Chapter 1: Start at the Beginning

evening, 11/10

The wide screen TV was showing a movie. "I'll turn him into a flea, a harmless little flea! And then, I'll put that flea in a box. And then I'll put that box inside another box, and then mail that box to myself. And when it arrives... AH HA HA HA HA, I'LL SMASH IT WITH A HAMMER! IT'S BRILLIANT, BRILLIANT, BRILLIANT, I TELL YOU! GENIUS, I SAY! …Or, to save on postage, I'll just poison him with this! "

The girl sitting in the red couch across from the TV chuckled at the sequence. On the back of the couch, a leafy paw patted at the girl's wavy brown hair. She looked up to see the small Pokémon's face looking back at her, so she picked up the Cottonnee and brought her down to her lap. "Hey squirt. What do you think of the name Yzma for a Purrloin?"

In response, the Cottonnee made a face, scrunching up her nose. "Tssillfiss," she rattled, sounding like the wind through leaves.

She patted the Pokémon. "Well, I guess I should see what the Purrloin is like before naming it after a villainess. Oh, but I'm gonna miss you." She hugged the Cottonnee. "Too bad I can't take you along, but that's the League rules."

The Pokémon cooed sadly and nuzzled against her, stirring up some of her herbal scent. According to the rules, when a Trainer registered with the League, he or she could only have one Pokémon to start with. And since she was getting a gift Pokémon from Professor Juniper, she had to turn over her pet to her mother. Of course, there was always talk that one could register with just one, and then receive all the other Pokémon back as 'gifts'. But this Cottonnee had been a house pet for years, so it likely wouldn't make for a good battle Pokémon.

"Hilda, looks like Mary's coming," her mother said from the kitchen.

That was the professor! Hilda got off the couch, still holding onto her Cottonnee. "Great! Do you want to talk with her too?"

Her mother came into the living room, dressed in old house clothes. "If she has some time, of course. Did you get your room cleaned?"

Nodding, she replied, "Yes, and I watered the houseplants and the herb garden, and took care of my other chores." It wouldn't be long before she was free of all that work, able to go wherever she wanted.

"Good," she said with a smile. "It won't be long until you're busy taking care of yourself and your Pokémon. This is wonderful; I'm so glad that you have this opportunity to start off with an official Professor's backing."

"Miss Juniper's cool about that." She patted the Cottonnee again. "And don't you worry, Fluff dear. You get to stay with Mom and be pudgy from her cooking."

The Cottonnee Fluff shook her leaves, amused at that. "Ththillill."

"Yes, you're going to be just fine," she said, taking the Pokémon from her daughter. "I'm sure we can raise enough noise to make up for Hilda's absence."

The girl and the Pokémon laughed. "Oh, good luck with that! You'll need a much louder Pokémon."

When the doorbell rang, Hilda quickly went over to answer it while her mother turned off the TV. The local Pokémon Professor was there, wearing a thin white lab coat as usual (although over a closely-fitted blouse and a dark blue short skirt). "Good evening Leslie, Hilda!" she said cheerily, smiling wide. "Did you get a hold of your friends?"

Hilda nodded. "Of course. They should be over soon."

"Would you like to come in for a little while and talk with them?" Leslie offered.

Mary Juniper shook her head. "Oh no, not tonight. I have to be working on a paper to meet a journal's deadline. I don't want to delay the kids from starting out, though, so I called once I got everything together." She then brought a digital storage device out of her purse, a dense machine encased in tan plastic. "And a one, two, presto!"

After she tapped in a couple of commands, a pink beam of light shot out from the DSD, leaving a box on the doorstep between the three of them. It was done up prettily, in blue wrap and a wide red ribbon. A lacy blue envelope sat just under one of the ribbons on top. Certainly, that gift box would not have fit in her purse, which hung lightly under her left arm.

"Digitalized storage is one of the best inventions around," Juniper said, tucking the DSD back into her purse. "I hope you have a large capacity DSD to take with you; Pokémon care requires a lot of things."

"I do," Hilda said, picking up the box with both hands. It was as wide as her chest, but lighter than it looked. Nothing rattled inside, though.

Juniper then touched her shoulder. "Oh, but you look different today dear. Did you buy some new clothes?"

