The Quest for the Legends (ILCOEp)
The Final Stretch – Chapter 72: Rick
They flew to Cleanwater City. May was silent, staring fixedly ahead, leaning forward as if it’d make Skarmory go faster; Mark couldn’t begin to guess at what she was thinking.
Charizard sighed, and Mark patted his neck. “Getting tired?”
“I think I’ve done enough flying lately to last me a while,” Charizard said, smiling weakly.
Mark was about to ask what he meant when he stopped. They had been flying a lot. To Acaria City, then Scorpio City, then for the battle with the male Color Dragons, then Acaria again, then from Stormy Town to Crater Town, then after the unicorns… “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize,” he said, yet another new pang of guilt in his stomach; he’d had other things on his mind, but that was no excuse. “Should I get Dragonite out instead?”
Charizard shook his head. “It’s fine; I’m faster. I’ll take you there.”
“If you’re sure,” Mark said, furrowing his brow. “If it helps, I think this is our last flight in a while. We’ll probably be on foot looking for Mew.”
The Pokémon nodded. “But if you do need to fly, then…”
“Then I’ll get Dragonite,” Mark said firmly. “It’s okay. You more than deserve a rest. Thanks for everything. I mean, without you I wouldn’t even be here.”
Charizard smiled. “Without you, I wouldn’t be here.”
It took a second for Mark to even remember what he was talking about. Then, in a flash, he was back in Sailance on the night that he’d pulled Charmander in from the rain: that surreal moment of seeing that orange blur on the road through the rain-streaked window, his clumsy efforts to keep the little lizard’s dying tail flame alive, the fragility of the limp, warm body that would eventually grow into a dragon who would fight legendaries for him. And who just kept on tirelessly doing his best for him even now, even after everything, like he still felt indebted to him somehow. Charizard was so reluctant to ever complain, to say no to anything; was that why?
Something broke in the swirl of emotions that he’d barely kept at bay for the last couple of hours. Tears flooded his eyes, and he wrapped his arms around Charizard’s neck, hugging him tightly.
“That’s… You don’t owe me anything,” Mark said. “I’m just glad I met you.”
“Me too,” Charizard said quietly, wrapping his own arms around Mark’s.
“I’m sorry I’ve been taking you for granted. You don’t have to overwork yourself for me, I promise.”
“You haven’t,” Charizard muttered. “But… Thank you.”
May either didn’t hear them or ignored them, staring steadfastly towards the field of shimmering lights in the distance.
“Where does Rick even live?” May asked as they dismounted their Pokémon in front of the Pokémon Center. She looked around restlessly, as if he might appear around a nearby corner at any moment.
Mark shrugged. “I guess we can ask someone. First, though, they need a rest.” He put a hand on Charizard’s neck; Charizard smiled gratefully at him again.
They’d almost left the Pokémon Center, after handing the pair of Pokéballs to Nurse Joy, when it finally occurred to Mark that she was a person, one who presumably lived here. “Excuse me,” he said, and the nurse turned back around, smiling. “Do you know where Rick lives?”
The nurse blinked. “Do you mean the gym?”
“No, we… we need to talk to him.”
Nurse Joy frowned. “It’s number seventeen, Taillow Street, straight left from the gym. But I don’t think he takes visitors from the public. He’s a very solitary man, especially since… you know.”
“It’s important,” May said; she sounded cool as always, but her fists were clenched at her sides. “We need to talk to him tonight.”
The nurse peered at the two of them, probably trying to gauge if they were up to something. “Well, if you go there, I must warn you he’s in a delicate state these days. His brother’s death hit him rather hard. Please be careful with him.”
Mark wasn’t sure if she meant that for Rick’s sake or theirs, but he nodded. “Thanks,” he said, turning away from the desk. May led the way back outside, not looking at him.
Taillow Street wasn’t difficult to find, and though a lot of the houses looked similar – white, squared-off, flat roofs – they all had prominent house numbers. They approached the front door of number seventeen; it seemed strange that Rick lived in such an unremarkable, normal-looking home, in exactly the way that it hadn’t felt strange that the Mew Hunter lived in a room in his gym.
Mark shot a glance at May. She was standing a little behind him now, pale, but gave a quick nod. He found the doorbell beside the door and pressed it; a faint ringing sounded inside the house.
A few seconds passed. Mark shifted on his feet, uncomfortable, trying to stay focused. The device that found Mew; that was all they needed.
With a sudden pang of dread in his stomach, he remembered Rick throwing him Mew’s ball after his first gym battle and ordering him to take it away. Would Rick remember him? Did he expect him to still have it?
But before he could take that train of thought any further, faint footsteps sounded through the door, the lock clicked, and the door opened.
Rick stood in the doorway, looking more or less like he had at the beginning of that short-lived TV interview: his eyes wide, staring and bloodshot, his blond hair wild and unruly. He looked at Mark, then at May behind him, then back at Mark, the corner of his mouth twitching, but didn’t say anything.
“Um, hello,” Mark said, his brain scrambling to string words together. “Sorry to bother you, but could we possibly speak to you in private for a bit? It’s very important and concerns legendaries – we need your help.”
Rick spent a few more seconds standing there, looking between the two of them, as if he hadn’t heard anything. Just as Mark was about to repeat himself, thinking he might have zoned out altogether, the gym leader suddenly became animated again, his mouth twitching into a polite smile as he nodded. “Come in,” he said and opened the door, walking inside without another word. Mark proceeded after him, still a bit disoriented, and May followed. She hesitated before closing the door behind them.
“Hello, Rick,” Chaletwo began. “Don’t be alarmed; this is Chaletwo, and I’m with them. I’d rather not go into detail, but we’re looking for Mew, and it’s imperative that we find him quickly. We gather a few years ago you made or obtained some kind of device to track Mew down, and we need to borrow it.”
