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Pokémon The Quest for the Legends

Chapter 27: Past, Present and Future


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Chapter 27! Get ready for a stretch of several chapters where it's very obvious that Scyther was my favorite character when I wrote this.

Heads up that this is another one that heavily discusses suicide, suicidal feelings, and societal glorification of suicide. I told you this would be a recurring theme.

Chapter 27: Past, Present and Future​


The three headed together towards Ruxido. This was the fourth time Mark had walked this path; by this time he was getting dead tired of it. Every bush seemed dull. What made it worse was that May and Alan were chatting excitedly while he just walked behind them, sulking and not wanting to participate for some reason he wasn’t even sure about himself.

It slowly grew darker as they entered the forest, and while battling some wild Spinarak uneventfully on the way, Mark thought of not recalling his Pokémon after battle, so he could have some company. He sent out his Pokémon one by one (aside from Gyarados, of course); Leta, Jolteon, Scyther and Sandslash walked alongside him while Dragonair practiced his flying skills high above in Charizard’s company.

Mark wasn’t sure what to say to Jolteon and Sandslash. He realized his Pokémon did not yet know of his hopeless mission, but he figured it would be best to tell all of them about that at once, so he didn’t say anything at all. They seemed to feel there was something he wanted to tell them but was keeping to himself for the moment, and none of them said anything either as darkness fell upon the forest of Ruxido.

“It’s biting cold,” Mark finally called, shivering and wrapping his jacket around himself. “We should camp or something.”

Alan turned. “Yeah, that might be a good idea,” he replied, stopping and taking his backpack off his shoulder as he looked around. “Oh, look, there’s even a little pond over there that we can send our Water Pokémon out into. We can actually all send out our Pokémon here; there’s plenty of room. This place is great.”

“I can light a fire,” Charizard suggested helpfully as the kids and other Pokémon sat down on the damp grass one by one. Alan pulled some firewood out of his bag. As Charizard’s fiery breath latched onto the wood and started slowly consuming it, Mark felt a stinging in his chest; he’d have to tell them now.

He sighed. “Guys,” he said, looking between the Pokémon at his sides, “we’re no longer on a Pokémon journey.”

They blinked and looked at each other. Mark had heard that Pokémon had no sense of time while in a Pokéball, so they wouldn’t be able to tell how long they had been in there.

“Then… what?” Sandslash asked hesitantly.

“We’re on a quest to save the world.”

The Pokémon blinked again.

“Save the world?” Sandslash repeated blankly.

“From what?”


Mark sighed and started telling the whole story about Chaletwo and the War of the Legends again. It was starting to make him sick, so engraved in his memory in its finest details. With a painful twinge in his heart, he realized that even if he succeeded at his task, he would never be the same person again.

When he finished, there was a long silence. Everybody was at this point staring into the fire, him included, finding the warm, dancing flames comforting in some way when faced with the very hard-to-swallow truth once again.

“How are we ever supposed to find and catch them all?” Gyarados said darkly, finally breaking the silence. “Suicune evaded me for years, even when returning to the Lake every evening. And that’s just one legendary. This is an impossible task, Mark.”

He sighed, feeling like he was sinking into a black hole. “I know. But the other ones have been caught…”

“Maybe there’s a reason the ones that are left haven’t been caught.”

Mark didn’t answer. As much as he hated to admit it to himself, it did seem very impossible. But he had to try. He’d been entrusted with this.

He looked at May and Alan. Alan had a grave look on his face, clearly nervous about the task ahead; even May, who had up until now acted like the end of the world was no more worrisome than a piece of particularly boring homework, was busily examining the details of her fingernails while biting her lip.

“Well,” Mark finally said, “we’ll all need to work together in this. We should get to know each other better. How about we all tell everybody something about ourselves? Nobody has to say anything, of course… but it would be nice.”

Sandslash shrugged and looked around. There were no objections; however, as Mark looked over the group, he noticed some of the Pokémon’s reactions. Scyther stared bitterly into the fire; Mark saw he was trembling a bit. Gyarados moved his lips without making a sound. Jolteon’s ears dropped. May’s Lapras closed her eyes and looked away. Alan’s Vaporeon, Mist, just sighed sadly.

“Should I start?” Mark asked carefully. Nobody objected to that either.

“Well, I live in Sailance, which is a town in North-West Ouen. You might have heard it called ‘Poképhobe Heaven’. I’ve always been really interested in legendary Pokémon and wanted to be a trainer, but my parents wanted to protect me from Chaletwo so they didn’t let me out. So, yeah.” He shrugged, indicating that somebody else could speak.

“I was a Magikarp,” Gyarados started. “Magikarp mothers lay thousands of eggs and from each surviving egg hatches one Magikarp. I was a bit darker in color than the rest, but nobody really saw that.

“I always used to hang out with the Carvanha rather than the other Magikarp. I thought my own kind was below me; the Carvanha laughed at me behind my back because they thought I was below them. When I found out, I proved myself by beating them up. I never realized the other Magikarp were so much weaker than I was until then. I found fighting fun, and I started going to the surface to tease trainers.” Gyarados smiled grimly. “I wasted their Pokémon. The look on their faces was priceless.

“But naturally, when I battled too much I ended up evolving. That was when I turned into a predator. It wasn’t really a problem at first… I could hide in the murky water, there were plenty of Pokémon and I had never really felt any attachment to my fellow Magikarp. I may have eaten my mother sometime, for all I know. But at least I ate a bit too much for the lake. It was too closed off to suddenly have a huge predator disrupt the balance of life. The humans in Cleanwater City didn’t like me because I caught all their fish and destroyed the lake’s image as a tourist attraction and training spot, and they got all their best trainers to come and try to defeat me. I could just hide by the bottom and beat the ones who dared to dive down to me.

“But then Suicune came along.” Gyarados spat the legendary’s name hatefully.

“Suicune cleaned the lake, made it so clear I was easily visible. The other Pokémon could see me and hide from the other end of the lake. The trainers could see me and have their Pokémon direct their attacks at me from safety above. Weak and hungry, one night I found a small underwater cave and managed to squeeze myself into it. I lurked there in hiding, grabbing the occasional Magikarp or Goldeen that swam past during the night, and tried to talk to Suicune. After all, it was for the good of the rest of the life in the lake, so I could understand why he did it, but he'd left me starving.

“But Suicune avoided and ignored me. He came back every night as if to rub in my face that I was at his mercy. I called, I waited, I tried everything to talk to him, but he never answered, always got around my attempts; he never told me why he had to torture me in this manner. He just didn’t care.” Gyarados’s voice trembled. “I hate him.”

“Why would Suicune do that?” Mark asked blankly.

“I don’t know,” Gyarados said gloomily. “All I know is that Suicune tortured me for years.” He looked at Mark. “That’s why I ate that Sharpedo on the way to Aquarium City. I saw it as fresh prey and just couldn’t resist.”

“It’s all right,” Mark muttered. “I’m sorry.”

Gyarados sighed and started staring into the fire again, making it clear that he wasn’t about to say more. Some of the other Pokémon shifted uncomfortably. The flames still reflected off Scyther’s eyes as he sat there motionless apart from mouthing something to himself.

“I’m the son of Ash’s Sceptile!” Racko said in an awkwardly happy voice, considering what Gyarados had been saying. “And I was born in Hooooooennn, the place of all places!” He bolted up and made a salesman-like gesture with his arms. “I love it,” he finished dramatically, sitting back down.

“Ignore him, he’s always like that,” Alan said, chuckling.

“Well,” Sandslash finally said, “Sandshrew live in groups. We used to have mock fights and competitions about who was the fastest digger. I remember when one of my friends evolved and I became so frightened that I ran away.” He chuckled. “It was fun, but I don’t know if I’d go back if I could. It was kind of… irresponsible.”

Mark nodded, looking around the group yet again. May’s Butterfree finally spoke.

“Well, I don’t really remember any of my life – our brains as Caterpie and Metapod aren’t made to remember much. But Butterfree basically evolve, find a mate during the mating season, and then die. Males die right after they mate, and females die as they lay their eggs.” She sighed. “Wild Butterfree barely ever live longer than a single year.”

“That’s… sad,” Mark said. He couldn’t imagine a life that short. “Why do you even mate, if it kills you?”

Butterfree shrugged. “Different view on death. We’ll die anyway; why not ensure that our genes are passed on?”

Mark couldn’t help being slightly disturbed, but said nothing.

“Well,” said Mist heavily, “I had four siblings. We were left in the trash in a cardboard box in the city.”

“Cardboard box?” Mark asked blankly. “A human left you in the trash in a cardboard box?”

“Yeah,” Mist said gloomily. “Without our mother. We were barely old enough to survive on our own.”

“That’s just… cruel,” Mark said with disgust. Alan sighed; May was sitting with her legs crossed, looking down at the ground while absent-mindedly snapping some grass blades in half.

“Well, at least I’m alive and well,” Mist said with a friendly bump against her trainer’s hand; he scratched her head fin with a smile. “I don’t know about my siblings, though.”

“Mother was a Flareon,” Jolteon murmured. “We had a little nest somewhere nobody would find us. One day she went out to get some food… but she didn’t come back.” He was shaking as he talked. “I had two siblings, but they wanted to wait for her. I think they must have died. But I went out to look for her and didn’t find her. I was about to lie down on the road when I saw a human and a Charmander…”

“And I wanted to throw a Pokéball at you,” Mark said quietly, staring down to the ground. He had been such an idiot. It seemed unbelievable how little time had passed since then.

“It’s all right,” Jolteon said softly. “What matters is that I’m here now.”

She just threw a ball at me while I was crying,” Lapras commented. May herself was messing with her fingernails and pretended not to hear anything. Lapras looked accusingly at her but didn’t say anything else.

“My past wasn’t interesting,” Skarmory said to break the uncomfortable silence that followed. “I was brought up in a nest on a cliff near Alumine, and then I flew on my first flight and got caught.”

Raichu shrugged. “Well, Mom used to live in Kanto. She told me she met Ash Ketchum’s Pikachu once and he saved her out of a river.”

“Oh, yeah, he told me about that,” Alan said. “He meant to release him since he was having such a good time with those wild Pikachu.”

Mark was about to express his opinion on Ash’s weird tendency to release most of his Pokémon, but figured it wouldn’t be a good idea to start insulting Alan’s father now. “Well, anybody else?” he finally asked. “Pupitar?”

The blue pupa continued staring expressionlessly at him.

“He won’t say anything,” May said, speaking for the first time as she stroked her hand over the grass, still too preoccupied to look up. “He’s not very social.”

“Oh,” Mark said. None of the other Pokémon appeared to be about to speak; both he and Alan looked at May.

“What, me?” she asked when she finally looked up. “Well, I live in New Bark Town in Johto, where Professor Elm lives. My birthday is in February so that was when I went to the Professor to receive a trainer licence, but instead of getting a starter and starting my journey right away, I worked as Elm’s assistant for two years, studying Pokémon anatomy, moves and battling. After that he gave me three starters to choose from, and I went to Ouen to get a Skarmory, but that thieving idiot Taylor stole my Quilava so I decided to stick around to find him and participate in the Ouen league instead and save Johto for next year or something.”

Mark nodded; he had heard the last part before, but she had clearly been discussing something else with Alan earlier since he didn’t appear to be aware.

“Taylor? Stole your…?”

“I can tell you later,” May just said with a careless wave of her hand as she resumed her previous activity of being a human lawnmower. Alan opened his mouth, but closed it again and shrugged.

There was a long silence after this. Everybody looked at everybody else.

“Scyther live in swarms,” Scyther suddenly said, not taking his eyes off the dancing flames. “There is a single leader, the strongest in the swarm, and the others follow them. We like to spend our time duelling; nothing is as refreshing as a good duel. Rob let Kabutops and me duel, but it’s not the same as with another Scyther. Kabutops was a good friend of mine, though…”

He suddenly seemed to realize he had wandered off the subject. “Well…” He sighed deeply.

“Like the Butterfree, we have a different view on death than humans, summarized by that saying I told you, ‘Death is not to be feared, for it is the only thing that we all have in common.’ It’s the first rule of Scyther ethics. Do not fear dying, because we will all die one day. Fear of death only leads to doing dishonourable things to save one’s own life.”

“How did you end up with the Mew Hunter, anyway?” Mark asked curiously.

Scyther sighed again. “That’s what I was about to say, actually. Three years ago, I had my last duel in the wild. It was a female. I didn’t particularly like her – well, of course I liked her, but I ‘liked’ everything female I came across, so she wasn’t anything that stood out. We got into an argument, and she insulted me… a bit too harshly. So I challenged her to a duel. A true duel, not a friendly or a mock duel. The unofficial rule is that a true duel ends with a death, a friendly duel ends with a bleeding, and a mock duel ends with a wound.

“But, well – I had nothing on her. She had the fastest reflexes I’ve ever seen, and her cuts landed just where she meant them to. She was just… perfect. It would’ve been a shame if I had won by some chance and had to kill her, I realized. She had everything. I considered it an honour to let her kill me; I was ready for death that moment.” The mantis swallowed a few times.

“But… as you know… she didn’t kill me,” he finally finished in a quiet voice.

“Well, that’s good,” Mark commented.

Good?” Scyther glared at Mark. “It was the most unfortunate thing that ever happened to me. It ruined my life. I was ready to die. I couldn’t imagine a better time to die. But she didn’t kill me, and we both had to leave the swarm.”


“I told you, Mark. The first rule of Scyther ethics, the Code, is not to fear death. Humans think of mercy as a noble thing, don’t they? We do not. We’re predators; we can’t feel sorry for somebody we’re about to kill. We believe that if you can’t kill without remorse, it is because you fear your own death. In a Scyther’s mindset, she did something very dishonourable by letting me live, especially with the unofficial rules of the true duel. And I had lost; it is generally a bad thing to show weakness by losing a duel, but when the duel is one of life and death, there is no way they will accept one who loses but still lives back into the swarm. The only right thing for a Scyther to do in my situation is suicide – which we believe to be a very natural thing after violating the rules of our society. But I didn’t… because I had fallen in love with her. Or so I called it. A dumb crush, I should say.” He said the last sentence with a hint of self-loathing.

“I followed her. I hid, but kept an eye on her. I don’t know what I was planning to do, but I didn’t want to take my eyes off her. But while she slept, a trainer found her. He caught her in her sleep… and I watched it without daring to help or even wake her up.”

Scyther bitterly screwed his eyes shut. “Cowardice. We hate it with a passion, but I let her be caught. I followed the trainer, but didn’t attack, and of course he had a Metal Coat. He did an inter-Pokéball transfer and… evolved her.” The word ‘evolved’ sounded more like a swear word than simply a term for Pokémon maturing in the way he said it.

“What do you have against Scizor, anyway?” Mark asked, having wondered about that for a while but never dared to ask.

“Everything,” Scyther said darkly. “Scyther’s evolution is an unnatural process. It can’t happen unless the Scyther is exposed to metal and their energy converted, such as when being traded. Of course we didn’t take kindly to it when it was discovered, especially since we already consider simply being caught at all to be a sign of extreme weakness. And the two things that are our pride and joy are our speed and our scythes – when we evolve, we lose both for a metal armor and pincers. To us the trade-off is far from worth it, but to a human it usually is. Do you realize just how high a percentage of trainers would evolve a Scyther if they obtained one? Thanks to Scizor’s existence, Scyther are sought after among trainers – which we do not care for – only to be mutated into scytheless freaks. We loathe Scizor and everything about them. The word ‘evolution’ alone makes us twitch. That was what prompted our duel – she called me a Scizor.”

An array of questions popped up in Mark’s mind, all getting in each other’s way and making his head spin. In the end he asked the simplest question:

“What happened then?”

Scyther sighed. “In a moment of weakness I lost it. I broke into the Pokémon Center through the window and started blindly slashing anything – no,” he added as he saw the look on Mark’s face, “I didn’t kill anybody. The trainer himself wasn’t even scratched – some kid got a nosebleed when I kicked them and that was it, I think. Then some guy took out a shotgun, I came to my senses and figured I’d better get out of there, and I tried to get back out through the window. I cut myself on the glass, and the shotgun blast hit me in the back. I only made it a short way away from the Pokémon Center before I collapsed.

“Then Rob found me. I couldn’t move. I prayed he wouldn’t notice me or at least that he’d be scared and run away, but he didn’t. He looked at me for a second, fiddled with the one empty Pokéball he had, and then after a pause threw it at me and caught me – I couldn’t fight the ball. I thought I was doomed to the same fate as her. But he didn’t evolve me. I found out that he liked my scythes the way they were. I had never known there actually were humans like that, but I still went through a long period of depression. I often raised my scythe to my throat but didn’t have the courage to take my own life. Kabutops tried to tell me that Rob wasn’t really that bad, but I didn’t listen. I was still convinced that there was no such thing as a good human.”

“Did you like him?”

Scyther chuckled.

“Like him? He’s the best damn person I’ve ever met,” Scyther said with an emphatic but scary swing of his scythe. “He was a great man in every way. Trainers like to say with pride that they treat their Pokémon as equals; when you’ve seen Rob, you can’t help but laugh at that. He didn’t treat us as equals; it was like he didn’t even know the difference. He treated us just like human friends. It was incredible, the way he could reach his Pokémon – even Fangcat, who usually wanted to be alone and never really felt as much like one of us as the others, could spend hours on end just sitting with him and growling about her life. And he didn’t put any pressure on me when I came in. He didn’t make me battle; he didn’t even keep me in the Pokéball. He just let me stay in the gym and take out my anger on whatever was available while he went out with his Pokémon in the evening. He caught me in a few suicide attempts, and every time, he asked me why, but I never answered. When I started calming down a bit, he let me come with him and his Pokémon one evening. I found out that the place they always went to was a bar. He actually bought drinks for all of his Pokémon. He offered me some, but I thought it smelled funny and didn’t accept it. He just shrugged and let me stay there. After drinking a bit, the Pokémon started talking about their former lives, and I found out that they had all been miserable. And Rob just nodded and drank with them, and shared some of his own experiences in return.

“At the time I just found him weird. The way he just kept going on got on my nerves. But one day he caught me trying to kill myself yet again. He took me to a back room of the gym, gave me a drink again and said it would do me good. I drank some and after finishing enough and talking to him for a bit, I just – broke down. And I told him everything that had happened, everything I had been thinking and feeling. And he just looked at me and nodded, not trying to fix my problems, just feeling for me. I realized that was what I really needed, I let it all out, and then he got some more drinks and started telling me the full story of himself. I realized that we weren’t that different. We both had a passion for something that was lost, we had both attempted suicide but not had the guts, and we had both been rejected by the rest of our species, seeking company and purpose with others.

“Well, I ended up falling asleep, but when I woke up, I had changed. I think Rob just has this effect on you – after being around him for a while, you become just like him. Soon I was rambling about my feelings and drowning my sorrows in alcohol just like Rob and his other Pokémon.

“Then one day, he frantically told us all that he had found Mew again. While his excitement grew, I was filled with dread. He was a completely different person when Mew was around. He figured that he’d be best off getting you to tell him where this ‘you-know-where’ was, and cooked up a plan which he got me to participate in. I tried to make him change his mind, but he didn’t listen. He told me again and again that he had to get Mew. I slowly realized that he had changed. Even then I kept trying until the last moment.

“But when I flew out that window, I just started thinking… what next? I would not be accepted back into the Scyther swarm, and I realized that I had no purpose in life anymore. The only thing that had kept me alive was my trainer, the purpose of battling for him and doing my best and listening to him and the others. And I thought of you, remembered that you hadn’t seemed too bad, and in desperation I came back to you and let you catch me.”

“And we know the rest,” Mark said.

“No, you don’t,” Scyther said, turning to him. “I managed to focus on you, my trainer, but one day you entered me in the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament, and I battled a Scizor.”

The mantis looked back into the fire. “I was prepared to kill her, just to get my revenge on the species of Scizor for existing. But then I looked into her eyes, and I recognized her. I had always assumed she had to have killed herself or at least that she was not battling like… like that.”

“Wait, that was her?" Mark asked in realization. "That was why you didn’t kill her? Not because of the trainer?”

“The trainer?” Scyther snorted. “I’d like nothing more than see him burn in agony for the rest of his pathetic little life. But I… couldn’t kill her. I just couldn’t.”

“But why didn’t you say anything to her?” Mark asked, puzzled.

“I did,” Scyther replied. “Just before we were recalled, I said, ‘Look who’s evolved now.’”

“And nothing more?” Mark asked incredulously. “Even when you were in love with her and all that?”

“She’s a Scizor,” Scyther spat. “And she ruined my life – I hate her for not killing me that day.”

The mantis Pokémon stared at the flames once again. “And it wasn’t love,” he added quietly.

There was a very long silence after this. Everybody looked at Scyther, but he didn’t appear to notice; his eyes were fixed at the campfire and his face showed no expression.

“Um,” Alan said hesitantly, “maybe we should go to sleep. We have a lot of walking to do tomorrow.”

“Right,” Mark said. “Um, so…” He took out his Pokéballs.

“Wait a second, Mark,” Sandslash said. “Remember what I suggested to you on the twenty-fifth?”

Mark racked his brain and found it quickly.

“Oh, right, about letting you have some time outside your Pokéballs?”

Sandslash nodded. “I think we would all like to get some time to stretch – we can just make sure to be back by morning.”

Mark smiled. “Of course you can. Just be careful in case there are powerful wild Pokémon here somewhere.”

All of Mark’s Pokémon seemed to be happy to hear those news; Leta looked a little nervous, but Jolteon, who was beside her, nudged her with his head and assured her that he’d be watching out for her.

“Can we stay out of our balls too?” Lapras asked, turning her head to May. She made some kind of a shrug with a faint mutter of, ‘Yeah, I guess.’ Alan let his Pokémon go too as the kids prepared their sleeping bags. Mark watched the Pokémon head deeper into the woods one by one. After he had gotten into his sleeping bag, he saw Scyther slowly stand up and fly off between the trees. The buzzing of his wings quieted soon and there were only the hoots of the Noctowl to be heard anymore.

Pupitar, who was of course immobile, just lay beside May’s sleeping bag, his eyes closed. Mark noticed her arm wrap around the cocoon in her sleep.

You have been given a mission about catching all the legendaries for another legendary. This mission will involve journeying around, and you will continue to collect gym badges as you do this. As you're about to explain this to your Pokémon, do you say:

a. "We have been given a mission"
b. "So, uh, did you notice the bit where I died and then came back, at all? With your established ability to hear some things that happen outside your balls?"
c. "Guys, we're no longer on a Pokémon journey"

The thing about Butterfree dying when they mate was based on common fandom wisdom at the time, namely the idea that this was canon in the Japanese version of Bye Bye Butterfree. Only one problem: this was actually a total mistranslation that the English-speaking fandom was parroting amongst each other without having any idea what they were talking about. In actuality, nothing of the sort was said in the Japanese episode, and Ash's Butterfree may well still be alive. I did think it was canon, though. So don't blame me for this one.

Anyway, enjoy me enthusiastically deciding look all my Pokémon characters have backstories, even though it's very obvious only a couple of them actually matter. Also several random irrelevant connections to Ash's Pokémon for some reason. How and why did Raichu's mom make her way to Ouen before having him? Who knows.

Mark randomly having Opinions on Ash "releasing most of his Pokémon" here after being totally uncritically starstruck previously is pretty weird. Ironically, in the previous versions they had an actual exchange about this where Alan pointed out that he released these Pokémon because he cares about them, but for some reason in this one I cut that out and just left this in as something that sounds like an eye-roll-worthy jab at the anime. Ash releasing his Pokémon when they find a greater calling elsewhere is good actually, Mark.


Gensokyo, Past and Present ~ Flower Land
  1. custom/nosepass-bluwiikoon
Hi hello here is my Smeargle Swap picture for you! :D It is based on scenes from chapter 25.

2021-10-31 smeargleswap-tqftl.png
Clickable thumbnail because I make canvases too large for casual browsing LOL

I was thrilled to be rolled to illustrate a scene from this fic! ^^ I hope many more TR residents get to enjoy the wonders of tQftL :quag: Thank you for all your work on this fic over the years, and for never giving up!
Chapter 28: Scyther's Revenge


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Thank youuuuu for the art, Bluwii! Love those amazing expressions! :D

Chapter 28 is finally here; apologies for it being a bit late. I've had no time to finish editing it over the past few days, until today. Get ready for some more Scyther, as well as a surprise return from an earlier bit character.

Author's note: some Hitmonchan headcanons here were borrowed wholesale (with acknowledgement) from Iveechan's Guilty by Design at the time. Ivee no longer endorses them but here they remain!

Chapter 28: Scyther's Revenge​


Mark woke up to the smell of fried eggs. He opened his eyes, taking a second to remember where he was, and then sat up.

Alan and May were already up, and indeed, Alan was frying eggs on a pan on the remains of yesterday’s fire. May was repacking her sleeping bag. The Pokémon were back, some sleeping and some just standing around, perhaps engaging in conversations with one another. May’s Pupitar was now standing straight up, his eyes open, dark and staring. Mark shuddered; that creature was creeping him out more with every passing day.

“Good morning, Mark,” Alan said, handing him a plate with an egg. “Hey… do you know where Scyther went?”

Mark quickly looked over the group of Pokémon again, first now noticing that Scyther wasn’t there. He froze.

“No,” he said worriedly, his heart beating hard. He wasn’t sure why he felt so suspicious – after all, he had probably just forgotten about time or something – but something gave him a bad feeling about this. He told himself to calm down and at least wait a bit, and stabbed his fork into his egg.

“Who’s that?” May asked, pointing at a human-shaped shadow walking on the path they had come from. Mark squinted at it; it was too small to be an adult at the very least. He took a bite of his food, watching it with interest. As the shadow neared, he suddenly realized what it was.

A Hitmonchan.

What made him realize it was the shape of the head; the top of the forehead took a shape distantly reminiscent of a crown. However, the nearer it came, the less human it looked; it had a flat face without a nose, for example, and was not wearing any clothes (not even the standard Hitmonchan boxing gloves and tunic, which Mark found slightly odd). Some details of Hitmonchan anatomy which were rarely seen by others than the people who trained them, such as the muscular chest being creamy yellow rather than the brown that the rest of the skin and that the natural fists had red, blue and yellow jewels embedded in the knuckles, were plainly visible. Puzzling as it was, considering his lack of clothing, he was carrying a backpack.

“Good morning,” the Hitmonchan said politely, having stopped at reasonable talking distance from them. He looked between the kids and Pokémon, awaiting a reply.

“You’re…” Charizard started slowly, “you’re Fury from the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament.”

Fury grinned. “I’m glad you remember me.”

Mark looked to the sides, confused. “Where is your trainer?”

“I am my own trainer,” Fury replied with a slight nod of his head. Mark stared at him.

“Huh? You mean you’re wild?”

“I mean exactly what I said,” Fury simply said. “I am the fully qualified trainer of myself.”

He smiled as he looked at everybody’s expressions, seemingly enjoying being a bit of a mystery. “I have a licence,” he added for clarification.

“But Pokémon can’t get trainer licences!” said May, the first person to voice what everybody was thinking.

Fury smiled again. “I’m the first, but I hope many will follow in my footsteps.”

“But…” Mark stuttered, “why?”

“Well,” Fury replied, “it just so happens that I am interested in the Pokémon League, but not so interested in having a trainer. I spoke with the authorities and presented my idea, and finally convinced them that this would be an important step forward for Pokémon. My journey is an experiment, and I hope it will go well and that they will get the League to make an exception of the six-Pokémon rule in the case of Pokémon on their own.”

“How does this work, though?” May asked, clearly interested. “Can you catch other Pokémon?”

“Technically,” Fury replied. “I currently have a normal human trainer licence. But I don’t want to catch other Pokémon. I am myself and have no interest in battling unless I do the fighting.”

“What about when you faint?” Mark asked.

“I know myself better than to let that happen,” he said with a slight smile. “Besides, I’ve got a Focus Band just for safety.” He pointed to a red and yellow band he was wearing on his head. “A Focus Band is something that will allow you to survive anything without falling completely unconscious. It’s not very likely to leave you in a state to battle, but it will at least give me a chance to forfeit and heal myself.”

May nodded thoughtfully. “You battle trainers, then, just one-on-one?”

“Yes,” Fury confirmed. “In fact, I thought perhaps one of you would like a battle?” He put up a slightly mischievous smile. “I’ve found much satisfaction in trying out trainers to see how they will fare against Pokémon and trainer who are one and the same.”

He looked between them; Alan shook his head but May looked interested.

“I’d like to try,” Mark said, shrugging, mainly looking for a way to kill time while he waited for Scyther.

“Can you battle both of us?” May asked. “I’d like a try too.”

“Well,” Fury replied with a smile, “that depends on whether I feel I can battle after the first one.”

“Oh, all right,” May said thoughtfully. “Mark, you can try first.”

“I request, by the way,” Fury added, “that because I am incapable of choosing my own weaknesses, you should pick a Pokémon that does not have a physical advantage over Fighting Pokémon.”

Mark nodded. “Sandslash?”

The pangolin Pokémon nodded back and came to Mark’s side. There was a reason he chose Sandslash: remembering Charmeleon coughing up blood at the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament, he wanted to use a Pokémon with considerable defensive abilities. He looked nervously at his Pokémon; Sandslash seemed fearless, which made him a bit more confident.

Meanwhile, Fury had taken off his backpack and opened it to reveal that that was where he kept his gloves and tunic. “I hope you don’t mind me battling tunic-less?” he asked, pulling on his gloves. “They only require it for official battles because some people don’t like to look at naked humanoids.” He chuckled slightly and looked at the kids; they just shook their heads.

“The gloves are necessary, though,” he explained with slight resentment as he adjusted them and examined them from all angles. “Without them slightly absorbing the force of the punch and spreading it around a larger area, Hitmonchan can smash skulls. Well, are we starting now?”

Whether Fury realized it or not (at least he had just started stretching as if nothing were more natural as he said the last sentence), the news about Hitmonchan smashing skulls was not the most comfortable Mark had ever received. He glanced at Fury’s thin and weak-looking arms, finding it very creepy that they could contain that kind of muscular power. Nonetheless, he reassured himself with the fact that at least Fury did have his gloves, and replied, “Yeah, sure.”

Fury nodded, smiling, and got into a defensive fighting stance, his keen eyes watching Sandslash closely.

“Earthquake!” Mark shouted, sensing that Fury was waiting for him to start. Sandslash rose to his hind legs and smashed himself powerfully back into the ground, releasing a flurry of shock waves through the earth. However, the moment before being hit, Fury suddenly leapt up. He then turned in mid-air, kicking into a tree to jump sideways at the pangolin with his fist pulled back. This was all too fast for Mark to work it out and blurt out a command in time, but thankfully Sandslash had faster reflexes and curled into a tight ball of spikes. Icy blue energy seemed to circle Fury’s glove for a fraction of a second before he smashed it into Mark’s Pokémon with enough force to send him flying right at Mark – he narrowly managed to duck – and into a tree while the Hitmonchan landed. When Sandslash uncurled and shook himself slightly before returning to his normal position, he thankfully didn’t look that hurt; Mark owed it to the timely Defense Curl.


Mark didn’t have time to issue an order; while Sandslash was waiting for him to finish his instructions, Fury caught him off guard with another Ice Punch in the gut. Sandslash flailed a bit as his vulnerable underbelly was covered with frost; the Hitmonchan grabbed the opportunity to punch him again in the jaw. Sandslash staggered painfully backwards and finally lost his balance and fell helplessly onto his back, blood trickling from his mouth.

Mark painfully recalled his Pokémon, feeling a bit embarrassed by how quickly and easily Fury had won the battle. He looked around and suddenly remembered his previous worries.

“Er,” he said, “I think I’m going to go look for Scyther now. I’m getting a bit anxious.”

May, who was getting ready for her battle, nodded; Alan just shrugged casually while his expression had a small hint of worry. Fury walked up to him and held out his hand, having taken that glove off.

“Goodbye, then.”

“Yeah, bye,” Mark replied. “Thanks for the battle and all.”

“You’re too slow,” Fury suddenly said.

“Huh?” Mark asked, a bit surprised by the abrupt announcement.

“You’re too slow,” Fury repeated. “It’s what made you lose. Your Pokémon battle better without you than with; they have to wait for you to tell them an order or act of their own accord. You’re too slow making the orders.”

The words stung. In essence, Mark knew that; ever since he started his journey, he had felt slightly embarrassed by how long it usually took him to think of an attack. However, having that broken down to him by somebody else was another thing entirely, and it was a bit painful.

“You have potential,” Fury started again, looking into Mark’s eyes. “While you aren’t born with the reflexes and thought speed for a master trainer, your Pokémon stick with you. I don’t know you enough to be able to tell why that is, but something is there – perhaps you know. Don’t try to battle with a talent you don’t have. Change your strategy to bring your true abilities to use.”

Mark stared at him, feeling oddly numb. “Thanks,” he muttered. “I will.”

Fury turned, giving him a perhaps slightly too powerful pat on the back. “Good luck,” he said and walked back over to face May. Mark waved doubtfully and headed into the forest alone.


Scyther wasn’t too far away. Mark was surprised by how quickly he caught a glimpse of glossy yellow wings between some trees.

He stepped off the road and almost immediately got his leg tangled in the undergrowth. While attempting to get himself free, he shouted, “Scyther!”

The mantis turned around suspiciously quickly and hid his scythes behind his back. As Mark untangled himself, he walked slowly nearer, feeling a bit uneasy.

“What are you hiding?” he asked doubtfully, looking at his Pokémon. That kind of pose was laughably awkward for a Scyther. As he heard no answer, he suspiciously came even closer and tried to walk around the mantis; Scyther turned along with him so his blades were kept out of view. By turning left suddenly enough, Mark managed to catch a glimpse of something red.

He immediately froze, feeling suddenly cold as the color drained from his face. His heartbeats doubled in speed within seconds as he looked frantically around. In between the branches of the bush right behind Scyther, he saw something white.

A shoe.

The world seemed to stop as Mark’s vision faded to reddish black; his brain protested with dizziness like the world around him was being sucked into a black hole, and he felt like he was about to faint. This horrible state lasted for an eternity of a second.

“Scyther, you… you killed someone,” Mark said weakly when the world had more or less returned to normal, backing away slightly.

“No,” Scyther said in his usual, calm voice.

Mark raised himself up with an expression of horror and disgust, his legs trembling like jelly in an earthquake. “Don’t lie to me,” he said shakily. “There’s a body. You’ve got… you’ve got blood on your…”

“He’s not dead,” Scyther said coolly.

What do you mean, he’s not dead?” Mark screamed, explosive anger taking over his mind. How dare he be so calm, how dare he use that voice…

“He’s not dead yet. I’m letting him bleed to death. Mark, listen to me.”

“Why would I listen to you?” Mark shouted back. “Why are you killing him? Who is that, anyway?”

“It’s Scizor’s trainer,” Scyther spat with utmost loathing.

Suddenly, a wave of understanding washed over Mark. He felt a little bit calmer; squeezing his eyes shut, he replied, “Even though it’s Scizor’s trainer, it’s no excuse to kill him. We need to get an ambulance now. I think May has a cellphone, we need to go and borrow…”

“Do we have to?” Scyther interrupted. These four words shattered everything that was left of Mark’s former view of Scyther to pieces.

“Yes, we have to,” Mark said, trying to keep calm.

Scyther sighed deeply. “You don’t understand, do you? I just saw him as I was returning to you, and I – I had to…”

“You didn’t ‘have to’!” Mark snapped. “You’re an idiot! Do you even realize what you’ve done? This is an attempted murder by a trained Pokémon! It breaks the Agreement! It’s…”

“I never meant to get you into trouble,” Scyther said. “I didn’t think that far.”

“You’re the one who needs to understand, you know,” Mark said heatedly. “You don’t kill people, no matter how much you hate them. That’s not how it works with humans. Now come into your ball so I can go get May’s cellphone; we’re wasting way too much time here and the guy is dying.” Mark cringed and swallowed as he glanced nervously at the shoe.

“That won’t work,” Scyther said slowly, first now bringing his blood-stained scythes into view. “You will have to lie about what really happened, and your story will be very hard to believe while you’re carrying a Pokémon with the victim’s blood on his scythes.”

Mark paused. “Hurry and wash up, then… I’ll wait here.” He immediately had doubts about his suggestion, fearing that somebody might come across the body with him standing there like an idiot beside it, so he added, “Well, maybe I should come with you.”

Again, he had doubts after making that suggestion. The obvious place to go would be the pond they had spent the night by, but did he really want May and Alan to know the truth either? And what if Fury was still there? They’d have to look for another spring or something, and meanwhile the trainer was bleeding.

“I know the best thing to do,” Scyther said, interrupting Mark’s thoughts. He looked sceptically at the mantis.

“I wash my scythes, and then I come back and wait here. You go to where May is and make that call. Tell them he was attacked by some wild Sneasel – they sometimes attack in the morning even though they’re mostly around at night, and they sometimes let their victims die slowly. Wait there until they come, take them here and tell them you left me with him to make sure the Sneasel wouldn’t finish him off.”

Mark almost laughed. “And leave you here conveniently alone with somebody you’ve just been attempting to murder? Nice try, Scyther.”

The mantis took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “I am not selfish enough to kill him when it is so important to you that I don’t,” he said quietly, clearly pained by what he was saying. “Now go, if you are so bent on letting him live.”

Mark stared at Scyther for a few seconds, racking his brain for any other possible solution but to his horror not finding one.

“Would you really keep that promise?” he asked softly.

“I don’t make promises,” Scyther simply said.

Mark stared at him with helpless terror, his mind blank. After all, had Scyther ever given him a real reason not to trust his words?

In some moment of foolishness, Mark turned around and sped back onto the road.

Man, the way Scyther acts in this chapter is just so bizarre. I wrote the damn thing and I really can't tell what on earth is going on in his head.

Also why does Mark feel in any way better about this knowing it's the trainer of the Scizor i.e. the guy who stood up to yell when Scyther tried to kill his Pokémon. Why with people just not acting like people.

Love Fury just casually roasting Mark over his lackluster battling ability, though. Delightful.


A cat that writes stories.
  1. custom/purrloin-salem
  2. custom/sneasel-dusk
  3. custom/luz-companion
  4. custom/brisa-companion
  5. custom/meowth-laura
  6. custom/delphox-jesse
  7. mewtwo
Howdy, Free! Time to churn out a bunch of chapter commentary for that final Blacklight logging rush. I know you've appreciated my liveblogging on vc and such, but I hope this'll be entertaining in text form. Off we go~

Introduction / Prologue
I like how you've filled up much of the opening to this fic with substaatial descriptions of mewthings, but then exercise exceptional brevity for Chalenor, a fanmon of note who really ought to have more than he gets. Oops! Fortunately this work is a collab between Dragonfree (child) and Dragonfree (adult) so you have the splendid illustration to provide what the prose doesn't. It's lovely, as is every single piece of chapter art you've produced. Anyway we're hitting a grimdark note immediately, nice one.

Chapter 1: The Pokémon on the Road
Poor charmander! A classic situation for his species. He turns out to be a charming little dude, and the 'ultimatum' they deliver together is adorably absurd. I'm fascinated as to why there's a no-'mon zone, and why Charmander isn't bothered. That one teacher has Snape energy.

Chapter 2: The Book
Can't believe this chapter is twice as long as usual because of the procedure of getting Mark to read a book a certain way. Why is this so complicated? I know you already explained, but please just Mark buddy can you just already know about local gods? Especially the one whose regularly appearances are the subject of a nearby tourist trap? Big lmfao at Mewtwo Two and at regular Mewtwo offering comment on this to reporters.

I particularly love that there are so fucking many of them, and that there's all this lore justifying how the dragons all fucking hate each other, goddamn. So many motherfucking legends at once, wow. I liked how the distinct personalities and biomes and elemental types corresponded for each dragon in a fairly memorable way. I also thought the elemental autocracy portmanteau naming theme for the horses was pretty neat. Definitely have Mark already own (or at least regularly loan) and treasure the Great Book from childhood in the eventual Real Rewrite.

Chapter 3: Vuiiii!
Eevee! What was chasing them? Whenever something is Mysterious ™️ in this fic I can't help but wonder if it'll get dropped forever or get answered someday. I figure the POV switch is too big. Surely their pursuer was important. Pretty strange to see the contrasting vibes of like, ownership and capture, versus Charmander being a li'l dude, a friend, a talking guy. The vibe in Ch 1 wasn't as strong, since Mark guilted himself about it and because of the context.

Chapter 4: Cleanwater City
This was the one where Mark learns about the legendary gym leader, right? That's most of what I remember. Also shopping? Wild. I don't think I told you, but I thought the girl would be May at first and it really coloured my expectations lmao.

Chapter 5: The Lake of Purity
Some Wild battles in this one, wow. Three straight battles, and then the Gyarados encounter. Two new team-members. Lore. Intrigue. Violence. A human rival. Absolutely packed! Remarkable how much of an impression May leaves. Absolutely slaughters Mark. Was pretty hard to read Charmander suffering so much, and while it does have "young author has overpowered girl come and curbstomp the protag" energy, it's actually a great way to set her up for her later role, unironically. Like, she's memorable, and she's such a dick, but not so much that she's despicable. It makes sense that her ruthless competence would make mincemeat of Mark. And I wanna see him improve in response! Also holy shit, his team just got such an upgrade with that new addition. Pretty wild that we have possibly murderous gyarados alerting us to a murderous legendary. Sounds pretty whack. Surely legendaries aren't typically murderous. Right? :3
Chapter 29: Stormblade and Shadowdart


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Apologies for how long this has taken, I have been in Blacklight hell. Here's chapter 29, featuring... even more Scyther, what more could you possibly want

Content warning: another one with some poorly-handled suicide content, as well as discussion of self-harm.

Chapter 29: Stormblade and Shadowdart​


Mark couldn’t get over just how stupid he had been. Obviously Scyther would kill the trainer. Why was he even taking the paramedics there? He really didn’t know. Maybe he should be telling them he couldn’t remember where it was or something. Yeah, he really should.

But his legs walked on and his mouth stayed closed, even while the worry built up in his mind.

The past fifteen minutes or so had been a nightmare. First May had found it suspicious that some Sneasel would have not only been around but also not even been in a hurry to kill their prey at that time, and had wanted to ask endless questions while Mark gradually turned into a nervous wreck. When he finally got her to stop stalling and lend him her cellphone, he had first dialled the wrong number, and then the lady who answered the phone call had not understood him because he spoke too fast. Thankfully, only seconds passed from when he managed to make himself understandable and until two paramedics teleported there with an Abra, and he was now leading the way into the forest with the whole group to show them the victim.

“There?” Alan asked, pointing. Mark jumped, looking distractedly over in that direction; he could see Scyther there, seemingly fighting something. Mark’s first crazy thought was that the trainer had regained consciousness and they were having some sort of hand-to-hand fight about his life; however, he quickly realized that didn’t make any sense, nodded and hurried ahead to see what was going on.

What he saw when he entered the clearing was what he had least expected. The trainer, who had been moved more into the open, was still there, and meanwhile Scyther was fiercely fending off two black, catlike creatures with bladelike claws.

