The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

This is an author's commentary intended for readers who have already read the entire ILCOE. My retrospective comments on the chapter are in bold below, with some remarks within the text and then some overall thoughts at the bottom. The commentary will contain significant spoilers! Do not read the commentary on your first read-through!

(The commentary is in progress; there are a fair few chapters left still uncommented. Check the Quest Blog for progress information!)

Chapter 10: The Mew Hunter

This chapter was posted on September 25th 2004, three days after chapter nine. At this point, this was even the longest chapter I'd ever written at some 6500 words - almost twice as long as chapter nine, which was about 3500 - so it may in fact be the fastest-written chapter. The reason I wrote this one so fast was that this was one of my absolute favorite chapters of the previous revisions: it introduced my favorite character Scyther and my favorite antagonist the Mew Hunter, had more exciting infiltration, and of course, Mark being threatened with death by a Scyther, which was clearly the best thing ever to happen in this fic. I couldn't wait to get this one rewritten. How did I do? Let's find out!

Mark went down the stairs slowly. He felt incredible. Much to his dismay, he met the one person he wasn’t interested in talking to at the stairway as she came walking from the other corridor. She didn’t say anything to him and they just walked down the stairs, ignoring each other very ironically.

We start off amazingly with this delightful misunderstanding of the word "ironic", which I was sure meant "(metaphorically) ironlike", sort of like "ironclad". I'm pretty sure at some point in the previous versions I called a door ironic when I meant it was literally made of iron. What I was going for here was that they're very deliberately and unyieldingly ignoring each other, not that there was anything ironic about it, although knowing me, when I discovered my error I probably decided it totally was ironic somehow and nobody would ever find out my mistake.

It's a bit extreme how Mark is acting like May is his mortal enemy now, after a single argument about a Dratini.

They both returned the keys, acting like the other wasn’t there, and both walked out the same road towards Rainbow Woods, the forest that grew between Cleanwater City and Alumine.

Oh darn, Mark thought. Mew isn’t about to come anywhere near when she’s here...

They just walked for a long while as the tall trees surrounded them in all directions.

“Why are you always following me?” yelled Mark finally in frustration.

“Just because we’re walking along the same road at the same time doesn’t mean I’m following you, you know,” said May, glancing at him.

“But why are you walking just here at the exact same time as I am, refusing to even look at me?” Mark argued.

I don't know, Mark, the narration was pretty clear that you were both doing that.

“You have big issues with me, I see,” said May, raising her eyebrow. “Look, I’m not one to start a conversation. I don’t talk to people who don’t want to talk to me, so I usually just answer when I’m asked. Because you didn’t seem very keen on talking to me, I decided not to annoy you by talking. Do you have problems with that?”

Mark blushed. “Eh… did you catch that Larvitar?”

This reads as an awkward non-sequitur, but I enjoy what this exchange ends up showing about their characters - May firmly justifying her social awkwardness as right and rational, Mark trying to reconcile and be friendly again the moment she objects to his characterization of her behaviour. I probably wasn't quite thinking that at the time, though.

“Yeah, and I noticed you took off with Dratini.”

Darn it! Mark hissed to himself.

“So, you going to take Dratini back or something?” he asked defensively.

“Nah,” said May. “I’ve got Larvitar. I think I am the better one out, anyway.”

Oh, May. There's a good chance I had some intentional irony in mind here - Tyranitar killing Taylor was a very old idea, dating back to probably before I even started the UMR.

Mark angrily took out Dratini’s ball and pointed his Pokédex at it.

I'm amused at Mark's competitive impulse here.

“Dratini – dragon Pokémon. This Pokémon sheds its skin to keep control of the massive amounts of life energy it has. So rare it was said to be a myth.”

He checked the stats. “Male, level 15,” he muttered.

“So is Larvitar,” May replied. “Hey, maybe we could, you know, battle them out.”

She got that battle glint in her eyes again.

“Fair enough,” Mark answered after a moment of thought. “Go!”

Again, Mark hasn't talked to Dratini at all since capturing him at the lake, and when I say capturing I mean Dratini accidentally touched a ball while investigating it. This feels so weird to me today! It's bizarre to imagine it didn't even occur to me at the time that there was anything off about this, nor apparently most of my readers (at least one person on Serebii actually did review this suggesting maybe Mark should introduce his Pokémon to the rest of his team immediately after he catches them). I wonder if there's some actual relevant stage in the development of empathy/judgement/emotional intelligence that you just haven't gone through when you're fourteen, or if it was just a case of not properly extending these ideas to Pokémon, despite that I believed I was writing them as full equal characters.

He sent out the slender, snake-like dragon on the ground. May threw forward the Pokéball containing the green creature from earlier. It gritted its teeth and waved the long horn on its head like a sword.

“Dratini, Wrap!” Mark called out. The little dragon obeyed, slithering forward to wrap its long body around Larvitar and starting to squeeze as hard as he could.

“Bite!” May ordered quickly, and Larvitar locked its small but powerful jaws around Dratini’s body. The dragon released him with a small cry of pain.

“Twister!” Mark shouted. The dragon started glowing turquoise, stood up on the end of its body and started spinning around, faster and faster. Finally, he released a greenish-blue whirlwind that shot at Larvitar.

“Sandstorm!” May hissed. Larvitar raised a paw into the air, its red eyes glowing intensely golden, and a stream of sand materialized out of nowhere behind it and met the whirlwind. Mark clenched his fist; May’s face was expressionless until she, with a triumphant smile, saw that the whirlwind, now also a wheel of sand, started moving back towards Dratini. One thing sat in Mark’s head: Dragons were weak to their own attacks. The whirlwind engulfed Dratini. The small Pokémon screamed as he was bombarded by the wheel of sand along with the dragon power contained in the whirlwind. He was whipped into the air and came down unconscious.

“Return,” Mark grumbled. He looked hatefully at May as he attached the Pokéball to his belt again. She sighed.

Yet another really short battle, but it's actually vaguely creative, so I can let it go.

In the original they had a full five on five battle here, but it began with Dratini versus Larvitar and Larvitar winning by blowing a Dragon attack back at Dratini with Sandstorm, just like here (there it was Dragon Rage, though), and like here, May won it. Since this meant all of Mark's Pokémon had fainted by the end of the battle, he went all the way back to the Cleanwater City Pokémon Center to heal them, and May revived Larvitar and lent him to him so he'd have a Pokémon on the way. Why they didn't just use the Revive to revive one of Mark's Pokémon instead is a mystery for the ages.

Believe it or not, Sandshrew evolved in this battle in the pre-HMMRCIG. I did sort of keep track of what level the Pokémon were supposed to be, but the rate at which they were growing was ludicrous and I slowed it down considerably for the HMMRCIG.

“Look, we don’t need to start some rivalry about this. I beat you, but that’s no big deal. I hate it when people hate me. Let’s just be friends, okay?”

She held forward her hand. Mark hesitated, but then shook it.

“Hey, there’s a café at the forest’s edge, just before we get out of it. If you have money for yourself, we can eat there,” May offered.

“Sure,” Mark replied.

May's awkward attempts to make a friend are awkward. I don't think this was actually my train of thought when I was writing it, but as I understand her today, she's used to not being liked and defensively acting like she doesn't care, but when Mark's sort of turned back toward friendliness only for her to inadvertently start to make him hostile again, she turns around and makes this forced effort to reconcile and make up for it, grasping to keep this sort-of acquaintance she's accidentally managed to make.

Of course, it only goes so far: she makes sure to specify he has to pay for himself. She's stingy with money because her family are poor. I'm pretty sure that's been a thing since the original, though at the moment I can't find where I first referenced it there. Another thing that I think crops up a few times and we can watch out for it.

They ventured through the forest, now without the tense atmosphere, and Mark felt a lot better to know that she wasn’t plotting to steal Dratini or anything. They came across a few weak wild Pokémon too, but just took turns beating them instead of trying to catch them, subconsciously trying to avoid another Dratini situation. Finally, they reached the café. It was a pleasantly green, very small-looking wooden house with red decorations, dug a little into the ground so it seemed even smaller. A faded, red sign above the door said “Rainbow café”.

“I’ve got to admit, this looks miniscule,” said Mark, staring at the house.

“Come on, I ate here on the way from Alumine to Cleanwater, it isn’t as small as it looks,” said May, dragging him down the small stairs leading to the door.

She was right. Somehow magically, it was much bigger on the inside than outside. Small, red, round tables were positioned very randomly all around the floor, with anything from one to five matching red chairs around them. People sat here and there, most of them deep in either conversation or thought.

