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!)

The Pokémon Festival – May 23rd: The Pokémon Frenzy Tournament

April 8th, 2005, so nearly a month after chapter 22, and topping its predecessor's length at eighteen pages. As I've mentioned, this was one of my absolute favorite chapters for a very long time, for very me reasons. Ready to dive into some attempted murder and suicide?

A/N: This chapter is the first to contain something that appears in a few places throughout the fic: Short blurbs of Pokémon's thoughts during battle. They are just paragraphs written in italics in the middle of battles...

Meaning, of course, this was a thing that I did in this one chapter and then never again.

What I was mainly thinking of when I said this'd happen in a few places was that Tyranitar's Not weak! was originally planned to be such a thought. I didn't imply it'd happen again in the author's note for the previous versions, so I probably thought up that bit sometime between this chapter in the UMR and the ILCOE. One way or another, though, eventually I decided he'd simply say it out loud.

Mark woke up before May the next day. He had never thought he’d ever be relieved to wake up to a nightmare about creepy yellow eyes, but it was not at all pleasant to be woken up by May’s yells every morning, either. He quickly got dressed, and just as he pulled on his socks, there was a loud knock on the door.

Every time Mark complains about May gives me life, honestly.

“Hey, sleepy!”

“I’m up already!” Mark called back, walking towards the door and opening it. “What event is today again?”

“The Pokémon Frenzy Tournament,” May replied.

“What was that again?” Mark asked, yawning.

“It’s a thingy where your Pokémon battle without trainers,” she explained. “Look, I have a thingy on it.” She held up a booklet and then started skimming it.

“It says here that it’s ‘a competition of how well Pokémon can handle their own battles without the limits set by trainers and standard battling rules’,” she read and looked up. “That translates to ‘something where your Pokémon beat each other up and you have nothing to do with it’.”

Mark considered this. He wasn’t the best battler, after all – maybe his Pokémon would like to get some time to shine by themselves.

“It also says here,” May continued, “that trainer-free battling ‘helps your Pokémon’s ability to think independently within battle’, and to ‘know their own limits’.”

Mark nodded. That would definitely help him get some badges; after all, he did usually rely on his Pokémon’s abilities rather than his own when battling.

That's hilariously blunt but also very true. I wasn't sure Mark's Pokémon doing a lot of the thinking in battle was really a thing this early and not just something I stated and expected you to take my word for it, but it really was, because Mark keeps just having zero idea what he's doing. Really, though, Mark, how about you actually do the minimum amount of work you're supposed to be doing as a trainer, like knowing what moves they know. Don't just go "Yeah, I suck, my Pokémon do all the work" like this is a perfectly acceptable state of affairs.

“Umm, are you entering?” he finally asked.

“No,” she said. “I prefer to win thanks to my own strategies, not my Pokémon’s.”

A part of Mark decided to take that as a personal attack, but the other part prevented him from saying anything.

Haha, nice. (But also, look how very May.)

In the previous versions, her refusal was a little different:

“I think I’m entering some of mine,” said Mark.

“I think I’m not entering any of mine,” said May. “My pokémon don’t need to have crazy battles that will most likely include a lot of blood to be champions.”

She's still basically getting at the idea that she's going to make them champions, but I'm amused that she's immediately like "Well, this is going to be especially brutal and violent."

“Well, I like the idea,” he said decisively. “I’m entering… all of my Pokémon.”

“Well, the same trainer may only enter a maximum of three Pokémon,” May read from the booklet. “So that won’t work.”

“Oh.” Mark paused for a second. “Well, I won’t enter Leta, the Pokémon there are probably all much stronger than she is… Jolteon really deserves to be in, though; he didn’t get to take part in the Attack Approval at all...”

“It says here you can’t enter Pokémon that rely on water to battle,” May pointed out.

“Then I guess Gyarados can’t be entered either,” Mark clarified. After a short pause, he sighed.

“I’m being an idiot – of course I have to ask them.”

Yes! Good! Finally!

I distinctly remember this being an actual realization I just had on Mark's behalf here while writing this conversation. At the time that just seemed like how my thought process (and by extension Mark's) happened to go, but after rereading all the preceding chapters and properly noticing the general lack of actually treating the Pokémon as characters in them, it's starting to seem like a pivotal turning point that this actually occurred to me.

In the previous versions, Mark just decided on his own to enter all his Pokémon, except Gyarados since he's not allowed... and Dragonair, who Mark for some reason decided might be "too sensitive" for it. I do not understand, especially when he does enter Jolteon the actual child.

May didn’t reply; he took out his Pokéballs and sent out all of his Pokémon except Gyarados. He started by briefly explaining the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament.

“So,” he finished, “who wants to enter and who doesn’t?”

“I want to,” Leta said quietly.

“But…” Mark protested, startled. “There will be really strong Pokémon there…”

“Yes,” Leta replied emptily.

May’s booklet saved Mark from trying to convince her otherwise:

“Well, the minimum level to enter appears to be 30. It says here that there are five groups: level 30-45, level 46-60, 61-75, 76-90 and 91+. Leta is level 22, isn’t she? So she can’t enter. The rest of you can, though.”

Leta didn’t say anything. She just looked down.

“I’m sorry,” said Mark although he actually felt very relieved. “What about the rest of you?”

Leta already knows exactly what she's here for. I like Mark being worried for her but not wanting to state it outright.

“I’ll volunteer not to be in,” said Dragonair after a moment’s pause. “As fun as it would be to fly some more, I’m not that interested.”

The rest of the Pokémon looked at each other for a while.

“I guess I’ll pass too, then” Sandslash said finally. “I don’t really care either way.”

“Great,” said Mark cheerfully. “That’s all settled, then?”

All the Pokémon except Leta nodded. She just stared emptily straight forward.

“All right,” she finally sighed after everybody’s eyes had been set on her for a second.

“I’m sorry, Leta,” Mark said quietly. She just nodded shortly.

Notice anything? Yet again, I'm sneakily naming the Pokémon that opt not to take part in the hope of making it less noticeable that this means Scyther and Charmeleon are both entered. It sticks out to me here, but maybe if you don't already know what I'm up to, it might look inconspicuous?

That having been said, while it might be reasonable for a reader not to be mentally enumerating Mark's team, since the Pokémon are standing right there, Mark himself really ought to notice that the three he's entering include Scyther and Charmeleon. In the previous versions, since he didn't send out his Pokémon and just entered all his Pokémon except Dragonair and Gyarados, it seemed sort of reasonable he wouldn't think of that particular combination. Here, in addition to Mark having the Pokémon right in front of him, I added the three-Pokémon limit, which (especially since Mark now has seven Pokémon) means it'd be a lot more natural to think of this in terms of which three are going to enter. All in all it's pretty hard to see how this does not occur to him at any point.

-------

What had been done with the stadium since yesterday was amazing. Tall walls now divided the arena into five parts, one for each level group. The one for level 30-45 was the smallest, while the level 91+ one was the biggest by far. There weren’t many people accompanying Mark and May on the small section of seats that faced towards the 30-45 part; Mark guessed that almost all of them were probably the trainers of participating Pokémon, like him, or their friends, like May.

The level split was new in this version, presumably because I figured there should be a lot more Pokémon at an event like this and that it might be a bit unreasonable for Mark's Pokémon, in their thirties and early forties, to end up getting to the finals of the tournament unless there was a level limit along these lines.

