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 the first chunk of the story has been commented. Check the Quest Blog for progress information!)

Chapter 19: Good or Evil?

This title is so antithetical to everything this story is about.

This was the first chapter of 2005! Posted on January 4th, it came some ten days after chapter 18. In between the two, I made the ILCOTEM revisions to the prologue and the first two chapters - oddly, starting with chapter two. More on that in a bit.

When Mark regained consciousness, he was still in the Pokémon Center, lying on one of the sofas. A crowd of people stood over him; murmurs of “He’s waking up…” went through the group as he opened his eyes. Most of the people left now, but a familiar blue-haired girl still waited.

“Mark? You okay?” May asked. He mumbled something.

“What happened?” she inquired. “They’re saying your Scyther attacked you; is it true?”

“Nah,” Mark muttered. “It was just the excitement…”

May very obviously saw right through him, but as usual she didn’t ask and just changed the subject instead. “Hey, you’ll be happy when you hear why I waited for you to wake up.”

“Why?” Mark questioned.

“I managed to find a guy with an Exeggcute who is willing to let it Teleport us to Green Town. How does that sound?”

“Great,” Mark replied, smiling. May could be very useful sometimes. “What time is it?” he asked.

“Quarter past two,” she replied. “Oh, yeah, did you get your badge?”

Mark blushed. “Eh, not really.”

Note how last chapter mentioned Mark got up at the hotel at seven AM, then he got breakfast, then he retrieved Sandslash at the Pokémon Center, then he went to the gym to battle Marge, and then he went back to the Pokémon Center to talk to Scyther and Charmeleon. This is like maybe a couple of hours total, maybe three if we assume he really took his sweet time with breakfast and the distances between the hotel/Pokémon Center/gym were a lot longer than they sounded - which'd mean there's no way it was significantly past, like, ten in the morning when Scyther attacked Mark. But now apparently it's past two in the afternoon! Not only would that mean he was unconscious for long enough someone really ought to have taken him to the hospital by now - the whole crowd of onlookers who presumably witnessed the attack were apparently just standing around waiting for him to wake up for several hours. All in all, the timing still doesn't make any sense, but in the opposite way from how it usually doesn't make sense.

I haven't mentioned Mark sitting up or anything, so I'm picturing him still just casually lying on the sofa, taking his time. I'm pretty sure I intended him to have sat up by now, but apparently I didn't mention it, which I find a bit surprising; the way I write today I'm always picturing the scene and when something like that happens I just describe it automatically.

May raised an eyebrow. “How did it go?”

“Well, Eevee and Gyarados lost to her Politoed and Vaporeon, and Sandslash and Dratini, who is now a Dragonair, beat her Feraligatr and Quagsire, but then I had just Scyther and Charmeleon left, and…”

“Did they almost kill Charmeleon or something so you had to forfeit?” May guessed.

I enjoy how casually she makes this suggestion. That's pretty her, isn't it.

“No,” Mark replied miserably. “I guess I never told you, but Scyther and Charmeleon hate each other.”

There was a short silence. “Oh,” May then answered, seemingly surprised. “I didn’t know.”

“Well, Charmeleon basically started taunting Scyther, and then Scyther came and was going to kill him, so I had to recall them…” Mark explained painfully.

“And did you then faint?” May questioned disbelievingly.

"Dialogue," Character verbed adverbially.

“Er, I took them inside and Scyther, well… it was true, he did attack me.”

May’s mouth fell open. “What? How are you still alive?”

“He stopped himself just before…”

“But what are you going to do?” May interrupted.

“What can I do?” Mark yelled out in frustration. “If he’s going to kill me, he’ll do it before I can do anything about it! He hears through Pokéballs and can break out of them! Releasing him would be suicide, trying to get him disposed of some other way would also be, and keeping him in the Pokéball makes him a ticking bomb that can explode at any time! Is there anything at all that I can do?”

Suddenly, he felt hopeless, small and scared. “Why does everything like this happen to me?” he whimpered.

