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The Quest for the Legends, now with its ILCOETH revision!

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Dragonfree, Apr 26, 2004.

  1. nintyweb

    nintyweb Well-Known Member

    *hovers over time thingy on screen* Hahaha, oh wow.

    Anyway, you killed Suicune, which is a shame. A good shame, I s'pose, as I was worried that someone more important would die. And I suppose he needn't stay dead as long as somebody can remember Ho-oh's mobile number.

    Oh,a nd the Mark dev. thing. I'lll pretend that that was at the forefront of my mind before the importance of it wass stressed, mmkay? ^^ Shishishi. Nah, but seriously, I forgot what with the whole big-fight thingy.

    Oh yeah, and to celebrate the 5th aniv. thing (I know, I'm giving you loads of time to act on this...), perhaps you could do a really arty Ouen map, much like these ones of Johto:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:JohtoPoke.png
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Johto_Anime.jpg

    On a side note, seeing the maps brought back so many happy memories of the good old GSC days.
     
  2. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Yeah, I could do a map like that. Except for the part where, y'know, I can't draw? At least not stuff like that. If I attempt to draw a Pokémon a couple hundred times I might end up with two or three that don't look completely misshapen.

    Well, I've been doodling an awful lot for the last couple of days for the occasion and I've got a couple of other fic-related art, so I might as well share:

    Chalenor
    The legs are rather demented, but I seriously love how the head came out.

    Chaletwo
    From an older sketch, admittedly, which I now traced and colored. It was originally drawn without a Mewtwo reference, so the anatomy/proportions may be slightly off.

    Scyther in the Mew Hunter's Gym shortly after capture
    Heh, emo. The scene is from Scyther's Story, chapter XXVIII.

    Chibi Mark
    He's so cute and frantic-looking.

    Chibi May
    Being her usual self. I made a few attempts at Alan too, but he always turns out demented.

    Aaand that's all I've got for you, since *cough* nobody apparently felt like giving me any ideas for the fifth anniversary special I was going to write. <<; Well, I did revamp the minipage on my site with two styles, if you want to see.

    Oh, and a slogan.

    The Quest for the Legends: five years, 700 pages, 300,000 words, 120 chapters, 11 revisions - and I STILL haven't given up on it.

    (700 pages, 300,000 words and 120 chapters is counting the UMR, HMMRCIG and IALCOTN, since all the revisions in between only reworded things rather than writing them up from scratch, as well as Scyther's Story and, for what they're worth, the extras and Nightmare.)

    Happy fifth anniversary, fic. I hope you'll keep me entertained for another five years. Or do I?
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2007
  3. ~*Mudkip Fantastic*~

    ~*Mudkip Fantastic*~ BlackFalcon!

    Happy 5th birthday to TQftL!!!

    So that is what May is supposed to look like. Brilliant Chibi pics BTW
     
  4. R_N

    R_N Well-Known Member

    What do you mean no one gave you nay ideas on a fifth anniversery special?
    I gave you an idea on the last page(it's at the end).
    And you draw reallly good, BTW.
     
  5. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    What you were suggesting was more or less just what I've already got in the revision history on the fic minipage, with maybe a bit of the trivia mixed in. I was thinking about doing something like that for the special, actually, but I couldn't really figure out a way of making it more than just a less thorough repeat of what the revision history and trivia already say.
     
  6. R_N

    R_N Well-Known Member

    Oh, I had no idea about that. I don't frewuent the site to often.
     
  7. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    Heh, woosh. ^^ That is a lot. I've never attempted to total the word counts of all my revisions, since I had the oh-so-brilliant idea of saving every chapter in each revision to a separate word document all the way until I learned about page breaks. xP Still...that would only be three actual rewrites...but then the original was hand-written (stupid, 12-year-old, computer illiterate Chibi ><).

    But in any case, Happy fifth anniversary! *Throws confetti around* Be happy, I hardly even acknowledged my own fic's anniversary. I was just sort of like "Oh yeah...today...I think I wrote that three page thingy five years ago today...or maybe yesterday...hm...*grounded*."

    May this fic live on for five more years!!! 8D Actually, let's hope you finish it before then--I had a reader who took every oppotunity to tell me I'd be writing for the next 15 years. xP

    Silverwing;249;: Chibi, why are you doing this at almost 3am?
    SPPf gets bogged down during the day. *sticks tongue out.*

    Me? Rabid obsessive fan? Never!

    ~Chibi~;249;;448;
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2007
  8. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Thanks, everybody. Whooo, chapter 36! I love this chapter. Seriously. I've had it in my head for like a couple of years and only now got to actually write it.




    Chapter 36: The Crater

    It was a gloomy group that walked quietly back to Cleanwater City that night.

    They were not met with any suspicion when they entered the Pokémon Center and left their Pokémon and they heard no one there talk about a battle taking place at the Lake. Apparently it had gone by unnoticed, but they didn’t feel much relief.

    “Where do we go now?” Mark finally muttered as they exited, breaking the silence that had lasted since they had left the lake.

    “Well,” Chaletwo sighed, “I think you should just let your Pokémon rest for now. Just… go to the hotel and get a good night’s sleep, and then… well, maybe you should just take it easy tomorrow. Two legendary battles in one day really isn’t working out.”

    Everybody seemed content with this conclusion, and nobody talked while they walked the short distance to the hotel and went up the stairs.

    “I think I’m just going to bed,” Mark said emptily.

    “Me too,” Alan muttered. May just shrugged.

    “Good night, then,” Mark said and went into his room, throwing himself down on his bed.

    Suicune is dead.

    A nightmarish memory of pulling a limp paw while dragging Suicune into a bush flashed across his mind and made him feel a little nauseous.

    “What does this all mean?” he muttered, thinking of the sparkles that had enveloped Gyarados. Maybe it has to do with Gyarados attacking Suicune with the power that Suicune himself gave him, he speculated to himself.

    “Well,” Chaletwo replied, “I don’t know, but we might get to the bottom of this if we can talk to Entei before we…”

    “Who asked you?” Mark snapped.

    He waited for a few seconds. No reply.

    He thought of himself standing there, watching while Gyarados fired the fatal Dragon Beam, and shuddered.

    I let him do it. I let Gyarados kill Suicune.

    A little voice in his head disagreed. Why are you taking the blame? You were going to recall him. It was Chaletwo who told you not to. It’s his fault.

    Yeah, Mark thought grimly. It’s all Chaletwo’s fault.

    “I wouldn’t say…”

    “Go away!” Mark shouted at Chaletwo in exasperation. “Why don’t you just mind your own business instead of sitting here spying on my private thoughts?”

    Again, there was no reply.

    Chaletwo? he thought.

    “Yes?”

    Mark gritted his teeth. “You’re still there! Get out of my head for real or I’m not taking part in your stupid plan anymore!”

    A few seconds of nothing passed.

    I should resign anyway, he thought airily. May can do it all better than I can.

    Again, there was no reply, but there was no way for him to tell if Chaletwo was really not reading his thoughts or if he was just resisting the urge to comment in order to make Mark think he wasn’t.

    “Well,” he muttered, “if you really are listening, you’ll have to act like you never heard it for the rest of your life.”

    He sighed, now fairly content that even if Chaletwo heard him, he’d at least not interrupt.

    Suicune…

    Did you mean for that to happen? What is so special about Gyarados, anyway? What is he chosen for? I don’t get it…

    And anyway, how could he kill Suicune just like that? A legendary Pokémon? Just like…

    He bolted upright. “Chaletwo!” he called at the air. “Couldn’t you have resurrected him? The body was in perfect shape aside from those little battle scratches we gave him!”

    “Impossible,” Chaletwo replied shortly. “The body was whole, but the ghost was gone. I don’t know what Gyarados did to him or if Suicune did it to himself or what, but I felt around for his consciousness immediately and didn’t find it. Now, you don’t want me around – and for your information I was not reading your thoughts until you shouted, thank you very much – so I’ll just pretend I don’t exist until tomorrow. Good night.”

    For a moment Mark wondered if it had really been a good idea to get him that worked up.

    Yes, a voice in his head answered, and that was the end of that.

    -------

    It felt great the next morning to be able to finally relax and not worry about travelling to the next destination yet. Even though Suicune’s death still loomed over them, it somehow seemed a little less horrible when they weren’t out to find whatever legendary was next on Chaletwo’s list – Mark could even imagine that Chaletwo actually cared that they had killed Suicune and that that was the reason he didn’t want them to go on yet, which made him feel a little better. They took their time eating a good breakfast at the hotel and then retrieved their Pokémon from the Pokémon Center.

    “Well,” Alan said once they were back at the hotel, “shouldn’t we fill them in?”

    Mark nodded quietly.

    They sent out all the Pokémon except Lapras, Diamond and Gyarados in Mark’s room, and he realized as they all began to feverishly ask questions that some of them had missed the outcome of not one, but two legendary battles.

    “Okay, just settle down,” Alan shouted over the cacophony of Pokémon speech. “You need to catch up.”

    The Pokémon eventually stopped talking to listen to Alan. He looked nervously around, realizing he had been silently elected as the one to explain.

    “All right,” he said, biting his lip. “Um. Better start at the beginning. Well, thanks to Lapras’s step-in at the last moment, we succeeded in defeating and capturing Thunderyu.”

    Charlie, at the moment in his Charmander form, smiled in relief along with Mist the Vaporeon, who was standing beside him.

    “Figured,” Scyther said indifferently. Butterfree looked at him and at Mark, but didn’t say anything.

    “So, well, then we went on to Cleanwater City, where we obviously are now, to battle Suicune…”

    “And did you catch him?” Charlie asked with worry in his voice.

    Alan smiled awkwardly. “Eh. Not exactly.”

    “We lost,” Jolteon muttered emptily. “We’ll have to go battle him again tonight.”

    All the Pokémon looked up at Alan for confirmation. He took a deep breath, but Mark beat him to it.

    “No,” he said bitterly. “Suicune is dead.”

    Every single one of them stared at him for a moment, and then the room exploded in chaos.

    “What?”

    “How?”

    “Can legendary Pokémon die?”

    Jolteon and Sandslash stared at him in disbelief. Racko tilted his reptilian head and blinked questioningly up at Alan, and Mist just looked devastated.

    “After we lost… Gyarados came out of his Pokéball,” Mark said, sounding more spiteful than he intended. “And he killed Suicune. With Dragon Beam. And when Suicune died, he got marked with that… that symbol on Spirit’s necklace, except blue.” He pointed at the Ninetales.

    “That can’t be right,” Spirit said, shaking her head. “I have long since concluded that the symbol is the legendary Pokémon’s ultimate mark of approval and…”

    “Well, either Suicune approved of being dead or your conclusion is wrong,” Mark said rudely. Somehow this conversation was all making him a great deal more upset, as cheerful as he had been to be able to relax that morning. Spirit shook her white mane with a slightly offended expression, but didn’t reply.

    There were a few seconds of silence. Mist seemed to be taking the news the worst; Mark figured a Water Pokémon would be more upset about the death of one of its own protector deities, so to speak. She stared emptily into space, ignoring entirely when Charlie came up to give her a reassuring hug.

    “I’m sorry,” Mark muttered. “But it happened. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”

    “What about Gyarados?” Mist asked shakily. “What are you going to do with him?”

    Mark looked blankly at her. What, indeed? Part of him suddenly screamed vengeance; Gyarados surely shouldn’t just get away with this. He got all sorts of ideas he immediately wished he hadn’t gotten and for a moment seriously considered just dumping him off at the Lake of Purity, since he hated the place so much. Then reason sank in.

    “We need him,” he told her. “Gyarados may be the most powerful Pokémon we have. We need all the power we can get if we’re going to defeat all the other legendaries.”

    Mist looked down at the floor, saying nothing. There was an awkward silence.

    “What do we do now, then?” Jolteon asked quietly.

    Mark looked at him. “Well, Chaletwo says we have the day off, at least.”

    “I say we should eat before we do anything else,” May said, and everybody liked the idea.

    -------

    They ate lunch, and eventually, at a loss for what to do in the afternoon, decided to go out to the Lake of Purity again, both to subtly try to make sure that nobody wandered too far into the forest in the direction where they had left Suicune’s body and to just spend some time trying to think about something else than their quest.

    Chaletwo, Mark had noticed by the time they were on their way to the lake, had not said anything at all since yesterday evening. He wasn’t quite sure if it was because he was offended or he just hadn’t felt the need to say anything, but it caused him to start musing about what Chaletwo did during the night, anyway. Was he just sitting in Mark’s head getting bored to death? Or maybe watching his dreams to relieve the boredom? (This thought brought up the priceless image of Chaletwo sitting alone in an otherwise empty movie theatre with a bag of popcorn trying to figure out why the May on the screen was wearing a fake mustache.) Or did he maybe sleep in some sense – submit to the ordinary unconsciousness of being contained in a Pokéball? But then how did he know when to wake up? He got as far as psychic alarm clocks before he realized that May was starting to look oddly at him out of the corner of his eye while he was snickering to himself.

    But once they were at the lake, watching the crowd of people walking obliviously past the trees they had dragged Suicune’s body off between, he felt altogether differently and experienced that strange feeling of being angry at himself for being emotionally capable of fooling around when his sense of morality was telling him he should spend the rest of his life mourning and never laugh again. The silence in the group was awkward, and Mark kept thinking he was seeing somebody walking in just the right direction to find the body.

    “So uh,” Alan said at last, “what are we going to do here besides stand around? Shouldn’t we use the time for something? Get the mind occupied with something else?”

    May shrugged. “We could battle.”

    Relieved at the idea of something to take his mind off Suicune again, Mark immediately said, “Yeah, I like that idea.”

    Alan looked at him. “Well, I haven’t battled a person in a long while. I wouldn’t mind a friendly match.”

    Mark smiled. Battling Alan sounded a lot better than battling May, mostly because he had a distinct feeling that he would lose to her no matter what he did.

    “So May, do you mind…?”

    She shook her head. “I can be the referee. And I’ll keep an eye on that place so you don’t have to worry about it.”

    Sometimes Mark was amazed at how emotionally tough May could be. Alan at least seemed uncomfortable about Suicune’s death. May was just… there. Like she didn’t care.

    “All right, then, we’ll make it a six on six match,” May announced formally as they walked over to a less occupied spot where they would additionally get in the way of anybody straying too close to where the body was. “Let’s allow switching for a change. No move restrictions, those are boring. Both battlers send out at the same time. Go!”

    It took Mark a second to realize they were starting and he quickly reached for one of his Pokéballs to hurl it forward. The white shape from the ball materialized into Scyther while Alan’s ball released Mist the Vaporeon. Mark figured Alan had decided she was probably the one of his Pokémon that most needed to get her mind off Suicune.

    “Okay, Scyther, um… X-Scissor!” Mark blurted out.

    “Mist, use Aqua Ring!” Alan ordered.

    Scyther zoomed forward with his scythes raised as they were enveloped in a faint green glow. The Vaporeon braced herself as he slashed at her body with both of them, forming red, crossed cuts on her back. As Scyther retreated back towards Mark, Mist breathed out a spray of water that began to orbit her, some of it dousing her wounds and slowly closing them.

    “All right, um… try a Double Team?” Mark suggested. He wasn’t sure why he suddenly felt like using techniques he’d never really used before, but something made him want to do something new.

    Two copies of the mantis split out of Scyther’s body on either side of him while Alan ordered Mist to use an Ice Beam. She crouched down and fired a beam of ice from her mouth at the Scyther in the middle, but the copy dissolved into the air.

    “Scyther, Swords Dance!” Mark yelled, figuring that it would be best to boost Scyther’s attack power so the Aqua Ring wouldn’t heal too much of the damage in between. Both Scyther started spinning around on the spot while moving their scythes in elaborate patterns.

    “Haze!” Alan shouted.

    The Vaporeon breathed out a fine mist that quickly engulfed both Pokémon. Mark saw the two Scyther lose their concentration in the Swords Dance and one of them flickered out of existence while the haze faded.

    Mark’s gaze quickly ran over to May; she shook her head, making it painfully obvious that Haze was something he ought to have expected. He gritted his teeth.

    “Oh, fine, I won’t even try to pretend to know what I’m doing. Just slash away.”

    The mantis was all too happy to obey and zoomed at Mist with his scythes aloft.

    “Acid Armor!” Alan quickly retaliated. The Vaporeon’s flesh dissolved into liquid water just before Scyther’s scythe touched her, and it easily chopped through her watery form, lodging into the ground instead. Scyther jerked it out and growled in annoyance, staying just next to Mist while keeping tense, waiting for her to turn back into solid form. Alan shifted on his feet, not daring to make an order; Mist waited, turning her head toward him.

    Finally Scyther just lost his patience and started to hack madly away at the Vaporeon-shaped blob of water, and to his astonishment, Mark realized that in fact it was working to some degree. While she obviously wasn’t chopped to pieces as she otherwise would have been, Mist flinched under it and tried to get away, and finally the water turned back into her solid form while Alan watched with a worried expression. She looked more like she had just been bludgeoned by something heavy than cut up with scythes.

    “Mist, another Ice Beam!” Alan called, and the Vaporeon quickly shot a thin beam of ice up at the mantis, who had only gotten an opportunity to step slightly back. He was hit squarely in the chest and staggered backwards, but quickly regained his balance and countered with yet another swipe of his scythe, hitting Mist’s shoulder and leaving a deep, bleeding cut.

    Alan shuddered. “Mist, come back,” he said and recalled the Vaporeon to her Pokéball. He hesitated only a moment before picking the next ball. “Charlie, do it!”

