"Well, that was a fun one!" Professor Magnolia said to Schubert, her Blastoise, as they strolled out of the theater at Pokestar Studios. "The Timegate Traveler series never gets old. That director really knows what she's doing—her storytelling is solid and the cinematography is exquisite."
"Blaaas," Schubert said with a nod.
Magnolia put on her trademark brown fedora to shield her eyes from the typical sun of southwestern Unova. "Nice to be back at the ol' stomping grounds!" she asked. "Oh, wait—you're from Kanto."
Schubert shrugged. "Blastotoise," he said, as if to say he didn't much care about technicalities. He had always been rather laid-back outside of battle.
Magnolia grinned and clenched her fist. "Yeah—when you're with Pokemon, anywhere is home!" she said. "Or something like that."
"Professor!" a man shouted from nearby. Although it didn't sound urgent, Magnolia whipped around, her brown braid flying behind her, to see who was calling her. Striding toward her was a man with pale blue hair, wearing traditional blue robes. In front of him ran three children who looked around ten years old.
"You must be Professor Magnolia!" said one of them, a girl with wild orange hair, freckles, and glasses. "Right?"
Magnolia adjusted her own glasses and nodded. "That's right!" she said. "Hanging out with Brycen today, huh?" She grinned at the former Gym Leader. "What brings you guys here?"
"I hope we're not interrupting anything," Brycen said. "But these children have come of age and want to begin their Pokemon journeys. I knew you were in town, so I figured it would be easier for them to receive their starter Pokemon from you, rather than travel to Nuvema Town to meet with Professor Juniper."
"That's fair," Magnolia said, smiling down at the three eager faces that crowded around her. "Don't worry, I wasn't doing anything terribly important. Just enjoying some downtime at the movies. And who might you be?"
"I'm Ginger!" the orange-haired girl said, jabbing her chest with her thumb. "Are you a real live Pokemon Professor?"
"Sure am," Magnolia said. "So yes, I am authorized to give out starter Pokemon."
"Yay, that's great!" said a girl with indigo hair in pigtails, clapping her hands. "Oh—I'm Pansy! It's nice to meet you, Professor!"
"Likewise," Magnolia said. She looked over at the third child, a boy with short dark green hair who wasn't smiling like the girls. "You seem like a reliable young man," she said. "What's your name?"
"Dill, ma'am," the boy said with a curt nod. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
"Same," Magnolia said. She pointed to the sky. "Okay, follow me and let's get you your very own Pokemon friends! Brycen, you can come too!" With a flourish, she set off in the direction of Virbank City.
Brycen exchanged glances with Schubert and chuckled. "Sure, why not," the actor said, and he fell in step behind everyone else.
"Was this Blastoise your starter Pokemon, Professor?" Ginger asked as they walked through the studio.
"Yeah, he was!" Magnolia said. "How'd you guess?"
Ginger pushed up her glasses. "I didn't guess," she said, "I figured it out. You seem old enough that when you were our age, you probably had to go to Kanto and get a starter Pokemon from Professor Oak, right? I read all about that."
"Ooh, aren't you smart!" Magnolia said. "Yep, that was back in the olden times! You kids have it good now, with professors handing out starter Pokemon in every region! Plus you've got me wandering around!"
"It sounds like so much fun!" Pansy said. "You must have seen so many wonderful things in your journey!"
"I did," Magnolia said with a smile. "And I still do. Let me tell you, the most wonderful things I've seen have been young trainers ready to grow with their Pokemon. You kids have some amazing experiences ahead of you."
"I hope so," Dill muttered, still strangely taciturn. Magnolia wondered why, but she wouldn't press him.
They made their way out of the studios, where they took a train out of the bustling heart of Virbank City and into the surrounding suburbs. From here, they hopped on a bus that dropped them off at a sprawling ranch house surrounded by acres of land, tucked into a vale between steep mountains. Around the home, Pokemon of all species grazed, played, and napped.
"Wow!" Pansy said. "Is this your laboratory, Professor?"
"Well, it's my house," Magnolia said, ushering them all toward the pastures. "To be honest, I don't do a whole lot of laboratory stuff. But I do have a sizeable library and office for writing up information from my travels."