“Come on, you look silly,” May hissed. “Just get it through your thick skull that you’re not the unluckiest person in the world! Why are you always feeling sorry for yourself? You don’t even know if Scyther is a secret assassin – and really, if he was, wouldn’t he have killed you already? You’re being stupid, Mark. Just stand up, get your badge and stop whining.”

Mark felt like he had just been punched in the face, but somehow it was relieving.

“You’re right,” he said blankly, standing slowly up. “I’m just being stupid. I’ll just go and battle Marge again, and we can go off to Green Town.”

“Don’t take too long,” May called after him as he started walking out of the Pokémon Center. “Or I might leave without you.”

Haha, I love that Mark starts angsting and "Why me"-ing and May's just like "Ugh, get over yourself." That's especially refreshing after his over-the-top "my usual luck is so bad" last chapter. Good old May. You're mean and sometimes I'm not sure why Mark puts up with you, but you're still the best character.

That being said, this dialogue isn't very coherent. Mark's whole thinking on Scyther doesn't make sense: he just witnessed Scyther nearly murdering him but stopping himself, so while it'd be reasonable to conclude he has dangerously low inhibitions, it's pretty clear he doesn't want to kill Mark. Given that, there's no good reason to think releasing him would be suicide: it's not as if anything he's ever done suggests he'd get mad and be dangerous if released. And sure, Mark's probably not thinking entirely rationally about this after just nearly getting sliced in half, but the fact he gets into these particular specifics when they're completely baseless is weird. He should absolutely be feeling kind of paranoid, but not in quite this way.

Meanwhile, May's response veers way to the other extreme. "You don't even know if Scyther is a secret assassin"? Well, surely it'd be reasonable to be concerned if you have even a mild suspicion that somebody might be a secret assassin. Pointing out that Scyther clearly could have killed him already if he wanted to is a solid point, but the bit about how he doesn't know for sure is nonsense - especially after just a couple of lines earlier May was shocked Mark was still alive after Scyther attacked him. Make up your mind, May.

Also, although I enjoy May's extreme bluntness here, I don't think May has actually witnessed a lot of self-pitying from Mark at all, so I'm not sure this quite works here as it is.

-------

Mark stepped into the Gym for the second time this day. Marge was still standing at the other end; she bowed slightly when he entered.

“Umm, yeah, I’m here for a rematch,” Mark said nervously. Marge nodded.

“And… since we were even after two rounds earlier, can we just take one round now?” Mark suggested.

“Using the same Pokémon?” Marge asked emotionlessly.

“Eh,” Mark got an uncomfortable sting in his stomach, “I’d prefer not; they won’t be able to work together anytime soon.”

“Then,” Marge began, pacing around her end of the arena, “you must send out your Pokémon first.”

“Sure,” said Mark, shrugging. Better than nothing.

“Go, Scyther and Dragonair!”

In the previous versions, Mark actually asked for a one-on-one (which ended up as an extremely brief Gyarados versus Feraligatr fight), and it was specifically because he didn't want to use either Scyther or Charmeleon at the moment, so I'm surprised I had him just breezily use Scyther here, where I'd made a much bigger deal of Mark freaking out about Scyther attacking him.

Marge still isn't saying anything to be actually helpful to this beginning trainer who's obviously having major problems with two of his Pokémon.

The mantis and the snake-like dragon came out of the Pokéballs, calling out their names.

“Interesting…” said Marge slowly before taking out two of her own Pokéballs. “Go, Lapras and Starmie.”

The sea turtle and the starfish from earlier emerged from the red light, facing Mark’s Pokémon. He took a deep breath.

“Okay, Dragonair, use a Dragonbreath, if you know that, or Twister or something, on Lapras. Scyther… can you use Fury Cutter? If not, just a normal Slash. Attack Starmie.”

It was first now dawning on to Mark that he didn’t know anything about his Pokémon’s attacks. He remembered Twister from the Pokédex since he checked Dratini’s stats in Rainbow Woods, but he had never battled with Scyther before and just vaguely remembered something about Fury Cutter being Scyther’s signature move. Marge had to think he was an idiot.