In case you were wondering, no, I had not watched Doctor Who when I wrote this and had no idea "bigger on the inside" was any kind of meme.

I love how forceful May is being. She really doesn't quite know how to have friends.

The kids sat down at a table near the door and ordered some toast. After eating, they paid and were about to stand up when Mark noticed that his Pokéball belt had no Pokéballs on it anymore.

“Wha… did you take my Pokéballs?” he asked, scanning the floor for any traces of them.

“Of course not,” said May offended. “I’m not a hypocrite.”

“What happened to them?” asked Mark hysterically, looking under the chairs and everything.

“Mark, Pokéballs don’t fall off by themselves,” said May seriously.

“You mean…”

“Somebody stole them, yes. Not me, but somebody.”

Mark looked frantically around. “Who?”

May put up a thoughtful expression. “Maybe that weird guy in the trench coat. He sat down just behind you, didn’t order anything and then after a while hurried out of the door, turning left.”

That "put up a thoughtful expression" makes this sound hilariously insincere.

“That means… to Alumine,” Mark breathed. He grabbed May’s arm.

“What are we waiting for? Let’s go after him!”

He sprinted towards the city. May just sighed and walked, letting him shake her off.

So, originally, the whole setup about May lending Larvitar to Mark earlier meant that the Mew Hunter had also stolen Larvitar, because Mark was still carrying him, and this was the main reason May was really invested in helping him get his Pokémon back. As convoluted as the setup was, I kind of liked that. I actually managed to forget at one point that I'd changed it in the ILCOE. It's possible I'd bring this back in a later revision, but of course, the setup would have to make more sense.

-------

Trench coat, trench coat…

Mark came to the city’s edge, panting, and looked around. Alumine was medium-sized, but rather dirty and not an extremely pleasant place to live; most of the buildings were just blocks of concrete painted in some disgusting color that was thankfully starting to fall off. One building stood out, and was at the end of the main street Mark was entering; it was the famous Alumine Gym, constructed out of Skarmory feathers and shaped like one end of a vertical eye sticking up from the ground, with the doors as the pupil. It reflected the sunlight off a million steel surfaces, all facing in slightly different directions. Mark had heard that the Gym Leader there used the sunlight to help him win battles thanks to the opponent having a hard time seeing around.

A bearded man, most of his bearded face hidden in shadow beneath a brown hat and indeed wearing a trench coat, entered an extremely ugly, sickeningly yellow, large building just to Mark’s right. It took a second for him to realize that this was the man he was looking for. He was about to follow him when he heard May’s voice.

I love that "A bearded man, most of his bearded face hidden in shadow". Bearded.

Before the HMMRCIG, Alumine was creatively titled "Metal City". The description of the city there isn't terrible, but it sure is an infodumpy distraction from the thing Mark should be extremely focused on at the moment.

“Hey,” she said. “Wasn’t that him?”

“Yeah,” Mark replied. “You coming with me?”

She stared blankly at him. “What, you’re just going to knock on his door and say ‘Hey, you stole my Pokémon, can I have them back?’”

“Well, yeah, pretty much,” said Mark simply.

“You’re crazy,” May sighed, shaking her head.

“So what?” Mark snapped. “If you’re not coming, fine.”

He walked firmly towards the yellow building and knocked on the door. The trench coat guy answered it, of course not wearing it anymore. He stared at Mark for a second, then shoved him inside and closed the door.

I guess Mark's not even attempting to actually confront him about stealing his Pokémon.

In the original, May successfully convinced Mark that they shouldn't just knock on the door; instead, they broke into the gym through the ventilation together (her being the brains of the operation, of course). On one level it was definitely fun to have May stop him and do the whole break-in scene, but in the old version, this resulted in a pretty glaring issue - Mark accidentally fell out of the ventilation duct and that's how the Mew Hunter caught him, but then there were a good few minutes between Mark falling and the Mew Hunter sending out Scyther where May could easily have followed to help and confront the Mew Hunter with him, but didn't, despite that she was right behind him. I'm guessing that's why I changed it here - that and being aware that I had zero idea how ventilation systems work and not wanting to be called out on bullshitting it the way I had in the older versions. I did eventually get to write a break-in scene in the ILCOE, though - in chapter 71. Man, chapters 71-74 were such a nostalgia trip.

“You!” the man spoke in a hoarse, quiet voice. His eyes were black and extremely open, and a black full beard covered much of his face.

“Here… I’ve been… you didn’t have… must… get…”

On second thought, he also seemed a little bit crazy.

“WHERE?” he suddenly bellowed, grabbing Mark’s arm firmly. Okay, maybe quite a bit crazy.

“Where is what?” asked Mark, puzzled.

“You-know-where!” he hissed.

More like ‘an absolute madman who should’ve been locked in long ago’.

“What?” Mark questioned, even more confused.

“You know very well what I’m talking about! My life! My dedication! Where is ‘you-know-where’?”

Suddenly, it dawned on to Mark what he was talking about.

“You mean… Mew?”

“What else could I mean?” the guy snarled. “Look, I have spent my entire life searching for Mew! I MUST FIND IT!”

This dialogue is a bit silly, particularly since Mark still hasn't actually brought up the bit about him stealing his Pokémon and is just sort of there blankly reacting. The Mew Hunter does at least successfully sound very unhinged. I like how he seemingly has no conception that Mew isn't necessarily the foremost thing on Mark's mind - to him, Mew is obviously the most important thing in the whole world, so the idea this kid who was releasing Mew from a window would just not know what he's talking about here is unthinkable.

“Uh,” said Mark, backing away, “why didn’t you just give up on it long ago?” Afterwards, he always thought of this had been a very stupid question.

The man took a few deep breaths, looking a lot less mad afterwards.

“I’ll tell you the whole story… doesn’t matter… we have plenty of time…

Time for more convenient infodumping just because!

The IALCOTN was going to take out this bit and just have Scyther explain the relevant backstory to Mark later, following how this played out in Scyther's Story (which retold this entire encounter from Scyther's point of view).

You can call me the Mew Hunter for convenience. I started my Pokémon journey around your age… I lived in Johto then. I got a Totodile as my first Pokémon… chose it for the jaws, mind you… I’ve always been a lot for sharp things… but by then I was already fascinated by the one Pokémon that possessed the genes of them all.”

He didn’t explain what he meant, but he didn’t need to; Mark knew he was referring to Mew.

In the original, the Mew Hunter was only ever referred to as "the man" in this chapter - "The Mew hunter" was the title of the chapter, but it wasn't actually used within the text. In the next few chapters, though, Mark would refer back to him as the Mew hunter, and Scyther similarly called him that in the equivalent of chapter 27, where he told his backstory. The UMR had him refer to himself as a Mew hunter, that apparently just being a general term for a person who really wants to catch Mew. It wasn't until this version that it properly became an actual alias he uses for himself.

I am still decidedly in my ellipses phase here.

“I wanted to find it and claim it as mine… but of course, such a thing required a lot of preparation… I got a Sandshrew and a Sneasel, and managed to dig up a Kabuto fossil and get it resurrected… I evolved Totodile, Sandshrew and Kabuto, and with these four Pokémon, I started an unofficial Gym of Pokémon with sharp claws or fangs, just for the profits. We are in the Gym right now.”

Mark looked around; that sounded sensible. The floor was marked as a Pokémon arena and the ceiling was very high. Two large windows with six panes each were on the wall to the left, and seemed to be the only lighting in the arena.

“I also studied Pokéballs. After earning the money to buy a Master Ball, I used my knowledge to make some modifications to it… I made it so that the Pokémon inside it would be unable to escape a certain distance away from the ball itself. I was going to use it on Mew. And once I had made it, I closed the Gym and headed out to search for the ancestor of all Pokémon…

But I had competition. Rick, from the Cleanwater City Gym, was also heading towards the same goal. He had a Pokéball that would capture anything and put it under total control, weakening its mind to obey everything it was told. A disgusting idea… I knew that it must not be done to Mew… I was going to earn Mew’s trust, just like I had done with my other Pokémon… but he was going to use Mew as a slave. I could not let that happen. I was determined to find Mew first.

And one day, I stumbled upon Mew, sleeping in the shadow of a tree. But Rick was there too. We threw our balls at the same time… from my studies, I knew that if a Pokémon was hit with two balls at once, it would be torn apart and killed unless it collected all of itself into one ball… the impact of the two balls would wake it up, and I was confident that Mew would choose me… who would choose total slavery over a temporary limitation of freedom?

