The Quest for the Legends (ILCOEp)
Chapter 69: Lies
May lay awake in her bed, arm over her eyes. Sparky had given everyone a room in the gym; hers was next to his own, and for a long time after lying down she’d indistinctly heard him and his Pokémon talking through the wall, until eventually they’d gone quiet. Now the only sounds to be heard were the ghostly cries of wild Hoothoot outside, barely audible after she’d closed the window.
But she still couldn’t sleep.
She sighed, moving her arm and blinking blearily into the darkness of the ceiling. She reached for the lamp on her nightstand and switched it on. If only the room had some books or something. She checked the drawer to be sure, but it only had a pen and a notebook.
If she were Mark she could draw something, but she wasn’t.
She closed the drawer and reached for the Pokéball necklace she’d left sitting on top of the nightstand instead. After detaching Spirit’s ball and maximizing it, she hesitated, changed her mind and took out Stantler’s instead.
“May?” the deer Pokémon asked when she materialized, looking around. “Is everything all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” May said. “I just… couldn’t sleep.”
“I don’t know. It’s just one of those things.”
“Why did you bring me out?”
“Somebody to talk to, I guess.” May rubbed her face with her hands. “Unless you know some amazing Stantler sleep tips or something.”
Stantler looked at her for a moment. “I could try a Hypnosis,” she said. “But if you wanted to talk, we can talk first.”
Hypnosis. Of course. She should have thought of that. She hated that she hadn’t.
She considered just asking her to do that now, so she could finally go to sleep. But…
May exhaled. “Do you think the police are going to… to figure out it was Tyranitar?”
“I only know what you told me,” Stantler said after a considered pause. “What are you worried about?”
“I don’t know, Robin was…” What had she told Stantler? “They know it was a Tyranitar. But there are wild ones where it happened. They can’t say I did it just because I released a Tyranitar at a similar time. It doesn’t prove anything.”
Stantler gazed at her. May wished she wouldn’t always take so long to answer, like she had to deliberate over every word. “No,” the Pokémon said at last, “it doesn’t sound like there’s any proof it was your Tyranitar who killed him.”
“Yeah, that’s what I said.” Why would Robin even –
“But it was him,” Stantler said.
“That’s not the point.”
“I think it is.”
“No, it isn’t,” May said. “It happened, and it was my fault, but it’s done. I just want to move on, but then Robin and everyone just…”
“What did Robin say?”
May took a deep breath. At least it was Stantler. She could talk to Stantler. “She thinks I should turn myself in. That Rick deserves to know what happened. But we’ve got legendaries to hunt down, and Rick’s a bloody nutcase either way. How would that even help? It’s not going to bring him back.”
Stantler considered it for a moment. “It would be unwise to do anything that might hinder or delay your quest further at this point,” she said. “But after this is over, perhaps it might help you.”
“No, it wouldn’t,” May said firmly.
The Pokémon surveyed her closely. “Are you sure?” she asked. “This has clearly been weighing on you. Perhaps having it out in the open would relieve some of that weight.”
“Telling people doesn’t help,” May snapped. “It just makes them think I’m the scum of the earth. That’s not helpful.”
“You aren’t,” Stantler said.
“Yes, I know.”
There was another pause. “I think owning up to what happened and facing the consequences of your actions could help you truly move on. You could finally be free of this suffocating secret and everything that comes with it. It might be the least painful course of action for you, in the end.”
“Well, I can’t risk that,” May said. “They’d probably revoke my license at the very least, and when they do that you can’t get it back, not until you're an adult and go through some whole process.”
Stantler tilted her head, a budding curiosity in her eyes. “Is training Pokémon important to you?”
“It’s what I’m good at.”
“You’re good at many things.”
“I’m not going to the police, okay?”
“That’s a decision only you can make,” said Stantler. Even if May could talk to her, she could still be infuriating.
May sighed, lying back down on the bed. “Try that Hypnosis. Recall yourself if it works.”
