The Quest for the Legends (ILCOEp)
Chapter 27: Past, Present and Future
The three headed together towards Ruxido. This was the fourth time Mark had walked this path; by this time he was getting dead tired of it. Every bush seemed dull. What made it worse was that May and Alan were chatting excitedly while he just walked behind them, sulking and not wanting to participate for some reason he wasn’t even sure about himself.
It slowly grew darker as they entered the forest, and while battling some wild Spinarak uneventfully on the way, Mark thought of not recalling his Pokémon after battle, so he could have some company. He sent out his Pokémon one by one (aside from Gyarados, of course); Leta, Jolteon, Scyther and Sandslash walked alongside him while Dragonair practiced his flying skills high above in Charizard’s company.
Mark wasn’t sure what to say to Jolteon and Sandslash. He realized his Pokémon did not yet know of his hopeless mission, but he figured it would be best to tell all of them about that at once, so he didn’t say anything at all. They seemed to feel there was something he wanted to tell them but was keeping to himself for the moment, and none of them said anything either as darkness fell upon the forest of Ruxido.
“It’s biting cold,” Mark finally called, shivering and wrapping his jacket around himself. “We should camp or something.”
Alan turned. “Yeah, that might be a good idea,” he replied, stopping and taking his backpack off his shoulder as he looked around. “Oh, look, there’s even a little pond over there that we can send our Water Pokémon out into. We can actually all send out our Pokémon here; there’s plenty of room. This place is great.”
“I can light a fire,” Charizard suggested helpfully as the kids and other Pokémon sat down on the damp grass one by one. Alan pulled some firewood out of his bag. As Charizard’s fiery breath latched onto the wood and started slowly consuming it, Mark felt a stinging in his chest; he’d have to tell them now.
He sighed. “Guys,” he said, looking between the Pokémon at his sides, “we’re no longer on a Pokémon journey.”
They blinked and looked at each other. Mark had heard that Pokémon had no sense of time while in a Pokéball, so they wouldn’t be able to tell how long they had been in there.
“Then… what?” Sandslash asked hesitantly.
“We’re on a quest to save the world.”
The Pokémon blinked again.
“Save the world?” Sandslash repeated blankly.
Mark sighed and started telling the whole story about Chaletwo and the War of the Legends again. It was starting to make him sick, so engraved in his memory in its finest details. With a painful twinge in his heart, he realized that even if he succeeded at his task, he would never be the same person again.
When he finished, there was a long silence. Everybody was at this point staring into the fire, him included, finding the warm, dancing flames comforting in some way when faced with the very hard-to-swallow truth once again.
“How are we ever supposed to find and catch them all?” Gyarados said darkly, finally breaking the silence. “Suicune evaded me for years, even when returning to the Lake every evening. And that’s just one legendary. This is an impossible task, Mark.”
He sighed, feeling like he was sinking into a black hole. “I know. But the other ones have been caught…”
“Maybe there’s a reason the ones that are left haven’t been caught.”
Mark didn’t answer. As much as he hated to admit it to himself, it did seem very impossible. But he had to try. He’d been entrusted with this.
He looked at May and Alan. Alan had a grave look on his face, clearly nervous about the task ahead; even May, who had up until now acted like the end of the world was no more worrisome than a piece of particularly boring homework, was busily examining the details of her fingernails while biting her lip.
“Well,” Mark finally said, “we’ll all need to work together in this. We should get to know each other better. How about we all tell everybody something about ourselves? Nobody has to say anything, of course… but it would be nice.”
Sandslash shrugged and looked around. There were no objections; however, as Mark looked over the group, he noticed some of the Pokémon’s reactions. Scyther stared bitterly into the fire; Mark saw he was trembling a bit. Gyarados moved his lips without making a sound. Jolteon’s ears dropped. May’s Lapras closed her eyes and looked away. Alan’s Vaporeon, Mist, just sighed sadly.
“Should I start?” Mark asked carefully. Nobody objected to that either.
“Well, I live in Sailance, which is a town in North-West Ouen. You might have heard it called ‘Poképhobe Heaven’. I’ve always been really interested in legendary Pokémon and wanted to be a trainer, but my parents wanted to protect me from Chaletwo so they didn’t let me out. So, yeah.” He shrugged, indicating that somebody else could speak.
“I was a Magikarp,” Gyarados started. “Magikarp mothers lay thousands of eggs and from each surviving egg hatches one Magikarp. I was a bit darker in color than the rest, but nobody really saw that.