But Mew chose Rick… to this very day the thought has haunted me, why did Mew prefer Rick’s control? I have never found out why…”

The man’s voice had slowly reverted to the mad, desperate one throughout the last few sentences.

“I went through a long period of depression, but finally I decided to reopen my Gym, caught two new Pokémon and forgot about Mew. But today, I saw Mew again… I saw it fly out of a window… and you were addressing it, stating that you two supposedly would meet ‘you-know-where’.”

Aside from the total unnecessity of the Mew Hunter telling Mark this story at all, and the generally poor writing (wow, all those ellipses), this isn't as bad as I thought it might be. Pretty much everything he says here is consistent with what we'll learn about him later, with no awkward retrofitting required. I've always liked how he's so moralistically repulsed by Rick and his mind-control while being completely blind to how coercive his own plans for Mew are - in his mind, Pokémon always come around to love him and believe he saved them, so all he needs is to make sure Mew doesn't leave before realizing the same, right?

Note how the Mew Hunter always refers to Mew as an 'it'. This was a conscious choice - at this point I still wasn't sure what I actually wanted to do with pronouns for genderless legendaries when it became awkward to call them 'it', and agonized over it a bit with the Mew scene in chapter nine, but I remember thinking about this here and being quite certain that, as part of the Mew Hunter's hypocrisy, he'd definitely use 'it'. Mew isn't truly a person to him, as much as he insists he understands and wants to help her - she's just this fantasy ideal that he wants to attain, and his vague ideas about who she is are pretty much flagrant projection.

The whole deal about two simultaneous balls trapping the Pokémon forever unless it chooses to collect itself in one of the balls is some overly morbid worldbuilding invented, I think, solely to contrive a situation where Mew is able to choose between being caught by Rick or the Mew Hunter but can't simply teleport away from both balls. Unsurprisingly, it originates in the original version, which also randomly noted that Mew was only able to choose one ball because she's a very powerful Pokémon - presumably, a regular Pokémon caught in two different balls at the same time is just helplessly torn apart regardless, which definitely sounds like a concept twelve-year-old me would come up with. The way this is told in Scyther's Story (and thus what I intended as the IALCOTN version), Rick's instead beaten Mew unconscious, and as they throw the balls, she stirs just enough to see them and move out of the way of the Mew Hunter's ball and into Rick's instead, which has pretty much the same result, although today I don't especially think this was a thing that desperately needed changing - it may have been morbid but it basically made sense.

He paused, and then spat out in a totally different voice: “Now, I’d like you to tell me where that place is.”

Mark didn’t like idea of telling this person anything about where to find Mew. He didn’t sound like he was lying when he talked about “earning Mew’s trust” rather than forcing it to do anything, but he could very well be mad enough to have a somewhat twisted definition of earning somebody’s trust.

That's far more specific than anyone should be when guessing the motivations of a person they met minutes ago. Of course, this was just me very clumsily trying to make sure you understand the Mew Hunter's character, by telling instead of showing.

“No,” he therefore answered. “I’m not telling you.”

“I’m afraid you mistook that for a question!” the man barked. “Speak, or things will get nasty.”

“No,” said Mark firmly.

The man got a very sickening glint in his eyes.

“Really?” he said slowly, glaring at Mark with the kind of a smile Mark had seen on villains in movies. Mark noticed his hand slowly picking a Pokéball from his belt.

“You know, my friend here is amazingly convincing. Want to meet him?”

Mark’s eyes darted towards the door as he thought of making a run for it.

“Well, you’re meeting him whether you like it or not,” the man hissed, hurling the Pokéball powerfully towards Mark. Something big and green came out of it, dove straight at Mark at amazing speed and knocked him down. He felt his head hit the wall hard. A sharp pain seared through his head as his vision blacked out for a second; when it came back, he was met with a not-so-pleasant sight.

The thing that had hit him was a Pokémon commonly associated with horror films, blood and stereotypical evil. It was somewhat like a light green, bipedal mantis with a reptilian head, but most importantly, two long, wickedly sharp blades attached to its arms. As sickening as it was, Mark found one of them positioned a centimeter or so from his throat.

The Mew Hunter goes straight for stereotypical villain dialogue, of course, and the repeated lampshading isn't really helping. You could sort of interpret it to make sense - he is trying to be threatening, to make Mark believe he'd actually murder him, so it's not in principle unreasonable to think he'd play it up on purpose. But if that were his thinking, he probably wouldn't have spent several paragraphs on his backstory earlier. I'm pretty sure I wrote all this to be perfectly earnest. He's just afflicted with that fictional brand of insanity where he randomly flits between quasi-sympathetic obsession and murderous villainy.

The writing here is really ineffective; the combination of the repeated lampshading reminding us that THIS IS TOTALLY JUST LIKE THE MOVIES, the obligatory Pokémon description and the various other weak phrasing just fail to make this actually tense and scary. I know I was genuinely trying my hardest for this chapter; I just wasn't great at it.

The Scyther held him firmly down so that he couldn’t have moved even if he hadn’t been stiff from the sheer shock of having his life so suddenly put on the edge of a knife. He felt his heart pumping like crazy, every vein throbbing like it was about to burst. To crown it all, his stomach apparently fancied being empty at the moment. Seeing what was about to happen, the Pokémon turned Mark’s head slightly to the left before he threw up.

Unnecessary vomiting, go! I'm pretty sure making characters throw up at the drop of a hat was just some kind of weird fanfic trend when this was written? There was a fic I remember reading at a similar time where a real-world kid who'd bamfed into the Pokémon world threw up at the mere sight of some entirely innocuous-looking Pokémon, and I remember being surprised by it but sort of unquestioningly accepting that I must be the fool there, that this violently extreme negative reaction must be more realistic than a kid just seeing Pokémon and thinking they're awesome.

Needless to say, this was not in the Scyther's Story version and would definitely not be in the next revision. There are a couple of later instances of vomiting in the fic but I'm pretty sure those legitimately make sense.

“Aw, you don’t like his reasoning?” the man asked in a mocking tone. “Well, too bad. Feel like talking now?”

“No,” Mark choked up, sounding a lot braver than he felt.

“I’ll give you two five minutes to be alone,” said the man, checking his watch. “Talk then or…” He ran his finger quickly over his throat, then turned around towards a side door and slammed it shut.

Mark was left in the arena with the bug Pokémon, not sure whether the five minutes were meant for him to think about it or just to discomfort him even more. A few seconds convinced him that it was the latter.

His horrified gaze ran over to the Pokémon. His stomach twitched just from looking at it again. The beast’s eyes were completely colorless; the socket was shaped like a skewed rectangle, and the whites were pearly and veinless, disrupted only by the jet-black slits that were the pupils. It was staring straight at his face, completely expressionlessly.

Mark wondered what would happen if he just told the guy that Mew was at some random place and got released. He could just go and tell the police and get the Mew Hunter arrested. But while the man was clearly mad, he didn’t seem stupid at all. Hadn’t he thought of that? Mark whirred through the last things the man had said, and realized that he had never actually said Mark would be released if he did tell of Mew’s location. He got a horrible sinking feeling. Was this the end, whatever he did?

He started imagining what it was like to be killed. Was there life after death? What kind of a feeling would it be? Would it happen right away? The good thing was that he knew Scyther took very much care in sharpening their scythes so their cuts were virtually painless… from his point of view, it wouldn’t be that bad a death…

Oh, come on, he thought bitterly to himself. You don’t want to get your damn throat cut by a mad Scyther!

The Scyther isn’t mad, said the perfectionist voice in his head. His trainer is.

Yeah, but it’s the same thing, Pokémon do what their trainers say…

Do they?

You mean… negotiating with a Scyther? You crazy?

Maybe, but it can’t hurt, can it? You have nothing to lose.

Oh man. First sign of insanity: staging an imaginary conversation with oneself.

But then again, there was a point in that. He had nothing to lose.

I really liked this when I wrote it, but man, his emotional process doesn't make any sense. I've pretty much beaten all the tension out of this by now.

In the previous versions, Mark didn't go through this whole internal monologue; he just started negotiating with Scyther immediately.

“Eh…” Mark said hesitatingly, immediately regretting it. But the Scyther decided to answer nevertheless.

“You scared?”

Mark didn’t find any longing to answer that question.

“Death is not to be feared, for it is the only thing that we all have in common.”

Seeing the confused look on Mark’s face, the bug added: “It’s an old Scyther saying. It means: why fear death of all things, when it’s the exact one thing we can be positive will happen to us all sooner or later?”

