Mark followed Giovanni's advice and made plans to visit the school the next morning. For the night he moved to the western outskirts of Viridian City and set up a tiny camp just off the road. Dale was walking easier by the time everyone was ready to settle down for bed, but gave Mark a scowl as Mark put him back into his pokéball. Mark looked at it a moment before stowing it on his belt, thinking about what Giovanni had said. He lay back on his sleeping bag as Red snuggled up under his arm and fell asleep watching the stars.
In the morning Mark went back into town and used the last of his money to buy a new backpack and a book about making proper snare traps, as well as a ten-pound-bag of tauros jerky and more apples. He asked the store clerk, a cheerful blonde girl about his age, for directions to the school. She was very helpful, and quickly grabbed a Sharpie to draw a rough map of town on a paper bag and mark the school with a large black circle. It was just north of the pokémon center, so Mark was able to find it with little trouble. The school offered four two-hour classes spread out across an eight-hour day, for a modest price per class. Mark spent the late morning sitting in a desk with pen and paper while Red dozed under his chair, dutifully taking notes on status ailments and type advantages. There were a few other trainers in the class who asked questions on fairy types (discovered after a fighting-type trainer insisted the clefairy line took Focus Punches too well to be considered normal types). Mark copied those down as well, along with the instructors answers. There were opportunities for mock battles, but Mark bowed out of them. He still didn't trust his ability to show restraint, and wasn't sure he completely agreed with Giovanni's opinions on the matter.
Once the class ended, he headed back towards Route 22, flipping through his pokédex as he and Red walked. There were several pokémon that could be found in the patch of woods on Route 22, according to his pokédex, but there were warning labels next to a few of them indicating highly dangerous ones to attempt capturing. Spotting a familiar pair of names, Mark paused on the path to pull up the desired information, then set the pokédex to speech mode so he could listen as he walked.
"Nidorino and nidorina," a feminine-voice spoke, "both are the evolved forms of nidoran. Male nidoran evolve into nidorino while female nidoran evolve into nidorina. In the wild, nidorino and nidorina are rarely seen outside of the mating season and only venture into the open to feed or fine mates. They mate for life and typically lay two or three eggs, which hatch before the end of spring. Be cautious when encountering such a family group, for while nidorina are normally docile and timid, nidorino are highly aggressive and will attack perceived enemies on sight. When protecting family, the father will charge down their opponents with their venomous horns while the mother will guard the young. Both, however, can be powerful fighters and are capable of using their powerful legs and venom with lethal results. Travelers are advised to steer clear of all nidoran forms during the spring."
By the time the device was done talking, Mark was staring down a narrow path that went across the field next to the road. It looked to be a small pokémon trail, probably made by a foraging raticate or mankey troop. Mark looked down it for a moment, then addressed Red. "What do you think?"
Red scratched at his neck with his hind leg, clearly uninterested. Mark shrugged and began walking down the trail. After he was done scratching, Red followed him. The trail was narrow, but the grasses lining it were tall and dense, broken only by scattered trees towards the north that grew closer together until they met the Viridian Forest. They walked in silence for almost half an hour before Mark decided to stop to set up his camp. He left the path and began stomping down grass to make a clearing. Afterward Red was happily munching on an apple while Mark reclined in his tent with his head propped on his pillow as he continued to browse his pokédex Mark was determined to catch another pokémon, and to do so the right way this time.
According to his pokédex, there were five families of pokémon found on Route 22; pidgey, rattata, nidoran, spearow, and mankey. Their habitats spanned the fields to the west of Viridian City, stopping at Viridian Forest and Victory Road. The pokédex made it a point to warn novice trainers against seeking msnkey as well, as the younger evolutions were often protected by their powerful parents. Mark felt that he was the book definition of a novice trainer, and decided against trying his luck with them. He already had a rattata, he declined the pidgey he found on Route 1.
Which left the spearow. Spearow were faster and stronger than pidgey, but meaner. They had hooked beaks, large talons, and were known to defend their territories just as fiercely as the local mankey. But spearow were loners, only flocking in times of danger and rarely guarded by a dominant fearow. They were fast, strong, and independent. Taming a spearow would be a suitable check of Mark's skills as a trainer. Finally decided, Mark sat up and shut off his pokédex. He whistled for Red and stepped out into the afternoon sunlight. As Red trotted over to him, Mark unclipped Dale's pokéball from his belt and called the rattata out.
Red offered Dale a greeting. Dale ignored him. Mark knelt down and locked eyes with Dale, grabbing his attention. "I need you to stay here and watch the camp. As payment, you can have an apple. You can sit, eat, and relax until we get back. Can you do that for me?"
Dale had very little intention of guarding anything of Mark's, and in fact was toying with the idea of shredding everything the minute Mark and Red were out of eyesight and running off. But Dale did not know the way back to his field, and could smell other rattata on the breeze that would not take kindly to his intrusion into their turf. Dale had nowhere to go, and no guarantee he could escape Mark. So the rattata gave an affirmative warble and went to go find the offered apple. Satisfied, Mark motioned for Red to follow him and left Dale to his meal.