“I always used to hang out with the Carvanha rather than the other Magikarp. I thought my own kind was below me; the Carvanha laughed at me behind my back because they thought I was below them. When I found out, I proved myself by beating them up. I never realized the other Magikarp were so much weaker than I was until then. I found fighting fun, and I started going to the surface to tease trainers.” Gyarados smiled grimly. “I wasted their Pokémon. The look on their faces was priceless.
“But naturally, when I battled too much I ended up evolving. That was when I turned into a predator. It wasn’t really a problem at first… I could hide in the murky water, there were plenty of Pokémon and I had never really felt any attachment to my fellow Magikarp. I may have eaten my mother sometime, for all I know. But at least I ate a bit too much for the lake. It was too closed off to suddenly have a huge predator disrupt the balance of life. The humans in Cleanwater City didn’t like me because I caught all their fish and destroyed the lake’s image as a tourist attraction and training spot, and they got all their best trainers to come and try to defeat me. I could just hide by the bottom and beat the ones who dared to dive down to me.
“But then Suicune came along.” Gyarados spat the legendary’s name hatefully.
“Suicune cleaned the lake, made it so clear I was easily visible. The other Pokémon could see me and hide from the other end of the lake. The trainers could see me and have their Pokémon direct their attacks at me from safety above. Weak and hungry, one night I found a small underwater cave and managed to squeeze myself into it. I lurked there in hiding, grabbing the occasional Magikarp or Goldeen that swam past during the night, and tried to talk to Suicune. After all, it was for the good of the rest of the life in the lake, so I could understand why he did it, but he'd left me starving.
“But Suicune avoided and ignored me. He came back every night as if to rub in my face that I was at his mercy. I called, I waited, I tried everything to talk to him, but he never answered, always got around my attempts; he never told me why he had to torture me in this manner. He just didn’t care.” Gyarados’s voice trembled. “I hate him.”
“Why would Suicune do that?” Mark asked blankly.
“I don’t know,” Gyarados said gloomily. “All I know is that Suicune tortured me for years.” He looked at Mark. “That’s why I ate that Sharpedo on the way to Aquarium City. I saw it as fresh prey and just couldn’t resist.”
“It’s all right,” Mark muttered. “I’m sorry.”
Gyarados sighed and started staring into the fire again, making it clear that he wasn’t about to say more. Some of the other Pokémon shifted uncomfortably. The flames still reflected off Scyther’s eyes as he sat there motionless apart from mouthing something to himself.
“I’m the son of Ash’s Sceptile!” Racko said in an awkwardly happy voice, considering what Gyarados had been saying. “And I was born in Hooooooennn, the place of all places!” He bolted up and made a salesman-like gesture with his arms. “I love it,” he finished dramatically, sitting back down.
“Ignore him, he’s always like that,” Alan said, chuckling.
“Well,” Sandslash finally said, “Sandshrew live in groups. We used to have mock fights and competitions about who was the fastest digger. I remember when one of my friends evolved and I became so frightened that I ran away.” He chuckled. “It was fun, but I don’t know if I’d go back if I could. It was kind of… irresponsible.”
Mark nodded, looking around the group yet again. May’s Butterfree finally spoke.
“Well, I don’t really remember any of my life – our brains as Caterpie and Metapod aren’t made to remember much. But Butterfree basically evolve, find a mate during the mating season, and then die. Males die right after they mate, and females die as they lay their eggs.” She sighed. “Wild Butterfree barely ever live longer than a single year.”
“That’s… sad,” Mark said. He couldn’t imagine a life that short. “Why do you even mate, if it kills you?”
Butterfree shrugged. “Different view on death. We’ll die anyway; why not ensure that our genes are passed on?”
Mark couldn’t help being slightly disturbed, but said nothing.
“Well,” said Mist heavily, “I had four siblings. We were left in the trash in a cardboard box in the city.”
“Cardboard box?” Mark asked blankly. “A human left you in the trash in a cardboard box?”
“Yeah,” Mist said gloomily. “Without our mother. We were barely old enough to survive on our own.”
“That’s just… cruel,” Mark said with disgust. Alan sighed; May was sitting with her legs crossed, looking down at the ground while absent-mindedly snapping some grass blades in half.
“Well, at least I’m alive and well,” Mist said with a friendly bump against her trainer’s hand; he scratched her head fin with a smile. “I don’t know about my siblings, though.”
