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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. Samayouru

    Samayouru Rabid Dusclops Fan

    I'm honestly not really sure how to address how I feel in writing, because this was one hell of a ride. I suppose I need time to think about a proper review which'll probably get made when Chapter 77 is finally posted and everything draws to a close, however I will give some of the thoughts that ran through my head:

    I do feel bad for Rick - yes, he's a prick as we say in the UK -
    but considering what he's been through, I can understand why his judgement would be clouded to the point where he'd unleash a creature that can destroy the world to kill May.

    Also Mitch/Chalenor is amazing, just sayin'.

    And I really like the dynamic between Mew and Chalenor. I'm a sucker for Beauty and the Beast-esque friendships/relationships so seeing how they became friends (and how it all fell in the end) was interesting.
     
  2. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Right, I think it behooves me to plunk all this under a spoiler because I'm quite certain that **** is about to get very, very real. So, then!

    Chapter 75:

    That entire first scene. That entire first scene. Holy ****. Just... wow do I ever feel for Mitch. Big time. ;A; When he started talking about someone being trapped in him, essentially, I started helplessly, morbidly wondering oh god well what if something happened to the prison, then; would the prisoner be free? The idea of the unwilling jailer giving up the keys... didn't occur to me, and so when that offer came up yeah, quite the "holy crap" moment. Nice touch, incidentally, with the parasitic wasp pokémon. A wonderfully effed-up aspect of nature, that--neat to see it get a pokémon parallel. :D

    The moment Mewtwo² disobeyed Rick I had a strong suspicion that something was going to happen to the latter. Something Very Extremely Gruesome. And I was right! Although it was still probably much, much more merciful than what Weavile would've done to him.

    Chalenor. I don't think I'd have never guessed that's what was trapped in Mitch. I'd wondered from the start of the chapter, of course, tried to guess, drew a blank. I think even if I'd arrived at an answer it'd have been well off-target.

    Oh, Mew. Mew, Mew, Mew. Attachment... can certainly make a person do unfortunate things, can't it.

    And then I cried for several minutes. I think that dam was threatening to break from very early on in the chapter, and that was just... the tipping point. <3

    Chapter 76:

    That is just so very Mew of you, Mew.

    The color-changing spikes are just effing cool, I've gotta say it. They sound pretty. I like them.

    Gosh. Just. Mew and Chalenor are a couple of the most tragic mfers I've read about, ever. And seeing their happy interactions, doing their little acts of heroism or something like it? Only makes it all even sadder. Showing their backstory was a VERY good call, and the timing was perfect; I don't think it could've hit as hard without the context of the preceding chapter.

    Both these chapters were excellent and feels-inducing as all hell. <3 Eagerly anticipating whatever's next. Whatever's last. God that still feels surreal af to think about.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2018
  3. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Going to do some review responses in a vaguely timely fashion for once!

    Chibi Pika

    Aaaa, I'm so happy to hear it affected you (and a few of my favorite lines in particular). Thanks so much for following the fic all these years! <3


    Negrek

    Yup. :p Not gonna lie, I was pretty psyched when you figured that bit out - knowing it was actually in practice and not only in principle something you could deduce from the story (but which nobody else had picked up on, to my knowledge) was a lot of fun!

    I'm not sure I would say that, heh. Mitch harboring Chalenor, and Chalenor being the Destroyer, was dead-on; Chalenor's actual nature and what went down before the last War, a lot less so. :p You were very preoccupied with Chalenor traveling through time and having a master plan and being Mitch and Mew knowing exactly what was going on the whole time. It was pretty fascinating to read your theories and consider what could have been! Some of it was stuff I wished I'd thought of. I loved how you tied in Mitch's random ramblings about humans vs Pokémon; it made total sense that there'd be a real reason for that! But alas, that was just me writing Mitch being weird.

    What happened twenty years ago was that Chaletwo started asking Mew about the War. (Chaletwo actually mentions in chapter 52 that that's specifically when Mew started to change!)

    Mew had gone 980 years just trying not to think about it, maintaining a fragile state of cognitive dissonance where she simultaneously told herself maybe it just wouldn't happen (so no reason any of the legendaries need to know about the War or the Destroyer at all) while also holding on to the dark hope that maybe it would (and then maybe she'd have a chance to reunite with Chalenor one day). Then along comes Chaletwo all MY POWER IS GOING AWAY, MOLZAPART NOTICED IT TOO, WHAT'S HAPPENING, and Mew has to actually confront the fact that yes, actually it's become pretty obvious that it is happening again. And Mew can't evade his questions for very long and can't think of anything to say but some clumsy, very vague version of the truth, and then Chaletwo is like WTF NO HOW DO WE STOP IT??? and Mew's like n...no you can't stop it, it's impossible, and Chaletwo's like BUT WHAT IF POKÉBALLS??? THAT'S GOING TO WORK RIGHT??? and Mew's like that's... no, you can't do that, you can't just stop it, it's... it's fate that it has to happen, and Chaletwo's like BUT WHAT IF WE CALL ALL THE LEGENDARIES TOGETHER AND WE FIND SOME HUMANS AND-- and Mew is like no, you can't tell them, please, please just let this go, don't try to stop it, it's impossible and it's fated and you can't stop it. And he doesn't, and he goes off with Molzapart to execute this ridiculous plan, and meanwhile Mew is left with all the scars of the last War torn wide open, confronted with the fragility of her clumsy web of lies and the fact Chaletwo's off on this misguided quest when his creation may actually be the reason the War is still happening, and thrown into an even more violent state of cognitive dissonance as she wants Chaletwo's efforts to be futile, for reasons she knows are entirely selfish and awful. (But it's impossible, there's nothing that can be done anyway, she's just telling the truth. Right?)

    So yeah, that's why Mew's been in a bit of a state ever since then.

    Yeah, it would be nice if there were more of him, wouldn't it? In the next revision I should totally do that extra about Taylor calling him from the League asking for more clones. I want to do more with their relationship while Taylor's around. And actually write Rick vaguely decently in the early chapters where he, you know, actually appears.

    I'm not quite sure how else a Rick vs. May 2.0 could've gone, though. He's latched really obsessively onto the idea that she must die and basically cares about nothing else in the world in these moments, and this time he's not making the same mistake again so he goes straight for having Mewtwo^2 do it. The most obvious alternative would've been he actually does successfully kill May, but although that'd make for fun times with him (...maybe I should write that extra too), I don't think that could ever have been a satisfying ending for her character. Another confrontation where he tries to kill her but they successfully escape would just feel redundant.

    As I've mentioned, I'm really thrilled you enjoyed Mark in this chapter. He's never been the most interesting protagonist, but one way or another he stumbled his way into a bit of an arc, and building up his character to hopefully make his moments here feel genuine and satisfying was one of the biggest things I hoped to accomplish but wasn't sure I could.

    Haha, yeah, it was tricky to juggle all the expositing that needs to be happening with the murderous clone in the background, and I agree it was kind of clumsy, particularly in this first bit where there's nothing actively keeping Mewtwo^2 occupied, just him quietly resisting the power trying to take over his mind. Perhaps it would've worked better with a stronger sense that Mewtwo^2 is currently engaged in a vicious internal struggle, so he's not literally just standing there the whole time?

    To be fair to Chaletwo, though, since the Death Stare did ****-all, he's pretty convinced they're all about to die here and there's nothing to be done about it, so priorities are kind of out the window at this point. What else is he going to do but lash out at Mew with every ounce of all the tangled, conflicted, terrified emotions he's been bottling up all this time in however many seconds they have left? By God, he's going to make those seconds count. He's spent so long insistently, desperately telling himself and everyone else that Mew's trustworthy and hasn't been lying to him when that was obviously not true; finally letting out and giving a voice to all the fears and doubts he's ever had isn't too bad a way to spend his final moments. If nothing else, it's a nice distraction from the impending doom part.

    Mew had some kind of vague feeling about Mitch or the city in general ("sometimes I could have sworn I felt you there, but..."), but thanks to the Dark-type it was impossible to detect anything remotely concrete. She was pretty sure she was imagining it just because it was where he used to live, and she definitely didn't want this probably normal human guy to see her constantly coming back there, but she still couldn't stop returning there every now and then. Something about it felt like Chalenor, somehow.

    Mew popping up there is actually one of my favorite bits of completely accidental foreshadowing from years before I had the faintest idea what was actually going on, so I'm probably keeping it. :p But in a form that's less random and out-of-the-blue.

    Incidental backstory that there was no room for and isn't very important: when Arceus originally created Chalenor, he did drain the power of regular Pokémon as well. But (by design) the regular Pokémon could adapt and evolve to resist the effect, whereas by the very nature of their unchanging immortality, the legendaries couldn't do the same. Regular Pokémon do still feel slightly uneasy and off being close to Chalenor's body for a prolonged period of time, hence the repelling effect - any Pokémon who tries to live there ends up getting this uncomfortable vibe about the place, and by word of mouth the Pokémon all sort of stay away from there in general as a result - but it's nothing so immediate as to make them flee when he approaches (you may recall that at the beginning of the story Charmander spends several days in Sailance and is fine). Mind you, when Chalenor was alive, he also wasn't stuck in one place, so even the desert wasn't nearly as bad as northwest Ouen today - fairly sparse, but not completely depopulated.

    The Effect (which doesn't actually have a name in this revision, mind) is obviously one of those things that I initially did just because and then later became entangled with the plot in order to give it a parsimonous in-universe explanation; the only real reason for it to be a thing is as part of Mark's situation at the beginning of the story. I'm not sure I had any explicit plans to remove it - in the IALCOTN I actually emphasized it more and made it this whole major phenomenon where regular Pokémon's power is drained when they're close enough. But yeah, it is fairly extraneous and adds unnecessary complexity; I'd definitely consider removing it.

    I don't really consider it a spoiler to say yup, that's exactly what happened. (I didn't actually think the end was that ambiguous when I wrote it, but in hindsight I guess it's not obvious at all, is it.) Clever clone!

    Haha. I do! But clearly Mew doesn't. (This bit made me wish I didn't capitalize, because suddenly I was actually trying to convey a meaningful nuance to somebody saying mew instead of Mew. I ended up deciding to just let Mew's POV do it differently, rather than leaving it completely to the narration to explain what's going on there - I think it's much easier to grasp what "no name emphasis" means if you notice it being uncapitalized first.)

    Thanks so much for your thoughts! You gave me so much opportunity to ramble here, oh my god. Hope you enjoy the finale, and I look forward to your big review!


    Samayouru

    Thanks for reading! I'm so happy you enjoyed Mew and Chalenor's relationship; it was hard to get everything across in the space of two chapters, but if it worked for you that's awesome. Hope you enjoy the last bit of this ride!


    Sike Saner

    Aaaaaaa I'm glad you enjoyed the Mitch scene! It's a weird scene but it's one of my favorites and I'm very happy it worked well for you. Also glad you liked Wasparch's two sentences of fame. Parasitic wasps are one of those animals that may be too morbid for canonical Pokémon, but all that means is I must create one myself. :p

    Yupppp.

    I'm thrilled to hear you felt things in general, but I'm glad about this in particular - I wasn't sure if this was completely the right order to tell this in. I'm happy you thought so! <3

    Thank you all so much for taking the time to review! Still don't know when you should expect chapter 77, but it's on track.
     
  4. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    [spoil]
    Yeah, I suppose "whatever the resolution looks like, time-traveling shenanigans are going to play a very large part in it" was a tiny bit off. I was more proud of myself for picking up on details like Mew time-traveling solo and inferring that she'd lied about Chalenor being the Preserver. Kinda wrong in that she did it to protect Chalenor's memory rather than Chaletwo's feelings (Jesus, Mew), but it was pretty close!

    I guess I am a little salty about the human/pokémon world stuff not actually coming up again. I was hoping it was something that we'd learn more about later.

    Ahhh, managed to completely miss that detail. Yeah, that makes sense.

    Yeah, that's fair. The way he went out was fine--finally gets this incredible power to eliminate his #1 most hated person, but instead the incredible power is at last able to turn on him and he goes splat. I guess what I would have really dug is a little back-and-forth between him and May (I didn't want her to die, haha), since I think that could have gone really interesting places for both of them. Got to make sure she knows exactly how much she sucks before he kills her! Totally makes sense that he'd immediately go for the throat, though.

    You totally should!

    I'll have a lot to say about Mark in the final review! He's the character that surprised me the most in this story, and 100% in a good way.

    Probably. Maybe hang a lampshade on the fact that the infighting is a little silly with somebody pointing that out, so there's a sense that people recognize it and that Chaletwo is just that far past giving a **** and is gonna keep bickering anyway.

    Oops. Well. The backstory on that is interesting! And I guess it kind of explains Chalenor not really hanging out with the mortal pokémon, since he's been rejected by the legendaries. Kind of hard to make friends when everyone who's been in your presence for a few weeks starts to get these serious creeper vibes off you...