Glancing at her new t-shirt and knee-length jean shorts, she rolled her eyes. "Yeah, Mom suggested that I get rid of my old wardrobe and get something more suitable for travel. It's not really trendy anymore, but hey."

The two women giggled. "Oh, heavens forbid that a fifteen-year-old girl be made to switch to a practical wardrobe," the Professor teased. "But it looks nice and if the rest is like that, then you should be just fine on the road. Read my note to the others before you open it and be sure to spend one more night at home to get to know your new little partner. And you set out tomorrow; I'll see you then. Now I have to get back to the writing. I'll see you both later."

"Don't be working too late, Mary," Leslie said, waving as the Professor started away.

"See you later!" Hilda called, starting to bring the box in.

But then a boy came running up the dirt pathway up to their house. "Good evening, Professor Juniper!" he called out, hurrying to get there.

She waved. "Good evening, Cheren," she called back. "I'm sorry, but we'll be talking more tomorrow. Hilda's got the Pokémon. Have a good night, all of you!" She then hurried off north to her own place.

As it was a warm autumn evening, Cheren was dressed in lightweight dark jeans and a short sleeved black t-shirt. "Hi Leslie, Hilda," he said, his eyes drawn towards the large box.

"Hi again Cheren," Leslie said, holding the door open while Hilda went inside. "Come on in; Bianca isn't here yet, but I'm sure it won't be long."

"Yeah," he said, stepping into the house. "I would have been here sooner if my Dad wasn't hounding me with advice." He shook his head. "I've read all that stuff dozens of times before in Trainer's guidebooks and magazines. Hey Fluff."

"Thossutthhh," the Cottonnee said from Leslie's arm, greeting the boy with a leaf wave.

"Let's go up to my room," Hilda offered, heading for the stairs. "I'll be back down for my drink in a moment."

"I can get it," Cheren said. "You've got the purple glass as usual, right?"

A couple of minutes later, he came up with a platter with three glasses, three small bowls, a pitcher of lemonade, some slices of banana bread, and some Pokémon treats. "Oh right, it be nice to share with our new Pokémon," Hilda said, having set the gift box on top of a low bookshelf. "You can put it on that table there."

He nodded and put it on her bedside table. "You've cleared your room out, huh?" he asked.

Of course she had. The bookshelf had some books left in it, but it had formerly been packed with stuff. The walls were bare as she'd taken down all her posters. In her closet, there was a bag of her old clothes that were going to be donated while only a few hangers were left on the rod. And only a pair of her plushies remained.

"Yeah," Hilda said, sitting on her bed. The purple blanket and pale green walls remained, but they'd probably stay for her Mom to use as a guest room. "We're going to be away for a long time, and a lot of it was kid stuff. I might even decide to move elsewhere if I can, once I'm old enough for that."

He nodded. "Right, we're not kids anymore. I got rid of a lot of things too." He put his hands in his jean pockets and paced for a bit. "I hope Bianca hasn't spaced out. She did say she was coming right over?"

She laughed. "Oh, be patient. I'm sure she'll be here soon." Although to tell the truth, excitement was running through her veins too. Her first Pokémon as a League Trainer, as well as those of her two best friends, were in that box. And it was just sitting there, with a closed lid, tempting them to open it right away.

Then, light steps hurried up the stairs and down the hall to Hilda's room. A blond girl wearing a green beret came into the room. "I hope you weren't waiting on me too long," Bianca said, smiling. "My pet Lillipup was worrying over me; he doesn't want to see me go."

"My Cottonnee has been clingy to me all day," Hilda said. "They know we're going."

"Wow, your room looks so empty now," Bianca said, looking around. Then she saw the blue wrapped box. "So they're in there."

"Right!" Hilda said, bounding back onto her feet to get to the box. "Professor Juniper said to read the note first."

She picked up the lacy blue envelope. For a moment, she was tempted to open it slowly and tease her friends with it. But it would torment her just as much, so she quickly ran her finger under the seal, then pulled out a folded sheet of paper.

'To Hilda, Bianca, and Cheren: Thank you so much for all the help you've given me over the past few years. You three have stuck around much longer than other volunteer assistants have (at least from what I hear from my father!). As such, I have decided to make you three official student field researchers and give you what you need to start on the Unova Pokémon League. I'm sure you three will get along marvelously with Pokémon.