I believe this is the first appearance of the first law of the Moral Code in the fic - it wasn't in the previous versions. I can't recall exactly how it came to be, but I do remember at this point it was just a singular saying - the rest of the Code and its significance didn't come about until Scyther's Story, I think. It turned out more relevant to the fic's larger themes than I really expected here: a lot of the plot is about how the immortal legendaries, who never had that certainty that they would die, are motivated towards different extremes by their fear of mortality.

If that was supposed to be comforting, it was failing miserably.

“You hate that guy, right?” Mark asked weakly.

“What would you know?” Scyther replied.

“But… you wouldn’t actually…”

“Why not?” asked Scyther calmly.

“Well… you wouldn’t feel good, would you?” Mark suggested. Scyther smiled faintly.

“Trying to appeal to my conscience, now are you? But tell me one thing, human: is it your honest belief that Scyther have a conscience?”

“Eh, well, yeah, I liked to think so, at least,” Mark said awkwardly.

“Of course we have a conscience,” Scyther said bitterly. “And all the emotions you can feel to go with it. But if you knew that, you should also be able to realize that being a predator leaves you with a choice of permanently blocking out everything called ‘pity for a victim’, or starving to death.”

“Will you get anything out of killing me?” Mark tried another approach.

“No, but I’m not the only Pokémon here. Take Kabutops. His scythes aren’t as sharp as mine, I’ll admit, he doesn’t think too much about the maintenance…”

Mark quickly changed the subject to the first thing he could think of.

“Eh… you wouldn’t want blood on your nice, clean scythes, would you?” he said out of the blue.

Scyther sighed. “Look, this is getting ridiculous now and I have the feeling that you aren’t about to say a single logical thing from now on, so why bother? Besides, I’m not the one who decides what happens here. You were given five minutes as a chance to think over your situation, and you’ve been wasting them talking to me. While I do appreciate a chat, I feel it’s my duty to inform you that you’re not buying yourself a single minute of additional life.”

Mark decided to follow the Pokémon’s advice; funnily enough, he had managed to forget about the scythe threatening him while they talked, but now he was starting to feel uncomfortable again.

Then suddenly, a wonderful thought struck him like lightning. He felt warmth spread around his whole body. He wheeled through it in his head a few times, yes, it appeared to work…

Boy, this conversation! So much nostalgia. This was one of my favorite scenes in the story for a really long time, because of Scyther and general me reasons. But today I find it pretty awkward. Mark's questions don't make sense; he doesn't follow up on anything in a natural way, and he's far too calm. You're an eleven-year-old being threatened with death! Act like it!

In the original, when Mark tried to appeal to his conscience, Scyther just said that Mark was the first human he'd seen admit that bugs have feelings, to which Mark desperately responded that this wasn't the time for jokes. In the UMR, Scyther added, “Although this bug in particular has no feelings at all in the category you speak of”, and Mark responded that this wasn't the time for fanciful talk. I'm pretty sure this was supposed to be Scyther in denial; the last few chapters I'd written of the original were heavy on Scyther's extremely conflicted emotions, and obviously later in the chapter Scyther does go on to decide this is wrong and side with Mark. I actually kind of like that, and in some ways I like it better than this more honest and overtly angsty version, but the phrasing could use some work.

One line to survive verbatim through every iteration of this conversation up to this point: "You wouldn't want blood on your nice, clean scythes, would you?" I'm still tickled by it, but oh man, is it inappropriately comical and completely impossible to take seriously.

The Scyther's Story version kept the beginning, where Scyther asks if he's scared before Mark says anything and tells him the first law, as well as Mark questioning whether he'd do it and Scyther responding that if he didn't, Kabutops could, and his scythes aren't as sharp. However, then it went quite differently: rather than Mark continuing to try to persuade Scyther and failing before suddenly realizing the Mew Hunter wasn't actually going to kill him, Scyther himself bitterly let slip that the threats were empty, disillusioned with the Mew Hunter's increasingly immoral behaviour. While I'd rework the dialogue, this is still what I'd do in the next revision - Mark was always rather too confident and calm about his little epiphany here, and I think I'd quite enjoy rewriting this with Scyther being the one to tell him and Mark thus being free to just be terrified out of his wits, plus it makes sense to set up Scyther's subsequent change of heart.

This conversation is a pretty important milestone in the history of the fic. Back in the original version, I did Pokémon dialogue by writing out the Pokémon saying syllables of their names and then having Mark's response repeat or imply what they'd said. However, when I started to think up this chapter and this conversation, I realized there was no way this scene would work in that format - Mark's not going to repeat what this Scyther poised to kill him says to him, and if he did the scene would just seem silly. Instead, I inserted a parenthetical just after the Mew Hunter leaves the room:

(to make the following conversation easier for you to understand, everything Scyther says is translated to English)

And then I just straight-up translated Scyther's dialogue. I went back to the normal Pokémon dialogue format after this conversation (with a second parenthetical indicating the end of it), but pulled the same trick again for another scene in chapter 12, and next time the Pokémon had important dramatic dialogue, in chapter 20, I didn't even bother with the parenthetical. One of the UMR's changes was then to just have all the significant Pokémon speech translated from the start, and that's the way I've done it ever since.

People have often asked me why I don't mark Pokémon speech with special quotation marks or something like a lot of authors do. The answer I usually give is that I find that sort of thing kind of distracting, and while it makes sense to specially mark speech that's not comprehensible to every character present, there's no reason for this fic to do that with Pokémon speech since the general assumption is that everyone understands Pokémon speech and functionally you might as well just imagine everyone is speaking English. But I wasn't thinking about any of that at the time - it just sort of developed that way. First I used regular quotation marks for the Pokémon's literal speech, then I did a scene that was specially marked as translating Pokémon speech into English and just wrote it like normal English dialogue, and then that just sort of silently became the new norm. There was never a point where I made a decision between using or not using special quotation marks; it just sort of happened this way. But I don't regret that, for all the usual reasons I give.

The side door opened and the Mew Hunter came back in.

“So,” he said slowly, walking up to Mark, “are you going to speak out?”

“No,” said Mark, his heart beating like crazy. Despite having found a plan that should work, all of his courage had flown out of the window during the last five minutes and wasn’t about to return.

This is probably my favorite line in this bit.

“You want to die, kid?” the Mew Hunter snarled.

“No,” Mark answered quietly.

“Well, newsflash: there’s no alternative!” growled the Mew Hunter. “Telling me or not?”

“…not.” Mark’s voice was trembling. This was it. Either he was right, or he was wrong and then his life would end right here.

The man went white for a split second. “OK, then,” he said in an odd tone. “It will be quick…”

Mark closed his eyes, but Scyther’s scythe did not move. He smiled; he had been right. The Mew Hunter didn’t want to lose him so easily.

“You were never going to kill me, were you?” Mark asked, feeling oddly secure.

“Well, let me tell you one thing… you are never going out of here, never… until you tell me where Mew is…”

“You stole my Pokémon, right? Can I have them back?” Mark decided that he could think of a way to escape later; it was time for what he originally came for.

It's about time you brought that up, Mark. I do enjoy how brazen this is, moments after the Mew Hunter was threatening to kill him, but it only continues to undermine any sense that this was an actually scary and traumatic experience.

The man took out what Mark recognized as his Pokéballs out of his pocket.

“You want them?” he asked. “Win them from me… in a battle.” He smiled slyly.

“Sure,” Mark answered, although he couldn’t figure out why the man would want a battle right now.

This is so silly. In the original (and UMR), Mark's the one to suggest a battle:

“Hey, wait. You talked about an unofficial gym. Is this the gym? We can have a pokémon battle! You win, and I’ll tell you where Mew hides, you give me my pokémon and let me go and I don’t tell the police! I win, and you give me my pokémon and let me go, but I’ll not tell the police!”

“But what if you don’t tell me where Mew is even after I’ve won the battle?”

“Then you don’t give me my pokémon or let me go.”

“Hmmm... okay then, boy. Scyther, come on!”

While there's zero reason for either of them to actually expect the other to keep his end of the deal, it otherwise basically makes sense as an offer for Mark to make: he's promising to talk if the Mew Hunter wins the battle, which'd be a tempting offer (if the Mew Hunter actually trusted Mark to uphold it), while Mark hopes to win and be allowed to escape with his Pokémon (again, if he actually trusted the Mew Hunter). The purpose of the battle in the deal is simply to be something they can bet on: if each of them believes they can win the battle, they can each believe making the deal is in their favor even though in fact one of them will lose. If they had any way of forcing each other to be bound to comply with it, it'd be a solid plan - so long as Mark was right about being able to win the battle (which, granted, is actually highly unlikely - he doesn't even know what other Pokémon the Mew Hunter has or how strong they are, but as it turns out they're about double the levels of Mark's Pokémon).