    The Charmander emerged from the ball and immediately began to glow in evolution. Mark realized that it would be wisest to switch, and his hand travelled down to his Pokéballs.

    “Eh…” came Chaletwo’s voice suddenly, sounding notably awkward. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I think… I really think you should get going.”

    What? Again? Mark thought, pausing. Why?

    “Remember when I told you about Thunderyu? The next dragon, Volcaryu – he’s sealed inside Mount Fever… and it’s so close by, I think he sensed it through his sleep when we woke Thunderyu. Since then he’s been struggling pretty fiercely against the sleep, and… I’m not sure how much longer I can hold him back. I may lose my grip on him as early as tomorrow.”

    Well, Mount Fever isn’t that far away, is it? Mark argued. It would be easy to reach the roots of the mountain before that time. We deserve to take it easy for a little while, right?

    “Well, sure, you do,” Chaletwo replied coldly. “I was just thinking, you know, since some human idiot got the brilliant idea of building a town in the middle of the crater of a dormant volcano and Volcaryu’s release would cause it to erupt…” Mark’s stomach churned uncomfortably at this point. “Well, I figured that, you know, you wouldn’t want all those people to get fried. Sorry I got that impression. I’ll leave you to your happy fun battle now.”

    Mark stared at May, Alan, Scyther and Charlie, who were all clearly confused as to why he was standing there still with a horrified expression in the middle of the battle.

    “Okay, this is bad,” he muttered. “Really bad.”

    -------

    There wasn’t really anything for them to do, once Mark had briefly explained the situation, other than cancelling the battle, heading gloomily back to Cleanwater City, signing out of the hotel and heading out into Rainbow Woods again.

    Mount Fever was a very large and prominent volcanic cone that could easily be seen all the way from Cleanwater city. It had been dormant for the past thousand years or so, but about a hundred years ago, a man known as ‘Pyromaniac Paul’ had gotten the insane idea of locating the unofficial Pokémon Gym he had been planning to found on the inside of the crater, and after getting a few friends into it with him, they had built a platform into the side of the crater of sufficient area and strength to hold Paul’s Gym building and home, and eventually they had created a wide walkway going around the entire crater on its inside. The Gym became famous and extremely popular as a tourist attraction thanks to the unique location, and somehow, eventually, a town had started to spring up around it while the walkways were gradually broadened. Now Crater Town, as it had come to be known, had gotten its Gym official thanks to its current leader Carl, and consisted of a roughly circular wooden floor with houses scattered around it and a hole, perhaps five meters across, surrounded by a fence in the very middle of it, allowing travellers and inhabitants alike to gaze into the still fiery depths of the volcano beneath.

    But the journey towards the volcano was slower than it had sounded like it would be. After going through the Pokémonless part of Rainbow Woods again and climbing up the mountainside there, sunset was growing dangerously close, and they weren’t even close to the roots of Mount Fever yet.

    “You’re not going to make it,” Chaletwo told them with strained panic in his telepathic voice. “Well, you’re going to make it, but never in time to convince them to evacuate the place and get it done. I should have said something sooner…”

    “Yes, you definitely should have,” Mark agreed. He wasn’t really sure how he felt. Part of him was screaming about all the people who might get killed, and another part insisted that it didn’t matter anymore because Suicune was dead. He really hated his emotions today.

    It’s all Chaletwo’s fault, the third part said confidently, and it was the one he felt most inclined to agree with.

    “Well, how about you speed us up, then?” May sighed. “Can’t you, like, teleport or something?”

    “I can’t just…” Chaletwo began, but then trailed off. “Well, it is an emergency… I suppose it would be possible to…”

    “Then do it already, for God’s sake!” Alan said angrily. “Why have you been making us walk?”

    “I need to use as much as possible of the power I have left to keep Volcaryu asleep, don’t I? I think it would be too risky to try to teleport with three people. I’ll take Mark, and you two will catch up, all right?”

    Alan rolled his eyes, but didn’t say anything.

    “Right… nobody’s watching…”

    Chaletwo’s body materialized by Mark’s side and he bemusedly realized that despite Chaletwo having been a nuisance in his head for so long he’d gotten entirely used to it, this was only the second time he had actually seen him.

    “Come on,” Chaletwo just said, placing one of his pale, bulbous fingers on Mark’s shoulder. The next moment, he found himself standing alone on reddish rock and looked around to realize that he was near the end of the path going up to the crater of Mount Fever.

    He carefully took the final few steps up to the very edge of the crater and marvelled at the sight of Crater Town: disorganized houses were scattered around the huge wooden platform, the prominent white Gym building with the red dome roof was just about right underneath him, and in the middle of it all was a large hole emitting clouds of steam, in the middle of which he could just barely make out a faint orangeish glow.

    He took a deep breath and walked down the steep steps in the side of the crater wall onto the platform. He looked around. He hadn’t seen any people at all. Granted, it wasn’t a large town, but it still struck him as odd there wouldn’t be anyone around.

    “Hello?” he shouted. Nobody answered. He figured there had to be something going on in town since nobody was around, and the first place he thought to look was the Gym, but when he came to the door, there was a piece of paper taped to it that said ‘Away for Town Community Meeting’.

    Well, he thought. If I were running things in this town, where would I hold town community meetings?

    He looked around and noticed a building larger than most of the others a short distance away to the left, with faded lettering above the door saying ‘COMMUNITY CENTER’. Duh.

    He walked up to the building and knocked on the door.

    “Come in,” came a cheerful voice from inside. Mark opened the door carefully to come into a large hall that was apparently now being used as a meeting room – there was a round, red table in the middle of it with something more than a dozen people sitting by it, and the rest of town seemed to be standing somewhere by the walls, listening. Everybody looked at him.

    “Ah, a traveller,” a chubby, friendly-looking man by the far end of the table said; he recognized his voice as the cheerful one that had invited him in. “I am Mayor Daniels of Crater Town. I’m glad you found the people; we always have community meetings on Thursdays and we were just getting started. Now why don’t you…”

    The sight of all those people somehow kicked the danger their lives were in properly into Mark’s head. Stupidly, all he could think of expressing this in for the moment was interrupting the Mayor’s speech with a frantic shout of, “Evacuate the town!”

    Mayor Daniels blinked at him. “I’m sorry?”

    “You must evacuate the town,” Mark repeated, realizing how dumb he sounded but figuring it couldn’t get a lot worse than it already was. “The volcano is going to erupt.”

    The Mayor blinked at him again, but then laughed. “Now, you cannot honestly think we would live in this town if we didn’t have the volcano constantly monitored for any signs of revived activity…”

    Everybody was staring at him and Mark was beginning to feel decidedly like just getting out of there instead of pointlessly making himself look even more ridiculous when somebody at the table cleared his throat. It was a short, brown-haired man with glasses.

    “Actually,” he said, glancing nervously at Mark, “don’t ask me how he could possibly know this, but the volcano did make a slight twitch yesterday morning – no definite sign of an upcoming eruption, of course, but still more than it’s been for a while. I was going to bring it up.”

    The Mayor looked visibly unsettled by this, but still maintained his composition. “Now, exactly where does your information come from, young man? We have a team of expert scientists in the field such as Mr. Adams here watching the volcano for us. Why would you feel so certain that it is going to erupt?”

    He was trying to figure out how to answer this when an aloof-looking old woman seated on the Mayor’s right side suddenly let out a gasp. “Oh! You’re in the paper!” she said happily, prodding a page of the newspaper she had been reading under the table and beaming up at him. Now it was Mark’s turn to blink.

    “What? Give me that,” the Mayor said quickly, tearing the paper out of her hands and holding it up to read the page she had been pointing at so that the front page was in plain view from Mark’s location.

    It contained a blurry photograph of a young, thin, dark-haired boy twitching in agony as he was about to fall over backwards. His mouth was open in a silent scream, his eyes wide and staring straight towards the Pokémon on the left side of the photo.

    And despite the blurriness, it was unmistakably Mark himself.

    The Mayor lowered the newspaper slowly onto the table, his face white as a sheet of paper, staring at Mark in pure terror. The pages he had been looking at were now visible on the table, showing a few more, clearer photos of him and of Chaletwo.

    He heard Chaletwo swear loudly in his head. “Why the hell was that woman reading a two-week-old newspaper?”

    Recognition had dawned upon the faces of everybody in the room who had managed to take a peek at the newspaper by now. The memory modification had been enough to make them fail to associate his face with anything when they had initially seen him, but a direct comparison just made it undeniable.

    I’m in a room full of people who know I was murdered a couple of weeks ago, he realized, dumbfounded, not sure what to do. He blinked and looked around.

    “Are… are you dead…?” the Mayor whispered.

    “Just tell them they’re mistaken, that it’s just somebody who looks like you, that everybody wears those clothes over where you live, that your name is really John Smith…”

    He was going to. He was definitely going to. But something made his lips decide otherwise.

    “Yes,” he heard himself saying. “I’m dead. I returned because… I had to warn you.”

    “What the hell are you talking about?” Chaletwo hissed. “Nobody must know about…”

    “Warn us?” Mayor Daniels stammered.

    “Yes,” Mark improvised. “Chaletwo killed me, and he is going to kill all of you. There is a dragon Pokémon called Volcaryu sleeping inside this volcano, and Chaletwo’s going to wake it up, which will make the volcano erupt and destroy Crater Town.” He really had no idea what he was saying, but it just came out of his mouth. Miraculously, he kept a straight face saying it, and somehow, he was enjoying the moment immensely. “The only way to stop him is to be prepared when he wakes Volcaryu. And it will try to fly off to join him so he can take over the world, so we have to capture Volcaryu to prevent that from happening.”

    He may have had no idea what he was saying, but damn, it was the best lie he had ever told. He watched the Mayor nod with a horrified expression on his face, buying every word of it. Priceless.

    “But he mustn’t know that we know about his takeover plan,” he went on, starting to get excited. “He mustn’t know that I’ve returned, or he will take precautions. So you can’t tell anybody about this, in case he ever catches wind of it, all right? You just claim that you’re evacuating because of what your scientists were picking up from the volcano, and…”

    “Now, wait a minute,” some sensible person in the audience objected. “How do we know you don’t just look like that kid who died and aren’t trying to exploit us somehow?”

    “Well…”

    He paused, not sure how he’d convince them. His hand wandered down to his Pokéballs as he considered the possibility that the newspaper mentioned what Pokémon he owned. But they found his Pokédex first.

    He grinned. “Watch this.”

    Mark turned the Pokédex on and held it up to his eye, allowing it to scan his iris. There was a little beep, and he put the device down on the table, showing his trainer profile on the screen with his name and even the old school photo which, to Mark’s dismay, had also been printed in the newspaper that still lay open on the table.

    He looked over it along with everybody else who was close. He shuddered when he saw the word ‘DECEASED’ written in large red letters by the label ‘Status’ – the League didn’t delete trainer profiles after their deaths. It was unsettling to see his death written out so bluntly.

    “I’m not convinced,” somebody mumbled.

    “Well, either it’s him or he switched eyes with that kid,” somebody else countered.

    “A Ditto?”

    “Pokédexes can recognize Ditto.”

    “But how could he just come back from the dead?”

    People looked at him. And more people looked at him.

    “Well,” he said, his mind racing, “I was resurrected… by Mew. Mew is trying to stop Chaletwo’s plan, and he told me all that.” Mew was definitely the best source he could claim, he figured – after all, Mew had always had a reputation of goodness and purity. Sometimes he really loved being knowledgeable about legendary Pokémon.

    “Well, I still say we’d need more evidence…”

    A man in maybe his fifties or sixties with short, graying hair stood up from the Mayor’s left side. “Enough is enough,” he said loudly. “Let’s be reasonable about this. When do you say Chaletwo will release this Volcaryu you speak of?”

    “Tomorrow,” Mark said firmly. “In the morning. We need to have the town evacuated before then.”

    The man smiled. “Well, then it is easy enough to find out whether you are telling the truth. We evacuate the town – I think we would all agree that if there is any chance of an eruption, it is wiser to do so than not, and even our representative of the scientific community claims there is something fishy going on with the volcano – and tomorrow morning, I will go with Mark here and see if this Volcaryu really does burst out of the mountain. Sound all right to you?”

    The man looked around the room. It was obvious he had a lot of respect in the community because everyone stopped talking and nobody objected. Mark had already guessed who he was when the man turned back towards him, shook his hand and said, “Welcome to Crater Town, Mark. My name is Carl, and I think I’ll keep an eye on you until tomorrow when we can test your claims. I will miss my Gym if you are right, but you will be very sorry if you’re wrong.”
     
  9. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    To quote the total illogicality of my thought process when I'm talking to myself: "This...this is one of those chapters...that--it...I suppose at its heart it's... but at the same time it's just so....so that it's not, it's just...auuuw."

    Okay...text doesn't express it properly...I wish I could have recorded myself. xD

    *Glances at opening paragraph.* Yeah...text really doesn't convey it. It was a statement of awed admiration, despite somehow looking like a bad thing at first glance. oO

    Oh yeah: guess what time it is in my time tone?! 8D I have work tomorrow so I can't exactly sleep in too late...why does all of your writing have me trapped in a curse of reading it in the middle of the night?

    Okay, random intros aside:
    The sheer effect of the straightforwardness of that, and how much it's gripping his mind is just...impossible to express without inventing words and/or sound effects like in the first paragraph of this review.



    Ah, that was good to include that. While I admit I didn't actually think of that possibility, when you have abilities like resurrection in the fic, it's always good to expand upon it to avoid plot holes. Whenever I expand on things in my fic, it's mostly just random last-minute explanations. xP

    Oh come on. Do I even need to say anything? There are some things quoteable that just need no comments.

    ...

    Okay, yes they do: XDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

    Silverwing;249;: *Stabs Chibi from overuse of extravagantly long keyboard smileys.*



    Oh, and, uh...that battle was kickass and you know it. :D The use of all the 4th gen moves was awesome, sort of like a first nod to the new gen (I think, this was the first mention, that is). I did a similar thing with my fic, including a battle with a Glaceon as my first move toward the new generation. (Strangely, Chapter 4 of the very same rewrite I'm on now contained the first 3rd gen nod in the form of a Manectric battle.) Plus, your use of all the stat-incrasing moves and handling them in a realistic sense where "stat boosts" have no meaning just added further depth.
    YES!!!! GO MARK!!!!! Now that's my kinda strategy! XD (Although in my defense, I actually tried playing "strategical" by putting Dragon Dance on a Tyranitar the other day. I felt so smart. =3)
    Bwahaha...sardonic wit ftw.
    This is why getting into characters' heads is so fun. I'm sure that conveying the total illogicality of thought after a major occurence is as fun to write as it is to read. (Wait, what am I saying...I know it's as fun to write as it is to read. :D)
    Having the main character randomly shout is always fun. ^^
    While reading, I caught sight of that paragraph right after the one where the lady saw the newspaper. (My eyes tend to skip around the screen a lot.) I swear, I must have laughed almost as loud as May having a fake mustache. (Well, louder actually, as that left me paralyzed with that silent, gasping sort of laugh.)
    That has got to be THE most brilliant way of wording the situation, ever. It reminds me of the random Mewtwo teleporting away to take over the world in Revision <insert abbreviation here.>

    I'll be intersted to see Chaletwo's reaction to all of this.

    Hmm...those pics you posted before. Upon randomly clicking on them, they're actually loading for me now. (Well, most of them did before, just not the Chibis.) Hehe, you're right: Chibi Mark is so cute and frantic. ^^


    Aaaaaaaaaaand, I'll leave you with that, both because I'm out of things to babble about and also cause I seriously need to go to bed now. *_*

    ~Chibi~;249;;448;
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2007
  10. VanishingRayquaza

    VanishingRayquaza Who stole my cookies

    THat is outstanding!

    I think it was extremly good but I think you managed to fail to show us Marks reaction to Suicunes death, I though t it would be worse than that...
     
  11. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    The main thing I’m compelled to say about that chapter was that Mark was great in it. Not only was there a nice, potent scene involving him and Chaletwo near the beginning of the chapter, there was also his unforgettable performance in the Community Center scene. ^^

    Speaking of which… I was wondering from the moment it was clear that the people of Crater Town needed to be evacuated just how in the frell they would actually be convinced to do so. Well, I sure found out, and the way by which Mark convinced the people to get the frell out of there was not only surprising but also quite entertaining. :D And lol, you should have seen my reaction when the people in the Community Center realized that they were talking to someone who was supposed to be 100% dead and gone as far as they were concerned (random note: I actually caught myself having mistyped that Mark was supposed to be “100% dad” there XD): I literally went “OH SNAP!”, out loud, no less. XD But it looks like Mark’s made his little unintended revelation of sorts to those Crater Town citizens work out for him, so I guess my “OH SNAP!” was unnecessary. Yet still… I can’t help but suspect that despite their having been told to hush up so Chaletwo doesn’t find out their on to his Crater Town-destroying, world-dominating plans (priceless XD), their awareness of Mark’s continuing existence comes with possible consequences that are going to have to be dealt with…

    Also, that was a nice battle between Mark and Alan. I liked the choice of moves put into action during that battle, as well as the depiction fo those moves. And I especially liked the way the battle ended, since Chaletwo’s interruption of it contained one of my favorite Chaletwo lines, ever. :D

    Brrr. *shudders* Dead Suicune being dragged along is a creepy image, indeed. And, morbid thing that I am, I liked that. X3

    I have to say, I rather like Mark’s harsh statement there at the end. The way it’s worded makes it very memorable, very quotable.