The lack of Pokémon, gyms or any other strong incentive for trainers to visit meant Sailance had no Pokémon Center, so instead Felix had memorized the front of the library. The bright white building with the ornate carvings above the door evoked a strange sense of nostalgia within Mark; this library was his childhood, and it was bizarre to realize that he hadn’t been there for the better part of a year now.
He would have thought he’d long to go home, coming here again, but somehow, he didn’t. Home felt like part of a different world that wasn’t important at the moment, a strange world where Mark’s biggest concern had been his overprotective parents and mean-spirited teacher. But the two worlds intersected at the library, in a weird, disorienting way; he’d visited it so often to read about legendary Pokémon, staring in awe at the beautiful illustrations, and now here he was again, having fought and captured some of those same legendary Pokémon. The memory seemed like an unreal dream.
“Well,” Leah said, recalling her Alakazam. “He said he’d be here. Let’s get inside.”
“Do you know what he looks like?” May asked as they stepped through the automatic door.
“Of course. I followed the news whenever Chaletwo slaughtered more innocents. He’d be a couple years older now, but he shouldn’t be hard to recognize.”
“And even if you didn’t, I’m here too.”
“Funnily enough, Chaletwo, I never thought memory was one of your best qualities.” Leah looked around. “Mark, you know this place. What floor would he be on?”
“Probably the third,” Mark said immediately. “That’s where the legendary books are.”
They crammed themselves into one of the elevators, and Leah pressed the third-floor button. Mark was gripped with an odd sense of déjà vu; for a moment he felt like he was back in the old world, like his entire journey had been an unusually vivid daydream on a particularly boring elevator ride.
“He said he’d been doing some computer thingamajig,” Leah said as they stepped out of the lift, looking around. “Are there computers around here somewhere?”
“Behind there,” Mark said, pointing past a row of bookshelves. It was stupid, but he kind of enjoyed being the one who knew stuff for once.
As soon as they’d rounded the corner, a boy by one of the computers jumped out of his seat. “Le... Leah Donaldson?” He was maybe fourteen, a bit chubby, with curly red hair, freckles and large, round eyes. She whipped around at the mention of her name.
“Oh, there you are,” she said, brightening. “Ryan whatshisname, right?”
“Good to see you again, Ryan,” Chaletwo said.
The boy nodded, grinning. “You’re the new kid,” he said, pointing at Mark before he looked at the others, “but... whoa, gym leaders.” His already wide eyes widened further. “League semifinalist! The Ouen Champion! That’s some group you’ve got.”
“I’m not the Champion,” May said.
“Well, not technically, but come on!” Ryan spread his arms. “That kid was a disgrace to Pokémon training, and you would’ve kicked his ass any day of the week without Mewtwo².”
May pressed her lips together; Mark quickly tried to change the subject. “You said you had something on the Waraider herd?”
“Yes!” Ryan said enthusiastically as he sat back down at the computer, beckoning them to follow. “See, about a year ago I started gathering every scrap of information about the unicorns – there have been a lot of sightings, you know, even if they’re pretty unclear – and it wasn’t long before I started seeing a pattern. Look.”
He brought up a map of Ouen with red dots plotted onto it that Mark assumed stood for sightings. Almost all the dots were clustered together in about a dozen groups, scattered around the region.
“See? You’d expect this sort of thing to be either restricted to one particular area or a pretty even random distribution across similar locations, but it’s not.”
“Doesn’t that just mean they were in one place long enough for multiple people to see them?” May asked, skeptical.
“Ah.” Ryan held up a finger. “Exactly what I would’ve thought. But the times don’t match up. In fact, if I color the spots by time, then...”
He fiddled with menus on the screen; the dots changed to be various hues instead of red.
“See – the spots in each cluster are different colors, far apart in time.”
May squinted at it. “So... they keep coming back to the same places?”
“Not only that,” Ryan added excitedly. “In the same order. I’m almost certain of it. The record is spotty, and they don’t always stay for the same amount of time, so it’s not obvious, but I’ve been analyzing this data for months and it’s uncanny. They have to be going the same round trip around the region over and over again – only it’s not a round trip, it’s a ridiculous polygon trip. Look, here’s the way I think they go.”
