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The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

The Final Stretch – Chapter 75: Mewtwo²

Mitch lay back in his sofa and stared at the ceiling, arms folded tightly across his chest, listening to the faint tick of the clock and his own heartbeat as the hours dragged on. Nothing changed, nothing improved, no more than ever. He wasn’t sure what he was even waiting for anymore.

please no

A looming, suffocating dread hung over his mind: a desperate fear of the inevitable, a deep and fundamental knowledge that something was horribly wrong, something terrible was happening and he was powerless to stop it. He was helpless, trapped, alone, and all he could do was wait for everything to fall apart.

The problem was that he had absolutely no idea why he was feeling any of these things.

not this

Outside, the sun was shining, birds were singing, a gentle breeze was blowing through the trees; it was a beautiful, calm spring day. He might have liked to take a walk, a nice little hike in the mountains around the desert perhaps – if he weren’t here, clinging to the last vestiges of his sanity inside his locked Gym.

no no no

Mitch sighed, unfolding his arms carefully to rub his temples. It had never been like this before, not this strong. He’d always experienced it as vague feelings, intuitions, beliefs that didn’t seem to come from anywhere. But now it was like a tangible presence somewhere in the back of his mind, not speaking exactly but sparking intense flashes of emotions that seemed disconnected from everything, as if they weren’t his own, flashes that disappeared if he tried to focus upon them. Like… like someone was there, at the edge of his consciousness, barely brushing past his thoughts.

it’s all my fault no please

At first, Mitch had thought the phantom emotions – faint back then – were some strange side-effect of the Scorplack venom. He’d started to research it, interviewed countless other survivors, but none had experienced anything like it. Then he’d realized it seemed to be telling him things, somehow giving him information that he shouldn’t have, that he just inexplicably felt. He’d figured it meant he was a late-blooming psychic, and he’d been okay with that. But then he’d read some books on it, and their descriptions had been similar but not quite the same, and then he’d gone to see an actual psychic – a legit one, he’d made sure – who’d told him she felt nothing at all from him: no latent psychic powers, no trickster Ghost Pokémon sneakily following him and messing with his head, nothing. He’d seen another one for a second opinion and gotten the same answer. And then he’d paid them through his teeth to keep it quiet, because he didn’t know what he’d even do with himself if the League found out and decided they’d rather not employ a Gym leader who was hearing voices that weren’t there, and slowly but steadily getting worse.

(And could he really blame them?)

please

Then he’d quietly seen a psychiatrist, of course, been on several different antipsychotics with wretched side-effects for a while. Nothing had changed.

And ever the feelings had grown stronger, clearer, more defined. It had occurred to him, of course, that maybe the psychics were both wrong and there was something there that they weren’t sensing, somehow. But it had also occurred to him that he could simply be hallucinating, imagining the whole thing. Sometimes his mind surged with conviction: what about that time, how could you have known that – but it could be a coincidence. He felt lots of things that didn’t tell him anything specific, sudden pangs of worries and loss and fear that had nothing to do with anything; why wouldn’t some happen to line up with real events? It seemed unlikely, but – odds were meaningless, weren’t they? And he could hardly trust his own brain to judge if his brain was the one producing these feelings in the first place.

must not happen

So he’d waited, for something, some kind of change or shift or – he wasn’t sure, really, but as it was there didn’t seem to be anything he could do, and that helplessness was maddening. Sometimes, when he was sure he was crazy, he’d thought about admitting himself to the mental hospital in Alumine before he started really hearing voices and believing what they said and doing something reckless or dangerous or harmful. But – what if he wasn’t? And the meds hadn’t helped before; why would they now?

MUST NOT HAPPEN

And, although he hated to admit it, he just didn’t want to be crazy. He could feel his brain rationalizing and downplaying and sanitizing it, assuring him he was fine and his mind was sound and there must be something real there. And he could tell those were insidious thought processes, the same ones that would be at work if he really were going mad, but they were too tempting to entirely ignore. Too tempting to make a decision like locking himself in an asylum.

So instead, he’d locked himself up in the Gym, waiting and waiting for some vague miracle to solve everything – something that’d just settle the question and give him some kind of starting point – as if that wasn’t the most useless kind of wishful thinking. As if wasting away with restless boredom, fearing his own thoughts, wouldn’t eventually drive him mad even if he wasn’t already.

nononono

He sat in silence listening to the dull throb of alien emotions, hearing his breath shaking as he exhaled. He couldn’t keep this up forever. Nothing was getting better. Nothing was going to just sort itself out and make sense. Any sense this would ever make was something he’d have to make for himself.

please

Mitch took a deep breath, closing his eyes. That strange, pleading desperation was so tangible he could almost taste it – and then, as he focused on it, it was gone, and he couldn’t tell if he’d just been imagining it. “Okay,” he whispered, teeth clenched. “Let’s say you’re real. Then prove it. Come out and talk to me. Can’t you talk?”

For a moment he sat there as nothing happened, like an idiot, hating that he was far enough gone, desperate enough, to be indulging his own hallucinations. But then, suddenly, there was a – an answer. His heart wrenched suddenly in his chest, and a no emerged from the back of his mind – not the word, not speech, but a vague urge to shake his head, to object, to protest. He probably wouldn’t have even noticed if he hadn’t been looking for it, waiting for it, today when the feelings were stronger than ever before. But it was there, he was sure of it. He felt his pulse quickening, his attention suddenly on high alert, his head spinning.

He scrambled to gather his thoughts. An imaginary voice would probably answer, too, noted a dispassionate, reasonable part of him – this wasn’t proof of anything, was it? And abruptly, he realized he didn’t care. Whatever this was, whether it was a hallucination or not, it was better than sitting there, waiting, forever.

“You… you’re real,” he said. From the back of his mind came an urgent affirmation, a longing to nod eagerly: another answer, a different one. Real. A strange wave of elation washed over him, his eyes watering. “So you’re…”

Mitch blinked rapidly. Even now he could feel it, not communicating anything in particular, just there, at the edge of his mind. If he tried to concentrate on it, as usual, it went away – but then he shifted his focus and he could sense it reappearing. How could he have gone so long without realizing?

For a while he was silent, eyes closed, aware of it only as that tingling, shivering presence: real, comforting, safe.

“You’re the one who saved me from the Scorplack that day, aren’t you?” he asked softly.

