The Quest for the Legends (ILCOEp)

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Chapter 62: Diplomacy

Mark didn’t know what he had been expecting, but he had not been expecting Raudra and Puragon to descend murderously upon them the moment they were within range of the Eastern Cliffs.

“Floatzel, Weavile, Ice Punch!” May shouted, eyes wide, as the two dragons dived towards them. Without hesitation, Floatzel leapt at Raudra and Weavile at Puragon, each delivering powerful blows that sent them veering off course. “Mark, Alan, send out your Pokémon, quick!”

Mark automatically fumbled for his Pokéballs as the dragons recovered in the air and swooped in for another assault. “You don’t have to do this!” Chaletwo said to their attackers. “If you’d only be caught willingly, this would be so much easier –”

“Kidnapper!” Raudra roared and fired a bright Flamethrower towards Mark; he threw himself unthinkingly to the side and crashed into the ground as Floatzel darted into the Fire attack with a Waterfall in her wake, neutralizing it. His heart hammered in his chest as he scrambled back to his feet, only one thought managing to take hold in his mind: Raudra and Puragon were aiming for them, not their Pokémon. They had no intention of respecting the Agreement; they just wanted to kill them.

“We can release her!” he shouted frantically. “We’ll release Dragoreen if you want, if you just agree to –”

“Why should we trust you?” Puragon hissed as she swung her tail at Skarmory and sent him spiralling towards Raudra, who received him with a jet of fire. “Why should we do anything for you, when you came here with deceit and violence and stole her away in a Master Ball?”

“Because otherwise you’re dooming the whole world, that’s why,” Chaletwo said. “Don’t play dumb. We know you know about the War.”

“You can make soul gems!” Mark called, raising his hands to show no Pokéballs in the vain hope that the peaceful gesture would help somehow. “If you don’t want to be caught, you don’t –”

“Deceitful child!” Raudra spat, aiming another Flamethrower; as Weavile leapt up to strike Puragon with an Ice Punch, Raudra turned and fired the Flamethrower at her instead. “You who threw the Master Ball when we had won the battle, you who...”

Make them calm down. Something, anything, to make them calm down. “I’m sorry!” Mark shouted, grasping wildly at his belt for his Pokédex. “Look!”

“Are you out of your mind?” Chaletwo said inside his head as he fumbled at the buttons with shaking fingers. “You can’t just –”

“Mewtwo said we should try to negotiate, right?” Mark said, almost convincing himself this was a good idea as he took the Master Ball he had swapped Scyther for and threw it.

“See,” he called as Dragoreen began to form in mid-air, over Chaletwo’s vehement protests, “she’s unharmed, it’s okay, you can just...”

Dragoreen’s distorted screech materialized into a furious roar; her gigantic tail swung and lashed out, and a vicious force smashed into Mark’s arm. The world spun; he realized in a split second that the Master Ball was no longer in his fingers, and then everything gave way into blinding pain.

“Idiot!” Chaletwo hissed at him as he crumpled face-down to the ground, his vision swimming. “Negotiating doesn’t mean negating everything we achieved last time! What did you think that would accomplish?”

He indistinctly heard May say, “Oh, damn it – Floatzel, dive after that Master Ball, quick! Weavile, cover her!”

“Liar,” Puragon said, icy disdain in her voice. “Pretending to release her but wanting to keep the ball?”

“Cowards,” Raudra muttered; Mark felt the heat rush of an oncoming Flamethrower and made a feeble attempt to move, but his good arm was shaking too much. He heard Mist’s cry and the heat dissipated; he could only assume she’d deflected the attack.

“Are you okay?” he heard a voice say next to him and realized it was Alan, who must have run up to check on him.

“I’m... I don’t know,” he mumbled, but wasn’t sure he was heard. Searing pain was still pulsing through his limp right arm with every pounding beat of his heart. He tried to stand up again, but to no avail. “Chaletwo, I can’t... I can’t...”

“Don’t try to stand up. Just send out your Pokémon. They can fight on their own. Goddamn it, why did you do that?”

Mark shook his head and managed with a heave of effort and support from Alan to roll over onto his back. “Please,” he said, as loudly as he could manage; that wasn’t very loudly, so he took a painful breath and tried again. “Please, just listen. We’re only fighting back because you attacked. If we could just have a ceasefire...”

