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; only roughly the first half of the story has been commented. Check the Quest Blog for progress information!)

Chapter 13: The Black Desert

This chapter was posted on October 28th, nine days after chapter 12. This was another one of my favorite chapters! Mortal peril plus my cool mysterious gym leader character who is mysterious and cool. What could be better?

“Hmmm… yeah, it’s definitely shorter…”

May was observing the Ouen Map at the Pokémon Center while Mark was petting Eevee, who was curled up in his arms, half-asleep.

“What is shorter than what?” Mark questioned.

“It’s shorter to go through the Black Desert to Scorpio City than around it,” May replied.

“Black Desert?” asked Mark doubtfully. “I don’t like the sound of that.”

“We’ve got our Pokémon,” May just said.

“But May… if the normal route goes around the desert, there’s got to be a reason for it, right?” Mark asked, not at all convinced.

“What could possibly happen? We’ve got strong Pokémon to fend off any wild ones, we’ve got Water Pokémon who can quench our thirst in the unlikely case of emergency, and it isn’t very far anyway…”

Suddenly she added: “You’ve got a sleeping bag, right? We aren’t going to find a hotel in the desert, you know.”

“Yeah, of course,” Mark answered, immediately afterwards realizing that this had sounded like he was agreeing.

“Come on, we should hurry,” May said and marched outside. Mark had no choice but to follow her, wondering whether she had intentionally tricked him into answering the sleeping bag question.

That's amazing. May's so impatient to get to the next town that she tricks Mark into agreeing to a different question in order to socially awkward penguin him into following her into this ominously named desert. I love it.

In the previous versions, there was no indication that going through the desert wasn't the normal route. By the time I was writing the ILCOE, though, I'd realized this was a bit weird: if it takes more than a day to cross the desert, and the desert fills up with a flood of deadly scorpions every night, obviously the main route between these towns has absolutely no business going through this desert. Thus, here I had the actual official route snaking a path around the mountains surrounding the valley, while May in her recklessness figures it'll be shorter going through the desert and surely the normal route is for normies, not ambitious Pokémon trainers who can fend for themselves.

This just opens another glaring issue, though: May may be from a different region, but why hasn't Mark ever heard of this desert full of deadly scorpions and why it should be avoided? And even if for some reason this isn't common knowledge, why aren't there extremely clear information signs everywhere making it clear to trainers why they should not take a shortcut through the desert? Surely May isn't the first person ever to think of taking a shortcut here, and most anyone who does so is going to end up dead or nearly so, so somebody really ought to have noticed the problem by now.

-------

On they walked, out of the city, into the mountains, higher and higher up. There were a few Pokémon there, but not many, and they were easily taken care of. The sky was clear and the sun shone with blazing intensity, making it rather uncomfortably hot.

“I do not look forward to walking through that desert in this,” Mark moaned. May ignored him.

They walked all day with a few stops, entering the sandy, lifeless wasteland known as the Black Desert around six o’clock.

“The ‘Black Desert’?” Mark asked, looking blankly over the yellowish-brown dunes.

“It’s just a name,” said May, shrugging. “Come on.”

The sun slowly sank into the horizon as they were on their way through the desert. It quickly got ice cold, and finally they decided to stop for the night. Charmeleon got to sleep outside of his Pokéball due to the tail flame, which made them feel safer.

“What’s so black about it?” Mark asked, lying in his sleeping bag and staring into the fire.

“Go to sleep,” May muttered.

He took her advice.

I enjoy the dynamic between them here - Mark complaining about the heat and being bothered by the name thing, May just doggedly ignoring his concerns.

In the previous versions, Charmeleon was a little more in the foreground here - Mark used him a lot to battle the wild Pokémon, he was pleased to be getting to battle more than Scyther, and when Mark was wondering why the desert was called the Black Desert, Charmeleon also dismissed it with "They can call it what they want." It's a shame I reduced this to just the one mention of having him out for his flame here - what was there in the original wasn't much, but it meant he was present as a character in a way he isn't here.