For a moment there was nothing; then came a hesitant, half-apologetic confirmation, the regret of good intentions gone awry. “No, thank you,” he said, chuckling. “I only… I was so confused.” Mitch took a deep breath. “But here you are. I should have… I should have tried this earlier.”

A spark of happiness, reassurance, the relief of old, nagging doubts and guilt finally laid to rest. The undercurrent of urgent, screaming desperation wasn’t gone, but – it was glad for that, at least. Glad he thought it was worth it, glad he was glad to be talking to it. It was strange, but somehow, now that he was paying attention, its presence felt deeply familiar, as if he’d known it intimately all those years since that day and just never realized it. As if it was an old friend – a friend he’d never known he had, who’d saved his life and then stewed in anxiety wondering if he would have preferred if it hadn’t.

He couldn’t help but linger on that thought. In some way he’d always thought of himself, of Mitch, as a puppet of some nebulous, inscrutable power that was toying with him, like this was all part of some fate or plan that he was helpless to contest – but that had never been it, had it? Perhaps it had only ever simply been something, someone, that’d wanted to help, and tried to, as best it could, the only way it could think of.

He chuckled. “I’ve had so many theories,” he muttered, shaking his head. “I’ve spent the last seven years of my life trying to figure you out. And…” He paused. And what? What could he say to it? What are you? How could it possibly begin to answer that?

“What… what happened? Why are you so upset?” he asked at last.

Flashes of pain, grief, loneliness of an intensity that was terrifying and ancient and inhuman, coursed through his mind and left him breathless and shivering. Then a blanket of deep, desperate guilt smothered all of that, drowned it, made it seem trivial in comparison. He wanted to die, wanted to disappear, and yet he couldn’t; he was trapped, suffocating, screaming with no voice, forever and ever, in a silent, isolated hell.

Mitch clutched his head as he caught his breath, eyes squeezed shut, still trembling uncontrollably. It… it was suffering. He couldn’t tell why, or how, but it had been suffering, in a way he couldn’t even imagine, for a long, long time. An intense sympathy gripped him; after feeling what it felt, the urge to assist somehow, some way, was overpowering.

“So there’s… there’s nothing you can do about it?” he murmured.

His heart wrenched as that horrible, suffocating sense of entrapment consumed him again, of being imprisoned and powerless and mute – and then it hit him. “You’re… stuck in my head?”

Yes: a brief sensation of faint relief, an urge to nod. It couldn’t do anything at all, because it was a prisoner in his brain. How had it gotten there and why? There was no way it could answer that, was there? (A sense of flustered helplessness affirmed this.)

“Can I… can I help?”

His heart stung again, with hopelessness and regret and weakness in the face of overwhelming odds and another flash of that sense of being trapped and unable to speak.

He really couldn’t, anyway. What could he possibly do to help it, when it couldn’t tell him what to do, what was even wrong? It might share his brain, but his brain had too much him in it. He supposed the way it vanished from where his attention was meant his own thought processes drowned it out, kept it confined where all it could do was twang his emotions.

And that thought gave him pause, a chilling idea creeping up on him.

“Say… say I could lend you my body,” he said, slowly. “Would that… would that help?”

A spark of hope, real hope, flashed across his mind, tinged with a hesitant wariness, a hint of sorrow and pain: maybe, but.

“Is it dangerous?” he guessed.

Yes.

“Dangerous to whom? Is anyone else getting hurt?”

Hesitation, uncertainty, a stab of pain and loss, determination, grim hope – probably, but it would try to prevent it.

Mitch nodded slowly. “Would we die?”

The response was pained, a regretful, tentative affirmation made of endless grief and dejected apology. It wasn’t certain, but it didn’t have a lot of hope for them.

“Is it worth it?” he asked softly, and the answer was yes – tinged with guilt and regret, but no trace of doubt. It didn’t want him to die, but this was important, more important than anything.

Mitch paused. So this was it, then.

“There’s a rare, reclusive Poison-type in this region called Wasparch,” he said. “It lays its eggs in comatose victims and buries them as a living larder for its young. Its venom shuts down the higher brain functions, but keeps the body alive. I have a sample of it in my cupboard.” He hesitated. “So does that sound like you could…?”

A jolt of hope, excitement, wonder, coupled with immense gratitude, hesitation, sorrow, apology again. The alien emotions felt discordant, strange against his own sticky, drying mouth and the pit in his stomach, but they were somehow comforting nonetheless. He wasn’t alone. He had a friend. A friend who was suffering, and he could help.

He stood up, his body trembling as his head buzzed with conflicted feelings: tightness, grief, warmth, love. Was he really doing this? Dying for the voice in his head, this companion that – even if it didn’t seem that way – he’d only actually known for a matter of minutes?

Yes, he thought, and this time it was all him.

It wasn’t as if he shouldn’t have been dead seven years ago. It was time to repay it the life that he never ought to have had – the fake, troubled life of Mitch that it had given him that day in the desert. He owed it that much.

And if none of this was real, realized that rational part of him, if it was all a hallucination and he’d never had a companion – then he’d just drift away and stop existing. They’d find him sometime when people started to worry about him not returning calls, and euthanize his empty shell, and he’d never have to endure any of this again. Nobody would get hurt.

It was an oddly calming realization. He had nothing to lose.

Slowly, he walked over to the lab and opened the cupboard of venom samples. He rummaged through it for the right vial, an odd routineness to the act, as if he were simply looking for a normal Weedle antidote on any ordinary day.

(The growing nervous hesitation in the back of his mind probed at him again with a stab of concern. “Yes, I’m sure,” he whispered. “You need it more than I do.”)

And then, finally, he found it. He pulled it out carefully and fiddled with the label for a moment, gazing at the thick navy ooze inside it, ignoring the trembling of his hands. Wasparch. Effective when ingested as well as injected. He took a deep breath, not sure he could feel his legs anymore. The poison acted slower when ingested: it would take about a minute or two before he became dizzy and lightheaded, and then he would fade away. He’d read it, researched it, interviewed survivors, studied countless diagrams and surveys and medical reports; he knew how this went.

With a shaking hand, he lifted the vial towards his faint reflection in the glass door of the cupboard. “Cheers,” he said, chuckling – he looked like a lunatic, he thought – before he let it clink softly against the glass, raised it to his lips and poured the contents into his mouth in one swift gulp.