In the ILCOE version, on the other hand, the Mew Hunter, who has all the power in this situation, just randomly offers to give Mark his Pokémon back if he wins a battle, revealed a bit later to have secretly been a plan to torture his Pokémon to put pressure on Mark. But if he wants to get to Mark by hurting or threatening his Pokémon, why doesn't he just do that instead of framing it as a battle? It's not like he has to convince Mark to agree to it - he's already the one holding all his Pokémon! I guess what happened here was I found it inappropriate and out of character for both of them to be willing to make bets on Mew's fate and thus removed that part entirely, and then Mark wouldn't have had anything to offer him so it couldn't be Mark who suggests it, but the end result just doesn't make any sense.

In the Scyther's Story version, the Mew Hunter does just threaten to kill Mark's Pokémon if he doesn't talk, and it only becomes a battle because Scyther decides to defend Mark. I'd stick with something like that for the next revision.

“Scyther, come,” said the Mew Hunter. The Pokémon released Mark and stood up as Mark also did so, but Scyther just stood there by Mark’s side.

“Rob,” he said calmly, “I can do a bit of empty threatening for you, but I will not aid you in kidnapping or taking hostages.”

This is the first appearance of the Mew Hunter's actual name, Rob; in the previous versions, I never gave him a name. I gave him one here because as I'd come to understand his character and the nature of his relationships to his Pokémon, it felt right that they, especially Scyther, wouldn't refer to him by this alias that refers solely to his Mew obsession.

He never actually calls himself Rob in the story, and even in Scyther's Story, he never introduces himself to Scyther; rather, Scyther learns his name from his other Pokémon. While the narration in this chapter goes on to use that name a few times now that Mark's heard it, I kind of wish I hadn't done that; I've always kind of liked the way that calling him Rob is almost exclusively reserved to his Pokémon, who kind of see him as more human than he does himself.

If you've paid attention to the Pokémon speech worldbuilding in the fic (which, granted, I think is mostly in the IALCOTN), you may wonder exactly how his Pokémon can call him 'Rob'. The answer is... they're saying the verb with a name emphasis, the way that Pokémon's nicknames for one another are just one or more regular words with a name emphasis applied. Most Pokémon just refer to their trainers as 'Trainer' (it's rendered as names in the text of the fic simply by translation convention), but not his. Obviously, it's a pretty negative verb to make a name out of - I imagine it originated as something like his Totodile hearing him say his name in human for the first time and innocently thinking it worked the way Pokémon names work, and kid Rob being amused by it. But today they just don't really think about it that way, any more than we'd think of the verb when we see the name.

(Out-of-universe, of course, I chose the name Rob very deliberately. I wanted it to be a name that the Pokémon could actually literally call him, because of that sense that they have a different sort of relationship than most Pokémon have with their trainers, and it was pretty apt what with him stealing Mark's Pokémon and threatening him.)

The Mew Hunter went white.

“Get over here! Now!”

“No,” said Scyther, not moving.

“TRAITOR!” Rob bellowed.

“Rob, please,” Scyther said. Was there a hint of sadness in his eyes? “Is Mew really worth wasting your life for?”

The Mew Hunter hesitated, unmistakably looking a bit sad too, but then said: “I’m sorry, Scyther… but Mew is my life. Either you’re with me, or with him.”

“Then I’m with him,” said Scyther, stepping nearer to Mark, “for the Rob I used to know.”

Mark was very confused by this; there was true pain in Scyther’s voice, but who could miss such a man?

“Uh, my Pokémon? So I can battle?” Mark asked hesitatingly.

The Mew Hunter glared nastily at Scyther and then looked back at Mark. “Looks like you have one already. In fact… a match for all the others.”

C'mon, Scyther's not equivalent to all five of his other Pokémon. This sounds dramatic but it's just not true, and makes it sound like Scyther would have a fighting chance alone, which absolutely shouldn't be the case.

“What, this is going to be a… five on one?” Mark asked in disbelief. “But…”

“Go, Kabutops!” Rob snarled, sending out a brown, bony Pokémon with a flat, triangular-shaped head, two small eyes and blades on its arms, similar to Scyther’s.

“Kabu?” asked the Pokémon, turning back to its trainer with a confused expression.

“Scyther has betrayed us,” he growled.

“I’m not fighting him, he’s my friend,” Kabutops protested.

“Kabutops, let’s just… get this over with,” said Scyther with a horrible, suicidal kind of expression.

Aw, Kabutops. I love the Mew Hunter's Kabutops. I wish I'd done more with his and Scyther's relationship in Scyther's Story. I do like the implication Scyther actually expects Kabutops to kill him, though. That's very me.

“Skaaa!”

Everybody looked up. A Skarmory had just been sent out of a Pokéball high up near the ceiling. Mark’s heart took a leap as he saw the grid covering the end of the ventilation pipe up there in the corner fall down with a lot of noise, revealing a blue-haired girl’s head. She jumped onto Skarmory’s back and flew down. Mark had never imagined he’d ever be so happy to see her.

“How about no?” she said coldly, recalling the steel vulture. “I’ve got five Pokémon. I take this one,” she removed one Pokéball from her necklace and put it in her pocket, “and now there are four left. With him,” she pointed at Scyther, “this is a fair five-on-five. OK then, go, Butterfree!”

May to the rescue! I really love that she makes a point of discarding a Pokémon to make it a fair fight, even in this situation. May cares about Pokémon battling done right, damn it, and she won't need any unfair advantages. She even made essentially the same remark in the original, although there she didn't have to discard one, because the Mew Hunter still had Larvitar; she just came swooping in declaring that nope, this is going to be a fair five-on-five.

Since in the Scyther's Story version this is never supposed to be a formal battle, though, she didn't get to do it there. That's a huge shame. I hope I can bring it back somehow.

She sent out her giant butterfly. It soared in the air, facing Kabutops. The Mew Hunter seemed in a shock at first, but then just seemed to accept these conditions.

“Kabutops, Slash.”

“Sleep Powder!” May snarled. Butterfree flapped its wings, releasing a cloud of greenish spores as Kabutops leapt upwards, its blades raised. Inhaling the powder, the fossil Pokémon seemed to get drowsy, and as Butterfree flew a bit higher up, Kabutops fell asleep in mid-air and crashed back into the floor.

“Finish it with a Giga drain!” May commanded. The sleeping Kabutops took a deep green glow and small green orbs of energy started ripping lose from its body, the Pokémon twitching violently with each one. The orbs circled Butterfree until all of Kabutops’s glow had faded; then they sank into the butterfly’s body.

“Kabutops, return,” said the Mew Hunter, his voice trembling. “Sneasel, go! Tear its wings to shreds!”

Mark suddenly realized why the Mew Hunter had wanted a battle in the first place – his plan had originally been to injure Mark’s Pokémon enough to make him tell of Mew’s location in exchange for him not hurting them more.

Mark is already developing his budding psychic powers.

A small, catlike creature with big eyes, a blood red feather-like thing in place of its left ear and two long, sharp claws on each front paw came out of the Pokéball.

“Snee!” it screeched, starting to run across the room. The Sneasel actually ran a short way up the wall before leaping with great agility towards the butterfly Pokémon, stabbing its claws into its wings and dragging it to the ground. As they were about to crash, Sneasel ripped itself loose and managed to jump up on Butterfree’s back. It wasn’t really necessary; Butterfree would’ve been out cold upon crashing either way, its wings in a very bad condition. Butterfree twitched a bit, like a fly that was about to die.

It's moments like these that you can tell this was written by me.

“Return,” said May calmly, ignoring her Pokémon’s state. “Skarmory, go and use a Steel Wing.”

The metallic vulture burst out of the Pokéball and swooped down towards Sneasel’s shape. The agile little cat dodged it and attempted to scratch at Skarmory’s steel feathers, but no avail; it didn’t even leave a scratch.

“Icy Wind!” ordered the Mew Hunter. Some of the muscles in his face twitched.

The Sneasel jumped up, spreading out its arms, and opened its mouth to release a powerful gust of icy wind, hail and snow. Skarmory wasn’t particularly hurt, but clearly slowed down a bit, allowing Sneasel to dart to another place and releasing another blast of cold wind.

