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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. fishyfool

    fishyfool And a nice chianti

    *jaw drops to the floor*

    Wow. I know you're good with fics, but this one takes the cake.

    ;378; : Indeed, Volcaryu's appearance rocked hard, and the very battle, and evolution of Pupitar into everyone's favourite Anti-Skarmbliss monstrosity was perfect. The opening of the chapter was skilled, and the whole thing is one hundred percent class.

    Er...indeed. Keep up the work. And Haychtoo...

    ;378; : Yes, fishy?

    Should you ever butt into my talks again, I'll dump you into that volcano. Understood?

    ;378; : Rawr, just try me. Volcaryu's got nothing on me, his special attack's weedy compared to my Special defense, and that lava's not exactly melting me, is it?

    hm...true. Anyway, lerrus know when the next chappie's out.
     
  2. Razor Shiftry

    Razor Shiftry Cynthia = Porn Star

    omgomgomgomgomgomgomgomgomgomgomgomg.O.M.G *fangirl scream* WOW. that was pretty damn amazing. i really liked how you gave a false impression of winning and then BAM, the tide ahad turned. i was so involved in your reading that i to, was almost looking for Pupitar along with the characters (realising that i wasn't flying around on a pokemon so i could xD). i loved how you portrayed the battle, i could really feel some passion in that fight in the air, the monstrousity of Vulcaryu, its power...

    my only complaint? Tyranitar should have had more screen time. two big beastly pokemon battling it out. i mean, come on, Tyranitar can destroy mountains. its POWERFUL. Vulcaryu is UBERLY legend. epic fight would have been amazing. Vulcaryu going balistic etc...

    you know, with the last dragon, i woudl actually love it if it let itself be captured willingly. it would be an intreaguing twist to the story and mystifying. however, that would mean that there should be another enemy of equal prowess...? hmmm...*speculates*
     
  3. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    *prods* Uh, what? I mean, there are plenty of intriguing twists coming, but "Wouldn't it be an intriguing twist if [insert completely random nonsensical event here] happened?" is just... weird. o_O Yes, it would be an intriguing and mystifying twist if Polaryu, despite not having the faintest clue what humans, Pokéballs or capture are and being preprogrammed to be obsessed with looking for the other two dragons to kill them, willingly let himself be captured. It would also be an intriguing and very mystifying twist if, say, Chaletwo decided to become a pimp and stop caring about the War of the Legends, but that wouldn't make it any less strange if somebody came in here saying "Hmm! I think Chaletwo should decide to become a pimp and stop caring about the War of the Legends! But then something would need to induce this change of heart. I wonder what it could be..."

    Additionally, I'm not sure what you mean by "however, that would mean that there should be another enemy of equal prowess". They have quite a few legendaries to catch already, many of which are more powerful than Thunderyu/Volcaryu/Polaryu; even assuming Polaryu nonsensically let himself be captured, there would be no lack of powerful legendaries to catch. Unless I'm misunderstanding your point altogether.

    But thanks for reading and reviewing, anyway, both of you.
     
  4. OK! *jumps from closet with a penguin on head* I've been reading the Quest for the Legends on dragonfly cave, but it's here too!?! IT's one of the best pieces of work I've read on these forums. I shall diligently watch for new posts. I just got back from defeating the marquee of doom. Icelandic is evil. ANYWAY, on the chapter, I loved how Volcaryu just sits there when Chaletwo wakes it up. HILARIOUS. If Mark gt Thunderyu and Carl got Volcaryu, then I'm guessing May gets Polaryu.
    Keep p the good work! -Pengu
     
  5. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Thanks for reading, elementalpenguin. It doesn't exactly matter who "gets" each legendary, considering they're never going to be using them or anything...

    Anyway, chapter 39. Already. I'm on one serious writing spree. o_O And it's teh plottiness. Fairly short, only seven pages, but it's got loooooots of mysteries for you all to wonder about.


    Chapter 39: The Workings of the War

    Route 315 was painfully long.

    There was no upwards hiking for a change, which did make it a bit more bearable – in fact, it all seemed to be a little bit downhill – but it was just so darned boring. There were grassy plains after grassy plains with absolutely no variation in the landscape beyond the occasional stream or pond with maybe a couple of trees beside them. And it was just so long. There was the occasional wild Pokémon to keep them occupied, sure – they let the Pokémon that hadn’t taken part in the Volcaryu battle fight them – but nothing interesting enough to really liven it up to any degree, and either because of the sheer distance to Acaria City or because they stopped too frequently for too long, the sun had travelled all the way over the horizon and sank behind Mount Fever before Acaria City was much more than a tempting field of shimmering lights in the far distance.

    “We should camp,” Alan said and sighed, stopping on the road as they came to a couple of stray trees. “We won’t get there before tomorrow. No use walking on in the dark.”

    They had brought out the Revives, Burn Heals and Hyper Potions early on to heal the Pokémon that had battled Volcaryu and gotten them into decent shape for the most part, so they could send out all of the Pokémon except Lapras and Gyarados. Mark was privately rather relieved that he didn’t have to send out Gyarados, and May also seemed rather relieved that she didn’t have to send out Lapras. Their problems with the two Water Pokémon were perhaps more similar than Mark had realized; the main difference was that Mark had a problem with something Gyarados had done while Lapras had a problem with something May had done.

    After coming to the quick conclusion that they weren’t going to be finding any decent amount of firewood there, they got Diamond and the two Charizard to take on the role of the campfire. Then they sat down in a circle so that the distance between the three Fire Pokémon was approximately equal, and although it felt remarkably odd at first to sit in silence around a pile of backpacks with the firelight coming from the circle itself, Mark found himself to be quick to get used to it.

    He looked across at May, who was sitting beside her Tyranitar and stroking his rocklike hide absent-mindedly. The Pokémon was lying down on his stomach with his head resting on his arm and his eyes closed, emitting a quiet kind of content growl or murr. Mark noticed suddenly that despite that Pupitar had evolved and was at least now clearly capable of making sounds, he still hadn’t heard him say a word of understandable speech. He tried to recall if he’d ever talked as a Larvitar and didn’t remember him doing so at all. He couldn’t help finding it a little creepy.

    “So,” he said, looking over the group. Everyone looked up and waited for him to say something.

    “Chaletwo?” he asked, not really quite sure why, reaching into his mind.

    “What?” came the snappy reply.

    Mark sighed. “Still upset about Volcaryu?”

    “You shouldn’t have done that.”

    “Come on,” Mark said, irritated. “Carl isn’t going to try to use Volcaryu. You heard the way he talked about him destroying Crater Town.”

    “Yes, I did,” Chaletwo replied. “Exactly. He hates Volcaryu because he destroyed his town. And you saw that man kick Pupitar into lava for the heck of it, just to see how heat-resistant he was, for Christ’s sake! Why do you think he really wanted to keep him?”

    Mark saw Tyranitar’s eyes flick open at the mention of him. “What do you mean?”

    “It’s not the War I’m worried about,” Chaletwo muttered, and Mark suddenly understood.

    “You think he’ll… do something to Volcaryu?”

    Chaletwo didn’t respond.

    “So?” May said in a spectacular moment of insensitivity that she could perhaps only partly be blamed for since she didn’t know where the dragons had come from. “I don’t get why you care so much about those things. I mean, from what I can gather they’re psychotic and violent, have been sleeping for the past thousand years, and have had too little waking time since their creation to develop personalities or intelligent thought beyond ‘Kill the other dragons and whatever might get in the way’. And still you seem to care more about them than Suicune, somebody you’ve actually talked to in person and gotten to know and who is not murderous. Seriously, is it just me or are you hiding something?”

    Mark could feel a sting of pain that was not his own in the back of his mind, and for a moment he felt sorry for Chaletwo, sorry enough to abandon his previous intention to just tell May and Alan that Chaletwo had created the dragons. “I’m sure it’s nothing important,” he said instead, and then realized that for this to work out well in a non-obviously suspicious manner he’d have to propose a change of topic to something more important. “I mean, we’re all here on a quest to try to prevent the War of the Legends, so wouldn’t it be nice to maybe get the details clear on that once and for all now? What do you say?” He immediately liked the idea himself; things about it had been pecking at his curiosity for a while. He looked around the circle.

    “That would make sense,” Alan said, and everyone else more or less followed with some sort of agreement. It did make a lot of sense. Now that he thought about it, what they knew was all awfully vague.

    “I suppose,” said Chaletwo. “I’ll tell you what I know. Just ask.”

    “All right,” Mark began. “To start with… the War is caused by something called the Destroyer, which drains the legendaries’ power, right?”

    “Yes,” said Chaletwo’s voice.

    “What is the Destroyer exactly?”

    “Presumably, it’s a legendary Pokémon.”

    “Presumably?” May asked sceptically.

    “Well, we don’t exactly know much about it,” Chaletwo said. “But the Creator and the Preserver are legendary Pokémon, so it would make sense for the Destroyer to be one as well.”

    Mark nodded. “Okay. So the Creator…”

    “…is the last legendary survivor of the previous War. Some sort of residual energy from the other legendaries settles into the last one when it’s all over. It gives them the power to create living creatures out of inorganic material.”

    “Right. What about the Preserver? I’ve been curious about the Preserver for a while, actually. What does the Preserver do? The Creator has the power to create. Do you have some sort of… power to preserve?”

    “The Preserver is the first Pokémon that the Creator creates after the War,” Chaletwo replied. “There’s some extra spark of power that the Creator has at that point which is lost afterwards, and that extra spark gives the Preserver the ability to travel through time.”

    “So time-travelling is a Preserver thing? Wait, what about Celebi?”

    Chaletwo gave a mental shrug. “Time-travelling isn’t that complicated, if you go into that. You can make a time-traveller without that. That extra spark just makes it happen automatically.”

    “Could the Creator decide not to use that extra spark in the first creature he creates?”

    “I don’t know. Mew didn’t mention it.”

    “So Chaletwo,” May began just as Mark was about to go on, “I’ve been wondering. You can travel through time. Why haven’t you just taken all the legendary Pokémon into the future to just after the moment they’d all go mad? Seems a lot easier than trying to capture all of them.”

    Chaletwo sighed. “Time-travelling doesn’t work that way. Every living creature belongs to a certain time. If you take someone to a different time, he’ll still be anchored to his own time, and the Destroyer can drain a legendary’s power through that anchor even when the legendary’s physical existence is in some other time. And maintaining that stretch of the anchor requires the time-traveller to put in a steady flow of energy. Basically we’d all continue to get weaker anyway, I’d eventually become too weak to keep us there, and we’d all bounce back just in time to go mad. In short, useless.”

    “What about going to the past, then?” May asked. “Altering it somehow so that the War doesn’t happen?”

    Chaletwo sighed again. “That only happens in movies. You can’t mess with the past in the real world. You can go to the future from your own time and then back. Celebi has this prescience thing where she feels a calling to appear at some point in the future, but that’s still only actually travelling to the future and she has awfully little control over it all. There’s no changing the past. I wouldn’t even know what to change if I could.”

    “But wait,” Mark said. “Didn’t you say that Chalenor took Mewtwo back in time to be there before the first War? How could Chalenor do that when it was long before Mewtwo’s own time? And how did Mewtwo not just bounce back when Chalenor ran out of power to keep him there?”

    There was a long silence. “That is strange,” Chaletwo said at last. “I don’t know why I haven’t thought about that before. Maybe it is possible to take someone from the future back to the time-traveller’s own time, but I’m not sure that would help us any now, especially since I’m not powerful enough to time-travel anymore, anyway.”

    “What about how Mewtwo didn’t bounce back, then?”

    “I don’t know. Maybe some other power came into it somehow, but I don’t know what it could be.”

    Mark took a deep breath. The sudden realization that the situation was ripe with mysteries not even Chaletwo knew the answer to was extremely disconcerting, and suddenly everything seemed a lot more hopeless than it had when he’d been picking up the Ultra Ball containing Volcaryu. But this was only all the more reason to want to find out more.

    “So what does the Preserver do exactly again?”

    Chaletwo actually paused for a couple of seconds. “Mew says the Preserver has the role of being a guardian of life. Some crap like that.”

    “But that’s just an arbitrary role, isn’t it?” Mark protested. “I mean, why are you, or whoever the Creator creates first, the Preserver? Sure, you can automatically time-travel, but I don’t get why that should make you more of a ‘preserver’ than anyone else. Isn’t there anything else that makes you special?”

    “Well. Yes,” Chaletwo said hesitantly. He paused for a moment while everyone looked expectantly at Mark and then sighed. “You know how legendary Pokémon are immortal, in the sense that they don’t age or reproduce, but can be killed if their body is destroyed like any other living creature?”

    An uncomfortable flash of pulling Suicune’s limp, cold paw to drag the body against dew-coated grass struck Mark’s mind and he felt a sting of pain in his heart at the thought. “Yes, I think we’re all pretty clear on that.”

    “Well, the Creator and the Preserver, Mew and I, are true immortals.”

    A few seconds passed in stunned silence.

    “Meaning… what exactly?” Mark asked slowly.

    “Meaning that you could hack away at me with a chainsaw for however long you liked, and the tissue would heal faster than you’d be able to tear through it. It would be painful as all hell, but I’d be fine afterwards.”

    This took a while to digest.

    “That doesn’t make any sense,” Mark muttered at last and shook his head. “Then there would be two survivors of the War of the Legends, since neither of you can die.”

    “Remember that the Destroyer drains away all our powers before the War of the Legends. He gets this as well, just before the end. During the War we’ll be as mortal as the other legendaries.” He paused. “Awfully depressing, being immortal except at just about the only time you’re likely to die.”

    Mark shook his head again to clear it. “Okay, this is a bit surprising to find out now, but it doesn’t seem to be of much importance here, so let’s just go on. I’m wondering… can the Destroyer still drain the legendaries’ power when they’ve already been caught?”

    “No,” Chaletwo replied. “Or rather, he can drain mine, because I’m anchored to you, which allows him to get to me, but presuming the other legendaries don’t have anchors within the world, which they generally wouldn’t, he won’t be draining theirs. And of course, when I feel that my power has almost run out, I’ll cut the connection to you so that the Destroyer can’t make me mad through that anchor.”

    “Wait, so you’re letting your power be drained because you’re in Mark’s head?” May asked.

    “Well, yes,” Chaletwo said. “That’s pretty necessary. I need to be able to talk to you guys when I need to, and this is the only way that’s possible. I’d lost too much power already for it to be that much of a loss, and besides, I can act as a clock now, since as I said, I’ll feel it when the War is drawing closer. This is why Molzapart hasn’t been talking to you – he’s not anchored to your brain, although of course he was also pretty powerless before anyway.”

    “Right,” Mark said, realizing with bemusement that he had never really thought about why Molzapart wasn’t in his head too. “So when the Destroyer has drained the power of all the legendaries, what happens exactly?”

    “The Destroyer emits some kind of pulse of energy, containing all the power of the legendary Pokémon doubled. This power flows directly back into the legendaries and is split evenly between them, and receiving such a large amount of power so suddenly basically drives them into a trancelike mental state focused on nothing but getting all that power out through destruction. They destroy everything, especially one another, until only one of them stands left, who then, as I said, receives this residual energy, which apparently causes them to lose consciousness for a time, and when they wake up they’ve gotten their sanity back as well as the power of the Creator.”

    Mark nodded. “So there’s a new Creator and Preserver after every War? What about the Destroyer? If he’s a legendary Pokémon, does he die during the War too? If he does, then how does he come into existence afterwards? Could he be something like the second Pokémon created by the Creator or something? Is he a true immortal as well?”

    “I don’t know the answer to any of that,” Chaletwo responded irritably; Mark got the feeling that Chaletwo hated admitting to himself how little he knew. “But it would make the most sense if he were one of the legendaries and a true immortal, I suppose. Of course, I really hope not.”

    “Why?” Alan asked. “If we knew who he was, then we could get to the root of the problem, couldn’t we?”

    “Well, yes, except that then you’d have to battle something that’s considerably more powerful than all of the legendary Pokémon of today put together. He’s been draining their power for nearly a thousand years, after all. Which is why it worries me, because if the Destroyer is one of the legendary Pokémon, you’ll most likely be confronting him at some point thinking he’s just another legendary and getting a nasty surprise when he kills all of you with the flick of a claw. The best we could do would be to figure out who the Destroyer is beforehand and then know who you don’t want to be battling. Of course, he might also be a legendary whose existence has escaped everyone until now.”

    “But if the Destroyer is one of the legendaries,” Alan asked, “what happens to him during the War of the Legends? Does he send his own power off to the other legendaries, making him powerless?”

    “Look, I really don’t know. It’s pointless to ask me questions about the Destroyer. I don’t know anything about him, and neither does anyone else. I asked Mew much of the same stuff when I was young and he just shook his head and said he didn’t know.”

    “But,” May said, “if we do catch all the legendary Pokémon – what’s going to happen to that pulse of energy? Do you even know? What if it just goes back to the Destroyer, drives him mad and makes him go on a rampage? All we’ll have done will be pointless, and the world ends anyway.”

    Chaletwo was silent for a few moments, which Mark found very unsettling.

    “It’s the best chance we’ve got,” the legendary said quietly at last, and the hopeless manner in which he said it made a cold shiver run down Mark’s spine.

    There were a few seconds of more stunned silence.

    “Well, isn’t that a cheery thought,” May said. “We’re on an impossibly dangerous quest to catch all of the legendary Pokémon so that we can perhaps, maybe, if we’re really lucky and pulses of legendary power really do just vanish into thin air, save the world.”

    “It isn’t quite that bad,” Chaletwo said quickly. “I mean, maybe the pulse finds normal Pokémon instead when there are no legendary Pokémon, and it would be spread between so many that none of them would gain enough power to go mad like that. Or maybe…”

    “Wait, wait, wait,” Mark said, rubbing his forehead and thinking hard. “How does it… ‘know’ that there’s only one legendary Pokémon left?”

    Everyone looked at Mark while Chaletwo considered it.

    “I… don’t know. That’s an interesting thought. Where are you going with this?”

    “So let’s assume the Destroyer does normally die in the War of the Legends. Maybe, if we catch all the legendary Pokémon in time and the power returns to the Destroyer… the War is technically over, because there’s only one legendary Pokémon that has all the power of the others, including that… residual energy you talked about. And the Destroyer becomes the new Creator, and everybody lives, and we won’t have to worry about this for at least another thousand years.”

