On the top floor I faced three monks. They all had Bellsprout, naturally, and they left with smoldering sticks.
I was humbled by their reverence. They didn’t seem to mourn their losses, but they didn’t celebrate it either. They had a middle ground.
“I’m legitimately curious,” I said, after burning through a monk’s three Bellsprout. “How do you feel after seeing this? This carnage?”
“We reach enlightenment through Pokemon. That is the way of the Sproutlics. We study them, learn from them, feel through them. Through death, we see glimpses of the afterlife. We learn of the nature of the world.”
Another monk, one I had defeated earlier, approached.
“We trust our Pokemon. Not to win or lose, but to be brave in the face of death. We train them to trust and be trusted.”
“Through that trust,” added the other, “is how we are able to feel what they feel.”
“I…I see. I think.”
They nodded, seemingly satisfied with what they had told me.
I approached the pillar. It this height, it barely looked like it was moving, but the creaks and other vibrations traveled up the entire length and hummed at the top–right where I was standing. I could feel the sound in my feet. I imagined the Bellsprout, with roots for feet, and how sensitive they must be to their surroundings.
“Die you weak muthafucka!” screamed a voice. I recognized it.
Peeking out from the side of the pillar, I saw Assmunch and an old bearded monk.
“Yes, you won, my child. You have earned the prize.”
The monk gave something to Assmunch. Assmunch then turned and spotted me.
“Hey, weakling. I just tromped this old guy and got a cool TM. Awesome, right?”
He pulled a device from his pocket. I caught a glimpse of the logo:
“Escape Rope! By Silph!”
He pushed the button and said, “Sorry. Gotta run.”
In a flash of light, he teleported away.
I approached the monk.
“That boy has no compassion for his Pokemon. He’s a strong trainer, but he will never go far in this world with that attitude.”
“I’m sure,” I said, pondering his words.
“Are you here to battle for the prize?”
I nodded, absent.
“Then face me with your Pokemon. Prove your worth!”
I stepped back and let Tiko take the lead. The monk produced a Bellsprout. Only this Bellsprout had some girth to it, like muscles or something.
It was strong. No doubt. But muscles didn’t give you much resistance to fire, and though the post-ember results were instant death, the head monk’s two Pokemon weren’t as charred as the previous ones. The battle was not difficult, but may have been if Tiko wasn’t as strong as she was.
“Oh ho ho ho!” laughed the monk. “Such strength you have!”
I wasn’t sure if I should be insulted or proud.
“Your fondness for your Pokemon shows! You have a lot of respect and admiration for them. Not like that last boy. He was a dick. You, however, will be a remarkable trainer someday, so long as you don’t forget to respect and trust your companions.”
I laughed at the word, “dick,” but only because it was accurate.
I then realized that I was on a path to become like him. Like Assmunch. If I became so desensitized to the violence and death, how big a step was it to becoming a horrible person? To lose all respect for Pokemon? If I lost respect for Pokemon, would I lose respect for humans?
Hadn’t I already, though? Did I have much respect for my mom or her boyfriend? No, but I did have respect for Lyra, Professor Elm, and Professor Oak. The people who didn’t abuse Pokemon were my favorite people.
And that’s who I wanted to be. Someone who was filled with love and kindness for not only his own Pokemon, but all Pokemon, living or dead.
“Here,” said the monk. “You’ve earned this.”
He handed me a small device. It was something like a clamp and drill.
“This is a TM–a Technical Machine. You use it to teach your Pokemon the move, flash. It’s great for lighting up caves and blinding your opponent’s Pokemon. I hope you find it useful.”
“Thanks,” I said, not sure how I felt about it.
“Also,” the monk continued, “There’s a spare Escape Rope over there. That way you don’t have to climb back down the tower.”
I retrieved the escape rope, but I didn’t use it. Instead, I made my way down the tower, watching the pendulum swing ever wider as I got closer to the bottom.
The Sproutlics may have been a little nutty, but even the nuttiest people can sometimes give you good insights into life. The Bellsprout, though not a strong Pokemon, was a fascinating species. The way it remained still and flexible, the way it flowed through life, yet having uprooted itself so that it didn’t have to remain still forever–that was cool. Like a person who left home but carried with her or him the lessons he or she learned there.