• Welcome to Thousand Roads! You're welcome to view discussions or read our stories without registering, but you'll need an account to join in our events, interact with other members, or post one of your own fics. Why not become a member of our community? We'd love to have you!

    Join now!

Pokémon The Quest for the Legends

Chapter 43: To Champion Island


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Aaaand chapter 43 is here. In which one new character arrives, another departs, and there's a whole lot of painful awkwardness in between.

Chapter 43: To Champion Island​


Alan will fill him in, huh?

The start of their journey across the calm sea was none too interesting, and it was all too quickly dawning onto Mark that this would be a long, long day, especially since May still seemed to be in a bad mood and hadn’t said a word to him since they’d set off. Lapras occasionally glanced over her shoulder at them, but never spoke. There was little to do other than staring at the sunny hills behind them or out at the endless stretch of deep blue ocean ahead – that and talking to Chaletwo.

“I know,” the legendary Pokémon replied in his head, the voice pained. “What could I do? I didn’t really realize how little he knew until he was out there.”

I noticed you seemed really bent on not mentioning the dragons,
Mark mused. Why is that? I mean, you had no problems telling May and Alan about them or letting me tell everybody in Crater Town, even if leaving out where they came from.

“You can tell a human there are legendary Pokémon they don’t know about,”
was the frustrated reply. “But Molzapart knows there aren’t supposed to be any Dragons of Ouen. He’d start asking questions.”

Right. That made sense. And if Alan is going to discuss it with him, they’ll put two and two together, since he has definitely noticed how much more you seem to care about them than about somebody like Suicune. Gotcha.

And now he’d brought up the memory of Suicune again. He hated himself sometimes.

“It’s not that I don’t care about Suicune,” Chaletwo responded grudgingly. “But now that he’s dead, what can we do but go on? Of course I’d try to prevent it if I knew he was in danger, but…”

But if you happen to accidentally allow somebody to kill him, it’s no big deal, right?
Mark was getting angrier than he had intended; the last thing the sensible part of him wanted was to get into another argument about Suicune’s fate.

“Please just drop it, Mark,” Chaletwo replied, and the pain in his voice took the edge off Mark’s anger. “It won’t get us anywhere to dwell on it. Suicune died. It was terrible, but none of us could have predicted it. We can’t change anything now. We have to think about all that’s yet to be done.”

Mark nodded decisively. “So,” he said out loud, “where in Champion Cave is Polaryu precisely?”

May looked over her shoulder at him as Chaletwo replied. “He’s in an underground chamber. Pretty deep. When he breaks out, it’ll be in that icy valley.”

Mark nodded; the interior of Champ Mountain was a cold place, and supposedly one path that could be taken to the League included a stretch going from one cave exit to another through a frozen valley, home to a number of Ice Pokémon.

Something clicked into place in his head.

“Wait,” May said, voicing his thoughts, “don’t tell me that thing’s the reason Champion Cave is icy.”

Chaletwo hesitated in a way that did not bode well. “I can’t claim to know for certain, but it would make sense.”

May raised her eyebrows. “I wonder how long it will take us to set a world record as causes of natural disasters.”

“If this all works out, we can make a deal with Articuno to drop by on occasion or something.”

Articuno. Mark felt another painful sting in his stomach. “Provided he’s not the one draining your energy and trying to destroy the world.”

“Whether he is or isn’t, he presumably won’t be anymore by that time.”

Articuno, the Destroyer. Mark couldn’t get it to make sense in his head. It seemed so wrong, somehow. And, he reminded himself sternly, they weren’t at all sure yet. Maybe Articuno wasn’t the Destroyer at all.

“Hey, wait,” May suddenly said. “Isn’t that a Floatzel?”

Mark looked where she was pointing and saw the orange head of the otterlike Pokémon looking at them from a short distance away. As it realized it had been noticed, it dived momentarily under the surface before emerging again, now swimming rapidly in their direction.

“I think it’s going to attack,” Mark said; May was a step ahead of him and had already gotten out a Pokéball.

“Butterfree, go! Hit it with a Bug Buzz!”

The butterfly Pokémon emerged in mid-air and immediately began to flap her wings powerfully, producing a high-pitched sound aimed towards the Floatzel. It shuddered, stopping momentarily, but then sprang out of the water, baring its fangs, and chomped down on Butterfree’s foot. The Bug Pokémon let out a cry of alarm as she was pulled into the water.

“Butterfree, Giga Drain!” May called, clinging to Lapras’s neck as she leaned towards the water to watch her Pokémon. Under the surface, Mark could see the Floatzel twitch as orbs of energy tore themselves away from its body and were absorbed into the Butterfree’s. It momentarily released its hostage, and Butterfree floated to the surface, where she managed after some desperate fluttering to get herself airborne again. She flew up high as the Floatzel rocketed upwards and jumped out of the water again with a splash; it snapped its jaws in her direction, but couldn’t reach and fell back into the water.

“Sleep Powder!” May ordered, and Mark was momentarily surprised.

“Wait, you’re going to try to catch it?” he asked as the butterfly fluttered her wings and sparkly, green dust filled the air below her.

“Well, I need a new Water-type, don’t I?” May looked at the Floatzel, who was swimming in circles under the surface while watching them, and frowned. “Butterfree, get it out of the water with Psychic so it will inhale some of the stuff.”

The butterfly nodded and began to glow with a purple aura as the same happened to the Floatzel. Realizing what was happening, it began to struggle madly, but Butterfree’s psychic powers raised it helplessly out of the water to hover in mid-air. The otter was still flailing around when the butterfly flapped her wings once more and it was forced to breathe in a noseful of Sleep Powder. It was only seconds from there before its struggling became sluggish and half-hearted and the Pokémon’s eyes closed as it fell limp.

“Okay, great.” May already had an Ultra Ball ready, which she threw lazily at the sleeping Pokémon. “Catch the ball, Butterfree.”

The ball sucked the Floatzel in and began to fall, but Butterfree quickly wrapped it in a purple glow and kept it hovering in the air. The ball shook fiercely for a few seconds, but then stilled with a ping.

May reached out and grabbed the ball from the air as Butterfree released her psychic hold on it. “Good job,” she said, recalling the Bug Pokémon before taking out her Pokédex and pointing it at the new ball.

“Floatzel – sea weasel Pokémon,” said the electronic voice of the device. “This Pokémon has evolved an external gas bladder resembling an inner tube, giving it fine control over its buoyancy. It swims using its two tails as a propeller.”

Mark saw Lapras giving the ball a bitter look. He could imagine that watching May so casually capture what was to be her own replacement wasn’t the most pleasant feeling in the world. Uncomfortably, he looked away.

“Oh, hey, she’s level 47,” May said nonchalantly. “Nice.”

“It’s a she?” Mark asked, a bit surprised; the creature’s aggressiveness had made him assume it was male, which on second thought had been rather stupid, particularly considering who was sitting in front of him.

“Yup,” May replied while presumably switching another Pokémon to the PC in order to keep the Floatzel. “Didn’t you see she had only one spot on her back?”

She threw the Pokéball back out, releasing the Floatzel into the water beside them in a burst of white light; she floated at the surface, still sleeping. May took an Awakening spray out of her bag along with a potion of some kind and sprayed both on the creature’s body.

The Floatzel snapped awake and began to struggle again, but upon finding she was back in the water and no longer being held helplessly in mid-air, she stopped and looked around. The Pokémon found May’s face and grinned widely, revealing rows of sharp teeth in her mouth.

“Hi,” May said. “I just caught you, so I’m your new trainer. We’re going to the League, so I’m only interested if you can take some intense training and are any good as a fighter. If you’re just lonely or something or are going to complain, you can go now.”

Mark could only imagine what Alan’s face would look like if he were there, but the Floatzel just laughed a cackling laugh.

“What I attacked you for, isn’t it? You defeated me, so you can make me better. That’s how it goes, yes?”

May nodded, her expression still warily skeptical. “Well, that’s nice, but I still don’t know if you’re what I want. Why don’t you stay out of your ball and show me what you can do on the way if we find any wild Pokémon?”

The Floatzel laughed again with a glint of glee in her eyes. “Of course! Showing off. I can do that. Yes.”

The otter quickly deflated her floating tube and dived down under the surface before taking a spiralling leap back out of the water, seemingly for the sheer fun of it, and then disappearing underwater again. May watched with passive interest while scanning their immediate surroundings for any signs of wild Pokémon.

Mark looked at Lapras again; she was now staring straight forward, and if he wasn’t very much mistaken she was swimming faster than before. The Floatzel was still swimming in wide circles around them, occasionally taking a leap that made Lapras eye her with resentment. May either didn’t notice or pretended not to.

Floatzel suddenly stuck her head back out of the water and looked back at them. “A Tentacruel! A Tentacruel!” she said excitedly, waving her arm in the direction of where she’d seen it while looking expectantly at May.

The girl nodded. “Use Quick Attack and then Crunch.”

Mark could see the Tentacruel now; the jellyfish Pokémon was lurking in the water several yards away, only its dome-shaped head and the dark eyes beneath it showing above the surface. The Floatzel zoomed forward at a high speed, took a leap out of the water and smashed her body into the Tentacruel. It let out a disgruntled sound of surprise as it was hit, followed by a high-pitched screeching sound that made the otter Pokémon wince as she disappeared under the surface again. The Tentacruel then suddenly screamed in pain, swung two of its tentacles out of the water with Floatzel still hanging on to them by her teeth, and flung her away where she landed in the water with a splash.

“Trap it with Whirlpool,” May called as the Tentacruel motioned to leave. Floatzel resurfaced, shook her head and snarled as the water around the jellyfish Pokémon began to swirl downwards, sucking it in as it struggled to stay in place. It let out another disgruntled sound and then whipped one tentacle out of the water, flexing the end of it into an arrowhead shape before stabbing it into Floatzel’s body. The otter cried out in pain as a purple liquid squirted out of the edges of the wound; she bit into the tentacle in retaliation and the Tentacruel withdrew it with another grunt.

“Floatzel, another Crunch,” May ordered, and her new Pokémon wasted no time in taking a calculated leap in the Tentacruel’s direction, landing on its soft head and sinking her fangs into one of the red, eye-like bulges that decorated it.

The Tentacruel let out a crashing roar and flailed around in pain; it was evident that this was dramatically more effective than biting its tentacles, and Floatzel grinned like a maniac upon realizing this. While the jellyfish Pokémon shook itself violently to try to throw her off, she let out her claws and tightened her bite. The Tentacruel raised a few tentacles out of the water, wrapped them around the otter and started to squeeze. At the same time, the whirlpool underneath them was beginning to lose its force.

“Agility!” May shouted. Floatzel quickly deflated her floating tube and slipped out of the Tentacruel’s grasp in the split second that followed before it had managed to tighten its grip. She darted up into the air at a high speed and shot back down into the water while the Tentacruel motioned to swim away.


Floatzel shot back towards the jellyfish and tackled it, dark purple wisps of energy releasing from the point of impact. The Tentacruel let out a garbled sound and then sank into the water; Mark wasn’t sure if it had fainted or had just had enough and was getting away. Floatzel looked back at them with a grin.

“Not bad,” May said. “You need a few levels to catch up with my team anyway, so why don’t you stay out and handle the wild Pokémon we find?”

“Yes. Fight. I’ll do it!” And the Floatzel returned to swimming in circles around them while Lapras gave her a dark look.


It really was a long day.

But now, at last, as the sun was setting, they were nearing their destination. This side of Champion Island was relatively flat, once past the cliffs at the base of the island, but the mountain loomed ominously above to remind them of the undoubtedly difficult journey through Champion Cave that awaited them. The translucent shape of a dome-shaped force field that protected the island from unauthorized access shimmered above it all in the evening sun.

“There’s a little slab of rock there near the waterfall,” May said, pointing to the left side of the roaring wall of water and foam that crashed down from the cliff in front of them. “Lapras can let us off there.”

Mark squinted at the gently sloping stone, reaching just far enough out of the water nearest to the cliff for the waves not to wash over it and just far enough away from the waterfall to avoid most of the spray, and nodded. It was getting cold, probably both thanks to Polaryu’s influence and the approaching nightfall, and Mark looked forward to the warmth of the small Pokémon Center he knew was located at the base of the mountain, near the entrance to the cave.

Floatzel was already darting towards the slab of rock, leaving a spray of water in her wake. Lapras gave the Pokémon yet another glare of resentment, but sped up the rhythm of her flipper movements now that they were nearly there. She still hadn’t said a word on the entire journey, but with each wild Pokémon that Floatzel had enthusiastically beaten to a pulp on the way, her expression had darkened, and Mark was beginning to worry she’d have some sort of an outburst. As she aligned her side with the rock and the kids stepped off her back, however, she just looked at May in silence, throwing Floatzel an occasional glance as the otter Pokémon climbed up behind her trainer.

“So,” May said at last and opened her mouth to continue, but then apparently changed her mind and closed it again.

“Goodbye,” Lapras said, quiet.

“This is it, I guess.”

Lapras glanced briefly at Floatzel and said, “I certainly hope so.”

The otter Pokémon tilted her head. “What? What is happening? Tell me.”

“I’m releasing Lapras,” May replied, her tone neutral as always.

“Ah. She was not good enough, yes?” Floatzel suggested cheerfully.

“I asked to be released,” Lapras responded fiercely, with heat that Mark would not have expected from her. “We are not all fighting-obsessed drones like you.”

Floatzel just grinned in a way that could have been oblivious or condescending. That Pokémon was already creeping Mark out a bit.

“Goodbye,” Lapras said again, this time spitefully, and turned away to swim north.

“Goodbye, Lapras,” Mark said, feeling he should at least say something. “Have a… nice life.”

Lapras looked at him over her shoulder but didn’t respond.

“Lapras,” May suddenly called, and the Pokémon turned around to look at her.

“I…” She glanced at the otter Pokémon standing by her side. “Goodbye.”

The sea turtle jerked her head back forward and put on speed without answering. May looked after her, fists clenched, as she turned past the waterfall and disappeared into the mist.

“So do we continue now?” Floatzel asked expectantly. “We go up the waterfall, yes?”

“Mark, where’s the Waterfall HM?” May had snapped back to her ordinary self, and Mark had the fleeting, unsettling feeling they had all somehow made some sort of silent agreement to never speak of Lapras again.

He took off his backpack and found the CD case with the Hidden Machine move.

May looked at the otter Pokémon by her side. “Do you mind if we teach it to both Floatzel and Gyarados? Floatzel are a lot better with physical moves, and…”

“Well, it’s reusable, isn’t it?” He shrugged and handed her the HM while taking out Gyarados’s ball. He sent out the sea monster in silence while May opened the case and held the CD to Floatzel’s head.

Gyarados emerged in the water and looked around, eyeing the waterfall and sizing it up. “So this is Champion Island,” he said, and the soft blue glow that was enveloping Floatzel’s head disappeared completely as she jerked her head in his direction.

“It speaks human!” she shrieked, looking up at May. “Why does it speak human? Why are those stones on his neck?”

“He’s just that special. Be still; I’m trying to teach you a move here.”

Mark had to stifle a laugh as May pressed the CD down on Floatzel’s forehead again to complete the learning process that had been interrupted. The otter glanced suspiciously at Gyarados for a second but then gave him an indifferent shrug and closed her eyes to concentrate.

“She was quick to find a replacement,” Gyarados said.


“We’re going up the waterfall, I assume?”


May handed Mark the HM and Gyarados lowered his head to the rock they were standing on so that Mark could hold the CD to his forehead as well. The shining blue hue of the CD itself spread out around Gyarados’s head for a moment and then sank in. The sea monster blinked and shook his head.

“Get on.”

Mark climbed onto Gyarados’s back and couldn’t help imagining the monster suddenly diving and dragging him into the depths to drown. He shivered and realized with pain that he wasn’t sure he would ever be able to get himself to properly trust Gyarados again.

But they needed him, and the last thing he wanted was to start thinking about Suicune again, so he just fixed his gaze and mind on the top of the waterfall and the hundreds of liters of water crashing off the edge every second and said, “Okay, up we go.”

On second thought, he really should have closed his eyes. As soon as he gave the command, Gyarados lurched forward, and he only barely managed to hold on to the fin sticking out of the Pokémon’s back in front of him as he suddenly shot straight upwards. It only got worse when Mark felt their connection to the surface of the planet disappear altogether, and for a sickening moment they were hovering in the air just above the waterfall; then Gyarados plunged down into the river again and let Mark slide off his back at the bank.

Mark had never liked rollercoasters. He spent a few moments just lying on his back in the grass, breathing and listening to the roar of the waterfall while assuring himself the ground was solid again. He heard Floatzel shriek in joy as she also shot up the waterfall with May on her back and looked up to see them climb onto the bank near him.

“Ugh,” May said, looking down at her soaked clothes, and Mark felt some grim satisfaction in the shaken tone of her voice that indicated she hadn’t found the ride up there any more pleasant than he had. He sat up and recalled Gyarados, who had wrapped himself around a rock in the middle of the river to avoid having to swim against the current, and looked around as he shook some water out of his sleeves.

Just a few meters ahead of them was where the force field dome touched the ground; there was a small rotating gate on it of the kind that made it impossible for more than one person to pass through at the same time. Behind the whitish-translucent wall, he glimpsed a few Squirtle playing in the river, and a simple trodden path led leftward to the mountain, past a smallish house half built into the rock that proclaimed itself to be a Pokémon Center, and up towards a large, dark crack that was clearly the entrance to the cave. The other side of the path led along the mountainside on the right and disappeared from view behind the rock.

The mountain itself was humongous enough that Mark preferred not to think about it.

“Well, this will be fun,” May said with mock cheerfulness in her voice, squeezing some water out of her hair. “Let’s see how that gate works.”

Mark walked to the gate and pushed the rotating door; it didn’t budge. On the right side was a metallic panel with eight shallow, disc-shaped holes in it, and it took Mark a second to realize that this was where he had to verify his badges. He took them out of his pocket and placed them in the holes in the right order, although he wasn’t sure if it mattered. The machine sprang to life, a small black screen below the holes flashing with green letters saying ‘PLEASE REMOVE YOUR BADGES’.

He took them out one by one and put them back into his pocket, and as he removed the last one, the resistance preventing the door from rotating abruptly disappeared, causing him to almost fall through the gate before it locked in place once again with him safely on the other side.

The Squirtle had noticed him and watched him curiously from the other side of the river. He momentarily considered trying to catch one, but then realized that capturing a low-level Pokémon now would require him to sacrifice a lot of time training it to be able to participate in the League, and he needed enough training as it was without adding a low-level new member into the mix – besides, he reminded himself, Gyarados would do just fine as a Water-type no matter how little he trusted him anymore.

He waited for May to get through the gate and they headed silently towards the Pokémon Center. Mark eyed the silhouette of a big turtle-like Pokémon watching the sunset from the sea to the north, but said nothing and wasn’t sure if May noticed it at all.

Really did not need suuuuch a blow-by-blow description of exactly how you get through the badge gate on Champion Island, eighteen-year-old self, but okay.

Lapras's departure was suuuuuper abrupt for some reason I don't understand; I patched it up a little here but as usual my rule is the only edits I'm doing are very brief, so it still is a bit. Do enjoy how much awkwardness I got in here before that happened, though.

Hope you enjoy Floatzel; I love her a lot.
Chapter 44: Polaryu


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Chapter 44! Another legendary battle? Another legendary battle.

Chapter 44: Polaryu​


It was early morning when Mark and May stood in front of the cave, looking in. The entrance was a humongous diagonal crack that widened on the way down, splitting the impenetrable wall of rock in two and inviting travelers inside for their final challenge on the way to the League. Irregular crystal growths that dotted the walls glowed dimly with a ghostly blue color, illuminating the cave just enough to see around. The cave didn’t look icy at all.

“Well, what are we waiting for?” May said matter-of-factly as her Ninetales peered in. “Let’s go find Polaryu.”

Mark felt a cold gust of wind blow sharply out of the mouth of the cave and shivered. He’d never liked being cold. But the last of Chaletwo’s dragons was in there somewhere, and if nothing else, that at least felt like it would be a milestone on their quest – the first indication that they really were getting somewhere with this, even if logic told him there were still uncomfortably many legendaries left. He nodded numbly and May led the way into the darkness.

Their breath crystallized into a fine mist in front of their mouths as they followed the tunnel. Mark looked around at the rough cave walls and the luminescent crystals here and there. He was just thinking that it was a fairly straightforward cave so far when they turned a corner and entered a spacious room with several other tunnels exiting from it in various directions.

Chaletwo, you know where you put him, Mark thought in exasperation. Where do we go?

“Second tunnel on the right seems to be just about the right direction.”

Mark blinked, not really having expected Chaletwo to have a plain answer. “Right.”

They headed towards that tunnel, feeling the temperature lowering a bit with each step. There were icicles in the ceiling now and Mark was starting to notice a fine layer of frost on the rocks, which in this context had to be considered a good thing. He shivered, pulling his jacket on tighter.

“I don’t like this place,” Spirit commented in a murmur. “Something feels… wrong.”

“You’re just cold,” her trainer replied.

The Ninetales let out a ‘hmph’ sound, a flame flickering briefly in front of her nostrils, but didn’t deny it.

“Hey, what was that?” Mark pointed to a rock a few meters away from them that he could make out in the murky lighting of the cave. “I think I saw something moving over there.”

“Huh.” May peered at the spot. “Spirit, give us better light.”

The Ninetales inhaled and then blasted a full-powered Flamethrower at the rock, immediately prompting a shriek of agony. A small, yellow, cone-shaped Pokémon scuttled out from behind it and then turned towards them, staring at the Ninetales with a permanently paranoid-looking expression etched on its dark face for a split second before drawing the tent-like structure that covered its body a bit further in front of its face. It stood perfectly still, as if it thought that made it invisible.

“A Snorunt,” May muttered, her hand fiddling with her Pokéball necklace. “I’m not sure I’ll need it.”

Mark looked at the Pokémon; it was starting to shiver uncontrollably where it stood, with the muffled sound of chattering teeth making its way out from underneath the tent. It did not look like it would go very well with May’s team, and she seemed to conclude this at the same time as he did.

“Want a go at it?” she asked. Spirit looked with annoyance at the Snorunt and then back up at May as if waiting for permission to fry it with another Flamethrower.

Mark shrugged and figured he hadn’t really caught any Pokémon in a while. “Eh, go, Letal.”

The moment he’d thrown the ball, he regretted it, because seeing her emerge brought all the problems with Letal back into his mind, and he wasn’t even sure she would be ready to fight for him now, but the moment she had materialized, she charged at the Snorunt with a snarl, the blade on her head almost immediately beginning to glow. The Snorunt peeked out of its disguise and let out a terrified shriek as she slashed across its vulnerable body.

“No!” Mark could make out of the Pokémon’s screams. “No trainer – no – don’t want…”

“Wait a minute, Letal,” Mark said unsurely, and she grudgingly obeyed, stepping away from the Snorunt. She had thrown it on its back and it flailed helplessly around, unable to get back to its feet.

“No trainer! Don’t want!” it screamed as he took a step closer.

“Then why are you in this section of the cave?” Mark asked stupidly.

“Trainers normally come later!” it said frantically, its teeth still chattering. “Much later! Just looking for food! No trainer!”

“Oh.” Mark felt incredibly awkward now. “Eh, I guess I should help you up, then?” He could see May in the corner of his eye; she was looking rather amused.

He picked the Snorunt gently up and put it down on its feet, and the moment they touched the ground, the Pokémon struggled wildly out of his arms, scuttled down a tunnel to their right and disappeared into the shadows.

Mark sighed and recalled Letal. “That was kind of… anticlimactic.”

May shrugged. “Well, it’s not like your team desperately needs an Ice Pokémon in particular.”

“That’s not what I was thinking about, but I guess not.”

“Chaletwo, which way is Polaryu?”

“The left tunnel.”

Mark couldn’t help noticing as they headed into it that this tunnel had a significantly larger number of crystals than the one the Snorunt had taken: was it another bit of Polaryu’s influence?

“Probably,” Chaletwo answered the thought. “These crystals grow in here naturally, but they form more easily under lower temperatures, so it’s definitely at least an indirect influence.”

Mark nodded, reaching towards a large piece of crystal on the wall on the right and touching it. It had a very smooth, faceted surface and seemed to glow a little brighter when he touched it, but it was cold as ice – no, much colder. He shivered as he removed his hand and watched the light fade slowly back to normal.

“Oh, hey,” said May, walking up to where Mark was. “Are those pure Never-Melt Ice?”

“Huh?” Mark asked, looking up at her as she gave one of the crystals a light touch with her index finger.

“Yeah, they are,” she said. “Never-Melt Ice crystals. They absorb warmth from the environment and produce light. Too much will break them. That’s why they only grow in cold places.”

“I thought Never-Melt Ice was supposed to, well, never melt.” Mark looked at the crystal again. “And that it was ice.”

“Well, people don’t use them pure,” May said and shrugged. “It needs to be really dry for them to grow this big. Usually all moisture will build up around them into a clump of ice and stop the growth. In the right amount, the crystal keeps the ice cold, and the ice keeps the crystal from being overloaded and broken. People didn’t discover the crystal until long after they’d noticed that some ice shards never melted and started using it.” She looked thoughtfully at the luminescent crystals. “Hang on, I'm going to get one. This big, it’ll be great to power up Floatzel’s Ice Fang.”

She pulled a pair of thick, blue winter gloves out of the pocket of her coat, put them on and prodded a sizable clump of crystals experimentally. “Spirit, get some heat here. Be careful not to break the whole thing.”

The Ninetales, still seeming a little grumpy, walked up to her side. There was a flicker of concentrated flame and the crystal glowed with a bright tealish light; May grabbed it tightly and yanked a clump the size of maybe two maximized Pokéballs from the wall with a cracking sound as the light faded back to normal.

“Great,” she said, turning the crystal over in her hands before putting it into her backpack along with the gloves. “Let’s move on. Unless you want one.”

Mark shook his head; although Gyarados also knew Ice Fang, he wasn’t sure how much he’d ever be using it at the League, and he couldn’t help hating the idea of breaking any more crystals. It seemed like it was desecrating the place, somehow.

He took a lingering look of regret at the ugly, charred remains of the crystal that May had broken a piece of before he followed her on into the tunnel.


They’d been walking in silence for quite a while now, and the cave was growing both notably colder and more visibly icy: the floor had become slippery and the walls coated in a sheet of ice through which the Never-Melt Ice crystals were only barely visible. They had to watch their steps now, and since the darkness was becoming deeper – both because the crystals produced less light in the colder environment and because they were covered with ice – Mark had sent Charizard out in order for his tail flame to light the way somewhat. Now the dragon was walking carefully just in front of them, holding his tail by his side. Mark had hoped it would also help combat the cold, but didn’t feel much of a change, possibly because the crystals still absorbed some of the heat.

“So uh,” Mark began just to make some sort of a conversation, “when were you planning to fill Floatzel in on what we’re doing?”

“Right.” May stopped, reaching for her Pokéballs. “I guess we should do that before we confront Polaryu.”

They all stopped as she dropped the Ultra Ball and Floatzel emerged out of it. The Pokémon slipped on the ice as she materialized, falling over on all fours and shaking her head before looking up at May with a grin.

“There’s something you should know, Floatzel” she said. “We’re not just trainers. We’re on this mission to save the world.”

The otter looked remarkably unfazed by that declaration; she seemed for a second like she was waiting for May to continue, but then tilted her head, the grin vanishing abruptly. “We are still going to the League, yes?”

“Yes, we’re still going to the League.”

The grin reappeared as if nothing were more natural. “Then what’s the problem?”

“Well, we sort of need to battle a bunch of legendary Pokémon,” Mark said.

The grin widened. “Great!”

Mark had a great urge to slap his forehead. “I don’t think you’re getting it.”

“Fighting powerful Pokémon makes us powerful,” Floatzel said. “That’s good, yes?”

“It can also kill us,” Mark replied in frustration, some part of him managing to feel offended at the suggestion that this was no big deal even despite how much he’d have liked to be able to think of it that way himself.

“So can I,” Floatzel pointed out. “But then you will not be around to complain, yes?”

Mark decided trying to understand her thinking was not worth it and just sighed in frustration and gave May a vague gesture to deal with it.

“Ah,” Floatzel added. “Why does the Gyarados speak human?”

“He’s not the only one,” Spirit said, giving the otter a glare. Floatzel looked at the Ninetales in intrigued surprise and then back up at May.

“We were chosen by Entei and Suicune,” Spirit answered for her, her voice still annoyed. “The gems mark us as their…”

“Chosen what for?” Floatzel piped up.

Spirit took a deep breath. “We don’t know. It will all be clear when the time comes.”

“So being chosen is no good, yes?” Floatzel grinned innocently, and without warning, Spirit let out a threatening howl, her eyes momentarily flashing red before both Pokémon burst into black flames.

“It’s good for that!” the Ninetales said, her voice echoing eerily while Floatzel screamed in pain at the dark flames still licking her fur. “You think Entei and Suicune would toy with us? You think we have no purpose? You think…”

Floatzel dissolved into a beam of red light and was absorbed back into the Pokéball. “What was that?” May asked angrily, Spirit looking reluctantly at her. “Floatzel is my Pokémon! We’re about to battle a legendary! What’s wrong with…”

The ball in her hand burst open again mid-rant, and Floatzel threw herself into Spirit’s body with a splash of cold water before darting on along the tunnel on all fours. The Ninetales growled angrily, dark energy swirling around her before she dashed after the otter in hot pursuit.

“Hey!” May sprinted after them, nearly slipping a few times on the icy floor but quickly regaining her speed. Mark recalled Charizard and then followed, figuring Charizard wasn’t the best runner around and it was pointless to make him try to keep up.

He’d been trying to catch up with May for a few seconds when he realized that the cave wasn’t that dark anymore, even though Charizard was gone and the crystals in the walls were now completely covered with a sheet of ice. They had to be getting close to the exit, he thought even as he scanned the ceiling for holes or cracks for safety – and then he ran straight into May’s back, both of them falling painfully onto the ice.

“Ow,” Mark groaned, hurting all over as he tried to stand up.

“Mark?” May said in a squeaky voice that sounded suspiciously unlike her. He turned around to look at her and then a bit further to see where she was pointing.

Floatzel and Spirit were lying stiffly on the ground in front of them, hopefully only fainted. Behind them, silhouetted against the cave exit that could be seen at the end of the tunnel, stood a huge, bluish-white dragon with blue crystals – not just any crystals, he realized numbly, but Never-Melt Ice crystals – embedded into its scales in various places. It watched them with a threatening growl.

“Wasn’t he supposed to be asleep?” Mark hissed under his breath.

“I thought he was!” Chaletwo responded, his voice all too panicky. “I stopped feeling him struggling against his sleep after we got the other two, since now there is nothing driving him, and I guess that’s why I didn’t notice – just send out some Pokémon already, damn it! What are you waiting for?”

May had already taken out Spirit and Floatzel’s Pokéballs. She jerked her head in Mark’s direction, indicating she wanted him to start; he frantically grabbed all of his and tossed them out in front of him. While Charizard, Jolteon, Sandslash, Dragonair, Scyther and Letal materialized, May recalled Spirit and Floatzel, and Polaryu let out a cry of surprise. He recoiled backwards into a rearing stance as he flapped his wings once – and cold wind, ice and snowflakes came rushing in their direction.

“Charizard, do something!” Mark yelled. His first Pokémon flapped his wings as well, creating a wave of hazy, hot air that filled the tunnel to counter the Blizzard, but Polaryu’s attack was much more powerful and the Heat Wave only weakened it. Biting cold engulfed Mark’s body and he closed his eyes to avoid the tiny needles of ice; then in a matter of seconds, it was over and he could look up again.

“Okay, guys, we have to drive it out of the cave!” May shouted. “We can’t gang up on it well in this tunnel!”

“Charizard, Flamethrower!” Mark ordered quickly. “Everybody else, wait a bit!”

Charizard was already inhaling and blasted a bright cone of flames from his mouth, melting part of the ice on the walls as it rushed towards Polaryu. The ice dragon let out another high-pitched cry as the flames engulfed him and his crystals shone with intense white light; there was an audible crack as the ones on his left forelimb shattered. Rather than ceasing to glow after the flames cleared, the crystals brightened still, and Polaryu roared as Charizard’s body suddenly stiffened and he collapsed on the ground like a statue, just like Floatzel and Spirit had.

“Return,” Mark called worriedly and was thankful when the beam successfully recalled the dragon, indicating he was still all right. His other Pokémon were already rushing to attack the legendary now that they would no longer be in the way; Sandslash, who had turned himself metallic, was just smashing his curled-up body into the side of Polaryu’s head, only to be blasted with a countering Ice Beam, while Dragonair used the opportunity to cloak himself in blue dragon flames and smack into the legendary’s side. Letal’s mask was already glowing as she charged along the tunnel with her claws extended for a better grip, while Jolteon and Scyther sped ahead of her and hit the dragon simultaneously from both sides. Polaryu was clearly in pain, but more importantly, he was skidding and recoiling a little backwards towards the entrance with each hit. Mark ran a bit forward and then looked quickly at May; she had apparently been using her Pokédex to switch Floatzel and Spirit to the PC, but now she was replacing it on her belt.

“I don’t think I could get all my Pokémon out here yet without risking friendly fire,” she said as she caught up with him. “Besides, it’s better to keep them for when one Blizzard won’t hurt all of them at once. They’ll participate once we’re out of this cave.”

Polaryu blasted another Blizzard along the tunnel, and the freezing wind sent Mark’s Pokémon skidding backwards on the wet ice floor, aside from Dragonair, who had pressed himself up against the ceiling behind a stalactite that protected him from the worst of the attack. While they were recovering, the legendary turned around, got down on all fours and began to make his way out towards the exit. Mark saw that Sandslash was unconscious and recalled him.

“Quick, he’s going to escape!” Chaletwo said frantically as Polaryu spread his wings on the outside of the tunnel and took off. “Stop him!”

Scyther zoomed out and after the ice dragon, and while Mark, May and the Pokémon were all running towards the exit, they could hear Polaryu’s cry of pain, followed by Scyther’s. Mark reached the entrance just as the mantis crashed into the snow-covered ground of the valley they were now in and recalled him absent-mindedly as he looked up at Polaryu with worry. The dragon’s left wing was slightly torn, but he made up for it by just flapping it that much faster, which allowed him to keep ascending, if a bit unsteadily.

“Jolteon, Thunder Wave it!” May ordered as she came up behind Mark. The Electric Pokémon crouched down, his fur crackling with electricity, and sent a wave of sparks up towards Polaryu; he looked around too late to try to avoid it, and as the paralysis settled into his muscles, he could no longer keep himself aloft. The dragon cried out in frustration as he began to descend and then stopped trying; he fell down into the mountainside, rolled uncomfortably down it through the snow and then landed on all fours at the bottom, facing the Pokémon and letting out an angry roar.

He flapped his wings to produce yet another Blizzard – this time it included a flurry of snow from the ground – and it rushed towards Mark’s Pokémon. The kids had moved out of the line of fire and Mark was very grateful for that as he watched Jolteon cower in the middle of the blast; Dragonair had darted up into the air to dodge the attack, and Letal was already running in a half-circle towards Polaryu, her mask glowing again before she smashed it into the dragon’s side. Polaryu let out a cry of pain and smashed her into the mountainside with his long tail, but she stood up again.

“Go!” Mark heard May shout beside him; she had taken out five Pokéballs and threw them, her Butterfree, Raichu, Skarmory, Tyranitar and Flygon materializing from the balls. “Send out Gyarados, Mark!”

Above them, Dragonair flared up in blue flames and dived down at Polaryu. The legendary opened his mouth and fired a beam of ice his way, but Dragonair managed to dodge it by a hair and smack into Polaryu’s body before quickly ascending again. Mark tore his eyes from him to look quickly around and realized that they were on the bank of a frozen lake; he threw Gyarados’s ball out over the lake, where the ice thinned, and watched the sea monster burst out of it and easily break through into the water. Gyarados shook his head and then focused on Polaryu, closing his eyes for a Dragon Beam. Mark realized with a spark of hope that it would be an extremely powerful, super effective attack; it might just make the battle.

He looked back up and realized that Dragonair was glowing with a bright white light in mid-air, his form growing rapidly.

“He’s evolving!” he shouted in disbelief. “Dragonair is evolving!”

May looked up from ordering her Pokémon, who were already rushing towards the legendary. “What? Dragonair, this is not the best time to grow a double weakness to Ice attacks!” she shouted and then looked back at Polaryu. “Flygon, another Dragon Claw! Steel Wing it, Skarmory! Tyranitar, Stone Edge!”

Mark was still looking in awe at Dragonair – no, Dragonite – as the glow faded away to reveal a huge, bulky, beige-colored dragon instead of the blue, snakelike creature he had been before. He took an experimental swoop in the air on his tiny wings and focused on Polaryu…

Then an Ice Beam came his way, and being bigger meant he was a lot harder to miss.

“No!” Mark shouted desperately as Dragonite crashed unceremoniously into the ground and did not get up again. He recalled him sadly just as a red beam of energy shot from Gyarados’s eyes into Polaryu’s body. The legendary roared in pain, but recovered quickly, his crystals – save for the one Charizard’s Flamethrower had destroyed – glowing brightly before Gyarados stiffened uselessly in place.

Mark recalled him, looking quickly around at the other Pokémon. Jolteon and Raichu were firing Thunderbolts from both sides, but Polaryu barely seemed to feel them; May’s Butterfree was trying rather unsuccessfully to confuse the dragon with Psychic attacks and her Flygon was slashing at his wing with flaring claws. As sharp rocks tore themselves out of the ground under Polaryu’s feet, his crystals glowed yet again and Tyranitar collapsed on the spot just as Letal smashed her head into Polaryu’s side again, followed by May’s Skarmory. Polaryu shook his head and fired a beam of ice at Flygon, which made him collapse pretty much immediately, before conjuring up yet another rather weak-looking Blizzard, which sent Butterfree flying into the rock wall and apparently knocked her unconscious. May recalled her three fainted Pokémon just as Polaryu’s Never-Melt Ice crystals slowly began to glow again.

“Wait!” Mark shouted. “The crystals! Destroy the crystals! Jolteon and Raichu, Thunderbolt them!”

Letal froze just as she was running back towards her target and crashed into the ground, but meanwhile the two Electric Pokémon charged up, and they simultaneously fired bolts of electricity straight at the crystal growths on either side of Polaryu’s head.

The legendary had cried out in pain before, but this cry was unnaturally high-pitched, torturous and chilling to the bone. Polaryu threw his head around, wings flailing, as pulse after pulse of draconic energy spread out from his body; Raichu and Skarmory were blasted into the mountainside, Jolteon pushed into the hole that Gyarados had created in the sheet of ice over the lake. Mark recalled him, but May’s Raichu had the strength to fire one more Thunderbolt into the crystal on Polaryu’s right hind leg before another pulse sent him flying. The dragon was still flailing around in agony and screaming those horrible screams as May quickly recalled her two remaining Pokémon. That was it. Both their teams were down. They were defenseless.

“Just throw the ball already,” Chaletwo said quietly in Mark’s head, and he grabbed an Ultra Ball out of his pocket, running towards the legendary before he threw it, praying it would be enough.

The ball hit Polaryu’s wing, sucked him in, fell to the ground and wobbled once, twice…

In a flash of white light, the dragon burst out of the ball, fixing his tortured gaze on Mark. Polaryu opened his mouth, ice crystals forming between his jaws as Mark stood rooted to the spot in terror.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” May hissed and threw another ball – and no ordinary ball, Mark realized in disbelief as he saw it fly through the air: it was the Master Ball she had received at the Pokémon Festival.

It hit the dragon, sucked him in and wobbled pointlessly for a few seconds before it stilled.

“There we go,” May muttered as she walked over to the ball and picked it up, just before it dissolved and was sent safely to the PC.

“Fourth legendary caught,” she said as if to counter Mark’s blank stare. “Shame it took a Master Ball after all the trouble.”

It was finally beginning to sink in, and Mark grinned in spite of not feeling the elation of the previous legendary captures: using a Master Ball seemed to cheapen it all, and the dragon’s cries of pain were still echoing in his head. “We did it,” he said, prodding at Chaletwo in his mind.

“Yeah,” Chaletwo responded monotonously. “You did.”

“Oh, come on,” May said irritably. “Using the Master Ball isn’t that big of a deal. We caught him; isn’t that what matters? We’ve still got Mark’s for another emergency, remember?”

“I don’t care about the Master Ball,” Chaletwo responded distractedly. “I just… attacking the crystals…”

I know, and I’m sorry,
Mark thought. “It was a bit of a dirty trick,” he said aloud, reluctant. “But it got the job done, didn’t it?”

May rolled her eyes, took off her backpack and searched through its contents before bringing out a Revive. “I wish I’d had the time to find this and use it before the battle,” she muttered as she sent out Spirit’s frozen body and touched it with the star-shaped item. The Ninetales shuddered and then stood weakly up as May brought out a Hyper Potion.

“I’m sorry,” Spirit muttered. “I shouldn’t have let the Floatzel get to me.”

“No, you shouldn’t have,” May said shortly. “Now let’s get through the second section of this blasted cave and get to the League.”

They slowly made their way over towards the cave entrance on the other side of the snowy valley, and Mark realized with an empty feeling of dread that while they had now caught all of Chaletwo’s dragons, they now had zero leads on where to find the rest of the legendary Pokémon. This was where the true challenge of their mission began.

He zipped his jacket a bit farther up and shivered as they reentered the cave with its dim Never-Melt Ice lighting. Seeing the crystals now gave him uncomfortable flashbacks to the battle and to Polaryu’s screams of agony, and he looked forward to the moment they were out on the other side and would never have to go through this cave again.

He’d never liked being cold.

Love to see a wild Pokémon actually just be minding its own business with no interest in trainers and the trainers being very awkward about having attacked them. Wish this sort of thing had happened way earlier in the fic.

The whole worldbuilding about Never-Melt Ice was pretty much spontaneous when I got to this chapter, after having just redesigned Polaryu to have those crystals on it. Was pretty pleased with it, though.


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
  8. zeraora
Hi Free! Time for more Blitz. Thanks for writing a fic that's so fun and easy to binge-review lmao.

Chapter 8

Real quick, some commentary on this one, since I read it without leaving a review a little while ago I believe.

Honestly, the most notable thing about this chapter is the super super clone clone. What the actual fuck? This guy is just some gym dude, he isn't even Rick himself. Absolutely wild. Love that these critters are simultaneously super weak and also super powerful, it makes for a trippy reading experience. Mewtwo^2 is absolutely disturbing, from the description, to the chapter art, to the way their resistance to the mind control calls greater attention to how disturbing that whole concept is. I can believe Mark would want to put a stop to this.

I also like how the entire 'infiltration' would be pretty much unusable for a rewrite. It's the kind of thing only a young green author could devise, and it's deeply weird.

Also, get a load of those super clone designs. I think my absolute favourite has to be the way clone!Raticate's teeth are transparent, and that this is a good thing somehow. Also I seem to recall one or more of these moves basically exist in canon these days.

Chapter 9

Cute Mew in the art! I like what you did with the cityscape.

I'm bemused at Mark's reaction to Mewtwo^2. All the clones are mistreated! This is all disturbing!

Also, genuinely what the fuck is up with Gyarados and the mega attack of doom? Chuckling at that very mid-2000s line, reminds me of Ajia's one line about class being confusing doom in the LC prologue.

Rick shall PAY! Omfg. This really is far from an average pokémon journey, huh? I like that Mark is so put out about this injustice that he's gonna go take out this guy... by defeating him in a gym battle. Actually, this world's a weird mix of high development and reasonable interactions with 'mon, and just straight up blasé attitudes towards pretty messed up treatment of them. May's trade probably didn't involve consulting quilava, and it didn't involve meeting charmander. Hm.

Because this is a Free fic and Mark doesn't have much going for him except anger I kindof expected him to eat shit in this fight. But nah! He does okay. Albeit barely scraping by because Mew refuses to fight. I quite enjoyed the back and forth, even if it's fairly simple combat by 2022 standards.

I take it Mew might not be a clone ha I was fucking right

Aw, Eevee. Cute. Bless this little creature caring so much about his first opponent.

Rick seems like a pretty strung out guy. Bit surprised he's not more competent if he actually wants to defeat Mark. Why's he mad about losing if he's holding back by using only weak legends?

I guess Mark just... Obtains Mew. This is wild. Mind you, the chapter art for this and the chapter art I've seen since sure do suggest he doesn't keep them.

The transfer explanation is a real oddity. Probably could've just cut it out, at least for the most part. Also, Joy would care about the clone ball being stolen, but thinks nothing of a legit fucking Mew existing in a regular ball? That's my takeaway here.

Is he seriously just. Leaving this to deal with later. How many more times is Mark gonna obtain a notable 'mon and then not interact with them 'til much later?

I enjoy May rubbishing the idea of a dratini sighting while also looking for it. She very clearly wants to present as serious and competent while actually being emotionally driven under the surface by COOL POKéMON!!

May you little shit. I wonder if she has consistent values and would cede the dratini if they were in each other's shoes. Mark clearly values dibs, judging by his anxieties about Charmander, but I think he's just intimidated by her.

Absolutely dying that this is how they get their pseudos. What the fuck, young Free. They just. They just catch them. Already. Off-hand. No battle or anything. Holy shit.

His sad little "Go... Mew" makes me laugh. You don't need to say anything, Mark. I do enjoy the emotional whump in this scene from Mew. Glad Mark releases them!

Who the fuck is this trenchcoat guy?

Chapter 10

Excellent. At last Scyther turns up, and we get death threats. Look how terrified he is in that art! You're such a Free, Free. <3

Still weirds me out that these two think nothing of jumping a 'mon by tossing a ball at them and then using them in battle without interacting with them whatsoever. Imagine minding your business and then suddenly you're being given battle commands. Wild! No surprise that May wins again. She's not a sore winner, I think Mark comes off worse in this interaction, especially after his big win against Rick!

The Mew Hunter himself! He's absolutely fucking batshit. Amazing. There's no reason for him to explain any of this, honestly, it's a mad coincidence that he got to eavesdrop on Mark, and his explanations are just so weird. It's bad to brainwash Mew, but rendering them incapable of escape is sufficiently ethical! This is some hardcore mid-2000s level dialogue in this interaction, it feels less fully edited than a lot of the exchanges so far. I can't help but think that the guy specialises in clawed and bladed 'mon just so you can have him whump people harder. Amazing.

At last, the terror! You are so nakedly hype about having this bug whump the poor lad. Excellent. You ghoulish fucker. <3 I love that he just starts thinking in detail about what it's like to be killed. Truly, a question for the ages, and a preoccupation of Free. I really enjoy how articulate Scyther is. Interesting dude so far. Oddly sardonic. I guess living with this whackjob for so long has... frustrated him somewhat. Nice to see a 'mon sticking up for their own preferences and ideals. The way he's described as 'suicidal' makes me wonder if he's just been longing for real fights or something, Mia-style.

The battle's another pretty Quest-typical one as far as prose, but I like the emphasis on how Rob's team can maim and bloody. And holy shit, the zangoose fangcat is a murderous motherfucker who'd love to kill someone. Amazing.

I was expecting Scyther to defect long-term, so the death was a surprise. And a good one. That's some nice emotional whump to compound the physical. He made a great impression while he lasted, and I love the effect the ordeal has on Rob. Nice.

Oh! Never mind. :>

Incidentally, May agreeing to tell Rob where Mew is – (over there) – had me wheezing. Lmfao.

So, Scyther joins the team after all! He's a fascinating dude, I'm excited to have him around and see more of him. He's instantly likeable.

Mark's lineup is odd. I wonder if it's his permanent team, or if there will be any shakeups to the roster? I'd be surprised if none of them fucking bought it by the end, knowing you!

Chapter 11

Nightmares about maiming and death! Mark's Not Okay! I get the impression there are fifty more flavours of hard whump ahead for the poor lad. Good!

Bless Mark for trying to mediate, Scyther for trying to be frank and honest, and the team for being naturally cautious. It feels like a disagreement that makes sense, even if it's a little overblown and I'd expect more 'wisdom' from Charmeleon. Scyther going into a sulk at the end is flatly comedic. What a little shit he is under all the dignified fatalism.

More nightmares. Gods, Free, you really went ham with this one. I'd love to see this in comic or even animated form.

And we have a couple moments of pure cinematic foreshadowing. Charmeleon is liable to jump Scyther, and some rando fella is being ominous. I wonder if this sort of moment is going to become a staple.

Re: commentary, I think I assumed that Mark's hotel trip had an offscreen sleep and he battled Rick in the morning. Did he seriously have over half a dozen big fights in a day? What.

Chapter 12

Oh boy. Hype for some shiny/scizor prejudice. This is gonna suck.

Pretty wild that Mark is taking on his second gym on his third day having hardly fought any trainers or wild 'mon to gain experience. Is Eevee growing up? After less than 48 hours, probably fucking not, bruh. Continuing that breakneck pace, no gym trainers to fight, either? Did you get sick of writing those?

Anyway, this is actually the most interesting battle so far! I enjoyed the lack of visibility playing a factor, and it felt more dynamic than usual, somehow. Mutilating Scizor is rough. I wonder if that's permanent? What a dick move. Dude's hatred is incredible.

Laughing at May's blatant wish to own a fancy rare aesthetic variant for the clout.

Chapter 13

That chapter art! Stunning and intimidating. I can hardly remember any of this from when I was a kid, but I do remember scorplack and how scientists couldn't agree which types they were. I remember seeing skorupi for the first time and being like, 'haha, they copied Dragonfree again' lmfao.

It occurs to me that I don't quite know why May wants Mark to accompany her at all. Hm.

Anyway, I love how fucking obvious it is to the reader that this is a terrible idea, and how oblivious the kids are. Lmao.

The feeling of dread terror amidst the sea of scorpions is great, and I enjoy the sarcastic moments in the narration and May's dialogue. Good stuff.

Mitch is interesting. I feel like this is just more of Young Free wanting to talk about death and pain and mortal peril with a veneer of sombre wisdom over the intense copyka energy. The Free Energy of this entire chapter is wild, particularly the lack of signposting of the scorplack and the Mew appearance and the pontification about odds and creativity from Mitch. What a cool, weird dude.

Chapter 14

This chapter art is incredible. Sinister May's sneaky eyes and grabby hand are amazing. Taylor looks like happy Silver.

It's good fun seeing May really care about retrieving Quilava, even if she's not admitting to regretting her own judgment. Bless Mark for feeling defensive of Charmander.

This encounter with a Jenny is a bit of fun. Very much how kids think law enforcement works, and Mark remembering his license feels like another 'young Free just remembered/thought of this, therefore so did Mark even though he lives in this world' moment, althoguh I see you engineered it that way. Have I mentioned that Mark has clearly never been in possession of a brain cell? On that note, why not just get Charmeleon out to verify the true account? Pokémon as property and not people, again, huh.

Besides everything else that's weird about this sequence of events, it's pretty alarming that Taylor has access to freaking Mewtwo². And uses them to mindcontrol a cop. Goddamn.

I like May's change of priorities at the end, there. Nice one.

Chapter 15

Neat art. You sure like your fanmon that're basically Cats That Kill You, huh? Mutark's a neat concept, I guess it'd be a mid-battle form change ability if implemented these days. Spoils the chapter a little, but so what~

Hell yeah, Sandslash. Love a pangolin 'mon. Shame he doesn't get to shine a little more before being recalled.

May's fight is actually pretty fun to read. Good, dynamic exchanges of moves. Even if, as you point out, her battle choices early on are questionable. When you point out how revisions are worse than previous versions I'm surprised you don't just insert your preferred version. I suppose that would be a bit of a pain to deal with and part of the slippery slope into total rewrite, ha.

That seems a good place to stop. Thanks for a fun read, Free! I'm certain I'll hit at least one more chapter in the final week~ <3
Chapter 45: The Ouen League HQ


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Thank you for reviewing! I always have a lot of fun reading your comments :>

Rick shall PAY! Omfg. This really is far from an average pokémon journey, huh? I like that Mark is so put out about this injustice that he's gonna go take out this guy... by defeating him in a gym battle. Actually, this world's a weird mix of high development and reasonable interactions with 'mon, and just straight up blasé attitudes towards pretty messed up treatment of them. May's trade probably didn't involve consulting quilava, and it didn't involve meeting charmander. Hm.
Well, May's trade, for once, was actually meant to be sketchy (Mark mentioned that in chapter 7). Everything else, hahahahaah Mark what

Obviously Rick will PAY!! if Mark beats in him a gym battle, like every kid does, every year. :galaxeon:

Rick seems like a pretty strung out guy. Bit surprised he's not more competent if he actually wants to defeat Mark. Why's he mad about losing if he's holding back by using only weak legends?
Well, the takeaway there in particular was meant to be not that he's mad about losing but that he's paranoid about Mew's enduring resistance of the Clone Ball. He thinks Mew's trying to "bring him down", not just making him lose but full-on legendary vengeance, hence wanting to get rid of it by making Mark take it. His dialogue is super weird and flat and everything about this is extremely questionable (if the real actual Mew wasn't resisting the Clone Ball it would clearly not be a Pokémon he can sensibly use in his low-level gym to fight children, so how did it ever occur to him to do this), but that's the general gist I was going for. In this version, that is; in the previous ones I just did this, because I was twelve:

TQftL v1.0 said:
“Poor thing!” said Mark and walked up to the battered Mew, bent down and examined it carefully. He then heard Rick mutter something like: “I knew I shouldn’t use those originals, they’re much too weak...”

“What? This is the original? The original Mew?” Mark asked, now standing up.

“Yes, but it’s useless! You can have it if you like,” said Rick.

“Can I... just take it?” Mark asked.

“Why not? It’s useless, and it’s even fainted! I have nothing to do with it! Here, take that!” And Rick threw a pokéball to Mark – Mew’s pokéball.

(So obviously, what happened here was my fourteen-year-old self was just trying to maneuver things so that he'd do the same thing he did originally, but for a little bit more of an interesting reason than random cartoon idiot ball villainy. I don't think I'd gotten all that far with hashing out Rick's actual character at this stage, but please do hold that thought, his character actually matters.)

The transfer explanation is a real oddity. Probably could've just cut it out, at least for the most part. Also, Joy would care about the clone ball being stolen, but thinks nothing of a legit fucking Mew existing in a regular ball? That's my takeaway here.
Ahaha. Nurse Joy can't see what's inside the balls when doing routine machine healing! So if it's in a normal ball, she'd have no idea it was Mew and not some other Pokémon; if it's a Clone Ball, which looks very visibly different from the outside, she'd be like hang on what why do you have this. It's bizarre it's the only reason Mark cites for doing the transfer (I guess charitably it was just meant to be the reason he's doing it immediately), but "Nurse Joy would have Questions if I gave her this ball for healing" is genuinely a pretty reasonable concern.

It's bad to brainwash Mew, but rendering them incapable of escape is sufficiently ethical!
But you see, he just needs time to make Mew understand and then Mew will want to stay

(This is another case of actually intentional hypocrisy, for once. This is a character who considers it deplorable to brainwash a Pokémon into obeying but rationalizes trapping them with him because he needs time to earn their trust, not fourteen-year-old me having bizarre ethical double standards.)

This is some hardcore mid-2000s level dialogue in this interaction, it feels less fully edited than a lot of the exchanges so far.
I mentioned this on Discord, but for the sake of anyone else following along, very little has been edited in the early chapters here. It was almost exclusively correcting weird grammar, misuses of words/idioms or other obviously non-native phrasing (there was plenty of that especially in the first few chapters), clarifying sentences that were hard to understand, some occasional word repetitions that were screaming at me, plus editing a couple of easily-corrected one-off inconsistencies and excising some of my fourteen-year-old self's extremely liberal use of ellipses where they weren't sensibly conveying a pause/tone/etc. at all. There were a handful of slightly bigger one-off edits where there was a particular sentence that would just make me cringe for days whenever I thought of people reading it (e.g. turning the outright suicide threat Mark originally made in chapter two into just saying he doesn't feel like there's any point in living), but only a handful - like, less than one per chapter. I've been doing a little more editing in the later chapters, because by then I could safely raise my standards without having to rewrite half the chapter, but for these early bits, you truly are getting 99.99% exactly what I originally wrote when I was fourteen but with better grammar.

