I left the Pokemon Center in time to see the meth-head clown accost another innocent traveler. While he was distracted, I made a break for it.
I decided to explore the city a bit before going to the gym. Who knows what all I would find, I thought. Sure enough, as I was walking down the street, a trainer invited me into his home.
“Howdy,” he said.
“You’re a trainer, right?” I nodded. “Cool. I’m looking for a Bellsprout. Having some trouble catching one, you know? So I’m willing to trade my Onix for a Bellsprout, if you have one.”
“I would, actually, if I had a Bellsprout. Ran across a few of them east of town, but I haven’t tried to catch any.”
“That’s cool. Just let me know if you find one. Offer is still good.”
After that, I went toward the tower, but stopped at a building that had an ad painted on the outside:
“Trainer School! Learn all about Pokemon here!”
Meh, why not? I walked inside, Tiko following at my heels. There were a few people studying at desks, reading books, discussing Pokemon at tables. I was greeted by a rotund man.
“Good day!” he said. I shook his hand and said hello.
“What can I do for you?” he asked.
“Just wanted to see if I could fill in some gaps in my knowledge.”
“Well, then you came to the right place.”
“First, do I have to pay? I’m a little low on cash.”
“Nonsense,” he said, shaking his head. “We operate on a federal grant commissioned by the Pokemon League. You sign up for nothing, pay for nothing, and reap all of the benefits.”
That didn’t sound too bad, I thought.
“Okay then, let’s learn.”
We spent about an hour discussing things. Turned out, my years of TV watching and occasional Wikipedia browsing was enough to put me ahead of most trainers. The only thing I didn’t know about was a Pokemon’s Ability. Apparently, Pokemon were apt to develop a specific ability. Some could intimidate other Pokemon which weakens their attacks. Other Pokemon can put pressure on the foes which saps them of energy when they’re battling. It was fascinating stuff, and something hard to quantify.
“You just have to battle with them to find out what they are capable of,” said the teacher.
I thanked him for his time and left. The tower to the north was beckoning to me. Why not? I thought. I’ll face the Gym leader later.
The sign outside the Tower said, “Sprout Tower,” and had a picture of a Bellsprout. Maybe that trainer from earlier could come here and find someone willing to trade.
A monk greeted me.
“Welcome to Sprout Tower,” he said. “Don’t mind the noises from upstairs. Just Pokemon training.”
“Okay. Um, what’s this place all about?”
“We are a group of monks that study the strength of Bellsprout. We worship the rigid yet flexible power that it has. We also offer prizes to trainers who face us on their ascent and are capable of defeating us in battle.”
“Um… one of those things is not like the others,” I said.
“We have to make money somehow,” he replied, smiling shyly.
Getting a little practice in would be good for me, I thought, so I climbed the ladder and began my ascent up the Sprout Tower.
The first Monk to approach me held a rosary in his hands. He fingered the beads, which made me look closer. Each bead was a miniature Pokeball. Where the cross would normally be, sat a full-sized Pokeball.
“Are you Catholic?” I asked, unable to stop myself.
“We no longer follow the old order. We call ourselves Sproutlics now.”
I suppressed a laugh, then asked:
“Are we opponents?”
“Yes. Prepare yourself.”
The Sproutlic Monk released his Bellsprout.
“Tiko, you’re in charge,” I said.
The monk’s eyes grew wide with worry.
“What?” I asked, “Afraid of a little fire?”
“N-no. I’m sure Bellsprout’s resilience will make itself known.”
“Okay, good. Tiko, use ember.”
“Mrrr,” she replied, then shot a ball of flame at the opponent’s Pokemon.
The water in the leaves and stalks hissed out as it boiled away, and within seconds, the Bellsprout was nothing more than a charred stick.
A visible sheen of sweat glistened from the monk’s shaved head.
“C-con…Congratulations,” he said, trying to regain his composure. “You may continue your ascent.”
But I wasn’t listening to him. I was looking at Tiko, who was looking around and at itself in confusion.
“Are you okay, Tiko?” I asked.
She chirped, but it sounded like distress to me. I crouched down to pet her, to comfort her, but she recoiled and the flames on her back burst erratically.
Then she began to change. She grew longer, bones cracking and rejoining, her feet grew, claws visibly protruding. Her fire ports relocated. Some to her head, some to her lower back.
After a moment, it was over. Tiko was bigger, breathing heavily and confused, but alive.
“Mrr?” she said. She looked herself over.
“Did you just evolve?”
I pulled out my PokeDex. Sure enough, that’s what happened. Tiko was no longer a Cyndaquil. She was a Quilava.
And she was badass. Fire mohawk! Fire skirt! Silky black and yellow fur! Once I was sure that she was okay to go on, we went to the next ladder and continued our ascent up Sprout Tower.