    Oops. I, uh, definitely didn't notice it being uncapitalized first, or actually at all in Mew's POV. >>; I noticed Mew's comment on capitalization, but I hadn't noticed anything different, went, "Huh, that's kind of a weird comment to make because that's the first time I've seen an uncapitalized species name in the fic, but whatevs" and continued reading without noticing the pattern anywhere else in the chapter.
    [/spoil]
     
  5. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Well, it's time. This is the final chapter of this story. It's done.

    This has been a beautiful, ridiculous sixteen-year ride. Thanks to everyone who's read it over the years; it really means a lot to me.



    Chapter 77: Home

    “It’s a soul gem,”
    Molzapart said as Mark turned the purple gemstone over in his hand. “I can sense it in there. Huh.”

    Mark could only nod at first, numb, still in a state of shock after everything that had happened. But as he closed his fingers around the gem, the realization began to melt its way through it all, something good and warm on a small, easily comprehensible scale. Mewtwo² had cheated death. He was safe. They hadn’t killed him.

    “So you can resurrect him?” Mark said. His voice was hoarse and strange.

    Molzapart hesitated. “I…” He stopped, glancing away. “Well, I’d rather wait for a bit before trying, just in case the madness still lingers in its body somehow. I can feel my power returning now that it’s dead; I expect it should be safe in perhaps an hour or two.”

    Molzapart’s reluctance tickled at the lump in Mark’s throat, but right here, right now, he didn’t want to confront or rebuke him, or do anything at all that’d somehow upset the fragile calm that’d descended over the area. Instead, all he did was nod. “Okay.”

    He straightened himself slowly, placed the gem carefully in his pocket and looked around. The others were already recalling their Pokémon from where they were strewn around the battlefield. He found Scyther fainted a short distance away – Scyther, who’d probably saved all their lives with the suicidal charge that’d shown them Mewtwo² had more control than it seemed. Jolteon was still conscious but weak, grateful to return to his ball after Mark had given his head spikes a gentle stroke. May had already recalled Floatzel, so Weavile lay on her own, eyes closed, smiling contentedly, and he scratched her head before recalling her. Dragonite had collapsed a bit further away, over where the flying Pokémon had surrounded Mewtwo²; Mark walked over to him, still in a hazy sort of trance.

    As he called Dragonite back into his ball, he looked idly over to where May was kneeling on the ground by her Flygon a short distance away – and froze.

    Flygon was missing a leg and part of his tail, in an unnaturally clean, straight cut crusted over with blood. His chest moved erratically as he breathed. The dirt around him was stained crimson, a few red-smeared bottles of potions scattered at May’s feet.

    “Did I…” Flygon wheezed, his eyes shining and unfocused. “Did I do well?”

    May clenched her fist. “Who cares?” she said. “You need a Pokémon Center.”

    She pushed the button on his ball to recall him, pressing her lips together as he disappeared into red light. Mark thought back to near the end of the fight, to Mewtwo²’s increasingly forceful and uncontrollable Psycho Cuts as the Pokémon held him off. He should have realized they might not be safe anymore, but in the middle of everything, it hadn’t quite registered. “That’s… I’m sorry,” he said, shuddering.

    “He was scared,” May said without looking at him, her voice empty. “He didn’t want to be here, but every time I asked he insisted he was fine.”

    “That’s not your fault.”

    “I know.” May squeezed the ball in her hand for a moment, knuckles white; then she minimized it and replaced it on her necklace.

    A muffled beeping sounded from her backpack. She pulled it off and took out her Pokégear; it was a text message from Leah. Everyone still here?? What’s happening?

    May typed back: That was it. We stopped it. It’s fine. She pressed the send button and hesitated before turning the device off and hastily stuffing it back in her bag.

    “Kids?” came Sparky’s voice, gentle and level. “I don’t know how you’re feeling after all this, but if you’d like to come back to Stormy Town with me later, I’ll cook us all some dinner while Joy takes care of your Pokémon.”

    -------

    They ate together in the empty, still officially closed restaurant with the curtains drawn. Molzapart stood awkwardly at the side with Mewtwo²’s body, glancing at it every now and then; the Pokémon that weren’t too big and hadn’t needed special treatment were scattered around the room with plates of their own food. Spirit lay low on the floor by May’s side, ears flat, restlessly digging her nose through her thick neck fur every now and then as if expecting to find the necklace hiding in there somehow. May glanced down at her in between picking at her food.

    Sparky gazed at each of them in turn. “What now?” he asked, his voice quiet. “Are you headed home?”

    Mark nodded, a strange flutter in his stomach, and across from him, Alan did the same.

    “Home, huh?” Alan said, sighing as he leaned back in his chair. “It’ll be weird to go back.”

    “I’m…” May began, glancing at Sparky as she prodded at a piece of salad. “Yeah. Something like that, I guess.”

    “I suppose your parents must be missing you,” Sparky said.

    “Yeah,” Mark said. He thought of his mother’s face, now safe and within reach – and then another, painful thought struck him, a pang of strange emptiness in his stomach. “Or, well – Chaletwo told me the memory modification they did means they don’t really think about me anymore. So maybe they don’t.”

    “They’ll remember when they see you in the flesh,” Molzapart said, a little defensively. “It’s the same thing that happened with all of you.”

    Alan glanced at Molzapart before turning back to Mark. “I’m sure they do miss you. That’s just what parents do.” The corners of his mouth lifted a little; he fiddled with the hat lying on the table beside his plate. “Dad texted me earlier, this… this goofy message about how he was proud of me and believed in me.”

    Mark smiled. Sparky nodded, grinning. “Ah, yes, that sounds like a parent for you. You answered him, I hope?”

    “Yeah. I told him I’d be having dinner with you and he told me to have fun, with a bunch of exclamation marks. And that he’d make an even better dinner tomorrow.”

    Sparky chuckled. “Oh dear. I suppose you’ll have to be the judge.”

    Alan grinned. “He says that, but I don’t think he can compete with this.”

    “Happy to please.” Sparky bowed with a flourish.

    Mark finished off his plate and laid his cutlery aside, thinking. “What’s everyone going to think happened? There’s no way Mewtwo²’s power surge wasn’t felt by most of the region.”

    “I’ll handle that,” Molzapart said from the corner. “I’ve talked to the human media before. There’ll likely be people who recognized the disturbance as Mewtwo²; I can tell them it happened when it broke free of Rick’s control. But that’s about all they need to know. Better not cause a mass panic.” He paused. “They’ll notice Mew and Chaletwo are gone, eventually. But it’s simpler if people don’t connect them. I expect Mitch will be filed as a missing person and that will be that.”

    Mark nodded slowly. “Everything’s going to be okay, right? With… with no Creator or Preserver? Or is there going to be a Creator?”

    “I don’t know that much about this,” Molzapart said reluctantly. “But I expect there won’t be a Creator exactly, no. The power that the Creator would have gained will likely be split between all the surviving legendaries.”

    Beneath the table, Spirit let out a faint whine. May dropped her fork with a clatter. “Spirit,” she said. “Entei didn’t care about you. He was a tool and he was using you for his own ends. Can’t you see that?”

    Spirit jerked back, standing up and shaking her head. “I am… no, Entei was…” She trailed off, exhaling in a huffy sigh, flattening her ears. “I was meant to guard his soul,” she muttered.

    “You weren’t meant to do anything. He plucked you away from your mom and almost killed you. It’s his own damn fault he decided to put his soul in a stupid necklace, okay?”

    Spirit bared her teeth for an instant before catching herself, wincing guiltily and lying back down on the floor under the table with a sigh.

    “Let her process it at her own pace,” Stantler said gently. “She needs time to mourn.”

    May took a deep breath, looking down at Spirit, then at Stantler, then Sparky.

    “…Yeah.” She winced like she had something bitter in her mouth. “Spirit, I’m sorry. It’s just…”

    She stroked the Ninetales’ mane a few times. Spirit leaned into her hand, closing her eyes.

    “I’m not going home,” May said after a few seconds of silence, staring at her plate. “I’m going to the police. I need to tell them about Tyranitar.”

    Spirit’s eyes blinked open. “What? But –”

    “And whatever else happens, they’re definitely going to revoke my license. So you all do whatever you want to, I guess.” Her fingers curled around Spirit’s fur.

    May’s Pokémon stared at her in surprise – all except Stantler, who gazed evenly at her trainer, giving a slow nod.

    “I see,” Sparky said, surveying her closely. May didn’t look up. “Legally,” Sparky went on after a moment, “it may not be permanent. You are a juvenile; you should be able to reapply for a license after you’re of age. The legal system has its problems, but people don’t suffer forever for mistakes made when they were children, so long as they’re deemed no longer at risk on reevaluation. The rest, I suppose, will depend on the testimony of your Tyranitar, and any witnesses.” Sparky glanced towards Mark, and his stomach twisted uncomfortably.

    “Same thing,” May said, her fist clenched around her knife. “It’s not like you’re all going to just wait around for me for years. I don’t expect that.”

    “I’ll stay with you,” Spirit said firmly.

    May inhaled sharply. “I don’t… I don’t know if you can, Spirit. That’s the thing. I don’t… I don’t think they let you have Pokémon in detention, for a start, if…”

    Spirit stared up at her.

    “You can stay with Dad. I know you need someone right now and he’s useless, but I can’t. I’m sorry I can’t be there.” May’s voice was starting to tremble. “I’m sorry. I hate this. I hate all of this. All I ever wanted to do was be a great trainer, and I screwed it up. I should’ve recalled Tyranitar, and I shouldn’t have said that about Taylor, and I shouldn’t have even caught him in the first place, or Lapras, or Flygon. But I did it anyway, and I can’t undo any of it, and the only thing I can do to set anything right is make sure Tyranitar gets free, okay? So I have to do this. I’m sorry.”

    “May—” Alan began, but before he could finish, May abruptly stood up from the table and headed for the door, Spirit looking after her in shock.

    Alan let out a heavy sigh as the door slammed behind her. Sparky put his hand on the table, preparing to stand up.

    “Wait,” Mark said. “I’ll… I’ll go talk to her.”

    -------

    May was outside, sitting against the side of the Gym and hugging her knees, looking out in the direction of the mountains. It was cold, but the skies were still bright and mostly clear, a lingering memento of the success of their fight against Thunderyu.

    She looked up as he approached and wiped her face with her sleeve. He sat down by the wall near her. Spirit padded up to her, tentatively, ears flat; as she nudged her trainer’s shoulder, May wrapped her arms around the Pokémon’s neck, burying her face in her mane.

    Mark sat there, silent, for a little while, looking towards the half-collapsed remains of Thunderclap Cave. Beside him, May sniffled quietly a few times, until he heard her sit back against the wall again, exhaling. “How are you feeling?” he asked, turning back towards her. Spirit had laid her head down in May’s lap, and she stroked the Ninetales’s mane absent-mindedly.

    May took a deep breath, without looking back at him. “I’m okay,” she said. Then, “I mean, no, I’m not okay. But I’ll live. It’s the best thing I can do and I know that. I’ve had a couple months to think about it. It was just…”

    She trailed off, glancing at Mark, and he nodded.

    They sat silently for a moment. “Earlier,” he said after a while, “you said your dad was useless.”

    May winced. “Not exactly, but you know.”

    “I don’t.” May glanced back at him. He hesitated. “Back when we were looking for Mew, and I was going to maybe call my parents, I noticed you never wanted to call yours. Is that…?”

    May sighed, leaning back against the wall. “My dad used to be a trainer. He was pretty well known in the adult competitive circuit for a while. Then his Meganium died in a battle, just an accident, and he just… never got over it. Quit training cold turkey, and couldn’t hold down a decent job after that. My brother and I had to handle a lot of stuff on our own. He’s not bad, but he’s got far too many of his own issues to help anyone else.”

    “And you didn’t want to call him?”

    May fidgeted with her fingernails. “I’m not sure he’d actually do anything about it even if he heard the world was ending.” She paused. “And… he’d just start asking about my journey, and my Pokémon, and the League.”

    Mark nodded slowly. May had never talked about her family, as far as he could recall. He considered asking about her mother, or her brother, but decided against it.

    “How’s Flygon? What’d Nurse Joy say?”

    May was silent for a few moments. “She said he’d be okay. Flygon spend most of their time flying anyway; guess he doesn’t need his legs that much. Might have a harder time with balance because of the tail. Either way, she said he’d probably do all right in the wild if he’s released, so…” She sighed. “That’s something.”

    “I hope so.”

    She picked at her fingernails for a minute, avoiding Mark’s gaze. “In a way it’s a relief,” she muttered. “In a way I don’t want to do any of this anymore. Maybe I’m becoming like Dad.”

    Mark shrugged slightly. “Maybe you just need a break.”

    “Maybe.”

    May scratched the Ninetales’ ears for a minute. Eventually, she opened her mouth again. “Spirit,” she said. “You should talk to Stantler. Just… see if she’ll stay with you in New Bark. She can probably help you sort through all that stuff.”

    Spirit made a small noise of complaint, but then sighed. “I will try,” she said quietly.

    “If I have to go, I’ll be back for you,” May said, her voice firm.

    The Ninetales closed her eyes. “I’ll come visit,” she murmured.