    “Sounds awfully optimistic to me,” May said, but everyone else was quite happy with a bit of optimism and Mark could see the Pokémon’s faces light up with hope. Funny how the very same quest that had felt impossible before suddenly seemed easy when put into perspective with the other dreadful possibilities in the situation.

    “That… makes a lot of sense,” Chaletwo said thoughtfully. “It’s just speculation, of course, and we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves, but I think it’s good speculation. We stick to plan, then. Get all the legendary Pokémon, hope we don’t attack the Destroyer himself, and then hope for the best… it sounds pretty good.”

    “Well, not attacking the Destroyer himself is a pretty big point, isn’t it?” Alan said. “We’d have to try to make sure that each legendary we attack is not the Destroyer first. What would be the most likely one to be it? What is the second Pokémon that Mew created?”

    “Well,” Chaletwo said, “he started with Kanto’s legendaries and then went on to the other regions, and the trios were created first, so…”

    “Articuno,” Mark finished quietly, and his heart seemed to sink into a bottomless pit.

    Alan shook his head. “Okay, I think it’s been enough speculation for today. We’ve got our goals clear, and that’s the most important thing. The next legendary we’re going for is Polaryu, right? Champion Island?”

    “Yes.”

    “So to get to him as quickly as possible, we should get to sleep so that we can head on to Acaria City early tomorrow. And sleep might clear out our heads a little and give us more good ideas, right? Pokémon, you can be outside of your balls.”

    There were murmurs of agreement and everyone prepared to go to sleep. Mark sighed, got his sleeping bag from the pile, unrolled it on the ground and crawled into it to lie down on his side. He saw that May was already in hers with her eyes closed, just next to where Tyranitar was still lying silently awake and watching him.

    He would have found it creepy if his mind hadn’t been too occupied by the thought that his second favourite Pokémon that he had spent countless battling classes sketching up on the back of his schoolwork might after all be the creature bringing about the end of the world.
     
  6. Psychic

    Psychic Really and truly

    Okay, so this review won’t be as epic and praiseforPsychic-worthy as the other one, but you wanted a review so here it is, even if a bit late.


    So um, I don’t know what else to say. You were still sort of doing the same thing as before, and I really thought that Crater Town could use a bit more description, including while the characters are up in the air. It just felt a bit dull in that way, but as we both you, you focus more on character stuffs than anything else, so meh, guess it’s just not your forte.

    The battle sequence was really great, and I just loved how it was like being lulled into a false sense of security when the humans are winning, then within a few moments the tide of the battle completely changes, and it really looks like they’re going to lose. It was awesome to see that Pupitar, whom they had been so heavily relying on, was just completely forgotten, only to evolve later. But truth be told, my absolute favourite part of that scene was when Mark decides to be rash and sends out Thunderyu. Good to see that the caught legendaries aren’t completely forgotten! I was also kind of nervous when Volcaryu first didn’t come out – like I said I would be – and when nothing happened at first I couldn’t IMAGINE what could go wrong! But then Thunderyu saved the day and everything turned out fine with Carl. XD Also interesting to see that it had been Carl who had caught the dragon and intended to keep it, and I completely hadn't thought of Carl doing something to it. That is certainly interesting for Chaletwo, and I do wonder if he might feel inclined to do something about it.

    Chapter 39 was a nice respite, though I felt like I hadn’t learned much/found many new questions to ask (though I just thought the tidbit on not being able to change the past was interesting). Everyone has known about and has been theorizing about the Destroyer for ages already. At least Mark’s theory on the Destroyer was interesting, and will make for a neat twist. I can’t help but imagine the Destroyer ending up being the cutest, most innocent legendary, and the suspense it creates will certainly keep readers on the edges of their seats, though I’d suggest making sure to bring up the issue of possibly attacking the Destroyer often, to make sure the reader doesn’t forget about it and just to keep that air of suspense. *thinks about the bird trio and Articuno* Hehe, it will certainly be interesting to see Mark meet Articuno. :3


    What else…oh, here are the mistakes I caught:

    Confusing; angry over whose not being dead yet? It’s just a long, slightly bogged-down sentence.


    Replace “and” with “to” so it seems a bit less confusing (sounds like Mark is spreading the wings or something). Not a very big thing. :p


    He doesn’t seem all that frantic here. ^^; Try to show the sensation of a million mixed-up thoughts racing through a frantic mind. Otherwise it’s just a bit…blah.


    This just seems a bit…well, it’s not enough to create a strong mental image for the reader. You want to recreate the sensation of just being completely overwhelmed and blown away by the mere sight of this, something which should be a powerful image which also, in a way, symbolizes not only a fear of Volcaryu, but the utter tragedy of all the residents of the town losing everything. Make this “gaping hole to Hell” at the center of this abandoned village a strong image in the reader’s mind.


    More really minor things here, but imo it should be “adjusted his flight to fly horizontal” and “a little, at least enough.”


    I think you mean “to pour out.”


    “Inspect” sounds a bit funny here; personally, I’d go with “find the source of.”


    I think you meant “that despite the fact that” instead.



    Um, not much else to say otherwise, really. The usual looking forward to reading on and whatnot. Shame that just when the fic starts getting farther into the plot you lose all your old readers. Except for like, five. My poor, poor Pookie, losing aaaaaaaaall of her popularity. And constant praise. Your life is a sad one that will surely be made into a sonnet years and years from now!

    ~Psychic
     
  7. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    I have to admit, I was surprised when Carl turned out to be the one to capture Volcaryu. I also have to admit that I share Chaletwo's concerns about Carl having him... o.o

    I'm very interested in the matter of who the Destroyer might turn out to be--and especially in the possibility of it being Articuno, considering how the thought of that possibility is already beginning to affect Mark. I also like the fact that it's not set in stone, though, that the actual identity of the Destroyer hasn't been confirmed and that the disastrous possibility of attacking the Destroyer is looming over Mark and company--this is a kind of thing that really, really makes me want to see what'll happen next in a story. o.o

    Alas, the things that can come out of the mouth when one's not quite awake... XP

    Oh snap... XD

    I love Chaletwo's line there. XD

    And his line there. XD

    The thought made me chuckle, too. XD

    That was my favorite moment in the Volcaryu battle. :D I loved how the tables were suddenly turned, and I thought that the visuals and level of detail in that second paragraph were great.

    That right there resulted in what I believe is the very first time that I have ever thought of a Tyranitar as being cute. ^^

    Another Chaletwo quote that I liked. XD

    And yet another. XD Chaletwo had quite a few great lines in those two latest chapters. :D
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2008
  8. elyvorg

    elyvorg somewhat backwards.

    So here I am finally with a review that Lunar_Espeon told me you wanted, ooh, about two months ago now. I'll do Chapters 38 and 39 in-depth (I could do 37 as well but I'm not going to because it's insanely long and I'm lazy) and then I might add general comments on the whole fic if any come to mind seeing as you know I'm a reader but I've never really told you my opinion on the fic overall.

    And for Chapter 38 I've gone mad on the nitpicky things, seeing as you apparently like them. Here we go.
    “flicked the switch on the flashlight off” just seems to be to be a bit of a mouthful, and there’s really no need to go into so much detail with mentioning the switch when it’s pretty insignificant. “Carl switched the flashlight off” is much simpler and smoother. It would also probably sound better as “and the world was plunged into darkness”, but that might just be me.

    Slightly jarring repetition of “forehead” here.

    I’m not completely sure if this word order is grammatically correct – it almost seems to be implying that both Carl and a mystery person called “nodded” spoke at the same time.

    The way this is worded – saying the light source is “in” the warm, fiery glow – doesn’t quite get across the presumably intended meaning that the light source is a warm, fiery glow. Also, the clump of almost clinical words used to refer to the light source all in one go just kind of threw me off a little.

    I don’t think you can really take electricity off something – “turned off in the town” is probably a better wording.

    front door.

    It seems odd to refer to Skarmory as “the Skarmory” – which is pretty much referring to him by species rather than by name – when in the same sentence you’re using Spirit’s name, not her species, to refer to her.

    This just sounds awkward, as “being in little of a hurry” isn’t usually the way things are worded in English. “You’re not in much of a hurry” or something similar sounds more natural.

    Because Carl is the subject of the first sentence, the rest of the “he”s in the paragraph are at first glance apparently also referring to Carl when they actually mean Mark. I have this problem in writing sometimes, too – when you’re writing in third person limited, it can get incredibly tempting just to throw “he”s or “she”s around, but you’ve got to be careful of subject confusion.

    Should be “a heartbeat”.

    Now, while I absolutely loved most of the description of the town being destroyed as I could visualize it all brilliantly, this let it down a bit. It just seems like something a child could have come up with, and it probably doesn’t give anywhere near as much of an idea of the power of the eruption as you’d hoped. Seeing as I (and presumably most other people reading) have never witnessed a car crash first hand, I can’t actually properly imagine the ferocity of it, and the “much worse” doesn’t really give any indication of how much worse. And considering the scale, a car crash probably isn’t the best thing to liken a volcanic eruption to as it’s actually more likely to tone down the eruption, if anything.

    Don’t really like the “a bit downwards” here – I think other people have mentioned this, but it kind of dampens the action feel amongst the more powerful words.

    This sentence is extremely long-winded and confusing for explaining something so crucial – I found myself re-reading it several times to understand exactly what you were getting at. I’d personally split it where I put the asterisks – partly to make it easier to understand, and partly because such a long sentence lacks the impact of a shorter one, and it’d be better to really drive home the fact that they’re probably screwed now.

    “bad” should be “badly”, as it’s an adverb relating to the “doing”.

    This is one hell of a run on sentence kept together with wayyy too many conjunctions (which I've bolded) that should be split into two, if not three separate ones.

    Two “presumably”s in the same sentence – I understand the need to make everything from Mark’s POV, but I don’t think it’s too much to change a presumption of something minor such as the Pokéball being Tyranitar’s into an actual fact.

    Another simple case of repetition.

    There’s another one of those “then”s in a dialogue tag that I don’t like as there’s no real need for them. Also, you might want to reword to avoid the slight repetitiveness of the “<Character> nodded <adverb>” structure here.

    Okay, so the main thing that seems to be bothering me is when you use really long-winded sentences, usually to explain something going on in a character's mind. I understand that you might be going for a run-on-thought-process sort of feel, but I find that I often lose track of what's being explained about halfway through the sentences sometimes. It'd be a lot easier to digest if you split up the sentences into smaller chunks of explanation. I don't think it would damage the thought process vibe too much, either, as I personally find that my thoughts tend to come to me in smaller bits rather than all in one long go (although for all I know, that's just me and other people think in different ways).

    I also think that it might help your battle scenes if you were to shorten some the sentences used for battle description quite considerably, as they can get quite long there as well (that one I quoted with Diamond and Carl's Pokémon dodging is a prime example, but not the only one). I think the problem is that longer sentences make me feel more like I'm just reading an explanation of what's going on rather than feeling like I'm actually there, watching it happen. Shorter sentences would make the whole thing seem more fast-paced; they'd build more tension. And they'd just generally make it easier to read; during a battle I don't want to have to think, I just want to be swept away by the action.

    That was, overall, an enjoyable chapter. I liked Mark's sparring with Chaletwo (heck, I always like Mark's arguments with Chaletwo) and I liked Carl's skepticism about the whole thing. Best part IMO was when Mark sent out Thunderyu – if I remember rightly from my reactions when I first read the chapter, it actually made me laugh out loud.


    Nitpicky stuff for Chapter 39 - and there's a lot less of it, mostly because it's hard to nitpick dialogue.

    I’m not completely sure about this, but I don’t think “murr” is an actual word. I’m just pointing it out for the sake of correctness, though; I actually quite like it – it sort of makes me think of both “purr” and “murmur” at the same time.

    I’m slightly put off here by the way Chaletwo only thinks to mention that he can’t time travel any more after giving his long explanation about how time travel works and why you can’t change the past or keep everyone in the future. It just seems a bit like you added it in as an afterthought just to completely get rid of the possibility of time travelling. There’s nothing wrong with him actually being unable to time travel or anything; I just think it would make more sense if he mentioned it straight away as soon as May asked about taking everyone to the future and then went on to explain why it wouldn’t work anyway.

    I liked this chapter, too. The explanations cleared up a lot of things, and while I wasn't particularly desperate for them to be cleared up, it still felt good when they were. The new elements coming to light I also found nice, probably because I'm a sucker for fantasy/sci-fi-ish concepts.


    So, overall, I like this fic. It's not the best piece of literature I've ever read or anything, but I find the writing style easy to read most of the time, even if it can be a bit bland sometimes as Psychic has said. And I love the way you handle your characters. Mark's third person limited POV and the way he percieves some things has also stood out to me occasionally – things such as his crazy thought about if Carl would kill him in a fit of anger over not being dead are the sort of thing that seem, to me, to define you as a writer, as I've never really noticed anything similar in anyone else's writing. And I don't think that previous sentence actually made any sense, but there you go.

    I am aware that it's slightly clichéd and very messy plot-wise, but I've just sort of accepted that that's the way it is for this fic and got on with reading. It's probably because this is pretty much the first piece of fanfiction I ever read (apart from Morphic, which incidentally I prefer to this) which means that when I read it, I had little, if any, idea of the dos and don'ts of fanfiction. At least, it was good enough for my fanfiction-ignorant mind to wonder how you go about doing something like it, thus making me read your writing guide, from which I got inspired to start fanfiction of my own. So yeah.
     
  9. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    And it's chapter forty, officially the third longest chapter of this fic at twenty-four pages. It's been three months. Not as bad as sometimes, I suppose. Thanks a lot for reviewing, all three of you; you made a lot of useful comments and I really appreciate you taking the time to type all that up for me. :3 You're awesome.

    I have to say I rather like this chapter. Everything came out more or less the way I wanted it. And wow, it feels weird to write a Gym now that I made up when I was twelve years old. Very, very weird. I mean, I didn't have a very clear picture of Carl's Gym or Sparky's when I made them up, and I'd written several versions of all the other Gyms already, but for this Gym I made up the puzzle before I even started writing the fic, when I wrote down a rough idea of all the Gyms and Pokémon. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.



    Chapter 40: In the Dark

    They arrived in Acaria City around noon the next day.

    Acaria City was the largest settlement in Ouen as well as one of the oldest. When the first early settlers had ventured inward in search of happiness, they had stumbled upon this beautiful, lush valley in the heart of the region and built many independent farms which later grew more numerous. By the time the place was densely populated enough for it to be impossible to call it anything but a city, there were at least three different families laying claim to the right to name it on the grounds that their ancestors had supposedly been the first people to live in the area, and for a long period of time the city had several different names. Before that dispute was ever resolved, however, a heroic young woman named Danielle Acaria and her bird Pokémon had next to single-handedly saved the city from being burnt to cinders by an army of trained Charizard from Johto, with which Ouen was at war at the time, and an overwhelming majority of the city’s inhabitants had afterwards agreed that it should be named Acaria City in her honour.

    “Naturally, I won’t be able to go with you to Champion Island,” Alan was saying as they walked into the lush Route 217 in search of a good place to train for the Gym after lunch and a Pokémon Center rest. “I don’t have all the Ouen badges, so I can’t come onto the island without special permission. So while you’re there, I think I should be on the lookout for Rainteicune while training my Pokémon to be better able to battle some legendaries. Rainteicune is just a matter of finding him; he’ll let me recapture him as soon as I’ve explained the situation, so that shouldn’t be a problem. You’ll be partaking in the League, correct?”

    May nodded. “Of course.”

    Mark sighed and looked up. “I’m not sure I want to compete anymore. I don’t think competitive battling is really my thing.”

    He’d said it. It felt odd to say it; part of him stubbornly felt like he was betraying his childhood self that had been so desperate to become a Pokémon trainer and participate in the League Championships. May looked at him out of the corner of her eye.

    “Wouldn’t it seem mighty suspicious if you came to Champion Island and went through the cave but didn’t participate in the League? It would seem like you only got all the badges to be able to do something on the island and then run off.”

    “I did get all the badges to be able to do something on the island,” Mark pointed out.

    “But they don’t know you’re trying to capture a legendary dragon Pokémon before it goes mad, do they? They’ll figure you’re poaching Charmander or placing a bomb somewhere or trying to help somebody else cheat in the League or something.” She looked at him. “Besides, no offense, Mark, but your Pokémon really need the experience if we’re going to keep doing this legendary thing.”

    Mark shrugged. “I guess,” he said. She did have a point, and he wasn’t sure he really wanted to argue. “But it isn’t over until sometime in August, is it? That’s an awful lot of time to waste not finding any legendaries.”

    “Actually,” Chaletwo suddenly spoke up, “I think it’s a good idea you get your Pokémon trained. We have no legendaries whose location we know and should be heading to anyway after Polaryu, so we don’t know if we’d be finding any in that time at all, and frankly the prospect of having to battle the Waraider herd worries me at the moment, what with there being eight of them to fight at the same time.”

    Mark’s stomach churned uncomfortably at the idea. Fighting just one legendary was bad enough. Eight at the same time seemed impossible. Some nice training did sound good in that context.

    “Hey, Chaletwo,” Alan said, “you know what you were saying yesterday about the whole physical link to Mark thing? What if Molzapart linked to me in that way, and then if I find any legendaries we need to battle, Molzapart communicates with you somehow and you teleport Mark and May over?”

    A second passed in silence. “Hmm,” Chaletwo replied. “Awfully risky, leaving Molzapart vulnerable to the Destroyer too for a couple of months. Right now he can still modify memories on a small scale. He could lose that.”

    May shrugged. “Is that really ever going to be so useful?” she said. “Modifying memories is nice when you want to fake someone’s death while they’re still walking around, but now that that’s done, I can’t really think of any situations where we’d need it, especially since we’re done with both of the legendaries stuck next to towns. Better than some legendary blowing Alan’s head off while we’re not there, in any case.”

    “Maintaining a constant, full psychic link between Molzapart and me would take a lot of energy,” Chaletwo said thoughtfully. “But I suppose it would be possible for me to listen for help calls. Molzapart wouldn’t be able to focus them to me specifically, but if he just sent a powerful psychic pulse in all directions, I’d be able to pick it up while Alan traps the legendary, and then you arrive in time for the battle… it should be a pretty solid plan aside from the lack of possible memory modifications, and I suppose May is right that it wouldn’t be much of a loss. Well, good idea, then, Alan. We’ll do this unless something changes.”