-------

When a lone Murkrow flew over the desert a short while later, he witnessed a most peculiar sight.

It was as if a stream of jet-black ink started seeping out through the dunes, covering the sand. If he had then lowered his flight, as to see what was going on, he might have noticed that the flood was in fact made of thousands and millions of relatively small creatures, black as night.

Their movements were synchronized like those of a school of fish, yet they were so many that to the Murkrow high above, it seemed like a blanket of shadow had spread out over the sand.

Had the Murkrow landed, it would have been his doom.

Hi, random Murkrow! And goodbye again. Thank you for serving as an arbitrary focal point in this brief omniscient introduction of yet another one of my overly morbid fake Pokémon.

The introduction of the Scorplack has always been dramatic; this is how it looked in the original (almost identical to the UMR):

Like a century’s production of ink, a black flood flowed over the sand. Actually, it wasn’t a liquid. It was a horde of the terrors of the Black desert, Scorplacks. Those black, dangerous scorpion pokémon spent the day deep in the sand, but at night, they went out to hunt. They killed each other if they found nothing else, but if an unwary pokémon – or human, even better – was around there somewhere, they all helped each other to kill it. Only their yellow eyes could be seen in the dark. By counting the eyes, one could see there were hundreds of thousands. All ready with the deadly poisonus stingers on their tails in attack position.

The Scorplacks had quickly noticed that there was something happening at a certain place. Something happening meant prey. That was why they flooded, each trying to be the first to their meal, to that place. After each sand wave they went over, a hundred more joined. The desert was covered with the Scorplacks.

Scorplack was my very first fake Pokémon that was completely my own design rather than being a hybrid of other Pokémon. This GIF file is from December 15th 2002, but it was created earlier; that's just the date I seem to have saved all the fake Pokémon I'd made in Paint as GIFs and put them into the site folder. It wasn't created for the fic as such - I remember the motivation behind it just being that after making a bunch of lazy hybrids, I wanted to make a Pokémon that was properly my own. Scorpio City, Scorpio Valley and the Black Desert were then designed around Scorplack when I started putting together my plans for the Ouen region (though originally they were called "Scorpion City" and "Scorpivalley").

Naturally, my first proper fake Pokémon was a SCORPION that was DEADLY and would KILL YOU, and then I made a CAT with HUGE FANGS that are COVERED WITH BLOOD, and then I made ANOTHER CAT that GROWS AT THE TASTE OF ITS OWN BLOOD. Those weren't even the only ones; I also made up yet another morbid cat Pokémon that started off as a smoky ghost cat that feeds on corpses, then became a frozen ghoul-cat that drinks blood, then became an only-slightly-translucent ghost cat, and it's probably sheer happenstance that that one never appeared in the fic. I love how endearingly obvious it was that I had some very particular interests. I knew as a kid that some of my fascinations were pretty weird, and I made some effort to hide it - but boy, I wasn't very good at it.

-------

Something was creeping up on Mark again. It was not Scyther or Fangcat; it was a new threat, shrouded in darkness. He had gotten used to these dreams the previous night, but there was something eerie about this one that sent a chill going down his spine.

All of a sudden, the dream burst into an eruption of flames. It was so burning hot that Mark found himself awake and sitting upright the next second, facing the answer to his question from earlier.

So: this was Spirit waking them up. She'd been discreetly following May in her spirit form ever since Entei chose her, and now that she saw May was in serious danger, she used her powers to break into their dreams. That's why the dream bursts into flames specifically: she's a Ninetales, and that's what comes most obviously to her.

This wasn't the case in the original, which was before I ever came up with Spirit; rather, I'm pretty sure it was just meant as Mark magically knowing he had to wake up, as some kind of lowkey destiny or sixth sense sort of thing. However, I wrote it like it was someone:

Somehow, Mark woke up like he just had to. Like some voice inside his head was saying “wake up, now, you must!”. He opened his eyes, but didn’t believe what he saw. He blinked, and he rubbed his eyes, until he finally accepted the truth; there were millions of evil-looking scorpion pokémon surrounding them in every direction.