Mark noticed that the walls were much thicker than they needed to be; just as he was wondering why, doors slid open on either side of the mini-arena.

“Welcome to the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament!” a voice boomed out. “I will be commenting on the battles today. Let’s just start round one!”

Two men holding Pokéballs appeared in the doors, ready to throw them.

“And the first match is between a level 35 male Jolteon and a level 35 female Vibrava named Terra! Let the battle begin!”

One of the biggest changes made in the UMR version was adding this entire first round of battles to the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament. I'm pretty sure I did this because originally, Mark's four Pokémon constituted literally half of the participants in this thing, which was ridiculous.

The men threw the Pokéballs; out of them came Jolteon and a weird, green and yellow dragonfly-like Pokémon. It flapped its wings and floated lazily a little above the ground.

It’s a dragonfly… Pokémon that fly are weak to electricity, aren’t they? I think May always used Pikachu for them…

Jolteon crouched down, charging up electricity in the spikes on his back. The Vibrava watched him calmly; naturally he found it a bit odd, but he nonetheless released a bolt of lightning that shot towards the dragonfly Pokémon. She didn’t even attempt to dodge; in fact it was almost like she took the full blast of the attack on purpose.

“And it’s a Thunderbolt!” shouted the announcer.

Jolteon tilted his head with a confused “Jolti?” as the Vibrava kept floating there without reacting to the attack at all. There were no signs of her being in pain, or even having taken the attack at all.

Suddenly she jerked herself upwards and then dived down. She slammed hard into the ground, causing an explosion of ripples as if she had dived into water. Jolteon was too startled to avoid the attack and cried out in pain as he was hit, accidentally releasing a flurry of sparks.

“Terra used an Earthquake, but Jolteon is not quite down yet!”

Earthquake?

The Vibrava tried diving into the ground again, but this time Jolteon was ready and leapt up just before she landed. He came down on her back, locking his claws into her wings. The Vibrava screeched, flying upwards again in an attempt to shake Jolteon off. In the air, he started charging up more electricity and sending it pulsating directly into her body; she was just as unaffected as the previous time. The Vibrava turned her head around in an attempt to bite Jolteon; he leapt off her in time and she crashed right into the wall.

“Ouch! That must’ve hurt!” came the announcer’s voice as Terra dropped weakly down to the ground. After looking unconscious for a second, she suddenly got up and blasted sparkly flames at Jolteon. Taken by surprise, he was hit; he felt his muscles stiffen but managed to shake it off.

“Nice Dragonbreath there! It almost paralyzed even the limber Jolteon!”

The head-hopping here is awkward. The italicized Pokémon thoughts are one thing, but this inconsistent jumping around between Mark's POV and the Pokémon's within the actual text really doesn't work very well.

Earthquake? Dragonbreath? Electricity not working? This is weird…

“Jooooolt!” he screamed as he turned around and fired the spikes on his backside in a flurry towards the Vibrava. Like tiny, sharp needles, they tore into the dragonfly Pokémon’s skin and wings; she screeched in pain.

“Ooh, clever Jolteon!” the announcer said. “He gets it! It’s safe to reveal now, folks, that the Bug/Flying type that most people assume when they look at a Vibrava is in fact a brilliant disguise, because it is really a Ground/Dragon type!”

Everybody in the audience except May was surprised to hear this, Mark included.

Everybody except May seems a bit much, but I enjoy Mark having had no idea.

Jolteon's using Pin Missile here, like in the UMR - but he shouldn't actually know Pin Missile, because yesterday Mark checked his moves and found his only new ones were Thunder Wave and Bite. Maybe he only just figured out how to use it? He was stated to be level 35, and Jolteon learned Pin Missile at level 36 at the time, so maybe my thinking was it was pretty much time for him to learn Pin Missile here. But then it'd have been neat to write it more like he's learning a new move.

“But back to the battle, Jolteon is using another Pin Missile in an attempt to eliminate Terra from the match! She was weakened earlier when she crashed, so now we just have to wonder whether he’ll make it in time!”

As Jolteon took a short break to breathe, Terra shot into the air again, clearly preparing for another Earthquake, but Jolteon suddenly leapt at her at incredible speed, becoming a streak of yellow in the air as he struck her with his whole body.

“And it’s a great Quick Attack!” the announcer shouted. “Let’s see if Terra makes it!”

Both Pokémon landed on the ground, Jolteon on his feet but Terra on her side. She twitched slightly but didn’t get up again.

“And Jolteon is the winner!” came the announcer’s voice as the doors on the sides opened again and the men recalled the two Pokémon. Mark noticed that Jolteon was very tired after this battle; he hoped the Pokémon were healed before they had to battle again.

“The next battle is between this level 45 female Scizor and Blade the male Sceptile, who is also level 45!”

Two new Pokéballs were thrown, and the Pokémon emerged on the arena. Mark compared the crimson red, metallic bug with pincers of some sort on its arms and the large, green, bipedal reptile with a fern for a tail. He had always thought Sceptile was ugly when he looked at the illustration in his Pokémonology textbook, mainly because the tail always reminded him of a Christmas tree; now that he saw one in real life, he thought it didn’t look so bad.

This very directly represents my initial thoughts on Sceptile vs. my thoughts on Sceptile after actually using one on Sapphire.

Meanwhile, the Scizor had been performing weird ninja tricks of some sort on the air, seemingly lost in her own world. The Sceptile raised an eyebrow before suddenly roaring and leaping at her, hoping to take her by surprise; however, she somehow grabbed him by the arm in mid-air and threw him to the ground as easily as a sheet of paper.

“Ooh, Scizor pretended to be playing around while she was really building up her power with Swords Dance! Clever move there!”

The reptile got up, seemingly mad about being fooled like that. He suddenly plucked a leaf off his own tail; it started glowing as he leapt at her again with a roar, attempting to strike her with the edge of the leaf as if it were a sword. She narrowly blocked it with her pincer, but then said something. The Sceptile nodded and they turned around, walking a few steps back.

“I think Scizor just challenged Blade to a duel!” said the announcer as the two Pokémon turned around and rushed at each other. Their arms moved like blurs, attacking and blocking attacks, and the audience could only guess what was really happening from the occasional roars as one of them got hit. Finally, they stopped to catch their breaths. The Sceptile was notably more hurt; he had a big bleeding gash on his forehead and quite a few scratches and bruises, while Scizor’s shiny armor was barely damaged. The reptile looked a lot more tired, too, but he had no intentions of giving up; he grabbed another leaf from his tail and held it in his other hand, and rushed at the bug again.

“Poor Blade doesn’t have much of a chance here, I’m afraid,” the announcer explained. “His Leaf Blade attack is not very effective on Bug and Steel Pokémon like Scizor at all.”

This announcement only made the reptilian Pokémon all the more furious; he started slashing faster and harder with his leaves, and Scizor showed signs of starting to have a hard time keeping up with his speed as she blocked one strike after another. Finally Blade made a fatal mistake; one strike was too low, Scizor saw her chance, leapt into the air and smashed her pincers into his skull.

A sickening crack was heard. A red-haired teenage girl in the audience screamed, presumably Blade’s trainer. The reptile dropped limply to the ground, his head covered with blood.

The two Pokémon were recalled; Blade was at least still alive since the Pokéball worked.