“Mother was a Flareon,” Jolteon murmured. “We had a little nest somewhere nobody would find us. One day she went out to get some food… but she didn’t come back.” He was shaking as he talked. “I had two siblings, but they wanted to wait for her. I think they must have died. But I went out to look for her and didn’t find her. I was about to lie down on the road when I saw a human and a Charmander…”
“And I wanted to throw a Pokéball at you,” Mark said quietly, staring down to the ground. He had been such an idiot. It seemed unbelievable how little time had passed since then.
“It’s all right,” Jolteon said softly. “What matters is that I’m here now.”
“She just threw a ball at me while I was crying,” Lapras commented. May herself was messing with her fingernails and pretended not to hear anything. Lapras looked accusingly at her but didn’t say anything else.
“My past wasn’t interesting,” Skarmory said to break the uncomfortable silence that followed. “I was brought up in a nest on a cliff near Alumine, and then I flew on my first flight and got caught.”
Raichu shrugged. “Well, Mom used to live in Kanto. She told me she met Ash Ketchum’s Pikachu once and he saved her out of a river.”
“Oh, yeah, he told me about that,” Alan said. “He meant to release him since he was having such a good time with those wild Pikachu.”
Mark was about to express his opinion on Ash’s weird tendency to release most of his Pokémon, but figured it wouldn’t be a good idea to start insulting Alan’s father now. “Well, anybody else?” he finally asked. “Pupitar?”
The blue pupa continued staring expressionlessly at him.
“He won’t say anything,” May said, speaking for the first time as she stroked her hand over the grass, still too preoccupied to look up. “He’s not very social.”
“Oh,” Mark said. None of the other Pokémon appeared to be about to speak; both he and Alan looked at May.
“What, me?” she asked when she finally looked up. “Well, I live in New Bark Town in Johto, where Professor Elm lives. My birthday is in February so that was when I went to the Professor to receive a trainer licence, but instead of getting a starter and starting my journey right away, I worked as Elm’s assistant for two years, studying Pokémon anatomy, moves and battling. After that he gave me three starters to choose from, and I went to Ouen to get a Skarmory, but that thieving idiot Taylor stole my Quilava so I decided to stick around to find him and participate in the Ouen league instead and save Johto for next year or something.”
Mark nodded; he had heard the last part before, but she had clearly been discussing something else with Alan earlier since he didn’t appear to be aware.
“Taylor? Stole your…?”
“I can tell you later,” May just said with a careless wave of her hand as she resumed her previous activity of being a human lawnmower. Alan opened his mouth, but closed it again and shrugged.
There was a long silence after this. Everybody looked at everybody else.
“Scyther live in swarms,” Scyther suddenly said, not taking his eyes off the dancing flames. “There is a single leader, the strongest in the swarm, and the others follow them. We like to spend our time duelling; nothing is as refreshing as a good duel. Rob let Kabutops and me duel, but it’s not the same as with another Scyther. Kabutops was a good friend of mine, though…”
He suddenly seemed to realize he had wandered off the subject. “Well…” He sighed deeply.
“Like the Butterfree, we have a different view on death than humans, summarized by that saying I told you, ‘Death is not to be feared, for it is the only thing that we all have in common.’ It’s the first rule of Scyther ethics. Do not fear dying, because we will all die one day. Fear of death only leads to doing dishonourable things to save one’s own life.”
“How did you end up with the Mew Hunter, anyway?” Mark asked curiously.
Scyther sighed again. “That’s what I was about to say, actually. Three years ago, I had my last duel in the wild. It was a female. I didn’t particularly like her – well, of course I liked her, but I ‘liked’ everything female I came across, so she wasn’t anything that stood out. We got into an argument, and she insulted me… a bit too harshly. So I challenged her to a duel. A true duel, not a friendly or a mock duel. The unofficial rule is that a true duel ends with a death, a friendly duel ends with a bleeding, and a mock duel ends with a wound.
“But, well – I had nothing on her. She had the fastest reflexes I’ve ever seen, and her cuts landed just where she meant them to. She was just… perfect. It would’ve been a shame if I had won by some chance and had to kill her, I realized. She had everything. I considered it an honour to let her kill me; I was ready for death that moment.” The mantis swallowed a few times.
“But… as you know… she didn’t kill me,” he finally finished in a quiet voice.
“Well, that’s good,” Mark commented.
“Good?” Scyther glared at Mark. “It was the most unfortunate thing that ever happened to me. It ruined my life. I was ready to die. I couldn’t imagine a better time to die. But she didn’t kill me, and we both had to leave the swarm.”
