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The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

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 encountered 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 as 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 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 really 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 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 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?

“Obviously we can’t exactly understand one another’s point of view here,” Chaletwo said after a moment, “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. 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 started 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. 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 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 disappeared 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 Nevermeltice 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 the 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 somewhere 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.

“Bascially, 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 been nothing in the way of team spirit the past couple of days, 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 Pokémon 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.


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