    The road led them between beautiful, flowery hills along a river which also ran through the middle of the city. There was no wind at all and not a trace of clouds in the sky, making the landscape on the left-hand side look strangely still, but the flowing river on the right-hand side balanced it out to make it pleasantly alive.

    “Are you still worried about Volcaryu?” Mark muttered under his breath, giving Chaletwo a mental prod.

    “I’ll feel if he sends him out,” Chaletwo replied shortly.

    “And what then?”

    “We teleport to wherever they are.”

    Mark would have stared at him if Chaletwo hadn’t been only in his head. “Carl would see you.”

    “Yes.”

    “And I told Carl a whole story about how you were going to take over the world using Volcaryu.”

    “What else do you propose we do?” Chaletwo snapped. “Wait for the moment Volcaryu goes mad and kills us all?”

    Mark paused. “We don’t really know what Carl would do with Volcaryu if anything,” he then said. “It’s pretty senseless to start wondering what we’re going to do if we don’t have the first idea what Carl is going to do.”

    Chaletwo grunted in response, signalling that he wanted to end the conversation.

    It was not long before they came to where the road turned north while the river continued on eastwards into a valley where it widened into a long lake.

    “Okay,” said May and stopped, “let’s train here around the lake. Screw the wild Pokémon; our Pokémon will learn a lot more battling one another.”

    Mark shrugged and the three of them walked together off the path to the lake.

    “What levels are your Pokémon again, Mark?” May asked.

    “Uh, fifty or so?” He shrugged.

    “Right. I think we’d accomplish the most by training specific skills instead of just randomly battling one another. Send them out.”

    Mark plucked the six Pokéballs from his belt and threw them loosely forward. Charizard, Jolteon, Sandslash, Dragonair, Scyther and Letal emerged in flashes of white light. May looked thoughtfully at them. “What level are Dragonair and Letal exactly?” she finally asked.

    Mark reached for his Pokédex and pointed it at them in turn. “Dragonair’s level 51, Letal’s 49.”

    She nodded thoughtfully. “Okay, they probably won’t evolve just yet. Let’s forget about doing that before the Gym for now and focus on some techniques.” She paused. “Hey, what does Letal know at the moment?”

    “Um,” Mark said and began to count the ones he remembered off on his fingers. “Tackle, Tail Whip, Hypnosis, Take Down, Slash, Headbutt, Iron Tail, Iron Defense, Agility…”

    “Payback?” May shot in. “Sand-Attack?”

    Mark shrugged. “I don’t think I’ve ever used them. Oh, right,” he added, remembering the battle with Alan, “she managed to use Tri Attack the other day.”

    May raised her eyebrows. “At level 49?”

    “Yeah?”

    She whistled. “Nice. Normally they only learn that very close to evolution.”

    Letal looked at him, and he looked in puzzlement back at May. “So she’s going to evolve soon?”

    May shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. She could just have been quick to learn that attack.”

    There was a second of silence while May regarded Letal with interest. “Well, anyway,” she said abruptly, snapping her gaze back to Mark. “What I was saying, I think Letal can learn some tricks. Lend me your Pokédex for a second?” She walked up to him and he obediently handed her the device. She pointed it at Letal and pressed a few buttons.

    “Right,” she said, showing him the screen. “This is Letal’s ordinary attack list. They evolve from Leta at level thirty or so, having already learned this stuff here, and after they evolve they’ll proceed to learn this stuff.” She pointed vaguely to the bottom half of the list. “But they also gain the ability to develop their Headbutt and Payback attacks into new variations now that they’ve got armor and a Steel type to work with.” She scrolled to the top of the move list, where it listed Iron Head and Metal Burst just after the ordinary Tackle and Tail Whip. “So, well, yeah. They won’t learn moves like those on their own, but some focused training can do the trick. Wanna try it?”

    Mark looked at Letal. “What do you think?” She just looked expectantly up at May.

    May reached for her Pokéball necklace. “Okay, let’s see,” she muttered. She grabbed one of the balls and threw it; it opened and the light inside formed into Tyranitar.

    Letal looked a bit doubtful, and Mark felt much the same way. “Why Tyranitar?” he protested. “There’s no way she can defeat him.”

    “Since when was the point defeating him?” said May, looking at him out of the corner of her eye. “Tyranitar is best because he’s resistant to Normal and Dark attacks and weak to Steel attacks. This way we’ll know better when she’s doing it right. If her attacks are being empowered by her Steel-type, they will hurt Tyranitar a lot more.”

    “Oh. Right.” Mark looked back at Letal and then at May again; Tyranitar stood calmly between them, observing Mark’s Pokémon. “So how do we do this?”

    “Let’s start with Iron Head. Okay, Letal, I want you to try to use a Headbutt, just like normal, except with some Steel power to it. Try it.”

    Letal took a nervous glance at Tyranitar and then charged, ramming her head into the dinosaur’s blue stomach. Tyranitar looked down at her, obviously just about completely unhurt. May sighed.

    “Okay, let’s try again. Try to focus before you attack. Get the Steel-type into your head better. Try to…”

    Letal closed her eyes, charged again and hit Tyranitar’s diamond-shaped stomach area again with similar results as before. She let out a cry of frustration.

    “Now, Letal,” May began, but Mark cut her off, feeling a bit dumb just standing there.

    “Aren’t we training my Pokémon here? Can’t I do this?”

    May rolled her eyes. “If you want.”

    “Okay, Letal, try to…” Mark attempted to imagine himself as a Pokémon, but couldn’t really relate to the experience of learning new attacks at all. “Eh, what do you do when you use something like Iron Tail? Can’t you just try to do the same thing, except for the… head… instead of the tail?”

    Letal closed her eyes to concentrate and her tail began to glow with white energy. She shook her head in irritation and tried again; this time her tail flickered and after a moment her mask lit up instead.

    “Okay, that might be it,” he said encouragingly. “Try it.”

    Letal charged and smashed her head into Tyranitar’s body, and nothing happened. Tyranitar grunted and looked at May.

    “Nope, not it,” she said and shook her head. “Maybe a step in the right direction, but not it.”

    “How do people normally do this?” Mark asked in frustration. “There has to be some method to get it right, hasn’t there?”

    May shrugged. “Normally people go to eccentric professionals who make you pay in some silly items they happen to collect.”

    Mark looked at her strangely. “Uh, okay, Letal, try again. Concentrate more. Try to get more energy into the mask.”

    She made another attempt that did little more than the previous.

    “Hey,” May suddenly said, “I don’t think it’s about the mask. The problem isn’t that she’s not touching him with a metallic surface or something. It’s that she’s not hitting him hard enough.”

    She walked quickly around to stand in front of Tyranitar and gave him a rough push with her hand and then a punch; she winced slightly while the dinosaur was as comically unaffected as ever.

    “See,” she said and rubbed her knuckles, “it’s just that his skin is harder than her neck. Even if I had a metal shield on my fist I wouldn’t be able to do anything much to him because my arm absorbs too much of the power of the impact. Same with Letal’s neck. If you get my drift.”

    Mark looked blankly at her.

    May sighed. “Letal, try to make your neck metallic while you do it too. Or your whole body, even. Whatever works best.”

    She stepped to the side and Letal closed her eyes to concentrate again. Her entire body was enveloped into that white glow, almost as if she were evolving, but then she charged and in mid-air the glow changed to a shiny chrome spread uniformly over her body just a split second before she smashed headfirst into Tyranitar’s belly.

    The dinosaur roared and staggered a couple of steps backwards, shaking his head. He growled at Letal; Mark’s Pokémon had returned to looking her ordinary self.

    “Great job, Letal,” Mark said and petted the tired Pokémon’s neck a little. “You’ll get that other one in no time.”

    “That’s more like it,” said May, smiling in satisfaction. “Let’s try that again a few more times.”
     
  10. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    -------

    The current Acaria City Gym leader was a descendant of the city’s founder, a young woman named Diana Acaria, whose decision to train Dark Pokémon from Johto after having been a great fan of former Elite Four member Karen since childhood would most likely not have pleased her famous ancestor very much. The Gym, which she had inherited from her father, had originally been a Flying-type Gym and still bore some witness to that past in its outwards appearance: Mark noticed feathers decorating the wooden panel bearing the Gym’s name above the entrance. Diana, however, had had the panel, as well as the rest of the Gym, painted in a jet-black color that made the building seem awfully foreboding. The words ‘ACARIA CITY GYM’ were now blood red.

    It had been an exhausting day of training, but it had been worth it: Mark felt fairly confident now that he had gotten a chance to focus a little on each of his Pokémon, and Letal in particular had gotten a lot out of it. May had given him helpful tips about Dark-type Pokémon that he tried to keep bubbling at the top of his mind. They’d had dinner with Alan and then parted with him at a trainer hotel while the two of them headed to the Gym, which was apparently only open after sundown.

    “Is it just me or doesn’t it have any windows?” May commented. Mark squinted at the building; what appeared to have been windows at some point had been sloppily boarded up and the boards then painted black like the rest of it.

    “So then why,” she continued, “does she even bother not having it open in the day? It’s not like you could tell the difference from the inside.”

    Mark shrugged. “Maybe Dark-types just feel better in the night or something.” He glanced up at the murky sky; the western horizon was still pink with dark purple clouds floating lazily above the roofs of the buildings. The eastern sky had gone dark blue.

    “Well, there’s no sun visible anymore, so it’s got to count as open,” May said, echoing his thoughts. “Let’s get inside.”

    She walked up to the double doors and Mark hastily followed. May peered at the door knockers, shaped like the heads of a Tyranitar and a Houndoom holding rings in their mouths, and then grabbed the Tyranitar one and knocked harshly on the door a few times. They heard the ringing echo of the knock inside, but nobody came to open the door.

    May pushed the door, and it opened. “Well, that was pointless,” she said, raising an eyebrow at the ornate door knockers as they stepped inside.

    The door slammed shut, and it was dark.

    Really, really dark.

    “What the hell?” Mark heard May mutter by his side. He knew more about the Gyms of his region than she did, of course, and had previously been vaguely aware that this Gym was dark, but somehow he had never quite realized just how dark.

    “Wait,” he said. “There’s supposed to be a candle.”

    He blinked a few times and looked around. The building was huge, since after all it had used to be a Flying-type Gym that had to give the bird Pokémon some room to fly; the arena had then, he knew, been dug partly into the ground in order to compensate for not being allowed to make the roof of the building higher than a standard battle arena, but it was spacious on the horizontal plane as well. Finally he found a flicker of faint light somewhere at the far right. Suspiciously faint, in fact. He wasn’t quite sure how he got the idea of trying to stand on tiptoe, but when he did, the actual flame came into view. Clearly there was something in the way.

    “May, do you see the candle?” Mark asked. She was taller than him, after all.

    “Yeah,” she said, “but what is it for? It’s not exactly lighting the way.”

    “The Gym Leader is there,” Mark said. “It’s a puzzle. You’re supposed to get there in the dark. Presumably there are some obstacles on the way.”

    May sighed. “I don’t get Gym puzzles. What do they have to do with your Pokémon battling ability? And couldn’t you just bring a flashlight, anyway? Or a Pokémon with Flash?”

    Mark shrugged. “I guess Diana would strangle you.”

    May snorted. “Just try to stay close and we’ll figure this out. Let’s try just going in the opposite direction of the door first.”

    Mark did so and bumped into a wall. “Ow. There’s a wall.”

    “Yeah, I noticed,” May said on his left.

    He felt the wall up and down and found it to be about a head shorter than him, but there were large spikes on the top to make it clear they weren’t supposed to climb over it. He felt it experimentally a bit more to the right and found a corner; he felt the whole right wall to confirm there was no getting past it and then said, “Dead end on this side.”

    “Not on this one, I think,” May said, a bit farther to his left now. “No, the wall goes on. Follow me.”

    Mark hurried over and bumped into her back.

    “Watch it,” May hissed.

    “Sorry.”

    May felt their way ahead along the wall for a little while and they’d gotten to a reasonable pace when suddenly she stopped and Mark bumped into her back again.

    “The wall turns right here,” she said.

    “Well, let’s go there, then.”

    They followed that path a couple of meters in before it turned right again, and then continued for a few more before May told Mark to stop.

    “What?”

    “It’s a dead end,” she said and he could hear her hands feeling the wall in front of them. “And there haven’t been any other paths since we turned for the first time. It’s a maze.”

    Mark sighed. “Let’s go back to the first path by the outside wall.”

    He led the way now; they had no need to feel the walls on the way as long as they were careful to know where they were on their path. Finally they got back to the outside wall and found that indeed, they could continue straight ahead where they had turned. Mark was still in the lead, but this time they decided to feel one wall each in order to know their options more easily. He covered the wall on the right while May was by the outside wall; the path was still rather narrow and they couldn’t stand side by side.

    “It turns here,” he said as he felt the wall end on his side and stepped into the new path.

    “Here too,” May confirmed behind him to his left. “No choice, then.”

    Mark took a step forward and suddenly found himself falling. He let out some sort of a yelp and then realized he was sliding down the slippery inside of a wide pipe, having only barely enough time to come to this conclusion before he tumbled out of the end of the pipe onto some soft surface. He shook his head and stood up, blinking as he realized that there was dim light coming from somewhere on the left. The room was cold.

    May’s feet knocked him back over as she came sliding down the pipe after him. He managed to stop his fall with his hands; the floor seemed to have been covered with old, dirty mattresses.

    “You fell down too, huh?”

    “I stepped forward to see why you yelled.” May stood up and blinked while Mark looked around. The room had a pretty high ceiling, and wide pipes like the one they had slid down were here and there, reaching from their opening near the floor, spiralling gently upwards and disappearing into the ceiling. On the left, where the light came from, there was a staircase.

    “Right,” May said as she noticed it. “Okay, so presumably the floor in the Gym has a bunch of trapdoors and they send you down here, which means you have to go back up outside, enter the Gym again, and start the maze from scratch. Right?”

    Mark nodded. “Looks like it to me.”

    “That’s going to be a lot of fun.”

    They walked towards the staircase and up, emerging out of the ground by the side of the Gym. They went back around to the front doors and reentered the darkness, finding their way quickly back to where they had fallen down the first time.

    “Okay, wait a second,” May said. “I want to see how these trapdoors work.”

    Mark stepped blindly into the corner on the left while May bent down and seemed to start feeling the floor. He waited for a few awkward seconds; there were two knocks.

    “Okay,” said May’s voice, “the trapdoors open only when you put enough weight on them, I assume, because giving it a push didn’t do it, so you can’t just feel around with your foot. On the other hand, there is a bit of a difference in the sound when you knock on a trapdoor than when you knock on the normal floor.” She knocked twice with her foot again, and indeed the sound was different.

    “Which was which?” Mark asked doubtfully.

    “First was trapdoor, second was floor.” She did it again. “I’ll take the lead now, okay?”

    She did, and slowly they navigated their way through the maze, with May notifying him of and guiding him past the trapdoors on the way. Eventually they came straight to a wall where the path split in a T to the left and right. The flickering candlelight was still on the right, now far closer than it had originally been.

    “Could be a trick,” May said. “Candle’s on the right, so she wants us to go right, but really it’s left.”

    “Or the right way actually is right.”

    “Do we split?”

    “No,” Mark said quickly, not wanting to get lost completely alone in the dark. “We can try one first.”

    May sighed. “Mine first, then?”

    “Sure.”

    As it turned out, after wandering around the darkness for a long while during which Mark completely lost track of where he was, May concluded that her way had been a collection of dead ends after all. This then provoked her into a rant about how stupid Diana must be while they returned to the original place where they had disagreed on where to go. Mark didn’t feel overly exhilarated about his way having been right, having much preferred if the other one had been so that they’d have gotten to the Gym leader sooner, but when they headed along the right path he could at least feel sure they were on the way there.

    The path turned right again and continued straight from there for a while until they again reached a left and right split.

    “So,” Mark said. “Left or right?”

    “This is the front wall of the Gym,” May said from in front of him, apparently referring to the wall straight ahead. “Right is away from the candle this time, since we’re oriented the other way. Even if we didn’t already know Diana doesn’t try to make things non-straightforward, I’m pretty sure with the shape of our path here that way has got to be a dead end. So let’s go left.”

    As it turned out, that was the last dead end on the way: they felt their way a short distance along the left path before it turned left again, and then they had a straight view of the candle standing on a table in an ornate candlestick at the far end of the hallway with no wall in sight between them.

    “We’re here!” Mark shouted and was about to break into a run, but May must have heard him move because she grabbed the back of his shirt.

    “Are you crazy? There are bound to be trapdoors on the way now. She wants you to get overconfident now that you can see the goal. Or at least I hope she figured that out and is not completely braindead.”

    This time May was right: they navigated their way around three trapdoors uncomfortably close together and one farther along before finally making it to the table with a sigh of relief.

    Mark looked around. The candle didn’t give much light; it illuminated the long silver candlestick and the wooden surface of the table, but he could only dimly see the faint orange flicker on the walls around, and aside from glistening off a couple of spikes, the light didn’t illuminate the walls farther away at all.

    “So what do we do now?” asked May. “Where’s Diana?”

    Just as she said the name, a door opened in the far right corner; Mark hadn’t noticed it was even there. In stepped a beautiful young woman with long, dark hair (it looked dyed, in fact, thought Mark), wearing a plain black dress, along with a demonic-looking dog Pokémon and a naturally dark-haired teenage boy in a black cape.

    Victor?” Mark asked incredulously and May spun around at the mention of the name. The boy looked up and grinned. “Hey, guys. Mitch told me you managed to get from the Pokémon Festival okay. How have you been?”

    “I got a Tyranitar now!” May said immediately. “You said I could find Mutark then, right?”

    “Yeah,” Victor said and nodded. “If you want to get one, they’re usually found around Route 316. You know, between here and Scorpio City. I first met you in Scorpio City just after I caught Precious, didn’t I?”

    “What are you doing here?” Mark asked, still dumbfounded. “Are you a junior trainer in the Gym?”

    “Well, that’s what I came here to be,” Victor said and grinned. “But… Diana decided I was too good for that and made me assistant Gym leader instead.”

    Mark stared. Victor grinned still more widely.