Side effect of barely writing the trainer getting into any battles in between gyms: apparently he manages to just not have the faintest idea what moves his Pokémon even know by the time he tries to use them in gym battles. Good job, Mark.

Either way, his Pokémon obeyed. Dragonair spun around at high speed, producing a green whirlwind of dragon flames and sending it towards the blue turtle. It let out a high-pitched wail before countering with an icy beam which blasted into Dragonair, clearly leaving him very hurt. Meanwhile, Scyther jumped up and darted towards Starmie. He slashed it loosely and his scythes started glowing faint green. Starmie, seemingly not very much hurt, countered with a beam of ice which sent Scyther flying backwards. He growled as he returned right to the starfish and slashed it again, more powerfully than before.

“Both of you, Ice Beam,” said Marge calmly. Her two Pokémon both leant backwards, charging up new beams of ice.

“Quick, Dragonair, dive!” Mark blurted out. “Scyther, keep using Fury Cutter but try to dodge the attacks!” He knew that Fury Cutter would only increase in power if used many times with not too long between them. If the Pokémon that used it lost concentration, the power would fade completely.

Scyther zoomed down at Starmie and slashed it with his now glowing blades. Dragonair dove into the pool, narrowly avoiding the Ice Beam as Lapras fired it. Starmie aimed well after being struck by Scyther and blasted him into the wall. He shook himself slightly before slashing at Starmie again. With each hit, the glow on his scythes intensified and the slashes got more powerful.

Finally, Scyther slashed Starmie sharply and the starfish collapsed. Marge returned it without words, and issued a command to her sea turtle:

“Ice Beam his pool.”

Lapras blasted a beam of ice at the pool. The water froze instantly; Dragonair, being underwater, was trapped completely in the middle of the completely frozen pool.

“Dragonair, come back,” Mark said worriedly, recalling his Pokémon through the sheet of ice. “Scyther, keep using Fury Cutter on Lapras! You can do this!”

The last words were encouraging, but not convincing. Lapras was not very hurt, but Scyther was getting weak now after having been hit by two Ice Beams from Starmie.

“Lapras, Blizzard,” Marge said in an icy voice as Scyther rushed towards the sea turtle. Mark clenched his fist while Lapras swung its neck back…

A vicious blast of snow and wind obscured the room – but it narrowly missed Scyther as he swung out of the way.

His brightly glowing scythe cut powerfully across the base of Lapras’s neck. The Pokémon let out a screech as blood gushed out; Scyther flew back and landed in the middle of the arena.

“I forfeit,” said Marge quickly, taking out another Pokéball. Out of it came the mermaid cat, Vaporeon. Without a command, it fired a soft stream of water at Lapras’s cut; for a moment, the stream obscured the wound, but when Vaporeon ended the Water Gun attack, the cut was no longer visible. Lapras winced, but appeared all right.

Marge recalled her Pokémon and walked gracefully across the arena, handing Mark a badge like the one May had.

“You battled fairly well,” she commented, “but rather brutally.” She turned to Scyther as she said the last words; he was just finishing licking his scythes clean. He turned emptily to her, looking into her eyes with an odd, blank but somehow tragic expression, and returned to his Pokéball.

“Sorry,” Mark excused awkwardly. “He’s a bit… strange…”

Scyther's expression is tragic. Lay it on, fourteen-year-old me.

Glaringly, even after Mark's whole outburst about Scyther possibly murdering him, he doesn't think much of anything of him then attacking a Lapras in a particularly brutal way. There's no internal coherence to his emotional state, just sort of whatever I felt like writing at any given moment. Sure, May snapped him out of it to some degree, but surely this really should be bringing back his worries, right?

This battle felt pretty turn-based, and the way Dragonair just unceremoniously fails to be remotely useful is really disappointing. All in all, not great.

Marge didn’t reply; she just nodded and then swept around to walk out of the arena. Mark assumed that since he had his badge, he could leave. Hesitating, he turned around and walked out through the door.

May was waiting for him outside.

“Got your badge this time?” she questioned.

“Yeah,” Mark replied.

“You sound pretty gloomy for somebody who’s just won a badge,” May commented as she started walking, Mark following.