“A ceasefire?” Raudra snarled. Her body was cloaked in dragon flames; she must have used Outrage while Mark was down, and in that state she couldn’t be very receptive to the idea.

“I bet our brothers sent you,” Puragon said before she fired an Ice Beam at Charlie.

At that seemingly off-hand comment, Raudra hissed fiercely. “Yes, they must have,” she said. “Scheming males!”

“We should have known,” Puragon growled.

“I bet they made up the War of the Legends, too, so they could get at us,” Raudra said, fury building in her voice.

“What?” Mark said in panicked bewilderment as Puragon voiced her immediate agreement with Raudra’s theory. “No! What are you talking about?”

“Idiots!” Chaletwo shouted. “Haven’t you felt your power growing weaker? Didn’t Mew explain the War to you himself?”

“You’re on their side!” Raudra spat and scorched Raichu and Stantler with a Fire Blast. “You’re all on their side! Coming here and kidnapping our sister and lying!”

“Trying to rope us into your harebrained scheme,” said Puragon.

“Should kill all of you, to send them a message,” Raudra suggested.

“If only we could see the look on their faces.”

Mark stared at the dragons, who were reaching a bizarre agreement that that was the correct course of action, and wished he could rewind the past few minutes. Maybe Chaletwo was right. Attempting to negotiate had seemingly only made the sisters more determined to kill them. He should never have even tried.

Looking quickly around, he realized Weavile was lying fainted on the ground near Raudra; he grabbed her Pokéball with his left hand, recalled her, and did his best to throw three of his other balls. Charizard, Jolteon and Dragonite materialized, rushing for their respective planned targets; he cursed that he’d fallen too far from the cliff to be able to send out Gyarados.

He looked around again to try to properly take in the state of the battle. Out of Alan’s team, only Diamond remained, making impressive leaps to dodge Puragon’s attacks but not having much luck actually striking her, though Blaziken was doing better. Mutark was hanging onto Raudra by her claws, slashing at her belly with her teeth, but with another Outrage, she fell limp to the ground. Stantler’s attempts at Hypnosis weren’t working on either of them. They were losing again, he realized with a sickening knot of dread in his stomach – probably in part because his stupid attempt to pacify them had led to them unexpectedly fighting three dragons instead of two.

Speaking of which, said a wary voice in the back of his mind, where’s Dragoreen?

He turned quickly and found her hovering to the right, over the cliffs. He’d registered her firing Thunderbolts and Dragonbreaths earlier, picking off their Pokémon as they tried to attack her sisters, but she wasn’t now; she was looking between the other dragons, hesitantly. “What is the War of the Legends?” she said.

“A lie is what it is,” Raudra snarled. “Devious manipulation.”

“It’s the reason you’ve been losing your powers,” Chaletwo said. “Your crazy sisters are in denial, but you’ve got to have noticed.”

For a split second Dragoreen hung there, clearly dissatisfied; then, all of a sudden, she was diving straight towards Mark. He screamed as sharp claws dug into his sides; pain shot through his arm again, replaced by a whirl of panic and nausea when she pulled him off the ground. His stomach clenched as she swooped back over the edge of the cliffs, still clutching him in her clawed grip. “Tell me,” she hissed as she stopped in mid-air; Mark could only stare helplessly at the sharp rocks that pierced the foaming water far, far below. “Tell me the truth or I’ll drop you.”

“It’s, it’s, it’s a thing, the legendaries are going to go mad and fight until there’s only one left,” he blurted out, his voice shaking. On the cliffside, Alan, May and his Pokémon were staring towards him, and he wondered for a split second in a rush of bizarre anger why they weren’t doing anything, but anything they could have done would have only made her more likely to drop him, wouldn’t it? Raudra and Puragon, both cloaked with dragon fire, rushed back at the Pokémon, and they were forced to turn their attention back to the fight at hand. He was on his own.

“Why?” Dragoreen said, boring her claws into his ribcage; it took him a moment to wrap his terrified brain around what she was talking about.

“The, there’s a legendary that’s the Destroyer, and it makes it happen every thousand years, it drains your power and then redistributes it evenly –”

“Mew explained it to your sisters,” Chaletwo said. “I’m trying to stop it by having all the legendaries caught in Pokéballs before it happens. If I’m right, it will stop the War from happening.”

“Why didn’t we know about this?” she asked; below, the waves crashed against the cliffs, cold and merciless. Mark’s mind replayed a hypothetical fall in a wretched loop that he couldn’t break out of: a rush of air, a spray of salt, water in his lungs, smashing against rocks, blood mixing with the seawater.

