and counter with supersonic!"

Wingull took flight and narrowly avoided Frogadier's attack. It turned in midair and loosed a harsh-sounding cry directly into the bubble frog's face.

Frogadier held its head with its hands and crashed into the ground, thrown off completely by the vocal assault.

"Are you okay Frogadier?" Sakura cried.

Frogadier attempted to stand up, its hands still clutching its aching head, and stumbled before falling back. It was unsteady on its feet, which was so unlike the nimble, agile frog Sakura had gotten to know. Something was wrong.

"Use wing attack while it's confused!" Genevieve commanded, smirking confidently.

Wingull flew in close, its wings outstretched for a physical attack.

"Watch out!" Sakura warned her Pokémon, to no avail. Frogadier seemed to try to stand, but its movements were so uncoordinated that it didn't get anywhere. Wingull scored a direct hit.

Tch! This Wingull was so much different than the ones she faced before. Sakura was wrong to assume that she was prepared for this. The others were so much more defensive and flock-minded, but Genevieve's Wingull was focused on all-out attack. She'd have to try something different.

"Try to slow down and focus, Frogadier!" She said.

The bubble frog crouched down on the sand and closed its eyes, steadying itself in a thinking kind of position.

"Again, Wingull!"

Wingull turned in the air and swooped in for another attack.

Frogadier opened its eyes and sprang into action, snatching Wingull from the sky as it hurtled down to attack. The seabird Pokémon made a strangled squawking noise as it was slammed into the sand and pinned down by its wings.

"Water pulse!" Sakura commanded gleefully. This match had turned in her favor in the blink of an eye! Frogadier's newfound speed was incredible.

The blue frog Pokémon let loose a blast of water, scoring a direct hit in Wingull's face.

"Enough of that! Come back, Wingull," Genevieve said irritably, holding up her pokéball. Wingull disappeared from underneath Frogadier. She dropped Wingull's pokéball into her mesh bag and pulled out the other pokéball. "Go, Psyduck!"

The pinkette bit her lip and thought about that for a moment. She wanted to let another Pokémon battle, but who would be best? Psyduck was a water type, so Bulbasaur would be the obvious choice, but Psyduck were also famous for their headache-fueled confusion attacks. Did Bulbasaur have enough of an advantage to beat down Psyduck before its headaches became a problem for her?

"Come back, Frogadier," the Kanto-native trainer said, recalling her starter Pokémon. "Bulbasaur! I know you can handle this!"

In a flash of light, the plant dinosaur Pokémon appeared opposite the yellow duck. It looked up at the midday sun and smiled, closing its eyes. "Sauurr…"

Seeing her Pokémon so relaxed made Sakura feel a bit more confident about her choice to send in her grass type. It was the perfect day with the perfect weather! Grass Pokémon thrived in sunlight.

"Let's get the ball rolling, Bulbasaur! Hit it with your sleep powder!"

The green-blue plant dinosaur Pokémon angled the bulb on its back and shot a fine, greenish powder and a few leaves at Psyduck. The yellow duck was caught up in the cloud of powder and immediately dropped off to sleep.

"What were those leaves…?" Sakura asked softly.

Her pokédex buzzed in her bag side pocket and she pulled it out to look. "Razor leaf," it said in a robotic voice. "Razor leaf is a signature move of many grass-type Pokémon, including Bulbasaur."

"That dex feature is new…" Sakura deadpanned. "So you learned razor leaf, huh?"

Bulbasaur looked back at its trainer with sparkling red eyes and a wide smile. "Bulba!"

The pinkette smirked. "Perfect! Let's test it out while Psyduck is asleep. Razor leaf!"

Bulbasaur reared up and shot a cluster of leaves at the slumbering yellow duck Pokémon.

"Psyduck, wake up!" Genevieve whined.

The razor-sharp leaves met their target and knocked the sleeping duck flat on its back.

"Psyiyi…" Psyduck groaned.

"That's it?" The beach-goer cried, recalling her Pokémon with a defeated sigh. She put a hand to her forehead and shook her head before meeting Sakura's gaze with a smile. "You're a lot tougher than you look, pinky, I'll give you that."

Sakura smiled. "The name's Sakura."

Genevieve shrugged and rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "Yeah, yeah… it was a good battle. Thanks, Sakura."

With that, she walked off into the crowd that had formed while they were battling. Sakura instantly became aware of how many eyes were watching her right now. She looked for a way to disappear from sight, turning to walk away, when another voice rang through the beach.

"Hold up there, little miss," a gruff male voice said.

Sakura turned and looked at the source. There was a man dressed in fishing gear standing just about where Genevieve had stood before.

"Mind if I challenge you next?" He asked. "That battle was just too exciting not to watch. I want to see if I can beat you now."

The pinkette's cheeks felt warm, though she wasn't sure if it was the recognition or the warm beach sun.

"I'd be glad to battle you."


So that chapter was short, but I felt like what I originally planned would drag on for too long if I didn't break it up. I hope it wasn't too short or boring and I promise I'll have the next installment out much quicker next time.

As someone wrote in a review, Sakura and Neji DO seem to get hurt a lot around each other :) It was intentional for Neji to get hurt last chapter, just as Sakura got hurt back in the Santalune forest. The events were meant to mirror one another (someone puts themselves in an unfamiliar situation, the other taunts or otherwise pushes the first person's buttons, first person is injured, both have to take a step back and think about what they did to cause the incident, characters and the relationship between them develop based on those events). I'm so glad you picked up on it :)

-Gallade