In the UMR, their duel was formalized enough that eventually Blade surrendered, which he did by lying down and letting Nightmare smash his head in. The way it was narrated managed to heavily imply he was actually killed, although nobody reacted appropriately. Here I seem to have taken care to ensure I didn't give that impression.

“Blade will now be escorted to the Pokémon Center to be taken care of,” the announcer assured. “He will be fine. The next battle is Fury the level 40, and obviously male, Hitmonchan, versus Happy the level 38 obviously-female Chansey! It’s a battle of the sexes! Who will win?”

Mark rolled his eyes. They were selecting Pokémon of at least similar levels to battle, but they kept giving one Pokémon a type advantage over the other. This Chansey was probably dead meat.

The doors opened. A rather humanoid-looking brown creature wearing a purple tunic and boxing gloves walked out on one side, and an egg-shaped pink creature with a happy expression emerged from a Pokéball on the other. Fury stretched and yawned while keeping an eye on his opponent, and then faced her to bow deeply. As he rose up again, he suddenly delivered a sharp punch to her head and then a kick to her stomach. Her eyes widening in surprise, the Chansey bounced backwards like a rubber ball, landing on her back and flailing around. Fury walked up to her and smiled apologetically before raising his right fist into the air; his glove sparkled with electricity before he gave the Chansey another punch. She screamed and stopped moving.

Fury stroked nonexistent sweat from his forehead as the Chansey was recalled; Mark saw a dark-haired boy in the audience smack his forehead and guessed that he was Happy’s trainer. Then the Hitmonchan walked out of the arena. Mark wondered why he wasn’t in a Pokéball; maybe his trainer was one of those anti-Pokéballs people.

This little hint was new here. I didn't get to the chapter about Fury being his own trainer in the original, so it's possible I didn't come up with that until after I'd written this chapter in the UMR.

“Umm, after this, er, great match, we’ll see Jaws the male Feraligatr, level 42, battle Cannon the Blastoise, level 41 male.”

Two Pokéballs were thrown, opening to reveal two huge, blue Water Pokémon. One was a bipedal alligator like the one the Mew Hunter had possessed; this one was undeniably larger, though. The other was a gigantic tortoise, also bipedal, with two shiny metallic cannons poking out of holes in its shell.

For a while the two just growled, staring at each other and baring their fangs. Then the Feraligatr ran towards Cannon and they started wrestling. Jaws bit the Blastoise’s cannon; the tortoise Pokémon started pumping water through it with tremendous force, pushing the alligator slightly back. He moved out of the way and then used what was, according to the announcer, a Dynamicpunch. This sent the Blastoise tumbling backwards until he fell over, and while he lay helplessly on his back, flailing around, the Feraligatr smashed his tail into Cannon’s stomach. With a loud groan, he fell unconscious and Jaws celebrated victory with a few roars. The two Pokémon were recalled.

“Next battle! We have this level 36 female Raichu against a level 37 male Umbreon called Wraith!”

In the UMR, this round featured Mark's Sandslash instead of this random Raichu (remember, he was part of the tournament too there) - and his opponent was a little different too:

“Jaws wins! And it’s time for the next match – it’s a level 35 male Sandslash with no nickname versus a level 32 male Umbreon called Ringwraith! This will be interesting!”

Mark watched as the pokéball people at either side of the arena recalled Jaws and Cannon, and sent out Sandslash and that Umbreon owned by a Lord of the Rings-obsessed trainer. Very obsessed, apparently, since the trainer had painted Elvish runes on the ring on Umbreon’s forehead. Mark was actually surprised that the other rings had been left alone, but then figured that the trainer just took “The ONE Ring” too seriously to make many of them.

Obviously, in this version I removed this extremely blatant reference to real-world fiction, but that's how this Umbreon ended up being called Wraith - originally I called him Ringwraith and did this whole over-the-top Lord of the Rings theme because Umbreon has rings.

The two Pokémon were sent out. One was an orange rodent, most likely one of those that had been evolved in the Evolution Solution, and the other was a sleek, black catlike creature with long ears and tail; Mark recognized it as the Dark type evolution of Eevee. It had glowing, yellow rings on its forehead, ears, tail and legs.

The Raichu charged her yellow cheeks with electric sparks before sending a bolt of lightning at the Umbreon. He took the attack and shrieked slightly in pain, but shook it off. His rings started glowing as a black orb of shadow formed in front of him; then it was fired at Raichu and hit her. She was thrown backwards and moaned in pain before standing up again with difficulty.

“Raichu started off this battle with a Thunderbolt, but Wraith countered with a nice Shadow Ball! Good start!”

Wraith now started kicking sand that appeared under his feet into the Raichu’s eyes. The mouse Pokémon retaliated by starting to sparkle and slamming her lightning bolt-shaped tail into the Umbreon’s body. His muscles stiffened, leaving him paralyzed and forcing him to stop – but suddenly Raichu’s body also stiffened with a flurry of electric sparks.

“Ooh… Wraith used a Sand-Attack, and then Raichu countered with a neat Thunder Wave, which would have given her a nice advantage if only it weren’t for Umbreon’s Synchronize ability which causes all special conditions to rebound upon the user!” the announcer called. “Bad mistake there, Raichu!”

Wraith suddenly opened his mouth and sprayed out a dark purple liquid. The sticky substance went all over the paralyzed Raichu and started seeping into her fur. She moaned.

“Wraith uses a Toxic! Oh, this is deadly!”

With some difficulty, the mouse Pokémon sent a bolt of lightning at the Umbreon. He couldn’t avoid the attack thanks to his condition, but he clearly had the endurance that his species was known for and took the attack without much trouble while Raichu shivered from the poisoning. Wraith’s red eyes glowed, and he seemed to be healed slightly.

“That, folks, was an example of a Moonlight attack used in daylight,” the announcer explained. “You can’t really see it because the sun lights everything up, but Wraith just made the moon shine brightly on him, giving him added energy. The Moonlight attack is quite a sight to see in nighttime – it’s a shame you didn’t get to have a good look at it. Oh, look, Raichu is using a Thunderpunch!”

While he talked, the mouse Pokémon’s fist had started sparkling, and now she slammed it into Wraith’s face. He cried out in pain as the electricity surged through his body, but he clearly knew that he was going to win this battle; he gave a small smile as Raichu moaned and dropped to the ground, fainting from the poison.

Ringwraith actually lost to Sandslash in the UMR, because I wanted the second round to be the same as in the original, where Sandslash fought Charmeleon and intentionally lost almost immediately.

“And Wraith has claimed victory!” the announcer roared as the two Pokémon were recalled back into their Pokéballs. “The next battle is between this level 35 male Charmeleon, and a level 37 Jynx who is, obviously, female.”

Mark looked hopefully up; Jynx had a slight level advantage, but Charmeleon had the types in his favor.

The two Pokémon were sent out at the sides. Charmeleon’s opponent was a humanoid-looking Pokémon in a red dress. This was, of course, just the standard Jynx outfit, similar to Hitmonchan’s gloves and tunic, and mainly served the purpose of keeping the people who were bothered by naked humanoid Pokémon at bay; it really limited the Pokémon’s ability to move freely. Jynx’s face, framed by straight blond hair, had purple skin, scary, white eyes and a round, pink mouth.