    “So well, since there are two of you, we’ve decided that this will be a tag battle. Do you know how that works?”

    “Two trainers on the same team, isn’t it?” Mark said doubtfully.

    “Yeah. Both trainers send out one Pokémon at a time in a double battle. We will all use five Pokémon this time, and at the end of the match, all challengers who still have a Pokémon standing get a badge.”

    As if to underline his words with additional dramatics, Diana’s Houndoom breathed out a bright Flamethrower that swept over the walls ahead and to the right with practiced accuracy, lighting torches in the walls to illuminate the Gym building better. Mark stared over the maze and wondered briefly how in the world they got around it in the dark.

    The actual battle arena was to the left, marked by the usual lines in the floor, and all four trainers walked over to it, the leaders taking the farther end and the challengers the nearer. A rather small pool lay on the left side of the arena, the still water dark aside from the distorted, bright orange reflections of the torches on the walls.

    “Acaria City Pokémon Gym,” Diana said in a strong, regal voice. “Two on two tag battle, five Pokémon apiece. No switching allowed until a Pokémon has fainted. All trainers carrying six must lay one Pokéball on the table before the battle begins.”

    The leaders, of course, had only brought in the Pokémon they were going to use, so Mark and May had to turn back to the table. Mark took out his Pokédex and considered his choices. Sandslash’s most powerful attack was Earthquake, which would hurt May’s Pokémon too; he was probably the most obvious candidate for leaving out of the battle, and thus Mark quickly switched him to the PC. But who else should he leave out? If there was a pool in a Dark-type Gym, it wasn’t unlikely that one of them had a Water-type Pokémon – Sharpedo came to mind immediately – and having Jolteon would be nice in that case.

    In fact, he could think of Dark-type Pokémon that each of his Pokémon would have a type advantage over except for Dragonair, and although he’d have loved to look at him perform more Dragon Rushes, he placed the dragon’s Pokéball on the table beside the candle.

    “Who are you leaving out?” May whispered.

    “Sandslash and Dragonair.”

    “Then if you kept Jolteon, I’m leaving Raichu. Do you mind?”

    He shook his head, she placed one of her minimized balls on the table, and they walked back to their place on the arena.

    “Houndoom, go!” Diana said sharply without warning, and the hellhound Pokémon leapt into the arena with a growl.

    “Go, Insidious!” shouted Victor, throwing a Pokéball. It emerged into a scarecrow-like cactus Pokémon with an all-too-creepy grin; for some reason the buried fact that the large dark green diamond shape on its stomach meant it was female bubbled up in Mark’s head as he saw it.

    “Spirit, do it!” May yelled as she threw out one of her own Pokéballs. Mark quickly went over what Pokémon he had in his head: it was better to save Jolteon for a possible Water-type, Letal and Scyther would be at risk from Houndoom, and he could probably do more useful things with Gyarados later in the battle.

    “Charizard, go!” he shouted, throwing his own Pokéball just as he realized that this would mean they were both using Fire Pokémon and that that might not be good when they weren’t allowed to switch. He looked worriedly at May; she looked back at him with an expression that didn’t seem so much disappointed as surprised.

    “Crunch on the Charizard,” ordered Diana.

    “Spirit, Flamethrower the Cacturne once Ch…” May looked at Mark, her expression turning frustrated, and yelled, “Charizard, Flamethrower Spirit already!”

    Mark stared at her, dumbfounded, as his Pokémon obeyed the order: Charizard, who had not taken off the ground, took a deep breath and quickly enveloped the Ninetales in bright flames out of his throat as Diana’s Houndoom leapt onto his body with a snarl and locked its jaws around his neck. Meanwhile, Spirit was glowing with heat, and she began to take a breath to execute her own attack.

    “Sucker Punch the Ninetales!” Victor cried, and all of a sudden Insidious, grinning her creepy grin, spun around on the spot, appearing just in front of Spirit and socking her in the jaw before reappearing where she had been before. Spirit staggered backwards with a growl, but shook her head and breathed a long tongue of fire at the cactus Pokémon, who was easily scorched.

    “Mark,” May said quickly, “that was activating Flash Fire. It’s useful. Houndoom probably has it too, so don’t use any Fire attacks on it, okay?”

    Mark just nodded; he vaguely remembered Flash Fire now that she mentioned it. “Okay, Charizard, uh, Flamethrower the Cacturne.”

    “Spirit, use Confuse Ray on the Houndoom!”

    “Destiny Bond, Insidious!”

    Just as Charizard inhaled and released a blast of flames towards the cactus Pokémon, she glowed with a purple aura, and as the scarecrow-like body was lit on fire and the Pokémon roared in pain, so did Charizard. Diana shouted something to her Houndoom, but Mark didn’t hear it as Charizard collapsed onto the ground at exactly the same time as the Cacturne did.

    “Return,” he said, recalling his first Pokémon back to the safety of his ball while Victor did the same for Insidious. Mark thought for a moment and then picked Gyarados’s ball; after all, there were no Dark/Electric Pokémon to his knowledge.

    “Go, Gyarados!”

    The sea monster emerged in the pool from a blob of white light. Victor nodded and took out one of his own Pokéballs.

    “Go, Vicious!”

    Precious, Vicious and Insidious. Clearly Victor had a naming pattern. Mark chuckled as the light from the ball formed into a shark Pokémon opposite Gyarados in the pool.

    “Gyarados, Hydro Pump on the Houndoom!” Mark yelled.

    “Vicious, use Aqua Jet on the Ninetales.”

    “Houndoom, Faint Attack on the Gyarados!”

    “Spirit, Payback on the Sharpedo!”

    Victor’s shark Pokémon seemed to turn into a blast of water as it smashed out of the pool and straight into Spirit’s body. The Ninetales shook it off fairly easily although the attack had hit her by surprise and retaliated by wrapping her body in a purple aura and tackling the shark Pokémon in mid-air to send it back into the pool. Just as she did so, the Houndoom vanished from where it was and reappeared in mid-air behind Gyarados, smacking him upside the head with a paw before reappearing where it had been before. The sea monster growled and fired a well-aimed blast of water from his mouth that smashed the Houndoom into the wall.

    “Another Aqua Jet on the Ninetales!” Victor was ordering his Pokémon.

    “Flamethrower it,” May hissed back as the shark bounded into Spirit again. She responded while Vicious was still in mid-air getting back to the pool: a cloud of silky flames scorched the shark Pokémon and it shivered as it landed back in the pool, swimming hastily back and forth for a few seconds.

    Meanwhile, the dousing had apparently shaken the confusion off Diana’s Houndoom, and when it had stood up and shaken its fur dry, she gave it an order: “Thunder Fang the Gyarados!”

    Mark stared wide-eyed as the dog Pokémon growled and ran towards the pool with sparks flying around its bared teeth. Instead of attacking to Gyarados’s face, the Houndoom swiftly turned to the other side of the pool and clamped its jaws onto the sea monster’s exposed tail before he had managed to react. Gyarados roared with terrifying power as he thrashed wildly about, trying to shake the attacker off his tail; finally he managed to slam the Houndoom harshly enough into the floor beside the pool to make it let go, and he recovered soon afterwards. The Houndoom stood weakly up.

    “Quick Attack the Houndoom!” May barked, and Spirit smacked her body into the dog Pokémon’s body before it had the time to defend itself or get out of the way. It collapsed again, and this time it stayed down.

    “Houndoom, return,” Diana said, holding out a Pokéball that zapped the Pokémon quickly inside. “Honchkrow, go.”

    What emerged from the ball was a large, black bird with a collar of white feathers in the shape of a beard and head feathers forming something suspiciously like a wizard’s hat. It cawed in a hoarse voice and flew into the air.

    “Spirit, Flamethrower it!” May said immediately, and the Ninetales turned her head towards the crow and breathed out a plume of fire. The Honchkrow screeched in pain, but recovered quickly, flapping its wings to get rid of some dust between its feathers.

    Mark looked quickly back at Gyarados. The Sharpedo, having gathered dark energy into its dorsal fin, was now using it as a blade to hack away at Gyarados’s body below the surface of the pool, while the sea monster thrashed around, growling in annoyance as he snapped his jaws close to the shark but never quite reached it.

    “Just Dragon Beam it!” Mark shouted. Gyarados looked at him and then at the three blue jewels on one of his upper segments before he shook his head hatefully and lunged his head down again. This time he managed to bite down hard on one of the shark’s fins and raised its body out of the water, shaking it around.

    “Vicious, use Assurance!” Victor called, and Gyarados’s mouth exploded in a swirl of dark energy. The sea monster roared while the shark Pokémon fell back into the pool.

    “Hyper Beam, then?” Mark said in frustration, part of him wishing he had brought Dragonair instead of Gyarados. The sea monster looked down at the Sharpedo in the pool, which was again preparing to slash with its dorsal fin, and an orb of white energy formed in his mouth before smashing down at the shark, splashing water everywhere.

    This caused May and Diana to look up, having been fiercely engaged in their own half of the battle. Vicious the Sharpedo floated upside-down to the top of the pool, clearly unconscious, while Gyarados slumped down against the floor beside the pool to catch his breath, the Hyper Beam having taken a lot of energy out of him.

    Mark looked back towards the other side of the arena, where Spirit and Honchkrow were still fighting; May’s Pokémon had just fired another Flamethrower towards her opponent, which squawked and retreated a little further away in the air. The Ninetales was beginning to grow weary with the various cuts and bruises that the huge bird had given her. Honchkrow, on the other hand, still looked to be in reasonably good shape aside from a number of its feathers which were burning with ghostly blue fire.

    “Honchkrow, use Dark Pulse!” Diana ordered, and the bird gave a powerful flap of its wings, sending a ripple of dark energy across the floor below it to strike the fox Pokémon. Spirit staggered backwards and then crumpled to the ground, fainted.

    Mark suddenly became aware that Victor had just sent out a Pokémon and quickly looked over to where he was. The white shape of a wolflike Pokémon was just fading into its natural colors of black and gray; the Mightyena growled and bared its fangs.

    May looked quickly at Victor’s choice of a Pokémon and then back at Honchkrow, and finally grabbed a ball from her Pokéball necklace. “Go, Vibrava!”

    “Honchkrow, use a Dark Pulse on the Gyarados!” Diana said sharply, not waiting for May’s Pokémon to even come out of his Pokéball. Gyarados was still recovering his strength and could only watch as the giant crow sent another powerful pulse of dark energy his way. After all the beating he had taken already, Gyarados didn’t really stand a chance; he grunted in pain as the attack hit him and then just gave way to unconsciousness.

    Mark recalled him quickly. He knew just what he was going to send out next.

    “Jolteon, do it! Thunderbolt the Honchkrow!”

    While Jolteon was emerging from his Pokéball, Victor’s Mightyena, apparently called Ferocious, had managed to pull off a Scary Face and May’s Vibrava was whimpering in fear close to his trainer, much to her dismay.

    “Come on!” she hissed. “Use Screech on the stupid thing!”

    As Jolteon fired a bolt of electricity towards Diana’s Pokémon with a cry, the antlion Pokémon pulled himself together and let out a high-pitched sound that was only vaguely uncomfortable to everyone present except Ferocious, at whom it was aimed; the Mightyena cowered, laying its ears flat against its head while May ordered Vibrava to follow it up with a Sand Tomb. Mark looked quickly back at Honchkrow to find that Jolteon’s Electric attack had actually brought it down; the bird had fallen onto the floor where Diana was just recalling it.

    “Go, Weavile!” the Gym leader shouted. “Hit the Vibrava with an Ice Shard!”

    May’s Pokémon had still not executed the last order she had given him when a white shape appeared out of Diana’s Pokéball, turned into a limber, black, clawed Pokémon and fired a spontaneously generated sharp shard of ice straight at the Vibrava’s head. The Pokémon screamed in pain as it hit and then fell limply to the ground, a few legs twitching.

    May recalled him silently while Mark’s attention turned back to Jolteon, on whom Victor’s Mightyena was currently focusing its efforts while the Eevee evolution defended himself heroically with small bursts of electricity between dodging its snapping jaws.

    “Ferocious, use a Taunt!”

    Mark just barely had time to see May send out her Skarmory before the wolf Pokémon stopped and muttered something in Pokémon speech with a glint of more than just reflected light in its eyes. Jolteon turned around, shivering for a moment before he suddenly hissed, his spiky fur raising itself up on his back as it crackled with electric sparks.

    Mark was about to tell him to use Thunder Wave when he realized that Taunt was specifically made to prevent him from using that sort of thing. “Thunderbolt!” he just yelled, even though Jolteon was pumping a jolt of electricity into the Mightyena’s body already.

    “Sucker Punch!” Victor ordered, and just as Jolteon was charging another Thunderbolt, Ferocious leapt at him with a raised paw and smacked him into the floor with it. He let the electricity loose in more or less random directions as he cried out in pain, sparks flying across the floor. Jolteon immediately began charging up energy again, but the Mightyena hit him with another Sucker Punch and he collapsed with a defeated whine.

    “Sorry, Jolteon,” Mark said as he recalled the Pokémon. “You did a good job.”

    He looked at May’s Skarmory; his wings were glowing as he smashed them into the Weavile’s body. The weasel Pokémon hissed, stretching the feathery crest on its head to its maximum size, and then retaliated by leaping into the air and hitting the metallic vulture with a well-aimed punch from its icy claws.

    That reminded Mark that he had a Steel Pokémon too.

    “Letal, go!” he shouted. “Use Iron Head on the Weavile!”

    “Weavile, use another Ice Punch on the Skarmory!” Diana ordered her Pokémon.

    “Ferocious, use Swagger on the Skarmory!”

    “Skarmory, hit the Weavile with Steel Wing again!”

    The Weavile was the fastest of the three Pokémon. It leapt into the air with ice crystals forming around the claws of its right arm and then smacked it into Skarmory’s body. The bird Pokémon used the opportunity while it was there to strike it with glowing wings, throwing it back down at the ground, where it was about to stand up when Letal rushed towards it and headbutted it straight into the floor, her body temporarily metallic. The weasel Pokémon let out a mewling sound of pain but then just stopped moving.

    “Hmph,” Diana said, looking at Letal. “Weavile, return.”

    While the Gym leader recalled her Pokémon, Ferocious the Mightyena had apparently managed to pull off that Swagger because Skarmory bonked his head into the wall near the ceiling before fluttering drunkenly back towards the wolf Pokémon.

    “Hit it with Drill Peck,” May said.

    Skarmory managed to keep his directions for a few seconds, long enough to put a spin on himself and dive towards the Mightyena. He also managed to do this with surprising speed such that Victor’s Pokémon was only beginning to try to get out of the way when Skarmory struck it with his drilling beak and then crash-landed on top of it. Ferocious yelped in pain under the heap of metallic bird and neither of them moved.

    May recalled her Pokémon, as did Victor with an encouraging “Nice work.”

    “It seems we all have two Pokémon left,” Diana observed. “That is nicely even.”

    “Let’s get on with it,” May just said, having seemed rather irritated ever since Vibrava’s not-all-too-glorious performance. She picked a Pokéball from her necklace and then waited for the Gym leaders.

    Diana smiled faintly. “Heh. You know the rules, I see.”

    “Leader sends out first,” May just said.

    “Fine. Umbreon, I choose you!”

    “Malicious, you go, girl!”

    Diana’s Pokéball sent out a black creature with long ears and a pattern of glowing, yellow rings on its body while the light from Victor’s ball emerged into the white-furred, clawed and scythed shape of an Absol.

    “Butterfree, go!” May shouted, hurling her ball forward with more force than usual as a triumphant smile broke out on her face. “Use Bug Buzz on the Absol!”

    Mark wished in a way now that he had Scyther out instead of Letal – now that both of the Pokémon they were facing were pure Dark-types, it would have been nice to take them on with two bugs. But he couldn’t switch now.

    “Malicious, use Sucker Punch on the Butterfree!”

    “Umbreon, get it with Confuse Ray!”

    Mark had only a moment to figure out which Pokémon he wanted to attack and came to the conclusion that they might as well split their efforts. “Letal, use Iron Head on the Umbreon!”

    The first attack to make contact was the Absol’s, Sucker Punch being what it was. While May’s Butterfree was still getting ready to attack, Malicious leapt into the air with a hiss and smacked a huge, clawed paw into the butterfly’s body. She was thrown harshly backwards in the air, but managed fairly quick recovery and flapped her wings extremely rapidly for a moment, producing a high-pitched buzz that made the Absol cringe in pain. Meanwhile the Umbreon was creating a small ghost light in front of it, but Letal came flying at its side, her body metallized again, and managed to drive it into the wall with her attack. Umbreon flinched for a second, losing its concentration for the Confuse Ray.

    “Butterfree, Safeguard!” May yelled. “Mark, keep the Absol occupied!”

    “Okay, uh, try a Hypnosis!”

    “Umbreon, use a Screech on the Letal,” Diana commanded.

    “Malicious, hit the Butterfree with Aerial Ace!” Victor ordered, his Absol nodding immediately as she prepared to leap with an intimidating hiss. Just as she sprang up into the air, however, Letal tackled her back down in mid-leap, pinned her down and stared intently into the Dark Pokémon’s eyes for a few seconds. Malicious hissed in response but soon stopped struggling and fell into deep, hypnotic sleep.

    “Great,” May said while her Pokémon formed two translucent white bubbles of energy around herself and Letal. “We can focus on the Umbreon now. Butterfree, Bug Buzz.”

    The Gym leader’s Pokémon was just crouching down and letting out a high-pitched screech that made Letal cringe. She stood up from the limp Absol’s body and looked at Mark as May’s Butterfree produced another powerful buzzing sound, this time aimed at the Umbreon.

    “Butterfree, Silver Wind!”

    “Okay, Letal, use… use Tri Attack. See if you can get it affected by a status condition.”

    Letal’s mask glowed with white energy before she lowered her head, three pale beams of red, blue and yellow shooting from the points of the mask towards Diana’s Pokémon. As they struck simultaneously, a gust of silvery powder swept through the room from Butterfree’s fluttering wings to the already recoiling Umbreon, who whimpered as the powder settled into its fur. It shook itself, sending the powder swirling back towards the floor.

    “By the way, Mark,” May said quietly, “don’t try to inflict a status effect on it. It has the Synchronize ability.”

    “It has what?”