    They sat there for a while, looking up at the sky. Clouds were slowly gathering in the west, heralding oncoming rain.

    “You should draw Chaletwo,” May said.

    A strange mixture of emotions bubbled up within him at the request, something warm and nostalgic coupled with empty sadness and regret. Wordlessly, he pulled off his backpack and took out his sketchpad.

    All he really meant to do was Chaletwo, but without thinking about it he started sketching the rest of the image still burned into his mind: Mewtwo² opposite him, Mew and Chalenor by his side, Chaletwo’s tear-stricken face tight with anguish. For a moment Mark was struck with a guilty sense of impropriety; was this how he’d want to be remembered, as a terrified wreck?

    As a hero, another part of him pointed out. As someone who saved the world.

    On some level he’d always had nagging doubts about Chaletwo’s motivations, whether he was really doing this for everyone’s sake or to save his own skin – whether he’d ultimately try to save himself and let the world rot. And in the end, he’d been scared, he’d lashed out, he’d protested, but he’d faced down death anyway. In a way it meant more knowing how hard that had been for him. Mark had probably never respected Chaletwo more than in this moment. Drawing it felt right.

    May gave him a questioning look, and he took a deep breath and resumed. Mark still didn’t entirely understand what he’d learned about Chalenor and Mew – the reluctant Destroyer, trapped in isolation for a thousand years, and the friend who’d constructed a clumsy web of lies in his memory, desperate to see him again. But he supposed he didn’t have to. Their story was their own, and now they were gone – together.

    And Mewtwo²… Mewtwo² would be okay.

    “That’s good,” May said as he slowly lifted his pencil from the finished sketch. There was a strange, trembling heaviness in his chest as he looked at it. “Always wanted to draw like that,” she added in a half-hearted mutter.

    “It’s never too late to start,” he said as he closed his sketchbook and placed it back in his bag. She looked up at him for a moment, blinking.

    Then a sharp gust of wind blew past, and she shivered, pulling her jacket closer. “It’s getting cold,” she said. “I guess we should get back inside.”

    “Yeah.” Mark stood up, hoisting his bag back onto his shoulders.

    “Hey, I’m…” May began, and he looked back at her. She trailed off, looking away. “Well, no, I wish none of this ever happened. But I’m glad you were there.”

    Mark smiled, offering her his hand. “Me too.”

    -------

    And then it was time for goodbyes. They went over the practicalities, and Molzapart volunteered to teleport them where they needed to go.

    Sparky hugged everyone, assuring them they’d be welcome in Stormy Town for a free dinner any time they wanted. He wished them good luck in their future endeavors, and offered to host Mark’s next birthday party, and gave May some hushed advice that Mark couldn’t hear.

    Then it was off to the woods near Green Town. Alan gave Mark a tight hug and promised to call sometime. May fidgeted by Molzapart’s side, avoiding Alan’s gaze.

    Alan hesitated a moment, looking at May. “Hey,” he said. She looked up tentatively, still guarded. “I… I really admire what you’re doing. It’s the right thing.”

    May inhaled. “Yeah.”

    He looked at her for a few moments, his face tight and awkward. “Well, take care,” he said at last, turning towards the road into town.

    “I will,” May said, and Alan turned around in surprise. She’d straightened a bit, looking at him directly. “Thanks.”

    Alan nodded, smiling a little. “I’ll call you too someday.”

    He waved as he turned and headed towards his home.

    -------

    The next stop, then, was the Champion Island police station.

    May took a deep breath in front of steps leading up to the door, her hand tangled in Spirit’s mane. Weavile stood by her other side; she’d wanted to follow Floatzel, whatever the outcome.

    “You sure you don’t want me to come in with you?” Mark asked.

    “I need to do this,” she said, shaking her head. “But thanks.”

    “You can tell them I was there and I’ll tell them you tried to recall him.”

    She nodded slightly. “I know.”

    Hesitantly, Mark spread his arms. For a moment, May blinked at him and he felt incredibly stupid – but then she wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug.

    After a few seconds she abruptly pulled away. They looked at each other for an awkward moment. “Good luck,” Mark said.

    She smiled a little. “Goodbye, Mark.”

    “Goodbye.”

    And she turned to walk up the stairs, Spirit at her side. After a quick wave and a grin to Mark, Weavile darted after her.

    -------

    And then it was just him and Molzapart, with a couple of things to take care of.

    A cold, purple glow enveloped the gem in Mark’s hand. His stomach fluttered weirdly, elated and anxious at the same time; Molzapart’s eyes were closed in grim concentration, the tip of his wing gingerly touching Mewtwo²’s body. They were in some barren off-route valley in the middle of the region; Molzapart had insisted they do this somewhere secluded.

    The clone’s lifeless form lit up with the same glow, and then, abruptly, his eyes snapped open. There was no obvious transition from corpse to living being, only that sudden movement. Mewtwo² jerked upward, and Molzapart flinched, backing away.

    “Are you sane?” he asked, wary.

    “I…” Mewtwo² clutched his head for a moment, blinking slowly. He levitated himself to his feet, gently, and looked around, tail swishing experimentally behind him, his back straight but relaxed, his movements fluid and alive. Something about that, the contrast to every other time he’d seen this tortured creature, made Mark’s heart flutter with elation. It’d been hard to separate the straining, struggling, half-mad Mewtwo² of the battle from Rick’s dead-eyed tool and the memory of being restrained, unable to breathe, helpless as May choked – but the clone felt different now, as a being acting on his own will.

    “You,” Mewtwo² said. He took a wobbly step in Mark’s direction, then another, more confident one – and fell into his arms, clumsily, his long, bony forearms wrapping around Mark. The Pokémon shook as Mark embraced him back, a flurry of emotions swirling in his mind, relief and disbelief and new pangs of sympathy as he felt the contours of the Pokémon’s spine and ribs under the thin, leathery skin of his back. How much had Rick ever let him eat?

    “Thank you,” said the clone’s telepathic voice, unsteady with emotion but free of strain. “I… am sorry.”

    “It wasn’t your fault,” Mark said, his voice shaking with something he couldn’t quite place. Relief and gratitude flooded into his mind, then vanished as Mewtwo² carefully pulled away again.

    “What are you planning to do now?” Mark asked.

    “Hmm.” Mewtwo²’s blank eyes blinked slowly. They weren’t nearly as unsettling now that he looked alert and alive. “I want… a home,” he answered after a moment. “And then… explore. Learn. Make up for… all that happened.”

    “Have you… have you considered looking for Mewtwo?” Mark said. “He’s the one you were created from, and… I think you might have a lot in common.”

    Mewtwo² tilted his head, tail twitching curiously. “Thank you. I will find him.”

    The clone kicked off the ground into a playful loop in the air, and a psychic wave of thrill and exuberance washed over Mark. He grinned as Mewtwo² experimentally levitated himself down in front of Mark, hovering a few inches above the ground.

    Molzapart sighed. “The legendaries will expect you to act as one of them. We have a purpose; we must try to protect the mortals and keep the world in balance.”

    “I know,” said Mewtwo², without moving aside from the gentle up-and-down bobbing of hs levitating form. “I will try. Perhaps Mewtwo can help.”

    “I’m sure he will.”

    Molzapart grimaced. “I might also need you to talk to the humans at some point. Show them you’re not a ticking time bomb. After you killed Rick and broadcast all that power, they might have concerns.”

    Mewtwo² squeezed his eyes shut at the mention of Rick. “I didn’t want to,” he muttered.

    “It’s a little late for that.”

    Mewtwo² shook his head, hunched over again, agitated, a nervous sense of psychic upset stabbing through the air. Mark took a deep breath. “Stop,” he said. “Stop talking to him like that.”

    Molzapart turned, defensive. “I…”

    “Stop. He’s been through enough. He did more to save the world than you ever did.”

    Molzapart fell silent. Mewtwo² rose slowly, a thrum of gratitude warming Mark’s mind.

    “I can talk to the humans,” the clone said. “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

    Molzapart nodded without meeting his eye.

    Mark sighed inwardly, but extended his hand to Mewtwo². “Did you want your gem back?” Something about the purple stone felt different now, some strange, electrifying energy gone now that it was just an ordinary gem.

    “Hmm. Why not?” The clone reached his abnormally long arm out to take it, holding it between his two fingers. “Goodbye,” he said, blinking softly at Mark again. “Thank you.”

    “Goodbye,” Mark said, raising a hand to wave. “I… I hope we can meet again sometime.”

    Mewtwo² nodded, and then he jumped, shooting up into the air. A prick of psychic joy jolted Mark’s mind again. He watched the clone disappear as a speck in the sky, spiralling in free-flowing loops.

    Molzapart was distracted, still looking away.

    “Chaletwo wanted me to fix his dragons, didn’t he?” he muttered after a while.

    “Yeah.” Mark’s heart stung.

    “I gather the last one’s still with Carl.”

    Mark nodded, his mouth dry.

    “Then I guess we’re paying Carl a visit.”

    -------

    For the second time, Mark knocked on the door of the temporary Crater Town Gym with butterflies in his stomach.

    Carl didn’t bat an eye when he opened the door, only slightly raising his eyebrows. “You again,” he said. “Here to tell me another story about Chaletwo?”

    Mark couldn’t speak, but he didn’t have to. “Chaletwo is dead,” said Molzapart, and for the first time, Carl actually blinked in surprise, pulling the door open further to see the legendary by Mark’s side.

    “Interesting,” he said. “You weren’t part of the story either the first or the second time around.”

    Molzapart gave Mark a side glance. “Never mind about the story. The only reason we’re here is to retrieve the dragon they let you capture.”

    Carl’s gaze hardened. “I see.”

    “We’re going to fix him,” Mark said quickly. “To… to not be dangerous anymore. Molzapart can do that.”

    Carl didn’t move. “I think at this stage it would be extraordinarily foolish of me to take you at your word.”

    “I’m afraid you don’t have a choice,” Molzapart snapped.

    “Wait,” Mark cut in. “I’ll explain. All of it this time. Please listen.”

    -------

    Seated on Carl’s couch with his hands in his lap, Mark recounted everything – about the War, their quest, Chaletwo. The Gym leader sat silent, head cocked, lips pressed together, throwing suspicious glances at Molzapart every now and then.

    “I don’t know what to say,” he said when Mark had finished. Mark opened his mouth to speak, but Carl continued: “This entire plan was asinine. Recruiting a bunch of children? Refusing to get more qualified help on grounds that are waved away later? Frankly it’s a miracle you somehow bungled your way into success. Last time, you made it sound as if things were under control without my help; now it’s plain they were nothing of the sort. You could have gotten us all killed.”

    Mark squeezed his eyes shut. “Okay. Sure. It was kind of a stupid plan.”

    “So you’ve told him,” Molzapart said irritably from behind him. “Can we now get to the point?”

    “That being said, I hate to say this, but I don’t think you’re lying,” Carl went on. “Whatever else you are, you aren’t a good liar, and I doubt you could have convincingly fabricated and delivered every ridiculous detail of this. I’ll consider your story a warning of the fallibility of legendaries, but I believe you, for now.” He shot a brief glare towards Molzapart. “Besides, I expect the bird can and will do what he pleases regardless of what I think.”

    “I don’t have time for your condescension,” Molzapart said coldly. “If you have nothing else to say, we’ll take the dragon and leave.”

    Carl wasn’t looking at him, instead focusing on Mark. “So this fixing of the dragon that you mentioned,” he said. “What, precisely, does that entail?”

    Mark looked at Molzapart; he wasn’t actually sure exactly how this would work. “Well,” he began, slowly, “when Chaletwo made them, he made them obsessed with killing each other, so it’s all they can think about. He’d remove that from them and make them… normal, I guess?”

    “That’s not enough,” Carl said, his eyes boring into Mark’s. “If that’s all they’ve known, they have never learned morality or restraint. This might revert them to the minds of children – but children can be extraordinarily cruel. They will need guidance and oversight, someone who can rein them in and keep them under control, for years, while they mature. Have you prepared for that? Or did you again fail to think things through?”

    Mark stared at him, face flushed, opening his mouth to answer.

    “I’ll do it,” Molzapart said before he could say anything, sounding like he hated every word. Mark turned towards him, blinking. “Chaletwo wanted me to fix the dragons. That includes this. I’ll raise them, keep an eye out for them and make sure they don’t harm anyone. You have my word.”

    Carl raised an eyebrow, not moving. “Fair enough that you say that,” he said. “But you haven’t given me much reason to trust your word.”

    “You don’t have a choice!” Molzapart snapped. He looked away, wincing, before reluctantly facing Carl again. “Chaletwo died for this,” he said, quieter. “His last wish was to fix the dragons – to have him make me fix the dragons.” He glanced at Mark, grimacing. “If I’m left here – at least I can do this.”

    Carl surveyed him with interest for a moment. “I see.” Slowly, he stood up from his chair. “Well, as you say, I don’t have a choice, do I? The safe was meant to be indestructible, mind you, but I suppose that wouldn’t account for you.”