I really did not need to imagine a naked Jynx. Thanks, fifteen-year-old self. Today I'd be inclined to consider something like Jynx's "dress" a part of its body.

Charmeleon, who stood on the other side of the arena, looked calmly at Jynx, his arms folded. Then he moved his hand up to his mouth and breathed out a small flame. He absent-mindedly stared at it for a while; in the meantime, Jynx watched him suspiciously.

All of a sudden, the lizard hurled the small ball of fire at his opponent. Jynx’s dress was hit by it; she let out a very eerie scream and her purple hand glowed icy blue as she cooled it down.

“Clever,” the announcer commented. “Charmeleon has made up an attack. Wonder if he was at the Attack Approval yesterday?”

While the announcer brings up the Attack Approval, this is just the exact same thing he pulled against Scyther in chapter 18. So nope, still not counting this as the Attack Approval actually influencing later events.

Jynx all of a sudden ran up to Charmeleon. He seemed somehow hypnotized and didn’t try to run away or attack; she came right up to him, closer, closer, closer… and then she planted a kiss on his cheek.

His eyes opened wide for a second, but as Jynx backed slowly away, he looked dizzy; Mark could’ve sworn he was drunk when he started teetering and muttering something while trying to reach for Jynx’s dress. A few people started laughing, including May; Mark felt his face go red.

“This Sweet Kiss confused Charmeleon thoroughly! What will he do now?”

He didn’t manage to do anything at all before Jynx started smiling eerily while staring into his eyes. Mark saw his Pokémon slowly put up a very dorky grin, before his mouth simply fell open.

“Jynx’s Attract keeps Charmeleon charmed!” The announcer snickered at his own pun while Charmeleon stood there drooling. Mark was probably the only person who wasn’t in hysterics by now; he wanted to sink into the ground when Jynx approached Charmeleon again and kissed him again, this time on the lips. Charmeleon joined heartily in; while they kissed passionately, Jynx slowly lowered Charmeleon onto the ground and closed her eyes. Charmeleon did the same.

As their lips were about to part, Charmeleon’s eyes suddenly opened. Realizing what he was doing, he ripped himself free of Jynx’s arms, wearing a disgusted expression.

“Charmeleon resisted Jynx’s Lovely Kiss! That is quite an achievement, mind you!”

How could I let myself be humiliated like this?

He spat on the ground a few times, looking at his opponent with disgust before releasing a Flamethrower. It hit Jynx in the face, but before she could do anything, Charmeleon’s tail flame flared up to double its normal size as he leapt at Jynx and started clawing and biting like crazy.

“Charmeleon clearly doesn’t like being seduced! He expresses his anger with a Rage attack, and… yes, I think Jynx is down!”

It was true; Jynx was unconscious, her dress charred and ripped. Charmeleon shot her a nasty glare as they were both recalled.

Well, this was extremely necessary.

“Our next battle is between a level 43 male Scyther and a male Absol by the name of Armageddon, level 45.”

Mark smiled to his mantis as he was sent out; his opponent was a big catlike creature with thick, white fur, a black face, red eyes and a sickle of sorts sticking out of the right side of his head.

“Absol!” Armageddon hissed, crouching down and leaping at Scyther. He jumped out of the way, but the Absol landed gracefully and turned immediately around to face Scyther again. They circled each other for a few seconds, but then Scyther flew straight at Armageddon with his scythes raised, glowing green. He managed to get a few rapid slashes in before the Absol swished his white-glowing blade and gave Scyther a cut across his chest. They stopped for a second to catch their breaths, but then Armageddon rushed back at Scyther, who blocked the blade with his scythes. He tried attacking back, but the Absol blocked that too.

In the long run, though, what gave Scyther an advantage was the fact that he had two blades while Absol only had one. It didn’t take him long to figure out the perfect way to use this to his advantage, and after that Armageddon was dead meat, receiving one slash after another without being able to do anything to prevent it. Finally, the Absol gave up and crouched down on the ground. Scyther’s expression showed no emotion as the two Pokémon were recalled.

Some real tell-don't-show here. "It didn't take him long to figure out the perfect way to use this to his advantage"... which I'm not going to tell you about, just imagine there's a perfect way and he's using it.

In the UMR, this was also a formalized duel. I guess in the ILCOE I ultimately decided to make that more of a Scyther thing.

“Armageddon surrendered, so Scyther is the winner!” said the announcer. “The final battle of round one is Casey the female Pidgeot, level 45, and a male Haunter, level 44.”

Two Pokémon were released, one of them an eagle-like bird with a crest of very long, golden and red feathers on its head, and the other a weird, wispy, purple shape with sinister eyes and a jagged red mouth. Two disembodied hands which clearly belonged to the creature appeared out of thin air at its sides.

Casey started rapidly flapping her wings; in a matter of seconds, she had whipped up a small whirlwind and sent it towards the Haunter. He let out some comical screams as his gaseous form was beaten around by the whirlwind and finally sent flying in a random direction; Casey destroyed the whirlwind with a few flaps of her wings in the right places as the ghost Pokémon floated dizzily back into the arena.

The Haunter’s hands started glowing bright red, along with his eyes. The flapping of Casey’s wings gradually slowed down as she floated irregularly towards the ground; as she landed there, her eyes closed and she collapsed, fast asleep.

Satisfied, Haunter started muttering to himself and then floated down to the sleeping bird Pokémon. His left hand touched her head lightly and he got an expression like he was trying to remember something; then he nodded and suddenly, a freakishly long, pink tongue came out of his mouth and licked Casey’s head crest. As her feathers dripped with salvia, she twitched violently; without waking up, though.

In the UMR, rather than just saying Haunter used his left hand, Mark noted that the Haunter was left-handed. I like that more! You don't really think about Pokémon having a handedness, usually. But I guess here I figured he couldn't tell handedness just from one move?

“And Haunter uses a Dream Eater attack on the defenseless Casey!”

As Haunter licked her again, Casey’s eyes opened. She shook herself while standing up, beating the ghost away with her wings at the same time. Haunter hurriedly floated to a safe distance as Casey took off into the air; then the ghost charged up a black orb of shadow in front of him, picked it up in his left hand and threw it at the bird Pokémon. This was a fatal mistake; Casey quickly started flapping her wings fast and the strong gust of wind turned the orb back to the user. Haunter let out a sound somewhere midway between a scream and a laugh before the orb clashed with him and they somehow negated each other out so they both vanished.

At least it does seem my intention was still to make him left-handed, what with him also throwing with his left hand. Left-handed Haunter is best Haunter.

“Haunter’s Shadow Ball wouldn’t have worked on Casey anyway, as a Normal type,” the announcer explained as Casey and what was left of Haunter were recalled. “That concludes round one; now it’s time for the winners of round one to go on to round two!”

Mark suddenly now properly realized that all three of his Pokémon had won their battles. He smiled as it struck him that he himself not being a skilled battler ultimately meant that his Pokémon were more skilled than most of the other ones.

Still, it was a fact that a few levels could always beat skill.

That... sure is an inspirational way of looking at things, Mark.

At this point it's getting pretty impressively oblivious of him to still not have noticed the possibility of Scyther ending up fighting Charmeleon. Scyther even fought right after Charmeleon earlier.

“You’ve already been introduced to all the Pokémon, so now it’s just starting the next battle! Jolteon versus Scizor!”