'Within this box are three special Pokémon. They are natives to Unova, but extremely rare and hard to find, so I want an extended study done on them. Keep them with you, along with a journal to record things that happen, and that will do the trick. I'm sure they will be very useful. Please distribute them fairly amongst yourselves.

'Also in this box are the registration forms you need to fill out to become official League participants: the League application form, the request for an advanced Trainer's ID, and the Minor Trainer's Self-Study Application (along with its online courses booklet). You will need to have these all filled out and approved before you reach the first Gym, but if you do so tonight, there shouldn't be an issue. I know it's a lot of paperwork, but the advantages are worth a few minutes of form filling.

'Tomorrow morning, you should come by my lab to receive your field researcher equipment. After that, you can head off on your very own journey! -Best wishes, Mary Juniper.'

"Oo, field researchers," Bianca said as Hilda lifted the lid off the box. "How exciting!"

Cheren stepped forward. "So are they the ones we thought?"

Inside the box, Hilda saw three plain Pokeballs sitting in a felt lined holder. There were labels placed under each slot with the names of three Pokémon species. She grinned. "Yup, it's them!"

"Great!" Bianca said, clasping her hands together. "Hilda, you choose first; you deserve it."

The boy nodded agreeably. "Of course."

She pulled the three Pokeballs out, two in one hand, and the third in the other. "Well, there's not much of a choice to make, is there?"

"What do you mean?" the other girl asked, puzzled.

Hilda passed a Pokeball to her. "Well, Bianca wanted Oshawott, so she should get it. And Cheren wanted Tepig, so he should get that one," she handed the other ball to him. "And I wanted Snivy, so it all works out, no arguments about it. Right?"

Cheren smiled. "Of course not. I always knew I wanted a Tepig, after I read up on what little there is." He turned the ball around, examining it.

On the other hand, Bianca squealed. "Yay, that's perfect! I got an osha osha Oshawott!" She soon found the release button and hit it. A red beam of light spilled out, depositing the Pokémon in the middle of the room.

A white and blue otter appeared, quickly turning around to see who was there. On noticing the three of them, it looked puzzled, taking the yellow scallop shell off its belly and holding it in both paws under its chin. "Whuuu?" it asked softly.

The blond girl checked the status screen of the Pokeball, then came over. "It's okay, girl, I'm your new Trainer, Bianca. And these are my best friends, Cheren and Hilda." She picked it up and turned to them. "Say hi to them."

The Oshawott released one paw from the shell to give a small wave, but then backed into Bianca's arms.

"We could have done introductions when they were all out," Cheren said, releasing his Pokémon. He aimed the release beam to appear right near him.

At his ankles, a black and red pig Pokémon appeared, its hooves small and its ears close together due to coming out of a red orb on its head. The Tepig held itself high on all fours and sniffed with its snout. It seemed pleased to be out and smiled up at Cheren.

"He seems to be quite promising," he said, kneeling down to pet his Pokémon.

"Better call mine out then," Hilda said, pressed the release button on hers. She aimed it to come out near her too; being used to using her old Cottonnee's Pokeball, the resistance seemed stiff.

However, no Snivy came from the release beam. Instead, a strange marbled gray rock appeared, floating a foot off the ground. It was about eight inches wide and had a pocked but mostly smooth surface. After a moment, it floated up to three feet off the ground.

"What is that?" Bianca asked, staring at it with her Oshawott. "That's not a Pokémon, it's a, a, a bowling ball."

"Some Pokémon look like strange things," Cheren said, getting up. The Tepig took a few steps closer, trying to sniff it out. "But, I can't recall seeing anything like that before."

"That's weird; I wonder if Juniper got the Pokeballs mixed up." Hilda checked the status screen of the ball. "This says that it's an egg. But, it doesn't say anything else… oh wait, it says… 'WTF'."

"Huh." The Oshawott was shivering, so Bianca patted her. "What's that stand for?"

No one called out the obvious, so Cheren said, "Still, it doesn't look like an egg. Remember when the professor had us watch a few eggs while she went to get some equipment? They didn't look like rocks, and they certainly didn't float like that."