Rick didn’t look alarmed at all; he only nodded vaguely, heading down the corridor ahead. Mark hesitated, not sure if they were meant to follow. The small entrance hall had a wardrobe on the left and some jackets and coats hanging from hooks on the right-side wall; they looked too small to fit Rick, and it took Mark a second to realize with a sickening pit in his stomach who they must have belonged to. He was a lot more unnerved being in here than he’d anticipated; he looked from side to side, wondering where Rick was going, his heart thumping.
“So, did you hear about that Tyranitar?”
Mark turned towards May in alarm. She’d stepped through the inside door and looked casually around the room, as if it were a simple off-hand question, but her fists were clenched tightly at her sides, trembling. Rick grunted in response as he entered a room on the left-hand side of the corridor.
“What’d you think?” she went on, taking another step, looking in after Rick. Her fingers fiddled with the nail of her thumb as she took a deep breath. “I don’t know, I’m not sure that’s the one who did it. My… my uncle works for the Champion Island police. He says its story doesn’t match up with the evidence. They’re still looking into it, but…”
Rick reappeared through the door, holding a strange metal device – and following behind him came the tall, bony shape of Mewtwo². Mark’s stomach twisted into a knot as Rick pointed at him, his mind freezing up before he could even process what was happening.
“Destroy this, silence them and then keep him away,” Rick growled.
“Rick, what are you…”
Mewtwo²’s eyes glowed blue, and the device in Rick’s hand twisted and collapsed into a useless lump of metal before he tossed it into a corner. The instinct to run as fast as he could hit Mark a split second later, but his limbs refused to move, frozen in place by some terrifying force. May, unrestrained, bolted for the door, but Rick leapt at her like a hungry predator, grabbing the collar of her jacket.
She threw her hands back to let the jacket slip off her shoulders, but before it could, he’d wrapped a muscular arm around her neck, gripped her shoulder with his other hand and pulled her back inside, throwing her against the wall of the corridor. Mark tried to scream but his mouth wouldn’t move, either, and breathing was almost impossible even as icy terror and panic clawed at his lungs, desperate for air; he heard a strange, squeaky moan emerge from his throat, too weak to be heard by anyone who could help.
May, eyes wide open and lips pressed together, kicked desperately at Rick as he gripped her neck with both hands; he didn’t even flinch. “You killed him!” he snarled. “It was you!”
“Rick, let her go,” Chaletwo ordered. “She’s with me.”
“She killed my brother!” Rick shouted, without taking his eyes off May; his fingers tightened around her throat.
“Of course she didn’t. I’ve been with her the whole time.”
“You’re lying!” Rick bellowed. “They told me but I always knew!”
“What are you talking about? Who told you? Look, it’s…”
“That girl from the semifinals and the Acaria Gym leader!”
“What?” Mark’s heart skipped a beat. Robin. Victor. “What do you mean, they told you?”
“They said it had a trainer!” May made a small, choked sound, struggling in his grip. “She was the only trainer with a Tyranitar at the League! I checked the records!”
“That doesn’t mean – and why would you even believe kids knocking on your door claiming inside information? How would they even –”
“She lost to him!” Rick roared. “She lost to him and she had a Tyranitar! I knew it from the start!”
“Well, your wild, outrageous guesswork is wrong. Now let her go!”
“Make me,” Rick growled. May’s face was turning unnervingly purple, her struggles becoming feebler.
“I’m not physically here right now, but believe me, you don’t want me angry with you. Let her go right now!”
Rick didn’t even respond this time; he only continued to throttle May, gritting his teeth. Mark strained to move, but nothing budged, every muscle in his body on fire, blood pulsing in his ears, his mind fuzzy as he prayed to every force in the universe for some kind of help, please, please –
A blinding white light burst out of May’s necklace, and Rick’s momentary distraction became a roar of pain as Floatzel materialized with her teeth locked around his right arm. May collapsed, gasping for breath, as Rick unthinkingly released his grip on her. “Kill it,” he growled as Floatzel scratched madly at him with her paws; she yelped as Mewtwo² squeezed its two fingers together and an invisible force pressed in around Floatzel, twisting her limbs back with a horrible cracking sound –
Another Pokéball hit the floor, releasing Spirit. As Rick threw the limp Floatzel away like a deformed ragdoll, he ordered, “Kill it too.”
“Destiny Bond!” May wheezed, her voice raspy and hoarse; Spirit’s eyes flashed, and Rick looked back in alarm just a little too late to realize what was happening. As the Ninetales succumbed to Mewtwo²’s power, it collapsed with her in a burst of black flame.
Mark crumpled to the floor as the force holding him in place abruptly vanished; he reached for the first Pokéball on his belt, threw it and screamed, “Help!”
Weavile emerged as he stumbled to his feet and grabbed frantically at May where she was coughing on the floor. He took her hand, shaking, and pulled her towards the door. As the Pokémon materialized and eyed Floatzel’s body on the floor, she let out a screeching hiss and leapt at Rick as he was grabbing for Mark; he yelled out as her frost-coated claws sliced into the side of his face.
Mark opened the door and was starting to pull May through when he realized she was pointing Pokéballs at Spirit and Floatzel. His heart stopped for a second in a sickening plunge of fear, then started again as both of them dissolved into red energy and were absorbed into their balls. They were still alive.
Rick tore the mad Weavile off his bloodied face and threw her to the floor; she sprang up again with a hiss, ice circling her claws, and delivered an Ice Punch to the side of his head. He staggered back against the wall, hands reaching blindly out towards Mark and May before he collapsed, unconscious, blood trickling down the side of his face.
Mark recalled Weavile as May crawled to her feet, never letting go of her hand.
Together, they stumbled outside and made a run for the Pokémon Center.
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