Page 16: Walk around in the grassy areas. You will find wild pokémon.

It was nice of Mom to buy him a copy of the Pokémon Trainer's Guide as a going-away present, but he wished she'd given it to him a little sooner. He'd have had more time to study it and take it all in. There was just so much to learn!

Page 31: Many pokémon evolve when their battle experience increases.

He must've gone through the little book at least ten times over breakfast, and after leaving Professor Oak's laboratory he sat down outside to read it what felt like fifty times more. There was only so much he could learn about pokémon by giving tummy rubs to the neighbors' pets or chasing rattata away from the trash at night, after all. Neither of those were useful skills when it came to being a real live actual pokémon trainer, forging through the wilderness or staring down frighteningly powerful foes. He'd been riding a wave of excitement all morning; now, as he thumbed through the pages and noticed for the first time that some moves had out-of-battle applications (Page 28: The skills learned from hidden machines can be used while moving in the world.), he was sinking in the realization that he had no idea what on earth he was getting himself into.

The Pokémon Trainer's Guide knew, though. The Guide would tell him how to make pokémon easier to catch (Page 21: Try a pokémon who has the ability to put the wild pokémon to sleep.) and how to keep unwanted wilds at bay (Page 42: Spray on a repel and weak pokémon will avoid you for a while.) and where the pokémon he caught would be kept (Page 28: Newly captured pokémon will be stored in the currently selected PC box.). The Guide would tell him which types could easily defeat other types in battle (Page 33: A handy pokémon type chart, full of numbers and crosses and triangles that he was sure he'd be able to memorize... eventually...).

The Pokémon Trainer's Guide would help him take care of all the scary stuff, and maybe the long journey looming ahead of him could go back to being exciting again.

Page 15: Inexperienced trainers should consider a grass-type pokémon; these are more successful when attacking rock-types.

The Pokémon Trainer's Guide had actually recommended that he choose a different starter. Some species were easier to raise than others. Some were quick to learn moves that could fend off the types most commonly found and trained in this area. It was advice he'd meant to follow, or at least give some serious consideration, but in the heat of the moment the suggestion had gone right out the window and he'd snatched up the one that looked the coolest. As a result, his chosen pokémon was the one described as headstrong and hasty and likely to fare poorly against many of his upcoming opponents.

Certainly it had fared poorly in their first battle. His rival's squirtle had spent most of the fight hanging back and swishing its tail around, only striking occasionally, so he'd tried to take advantage of the harmless wagging and have Charmander press the attack. The potion he'd brought along took care of Charmander's first few bumps and bruises, too. He'd just finished congratulating himself on his foresight—his rival hadn't thought to bring any items—when Squirtle lunged, slammed Charmander into the floor and crushed all the fight right out of his new partner in one go.

He wasn't sure which stung more: that his old friend had thrashed him and rubbed his nose in it, or the thought that he'd really lost because he had no clue what to do in a battle. He had already forgotten the advice about the starter; what else might he be missing? Had he read some sort of explanation for all that tail-flailing and then totally blanked on it as soon as the pressure hit? How was he supposed to remember even more complicated strategies? How was he supposed to help a charmander stand up to enemies that were throwing actual rocks and water around if he couldn't even keep the basics straight? What other mistakes might he make that would just hold Charmander back? Would Charmander—or any of his future pokémon—be able to trust him with anything at all?

There was only one way to fill in all the yawning gaps in his experience: park himself on the bench outside the lab, bury his nose in the Pokémon Trainer's Guide and try not to come up for air until everything finally stuck.

...or, at least, until he realized that the book's pages had turned gray in the low light, and he looked up to see the sun edging toward the bottom of the cloudy sky. He still wasn't entirely sure how owning a badge might make his pokémon faster (Page 27: The Thunder Badge increases the speed of all pokémon a little.) or what exactly a fire stone was for (Page 41: This stone has a connection to fire pokémon.), but afternoon was giving way to evening and that meant the end of reading time. For now, anyway. He'd resume his studies after he reached Viridian City and got settled in at the pokémon center (Page 19: Here you may recover the health and energy of your pokémon for free.).