Hilda put one hand around the so-called egg and brought it closer. It felt cold, but from within instead of without. "Right. We'll have to ask the Professor. But, she said she's busy tonight. It'll have to wait until morning." She clasped it in both hands, wondering if she could feel the life within it. "Or maybe it'll hatch tonight. Who knows?"

The grass shifted, rustling against green scales. Not loud; much more noise would be unacceptable. A trio of tail leaves curled up to more closely resembled blades of grass. A pointed snout lifted into the air every now and then, flicking out a black tongue to taste the surroundings. If anyone came close, the Pokémon could go still and remain perfectly hidden. That is, so long as nobody stepped in the wrong place.

It had been a strange deal that had given this freedom, this choice. But before the choice was made, there was something desired. It sat propped against a travel bag, next to a young human with a white cap on. The human was looking at a computer device, not watching his things.

Excellent. The hiding Pokémon slithered closer, and closer. Nine feet… six feet… three feet… now! Snatch the item and bolt for the taller grasses.

In a moment, the human was chasing after. "Stop! Stop you thieving… Pokémon… pant…"

Escape was at hand; victory was claimed.

Since Hilda's Pokeball didn't seem to contain a Pokémon yet, the three friends played with Bianca's and Cheren's Pokémon instead. The two were like complete opposites. Where Tepig was brave, bold, and proud, Oshawott was shy, skittish, and timid. But that worked out just right. Bianca seemed pleased to have a Pokémon to care for, while Cheren was glad to have a confidant partner.

As for Hilda, she didn't know what to think.

She lay on her bed that night, observing the floating egg. Or stone, although it really was like a bowling ball without the finger holds. The lights in her room were out, but a streetlight shone into her window. In that light, the egg seemed to glisten, like a highly polished rock. It was eerie in that way.

When would it hatch? That caused some problems, as Pokémon eggs were said to only hatch when looked after by healthy Pokémon. Her friends had offered to help her catch something to start with, but then they'd be dealing with the limited population around Nuvema. Or perhaps she could take her Cottonee after all. One couldn't register for the League with just an egg, after all.

She had already filled out the forms, save for information on her starting Pokémon. She still wanted to start with the other two tomorrow, although her official acceptance might come later. What would hatch from this egg? And what Pokémon was she going to be starting with? In a way, it would be an awesome statement to fight through the ranks with a common Pokémon.

Hilda fell asleep.

That night was filled with many strange dreams, but they all followed the same patterns. A boy with icy blue eyes would speak to her, asking her questions or ordering her to do things. But, it definitely wasn't Cheren; this boy had no glasses. In the way of dreams, a lot of it didn't make sense because she kept forgetting things.

But one exchange stuck with Hilda. "Would you rather have a world of truth or a world of ideals?" the boy asked.

On considering it, she said, "Well shouldn't the truth be ideal? And it would be really great if the ideal were the truth. And can you really have one without the other? Although it is tough to have both. Or either of them, really. People can lie, and they don't often behave in an ideal manner. So," she grinned, "you ought to try reaching for both, to show them how it's done."

The boy gave her a long hard look at this answer, then said, "But if you were forced to choose one or the other, which would you take?"

"If I were forced to, then I'd look the person forcing me straight in the eyes and say, 'Hey, what's with all the seriousness? Lighten up and enjoy life! Things aren't black and white.' Or I might get mad at them for trying to force a question they clearly don't intend to think about."

"Would you seriously?" the boy asked.

When Hilda woke up, she didn't remember what she had answered to that last question.

morning, 11/11

It was a beautiful fall morning. The leaves still on the trees were bright with color and there was a perfect blue sky above. Although the wind was starting to take on cold tones, it was nothing a good jacket couldn't remedy. And on that beautiful morning, Hilda found herself faced off against a large man with a noticeable gut. He was a good guy most of the time, but he was irritatingly stubborn on certain issues.

"Bianca is not leaving with you two on some crazy journey," he said gruffly. "Which you two shouldn't even be considering. It's much too dangerous out there. You could get hurt badly out there, and there's all kinds of bad people in the cities. You'll live a much happier and safer life if you just stay here in Nuvema."