Mark was startled. “Wait a minute,” he asked May, “wasn’t Scizor level 45? Why are they pitting her against Jolteon? They were pairing Pokémon of similar levels earlier!”

“They probably wanted to avoid making two of your Pokémon fight if possible,” May whispered back. “Besides, they weren’t exactly always fair earlier either. Maybe they like seeing one Pokémon get beaten to a pulp and another not needing much effort to win.”

“But still…”

May pointed down into the arena, where Jolteon and Scizor had been sent out, and Mark shut up.

Scizor has wings… I guess electricity is worth a try.

Poor Jolteon, getting pitted against two Pokémon in a row that have wings but aren't Flying-types.

Jolteon charged sparks in his body and sent a bolt of lightning towards the big red bug. She easily leapt out of the way, and then zoomed straight towards Jolteon with her pincers raised. She clamped both of them around his right front leg.

A sickening crunch followed by Jolteon’s scream of pain caused Mark to avert his eyes. He immediately regretted having entered Jolteon in the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament at all.

Jolteon, feeling pain like he had never felt before, pumped electricity into Scizor’s body in order to make her let go. She leapt backwards, leaving Jolteon to look at his awkwardly-angled leg and cringe. He whimpered; Scizor charged at him again, evaded a Thunderbolt and then knocked Jolteon out with a heavy blow to the head.

“Scizor has won this battle, and thus we proceed to the next one,” the announcer said as Jolteon and Scizor were recalled. “Fury the Hitmonchan and Jaws the Feraligatr are next up!”

“See?” Mark directed at May. “Those two are somewhere in between Jolteon and Scizor! They could have made Jolteon battle one of them and Scizor battle the other!”

May just shrugged. “Well, maybe they’re just lazy and are making the winners of the first two battles battle now or something.”

The two Pokémon were sent out – again, Fury walked by himself rather than being sent out from a Pokéball.

Fury was adjusting his gloves for a while, absent-minded; then all of a sudden, he sprang up and gave the alligator a good punch in the stomach.

“Fury’s decided to start this one with a Mach Punch!” cried the announcer. “Jaws – Jaws – he uses a powerful Slash attack, but Fury evades it!” he continued as the humanoid leapt out of the way of the Feraligatr’s claws. “Fury uses a Comet Punch – Jaws bites his arm – ouch!”

The red boxing glove on Fury’s free arm glowed white before he drove it into the alligator’s jaw.

“Fury gets Jaws to release him with a Mega Punch attack! And what does Jaws do…”

The Feraligatr, stumbling backwards, opened his mouth and sprayed a jet of high-pressure water at the Hitmonchan.

“It’s a Hydro Pump, but FURY EVADES IT! Wow, that’s some agility there! Fury charges – he Dynamicpunches Jaws right in the skull! Oww, that must’ve hurt a lot! Jaws is kinda dizzy – no, wait, he’s down! Jaws is down! Fury has won the match!”

The Hitmonchan smiled slightly as he walked out of the arena; a Pokéball recalled the unconscious alligator.

In the previous versions, this entire battle was told through the announcer's commentary:

“And Fury’s decided to start this out with a Mach punch!” cried the announcer. “Jaws – Jaws – he uses a powerful Slash, but Fury evades it! Fury uses Comet punch, Jaws bites Fury’s arm! Ouch! No, Fury is Mega punching Jaws’ lower jaw – this is one tough Hitmonchan! Jaws doesn’t let go – Fury headbutts Jaws and gets his arm out! What will Jaws do... it’s a Hydro pump! Fury evades it, and – and – Dynamicpunches Jaws right in the head! Ow, that must’ve hurt! The Dynamicpunch made Jaws confused – oh! Fury strikes again with a Dizzy punch! And Jaws – Jaws – Jaws has fainted! Fury the Hitmonchan wins!”

Here, I added some attack descriptions, but I honestly kind of like the pure-commentary version better as an obviously conscious stylistic choice for this one battle, compared to this merely tersely-narrated version.

“Next up are Wraith and Charmeleon!” the announcer declared as the two Pokémon were sent out. “The ringwraith meets the lovebird!”

Charmeleon growled threateningly; some people laughed. Looking at Wraith with a gaze that could kill, he breathed a small flame into his hand like he had done in his battle with Jynx, and clenched his fist. Then he darted towards Wraith with a roar; the much slower Umbreon couldn’t outrun him before Charmeleon slashed him with white-hot claws. Wraith shrieked in pain as his side was torn up.

“Ow, ow, ow!” was all the announcer said.

Charmeleon now breathed out a cloud of silky flames as Wraith tried to run away. Not built to dodge, he was hit by the full blast, screaming.

“Charmeleon is using quite a strategy here, folks!” the announcer explained. “He clearly knows that an Umbreon’s skin is very tough, and therefore heated up his claws before his Slash attack to cut deeper. Then, with open wounds there, Wraith is vulnerable, which serves Charmeleon’s main goal: making that Flamethrower hurt.”

Mark stared at his Pokémon, who was watching closely as Wraith attempted to stand up. That was, to say the least, very well thought-out for a relatively young Pokémon.

I wish I'd done more with him being particularly clever after he became a Charizard.

Wraith, who had been struggling to stand up, collapsed again. Charmeleon smiled victoriously as the two were recalled.

“The next match of round two is between Scyther and Casey the Pidgeot! It’s a match of talons and scythes!”

The eagle-like Pokémon was sent out on one end and Scyther on the other. Mark noticed that he was exhausted and the cut across his chest was just as bad as earlier – the Pokémon were clearly not healed between rounds.

Well, that's just plain unfair. This wasn't made explicit like this in the previous versions.

Casey stood on the ground, tilting her head and observing Scyther with an expression of disdain. The mantis just stared into her eyes until she suddenly looked up, spread her wings and took off. Scyther did the same, and they flew at each other. Unlike the very planned duel between Scyther and Armageddon, this was more of a cat fight; they scratched aimlessly at each other as quickly as they could, feathers raining down onto the ground. There was no way to see what was really happening until they took a short break to breathe after kicking each other backwards.

Casey’s missing and ruffled feathers were giving her a slightly hard time flying; Mark noticed that she was clearly flapping her wings faster than in her earlier, healthier state. Her left wing bled; Mark wasn’t sure if the red in some other places of her body was just blood from the wing or if they were individual wounds. Scyther, on the other hand, had gotten his slash from the earlier duel scratched up to bleed more, along with some minor scratches in various parts of his body.

The two Pokémon flew at each other again; Scyther’s strategy had changed, however, as he now focused especially on Casey’s injured wing like she had been focusing on his cut. Casey started having a harder time maintaining her altitude now, and this enabled Scyther better access to her wing. Finally Casey dropped to the ground, exhausted. Scyther also landed, panting. Mark was surprised to see that only Casey was recalled; Scyther was left in.

“And now it’s the semi-finals! Four Pokémon have gotten this far – which of them will compete in the final match? We’re about to find out, and in quite a battle – Scyther versus his own evolved form, Scizor!”

Scyther looked oddly up as the red, armored bug was sent out on the other side of the arena. He got up very slowly, clearly completely out of energy but determined nevertheless.

Scizor…

Scyther’s gaze attempted to tear the Pokémon in front of him apart.

Nobody can stop me now… I’m getting my revenge…

He dashed towards her as fast as he could in his current state; she leapt out of the way with relative ease.