I can't help but think that the guy specialises in clawed and bladed 'mon just so you can have him whump people harder. Amazing.
Originally I made up this gym and gym theme for a gym contest on a website! But then I thought up this whump scenario and decided ooooh what if I make it that gym leader with the natural weapons, that'd be great.

And we have a couple moments of pure cinematic foreshadowing. Charmeleon is liable to jump Scyther, and some rando fella is being ominous. I wonder if this sort of moment is going to become a staple.
✨ some rando fella being ominous ✨

(This is definitely a thing happens a few times and I'm laughing)

Re: commentary, I think I assumed that Mark's hotel trip had an offscreen sleep and he battled Rick in the morning. Did he seriously have over half a dozen big fights in a day? What.
Yyyyyup. The treatment of time in the early bits of this fic is wiiiild.

Is Eevee growing up? After less than 48 hours, probably fucking not, bruh.

Continuing that breakneck pace, no gym trainers to fight, either? Did you get sick of writing those?
Nah, I'd just decided when I was twelve that some of the gyms wouldn't have any and others would, I guess the way that gyms in the games vary in how many junior trainers they have and whether you have to fight them. I stuck bizarrely faithfully to my twelve-year-old self's gym plans, apart from reinventing a couple of them as double battles because :sparkles:Hoenn:sparkles: (they weren't yet a thing when I planned out the gyms). All in all, gyms one, five and six have junior trainers; gym four had some in the plan but they were mercifully excised when I converted it into a double battle.

Anyway, this is actually the most interesting battle so far! I enjoyed the lack of visibility playing a factor, and it felt more dynamic than usual, somehow. Mutilating Scizor is rough. I wonder if that's permanent? What a dick move. Dude's hatred is incredible.
It's not permanent here. Would've been worth clarifying but as we've established I didn't think very hard about anything when I was writing this. :P

Taylor looks like happy Silver.
That really is about the size of it! May and Taylor's appearances were based on Kris and Silver. Their characters are of course entirely unrelated, apart from his nature as a rival to May.

May's fight is actually pretty fun to read. Good, dynamic exchanges of moves. Even if, as you point out, her battle choices early on are questionable. When you point out how revisions are worse than previous versions I'm surprised you don't just insert your preferred version. I suppose that would be a bit of a pain to deal with and part of the slippery slope into total rewrite, ha.
Another one for anyone else reading along and having the same thought: when I say something was better in the previous versions, I mean what happened there was better on some level, but not that the older version was a better piece of writing. Before this 2004 reboot, my writing style consisted more or less of just stating what happened as tersely as possible, with my very rough childish grasp of English at the time. So when I make that sort of comment I'm lamenting that when I did the 2004 rewrite I didn't choose to write something resembling the original sequence of events instead, not suggesting copy-pasting the old version in would have been superior! I promise you if I copy-pasted my twelve-year-old self's writing into the ILCOE you would be like "wtf is this".

Chapter 45 time! In which Mark and May finally arrive at the site of the Ouen League, and we see Taylor again (remember him?).

Chapter 45: The Ouen League HQ​


Mark sighed in relief as they finally exited Champion Cave for what was hopefully to be the last time. He shuddered as the sudden warmth of the afternoon sun enveloped his body, only to have his breath taken away as he looked around.

They were halfway up the mountainside now, on a slanted outcropping of rock positioned neatly in front of the cave exit. A path zigzagged down the mountain on their right. A couple of steps forward revealed a humongous state-of-the-art Pokémon battle stadium below them, one that must house tens of thousands of spectators with dozens of cameras capable of following the battlers’ every move, surrounded by various buildings that ranged from a couple of smaller stadiums to a small but decorative League office building to several long, multi-storeyed wooden trainer lodges. Here and there around the whole complex stood giant raised screens and speakers, presumably to be used for announcements and to display the details of the next matches; right now they were all blank, though, and there didn’t appear to be any people about. Around it all was a tall wire fence with one guarded gate in it, lying at the end of the path that now seemed laughably short.

Mark looked at May with a grin; her eyes shone with excitement as she looked down at the main League arena, and even Spirit seemed impressed. The trainer journey, it was finally sinking in, was soon to be formally over. And as insignificant as it ought to have been, somehow Mark felt ready to put all thoughts of legendary Pokémon aside now, just while the League was going on. He hadn’t felt truly excited about being a trainer since one of his first days as one, he realized with bemusement, but now it all seemed to come rushing back. Training might not precisely have been his thing, but now that he was there, the entire journey was beginning to seem worth it, and he resolved to enjoy this and do his best, no matter what it took.

“Come on,” he said. “What are we waiting for? Let’s get down there.”

The path downwards was short and simple; they spotted some Graveler a short distance away and May even said she caught a glimpse of a Larvitar scuttling between some rocks above them, but they left them alone, too eager to get to the League HQ to waste their time fighting random wild Pokémon. They reached the gate within minutes; a bored-looking lavender-haired woman with red glasses sat back in an office chair inside the guard station on the left, moderately immersed in what looked like a cheap paperback romance novel. She looked up as they approached, put the book on the desk and leaned towards the window. “Oh, early trainers,” she said. “Hello. Are you registering for the League this year?”

“Yeah,” Mark said, curious to know how the process worked. May just nodded.

“Okay. Give me your Pokédexes, please. One at a time.”

Mark handed her his Pokédex and she briefly scanned his eye with it. She entered some information into the computer by her left side and was in the middle of handing the device back to him when she narrowed her eyes at the screen.

“Huh,” she said. “It says here you’re dead.”

Mark let out a burst of nervous laughter at the realization that he had completely forgotten about that in the excitement of getting to the League; he hoped that it could be interpreted as a natural reaction to the absurdity of it. “Well, I’m not,” he said lamely. “Obviously. I mean, I’m here, and you scanned my eye and everything.”

The woman gave him a suspicious glance, seeming to consider it for a second, but then just shrugged and allowed him to take his Pokédex back. “Must be some mistake in the system,” she muttered. “I’ll fix it.”

Mark blinked as she turned back to the computer. That was it? That was all it took to wipe out all the potential problems with being officially dead? He’d been mentally preparing for being denied participation or worse; they might have looked into why he was dead in their records, which would surely have tugged at the corners of some memories that Molzapart had buried. He glanced at May, who raised her eyebrows at him as she gave her own Pokédex to the woman.

Then again, he reasoned, it was logical of her to assume that a mistake in the system was the most plausible explanation; how likely was a twelve-year-old to deliberately fake his death, much less to do so with criminal intent that might warrant an investigation? The thought calmed him down a little; he’d been half-expecting her to change her mind, but on second thought it didn’t seem as likely anymore. He looked back up at the guard station window; the woman had gone into a room at the back. She returned a moment later, holding something Mark couldn’t quite see at first.

“Here are your nametags,” she said, handing them one each; to Mark’s horror, his had that awful school photo on it. “You must wear them around your necks at all times, with the photo facing forward, and will not be allowed to exit the League grounds without them. Yes, put them on now, please.”

Mark reluctantly pulled the red ribbon the tag was attached to over his head; he considered turning it backwards to hide the photo, but saw the woman in the guard booth lean forward to watch and figured he probably wouldn’t get away with it. May didn’t seem any happier with hers, but she put it on with no objection.

“Okay, now please hand me your Pokémon.”

May looked suspiciously at her. “Why?”

“They have to be inspected for illegal power-ups or signs of abuse. You will be able to retrieve them at the League offices tomorrow morning by showing your nametags.”

May recalled Spirit, and then they both took all their Pokéballs and handed them to the woman; Mark felt oddly exposed and vulnerable at the idea of walking off without the familiar weight at his belt, and couldn’t shake off a paranoid feeling that he might somehow never get them back. Nurse Joy never seemed like a stranger – perhaps that was why they all strived to look identical, he mused to himself.

“Your rooms are 309 and 310,” the woman went on. “This is also on your nametags, and you will need to use the tags to unlock the rooms. You are in the third trainer lodge, the one just left of the main arena. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served on the bottom floor of your lodge. There are maps of the area on the backs of your nametags; you can also ask the staff for directions. Enjoy your stay and good luck.” She smiled thinly, pressed a button to open the gate, then motioned to pick up her book again.

“Thanks,” Mark said to the woman before following May through the gate.


After leaving their bags in their rooms – they were small and simple, but reasonably neat – they took a tour of the area, peering at the tiny maps on their nametags and eventually managing to make sense of them and locate and examine every place of interest. They ran into a couple of trainers – Mark thought he recognized a girl he had briefly talked to at the Cleanwater City Pokémon Center way back at the beginning of his journey – but it was clear that they were still among the earlier arrivals. May suggested that some of the people who were there already were probably out training, which made sense. Just around the time they had explored to their satisfaction, there was an announcement over the PA that dinner was being served in the trainer lodges, and they headed to the long building by the left side of the main stadium.

The bottom floor of the trainer lodge mostly consisted of the dining hall, lined with long tables that were almost eerily empty now, with a buffet on the right side of the room. A boy and a girl had already arrived and were sitting at a table pretty far away. Mark and May ended up seating themselves at the table nearest to the buffet and ate there in relative silence while the television in the nearest corner of the room provided a steady background noise of news anchors’ voices.

The word ‘Suicune’ snapped Mark away from his food, and he jerked his head towards the TV screen.

“…the legendary Pokémon. The cause of its death is currently unknown, but investigators say that it bore battle wounds of varying, but not fatal, severity. Many inhabitants of Cleanwater City have expressed worry about the fauna of the Lake of Purity, supposedly purified daily by Suicune, and Water Pokémon around the world have been reported mourning the legendary’s loss…”

Some footage of the dirt that was already collecting in the water of the Lake of Purity and interviews with some people followed; Mark was too numb to register them properly. The report had caught May’s attention as well, and she looked at him, biting her lip.

They’d found Suicune.

Thinking about it, it was always inevitable that the corpse would eventually be found; they hadn’t exactly hidden it well, and once it started to decompose, the smell…

Mark forced his mind away from that train of thought, though not in time to save his appetite; he would probably have felt physically ill even without the unpleasant image of rotting Suicune-shaped flesh in his head. He pushed his plate a bit farther away and then, after a moment, laid his cutlery side by side on it.

“This is bad,” Chaletwo muttered inside his mind. “If the other legendaries hear about this, they’ll become suspicious immediately.”

“There’s nothing that can trace it back to us, is there?” May asked quietly.

“No,” Chaletwo replied. “Shouldn’t be. But if the legendaries hear of it, they’ll be more careful, especially with all the other legendaries disappearing in the past years.”

Mark hadn’t really thought about that before; of course the other kids were working on capturing the legendaries too, and the other legendaries couldn’t be presumed not to have noticed their disappearance. In fact… “Why haven’t they put together two and two and figured people are out systematically catching them already?” he asked, keeping his voice down.

“For all I know, they might have,” Chaletwo said. “Could explain why the others have been having such a difficult time of finding the ones that remain.”

Mark didn’t reply, his mind drifting back to Suicune with a horrible pang of guilt. While he shouldn’t reasonably have felt any better about it while nobody knew, this still made it worse. A dead legendary Pokémon – he could only imagine his own reaction a year ago if he had heard the news. He’d have been shocked and horrified, wondering who would ever do such a dreadful, blasphemous thing and why. He’d have pictured criminal organizations wanting to upset the balance of the world, madmen like Rick or the Mew Hunter – and, he realized with resentment, he’d most likely have suspected the Gyarados from the lake, acting in revenge. He’d just not have imagined somebody with the full power to prevent it would also be present and not do anything – much less that this person could be someone like him.

His eyes drifted back to his plate, and he knew he couldn’t finish eating. “I’m not hungry,” he said with a sigh, stood up and walked towards the stairs. He wasn’t sure if he wanted May to follow him or try to convince him to come back, but she didn’t.

Mark walked up to the second floor, found room 309 and slid the side of his nametag into the electronic lock to open it. The first thing he did when he entered was to pull the nametag off and toss it on the stool beside his bed; then he threw himself onto the mattress with a deep sigh.

Suicune. Why did they have to find Suicune just as he was beginning to manage to push the entire legendary deal momentarily out of his mind so that he could participate in the League like he’d always wanted to?

“I don’t like the idea of you forgetting about it entirely, you know,” Chaletwo commented after a short silence.

“Who asked you?” Mark muttered and turned onto his side.

He lay there for a little while, letting his thoughts wander, and was dozing off when there was a knock on his door.

“What?” he called.

“Can we just go for a short walk or something?”

The speaker being May of course didn’t surprise him; it was the suggestion itself that made him blink and sit up. “What? With you? Why?”

“Come on.”

He stood up, walked hesitantly to the door and opened it.

“Don’t forget your nametag,” was all May said. He hurried to the stool to retrieve it and reluctantly put it back around his neck, then followed her cluelessly down the stairs and out the door.

“So uh, what are we doing?” he asked finally as May continued onwards in a straight line; all that was ahead of them was empty ground and then the fence.

“Mark,” May said, slowing a bit down but not looking at him, “when will you stop angsting about Suicune?”

“Huh?” Mark stopped, taken aback, and she wheeled around to face him.

“You need to get over that already. What use do you think it will be to go to your room and brood about it? Gyarados killed Suicune, yeah; Pokémon kill each other all the time, and if he hadn’t done that we’d have been in a load of trouble. I’m not saying it wasn’t shocking or anything, but there’s no need to have a breakdown every time Suicune is mentioned. They can’t trace it back to us, okay? The news doesn’t change anything that we can control. Just get over it and focus on what we’re doing now, which is training for the League. And for future legendary battles.”

Mark took a deep breath. She had a point, of course, about it not being any use to brood about it, and it was not as if he didn’t hate thinking about it in general. “Okay.”

May nodded. “Great. So next time you get all worked up about Suicune, just try to keep it in, okay?”

Mark closed his eyes, feeling uncomfortably like he was being lectured by his mother. “Okay.”

“Great. Let’s get back; it’s cold out here.”

They walked back to the lodge in silence. May was about to open the door when a boy’s voice called out, “Hey!”

They turned around. Before Mark had even identified the red-haired boy who was hurrying around them, May’s knuckles had tightened around the doorknob and her expression contorted into disgust.

“Here,” Taylor said, thrusting his clenched hand towards May. “Take it.”

She looked blankly at him, her surprise momentarily overriding her hatred. “What?”

“Take it,” Taylor repeated, inclining his hand towards her again. “I don’t want it.”

“What is it?” May asked, staring at Taylor’s fist.

“It’s that Quilava of yours,” Taylor said, unclenching his fingers slightly from the minimized Pokéball he was holding. He looked down and then back up at May. “Look, I’m sorry I tricked it out of you, all right? You can have it back.”

May just stared at him, her expression extremely skeptical, and Taylor sighed, looking briefly away but not moving his hand. “Look,” he finally said, “I’ve got six Pokémon. That Quilava is weak. My brother won’t send me another decent Pokémon because he says I’ve got six already. If I give it to you and tell him it escaped or something, I can get a full team, right? So just take it – please.”

May just stood there in befuddlement for a second; then she snatched the ball from his hand. Taylor turned around without words and walked nonchalantly towards one of the trainer lodges on the other side of the main stadium.

“That… that lazy, cheating, spoiled brat,” May said as she stared after him, but her voice had none of the ferocity that usually characterized it when she talked about Taylor. “I can’t believe it.”

“Well, he gave you her back.” Mark shrugged. “That’s a good thing, right?”

Taylor disappeared through the door of his own lodge and May spent a second with her eyes still fixated on the same spot. “Yeah,” she said absent-mindedly as she turned away and opened the door to their lodge.

They ended up just saying goodnight and going straight to their rooms so that they could wake up early.

Probably the biggest problem with the League employee assuming Mark's deceased status is a mistake in the system and fixing it is that I'd gone and established that resurrection is actually theoretically pretty easy in this universe, which kind of should mean dead people reappearing in person should be a thing that happens sometimes (and sometimes they might be a different soul riding someone else's body!). Really I should have just made resurrection something only legendary Pokémon can do; that way, it'd be a lot more realistic that the League just has no protocols for what to do if a trainer whose iris you scan is officially dead.

Hope you continue to enjoy Mark's school photo, the running gag that keeps on giving.

So anyway, remember May's Quilava? The one she traded to Taylor for Charmander, who's barely been brought up since chapter fourteen? I hope you did remember, because otherwise I'm sure the end here came very out of nowhere.

Something very me-specific that I'm fond of in fiction is the deliberate anticlimax - something is built up and then what actually happens with it is an unexpected lack of the climax you think we've been building towards in favor of something different, with some different kind of resonance to it (hopefully). I think some of my fondness for this may come from The Neverending Story, one of my favorite books, which does this masterfully and poignantly on numerous occasions. (Perhaps most memorably, it ominously sets up a werewolf to be tracking the protagonist down, but when the two finally meet, the wolf is already dying, chained up to starve off-screen by a character we never even see; they have a hair-raising conversation as the wolf fails to realize who he is, and ultimately the wolf's final gasping effort to murder him ironically ends up indirectly saving the protagonist's life. It's chilling and stark and had a big effect on me as a kid. (The film based on the book went and just made them fight, because nobody making it understood what the book was doing at all.))

So, Taylor just giving Quilava back to May here, of his own volition, after everything, was something I'd had planned for a long, long time. I wish I'd written more of May actually talking about Taylor and Quilava over the course of the story, because I really wouldn't blame anyone for having forgotten about the whole thing by now, but I am very fond of this moment, and of Taylor's character, which you'll be seeing more of at the League.


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
  8. zeraora
Chapter Sixteen Review Time~

Nice, very dynamic chapter art. I enjoy Scorplack's design, even if it doesn't quite feel to me like it clicks as a pokémon.

It's interesting that in Ouen, recalls seem to count as faints. Feels like recalls only happen as a safety measure, then? Mark could technically have kept Eevee and Gyarados in this fight after each of their KOs, to get an edge on the next 'mon. Although I suppose they could just have easily set up while Mark's 'mon go down to poison. The recalls just seem to happen bc they're getting tired, which suggests it's a compassionate decision. That's good.

Eevee's battling instincts are showing! On day... three?? Incredible! Can't believe that Mark's still incredibly hesitant to even issue a move order after earning a couple badges already. It makes sense that he'd be a bit behind the curve, having been carried this far largely on the merits of his overpowered teammates, but this is just embarrassing.

Has Mark still not thought to ask Gyarados about his deal? Just a passing thought. That attack he uses (I'm imagining it as Darkseid's omega beams) is definitely fucky somehow. I'd feel very alarmed about it and make it a priority for investigation if I were him. He doesn't even seem to wonder about it much. Does he not realise it's a cause for alarm?

Who the fuck is Victor? Is this another one of those ominous rando fellas? Oh right he's the mutark trainer. I guess he'll keep mattering, huh? Anyway, I share Mitch's hunch that bad things will happen to Mark and May. This is a Free fic, after all. Bad things have already happened to them.


Flygon connoisseur
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
  6. joltik
  7. salandit
spiked Eevee evolution
No Spikeon still. disappointing. 1/10 >:{

“Pokémon are powerful, Mark. Extremely. If other animals came here with the humans, they landed in direct competition with the Pokémon and didn’t survive. Humans, on the other hand, figured out that they had one advantage over the Pokémon, and used it. They knew that their only hope to fight Pokémon was with other Pokémon, and they managed to cooperate with them. Very clever indeed. But when you think about it, the Pokémon’s end of the deal is still cleverer. They weren’t driven into the deal by any need. They could have wiped us out if the wanted – but they didn’t. They figured it would be for the good of everyone to make the deal.”
No lie I actually love this because I always feel like the sway and power Pokemon have and what they get out of the deal can easily get overlooked, so this idea that the Pokemon were the ones who were cleverer here is.... well its excellent imo.
Also it looks like there's a tiny typo: They could have wiped us out if the wanted
Not sure if you care tho, its minor.

“Fine, I’ll help him!” May snapped. “Are we going to see Ash Ketchum, then?”
I love how May just. Agrees while barely seeming to consider the implications or ramifications of what she's gonna do.

Molzapart told me years ago about the War of the Legends and requested I try to catch some of the legendaries, but as much as I’d have liked to try, I was extremely busy;
"Hey Ash Ketchum, we need you to help us save the world from almost certain destruction"
Ash: "Um idk guys I got like, paperwork and stuff. And I've been meaning to clean out the fridge, and I still gotta do that load of laundry..."

Hilarious, lol

Go ahead and get it,” said May. “I can just talk to Alan or something. There’s a bench over there.”
It's amusing how gym badges are sort of treated very casually, like getting a jug of milk? Like I'm so used to the anime where finally getting to a gym is a big event, and a big thing. But here its like "yeah go get your badge or whatever"

Which I guess makes more sense in a way! The gym challenge doesn't seem to be intended as being super hard here, it's more like a rite of passage.

Still, what a chapter. 'Hey, I know I saw you die but I'll argue with you'.

Also like... Its great how Mark never talks to his Pokémon about dying, nor do they in any way react to his death/sitting in his pokeballs for seemingly a week.

Also Mitch edgelord backstory sure is a trip. It's kinda just. hey there I died too and let me now launch into an explanation of pokemon biology and the animal kingdom. Nice.

But that Flora! She's so angry and salty. Is this some kind of subtle jab at gyms and gym themeing??

Man this chapter was a treat. Finally, the origin of all the Scyther jokes. And boy howdy you weren't kidding. You really pulled out the stops for Scyther here, lol.

That said its conceptually a very interesting backstory. A dishonored scyther, exiled form his clan and searching for purpose. Also its extremely hilarious that this is actually the second fic I have read that went on at length about Scyther culture and hated Scizor and how they live and die by the blade, featuring also an exiled Scyther.

You haven't by any chance read Silver Resistance have you, lol? The similarities are almost unnerving.

Also I like that the excuse to segway into this is "Hey lets all tell each other our backstories so we can bond". And really, what more reason do you need to spill your guts to someone?

“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.
Gosh he cracked me up. Also Racko is right about one thing - Hoenn is the best

Soon I was rambling about my feelings and drowning my sorrows in alcohol just like Rob and his other Pokémon.
Free I am beginning to notice an alarming pattern with your characters and drinking habits...

Okay I really love Fury as a character, I hope we see him again. A Hitmonchan only interested in one-on one combat and trains on his own is very interesting. Also he's very polite and a nice, and really smart.

Thank goodness someone finally told Mark off! I was convinced that he'd never have noticed or learned otherwise. Honestly I feel so bad for his pokemon. If I had a trainer like that I think I'd yell at him a lot. Lol idk why they stay with him sometimes. I mean to be fair Mark isn't mean either but the utter lack of battle skill and the fact that this often causes his pokemon to lose a fight because he can't even remember their moves would be exceedingly distressing.

“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.”
THANK YOU. Now I've already read enough ahead to know this advice doesn't seem to take root fast enough for Mark but hey, at least he knows. Maybe I'm being too harsh though.

But idk I feel like if I were Mark I'd try to like... train at giving commands faster? Memorizing moves? Oh well! One day he'll learn (I hope).

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.
I laughed so HARD here. This has the exact same energy as:
Mark: "What have you got there?"

And I just cracked up.

Also thats messed up scyther what the absolute heck

“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.”
??? But surely you knew before this that Mark would not be happy about murder. Surely you could guess that this soft boy would definitely be very unhappy with you for murdering.

After all, had Scyther ever given him a real reason not to trust his words?
Please don't make me answer that, Mark :V

Also I cackled at Mark being like 'Oh its Scizor's trainer ok'. Gold.

Gosh I love this story.

Ohhh my gosh Mark really is something.

Also I just love how you wanted us to know everything about the animal world for not other reason than that its cool. Kinda wild. Anyways I like how casually everyone (especially Mark) kinda just brushes over the nearly dead guy. Like Mark, your Scyther almost murders someone buut its all cool I guess.

Also we all know the real reason this chapter exists is so we can talk about Scyther more, my favorite pokemon. Anyways all the tasty melodrama of Scyther meeting his old friends was amazing. I am also very here for the fantastic edgy names like Stormblade and Shadowdart.

“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.”
I mean he's not wrong, lol

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.
See people usually say this but also - what about obligate carnivores? What about the Scyther dad who can't bring home enough food for himself or his hatchlings and dies? What about children lost to starvation or sickness, too weak to fight it off?

Also on a side note, this makes me curious about what people eat. Animal farms are mentioned, but what about Pokemon? My memory is fuzzy so maybe it was mentioned, but perhaps it's to be assumed they figured out a way to create high energy pokemon food? Or do trainers just have to let their pokemon hunt? How do pokemon feel about this? Is the Circle of Life type 'respect' going on? A Law of the Wild? Curious indeed!

FINALLY. I have been reading fic for years but never has one given me what I truly seek - Scyther, but drunk.

“This reminds me of back when Rob and I used to go to the Gamesharked Skarmory. Great place, that… Crunchy… Caterpie…”
I love the name 'Gamesharked Skarmory'. What a hoot. Also I assume Crunchy Caterpie is a dish name? (uh oh. Is it made with real Caterpie?)

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.
Of course not. I see no issues with giving a pokemon a GIGANTIC POT OF BEER. This can't go wrong.

“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…”
Okay forget saving the world from some kind of legendary war, this is peak content. Also killing is fun.

Mark are you sure you shouldn't be at least mildly concerned about your Scyther.

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.
Mark no matter how you slice this cheese you are at least slightly responsible. You didn't even try to suggest he stop! Scyther is your friend!
*smacks Mark*

Also 'stop being responsible' isn't good self-advice Mark :V

“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 is killing me here.

"Mew made cool legendaries so I made DRAGONS who HATE EACH OTHER" lol. Chale has some 'Original Character donut steal' energy happening.

Also I love how its just. There. Like 'Oops I forgot about these guys btw'. LOL

I am now curious, haha, did you forget and insert this while writing or was this always kind of planned?

Campy aside the idea of three elemental dragons is honestly really cool conceptually anyways and I dig.

Anyways as always, I'm loving this. Its delightfully campy yet features some genuinely cool parts and crazy ideas and fun stuff. Its gleefully full of youthful spirit and shenanigans and is deliciously entertaining.

Expect more reviews later I hope.


Rescue Team Member
Pokemon Paradise
  1. custom/chikorita-saltriv
  2. custom/bench-gen
  3. charmander
  4. snivy
  5. treecko
  6. tropius
  7. arctozolt
Here to review the prologue through chapter 3 of this!

Oh dear. Starting right off the bat with a ton of dead legendaries. And it looks like Mew is the only one who survived. Oh boy.

I wonder what caused all this destruction?

I am thankful for the lack of description here, due to how nightmarish the scene is.

That was a neat prologue! Short, and horrifying.

Onto chapter 1!

Oooooh, original legendaries and original regions! Interesting!

I wonder why there's no Pokemon in northwest Ouen? Does it have to do with the massacre in the prologue?

Looks like this is in the anime canon, and Ash is a professor now! Neat!

Interesting how levels are an in-universe thing here. I wonder how they work?

Oooooh, so there's classes for communicating with Pokemon in this! I'm really excited to see what your take on Pokemon language is!

I like the little details in Mark's monologue that show that he's still just a kid, like having an "awesome" section in his favorite Pokemon list. That was a nice touch.

I like the worldbuilding you're doing with the school, showing how subjects about Pokemon are taught.

Heh, Mark is obsessed with legendary Pokemon. Excited to see that come into play once he starts meeting some.

Oooooh, something in the bushes.

A Charmander! And it appears to be extremely ill. Oh dear.

Nice to see that at least Mark's mother is willing to help Mark with the Charmander.

And Mark may or may not have his first Pokemon!

On to the next chapter!

...and right away Mark is denied his chance at a journey.

Oh dear. Mark's father really doesn't seem to like Pokemon. I wonder why?

Charmander couldn’t think of anything to say – it looked like his and Mark’s silent plan wasn’t working.


...oh no. They're not seriously going to set the house on fire, are they?

I...don't know how to feel about the way Mark convinced his parents to let him go on a journey.

But hey! Mark is a trainer now!

Oooooh, so these new legends are from Ouen. I'm guessing that means the burning town in the prologue was in Ouen?

And Mewtwo is in this book...very interesting.

Oh, so it's called Chaletwo. And there was a Pokemon in the prologue called Chalenor...I'm guessing Chaletwo is to Chalenor as Mewtwo is to Mew.

I'm intrigued to see how all these new legends come into play.

Onto chapter 3!

I really like the little sections from the Eevee's point of view! It's a neat little preview of what's to come, the first bit since the prologue in a Pokemon POV, and it shows the direness of their situation.

And oh boy. It's starting to rain. Hope Charmander will be ok.

Oh dear. Looks like Charmander's past trainer and the trainer he was traded to were both awful people. I wonder if they'll show up later in the story?

And there's the Eevee!

Oooooh, I'm really intrigued by this Agreement. It's a really nice bit of worldbuilding to explain some stuff in the games. I wonder what the circumstances behind its creation are?

And they're off to get help for the Eevee!

I like the detail of the pokeball being left behind. That's a nice touch.

Overall, this was a fun read! It has its flaws, there was way too much exposition in chapters 1 and 2 all together, and it was a bit overwhelming, but this was fun to read nonetheless! My favorite part so far is the section about the Agreement.

Thank you for writing this! I look forward to reading more!
The Ouen League - Chapter 46: Day One


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Thanks for the reviews, all! I treasure your commentary <3

unrepentantAuthor said:
It's interesting that in Ouen, recalls seem to count as faints. Feels like recalls only happen as a safety measure, then?
It's not a regional thing - some battles allow switching and others don't. Most 'official' battles such as gym matches are switchless, and then a recall counts as a faint, since the Pokémon can't be switched in again.

unrepentantAuthor said:
Eevee's battling instincts are showing! On day... three?? Incredible! Can't believe that Mark's still incredibly hesitant to even issue a move order after earning a couple badges already. It makes sense that he'd be a bit behind the curve, having been carried this far largely on the merits of his overpowered teammates, but this is just embarrassing.
It will only continue to get more embarrassing for a while!

"Hey Ash Ketchum, we need you to help us save the world from almost certain destruction"
Ash: "Um idk guys I got like, paperwork and stuff. And I've been meaning to clean out the fridge, and I still gotta do that load of laundry..."
:sadbees: he just has so much other stuff to do than save the world, don't you know

Also like... Its great how Mark never talks to his Pokémon about dying, nor do they in any way react to his death/sitting in his pokeballs for seemingly a week.
I know, right. Just, no comment. Amazing.

But that Flora! She's so angry and salty. Is this some kind of subtle jab at gyms and gym themeing??
I wouldn't call it subtle :P

You haven't by any chance read Silver Resistance have you, lol? The similarities are almost unnerving.
I have not! I feel like I get that a lot, though. (These chapters predate Silver Resistance by several years, ahaha. Mayyybe ScytheRider read TQftL, back when it was pretty popular? Or it's just coincidence.)

??? But surely you knew before this that Mark would not be happy about murder. Surely you could guess that this soft boy would definitely be very unhappy with you for murdering.
but Tetra how could you possibly tell Mark would disapprove of murder??? you just cannot say :sadbees:

Also on a side note, this makes me curious about what people eat. Animal farms are mentioned, but what about Pokemon? My memory is fuzzy so maybe it was mentioned, but perhaps it's to be assumed they figured out a way to create high energy pokemon food? Or do trainers just have to let their pokemon hunt? How do pokemon feel about this? Is the Circle of Life type 'respect' going on? A Law of the Wild? Curious indeed!
There's high-energy artificial Pokémon food these days! The way wild Pokémon feel about it is generally that this is just the way things are and always have been. As a predator, you have to get over it; as prey, you have to stay alert and try to be stronger than your predators. I'm sure it drives some Pokémon to want to get trainers and be free of all that, though.

I love the name 'Gamesharked Skarmory'. What a hoot. Also I assume Crunchy Caterpie is a dish name? (uh oh. Is it made with real Caterpie?)
Nah, he's just rambling from one topic to another. Humans don't slaughter and eat Pokémon here today, although people did hunt and eat Pokémon in the past (as canon has suggested).

I am now curious, haha, did you forget and insert this while writing or was this always kind of planned?
I didn't make up these dragons until sometime in 2003, when I'd already started the fic and done chapter two with the legendary book and all that. Originally when I started making them they weren't supposed to be in the fic, but then I was like damn it these are way cooler than the legendaries I made up when I was eleven! I need to put these guys in my fanfic! So at a dramatically appropriate moment I just had Chaletwo go "by the way uh I made some more legendaries that I forgot about, you need to fight them too". ...And then I proceeded to immediately reboot the fic from the beginning, and by the time I finally, finally got to write these dragons actually appearing, they'd gone through multiple redesigns.

Looks like this is in the anime canon, and Ash is a professor now! Neat!
He's not quite a professor but he is a celebrity who gives out starter Pokémon!

Oh dear. Looks like Charmander's past trainer and the trainer he was traded to were both awful people. I wonder if they'll show up later in the story?

Anyway, chapter 46! We start the second of the fic's special five-chapter arcs, the Ouen League, with some revelations and some settling in at the tournament site.

The Ouen League – Chapter 46: Day One​


Dear Participant MARK GREENLET,

Your GYARADOS has been measured at highly abnormal power levels for its species and experience.

As the standard examination of your Pokémon did not reveal any direct evidence of the use of illegal devices, substances or methods, you will not be disqualified from participation; however, to ensure the integrity of the League, you will regrettably have to be barred from using this Pokémon in League battles.

Best wishes,
The Elite Four

“You got one too, huh?” May asked as she laid a bowl of cornflakes down on the table opposite Mark, her other hand waving a sloppily reclosed envelope. He put the letter down on the table beside his bacon and scrambled eggs while she sat down. He’d read the thing at least five times over since he had found it lying on the floor below the door to his room in a decorative envelope in the morning, and he still couldn’t really get his brain to make proper sense of it.

“Why just disqualify Gyarados?” he muttered. “I mean, if I’d trained him with illegal drugs, shouldn’t I be disqualified altogether?”

May shrugged. “They wouldn’t be able to prove it was you, per se. You could have gotten him off another trainer who did it, or somebody could have laced his food with something to get you disqualified, or something like that. If you don’t admit to it and the Pokémon doesn’t admit to it, they can’t show that you deserve the blame.”

“And if nobody did anything illegal? How is it fair to disqualify him?”

“Well, presumably they wouldn’t call it ‘highly abnormal’ and start sending out letters if it could be achieved through legal methods.”

“We didn’t do anything illegal.”

“What, do you think we should go and try to explain to them that they were touched by the legendary beasts and granted special powers? They wouldn’t exactly have that registered as a legal way of strengthening a Pokémon.”

Mark shrugged. In a way, he was glad he’d gotten that letter; now he had the perfect excuse to refrain from using Gyarados in the League while he got over the Suicune incident. He was really only arguing on principle.

“I wonder if they tried to remove Spirit’s necklace to see if it was some sort of an illegal power-up,” May mused to herself. “I’d pay to see her reaction to that.”

“They also sent me a notice about Charizard,” Mark said. “How he was formally registered to another trainer and how while he had confirmed he wasn’t stolen, unofficial trades were frowned upon by the League and the trading machines available in every Pokémon Center should always be used to prevent misunderstandings, yada yada.”

“Huh,” May responded in bemusement. “Then what did Quilava tell them when they asked her, if Taylor still had her?”

Mark shrugged and looked up, catching a glimpse of the TV screen on the wall above the buffet, behind May. The morning news was on; normally he’d only have given it a passing glance, except for the fact that the all-too-familiar eerie pupilless eyes of Mewtwo² were staring at him from the picture on the anchorwoman’s right.

May was beginning to say something, but he silenced her with a wave of his hand and pointed at the television.

“…meanwhile, public outcry continues as Ouen League officials persist in ignoring fierce protests to the unprecedented decision to permit the entrance of illegal superpowered clone Pokémon forcibly controlled by modified Pokéballs into the League. Many groups have expressed confusion, pointing out the generally rigorous efforts of the League to ensure that participating Pokémon have not been subjected to questionable training methods or power-ups. Several individuals and organizations have accused the League of taking bribes, while a petition against the decision has already gathered over a hundred thousand signatures from all over the world. Allen Brown of the Pokémon Rights Advocacy Group, who started the petition, had this to say.”

Mark stared at the screen as it cut to an interview with a man who looked every bit as baffled as Mark was.

“This is ridiculous,” the man said. “Ridiculous. There are at least three things about this that are plainly illegal, and it spits on virtually every policy the League has. Whatever’s really going on here, it stinks of corruption.”

The picture switched to a slideshow of photos of Rick’s legendary clones that made Mark feel even sicker than he already did while the anchorwoman droned on: “Cleanwater City gym leader Richard Lancaster has long attracted controversy for his use of low-levelled clones of legendary Pokémon in his gym, controlled through the power of a Pokéball of his own invention which is said to repress the free will of the contained Pokémon. He was also granted a special license to keep one low-levelled genetically modified clone in his gym. His younger brother, Taylor Lancaster, was reportedly named in numerous reports to the League during the course of his journey in the past few months for carrying abnormal Pokémon, all of which were ignored. Only during his registration to the League a few days ago did it fully surface that all but one of his Pokémon were genetically modified clones, created without the knowledge and approval of the League, and that one of them was ‘Mewtwo²’, the devastatingly powerful Mewtwo clone that Richard had previously been permitted to keep only at a low level. Despite this, the League has not objected to his participation, and this morning a formal statement was issued, proclaiming their decision to be ‘final’ but that Taylor Lancaster would be restricted to four Pokémon in the League rather than the standard six. This compromise has done little to calm the loud voices from every corner of Ouen calling for Taylor to be disqualified and stripped of his trainer license and Richard to be charged as a criminal.”

That was the end of the story, and the anchorwoman moved on to some other subject as if nothing were more natural while Mark stared at the screen in disbelief.

“That bribing, thieving, disgusting cheater,” May whispered, her voice shaking with anger. “How could he possibly get away with this?”

Mark felt no need to reply; she’d taken the words right out of his mouth. How could they allow Taylor to enter the League using clones, even as they sent out letters disqualifying Spirit and Gyarados for being too powerful? That was too blatant a double standard for even the stupidest of politicians not to notice. In fact, the entire process was so ridiculously obvious in its wrongness that Mark couldn’t really believe it: Taylor had been walking around all this time, cheerfully using his clones; the Clone Balls were recognized to function in very morally questionable ways; there was a particular clause in the exception that permitted Rick to keep Mewtwo², rendering it void if it was ever trained past level ten. How could the brothers have been so ridiculously careless while relying only on Rick’s influence to avoid being stopped in their tracks and charged with all sorts of crimes?

A memory snuck into his mind: their previous encounter with Taylor in Scorpio City and Officer Jenny’s distant, staring eyes as she suddenly ushered them out and closed the door without a further word. It blended in with the details of the news report, and all of a sudden everything clicked.

“Hypnosis,” he said quietly. “They haven’t been bribing the League – they’ve been using Mewtwo² or something to force them to do their bidding. It explains everything – all the leeway Rick has gotten, Officer Jenny in Scorpio City, Taylor being allowed into the League, the ignored reports… everything.”

May looked at him for a long moment, not looking entirely surprised. “It has that kind of power?” she asked, but of course it did. Mewtwo² had slammed Gyarados into a wall with a careless wave of its hand while it was still low-leveled; of course it would make short work of hypnotizing a few government officials if it ever came into contact with them, now that it was no doubt far more powerful.

“We have to tell someone,” Mark said, still in shock, glancing around; nobody else was there for the moment, after a girl had left the room a few minutes earlier. “Somebody has to tell someone.”

May shook her head. “It won’t do any good,” she said. “I mean, Taylor still has Mewtwo², and clearly the Destroyer hasn’t drained it too much yet. Is there really anything we could do to him now that he couldn’t prevent or undo?” She paused and glared fiercely out the window. “I hope I get to battle him. Show that talentless little git that you can’t just waltz through the League with a mind-controlling legendary clone and a power-hungry psycho brother.”

Mark nodded and hoped it too; it felt right for May to be the one to knock Taylor out of the League, more than somebody Taylor had never directly wronged, and he would have to be knocked out if there was any semblance of justice in the world. For as long as he was a participant, he was vulnerable: while he’d slanted the rules in his favour, it did appear he had some genuine sense of wanting to participate in a real competition, what with letting them restrict him to four Pokémon, and that meant he could be beaten. There was no guarantee that he would ever let that happen once the League was over.

Then again, there was no knowing what he might do to get his way if he did lose. Mark shuddered.

“Huh,” May said, mostly to herself. “Come to think of it, the four-Pokémon restriction can’t have been already agreed upon if he was desperate to get a sixth clone last night. I wonder if Rick got the League to put the restriction in place when Taylor came whining to him about getting a new clone afterwards.” She smirked at the thought before turning to Mark and standing up. “Well, let’s go get our Pokémon back, then. We’ve got training to do.”


At the League office building, they retrieved their Pokémon and were given booklets with a detailed rundown of the rules of the League, which May immediately began to read as they headed towards the gate.

“Interesting,” she said. “We’ll have to leave our Pokémon for inspection the night before a match, too.”

Mark glanced at her as the gatekeeper woman waved them through. “Makes sense, I guess.”

“And – oh, here’s the section about the preliminaries,” she said as she turned the page. “I was wondering how those worked.”

Mark moved to read over her shoulder, but she started reading it aloud anyway. “‘The preliminary matches are conducted over a period of seven days, starting on the first of August. Multiple matches may be conducted simultaneously on the League’s three arenas. The preliminary match-ups are published on July twenty-sixth, but the themes of each arena not until the day before each battle. In preliminary battles, trainers use three Pokémon each’ – I’m guessing that means Taylor gets to use two – ‘with switching allowed and the four-move restriction in place. Every trainer has two preliminary battles, after which they are graded on their overall performance, taking into account how many Pokémon fainted on each side, the health of the remaining Pokémon on each side, and overall battle performance as evaluated by the judges and the presiding member of the Elite Four. The top sixteen trainers then proceed to the knockout phase, which begins on the fifteenth of August.’” She turned the page. “Sounds pretty straightforward. Oh, hey, it also says you can see every participant’s registered Pokémon in the computers at the library. Nice.”

Mark looked at her. “Why is that?”

“I suppose otherwise you’d be at an unfair advantage if you happened to have been able to watch your competitor’s previous battles or know them otherwise. Makes sense to just make what you have public and let you keep the ones you bring to the battle secret.”

Mark nodded and realized that they were now walking in the direction of the mountain. “Wait, where are we going?”

“I was thinking we’d find some nice place to train by the mountainside somewhere.” May shrugged and looked at him.

“Well, are we going to train together or separately?” Mark asked unsurely. “I mean…”

“I think it might as well be together for now, before we start specializing for the individual battles. It’s a lot easier to focus one’s efforts that way.”

Mark felt no need to protest; he liked the idea of having May around to give him tips for as long as possible. They found a spot by the mountain, spacious and flat ground hidden from view from the League camp but not too far off, and looked around without saying anything.

The memory of the previous day suddenly bubbled to the top of Mark’s mind. “So did you talk to Quilava?” he asked, looking abruptly at her. Come to think of it, it was rather strange that she had not mentioned it yet.

She looked distractedly at him. “Oh, her,” she said in a voice that attempted unsuccessfully to be casual. “She… She doesn’t want to evolve.”

Mark looked at her, dumbfounded. “What? Really?”

“Yeah,” May said, looking at the rock wall straight in front of her. “She said she’s had enough of it, and that she wouldn’t mind getting to battle a bit, but she’s spent too long as a Quilava to want to…”

She trailed off, not needing to finish. There was something all too ironic in all of this, that May had spent so long obsessing over the thought of reclaiming Quilava only to have her first given back voluntarily and then turn out to not want to evolve, which’d put her at an inherent disadvantage in battle.

“So… what are you going to do?” he asked cautiously.

“Do?” May paused for a long moment, fiddling with the minimized Pokéballs on her necklace, before her expression hardened. “I’m not allowed to use Spirit, so I don’t have a Fire-type. The starters given out by Professor Elm are specially selected, so they’re genetically stronger than anything I might find in the wild here. Who says she won’t change her mind?”

Mark gave her a skeptical look.

“And if she doesn’t,” May went on without looking at him, her voice turning almost angry, “I can just release her, catch a few wild Cyndaquil, or some better Fire Pokémon – I can’t stand bloody Cyndaquil anyway – and keep the best one. Even if she’s got better genes, the evolved form is still stronger.”

She clenched her fist around her Pokéballs. Mark wished he could have said something to calm her down – he would never be able to convince her that using an unevolved Pokémon was not the end of the world, after all – but couldn’t really think of anything to that effect that wouldn’t at the same time encourage her in her dubious intentions. He wanted to tell her that capturing many Pokémon just to pick out the strongest one and release the others was wrong, but he knew that would only get her more riled up. He said nothing at all.

She took a few deep breaths and then looked sharply towards him. “Shouldn’t you talk to Dragonite or something?”

It was an obvious hint that she didn’t want to talk about it; in any case, Mark had almost forgotten that Dragonair had evolved, and now that he’d been reminded of it, he really did want to see how he was doing in his new form. “Oh, yeah, right,” he muttered and grabbed the dragon’s ball. “Go!”

He threw the ball, and it opened to release a formless shape of light that quickly began to shape itself into Dragonite. His first instinctual reaction was that Dragonite was a bit anticlimactically small; he hadn’t gotten a good idea of his size in the Polaryu battle, and now that he could evaluate it properly, he was definitely smaller than Mark’s mental idea of a Dragonite. But when the light had faded away completely, he still felt pride well up in his chest: he actually did have a Dragonite, one of the strongest non-legendary Pokémon in the world.

Dragonite turned around to look at him.

“So…” Mark began, not sure how to start a conversation. “How’s being a Dragonite?”

“Feels very weird,” the dragon muttered in a voice oddly unlike his own as he raised a chubby arm and moved his claws slowly. “It will take some time to get used to having limbs.”

Mark tried to imagine what sort of an experience it would be to grow limbs all of a sudden if you’d never had them and could only conclude it had to be very alien. He said nothing; it was beginning to creep upon him that, particularly in the light of the discussion he had just had with May, maybe it had been inappropriately selfish of him to be so excited about Dragonair’s evolution – had he ever properly made it clear that it was his choice?

“And I feel kind of… ungraceful,” Dragonite went on without really waiting for an answer. “Like a balloon. I’d gotten used to controlling my flight the way I was before.” He concentrated and flapped his tiny wings rapidly, but didn’t budge from the ground. He growled in irritation and leapt off the ground with his hind legs, only to bound surprisingly high into the air, where he got thrown sideways by the wind. He regained his balance awkwardly, still floating slowly towards the ground in a very balloonlike manner, and then began to flap his wings again, which this time managed to stop his descent and propel him forward.

“Oh, I get it,” he said brightly, flying forward and gathering speed as he went; he accelerated more quickly than Mark would have expected. “I could get used to this.”

“So you’ll be okay, I mean, having evolved?” Mark asked cautiously.

Dragonite looked at him, his expression puzzled. “What? Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”

“So,” May said suddenly, reaching for a Pokéball before Mark could think up an answer, “how about a battle to see what you can do now?”

Dragonite looked towards her and made a careful landing. “I suppose,” he said. Mark hurried over to his Pokémon’s side to stand opposite May as she threw the ball she had plucked from her necklace.

“Go, Tyranitar!”

Mark was a bit doubtful as he watched May’s dinosaur materializing; sand was already beginning to twirl up on the ground around it in obedient response to Tyranitar’s presence. The two Pokémon were about the same size, but Tyranitar obviously had more experience with his evolved form and had had more training since his evolution, not to mention that Dragonite would be weak to Rock attacks; Mark couldn’t help thinking it wasn’t a fair match-up at all. But he couldn’t deny that Dragonite and Tyranitar were viewed as counterpart species, and they’d caught them at the same time; in a way it did seem fitting.

“Okay, Dragonite,” Mark began, “use Dragon Rush.”

“Tyranitar, Stone Edge!” May yelled.

Dragonite was faster and took off in a leap that, again, seemed far too high and slow for the weight he ought to be; intense blue flames cloaked his body, far brighter than when he’d been a Dragonair, while Tyranitar roared and raised chunks of rock out of the ground below him. Dragonite dodged them in his dive downwards, closed his eyes as he entered the cloud of sand around Tyranitar and then smashed his body into the dinosaur, causing Tyranitar to stumble a little backwards as Dragonite retreated back out of the sandstorm.

“Aqua Tail!” Mark shouted quickly.

“Rock Slide!”

Tyranitar was still recovering as Dragonite’s tail lengthened and dissolved into water in mid-air. He dove back towards his opponent, drawing his tail back, and then whipped it powerfully into May’s Pokémon. Tyranitar growled in pain, thrust a paw into the air and with it caused an array of rocks to tear themselves out of the mountain and smack into Dragonite’s back, sending him flying right over May’s head. He crashed into the ground several meters away.

“Another Stone Edge,” May ordered; Mark saw the danger immediately, his Pokémon being vulnerable on the ground. “Dragonite, quick!” he shouted. “Get back up!”

But Dragonite was only beginning to push himself to his feet when the ground underneath him cracked apart, sharp rocks exploding upwards and sending him flying. Here it benefited him how light he was in practice, however: instead of his weight helping the edges of the rocks pierce into his hide, the attack served more to throw him upwards where he flapped his wings frantically and managed to shake the stones off himself. Instantly his tail turned into water again and he dived down to smack it into Tyranitar.

“Crunch!” May yelled as the dinosaur was hit and roared in pain; he countered by seizing one of Dragonite’s feet in his jaws as he began to ascend again. The dragon cried in pain, tugging on the leg as the sandstorm continued to beat on his hide, but Tyranitar held him still – for a second, Mark was comically reminded of a child trying to hold on to a particularly large helium balloon.

“Tyranitar, use Stone Edge while he’s stuck!”

The ground underneath Dragonite began to crack, and he tried in seeming desperation to fly up without success; then suddenly he pulled straight sideways, just as the sharp rocks began to tear themselves out of the ground below, and thus dragged Tyranitar straight into the path of his own attack. He roared in pain as the sharp stones drilled into his thick hide, and Dragonite wriggled himself loose from his open jaws and was quick to get out of the way.

Tyranitar fell onto the ground on his side, beaten and battered and clearly unable to stand up. He looked at May with a desperate gaze as the last wisps of the sandstorm died down; she looked from Dragonite to Mark, her lips thin.

Mark let out a short burst of repressed, disbelieving laughter. He wouldn’t normally gloat at a victory, but he couldn’t help himself: he’d just beaten May, with her at a type advantage. It seemed ridiculous.

“Look,” May said, “that does not count. It was a practice battle so that Dragonite could get used to fighting in his new – shut up, Mark.” She gave him a glare, but he couldn’t have stopped giggling if he’d tried.

“I know you think this is just sore loser talk,” May said heatedly, her face already reddening, “but I was not making any effort. I thought Tyranitar could beat Dragonite with brute force and no strategy, and you got lucky.”

“Yeah, suuure,” Mark replied with a grin that prompted another murderous glare. But even though winning this was priceless, and a definite moment of triumph on Dragonite’s part, he knew better than to seriously think himself the better trainer for it, and it would have been rather hypocritical to tease her too much about it. With the general mood she was in, he didn’t really want to, either. She just gave him a resentful look and reached for a Pokéball.

After hastily recalling Tyranitar, May quickly got to discussing moves with Dragonite to change the subject, and they spent the rest of the day guiding their Pokémon in picking up various useful moves similarly to how Letal had learned Iron Head. By the time they returned to the trainer lodges for dinner, Mark already felt like they had made enormous progress.

Despite everything, in the end, he was grateful that she was there with him.

The League form letters disqualifying Gyarados and Spirit are like my favorite chapter opening in the entire fic.

Get hype for start of the League proper next time!


Multiversal Extraordinaire
Stranded In The Gaps between Multiverses
  1. froslass
  2. custom/zorua-gojira
Hello hello, Dragonfree! Hope you're having a great day! I thought I'd give this a shot after some initial curiosity from hearing about it.

Also I can't believe this fic's a year older than me, sheesh. (And the fact that you're planning on rewriting this is amazing, this kind of dedication is great)

Anyway onto the review!

The prologue starts off almost a 1000 years before the main story (Yeah! Subvert that 'after a millennium' trope by deducting a year from it!). We get some mysterious figure killing all but two legends and an unknown fakemon named chalenor.

(Also wait a second, I just realise that Mewtwo was in the prologue and it was implied to be 999 years ago. How the hell is Mewtwo there?)

Chapter 1 starts off with our main character, Mark who is sad and lonely because he's talented but can't be a trainer. Some cool world building bits are tossed in and sprinkled around, like Pokémon being sapient and considered actual people and we get to see a little bit about this new region you've created. Not much really happens in this chapter as it's mostly an introduction.

Then comes chapter 2 and we learn a bit about the legendaries you've created. You're going down the mythical fantasy side and making them dragons and unicorns which is an interesting choice. I've never really seen a unicorn Pokémon before (if you don't count Glastrier and Rapidash of course) so I'm a bit curious to know more about them. After that, we learn about this strange Chaletwo creature that sounds suspiciously like chalenor and the creature that could kill with its mere presence so he's probably gonna be on some evil team's hitlist later on.

We also get a cool concept where schools are teaching people how to understand Pokémon and it is such a cool idea that I'm surprised not many people had thought of. (Like I've only seen one fic that had someone learn how to speak Pokémon and not have it be some magical thing)

We also get a nearly-dead Charmander on the scene (One that is so suspiciously like the anime's) and bam, he becomes Mark's starter. (Whoopee!)

Chapter 3 doesn't really have much stuff in it that's really worth mentioning other than 'Woah, an Eevee!' that and the talk of honour and Pokémon-human treaty. (Which I guess explains why you can't catch fainted Pokémon in the games)

And I guess it's time to segue into my place for some line-by-line thoughts:

Others were completely torn apart, so that it seemed almost like a supernatural being
Well considering that there are legendaries here...
but its mere presence had made everything else drop dead as well.
This reminds me of something but I'm not quite sure what it is.
These former streets contained the bodies of twelve legendary Pokémon.
Huh, already some dead legendaries. That was fast.
but two of them would soon be buried in the sands of time, forgotten and insignificant in history.
Hm, I'm gonna guess these two are maybe the Eon twins? Mew and Two? Groudon and Kyogre?
which was that they were not among the mutilated ones.
Well, I guess having your body intact is pretty outstanding compared to the rest.

a black, feline-like head with neon green markings
Oh, a fakemon. Cool. (I technically have one too)

and immediately bring the narrative to a halt while he inner monologues for like seven straight chunky paragraphs
Heh, nice.
Exactly 999 years later,
For some reason this is just strangely funny to me. It's so randomly specific even when it doesn't have to.

Sailance. Okay? Is this what Mark's town is called?
while Mark was home in Sailance, walking alone, quiet and feeling miserable.
A lot of people can relate to that, Mark.

Almost all the other kids had been taken to Green Town last year to receive a Pokémon from Ash Ketchum.
Ash Ketchum. Huh, wasn't expecting him to make a cameo though I guess this is a story about legendaries.
How about a professional artist, since you draw so well?
Being a professional artist is considered a job? I thought art degrees were useless. (All the memes said they were)

Pokémonish. Amazing.

Jokes aside, I think it's a unique and cool idea to have the world actually learning to understand Pokémon speech. Why haven't more fics thought of this?
He was pulled out of his thoughts by the sound of the bell ringing. Mark hated that sound; it hurt his ears.
The worst part is when you're standing next to the bell and not expecting it.

“Come on,” he said bitterly to himself, “stop dreaming… you’re never going to become a Pokémon trainer.”
Never say never especially if you're the protag of a story.

That happened because I used the wrong English word in a previous version
Fell for that inflammable, flammable shtick didn't ya?

thin blonde with big, toadlike eye
Toad-like eyes... What the fu-
Mark didn’t say anything; he was aware of that, but he was still hoping somebody had released the Charmander on purpose.
Oh boy, this is sending red flags for me.