It tasted faintly sweet and sticky, distantly reminiscent of blood, leaving a cold, tingling feeling on his tongue and the inside of his mouth. He shuddered as he swallowed it, then walked slowly, slowly back to the couch, legs trembling. As an afterthought, he picked up the pencil and half-solved crossword puzzle lying on the coffee table and scribbled a note in the margin:

If you find me here, I don’t want to wake up

I’m sorry

-Mitch

He put the paper down and laid himself gently down on the sofa, feeling sleepy and fuzzy and slow. It was becoming difficult to think. It wasn’t an unpleasant sensation, only an unusual one; it wasn’t a bad way to go, all things considered.

“I hope I could help,” he whispered, “whoever you are.”

And then he drifted away, leaving his fate to the friend he’d never known.

-------

Mark blinked rapidly into cold air that was thick with dust. The hunched-over form of Mewtwo² stood limply on the ground ahead of them, shivering uncontrollably. An electrifying sensation of power hung in the air around it, a psychic pressure that threatened to tear everything apart; Mark felt every hair on his body standing on end, nerves tingling in anticipation of looming, terrifying danger. In front of the clone, a shallow, circular crater was carved into the rocky ground, still smoking with heat and twirling dust, surrounding a sickening, unrecognizable splatter of red – some unwary wild Pokémon suddenly obliterated by the power of a hundred legendaries.

Behind it stood Rick, coughing, arm shielding his face, a ball clutched in his hand.

“Recall him!” Chaletwo screamed. “Recall him now, or that’s what happens to this entire planet!”

Rick’s head snapped around, his gaze locking onto them, surprised, alarmed. For a split second he stared at them, frozen. Then, all at once, recognition spread across his face and melted into a familiar, stomach-turning madness.

He raised a trembling hand towards May. “Kill her!” he snarled.

Mark’s heart thumped in slow-motion as May stared back at Rick, pale, fingers tight in Spirit’s mane. Then she released her grip on the Ninetales, closing her eyes, inhaling sharply, and before he could consciously think anything at all, Mark had thrown himself at her in some stupid attempt to get her out of the way. They tumbled over each other on the ground, his head smashing into a rock that sent his vision spinning as he realized that it was no use, he couldn’t help, this was Mewtwo² imbued with the power of every legendary and it would just blast him into oblivion too.

For another eternal heartbeat, he clutched May’s jacket, eyes screwed shut, bracing himself for an inevitable death.

But his heart thumped again, and he opened his eyes. May was still there, coughing in the dusty air, blinking at him, with nothing more than a gash on her leg. Mewtwo² stood in the same place it had been, its arm extended in their direction, shaking as if straining against some invisible force.

“Kill her!” Rick ordered again, louder, and still Mewtwo² didn’t attack.

“Recall him! Now, goddamn it!” Chaletwo lunged towards Rick, but Mewtwo²’s eyes flashed blue and an invisible barrier stopped him. “Recall him or he kills us all!”

Rick glanced in his direction, hesitating only a split second before he looked back at May. “Kill—”

Abruptly, Mewtwo² moved, sweeping its hand back with a heaving lurch of effort, turning its head towards Rick as the power in the air intensified, burning, searing. The man’s eyes widened as he stepped back, raising the ball in his hand.

And then his hand just folded in on itself, bone crunching and electronics sparking and then it was simply gone. Rick let out a piercing scream, and then Mewtwo² swept its other hand down and suddenly he wasn’t there anymore as a formless red mist splattered the clone’s body. Mark stared in mute, detached horror, unable to properly comprehend or absorb the unreality of it. Somewhere, dimly, behind what had just happened to Rick, he realized the ball was gone, vaporized. There was nothing left, no way to stop it.

And yet, Mewtwo² stood there still, quiet, pupilless eyes rolling in its head.

Run. They should run, screamed a terrified part of Mark. But another part of him was paralyzed, fascinated, silently waiting for what would happen next, and his legs didn’t move. What was the use in running, anyway, if the world was ending?

“I…” Chaletwo said, backing away, his voice wavering. “Why isn’t he doing anything?”

“He’s spent all his life struggling against forces subduing his will,” said a quiet voice, and Mark looked around, startled, to find Mew suddenly hovering near them, staring towards Mewtwo². “He’s still fighting back. I should have known.”

“So he’s… he’s not going mad? It’s not happening?”

Mew shook his head slightly. “He can’t resist forever. He’s not the first to try.”

“Then throw another ball! Anything!”

His voice was piercing and desperate. Mark rose to his feet on wobbly legs, fumbling for an Ultra Ball, but as he threw it, Mewtwo² looked up sharply and it simply disintegrated in mid-air. At the sight of it, with a bloodcurdling physical scream, Chaletwo opened his eyes, and Mark shuddered in anticipation, the memory of the day he’d died flashing through his mind – but instead of the blinding, terrifying brightness he remembered, the light shining from Chaletwo’s eyes was only a faint glow.

Across from them, Mewtwo² didn’t even react.

Chaletwo’s scream died in a strangled, disbelieving cry as he closed his eyes again and doubled over, panting and shaking.

“You’re too weak to use your eyes,” Mew said softly, not quite looking at him. “But with the power he has now, he could block it even if you could. It can’t be escaped.” He took a deep breath. “Once he succumbs, he’ll hunt down all of us. Pokéballs, soul gems, he’ll destroy them. Legendaries have tried to escape it before; we have always struggled with the idea of dying. But it’s no use. I’m sorry. We should try to use these final moments to make peace and accept it, like the mortals—”

“Hypocrite!” Chaletwo lashed out, rounding on Mew. “You tried to escape it! You and Chalenor went to the future together trying to insure yourselves, and then when I try to do the same thing you just babble on about fate and acceptance!”

Mew blinked, turning towards him.

“If you’d just told me what went wrong with your attempt, we could have made a better plan, goddamn it!” Chaletwo went on, fiercely. “We could’ve been working on it for a thousand years instead of twenty! We could’ve gotten all the legendaries in on it from the beginning, instead of trying to keep it a secret! Everything you’ve done, everything, it’s all like you just wanted to...”

“What are you talking about?” Mew interrupted, frantic. “Me and Chalenor in the future?”

“Mewtwo told us all about it, that you appeared on his island babbling about insurance and made a copy of his body and took it back to the past – is that where I came from? A botched safety precaution for Chalenor?”