"Whoa, look at all these awesome Pokemon!" Ginger said, running toward the white wooden fence separating the property from the road. She jumped onto the fence's bottom slat and leaned over the top. "Someday, I'm gonna have a bunch of cool Pokemon like this, too!"
Magnolia looked down at Dill, who stayed silent by her side with his hands in his pockets, although his eyes widened at the variety of Pokemon. "Well, you know what they say," the professor said, "a journey of a thousand Pokemon starts with a single Poke Ball… or something like that." She turned toward Brycen with an impish grin. "That is what they say, right?"
Brycen laughed. "I've never heard that saying before in my life," he said.
"Do you and the professor know each other?" Pansy asked.
"I was born right here in Virbank," Magnolia said. "I remember when Brycen started his acting career, about the same time I started my Pokemon journey. By the time I returned to Unova to challenge its Gyms, he'd become the Gym Leader up in Icirrus. That was a fun battle."
"It was fantastic," Brycen said with a nod. "I enjoyed seeing what kind of strength you and your Pokemon had cultivated together."
Dill's eyes lit up. "Someday," he said quietly, "I'll be strong, too."
"I don't doubt it," Magnolia said. She held out her arms. "Okay… find a Pokemon you like!"
The three children looked shocked—and so did Brycen. "You're… not going to offer them Oshawott, Snivy, or Tepig?" he asked.
Magnolia grinned again. "Why should I?" she asked. "That's the way Professor Juniper does it, but I'm not Professor Juniper."
"But… any Pokemon they want, seriously?" Brycen asked. "Isn't that a bit much?"
"What's wrong with getting to pick any Pokemon?" Ginger asked with a frown. "I don't want to only have to pick from three!" She put her hands on her hips. "If I'm going to be a Pokemon Trainer, I want to do things my own way!"
Brycen sighed. "Generally," he said, "professors give out certain species of Pokemon because those species have been proven easy to handle by beginning trainers. I just don't want you three getting in over your heads."
"Brycen is right," Magnolia said. "You have to choose a Pokemon who you're going to get along with—someone who can you can truly be a team with. Most powerful Pokemon won't listen to you yet because you haven't proved yourself strong enough to them." She smiled. "So, that being said, explore around the ranch for a bit and meet the Pokemon who live here. I'm sure you'll strike up a friendship with one of them."
She gestured her Blastoise forward. "Schubert here can help you out," Magnolia said. "He's sort of the alpha here, since he's been around the longest. He can introduce you to all of the Pokemon and help you get to know them."
"Super!" Pansy said. "Thanks, Professor! C'mon, let's go!" she said to the other two kids as she ran into the pasture.
"Whoo, this is gonna be awesome!" Ginger said, sprinting ahead of her and Schubert.
Dill shook his head as he walked alongside the Blastoise. "They're always like this," the boy said.
Schubert chuckled. "To-toise," he said, and the two looked like old men amused by the zeal of youth.
"I'm amazed you feel so comfortable just letting kids run around your Pokemon like this," Brycen said as he and Magnolia followed them. "Isn't that dangerous?"
"I expect all of my Pokemon to be on their best behavior for guests," Magnolia said. "They know better than to hurt humans. I taught them better than that."
A Gardevoir came gliding over the grass to them, her long skirt-like tendrils flowing behind her. "Devoi?" she asked Magnolia.
"They're here to pick out starter Pokemon, Veff," Magnolia said. "Thanks for always taking care of the Pokemon while I'm gone."
Veff smiled. "Voir!" she said in her airy tones.
"Veff keeps everybody in line," Magnolia said to Brycen, putting a hand on the Gardevoir's head.
"Professor!" Pansy said as she ran up to them. In her arms she held a furry purple Pokemon. "Professor, I think your Stunky really likes me!"
"Stu-stun," the Stunky agreed.
Brycen narrowed his eyes. "Er… are you sure you want that one, Pansy?" he asked. "Isn't it a little…"
"I think I'd really like to be a Poison-type Trainer!" Pansy said before Brycen could finish his thought. "Roxie is so cool the way she uses Poison-types as her inspiration, and I want to do the same thing!"