“No, wait… you can stay here and all… just as a pet or something!”
A sapient creature as a pet... (I know you've said in your notes that these earlier parts weren't the best but oh god this feels weird)
Mark’s mother put up a weird expression halfway between a smile and a hopeless look, and then said: “You’re incredible, boys – I think there’s no way to keep you in here for very long before you think of a way to force us to let you out.”
This just feels forced. There wasn't any foreshadow to elude to this (well not that I noticed if you did) and it just comes out of nowhere. (I know I know you said to not judge them or give too deep of a criticism but this feels way too weird for me to not point out)

Lidreki technically wasn’t one of the real Color Dragons; it evolved into them.
Oh, so it's like Cosmog
Chaletwo? Wait, is this a clone of Chalenor? (Oh my god, I just remembered something. This thing's the one that killed all those legendaries in the prologue didn't it?)
So overall, a cool fic with some cool word building. I'd love to check it out sometime but I got more stories to go through before Blitz ends.

Take care!
Chapter 46 Extra: Letting Go


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Thanks for reviewing, ShiniGojira! :D

Also I can't believe this fic's a year older than me, sheesh.
I always get such a kick out of people telling me this, haha.

(Also wait a second, I just realise that Mewtwo was in the prologue and it was implied to be 999 years ago. How the hell is Mewtwo there?)

Fell for that inflammable, flammable shtick didn't ya?
Ahaha, it's a lot more convoluted than that! What I meant to write was that Mark put Charmander in an oven-safe baking tray, the kind you cook food in, because that was flameproof. However, I'm a non-native English speaker, and I had no idea what you call pretty much any kitchenware, so I looked in a dictionary. The Icelandic word I was thinking of is fat. However, as it happens this word has two meanings, and the other somewhat more obscure one is a piece of clothing. The dictionary thus gave me garment. I had never seen that word before and was just cool, okay, checks out, he put Charmander in a flame-proof garment. Then readers went what, and I actually looked up 'garment' and was mortified to discover I'd made a mistake. Instead of admitting a dictionary had led me astray because I just didn't know the English word I wanted, I then pulled this ridiculous effort to double down and pretend that yes, I did in fact mean he put Charmander on a flame-proof piece of clothing, that's just a thing because of this worldbuilding about how clothes are fireproof now because Ash kept getting roasted by his Charizard okay

Chapter 47 should be coming in a couple days, but in the meantime, here's another extra! This is a short one, again featuring May. I wish I'd given Quilava a bit more of a voice in it (I added a little bit more but couldn't make it what I would really want it to be without more extensive edits than I'm doing for this thread), but it's at least a fun insight into May's head.

Chapter 46 Extra: Letting Go​

May took a deep breath and exhaled slowly; wispy clouds of vapor formed in front of her face and disappeared. The night was cold for the summer, possibly partly because she was so near the icy Champion Cave, and she hadn’t thought to put her coat on. Stupid.

She dropped the Pokéball she was holding on the ground and watched the bright, white light take the shape of her starter by her feet. Quilava shook herself, the spiky flames on her head and rear flaring up with a soft sound; when May said nothing, she looked up at her trainer. Neutral. Maybe she already knew why they were here.

“Right,” May said. She took another deep breath and hated herself for needing it. “So. I’ve decided that…”

She looked at the Pokémon, who watched her in silence; her flames burned peacefully, their warmth warding her freezing legs from the cold.

May cleared her throat. “I need a different Fire-type. One who is willing to put everything into this, and who has something more to offer than just fire. I’m getting a Torchic. I know where they are on the island.”

Quilava stood there, silent, unmoving; only her fire flickered and burned. It wasn’t as if May had expected her to be surprised, since they had really both known it would end like this ever since Quilava had made her will clear, but May had hoped – well, expected, at any rate – that the Pokémon would have some sort of a reaction to this. That she would say something. Maybe she just didn’t get it.

May knew Quilava was not that dumb, but she clarified it anyway: “So I don’t need you.”

It stung her to say it, after she’d spent so damned long looking for her; heck, Quilava was the only reason she was still in this region. She would’ve returned to Johto had she not clung to the hope of finding Taylor again. It all seemed so stupid and pointless now – like she’d wasted the past months of her life. She’d always expected she would at least get the satisfaction of wrenching the Pokéball out of Taylor’s grip, and there he’d just handed it to her voluntarily, at his own discretion, leaving the entire build-up just a dull throb of disappointment in the back of her mind.

And now this. Her first Pokémon sighed, looking away. Then glanced up at her, wary, as if waiting to see if she had anything else to say.

Her very first real Pokémon. The Cyndaquil she had pointed at when Professor Elm had given her the choice, just because she knew female starters were rare. Worst mistake of her life.

“Damn it,” she hissed under her breath. Her starter. Starters were supposed to end up as your most powerful Pokémon, the pinnacle of your team, the last Pokémon sent out at the end of the final battle to decide the winner of the League Championships. A dumb cliché, maybe, but still. And here she was, with her level fifteen Quilava who didn’t want to evolve – useless. Wasted.

It hadn’t even been too late. May could have brought her to glory, made her that powerful starter, the eventual Champion’s top Pokémon. If only that – that stupid little Quilava hadn’t turned her back on it. That was her own fault. She didn’t know what she was missing.

But it was for the best anyway. Her team needed a Fighting-type. It had always needed a Fighting-type.

“There are wild Cyndaquil around here,” she said. “You’ll be happy with them. Maybe you’ll find a mate and have eggs and…”

She took a few more breaths to steady herself; she was starting to tremble with cold. More misty vapor formed and dissolved in front of her. Quilava was looking up at her, frowning.

“…and, well, you’ll be much better off.”

Trading Quilava for Taylor’s Charmander – something that could become a Charizard. A Pokémon she didn’t hate. Why had she thrown the stupid ball away, anyway? It was a dumb thing to do, even if it was a lower-leveled Charmander. She could have trained it, evolved it and never looked back; Taylor could have released Quilava by himself. Everybody would have been happy.

“So goodbye, and have a nice life.”

And then switching the Pokéballs in Scorpio City so that Taylor would get Quilava again and Mark would have Charmeleon back – stupid Mark, who never should have gotten that Charmander in the first place, if she hadn’t thrown the stupid ball away. If she hadn’t switched, if she had gotten Quilava back then, perhaps things would have been different.

The Pokémon sighed again. Something in her expression had turned almost pitying, and a flare of anger rose in May’s chest. Quilava nudged her leg gently with the side of her head – some kind of goodbye gesture, she supposed. The flames only tickled, warm and soft and comforting.

“Just… go away already,” May said, and her voice was breaking. “It’s cold.”

Quilava stayed pressed against her leg for a long second. “It’s okay,” the Pokémon said at last, quiet, without looking up. “We’ll both be better off.”

She lingered there for a moment with her flames burning brightly; then she extinguished the fire with a soft thump, looked briefly up at her trainer, and then scuttled off into the dark.

May looked after her until the shadows had swallowed her completely.

Stupid Quilava. She’d always hated those things.

She shivered, the cold biting at her legs with renewed vigor now that the flames were gone, and walked hastily back towards the lights of the trainer lodges, fiddling with her nametag with freezing fingers.

The Ouen League - Chapter 47: The First Preliminary


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Welp, it sure took ages to find any time to finish editing this one. Sorry about that! Will try to do three days apart until I'm caught up with the art again.

Please enjoy chapter 47, featuring strategizing, Mark's first League battle, and an encounter with Mewtwo².

The Ouen League – Chapter 47: The First Preliminary​


The days passed surprisingly rapidly from there: May seemed to think of something new to suggest in the way of practicing or training every day, and for all of Mark’s worries that those weeks before the formal beginning of the League would be very tiring for both him and the Pokémon, there was never a dull moment in all of it. His Pokémon seemed only more energized than usual with all the exercise they were getting, and Mark himself had never enjoyed being a trainer as much as now, when he was focused on training, felt like he was making actual progress, and was spending more time with his Pokémon every day.

So when one morning May reminded him that this was the day that the preliminary match-ups would be published, the sudden panic he experienced was an all-too-uncomfortable slap back to reality.

“Wait, we’re starting to train separately now?”

“Wasn’t that the idea?” May replied with a shrug between chewing the last few spoonfuls of her cornflakes. “The big screens outside will show us the names of the people we have to battle in the preliminaries, and then we can go to the library to see what they have. After that, we’ll probably have to focus on different things anyway, and we should be getting to specializing and refining our strategies.”

They finished their breakfast and walked outside, where all the trainers who had arrived since they’d gotten there had already gathered in a crowd, craning their necks up towards the enormous screen. It flipped all too slowly through a slideshow, with the photos and names of the competing trainers shown below the date and arena of their match for at least twenty seconds before the next pair was shown. After what seemed like ages, Mark’s name finally came up: first matched with a red-headed, serious-looking boy named Aaron White on arena two on the third of August, and then with Megan Hayfield, the dark brown-haired girl he had recognized from the Cleanwater City Pokémon Center at the beginning of his journey, in the main stadium on the fifth. Aaron White also looked irritatingly familiar, although Mark couldn’t for the life of him put his finger on where he had seen him before. May apparently had a battle on the third as well, and then one on the seventh, the last day of the preliminaries.

They squeezed themselves out of the crowd and headed towards the library, where May showed Mark how to log in to the League database and look up participants (she had apparently gone there on one of the first days to find out exactly what Taylor had). Mark found himself oddly amused by the grayed-out picture of Gyarados on his own profile, which May had loaded as a sample. After that he checked Aaron White and Megan Hayfield (the former had exactly six, seemingly carefully-chosen Pokémon, while the latter had several pages of what looked like nearly every Pokémon she had ever come across but had still, bizarrely, all been trained to respectable levels), wrote down some notes on them into his sketchbook, and then told May, who was still staring intently at the Pokémon owned by her first opponent, that he would go out to train.

It felt oddly lonely to be going out of the League HQ without her company again, after having gotten so used to her almost-constant presence. In a way it was nice; part of him had missed solitude, and it was somehow relieving to finally find himself nearing the mountain with the chatter of the now quite crowded League area gradually fading into background noise while, closer by, the grunts and growls of battling Pokémon blended in with their trainers’ voices. The relative silence was kind of soothing. At the same time, it felt decidedly like something was just missing when she wasn’t babbling on about battle strategies by his side; it had become such an integral part of being there that the lack of it made him stop there and look dully around, half-expecting her to come after him.

He plucked Charizard’s Pokéball from his belt and released the dragon. Over their stay at the League, his tail flame had grown and brightened and his body turned leaner and more muscular, which had made him look considerably more like the champion Charizard he had seen on TV; the dragon had also confessed that he generally felt far better now, physically, and it had shown in their training. As he yawned and stretched his wings out, Mark could see the powerful muscles flexing under the thick orange hide and felt a twinge of pride on his behalf.

“Morning,” the dragon said. “Where’s May?”

“We’re going to be specializing now,” Mark said. “They published the preliminary match-ups this morning. We have about a week to figure out how to beat the first guy.” He lifted his sketchpad and flipped back to the page where he had written down the information on Aaron White. “Uh, he has a Ditto, a Smeargle, a Ninjask, a Lanturn, a Flygon and a Glalie.”

Charizard tilted his head. “That will be… interesting.”

Two girls had approached, chatting very loudly together, and now began to battle very close by with accompanying shouts and screams; Mark looked at Charizard.

“Let’s get out of here,” the Pokémon agreed, and Mark climbed onto his back before he took off. After the Volcaryu battle, Mark hadn’t really expected to ever ride on Charizard’s back again; however, as more people had arrived at the League and the general area had become more crowded, they had eventually resorted to flying over to find good spots to train, and although he had been hesitant to do it at first, remembering the general discomfort of his previous flying experience, he had quickly gotten used to it and figured out how to keep himself reasonably balanced during flight.

Generally it was May who picked out locations, and Mark wasn’t quite sure what he was looking for now that he was left alone for the task. They flew wide circles over the mountainous landscape – Mark could only truly appreciate the sheer size of the base of Champ Mountain when he saw it from above – and eventually he recognized a place where he had gone with May at one point, a low, rocky area near a pond, surrounded by higher peaks and roughly the size of a standard Pokémon battle arena. He pointed it out to Charizard and they descended quickly to land by the pond, where Mark got off and sent out his other Pokémon.

The entire group, not just Charizard, was in better shape now. Mark could have sworn Sandslash had physically grown, and the training had seen his speed and reflexes improve considerably. Jolteon had also become even speedier, and he had become quite masterful at dodging attacks, a skill that had emerged in a training session where May was trying to gauge the best talents of each Pokémon. Scyther could hit harder and had learned a few new attacks from TMs that they had bought from the League Pokémart on May’s recommendation – Aerial Ace, U-turn and, at her insistence that it was a good idea, Brick Break; he had also become quite adept at using Night Slash and Double Hit. Dragonite had become more practised at flying and otherwise managing his movements with every passing day; he had also learned to use attacks such as Fire Punch and Thunder Punch, Outrage and Hyper Beam. Charizard himself could now use Dragon Claw, Shadow Claw and Air Slash as well as having learned Flare Blitz; May had recommended a Swords Dance TM. Letal…

Well, Letal had not evolved.

That, of course, had only made her more quiet and moody; Mark had tried to talk to her a few times, but she generally didn’t answer with anything more than spat monosyllables, although he hoped at least some of his reassurances had gotten across to her. She had become very attached to May since their arrival at the League and naturally been very enthusiastic about training the whole while: she’d become faster, stronger, bigger; her stamina had improved; she’d learned Aerial Ace and Giga Impact from TMs; she’d even picked up Night Slash from Scyther on her own just by watching him perform the move. But none of this had made her evolve, and while Mark and May had never actually mentioned it beyond exchanging occasional glances, he could tell that Letal was slowly realizing that her evolution, if it were ever to happen, was long overdue. And eventually even her determination for battle had faded, replaced by a perpetual resentful bitterness and dull, mindless obedience when they trained that was somehow considerably worse to bear than her frequently brutal original strategies had been.

So now, as Letal lay on the ground a short distance away from his other Pokémon and looked at him with an empty expression, he felt a twinge of guilt and wished he only knew how to help her. Now May wasn’t even here to engage her about battling. He decided he would talk to her that evening, not that he was sure anything would come out of it; for now, all his Pokémon were waiting for him to say something.

“Um,” he said. “The preliminary match-ups were published this morning. On the third of August, I’m battling this guy who has a Ditto, a Smeargle, a Ninjask, a Lanturn, a Flygon and a Glalie. May isn’t going to be with us anymore, so you guys are going to have to help me figure out which three of you would do best against him and how to prepare.” After a moment of thought, he sat down on a rock to face the Pokémon, who looked at one another.

“What types are they again?” Charizard asked.

Mark looked down at his notes. “Well, Ditto transforms, so it’d be whatever is facing it,” he said. “Smeargle’s Normal, but it can learn any attack so it doesn’t count for much. Ninjask is Bug and Flying. Lanturn is Water and Electric. Flygon is… Ground and Dragon. But it flies. And Glalie’s Ice.”

He looked questioningly up at his Pokémon; finally, Sandslash said, “Well, I think Scyther would do well. He can use Aerial Ace against Ninjask or a Ditto transformed into Scyther, he can use Brick Break against Smeargle and Glalie, and he can fly, so Ground attacks from Flygon wouldn’t affect him.”

Mark nodded slowly and looked at Scyther.

“Well, the Ditto could get me just as well with Aerial Ace, and Ninjask could know it,” the mantis said. “Glalie and Lanturn would both be trouble, and as for Smeargle, it probably packs a Rock attack or two. I wouldn’t be so sure.”

“I could beat Ninjask, Flygon and Glalie,” Charizard said. “As long as you have someone for Lanturn…”

“You need someone without a crippling weakness, for Smeargle,” Letal interrupted all of a sudden; Mark jerked his head towards her, but she was still lying disinterestedly where she’d been before, her eyes closed so that if she weren’t talking, he’d almost have thought she was asleep. “Use Sandslash.”

Sandslash looked at her in surprise. “But I… Ninjask and Flygon can both fly, and Lanturn is a Water-type. It can’t be a good…”

“If he is using a Smeargle,” Letal interrupted again, opening one eye in annoyance, “he will have taught it powerful moves of all types, just to exploit people like you whose Pokémon will all fall in one or two hits from the right attack. Use Sandslash. He can maybe take a couple of hits while he brings it down.”

Mark looked at Sandslash and then back at Letal, who had closed her eyes again. “Well,” he said finally, “I guess it would be nice, just to be safe.”

“Then you definitely need something that can handle Ninjask, Flygon and Glalie,” Sandslash said, still a bit unsurely. “So you should use Charizard.”

“And then Lanturn is the biggest problem,” Mark replied, nodding. “Jolteon can maybe…”

“It’ll have Volt Absorb,” Letal put in. “Don’t.”

Mark stared at her again. “Where did you learn all this stuff?”

“I have paid attention to what May has said,” Letal replied, her eyes still closed. “It might do you some good.”

Mark ignored the snide comment. “Uh, so… Dragonite?”

“It’s common for Water Pokémon to know Ice attacks,” Letal pointed out.

“Okay, so…” He looked briefly over his Pokémon, counting them off in his head. “That leaves… you.”


“But why are you thinking of this as if he is going to use all six?” Dragonite protested. “Shouldn’t we consider how he will put together his team of three?”

“If we can beat all six, why bother reducing the problem?” Letal said coolly, looking at him. “You will not be any good when three of his Pokémon probably know Ice attacks; he would have to be insane to not use any of them against a trainer with a Dragonite. Jolteon will only be of use against Ninjask, and he has two Earthquake-users and two Electric immunities. Everything Scyther can do, Charizard can do better. He will most likely use Smeargle, and therefore you will need Sandslash. And it is no use considering Ditto, since which fighter wins will then depend on the strategies used. It is plain who should be in this battle. Send me out first.”

She closed her eyes again, laying her head back on her paws as if to sleep, and said nothing more.

Mark looked uselessly around at his Pokémon. “Eh… let’s try to think of some specific strategies to use?”


“Letal has turned into you,” Mark told May at dinner. She just raised an eyebrow, unable to answer verbally while her mouth was stuffed with spaghetti.

“She went all strategic on me, deciding for us who I should use in the first preliminary battle and stuff,” he explained. “Even though she doesn’t act that enthusiastic about actually battling.”

May shrugged, swallowing. “She could just be distracting herself from the evolution thing.”

Mark nodded. “Yeah, that’s what I was thinking,” he said. “Or trying to find another way to prove herself or something.”

“Blaziken learned Flare Blitz today,” May said. “Almost on level with the rest now. Mutark is still a bit behind. She can be damned hard to train.”

Mark was silent. May had released her Quilava a few days after their arrival and caught an energetic, light-hearted Torchic instead; she’d gone on tirades about how much she needed a Fighting-type and how important it was to have finally gotten one. Quilava had more or less not been mentioned since, while she seemed to grab every opportunity to use her new Blaziken, talk about his progress and what a great addition to her team he was, almost as if to convince Mark what a good idea it had been to release her. Mark hated hearing about it and didn’t want to encourage it by answering. He sighed.

“I guess it’s a good thing, if it helps Letal deal with it,” he said to change the subject back, and May just shrugged, ending that discussion.


After dinner, he went to his room, sent Letal out and sat down on the bed. She emerged from the ball lying down and showed no sign of being awake until Mark cleared his throat and she opened one eye.

“So um… how are you feeling?”

“Feeling?” she asked disdainfully. “Like usual, I suppose.”

At least she seemed a little more talkative than she had been the last time he had tried to talk to her, which could only be considered encouraging. “Well, thanks for the strategic pointers today.”

“I couldn’t let you make idiotic decisions in front of me without commenting.”

“It would be nice to get some peace from people telling me what to do, now that May is off my back,” Mark said, with a note of annoyance. “Especially if you’re going to sit here calling me an idiot. It might make me less inclined to want to help you evolve, you know.”

Letal chuckled. “It’s pointless to threaten me. We both know I’m not going to evolve like this.”

She was right, and this was really not the time to be angry at her. Mark sighed. “I’m sorry. Is it still bothering you, the evolution thing?”

Letal looked at him in a way he took as a yes.

“Is there anything I could do to help you with that?”


“I’ll take that as a no.” He sighed again and rubbed his eyes. “So, well…”

He hesitated. He knew that they would have to come to that subject sooner or later, but he didn’t know how she would react and it was painful to bring back to the front of his mind.

“About your father,” he said finally, stopped and looked at her, waiting for a reaction of some sort. There was none.

“What about him?” Letal said after a few seconds of silence.

“You… still want to…”

“What makes you think I would have changed my mind?”

Mark opened his mouth and closed it again, not sure what to say; an empty feeling of dread was washing over him, and he already regretted having brought it up. “Well, I was just sort of hoping…”

Letal snorted. “It is none of your business. Why are you concerning yourself with it?”

He took a deep breath. “Well, I don’t always see eye to eye with my parents either, but I still love them and wouldn’t want anything… I mean… and I wouldn’t want to kill anyone, even if I hated them,” he finished hopelessly.

Letal looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “Good for you.”

“But I mean, couldn’t you just… talk about it or something?” Mark asked lamely; Letal only chuckled at the suggestion.

He couldn’t just try to tell her it was wrong. She was a Pokémon and obviously didn’t see it that way, and he really didn’t trust himself to try to argue a concept like that from the ground up, least of all in a way that would make her at all inclined to change her position. Besides, this sort of thing wasn’t supposed to be any of a human’s business.

All he could really offer was a weak, “Well, could you please try to… think about it before it comes to that?” And when that was met with only a tired glance before Letal closed her eyes again and laid her head back down, he took it as a signal to end the conversation.


The next days passed quickly; he practiced moves with Letal, Sandslash and Charizard while they collectively considered strategies that could be employed against each individual one of Aaron’s Pokémon and some more general ones that emerged from the discussion. While Letal tended to make many of the largest contributions, Mark felt that he was slowly getting the hang of it as well, and the other Pokémon quickly started to make more comments, particularly on ideas concerning their own abilities.

On the first of August, May dragged him with her to watch one of the first preliminary matches, on a desert-themed arena: the main stadium had been filled with sand and the battlefield had been heated even past the above-average outside temperature. This put its mark very visibly on the battlers during the match: towards the end, most of the Pokémon were very visibly exhausted, thanks to the switching that had prolonged the battle considerably and the smouldering heat that took a toll on their endurance. One of the trainers, though, had brought a Charizard and a Cacturne, who held up a lot better than the rest and secured a confident victory. By the time it was over, Mark had gotten all too nervous about his own battle, having realized just how much of an effect the environment could have; they had never really considered the arena themes in their plans.

“Whether you win isn’t the most important thing, you know,” May said as they were leaving the stadium. “They know that the themed arenas might give one trainer’s Pokémon more of an advantage by sheer luck. It’s about how well you use the arena anyway. The kid who lost – it’s the guy I’m up against in my second preliminary match. I’ve checked his profile. He has Pokémon that would be better suited to a desert arena, but he just went with what seemed like it had the most immediate offensive advantages against the other guy. You just don’t use a Glaceon on an arena like this. And the other kid did some clever stuff – remember that Flamethrower turning the sand into glass?”

Mark, who had not thought much about the possibility of having to reconsider the three Pokémon he would bring (though it did satisfy him, in an odd way, that neither had Letal), did not feel much better to hear this. Regardless, he spent the rest of the day with his Pokémon frantically thinking of possible arena themes and how they might affect their chances. Letal grudgingly agreed that depending on the arena it might be necessary to reconsider their strategy, though she made sure to mention that on a desert arena the current team they had been planning would still be the best. The eventual conclusion of the day was mostly that there were too many possibilities and that there was no sense in trying to plan for every possibility when they could find out for sure what their theme was the next day and prepare for it then.

Mark went to bed praying it was something convenient.



Mark’s heart sank as he stared at the giant screen; he really hoped he had misread it somehow, but no, it definitely said that the theme of arena two on the third of August would be water.

“Why does it have to be water of all things?” he moaned. “I can’t even use my Water Pokémon! And two of the ones I was going to use are weak to Water!”

May smirked. “You shouldn’t have decided what you wanted to use before learning the theme. You’re supposed to figure out what each of your Pokémon could do against what he has, and then you choose which combination would work best on the arena after you learn what the theme will be.”

“You could have mentioned that before,” Mark muttered, said goodbye and squeezed himself out of the crowd so he could send Charizard out. They went back to their usual training spot by the pond, and Mark sent out the others and explained the situation.

“What is a water arena like, anyway?” Letal asked, irritated, as she paced around; in the past two days she had completely stopped her habit of lying on the ground and being half-asleep while they discussed strategies. “A bigger pool?”

“Usually the entire arena is filled with water, minus where the trainers stand,” Mark replied, remembering seeing water-themed arenas on television. “Then they have platforms that non-Water Pokémon can stand on, but it’s a lot about knocking the opponent into the water. I think our whole plan is screwed.”

He looked at Sandslash, who took a step backwards. “I’m not coming anywhere near that,” he said, shivering as he shook his head. “I couldn’t even use Earthquake effectively.”

Letal pawed the ground in agitation, but said nothing. Mark knew that she’d really wanted to be in this battle, even if she’d tried to act indifferent about it, and though he couldn’t say he knew it for sure, he strongly suspected that Letal couldn’t swim; the armor both weighed her down and somewhat inhibited her movement. Her silence only confirmed this.

“So,” Mark said. “We’ll have to rethink this completely. Jolteon, you’re definitely in – when they’re wet they’ll be hurt more by Electric attacks. Charizard, what do you say? Water arena, but you can fly.”

The dragon looked at Mark with skepticism, but finally he said, “If I’m needed, I’m in.”

“I’ll participate,” Letal said suddenly, looking back at Mark. “I don’t care if it’s a water arena.”

“Can you swim?”

“No,” she replied, “but I want to take part anyway.”

“Letal,” Sandslash said gently, “if they knock you into the water, you need to be able to get out of it again.”

Letal gave him a glare, but didn’t respond; at last she laid herself down on the ground again, closed her eyes and muttered, “Fine. Do what you like.”

Mark couldn’t say he particularly wanted to please Letal in this; he’d done enough of doing what she told him already. With a sigh, he decided to ignore her and turned back to his other Pokémon. “Okay, let’s figure this out properly. On a water arena, wouldn’t the guy almost definitely use Lanturn? I mean, especially since two of my Pokémon are weak to electricity and a third is weak to Water attacks. It’s also likely to know an Ice attack, which would be good against Dragonite as well. That’s… Jolteon and Letal left as possibilities to deal with it, pretty much, and…” He gave Letal a glance; she was either asleep or, more likely, pretending to be. “Well, if she can’t swim, she’s pretty much out of the picture. So Jolteon, what could you do against it, if it has Volt Absorb?”

“Not much,” Jolteon muttered. “Just… Pin Missile, I think.”

Mark scratched his forehead, thinking. “Right. Well, we’ll have to do something about that. Now… Smeargle?”

“If I’m on the team,” Scyther said, “I could go for knocking it out before it ever gets to attack me.” He shrugged and looked at Mark.

“Right. Maybe. Or Dragonite. Ditto is just Ditto. Um… how likely is he to use Glalie?”

“I think it’s likely,” Dragonite answered. “He has to figure you won’t use Sandslash, but he might also realize you can’t use Letal, and maybe think you wouldn’t use Charizard either.”

“Well,” Scyther put in, “If I were a trainer and I knew my opponent had a Dragonite, I’d assume he would use it. He’ll bring Glalie.”

Mark nodded. “Right. Well, then it’s best to keep Charizard in, to deal with it.”

“And he can take Ninjask,” Scyther said. “And Flygon.”

“He’s not likely to use Flygon, is he?” Sandslash asked. “It will have the same problems with Earthquake as I would.”

Dragonite shrugged. “It might just use Dragon attacks, or something else.”

Mark rubbed his forehead. “So okay, Jolteon and Charizard are in… and Scyther or Dragonite? Right?”

The Pokémon looked at each other and murmured in agreement.

“Okay, then. I guess we need to figure out what Jolteon can do against Lanturn.”


Mark realized all of a sudden that his eyes were open. His dream, just a muddled haze of vague thoughts floating around in his head, had slipped out of his grasp before he could pinpoint what it was about. It took him a second to remember where he was – and, more importantly, what day it was.

He bolted upright and felt blindly around for his watch on the small bedside table. He grabbed it and pressed the light button, only to find that it was four in the morning – he could have told himself that, he thought dully, too tired to be annoyed, just from how dark it was outside. He replaced the watch and sank back into his bed.

After that, he woke up so often during the night that by the time his watch finally said it was seven o’clock, he felt more like he’d been waiting awake since four than like he’d been half-asleep. He sat groggily up, rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and got dressed, too tired to think of much other that this was not the best way to start the day.

It first occurred to him at breakfast that being so sleep-deprived could adversely affect his battling abilities, but he pushed the thought out of his mind. May had not yet arrived at the breakfast table, but then again not many people had; the first battles wouldn’t start until ten, and he guessed most people would rather let themselves and their Pokémon have some sleep.

After eating, he returned to his room and passed the time with a bit of drawing; he half-intended to try to sleep a little more, but in the end he had too much fun sketching up battles and before he knew it, it was already half past nine.

He headed over to the League offices to retrieve his Pokémon from the standard examination and drug trials, but a woman at the counter informed him that he would only be allowed to get his chosen three Pokémon for the battle now. After he had nervously picked out Jolteon, Scyther and Charizard, she accompanied him to the arena and led him through a locked door, up a staircase and to the trainer box, where she left him with a thin smile and a “Good luck.”

The arena was flooded with water up to a couple meters below the level of the floor that he was standing on. The trainer boxes were small and surrounded by a metal railing; he knew there would also be a force field to secure the trainers from the battling Pokémon. Two seemingly solid platforms stuck out of the water fairly near the trainer boxes on either side of the arena, with a third larger one in the very middle; between and behind them, in various patterns snaking around the entire arena, were far more fragile-looking, floating squares of various bright colors that bobbed up and down with the waves. Aaron White had already arrived on the other side and now stood there, leaning against the railing as he eyed Mark across what was to be their battlefield.

Mark thought over his strategies again with a sudden paranoid fear that he might forget them; that at least occupied him until he noticed that the audience stands appeared to have been closed, the big status screens on either side of the arena had lit up with their names and live images from cameras focusing on their faces – his stomach fluttered for a moment as he watched the all-too pale and nervous close-up of himself – and then, finally, a voice on the speakers said, “Trainers, ready Pokéballs.”

He grabbed Jolteon’s ball, made sure that it was Jolteon’s ball, and made sure again for good measure.

“Ready, set…”

His hand gripped the ball tightly as he stared at the large platform ahead of him and blocked out the uncomfortable thought that he might not throw the ball far enough.


His arm tensed; the air in front of him shimmered vaguely, a sign that the force field had just been turned off. “Go!” he shouted and hurled the ball forward at the same time as a second ball came flying from Aaron’s side. They popped open simultaneously and released the Pokémon in bursts of white light, Jolteon forming on the platform near him and Lanturn in the water on the opposite side. The force field shimmered back into place just as the ball returned to Mark’s hand.

For a brief moment, he felt oddly impressed that they had correctly predicted Aaron’s first Pokémon, despite that of course they wouldn’t have predicted it if it hadn’t been the likeliest possibility. But he didn’t have much time to be impressed. “Jolteon, Thunder Wave!” he blurted out.

“Lanturn, Confuse Ray,” Aaron called, and Mark could see him smirk on the status screen: that would have been evidence enough, but he still looked down and watched the wave of electricity surround Lanturn and very evidently fail to harm it. It had Volt Absorb, then – of course that had been likeliest, but it was better to make sure.

Lanturn surfaced and focused, the glowing bait on its forehead bobbing up and down as the light inside it brightened; then a concentrated sphere of light tore itself away from the bait and hovered towards Jolteon.

“Jolteon, use Agility to avoid it!” Mark said quickly, remembering having seen somebody use the move in this way on television.

“Hydro Pump!” Aaron ordered. Jolteon was hesitating, staring at the mesmerizing ghost light that was now floating around him in slow circles; Mark called desperately out to him, but he only looked up just as the Lanturn had surfaced again and fired a high-pressure jet of water from its mouth that hit him head-on. Jolteon was thrown backwards into the water behind him and yelped as he tried to swim while the Confuse Ray still labored to distract him; then he finally closed his eyes in concentration and rocketed out of the water, onto the platform and across the floating path to the middle platform. There he stopped, panted and shook the water out of his fur.

“Swift!” Mark shouted, and Jolteon shot a flurry of sharp, glowing star shapes from his spiked body that sought out and bombarded Lanturn even as it attempted to dive out of the way. It had been a last-minute TM, but it did play on Jolteon’s strengths, and Mark could see Aaron frown on the screen as his Lanturn tried unsuccessfully to evade the merciless stars.

“Lanturn, Stockpile!”

Mark watched the anglerfish take giant gulps of water; his heart pounded in his chest. With this, Lanturn practically had all of its moves used now: first Confuse Ray, then Hydro Pump and now Stockpile, which would almost inevitably lead to Spit Up or Swallow being the last move. If he just got it to use that final attack, it would not be able to use an Electric or Ice attack, meaning Scyther would be free to deal with it with his harder-hitting moves.

Meanwhile, Jolteon had already used three different attacks, and Mark wanted to save the fourth for Thunderbolt for use later in the battle, so he had little choice now. “Swift!” he ordered again.

Now that Lanturn’s sides were bloated with water, the glowing stars seemed to hurt it less as they smashed into it, and Mark briefly considered switching Jolteon out right away, but figured that then Aaron would change his strategy and use another attack, letting Stockpile just serve its defensive purpose instead.

“Use Hydro Pump, Lanturn!” Aaron called. Lanturn surfaced and blasted a stream of water towards Jolteon, but Jolteon leapt to the side and it only hit the wall of the arena. Jolteon Pokémon briefly stuck his tongue out at Lanturn before he darted across to the platform on Mark’s side of the arena; he smiled.

“Another Swift!” he called. Jolteon wheeled around and shot another flurry of stars towards the fish Pokémon as it swam towards him; it cringed in pain.

“Lanturn, Swallow!” ordered Aaron White.

As Lanturn motioned to swallow the water that it had been storing in its mouth, Mark raised the Pokéball that was still lying in his sweaty palm. “Great job, Jolteon!” he shouted. “Come back!”

Jolteon looked up just as the Pokéball’s beam absorbed him; the force field in front of Mark disappeared as he replaced the ball on his belt.

“Scyther, go!”

The mantis formed on the platform, hissing and flashing his scythes to intimidate the Lanturn. Some of the scratches on its hide had closed, but it was still hurt; Aaron frowned as he looked at Scyther and hesitated.

“Scyther, Swords Dance!”

“Hydro Pump,” Aaron countered quickly.

Scyther spun around in a rhythmical series of movements while sharpening his scythes as the Lanturn surfaced yet again to spray a high-pressure stream of water towards him. Scyther was blasted backwards, which interrupted his concentration, but he had kept it up for long enough, and his wings quickly picked him up again to hover in the air just above the arena.

Aaron paused momentarily; then he took out a Pokéball.

“Lanturn, retu…”

“Pursuit!” Mark yelled as the Pokéball beam zoomed towards Lanturn. May had made very sure that he would not forget how useful two of Scyther’s attacks would be in the preliminaries, and it had been one of the reasons he had decided to go with Scyther rather than Dragonite. Scyther darted forward, his scythe enveloped in dark energy, and struck the fish Pokémon just as it was absorbed by the Pokéball beam. There was only a garbled cry of pain before Lanturn disappeared entirely into the ball.

Aaron bite his lip on the screen as he returned the ball to his belt, and Mark’s heart thumped in excitement: he’d caught him off guard. The other boy picked another ball without much hesitation and threw it into the field; Mark was not surprised to see Glalie emerge.

“Glalie, Ice Beam!” Aaron shouted.

“U-turn!” Mark yelled: the other useful attack for the preliminaries. Scyther darted towards Glalie as ice crystals began to form in front of its static mouth, tackled it in mid-air and then immediately transformed into a vague form of translucent red that was absorbed into Mark’s Pokéball before Glalie had the chance to execute its counterattack.

“Charizard, go!” Mark called as he threw out the next Pokéball. His first Pokémon emerged in a burst of white light, roaring as he flapped his wings to stay in mid-air. The Glalie fired the Ice Beam, blasting it into Charizard’s face; he was knocked over in the air and his flight wavered, but he pulled himself up again with relative ease.

Aaron was already reaching for Glalie’s Pokéball; it dissolved into red light.

“Lanturn, go!”

As the fish Pokémon began to emerge from the ball that Aaron threw, Mark also recalled Charizard and instead hurled Scyther’s ball back into the arena. Mark looked down at Lanturn; after the Pursuit, it was visibly battered, and its swimming seemed a lot more strained than it had been before, but as Scyther formed on the platform, it glared at him with determination in its eyes anyway.

The image of Aaron on the status screen sighed before he said, “Lanturn, use Hydro Pump.”

“Scyther, Double Hit!”

Scyther zoomed towards the fish Pokémon, readying his scythes, as it began to surface. He hit Lanturn with the blunt edge of his right scythe, but it pushed him back with a blast of high-pressure water before he had managed to strike with his left: perhaps Double Hit hadn’t been the best idea in the situation. Scyther spat out some water as he regained his balance in the air.

“Lanturn, Confuse Ray!” ordered Aaron.

Mark looked at Lanturn as the fish Pokémon came to the surface yet again to let loose a wispy light to distract Scyther with. Its movements were becoming forced and sluggish; it would surely go down with just one more strike.

“Scyther, Pursuit!” he shouted, anticipating that Aaron might switch, but the boy just watched silently as Scyther managed to concentrate and zoom down at Lanturn with dark energy circling his scythe. The fish Pokémon tried to dive deeper into the pool, but was too slow to avoid the attack and was struck by the blunt edge of the blade before it had really managed to turn; it moaned, flopped upside-down and floated lazily to the surface.

Cheering exploded from the audience, startling Mark; he had almost forgotten that the spectators were really watching, and he felt oddly self-conscious to realize that they were actually cheering for him, for the first KO in the battle. He snapped his gaze quickly back towards the status screen, where Aaron White was replacing Lanturn’s Pokéball on his belt, frowning but not hesitating before he picked the next ball.

“Glalie, go!” he shouted as he threw it. “Use an Ice Beam!”

“Scyther, U-turn!” Mark called as the floating form of the Ice Pokémon emerged. He was already reaching for Scyther’s Pokéball, his heart pounding in his chest. He really was ahead – he was winning.

Scyther darted towards Glalie with a roar and was halfway there when he suddenly stopped. Mark was jolted out of his wild, momentary fantasies of victory and looked sharply down at the arena. Scyther was reaching out with his scythe in an almost childlike manner – towards the bright little ghost light that was still bouncing around his head, whose existence Mark had completely forgotten about. He had no time in this brief moment of panic to recall him: Scyther plunged into the water, having forgotten to flap his wings, and a beam of freezing cold followed him there, turning all the water around him into a huge, solid block of ice within moments.

The iceberg floated up to balance itself on the surface and then bobbed peacefully up and down, Scyther’s form dimly visible within it. The audience watched in stunned silence. Mark stared at it in horror – the iceberg might be too opaque for him to even be able to recall Scyther like this – and then, just as he was reaching for the Pokéball anyway, he realized that he wouldn’t have to.

He grinned triumphantly. Aaron White frowned on the status screen, his eyes flicking towards Mark’s screen and then back to the arena. Mark’s mind raced. There was no way Glalie could possibly harm Scyther more like this using Ice attacks, so perhaps he could fish for it to waste another attack to take him down.

“Glalie, Gyro Ball,” Aaron ordered.

The ice demon concentrated, having plenty of time to do so now, and started to spin around at great speed until its rounded, mask-like form became a spherical blur and attained a metallic sheen. It shot towards the iceberg like a bullet, cracking it on impact, though it did not break fully and Glalie rebounded backwards from it.

“Try again,” Aaron said patiently, and his Pokémon repeated the endeavour while Mark waited, fondling Scyther’s Pokéball nervously with rapidly sweating fingers. The iceberg’s surface was now covered in a web of fine cracks, though Scyther’s vague form did not seem to stir within it and the mantis wouldn’t have been able to hear a command. He was probably already unconscious, but so long as he was frozen inside the ice where that couldn’t be confirmed, Mark could not be forced to recall him for the benefit of his opponent, and tiring Glalie was in his best interests for now.

Glalie spun for yet another Gyro Ball, and this time the iceberg shattered as it smashed into it, sending clumps of ice flying all around. Scyther’s body was thrown back into the water, limp as a ragdoll, and started to sink while the audience began to cheer loudly again.

“Return,” Mark said quickly and pointed the Pokéball at the mantis to let the beam absorb him. He placed the ball back on his belt and was already reaching for Charizard’s when he realized that he had yet to see Aaron’s third Pokémon. He paused to think, closing his eyes while his heavy heartbeat drummed in his ears.

Ninjask, Flygon, Ditto or Smeargle.

Mark had Jolteon and Charizard.

They could both handle Ninjask easily; that wouldn’t be a problem. Flygon, on the other hand, would wipe the floor (or water as it were) with Jolteon, and he didn’t much like the idea of Jolteon, already tired, trying to face a copy of himself in a match that would inevitably come down to Swift – his main strength was his dodging, which wouldn’t help him then. If he sent Charizard out now, Aaron would just switch, and he would end up having to deal with a healthy Glalie with Charizard hurt or possibly fainted. He’d looked Glalie up; he remembered it could learn some Water attack. Did he really want to risk it?

His hand moved to Jolteon’s ball.

“Go!” he yelled, throwing it into the arena. The Electric Pokémon landed on the platform, slightly weary but still well up to a fight, and bristled his fur towards Glalie.

“Thunder Wave it and then be careful!”

“Glalie, Ice Beam!”

Jolteon was faster, and a wave of crackling electricity thrust towards Glalie while it was still charging its attack. The paralyzing sparks settled into its icy body, causing it to shudder briefly before it fired the countering Ice Beam. Jolteon was ready for it and narrowly darted out of the way; the freezing beam instead hit the edge of the platform Jolteon was on, freezing a large patch of water over and around it.

There was a slow creak as the buoyancy of the ice began to tilt that end of the platform upwards. Jolteon looked back at it, startled, and Aaron grabbed the opportunity to issue another order:

“Water Pulse on the platform, Glalie!”

“Jolteon, get it with a Thunderbolt!” Mark blurted out as a hurried counter without being sure what Aaron was thinking.

Being paralyzed, Glalie was of course no match for Jolteon’s speed even when it got the order first, and so Jolteon managed to fire a bolt of electricity towards it before it had really begun to react. It winced and recoiled in the air as the Thunderbolt struck it and had to blink a couple of times before it could manage the concentration to spit pulses of water towards the large platform on Mark’s side. By that time, Jolteon was already safely situated on one of the small, floating platforms near the side of the arena, and he cocked his head in puzzlement at Glalie’s efforts.

“Blizzard!” Aaron ordered sharply.

“Thunderbolt,” Mark said after a moment of hesitation, and Jolteon fired another attack to strike Glalie before preparing to dodge.

A freezing cold wind rushed across the arena with a flurry of snow. Jolteon ran back towards the larger platform to avoid the most concentrated part of it that was aimed at him, but Mark’s stomach lurched as he realized what Aaron had really been doing: the layer of water on top of the larger platform was now transformed into a deadly sheet of ice that sent Jolteon skidding helplessly across it with a cry of surprise and straight into the rapidly solidifying water on the other side.

“Jolteon, use Agility to get out!” Mark shouted in panic, but it was too late: the merciless Blizzard was already freezing the water all around Jolteon even as he yelped and struggled, and when the wind subsided, he was stuck in a sheet of ice covering the entire arena but for where parts of the platforms stuck out.

What Jolteon had over Scyther’s situation, however, was that he was still conscious, still partly above the surface, and used mainly special attacks.

“One more Thunderbolt!” Mark yelled.

“Finish it with an Ice Beam,” Aaron called.

Jolteon’s fur crackled as he closed his eyes in concentration for his final effort; meanwhile Glalie charged the move that would undoubtedly finish Jolteon off. It was still paralyzed, grunting with effort, sparks flying across its body every now and then: it was obviously tired.

Jolteon’s Thunderbolt struck it, and it shuddered in pain before delivering a final blast of ice crystals that sent Jolteon slipping into unconsciousness while icicles formed on his fur.

“Great job, Jolteon,” Mark said quietly as he recalled his second Pokémon to a burst of cheering from the audience. Just Charizard left, but Glalie would surely go down with one Flamethrower – they were still relatively even, at least.

“Do it, Charizard!” he shouted as he threw the ball. Charizard formed in the air above the nearest platform, seemingly in good shape despite the Ice Beam he’d taken earlier. “Flamethrower!” Mark ordered.

“Glalie, return,” Aaron said, letting the beam of a Pokéball absorb the Ice Pokémon as Charizard was beginning to inhale. Mark looked at his opponent on the status screen in puzzlement; there was no way that Glalie could be any more useful later in the battle, being paralyzed, weakened and up against a Fire-type, and yet Aaron was making his next Pokémon take an extra Flamethrower?

“Go, Ditto! Transform!”

The ball that Aaron threw released a tiny shape on the frost-covered platform on his end, but it almost immediately began to glow white, grow and change as if evolving.

“Quick, before it’s finished!” Mark called, and Charizard seemed to have had the same thought: white-hot flames billowed out of his mouth and caught the Ditto mid-transformation. The Charizardish shape recoiled, but remained standing, and when the flames cleared away, the light faded to reveal an identical copy of Charizard that grinned and roared into the sky before lifting off from the ground.

Mark’s mind raced as he watched the two dragons fly wide circles around one another. With the two Pokémon facing off being completely identical and Charizard the more hurt and tired of them if anything, they had nothing to rely on but their wits if they were to have any hope of winning this final duel. He wasn’t sure how much he trusted himself to do that – but the memory of Charmeleon’s performance in the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament reassured him that Charizard would hopefully know what to do when he didn’t.

“Swords Dance!” he blurted out.

“Scary Face!” Aaron countered.

One of the Charizard stopped, its mouth twisting into a far-too-wide wicked grin while his eyes rolled backwards in his head. The other recoiled a little, hesitantly, but still began to spin around in the air in a complex dance, somehow reminiscent of Scyther’s version of the move.

“Now hit it with a Dragon Pulse!” the other boy ordered.

Mark felt very certain that Charizard did not know that move, but the Ditto flung his neck forward with an ear-splitting roar, and a faintly bluish shockwave rippled through the air, knocking the real Charizard backwards. Mark realized in a frantic panic that the Ditto must have practiced all sorts of TM moves that Charizard didn’t know; that must be how Aaron White tried to gain the upper hand in a mirror match.

“Charizard, Smokescreen!” he shouted as the first thing he could think of, and Charizard released a cloud of thick, black smoke from his mouth that quickly enveloped most of the arena. Immediately Mark kind of regretted wasting their third move; would they need it later?

“Another Dragon Pulse, Ditto,” ordered Aaron, and another draconic shockwave found its way through the smoke, but it was aimed too high, and through the dissipated gap that it left in the shroud, Mark saw Charizard dive below it.

“Charizard, try a Dragon Claw!” Mark yelled.

Blue flames flared up around Charizard’s claws as he darted through the smoke, straight towards the Ditto. It quickly turned upwards and shot out of the Smokescreen cover, Charizard following with a growl.

“Ditto, Rock Slide!”

“What?” Mark’s heart skipped a beat as panicked thoughts of all the TMs he had never bothered to remember bubbled in his head. “No! Charizard, dodge it! Get back into the smoke! Quick!”

The dragon flattened his wings against his body, plummeted downwards and disappeared into the thickest part of the Smokescreen.

Wait a minute, Mark then thought as the Ditto-Charizard hovered in place and closed its eyes in concentration. There are no rocks. This is a water arena.

“Charizard, it’ll be ice! Just melt it with Flamethrower!” he shouted.

As he made out the dim silhouette of large clumps of ice tearing out of the ice below and then throwing themselves around in the smoke, he also saw the flicker of bright flames where Charizard engulfed them one after another in quick bursts of fire that made short work of evaporating them in the air. All this began to clear the smoke partway, and Mark caught a glimpse of Charizard swiftly dodging yet another boulder of ice that came towards him from the back. Aaron White bit his lip on the status screen.

That was four moves, Mark suddenly realized – with Transform, Aaron’s Ditto had used four moves now and couldn’t use any more. Charizard had used four moves too, but at least the Ditto would not surprise him with any more TMs. The thought made his heart beat faster in a spark of hope: Aaron had made his greatest mistake by ordering that failed Rock Slide.

“Ditto, try another Dragon Pulse,” the other trainer ordered at last.

“Charizard, thicken the Smokescreen and then use another Swords Dance!”

The Ditto, still flying above the already thickening cloud of smoke, roared to send another shockwave down towards where it thought Charizard was, but there was no sound of impact, nothing to indicate that Charizard had been hit. A few moments later, Charizard he burst out of the cloud of smoke directly below the Ditto, roaring as his claws flared with dragon fire.

The Ditto recoiled, but was surprised enough that Charizard managed to chase after it and rake his claws across its belly while it tried to get away. It snarled and whipped its tail at Charizard, but though it batted him away, it didn’t appear to hurt him much. Instead, he readied his flaring claws again and made another charge towards his doppelganger.

“Dragon Pulse it now!” Aaron shouted.

The Ditto opened its mouth wide and produced a shockwave that easily threw Charizard backwards at such close range. He fumbled for balance in the air, the dragon flames on his claws gone, and meanwhile Aaron grabbed the opportunity to issue another command:

“Rock Slide!”

Charizard looked down and was preparing to counter it with Flamethrower even before Mark could make the order. Chunks of ice, now mostly half-melted, flew upwards and were quickly vaporized by a wide cone of bright flames before coming anywhere close to Charizard, the attack pathetically ineffective – suspiciously ineffective.

“Dragon Claw again!” Mark ordered as he looked at the opposing trainer on the status screen, trying to read his expression; it was inscrutable, but at the same time he was sure there was something there that he was missing. Charizard slashed at the Ditto yet again, his claws shredding a portion of one of its wings, before he was knocked back by another Dragon Pulse. The Ditto faltered in its flight, not used enough to its wings to know instinctively how to balance it, and started fluttering irregularly to try to keep itself in the air. Charizard smirked and his claws flared up for the final blow.

“Ditto, drag him down!”

The Ditto all of a sudden stopped struggling to get away from Charizard’s advance and instead lunged towards him as he was charging. It managed to get on top of his back and dig its claws into him there at first, but Charizard wrestled himself loose even as they were falling and viciously attacked the other dragon from the front with his own claws. Now the Ditto refused to let go, however: it folded its wings back completely, and Charizard’s flailing attempt to support both of them did no visible good.

Mark stared at the other trainer in puzzlement for that fraction of a second: Charizard was on top, so surely, it was Ditto who would hit the –

His eyes widened and he fixed his gaze back on the shape of the two Pokémon as they were falling through the smoke – and then there was a splash.

Mark stared through the smoke cover in horror as the two Pokémon’s forms wrestled desperately with one another even as they sank towards the bottom of the pool, flurries of bubbles rising from their tail flames.

The Ditto hadn’t been trying to win; it was all a reckless suicide tactic.

They both struggled desperately in pain as their tail flames fought to survive, but the Ditto held mercilessly on to Charizard and they sank ever deeper into the water. Aaron’s face on the status screen was pale but determined. Mark’s mind was too numb to be sure what to do.

Then both Pokémon stopped struggling in the water; Ditto glowed white and transformed back into a blob of slime, but Charizard did not rise to the surface. They were both out.

Mark snapped back to reality, fumbled with Charizard’s ball and finally managed to get the Pokéball beam to recall him. He’ll be okay, he reassured himself frantically. His tail flame wasn’t out yet, he’ll be fine…

“The winner is Aaron White.”

He looked up in confusion – he’d been so sure the Ditto had fainted too – only for his eyes to find the status screen, now displaying the results: pictures of the trainers and the six Pokémon that had been used in the battle, all with a red cross over them… except Glalie.

Weakened and paralyzed and barely conscious Glalie had won Aaron White the battle.

Mark stared up at it and felt his face heat up in a mixture of emotions: worry for Charizard; shame at his loss; the wild, insensitive, deafening cheering of the audience; anger at the other boy for pulling such a cheap victory, for having such a reckless and dangerous strategy; anger at himself for not having foreseen it until it was too late, for not having recalled Charizard earlier when he had lost anyway. He looked across the battlefield, where Aaron White stood raising his fist triumphantly into the air, and felt a powerful, bizarre longing to punch him in the face – a feeling so disturbing that it made him stop, look down, rest his hands on the railing, close his eyes and try his best to shut his ears to the audience. There was something wrong. He rubbed his forehead; it was cold and sweaty, veins throbbing in his temples. His head was beginning to ache.

He recognized this feeling, vaguely, from somewhere.

The other time had to do with Charizard too – Scyther – anger and worry –

He saw flashes of strange memories – him screaming obscenities at two people who had just emerged from the walls, silently dumping Scyther and Charizard’s Pokéballs on the counter in the Pokémon Center, sitting down, May waving her hand in front of his face with a puzzled expression –

His blackout after the final battle of the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament.

He took a sharp breath, opening his eyes. His emotions were fading to more familiar levels. Everything seemed a little bit jumbled up still, but he felt like himself again, at least aside from the strange little throbbing somewhere deep inside his head.

There was something prodding at his mind.

He looked sharply up in alarm. There was only one thing he could think of that was here and prone to prodding at people’s minds. His gaze swept across the audience stands, but he already knew it couldn’t really be there: you couldn’ bring Pokémon to the stands. Unless he’d hypnotized the guards and everybody sitting near him too, but why?

People were leaving; Aaron White had already disappeared. And somehow, after a second, Mark could tell that the mind-prod didn’t come from the audience. He turned around; it seemed stronger when he faced the door.

He opened it carefully and walked down the stairs, slowly, focusing on keeping his mind clear. He exited the trainer box and wanted to take Charizard to the Pokémon Center immediately, but hesitated when he realized that the intensity of the throbbing in his brain had changed because he had moved – he could perhaps follow it to the source. Did Taylor know that they were on to him – was he targeting them? And if so, could they actually escape it?

He had to at least try to do something.

Mark closed his eyes and turned his head slowly, feeling where the throb was strongest, and then took hesitant steps in that direction. It continued to intensify as he walked nervously along the edge of the stadium, to the corner –

He turned around it and stopped to stare.

Taylor was standing there with his back turned, just by the far wall of the arena, with the tall, thin shape of Mewtwo² standing beside him. In sync with the short, rhythmic movements of the Pokémon’s bony hands, several large boulders swung obediently back and forth in mid-air over large holes in the ground.

“Try up and down now,” Taylor said. “And then throw them over the fence.”

The Pokémon obeyed unnaturally quickly, wiggling its fingers up and down with almost humorous lack of effort that nonetheless sent the boulders bouncing several meters into the air. Then it thrust its hand forward, Mark felt a stinging throb in his mind, and the boulders flew over the fence and landed in the distance with an earth-shaking thud.

“Wh-what are you doing?” Mark stammered, and Taylor turned around. Mewtwo² remained completely motionless as if it hadn’t noticed him, even the hanging, pendulum-like tip of its long, blue tail completely still. It was very disquieting to look at.

“Training,” Taylor said as if nothing were more natural. “What are you doing?”

Mark wasn’t sure how to respond. “I – you – why has it been messing with my head?” he asked, pointing a finger at Mewtwo²’s back. He could still feel the throb in his brain.

Taylor looked blankly at him before realization seemed to dawn upon him. “Oh, that,” he said. “It happens.”

“Happens,” Mark repeated, his voice oddly squeaky. “What happens?”

“You know, people’s feelings getting stronger. He does that when we train close to people.”

Mark stared at him, almost too utterly confused to speak. “Well, train somewhere else, then!” he managed to say. “I was having a battle over there!”

“Oh,” Taylor said. “Okay.”

He recalled Mewtwo² into a Pokéball and the throbbing abruptly stopped. Mark blinked at him as he walked nonchalantly off in the other direction, towards where the gate was.