The alarm in Mew’s expression faded. “Oh.” He looked away, bitterly. “I’m sorry. I did go to the future and bring a copy of his body back. But I was alone.”

“That doesn’t even make any sense!” Chaletwo snapped. Mew stared at the ground, not moving, paws clenched. “How could you travel through time alone? If you’re going to continue lying to me, I swear –”

“Because I was the Preserver,” Mew said. His voice shook as he looked up, still not looking Chaletwo in the eye.

“What are you talking about?” Chaletwo’s hostility was gaining an undertone of desperate fear and confusion. “Chalenor was the Preserver! Like me!”

Mew shook his head again, almost imperceptibly. “No, he wasn’t.”

“Yes, he was!” Chaletwo screamed, a crazed ferocity in his voice. “It was the first thing you told me about him!”

“I lied,” Mew whispered, staring at Mewtwo².

“No! That doesn’t make any sense! Why in the hell would you lie to me about that?!”

A cold shiver of realization trickled down Mark’s spine, but before Mew could give an answer, there was a sudden change in the throbbing psychic background noise as Molzapart blinked into existence ahead. At his side stood Alan and Sparky, visibly relieved to see them.

“Chaletwo!” Molzapart said, his voice sharp, as Alan ran over to hug Mark. He hesitated as he looked at May, who didn’t meet his eye, then gave her a quick hug as well. “What’s happening? I’ve stopped growing weaker, and they said they felt some kind of pulse. Was that it? And what’s…” He trailed off, staring at Mewtwo². “Oh, no. Is that the power we’re feeling? Please tell me it wasn’t out.”

Chaletwo didn’t answer. He stood still, arms shaking, fingers clenched together.

“It was out,” May said, her voice hoarse. “Mew said it’s resisting but it can’t hold out for long. It…” She swallowed. “It killed Rick and destroyed its ball.”

“Then how do we stop it?” Molzapart hissed.

“It can’t be stopped,” Mew said, without looking at Molzapart. “There’s nothing we can do.”

Molzapart stared at him. “There has to be a way!” he said. “We can’t fight power like that, but what about…”

He trailed off suddenly, turning wide-eyed towards Mewtwo² as the clone began to stir. There was a strange disruption in the energy surrounding it, a sudden sensation of stinging heat, as it slowly pushed itself upright, strangely rigid and tense, stared at Mew, and stretched out its arm.

“I’m sorry,” Mew said again, closing his eyes.

And then, all of a sudden, an orb of dark energy smashed into Mewtwo², sending it flying back. It took a few limp tumbles on the ground, then went rigid again, floating into the air as a new protective sphere formed around it. Mark looked wildly towards where the attack had come from, expecting another legendary somehow, only to see Mitch sprinting in their direction, already forming another shadowy orb between his hands.

Mark had no chance to even try to wrap his brain around what was going on before Mitch leapt into the air, unnaturally high, and threw another Shadow Ball at Mewtwo². It dissipated as it hit the barrier, only for Mewtwo² to drunkenly swing its arm downwards, sending Mitch hurtling towards the ground. He vanished suddenly inches above the dirt, reappeared in the air behind Mewtwo² and crashed into the barrier, clawing madly at it with his fingers as tendrils of darkness twirled around his hands, and Mewtwo² jerked away, bringing the barrier with him. Mitch charged back towards it, but froze suddenly in mid-air as Mewtwo² held its arm forward, bringing its trembling fingers together.

He let out a chilling, almost inhuman scream as his head and limbs were twisted back, and Mark felt a horrible certainty that he was about to meet the same fate as Rick – and then, somehow, a burst of dark energy exploded out of him and surged towards Mewtwo², straight through the barrier. A stab of piercing psychic agony rang out as the clone dropped out of the sky, and for a heartstopping moment Mark thought Mitch had actually knocked it unconscious – but its fall came to a gentle stop as it glowed blue, curling up into a ball on the ground and clutching its head. The barrier around it thickened somehow, turning a more opaque white that throbbed like a living thing, and inside, it lay motionless, shivering, breathing rapidly. The thrum of power in the air had barely diminished; it wasn’t defeated, only… recovering?

Mitch stared warily at Mewtwo² from the air for a few seconds, as if making sure it wasn’t standing up again, then landed in an exhausted stumble, panting, blood trickling from his lip. Mark was about to run over to help him, to ask if he was all right and how in the world he’d done that – but then Mitch looked up, his eyes a startling, alien bright teal color that definitely wasn’t what they’d been last time they’d met, and the words died in Mark’s throat.

“Mew?” Mitch said quietly, his voice raw and shaky and unlike himself.

Mew whirled around, his eyes widening. “Chalenor?” he said, trembling, but didn’t wait for an answer before he shot towards Mitch.

The Gym leader broke into a run. He caught Mew in his arms in midair and pulled him tightly against his chest as he fell to his knees, knuckles white as he embraced the legendary like his life depended on it.

“Mew, I’m so sorry,” Mitch said, his voice choked with sobs. “This is all my fault.”

“You were dead,” Mew whispered, still in shock. “I tried to resurrect you but I couldn’t find you – sometimes I could have sworn I felt you there, but with the Dark type I couldn’t—”

“What?” Chaletwo said weakly, staring at the two of them. “What do you mean, he’s…”

“I know,” murmured Mitch, except it wasn’t Mitch. “I tried to move on after I died, but I couldn’t, something was anchoring me there, and I wanted to talk to you, to anyone, but there was nothing I could do.” He shivered violently. “It’s been a thousand years.”

“As an undetectable roaming spirit?” Mew’s voice shook.

“I passed between hosts and tried to communicate, but I wasn’t strong enough, not until…” He trembled again, staring at his hands, Mitch’s hands. “He lent me his body, he didn’t even know why, and now he’ll die with me.”

Mew shook his head fervently. “No, no, you can’t go through that again, I won’t let you, I won’t let you—”

Sparky stepped forward, wary, his brow furrowed. “Mitch?” he said cautiously.

The other Gym leader flinched strangely as he turned; he looked oddly small, somehow, still clutching Mew tightly.

“I’m not him,” he said, quietly, his voice trembling as his eyes flared teal again. “I’m Chalenor, the Destroyer.”

There it was. Mark’s stomach twisted in on itself, his ears ringing as a ripple of wordless, desperate psychic fury passed through his mind.