He stood at the edge of town and looked out over Route 1. The wind rushed past him, sending waves rippling through the tall grass that lined the road ahead as far as he could see. Sometimes the blades shook in the opposite direction, counter to the wind—telltale signs of wild pokémon, according to the Guide.

He took a deep breath, clutched Charmander's poké ball tight in one hand and the book tight in the other, and plunged into the tall grass. Hopefully this time he'd remember enough of the Pokémon Trainer's Guide to help him handle whatever he might encounter.

The Pokémon Trainer's Guide did not say anything about how dark the night would be. It told him that the Safari Zone, all the way out in Fuchsia City, was a great place to encounter many rare species of pokémon; it did not tell him that Route 1 right here close to home grew longer when the sun went down and the clouds choked out the light of the moon and stars. It told him that pidgey and rattata liked to scurry through the tall grass; it neglected to mention that the darkness pressing in on all sides transformed their every rustle into the stalking steps of something much, much larger.

He really wished Mom had given him the book a little sooner. He'd have had more time to study it and take it all in. If he'd done all that studying before today, perhaps he wouldn't have set out from Pallet so late in the afternoon. Perhaps he would have noticed that the helpful map of the Kanto Region (spread across pages 4 and 5) did not include estimated travel times from one city to the next, and he could have asked Mom about the best way to reach Viridian City's pokémon center before night fell all around him.

He'd been outside at night before, of course, but always on well-lit streets or riding home buckled tight in his mother's car. That was nothing like wading alone through a sea of grass that seemed to stretch on forever beneath the cloudy, pitch-black sky. The Guide was also stubbornly silent on the subject of starting one's own campfire, so he didn't even have that to ward off the nighttime chill.

Fire... His hand flew to his belt. Maybe he could...

White light cut through the darkness and struck the ground. Charmander blinked the brightness away and gazed up at him. At first he just gazed back, not sure how to explain his failure to cross a simple route without getting hopelessly turned around. Did trainers usually get themselves and their pokémon lost? The Pokémon Trainer's Guide hadn't said anything about getting lost.

Charmander sat patiently through his story, blinked again, then offered him a tiny hand. It grabbed its tail in its other hand and held the tip up and out, careful to keep the flame away from the dry underbrush. The result wasn't much to write home about—the fire cast its light only on the grass and dirt that surrounded them—but small as it was, watching the friendly orange glow made him feel a little warmer.

Grinning, and hoping the light didn't reach far enough to show Charmander the tears glistening in his eyes, he took his pokémon's hand and the pair set off in search of the road.

Page 25: Fire-type pokémon need more experience than other types when battling rock-type pokémon.

The Pokémon Trainer's Guide had recommended that he choose a different starter. He, in his nervous excitement, had forgotten the advice, gone with his gut and picked the pokémon that had just seemed right. The professor had arched his eyebrows, as though he'd made a curious choice. His rival had sneered and wished him good luck at the gyms up ahead. His inexperience had saddled him with a starter that the Guide called headstrong and hasty and hard to handle.

Charmander made a noise and motioned toward a spot where the tall grass parted to reveal the road just beyond. He let out a sigh of relief as they finally rejoined the path, and the little lizard gave his hand a quick squeeze. Right there, walking down the road with the reassuring warmth of his partner by his side, it felt more like Charmander was full of confidence and calm than it was fiery attitude.

Page 26: There is so much more than what has been described in the previous pages...

Someone who knew what they were doing had written the Pokémon Trainer's Guide. They knew the common pitfalls of attempting to catch wilds (Page 21: Wild pokémon may escape from poké balls if their energy is too high.) and how to delay a pokémon's evolution so that new moves would come more easily to it (Page 29: Gently startle the pokémon when you see it changing form.) and that it helped to have multiple pokémon on a team take part in battle (Page 35: If you win a fight all of the pokémon who participated will receive experience.). They knew which fishing equipment was top of the line for hooking wilds that lurked deep below the waves (Page 43: The super rod catches pokémon that the other rods can't). They'd even sprinkled in all sorts of expert tips and quotes from Professor Oak himself, complete with sneak peeks at the new pokémon encyclopedia he was rumored to be working on. He wondered whether the author knew the professor personally.