"I think that's awesome!" Magnolia said. She glanced over at Brycen with a smile. "One should never judge a Pokemon by its species, after all."
"I know," Brycen said. "But still… you have an odd way of doing things, Professor."
"I guess someone had to be a little weird," Magnolia said with a snicker.
Pansy looked down at Stunky. "Oh, but…" she said. "Are these really all your Pokemon, Professor? I'd hate to take them away from you."
Magnolia put a hand on the girl's shoulder. "These are my Pokemon," she said, "but sometimes they're ready to move on to other Trainers. I won't take that choice away from them. If you feel a special connection to a Pokemon, then it was meant to be yours." She mussed the fur on Stunky's head. "And don't worry—most of these Pokemon have actually been raised specifically to give away. This Stunky is young. It's never been on a Pokemon journey before. I think it's excited to start."
"Stun!" the Stunky said, throwing up its front paws.
Pansy laughed and hugged it. "I'm excited too, Stunky!" she said. "We'll have so much fun together!"
Meanwhile, Ginger stepped away from inspecting a Beedrill and trudged back to the professor. "I'm having a hard time finding one," she said.
"What kind of Pokemon are you looking for?" Magnolia asked. "Like a specific type or something?"
Ginger scratched her orange mane of hair. "I dunno," she said. "I want something cool, but… nothing here seems to fit me."
"Have you looked at all of the Pokemon yet?" Magnolia asked. "I'm sure there's got to be one here that you'll like."
The girl frowned, but nodded. "I'll keep trying," she said, marching off through the long grass.
"Veff, you wanna help her out?" Magnolia asked her Gardevoir, who nodded and trailed after the girl.
Suddenly a harsh clang rang through the air and Brycen stiffened. "What was that?" he asked.
Magnolia rubbed her chin. "If I'm not mistaken…" she muttered, leading him across the pasture. "Jangmo-o!" she called. "What's up?"
For a reply, she got another resonant clang, like steel being forged. Beneath the shade of a gnarled oak tree stood Schubert, Dill, and a little dragon Pokemon.
"Jang!" the dragon said, smacking its head against the trunk of the tree, creating another loud clang.
Dill cringed and shrunk close to Schubert. "I—I don't know what I did wrong!" he said to Magnolia as the professor approached. "I just wanted your Blastoise to introduce me to it, and then it started doing this!"
Magnolia smiled. "Jangmo-o!" she said, crouching down to be nearer to the dragon's eye level. "Did you find a trainer with a valiant spirit?"
The Jangmo-o turned to look at her. "Jang!" it said, headbutting the tree again. "Mo-oo!"
"Well, you must be a special one," Magnolia said to Dill, standing back up. "This Jangmo-o likes what she sees in you."
"She seems… angry," Dill said, covering his ears as the clanging continued.
"That's how Jangmo-o express their feelings," Magnolia said. "Don't worry, she's not angry—she's happy. You don't have to be afraid of her."
Dill swallowed hard, frowned, and crouched down. "J-Jangmo-o," he said, extending his hand. "I want to be your Trainer! Is—is that okay?"
The little dragon plodded over to him. "Jang!" she barked again, and she shoved her head into his hand. "Mo!"
"I guess that's a 'yes'," Dill said with a nervous smile. He put his arms around the Jangmo-o and tried to pick her up, but she was far too heavy, so instead he just put a hand on her back as he looked up at Magnolia and Brycen.
"I have to warn you," Magnolia said, "Dragon-types are a big responsibility. They can become incredibly powerful. Will you help this Jangmo-o reach her potential, and use her power for good?"
Dill paused, then nodded firmly. "Absolutely," he said. He looked down. "My… my parents' Pokemon were taken away by Team Plasma when I was younger… and I couldn't do anything to stop them. Now that I'm old enough… I want to become a powerful Trainer, to protect my family and anyone else who needs me."
"No wonder Jangmo-o chose you," Magnolia said. "You do have a valiant spirit. I think you and your Pokemon will become mighty warriors for the sake of good."
"I hope so," Dill said. He clenched his fists. "I mean—I'll sure try my hardest."
"That's all I ask," Magnolia said, "that you try. Because trying is what counts."
"Jangmo!" Jangmo-o said with a nod, and Dill smiled.