And after a while that started to bug me, which is to say, I decided actually it had been someone and I would just have to figure out who. I'm not sure if this prompted Spirit or if I connected Spirit to it after I'd come up with her in general, but either way I realized this had been her sometime while I was writing the UMR (but after this chapter).

Spirit never actually appeared in the UMR, but she was slated for chapter 37, and I'd already made up the whole conversation where she would reveal herself in my head, including that detail. Thus, by the time I got here in the ILCOE, I knew this was her, and the change from the unknown voice to silent flames was very intentional as foreshadowing. In hindsight, though, I think this is ironically less foreshadowy than the original version unintentionally was: the voice clearly suggested somebody trying to protect them, but the flames just sound like Mark's having more prophetic dreams that incidentally woke him up.

All around, a crowd of pitch-black scorpion-like Pokémon faced him with their segmented tails raised. Each had two yellow, pupil-less, evil-looking eyes on the front of its head. Two pincers snapped at the end of the foremost set of limbs. And it was so crowded that there was no sight of the sand anywhere except just near where the kids were. The Black Desert was indeed black.

For some reason, May was also awake, staring at the scorpions with the same expression of horror that Mark had. Charmeleon was still asleep, blissfully unaware of it all.

Obviously, the unstated reason May is also awake is that Spirit woke her up too. Wow, though, Spirit, way to leave out Charmeleon. That's a little dickish of you.

“What are they?” May whispered.

Mark didn’t answer; he just reached for the Pokédex clipped to his belt and pointed it at one of the scorpions with a trembling hand.

“Scorplack, scorpion Pokémon,” said the Pokédex in an electronically calm voice. “Native only to the Black Desert, they sleep buried in the sand during the day and come out in hordes in the night to hunt. They are actually blind, but have eye-like spots on their heads to frighten enemies. Scientists debate on whether to classify them as Bug/Poison or Poison/Dark.”

Mark closed his Pokédex, swallowing. While that was to be expected, the Pokédex had confirmed them as poisonous, and a Dark type, even if debatable, was usually only given to Pokémon that were known to occasionally ‘play dirty’ – such as by attacking humans for prey.

Well, obviously they weren’t surrounding them to congratulate them on being the millionth people to cross the desert. Mark just wondered why they hadn’t attacked yet. They were just standing still, staring at them with their fake eyes.

Bwahaha, I sincerely love that joke. This is somewhat better than expected in general! Until the last couple of sentences, I think I'm actually doing okay at showing Mark is scared here, and the idea that there can be scientific debate on how to classify a Pokémon is kind of neat worldbuilding, which I go on to make actually relevant to the scene as the possible Dark-type specifically makes Mark wary.

Naturally, the "scientific debate" is actually because originally I couldn't quite decide between the two typings.

I must wonder along with Mark why they haven't attacked yet - I think I was actually going for Spirit having tried to warn them off with the vision of fire, too, but unfortunately there's no way to infer this from the text, so the fact I call attention to it really isn't very helpful here. (Also: wow, Spirit, you gave the vision to literally everybody in the vicinity except Charmeleon.)

This is also yet another instance of Mark not knowing anything about his own region for some reason. Not only does he have no idea about this desert, he's also never heard of the deadly scorpion Pokémon inhabiting it by the millions.

“Charmeleon,” he poked his partner, “we have… er, a bit of a problem.”

The lizard mumbled and grudgingly opened his eyes. Upon seeing the Scorplack, he jumped to his feet and faced them, growling.

“I think he has a point,” May said, standing up and taking four Pokéballs off her necklace. “Butterfree, Skarmory, Pikachu, Larvitar!”

“Sandshrew, Dratini, Scyther, go!” Mark shouted, releasing his Pokémon too.