    “Synchronize. If it gets paralyzed, burned, frozen or whatever, so does Letal.”

    “Oh.” Mark looked blankly at Letal while Diana issued another command to her Umbreon:

    “Moonlight!”

    May swore under her breath as the translucent image of a full moon appeared shimmering in the air above them, beams of light shining upon the Umbreon. “Okay, Butterfree, use Silver Wind as often as you can. Mark, try to wear it down.”

    “Uh, Letal, use Iron Tail.”

    “Her fourth move,” May muttered to remind him as Letal sped towards Diana’s Pokémon, her tail glowing. Letal swung it at the Umbreon, but being that the tail wasn’t the easiest body part to strike someone with, the other Pokémon managed to dodge.

    “Try again,” Mark just called, and this time Letal managed to spin around quickly enough to smash her tail into the Umbreon’s head. Being newly healed, the Gym leader’s Pokémon didn’t appear at all close to fainting, but it was clearly becoming a little tired. Butterfree fired another gust of silver powder towards it and it staggered backwards and shook its head.

    “Umbreon, use Last Resort,” Diana said calmly. Her Pokémon suddenly glowed all white and then simply smashed into Letal’s body with unprecedented force.

    “Metal Burst!” Mark blurted out as his Pokémon flew through the air and landed on the floor. She tumbled a few times over, in fact straight into the still-sleeping Malicious who was still lying on the floor with her trainer watching her carefully. Letal bolted right back up, her body turning entirely metallic before playing out a reflection of the Umbreon’s attack, smashing right back into Diana’s Pokémon which tumbled even farther across to the other side of the room.

    When the Steel Pokémon’s body bumped into her, however, the Absol had begun to stir. Mark saw her open an eye just as yet another Silver Wind struck the Umbreon.

    “The Absol’s waking up!” Mark shouted to May, and she looked sharply towards the white Pokémon as she shook her head and rose slowly to her feet. Mark looked up at Butterfree and saw that May’s Pokémon was bathed in a silvery aura that her body seemed to be absorbing by the second. The white bubble of light was fading away now.

    “Umbreon, use Last Resort on the Butterfree!” Diana ordered.

    “Butterfree, Bug Buzz the Absol!” May yelled.

    “Use that Aerial Ace, Malicious!” Victor called.

    But Butterfree was quicker now. She flapped her wings with far more power than before, producing a hectic mess of screeching sound waves that made Victor’s Absol scream in pain before collapsing, once again limp on the ground. Diana’s Pokémon glowed all white again and shot into the air, smashing Butterfree into the ceiling from where she crumpled uselessly down like a paper toy. Letal, her body turned metallic yet again, smashed the Umbreon into the wall with her head.

    Diana’s Pokémon moaned in pain while Letal stepped away, her breathing fast and heavy. Then the Umbreon fell down, unconscious, while Letal trembled on her feet. She was obviously exhausted.

    “I’ll recall you now,” Mark just muttered while the other three trainers drew their Pokéballs. Letal, however, shook her head fiercely.

    “I want to evolve,” she wheezed quietly, almost angrily. “Don’t…”

    He considered recalling her anyway, just because she looked almost sick. But she turned her head firmly back towards the Gym leaders and waited. Victor gave her a slightly concerned look before he reached for his last Pokéball.

    Mark came to the sudden dumbfounded realization that out of all four trainers in the battle, he was the only one with two Pokémon left at this point. Even May was sending out her last. The thought made him grin for some reason.

    “All right, then, Letal,” he said. “If you want to keep fighting, you can.”

    “Precious, you’re up,” Victor said, throwing the familiar Ultra Ball into the arena to release the innocent-looking black kitten Pokémon that Sandslash had battled the first time they had met Victor. Letal growled suspiciously at it; “Mewww-tark!” it mewled happily in response.

    “Tyranitar, GO!” said both girls’ voices at the same time.

    The green dinosaur Pokémon that Diana sent out looked a lot like May’s – it was just at least a foot taller and a lot bulkier along with being a little darker in color, obviously being the older and more experienced Pokémon. It let out an ear-splitting roar as it emerged from its Pokéball, throwing its powerful tail around. A gust of sand whipped around the arena behind it.

    It looked at its smaller adversary with a confident smirk, and May’s Tyranitar responded with a challenging roar of his own.

    “Mark, you fight the Tyranitar,” May said quickly. “Letal’s got the type advantage. Tyranitar, get Mutark with Stone Edge!”

    May’s Pokémon growled at the other Tyranitar but turned obediently towards the kitten.

    “Letal, Iron Head!” Mark blurted out.

    “Tyranitar, Crunch the Letal,” Diana ordered.

    “Precious, just hang on!”

    Letal was running towards Diana’s Pokémon already, having metallized her body although she was clearly shaking from the effort now. She smashed her head into the beast’s blue belly and got it to grunt in pain before it bent down and picked her up in its powerful jaws. She squirmed around, turning the non-armored parts of her body into metal again even as the dinosaur shook her around in its mouth like a ragdoll. The Tyranitar threw her to the other end of the arena, where she managed, miraculously, to stand up yet again. Mark watched her in disbelief and couldn’t help being both proud and impressed.

    “Iron Tail!” he ordered, looking around. May’s Tyranitar had conjured chunks of sharp rock from the floor that had given Victor’s Mutark a bit of a beating, but clearly they had also been sharp enough to open a bleeding wound. Precious had tasted his own blood and grown considerably, now resembling a black ocelot with abnormally large fangs more than a housecat, and was bounding towards Letal with a hiss as she slammed her tail into the side of Diana’s Tyranitar’s body.

    “Letal, watch out!” Mark blurted out, and she turned quickly around as the cat took a leap towards her. The Steel Pokémon only thought for a moment before swinging the blade of her head at her attacker, slicing it into the Mutark’s chest.

    Precious let out a mewling scream of pain as he was thrown to the side, blood spurting out of the wound. Letal approached him again, her body turning metallic as she prepared to attack, but Diana’s Tyranitar scooped her up into its jaws, flames licking the sides of its mouth. Letal cried out in pain, her metallic body bending more easily under the crushing power of the Tyranitar’s jaws when they were assisted by flaming heat…

    “Tyranitar, Earthquake!” May shouted, and her Tyranitar stomped down one of his huge feet with a roar. Ripples spread through the floor; the larger dinosaur roared in pain as they passed under its feet, and it threw Letal away as it staggered backwards. Letal crashed into the wall and then crumpled into a half-molten heap on the floor.

    Mark took out her Pokéball, but lowered it in disbelief as the heap stood up, very slowly, walked a few steps back into the arena, and was enveloped in a white glow.

    Then the glow faded, the Pokémon’s feet shaking like jelly, before she lost her balance and collapsed on the floor.

    “Letal, come back,” Mark said, holding out her ball and watching the red beam absorb her body. “You were amazing,” he added as he replaced the ball on his belt, meaning it more than he ever had. “Scyther, finish it!”

    While Scyther was materializing, Mark had the time to get a quick overview of the battle again, which made him come to the unsettling realization that the cut Letal had given Victor’s Mutark had produced enough blood for him to make himself grow into a monster nearly the size of the Tyranitar he was facing with glowing red eyes and humongous fangs. This monster had then latched himself onto the back of May’s Tyranitar, who was struggling to get him off while the cat tried to sink his fangs into the rocklike hide on the dinosaur’s neck.

    “Little help here?” May shouted as sharp rocks exploded out of the floor under the smaller Tyranitar’s feet.

    “Scyther, get the Mutark off him!” Mark yelled. The mantis sprang into action immediately, his scythes glowing with green energy as he zoomed towards the feline and brought his scythes down in a cross upon the Mutark’s back. Precious roared in pain as Scyther delivered two more slashes to his front paws, causing him to momentarily release his hold; it was enough for the Tyranitar to throw him off his back. The Mutark landed on his feet a couple of meters away, not hesitating for a moment before leaping at Scyther again. Precious knocked him into the floor and bared his huge fangs.

    Scyther snarled and delivered a well-aimed chop to one of the Mutark’s legs. More blood spurted out from the wound as the creature let out a bloodcurdling scream; the Mutark reached his head down to lick the blood from the limp paw.

    “Don’t let him lick it!” Mark shouted. “He’ll grow!”

    Scyther’s scythes glowed with green energy again and the mantis slashed into both of the cat’s shoulders this time. This threw him a little bit backwards, enough for Scyther to wrench himself loose, get up and slash the Mutark’s back again. His injured legs gave up underneath him, and Victor’s Pokémon collapsed onto the ground in a pool of blood.

    Scyther slashed him one more time for good measure before a Pokéball beam sucked the Mutark in. Victor looked at Scyther and frowned. “Well, looks like I’m out. Good job.”

    While all this had been going on, the two Tyranitar had been wrestling with one another, and Diana’s was clearly gaining the upper hand thanks to its size. May’s Tyranitar was in pretty bad shape, his back bearing deep cuts from the Mutark’s sharp claws, and Mark realized suddenly as the larger Tyranitar pushed him a few steps backwards that he was trying to make him fall into the pool.

    May looked quickly at Mark and he shouted the first thing he could think of:

    “Scyther, another X-Scissor!”

    The mantis zoomed at the larger Tyranitar’s back and slashed, his scythes glowing green again. The Bug-type energy allowed the blades to slice into the dinosaur’s hard skin, causing the beast to roar in pain and reflexively turn towards the new attacker, which finally gave May’s Tyranitar some room to breathe.

    “Earthquake!” May yelled, and Scyther zoomed away from both of the Tyranitar as the smaller one stomped his foot again, producing more ripples in the floor which bombarded the other dinosaur’s feet. Diana’s Tyranitar roared in more pain as the Gym leader frowned.

    “Tyranitar, hit the Scyther with Stone Edge.”

    “Tyranitar, hit IT with Stone Edge!”

    And while Diana’s Tyranitar was bigger and more powerful, May’s was slightly nimbler and quicker. Before the larger dinosaur could attack, the other one raised one of his arms and large rocks burst out of the ground underneath the larger Tyranitar, knocking it a bit sideways.

    Then Scyther suddenly smashed into it as well, and that impact was enough to make Diana’s Tyranitar topple over with a roar of protest and crash into the ground, betrayed by its own weight.

    “Another Earthquake to finish it off,” May ordered, her Tyranitar executing the order immediately. The floor rippled under the huge body, even more of it touching the floor now, and it grunted as every cell of its body trembled along with the ground. Scyther dived down to slash it with another X-Scissor, and it roared and twisted in still more pain.

    “Tyranitar, return,” said Diana’s cold voice as the red Pokéball beam absorbed the huge Pokémon. “Good battle.”

    She reached into her dress and took out a small box as Victor walked over to her. She handed him one of the badges from the box before both Gym leaders walked across the arena, Diana to May and Victor to Mark.

    “Here’s your badge,” Victor said with a quick smile. “Didn’t know your Scyther was that brutal.”

    Mark snorted. “Look who’s talking. You even name your Pokémon stuff like ‘Vicious’ and ‘Malicious’.”

    Victor chuckled. “It’s all in good fun.” He reached out to shake Mark’s hand and left the little, round object in his palm. Mark brought it up to his face and looked at it; unlike all the other Ouen badges, this one was not silver but black, and when he turned it in the flickering firelight, it seemed as if many sets of tiny, gleaming eyes were lurking in the middle of it.

    “Thanks for the battle,” Mark said and smiled. “Do you think the three of us could talk privately for a second?” he then added.

    Victor shrugged. “Sure.” He raised his voice: “Hey, Diana, do you think I could talk to these two for a sec?”

    The Gym leader raised her eyebrows. “If you want.” She walked gracefully back towards the door in the corner and closed it as May walked over to the boys.

    “What’s with ‘Precious’?” she asked. “I mean, it fits the grammatical pattern, but it seems kind of out of place with ‘Malicious’ and ‘Insidious’.”

    Victor rolled his eyes. “Come on. I can’t call him ‘Nefarious’ or people start to suspect he’s more than a cute little kitten before he starts kicking ***.”

    “What did Mitch tell you?” Mark interrupted before May could reply. Victor’s expression turned back into a frown.

    “Right. Well, I saw you die when I was watching Chaletwo. That was kind of creepy.” He winced. “But Mitch stopped me at some point afterwards, I can’t remember when, and he told me you’d been revived and Chaletwo had plans for you or something.” He shrugged. “Wasn’t very specific. I wasn’t sure whether I believed him, but then you appeared on the camera.” He pointed up to the ceiling above the door; Mark hadn’t noticed before, but there was a security camera there pointed at the entrance back to the maze, presumably for showing the Gym leaders in the back room when challengers arrived. “So uh…” Victor went on quietly, “is it true?”

    “Pretty much.”

    Victor nodded thoughtfully a few times. “All right,” he said. “It’s probably something important that I shouldn’t get involved in, so let’s leave it at that.” He looked at May. “I assume you’re involved too since Mark didn’t ask you to leave.”

    “Often more involved than he is,” May replied, and Mark couldn’t really deny it.

    Victor looked at both of them again. “Well, okay, then. It was good to see you again. I’m glad you’re alive. I hope you get that Mutark, May.” He took a deep breath. “And… good luck with whatever it is you’re doing, I guess.”

    “Thanks,” Mark replied. “We’ll need it.”

    “Mutark’s on Route 316, you say?” May asked.

    “Yeah.”

    “Oh, and congratulations on the position,” Mark suddenly remembered to say. “Assistant Gym leader is pretty awesome.”

    Victor beamed with pride. “Thanks. It’s been my dream since I was little to own a Dark Gym. I don’t quite own it yet, but I’m getting there.” He winked.

    “Congrats too,” May said, “but how are we supposed to get out of here?”

    Victor burst out laughing. “You just go down the trapdoor just over there and walk up the stairs. Oh, God, I swear, every single person who comes here asks that.”

    -------

    One trapdoor, a slide and a staircase later, Mark and May were back above ground and heading towards the Pokémon Center. The night seemed bright in comparison to the building they had just left; the streetlights appeared strangely blue after the orange firelight of the battle arena.

    Mark grinned. “You know what I just realized?”

    “What?”

    “You were closer to losing than I was.”

    May glared at him. “That was stupid Vibrava being useless. I was hoping I could get him to evolve.”

    “But still.”

    “Shut up.”

    Mark just laughed as they stepped into the neon-lit building and onto the familiar fluffy, pink carpet.
     
  11. Shadow_Shaymin

    Shadow_Shaymin Gotz Burglarized

    OK, I is new, and have read all 40 chapters of yours in the past three days or so.
    So far, I have liked it in the extreme. The descriptions are wonderful, the characters well developed (I'm loving Scyther man) and the plot line is pretty good.

    Also, would I be able to get into the PM group if you wouldn't mind Dragonfree.

    Keep up the good work.
     
  12. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Reading about the maze in that gym brought back to my mind bad-yet-fun memories of playing Phantasy Star and dealing with those dungeons and their hidden pitfalls. Of course, one could actually see in those dungeons (though the pitfalls were invisible), and it was a musk cat named Myau rather than a human named May who helped one detect and get past the pitfalls in that game. But I digress. XD Anyway, yeah, groping about in the dark with a floor that will give out from under you in places if you don't pay very close attention to it, thus forcing you to start all over... yep, that sounds like a nasty challenge to me. Such a thing would probably reduce me to a gibbering lump of patheticness. XD

    I liked that Spirit's Flash Fire was brought into play in the gym battle. I also enjoyed the fact that confusion ended up being inflicted during that battle--confusion can be very amusing to read about, as I found it to be when it happened to Skarmory there. X3

    And upon learning of Victor's naming pattern for his Pokémon, my brain, in its silliness, imagined him ultimately naming a Pokémon "Delicious". XD

    XD

    This made me laugh, too. XD

    Again, confusion can be very amusing. XD

    I liked the choice of words used to describe the Bug Buzz there, especially with regards to the "hectic mess" part.

    Damn, that's a cool-sounding badge. o.o

    I loved that, especially the way it ended. I love it when a person just resorts to saying, "Shut up." XD
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2008
  13. Jigglypuff5000

    Jigglypuff5000 Well-Known Member

    Hey Dragonfree, another newbie reader [and writer] here, I've just read this all of this thread and the 40 chapters over the last three days.

    And so far its been an utterly awesome rollercoaster ride.

    Your description has gotten alot better over time, and whilst theres still some areas which could probably be fleshed out more using it, I think you've done a good job in keeping the balance. I know description alone and how much to use is still an area I'm learning to grasps in my own stories, I usually end up using too much!

    The characters are well developed (another Scyther fan here); Mark not being the standard 'Chosen' and trainer [not that he's clueless or bad anything but he still has alot to learn, as May would probably say], this definately heightened the tension for me in the legendary battles so far though, not being an overly great trainer or strike win guy and all.

    I just felt like pretty much anything could goi wrong at any moment.

    May too is a pretty realistic look on what a great degree of pokemon trainers in the pokeworld [and real world, if they real] are probably / would be like. She may be a good battler but in the art of good emotions and conscience she definately has things to learn. It's always good to have abit of tension alongside the characters I guess no?


    I'm also liking the whole legendary power down and going insane angle, its a nice depart from the 'Trainer captures legendary and kicks everythings *** with it', its far more realistic that even the legendaries would have their own limits on their powers and sanity.

    Speaking of Legendaries I actually had a stray random thought whilst I was reading through [before the Destroyer thing was really explained afew chapters ago], which was what if the Creator and the Destroyer could end up being one and the same?

    I mean I know Mew ain't conciously evil since he's obviously being drained too [or else he's a very good manipulator] but still it would be an interesting twist, that the War of the Legends really seeminly really is just a doomed cycle, doomed to repeat itself.

    Cos if the Destroyer could wind up being the last one remaining [by wiping out the prior lone survivor], wouldn't they in turn be both?


    Meh, too much reading of another poke fanfic on fanfiction.net methinks regarding all this twisty and turny plotty stuff XD


    Just to finish off, I look forward to the next chapter [I've faked the link here so no need to add me to the PM list] and wish you good luck in continuing onwards with this and any other fics you here.

    Keep up the good work. ^-^


    PS - I really like the original pokes so far, like Chaletwo and that creepy blood licking cat o-O

    You should get a fanartist to depict them all for you in nice illustrations [like in the book of Ouen Legends at the start of the fic], that'd be coolio methinks!
     
