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The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

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 said 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 thing; it was starting to shiver uncontrollably where it stood, with the sound of chattering teeth making its way out from underneath the tent in a muffled form. 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… anticlimatic.”

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 Nevermeltice?”

“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. “Nevermeltice 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 Nevermeltice 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 in the League, and he couldn’t help hating the idea of breaking any more crystals; it seemed like it was desecrating the place.

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 through the tunnel in silence for quite a while now, and the cave was becoming both notably colder and more visibly icy: the floor rapidly became slippery and the walls coated in a sheet of ice through which the Nevermeltice 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.

“Okay, 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 quickly 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 Nevermeltice 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 its 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 tunnel, 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 was making 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 and watched the sea monster burst out of it, land on the ice and break it easily. He 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 just 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 Nevermeltice 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 into 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.

“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.

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 even as he twitched in pain, opening his mouth as ice crystals formed between his jaws and Mark was 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 cheerfully 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, but aloud he said, “A bit of a dirty trick, but it got the job done.”

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 to be sprayed with a Hyper Potion.

“I’m sorry,” she 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 Nevermeltice 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.


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