Fast for a Scizor, are we?

Not that that’s saying much…

He darted towards her again; she was about to dodge him in the same manner as before, but he predicted her movement and tackled her to the ground. Scizor locked her pincers around Scyther’s arm and tightened her grip. This wasn’t quite as effective as it had been on Jolteon, since Scyther didn’t have any bones to break, but it bought her a second which she could use to get up. Scizor then zoomed at Scyther to attack him, but he smashed his scythe into her as she came within reach and sent her unexpectedly flying through the air, crashing down on the ground. As she tried to stand up, he jumped on top of her and pinned her down, quickly bringing his scythe to her throat.

Prepare to die, Scizor.

“STOP THE BATTLE!”

Scyther looked up; a tall, dark-haired boy in the top row had stood up.

“It’s going to kill my Scizor!” the boy yelled.

“Scizor’s trainer,” the announcer said simply, “when you entered your Pokémon in the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament, you signed a paper stating that you were aware of the rules of the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament. Trainers must not interfere with their Pokémon’s battles.”

“I DON’T CARE!” the trainer screamed. “THAT’S MY POKÉMON DOWN THERE!”

“The Pokémon Frenzy Tournament is free of all rules and restrictions of normal trainer battles,” the announcer said calmly. “The Pokémon are free to do whatever they want.”

This is, of course, Michael Willows, who honestly cares about Nightmare. I described him here as having dark hair, but my mental image of him ended up firmly having red hair, to the point I didn't even check here before writing his hair as red in Scyther's Story (and later chapter 49).

I guess in principle we can imagine that a battle between Pokémon on their own terms could be argued to count for legal purposes as if it were a battle between two wild Pokémon, but it's just so strange that this explicit stipulation preventing intervention even to save a Pokémon's life would fly, especially at this fun family event. I do end up establishing that the people behind the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament are really just kind of sadistic and want to watch some bloody fights, but that doesn't explain how nobody at any point in the process of approving this event would see how this might be slightly alarming.

Obviously, the real reason the rules explicitly allow the Pokémon to outright murder each other is that I wanted to write some bloody fights and near-murdering.

“NO!” Scizor’s trainer roared as Scyther turned his attention back to his opponent. But his scythe didn’t move.

His gaze traveled back to the trainer, then to her again; then he slowly released her and stood up. Scyther said something, but nobody heard it through the roars of the other crowds. Scizor didn’t stand up, clearly admitting defeat; Scyther stared oddly at her as the two of them were recalled.

In all three versions of this, I made it sound like Scyther simply changed his mind because of the trainer's pleas, only to reveal later that it was actually because he recognized Nightmare. I honestly can't quite remember if I'd already thought up Scyther's whole backstory when I wrote this in the original, but I think I probably had; it'd seem kind of weird and out of character to make him actually do it because of the trainer.

“That was quite a battle!” said the announcer cheerfully in some kind of a failed attempt to liven up the dead silence.

“I… I wouldn’t have wanted my Pokémon to be a murderer…” Mark whispered to May.

She shrugged. “Technically, he already is. Even if the Mew Hunter didn’t make him kill anybody, he’s a predator and…”

“Thank you, May,” Mark interrupted coldly.

Haha. I like that she brings that up, though, because I was about to comment on it.

“Well, our next battle is between Charmeleon and Fury the Hitmonchan,” said the announcer awkwardly; Fury walked into the arena on one side and Charmeleon was sent out of his ball on the other.

“I might add, if you don’t hate me too much,” said May shortly, “that if Charmeleon wins this, the final battle will be Scyther versus Charmeleon.”

Mark froze completely, his heart skipping a few beats. She was right; how could he not have noticed?

Finally.

This realization happened in the same way in the same spot in the previous versions; I think it sounded more reasonable in the original, probably, where there hadn't been as many battles before this point.

“Oh God…” he muttered. “They’re going to kill each other…”

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that if I were you, Mark,” May pointed out. “See, even though Charmeleon has the type advantage, Scyther is at a much higher level, and a bigger and stronger Pokémon in general, besides being one of the very reasons that the Agreement tells Pokémon to specifically not aim their attacks to be fatal. So basically, Charmeleon is going to get sliced up.”

Mark would have commented on how stupidly calmly she said that, like she didn’t care, but he was too busy worrying.

“And I can’t interfere, as we saw when Scizor’s trainer tried to…”

In the previous versions Mark didn't spell this out here. I'm always a fan of subtlety, but it probably makes sense for it to be brought up, so as to avoid giving the impression it doesn't even occur to Mark to try to stop this.

May's not completely heartless; I don't think she quite literally believes he's going to murder him. But for her, the fact this is decidedly not her fault and Mark brought this on himself by deciding to enter this stupid tournament allows her to be coldly detached about it. Let him deal with the consequences of this decision that she avoided.

“So we just need to hope Charmeleon loses big time now,” May finished. “Come on, Fury is at a higher level, and fully evolved. Charmeleon isn’t very likely to win.”

“I guess,” said Mark, despite being absolutely not convinced. Charmeleon had proven himself to be very clever so far in the tournament, and he didn’t look at all about to lose very easily. Mark shifted his attention back to the battle; Charmeleon was just firing a Flamethrower which Fury dodged before punching the lizard in the stomach, chest and jaw in rapid succession.

“Fury used a Comet Punch, and Charmeleon doesn’t appear to be feeling very good…” said the announcer’s voice as the lizard bent over and spat some blood onto the ground. He looked up again, narrowing his eyes, and then breathed a flame into his hand. Fury leapt forward; Charmeleon grabbed the opportunity and threw the fireball. It singed Fury’s shoulder and he slightly lost his balance; landing awkwardly, he was vulnerable for a second and this allowed Charmeleon to jump on his back and dig his white-hot claws into the Fighter’s skin. Fury, while obviously in intense pain, didn’t let out a sound and stayed on the ground, slowly enveloping himself in a light blue aura. Charmeleon jumped off his back, and while Fury turned around, the lizard formed flames in his throat and released a bright blast of fire to hit Fury straight in the face.

“A nice Flamethrower, which has even greater effects due to Fury’s current state – he used the energy he uses to perform Ice Punch to cool down the pain in his wounds, but this made him more vulnerable to sudden exposure to more heat.”

The Hitmonchan stumbled a few steps backwards, but then suddenly darted forward again as his fist glowed and delivered a punch to Charmeleon’s skull. The lizard was thrown harshly backwards, landing on his side. His consciousness seemed to be drifting away when he forced his eyes open and stood up.

“Charmeleon is clearly tough! That Mega Punch should have knocked him out for sure!”

Charmeleon fired another Flamethrower; Fury was getting too tired to dodge well, and was partially scorched by the flames. After being hit, he held both of his gloved hands into the air before walking out of the arena. It was clear what this was: he had given up. Mark’s heart sank.

Most of these battles have very similar choreography to how they played out in the UMR, but I wrote this battle in particular a lot better, I think; it used to be criminally short for such a pivotal fight in the narrative of the chapter, and didn't make it believable at all that this higher-leveled Hitmonchan would've lost to a Charmeleon. It's still a little unbelievable (why would Fury use Ice energy to ease pain while fighting a Fire-type), but at least there's a better sense that something in particular leads to Fury taking significant damage (first the thrown fireball attack that catches him off guard, then the ice energy making him more vulnerable to fire) and then Charmeleon manages to hang on when he might have fainted through sheer force of will.