He took a deep breath and exhaled again as his mind slowly unjumbled itself. For a moment he was sure that Taylor was lying, that he was just trying not to be found out, but the more his mind cleared, the more he started to think Taylor was just really that careless and naïve. He shivered at the thought of Mewtwo²’s presence alone causing something like this; hopefully Taylor would train far away from now on.

He turned around and broke into a run towards the Pokémon Center.

In this chapter, Thunder Wave fails against a Lanturn with Volt Absorb - however, in an earlier chapter (31), I explicitly had Thunder Wave be an exception for some reason, also against a Lanturn. Obviously, this was just me forgetting that a few years earlier I'd made this random deviation from the mechanics of the games.

Aaron White looking irritatingly familiar is indeed because he is someone we've seen before: he's the kid who gets the Ditto at Ash's starter Pokémon giveaway in chapter 24.

Hope you all enjoy Taylor, tragically oblivious dork.
Last edited:
The Ouen League - Chapter 48: The Second Preliminary


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Time for chapter 48, a true underdog story in more ways than one.

The Ouen League – Chapter 48: The Second Preliminary​


“He will be fine,” Nurse Joy insisted. “Submersion in water does not fully extinguish the tail flame of a strong Charizard until around half a minute after unconsciousness is induced, and modern health care can easily bring it to full recovery as long as it’s brought back alive.”

“But there has to be some sort of rule against that kind of…” Mark protested.

“It is not considered a potentially lethal tactic by League rules unless there is a clear, demonstrable risk of death or permanent tissue damage within fifteen seconds of unconsciousness,” the nurse said patiently. “As I said, he will be fine. Odds are your opponent knew it was safe, or he would not have risked it. Please calm down and step away. There are other trainers with injured Pokémon here.”

Mark sighed and sat down on one of the couches in the Pokémon Center, partly glad that Charizard would be all right and partly frustrated that the League would just brush it off. He looked towards the entrance, still busy with trainers walking in and out; as if just to rub salt in the wounds, Aaron White appeared in the door and stepped in. To Mark's dismay, he looked around, saw Mark and walked towards him.

“Hey,” the boy said. “Your Charizard okay?”

Mark nodded numbly and wanted to add, “No thanks to you,” but resisted the temptation.

“He’s your starter, isn’t he?” Aaron asked and sat down on the couch opposite Mark’s. He nodded again, vaguely surprised. “Ditto is my first, too,” Aaron went on. “I know I’d be worried sick if somebody did that to him. I’m sorry.”

Mark looked at him, not sure what the other boy expected him to say.

“We only use that tactic when we’re desperate. It’s nasty business, but tell your Charizard we only did it because he was kicking Ditto’s butt. No hard feelings.”

Aaron stood up and extended his hand, and Mark stared at it for a moment before shaking it.

“I’ll see you around,” Aaron said and turned to leave the Pokémon Center. Mark looked after him, feeling only dull frustration that he could no longer feel quite justified in hating him.

Behind Aaron, May made her way into the building, looked around and then hurried towards Mark.

“There you are,” she said. “Lunch? My battle’s not until three.”

They went back to their lodge to eat while May lectured him about every mistake he had made in the battle.

“You really shouldn’t have kept Jolteon out after the Blizzard,” she was saying when they sat down with their plates. “You could have pulled the same thing on him that he pulled on you, with keeping an injured Pokémon back in case of a close call. If you’d done that, you’d probably have won. Even with Ditto’s kamikaze tactic, Jolteon might have managed to beat Glalie when you sent him out again, what with not being stuck in ice. And you really should have used the arena more. He was doing the standard tricks of water arenas – knocking you into the water, freezing parts of the arena and so on – while you were doing nothing. I mean, you didn’t make any particularly bad decisions for the arena you were on, save maybe using Charizard, but you’re not getting any extra points for use of the arena.”

Mark poked the meatballs on his plate with his fork. “Was it that bad?”

May looked at him. “Well, he screwed up too,” she said with a shrug. “Before the suicide attack, Ditto’s strategy made no sense. Scary Face while you were Swords Dancing? Come on. The oversight with Rock Slide was bad. And Lanturn using up all its moves against Jolteon, before he even knew what Pokémon you’d brought, was just stupid. He wasn’t that much better than you. That’s why you could’ve beaten him if you’d just done a couple of things better.”

“Him being almost as bad doesn’t help me qualify, does it?”

“Well,” May replied with a shrug, “you were really not bad compared to some of the kids who come in here with an all-Fire team or wax poetic about how no true trainer wants their Pokémon to evolve and how they will conquer the League with their Rattata. You know guy I’m up against later? His team reeks of trying to be Ash Ketchum; I almost feel sorry for him. If you need reassurance that you’re not the worst trainer here, just watch my battle.” She paused for a moment, and finally added, “And then there’s the part where you have a Dragonite that you didn’t use.”

That, at least, was a fairly cheerful thought. He shrugged, finally finding the motivation to start eating, and after mulling it over for a minute while chewing, he was starting to dare hope that he had a chance of winning his second battle and possibly qualifying if it went well.

At least he would try his best.


May won her battle, and easily at that. Her opponent, the Ash Ketchum wannabe, was a small, mousey-haired boy who used a Pikachu, a Squirtle and a Pidgeot, and his battling abilities left so much to be desired that it was obvious even to Mark; he did not seem to have grasped the concept of switching, for instance, even when his Pikachu was about to be Earthquaked into oblivion. It really did made Mark feel slightly better about himself, if also kind of bad for the poor kid.

Afterwards, May announced with satisfaction that she felt like taking the rest of the day off, while Mark, remembering that his second preliminary was in just two days, wandered uncertainly off to the library to take notes on Megan Hayfield’s team.

After scrolling through the long list of Pokémon she had for the third time, he sighed and leaned back in the swivel chair in front of the computer. He unfocused his eyes, watching the small Pokémon images blur into the blue background on the screen, and then rubbed them, trying to think. There were just too darned many of them to prepare for in any sensible way. There had to be hundreds of ways she could make a team of three – maybe thousands? Math had never been his strong suit.

There had to be some way to narrow down what she might use even before finding out about the arena theme. He briefly considered taking his Pokémon out to their training spot to work it out with them, but then remembered with an uncomfortable sting in his heart that Charizard was still at the Pokémon Center – it wouldn’t feel right without him. He’d mull it over tomorrow with all of them, but for now, he wanted to try to figure something out on his own to give them a jump start for tomorrow.

What Pokémon would she choose?

On what basis?

Scyther and May’s voices spoke in his head to answer.

If I were a trainer and I knew my opponent had a Dragonite, I’d assume he would use it.

Then there’s the part where you have a Dragonite that you didn’t use.

Mark leaned back towards the computer to scroll through the list again. Did she have any decent Ice Pokémon? Yes, she had a Mamoswine. He could probably assume she’d most likely use that. Which of his Pokémon would be best against it? Charizard, definitely. That was one good team member to have, then.

But what else would she use? What was the most powerful Pokémon she had? Mark scrolled through the list again, remembering – yes, she had a Letaligon. She would be likely to use that, then, unless the arena theme made it completely impossible – especially since Mark had no Fighting Pokémon that would pose a serious threat to it. He did have Sandslash – he should perhaps use him, then, to fight the Letaligon, if just so that he wouldn’t rely on Charizard for both it and Mamoswine.

What might she pick as her third? He really wasn’t sure.

He tried a different approach. If he were her, what would he do?

He considered it. She might figure he would predict Mamoswine and try to counter it with Charizard – so she would probably make sure to have something to use against him. A Water or Rock-type, most likely – what did she have of that? A Lunatone, he found on the page he was already on – immune to Sandslash’s Earthquake, resistant to Charizard’s Flamethrower, and capable of pulling both Rock attacks on Charizard and Psychic attacks on Sandslash. Yes, if he were her, he would definitely use the Lunatone. That possibility needed to be taken care of, then.

Lunatone were weak to what?

He closed his eyes. It was classed as Rock and Psychic. It would be weak to Water, but Gyarados was of course not an option. Grass and Dark, but that was nothing helpful. Bug, but Scyther was really too weak to Rock attacks to risk it.


He broke into a grin. Letal. Of course. And she’d be resistant to both its Rock and Psychic moves! Perfect. She really seemed to want to battle, too.

He leaned back in the chair, thinking over his plan again. Charizard, Sandslash and Letal. Seemed pretty solid. Common weaknesses weren’t a problem – or wait. Water. He frowned. Water was a problem, wasn’t it? Only Letal to deal with it, and her Iron Head wouldn’t do much good. He looked over Megan’s Pokémon again; plenty of Water-types, though none of them were particularly powerful. There was no good reason to suppose she wouldn’t use one of them – in fact, she might easily use a Water-type rather than Lunatone as a Charizard counter.

And then, as he was considering how he could combat that possibility, he realized that again, he had somehow managed to neglect his most powerful Pokémon by far. He chuckled lightly to himself at the thought. If there was anything that gave him a possible edge at the League, it was Dragonite – he pretty much had to be on the team, whether Megan was expecting it or not.

Considering it, the only logical option seemed to be to leave Sandslash out and use Charizard, Dragonite and Letal. Dragonite could beat a Letaligon, couldn’t he? He knew Fire Punch, after all. And Thunderpunch – he could handle a Water-type too, even. So long as it didn’t know a powerful Ice attack that would beat him first… but then again Letal could back him up on that if the situation looked dire.

It seemed like a plan, at least if the arena didn’t screw things up too much.

Mark looked over Megan’s Pokémon again to satisfy himself that the combination of Charizard, Dragonite and Letal should be able to handle most of them. Finally, reasonably confident about his deductions, he logged off the computer and left the library to find May.


Mark craned his neck over the heads of the crowd by the announcement screen, feeling a little disgruntled to note that May, being taller, was having a much easier time of it. “Can you see what it says about the main stadium?” he asked, half-shouting over the chatter.

“It’s… Flying, I think it says. Yeah, flying.”

Mark blinked. “Flying? What are flying arenas like?”

“Small, hovering platforms at different heights,” she replied. “Any Pokémon that falls onto the ground is out. You’ve probably seen one.”

“Right,” he muttered, vaguely recalling some match he had seen on TV once. “Hey, that’s not bad.”

“Not bad at all,” she agreed. “You’ve always had too many Flying-types, anyway.”

They separated soon after. May was apparently going to watch one of Taylor’s preliminary matches, which was to start at noon; Mark, however, had insisted on getting Charizard from the Pokémon Center first thing in the morning, and so they could go straight to their usual training spot from the trainer lodges, where Mark sent out the others.

“Flying,” he said. “The arena theme’s flying. It’s an arena with hovering platforms where you’re considered fainted if you fall.”

He briefly explained his thoughts on Megan’s Pokémon from the day before, but finished with, “But since we’re on a flying arena, it would probably be better to use Scyther than Letal so you can all fly.”

“No, no, no,” Letal said in agitation just as he had said the last word. “That is stupid. Short-sighted. She could bring in any Rock-type and wipe them out.”

“Well, they’d be able to do all sorts of things against a Rock-type on this arena,” Mark argued. “Knocking them down would make them helpless. Well, except Lunatone, but I guess Scyther could…”

“Anything with a Rock attack.”

“Fine. What about Jolteon? It’ll be hard for a Ground-type to do much up there, so he should be pretty well off. And he’s agile enough that he’d do well on the arena.”

“There are more Ground moves than Earthquake.”

Mark turned towards Letal in irritation. “You’re weak to Ground moves too, you know,” he said. “I know you want to battle, but we’re never going to qualify if we don’t try to pick a team that makes some sense on the arena. You don’t really have any ranged attacks besides Tri Attack, and your armor could make it kind of hard for you to manage any feats of acrobatics, couldn’t it?”

Letal turned and then lay down on the ground a few paces away, her back turned towards Mark. “Fine,” she muttered, laying her head down on her forepaws and pretending to sleep.

He sighed and waited a few moments. Part of him kind of wanted to just put her on the team to please her, but he shut that part firmly away; he didn’t want to let her boss him around. “Dragonite, Charizard and Jolteon, then? Any ideas?”

They spent the rest of the day considering Megan’s Pokémon one by one, mulling over possible strategies to employ against them on a flying arena and the odds she would use each of them, save for sometime in the early afternoon when they took a break to eat (Mark met May in the trainer lodge dining hall and spent his lunch listening to her ranting about how cheap and talentless Taylor was). Finally, in the evening, when it was about the time that he’d agreed to meet May for dinner, they had just about worked out how they would handle the battle, and Mark was fairly confident when he recalled the Pokémon and climbed onto Charizard’s back to return to the lodge.

Mark felt it only moments after they had taken off, having become sensitive enough to Charizard’s muscle movements to tell that his wingbeats were heavier than usual: something was wrong. His mind jumped to overworkedness, strain – why was he having him fly him around just after that battle with Aaron White? He felt a sting of pain in his gut at the thought.

“Are you okay?” he asked, leaning carefully forward.

“It’s probably nothing,” Charizard mumbled. “It’s not far, anyway.”

The very fact Charizard acknowledged there was an ‘it’ only confirmed Mark’s suspicions. “What’s probably nothing?”

“I’ve just been feeling a bit nauseous today. It’s gotten worse over the day, but I’ll probably sleep it off.”

Mark’s heart skipped a beat – an overreaction to what was probably just a minor illness, his rational mind tried to tell him, but having a second scare about Charizard’s wellbeing in just two days was making him paranoid. “No, really, we should land,” he said, and despite the Pokémon’s nonchalant attitude, something seemed to relax gratefully in Charizard’s muscles as he dived and landed clumsily on the ground not far outside the League HQ area. As Mark climbed from his back, the dragon sneezed violently, sending flames licking the ground a few meters in front of him.

“I’ll get you to the Pokémon Center,” Mark murmured, fumbling for the right Pokéball with trembling fingers. In the ball, he won’t get worse. Nurse Joy will know what to do. “Don’t worry.” The beam absorbed him. Oh, God, what if it’s serious?

He clutched the minimized ball in the palm of his hand and ran towards the gate.

It probably isn’t. Why would it be?

His mind made up some crazy conspiracy theory about Taylor trying to get them out of the way.

That’s stupid. It’s what you thought yesterday too.

But he couldn’t be sure, could he?

He was getting ready to fling open the doors of the Pokémon Center, half-throwing himself against the doorway, before he remembered that it was an automatic door. He stumbled inside while various trainers looked disinterestedly up. Standing behind the counter was the same nurse who had treated Charizard yesterday; he hurried towards her.

“It’s… It’s my Charizard again,” he said, panting. “I think he’s sick or something…”

“Sick how?”

“Well, he’s… sort of weak and dizzy, I guess…”

The nurse stepped around the counter. “Why don’t you come with me to the back and send him out so I can see him?”

Mark complied, following her into the back room. Injured Pokémon lay sleeping or unconscious on variously sized beds along the walls, the steady pulses of heart monitors a background noise that barely registered in his mind. He maximized the ball that was still clutched in his hand and released Charizard onto a particular bed that the nurse indicated to him; she immediately picked his tail up and draped it over a stirrup to keep it off the floor and mattress and then scuttled into a storage room while the dragon lay shakily down and looked at Mark.

“Feeling any different?” Mark asked quietly. Charizard shook his head.

The nurse returned with a device that she pressed against Charizard’s side for a few seconds before reading something off it. “Just as I thought,” she muttered.


“Pokérus. There’s been an epidemic of it here lately – it seems that Rick Lancaster’s brother, that Taylor kid, brought it with his Pokémon. No,” she added upon seeing the look on Mark’s face, “it’s not dangerous in the least.”


“Quite the opposite, actually. Normally they fight it off on their own by producing antibodies that in the long run make them end up stronger. The little dip in water yesterday must have weakened his immune system sufficiently to make the actual disease get the chance to rear its ugly head. I should have thought to test him then.”

“So is he going to be okay?”

“Sure. With an antibody injection and a good night’s sleep, he’ll be in perfect shape by tomorrow morning. But even without it, it’s not severe and would have gone away in a couple of days, once the immune system got back on track.”

Mark took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh.

Charizard smiled weakly up at him. “You see? It was nothing to worry about.”

“No, it wasn’t.” Though Taylor was behind it, in a sense, after all. He chuckled inwardly at the thought.

“Just leave him here. You can come get him tomorrow.”

“Thanks. Good night, Charizard.”

“Good night, Mark.”

He left, breathing another sigh of relief as he exited the building into the cool night.


Mark slept a lot better that night than he had before the previous match, and longer too, since this battle was to be at noon. After having breakfast with May and spending some idle time drawing until eleven thirty, he headed towards the League office building to retrieve his Pokémon from the drug trials.

“Which three are you going to use for your battle?” asked the lady at the reception desk when he had given her his name tag.

“Charizard, Dragonite and Jolteon.”

She nodded and turned to her computer, but then peered at the screen. “I’m sorry, but it appears you did not turn your Charizard in for examination yesterday.”

Mark was puzzled for a brief moment before realizing why. “Right. He’s still at the Pokémon Center. I’ll go get him.”

“I’m afraid we can’t let you do that,” said the woman. “No Pokémon can participate in a League match unless it comes straight from the examination and drug trials. If your Charizard wasn’t here last night, you can’t use him in your battle. I’m sorry.”

Mark stared at her, dumbfounded. “What? Can’t I just get him and you test him before the battle begins?”

“Getting the full results takes several hours,” she said, shaking her head. “The judges will be notified of the mistake and take it into account when judging your performance, but you will have to select some other Pokémon in his stead.”

Of course. Something always had to go wrong.

“Give me a minute,” he muttered and sat down on a nearby waiting chair to think it over.

No Charizard. That meant he direly needed something that could take on Megan’s Mamoswine to support Dragonite and Jolteon, and his choices were limited – Sandslash and Scyther were both weak to Ice attacks and Letal to Ground ones. Sandslash was pretty much out of the picture; his attacking capabilities were limited on the arena. The best attack he could use on it was Gyro Ball, which was most effective if the opponent was particularly fast, and Mamoswine was not. Both Scyther and Letal could pull a super effective attack on it – Letal with Iron Head and Scyther with Brick Break – but Scyther was of course the one who could fly and had Pursuit and U-turn. The Mamoswine’s capacity for using Ground moves would be severely limited by the arena, on the other hand, and Letal’s Iron Head could take advantage of her natural type affiliations, which Scyther’s Brick Break could not. What he needed most of all was just something he could send out reasonably safely against Mamoswine – and that was probably Letal. However, Scyther was undeniably more generally useful, being both able to fly and having Pursuit and U-turn – he would probably be the better choice.

But what if he used them both? Without Charizard, there was no longer any Water vulnerability on the team, lessening the need for Jolteon. Having Electric attacks handy was nice when seeing more Flying-types than usual was to be expected, but not exactly necessary, besides that Dragonite did know Thunderpunch if he came to need it. And having both would provide the most solid support for Dragonite, in case Mamoswine beat one of them.

Well. It appeared Letal would get to battle after all.

“Okay,” he said to the receptionist woman, “then I’m taking Dragonite, Scyther and Letal.”

She disappeared into a back room and came back with the three Pokéballs. “Come on, then.”

He walked with her to the main stadium, a lot bigger and more intimidating than the one he had had his first preliminary in. There she let him in through the door to the trainer stand, wished him luck and closed it behind him.

Mark took a deep breath, feeling the three Pokéballs at his belt with his fingers, and walked up the stairs.

He was stunned by the sight of the arena as he stepped through the final doorway out onto the trainer stand. The floor had been lowered, so below the metal railing around the trainer stand, there was a considerable fall down. Flat, circular platforms at various heights and sizes hovered unsupported in the air all around. Two platforms, one of them normal and the other consisting of a miniature pool for Water Pokémon, were nearest to him at around the same height as the trainer stand, while the rest looked just about accessible from there through a series of jumps for a reasonably agile Pokémon.

Was Letal a reasonably agile Pokémon? He wasn’t sure. What good would Letal be in the battle if she couldn’t even get across to where Mamoswine was? He really should have thought this through better.

Megan Hayfield emerged on the other side of the arena, so far away that he had to look at the status screen close-up to recognize her. She shook her head, her long, dark brown hair swishing behind her with deliberate grace, and winked at the camera before looking over towards Mark.

They waited. The chattering of the spectators made him uncomfortably aware of their presence. May was there somewhere, but at this distance he couldn’t tell one blue-haired girl from another, and even if it wasn’t the most common of hair colors, there were quite a few of them in the audience. He wasn’t even really sure he wanted to find her. It would only make him more nervous to be aware of her sitting there, watching and probably shaking her head over everything he did wrong.

“Trainers, ready Pokéballs,” came a voice on the speakers after what seemed like an eternity. Mark jumped, not quite certain which Pokémon he should send out first; his hand drifted over the three Pokéballs at his belt.

He considered Letal, but what if she turned out to be unable to move around well on the arena and Megan happened to open with something that had long-ranged moves?


Megan had to be expecting him to use Dragonite. If she started with an Ice-type, he’d rather have Scyther out.


But Dragonite was more powerful and had a wider variety of moves that could be employed against a wider variety of Pokémon. Scyther had more weaknesses, fewer resistances.

His hand moved to Dragonite’s ball.


What was he doing? Of course she’d be anticipating Dragonite. He clumsily jerked his hand back to Scyther’s ball and grabbed it in a panic, throwing it as fast as he could. He noted with relief that Megan’s ball didn’t pop open until a fraction of a second later: throwing too late would be cause for a hefty penalty even in the preliminaries.

Then he realized that the white light from Megan’s ball was materializing into Lunatone, and his heart sank again.

“Scyther, U-turn!” he said quickly, jerking his head back to his own Pokémon as the mantis was emerging in mid-air.

“Lunatone, Ancientpower!” ordered Megan.

Scyther might have been faster, but Lunatone had the advantage of having already fully formed, and it did not need to move. While Scyther was zooming across the arena with his scythes raised, Lunatone closed its eyes and glowed with a bright blue aura. At first, nothing happened, and Mark thought Scyther would make it to the other side before the attack hit; then a wave of large chunks of rock, bathed in the same blue aura, rose up through the platforms as if insubstantial, and then smashed very substantially into the mantis. Scyther was thrown sideways and narrowly avoided crashing into a platform, but quickly regained his directions, smacked his body into Lunatone’s and then dissolved into red energy that shot back across the arena and into his Pokéball.

Mark placed the ball back on his belt and considered what to do – he had brought Letal largely for the purpose of taking on Lunatone, but he was beginning to regret that decision more with every passing moment. On the other hand, it would not be wise to subject Dragonite to unnecessary injuries, and he could always recall Letal if worse came to worst. If there was any member of Megan’s team she could beat, Lunatone was it.

“Go, Letal!” he shouted, aiming for a moment before he threw the ball – having Letal emerge in mid-air would not be a good idea.

The ball opened and released a white shape on the nearest platform. As the light faded from Letal’s form, she looked quickly around, throwing a vaguely surprised glance towards Mark before facing her opponent. Of course, she hadn’t expected to take part in this battle, but at least she did not seem about to complain.

“Okay, Letal, hit it with Iron Head!” Mark called.

“Lunatone, use Cosmic Power!” Megan ordered.

Letal darted to the edge of the platform and leapt; Mark’s heart jumped for some reason. He held the ball ready to recall her if she began to fall.

But she didn’t fall. She landed neatly on the next platform, a bit higher than the one she had been on, and immediately raced towards the other edge of that platform to jump up from there to the next. In the meantime, Lunatone had closed its eyes and begun to gather defensive energy from the air, silvery dust swirling around its crescent-shaped body.

Mark watched in astonishment as Letal made her way from platform to platform without so much as hesitating before a leap. Surely she couldn’t have a lot of experience fighting in an uneven landscape where jumping was an important skill – they’d trained precise jumping at one point in the mountains, but she had never really seemed that particularly good at it then. Then again, that was at the time when she was at her most dull and expended the least effort in whatever they were doing.

Letal made the final jump onto Lunatone’s platform, her entire body took on a metallic sheen, and she smashed her head into the Psychic Pokémon’s body. Lunatone rebounded backwards before bouncing to its former location; Mark thought it looked kind of cracked, but he could have been imagining it.

“Lunatone, Earth Power!”

Mark’s stomach fluttered in panic at the realization that he had overlooked a Ground move that Lunatone knew that might be possible to use on a flying arena. “Iron Head it again!” he blurted out.

Letal’s body turned metallic again before she smashed her head into the Rock Pokémon a second time. Lunatone was thrown back by the impact, little pebbles of rock falling loose from its body, and closed its eyes to concentrate for its attack.

Without really thinking, Mark took out Letal’s ball and pressed the recall button. “Come back!” he shouted as the red Pokéball beam zoomed across the arena and dissolved Letal just as the platform underneath her exploded with the raw power of the Earth itself. He knew it was frowned upon to time a recall so that the opponent’s attack hit thin air, but he hoped it wouldn’t hurt his score too much to do it once. It was only after he thought this that he actually realized that switching to begin with had been a terrible move – Lunatone could pull a super effective move on all of his Pokémon, but Letal was in the least danger from it, since it didn’t have a native Ground-type to boost Earth Power’s potency.

But it was too late to change his mind now. He reattached Letal’s ball to his belt, taking out Dragonite’s instead.

“Dragonite, use Aqua Tail!” he shouted as he threw it.

“Lunatone, Ancientpower!” Megan countered.

Dragonite materialized in the air and began to thrust himself forward while Lunatone took on a blue glow. Rocks rose through the platforms and smashed into Dragonite from below, sending him bouncing upwards, but he quickly turned down towards Lunatone again, disintegrated his tail into water and took a dive. The tail smacked into Lunatone, throwing it back, but it rebounded quickly to its former place.

Worse, Lunatone was still glowing with a steady throb of blue light. The attack was powering it up.

“Dragonite, use a Dragon Dance!” Mark called.

“Heal Block!” shouted Megan.

Dragonite pulled back from Lunatone and began to spin around in the air, increasing his speed gradually as he powered his muscles. Meanwhile, Lunatone closed its eyes to focus, and Dragonite was wrapped in a pink aura. Mark recalled that Heal Block prevented his body from healing itself: he would not be able to Roost now. He winced; he’d been hoping to use that to make Dragonite last as long as possible. But switching him out would hardly help; Lunatone had gotten its powers sufficiently boosted to make giving it the time to prepare an extra attack a potentially fatal mistake.

“Ancientpower!” Megan ordered.

“Aqua Tail!” Mark yelled quickly as Dragonite’s dance began to slow.

The dragon Pokémon zoomed downwards, faster now after the Dragon Dance, his tail transforming immediately into water before hitting the Lunatone with a splash. The Rock Pokémon shuddered but sent an Ancientpower flying up at Dragonite anyway, and the dragon was knocked almost half of the way back across the arena, a rock crushing one of his wings as he went. He cried out in pain and wobbled disconcertingly in the air as he righted himself. Mark bit his lip: the blue glow was lingering on Lunatone’s body again, and now it had powered itself up sufficiently to make him doubt that Dragonite could reach it again, particularly now that he had injured himself. And he doubted he could knock it out with a single ranged attack.

All he could do was make sure his next Pokémon would get the chance to beat it.

“Thunder Wave!” he called just as Megan opened her mouth to order a final Ancientpower.

Dragonite lifted his head with difficulty, focusing on the Lunatone even as it began to take on a blue glow. A shower of sparks erupted from his mouth and shot across the arena while ancient rocks ascended through the platforms below him, and he took a last strained look down before the rocks crashed into him. Dragonite slipped into unconsciousness and began to fall; Mark silently took out his Pokéball and recalled him. But he had succeeded: Lunatone’s body was sparkling with paralyzing electricity.

He wasn’t sure if that slowed it down enough to let Letal reach it before it could strike, but Scyther definitely could.

“Go!” he shouted, throwing the mantis’s ball into the arena. “X-Scissor!”

Scyther emerged from the ball and immediately zoomed across towards Lunatone.

“One more Ancientpower!” yelled Megan, but Scyther had reached Lunatone by the time she finished the command. He slashed both of his scythes powerfully across Lunatone’s body, the power of his Bug type allowing him to slice into the rock, and the Psychic Pokémon let out a peculiar groan before its levitation faltered and it fell onto the platform like a lump of stone.

Megan frowned momentarily in disappointment, but called, “Come back, Lunatone! You did great!”

The red Pokéball beam absorbed her Pokémon as Scyther retreated towards the center of the arena, watching the platform in front of Megan warily.

The girl thought for a moment and then pulled out her next ball. “Delibird, go!” she shouted.

Mark watched the small penguin materialize, surprised. Delibird? When he’d looked over her Pokémon, he’d skipped right over the Delibird – he hadn’t imagined it was the sort of Pokémon anyone would really use in the League, especially when she also had a Mamoswine. Perhaps she’d decided to use as many Ice-types as she could? In any case, Letal would be able to deal with it quicker.

“Scyther, retu–”

“Ice Shard!”

Mark was still reaching for the Pokéball when the Delibird tossed a small shard of ice straight at Scyther. It hit him squarely in the torso, throwing him backwards by the impact. Scyther growled in pain and glared at the Delibird for a quick second but then faced Mark again. He raised the ball up, the force field already down, and let the beam absorb the bug Pokémon, silently irritated at Megan for attacking while he was recalling his Pokémon even though he reminded himself that it was no worse than recalling a Pokémon just before a hit. Technically, this had just made them even, and something in Megan’s smugly satisfied expression on the status screen told him that was precisely why she had done it.

He placed Scyther’s ball back on his belt and took out Letal’s. “Go!” he shouted. “Use Iron Head!”

“Delibird, Brick Break!”

Oh, crap.

Letal made her way across the arena, leaping nimbly from platform to platform as she had before; the Delibird took off in awkward flight on its flipperlike wings, let out a shrill battle cry and dived straight down towards her.

Mark couldn’t really change his mind after giving a clear command, but watched desperately as the two Pokémon approached each other, Letal’s body completely metallic, the end of Delibird’s stubby wing drawn back into a fist around the bag of food it was holding.

Letal smacked her head into the Delibird’s belly, causing it to let out a strangled squeak; the penguin’s food bag thwacked her upside the head, making her grunt in pain.

“Letal, come back,” Mark said quickly, already holding the ball forward so as to recall Letal before the Delibird got the chance to pull another quick move. She was absorbed into the beam.

He sighed. Scyther was weak to Ice attacks, which also put him at a disadvantage against the Delibird, but at least he was quicker and could attack it while it was flying, and he was not as vulnerable against its Ice moves as Letal was to Brick Break. However, he had also been worn down more in the battle, and he had no super effective moves to use. Mark wasn’t entirely sure if switching was the right choice here. But again, there was little he could do about it now.

“Scyther, go!” he called. “Use Aerial Ace!”

“Ice Punch!” ordered Megan.

Scyther emerged from the ball and darted towards the Delibird. It took awkward flight again, curling the tip of its wing into a fist while icicles formed around it, and thrust it towards Scyther as the mantis reached it.

It missed. Mark watched in puzzlement as its fist hit thin air without Scyther even having made any great effort to dodge; he passed above the penguin and delivered a precisely aimed slash to its back that made it caw in annoyance, its flight faltering. It landed on a platform below it and shook its fist towards the mantis Pokémon.

It suddenly came to Mark: it had to be using that one ability, the one that let it focus its power to strengthen its attacks at the expense of its accuracy. And that meant he had to be able to exploit it somehow.

“Scyther, use Agility!” he called. Scyther glanced at him with a nod and then built up speed with his wings, zooming across the arena and back within a few seconds.

“Another Ice Punch, Delibird!” Megan shouted.

“Dodge and use Aerial Ace!” Mark countered, his heart thumping in his chest. Normally just being fast could only marginally improve the ability to evade attacks, but if the Delibird’s accuracy was already compromised...

Megan’s Delibird took flight again and thrust towards where Scyther was hovering in mid-air with ice crystals circling its fist, but a split second before it threw the punch, Scyther had darted to the left and raised his scythe for another attack. He struck at its back again with a satisfied grin, and Mark grinned with him: he’d actually figured out a strategy that worked!

“Keep that up, Scyther!”

The mantis zoomed towards the Delibird again; it tried to strike back at him but yet again he dodged and managed to take a swipe at it instead.

“Aerial Ace, Delibird!” Megan ordered, and Mark saw his strategy crumble before his eyes as the Delibird darted towards Scyther with greater speed than before and slashed across his right arm and wing with its beak. Scyther growled and gave it one more slash to the back with his left scythe, but Mark could tell he was getting weak – he held his other scythe awkwardly and his right wing had been torn a little, in addition to all the previous cuts and bruises he had suffered in the battle. The Delibird was not in top shape either, though, its feathers ruffled and its flight uneven and rickety.

“Just get one more Aerial Ace in!” Mark called. He wasn’t sure it would do the trick, but he had to try.

“Hit it first!” Megan shouted.

But even though he was weakened, Scyther was still faster than Delibird, and Mark had been the first to speak. Before the penguin could respond to her order, Scyther spun around to its back and slashed at one of its flipper-wings. White feathers tore off the Delibird and it squawked as it began to lose its already limited flying ability.

Scyther used the last of his strength to knock the falling Delibird aside so that it missed the platform below them and began to plunge down towards the ground. It screeched in panic, desperately flapping its uninjured wing to no avail. Mark saw one of the judges raise a red flag: Delibird was considered fainted according to the rules of the arena.

Megan pursed her lips sourly as she recalled her Pokémon and prepared to take out her final ball.

Scyther had landed on the platform and was hunched over, supporting his body with his left scythe as he panted; he slowly straightened himself, took a quick glance back at his trainer, and then turned back to watch Megan’s end of the arena.

Mark understood the meaning of that exhausted glance: Scyther could still fight, but only barely, and he would likely not survive so much as a single attack on top of this. However, being still just barely able to fight meant that he was not yet considered fainted: Mark could keep him back to secure himself against a draw, just like Aaron White had done in the previous battle.

“Return!” he called just as Megan threw her own ball forward. While Scyther gratefully disintegrated into red energy, a large, white shape emerged on Megan’s platform: four long legs, a slender body, a long neck, a small head with three blades extending backwards from the metallic mask on its head…

A Letaligon.

The glow faded from the Pokémon and Mark looked at it with a strange feeling of detachment. Its red eyes were focused upon him, its powerful claws scratching impatiently at the floor of the platform as it shook its head, the sun flashing off its metallic blades. He’d almost forgotten Megan had a Letaligon and to see it now when his only real remaining Pokémon was Letal felt bizarre.

He almost laughed.

“Go!” he called as he hurled his final Pokéball into the arena. On the status screen, Megan watched the Pokémon form with a confident smirk on her face.

Mark could somehow see the tension in Letal the moment she set eyes upon her opponent: something in her stance changed, her neck tightened. For her, of course, she wasn’t just battling her evolved form while already at a disadvantage due to having taken a couple of hits in the battle before: she was about to battle what she’d always wanted but would probably never become.

He felt sorry for her for a moment, but then realized that she looked more satisfied than she had in weeks; excited, even. Mark remembered her plans about her father: perhaps she just wanted to see if she had the ability to defeat a Letaligon even as a Letal?

“Letaligon, use Agility!” came Megan’s command, snapping him back to reality.

He couldn’t remember Letal knowing any moves that would be any good against Letaligon. This would probably be a slow, lengthy battle where they’d do little damage in each hit until they’d worn themselves out, then: there was little point in going for an all-out offensive.

“Iron Defense, Letal!” Mark yelled. She began to concentrate, turning even her non-armored parts into metal, while Megan’s Letaligon leapt from platform to platform on her side, building up speed as it went.

“Letaligon, Swords Dance!”

The Letaligon stopped and began to perform a series of complex moves, swishing its blades this way and that. Mark watched it hopelessly: no matter how much Letal boosted her defensive abilities, it could match it by boosting its own offensive abilities. There didn’t seem to be any way to get an advantage this way.

Perhaps she could just put it to sleep with Hypnosis? He hesitated; it didn’t seem like the best way to waste her third move when she would never be able to hurt it very much in the time that it was asleep even if the move did succeed.

He suddenly realized that Letal was giving him a meaningful look from where she was standing on the nearest platform. He turned toward her and she motioned oddly with her head, as if to bash it against an invisible wall.

Everything suddenly clicked into place. Rock Smash. He’d taught her that move just to clear some boulders away from the place where they trained. He hadn’t thought it would ever actually be useful in battle – but it definitely was now.

“Letaligon, use Iron Tail!” called Megan.

“Letal, Rock Smash!” Mark countered with newfound confidence.

The Letaligon growled and took a leap to a nearby platform, its metallic tail glowing. Letal lowered her head and leapt to the next platform and then to the next with a grace that at least in Mark’s biased opinion far surpassed that of her opponent.

The two Pokémon met on one of the larger platforms closer to Mark’s side. The Letaligon turned around and smacked its tail into Letal’s side; she grunted and retaliated by smashing her head into the Letaligon’s vulnerable underbelly. It screeched in pain.

“Letaligon, Tri Attack!” Megan shouted. Her Pokémon reacted immediately, its three blades glowing red, yellow and blue before it bowed its head quickly and sent three beams shooting into Letal’s body. She was thrown backwards, dangerously close to the edge of the platform, but turned quickly around and jumped to a smaller platform below on the right while she regained her balance. She looked back up towards the Letaligon with fierce determination in her eyes.

“Another Rock Smash!” Mark called.

Letal crouched to jump – and stopped. For a heartbeat, she was puzzlingly still, the Letaligon looking down at her with a glint of superiority; then a sparkle of electricity passed over her back.

“No!” Mark blurted out in disbelief. One Tri Attack and she was paralyzed – one! It just wasn’t fair. He gritted his teeth in frustration as Letal tried to move. He could have sworn he saw the Letaligon grin even through the metal mask.

“Letaligon, push it off the platform with another Iron Tail!”

“Metal Burst!” Mark countered quickly, hoping Letal would regain her mobility in time.

The Letaligon jumped down to Letal’s platform and swished its glowing tail at her still crouching form. It hit her forcefully and her body was thrown like a ragdoll towards the edge...

She suddenly threw out her legs and extended her claws, grasping desperately at the floor of the platform. One of her hind legs was already off the edge; the other just barely managed to hold on by a toe or two. It was enough for her to throw herself back onto the platform, her entire body taking on a metallic sheen as she replicated the Letaligon’s movements with greater force: her entire hindquarters smashed into its body like an iron fist and threw it straight off the edge of the platform.

The metal sheen of her body vanished as quickly as it had appeared; she ran towards that edge of the platform and saw the Letaligon managing to climb onto a lower platform off to the left.

“Letaligon, get it with Iron Tail again!”

“Letal, get to a bigger platform where it can’t throw you off!” Mark called desperately, worried her paralysis might cause that scenario to repeat itself with less happy consequences. “And then try to meet it with Rock Smash!”

She leapt across a few platforms to get back to the larger one where they had been before while the Letaligon jumped across the lower platforms to get up there. It had to take a zigzag route of gradually rising ones that gave Letal a few seconds to examine where it would arrive from and prepare herself near the middle of the platform, ready to face it. She lowered her head, narrowing her eyes towards her ascending opponent.

The Letaligon let out a piercing, metallic cry as it took the final leap onto the large platform, its tail raised and shining with a bright white light. Letal was ready to meet it, crouched low to the ground.

The Letaligon smashed its tail down on her back, and Letal was immobile again. Mark groaned as a flurry of sparks scattered across her body and she was limply tossed aside. Megan looked at her Letaligon with a triumphant grin.

“One more Iron Tail!”

Letal’s paw twitched as she strained to move it, still lying helpless on her side. The Pokémon status screen showed a close-up of her, the desperate rage in her eyes almost painful to watch as the Letaligon’s tail glowed and smashed down on her head. Mark thought he heard something crack, but he must have been imagining it; Letal raised her head back up with difficulty and began to try to rise to her feet.

“Iron Tail it again, Letaligon.”

It obediently smacked her down again with another strike of its tail. She tried to rise again, her legs shaking at the effort; Mark bit his lip. Was it over? Should he recall her?

The Letaligon’s tail began to glow again even without a command, and it swung it, only to narrowly miss as Letal suddenly jumped onto the small lower platform she had been on before. Without even stopping to rest, she leapt back up towards the larger platform, where the Letaligon was waiting; she dodged a strike with its tail to deliver another Rock Smash to its soft underbelly. It roared and fired a Tri Attack at her, which threw her back by a little but was countered by a metallic mirror image of the attack that hit it back. The Letaligon shook its head angrily, beginning to circle Letal like prey while she crouched low, ready to strike.

“Letal...” Mark began, but she was a step ahead of him: as the Letaligon’s attention momentarily shifted to listen to Mark’s command, she bounded up to it, crashed her head into its armor and then bounded off towards another platform before it recovered sufficiently from the blow to strike back.

“Catch up with it!” Megan shouted.

The Letaligon jumped to follow Letal while she seemed to be racing as fast as she could between the platforms, taking a lot of daring leaps that Mark presumed were intended to make the Letaligon’s pursuit more difficult. In that department she was fairly successful – more than once, the Letaligon resorted to an alternative route and had to waste time to get back on track, somewhat making up for its clear advantage in speed. Mark figured she must be trying to tire it somehow, but she had been under far more strain in the battle so far – wouldn’t she be worn out first? The Letaligon was still slowly catching up, now only a few platforms behind. What was she thinking? He looked at the close-up on the status screen, trying to read something from her. Her muscles were straining to run as fast as she could, her breathing rapid as she leapt more and more platforms in a rough circle around the arena. There was some sort of frantic glee in her eyes.

It suddenly came to him with a creeping feeling of dread. She wasn’t trying to tire the Letaligon. She was trying to tire herself – it was the same trick from the gym battle in Acaria City, a last desperate attempt to trigger evolution through an adrenaline rush.

It was a stupid, dangerous thing to do. The Acaria City nurse’s angry words echoed in his head. This time he knew better. He had to recall her. His hand touched her Pokéball and stayed there.

He had no other Pokémon left to use. The Letaligon would beat Scyther in a single strike if he sent him out. He’d have to send Letal out again and let her continue her crazy little plan – except the Letaligon would have time to catch up with her while she was rematerializing – or forfeit the battle.

He couldn’t. He had wanted to take part in the League since he was little. He couldn’t just voluntarily throw away his last chance to qualify from the preliminaries in order to try to be smart for Letal.

He looked hopelessly at his Pokémon, still jumping frantically between platforms with the Letaligon following closely behind her. “Letal, stop!” he shouted desperately. “It won’t work! Use Rock Smash! Please!”

Except it did work.

Mark stared as Letal’s body was enveloped in a white glow. She jumped onto the platform next to Mark and stopped there, legs shaking as her form disappeared into blinding white light and began to grow. The Letaligon came to an abrupt halt behind her while the crowd in the audience stand exploded into wild cheering.

Letal’s whole body expanded, legs and neck lengthening and paws bulging out to make room for oversized claws; the other Pokémon watched it as if mesmerized, unable to attack her while she was protected by the evolutionary glow. She lowered her head as new blades began to grow out of the sides of her mask to match the new length of the top blade.

The white light faded, and she was a Letaligon just like Megan’s.

Mark realized his mouth was open and closed it.

“Letaligon,” Megan yelled over the still-deafening cheering of the audience, “use Iron Tail!”

“Counter it with Metal Burst!” Mark called, his heart beating wildly. Megan’s Letaligon leapt towards the former Letal, its tail glowing as it smacked into her body, but with her renewed strength after evolution, she only staggered slightly before turning into pure metal to counter the attack –

She froze, the metallic sheen fading. Sparks leapt across her armor as the other Letaligon swung its tail again with a gleam of victory in its eyes, and she was knocked back, now dangerously close to the edge. She still couldn’t move.

“One more time!” Megan shouted, and her Pokémon smashed its glowing tail into her one last time, sending her hind legs skirting off the edge.

Her front claws dug into the floor of the platform, forming three parallel scratches as she slipped further down –

“You can do it!” Mark blurted out. “You could do it earlier!”

Whether his words had anything to do with it or not (probably not), she regained her mobility a split second later and began to claw at the air with her hind legs, reaching forward with her right front paw. The other Letaligon walked towards her, the blades of its mask beginning to glow in bright colors now as it prepared a final attack to make her fall.

“Come on,” Mark whispered as he watched, his knuckles tightening on the railing around the trainer stand. “You could do it earlier.”

Letal – no, Letaligon – suddenly released her hold on the platform, the Tri Attack narrowly missing her as she fell. Mark’s heart took a lurch in his chest until he saw her claw her way onto a lower platform and begin to make her way back up. Megan’s Pokémon growled angrily and turned towards her.

“Letaligon, stay there and use a Swords Dance, quick!” Megan ordered sharply, and it stopped to begin the same peculiar dance as when it had first been sent out, swinging its blades in a series of rhythmic movements.

“Letaligon, use Rock Smash!” Mark called. It felt bizarre to say the new name, somehow.

She jumped up to the platform where the other Letaligon turned toward her to growl threateningly. Its tail glowed, and without warning, it leapt at her, striking a blow to her side. She stumbled and seemed momentarily to be paralyzed again – then she rammed her head at full force into her opponent.

Megan’s Letaligon didn’t anticipate the full power of the attack now that she had evolved, and it was knocked a few feet backwards, stumbling as it tried to regain its balance. That was when one hind paw stepped on air, and the creature let out a cry of surprise as it tumbled over itself, plunging over the left side of the leftmost platform on the arena.

The audience erupted into thunderous applause as a red flag was waved in the judge panel and a Pokéball beam absorbed Megan’s falling Pokémon. “The winner is Mark Greenlet!” said the announcer’s voice as the status screen changed to cross out Megan’s Letaligon with a red X.

Mark was stunned for a moment; it took a second for his brain to register his victory – a 2-0 victory, no less, thanks to Scyther – but once it had, he found himself grinning like an idiot. They were all cheering for him – him and Letaligon.

She’d gotten him his first win at the League. And with a bit of luck, it might not have to be the last, either.

He was still holding her Pokéball in his palm; he raised it numbly to recall her. The newly evolved Letaligon stood alone on the platform and slowly straightened herself, raising her head high and joining the crowd in a roar of victory before she was absorbed back into the ball.

For some reason in this chapter and the last I originally wrote a weird amount of things without contractions? I am puzzled, nineteen-year-old self.

The bit where apparently Letal put no effort into training her jumps and wasn't good at it but is magically good at it now that she is putting effort in is something that bugs me today; surely that's not how practice for physical skills works?

Either way, I get a real kick out of the way that this chapter features a Lunatone, Delibird, and the move Rock Smash being amazing.
The Ouen League - Chapter 49: The Rage of a Scyther


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Welp, another long wait. These long League chapters plus mafia games taking up half my free time aren't a great mix.

Here's chapter 49, in which something from twenty chapters ago makes an unexpected reappearance!

The Ouen League – Chapter 49: The Rage of a Scyther​


“You know,” May said as they walked from the Pokémon Center back to the trainer lodges, “you really weren’t that bad this time. A couple of odd switches and you could probably have used Dragonite better even against the über-Lunatone, but there was some actual strategy going on in parts of it and Letal utilized the arena well. And in-battle evolution always gets you coolness points.”

“The woman at the office building said they’d also take into account the confusion with Charizard,” Mark said. “Think that’ll mean more points too?”

“Almost definitely,” May replied. “He’s a Flying-type, which would have been good on the arena, and a Fire-type, which would have been good against both Delibird and Letaligon. You really just might qualify now. Especially since you officially won 2-0. Good call with Scyther.”

Mark nodded. “I guess you can thank Aaron White for that.”

“What, don’t I get any credit for pointing out you could do it too?”

Mark looked quizzically at May; she was smiling in a way that indicated it was a joke. He could never really be sure with her.

“Anyway,” she went on, “that means you’re done with the preliminaries and can just fool around for the next week and a half, but I recommend you start to work on reprogramming yourself in case you qualify. The knockout rounds are six-on-six with no switching. That means your Pokémon will be facing opponents they’re weak against and you can’t just recall them and send out something else instead. Practice moves that counter their weaknesses, evasive maneuvers, stuff like that.”

“Your next preliminary match is the day after tomorrow, right?”

May nodded. “Not that I have to worry much. It’s the guy we saw in that desert-themed match, remember? The one who lost, with the Glaceon.”

“Oh, yeah.” Mark paused. “Was he really that bad?”

“Well,” May replied with a shrug, “I guess it was more his choice of Pokémon than him, per se. Maybe he learned from his mistakes with that after his first match. Still nothing special, though. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble with him.”

Mark just nodded, wishing he had her confidence. He was still trying to wrap his head around the fact he might actually qualify to the knockout phase; he’d been hoping for it, sure, but the prospect of actually having to start preparing for it and modifying his strategies for six-on-six switchless was oddly intimidating. In the preliminaries, he’d felt like he was just battling some kids like himself. If he qualified for the knockout rounds, he’d be facing some of the top sixteen first-time trainers in Ouen this year. How could he possibly be a match for them?

It suddenly struck him for the first time now, as they were walking through the door into the trainer lodge, that if he qualified, that made him one of those top sixteen trainers. That couldn’t be right. There was no way he would actually qualify. He hadn’t even won both of his preliminary matches. May had to be mistaken somehow.

He summoned the courage to articulate his concerns once they’d gotten lunch from the buffet and sat down at their usual table.

“Well,” May said, “as I keep saying, winning isn’t the point in the preliminaries. It’s all about showing off your Pokémon and your strategic thinking for the judges. You have a Dragonite and a Letaligon. You can sometimes strategize when you put your mind to it. You got pretty lucky by getting decent opponents. Thus, points. It’s as simple as that.”

“Lucky?” Mark repeated skeptically.

“Yes, lucky,” she said with an emphatic nod. “You made yourself look better than you are. How impressed do you think the judges are that I beat Pipsqueak Ketchum the other day? You actually got to show off some of the best you can do, especially earlier. I mean, I can guarantee you that you got more points just now than I got for my first match. Some kids here probably think they’ll qualify just because they won two matches through brute force against people who were obviously worse than them, when in reality people who lose against somebody good while using some strategy are getting much more points.”

“So you think I really will qualify?” Mark asked hesitantly.

“Well, of course I don’t know if you’ll qualify, but stop thinking you’re out just because you lost a preliminary match. I’d think you have a chance, personally.”

That was the end of that conversation; Mark still wasn’t sure if he should dare to get his hopes up, but decided to take May’s advice about preparing for the knockout rounds in case he did qualify – tomorrow, anyway. He didn’t feel like training today.

Once they’d finished eating, May went off to train while Mark retreated to his room and took out Letaligon’s Pokéball. He sat down on his bed and took a deep breath before he dropped the ball onto the floor.

“I did it,” Letaligon said, only moments after she had fully materialized. “I evolved.”

Her tone was strange: she sounded part incredulous, part triumphant and part somehow expectant. She looked down at her strong, black claws for a moment, flexing them, and then turned towards Mark, waiting for some sort of an answer.

“Congratulations,” he said, not sure quite what he wanted to say or how to say it. “I mean, wow. I really didn’t think you’d do it.”

“But I did,” she replied insistently. “You all thought I couldn’t evolve and I still did.”

Mark looked at her. “Yeah,” he said. “You did.”

“You wanted me to stop,” she went on, still looking at him. “You told me it wouldn’t work, but it did.”

“Yeah,” Mark replied again. “I guess I was wrong.” He wondered momentarily what Nurse Joy of Acaria City would think of where this conversation was going. At least Letaligon looked slightly more satisfied now; she stopped staring at Mark and looked around the room for a moment. It occurred to Mark that it must feel a lot smaller to her now that she was a Letaligon.

“When do we go back to Ruxido?” she asked at last.

“Not until after the League, remember,” Mark said. “You were going to stay throughout the League and then we’d go there to release you.”

“Oh,” Letaligon answered. She didn’t say anything more, but by now Mark had realized what it was he had really wanted to talk to her about.

“Letaligon,” he began, “are you still... do you still want to kill your father?”

“Yes,” she said with a hint of defensive stubbornness to her voice. “Of course I do. Why wouldn’t I?”

Because Charmeleon had grown out of wanting to kill Scyther when he evolved. Because her evolution had been a sort of final chance for that entire situation to resolve itself before anybody had to be killed. But he didn’t say anything.

“So… yeah, you were going to stay for the rest of the League,” he said eventually. When he got no immediate answer, he added, “That was the deal. I kind of need you, because without Gyarados I only have six Pokémon. I can’t make a full team without you.”

“Yes,” she replied distractedly as she examined the armor on her back. “I will. I just forgot.” She looked up. “Can I go back in my Pokéball now?”

Mark nodded and took out her ball to recall her.


The next day, while May was off training for her second preliminary match, Mark lay in his bed with his sketchbook and began to put together a type vulnerability chart for his team. It was an idea that had popped into his head the day before: since he only had six Pokémon, it would be nice to get a good idea of what the major weaknesses of his team were and how to take measures against them.

His team’s great weak spot was clearly the Rock weakness, with Charizard, Dragonite and Scyther all vulnerable, but on the upside, both Sandslash and Letaligon would be solid choices for dealing with Rock-types. Ice-types were also a threat to Sandslash, Dragonite and Scyther, but he had Charizard and Letaligon for them. Among the more minor weaknesses was Ground, for both Jolteon and Letaligon, though he of course had three Flying-types to take advantage of that…

He stopped. This really wasn’t the right way to approach this, was it? In a battle with no switching, compounded weaknesses could hardly be as much of a problem as otherwise. Each Rock-type brought out into battle would only get to take down exactly one Pokémon that was weak to it, but he could then send out something that wasn’t weak to it to beat it, without the opponent ever getting to take advantage of the fact Mark might have other Pokémon that were also weak to Rock.

He tore the page out of the sketchbook, crumpled it and threw it into the garbage before starting over by writing up a simple list of his Pokémon and their weaknesses.

Charizard (Fire/Flying) – weak to Rock (x2), Water, Electric

Jolteon (Electric) – weak to Ground

Sandslash (Ground) – weak to Water, Grass, Ice

Dragonite (Dragon/Flying) – weak to Ice (x2), Rock, Dragon, Fairy

Scyther (Bug/Flying) – weak to Rock (x2), Ice, Electric, Fire

Letaligon (Normal/Steel) – weak to Fighting (x2), Ground, Fire

Charizard. Rock, Water and Electric. What would he do against those types when unable to switch? He had no super-effective moves against any of them and probably couldn’t learn a lot. The only type that would give him a fighting chance against Electric-types was Ground – he was pretty sure Charizard could learn the Earthquake TM. He’d have to shell out some money for it, but if he qualified, it would probably be worth it.

Earthquake would also help against Rock-types – which left Water. Water Pokémon were only weak to Grass and Electric attacks, and he was pretty sure Charizard couldn’t get any of those. Or could he? He seemed to remember looking at a list sometime and being surprised by how many Pokémon could learn attacks like Thunder Fang, Fire Fang and Thunder Punch. Perhaps Charizard was one of them. And what Grass attacks were there again? The drains, Razor Leaf, Vine Whip – no way – Grass Knot, Leaf Blade, Solar Beam...

An image popped up in his head: a televised Old-Timers’ League match, himself gazing mesmerized at the Charizard on the screen as it gathered the sun’s energy into an orb in its mouth and fired a bright beam of light at the Swampert on the other side of the arena while the latter’s trainer stared in horror. Charizard could learn Solar Beam. Better still, he thought with a grin as he wrote it down, Solar Beam benefitted from Sunny Day just like his Fire moves, and it would beat Rock-types too. With it and Earthquake, Charizard should be reasonably well off no matter what was brought out against him.

Jolteon was more problematic. He definitely couldn’t learn any Water, Grass or Ice moves to employ against the Ground-types that would inevitably be sent out against him. He did have Swift, but that wouldn’t be very effective against the many Ground-types that were also Rock or Steel, and it wasn’t an overly powerful attack anyhow. He had Pin Missile, but being a physical attack, that would probably be even worse. Mark frowned. Could Jolteon learn any other good special attacks that would help him against Ground-types? He couldn’t really remember. Perhaps he should keep Jolteon for later when he could go to the library and look it up.