Then the battle started.

As soon as the Pokémon came out of their Pokéballs, the Scorplack started crawling towards them, trying to sting them. Charmeleon did pretty well frying them before they came too near; Sandshrew had a certain resistance to poison as a Ground-type but Mark ended up recalling him because Earthquake did same as nothing in this sand. Dratini surrounded himself with a Twister, preventing the Scorplack from getting near enough. Scyther was too fast for them, swooping down and cutting their tails off to make them unable to harm the others. Thankfully, Scyther and Charmeleon were too busy to even notice each other.

May’s Pokémon were doing better than Mark’s. Butterfree fluttered above, sending flurries of toxic spores down to put a crowd of them to sleep at a time, while her Skarmory, being absolutely immune to poison of any kind, dove down to drill its beak into the scorpions. Pikachu aimed bolts of lightning at some of the bigger ones, but Larvitar attempted to blow them away with Sandstorm. Meanwhile, the kids, protected by their Pokémon, hurriedly packed their sleeping bags.

But the Scorplack were too many. Pikachu, Dratini, Butterfree and Larvitar got exhausted after a short while and their trainers recalled them. Scyther, Charmeleon and Skarmory fought valiantly, but Mark could see Charmeleon panting between his Flamethrowers.

I guess this is technically my first crowd battle, leading up to the legendary fights later. I wonder if I was thinking of that at all when I was writing it here - the UMR was cut off just a few chapters before the Thunderyu battle would have taken place, so I still had never actually gotten to write one, but knew it would be coming. Oddly, I don't remember thinking much about the upcoming legendary battles when I was writing the UMR - I probably wouldn't have looked particularly forward to it since battles have never really been my favorite thing to write, but it's still a little funny that I can't recall it ever really being something I was planning or dreading or just thinking about at all in any capacity.

Then he got stung.

While Charmeleon was catching his breath, one of the Scorplack swung its tail and hit the lizard’s leg. He went stiff, sent a powerful blast of flames at the Scorplack and kept fighting, but clearly sweating and growing weaker by every passing moment.

“Damn you, stupid thing!”

Mark turned around to see May kick a Scorplack away. Her ankle was bleeding and had a slightly purple hue.

“You got stung?” he asked, his eyes wide.

“No, that’s ketchup and food coloring,” she replied icily.

Mark was distracted by Charmeleon letting out a weak “Chaaar…” as he passed out. He recalled him, turning worriedly back to May as the moon and stars became their only light source. Maybe it was just the bluish-white light, but she seemed pale.

“I… I think… Skarmory could maybe carry us to Scorpio City… he knows Fly…” she said weakly.

Mark nodded, recalling Scyther, as Skarmory, who had heard that, landed. Both kids quickly jumped onto the bird’s steely back, and he took off. Mark breathed out a sigh of relief as they ascended, away from the Scorplack.

Then he discovered that May was unconscious.

In the previous versions, May falls unconscious first and then Mark thinks of flying away on Skarmory. I definitely like this version better. Love May's hostile, sarcastic deflection there after being stung.

It's funny nobody thought of flying away on Skarmory before this, though: I've made a point of how the desert is like an endless sea of scorpions, so fighting all of them off should have been pretty obviously impossible.

-------

It wasn’t that long a flight to the borders of Scorpio City. Scorpio Valley was a big valley shaped oddly similar to a scorpion, and the city was located in the tail end. It was pretty small; calling it a city wasn’t really appropriate, but it was still called that because it had a Pokémon Gym.

...Of course, then Green Town turns out to be one of the region's bigger cities, and also has a gym, so not sure how I thought this'd be a reasonable thing to say. Originally, I made up the town names before I developed anything about the towns, and then I didn't actually make any attempt to ensure it made any sense what got called a town and what was a city. This is a thing that has bothered me for like fifteen years at this point.

Skarmory was getting exhausted after flying this way with two human kids on his back, and once they reached the city, he let himself glide down into the street and collapsed. Mark shot a quick look at May; she was very pale and completely limp.