He changed more options, and a wild criss-crossing web of lines connecting the clusters of dots appeared. It really wasn’t a round trip: if this was right, the Waraider herd regularly flew halfway across the region to get to a place, then flew back to another place much closer to the one they’d started at. It was bizarre.
“How sure are you?” asked Leah, doubtful.
“Pretty sure. I mean, if you’ve got a sighting at time X in location A, and a sighting at time Y in location B, then any sightings between X and Y are going to be from the locations that come between A and B in this cycle, except where the difference between X and Y is so big they’ve probably gone all the way around in between, or where the sighting is really dubious and probably fake. And it’s a lot of data points, and this matches up way better than chance. It’s by far the best possible match with the data. I wrote a program that worked it out.”
“Does that make any sense to you, Chaletwo?” Leah glanced at Mark out of the corner of her eye.
“It’s strange, but frankly I wouldn’t put it past them.”
Leah raised her eyebrows. “Nice. So where are they now, according to your thing?”
“Well.” Ryan rubbed his hands together. “It’s a little hard to tell, because like I said, they don’t always stay for the same amount of time, and I haven’t managed to find any sightings newer than sometime in June. But playing around with averages, at the moment they’re most likely to be somewhere around here.” He pointed triumphantly at a cluster shortly northeast of Alumine.
“Have you checked?” Leah asked.
Ryan’s face fell a little. “Well, no,” he said. “I’d been looking for newer data, but when you called I started working on finishing the algorithm and running it on the current dataset instead, and I just wrapped that up this morning. Besides, I was waiting for you.”
“I guess.” Leah squinted at the map again. “That’s a pretty big cluster, though. We’ll probably have to split up searching. And we can’t Teleport, since Felix hasn’t been to Alumine, either.”
“But my Xatu has,” Ryan said proudly. “She can get us all there in a whiff. And even if they’re not there, we travelled to all the hotspots once I’d identified them. We can search them in order of likelihood until we find them.”
Leah blinked. “Huh. You’re actually pretty good.”
Ryan beamed at the compliment. “Should we get going?”
“So how long have you been traveling with Leah?” Ryan asked. They’d split into two groups for the search after arriving in Alumine and planning things out over lunch; Mark had gone with Ryan, Robin and Sparky to explore the eastern half of the area, while Leah, May, Alan and Victor had gone west.
“Only a couple of days,” Mark said. “But we’d met before – she sent a distress call when she was battling Entei, and we came to help her.”
“Oh.” Ryan paused. “What’s she like?”
Mark shrugged. “She’s pretty cool, I guess?”
“Yeah,” Ryan said with a sigh. “I mean, she’s caught so many legendaries. I’ve only gotten a couple myself – went for the Sinnoh pixies, Heatran, then working on the herd. Seems kind of pathetic in the space of almost three years, next to her and Mary with, like, fifteen or twenty. But if we count the unicorns as mine after this, I guess I’m not doing so bad.” He chuckled nervously and opened his mouth again as if to ask something, then closed it again.
Mark nodded, distracted. He – well, they – had caught a lot of legendaries for only having been out there for less than a year, but that was mostly because of Thunderyu, Volcaryu, Polaryu and Suicune all being in known locations and getting lucky with the female Color Dragons which had pointed them to the males as well. He’d never have even thought of something like plotting historical sightings on a map and trying to see a pattern; next to someone who could do something like that and genuinely track down a legendary, he felt hopelessly out of his league.
“What’s with May, anyway?” Ryan said after a few seconds. “When I watched the League I got the impression she wanted to win really badly. Isn’t she happy to be basically the Champion? I mean, of course she’d’ve wanted to actually beat him, and it’s terrible he died, but –”
“It was her Tyranitar that killed him,” Robin said before anyone else could answer. Mark froze in his tracks. Ryan turned around in puzzlement, and Sparky stopped, giving Robin a wary look.
“She told me,” Robin said; she had stopped too, and though her voice was slightly unsteady, she stood firm. “I think she should tell the police. They’re still investigating what happened, and it makes it look worse if she’s trying to hide it. I tried to tell her we should go to them, but she got really evasive, and –”
“What do you mean, her Tyranitar?” Ryan asked blankly.