    I LOVE THIS PARAGRAPH. :D So much pricelessness… I especially love the “Chaletwo in the theatre with popcorn” image. XD …And in choosing to refer to it thus, my mind has internally broken into a corrupted rendition of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” XDDDD And “psychic alarm clocks” sounds to me like it could be a band name. Maybe Psychic Alarm Clocks is the band that plays “Chaletwo in the Theatre with Popcorn”… XD

    Great use and depiction of Haze. Same goes for Swords Dance—the image of a Scyther using that move the way you describe it is pretty danged cool. ^^

    I like the frell out of Mark’s (glorious abandonment of) strategy. XD

    There’s another move’s depiction that I really liked—Acid Armor’s transformation of Mist into a Vaporeon made of animate water makes for some awesome imagery. ^^

    XDDDD Yes, that would be the “one of my favorite Chaletwo lines, ever”. :D

    “Duh” moments are always priceless. XD

    Priceless, indeed. :D I especially like the whole “Volcaryu flying off to join Chaletwo in the conquest of the world” aspect. XD

    Before I conclude this post, I noticed the pics posted on this page. The Chalenor and Scyther pics are especially cool, and that Chibi Mark pic is both cute as frell and funny as frell. :D

    Great chapter, great pics; boss work on both. ^^ I’ll be back for the next chapter… *strolls off singing “Chaletwo in the Theatre with Popcorn”*
     
  12. myu_2

    myu_2 the meepinator.

    sweet chapter. I cant believe suicune is dead tho. ;-; cant wait for the next one!
     
  13. Ladyumbra

    Ladyumbra ... ..no comment

    So I just started reading this again ( becuase for like the fifth time I left serebii and forgot the entire plot)

    A long an likely useless review will come in the near future when I've managed to get through atleast the first ten chappies. I know nothing I say will be relevant to the current chapters but at least I can give you nostolgia ^0^
     
  14. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    WHOO! It's here! It took me ages to get there, but it's finished, and it's officially the longest chapter of this fic ever at a full 27 pages in Word. I hope you enjoy it enough to make it worth the wait. I rather like it myself, although there are parts I'm kind of iffy on.

    Splitting into two posts since it's way too long for one.


    Chapter 37: Carl

    “I have to hand it to you,” Chaletwo said grumpily, “that story was pretty good, but could you really not have, you know, antagonized me a little bit less?”

    Oh, shut up, Mark replied. It’s not like they didn’t think you were evil and murderous already. Why do you even care what they think of you? It’s not like it matters.

    It had turned out that one of the citizens owned an Abra, and it was now teleporting the inhabitants of Crater Town, family by family, to safety with friends and relatives. The townspeople stood in a line, looking worriedly at their watches every now and then. The Abra’s trainer, Carl, and Mark by the Gym Leader’s side watched the procedure from a distance.

    In his head, Chaletwo sighed. “Look, Mark…” he said, his telepathic voice pained. “I… I know we haven’t been on the best terms for the past couple of days. You don’t like me. I’ve snapped a little at you. I know. But…” Mark could almost see him wince. “I… I hope you realize that I… really appreciate what you’ve done for our cause so far, and… I must hope you didn’t mean that thing about resigning. We need you. You can’t go on being all rebellious like this. It won’t help anyone. Please just… be reasonable.”

    Mark sighed. Part of him wanted to just say okay and amen and continue being nice-Mark who was a good boy and did everything Chaletwo told him to. No responsibility, no need to think. Definitely comfortable.

    On the other hand the past evening had made him feel better about himself than he ever remembered feeling in his life. Standing up to Chaletwo, supposedly the most powerful Pokémon in the world, and making up some silly story with him as the villain that everybody believed every word of – it seemed almost hilarious. Certainly not like the wimp he had pretty much always been now that he thought about it, what with whining about everything being his teacher’s fault all the time. He was liking it.

    “I’m… I’m sorry about what happened to Suicune,” Chaletwo muttered at last. “I’m every bit as puzzled as you are, believe me. I don’t know what happened out there or what Suicune was thinking, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. We have to move on.” He paused. “It wasn’t my fault,” he added bitterly. “Stop acting like it is. How should I have known Gyarados would kill him? I hate to sound whiny, but blaming me for it is not fair at all.”

    Stop making excuses and try to make yourself sound like you actually care, Mark thought resentfully.

    “I do care!” Chaletwo’s voice shouted in frustration. “But it’s still not my fault! Look, Mark, I know human teenagers supposedly like to rebel and something like that, but…”

    I’m not rebelling, Mark thought, irritated. I’m just finally thinking for myself for once. I’m tired of having you boss me around in my head. From now on, I’m going to make my own decisions.

    There was a short pause. “Mark, you are being ridiculous. You don’t know…”

    I’m not going to sit here refusing to do anything you say or anything. I’m just going to make the final decisions for myself. You can give me information, but you can’t boss me around. No more yelling at me for not looking at the right thing during battles, okay? If you don’t want to see what I want to look at, then for the love of God just come out of your Pokéball and use your own eyes! Mark felt the rant appearing in his head without him really deciding to think it. You know, that’s what gets me the most. You’re always sitting on the sidelines bossing us around, but you’ve never once done anything to deserve it. You’re just making us do all the dirty work for you. That’s not very legendarylike of you, is it?

    “Oh, kind of like Pokémon trainers who sit on the sidelines ordering their Pokémon around?” Chaletwo replied coldly.

    That’s different. Trainers don’t constantly yell at their Pokémon if they do something not quite the way they want it, and the trainers have done something to deserve it, since they defeated the Pokémon in battle when they caught them and that’s all part of the game. I mean, you know things, sure, but… you don’t really have any more of a clue what you’re doing than we do. And… how is that relevant, anyway? If you do something wrong, you’re not suddenly right when you point out somebody else doing it too.

    There was another pause. Finally Chaletwo sighed. “Okay, look, we mustn’t fight. I’ll… try to let you figure things out for yourself more in the future, okay? Let’s just… be friends.”

    Mark nodded grimly to himself, but if Chaletwo was going to reply, he didn’t get the chance because now Carl turned to Mark.

    “Well,” he said, “how do you suggest we go about this tomorrow? Surely you had some sort of a plan?”

    “Eh…” Mark racked his brain quickly. “Well, Chaletwo is going to release Volcaryu at seven o’clock tomorrow morning. Since we can’t really stand on the volcano while it’s erupting and Volcaryu can fly, or so Mew told me – I guess we would be best off in the air, maybe riding some Pokémon with Fly if poss…”

    He stopped abruptly. Speak of the devil.

    In the left side of Mark’s field of vision, he had spotted an all-too-familiar blue-haired girl sitting on the back of her Skarmory as it ascended above the edge of the crater, shortly followed by Alan riding Charlie in Charizard form.

    Carl looked in that direction too upon realizing where Mark was staring. May and Alan spotted them, landed on the wooden floor of Crater Town, recalled their Pokémon, and hurried towards Mark and the Gym leader.

    “Hey, Mark!” Alan called on the way. “We are idiots! We only realized after you left that it would be much quicker to…”

    “I… I’m not who you think I am,” Mark said quickly and loudly, silencing Alan and turning his relieved expression into one of puzzlement. May raised an eyebrow.

    “Do you know them?” Carl asked, his tone of voice somewhere midway between suspicious and conversational so that it was impossible to tell what his real intention was. Mark’s mind raced.

    “I… I lied to you,” he continued, what he hoped was not too soon and not too late, ignoring Carl’s comment. “I… I’m really Mark Greenlet, the guy who was killed by Chaletwo on May 25th.”

    Alan just stood there and blinked.

    “Mark, what the hell are you…” May began, but Mark quickly cut her off, desperately hoping she’d get the hint.

    “No, it’s true,” he babbled. “I’m sorry, I really am. It’s… I’m really resurrected and working for Mew trying to stop Chaletwo from releasing an evil dragon named Volcaryu that’s going to make this volcano erupt tomorrow and… I’ve been undercover so Chaletwo wouldn’t hear that I’m alive and take precautions. All I told you was… just to prevent the news from getting out to where he could hear it. I’m sorry.”

    Mark could almost see the light of understanding flash on in Alan’s face as he caught on. May was still staring at him like some sort of a lunatic, but one elbowing from Alan made her close her mouth and give an ever-so-slight nod to indicate that she got it.

    “So, Carl… do you maybe think they could help tomorrow?” he asked, trying his best to act natural. “I’ve been travelling with them, and they’ve got some good Pokémon that would help when we battle Volcaryu. Actually I… I intended to try to get them to help from the get-go, but I had to come warn you first. So guys, would you mind helping, if… if you can forgive me for lying?”

    “Sure.”

    “Of course.”

    It didn’t sound at all believable in Mark’s opinion, but Carl made no comment.

    “Thanks,” Mark just continued. “I didn’t think I’d be able to defeat it all on my own, and…”

    Carl looked at him out of the corner of his eye. “You wouldn’t have needed to be all on your own anyway. Obviously I will help.”

    For a moment Mark wasn’t sure if that would be overkill. The next moment he wondered why the heck that would be a bad thing. Then he realized that it wouldn’t be overkill at all.

    “Wait,” he said, glancing at May and Alan. “This would have to be pretty much entirely a battle in the air. We can’t have our Pokémon on the volcano while it’s erupting. So all we can do is…” He winced. “We can only use Pokémon that can fly. Or maybe Fire Pokémon that don’t mind the lava and heat. Depends on how Mount Fever erupts…”

    He quickly evaluated this in his mind. He would have Charizard, Scyther and Dragonair. May would have Skarmory, Butterfree and possibly Spirit. Alan would have Charlie and maybe Diamond – and Vicky, of course. They would need whatever backup Carl might have.

    “Well,” Carl said simply, “since I specialize in Fire Pokémon, that will not be a problem on my part.”

    “It will be on ours,” Alan answered, looking back at Mark. “That changes things,” he said anxiously. “That’s… not a lot of Pokémon. It’s like at most ten between the three of us. How are we going to defeat Volcaryu with ten Pokémon?”

    “I have a team of six that would be fine in the battle,” Carl repeated. “That makes sixteen, and my Pokémon are fairly powerful if I do say so myself.”

    “Okay,” Mark began, “I’ll probably ride Charizard, then, and…”

    “Wait a moment,” Carl interrupted. “Let’s discuss this in private.” He turned towards Mayor Daniels, who was standing a short distance away assisting a family with the teleportation.

    “How is the evacuation going?” Carl called.

    “Fine,” the Mayor called back.

    “Would you mind if I took these kids over to the Gym to talk about tomorrow?”

    “I can handle this,” the Mayor said and smiled as he made sure that a little girl was definitely holding the Abra’s hand before it teleported.

    “Good,” Carl simply replied and motioned towards the kids to follow him into the Gym building. They went in through automatic doors into a clean room the size of a small battle arena but lacking the standard floor markings; the floor was all polished white. Mark looked questioningly up at Carl.

    “I never liked the traditional way of handling Gyms,” Carl said without looking at him. “It’s always the same standard battle arena. They’re not interesting to work on. Today we only use this room as an… entrance hall, if you will.”

    Carl led them to the far left corner of the room, where a metallic spiral staircase took them down through the floor. The smell of sulphur that had been consistently present in the town now intensified greatly as they stepped onto bare rock in a cavernous space lit by the glow of molten magma below. Mark looked around; they were in the crater, below the town. Maybe twenty meters above them was the wooden floor they had been standing on only minutes earlier, held up by an elaborate system of support beams, with the evening sky visible through the round hole in the middle of it.

    The town looked a lot more fragile seen from below.

    Tomorrow, Mark thought, his stomach lurching uncomfortably, this will all be gone. Burned.

    An entire town wiped out of existence. The very idea felt absurd and insane. Towns weren’t supposed to be the sort of thing that just ceased to exist one day. And all the inhabitants would be homeless. He shuddered at the thought. He had lived in the same house his whole life; he couldn’t imagine it just suddenly being gone.

    “This is where I hold my Gym battles,” Carl said, snapping Mark out of his thoughts. “Quite a bit more dramatic than that silly old building, don’t you think?”

    Mark couldn’t shake off the feeling that as far as challengers were concerned, it was a great deal less dramatic than it was simply intimidating: the boiling heat, the smell, the uncomfortable knowledge that it was quite possible to fall to one’s death, and the feeling of being far out of one’s home field no doubt made this Gym considerably more of a challenge than it would otherwise be. But he nodded and muttered some words of agreement anyway.

    “So,” Carl then began. “Why don’t you three kids show me what Pokémon you’ve got so we can do some planning and training?”

    They reached for their Pokéballs and Pokémon cries soon filled the crater. Carl looked at each of them in turn, stroking his bearded chin as some of the more heat-sensitive Pokémon whimpered.

    “Could be worse,” he finally concluded. “Mark, you will be able to ride your Charizard, your Dragonair can fight, and your Scyther may be able to battle for a limited amount of time, but being a Bug Pokémon he will not last very long. You, boy…”

    “Alan,” Alan corrected. “And her name’s May.”

    “Yes, Alan, you have a Charizard too, and your Rapidash may perhaps be able to make herself useful, as well as your Misdreavus. Girl – May – your Ninetales can probably fight, and your Skarmory can carry you, but your Butterfree won’t last long. How strong is the shell of your Pupitar?”

    She blinked. “I don’t know.”

    “How well can it resist magma?”

    She shrugged in a manner that failed to be as casual as she intended. “I don’t know.”

    “Only one way to find out,” Carl said, walked straight up to the blue cocoon Pokémon near the edge of the rock they were standing on and pushed him roughly over with his foot so that Pupitar tumbled down towards the red flow of the magma below.

    Mark and Alan stared.

    “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” May shouted heatedly, running pointlessly over to the edge to see her Pokémon fall, motionless, into the lava. Carl ignored her and simply plucked a Pokéball off his own belt.

    “Get the Pupitar, Charizard,” he said calmly as he threw it.

    The Pokéball split open and a blob of white light quickly formed itself into the shape of a slenderly built, golden orange dragon Pokémon – a female, Mark realized as his Charizard and Charlie simultaneously craned their necks in her direction. She glanced at the males with deep green eyes, a hint of a teasing smile around the corners of her mouth, before she took a graceful dive down after Pupitar and picked him up in her arms just as he was about to disappear entirely below the surface of the magma. She swooped back upwards, placing the cocoon Pokémon on the rock in front of a stunned May, and then settled beside her trainer, whipping her tail casually around while looking between Charlie and Charizard in mock disinterest.

    Steam was rising from Pupitar’s body and small orange splotches of cooling magma still stuck to his hide, but his rocklike skin did not look hurt and his expression remained the same cold, distant and staring it seemed to have been frozen as ever since his evolution. May looked blankly at him and apparently deduced that since he had no visible injuries and wasn’t complaining, he must be all right.

    “Hmm, he’s darned strong from the looks of it,” Carl commented after walking a circle around Pupitar to see him from every angle, sounding as if kicking other people’s Pokémon into molten lava was something he did regularly. “Shouldn’t have any problems using him tomorrow. If I were to guess, I’d say he’s pretty close to evolution. Am I right?”

    The angry expression on May’s face had vanished completely and been replaced with a smile of pride. “Yes,” she answered. “He’s around level fifty right now.”

    Carl nodded. “If we’re lucky, we’ll get to use a Tyranitar for the battle, which could improve our chances. Now, I expect you want to see what I’ve got?” He gave the boys a calculating look.

    “That would be great,” Alan replied.

    “Indeed,” Carl agreed, taking his five remaining Pokéballs off his belt. “Come out!”

    Five Pokémon formed on the rock around him to join his Charizard: an Arcanine, a Magcargo, a Flareon, a Magmar and a Camerupt. They looked calmly around between the kids and their Pokémon.

    “They can all battle tomorrow, obviously,” Carl continued. “I will be flying on Charizard, but the others will fight. To try to make the Pokémon who carry us fight at the same time would be foolish at best; a Pokémon should not have to try to concentrate on keeping a rider steady while trying to fight and dodge. The Charizard and Skarmory can therefore be disregarded while we plan our strategy, but if they foresee getting good moves in without trouble, they can do so.” He looked around as if waiting for complaints or questions before going on.

    “Now, I presume that this Volcaryu will be resistant to Fire attacks, and none of the rest of my team can fly, so their usefulness in the battle may be rather limited, as that of the Ninetales and Rapidash. The primary role of responsibility, I would say, goes to May’s Pupitar, who is not only obviously a very well-trained Pokémon,” – he nodded towards May, who beamed with pride – “but can also use Rock attacks and is very resistant to extreme heat, which is something we should expect to be dealing with. Of course, this does not mean that every Pokémon should not do his best. However, they should be ready to take some risks to protect Pupitar and ensure that his attacks hit their target. The Dragonair will most likely be able to be of some help as well, presuming that he knows Dragon moves and that they will be effective against Volcaryu. Any objections to this plan?”

    Alan shrugged. “Sounds good to me.”

    Carl looked at him out of the corner of his eye. “I was asking your Pokémon, not you.”

    “Oh.” There was a chorus of muttered agreement from the Pokémon.

    “Great,” Carl replied. “Now we can battle. Recall all the Pokémon you’re not going to be using tomorrow.”

    Alan looked at Carl, his expression puzzled. “Battle? Why?”

    “Our Pokémon need to get a feel for one another,” the Gym leader answered as if it were obvious. “It will be easier for them to battle together if they’ve had some insight into each other’s battling style. Recall the others, and then it’s you three’s Pokémon against mine, here.”