    “You suppose correctly.” Molzapart’s eyes glowed; the metal of the safe in the corner warped and twisted, and with a sweep of his wing, the door tore off its hinges and crumpled together into a lump on the floor. Carl watched with the same grim expression as the Ultra Ball inside levitated into the air and towards Mark. He took it carefully, looking at Carl.

    “I suppose we’re done here,” the Gym leader said, folding his arms. “But know that if any legendary attacks my town again, we will be prepared. I don’t trust your competence, for obvious reasons.”

    “You won’t have to worry about that,” Molzapart said, coldly. “I’ll handle it.”

    “So I’d hope.” Carl moved towards the door, opened it, and gestured for them to leave. With a ‘hmph’, Molzapart teleported outside.

    Mark nodded slightly to Carl as he made his way towards the door.

    “Thank you for telling me the truth,” Carl said; Mark stopped and looked up at him in surprise. “It’s plain you didn’t need to be here.”

    “I wanted to,” Mark said, numb.

    “It was a dumb plan and you should’ve questioned it,” Carl went on. “But you’re a kid. The immortal deities don’t have that excuse. It’s on them.”

    Mark took a deep breath. “Molzapart’s going to do his best. I think it’ll be okay.”

    “That’s very optimistic,” Carl said. “But fair enough. I’ll be prepared anyway. I never trusted legendaries.”

    “They’re…” Mark paused, trying to gather his thoughts. “They’re just people. They’re not perfect, but they’re not evil either. They’re just… trying.”

    Carl raised his eyebrows.

    “Thanks for listening,” Mark said without waiting for an answer, stepping back through the door. “Tell your townspeople I said hi.”

    -------

    The next stop was the plains outside of Ruxido.

    A large, lone oak tree stood on a hill overlooking the woods. In the grass below the hill, Mark could just make out the glint of blades here and there, giving away the otherwise-camouflaged Scyther. Against the tree, though, sat two indistinct shapes, red and green.

    Scyther inhaled sharply as he stared towards the tree. “I never thought I’d make it back,” he whispered, his voice trembling with emotion. He turned to Mark. “Thank you. For everything you’ve done for me. It was more than you know.”

    “Thank you for what you did at the battle with Mewtwo²,” Mark said.

    Scyther looked away, a wisp of a smile on his face. “I thought I’d die there. I was ready. But at the same time, I realized I didn’t want to. And it was the best feeling in the world.”

    Mark nodded, a lump in his throat.

    “Goodbye,” Scyther said. “I’ll never forget you.”

    “Try to be happy,” Mark said, willing himself to smile. “And – if you bump into Letaligon – please make sure she’s okay.”

    Scyther nodded and turned before taking off the ground and zooming towards the tree, letting out an elated, whooping cry. All around, heads poked out of the grass, watching him curiously.

    The green shape at the tree rose instantly and flew out to meet him. The red shape stood, leaning against the tree, and raised a pincer in greeting.

    Mark turned back to Molzapart, and they vanished.

    -------

    Sandslash wanted to return to the Lake of Purity.

    Molzapart waited in the woods while the two of them walked along the bank of the lake. The brilliant colors of sunset reflected across the still water; Mark couldn’t help but think back to his first fateful night here as Sandslash told him stories of his old Sandshrew buddies – silly competitions, back-and-forth pranks, weird hijinks.

    The Pokémon shook his head, chuckling. “Initially I didn’t want to come back. They were a childish lot and I wasn’t very close to anyone. But when I visited, back when we came here to capture Suicune, it was… nice. I used to be small and scaredy and they kind of ignored me, but suddenly I was the grown-up and everyone wanted to know about what I’d been doing with my trainer. I liked telling them stories and showing them moves and answering questions. Teaching them.”

    Mark smiled. “It’s weird to think of you being scaredy.”

    “It’s weird for me, too,” Sandslash said, looking out across the lake. “I gained a lot of confidence on this journey, didn’t I?”

    “Yeah,” Mark said. “Same.”

    They walked on in a pleasant, comfortable silence. The sun was disappearing behind the trees, shadows stretching out across the lake; the dark cloud bank from the northwest was moving in rapidly, promising a change in the weather.

    And then, just as he was thinking he’d have to say goodbye and turn back, the excited cries of a troop of Sandshrew surrounded them. Sandslash grinned as the tiny figures rolled into him in bursts of giggles, examined his claws with awed gasps, and started asking him how many legendaries he’d fought.

    Mark stepped back, smiling. Sandslash looked up and raised a paw to wave, laughing as one of the Sandshrew climbed onto his head.

    As Mark turned around and headed back for where Molzapart was waiting, he could still hear the echoes of their conversation:

    “Diggerclaw, Diggerclaw!”

    “Did you fight the whole Waraider herd, Diggerclaw?”

    “We did,” Sandslash said, chuckling. “And we saved the world.”

    -------

    Finally, Molzapart teleported Mark into the alley next to the Sailance library. They looked at one another, boy and bird, human and legendary.

    “Thank you for all you’ve done,” the legendary said.

    “Thanks for taking us everywhere,” Mark said.

    “It was the least I could do.” Molzapart looked away, uncomfortable. “I’ll raise the Dragons of Ouen as best I can. You gave me all the legendaries you held, correct?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Good. I’ll handle releasing them safely, explaining why we did it when necessary, and picking up the ones the others have. In an emergency I can perform a memory modification. You won’t have to worry about them.” He took a deep breath. “All in all, you can return to your life as it was. No one has to know your part in any of this unless you choose to tell them. I’d advise you not to tell too many people.”

    Mark nodded slowly.

    “I think that’s all,” Molzapart said. “If you ever need me, I’ll be keeping an eye out.”

    “Thanks,” Mark said. He was oddly numb; the fact it was over and he was going home still seemed unreal, like it wasn’t really happening. “Goodbye, then. Take good care of the dragons.”

    Molzapart nodded, grave. “Farewell, Mark.”

    And then he was gone. The first drops of rain were falling from the sky, and Mark blinked. The world seemed to zoom in suddenly, locking into place in a new order. He was here, back in Sailance, and the rain made it real.

    Shivering, he fished his raincoat out of his bag, put it on, and set off walking the familiar route towards his home.

    The school building was gray and dull as ever as he approached it, the fenced-off schoolyard empty. As he passed by the front entrance, though, a figure was stepping out of the door, opening an umbrella, and something made him stop.

    “Mrs. Grodski?” he said.

    His teacher lifted the umbrella, looking at him. “Greenlet?” she said disinterestedly – and then her eyebrows scrunched. “Wait. No, you –”

    She stared at him, hard, before looking away and sighing. “Never mind.” There was something intense and upset about her gaze still; there were bags under her eyes, her whole face gaunt with exhaustion. Mark wasn’t sure if she’d changed or if she’d always looked like that and he just hadn’t noticed. A strange mixture of emotions battled in his head; the monster she’d seemed like back then, how absurdly trivial all of that seemed now, the realization of how disorienting Molzapart’s memory modification might feel from the inside. He shifted on his feet as Mrs. Grodski shook her head and walked down the steps, preparing to head the other way.

    “Listen,” he blurted out. “I’m… I’m sorry I was such a brat.”

    She turned around, blinking warily at him, fingers tense around the handle of the umbrella, as if she expected this was some kind of prank.

    Mark smiled. She hesitated for a second, glancing sideways. “You made it pretty far at the League, didn’t you?” she said, sighing. “Good work. I suppose I underestimated you.”

    Mark blinked – and then, without meaning to, he burst out in a disbelieving grin. “I guess you did.”

    She squinted at him for a moment, like her brain was fighting, grasping for purchase on a slippery surface. “I… I think I wasn’t quite fair to you,” she said. “I’m not…” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I regret that.”

    Mark stared at her. The confused muddle of feelings in his chest was starting to settle into pity. “It’s… it’s all right, Mrs. Grodski.”

    She took a deep breath, her expression softening as she looked at him. Slowly, her shoulders sagged, her fingers seemed to just slightly loosen their grip on the handle of the umbrella. “Welcome home, Greenlet,” she said. “Take care.”

    “I will,” Mark said, smiling at her. “Have a nice evening, Mrs. Grodski.”

    “You too,” she said. She looked at him for a second more before she shook her head, turned, and headed off in the other direction.

    -------

    A strange sense of déjà vu hit him as he turned into his home street. The rain, the rivulets of water draining from the road, the bushes in front of his house – for a split second, he half-expected something small and orange lying on the pavement, breathing raggedly, a faint flame curled against the side of its body. But that was a long time ago.

    These gardens, the houses, his house: it’d been so long since he’d seen any of them. Everything was nostalgic and new at the same time, familiar and yet different: new decorations in the neighbor’s windows, a blooming flowerbed, a newly-painted fence. Life had gone on without him, the slow progress of time and change continuing.

    The steps up to his house were smaller than he remembered. He lifted a hand and rang the doorbell.

    It was his mom who answered it. The door opened and she stood there, and instantly, with a sudden, powerful ache in his chest, Mark realized how much he’d missed her. Her default polite smile changed to a warm, happy one as she saw him; then her brow furrowed, and her eyes widened, and her lips parted in shock.

    “Hi, Mom,” Mark said, a strange lump in his throat. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she pulled him in close and hugged him tighter than he thought he’d ever been hugged.

    “You... you were dead and I forgot,” she whispered in shocked confusion, clutching his coat as if he might otherwise simply float away. “How could I forget?”

    “It’s okay, Mom,” Mark murmured, his voice muffled against her tear-stained shoulder. “I’ll explain everything.”

    -------

    In the back of his mind, Mark had wondered if they’d believe him. But he needn’t have worried: after realizing they’d forgotten their son’s funeral, his parents were willing to entertain whatever he told them. They listened to him talk with rapt attention, for hours, hardly interrupting; maybe later, when they’d slept on it and recovered from the shock, they’d interrogate him, but for the moment all they cared about was having him back, alive.

    He introduced them to Charizard and Jolteon and Dragonite in the garden. Maybe they wouldn’t have agreed to let them live there under other circumstances, but as it was, they simply accepted it. His mom tearfully thanked them for taking care of him, his dad silent and awkward, nodding at the Pokémon like he wasn’t sure what to say to them. Dragonite wouldn’t be staying long, of course – he’d only wanted to have a place to return to when he travelled the world. Charizard had said he might go with him sometime, but for the moment he wanted a break to just rest and recover.

    Jolteon was content to be a pet. For now, at least, he’d seen enough of the world for a lifetime.

    It was hours past his bedtime by the time the conversation was winding down, Jolteon snoozing peacefully in his lap, Charizard and Dragonite dozing off sat against one another in the garden. Normally, Mark knew, his parents would have sent him to bed by now, and although he’d journeyed across the whole region, he imagined they’d balk if he asked to go out again now – besides, he was pretty exhausted himself.

    “I think I’ll get some sleep,” he said, yawning, gently lifting Jolteon and placing him on the couch. “You… you didn’t throw away my stuff or anything, did you?”

    They hadn’t, of course, because they’d forgotten he was dead. Mark apologized to them for probably the twentieth time that night; he wasn’t sure it would ever be enough.

    -------

    He slept until the afternoon. He’d almost forgotten how good it was to sleep in an actual bed.

    After dragging himself to his feet and eating the breakfast-slash-lunch that his dad cooked for him, though, he told his parents he had to go to the beach, and was smothered with hugs and ‘take care’s that would have irritated him a year ago but seemed kind of sweet now. Jolteon followed him outside; Charizard and Dragonite were lazing around in the shadow of the garden’s trees, talking.

    They could have flown, but the beach was only a short walk away; Sailance was by the shore, and their house was on the sea side of town. In the movies he’d watched as a kid, beaches were always hot, yellow and crowded with people, but this one had black sand and cold winds, waves crashing mercilessly against huge rocks and banks growing with faded grass. He’d always liked this beach for what it was; he’d used to come here to draw sometimes, imagining Lugia sleeping at the bottom of the ocean, forever just out of reach.

    Today the wind was light; the rain had cleared up since yesterday, and the rocks were warmed by springtime sun. He sat down on a weathered boulder with Jolteon, looking out at the ocean for a moment, before he took out his last Pokéball.

    “Gyarados, we’re here.”

    The sea monster emerged in the water, stretching his fins. “So this is your hometown,” he said in a low rumble.

    “Yeah.” Mark smiled.

    Gyarados looked around, then glanced at the gems on his neck. “I suppose the Ninetales was devastated.”

    Mark nodded silently. He really should’ve done this while he was still with Molzapart, shouldn’t he – gotten him to teleport them to the sea first and revive Suicune immediately. But he couldn’t entirely regret it.

    “We’re going to have to resurrect Suicune,” he said.

    Gyarados grunted. “I know.”

    “Other than that, all that’s left is for you to decide what you want to do. You can stay around here, and I’ll come and bring you some food when I can. Or you can go, wherever you want.”

    “I promised to serve you forever, didn’t I, back at the lake,” Gyarados said.

    Mark winced. “You shouldn’t have promised that.”