  14. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    It's chapter 41 already! Eight and a half pages, written in two weeks (mostly yesterday). I'm getting to a nice pace with the chapters now. Incidentally I made a New Year's Resolution to finish at least five chapters (not counting chapter 37, which I finished on the first of January) and try to finish at least ten chapters in the year 2008; I've finished four chapters this year already (38, 39, 40 and 41), so I'm actually pretty nicely on my way to fulfilling the second one that I thought was being way too hopeful. Will I be posting chapter 47 this year? We'll see.

    Now, to respond to my lovely reviewers:

    Shadow_Shaymin: Thanks! I've added you to the PM list (as you'll probably know, since this means I'm sending you a PM when I've posted this post). I'm glad you've enjoyed it.

    Sike Saner: Thanks for reviewing; your reviews are always fun to read. :3

    Ahaha, you're not alone. While I was making up their names, "Delicious" was popping up in my head every couple of seconds. XD Incidentally his last Pokémon is a Sneasel named Dubious.

    Jigglypuff5000: :D Thanks! I'm trying to improve area descriptions, particularly landscape; there's just something that puts me at a loss of words when I want to describe nature. ><;

    Oh, there are plenty of twists and turns. Anything could happen. Don't rule anything out that you think of, no matter how far-fetched it seems.

    I've actually drawn a number of them myself - they're on the fic minipage at my website if you want to see.

    Thanks for reading, you guys. :3 I hope you like the chapter. Heh, it feels really short in comparison with all those hugeamongous chapters we've been having recently.



    Chapter 41: Return to Scorpio City

    Mark and May returned to the Pokémon Center the next morning after breakfast to retrieve their Pokémon while Alan checked them all out of the trainer hotel where they’d been staying through the night.

    Nurse Joy handed May her Pokéballs and then turned to Mark with a frown. “You’re the one with the Letal, aren’t you?” she asked disapprovingly, thrusting five Pokéballs into his hand.

    “What? Is she okay?” Mark was puzzled; he had never really heard of Nurse Joy being grumpy before.

    “No, she is not okay!” the nurse responded angrily, almost shouting. A few people who were waiting looked their way to see what was going on. “I could heal her wounds, but she’s severely overworked. Do you think that just because you have a Letal that’s close to evolution you can make her go on fighting for however long you like even when she’s dropping down with exhaustion?”

    “What?” Mark repeated in disbelief. “She… she wanted to evolve! She asked me not to recall her!”

    “You trainers are all the same, trying to blame the Pokémon,” the nurse said fiercely. “She’s young. An overgrown child. She doesn’t know her own limits. Would you let her jump off a cliff if she thought she could fly?”

    “No, but…”

    “You took her away from her parents wherever you caught her. You need to come in their place and show some responsibility. No good trainer would let her keep fighting in the kind of state she’s in.”

    Mark blushed, feeling eyes on him all around. “I’m sorry, but is she going to be all right?”

    The nurse gave him a disapproving glare. “Oh, sure, but Pokémon that try to evolve when they don’t have the energy go into a state of hormone and energy overdrive and it can have lasting effects. She might never be able to evolve now.”

    Mark stared at her, dumbfounded. She looked at him with resentful satisfaction. “That gets to you, doesn’t it? No Letaligon for you? Well, it’s about fifty-fifty, and I hope that bad fifty teaches you not to let your Pokémon overwork themselves whichever way it goes.”

    “So,” Mark began carefully, “can I, uh… have her back?” He gestured vaguely at the unoccupied space on his Pokéball belt, feeling worse by the minute.

    “We have to keep her for the rest of today,” Nurse Joy said, her tone of voice making it apparent she would really rather not give Letal back to him at all. “You can get the nurse wherever you’re at this evening to transfer her over.”

    “Okay,” he said, turning back around, determined to get out of there as soon as possible. “Thanks. Let’s go, May.”

    “Well,” May commented as the automatic doors closed behind them, gesturing back towards the building, “somebody’s in a bad mood today.”

    “She had a point,” Mark mumbled, still in a bit of a shock. He had never been called a bad trainer before – not bad in this sense, anyway. “I should’ve recalled her anyway.”

    “Oh, come on, Mark,” May said irritably. “What if you had? She’d have hated you for weeks, we’d never have found out it was actually dangerous to let her fight that long, and she’d have found some other opportunity to do something stupid. Letal overestimated herself; here’s an experience to teach her that she has limits. That’s how people learn things. How will she ever grow up if you just take on the role of an overprotective mom?” She threw him a sideways glance. “And you’d spend a couple of days sulking about how horrible and evil you are to your Pokémon since you recalled her when she didn’t want it. Why are you making a big deal of this? I mean, it sucks both for her and for you if she loses the ability to evolve, but if that happens it’s her fault, and if you start beating yourself up about it I think I’ll have to slap you.”

    Mark wasn’t sure he should be listening to her opinion about Pokémon abuse of all things, but his subconscious mind apparently didn’t care and just eagerly jumped at the opportunity for some justification. Despite himself, he couldn’t help feeling a little better.

    But whoever was at fault, he didn’t want to imagine how Letal would react if she were told she would never evolve after all this effort to do so. Although she had never said it straight out, she had been implying for a while now that she wanted to return to Ruxido once she evolved to her final form, and he had after all caught her on the condition that she would go back once he had ‘made her strong’. To her, the entire experience of going with Mark, all her disturbing and unconventional battling methods and the way that she overworked herself and battled longer than she ought to, had been aiming towards this one goal, and now she would perhaps never reach it. She would take the news badly, but how badly? Request immediate release and go back to Ruxido, never to overcome her father? Become a lone wild Letal somewhere else? Decide in her shame to stay with him for good but lose all her enthusiasm now that she had no goal to strive towards?

    And as much as he hated having the thought at just this moment, he had really wished she’d be a Letaligon by the time he got to the League. A lot of trainers had them, seeing as Leta were far easier to find than Pokémon like Dratini, Bagon or Larvitar but similarly powerful in their final stage, but unlike them, he also had a Dragonair who would possibly evolve before or during the League. That would have given him somewhat of an advantage to make up for not being as knowledgeable about attacks and abilities as somebody like May was. While there were unevolved pseudo-legendaries in the League, they were usually particularly enthusiastic fighters who were either looking forward to an upcoming evolution or had made a conscious choice to remain in this form – Letal would be neither.

    He had the fleeting thought that maybe he could release her even if she didn’t request it so that he could catch some other Pokémon and train it up instead, but shuddered at the thought and pushed it out of his head. That was something May would think, not him.

    They didn’t know yet whether Letal would be able to evolve or not, anyway; perhaps Letal wouldn’t take it too badly as long as she knew she might still evolve as normal. Perhaps it would even make her more determined. Hadn’t he heard about a psychological experiment at some point where the most effective method of getting someone to perform a repeated activity was to make the activity give rewards only sometimes and then randomly? It would be kind of similar in principle.

    He wasn’t sure he liked where his mind was going with this and they were stepping into the hotel lobby anyway. Alan was sitting there in a stylish purple sofa reading a newspaper, the kids’ bags lying on the floor beside him.

    “Hey, Alan,” May said as she picked hers up and hoisted it onto her shoulders; Alan looked up, closed the newspaper and placed it on the low table in front of him. “Shall we get going?”

    Mark picked up his bag as well. “They say there’s going to be a storm in the afternoon,” Alan said as he stood up, indicating the folded newspaper on the table. “We should probably get to Scorpio City and then wait it off there. Probably stay the night.”

    May shrugged. “Fine by me. I want to find myself a Mutark anyway, so more time around Scorpio City is great. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to find one, even with Tyranitar out.”

    “Sounds fine to me too,” Mark said, but lightly prodded at Chaletwo in his head for approval.

    “Now that I can concentrate on only one dragon who was too far away to feel anything through his sleep when we were fighting the other two, we’re not in that much of a hurry to get to Polaryu,” the legendary Pokémon replied. “I’ve got him covered for now. Staying one night somewhere won’t hurt.”

    They walked out of the Pokémon Center and back onto the boring Route 315, but soon took a left turn down a steep, rocky hill to be faced with Route 317. It was an overall upwards slope with a rough road heading straight ahead; the landscape on the sides was rather bland, consisting of rugged, moss-covered rocks with some grass in between. There was a flock of Pidgey looking at them from a short distance away.

    “So Mutark are around here…” May muttered, grabbing a Pokéball from her necklace. “Tyranitar, go!”

    The white light that came out of the ball materialized into the shape of the green dinosaur, who looked around for an opponent but found none; the flock of Pidgey took off towards the south with startled shrieks. He turned to May.

    “Just walk with us,” she said. “Supposedly just you being here will help get the Mutark out.”

    Tyranitar nodded and walked along with the group, which made Mark notice that the Ninetales, whom he had grown accustomed to seeing trotting by May’s side, was missing.

    “Where’s Spirit?”

    “Hm? Oh, I figured having a Pokémon out could scare the Mutark away. I mean, having a Dark-type out attracts them for some reason, but other Pokémon could just weigh against that.”

    Mark shrugged. He looked briefly at some rocks by the roadside and could have sworn he saw yellow eyes blink in the darkness underneath one of them.

    “I think you’re attracting them already.”

    She stopped and turned; he pointed at the rock. She approached it carefully, peering at the shadows under it for a few seconds.

    “Let’s keep walking until one comes out on its own accord,” she said finally. “We can’t dig under the rocks.”

    They continued warily, keeping an eye on the shadows. Mark saw a few more pairs of eyes shining in the darkness for a second before they disappeared again. Finally, when they were passing a large rock, the head of a black kitten peeked out from underneath it and walked cautiously towards them, staring at Tyranitar as if in a trance.

    Mark was about to point it out, but a glance from May silenced him. He watched it come nearer and nearer as they walked on as if they hadn’t noticed anything. Then suddenly –

    “Tyranitar, get it!” May shouted, and the Mutark only had time to freeze in its tracks before the dinosaur Pokémon reached down, picked it up in his jaws and threw it across the road. It let out a shrill, mewling cry as it flew through the air and bounced a few times on the rocky ground. Alan stared at May in horror.

    “Oh, come on,” she said, plucking another ball from her Pokéball necklace. “It’s a Dark Pokémon. It only looks like a kitten to fool you.”

    She threw the ball into the air. “Butterfree, Sleep Powder!”

    As the Mutark rose to its feet and shook its head, the butterfly Pokémon formed in the air and flapped her wings powerfully. Sparkling, green dust drifted down towards the ground; the Mutark looked at it with kittenlike curiosity in its eyes, rose to its hind legs and started batting at it with a paw. Mark couldn’t help finding it adorable, despite knowing what it could turn into, as the Mutark wavered drunkenly on its feet and then collapsed in the grass, fast asleep.

    May fished an Ultra Ball out of her pocket and hurled it at the creature. As it made contact, the catlike form turned a translucent red and was drawn into the ball.

    The black and yellow Pokéball wobbled on the ground and then stilled with a ping.

    May frowned as she walked towards it. “That was too easy,” she said. “It’s probably low-leveled.”

    “That doesn’t matter,” Alan said immediately.

    “Yes, I know, I know,” May said irritably. She held her Pokédex up to the ball.

    “Mutark, kitten Pokémon,” said the electronic voice of the device. “These Dark Pokémon have the peculiarity of growing in both size and ferocity when they taste their own blood. They hunt in groups after harming one another sufficiently to grow to the desired size to deal with their prey.”

    “People still don’t know the exact nature of their transformation when it comes to their personality,” Alan said. “They always act sweet and innocent when they’re in their kitten form. Nobody knows if it’s a conscious deception or if their mind really regresses to an infantile stage while they’re in this form. If it’s the latter, it’s questionable whether it can be considered right to make them battle at all.”

    May looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “Interesting,” she said before looking back at her Pokédex. “Female, level sixteen.” She sighed. “Great.”

    She sent the Pokéball to the PC, recalled Tyranitar and Butterfree and replaced their balls on her necklace. After a moment of thought, she brought out another one, which Mark initially assumed to be Spirit’s.

    “Vibrava, go.”

    The antlion Pokémon formed on the ground and looked questioningly at his trainer.

    “I’m getting fed up with you being at a lower level than the rest of my team,” she said. “You could have lost me that Gym battle. The Pokémon around here are hopefully something you can handle. I don’t care how long it takes. You’re evolving today.”

    “May…” Alan began.

    “You keep out of it!” May snapped at him. “What, is it cruel to train your Pokémon now?”

    “Maybe Vibrava doesn’t want to evolve or he’s tired.”

    “I’m fine,” the Pokémon chimed in, his antennae twitching. “And evolving would be nice.”

    May glared at Alan in an I-told-you-so manner and he threw his arms up in defeat. “Fine. Fine. I just thought you should ask. Let’s get going and get to Scorpio City before that storm starts, okay?”

    This whole thing kind of killed the mood for any further conversation, and for the rest of their southwards journey up the gentle slope, the only words spoken were May’s snappy commands ordering Vibrava to attack the various wild Pokémon they came across while dark clouds gathered in the sky. At last they reached the highest peak of the mountain on that side and could look directly down into Scorpion Valley, the city below and the stretches of the Black Desert.

    “All right,” May said. “You guys can go on. I’m going to train Vibrava until he evolves. I’ll see you at the Pokémon Center later.”

    Alan looked doubtfully at her, but didn’t say anything.

    “Goodbye, then,” Mark said with a shrug. “See you.”

    “Watch out for the storm,” Alan muttered as he followed Mark down the zigzagging path that lay down the steep mountainside. May probably didn’t even hear him.

    “She worries me sometimes,” Alan said after a minute or two. “I don’t know what kind of effect her treatment could have on her Pokémon.”

    “Effect?” Mark replied without looking around. “Aren’t there a ton of trainers like her out there? I mean, she’s not exactly exemplary, but I can’t see anything she does as being particularly traumatizing. Lapras doesn’t like her for a number of reasons, but all her other Pokémon don’t really seem to mind that much. You saw Vibrava.”

    “Well, she’s not that much worse than most wild Pokémon expect trainers to be,” Alan said, “but the image of trainers that an average wild Pokémon has is just a person who’ll guide them in battle, teach them strategies and techniques, help them evolve, take them to new places, heal them between battles and eventually release them. The only reason her Pokémon put up with it is that they weren’t expecting to make a lifelong friend anyway. They’re just in it for the quick training.”

    Mark shrugged. “Why can’t they be in it for that? Letal is in it for that, no matter how nice I try to be to her.”

    He had intended for it to be just a casual mention, but now that he had reminded himself of Letal’s situation, it was starting to bother him again. The fact he was now alone with Alan made it worse.

    “Well, at least you are nice to her,” Alan replied. “You don’t call her stupid or useless or decide without asking her that you’re going to evolve her.”

    Mark was going to ask Alan’s opinion on whether he should have kept Letal out or not, but somehow it just came out as, “Letal might never evolve now.”

    “What? Why?”

    “She was too exhausted in the Gym battle for the evolution to happen. She just glowed and then it faded again and she collapsed. Nurse Joy said she was in hormonal overdrive or something and this could screw up her chances of evolution for good.”

    “How’d she ever get that worn out?” Alan asked, sounding genuinely puzzled. “I mean, I’ve heard of it happening, but the Pokémon needs to be literally dying of exhaustion.”

    “It amazed me too,” Mark just said, looking back at Alan. “She was fighting for longer than any other Pokémon in that battle. There was a point where she seemed to be about to drop down and I was going to recall her, but she refused. She got up like three times when she should have fainted and just kept going. And then that… I think it was after Diana’s Tyranitar threw her into a wall.”

    Alan shook his head. “She shouldn’t have kept going that long. It’s crazy. You know that Pokémon evolved fainting as a precaution to prevent them from inflicting life-threatening injuries on one another in a friendly fight? It’s like a switch in their head – in one mode they’ll automatically fall unconscious given a certain level of pain or injury, and in the other they’ll fight to the death. Normally they couldn’t switch it voluntarily even if they tried, but she did it. She could have died.”

    This did not help Mark feel better at all. “Nurse Joy told me off for not recalling her anyway. She said I should have known better than to let her do that to herself.”

    Alan looked at him for a second, considering it. They were almost down to the city now. “Well, it’s a bit of a tough situation,” he said finally. “But seeing as you probably didn’t know it was dangerous to her, it’s a bit hard to point to you as the one at fault. She probably didn’t know it either. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just good she’s okay.”

    “She’ll be upset if she can’t evolve,” Mark said. “It’s always been really important to her.”

    “Well, there’s not much you can do about that if it happens.”

    Mark sighed as they stepped down onto the concrete floor of Scorpio City’s main street. “I think I’m going to check on the Gym and talk to Mitch if I can. Can you get rooms for us?”

    “Sure,” Alan replied with a shrug and headed towards the Pokémon Center as Mark continued along the main street. The Gym building was on the right close to the entrance into the desert; it was a simple single-storey concrete building painted deep purple with GYM on the front in large, white letters. The memory of himself seeing that building for the first time, scared out of his wits with May lying unconscious beside him, popped into his head. And as if just to creep him out, the moment he turned around he found the silver-haired Gym leader standing there just as he had that fateful evening. Mark jumped, not having expected to see him there.

    “Hello, Mark,” Mitch said softly.

    “I wanted to talk,” Mark said, feeling the questions try to burst out of his brain now that Mitch was actually standing in front of him.

    The Gym leader nodded. “Let’s go inside. They say a storm is coming on.”

    The two of them entered the Gym building; Mark experienced another déj?* vu seeing the three corridors leading from the small entrance hall and knew that they were going to the right. They stepped through the wooden door into the tidy living room with the navy-and-gold carpet and sat down in two of the three brown leather couches surrounding the small coffee table. It was all almost bizarrely familiar; he couldn’t believe what a short time it had been since he had last been there, fearing for May’s life.

    “So,” Mitch said, one hand rubbing his chin as he kept to his old habit of looking up while he talked instead of at the person he was speaking to. “You wanted to talk to me.”

    “How do you know all that stuff?”

    Mitch gave him a sideways glance. “What stuff?”

    “We were at the Acaria City Gym yesterday. Victor was there. He told us you’d told him I was alive and Chaletwo had plans for me. I knew you’d seen me alive back in Ruxido, but even then you were there like you’d been expecting me. And I never told you anything about Chaletwo.”