The Sneasel ran for it and disappeared into the forest as they realized they had been outnumbered. Scyther turned to the group of humans, his eyes expressionless; the paramedics hurried to the trainer with their yellow Psychic Pokémon and started to check him for signs of life.

“He’s alive,” one of the paramedics confirmed after checking his pulse. “It was lucky you came around and had the sense to leave your Pokémon here to guard him.”

Mark nodded.

“You may be contacted later for a report. Abra, Teleport!”

The yellow Pokémon yawned and stretched out its clawed limbs as the paramedics each placed a hand on the brown armour on its shoulders, also holding the trainer’s hands. Then all four of them disappeared.

“Well,” May said after a few moments of silence, “nothing more to see here. Stormy Town is that way.”

And she strode back towards the road, Alan quickly following behind her.

“Why did you move him?” Mark asked Scyther quietly as they walked after the others.

“I realized it wouldn’t look very convincing that some Sneasel would drag him into a bush after bringing him down but before killing him,” Scyther replied simply. Mark shuddered yet again at how calmly and casually the mantis talked about the incident.

“Why were those Sneasel there, anyway?”

“Attracted by the smell of blood.”

Mark wondered for a split second if it was a good idea to ask, but went ahead: “May said Sneasel are never around this late in the morning.”

Scyther smiled faintly. “The ones in Ruxido hunt later than most other Sneasel because many of the Pokémon they eat here first turn up in the morning. I know; I lived here when I was wild.”

Mark looked at him, surprised. “You did?”

Scyther nodded, looking fondly around at the trees. “I wonder…” he started like he was thinking aloud, but never finished the sentence. They walked on in silence for a little while.

All of a sudden, Scyther started to laugh. It immediately took the prize of the creepiest sound Mark had ever heard; perhaps it was some ancient instinct that made it so chilling, but it sent a cold shiver down his spine.

“That was the last one,” Scyther said and chuckled some more, in a way more ironic than amused.

“The last… what?”

Scyther turned to Mark with a crazed smile. “Remember ‘Death is not to be feared’? The first rule of Scyther ethics?”

Mark nodded.

“There are five,” Scyther said quietly. “And I’ve broken them all now.”

“What?” Mark asked, confused.

“Ever since that duel… Ever since she beat me, I’ve been breaking them one after another. The one I had yet to break before now was not to inflict unnecessary pain… but now I have.”

He giggled insanely with an odd expression for a second; then he suddenly stopped and jerked his scythe up to his throat. The blade trembled for a few seconds as the mantis Pokémon gritted his teeth. “I’m pathetic, pathetic, pathetic…”

Finally, Scyther lowered his scythe and sighed. He looked at it for a second. “Only rule I’ve followed to this day is keeping them sharp.”

“That’s a rule too?” Mark asked, still a bit wary in case Scyther decided to attempt to cut his head off again. The mantis nodded.

“Yes. It’s included in the one about no unnecessary pain, actually. A blunt blade hurts more than a sharp one.”

Mark didn’t reply as he figured Scyther might not want to dwell on the subject, but the Pokémon continued of his own accord:

“I sharpen them every day. I’m proud of them. I sharpen them until they don’t hurt anymore.”

“Until they…?”

Scyther held his arm out in front of Mark; he was about to ask what that was for when he noticed a row of small cuts on the soft yellow upper arm.

“You… you test them on yourself?” Mark asked with a hint of disgust. Scyther shrugged.

“Nobody else to test them on.”

Suddenly, Scyther froze and looked quickly around.

“Scyther? What…” Mark was cut off by the buzzing of wings; he stepped slowly backwards as two green blurs approached and landed on the ground in front of Scyther, revealing themselves to be two other members of his species.

“Well, Razor, we never expected to see you again,” one of them said in a hoarse, deep voice. He was missing an eye, and the green armour on his body was strangely light, giving him an overall sort of faded, ‘withering away’ look. The other Scyther had a large chunk missing out of its left scythe, but was a very dark green compared to the others.

“Stormblade.” Scyther looked at the lighter one with a small nod and turned to the dark one. “Shadowdart…”

Mark looked confusedly at him; Shadowdart looked suspiciously at Mark.

“What is the human doing here?” He narrowed his eyes and looked sharply back at Mark’s Scyther, who hesitated. He seemed upset and alert.

“He’s… my friend.”

Shadowdart gave Mark a nasty glare before jerking his head back towards Scyther. “Your ‘friend’? Since when did you make human friends?”

“None of your business,” Scyther replied quietly.

Stormblade appeared not to like this subject and changed it. “Well, did you ever find Nightmare?” he asked.

Scyther nodded. Shadowdart didn’t object to the abrupt change of direction in the conversation, but looked at Mark every now and then.

“So how did it go?” Stormblade asked with interest.

Scyther swallowed, looking at the two other bugs, and then whispered, “She… She got caught…”

Shadowdart looked at Scyther with angry disbelief. “Caught?”

“How did that happen?” Stormblade asked slowly. “She was the fastest I’ve ever seen.”

“He caught her in her sleep,” Scyther said bitterly. Stormblade nodded absent-mindedly before suddenly looking sharply back at him.

“How would you know? Were you there?”

Scyther sighed and nodded, looking down. Stormblade’s expression changed to one of disdain.

“Then you didn’t do anything. You just watched.”

Scyther was very visibly uncomfortable, but simply sighed again, nodding.

“I thought I knew you,” Stormblade muttered, shaking his head. “I never thought you’d…”

“Screw that,” Shadowdart interrupted, looking at Mark once again. “What are you doing with the human?”

“He’s my trainer,” Scyther said after a short silence. Shadowdart snorted.

“You let a human stuff you into a ball? I thought you had some dignity. Then it’s probably true what they all say, that you begged for your life, too…”

“Don’t,” Stormblade warned. “You didn’t watch the duel. I did.”

“Fine,” Shadowdart spat, “then she was just weak. I bet both of you just sit there with your trainers now doing whatever you’re told, like little slaves under their…”


Scyther swung his scythe straight at Shadowdart’s face. For a second Mark thought he’d kill him, but Shadowdart quickly raised his own blade to block the blow. Scyther attacked faster and more fiercely than Mark had ever seen him, gritting his teeth as Shadowdart’s scythes clashed with his again and again. Finally slashing forward with both of his blades, Scyther stared murderously into the other’s eyes as Shadowdart blocked.

The two Scyther glared at each other while each pushed with all his might; finally they both leapt backwards and Shadowdart lowered his scythes.

“All right,” he said nastily. “Fine. Be a slave. You’re not worth duelling.”

Shadowdart looked at Mark again. “And your so-called trainer isn’t worth killing, either.”

With that, he took off and buzzed back into the depths of the forest. Stormblade looked doubtfully at Scyther, shaking his head before flying after the other bug.

“What was that?” Mark asked when they were out of sight.

“My friends,” Scyther sighed. “Only proves how worthless I’ve become.”

They walked on, not in a hurry to catch up with May and Alan. Mark hesitated a bit. “They called you Razor – is that your name?”

Scyther shook his head. “Pokémon don’t have names like humans, remember. We made those silly names up ourselves to use for each other. I’d prefer if you didn’t call me that – too many memories I’d rather not think of.” He paused for a second. “I do like calling her Nightmare, though,” he added softly. “Ironically fitting… but I can’t stand the thought of you calling her ‘Scizor’.”

Mark nodded. They silently kept going; Mark could see the sunlight between the trees and realized the forest’s exit was not far ahead.

“It’s funny, actually,” Scyther suddenly started. “Stormblade hasn’t changed one bit, but Shadowdart was always a wuss. He got scared easily. The day of his First Prey, he couldn’t face ending a life and it took him many, many failed attempts before he finally caught something he had the guts to kill. That was actually the same day as my fateful duel with Nightmare…” He trailed off.

“First Prey?” Mark asked.

“A kind of growing-up ritual,” Scyther explained shortly. “You go out on your first hunt and need to catch and kill something all by yourself, and once you’ve done that you’re officially an adult.”

He seemed to be thinking hard for a second. “I just don’t get it,” he muttered. “You saw that piece that was cut out of his scythe?”

Mark nodded.

“It was always our Leader’s trademark to cut a bit from those he defeated. This means Shadowdart has challenged him for leadership, but not just once – with that much cut out, it must be three, four, five times. He wants to be Leader.”

Scyther paused. “Damn it, where did all that determination come from?” he suddenly asked loudly with a hint of annoyance simply about the mystery itself. “Not Stormblade. He’s turned into Shadowdart’s toy…”

He sighed and shook his head. “I’ve changed too, but for the better. This is… I really have a bad feeling about this.”

They exited Ruxido into the glorious sunlight of Route 312, only to be greeted by an endless field of tall grass. May and Alan stood hopelessly in front of it.

“We might be able to get around it,” Mark heard May saying as they approached.

“Yeah, but it would take ages,” Alan argued. “It can’t be that bad to walk through…”

“Oh, hi,” May said as she turned around and saw them. “As you can see, this is a very annoying patch of grass.”

Mark stared out at it. “I can imagine.”

Scyther looked at the grass and just smiled before taking a step backwards and then zooming into it with his scythes aloft. Grass blades flew in all directions. Within a few minutes, he had cut down a clear path through all the grass and returned.

“Nice,” Alan said, raising his eyebrows and heading into the newly-cut path. May followed after him, and Mark came last.

“I haven’t done that in years,” Scyther recalled. “Fun, though, and harder than it looks. As soon as our scythes harden – they’re soft when we’re born – we start doing this for practice, all the way until our First Prey.”

“What is the First Prey thing like exactly?” Mark asked. He had always found this kind of thing interesting; wild Pokémon’s culture were something he wished there was more of at school.

Scyther shrugged. “They send you off, and two witnesses follow you to make sure you do it all by yourself. Then you just find something living, kill it, and bring it back to the swarm, eating it there and giving some to those you respect, which always includes the leader unless you plan to be banished. Usually we just catch small Pokémon like Rattata or Nidoran. The more ambitious head for bigger targets and greater glory.”

Mark nodded. “What did you catch?” he asked out of curiosity, wondering what kind of a target Scyther had headed for when he was younger.

“Well…” The mantis looked around, reluctant to answer. Mark looked at him with suspicion.

“You don’t want to know,” Scyther finally said quietly. Not sure if the hint was intentional, Mark felt a cold shiver run down his spine.

“Don’t tell me you…”

Scyther nodded without looking at Mark. He immediately felt sick.

“Why a human?” he mumbled.

“Why not?” Scyther whispered. “Do you think the Nidoran wouldn’t be horrified if I had caught one of them? And the Rattata upset if I had killed their offspring? We are all sentient, Mark… and none of us want to be killed deep down, no matter how many rules of your ethics tell you to be ready to face it.”

Mark said nothing. It still felt wrong, but in a way Scyther had a point. He shivered as he thought of all the Pokémon families that the mantis might have ruined, the children he might have left motherless, the eggs that cooled and died with nothing to warm them, all because he was a predator.

Scyther suddenly started to laugh again. “Isn’t this ironic? I could kill you. I could reach out with my arm and cut your head off if I wanted. But here we are talking like best mates…”

Mark didn’t particularly like this twist of the conversation, but Scyther didn’t notice; he was looking straight forward and muttering to himself.

“You know about the animal world?” he suddenly asked, looking back at Mark.


“The humans there were too powerful for their own good. They practically took over the world, and it… went to their heads. Because they had no natural enemies, they made other humans into enemies instead – those who were different in some way, lived in different places, looked different or had different customs. Of course, it all ended with their society going to hell. They went to wars, blew each other up and made the animal world into the radioactive wasteland it is now. Thankfully the portal between the worlds had been opened and refugees fled into the Pokémon world…”

Scyther stared ahead at the plains below as they started to walk downhill. Wild Pokémon were becoming less prominent in the area; it was clear that they were entering the Pokémon-devoid part of Ouen from the East. Mark had forgotten that Stormy Town was so close to Sailance; he looked with regret back towards Ruxido, so lively compared to the dull sand ahead.

“Of course, the animal world brought animals here,” Scyther added, snapping Mark away from the sight of Ruxido. “Pokémon are really made to eat each other. Animal meat such as humans doesn’t contain nearly the energy and nutrition that Pokémon need, and when Pokémon started teaming up with humans and fighting the predators, it simply wasn’t worth the bother to hunt them anymore. Since humans don’t even eat Pokémon anymore, having their farm animals, it was possible for this kind of inter-species co-operation to emerge. In the Pokémon world, both humans and Pokémon evolved differently from how the humans did in the animal world. The presence of a technical threat – some sort of a Pokémon revolution – brings more unity among the humans, and trained Pokémon are the glue that ties both species together, because they are loyal to some portion of both sides. It works out, so strangely perfectly.”

Scyther nodded absent-mindedly to himself and then turned back to the uncomfortable subject of earlier: “Are you really never afraid of me, even though I’ve both threatened you and almost killed you?”

“Not… not really,” Mark muttered. “Well, when it happens I am, of course, but…”

The mantis chuckled. “It’s a good thing. A perfect example of the kind of ridiculous trust between humans and Pokémon who have been together for a little while. The species could as well fuse into one by now. If this development continues, all trainers will be like Rob in ten years. Pokémon will be viewed exactly like human friends. Perhaps Pokémon training will even be stopped; it’s not even needed anymore to connect us. We are as one.”

Mark listened, but said nothing; Scyther didn’t appear to mind, and in fact it looked like he had mostly been wondering aloud without expecting an answer. They were all distracted from this conversation as the sight of Stormy Town came into view; scattered buildings that looked depressingly deserted formed an irregular area around a large neon pink, blue and yellow brick-shaped building in the middle. Black thunderclouds loomed over the town and the mountains to its northwest, producing an occasional flash of lightning and thunder.

“Let’s hurry up,” Alan suggested as the first drops of rain wetted their clothes. Mark quickly recalled Scyther and they ran down the last hill.


By coincidence, Mark happened to glance at the shadow under a large rock near the road to Stormy Town. He stopped.

“What was that?”

May came over and looked. “What?”

“I just thought I saw something,” Mark muttered, still staring into the shadow. “Like red eyes…”

“You must be seeing things,” she just said. Mark shrugged and turned around.

May stared into the shadow for a few seconds before finally shaking her head and running to catch up with the boys.


Scyther continues to be unbelievably melodramatic, while Mark barely reacts to any of it, and it's kind of hilarious.

We also continue to have characters randomly start infodumping about the animal world at random moments. The animal world is not even important; I just thought this worldbuilding was cool and wanted to tell you about it. I'm sorry.

This is one of the places where somehow, this revision made the chapter worse than it was in the original - originally, there was a bit more about Scyther's worldview and culture, the kind of interesting stuff, and a lot less of him just being incredibly melodramatic and feeling very sorry for himself. Alas.
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Chapter 30: The Dragons of Ouen


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Chapter 30 time! In which Scyther gets drunk, we meet everyone's favorite gym leader, and we try to raise the stakes further, because saving the world isn't urgent enough.

Chapter 30: The Dragons of Ouen​


Stormy Town had once been a normal town that happened to have somewhat frequent thunderstorms. It had been lively and populated as shown when its formerly unofficial gym was given official status. ‘Stormy Town’ had in fact only been a sort of nickname affectionately given to it by its resident gym leader.

However, around twenty years before the three soaked kids made their way towards the flickering neon lettering they could just barely read through the thick sheet of rain as “P.C.”, the thunderstorms had begun to get more frequent. No one had been able to explain why. Scientists had claimed that it was just a period that would pass, but it never did, and as the city only got fewer and fewer hours of calm weather, the inhabitants had eventually given up. They had started referring to it as Stormy Town themselves, the rest of Ouen following. Many had moved away; a few had stayed but more or less stopped going outside. The Pokémon League had offered to move the gym’s badge elsewhere, but the leader had promptly refused, saying that he would stay loyal to his city forever as long as the lightning did not strike him. He and later his son had fought to let the town keep its city rights, and the son had gotten Nurse Joy of Stormy Town to team up with him. Gradually the two of them had then taken over all services in the city. But despite their attempts, Stormy Town was now only visited by trainers who got their badges and then left as quickly as they could. The sad fact was that Stormy Town was dying.

Bells chimed as the door to the small Pokémon Center burst open and Mark, May and Alan quickly squeezed themselves into the warmly lit room despite that the desk by the opposite wall was abandoned. The door closed behind them as Mark threw himself panting into a red sofa, appreciating the pink Pokémon Center carpet like he never had before. Alan and May sat down too as the bell chiming died away, leaving the rain’s beating on the windows, the distant thunder and the kids’ breathing as the only sound in the room.

“Good evening,” came a soft, polite voice. Mark looked up, eying the face of a red-haired nurse as she closed a door to a back room quietly and walked behind the desk. She gave a small bow. “Would you like me to heal your Pokémon?”

Mark felt too exhausted to stand up, so as May and Alan prepared to hand theirs over, he simply detached his minimized Pokéballs from his belt and gave them to May. She rolled her eyes but didn’t object.

After putting the Pokéballs into the healing machine, Nurse Joy sighed. “This building is in bad shape. Soon we’ll have to move the Pokémon Center services into the gym too…”

Mark nodded, not sure how to answer. May did not appear to be listening; she was raising her eyebrow at an advertising poster of some sort for the Stormy Town Gym, which bore the caption ‘LET THE SPARK OF YOUR MIND LEAD YOU THROUGH A SHOCKING EXPERIENCE’.

“Well, either way,” Nurse Joy went on, “the gym has free accommodation for trainers if you’re looking for that, and also a rather cheap restaurant. Sparky is a lovely cook.”

May snorted. “The gym leader’s name is Sparky and he trains Electric Pokémon?”

The nurse giggled. “He sees the humour in it. He’s quite an odd fellow, but you’ll like him. Everybody does.”

May didn’t look convinced, but Alan ignored her, standing up. “Well, it’s more or less dinnertime, so we should probably head over to the gym, shouldn’t we?”


The gym was an extremely lively building and in such contrast with the look of the rest of the town that it almost seemed like a spaceship or gateway into another, happier world; the outside was painted in neon pink and blue while warm yellow light flooded through the large windows on the many floors. Of course, given how depressing Stormy Town was overall, something to cheer it up had to be a good thing, even if it was a bit extreme.

The pink tiled floor made a slight squashy sound as the kids stepped on it and the automatic door closed behind them. Mark eyed a large door just ahead of them, set with navy blue letters that said, “CAUTION: BATTLE ARENA – DO NOT ENTER WHILE A BATTLE IS TAKING PLACE.”

“Are you looking for food or just hurrying to battle and get out of here?”

A short, thin man was walking down a staircase to the right while looking at them through stylish silver shades, wearing a blue T-shirt and shorts. The short electric blue wavy hair and small blue goatee looked dyed, but Mark wasn’t quite sure. A gleeful, friendly expression filled his young face.

“Food for now,” Alan replied. “Sparky, right?”

The man smiled. “Who else could it be?” His voice was the kind that seemed to constantly sound like he was in an internal laughing fit of some sort. “So are you going to battle later, or just coming to say hi?”

“Maybe tomorrow?” Mark suggested, looking forward to getting to bed. May shrugged.

“Tomorrow, why not,” Sparky replied cheerfully. “Shouldn’t you change your clothes, though?”

“Eh, right,” Mark muttered, looking down at his waterlogged jeans. Alan nodded too. May merely gave a “Mmmh.”

Sparky smiled. “Follow me,” he said, turning back towards the staircase he just came down.


“Well, that guy was creepy.”

“Creepy?” Mark asked. “Maybe a bit weird, but not creepy.”

“He’s creepily weird,” May insisted.

“I found him nice,” Alan just said, shrugging.

They were walking back down the stairs from their rooms after changing. Sparky seemed to have disappeared for the moment, but when they came back into the entrance hall they caught a glimpse of him behind a half-closed door marked “RESTAURANT” at the other end of the room and hurried into it.

Mark was surprised by the sudden change of atmosphere; the restaurant was rather dimly lit and cozy, with wooden furniture and not so much as a speck of the neon colors of the main gym. Even Sparky himself had put a white chef’s hat on his head and taken down his shades.

“Sit down,” he offered, pointing them to a table by the right wall and reaching for a small notebook on a counter in the corner. “Would your Pokémon like to have something too? As long as they fit in here, of course,” he added. “You’ll get their food free – Pokémon aren’t very picky in my experience.”

“Eh… our Pokémon?” Mark asked as he sat down. “Do Pokémon usually eat at restaurants?”

Sparky smiled. “Usually not, but we can always make exceptions, can’t we? Especially since you’re the first staying guests in quite a while. Most trainers come here and run off as soon as possible like they fear being struck by lightning.” He giggled, like the notion of being struck by lightning in Stormy Town was absurd.

“Um… All right.” Mark sent out all his Pokémon except Gyarados, shortly followed by Alan and then May. They quickly explained what was going on, but when it came to ordering, the Pokémon doubtfully asked for either raw meat or raw salad with nothing, the only exception being Scyther, who sat uninvited down on the chair beside Mark and ordered beer.

Sparky raised his eyebrows. “Are you quite sure?”

“I’m used to it,” Scyther just said.

“And how are you planning to hold the glass, if I may be so bold?” Sparky asked, his eyes twinkling in amusement.

“If you’ve got a large bowl or something… I’d like a lot of it.”

“I see,” Sparky replied, scribbling it down. May and Alan both looked at Mark, who merely answered with a freaked-out expression, having no idea what to say.

“Well, your food will be ready soon,” Sparky said, looking over them again and disappearing into the kitchen.

It wasn’t long before the gym leader returned with the drinks for the kids and then what looked like a big kitchen pot, putting it in front of Scyther.

“Don’t drink too much of it all at once,” he said cheerfully before walking back into the kitchen.

May and Alan stared at the pot; Mark subtly peeked into it to see it was around three-quarters full of a golden, fizzy drink. Scyther smelled it and smiled before plunging his whole head into it. Mark jumped, edging slightly further away from Scyther in his seat.

“What the hell were you thinking?” May hissed at Mark, leaning forward across the table. “You should have stopped him from ordering it!”

Mark glanced anxiously at Scyther, who still had his head completely subdued. “I just didn’t know how… And Scyther is used to that stuff, isn’t he?”

The mantis’ head emerged from the pot; he shook his head, sending droplets of beer flying at the kids. May moved backwards from the table in disgust.

“Refreshing,” Scyther mumbled. Mark looked at him; the Pokémon’s eyes had already lost some of their normal alertness, which was slightly worrying. Scyther’s head dropped back into the pot.

When he came out again, he was actually getting slightly cross-eyed. “This reminds me of back when Rob and I used to go to the Gamesharked Skarmory. Great place, that… Crunchy… Caterpie…”

He reached dizzily out with his scythe in a much too careless manner, coming very close to knocking down a candle. The mantis didn’t appear to notice this, continuing to lap up the drink for a second before looking at Mark.

“Love is fake,” he announced randomly. “It’s all just a bunch of hormones that want you to have sex and kids. Sickle was nice, but love… it’s not.”

The mantis closed his eyes. “Mmm… delightful. If you want a piece of advice from an adult, kids, don’t ever fall in love. Not worth it. Yes, very enjoyable… killing is kinda fun when you’ve been doing it for your whole life, you know…”

“Scyther, you’re drunk,” May said bluntly.

Scyther looked stupidly at her for a few seconds. “Whatever,” he then mumbled and collapsed on the table.

“Oh dear,” Sparky said, entering the room with the kids’ food. “I guess Pokémon are rather sensitive to alcohol. One more lesson in running restaurants, isn’t it?”

He turned to Mark as he gently laid the plates down on the table. “If I were you, I’d recall him.”

Mark nodded and touched Scyther with his Pokéball to absorb him in, feeling slightly guilty for letting this happen. He mentally smacked himself. Stop being so responsible… It’s his problem.

Scyther still stayed at the front of his mind during dinner.


Mark decided to let Jolteon, Sandslash, Leta and Dragonair sleep outside their Pokéballs. Jolteon curled up on the end of the bed and Leta followed suit; Dragonair and Sandslash curled up on the floor.

He lay down in the bed, pulled the blanket over him and was quickly fast asleep.


Mark stood in the grass outside Green Town, people counting down all around him. All of a sudden, Chaletwo’s grayish shape stood in the middle. Two immeasurably bright eyes opened and the world turned black as horrible pain took over him…


Jolteon knew he was unbeatable. He wouldn’t have to worry about the Dugtrio and its menacing three heads, glaring evilly at him with six small eyes.

The heads started moving up and down, gaining speed until the ground trembled. Jolteon suddenly felt weak and powerless against it and his eyes hopelessly snapped open. He blinked, discovering that the earthquake had only been the movement of the blanket as Mark flailed around and mumbled in his sleep. Jolteon looked at Leta; she had not noticed it and was still fast asleep. He quietly stood up as his trainer stopped moving, tiptoed over to his head and gently touched his forehead; it was cold and sweaty.

Jolteon stroked his fur against Mark’s hand, hoping to give him some comfort. He was soon fast asleep again.


Chaletwo’s eyes slowly shut again as the pain faded away. The colors of the world returned to normal, but they were no longer outside Green Town, but on top of the mountain above Stormy Town. Black clouds loomed over them, releasing bolts of lightning every now and then that lit up the town far below.

Chaletwo stared down at the city, his expression showing fear and regret, bordering on despair.

“I sense power,” said his telepathic voice emptily.

“The thunderstorm?” Mark said as Chaletwo showed no sign of being about to continue. The legendary shook his head.

“No… It is a Pokémon’s power. But yes, it is what is behind this thunderstorm.”

“Raikou? Zapdos?” Mark suggested.

“Rick has them captured,” Chaletwo replied, still staring down at the town.

“What is it then?”

“It could only be a Pokémon nobody knows exists,” Chaletwo said softly. Mark was about to say something when the legendary added in a whisper, “It’s Thunderyu, the first Dragon of Ouen.”

“So you know it?” Mark asked blankly.

“Of course I know, I created it!” Chaletwo suddenly snapped, looking at Mark.

“Er…” Mark paused. “What?”

Chaletwo sighed. “I was naïve. Way back when Mew and I were creating the Pokémon, Mew wanted to create all the legendaries… and I thought it was unfair.”

The legendary shook his head hatefully. “Kanto, Johto and Hoenn all had three elemental legendaries… so I made three for Ouen on my own, three dragons who loathed each other more than they loved life itself. I sealed them away and put them into a deep sleep where Mew could not find them, and intended to bring them out later and show Mew that I could create and be in control… that I could do it all just as well as Mew. But I grew up and never woke them up, and in all the hassle about preventing the War of the Legends, I forgot that my powers that were keeping them asleep were fading. As soon as they are fully conscious, they will break out of their chambers and do whatever it takes to destroy each other.”

Chaletwo looked down at the mountain they were standing on. “Thunderyu is right under our feet, and he is waking up. And there is no way we can reach him until he breaks out.”

He looked at Mark again. “Ouen is in grave danger.”

I'm sure you all wanted to see a drunk Scyther rambling about his sex life. My fifteen-year-old self gleefully provides.

Anyway, MOAR DRAGONS (who also hate each other), because the six I already had weren't enough! And the deadline of the world ending wasn't enough either; I needed these three new specific legendaries that are going to wake up Soon(tm) and cause abject destruction, so they need to get those specific ones quickly. How quickly? loud shrug
Chapter 31: Spirit


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Time for chapter 31, wherein we get a random lengthy filler battle followed by a plot twist I thought up before I started this revision.

Chapter 31: Spirit​


Mark blinked, not sure where he was. He stared into the white ceiling for a few seconds while hearing the thunderstorm roar outside, and slowly remembered the events of the previous day.

Chaletwo broke into my dream, he then realized. I have… I have three more legendary Pokémon to catch…

He stroked over his face with his right hand, finding that he was a bit sweaty. He sleepily reached for his digital watch on the bedside table and looked at it; it was ten AM on the ninth of June.

Ninth of June.

He had turned twelve a few hours ago.

He blinked again. Twelve. He had looked forward to turning twelve. It was a much nicer number than eleven, somehow. Now he’d have to remember to answer twelve when asked about his age.

Of course, the nice, pleasant birthday thoughts didn’t take long to turn into Perhaps I’ll never live to be thirteen. He shook it off, quietly sat up and got dressed before waking his Pokémon up.

There was a knock on his door. “Mark? We should train for the gym a bit, shouldn’t we? I’m going, at least, and Alan is tagging along – if you want to come, then come now.”

“Yeah, I’m coming,” Mark called back and recalled his Pokémon. He took out his Pokédex and switched Scyther to the computer; the mantis was still slightly ahead of his other Pokémon in level, and it might be good to let him rest after yesterday, anyway.

He walked up to the door and opened it to find both May and Alan outside.

“Slow,” May muttered as they walked along the corridor and down the stairs to the entrance.

Outside, the weather had gotten somewhat better since yesterday – it was not raining as much, although the clouds still loomed in the sky and released occasional bolts of lightning. Perhaps Thunderyu is sleeping more soundly now, he figured, soon afterwards realizing that May and Alan didn’t know about his dream.

“Um… Chaletwo sorta… broke into my dream last night,” he muttered as they were coming close to Ruxido. A small stream flowed in soft bends out of the forest close by.

May turned around and raised an eyebrow. “He ‘sorta’ broke into your dream? Did he or didn’t he?”

Mark gritted his teeth. “Either that or he woke me up and teleported me up on that mountain over there in my pajamas in the middle of the night.” To emphasize his point, he pointed frustratedly to the mountain, which he was quick to recognize as definitely the same mountain as the one in the dream. He could almost feel Thunderyu nearly conscious in some hidden chamber deep inside the rock. He shivered.

May shrugged. “Well, if all you wanted to tell us was that Chaletwo took you on an imaginary mountain hike…”

“It’s not all I wanted to tell you!” Mark shouted. “Will you just listen to me?”

“Then what…” May couldn’t finish the sentence; Alan elbowed her very hard with a just-shut-up sideways glance before she could finish it. She trod down on his foot without looking at him.

“So, er… what did Chaletwo say?” Alan asked in a pained voice, making no attempt to get her off his feet.

Mark stared at them. “Um, he just told me there are three crazy dragons added to all those insanely many legendaries I have to try to catch somehow.”

They blinked.

“More?” May asked. “What the heck? Weren’t you already supposed to catch all the legendaries?”

Mark wasn’t sure whether to tell them the whole story of the creation of the dragons; something told him not to, and he had a distinct suspicion that this something was Chaletwo’s doing. Going around the truth, he said, “Well, basically, he thought those were already taken care of, but they weren’t.”

May’s left eyebrow ascended on her forehead. “Umm… so… where are those new legendaries of yours? Does Chaletwo even know?”

“One is inside that mountain over there,” Mark said and pointed. “Supposedly it’s what’s causing the thunderstorms here.”

“In Thunderclap Cave?” Alan asked curiously. “My dad went there with some scientists to research the cause of the storm, but their sensors didn’t find any signs of a powerful Electric Pokémon.”

“Thunderyu has been closed away sleeping in a chamber that only my eyes can see for nearly a thousand years,” Chaletwo’s telepathic voice said before Mark could reply. “To any other sensors, he is invisible. Thunderyu will most likely break from his chamber into Thunderclap Cave once he is fully conscious, and then crawl out of it and find the other dragons. We will have to be ready to meet him when he comes.”

Alan blinked. “When should this happen?”

“Soon,” Chaletwo sighed. “Very soon…”

“Why don’t we just break in and take Thunderyu while it’s still half-conscious?” May suggested.

“The chambers are made so that only the dragons themselves can break out of them.” In a spiteful tone, Chaletwo added privately to Mark, “I was too ingenious when I was young.”

Mark suddenly thought, you’re keeping them asleep, right? Can’t you lift it off for example Thunderyu, and then you’ll have more energy to keep the others sleeping?

“Mark just had a good idea,”
Chaletwo said quickly to all of them. “I can wake them up one at a time, you can fight them, and then the others will sleep longer.”

May looked skeptically at Mark and frowned. “That doesn’t make sense,” she said. “Why would the others sleep longer if one is awake?”

Chaletwo sighed. “Don’t you think I know it better than you?” he said grumpily.

May raised an eyebrow and glanced suspiciously at Mark, but didn’t ask. He was very relieved.

“Still,” Chaletwo added, “it’s not a good idea to fight Thunderyu immediately. He is too powerful. You should have time to train your Pokémon some.”

“You know, Chaletwo,” May said slowly, “why don’t you just Death Stare them? That way we’re rid of them for good in just a few seconds, without having to put ourselves or our Pokémon in danger. Sounds like a much better idea if you ask me. I get why you wouldn’t want to kill the other legendaries in cold blood, I mean, they’re actual people and you’ve probably known them for a while, but hasn’t this Thunderyu guy just been stuck inside a mountain sleeping for a thousand years? Nobody can be very personally attached to him, he probably doesn’t even understand what’s going on, and we’re talking about saving the world.”

There was a very long silence. May folded her arms; Alan looked shocked.

“I… they… I couldn’t…” Chaletwo said shakily after a long while. “I mean… I’ve gotten weaker.” Then his voice died down.

Mark got another very skeptical look from May, but she still did not say anything.

“Chaletwo?” Mark asked carefully, but got no answer.

May shrugged. “Well, if we have to do things the hard way, he told us to train, didn’t he? Sounds like a good idea to me.”

Still a bit worried, Mark nodded and looked anxiously at his Pokéballs as if worried that one of them had disappeared. He shook his head at himself.

“Um… is there anything I can help you with?” asked a hesitant voice. Mark jerked his head upwards and saw a young man of maybe nineteen or twenty approaching them along with two bipedal Pokémon that resembled strange hybrids of rodents and reptiles. One of them was a purple, masculine Nidoking with a long, pointed horn; the other was a more feminine-looking blue Nidoqueen.

“What? Help? No. Why?” May asked.

The man shrugged. “Well, my Pokémon noticed something although they aren’t sure what exactly it was, and when I went to check on it, you looked a bit upset for a second.”

Mark looked at him. “We’re fine, but are you a Pokémon trainer? We were about to train for the gym. A battle would be nice, if you have the time.”

“Sure,” the man said, digging into his pocket and taking out a few Pokéballs.

“Wait a minute,” May interrupted, “either you’re seriously overgrown or you’re several years older than him. How strong are your Pokémon?”

Mark felt stupid not to have considered that, but the man shook his head. “I’m studying to be a breeder. I don’t really battle a lot, so they’re just level forty-ish. Four on four?”

Mark nodded and walked a few steps away to leave room for the Pokémon to act. “Go, Sandslash!” he shouted and threw forward a Pokéball which burst open and sent out his pangolin Pokémon.

“Oh, yeah, and my name is Dan,” the man added with a slight smile, looking at the Pokéballs in his palm and picking one. “Go, Lanturn!”

He threw the ball and it popped open just above the surface of the stream, sending out a blue anglerfish Pokémon with a yellow mask around its eyes. The natural fishing rod extending from its head had a yellow bulb at the end of it.

Mark looked at it and narrowed his eyes. This would be rather difficult for Sandslash if he didn’t want to get wet; Earthquake’s ripples would not affect it through the water, and other than that, Sandslash only really knew Slash and maybe Poison Sting. Defense Curl. Something like that. None of it would be of much help without taking risks.

Oh well. He was feeling brave on his birthday.

“Sandslash, I know it sounds crazy, but jump into the water and try to get a Poison Sting in.”

“Lanturn, don’t let him get you!” Dan quickly countered as Sandslash rushed towards the stream and dived in without question. He gasped for air and it suddenly dawned on to Mark how loyal Sandslash always was. He couldn’t ever recall him disobeying a command, no matter how much he could get hurt. He felt a little bit guilty; did Sandslash really have a reason to trust him so much? He watched as Sandslash attempted to swim, but Lanturn was much faster and avoided him fairly easily while he tried to attack.

“Spark,” Dan said simply, and in an instant the stream was filled with showers of electric sparks. Sandslash screamed somewhere in the middle of it all; he may have been a Ground type, but in the water he was still vulnerable to electricity.

“Get out of there!” Mark shouted in a panic, but then he heard the Lanturn screech and saw that somehow, Sandslash had managed to stab a claw into the fish’s body. A few drops of purple fluid were dissolving into the water while Sandslash desperately climbed back onto the bank, cold and shivering.

“Water Gun!” Dan ordered, and the Lanturn, after shutting its eyes briefly in pain as the poison hurt it, raised its head above the surface of the water and squirted a stream of water from its mouth at the weak pangolin Pokémon. Sandslash shut his eyes and allowed his consciousness to drift away. There was nothing Mark could do.

He paused. “Err, go, Jolteon.”

Mark’s own Electric Pokémon let out a battle cry as he materialized from his Pokéball on the ground. He crouched down and watched the fish Pokémon carefully, charging up electricity in his fur, and then, without an order, released a bolt of lightning at Lanturn.

Mark didn’t have anything against this turn of events; he had been planning to do that anyway. However, the fish did not seem hurt at all by the jolt of electricity – if anything, it looked healthier than before – which was very puzzling.

Jolteon looked with annoyance at the Lanturn and did the same again, equally unsuccessful at hurting it.

Dan smirked. “Water Pulse.”

The fish jumped up and spat out waves of water that hit Jolteon powerfully. He moaned and squeezed his eyes shut; then he shook his spiky fur and retaliated with a flurry of needles. The Lanturn responded by diving down deeper, but the stream was not deep enough for it to avoid being hit at all and it came up with some minor cuts.

“Thunder Wave,” Mark said quickly, and Jolteon sent another wave of electricity towards Lanturn. This time it did seem to have an effect; the anglerfish slowed down, moving more stiffly, which gave Jolteon the opportunity to fire a second Pin Missile.

“Another Water Pulse,” Dan said sharply, and Lanturn sent another wave of water at Jolteon. This time he had a harder time standing up again; he looked a little dizzy.

“Bite,” Mark ordered worriedly. Jolteon shook his head to focus and leapt into the water at Lanturn. After succeessfully sinking his fangs into the fish’s tail thanks to Lanturn’s paralysis, Jolteon clawed a bit at the anglerfish, but then Lanturn shook him off and he climbed back up to the bank.

“Water Gun!” Dan shouted, but Lanturn flinched for a second, which gave Mark another opportunity to act.

“Quick, Pin Missile!”

Jolteon started raising his fur, but then the confusion got the better of him. For a few moments he just stood there like he was trying to remember what he was going to do next; then he dropped to the ground, unconscious.

Mark bit his lip. Two of his Pokémon were already down. He desperately hoped Dan was not capable of anything more than this, but hesitantly picked Dragonair’s Pokéball.

“Do it, Dragonair!” he shouted and threw the ball.

The slender dragon ascended into the air as soon as he gained material form and watched his opponent.

“Ice Beam!” Dan called, and Lanturn fired a beam of ice crystals towards Dragonair. He cried out in pain as he was hit, struggling to maintain his altitude while he shivered. He was clearly having trouble with it and Dan was about to open his mouth again…

“Wait, Dragonair, lie down flat, quick!” Mark blurted out. The dragon heard him and immediately practically dropped to the ground right at the bank of the stream. Despite taking a hit when he landed, he was still conscious, and could flatten himself against the grass.

Dan frowned. “Lanturn, jump out of the water and Ice Beam from there.”

The fish made a respectable attempt to jump, but the paralysis made it unable to get to a height where it could hit with another Ice Beam. Mark looked hopefully at Dragonair.

“Now, uh… What moves do you know again?” Mark asked hesitantly. He heard May snort behind him. Dan just raised an eyebrow and smiled slightly.

“Twister,” Dragonair muttered, still lying where he was. “Dragon Rage. Slam.”

“Dragon Rage, then,” Mark ordered, figuring that both Slam and Twister would require Dragonair to move out of his safe position.

“Dive deep into the water,” Dan countered. Mark immediately realized that this would not work; Dragonair breathed dark flames but they barely licked the surface of the stream while Lanturn was safe below it.

“Okay, then…” Again, Mark was feeling braver than usual. “Slam.”

Dragonair suddenly sprang up with a loud, frightening hiss that seemed to oppose the serene air of his usual appearance, and dove into the water headfirst. Lanturn jumped, obviously having not known what the dragon was doing up on the bank, and started charging up electricity to counter him, but Dragonair quickly whipped his tail at the fish and smashed the two shiny blue pearls on the tip into its head.

Lanturn was instantly knocked unconscious by the heavy blow, turned upside-down in the water and floated lazily to the surface. Dan recalled it without words and pulled out a second Pokéball. It occurred to Mark that by now, the notion of actually managing to win was downright ridiculous; one of Dan’s Pokémon had taken out two of his and worn a third one down quite a bit.

But he wouldn’t go down without a fight. Not on his birthday. Besides, it was just for training.

“Go, Clare!”

The ball sent out a large, graceful, brown bird with a golden and red crest of long feathers on her head. She let out a cry as she flew high up and looked down at her opponent. Dragonair flew into the air and faced her.

Dan looked proudly at his Pidgeot before issuing an order: “Featherdance!”

Clare flapped her wings in Dragonair’s direction, and thousands of small, soft down feathers flurried from her body towards the dragon, limiting both his vision and his ability to move. Dragonair said something, but his voice was so muffled by the down that Mark didn’t hear it.

“Twister to get them away!”

Mark could see Dragonair start to spin in mid-air and attempt to reach the speed required to create a whirlwind, but he was unsuccessful; the down limited his movements too much, and Dan’s Pidgeot was making sure there was always more and more of it.

Most ordinary trainers with Mark’s level of battling experience would at this point have issued a Dragon Rage to burn the feathers, after being so conveniently reminded of its existence just moments before, but he was no ordinary trainer. He had an obsession with legends, and it just so happened that the Dragon type, with its mythical qualities, fell somewhat within his range of interests. And therefore he knew that while dragon flames had none of the disadvantages of regular fire, they had none of the advantages either.

Additionally, he happened to have some very creative Pokémon.

“Dragonair, remember that Fire attack of yours from the Attack Approval? Use it!” he said quickly. Somewhere within the cloud of down, Dragonair appeared to have gotten the same idea: just as Mark made his order, the innermost feathers burst into flames and for a split second, the dragon was surrounded by a ring of floating flames. Then the fire dissolved, the charred remains of the Featherdance drifting lazily to the ground.

“Clare, use an Aerial Ace!”

When Dragonair managed to comprehend his surroundings again, the Pidgeot had folded her wings nearer to her body and was already swooping down at him at such a speed that he hardly saw her coming.

“Look out!” Mark shouted, but only a fraction of a second later, Clare made a razor-sharp, precise cut across Dragonair’s body with her talons. The dragon screamed in pain as silvery dragon blood lined the area of his skin around the cut; somehow, however, he was able to breathe a plume of fire at the Pidgeot before she assumed he would be able to counterattack, taking her by surprise. She cried out as she rapidly flapped her scorched wings to put out the last flames; she did not appear particularly hurt, though.

“Okay, Fly!” Dan ordered, and Clare shot upwards in the air. Mark had one of those rare sparks of old Battling lessons that had sunk in:


Just as the Pidgeot was diving back down, Dragonair managed to produce a tornado that could strike her even as high in the air as she was. Granted, it did not hurt her that much, but at least Dragonair went out with a bang; a second after the Twister died, Clare tackled him harshly in mid-air and knocked him unconscious.