    Gyarados chuckled. “You’re right. It was a stupid promise. You don’t need me anyway, do you?” He paused. “I always did want to swim the ocean. Be free. That’s what I really wished for.”

    “Then that’s what you should do.”

    Gyarados gave a slow nod. “What about Suicune?”

    Mark took a deep breath. “I think you can handle it,” he said. “If you find a legendary, or a strong Psychic Pokémon, see if they can do it. There have to be plenty of them in the ocean.”

    “So you trust me.” Gyarados’s lips curled in amusement. “What’s to stop me just not doing it? Keeping him trapped and helpless at my mercy, forever?”

    “Nothing.” Mark’s gaze didn’t waver. “But you know what that’s like. You’re better than that.”

    Gyarados smiled, looking off into the distance. “I wouldn’t want to carry him forever anyway.”

    “You won’t destroy the gems either.”

    Gyarados let out a rumbling sigh. “No, I won’t.”

    Mark sat in silence for a moment as Gyarados gazed out at the vast stretch of ocean before him. The wind ruffled his hair. There was no deadline, no worries. He could just sit here, as long as he liked.

    “I figured you’d prefer this,” he said. “Over having yet another legendary dictating your fate. Molzapart probably only heard about you maybe once, from Alan, sometime while we were at the League. I don’t think he remembered. But if he realizes you’ve still got Suicune before you can get him resurrected, he’ll probably try to find you.”

    Gyarados chuckled. “Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”

    He swam a few experimental circles in the ocean water. Mark watched him dive and resurface, shaking the water out of his fins.

    “Goodbye,” he said, bowing his head towards Mark. “Thanks for getting me out of that lake.”

    “Goodbye, Gyarados,” Mark said, smiling. “Good luck out there.”

    “I’ll be traveling too,” Dragonite said. “Maybe we’ll run into each other again sometime.”

    Gyarados nodded slowly. “Mmm. I think I’ll come back here someday, too. Maybe when Suicune is gone.”

    “I’ll be on the lookout,” Charizard said.

    Jolteon nodded, eyes shining. “Goodbye.”

    “See you around,” Gyarados said. And with that, he turned around and dived into the sea.

    Mark watched him go with the others until the ripples in his wake disappeared. It really was a nice day. Charizard lay on the rocks in the sun, the tip of his tail flicking idly back and forth, the flame burning peacefully. Dragonite sat in the sand, looking out at the calm ocean. Jolteon lay leaning against his side, eyes closed.

    He took his bag off his shoulders, pulled out his sketchpad, and started to draw Charizard. Distantly, from the trees in the direction of the city, he could just hear the first Taillow song in Sailance in a long, long time.
     
  6. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    WOOOOOO!!! It's done! Congrats on making it across the finish line (and managing to get everything wrapped up in time for the anniversary, too). Before anything else, how about some music to celebrate the end of a long journey? I think this would be appropriate!

    I'll get you a proper review of Chapter 77 and the rest of the fic in a couple days, though in short I'd say it was a fitting end, a nice, peaceful way to wrap things up that included most of what I was hoping for. In the meantime, there are a few other people who wanted to say congratulations for sticking it out for sixteen years and bringing us the end to a story a that lot of us have been following for much of our lives. We put together a sort of e-card (warning: HUGE image) to share some of our feelings and memories of TQftL, plus a little art--hope you enjoy! In the spoiler below I've compiled links to all the individual pieces of art, plus the text messages, in case you want to see any of them at full size/find the words difficult to read/etc.

    I wasn't there to witness the start of this fanfic--didn't even make it until the ILCOE was over ten chapters in--but it's still wild to think that I was in high school when I started following it. Or that high school was so many years ago! If I hadn't run across TQftL on FFN, though, it's possible I wouldn't have met you. I might never have gotten into fanfiction at all, or web design, or programming. My life would be far different, and I have to imagine lesser, for not having your fanfic, or you, in it.

    It's been a privilege to follow this story over the years, to watch your writing progress and have my own progress along with it, to speculate and talk writing and keep refreshing the old Quest Blog, waiting for the next chapter to drop. As with any piece of art, what makes The Quest for the Legends special is more than the story itself. People bring their own experiences to it, they associate it with what they were doing at the time that they read about certain events, it becomes a part of the fabric of their lives and personal histories. I know I'm not the only one who's been changed, even just a little bit, by my encounter with your work. I look forward to following your writing for years into the future, wherever it might end up taking you.

    Congratulations again on seeing this through to completion. Thank you for sharing it, for sticking with it, and for letting so many people be a part of the narrative. It's rare to see closure for a story like this, especially in fanfiction, and I'm glad I could be there to watch not-quite-all-of-it.

    Automatistic: Sparky
    betweenrealities:
    Bluwiikoon: If Mewtwo2 was in its ball...

    CarmineKnight: Mew and Chalenor
    Chibi Pika: Chalenor, Mew, and Chaletwo

    Larissa:
    Lixie Lorn:
    Mhals: May, Mark, and Letaligon's Goodbye

    Music Dragon:
    neonnautilus: Thank you for an amazing journey!

    ottercopter: Legend Hunters

    prosecutorvonkarma:
    risingdawn: Jolteon and Leta

    Sandstone-Shadow:
    Sike Saner: Chillenor
    Spetsnaz: Fin
     
    Chibi Pika, Dragonfree and Sike Saner like this.
  7. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    I first started reading QftL in the summer of 2003.

    I'd stumbled across Serebii and was instantly overwhelmed by the sheer number of stories here. I don't know what drew me to read this one out of the sea of fics. Maybe it was the title. As silly and generic as it might be, it definitely invokes the image of a big ol' pile of Legendary fights, which was absolutely was what thirteen-year-old me was looking for at the time.

    I fell out of it a couple times. First was halfway through Rick's gym. I picked it up again some time the following year. Then sometime around the Volcaryu battle, when I fell out of fanfiction in general during my college years. I popped back in briefly around the time of the April Fool's chapter 53, but it wasn't until 2011 that I was back for good.

    I can't even describe how big of an influence this fic has had on me. It has been a tremendous inspiration over the years, both good and bad (let's not talk about all the things I shamelessly ripped off in the 2005 era...) I still remember how shy I was when I couldn't figure out how to talk to you outside of reviews, and resorted to throwing piles of QftL art over IM in an attempt to break the ice.

    It's wild to look back on it all. For fifteen years this story has been a part of my life. All the years of speculation. All the heartbreak. All the reveals. And now, all the payoff. Was the wait worth it? Absolutely.

    Congrats on finally seeing this amazing, one-of-a-kind mess of a fanfic through to completion after all these years. It's a stunning feat and I'm so glad I could be here for it.

    ~Chibi~
     
    Dragonfree likes this.
  8. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Yup, here it is, the massive end-of-fic review I promised you! Although I'm really only going to be focusing on the stuff post-League arc. At this point I'm sure your plans for the earlier chapters are so different anyway that there wouldn't be a lot of point in talking about them in their current form.

    Let's begin by talking 77 before broadening things up to consider the whole. Like I said earlier, I thought it was an appropriate wrap-up to the story, and it covered most of what I wanted to see. I must note, however, that there were ZERO hugs for Tyranitar, like none whatsoever, and that was disappointing! It was implied that there might possibly be hugs for Tyranitar in the future, though, so I guess there is some hope there.

    All in all I don't think the chapter suffered too much from not having as many rounds of proofreading as you might have liked. Only thing that stuck out to me was that there seemed to be quite a lot of semicolons--looks like it's around thirty? That might be a bit much, but I also somehow doubt pretty much anybody else would have noticed or cared. However, a couple small things:

    Probably want to start off with "Mark" instead of "him," since it's been a while since he's been referred to.

    The "together" is weird in this sentence, and it would work at least as well without it.

    I was kind of surprised the possibility of Mark taking Spirit never came up. Obviously he doesn't intend to be a trainer, but some of his pokémon are planning to hang out with him anyway, and it's not as though May's dad is one, either. Likewise Stantler or any of May's other pokémon that might not want to go back to being wild. At least for a start to things.

    All in all there isn't a ton to say about this chapter, really. Again, it pretty much did what it needed to do. There were a lot of plot threads to wrap up here, but you managed to touch on all of them, and none of the scenes were too brief or felt unnecessarily lingered-over. A lot of new beginnings here, which is appropriate for the quest kind of story this is: Scyther returning to his swarm, May turning herself over to the police, Mewtwo2 going out to explore the world, and so on. You would have ample material here for extras or spin-offs following one or more of the characters post-War, but leaving them where they are works perfectly well in terms of actually ending this fic. I don't know if you have any interest in writing more for this setting or these characters besides the anticipated revision(s), but the hooks are definitely there.

    If anything were missing, I'd say maybe a little more reaction to Mew, Chaletwo, and Mitchenor's deaths. Mark definitely had a nice moment after May asked him to draw Chaletwo, but nobody else really talked about it, and there was no attempt to have any sort of, you know, funeral or remembrance or anything like that. Obviously there are no bodies to bury or cremate, so there's no real practical need for them to do anything, but it's maybe a little weird that there weren't, you know, any words said, or any kind of tribute.

    On the other hand, Mark did have the most intimate relationship with Chaletwo out of anyone, which is kind of easy to forget since we see things from his POV and Chaletwo is literally on his mind all the time. But the other characters weren't actually privy to a lot of the conversations between Mark and Chaletwo, and I don't think any of them would particularly call him a friend... I don't know that even Mark would call him a friend. I kind of got the impression that he was supposed to be friends with Molzapart (and Chaletwo did make that final request of him), but it's not like we actually saw them interact much, and it might just be that Molzapart happened to agree with Chaletwo and want to help with the legend-capture plan because he thought it was necessary without there being any personal connection between them. And I suppose Mew kind of kept people at a distance, and Mitch had been isolating himself for a long time; nobody in Mark's party was close to either of them, for sure. But they did sacrifice themselves to save the world, and it's a bit sad to think that only a tiny handful of people will ever know, and that their deaths are going to go unremarked upon even by those people. Not sure if that was intentionally sad or commentary or what! (Also kind of weird to me that Mark doesn't think at all about Mitch. They obviously weren't close, but Mark seemed to be genuinely worried about him after that visit to his gym and, I thought, kind of liked him in general, so no reflection on the fact that he got taken over by a legendary and then disintegrated struck me as a little odd.)

    That wasn't something that bothered me while reading the chapter, though, and only occurred to me while mulling it over in hindsight. As for what I liked, my favorite scenes were with Mewtwo2 and Mark, going home. I've been rooting for Mewtwo2 to get his freedom for ages, so it was very satisfying to see him released here, and how eager he is to enjoy his new life. I would love to be able to get to know his character better, but this is one of those scenes where you don't want to linger, so realistically I was never going to get everything I'd hoped for here. :p

    I also really loved the moment with Mrs. Grodski. I totally wasn't expecting it, whereas a lot of the other scenes were ones that pretty much had to happen, like something with May either going to the police or otherwise making some gesture at what she was going to do next, Scyther returning to the swarm, etc. It was a great surprise! Mrs. Grodski has kind of been off-and-on mentioned even in later chapters, but I wasn't expecting an actual on-screen appearance. It was a great way to bring things full circle while also showing how much has changed for Mark, both in him as a person and in terms of his situation. Simple little scene, but I think it had a lot of impact.

    And of course, the very final scene, with Gyarados at the beach, sent everything off just the way it should have. It's a bittersweet ending, and appropriately so, and quiet and peaceful after all the frenetic action of the previous chapter. You get the sense that a chapter is closing in these characters' lives, but that they're ready to move on, and that at least in the near term they'll have the opportunity to relax... They've done their job, and now they can move on into much more peaceful lives. Very satisfying and a great way to wrap things up.

    So all in all I think you stuck the landing with this chapter. The last couple lines in particular are great; really encapsulate that bittersweet feeling of new beginnings and old things being put to rest. Nicely done!

    From here I'm going to kind of work backwards, starting with the climactic chapters and then broadening out a bit into some overall themes and comments on elements of the story as a whole. You already know I had more to say about 75/76, so we might as well get it out of the way.

    I think the climax suffers somewhat by hingeing largely on several characters that readers barely know. Some of them were even introduced within Chapter 75 itself. Mark and Chaletwo get some good moments in the final fight, but for the most part the focus is on characters that I don't have any strong feelings for. Mew and Chalenor's story and deaths are sad in an abstract way, but I haven't gotten too attached, you know? I mean, I know you knew this, but just a reminder that that's rough stuff, and maybe instead of trying to do that really difficult thing, consider restructuring so you don't have to worry about it in future versions?

    Mitch's scene at the beginning of 75 is a good example of the minor character thing. Mitch had a very small role up until 75; he shows up even less than Sparky, I think, and while it's been clear that he was important to the plot, that was more as a plot device than as a person. It's cool that we get to see inside his head here, but the unfortunate side effect of that fact is that you have kind of a combination of an info-dump and a load of tell-don't-show going on here. Like, I could have totally gotten behind a few scenes of Mitch's slowly-degrading mental state as the voices in his head get louder and oppressively louder! Mitch desperately visiting psychic practitioners for help, then even more desperately paying them off not to talk about what happened in their session and having to worry about his position at the Gym on top of thinking he's going insane! Mitch lying on the couch and rather lucidly working through everything that's brought him to this point is markedly less interesting to me.