“Mmm,” he answered. She just sighed.

“You really need to cheer up a little bit, you know. Feel good just once.”

Mark was too polite to tell her that he found her extremely annoying, so he didn’t answer.

Ahaha, oh, Mark.

“Hey!”

A brown-haired boy wearing a green T-shirt ran up to them. “It’s good I found you; I’m in a bit of a hurry, you see - can you teleport now?”

May looked at Mark. “Umm, I think I have all my stuff, at least,” he answered.

“Great,” said the boy, taking a Pokéball from his belt. He threw it to reveal what looked like six pink, creepy eggs with evil grins. They hovered just above the ground, floating slightly up and down.

“Come on, Mark,” May said, leaning down to touch the eggs. Mark did the same; he couldn’t get rid of the feeling that those eggs would bite him, though.

“Okay, Exeggcute,” said the trainer loudly, “Teleport to the Green Town Pokémon Center.”

“Exeggcute!” answered six mischievous voices as the Pokémon started flickering. Then suddenly, Mark discovered that he was in a Pokémon Center; it was one of the pink-furry-carpet ones.

May took her hand off the egg Pokémon, and Mark hesitatingly removed his. The Pokémon started flickering again, and disappeared.

Mark looked around. This Pokémon Center might have had the same architect as the ones in Cleanwater, Alumine and Aquarium City, but it was probably bigger than all three of them put together. That was no surprise, since Green Town was the biggest city in Ouen. It had increased so rapidly in size that it still had that name; in order not to seem like the name was just irony, trees had been planted all around to make it somewhat green.

Haha, wow. I guess the inhabitants of Green Town are equally irrationally inclined to cling to their town name and retroactively justify it as I was.

But the Pokémon Center had no signs of green. Currently its white walls were covered in posters about the Pokémon Festival; it was also crowded with people who were mostly reading the posters and chatting excitedly. A big digital clock on the wall showed the time.

Mark suddenly noticed that May was already standing by a poster, reading. He walked up to her; the poster was a notice that the Gym was closed during the festival.

“I think I’m going to challenge the Gym Leader now. When are you planning to do it?” she said, turning to him.

“Not now, at least,” Mark answered. “I mean, I just came back from the last Gym.”

May shrugged. “Sure. Bye, then.”

“Bye.”

May hurried out of the Pokémon Center. Mark wasn’t sure what to do, but then his eyes found a poster with a big, picture of Chaletwo. The left half portrayed him normally, on a white background; the right half had him colored darker, with the blinding yellow eye open, on a black background. Interested, he walked up to it and started reading.

CHALETWO: GOOD OR EVIL?

Since 870 AW, people have started doubting Chaletwo’s original claim of not intending to harm any living being. This, of course, is due to the famous Leah-Mary cases.

During his appearance in 870, Chaletwo murdered a twelve-year-old girl by the name of Leah Donaldson using his lethal Death Stare attack, without any apparent reason. After the act, Chaletwo left as he would any other year – but this time he took an innocent’s soul with him.

Leah’s family was devastated, and claimed that she could in no way have done anything that might have provoked the Legendary to do this. Most people were doubtful that Chaletwo would commit murder without a reason and the case quickly died down; however when Chaletwo killed another girl the next year, this time fifteen-year-old Mary Goldman from Johto, the voices rose up again fiercely. Two boys followed the next two years…

Mark stopped reading. He felt sick already. First Suicune, now Chaletwo! Why were all Legendaries he got the chance to see brutal murderers of some sort? Of course, Suicune had been innocent, since Gyarados was the one who killed the people, but those were apparently murdered within the eyesight of hundreds of people…

They're all brutal murderers of some sort because you're in a fanfic written by me, Mark.

This poster doesn't read anything like an actual poster, and given these murders are obviously highly publicized, it's bizarre that there's a poster in the Pokémon Center conveniently aimed at explaining it to people who've never heard of any of it for some reason. If I were making this poster today, it'd be punchy and dramatic and leave Mark puzzled: Their names were Leah Donaldson, Mary Goldman, Ryan Whatshisname, and Anonymous Dirtbag. Chaletwo won't stop there. Be smart. Stay home. But none of this would be happening in the next revision, so alas, my improved poster will probably never see the light of day.