“And Charmeleon is the winner! It’s time for the final match: Scyther versus Charmeleon! Incidentally, they are both owned by the same trainer – this will be interesting…”

“No, no, no, please, no…” Mark moaned. “I’m not watching…”

He started staring at an ancient, moldy piece of pink chewing gum that had been stuck on the back of the seat in front of him. May rolled her eyes and sighed.

This piece of chewing gum was brought back from the UMR:

“Oh no,” Mark moaned. “I don’t want to watch them kill each other...” He looked straight down at his own legs and concentrated on an ancient mouldy piece of chewing gum that happened to be just there.

The true hero of The Quest for the Legends.

Charmeleon grinned with satisfaction as Scyther was sent out on the other side of the arena. He growled an insult, but the mantis barely seemed to notice. He was all absent-minded and strange.

He's a bit preoccupied thinking about Nightmare, of course. The previous versions didn't have this and made it seem like Scyther had immediately forgotten about the Scizor, which might have made sense if it were just some random Scizor, but not here.

It’s time… time to advance…

“Char…” he growled. “CHAARMELEON!”

He closed his eyes in deep concentration and clenched his fists.

“Mark,” May whispered, poking his shoulder, “you have to see this.”

Mark looked up. Charmeleon was slowly being wrapped in a white glow…

“Would you look at that!” the announcer yelled. “Charmeleon is evolving, here at the start of the final battle of the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament! Now this is something you don’t see every day!”

Mark stared as his first Pokémon changed in shape for the second time. He grew much larger, the horn on his head split into two narrower ones, his head grew longer and more dragon-like, his neck and tail lengthened, and two leathery wings sprouted from his shoulders. The glow faded away to reveal a fully grown Charizard.

He let out an ear-splitting roar, glaring madly at Scyther. The mantis was clearly astonished, but kept calm. Mark noticed that he didn’t look about to attack at all for some reason.

Charizard bent over and started coughing up a bit more blood; however, he then appeared to get a better idea and spat it at Scyther instead. His face got covered in it...

Blood.

Blood is red.

It clicked in Mark’s brain: something red in a Scyther’s eyes equals disaster. He quickly focused on the chewing gum again.

Chewing gum, true hero

I'm, of course, referencing that one early anime episode featuring Scyther, where it (and Electabuzz) were driven mad by the color red. To my knowledge, there's no other canon anywhere suggesting this is the case, and it was just a thing made up for that episode, but it was pretty prominent in the general fandom consciousness: after chapter twelve, several people suggested maybe Scyther hated Scizor because they're red.

Like the anime, of course, I won't go on to have this be a thing ever again in the fic after this one time it was convenient for the plot.

Charizard took off from the ground, trying out his new ability to fly. Scyther looked at him through a layer of bright red, and then darted towards the nearest moving object with his scythes in the air: Charizard’s wings.

The dragon growled, swung his powerful, flaming tail and smashed it into Scyther’s body, throwing him to the ground. He got up again with some difficulty, blinking; the blood was clearing out of his eyes now, but this hesitation gave Charizard a perfect opportunity to smash his powerful tail into Scyther’s head, knocking him out and driving him face-down into the ground. Charizard flew slowly up with a triumphant smile, raising his tail.

One more attack is sure to get rid of him for good…

“No, please, no…” Mark prayed, still staring at the gum and refusing to look at what was happening.

Charizard lowered his tail slightly.

Why am I doing this again?

This is so sudden. I don't think I wrote this right at all; him lowering his tail again immediately before I even get into his thought process kind of just destroys the tension. It was even worse in the previous revisions, though, where for some reason his first thought after lowering his tail was just "Maybe I don't need to finish him off once and for all." Gee, you don't need to? That's why you're hesitating?

We hated each other… but why? I don’t remember him ever doing anything to me…

I… I got him to hate me back… I wanted him to hate me back…

I was afraid that he would attack Mark…

No… I was a jealous little idiot and convinced myself that that was why…

I’ve matured now… but my actions can’t be taken back…

Charizard stared at Scyther, lowering his tail completely.

What have I done?

He suddenly stopped flapping his wings and crashed into the ground.

“It… it looks like this terrifying battle ended in a draw,” the announcer spoke in a slightly trembling voice. “Charizard has given up, but Scyther doesn’t seem to be in a very good condition either.”

-------

Mark never really remembered what happened after that. He just came to his senses as he lay in one of the couches in the Pokémon Center and looked at Nurse Joy’s face going in and out of focus as she told him that Scyther was no longer in critical condition.

Something seems kind of off about the idea Scyther was in critical condition to begin with. All Charizard actually ended up doing was smack him down twice with his tail; next to most of the Pokémon battles I write, that really seems pretty tame and one wouldn't expect it to have left Scyther in worse condition than after any regular battle.

He looked confusedly around. The windows were dark and the few people in the Pokémon Center were asleep. May appeared to have been sleeping on the next couch, as she was now sitting and rubbing her eyes as she listened to Nurse Joy explaining something about Scyther.

Mark stroked his forehead and shut his eyes, trying to recall what had happened. It all seemed hazy. He just remembered the battles. He checked his watch; it was half past two in the morning.

“Any questions?” Nurse Joy asked.

“Er, no,” Mark replied, not having listened to what she had been saying. “May, could you come over here?” he asked as the nurse walked back to the counter. Everything seemed out of order in Mark’s brain.

“What?” May asked as she sat down opposite him.

“I can’t remember anything…” Mark was getting a slight headache too. “Can you fill me in on what happened after the battle was over?”

May raised an eyebrow. “You don’t remember it? That’s weird.”

“No…” Mark muttered.

“Then again, it makes sense, because you were strange, to say the least.”

“What happened?” Mark repeated in frustration.

“Well, you suddenly stood up, walked down from the audience stands, cussed your head off at the Pokéball people for not recalling them earlier, took your Pokéballs to the Pokémon Center, handed them to Nurse Joy without an explanation so I had to tell her what happened, and then lay down here and stopped responding to anything. I waved my hand in front of your face and you didn’t even blink.”

“Huh?” Mark asked. “That’s weird… I don’t remember it at all…”

May just had a puzzled look on her face.

As we learn in chapter 47, this was because Taylor was nearby with Mewtwo², whose strong psychic field can amplify strong emotions. I can't for the life of me remember exactly when I thought of that, but I'm pretty sure when I wrote this in the original, I had no idea why this blackout happened and it was just supposed to be him dramatically being so upset he can't even remember what happened for some reason.

“It’s odd, really, I… wait, Nurse Joy! Charizard! How is Charizard?” Mark asked worriedly, suddenly remembering that Charizard existed. The nurse came back and sighed.

You forgot he existed, Mark?! He was kind of an important part of this whole thing.

“Physically, he’s pretty much fine – just the normal Pokémon battle stuff. But he seems very depressed for some reason; he’s refusing to eat or drink, or even respond at all. I’m worried he’s trying to starve himself.”

“Can I talk to him?” Mark requested concernedly. The nurse nodded and led him into a blue room akin to the one where Mark had talked to Eevee at the Cleanwater City Pokémon Center. May followed doubtfully.

Some more adverbial verbing going on, good times.