He took one of the Pokéballs on her necklace and recalled the fainted bird, left alone with an unconscious girl on a street in the middle of the night.

“Help!” he shouted into the darkness. “Can somebody help me?”

But nobody answered.

He looked desperately around; a deep purple-painted building stood nearby, with the letters GYM on the front of it. The street lamps lit up an empty main road; all the houses were quiet.

I was doing okay with the emotion before, but this bit feels a lot flatter despite that Mark really ought to be panicking. It's a shame.

He turned back to May and was jumped when he saw a young man wearing a black cape kneeling down beside her, touching her forehead.

“Scorplack,” the man muttered and checked her pulse.

He looked quickly up at Mark, his shoulder-length silver hair flashing back.

Oh, I guess this was when I was trying very hard not to list descriptions, so I went out of my way to write random "actions" like hair flashing back as an excuse to cram the description in instead of just saying he had shoulder-length silver hair. Sort of a good principle but not the right way to actually do it.

“Where did you come from?” Mark asked, puzzled at his sudden appearance. The man ignored his question and instead introduced himself in a fast but very clear, soft voice:

“My name is Mitch; I am the leader of the official Pokémon Gym of Scorpio City and an expert on poisons. Can you tell me how long has it been since she was stung?”

“Maybe ten, fifteen minutes,” Mark answered. “Why?”

Mitch ignored his question again. “How long did it take for her to pass out?”

“Not long, one or two minutes at the most, why?”

Mitch’s big, shiny, gray eyes observed him for a second; Mark got an uncomfortable feeling like he was being X-rayed.

In the original, I just said Mitch's eyes shone in a very special way. As the fic went on, I continued to describe Mitch's eyes as particularly striking, and here, I escalated it to this X-raying feeling, just because. Later, I wrote a throwaway line continuing this escalation by having Mark remark that his eyes somehow reminded him of Chaletwo's (specifically, the can't-look-away aspect). Eventually this accidentally sparked the entire revelation that Mitch was actually harboring Chalenor, so good thing I couldn't stop going on about this dude's eyes.

(Still gray here.)

“Then you should pray for her life.”

Mitch picked up the unconscious girl and ran swiftly towards the purple-colored building.

It took a bit of time for his last words to sink in, but then Mark hurried after him.

In the original version, May had saved Mark's life at the Lake of Purity, when he jumped into it earlier, so when Mark saved her life here that made them square. In this version, since I took out Mark's near-drowning, him saving her feels less like they're simply even now and a bit more like the girl just needing rescuing. Granted, May does rescue Mark in chapter 10, but not against a direct threat on his life in the same way. May does get to pretty much save Mark's life in chapter 62, though.

-------

He entered the Gym, panting. It split into three corridors; the left one had a sign on the wall saying TO THE BATTLE ARENA. The middle one ended in a door saying DO NOT ENTER. The right one led to another door, which was open. Mark carefully stepped through it.

The room he entered looked like an ordinary living room, with a few dark brown leather couches, a coffee table and a carpet with a navy and gold pattern on the floor. May was lying on the big sofa, but he didn’t see Mitch anywhere.

Speak of the devil, Mark thought as the young man from earlier stepped through the door behind him, not seeming surprised to see Mark there. Mark was going to apologize for walking inside like that, but Mitch just walked up to May and injected something into her arm.

Then he sat down in another couch and offered Mark a seat beside him. Hesitating, Mark sat down.

“Scorplack’s poison is very interesting,” said Mitch out of the blue, not looking at Mark, but rather straight into the air. “When it gets into your blood stream, it somehow slows down all cells it reaches. The longer it is in the body, the more everything slows down. Then finally, it all stops – unless the person has gotten the antidote in time. The antidote slows down the effect of the poison, so the timing is everything. If the poison kills before the antidote has stopped it, the victim dies. If the antidote stops it too late, the victim will live, but never wake up. Otherwise, the victim will heal completely.”

