It was that time of year again, when all aspiring young trainers in the Hoenn region would go to Littleroot Town to get their first pokemon and start their journeys. This was a special day for many people, and that held especially true for 18-year-old Tony Joy of Lavaridge Town who had missed several chances to go on his own journey before.

People across the region flocked to one of nine different locations for festivities, the larger the location, the more people arrived. In Hoenn, the celebrations pooled into the towns with gyms and Littleroot Town where the professor lived. Every journey began in Littleroot Town, but the receiving of the starters was facilitated by the gym leaders as well as the professor.

In Lavaridge, Flannery, the new gym leader for the last few months after the retirement of Jearold Joy, was finishing up her speech. “...And to all of our new trainers, here are your starters!” With that, three pokeballs were presented to all ten of the other trainers present, marked with the type of the pokemon. Tony, however, was left out. There were no pokeballs presented to him as Flannery went back to the podium. What’s going on here? he thought puzzled as murmurs rippled through the crowd. Flannery then continued. “I know this is a break from convention, but today, our former gym leader would like to finish giving out the starters for.” Tony laughed to himself as Flannery introduced his father as a special guest speaker. Should’ve known, he thought, One of the biggest days of my life, of course he’d want to take part in it. “Thank you, Flannery.” Jearold said. “And thank you everybody for showing up. This will be my last time speaking here, so I just wanted to thank everyone here for attending, and congratulate all of these new trainers for showing up. I know this may not be proper, but seeing as my son is starting his journey now, I felt like I should be the one to present him with his pokemon.”

The old man attached a microphone to his shirt and stepped down from the podium. “You have told me many times over the years which starter you would take if given the chance, and while they have fluctuated on occasion, one was both more prominent and more recent than the others, and I’m sure I have made the right choice in starter for you.” Tony smiled widely, already knowing what starter he would receive. “I spoke with Professor Birch shortly after I retired to make sure this was allowed, and he told me that, so long as I had it registered as a starter with the league, it would be legitimate.” He turned towards the back of the stage. “Iroh, it’s time!” A large Blaziken, Jearold’s own starter pokemon, came out carrying a Torchic and pokeball with it. Jearold took the two from the Blaziken and handed the pokeball to Tony. “I specifically bred this Torchic for you, two generations of trainer training two generations of pokemon. This Torchic has been verified to have no significant differences from the other torchic presented in this ceremony, but I hope that he will serve you just as well as Iroh has served me. All that’s left is for you to capture this pokemon yourself.” With that, Tony lightly tapped the pokeball to the Torchic, catching it easily. He then hugged his father tightly. “Thanks, Dad.” he said. With that, Flannery took the stage once again. “Well isn’t that touching!” she said. “With that, let’s kick off the actual celebrations before these trainers take off for Littleroot Town to actually start their journeys!”

The rest of the night was filled with laughter and partying. Lavaridge Town, as small as it was, hosted a huge party that celebrated the new trainers as well as the official last act of the former gym leader. The new trainers, all ranging from 14 to 18, sat in a circle, comparing their new pokemon and starting friendships and rivalries. Tony announced that they were all his rivals now, but also informed them of how he viewed rivals in this situation: as friends who do not act as if they are friends. Perhaps they would begin to act as friends later, he thought, but once their journeys began they would be opposing each other, as they went for the same goals. After a while, before heading home, he held the Torchic close. "You know, I think I'm going to name you Zuko." he said. "And you're going to be one of the strongest pokemon in the world." The Torchic smiled and nodded, a determined look on his face.

The night felt like it drew on for forever, lasting even into the daylight. Tony was exhausted, but the excitement of finally beginning what he was denied for several years kept him awake. His father came in first thing in the morning to see how Tony was doing. “I’m doing alright.” Tony told him sitting up. “Just thinking about how this could work out, crafting ideas for how I should battle.” Jearold laughed a little. “Just try not to forget how the pokemon may want to battle. Their styles may complement yours or could be vastly different. Now, are you ready to get down to Professor Birch’s and actually start your adventure?” Tony stood up and grabbed his bag. “Of course I am! He said, smiling.” The two said good bye to Jasmine, who was only half awake at the time, before going to the Pokemon Center. There, Jearold transferred a Swellow from the PC and the two bid farewell to Jessica. Jearold held on tight to the Swellow and told Tony to do the same.

The two traveled across the region, Tony making mental notes of land formations and route paths that may come in handy for finding certain pokemon. Tired as he was, he wanted as much information as possible before he took his first step on his journey. When they landed in Littleroot, they stopped by Professor Birch’s lab.

“Jearold! Long time no see! And this must be Tony.” He reached out and shook Tony’s hand. “I’ve heard great things about you, young man, and with your father’s reputation, I’m sure I’ll be hearing great things about you as well, just a matter of time.” He turned around and began rummaging through his desk. He pulled out a box and handed Tony a regional pokedex and a few pokeballs. “Use this to log your journey and identify unknown pokemon.” He stepped back and smiled. “If you need anything else, let me know, but aside from that, you’re good to go.” Tony smiled back. “I think that’s everything I need. Thank you very much, Professor.” “No problem Tony. Remember, no matter what happens, it’s the journey that matters.” With that, father and son left the lab. “See you when you get back home, Tony.” he said. He took off on his Swellow, vanishing into the sunlight. "Finally." Tony said to himself, smiling. "After all of these years, I can prove myself to the world." He sent out his Torchic. "Well, little buddy, it's time for us to show the world what we're made of." Then, suddenly, the sunlight vanished.

Slowly, everything else went dark as well. “What the…?” Tony said, looking around as his surroundings vanished. His Torchic jumped onto his head as it too saw the encroaching drakness “This cannot be good. I don’t know what it is, but I know that much.” Then, a few moments after the darkness settled, a white light shone from a far away location. “I am going to regret this.” He said to himself, but he saw no other option than to meet the light. With that, he ran into it and felt himself hit the ground so hard it felt as if he had run directly into a wall.