It is said that on those rare nights when the power goes out in Veilstone City, an enormous tower can be seen to the north in a place where no islands are mapped, a tower so large it stretches above the clouds, its red lights extending their crimson hue across Sinnoh's black and northern sky. To the vast bulk of the region's populace – the ones who never worked their pokemon hard, long, or skillfully enough to defeat the Elite Four – this tower is considered to be nothing more than an urban legend, or at best a common mirage.
To those who knew better – those called Pokemon Masters by some (although to them, the title implied a far higher level of greatness), those who captured legends, defeated elites, and were rewarded with a ticket to a secret island known only as the Battle Zone – the tower was a far too familiar place,, one which exhibited a chilling, compelling, and altogether terrifying pull on the greatest of pokemon trainers.
It is called the Battle Tower – a simplistic, uncreative name, one with none of the mystique attached to its legend.
Bird Keeper Milo was not a man of Sinnoh, a fact made evident largely by his outfit and profession. In Sinnoh, specialization in flying pokemon was considered a feminine pursuit, and boys who loved their Staraptors would typically mix up their types and take for themselves a different title, lest they be thought of as effeminate or even homosexual. In Johto, Hoenn(Winona excepted, but she always was a tomboy), and his native Kanto, however, the training of birds was as manly as wrestling Ursaring or catching legends in pokeballs. To those locals who teased him for it, one angry look from his Staraptor was enough to quiet them: most could accept that different regions meant different gender roles, and few questioned the masculinity of great trainers.
That said, Milo's alien location gave him no immunity to the tower's pull. Day after day for the past five years or so, after months of travel across Sinnoh just to gain access, he had fought battle after battle, changing up his pokemon in a faint and fading hope of victory. The pidgeot which had let him triumph over Lance in his home region was left behind and unused, as was the staraptor who gave him an equal triumph in the frozen north of Sinnoh's Pokemon League. His lineup had rotated among pokemon trained specifically for this tower – one of twenty-five eggs bred for the strongest personality, then leveled up in the pokemon mansion's garden, taking down all but the roselia while wearing specialized equipment. Each time, after he trained a different pokemon, he would come up with multiple teams involving it, each making four tries to climb it by one floor in every battle, pushing and pushing in the hopes of reaching the top. (The infertile pokemon of legends, however, could not be raised in this manner, but he used them anyway from time to time – Articuno took down their pokemon in two hits with Mind Reader and Sheer Cold, while Zapdos was impressive in its bulk and its Thunderbolts were deadly).
The definition of "the top" had changed for him, as it had for many a trainer. At first, he was content merely to defeat the Tower Tycoon the first time, abandoning only his beloved pidgeot to do so – he had tried using it with a Choice Scarf and Tailwind, the combination he used to take down other trainers' jolteon, infernape, or other strong speedsters in normal pokemon battles. It had worked – indeed, worked exceptionally well – but as the mounting losses soon showed him, he couldn't afford to give up that slot in a 3 on 3 match.
When Articuno, Staraptor, and his third – (was it Gliscor? Empoleon? Fearow? It was so long ago, the battles all had run together; he didn't even remember who he had used) had triumphed over the Tower Tycoon the first time, Milo had truly believed it was over. Silver Print and 20 Battle Points in hand, he had returned to battling trainers who talked to him and who he had never fought before, he had tried out the rest of the battle frontier, but slowly he found himself back in boredom and hearing the tower's call; a call which brought only him isolation and futility.
Five years ago, after all, he was not simply acknowledged as a great trainer. He had friends back then – real ones, friends who he shared many things with, even a lover he had faded away from for his dream. All he had now were trainers who had latched onto him in admiration of his skill. He had a life back then – it was strange to say that, in a world where one's skill at pokemon training mattered so much, but now his only love and purpose was the quest to be a master.
(And a very specific kind of Master, at that. He still competed in tournaments occasionally, but they were a wholly different game, and it wasn't the quest to become Sinnoh champion which maddened him and absorbed his days.)
Now? He could be described in two words: "Bird Keeper." He was no longer a complex, well-rounded individual, merely a trainer of fliers, a trainer who sought time and time again to make his way to the top. Milo was a man with nothing else in life, and he had no idea what he'd do if he actually won.
Of course, he would never win. Very few ever won – not completely, not 100 battles. And there was little to envy in those who did – most of them, their victory and purpose in life accomplished, simply leaped to their deaths from the spire atop the tower.
Winning wasn't the point – not winning that much, anyway. His goal wasn't even 100 – it was 49, 49 and the gold print which would let him proclaim if only to himself that he was a Pokemon Master.
It was his fourth run with this new team: Staraptor, for all its power, had simply not put him over the top: he had ditched it in favor of the more resilient togekiss he now called his companion. Articuno and Gliscor rounded out his squad (swords dance was an impressive move; the moment he learned of its power, he had flown to Johto to capture a female gligar so as to breed himself another great pokemon).
He had won 43 matches and tied his previous record, relying as much on his pokemon's strengths and his knowledge as he did his cellphone's internet access, which he used as a type of super-pokedex to tell him all he needed to know about every species of pokemon. But in the 44th bout, his run of good luck seemed to be expiring: Gliscor's Focus Sash had been nullified by an abomasnow's Hail, and Togekiss was felled by a speedy gengar's Destiny Bond.
The temperature on the 44th floor had dropped to a bitter cold: both trainers shivered, hailstones pelted Milo's baseball cap, birdcage, and opponent while his articuno, in its legendary glory, emerged nervously from its pokeball. A fire still burned brightly on the other side of the room, engulfing the primate pokemon he counted as his final foe of the match.
"Infernape, Flare Blitz!" The young man of the tower had shouted, and the monkey eagerly obliged, diving into the articuno's frosty white chest with such force as to send the bird crashing into the tower's wall, leaving it barely standing.
It couldn't take another attack. Infernape were strong attackers, the hit had been super effective, and even a quick attack seemed likely to finish it, the way this battle was going, It hadn't used Mind Reader, but there was no time for that now.
There was only one thing left to do, and it only offered a 30% chance of victory.
"Articuno, sheer cold!" Milo ordered, fear in his voice as he offered a silent prayer to Lugia for the inaccurate attack to hit. If it did, even Arceus couldn't survive – not without a focus sash, anyway.
The ground below the Battle Tower is called the graveyard of trainers, a phrase often mistaken for metaphor. In reality, it is literal – all too literal, so much so that trainers are advised to watch for jumpers when entering through the front gates. Most trainers leap from the top, but it is also fairly common to see jumps from the lower levels.
Bird Keeper Milo was only one of the tower's three suicides that day.