"I still can't find anything!" Ginger said as she jogged back to Magnolia, Veff following. The girl looked at Dill and the Jangmo-o for a moment, and then turned back to Magnolia. "I mean, no offense, your Pokemon are cool, but none of them… feel right."
"Are you sure you're not being too picky?" Dill asked.
Ginger folded her arms. "I'm not going to go on a Pokemon journey without the right Pokemon!" she said.
Magnolia smiled. "Don't worry," she said, "I understand. You have to follow your gut. I'm just sorry your starter Pokemon doesn't seem to live here."
"But now what do I do?" Ginger asked, her shoulders slumping. "Pansy and Dill are gonna go on their adventures without me, and I'm—I—" Her eyes started to water.
Magnolia put an arm around the girl's shoulders. "I'll tell you what," she said, "let's all take a nice hike around these hills. That will give your friends time to get acquainted with their Pokemon, and give you and me time to think. I'm sure we'll come up with something."
Ginger sniffed. "You think so?" she asked.
"Positively," Magnolia said with a grin. "Now let's go find Pansy and Stunky."
Once they had located the girl and her Pokemon – who had been making daisy chains for other Pokemon to wear – the group set out for the thick woods in back of Magnolia's house.
"Who knows," Magnolia said as they moved in and out of dappled sunlight beneath the trees, "you could find some wild Pokemon who want to battle, and you'll be on your way to your first Gym Badge in no time!"
"Except I need a Pokemon first," Ginger grumbled. Magnolia gave her a sympathetic look, but said nothing. Surely a solution would present itself if they didn't give up.
"Ooh, look, I found a bridge over here!" Pansy said, running ahead with Stunky perched on her shoulder. "I wonder how old it is—"
"Sew!" a Pokemon cried from down the creek. "Sewaaaaa!"
It sounded distressed, and immediately Magnolia tensed. "Sounds like it's in trouble!" she said. "C'mon, let's go!" She took off down the path, her boots thudding against the dirt.
"Are you sure you want to bring the kids?" Brycen asked as he ran to catch up with her. "It could be dangerous!" From his robe, he pulled a Poke Ball.
"Part of being a Pokemon Trainer," Magnolia said, "is helping Pokemon in need! Now's the perfect time for them to learn—"
"Over there!" Ginger said, sprinting past Magnolia, her orange hair trailing behind her like a war banner. "There's a Sewaddle in the river!"
"Sewww!" the little Bug-type called as it tried desperately to hang on to a rock in the current.
"It must have fallen from a tree up above," Magnolia said. "Sewaddle can't swim, can they?"
"Oh—what do we do?" Pansy asked.
"Terrraaa!" another, very different Pokemon bellowed. From out of the undergrowth on the other side of the river stepped a massive quadrupedal Pokemon with wide brown horns framing its face.
Magnolia's eyes widened. "That's a Terrakion," she breathed. "It must have heard Sewaddle's distress cry, too."
Ginger's jaw hung loose. "I want that one," she said as the Terrakion moved toward the river. It pawed at the riverbank for a moment, then steeled itself and waded in.
Magnolia cringed. "Err… so I may have misspoken earlier," she said. "When I said you could pick any Pokemon for your starter, I didn't mean literally any Pokemon…"
"Why not?" Ginger asked.
"Well—that's a Legendary Pokemon," Magnolia said as the Terrakion made its way toward the Sewaddle. "They help keep up the balance of nature. If Trainers ran around catching them and making them part of a Pokemon team… it might have dire consequences. So it's best to just let Legendaries be."
Ginger frowned. "But they're so cool," she said under her breath.
"Oh—look out!" Dill shouted. The Terrakion, fighting to swim against the current, had lunged for the Sewaddle with its jaws, but missed and was nearly swept away itself. It took all of the burly Pokemon's strength to get itself back to shallower water, where it stood panting.
"Poor thing," Brycen said. "It's not cut out for swimming. If only something like a Suicune was here…"
Ginger took a deep breath. "Hold on!" she said, sliding down the riverbank and pulling off her shoes and socks. "I'll help you out!" She ran into the water upstream of the Sewaddle. "Meet me halfway, Terrakion!" she said as she pitched into a front stroke.