Sandslash. He’d always been a bit lacking in the moves department – usually, Mark had just stuck with Earthquake, but that wouldn’t work now. The problem was that he was pretty sure there was no way Sandslash could learn Grass or Electric attacks that might beat Water-type opponents. While he did have Gyro Ball, a Steel attack, which he could employ against Ice-types, and Poison Sting, which Grass-types would be vulnerable to, neither was a very reliably powerful attack. Admittedly only Grass was actually resistant to Earthquake, so he could still use that, but the situation was still pretty poor. And what about Flying-types, who would be immune to Earthquake altogether? Could Sandslash learn any Rock attacks? He thought about it. Yeah, he had Rollout, didn’t he? Though that wasn’t the best choice. Perhaps he could learn Rock Slide? He was pretty sure there was a TM for that. He made a note to look it up. That would also come in handy against the Ice-types. What about Grass-types? Could he learn Aerial Ace? That would be a possibility too.

Dragonite had a bigger movepool; he had Fire Punch against the Ice-types, Dragon Rush against other Dragon-types, and Aqua Tail against the Rock-types. Nothing specifically effective against Fairy-types but still plenty of neutral moves. He had a pretty solid way of defending himself against most anything, as far as Mark could tell. Nothing to worry about, then.

Scyther was troublesome; he had four weaknesses and not the widest variety of moves in the world. Though he had Brick Break against Rock-types, it was still a physical attack, which didn’t mix well with the generally good physical defensive abilities of most Rock Pokémon; he’d have to be careful. Brick Break would also help against Ice-types. Electric and Fire Pokémon, on the other hand, he had nothing especially good against, and Mark doubted he could learn anything that would be – he just couldn’t picture Scyther learning Ground, Rock or Water attacks. Perhaps he’d look it up anyway just in case.

And finally, Letaligon. She had Aerial Ace for any Fighting-types she might have to face, but Ground and Fire-types were harder to work around. Could she perhaps learn Earthquake too? That would handle the Fire-types. But Water, Grass or Ice moves for the Ground-types just weren’t likely. She’d have to stick with her Normal or Steel attacks. They wouldn’t be that bad, anyway.

He looked over the notes he’d written down. That was several TMs he’d have to get to try to counter all his Pokémon’s weaknesses. He sighed. He couldn’t go buying them now – he probably wouldn’t qualify at all, and then there was no real reason to get them unless they were about to battle legendaries of particular types. But if he did qualify and bought all the TMs afterwards, they wouldn’t have as much time to practice the new attacks before the start of the knockout rounds, and he could imagine that it would take some practice for them to master moves of completely different elements well enough to hold their own against something with a type advantage. The extra days would probably count.

He put the sketchbook down on the bedside table and thought about it. He wanted to be hopeful – even May was hopeful on his behalf, which was saying something – but he really could not reasonably believe he would qualify, and since he was still wasting his parents’ money, he really owed it to them to be reasonable about it.

Especially since his parents thought he was dead.

“They don’t,” said a voice in his head; Mark momentarily jumped. It had been a while since he’d spoken to Chaletwo and the sensation had become bizarrely unfamiliar.

“Hm?” he asked aloud.

“They don’t think you’re dead,” Chaletwo repeated.

Mark furrowed his brow. “Really? Then what do they think?”

“They don’t think anything,” Chaletwo answered. “They don’t think about you. If they’re reminded that you exist, they’ll briefly remember you’re out on a Pokémon journey and then move on to thinking about something else. That’s what the memory modification does. It makes the memory of you feel like something unimportant and vague, and completely dissociates it from the death at the Pokémon Festival, if they remember that at all.”

“Huh.” Mark wasn’t sure if he liked the idea of that better or worse than the idea that they thought he was dead. It was a bit creepy to think that they were pretty much being mind-controlled, unable to think about certain things – it seemed like it couldn’t actually be them if they weren’t worrying about him all the time.

On the other hand, though he hadn’t really thought about it before, he couldn’t even imagine what kind of grief his parents had gone through when they’d heard he had died. They must have cried for days. It was probably a good thing they could no longer remember it.

He stopped on that thought, turned it over in his head with a weird lump forming in his throat. His parents really loved him, didn’t they? As much as he’d always complained that they were overprotective – he still didn’t think it had been right of them to forbid him to go on a Pokémon journey, but they really had just been worried. I promise I won’t get myself killed, he had shouted as he’d waved goodbye, as a joke – and what had he ended up doing? He’d gone and confirmed all their suspicions, murdered by Chaletwo just like they’d feared all along. They’d just been trying to keep him safe, in the end – their methods had been bonkers, trying to hide it all from him like he’d never find out, but on one level, in their own warped way, they’d been right: he’d gone to see Chaletwo even after he knew.

Meanwhile, people like Letaligon got ditched by a parent just for not being shiny.

It’d been pretty absurd from the start, hadn’t it, to compare his parent problems to hers. Her father didn’t give a crap about her, was thrilled to just have her taken off his hands; his had been a bit overzealous in protecting him.

In some strange way, that stark sense of perspective made him feel a little better. He didn’t like to think of Letaligon killing anyone, but did it even really mean anything that he was her father? In the end, wasn’t she just like Scyther, or Gyarados, a Pokémon to whom it was normal to kill sometimes? None of a human’s business? Scyther having ritualized duels to the death, or Letaligon wanting to kill a father who’d never cared for her – was there much of difference? It wasn’t exactly like someone wanting to kill his dad.

Abruptly he started to chuckle. Thinking about how his own parents loved him was making him feel better about patricide. That didn’t even make sense.

He lay there for a moment, lost in thought, but then stood up, picked up his sketchbook and headed off to the library to look up those TMs.


May’s second preliminary battle went swimmingly – it was a little harder than she’d expected, or so she said afterwards, but she nonetheless won with her Blaziken comfortably healthy, if tired, by the time he delivered the final blow, and overall, though Mark probably wasn’t the best judge of it, her strategies had at least looked impressive.

After that, there were two tense days of waiting while the judging on all the battles was finalized, and the pair of them was briefly reunited as May helped him and the Pokémon get into the switchless mindset. She also voiced her approval of most of the TMs he had written down, though Mark could not shake off the thought of how stupid he would feel if it all turned out to be for nothing. He found himself swinging repeatedly between thinking he’d probably make the cut after all – usually after May talked him up some – and being convinced there was simply no way; by the evening of the ninth of August, he had simply decided to keep his expectations low, partly so he wouldn’t be disappointed and partly just to decide something.

Finally, on the morning of the tenth, May dragged him out of bed at ten minutes to nine, hissing that everybody else was already waiting outside by the announcement screen.

Still half-asleep, he gobbled up some breakfast while May drummed her fingers on the table and gave him a speech. Apparently, she’d been trying to wake him up since half past the hour and had already had her breakfast, though for all Mark remembered she could as well have been making that up. Then she had apparently somehow used her name tag in a creative way to break into his room to wake him, which was kind of creepy, but had to be true, since he was pretty sure he’d locked the door the previous night. After May had checked her watch conspicuously several times, she finally ordered him to leave his half-eaten bacon and ushered him outside to the crowd of trainers while what he had managed to eat turned into butterflies in his stomach.

Mark couldn’t really see a thing; although the announcement screen was mounted on top of a metal pole, there were too many people taller than him standing on tiptoe to see over one another’s heads all around. He could make out between a couple of heads that the screen was still blank, though. He looked unsurely up at May.

“It should be coming,” she muttered without looking at him, and he tried to shift himself to the left in the hope that that would give him a convenient gap to look through; it didn’t. He briefly considered going farther away so his line of sight would go over the crowd, but then realized that he probably wouldn’t be able to read what was on it from that far away anyway.

The screen flickered to life, immediately eliciting gasps and shouts from the waiting trainers, and the butterflies in Mark’s stomach redoubled their fluttering efforts. He tried to push himself up using May’s shoulder as leverage, but she elbowed him away. The standard blue background came on the screen, and then he couldn’t see a thing as somebody quickly pushed past him to fill the only gap he had.

There was an explosion of disappointed groans, punctuated by a few screams of joy. Mark’s heart skipped a beat as he made a final attempt to see something and then looked hopelessly up at May. She stood on tiptoe, craning her neck over the people in front of her, and then –

“I’m in!” she said and looked at him with a grin. His gaze alone must have gotten the message that he couldn’t see anything across, because she almost immediately looked back at the screen. “And so are you – congratulations, Mark!”

For a moment he looked at her quizzically, having somehow forgotten exactly what that actually meant. Even after he’d blinked that off, it took a few more seconds for it to sink in. “Wait, really?” he asked over the noise of the squabbling trainers. “I qualified?”

“Yup,” she said. “It’s right there.”

The crowd was already thinning a little, so by shifting around some, Mark managed to finally get a good look at the screen for himself. It was a simple list of sixteen names – he noticed Aaron White’s there before he found his own, but once he’d found it, it was definitely there. He read it a few times over to make sure.

He hadn’t meant to be this surprised if he managed to qualify. He’d thought he was reasonably used to the idea by now. The next thing to pop up in his head was that all the training and preparations wouldn’t be for nothing after all.

After that, I’d like to see Mrs. Grodski’s face if she heard that I just qualified to the knockout rounds of the League! He grinned widely at the thought.

“So,” May asked, “since we’re both moving on to the knockout rounds, how about some joint training?”

“Not yet,” he replied, still grinning. “I’ve got some TMs to buy.”


For the next few days, they continued to train, mostly practicing their Pokémon’s various weakness counters. On the thirteenth, the first elimination round matchups were published; Mark’s opponent was another one of those vaguely familiar faces he couldn’t put his finger on, some guy named Michael Willows, while May was matched against none other than Aaron White.

(“Consider your defeat avenged,” she’d said upon finding out, eyebrows raised.)

Afterwards, they went to the library together to look up their opponents’ teams and then separated to prepare for their battles.

“Okay, guys,” Mark told his Pokémon at their usual training spot. “This guy has nine Pokémon of a variety of types. Let’s see...” He looked at his notebook. “Blastoise, Breloom, Donphan, Flareon, Gallade, Lucario, Manectric, Scizor...” Mark glanced at Scyther; the Pokémon winced and looked away. “...And Staraptor.”

“Three Fighting-types,” Letaligon was quick to point out.

Mark nodded. “Yeah. That’ll only really be a problem for you, though.” He paused. “Well, first things first. Who has the least of a disadvantage against all of them, who could open the battle?”

“Dragonite,” Charizard said immediately.

Mark looked over the list again. Yes, Michael Willows had no Ice, Rock or Dragon-types at all. “Okay, we’ll start with him, then, if it’s okay with you?”

Dragonite nodded in agreement along with the others.

They ran over a few hypothetical scenarios of how the battle might go from there; the first ended uncomfortably with Michael’s Flareon and one extra Pokémon against Letaligon. The rest had a worrying tendency to end pessimistically, though Letaligon was quick to point out that they were not accounting for the fact Michael would have to pick out his team of six beforehand and that they could win even when at a disadvantage.

“There’s another thing,” Mark said before they went to lunch. “This guy is thirteen. His profile says he’s collected badges in other regions. I mean, the Pokémon he’s using now have obviously not been in continuous training all that time, and if any of them were brought over from the other regions, they’ve regressed to around the levels of most of the trainers here, but he probably has a lot more experience as a trainer than most. I’m a bit worried about that.”

Scyther shrugged. “If he’s still playing in a regional Newcomers’ League and starting over his training every time, he can’t be very confident in his abilities.”

“I guess,” Mark said reluctantly, still not convinced. “His team seems pretty good, though.”

“We’ll do our best,” said Dragonite. “Even if we lose, it’s great to have gotten this far.”

Mark nodded. He was right about that. Again, Mrs. Grodski’s imaginary scandalized expression popped up in his head and made him chuckle. At least he’d exceeded her expectations already. Anything more was just a bonus, right?


Both of their battles were on the fifteenth, the first day of the knockout rounds; May’s was in the morning, but she convinced Mark the night before that he’d be better off getting some sleep and then preparing for his own battle than watching hers. She won anyhow, as she told him when they met at the trainer lodge for lunch, though her lack of enthusiasm for telling him the details of how it went made him wonder if she’d perhaps had a more difficult time with Aaron White than she’d expected. Then he had to go to retrieve his Pokémon, she wished him luck, and they parted again.

He got his six Pokémon from the League offices and the receptionist lady took him to the trainer stand on the main battle arena, just like for the second preliminary match. He had a weird déjà vu feeling walking up those familiar stairs up to the metal railing on the trainer stand, but looking over the stadium was a decidedly different feeling. The arena was normal now, with no special type gimmicks; there was just rough, solid ground with white battle arena markings painted onto it and a large pool on the side, all in all making it look oddly solemn compared to the themed battlefields of the preliminaries.

Michael Willows, a tall boy with large, brown eyes and spiky, dark red hair stood on the other trainer stand, the trainer close-up on the giant screens on the side showing him looking around the audience stands with a faint smile. He was fiddling with a minimized Pokéball in his right hand; it was probably what he was going to bring out first. Mark figured it might not be such a bad idea to have the ball ready, so he took out Dragonite’s. He looked around the audience stands as they filled and thought he saw May enter at one point, but couldn’t be sure.

“Trainers, ready Pokéballs,” said a voice at last. Michael looked up and maximized the ball he was holding; Mark did the same.

“Ready... set... throw!”

They hurled the balls out at the same time and Mark squinted at the shape of light that was forming out of Michael’s ball. It became a slender, humanshape sort of thing – Lucario, he realized as the light began to fade away. Dragonite, fully formed, jumped into the air and began to fly.

“Dragonite, use a Fire Punch!” Mark shouted.

“Lucario, Dragon Pulse!” came the quick countercommand.

Lucario was quicker. It closed its eyes, the aura sensors on the sides of its head thrust out sideways, and a pulse of blue energy rippled through the air, striking Dragonite in mid-dive. He was knocked backwards in the air and winced in pain, but continued down towards his opponent as flames circled his fist and delivered a punch that knocked Lucario back like a ragdoll, though as a Fighting-type, it handled the fall gracefully and was quickly back on its feet.

“Now use an Ice Punch!” Michael ordered without missing a beat. Mark realized with dread that he hadn’t really assumed Lucario would know something like Ice Punch, but there was little to do about it now.

“Dragonite, Dragon Dance!” he called, hoping Dragonite would survive long enough to benefit from it. Lucario was already leaping towards the dragon Pokémon and smashed its icy fist across his face; he cried out in pain and stumbled back before lifting farther up and beginning a quick dance in the air.

“Lucario, Metal Sound!”

Mark couldn’t for the life of him remember what that attack did, but was none too keen on waiting to find out, so he shouted, “Fire Punch again!” as Dragonite finished his dance.

Lucario closed its eyes to focus again and then struck the metal spikes on the backs of its paws together, forming a loud, high-pitched sound that made Dragonite cringe and waver in his flight as he dived. Flames surrounded his paw again and he smacked it into Lucario’s body, sending it flying even farther than before.

“And now Roost!” Mark said quickly.

“Lucario, Dragon Pulse!”

Dragonite landed on the ground some distance away and lay down curled up, closing his eyes as a mild blue glow surrounded his body to heal him. Meanwhile, Lucario concentrated and sent another pulse of draconic energy towards him. Strangely, this time it actually made him twist in pain, even though he was healing himself. Perhaps it was that Metal Sound’s fault somehow.

“Use another Fire Punch!”

Dragonite managed to leap up and glide towards Lucario, fire gathering around his chubby fist...

“Another Dragon Pulse!”

Dragonite drove his fiery paw into Lucario’s stomach and the aura Pokémon let itself roll backwards before sending another Dragon Pulse his way. The Roost had probably saved him; Dragonite was knocked harshly back, but he remained conscious.

“Fire Punch!” Mark shouted, his heart thumping. He was sure that would do the trick –

“Lucario, use Extremespeed!”

Lucario took a leap and turned into a dark blue blur in the air as it smacked itself into Dragonite’s body. He bounced back in the air and then crashed into the ground, where he tried weakly to stand up.

“Another Extremespeed,” called Michael, and his Lucario smashed down onto Dragonite’s back, knocking the wind out of him and ensuring his defeat, to an explosion of cheering from the audience.

Mark bit his lip; seeing as Dragonite was his strongest Pokémon and they’d been mostly evenly matched type-wise, this didn’t bode very well. “Good work, Dragonite,” he said anyway, recalling the dragon’s limp body.

Right. Lucario. His choices were pretty much Charizard and Sandslash, if he wanted the type advantage. However, Lucario had used up all of its four moves in the fight with Dragonite, and one of them was Ice Punch – he did not want Sandslash out there against something he knew had an Ice attack. So Charizard was...

It suddenly struck him that, yes, Lucario had used up all of its four moves. Dragon Pulse, Ice Punch, Extremespeed and Metal Sound. Its Fighting advantages were null and void now. Which meant...

“Go, Letaligon!” he called, throwing her ball out. “Use Earthquake!”

“Lucario, use Metal Sound!”

Letaligon emerged on the battlefield as Lucario struck its metal spikes together again to produce that high-pitched ringing sound again. She winced but then reared up on her hind legs and came down to smash her front paws into the ground, producing a powerful ripple that travelled across the ground and underneath Lucario. It shivered and crouched down in an attempt to survive it; Letaligon eyed it warily, but finally it submitted to unconsciousness and fell limply on its side.

“You did great, Lucario,” said Michael as he recalled his Pokémon. He paused for a moment before taking out his next ball. “Scizor, I choose you!”

Mark was momentarily puzzled; didn’t Michael have a Donphan, a Flareon and two more Fighting-types? He couldn’t possibly not have brought any of them for the battle.

“Use Brick Break!” Michael ordered as the Bug Pokémon finished materializing. Of course.

“Letaligon, um, use a Metal Burst!” Mark called while trying to think. Would Iron Defense be worth it? She had little chance of beating it when it had an attack she was so weak to and the most effective attack she could use against it was the only moderately effective Earthquake, which she wasn’t the best user of. Perhaps just Metal Bursting until she fainted was her best bet.

The Scizor, surprisingly quick, darted across the arena, pulling its right pincer back before it swung it like a hammer into Letaligon’s side. She lost her balance momentarily and stumbled to regain it before her entire body turned metallic and swung a paw into the Scizor in an exaggerated reflection of its move. It was knocked back and landed on the ground but quickly rose to its feet.

“Swords Dance,” Michael ordered. His Scizor began to mime dueling an invisible, impossibly quick opponent, spinning around to seemingly block several attacks at once in between precise strikes at the air; it was a much more dramatic execution of Swords Dance than how for example Scyther and Charizard did it, though Mark wasn’t sure if that gave it any advantage or if it was just a personal quirk. He chuckled at it anyhow, half amused and half nervous: if he gave Scizor too much opportunity to power itself up, Charizard would have a more difficult time with it once it had finished Letaligon off.

“Hypnosis!” Mark finally came up with.

“Double Team, Scizor!”

Letaligon tried to focus on the Scizor’s eyes, but it nonchalantly faced away from her and formed two illusory copies of itself before turning back around, something about its mouthless expression managing to seem smug.

Mark gritted his teeth. Hypnosis was unreliable enough as it was. “Earthquake, then,” he ordered, and Letaligon reared up to smash her paws into the ground once again. The ground rippled; the three Scizor took a simultaneous leap to avoid it, but Letaligon, snarling in frustration, pounded the ground again to keep the quake going as they landed. The Earthquake ripples quickly dissolved the two copies, leaving the real Scizor alone.

“Brick Break again,” Michael called. Scizor zoomed forward to smash a pincer into Letaligon’s side, exactly where she’d been hit before; Mark might have been imagining it, but he was sure the armor dented visibly. Letaligon stumbled back, severely weakened.

“Metal Burst!” Mark shouted quickly.

“Bullet Punch!” countered Michael.

Before Letaligon could react, the Scizor smashed its pincer upwards into her jaw, and she let out a yelp of pain before she swayed and collapsed.

“Come back, Letaligon,” Mark said, holding her ball forward to recall her. “Charizard, go!”

As the dragon Pokémon began to form, Mark was about to order a Flamethrower when he realized that Michael would probably send out Blastoise next, and once it was out, wasting time on a Sunny Day to set up Solar Beam could be a fatal mistake. Scizor, on the other hand, had little ability to harm Charizard and so would be a better choice to waste time against.

“Use Sunny Day and then Flamethrower, Charizard!” he called.

“Scizor, Double Team,” ordered Michael.

Charizard took off from the ground and roared towards the cloudy sky. Instantly, the wispy clouds parted and the warmth of the sun’s intensified rays spread over the stadium, heating it to almost uncomfortable levels. Scizor ignored it and split itself into three identical clones that simultaneously looked up at Charizard with mischievous tilts of their heads. The dragon growled, flames licking the corners of his mouth on the close-up screen before he threw his head forward and sent a bright cone of flame rushing towards the middle Scizor. The Scizor copies jumped into the air in an attempt to avoid it, but thanks to how much the Flamethrower had spread at that distance, it was impossible to avoid completely; flames licked the middle Scizor’s legs, and they simply melted away. Now that its cover had been blown, the illusory copy vanished, leaving only two Scizor left, but each of them split again to create six identical ones. Charizard growled in annoyance.

Michael was probably trying to stall, Mark reasoned – trying to make Charizard exhaust himself as much as possible trying to dissolve the copies one by one, since Scizor could only hurt him minimally. There had to be a better way.

“Charizard, use Heat Wave!” Mark shouted, slightly wary about using up his third attack, but it was probably better than if Charizard had to face a Blastoise while too tired.

The dragon Pokémon took a deep breath and then opened his mouth. A mirage-like ripple of heat spread across the arena, and the Scizor simultaneously jumped to avoid it; three of them could not get out of the way of the attack and dissolved, while the others remained, signifying the real one was one of them.

“Scizor, Brick Break!” Michael ordered quickly and the three Scizor shot into the air in some mixture of almost-flight and a leap and smashed their pincers into Charizard’s body. The dragon turned quickly towards one of them – the one whose blow had actually struck – and released a bright Flamethrower from his mouth that caught the Scizor head-on. It crumpled towards the ground, charred and glowing with heat.

Mark smiled as the dragon looked quickly towards him. “Nice one, Charizard.”

Michael recalled his Scizor and paused before grabbing another ball and throwing it. “Go, Manectric! Use Rain Dance!”

Of course. He wouldn’t send Blastoise out into a Sunny Day when he had another Pokémon with a type advantage. “Charizard, Earthquake!” Mark called.

He had hoped Charizard would manage to be quicker, but no such luck. The Manectric howled at the sky, and sudden clouds began to form in a solid disk above the stadium even as Charizard took a dive and smashed his feet into the ground, sending ripples of pressure towards the doglike Pokémon; it cringed in pain, a few sparks flying loose from its fur.

The first few raindrops produced by the Rain Dance turned into a heavy downpour, and Mark was thankful for the force field that kept him dry. Charizard was not as lucky; he winced as the rain hit his tail flame and tried to keep it under his body to shield it. “Another Earthquake, Charizard,” Mark ordered, figuring it would be worse in the end to try to use Sunny Day again and essentially give the Manectric a free move.

“Thunder!” called Michael.

The Manectric roared powerfully, sparks flying around its pyramid-shaped mane, and a bolt of lightning struck Charizard from the clouds above. He writhed and twisted in pain, faltering dangerously in his flight before he managed to regain control of his wings; then he managed to land to produce another tremor, though thanks to the shorter fall, it was weak compared to the first, and the Manectric shrugged it off with a worrying ease.

“Try again!” Mark called desperately.

“Another Thunder!”

Charizard began to take off from the ground, but another bolt of lightning struck him, this time sending him crashing straight back into the ground so he landed awkwardly on his side. He managed to rise anyway and tried to fly up, but he was hurt and his flight was awkward and sluggish; without an order, the Manectric roared towards the sky again. Yet another jolt of electricity passed from the clouds into Charizard’s body, and he fell limply to the ground, unconscious.

Mark bit his lip. “I’m sorry, Charizard,” he muttered as he took out his Pokéball to recall him. “Sandslash, do it! Earthquake!”

“Manectric, Swift!”

As Sandslash finished forming, Manectric fired a flurry of glowing stars from its mouth that converged on Sandslash, bombarding him before he’d had the chance to curl into a ball for defense. He tried to shield his head with his paws until it was over and was then quick to leap into the air and smash his paws into the ground to produce an Earthquake; being a Ground-type and more adept at the attack than Charizard, the ripples in the ground this time looked considerably more powerful, and as they passed under Manectric’s feet, it shuddered violently, emitting a shower of sparks before it stumbled and collapsed.

Michael looked unsurprised. “Manectric, return,” he said, recalling the fallen Pokémon. “Blastoise, go!”

“Earthquake!” Mark ordered quickly.

“Hydro Pump!”

As the tortoise Pokémon emerged, Sandslash took another leap, but the Blastoise was quicker than Mark anticipated; it had already pointed its cannon straight towards Sandslash, and a torrent of water blasted out from it. The pangolin, however, managed somehow to react and get himself out of the way, or perhaps it was just poorly aimed in exchange for being so fast; in any case, the jet of water passed just by Sandslash’s side, and he smashed into the ground, producing another Earthquake. Blastoise grunted as the tremor passed underneath it, but it didn’t seem to hurt it that much.

“Try again! Hydro Pump!”

“Another Earthquake!”

Mark wasn’t very hopeful on Sandslash’s behalf; the Blastoise took aim at him, but then actually waited a moment for the pangolin to jump and fired its cannon the moment he landed. The blast of water sent Sandslash flying into the wall on Mark’s end of the arena before the Earthquake ripples reached Blastoise and threw off its aim. It roared in pain this time, but remained on its feet.

Mark looked down at where Sandslash was lying in a heap below him in the mud and was about to take out his ball to recall him when he stirred and suddenly took one more strained leap to pull off a final Earthquake. It was clumsy and looked weakish, but the Blastoise was very nearly knocked off its feet simply because it wasn’t prepared for it. It growled and sent one more quick blast of water from one cannon straight at the prone form of Sandslash, who merely braced himself for the attack and let it knock him unconscious.

With a guilty sigh, Mark recalled him, wishing he’d had the sense to do it before he was hit by the final attack. He took a moment to take a deep breath and think about the situation so far. He had two Pokémon left. Michael had three. Unless Jolteon or Scyther managed to take down two Pokémon and turn the tables, Michael was winning.

And all things considered, really, how likely was that? Neither of them was the best at countering their weaknesses. He might really have lost the battle in the first round, when Lucario had managed to take Dragonite down, and that thought depressed him. At least he’d tried, he thought dully, but the thought felt hollow and fake.

“Jolteon, go,” he said and threw Jolteon’s ball into the arena. “Thunderb...” he began before he remembered it was still raining. “No, Thunder! Quick!”

“Blastoise, Earthquake!”

More Earthquakes. Somehow he was getting really sick of that move by now.

Jolteon readied himself, crouching down as he manipulated the electrons in his opponent, and a lightning bolt struck the tortoise where it stood. This time it roared in real pain, something about it oddly satisfying.

He hoped it would go down immediately, but it didn’t (how could that thing survive a Thunder and two Earthquakes?), and it stomped its foot on the ground, producing yet another series of spreading ripples in the ground.

Mark clenched his fists, praying that their training would pay off: they’d practiced Earthquake-dodging with May for a whole day at one point. Jolteon stood tense, waiting for the Earthquake waves to reach him, and then jumped at just the right moment – Mark’s heart thumped – he landed neatly between two ripples and managed to jump again before the next had reached him – he landed again –

He was a split second too late for the next jump; he yelped as electric sparks scattered out from his body, lost his footing on the wet ground and took the full force of the rest of the attack. He stood up, trembling, and tried to shake the water and mud from his fur.

“Blastoise, get a Hydro Pump in!”

“One more Thunder! Please!” Mark pleaded. He couldn’t lose with a type advantage. Not here. Not now. Somehow his mind conjured up an image of Mrs. Grodski’s condescending I-told-you-so smile.

The tortoise was already aiming its cannon, and while concentrating on the attack, Jolteon couldn’t hope to try to dodge at the same time. Mark was sure he saw a hint of fear shining in his eyes on the Pokémon close-up screen.

The Blastoise fired its Hydro Pump (why was it so fast?) and Jolteon was blasted straight into the wall just as lightning struck the Blastoise. It bellowed in pain, collapsing onto all fours; its legs trembled, and then it surrendered to its own weight, knocked out.

The audience cheered. Mark looked down at Jolteon; he was lying in a muddy pool of water, shivering, probably barely conscious. Michael recalled his Blastoise, eyeing Jolteon with concern as he took out his next Pokéball.

“Donphan, go!”

Jolteon looked weakly up and tried to rise.

Mark’d pretty much lost the battle already. There was no reason to make Jolteon suffer more for the small possibility of getting one weak attack in.

“Jolteon, return,” he muttered as he watched the elephant Pokémon form on the other side. The rain was subsiding, leaving the arena covered with small, dirty puddles.

He took out Scyther’s ball and looked at it, wondering for a moment if he should just surrender and save him the need of getting hurt too. But Scyther never shied away from battles; he’d probably want to fight to the last. He had to try to go out with something of a bang. Perhaps he’d manage to beat Donphan and even put something of a dent in Michael’s last Pokémon.

“Go, Scyther!”

“Donphan, Rollout!”

“No!” Mark blurted out. “Scyther, Double Team!”

Before Scyther had even fully formed, he split himself into three as the Donphan curled itself into a ball and rolled towards him. It bounced off the ground in a jump and went straight through a copy, dissolving it before landing harshly on the ground on the other side and uncurling.

“Scyther, use a Swords Da...”

Mark trailed off as he realized Scyther didn’t look like he was listening to him. Both of the remaining copies were staring straight at Michael, and Michael was staring straight back, eyes wide, his knuckles white as they gripped the railing.

Scyther wasn’t just staring, Mark realized as he glanced at the Pokémon close-up screen. He was staring murderously, the way Mark only remembered him staring at Scizor.

And then it suddenly clicked in his head where he had seen Michael before: in Ruxido, unconscious and bleeding, for those few seconds before the paramedics had teleported away with him. Nightmare’s trainer, the boy Scyther had tried to kill. And then the Scizor earlier – that meant –

Everything swirled around in Mark’s head. For a moment he felt dizzy and had to grab the railing too to keep his balance. He noticed somewhere in the back of his mind that the audience had gone dead silent. Donphan stood there, looking up at its trainer with concern. Michael was frozen, his lips pressed together, his face pale.

Both Scyther roared and leapt up without warning, performing a quick series of spinning slashes on the air before charging into Donphan.

“Aerial Ace!” Mark had the sense to shout to make the move legal before Scyther slashed at his opponent. Donphan cried out in pain, looked quickly up at its trainer and then curled up again to use its only available move. The two Scyther copies were already splitting themselves into a total of six and moving in for another Aerial Ace.

Mark looked quickly up at the trainer close-up of Michael. He was no longer even watching; he stood a bit hunched over, looking down, still supporting himself against the railing. He heard Donphan whimper as it was struck again by an illusory army of roaring Scyther; all five of them (it must have managed to hit and dissolve one copy, he realized dimly) stepped back for another Swords Dance. The Donphan called worriedly out to its trainer. Mark knew he should be telling Scyther to stop, but something stopped him; a thousand different excuses swam around in his head.

Michael looked up when he heard his Pokémon calling for him; the Scyther copies were Swords Dancing again. “Donphan,” he called, his voice weak, “use a... Rock Sl...”

Scyther moved in to strike with his duplicates. In a flash of five raised scythes, he pulled off one more Aerial Ace before moving away. The Donphan lay bleeding in the middle, unconscious.

Michael swallowed, looking down again. “I’m sorry,” he said and took out a Pokéball, recalling his Pokémon blindly. There were a few moments of dead silence as Michael took deep, steadying breaths. Mark was beginning to feel sick; his hand fiddled with Scyther’s Pokéball. He knew he should recall him and see if Michael was okay.

But the referees hadn’t called for a suspension of the match – presumably they only did that if the trainer was clearly physically ill. Recalling him would mean surrendering.

And he could win. Only minutes ago he’d been convinced the match was lost already, but now it was down to one on one, with Scyther healthy, Double Teamed and powered up; he had a real, good chance of winning this battle now, proceeding to the second knockout round.

Shouldn’t it be Michael who surrendered if he was really unable to keep battling, anyway? And wasn’t Michael the trainer who had caught Nightmare and evolved her without asking, sentencing her to life as a creature her species despised? Didn’t he deserve it, really?

Mark let go of the Pokéball. He didn’t feel any less nauseous.

Michael looked up again, though not down at the arena. “All right,” he said, “Flareon, go!”

He threw his final ball, releasing the Fire Pokémon. Yet again, Michael had the type advantage.

Mark’s apparently five Scyther growled simultaneously at the Flareon and then, again, moved without a command.

Michael shuddered on his trainer stand. “Flareon, um...” He hesitated, looking away as his Pokémon glanced up at him in confusion only to be struck down by an Aerial Ace; it screamed, the sound high-pitched and piercing. “Heat Wave.”

The Flareon stood up, opened its mouth and breathed out an invisible wave of heat that managed to strike three Scyther; two melted away, but the last was the real one, who cried out in pain as the scorching heat charred the front of his exoskeleton and threw him back. He doubled over to catch his breath, the final two copies disappearing now that his concentration had faltered.

“Aerial Ace!” Mark called, his voice sounding strange; it occurred to him dimly that he hadn’t given an order since Scyther’s first strike at Donphan. Scyther was already back up and rushing towards Flareon again, but the other Pokémon had its back turned, trying to make eye contact with its trainer; Michael was burying his face in his hands, shaking his head. “Endure,” he said, but he was too late. With a roar of fury, Scyther delivered a final blow to the unwary Flareon, who let out a miserable cry before it collapsed, blood staining its yellow neck collar.

There was no cheering from the audience this time; there were just shouts and puzzled chatter. Scyther stood over the Flareon’s limp form and looked slowly towards Michael, who had now simply turned around, one hand still holding tightly on to the railing. Mark saw the referees raise a red flag on Michael’s side that the trainer couldn’t see; he wasn’t sure if the boy was even aware his Pokémon was down. The status screen updated to strike Flareon out and declare Mark the winner, and Mark considered that his cue to take out Scyther’s Pokéball and recall him. He shuddered as he looked over at Michael and somehow felt like he had just committed a great crime.

He didn’t even hear the announcer call the win, though he knew it must have been done at some point. He exited the trainer stand, still shaken, walked over to the Pokémon Center, handed the Pokéballs to Nurse Joy and crumbled into a couch to wait. Only moments later, he saw Michael enter and froze momentarily, but the other trainer just walked up to the counter without noticing him. He looked okay, at the very least – still pale and trembling a bit, but he seemed to be getting better. That calmed Mark down a little. He didn’t take his eyes off Michael as the boy walked over to another couch to wait.

It wasn’t long before Mark’s Pokémon were fully healed; he walked back over to the counter and picked up the Pokéballs, still keeping an eye on Michael to see if he was watching. He wasn’t; in fact, he had been staring blankly into space since getting there.

Mark didn’t feel relatively normal again until he was back out of the Pokémon Center.

“There you are,” said a voice behind him; he jumped before he turned around and realized it was just May. “Congratulations,” she said, not sounding like she really meant it. Oh, yeah, he thought absent-mindedly; he would get to proceed to the next knockout round. That fact had gotten lost somewhere.

When Mark didn’t answer, May went on. “You didn’t really deserve to win that,” she said. “He’d have creamed you if he weren’t Scyther-phobic or whatever. God knows why he entered the League where there could be Scyther wherever, or why he has a Scizor himself, but he was better than you.”

Mark nodded numbly.

“The thing is that you got too caught up with your weakness counters,” she continued when he still said nothing. “You started off okay, but then you were just trying to use a bunch of super-effective attacks, with no regard for strategy, and since the others had super-effective moves too but were usually better equipped to pull them off, you were bound to lose. You’d have needed some real strategy to stand a chance to win square. Jolteon made a good try to dodge that Earthquake, though; tell him for me. Earthquake is really hard to avoid completely if you can’t fly.”

She paused for a moment. “There’s also how you only have six Pokémon, so you were completely predictable. He probably figured you’d start with Dragonite, and from there it was just putting together a team with exactly one counter for each of your Pokémon. It would’ve been better if you had a bigger team.”

“Yeah,” Mark said.

She looked at him. “What’s with you?”

He shook his head. “I just feel like I shouldn’t have won that, I guess.”

May shrugged. “Well, if it makes you feel better, getting nervous is just another weakness, really. If you look at it that way, it’s just as legitimate a reason to lose a battle as having a poor type balance in your team or using too many offensive moves. And it’s not like it’s your fault if he has a problem with Scyther, so it’s not like you were cheating.”

Mark didn’t really have an answer to that.

“Did you ever figure out where you thought you’d seen him before?”

“No,” said Mark, and they walked into their trainer lodge in silence.


Michael sighed and dropped his Pokéballs on the floor of his bedroom, and the six Pokémon emerged in blinding white light, already squabbling anxiously.

“...is he okay? He was so strange...”

“...we were ahead, weren’t we...?”

“...how did it go? Did we win...?”

“We didn’t,” Michael said, his quiet voice lost among the Pokémon’s cries at first; they quieted down one by one as they realized he had said something.

“We lost,” he repeated in the newfound silence. “I’m sorry I let you down.”

Their voices rose up again all at once.

“...how could we lose? We were ahead, I saw it...”

“...I think there was something wrong with Michael, he was all pale and didn’t order any attacks...”

Michael shook his head. “Please,” he said, and they fell silent once more, now all looking at him with concern. “Please,” he said again. “I’m sorry. I... just got a little dizzy there at the end. A headache. I’m okay now.”

He glanced at Scizor; she looked puzzled, just like the rest of them. Skeptical. It sounded like the excuse that it was.

But how could he explain it to them without sounding like he was going off his rocker? First the Scyther attack on the Pokémon Center after he’d caught Scizor; then a Scyther’d tried to kill her at the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament. And then he’d been attacked by Sneasel – of course it was a band of Sneasel, the paramedics had seen them with their own eyes – and yet his mind kept conjuring up a hazy memory of being knocked down by something huge and green, a reptilian face, terrifying eyes with empty, slitlike pupils. And now, that shrill battle cry, shining blades ready to hurt and kill, and those same eyes, many pairs of them, staring up at him like they wanted nothing more than to rip him apart.

And somehow, no matter how hard he tried, he could not get rid of the paranoid, absurd notion that it was all the same Scyther.

Ridiculous, he’d told himself over and over. All Scyther look the same. But they didn’t; he was sure Scizor had looked different when she was a Scyther, and he’d seen some other Scyther on his travels since. They made him shudder, but never quite like that. He’d tried to remind himself that he had never seen Scizor that well as a Scyther, since he’d evolved her immediately – the thought made him wince now – and maybe there were regional differences between Scyther. Or he was just responding to the expression of bloodlust that he’d only seen those three times before – no, two times, he insisted to himself; it had been Sneasel that had attacked him. His brain had made up the Scyther. There had never been a Scyther.

Michael sighed and looked at his waiting Pokémon. It sounded stupid even to himself; a single murderous Scyther somehow stalking him over the course of years?

“It was just nerves, I guess,” he said. “Having gotten that far and all.”

“We’ll have better luck next time,” said Flareon, rubbing reassuringly against his leg.

“Yeah,” he said as the Pokémon mumbled in agreement, but he wasn’t sure he wanted there to be a next time. “I hope so.”

He looked at Scizor again, and she looked back, with wary concern in her eyes. He tried to give her a reassuring smile, but somewhere, deep down, he already knew he was quitting.

Bet you didn't expect that guy to come back, huh.

I tried pretty hard in the opening of this chapter to convince you why it makes sense Mark would qualify from the preliminaries. I think I did kind of an uneven job of it, but hopefully you were able to go with it.

The strategizing about type coverage scene was written as pure in-character stream of consciousness and it kind of shows (I would love to be able to tell you all the moves he brings up here are going to be used at the League, but they are not). I do enjoy showing Mark actually trying to figure out strategies, but on the other hand this is very rudimentary as strategizing goes, just types, and it's pretty lengthy for something that's not going to be all that directly relevant. In some sense it makes sense for Mark's strategies to be kind of rudimentary, but nonetheless.

I made some unusually significant rewrites to the bit following it where Mark thinks of his parents and it leads him into feeling better about Letaligon killing her father, which used to be incredibly abrupt and jarring and weird and is hopefully a little less so here.

For some reason Michael has Lucario waste the last of his strength using Metal Sound on Letaligon, only to then... send out Scizor, who doesn't use special attacks. Well done, dude.

In general, I'm not nearly as happy with this battle as with the preliminary matches; there ended up just being a lot of spamming the same attacks back and forth until the one with the type advantage wins. I was just too focused on getting to the ending bit, I guess. Oh well! At least May calls it out at the end.
Last edited:
The Ouen League - Chapter 50: Friendly Competition


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Chapter 50! In which one of our leads' League journeys must come to an end.

This is another chapter with some themes of suicide.

The Ouen League – Chapter 50: Friendly Competition​


August 20th, 10:00

“Huh,” May said. “That’s lame.”

Mark nodded slowly. In storybooks, the two friends who had journeyed together always faced one another in the finals of the League. To be about to battle May already just felt off and anticlimactic, especially with the knowledge that one of them would then inevitably spend the rest of the duration of the League just sitting around and watching.

He tried not to think too much about the fact that would in all likelihood be him. He had resolved to himself that in his next battle he would show that he really belonged there, as a way of making up for his poor performance and qualification by sheer luck in the battle against Michael Willows. Much of the past couple of days had been spent trying to gather all his confidence and determination for the next battle; he couldn’t simply throw up his arms in defeat now.

“Well, I guess if we ever had to train separately, it’s now,” May said to break the silence. “So…”

“Yeah,” Mark replied and nodded. He waved goodbye as she left and then made his way out of the small crowd to send out Charizard.


“We’re battling May?” asked Letaligon when Mark had broken the news to the team.

“Looks like it, yeah.”

“We’ll never win,” she said bluntly.

“Well,” Dragonite pointed out with a shrug, “I did beat Tyranitar that one time, so who knows?”

“I think,” said Sandslash slowly, “that if we are to beat her, we need to take advantage of everything we have that she doesn’t.”

“Such as what?” Letaligon looked almost offended by the suggestion; Mark found it momentarily amusing.

“Your independence,” he suggested after a moment, catching on. “You guys have always done a lot of the battling without me calling the shots. May never does that. We could turn that to our advantage somehow.”

Sandslash nodded. “What it boils down to is that you trust us to make good decisions in battle, while May micromanages her team. We could use the time that they use to wait for her order to attack on our own, and that could also speed up the battle to make it harder for her to keep up.”

“Trust doesn’t win battles,” said Letaligon contemptuously. “Strategy does.”

“Well, then we’ll put together a strategy that exploits it,” Mark responded, irritated that she seemed to insist on taking the pessimistic approach. “See if we can’t figure out a way to make it work. She’s not impossible to beat.”

“It’s not as simple as that,” Scyther said. “You’d have to order all the moves first.”

Mark jumped at hearing him speak. Scyther hadn’t really spoken at all since after the battle with Michael, when Mark had sent him out in his room without really knowing what he wanted to say. Scyther had curtly pointed out that he’d done absolutely nothing wrong and that he couldn’t help it if his presence had upset the other boy, and then he’d recalled himself before Mark had had the chance to answer. He wasn’t sure he would have had one.

“Scyther is right,” Dragonite said, snapping him out of his thoughts. “We can only improvise within the boundaries you’ve already set.”

“Well, what if I try to be quick to order four different moves, so you’ll have more choices?”

“That’s a stupid idea,” said Letaligon. “If we waste four moves on something we have a type advantage against, there’ll be nothing left when she sends out something that’s good against us.”

Mark nodded reluctantly, furrowing his brow. “What if I order one or two moves against the Pokémon you’re sent out against and save the others for soon after the next one is sent out?” He paused. “And if it looks bad against the first, I can add the third or even fourth move, since if you don’t beat the one you’re sent out against, you won’t need them later anyway.”

“I think it would be better to start with who should open the battle than thinking up what we’re going to do when it’s begun,” Scyther said, but hesitantly, as if he wasn’t sure he wanted to say it. “If memory serves me, May has at least two fairly solid counters against every one of us. There is no way to ensure we won’t open at a disadvantage.”

Mark thought quickly over it in his head – Scyther was right. His heart sank for a moment, but he forcibly pulled it up again. “Well, who is she going to open with? We need to try to think like her.”

Everyone looked at Letaligon. She straightened her neck in an almost flattered manner, pausing for a moment before she answered. “If I were her, I’d start with Tyranitar. He uses Rock and Ground attacks, and that gives him an advantage over all of us except Sandslash.”

“Well, the obvious solution to that is to start with Sandslash,” Mark said, looking over at the pangolin.

Sandslash glanced hesitantly around. “Doesn’t Tyranitar know quite a few elemental moves that could be strong against Ground Pokémon, though?”

“She would make sure of that,” Letaligon asserted confidently.

Mark shrugged. “Do you have any other ideas? You still have the best chance against Tyranitar out of all of you.”

In the end Sandslash agreed to open the battle, they discussed some possible outcomes and strategies, and Mark returned to the trainer lodge for lunch. He was surprised to find that May wasn’t there yet; she was usually more punctual than he was, and it was already five minutes past the time they usually met. He waited for her for fifteen more minutes anyway, but was about to give up when she finally came through the door, not looking to be in a hurry; in fact, she seemed almost disappointed when she saw him.

“What are you still doing here?” she asked as she came over to the table with her choice from the buffet. “I thought you’d be done eating by now.”

“I was waiting for you,” he said blankly.

May gave him a pained look. “Look, Mark, right now you’re my next opponent. Not the guy I hang out and eat lunch with. Okay? I’ll eat with you now, but get dinner by yourself. And breakfast, too, tomorrow.”

Mark just nodded, not wanting to argue even if he couldn’t quite understand the point. They ate in relative silence – he couldn’t exactly run his proposed strategies by her now, and without her starting any conversation or that to fall back on, he couldn’t think of much to talk about. When May finished eating, she stood up immediately without waiting for him to finish.

“See you day after tomorrow,” she said. “I won’t hold back just because I know you. Give it your best shot.”

She flashed him a quick smile before she turned around, blue ponytails swishing behind her, and disappeared out the door. Mark was left to finish his own food, feeling oddly lonely.


Time passed at a snail’s pace for what remained of that day and the next. For all Mark could tell, May had vanished off the face of the Earth; he thought he maybe caught a glimpse of her outside once or twice, but at mealtimes he ate alone, and in the evenings she either came in before or after him. Despite May’s apparent opinion that this was helpful to battle strategies, Mark found it kind of distracting. Apparently, when his brain wasn’t thinking of May as the girl he hung out and ate lunch with, it began to think of her as a force of evil instead: the thought of losing became increasingly unthinkable, even as at the same time he began to doubt every strategy they came up with on the assumption that May simply had to have thought of it too and probably sat somewhere at that very moment with her own Pokémon figuring out a counter-strategy. Mark had a brief bout of being absolutely certain that May knew he was going to start with Sandslash and would probably open with Floatzel, and therefore he should start with Jolteon, except May would predict that too and start with Flygon, and then he probably ought to start with Charizard, who would be beaten by Floatzel again. The eventual conclusion was that he might as well stick with Sandslash.

As Mark retreated to his room after their final training session on the evening of the nineteenth, he rubbed his eyes and spent a few minutes just sitting on his bed and staring blankly at the door until one of the Pokéballs on his belt shook and opened, releasing Scyther in a flash of white light. Mark looked at him, questioningly.

“Mark,” Scyther said, “I don’t think you will win tomorrow.”

Mark said nothing.

“You were losing your last battle for a reason. We’re not strong enough, none of us. That you faced Nightmare’s trainer in the previous battle, and that he recognized me, was a fortunate accident.”

“We have strategies,” Mark replied. “You’ll improvise quicker than she can respond.”

Scyther sighed. “That’s not a solution to everything. Who says whatever we improvise will be any good? It worked for me against Nightmare’s trainer because he and his Pokémon were distracted. Beating May? It’ll be slightly better than if we didn’t do it, but it will not win the battle.”

“It could,” Mark just said. He didn’t want to give up, not here, not now, not at the urging of Scyther, who had gotten him this far in the first place. “Why are you telling me this? How do you think it’s going to help to convince me that I’ll lose?”

Scyther looked at him for a moment with a dark expression. “I know you think you need to make up for the lucky win by winning for real this time. But that’s not how it works. Even if you did beat May, it would not change anything about the previous victory. Win or lose – probably lose – you still wouldn’t have gotten this far if he hadn’t been Nightmare’s trainer or if I hadn’t tried to kill him that time. You have already been defeated. The fact your opponent failed to seal his victory by a last-minute moment of weakness does not mean you weren’t.”

Mark tried to make sense of that cryptic stance, and suddenly it dawned on him why Scyther seemed to care so much. “This is about you, isn’t it?” he said. “Your defeat, when Nightmare failed to kill you. This is your Scyther ethics again – if you’re defeated you must die, and if your opponent doesn’t do it it’s up to you to correct it. You think you can redeem yourself somehow if you get it right this time – you think to make up for an unfair victory, we need to lose.”

Scyther winced, but said nothing.

“Well, I don’t believe in that,” Mark said, feeling anger begin to seep into his voice. “I think it’s stupid how you think one mistake is the end of the world and you somehow have to suffer for it. If you get a second chance at something, you should be grateful for it and use it to show you deserve it, not try to destroy it in order to make yourself miserable again. And if you’re part of my Pokémon team, you should go along with our plan to win the next battle instead of trying to ruin it for everyone. Deal with your own issues and stop pushing them on us.”

Scyther looked at the floor and didn’t reply.

“And, well, maybe we will lose, but it won’t be because we gave up and decided we didn’t deserve to win. If you’re not willing to do your best in this battle for the sake of the team, you don’t belong on it.”

Mark took a breath, already having regrets about what he’d just said. He hadn’t meant to suggest he was somehow ‘firing’ Scyther from the team, but he couldn’t imagine trying to take it back would really help; it would retain all the potential for hurt but take away the actual edge. He looked at the Pokémon, waiting for an answer. Scyther didn’t say anything.

“I mean, it’s not that we don’t all want you on the team,” he tried, “but if you’re hurting our chances at achieving our goals, and it’s just for the sake of punishing yourself, we’ll all suffer for your beliefs. That’s not fair, is it?” He paused. “And really, why do you even want to punish yourself so much in accordance with your Scyther ethics? When was the last time the Scyther swarm did you any good? Doesn’t that rule say the only redemption is killing yourself, anyway?”

Another thing he immediately regretted saying; for moment, heart in his throat, he recalled their walk to Stormy Town and worried Scyther would attempt something right then and there. But the mantis didn’t move.

“No,” Scyther finally said, “no, you’re right. Losing the battle won’t fix anything.” And he recalled himself into his ball without saying anything else.

Mark didn’t know if that meant he had actually agreed to do his best in the battle or not, but he had a feeling it wouldn’t help to try to force him to continue the conversation, and it was about time to be turning in his Pokémon for the pre-battle examination anyway. He stood up to walk over to the office building and decided he’d try to talk to him again in the morning.


He woke up at around the right time, much to his relief. He’d been dreaming something about arriving at the battle arena only to find that May had turned into a blue Letaligon and that was why she hadn’t wanted to see him in the past couple of days.

Mark blinked sleepily on his bed, yawned, and after a few seconds stood up to get dressed and brush his teeth. A sea of vague strategies floated around in his head, obscuring everything else. He headed off to the League offices after a quick breakfast (there was still no sign of May, even though he’d have thought she would have had to get up at the same time as him) and was being taken to the battle arena by one of the receptionists when he suddenly realized he still hadn’t talked to Scyther.

He looked nervously at the lady walking by his side. He hadn’t seen her before; she was probably in her forties and had brown hair tied back in a bun, black, rectangular glasses, a large, pointed nose and a stern expression that reminded him uncomfortably of Mrs. Grodski now that he was debating if he’d dare to ask her if it was okay to stop and talk to his Pokémon. He told himself he really ought to, but his lips refused to move. What if she did say yes? She would insist on staying there for the conversation, and what would she think if he spent it trying to convince his Scyther that they didn’t deserve to lose after the previous battle and he shouldn’t kill himself? He insisted to himself that he should do it anyway, but then they were almost there, and he didn’t really have the time to ask, and then he was being ushered through the door to the trainer stand. It closed behind him with an ominous fate-sealing sort of click.

Mark sighed, contemplating his options as he looked at the other door at the top of the staircase. He supposed he could try to send Scyther out in this cramped space and talk to him, but this opportunity for unseen pre-battle interaction with one’s Pokémon couldn’t simply have been overlooked by the League; they had to have cameras or Pokéball-suppressors or something. He looked nervously around and tried, very carefully, to maximize one of the Pokéballs at his belt in a careless manner; the button did nothing. The latter, then.

Which meant he was forced to go into battle and simply hope that Scyther had gotten over it and decided not to try to sabotage it.

He winced and walked up the stairs to step through the door onto the trainer stand. He looked over the stadium, out of habit, really; it looked just the same as it had before his previous battle. The opposite trainer stand was still empty, and he waited, leaning against the railing, looking over the audience – he had almost begun to look for May before he remembered she wouldn’t be watching him this time. His stomach fluttered: somehow, the fact of just who he was about to battle had never seemed fully real until now.

He jerked his head back to the other trainer stand when the spectators began to cheer: May was stepping through the door. She took in the sight of the stadium with a confident, sweeping glance and then looked directly towards Mark; his stomach fluttered uncomfortably again. She grinned, grabbing a Pokéball off her necklace. Mark quickly took out Sandslash’s ball and fiddled nervously with the button. Was it really best to start with him? What if May didn’t start with Tyranitar at all? Did she recognize his Pokéballs, maybe? He looked over at her – he couldn’t tell her balls apart at all. Maybe he should have tried to notice that at some point.

He peered at May on the status screen. At least she didn’t appear to be looking at what Pokéball he was holding – at the moment she was looking over the audience – and she’d seemingly already taken out what she was going to lead with before he’d even picked his ball. He was probably being paranoid, anyway – how would she tell his identical Pokéballs apart? And the status screen image didn’t show the waist – it would be hard to tell from the placement which ball was being picked, whether from there or by trying to see it directly.

May looked so casual and confident. It struck him that even if she could tell what Pokéball he’d picked, she simply wouldn’t need to resort to something like that.

I’m going to lose, some part of his brain thought frantically. I have no idea what I’m doing. She’s going to wipe the floor with me.

A sinking feeling of hopelessness washed over him, but he’d had plenty of practice dealing with that feeling in the past two days; he pushed it firmly away, remembering his whole speech to Scyther the previous night. They had strategies. They had a chance. His Pokémon were independent and quick-thinking. They could do it.

And really, they had to win. Scyther had managed to make the prospect of losing exponentially worse. It wasn’t just about justifying his presence at this stage of the League anymore; it seemed like a matter of principle, as if losing would mean Scyther was right.

“Trainers, ready Pokéballs.”

Mark jerked his head up. On the status screen, May gave a confident smirk and maximized the Pokéball in her hand. Mark hurriedly maximized his own.

“Ready, set, throw!”

The protective force field shimmered out of existence and Mark tossed Sandslash’s ball into the arena. He watched May’s ball carefully as it flew in an arc through the air and released a white shape – was it Tyranitar? – no, it was smaller – it was tiny?

Mutark, Mark realized just before the light began to fade from the kitten Pokémon along with a weird object that had materialized beside her on the arena. He glanced at the status screen close-up for a better look: it looked like a spiky, metallic ball. He looked quizzically at May; surely that wasn’t supposed to be there?

May, however, did not look surprised. She gave no immediate command, instead just looking down to watch her Pokémon. The black, catlike creature walked up to the ball and batted curiously at it, with predictable results: she let out a mewling cry of pain as drops of blood dripped from her paw. Mark looked at May in horror; she was smirking now, and it suddenly dawned on him just what she was doing.

Mutark licked miserably at her wound and then stiffened and stretched, growing to a larger, more vicious form in a matter of moments. Mark looked quickly over at Sandslash, panicking: May had been complaining that it was hard to use Mutark effectively when she didn’t become powerful until after taking several hits, but it looked like she had figured out the solution to that problem since then.

“Sandslash, Earthquake!” he blurted out.