“No!” Chaletwo screamed, head bowed low, his hands trembling at his sides. “That doesn’t make any sense!”

Mitch – Chalenor – flinched again, squeezing his eyes shut. “I know this is my fault, but please, let me help.”

“It isn’t your fault!” Mew said desperately, wrenching around in his grip. He turned towards Chaletwo, pleading. “Arceus made him to punish the legendaries for their arrogance, eons ago – he doesn’t control it! He never has!”

Alan stared at them. “But… I thought Chalenor was the Preserver?”

Chalenor blinked at him. A wisp of a smile crossed his face as he looked back at Mew, his eyes darkening to a calm, murky blue. “Is that… is that what you told them?”

Mew took a deep breath. “I only –”

“No!” Chaletwo’s voice shook with anger. “Why?!”

“You don’t know what it was like,” Mew said, his voice quiet, not meeting Chaletwo’s eye. “For millennia every legendary knew him as the Destroyer. They knew he would drain their power and make them mortal and then watch them tear each other apart. They feared and despised him. You would have too if you’d known.”

“You said… you said he was…!”

“I thought he was dead.” Mew looked away. “All I wanted was to make a world where at least he’d be remembered like I remembered him.”

Chalenor stared down at Mew, holding him tightly. “I’m so sorry,” he murmured again.

“Why are you sorry? It’s my fault.” Mew curled up against his chest, bitter tears forming between his eyelids. “I screwed everything up. I – I k—”

And then, suddenly, the psychic pressure began to shift yet again with a nauseating sensation of the world being skewed and off-balance, and Mew was cut off abruptly as Chalenor scrambled back to his feet. He released Mew gently in the air, like something precious and fragile, and then took a protective stance in front of him, forming another dark orb between his hands.

In the rubble, beneath the thick protective shield, Mewtwo² was stirring, crawling to its feet, slowly, jerkily. The shield faded, and Chalenor flung the Shadow Ball with a desperate yell, but again, it simply fizzled away harmlessly in the air as Mewtwo²’s eyes flashed.

As the clone’s body arched upright, its gaze locked onto Chalenor. It swung its arm downwards, and a vertical, ripple-like shockwave passed through the air, tossing Chalenor’s body back like a ragdoll. He landed in a heap, and Mew rushed over to check on him. Mewtwo²’s hand pointed back towards the two of them again, only for its body to suddenly jerk back, convulsing strangely.

“I don’t know if I can defeat him,” Chalenor said as he crawled back to his feet, his voice hoarse. “But if I can, it should end for now, shouldn’t it?”

Mew stared at him. “I don’t know,” he said. “He won’t become the Creator unless we’re all dead, but…”

“I have to try,” Chalenor said. He wiped blood from the corner of his mouth as he pushed himself to his feet, just in time to form a translucent white shield in front of them as Mewtwo² stood rigid again and fired a clumsy psychic blast that smashed the barrier apart and brought him back to his knees.

“But what if you die again?” Mew said urgently, pleading.

Chalenor paused, watching Mewtwo² carefully as it clutched its head, eyes shut, a protective sphere flickering in and out of existence around it. “Wasn’t that what I wanted in the first place?”

“But – what if you can’t move on, like last time?” Mew’s voice was desperate. “Another thousand years as a Dark-type ghost? I can’t let you do that to yourself!”

Chalenor hurled another Shadow Ball as Mewtwo²’s barrier flickered off, but the clone raised its hand again, and this time the attack swung around and smashed back towards Mew. Chalenor leapt into the way, producing a shield that scattered much of the blast into dark tendrils of energy that hit him instead. He shuddered, sucking in a breath before he jumped into the air again, sending a pulse of darkness towards Mewtwo² and then shooting higher up, the clone following. The two circled each other in the air, spiralling upwards, firing attacks, darting aside, putting up shields. Mew stared up at their battle, quivering.

“It’s me, isn’t it?” Chaletwo said suddenly, his voice flat. Mew turned towards him, eyes wide.

“It’s me. I’m the anchor.” His voice began to tremble, a furious psychic cocktail of rage and confusion and terror spilling out of him in waves. “You transferred the essence from his eye into me, and it tethered his soul to me, and that’s why he couldn’t move on. That’s why the War is still happening. It’s me! You did this! Goddamn it!”

A strange pain passed across Mew’s face; then he averted his eyes, turning back towards the fight raging above.

“You knew?” A fresh wave of desperate, confused psychic anger lashed across Mark’s mind. “You knew all along?”

“I suspected,” Mew said quietly, his voice bitter. “I didn’t know he was trapped here, or I would’ve…” He clenched his paws, staring. “But when I felt my power was being drained again, I thought it might have to do with you. I hoped I was wrong. I’d seen the effect Chalenor’s skull had where I buried it, near Sailance; perhaps it would have done it regardless.”

Sailance. Mark froze. The Pokémon. The lack of Pokémon in northwest Ouen.

“It’s not fair!” Chaletwo yelled. “It’s not fair! I’ve been fighting to stop it!”

“I know,” Mew whispered, looking away. “I couldn’t tell you, not after watching how Chalenor suffered every day of his life. I’m sorry.”

“I was trying!” Chaletwo screamed. “It could have worked! You could have helped! Why didn’t you help?!”

Mew squeezed his eyes shut. Above, the battle raged on, bursts of energy flying between the clashing beings. “It can’t be stopped. It’s no use. I told you that.”

“You didn’t know that! You didn’t even try!” Chaletwo’s rage had taken on an almost physical quality, swimming through the thick background of Mewtwo²’s power. “Earlier, when you came out of the ball, you thought it wasn’t happening! It wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been out! But you just decided it wouldn’t work and made excuses! Like you – like you wanted it to happen!”

Mew stared down at the ground, silent, for a long, long moment.

“I…” he said in a whisper. “I just wanted to see Chalenor again.”

A desperate, wordless psychic scream emanated from Chaletwo’s mind. Molzapart stared at him, opening his beak as if to say something.