Mark decided against following the trail and crossed over it into the field beyond. The grass nearly went up to his navel, and was almost as tall as Red. After a few minute, Red started reaching up at Mark, so Mark bent down and motioned for the charmander to crawl on his back. They continued thusly, with Red piggybacking on Mark as Mark marched determinedly towards a lone dead tree on the horizon. It took them an hour of walking to reach it. And sure enough, Mark could make out a small spearow grooming itself in the upper branches.
The pokédex had told Mark spearow had tempers. Getting it out of the tree would be easy. "Red, you see that flying type?"
"When I lift you up, use Ember."
Red nodded and hopped down into the grass. Mark knelt down and whispered further orders to him, then lifted the charmander by his armpits up over Mark's head. Red paused for a moment, gauging distance and taking aim. Then, he inhaled and fired.
A bright red fireball sailed fifty feet through the air and smacked into the spearow, knocking it from its perch. The spearow cried out and flapped its wings as it fell, but Red was already moving for it. The second Mark let him down Red had dropped on all fours and was running straight towards the tree. He jumped up in a Dragon Dance to get a line of sight on the spearow, then fired another Ember attack at it. This one hit as well, and the spearow hit the grass.
Red Dragon Danced over the grass to find his target and Danced a third time into a flying Scratch attack. But trainer and pokémon had both underestimated the spearow. While Red was Dancing, the spearow had gotten to its feet, and upon sighting Red flapped its wings and launched a Whirlwind at the charmander. It caught Red and launched him back towards the tree. The spearow hopped up into the Whirlwind before it faded and used the updraft to take flight towards Red. It neatly dodged Red's retaliating Ember and knocked him square into the trunk with Quick Attack.
The spearow turned to Mark and screeched at him. "Speeer!" Red seized his chance and Scratched it in the back of the head. The spearow turned around and Pecked him twice in the face. Red shoved the flying type away from him and Growled. The spearow hopped back but did not flee. Both pokémon eyed each other, waiting for the next move.
It came from behind. Mark's thrown pokéball landed next to the spearow and popped open. A red beam pierced the spearow's chest and it faded into the ball. The pokéball snapped shut and began blinking. Mark watched it tensely, silently praying for a clean catch.
But it was no use. The ball popped open as the spearow broke free. Before Mark or Red could react, it summoned another Whirlwind, blowing Red away from the tree and knocking Mark on his butt. And with a final shriek of protest, the spearow flapped across the grass and flew up into the sky, out of reach of them both.
Mark sat in the grass and watched it until it was out of eyesight. Red got to his feet and made his way back to Mark, bruised but uninjured. Mark rubbed his head. "It's okay. You did good. We'll get the next one."
"Well that's reassuring."
The voice came from their lefts. Mark and Red looked over and were surprised to find Rachel grinning at them, holding Blue the squirtle in her arms. And on top of her head, Mark jealously noticed, was perched a pidgey.
Red waved at Blue. Blue waved back. Mark stood up. "Hello, Rachel. I thought you'd be in Pewter City by now."
"I figured I'd swing by the Pokémon League office and see if I could learn something I didn't already know." The pidgey flapped down to the ground. Red walked toward it, curious as always. The pidgey chirped a welcome as Red approached it. Rachel sighed in relief and rolled her shoulders. "Thank you, Skylar. You were starting to get heavy."
Mark crossed his arms and stared at her. "So?"
Rachel blinked. "So?"
"You ditched me."
Rachel shook her head again. "Did not."
"Did not," Rachel replied. "I said I'd meet you up later. I figured I'd catch up to you in Viridian Forest after I caught a mankey for you out here."
Mark called Red. "I don't need your help."
"You sure?" Rachel put Blue down with Skylar the pidgey. "Have you caught a pokémon yet?"
"Okay." Rachel looked around. "What did you get? I don't see it."
"I caught a rattata." Mark jerked his thumb behind him. "He's watching our camp site."
Rachel looked at him. "A rattata."
Rachel sighed. "Then yes, Mark, you do need my help."
"Thanks, but no thanks." Mark picked Red up and turned to leave. "I'll see you later, then."
"Okay, look." Rachel ran in front of him to block Mark's path. "I apologize for leaving you in Pallet Town."
Mark tried to go around her, but Rachel stood her ground. "Come on. Think about it. I said we'd travel together. Have I ever lied to you?"
Mark glared at her for a minute. Rachel glared back. Finally, Mark relented. "No, you haven't."
"Let me come back to camp with you," Rachel suggested. "I'll share my food, our pokémon can rest and socialize, and we can talk about where we're going next. Then you can decide if you want my help or not. Alright?"
Mark nodded. Rachel got out two pokéballs and called Blue and Skylar into them. Then they went back to Mark's campsite together.