    Mark looked at him. “O…kay?” It made some sense, although he had never really thought of it that way before. He recalled Jolteon, Sandslash and Letal into their Pokéballs. Beside him, six of May and Alan’s Pokémon disappeared into their balls. The rock they were standing on seemed a lot bigger now that half of their Pokémon were gone, but it was still no full-sized battle arena, and if there were going to be many Pokémon on it at once, Mark couldn’t help thinking that it was awfully likely for someone to fall.

    “Six on ten?” May asked skeptically.

    “Six and home field,” Carl just said.

    May frowned. “Are you sure we can’t battle you one at a time? Our Pokémon have already fought together, so they don’t need any introduction if that’s what you thought. Six on ten sounds pretty chaotic, and I’m not sure there’s enough room here.”

    “But isn’t it technically better to emulate the atmosphere of the actual Volcaryu battle better?” Alan commented. “It is going to be chaotic, after all.”

    “That’s one opponent, though,” May argued. “This is six. I don’t like the idea. I want to be able to focus on taking one Pokémon down without having five others running around and attacking mine while I’m looking elsewhere.”

    “Well, tell you what,” Carl said. “How about I battle the lady in a traditional battle first if that’s what she likes, and then you two boys in a six-on-six simultaneous melee? Hm?” He looked between Mark and Alan.

    “Eh,” Mark said hesitantly, “I… I don’t know. It sounds a little much to be dealing with six Pokémon at the same time.” He looked doubtfully over at Alan, hoping for some support.

    “Fine, fine,” Carl sighed. “I will take on the two of you in two simultaneous three-on-three melees. Three of my Pokémon battle yours, and the other three battle his. Does that sound more manageable to you?”

    Mark looked at Alan again, but judging from his expression he really liked that idea. Mark threw his arms in defeat. “Fine, then. Might as well. Are you going to battle May first?”

    “Sure,” May said immediately, clearly happy enough with this conclusion not to want it changed. Carl did not object to it.

    “It will be six on six, then,” the Gym leader said.

    May looked at him. “What? Why?”

    “The intention is to introduce all the Pokémon who will fight tomorrow to one another, isn’t it? And I will not battle with a handicap. Least of all against a woman.”

    “Is that so?” May asked in an icy voice, giving Carl a glare.

    “Yes,” he replied coolly. “Or are you perhaps of the opinion that women should generally be allowed fewer Pokémon in battle than men?”

    May opened her mouth to reply, her face flushed, but apparently decided not to get into an argument. “I could beat you easily four on six,” she grumbled.

    “No,” Carl just said. “Six on six. You’ve already been the one to decide you will battle alone. Let me then decide the number of Pokémon.”

    May glared. “Fine.” She looked at Mark and Alan. “I think you should go upstairs or something so you won’t get in the way.”

    Alan shrugged and walked off towards the staircase without objection. Mark followed him up into the original Gym battle arena. They heard a faint echo of Carl’s barking voice from below as he laid out the rules of the battle.

    “So,” Alan said after a short silence. “What do we do to pass the time?”

    Mark shrugged. “We could continue that battle we started earlier today.”

    “Oh, yeah,” Alan replied. “That. Sure.”

    There were no floor markings in the room, but Mark just walked to the other end of it, closer to the front door, and faced Alan. “Okay. We start again where we left off, right? Same rules and same Pokémon?”

    “Right.”

    Alan plucked a Pokéball from his belt and sent out Charlie. Mark watched the Charizard stretch and felt for his own Pokéballs with his hand. There was no pool to send out Gyarados – and he wasn’t sure if he’d have wanted to use Gyarados even if he could. The next best thing he had, then, was electricity.

    “Go, Jolteon!” Mark shouted as he threw the Pokéball forward. Jolteon materialized on the floor and looked at Charlie as the dragon Pokémon kicked off the ground.

    “Scary Face!” Alan ordered, and Charlie’s draconic face twisted into something demonic: his eyes rolled back into his head, his mouth opened creepily wide, his fangs seemed to lengthen…

    Mark saw Jolteon flinch. “Don’t let it get to you,” he muttered to his Pokémon despite himself being uncomfortably reminded of a horror movie he had watched in a burst of rebelliousness sometime when he was little and his parents were out. “Thunderbolt!” he said more loudly.

    “Charlie, Fire Spin!” Alan countered. Mark looked down at Jolteon, but the Pokémon hesitated with a quiet whine of fear while the Charizard took a deep breath and flew towards him. Charlie flew in a rapid circle around Jolteon, spinning a wall of flame in his path; Jolteon whimpered somewhere in the middle of the flames.

    “Fire Fang!”

    The dragon Pokémon began to dive down through the flames, more fire licking his teeth, and Mark quickly took out the empty Pokéball. “Jolteon, return!”

    Nothing happened, and Mark looked in confusion between the Pokéball and the two Pokémon, barely visible through the flames; he saw Charlie bite Jolteon’s side with white-hot fangs while the panicking Electric Pokémon yelped. Then the dragon let out a roar of pain, falling backwards and landing harshly on the ground as his muscles convulsed in electric shock.

    “Fire Spin blocks the Pokéball beam,” Alan called helpfully. “Are they both all right?”

    Oh, yeah. Fire Spin. Those moves. Mark vaguely remembered the class on trapping moves. He hadn’t been listening, but the Moltres he’d been drawing had been great.

    Charlie stood up and gave his trainer a nod to indicate that he was fine. Jolteon was still standing inside the ring of fire, although he didn’t look all right at all; he was crouching down in the middle of the ring and tried not to move.

    Then, all of a sudden, he let out an electrified cry and sent a bolt of lightning flying straight at the unprepared Charlie. The dragon Pokémon received another powerful shock and roared in pain before shivering and flying back up into the air.

    “Nice one, Jolteon,” Mark said and smiled grimly. “I guess you’ll have to stay out for a little while longer.”

    “Charlie, use a Slash,” Alan ordered, and the Charizard swooped down through the Fire Spin with his claws raised. Jolteon let out a cry and sent a jagged wave of electricity up towards him. It hit the dragon Pokémon in mid-air and his wings froze; Jolteon leapt out of the way, over the rapidly shrinking wall of flames, and Charlie landed in the middle, paralyzed.

    Alan furrowed his brow. “Charlie, that’s enough,” he said and recalled the Pokémon back into his Pokéball. He paused for a moment. “Do it, Racko!”

    The Grovyle was in mid-leap as he emerged from his Pokéball, focusing his reptilian eyes on Jolteon.

    The Fire Spin had faded down, the last embers sizzling away near the floor, and Jolteon looked like he was in pain. “Come back,” Mark said and recalled him back to the safety of his ball. He thought a bit. Was there any particular reason not to send out Charizard?

    Nope.

    “Go!” he yelled as his own dragon Pokémon was released from the Pokéball. Racko, despite being faced with a Fire-type much larger than himself, was unfazed; if anything his grin widened.

    “Racko, Screech!” Alan ordered, and the Grovyle let out a high-pitched nails-on-chalkboard sound that made Mark wince. Charizard grimaced.

    “Flamethrower!” Mark said quickly.

    “Racko, come back!” Alan said before Charizard could fire the attack, the red Pokéball beam dissolving the Grass Pokémon and zapping him in. “Go, Mist!”

    Charizard fired the Flamethrower anyway, since he’d bothered to prepare for it. As the Vaporeon materialized out of the Pokéball, she was caught in the middle of a column of white-hot flame.

    “Aqua Ring!” Alan said as the flames dissolved and the crouching Mist stood up and shook some soot off her body. She breathed out a thin stream of water that began to circle her and douse her burns.

    “Charizard, Air Slash!” Mark shouted.

    Charizard flew up into the air and made a slashing movement with his wing. A white ripple of energy shot down through the air and hit Mist head-on. She was thrown a little backwards, but resisted it fairly well.

    “Hydro Pump,” Alan said, and the Vaporeon raised her head. Without warning, a jet of water hit Charizard straight in his belly and literally smashed him backwards into the ceiling. The dragon gasped for air and then managed to wriggle quickly out of the stream of water and swoop downwards.

    “Slash!” Mark blurted out without thinking, and his first Pokémon turned as he neared the floor to head straight towards Mist on the other side of the room. The Vaporeon had stopped firing the Hydro Pump but now opened her mouth for another one…

    Charizard pulled up, narrowly escaping the high-pressure jet of water that emerged beneath him. He raised his claws with a growl and raked them across Mist’s body. The Hydro Pump was cut off as she yowled in pain.

    Mark was about to pick up Charizard’s Pokéball to recall him when Alan screamed, “Mist, Whirlpool!”

    A vortex of water sprang up around the two Pokémon in a similar fashion to the Fire Spin before, and he heard Charizard growl. Mark did remember that Whirlpool was also a trapping move. He sighed. “Charizard, uh… Dragon Rage.” He wasn’t sure whether Charizard had learned that move yet, but he seemed to remember that the Charmander family could use it…

    Bingo. Dark red flames erupted out of Charizard’s mouth inside the Whirlpool, enveloping Mist as she cried out in pain. The Vaporeon took a leap through the wall of water, emerging with her wounds doused.

    “This is impossible!” Mark complained in frustration as her scratches began to close before their eyes. Alan laughed.

    “It’s not impossible. You just have to be quick enough to bring her down before the water heals her.”

    Mark racked his brain, trying to think of something Charizard could do while trapped in the Whirlpool. If he flew through it, the water would hurt him, and it would probably dissolve any attempts to use special moves.

    “Charizard, uh,” he said as an idea shamelessly stolen from one of the stories he had heard of Ash Ketchum’s Charmander popped into his head, “try a Rage.”

    Charizard closed his eyes in brief concentration behind the swirling water and then let out an earth-shaking roar before rushing out through the Whirlpool. He let out another roar, this one of pain as his tail flame was briefly drenched in water, but as soon as it came out it flared up with renewed power. Fire burned in the Pokémon’s eyes as he leapt at Mist, fangs bared.

    “Water Pulse!” Alan yelled, and the Vaporeon spat pulsing waves of water from her mouth into Charizard’s face. He scratched at the Water Pokémon for a second, but then stopped, a blank look on his face, and lost his balance, falling clumsily onto the floor.

    “Confused,” Mark muttered to himself. “Charizard, snap out of it!”

    As the Pokémon stood up and shook his head to clear it, his tail flame flared up again. Then he ran towards Mist again, but the Whirlpool moved into his way.

    Mark heard himself let out an awkward yelp as Charizard was sucked back into the watery prison, but the dragon emerged out of the other side with a determined growl, his tail flame burning still brighter, and attacked Mist with tooth and claw.

    “Hydro Pump!”

    For a moment, Mark thought Mist had fallen unconscious under Charizard’s sudden assault, but then Charizard was thrown harshly backwards by a jet of high-pressure water. He landed on the floor and didn’t stand up again.

    “Charizard, return,” Mark said, recalling the Pokémon. “Jolteon, finish this!”

    Jolteon didn’t look his best; there was still a bleeding, charred wound on his side from his battle with Charlie, and he came out of the ball in a crouching position.

    “You can do it, Jolteon,” Mark muttered to encourage him. “One Thunderbolt ought to do the trick.”

    Alan fiddled with his Pokéball belt, but then apparently decided not to recall Mist. “Ice Beam,” he ordered, and the Vaporeon fired a thin beam of ice crystals from her mouth while Jolteon charged up electricity.

    Both attacks hit at the same time. Jolteon was struck with freezing cold while Mist was shocked with powerful electricity, and both Eevee evolutions collapsed on the floor, unable to battle.

    Mark reached down for a Pokéball and decided, for no particular reason, to send out Letal next. Alan reached for a Pokéball too, and they threw them at the same time.

    “Go, Letal!”

    “Racko, your turn again!”

    The two Pokémon emerged on the battlefield. Letal looked calmly into the Grovyle’s eyes.

    “Leaf Blade, Racko!” Alan ordered. “Aim for a spot that’s not armoured!”

    “Letal, use… use Iron Defense!” Mark blurted out, remembering the move vaguely from looking at Letal’s stats in the Pokédex sometime recently.

    While the leaves on the reptile’s arms began to glow with white energy, Letal closed her eyes in concentration, and miraculously, the fine white hair covering her body smoothly transformed into metal. The Grovyle slashed his sharp leaves at her neck and tiny metallic hairs broke off and flew out from the spot where he had struck, but they took out most of the force. When Letal turned to slash back, Mark only saw a shallow cut on her neck, glistening with blood. Letal’s blade cut across Racko’s belly and he cried out in pain.

    “Racko, come back!” Alan yelled. “Go, Diamond!”

    The reptile was called back into the Pokéball while Letal growled after him. Diamond the Rapidash emerged instead, towering over Mark’s Pokémon.

    Letal didn’t look intimidated, but Mark had his doubts that she could beat a Fire-type, especially now that she had metallized her whole body. He was about to pick up her Pokéball when…

    “Diamond, Fire Spin!”

    Mark threw his hands in frustration as the Rapidash breathed out a vortex of fire that enveloped Letal in a matter of seconds. “Stop doing that!” he called across the arena. “You don’t give me any time to switch!”

    Alan grinned. “They’re League-approved, officially recognized attacks. That’s fair game in my book.”

    Mark smiled. He was only pretending to be annoyed, really, and Alan knew it. He hadn’t had this much fun in what felt like a very, very long time – although now that he thought about it, it wasn’t. It gave him a headache to think of all the things that had happened in just the past couple of days.

    But here he was now, in the middle of a Pokémon battle with a friend, and he didn’t intend to let worries about legendary Pokémon take over the moment. It wouldn’t help anyone.
     
  15. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    “Letal, Hypnosis!” he shouted, and Letal jumped out through the flames, wincing in pain while the column of fire followed. As she landed on the floor, she stared intently into Diamond’s eyes, wagging her tail rhythmically…

    “Diamond, Fire Blast!” Alan yelled.

    The fiery unicorn neighed in response and reared in preparation for the attack, but then stopped. She dropped down to her feet, a blank look on her face as if she couldn’t remember what she was doing. She was starting to sway from side to side in rhythm with Letal’s tail.

    “Aw, come on!” Alan said as the Rapidash’s eyelids steadily closed and her head drooped. Mark smiled in triumph.

    “Letal, Headbutt!”

    Letal charged, the Fire Spin licking steadily at her body as she did so, and rammed her head into Diamond’s side. The Rapidash swayed on her feet, but did not wake up from her hypnosis-induced sleep, and fell awkwardly over on her side.

    “Slash!”

    Letal motioned to swing the blade on her head, but Alan had picked up Diamond’s Pokéball. “Return!” he said quickly as the sleeping Rapidash dissolved into red energy and was drawn into the ball.

    “Vicky, do it!” Alan said after a moment’s pause, throwing forth a new Pokéball. Mark was ready when the ghost Pokémon began to materialize and recalled Letal. He knew she would lose the defensive bonus of the Iron Defense if she went back into the ball, but he knew well that the Misdreavus knew Mean Look, and he had only the day before been reminded thoroughly that it was also a move that prevented a Pokémon from escaping. And Letal’s main moves wouldn’t affect a Ghost Pokémon.

    “Dragonair, go!” Mark yelled as he threw the next Pokéball. The slender dragon Pokémon materialized in mid-air and floated calmly as he watched his opponent.

    “Vicky, Confuse Ray!”

    Mark groaned as the Misdreavus’s eyes glowed and a small orb of light appeared in the air in front of the Pokémon. As Vicky opened her eyes again, it darted towards Dragonair and began to wave through the air in front of him. Mark could see the dragon’s eyes flick back and forth between the little light and the Ghost Pokémon as Dragonair tried to concentrate.

    “Safeguard!” Mark blurted out as he remembered that the dragon knew the move. Dragonair shook his head to clear it and his feathery ears perked up as the faint form of a sparkly white bubble of energy formed around him. The ghostly light of the Confuse Ray bounced against the shield a few times in failed attempts to penetrate it before fading away into nothing.

    Alan sighed, thinking for a moment. “Shadow Ball,” he then ordered.

    “Dragonair, Dragon Rush!” Mark countered quickly.

    Dragonair shot up into the air and flared up in blue flames that gave Mark uncomfortable flashbacks from the battle with Thunderyu. As Vicky finished charging an orb of shadowy material in front of her, the dragon Pokémon dived.

    The Shadow Ball rushed upwards. Dragonair’s flaring form rushed downwards.

    Mark stared, open-mouthed, as Vicky’s attack collided with Dragonair’s body and didn’t even slow him down. It did, however, cause the blue fire enveloping his body to darken and intensify, as if it had somehow sucked in the Shadow Ball’s power.

    Dragonair’s body slammed into the Misdreavus’s ghostly form and caused a momentary explosion of dark blue flames. The Misdreavus screamed in pain, her voice something shrill and inhuman.

    When the flame cleared, Dragonair was lying on the floor, shaking his head as he tried to rise, and Vicky was floating weakly in mid-air, letting out pained moans.

    “Vicky, are you all right?” Alan asked, his tone concerned. The Pokémon squeezed her eyes shut and tried to steady herself, nodding in a rather unconvincing way. Dragonair got up from the floor and took off into the air again, apparently not hurt too badly.

    “Think you have the strength for…” Alan looked at Mark out of the corner of his eye. “For our standard techniques?”

    He saw Vicky shake her head.

    “Okay, then.” Alan straightened himself. “Pain Split!”