But they didn't know everything. Some things, he decided as the clouds broke and the moonlight began to filter through, he and Charmander were going to have to figure out together.

He thought he remembered the tall grass being taller. Today, standing in the middle of Route 1 and gazing out in the direction of Viridian City, it didn't even reach his waist. Maybe someone was keeping it trimmed nowadays. Maybe it had just seemed higher in the dark.

How long had it been since he'd last come home—really come home, to stay in Kanto for a while rather than ducking in to visit Mom before darting off to someplace shiny and new? It seemed like he'd only just left Hoenn yesterday... or had it been thirteen, maybe fourteen years ago? Had he gone all the way to Kalos before or after that?

Home was home, though, and now, as he sat outside enjoying the brisk midwinter morning, it was as though nothing here had changed. He knew it had, of course, what with the berry trees growing along the road further north and the new gatehouse marking the entrance to Viridian City (and providing a little light at night, he noted wryly), but from his current position he couldn't see any of that. This was Route 1 exactly as he'd left it.

He still had the Pokémon Trainer's Guide, unrecognizable though it was after years of use and reuse and hastily-scribbled notes. By now he'd had plenty of time to study it and take it all in. The author really had known what they were talking about, at least at the time, but as he and his team had made their circuit of the region they'd found an awful lot of blanks that needed filling in. Sure, you could catch plenty of pokémon with an old rod—it was perfect if you were looking to add to your magikarp collection. The Safari Zone was great for exotic, unusual wilds, but the truly powerful pokémon stalked through the darkness of caves like Victory Road.

So he'd started jotting down the new discoveries himself, scratching in additions here (Page 41, note: Moon stones evolve a wide variety of pokémon not necessarily restricted by type.) and corrections there (Page 4, by a crossed-out map label: 'Cerulean Cave'. Only kids telling horror stories call it 'the Unknown Dungeon'.), more and more until his chickenscratch handwriting piled on top of the original text and made it difficult to read.

(The type chart was the one thing he had given up on entirely. The red crosses really should've signified no damage at all, not those silly triangles, and then there was all that nonsense about bugs dealing extra damage to poison-types and ghosts being unable to affect psychic-types. Easier just to slide a clearer, more accurate printout in on top of that old mess.)

By the time his travels took him away from Kanto entirely, there were so many new things to learn that the worn old book simply couldn't hold any more. He'd brought along new, empty books to fill instead, then started up files on his computers and phones when those more convenient methods came along. Dusk balls are better than lure balls or net balls—you just do your fishing at night. Perilous soup may taste unpleasant, but it's helpful if you made mistakes while training a team member.

But he still had the Pokémon Trainer's Guide. His backpack seemed emptier without it, somehow. It was no real use as a bible to devote himself to, not anymore, but sometimes he would sit up late at night and flip through it anyway, smiling at the evidence of just how far he'd come.

Something tugged at his hand and drew his attention away from the Guide's chewed-up pages. The charmander chattered and pointed toward the road, its tail swishing back and forth and back and forth at a blistering pace. He smiled. He wasn't used to traveling with a charmander that was forever bouncing over here and pulling over there, its face full of fiery impatience. (Perhaps the Guide was right about some charmander, anyway.) This little guy was nothing like his first partner—no other pokémon ever would be—but still cute, still cool, still a good friend and companion in its own way.

More annoyed chattering told him that Charmander was ready to head for Viridian, anxious to see what awaited them there. He had to admit a smidgen of curiosity, too. He'd seen it all before, of course, but that was so long ago... It would be nice to see the look on this charmander's face as it laid eyes on the city ahead—on the world beyond—for the first time. It'd be even better if some of that wonderment happened to rub off on him.

Page 26: There is so much more than what has been described in the previous pages...

Whatever lay ahead, he decided as the morning sun shone down and warmed their backs, he and Charmander were going to go meet it together.