“You did a good job,” Mark said as he recalled his Pokémon. It was true. Dragonair had been more successful than either Sandslash or Jolteon, as much as he hated to differentiate between his Pokémon.

“Now…” Mark paused. He probably would have sent out Charizard, but then he realized that it was not like he was about to win this anytime soon. This was meant as training, and he hadn’t even sent out the Pokémon that was most in need of some.

“Go, Leta.”

The little white Pokémon came out of the Pokéball in a sitting position and looked around. She saw the huge bird, but for some bizarre reason, she didn’t seem the least bit afraid. Mark thought to himself that if he were her size, he definitely would be.

Dan looked at her and smiled at her cuteness.

“Fly. Just try to finish her off quickly.”

Clare nodded and ascended quickly into the air.

“Umm, Leta, try to dodge it, like by hiding under a tree or…”

Mark shut up when he realized that Leta showed no sign of noticing that he was talking at all, let alone doing what he said. She sat there on the ground in plain view where she would be extremely easy to hit, and looked innocently upwards at the Pidgeot while swishing her tail back and forth.

Mark glanced upwards; Clare seemed to be preparing to dive, up among the clouds. “Leta, get out of the way!” he hissed.

But his Pokémon blissfully ignored him, staring up at the bird that was most likely about to knock her out in one hit, with those large red eyes that never blinked.

Seconds before Clare would have hit her, Leta stepped to the side a little bit. Ordinarily, the Pidgeot would simply have changed her direction, but surprisingly enough, the bird crashed headfirst into the ground, actually a meter away from where Leta had originally been. At first Mark was puzzled, but then he saw the bird’s peacefully closed eyes and realized that Leta had hypnotized her while she was focusing on her target in the dive. The tip of Clare’s outstretched right wing was just an inch away from the spot where Leta was now sitting; either she was extremely lucky or a great deal more clever than Mark had ever thought she was.

“Clare, are you all right?” Dan asked worriedly, pulling out a Pokéball. When there was definitely no response at all, he let the red beam of the ball recall her.

Dan frowned and it was clear he hadn’t expected the small, innocent-looking Pokémon to pull something like this either. He fiddled with his Pokéballs, but meanwhile Leta closed her eyes and lowered her head, and she was slowly wrapped in a white glow.

“You’re evolving!” Mark realized in delight as the small Pokémon started to grow. Her proportions became more adult-like, her body, legs and neck lengthening while her head stayed more or less the same size. A pointy mask grew on her face, similar to that of the Letaligon Mark had met in the forest, although the blade on the top of her head was much shorter while there were no blades at the side of her head at all, just metal below the cheekbone that pointed upwards behind her eyes.

“Leee!” she cried in a deeper voice than before, examining the new coat of metallic armor on her back and her rather stiffer tail. Mark pointed his Pokédex at her.

“Letal, armored Pokémon,” it announced. “These Pokémon love to…”

Mark closed the Pokédex before it could finish; he was in the middle of a battle after all.

“Hmm,” Dan said, looking at the newly-evolved Letal.

“Should I take care of her?” asked his Nidoking, looking up at him.

“Yeah, you can,” Dan replied. “Go, Elvis!”

The reptilian rodent stepped forward and faced Letal with his horn pointed forward. Letal growled at him.

“Earthquake!” Dan ordered. Elvis leapt into the air and slammed himself down into the ground again, producing a series of ripples in the ground as if it had turned liquid. Letal, having most likely never experienced an Earthquake attack before, was confused and didn’t figure to jump before the waves reached her; she stiffened as the ripples hit her paws and started to shiver uncontrollably while the Earthquake faded away. Her metallic armor continued to echo the waves like a chiming bell for several seconds afterwards.

“Now, Megahorn,” Dan said. “Try to hit it where it’s vulnerable.”

While Letal was still confused and scared, the Nidoking ran towards her with his long, sharp horn glowing with a lime green tint. Letal realized this and attempted to leap out of the way, but the horn stabbed into her side just below the armor and she collapsed when she landed with a weak moan. Mark recalled her with a truthful “Great job.”

“Good battle,” Dan said, but immediately had his mind on his Pidgeot. He sent her out into the grass and pulled out two spray bottles, one of them labelled as an Awakening but the other as a Super Potion. As he sprayed Clare with both of them, the bird Pokémon opened her eyes and managed to stand up and fly in a couple of circles without much difficulty.

“All right,” he said, “I guess I’ll be going, then.”

Dan shook Mark’s hand, as well as May’s and Alan’s, and then walked off towards Stormy Town with his Nidoking and Nidoqueen.

“Um,” Mark said after a moment's pause, “shouldn’t we get a bit further into the forest and see if we can find a good place to send for example Gyarados out at?”

They decided it would be a good idea to walk up along the stream and see if there was a lake there somewhere. What they found was not much of a lake – more like a slightly wider and deeper part of the river – but they figured it would do.

Mark threw out Gyarados’s Pokéball, and the sea monster emerged in the water.

“What now?” he asked dully.

“Training,” Mark said and shrugged. He realized suddenly that he was highly unlikely to use Gyarados for either this gym or for fighting Thunderyu, since he would be fried within one or two Electric attacks, but he figured he might as well prepare himself for later battles as well. Nonetheless, he decided it would not be a good idea to focus on a Pokémon he would not be using for what he was actually training for, and therefore sent out his other Pokémon too. Letal’s wound got sprayed with a Potion from his bag and more or less healed within a few seconds.

“What’s that?” May asked suddenly, jerking her head towards the right.

“What?” Alan asked, turning where she was looking in confusion.

For a few seconds nothing happened, but then all of a sudden, right from where May was looking, a great white beast emerged, leaping straight at her with gleaming ruby red eyes.

“What the…”

The Pokémon landed right in front of May, and Mark realized it was a large fox-like Pokémon with nine long tails and a long, graceful mane. It was the evolution of Vulpix: a Ninetales.

…Spirit?” May asked in a tone of disbelief.

“You know this Ninetales?” Mark asked, puzzled.

“Of course I do, she’s my pet Vulpix!” May replied in a voice that sounded quite as weirded out as Mark was. “Or well, she was a Vulpix. Where the hell did you get a Fire Stone? And that necklace?”

Mark now noticed that the Ninetales was much lighter than all other Ninetales he had seen – a regular Ninetales was a sort of light brownish-yellow, but this one was creamy white. She also had a black chain around her neck holding a symbol: an upside-down semi-triangle, maybe two inches tall and one wide, made of two small rubies and one larger.

“One question at a time,” the Ninetales said – in plain English. Mark was immediately reminded of Gyarados and glanced at him; he looked just as confused as everybody else.

“I expect you want to know what has happened since I saw you last,” Spirit said. “Well, some time after you left, I was paid a visit by the legendary Entei.”

Mark’s attention was instantly caught by the mention of Entei, especially now that knowing anything of Entei’s location would be of great help.

“Entei told me that I was chosen, and that all my previous troubles were a test of my strength. He said I would learn why eventually, but would not tell me anything more.”

Everybody stared at her; she smiled slightly at the attention.

“I did not evolve from a Fire Stone, but from Entei’s magical touch, and when I had evolved I found that Entei had vanished and I was carrying this necklace. When I examined myself, I also realized that instead of being darker than normal as I used to as a Vulpix, I was lighter.

“Now, I set out to find you. My special Ghost abilities which you will remember have proven to be exceedingly useful in this search, as they helped me sneak on a ferry to Ouen and also provided me with the ability to feel when you were close. I caught up with you in Black Desert, and there my special skills proved useful for you as well, when I interrupted your dreams and woke both of you in time to escape the Scorplack. I myself was in spirit form at the time and was therefore in no danger. From there on I followed you.”

“Why didn’t you come out of hiding earlier?” May asked.

“You know what we decided on when you left,” the Pokémon replied. “It was not safe to emerge until you were alone where no one could find us. Additionally, I did not know if Entei would wish for me to reveal myself at all. However, I had to step into the light now that I felt his presence.”

And the Ninetales turned her head towards Gyarados and bowed deeply.

“What is this all about?” the sea monster asked in a shaking voice, staring at Spirit. “What do I have to do with it?”

“You are the other,” Spirit said softly. “You were chosen by Suicune and have only yet to receive his final blessing, which will make you light instead of dark.”

“Suicune tried to starve me,” Gyarados spat angrily. “Suicune made my life hell. I hate Suicune.”

“It was your test,” Spirit went on, calm. Gyarados looked both furious and scared.

“To hell with tests,” he said, his voice trembling even more than before. “I don’t want to be chosen. Nobody could have chosen me for anything.”

But it was clear that he was not so sure about that last part – his ability to speak human, his dark color, his abnormal powers and his Dragon Beam all hinted that there was something very unusual about him – and from what they could make out of Spirit’s story, the two were completely parallel. Starting out dark-colored, having unusual powers of a type not usually fully attributed to their species, being able to speak English – it all fit perfectly.

“No,” he finally said. “I don’t want it. I hate Suicune.”

“Very well,” Spirit said, with the air of a parent giving in to a child’s continuous claims of having an imaginary friend. “Perhaps Suicune has decided to give the final blessing to another Pokémon. After all, you are evolved and yet still dark.”

Gyarados did not answer.

“Umm,” Alan said, poking May in the shoulder, “you might want to explain her story a little bit better. I don’t get it.”

May sighed. “I found her starving on the street as a Vulpix when I was seven and thought she was cute, so I got my parents to let me keep her as a pet. It turned out she had all sorts of weird abilities like turning herself invisible and insubstantial, which we called her spirit form, and stuff like that which seemed like Ghost moves. I always planned to start my journey with her, and I liked to take her around town and show off what she could do. Once when I was nine we met this rich kid from a very well-respected family in town and he was bragging about how he was going to start with a much better Pokémon and blah blah blah. A couple of days later he crawled in through the window and stole her. I woke up and saw him there, but I didn’t realize she was gone until the next morning. I got my parents to call the police, but when the police came, they just said that most likely Spirit had run away. I tried to tell them what I had seen, but they didn’t believe me because the kid’s dad was rich and I was nine, and they just said that even if she had been stolen, there was no chance the thief would be found. I took matters into my own hands, did a bit of spying, found out where she was held in a Pokéball in the rich guy’s house, and stole her back and let her destroy the ball.

“Well, unfortunately they suspected me, and turned out to have gotten me on some stupid security cameras or something. I got to keep Spirit only because she herself insisted that she was mine, not theirs. She couldn’t convince them she had been stolen, though, because she remembered nothing after falling asleep and the rich guy said some junk about her crawling in through their window in a confused state. After that happened, I realized that it wasn’t a good idea to carry a unique and valuable Pokémon like her on a Pokémon journey where she could get stolen and asked her to stay at home when I left on my journey. I think she said everything else that matters.”

Alan stared at her. “You broke into a house?”

“Oh, stop taking the details out of context,” May said, annoyed. “That’s what the police did, and that’s why I don’t like them.”

Alan still looked slightly unnerved by the thought. Mark, of course, had heard the vague version of this story before at the police station in Scorpio City. The most important new detail was what exactly it was that May had retrieved from a supposed thief in such a controversial way, and he had to admit he was more comfortable with knowing (at least if May was telling the truth) that Spirit had been more unambiguously stolen than her Quilava. Of course, she had left out a couple of details in this version of the story (namely her supposed attack on a police officer), but perhaps Alan was better off not knowing.

“May,” Spirit said, looking at Mark with her red eyes, “if this Gyarados has been travelling with him for all this time, perhaps I can try coming with you. I will no doubt be of more help on your team than I have been so far.”

“I… guess…” May said, looking doubtfully at her Pokéballs.

“Come on, May,” Alan said. “No need to be paranoid. Pokémon thefts are ridiculously rare, and if you carry your Pokéballs around your neck and we are always walking beside you anyway, there is no hope for a thief to steal her. Besides, as she said, Gyarados has been with Mark for a while and nobody has tried to steal him, right?”

Mark thought of the Mew Hunter and smiled. “Well, not specifically to steal him, anyway.”

May hesitated. “She doesn’t want to be in a Pokéball all the time, though.”

“Well, even better,” Alan countered. “If somebody tried to steal her now, she could just turn herself to the spirit form thingymabob. And just ‘catching’ her now and letting her go again would prevent anybody from catching her in another Pokéball, right?”

“Right,” May replied. “Okay, then.”

She reached for her pocket, took out a normal Pokéball and held it forward in her hand. Spirit touched the sphere gently with her muzzle, and it popped open, transforming her into a shape of red light and sucking her inside. The ball fell to the ground and pinged.

As May reached for the ball again to let Spirit out, Gyarados closed his eyes painfully and turned away.

His hate was stronger than ever.

Love May just casually suggesting murder. I actually toned her down a little bit here because she sounded truly sociopathic before, good job sixteen-year-old self.

Also love Dragonair just telling Mark what moves he knows when Mark fails to know any of them in the middle of the fight. Mark, how have you not learned by now.

Dan is a cameo by somebody who's no longer in my life, which is how we get this big lengthy random battle against a throwaway trainer, which isn't something I really do anywhere else in the fic. It's a bit weird.

Finally Leta gets to do something, though! This chapter is the first one that wasn't a rewrite of an earlier version of the fic - chapter 30 was the equivalent of the last chapter I wrote of the previous version (what a cliffhanger to leave people on). Since Leta was a new character in this version, none of the previous chapters had originally contained her at all and she only got the tiniest, awkwardest little new bits inserted, but from here on she becomes a much more prominent character, and I hope you enjoy her.

Despite that this wasn't a rewrite of an earlier version, though, Spirit the Ninetales appearing here in this way and a lot of the dialogue that goes on here was thought up for the previous version (I just never actually got there), and it shows. She is hilariously sparkly-special and it's pretty cringe. I like to think I took her some fun places, but I facepalm pretty hard at this chapter and the extremely clunky way in which she's suddenly introduced to infodump at us.

The whole aspect about whether Spirit will inevitably be stolen if she's with May is just baffling, as is the way Spirit herself doesn't participate in that discussion at all. I have no idea.

This is the last chapter that I truly facepalm at, though! After this point there is less nonsense!
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Chapter 32: The Birthday Party


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Chapter 32! In which we suffer through the fic's last junior trainers, Mark gets to celebrate his birthday a bit, and we see Spirit in action in all her pretty broken glory.

Chapter 32: The Birthday Party​


“Chaletwo,” Mark muttered as the three kids walked back towards Stormy Town after their training session, “you don’t happen to know anything about this chosen-by-legendaries thing, do you?”

“No,” came Chaletwo’s voice. It sounded a bit empty, and Mark figured he might still be upset after May’s uncomfortable suggestion earlier. “I don’t get why I don’t know about this. Mew would have told me if he knew about it, too. How can they just do something like this without consulting us? We created them! What a way to thank us!”

Mark decided to ignore the last bit to avoid making him more upset. “I don’t assume you have any idea what exactly they were chosen for, then?”


“Well, it doesn’t look like Spirit knows, either – she’s kinda cryptic about it. What about Raikou? Do you think Raikou chose anybody?”

“What would I know?” Chaletwo replied in frustration. “Well, Raikou is held captured at the Cleanwater City Gym, so most likely not. Now stop bothering me. I have more important things on my mind.”

Mark fell silent. He watched May and Alan walk a few meters ahead of him with Spirit trotting along beside May, and wondered why he always let them walk ahead of him while he himself was sulking somewhere behind them having depressing conversations with Scyther or Chaletwo. It was his birthday, after all. He should be having a good time.

He quickened his pace and caught up with the others.


Sparky walked out of the restaurant just as the kids entered the gym.

“Oh, hello again!” he said cheerfully. “Were you going to battle today?”

“Not me,” Alan replied, but Mark and May nodded.

“Forgive me for asking,” Sparky said, peering at them with a twinkle of amusement in his eyes, “but aren’t you both a little bit older than kids normally start?”

“Yeah, I’m twelve,” May replied.

“Me too,” Mark said, feeling some strange pride as he said it. May looked at him.

“I thought you were eleven.”

“Not anymore,” Mark answered with a grin. “It’s my birthday today.”

There. He had said it. Mark watched Sparky’s smile widen.

“Oh, really? Have an absolutely fantastic birthday! You don’t mind me making a birthday cake for the occasion for you and your friends, do you?” Sparky said eagerly.

This was a little more than Mark had expected. “Uh, sure,” he said awkwardly, blushing slightly. “What about the battle?”

“Oh, you can warm up against my junior trainers while I’m making it,” Sparky replied with a shrug. “You can go first, since it’s your birthday after all. Then I can maybe get your friends to help me make the cake, too?” He looked questioningly at Alan and May.

“Sure!” Alan said immediately. “And happy birthday, Mark.”

May didn’t look like she was particularly keen on delaying her gym battle to make a birthday cake. She took a quick longing look at the door to the battle arena, but then gave Mark a forced smile. “Happy birthday.”

“Thanks,” he said, smiling happily back at May just to rub it in. “So do I just walk in through the door or…?”

“Yes,” Sparky answered. “He should be in there somewhere, at least if he hasn’t forgotten we had a challenger. I wouldn’t be surprised.” He giggled a little but then waved Mark towards the door. “Go ahead and don’t worry about us.”

Mark took a deep breath and walked the few steps up to the door with the navy lettering, looking through the glass. The room behind it was huge. It suddenly occurred to him that perhaps he would have been better off watching May battle those guys first so he could pick up strategies, but he was not about to turn back. He grabbed the door handle and opened.

“Hello?” he called as he closed the door behind him. It did not echo; the walls appeared to be covered with a layer of rubber that absorbed the sound. Mark guessed that was mainly to prevent damage from electricity.

“Hi,” said the voice of a blond-haired boy who was sitting in the middle of a ladder on the wall to the far right which led up to a door. He wore a red jacket with white linings and was most likely around Alan’s age or so. “You’re the kid who was going to battle?”

Mark nodded. “Yeah.”

The boy jumped down and landed on the floor with a soft thump. “All right, then. Go, Magnemite.”

The boy hurled forward a Pokéball which popped open a few meters closer to the middle of the room. A round, metallic Pokémon with two horseshoe-shaped magnets on either side of it popped out. It hovered a meter or so above the ground and watched Mark; it had only one huge, round eye with a tiny pupil.

Mark had one of those rare sparks of Battling class memories: Mrs. Grodski had mentioned fleetingly on a hot day in one of the earlier Battling classes that despite hovering in the air, Magnemite would be affected by an Earthquake. The only reason he remembered it was that he himself had been the one who had demanded an explanation and, upon not understanding a word of what the teacher said, started an argument about it. This had been more or less the start of their mutual dislike. Much later, when he was old enough to be able to grasp how it worked, Mark had found the answer again in a library book. For short, he knew exactly what to do now.

“Go, Sandslash, and use an Earthquake!”

He threw the Pokéball powerfully out. The junior trainer’s expression became a bit sheepish as Sandslash materialized in the air and prepared for the attack, landing harshly and producing ripples on the ground. As they passed under the magnet Pokémon, they disturbed the electromagnetic force holding it in the air, and it dropped to the ground after teetering in the air for a couple of seconds. Now exposed to the full force of the super-effective attack, the Magnemite easily fainted.

The junior trainer shrugged and recalled the Magnemite. “Go on, then,” he said, pointing loosely at the ladder he had been sitting on when Mark entered.

Mark looked at him in puzzlement. “That’s all?”

The trainer shrugged again. “Well, we’re just here to warm you up a little bit so you don’t get creamed as bad by Sparky. Nobody loses to us, really.”

Mark decided not to take that as an insult, thanked the trainer for the battle and walked towards the ladder. Once through the door at the end of it, Mark had to walk up a staircase, through another door, and then finally arrived at another arena, identical to the previous one. A brown-haired girl walked impatiently back and forth at the other end and looked up when Mark closed the door.

“Oh, hi,” she called. “One on one, okay?”

The girl threw out a Pokéball without waiting for an answer. The ball opened and the red light inside it formed into a cute pink sheep Pokémon that sat down on the arena and wagged its tail.

Mark took a deep breath. Flaaffy was not a final form Pokémon. Additionally, the other junior trainer’s Magnemite had been a joke to take down. He had to train some other Pokémon than Sandslash, anyway; Thunderyu might be able to fly, and in that case, Earthquake would be rather useless…

The Flaaffy looked at him with dark, beady eyes as he grabbed Dragonair’s Pokéball and threw it into the battle arena.

“Go, Dragonair!”

The snakelike dragon Pokémon spun a few circles in mid-air as he materialized from the Pokéball and breathed a plume of dark-colored flames into the air before settling down on the ground and perking up his feathery ears.

“Show-off,” Mark muttered with a slight smile.

“Flaaffy, Thunder Wave!” the girl yelled. Her Pokémon got down on four feet with its tail raised into the air. Small sparks circled the pink orb at its tail tip as it charged towards Dragonair.

“Fly up!” Mark blurted out, and the dragon obeyed immediately, raising himself up from the ground with graceful, swimming-like movements. For a moment he thought Dragonair would evade the attack, but then –

“FLAA-FY!” the sheep cried, leaping fiercely after the dragon Pokémon. Now entirely sparkling with electricity, the Flaaffy smashed its tail into Dragonair’s body and then landed on its feet on the floor below. Dragonair was thrown backwards but managed to keep his balance, and he countered with a Dragon Rage, engulfing Flaaffy in crimson flames.

The sheep stood quickly up again with a determined expression, charged up further electricity in its tail and sent a bolt of lightning flying at the blue dragon. Dragonair wasn’t fast enough to dodge it now that he was paralyzed and cried out in pain as the electricity coursed through his body. He was getting too weak to maintain his altitude and dropped stiffly down to the floor.

“Dragonair, Slam!” Mark ordered, quickly followed by the girl’s fast-spoken command:

“Flaaffy, Body Slam!”

The Flaaffy was quicker, and with a high-pitched cry, it jumped into the air and slammed its whole body onto Dragonair’s. A muffled “Draaa” came from the dragon to indicate that he was all right. Dragonair then managed to smash his tail into Flaaffy’s head, causing the sheep to fall off him and allow him to slither out of the way.

“Dragon Rage!” Mark shouted as the Flaaffy prepared for another assault. Dragonair tried to focus as the sheep charged at him; then, unexpectedly, he managed to fling himself over Flaaffy somehow and then blast out dragon flames for the finish as Flaaffy attempted to turn around. It let out a weak “Flaaaaa…” before closing its eyes and giving up.

“Nice job, Flaaffy,” the girl cheered as she recalled her Pokémon into the ball. “Go ahead,” she then said to Mark and pointed to a ladder similar to the one in the arena on the below floor.

A dark-haired teenager greeted Mark on the next floor. He wore a simple white T-shirt and ordinary jeans.

“Okay, another one-on-one,” the boy said indifferently. “Go, Raichu!”

He threw forth a Pokéball that burst open quickly to have the white light inside it materialize into an orange mouse-like Pokémon with a long, black tail, tipped with a lightning bolt shape.

Mark paused to think again. This was a Raichu – an evolved Pokémon – so he couldn’t expect it to be particularly easy to beat. Flaaffy had been a nasty surprise for Dragonair, too. Charizard and Scyther were ruled out, having a weakness to electricity (he had switched Gyarados to the computer before the kids walked back to Stormy Town earlier, figuring that he was definitely not going to use him), and Dragonair was hurt. That left Sandslash and Letal. The question was: would Letal be able to beat the Raichu?

Oh, come on, he thought to himself. Sparky has got to have something up his sleeve against Ground Pokémon. If Letal can’t beat that guy, I’m not going to have a chance against Sparky anyway, period. Besides, she did very well while we were training, and the battle with Dan only showed that she’s full of surprises.

“Go, Letal!” Mark called out and hurled the Pokéball towards the center of the arena. Letal emerged from the ball and let out an intimidating, metallic cry as she fixed her gaze on the Raichu.

“Okay, start this off with a Thunder Wave,” the trainer said to his Pokémon – he looked somewhat impressed by Letal, unless Mark was just imagining things. “Better to play it safe.”

“Letal, try to avoid it,” Mark said slightly nervously. “Paralysis is a nasty thing.”

Letal suddenly turned towards him and growled, and Mark realized with a wince that she would know – he had caught Leta while she was paralyzed.

Just then, the Raichu released a wave of electricity.

“Quick!” Mark yelled, his eyes widening. Letal turned sharply around but had no time to attempt to avoid it; she cowered as she was hit, and her body sparked.

“Great, Raichu,” the other trainer cheered. “Now do a nice good Thunderbolt.”

“Rai!” the Pokémon said hoarsely, got down on all fours and started to sparkle in preparation for the attack. For a second Mark watched Letal as she strained to move despite her stiff limbs, making strange, wheezy sounds as she breathed; then suddenly, just as the Raichu fired a bolt of electricity, Letal leapt upwards with a roar of effort and pain, dodged the attack and landed on top of the mouse Pokémon with her sharp, black claws digging into the skin on its back.

The Raichu squeaked but didn’t hesitate to charge itself up with electricity that was directly conducted into Letal’s body. She roared in pain again, lighting up with sparks like a gigantic light bulb.

“Get away from it!” he shouted, but either Letal couldn’t hear him or didn’t listen to him. Her eyes blood red, she let her now white-hot claws slice into the mouse’s body. It let out another squeak before finally giving up; its eyes rolled into the back of its head and closed. Letal stepped away, her body shaking.

The other boy ran into the arena with some sort of a potion bottle and sprayed it quickly on the ugly, half-burnt gashes that Letal’s claws had left on his Pokémon. She watched it with shocked eyes, her breathing turning wheezy again while her body still shivered like she was freezing cold. The vapour rising from her body told a different story.

Mark looked worriedly at Letal, wondering whether he should recall her. She seemed to calm down a little bit as the Raichu’s wounds closed in front of their eyes and the mouse Pokémon stood up with difficulty, coughed and shook its head.

“Here,” the other boy said, throwing a pale yellow spray bottle to Mark. “Paralyze Heal,” he added when Mark seemed puzzled. “Since Sparky is next up and it would be a bother for you to have to go all the way down and outside to get to the Pokémon Center, I’ve got a supply of items to heal all your Pokémon for the big battle.”

Mark nodded and sprayed Letal’s body with the Paralyze Heal spray. Her breathing quickly returned to more or less normal and her body stopped shaking.

The boy handed him a potion bottle too. “Hey,” he suddenly said, “how about you just send out all your Pokémon that are hurt or tired, and I’ll give them all the sprays they need? I think your Letal needs a bit of calming down, and you’d better handle that.”

Mark nodded, agreeing especially with the last part, and sent out Dragonair and Sandslash (he assumed that Sandslash would need all the energy he could possibly have for the match against Sparky, even though he wasn’t very worn-out after his brief appearance in battle). While the trainer busily sprayed them with various potions, Mark slowly reached out to touch the fine white fur on Letal’s neck and stroked it. She seemed slightly startled at first, but appeared to like it soon enough and ended up closing her eyes and giving a sort of purring sound of appreciation. He sprayed her body with the potion as he continued to stroke her.

“Is she okay?” the trainer asked concernedly after a couple of minutes. “Your Dragonair and Sandslash should be in top state now.”

Mark nodded and patted Letal’s neck one more time before recalling all three of his Pokémon. “Do I just go up the stairs?”

The trainer nodded, and Mark smiled as he walked towards the final ladder.

“Hey,” the boy suddenly called. Mark turned around again.

“You’ve got nice Pokémon,” the trainer said. “You looked like an average kid with maybe a Meowth or something, but I was surprised when I saw you had a Letal, and even more when you had a Dragonair too. You must be really lucky or trying really hard.”

“I think it’s just luck,” Mark replied nervously, desperately hoping he would continue to be so lucky on his oncoming quest.

The boy laughed. “Well, it’s nice to have luck now. You’ll need it.”

Mark smiled faintly and walked up the ladder to Sparky’s arena. He took a deep breath as he opened the final door between him and the gym leader battle.

When he entered, he was showered with paper ribbons.

“Surprise!” Sparky shouted from another ladder near the door. He was holding a bucket of shredded, multicolored paper. After shaking it empty, Sparky threw the bucket carelessly to the floor, where it landed with a loud clatter, and jumped down to shake hands with Mark.

“What do you think?” the Gym leader asked with a grin. “If you liked my confetti, you should wait for the cake. I can tell it’s going to be great.”

Mark was kind of freaked out but still enjoyed the attention. He grinned back and looked around. In the middle of the battle arena stood a small table with four chairs around it and a particularly large and tasty-looking chocolate cake neatly placed in the middle. May and Alan stood by the table laying down plates and forks; Spirit sat in a corner watching them.

Sparky took Mark over to the table and all four of them sat down.

“Happy birthday again, Mark,” said Alan, beaming. “And, uh, sorry if the cake is a little burnt; I left it a couple of minutes too long in the oven. And May put the ingredients in in the wrong order. I just hope it doesn’t really matter.”

Mark laughed as he saw May’s beet-red face. Alan just rolled his eyes.

“Thanks, all of you,” Mark said. “Except May, if she messed up the cake,” he added as a joke. Her face only went even redder.

Sparky cleared his throat as he cut a large slice of cake and put it on Mark’s plate.

“My father always used to say that there were two reasons you should make each and every one of your birthdays the best party you’ve ever had,” he said gleefully while cutting a slice for Alan, May and finally himself. “One: It might always be your last birthday, and in fact that becomes likelier every year, so it’s good always to assume it is. Two: It’s well worth celebrating that you were wrong about it last year.”

The kids glanced nervously at each other, all thinking the same thing: it was in fact unusually likely that it was his last birthday. Sparky either didn’t notice or pretended not to.

“So well, cheers to Mark for not having dropped dead yet!” he said, raising his glass of milk. Mark laughed in spite of himself.

“Uh, cheers,” May and Alan said doubtfully in unison, raising their own glasses.

Mark discovered to his delight that May hadn’t messed up the cake, at least not too badly, and while they ate, Sparky questioned him about his journey so far, his Pokémon and his plans for the future. Mark, of course, carefully avoided having to mention anything about the search for the legendaries or that they were planning to wake up a homicidal dragon sleeping inside a nearby mountain the next day. Sparky ignored the plot holes.

“So,” the Gym leader said after they had all finished eating, “how about battling now?”

Mark had nearly forgotten about the upcoming gym battle by this time, but quickly regained his directions. “Uh, okay.”

Sparky smiled and stood up. “You can go downstairs and battle my junior trainers in the meantime,” he said to May. “But first we need to get this table out of the way.”

They quickly moved the table and chairs aside. Alan offered to do the dishes and disappeared down to the kitchen. Sparky told May she could go and challenge the first junior trainer now, and she walked towards the staircase with her Ninetales after her.

Suddenly she turned around.

“Mark… good luck,” she said and smiled awkwardly.

“Thanks,” Mark replied and smiled back. May had almost disappeared down the stairs when he suddenly found himself opening his mouth.

“Wait,” he called and May turned around again. “You… you can battle Sparky first if you want. You made me a birthday cake and everything.”

May walked a few steps back towards them; by the astonishment on her face, she would never have done the same. “Really?”

Mark nodded. “Yeah, you can. I’ll just wait while you fight the junior trainers and watch when you battle Sparky.”

He could literally see the familiar battle glint burst forth in May’s eyes while her mouth broke into a wide grin.

“Thanks, Mark,” she said. She opened her mouth again, paused for a split second, but then added, “Happy birthday again.”

Mark smiled. How very much like her to start caring about his birthday when he let her battle first.

She ran back to the staircase and disappeared down it with Spirit.

“Was that nobility or just a clever trick to get a sneak peek at my Pokémon and strategies before your own battle?” Sparky asked with an even more highly amused-looking expression than usual after a short pause.

Mark blushed. “I’m not sure,” he said truthfully.

“It’s fine,” Sparky whispered, leaning closer to him. “I always used to do that too. I journeyed with Nurse Joy, and I always let her battle first while I watched. A bit evil of me not to offer to go first myself sometimes, but I couldn’t resist.”

Mark laughed hollowly. “It’s not evil of me. She’s probably thankful for any opportunity to prove she always wins through her skill alone and doesn’t need any cheap tricks to do it.”

Sparky smiled. “Truth to be told,” he said, “I think we all have that in us when it comes to things we’re good at. The only thing that varies is how much we have of it and how good we are at hiding it.”

Mark laughed, but couldn’t help thinking he had a point.


It wasn’t long before May was back. Mark hadn’t expected it to be, either; three one-on-one battles weren’t anything she would generally have a particularly hard time with.

“So well, here I am,” she said and shrugged. “Are we going to battle now or what?”

“Yes, why not?” Sparky asked without waiting for an answer and walked right over to a rectangular box, outlined by red tiles, on the floor. May glanced quickly at Mark before positioning herself in the opposite box; Spirit stood beside her, blinking her ruby-red eyes. Mark leaned against the wall right where he was at an approximately equal distance from each of the battlers and imagined himself as a referee. Sparky put up his silver shades and smiled, grabbing a Pokéball from his belt.

“Battles in this Gym are generally six on six,” he stated. “I hope that is okay with you?”

“The longer, the better,” May replied, grinning as she reached for her Pokéball necklace and plucked one of the minimized balls from it.

“Manectric, I choose you!” Sparky called out. The shape of a dog was only beginning to materialize on the floor when May maximized her Pokéball and threw it out into the arena as well:

“Go, Raichu!”

Mark was a bit surprised as May’s orange mouse Pokémon started to form. He had expected her to send out Pupitar, as he was of course a Ground-type. Then he suddenly realized that if he had battled Sparky first, he would have made the very same mistake as in Flora’s Gym battle – to waste his best Pokémon at the very start. He blushed; the battle hadn’t even started, but he was already benefiting from getting to watch May first.

“Raichu, Thunder Wave,” May ordered calmly.

“Thunder Wave it right back,” Sparky told Manectric.

The two Pokémon crouched down and charged up electricity; the blue and yellow dog-like Pokémon growled as sparks danced around its peculiar, pyramid-shaped mane while Raichu glared at Manectric and charged the yellow spots on his cheeks. May’s Pokémon was a split second faster and sent a wave of electricity at Sparky’s dog Pokémon. Manectric’s muscles stiffened as it was hit and it lost its concentration momentarily, the sparks vanishing.

“Now use a Quick Attack,” May commanded.

“Manectric, Crunch!” Sparky ordered.

With unnatural speed, Raichu leapt at the Manectric and tackled it with his body. The dog Pokémon barked and managed to seize Raichu’s tail in its jaws before he could get away. A second later it had caught up and was tearing into the mouse’s flesh with its teeth while Raichu moaned in pain.

“Seismic Toss!” May shouted, and Raichu clenched his teeth before swinging his tail into the ground and grabbing Manectric’s body. Using the tail for extra support, the mouse Pokémon made for a high jump.

Up the two Pokémon soared, Manectric giving a quick yelp of surprise which Raichu immediately utilized. With an angry “Rai!”, he threw Manectric headfirst into the floor, Raichu himself landing on his feet a second later.

The dog rose painfully up.

“Crunch again, Manectric,” Sparky said after a brief pause.

“Dodge it, Raichu!” May quickly countered and smirked as the paralyzed Manectric made an attempt to run at her Pokémon.

But something was wrong. Raichu was frozen in place, and while he strained to move with despair in his eyes, Mark heard May mutter, “Oh, damn, stupid Static.”

The dog Pokémon leapt on top of Raichu and gave him another nasty bite while May reached for a Pokéball. The mouse’s body went limp.

“Raichu, return.”

He was absorbed into the red beam of light while Manectric panted. Sparky looked at his Pokémon and frowned, but said nothing.

“Butterfree, do it!” May shouted in determination, throwing out a Pokéball. It popped open and the butterfly flew out of it, looking towards her opponent while flapping her wings lazily.

“Psychic to finish it off,” May simply said, and Butterfree began to glow with a faint purple aura.

“Manectric, come back,” Sparky said, recalling his Pokémon before the attack hit.

Butterfree looked unsurely back at May, who hissed, “Keep it charged!”

Sparky frowned slightly again as the Pokémon obeyed. He reached for another Pokéball.

“Ampharos, brace yourself for a Psychic attack.”

The light from the ball materialized into an odd, yellow, bipedal sheep-like creature with flippers in place of arms. It cried out with a sort of wail before covering its head comically with its flippers.

“Release the Psychic attack, Butterfree!” May shouted, and the butterfly Pokémon’s glow slowly took over Ampharos’s body as well. The sheep whimpered as Butterfree attacked its mind, but a few seconds later the glow faded and Ampharos looked carefully past the flipper. Butterfree looked exhausted after having kept her concentration for so long. May frowned.

“Ampharos, Thunderbolt.”

The red pearl-like orb at the end of Ampharos’s striped tail sparkled with electricity. The sheep quickly got down on all fours, holding its tail in the air, and a moment later, a bolt of lightning shot from the orb and struck Butterfree. The butterfly cried out in pain and nearly crashed into the ground, but managed to pull herself up at the last moment. Her flight was getting a little jittery.

“Safeguard!” May ordered quickly. Butterfree started concentrating, emitting a slight white glow as she did so, and seemed to successfully avoid paralysis. Sparky stroked his goatee thoughtfully and paused while May grabbed the opportunity to issue the next attack:

“Sleep Powder!”

“Cotton Spore,” Sparky countered calmly.

The still-glowing butterfly was faster. She fluttered to right above the sheep and flapped her wings powerfully, releasing a cloud of fine, green dust. However, just as she did so, the Ampharos crouched down on all fours and shook its body. From out beneath the fine yellow hairs sprouted sudden layers upon layers of white cottonlike wool, covering Ampharos almost completely. May mouthed a few swear words as she watched every speck of Sleep Powder get lost somewhere between hairs in the wool, unable to reach Ampharos’s well-hidden nostrils.

“Thunderpunch,” Sparky said suddenly, and without warning, the yellow shape of his Pokémon sprang out of the pile of cottonlike material, somehow clenching the end of its flipper into a fist while small sparks circled it. Butterfree, taken entirely by surprise, had no time to get away, and Ampharos’s punch smacked her right in the side of her face. The bug crashed uncomfortably into the ground.

May’s eyes spelled murder.

“Clever,” she commented coldly.

Sparky just smiled. “Don’t you think?”

May didn’t answer and just picked the next Pokéball from her necklace. Mark couldn’t help snickering to himself; now May had lost two of her Pokémon while Sparky had only lost one.

“I can be clever too,” May said and smirked, throwing out her next Pokéball. “Go, Skarmory!”

Mark wasn’t sure what she considered so clever about using Skarmory, but he was about to find out.

“Whirlwind that cotton right back at it.”

The metallic bird let out a piercing cry, swooped down close to the pile of wool and then suddenly flapped his wings powerfully. The Cotton Spore drifted back towards the Pokémon it originally came from, still green-tinged with Sleep Powder. Ampharos attempted to run out of the way, but the wool was everywhere, making the sheep trip over it a few times before finally its eyelids gave way to the overwhelming urge to close and the Pokémon collapsed.

“Aha,” Sparky said, nodding thoughtfully. “Very clever.”

“Indeed,” May agreed. “Now use Spikes while it can’t hurt you,” she instructed Skarmory. “And I want a lot of them.”

Skarmory flew upwards above Ampharos and sent a rain of metallic feathers down onto the ground. Some of them hit Ampharos, cutting its skin a little, but most simply fell down on the ground, leaving their sharp edges ready to make things difficult for the upcoming Pokémon.

“And now, Drill Peck!”

Skarmory spun around in mid-air, diving down at the sleeping sheep Pokémon on the floor, but just then, its eyes popped open and widened in surprise at the approaching bird. Ampharos’s body was almost immediately sparkling with electricity, and when Skarmory’s sharp beak drilled into the sheep’s side, the electricity pulsed into his body and caused him to screech in pain along with his opponent. The metallic vulture crashed nastily into the floor and didn’t move.

“Looks like a double faint, eh?” Sparky said cheerfully, recalling his battered Pokémon. May nodded curtly and did the same.

The gym leader put his hand into his pocket and presumably pressed a hidden button; a rectangular section of the floor on his end of the arena started sinking down with a rumbling noise. Some steel feathers on the edges of the rectangle fell down onto the disappearing platform as it started to slide under the rest of the rubber-covered floor to reveal a basic Pokémon pool.

“Go, Lanturn!”

Sparky threw a ball towards the pool, and it quickly burst open to reveal a blue anglerfish Pokémon in a flash of light. It dove into the pool, seemingly happy about the exercise, but then stuck its head up out of the water again to be able to see the opponent it was about to face. The yellow bait on its natural fishing rod flashed.

May nodded thoughtfully to herself and picked a Pokéball. “Go, Lapras!”

The sea turtle-like Pokémon was sent out on the opposite end of the pool. Mark wasn’t sure what she was thinking there; after all, it would be even easier for Lanturn to harm Lapras than a land-based Pokémon. But then again, he suddenly realized, the other two Pokémon she had left were both weak to Water.

“Body Slam!” May ordered quickly, and Lapras threw herself at her opponent with a cry. The Lanturn released a jolt of electricity in surprise, shocking Lapras just before she crushed the fish against the wall of the pool with her body.

“Confuse Ray, Lanturn.”

“Lapras,” May shouted, thinking quickly, “freeze the water with an Ice Beam.”

Small icicles formed in the turtle’s mouth as she craned her head backwards, but meanwhile Lanturn swam up to the surface of the water and let its light bulb glow brightly. The wispy light detached itself from Lanturn and floated lazily in the air, causing Lapras to watch it curiously.

“Lapras!” May warned, and the Pokémon blinked, suddenly realizing what she was doing and then firing the beam of cold from her mouth. Starting at the spot she was aiming at in the middle of the pool, the water rapidly turned into a sheet of cracking ice. Lanturn, knowing better than to be trapped at the bottom inside the ice where it wouldn’t be able to do anything at all, stayed at the surface as Lapras trapped both the anglerfish and herself in place.

“Ice Beam the ceiling, Lapras!”

Mark looked at May in puzzlement at this command, but her expression was inscrutable. While Lanturn, trapped in the layer of ice, attempted to gain a little more room to move by letting its light bulb emit small, hot sparks, Lapras fired another beam of ice at the ceiling above the pool.

There were strange cracking sounds.

Sparky looked worriedly upwards just as shards of frozen rubber rained down onto the two immobile Pokémon. Lapras could bend her head down and had a protective shell, not to mention thick skin, but Lanturn had a frail build and was stuck with its head sticking out of the ice and could only close its eyes before being hit and cut by the sharp edges.

“Lanturn, Thunder,” Sparky said as the last bits of the ceiling hit the iced pool.

Lapras whimpered as the battered Lanturn’s glowing bait turned white in preparation for the attack. Attempting desperately to wring herself loose from the ice, she turned her head towards May with shining, fearful eyes that begged to be recalled.

“Ice Beam,” May ordered. “Now, before it hits you.”

“Lanturn, maybe you should…” Sparky began, but the fish Pokémon ignored him, not at all planning to let the Pokémon that had pulled that devilish ceiling Ice Beam trick get off so easily.

“Come on, Ice Beam!” May shouted, but Lapras only responded with an anxious wail. Mark's heart thumped sickeningly. Was she really not going to…?

A bright flash of lightning blinded the room. Lapras’s scream of pain was barely audible through the deafening roar of thunder.

May sighed. “Come back, Lapras,” she said, recalling the limp turtle. Spirit looked up at her trainer, but the glance was not returned.

