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 16: The Third Badge

The most original of titles.

This chapter was published on December 5th, 2004, just a week after chapter 15. I apparently considered this my best battle so far when I wrote it. Let's see what that looks like.

Mark walked nervously forward as May pocketed her badge and stepped out of the way.

“This battle will be a three on three,” Mitch said calmly, inserting his Pokéballs into a Pocket Healer. Mark noticed that Mitch had a fourth Pokéball at his belt, too. “No healing items of any sort may be used on a Pokémon while the battle is going on. A recalled Pokémon counts as a fainted Pokémon.”

Note that this means May's trip to buy Antidotes from chapter 14 was completely pointless. Overall I think the fic implies you generally aren't allowed to use items in the middle of a battle. I don't think I realized this when I wrote May wanting to get Antidotes (which originated in the original).

Mark nodded.

“Very well,” said Mitch. “Let us begin.”

He took a ball and threw it. The light from the sphere materialized into the yellow bee that Mitch had used earlier.

“I choose…” Mark’s hand fiddled with his Pokéballs. Charmeleon would definitely be the best choice, but after all, Mitch had a Pokémon that Mark hadn’t seen yet, which might be powerful. The best trainers always said that you should leave your strongest Pokémon until last – provided that you know it will still be the strongest then.

It took me a moment here to puzzle out what he was talking about (namely, that you should leave your strongest Pokémon until last if it'd still have any advantages it might have by that point in the battle - in other words, if Mitch's last Pokémon were likely to be a Water-type, better not save Charmeleon).

Mark paused. Mitch’s Pokémon had all been Bug/Poison types; this meant that unless it was just a freaky coincidence, he probably only trained Pokémon that had both types.

He took out a Pokéball. Beedrill weren’t the strongest Pokémon around, and Eevee could probably do with a bit more battling experience.

“Eevee, you can do this!”

Mitch nodded as the small furred creature came out of the ball. “Interesting,” he simply said.

“Eevee, try a Quick Attack!” Mark said determinedly, hoping that Eevee could bring himself to attack the Beedrill. He did; he hesitated for a bit of a second, but then leapt into the air and tackled the bee Pokémon at high speed. It was knocked backwards, but retaliated by swooping down and jabbing Eevee with the stingers on its forelegs. He staggered backwards, then blinked and faced Beedrill again with a determined “Vi!” His battling instincts were clearly starting to show.

Interestingly, according to the official battling rules established much later at the League, the trainer must order an attack before the Pokémon is allowed to use it in the battle, so Mitch's Beedrill has technically broken that rule. I guess it's not necessarily the case for gym battles?

“Twineedle,” said Mitch simply, and Beedrill dove down again, its foreleg stingers raised. Eevee seemed to freeze for a moment, but then jumped out of the way, narrowly dodging it. Beedrill swooped upwards again to avoid getting hit.

“Eevee, use… um, maybe Tail Whip?” Mark suggested, realizing immediately afterwards that he had forgotten to sound like he knew what he was doing. Eevee didn’t appear to mind; he crouched down low with his tail in the air, and started wagging it back and forward. While Beedrill’s glossy red compound eyes watched Eevee’s tail tip, he jumped up and tackled the bee again in mid-air.

Mark worrying about not sounding like he knows what he's doing for Eevee's sake is cute.

“Poison Sting,” Mitch commanded, just as Beedrill was thrown backwards. The bee instantly obeyed, lunging at Eevee as he landed on the Gym floor and stinging him with its right foreleg. He shuddered, but countered by kicking some sand that seemed to materialize under his feet into the bee Pokémon’s eyes. It didn’t appear to be much more than a distraction, though; a creature without eyelids had to be designed not to be bothered by sand in the eyes.

“Veeee,” Eevee moaned with a dazed look in his eyes. Mark realized that the Beedrill’s poison was starting to affect him.

“Don’t give up, just get one more hit in with Quick Attack,” he said desperately. Eevee used his last strength to leap up and hit the bee once again. It was thrown into the wall, where it fell down, unconscious.

“Good job, Eevee!” Mark cheered, recalling his weak but proud Pokémon. “What’s next?”

Mark actually complimenting his Pokémon for doing well! Amazing!

With a faint smile, Mitch took out another Pokéball. He threw it without words into the middle of the arena, where it released his Venomoth. It flapped its wings slowly, watching Mark with its creepy, staring eyes.