"We have our Pokémon with us," Hilda pointed out to her friend's father. He didn't have to know that she had gotten some bowling ball thing which had still been a bowling ball thing when she woke up. "Besides, we're all fifteen. We'll be all right."

"That's still not enough. Now go on back home and take care of your mother."

Cross about his over-protectiveness, she left without a goodbye, heading towards her own house. But Hilda stopped by a tree and hid behind it. This wasn't the first time Bianca's dad had been ridiculous about something. She remembered when they were seven and her friend had come over for her first sleepover. After having him call about eight times that evening, Leslie had slyly unhooked the phone so the girls could have some play and talk time uninterrupted. That had brought him storming to their front door twenty minutes later to make sure everything was all right.

The next person to come by, thankfully, was Cheren. He looked irritated too, although his Tepig was eagerly sniffing around, enjoying the weather. "Oh, hey Hilda," he said.

"Shh!" she replied, putting a finger to her lips. "Bianca's dad is trying to keep her from leaving."

"At this time? But she and I have our Pokémon and everything." He stopped by the tree and gave a hand signal to Tepig to stay nearby. The red pig twitched his ears and looked to them curiously.

Hilda rolled her eyes. "Yeah, but you know him. He thinks walking along the fence by the shoreline is dangerous."

That caused a momentary smile. "Well that's because you insist on walking on top of the fence."

"More fun that way. So what's up with you? Your folks badgering you again?"

Cheren sighed. "Of course they did. They keep treating me like some ten-year-old who's never worked with Pokémon before. I know I've got a lot to learn, but I'm not that ignorant. And this is supposed to be a great day when we start our journey. It shouldn't start out lousy." He paused, then looked to Bianca's house. "So how're we going to draw off the old man?"

At that question, Hilda got that look on her face. The wide grin and excited eyes that said she was considering something bizarre. "First, we need to get a ladder, one that can reach onto their rooftop. We climb up the ladder, bringing with us a bunch of sunflower seeds. Then, we dump the seeds on top of him. Pidoves will smell the seeds and come flocking like mad to get some."

"And then we bring Bianca out the back door while her dad is distracted?" Cheren asked.

She shook her head. "No, that's only the start. Because a mass flock of Pidoves like that is certain to attract Purrloins, who will rush in and add to the chaos. And that'll attract the attention of the Lillipups, and you know how they get when they see a Purrloin. Then we open up the window to Bianca's room, help her climb out with her stuff, and then go back down the ladder and race for the lab before anyone notices."

After a brief chuckle, he teasingly asked, "Well then why don't we just go up on the ladder and let Bianca out the window in the first place? Much simpler."

Hilda stuck her tongue out at him. "And give up a chance to hassle her dad? No way." She looked back towards the back door. "Or, we could just go over to where Bianca and her mom are right now." She left the cover of the tree and walked up to the two of them. Cheren soon followed.

Bianca seemed nervous as she came out. When she saw them, her eyes went wide and she quickly made a gesture to keep quiet. Hilda just smiled and waved. Her friend's mother glanced in the house, then smiled to them. "You'd better hurry on over to Mary's lab," she said. "She's expecting you. And don't worry about Peter; I'll talk with him later."

"Thanks Mom," Bianca said quietly, hugging her. "Goodbye."

"Good luck with your mission," Hilda said teasingly. Talking Peter out of anything was a difficult task.

"We'll all be fine," Cheren said, nodding to her.

"Good luck to all of you," Bianca's mother said, then shut the door softly.

After Bianca called out her Oshawott, the three friends headed north along the path to Professor Juniper's lab. "This has me all nervous," Bianca said, smiling weakly. "Once we leave here, there'll be so many things we can do. I don't know what to start with."

"Well you can start with your Pokémon," Hilda replied. "Are you gonna give Oshawott a nickname?"

That made her happier. "Of course! I thought about it last night and I felt like she should be Suzy. Right sweetie?"

Suzy the Oshawott murmured, "Shawa," and edged closer to Bianca. She took hold of the hem of her skirt and kept up easily.

"We're gonna be okay," Bianca said reassuringly. "I'm afraid Dad gave her a fright this morning. Me too; I didn't think he'd forbid me to leave the house, much less town."