Brycen moved to follow her, but Magnolia held him back. "Not yet," she said. "I want to see how this plays out. Could be interesting." Of course she would not let any harm come to anyone, but Terrakion had made its way back into the river, swimming with all its might toward Ginger from the opposite bank, and Magnolia thought it wise not to interfere just yet.
"Sew!" the Sewaddle said as the last of its strength gave out and it let go of the rock. Ginger lunged for it and caught it, and with her other hand she reached out for the rock—and missed. The girl's expression paled as the river began to carry her away, and she fought to keep both herself and Sewaddle above water.
"Kion!" Terrakion called, plowing through the water and sweeping its head toward Ginger. She took a hold of one of its horns, and the large Pokemon towed her back to the riverbank, where all three of them collapsed, panting.
"Are you okay, little guy?" Ginger asked the Sewaddle as the others hurried to cross the bridge and get to them.
"Sew… addle," the Bug-type said as it bumped its head against her jaw in gratitude.
"What about you?" Ginger asked the Terrakion, reaching out to touch its nose.
The Legendary Pokemon shied away, then paused and looked at her long and hard. "Terr," it said, slowly touching its nose to her hand.
"Ginger!" Magnolia called, scrambling down the riverbank. "Are you okay?!"
"Did you see that?" Ginger asked, staggering to her feet. "We saved Sewaddle!"
"You did!" Magnolia said, reaching out to take the Bug-type as Terrakion backed away from them. "Where are your parents, little fella?" she asked it.
The Sewaddle looked up at the trees. "Sew? Addle…" it said, shaking its head.
"I know a place where you'll be well taken care of until they can find you," Magnolia said. "Do you like Poffins?"
"Addle?" the Sewaddle asked.
Magnolia grinned. "Don't know what those are, huh?" she asked. "You're in for a treat." She turned to the Rock-type Legendary and her demeanor grew more serious. "Terrakion… thank you for saving Ginger," she said. "I know your kind doesn't trust humans… thank you for taking a chance on her."
Again there was a pause as Terrakion studied Magnolia. "Kion," it said, moving closer to the beginning Trainer. "Terrakakion."
"What's it saying?" Ginger asked.
"If I were to hazard a guess," Magnolia said, "I'd say it wants to join you in your Pokemon journey. Am I right, Terrakion?"
"Kion!" the Legendary said, stomping its hoof on the ground.
For a moment Ginger looked shocked—and then an enormous grin spread up her face. "That is so… awesome!" she shouted, flinging her arms around Terrakion's neck. "Thank you so much, Terrakion! I won't let you down! We'll be a super great team and we'll go on all sorts of adventures! We'll help Pokemon together!"
"Terr-rra!" Terrakion said with a smile, leaning into her.
"So uh, Ginger," Magnolia said, "that was really brave of you to just jump right in and save Sewaddle… but you probably could have asked one of us adults for help."
Ginger kicked the ground with her toe. "Agh—I know, I'm sorry," she said. "I just—when I saw Sewaddle in trouble, I couldn't think of anything else but saving it…"
"I know," Magnolia said. "I was the same way when I was your age." She grinned at Ginger's new companion. "That's why I'm glad Terrakion was there to help you out. I think you two will make a wonderful team."
"Me, too!" Ginger said.
As they headed back to the ranch, Magnolia heaved a deep sigh, watching the three friends and their new Pokemon. "Well," she said to Brycen, "today was eventful."
"You could put it that way," Brycen said.
Dill's Jangmo-o decided to headbutt Terrakion's leg, and the Legendary looked startled at the clanging noise as it glowered down at Jangmo-o. The Dragon-type returned Terrakion's glare with a wide smile as she danced around it, and the three young Trainers laughed as the Legendary seemed to realize it was an act of acceptance. Stunky reached over and put a daisy chain around one of Terrakion's horns, and the Rock-type looked somewhat embarrassed, but couldn't bring itself to refuse the gift.
Magnolia chuckled. "I think those six have some fun adventures in store," she said.
"Undoubtedly," Brycen said. "You are really a strange professor, Magnolia."
"Thank you," Magnolia said. "I do pride myself on that."