Cassandra felt strangely empty as she watched Belle disappear into the sky the next morning, but she had to push the thought out of her mind. She needed to go off to Fallarbor Town— the next contest date was three weeks away.
Cassandra ate breakfast and then walked into the parlor, where Joanna and Gerald sat on the couch. Gerald put away his paper and smiled as she walked in. “There’s our little winner!” He stood up and embraced her. “How did it feel?”
“Good,” Cassandra replied. “Very good.”
“Well, much to my surprise, Cassie, you seem to have potential.” Joanna smiled as she took a sip of her coffee. “You may borrow Staraptor to get to Fallarbor Town.”
“Um, actually…I’d…” Cassandra looked over at Gerald rather than act like she wanted her mother’s blessing. “I’d rather go myself. Y’know…like Belle is going on her own.”
“Go yourself?” Joanna echoed. She set her mug down on the table in surprise.
“Like a Pokémon Journey,” Gerald said. “Well, you’re old enough now, and you have your official first Pokémon…I think it’s a grand idea!” He clapped his hands. “The only thing is, what route should you take?”
Cassandra grinned broadly. Joanna seemed shell-shocked. “But…perhaps we should hire a bodyguard or two to go after her. Or we could order a car.”
“No, that’s okay,” Cassandra told her. “I’d like to do this kind of…classically.”
“Kickin’ it old school!” Gerald proclaimed. “Now, as for routes…I’m not particularly fond of you going through Meteor Falls by yourself, but you’d be able to stop off in Rustboro if you went that way.”
“But there’s always a sandstorm brewing on Route 111,” Joanna said. “She shouldn’t be there by herself, either.”
“That’s true,” Gerald replied. “Hmm…well, Swablu, Finny, and Fluffy should be strong enough to get you through Meteor Falls. You know, Finny should be about ready to evolve…don’t you think, dear?”
“Yes, about ready.” Joanna lost interest in the conversation. She picked up her coffee mug and produced a crossword puzzle from seemingly nowhere. “You should pack.” Joanna then picked up a pencil and wrote down something on her puzzle.
“Yes, you should pack! We’ll help you!” Gerald sprang to his feet. “Come on, Joanna!” He knocked her elbow, making her spill coffee on her crossword.
The very next day, Cassandra emerged from the Rusturf Tunnel, Finny trotting along beside her. She made her way to the Pokémon Center.
Once inside, Cassandra settled into one of the plastic chairs and pulled out her breakfast and a newspaper as she waited for Nurse Joy to tend to her Pokémon. She was just reading an article about strange Snorlax movements in Kanto when the glass door slid open again and a slightly familiar voice said, “Hello, Nurse Joy.”
Cassandra looked up. A girl about a year or two younger than her was walking to the counter, her violently pink hair in two ponytails on either side of her head, both of which were in elaborate ringlets. She wore a pastel yellow sweater with sleeves that only let her fingertips protrude from the ends and a pink-and-yellow plaid skirt. A Wigglytuff walked beside her.
Karen Lowell and Tuffly, Cassandra’s first ever contest opponents.
Cassandra put her newspaper down in her lap as Karen and Tuffly approached Nurse Joy’s counter. “What brings you two here today?” Nurse Joy asked.
“We’re bored,” Karen replied.
“I’m sorry. I don’t have much for you to help with today. I only have one person in here right now.”
Karen looked over her shoulder at Cassandra. “Hey! Hey! I know you! I’d recognize that hair anywhere! It’s so long, and it’s honey-colored.”
Cassandra blinked. This girl thought her hair was recognizable?
“You’re Cassandra Étoile! I went up against you in the preliminaries!”
“Yep. How are you and Tuffly? And what are you doing here?”
“Oh, we’re great! And I live here in Rustboro. So I guess the question is…what are you doing here?”
Cassandra smiled as she folded up her newspaper carefully. “I’m heading to Fallarbor. I figure I’ll get there early and introduce myself.”
“That’s a fantastic idea,” Karen told her. “A good Coordinator familiarizes him or herself with the Contest Hall.”
“So, are you trying to become a Coordinator?”
“Who, me? Oh, no. I just like Pokémon. I’ve tried being a Trainer, too, but the fact is…I just like them for pets.” She reached out and hugged Tuffly. “Right, Tuffly?”
“Oh, you know what? You’re headed to Fallarbor, right? I’ll just go with you! Wait here and let me get my stuff together. We can travel together. It’ll be fun!”
Cassandra laughed. “Right. You’re cute.”
“Come on, Tuffly. Wait here, Cassandra, okay?”
“Wait, what— ?”
Karen rushed out of the Center.
To: [email protected]
From: [email protected]
Subject: Now I know how it feels.
So I unwittingly attracted a traveling companion.
Her name is Karen Lowell and she’s fifteen. She likes having Pokémon as pets, and she has a Wigglytuff named Tuffly. She’s actually the girl I first went up against in Verdanturf. Turns out she lives in Rustboro and she’s bored out of her mind, and her parents don’t care if she goes running off to Fallarbor Town with a sixteen-year-old stranger.
Whoopee for me.
Love your enthusiastic friend,
P.S. Okay, she’s not that bad.