“Is she going to die?” Mark asked quietly.

“Maybe,” said Mitch slowly, still looking into the air rather than into Mark’s eyes.

Mitch's habit of looking up while he talks has also been a thing since the original, and like his eyes, it didn't originally mean anything; it was just a mannerism. Later, as his eyes became increasingly tantalizing, I realized he probably does that because he knows his eyes do something and he's uncomfortable with it. He probably assumes it's just the psychic powers, but of course, it's actually the faint echo of Chalenor.

“How are the odds?”

“Bad,” said Mitch simply. “If she fainted in one or two minutes, it must have been a strong Scorplack. Ten or twenty percent, I guess.”

“That’s awfully little…” Mark said with a horrible knot in his stomach.

“Odds are meaningless,” said Mitch calmly. “Imagine you’re holding a hundred-faced die. I walk up to you and say, ‘Give me ten thousand Pokédollars, throw the die and if you get hundred, I’ll pay you back a million’. You’d never take the offer. What are the odds you’ll get exactly hundred? It’s very unlikely that you’d be achieving anything except losing ten thousand Pokédollars. And as we all know, it’s just as unlikely that you’ll get ninety-nine, or ninety-eight. In fact, the odds for each side are so small that you’d never bet on one of them. Still, you can somehow throw it, and be positive that as unlikely as it is, you will get one of them. We could repeat it with a die that has a thousand faces, or a million. What are the odds that a mass of carbon can stand up and walk of its own accord? Almost none, yet you see the proof that it happened all around you. Do not think about odds. Odds are an illusion.”

Mark had never thought about it that way. He couldn’t think of an answer, so he said nothing. Neither did Mitch; he just kept staring at nothing.

In the original, Mitch's dice analogy was less elaborate:

“Have you ever got six on a dice?” Mitch suddenly asked.

“What do you mean? I mean, yes, of course, but does that have anything to do with Scorplack venom?”

“Then imagine this is a dice with ten faces, and she will live if we get ten.” Mitch yet again ignored Mark’s question.

“That doesn’t help very much...” Mark said.

“Yes, it does. I have much experience of bringing bad news to people,” said Mitch and looked up again.

Love how Mark goes "This isn't helpful" and Mitch just goes "Yes, it is." If you are not feeling helped, the problem is on your end.

In the ILCOE, the totally helpful analogy was expanded into this entire philosophy on chance, which Mitch presumably developed after his miraculous survival in the desert and subsequent weird psychic intuitions that he can't explain turning out to be correct, plus witnessing a lot of people both dying and making it. That's not an unreasonable way to develop an eccentric way of thinking about odds. I like that the amounts I picked for the hypothetical bet actually match up so that the expected value is the same as the original bet - the fact hardly anyone would take it really is making a point about how our perception of odds doesn't quite match up with the reality.

(Of course, the really big point that analogy makes is about the marginal value of money. This decision is going to be made differently depending on what ten thousand Pokédollars is actually worth for the person. If they're obscenely rich and it's a drop in the ocean, maybe they'll take the bet for the hell of it; if it's all the money they have to pay for groceries for the next week, nope.)

“Does it hurt to have that poison in your body?” Mark suddenly asked.

“Not really,” Mitch said, still like he was speaking to the air. “It’s not comfortable, but doesn’t exactly hurt.”

“So, it’s a painless thing to die from?”

Mitch smiled faintly. “Those who know that are all dead, I’m afraid.”

“How do you know what having the poison in your body feels like, then?” Mark questioned.

Mitch nodded slowly. “I was just a kid, having just gotten my starter, a Venonat. We went into the desert, I stayed there for a bit too long and ran into one Scorplack that was a bit early, didn’t know it was dangerous and therefore didn’t watch out. I got stung, I caught it, and I fainted while I was walking back to Scorpio City.”

“But you were alone, weren’t you?” asked Mark, puzzled. “Who saved you?”