Sandslash leapt into the air just as Mutark pricked her tail on her Sticky Barb, with unnerving deliberation this time. As the pangolin landed and created ripples of Earthquake waves, she hissed and trembled, her tail lashing around in the air; the item was now stuck to the wound, and when she tried to lick the blood around it, it pricked her muzzle and forehead as well. Mutark mrowled in pain again while Sandslash took a leap for another Earthquake, and as the pressure waves reached her, she had already grown again: she was now around three times Sandslash’s size, with formidable four-inch fangs jutting from her upper jaw, and visibly less bothered by the Earthquake than she had been before.

“Earthquake again!” Mark called.

“Mutark, Sucker Punch!” May ordered.

Sandslash was in mid-leap when Mutark bounded towards him at breakneck speed, red eyes glowing, and smacked a paw into him. He was thrown backwards in an arc, spinning, but managed to execute the attack as he came down anyway, if a bit clumsily; Earthquake ripples spread across the ground, passing under Mutark’s feet and making her shudder before she took a moment to lick the blood that was leaking off her muzzle, stiffened and grew yet again. By now she was the size of a small horse and Mark doubted she would grow a lot more even if Sandslash did inflict physical wounds.

“Use Ice Fang,” May commanded.

“X-Scissor!” Mark countered quickly.

Icicles formed around Mutark’s grossly engorged fangs as she leapt towards Sandslash with a terrifying roar. He held his claws crossed in a defensive stance as they glowed faintly green. The giant cat Pokémon knocked him down and he managed to slash at her belly before she sank her long fangs into his body, frost forming around the entry wounds. Sandslash squeaked unnervingly, but slashed with still-glowing claws at her eyes, causing her to hiss and momentarily nearly release him. He struggled to get away, but she caught him in time and bit powerfully down again until his frost-covered body went limp, the audience shouting and cheering wildly as the referees waved the match’s first red flag.

Mark held forward Sandslash’s Pokéball to recall him, his heart hammering in his chest. The battle wasn’t starting off well, and he strongly suspected that was his fault, really: he should have given his first command sooner and used a bit more variety or strategy. As much as they’d been planning to be clever, when it came to it he had just kept ordering the same old brute force offensive moves. He had to try to shake off that mental state.

He looked down at the arena; Mutark was pacing restlessly around, growling. She hadn’t grown any more, even though there was still blood dripping from the slashes on her chest: he presumed that meant she was indeed in her strongest form right now. On the one hand, that meant she was very powerful already, not that that hadn’t been clear from how easily she’d taken Sandslash down; on the other hand, it meant there was no disadvantage to sending out Scyther. If Scyther was actually going to fight.

Mark hesitated. Scyther was one of his six Pokémon either way, though; one way or another, better get it out of the way. He braced himself. “Scyther, go! Double Team and then hit her with X-Scissor!”

“Mutark, Taunt and then Thunder Fang!”

Ironically, Mark thought, May might just have actually helped him by ordering that Taunt. The moment Scyther had finished materializing on the arena, Mutark growled something at him, and he responded with an angry hiss; he skipped the Double Team command entirely, instead zooming towards Mutark with his scythes raised and glowing. Scyther slashed twice across Mutark’s back before she grabbed him in her jaws, her fangs crackling with electricity as they pierced through his exoskeleton. He roared in pain, slashing madly at her side as his body convulsed.

“Keep that up, Scyther!” Mark called, not sure there was anything else he could do; Scyther would ignore any command to stop directly attacking her, and X-Scissor was the best he could do in that department. Scyther was all too happy to oblige and managed with a well-aimed hit to cut so deep into Mutark’s leg that she lost her balance and collapsed, releasing him completely. Scyther was quick to take advantage of this, despite the bluish-black blood oozing from his deep wounds; he leapt on top of her and hacked madly into her body until she stopped struggling to get up.

May recalled Mutark silently, pausing for a moment after reattaching the ball to her necklace. Finally, she picked one of her other balls, maximized it and threw it into the arena. “Skarmory, go!” she called. “Swords Dance!”

Skarmory burst out of the Pokéball in a flash of white, announcing his presence with a metallic screech before he spread his wings wide and began to spin rapidly around in the air to power himself up. Scyther, with a mad roar of blind rage, darted straight towards him without waiting for an order.

“Scyther, Brick Break!” Mark called. Under the spell of Taunt, there wasn’t a lot Scyther could do against a Skarmory, really: the best he could hope for was a type-neutral attack – not that Mark was sure he would be better off without the Taunt, with Scyther fully in control of his actions. He reached the bird, who was just finishing his Swords Dance, and gave him a punch with the edge of his scythe, but Skarmory merely recoiled slightly and screeched indignantly at the bug, seeming more irritated than hurt.

“Brave Bird!” May ordered, and just as Scyther was pressing back towards Skarmory, the bird faced him head-on. Skarmory flung himself straight into Scyther’s body, ignoring the mantis’s frantic strikes at his wings, and then simply used his weight to send both of them crashing towards the ground at a great speed. Scyther landed crushed under May’s Pokémon and gave a piercing cry of pain before Skarmory rose dizzily back to his feet and fluttered unsteadily into the air.

“Skarmory, Roost!”

The metallic Pokémon landed gratefully on the ground a short distance away and settled down, folding his wings and closing his eyes to rest.

“Come on, Scyther,” Mark muttered, but the mantis was still lying sprawled on his back, bleeding and unmoving. The referees waved a red flag: he was officially out, and the audience cheered once more.

With a sigh, Mark took out Scyther’s ball and recalled him. Some part of him was glad in a twisted way that Scyther had fainted now, before the effects of the Taunt had worn off. On the other hand, if the battle kept going like this, May would completely cream him.

His obvious choices now were Charizard and Jolteon; however, he’d figured the day before that May would probably have Floatzel and had intended to let Jolteon deal with her. He took a deep breath as he grabbed Charizard’s ball. Strategy. Let the Pokémon use their independence. Order moves quickly to let them make their own judgements later.

“Skarmory, Swords Dance,” May ordered. Her Pokémon had finished resting and now began to spin around in another empowering dance, looking no worse for wear than at the very beginning of the battle.

“Charizard, Flamethrower!” Mark yelled as he hurled the ball forward, feeling stupid for spending so much time thinking that he’d given her the chance to get an extra power-up move in. As Charizard began to form, Skarmory finished his dance, and May gave another command:

“Skarmory, use a Rock Slide!”

“What?” Mark blurted out in a panic. Skarmory weren’t supposed to know Rock attacks! How did everything have Rock attacks when he had Charizard out? “Charizard, quick! Try to dodge it!”

Charizard finished materializing and apparently decided, probably wisely, that it would be difficult to try to both attack and dodge at the same time: he hovered in the air, watching Skarmory carefully as the Steel Pokémon screeched and raised several large boulders out of the ground that hurled themselves at Charizard. He managed to flick himself nimbly out of the way of the first couple, but then one struck him in the tail, throwing off his balance, and three or four others crashed into him while he was trying to regain it, throwing him towards the ground.

“Just try to Flamethrower him!” Mark called desperately as Charizard flew weakly back up, growling, and opened his mouth to fire a bright cone of fire towards Skarmory, who let out a high-pitched cry as it enveloped him.

“Another Rock Slide!”

His flight had faltered as his feathers had melted together, but Skarmory sent another barrage of rocks flying at Charizard. Again, he managed to dodge a few of them, but others hit, one tearing his wing fabric and making him cringe with pain. He retaliated on his own accord with another Flamethrower, which scorched Skarmory and bent one of his wings slightly, but still did not bring him down.

“Rock Slide again,” May ordered, and this time Charizard didn’t have the energy to dodge: stunned, Mark watched him crash to the ground, buried under several boulders, and fail to move.

This couldn’t be happening. He was three Pokémon down after only beating one of May’s. He recalled Charizard, watched her calmly instruct her Skarmory to Roost again and hated himself for the tears beginning to form at the corners of his eyes; he blinked them away. He couldn’t get himself slaughtered this badly. Not by May. Not when it would make Scyther right.

He tore a Pokéball from his belt and threw it. “Dragonite, Fire Punch until he’s down!” he shouted.

The dragon materialized and dived towards the resting Skarmory, flames circling his first. On the status screen, May frowned and looked down.

“Skarmory, Rock Slide!”

Skarmory opened his eyes just as Dragonite came zooming towards him and smashed his fist into his body, the heat allowing him to put a dent in the metal. The bird screeched in pain, flapping his wings to ascend as he prepared to attack.

“Dragonite, Thunder Wave!” Mark called, the only thought in his mind stopping May’s Pokémon from executing another attack. The rocks that had buried Charizard before obediently began to rise in response to Skarmory’s command, but Dragonite sent a wave of crackling electricity at the Steel Pokémon’s body, and as it set in, Skarmory’s muscles stiffened up and the boulders dropped back to the ground with a heavy rumble.

Dragonite used the opportunity while Skarmory was fully paralyzed to deliver another well-aimed Fire Punch, and the vulture was sent bounding backwards, unable to use his wings to soften his fall. He crashed into the wall under May’s trainer stand and flopped from there to the ground, where he finally managed to regain control of his body and fluttered unsteadily up again.

May gave Dragonite a glare. “Brave Bird!”

Skarmory, straining against his paralysis, used all his remaining energy to throw himself at his opponent. Dragonite was ready to receive him with yet another Fire Punch, but even as Skarmory screeched with pain and appeared to lose consciousness, he crashed into Dragonite’s body at full power and sent both of them bounding backwards. As they lost momentum, Dragonite managed to fly up and away from Skarmory, and the metal bird crashed into the ground, clearly fainted.

As May recalled him, Mark smiled grimly, oddly cheered by Skarmory’s defeat. He looked at Dragonite, who looked quite battered after that last attack, and decided to use May’s own tricks against her. “Dragonite, Roost!”

As Dragonite curled up on the ground to rest, May threw another Pokéball into the arena. “Go, Floatzel!” she shouted. “Bulk Up!”

The sea otter materialized on the arena, cackling with excitement; on a string around her neck hung the large chunk of Never-Melt Ice that May had excavated in Champion Cave, ready to power up her Ice attacks. She crouched down to the ground, focusing to tense her muscles as her two tails swished impatiently behind her.

Mark looked back at Dragonite, about to order an attack, but the dragon had already stood up, his bruises apparently fully healed, and fired a Thunder Wave towards his opponent. Floatzel opened her eyes too late to try to avoid it and cried out in annoyance as the paralyzing electricity set into her body. May frowned.

“Ice Punch!”

“Dragonite, Thunderpunch! Make it count!”

Floatzel tried to jump up, but her body stiffened halfway through the movement and she remained awkwardly on all fours on the ground, letting out a whine of protest as Dragonite dived towards her with electricity crackling around his paw. He socked her in the jaw with it and she was thrown aside, finally regaining her ability to move in time to land the right way up. She snarled indignantly at Dragonite as she rose, laying her paw on the ice-encased crystal around her neck momentarily before leaping up with a vengeful shriek to punch him in the gut. He cried out as he bounded backwards from the impact, a coating of frost forming on his belly; he shivered for a moment but then zoomed back towards her, undaunted, and she ran towards him with a cry of glee.

They met in the middle; Dragonite, being bigger and having longer arms, drove his electrified fist into Floatzel’s belly first, and as they were knocked away from one another again she managed to hit his side with her icy paw, though with less power than she might have otherwise. Dragonite shivered at the layer of frost it left on his skin, panting.

“Roost!” Mark called, and Dragonite curled up on the ground to heal himself.

“Floatzel, Bulk Up!” May ordered.

Floatzel let out a cackling laugh, crouching down to tense her muscles again, but then cried out in frustration as her paralysis kicked in for a second time. She growled angrily, struggling to move. Mark glanced at May on the status screen; she looked positively livid, gritting her teeth in disbelief with a fist clenched on top of the railing as she watched, and now the sight of it filled him with triumphant glee.

“Thunderpunch!” Mark shouted as Dragonite stood up, took off and dived towards the rigid Floatzel, sparks flying around his fist.

“Dodge it and get in the pool!” May hissed.

Floatzel managed to stand up and evade him, darting towards the pool on the right side of the arena. She slipped gracefully into it, instantly deflating her floating tube to sink under the water. Naturally, Dragonite followed as Floatzel circled around on her back at the bottom of the pool, grinning up at him through the distorting water.

The dragon pulled back his electrified fist and dived in after her, but he hesitated momentarily as he entered, probably shocked by the cold, and Floatzel was quicker in the water even despite being paralyzed. She whipped around behind him, touched her Never-Melt Ice and smashed her fist into his body, her cold paw forming a trail of ice behind it. Dragonite shivered as he floated up to the surface, a chunk of ice rapidly growing around one of his wings and tilting him awkwardly in the water.

“Again!” May commanded.

“Try to use a Fire Punch to melt it, Dragonite!” Mark called desperately, worried that Floatzel would attack him again before he could. But again, her paralysis saved him: before she could attack, her body went rigid and she sank like a rock to the bottom of the pool, her eyes widening in panic.

Mark looked uncertainly at May as the water around Dragonite’s paw boiled and he brought it carefully around to his wing where it quickly began to melt the ice. Surely Floatzel, being a mammal, was in danger of drowning if she couldn’t come up to breathe? May’s hand moved to her necklace, fiddling with one of the Pokéballs, but she didn’t take it out to recall her. There were mutterings in the audience as Mark looked back at Floatzel’s image on the status screen; her eyes darted wildly from side to side as a flurry of bubbles rose from her nostrils.

Dragonite, now fully rid of the ice, dived down and picked Floatzel up in his arms, carrying her up out of the water. May, who had now taken the ball off her necklace and maximized it, quickly minimized it again. As Dragonite surfaced, Floatzel gasped for breath and coughed violently; her paralysis was beginning to fade. Immediately, ice crystals began to gather around her still-stiff paw as her face twisted into horrified disdain for her savior.

“Dragonite, look out!” Mark yelled, and the dragon looked down, electricity suddenly crackling around his paw before he used it to punch Floatzel down to the ground. She thrust her paw forward a moment too late, screeching in pain and rage as sparks flew around her falling body. She was silenced when she hit the ground, knocked out either by the impact or as a belated effect of the Thunderpunch.

“Roost,” Mark called, his stomach fluttering: although he was still a bit shocked, his brain was now quite caught up with the fact that Dragonite had now taken down two of May’s Pokémon much like Skarmory had and he was about to heal himself and render much of the damage he’d taken void. “You rock, Dragonite!”

The dragon Pokémon smiled wearily as he curled up on the ground to heal himself once more. May, now pale and focused, recalled Floatzel and took out the next ball.

“Tyranitar, I choose you! Ice Punch!”

The great dinosaur roared as he emerged from the ball, to the great delight of the audience. Wisps of sand immediately began to swirl around him, stirred up by his presence on the battlefield. Mark noticed he had a yellow band with what looked like red eyes on it tied around his head and wished he hadn’t always skirted over the hold item section of the League Pokémart; it seemed May had been to it quite a few times since the last battle of hers he’d watched.

As Tyranitar made his way across the arena, Dragonite opened his eyes again, stood up and opened his mouth to release one more Thunder Wave. The paralyzing attack sparkled through the air despite the interruption of the building sandstorm and hit Tyranitar, who grunted as the electricity stiffened his muscles. He kept going nonetheless, if at a slower and jerkier pace, as Dragonite ascended into the air, his fist crackling with electricity.

May watched the dragon with irritation. “Hell with it. Just hit him with a Stone Edge.”

Dragonite dived, but he was just a bit too late: sharp rocks tore out of the ground below him and sent him flying up, but he quickly recovered despite the bleeding gash the sharp rocks had opened on his belly.

“Ice Punch now!” May shouted as Dragonite descended and delivered his Thunderpunch. Tyranitar roared in pain and flung his own fist into Dragonite’s face, icicles forming as the dragon was thrown back and crashed into the ground, unconscious.

“You did a fantastic job, Dragonite,” Mark muttered as he recalled him. His heart was still racing; they weren’t quite even, but they were a hell of a lot closer, in a way he couldn’t have imagined before.

Since Sandslash was gone, the best he had for dealing with Tyranitar was Letaligon. He picked her ball, threw it into the arena and called, “Letaligon, Iron Defense!”

“Tyranitar, Focus Punch!”

As Tyranitar closed his eyes to focus, Letaligon formed fully. For a moment she looked intimidated by her opponent, but that was quickly gone from her expression as she turned her body fully metallic. Mark couldn’t remember just what Focus Punch was, but it was probably a Fighting-type move and he figured Letaligon needed all the defense she could get.

When he opened his eyes again, Tyranitar roared and ran towards Letaligon with a sudden astounding speed; Mark watched it in puzzlement as Letaligon ran away with a screech and the huge dinosaur seemed to be somehow catching up with her as white energy gathered around his fist –

Suddenly, he stopped with a grunt. Sparks leapt across his body as his paralysis blocked his muscles. A loud clang rang out above; Mark looked up to see May rubbing her fist, apparently having punched the metal railing of her trainer stand, while glaring straight at him with the same utter hatred she usually reserved for Taylor. For a moment, it kind of disturbed him; then he realized he ought to be taking advantage of the situation.

“Letaligon, Iron Tail!” he called. Her tail glowed white as she swung it at Tyranitar’s immobile form, hitting the blue center of his stomach. He grunted in pain but still couldn’t move. Letaligon, seeing her chance, smashed her tail into him again.

“Earthquake!” May ordered.

Tyranitar finally regained control of his muscles, and with a deep roar, he stomped a foot on the ground, sending ripples of pressure across it. Letaligon trembled violently as they passed under her.

“Metal Burst!” Mark blurted out, not entirely sure if it was a good idea to waste her third move yet, but it was a generally useful move anyhow. Ripples of illusory steel spread across the ground in a mirror image of Tyranitar’s attack, and his great body shook as they hit him. Letaligon followed it up with yet another smash of her tail, this time producing a visible crack on his blue belly; he roared in pain, the flow of sand around him jerking as if in sympathy.

“Another Earthquake!”

“One more Iron Tail!”

Tyranitar produced yet another Earthquake, almost knocking Letaligon off her feet. Her legs shook like jelly afterwards, but she still managed to strike him one more time in the belly with her tail. Tyranitar doubled over in pain, clutching his stomach, and Letaligon finished the job with a powerful strike to his head, after which he collapsed forward.

As May recalled him wordlessly, Letaligon composed herself. She was doing better than Mark had thought she was; the trembling of her legs had suggested she was on the verge of fainting, but Mark guessed the Iron Defense had saved her. Now that she had gotten a moment’s rest, she didn’t look too bad, at least as far as Mark could see through the still-raging sandstorm. She tossed her head, looking at May, who was picking her next Pokéball. May paused for a moment after maximizing it, looking at Letaligon, and suddenly grinned.

Mark didn’t think that was a good sign, but pushed it out of his mind for the moment.

“Blaziken, go! Sky Uppercut!”

“Letaligon, Earthquake!” Mark countered quickly.

The giant humanoid chicken materialized on the arena, flames flaring up around his wrists as he cried towards the sky. The last remnants of the sandstorm were still whipping around him, making him scowl in irritation before he charged towards his opponent, clenching one talon-fist. Meanwhile, Letaligon reared up on her hind legs and smashed into the ground, sending a flurry of ripples across the ground towards Blaziken. The chicken Pokémon took a great leap while spreading the winglike feather crests on his hea, avoiding most of the attack, but Letaligon quickly smashed her paws into the ground again to catch him as he landed. He grunted in surprise as he was thrown off balance, and Letaligon used the opportunity to thicken the steel coating of her body with another Iron Defense just in time before Blaziken regained his balance and reached her. He gave her a powerful punch in the jaw, and she stumbled back but remained conscious nonetheless and without warning reared up to create yet another Earthquake.

May clenched her first on the status screen, annoyed. “Heat Wave, Blaziken!” she called as her Pokémon collapsed on all fours, disoriented by the Earthquake ripples. As he heard the command, he looked up and managed to take a leap; freed from the ground-based attack, he took a deep breath and expelled it as a wave of superheated air that rippled towards his opponent. Letaligon quickly smashed her paws into the ground once again before closing her eyes and bracing herself for being hit; her entire body glowed a dangerous orange, melting and distorting as she screamed in pain, and Mark watched in horror as she crumpled to the ground, already reaching for her Pokéball to recall her. Blaziken, who had landed on the ground and been caught in the middle of Letaligon’s Earthquake, collapsed on the ground, shivering even as the ripples died down.

Mark’s heart was hammering as he threw out his final Pokéball. “Jolteon, go! Thunderbolt!”

“Blaziken, Mach Punch!”

But even though Mach Punch was a fast attack, Blaziken was still recovering from Letaligon’s final move, and when Jolteon materialized, he was already beginning to crackle with sparks. With a cry of “Jooolt!”, he fired a bolt of lightning towards the rising Blaziken, and the bird screamed as electricity surged through his body, sending him collapsing onto the ground again as he twitched and convulsed, his red plumage scorching and smoking.

The referees waved a red flag, and May reluctantly recalled Blaziken. Mark stared at her in disbelief: unless he had counted something incorrectly, the battle was down to a one on one, and Jolteon wasn’t hurt or tired at all!

But there was that disconcerting smile of hers again. She tossed her last ball confidently into the arena and shouted, “Go, Flygon!”

The crowd went wild.

Mark was struck with that sinking feeling again as the dragonfly Pokémon emerged, but refused to give up now that they’d gotten this far.

“Jolteon, Shadow Ball!” That was the TM he had finally found for Jolteon as a backup move against Ground-types. Jolteon wasn’t very skilled with it yet, but it was somewhat more powerful than Swift anyway.

“Earthquake!” May ordered.

The white glow faded from Flygon’s body; Mark noticed that he, too, had an item hanging around his neck, a strange, glowing, purple orb that throbbed rhythmically, almost like a beating heart. The Dragon-type let out a cry, beating his diamond-shaped wings powerfully towards the ground, and the pressure sent ripples spreading towards Jolteon.

“Wait, try to dodge it!” Mark shouted quickly, though Jolteon appeared to have thought the same: he was still not charging the Shadow Ball, instead crouching low and focusing on the approaching Earthquake waves. He jumped, landed between two waves, leapt up again, narrowly avoided one that passed just as he landed, took one more leap straight towards Flygon – he’d dodged it completely! Mark’s heart took a leap; even May’s face on the status screen looked kind of impressed.

Jolteon hissed at Flygon and crouched down, producing an orb of shadowy energy in front of him before sending it flying at May’s Pokémon. The dragonfly recoiled, shuddering.

“Sand Tomb!” May called. Flygon spun circles around Jolteon in the air, and the ground underneath him crumbled to dust in his wake. Jolteon cried out in surprise as his paws began to sink and the fine sand whirled up all around him, battering him and obscuring his vision. Another Shadow Ball began to form inside the vortex and shot towards Flygon, knocking him back, but the Sand Tomb was already sustaining itself and didn’t waver even as Flygon was hit.

“And now, Earthquake!”

Mark’s mind raced – the Sand Tomb had obviously been intended to prevent Jolteon from dodging, but was there a way to try to counteract it somehow? “Agility!” he realized as Flygon flapped his wings to create another Earthquake. Jolteon took a blindingly fast leap and managed to break free from the vortex of sand and dart away towards more solid ground, where he nimbly skirted between the ripples again, though he was caught by the final wave and tripped. He stood quickly up again and began to charge another Shadow Ball.

This time May only looked furious. “Flygon, Supersonic!”

Mark noticed now, for the first time, that Flygon looked considerably more hurt and worn out than he ought to, but didn’t really dwell on the thought. The Pokémon halted in the air, stopping to breathe for a moment before his wings vibrated to produce a high-pitched noise only barely audible to human ears. Jolteon shivered in discomfort, but managed nonetheless to fire the Shadow Ball he’d been preparing.

“Earthquake!” May shouted.

“Try to avoid it with Agility again!” Mark called quickly.

As the Earthquake ripples came speeding towards Jolteon, he once again leapt to try to avoid them, but the Supersonic had disoriented him; he only very clumsily dodged the first ripple but landed awkwardly and had to spend a moment regaining his balance, and in that moment the next ripple approached. As it passed under him, he trembled and shivered and any further dodging efforts were doomed. He stood there crouched low on the ground, shaking, for a second after the final ripple passed.

“Try to get a Shadow Ball in!” Mark shouted, flicking his gaze towards Flygon, and realized then that May’s Pokémon was on all fours on the ground, exhausted and drawing in deep breaths. The orb still throbbed around his neck, and now that he thought about it, it had glowed every time Flygon had attacked...

A Life Orb, dawned on him suddenly. He’d heard of that item – it powered up a Pokémon’s moves by imbuing them with some of the Pokémon’s own life force. Which meant Flygon really was as hurt and weak as he looked. One more Shadow Ball might...

“Flygon, Roost!”

...but of course May wouldn’t use an item like that without insurance, would she?

He looked quickly back at Jolteon. He had stood up, but was stumbling, clearly still confused. He began to form a Shadow Ball, but Flygon was already lying down, folding his wings, closing his eyes...

“Quick Attack!” Mark shouted in a sudden burst of inspiration.

Jolteon darted towards Flygon in a yellow blur and tackled him, but Flygon just looked up and cried indignantly before closing his eyes again and being wrapped in a faint blue glow. Jolteon, who seemed to have shaken off the confusion now, began to charge a Shadow Ball by Flygon’s side, but when it hit, the Dragon Pokémon had already healed himself.

“Flygon, Earthquake!”

May’s Pokémon took off the ground and flapped his wings for yet another Earthquake. Jolteon tried to dodge, but after all the dodging and darting around, he was too exhausted to keep up the necessary speed; he was knocked down by the third ripple to approach him and from there simply collapsed in exhaustion.

“You were great, Jolteon,” Mark said quietly as he took out the ball to recall him, his voice drowned out by the explosion of cheering from the audience. The battle had been lost when the Quick Attack had failed to bring Flygon down, and even that had been a faint hope. In a way he was just glad Jolteon hadn’t had to strain himself any longer.

He looked across the arena at May as she was declared the winner, and she grinned and waved at him before turning around to exit the trainer stand.

Mark took a deep breath. He was out. And yet, somehow he didn’t quite mind.


He met May again in the Pokémon Center, where she had already settled comfortably on a couch to wait for her Pokémon to be healed. Mark handed his own to the nurse and came over to her.

“Congratulations,” he said as he sat down.

May beamed at him, all traces of her annoyance during the battle gone. “Thanks, Mark. Disappointed?”

He considered it. “No, not really,” he said, truthfully. “I think I knew I’d lose, deep down. You’re better than me. You’ve always been better than me. I just told myself we had a chance so I could do my best and encourage my Pokémon to do their best, and they did. It went great, all things considered. For a moment I even honestly thought I could win.”

“They did do their best,” May agreed with a nod. “Jolteon was great. So was Dragonite. And Letaligon. Even if you got really lucky with the paralysis thing.”

“I’ll tell them when they’re healed,” Mark replied, smiling. “I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.”

“And speaking of paralysis, Floatzel is going to be furious that Dragonite saved her.”

Mark chuckled. “Seriously, though, she had me worried for a moment.”

May nodded distantly, looking away. “Me too.” She paused and looked at Mark. “Tell him...” She trailed off. “No, never mind.”

He didn’t press it. He looked past her and saw the nurse at the counter waving to catch his attention, then pointing at May. “I think your Pokémon are healed.”

“Okay,” she said, looking quickly around to confirm it before she stood up. “Thanks for the battle. It was fun.” She smiled and looked like she meant it. Mark suspected she’d think of it very differently if by some miracle he had actually won.

He smiled back anyway. “You’re welcome.”


After Mark had retrieved his Pokémon, the first thing he did was head off to his room and send out Scyther.

“How did it go?” asked the mantis when he had materialized, his expression neutral.

“We lost,” Mark said, giving his Pokémon a searching look.

Scyther nodded slowly. “I suppose that was inevitable.”

At least he isn’t chuckling with glee, Mark thought dully. “So... what? Feel like we’ve fixed it?”

Scyther shook his head. “I think you were right. I’d rather fight to win than feel obligated to lose for the rest of my life.” He paused for a moment. “The truth is that fighting for you is the only thing that gives me joy and purpose anymore. If I must lose that to follow the Code, screw the Code.”

He winced as he said it, but Mark knew he meant it. “I appreciate it,” he replied. “I hope it’s what will make you happiest.”

Scyther looked uncertainly around as if debating whether to say something. “Did Nightmare... did she battle?” he muttered at last.

“Yeah,” Mark said.

Scyther looked up. “Did she seem content with it? Battling for a trainer, being an exile from the swarm, being a...?”

Mark thought back to that battle, to the Scizor’s playful Swords Dance and smug avoidance of Hypnosis. “Yeah,” he replied. “She seemed to be enjoying herself.”

Scyther nodded once. “If she can be happy like that, I can too.”

Mark smiled at him. “I hope you will.”


He sent out all his Pokémon later, outside at their familiar training spot, where there was comfortable room and privacy for all of them. He recounted the progression of the battle, with interjections from the one who had been fighting at each point, and relayed May’s compliments to Jolteon, Dragonite and Letaligon.

“And honestly, you were all great,” he continued. “Sandslash, it was my fault I didn’t give you an attack sooner or more varied moves. I’m sorry. Scyther, you were forced to blindly attack a fully-grown Mutark and then a Skarmory, who has an overwhelming advantage against you even without you being Taunted. You did great for the circumstances. And Charizard, you may technically have had a type advantage, but Skarmory had gotten a couple of Swords Dances in and had an extremely effective attack against you; you couldn’t have been expected to win on brute force, and you did a fantastic job dodging what you could. We were never going to become Champions, but you more than showed you were worthy of being there in the top eight, and that’s what matters most. I’m really proud of you. You’ve all grown a lot stronger and learned new moves and skills – the legendaries won’t know what hit them.”

He cracked a smile as some of the Pokémon chuckled at that. “And, well, while we’re still here, we won’t let that time go to waste. We’ll root for May to get as far as she can, and for Taylor to be beaten. Maybe we can help her train, or train for the legendary battles ourselves. Maybe I could hang around at the library and see if I can find anything about sightings of the remaining legendaries. And then, when the tournament is over...” He eyed Letaligon. “Well, first we’ll take Letaligon to Ruxido, since that’s what she wants. And then we’ll head off and look for the legendaries. We’ll find them, we’ll capture them, we’ll prevent the War of the Legends.”

The Pokémon all nodded or muttered in agreement.

“And then...” He took a deep breath. “Then I’m going home.”

They looked at him in surprise – more, Mark hoped, at the context of this revelation than its content.

“I’ve been to the League now and done better than I ever dared to hope. Again, you’ve been fantastic all the way. But I’m done being a trainer. The only reason I wanted to in the first place was that everyone else was one. I’ve never been any good at it. Even though it’s been fun – sometimes –” He saw Charizard smile. “Well, it’s just not something I’d want to do for a living or for many years. I have a mission now, which I’m going to complete to the best of my ability, but when that’s done, my journey is over. It’ll probably be a while, but when that time comes, you’re going to have to choose what you want to do. You can stay with me in Sailance if you want, but I can also take you back where I caught you, or wherever you like.”

They were silent, looking uncertainly at one another; all except Letaligon, who was pawing impatiently at the ground, clearly feeling she was no longer being addressed.

“You don’t have to make that choice now. I just want you to know about it and have thought about it by that time. I’ll go along with whatever you choose. Again, it’ll probably be a while, and I’ll do my best as your trainer until then. This is just a... a forewarning.” He looked between his Pokémon. “Okay?”

They nodded one by one. Mark saw Scyther look emptily straight ahead and thought back to his earlier words about how battling for Mark was the only thing he lived for; he felt a pang of guilt in his stomach and hoped that he would find something to live for before that.

“Well, it was nothing else for now. I’m sorry if I’ve let you down.” He paused. “Want to get back in your balls, take a nap, what?”

They all preferred to return to their Pokéballs now, though Jolteon, Letaligon and Sandslash wanted to sleep outside their balls. Mark walked alone back to his room, feeling sadness at what he couldn’t help somehow perceiving as a betrayal of his Pokémon, but also a tingly sort of excitement, like an era of his life had come to an end and a new one was about to begin.

Mark doesn't do a great job of actually putting their plans into action, completely failing to give his Pokémon several moves to work with like they were talking about for the whole first half of the battle. This is to some extent excused by circumstances, but only some; mostly I think it's just a result of my way of writing battles, which is very stream-of-consciousness and if something I was going to have happen slips my mind, it just slips my mind. I should really start doing some battle choreography ahead of time.

He also sure gets a lot of paralysis luck in this fight. Can't quite blame May for being mad about it.

I enjoy Mark not recognizing May's Pokémon's hold items; can you?


Flygon connoisseur
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
  6. joltik
  7. salandit
[[get a spell tag, Mark. Smh.]]
Chapter 51: Fake-Out


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
:sadbees: not enough items

Chapter 51! In which the chapter art spoils it a bit.

Chapter 51: Fake-Out​


“You’ll never guess what I just found.”

Mark looked up, making sure to leave his hand half-covering the tabloid he was reading: he felt stupid to have picked it up, but the cover page had had a blown-up photograph of some blurry patches that were claimed to be two of the Color Dragons, and it was the closest he had come so far to finding anything about relatively recent legendary sightings at the library.

May thrust an unremarkable-looking paperback into his hands and he looked blankly at it.

Blood Sport: A Fighter’s View of Fighting,” he read from the front. It was one of those typical blown-up titles that took up half of the cover; on this one, the publisher had apparently determined that it would look the most dramatic if it had a black background with the title bright red in a font that was meant to look like it was dripping blood but more resembled cheesy nail polish. He looked quizzically up at May.

“Turn it over,” she just said. He did, flipping the book over to read the back cover, and was greeted by a black-and-white photo of a Hitmonchan that looked distinctly familiar.

“…Fury? Fury the Hitmonchan wrote a book?” Mark asked incredulously and quickly began to read the blurb beside the picture. “‘In this thought-provoking book, the world’s first Pokémon to obtain a trainer license provides a sharp and witty criticism of the old-fashioned view of Pokémon battling that still permeates the society of today…’” He flipped the book over again and opened it at a random page in the middle.

…with competitions such as the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament of the Green Town Pokémon Festival, which I myself have had the ‘pleasure’ of participating in. At a glance, the concept looks promising: Pokémon are to battle by themselves, using their own wits and skill rather than being commanded by their trainers who normally get more than their fair share of the glory, and so I had high hopes when I entered, figuring it to be just my sort of thing. At the very least I was expecting to have found a tournament in which Pokémon were given the credit they deserved. Instead I was treated to what more resembled a spectacularly elaborate sadist fantasy; Pokémon have never been objectified more than in this brutal game in which the human organizers seem, more than anything, to be hoping to watch the battlers murder or mutilate one another. (I suppose it would be futile to point out to them that most Pokémon do not have it in their cultures to murder one another unprovoked and fight mostly in friendly competition with serious disputes on the side, even provided they looked up from the carnage for long enough to listen.) I watched as Pokémon were pitted against others they had a severe type disadvantage against or were at a dramatically higher level instead of being matched evenly, and when a trainer stood up in concern when his Pokémon seemed to be in mortal danger, he was told with a disturbing sort of glee that trainers were not allowed to interfere, while the organizers did absolutely nothing even though the winner had been clearly determined by that point. I don’t blame the Pokémon who participated, or their trainers – they might easily have been deceived by the appearance of it as I was – but why the Pokémon Festival openly featured this barbaric event was beyond me once I had seen it for what it was. As it happens I was curious enough to ask the organizers of the Festival, who seemed at least tentatively open to my perspective when I spoke to them. I permit myself to hope that the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament will be off the list of events next year, but who knows what other competitions in the same vein might be going on with a lower profile under the same guise of something revolutionary and Pokémon-centered?

“I flipped through it,” May said as Mark looked up in astonishment. “It’s all about trainer-centicism and stuff, dotted with amusing anecdotes about his journey. I’d never have guessed he was the political type.”

Mark shook his head and closed the book, making a mental note to try to read it sometime when all this was over.

“And guess what else,” May went on. “Robin Riverstone is a girl.”

“Really?” Mark thought quickly back to that first preliminary battle they’d watched and to the trainer who had won with a Charizard and a Cacturne. She’d had short hair and a sort of boyish face and a voice of ambiguous pitch; they’d pretty much assumed it was a guy, but thinking on it, there had been no real indication either way.

“I went to look her up for the battle, and that’s what her profile says. So I’m not the only girl in the semifinals. At least that’s good news.”

Mark nodded. She’d been annoyed about that the day before, although by the time she’d brought that up she’d been in a terrible mood already after a lengthy rant about the fact that Taylor had also proceeded to the semifinals and she had still not been matched against him.

“Found anything on the legendaries?” May finally asked, glancing at the magazine he’d been reading.

“Nothing of much worth.” Mark sighed. “This is all just people going all excited over somebody who thinks he photographed the Color Dragons around the Eastern Cliffs. It’s so blurry it could be Pidgey for all we know.”

“Well, we might as well check it out, after we’re out of here,” May replied. “It’s pretty much on the way to Ruxido anyway, and that’s where we’re taking Letaligon, right? And then we can stop at the Ouen Safari, too. I’ve always wanted to go there.”

Mark shrugged. He had become rather cynical about legendary sightings over the years, having read about a multitude of confirmed hoaxes and still more supposed sightings that were never repeated or simply inconsistent with others. On the other hand, he of course wanted it to be true, and it wasn’t as if they had never been possibly spotted for real.

“Well, I don’t know about you,” May said, “but I’m going to train. I’ve got all the info on Robin I need.”

Mark nodded, looked at the magazine – he had more or less finished the article – and stood up. “I’m coming with you. It’s got to be more fun than this.”


It was weird to just sit there with his team, watching May’s idea of discussing strategies.

“We know she’s good,” she was saying, walking left past the straight line that her Pokémon formed, eying each one as she passed them. She turned sharply around at Floatzel’s end of the line and walked back the other way, continuing to talk. “There can’t be any stupid mistakes. It could cost us the match. I’ve seen her battle and I can tell we’ll have to work this perfectly.”

Now that May’s back was turned, Floatzel returned to glaring at Mark, apparently still not having forgiven him for allowing Dragonite to save her from drowning. The other Pokémon followed May with their eyes as she paced down the line, turned back around (Floatzel’s gaze snapped back to her as if she’d been listening all along) and repeated the maneuver, still going on about the Pokémon that Robin Riverstone had and what kinds of strategies May had noticed her using.

Mark had intended to try to follow the discussion in the hope of learning something, but he quickly zoned out as May seemingly simply thought aloud about what would and wouldn’t work. She mentioned a truly inordinate number of moves that she seemed to have taught her Pokémon at some point (Raichu could learn Grass Knot?) and half of what she said was very difficult to follow, going along logical pathways that were really not as obvious as May seemed to think they were and frequently backtracking and jumping back and forth. He looked at her Pokémon and wondered idly if they had actually learned how to keep up with her train of thought or if they just pretended.

He looked around at his own Pokémon for comparison. Letaligon actually appeared to be keeping up with it, miraculously enough. Dragonite was also seemingly trying to listen, though he glanced occasionally at Floatzel, who nonetheless refused to look directly at him, instead focusing her grudge towards Mark for the moment. Jolteon scratched nervously at the ground, watching May with a miserable expression of confusion on his face. Charizard and Sandslash had simply lain down to sleep. Scyther sat in the grass near Mark and swept his scythe absent-mindedly across it, tiny pieces of wet grass blades sticking to the blade as it chopped them away.

He was beginning to seriously consider going back to the library when suddenly he heard his name. He looked quickly around before it registered properly in his mind that the voice had been telepathic.

“Mark,” Chaletwo repeated urgently. “I just picked up a psychic distress call.”

It took a moment for him to realize what that meant. “Wait – so Alan’s found a legendary?”

“Seems like it. Hurry up.”

“May!” Mark called; she stopped mid-sentence and looked up, apparently annoyed at the interruption. “Alan’s found a legendary. We have to go!”

Her mouth fell briefly open, but then she nodded quickly towards all her Pokémon and recalled them into their Pokéballs. Mark did the same and walked towards her, already accessing the PC system in his Pokédex to switch Chaletwo to an active ball so that he could come out. His heart was pounding in his chest – which legendary had Alan found? He hoped it wasn’t something like the Waraider herd. He looked briefly around to make sure there was no one who might see what was going on.

Chaletwo burst out of the Pokéball, placed his bulbous hands on Mark and May’s shoulders and whisked them away. Suddenly they were standing in a grassy field close to where a sparse fir forest met a mountainside; Chaletwo had already recalled himself. Mark didn’t recognize the place at all. He turned around quickly, looking for Alan and the legendary, and instead found a teenage girl with very long, dark brown hair who was glancing wildly from side to side as an Alakazam stood in front of her and struggled to maintain a Light Screen against a bright Flamethrower.

“Leah?” Chaletwo’s voice asked quizzically. “That distress call came from you?”

“Chaletwo?” the girl called, looking straight towards Mark and May. “Thank God! Help me out here!”

Mark was too busy staring at the source of the Flamethrower to really think about who this girl was. Just a few feet away, hopelessly tangled in what seemed like several sticky, white Spider Webs, was Entei, one of the legendary Beasts of Johto. He struggled against his bonds with all his might in between firing Flamethrower after Flamethrower at the girl’s Alakazam, who strained against the force of the repeated attacks, clearly about to give in. From the looks of the girl’s face, it was her last Pokémon.

He realized with a jolt that May’s Pokémon were materializing around him and quickly threw out his own Pokéballs, only barely remembering to leave out the ball Chaletwo was currently in. He took out his Pokédex again to switch Chaletwo back for Jolteon and wished he’d had the sense to wake up Charizard and Sandslash before they’d left; they were looking sleepily up and blinking, then bolting upright as they realized what was going on.

“Are you mad?” Chaletwo’s voice was saying fiercely in Mark’s head, though it was apparently directed at the Alakazam’s trainer. “You can’t just send a general distress call when you’re battling a legendary in the hope that I’ll happen to hear it and come to your aid! What if a legendary had heard it?”

“What? You told me to do that if it got bad!” the girl called as the Pokémon rushed to attack the immobilized Entei. The legendary turned his head as Floatzel smacked into his body with a splash, followed by a Thunderbolt from Jolteon and a quick slash from Scyther. Dragonite fired a powerful Hyper Beam that threw Entei back a little.

“...Did I?”

Entei gave Floatzel an indignant snort as Charizard landed on his back, claws flaring with dragon fire. Next to May, Mutark was already growing into a stronger form.

“Yes! You said there are no Psychic legendaries in Johto anymore and the others wouldn’t teleport to another region to respond to something like that! And that the odds a trainer will both have a Psychic Pokémon out that’s strong enough to pick it up and decide to go do something about it was negligible!”

As Floatzel stumbled back in a daze and tripped over herself, Charizard grunted, realizing too late that the sticky Spider Web could trap him as easily as Entei himself now that he had come into contact with it. The legendary Pokémon roared and glowed red, the sticky threads burning with an unpleasant smell before he released a plume of flame around the entire battlefield. Mark turned away to protect his face from the scorching heat and heard the cries of several of the Pokémon as the attack hit them; when he could look again, Scyther was down and Letaligon was running weakly towards the legendary to hit it with a Slash before she collapsed on the ground as well. Mark recalled them worriedly; he had hoped their training during the League would prevent Pokémon going down in one hit from the legendaries’ attacks.

“...Fine, I guess I remember saying that, but...”

“Will you just shut up and try to help?” Leah shouted as she recalled her Alakazam, who had apparently been brought down by the attack as well. “I thought this was supposed to be kind of important!”

“They’re helping already,” Chaletwo mumbled grumpily, though he did not further the argument. The Eruption had partly scorched the threads of Ariados silk holding Entei captive, and though they did not release their grip on the legendary, it did allow the much less stuck Charizard to wriggle loose from Entei’s back at last.

“Try to stick to attacks that don’t require physical contact, everybody,” Mark called. The moment Charizard was off and a safe distance away, May ordered her Tyranitar to use Stone Edge, and the ground underneath Entei exploded upwards, sharp rocks digging up into his body while Flygon breathed a sparkling Dragonbreath at his face. He roared, blinded, and again his body glowed brightly red and spawned an explosion of flames. May’s Skarmory fell screeching to the ground after pulling off a Rock Slide; Mutark collapsed with a mewling whine.

As May took out two Pokéballs to recall them and her Blaziken fired a bright blue Focus Blast, Mark eyed the river flowing over the plains nearby and realized that he could send out Gyarados – but the image of Suicune’s body flashed in his mind and he shuddered at the thought. Meanwhile, May was furiously pressing buttons on her Pokédex to switch Skarmory and Mutark to the computer before she threw out two new balls, releasing Butterfree and Raichu in their place.

“Thunder Wave and Tailwind!” she called.

As Sandslash called a rain of rocks upon Entei, Raichu crouched down and sent a sparkling wave of electricity towards the legendary. He stiffened and growled as he strained to move his head up towards Butterfree; she began to flap her wings in a rhythmic pattern until she had produced a strong wind at their backs.

Entei managed to move at last as two Thunderbolts from Jolteon and Raichu struck him. Letting out a deep roar, he enveloped himself in a glow of heat yet again, and the Pokémon braced themselves for being hit by the fiery eruption of before. Instead, however, it was a weaker plume more concentrated around Entei himself, and it burned through the last threads of silk that were binding him to the ground. Entei rose to his feet, shook off the final remains of the thread, and was clearly preparing to hightail it out of there when Tyranitar produced a second explosion of rocks from the ground below him. With nothing tying him down, Entei was thrown up and landed awkwardly on his side.

“Floatzel, Whirlpool!” May shouted as the legendary Pokémon stumbled back to his feet. Floatzel snapped out of her daze just in time, and a vortex of water sprang up around Entei, preventing him from escaping.

Entei growled as Sandslash jumped bravely through the Whirlpool and latched onto his leg, digging his claws into the soft paw. Entei slammed his other paw down on him to peel him off, but just then Dragonite dived straight into him while flaring with blue flames and threw him onto his side. Dragonite quickly picked up the already unconscious Sandslash and carried him out of the Whirlpool, where he could be recalled. Mark’s heart thumped as Sandslash’s body was absorbed back into his Pokéball; Entei was struggling to get up now, thanks to the injuries on his paw.

“Tyranitar, use Stone Edge! Blaziken, stay back for now! Flygon, Dragonbreath! Waterfall, Floatzel! Butterfree, Psychic!” May barked from behind him. Her Blaziken joined Charizard, who was hovering some distance away, not daring to risk trying to cross the Whirlpool while it was in full force. Meanwhile, the ground under the fallen legendary exploded upwards yet again while Flygon breathed sparkly dragon flames towards him, and Jolteon and Raichu pulled together for a collaborative Thunderbolt just before Floatzel jumped into the Whirlpool and sent water crashing down on Entei. Butterfree sent a blast of psychic energy the legendary’s way.

Mark shuddered as he tried to see Entei through the vortex. It was still uncomfortable to look at one of the legendary Pokémon he had loved and respected since he was little being ganged up on, and he realized dimly that he hadn’t really given any orders in the battle so far. “Try an Aqua Tail?” he called to Dragonite, who had seemingly thought much the same thing as he hovered above waiting for an opportunity to get a hit in. Only moments later, when Entei had smacked Floatzel away, the dragon dived down with his tail turned aquatic, only to suddenly stop in mid-air, his eyes widening before he simply crumpled to the ground and didn’t stand back up. Mark recalled him, puzzled, while Jolteon and Raichu pulled off one more Thunderbolt.

Floatzel was moving in for another attack when, similar to Dragonite, her eyes suddenly widened and she just sort of went limp. Some part of Mark’s brain remembered that Entei knew Extrasensory, and his sheer power could be because he might have used Calm Mind a few times before they’d come along. He felt a pang in his heart as Jolteon suffered the same fate and recalled him quickly. If Entei would just start picking them off with the Psychic move now, he really ought to send out Gyarados anyway; he took out his Pokédex and quickly began to switch him to an active ball.

The Whirlpool had begun to lose force and dissipate into a soft drizzle around the area; Entei had managed to get to his feet, but he was crouched low, shivering after being trapped inside the vortex of water for so long. He sent a Flamethrower flying straight at May’s Butterfree, who crumpled to the ground with her wings scorched, and then made what looked like an attempt to jump, but his paralysis stopped him just as May replaced her own Pokédex on her belt. “Spirit, go! Mean Look!” she called, throwing forth a ball.

Wait a minute, Mark suddenly thought just as he was about to send out Gyarados. Spirit. Entei.

The Ninetales materialized from her Pokéball, and all of a sudden Entei stopped and straightened himself, tilting his head. “Ah,” he said, his voice still a bit hoarse and weak from the battle. “You.”

All of Mark and May’s remaining Pokémon stopped where they were standing. Leah looked at Mark and then May in puzzlement. “We’re idiots!” Chaletwo spat privately to Mark. “We could have had Spirit talk to him to begin with, but with Leah being here and all I just sort of…”

“You have been fighting Entei?” Spirit asked sharply, looking over at May. All the other Pokémon looked at her. Entei continued to gaze at Spirit, ignoring all the tearing, blood and dragonfire burns streaking his thick fur after the battle.

Mark suddenly felt one of the Pokéballs at his belt twitch, and Gyarados materialized in the river. An uncomfortable flash of déjà vu struck Mark and he frantically grabbed the Pokéball, ready to recall him, but hesitated as Entei looked at Gyarados.

“The other,” the legendary said with a nod. “Suicune has told me about you.”

“Told you about me?” Gyarados spat. “What does he think I am, his son?”

“Why can they speak English?” Leah mouthed at Mark, looking utterly confused. He tried to make some sort of a gesture that could be interpreted as ‘long story; explain later’.

“Master Entei,” Spirit said, bowing down, “I must bring you grave news. Suicune’s Chosen has rebelled and murdered his mas...”

“I know,” Entei interrupted, turning his intense gaze back towards her and instantly silencing her.

“Tell me what all this is about or I’ll do the same to you,” Gyarados growled, and Mark tightened his grip on the Pokéball in his hand.

“I could ask you the same question,” said Entei, looking searchingly at Gyarados and then Spirit. “Why are you out here trying to capture me?”

There was a silence. Everyone looked doubtfully at one another, then settled for looking at Mark, who fingered Gyarados’s Pokéball nervously. They couldn’t tell the legendaries about their mission, could they...?

“Hello, Entei,” said Chaletwo with a weary sigh before anyone else had said anything.

“Chaletwo. Long time, no see.” Entei surveyed Mark with interest for a moment of thought. “Is this about whatever it was you tried to convince us all to be captured for some twenty years back?”

“What else?” said Chaletwo resentfully. “No one agreed to it, and it’s extremely important, so I had to get it done by force. If you don’t allow us to capture you willingly now, we’ll beat you down and capture you anyway. You’re weak. You couldn’t handle all these Pokémon with the little you have left.”

Entei spent a silent second looking at Mark with something like amusement glinting in his eyes. Then: “Say, Chaletwo... is this by any chance about preventing the War of the Legends?”

Everyone stared at Entei.

“How do you know about the War of the Legends?” Chaletwo’s voice was sharp, almost angry.

“The same way you do, presumably,” Entei replied. “Not long after you and Molzapart tried to persuade us, we the Beasts of Johto noticed our power loss, so we talked to Mew. She was reluctant, but she told us about the War happening again and that we couldn’t inform the other legendaries for fear that chaos would arise. So we hatched a plan of our own.”

After so long with Chaletwo always calling Mew him, Entei’s choice of she was weirdly disorienting; it took Mark a moment to recall Mew was one of the legendaries who just didn’t care. It only added to the surrealness of the moment, the scrambled numbness in his brain.

“So... you’re trying to prevent it as well?” Chaletwo asked limply.

“Not quite. We didn’t think of anything to prevent it altogether – Pokéballs? Do you really think that will work? – but we did figure that it might be safer, for us at least, to insure our souls and store our power somewhere the Destroyer couldn’t reach it. So we each chose a few young potential Pokémon of our types, gave them a share of our power, made them speak human to minimize the potential conflict with that species, put them through some tests to see which had the greatest chance of survival...”

“You selfish legendaries,” Gyarados spat, making a point of speaking the Pokémon language this time. “Always thinking about your own insurance, saving your own skins, sacrificing other Pokémon for your sake. You’re repulsive.”

“We are all selfish,” Entei replied, his eyes suddenly cold and merciless. “No one wants to die. The difference is that your death is inevitable and ours isn’t.”

There was a stunned silence. Mark stared at the legendary, feeling like a cold bucket of water had been dumped over his head.

“We feared you would take it like this,” Entei continued viciously. “That’s why we didn’t explain it to you. You mortals don’t know what it really is to fear death, to realize that your time might be limited after thinking otherwise for a thousand years. Of course we tried to save ourselves. Who do you think Molzapart and Chaletwo are trying to save? But they do it by making you fight us in difficult battles and forcing us to injure you, while we are saving ourselves by giving you great power to use as your own, in any manner you choose, at the cost of a few measly trials. By all rights, you should be grateful.”

“I am,” said Spirit firmly. “I am honoured to be your vessel. The Gyarados is ungrateful for his gift, but...”

“Wait,” Leah spoke up suddenly. “I don’t get it. You took out my entire team and half of theirs, but now you’re telling me you gave your power to this Ninetales? And what’s this about murdering Suicune?” She looked at Gyarados, her face somewhere midway between disturbed and confused.

“We gave only a portion of our power to the potentials,” Entei said with a note of amusement. “The power drain is proportional to the power that we currently have, so losing that power slowed down our power loss accordingly. By now the difference between us and any other legendary is negligible.”

May furrowed her brow. “So the power doesn’t get drained once you’ve given it to the... potentials?”

“No. Only legendaries are affected by the Destroyer. We do not know why that is, but it is why we could store our power safely in mortal Pokémon. Our plan was in two parts: we would store power within the bodies of the potentials, and we would then choose one of them each – the Chosen – to carry our souls so that after the War, we could be resurrected by any Pokémon with the ability and then take our power back.”

Gyarados’s face contorted in anger. “So Suicune isn’t dead.”

“Only temporarily,” said Entei, his voice calm. “Suicune’s soul is stored in the gems on your neck, and a large portion of his power within the bodies of you and several other Water Pokémon around the world.”

The sea monster roared madly in rage and twisted his head downwards, struggling in vain reach the soul gems with his fangs. An intense, powerful pity gripped Mark, clutching his chest and squeezing it.

“Of course,” Entei went on, turning his gaze towards Mark, “since Chaletwo is with you, I trust he will understand the gravity of the situation and ensure that the gems are kept safe.”

“...Of course,” Chaletwo replied after a second’s hesitation. “Gyarados, stop it, or Mark will recall you.”

Gyarados didn’t stop it. He roared hatefully again and slammed his head and neck against the ground, and for a moment, Mark wanted to let him. But the gems were Suicune. As long as they were intact, he wasn’t really dead. Wasn’t that a relief? Shouldn’t he be happy?

Suicune was a legendary. Even if he had selfishly put Gyarados through unimaginable suffering for years, just to save himself from the mortality other creatures had to take for granted.

Mark pressed the button on the ball and muttered, “I’m sorry, Gyarados,” as the red Pokéball beam absorbed him.

“What’s with the spirit form?” May asked Entei after a moment’s pause, her expression neutral. “Why did you give her that power?”

Entei tilted his head. “She chose it for herself,” he said. “We only give them pure, raw power; it is up to the individual Pokémon how they learn to utilize it. Hers was an interesting one. I suppose she learned it from the ghosts in Sprout Tower, where she was tested.”

Spirit was listening with rapt attention; Entei didn’t look at her.

May nodded contemplatively, glancing at Spirit. “What about Raikou? Does Raikou have a Chosen?”

“Raikou has potentials around the world, but he was captured before he could pick one of them as a Chosen. It is a shame, but it can’t be helped. We must move on without him.”

Mark was beginning to feel sick to his stomach.

“Well, it’s been nice to talk with you and find out what you’ve been doing behind our backs, Entei, but now we have to capture you and prevent the actual War,” said Chaletwo shortly. “Do you want to do this the easy way or the hard way?”