    Like, I am here for Mitch "clinging to the last vestiges of his sanity inside his locked Gym." I just didn't think that the scene particularly delivered. Like I said, for someone barely keeping it together, Mitch seems to recollect pretty accurately and extensively what's happened to lead him up to this point. He even takes deciding to commit suicide, essentially, well in stride. Which may be his personality, I don't know; maybe he's not tremendously emotional by nature. Wouldn't be surprising. But after being ravaged by months of worry, poor sleep, and literal head-voices, I'd imagine even pretty stoic people are going to be a bit emotional, and getting the idea that they need to die to save the world and also like, now, please, thrown on top of that, seems like it would be a bit difficult to just roll with. This, again, is something that would have worked a lot better if we'd gotten to see some of it going on beforehand: this "fake, troubled" life that Mitch says he had and he isn't concerned with leaving behind. That's kind of not a normal reaction, you know? It could be super interesting! But it's not really working for me here.

    I mean, this rather lampshades it, doesn't it? I can buy somebody doing that, even rather calmly and without much remorse, but you're going to have to sell it harder.

    Part of the problem here might be that the physical description is a little lacking. It gets better as the scene goes on, I think; I liked bits like "his own sticky, drying mouth" or "It tasted faintly sweet and sticky, distantly reminiscent of blood, leaving a cold, tingling feeling on his tongue and the inside of his mouth." And this whole paragraph is lovely:

    I just wish there were more like it! But again, there's quite a bit of Mitch being pretty lucid and doing things like sighing and rubbing his temples, which is the sort of behavior I expect from somebody who has an annoying headache, not terrifying auditory/sensory hallucinations. All in all Mitch came across to me as being in better shape than he was when Mark last saw him, which I don't think was the effect you wanted to give! This chapter should be giving you free rein to amp up the suffering to a ridiculous degree, and I was disappointed to not see you go there at all.

    The pokémon venom idea was clever, though. Worked perfectly for this situation!

    So that's Mitch. As for Chalenor himself, I don't have a great deal to say, which I guess is part of the problem. The other part of the problem is that he's a character archetype I just don't much care for. Obviously I enjoy characters with issues... I don't at all shy away from angst! But after a couple thousand years, I think self-pity is a bad look on pretty much anyone.

    My primary issue with Chalenor, I guess, is that there doesn't seem to be much to him but his angst. Which isn't surprising--it's his major motivation in the story, and given the lack of space the most important character trait to bring home. But me, personally, looking over Chalenor's parts in the story, he just doesn't seem to have much of a personality, much going on besides his issues. He strikes me as generally inoffensive, a nice guy put upon by circumstances who's convinced himeslf he's not worthy of love. But inoffensive doesn't make for a compelling character... This particular fanfic has no shortage of woobies, and Chalenor simply didn't distinguish himself from the rest of them, to me. To be honest, when I was first reading through 75 and got to the "it's all my fault no please" bit I went, "Oh no, not another one." (There's a big difference between "please no" and "it's all my fault!") For most of the other characters in this fanfic, you had plenty of time to build up their insecurities and self-loathing; it was usually a major part of their respective arcs. For Chalenor you didn't have that, and so to me you got all the angst without any of the interesting.

    In Chapter 76 he also didn't strike me as being a particularly ancient. Again, I enjoy me some issues, but the dude's had literally thousands of years to get over his angst. He really doesn't behave like it. Mew gets a pass because she really is young here, without any memories left over from her previous incarnations. But Chalenor? I don't mean that his issues need to be resolved, by any means, but I would tend to expect that his handling of them, and the way he would deal with someone trying to get close to him, would be different than someone with a mortal-scale life. But I could easily see him as a teenager or twentysomething struggling with his life circumstances, no problem. And that's... about it.

    For Mew, see what I said about Chalenor, more or less. We don't see much of her outside her angst, although unlike Chalenor, who literally did nothing wrong because he was MADE to be the Destroyer and can't even control the whole death-rampage thing, Mew actually has done some pretty terrible things, and we even get to see some of them, or their results, in 75/76. But we also don't really see anything of her but her failure. (She does at least appear a few times earlier in the story, which would give you an opportunity to give her more characterization.)

    At the intersection of Mew and Chalenor is Chapter 76, which is the one-shot not previously included in the story, right? It was definitely a good idea to bring it into the main part of the narrative! Without it, Chalenor would really be extremely thin, and I just wouldn't understand why Mew cared about him so much at all. I imagine you would have moved some of that info over to the main story anyway, but it's important; it makes sense to spend more time/an entire chapter, at least, on that relationship!

    It does seem strange to me that it comes after 75, though. As in after the characters involved are already dead. Surely you'd want us to get attached to them, give us some hope that they come back from their mistakes and their fear and be happily reunited, and then kill them off? If you'd already introduced us to them, if we already were invested in that relationship, had been happy to see them reunited and sad for what it had to mean, then going back and showing some of these scenes from their earlier, happier life could have been a real stab in the heart, you know, a reminder of how much has changed, and not for the better. But in this version 76 is pretty much where we're introduced to their relationship

    This is one facet of what I think might be a broader issue with the ending chapters. You've obviously been waiting on Chapter 75 in particular for a long, long time. You wanted to get to those reveals and show everybody what's been in your head for all these years! But... is this story really about the reveals? Or is it more about the characters and their relationships? If it's the latter, it might work better to structure the story in such a way that those relationships get more focus, rather than being secretive about them. Doesn't mean introducing "what's up with Chalenor" way back at the beginning or in, like, Chapter 30 or something, but perhaps building it up over a little more time, and letting some of the information come out earlier, rather than compressing it all into Chapter 75.

    So, anyway, back to the actual content of Chapter 76 itself. I thought it was, like Chalenor himself, pretty inoffensive. But the issues I had with the characters involved meant that I didn't get as much out of it as you might have hoped. Again, to me, Chalenor in particular felt pretty generic, and that meant that the relationship between him and Mew struck me as pretty generic. (It also read pretty damn romantic to me, rather than platonic, if that's what you were going for. The extent of Mew's obsession with Chalenor definitely read more like a crush than "oh you're cool let's be friends.")

    Like, what does Mew see in Chalenor? He's a tortured soul, unfairly rejected by the world and also by himself, and only! Mew! Can see him for who he really is! Describing it like that, it sounds like approximately every angsty teen love ballad in existence, and, honestly, it kind of read that way to me, too. I already mentioned that I thought Chalenor didn't feel very old here, which is definitely also true of Mew. Mew has the excuse that she's very young, of course; no problem with that. It's Chalenor I have issues with there. I could 100% see the two of them bonding over their favorite band, except I don't think bands as such actually existed at the time.

    By far the most interesting thing about this chapter, to me, was how Mew was projecting her issues all over Chalenor. She really seems more in love with the idea of him than him as a person, which if that's not what you were going for I would recommend you focus on some more concrete details that illuminate what, specifically attracts her to him. Right now, what I'm seeing is that he's a nice guy but with a bit of that actually-harmless bad-boy edge, he's nice to cuddle, and he'd make a way better Preserver than her. Which definitely has the breathless quality of a teenage crush to me, not a serious and nuanced relationship that would last long-term.

    I'm also not sure whether you intended for their relationship to be kinda ****ed up? I mean, it's you, it wouldn't be out of character by any means, but those elements didn't seem as prominent to me as I'd have expected if you'd meant for it to be kinda ****ed up. However, there's definitely an element of obsession there, with Mew increasingly isolating herself from the other legendaries and apparently not having any friends or life, really, outside of Chalenor. And while Chalenor's insecurities are on full display, Mew actually seems to have similar problems herself, where she's kind of got this idealized image of Chalenor in her head, you know, this picture of a tragic, misunderstood person who is so much better than her, and she really just wants to make him happy. At first what seems to attract Mew to Chalenor is curiosity, and then the fact that they have fun when they go off to see the world together, but then there's the part where Mew realizes that he likes helping people, whereas she's kind of indifferent to (especially?) non-legendaries, and that makes her feel inadequate, so she tries to emulate Chalenor, tries to become more like him and more worthy of her role as Preserver. The impression I get, though, is that she does this because she wants to make Chalenor happy, because him being happy makes her happy, and because she feels like she ought to, but she also feels like she's doing it out of obligation rather than because it genuinely makes her happy the way it makes Chalenor happy, which makes her think she's a bad person. She constructs this fantasy of them being heroes, and she tries to live up to it by helping other people, and neither of those are really bad things as such, but I get the impression that she's doing it to try to avoid some underlying issues rather than because they really bring her joy. And then of course towards the end she's obviously in denial and clinging to Chalenor and the possibility of actually ending the war, being a hero, except of course she doesn't actually want either of them to die. There may have been some element of denial and fantasy and not wanting to think about the inevitability of death in the relationship from the start. I don't know, I'm having trouble putting it into words here, but Mew's interest in Chalenor reads a bit more like obsession than love, and strikes me as having some destructive elements.

    Sooooo to me that was interesting, but like I said, my impression was that you didn't actually intend for it to be read that way. Once again, what I'd suggest is a little more focus on what Mew liked about Chalenor in terms of his personality and not how he fit into some kind of tragic hero narrative, and maybe a little more on what she enjoys in life besides Chalenor and making him happy.

    Part of this may be the pacing. In under 7,000 words you've got these two meeting, falling in... like?... and having their tragic falling out, and even then the bulk of the words are actually devoted to things falling apart. There just isn't a lot of space to establish what they actually see in each other and what their relationship is like before everything combusts. To me things seemed to happen just a little fast, like Mew and Chalenor meet, and then they are best friends!

    Again, this is definitely influenced by personal preference. I do love angst, but it has to be done just to my taste, and this really isn't. And it obviously worked for many people! So this is really more a question of audience, and what your vision is for how this all ought to play out.

    Now, moving on from 75/76, let's talk about the fic's endgame a bit more broadly.

    The pacing of the post-League stuff felt a little funky to me. Some of it may have been a result of the big slowdown in posting these chapters, and a chunk of text that comes out almost a year after the last one naturally feels a bit disconnected and out-of-place, since it's being experienced out of context. Going back over what actually happens after the League, for the most part I think it does work the way it is, and it makes sense that there would be a period of lull after the League Finals as that arc gets wrapped up and the next one starts. It works better when the chapters are read back-to-back than when they're released months apart.

    In some cases it's a little odd to see things brought up and resolved after a substantial number of chapters has passed and where they don't have a great deal of relevance to what's going on at the time. Scyther meeting with old friends in Chapter Fifty-something is one example; as you mention in the author's note, we're dealing there with issues that haven't been touched on in >20 chapters, and it's a somewhat contrived chance meeting that brings them back up again. It's tricky, because of course you want to wrap that little arc up at *some* point and not leave Scyther hanging, and you can't do it much earlier because the point is his perspective's changed as a result of the experiences he's had over those twenty-some chapters. Ideally I'd say you'd want to have done a little more to keep that conflict on readers' minds in the intervening time, but I'm not sure there really is an elegant way to get this meeting to happen... it just doesn't connect neatly with the surrounding narrative. Similarly, the revelations about Alan kind of come out of nowhere, which I think I talked about earlier when I reviewed that chapter. There I think focusing a little more on Alan earlier on would probably help; his scene comes out a bit more naturally as result of stress from the increasingly imminent war plus the whole thing with May. It'd be easier to make it feel natural than Scyther's bit.

    I'm also still not totally sold on the Waraider chapters. Having read to the end of the story, I understand at least some of why you wanted to summon up all these characters again; a lot of them have at least some kind of role to play in the final chapters. So if you want to leave that untouched, then having all these "recruitment" scenes would have to happen at some point (for the most part). Maybe! I'm not sure they're all that necessary.

    I think Chibi mentioned going back and still not seeing the foreshadowing with Victor in his little bit, and I agree. He seems kind of weirded out that these people he barely knows showed up and started going off on this story about legendaries killing each other and needing his help to find Waraider, but not particularly wary of them or even particularly reluctant. If you want to back up his later "I always knew there was something off about you two!" I think you really ought to sell it here; maybe a question like, "So, uhhh, how's that letaligon of yours doing?" and Mark brushing it off with a casual answer and Victor seeing unnerved would help a bit with that. As it is, though, I don't think the scene actually makes his sudden but inevitable betrayal seem any more inevitable; returning to it after the fact doesn't make me see it any differently than I did the first time around.