“Pupitar, finish it off with an Earthquake.”

She threw the next Pokéball, which opened in mid-air and released the blue cocoon-like creature. He spun around in the air as soon as he had gained material form and threw himself down at the floor. Ripples formed in its surface, travelling across the ice and hitting the now-weak Lanturn. It unwillingly released a flurry of electric sparks, but then closed its eyes and let itself slip into unconsciousness.

“There,” May muttered as Sparky recalled his Pokémon. He reached into his pocket again to close the pool.

“Electabuzz, do it!” Sparky said, tossing a new ball into the arena. The light from it revealed a bipedal tigerlike creature with black stripes shaped into a bolt of lightning on its belly. Sparks flew from the small antennae on its head as it emitted an electrical cry, and it took a moment for Mark to realize that it was because Electabuzz was standing on Skarmory’s Spikes. It looked down at the floor, trying to find a spot to place its feet.

“Earthquake again,” May just said.

“Ice Punch,” Sparky ordered. “And try to evade the attack.”

Pupitar bounced up into the air somehow (Mark had no idea how, considering it had no legs to kick off with) and then smashed himself into the floor, but meanwhile Electabuzz was charging towards him while delicately avoiding the steel feathers covering the floor, and at just the right moment, it leapt into the air, roared as icy blue energy circled its fist, and then gave Pupitar a powerful punch. Small needles of ice flew in all directions and melted quickly on the floor.

“Pupitar, use a Rock Tomb,” May said quickly.

Pupitar closed his eyes, and all of a sudden, the floor around Electabuzz exploded, burying the Pokémon under large chunks of concrete. It didn’t take the Electabuzz long to blast the rocks aside with its powerful arms, but in doing so, it lost a few precious seconds just as May ordered Pupitar to try another Earthquake. As the floor rippled under its feet, the Electric-type lost its balance and fell back to the ground with sparks flying around it.

Electabuzz opened its eyes again, growled at Pupitar and crawled weakly to its feet, looking about to faint at any moment. May watched it with a triumphant glance in her eyes, already mentally celebrating that she was about to even the game.

Suddenly, the Electric-type sprang up with a loud roar. Both of its fists icy blue, Electabuzz threw itself at Pupitar and smashed into the pupa, sending both Pokémon flying backwards.

Electabuzz took a few heavy tumbles on the ground. Pupitar rolled in a large semicircle with frost damage in two spots on its head.

Pupitar’s eyes opened, but Electabuzz’s did not.

“Return,” Sparky said, a red beam from one of his Pokéballs absorbing the tigerlike creature. May smirked as Pupitar managed (again, in some magical way) to raise himself back to balancing on his narrow end.

Sparky looked at Pupitar and then pulled out another Pokéball.

“Electrode, finish it.”

The Pokémon he sent out looked like a huge, upside-down Pokéball with eyes and a mischievous grin. Sparky hesitated for a second before giving it an order:


At bizarre speed, the rounded Pokémon rolled straight at Pupitar. There was a fiery explosion in the middle of the arena and Mark had to shield his eyes for a second, but when the smoke dissolved, both Pokémon lay immobile on the floor.

“Return, Pupitar.”

“Come back, Electrode.”

May and Sparky looked at each other.

“Down to our last Pokémon, then,” Sparky said with a smile. “I love it when battles are exciting.”

May’s expression stayed cold and focused. She said nothing.

“Go, Magneton.”

Sparky sent out what looked like three of the Pokémon that the first junior trainer had owned stuck together. It levitated in mid-air in a similar fashion to the Magnemite.

May grinned. “Spirit, go!”

The Ninetales slowly walked forward into the arena.

“Thunder Wave, Magneton.”

“Spirit, assume the weak spirit form.”

While the metallic magnet Pokémon started charging up electricity, Spirit’s eyes glowed red. Mark watched in astonishment as her form turned ghostly white and semi-transparent. When Magneton released a wave of electricity, it passed through Spirit without harming her. She walked calmly towards Magneton.

Sparky stroked his chin. “Interesting.”

“Spirit, Flamethrower,” May ordered. Spirit faded back into her physical form and breathed out a plume of flames that torched the Magneton’s metallic body. It buzzed a little and started to charge electricity, but before it managed to hit, Spirit was back in her ghostly, insubstantial form.

“Rain Dance,” Sparky said. Magneton started turning slowly in mid-air, letting out a soft electric hum. Wispy vapour began to form near the ceiling, quickly spreading and becoming a thick layer of dark clouds. Within seconds, the two Pokémon were in a local rainstorm.

May frowned, most likely realizing that this would wreck her plans of defeating Magneton with Fire attacks.

“Stay in spirit form,” she told her Pokémon.

Sparky nodded thoughtfully. “Magneton, see if a Sonicboom will help against that.”

The magnetic Pokémon sent a blast of compressed sound waves at the ghostly Ninetales. Hearing a horrible sound that no one else could, Spirit laid her ears back, staggering backwards a little, but soon recovered and shook her head.

May looked a little worried that Sparky had caught on so soon. “Spirit, assume the strong spirit form,” she finally ordered.

Spirit’s eyes glowed again, but this time she faded completely away, becoming entirely invisible.

“I don’t assume I can ask if there is any way to hit her like this, can I?” Sparky asked amusedly after a short pause.

“No, you can’t,” May said shortly.

“How about whether she can do anything to Magneton like this?”

“Not that either.”

Sparky paused. “Well, then I’ll wait and see, I guess.”

He waited. May waited too.

“All right, fine,” Sparky finally said and chuckled. “Use Lock-On and see if you can locate her.”

The three staring eyes on Magneton’s bodies glowed blue as the Pokémon concentrated.

“She’s not here,” Magneton said, sounding about as puzzled as an electronic voice can sound. “She’s not in the room.”

Sparky raised an eyebrow. “You know that any Pokémon that leaves the arena has by official rules lost the…”

“She hasn’t left the arena!” May snapped. “Spirit, use Curse!”

The Ninetales reappeared in physical form at exactly the location she had been at before, like she had never moved at all, and yet again, her eyes glowed a hellish red.

“Thunderbolt!” Sparky shouted immediately.

Spirit stretched her head upwards while letting out a long howl. Devilish whispers mixed in with the terrible sound, her eyes glowing more intensely with every passing second – and then suddenly both Pokémon burst into black flames, letting out cries of pain.

Mark stared as Spirit’s eyes returned to normal. No sooner had she shaken her head weakly than Magneton fired a bolt of electricity through the heavy rain.

Spirit was thrown backwards with a yelp and landed harshly on the floor nearby. Meanwhile, Magneton seemed to be in great pain, and Mark realized why when he noticed the black flames that circled its bodies. Nervous sparks flew around it as it struggled to keep its balance.

A clatter was heard through the sound of the pouring rain as the Electric Pokémon fell fainted to the floor.

May clenched her fist as Sparky recalled his Pokémon. Everybody stared at the fallen Spirit, all wondering the same thing: would she get up?

Spirit raised her head slowly and blinked a few times with difficulty.

“Come on,” May mouthed.

The rain-soaked Ninetales finally managed to rise shakily to her feet and look at Sparky with a victorious smile.

“I knew you could do it!” May shouted in triumph. “Great job, Spirit! Yes!”

Sparky just smiled as the rain in the arena subsided and the clouds slowly started to dissolve into the air. When it was sufficiently dry, he walked across the room, pulling a small silver badge out of his pocket.

“You have an… interesting Ninetales,” he commented.

May grinned. “You’d never imagine.”

“So,” Sparky said, turning to Mark, “I think my Pokémon would like a nice rest with Nurse Joy now. You don’t mind waiting a bit longer, do you?”


“How does this spirit form thing work?”

While Joy was tending to Sparky’s Pokémon, the kids and the gym leader sat in the Pokémon Center waiting room and chatted. It was Mark who first dared to ask May about Spirit’s unusual battling abilities, although he strongly suspected Sparky had been wondering too. Alan, of course, had missed the battle, and looked curiously at May.

She was still wearing a triumphant expression, petting her Ninetales with one hand and reaching every now and then for a cookie from a bowl on the table (which Joy had placed there earlier) with the other.

“Well,” May explained through her cookie, “there are two types of it. In the weak spirit form, she is insubstantial so she can’t be hit by any physical attacks, fire, water, electricity or anything. Only stuff like Hypnosis or Sonicboom that don’t rely on attacking her body directly can affect her in that form. Then there’s the strong spirit form, in which she stops existing except on a spiritual plane, and then she can’t be hurt at all. She can hear me telepathically or something when I give her orders in that form, I think.”

Alan blinked. “That sounds pretty invincible.”

“Well, it applies both ways,” May added, shrugging. “She has to turn back to physical form to be able to attack, and while in spirit form the opponent could be powering itself up or something, so it’s not always a good idea. It takes skill to know when to…”

A soft ding was heard and they all looked up. The door to the treatment room opened, and Nurse Joy stepped out.

“Your Pokémon should be ready to get themselves beaten to a pulp by a little kid for the second time in one day,” she said sarcastically to Sparky, rolling her eyes a little.

“I love you too, Joy,” he giggled as he picked up the Pokéballs she handed to him on a tray and reattached them to his belt. “So, Mark, should we battle now?”

“Uh, okay,” Mark replied nervously, standing up. “You guys going to watch?”

Alan looked at May and she shrugged. He ended up pulling her out of the chair. Mark thought he could see him elbow May for the umpteenth time as they walked to the door. Crossing over to the gym building and walking up the staircases didn’t take long, and Mark hardly noticed where he was going while he was lost in trying to remember May’s strategies. Before he knew it, he was facing Sparky on the battle arena.

“Six on six again,” Sparky said. “Go, Manectric!”

As the doglike Pokémon materialized, Mark’s hand automatically slipped to Sandslash’s Pokéball, but he realized what he was doing before he sent him out.

“Don’t make the same mistake as against Flora,” he muttered to himself. “Right.”

He shrugged. If it worked for May, it might work for him.

“Go, Jolteon!” he shouted as he threw the Pokéball.

“Manectric, Thunder Wave,” Sparky ordered as Jolteon appeared on the floor.

“Thu… no, Pin Missile!” Mark blurted out, suddenly gripped by the nervousness he tended to feel in battle. He could see May shaking her head by the side wall and Alan elbowing her again.

Jolteon was faster. Crouching down, he fired a flurry of needles towards Manectric, causing it to stagger back as it was stricken by the hundreds of small pins.

“Try to dodge!” Mark shouted as he watched Manectric start to charge. A wave of electricity shot at Jolteon, but he leapt into the air. The wave struck one of his back legs and he cried out, but he landed fairly safely on the floor.

“Return!” Mark said quickly.

“Manectric, Crunch.”

Jolteon closed his eyes as Manectric dashed towards him. A pink aura circled his body. As Manectric bared its fangs, Jolteon charged towards it as well as he could (he had a slight limp due to his paralyzed leg) and rammed it with a full-body tackle. Manectric yelped as it was thrown backwards, but stood up, shook its head and leapt at Jolteon, sinking its fangs into the smaller Pokémon’s side. Jolteon cried out and bit Manectric right back.

“Uh, Sand Attack!” Mark ordered.

Jolteon leapt a short distance away from Manectric and kicked previously nonexistent sand into the dog’s eyes. Manectric growled, startled, and attempted to get rid of the sand by shaking its head, giving Jolteon an opportunity to strike again.

“Another Return!”

“Manectric, Quick Attack.”

Jolteon concentrated on his trust in Mark, gathering the same pink energy as before, but Manectric meanwhile sprang up at great speed to try to tackle Jolteon. Thanks to the sand in its eyes, however, it missed him by an inch and crashed on the ground, giving Jolteon a good opportunity to tackle it. It growled in pain.

Manectric got to its feet and, without Sparky’s command, released a powerful blast of electricity at Jolteon. Mark was sure he was going to faint now, but to his surprise, Jolteon appeared unharmed.

This is strange… I feel better than before…

Manectric looked surprised too. Mark turned to May, puzzled.

“Volt Absorb,” she called. “Jolteon’s ability. Electricity heals him.”

“Oh,” Mark replied, dumbfounded. He had never known that, except perhaps for a few minutes while he read it in a textbook. Maybe that had been why the electricity wouldn’t affect Dan’s Lanturn.

“Manectric, Crunch.”

The dog attacked Jolteon again and managed to pin him down, locking its jaws around his body, but he responded with a quick Pin Missile right into its face.

“Manectric, return,” Sparky said as his Pokémon roared and staggered backwards. It was recalled into the safety of the Pokéball as he reached for his pocket with the other hand.

The Water Pokémon pool opened in the same manner as it had before, and Sparky sent out the same anglerfish which, Mark made a mental note, it was not a good idea to attack with Electric attacks.

“Jolteon, Thunder Wave!” Mark shouted, remembering that this had nonetheless worked on Dan’s Lanturn.

“Confuse Ray, Lanturn.”

Jolteon was faster again, despite the bleeding gash on his side. He crouched down and sent a wave of lightning at the fish in the pool, who retaliated by sending the same kind of wispy light as it had used on Lapras floating through the air at Jolteon. He watched it curiously.

“Don’t let it distract you!” Mark yelled in frustration.

“Hydro Pump,” Sparky ordered calmly.

Lanturn swam to the surface and sprayed a powerful blast of water from its mouth. Jolteon yelped as it bombarded him, blasting him a few meters backwards. He weakly stood up and angrily responded with a Pin Missile (which admittedly did not hurt Lanturn very much because it had dived underwater again) until he was again distracted by the playful light. Mark gritted his teeth as Jolteon started to sway on his feet, seemingly hypnotized.

“Jolteon! Keep your mind on the battle!”

“Another Hydro Pump, Lanturn.”

Just as Jolteon turned around, he was blasted with a second Hydro Pump. He screamed as he was blasted halfway to the wall and did not stand up again afterwards.

“Return, Jolteon,” Mark said disappointedly as the Confuse Ray light faded away. He pondered for a few seconds before picking the next Pokémon to use:

“Dragonair, do it!”

Sparky watched with interest as the slender snakelike dragon materialized out of the Pokéball Mark threw out. Dragonair flew into the air and looked down at Lanturn.

“Lanturn, use an Ice Beam.”

Oh, crap, Mark thought.

“Quick, Agility! Dodge it!”

Lanturn’s paralysis slowed it down, and thanks to that combined with Dragonair suddenly zooming to the other end of the room, the Ice Beam missed by a long shot.

“Great, Dragonair,” Mark cheered. “Use Slam.”

“Thunder Wave.”

While Dragonair dived at great speed, Lanturn was charging up electricity. Just as the dragon smashed the dark blue pearls on his tail into the anglerfish’s head, Lanturn pumped paralyzing electricity into his whole body. Dragonair screamed, retreating into the air.

“Now use another Ice Beam.”

This time, Dragonair couldn’t move out of the way soon enough and was struck by a beam of ice from the anglerfish. The dragon dropped to the ground.

Then, curiously, he closed his eyes and started to focus. Mark stared in horror as Dragonair’s skin seemed to rip apart on his head, but then he realized what was happening – Dragonair was just shedding his old skin.

The dragon slithered along the floor as quickly as he could, letting his old scales scrape against the rubbery floor enough to start to tear off. And indeed, the more of his body he managed to pull out of the old skin, the faster he seemed to become.

“Yet another Ice Beam, Lanturn,” Sparky said and Lanturn aimed, but just before it fired the attack, Dragonair shot upwards in a shiny new body, leaving his old skin lying useless on the floor. The beam of ice crystals covered the skin with frost.

“Twister!” Mark yelled. Dragonair started spinning fast, helped by the power of the Agility, and formed a whirlwind of green flames. Lanturn attempted to swim into a corner of the pool as the Twister began to suck up the water, but had no arms to hold on to the bank and was thus pulled inevitably towards the draconic whirlwind.

Lanturn screamed as it was tossed around in the tornado of dragon flames, but then the whirlwind finally dissolved and the water rained back down. Lanturn landed helplessly on the floor beside the pool.

“Return, Lanturn,” Sparky said as the beam of the Pokéball absorbed the fish. Mark couldn’t believe he was actually – somewhat – about to win the battle now.

“Ampharos, go,” the Gym leader said after a short pause. He sent out the electric sheep which Mark remembered from earlier only from the Cotton Spore trick.

“Okay, um…” He paused. “Try another Twister?”

“Light Screen, Ampharos,” Sparky ordered.

As Dragonair tried to whip up a whirlwind again, Ampharos concentrated and created a translucent pink bubble around itself.

“Now, Cotton Spore!” Sparky said quickly as the Twister started forming. Again, fluffy wool sprouted on the sheep Pokémon, but this time, it shook itself to send the cottonlike material out of the Light Screen. It was sucked into the whirlwind, but Ampharos itself was safe behind the protective shield and hardly affected at all.

What happened now was a very interesting development that Mark had not expected at all. As Dragonair realized this wasn’t doing any good and stopped powering the Twister, the room filled up with floating bits of the Cotton Spore that the Twister had torn up.

“Dragonair, try a Slam now,” Mark said unsurely, figuring that at the very least he’d have to do something physical to get through the Light Screen. The dragon faithfully dived, but the shreds of wool everywhere were slowing him down.

“Mega Punch,” Sparky simply said.

Dragonair attempted to smash his tail into his opponent, but Mark could just barely see him miss. Then Ampharos punched Dragonair hard with its curled flipper, and Mark miserably watched his dragon Pokémon collapse on the ground.

“Return,” he muttered as Dragonair disappeared into the Pokéball he held out.

He took a deep breath (taking care not to inhale any of the Cotton Spore, of course). What did he have left again? Letal, Charizard, Scyther and Sandslash. Wouldn’t it just be best to go for it now?

“Sandslash, go!” he shouted, hurling forward a Pokéball. The pangolin Pokémon appeared, taking in the situation carefully.

“Earthquake, quickly,” Mark ordered.

Sandslash leapt up, turned around in mid-air so that he faced downwards, and then smashed into the ground with his forepaws. Ripples spread through the floor; Mark could hear Ampharos’ wail of pain, even though it was hard to see anything when both the floating wool and the Light Screen blocked his vision.

“Ampharos, Fire Punch,” Sparky commanded. Mark watched the pink bubble disappear as the sheep started making its way towards Sandslash. The Cotton Spore was slowly but surely settling on the ground, but there was still a great deal of it getting in the Pokémon’s way.

“Sandslash, try to use another Earthquake!”

Sandslash jumped into the air again, but at the same time, Ampharos jumped. Sandslash was hit by a fiery punch in his vulnerable underbelly and flailed around a bit before slashing powerfully across Ampharos’s body. The sheep cried out, momentarily distracted as Sandslash landed on the floor and produced an Earthquake – not quite as powerful as the earlier one, but it was enough. Ampharos flailed around as it was shaken by the Earthquake shockwaves, the air around it sparkling and lighting a few hairs of wool briefly on fire, and then fell down.

“Ampharos, return.”

Sparky waited a little bit for the last strands of cotton to sink to the ground while Mark considered the situation. Sandslash might be able to take out one or two more Pokémon with his type advantage, and even after that, he had three of his Pokémon left. Admittedly, two of them had a weakness to electricity, but this was still not a bad situation. His heart thumped.

“Go, Electabuzz.”

Sparky threw a Pokéball and it popped open to release the bipedal tigerlike thing from before. It growled at Sandslash, who looked back at it calmly.

“Okay, Sandslash, just keep using Earthquake,” Mark said, trying to keep himself together. “It’s really your best bet to keep using it for as long as you can.”

“Electabuzz, hit it with an Ice Punch.”

The Electric Pokémon dashed forward, but it didn’t manage to reach Sandslash before he smashed his paws into the ground yet again and sent a flurry of ripples around the floor. Electabuzz tripped, releasing some accidental sparks, but then rose up, shook its head and jumped at the pangolin with icicles circling its fist.

“Slash!” Mark screamed, and Sandslash heartily agreed. The pangolin slashed with two claws right across Electabuzz’s body and then, at amazing speed, curled himself into a tight ball before the Electric-type struck him with the punch.

Sandslash bounced like a ball from the rubber floor, rolling all the way up to the wall, but there he uncurled and was still conscious. Electabuzz, however, looked exhausted.

“Just one more Quick Attack, old Buzzy,” Sparky encouraged his Pokémon. “Then you get to rest.”

Electabuzz took a deep breath and then zoomed at Sandslash at incredible speed. The pangolin had no time to attempt to dodge it, and was tackled into the wall.

“Electabuzz, return,” Sparky said calmly, absorbing the Pokémon into the Pokéball.

Mark looked at Sandslash. He had been knocked out.

“Sandslash, come back,” he sighed and recalled the pangolin. Sparky had two Pokémon left and he had three. He was still a little better off.

“Go, Electrode,” Sparky said, sending out his ball-like Pokémon.

“Letal, go!” Mark shouted and threw out his Pokéball.

He took a deep breath as Letal materialized on the floor. “Okay, Letal, try to hypnotize it. It’s very important.”

“Electrode, Thunder Wave!”

The ball Pokémon charged up electricity in its body at remarkable speed and released a wave of sparks straight at Letal. She was hit by it, but strained valiantly against the paralysis and stared hypnotically at Electrode, waving her tail softly from left to right. Mark’s expression brightened as the ball’s small pupils followed the tail and its eyelids started to sink.

“Oh, snap out of it,” Sparky said and rolled his eyes, but his Pokémon was too fascinated by Letal’s tail to notice that he was talking and slowly it fell into a deep sleep.

“Great, Letal,” Mark cheered. “Now, uh…”

He frantically tried to remember what attacks Letal knew. “Headbutt!” he quickly realized.

Letal growled and charged towards the Electrode. Halfway there, she nearly tripped when one of her legs stiffened in mid-step, but she gritted her teeth and forced herself to keep going. She had managed to gather pretty good speed by the time she lowered her head and smashed it into Electrode, sending it rolling backwards to the wall. She did not stop here, however; she followed it and proceeded to extend her claws and scrape them madly across Electrode’s hard surface. Only after she had been doing that for a few seconds did the ball Pokémon wake up.

“Finally,” Sparky said with another theatrical roll of his eyes. “Thunderbolt.”

The Electrode smirked back at Sparky released a jolt of electricity into Letal’s body. She cried out in pain, jumping slightly away, but then she had a very nasty idea and stabbed her claws into Electrode’s eye.

“Ouch,” Sparky commented as Electrode let out a scream of pain. Mark was half-expecting blood to come gushing out and averted his eyes, but then remembered that Electrode had no blood.

“Electrode, return,” Sparky said. “Don’t your Pokémon have any manners?” he added to Mark as the Pokémon was absorbed back into its ball, sounding way too light-hearted to be taken seriously.

Mark just shook his head. Why did somebody keep getting stabbed in the eye in his battles? He thought he could remember Gyarados getting stabbed both by Moltres’ beak way back in the Cleanwater City Gym and by a Razor Leaf in the Green Town Gym.

“Go, Magneton.”

Mark looked up at the Pokémon that had faced Spirit earlier. He suddenly realized that this was Sparky’s last Pokémon. His heart beat faster: he had three Pokémon left while Sparky only had one!

“Okay, Letal, try to hypnotize it.”

“Magneton, Thunderbolt.”

Letal attempted the same trick she had used on Electrode, but the magnetic Pokémon seemed unaffected as sparks flew between its magnets. A bolt of lightning flew towards Letal and hit her squarely in the chest. She staggered backwards and then decided to take matters into her own paws: she leapt straight at Magneton and attempted to tackle it down to the ground. To her surprise, it bounced right back up to where it had been before.

“Thunderbolt again.”

Letal growled and tackled it in the air again, but the Magneton gave her another electric shock and she collapsed in a heap on the ground.

“Return,” Mark muttered, letting the red beam of the Pokéball take her in again. “Well, Charizard, show him what you can do.”

He threw out the next ball. It opened in the air and released his first Pokémon, who stretched his wings and flew up to hover close to the ceiling.

“Rain Dance,” Sparky ordered quickly.

“Flamethrower!” Mark shouted.

Charizard was faster. With a mighty roar, he inhaled deeply and breathed a blast of flames downwards at Magneton. It buzzed as it was scorched by the flames, but retaliated right back by doing the same kind of awkward magnet-dance in mid-air as it had in May’s battle. Again, clouds gathered near the ceiling and started to rain. Charizard winced, looking worriedly at his tail flame.

Now Mark was getting a little nervous again. “Charizard, smack it with your tail!”

“Thunder, Magneton.”

Charizard dived down, raising his flaming tail up and then smashing it into Magneton with all his might. The magnet Pokémon was thrown backwards and now had a nasty scorch mark on one of its bodies, but then it pointed all of its magnets at Charizard and a bolt of lightning from the clouds above struck the dragon, who was already weakened by the rain, before he could even attempt to defend himself.

Charizard roared in pain, struggling to keep himself airborne. Sparky quickly gave another command:


Mark could see the raindrops swaying in the direction of the sound waves that Magneton started emitting. Wide-eyed, he watched Charizard, just recovering from the Thunder, attempt to cover his ears, roar and then finally crash on the ground.

“Charizard, return.”

Mark looked at Magneton. It was hurt, and acted it, too; it was sending off unintentional sparks every now and then and teetering slightly in the air.

“Scyther, finish it!”

As soon as Scyther started to materialize from the Pokéball, Mark had a feeling something was wrong. But he didn’t realize what it was until he saw that Scyther wasn’t steady on his feet.

“Oh dear,” Sparky said with an amused grin, voicing exactly Mark’s thoughts. “He’s still under the influence.”

“I’m fine,” Scyther mumbled. “Really…”

He made a respectable attempt to run towards Magneton and slash it, but missed it by a couple of feet.

Sparky shook his head. “Thunderbolt.”

It only took one bolt of lightning from Magneton’s magnets to make Scyther’s eyes roll backwards into his head and his body crumple uselessly down.

Mark stared down in embarrassment as he held out Scyther’s Pokéball and let him be absorbed by the beam. How could he have forgotten that Scyther had been suspended inside a Pokéball ever since yesterday evening, obviously keeping his physical state completely static?

Sparky walked up to him while the rain started to subside and shook Mark’s hand.

“Good game,” he said cheerfully.

Mark realized as Sparky let go off his hand that a small object was left in it. He stared at his palm in astonishment to see a shiny silver badge with a bolt of lightning engraved on it.

“I… didn’t win,” he just said.

Sparky smiled. “I was the one who served him the alcohol.”

“I wouldn’t have won anyway!” Mark said in frustration, contrary to his optimism in the battle itself. “What do you think a Scyther can do to a Steel Pokémon?”

“Don’t forget, your Charizard put a dent in him. And come on, it’s your birthday after all,” Sparky said and winked. “Keep it. You’d win later anyway.”

Mark still stared at the badge, but then closed his fist around it and smiled. While part of him wanted to earn the badge properly, the other part was glad he didn’t have to repeat that.

“Thanks, Sparky.”

“You’re welcome,” the Gym leader said with a smile and shook his hand again. “Now, let’s get your Pokémon to Joy. We might be able to bribe her for some more cookies.”

As they all headed down the staircase and Alan congratulated him on his badge, Mark’s thoughts wandered to the task of tomorrow.

More pointless junior trainers! Fortunately, these are the very last junior trainers in the fic. Unfortunately, that wasn't because I'd finally wisened up and realized there was no reason to drag out gyms just to be like the games, but rather because in my plans from when I was twelve, I'd already decided the final two gyms just wouldn't have any, like Christopher and Mitch's gyms.

Fun cheerful fact about Sparky's father's philosophy on birthdays: it was a coping thing after his mom had been diagnosed with cancer, which eventually killed her. Only the cheeriest backstories in this fanfic.

This is another chapter where I thoroughly fail to show May as being actually a competent battler; instead she's behind until she just wins through cheese because she has a Ground-type that Sparky sacrifices an entire Pokémon to take out and a Ninetales with special legendary-given powers. Good job, sixteen-year-old me. Spirit's Curse intentionally works as if she were a Ghost-type; her additional powers are Ghost-themed.

A random one-time return of the thing where we see Pokémon's thoughts in battle for some reason. Pretty sure this really is the last time that happens.

I decided randomly in this chapter and the last to make Thunder Wave not activate Volt Absorb, unlike the games. I will then go on to contradict this in a later chapter, because I had completely forgotten about this by then.

Like a lot of kids, I hated the thing in the anime where Ash'd not properly win a gym battle but get the badge anyway. But I wound up doing it anyway in my fic, because I'd realized the same thing the anime writers did: the protagonist winning a Pokémon battle, just like the last five thousand times they won a Pokémon battle, isn't actually all that interesting or memorable as a narrative. Mark losing because Scyther is drunk? Fun! Mark rematching Sparky to actually win after that? Ehhhh. They've got a legendary battle to get to; who has time for another gym battle? And thus, Mark just gets the badge anyway because Sparky feels he's responsible for this. I'd do it a bit differently if I were writing this today, but I don't regret not doing a rematch here.
Chapter 33: Thunderyu


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Chapter 33 is here! Wherein things start to heat up for real with our first legendary battle.

Chapter 33: Thunderyu​


Mark woke up feeling sick. He wasn’t quite sure why for the first few seconds, but it quickly sank in: he would be battling a legendary Pokémon today, and as much as he’d have liked to think otherwise, it was hard to believe that they would succeed in weakening and catching it.


He sighed and sat up on the bed. The day before, he had been feeling fairly confident, but of course, that had been his birthday. Now he was just a random twelve-year-old who was completely rubbish at battling, about to stupidly confront a highly dangerous creature that was most likely capable of defeating all his Pokémon in one hit.

I’m not that rubbish anymore, he thought decisively. I have six gym badges, my Pokémon are great and… well, May is with me. And Alan. We’ll be fine.

Still not at all convinced, he stood up, quietly dressed and then wondered what to do next.

“Chaletwo?” he asked the air nervously.

“Yes?” said the smooth telepathic voice. Mark was relieved to hear no traces of the previous day’s grumpiness.

“How are we going to do this?”

“Well,” Chaletwo said after a moment’s pause, “it’s best that you three all send out six Pokémon each, I wake him up, we wait for him to break out since that will tire him a little, and then you just attack… I guess.”

Mark was a little unnerved – while Chaletwo was no longer upset, he had a clear hint of nervousness to his voice. He tried to convince himself that that was to be expected, but somehow he had expected to be able to trust in Chaletwo as the calm voice of reason throughout this quest, and now he wasn’t sure anymore.

“So…” he began, “when are we going to do it?”

“As soon as possible,” Chaletwo replied. “Are your friends awake?”

Mark laughed. “Wouldn’t you know it better than me? You’re the psychic.”

“What do you think I am, omnipotent?” Chaletwo replied, suddenly annoyed. “Non-psychics have such faint psychic signals that unless you previously know what location to concentrate on as I’m doing for you, you can’t read their minds or communicate telepathically with them. Enjoy your privacy.”

“Oh, right,” Mark said quickly to avoid arguing. “I didn’t know.”

“Don’t waste any time. Go find them.”

Mark stood up and walked out of his room, crossing the yellow-tiled corridor to knock on May’s door. To his surprise, it was not May who opened it a few seconds later, but Alan.

“Morning, Mark,” Alan said. “We couldn’t sleep so we’ve been keeping each other company. So um… are we going now?”

“Chaletwo said so,” Mark just replied.

Alan opened the door a little more. Mark could see May and Spirit both lying on the bed, the former absent-mindedly stroking the latter’s fur. Looking at the boys, May stood up, followed by her Pokémon.

“All right,” she just said as she came towards the door with Spirit trotting behind her. “Let’s go.”

They walked silently down the stairs at the end of the corridor and out of the gym. It was still rather dark outside, although the eastern sky was lighting up; of course, the looming thunderclouds above may have made it seem darker than it really was. The mountains to the east were shrouded in foreboding shadow that stretched on along the ground below. Approaching them gave an eerie sensation of dread. Mark shivered.

“Okay,” came Chaletwo’s voice suddenly, “can you all hear me?”

The kids stopped abruptly and each muttered some words of confirmation.

“Good. Now… As I said yesterday, Thunderyu will most likely break out into Thunderclap Cave, so you need to be ready and facing the cave exit. This location is just fine. But try to spread yourselves out a little; there won’t be room for all your Pokémon like this.”

May stayed where they were, but the boys each walked a little away from her in either direction.

“Still hear me? Okay. Release all your Pokémon.”

Mark took a deep breath. “Go! Charizard, Jolteon, Sandslash, Dragonair, Scyther, Letal!” he shouted as he hurled all of his Pokéballs forward. One by one they opened and released his Pokémon. May and Alan were both doing the same.

“Right,” Chaletwo’s voice said. “Pokémon, you all hear me too, right? Okay. Great. So.”

He gave a telepathic sigh before continuing. “Okay. You all know what we’re doing now, I hope? This is the first of many very difficult battles against legendaries that you will have to fight, this one in particular against Thunderyu who is a dragon with control over electricity, as I hope you know.

“In a moment, I will use my powers to wake him up. He is located in a hidden, closed chamber inside this mountain. When he has been woken up, he will most likely break through the most cracked wall and thus into Thunderclap Cave, whose entrance you may be able to spot here in front of us. When I say ‘us’, I am referring to Mark, of course, as I’m connected to his visual cortex. Which reminds me, Mark – don’t ever look away from Thunderyu, because I want to be able to see what he’s doing, all right?

“Well, once Thunderyu has emerged, you will have to show some independent thinking, all of you Pokémon. Your trainers can’t command six Pokémon at the same time. Just do your best, and of course, if the trainers have an idea of a strategy, it would be a good idea to listen to them because chances are they have a better overview of what’s happening than you do.

“A word of warning: Thunderyu is at least twice as powerful as anything you’ve ever battled before, and that’s optimistic. He also has no idea what the Agreement is and wouldn’t follow it if he did, so if you’re really getting in his way, he’s not going to be deliberately dampening his attacks to be nonfatal. The only hope we have of winning lies in numbers, so don’t even think about rushing out there alone. You who can fly, it would be a good idea to get a little closer to the entrance to the cave before everything begins.

“Now… any questions?”

The Pokémon looked nervously at one another. A couple of seconds’ pause passed before May’s Butterfree dared to speak:

“What about you?”

“Me?” Chaletwo asked, seemingly taken aback by the question.

“Yes. Will you be fighting with us?”

“Of course not,” Chaletwo replied. “Nobody must see me.”


“I have better things to do with the little power I have left, anyway,” Chaletwo interrupted. “It’s not possible, okay?”

Butterfree didn’t say anything.

“Okay,” May suddenly started. “We’d better think this through. Butterfree, you should try to put it to sleep with Sleep Powder. Pupitar, you can attack it with rocks – Thunderyu can fly, right? – and maybe try to knock it down to the ground where you can attack it with Earthquake, okay? Lapras, you…”

“I will not battle for you,” the turtle Pokémon said quietly in a shaky voice, only barely audible from where Mark was. Lapras’s eyes were filled with tears.

“What the hell do you mean, you won’t battle for me?” May asked angrily, raising her voice.

“I mean I’m not going to battle for you,” Lapras repeated. She took a few deep breaths and swallowed. “I hate you. I hate your insensitivity, your lack of concern for our wellbeing and your shallow, mindless love for this… all this fighting and…” She had to swallow again before she could continue. “You’ve made my life hell. I don’t want this.”

“I treat you just fine!” May shouted at her Pokémon, her cheeks reddening. “I don’t beat you or starve you or…”


May was immediately silenced by Spirit’s voice. She turned sharply towards her Ninetales.

“As much as I hate to criticize you, Lapras is right,” the fox said. “I watched your battle yesterday. Perhaps you have changed in your attitude towards Pokémon, but I do know that you would not have made me take that Thunder.”

The fierceness vanished immediately from May’s face to be replaced with dumbfounded incredulity. She opened her mouth to say something, but only a small, stupid sound came out.

“Well, it’s true,” Alan commented quietly. “That was ugly battling. You don’t make a Pokémon suffer an extra attack, let alone one that powerful, if it doesn’t serve a very clear purpose, and even then, if the Pokémon asks to be recalled, you should always do it.”

All this did was point May’s shocked gaze towards Alan instead of Spirit. Lapras looked once spitefully at her trainer and then recalled herself into her Pokéball.

A few awkward seconds passed before May suddenly seemed to snap out of a trance, her face returning to the determined expression she ordinarily had when battling like nothing had happened.

“Well, what are we waiting for? Wake Thunderyu up already.”

There were a few seconds of stunned silence.

“Right,” Chaletwo’s voice said, apparently deciding to act like nothing had happened too. “Get into position. Maybe move a bit farther from each other.”

Mark and Alan doubtfully, but with some relief, backed away from May.

“Okay, ready?” Chaletwo asked. “I’ll wake him, then. One, two…”

A large bolt of lightning flashed across the sky. A thunder roared a split second afterwards, but beneath that roar was a deep rumble that seemed to come from the mountain itself. Mark’s heart was pounding already as the rumble rose to a high-pitched cry.

“Here he comes,” Chaletwo’s voice said.

There was an earth-shaking boom from deep inside the mountain.

Boom. Another one.

“Oh, damn it,” Chaletwo muttered. “He’s more powerful than I remembered.”

The booms grew quicker and at the same time louder, each sending a chill of fear through Mark. Just what was going to crawl out of that cave?

“He’s not going to break out through Thunderclap Cave!” Chaletwo suddenly realized with a hint of panic in his telepathic voice. “He’s… he’s… he’s going to smash out of the top of the mountain! Quick, flyers, be ready at the top! Now!”

No sooner had Charizard, Butterfree, Dragonair, Skarmory, Scyther and Charlie in Charizard form flown up to circle the mountain’s peak than it exploded. The six Pokémon had to fly quickly out of the way of falling chunks of rock; in the middle of it all, Thunderyu finally climbed through the newly-formed hole, spread out his great wings for the first time and shot into the air with a cry.

He was a slender golden dragon, lightly built, but with very large wings that gave his flight a certain grace despite still being a little shaky. Mark could only barely make out his face: a long narrowing snout, two white horns and two deep blue gems embedded into his scaly forehead, like in several other places on his body.

Then Thunderyu opened his mouth wide and cried out again – and a bolt of lightning struck one of the flying Charizard directly. Mark’s heart stopped for a second – then the one who was still airborne nodded towards him and swooped upwards.

“Charlie!” Alan screamed as the unlucky dragon crashed pathetically into the ground below.

“You can think about him later!” Chaletwo’s voice shouted. “Don’t be distracted! Attack him! Go! Go! Go!”

“Dragonair, use a Twister, quick!” Mark yelled, his eyes wide at the proof of just how powerful a Pokémon they were facing. “Slash it, Scyther! Flamethrower, Charizard! Don’t let it hit you, no matter what!”

He glanced quickly towards Alan; he was very pale, but shouting orders at his Pokémon nonetheless while the unconscious Charlie was absorbed into his Pokéball. May was determined as ever, but visibly nervous.

“Watch Thunderyu!” Chaletwo hissed into his mind, and Mark quickly looked back at the dragon. He was firing a bolt of electricity at Charizard while the orange dragon was breathing a plume of fire. Charizard narrowly dived under the Thunderbolt; Thunderyu swooped sideways to avoid the flames, but miscalculated his own wingspan, and his sensitive wing membrane was scorched by Charizard’s fire. He let out another one of his piercing cries, but the momentary distraction that arose from this was chance enough for Scyther to zoom at the dragon’s back with his scythes raised.

Thunderyu turned around quickly, narrowly managing to prevent the mantis from succeeding in his intentions to damage the wing even more, but instead the slash hit his side. Scyther slashed at the wing again and hit this time. Roaring in pain, Thunderyu retaliated with a Thunderbolt which the insect Pokémon had no chance of avoiding, and Scyther dropped weakly to the ground.

Right at that moment, before Thunderyu could regain his sense of direction, a green tornado from Dragonair came speeding towards him. The legendary quickly countered by whipping up his own Twister; while the two tornadoes destroyed each other, however, Thunderyu barely had time to look up before Charizard’s tail came flying towards him at high speed and smashed straight into his head. With a cry of pain, the electric dragon struggled to keep himself in the air.

“Return, Scyther!” Mark said worriedly, recalling the mantis. He saw May’s Butterfree make a brave attempt to use Sleep Powder, but the legendary flew easily out of the way and fried the butterfly with a Thunder. Meanwhile, down on the ground, Spirit and Vicky, Alan’s Misdreavus, had finished charging up a large Shadow Ball together and fired it at the dragon.

“Mist, Ice Beam!” Alan yelled, and his Vaporeon crouched on the ground, aiming carefully before shooting a magnificent beam of ice. Thunderyu, in swooping down to dodge the Shadow Ball, was instead hit by the Ice attack; he was knocked backwards in the air and shivered there for a split second. Then, in retaliation, he angrily fired a Thunderbolt at Mist, but she leapt out of the way.

The dragon sent another bolt of electricity at her, and again she dodged; this only angered Thunderyu even more, but instead of continuing the chase, he began to spin around in a kind of eerie mid-air dance.

“I don’t like the look of this…” Mark muttered. “Dragonair, use a…”

He forgot how to speak when he saw what Thunderyu’s dance was doing. The clouds above the dragon were swirling along with him while strands of them stretched downwards, reaching all the way to the ground in a few moments and half-engulfing the dragon in a vortex of clouds. Electric sparks danced across the surface of the towering cloud structure, the form of the dragon only barely visible deep within.

A bolt of lightning now struck Mist from the cloud without warning. She shrieked in agony as the electricity coursed through her body and struggled to remain on her feet, but her consciousness was quickly swept away and she collapsed on the ground, defeated.

“Return,” Alan called with worry in his voice, recalling the Vaporeon.

“Skarmory, dive into there and attack it with a Drill Peck!” May shouted while Mark was still too stunned to say anything.

“Ska-a-a!” the steel vulture cried in confirmation, swooping straight towards the cloud pillar. Mark watched with dread as the bird penetrated the wall of clouds and screamed in pain as the electricity surged through him. Skarmory’s metallic body was beginning to glow with heat, and he used his last power to drive himself to spin and crash violently into Thunderyu beak-first. The dragon let out yet another cry, knocked backwards by a few feet, but then smashed Skarmory down at the ground with his tail while the gap in the clouds closed. May silently recalled her Skarmory.

“You’re not participating, damn it!” Chaletwo suddenly yelled in frustration. “Pokémon, where are half of you? You’re just sitting around on the ground! Do something! Don’t wait for your trainers! Pupitar, use a Rock Slide! Charizard, why aren’t you Flamethrowering it through those clouds? Make yourselves useful already, for Mew’s sake! This is the most damn important thing you’re going to do in your pathetic little lives, and you’re just standing there!”

This kicked all the Pokémon into action, to the point of everything becoming extremely chaotic. Mark caught a glimpse of Dragonair diving through the clouds with his tail orbs glowing, but then Charizard breathed a blast of flames through it at another end, and then he noticed Jolteon and Raichu had joined together to attempt to absorb the electricity from the cloud swirl. A series of boulders ripped out of the mountain and zoomed at unnatural speed straight at Thunderyu so that Dragonair only narrowly escaped after his attack. Thunderyu managed to destroy a few of the rocks with bolts of lightning, but one large one smashed straight into the legendary and knocked him harshly backwards, the cloud structure moving along with him. He quickly recovered, although he now seemed to need to flap his wings instead of gliding as he had before. Just then, Racko, Alan’s Grovyle, emitted a loud, high-pitched screech that made Thunderyu roar in agony. They were weakening him; there was no question about it.