He thought about what to send out. He still wanted to save Charmeleon for the last. The best trainers never recommended training a Pokémon to become much stronger than the rest of the team, so he would rather not use Scyther. That left Gyarados. He hadn’t gotten any training in the desert anyway, so he was a few levels behind.

I guess I forgot Dratini existed again. Well done, me.

“Go, Gyarados!” Mark announced, throwing the Pokéball towards the pool on the left side of the arena. The sea monster materialized from the red light, apparently not feeling up for his normal roar since he just growled slightly.

“Stun Spore, Venomoth,” Mitch said. The moth flew over Gyarados and started flapping its wings, releasing a cloud of golden spores.

“Dive, quickly!” Mark blurted out. Gyarados disappeared beneath the surface of the water, and was not affected by the powder.

“Psybeam, Venomoth,” Mitch said as Gyarados came up again. His Pokémon fired a rainbow-colored beam of psychic energy into the monster’s face. He retaliated by grabbing the moth in his mouth with a quick movement.

“Psychic and then Stun Spore,” Mitch ordered his Pokémon. Venomoth, still locked between Gyarados’s jaws, glowed bright blue and as the eerie aura engulfed Gyarados, he was forced to open his mouth and release the captive. As soon as Venomoth was free, it flapped its wings rapidly to send another flurry of sparkling dust at the sea monster. Some of it escaped in through his nostrils, and his long segmented body immediately stiffened, allowing more of the paralyzing powder to enter his bloodstream as he inhaled it.

“Gyarados, do something!” Mark cried desperately, having no idea what to do. With difficulty, the immobile monster closed his eyes and Mark saw him starting to get grayer.

“Is that…” he gasped, just as Gyarados’s eyes snapped open and fired the same type of a bright red beam as he had used on Suicune. This time, an even more amazing effect of it was revealed; Venomoth fluttered out of the way, but the beam followed on its own accord and blasted the purple moth Pokémon across the arena. On the way, ice seemed to start layering around its wings, and it fell to the ground with a clatter, clearly frozen.

You didn't think Gyarados was broken enough? Guess how broken I can make him.

“Interesting…” Mitch muttered. “Very… very interesting.”

The Pokéball’s beam zapped Venomoth into the ball again. Mark looked at Gyarados; he was still rather grayish, and appeared very exhausted, not to mention his paralysis. He would barely last long like that.

“Return,” Mark said, recalling the sea monster back into his Pokéball too. “Guess it’s down to our last Pokémon, then.”

“Indeed,” Mitch agreed, smiling. He took out a Pokéball; it was the one he had not used against May.

Mark hesitated a bit, but took Charmeleon’s Pokéball, silently hoping that his assumption that Mitch’s Pokémon were all bugs was correct.

“Go!” Mark shouted. Both of them threw the Pokéballs at the same time; Mark’s became the red lizard, and Mitch’s formed into something smaller, with four sets of limbs, a tail and two pincers.

“A Scorplack?” Mark asked, staring at the shiny black scorpion. “The one that… didn’t kill you?”

“Of course,” said Mitch, smiling. “I told you I caught him.”

“Is he your strongest?” Mark asked nervously.

Mitch nodded. “Is that your starter?” he questioned back.

“Yes,” Mark replied with a smile. “Flamethrower!” he then called to his Pokémon.

Charmeleon spewed a bright spiral of flames from his mouth, but Scorplack darted to the right with surprising agility and avoided it.

“Watch out for the stinger!” Mark told Charmeleon quickly. “Try another Flamethrower!”

The lizard blasted out some more flames, which Scorplack also avoided. The scorpion then swung his tail at Charmeleon, who narrowly managed to jump out of the way.

“Keep at a safe distance, Charmeleon,” Mark said desperately. “Don’t let it come near you, and try to attack it with fire.”

“Mega Sting,” Mitch commanded. “And dodge the Flamethrowers.”

Mega Sting was one of my original made-up moves for Scorplack, of course; it has 50 base power and always poisons the opponent, making it surprisingly reasonable for a move I made up.

Scorplack shot towards Charmeleon with his stinger raised. The lizard released more flames out of his mouth, but the scorpion leapt to the side.

“Darn dodger!” Mark gritted his teeth. Charmeleon growled in agreement as he ran out of the scorpion’s reach, slowing him down with a tongue of fire that he sent over his shoulder. Scorplack evaded it like the previous ones and then unexpectedly sped up, reached Charmeleon’s side and swung his tail at the lizard. The tail end stung into his arm and injected poison into his blood. He roared in pain, spitting out a ball of fire. It hit the floor just by Scorplack’s legs; he jumped up and ran to the side, Charmeleon following. Mark was getting worried; Charmeleon would faint any minute now, when the poison came into effect.