And then Chalenor crashed into the ground with force enough to shake the earth, sliding several feet in the dirt on his back. Mew shot to his side as Mewtwo² descended, paying no mind to Molzapart, who shuffled back to stay out of its way. It pointed its now-steady hand towards Mew and Chalenor –

– and then, suddenly, a green blur knocked it down. Mark stared as a shape – Scyther – slashed madly at Mewtwo², severing one of the two pipes connecting the base of its neck to the back of its head. A stab of pain pierced through Mark’s mind before the clone thrust Scyther away with a psychic blast, the two ends of the neck pipe already knitting back together as the flesh mended itself. Scyther rose again, swaying, hurtling back towards it with a desperate battle cry, and Mewtwo² lifted a hand – which trembled before it fired a small, clumsy burst of purple light that barely slowed him down. Scyther lunged at its throat, but Mewtwo² flexed its fingers and produced a protective barrier that stopped him, its blank eyes staring at the mantis’s form as he tore into the barrier with a Fury Cutter, to no avail. Slowly, the clone turned away from him, its eyes fixing back on where Chalenor was lying.

Scyther blinked at Mewtwo² and then glanced at Mark.

Mark’s heart thumped. He knew what Scyther was thinking. Mewtwo² could have obliterated him with a thought, and yet it hadn’t. Scyther had tried to kill it, and still it hadn’t. For that matter, it could have attacked any one of them, and yet it was still focused blindly on Chalenor, attacking only him.

“Guys,” he said, feeling his pulse in his throat, lightheaded in the sea of psychic static. He reached for his Pokéballs. “It’s still resisting. It’s not attacking Scyther.”

Mewtwo² fired a Psycho Cut towards Chalenor, and Mew darted in front of him, squeezing his eyes shut as a faint, feeble pink bubble formed around him. Chalenor pushed himself partially upright in a lurch, holding his hand forward to create a stronger shield in front of Mew that deflected the attack before he collapsed again. Mewtwo² stared at them, motionless.

Scyther leapt up again, and this time he got a few slashes in before the clone psychically thrust him away and raised its shield again, its wounds easily closing.

“Go!” Mark shouted as four Pokéballs opened in bursts of light. Charizard, Dragonite, Jolteon and Weavile materialized on the ground. “We can… we can help! Be careful!”

He glanced at Charizard and was going to ask him if he was okay to fight now – but before he’d said anything out loud, Charizard nodded. “I’m fine.”

And he kicked off into the air.

As Mark’s Pokémon surrounded Mewtwo², another burst of white light emerged in front of him. May jerked her hand up to her necklace, but Floatzel was already forming, racing after Weavile with a manic grin.

“Mark’s right,” Spirit said, looking up at May. “The madness only compels it to attack legendary Pokémon, does it not?”

“I…” May pressed her lips together, a trembling hand clutching her Pokéballs. “I don’t…”

“May,” Spirit said, her voice firm. “We will all die if we don’t stop it.”

May bit her lip, glancing over at Floatzel before she gave a slight nod, pulled the remaining balls from her necklace and threw them. Flygon, Butterfree, Mutark and Skarmory came out of their balls ready, Mutark licking herself and transforming within moments. Only Flygon hesitated, trembling as he stared towards Mewtwo².

“Flygon,” May said, fists clenched. “Should I switch you out?”

The dragon took a deep breath and shook his head, then darted after the others.

Alan and Sparky’s Pokémon joined the fray as well, but Mewtwo² remained inside a protective bubble, shielded from the onslaught of attacks, twitching restlessly. Chalenor had risen to his hands and knees, struggling to recover; Mew hovered by his shoulder, worried.

The psychic noise shifted, and Mark’s stomach twisted in anticipation of Mewtwo² firing off another attack – but then Spirit disappeared and reappeared behind it inside the barrier, locking her teeth around its neck pipes. Again, a surge of pain pulsed outward. The Pokémon gathered around Mewtwo² visibly flinched as it raised an arm and telekinetically tore Spirit away, healing its wounds again. She landed on the ground beside it and was quick to get back to her feet, preparing to pounce again.

Mewtwo²’s arm pointed at her, twitching. Mark’s heart pounded as May clutched the Pokéball in her hand. It shouldn’t attack her, not really, not badly –

– and then, abruptly, Spirit was yanked into the air. Mewtwo² levitated her pendant as it stared at it, eyes rolling, oblivious to Spirit’s struggling form suspended from it by the neck. May threw her arm forward, pressing the button to recall her.

The beam of the Pokéball passed through the barrier and began to absorb her – but as the glow tried to take the necklace with her, it couldn’t. The chain trembled in the air, flickering red, the Ninetales’ amorphous shape still dangling from it.

“Spirit, let it go!” shouted May, her eyes wide, but the Ninetales continued to struggle against the pull, the red glow clawing desperately at the chain. “Spirit! Please! Don’t!”

For a second more, Spirit strained to take the pendant with her. But then, her translucent form was absorbed into the ball, and in Mewtwo²’s psychic grip, the necklace and Entei’s striking red soul gems crumbled to dust.

The clone stood there for a few seconds, breathing rapidly. Slowly, carefully, May placed Spirit’s ball back on her necklace, staring towards the other Pokémon. Coughing, Chalenor rose to his feet, facing Mewtwo² again.

The clone flexed its fingers for a moment; then the barrier around it disappeared as its eyes glowed blue. Immediately, the Pokémon around it sprang into action, led by Floatzel slamming into it with an Aqua Jet. Mewtwo² took the flurry of attacks without flinching, almost comically unaffected, but looked around, shaking its head, concentration faltering, and whatever attack it’d been preparing never landed. Charizard engulfed it in a Flamethrower, and then, without warning, a shockwave threw all the Pokémon back, clearing the area around the clone. Chalenor, leaping into the air, tossed a Shadow Ball at it, and Mewtwo² stumbled back momentarily before wrapping itself in another protective bubble and shooting off into the air after Chalenor, followed by all of the flying Pokémon.

They surrounded Mewtwo² in the air, orbiting it in a circle, but its barrier kept them away whenever they tried to strike. The two legendaries danced around each other, exchanging blows, barriers clashing, firing attacks – but Chalenor’s movements were exhausted, desperate, while the clone fought with the same indifference as ever, barely hurt. “No,” whispered Mew, staring at the fight above, “no no no no no no –”

“He’s not going to make it,” Molzapart said, his voice tight and fierce. “The thing’s not even tired, and he’s stuck in a useless human body. It’s only a matter of time.” He looked restlessly around before fixing his gaze on Chaletwo. “If ever there was a time for your murder-eyes, it’s now. Why haven’t you obliterated it?”