He wasn't alone! He just said he had a Venonat! God, this thing with Pokémon just not counting as people. All I had to do here was say his Venonat had fainted, or that it was stuck in its ball.

Mitch took his time answering this question; he peered at the starlit sky out of a window in the ceiling for a while, still with that faint smile on his lips.

“Nobody,” he finally answered. “I should be dead.”

Mark decided not to ask more about this.

The smoothest of segues.

This thing about Mitch believing he should be dead is pretty pivotal - after all, it's what motivates him to give his body to Chalenor. To me this was pretty much Mitch's one big fundamental character trait: he thinks he's dead, Mitch is a character he's playing that kind of terrifies him but has subsumed his identity, and he carries on basically feeling he's a ghost trapped in this alien persona and rightfully he shouldn't be here (ha, I never realized it before, but... Chalenor probably accidentally made those feelings worse, didn't he). However, as it turns out Mitch ends up spending a lot more of his onscreen time rambling about entirely different things than establishing this actually important thing about him. The next revision would more sensibly focus on what's actually significant.

“When will we know what will happen to her?”

Mitch stood up. “I left a sample of her blood in the research room. It should be ready now; wait here while I go to see the results. But you might find out before me. If she moves, she’s getting better. If she stops breathing, she’s dead.”

I did apparently keep this bit of Mitch being hilariously blunt about the possibility May is dying.

And he left Mark alone with May.

“Oh, please,” he muttered, “not this! Why can’t I have a normal journey without a Gym Leader giving me Mew or a madman threatening to kill me or somebody dying or deranged Pokémon or stupid nightmares?”

Wow, Mark, that's a remarkably self-centered way of looking at this. (Just wait to see what else this journey has in store for you, though.)

“It must be your fate to have difficulties,” said a soft voice inside his head. He jerked his head upwards to find Mew floating there. The pink creature’s eyes were filled with sadness.

“Mew! Just who I needed! Can’t you heal her?”

“No,” answered the Legendary Pokémon. “Scorplack’s affiliation with the element of darkness prevents psychic powers from affecting anything having to do with them.”

“But if she dies, you can just resurrect her, can’t you?” Mark questioned.

“She would merely die again, as the poison remains in her blood,” said Mew.

“Oh. Why are you following me?” Mark mumbled.

“I do not follow one person,” Mew said calmly. “I come when I feel that I should.”

“Really?” asked Mark dully.

“And now I feel I should leave,” said Mew before disappearing in a flash of purple.

This Mew appearance was always so utterly random and pointless, until years later I figured out actually Mew comes here a lot, because he can't shake the feeling that something about this place still feels like Chalenor. Also, more meaningless talk about fate and obscuring his weird desperate irrational search for Chalenor with coming when he feels he should.

In the original, I used the Pokémon speech to humorous effect here:

“Mew! Just when I need you! You see I have a problem here... can you just heal her or something, Mitch says she’s most likely going to die...”

“Meeew,” said Mew, shaking its head.

“Why can’t you?” asked Mark angrily.

“Meeeeeeew,” said Mew.

“So you think I won’t understand??? I will understand, why shouldn’t I understand?” said Mark annoyed.

“Mew meeeew mewwwww,” said Mew.

“Okay, I don’t understand. Fine. Can you then just resurrect her if she dies?”

“Meww,” said Mew and shook its head again.

“But you could resurrect Scyther! Why not May?”

“Mew meww.”

“Okay. You can’t heal her, and when you’re trying to tell me the reason, you talk in such a scientific nonsense there is no way to understand you. I ask if you could resurrect her, and you say you can’t and say I won’t understand that either. Well, now you tell me both of those reasons until I understand you!”

I love how Mew's overly complex scientific nonsense is simply "Mew meww."