    The Misdreavus smiled slyly and her eyes glowed with a hellish red color. Dragonair cried out in pain as small, white orbs of energy ripped themselves loose from his body and rushed towards Vicky instead, smearing across her burns and healing them a little in a matter of seconds.

    “Vicky, return,” Alan said quickly before Mark could issue any additional orders. “Pamela, go!”

    Mark fiddled with his Pokéball belt while Alan’s Persian materialized on the floor, but decided against switching. Dragonair didn’t seem that hurt, and the Dragon Rush attack, which he had never used before, had thoroughly impressed him; he hadn’t really realized how powerful Dragonair could actually be before. Or rather, he had read plenty about it, but getting one of his own had left him ever-so-slightly disappointed as Dragonair hadn’t quite lived up to Mark’s overblown expectations. Until now.

    “Dragonair, use another Dragon Rush!”

    “Fake Out!” Alan roared.

    Pamela sprang up with an intimidating hiss, startling Dragonair as he was preparing for his attack. The dragon flames died abruptly as the feline Pokémon pounced, slamming her paw and raised claws into the dragon’s head and smashing him down into the floor with practiced accuracy. Dragonair completely lost his concentration for the Dragon Rush attack and shook his head to regain his directions while the Persian retreated to a safe distance.

    “Swift,” Alan said with a triumphant grin, and while Dragonair was still heaving himself off the floor, the Persian opened her mouth to release a flurry of spinning, bright white stars of energy that scattered in all directions before centering in on Mark’s Pokémon. Dragonair looked hopelessly up and closed his eyes while the attack bombarded him, and when the last of the stars had smashed into his body, he had already been knocked unconscious.

    Pamela responded to Mark’s blank stare with an expression that reeked of superiority complex.

    “She’s a Technician, Mark,” Alan said and grinned. “Master of simple moves that people don’t expect to be that powerful.”

    Mark sighed momentarily, his hand wandering over his Pokéballs, and then remembered that the Technician ability wasn’t actually anything he was completely unfamiliar with.

    “Scyther, go!” he shouted, hurling the mantis’s Pokéball forward.

    “Pamela, another Swift!” Alan yelled as Scyther materialized in the air. The Persian fired another flurry of stars that homed in on Mark’s Pokémon as soon as he had fully taken shape. Scyther shielded his head with his scythes, wincing in pain as the stars struck him.

    Mark decided to strategize momentarily. Alan’s remaining Pokémon were the paralyzed Charlie, the sleeping Diamond, Racko, Vicky who was pretty severely injured, and of course Pamela herself. None of them were anything Mark would definitely have to switch Scyther out against.

    So it wouldn’t be a waste of time to buff him up a little bit.

    “Scyther, Swords Dance!”

    The mantis Pokémon nodded briefly and spun quickly around in an elaborate dance accented by the fluid motions of his scythes.

    “Taunt!” Alan ordered quickly.

    Pamela tilted her head with a sly smile. “Come get me, Scizor,” she purred, the gem in her forehead gleaming. Scyther stopped the Swords Dance, something red flashing in his eyes, and in an instant he was leaping towards Pamela, roaring in fury.

    “Fury Cutter,” Mark called, not sure if Scyther had the mental capacity to register the order at the moment. The Pokémon’s scythes began to emit a faint, lime green glow as he swung them madly at the Persian, the glow accumulating with each strike while the feline tried to evade him.

    “Power Gem!” Alan shouted.

    Pamela took a leap just out of Scyther’s reach, and while the mantis was turning around, a beam of energy erupted out of the red gem on her forehead, striking Scyther straight in the chest and throwing him backwards as he cried out in pain. The glow of his scythes faded while he landed and regained his bearings. Pamela was rather badly cut in many spots, but Scyther looked severely weakened.

    Mark sighed in defeat, holding out the mantis’s Pokéball. “Scyther, return.”

    He knew just who could really kick Pamela’s behind, and mentally slapped himself for not having realized it earlier.

    “Letal, go! Use Iron Defense!” he yelled as he threw the next Pokéball and Letal emerged. She had some burns and still that faint cut on her neck, but overall she wasn’t in such a bad state. She immediately began to concentrate and the fine coat of hair on her body turned metallic as it had before.

    “Return, Pamela,” Alan said, recalling the Persian. “Diamond, go!”

    The Rapidash was again lying awkwardly on her side, fast asleep, when she materialized from the Pokéball. Being sent out again didn’t seem to have gotten her one bit closer to waking up.

    “Letal, Slash!” Mark called, knowing that recalling her now would only waste time that Diamond could use to wake up. Letal ran towards the Rapidash, readying the blade on her head, and slashed across Diamond’s shoulder with it.

    The Fire Pokémon’s eyes popped open.

    “Letal, come back!” Mark shouted quickly while Diamond frantically attempted to stand up; he didn’t want to end up trapped by Fire Spin again. He replaced the Pokéball on his belt and didn’t hesitate before picking Sandslash to replace her.

    “Do it!” he cried as he threw the ball that contained the first Pokémon he had caught. The pangolin materialized quickly and looked at the Rapidash on the other side of the room. She had now managed to rise fully.

    “Sandslash, Earthquake!”

    “Bounce!” Alan yelled.

    Sandslash leapt into the air and smashed his clawed paws into the floor, but Diamond had already undertaken an impressive leap. Mark watched the Fire Pokémon soar through the air up by the high ceiling, evading the attack entirely while the floor rumbled with powerful but useless ripples.

    “Look out!” he cried as the Rapidash began to descend, aiming straight towards Sandslash. The pangolin curled himself quickly into a spiky ball and began to roll out of the way; Diamond quickly changed her direction in the air and landed with her hooves on top of Sandslash’s body. There was a worrying crack, but then the curled Sandslash slipped out from underneath her, rolled a short distance, and finally uncurled. The pangolin shook himself, but didn’t seem too hurt.

    “Flare Blitz!” Alan ordered quickly.

    “Earthquake again!” Mark countered.

    Diamond’s body flared up in bright flames as Sandslash leapt into the air. The Rapidash rushed towards him as he plunged downwards, and just when he had smashed his paws down and produced a further flurry of ripples in the floor, Diamond’s fiery body smashed into him and briefly enveloped him in flames. Sandslash cried out in pain and was thrown a few meters backwards, but as soon as the flames had faded, the Rapidash collapsed, shivering, onto the floor.

    Sandslash uncurled from the ball he had assumed for protection while flying through the air, and although he had nasty-looking burn marks, he was still standing.

    “Diamond, return,” Alan said, immediately picking his next Pokéball. “Racko, go!”

    Mark recalled Sandslash while Alan’s ball was still in the air, knowing he was very hurt and wouldn’t be able to stand a chance against the Grass Pokémon. He replaced the ball on his belt and took out Scyther’s instead.

    “You can handle this!” he shouted as he threw the ball. The Grovyle had already materialized on the floor; there was a deep cut across his red belly from where Letal had slashed him earlier, but otherwise he hadn’t been hurt very much. Scyther, on the other hand, had been weakened considerably by the battle with Pamela.

    Alan looked between Racko and Scyther for a couple of seconds, but then picked up a Pokéball. “Racko, come back,” he said, holding out the ball, and a red beam shot out from the Pokéball button and began to dissolve the Grovyle into red energy.

    Scyther glanced at Mark for a fraction of a second and then darted forward without warning, dark energy circling his scythes. Mark stared, dumbfounded, as the mantis slashed the rapidly dissolving shape of red light – and the Grovyle’s distorted voice actually cried out in pain for a second before he was beamed into the Pokéball.

    Alan rubbed his forehead. “Forgot Scyther could use Pursuit. See, this is why I quit training.”

    The older boy took out another Pokéball. “Charlie, Flamethrower him and finish this.”

    Mark had only a panicked second to consider his options. If he switched Scyther out, he’d have to switch to Letal since Sandslash couldn’t really hurt the flying Charizard, but then Charlie would get an entirely free hit in and his Flamethrower would probably finish Letal off anyway since she was a Steel Pokémon.

    So he’d have to keep Scyther out and hope he, weak as he was, would be able to attack at least once before Charlie roasted him.

    “Scyther!” he shouted as the white energy from Alan’s Pokéball formed into the shape of a dragon. “Be ready to Slash!”

    The mantis charged, raising his scythes. Charlie materialized fully on Alan’s end of the room with flames already licking the corners of his mouth.

    The Charizard attempted to throw his neck forward, but it was still stiff and paralyzed after Charlie’s battle with Jolteon. This bought Scyther the extra fraction of a second he needed to slash his scythes across the dragon Pokémon’s belly, just as Charlie, with a roar of effort and pain, released a bright blast of flames.

    Scyther was already unconscious by the time the flames cleared. Charlie dropped down to all fours, took a few exhausted breaths, and then collapsed in defeat.

    They both recalled their Pokémon. Mark had two Pokémon left; Alan had three. It wasn’t looking very good for him. Alan had Racko, Pamela and Vicky left; if he sent out Racko, Sandslash would certainly be screwed.

    So Mark took out Letal’s Pokéball.

    “Go!” the two trainers shouted at the same time, hurling their balls forward. While Letal materialized, Mark looked desperately at the shape coming out of Alan’s ball, hoping it was the Grovyle so that Sandslash wouldn’t have to deal with him later – and his wish was granted.

    “Letal, Iron Defense!” he yelled as soon as he realized that she was up against Racko. Yet again, the fine hairs of her body stiffened into metal.

    “Use an Energy Ball,” Alan said.

    The Grovyle jumped up and an orb of pleasant green energy formed in front of him. With simply a flick of his wrist as he landed, it was sent flying towards Letal. She let out a metallic cry of pain as it smashed into her body.

    “Hypnosis!” Mark blurted out.

    “Detect!” Alan yelled. As Letal began to stare intently at Racko, his eyes flashed and he jumped skilfully to the side, out of her hypnotic gaze. Before she had even fully turned, he had jumped out of the way again. Letal growled in annoyance.

    Mark was fairly sure he could remember that nothing could strike the Grovyle now unless he were to be distracted with another command from his own trainer. “It’s no use, Letal,” he said to his Pokémon. “Use Agility.”

    Letal turned to run, accelerating with unnatural speed as she darted across the room. Alan looked quickly at her and then issued the next order: “Okay, Racko, another Energy Ball.”

    “Iron Tail!” Mark shouted.

    The Agility had made Letal faster. She zoomed towards the Grovyle, her body almost a blur, and swung her tail at her opponent.

    Mark didn’t know if it was just luck or if her aim was really that astoundingly good – he had seen her accurately predict where a diving Pidgeot would land after being hypnotized to sleep, after all – but her tail sliced right into the previous cut from when she had slashed him with the blade on her head.

    The reptilian Pokémon screeched in horrible pain as blood gushed out of the deep wound. He lost his concentration for his planned Energy Ball completely, and Letal happily used the opportunity to slash once more at his chest. His eyes rolled backwards into his head as he began to fall limply to the ground.

    “Racko, return,” Alan said hastily, recalling the Pokémon before he ever fully hit the floor. He gave Letal a freaked glance as he put the Pokéball back on his belt.

    Well. Incredibly enough, the battle was now even. So to speak. At least they both had two Pokémon left.

    “Go, Pamela.”

    The Persian emerged from her Pokéball. Letal faced her, shivering in exhaustion.

    “All right, Letal, you can do this,” Mark murmured. “You’ve got boosted defensive abilities and speed and you’re a Steel Pokémon. Don’t give up on me.”

    Letal looked at him strangely, as if the suggestion was something absurd. Mark couldn’t help smiling.

    “Okay, Letal!” he shouted. “Use Hypnosis!”

    “Fake Out!” Alan yelled.

    Again, the Persian jumped at Mark’s Pokémon with blinding speed and a menacing hiss. Letal flinched as Pamela struck her down with heavy paws, but her metallic armor made it significantly less effective than it had been on Dragonair. Letal stood up again after Pamela had retreated to a safe distance and gave the Persian her hypnotic stare.

    Pamela snorted, about to turn around to demonstrate how ineffective it was, but seemingly forgot what she was doing in mid-turn.

    “Pamela,” Alan groaned as her eyelids sank downwards and she lay down on the floor to announce her newfound happiness with dreamy purring.

    Mark broke into a smile, his heart pounding as he eyed a possibility of actually winning the battle. “All right, Letal! Iron Tail!”

    Letal rushed towards Pamela, her metallic tail taking on a white glow, and then smashed it into the cat Pokémon’s body. Pamela rolled backwards like a ragdoll, but then her eyes snapped open and she leapt to her feet with a hiss.

    “Shock Wave!” Alan yelled.

    The Persian crouched down and the red gem on her head turned yellow as she sent an electric pulse straight at Letal.

    The Steel Pokémon screeched in pain as the electricity coursed through her body, and Mark could tell she wouldn’t stay conscious for very long. He bit his lip.

    Letal opened her eyes, straightened herself and stared straight forward with glazed-over eyes – Mark was sure she was about to collapse in exhaustion – but then she lowered her head, her face mask began to glow, and suddenly three beams of pale energy shot from the three ends of the mask, striking Pamela simultaneously.

    The cat shrieked in pain as her body erupted in simultaneous sparks, icicles and flames, and while Letal gave way to unconsciousness, the sparks lingered behind.

    Pamela was paralyzed.

    “Get a Swift in on Sandslash when he sends him out!” Alan shouted.

    Mark quickly recalled Letal. “Go, Sandslash!” he yelled, throwing his last Pokéball. “Use an Earthquake, quickly!”

    Sandslash appeared in mid-air and smashed down onto the floor while Pamela struggled to move without success. As liquidlike ripples spread through the arena, the Persian mewled in pain and finally collapsed onto the floor, defeated.

    Alan raised his eyebrows. “This would be much better TV material than some trainers getting creamed 3-0 in the League,” he said as he plucked his own last Pokéball off his belt and threw it.

    Vicky, still rather weak, appeared in a burst of white light.

    And Mark realized that Earthquake and Slash wouldn’t be able to do a thing to her.

    “Sandslash, what else do you know?” he asked frantically.

    “Gyro Ball,” said Sandslash, curling himself up into a ball that turned strangely metallic, rolling a little backwards and then driving himself forward.

    Alan watched as the shiny ball that was Sandslash hurled itself through the air towards the Misdreavus.

    “Destiny Bond!” he roared.

    Sandslash made contact with Vicky’s clothlike physical body and she screamed eerily in pain as she was thrown backwards in a high arc across the room. And, glowing with a ghostly purple color, Sandslash was thrown in an identical arc in the other direction as well and cried out in the same pain. Vicky bounced back up after falling below a certain point in the air. Sandslash just kept going and crashed pathetically into the floor.

    And neither of them moved.

    “It’s a draw,” Alan said at last, recalling Vicky. “Whoa. Good game.”

    Mark recalled the immobile Sandslash as well. “Destiny Bond? That was just cheap.”

    But he grinned as he said it, and Alan grinned back. He hadn’t had this much fun battling since… well, unless his memory failed him, actually, it was the most fun battle he had ever had, period. He didn’t even know entirely why.

    “So, should we check on May and Carl?” Alan asked, pointing at the hole behind him with his thumb. Mark nodded and followed him down the ladder.

    He almost laughed.

    May was standing there with a perfectly serious expression, holding the Pokéball of the Trapinch that was materializing in front of her while Carl’s Charizard, her green eyes twinkling in amusement, stood on the other side of the rock, tilting her head. She had clearly been hurt by whatever May had had out before, judging by her bruises. Behind Carl stood his other five Pokémon, watching; all of them were slightly cut and bruised, but a supply of Potion bottles beside them and a few empty ones lying around indicated that May’s Pokémon had left them far worse than they looked now. It took a moment for Mark to realize that of course, without Lapras, any six-on-six battle she had must include her Trapinch. She’d given Carl that handicap after all.

    “Last Pokémon,” May said, glancing at the boys before looking back at Trapinch. “Now, use a Sand-Attack.”

    She looked very strangely calm for someone left with a weak, freshly caught, unevolved Pokémon against a strong, loyal, evolved one, and just that tipped Mark off that she had to have something up her sleeve. Carl, on the other hand, didn’t know May well enough to be able to jump to such conclusions, and simply raised his eyebrows before giving his Charizard a command:

    “Flamethrower.”

    The Trapinch was already preparing for his attack and quickly kicked a cloud of previously nonexistent sand straight into the Charizard’s eyes before she had time to move. Blinded, she growled in annoyance, but then breathed out a blast of flames which, despite her lack of sight, hit Trapinch head-on.

    The antlion Pokémon screeched in pain and emerged when the fire cleared covered in soot. He looked miserably at May.

    “Come on,” she muttered. “I checked you in my Pokédex earlier.”

    And as if in response to her words, the Pokémon took on a bright white glow. Trapinch doubled in size in a matter of seconds, growing a leaner body, smaller head and diamond-shaped wings as he did, and finally the glow faded from the newly-evolved Vibrava. He shook the remaining soot off his wings and looked at May with a questioning gaze. Mark stared open-mouthed at him.

    “Charizard, finish it off with Heat Wave,” Carl ordered calmly.

    “Sonicboom!” May said sharply.

    It was first now that Mark noticed Carl’s Charizard was paralyzed. She grunted as she strained to move her stiff muscles, and meanwhile May’s Vibrava took off the ground, his wings buzzing as he tried them out for the first time. The Charizard took a deep breath, but while she did, Vibrava’s wings broke the sound barrier with a deafening crack and a sonic shockwave was sent straight at Carl’s Pokémon.

