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The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

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 twice and I can tell we’ll have to work this perfectly.”

Now that her back was turned, the sea otter returned to glaring at Mark, apparently still not having forgiven him for allowing Dragonite to save her from drowning. The other Pokémon followed her 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 found instead 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 up 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 as 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 the pangolin’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 has 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 the legendary 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 with difficulty. “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, not wanting to make his presence known to the other legendary. “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? That is a surprise.” 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 and that we couldn’t inform the other legendaries for fear that chaos would arise. So we hatched a plan of our own.”

Somewhere in the back of Mark’s numb mind, he remembered that Mew was one of those legendaries with no grammatical gender preference, even though Chaletwo had always used the masculine.

“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 with an odd expression somewhere midway between disturbed and confused.

“Power is drained more slowly from the weaker legendaries,” Entei said. “We gave a portion of our powers to the potentials, and afterwards our power loss slowed down accordingly, so by now the difference is slight.”

“So power isn’t drained from the Chosen at all?” May asked.

“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 in an attempt to reach the soul gems with his fangs, but they were too far up on his neck segments. Suddenly Mark felt bizarrely sorry for him.

“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 not destroyed from here on.”

“...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 began to slam his head and neck against the ground, and for a moment, Mark wanted to let him. But he reminded himself that as long as the gems were intact, Suicune wasn’t really dead, and Suicune was a legendary and it was good that Suicune was alive after all, 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...

He 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?”

“She chose it for herself,” Entei replied. “We only give them pure, raw power; it is up to the individual Pokémon how they learn to utilize it, whether they realize it consciously or not.”

May nodded contemplatively. “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 cannot be helped. We must move on without him.”

Mark was beginning to feel a little 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.

“Do you think there is... any risk to them being like that when the War comes?” May asked anxiously, 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 and Jolteon. 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, fairly nonchalantly. “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 is 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 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 then Latias came and destroyed the Spider Web so they both got away in the end. That was frustrating.”

“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’d be going 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 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.”

“But who is the Destroyer then?” Mark asked, wide-eyed. “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 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 for 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 seemed to be 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 sudden knowledge of inevitable death? The legendaries 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.

He wasn’t even sure anymore 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.”

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, so don’t worry about it.”

Mark nodded 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.


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