The UMR translated Mew's dialogue, the way I was doing with all significant Pokémon speech, but left Mark's as is, and avoided technobabble by just stating Mew said a bunch of very scientific things about how Scorplack venom works and why it couldn’t be healed just like that. This destroyed the whole joke about Mew's scientific nonsense being expressed in a couple of "Mew meeeew mewwww" syllables. The original version pretty much kept the lighthearted, goofy tone of Mew's previous appearances in the fic, but this scene in the UMR was probably where this started to change, as writing out Mew's actual dialogue in a context like this would've just been incredibly weird and inappropriate if he kept that tone. Instead, though, Mew sounds very blunt and callous there. All in all, though in this version this scene remains very random and unnecessary (or so it seems), this version was definitely an improvement.

Obviously, in the next revision I'd write this to hint better at what's really going on. I could remove it entirely, of course, but more of Mew and hints about Chalenor would only be a good thing, I think.

There was a reason for that feeling, at least; Mitch entered just a second later.

“Good news,” he said. “She will most likely make it. She got the antidote in time. How do you know her, anyway?”

“Eh, we ended up going through the desert together, goodness knows how… it was her idea,” he quickly added.

It's a little funny Mitch would ask about their relationship here in the first place, but I enjoy Mark making sure to mention it was her idea to go through the desert.

“You didn’t get stung at all?” Mitch questioned.

“No, my Pokémon held them back…”

He suddenly realized what he had forgotten. His face went pale.

“Charmeleon! He also got stung! Quick, give him some antidote…”

Nice job caring about your Pokémon, Mark.

Mark took out the Pokéball and sent out his unconscious lizard on the floor. Mitch bent down and examined him, then injected some of the antidote into his arm.

“Will he be okay?” Mark asked worriedly.

“Pokémon are stronger than many people give them credit for,” said Mitch with a smile. “One sting from a Scorplack won’t kill any decent Pokémon. Humans, however…”

He trailed off, but then started again.

“Amazing, isn’t it? Pokémon are superior to us, but we’re the ones who ‘own’ them. And there’s a reason for it. Pokémon, while quite matching our intelligence, lack one thing. It is creativity. On their own, Pokémon only use battling techniques passed down generation by generation. Taking two things we know and figuring out that we can make something new out of them, that is our specialty, and that is exactly what they can’t do. This is why they seek our company in the first place. We can teach them things that seem obvious to us, but their brains have never been built to understand. Even Alakazam, with an IQ of 5000, will battle far better with a human’s aid. We need each other…”

Mitch's ramblings about Pokémon superiority never actually mean anything; it's just something he happens to find fascinating, probably largely because he keeps treating all these human poisoning victims who are dying while their Pokémon are fine.

For a moment Mitch seemed to be in deep thought. Then he absent-mindedly picked Charmeleon up and placed him on the coffee table.

“Well, now we just have to wait. Want a drink?”

In the previous versions, we actually got to see Mitch take a sample of May's blood, wait for the poison to separate out of it (he should own a centrifuge), and then analyze the poison with a machine. I was obviously just making up something that sounded cool, but it was kind of fun to properly see Mitch doing a science, which we don't get to see here.

The previous versions also didn't end on a cliffhanger here: just before the end of the chapter, May turned over in her sleep, proving that she would live according to Mitch's earlier explanation that if she moved it meant she'd recover.

Overall, this chapter wasn't so bad, I think. Characters getting into mortal peril is always nice, and Mitch gets his introduction alongside a slew of mysteries. I could definitely make this a whole lot more intriguing and effective now that I actually know what's going on, though. Originally, I'd made Mitch odd and mysterious pretty much for the hell of it and because it sounded cool, figuring I'd be able to come up with the answers later, and of course, I didn't figure it out until years later.

I feel like I had a plan at one point for how I was going to get Mark and May into the Black Desert in the IALCOTN, but by the time a post on Serebii encouraged me to write down some of what my plans had been, I'd forgotten whatever I may have come up with. Either way, I'm sure I can figure out something that makes more sense than Mark being completely unfamiliar with the geography and Pokémon of his own region.


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