“She said she’d wished death on him. She says she didn’t mean it, but her Tyranitar thought she did, so he killed him.”
“What? But...” Ryan’s eyes were even wider than usual.
“It was an accident,” Chaletwo said. “Yes, he died, very sad, but I’m not hearing anything more about this. She didn’t mean for him to be killed. It has no bearing on today, and going to the police won’t help anyone. Remember saving the world?”
“What about Rick?” Robin said, unyielding. “He was devastated when his brother died. He deserves to know what really happened.”
“No, he doesn’t! The man is insane, and he’s all the more reason not to tell the police. Remember how he was capturing legendaries before any of you, just because he could? Remember that TV interview where he went nuts? We don’t want him anywhere near our mission.”
“This is wrong,” Robin said, shaking her head. “If it really was just an accident and not her fault, then I don’t understand why you’re all so insistent on covering it up. And if Rick’s a bit unhinged, maybe it’s not helping that his brother died and he still doesn’t know why. I mean, Taylor was his only family. He’d been raising him since he was a toddler. He needs closure and peace, for God’s sake. Have some compassion.”
“Will it jog your memory if I remind you that interview involved him threatening to murder whomever was responsible?” Chaletwo said coldly. “We’re not telling him anything, and we’re not telling the police anything that they might tell him.”
Robin looked away, wincing. “Look, I’m not suggesting we outright report her to the police behind her back. It’s just… I’m really not comfortable going around pretending this didn’t happen, and I think it’d be better for everyone if she just came clean and let the police handle it. And as for Rick, I mean, she said you could do something about it if they figured it out, so couldn’t you just do the same if he… tried anything? I don’t know; she just refuses to hear any of this from me, since…” She spread her arms in a gesture of frustrated puzzlement. “Well, she obviously has some sort of problem with me.”
“If she has a problem with you, it’s probably because you’re not willing to let this go,” Chaletwo said, irritated. “Again, I won’t hear any more of this. You can worry about Rick’s peace of mind when the world isn’t ending.”
Robin looked silently at Sparky and then back at Mark, sighing. Ryan still stood there, pale, glancing between the three of them. A second passed before Sparky spoke, wary. “This sounds like something we ought to be aware of. Can you please explain exactly what happened?”
“It doesn’t matter what happened,” Chaletwo said. “Right now we’re looking for the Waraider herd. If you’re not with us, then feel free to leave. I don’t want to hear another word about this.”
Mark felt a tinge of guilty hesitation in the back of his mind after the last word, but Sparky only shook his head slightly and set off walking again. After a moment, Robin threw her hands up and did the same. Ryan looked doubtfully at Mark; he sighed and followed suit, and Ryan hurried to catch up.
May trudged silently alongside the others. She’d managed to go with the group that didn’t have Robin, but it did have Alan, and although Alan probably had nothing left unsaid to her by now, she was still wary.
“So, uh,” Victor said after a while, “May, did you get that Mutark?”
She nodded, glancing at Alan where he was walking beside Leah at the front of the party, but he didn’t react. Leah turned her head, though. “Didn’t you watch the League? She used one there. Gave it a Sticky Barb so it could transform right away. Pretty slick.”
“Oh.” Victor looked away. “I missed it, I’m sorry. I only watched the finals because of all the buzz about Rick’s brother, to be honest.”
Leah shrugged. “I never used to follow the League religiously either until I got recruited. Turns out it’s a nice place to pick up creative strategies – fun fact, I’ve ripped off more than one Champion in my legendary fights.” She grinned. “Ironically, I actually kind of missed the finals this time around. I usually listen to it on my PokéGear radio when I’m on the road, but seeing as the commentator up and left, I gave up trying to follow what was going on within the first five minutes. Just a lot of roars and growls and attack names. I read about it in the paper when I came to town, obviously, but.”
Victor winced. “It was pretty brutal. You read about the… the Mewtwo clone? It just threw her Tyranitar around like a cheap toy. I felt kind of bad for him.”