Chaletwo didn’t respond. Mew shook his head. “He’s too weak. It’s no use.”

Molzapart looked away, then back. “So if you had more power, you could do it?”

Mewtwo² hovered above Chalenor and thrust its fist downward, producing a burst of energy that crushed him against the ground next to them, where he lay motionless. “No!” Mew said, nudging him desperately. “Come on, come on!” Up above, Mewtwo² hung in the air, a shadowed figure wreathed in a combination of orange and blue flames, motionless but for its tail lashing restlessly around.

“I mean it. Could you do it with more power?” Molzapart repeated, looking urgently at Chaletwo. “Because I can do that.”

Chaletwo looked up, slowly.

“Power Drain, remember? I can drain the power of willing subjects, and I could channel it into you. I don’t know how much you’d need, but…” He glanced at Chalenor. “With all the Pokémon here, and him, it might be enough.”

Chaletwo stared at him. Somewhere in the raging psychic storm sparked a flash of faint, confused hope.

Mew squeezed his eyes shut as Chalenor stirred on the ground. “You don’t understand,” he said, shaking his head. “With the power that Mewtwo² has now, he can block or redirect anything he pleases. He may be able to ignore your Pokémon’s attacks, but anything that could truly hurt him or stop him, he will instinctively react to. Even at full power, Chaletwo’s eyes would be useless. There is nothing you can do here.”

Mew took a deep breath, looking back towards Molzapart. “And I don’t remember much of the War. But I remember what the madness felt like. Nothing mattered but the legendaries, surviving long enough to destroy them. And…” He trembled at the recollection, his gaze distant. “Any legendary who attacked me, I had to retaliate. That compulsion was stronger than anything. When only Chalenor is fighting him, he can focus on only him. But as soon as you try to attack, he will strike back. If you’re a true threat, he’ll be forced to use everything he has. He’ll kill you where you stand in the attempt.”

“Well, according to you it’s going to kill us all anyway!” Molzapart hissed. “Do you have a better idea?”

Something rippled through the psychic noise. Mark looked up to see Mewtwo² beginning to move again, descending slowly as attacks bombarded its protective bubble, preparing an attack between its hands. Chalenor lay in the dirt, exhausted, looking up in silent resignation; Mew curled up against his chest, face digging into his shirt, closing his eyes.

“I’m sorry, for everything,” Mew said quietly.

“Maybe this time we’ll both die,” Chalenor said, his voice hoarse, smiling faintly. Then, in a murmur, he added, “I’m glad I got to see you again.”

“Me too,” Mew whispered.

Up above, Mewtwo² stared at the two of them, its arms still, shaking with effort as the energy around its hands dissipated, its bulging eyebrows twitching. A psychic wave of horror and nausea spilled out of it for a brief second before it was superseded by a forceful pulse of blind anger. Mewtwo² lifted its arms to clutch its head, then snarled as a ripple of frustration passed through Mark’s mind, then went rigid and started preparing an attack again.

And something about that visceral psychic horror hit Mark like a punch to the gut as he stared at the clone, a sudden stab of sympathy piercing through his fear of it. And with that, a strange, stark sense of clarity came over him.

Before he knew it he was moving, running, sprinting towards Mew and Chalenor. He spread his arms in front of them, facing Mewtwo², heart hammering, and stared at the clone.

And Mewtwo² hesitated, staring back at him, eyes rolling in his head.

“Mewtwo²?” Mark said, his voice shaking. The clone’s empty eyes pierced back into his, the psychic force in the air pricking at his brain like a thousand tiny needles. “You’re still fighting back, as hard as you can, aren’t you? You don’t want this. You don’t want to kill anyone else.”

The clone let out a faint whine, curling up in the air, the barrier around him shimmering; then his arm shot outwards again, charging a Shadow Ball.

“Please,” Mark said. His legs were wobbling, but he was frozen in place; he couldn’t have backed off if he’d wanted to. “I’m… I’m so sorry this is happening to you.” He swallowed, tears starting to blur his vision as the clone stared at him, his head twitching from side to side. “You didn’t deserve any of this. I… I wish we could free you, but I don’t know if that’s possible.”

His mouth was dry; it was hard to speak. He wasn’t sure if there was any possible way for this to accomplish anything; how could there be anything he could say that’d be stronger than the madness that’d killed every legendary for thousands upon thousands of years?

But he had to say it anyway. If nothing else, Mewtwo² deserved to hear it.

“I remember I met you in Rick’s Gym, a year ago, and even then you were fighting back, saying you didn’t want this. You never got to have a life of your own, did you? Just… just fighting for whoever held your ball. I’m so sorry.” He blinked rapidly. “We don’t want to hurt you; we just don’t want you to kill everyone. I can see you don’t want that either. I wish we knew how we could help you.”

Mewtwo² released the Shadow Ball with a roar, and Mark’s heart stopped, only for the attack to hit the ground several meters away in a spray of sand and dirt. The clone stared at him, trembling.

“Please.” Mark turned around at the sound; Chalenor had pushed himself upright, staring up at Mewtwo². “He’s right. You’re still fighting back, still trying.” He swallowed. “You’re causing destruction that you don’t want and are attacked for it. I… I’m sorry.” He averted his eyes. “Others have tried this before, and it never worked. That’s why I attacked. But you…”

He looked back up, meeting the clone’s eyes, milky white staring into tealish blue.

“You’re stronger than any of them, aren’t you?” Chalenor murmured. “You’ve had a lifetime to learn to resist. If anyone can stop the cycle, it’s you, isn’t it? Another… another anomaly that Arceus didn’t account for. Please, keep trying.”

They stared at one another for a few more seconds of tense, electrifying silence. The psychic field intensified to a feverish pitch; Mark’s ears rang, his heart pumping like it was about to explode. Something probed at his mind, fumbling and frantic and shaking.

“I…” said a voice in his head, and he recognized it, faintly, from that day. “Please…”

The clone’s body seized up; the barrier vanished, and a psychic shockwave abruptly thrust the flying Pokémon around him away.

“K-k…” The telepathic voice was strained as Mewtwo²’s body convulsed in the air. Then, a sudden moment of abrupt alertness, his blank eyes staring straight into Mark’s, pleading. “Kill me!”