The idea that there's a debate about whether Chaletwo truly won't harm any living thing when he's murdered multiple children in front of hundreds of witnesses is so ludicrous. I know I'm about to wave my hand and go "magic aura of goodness", but I can't believe people didn't see this and go what on earth.

He must have looked very shocked or pale, because he felt a finger tap his shoulder.

“Can I help you?”

Mark turned around. The person who asked was a boy who looked a few years older than him; maybe fifteen or so. He had dark, messy hair and something about his face seemed distinctly familiar.

“Er… not really, I was just reading… didn’t know about this…” Mark pointed to the poster.

“Ah.” The boy looked at him with a somewhat troubled expression. “You don’t happen to have an interest in Legendaries, do you?” he asked suddenly.

“Yeah, how did you know?” asked Mark, amazed that the boy could just know that from seeing him reading a poster. The boy’s expression turned still more worried; he bit his lip, but then said slowly:

“I think we should talk.”

Dun dun duuun. In the previous revisions, there was a poster, but it was a completely different one, simply detailing the events that would take place at the festival. Instead, Nurse Joy asked Mark what brought him there, he told her he wanted to see Chaletwo and started going on about how he'd read about him and Molzapart in this particular book, and that's when Alan tapped his shoulder, because Alan was the anonymous source named in the book as the one who'd told the author everything the book said about Molzapart and Rainteicune (the author of the book just added legendary Pokémon based on the word of a single person, apparently, which is hilarious).

Here I was obviously starting to prepare the whole upcoming conversation with Alan, but during the writing of this chapter I decided to make revisions to the first few chapters - and I started with chapter two. I think the only conclusion I can draw from that is that these revisions were in part motivated by the fact I was about to get to the part where Molzapart actually becomes significant, which put Molzapart on my mind and gave me the urge to remove him from chapter two entirely. It was an eminently strange decision, seeing as this means the Alan conversation next chapter where he and Mark both confidently assume the reader is familiar with Molzapart wasn't written until after I'd removed the sole previous mention of Molzapart. I mentioned in the Serebii thread that in the next revision I was planning to introduce Molzapart for the first time in chapter 20, but I'd already made this change to the version of chapter two that was in the files for TCoD, and yet went on to add chapter 20 to that with no explanation of Molzapart either.

This is a bad chapter; I'm not dealing coherently with the whole Scyther issue at all, the battle is uninteresting, Marge is still a noncharacter who fails to react reasonably to Mark's obvious Pokémon problems, we zoom right off to the next town after we've spent a mere chapter and a half in Aquarium City (talk about wasted potential - this is possibly the most unusual setting in the fic, but it's pretty much reduced to a single description and then a couple of routine events that could happen anywhere), and then the whole poster about Chaletwo is all kinds of ridiculous. The chapter dramatically poses the extremely simple-minded question of whether Chaletwo is "good or evil", as if that's an intrinsic fundamental binary quality and his actions just provide vague hints towards one or the other, then tries to make it out to be a serious debate despite that the sole actual thing Chaletwo has been seen doing is murdering children (tip: that's definitely pretty evil), and then it ends. The ending is probably a reasonable hook - certainly a much more effective chapter split than the one in the previous revisions, which happened in the middle of Mark's visit to Alan's house when Alan was about to launch into the whole retelling of Molzapart and Rainteicune - but other than that this was not a very inspired chapter.

In a future revision I'd probably linger in Aquarium City a bit more, dealing with the aftermath of Scyther's attack while trying to do something more interesting with the city. Marge would probably be involved, because if you are a vaguely responsible authority figure and witness something like that, you definitely don't just shrug and go about your business. I'd want to keep Mark freaking out and May telling him he's being stupid, though. It's always fun when the main character gets called out, but also, the fact May can't stand open displays of fear and vulnerability and insecurity is obviously actually a pretty revealing thing for her character.


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