“I told you, Mark. The first rule of Scyther ethics, the Code, is not to fear death. Humans think of mercy as a noble thing, don’t they? We do not. We’re predators; we can’t feel sorry for somebody we’re about to kill. We believe that if you can’t kill without remorse, it is because you fear your own death. In a Scyther’s mindset, she did something very dishonourable by letting me live, especially with the unofficial rules of the true duel. And I had lost; it is generally a bad thing to show weakness by losing a duel, but when the duel is one of life and death, there is no way they will accept one who loses but still lives back into the swarm. The only right thing for a Scyther to do in my situation is suicide – which we believe to be a very natural thing after violating the rules of our society. But I didn’t… because I had fallen in love with her. Or so I called it. A dumb crush, I should say.” He said the last sentence with a hint of self-loathing.
“I followed her. I hid, but kept an eye on her. I don’t know what I was planning to do, but I didn’t want to take my eyes off her. But while she slept, a trainer found her. He caught her in her sleep… and I watched it without daring to help or even wake her up.”
Scyther bitterly screwed his eyes shut. “Cowardice. We hate it with a passion, but I let her be caught. I followed the trainer, but didn’t attack, and of course he had a Metal Coat. He did an inter-Pokéball transfer and… evolved her.” The word ‘evolved’ sounded more like a swear word than simply a term for Pokémon maturing in the way he said it.
“What do you have against Scizor, anyway?” Mark asked, having wondered about that for a while but never dared to ask.
“Everything,” Scyther said darkly. “Scyther’s evolution is an unnatural process. It can’t happen unless the Scyther is exposed to metal and their energy converted, such as when being traded. Of course we didn’t take kindly to it when it was discovered, especially since we already consider simply being caught at all to be a sign of extreme weakness. And the two things that are our pride and joy are our speed and our scythes – when we evolve, we lose both for a metal armor and pincers. To us the trade-off is far from worth it, but to a human it usually is. Do you realize just how high a percentage of trainers would evolve a Scyther if they obtained one? Thanks to Scizor’s existence, Scyther are sought after among trainers – which we do not care for – only to be mutated into scytheless freaks. We loathe Scizor and everything about them. The word ‘evolution’ alone makes us twitch. That was what prompted our duel – she called me a Scizor.”
An array of questions popped up in Mark’s mind, all getting in each other’s way and making his head spin. In the end he asked the simplest question:
“What happened then?”
Scyther sighed. “In a moment of weakness I lost it. I broke into the Pokémon Center through the window and started blindly slashing anything – no,” he added as he saw the look on Mark’s face, “I didn’t kill anybody. The trainer himself wasn’t even scratched – some kid got a nosebleed when I kicked them and that was it, I think. Then some guy took out a shotgun, I came to my senses and figured I’d better get out of there, and I tried to get back out through the window. I cut myself on the glass, and the shotgun blast hit me in the back. I only made it a short way away from the Pokémon Center before I collapsed.
“Then Rob found me. I couldn’t move. I prayed he wouldn’t notice me or at least that he’d be scared and run away, but he didn’t. He looked at me for a second, fiddled with the one empty Pokéball he had, and then after a pause threw it at me and caught me – I couldn’t fight the ball. I thought I was doomed to the same fate as her. But he didn’t evolve me. I found out that he liked my scythes the way they were. I had never known there actually were humans like that, but I still went through a long period of depression. I often raised my scythe to my throat but didn’t have the courage to take my own life. Kabutops tried to tell me that Rob wasn’t really that bad, but I didn’t listen. I was still convinced that there was no such thing as a good human.”
“Did you like him?”
“Like him? He’s the best damn person I’ve ever met,” Scyther said with an emphatic but scary swing of his scythe. “He was a great man in every way. Trainers like to say with pride that they treat their Pokémon as equals; when you’ve seen Rob, you can’t help but laugh at that. He didn’t treat us as equals; it was like he didn’t even know the difference. He treated us just like human friends. It was incredible, the way he could reach his Pokémon – even Fangcat, who usually wanted to be alone and never really felt as much like one of us as the others, could spend hours on end just sitting with him and growling about her life. And he didn’t put any pressure on me when I came in. He didn’t make me battle; he didn’t even keep me in the Pokéball. He just let me stay in the gym and take out my anger on whatever was available while he went out with his Pokémon in the evening. He caught me in a few suicide attempts, and every time, he asked me why, but I never answered. When I started calming down a bit, he let me come with him and his Pokémon one evening. I found out that the place they always went to was a bar. He actually bought drinks for all of his Pokémon. He offered me some, but I thought it smelled funny and didn’t accept it. He just shrugged and let me stay there. After drinking a bit, the Pokémon started talking about their former lives, and I found out that they had all been miserable. And Rob just nodded and drank with them, and shared some of his own experiences in return.