    “Follow up with a Dragonbreath!” May shouted while the Charizard roared in pain, spluttering flames from her mouth and in the process losing her concentration for her own attack. Vibrava opened his mouth and breathed a cloud of sparkly fire at his opponent. The Charizard’s paralysis intensified and she turned her gaze towards her trainer with a soft growl.

    Carl nodded. “I forfeit. Good battle. I guess we have an eleventh Pokémon for tomorrow now.”

    His Magmar had already picked up a few potion bottles and Carl took them without words, roughly spraying the Charizard’s entire body with a Paralyz Heal and a Hyper Potion. “Use the time to heal your Pokémon,” he said to the kids while his Charizard stretched her wings so he could give them a nice dose of anti-paralysis agent. “I’ve got enough supplies, and the Pokémon Center is being evacuated so you won’t get any help there.”

    Mark and Alan sent out their unconscious Pokémon, picked up some of the bottles and began to work on reviving them. None had sustained any terrible injuries, so it was a fairly quick job. Meanwhile Carl finished healing his Charizard and applied some final potions to his other Pokémon’s wounds.

    “All right,” he said, standing up after spraying an injury on his Arcanine’s paw, “let’s get started.”

    Alan raised his eyebrows. “Already?”

    Carl glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. “Why not? Unless your Pokémon have any objections?” He looked questioningly at Alan’s Pokémon, but they collectively shook their heads. Mark couldn’t help finding the thought of them not being tired kind of bizarre, but it was undeniable that Elixirs did their job well.

    “Great,” Carl just said. May had walked up to the wall of the volcano after recalling Vibrava and stood there with folded arms, watching. The Gym leader walked to one side of the rock, followed by his Pokémon.

    “Well,” he said, looking at Mark and Alan. “Keep your three each and recall the others so we can get started.”

    Mark recalled Letal, Sandslash and Jolteon, leaving Scyther, Charizard and Dragonair out in front of him while Racko, Mist and Pamela were sucked into their balls as well.

    Carl paused thoughtfully. “Magmar, Charizard and Magcargo, you can deal with Mark’s team. Arcanine, Flareon and Camerupt, get ready to fight Alan’s.”

    His Pokémon did as he instructed, three of them settling opposite Mark’s Pokémon. He tried desperately to form some sort of strategy in his head, but no matter how he thought about it, Carl’s Pokémon inevitably had the offensive advantage.

    “Camerupt, use Earth Power on the Rapidash!” Carl barked. “Magcargo, hit the Charizard with Ancientpower! Arcanine, Crunch the Misdreavus! Charizard, Dragon Claw on Dragonair! Everyone else, use fire! Go!”

    Carl’s Pokémon swooped into action before Mark had time to think. Thankfully his Pokémon were more focused than he was. Charizard raised his claws, swooping down towards Carl’s Magmar just as the ducklike Pokémon took a deep breath and fired a Flamethrower towards Scyther. The mantis dodged out of the way, helped by Charizard’s Slash which prevented the Magmar from keeping up and reaiming the attack. Meanwhile, blue flames formed around the female Charizard’s curled fist and she dove gracefully towards Dragonair while he waved his tail in a threatening manner.

    “Dragonair, what are you…” Mark began, but was cut off as the Charizard went for it, lunged down as dragon flames circled her razor-sharp claws and raked them sharply across Dragonair’s belly. In retaliation, Dragonair’s entire tail turned liquid and he slammed it into the other dragon’s body. Droplets of water were sprayed all around, and Carl’s Pokémon flinched as the minute amount of water hit them. The warm rock they were standing on hissed as drops landed on it and evaporated as if to remind them that they were inside a volcano.

    “Mag!” cried the Magcargo’s deep voice as large chunks of lava tore themselves out of the rock they were standing on and hurled themselves at Charizard. He froze for a second, but then tried to throw himself to the side. With a simple movement of his head, Magcargo made them follow him.

    Mark was startled by a cry of pain and quickly looked towards the source of it: Scyther, being roasted by a combined Flamethrower from Carl’s Magmar and Charizard. The golden dragon had a large, bleeding cut across her stomach that looked like Scyther had inflicted it while Mark was looking elsewhere. It was far too confusing to keep track of three opponents at once. He was vaguely aware of Carl barking commands to his Pokémon on Alan’s side as Scyther dropped down onto the rock, unconscious.

    Mark took out his Pokéball, thinking frantically. “Dragonair, use another Aqua Tail!” he blurted out. “On... Magcargo.” As he remembered the lava snail Pokémon again, he jerked his head around to see where Charizard was and at first couldn’t see him, but then he emerged, battered and bruised, from below the rock. “Charizard, attack Magcargo too, maybe use Dragon Rage…”

    He recalled Scyther’s unconscious body just as he saw Carl turn around. “Magcargo, use a Lava Plume on Dragonair!” the Gym leader ordered sharply. “Magmar, get Dragonair with a Confuse Ray. And Charizard, stop the male.”

    Magmar, to Mark’s great dismay, was faster than Dragonair. The duck-billed Fire Pokémon breathed out a small, bright, bluish-white flame, which began to dance around Dragonair’s head, trying to distract him. While Charizard took in a breath, aiming towards Magcargo, the female growled and flew straight at his back, forcing his head down so that the blast of crimson flames that he released from his mouth only hit the lava. She locked her jaws around the horns on his head, forcing his mouth to point away from her as she lodged her claws into his shoulders; he roared in pain and could no longer stay aloft. The two dragons tumbled down past the edge of the rock, snarling and growling as they plunged towards the magma below.

    Mark’s heart jumped in panic before he reminded himself frantically that Charizard could stand that kind of heat. Dragonair cried out in pain and Mark turned quickly towards him to see him enveloped in a fountain of molten lava that had risen from the lake of magma below. Carl’s Magcargo looked weak and was in a puddle of water, meaning Dragonair had managed to use Aqua Tail once, but it was not enough.

    “Dragonair, try to get Magcargo again with Aqua Tail!” Mark called quickly before hurrying closer to the edge of the rock so that he could see Charizard.

    Far below, the golden female was trying to push Charizard into the lava. Her claws still dug into his shoulders while he flapped his wings in feeble attempts to shake her off. His fiery tail lashed around, beating against her back, but she countered it by wrapping her own tightly around it and wrestling it down while his body sank slowly further into the magma. Charizard wrenched his horns free from her jaws with a jerk of his head, turned his neck and then blasted a Dragon Rage into her face. The female jerked in pain and surprise, giving him an opportunity to slam one of his wings into her and push her off his back. He attempted to get out of the magma, but it took him only a second to realize that he couldn’t get out without any support.

    Charizard looked quickly to his side, seeing where Carl’s Charizard was seemingly trying to somehow swim towards the rock the trainers were standing on, and dug his claws into her tail, pulling himself closer to her. She jerked, sinking a little deeper into the lava as she turned quickly onto her back while dark flames formed in her mouth, but meanwhile Charizard had climbed on top of her, pushing her body down into the magma just as she had done to him.

    She breathed the Dragon Rage into his face with a roar, but he was ready for it and persisted in pushing her down. She slammed her tail into his wing, causing him to growl in pain, but he wrapped his own around hers. She glared at him in a manner that suggested she found it extremely cheap of him to steal her techniques, and the corners of his mouth curled up into a grin in response. He was bigger and heavier than her; he could almost certainly keep her down more easily than she had him.

    The female raised her neck out of the lava, suspiciously slowly. Charizard seemed too surprised to realize he could take advantage of this until she had already reached up to his neck and… licked it?

    Mark stared. Yes, she was actually licking him… and curling her tail all-too-lovingly around his… and running her claws lightly around his shoulders…

    He felt himself blushing furiously and quickly turned around. Dragonair was no longer being chased by the Confuse Ray, but his skin looked badly charred and his flight was weak; Carl seemed to have recalled Magcargo and was now apparently about to issue an order to Magmar.

    “Um,” Mark said, pointing vaguely down. Carl looked at him and raised his eyebrows in mock surprise, seeming extremely amused.

    Alan looked at Mark and then to where he was pointing, and immediately burst out laughing. May walked curiously towards the edge. Something made Mark look again too.

    He had looked just in time, because the moment he did so, Carl’s Charizard suddenly rolled over in the magma, throwing the male off her now that she had gotten him to almost completely relax his hold on her and let his guard down. Charizard grunted in surprise as she quickly made her way towards the bottom of the rock and climbed into its side, blasting a cone of crimson dragon fire down towards where he was still struggling in the magma. Charizard roared in pain, coughing and spluttering, while Carl’s Charizard prepared for another Dragon Rage.

    “Stop,” Mark said, shaking his head. He took out Charizard’s Pokéball and recalled him. A dragon-shaped hole in the lava was left, filling up in a couple of seconds.

    Mark replaced the Pokéball on his belt, feeling a bit embarrassed on Charizard’s behalf, before looking quickly back towards his battle. His heart sank when he saw that Dragonair was already lying unconscious on the rock with Magmar still standing and felt a little guilty for having one of his Pokémon faint without him even noticing it.

    “Dragonair, return,” he muttered while Carl’s Charizard landed on top of the rock. He had not only been beaten, but beaten badly: his team had only taken down one of Carl’s Pokémon, and the weakest of them to boot. Alan’s battle, on the other hand, was still ongoing, and he quietly moved to the wall of the crater where May stood to watch it.

    Alan’s Pokémon had apparently brought down Carl’s Flareon and Camerupt, but they had taken out both Diamond and Vicky, leaving Charlie facing Carl’s Arcanine. Neither of them seemed particularly injured so far, but Charlie was swooping down with his claws raised to rake them across the Arcanine’s face.

    “Thunder Fang!”

    The fiery dog growled and sparks circled his fangs before he jumped and sank his teeth into Charlie’s tail. Electricity coursed through the dragon’s body and he fell harshly down onto the rock. Carl’s Arcanine took a leap backwards, allowing Charlie to stand up, and then sped towards him again and tackled him powerfully back to the ground.

    “Charlie, Air Slash!” Alan yelled desperately.

    “Extremespeed,” Carl said calmly, and before Charlie had the time to fly up again, Arcanine had in a blur of motion tackled him down again. Charlie attempted weakly to get up again, but then fell back down, unconscious.

    “Good battle,” Carl said simply, taking out all his Pokéballs again. “Let’s all heal up and then go to bed, shall we? Big day tomorrow, and the Pokémon Center has plenty of empty rooms.”

    Mark muttered something in agreement and sent Charizard, Dragonair and Scyther out again while Alan brought him a few potion bottles. Charizard looked with embarrassment at Carl’s female, who winked with a teasing grin before turning around to let Carl spray some Potion on the cut on her belly.

    “Well, that battle was… interesting.” Mark coughed, not sure how to finish the thought.

    “Awkward,” Charizard agreed, and Mark could have sworn he saw the dragon’s face slightly reddening.

    “Very.”

    “Although at the same time, it was… kind of nice.”

    Mark couldn’t help snickering. “Charizard in love.”

    “I hate you sometimes,” the Pokémon muttered.

    It didn’t take very long to finish healing all of the Pokémon, and everyone agreed that it would be smart to let them sleep outside their balls before the big battle. Carl’s Pokémon, apparently, always slept down on that rock in the crater where they’d just been battling, but the kids let theirs out to sleep in the actual Gym building, where it turned out Carl had a few old mattresses that they could use to make themselves comfortable. Only Spirit refused to sleep in the Gym, insisting that she sleep in May’s room.

    When they stepped out of the Gym building, having left the other Pokémon, it was dark. Only a few people remained in the evacuation line as the Abra reappeared and the Mayor ushered a young couple towards the Pokémon.

    “How goes the evacuation?” Carl called.

    “Fine, fine,” Mayor Daniels replied distractedly. “We’re nearly done, as you can see. Will you stay until we finish?”

    “No,” Carl said. “We have to wake up early tomorrow. We’d best get to bed.”

    The Mayor nodded as the Abra teleported off with the couple. “All right. Good night, then.”

    “Good night to you too, Mayor.”

    “Well,” Alan said. “So don’t we just go to the Pokémon Center, and you go home?”

    “Yes,” Carl replied, but when Mark prepared to go after May and Alan, he put a hand on his shoulder. “Not you. I said I’d keep an eye on you, and I will. You can sleep on my couch.”

    Mark shrugged. “Okay, then,” he said to May and Alan. “Good night.”

    “Good night.” They looked at him, clearly puzzled, but just shrugged and turned away.

    Mark hurried after Carl, who took him to the building beside the Gym. It was a rather small house, and for some reason he noticed when they stepped in and Carl turned on the lights that there were no photos or pictures on the walls anywhere. The living room consisted of one old couch and a television in front of it, with one end of the room and a table seeming to serve as the kitchen. There were two doors on the left wall, one to a small bathroom and one to a bedroom, but otherwise the house had only that one room.

    “That’s the couch,” Carl said, pointing at the old one in front of them. The upholstery was a kind of sickly grayish-yellowish-green color, but it did look soft. Mark shrugged and put his backpack beside it.

    “Let me tell you one thing,” Carl then said, his voice harsh. “I’m not buying it. Your story makes little sense, I never much believed in legendary Pokémon, and it’s blatantly obvious that your friends know more than they say they do. I don’t like liars. I’d have thrown you out on the spot but for that you happened to come here the very day after our scientists picked up something fishy with the volcano. If this is your idea of a sick joke, you are one very, very lucky prankster… for now.” Carl made a point of locking the door very carefully, removing the key and putting it in his pocket. “But any responsible man who cares for his hometown would have it evacuated if anything seems to suggest it might be destroyed. I don’t know how you could have found out about the volcano stirring, but at least it grants your explanation some benefit of doubt, and that is the only reason why I’m playing along with it. The evacuation would have happened even if you hadn’t come. Don’t think you’ve fooled anyone with this just because appropriate precautions for the situation are being taken. And I swear that if your Volcaryu does not burst out of the mountain tomorrow, the consequences for you will not be amusing in the slightest. Do you understand?”

    Mark shivered. “Yes.”

    “Good,” Carl said, went into the bedroom and closed the door. Mark stared after him, still unnerved by the speech and how easily something could go wrong.
     
  16. iDemon

    iDemon Well-Known Member

    Amazing...absolutely amazing. I have been reading the chapters for hours and I am just....impressed. You have great detail and keep your charaters in personality at all times and know when to change it. You are able to multi-task using mutiple Pokemon to battle and characters to work as well. Nice grammar as well. You just got a new reader Dragonfree. Keep up the good work.
     
  17. Razor Shiftry

    Razor Shiftry Cynthia = Porn Star

    OMG. WOW. *speechless* i am in awe of your multi-pokemon battling. *writes down notes for future refence*. you are truly a talented writer Dragonfree! *thumbs up*
     
  18. Psychic

    Psychic Really and truly

    Awesome! After over six months I have finally replied, and have caught up to the current part of the adventure, not that there was a ton of progression from the past two chapters - but a helluvalotta heated battles!

    I gotta hand that to ya; the battles are all well thought-out, with some great and diverse uses of attacks (and abilities - I loved the way you described Technician). Mark and Alan's battle threw me off a bit with all the switching, but it was intense, and I loved Carl's Charizard and her technique, though I found it to be...a bit random. But you certainly got a few giggles out of me. Female Chaizard rule, but almost every 'Zard I've ever seen, in any fic, game team or whatever, is male. So yes, more power to her, and I'd love to see her acting independently more, especially since there are two males around. Dragon hormones! ^^

    The plot is developing interestingly enough, and I’m really wondering what’s going to happen with Carl. I love the little spot Mark got himself into, and I have the worst feeling that something is going to go terribly wrong in that Volcaryu won’t come out and Mark will get into a pile of shi – I mean shaving cream. ^.^ Really curious to see if it goes all right.

    As always, characters were portrayed really well. You did a good job having Mark sort of detach himself from the situation as he realized that one of his favourite Pokémon had been killed by his very own Gyarados. You definitely showed how big a shock that was to his system, and how little he can believe it, and then how he began turning to a grief he wasn't sure if he should feel or not - very understandable and relatable confusion.

    However there is one thing in that which sort of bothered me. The "issue," if you want to call it that, seems to appear throughout your work, and I never could grasp what seemed to be the problem, what seemed to be missing until today.

    Since the internet couldn't explain why Samuel Beckett wrote the play "Waiting for Godot" in French, rather than his native language, I will tell you: it was apparently so that he could write it without any sort of style, so that the play would seem completely neutral and would not have his "voice" in it, so to speak.

    I find that your writing is sort of similar, in that at times it seems to lack a style, like your voice isn’t shining through your work. My theory is that this is in part because your first language is Icelandic; had you written your stories in that instead, I think there would be more...of your energy in it - the best word I can really think of is voice, sorry for how vague this seems. But like I had also told you, I think it's also got to do with the sort of person you are. I won't pretend I know you like my best friend, but you seem to be a person who sort of keeps her distance, and stays somewhat detached from the things around you, so you don’t care too much. I think that because you sort of keep your fics away from you it tends to lack some of the pieces of yourself that a writer usually puts into their work. At times bits of your...voice have shone through, but for instance, when I read the scenes between Sickle and Stormblade in “Fall of a Leader,” where it was supposed to be sort of…romantic, I really didn’t feel much emotion or anything, like it was simply one more thing that happened in their lives that wasn’t really any more interesting or exciting than anything else.

    Your style sometimes feels a bit…flat in that way. I don’t know if you mean for the story to be like this because of the point of view, but like when Mark was sitting alone thinking about Suicune, well the goal is to sort of make the reader either feel for or feel the same as the character. I felt like…like I understood Mark for feeling so awful, but it didn’t really hit home the way I thought it sort of should have in that it made me want to grieve as well. Maybe saying something like how Mark felt empty now, or about just how crushed he was, or how little his mind could wrap around it might have helped build on the emotion, portraying feelings that the reader can relate to and are more strong and vivid to them.