"At least your Mom is more reasonable," Cheren said. His Tepig nosed his ankle. "I nicknamed mine too; Tepig is now Smoky."

Smoky the Tepig snorted and strutted for a short ways.

Hilda laughed. "His attitude seems like it should belong to a bigger Pokémon."

At the edge of town, they came upon a building that was larger than the houses that made up most of Nuvema Town. From the outside, Juniper's lab and home more closely resembled the latter than the former. It was a wooden structure like the others, and window boxes were overflowing with flowers. But there was a sign outside of the building stating that it was indeed a Pokémon lab. Being familiar with the place, the three friends went on inside.

Inside, there was a living space that appeared quite humble, with simpler furnishings than their own homes. Pictures of various Pokémon decorated the walls. But straight from the entrance, a visitor could also see the advanced and expensive equipment of a Pokémon lab: examination chambers, extra processors for the computer, and a large cabinet that was kept locked most of the time. Mary Juniper was back in the lab space, working at a computer with a pen behind her ear and sunglasses on top of her head.

She did stop on hearing the door open, looking over to them. "Oh, hey there," she said. "Give me a sec to save this, but come on back." She did so, then closed the document and shut down the computer.

"Good morning Professor," Bianca said as they came back to the lab. "Still working on your paper?"

Juniper got up from her chair to speak with them. "No, I got that finished just in time. But there's always another paper to write." She laughed. "Well, welcome to my lab. I'm Professor Juniper…"

Cheren rolled his eyes. "Professor, we've worked with you for almost five years now."

"Oh, come on," Juniper said playfully. "This is a momentous occasion for you; we ought to formal for once, just for the occasion. So then…" she put on a much too serious face that made Hilda and Bianca giggle. Cheren did crack a smile. "I'm Professor Juniper and I am researching the origins of Pokémon. But I'm sure you didn't come today to hear a lecture. And your Pokémon," she looked down at the Oshawott and Tepig.

Smoky twitched his ears and held himself high, looking right back at her. He was where he had been the whole morning, right at Cheren's ankle. On the other hand, Suzy waved a paw at Juniper, but still clung to Bianca's skirt.

"They certainly look happy," Juniper said. "It seems that you've both bonded well. But Hilda, what about yours?"

"Yeah, there's a problem with that we wanted to ask you about," Hilda said, taking the Pokeball and pressing the release button. Again, the marbled gray orb appeared, floating by her. "This is all I'm getting."

"Oh really?" Juniper came closer and touched it. But she seemed as bewildered as them. "It must have some power, as it's so cold. I've never seen it before; I'm sure I gave you three a Snivy along with those two. May I see that Pokeball?"

"Sure," Hilda said, passing it over. "It looks normal, but the status window says some strange things."

The Professor read the status window, then went to get a reader for more detailed information. "It says you have an egg… but that's not like any egg I've ever seen before."

"Could it be a Pokeball error?" Cheren asked. "I've heard of problems before, but they usually do some horrific things."

"It's been years since there's been a major Pokeball programming error," Juniper said. "According to this data, everything is perfectly fine with this so-called egg. And it's already registered to you. Hmm." She considered it, then handed the ball back. "Well, hold onto it for now and see what comes. You will have to get another Pokémon for your starter, and to help hatch this egg. If I knew what happened to that Snivy, I'd give it to you, but I know I checked it before I put the box into digital storage."

"We can help her catch something, right?" Bianca asked.

She nodded. "Certainly; I don't think there would be a problem with the local Pokémon. You're all right with this, right Hilda?"

"Sure, it's fine," she replied. "Besides, it might be pretty awesome to start with one of them and take it all the way to Victory Road and beyond."

"Now that's the spirit," Juniper said cheerfully. "In fact, I was planning on giving you three some pointers on capturing Pokémon, so we can make getting Hilda a starter that lesson. But first, I said that I wanted to make you my field researchers. And for that, you need something special." She went to a box on the table, then came back with three small devices. "Here you are, your very own Pokedexes."

"Pokedexes?" Bianca asked, looking at her model. It was black with blue raindrops over the cover.