“At the time I just found him weird. The way he just kept going on got on my nerves. But one day he caught me trying to kill myself yet again. He took me to a back room of the gym, gave me a drink again and said it would do me good. I drank some and after finishing enough and talking to him for a bit, I just – broke down. And I told him everything that had happened, everything I had been thinking and feeling. And he just looked at me and nodded, not trying to fix my problems, just feeling for me. I realized that was what I really needed, I let it all out, and then he got some more drinks and started telling me the full story of himself. I realized that we weren’t that different. We both had a passion for something that was lost, we had both attempted suicide but not had the guts, and we had both been rejected by the rest of our species, seeking company and purpose with others.
“Well, I ended up falling asleep, but when I woke up, I had changed. I think Rob just has this effect on you – after being around him for a while, you become just like him. Soon I was rambling about my feelings and drowning my sorrows in alcohol just like Rob and his other Pokémon.
“Then one day, he frantically told us all that he had found Mew again. While his excitement grew, I was filled with dread. He was a completely different person when Mew was around. He figured that he’d be best off getting you to tell him where this ‘you-know-where’ was, and cooked up a plan which he got me to participate in. I tried to make him change his mind, but he didn’t listen. He told me again and again that he had to get Mew. I slowly realized that he had changed. Even then I kept trying until the last moment.
“But when I flew out that window, I just started thinking… what next? I would not be accepted back into the Scyther swarm, and I realized that I had no purpose in life anymore. The only thing that had kept me alive was my trainer, the purpose of battling for him and doing my best and listening to him and the others. And I thought of you, remembered that you hadn’t seemed too bad, and in desperation I came back to you and let you catch me.”
“And we know the rest,” Mark said.
“No, you don’t,” Scyther said, turning to him. “I managed to focus on you, my trainer, but one day you entered me in the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament, and I battled a Scizor.”
The mantis looked back into the fire. “I was prepared to kill her, just to get my revenge on the species of Scizor for existing. But then I looked into her eyes, and I recognized her. I had always assumed she had to have killed herself or at least that she was not battling like… like that.”
“Wait, that was her?" Mark asked in realization. "That was why you didn’t kill her? Not because of the trainer?”
“The trainer?” Scyther snorted. “I’d like nothing more than see him burn in agony for the rest of his pathetic little life. But I… couldn’t kill her. I just couldn’t.”
“But why didn’t you say anything to her?” Mark asked, puzzled.
“I did,” Scyther replied. “Just before we were recalled, I said, ‘Look who’s evolved now.’”
“And nothing more?” Mark asked incredulously. “Even when you were in love with her and all that?”
“She’s a Scizor,” Scyther spat. “And she ruined my life – I hate her for not killing me that day.”
The mantis Pokémon stared at the flames once again. “And it wasn’t love,” he added quietly.
There was a very long silence after this. Everybody looked at Scyther, but he didn’t appear to notice; his eyes were fixed at the campfire and his face showed no expression.
“Um,” Alan said hesitantly, “maybe we should go to sleep. We have a lot of walking to do tomorrow.”
“Right,” Mark said. “Um, so…” He took out his Pokéballs.
“Wait a second, Mark,” Sandslash said. “Remember what I suggested to you on the twenty-fifth?”
Mark racked his brain and found it quickly.
“Oh, right, about letting you have some time outside your Pokéballs?”
Sandslash nodded. “I think we would all like to get some time to stretch – we can just make sure to be back by morning.”
Mark smiled. “Of course you can. Just be careful in case there are powerful wild Pokémon here somewhere.”
All of Mark’s Pokémon seemed to be happy to hear those news; Leta looked a little nervous, but Jolteon, who was beside her, nudged her with his head and assured her that he’d be watching out for her.
“Can we stay out of our balls too?” Lapras asked, turning her head to May. She made some kind of a shrug with a faint mutter of, ‘Yeah, I guess.’ Alan let his Pokémon go too as the kids prepared their sleeping bags. Mark watched the Pokémon head deeper into the woods one by one. After he had gotten into his sleeping bag, he saw Scyther slowly stand up and fly off between the trees. The buzzing of his wings quieted soon and there were only the hoots of the Noctowl to be heard anymore.
Pupitar, who was of course immobile, just lay beside May’s sleeping bag, his eyes closed. Mark noticed her arm wrap around the cocoon in her sleep.
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