    Mitch rubbed his forehead. “It’s all a bit hard to explain.”

    “Well, do it anyway,” Mark said, finding his temper rising suddenly. “Because to be honest, this is freaking me out. And in Ruxido you distracted me with some stuff about biology before I had the sense to ask.”

    The Gym leader chuckled. “Sorry. It wasn’t meant as a distraction.”

    Mark didn’t respond. He just waited. Mitch glanced at him and took a few deep breaths.

    “Ever since Scorplack stung me that day, I’ve had these feelings. I don’t know much. They’re never specific. The first time I saw you and May, I felt like there was something wrong. I saw you die at the Pokémon Festival and had an immediate feeling Chaletwo had done it because he needed you for something. I had a feeling I would see you in a particular spot in Ruxido so I went there. That is all I know that has to do with you.”

    “What kinds of ‘feelings’ are these?”

    Mitch rubbed his eyes with his hands, something about the gesture making him seem like he was very uncomfortable. “They’re hard to describe. It’s like when you look at someone and observe that they’re beautiful or that they have dark hair. But I observe something more that’s not based on what I see.”

    Mark looked at him for a few seconds, trying to make sense of this.

    “I can teleport,” Mitch suddenly said, his voice almost bitter. “I can affect people’s dreams. I can sense powerful emotions from afar. And I don’t have the faintest idea why.” He held his right hand over his eyes and shook his head. “I think I’m going insane.”

    “Why would…” Mark began, but Mitch suddenly looked up, straight into his eyes, and the wild, frantic gaze of his faintly bluish-gray eyes somehow made Mark forget what he was going to say.

    “I’ve been having more of these,” Mitch whispered, his eyes shining with uncertainty and fear. “I used to get feelings only occasionally, but now I can’t look at anything without having some bizarre feeling about it. Other people’s emotions keep me awake at night. Am I just finally losing it after the near-death experience? Have you experienced something like this?”

    Mark shook his head, stunned, and Mitch broke their eye contact as suddenly as he had begun it. He leant back in his chair with a sigh and looked out the window; it was starting to rain. “Sorry. You’re troubled enough already without me trying to pile all this on you too.”

    Mark realized dimly that his anger had completely vanished. In fact, now he felt intensely sorry for Mitch, particularly so because while Mark was also carrying a burden of his own, at least he knew why. Unfortunately he knew no more than Mitch did about the strange powers that were plaguing him.

    “I’m sorry,” he said finally in a quiet voice. “I have no idea what’s happening to you.” And then he had an idea that made his heart jump.

    Chaletwo? he thought. Have you been listening to all of this?

    “Yes,” came the reply. “But I’m afraid I don’t know what’s wrong with him. I don’t know of anything similar happening to anyone. And while I could maybe try to help it if I had more of my strength, I’m pretty useless right now.”

    Mitch looked at Mark and he immediately had the feeling the Gym leader knew he had been talking to Chaletwo. But neither of them said anything.

    “I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you anything more useful,” Mitch said at last. “You should probably get over to the Pokémon Center until the storm is over.”

    Mark nodded and stood up. “Sorry about barging in here and pressing you about all this,” he said. “I hope you… figure it out.”

    And with that, Mark left the Gym and ran through the rain towards the warmth of the Pokémon Center.
     
  15. Mawile XD

    Mawile XD ello thar

    Awww. I hate it when people reprimand me for stuff like that. Mark didn't have much of a choice, so you can't help feeling sorry for both him and Letal.

    [QUOTEThey continued warily, keeping an eye on the shadows. Mark saw a few more pairs of eyes shining in the darkness for a second before they disappeared again. Finally, when they were passing a large rock, the head of a black kitten peeked out from underneath it and walked cautiously towards them, staring at Tyranitar as if in a trance.

    Mark was about to point it out, but a glance from May silenced him. He watched it come nearer and nearer as they walked on as if they hadn’t noticed anything. Then suddenly –

    “Tyranitar, get it!” May shouted, and the Mutark only had time to freeze in its tracks before the dinosaur Pokémon reached down, picked it up in his jaws and threw it across the road. It let out a shrill, mewling cry as it flew through the air and bounced a few times on the rocky ground. Alan stared at May in horror.

    “Oh, come on,” she said, plucking another ball from her Pokéball necklace. “It’s a Dark Pokémon. It only looks like a kitten to fool you.”

    She threw the ball into the air. “Butterfree, Sleep Powder!”

    As the Mutark rose to its feet and shook its head, the butterfly Pokémon formed in the air and flapped her wings powerfully. Sparkling, green dust drifted down towards the ground; the Mutark looked at it with kittenlike curiosity in its eyes, rose to its hind legs and started batting at it with a paw. Mark couldn’t help finding it adorable, despite knowing what it could turn into, as the Mutark wavered drunkenly on its feet and then collapsed in the grass, fast asleep.

    May fished an Ultra Ball out of her pocket and hurled it at the creature. As it made contact, the catlike form turned a translucent red and was drawn into the ball.

    The black and yellow Pokéball wobbled on the ground and then stilled with a ping.

    May frowned as she walked towards it. “That was too easy,” she said. “It’s probably low-leveled.”

    “That doesn’t matter,” Alan said immediately.

    “Yes, I know, I know,” May said irritably. She held her Pokédex up to the ball.

    “Mutark, kitten Pokémon,” said the electronic voice of the device. “These Dark Pokémon have the peculiarity of growing in both size and ferocity when they taste their own blood. They hunt in groups after harming one another sufficiently to grow to the desired size to deal with their prey.”

    “People still don’t know the exact nature of their transformation when it comes to their personality,” Alan said. “They always act sweet and innocent when they’re in their kitten form. Nobody knows if it’s a conscious deception or if their mind really regresses to an infantile stage while they’re in this form. If it’s the latter, it’s questionable whether it can be considered right to make them battle at all.”

    May looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “Interesting,” she said before looking back at her Pokédex. “Female, level sixteen.” She sighed. “Great.”[/QUOTE]

    I want a Mutark... -__- I'm guessing the latter in Alan's desciption, since no pokemon in its right mind would go near a Tyranitar. I really like this bit, and I think that May with a Mutark wuld be cool. Bits like this are the best - they give you some background, and they make you predict future events.

    I couldn't stand being one of May's pokemon. It's not Vibrava's fault he lost, it was just May's bad judgement to send out a pokemon with a low level in an important battle. At least Vibrava doesn't seem to mind.


    Poor Mitch... I really enjoy his character, and I hope he gets over his fear. His "gift" should be to help him, so hopefully he'll be able to get over it.
     
  16. elyvorg

    elyvorg somewhat backwards.

    Well, seeing as I'm officially too lazy to go back through Chapter 40 nitpicking stuff, I'll just mention the parts that I remember noting stuff about briefly:

    - The thing with Alan staying on the mainland connected to Molzapart sounds promisingly like you could do something interesting with it later, such as having Mark and May pulled unwillingly out of the tournament to deal with a legendary crisis. Which will be fun to read, if it's the case.

    - I liked the Gym puzzle and how you described Mark and May going about it. It sounds like it'd be really fun to do, though knowing me I'd get frustrated and give up after about ten minutes.

    - I remember being impressed by how you described the double battle, focusing on Mark's perspective of things so that when you weren't mentioning absolutely everything that was going on, it didn't feel like we were missing out, just that we were watching through Mark's eyes.

    - Victor is cool, and I like his naming pattern.

    - Victor's last line about how to leave the Gym made me laugh out loud, and ended the chapter on an awesome sort of humourous note.

    Now I'll re-read Chapter 41 and mention stuff in a similar vein to above, because my nitpicks have already been done.

    Heh. I can just see May slapping him if his occasional whinging gets to her too much.

    Ooh, noticed something I didn't in the beta. How does Mark know that Letal wants to battle her father? I know she said so in the Ask the Characters thread on your forums, but I don't remember her ever mentioning it in the actual fic.

    I like the Pokédex description about Mutark injuring each other so that they grow before going out to hunt. I also think Alan has a point about their minds actually regressing while they're in kitten form, because if the one May caught was more cunning, it'd have acted innocent but kept away from the Sleep Powder all the same.

    Haha. Have fun with that, May.

    ...then again, she's probably just going to subject her to forced nonstop training until she matches May's other Pokémon in level. Poor little cute kitty. :3

    Just a note: the accented "a" on "deja vu" isn't working here.

    You already know my theory about Mitch, although I have to say I'm less convinced now that you've removed the second hint about it. I do feel sorry for the guy, though.

    Also, I was wondering: what were you so worried about with this chapter to feel the need to have it beta-read?
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2008
  17. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Hehe. You'll see.

    Her plan was pretty much to get him some experience, being already confident enough in her abilities to figure she would win either way. Naturally, though, the main reason he fainted so quickly was that Diana had a Weavile, and Ice attacks are quadruply effective against Vibrava; he could never have lasted very long.

    You'll see more of Mitch and why I love him later. :3 Thanks for reading (you hadn't replied in a while, so I wasn't sure you were even still following the fic).

    It will obviously come into play, but not how you probably think it will. ;)

    x3 It would be rather frustrating, yes. But hey, it's the last Gym; there has to be a challenge in it.

    She has never said it straight out, as it says, but it was heavily implied; the Letaligon scene showed her father rejecting her because she wasn't shiny, and then Leta stares after them and says "Can I go back here once you've made me strong?" It doesn't take a genius to draw the conclusion that she wants to prove herself to her father, and Mark does so immediately.

    This one in particular is low-leveled and possibly young, so she wouldn't necessarily recognize Sleep Powder, but all the same, the regression seems more likely considering they are known to find the presence of a powerful Dark-type Pokémon oddly irresistible. The main argument against it is how they would know to wound one another in order to hunt.

    Gah. Stupid encoding.

    I just needed to know how a reader would react to the Mitch scene and what sorts of conclusions they would draw.

    Thanks for the review and the betaing (why do I always forget to mention when somebody beta-reads in my posts?). It helped a lot.

    Now, if anybody is wondering: chapter 42 is on the second page and will almost definitely be very short. I'd estimate maybe six pages or so at the most. And since I'm on summer vacation, you should be able to expect it pretty soon.
     
  18. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    That Letal might possibly never evolve now is a very interesting development, I'd say. What I'm most interested in with regards to that is the matter of how Letal might react to the news. o.o Should be interesting to see how she does react. And I think I've just officially used up my allotted amount of uses of forms of the word "interest" for a while. X3 Anyway, the reactions of other characters to that news were done well, I thought, each seeming believable and appropriate for its respective character.

    Speaking of reactions to the possibility of Letal never evolving, that Nurse Joy scared me a little. X3

    Mutark are just... damn it, those things are adorable! X3 And I think I may have just witnessed the pinnacle of Mutark adorableness right here:

    Holy crap, that's cute! X3 She's just being such a... such a kitten there! D'aww!

    Meanwhile, Mitch is now really fascinating the frelling frell out of me. o___o And the way he feels about his abilities, and the effects that they're having on him... those, too, fall into the category of believable, well-handled character behavior, I'd say.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2008
  19. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Thanks for reviewing, Sike. ^^ Your reviews always brighten up my day a bit when I see them.

    So. It turns out chapter 42 is eleven pages after all, nearly double what I thought would be the maximum amount it would get in my last post. My non-plotty chapters always turn out longer than I think they will (chapter 34, anyone?).

    I'm sorry for how late it is. I know it's not late compared to some of my previous chapters, but I really was going to finish it and post it on the fic's birthday, June 19th (I've now been writing this for six years!). Then the whole ordeal with my forums' database being wiped happened and I spent a few days on that, plus all the annoying math training and being tempted to spend the weekend with my boyfriend and argh. So here it is at last. Not my favorite chapter or anything, but I think it serves its purpose.



    Chapter 42: Splitting Up

    There were a number of other trainers in the Scorpio City Pokémon Center, waiting for the storm to subside. Nurse Joy of Scorpio City, far nicer than her cousin in Acaria City, had pointed the bookshelves in one corner out to Alan while Mark had been talking to Mitch, and after Alan had relayed the message to Mark, the two of them spent most of the afternoon reading in the comfortable couches while listening to the rain beat on the windows outside. Mark had a bit of a hard time concentrating at first because he was still a little spooked; he didn’t tell Alan what Mitch had told him, the conversation somehow having marked itself as a secret in his head, and Alan never actually asked. Eventually, however, he managed to sink himself into the book – it was a cheesy novel about legendaries and destinies, which he felt a bit weird to read now, but it was nicely captivating – and didn’t look up again until the door to the Pokémon Center was flung open with a loud noise around half past six.

    May stood in the doorway, soaked wet from head to toe. Her blue hair draped messily over her shoulders and she was shivering with cold.

    “May!” Alan blurted out as he saw her. “Are you insane? Why were you out that long in the rain? You’re freezing.”

    “Thanks, Mom,” May replied and rolled her eyes, slamming the door behind her and walking towards where the boys were sitting while water dripped off her onto the carpet. “It was worth it,” she said, a triumphant smile on her face as she sat down on the corner of Mark’s sofa. A dark, wet spot immediately formed around where she was sitting. “Vibrava’s a Flygon now, and he’s level fifty-four. And he knows Dragon Claw. And I taught him Earthquake.”

    Mark looked around for a bookmark, tore a piece from one page of a newspaper that was lying on a nearby table and put it into his book before closing it. “Did you train Mutark too?”

    She shook her head. “I’ll see what I can do with Mutark when we get to Champion Island. We’ll have a month and a half to prepare for the League, after all, and there are Pokémon of all sorts of levels on there.” She looked around at both of them. “What were you doing while I was out there?”

    “Reading,” Alan replied, raising the still-open book he was holding briefly. “And Mark went to see Mitch.”

    May looked at him. “What did he say?”

    “He didn’t really know anything,” Mark said, still not wanting to tell them about the full extent of the Gym leader’s mysterious powers. “As Victor said, he just gets these feelings. All he knew about what we were doing was that he had a feeling Chaletwo needed me for something when he killed me. He doesn’t know what it’s about or anything.”

    May shrugged. “Okay. Then we won’t have to worry about him.”

    “Anybody else hungry?” Mark asked to change the subject. “We haven’t eaten since those cold beans for lunch.”

    “I’m starving too,” May said and nodded, looking around. “Do they sell food here or do we need to go out?”

    “We can ask Joy,” Alan said, “but while we do that, you’re changing out of your wet clothes.”

    May retreated to her room with a grumble after Alan had told her the room number, and the boys walked up to the counter.

    Nurse Joy gave them a polite bow. “How can I help you?”

    “Where could we buy food?” Alan asked her.

    The nurse pointed to the door and the heavy rain outside it. “There’s a place just across the street. Cheap, casual restaurant for trainers, open only during the high season, but that’s now.” She smiled. “Anything else?”

    “We’ll be fine, thanks,” Alan said and turned back to Mark. “We wait for May, then.”

    She was back in a minute or two, wearing a pair of blue jeans and a white jacket that, as far as Mark could see, was exactly identical to the one she’d been wearing before.

    “Hey, apparently there’s a restaurant for trainers across the street,” Alan told her.

    May blinked. “So uh… I’m going out into the rain again? When I just changed into something dry?”

    “It’s across the street. Can’t be that bad.”

    The restaurant was decent, and although May was a little grumpy while they waited for their food, she started cheering up once they’d received their orders. She spent the rest of the dinner going on about her plans for the League and how she needed another Water-type (Alan gave her one of his looks as she brought this up and she changed the subject).

    Finally they returned to the Pokémon Center, Alan went with May to the bookcases, and Mark told them he was going to get Letal back and talk to her.

    He walked up to the counter and took a deep breath as Nurse Joy turned to face him. “Excuse me. Can you contact the Acaria City Pokémon Center and ask if my Letal has recovered?”

    “Of course,” she said with a smile before turning to the videophone behind her. She dialled a number with quick, precise motions and a second passed before Nurse Joy of Acaria City appeared on the screen.

    “What is it?” she asked, looking tired.

    “This boy was asking about his Letal.”

    The nurse on the screen glanced at Mark and frowned as she recognized him. “Oh, it’s you,” she said. “Yes, I’ve finished treating your Letal. She’s asleep. I guess you want her back now, huh?”

    Mark just nodded, hoping desperately that the nurse would not bring up why she had been in such a bad state. Thankfully, she just disappeared off-screen for a few seconds and then returned, holding a Pokéball.

    “Here she is. And don’t let this happen again.”

    “I won’t.”

    The ball fell out of a tube beside the screen, and as the screen of the videophone turned blank again, Nurse Joy picked it up and handed it to Mark. “I’m glad your Pokémon is okay,” she said in a voice that somehow managed to make Mark feel bad about the fact she didn’t know what had happened. He just nodded, mumbled some words of thanks and turned back to the corridor on the right which led to the rooms. He entered his, closed the door, and sent Letal out on the bed.

    She came out of the ball sleeping with her head resting on one of her crossed forelegs, but quickly sensed the change of environment and opened her eyes. She looked at Mark and lifted her head. “What is it?”

    “So you’re… okay?” Mark said, not sure how to get to the subject at hand.

    “I didn’t evolve,” she said gloomily. “I almost managed it, but I didn’t have the energy to go through with it.”

    She didn’t know.

    “About that,” Mark began, biting his lip. “The nurse who treated you said that… because of that, you might never evolve at all.”

    Letal looked blankly at him. Mark waited a few seconds for a response but got none.

    “It’s some hormone thing,” he went on. “Supposedly it’s about fifty-fifty that you’ll manage to evolve later.”

    “And if not?” Letal asked, her voice a little shaky.

    “If not… you’ll never be a Letaligon.”

    The way she stared at him in a mixture of disbelief, dread and regret expressed more than words ever could have. In a way he was relieved that she didn’t say anything; it made him feel more sympathetic to be able to just look at her and try to understand her feelings rather than be hit with questions he couldn’t answer.

    Then her expression hardened and she looked away. “I’ll evolve,” she said quietly. “I don’t care about the odds.”

    “You might not be able to,” Mark said softly.

    Letal shook her head. “I’ll do it. No matter what. If I’m tense enough, I’ll…”

    “You’re not doing that again,” Mark interrupted her as he realized what she was thinking. “You could have died. Please, Letal, just let yourself faint when you’re about to collapse. If you can evolve, you will evolve. Just don’t do anything stupid.”