“Drill Peck!” May ordered hastily. Skarmory flew up and started spinning, swooping down at the cat. The Sneasel just leapt out of the way with ease, but Skarmory turned and kept gaining speed. Finally, its sharp beak stabbed into Sneasel’s back. The cat let out a horrible screech, but then fell forward, blood gushing out of the wound.

“Come back,” said the Mew Hunter. “Feraligatr, show that bird not to mess with us.”

He sent out a huge, bulky, bipedal blue alligator. It had red spikes on its hunched back and a very powerful-looking yellow lower jaw.

“Fer-al!” it cried, showing all of its long fangs.

“Drill Peck,” May ordered. Skarmory dove down again, spinning.

“Crunch,” said the Mew Hunter evilly. His Feraligatr opened its mouth, and locked its jaws around Skarmory’s body when it came near enough. After a few seconds of war between the steel and the jaws, Skarmory’s body started crumbling together. The vulture screeched, and sensing that this could very easily kill it, May quickly recalled her Pokémon.

God, fourteen-year-old me, please stop using the word "evilly". It will never not sound unbearably silly and cartoony.

Dark was still not very effective on Steel when I wrote this, but I was ahead of my time.

“Pikachu, Thunderbolt!” May said determinedly, throwing forward her third Pokéball. A yellow, bipedal rodent with two long, black-tipped ears and red spots on its cheeks came out of the ball. Its cheeks started sparkling with electricity and then it released a bolt of lightning that shot at the blue alligator. It was too slow to dodge, but as most slow Pokémon, it made up for the lack of speed with more endurance. While it did roar in pain and stagger backwards slightly, it didn’t look too weakened afterwards.

“Earthquake,” said the Mew Hunter, clenching his fist. The alligator lifted one foot off the floor and then stomped it powerfully, making the floor ripple in waves like when Sandshrew used the attack. Pikachu attempted to jump up and avoid it, but ended up getting caught anyway. Releasing a flurry of electric sparks, the rodent dropped limply down, unconscious.

“Pikachu, come back,” said May, biting her lip. “Lapras, now my faith is in you!”

She sent out a very big, blue, sea turtle-like Pokémon with a bumpy shell and kind-looking eyes.

“Sing,” May ordered. Lapras started singing a sweet melody, and Feraligatr’s eyes slowly got drowsy.

“Slash!” commanded the Mew Hunter quickly. It was still too late; Feraligatr’s eyelids sank downwards and finally it collapsed, fast asleep.

“Body Slam,” said May calmly. Lapras started paddling forward to finish Feraligatr off, and knowing that leaving it in was pointless, the Mew Hunter took out the Pokéball and recalled the alligator. He then hesitated a bit, first grabbing one Pokéball like out of instinct, but then deciding on another.

“Go, Sandslash.”

Mark wondered why he had made this choice; Sandslash was very weak to Water attacks.

“Surf,” May smirked. Lapras spewed water into the air, which came down on the floor and flooded in a huge wave towards Sandslash, soaking it and leaving it fainted. Easy one.

Rob smiled evilly. “Fangcat, go wild.”

Again, STOP

Also, this doesn't make any sense?? I thought he'd probably sent out Sandslash there because he knew Fangcat was pretty brutal and was hesitant to use her, but then he goes and smiles evilly about it like it was the plan all along? If you wanted to use Fangcat, why would you let Sandslash get hurt for no reason first. This is deeply out of character. What were you thinking here, fourteen-year-old self, seriously. (Maybe he was supposed to be thinking that, but the whole smiling evilly thing is actually just a 'Well, you just brought this on yourself' kind of thing? That's my only real guess here.)

Out of the Pokéball came another Pokémon commonly associated with horror movies; it was a pretty big, slender, cream-colored feline – with two enormous, bloody fangs hanging down from its mouth.

It fixed its hungry eyes on Lapras and then leapt forward with a roar, sinking its fangs deep into the turtle’s neck. Lapras let out a high-pitched wail; all the color drained from May’s face as she recalled her Pokémon.

“Is Fangcat going to be willing to attack you?” Mark whispered to Scyther.

“Her?” Scyther snorted. “She’d attack anything that’s not Rob. She’d be overjoyed about being allowed to kill in this battle if she was able to express any emotion other than bloodlust and hate.”

I wish I hadn't just gone with "Oh, Fangcat is evil!!" here. She got a little more characterization in Scyther's Story, and I'd do more with her in the next revision. But here it's just oh, yeah, the Mew Hunter's Pokémon are reluctant to fight their former teammate, except Fangcat, she'd murder him without remorse just because.

Fangcat was one of the first properly original fake Pokémon I made, and you can see my amazing original artwork and info for it, from Christmas Eve 2002, here. It is extremely me to have spent the lead-up to Christmas eagerly making up a Pokémon that's a CAT with HUGE FANGS that have BLOOD on them.

“But you have to battle her,” Mark said, his eyes wide.

“Of course I have to,” said Scyther simply, walking forward. “Oh, and you don’t need to give me orders; I know what I’m doing.”

“Fangcat, punish him!” the Mew Hunter roared.

“Fffffang!” Fangcat hissed, her eyes fixed on Scyther. He watched her closely too.

Suddenly, Scyther darted upwards. Fangcat leapt amazingly high after him, but he just flew even higher. Fangcat turned around in the air, knowing that Scyther was about to try to attack her from the back as she fell. When he dove down to slash at her, a well-aimed strike resulted in one of her fangs running Scyther’s body through.

He was stiff for a split second, his eyes wide, but then he raised both of his scythes and started slashing like mad. She was cut and bloody all over when they landed on the floor, her fang still entering his upper body at the front and coming out at the back. He was breathing rapidly.

“Fangcat, return!” the Mew Hunter said, white as a sheet of paper, as he held forward a Pokéball. The feline was absorbed into red energy and disappeared. Scyther was left lying alone on the floor. He then started muttering something Mark recognized as the saying he had mentioned to Mark earlier:

“Death is not to be feared… for it is the only thing… that we all… have… in common…”

Scyther closed his eyes. The Mew Hunter took out a Pokéball, wide-eyed, but it just melted into thin air. Mark’s heart was beating; Pokéballs didn’t do that unless…

Oh, ha, I forgot I was still doing the thing about Pokéballs actually disintegrating when the Pokémon died. That creates a bit of an inconsistency with chapter 72, where Mark thinks Spirit or Floatzel might be dead until they're actually successfully recalled; when I wrote that I thought in this version I'd shifted to dead Pokémon just not going into their balls, but I guess I was thinking of the way Suicune and Entei fail to be caught, which of course isn't the same thing as when a Pokémon that's already caught dies. (In Scyther's Story, balls don't do this, but the Mew Hunter broke Scyther's ball after realizing he was dead.)

May walked slowly towards the motionless mantis, observing him for a few seconds. Finally, she bent down and poked his shiny green armor. She quickly pulled her hand back.

“He’s dead,” she clarified after a moment’s pause. It didn’t surprise Mark. The Mew Hunter just stared at the lifeless Pokémon on the floor.

“…no,” he then whispered. “No! NO!”

“Oh yes,” said May mercilessly, stepping away from the body. “That bloody beast of yours killed him, on your own orders.”

This (May touching Scyther and concluding he's dead and the ensuing dialogue) is almost identical to the original.

(May's use of 'bloody' there is not actually literal, but rather one of those little accidental Britishisms I've mentioned before.)

The Mew Hunter dropped to his knees and buried his face in his hands. “Scyther…no…”

Mark was amazed at how quickly his whole attitude changed; just a few minutes ago, he had been the madman who seemed to want nothing more than see something killed, but now he looked completely broken down.

Mark hadn’t exactly known Scyther for a very long or pleasant time, but couldn’t help feeling horrible.

For ten seconds or so, everything was silent except from the Mew Hunter’s sobbing. Then, all of a sudden, the big window farther away on the wall was shattered to pieces. Even the Mew Hunter looked up to see what was happening.

In through the window flew a small, pink, catlike creature with big, sad, sapphire blue eyes.

“It is such a shame,” said Mew gravely, not to anybody in particular, levitating three meters or so above Scyther’s body, “when the young die…”

The Legendary Pokémon’s big eyes turned to the Mew Hunter.

“Especially when one knows that when it comes right down to it… it’s one’s own fault.” There was a brief silence.

This sentence was deliberately written to have a double meaning, referring both to how it's the Mew Hunter's fault (for obvious reasons) and that Mew feels it's in part her fault, because her incautious exit from Mark's hotel room triggered this whole thing. That was also supposed to be at least part of why Mew comes in and resurrects Scyther here: she feels somewhat responsible for what happened. (I guess she's been around watching the whole time but didn't feel the need to intervene until now?)