Mark suddenly noticed a blur of fire heading towards the vortex and realized that it was Alan’s Rapidash, Diamond, with a familiar sand-colored pangolin riding on her back.

“Sandslash!” he exclaimed in surprise as the fire horse Pokémon made for a giant leap straight up to where Thunderyu was hidden behind the swirling clouds. The Rapidash whinnied painfully as the electricity shocked her, but she was ready with her horn glowing, and Sandslash was not affected by the sparks at all.

Through the large gap in the clouds, Mark could see Diamond stabbing her horn powerfully into Thunderyu’s underbelly. The dragon cried out in pain, pumping powerful electricity into the horse’s body, but meanwhile Sandslash leapt off her back and landed on Thunderyu’s, digging his long claws through the dragon’s scales.

The legendary roared in pain and thrashed violently about in the air in an attempt to get Sandslash off, flapping his wings irregularly. The cloud vortex seemed to be starting to dissolve, and Vicky and Spirit used the opportunity to charge up another combined Shadow Ball and fire it just as Dragonair dived at Thunderyu again and smacked his tail orbs into the other dragon’s head.

The legendary Pokémon roared in pain as he was struck by both attacks. Suddenly his eyes glowed blood red, and the thunderstorm intensified with showering rain. Steam rose from the dragon’s scales.

“He’s using Outrage!” Chaletwo shouted. “Watch out!”

Mark watched in horror as Thunderyu’s entire body flared up in blue flames. Sandslash, still embedded into Thunderyu’s back by the claws, screamed in pain as the dragon flames enveloped him, and as the legendary shook himself violently yet again, Sandslash dropped off, fell and hit the ground below.

Just as Mark recalled Sandslash, Thunderyu emitted an ear-splitting cry, and in an instant, three bolts of lightning struck Charizard, Vicky and Racko. While Charizard roared and crashed into the ground, the legendary’s form disappeared almost completely in the intensifying blue flames and he swooped straight at Dragonair.

“Don’t let him catch you!” Mark yelled, but it was too late: Thunderyu had already engulfed Dragonair in the blue fire, and the snakelike dragon had no way of escaping from the super-effective attack. Only seconds passed before he dropped limply to the ground.

“Return,” Mark whispered as he recalled both of his dragon Pokémon. Now all he had left was Jolteon and Letal.

Thunderyu roared and breathed a tongue of eerie dragon flames down towards where Jolteon and Raichu stood, but a creamy white shape leapt into the way.

“Spirit!” May screamed as the Ninetales shielded the two smaller Pokémon with her body, giving them an opportunity to run.

“Curse!” May gasped in realization. “If you manage it, we’ll just have to survive long enough and we’ll beat it!”

Spirit’s eyes began to glow a hellish red as they had in the gym battle, but Thunderyu instantly dived down and threw the fox Pokémon to the ground, wrapping her in dragon fire.


The red beam of a Pokéball absorbed Spirit into it, leaving Thunderyu crouching on the ground for a second. May’s face was paper-white by now, but she made a quick command:

“Pupitar, Earthquake!”

The pupa was very weakened by the pouring rain, but used his last powers to bounce into the air. When he crashed back into the ground, he closed his eyes in exhaustion and allowed his consciousness to drift away while his final attack produced unnatural ripples in the ground. It looked like it would be futile: Thunderyu was already spreading his wings for flight.

“Hold him down, hold him down!” Chaletwo yelled frantically.

Letal, Pamela, Raichu and Jolteon did not need to be told this twice; in an instant they all leapt onto the dragon’s back, knocking him back down at the ground and doing their best to attack him at the same time.

Thunderyu roared in pain, exhausting a flurry of electric sparks while the blue fire flared up anew. The four Pokémon on top of Thunderyu screamed, exposed to both Thunderyu’s Electric and Dragon powers and Pupitar’s Earthquake, but faithfully endured it and remained where they were, preventing Thunderyu from escaping the last attack.

When the Earthquake ended, they had all fainted.

Thunderyu shook them off and rose slowly up before taking off again.

“Damn it!” Chaletwo swore in their heads. “Damn it, damn it! Ultra Ball, quick!”

Mark grabbed a black and yellow Pokéball from his pocket and tossed it with all his might at the ascending dragon. Miraculously, the ball hit.

The dragon roared as he was absorbed into it and the ball dropped down to the ground, wobbling.



The ball popped open.

“No!” Mark whispered as the dragon materialized in the air again. Thunderyu roared and glared at the three kids.

His body flared blue.

He dived.

Time seemed to slow down to a snail’s pace just then. The dragon descended with murderous eyes. Mark was frozen with fear.

May took out a Pokéball.

She threw it, her lips barely moving as she whispered three words:

“Lapras, I’m sorry.”

Time sped up again. The light from the Pokéball materialized into the shape of the blue turtle, and she fired a beam of ice at the approaching Thunderyu. The dragon cried out in pain, layers of frost forming on his wings, until he crashed into the ground just in front of them, frozen.

It took Mark a couple of seconds to snap out of his trance and reach for a second Ultra Ball. He threw it weakly at the immobile dragon.

Thunderyu’s shape dissolved into red light and was drawn into the ball. It closed tightly and began to shake.




It took a sharp violent twitch which made Mark’s heart stop for a second – but then the button on the ball stopped glowing and it stilled on the ground with a ping.

Everybody just stared at it for a couple of seconds.

Finally Alan was the one who stepped forward and carefully picked it up. He looked at it in his hand, broke out in a grin and started laughing.

Alan handed the ball to Mark, and Mark couldn’t help laughing too.

“YES!” Chaletwo cried triumphantly.

“We did it! I can’t believe it, we did it!” Mark shouted, still laughing.

May didn’t laugh. She just looked at Lapras, her fingers squeezing her Pokéball, and whispered, again, “I’m sorry.”

Lapras only hung her head miserably.

Mark watched the Pokéball disappear from his hand. Now Thunderyu was sealed safely away on the PC. One legendary Pokémon down, many more to go.

And he realized, inexplicably, that the experience of the legendary battle, while terrible while it was going on, had been the most exciting and exhilarating event of his life.

He wanted to do it again.

“I’ve just gone insane,” he muttered to himself, still with a grin plastered on his face.

High above, the skies were clearing.

Definitely my favorite chapter so far, especially since I tweaked the main thing that really bugged me about it. Getting to some actual chapters that I still vaguely like, finally!

It's kind of funny everyone else just sort of tactfully decides to ignore the Lapras thing at the end. No wonder she looks miserable.
Chapter 34: Return to Cleanwater


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Chapter 34! In which I murder an innocent bystander.

Chapter 34: Return to Cleanwater​


They were on their way back to Stormy Town to get their Pokémon healed when they met Sparky on the road.

He looked at them with one of his amused grins. His silver shades were now appropriate for the first time: the sun was shining brightly, and nothing indicated that the town had before been eternally plagued by thunderstorms.

“Lovely weather, isn’t it?” Sparky said when none of the kids were saying anything.

“Um, yeah, I guess,” Mark replied awkwardly. Sparky raised an eyebrow, grinning even more.

“Oh, come on,” he chuckled. “We all know you had something to do with it. Or at least you can tell me why our beloved Mount Flash has lost a few of its meters above sea level since yesterday, since you happened to be positioned so close to it. I daresay all the evidence suggests that the explosions that woke up the whole town were connected to that.”

Mark looked quickly back at the mountain. Loose rocks and pebbles were still rolling down the slope, leaving behind a trail of swirling dust.

“Eh, well…”

“Or perhaps,” Sparky suggested, “you know something about the peculiar cloud formation I eyed through my window earlier? Or the intense Pokémon battle that appeared to be taking place in mid-air?”

“Oh f… crap,” Chaletwo groaned.

What should I tell him? Mark thought desperately.

“I don’t think he’d buy anything but the truth,” Chaletwo sighed. “He knows too much already, and if it’s true you woke up all the people in town… You know which bits to make up.”

Mark took a deep breath. “Well, see, we came here this morning to do some training…” He suddenly realized this wasn’t working out in an area devoid of wild Pokémon and quickly added: “…just against one another, I mean – more space here, you know – and then suddenly the mountain exploded and out came this electric dragon thing that attacked our Pokémon so we let them attack it back and finally defeated it.”

Sparky raised an eyebrow and looked around. “I don’t see a dragon anywhere. You didn’t catch it, did you?”

“We did,” Mark replied, not sure how else he could explain the dragon’s absence; he had after all already said they had defeated it, and then saying it had flown away would not make any sense. “And when we had caught it, the thunderstorm stopped, so we were thinking maybe the dragon was causing it all this time.”

Sparky surveyed him with interest. “Well, that’s strange.” Looking at Alan, he continued: “I thought your father had come here along with a team of researchers to do measurements in Thunderclap Cave, exactly because people suspected that sort of thing, and concluded that there was no sign of the presence of an Electric Pokémon powerful enough to be a cause for this kind of constant storm?”

“Well, he was wrong for once, then,” Alan said loudly. “Because you see, that thing nearly killed seventeen Pokémon, and if that’s powerful enough for you, we’d very much like to be able to get them to Nurse Joy as soon as possible, if you don’t mind.”

“Oh, of course – how very inconsiderate of me,” Sparky replied apologetically, got out of the way and then walked along by Mark’s side. “So, say, is there any way I could see this dragon you speak of?”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Mark said unsurely. “I mean, it might attack us or something.”

Sparky nodded. “Shame as it is, that does seem to make sense. Well, let’s not waste any more time on that for now, and instead let’s get your Pokémon under care.”

They hurried on the road back towards the city.

Once they entered Stormy Town, they saw something quite unusual for the town: there were people outdoors. The few remaining inhabitants all seemed to be standing on the streets, stretching their arms towards the beautiful sky in wondrous astonishment. Sparky only smiled as he watched them look questioningly at him, but strode confidently towards the Pokémon Center, the kids following his example. As they entered the familiar building once again, May handed her Pokéballs faintly to Mark and then collapsed into one of the waiting chairs.

He hadn’t really paid any particular attention to her from the end of the battle until now for some reason, but now he could see that she looked awfully pale and distraught. She sort of stared forward at nothing in particular with a blank expression on her face, like a guy in a movie Mark had seen once whose brain had been taken over by a group of evil Psychic Pokémon. He couldn’t help smiling slightly at the thought for a second, but forced it off his face, handed the Pokéballs quickly to the concerned-looking Alan and sat down beside May.

“Are you all right?”

“What?” she asked distractedly, snapping out of a trance. She looked at Mark. “Yes… yes, I’m fine.”

“You don’t look fine.”

“Well, I am,” May insisted. Mark sighed and decided not to bother her further; instead he just folded his arms on his chair and waited. May looked at Alan a couple of times, but Alan was too busy pacing around by the counter to notice it, occasionally running his hand through his messy hair in distress while he waited for Sparky to get Nurse Joy.

“Alan, you know your Pokémon’s state is stable for as long as they’re in their Pokéballs,” Mark pointed out. “There’s no need to feel pressed for time.”

Alan abruptly looked at him. “Yeah, I know, but I’d still prefer to get my Pokémon under the hands of Nurse Joy as soon as… oh, there she is.”

Sparky and Joy entered the room, both giggling at something they had been talking about. Alan looked even more frustrated at the fact Nurse Joy didn’t seem to be in a hurry at all. He thrust the eighteen minimized Pokéballs at her and she took them, still giggling. “Any that need special treatment?”

Alan looked blankly at her. “I… I think they’re all pretty severely injured, actually,” he said in a weird, high-pitched voice.

“Oh, dear,” the nurse said, rubbing her eyes. “Better get to work, then.”

She looked apologetically at Sparky, quickly organized the Pokéballs on trays and carried them into the back room.

“Don’t worry, she’ll fix them up in no time if they’re not dead already,” Sparky said cheerfully to Alan as he opened his mouth. Alan closed it again and suddenly looked over at May.

“My God, are you okay?” he asked, hurrying over to her.

“I’m fine,” she emphasized. “That battle was just… a little haunting.”

She wiped her face quickly with her sleeve and shook her head.

“I… Do you think Lapras is going to be all right?” she murmured after a pause.

Alan sighed, knelt down in front of her chair and took her hand in his. “Of course she’ll be all right,” he said. “You heard Sparky. Nurse Joy can fix them up.”

May shook her head. “No, I mean… is she going to stay with me?”

Alan inhaled deeply. “I… I really can’t say. That’s Lapras’s own decision. Don’t think about that.”

“I need a Water and Ice Pokémon on my team,” May muttered. “There are Fire and Dragon Pokémon all over the League and…”

Alan let go of her hand, stood up, turned around and grabbed his hair with his fingers again. “Oh my God,” he groaned before abruptly turning back again.

“Look, May… stop thinking about your team for once. Stop thinking about type-matchups and statistics and technicalities. Never mind all that. It’s trivial. Didn’t you ever read… or learn… at school… God, why don’t you get it? You’re not supposed to be concerned because you need a Water or Ice Pokémon in your team! You’re supposed to be concerned because of Lapras’s feelings!”

May didn’t really react at all; she was too busy staring intently at her fingernails. Alan ranted a little more in the same direction; he looked as if he were about to have a nervous breakdown over it, but Mark couldn’t help feeling that in fact May’s Water and Ice Pokémon remark had been more of an attempt to rationalize her feelings to herself. In a distant way he could identify with her – in his mind’s eye he saw Miss Taintor criticizing his eight-year-old self’s drawings and recalled the feeling of that horrifying realization of being imperfect.

But it was only after that that he’d improved as an artist, in the end. Lapras might have just done her and her Pokémon a big favour.

“I’m starving,” May suddenly muttered, looking up as Alan stopped to breathe. “Sparky, do you serve breakfast?”

Sparky, who had been absent-mindedly examining his own gym poster, turned innocently around. “Oh? …Oh, yes, we do! Let’s head over to the restaurant, shall we?”

Alan stopped tearing his hair out and nodded, taking a few deep breaths. “Okay. Breakfast. Sounds good.”

Mark was just realizing how hungry he was as well.


They ate a nice cooked breakfast at the gym before returning to the Pokémon Center to wait for Nurse Joy to bring their Pokémon back. Alan appeared to have calmed down after having taken his frustration out on May earlier, and she looked subtly grateful for that. They just hung around and talked half-heartedly for a couple of hours before finally the nurse walked out of the back room with the Pokéball trays.

Alan sprang up immediately. “Are they all okay?”

“Not quite,” Nurse Joy admitted. “The Scyther and one of the Charizard are in a pretty bad state – they seem to have fallen down from a great height after major electric shocks from what I can see, which is a nasty combination – and Butterfree is of course a frail Pokémon and is suffering from similar levels of electric shock, although she doesn’t have the fall injuries. I think the Vaporeon is just barely conscious; I wouldn’t really advise her to battle very seriously for a couple of days. And that Skarmory is in poor shape – half of him seems slightly melted and the other half bent. I think the Sandslash broke a bone, but you know how Pokémon are – it heals quickly, so he is technically okay although he’s going to have a bit of a limp today. Oh, and your Jolteon seems to be in slight shock, but physically he’s all right. I think that’s all.”

Alan stared at her in horror.

“I’ve seen much worse than that,” Joy said helpfully. “And as I said, you know how Pokémon are – they’ll all be all right by tomorrow, I should think.”

Mark quickly went over the Pokémon in his head. This meant he had Charizard (assuming Nurse Joy had meant Charlie when she mentioned “one of the Charizard”), Jolteon (if he was willing to battle), Sandslash (albeit with a limp), Letal, Dragonair and Gyarados. May had Raichu, Pupitar, Spirit and – well, did she or did she not have Lapras? And Alan had Racko, Vicky, Diamond and Pamela – and technically Mist, but she was being advised not to battle.

“Thanks for taking care of them,” he said when no one else said anything. “We’ll just head out on our way, then, won’t we? You can transfer the Pokémon to other Pokémon Centers, right?”

Sparky nodded and smiled. “All right, then! It’s truly been great knowing you, and I sincerely hope we will meet again and that you will be bringers of more such fortune as what you have now brought to Stormy Town. No more thunderstorms! Who would have thought?”

Mark smiled slightly. “It’s been nice knowing you, too. Thanks for the birthday party.”

“Goodbye, then,” Nurse Joy said pleasantly. “Just ask the nurse wherever you’re heading to ring up the Stormy Town Pokémon Center sometime tomorrow and I’ll update you on the status of your Pokémon and send them over, all right?”

“Goodbye, both of you,” May said. “Thanks for the badge, Sparky.”

“Bye, and uh, I hope I’ll see you again sometime,” Alan said in an attempt to be cheerful.

“I hope so too,” Sparky replied. “Unless we’re going to be too busy with all the new business we’re going to get now that the town’s weather conditions aren’t as unattractive anymore.” He grinned widely under his shades.

The kids picked up their bags and Pokéballs. “Well, bye, then,” Mark said awkwardly as they turned to exit. As they left, he looked over his shoulder and could see Sparky waving enthusiastically.


Chaletwo? Mark thought once they were walking southwest on the road that led towards Crater Town. Where do we go now?

Chaletwo’s ever-present voice sighed. “Suicune,” he said. “Go through Thunderclap Cave, and then take the Route 317 shortcut to Cleanwater City. You should easily make it before nightfall.”

Mark was taken aback. But we can’t battle another legendary now! he protested. At least four of our Pokémon are seriously injured!

“No matter,”
Chaletwo replied. “You can still try. Suicune is different. He won’t kill you if you don’t beat him. He’ll just run for it and return the next evening as usual. I know what he’s like.”

Mark was a little skeptical, but did not reply.

“All right, Chaletwo says we should go to Cleanwater City to fight Suicune,” he said aloud. Yet again, May and Alan were walking ahead of him; Alan turned around.

“Huh?” he asked quizzically. “With half of our Pokémon still recovering from the last legendary battle at a Pokémon Center? Is he nuts?”

“I’m perfectly sane, thank you,” Chaletwo said coldly. “I just happen to realize that if there is any chance we manage to get Suicune tonight, then we should get Suicune tonight. As I was saying to Mark, Suicune won’t kill you if he defeats your Pokémon, he won’t kill them, and he will still return tomorrow evening, guaranteed.”

Alan looked every bit as skeptical as Mark, but did not protest. May said nothing.

So Mark had no choice but to say what they were probably all thinking himself: “Eh, just how sure are you of that?”

“Absolutely sure!” Chaletwo replied, irritated. “Suicune is one of the traditionalist legendaries. He follows Mew like a sheep. As far as he’s concerned, cleaning the lake is what he is ‘meant’ to do, and if it is his ‘fate’ to be caught while doing so, so be it. Suicune isn’t the type to kill anybody.”

Gyarados would beg to differ,
Mark couldn’t help thinking.

“Well, he doesn’t look dead to me, does he?” Chaletwo snapped. “Just do it! You already agreed to take part in it. Now trust me and do as I say. Go through Thunderclap Cave; it’s a shortcut.”

Mark couldn’t help thinking he hadn’t really agreed to do anything and Chaletwo had never presented this as a choice of any kind, but if Chaletwo picked that up from his mind at all, he didn’t respond.

“Cleanwater City sounds fine to me,” May muttered at last. “I caught Lapras at the Lake of Purity. It would be a nice place to talk to her.”

Mark looked at her. “Well, okay, I guess,” he said. “Let’s go, then.”

They walked on back towards Mount Flash on the same road as they had that morning, but this time the sun was shining brightly and there was hardly a cloud to be seen. May’s mood seemed to be getting better as well. She had released Spirit, who was now trotting along with them, and her presence seemed to cheer her trainer up considerably.

“I should really get to catching some more Pokémon,” May said randomly. “I’ve only got six, after all, and it’s always nice to have some backup, right? You need six for the League here like in Indigo, don’t you? I’d better get a few more.”

Alan just smiled awkwardly. “Well, don’t… I mean, don’t treat them as replaceable or anything. If Lapras goes, then… having another Pokémon in her stead doesn’t just fix it.”

“I don’t think it does!” she replied defensively. “I just want to have a full team of Pokémon!”

“Stop bickering,” Mark said and sighed. “You’re like a sitcom couple.”

“We’re not!” May shouted, her face beet red, and strode ahead of the boys in frustration. Spirit smirked and galloped after her.

Mark couldn’t help giggling.

“Oh, shut up,” Alan said and elbowed Mark loosely before hurrying to catch up with May again. Mark just shook his head, grinning, and kept on walking. He didn’t mind so much that he was last anymore. Bizarrely, he was also feeling much more at ease about the upcoming Suicune battle than he had about Thunderyu, even though reason told him he should be very concerned about the considerably reduced numbers of Pokémon they had to fight it with. In fact, he felt mildly excited.

Feelings, he concluded, were insane.

They climbed the mountain at a steady pace and it was not long before they reached the entrance to Thunderclap Cave in roughly the middle of the hillside. The mouth of the cave was a large crack that was wide at the bottom but narrowed to nothing a few meters up the cliff. The darkness inside was decidedly eerie.

“Okay, who knows Flash?” Alan asked, looking at May.

She shook her head. “It’s an awful move,” she just said.


He looked blankly at Alan and shook his head, but then realized, “Well, Charizard’s tail flame should do the trick.”

Alan slapped his forehead. “Oh, yeah,” he muttered. “I forgot your Charizard was still okay.”

Mark somehow felt a little bit guilty that Charizard had recovered but Charlie had not, but said nothing. He just took out Charizard’s Pokéball and dropped it onto the ground so that the dragon emerged. He looked around quickly and then smiled awkwardly at Mark.

“Nurse Joy told me you caught whatever we’d been fighting, so congratulations, I guess.” He paused for a second. “Why did you send me out?”

Alan pointed at the cave entrance. “We were just hoping your tail flame would be able to light up the interior of the ca…”

He stopped dead as a loud, threatening bark sounded from the shadowy insides of the mountain. A sudden flash of light lit up the dark cave so that momentarily they could see the tunnel sloping down into total darkness; the source of the light and the bark was a small, green, doglike Pokémon with an oddly cone-shaped head and ears, which had just flashed with electric light for a second to illuminate its surroundings.

“Trike!” it barked again from the darkness and growled.

“Let me handle it,” Charizard just said and stepped towards the mouth of the cave. He let out a quiet, frightening growl before breathing a tongue of fire straight forward. The orange light illuminated the cave again; they saw the little Electrike yelp and recoil in fear before its head sparkled with electricity and a bolt of lightning rushed towards Charizard. The dragon roared in pain, his fire clearing away and leaving the cave in darkness again before he angrily fired a Flamethrower at random into the crack. The fire lit up the rocks; the Electrike appeared to have fled.

Charizard growled in annoyance but climbed into the cave, swung his tail flame to his side so that it would light up their surroundings, and led the way in.

The descent was slow; numerous times, Charizard was forced to wait with his tail flame over some particularly rough terrain while the kids attempted to cross it. Occasionally they saw a flash of light from deeper within the cave, illuminating the tunnel for a brief moment.

“Dad told me that in Thunderclap Cave, the Electric Pokémon have evolved to know Flash from birth and use it to see around,” Alan told them. “If they get lost, they just use Flash for a quick look at their surroundings, go however far that allowed them to see, and then Flash again. They have also evolved a photographic memory to save energy between individual uses of the move. Then many other Pokémon in the cave have evolved to depend entirely upon waiting for an Electric Pokémon when they need to see. It’s pretty amazing.”

“Really?” May asked with interest. “Then what sort of Pokémon are the others? Just the typical cave stuff, or…”

She recoiled backwards after realizing she had stepped on something too smooth to be a rock. Charizard quickly swung his tail forward to reveal a startled little Pokémon. It looked like a bug with a brown shell and a massive round head which May had apparently stepped on; it screwed its shiny black eyes shut at the light of the fire while snapping randomly at the air with its jagged mouth.

“A Trapinch!” May exclaimed in delight. “I’m catching it! Go, Butterfree, and use a Sleep Powder before it gets away!”

She threw a Pokéball, and her butterfly emerged in a bright shower of light.

“Piiiinch!” the Pokémon screamed and ran for it into the cave.

“Charizard, follow so Butterfree can see!” May hissed, running after the Trapinch with her two Pokémon. Charizard clumsily dashed after them, his legs not made for running; the boys followed hesitantly.

They were in luck: the Trapinch, without an Electric Pokémon’s Flash to guide it, had stumbled into a dead end, bumped into the wall and was cornered when Charizard’s tail flame illuminated the scene.

“Piiiinch!” the Pokémon shrieked and ran at May’s leg, clamping its powerful jaws around her ankle.

“Youch!” May’s mouth curled into an expression of disgust as she attempted wildly but unsuccessfully to shake the Trapinch off her. When she realized it was holding on strongly as ever, she changed her strategy and began to kick at the cave wall, smashing the Trapinch repeatedly into it.

“Stop it! You’re hurting it!” Alan shouted, horrified.

“It’s hurting me too, isn’t it?” May snapped, but stopped anyway. “Butterfree, Sleep Powder! And don’t get any on me!”

She held her leg out, and the butterfly Pokémon flapped her wings while May turned in the other direction and held her breath. Sparkly, green dust sprinkled over the horrified antlion Pokémon, and within seconds it was fast asleep, its eyes peacefully shut and its legs limp.

“Oh, damn it,” May muttered as she recalled Butterfree. “Its jaws aren’t loosening.”

“We’ll have to pry it off, I guess,” Alan said, sounding a little worried. “Mark, help me with this.”

The boys knelt down and grabbed the Trapinch’s jaws to try to force them apart, but they wouldn’t budge. May’s leg was bleeding a little underneath the jagged edges of its mouth.

She slapped her forehead. “Oh, of course. This is a much easier way. I should have thought of it before.”

And she plucked a Pokéball off her necklace and dropped it at the Trapinch so that it dissolved into red energy and was absorbed into the ball.

She cringed in pain and examined the bleeding teeth marks on her ankle as the ball wobbled on the ground and stilled with a soft ping. “Nasty. Hey, Alan, will you get some bandages out of my bag?”

She reached for the Pokéball with Trapinch, minimized it and reattached it to her necklace while Alan opened the blue bag slung over her shoulder and browsed through its contents. He quickly found a box of bandages and applied a few to May’s ankle while Mark looked around in the light of Charizard’s flame. Spirit was standing there calmly as usual, looking at her trainer with an inscrutable expression; behind her, the path split into two tunnels, and by the short-ranged light of Charizard’s flame, he could make out that at least one of them split again.

“This place is like a maze,” he said. “How are we going to know which way to go?”

“Easy enough,” Spirit said and smirked before turning semitransparent and dashing into the nearest wall.

“You show-off,” May said and smiled as she stood up. “Thanks, Alan.”

“Don’t mention it, but uh…” Alan asked hesitantly, “exactly what is Spirit doing?”

“Oh, she likes to do that when people get lost. She just runs through the walls to find the exit and then tries to trace the way back in solid form. It’s not that efficient – back home, we were once stuck in Ilex Forest for two hours even with her running around back and forth between Goldenrod and me. In the end she got so exhausted from keeping herself in spirit form that we needed somebody else to help me.”

But just as May was giggling at the thought, Spirit reappeared in one of the tunnels; Mark couldn’t help thinking she looked slightly offended that May had actually told them that story.

“The way out is not long,” she said. “Follow me.”

They followed Spirit and Charizard ahead in silence; they saw the occasional flash of electricity, but the Pokémon appeared to have mostly noticed their presence by now and reached the general consensus that they were best left alone. They walked on in silence for a while.

May sighed. “Well, I got that Trapinch,” she said in an attempt to start a conversation. “It won’t be of much use against Suicune, though.”

“A Pokémon’s value isn’t measured in…” Alan began.

“Yes, I get it already!” May snapped, interrupting him. “Love your Pokémon and all that! No need to beat it into my head. I’m just trying to say that Trapinch isn’t going to be a big help in that battle, okay? And don’t say any Pokémon can beat any Pokémon, because that’s not how it works and you know it.”

Alan opened his mouth, but closed it again in defeat.

“Thank you,” May said shortly, but was just turning around when a sudden flash of bright electrical light momentarily illuminated the entirety of room they were in. She gasped in astonishment: they had just entered a gigantic chamber full of magnificent stalactites and stalagmites, often joined into great columns of many meters tall, reaching from floor to ceiling.

“That’s awesome,” Alan breathed in the darkness. “Dad told me about this, but I never saw it for myself.”

Charizard swung his tail quickly towards one of the columns and the source of the previous flash of electricity was revealed: a Manectric stood beside it, bared its fangs at them and growled, its pyramid-shaped mane sparkling with electricity.

“Spirit, Flamethrower!” May yelled.

The Ninetales leapt out in front of them, opened her mouth and breathed out a swirling tongue of flames, but the blue dog quickly shielded itself behind the column while charging up electricity. Just as Spirit stopped to breathe, it jumped out again and fired a bolt of electricity at her. She growled in pain as the electricity singed her fur, but quickly shook the ash off; flames formed in her mouth as she leapt around the column and breathed a blast of flames straight at the Manectric. It yelped in pain as it was scorched by the fire, but shook it off quickly and countered with a Thunder Wave before leaping to the other end of the column again to growl at Charizard.

Spirit tried to jump after it, but the paralysis made her clumsy, and instead she crashed harshly into the column of rock. The Manectric used the opportunity to turn quickly around and fire a powerful Thunderbolt at her.

Spirit lay there weakly and didn’t move; Mark wasn’t sure if she was on the verge of fainting or just fully paralyzed, but had no time to think about it before Charizard shot a Flamethrower at the dog Pokémon. It leapt quickly out of the way and the fire instead engulfed Spirit; Mark was worried for a second, but then looked at May and saw she looked perfectly calm.

“She has the Flash Fire ability,” she said to Mark as Spirit, unharmed but glowing with an orange aura, rose painfully up. “Fire just powers her up.”

The tired Manectric crouched down, growled and leapt at her, but miscalculated the jump by an inch and landed right on the column, where it dropped back down to the cave floor. It stood up, but just as it got to its feet, Charizard swung his tail with a roar, smashing it into the dog Pokémon’s body and, at the same time, the column.

It wasn’t a particularly strong column. It had been hit by blasts of fire and electricity and rammed powerfully by three different Pokémon, and now it cracked.

As Charizard’s tail swung into it, the column shattered into pieces. Mark watched in a panic as it collapsed, bringing down some of the ceiling with it; the kids and the Pokémon scattered around the chamber as the earth rumbled, chunks of rock crashing into the floor. It took a little while after the last pieces had settled before anyone dared to move.

“You guys all okay?” Alan asked from somewhere in the darkness and Charizard moved his tail flame to illuminate him. They all confirmed they were fine.

“So where’s the exit to this room, Spirit?” May asked shakily.

“This way,” Spirit said, fading back into solidity from the spirit form, which she seemed to have narrowly managed to get into while too paralyzed to escape the rocks. Mark thought he could just barely make out her ghostly white form still emitting just a slight glow where she was; then she breathed out a small flame to show herself, illuminating her form with orange light, and he figured he must have been imagining it. He began to walk carefully across the room after Spirit by the light of Charizard’s tail flame.

There was a loud bonk and an array of swear words.

Charizard quickly swung his tail flame in the direction of the sound; May had tripped and fallen headfirst to the floor. She rubbed her head, pained, wiping some blood off her forehead with the back of her hand before pushing herself to her feet.

“I’m fine,” she emphasized, and Charizard momentarily turned his flame away from her. Then she let out a yelp of fear.

“What is it?” Alan called and hurried over. Charizard once again moved his tail flame in May’s direction. She was staring in horror down at what she had tripped over. Mark’s heart skipped a beat.

It was the limp body of the Manectric, half-crushed beneath a large boulder. The blood that May’s leg was drenched in was not her own, but originated in a large puddle at her feet.

Alan stopped dead in his tracks. “Oh, God,” he just said.

“Is… is it dead?” Mark asked quietly, unable to think of anything else to do or say.

“I don’t know,” May just said in a broken voice. “Oh, God. Damn it.”

Mark approached carefully, not sure what he was planning to do, if he was even planning to do anything at all. May walked unsteadily around the Pokémon to its head, which was facing towards Mark.

Its eyes flicked open, glazed over; he could see its furred chest rising and falling irregularly as it struggled to breathe. It took a look at them, one of pure hatred, and spat out three words in its own language:

“Let me die.”

“If I capture it, we can maybe get it to a Pokémon Ce…” May began, but was cut off by a low, intimidating growl.

“I don’t want your help, human. Let me die in peace.”

The Manectric closed its eyes; its irregular breathing slowed down, and then it stopped.

May took a couple of steps back away from it. Mark could see her shiver even from where he stood.

“I should have caught it anyway,” she muttered.

“No, it’s… if it didn’t want… I… oh, God,” Alan replied incomprehensibly.

Mark just couldn’t think of anything to say. His mind was numb; he looked again at May’s bloodstained clothes and felt a little nauseous all of a sudden. They had watched the Manectric die. They had been unable to do anything about it – or just unwilling?

“Trike?” came a little squeak from the darkness. Mark watched with dread as a tiny version of the Pokémon they had first seen when they entered the cave stepped carefully into the light of Charizard’s flame. The Electrike pup looked at them hesitantly through large blue eyes, sniffing the air, but apparently came to the conclusion they were not dangerous; it winced as the smell of blood wafted through its nostrils and then unsteadily approached the Manectric’s body. It instinctively searched the dead Pokémon’s underbelly for a nipple and found one, but just poked it with its nose, sensing that something was not right.

“Oh, God,” Mark said limply. “It… she was a mother.”

The Electrike poked its mother with its muzzle but got no response. It tried again.

“Hey, there, little guy,” Alan whispered, taking a careful step towards the Electrike. It backed fearfully away and gave its mother another desperate prod. “I don’t think your mommy is coming back.”

It understood the words, but did not comprehend their meaning. It gave Alan a puzzled look and its mother another push.

“She’s dead. She won’t stand up.”

At first it mystified Mark how this seemed to have a meaning to the Electrike unlike Alan’s previous way of putting it; the Pokémon stared up at him in disbelief, but the puzzlement was gone. Then he realized that a wild Pokémon would be bound to have an idea of death early on; he recalled when he had found Jolteon as an Eevee and again felt a little nauseous as he realized maybe something like this had happened to Jolteon’s mother.

“Here, why don’t I just take care of you instead?” Alan asked softly. “You’ll be okay. Trust me.”

The Electrike looked skeptically between its dead mother and Alan and then growled.

“It’s okay,” Alan repeated. “You still need somebody to take care of you, right? I don’t want you to die too.”

The Electrike looked sadly at its mother and considered it. “Trike trike,” it muttered; it was clearly too young to speak proper Pokémon speech yet.

“I’m just going to make sure you get food and shelter, all right? No battling or anything – you’re too young and I quit training, anyway. Just relax. I won’t hurt you.”

Alan was now squatting on the ground and extended his hand; the Pokémon backed away.

“Come on,” he said desperately. “You’re going to die if you’re alone! Your mother died because she refused our help!”

Mark could see that Alan immediately regretted having said the last bit. The Electrike barked loudly at Alan and growled with newfound conviction now that it knew its mother had preferred death over human help, and then it turned quickly around and sped back into the darkness.

“No!” Alan yelled, but the Pokémon had vanished like it had never been there at all. He waited for a second as if to see if it would come back.

“We… we killed them,” he muttered at last.

“It’s not our fault,” May said shakily, averting her gaze from the Manectric’s body. “The column collapsed, and if that Electrike didn’t want to be helped, that’s its own business.”

Nobody said anything for a while.

“Come on,” May finally said. “Let’s go. No point staying here.”

“Are we just going to leave her like that?” Alan asked unsurely, wincing as he looked at the dead Pokémon again. “I mean… shouldn’t we bury her or something?”

“This is nature,” May said in an unusually harsh voice. “You think wild Pokémon normally get buried when they die? At least this way she’ll be useful if some other Pokémon in the cave need some easy food. Maybe that Electrike can eat her while it’s still too young to hunt on its own. We have no business doing anything with her. Let’s just go.”


“I… I think I agree with May,” Mark finally said, swallowing a lump in his throat. “Let’s get out of here as soon as possible. There’s nothing we can do for her. I mean… whatever we do won’t bring her back to life.”

“Chaletwo!” Alan suddenly yelled, looking wildly at Mark. “Chaletwo! You can resurrect people, right?”

“Not if their bodies are crushed like that,” Chaletwo’s voice answered with a sigh. “It’s sad that Manectric died and all, but you kids really have more important things to think about. You have to get to Cleanwater City before sunset. Just go.”

Alan winced hopelessly, clearly not satisfied with this conclusion but not too keen on arguing with Chaletwo. “I guess,” he muttered.

Charizard spared a long look at the dead Manectric, but said nothing before they continued the walk through the cave, following Spirit as she trudged on despite the paralysis making her movements stiff and awkward. They walked in silence now, all fighting spirit gone; they saw a few wild Pokémon that illuminated the cave with the occasional bright Flash, but they were all small and did not pursue a battle, intimidated by the sight of Charizard and Spirit.

At last they saw light and climbed out of a wide crack on the other side of the mountain.

They admired the view. Rainbow Woods hugged the roots of the mountain below; past that, Cleanwater City stretched out over most of the area with Routes 301 and 302 on either side, Sailance just barely visible in the distance to the northwest, and the Lake of Purity southwest of the city, also surrounded by the beautiful forest.

“So yeah,” May said finally. “We’re out.”

Alan nodded stupidly.

“Yeah,” May repeated, staring transfixed at the lake in the distance before suddenly snapping out of her trance and looking at Mark. “So are we going to continue?”

Mark nodded dully. “Well, no use lingering here.”

It was an uneventful walk. While Thunderclap Cave had had Pokémon, this part of Rainbow Woods seemed to have extraordinarily few, most likely because Pokémon in the area could so easily simply move a bit south to an area of the forest they felt more comfortable in. They saw a couple of Pidgey, but they seemed wary and nervous, suggesting that they had only ventured into this area of the forest in daring hopes of finding more food where there were fewer Pokémon to compete with. The kids arrived in Cleanwater City around five o’clock, tired, hungry, still in shock and generally not at all up for fighting another battle of epic proportions in a couple of hours.

“Chaletwo,” Mark moaned when they had signed into their rooms at the hotel and were all resting in Mark’s room with a few bags of fast food, “are you sure we can’t just do this tomorrow?”

“You can try again tomorrow if necessary! There’s no need to delay the battle before even trying it. You beat Thunderyu, and Suicune can’t fly. Of course you can do this.”

“We only have two thirds of the Pokémon we had this morning, for Christ’s sake!” Alan said hotly. “There’s no way we can do this and it’s putting ourselves and our Pokémon in unnecessary danger!”

“You have a chance,” Chaletwo insisted. “And I told you nobody’s going to die, okay?”

Alan opened his mouth to say something, but abandoned the plan midway through and just closed his mouth again.

“Just finish eating and then get over to the lake. Hurry up a little.”

They ate their food nervously and then headed outside; Spirit had been healed at the Pokémon Center when they had first arrived in the city, so her movements were sleek and graceful again, and she repeatedly trotted ahead of them on the road before waiting for them, walking for a moment by May’s side and then dashing ahead again. They watched nervously as the sun moved slowly but steadily down in the western sky ahead of them.

“Suicune arrives at the northwestern bank of the lake,” Chaletwo told them as they walked. “And you should not get yourselves seen, so it would be best for you to go into the forest about there and wait there until everybody is gone and then get ready to take on Suicune. Oh – he might just dip a paw in the lake and then run away, which might be a problem. Any of your Pokémon got Mean Look?”

“I do,” said Spirit, who was at the moment walking alongside May.

“So does Vicky,” Alan replied, “but does that mean they’re going to be in some particular danger?”

“No, no,” Chaletwo said distractedly. “Both of them can turn invisible, right? It’s best if you kids hide in the forest with your Pokémon inside their balls so Suicune won’t notice anything while Spirit and Vicky wait somewhere closer, invisible. Then when Suicune is purifying the water, they pop out, work together to trap him with Mean Look as quickly as possible and then immediately you jump out, send out your Pokémon and bring him down. Sound like a plan?”

Alan shrugged, not seeming overly impressed. “I guess so.”

When they arrived at the lake, the tourist crowd was already beginning to thin, but it was nonetheless easy to sneak unnoticed into the forest.

“Why does the forest have to be so dense in here?” May complained, disentangling her foot from the undergrowth for the umpteenth time. As she shook her shoe out of the wiry roots, she suddenly froze.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “What’s that?”


Then Mark saw it too: he caught a glimpse of something moving, half-hidden behind a tree not too far away.

The end of a leek stuck out from the side of the trunk.

“Farfetch’d,” Mark and May realized at the same time. Alan came up to see what they were looking at.

“Spirit, Quick Attack!” May shouted, startling the brown duck Pokémon to fly clumsily up from the ground just as the Ninetales dashed towards it at amazing speed and tackled it back down to the ground.

“Flamethrower now!” May ordered. The Farfetch’d quacked and slapped Spirit in the side of her face with its leek so that it managed to make another attempt to fly up, but she quickly breathed a plume of fire that scorched its feathers and sent it crashing back into the ground, seemingly already defeated.

May looked at it.

“Going to catch it?” Alan asked.

Mark saw her upper lip quiver slightly in something close to disgust. “No,” she said. “Farfetch’d are really we…”

She stopped there, squeezed her eyes momentarily shut and then inhaled. “They’re rare,” she corrected herself. “It’s better for the species if… you shut up, Mark,” she added in a hiss as he began to giggle at the much too obvious attempt to evade Alan’s ever-critical gaze. Alan, however, either didn’t notice or pretended not to; his face was now beaming with some mixture of pride and encouragement.

“Come on, Spirit,” May just sighed and they went on.

The sun was rapidly approaching the horizon and already most of the people by the lakeside were gone. The kids waited just inside the forest and watched some of the last tourists leave.

“Isn’t it amazing how easily you can forget about the existence of your Pokémon while it’s in its Pokéball?” May suddenly muttered. “I need to talk to Lapras. Can’t I go down to the lake and send her out?”

“I think everybody’s gone, pretty much,” said Mark, watching a couple of women on the other side of the lake recall their Pokémon and begin to walk towards the city. They couldn’t see anybody else in the area.

“Okay,” May replied, walked the few meters down to the lakeside and reached for her Pokéball necklace.

Then she stopped.

“Um…” she began forcedly, “maybe it would be nice if we… you know… we caught quite a few of our Pokémon by this lake, didn’t we? Maybe they’d like to… dunno, see their families again or something? Just while we’re here?” She looked questioningly between Mark and Alan.

“That’s a great idea, May!” Alan said happily, sending her another beaming smile. Mark suppressed a giggle.

“Well, yeah, it’s not a bad idea,” he concurred, shrugged and took out his Pokéballs. He took a last quick look at the other side of the lake; the two women were gone and there was nobody in sight anymore. “Go, everybody!” he declared and threw his Pokéballs along with the others.

As the Pokémon materialized on the bank – with the notable exception of Gyarados who of course appeared in the lake – May hesitated before taking out her last ball.