But he didn’t.

Mark watched the lizard shoot another Flamethrower and Scorplack running frantically to the side to avoid it. For a moment he expected Charmeleon to fall unconscious in a matter of seconds. Then, when he still didn’t, something hit him.

“Charmeleon!” he shouted. “You’ve been stung before, you must’ve gained an immunity to the poison! Move in for physical assault; you don’t need to fear being stung!”

I don't think venoms actually work that way, but it is kind of a neat idea to tie this back to Charmeleon getting stung in chapter 13.

Something I did pretty consciously throughout the fic was give each of Mark's gym challenges some kind of twist to make them more interesting - it's never just routine battle with the Pokémon duking it out dealing damage until Mark wins. (May's battles, on the other hand, didn't necessarily have anything like that, which is one reason they tend to be kind of dull.) For example, Mew deliberately faints and Rick gives him to Mark; Scyther goes nuts in the battle against Christopher; Scyther and Charmeleon end up fighting each other in Mark's first attempt at Marge's gym; Scyther turns out to still be drunk in the Sparky battle; and Letal tries but fails to evolve when they fight Diane and Victor. I think that was a pretty cool idea; it means there's at least in theory an actually memorable bit in each gym battle - or each gym, rather, since e.g. the rematch with Marge didn't have one. This one's twist, this immunity thing, is probably the weakest of these twists, though, and I definitely don't blame you if you did completely forget about it.

Hearing this, the lizard leapt forward, aiming for the scorpion. Not expecting it, Scorplack made an attempt to defend himself with his pincer, but Charmeleon came down on top of him and released a powerful blast of flames directly down at the scorpion’s head. Scorplack let out a screech, but then fell silent. Charmeleon turned to Mark and sent him a salute, grinning. Mark smiled back.

Aw, this is cute.

“Return,” Mitch said slowly to his Pokémon, holding forward the Pokéball. “Nice thinking there at the end.”

It really wasn't thinking so much as a lucky break that Mark then happened to notice.

Mark just blushed, his smile widening as Charmeleon returned to the Pokéball in a beam of red.

“I confer upon you the Venom Badge,” Mitch announced, holding up a small object. Mark walked up to him and took it. It resembled a silver coin like the other badges; however, this one had small circular ripples in its smooth surface.

“Uh, thanks,” Mark said awkwardly. “Er, yeah. Guess I’m off, then.”

“Good luck,” said Mitch and smiled his faint smile. Mark nodded and ran out of the Gym; he was feeling all jumpy like he couldn’t just walk.

Mark, still a socially awkward penguin.

-------

Victor looked after Mark as he ran east out of the town.

“Do you know him? And the girl who was with him when he came to town?”

Victor jumped. It was Mitch; he had seemingly been standing by his side without him noticing.

“Sort of, yeah,” he replied. “I battled him, and the girl came afterwards. Why?”

Mitch nodded sadly. “I just have this feeling something bad will happen to them.”

Really blatant kludgy foreshadowing, go! Mitch decides to tell this to Victor, who just happens to be standing there, just because. Can you tell I didn't actually know why he knew this or was doing this?

In the previous versions, Victor wasn't involved here - rather, the end of the chapter just had Mitch "glaring" after Mark and muttering to himself about having the feeling they would meet again soon and that something bad would happen in Aqua Town (Aquarium City). Since he specified that, he also clearly wasn't referring to Chaletwo killing him (the thing I was trying to hint at here) but rather just to the next plot point I was rubbing my hands together over, namely Mark's disastrous battle against Marge and Scyther nearly murdering him. That's probably because it took until this version for me to decide Mitch's deal had to be somehow connected to the actual main plot.

Otherwise, this chapter is just gym battle. I think I can agree with my past self that this is the best battle thus far - the Pokémon take a few hits and they're not quite just exchanging attacks back and forth. I completely redid this battle in this version rather than basing it on the flow of the UMR but with more description, which probably helped. That doesn't make it too exciting, though, particularly since the "twist" is such a brief moment here. In the next revision I'd try to find a way to make this battle more interesting. It'd probably involve doing more with Mitch thanks to Actually Knowing What Is Going On™. And Mark's Pokémon being more characters. And Mark not forgetting about Dratini, again.


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