"Yeah, one of the best research devices out there," Cheren said, accepted his black with red flames model. "It gathers lots of raw data on Pokémon and adds it to the Pokémon Encyclopedic Index. Plus, you can use the Pokedex to directly access the Index, which gives you lots of information on any Pokémon you see."

"That's right," Juniper said, handing Hilda one that was black with coiled green ivy. "It will automatically add any Pokémon you encounter to your personal index, plus it will gain even more information with every kind Pokémon you catch or raise. And you three would be the first actual field researchers that have been in Unova too."

"But the Pokedex has been around for several years now," Cheren said. "Why hasn't there been a researcher already?"

The Professor considered her answer for a moment. "For one thing, it's in low production numbers, so be careful not to get it broken. For another, we look for certain qualities in field researchers; they have to be dedicated, hard-working, trustworthy, and able to travel freely. I've observed that all three of you are qualified. I would love to work on it myself, but I just don't have the time to do Pokedex field research and carry on my own studies. So I hope you three can meet many Pokémon and fill out your Pokedex information.

"Although, I don't think that should be the most important thing of your journey." Juniper smiled, looking nostalgic for a moment. "Being out on your own and meeting new friends, both people and Pokémon, this is the perfect time to find out about yourself and what you really want. You'll see things that amaze you and interest you, but there will also be things to challenge you, and different ways to see the world. Yes, this is the time to discover yourself, who you are and what you can be."

"Oo, she's going all serious and philosophical on us," Hilda said jokingly to her friends, nudging Bianca. "So don't fall asleep!"

Juniper laughed. "Okay, but I hope you remember that. Now, do you have your forms filled out? Except for you Hilda, about your starter." When they all three nodded, she picked up a bag that was near her desk. "Great! When you reach Accumula Town, the Pokecenter will be right near the entrance. It's a two story building with an orange room and a bright neon sign, so you can't miss it. Talk to the nurse and see who to turn the forms in to. But let's get out to Route 1, where we'll discuss capturing Pokémon."

"Right behind you," Bianca said cheerily, following after with Suzy. Cheren and Smoky went too. After glancing at the floating orb, Hilda kept it out and left the lab. The icy gray orb followed right after.

Route 1 was a relatively short path between Nuvema and Accumula. Thick woods bordered the west side, while the wide Alma River flowed along the east side. Most days, it was windy and this one was no exception. Colored leaves drifted through the air while the plants were toughening up in preparation for winter dormancy. The tall grasses where wild Pokémon lurked were still lush and vibrant green, though.

"As I'm sure you know," Professor Juniper said, ignoring the way her lab coat fluttered in the breeze, "wild Pokémon most often hide in grasses like these. You should never enter a patch of grass without a Pokémon of your own, or a Trainer who has them. So in order to catch them, you need to enter such patches."

"That much is obvious," Cheren said. He had a touch of annoyance to his eyes about having such obvious things explained.

Juniper held up a hand. "But it's not quite that simple. You see, many Pokémon will appear to challenge you and make themselves stronger, but not all will want to be captured. If a Pokémon does not want to be captured, then it will resist and break the Pokeball. If it does so, then you had either look for another one of that kind, or attempt to convince it otherwise."

"How do you do that?" Bianca asked. "I mean, the Pokémon don't speak, so they can't say what they want. You can't understand a Pokémon until you've lived with it for a little while."

She nodded. "Correct. When you read or hear about it, catching Pokémon seems easy, but those who've been around know that it's not. If you startle the Pokémon, it will run away. Some can understand your words, while others cannot. You may be able to find out the information to decide what Pokémon to catch, but you will have to figure out on your own how to catch that one. And beware of one thing: the Pokeball registers the Pokémon's original Trainer by the person who first touches it after the Pokémon is locked in. There are some unscrupulous characters that use this, and the fact that they are usually thrown, to snatch Pokeballs before the real owner gets them. Now, let's go out and see if we can find what Pokémon to get Hilda for a starter." Juniper then walked into the grassy patch at the start of Route 1, followed by the other three.

Cheren looked around, but said, "You have to battle the Pokémon you want to catch too. The Pokeball works better if the target is weaker, or under a status effect."

"That doesn't sound nice," Bianca said. "I mean, if you want to be friends, shouldn't you not hurt the Pokémon first?"