“Lapras, go.”

The giant turtle appeared in the water and looked around before turning to her trainer and waiting for her to say something.

May sighed, opened her mouth, closed it again and sighed again.

“What do you want, Lapras?” she asked finally. “Should I release you or… try to be a better trainer or something?”

Lapras looked around the lake again and shivered uncomfortably. “I never liked it here,” she just said.

“So then you’ll stay with me?” May asked, perhaps a bit too quickly.

Lapras swallowed. After a long silence, she answered: “No. You’ll take me somewhere else, maybe to the sea, and release me there.”

May’s gaze flicked from Mark on her left to Alan on her right. She nodded slowly. “What about until then?”

Lapras took a while to think about it, glancing between Mark, May, Alan and her own reflection in the lake.

“I won’t battle for you,” she then reiterated. “But I understand I may be needed in the legendary battles. I will fight then, but not for your gain.”

Mark could tell from the awkward expression on May’s face that the words stung, but she managed herself pretty well regardless. “Okay, then,” she said quietly. “Then that’s what we’ll do.”

There was a second of silence as May and Lapras looked momentarily into each other’s eyes.

“Thank you,” said Lapras softly, dissolved into red energy and disappeared back into her Pokéball, which May shakily replaced on her necklace.

Alan patted her on the back. “Cheer up,” he said. “My dad had to release a lot of Pokémon who wanted to go, and you know what he became. Well, granted,” he added as an afterthought, “I don’t think any of his Pokémon actually made the choice to leave out of dislike for him per se, but… having to release a Pokémon isn’t the end of the world.”

May took a deep breath. “I’m fine,” she insisted for the third time that day. “Really. Stop worrying about me.”

Then she turned to all the Pokémon. “Okay,” she announced, her voice trembling a little bit at first but otherwise sounding normal. “We’re going to try to battle Suicune in a little while, but now, if you were caught here, this is your chance to go back to where you used to live or something. Just be sure to be back in…” She looked at her watch. “…half an hour, okay? Then we’ll go over strategies and such before Suicune actually appears.”

“Jolteon, are you all right for this battle?” Mark asked his Pokémon quietly. “You don’t need to take part if you don’t want to.”

“I’ll fight,” he replied. “It’s scary, but we have to do it, don’t we?”

Mark nodded. “Okay, then. So now you have half an hour… Why don’t you just relax and try to enjoy yourself or something?”

Jolteon responded with a nod and trotted off with Letal; Dragonair was already in the air practicing his flying skills and Sandslash had presumably gone to see the Sandshrew he had grown up with. Mark felt somehow alone with only Gyarados and Charizard by his side now that almost all the other Pokémon had left; only Spirit stayed with May, who was stroking her absent-mindedly, and all of Alan’s Pokémon had appreciated the fresh air and disappeared into the woods somewhere.


He looked up. It was Gyarados; the sea monster’s eyes flicked back and forth in visible discomfort.

“I hate this place. I hate Suicune. Do I need to take part in this battle?”

Mark was slightly taken aback by the question. “Well, if you don’t want to,” he said, “but why don’t you want to fight Suicune? You seemed pretty enthusiastic about it before.”

Gyarados stared at the woods where Suicune would come out. “I know, but I don’t want it now. Can you be without me?”

Mark honestly thought the situation looked pretty hopeless. Gyarados had an extremely powerful attack that he had been hoping would perhaps be able to make up for the fact they had considerably fewer Pokémon to fight with this time. But ultimately, he had just been watching May have to release a Pokémon because she had forced it to fight battles it didn’t want, and he wasn’t planning to have to repeat that episode.

“Well, I think it will be a pretty hard battle without you,” Mark finally replied, “but if you really don’t want to, that has to be up to you, I guess.”

For a moment something flashed in Gyarados’s eyes; then, in an instant, it was gone.

“Thanks,” he said, and like Lapras, he recalled himself into his Pokéball.

Mark sighed, glancing at Charizard, the last of his Pokémon remaining. In fact, now that he thought about it, it was a bit funny Charizard was sitting there staring into the air rather than flying with Dragonair.

“Anything bothering you?” he asked, sitting down beside his Pokémon.

Charizard sighed. “I killed that Manectric.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Mark said immediately.

“It’s not that,” Charizard said slowly. “It’s more that… I didn’t feel bad about it. I mean, not instinctively. My conscious mind did, but there was also something just telling me ‘Fresh meat’.” He shuddered. “Sorry. I was raised in captivity. I’m not used to hunting, but the basic programming is still there. I guess it creeps me out a little bit.”

Mark nodded, but the subject of the dead Manectric still made him feel an uncomfortable sting in his heart. Neither of them said anything for a while.

“Well,” Charizard said slowly, “I guess I’ll just go with Dragonair, then.”

Mark nodded again and watched his first Pokémon take off and join Dragonair in the air. He looked at his watch; it had been twenty minutes now. He saw Sandslash already approaching from the other bank where he had been. For some reason he felt butterflies in his stomach at this point. Second legendary battle in one day. And it was rapidly approaching.

The Pokémon gathered back with their trainers and Chaletwo got ready to make his speech.

“Okay, then,” said the telepathic voice in their heads. “It’s time for the second legendary battle. Some of you got very hurt this morning, but this time there will be no air chases and no electricity, which ought to make things a little easier for at least some of you.

“The basic idea is much the same as against Thunderyu. Remember that Suicune is very powerful. However, the fundamental difference is that Suicune is not dangerous. He will not kill you. He will not attack your trainers. Most of all he would like to avoid having a battle at all, but of course that means we have to force him into one. For this, we need Vicky the Misdreavus and Spirit the Ninetales to make a joint effort to trap him with Mean Look before the battle itself begins. The plan is that they will wait, invisible, while Suicune arrives, and only after they have trapped him will the trainers send the rest of you out, at which time you need to be quick to rush in and distract Suicune, because if he manages to beat both Victoria and Spirit into unconsciousness, he will no longer be trapped and will be sure to have escaped from our grasp within seconds. Like this morning, you need to think for yourselves some; your trainers can only think about one or two of you at a time.

“Remember teamwork and cooperation. Together you can hopefully bring Suicune down. If not, you can try again tomorrow. Try not to get yourselves injured too much. Don’t do anything too bold. We have time here.

“And Mark – like last time, keep your eyes on Suicune so I can see what’s going on, all right? Now, let’s get you all recalled except Spirit and Vicky, and then we’ll just wait.”

Mark looked nervously at the others as he recalled all of his Pokémon. In a few seconds of flashing red light, only the Ninetales and the Misdreavus remained out.

“Okay, both of you turn yourselves invisible and wait there just by the edge of the lake. Suicune should be arriving any moment now. Kids, get into the forest there by the sides.”

Mark backed away on one side and May and Alan on the other, disappearing behind the trees. Again, Mark felt butterflies in his stomach as he watched Spirit and Vicky fade away and disappear entirely from sight. Now it was just waiting.

“Kids?” came Chaletwo’s voice suddenly. “Just making one thing clear. In the case Suicune does defeat all your Pokémon… you run for it, understand?”

“I thought you were ‘absolutely certain’ Suicune wouldn’t attack us,” Alan replied with some mixture of disdain and terror.

“Well, I am,” Chaletwo said shortly, “but you can never be too careful.”

It was getting cooler with the evening. Mark shivered, perhaps from cold or perhaps from fear.

With an increasing feeling of dread, they waited for nightfall.

Sparky truly is taking this remarkably well. Seems like these children caught a rampaging legendary, but whatever, no need to ask further, town's good.

Mark's feelings on the tension between May and Alan over the Lapras thing really are pretty bizarre, seventeen-year-old self. Chastising them for 'bickering' and thinking it's hilarious is just strange. Why aren't you taking this seriously, Mark. It's not like they're arguing about something petty and trivial.

Hey, Alan, you know what you should be telling May to do in your determination to encourage her to be better to her Pokémon? Maybe to actually talk to the Trapinch that she caught in its sleep before hauling it off with her? The one who initially ran away, and only attacked when cornered? You know, having given no indication he wanted a trainer at all? No? Really?

The random Manectric that dies here was simply a bystander victim of me finding this chapter a slog to write. I literally killed her off just to make the chapter a little more interesting for me. I wound up having plenty of fun with everyone's reactions to it (love to write me some characters feeling bad), and some of them are even kind of telling and/or meaningful for ongoing character development, but that was all purely improvised/accidental. Deciding to go for this shameless self-indulgence allowed me to speed through the rest of this chapter that I'd been bashing my head against for six months in the space of a week, though, so honestly worth it.
Chapter 35: Suicune


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Another legendary battle already?! YUP

Chapter 35: Suicune​


And with the northern wind, he came.

Mark shivered as an icy chill blew past them and a being of unimaginable grace dashed by through the forest, eerily close to where he was hidden. He watched the slender blue creature slow down and walk calmly towards the lake, tossing his head so that the billowing purple cape streaming out from his neck swished back in a peculiar, rippling motion.

He was gripped by a weird feeling of immense respect, something he had not felt for Thunderyu since he was not one of the creatures he had been reading about since he was a kid. Something about seeing Suicune so close gave him a sensation of thrill and, in some bizarre way, honour. He bowed his head as the legendary Pokémon approached the bank of the lake, feeling somehow that it was wrong to watch Suicune perform the purification while sneaking up on him.

“Look at him, damn it!” Chaletwo hissed in his mind. “Remember you’re seeing for two!”

Mark forced himself to look up as Suicune bent down on the bank of the lake, extended his paw and touched the surface.

“NOW!” Chaletwo’s voice shouted, and all of a sudden, Spirit and Vicky popped into existence on either side of Suicune. The legendary looked quickly up, but both of their eyes were already glowing with an eerie red color. As Suicune attempted to dash back into the forest where he had come from, it was as if he were hit by an invisible wall in mid-air and thrown backwards from the impact. Blood red ripples formed momentarily in the seemingly empty space where the Pokémon had rebounded.

“Go send out your Pokémon! Quick!” Chaletwo ordered frantically. Mark sprang up from his hiding place; he saw Suicune look at him in surprise and then at May and Alan who were sending out their Pokémon on the other side.

“I’m sorry, Suicune,” Mark whispered. Somehow he felt slightly better having said it, even knowing Suicune couldn’t hear him. He took a deep breath, grabbed his Pokéballs (at first he took Gyarados’s as well but realized his mistake at the last moment and hurriedly replaced it on his belt) and threw them.

“Everybody, go!”

The Pokémon’s cries filled the air as eleven Pokémon materialized on the ground. Dragonair and Charizard immediately took off into the air to make it more difficult for the earthbound Suicune to attack them; meanwhile, the legendary crouched down in a defensive position and shook his cape. Suddenly, dark clouds gathered in the air above them, and with a roar of thunder, it began to rain heavily.

“Spirit, assume the weak spirit form and keep it up as long as you can!” May ordered quickly through the sound of the raindrops falling onto the leaves of the trees. “Pupitar, Rock Slide! Raichu, Thunderbolt! Damn, why didn’t I teach you Thunder sometime?”

Spirit began to fade slowly away while Raichu started charging up electricity in his cheeks. Meanwhile, however, Suicune picked Pupitar out as the easiest target, and while large rocks were heaving themselves up from the lake, the legendary Pokémon fired a high-pressure jet of water at the pupa, who was immediately blasted into a tree. The rocks dropped back into the lake with a splash of water that sprinkled all over the Pokémon on top of the rain as May recalled the fainted Pupitar.

“Raaiiiichu!” Raichu cried as he crouched down on all fours and released a bolt of electricity that flew straight at Suciune. The legendary only shuddered slightly as he was struck by the blast of electricity, but seemed otherwise dismayingly unharmed.

“Just being offensive won’t get you anywhere!” Chaletwo shouted irritably. “Confuse him! Paralyze him! Put him to sleep! Strategy, guys, strategy!”

Lapras let out a loud cry and released a small light from her mouth that started dancing around Suicune to distract him, but the legendary Pokémon forced his eyes away from it.

“Thunder Wave, Raichu!” May yelled. The mouse Pokémon quickly crouched down and began to sparkle with electricity.

“Racko, Leaf Blade!” Alan shouted. “Diamond, Stomp! Slash, Pamela!”


Raichu fired a wave of paralyzing electricity at Suicune. The legendary howled in pain as his body stiffened up; meanwhile the Grovyle leapt at him with a screech, the leaves on his wrists glowing, and slashed across Suicune’s body just as Pamela raked her claws across his other side.

“Sui…” growled the deep voice of the legendary Pokémon as Suicune lowered his head, closing his eyes in concentration.

“Calm Mind…” May muttered to herself. Then: “Physical attacks, everybody! Quick! You too, Charizard, since it can’t break its concentration by attacking you!”

Charizard glanced once doubtfully at her, his mortal fear of the water shining clearly through, but then dived. Wow, Mark thought with a bitterness that made him feel slightly mad at himself. Even my Pokémon are willing to bet their lives that she’s always right.

Charizard smacked his wing powerfully into Suicune’s head, but the legendary Pokémon didn’t defend himself; he let the blow push him harshly to the side so that he only barely stayed on his feet. Meanwhile, Jolteon jumped at him with a cry and sank his fangs into Suicune’s slender paw. Eerily, he didn’t even wince: the legendary’s eyes were still closed in deep concentration.

The other Pokémon attacked Suicune more or less all at the same time, using whatever physical measures they had for inflicting damage. Suicune’s eyes snapped open and he appeared to be trying to move, but the paralysis kept him rooted on the spot.

“Ice Beam, Lapras, quick, before it can move again!” May yelled. “Spirit, try a Shadow Ball! Thunderbolt, Raichu!”

“Jolteon, help Raichu!” Mark called and then figured he might as well give some other orders to his Pokémon. “Try another Wing Attack, Charizard,” he added. “Slam, Dragonair! Sandslash, Slash him! And Letal, use Take Down!”

Meanwhile, Alan gave some orders as well, and all the Pokémon sprang into action during those few seconds when Suicune was fully paralyzed. Charizard and Dragonair dived down together and Charizard beat Suicune with his wing while Dragonair smashed his tail orbs into the legendary’s head. Letal rammed her body powerfully into Suicune’s side just before Jolteon and Raichu sent a joint Thunderbolt and a beam of ice from Lapras struck the crystal formation on Suicune’s head. Meanwhile Racko kept slashing with his leaves, and Spirit and Vicky both faded to material form as they together charged an orb of shadow energy. Diamond stabbed her horn into Suicune’s side, creating a bleeding wound, while Pamela and Sandslash ran up and slashed him.

Finally Suicune regained the ability to move. He wrestled away from his attackers, leaping gracefully over their heads to the bank of the lake where he faced them. Suicune’s crystal glowed and a tidal wave rose up from the surface of the lake behind him, rushing towards the bank.

“Look out!” Alan shouted stupidly while the Pokémon scattered. They tried desperately to get out of the way, but the wall of water quickly crashed down upon them and submerged the area completely, neatly avoiding the trees where the trainers were hiding.

“How does Suicune know Surf?” Mark called, directing his question at May. “Isn’t it an HM move?”

“I don’t know,” she just answered, shaking her head while staring fixedly at the scene of the battle. “It is a legendary Pokémon…”

The water flowed back into the lake and the Pokémon scrambled to their feet – all except Sandslash and Diamond, who the water seemed to have gotten the better of. Mark and Alan silently recalled them while May continued to shout orders to the Pokémon. Mark watched with worry how Vicky flickered in and out of visibility, clearly getting too tired and hurt to keep it up. Spirit had apparently managed to escape it entirely by staying in her spirit form.

“Dragonair, try a Dragon Rage,” Mark quickly told his Pokémon, who was now circling above the scene with Charizard. Dragonair nodded, took a deep breath and breathed crimson fire down towards Suicune, but the legendary Pokémon had heard Mark’s command and was already prepared. Mark watched, stunned, as the crystal formation on Suicune’s head apparently absorbed all the fire and then, after a moment’s pause, sent a blue, somehow liquid-looking mirror image of the attack right back at Dragonair. The dragon squealed in pain as he was hit by the blast, but managed to recover his position in the air.

“It has Mirror Coat! Don’t use special attacks unless Suicune is immobile!” May yelled.

Suicune growled, raising his head, and then blasted a rainbow-colored beam of ice crystals up towards the dragon, who was still regaining his composure. Hit by the super-effective blast, Dragonair was thrown a few feet backwards and then hung still in the air momentarily before dropping down into the lake.

“No!” Mark quickly ran towards the lakeside with Dragonair’s Pokéball. It was lucky the lake was so clear; he could see the light blue, snakelike body even as it sank. He hoped the beam would reach as he pointed the Pokéball towards it and pressed the button. A red beam of light penetrated the water’s surface, hit Dragonair’s body and zapped back towards the Pokéball in a zigzag motion.

“Look at Suicune!” Chaletwo hissed.

He quickly turned his head and realized that Suicune was looking silently straight at him, the legendary’s expression inscrutable. Again, he was overcome by guilt over what he was doing to the creature. He heard May command his Pokémon as if they were her own and the thought to just stand back and watch rather than participate in this dreadful battle seriously occurred to him.

“No, you don’t,” Chaletwo said coldly. “You’re who I picked out from that crowd. Don’t disappoint me by standing there being useless while letting those two nobodies do all the work.”

A hateful thought flashed across Mark’s mind; he hopelessly realized that Chaletwo would be able to detect it, even if he didn’t say it aloud.

“You self-absorbed moron,” he found himself suddenly having the courage to mutter. “I’ll do it, but for the sake of preventing the War of the Legends, not to make your idiotic method of picking people to help you with it look good.”

He clenched his fist until it hurt, not getting any answer, and then looked back at Suicune.

“Jolteon, Thunderbolt!” he shouted. “Another Take Down, Letal! Charizard, use Slash!” He looked at the legendary and added in a whisper, “I’m sorry, Suicune, but I’m hoping some good will come from this.”

For a moment he thought he saw Suicune nod, but then realized that he was just preparing for another Calm Mind. Jolteon released a bolt of lightning but it didn’t seem to harm the legendary Pokémon as much as it should have.

Charizard used the opportunity while Suicune was concentrating to dive down and rake his claws across the legendary’s body, and he narrowly managed to escape to a greater height before Suicune’s eyes opened again. The legendary Pokémon eyed Racko darting at him with the leaves on his wrists glowing and turned towards him. Suddenly the air around Suicune’s mouth filled with vapour before he fired another, considerably more powerful-looking rainbow-colored beam of ice crystals. It hit the Grovyle squarely in his chest; the reptile staggered backwards, gasping for air, and then collapsed on the ground.

“Return!” Alan shouted and recalled his Pokémon into the Pokéball.

“Mark! Look at the lake!” May yelled. He quickly looked around to see that Suicune was raising another tidal wave on the water’s surface, dangerously close to his own rather stupid location right at the bank. He stood there panicking stupidly for a second, but then ran for it towards the forest. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the wave was rising much, much higher than the one before…

“Lapras, Ice Beam it!” May shouted.

The wall of water froze in place just as Mark got to safety behind the trees. He couldn’t help looking at Suicune and finding it rather bizarre that he had been standing in the same place taking all the other Pokémon’s attacks for the whole battle and he still didn’t look hurt at all. He had, of course, read about Suicune’s amazing defensive powers, but never realized he could be this hard to take down.

Suddenly, Suicune lifted his head and blasted a jet of water towards Charizard.

“Look out!” Mark cried as the dragon dived, but the Hydro Pump followed just behind his tail flame. Mark could see the fear in his first Pokémon’s eyes as he tried desperately to go faster and swing his tail flame out of the way, but Suicune’s attack followed. Mark wondered with dread whether Suicune might just kill one of them to make the others leave.

He saw that underneath the frozen wall of water, both Spirit and Vicky seemed to be too tired to keep up their immaterial forms. And even while Jolteon, Letal, Raichu and Pamela were still joining their efforts to attack him, Suicune ignored it almost completely, only wincing slightly when Pamela’s claws tore into his flesh and Letal rammed into his body – in fact, Letal was just now collapsing from exhaustion after her futile efforts with the multiple recoil attacks. Mark recalled her, still focusing on Charizard who was already tiring out after flying as fast as he could muster. He was flying very low now and looked at Mark as if to ask to be recalled just as he was approaching where the frozen wave still towered over the lake.

Suddenly, Mark realized what Suicune was trying to do.

As Charizard was just in front of the giant wall of ice, the legendary Pokémon turned his head suddenly and a moment later a jet of high-pressure water hit the Fire Pokémon’s body and threw him straight at the ice.

It took only seconds of Charizard roaring in pain for the heat of his body combined with the pressure to make the base of the ice wall melt halfway through. During that second, Mark managed to take out Charizard’s Pokéball and recall him before he would be fatally pushed into the lake, but during that second the ice wall collapsed straight onto Lapras.

“Return!” May shouted, recalling the Pokémon through the block of ice as Suicune began to raise yet another tidal wave from the water. “Spirit, try to get back into spirit form, quick! And Vicky too!”

They tried. Spirit gritted her teeth as she tried to summon the energy to make herself insubstantial and Vicky flickered.

But the Surf came crashing down first.

The water enveloped the whole lakeside, running smoothly past the trees as if there were an invisible wall in front of them. The clarity of the water allowed Mark to see plainly how the water enveloped Spirit and flurries of bubbles rose up from her thick fur, how Vicky floated around like a piece of cloth, how Jolteon, Pamela and Raichu were drifting upwards. All of them had fallen unconscious from the sheer force of the wave when it crashed down on them. He saw the others recall their fainted Pokémon and did so too while the water began to flow back into the lake. They had lost.

“All right,” said Chaletwo, speaking for the first time since Mark had snapped at him. “Remember what I said. Just get away now.”

May and Alan were already getting ready to run for it. All that stopped Mark was a momentary desire to have a look at Suicune one more time, from a little closer. It was an extremely stupid desire, he realized, but he wasn’t obsessed with legendary Pokémon for nothing.

The water cleared away and he ran a few meters towards the lake, staring at Suicune. The legendary’s eyes met his, and Mark wondered momentarily why Suicune wasn’t either attacking them or running away.

Then he realized that one of his Pokéballs had popped open.

“What the…”

May and Alan looked back to see what was going on and all three of them stared as the blinding beam of the Pokéball materialized into the looming shape of Gyarados. He faced Suicune with a twisted smile.

“Finally,” he growled in his language. Mark realized it was the first time he had heard Gyarados speak Pokémonish. Suicune took a step backwards.

“Scared of me, are you?” Gyarados snarled. “I knew they would lose if I didn’t take part and then I’d be able to face you alone.”

Suicune just looked at him, the legendary’s expression as inscrutable as ever.

“Why do you do it?” Gyarados spat. “Why do you go around ‘choosing’ random Pokémon for some selfish purposes of your own? What do you want with us? Were you hoping I’d be as brainwashed as that dumb Ninetales and become overjoyed at the news, prancing around and thinking I’m special? You don’t even tell us what you want with us, goddamn it! What if I don’t want to be ‘chosen’ and would prefer not to have been put through your idiot ‘test’? Why do you do it?”

Suicune looked up at Gyarados, straight into his eyes, but said nothing, his expression unchanging.

Gyarados started to laugh. “You’re not going to tell me, are you? There is probably no reason. You’re probably just doing it to feel like a high and mighty legendary Pokémon, then, aren’t you? Or is it just something so grand and secret that I can’t be in on it?”

Suicune didn’t move.

“Answer me, damn it!”

The two Pokémon looked into each other’s eyes for a few seconds. Then Suicune looked down and ever-so-slightly shook his head.

“Fine,” Gyarados replied, closed his eyes and began to turn gray. “Fine!”

Mark quickly reached for Gyarados’s Pokéball.

“Don’t,” said Chaletwo quickly. “If he weakens Suicune, you have a chance to try to go for the capture. Wait.”

Gyarados opened his eyes and blasted a bright red Dragon Beam straight at Suicune. He didn’t even try to dodge; it hit straight into the crystal on Suicune’s head, causing the legendary to stagger backwards slightly. Suicune closed his eyes in concentration.

Thin blue bands of what appeared to be electricity suddenly shot from Suicune to Gyarados. For a moment Mark thought Gyarados was surely done for, but then realized that he didn’t appear to be in any pain. In fact, if anything, his attack was growing stronger.

“What’s going on…?” Alan whispered as more and more of those strange blue lightning bolts connected the two Pokémon. Gyarados’s beam was steadily growing brighter and brighter and blue sparks circled all around Gyarados, enveloping him completely in blue and white until it looked almost like he was evolving. Mark shielded his eyes from the brightness, still wondering what on earth was happening; he could see Suicune, with his eyes closed, straining against the power of the now-white Dragon Beam. It was first now that Suicune showed any signs of being hurt.

Then it stopped. Suicune staggered backwards a couple of steps before collapsing on the ground.

“Yes! Throw the ball!”

Mark didn’t want to obey. He looked at Gyarados, who was still enveloped with white energy although it was fading away, and wanted to see if he would be all right. But he grabbed an Ultra Ball anyway and threw it at the fallen legendary Pokémon.

It bounced off as if he’d just thrown it onto the ground. As if Suicune weren’t even alive.

Mark’s mind went completely numb. All he could do was stare as Alan ran towards Suicune and touched him, first carefully and then pushing him roughly. He checked for a pulse at Suicune’s neck and looked up, horrified, shaking his head slowly.

Suicune is dead. Gyarados murdered Suicune. Oh, God. Oh, God.

He looked quickly back towards Gyarados and watched as the white faded away, but something was wrong.

“Was…” May hesitated. “Was Gyarados this light-colored before?”

It was as some of the white light had seeped into him permanently. Instead of his previous unusually dark color, his scales were now unusually light for his species.

But what had caught Mark’s attention were the three gems, two smaller and one bigger, that now seemed to have embedded themselves into one of the sea monster’s upper segments to form a pattern.

Gyarados, after taking a quick look at Suicune’s body, looked at them. “What do you mean, light-colored?” he asked sharply.

Mark just pointed, and Gyarados looked down to see the gems.

“It’s the same pattern as on Spirit’s necklace,” May muttered, and Gyarados seemed to have realized the same. He raised his head hatefully towards the dark night sky and roared. Suicune had placed the mark on him, taken him to the next step of ‘chosenhood’ – as if it had all been planned. As if Gyarados had killed Suicune for nothing.

“Well,” Chaletwo said finally after a long silence, “I suppose we’re one step closer either way.”

His telepathic voice was shaking, but Mark hardly noticed it. There was no joy of victory, no feeling of triumph or relief. There was only dull silence as he recalled Gyarados and they dragged Suicune’s body into the forest where it hopefully wouldn’t be found.

Hahahahaha you thought Mark's good feelings about legendary battles from chapter 33 might last? THINK AGAIN

Remember when a Pokémon knowing an HM move naturally was almost unheard of? In Molzapart and Rainteicune, the precursor to this fic, I insisted that Molzapart is just so strong that he can learn HM moves naturally, and I guess that carried over to here, with the idea that somehow Suicune knowing an HM move is something mysterious and impressive. It just sounds kind of silly, especially today when HM moves are no longer special.

So, plot twist, Gyarados kills Suicune. Nobody quite responds to this here like he did something wrong - everyone's just sort of reacting as if it were a total accident that just suddenly happened, and it's weird. I'm not really sure what was going through my head there. Going to get some mileage out of this in the future, though.
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Chapter 36: The Crater


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Welcome to chapter 36, in which Mark tries to convince the inhabitants to evacuate a town built on the inside of a volcano.

With this, I've finally caught up with the chapter art again, so chapter 37 will be coming when I've finished the art for that.

Chapter 36: The Crater​


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suicune is dead.

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

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

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

“Who asked you?” Mark snapped.

He waited for a few seconds. No reply.

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

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

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

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

“I wouldn’t say…”

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

Again, there was no reply.

Chaletwo? he thought.


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

A few seconds of nothing passed.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Mark nodded quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan smiled awkwardly. “Eh. Not exactly.”

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

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

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

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



“Can legendary Pokémon die?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

May shrugged. “We could battle.”

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

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

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

“So May, do you mind…?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Mist, use Aqua Ring!” Alan ordered.

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

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

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

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

“Haze!” Alan shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What? Again?
Mark thought, pausing. Why?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Right… nobody’s watching…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What? Give me that,” the mayor said quickly, tearing the paper out of her hands and holding it up to read the page she had been pointing at, leaving the front page in plain view.

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

And despite the blurriness, it was unmistakably Mark himself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Warn us?” Mayor Daniels stammered.

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

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

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

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


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

He grinned. “Watch this.”

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

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

“I’m not convinced,” somebody mumbled.

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

“A Ditto?”

“Pokédexes can recognize Ditto.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty weird how Mark speculates about the strange sparking around Gyarados like it had something to do with him attacking, when it's pretty clear the exact same thing happened to Spirit (her turning lighter, getting those gems, etc.) without her attacking Entei at all. Not sure why I went for this random thought.

Surely, Mark, there's some middle ground between shrugging off Gyarados murdering Suicune completely and intentionally leaving him back in the lake where he was starving, right? Like, at the very least have a serious talk with him about this? It's very weird how I just... didn't make that happen here, and my honest best guess at why is Gyarados's presence being a logistical hassle to engineer by the time they were back in the city because I need to get the characters in a place with some kind of body of water before Mark can send him out. One of many, many things I would be rectifying in the next revision.

Mark randomly lampshades how he's using moves he hasn't before here, including stuff like X-Scissor. Well, Diamond and Pearl were out by the time I was writing this, so I could now freely use fourth-generation moves and Pokémon, and the way I handled new generations over the lifetime of the fic was simply to act like the new Pokémon/moves were always there and just happened to never come up before. Convenient!
Chapter 37: Carl


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Chapter 37 time! In which Pupitar gets punted into lava.

You are allowed to just skim the Mark/Alan battle here; it's not bad as my battles go but it's very long and not really relevant to anything other than a couple of fun pieces of thoughts/dialogue.

Chapter 37: Carl​


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He stopped abruptly. Speak of the devil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan just stood there and blinked.

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

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

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

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


“Of course.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How’s the evacuation going?” Carl called.

“Fine,” the Mayor called back.

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

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

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

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

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

The town looked a lot more fragile seen from below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She blinked. “I don’t know.”

“How well can it resist magma?”

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

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

Mark and Alan stared.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That would be great,” Alan replied.

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

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

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

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

Alan shrugged. “Sounds good to me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Six on ten?” May asked skeptically.

“Six and home field,” Carl just said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May looked at him. “What? Why?”

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

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

“Yes,” he replied coolly. “Women should be equal, should they not?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

“Fire Fang!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“Flamethrower!” Mark said quickly.

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

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

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

“Charizard, Air Slash!” Mark shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hydro Pump!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go, Letal!”

“Racko, your turn again!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Diamond, Fire Spin!”

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

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

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

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

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

“Diamond, Fire Blast!” Alan yelled.

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

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

“Letal, Headbutt!”

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


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

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

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

“Vicky, Confuse Ray!”

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

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

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

“Dragonair, Dragon Rush!” Mark countered quickly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vicky shook her head.

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

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

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

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

“Dragonair, use another Dragon Rush!”

“Fake Out!” Alan roared.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Scyther, Swords Dance!”

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

“Taunt!” Alan ordered quickly.

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

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

“Power Gem!” Alan shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fire Pokémon’s eyes popped open.

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

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

“Sandslash, Earthquake!”

“Bounce!” Alan yelled.

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

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

“Flare Blitz!” Alan ordered quickly.

“Earthquake again!” Mark countered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Mark took out Letal’s Pokéball.

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

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

“Use an Energy Ball,” Alan said.

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

“Hypnosis!” Mark blurted out.

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

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

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

“Iron Tail!” Mark shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

“Go, Pamela.”

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

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

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

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

“Fake Out!” Alan yelled.

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

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

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

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

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

“Shock Wave!” Alan yelled.

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

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

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

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

Pamela was paralyzed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Destiny Bond!” he roared.

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

And neither of them moved.

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

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

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

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

He almost laughed.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

“Sonicboom!” May said sharply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan raised his eyebrows. “Already?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thunder Fang!”

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

“Charlie, Air Slash!” Alan yelled desperately.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“I hate you sometimes,” the Pokémon muttered.

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

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

“How goes the evacuation?” Carl called.

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

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

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

“Good night to you too, Mayor.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let me tell you one thing,” Carl then said, his voice harsh. “I’m not buying it. Your story makes little sense, I never much believed in legendary Pokémon, and it’s blatantly obvious that your friends know more than they say they do. I don’t like liars. I’d have thrown you out on the spot but for that you happened to come here the very day after our scientists picked up something fishy with the volcano. If this is your idea of a sick joke, you are one very, very lucky prankster… for now.”

Carl made a point of locking the door very carefully, removing the key and putting it in his pocket. “But any responsible man who cares for his hometown would have it evacuated if anything seems to suggest it might be destroyed. I don’t know how you could have found out about the volcano stirring, but it forces me to give your explanation the benefit of the doubt, and that is the only reason why I’m playing along with it. The evacuation would have happened even if you hadn’t come. Don’t think you’ve fooled anyone with this just because appropriate precautions for the situation are being taken. And I swear that if your Volcaryu does not burst out of the mountain tomorrow, the consequences for you will not be amusing in the slightest. Do you understand?”

Mark shivered. “Yes.”

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

This is the longest chapter of the entire fic, and that's chiefly because it contains a full 5500-word six-on-six battle between Mark and Alan in the middle of it that's basically filler, which I spent most of the writing process of this chapter complaining about having to write. There are some fun character moments in there, but at the absolute least it did not have to be a six-on-six to get such moments in. Please, seventeen-year-old me, you don't have to write a six-on-six battle, who is holding a gun to your head.

The treatment of the volcano here is largely nonsense inspired by video game lava levels and the climax of the Return of the King movie, but some way or another I did manage to reasonably accurately show Pupitar (made of rock) sinking slowly in magma while Charizard (much less dense than rock) seem to float in it and need to actively push each other down. I'm still amazed that I managed this.

This chapter contains a historic moment for the fic: when Carl sends out the rest of his Pokémon, I don't stop to describe what all the Pokémon look like! A miracle! For years I'd dutifully described every Pokémon species the first time it appeared in the fic, because everyone was told to do this on Serebii back in the day, but here, alongside Mark's rebellion, my 17-year-old self finally had the courage to just... not. I always hated doing it and this felt so much better.

There's this bit during the Mark/Alan fight where Mark talks about how he'd had these overblown expectations for Dragonair (that we haven't seen) and how Dragonair's disappointed him, when basically every time Dragonair's lost has involved... Mark just not knowing any of his moves. I just kept on being weird about Dragonair for some reason. I'm sorry Dragonair, you deserved better.

In general, Alan distinctly uses way more interesting strategies than we've seen in any battle in the fic so far, and when May is supposed to be the actually good strategist of the three of them, that's pretty incongruous. Granted, Alan is a much more experienced trainer, who's had years to get to know his Pokémon and their moves to figure out something that works for them, but for characterizational reasons it's really unfortunate that he honestly comes across as a better battler than May by a mile here.
Chapter 38: Volcaryu


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Get ready for some more Carl and our next legendary battle!

Chapter 38: Volcaryu​


“It’s half past six. Get up.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” said Carl and nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chaletwo responded. “Not really. I’m the one keeping him asleep, after all. It’s not a matter of doing anything, but of not doing something anymore. I’d be very worried if I were capable of messing that up.”

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

The boards he was walking on creaked uncomfortably.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ready?” Charizard murmured.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“With him around?” Chaletwo responded.

It was a good point. Since supposedly Chaletwo could only communicate either privately with Mark or by sending out a local psychic signal that everyone in the vicinity could hear, it would be a bit difficult for him to make any sort of a speech without Carl hearing. Mark sighed.

He’d have to do it himself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ten,” said Carl, “nine, eight…”

Chaletwo, be ready, Mark thought.

“…five, four, three, two, one…”

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you think you’re…?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark couldn’t help it. He looked down.

The glow in the hole in the middle of town was much brighter now, and it took a second for Mark to realize that it was because the lava had risen – and it was still rushing upwards with unsettling speed. The floor began to crumble as the heat vaporized the support beams below it, seconds before molten lava spluttered out through the hole, shattering the wood into burning splinters that crumbled into ash in the air. The sheer destructive power of it was terrifying but fascinating; Mark couldn’t look away as fiery magma enveloped the gym building and it began to sink and melt. The wooden houses all around had become a blazing inferno whose ashes crumbled into the lava in a matter of seconds. The white-hot liquid squeezed its way through every crevice to flow down the sides of the volcano, and the Pokémon hurtled out of the way while the lava began to sink again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dragonbreath, Vibrava!” May yelled.

“Diamond, use Bounce!” Alan shouted.

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

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

Up to this point, Volcaryu probably hadn’t quite realized that all of the creatures around him were actually there to attack him, but Mark suspected it was starting to dawn on him now. Volcaryu roared and spewed a column of flame towards May and her Butterfree; Skarmory swooped quickly out of the way, but Butterfree wasn’t as fast a flier and was caught in the blast. May recalled her without words while her Vibrava fired a cone of sparkly flames at the legendary Pokémon and Dragonair smashed into his other side.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then there was a rumbling roar from the crater.

Mark’s first, crazy thought was that somehow there was another Volcaryu coming, but of course he realized as soon as his common sense kicked in that it could only be…

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

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

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

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

“Flareon, Helping Hand!”

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

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

And it stilled with a confirming ping.

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

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

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

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

“Because I threw that ball.”

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

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

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

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

Carl nodded firmly, peering at him with interest. “Can I ask you a question?” he then said. Mark shrugged.

“What was that thing you sent out before Volcaryu emerged?”

Mark racked his brain; he’d forgotten that he had done that. He quickly came to the conclusion that the truth was the only thing he could really tell. “It was Thunderyu. Chaletwo created it along with Volcaryu and one other dragon, and they hate one another and can sense each other’s presence.” He paused. “I guess Chaletwo didn’t want to do it when the town’d been evacuated and was going to delay it until everyone was back home. So I tried sending out Thunderyu to lure Volcaryu out now, and it worked.”

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

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

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

“All right, then. Thank you for warning us. Perhaps we will see one another again eventually.” He paused. “I suppose there’s one thing left to do.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May and Alan just kind of waiting at the Pokémon Center well past half past seven, without making any attempt to make sure Mark and Carl are even awake, is a bit funny - May at the very least should have been pretty agitated there.

The second badge in a row that Mark gets without actually winning the battle against the gym leader. I remember being kind of mortified when I realized this. In the original plan for chapter 37, Mark was supposed to just win his battle - but then they did this weird three-on-three melée thing, and Mark just wound up losing spectacularly (I tend to write battles in a very spontaneous way where I just feel out how it plays out as I go), and I just shrugged and made this happen rather than try to get the battle to work out in a way where Mark wouldn't lose. At least Carl makes them promise to get the eighth badge properly.
Chapter 39: The Workings of the War


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Chapter 39, in which we kick off the second half of the fic by recapping and clarifying the plot. Featuring: this universe's time travel mechanics!

Chapter 39: The Workings of the War​


Route 315 was painfully long.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” came the snappy reply.

Mark sighed. “Still upset about Volcaryu?”

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

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

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

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

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

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

Chaletwo didn’t respond.

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” said Chaletwo’s voice.

“What is the Destroyer exactly?”

“Presumably, it’s a legendary Pokémon.”

“Presumably?” May asked skeptically.

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

Mark nodded. “Okay. So the Creator…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So what does the Preserver do exactly again?”

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

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

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

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

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

A few seconds passed in stunned silence.

“Meaning… what exactly?” Mark asked slowly.

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

This took a while to digest.

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

“Our true immortality is neutralized during the War. We’ll be as mortal as the other legendaries.” He paused. “Ironic, being immortal except at just about the only time you’re likely to die.”

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

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

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

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

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

“The Destroyer emits some kind of pulse of energy, containing all the power of the legendary Pokémon doubled. This power flows directly back into the legendaries and is split evenly between them. Receiving such a large amount of power so suddenly drives them into a trancelike mental state focused on nothing but getting all that power out through destroying each other. They hunt each other down, with no care for collateral damage, until only one of them stands left. As I said, the survivor receives this residual energy, which apparently causes them to lose consciousness for a time, and when they wake up they’ve gotten their sanity back as well as the power of the Creator.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chaletwo was unsettlingly silent for a few moments.

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

There were a few more seconds of stunned silence.

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

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

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

Everyone looked at Mark while Chaletwo considered it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Articuno,” Mark finished quietly, and his heart sank into a bottomless pit.

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


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

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

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

"the main difference was that Mark had a problem with something Gyarados had done while Lapras had a problem with something May had done" doesn't that make these two things basically opposites, though

The random bit about Celebi's prescience in there is because I doggedly wanted my fic to be compatible with anime canon, and in the fourth Pokémon movie, while we only see Celebi travel to the future, there is one scene at the end where the withered Celebi is revived by a swarm of other Celebi who appear. Since in the fic it's important that there's only one of each legendary, these had to all be the same Celebi from different times - and since my time travel mechanics made it impossible to go to the past, these all had to be the same Celebi from the past, all experiencing some kind of impulse to travel to this exact moment where they were needed. I was pretty proud of myself for figuring this out, but of course the anime went on to cheerfully stomp all over my cool interpretations by having a bunch of Shaymin in the eleventh movie and time travel to the past in the twelfth movie, and in the end I had to just reluctantly declare them uncanonical.

It bugs me how Chaletwo apparently hasn't thought enough about the War of the Legends to have come up with the theory Mark voices at the end there. Surely they would've given this a fair amount of thought.

Wish I'd had some of the Pokémon talking here, besides Chaletwo himself. Surely they'd also be pretty interested!
Chapter 40: In the Dark


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Chapter 40 is here, in which I enthusiastically describe Mark and May making their way through a gym puzzle, they earn their final badge, we see a familiar face again, and Letal gets some more focus.

Chapter 40: In the Dark​


They arrived in Acaria City around noon the next day.

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

“Naturally, I won’t be able to go with you to Champion Island,” Alan was saying as they walked into the lush Route 317 in search of a good place to train for the gym after lunch and a Pokémon Center rest. “I don’t have all the Ouen badges, so I can’t come onto the island without special permission. So while you’re there, I think I should be on the lookout for Rainteicune while training my Pokémon to be better able to battle some legendaries. Rainteicune is just a matter of finding him; he’ll let me recapture him as soon as I’ve explained the situation, so that shouldn’t be a problem. You’ll be partaking in the League, correct?”

May nodded. “Of course.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And what then?”

“We teleport to wherever they are.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark shrugged and the two of them walked together off the path to the lake after Alan waved them off.

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

“Uh, fifty or so?” He shrugged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May raised her eyebrows. “At level 49?”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May rolled her eyes. “If you want.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark looked blankly at her.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The door slammed shut, and it was dark.

Really, really dark.

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

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

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

“May, do you see the candle?” Mark asked. Being taller, he realized with a note of envy, she would probably be able to see it without even standing on tiptoe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark hurried over and bumped into her back.

“Watch it,” May hissed.


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

“The wall turns right here,” she said.

“Well, let’s go there, then.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You fell down too, huh?”

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

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

Mark nodded. “Looks like it to me.”