“Capture?” Entei snorted. “I think not. You may continue your futile efforts if you choose so, but I am spending the War in that necklace, not in a ball. Goodbye, Chaletwo.”

And before anyone could respond, Entei crouched down and closed his eyes, and millions of bolts of thready blue lightning shot from him to Spirit, wrapping around her as Entei grimaced in pain. It was over much sooner than when Suicune had done the same to Gyarados; after mere seconds it simply stopped, and Entei’s body collapsed onto the ground with a heavy thud.

“I can feel it,” whispered Spirit, looking down at the red gems of her necklace. “It’s heavier.”

Leah carefully threw an Ultra Ball; it bounced off Entei like any inanimate object. “He’s dead, all right,” she said, raising her eyebrows.

“Do you think there’s... any risk to them being like that when the War comes?” May asked, glancing at Mark.

“No,” Chaletwo replied. “He was right. The Destroyer can’t drain power from mortal Pokémon, and a soul in a gem can’t do much harm to anyone. It shouldn’t make a difference that they’re there and not in Pokéballs.”

“Well, then we might as well consider this a capture, I guess,” she said, looking over at Entei’s body. “How do we hide him?”

Mark looked away, shuddering. The Pokémon were silent and grave; May took out Pokéballs to recall hers, and Mark did the same for Charizard. Leah was spraying her Alakazam with some potions she’d taken from her backpack.

“Felix can probably levitate the body out of the way,” she said nonchalantly, waving her hand. “So Chaletwo, were you going to introduce us?” She looked at Mark and May with an all too cheerful smile.

“Right. Mark and May, that is Leah, the first trainer I recruited to prevent the War. Leah, this is Mark, the latest recruit, and that’s May, a friend of his who has also been helping out.”

“Cool,” said Leah, waving at them. “Hi.”

“Hi,” May replied, but Mark just vaguely raised his hand; he didn’t quite trust himself to talk right now.

“How have you been doing so far? How many had you got before Entei?”

“Four with Suicune,” May answered.

Leah raised her eyebrows. “Four? In your first couple of months?”

“Well, all of them were in previously known locations,” Chaletwo replied.

“Oh,” said Leah. “Well, that doesn’t count. The hard part is tracking them down. I didn’t find Latios until I’d been chasing him for three months straight, and even then Latias destroyed the Spider Web and they both got away. Believe me, you’ve had it easy if you just knew where they were.”

“That reminds me – have you had any success since we last talked?” Chaletwo asked her.

She shook her head. “Just been chasing Entei most of that time. Oh, but I met Mary the other day, and she’d gotten Articuno a bit before that. She said she might head to Ouen to try to find the Waraider herd.”

Mark’s heart took a sudden leap. “Wait,” he said. “Did you say Articuno?”

“Yeah,” said Leah like it was the most natural thing in the world. “He was back in Seafoam after all. Said the battle wasn’t so bad, but the caves were a nightmare to get through.”

“But that means Articuno’s not the Destroyer!” he blurted out.

“Well, yeah,” Leah said, cocking an eyebrow. “Why would Articuno be the Destroyer?”

“It was just a theory we had. Apparently we were wrong.”

“And you didn’t tell us? Jeez.”


“But who’s the Destroyer then?” Mark interrupted. “We don’t even have any leads anymore now. One of us will probably attack him at some point and… we might all attack him at some point!”

“It could still be an unknown legendary, or even not a proper legendary at all,” Chaletwo pointed out. “There is little logical reason why any of the other known legendaries should be the Destroyer. Second created by the Creator was a theory, but…”

“I don’t know about you,” said Leah, looking at Mark, “but in my books, the risk of attacking the Destroyer and getting killed really isn’t so bad compared to the alternative risk of not attacking some legendary that then turns out not to be the Destroyer and kills us all when the War starts. Just stop with the pessimism and hope for the best. What else is there to do on a mission like this?”

Mark sighed. There was a bottomless pit in his stomach. Gyarados had been right all along; Suicune had chosen him, used him and made him suffer just to save his own neck. Of course, because what would be more frightening to a naturally immortal being than the idea of a sudden inevitable death? They weren’t deities or higher beings to be revered and worshipped. They were just flawed, scared, selfish individuals, desperate to survive their oncoming doom by any means available to them, no matter what the price or who it hurt.

Part of him wasn’t sure if they deserved to be saved.

But he thought of all the innocent people and Pokémon who would also die if the War came to pass, just because they’d be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and forced his resolve back together.

“You’re right,” he said grimly. “We’ll hope for the best.”

May rolled her eyes, but didn’t remark on it. “Where are you heading next, Leah?” she asked instead. “Since Entei is gone?”

Leah shrugged. “I’m the only legendary hunter in Johto at the moment, so I guess I’ll stick around here and comb the region for Mew, for now.”

It struck Mark properly for the first time that they were actually in Johto. It felt strange to have been so suddenly whisked away to a different region.

“Well, we’re competing in the Ouen League at the moment to get our Pokémon up to par for the legendary battles we have left,” said May. “So we’d probably better get going back there. Good luck finding Mew.”

“Good luck with the League and all the rest,” Leah said with a grin. “It was nice to meet you. I’ll handle Entei’s body and all that. Don’t worry about it.”

Mark nodded, a sting in his stomach, as he switched Chaletwo to an active ball. “Thanks. Nice to meet you too.”

He waved, trying not to look at the great furred shape lying behind Leah as Chaletwo materialized beside them and teleported them back to Ouen.

It bothers me how Entei doesn't react to or notice the whole shouted argument between Leah and Chaletwo at the beginning of the battle, only when Spirit comes out. Maybe Chaletwo's not broadcasting to him, but even then Leah said Chaletwo's name out loud, which surely should've given him pause.

The bit about Mew and many other legendaries simply not caring what pronoun you use for them is worldbuilding that had actually existed for years by this point but had never actually ended up coming up in the fic until this chapter, so I just hastily inserted an awkward paragraph where Mark informs the reader this is a thing (I made it slightly less awkward here). In any case: it is a thing. All legendaries that are genderless in the Pokémon games are biologically sexless in the canon of this fic, and they don't quite have a gender identity as we'd understand it. (These legendaries also don't experience romantic or sexual attraction, because they are immortal single-individual species who don't reproduce and thus just don't have any such instincts.) However, when it comes to languages with gendered pronouns, some legendaries have picked one they like for themselves, while others find the whole thing arbitrary and irrelevant to them and don't care at all. For the latter, any given individual can just use whichever pronoun they like for them.

The original motivation behind this system was just that back in 2004, while there were some legendaries that I felt comfortable designating as a him or a her for the purposes of the fic, it just didn't feel right to me to give some other legendaries, like Mew or Lugia or Suicune, a gender at all. And in 2004, singular they hadn't caught on like it has today - nobody was talking about nonbinary people or the use of they for specific individuals (or rather, they weren't talking about it anywhere I'd ever heard of it). As far as I was concerned, the options were he, she or it. And while I used it for Pokémon when they were strangers of unknown gender, by this point it felt wrong and weird and too impersonal to use it with a known Pokémon who was being treated as an individual. Faced with this dilemma, I decided fine, I'd use he or she for these legendaries, but it'd be because they don't care, and not because they actually are that gender. Different characters in the story might use different pronouns for the same legendary; I'd just decide for each speaker what pronoun they would use for any given genderless legendary, depending on what felt right for that character.

In practice, Chaletwo and Molzapart are both some of the legendaries that prefer to be called he, and Chaletwo himself will refer to any legendary who doesn't explicitly prefer she as he, because it's simple and easy to just use the same one he likes for himself and not have to think very hard about it. Mark, then, has tended to just pick up the pronoun Chaletwo uses, so the vast majority of legendaries ended up being called he for the vast majority of the fic - that's why it hasn't actually come up until now. (May, who is more callous and more of a stickler for technical correctness over respectfulness, will generally call these legendaries it, but readers generally don't really notice that distinction much.) Entei, however, likes to go with she for smaller, less imposing legendaries to differentiate them from himself, because he is kind of a dick who has managed to invent pseudo-sexism, so here we go, finally a genderless legendary getting called she.

All this to say, if I'd only started this fic today, I'd have just gone with they for these legendaries without a second thought. But given I did come up with this system back in 2004, before I ever got familiar with more mainstream thought on nonbinary gender, I do still kind of enjoy it and its alienness and the way it forms part of the characterization of different characters, even if it took 51 chapters for it to even be visible in the actual text.

(There is a chapter from Mew's point of view later, and the pronouns it uses for Mew alternate between he and she between scenes because Mew does not give a fuck, and I enjoy this enormously.)

A cruel thing I came up with at one point that I never quite made canon, but if you enjoy the idea please imagine this is the case: the Electrike whose mother they accidentally killed in chapter 34 could have been one of Raikou's potentials. Alan almost got a Chosen, too, only nope, Electrike doesn't want a trainer, goes off and probably dies? Delicious. It is pretty contrived that of this group of three people all of them would happen to independently bump into the beasts' potentials, which is the main reason I didn't actually go with it (it's contrived enough with just Spirit and Gyarados), but on the other hand I do have a real soft spot for cruel near-misses.
Chapter 52: The League Finals


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Time for chapter 52 and the very last fully written trainer battle in the fic! Plus a conversation about the plot.

Chapter 52: The League Finals​


“Charizard, Focus Blast!” ordered Robin Riverstone, pointing decisively towards May’s Tyranitar. Her Charizard roared in response before closing his eyes in concentration; a ripple of energy spread out from his body and struck Tyranitar powerfully. The dinosaur keeled over in pain with a suppressed groan.

“Come on, Tyranitar! Stone Edge!” May called, clenching her fist.

Tyranitar straightened himself with a deep, rumbling roar as the other girl quickly countered with a command to fly up to dodge. No sooner had sharp boulders torn themselves from the earth under where the dragon was circling than it shot straight up into the air, outspeeding the rising rocks before curving neatly out of their way. The rocks lost their momentum and crashed back down on the arena.

“Another Focus Blast!” yelled Robin.

“Rock Slide!” May ordered as the Charizard dived, its eyes glinting triumphantly before it closed them and began to concentrate. Tyranitar raised several chunks of rock from the ground, but a ripple of focused energy hit him before he’d had the chance to send them at their target, and he staggered backwards, the levitating rocks trembling in the air.

“Don’t lose focus!” May shouted. “Finish the attack!”

Tyranitar gritted his teeth, struggling to stand on his shaking legs, and the boulders twitched ever so slightly in Charizard’s direction, but then the dinosaur simply slumped down on the ground, giving way to unconsciousness. The Rock Slide crashed down on the arena as well, as if to accentuate his fall, while the audience cheered wildly.

Mark saw the edge of May’s mouth twitch on the status screen before she mouthed something inaudible, took out Tyranitar’s Pokéball and recalled him.

“And it’s down to a one-on-one!” boomed the voice of the announcer. “Robin Riverstone has managed quite a comeback here by taking down May’s Tyranitar with her last pick, Charizard! Only minutes ago it seemed like a sure victory for May Wallace, but the gap has closed considerably with this surprising turn of events! Will Robin use this situation to wrench the ticket to the finals from May’s grasp?”

It was probably a good thing the in-battle commentary was only audible to the spectators; Mark imagined it would probably have irritated May to hear it described like that. Which, he supposed, was probably the reason they made it that way; he figured it would inevitably be distracting to have a loud voice talking about you in the background while you’re trying to think.

May had picked out her next, final Pokéball, but Mark already knew what was in it; he’d been there when she’d picked out her team. “Floatzel, go!” she shouted as she hurled it into the arena. “Aqua Jet!”

Everyone around Mark cheered wildly as the sea otter materialized. “Would you look at that!” said the commentator. “It seems like May’s last Pokémon happened to be a Water-type! This is going to be tough for Robin’s Charizard.”

She would hate that description, Mark thought with vague amusement as Floatzel shot up in a splash of water to tackle Charizard in the air. It hadn’t happened to be a Water-type; she’d specifically noticed that Robin seemingly always used her Charizard and that it was her team’s greatest Water weakness, in addition to having a battling style that involved a lot of quick manoeuvres and dodging, and therefore reserved Floatzel for the job of taking it down. The happenstance was that the switches had aligned favourably along with a bit of luck so that Robin had been forced to send out Charizard last against a fairly healthy Tyranitar – which, granted, had made May smirk with the confidence of victory a bit too soon, but this was merely falling back on the original plan.

“Charizard, Solarbeam!”

While Mark was thinking, Charizard had flicked its tail indignantly at the already falling Floatzel, but it had only barely brushed against her, and now the dragon Pokémon opened its mouth and began to form an orb of light between its teeth.

“Floatzel, get in the pool and shield with Ice Punch!”

This was a special technique they’d practiced the day before. Floatzel landed in the pool, already gathering power from her Never-Melt Ice, and then swished her paw above her in swift circles, forming a rounded sheet of ice between her and the Charizard. As the dragon fired the Solarbeam, it quickly melted the ice and formed clouds of steam above the pool, but not quickly enough to eat through the entire shield before the gathered solar energy was spent. As soon as the beam faded, Floatzel leapt out of the steaming pool with a gleeful chuckle.

“Ooh, a clever spin on an ordinary move!” said the commentator. “But what else do you expect here in the semifinals of the Ouen League?”

“Sunny Day!” called Robin, frowning.


As the Charizard was preparing to clear the skies, Floatzel screeched some creative insults at her opponent. The dragon stopped abruptly, something flashing in its eyes as it ignored its orders and instead lunged straight towards Floatzel with a roar.

“Nice save there from May,” the announcer said. “Sunny Day might have turned the tides of this battle, but Taunt prevented it from success! Things are looking steep for Robin after all!”

“Charizard, stay with me!” Robin shouted urgently. “Air Slash!”

Her Pokémon stopped mid-dive and swung its wings in a cutting motion, sending a sharp gust of air down at the sea otter; she was knocked down and hissed in annoyance.

“Waterfall, Floatzel!”

Quick as lightning, Floatzel whipped herself into the pool before shooting back up out of it, bringing a vertical column of water behind her. She smashed into the Charizard as it was preparing to pull off another Air Slash; water sprayed over the dragon in her wake, and it growled as its tail flame hissed and steamed, but Floatzel was already diving back down into the haven of the pool when it attempted to retaliate.

“Another Waterfall!” May ordered.

“Fly up to dodge, but be wary!”

“Aqua Jet!”

Charizard was quick to begin its ascent, but Floatzel’s Aqua Jet was even quicker; one second she was swimming circles in the pool, and the next she was tackling the Fire Pokémon in mid-air along with a hefty splash. This time Charizard was sure to be ready for her, however; ignoring the spray of deadly water, it smacked her aside with its tail, and she landed in a heap on the ground instead of the pool.

“Solarbeam now!” called Robin.

“Get back in the pool to shield!” May hissed.

By the time the dazed Floatzel had pulled herself insistently back to her feet with an annoyed mutter, however, Charizard had already charged a beam of solar energy and fired it straight down at her. She screeched as it knocked her to the ground, vapour rising from her body as she twisted in agony, then threw herself straight back into the water for relief.

“Waterfall!” May ordered without missing a beat.

“Air Slash, Charizard!”

Yet again, Floatzel sprang out of the pool, if not quite as quickly as before, and brought with her a stream of water. Her hesitation allowed Charizard time to send a burst of concentrated wind down at her, but it only slowed her down a little before she struck. The Charizard roared in pain as it was doused with water yet again, its ability to withstand the super-effective attacks clearly waning as it tired; it completely failed to counterattack this time, and Floatzel landed safely in the pool.

“Another Air Slash!”

“Aqua Jet followed by Ice Punch from above!”

The sea otter darted out of the water and smacked into Charizard’s body like a wet rag, using its momentary paralysis to whip herself onto its back, her paw already grasping her Never-Melt Ice. When she smashed her fist between its shoulderblades, the dragon grunted in pain, but more importantly, the freezing cold of the Ice Punch produced layers of ice across its wet back.

Charizard’s eyes widened in surprise as it tried to flap its tired wings, but the freezing around its shoulders made it difficult, and with Floatzel’s weight dragging it down, it just couldn’t keep itself airborne. With a panicked roar, it was sent descending straight down towards the pool, and Floatzel cackled with a victorious glee as they broke the water with a splash.

Robin Riverstone only looked on for a second as her Charizard was submerged, its tail flame bubbling furiously as it struggled to resurface while Floatzel persisted in dragging it down, before she pulled out a Pokéball. “Charizard, return,” she said calmly as a red beam absorbed her Pokémon to safety, and the audience exploded into cheering before she’d even said the last word.

“A brutal tactic, but it worked!” said the commentator. “After an exciting match, May Victoria Wallace is the winner and will face Taylor Lancaster in the finals a week from now! Thank you for joining us today. This is Robert Witham, signing off.”

Mark only half-heartedly joined into the cheering; it was a bit difficult for him to be thrilled about a Charizard being dragged into a pool, and he’d never been much for shouting and screaming, anyway. But now at least May would get to face Taylor like she’d always hoped to and could become Champion while she was at it; she’d definitely be happy.


She wasn’t. The moment they met again outside the Pokémon Center, she was already ranting.

“Can you believe Tyranitar?” she began furiously. “Losing to a Charizard? I mean, no offense to your starter, but he’s a Rock-type! And he got creamed! Didn’t even get a single hit in!”

Mark was a bit too taken aback to reply, though in his head he could almost hear the speech Alan would be making if he were there. When he said nothing, she went on: “I mean, sure, it was all because Charizard was running a speed-reliant dodging strategy, and Tyranitar’s just never been very speedy no matter what I do. But he should have gotten a hit in several times while it was busy attacking and not dodging.”

“Well, Charizard had a Fighting move,” Mark said with an uncertain shrug. “And as you say, it had a strategy Tyranitar wasn’t very well prepared to take on.”

“Still,” May insisted. “I thought I had the 2-0 in the bag, but now it just looks like your average win-thanks-to-luck-slash-opener-outprediction, which is pretty lame.” She sighed in irritation. “Tyranitar’s been disappointing me a lot lately, you know? It’s annoying, after all that effort.”

“Aren’t you just expecting too much?” Mark said hesitantly. “I mean, the speed thing was really working against him, and we’ve seen Robin’s Charizard dodging the most amazing stuff from slower Pokémon. Only reason Floatzel did so well is she’s even faster. And you knew that; that’s why you chose her for it after all. Plus, it all worked out anyway – you won the battle, and you get to face Taylor.”

May took a deep breath, relaxing a little. “I guess maybe he couldn’t have done any better,” she said after a moment. “No use complaining after the fact, at any rate, not when we have Taylor to worry about. God, I need a nap.” She closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead. “Yeah, nap for me. You do what you like.”


Most of the rest of that week went into training, strategizing and general preparations for the finals. Mark was there for most of it, feeling rather more invested in this battle than the previous, since it was the finals after all and he really did want to see Taylor go down. He didn’t often have much to offer in the way of suggestions, but his Pokémon sometimes did, and thankfully it had turned out there was more to May’s battle preparations than just her marching back and forth and thinking aloud.

The fact Taylor had advanced to the finals of the League had gotten considerable media attention, with a lot of public outcry about the fact someone most unhypnotized people viewed as something between an undeserving brat and a scumbag cheater was now a very serious candidate for Ouen Champion. Taylor himself had been interviewed a couple of times, always answering his questions with a bizarre sort of oblivious nonchalance, though there was a suspicious lack of direct accusations against him whenever he appeared in the media. May, on the other hand, had become the only remaining representative of fairness and justice in the world, with the public rallying around her in the hope she would beat him in the name of true Pokémon training.

May mostly found the attention irritating, though she did take satisfaction in the fact everybody apparently hated Taylor too. She refused to be interviewed, telling the journalists who approached her that she had better things to do, such as actually training for the battle (unlike a certain someone, said with an irritated glare). Mark figured that was probably a good thing; May’s actual personality wasn’t very conductive to being held up as a paragon of hope and justice.

On the evening of the day before the battle, before turning her Pokémon in for the pre-battle examination, May ran over the battle plan one last time, pacing in front of her team.

“They’re stronger than you,” she told the Pokémon bluntly as they listened in grave silence. “We’ll have to accept that; we can’t try to upstage them that way. Don’t think the fact there are six of you and four of them is going to even it out by itself, either, because it won’t. The advantage we do have is that he gets three switches and I get five. That’s two extra favourable matchups I get to make, and I plan to milk that advantage for all it’s got.”

She turned around at the end of the line, the Pokémon following her with their eyes.

“So Raichu is going out first.” She looked at the mouse Pokémon and he nodded nervously. “Taylor starts with something which, in all likelihood, takes him down, unless it’s Feraltwo and maybe even then. But Raichu should be able to put a dent in it anyway, maybe even paralyze it. And then I can send out whoever is the best counter for it, and they should win. Taylor sends out a counter, of course, and it wins, and I send out another one, and so on. Even after Raichu is probably beaten in the first round, though, I still have one extra Pokémon as a backup plan. That’s our advantage.

“But there’s only one backup Pokémon, one extra counter, and there is no chance we can get another. There’s no way any of you is going to beat two of his stupid super-clones in a row. That inherent advantage of two extra switches is all we get. And once he’s whittled that headstart down, we can’t have any more mistakes. We can’t have any more losing with a type advantage.”

She abruptly stopped in front of Tyranitar and gave him a hard, cold, silent glare. The dinosaur looked wordlessly down at the ground, though his expression remained the neutral it always was.

Again, Mark could almost hear Alan’s protests, but he remained sitting where he was, saying nothing, if feeling a bit uncomfortable. In the end, Alan wasn’t there, and much as he might have liked to have been the sort of person who would call her out, he just wasn’t Alan either. It was one instance, in a stressful situation; surely it would be futile to even try to argue it, anyway? Alan’d probably have something to say about it once they rejoined him, but Mark couldn’t start something over it now.

“We can not lose this battle,” May went on, now pacing again, her voice becoming quietly fierce. “Either I become the champion or that little git does, and some idiot who goes around stealing Pokémon and begging his brother for overpowered clones and hypnotizing everyone who gets in his way should not win the League.” She clenched her fist. “Taylor’s been waltzing around here, reveling in his complete lack of talent and effort, acting like everyone who actually has to work to be any good is just weak and inferior, but we will show him that we’re not weak. We’ll show him that having a brother and a hypnotizing legendary clone isn’t enough.” She took a deep breath. “And while Taylor really needs to just die in a fire, the best we can do is beat him in a battle. So don’t mess this up, okay?”

Surprisingly, Tyranitar was the first to nod emphatically, followed by the others voicing their agreement out loud. He didn’t look hesitant to battle the way Lapras had been at all; it made Mark feel a bit better. May watched the chorus of her Pokémon with satisfaction and waited until they were quiet again.

“So see you tomorrow. Be nice to the drug testers – Floatzel, that means you. I want you all to give it all you’ve got in this battle. Any final comments?”

They looked at one another and shook their heads.

“No? Great. Until tomorrow, then.”

May took out Pokéballs to recall them, and within seconds, the last shape of translucent red had been absorbed into a ball, leaving the two kids to find their way back alone in the darkness.


Mark lay awake in bed that night, something nagging at him uncomfortably.

“Chaletwo?” he muttered as he looked at the ceiling.


“How come you don’t intervene in stuff like that?”

“Like what? I haven’t really been listening to your thoughts. I’ve got stuff to think about on my own.”

“Like May being mad at Tyranitar for not having beaten that Charizard like it’s all his fault. I mean, you were there since I was there, right?”

“Mm. I saw that, but she’s too valuable to our cause to start arguing with every questionable thing she does. It’s no worse than any other sort of jerkish thing to do just because she’s a trainer and he’s a Pokémon.”

“I guess.” A few moments passed in silence. “Chaletwo?” Mark then asked again.


“What Entei and Suicune did,” he began hesitantly. “How much do you know about that? How it works?”

“It’s really pretty straightforward. What did you want to know?”

Mark shrugged. “Everything, I guess.”

Chaletwo gave a mental sigh. “Right.” There was a short pause. “So you have a soul. It resides on a separate plane of existence – the spiritual plane, or whatever you want to call it. The same place Spirit uses to shift in and out of the physical world.”

Mark nodded slowly.

“Well, while you’re alive, your soul is anchored to your body – your brain, specifically. When your brain stops working, that anchor breaks. The soul usually floats around in the vicinity for a little while afterwards – how long exactly varies – but eventually it disappears off to wherever it is the souls of the dead go. Free-roaming souls, before that happens, can be detected and communicated with fairly easily with even weak psychic powers. When I killed you, I grabbed your soul before it could go anywhere and anchored it to myself, if you will.”


“And, well, it’s pretty simple to anchor a soul to any physical object. You’d need psychic powers to do it to somebody else’s, but a bit of the kind of power any legendary has will do to transfer your own, provided you know how to do it. Normally they wouldn’t know, but I guess they talked to a Psychic legendary – heck, Mew might have told them for all I know. It’s also not hard to create simple objects like gems, and those are pretty convenient for anchoring souls to, since they’re durable. So they created some gems, and then anchored their souls to them. And when their souls are anchored to the gems, they can’t proceed to where the dead usually end up. They can’t do much of worth either, mind you, but a psychic can detect them with some effort, communicate with them and resurrect them into any decently whole body, and they’ll be alive and well. With their power stored away beforehand, they should be able to recover that, too, since power is always partly tied to the soul itself and they could pretty much pull it back from wherever.”

Mark took a moment to let this sink in. “So this... ‘anchor’,” he said. “Is it something like your physical link to me?”

“Not quite. The physical anchor is more... well, physical. It allows me to channel a bit of the power of my body through you – for telepathy and the like – even though my body isn’t technically there. That is also why that anchor allows the Destroyer access to my power. A soul-anchor wouldn’t do that. Hence why Entei and Suicune are safe.”

Mark considered this. “What if you just had a soul-anchor to me?”

“Wouldn’t work, even if I could make one without being dead. I wouldn’t actually be able to communicate with you or do anything useful without that physical access to my power. As I said, power is always partly tied to the soul too, but there’s practically nothing you can do with that without a body to channel it through.”

“Just ‘a body’? I mean, what about my body, if you’re anchored to that?”

“Well, that would be your body, already anchored to your soul. A second soul has no real business being there; at most it can cling on to some parts of your brain you’re not using at the moment, maybe prod slightly at your subconscious. It can’t really use the body; it might as well be anchored to an inanimate object in that regard.”

Mark nodded slowly, feeling he more or less understood it. He hesitated before continuing with why he’d started this discussion: “So you and Molzapart never considered... doing it their way? Just saving yourselves with some soul gems and waiting it out?”

“To be honest we never thought of it,” Chaletwo replied after a moment’s pause. “I had heard of the concept of anchoring a soul to an object, but... Never put it together like that.”

“What if you’d thought of it?”

“We want to save everyone, not just ourselves.”

Mark pressed on. “What if you’d thought of it and Pokéballs didn’t exist, or something, so you couldn’t stop it altogether? Would you have done it?”

“Who wouldn’t?” replied Chaletwo, his telepathic voice turning defensive. “What are you trying to prove?”

Mark wasn’t exactly sure, but continued anyway with newfound persistence. “What if you could preserve yourselves, in soul gems, or save everyone else, but not both?”

Chaletwo’s reply was suddenly fierce. “What’s this sudden barrage of moral dilemmas about? Yes, I can sympathize with Entei and Suicune, if that’s what you’re asking, but it’s no use wondering what we would or wouldn’t have done in some hypothetical scenario. Here and now we’re trying to save the world because it is possible and we don’t have to sacrifice ourselves to do it, and that’s what matters.”

“Entei seemed pretty skeptical of your attempt,” Mark responded, his voice shaking with something that was not quite anger. “What if it doesn’t work? What if we fail to capture all of them and the mad legendaries break your Pokéball and kill you? You have to have thought of that at some point. And sure, you hadn’t thought of soul gems before – but now that you have, now that you know of a safe alternative that could guarantee your survival... don’t tell me you haven’t at least thought about it.”

“It’s crossed my mind,” Chaletwo said after a pause.

“So what? Why did you decide to stick around anyway? Or are you just waiting for the right moment to tell us, sorry, you have to go on without me?” Mark had gotten quite worked up by now; a flood of suppressed fears that had been boiling within him since the encounter with Entei was bursting out all at once. “Do you legendaries actually care one bit about the world? Or do you just live out your eternal existence thinking of mortal creatures as toys to occupy your minds with, all the while reminding yourselves how glad you are that you aren’t going to die like they are?”

“Whether you want to believe it or not, Mark,” Chaletwo responded, clearly trying to be calm, “I do care. And I’m not going to hide in a soul gem while you might need me. Don’t speak of legendaries as if you know all of us just because you’ve talked to Entei. We all feel that fear when we realize we aren’t as immortal as we thought, and I won’t deny that it was a motivating factor for Molzapart and me, but otherwise our views and priorities and our ideas for how to deal with the War are different. We try to prevent it from happening with the help of humans; the Beasts of Johto try to save themselves with the help of mortal Pokémon; Mew seems almost suicidally content with the whole idea.”

Mark took a deep breath, feeling a bit better now, whether it was because of Chaletwo’s words or just because he’d let it all out. “Wait, what?” he asked after a second. “Mew is what?”

“Content with it. Flat-out refused to help us prevent it, apparently because we can’t fight fate or something like that. It’s stupid. I couldn’t convince him to even try to save himself.”

Mark pondered this for a moment. He’d known it before, technically, but never really given any thought to it. “Huh. So Mew is willing to die.”

“But not to save anyone else,” Chaletwo pointed out. “He doesn’t want the War stopped at all.”

“Mew didn’t want you to tell anyone about the War, either,” Mark thought aloud. “That’s a bit odd, isn’t it? Doesn’t want to save himself, doesn’t want anyone else saved, doesn’t even want anyone to know what’s coming...” Something horrible was creeping up on him. Mew couldn’t be...

“There’s no way,” said Chaletwo immediately. “He... he wouldn’t have told us, or the Beasts, if... there’s no way. I think he’s just gotten a bit tired of life by now. He’s two thousand years old, after all, and he’s been kind of down pretty much for the last twenty years.”

“I guess.” Mark pushed the thought forcibly away. “You know what’s funny? I was always under the impression Mew was pretty cheerful when I was little.”

“He used to be. Well, he was like this for a while after the last War, too; I think it was Chalenor’s death. They were very close, and he took it hard. Then later, as he got over that, he slowly shed that and became his better known happy, playful self, all the way until... well, yeah, until around the time we started asking him about the War twenty years ago.” There was a slightly awkward pause; Mark could feel Chaletwo’s momentary guilt faintly in the back of his mind.

“Maybe there was some sort of effort to stop the last War too that failed horribly?” Mark suggested.

“He never mentioned anything like that to me.”

Mark shrugged. “Maybe Mew doesn’t tell you everything.”

Chaletwo didn’t respond, but Mark could tell he’d been thinking the same thing. There had to be something Mew knew that they didn’t. And though he was doing his best to convince himself Chaletwo was right that Mew couldn’t be the Destroyer (how could the Creator and Destroyer be the same, anyway?), he couldn’t shake the unsettling possibility from his mind.

He waited a moment, wondering if Chaletwo would say anything; he didn’t. Mark sighed and pulled the comforter over his head.

It was a while before he managed to drift off into a dreamless sleep.


His stomach felt fluttery as he ate breakfast with May. Thoughts about Mew and souls and the Destroyer swarmed around his head like flies, and he found himself having little appetite. May was eating just fine, but she was silent and focused and seemed a bit paler than usual.

They didn’t really speak until May looked at her watch and stood up from the table without warning, preparing to leave. Mark realized with a jolt that it had to be time for her to get her Pokémon and unconsciously sprang to his feet after her; she stopped and turned back towards him.

“Um… good luck,” he said awkwardly, trying to seem cheery and positive. “Hope you win. Champion, huh? I mean, that’d be cool.” He tried to smile, feeling a bit stupid and not sure if May actually appreciated good lucks at all.

At first she just looked at him blankly, but then the corners of her mouth turned up into a genuine, if faint, smile. “Thanks, Mark,” she replied. “I appreciate it.”

And with that she turned back around and hurried out the door, leaving Mark to finish his breakfast alone.


The audience stands were already nearly full when he got there; Mark was thankful for the numbered seats as he pushed past what seemed like hundreds of people to find his place. May was already waiting on the trainer stand further away from him, but the closer one was empty; Taylor had a tendency to show up kind of late to his own battles, something May had of course noticed and raged about several times.

She wasn’t raging now, though. She was just standing there, flicking her gaze around the audience, fiddling with her Pokéball necklace, and shifting on her feet every now and then. Mark realized with an unsettling feeling in his stomach that the confidence she had oozed when she’d battled him was completely gone. She wasn’t just being cautious; she really wasn’t sure she could win. And from her, that was so unusual as to be almost frightening. May wasn’t supposed to look nervous.

The squabbling going on in the audience fell suddenly quiet as the door to the near trainer stand opened and Taylor stepped through it with a self-assured grin. He waved cheerfully to the audience as he closed the door.

Somebody a couple of rows above Mark yelled “You suck!” Somebody else booed, and other people joined in; within seconds, it seemed half the audience was doing it in unison. Taylor’s grin vanished abruptly, replaced with a confused frown, and he turned his gaze over towards May instead, grabbing a Pokéball from his belt. She took a ball from her necklace as well.

“Hello,” came the announcer’s voice over the PA system. “I’m Robert Witham, your on-site commentator for the Ouen League, and… I will not be commenting on this match.”

All around the audience stands, people looked up in surprise.

“This is an act of protest against the League’s outrageous double standards and disregard for its own rules in allowing Taylor Lancaster to get this far. I refuse to participate in this ridiculous charade, even if it costs me my job. That will be all. Thanks.”

There was a burst of cheering after this announcement. Mark saw May looking around the audience stands in confusion; this had to look very odd to someone who couldn’t hear the commentator. Taylor, on the other hand, ignored it completely, still just standing there turning over the Pokéball in his hand, until finally there came the order for them to ready their Pokéballs.

“Go!” they shouted simultaneously, throwing the balls they were holding. May’s ball released Raichu, as planned; Taylor’s released a huge, menacing, blue bipedal alligator with a grossly enlarged lower jaw and fangs, a prominent hump on its back, and sharp, blood-red spikes growing along its spine. It was pretty much a Feraligatr but more, and as it faced the mouse Pokémon – Raichu looked truly tiny next to it – it let out a threatening growl that made Mark shudder.

On the status screen, he saw a victorious grin flash across May’s features for a second: the opening matchup was as ideal as she could have hoped for. But there was no time to celebrate, and without hesitating, she gave the first command of the battle: “Raichu, Thunder Wave!”

The mouse Pokémon crouched down, holding his lightning-bolt-shaped tail above his body, and began to charge electricity in his cheeks. The status screen close-up showed his curved ears perked up, his eyes wide and shining: whether it was his monstrous opponent or just the stakes of the battle, he was clearly nervous, and it couldn’t have helped when Taylor ordered, “Earthquake, Feraltwo!”

“Finish the Thunder Wave!” May called immediately, and Raichu bravely kept his focus as the clone stomped a heavy foot upon the ground. A wave of electricity left him a split second before a powerful ripple passed underneath him; as the Thunder Wave settled into Feraltwo’s muscles, Raichu fell down, discharging a shower of sparks.

“Charge Beam,” May ordered immediately. Her Pokémon stood up with relative ease, and there were surprised murmurs in the audience; only Mark noticed Raichu spitting out the stem of the Shuca Berry he’d been keeping in his mouth before he began to charge electricity again.

“Earthquake,” said Taylor, visibly annoyed that Raichu hadn’t gone down in one hit. Feraltwo, however, was having a hard time moving thanks to its paralysis, and as it was growling and struggling to budge its foot, Raichu managed to send a concentrated beam of light shooting into its body. It looked pathetically unaffected, but Raichu’s fur was sparking with added power, and May was quick to order another Charge Beam.

As the second attack hit, Feraltwo was knocked backwards a little and grunted in pain; the power-up resulting from the charging was clearly working. A second afterwards, however, it regained its mobility, and Taylor smirked as it roared and stomped its foot.

“Detect!” May called quickly, and with a flash of heightened awareness in his eyes, Raichu nimbly skirted around the Earthquake waves, dodging them all with an effortless ease that made Mark feel a bit bad for Jolteon. He knew Detect had disadvantages of its own and Raichu had learned to dodge Earthquakes the hard way too, but something about it just felt a bit too easy compared to how Jolteon struggled to do it using his natural speed and reflexes.

“Another Charge Beam!” May called as the last ripples passed the mouse Pokémon. The audience cheered as Raichu landed completely unharmed and began to charge his body with electricity yet again.

Taylor frowned, clearly realizing he couldn’t just brute-force this. “Feraltwo, use a Haze!” he called just as Raichu released a beam of electricity that made the alligator Pokémon visibly twist in pain. By now, Raichu’s fur was all standing on end, crackling with the static electricity left over after each Charge Beam attack; he had to have gotten at least twice as powerful as he originally was, and if Feraligatr pulled off that Haze, that advantage would be lost.

May seemingly realized the same, as she quickly ordered, “Get one more in!”

Raichu charged for a moment while Feraltwo struggled against its paralysis, but just before he fired the beam, the Feraligatr clone regained its mobility and – stomped a foot on the ground. Before Raichu had the chance to recover and Detect, an Earthquake was already speeding towards it. The mouse Pokémon managed to leap over one or two ripples, but wasn’t as agile as Jolteon without the assistance of a move like Detect and was quickly caught in the attack. Sparks flew from his body as he collapsed on the ground and shivered violently.

Taylor’s status screen image was smirking victoriously, and Mark had a sudden powerful feeling that this was all planned, somehow. Taylor’s clones, what with being all contained in mind-controlling Clone Balls, could hardly have the initiative of their own to decide to use one attack instead of another. Judging from May’s murderous, outraged stare towards her opponent, she agreed.

Down on the arena, Raichu struggled to stand up, loose sparks still flying from his body. He seemed to have lost the static charge he’d had previously. “Grass Knot,” May ordered quickly.

“Another Earthquake.”


It didn’t really matter which command “counted”, because Raichu never could stand up; Feraltwo managed to move almost immediately this time, and as more Earthquake waves passed under the fallen Electric Pokémon, he dropped back on his stomach, defeated.

There were uncertain whispers and sounds of annoyance in the audience. One person somewhere cheered but quickly fell silent again. May, pressing her lips together, took out a Pokéball and recalled Raichu in silence.

“Floatzel, go!” she called as she threw out her next ball. “Bulk Up!”

The sea otter materialized on the arena and wasted no time before she crouched down low, strengthening her muscles while growling threateningly at her opponent.

“Feraltwo, Focus Punch!”

“Quick Attack!” May countered immediately.

The Feraligatr clone closed its eyes and curled its clawed hand into a fist that began to glow with white energy. Floatzel spent a moment finishing her power-up and then sprang up, darted towards the other Pokémon and tackled it in mid-air. The alligator grunted, losing its focus; the white glow disappeared from its fist and it opened its eyes.

Taylor clenched his own fist in annoyance. “Giga Impact!”

“Dig, Floatzel!”

Mark saw a grin flash across May’s face as Feraltwo lunged forward, preparing to throw its whole body at Floatzel. The sea otter sprang up, cackling, and then pretty much dived into the ground, a flurry of dirt surfacing in her wake. The clone missed her by several feet and crashed onto the ground next to the hole, only to be hit as Floatzel emerged from the ground underneath it. It groaned as the otter dug her way out by its side, rubbing her fist in discomfort: Feraltwo couldn’t be very pleasant to punch.

“Earthquake!” Taylor ordered.

“Bulk Up and then Quick Attack, Floatzel!” May called.

Floatzel crouched down immediately to strengthen her muscles, but Feraltwo was having difficulty standing up; its mountainous form shook with effort as it tried to push itself back to its feet, but its arms gave way before it had gotten itself upright, and it had to try again, clawing desperately at the ground with its legs. Mark supposed the bulk the genetic modification had added to it might not be quite matched by additional strength, and the paralysis couldn’t be helping either.

The sea otter sprang back up, darted towards the alligator at a great speed and tackled it down. Feraltwo roared in pain, snapping its jaws in her direction, but Floatzel had already retreated to a safe distance away.

“Quick Attack again!”

Feraltwo made a second effort to stand up that might have eventually succeeded if Floatzel hadn’t come smashing into it a split second later. The creature was knocked down yet again and stopped moving.

Taylor waited for a second before he took out the Clone Ball to recall it. He did so in silence, warily watching Floatzel, who cackled victoriously as Feraltwo was absorbed into the Pokéball beam. Mark noted properly for the first time now that Floatzel was completely unhurt, if probably tired; she hadn’t been struck by a single attack while battling Feraltwo. That was pretty impressive, wasn’t it?

“Raitwo, go!” Taylor called as he threw out his next pick.

The fact Mark had just seen May’s Raichu made the clone that formed look all the more disturbingly off. Again, it was considerably bigger, to the point of being noticeably taller than Floatzel, and darker in color. Primarily, however, its ears weren’t Raichu’s almost butterfly-shaped ones; they were a more Pikachulike conical shape, and as it let out a deep, decidedly unmouselike growl, thready blue lightning sparked between the yellow balls set on its eartips.

“Thunder Wave!” Taylor ordered as his Pokémon assumed a fighting stance.

“Taunt!” May called quickly.

Floatzel barked something about brainless man-made clones, a malicious grin on her face, and Raitwo ignored its own command in favour of hissing loudly at her, though there was no visible emotion on its blank face on the status screen.

Taylor frowned. “Thunderbolt.”

His Pokémon was only too eager to obey, electricity crackling in its cheeks and ear-balls before it sent a bolt of lightning towards Floatzel. She made a respectable effort to dart out of the way, but the lightning was too fast for it to be anything but hopeless; she screamed in pain as she was stopped in her tracks and an electrical current coursed through her body before she fell to the ground.

“Dig!” May blurted out.

“Another Thunderbolt!” Taylor countered.

Raitwo began to charge again, but Floatzel managed to stand up and dive into the ground in a spray of dirt, dodging the attack narrowly.

“Thunderbolt again.”

Floatzel came out of the ground directly underneath her opponent. This time, she emerged explosively, dirt again flying all around as both Pokémon were thrown into the air. Even while airborne, however, Raitwo managed to discharge the Thunderbolt it had prepared, and Floatzel was shocked in mid-air before she tumbled back to the ground, her body charred and limp.

May recalled her silently as Raitwo landed on its feet, bruised but not looking very hurt. She placed the Pokéball back on her necklace and didn’t hesitate before she took out the next.

“Flygon, go!” she called. “Use Earthquake!”

The antlion Pokémon screeched in challenge as he emerged on the arena, but wasted no time before giving his thin wings a powerful flap that sent Earthquake waves rippling towards Raitwo. It made no effort to dodge, instead just staying down on all fours and letting off sparks as the attack hit. Both it and its trainer looked unnervingly unfazed.

“Raitwo, Magnet Rise!”

May glared seethingly at Taylor as his Pokémon closed its eyes and slowly levitated a few inches into the air. Mark knew why: she’d been trying to teach Raichu that move for ages, but he’d had trouble with it without having a good reference or tutor and eventually she’d given up and taught him Detect and Earthquake-dodging instead. Mark could only guess Raitwo had been genetically modified so that it would come naturally to it.

“Supersonic, Flygon!”

Flygon’s wings vibrated to produce a sound only the Pokémon could hear. Raitwo winced, teetering a little bit in the air as its concentration faltered, but stayed airborne.

“Raitwo, Hyper Beam!”

May shot a disdainful glare across at Taylor. “Flygon, Rock Slide!”

Despite its confusion, Raitwo successfully fired a huge, bright beam of energy straight at Flygon, hitting him in the chest. He cried out in pain as he was blasted all the way into the wall below May’s trainer stand; she looked down, her grip on the railing tightening. For a moment Mark worried Flygon had fainted already, but then he sprang up with a growl and sent chunks of rock raining down on the recharging Raitwo.

“Earthquake, quick!” May called. Raitwo was now buried under a pile of rocks with too little energy to pull itself out; as Flygon sent ripples across the ground between them, a shower of sparks emerged from the gaps between the boulders, indicating a successful hit. May gave a satisfied grin on the status screen.

Taylor grimaced. “Another Hyper Beam, Raitwo.”

“Roost,” May ordered, and Flygon settled gratefully down on the ground and closed his eyes to be bathed in a healing glow.

It took several seconds for Raitwo to recover enough energy to pull itself out of the heap of rocks. Once it had, it began to charge an orb of light in front of its mouth, but seemed to get distracted halfway through so it fizzled away into nothing. Clearly the confusion was doing something, at the very least.

“Try again,” said Taylor impatiently.

“Flygon, stick with Roost!”

The Dragon-type nodded, continuing his rest for a few more seconds. This time Raitwo did manage to fire the beam, and it smashed straight into Flygon, sending him crashing into the wall again.

“Rock Slide!” May called sharply.

“Another Hyper Beam!”

It took a few moments for Flygon to pull himself up, and in that time Raitwo had already recovered somewhat, but nonetheless he had the time to send more boulders flying in Raitwo’s direction that buried the oversized mouse Pokémon under again.


Flygon was just pulling up when the pile of rocks exploded and a beam of energy came blasting straight at him. He cried in surprise, but did manage to produce a weak Earthquake before it hit him; after he’d smashed into the wall yet again, he didn’t stand up. On the opposite side of the arena, however, Raitwo’s battered body was also lying motionless under the remains of the Rock Slide.

Mark quickly went over the situation in his head as both trainers recalled their Pokémon to some cheering from the spectators. This meant three of May’s Pokémon had fainted so far and two of Taylor’s – exactly half of each team. So far, they were even.

“Go!” shouted both May and Taylor in unison as they threw their next Pokéballs.

Out of May’s ball came Skarmory, who gave a metallic cry as he focused upon the opposing creature. Mark identified Taylor’s pick immediately as a Scizor clone, though it was of course bigger and darker, had wings much bigger and sturdier than those of an ordinary Scizor, and curiously, though its right arm was a fairly Scizorlike pincer, the left one ended in a curved, metallic scythe.

“Skarmory, Taunt!”

“Sciztwo, Swords Dance!”

Unfortunately for May, Sciztwo was unnervingly fast; its idea of a Swords Dance was mere seconds of swinging its mismatched arms, and it had already finished it by the time Skarmory had registered the command and spat an insult at it.

“Agility!” May called.

“Superpower,” Taylor ordered lazily, and Sciztwo darted towards Skarmory, swinging its pincered right arm before smashing it into Skarmory’s body. He screeched in pain as he was thrown downwards; Mark winced at the clear, visible rounded dent where the blow had hit.

May looked rather shocked and pale at this, but once Skarmory had recovered his flight and was zooming through the air to gain speed, she was quick to give another order. “Skarmory, Swords Dance!”


Incredibly, though the Agility had improved Skarmory’s standing considerably, Sciztwo was still quicker. Again, it zoomed through the air, water solidifying out of the air around its pincer, and smashed it into Skarmory’s body. The steel vulture screeched, but recovered quicker this time and began to spin around in the air to power himself up.

“Skarmory, Drill Peck!”

“Another Crabhammer, Sciztwo!”

Could Scizor even learn Crabhammer? Mark guessed that the ability to use the move had been engineered into it somehow; it just seemed too bizarre to watch it conjuring water out of thin air as it darted towards its opponent. Skarmory dived to meet it, still spinning rapidly, and drilled his metallic beak into Sciztwo’s torso as it bludgeoned his wing with its claw. With his wing bent out of shape, Skarmory went spiralling downwards, taking the Scizor clone with him, and they landed in a heap on the ground.

“Skarmory, Roost!” May ordered. The steel vulture stood wearily up and hopped a short distance away before settling down on the ground and closing his eyes. A blue glow enveloped him, and slowly the dents began to mold themselves back to their original shape.

“Superpower, Sciztwo!”

May’s eyes widened for a split second as the insectoid Pokémon stood up, ignoring the wound in its chest, and darted at the vulnerable Skarmory, swinging its pincer. The bird screeched in pain as his body was crushed against the ground, the metal crumpling together like paper. Mark didn’t even notice May pulling out the ball before Skarmory’s form turned a translucent red and was recalled to the safety of his Pokéball.

There were whispers in the audience. On the status screen, May actually looked upset; she spent a moment staring at the ball before she minimized it and reattached it to her necklace, her face pale. A second passed as she looked across at Taylor, her former steely glare conspicuously gone.

“Blaziken, go!” she called all of a sudden, her expression hardening again as she flung a new Pokéball into the arena. “Sunny Day!”

“Sciztwo, Crabhammer!”

With its frightening speed, the clone darted forward even before Blaziken had fully materialized, gathering water around its pincer. It smacked it straight into Blaziken’s head, and he screeched as he was knocked down, but was nonetheless remarkably quick to recover, turned his beak towards the sky and let out a loud crow. Immediately, the sun intensified greatly, and within moments the arena was sweltering hot.

“Crabhammer again,” said Taylor warily.

“Heat Wave, Blaziken!”

Sciztwo zoomed forward again, but it was having a much harder time summoning water from the air now; steam rose around its pincer as it tried, and this made it stop and hesitate long enough for Blaziken to ready his attack. Super-hot air rippled towards Sciztwo, and as it hit, the clone’s metallic armor glowed white-hot; it bent and twisted out of shape, distorting Sciztwo’s form into something half-melted and nightmarish, and its wing membrane burst into flames, burning up completely. Mark shuddered as the Heat Wave faded and the creature shook its head blankly, wobbling on its feet.

“Blaze Kick!”

“Sciztwo, use a... an Aerial Ace,” Taylor ordered.

The Scizor clone was not quite as fast as before, but nonetheless managed to take a leap towards the sky while Blaziken’s feet flared up, and it delivered a precise slash with its scythe as it came down. The chicken let out a cry of pain as blood squirted from his shoulder, but he still kicked Sciztwo away easily. It was thrown flat towards the ground and landed on its back.

“Blaze Kick again, while it’s down!”

“Aerial Ace!”

But Sciztwo was too hurt to pull it off fast enough. Blaziken lunged forward again, and a blazing foot immediately thrust Sciztwo down and held it there until it stopped struggling.

Taylor recalled the charred heap of metal that was his Pokémon, and as soon as it was gone, Blaziken gasped for breath and collapsed onto all fours. He must have been struggling just to keep himself standing there towards the end; Mark winced at the thought. Blood was still dripping from the Pokémon’s shoulder.

There was dead silence in the audience as everyone looked at May. She looked around for a moment and then took out Blaziken’s Pokéball to recall him without words.

Taylor had already taken out his next ball and didn’t even wait for May to ready hers before he threw it and called, “Go, Mewtwo²!”

As the tall, skinny figure of the legendary clone began to form, the corners of May’s mouth turned up into a manic grin. She chuckled as the light faded from its form, and she threw her final Pokéball with a mad rush of triumphant laughter. Mark knew exactly what she was thinking: in all the matches they’d seen him use Mewtwo², it had only ever used Psychic moves. As if Taylor had just never bothered to teach it anything else.

“Tyranitar, go!” she shouted as the rock dinosaur began to take shape on the arena. “Crunch!”

“Psychic,” Taylor ordered as the light faded from Tyranitar’s body. May looked incredulously across at him as Mewtwo² obediently held its arm forward and gave a little flick of its wrist. And Tyranitar was thrown straight into the wall under May’s trainer stand.

She stared down at him for a second as the audience whispered amongst themselves, her face reddening.

“You can’t do that!” she shouted furiously at Taylor as Tyranitar rose to his feet with a roar. “You can’t do that!

Taylor just smirked as Tyranitar lunged towards his opponent. “Another Psychic.”

Another flick of Mewtwo²’s bony, two-fingered hand, and Tyranitar was sent flying to the side. Mark’s seat shook as the dinosaur crashed into the wall below the audience stand.

“Get up, Tyranitar!” May yelled heatedly. “Don’t just let a Psychic slap you around!”

“Another,” Taylor ordered.

Tyranitar was pushing himself to his feet and gritted his teeth as Mewtwo² moved its hand again. And incredibly, this time he wasn’t sent flying. He strained against the force that was trying to move him and miraculously managed, very slowly, to stand up, to wild applause from the audience.

“Not… weak!” he growled as he took a struggling step. It took a moment for Mark to realize in amazement that those were the first intelligible words he had ever heard Tyranitar say.

“Go Tyranitar! You can do it!” he shouted; his words drowned in the deafening applause of the crowd, the whole stadium screaming and cheering in unison. Tyranitar grinned triumphantly, shaking with effort, eyes wide, and charged towards Mewtwo².

Taylor sighed. “More power,” he ordered, and Mewtwo² swung its whole forearm, easily blasting Tyranitar into the wall on the other side of the arena.

There was a crushing silence as it dawned on everyone that from the beginning, there had been only one way this battle could go. On the status screen, May clenched both of her fists tightly as she watched Tyranitar struggle to stand. At Taylor’s command, Mewtwo² telekinetically threw him back at the opposite wall. He tried to get up again, arms trembling, and Taylor ordered another Psychic; after being smashed head-on into the other wall one more time, Tyranitar didn’t move.

May stood there for a moment, fists trembling, as the audience broke into whispering, talking, arguing and then shouting. Finally, she held forward Tyranitar’s ball and silently let it absorb him before turning straight around, exiting the trainer stand and slamming the door behind her.

“The winner is Taylor Lancaster,” said the very reluctant voice of the announcer as some of the audience booed in protest. Taylor was grinning like an idiot as he recalled Mewtwo², one fist triumphantly in the air. Some people were standing, furious, others staying in their seats; the award ceremony was still left, but Mark didn’t really want to see it, and he was kind of worried about May.

He stood up and squeezed hurriedly past the squabbling crowd to exit the stadium.

Hope you enjoyed Soul Mechanics Infodumping! This is pretty important.

When Chaletwo says "wherever it is the souls of the dead go", he means the soul eventually just vanishes and nobody knows what happens after that. Those who believe in an afterlife figure the soul goes somewhere else, but that's the same kind of belief as it is in our world, despite the concrete existence of the soul - there's no evidence the soul actually goes anywhere rather than simply ceasing to exist. Chaletwo is agnostic on it and doesn't like to think about it much.

The main actual Doylist reason for the commentator's strike in the finals was just that I didn't want sports commentary over the final bit with Mewtwo^2 vs. Tyranitar, but everyone enjoyed the protest enormously and so did I.

Raichu's Shuca Berry halves the damage from a super-effective Ground-type attack once; I definitely needed to look up which berry that was when I was writing this.

Taylor's evolved super-clones all retain some juvenile characteristics from their pre-evolutions that the base Pokémon don't; this was inspired by the pretty random way that when I created the original Raitwo illustration when I was twelve, it had Pikachu-like ears for some reason. I illustrated Taylor and his clones here in 2017; in addition to Raitwo's ears, Sciztwo retains Scyther's scythe, Feraltwo retains Croconaw's belly pattern, and Shiftwo retains Nuzleaf's mask and thighs.
Chapter 53: Away


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Time for chapter 53! In which everything is fine.

Chapter 53: Away​


Mark caught up with May just as she was exiting the Pokémon Center; apparently she’d finished healing her Pokémon already in the time it took for him to get out. For some reason she was also holding both of their backpacks; she must have retrieved them at the trainer lodge in the meantime.

“Let’s just go,” she said without greeting him or looking him in the eye, her voice quiet as she handed him his own bag. “I don’t want to be here when the reporters start looking for me.”

She was obviously upset; Mark wasn’t quite sure what to say to her and just followed behind her as she walked towards the outside gate, hurriedly flipping his nametag over to show his photo before they went through. The gatekeeper woman squinted at them as they passed; a television inside the guard booth was showing Taylor happily shaking hands with the very reluctant-looking Champion of the Old-Timers’ League.

“Hey,” the woman called after May, leaning out of the booth, but she quickened her pace without answering and Mark had to sprint to catch up with her.

“You did great, you know,” Mark tried as May showed no signs of being about to stop; they seemed to be heading towards the mountains where they usually trained.

“No, I didn’t,” May responded irritably without looking at him. “I screwed up with Skarmory. Roosting was a terrible idea when it was using a Fighting move, but I wasn’t thinking. And Feraligatr can’t even learn Haze. I shouldn’t have believed it until I saw it.”