    She glared at him. “If I don’t evolve, what’s the point of all this? Why would I go with you if I’ll be a Letal for good?”

    “You don’t know that you’ll be a Letal for good. Maybe you’ll evolve normally. Most Pokémon don’t need to make the kind of effort you made to evolve.”

    “But maybe I won’t.”

    Mark sighed. “There is nothing we can do about that now. We can just train and hope.” And, without really thinking about it, the selfish part of him added, “And the best place to train if you really want to become strong and evolve is if we go to the League.”

    Letal laid her head down on the bed and chuckled softly. “You think I’m that naïve, do you? You think I can’t tell you just want a Letaligon for yourself? Didn’t we agree that I would go back to Ruxido when I was strong enough?”

    Mark took a deep breath. “We’re going to Champion Island tomorrow. I can release you now if you want. But there is a chance you could evolve if we take you with us to the League, and if you do that you can’t bail out on us halfway through. After the League, we’ll go back to Ruxido and release you then, whether you’ve evolved or not. Deal?”

    She looked at him for a moment, considering it, and then turned away. “Deal,” she said quietly but firmly. “I’m coming with you. But when we get to Ruxido again, we part ways.”

    Mark just nodded, not sure what else to say. “Okay, then,” he said finally. “So you’ll be all right?”

    Letal gave him a glance. “That depends.”

    He sighed. “Look, maybe you’ll evolve and maybe you won’t, and if you don’t, you should just get over it and stop obsessing so much over trying to please that jerk father of yours, okay?”

    She stared at him for a few moments. “Please him, huh?” she then replied with a cold chuckle.

    “That’s how I understood it.”

    “I’m going to kill him,” Letal spat. “And then I’ll watch my shiny siblings slaughter one another for that stupid, meaningless leadership before I leave the herd again and see if I can find another one.”

    Mark stared at her in dumbfounded surprise. Whatever he’d been expecting, this was not it. He had always kind of identified with Letal, what with having parent problems of his own, which made the realization that she was thoroughly messed up after all feel more personal than it ought to. He reminded himself that she really wasn’t any worse than Scyther or Gyarados per se and that it was none of his business if Pokémon had disturbing ideologies, but couldn’t really feel convinced.

    Mark took a deep breath. “Well, I guess you’re fine, then,” he said, took her Pokéball back out and watched her dissolve into a shape of translucent red and disappear into the ball.

    He replaced the ball on his belt and stood there for a moment before forcibly straightening himself and pushing the matter into the quarantined ‘Let’s Think about This Later’ area of his brain. He went back to the main hall of the Pokémon Center, where both May and Alan were now reading, and spent the rest of the evening finishing his book. (Mark felt oddly cheered up when the main characters succeeded in saving the world at the end.) After that, it was getting late and Alan had already gone to bed, so he replaced the book on the shelf, said goodnight to May and retreated to his room to go to bed.

    He dreamt something about Letal killing his father and his mother sobbing over the coffin while Mark stood over Suicune’s body and attempted unsuccessfully to make her notice his existence so she could help him drag it into the woods.

    -------

    “Get up already. We need to go.”

    “Mmmh,” Mark mumbled, pulling his blanket tighter around him while not entirely awake enough to properly register the words.

    “Wake up, you Slakoth,” the girl’s voice said a little louder. It was coming from the doorway. Mark forced his eyes open and blinked a few times. He could see May, silhouetted against the bright light of the corridor, folding her arms.

    “I’m coming,” he mumbled and dug his face into his pillow. The next thing he knew was a harsh knock that snapped him awake again.

    “It’s been fifteen minutes since you said you were coming!” May shouted from the other side. “What are you doing in there?”

    He bolted awake, shook his head and sat up. “Sorry,” he called back. “I fell asleep again.”

    Mark got ready as quickly as he could and then joined with May and Alan outside his room, where they had clearly been waiting for a little while. He was still feeling a bit foggy after the night; he hadn’t slept very well.

    “We’re still heading to Merville, right?” he asked to make sure there hadn’t been some sort of a sudden change of plan as he slung his bag over his shoulder.

    “Yeah,” Alan replied. “And then we’ll split up, I guess.”

    “Are there ferries going to Champion Island already?” Mark asked.

    “No,” May responded. “Not until July. I’ll to talk to Lapras about it.”

    Alan gave her a doubtful glance but said nothing.

    “Are we going to get some breakfast?” Mark asked hopefully, his stomach growling.

    “Supposedly that restaurant we went to yesterday serves breakfast,” May replied. “Hence the whole waking-up-right-now thing.”

    “Oh,” Mark answered stupidly, giving himself a mental slap. “Well, what are we waiting for, then?”

    -------

    After breakfast, they headed east out of town, up one of the mountain ranges that surrounded Scorpion Valley, and out onto the plains beyond. From there they could see the beautifully straight path descend steadily across a field of tall grass towards a small collection of houses – Merville, where they were headed. Sunlight reflected off the soft waves in the ocean behind the town, reminding Mark what kind of a journey was ahead of them.

    It was a quiet walk down to the village. Alan still seemed to be concerned about May’s treatment of her Pokémon, and she returned it by not attempting to talk to him. Meanwhile, Mark’s mind kept drifting to Letal and the rather uncomfortable idea that in a couple of months’ time, he would be releasing her into Ruxido in the knowledge that she was going to murder her own father. Which, no matter how he looked at it, he couldn’t help feeling he would be somewhat responsible for. And the idea of being responsible for someone’s death, even ‘somewhat’ and even if it was a Pokémon that apparently saw things differently, was not very pleasant. But how could he prevent it? Refuse to release Letal in Ruxido even after he had promised that he would? He couldn’t really see attempting to convince her to change her mind as being likely to do any good.

    Of course, evolution had made Charmeleon grow out of wanting to murder Scyther. Who was to say Letal wouldn’t be the same once she was a Letaligon? Provided, of course, that she did become a Letaligon at all. Which made Mark realize that still he didn’t know what Letal would do if he released her in Ruxido and she was still a Letal. By the time they reached the village, he had concluded that the whole situation was far too much of a headache to think about it now and instead occupied his mind with random details of the plot of the book he’d been reading.

    “So, we’re here,” May said as they finally entered the village and looked around. Mark saw the dirty, wooden shack by the harbour that pronounced itself to be a shop with a hand-painted sign above the door; he chuckled at the memory of the overenthusiastic shopkeeper. This time, however, there was a number of trainers around; some were feeding their Water Pokémon in the harbour while others walked in and out of the shop, sparing the newcomers barely a passing glance. It made sense; after all, this was when most trainers were journeying, as opposed to Mark and May’s early start.

    “We’d better get a Waterfall HM so we can get onto the island,” May said. “Or that’s what I heard, at least.”

    Mark nodded to confirm that; Champion Island had cliffs on all sides of it, and the official way to enter it was by swimming up a waterfall, although trainers were known to fly there on occasion.

    May was looking at him in a thoughtful manner. “Hey, you can teach it to Gyarados,” she said. “They’re much better with physical attacks than special ones, so it’ll pay in the long run.”

    Mark shrugged. “Sounds good.”

    “…And, well, Lapras isn’t staying anyway,” she added before sighing. “Mark, can you go buy that HM?”

    “Sure.”

    He entered the store, presuming that May would talk to Lapras in the meantime. The bearded, middle-aged shopkeeper, who had been visibly shrivelling up with boredom the last time Mark had been there, was enthusiastically showing two trainers something on one of the shelves on the other side of the room. The man looked up, hastened to tell the bewildered customers that he would be right back, and scuttled with uncanny agility over to the counter where Mark was.

    “What can I do for you, boy? Aquarium City, is it? You’re in the right place! We’ve got everything from…”

    “Uh, it’s Champion Island, actually.”

    The shopkeeper stopped short in surprise for a split second, but was back to his babbly self before Mark could blink. “Oh! I see! This early? Marvellous, marvellous! You have to understand, at this time of the year everyone is going to Aquarium City. Now, I presume you want an HM07, right? Or are you one of those poor saps without a Water-type and need HM02 instead?” He looked expectantly at Mark.

    “Just… whichever one Waterfall is?” he said doubtfully.

    “That’s 07 for you,” said the shopkeeper, stretching his hand out to one of the shelves behind him and taking out a CD case while simultaneously punching numbers into the cash register. “That will be 3,000.”

    Mark handed him his trainer card and took the CD case instead. The front cover was decorated with a picture of a Gyarados racing up a mighty waterfall.

    “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you,” the shopkeeper said, handing him his card back before darting back to the two trainers who had been waiting.

    Mark pocketed the card and walked out of the store to find May and Alan shouting at one another by the harbor.

    “…what’s wrong with asking?”

    “Suddenly asking her to do something for you now is demanding!”

    “No, it’s not!”

    May’s knuckles tightened around the Pokéball in her right hand while Alan, standing a few meters away, folded his arms. Mark took a doubtful step forward.

    “Some people can’t say no to a request!”

    “That’s their problem!”

    “It is your problem here because keeping a Pokémon that wants to be released is abuse!”

    “That’s why I’m giving her a choice!”

    “Um, guys?” Mark asked carefully. Both of them turned their heads quickly towards him.

    “He doesn’t want me to ask Lapras if she can take us over to Champion Island,” May said. “Even though there are no ferries until July and I don’t think Gyarados is the best choice of a Pokémon to Surf on over great distances.”

    “But you know she wants to be released and doesn’t want to do anything for you,” Alan protested before looking expectantly up at Mark as if hoping for him to pass some sort of judgement. He looked awkwardly between the two of them.

    “Um, well…” He thought over it for a few seconds and couldn’t help being reminded of the Letal issue, which really gave him only one option that would not make him the world’s biggest hypocrite. “It can’t hurt to ask, can it? I mean, if it means we’ll get to Polaryu earlier… We’ll just have to make it clear she has a choice, that’s all.”

    Alan threw his arms in hopeless defeat. “Fine. You ask her.”

    May nodded emphatically, giving Alan a grudging glare as she threw the Pokéball in her hand. The large Water Pokémon emerged from the ball in a burst of white light. She looked slowly around, avoiding May’s gaze as she wagged softly up and down on the ocean waves.

    “So,” May said after a few seconds of silence. “The sea. We’re here.”

    “Can I leave now?” Lapras asked quietly.

    “About that.” May took a deep breath as Lapras watched her warily. “See, we need to get to Champion Island as soon as possible in order to fight Polaryu, and to do that we kind of need you.”

    “They don’t need you,” Alan chimed in.

    “Well, not quite need, but it would be one hell of a lot more convenient.” May gave Alan another quick glare. “So, well, could you do us a favour and take us there?”

    There was a long silence. Lapras looked down at the water below her. “And what when we get there?” she asked quietly. “Will you ask me to stay there to take you back? To help fight Polaryu? Will you ever really let me go?”

    “That’s what I was trying to tell her,” Alan shot in.

    “Look,” May responded, a hint of anger touching her words even though she was obviously trying her best to keep it away, “you can say I’m too harsh or not personal enough or too competitive for your taste or whatever, but if I make a deal, I keep it. Don’t you dare accuse me of being something I’m not.”

    “It’s up to you,” Mark said, feeling that hadn’t been made clear enough so far. “Whatever you want, we’ll go along with it.”

    “But the easiest way for us to get to Polaryu is if you take us,” May added immediately.

    Lapras stared out at the vast expanse of ocean stretching out to the southeast for a few seconds. Finally, she said, “All right, I will take you. On two conditions.”

    May raised her eyebrows. “Go on.”

    “First, I’m leaving the moment we’re there. I will never go into your Pokéball again.”

    May nodded, her face not showing any emotion. “Okay.”

    Lapras’s expression hardened. “And I’m still not fighting for you. If you want to catch a Pokémon, you will have to send out someone else to do the fighting, and if I need to defend myself, I will not go out of my way to keep you safe while I do.”

    “Deal.”

    Lapras nodded and May looked back at Alan, who didn’t seem very happy but nonetheless did not object. Mark’s gaze shifted between the two of them.

    “So well,” he said, “we’re going to Champion Island now, right?”

    May nodded. “Yeah.”

    Alan hesitated, looking uncomfortably at Lapras, but then sighed heavily. “Okay, then. You have my number, so you can call me and arrange a meet-up when the League is over… I guess.” He turned to Mark. “Right. So all that’s left is, well, Molzapart.”

    “Oh, that.” Mark frowned; he had forgotten about the intention to have Molzapart psychically link to Alan and wasn’t quite sure how they were going to achieve it now, what with being in a town where they couldn’t exactly send him out. He looked around.

    “Chaletwo,” he said, “would it be too risky to just go behind the store or something?”

    “Hmm,” Chaletwo replied. “A bit, but I suppose it can’t be helped very easily. At least it won’t take too long, and you can try to stand in the line of sight.”

    They walked behind the wooden house and faced the wall. Mark took out his Pokédex, logged on to the PC system, found Molzapart and switched him to his party. He looked quickly around to make sure no one was looking before dropping the ball onto the ground. The shape of the giant bird emerged in front of them

    “All right, Molzapart,” Chaletwo said as the bird jerked his fiery head in Mark’s direction. “Link to Alan so you can be recalled, and then I’ll explain.”

    Mark hadn’t actually realized that Molzapart didn’t yet know about their plans. He picked the Pokéball back up from the ground as a purple glow flashed in Molzapart’s eyes, and before he had even had the time to properly appreciate what the bird looked like again, Molzapart was just a translucent red shape disappearing into the Pokéball. In a way it made him sad. The legendaries he had fought he had at least gotten a good look at (he forcibly pulled his mind away from the thought of Suicune which immediately popped into his head), but Molzapart and Chaletwo, the ones who were actually cooperating with him, were almost limited to the false memory of seeing them converse that was still burned into the back of his mind.

    “What is this about?” said a telepathic voice deeper than Chaletwo’s. “It had better be temporary. My powers are already weakening.”

    “The basic plan,” Chaletwo responded, “is that Mark and May are going to Champion Island while Alan will go around Ouen to look for Rainteicune.”

    “Champion Island?” Molzapart asked sceptically. “Why?”

    “There’s… a legendary there,” Chaletwo said. “And in order not to make themselves look suspicious, they have to participate in the League while they’re there.”

    “What legendary?”

    “It doesn’t matter,” Chaletwo replied in an irritated tone. “Alan will tell you about it if you must know.”

    “Why is Alan involved? What about Ash? Who is this girl?”

    Mark almost laughed. Molzapart really knew nothing that had happened since Mark’s resurrection. He could feel Chaletwo realizing it at the same time with a flash of irritation.

    “Look, they’re assisting, all right? Alan will fill you in later. And before you ask, we’ve already gotten three legendaries out of the way.”

    “Which three?”

    “Suicune and two others. Look, let’s not waste my energy having me explain it to you, okay? All you need to know now is that if the two of you come across any legendaries other than Rainteicune, you should send some sort of general signal so I can hear it quickly bring them over for the battle.”

    “A general psychic signal?” Molzapart asked, his voice a little annoyed now. “That any of the legendaries can feel? Are you insane?”

    “It’s not like they could read much into it.”

    Mark had the fleeting thought that they must look extremely stupid now, standing there gravely in perfect silence behind a store and staring at one another.

    Molzapart let out a psychic sigh. “I suppose I will learn the details from Alan later. Is that all there is to the plan?”

    “At the moment, yes.”

    “Well, that’s reassuring.”

    “Skip the sarcasm. Which of us is the one who actually knows what’s going on again?”

    “Can’t we just get going now?” May interrupted before Molzapart had the time to answer. “You’re wasting our time having a petty argument.”

    There was a second of silence. Then, “She’s right. We should get going to Champion Island.”

    “Let’s hope I never have to send that help call,” Molzapart replied disdainfully, and the legendaries said no more, apparently deciding they had no need for further goodbyes.

    “So, Alan,” Mark said, looking at the older boy and somehow feeling a bit uncomfortable about him being about to leave them alone for a journey across the sea. “Goodbye, I guess. See you when the League is over.”

    Alan nodded. “Goodbye. Take care.” He turned to May. “And at least try to be decent to Lapras before she leaves, okay?”

    “Of course I’ll be decent to her,” May responded irritably as if the idea of her not being so was some sort of an absurdity. She turned to the giant Water Pokémon who was still waiting calmly by the dock and then back to Alan again. “Bye. I’ll call you after the League.”

    May stepped down onto the back of Lapras’s bumpy shell and sat down behind the Pokémon’s neck. Lapras gave her an uncomfortable glance, but just said, “Aren’t you coming too, Mark?”

    He gave Alan a quick smile and climbed onto the Pokémon’s back himself, settling down behind May. “Goodbye, Alan,” he said again as Lapras turned around; he found himself losing his balance and had to quickly grab hold of some of the blunt spikes sticking out of the shell beside him.

    “Goodbye, guys,” Alan called as the Pokémon began to move away. “Have fun.”

    As Mark waved, May just stared angrily at the back of Lapras’s neck with her arms folded. Alan waved half-heartedly in return for a second and then turned towards the road back to Scorpio City without looking back.
     
  20. Kaizer

    Kaizer A Shadow of Darkness

    For a "non-plotty" chapter there sure was a lot going on. It certainly wasn't as exciting as some of your "plotty" chapters, but it did it's job as a transition.

    I think my only real complaints are that the whole scene with Mozalpart seemed a bit rushed and there wasn't really much to get from it. I am a bit curious why Chaletwo didn't tell Mozalpart about which legendaries were caught and still needed to be caught however. Is there some relation to the dragons I don't remember?

    The other thing was Letal. Perhaps I was just thinking the same thing as Mark, but Letal seemed OoC with her patricidal intentions and the bloodlust she displayed towards her siblings as well. I suppose it's just because of her "culture" but she always came off as a good bit gentler, though hard working borderline vicious in battle, than she was this chapter.

    And finally, what's so bad at surfing on a Gyardos? Sure it won't be as comfortable as Lapras, but even excluding game mechanics, there's plenty of room and something that large is bound to scare off anything to challenge them on they way making it a quicker trip to Champion.

    But like I said, wasn't bad for a transitional chapter. If this were divided into parts I'd almost call this the end of part 2. So good luck with the next chapter, I'll read it even if I don't say anything.


    But like I said, wasn't bad for a transitional chapter. If this were divided into parts I'd almost call this the end of part 2. So good luck with the next chapter, I'll read it even if I don't say anything.
     

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