"Battling the Pokémon proves your ability to train, which the wild ones will be looking for," Juniper explained. Then she pointed out to a puff of white fur sticking out over the grass. "That's a Patrat; you see many of them around here. Sometimes there's Pidoves and Purrlions, but not much. You're more likely to find Lillipups."

Bianca nodded. "Oh yeah, this is where my mom caught mi… hey, what's that?"

Right then, the other three also saw a flash of green in the grass. A Pokémon soon jumped up out of hiding and grinned at them. It was a green reptilian Pokémon with small limbs, but a large leafy tail. Not only that, but it wore a human-sized brown fedora with a wide brim and a frond from a fern attached to its side. It was comically large on the small Pokémon, threatening to slip over its eyes.

"That is an awesome hat!" Hilda declared, clapping her hands.

"Oh dear," Professor Juniper said, but with an amused smile on her face. "That's definitely the Snivy I was supposed to give you. Except he didn't have the hat." She aimed her Xtranciver at it, then checked the screen. "He's no longer attached to a Pokeball? But that does mean you can catch him now."

"We can weaken him," Cheren suggested, snapping his fingers. His Tepig came to attention. "Smoky, time to fight. Tackle him."

The pig Pokémon shook itself, then rushed for the Snivy. "Hey you, use Leer!" Hilda called out.

"Hilda," her friend said sternly.

She laughed, but blushed. "Sorry, got caught up in the excitement."

Whether it was because he decided to or because she said it, the Snivy did some hocus pocus with his eyes to get Smoky to lower his defenses. Unfortunately, that got him to sit still long enough for the Tepig to rush into him with his Tackle. The Snivy then jumped at Smoky and wrestled with him for a bit, losing his hat in the process.

"Leer will lower the defense of the target Pokémon," Juniper said. "Tepig's Tail Whip will do the same."

Cheren nodded. "Yes, but for capturing purposes, you don't want to knock the target unconscious." Seeing both Pokémon separate, both with some scratches or bite marks on them, he said, "Smoky, tackle again and get back for a moment."

"Oh yes, and you'll need these," the professor said, pulling five empty Pokeballs out of her bag and handing them to Hilda. "Since they're empty, press the release button and throw the ball at the target Pokémon." Smoky tackled the Snivy as ordered, then darted aside to get to a position closer to Cheren. "It will ignore any captive Pokémon, but you might accidentally catch a hidden Pokémon instead of the one you're after, if you don't aim your throw right." She then brought out five more for Bianca, then five more for Cheren when he was done battling.

With a soft snort, the Snivy rushed through the grass and tackled the Tepig hard. Smoky squealed as he was thrown onto his side. Then the Grass type panted heavily, watching for what they would do next. Cheren took Smoky's Pokeball. "Return," he said, recalling the Tepig. He checked the status screen. "They're both severely weakened now. You'd better give it a shot before he runs off."

"Right," she said, taking one of the empty Pokeballs in hand. "Hey Snivy, I like your attitude; why don't you come with me?"

With the Tepig gone, he had retrieved his hat to put back on. He did look at her, but then the fedora fell over his face and made it hard to read his expression. But he did stay there.

Hilda touched the one Pokeball attached to her bag's holder. "May as well do it for the show," she said softly, then pointed towards the Snivy, "All right, go go bowling ball!"

Bianca chuckled, but then things got strange again. The stone emitted a bright flash of light; a mass rustling of grass came as the hidden Pokémon audience bolted from the patch of grass to the safety of the trees. While their eyes were still readjusting, the stone vanished, then appeared several feet ahead. Only, it was bigger than before, and growing rapidly. It started taking on a different form, then uncurling into a giant Pokémon. A minute later, there was a massive black dragon standing in the grass of Route 1, with an icy white face mask and long bluish-white wings. Then it made a near-deafening roar, causing the Snivy to turn pale, his tail leaves drooping.

Bianca put her hands up to her mouth. "Oh my gosh!"

"That can't be…" Juniper said, her eyes wide too.

"What is it?" Hilda asked, feeling a chill run down her spine.

"Kyurem…" Cheren said. "But, why?"

I was in the mood for something ridiculous. So, here you are!