Of course, now all I can think is HMM MEW TRYING TO RESURRECT SOMEBODY WHOSE DEATH SHE FEELS RESPONSIBLE FOR I WONDER IF THIS IS A THING THAT HAS HAPPENED BEFORE

“Your life was meant to be longer,” said the Legendary Pokémon then sadly to the lifeless body on the floor. The beautiful eyes closed, and Mew was enveloped in a reddish-pink aura. So was Scyther’s body.

Hmm hmmm Mew talking cryptically about fate to obscure guilt that he feels hmmmmmMMMMMMM

(I'm pretty sure at this point I earnestly thought Mew was just big on destiny. But nope, that's not what's really going on here. Mew's not very in-character at all, and obviously I'd write this quite differently today, but man, I love these things that can totally be read as if they're relevant to things I wouldn't figure out for years after I wrote them.)

The big hole in the middle of his upper body closed. The blood on the floor disappeared. The glow faded, first on Scyther, then on Mew.

Scyther’s eyes opened.

He blinked a few times and then slowly stood up.

“I’m… back...” Scyther whispered, looking around. Mark realized that he had just witnessed a miracle – an example of the incredible power of the Legendary Pokémon…

In the original and UMR, in keeping with Mew's more lighthearted personality there, this played out in a significantly more comical way:

Then, the window broke, and Mew flew in. It stopped in the air, looked around, and then closed its eyes. It became enveloped in purple glow. Scyther’s body also did. The big wound disappeared. The blood disappeared. Then the glow went out, first on Scyther, then on Mew, it lay as motionless as before. Mew flew down. It touched Scyther, very much like it had touched the lamp in the hotel, first very carefully, then again but not very carefully and ended up punching it hard. Yet nothing happened. Mew looked angry, then went to Scyther’s leg, lifted it up and shouted “MEEEEW!” at its knee. Scyther suddenly stood up, Slashed the air and then looked around, then said “Scyther?” in a confused tone. While all this happened, the man had risen back up.

Mark, confused, then asks May why Mew just shouted at Scyther's leg, and May explains Scyther have ears in their legs. This was some cool insect trivia that I was extrapolating to altogether the wrong kind of insect (actual mantids have a single ear in the middle of the sternum), but I'm sure to my fellow twelve-year-olds this made me sound very smart and educated.

“I won the battle,” said the Mew Hunter suddenly. “Scyther died.”

“Hey, that’s not fair!” Mark protested. “Fangcat fainted first!”

“But Scyther died,” the Mew Hunter hissed.

“Looks pretty darn alive to me now,” Mark replied. The mantis was seemingly talking to Mew.

“But he was…”

“Hey, OK, let’s assume you won,” May interrupted. “Then we’ll give in and tell you where Mew is: over there. Now give Mark his Pokémon so we can leave.”

Did anyone ask for a mood whiplash??

This absurdly inappropriate comic dialogue is of course directly based on the original, with some rephrasing, and features some amazingly out-of-character Mew Hunter trying to use Scyther's death as a cheap trump card in an argument over a battle. Dear self, he absolutely would not care. I don't care how funny it is, this should not be here. (Scyther's Story, of course, ditched this.) To be fair, I do remember that the idea was meant to be that once he saw Scyther was fine he just immediately stopped thinking about him and feeling remorse, as part of that erratic characterization - but wouldn't that be something that might happen because of his attention returning wholesale to Mew, his obsession who is right there, rather than to this petty argument?

May's line there, though. I love her.

The Mew Hunter jerked his head in Mew’s direction, like he was first now realizing that it was Mew and not something else.

“I will change my whereabouts now,” said Mew to him. “I shall travel… and you shall not find me.”

The Mew Hunter grabbed a Pokéball, but Mew’s eyes just glowed a deep purple, its shape started to flicker and then it disappeared in a flash of violet.

“I will find you… I will…” he muttered, staring at the place where Mew used to be. Then he seemed to snap out of his trance, fixed his gaze on Scyther and reached for his Pokéball.

“But… Scyther’s Pokéball melted!” he realized as his hand found only air.

“Yes,” said Scyther slowly. “Mew told me… I’m not yours anymore…”

This line is all wrong. To Scyther none of this is about the ball binding him to Rob (at this point); two days ago, if the ball had broken he'd have stayed with him without question, and if the ball were intact here, he'd still be reevaluating his loyalties. The ball being gone does enable him to physically leave immediately, but that's not at all the point here.

In the previous versions, May told the Mew Hunter "Scyther is no longer your Pokémon", which makes sense as something for her to say. I have no idea why I'd have given this line to Scyther here instead; it doesn't make any sense.

The Mew Hunter’s eyes widened.

“Rob, we could go back and live our old life. But are you ready to give up on Mew for that?”

“I have to go… I have to find Mew… I’m sorry,” said the Mew Hunter.

“Then… I wish you the best of luck,” said Scyther sorrowfully before taking off and flying out of the window to freedom.

The Mew Hunter stared after him.

“Um… my Pokémon?” Mark asked carefully.

“Sure…” said the Mew Hunter absent-mindedly, handing him his Pokéballs like he had no idea what he was doing. Mark quietly attached them back to his belt and the kids hurried out of the building before the Mew Hunter realized where they were.

Well, that was easy. I guess it makes sense the Mew Hunter has nothing left to do with Mark's Pokémon here, but it still just feels kind of awkwardly silly that this whole thing just ends with "Um, my Pokémon?" "Sure." Today I'd probably write it as something like Mark grabbing the balls and running while the Mew Hunter ignores him completely.

-------

“Wow,” May said on the way to the Alumine Pokémon Center. “That was some adventure…”

Another line based on the original, which is just really making me think of lighthearted cartoons that do not involve people being held at scythepoint.

“Where were you the whole time, by the way?” Mark asked curiously.

“Well, when the guy took you inside and you didn’t come out again, I got a bit suspicious so I walked around the house a bit and found the end of that ventilation pipe. Then I got into it and ended up at your end, and watched and heard everything. I didn’t want to come down sooner because I didn’t think it would be smart to give Scyther a reason to… erm, change the plan…”

“Why didn’t you just call the police?” Mark asked.

“Well…” May bit her lip, “you could say I’m… not much for the way they do things.”

This explanation, of course, wasn't necessary in the previous revisions where Mark went in through the ventilation duct with her. I do like that I also used the opportunity to hint at how May dislikes the police - but on the other hand, I'm disappointed to see Mark not comment on May casually telling him she broke into a building through the ventilation. In the UMR, as May explained this was the best way to get in, Mark wondered why she sounded so professional all of a sudden. I guess here she doesn't especially sound like she's done this before so maybe it's not that suspicious, but it would've been fun foreshadowing if she had.

Mark decided not to question her further about that. “I feel a bit sorry for that man, though. He’s totally brainwashed.”

I don't think I fully understood what's generally meant by the word 'brainwashed' here.

May nodded. “We’re here.”

The familiar, red, dome-shaped roof of the Pokémon Center towered over them. A sign outside it informed them that the Pokémon Center had free rooms for all Pokémon trainers.

“Wait!”

Scyther walked through a crowd of people who automatically split to the sides, giving him a clear path.

“What’s your name?” he asked Mark out of the blue.

“Mark,” he replied, not sure what Scyther wanted.

“Mark, can I come with you?”

I'm not 100% sure but I think I recall the idea here was Scyther is also calling him the word 'mark' with a name emphasis, hence why he'd ask. I don't know why I didn't include any actual indication that that's what's going on in the text of the fic, though.

“What?” Mark stared at the mantis.

“You wouldn’t understand, it’s complicated, but I have nothing to live for in the wild. Rob’s Mew-obsession has taken over him. It’s either you… or wasting the life that Mew gave me another chance at.”

Mark nodded.

“One condition, though,” said Scyther worriedly. “This may sound strange, but… don’t report him to the police. I’ve known him for three years, and usually he is a wonderful person and friend. Trust me, you’ve only seen the one truly bad side of him. He doesn’t deserve jail.”

Mark nodded again.

“Got a spare Pokéball?” Scyther questioned. Mark took out the last one that had come with his Pokéball belt, and tapped Scyther with it. He was dissolved into red light and sucked into the ball. It immediately pinged; Scyther showed no resistance against it.