“That’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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

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

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

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

“Which was which?” Mark asked doubtfully.

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

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

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

“Or the right way actually is right.”

“Do we split?”

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

May sighed. “Mine first, then?”


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

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

“So,” Mark said. “Left or right?”

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

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

“We’re here!” Mark said in relief, quickening his pace, but May must have heard him move faster, because she grabbed the back of his shirt.

“Are you crazy? There are bound to be trapdoors on the way now. She wants you to get overconfident now that you can see the goal. Or at least that’s what I would do. Who even knows with Diana.”

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

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

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

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

Victor?” Mark asked incredulously, and May spun around at the mention of the name. The boy looked up and grinned.

“Hey, guys. Mitch told me you managed to get away from the Pokémon Festival unscathed. How have you been?”

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

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

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

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

Mark stared. Victor grinned still more widely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The leaders, of course, had only brought in the Pokémon they were going to use, so Mark and May had to turn back to the table. Mark took out his Pokédex and considered his choices. Sandslash’s most powerful attack was Earthquake, which would hurt May’s Pokémon too; he was probably the most obvious candidate for leaving out of the battle, and thus Mark quickly switched him to the PC.

His next thought, with an uncomfortable sting in his stomach, was Gyarados. But Gyarados was also probably his strongest Pokémon, and last time he’d fought a gym leader he’d lost. He’d promised Carl he’d get this badge the proper way; could he even do that without Gyarados?

Reluctantly, he moved his hand away from Gyarados’s ball. He could think of Dark-type Pokémon that each of his Pokémon would have a type advantage against except for Dragonair, and although he’d have loved to watch him perform more Dragon Rushes, he placed the dragon’s Pokéball on the table beside the candle.

“Who are you leaving out?” May whispered.

“Sandslash and Dragonair.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Crunch on the Charizard,” ordered Diana.

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

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

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

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

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

“Spirit, use Confuse Ray on the Houndoom!”

“Destiny Bond, Insidious!”

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

“Return,” he said, recalling his first Pokémon back to the safety of his ball while Victor did the same for Insidious. Mark bit his lip. It wasn’t a fantastic start for him. Maybe he should just go for it.

“Go, Gyarados!”

The sea monster emerged in the pool from a blob of white light. It was strange to see him now, suddenly so much lighter in color; for a gut-clenching moment Mark worried he’d lunge at him, but Gyarados just gave his usual roar of challenge, glancing back at Mark for only a moment. Victor nodded and took out one of his own Pokéballs.

“Go, Vicious!”

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

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

“Vicious, use Aqua Jet on the Ninetales.”

“Houndoom, Faint Attack on the Gyarados!”

“Spirit, Payback on the Sharpedo!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jolteon, do it! Thunderbolt the Honchkrow!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ferocious, use a Taunt!”

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

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

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

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

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

That reminded Mark that he had a Steel Pokémon too.

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

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

“Ferocious, use Swagger on the Skarmory!”

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

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

“Hmph,” Diana said, looking at Letal. “Weavile, return.”

While the gym leader recalled her Pokémon, Ferocious the Mightyena had apparently managed to pull off that Swagger because Skarmory bonked his head into the wall near the ceiling before fluttering drunkenly back towards the wolf Pokémon.

“Hit it with Drill Peck,” May said.

Skarmory managed to keep his directions for a few seconds, long enough to put a spin on himself and dive towards the Mightyena. He also managed to do this with surprising speed such that Victor’s Pokémon was only beginning to try to get out of the way when Skarmory struck it with his drilling beak and then crash-landed on top of it. Ferocious yelped in pain under the heap of metallic bird and neither of them moved.

May recalled her Pokémon, as did Victor with an encouraging “Nice work.”

“It seems we all have two Pokémon left,” Diana observed. “That is nicely even.”

“Let’s get on with it,” May just said, having seemed rather irritated ever since Vibrava’s not-all-too-glorious performance. She picked a Pokéball from her necklace and then waited for the gym leaders.

Diana smiled faintly. “Heh. You know the rules, I see.”

“Leader sends out first,” May just said.

“Fine. Umbreon, I choose you!”

“Malicious, you go, girl!”

Diana’s Pokéball sent out a black creature with long ears and a pattern of glowing, yellow rings on its body while the light from Victor’s ball emerged into the white-furred, clawed and scythed shape of an Absol.

“Butterfree, go!” May shouted, hurling her ball forward with more force than usual as a triumphant smile broke out on her face. “Use Bug Buzz on the Absol!”

Mark wished in a way now that he had Scyther out instead of Letal – now that both of the Pokémon they were facing were pure Dark-types, it would have been nice to take them on with two bugs. But he couldn’t switch now.

“Malicious, use Sucker Punch on the Butterfree!”

“Umbreon, get it with Confuse Ray!”

Mark had only a moment to figure out which Pokémon he wanted to attack and came to the conclusion that they might as well split their efforts. “Letal, use Iron Head on the Umbreon!”

The first attack to make contact was the Absol’s, Sucker Punch being what it was. While May’s Butterfree was still getting ready to attack, Malicious leapt into the air with a hiss and smacked a huge, clawed paw into the butterfly’s body. She was thrown harshly backwards in the air, but managed a fairly quick recovery and flapped her wings extremely rapidly for a moment, producing a high-pitched buzz that made the Absol cringe in pain. Meanwhile the Umbreon was creating a small ghost light in front of it, but Letal came flying at its side, her body metallized again, and managed to drive it into the wall with her attack. Umbreon flinched for a second, losing its concentration for the Confuse Ray.

“Butterfree, Safeguard!” May yelled. “Mark, keep the Absol occupied!”

“Okay, uh, try a Hypnosis!”

“Umbreon, use a Screech on the Letal,” Diana commanded.

“Malicious, hit the Butterfree with Aerial Ace!” Victor ordered, his Absol nodding immediately as she prepared to leap with an intimidating hiss. Just as she sprang up into the air, however, Letal tackled her back down in mid-leap, pinned her down and stared intently into the Dark Pokémon’s eyes for a few seconds. Malicious hissed in response but soon stopped struggling and fell into deep, hypnotic sleep.

“Great,” May said while her Pokémon formed two translucent white bubbles of energy around herself and Letal. “We can focus on the Umbreon now. Butterfree, Bug Buzz.”

The gym leader’s Pokémon was crouching down and letting out a high-pitched screech that made Letal cringe. She stood up from the limp Absol’s body and looked at Mark as May’s Butterfree produced another powerful buzzing sound, this time aimed at the Umbreon.

“Butterfree, Silver Wind!”

“Okay, Letal, use… use Tri Attack. See if you can inflict by a status condition.”

Letal’s mask glowed with white energy before she lowered her head, three pale beams of red, blue and yellow shooting from the points of the mask towards Diana’s Pokémon. As they struck simultaneously, a gust of silvery powder swept through the room from Butterfree’s fluttering wings to the already recoiling Umbreon, who whimpered as the powder settled into its fur. It shook itself, sending the powder swirling back towards the floor.

“By the way, Mark,” May said quietly, “don’t try to inflict a status effect on it. It has the Synchronize ability.”

“It has what?”

“Synchronize. If it gets paralyzed, burned, frozen or whatever, so does Letal.”

“Oh.” Mark looked blankly at Letal while Diana issued another command to her Umbreon:


May swore under her breath as the translucent image of a full moon appeared shimmering in the air above them, beams of light shining upon the Umbreon. “Okay, Butterfree, use Silver Wind as often as you can. Mark, try to wear it down.”

“Uh, Letal, use Iron Tail.”

“Her fourth move,” May muttered to remind him as Letal sped towards Diana’s Pokémon, her tail glowing. Letal swung it at the Umbreon, but being that the tail wasn’t the easiest body part to strike someone with, the other Pokémon managed to dodge.

“Try again,” Mark just called, and this time Letal managed to spin around quickly enough to smash her tail into the Umbreon’s head. Being newly healed, the gym leader’s Pokémon didn’t appear at all close to fainting, but it was clearly becoming a little tired. Butterfree fired another gust of silver powder towards it and it staggered backwards and shook its head.

“Umbreon, use Last Resort,” Diana said calmly. Her Pokémon suddenly glowed all white and then simply smashed into Letal’s body with unprecedented force.

“Metal Burst!” Mark blurted out as his Pokémon flew through the air and landed on the floor. She tumbled a few times over, in fact straight into the still-sleeping Malicious who was still lying on the floor with her trainer watching her carefully. Letal bolted right back up, her body turning entirely metallic before playing out a reflection of the Umbreon’s attack, smashing right back into Diana’s Pokémon who tumbled even farther across to the other side of the room.

When the Steel Pokémon’s body bumped into her, however, the Absol had begun to stir. She opened an eye just as yet another Silver Wind struck the Umbreon.

“The Absol’s waking up!” Mark shouted to May, and she looked sharply towards the white Pokémon as she shook her head and rose slowly to her feet. Mark looked up at Butterfree and saw that May’s Pokémon was bathed in a silvery aura that her body was absorbing by the second. The white bubble of light was fading away now.

“Umbreon, use Last Resort on the Butterfree!” Diana ordered.

“Butterfree, Bug Buzz the Absol!” May yelled.

“Use that Aerial Ace, Malicious!” Victor called.

But Butterfree was quicker now. She flapped her wings with far more power than before, producing a hectic mess of screeching sound waves that made Victor’s Absol scream in pain before collapsing, once again limp on the ground. Diana’s Pokémon glowed all white again and shot into the air, smashing Butterfree into the ceiling from where she crumpled uselessly down like a paper toy. Letal, her body metallic yet again, smashed the Umbreon into the wall with her head.

Diana’s Pokémon moaned in pain while Letal stepped away, her breathing fast and heavy. The Umbreon fell down, unconscious, while Letal trembled on her feet. She was obviously exhausted.

“I’ll recall you now,” Mark muttered while the other three trainers drew their Pokéballs. Letal, however, shook her head fiercely.

“I want to evolve,” she wheezed quietly, almost angrily. “Don’t.”

He considered recalling her anyway, just because she looked almost sick. But she turned her head firmly back towards the gym leaders and waited. Victor gave her a concerned look before he reached for his last Pokéball.

Mark came to the sudden dumbfounded realization that out of all four trainers in the battle, he was the only one with two Pokémon left at this point. Even May was sending out her last. The thought made him grin.

“All right, then, Letal,” he said. “If you want to keep fighting, you can.”

“Precious, you’re up,” Victor said, throwing the familiar Ultra Ball into the arena to release the innocent-looking black kitten Pokémon that Sandslash had battled the first time they had met Victor. Letal growled suspiciously at it; “Mewww-tark!” it mewled happily in response.

“Tyranitar, GO!” said both girls’ voices at the same time.

The green dinosaur Pokémon that Diana sent out looked a lot like May’s – it was just at least a foot taller and a lot bulkier along with being a little darker in color, obviously being the older and more experienced Pokémon. It let out an ear-splitting roar as it emerged from its Pokéball, throwing its powerful tail around. A gust of sand whipped around the arena behind it.

It looked at its smaller adversary with a confident smirk, and May’s Tyranitar responded with a challenging roar of his own.

“Mark, you fight the Tyranitar,” May said quickly. “Letal’s got the type advantage. Tyranitar, get Mutark with Stone Edge!”

May’s Pokémon growled at the other Tyranitar but turned obediently towards the kitten.

“Letal, Iron Head!” Mark blurted out.

“Tyranitar, Crunch the Letal,” Diana ordered.

“Precious, just hang on!”

Letal was running towards Diana’s Pokémon already, having metallized her body although she was clearly shaking from the effort now. She smashed her head into the beast’s blue belly and got it to grunt in pain before it bent down and picked her up in its powerful jaws. She squirmed around, turning the non-armored parts of her body into metal again even as the dinosaur shook her around in its mouth like a ragdoll. The Tyranitar threw her to the other end of the arena, where she managed, miraculously, to stand up yet again. Mark watched her in disbelief and couldn’t help being both proud and impressed.

“Iron Tail!” he ordered, looking around. May’s Tyranitar had conjured chunks of sharp rock from the floor that had given Victor’s Mutark a bit of a beating, but clearly they had also been sharp enough to open a bleeding wound. Precious had tasted his own blood and grown considerably, now resembling a black ocelot with abnormally large fangs more than a housecat, and was bounding towards Letal with a hiss as she slammed her tail into the side of Diana’s Tyranitar’s body.

“Letal, watch out!” Mark blurted out, and she turned quickly around as the cat took a leap towards her. The Steel Pokémon only thought for a moment before swinging the blade of her head at her attacker, slicing it into the Mutark’s chest.

Precious let out a mewling scream of pain as he was thrown to the side, blood spurting out of the wound. Letal approached him again, her body turning metallic as she prepared to attack, but Diana’s Tyranitar scooped her up into its jaws, flames licking the sides of its mouth. Letal cried out in pain, her metallic body bending more easily under the crushing power of the Tyranitar’s jaws when they were assisted by flaming heat.

“Tyranitar, Earthquake!” May shouted, and her Tyranitar stomped down one of his huge feet with a roar. Ripples spread through the floor; the larger dinosaur roared in pain as they passed under its feet, and it threw Letal away as it staggered backwards. Letal crashed into the wall and then crumpled into a half-molten heap on the floor.

Mark took out her Pokéball, but lowered it in disbelief as the heap stood up, very slowly, walked a few steps back into the arena, and was enveloped in a white glow.

Then the glow faded, the Pokémon’s feet shaking like jelly, before she lost her balance and collapsed on the floor.

“Letal, come back,” Mark said, holding out her ball and watching the red beam absorb her body. “You were amazing,” he added as he replaced the ball on his belt, meaning it more than he ever had. “Scyther, finish it!”

While Scyther was materializing, Mark had the time to get a quick overview of the battle again, which made him come to the unsettling realization that the cut Letal had given Victor’s Mutark had produced enough blood for him to make himself grow into a monster nearly the size of the Tyranitar he was facing with glowing red eyes and humongous fangs. This monster had then latched himself onto the back of May’s Tyranitar, who was struggling to get him off while the cat tried to sink his fangs into the rocklike hide on the dinosaur’s neck.

“Little help here?” May shouted as sharp rocks exploded out of the floor under the smaller Tyranitar’s feet.

“Scyther, get the Mutark off him!” Mark yelled. The mantis sprang into action immediately, his scythes glowing with green energy as he zoomed towards the feline and brought his scythes down in a cross upon the Mutark’s back. Precious roared in pain as Scyther delivered two more slashes to his front paws, causing him to momentarily release his hold; it was enough for the Tyranitar to throw him off his back. The Mutark landed on his feet a couple of meters away, not hesitating for a moment before leaping at Scyther again. Precious knocked him into the floor and bared his huge fangs.

Scyther snarled and delivered a well-aimed chop to one of the Mutark’s legs. More blood spurted out from the wound as the creature let out a bloodcurdling scream; the Mutark reached his head down to lick the blood from the limp paw, but stayed pinning Scyther down.

“Don’t let him lick it!” Mark shouted. “He’ll grow!”

Scyther’s scythes glowed with green energy again and the mantis slashed into both of the cat’s shoulders this time. This threw him a little bit backwards, enough for Scyther to wrench himself loose, get up and slash the Mutark’s back again. His injured legs gave up underneath him, and Victor’s Pokémon collapsed onto the ground in a pool of blood.

Scyther slashed him one more time for good measure before a Pokéball beam sucked the Mutark in. Victor looked at Scyther and frowned. “Well, looks like I’m out. Good job.”

While all this had been going on, the two Tyranitar had been wrestling with one another, and Diana’s was clearly gaining the upper hand thanks to its size. May’s Tyranitar was in pretty bad shape, his back bearing deep cuts from the Mutark’s sharp claws, and Mark realized suddenly as the larger Tyranitar pushed him a few steps backwards that it was trying to make him fall into the pool.

May looked quickly at Mark and he shouted the first thing he could think of:

“Scyther, another X-Scissor!”

The mantis zoomed at the larger Tyranitar’s back and slashed, his scythes glowing green again. The Bug-type energy allowed the blades to slice into the dinosaur’s hard skin, causing the beast to roar in pain and reflexively turn towards the new attacker, which finally gave May’s Tyranitar some room to breathe.

“Earthquake!” May yelled, and Scyther zoomed away from both of the Tyranitar as the smaller one stomped his foot again, producing more ripples in the floor which bombarded the other dinosaur’s feet. Diana’s Tyranitar roared in pain as the gym leader frowned.

“Tyranitar, hit the Scyther with Stone Edge.”

“Tyranitar, hit IT with Stone Edge!”

And while Diana’s Tyranitar was bigger and more powerful, May’s was slightly nimbler and quicker. Before the larger dinosaur could attack, the other one raised one of his arms and large rocks burst out of the ground underneath the larger Tyranitar, knocking it a bit sideways.

Then Scyther suddenly smashed into it as well, and that impact was enough to make Diana’s Tyranitar topple over with a roar of protest and crash into the ground, betrayed by its own weight.

“Another Earthquake to finish it off,” May ordered, her Tyranitar executing the order immediately. The floor rippled under the huge body, even more of it touching the floor now, and it grunted as every cell of its body trembled along with the ground. Scyther dived down to slash it with another X-Scissor, and it roared and twisted.

“Tyranitar, return,” said Diana’s cold voice as the red Pokéball beam absorbed the huge Pokémon. “Good battle.”

She reached into a pocket in the side of her dress and took out a small box as Victor walked over to her. She handed him one of the badges from the box before both gym leaders walked across the arena, Diana to May and Victor to Mark.

“Here’s your badge,” Victor said with a quick, awkward smile. “Didn’t know your Scyther was that brutal.”

Mark snorted. “Look who’s talking. You even name your Pokémon stuff like ‘Vicious’ and ‘Malicious’.”

Victor chuckled. “It’s all in good fun.” He reached out to shake Mark’s hand and left the little, round object in his palm. Mark brought it up to his face and looked at it; unlike all the other Ouen badges, this one was not silver but black, and when he turned it in the flickering firelight, it seemed as if many sets of tiny, gleaming eyes were lurking in the middle of it.

“Thanks for the battle,” Mark said and smiled. “Do you think the three of us could talk privately for a second?” he then added.

Victor shrugged. “Sure.” He raised his voice: “Hey, Diana, do you think I could talk to these two for a sec?”

The gym leader raised her eyebrows. “If you want.” She walked gracefully back towards the door in the corner and closed it as May walked over to the boys.

“What’s with ‘Precious’?” she asked. “I mean, it fits the grammatical pattern, but it seems kind of out of place with ‘Malicious’ and ‘Insidious’.”

Victor rolled his eyes. “Come on. I can’t call him ‘Nefarious’ or people start to suspect he’s more than a cute little kitten before he starts kicking ass.”

“What did Mitch tell you?” Mark interrupted before May could reply. Victor’s expression turned back into a frown.

“Right. Well, I saw you die when I was watching Chaletwo. That was pretty creepy.” He winced. “But Mitch stopped me later, and he told me you’d been revived and Chaletwo had plans for you or something.” He shrugged. “Wasn’t very specific. I wasn’t sure whether I believed him, but then you appeared on the camera.” He pointed up to the ceiling above the door; Mark hadn’t noticed before, but there was a security camera there pointed at the entrance back to the maze, presumably for showing the gym leaders in the back room when challengers arrived. “So uh…” Victor went on quietly, “is it true?”

“Pretty much.”

Victor nodded slowly a few times. “All right,” he said. “It’s probably something important that I shouldn’t get involved in, so let’s leave it at that.” He looked at May. “I assume you’re involved too since Mark didn’t ask you to leave.”

“Often more involved than he is,” May replied, and Mark couldn’t really deny it.

Victor looked at both of them again. “Well, okay, then. It was good to see you again. I’m glad you’re alive. I hope you get that Mutark, May.” He took a deep breath. “And… good luck with whatever it is you’re doing, I guess.”

“Thanks,” Mark replied. “We’ll need it.”

“Mutark’s on Route 316, you say?” May asked.


“Oh, and congratulations on the position,” Mark suddenly remembered to say. “Assistant gym leader is pretty awesome.”

Victor beamed with pride. “Thanks. It’s been my dream since I was little to own a Dark gym. I don’t quite own it yet, but I’m getting there.” He winked.

“Congrats too,” May said, “but how are we supposed to get out of here?”

Victor burst out laughing. “You just go down the trapdoor just over there and walk up the stairs. Oh, God, I swear, every single person who comes here asks that.”


One trapdoor, a slide and a staircase later, Mark and May were back above ground and heading towards the Pokémon Center. The night seemed bright in comparison to the building they had just left; the streetlights appeared strangely blue after the orange firelight of the battle arena.

Mark grinned. “You know what I just realized?”


“You were closer to losing than I was.”

May glared at him. “That was stupid Vibrava being useless. I was hoping I could get him to evolve.”

“But still.”

“Shut up.”

Mark just laughed as they stepped into the neon-lit building and onto the familiar fluffy, pink carpet.

Mark can't think of any Dark-types that are weak to Dragon, of course, because the Deino line didn't exist yet when this was written.

Originally when I wrote this chapter, I somehow managed to just forget about the bit where Mark should be pretty reluctant to use Gyarados right about now, when he hasn't been outside his ball since three days ago when he murdered Suicune in cold blood. It was so glaring that I wound up attempting to patch it over briefly in the edit, which is definitely the most extensive edit I've done for this posting so far. Still not exactly a pinnacle of writing, I still kept to a rule of making it very quick edits only, but a bit better than before.

I started describing Pokémon again in this chapter out of habit, although I at least kept the descriptions shorter this time. Still a super long battle that didn't need to be so long.


A cat that writes stories.
  1. custom/purrloin-salem
  2. custom/sneasel-dusk
  3. custom/luz-companion
  4. custom/brisa-companion
  5. custom/meowth-laura
  6. custom/delphox-jesse
  7. mewtwo
Howdy, my dear Free! As expected, you're the first of my Blitz targets this year. I'll probably do another three-chapter cluster in week three and/or four. We'll see, I guess!

I'll start with impresions and commentary, and then sum up my thoughts at the end.

Chapter 6:
So, Mark has caught Gyarados and proceeds to have no conversation with him whatsoever about his history and desires. It's like he's completely incurious. I for one am desperate to know the guy's relationship with Suicune and what the hell is up with him in general. Given that Mark regularly converses with Charmander, who doesn't even speak English, and later has a long convo with Eevee, who doesn't even seem to speak pokéspeech, it's a glaring absence that Mark just continues on without interrogating Gyarados. Hell, the poor fish has malnutrition. I'd be desperate to know more!

Interesting that Gyarados already loves Mark for no substantial reason. I guess being the first human to be willing to save him from his predicament, whatever it is, is enough. I get the feeling maybe he just hasn't met many humans, and only in fraught encounters besides. Love that Mark is excited that HE WILL ACTUALLY OBEY because wow those early 2000s pokéfic where 'mon sapience and personhood are matter-of-fact but treating them accoridngly is not.

So, this long convo with Eevee. This impressionable child is willing to go with a human who keeps 'mon like him in little balls! With a pitch like that, who wouldn't want to go with him? Honestly I believe that Eevee would warm to Mark's softness, but the whole experience is just this kid absolutely fumbling a recruitment pitch and succeeding only because Eevee is an infant.

Hey, it's time to battle LEGENDARIES! Still not over this being a reasonable gym in the mind of Young Free.

The combat in these battles is actually pretty brutal. I find myself wincing constantly; it can't be pleasant for folks to see 'mon this distressed. However, it does kinda have that Origins vibe, where low level 'mon screech at the pain from being attacked, but veteran 'mon eventually shrug it off. The stuff about Dragon Rage lines up nicely with that. It sure goes on a while in the prose, too. And man, do they ever get their asses handed to 'em.

And at last... Charmander's evolution! Love that it solves nothing and creates fear.

Chapter 7:
The personality change that comes with evolution isn't harped on about all that much, but I remember it being a big deal in the first season of the anime with Ash's 'zard. I like that it's mirrored here in Mark's Char, but that it turns out more optimistically, with the guy being level-headed and reflective about what happened. Love to see that trademark Communication TM from your work.

It's actually pretty based of Mark to forfeit rather than force his remaining teammates through a pointless battle in hopes of an agonised narrow victory. And why not? All he loses is time and pride.

Oops it's May and she really needs Mark to believe that she doesn't give a shit about her own appearance. She's so practical, you guys! She's completely pragmatic and would never be vain or superficial ever. Except maybe occasionally about her starter 'mon. Maybe.

So she was definitely Char's old trainer, haha. What a story she reports.

It's sorta weird that Mark is worried that she might rightfully own Char when Char consented to be his partner already. The li'l dude couldn't be forced to part ways with him, surely? It's surprising he even believes this, but I guess he's just Afraid, y'know?

Charmeleon has taken a level in cynicism but they're still buds, and I love that very much.

It's time to get lategame TMs and blow the meta wide open! Cannot believe that the way battles clearly go down in this world is that junior trainers just load up on the best moves basically instantly and go fight mediocre gods.

Char marrying TM35 is genuinely funny. Every time I read it, I chuckle.

Not sure why he's supposed to be wiser now? What?

It's good to apologise to Shrew. I guess Mark only understands Char? Is the shortcoming in Mark, or Shrew? Unclear.

Eevee is TOO YOUNG, motherfucker. Do not battle with him. Let him watch and learn. Spar a little.

May values the worth of pokémon on their usefulness and is very upset at herself for having aesthetic tastes and at her cyndaquil for resenting that. Delicious. I wonder if that gets expounded on some more later on.

The BLUE BALLS have me cackling helplessly every time and it's not your fault but you need to know I am dying from this.

A 'loyalty gene'? Mfer, please. Why can't quilava be making a choice to give you more of a chance, huh? Grow up.

Reading this fic continues to be an Experience. It's a mix of genuine nostalgia, awe at the strange writing decisions of Young Free, and appreciation for the little narrative gems buried here and there. I look forward to reading on and finally catching up on my First Fic.
Chapter 41: Return to Scorpio City


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Thank you for thoughts! Mark understands Sandshrew fine, but sometimes the fic has brief untranslated Pokémon vocalizations:
- In a few cases (mostly Eevee), it's essentially 'baby talk' - a young/childish Pokémon babbling something that's not intelligible words.
- Usually, it's just grunts/sighs/roars/noises, rather than words - in particular, this is what's going on with almost all Pokémon vocalizations in battle.
- Sometimes, early in the fic (think I pretty much just stopped doing this at some point), I'd leave something untranslated because the translation simply seemed unnecessary - either it's just straightforwardly obvious what's being said, or the exact words are unimportant.

In general, you can safely assume Mark can understand any Pokémon who's speaking intelligible speech. The language barrier isn't written to be very present at all - I pretty much just handwaved that he learned it at school and then more or less acted like Pokémon speak English from there, whenever they have anything substantial to say. (Unfortunately, I didn't give Sandshrew anything substantial to say until chapter fifteen, by a combination of him being timid and quiet and what do you mean having the Pokémon be equal characters should entail they get actual screentime outside of when they're battling)

Anyway, here's chapter 41, wherein Mark gets chewed out about how he handled Letal last chapter, May catches her newest team member, and we check in with Mitch again.

Chapter 41: Return to Scorpio City​


Mark and May returned to the Pokémon Center the next morning after breakfast to retrieve their Pokémon while Alan checked them all out of the trainer hotel where they’d been staying through the night.

Nurse Joy handed May her Pokéballs and then turned to Mark with a frown. “You’re the one with the Letal, aren’t you?” she asked disapprovingly, thrusting five Pokéballs into his hand.

“What? Is she okay?” Mark was puzzled; he had never really heard of Nurse Joy being grumpy before.

“No, she is not okay!” the nurse responded angrily, almost shouting. A few people who were waiting looked their way to see what was going on. “I could heal her wounds, but she’s severely overworked. Do you think that just because you have a Letal that’s close to evolution you can make her go on fighting for however long you like even when she’s dropping down with exhaustion?”

“What?” Mark repeated in disbelief. “She… she wanted to evolve! She asked me not to recall her!”

“You trainers are all the same, trying to blame the Pokémon,” the nurse said fiercely. “She’s young. An overgrown child. She doesn’t know her own limits. Would you let her jump off a cliff if she thought she could fly?”

“No, but…”

“You took her away from her parents wherever you caught her. You need to come in their place and show some responsibility. No good trainer would let her keep fighting in the kind of state she’s in.”

Mark blushed, feeling eyes on him all around. “I’m sorry, but is she going to be all right?”

The nurse gave him a disapproving glare. “Oh, sure, but Pokémon that try to evolve when they don’t have the energy go into a state of hormone and energy overdrive and it can have lasting effects. She might never be able to evolve now.”

Mark stared at her, dumbfounded. She looked at him with resentful satisfaction. “That gets to you, doesn’t it? No Letaligon for you? Well, it’s about fifty-fifty, and I hope that bad fifty teaches you not to let your Pokémon overwork themselves whichever way it goes.”

“So,” Mark began carefully, “can I, uh… have her back?” He gestured vaguely at the unoccupied space on his Pokéball belt, feeling worse by the minute.

“We have to keep her for the rest of today,” Nurse Joy said, her tone of voice making it apparent she would really rather not give Letal back to him at all. “You can get the nurse wherever you’re at this evening to transfer her over.”

“Okay,” he said, turning back around, determined to get out of there as soon as possible. “Thanks. Let’s go, May.”

“Well,” May commented as the automatic doors closed behind them, gesturing back towards the building, “somebody’s in a bad mood today.”

“She had a point,” Mark mumbled, still in a bit of a shock. He had never been called a bad trainer before – not bad in this sense, anyway. “I should’ve recalled her anyway.”

“Oh, come on, Mark,” May said irritably. “What if you had? She’d have hated you for weeks, we’d never have found out it was actually dangerous to let her fight that long, and she’d have found some other opportunity to do something stupid. Letal overestimated herself; here’s an experience to teach her that she has limits. That’s how people learn things. How will she ever grow up if you just take on the role of an overprotective mom?” She threw him a sideways glance. “And you’d spend a couple of days sulking about how horrible and evil you are to your Pokémon since you recalled her when she didn’t want it. Why are you making a big deal of this? I mean, it sucks both for her and for you if she loses the ability to evolve, but if that happens it’s her fault, and if you start beating yourself up about it I think I’ll have to slap you.”

Mark wasn’t sure he should be listening to her opinion about Pokémon abuse of all things, but his subconscious mind apparently didn’t care and just eagerly jumped at the opportunity for some justification. Despite himself, he couldn’t help feeling a little better.

But whoever was at fault, he didn’t want to imagine how Letal would react if she were told she would never evolve after all this effort to do so. Although she had never said it straight out, she had been implying for a while now that she wanted to return to Ruxido once she evolved to her final form, and he had after all caught her on the condition that she would go back once he had ‘made her strong’. To her, the entire experience of going with Mark, all her disturbing and unconventional battling methods and the way that she overworked herself and battled longer than she ought to, had been aiming towards this one goal, and now she would perhaps never reach it. She would take the news badly, but how badly? Request immediate release and go back to Ruxido, never to earn her father’s approval? Become a lone wild Letal somewhere else? Decide in her shame to stay with him for good but lose all her enthusiasm now that she had no goal to strive towards?

And as much as he hated having the thought at just this moment, he had really wished she’d be a Letaligon by the time he got to the League. A lot of trainers had them, seeing as Leta were far easier to find than Pokémon like Dratini, Bagon or Larvitar but similarly powerful in their final stage, but unlike them, he also had a Dragonair who would possibly evolve before or during the League. That would have given him somewhat of an advantage to make up for not being as knowledgeable about attacks and abilities as somebody like May was. While there were unevolved pseudo-legendaries in the League, they were usually particularly enthusiastic fighters who were either looking forward to an upcoming evolution or had made a conscious choice to remain in that form – Letal would be neither.

He had the fleeting thought that maybe he could just release her regardless, catch some other Pokémon and train it up instead, but shuddered at the thought and pushed it out of his head. That was something May would think, not him.

They didn’t know yet whether Letal would be able to evolve or not, anyway; perhaps she wouldn’t take it too badly as long as she knew she might still evolve as normal. Perhaps it would even make her more determined. Hadn’t he heard about a psychological experiment at some point where the most effective method of getting someone to perform a repeated activity was to make the activity give rewards only sometimes and then randomly? It would be kind of similar in principle.

He wasn’t sure he liked where his brain was going with this, and they were stepping into the hotel lobby anyway. Alan was sitting there in a stylish purple sofa reading a newspaper, the kids’ bags lying on the floor beside him.

“Hey, Alan,” May said as she picked hers up and hoisted it onto her shoulders; Alan looked up, closed the newspaper and placed it on the low table in front of him. “Shall we get going?”

Mark picked up his bag as well. “They say there’s going to be a storm in the afternoon,” Alan said as he stood up, indicating the folded newspaper on the table. “We should probably get to Scorpio City and then wait it off there. Probably stay the night.”

May shrugged. “Fine by me. I want to find myself a Mutark anyway, so more time around Scorpio City is great. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to find one, even with Tyranitar out.”

“Sounds fine to me too,” Mark said, but lightly prodded at Chaletwo in his head for approval.

“Now that I can concentrate on only one dragon who was too far away to feel anything through his sleep when we were fighting the other two, we’re not in that much of a hurry to get to Polaryu,” the legendary Pokémon replied. “I’ve got him covered for now. Staying one night somewhere won’t hurt.”

They walked out of the Pokémon Center and back onto the boring Route 315, but soon took a left turn down a steep, rocky hill to be faced with Route 316. It was an overall upwards slope with a rough road heading straight ahead; the landscape on the sides consisted mostly of rugged, moss-covered rocks with some grass in between. There was a flock of Pidgey looking at them from a short distance away.

“So Mutark are around here…” May muttered, grabbing a Pokéball from her necklace. “Tyranitar, go!”

The white light that came out of the ball materialized into the shape of the green dinosaur, who looked around for an opponent but found none; the flock of Pidgey took off towards the south with startled shrieks. He turned to May.

“Just walk with us,” she said. “Supposedly just you being here will help get the Mutark out.”

Tyranitar nodded and walked along with the group, which made Mark notice that the Ninetales, whom he had grown accustomed to seeing trotting by May’s side, was missing.

“Where’s Spirit?”

“Hm? Oh, I figured having a Pokémon out could scare the Mutark away. I mean, having a Dark-type out attracts them for some reason, but other Pokémon could just weigh against that.”

Mark shrugged. He looked briefly at some rocks by the roadside and could have sworn he saw yellow eyes blink in the darkness underneath one of them.

“I think you’re attracting them already.”

She stopped and turned; he pointed at the rock. She approached it carefully, peering at the shadows under it for a few seconds.

“Let’s keep walking until one comes out of its own accord,” she said finally. “We can’t dig under the rocks.”

They continued warily, keeping an eye on the shadows. Mark saw a few more pairs of eyes shining in the darkness for a second before they disappeared again. Finally, when they were passing a large rock, the head of a black kitten peeked out from underneath it and walked cautiously towards them, staring at Tyranitar as if in a trance.

Mark was about to point it out, but a glance from May silenced him. He watched it come nearer and nearer as they walked on as if they hadn’t noticed anything. Then suddenly –

“Tyranitar, get it!” May shouted, and the Mutark only had time to freeze in its tracks before the dinosaur Pokémon reached down, picked it up in his jaws and threw it across the road. It let out a shrill, mewling cry as it flew through the air and bounced a few times on the rocky ground. Alan stared at May in horror.

“Oh, come on,” she said, plucking another ball from her Pokéball necklace. “It’s a Dark Pokémon. It only looks like a kitten to fool you.”

She threw the ball into the air. “Butterfree, Sleep Powder!”

As the Mutark rose to its feet and shook its head, the butterfly Pokémon formed in the air and flapped her wings powerfully. Sparkling, green dust drifted down towards the ground; the Mutark looked at it with kittenlike curiosity in its eyes, rose to its hind legs and started batting at it with a paw. As the Mutark wavered drunkenly on its feet and then collapsed in the grass, fast asleep, Mark couldn’t help finding it adorable, despite knowing what it could turn into.

May fished an Ultra Ball out of her pocket and hurled it at the creature. As it made contact, the catlike form turned a translucent red and was drawn into the ball.

The black and yellow Pokéball wobbled on the ground and then stilled with a ping.

May frowned as she walked towards it. “That was too easy,” she said. “It’s probably low-leveled.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Alan said immediately.

“Yes, I know, I know,” May said irritably. She held her Pokédex up to the ball.

“Mutark, kitten Pokémon,” said the electronic voice of the device. “These Dark Pokémon have the peculiarity of growing in both size and ferocity when they taste their own blood. They hunt in groups after harming one another sufficiently to grow to the desired size to deal with their prey.”

“People still don’t know the exact nature of their transformation when it comes to their personality,” Alan said. “They always act sweet and innocent when they’re in their kitten form. Nobody knows if it’s conscious deception or if their mind really regresses to an infantile stage while they’re in this form. If it’s the latter, it’s questionable whether it can be considered right to have them battle at all.”

May looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “Interesting,” she said before looking back at her Pokédex. “Female, level sixteen.” She sighed. “Great.”

She sent the Pokéball to the PC, recalled Tyranitar and Butterfree and replaced their balls on her necklace. After a moment of thought, she brought out another one, which Mark initially assumed to be Spirit’s.

“Vibrava, go.”

The antlion Pokémon formed on the ground and looked questioningly at his trainer.

“I’m getting fed up with you being at a lower level than the rest of my team,” she said. “You could have lost me that gym battle. The Pokémon around here are hopefully something you can handle. I don’t care how long it takes. You’re evolving today.”

“May…” Alan began.

“You keep out of it!” May snapped at him. “What, is it cruel to train your Pokémon now?”

“Maybe Vibrava doesn’t want to evolve or he’s tired.”

“I’m fine,” the Pokémon chimed in, his antennae twitching. “And evolving would be nice.”

May glared at Alan in an I-told-you-so manner and he threw his arms up in defeat. “Fine. Fine. I just thought you should ask. Let’s get going and get to Scorpio City before that storm starts, okay?”

That kind of killed the mood for any further conversation, and for the rest of their southwards journey up the gentle slope, the only words spoken were May’s snappy commands ordering Vibrava to attack the various wild Pokémon they came across while dark clouds gathered in the sky. At last they reached the highest peak of the mountain on that side and could look directly down into Scorpion Valley, the city below and the stretches of the Black Desert.

“All right,” May said. “You guys can go on. I’m going to train Vibrava until he evolves. I’ll see you at the Pokémon Center later.”

Alan looked doubtfully at her, but didn’t say anything.

“Goodbye, then,” Mark said with a shrug. “See you.”

“Watch out for the storm,” Alan muttered as he followed Mark down the zigzagging path that lay down the steep mountainside. May probably didn’t even hear him.

“She worries me sometimes,” Alan said after a minute or two. “I don’t know what kind of effect her treatment could have on her Pokémon.”

“Effect?” Mark replied without looking around. “Aren’t there a ton of trainers like her out there? I mean, she’s not exactly exemplary, but I can’t see anything she does as being particularly traumatizing. Lapras doesn’t like her for a number of reasons, but all her other Pokémon don’t really seem to mind that much. You saw Vibrava.”

“Well, she’s not that much worse than most wild Pokémon expect trainers to be, most of the time,” Alan said, “but the image of trainers that an average wild Pokémon has is just a person who’ll guide them in battle, teach them strategies and techniques, help them evolve, take them to new places, heal them between battles and eventually release them. The only reason her Pokémon put up with it is that they weren’t expecting to make a lifelong friend anyway. They’re just in it for the quick training.”

Mark shrugged. “Why can’t they be in it for that? Letal is in it for that, no matter how nice I try to be to her.”

He had intended for it to be just a casual mention, but now that he had reminded himself of Letal’s situation, it was starting to bother him again. The fact he was now alone with Alan made it worse.

“Well, at least you are nice to her,” Alan replied. “You don’t call her stupid or useless or decide without asking her that you’re going to evolve her.”

Mark was going to ask Alan’s opinion on whether he should have kept Letal out or not, but somehow it just came out as, “Letal might never evolve now.”

“What? Why?”

“She was too exhausted in the Gym battle for the evolution to happen. She just glowed and then it faded again and she collapsed. Nurse Joy said she was in hormonal overdrive or something and this could screw up her chances of evolution for good.”

“How’d she ever get that worn out?” Alan asked, sounding genuinely puzzled. “I mean, I’ve heard of it happening, but the Pokémon needs to be literally dying of exhaustion.”

“It amazed me too,” Mark just said, looking back at Alan. “She was fighting for longer than any other Pokémon in that battle. There was a point where she seemed to be about to drop down and I was going to recall her, but she refused. She got up like three times when she should have fainted and just kept going. And then that… I think it was after Diana’s Tyranitar threw her into a wall.”

Alan shook his head. “She shouldn’t have kept going that long. It’s crazy. You know that Pokémon evolved fainting as a precaution to prevent them from inflicting life-threatening injuries on one another in a friendly fight? It’s like a switch in their head – in one mode they’ll automatically fall unconscious given a certain level of pain or injury, and in the other they’ll fight to the death. Normally they couldn’t switch it voluntarily even if they tried, but she did it. She could have died.”

This did not help Mark feel better at all. “Nurse Joy told me off for not recalling her anyway. She said I should have known better than to let her do that to herself.”

Alan looked at him for a second, considering it. They were almost down to the city now. “Well, it’s a bit of a tough situation,” he said finally. “But seeing as you probably didn’t know it was dangerous to her, it’s a bit hard to point to you as the one at fault. She probably didn’t know it either. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just good she’s okay.”

“She’ll be upset if she can’t evolve,” Mark said. “It’s always been really important to her.”

“Well, there’s not much you can do about that if it happens.”

Mark sighed as they stepped down onto the concrete floor of Scorpio City’s main street. “I think I’m going to check on the gym and talk to Mitch if I can. Can you get rooms for us?”

“Sure,” Alan replied with a shrug and headed towards the Pokémon Center as Mark continued along the main street. The gym building was on the right close to the entrance into the desert; it was a simple single-storey concrete building painted deep purple with GYM on the front in large, white letters. The memory of himself seeing that building for the first time, scared out of his wits with May lying unconscious beside him, popped into his head. And as if just to creep him out, the moment he turned around he found the silver-haired gym leader standing there just as he had that fateful evening. Mark jumped, not having expected to see him there.

“Hello, Mark,” Mitch said softly.

“I wanted to talk,” Mark said, feeling the questions try to burst out of his brain now that Mitch was actually standing in front of him.

The gym leader nodded. “Let’s go inside. They say a storm is coming on.”

The two of them entered the gym building; Mark experienced another déjà vu seeing the three corridors leading from the small entrance hall and knew that they were going to the right. They stepped through the wooden door into the tidy living room with the navy-and-gold carpet and sat down in two of the three brown leather couches surrounding the small coffee table. It was all almost bizarrely familiar; he couldn’t believe what a short time it had been since he had last been there, fearing for May’s life.

“So,” Mitch said, one hand rubbing his chin as he kept to his old habit of looking up while he talked instead of at the person he was speaking to. “You wanted to talk to me.”

“How do you know all that stuff?”

Mitch gave him a sideways glance. “What stuff?”