    Moving on, I can’t really tell if this ties in with the above or not, but I got the impression that in general, you could have adding a bit more description. I know I say it a lot (XD), and I know you sort of do it on purpose, but the fact that you never use much more than three sentences to describe anything, no matter what it is can sometimes just leave a reader sitting there thinking “uh, what about the rest of it?” it should be kept in mind that some things do require more description than others; mainly places, certain characters and anything that either stands out to the main character or will be important later. I think a thing that is sort of lacking in your style is mood at times, so the best things to do are describe the setting and set the tone using the lighting, weather, and best of all sounds/smells/textures when you can add them. The overall tone of a place too, such a city or forest; if it’s busy or quiet, if the sounds of people/Pokémon fill the air, maybe if the air is damp or thick with pollution, if the forest is dark from a canopy of leaves above or seems to cower beneath big, intimidating mountains that can be seen nearby. Just adding those sorts of things can really help set the mood in places where it just felt a little blah, allowing to feel what the characters feel and whatnot. The more involved you are, the more involved your readers will be, I think. ^.~

    Sometimes it just felt like you didn’t…care about what you were describing, like you were painfully forcing yourself to mention in. Even in battle, you just sort of threw in the descriptions of attacks like you were doing it for the sake of it, and so at times it felt like there was a lack of the intensity, the excitement, the pumping hearts and racing minds, the battle cries and the shocked gasps. At times even the Pokémon seemed a bit…uncaring, even though you described them as being in pain or smirking and whatnot.
    (Random suggestion here; instead of saying "Sandslash cried out," I think it might be a bit easier for the reader to instead imagine the scene if you said "“Slash!” Sandslash cried out." I dunno, even though they can be understood and their words translated, it’s just…a Pokémon thing to do, and it might just be something to consider them doing, especially so the trainers don’t seem to be the only ones talking the whole time.)


    So yeah. Basically I just think you need to have more of a personal style, let your voice shine through, allow yourself to feel closer to your work so you feel more comfortable giving to it and putting bits of yourself in it; I think it will ultimately help you, if you understand what Ive been trying to say. Try to feel enthusiastic about what the story you're telling; it will show through the characters and even the description and mood you’ll want to set.

    Please don’t hurt me – you know I love you!

    ~Psychic
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2008
  19. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    First of all, I'm gonna mention the scene early in the chapter involving Mark and Chaletwo, because I thought that was very well done. Great work on their dialogue there especially.

    I liked the way that the Technician ability came into play during the Mark vs. Alan battle. I also liked the way that the trapping moves used by Alan's Pokémon came into play.

    And while I definitely found it awesomely amusing that so many seemed to have fallen for Mark's "Chaletwo and Volcaryu are out to take over the world!" story, I did find it rather refreshing that, in fact, someone didn't fall for it. XP

    XP

    YES. That's my favorite line in the whole chapter, and one of my favorite quotes from any fic in recent memory. Urgh, I hate it when people counter someone calling them on a mistake or wrongdoing by going, "Well, you've done the same thing!" or anything along those lines... X_x;

    That amused me so much... XD The mental image of this guy just sort of kicking that Pupitar into the magma... it just made me laugh for some reason. XP

    Very cool depiction of Scary Face. o.o

    Mark's drawing during class = awesome. :D Makes me think of this time when I was doodling an Armaldo wearing a Coheed And Cambria t-shirt when I was technically supposed to be paying attention to someone. XD;

    XD Poor Mark.

    Wow. o.o That put a cool picture in my head, plus the idea of the Shadow Ball's energy being absorbed by Dragonair's Dragon Rush is pretty darned cool, too.

    Love the way her Fake Out is depicted there, especially with regards to the hissing--it's very appropriately feline. :D

    Another nicely depicted move there. ^^

    Ooh, Tri Attack... Now there's a move I like to see. ^^ It's one of those moves that can look really frelling cool in text, which it definitely does there. ^^

    Magcargo's Ancientpower--yet another attack whose depiction I liked. :D

    AWESOME. XDDDD Yeah, that was my favorite moment in the chapter. Funny as frell, that was. XD

    More awesome amusement at Charizard's expense. XD I especially love Charizard's response to Mark there. XD

    Dang. o.o That's one of those great "oh snap" moments right there. :D
     
  20. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Heh. I actually finished chapter 38 already, after going on the mother of all writing sprees yesterday. Twelve pages, and personally I think it came out pretty nicely.



    Chapter 38: Volcaryu

    “It’s half past six. Get up.”

    Mark opened his eyes and immediately regretted it. He recoiled and squinted at the bright light above him, first not sure where he was, until his eyes found the middle-aged, bearded man that held the flashlight whose bright beam was searing through his pupils. He shielded his eyes with his hand. “Are you insane?” he mumbled. “Get that thing away.”

    Carl flicked the switch on the flashlight off, and the world plunged into darkness. Mark blinked a few times, trying to adjust to the dim twilight from outside that did little more for the lighting than to allow him to spot the windows. He sat up and looked at Carl’s tall, looming silhouette. “Half past six,” he muttered. “Right. I said Chaletwo would wake Volcaryu at seven o’clock.”

    “Yes, that’s what you said,” Carl said coldly and Mark wanted to slap his forehead; he was too half-asleep to be careful. He rubbed his forehead, crawled out of the sleeping bag and began to roll it up while silently cursing that seven in the morning had to be the first arbitrary time that had come to mind.

    The wheels in his brain creaked metaphorically as the numbers began to register properly in his mind. Half past six. He jumped.

    “Wait, what?” he asked quickly. “In half an hour?”

    “Yes,” said Carl and nodded.

    “Why didn’t you wake me earlier?” Mark blurted out, stuffing the sleeping bag hastily into the far-too-small containing bag without bothering to finish rolling it. “I won’t have time to eat breakfast or brush my teeth or…”

    “Isn’t it strange how you didn’t seem to be concerned enough yesterday evening to even mention when we would wake up?” Carl asked, his voice dripping with icy sarcasm. “One might even get the impression you don’t actually believe that the timer to the destruction of this town by dragon-induced eruption is ticking.”

    I believe it’s ticking all right, Mark thought dully as he attached the sleeping bag to his backpack, this time making very carefully sure not to say it aloud. It’s just that I know it would wait for me to get breakfast if I asked.

    “I’m an it now?” asked Chaletwo’s voice in his head.

    Mark rolled his eyes as he put his backpack on, for once grateful that the darkness prevented Carl from seeing it. He would probably interpret it as something decidedly not in his favour.

    Chaletwo, Mark thought darkly as the Gym Leader dragged him towards the door, if we’re flying up there over the volcano and you tell me Volcaryu won’t wake up or something, I’m going to kill you.

    “Maybe if Carl doesn’t finish you first.”

    Mark shuddered as they left the house and headed towards the Pokémon Center where May and Alan had slept and might even still be sleeping. Carl turned the flashlight back on to illuminate the wooden floor in front of them.

    No, I mean it. Is there any chance that you could fail to wake up Volcaryu?

    “No,” Chaletwo responded. “Not really. I’m the one keeping him asleep, after all. It’s not a matter of doing anything, but of not doing something anymore. I’d be very worried if I were capable of messing that up.”

    Mark snorted, but Carl cast a suspicious glance at him that made him remind himself to be quiet. He looked around the town and found it eerily deserted, somehow clearly more so than it had seemed the previous evening when he had arrived there. Maybe it was that all the windows were dark or that the sun just below the reddening horizon provided only barely enough light to see around. Or maybe the hole in the middle of the wooden town floor that now, more than then, provided a prominent second natural light source in the warm, fiery glow that spilled faintly out over the floor closest to the hole and painted the fronts of the houses with an eerie translucent orange. It struck Mark suddenly what a truly unique place Crater Town was in the world, and again he was hit by painful guilt when he reminded himself that it would all be gone within the next hour.

    The boards he was walking on creaked uncomfortably.

    You’re not about to lose him early or anything, are you? Mark thought nervously as Carl stepped in front of him and opened the door of the Pokémon Center using a key – Mark presumed the electricity must have been taken off the town, hence the flashlight and the nonworking automatic doors.

    “No, no, no. Everything is fine for now.”

    To Mark’s surprise and relief, May and Alan were already dressed and ready, standing in the lobby of the Pokémon Center and waiting for them while Spirit curled up on a bench. Carl held the door open for them without words and locked it pointlessly again once they were out; the kids muttered some brief greetings.

    Carl checked his watch. “Twenty minutes. Let’s get our Pokémon.”

    Mark wondered crazily whether Carl would kill him if they were still in town at seven o’clock and Volcaryu still hadn’t burst out from under their feet in a fit of anger over not being dead yet. For some reason the thought made him chuckle, but he stopped quickly when Carl narrowed his eyes at him.

    They walked back towards the Gym building in silence. Carl stopped to take a long look at the exterior before he finally walked up to the font door and opened it with a key. Some of the Pokémon were apparently already awake, while others still lay sleepily on the dirty mattresses; as they entered, several ears perked up and the ones who were awake quickly prodded the ones that weren’t. Carl walked straight towards the ladder that led down into the crater, presumably to get his own Pokémon.

    “Come on, guys,” Mark said, walking further into the room while the Pokémon stood up and stretched one by one. “Wake up and get in your balls. Well, except Charizard, I guess.”

    He waited for all the Pokémon to wake up and stretch and then recalled them while May and Alan did the same so that only the two Charizard, the Skarmory and Spirit were left in the room among the scattered mattresses. It seemed strangely empty; they moved a little closer to one another and stood together in complete silence in the middle of the room for a few awkward moments. Finally Carl came back up the ladder and they walked outside without words.

    “Twelve minutes,” Carl said as they exited the Gym building, and Mark felt himself shiver uncomfortably. The Gym leader looked at him, May and Alan in turn. “You’re in awfully little of a hurry, aren’t you?” he said.

    Anger and irritation that had been building up the whole morning flashed through Mark’s mind. “Just shut up,” he replied and didn’t really remember deciding to say it. “You have no idea what this is about. Can’t you save the judging for a few minutes?”

    Carl raised an eyebrow and looked at him for a long moment. He felt oddly satisfied with his own daring for a split second despite knowing what a stupid thing that had been to say here and now. He was uncomfortably aware of Alan staring at him like a lunatic.

    “Fair enough,” the Gym leader said at last, sounding surprisingly calm. “Let’s get up there, then.”

    And Carl grabbed a Pokéball from his belt and sent out his Charizard. She looked coolly at the two males; Mark saw his Charizard blush and look away as Carl climbed with surprising agility onto her back. The dragon took off from the ground with far more grace than a creature of her size carrying Carl’s weight ought to be able to and then hovered in circles above the crater. Carl looked down at them.

    “Right,” Mark muttered, ignoring the surprised but somewhat impressed expression that May was still wearing, and it occurred to him that he had never ridden Charizard before. “Uh, can you bend down somehow so I can get on your back?”

    Charizard crouched down on all fours and lowered his wing to the floor. Mark stepped hesitantly onto the leathery wing fabric and then climbed awkwardly onto the dragon’s back, wrapping his arms around his Pokémon’s neck. Charizard raised himself up, very slowly, and Mark still felt like he was about to fall. He watched May and Alan mount their Pokémon (far more easily, his disgruntled mind added with envy) and took a few deep breaths.

    “Ready?” Charizard murmured.

    Mark closed his eyes but wasn’t sure if it would help at all. “Try, at least.”

    He yelped as Charizard’s muscles flexed under his thighs and spread the dragon’s majestic wings out in full. He felt his Pokémon crouch ever so slightly down and then jump with a terrifying lurch.

    I’m going to fall, Mark’s brain said frantically as the dragon’s wings flapped and his body was thrown irregularly up and down while Charizard tried to steady his flight. Oh, God, I’m going to fall into the volcano and burn to death, or maybe drown, whichever comes first, and the legendaries are going to kill everybody…

    But then the movements of the Pokémon’s wing muscles became more rhythmic, their ascension began to feel steadier, and at last he dared to open his eyes. He caught a glimpse of the volcano shrinking below and the gaping hole to Hell in the middle of the town and immediately regretted it, squeezing them shut again.

    “Charizard, can you fly in some wide circles like Carl’s Charizard is doing while I get used to this?” he called into the wind around his face. He actually felt Charizard nod through the muscle movements in his neck. It was a weird sensation.

    Charizard smoothly adjusted his flight to be horizontal and after a minute of regular, rhythmic forward-flight, the feeling that he was about to fall had subdued a little, enough for Mark to dare to open his eyes again. Learning from his past mistakes, he resisted the urge to look down and looked at Carl, May and Alan instead. They were all hovering on their Pokémon around the same plane as he was.

    “Pokémon out,” Carl barked, taking out his own Pokéballs and throwing them down towards the crater. Alan took out two of his; Vicky came out of one to hover beside her trainer while the other, presumably containing Diamond, fell down towards the ground. May sent out her Butterfree and newly-evolved Vibrava to fly beside her while the third ball fell down to let Pupitar join Spirit. Mark got out Dragonair and Scyther’s balls and sent them out to fly by Charizard’s side.

    “Five minutes,” Carl said, looking at his watch, and Mark couldn’t help being briefly envious of how easily Carl could hold himself still on his Charizard’s back without having to hold on to her neck with more force than would have been necessary to strangle a human being. “I don’t assume you know which clock Chaletwo goes by.”

    Mark didn’t dignify that with an answer. He was feeling a little distracted. Something seemed to be missing before they could actually start.

    Chaletwo’s pep talk, he realized and grinned to himself, mentally prodding at the part of his brain that Chaletwo was residing in.

    “With him around?” Chaletwo responded, and Mark knew he meant Carl.

    It was a good point. Since supposedly Chaletwo could only communicate either privately with Mark or by sending out a local psychic signal that everyone in the vicinity could hear, it would be a bit difficult for him to make any sort of a speech. Mark sighed.

    He’d have to do it himself.

    “All right,” he said and cleared his throat. Carl looked at him and raised an eyebrow.

    “So this is it. Volcaryu is a – a fire dragon. And he’s powerful. So we all have to work together to bring him down. Try to take the other Pokémon into account while you fight. And, uh…”

    He looked around, first at Alan, then at May, then at all the flying Pokémon (he was still not going to look down if he could help it), and then finally at Carl. The Gym leader was observing him with calm interest.

    “Right. And Pupitar. Try to support Pupitar. And, uh, all you guys down there, you should get on the edges of the actual crater on the outside of the volcano if you aren’t there already if you don’t want to get caught in the eruption.”

    He looked awkwardly at everyone. He was increasingly realizing that he sucked at pep talks, but for some reason the fact he was doing it felt strangely good at the same time.

    “All right, then. Do your best, and… we can do this.”

    He saw Alan nod and smile in encouragement and felt a little warmer, despite knowing that he could have been the worst speaker in the world and Alan would still have done that.

    “One minute,” said Carl. They waited and Mark frantically went over everything he remembered about Fire Pokémon in his head. This was so crazy. What would the eruption be like?

    “Ten,” said Carl, “nine, eight…”

    Chaletwo, be ready, Mark thought.

    “…five, four, three, two, one…”

    Carl looked up. They waited for a few more seconds. Nothing happened.

    “Well?” asked the Gym leader. “Where’s your Volcaryu?”

    “I don’t know,” Mark said, reaching for Chaletwo in his mind. He was feeling more angry than anything else for some bizarre reason.

    “He’s awake just fine,” Chaletwo replied. “But I mean, I can’t make him come out if he doesn’t feel like it. I assumed he’d…”

    “Hell with it,” Mark hissed. He wasn’t sure what it was that made him think of it, much less go ahead and do it, but he whipped out his Pokédex and began pressing buttons.

    “What do you think you’re…?”

    “Thunderyu, GO!” Mark shouted, folding his Pokédex as he threw one of his Pokéballs forward.

    May and Alan stared at him as if he were insane, which he probably was, come to think of it. He watched the white shape from the Pokéball form into a slender dragon with broad wings, stunned by what an insanely risky thing he had just dared to do.

    The light faded from Thunderyu’s form, and the dragon didn’t as much as look at his captors. Instead, his eyes stared transfixed at the crater straight below him while he flapped his golden wings with slow graceful movements that somehow made Mark think of heartbeat.

    There was a deep rumble in the depths of the volcano.

    “Are you mad?” Chaletwo hissed. “Recall him before Volcaryu gets to him, or they’ll tear one another apart and wipe us out as collateral damage before we can even blink!”

    “Not yet,” Mark muttered, squeezing the maximized Pokéball in his hand. There was another roar from within the volcano below, more powerful than the first. Thunderyu’s eyes, which had begun to wander and notice the humans’ presence, were instantly fixed back on the crater, and the dragon let out a wild, screeching cry of excitement, daring the creature in the volcano to break out of its prison.

    Mark looked briefly at Carl, who was watching Thunderyu in disturbed fascination. Alan looked terrified. Even May was a little pale as she watched the legendary Pokémon so close by. Above them, dark clouds were already beginning to gather in obedient response to Thunderyu’s presence.

    There was another deep roar from below, laced with poisonous loathing as Volcaryu recognized the challenge of his nemesis. There was also a much deeper, somehow more terrifying rumble from the volcano itself.

    Mark couldn’t help it. He looked down.