Then he seized anew, roaring once again, and began to prepare an attack, only for Charizard to tackle him with a Flare Blitz. Mewtwo² swung his arm, and Charizard was slammed into the ground with a heavy thud. Finally, Mark could move again; he ran over to kneel by his starter’s side, stroking his head. Charizard opened an eye. “I’m okay,” he said, weakly, and Mark tried to smile before recalling him back to the safety of his ball.

“I…” came the psychic voice again as Mewtwo² formed a new barrier around himself. He stared at Mark as abruptly, the barrier disappeared. One, two, three seconds, he convulsed in the air, fingers twitching; Scyther dived in towards him again, raising his scythe, but the instant he swung it and it made contact with Mewtwo²’s flesh, the clone flung out his hand and sent him flying. He remained unshielded for a second more; then a forceful wave of rage exploded through the psychic field, and the barrier was up again, his wounds healing. Mark stared up at him, his heart hammering. Mewtwo² could deliberately take down the barrier. That was what he was showing them. He could stop defending himself, if only for a few moments. So…?

“Do it!” the voice shouted, and then, with a roar, Mewtwo² flared up with a purple aura and smashed into the other flying Pokémon, firing off clumsy Psycho Cuts.

Molzapart looked at Chaletwo with a maniacal fervor. “That’s it! I Power Drain and you get it when the shield goes down!”

“He’s still going to counterattack, isn’t he?” Chaletwo asked slowly, his telepathic voice dull. He was still standing, head bowed, not turning. “He can let an attack through but he still hit Scyther back.”

Mew nodded silently. Molzapart’s eyes widened. “But…”

In the air, Sparky’s Swellow, Charlie and May’s Flygon danced around Mewtwo², keeping him occupied, dodging carelessly thrown but increasingly forceful attacks.

Naked fear trembled in the air around Chaletwo as Molzapart stared at him, silent. “It’s not fair,” he murmured, wiping his closed eyes with his hand, “it’s not fair, it’s not fair!”

Mew hovered closer, but Chaletwo swung his hand, flinging Mew back; Chalenor caught him, cradling him protectively in his arms.

“You lied to me! All you did was lie to me, for him! All I ever was was a stupid mistake, for him!”

Mew shook his head, eyes squeezed shut. “That’s not true.”

“Yes, it is!” Chaletwo shouted. His fists trembled as tears streamed from his eyes; his voice grew quiet. “But that doesn’t matter, does it? Of course you cared about him more than anybody else. I always knew that.” The psychic anger around him was thickening, congealing into heavy despair. “I need to die anyway, right? I need to die so he can move on and the War can stop. That was always how it was going to end, wasn’t it? Now or in a thousand years.” He took a shaking breath. “I wanted to save the world, didn’t I?” Another swirl of terrified fury lashed through the air. “It’s not fair!”

Mew pulled himself from Chalenor’s grip and floated cautiously towards Chaletwo again. “Chaletwo, I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I was selfish. All I could do was forget and pretend. I was never… All this was my fault.” He shook his head, his voice trembling. “I could never stop seeing my mistake in you, but even despite that, you grew to be a better Preserver than I ever was.”

Mew wrapped his tiny paws around Chaletwo’s torso, eyes filled with tears. Chaletwo stared down at Mew for a moment, then slowly, slowly wrapped his arms around him and hugged him in return, a confused flurry of emotions radiating from his mind.

A stab of urgency cut through the air. Up above, Mewtwo² flung the last of the flying Pokémon away with a pulse of psychic energy and descended slowly towards the ground, staring at Chalenor. Chaletwo looked up, releasing Mew, taking a deep, trembling breath.

With a quick teleport, he was in front of Mark, grabbed his shoulder, teleported him to Molzapart’s side, and then took his place.

“If we both die, it ends forever, doesn’t it?” he said, his voice shaking, looking back at Chalenor. “We’ll… we’ll end it. Right?”

Chalenor nodded, reaching for Chaletwo’s hand. “I think so.”

Chaletwo started to pull away, but then hesitated. Chalenor gripped his bony fingers tightly as Mew floated up to them, settling on Chalenor’s shoulder.

“Mew, go! Get out of here!”

“No,” Mew whispered, wrapping his tail around their joined hands. “I’m going with you.”

Chaletwo stared at Mew for a long moment.

Then, abruptly, he turned to face Mewtwo². The Pokémon on the ground were frantically attacking, keeping him convulsing as the remaining Electric-types alternated electric shocks, but with a sweep of his hand, the clone threw them aside yet again and produced a translucent bubble around himself.

“Molzapart, do it!”

“I…” Molzapart stared at Chaletwo, hesitant.

“Do it!” Chaletwo’s voice broke. “Before I change my mind!”

“I’m… I’m sorry,” Molzapart said.

He looked down in concentration, and strings of energy shot towards him from all the gathered Pokémon. Chalenor and Mew shivered as the ghostly tendrils sucked out their strength; Floatzel and Weavile collapsed side by side, Floatzel shooting Weavile a grin. Jolteon whined, ears pinned back as he lay down, eyes closed.

Chaletwo trembled like a leaf in the wind, unmoving in the deathly silence that followed. In front of him, Mewtwo² stood on the ground, hunched, still covered by his defensive barrier.

“Mark?” said Chaletwo’s voice suddenly; it was strangely weak, shaking. “Get Molzapart to fix the dragons. Give them a life. Please.”

Mark nodded, frozen. He wanted to say goodbye, say something, but his voice was gone.

A bright beam of power shot from Molzapart’s beak and enveloped Chaletwo in a glowing aura as he took a trembling breath.

Mewtwo² clutched his head, and the barrier was gone.

Chaletwo screamed as he opened his eyes, and brilliant, blinding light shone from his eye sockets, sending shivers of phantom agony down Mark’s spine. The clone jerked where he stood, suddenly rigid, his back arching, eyes rolling back, arms outstretched.

“Thank you,” Chalenor whispered.

A huge orb of dark purple energy formed in front of Mewtwo² and shot towards Chaletwo. The ground shook with deep, shuddering tremors as it exploded, tendrils of darkness whirling around in a dark vortex before dissipating into nothingness.

When the dust settled, there was another shallow crater carved into the earth. Nothing remained of the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer, gone together into the great beyond.

Opposite the crater, Mewtwo²’s body slumped motionless to the ground, its pupilless eyes peacefully closed at last.

Beside it, a single purple gem clattered on the rocks and settled in the dirt.


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