“We were at the Acaria City Gym yesterday. Victor was there. He told us you’d told him I was alive and Chaletwo had plans for me. I knew you’d seen me alive back in Ruxido, but even then you were there like you’d been expecting me. And I never told you anything about Chaletwo.”

Mitch rubbed his forehead. “It’s all a bit hard to explain.”

“Well, do it anyway,” Mark said, finding his temper rising suddenly. “Because to be honest, this is freaking me out. And in Ruxido you distracted me with some stuff about biology before I had the sense to ask.”

The Gym leader chuckled. “Sorry. It wasn’t meant as a distraction.”

Mark didn’t respond. He just waited. Mitch glanced at him and took a few deep breaths.

“Ever since Scorplack stung me that day, I’ve had these feelings. I don’t know much. They’re never specific. The first time I saw you and May, I felt like there was something wrong. I saw you die at the Pokémon Festival and had an immediate feeling Chaletwo had done it because he needed you for something. I had a feeling I would see you in a particular spot in Ruxido so I went there. That is all I know that has to do with you.”

“What kinds of ‘feelings’ are these?”

Mitch rubbed his eyes with his hands, something about the gesture making him seem like he was very uncomfortable. “They’re hard to describe. It’s like when you look at someone and observe that they’re beautiful or that they have dark hair. But I observe something more that’s not based on what I see.”

Mark looked at him for a few seconds, trying to make sense of this.

“I can teleport,” Mitch suddenly said, his voice almost bitter. “I can affect people’s dreams. I can sense powerful emotions from afar. And I don’t have the faintest idea why.” He held his right hand over his eyes and shook his head. “I think I’m going insane.”

“Why would…” Mark began, but Mitch suddenly looked up, straight into his eyes, and the wild, frantic gaze of his faintly bluish-gray eyes somehow made Mark forget what he was going to say.

“I’ve been having more of these,” Mitch whispered, his eyes shining with uncertainty and fear. “I used to get feelings only occasionally, but now I can’t look at anything without having some bizarre feeling about it. Other people’s emotions keep me awake at night. Am I just finally losing it after the near-death experience? Have you experienced something like this?”

Mark shook his head, stunned, and Mitch broke their eye contact as suddenly as he had begun it. He leaned back in his chair with a sigh and looked out the window; it was starting to rain. “Sorry. You’re troubled enough already without me trying to pile all this on you too.”

Mark realized dimly that his anger had given way to pity. While Mark was also carrying a burden of his own, at least he knew why. But Mitch knew nothing at all about the strange powers that were plaguing him, and was left to figure out what to do with what he learned from them on his own.

“I’m sorry,” Mark said finally in a quiet voice. “I have no idea what’s happening to you.” And then he had an idea that made his heart jump.

Chaletwo? he thought. Have you been listening to all of this?

came the reply, a little bitter. “But I’m afraid I don’t know what’s wrong with him. I don’t know of anything similar happening to anyone. And while I could maybe try to help it if I had more of my strength, I’m pretty useless right now.”

Mitch looked at Mark and he immediately had the feeling the gym leader knew he had been talking to Chaletwo. But neither of them said anything.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you anything more useful,” Mitch said at last. “You should probably get over to the Pokémon Center until the storm is over.”

Mark nodded and stood up. “Sorry about barging in here and pressing you about all this,” he said. “I hope you… figure it out.”

And with that, Mark left the Gym and ran through the rain towards the warmth of the Pokémon Center.

It's pretty weird Alan only infodumps about how it might be ethically questionable to train Mutark at all after May catches one. Like, you couldn't just say that a bit earlier if you were going to?

There's a sentence in this chapter with a major plot hint that I was incredibly paranoid about putting in here, convinced everyone would figure out the entire plot from it. Naturally, they did not, and realistically it was completely unreasonable to expect anyone would. Have fun hunting for it if you like!


Gym Leader
  1. suicune
  2. umbreon
So I’ve been meaning to get around to this fic for quite a while, especially after seeing all your incredibly lovely chapter art! And, well, what better time than during the blitz, right??

This has been a TREAT to read so far. While, yes, there are many moments that show this was written by a 12-year-old Free, I’m still pretty darn impressed with a lot of it. Twelve-year-old Yellow could never. 🤣

Anyways, let’s dive in to some truly remarkable line quotes 😂


The blood-soaked ground was covered in bodies. Most of them were whole. In fact, a few might still have been breathing some of the last breaths of their lives.
Ahahahaha omg this has SUCH edgy young teen energy and I am LIVING FOR IT. Were you a warrior cats fan, by any chance? Also, it’s a shame we didn’t know each other back then. We would have been friends, I think. 😂
There was one thing that the torn apart ones had in common: while they lived, they had been known as legendary Pokémon. These former streets contained the bodies of twelve legendary Pokémon. All but two of them would soon be buried in the sands of time, forgotten and insignificant in history.
Well SNAP, this thing killed multiple legendaries? Single-handedly? Yike. Nothing like introducing a powerful and scary villain (or maybe not villain? Monster?) than having them kill multiple god-like entities singlehandedly. >:)
The pink legendary’s disbelieving eyes stared at the head in horror, oblivious to the death all around. Silent tears filled them.
Lolol ok so I actually didn’t realize this until I took a closer look at the chapter art, but this guy is full-on DECAPITATED. Brutal! And poor Mew! Happy that Mew is still alive. You can’t get rid of the best mythical that easily, amirite?
Terrified, the legendary looked upon a black, feline-like head with neon green markings. The same green shade was also on six long spikes which sprouted from the back of its head, three on each side. The left eye socket was empty; what had been the right eyeball was now merely a bloody mess.
The eeeeeedge

What a prologue. DEATH. DESTRUCTION. EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE AND THERE IS BLOOD EVERYWHERE. Yeah, you and I would have totally vibed as adolescent writer friends. 🤣 I’m loving this. It’s like a trip down memory lane despite the fact that I’ve never read this before.

Chapter 1
Exactly 999 years later,
Almost all the other kids had been taken to Green Town last year to receive a Pokémon from Ash Ketchum.
Yo ASH is in this story?! I’ve been tricked. Scammed. Heckin bamboozled. I’ve finally been lured into reading an ashfic. Smh my head.
The problem was that northwest Ouen had no Pokémon in it, for some reason that Pokémon experts had always debated about.
~~northwest Ouen is just tryna be like Orre, ok~~
The people who lived there were all lawyers or other rich people who wanted a life in peace
“Lawyers or other rich people” absolutely sent me. It’s SUCH a 12 year old analysis, lololol. Rich? Must be a lawyer!
And if there was anything that people who had lived there for more than thirty years did not understand, it was the concept of Pokémon training.
I love the random specificity, hahaha. More than thirty years exactly! If you’re 29, you make the cut. You know about training.
Mark walked grudgingly into the school building. He hated it, especially the prison-like outwards appearance and that dull, rock-gray color of it. Mark loved living things; he had since he was little, and hated gray because it was so lifeless. The corridors were even duller, even grayer and even more lifeless, which only added to the depressing feeling of the whole building. To top it all, all the students were snappy and irritated, usually because they wanted to train Pokémon, and the teachers were all snappy and irritated too, simply because of the gloomy atmosphere that never left the building.
Well DANG that’s such a depressing description lol. 🤣 Free, be honest, was this you projecting your feelings about school?
He preferred Pokémon Communication classes by far – ‘Pokémonish’, as they were usually referred to in everyday speech. He was much better at languages than learning stupid things by heart, aside from finding Pokémon’s language very interesting in general. Those few things in Pokémonology that had sunk in over the years mostly had something to do with their remarkable language of syllables, bodily expressions and voice tones anyway.
Oh, this is fun! You can actually learn poke-speak! I like this, especially since you’ve said that Pokémon are equally as sentient as humans in this universe.
When Miss Taintor saw his art in fourth grade, she had said, as he still remembered word for word: “Big improvement, young man – if there were more students like you in this stupid school, I’d be out of a job.”
Ahahahaha WHAT A LINE
“I believe I’m drawing, Mrs. Grodski, unless I’m very much mistaken,” he said in a sarcastically polite voice. There were some snickers from behind.
“Mom! I – I found a Charmander on the road!” he panted.

“Really?” sounded his mother’s voice absent-mindedly from upstairs. “Very nice, but why don’t you just go into your room, dear?”
Lololol love this depiction of the “I’m listening but I’m really not” parent.
Mark wondered who originally had the idea of making clothes flame-proof; it had always seemed very pointless to him, but now it sure came in handy.

Fun TQftL trivia: that weird random worldbuilding bit at the end about clothes being fireproof? That happened because I used the wrong English word in a previous version, and when a reader or two scratched their heads over it, I inexplicably doubled down and made this up instead of just admitting that I, a fourteen-year-old speaking English as a second language, had gotten this single word wrong. An insight into the mind of fourteen-year-old me.
ahahahaha omg. I already thought the flame-proof comment was amusing, but this author’s note makes it ten times better. I mean, hey, in the world of Pokémon, I think that could check out anyway, but I love that you acknowledge this was purely to cover up a mistake.

On that note—the fact that English is your second language and you wrote this at a really young age just makes it all the more impressive to me. For being 12 years old, the prose is honestly pretty decent. And then you add ESL on top of that?? I’m cheering for adolescent Free!
He couldn’t help noticing that despite his parents being very much unlike each other in outwards appearance – his father having black hair and being short just like him, but his mother a tall, thin blonde with big, toadlike eyes – they managed to look remarkably similar when they were both of the same mind.
Ahaha I love that we don’t get a description of them until just now—and TOADLIKE EYES? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN
His father stood slowly up, not taking his eyes off Mark and went to the computer in the corner (which was mainly used to find recipes online).
It is important that I know that this computer was mostly used for online recipes. I am at peace now.

The little lizard carefully stepped into the kitchen and looked curiously around.

“Oh, it’s awake,” Mark’s father groaned.

“I’m not an ‘it’,” said the Charmander, offended, at least if Mark’s knowledge of Pokémonish was as accurate as ever. The Pokémon’s voice, though rather high-pitched on human scale, was masculine.
I enjoy the dad getting called out by Charmander right off the bat, but I also am amused that, even though Mark understands Poke-speech, the first “char” wasn’t translated.
Mark turned to his father with and said in a scolding tone, “He’s a he, dad. Should I have said ‘Oh, it’s awake’ when I came in here and saw you?”
Good LORD, Mark, did you have to roast your dad like that? 🤣
For a few days, Charmander was a pet. Mark and him always went to bed very early, but set Mark’s digital watch to beep at two AM or so, and then in the dark bedroom with Charmander’s tail flame as the only light source, they discussed ways to get out on a journey. Just for fun, they started imagining this was the dungeon in the castle of two evil lords who kept them imprisoned, inventing loads of ideas of how to escape, each more absurd than the other.
Awww this is precious. It makes me think of sleepovers and hushed giggles under the covers with only a flashlight. A wholesome image.
“I think we must use our cunningness for this,” Mark whispered, leaning closer to Charmander. “You will set the castle on fire and while they burn, we will run and tell the world of their dictatorship so that peace can reign in Ouen again.”
WHILE THEY BURN? That escalated quickly. Wholesome moment is GONE lol
“I just don’t think there’s any point being alive anymore.”
“Bye, Dad! Bye, Mom! I promise I won’t get myself killed!” Mark’s mother smiled through the tears as he waved. Then he turned and started running.
Ah yes, this is definitely something you have complete control over, Mark.

Chapter 2
It was therefore called “The Lake of Purity”.
I laughed at first, thinking “oh this must have been written before gen 4 came out”, but then I looked it up and there isn’t actually a Purity Lake! I’m shooketh
Mark, despite all his interest in Pokémon, was a rookie when it came to the trainer career itself.
You know, Mark, if you were so determined to be a trainer one day, perhaps you should have paid attention in Mrs. Grodski’s class! ;)
The library was a huge, bright white building in the middle of the town. The walls were decorated with carvings of various Pokémon; Mark’s favorite was located over the door and was a big Articuno flying to the left, its tail feather swishing behind it and looking amazingly alive.
I genuinely really like the description here. I could visualize it really clearly.
Mark looked uncomfortably up at the man, who looked out of the book and seemed to wonder why Mark hadn’t exited yet. He hated to be stared at by strangers;
Hahaha this actually checks out. “How dare he stare at me after I stared at him!” Kids don’t always seem to be aware when they’re the ones staring.
He felt drawn to it like a fly to a lightbulb.
This is the nitpickiest of nitpicks, but “moth” would work better than “fly” here.
Mark shook his head and, with the book in his hands, walked over to a big, fluffy and comfortable-looking green couch. He flung himself into it, examining the cover illustration. At the top were six dragons in different colors, the so-called Color Dragons. Below them, eight unicorns. At the very bottom… Mewtwo?
He looked better at Mewtwo’s shape. The eyes were closed, but looked creepily open all the same. It’s that highlight, said Mark’s artist eye. The shading gives that effect; the highlight on the eyelid looks distantly like a pupil. But it was still scary to look at closed eyes that seemed to be watching. Had the cover artist drawn it like that on purpose?
huh, what an interesting detail! Again, this was actually described decently well.
Lidreki was small and cute with silver scales. What caught Mark’s attention about it, however, was that somehow, the scales broke the light into the colors of the rainbow where the light shone directly at them. Lidreki technically wasn’t one of the real Color Dragons; it evolved into them. That made it no less of a legendary, though, as it was just as shrouded in mystery as its adult forms. The Color Dragons themselves were all larger than Lidreki; they were dragons with big, clawed legs, small arms and broad wings spreading out from their shoulders.

Dragoreen, the Dragon of the Poor, was a metallic green, feminine-looking dragon and didn’t have any outstanding features over the others. She glared hatefully at Preciure, the Dragon of Wealth, opposite her on the page; he was a golden male with silver spikes lined down his back. He returned the gaze, full of loathing.

The crimson dragon above Preciure was a female: Raudra, the Dragon of Fire. She shook her golden mane, facing her back at her brother Dracobalt, the Dragon of Water. He was deep blue in color, with a fin down his entire back, and shot a sideways glance at Raudra, clearly not too keen on her either.

The last two were Puragon, the White Dragon, and Venoir, the Black Dragon. Puragon was a pearly white female with four narrow crystalline horns, looking serenely at the viewer. Venoir, on the other hand, was pitch-black in color, a male, and had dark purple, bull-like horns. His eyes were creepily red, staring hungrily at his sister across the page.
I’m very grateful for your chapter art in this particular case, because I have a visual reference for these descriptions. Written descriptions will often just fly right over my head. That said, these are FUN designs and it kinda makes me want to draw my own interpretation of them :D
They agreed, more to see their mother than to help their sister, but as they traveled, they developed a deep hatred for each other, and upon their arrival in Vaxil’s cave, a fight broke out. The oldest brother fought the youngest sister, the sister from the volcano fought her brother from the lake, and the brother in the cave fought his sister in the snow. Vaxil attempted to stop them, but they merely fought her back, and in the end Vaxil threw herself off the cliff to her death. The siblings were horrified, each blaming another, but slowly they became enveloped in a white glow and evolved, each to one of the Color Dragons depending on their habitats from birth.

Due to their mother’s death, they decided not to keep fighting and let each other leave in peace, and supposedly they still lurk out there, desiring only superiority over the opposite sibling.
I—well, then. That turned dark. It sounds like none of these legends are necessarily good-hearted beings. Also OW THE EDGE xD
The left page again had a watercolor illustration. It showed the unicorns all together, dashing towards the viewer.
He appears every year at the exact same time and place: 4:26:45 PM on the 25th of May, just outside Green Town.
Ahahaha right down to the SECOND, even. I wonder, is this a day of any personal significance to you? Or did you just pick a random one?
Due to Chaletwo’s limited availability, Mewtwo has been asked about this by a reporter.
For some reason the image of a reporter holding a mic out to Mewtwo while they’re just…chilling on the street somewhere has me very entertained.
Chaletwo differs from Mewtwo in two aspects: his eyes will destroy or kill anything they are pointed at except his own eyelids, and Pokédexes record a Dark element in him in addition to the Psychic that Mewtwo has. Pokédexes also classify him as the most powerful Pokémon in the world, tied with the Kanto legendary Molzapart.
BASILISK MEWTWO. You can’t convince me otherwise
Mark checked his watch, discovering for how long he had been reading, and jumped up, quickly returning the book to the shelf as he ran down to meet up with Charmander again.
This chapter is stuffed with ridiculousness, but in particular, what exactly Mark knows and doesn't know about his own world and region is hilariously strange. You don't even get to know the half of it here, but I'm going to just point out that he's apparently barely aware Chaletwo even exists, but it turns out later that the starter Pokémon giveaway he's been longing to go to is literally at a festival built around Chaletwo's yearly public appearance. I cannot.
Reading this story is a treat in and of itself, but your authors’ notes are the real icing on the cake. 🤣 Honestly, I have so much respect for you and how you completely embrace your writing from when you were a kid, rather than shun it. It’s great! I love reading it!! It’s amusing in the best way. More people should be willing to both love and laugh at their early creations. I honestly find this inspiring. 💛
Chapter 42: Splitting Up


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
<3 Thank you for thoughts, @HelloYellow17! I enjoyed them greatly. To clarify, I was twelve when I started the first version of this fic; this version is a reboot (rewrite from scratch, largely the same broad-strokes events happen but all the prose was new and the play-by-play was for the most part pretty different) started in 2004, when I was fourteen. So a lot of the happenings here are something I made up when I was twelve, but the prose here is all fourteen-year-old Dragonfree! I was much less competent at writing English when I was twelve. :P

I did not read Warrior Cats, alas; they were a bit after my time, I think, and were never translated into Icelandic so I only ever heard of them when they were popular on the internet. My formative tragic/horrifying animal media was like...
- a gorgeously illustrated picture book about Icelandic horses being captured and taken to work in British coal mines that ends with the miners gouging out the lead horse's eyes because he keeps being spooked by the lamps (this book was at my preschool when I was like three, for some reason, and I think it shaped the very core of my being)
- the book Black Beauty, wherein a horse recounts his life of being bought and sold, subjected to all kinds of abuse and neglect and awfulness, and getting to know various other horses who also often suffer tragic fates (I liked horses okay)
- a cartoon series known as The Animals of Farthing Wood, shown on Icelandic TV when I was like six or seven probably, featuring cute woodland animals trying to make their way to a wildlife park while half of them are horribly killed on the way (I remember all the most dramatic deaths in this so vividly)

Anyway, here is chapter 42, featuring some character drama and the third most awkward and painful splitting-up in the fic.

Chapter 42: Splitting Up​


There were a number of other trainers in the Scorpio City Pokémon Center, waiting for the storm to subside. Nurse Joy of Scorpio City, far nicer than her cousin in Acaria City, had pointed the bookshelves in one corner out to Alan while Mark had been talking to Mitch, and after Alan had relayed the message to Mark, the two of them spent most of the afternoon reading on the comfortable couches while listening to the rain beat on the windows outside. Mark had a bit of a hard time concentrating at first because he was still a little spooked; he didn’t tell Alan what Mitch had told him, the conversation somehow having marked itself as a secret in his head, and Alan never actually asked. Eventually, however, he managed to sink himself into the book – it was a cheesy novel about legendaries and destinies, which he felt a bit weird to read now, but it was nicely captivating – and didn’t look up again until the door to the Pokémon Center was flung open with a loud noise around half past six.

May stood in the doorway, soaked wet from head to toe. Her blue hair draped messily over her shoulders as she shivered with cold.

“May!” Alan blurted out as he saw her. “Are you insane? Why were you out that long in the rain? You’re freezing.”

“Thanks, Mom,” May replied and rolled her eyes, slamming the door behind her and walking towards where the boys were sitting while water dripped off her onto the carpet. “It was worth it,” she said, a triumphant smile on her face as she sat down on the corner of Mark’s sofa. A dark, wet spot immediately formed around where she was sitting. “Vibrava’s a Flygon now, and he’s level fifty-four. And he knows Dragon Claw. And I taught him Earthquake.”

Mark looked around for a bookmark, tore a piece from one page of a newspaper that was lying on a nearby table and put it into his book before closing it. “Did you train Mutark too?”

She shook her head. “I’ll see what I can do with Mutark when we get to Champion Island. We’ll have a month and a half to prepare for the League, after all, and there are Pokémon of all sorts of levels on there.” She looked around at both of them. “What were you up to while I was out there?”

“Reading,” Alan replied, raising the still-open book he was holding briefly. “And Mark went to see Mitch.”

May looked at Mark. “What did he say?”

“He didn’t really know anything,” Mark said, still not wanting to tell them about the full extent of the gym leader’s mysterious powers. “As Victor said, he just gets these feelings. All he knew about what we were doing was that he had a feeling Chaletwo needed me for something when he killed me. He doesn’t know what it’s about or anything.”

May shrugged. “Okay. Then we won’t have to worry about him.”

“Anybody else hungry?” Mark asked to change the subject. “We haven’t eaten since those cold beans for lunch.”

“I’m starving too,” May said and nodded, looking around. “Do they sell food here or do we need to go out?”

“We can ask Joy,” Alan said, “but while we do that, you’re changing out of your wet clothes.”

May retreated to her room with a grumble after Alan had told her the room number, and the boys walked up to the counter.

Nurse Joy gave them a polite bow. “How can I help you?”

“Where could we buy food?” Alan asked her.

The nurse pointed to the door and the heavy rain outside it. “There’s a place just across the street. Cheap, casual restaurant for trainers, open only during the high season, but that’s now.” She smiled. “Anything else?”

“We’ll be fine, thanks,” Alan said and turned back to Mark. “We wait for May, then.”

She was back in a minute or two, wearing a pair of blue jeans and a white jacket that, as far as Mark could see, was exactly identical to the one she’d been wearing before.

“Hey, apparently there’s a restaurant for trainers across the street,” Alan told her.

May blinked. “So uh… I’m going out into the rain again? When I just changed into something dry?”

“It’s across the street. Can’t be that bad.”

The restaurant was decent, and although May was a little grumpy while they waited for their food, she started cheering up once they’d received their orders. She spent the rest of the dinner going on about her plans for the League and how she needed a new Water-type (Alan gave her one of his looks as she brought this up and she changed the subject).

Finally they returned to the Pokémon Center, Alan went with May to the bookcases, and Mark told them he was going to get Letal back and talk to her.

He walked up to the counter and took a deep breath as Nurse Joy turned to face him. “Excuse me. Can you contact the Acaria City Pokémon Center and ask if my Letal has recovered?”

“Of course,” she said with a smile before turning to the videophone behind her. She dialled a number with quick, precise motions, and a second passed before Nurse Joy of Acaria City appeared on the screen.

“What is it?” she asked, looking tired.

“This boy was asking about his Letal.”

The nurse on the screen glanced at Mark and frowned as she recognized him. “Oh, it’s you,” she said. “Yes, I’ve finished treating your Letal. She’s asleep. I guess you want her back now, huh?”

Mark just nodded, hoping desperately that the nurse would not bring up why she had been in such a bad state. Thankfully, she just disappeared off-screen for a few seconds and then returned, holding a Pokéball.

“Here she is. And don’t let this happen again.”

“I won’t.”

The ball fell out of a tube beside the screen, and as the screen of the videophone turned blank again, Nurse Joy picked it up and handed it to Mark. “I’m glad your Pokémon is okay,” she said in a voice that somehow managed to make Mark feel bad about the fact she didn’t know what had happened. He just nodded, mumbled some words of thanks and turned back to the corridor on the right which led to the rooms. He entered his, closed the door, and sent Letal out on the bed.

She came out of the ball sleeping with her head resting on one of her crossed forelegs, but quickly sensed the change of environment and opened her eyes. She looked at Mark and lifted her head. “What is it?”

“So you’re… okay?” Mark said, not sure how to get to the subject at hand.

“I didn’t evolve,” she said gloomily. “I almost managed it, but I didn’t have the energy to go through with it.”

She didn’t know.

“About that,” Mark began, biting his lip. “The nurse who treated you said that… because of that, you might never evolve at all.”

Letal looked blankly at him. Mark waited a few seconds for a response but got none.

“It’s some hormone thing,” he went on. “Supposedly it’s about fifty-fifty that you’ll manage to evolve later.”

“And if not?” Letal asked, her voice a little shaky.

“If not… you’ll never be a Letaligon.”

The way she stared at him in a mixture of disbelief, dread and regret expressed more than words ever could have. In a way he was relieved that she didn’t say anything; it was easier to be able to just look at her and try to understand her feelings rather than be hit with questions he couldn’t answer.

Then her expression hardened and she looked away. “I’ll evolve,” she said quietly. “I don’t care about the odds.”

“You might not be able to,” Mark said softly.

Letal shook her head. “I’ll do it. No matter what. If I’m tense enough, I’ll…”

“You’re not doing that again,” Mark interrupted her as he realized what she was thinking. “You could have died. Please, Letal, just let yourself faint when you’re about to collapse. If you can evolve, you will evolve. Don’t do anything stupid.”

She glared at him. “If I don’t evolve, what’s the point of all this? Why would I go with you if I’ll be a Letal for good?”

“You don’t know that you’ll be a Letal for good. Maybe you’ll evolve normally. Most Pokémon don’t need to make the kind of effort you made to evolve.”

“But maybe I won’t.”

Mark sighed. “There’s nothing we can do about that now. We can just train and hope.” And, without really thinking about it, he added, “Probably the best place to train if you really want to become strong and evolve is if we go to the League.”

Letal laid her head down on the bed and chuckled softly. “You think I’m that naïve? You think I can’t tell you just want a Letaligon for yourself? Didn’t we agree that I would go back to Ruxido when I was strong enough?”

Mark took a deep breath. “We’re going to Champion Island tomorrow. I can release you now if you want. But there is a chance you could evolve if we take you with us to the League. If you do that, though, you can’t bail out on us halfway through. We can’t leave the island in the middle of it. After the League, we’ll go back to Ruxido and release you then, whether you’ve evolved or not. Deal?”

She looked at him for a moment, considering it, and then turned away. “Deal,” she said quietly but firmly. “I’m coming with you. But when we get to Ruxido again, we part ways.”

Mark just nodded, not sure what else to say. “Okay, then,” he said finally. “So you’ll be all right?”

Letal gave him a glance. “That depends.”

He sighed. “Look, maybe you’ll evolve and maybe you won’t, but if you don’t, it’s not that bad. Don’t obsess so much over trying to please that jerk father of yours, okay?”

She stared at him for a few moments. “Please him, huh?” she then replied with a cold chuckle.

Mark blinked. “Isn’t that why you’re obsessed with evolving? The way he rejected you and you said you wanted to come back when you were strong?”

“I’m going to kill him,” Letal spat. “And then I’ll watch my shiny siblings slaughter one another for that stupid, meaningless leadership before I leave the herd again and see if I can find another one.”

Mark stared at her in dumbfounded surprise. Whatever he’d been expecting, this was not it. He had always vaguely identified with Letal, what with having parent problems of his own, which made the realization that she was thoroughly messed up after all feel more personal than it ought to. He reminded himself that she really wasn’t any worse than Scyther or Gyarados, and that as per the Agreement it was none of any human’s business what Pokémon got up to in the wild amongst each other, but it didn’t make him feel much better.

Mark took a deep breath. “Well, I guess you’re fine, then,” he said, took her Pokéball back out and watched her dissolve into a shape of translucent red and disappear into the ball.

He replaced the ball on his belt and stood there for a moment before forcibly straightening himself and pushing the matter into the quarantined ‘Let’s Think About This Later’ area of his brain. He went back to the main hall of the Pokémon Center, where both May and Alan were now reading, and spent the rest of the evening finishing his book. (Mark felt oddly cheered up when the main characters succeeded in saving the world at the end.) After that, it was getting late and Alan had already gone to bed, so he replaced the book on the shelf, said goodnight to May and retreated to his room to go to bed.

He dreamt something about Letal killing his father and his mother sobbing over the coffin, while Mark stood over Suicune’s body and attempted unsuccessfully to make his mom notice his existence so she could help him drag it into the woods.


“Get up already. We need to go.”

“Mmmh,” Mark mumbled, pulling his blanket tighter around him while not entirely awake enough to properly register the words.

“Wake up, you Slakoth,” the girl’s voice said a little louder. It was coming from the doorway. Mark forced his eyes open and blinked a few times. He could see May, silhouetted against the bright light of the corridor, folding her arms.

“I’m coming,” he mumbled and dug his face into his pillow. The next thing he knew was a harsh knock that snapped him awake again.

“It’s been fifteen minutes since you said you were coming!” May shouted from the other side. “What are you doing in there?”

He bolted awake, shook his head and sat up. “Sorry,” he called back. “I fell asleep again.”

Mark got ready as quickly as he could and then joined with May and Alan outside his room, where they had clearly been waiting for a little while. He was still feeling a bit foggy after the night; he hadn’t slept very well.

“We’re still heading to Merville, right?” he asked to make sure there hadn’t been some sort of a sudden change of plan as he slung his bag over his shoulder.

“Yeah,” Alan replied. “And then we’ll split up, I guess.”

“Are there ferries going to Champion Island already?” Mark asked.

“No,” May responded. “Not until July. I’m going to talk to Lapras about it.”

Alan gave her a doubtful glance but said nothing.

“Are we going to get some breakfast?” Mark asked hopefully, his stomach growling.

“Supposedly that restaurant we went to yesterday serves breakfast,” May replied. “Hence the whole waking-up-right-now thing.”

“Oh,” Mark answered stupidly, giving himself a mental slap. “Well, what are we waiting for, then?”


After breakfast, they headed east out of town, up one of the mountain ranges that surrounded Scorpion Valley, and out onto the plains beyond. From there they could see the beautifully straight path descend steadily across a field of tall grass towards a small collection of houses – Merville, where they were headed. Sunlight reflected off the soft waves in the ocean behind the town, reminding Mark what kind of a journey was ahead of them.

It was a quiet walk down to the village. Alan still seemed on edge about May’s treatment of her Pokémon, and she returned it by not attempting to talk to him. Meanwhile, Mark’s mind kept drifting to Letal and the rather uncomfortable idea that in a couple of months’ time, he would be releasing her into Ruxido in the knowledge that she was going to murder her own father. No matter how he looked at it, he couldn’t help feeling he would be somewhat responsible for that, and the idea of being responsible for someone’s death, even ‘somewhat’, was not very pleasant, even if he was a terrible father and even if Pokémon saw things differently.

But how could he prevent it? Refuse to release Letal in Ruxido even after he had promised that he would? He couldn’t really see attempting to convince her to change her mind as being likely to do any good.

Of course, evolution had made Charmeleon grow out of wanting to murder Scyther. Who was to say Letal wouldn’t be the same once she was a Letaligon? Provided, of course, that she did become a Letaligon at all. Which made Mark realize that still he didn’t know what Letal would do if he released her in Ruxido and she was still a Letal. By the time they reached the village, he had concluded that the whole situation was far too much of a headache to think about it now and instead occupied his mind with random details of the plot of the book he’d been reading.

“So, we’re here,” May said as they finally entered the village and looked around. Mark saw the dirty, wooden shack by the harbour that pronounced itself to be a shop with a hand-painted sign above the door; he chuckled at the memory of the overenthusiastic shopkeeper. This time, however, there were a number of trainers around; some were feeding their Water Pokémon in the harbour while others walked in and out of the shop, sparing the newcomers barely a passing glance. It made sense; after all, this was when most trainers were journeying, as opposed to Mark and May’s early start.

“We’d better get a Waterfall HM so we can get onto the island,” May said. “Or that’s what I heard, at least.”

Mark nodded to confirm that; Champion Island had cliffs on all sides of it, and the official way to enter it was by swimming up a waterfall, although trainers were known to fly there on occasion.

May was looking at him in a thoughtful manner. “Hey, you can teach it to Gyarados,” she said. “They’re much better with physical attacks than special ones, so it’ll pay in the long run.”

Mark shrugged. “Sounds good.”

“…And, well, Lapras isn’t staying anyway,” she added before sighing. “Mark, can you go buy that HM?”


He entered the store, presuming that May would talk to Lapras in the meantime. The bearded, middle-aged shopkeeper, who had been visibly shrivelling up with boredom the last time Mark had been there, was enthusiastically showing two trainers something on one of the shelves on the other side of the room. The man looked up, hastened to tell the bewildered customers that he would be right back, and scuttled with uncanny agility over to the counter where Mark was.

“What can I do for you, boy? Aquarium City, is it? You’re in the right place! We’ve got everything from…”

“Uh, it’s Champion Island, actually.”

The shopkeeper stopped short in surprise for a split second, but was back to his babbly self before Mark could blink. “Oh! I see! This early? Marvellous, marvellous! You have to understand, at this time of the year everyone is going to Aquarium City – bit ahead of the curve there, eh? Now, I presume you want an HM07, right? Or are you one of those poor saps without a Water-type and need HM02 instead?” He looked expectantly at Mark.

“Just… whichever one Waterfall is?” he said doubtfully.

“That’s 07 for you,” said the shopkeeper, stretching his hand out to one of the shelves behind him and taking out a CD case while simultaneously punching numbers into the cash register. “That will be 3,000.”

Mark handed him his trainer card and took the CD case instead. The front cover was decorated with a picture of a Gyarados racing up a mighty waterfall.

“It’s been a pleasure doing business with you,” the shopkeeper said, handing him his card back before darting back to the two trainers who had been waiting.

Mark pocketed the card and walked out of the store to find May and Alan shouting at one another by the harbor.

“…what’s wrong with asking?”

“Suddenly asking her to do something for you now is demanding!”

“No, it’s not!”

May’s knuckles tightened around the Pokéball in her right hand while Alan, standing a few meters away, folded his arms. Mark took a doubtful step forward.

“Some people can’t say no to a request!”

“Well, that’s their problem!”

“It is your problem here because keeping a Pokémon that wants to be released is abuse!”

“That’s why I’m giving her a choice!”

“Um, guys?” Mark asked carefully. Both of them turned their heads quickly towards him.

“He doesn’t want me to ask Lapras if she can take us over to Champion Island,” May said. “Even though there are no ferries until July and cramming two people onto a Gyarados doesn’t exactly sound comfy.”

“But you know she wants to be released and doesn’t want to do anything for you,” Alan protested before looking expectantly up at Mark as if hoping for him to pass some sort of judgement. He looked awkwardly between the two of them.

“Um, well…” He thought it over for a few seconds and couldn’t help being reminded of the Letal issue, which really gave him only one option that would not make him the world’s biggest hypocrite. “It can’t hurt to ask, can it? I mean, if it means we’ll get to Polaryu earlier… We’ll just have to make it clear she has a choice, that’s all.”

Alan threw up his arms in hopeless defeat. “Fine. You ask her.”

May nodded emphatically, giving Alan a grudging glare as she threw the Pokéball in her hand. The large Water Pokémon emerged from the ball in a burst of white light. She looked slowly around, avoiding May’s gaze as she wagged softly up and down on the ocean waves.

“So,” May said after a few seconds of silence. “The sea. We’re here.”

“Can I leave now?” Lapras asked quietly.

“About that.” May took a deep breath as Lapras watched her warily. “See, we need to get to Champion Island as soon as possible in order to fight Polaryu, and to do that we kind of need you.”

“They don’t need you,” Alan chimed in.

“Well, not quite need, but it would be one hell of a lot more convenient.” May gave Alan another quick glare. “So, well, could you do us a favour and take us there?”

There was a long silence. Lapras looked down at the water below her. “And what happens when we get there?” she asked quietly. “Will you ask me to stay there to take you back? To help fight Polaryu? Will you ever really let me go?”

“That’s what I was trying to tell her,” Alan shot in.

“Look,” May responded, a touch of anger in her words even though she was obviously trying her best to keep it away, “you can say I’m too harsh or not personal enough or too competitive for your taste or whatever, but if I make a deal, I keep it. Don’t you dare accuse me of being something I’m not.”

“It’s up to you,” Mark said, feeling that hadn’t been made clear enough so far. “Whatever you want, we’ll go along with it.”

“But the easiest way for us to get to Polaryu is if you take us,” May added immediately.

Lapras stared out at the vast expanse of ocean stretching out to the southeast for a few seconds. Finally, she said, “All right, I will take you. On two conditions.”

May raised her eyebrows. “Go on.”

“First, I’m leaving the moment we’re there. I will never go into your Pokéball again.”

May nodded, her face neutral. “Okay.”

Lapras’s expression hardened. “And I’m still not fighting for you. If you want to catch a Pokémon, you will have to send out someone else to do the fighting, and if I need to defend myself, I will not go out of my way to keep you safe while I do.”


Lapras nodded, and May looked back at Alan, who didn’t seem very happy but nonetheless did not object. Mark’s gaze shifted between the two of them.

“So,” he said, “we’re going to Champion Island now, right?”

May nodded. “Yeah.”

Alan hesitated, looking uncomfortably at Lapras, but then sighed heavily. “Okay, then. You have my number, so you can call me and arrange a meet-up when the League is over… I guess.” He turned to Mark. “Right. So all that’s left is, well, Molzapart.”

“Oh, that.” Mark frowned; he had forgotten about the intention to have Molzapart psychically link to Alan and wasn’t quite sure how they were going to achieve it now, what with being in a town where they couldn’t exactly send him out. He’d transferred Molzapart to Alan in Scorpio City, but the linking apparently had to happen with him physically there. He looked around.

“Chaletwo,” he said, “would it be too risky to just go behind the store or something?”

“Hmm,” Chaletwo replied. “A bit, but I suppose it can’t be helped very easily. At least it won’t take too long, and you can try to stand in the line of sight.”

They walked behind the wooden house and faced the wall. Alan took out his Pokédex to retrieve Molzapart, then looked quickly around to make sure no one was looking before dropping the ball onto the ground. The shape of the giant bird emerged in front of them.

“All right, Molzapart,” Chaletwo said as the bird jerked his fiery head in Mark’s direction. “Link to Alan so you can be recalled, and then I’ll explain.”

Mark hadn’t actually realized that Molzapart didn’t yet know about their plans. A purple glow flashed in Molzapart’s eyes, and before Mark had even had the time to properly appreciate what the bird looked like again, Molzapart was just a translucent red shape disappearing into the Pokéball. In a way it made him sad. The legendaries theyd’d fought he had at least gotten a good look at (he forcibly pulled his mind away from the thought of Suicune which immediately popped into his head), but Molzapart and Chaletwo, the ones who were actually cooperating with him, were almost limited to the false memory of seeing them converse that was still burned into the back of his mind.

“What is this about?” said a telepathic voice deeper than Chaletwo’s. “It had better be temporary. My powers are already weakening.”

“The basic plan,”
Chaletwo responded, “is that Mark and May are going to Champion Island while Alan will go around Ouen to look for Rainteicune.”

“Champion Island?”
Molzapart asked skeptically. “Why?”

“There’s… a legendary there,”
Chaletwo said. “And in order not to make themselves look suspicious, they have to participate in the League while they’re there.”

“What legendary?”

“It doesn’t matter,”
Chaletwo replied in an irritated tone. “Alan will tell you about it if you must know.”

“Why is Alan involved? What about Ash? Who is this girl?”

Mark almost laughed. Molzapart really knew nothing that had happened since Mark’s resurrection. He could feel Chaletwo realizing it at the same time with a flash of awkward annoyance.

“Look, they’re assisting, all right? Alan will fill you in later. And before you ask, we’ve already gotten three legendaries out of the way.”

“Which three?”

“Suicune and two others. Look, let’s not waste my energy having me explain it to you. All you need to know now is that if the two of you come across any legendaries other than Rainteicune, you should send some sort of general signal so I can hear it and quickly bring them over for the battle.”

“A general psychic signal?”
Molzapart asked, his voice a little annoyed now. “That any of the legendaries can feel? Are you insane?”

“It’s not like they could read much into it.”

Mark had the fleeting thought that they must look extremely stupid right now, standing there gravely in perfect silence behind a store and staring at one another.

Molzapart let out a psychic sigh. “I suppose I will learn the details from Alan later. Is that all there is to the plan?”

“At the moment, yes.”

“Well, that’s reassuring.”

“Skip the sarcasm. Which of us is the one who actually knows what’s going on again?”

“Can’t we just get going?” May interrupted before Molzapart had the time to answer. “You’re wasting our time having a petty argument.”

There was a second of silence. Then, “She’s right. We should get going to Champion Island.”

“Let’s hope I never have to send that help call,”
Molzapart replied disdainfully, and the legendaries said no more, apparently deciding they had no need for further goodbyes.

“So, Alan,” Mark said, looking at the older boy and somehow feeling a bit uncomfortable about him being about to leave them alone for a journey across the sea. “Goodbye, I guess. See you when the League is over.”

Alan nodded. “Goodbye. Take care.” He turned to May. “And at least try to be decent to Lapras before she leaves, okay?”

“Of course I’ll be decent to her,” May responded irritably as if the idea of her not being so was some sort of an absurdity. She turned to the giant Water Pokémon who was still waiting silently by the dock and then back to Alan again. “Bye. I’ll call you after the League.”

May stepped down onto the back of Lapras’s bumpy shell and sat down behind the Pokémon’s neck. Lapras gave her an uncomfortable glance, but just said, “Aren’t you coming too, Mark?”

He gave Alan a quick smile and climbed onto the Pokémon’s back himself, settling down behind May. “Goodbye, Alan,” he said again as Lapras turned around; he found himself losing his balance and had to quickly grab hold of some of the blunt spikes sticking out of the shell beside him.

“Goodbye, guys,” Alan called as the Pokémon began to move away. “Have fun.”

As Mark waved, May just stared angrily at the back of Lapras’s neck with her arms folded. Alan waved half-heartedly in return for a second and then turned towards the road back to Scorpio City without looking back.

The kids' reactions to the whole Mitch thing are pretty weird. They didn't really react to it when Victor told them about it in chapter 40; then Mark suddenly cared a lot about it in chapter 41; then in this chapter May clearly knows why Mark went to see Mitch even though she also didn't comment on it; but meanwhile Alan didn't act at all confused by why they'd be so interested in Mitch right now, even though he wasn't there when Victor brought up Mitch. Of course maybe Mark and May told him about that... but in that case, why wasn't Alan interested in what Mitch had to say afterwards? All in all it's just handled pretty strangely if you think it through.

Some unnecessary filler going on in this chapter. We don't actually need to know every word that was said as they decided where they'd eat lunch, eighteen-year-old self. I enjoy the whole waking-up sequence for being Relatable(tm), and the shopping bit is sort of fun for the return of the shopkeeper from chapter 17 (and I enjoy Mark's confusion about which HM is which), but they also don't contribute much.

It's kind of funny how they do this whole thing about getting to Champion Island via Surf/Waterfall and trying to persuade Lapras to agree to do it when... it's also brought up that some trainers just Fly there, and the kids have Fly-capable Pokémon. I could've established any number of reasons why that's not a viable option for them (discomfort, hard for Pokémon who aren't very experienced, etc.), but I just didn't for some reason.

Anyway, Molzapart returns! Wouldn't blame you if you largely forgot he existed; I spent a lot of time silently hoping you would, upon realizing that actually this random legendary bird hybrid was pretty ridiculous and made it hard to take the fic seriously. Ultimately, though, I had already written him in, and I wound up legitimately enjoying his character and interactions with Chaletwo. You don't see a lot of him, but he does still exist.
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