    But, ultimately, do you really need Victor? Maybe Robin wouldn't have had the initiative to off and tell Rick about May if she didn't have an accomplice. It's also nice that you managed to give a minor recurring character a somewhat larger role towards the end of the story. And obviously I'm here for Carl and Sparky, and that one guy's tracking system (Ryan?) was cool, but was it worth the time spent on it? Leah--she shows up earlier to introduce the truth about the soul gems, and it's logical that she'd return to help with this, and she's a fun character, but... do you really need her? Or perhaps, do you really need to spend so much time with her? This part is where I think the end section really starts to feel a little crufty. It's a lot of fun to see these characters come back and have greater significance--that kind of neat, "Oh, so that's what that person was about!" is part of what make stories so fun in general. But there's kind of a lot of it in this section, and tbh I kept having to go back and look up who all was there and who they all were, and it could be hard to keep track of everybody in a scene and they weren't necessarily all that relevant to the Waraider fight itself. Perhaps consider cutting down a bit on the introduced/reintroduced characters, or bring some of their roles down to "brief cameo" level rather than having as much interaction as you do between them and the main cast. Again, I know your stated reason for wanting to e.g. show the actual meeting with Mitch, but it isn't really working for me.

    On the other hand, the "final stretch" chapters work quiet well, I think. Obviously most of the actual action/revelation happens all together in Chapter 74 and especially 75, but the preceding chapters do a good job of building up to those events. You ramp up the tension before releasing it at the climax, so the crazy stuff going down feels like the inevitable conclusion of what came before, rather than "oh **** gotta wrap this thing up, here's the part where they all fight I guess." Things are more loosey-goosey from ~53-65 (the Waraider part DOES feel self-consistent and all, it just seems a little odd placed where it is), but the ending arc draws things together nicely. I already talked about some reservations with the climax itself, but as far as the lead-up goes, no serious complaints.

    RIGHT. That's Chapter 75/76 and the general structure of the climax. Let's move on to some aspects of the story that I thought were really done well, shall we?

    Which means that we're going to be talking about the characters. The plot, setting, and structure of the story do show some "I thought this would be awesome when I was twelve" flaws, but the characters have for the most part escaped that, and are probably where you've shown the most growth as a writer over the course of the story.

    For whatever reason I feel like talking about Alan first, so let's do that. Alan is kind of the odd one out in the main trio. His primary role for most of the story is to oppose May, and it feels like he spends more time off-screen than on. You do introduce some interesting ideas with that heart-to-heart he has with Mark in Chapter Sixty-I'm-Too-Lazy-To-Check, and if you go back and bring those elements more to the fore in a rewrite, then I think he'll be more interesting (and also that that scene'll feel a bit more natural instead of coming out of nowhere, haha). But I also don't think his place in the character pantheon in this version is bad, either. He's part of the main trio, but he also kind of isn't, and that's okay. With apologies because I know it would inflame all his inadequacy issues, some people just aren't destined to be main characters, and that, too, is okay.

    On the other hand, I think May is perhaps the best character in this story. She goes through what is probably the most intense and dramatic character growth, and it's interesting how it initially isn't really connected to the plot, but then in the end becomes VERY important to the plot, and is actually one of its major drivers in the later chapters. May's basically a rival archetype but not actually used the way a rival would be in most trainerfics, as she shares her goals with the protagonist, they mostly travel together, and so on. It's rare to see a character portrayed as a "good trainer," in that they're effective in battle, and on the protagonist's side, while also being a "bad trainer" in that they achieve good results through poor methods. What I really like most about May's arc, though, is that she really gets to experience consequences! So many negative things come out of May's attitude towards her pokémon, but ultimately it takes someone literally DYING to finally make her step back and truly reevaluate her behavior. She isn't someone who does a bad thing but who can be brought around to ~seeing the light~ after a stern speech from the protagonist or whatever, or even after having friends leave her over her behavior! She has a great deal of trouble accepting the truth even after things completely blow up in her face, and she's thrown into a situation where there are no good options, and all of them carry serious consequences, if not for herself then for others.

    In some ways May's journey is the toughest out of any of the characters'. I mean, Chaletwo literally dies, and he worries a lot and is under a lot of pressure especially towards the end of the story, but in the end he doesn't have a lot of time to angst over his decision. On the other hand, May has a ton of time to angst. She tries to hide what happened, then has to deal, repeatedly, with other people's revulsion when they find out about it. She nearly gets killed by the guy who went nuts after his brother died! She knows even her friends are judging her! It's one long walk of shame and self-doubt and uncomfortable reflection on everything she's done in her time as a trainer, and having to come to grips with just how badly she's screwed up. On top of potentially getting annihilated by some crazed legendary pokémon in a few months, of course, but that had to be a welcome distraction from everything going on in her head! You were incredibly hard on May for an extended period of time, and you really needed that time to show just how badly this was affecting her, as well as to give her some time to process it and try to figure out a way forward. Someone as stubborn as May doesn't just admit to having screwed up, and it would have felt cheap if she'd been able to shrug the issue off or had immediately repented and tried to set things right. You did a great job of showing the complexity of the situation, how there were no easy answers even though there's one very clear morally correct one, and how difficult it is for May to come to terms with what she knows she has to do. It's definitely good that she eventually chose to do the right thing, though really your only other option would be to leave her as a villain, essentially. It's a little frustrating to not get a final word on her fate (or Tyranitar's), but it's another of those things where you really couldn't have devoted the space you'd need to do it justice. Even now that May's decided to turn herself in, it's a complicated and uncertain road towards whatever the ultimate result of that decision is, and having a pat wrap-up with her ending up free and clear or whatever would have felt cheap after all the work put into making her situation messy and very not-easy overall. May's arc is painful and messy and slow-moving but also heartbreakingly real and, ultimately, hopeful. May starts out vain and stubborn and a bit mean, but it takes a lot of courage and a lot of humility to own up to something that big and that bad, not because you're being forced to, but because you know it's the right thing to do and you ultimately can't let someone else take the fall for what you yourself did.

    I mentioned in my last large review that I wished the relationships between the trainers and some of the pokémon had been beefed up a bit, and that still stands. I think you do the arcs for Scyther and Letaligon well, though, and obviously there are too many pokémon for you to reasonably give all of them much development. (Convenient that you can use May's personality as justification for why we see so little of her mons, heh.) It is really great that you showed a bit of trainers actually having issues with their pokémon and legitimately needing to work with them to help them learn and grow. And those pokémon have their own goals in life that don't revolve around humans, and they're allowed to think and act independently of the trainers. It's fantastic! And something that was, as I understand it, mostly an accident, but definitely one of the fortunate ones! Scyther and Letaligon's arcs provide some structure to the story when it's otherwise mostly going around collecting badges (or league battles) and keep things grounded in the "trainer's journey" thing rather than flipping everything over into the "catching legends" thing. They interact well with Mark's own arc; he learns important things from both Letaligon and Scyther, and they're relevant to his own growth. And, finally, they don't take up an undue amount of time (although I guess Scyther got quite a bit of focus in some of the earlier chapters). All in all, they're minor characters (though again, I know your opinions on Scyther :p), but memorable ones and definitely positive assets to the overall story.

    Gyarados' arc with Suicune is interesting, but I kind of feel like we missed something in the resolution, especially because Gyarados figures so prominently in the final chapter. The last time he had any significant screentime was twenty-two chapters ago, and at that point he was apparently still reeling from having learned what Suicune had done to him. Like, he was just rampaging around trying to break the crystals and has refused to speak human (is he still refusing to do so in 77?), and although he doesn't break the crystals in 55 after promising Mark that he won't, my impression was that he still had a lot of hatred towards Suicune and was holding onto resentment over what the legendary had done to him. To see him seem so calm about things at the end, then, felt like I'd missed the bit where he works to get over his issues and come to terms with the situation. Obviously, quite a bit of time has passed between those two scenes, so it's totally possible that such a reconciliation could have happened, but since Gyarados gets just two single-sentence mentions during that intervening time, it definitely wasn't remarked on by the narrative.

    Other than that, there are a host of other minor-ish characters that contribute to the story. Like, lots of them! And I don't think there are any that are bad. They liven things up even if they don't do a great deal, many of them are memorable and likable in their own right, and a lot of them, I think, you could plausibly write stories about and have those be interesting and worth reading on their own merits. They have minor roles in this story, but they have enough depth to carry their own story if they need to, which is no mean feat. I guess that means even poor Chaletwo gets relegated to the role of "minor character," but if I sat around giving my thoughts on everybody remotely significant to the narrative I'd never finish this thing. So I'll just say that the cast is definitely the highlight of the fic, from the most inconsequential people on up.

    Although I feel like I might still be missing something... Hmmm... Like possibly the actual protagonist of almost the entire danged story? :p

    I said May is probably the best character in the story, but Mark probably ended up being my favorite. Which is definitely interesting, because he didn't make much of an impression on me for a long time. I don't know that I ever really disliked him, but he did have a bit of that bland-protagonist syndrome, where everybody else manages to be more colorful and engaging than our viewpoint character. He's not a flashy character by any means; if anything, he's kind of a straight man surrounded by dramatic characters with outsized lives and outsized problems. He develops, too, but it's in a way that's much more subtle than most of the other characters. He didn't really have any big, obvious problems that he needed to overcome. He was a little unsure of himself, and a little passive, but he mostly seemed okay with himself and just excited about getting to have the adventure he'd been wanting for so long. He had flaws, but they weren't anything on the scale of "exiled forever from my people" or "obsessed with growing strong so I can kill abusive father" or even "hyperfocused on success to the point where I use other people to obtain it." He's honestly really... normal. But that doesn't end up being the same as boring, at all.

    Mark is in a lot of ways a subversion of the usual journeyfic protagonist. In most stories, the main character overcomes hardships in order to become an incredibly strong trainer, often mastering one or more supernatural abilities along the way. They become ~the very best~ and get the fame and glory they were looking for. Mark does get better at battling as time goes on, but he's never spectacular at it. In the end he accomplishes the super difficult thing he was setting out to do, but only maybe a dozen people or so will ever know about it. It's practically the opposite of a power fantasy, where he has to go through all the hard stuff, but it stays hard instead of becoming trivial, and in the end the only reward is his own knowledge of what he's accomplished and less-than-sexy powers like "self confidence" and "compassion." He started out wanting the same thing as all the other wanna-be master trainers, but in the end what he got wasn't fame and glory or The Girl, but the things he really needed to live a better life.

    I guess you could say that Mark is kind of Ash Ketchum done right? Mark's never as much of a dumbass as Ash is, though he is a bit of a dumbass to start out, but otherwise they're pretty similar characters. Ash is never allowed to actually grow or mature or significantly advance as a character, but when he's at his best, he really embodies what the Pokémon franchise is supposed to be about: friendship and respect and self-sacrifice, more than simply doing whatever it takes to be the strongest. And that's really Mark, isn't it? His pokémon are powerful, but battles are really more about them than him. He tries to solve problems without violence where possible. His actual strengths are more about listening--not even giving good advice, but just listening and actually caring about the person he's listening to--and understanding other people. Like, empathy, man. And he does it all without becoming a smarmy goody-two-shoes cariacature, the kind of cartoon character who shows up in media aimed at teaching kids not to fight and to talk about feelings and whatnot. (It probably helps that talking about feelings doesn't actually always work or solve all the problems in the story.) In the end he's just kind of a really good guy? Like, someone who does his best to help other people, even at cost to himself, but not a saint, a hero but not the kind of hero you see in stories supposedly about heroes, who usually do a lot of punching other people or are actually kind of reprehensible but better than the alternative in a gray-on-gray world. Just a good-but-ordinary guy trying to do his best and do best by other people, even when it seems like there's no hope, that there's no choice but to fight. And isn't that the kind of hero we really need to see right now, someone ordinary who manages to be extraordinary simply through the power of being a decent person and not giving up in the face of bleak odds?

    Anyway. Mark. What a good protagonist! Okay, other things...

    One thing I'd liked to have seen more of throughout the story was description of the environment. Since this is an original region, you don't have the advantage that everybody's already formed a vision of what e.g. Lavender Town looks like and already has a sense of its atmosphere and what setting a scene there might mean. It doesn't feel to me like you could have dropped Ouenn places into Kanto and have it work out, necessarily; like, the anime has Ash travel to a bunch of random towns that don't appear in any other canon when he's traveling around, and they usually feel appropriate to the setting, just somewhere they didn't include in the games. What stand out in my mind as "major locations" in Ouen, like the Lake of Purity or the Black Desert, don't feel like places that would really work in Kanto or Sinnoh or Kalos or whatever, maybe because they're a bit more dangerous or wild-feeling than a lot of pokémon locations are. So that's good; I think Ouen does feel sufficiently like a different place than any of the canon regions, and on a macro level I think it works as somewhere separate from anywhere we've visited in canon.

    On the level of individual scenes, though, I think a lot of the region doesn't have much character to it. I think I mentioned it in my review of Chapter 74 or so, but the characters venturing through Rainbow Woods felt like they were just wandering around in A Forest, not any specific forest. Likewise many of the other locations felt like there wasn't much to them; May's training spot where Taylor was killed, for example, is as far as I'm concerned just A Field, and the Waraider fight also took place in A Field, and there were usually only one or two important buildings in towns/cities that got any sort of mention, and other than that the places are pretty interchangeable.