“Mew forbade us to...”

“We should have told you!” Mark said frantically, squeezing his eyes shut. “It was wrong to attack you without explaining what was going on and to use the Master Ball – I’m sorry!”

For several seconds, Dragoreen was silent, her body lurching up and down with every beat of her wings, sending Mark’s stomach roiling. He heard Raudra cry out in pain among the Pokémon; they might have been bringing her down at last.

“Stop,” Dragoreen said, shaking him for emphasis; a fresh jolt of pain coursed from his arm, wrenching his eyes back open. “Stop attacking, or he dies.”

They did; as one, his Pokémon froze and stepped back in alarm, and some strange part of Mark managed to be weirdly touched. Raudra was beginning to crawl to her feet; Puragon, who was still in the air, took a deep breath and started to gather ice crystals in front of her mouth.

“You too!” Dragoreen said. “Stop it!”

Puragon turned towards her, clearly outraged, but let the ice dissolve nonetheless. “Do you believe their lies?”

“Did Mew tell you about this War of the Legends or not?”

“Our brothers must have threatened...”

“That’s not what happened!” Mark shouted desperately, his sides still aching. “We’ve been out capturing legendaries since May, and some trainers have been around doing it for years – it had nothing to do with you!”

“That’s what you say,” Raudra spat. “You would say anything to get us to agree.”

“You’ve been losing your power and this is why! Get it through your thick skulls that –”

“Chaletwo,” Dragoreen said sharply. “You do not insult my sisters. If you do it again, I will throw your vessel in the ocean and you can watch the War from there.”

“The power loss is a good point,” May said before Chaletwo could respond to the threat; Mark had never been so glad to hear her speak. “How do you explain it if you deny the War?”

“It’s just one of their tricks,” Puragon said, but there was a hint of uncertainty in her voice this time.

“It’s not a trick! If they could drain your powers away, they’d have attacked you already to take advantage of it! You of all Pokémon should know them well enough to realize that!”

Puragon looked unsurely at Mark, then at Dragoreen. “They’re lying!” Raudra hissed from her place on the ground. “It’s all trickery, all of it. They want to confuse us and string us along so they can laugh at us.”

There was a strange note of desperation in her voice, almost pleading, and from somewhere within Mark’s panicked mind came a pang of pity. This wasn’t just some petty, hateful sibling rivalry; it was a genuine, obsessive paranoia, so deep-set and all-consuming that it poisoned all rational thought. Raudra really believed that everything was somehow orchestrated by her brothers, and she was probably terrified out of her wits. Dragoreen likely only had a somewhat more objective perspective because this was the first time she was hearing about the War, instead of having had it feeding into existing fears for months with nobody but an equally paranoid sibling to discuss it with.

“Look,” May said very carefully, looking at Dragoreen; her eyes were wider than usual, but her voice was steady. “When you’re caught, you stop losing your powers. You felt that, right?”

Dragoreen nodded slowly.

“We’re going to capture your brothers too. And because we went for you first, if you let yourselves be caught, they’re going to have lost more of their powers by the time they’re caught, so at the end you’re going to be more powerful than them. But if you continue to fight back and kill all of us, and your brothers make the smart choice when one of the other trainers finds them, it’ll be the other way around.”

“Lies!” Raudra snarled, releasing a Flamethrower in May’s direction; she scrambled to the side at the same time as her Blaziken rushed to deflect it with a Heat Wave.

“Stop,” Dragoreen said. “They’re right. We stop losing our powers if we’re caught. There’s no sense waiting around as we grow weaker.”

“Could we really gain the upper hand on them?” Puragon asked with a wary interest.

“Yes,” May said firmly. “The sooner you’re caught compared to them, the better.”

On any other day Mark would have winced at the idea of encouraging this, but at the moment he didn’t care; if it made Dragoreen put him down, it was worth it. He listened with shaking breaths as Dragoreen and Puragon encouraged Raudra to agree, and as Raudra continued to refuse and tell them with increasing fanaticism they were being taken in by a massive conspiracy, but increasingly couldn’t focus on them under his building nausea and the pulsing pain and pins-and-needles sensation in his arm and the claws still clutching at his ribs.

By the time he thought maybe Raudra was starting to budge a little, everything had blended together into arguing voices and pain and sickness.

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