It was quite an interesting Pokémon team Mark was going to have now. An abandoned Charmeleon, a baby Eevee who didn’t know what Pokémon training was, a Sandshrew who had just gained his very first bit of confidence, a starved, weird Gyarados, and a depressed Scyther.

A lot of people have over the years commented on how Dratini isn't mentioned here. Each time, I explained that the reason Dratini wasn't mentioned was that Dratini had no actual characterization yet, what with Mark having only just caught him and never having had a conversation with him, and therefore there wasn't really anything in this vein I could say about him. I never quite seem to have reflected on why that fact might imply my treatment of the Pokémon characters wasn't as great as I thought - and it's awkward either way that this is phrased like it's naming his entire team when it's not.

It turns out that in the Serebii thread for the fic, I admitted that originally I just plain forgot to name Dratini there, because I r gud riter, and I merely contrived the "Mark doesn't know anything about Dratini yet" thing as the in-universe reason (rather than, y'know, editing it in). In the years since, I'd genuinely forgotten that I originally forgot. That does explain a lot.

May just stared.

Man, this chapter!

I believe this (or rather, chapter 11 of the original) was the first chapter that I thought up ahead of time and then looked forward to writing for a bit - I think the previous chapters were all written pretty much on the fly with some broad-strokes ideas. While I don't recall exactly when I thought of this chapter, chapter 7 of the original noted after Mark released Mew that someone had seen him, obviously referring to the Mew Hunter, so I must have had the idea by then. In my head, I came up with this scenario where a person is threatened with death for valuable information that they have, won't give up the information and believes they're going to die for it, only to finally realize the threat must be empty because having the information makes them too valuable to kill. (This is the sort of thing I liked to think about in my spare time when I was twelve.) At first it wasn't specific and didn't involve any particular characters; it was just a story idea, because I wrote a lot of original stories, often built around some single scenario or scene that I'd thought up (needless to say, I tended not to finish these stories after I'd written my one cool scene/concept). But then I realized I could totally write these sorts of fun scenarios into my Pokémon fanfic! Amazing!

I ended up combining the idea with a different, unrelated idea, namely a gym that I'd made up for a contest, themed around Pokémon with "natural weapons" - I think I'd probably already made up Fangcat at this stage and picked the gym's theme in order to give the gym leader my cool new fake Pokémon, although it's possible it was the other way around and I made up Fangcat for the gym. I filled out the rest of this hypothetical gym leader's team with other Pokémon that fit the bill: Scyther and Kabutops, of course, with their scythes, plus a Feraligatr for those vicious jaws, plus Sandslash and Sneasel with their huge claws. Originally I envisioned the gym leader as a calm old guy fond of Fangcat, I think, but once I decided to use this gym leader for that hostage scenario, I needed a different sort of character, one who'd actually threaten Mark. And what sort of information could Mark be threatened for? I don't recall if I'd already decided on the thing where Rick gives Mew to Mark, or if I made that up for this, but one way or another I concluded he'd be trying to get Mew's location out of him, because he's obsessed with capturing Mew. And since I'd already made up all the official gyms of the region, his gym simply became an unofficial one, like the Fighting Dojo from the games. Thus, the Mew Hunter was born.

Scyther was originally just the most appropriate Pokémon to do the threatening - for all that I thought Fangcat was the coolest, having a scythe at his throat was just a lot more visceral than anything a Fangcat could do, and I already kind of liked Scyther as a species, having used one on my Gold version for False Swipe. But something about that conversation where Mark tries to bargain with him really captivated me. Scyther's calm, roundabout answers to his questions, engaging him with a sort of morbid, detached rationality, were really fun to write, and different from anything I'd written before. Then Scyther actually chose to side with Mark in the battle, despite his lack of obvious sympathy for him before, and then I killed him horribly and resurrected him as I am wont to do, and by this point I'd just fallen in love. I wanted to keep writing about this Scyther. So I spontaneously decided that Scyther should join Mark at the end, replacing my original plans for Mark to use Freezer (Freezaroy) as his sixth team member. This was a fateful decision - Scyther would one way or another drive a huge amount of my motivation to write this story from then on and directly or indirectly inspire a lot of pivotal decisions I made, and in the process of writing him Scyther became one of my absolute favorite Pokémon. Thus, even though in hindsight Scyther isn't actually done particularly well here, and he was even less so originally, I'm still grateful I accidentally stumbled my way into creating him and making him a member of the main cast. I don't consider him my favorite character in the fic anymore, but he still has a very special place in my heart.

I won't lie, I'm also still fond of the Mew Hunter as a character, but boy, I did not write him well here at allllll. His time here is split between stereotypical evil villainousness, flat infodumping about his backstory, and then a couple of bits where he cares about Scyther, except they're undermined by the other bits where he doesn't act like he cares about Scyther. It's very hard to get a coherent sense of his thinking in this chapter; he's just this random murderous raving madman that Scyther unconvincingly insists is actually a good person. If you take his word for it, you might be intrigued by that contrast, but the Mew Hunter's actual behaviour just doesn't make any sense on its own here.

The Mew Hunter, of course, is to an extent just a character whose personality actually is erratic and paradoxical - the way his obsession with Mew overrides practically everything else including conventional morality, and the way that he loves his Pokémon and treats them as equals but sees no problem with forcibly trapping them with him, mean he's always going to be a pretty strange and unsettling character, and maybe he'll always be hard to get a firm grasp on in the space of an equivalent to this chapter. But I could definitely write this much better today. Forget the standard villain dialogue - threatening people should be difficult and stressful for him, but justified with fierce Mew-centered moralizing and anger that he contorts into being righteous. He must get this information, because Mew needs him, and who is this kid, he doesn't deserve Mew, how dare he presume to meet it somewhere. It should take more for him to conclude Scyther has betrayed him - he should try to explain, to persuade him, to justify it. He should be a lot more conflicted about fighting and hurting Scyther either way. And he should definitely not try to argue that he won a battle because Scyther died.

If I were rewriting this chapter today, I'd probably also try to convey Scyther's end of their relationship in a clearer and more nuanced way. Scyther is desperately conflicted here, but I don't do much to show that, so Scyther's decision to stand with Mark all of a sudden feels abrupt and out of the blue - I already mentioned I'd now have Scyther tell Mark that the Mew Hunter doesn't actually intend to kill him, but I'd like to do more in that direction in general to strengthen Scyther's character.

Additionally, one thing that this version of the chapter doesn't establish, but the old versions did, is the fact that Scyther was caught with the ball that the Mew Hunter originally made for Mew, the one that prevents the Pokémon from going a certain distance from the ball. In the previous versions it was used weirdly - Mark suggested in their conversation that they could just leave together and never have to see the Mew Hunter again, and Scyther responded that he couldn't because of the ball - and similar to the line here where Scyther says "I'm not yours anymore", this wrongly suggested Scyther actually perceives himself to be held prisoner and the ball is the only reason he hasn't escaped. Instead, I think it'd be really interesting if the thing about the ball came out during the bargaining conversation, and Mark's reaction to this thing that Scyther's come to simply accept without question were a pivotal moment in making him start to reevaluate what he's doing here and realize that maybe this has always been a little effed-up, no matter how much he loves Rob. It'd both be an actual good trigger for self-reflection on his part and also sort of nicely parallel the way that Mark later goes on to help him with his issues from the Scyther swarm.

Overall, I don't think this is a great chapter today - the character writing is especially wonky and nonsensical, and I don't do a nearly good enough job with the tension and emotion. It's cool that I'm having exciting stuff happen, though - the whole Mew thing immediately leads to a major incident with some serious stakes for the protagonists - and I just love May in this chapter. May is the best character.

More subtly, I like that I managed to not make the sudden Mew appearance at the climax of the chapter a deus ex machina. It would've been so easy to have Mew just appear out of nowhere and fix everything, but the only thing Mew actually fixes is the relatively unimportant death of a newly-introduced side character that the story could easily have carried on without (narratively speaking) - May's the one who actually comes to Mark's rescue, and without Mew they would've made it out fine, just without Scyther. All in all, I don't think the overall effect here is that Mew's appearance is cheap or lazy, which it so easily could have been.


Previous chapter --- Next chapter


Comment on this? Please keep all comments strictly related to the fic only; any irrelevant posts will be deleted.

Not logged in - log in to submit a verified comment or submit one as a guest below. Note that your e-mail address will only be recorded for the purpose of notifying you if I reply to your comment. It will not be sold to third parties, displayed anywhere on the website, or used to send unsolicited e-mail. If you would rather not receive a notification upon a reply to your comment, simply leave the e-mail field blank.




176

176


View comments