Mark didn’t know quite how to respond to that. “Well…”

“But it’s not like it mattered anyway, because even if I’d done everything perfectly, Mewtwo² would still just have thrown Tyranitar around like a bloody bouncing ball and there’s nothing I could’ve done about it, so either way I never could have won.”

“I’m sure everybody out there thinks of you as the real Champion,” Mark said. “I mean, Taylor basically cheated. Everybody knows that.”

“If they think that, they’re wrong!” May said fiercely, turning around. “There is no second place in a knockout tournament. Any one of the trainers he beat could be better than me. The fact I happened to be the last one to battle him is meaningless. God, learn some basic math.”

She turned quickly around again and marched on; Mark hurried to keep up with her and quietly decided not to try to start another conversation.


May had stopped suddenly in a bit of an open area in the mountains and announced they would camp there. Mark had guessed it must be a spot she’d used sometime when they were training separately. He’d not felt like arguing.

Now, after they’d set up the tent, they were sitting around their campfire in silence. It was only the afternoon, but the approaching autumn was making the days colder, and Mark was grateful for the fire. He’d rather be at the warm trainer lodge reading or drawing or watching TV, of course, but he couldn’t just leave May out here alone, and so he stayed, wondering restlessly if it would be horribly insensitive to send out his Pokémon to talk to them. (It probably would be.)

He looked at her. She was staring fixedly into the flames, curled up with her arms wrapped around her knees to keep warm. Her expression was empty and faraway, devoid of any particular discernible emotions, but she still obviously felt like crap. He wished he could help her, somehow; it fleetingly occurred to him to give her a hug or something, but he couldn’t imagine she would appreciate the gesture.

He wondered idly what she was thinking. Was she ashamed? Hating Taylor? Blaming herself? Blaming everybody but herself?

That thought sparked something in his mind. “You’re not mad at Tyranitar, are you?” he asked warily.

She shook her head resentfully. “It’s not his fault Taylor had a bloody Psychic Pokémon that could affect Dark-types.”

Mark nodded. Okay, so she was hating Taylor.

“What a cheat,” she went on, picking up a rock and tossing it angrily away. “Overpowered clones are just a nice challenge, but Mewtwo²? Why does he even bother having the other ones?”

Mark shrugged. There was silence.

“So... when’s the ferry tomorrow again?” he asked after several minutes.

“Two o’clock.”

“Shouldn’t we contact Alan and arrange a meet-up?”

“Yeah, we should.” May seemed a little more animated as she reached over for her backpack; she shuffled around for her Pokégear for a moment before she found it. She pressed some buttons, and there was a loud dial tone; Mark presumed she’d set it to speaker.

“May?” came Alan’s voice after just a few beeps.

“Hi.” May actually smiled a little; calling Alan had clearly been a good idea, as a distraction if nothing else.

“Hi, Alan.”

“Mark too? Oh, awesome. I was just going to call you guys, but I seem to have lost May’s number. Where to start? Well, first of all, I was watching your battle on TV earlier – you did great!”

Her smile faded abruptly; she didn’t reply.

“May? I mean it – I’m in the Scorpio City Pokémon Center, and there were a bunch of people here watching when it was on. Everyone was rooting for you. You should’ve heard them all crying foul when Mewtwo²’s Psychic worked on Tyranitar, or the applause when he got up and seemed to be resisting it. Nurse Joy even came and turned off the television before the award ceremony, and people cheered. Everybody knows you should’ve won.”

“Can we please not talk about the battle now, okay?”

“What?” Alan sounded honestly confused. “Um, okay, I guess? Well, we found Rainteicune and explained it to him, so he’s caught and that’s all fine now. You, um, you got Polaryu all right, I trust?”

“Yeah,” Mark replied. “But May had to use a Master Ball, so we’ve only got one left now. Also Entei, sort of – it’s a long story.”

“Huh? Uh, you’ll tell me about that when we meet up, I guess. You were going to take the ferry, right?”

“It’s at two o’clock,” May said. “Dunno when it’ll be over there exactly – make an educated guess?”

“It’s arriving in Merville, right?”

“I was thinking, though,” Mark said, “since we sort of decided to go up to the Eastern Cliffs – the Color Dragons might be there – and through the Ouen Safari, maybe we should get off on the other side of Aquarium City, on Route 308. I think I heard it lets off passengers there too.”

“Okay by me,” Alan replied. “So I’ll just be waiting for you, then?”

“That’d be nice,” May said.

“Great. I’ll see you then, I suppose. I should probably get going if I want to be there by evening.”

“Bye,” Mark called.

“Bye,” May said kind of half-heartedly. She looked at the Pokégear for a moment before she turned to put it back in her bag, rummaging.

For a moment, a strange prickling sensation thrummed in the air, only to vanish before Mark could put his finger on it. And suddenly, May sprang to her feet.

“Taylor!” she shouted, and for a moment Mark was sure she’d gone mad, but then somebody with very familiar dark red hair stepped into his field of vision from where he’d been obstructed by a rock.

“Hey,” said Taylor, in a curious but altogether not unfriendly tone, walking towards them. “What are you doing here?”

“I want a rematch,” May said with cold determination. She seemed bizarrely unsurprised that he had just appeared out of nowhere.

Taylor looked blankly back at her. “But I just beat you.”

May gritted her teeth. “I know that. I want a rematch. Same as before, except no Mewtwo². Just your other four clones against my team of six. Okay? You’ve healed, right?”

The other boy gave her a doubtful look. “But you know you don’t get to be Champion even if you...”

“Yes, I bloody know that!” May snapped. “Are you going to battle me or not?”

Taylor shrugged. “Uh, sure?” He paused. “But then you send out first. You’re the challenger.”

May nodded shortly and they each stepped back a bit to form a clear area between them. Mark made himself comfortable where he was, where he had a decent view. Though he was still a little confused, and wasn’t quite sure why she was bothering, he really was pretty curious to see if she could beat him with Mewtwo² out of the picture.

“Tyranitar, go!” May called after a moment of thought, and the dinosaur materialized in front of her with a powerful roar.

Taylor gave a cocky grin, clearly not in any hurry to get out a Pokéball of his own. “I remember this guy,” he said. “You’ve got to admit, it was pretty funny when Mewtwo²...”

Tyranitar cut him off with a low, threatening growl as he stepped closer.

“Heh.” Taylor looked up at the towering figure of the Pokémon, taking a nervous step back. “Easy there.”

Had Taylor ever even been this close to a large, real-life Pokémon that wasn’t mind-controlled by a Clone Ball in his life before? Tyranitar took another step towards him, and Taylor shuffled back so fast he tripped over a rock, lost his balance and fell on his back; May seemed to be enjoying the spectacle immensely.

“Get him off me!” Taylor yelled in a panic, crawling frantically backwards as Tyranitar advanced on him. “Get him off me!”

“Fine,” May said, rolling her eyes. “Tyranitar, get back here.”

Tyranitar didn’t get back there. He took one more step towards Taylor, who was screaming in terror by now, and another, and then lifted his foot high above the boy’s body.

May’s eyes widened, her hand fumbling for the Pokéball she’d already attached back to her necklace.

There was a sickening crack as Tyranitar’s foot thrust down through Taylor’s ribs, instantly suffocating his scream into a limp croak and then dead silence.

Mark’s breath caught in his throat, forgotten in an intense flash of horrified nausea. A dark puddle of red trickled out from underneath Taylor’s body, spreading rapidly as Mark’s brain struggled helplessly in place, unable to process what was happening.

May was staring at Tyranitar, frozen, one hand still clutching her Pokéball necklace. The Pokémon looked over at her, like he was waiting for something.

“Wh... why would you...” she asked weakly.

There was a pause. “You said... he should die,” Tyranitar said, the words halting and hesitant, confused. “You said to show him we’re...”

Mark stared at him in limp disbelief. Tyranitar lowered his head ever so slightly, looking at May. “You’re... not happy?” he asked, his unpracticed, still-childish speech somehow making it worse.

“You just murdered...” May covered her mouth and turned away as if she were about to throw up, but she didn’t; she just took a few shaky breaths and didn’t turn back around again. Still watching May carefully, Tyranitar lifted his foot and put it down beside Taylor’s body (Mark made every effort not to look at it but there it was and oh God).

“I don’t understand,” the Pokémon muttered after a moment. “I thought... you’d be happy. And then you wouldn’t... be mad that I lost.”

May whirled back around to face him. “I’m not mad that you lost, okay?” she said, her voice unnervingly close to breaking. “It wasn’t your fault. It was just Mewtwo². That’s why I challenged him to a rem...”

Her voice died abruptly and she quickly turned her back to him again, her shoulders shaking. Tyranitar’s gaze stayed on her. “You said he should die so I...”

“Well, you can’t just kill people,” she said as she turned around yet again, an almost hysterical anger entering her voice now. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done? What kind of trouble we’re in?”

Tyranitar hung his head, wincing, but said nothing.

“We have to talk to the police,” Mark muttered numbly from where he was sitting.

“The police? We can’t talk to the police! What are we going to tell them? ‘My Tyranitar decided completely on his own to kill this guy I have every reason to have a grudge against and there was no way I could have stopped him even though I had his Pokéball’?”

Mark looked away, unable to answer.

“Or are they going to ask Tyranitar himself, and he’ll tell them I said he should die?” May paced off towards a nearby rock and supported herself against it with one hand for a little while as she rubbed her forehead in agitation. Tyranitar glanced uncomfortably at Mark.

May finally turned back towards him. “Look, we have to get the hell away from here before somebody finds us here with a dead body, okay? Help me pack up the tent. We don’t want any evidence that we were here.”

On a normal day, it would have unnerved Mark how quickly she was planning a cover-up, but as it was, he just stood up and got to work, finding some strange, numb comfort in being told what to do. Everything was back in their bags within minutes, and then it was just putting the fire out, stuffing the half-burnt firewood into their bags and covering the ground where it had been with loose gravel. Tyranitar watched silently, making himself as small as he could, claws fidgeting.

May stared over the area for a moment and then nodded. “I think that’s the best we can do,” she said quietly. Taylor’s body was still lying there on the blood-soaked ground, jarringly out of place alone in the barren landscape. Neither of them had been able to bring themselves to touch it.

“Are we going back to the trainer lodge?” Mark asked, the thought of being around other people strangely nauseating.

May shook her head. “We’ll camp somewhere else.” She took a deep breath, staring transfixed at a spot on the ground, before she finally looked up at Tyranitar, who flinched under her gaze. “You need to go away.”

He looked back at her, uncomprehending. “Not with you?”

“No, not with me.” She looked down. “I’m releasing you. Go and find some wild Tyranitar to live with.”

The Pokémon stared at her. “But I won’t…”

“It doesn’t matter,” May said, her voice shaking a little but still firm. “You killed someone. I don’t know if they can trace it back to you somehow, but if they can, I can’t still be carrying you around. Wild Pokémon don’t get prosecuted.”

Tyranitar looked mortified. He stared at May as he began to turn, slowly, as if waiting for her to say something more.

“Go!” she said, louder, her voice starting to break. Tyranitar recoiled as if physically struck, turning, and let out a bone-chilling wail as he fled, disappearing into the mountainous landscape.

Mark turned to May and noticed with a jolt that there were tears running down her cheeks. As she realized he was looking at her, she quickly wiped her face with her sleeve and then turned around, heading off without a word.

Something compelled Mark to take one last look at the body before he followed her. Taylor’s face was frozen in horror, his frightened stare fixed forever on the sky above; he didn’t look like a League Champion, or a dangerous opponent, or a cheating scumbag. He just looked like a scared, helpless kid who would never get to walk or talk or laugh or do anything ever again.

Mark shivered and ran to catch up with May.


She led the way to another reasonably open space where they silently set up camp all over again and made a new fire. They sat around it without saying a word for a long while.

“Where are we?” Mark asked at last, mostly just to say something.

“It’s my first training spot,” May answered without looking at him. “Used it before the one you know where I trained for the finals.”

Silence. “I thought that was where we were before.”

May gave a tiny shake of her head. “That was Taylor’s.”

Mark looked uncomprehendingly at her, his brain still largely frozen. “Taylor’s?”

“I was hoping he’d come there,” she said, faint. “So I could get a rematch.”

Taylor’s greeting echoed in Mark’s mind: What are you doing here? They’d been there waiting for him, ambushing him in his own training spot. Something about it made him start to laugh, and he felt sick for it.

There was more silence for a while.

“He was such a selfish, incompetent, cheating little git,” May said quietly, her voice unconvinced and empty of vitriol.

Something broke within Mark. It was a curious feeling: in a flash every nauseating detail of everything that had happened hit him like a freight train, and then he found himself heaving over a puddle of vomit, not remembering properly how it even got there. May was watching him, not saying anything.

He wiped his mouth and sat back up a bit further away. “You went there to his own training spot,” he said, trembling. “And he came, probably to escape the angry mob that must have been assaulting him outside the stadium... and then...”

She looked away without answering.

“And what’s with Tyranitar? He’ll kill people because he thinks it’ll make you happy? To make you not mad at him? What the hell? How did he get to thinking like that?”

“I don’t know!” May almost shouted, sounding broken and desperate. “I just don’t know, okay?”

“Well, I know,” Mark went on, his voice rising. “He’s probably really young and just didn’t know any better than to live for pleasing you and take you literally when you cheerfully tell everyone Taylor should die in a fire. And you’ve never given him enough thought to even see it, let alone correct it – but really, for God’s sake, he never said a word in his life until today, and nobody wonders if there’s anything wrong with him?”

Nobody had wondered. Neither had he. Neither had Alan. He was sure May would immediately seize upon that, but she didn’t. She just sat there, looking away, saying nothing, and that deflated his bubble of anger a little. He took a deep breath, feeling slightly calmer but not really any better.

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” May said shakily after a moment. “He’s gone.”

Mark wanted to argue with that, to tell her of course it still mattered because they had made him that way and failed to do anything about it, but he couldn’t say that out loud, not now. “Somebody is going to find out,” he said, his voice flat. “We’re not going to just walk off and get away with this.”

May looked up, her gaze steeled. “Why not?”

“We’re just kids!” He tried to fight back the tears, but they formed anyway. “We’re not criminals. How are we supposed to pull off a perfect cover-up? We’ll get caught. It’s murder. We’ll...”

We did not do this!” May interrupted him heatedly. “This is not our fault!”

“What’s your point? You said yourself we can’t tell the police what really happened. It doesn’t exactly sound like we didn’t have anything to do with it. And we did. We might as well...”

“First of all, you had nothing to do with it,” she said, cutting him off, but she didn’t follow it with anything; she stared at the fire, curled up against the cold, and Mark’s words died in his throat too.

Silence lay thick for a few tense moments.

“Do you want to tell the police?” May asked quietly.

She was right. Mark had nothing to do with it and there was no reason he ought to fall under suspicion for anything. He had nothing to lose by going to the cops. And wasn’t it May’s fault more than anyone else’s, anyway?

Wasn’t it the right thing, really?

“If I may intrude,” said a telepathic voice, and Mark jumped; he’d forgotten Chaletwo even existed. “Nobody’s calling the police on anyone here. I realize this is all a big deal for humans and I can’t pretend to really understand how you feel right now, but... we need you. We need both of you. You can’t let this get in the way of your mission. I hate to say this, but mortals die. It was an accident. It was nobody’s fault. Deal with it and move on. You have more important things to worry about than the death of a boy you never liked anyway.”

Mark stared at the fire, a growing pit in his stomach. May was looking at him, her face pale.

“And if the police seem to be connecting it to you, Molzapart or I should be able to do something about it in an emergency. This is not the end of the world.”

“Molzapart,” Mark realized, glancing at May. “What if he just performs a mass memory modification? Makes everyone forget about Taylor? Then maybe...”

“Unfortunately, that was the compromise we made to be able to send him with Alan,” Chaletwo replied with a sigh. “He’ll have gotten too weak for something of that scale by now. But like I said, if suspicion falls on you, we can fix it.”

Mark took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, feeling a bit better. May didn’t look like she felt better at all; she was motionless, her empty gaze still fixed on the fire.

“And before you ask, no, I couldn’t have resurrected him. The body was too damaged.”

The image of Taylor’s crushed body and wide, staring eyes flashed across Mark’s mind; he shuddered before something struck him that he had been too numb to register while they were there. “Should we have taken his Pokéballs?” he asked. “I mean, because of Mewtwo²?”

“Pokéballs transmit signals that can be tracked,” May said without looking at him.

“I doubt they’d release him, anyway,” Chaletwo said. “Odds are Rick will take him back and he’ll be as safe as the other legendary clones in the Cleanwater Gym. Which is to say, not perfectly safe, but it can’t be helped, and at our best estimates the start of the War should be well before the start of the next high season of trainers, so there shouldn’t be a lot of gym battles going on around that time.”

Well before the start of the next high season of trainers.
Mark had always known there was a deadline, but hearing it stated like that made it all too real.

He sighed. They really did have more important things to worry about. And paralyzing as it was to think about it, there was nothing more they could do about Taylor. He was dead. Tyranitar was gone and would hopefully be better off in the wild with others of his kind. They would not be suspects.

“Chaletwo’s right,” he said, not quite sure to whom. “We have to move on. We have no other choice.” He looked at May and clenched his fist. “We’ll just... take that ferry tomorrow, meet up with Alan and go to the Eastern Cliffs like we planned. Everything is going to be fine, and then we can just... forget this ever happened.”

May just continued to stare into the flames, not saying a word.


Needless to say, I will not be letting them forget this ever happened.

May is right about knockout tournaments; people acting like they have a meaningful second place may have been a pet peeve of mine since I was a kid. This was part of what motivated my Favorite Pokémon Picker tool; there already existed a tool that did largely the same thing, but after you found your favorite it just put the last Pokémon you eliminated in second to tenth place, even though that mostly depended on the random order in which the tool presented the Pokémon to you. I was very unhappy about this and made mine instead, where you do another round of ranking to decide what's in second place.

Rainteicune has officially been taken care of offscreen and will never be mentioned again! That sure mattered.
Last edited:
Chapter 54: Reunion


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Whoops I already edited chapter 54 and just forgot to post it yesterday, then almost forgot to post it again. Here we go! In which things only complicate further.

Chapter 54: Reunion​


They packed up silently the next morning, checked out back at the League gates, and then May led the way in the direction of the ocean. The ferry was anchored a short distance offshore; they flew over to it on Charizard and Skarmory and spent the journey back to mainland Ouen without talking.

Mark had explained what had happened to their Pokémon the previous night. Floatzel had been completely unable to understand what they were so upset about, and Mark had the feeling several others felt the same even if they didn’t voice it (Scyther had just looked at Mark, his gaze unfazed and faraway; Letaligon had been shifty and impatient, though May’s silence seemed to unnerve her enough that she didn’t complain; Mutark had spent the whole speech flicking her tail around or pouncing on flowers save for taking an abrupt interest when he got to trying to get words around the murder itself). Others, such as Jolteon, had just looked nervous and miserable. Spirit had opened her mouth as if to say something as May dug her fingers through her mane, tense, but never actually said anything. Mark had tried to reassure them that everything would be okay and they wouldn’t have to worry about it, but they’d been no less quiet and uncomfortable. Mark himself was doing his best to believe his own words, but he still couldn’t get rid of the hollow feeling in his chest or that little pang of horror in his stomach that he felt when he thought about it.

He was relieved when the ferry finally pulled in at the Route 308 dock in the late afternoon. Only a handful of passengers were getting off, since most of the trainers from the League were heading home, and even Green Town, technically closer to here than Merville, was more easily accessible by the long route through Scorpio City and Acaria City than through the wild grasslands of Routes 308 and 309. Alan was waiting alone by the pier and waved enthusiastically as soon as he spotted them; they quickly made their way over to him.

“Welcome back,” Alan said as he hugged them both. “How have you been? We have so much to talk about. Hey, are you hungry? They serve hamburgers at that place across from the Pokémon Center.”

“Yeah, I’m kinda hungry,” Mark replied, and Alan marched off in the direction of the little road shop he’d pointed to. He seemed a bit on edge; Mark wondered vaguely what was up with him, but it was hard to focus on.

Alan turned to May as they walked. “You’re being quiet,” he said. “Are you still upset about the finals?”

“I guess,” she replied without looking at him.

“Well, Taylor cheated,” Alan said. “You can’t think like that forever. You were awesome, no matter what you say. Come on, let’s get burgers.”

They were the only customers. A bored-looking blonde teenage girl behind the counter was watching cartoons on the television, not having bothered to even turn the volume down. May sat down at the first table they passed and told them she wasn’t really hungry and would just have some of their fries; the boys went to place their orders at the counter.

“Has she just been like that since the battle?” Alan whispered when the blonde girl had retreated to the kitchen to make their hamburgers.

Mark’s stomach lurched in momentary panic. Should they tell him? Could they tell him? May had acted like it was all about the battle. Should he too? Could they really go on without ever telling him about it?

“Pretty much,” he said before he’d really reached a conclusion, surprising himself with how relatively convincing he managed to make it sound.

Alan sighed and shook his head, then turned to return to their table. Mark followed him, glancing at May; she was staring unseeingly at the television.

“So,” Alan said when they’d sat down, looking straight at Mark. “Chaletwo. Why the hell didn’t you tell us about Thunderyu, Volcaryu and Polaryu?”

Mark could feel the legendary’s alarm in the back of his mind. “What do you mean?” Chaletwo replied defensively.

“You know what he means!” came Molzapart’s telepathic voice, cold and harsh. “Three dragons of Ouen, huh? Funny how nobody else knew about those. Funny how I didn’t know about those, and supposedly I was working with you. I wonder how it would happen that you’d know about three legendaries sealed away somewhere that nobody else knows about.”

“What?” May asked, looking between Mark and Alan and seeming utterly lost.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Molzapart said, not sounding it, “I guess he never told you either that he...”

“I made them,”
Chaletwo interrupted. “Yes, I made them. I was young and stupid. Don’t think I don’t regret it.”

“That explains a lot of things,” May muttered.

“And when were you planning to tell us that, you idiot?” hissed Molzapart. “All this time, they’ve been cleaning up your mess! They’ve made no actual progress – oh, save Suicune, whom they killed! What is this?”

“About that,”
Chaletwo said. “Suicune – he didn’t die. Not really. He’s using a soul gem. So is Entei. We found him and he explained it to us. They’re both in the gems now.”

“Soul gems? Oh, what the – don’t change the subject. You made three legendaries. Why didn’t I know? Why didn’t they know?”

“Does it really change anything?”
Chaletwo asked, exasperated. “I told them the dragons existed. They caught them. We don’t have to worry about them anymore. Why does it matter where they came...”

“It matters,” Alan said loudly, but quickly caught himself and lowered his voice again, “because, Chaletwo, for God’s sake, we’re on a very important mission here and we need there to be trust. How can we work together to save the world if we have to constantly wonder if there’s something you’re not telling us?”

“I’m not hiding anything else,” Chaletwo said, with a subtle emphasis on the ‘I’ that made Mark all too aware of the irony of the situation. “And Mark knew that I made the dragons. If he’d decided to tell you, there’s nothing I could have done about it, but he didn’t.”

Mark flinched under Alan’s scandalized gaze. “What? It’s my fault now?”

“Well, why didn’t you say anything?”

Mark thought back to that moment; it felt like years ago. “Chaletwo didn’t want me to, and I guess I kind of sympathized,” he said. “Molzapart should have known, maybe, but where the dragons came from isn’t really anything that matters.”

“I agree with him,” May said suddenly. “It doesn’t change anything. We already caught the dragons. Arguing about it now isn’t helping anyone.”

Alan threw up his arms in defeat, but Molzapart wasn’t so easily silenced by a majority vote. “Damn right, I should have known,” he said. “Yes, the dragons have been caught, thankfully, but that doesn’t change that keeping it secret was wildly irresponsible and represents both a monumental lapse of judgement and a breach of trust. Why is Chaletwo still leading this expedition again?”

“Because, Molzapart,”
Chaletwo replied irritably, “you still have powers that could be of some real value if you conserve them in a Pokéball, whereas I’m currently at my most useful blabbering instructions in some kid’s head. But if you want to switch, be my guest.”

There was a stunned silence while the waitress arrived at their table with the hamburgers and gave them an odd look as she laid the food down. Mark could only imagine their conversation looked horribly weird to anyone outside the range of the legendaries’ telepathic speech.

Neither Molzapart nor Chaletwo spoke again even after the girl was gone. “Right,” Mark said after a moment that seemed to make it clear they’d dropped the subject. “So, uh, let’s eat?”

Alan silently picked up his hamburger and took a big bite out of it, and Mark hesitantly picked up his own. May reached listlessly for a fry, but froze when it was halfway to her mouth, staring; Mark turned around to see an image of Taylor on the screen of the still-running television.

“Controversial League Champion Taylor Lancaster was found dead on Champion Island this afternoon,” the anchorwoman was saying, and Mark’s stomach twisted itself into a knot. “Lancaster was last seen using his genetically-engineered Pokémon ‘Mewtwo²’ to teleport out of an aggressive crowd of protesters after his victory in the finals of the Ouen League yesterday. During the League, he attracted nationwide heat for his use of so-called ‘super-clones’ engineered by his brother Richard Lancaster of the Cleanwater City Pokémon Gym, especially the aforementioned Mewtwo².”

Mark looked at Alan; he’d stopped chewing mid-bite, now also staring at the TV screen.

“Though the investigation is still underway, it appears twelve-year-old Lancaster was killed by a large Pokémon, most likely a Tyranitar. Wild Tyranitar are known to live in the area, but police will not rule out the possibility of human involvement at this time.”

The anchorwoman looked solemnly at the camera for a moment, just long enough to seem appropriately respectful, before she continued with a professional smile: “Also don’t forget the exclusive live interview with Richard Lancaster coming up later, only on O-7! The man who has refused to speak to the press since the beginning of his mysterious and controversial career finally opens up in the wake of his brother’s tragedy! Don’t miss it.”

Alan swallowed as the anchorwoman started to talk about something else. “Whoa,” he said. “That’s...” He looked unsurely at May, who was pale and wide-eyed, looking like she’d seen a ghost. “I can’t believe it. I mean, nobody wanted him to win the League, but...”

Nobody spoke for a moment; in the background, the television blared with cheerful commentary on the still-ongoing Sinnoh League.

“I wonder what’s up with Rick,” Alan went on when the others didn’t say anything. “He never took an interview in his life, and he chooses now of all times to change his mind? And the media just jump on it without question to get their exclusive scoop? That’s kind of sick.”

But Alan remained glued to the screen; May, too, was staring at it as if mesmerized. Mark had a horrible feeling about this; he wanted to ask the girl at the counter to change the channel or turn off the TV, but how could he do that without explaining why? And anyway, she was watching it intently herself.

“And now, for what we’ve all been waiting for,” the anchorwoman said at last after a couple more inconsequential reports. “A world-first – O-7 secured an exclusive live interview with the mysterious Cleanwater City Gym leader, Richard Lancaster! Over to you, Heather.”

They cut to a woman standing outside a nondescript house. “Thank you, Carla. Here we have the man himself, for the first time ever in an interview – uh, let me first say, I’m very sorry for your loss.”

The camera panned to Rick. He looked terrible and not really fit for television; his hair was uncombed and messy, his expression disturbingly haunted and restless. He didn’t respond to the reporter, instead looking unnervingly straight at the camera with bloodshot, staring eyes.

“Uh, Rick?” the reporter asked off-screen after a second.

There was still no response. Rick blinked, not taking his eyes off the camera lens, and then said quietly, “Whoever did this to my brother...”

In the middle of the flashes of sickening memories assaulting his mind, Mark couldn’t help somehow feeling sorry for the man. Rick lowered his head and closed his eyes for a moment, swallowing before he looked up again.

“...I’ll fucking kill you.”

Without warning, Rick’s face twisted into psychotic rage. “I’ll find you and strangle you with my own bare hands, you hear me?” he snarled, staring straight into Mark’s eyes; the reporter stepped into the frame, wide-eyed, making a frantic cutting motion in front of her neck with her hand. “I’ll tear your...”

The image abruptly cut back to Carla the news anchor, now wearing an expression of panicked alarm. She took a second to regain her composure, then cleared her throat. “Unfortunately, the interview with Richard Lancaster has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. We apologize for the unexpected profanity in this report.”

A knot of irrational fear had lodged itself in Mark’s stomach. He looked quickly at May; she was even paler than before, but didn’t say or do anything. Her eyes remained fixed on the TV screen.

“Holy hell,” Alan said. “That was something. He’s unhinged. Guess that’s all he wanted the interview for, and of course they bit. What were they thinking?”

There was silence. Alan looked between Mark and May.

“Are you guys all right?” he finally asked.

“We’re perfectly fine,” May replied, stuffed the fry she was still holding into her mouth and reached for more off Alan’s plate. Mark forced himself to continue with his hamburger too, and after looking suspiciously at the two of them for a few seconds, Alan also turned his attention to the food. They finished eating silently while Mark debated with himself how much of his burger he could leave behind without making Alan ask more questions; he ended up forcing down about two thirds of it, still feeling sick. Eventually they paid up and exited the building, and Mark was relieved for the fresh air.

“So,” Alan said, “are your Pokémon all healed up? Because then we could probably just set off north now, without having to stop at the Pokémon Center.”

“No, let’s go there,” May said without looking at him. “I need to release a Pokémon.”

“Wait, what?” Alan asked in confusion, but she was already walking towards the other building. He looked at Mark as if hoping for an explanation; Mark avoided meeting his eyes and hurried after May.

“You mean another one of your Pokémon asked to be released?” Alan called as he followed them inside. May didn’t answer and walked straight up to the PC by the wall. There was nobody else there at the moment; even the nurse wasn’t present at the counter.

“Tyranitar?” Alan asked in puzzlement as she quickly navigated the menus to deactivate the dinosaur’s Pokéball for good. “Was he unhappy?”

“No,” May replied without looking at him as she placed the ball on a Pokéball holder on the machine.

“Why would you release him? You’d better not be blaming him for losing against Mewtwo², because...”

“I know that wasn’t his fault,” May said, her voice shaking a little. “He just had to go.”

Alan looked blankly at her, then at Mark, then back at her, and then all of a sudden his eyes widened. “Wait,” he began. “Wasn’t Taylor killed by a...”

He looked desperately at Mark, his eyes begging for some innocent explanation. Mark couldn’t bring himself to lie; with a pang of guilt, he looked away.

Alan took a horrified step back. “You... oh, God.”

“It was an accident,” May said, finally turning away from the computer. Her voice was still shaky, but she kept her expression remarkably calm. “I didn’t like him, but I would never, ever actually want somebody dead, okay?”

“Accident?” Alan repeated, anger rising in his voice. “How does your Pokémon accidentally attack the boy who beat you in the League finals? What is wrong with you?”

“It wasn’t their fault,” Chaletwo said with a telepathic sigh. “The Tyranitar attacked him of his own accord. She tried to recall him but was too late. Now, as I said to them, you have more important things to think about than this boy. This isn’t a big deal.”

“People being murdered is a big deal!”

Alan looked at Mark with his fists clenched, his breath shaky; his expression asked a hundred accusing questions. The look of betrayal in his eyes alone made Mark avert his gaze, unable to face him.

“Sorry, Alan,” said Molzapart reluctantly after a second, “but I have to agree with Chaletwo. This doesn’t affect your mission. There’s no benefit in dwelling on it.”

“But what about the police?” Alan protested. “What about Rick? We were just watching him threatening his brother’s murderer on live television!”

“As I told them, directing the police’s attention elsewhere if they start connecting the dots shouldn’t be too hard,” Chaletwo said. “And how could Rick possibly know what happened or who was involved? He doesn’t even know it wasn’t a wild Tyranitar. He was just angry and wanted there to be a legally responsible culprit.”

Alan took a deep breath and shook his head. “You are unbelievable,” he said. “We’re just supposed to carry on like nothing happened?”


Alan looked at Mark, then at May, his expression wretched and miserable.

“I guess we don’t have a choice,” he said finally, turning away. “Come on. Let’s go.”

As they followed him out of the building and headed north, Mark couldn’t help having the creeping feeling that Alan would never trust them the same way again.

O-7's reporters sure are terrible at their jobs and ignoring a lot of very red flags with this whole interview.

It doesn't really make sense that May hasn't already officially released Tyranitar by this point, on multiple levels, so I'm pretty dissatisfied by that whole bit; the main motivation for doing it this way was just for Alan to figure it out, but I could definitely let him figure it out without it. But that's not the kind of editing I'm doing here, so we're stuck with this for now! I do enjoy May not telling him but also not actually trying to do this in a way he won't see, letting him find out because she knows he inevitably will.
Chapter 55: Unprepared


  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. custom/scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
Chapter 55, in which the characters continue to have a great time.

Chapter 55: Unprepared​


The journey north along Route 308 was awkward but uneventful. They barely exchanged words with one another on the way, only speaking when they were challenged by a wild Pokémon and decided who should battle it. The evening stretched on as the sun sank below the horizon, and when Alan finally suggested they set up camp, Mark was relieved. Somehow, today with all its dull waiting and routine and silence had been even worse than the day before.

“So,” he said by the campfire when they were halfway through their silent dinner of canned beans, “it’s the Eastern Cliffs tomorrow.”

May and Alan nodded unspiritedly.

“You think the Color Dragons’ll be there?”

“No,” said May. Alan just shrugged.

“But just in case they are, how are we going to do this?”

There was silence.

“I don’t think we’ll get there until tomorrow evening,” Alan said after a moment. “We’ll have to either sleep there or try to find them in the night.”

“If they’re there,” Chaletwo said, “looking for them in the night would be good. During the day there’ll be people around.”

Mark paused to think. “Okay,” he said, “so we’ll be, what, flying by the cliffs, entering the caves...?”

“Sounds like that would be best,” Chaletwo said. “The Charizard can both fly and illuminate. Then, if you find them, aggravate them and try to lure them out and onto open ground. The fliers can try to keep them from just retreating a safe distance out towards the sea while the others try to overwhelm them as quickly as possible.”

“How many of them would be there?” May asked, looking at Mark.

“I think that magazine talked about two,” he replied. “That could be a bit harder than what we’ve been doing, if we have to take them both on at the same time.” He looked unsurely at May and Alan.

“Well, your Pokémon have gotten stronger, haven’t they? Entei was a fluke, powered up by moves before we got there, but I’m sure you could take on two unprepared legendaries by now, especially all three of you together. After all, they’ve been getting weaker too.”

“Just our luck, huh?” May said. “When our task is supposed to be getting easier, they gang up.”

“Better than if you’d faced them before the League, when they’d have slaughtered you.”

They finished their dinner and then cleaned up without talking. As they were laying out their sleeping bags, Alan suddenly broke the silence.

“Why would Tyranitar want to kill Taylor, anyway?”

Oh, no, not more, Mark thought and held his breath, deciding quickly to pretend not to have heard him to avoid getting involved. At first it seemed May had decided the same; there was a heavy silence for several seconds.

“It was my fault,” she said quietly all of a sudden. “He was just a... a kid, and he thought I meant some things I said. He thought he was doing it for me.”

A moment passed. “God,” Alan then said, his voice uncharacteristically harsh. “You ruined him. All that battling and training and no chance to develop a sense of right and wrong beyond what you like and what you don’t – I can’t believe I didn’t see it.”

May didn’t say anything.

“I mean, I knew it wasn’t healthy for them,” Alan went on grimly, “but I stupidly thought nothing terrible would come of it so long as they knew they had a choice. Guess I was wrong.”

“I know it was my fault, okay?” May said, her voice trembling a little. “Cut it out. You’re not fixing anything.”

Alan sighed and crawled into his sleeping bag, facing away from them. He didn’t respond, and after a moment May silently entered her bag as well. All Mark could do was follow suit and discard all hope that tomorrow would be less awkward than today.


As it turned out, it was even worse. Alan wouldn’t even look at May, and she hardly said a word all day, even just shaking her head when Mark tried to get her to battle some of the wild Pokémon they came across.

They reached their destination around seven in the evening. Even in his current dreary mood, Mark had to admit the place was pretty spectacular; the humongous cliffs were dotted with holes and caverns of every shape and size and stretched seemingly endlessly along the eastern edge of the island that was mainland Ouen, while curious pillar-like rock formations stuck out of the sea nearby, scattered randomly in the shallow ocean below. In the far west, the sun was setting, casting the cliffside in shadow that promised only to deepen as the night went on.

There was still a smattering of tourists around, so they ate dinner and then hung around waiting after letting the Pokémon out. Mark brought out his sketchpad and then sat in the grass drawing Charizard as the Pokémon slept. He felt nervous but not excited; the low odds of anything being there combined with the uncomfortable atmosphere made it hard to anticipate it positively, and he found himself wishing half-heartedly that their search would turn up nothing.

“I know it feels like that, but we need to find them,” Chaletwo’s voice said in his head. “If they aren’t here, we’re out of our only clue about where to go next.”

“I know,” Mark muttered. He adjusted the pencil in his hand and made curved, sweeping strokes for the shape of the tail flame.

“That’s, uh, a nice drawing,” Chaletwo said after a moment.

Mark looked up. “What?”

“It’s good. Looks like him.”

“Are you trying to make me feel better?”

“Well, it is a good drawing, isn’t it?” Chaletwo replied defensively.

Mark doubted Chaletwo would really know anything about drawing, but stupid as it seemed, it actually made him smile. “Thanks,” he said and started to shade the dragon’s body.

He managed to forget about the time while finishing the picture, and he was in the middle of going over the outlines again when Alan said, “I think everybody’s gone.”

Mark looked up and realized he’d been squinting at the paper to see for a while; Charizard’s tail flame helped, but the sun had sunk below the western horizon and the actual cliffs were shrouded in deep shadow. “I guess we should get searching, then.”

He stood up and shook Charizard’s shoulder gently to wake him while looking around for the others. Jolteon and Letaligon were having a practice battle a short distance away; Sandslash and Dragonite were talking elsewhere. Scyther sat near the cliffside, staring out at the dark sea. He wished he could have let Gyarados out, but Chaletwo had been too worried he would do something drastic to destroy the soul gems if he was left unattended. For the prospective battle, at least, he could let him out in Sandslash’s place.

“Everyone,” he called, taking out his Pokédex and the Ground Pokémon’s ball, “get ready.”

Before long, the non-fliers had gathered above the cliff, and Skarmory, Scyther, Dragonite, Flygon, Vicky and Butterfree hovered a short distance out over the ocean. Gyarados waited grimly in the sea below; Mark could feel a hint of Chaletwo’s stress whenever he took his eyes off him, but the sea monster remained obediently still and made no attack on the gems.

“Okay,” Mark said nervously, “I guess me and Alan should fly down there checking out the caves, and May is ready up here to command the other Pokémon, and then, uh, hopefully we find them and get them to come out.”

May nodded distractedly, looking over the group of Pokémon. Alan just silently climbed onto Charlie’s back, and Mark followed suit, sighing; he hoped this wasn’t what the rest of their quest would be like. They really didn’t need being at odds with one another on top of everything else.

Charizard took off the ground once Mark was ready, and they flew down in front of the great wall of rock. The dragon’s tail flame illuminated the rough surface, and Mark could make out a fairly large cavern a bit below. He looked towards Alan, who was hovering on Charlie a short distance away.

“I’m going to check out this one,” he called. “Maybe I go in this direction and you go in the other, so we won’t be searching the same cave twice.”

Alan nodded shortly, and Charizard carefully landed in the opening of the cave, narrowly fitting his wings inside. He swung his tail around to illuminate the cavern properly; it was only a small, empty space.

Mark sighed. “Oh, well. Let’s try the next one.”

They entered one cave after another, finding some of them were small and shallow, some were longer tunnels, but all were empty or housed only irritable Wingull and Pelipper. Charizard got sprayed with a few Water Guns, and that combined with all the taking off and landing was quickly taking a visible toll on his endurance: soon he was panting heavily, and when he made a clumsy landing in yet another empty cave that got his wing badly scratched on the surrounding rocks, Mark was getting worried.

“Are you all right? We can go back up and I can get you an Ether or something, if...”

Charizard took a few exhausted breaths. “This would be easier if you weren’t on my back,” he said finally, quiet, without looking at him.

“Oh!” Mark quickly dismounted the Pokémon. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize...”

“It’s not just that,” Charizard muttered. “With the sea just below and all these cramped rock caves and...” He shuddered. “I’m not exactly in my element here.”

“You could have told us,” Mark said sheepishly, feeling like a jerk. “If you’d said you didn’t want to...”

Charizard shook his head. “No, I didn’t think it would be that bad. It’s not your fault.”

“Well, let’s just get back up to the others, then. It’s not like there’s anything here.” He sighed. “You okay for one final flight?”

The dragon nodded, and Mark climbed onto his back again, as carefully as he could manage. With a grunt of effort, Charizard took flight and they ascended up to the cliff, where he half-crashed on the ground.

“You too, huh?” Alan said; Charlie was lying on his back beside him, catching his breath. Mark nodded and winced, hurrying to his backpack to get an Ether. The spray slowed down Charizard’s rapid breathing, but he still followed Charlie’s example and rolled over onto his back to rest.

“Okay, that’s a problem,” Chaletwo said. “Without the light, it’ll be hard to explore the caves, so it’s harder to use the other fliers. Can’t you just go down without your trainers and make rest stops every now and then?”

Alan shook his head decisively. “We’re not torturing them any further with this. We can do it early tomorrow morning, when the sun’s up and actually lighting up the cliffs.”

Most of the Pokémon murmured in agreement; it was getting really dark by now and only Vicky and Mutark (for a split second, Mark actually wondered why Tyranitar wasn’t there, and it made him a little sick to realize it) were well-suited to battling in the dark.

Chaletwo sighed. “Fine. But it has to be early, before any humans come along.”

The Pokémon by and large chose to stay outside of their balls for the night, and the kids were about to light a campfire and go to sleep when Chaletwo suddenly said, “Where’s Gyarados?”

Mark jumped and hurried over to the cliffside, but the sea monster was waiting still in the ocean below, barely visible in the shadows.

“Gyarados,” Mark called, “we’re going to wait until tomorrow. It’s no good like this.”

“What? We’re giving up?” Gyarados growled. Since their encounter with Entei, he had completely stopped using his gift for speaking human, preferring instead the menacing roars and snarls natural to his species, which made him even more intimidating to talk to than he’d been before.

“Yeah, for now,” Mark answered, trying to sound more disappointed than he was. “It’s too dark and the Charizard are having a hard time flying between the caves like that, so...”

“I’ll stand guard tonight,” Gyarados said immediately. “I’m not tired.”

“You can’t just leave him out,” Chaletwo said to Mark. “He’s just looking for an opportunity to break the gems.”

He’s had the opportunity for a while now,
Mark thought.

“Well, if he tried anything, he’d draw attention to himself,” Chaletwo argued. “Unless, of course, everybody’s asleep.”

Mark hesitated. Part of him agreed with Chaletwo. But somehow, a larger part really wanted to finally extend a white flag to Gyarados.

“Promise me,” he called, “that you won’t try to destroy the soul gems.”

Gyarados looked at him and nodded. “I won’t destroy them.”

Mark looked at him for a moment. “All right,” he said and prepared to turn around. “Wake us if you spot any dragons.”

“Have you lost your mind?” Chaletwo hissed. “You can’t trust him. He already tried to kill Suicune once, for crying out loud!”

What if he does destroy the gems?
Mark thought resentfully. Is it even that bad? Suicune was using him.

“Of course it’s bad! Death is bad! You can’t just say somebody’s a bastard and deserves to die and therefore it’s okay!”

That’s not what you said when Taylor died,
Mark thought.

Chaletwo didn’t answer for a moment. “Well, mortals die anyway. Sooner or later, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. It’s different when you wouldn’t die in the first place.”

Of course it makes a difference,
Mark replied angrily. When you only live less than a hundred years, the time you have means something. Taylor could have grown up and done something with his life. Is Suicune going to do anything meaningful with the rest of his life that he hasn’t already done in the past thousand years?

Chaletwo was silent for a few seconds. “Obviously we can’t exactly understand one another’s point of view here,”
he then said, carefully, “but surely you get what I’m saying about Suicune. We can’t just leave Gyarados to destroy the soul gems.”

Mark paused. I don’t think he’s going to destroy the soul gems.

“Are you kidding? Of course he’s going to. He hates Suicune. Why wouldn’t he?”

He said he wouldn’t,
Mark replied. Gyarados does his own thing, but he’s never been outright disloyal. I don’t think he would go against his word, once he’s given it.

“You’re mad. How can you trust him now?”

Feel free to get out of your Pokéball and watch over him yourself.

Chaletwo gave a telepathic sigh. “Well, I guess you’ll hear it if he starts anything and then I can just attach the soul to something else. But don’t sleep too far away.”

Mark rolled his eyes and went back to the campfire. This time they got through the whole process of laying out the sleeping bags without anybody saying a word, and he was fast asleep less than half an hour later.


All of a sudden, there was a hellish roar. Mark bolted awake in a momentary claustrophobic panic before realizing that he was in his sleeping bag, the sun was coming up, and the roars were Gyarados calling frantically for them to get up.

May and Alan had started awake too, and without words the three of them bolted upright and sprinted towards the rising sun. The Pokémon, who had been sleeping scattered around the area, were already running and flying towards the cliff, and as they approached, a gigantic shape rose into their field of vision behind the edge of the cliff. Metallic green scales glinted in the morning sun; leathery wings flapped up and down; a long, lizardine tail swished behind the slender body.

“It’s Dragoreen!” said Chaletwo. “Everybody into position, now!”

“Vicky, Mean Look!” Alan called, and the Misdreavus, tired-looking and squinting against the sunlight, fixed her gaze on the giant dragon. Dragoreen whirled around and flapped her wings powerfully to fly up, but seemed to bump against an invisible wall there and faced back towards the Pokémon with a high-pitched screech.

A bright red beam hit her from the back, knocking her forward, and she turned again, firing a bolt of lightning towards what had to be Gyarados. Mark hurried towards the cliff edge; the sea monster was collapsing in the water with a final roar of pain. He recalled him quickly and sent out Sandslash instead.

Dragonite was already flaring with blue flames and dived into the legendary, knocking her down. Meanwhile, Floatzel raised a column of water and smacked into her belly. Jolteon and Raichu sent a Thunder Wave together once the other two were a safe distance away, and Dragoreen’s wingflaps became rickety and irregular just as Flygon and the two Charizard all came at her with flaming claws to slice into her side.

The legendary Pokémon screeched again and flared into blue flames of her own. She shook off Charizard, Charlie and Flygon harshly and then rushed into Floatzel, Dragonite and the two Electric Pokémon, sending them all flying. Even as she did, however, Mist the Vaporeon blasted her with an Ice Beam and Racko flicked an orb of Grass energy towards her.

“Charizard, Scyther, Letaligon, be ready with physical attacks when the Outrage is over!” Mark shouted, and the Pokémon nodded in affirmation. Butterfree, Spirit and Vicky collaboratively fired a huge Shadow Ball as the fire dissipated from Dragoreen’s body and she landed on the ground with her powerful hind legs, looking disoriented. Charizard and Scyther dived straight at her to attack, and Charlie and Skarmory followed suit. Letaligon raced towards her with her blade glowing. Floatzel gripped her Never-Melt Ice in her paws and shot at the dragon with an Ice Punch. Dragonite dived at her again in a blast of dragon flames. Mark watched as Dragoreen howled in pain, and he felt a twinge of guilt: they were already overwhelming her completely with sheer numbers. It was almost too easy.

Dragoreen managed to flare up in another Outrage and knocked into Dragonite, sending him flying; he landed harshly on the ground, fainted. As Mark recalled him, the legendary did the same to Flygon and Floatzel, and the former was knocked unceremoniously into the grass to be recalled by his trainer. Jolteon and Raichu fired a collective Thunderbolt, and Dragoreen crashed into the ground with a moan of pain.

“We’re doing it!” Mark called to nobody in particular as Diamond the Rapidash, body blazing, smashed into the fallen dragon. “We’re winning!”

Letaligon charged towards Dragoreen, but all of a sudden the legendary opened her mouth and breathed out a cone of fire that engulfed her assailant. Letaligon screamed in pain but continued anyway, smashing her white-hot body into the dragon’s. Dragoreen roared and sent a Thunderbolt at Floatzel, who finally succumbed to unconsciousness. But at the same time, Charizard and Charlie were diving at her with flaring Dragon Claws, Skarmory was spinning in a Drill Peck, Sandslash had at some point gotten onto her back and was slashing at her metallic green scales with all his might. And Dragoreen was trying her best just to stand up. They really were about to take her down.

She let out one last high-pitched screech, and suddenly there were two more shadows rising up from the cliffs.

The great red-and-gold shape on the left sent a stream of fire down towards the ground, engulfing Dragoreen and all of the Pokémon around her. And following it came a bitter, icy cold wind with a flurry of snow, along with a cry of challenge from the glacial white dragon on the right.

“Damn it!” Chaletwo hissed. “Raudra and Puragon too? Where did they come from?”

Mark’s eyes widened. “Charizard, Jolteon, Letaligon! Take the white one! Sandslash, Scyther, the red one!”

But they didn’t get up; only Charizard flew weakly towards Puragon. The others lay charred and frost-coated where they were, unsconscious.

He recalled them in horror, looking wildly around; Butterfree, Raichu, Racko and Vicky were being called into their Pokéballs as well.

“Mutark, go!” May called once she’d done a quick switch on her Pokédex. “Power up and attack the Fire-type! Skarmory, Spirit, attack the Ice-type!”

“Charlie, Diamond, the one on the right! Mist, Pamela, left!”

The Fire-types and Skarmory gathered around Puragon. Three Flamethrowers from the Charizard and Spirit blasted her at once, immediately followed by a blazing tackle from Diamond. Skarmory struck her with glowing wings; she retaliated with a swing of her tail but then blasted a beam of ice at Mutark, who was still in her second-smallest form, licking her wounds on the ground. The cat Pokémon mrowled in pain, still too weak to withstand such a powerful attack; she collapsed, and May recalled her.

A well-aimed Flamethrower from Raudra hit Skarmory, sending him crashing to the ground, half-melting. As the Fire Pokémon all struck Puragon again, the ice dragon blazed into blue dragon fire and started to madly attack them, and one by one they were thrown aside, unconscious. As Mark recalled Charizard, he looked quickly over at Raudra; another Flamethrower had struck down Pamela, and now only Mist was left, firing a desperate Hydro Pump to fend the dragon off. The attack, despite being Water-type, barely seemed to hurt Raudra.

There was a vengeful cry, and Mark looked quickly over to see that the injured Dragoreen had crawled to her feet. A bolt of lightning shot from her mouth towards the Vaporeon, and Mist collapsed with a pained whimper.

“No!” Chaletwo blurted out. “They’re getting away!”

Raudra and Puragon had already swooped back down over the cliff, presumably to return to whichever holes they had been lurking in. Dragoreen shook herself and spread her wings, and...

...and Mark just couldn’t let it all be for nothing.

He dug quickly into his pocket, feeling blindly for the embossed markings on his Pokéballs, and then threw his Master Ball at Dragoreen just as she was taking off.

It bounced off her long tail and opened in mid-air; the dragon looked over her shoulder in panic as she realized what was happening, and then she turned into a red blob and was absorbed into the ball. It wobbled pathetically on the ground and then came to a standstill.

“Shouldn’t you have saved that Master Ball?” May said doubtfully as Mark walked over to pick it up, feeling strangely guilty.

“Too late to think about that now,” Chaletwo said. “Now hurry away from here, before her sisters realize she didn’t follow them and come back.”

Mark started running before he’d properly taken in the object he was holding. When he remembered it again, it was gone, disappeared to the PC storage system to lock Dragoreen away.


After a hurried escape to a field of grass acceptably far from the cliffs without apparent pursuit, Chaletwo suggested they might as well sit down and rest for a moment, and the kids gratefully collapsed in the grass.

“So,” Mark mumbled after a lengthy while, “what now?”

May and Alan looked at him; neither answered.

“Well, obviously,” Chaletwo said after a moment of hesitation, “you’re not quite cut out for taking on multiple legendaries at once yet.”

“Are you kidding?” Alan said. “They slaughtered us. As soon as Raudra and Puragon came and started pulling together for area attacks, we didn’t stand a chance.”

Mark nodded dully.

“We should’ve known,” May said quietly, shaking her head. “Two dragons are more than twice as powerful as one. It’s the Waterberg principle.”

Mark looked blankly at her. “The what?”

He was mildly surprised when she didn’t make a quip about how he should have paid more attention in school. “Waterberg principle. It’s the reason we carry six Pokémon and not seven or eight.”

Mark blinked.

“Basically, the advantage of variety makes smaller teams more powerful compared to the number of Pokémon than larger teams. Too many, and they’re redundant or get in each other’s way. We have eighteen Pokémon out at a time, but they’re not fully three times more powerful than if we just had six. And our Pokémon may be twice as powerful as they were before the League, but two legendaries together are three or four times more powerful than one.”

There was a short silence while this sank in. “So basically, we’re screwed,” Mark said. “Just to beat two dragons together, our Pokémon need to be twice as powerful as they already are. And then, if we ever do beat them, there are eight unicorns waiting for us.”

“At the very least we need to train much more,” May said. “And we need better strategies for taking on multiple legendaries. Right now... we just can’t do it.”

There was a short silence. “Well, isn’t that just great,” Alan said suddenly, standing up. “Forget it. You can go to the safari and catch more Pokémon to raise into murderous manchildren. I’m going home.”

He grabbed a Pokéball from his belt, sent out the unconscious Diamond and started to rummage through his bag.

“Alan, you can’t...” Chaletwo began.

“I damn well can,” he said, jerking his head towards Mark. “It’s going to be months before you have any use for me. When you’re actually going to battle some legendaries, you know where I live. Until then, goodbye.”

Mark stared at him for a moment, then looked to May expecting some form of protest. She was looking silently away, however, her fists clenched around the grass beside her. He tried to tell himself he ought to be convincing Alan to stay, but though he felt bad for it, the thought of being alone with May again was kind of relieving after all the pent-up tension of the past two days.

“...I guess you’re right,” Chaletwo said reluctantly. “There’s not exactly been much in the way of team spirit lately, anyway. But you have to train, and you have to be there when we need you, all right?”

Alan nodded stiffly. He’d found a Revive and touched the Rapidash’s body with it, then followed it with a Hyper Potion and an Elixir. “We’re going home to Green Town,” he said as he helped Diamond to her feet. “They’re not coming.”

The Rapidash looked at Mark and May in puzzlement, but didn’t protest as he climbed onto her back. “Let’s go,” he said, looking determinedly straight ahead.

“Goodbye,” Mark said doubtfully. “See you around, I guess?”

Diamond neighed a confused goodbye in reply before turning forward and speeding into the distance with her trainer.

Ah, yes, the convenient way that legendaries begin to cluster together after the League, keeping their task difficult despite the kids' Pokémon being significantly stronger than when they took out singular legendaries before. Definitely a convenient coincidence that I didn't arrange to keep up tension.

(This was also why for all the legendary fights after Thunderyu, the kids didn't have all their Pokémon - for Suicune they were missing the ones Thunderyu injured too badly, for Volcaryu they only had the Pokémon that could withstand the volcano, and for Polaryu it was just Mark and May and Polaryu knocked out Spirit and Floatzel with Sheer Cold before the battle even started.)

This is definitely the most uninspired legendary battle in the fic, because it's just building up to "and then Raudra and Puragon appear and cream them", but oh well.

Mark actually draws onscreen in this chapter, like that's an actual hobby he has, gasp.

Today I would have a worldbuilding principle about why trainers carry six Pokémon named in some kind of sensible memorable way, rather than after some in-universe person we never see, and probably try to establish it before this point, but I'm still doing small-scale edits only, so you're getting the Waterberg principle as originally written.

Alan getting up and leaving here was completely spontaneous when I was originally writing this; I had no idea he would do that until the moment I wrote that line, when it was simply what he would do in that moment (it took me a bit to even fully understand why). Reasons why my plans always get derailed by the characters somehow, #246346.
Top Bottom