“Yeah, so I heard,” Leah said, raising her eyebrows. “Psychic against a Dark-type. How nuts is that?” She shook her head. “Then again, we’re a bunch of teenagers going around fighting gods, so, you know.”
“How’s he doing, anyway?” asked Victor, turning towards May. He was trying to make the question sound more casual than it was, and May hated that she could tell. “He… seemed so determined to win. Did he take it okay?”
Alan turned around, too. May imagined them vanishing, just blinking out of existence and leaving her alone, but that wasn’t helpful. “I released him.”
Victor’s awkward attempt at a smile vanished, his lips tightening, too quickly. “You released him because he didn’t win?”
She inhaled sharply. “Yeah,” she said, without thinking, and instantly regretted it. But Alan didn’t say anything. He stood there, staring at her, but his mouth didn’t open.
“It wasn’t his fault,” Victor said. “I mean, nothing could have stood against that Mewtwo². You shouldn’t –”
“Hey, lay off her, okay?” Leah said, turning her head. “You don’t know what happened between them and it’s none of your business. Releasing a Pokémon is hard; don’t rub it in.”
Victor looked at May for a brief moment before averting his eyes again. “Right. Sorry.”
Alan’s gaze, on the other hand, lingered on her for several seconds before Leah continued walking and he turned around to follow.
Mark’s group was still wandering aimlessly across the uneven hills. There were no roads around here, or even footpaths; it was all dead, yellow grass, rocks and irregularities that made it far more exhausting to get around than a manmade road. Mark envied Ryan’s Xatu for being able to follow them with a casual series of teleports without actually having to walk.
He was falling into a daze of repetition when Robin called, “Look!”
He turned and caught a strange, shimmering glimpse out of the corner of his eye, but then it was gone. He blinked, squinting at the spot where it had been; there seemed to be nothing there.
“What?” asked Ryan.
“I’m sure I saw something,” Robin said, wary. “Like in my peripheral vision. I can’t see it anymore, though.”
“Me too,” Mark said, looking around for a sign of the phenomenon again; everything seemed normal now. “It can’t be just a coincidence, can it?”
“Xatu, Miracle Eye,” Ryan ordered, pointing in the direction of the place they were looking at. The bird Pokémon turned towards it, her eyes glowing red; for a moment there was that shimmering again, and then suddenly eight unicorns with folded wings, grazing lazily in the field, were visible in plain sight.
“Xatu, send the signal, quick!” Ryan said urgently; the Pokémon’s eyes flashed red again, and all at once, the unicorns looked up. With a chorus of panicked neighs, they broke into a gallop, unfurling their wings and preparing to take off.
Robin had already reached for a Pokéball. Her Charizard emerged in a burst of white, and she swung onto his back with a practiced ease. “Follow them!” she shouted. Mark belatedly fumbled for his Charizard’s ball and sent him out as well.
“We found the Waraider herd,” he said quickly as the dragon emerged. Charizard only gave a brief nod, lowering his wing for Mark to climb aboard.
“Xatu, go with them,” Ryan said. “Remember this spot, then come get us when you’ve seen where the herd went.”
Xatu nodded, and in a sudden show of animatedness, the normally-statuesque Pokémon spread her wings and shot into the air as Charizard took off in a lurch.
Mark looked down at Ryan and Sparky, feeling a little bad for having to leave them behind; they had no Pokémon they could easily fly on. As he gave them an apologetic smile, Leah, May, Victor and Alan appeared on the ground, holding onto Felix the Alakazam and looking wildly around.
“They went that way!” Mark shouted. “Robin and I are going – you can come, or Xatu can get you when they land.”
May gave a quick nod of acknowledgement. Alan looked between them and Mark, his hand hovering near his Pokéball belt, but then he relaxed it and didn’t send anything out. Mark imagined he was thinking of Charlie.
“Charizard,” Mark said, leaning forward and clinging to his Pokémon’s neck, “we can wait for Xatu if you don’t think you can catch up with Robin.”
“I don’t know about catching up,” he said, “but it’s better if she doesn’t have to go after them alone.”
And he increased his speed, zooming after the orange spot ahead of them and the indistinct shapes it was following.
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