    It's tricky because it's not like I think you want big hunks of lavish description by any means, and because it's often fine to have scenes take place in pretty generic locations; returning to the Waraider fight, holding it anywhere but in A Field would probably just have distracted from the action. However, I think it would liven up your scenes a bit and help to make Ouen feel more distinct and authentic as its own region to locate the characters more strongly in their environment. You also leave a lot on the table in terms of mood and atmosphere by doing a minimal amount of scene-setting. Returning to the Rainbow Woods chapter, you could have really amped up the miserableness with having to hack through overgrown, pathless underbrush, or contrasted the characters' anxiety and discouragement with pretty flowers and butterflies, or even done the classic "make them even more miserable" with a bit of driving rain. As it was the setting didn't hinder the narrative in any way, but it didn't enhance it, either. You could have had Mark and May search some mountains, or a grassland, or an island chain, and not much would have been different. And certainly if Rainbow Woods weren't given a name I wouldn't have any way to identify it as distinct from any other forest the characters went through.

    It's not a big issue and not one you need to worry about if you don't want to; this isn't a story that really lives its setting by any means. If you do want to try to add some more description, though, it might help to try working outward from the emotional core of the scene, rather than thinking like, "How am I going to describe this place?" You probably don't want a thorough detailing of the environment, just a couple of quick details to give it more definition, and the feel is more important than the look. Since your strength is in character interactions and drama, maybe instead think about what the mood is in the scene, and then what in the characters' surroundings might reflect that mood. Like, maybe Mark is feeling pretty lost in this scene, so some mention of unfamiliar plants or animal calls he doesn't recognize might increase the feeling of unease and reinforce how disconnected/confused he feels. Or, rather than playing with the characters' emotions, instead consider how the environment might reflect on the characters themselves. Carl's super minimalist home is an example of this done well, so in turn, how might Mitch's house look (or smell?) after months of him hiding out there and not really taking care of himself? Or it could be something as simple as Mark noticing deep gashes in tree trunks in the area where he meets Scyther, as a result of the local scyther/letaligon marking their territory.

    That took up more space than I was expecting. In any case, another thing that I thought this story did well was really integrate the "trainer's journey" aspect with the "saving the world" aspect of the story, which is something that's very rare in journeyfics. Usually when the big-deal B-plot shows up it kind of eclipses the normal trainer stuff to the point where, if the trainers even keep going with the normal journey, it feels kind of weird and inconsequential alongside everything that's going on. But here, despite the legendary-catching save-the-world stuff, a lot of the big problems the characters deal with are just... normal trainer problems. (Or, well, "My monster-child stepped on a guy I didn't like and he died" isn't a normal trainer problem, but it has nothing to do with the End Times.) The trainers and their pokémon are all people trying to grow up and figure themselves out while on a big crazy quest together, and that leads to all kinds of conflict and mistakes and personal growth. It's one of those things that I'm sure is accidental--a lot of it is down to the major threat being kind of nebulous and not directly impacting the characters. So what needs to drive the story forward is internal conflict rather than an external force attacking the protagonist's group, which is what you have when Team Whatever keeps jumping in to try and steal stuff or fire their god-weapon or whatever.

    Like I think I said earlier, this makes the story feel very grounded despite all the frankly weird **** going on, and in part this is what allows it to stay strong despite the excesses of your preteen plotting and worldbuilding. You really nail the "ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances" thing, and this makes the more trainer-ly chapters feel like they really matter, because they're actually where a fair amount of the conflict and character moments come from. The gym battles, for example; some of them are relevant because they're directly connected with the legendary plotline (Carl, Rick, Sparky), but then there are those that are simply character-relevant, like that one where Mark tries to double battle with Scyther and Charmeleon (Charizard?), and even the more plot-relevant ones have important character stuff surrounding them. I think a couple of the later gyms, in particular, felt a little more perfunctory, like we just need this badge so we can move on to the League (and catch Polaryu), but the early stuff is still really important and relevant to the overall arc of the 'fic, and for more reasons than just a lot of the early characters end up showing up again later.

    All that to say, I think that this is one of the better journey fics out there if only for the fact that the journey is so important! I think if you didn't have the whole legendary war going on, this would still be a solid and enjoyable story, although obviously you'd need to restructure things to have them make sense and whatnot. You say it's really slow, you say the plot doesn't start until the Pokémon Festival, and to some extent that's true, but even though the story's about the War of the Legends, what I think it's actually really about, at the heart of it, is all these people who happen to be involved in this big crazy conspiracy, and how they deal with it and deal with having to just live their lives despite all the wackiness going on, and that's something that was working from much earlier on in the story. I guess it's kind of funny that although what the story is probably known for is the whole legendary-catching thing, what it might actually do best is what so many other fanfics that transition to world-saving shenanigans struggle with, which is the actual trainer-journey elements.

    On the other hand, if you have the option of including a mind-controlled super-super clone, time travel, and sarcastic head-voices, why wouldn't you? I'm not saying the story would be better if none of the War of the Legends stuff happened, only that even without it, this would be an enjoyable story.

    Kind of struggling with how to wrap things up. This review is hellaciously long, but I feel like I didn't actually talk about that much in it? Uhh. I've always enjoyed this story, though like you (I imagine) I appreciated it in different ways at different times. A long time ago it was one of the first fanfics I'd ever read, and certainly one of the longest and most complete--it gave me a real chance to experience the wonder of a written trainer's journey beyond the usual lab chapter and maybe one more that most journey fics got through and a chance to appreciate pokémon characters who actually did things other than come out of their pokéballs to fight now and again. The early chapters are imperfect, but they still bear your own mark on them, and even way back then, you had your own vision of the pokémon world that came through in your work. Now, of course, I can enjoy the more complex character motivations and the interactions between them, plus some greatly improved action sequences and fun worldbuilding that's a little more thought-through. There's a reason that this story has resonated with so many people over the years, and it's not because we all have really terrible taste when we're fourteen. Even though you didn't start out being able to articulate them that well, your work has always been full of good ideas, not to mention a lot of heart; it's something only you could have written, and you've always had a voice worth listening to.

    Thanks again for working so hard on this story over the years, for sharing it, for getting us all the way to the end. It's been amazing to be able to follow this story for such a long time . It's worth reading and enjoying despite its silly bits, and as the chapters go on there are fewer and fewer silly bits and more and more truly interesting and affecting explorations of character and what it's like to be caught up in things larger than yourself and have courage despite the very real possibility of defeat. It's worth being proud of, both for what it's become in its final stages and what it was when it began, a very ambitious project--more ambitious than you realized--and a project that grew up with you and taught you a great deal along the way. I know this is your "big project" and you don't expect to devote as much time to writing now that you've completed it, but I hope that you will continue to write and share your work in the future. You definitely have an audience in me! If there's anything else you'd like me to comment on or if you'd like me to expand on anything in this review, just let me know! This is a big story, and there's tons to unpack, even in what's more or less just the final third of the fic.
     
  9. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Ok, Mewtwo² hugging Mark was one of THE most precious things I have read in recent memory. ;A; I think that might've been the loudest "AWWWW" I've done in a long time. I'm kind of surprised I didn't bust into tears right there.

    But for some reason? The bit that made the (let's face it, inevitable) tears happen? Mrs. Grodski saying "welcome home" to Mark. Of all things! I guess in retrospect that bit is kind of like the spirit of the entire chapter condensed into a single moment. A chapter wherein things fall into their right place, or as close to it as they can get... and here's this tiny little piece of it that somehow manages to underscore it.

    Or maybe it was just the last straw needed to push me into blubbering sap mode, which, again, was kind of inevitable. Either way, yeah. Them feels.

    I've already congratulated you for completing this, but frell it; I'll do it again. :D I know a lot of time went into that story, and a lot of work, and a lot of care. And you know what? The end result was pretty damn awesome. Thanks a thousand for sharing it with us. :D
     
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  10. Psychic

    Psychic Really and truly

    I’m super late to the party, but congrats again on finishing this! Talk about an accomplishment!

    TQFTL must have been one of the first fan fics I started reading, and it definitely set the tone for my early fic experience. I remember I somehow found your site via your sprites and it just totally blew my mind, and learning you were also a writer was the coolest thing. I absolutely looked up to you, and it’s pretty cute/funny in hindsight. I posted my first review almost exactly 14 years ago, and reading it is pretty hilarious now. It’s barely coherent, makes liberal use of CAPITALIZATION, and can barely contain all of the ideas and excitement.

    I guess a few things have changed in 14 years, like actually becoming friends with you and seeing you as a human being, getting to meet you, drawing silly fan art for you, and all that jazz. Hopefully this review will be a bit more coherent, but it honestly probably still won't able to contain all of the ideas and excitement!

    Now, I owe you reviews for quite a few chapters at this point, which is absolutely overwhelming for me and means I may never actually get around to it. So I’m going to give my general thoughts now that I've read it all, with the hope of someday actually going back and reviewing the older chapters in chunks in more depth at some point.

    First, let’s talk overall impressions! I’ve been following this on and off for 14 years, and I’m a binge-reader; I stop reading for years at a time, and then binge a ton of chapters. I’m not proud, but those are my weird habits. As a result, every time I binge I go back and reread a few chapters (assuming I remember where I left off) to try and remember what’s what. And I’ve got to say that going cold turkey on this fic for years at a time meant I personally had a lot of gaps in memory and struggled to keep track of all of the subplots and the mechanics of the War of the Legends and even some of the characters and fan Pokemon. The main driving force of this story, the War, seems simple on paper – I could explain it to T pretty easily – but then I’d half remember the three roles and the cryptic messages and the time travel. Eventually, my mantra kinda just became “and then there is this overly complicated thing, because of course there is.” Certain things just felt convoluted for the sake of it, and it didn’t help that you used to shroud every little thing in mystery and make us guess! While that was fun at the time, I think mystery for the sake of it meant that we missed out on seeing more of the characters and relationships with big payoffs at the end. I think you got significantly better about that with experience/age, and I think there are definite ways to slim it down if you ever rewrite this someday!

    That said, finally getting to read the ending was really thrilling. The whole lead-up, the climax, and the resolution were really great, and turned out to be really satisfying. A lot of the storylines and character growth really got to shine, and the way you wrapped everything up was immensely gratifying. There were a lot of great payoffs and resolutions that felt deserving of it. Of course the sacrifice at the climax was that perfect bittersweet ending for those characters, and felt just right. I agree with Negrek that I wish we’d gotten to know them and their relationships better and sooner, but it still felt appropriate for the story. And yes, it nearly brought me to tears.

    One thing I can say is that while young me was all about just having a ton of legendaries, especially anything involving Mewtwo and Mew, at this point the legendary obsession feels a bit too heavily sprinkled throughout this fic. From one of the first gyms featuring legendaries, to a ton of the big players at the very end having some relation to the Mew/Mewtwo family, it just feels like a lot. While Chaletwo is obviously a huge part of this story, I can’t help but wonder what this would look like if he just had a different design/body. Maybe a ghost-type legendary Fakemon, so he can kind of inhabit/communicate with Mark’s mind that way or something? I feel bad suggesting you change such a huge character in this fic, but I feel like there are some really interesting options that don’t result in having a total of three characters with Mewtwo-like bodies? Plus I love your Fakemon and frankly am always down to see more of them, especially if you were to make a new one with your current amount of knowledge and experience!

    Overall, this story has just been a wild ride. It’s been awesome seeing you evolve and grow as a writer, and I’m so happy and proud that you’ve finally finished this behemoth. I’ve been enjoying reading your commentary, because I guess I can’t get enough of this fic, and plan to keep reading. I genuinely hope I get to read the rewrite someday and see what you decide to change, but I think a break is also well-deserved!

    Congrats and mazel tov on your accomplishment, and thank you for all the hours of enjoyment, theorizing, and fangirling this has brought over the years.

    ~Psychic
     
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  11. Umbramatic

    Umbramatic The Ghost Lord

    Disclaimer: This review is of Chapters 1-12.

    Well. I finally did it.

    I finally started reading your 14-years-in-the-making baby you completed not too long ago.

    And I gotta say, so far it's still entertaining, but not in quite the fashion you intended back then; with the advantage of hindsight this fic has a lot of silly and even adorable charm in its early chapters, and I got a lot of belly laughs out of its simple, nostalgic appeal. It's exactly what you'd expect from a twelve-year-old's fic in 2004, but knowing it'll grow into something bigger and better - even if those early chapters haven't been refined to the level of later ones - just makes it work.

    The characters have a similar appeal - Mark is very much a product of his time, and May is a good sidekick and foil to that. I like the focus we have on Mark's team as well. They're actually legitimately fun characters to follow.

    (Though the suicide thing was legitimately Not Cool. :/ )

    The circumstances surrounding our characters are also suitably outlandish. A gym leader with cloned Legendaries? A Mew hunter? A big legendary conspiracy? A Legendary that looks just like Mewtwo and somehow predates him by a very long time? It all drips with a flavor of cheese that is very familiar and yet very unique - and setting up for even greater things to come.

    I'm already enjoying this fic a lot. I'm looking forward to when I get to the part that's less ironically good. ;)
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
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