    The glow in the hole in the middle of town was much brighter now, and it took a second for Mark to realize that it was because the lava level had risen – and it was still rushing upwards with unsettling speed. He saw the floor begin to crumble as the heat vaporized the support beams below it, seconds before molten lava spluttered out through the hole, shattering the wood into burning splinters that crumbled into ash in the air. The sheer destructive power of it was terrifying but fascinating, like a car crash except much worse. Mark couldn’t look away as fiery magma enveloped the Gym building and it began to sink and melt. The wooden houses all around had turned into a blazing inferno whose ashes were crumbling into the magma in a matter of seconds. He could see the lava finding its way through every crevice to flow down the sides of the volcano and the Pokémon hurtling out of the way while the lava level began to sink again.

    Then suddenly the magma was rushing back upwards, and a dark shape burst out of the middle of it, sending splatters of lava flying in every direction as the creature roared with hatred and headed straight up towards Thunderyu. The electric dragon cried out in glee and swooped downwards to meet it.

    “Return!” Mark yelled, although his voice could hardly be heard, pointed the Pokéball at Thunderyu and pressed the button. A red beam of light shot out of the ball, hitting the descending dragon’s back.

    Thunderyu cried out in surprise as his form began to dissolve into translucent red energy. Mark felt the Ultra Ball shake in his hand as the dragon strained madly against the power that was pulling him into it while the piercing roar garbled into an incoherent mess of sound waves. He held the ball firmly in his sweating hands and prayed that what they were always told about Pokéball beams being impossible to escape once the Pokémon had been caught and hit by the beam was true.

    The ball stopped shaking, Thunderyu let out a last, distorted cry of frustration and finally vanished into the Pokéball. Mark replaced it on his belt and somehow it took him a second to remember that there was a whole battle yet to be done.

    He jerked his head back towards Volcaryu, who had now flown up to the same height as they were and was looking frantically around for any traces of the other dragon. Mark couldn’t help thinking, in the split second he spent taking in the sight of him visually, that Volcaryu was nowhere near the creature of grace that Thunderyu was, but he was bigger and bulkier and at least ten times more frightening. His muscular body was covered with dark red scales and some larger plates of black armor, and coupled with the twisted horns and pointed snout, the color scheme made him look positively demonic. The relatively small, black wings really shouldn’t have been able to keep its weight aloft, but somehow they did.

    Volcaryu turned his head towards Mark, his eyes shining with nothing less than psychotic bloodlust, and apparently decided to give up looking for Thunderyu for the moment and take his frustration out on the Pokémon flying around him instead.

    Charizard swooped upwards, and Mark screamed as he narrowly avoided falling off by clinging on to his Pokémon’s neck. Just below them he could see a tongue of bright flames erupting from Volcaryu’s mouth and enveloping the spot they’d been at only seconds earlier. He shivered. “Pokémon, start attacking him already!” he shouted as he tried to steady himself better on Charizard’s back. He saw the other flying Pokémon scatter out of Volcaryu’s way as the dragon turned around to attack them.

    “Magcargo, Ancientpower!” he heard Carl bark somewhere behind him. Below them, chunks of glowing rock tore themselves out of the crater’s edge, making way for more lava to pour our down the sides of the volcano as the boulders smashed into Volcaryu’s body, tossing him off course from where he was chasing after May on her Skarmory. The dragon cried out in pain and turned sharply towards the crater instead while the metallic vulture turned back around and tried to stay still in the air.

    “Pupitar, Rock Slide!” May shouted from the bird’s back. “And Spirit, use Curse!”

    The Ninetales on the edge of the crater looked up at Volcaryu as her eyes began to glow bright red – but then Volcaryu roared, lava rushed upwards again, and it began to spill violently over the edge of the crater while globs of it were sent flying through the air. Charlie swooped out of the way of a splatter of magma, narrowly saving Alan from being hit by it, while an entire flood burst out on Spirit’s side of the mountain, enveloping her and disrupting her concentration as she tried desperately to fight her way out of the molten rock. May quickly grabbed a Pokéball and recalled her.

    Mark tore his eyes away from the Pokémon below and looked at Volcaryu again. Satisfied with the distraction that the eruption had provided for the Pokémon on the volcano, he turned to the humans again, this time looking at Carl. The Gym leader’s Charizard growled threateningly, and the taunt seemed to draw Volcaryu’s attention well enough for the other Pokémon to finally dare to approach and attack.

    Scyther darted towards the dragon with both of his scythes raised and glowing with a dark aura while Dragonair flared up with blue fire and zoomed in the same direction. May’s Butterfree began to glow purple. The first attack to actually hit Volcaryu was Vicky’s Shadow Ball that smashed into the dragon’s head while he was gathering flames in his throat; he roared and turned sharply around, realizing too late that he was being attacked from all sides.

    His head began to glow with the same purple that Butterfree was, and he screeched in pain, momentarily unable to move, which gave the other Pokémon the chance to strike.

    Scyther drove his scythes at Volcaryu’s underbelly, but it was apparently pretty strongly armoured and the blades barely even left a mark. Scyther quickly retreated back to Mark’s side to avoid being attacked in retaliation while Dragonair smashed his fiery body into the much larger dragon’s side, causing Volcaryu to let out yet another roar of pain. He was shaking the Psychic off now.

    “Dragonbreath, Vibrava!” May yelled.

    “Diamond, use Bounce!” Alan shouted.

    “Scyther, Swords Dance!” Mark blurted out. “Dragonair, use another Dragon Rush!”

    Scyther began sharpening his scythes in a peculiar dance in mid-air while Dragonair flared blue again, but meanwhile, Alan’s Rapidash leapt up towards Volcaryu in a humongous leap as she neighed ferociously. Volcaryu turned around to inspect the noise just as she smashed into his side, throwing him a bit downwards.

    Mark knew that Volcaryu was still being a bit slow and hadn’t quite realized that all of the creatures around him were actually there to attack him and that as soon as the dragon had figured that out, he would become a lot more aggressive, and this was where he realized it. Volcaryu roared and spewed a column of flame towards May and her Butterfree; Skarmory swooped quickly out of the way, but Butterfree wasn’t as fast a flier and was caught in the blast. May recalled her without words while her Vibrava fired a cone of sparkly flames at the legendary Pokémon and Dragonair smashed into his other side.

    “Camerupt, use a Rock Slide!” came Carl’s barking voice. “Another Ancientpower, Magcargo! Magmar, Confuse Ray! Flareon, use Helping Hand to assist Magcargo! Arcanine, Extremespeed!”

    “Everybody, another synchronized assault!” Mark screamed, and Scyther, Dragonair and Diamond all rushed towards Volcaryu again just as Carl’s Arcanine shot into the air at supernatural speed and smashed into Volcaryu’s body. Mark eyed Vicky charging up a Shadow Ball. They were actually not doing too bad this time…

    And just as the thought crossed his mind, Volcaryu let out a deep roar and his entire body burst into a humongous sphere of white-hot flames. All the Pokémon that were closing up on Volcaryu were caught in the inferno and screamed in collective pain as the blazing heat scorched them; Mark stared in horror as even the boulders that Magcargo and Camerupt had summoned were literally melting in mid-air before they could reach the dragon Pokémon, sending splatters of glowing magma flying all around so that the three Charizard and Skarmory had to recoil to a safer distance with their riders (Mark’s stomach took an uncomfortable lurch as he very nearly fell off Charizard’s back at the unexpected movement). He saw Scyther, his armor blackened and charred, fall limply downwards before ever reaching the legendary Pokémon, and quickly recalled him back into his Pokéball. Dragonair managed to actually deliver his attack, if with rather less power than otherwise, but Mark could see his skin flaking by the second in such close vicinity of the source of the heat, and within seconds Dragonair was unconscious as well and had to be returned to the safety of his Pokéball. He saw Diamond swinging her horn at Volcaryu, but she missed; however, she actually didn’t seem at all hurt, and in fact her flames were burning brighter than before if anything as she descended back towards the crater.

    The fireball from around Volcaryu dissolved and the dragon looked a little tired after having kept it up for so long, but still immediately allowed his body to flare up in new fire, this time blue dragon flames, and dove straight at May’s Vibrava.

    “Dodge!” May yelled from the back of her Skarmory, but the Pokémon just screeched in panic, seemingly frozen with fear, and when Volcaryu smashed his heavy body into him, he didn’t even stand a chance. Vibrava was sent flying through the air, enveloped in blue flames, and May silently recalled him while Volcaryu’s still flaring form turned downwards to the part of the crater wall where Carl’s Pokémon and Diamond were standing.

    “Get out of the way!” Alan and Carl shouted simultaneously, and Diamond was quick to leap over Volcaryu’s body and land on the other side of the crater while Carl’s Arcanine and Flareon ran along the edge to either side, but Camerupt and Magcargo weren’t fast enough to get away and Magmar had apparently decided to sacrifice himself so that he could form another Confuse Ray as a distraction.

    “Magmar, don’t…” Carl began, but then Volcaryu’s body rammed into all of the three Pokémon on the crater’s edge, enveloped all of them in dragon flames and knocked them flying down the side of the mountain. Carl quickly took out their Pokéballs and recalled them. His Charizard growled.

    The flames on Volcaryu’s body died down and the dragon shook his head to clear it before flying back upwards and heading towards Vicky.

    “Grudge!” Alan shouted, and the Misdreavus’s eyes glowed purple while Volcaryu approached her, opening his jaws wide. As the dragon snapped them around the Ghost Pokémon and shook her violently around, she let out a shrill scream of pain, and Alan recalled her. Volcaryu briefly shuddered and closed his mouth. If Mark remembered his battling class correctly, Grudge was supposed to give him an aversion to the move that had finished Vicky, but he couldn’t help thinking that preventing Volcaryu from using Crunch wasn’t much of an improvement on their situation. By now he was really getting worried. Only a minute ago it had actually seemed like they were about to win. Now Volcaryu had brought down most of their Pokémon within the space of a few attacks.

    “Where’s Pupitar?” May suddenly yelled, looking frantically around the crater below her. Mark looked down as well (it fleetingly occurred to him that flying was in fact surprisingly easy to get used to) and indeed he couldn’t see the pupa anywhere. Carl turned his head sharply down towards the volcano to scan its sides. Mark was vaguely aware of Diamond leaping up to ram her body into Volcaryu’s while the dragon countered with a blast of sparkly flames.

    “Arcanine, Flareon, look around the volcano and find Pupitar!” Carl barked. The two Pokémon nodded and began running up and down the sides of the mountain, avoiding the streams of magma still flowing down from the crater.

    “Diamond is paralyzed!” Alan shouted. Mark looked where he was pointing and saw that Diamond was standing stiffly on the brink of the crater, her eyes wide with fear while Volcaryu, whose body was now covered with blue flames again, was about to smash into her. Mark looked quickly around and realized in panic that aside from her and the missing Pupitar, Carl’s two remaining Pokémon were all they had.

    “Come on, Pupitar!” May screamed down from her Skarmory’s back while Diamond was knocked over the side of the mountain and Alan recalled her back to her Pokéball. “Are you hiding? Scared of Volcaryu? What is this supposed to be? You were meant to be the most important Pokémon in this battle, and then you just disappear before… before you even pull off a single attack! Come here and make yourself useful!”

    Mark could see Alan wince at her words while Volcaryu swooped down towards Carl’s Flareon; the Arcanine leapt up in a blur to knock the dragon Pokémon off his path, but was instead the target of Volcaryu’s terrifyingly powerful dragon flames. Carl recalled him, giving his Flareon a worried look.

    Then there was a rumbling roar from the crater, and Mark’s first, crazy thought was that somehow there was another Volcaryu coming, but of course he realized as soon as his common sense kicked in that it could only be…

    A reptilian head burst out of the magma by the crater wall and roared, followed by the rest of the body of a red-hot Tyranitar crawling up from the bowl of lava.

    Mark goggled at him – had he actually been buried in magma since the beginning of the battle? How had he breathed? He wondered momentarily if Pupitar even needed to breathe very often. Perhaps the pain had just now brought him over the edge to evolution, giving him the arms that he’d needed to climb up.

    May stared at her Pokémon in surprise that suddenly turned into triumphant admiration as a grin broke out on her face. “YES! Tyranitar, Stone Edge!”

    But Volcaryu had already noticed the Pokémon that had emerged from his crater, and the flames enveloping his body intensified as he roared and swooped straight down towards the exhausted Tyranitar who was struggling to concentrate…

    “Flareon, Helping Hand!”

    The Gym leader’s last Pokémon glowed white as he ran towards May’s final and placed his paw on his leg, and with a cry of “Flare!”, he managed to give Tyranitar the power boost that he needed. With a triumphant roar, the dinosaurian Pokémon raised his arms, and chunks of rock by the two Pokémon’s sides ripped themselves loose from the crater wall and shot straight upwards, hitting the diving Volcaryu at a great speed and smashing him up towards the sky. Carl’s Charizard swerved out of the way while the legendary Pokémon was thrown up past them, roaring in agony.

    An Ultra Ball flew through the air, hit the falling dragon and sucked him inside before falling towards the ground. Mark’s heart jumped in excitement as Charizard dived down after it. He could see the ball on the ground wobble once, twice, thrice…

    And it stilled with a confirming ping.

    “YES!” came Chaletwo’s voice in Mark’s head; he had almost forgotten about Chaletwo’s existence after he’d been silent for the whole battle.

    Charizard landed on the ground and Mark almost jumped off his back to pick up the Pokéball. “We got him!” he shouted and held it up as he watched the other two Charizard and the Skarmory land and their riders step down from their backs. May replaced a ball on her Pokéball necklace, presumably Tyranitar’s, while Mark could see the flow of lava down the mountainside coming to a halt as the magma presumably retreated back under the Earth’s crust. He found himself laughing stupidly in glee.

    Carl walked up to him and extended his hand towards the Pokéball in Mark’s hand. “Well done,” he said in satisfaction, nodding towards May before looking back at Mark. “So it turns out you weren’t lying after all. I suppose I owe you an apology. Now give me that.”

    Mark lowered the ball quickly; the adrenaline rush was quickly wearing off. “What? Why?”

    “Because I threw that ball.”

    Mark stared. He had assumed May or Alan had thrown the Ultra Ball. Definitely not Carl. Had he even known that they needed to capture the dragon? “You… you can’t just take Volcaryu!” he blurted out. “He’d never battle for you!”

    Carl looked at the Pokéball. “Make it battle for me?” he said, his voice harsh and disdainful. “Of course not. But it destroyed my hometown, and it needs to be kept where that ball will never be opened again. It’s not as if it will battle for you.”

    “Don’t let him!” Chaletwo said frantically. Mark’s initial inclination was to agree, but after a second of thought, he wasn’t quite sure. After all, they had put their trust in Rick not sending out any of the legendaries he was keeping, and he had a distinct feeling that Carl meant it when he said he would make sure Volcaryu was never sent out again.

    “All right,” Mark replied. “You can take Volcaryu. But it needs to be kept where it can’t be sent out ever again to cause more destruction. Not even to look at it. Okay?”

    Carl nodded firmly. “Can I ask you a question?” he then said, and Mark nodded curiously.

    “What was that thing you sent out that made Volcaryu come?”

    Mark racked his brain; he’d forgotten that he had done that. He quickly came to the conclusion that the truth was the only thing he could really tell. “It was Thunderyu. Chaletwo created it along with Volcaryu and one other dragon, and they hate one another and can sense each other’s presence.” He paused. “I guess Chaletwo realized we were there and decided not to make Volcaryu come out after all, but then when I sent Thunderyu out, Volcaryu sensed it and came anyway.”

    “What’s the third dragon?” Carl asked, stroking his beard.

    “Polaryu, Champion Cave,” Chaletwo answered in Mark’s head, “but you really…”

    “It’s called Polaryu, and it’s in Champion Cave,” Mark responded, ignoring Chaletwo and enjoying every minute of it. Carl nodded thoughtfully.

    “All right, then. Thank you for warning us. I hope we see one another again eventually.” He paused. “Well, we have one thing left to do.”

    Carl reached into his jacket, took out a box and looked at May. “I forgot to give you this yesterday,” he said, opened the box and handed her a round, silver badge from it. “And…” He turned to Mark and Alan. “Well, with my Gym gone, we can’t exactly have a rematch, can we? I suppose you’d get it eventually anyway, and the fact is that you’re not going to be allowed on Champion Island if you don’t have all eight badges of the Ouen League. So… in the interest of preventing more disaster such as what happened to my town, you’d better take these.”

    And Carl handed them one badge each, though he clearly hated to do it. “Now, promise me that you’ll get Diana’s badge in Acaria City fair and square, will you? I won’t feel at ease with myself unless I know that by the time you are at Champion Island your Pokémon would rightfully deserve these badges.”

    “Definitely,” Alan replied, and Mark nodded. “Thank you.”

    Carl turned away. “Well, go on, then. I’ll have to get to my friends and relatives and tell them that I’m fine.” He mounted his Charizard with practiced ease. “Goodbye.”

    The female dragon winked at Mark’s Charizard before taking off with her trainer. Charizard blushed and looked away, and didn’t look up again until they were just a dark spot on the reddened eastern sky.

    “Oh, stop complaining,” Charlie muttered. “Some of us aren’t getting any at all.”

    Alan snickered. “Well, since you guys have been carrying us all morning, you should probably just get in your balls and make us do the walking to Acaria City.”

    “Good idea,” the two Charizard replied simultaneously, and the three kids recalled their Pokémon before heading on along the road towards the rising sun.
     

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