Most of the Pokémon inside were asleep or unconscious, lying in beds with various accessories for each one. Charizard was awake, however; he was lying flat on his stomach in a corner near a window, completely motionless and staring blankly straight forward.

“Charizard?” Mark asked carefully. The dragon didn’t react at all. Mark stood right in front of his eyes, but Charizard still seemed to be staring through him.

“Scyther is going to be all right, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

No reactions.

“Can he even hear me?” Mark whispered to Nurse Joy. She nodded gravely.

“He definitely can. He just ignores it.”

Something stirred in the other end of the room; Mark was surprised to see Scyther rising slowly up from one of the beds. Finally Charizard showed some signs of being alive; his eyes moved to the mantis and followed him across the room.

“Killing yourself won’t help.”

Scyther said this in a very calm voice, looking straight into Charizard’s eyes. The dragon closed his eyes and smiled weakly.

“Says who?”

Scyther chuckled. “At least I know what I’m talking about. My situation is very different from yours. Your problem is a thing of the past, a foolish mistake, which didn’t have any grave consequences.”

“It could have,” Charizard muttered. “I could have killed you…”

“But it didn’t happen, and that’s what matters,” Scyther simply stated. “It is not going to make you suffer in the future unless you consciously let it.”

“I was despicable,” Charizard breathed. “I deserve to die.”

Scyther sighed deeply. “All right then. I’m coming with you.”

The mantis raised his scythe to his own throat. They looked into each other’s eyes for a while.

“You wouldn’t do it,” Charizard said suddenly.

“Wouldn’t I?” asked Scyther dangerously. “I’m not afraid of death. I’ve already died.” He chuckled slightly. “You know, it actually isn’t that bad in itself. But it isn’t the ultimate solution you think it is…”

He paused for a few seconds, but then continued: “I can’t say I was glad to be back, but I had no intentions of killing myself again. Mark keeps me alive – being a trainer’s Pokémon gives me a purpose. And speaking of which… suicide would be a very bad way indeed to thank him for saving your life.”

That hit the spot. Charizard looked at Mark for a second; not much, but definitely an improvement. The two Pokémon stared at each other for a little while.

“Well, I guess you’re right,” Charizard finally sighed. “I’ve been an idiot.”

“You’re already forgiven,” Scyther just said.

“Besides… we can always die later, can’t we?” Charizard smiled as he stood up. The mantis smiled back.

“Death is not to be feared…” Mark heard him mutter as the two Pokémon shook hands.

And thus ends the Scyther and Charmeleon subplot. Charmeleon evolves fully intending to murder Scyther, but evolution renders him more mature, just enough to hesitate, see things from a new perspective and realize he was wrong and motivated by petty jealousy. And then he... becomes suicidal. Because of course I did.

I think the first bit is probably reasonably solid - Charmeleon has to be a next-level asshole, of course, but in principle it works, and I do like the idea of him evolving for the power it gives him, only for it to also give him the perspective to realize the wrongness of his actions. But ugh, the bit where this makes him suddenly suicidal and then in the space of a short scene he gets over it because of one comment about how it'd be ungrateful to Mark. Why.

Aside from that elephant in the room, I think this scene is... mildly better than it used to be, probably. Scyther basically feeling that what Charizard did is nothing next to what he himself has to atone for, because nobody actually got hurt, is probably a decent angle to come at this from characterization-wise - he feels that if Charizard deserves to die, then he must deserve it more so, so in order to justify going on living, he has to convince Charizard to live too. But the whole setup doesn't work. Charizard being suicidal here for one scene because drama points and then immediately being fine is cheap and trivializing and I hate it.

Looking back on the Scyther and Charmeleon plot, it's all pretty poorly executed. Charmeleon's motivation for this murderous hatred is unclear and incoherent, it ultimately consists of exactly three chapters and is more or less forgotten in between, and the resolution is sudden and ends up in this misguided passive suicide attempt that's just a bad idea all around. But it meant a lot for the fic and nostalgically I want to keep the general idea of it. It'd have to be developed a lot better, with more back-and-forth friction, and Charmeleon getting to the point of actually trying to murder Scyther should especially need clearer justification. I think I could do that thanks to Scyther attacking Mark in chapter 18: if Charmeleon actually talks to Mark after that, and Mark still insists he trusts Scyther and tells Charmeleon off for provoking him, Charmeleon could after all his mental justifications up to this point latch on to the idea that Scyther really is going to murder Mark and that he has to take matters into his own hands if Mark refuses to see sense.

As for the end - Charmeleon could still evolve and try to kill Scyther until his more mature brain makes him hesitate. But he's not suicidal afterwards; he's mortified he nearly murdered someone, and wonders if he's an awful person to be able to be consumed with hatred like that, but he's not randomly trying to kill himself. Scyther still talks to him, tells him he's got much worse to live with, and then they actually talk about the root cause of the issue, coming to a mutual understanding and building up trust. Something like that.

And the whole thing should probably have a clearer effect on their characters as the story goes on. As it was, in the original and UMR I wrote that after this Scyther and Charizard were particularly close, but of course didn't end up actually showing this, and what we see in the rest of the fic is largely Charizard interacting with Dragonair/Dragonite if anyone, and Scyther mainly just with Mark. It'd be neat if it actually were the case that they grew closer after coming to a mutual understanding, and if this otherwise had a lasting impact on them.

(Also, speaking of repercussions: it'd be neat if Scyther's encounter with Nightmare would influence his behaviour here in some visible way. Wouldn't want to reveal why yet, but.)

As I mentioned, this used to be possibly my favorite chapter in the fic for a long time, and despite all the issues, there are things I still like in it. I think on the whole the battles here are more dynamic and interesting than most of the battles I'd been writing, probably largely thanks to the fact there were no trainers' commands nudging it towards a turn-based format. Charmeleon especially is actually shown getting ahead using unusual strategies and moves that he comes up with, which is cool; I wish I'd continued to characterize him as particularly creative like this, but I think it more or less disappears after this chapter. And I like that this is a chapter thoroughly focused on the Pokémon, where they drive what happens, furthering their own stories in a couple of different ways.

In the next revision, I'd want to keep the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament. However, I'd be making some changes to how all this plays out. I might do something like have the tournament rules explicitly establish that they'll avoid pitting the same trainer's Pokémon against each other, and because of this Mark figures it'll be fine, only to realize with the finals approaching that if Scyther and Charmeleon both make it to the finals, they'll have to fight each other. And I'd definitely condense the chapter a bit, eliding some of the irrelevant battles between throwaway Pokémon we don't know and have no reason to care about.

The tournament organizers would not be explicitly indifferent to possible Pokémon deaths; since nobody actually ends up dying, I could easily have them getting ready to recall Scyther and then Charizard by the time they change their minds, though establishing that a tournament like this where the Pokémon explicitly aren't acting on behalf of their trainers is in a legal gray area would still help (after all, murdering Scyther in public in front of a bunch of witnesses would be a pretty terrible time to choose to go for it if Charmeleon could be legally punished for it). It could still be pretty sleazy, but not to the point of making a point of standing by and watching if the Pokémon try to murder each other.

In the original version, this chapter marked an interesting turning point, as this was where I started referring to Pokémon by gendered pronouns; before, I called all Pokémon 'it'. (More specifically, in the original I actually used 'he' for Charmander, but I changed it to 'it' in the Good Battle Style because I'd gotten it into my head that that was more correct.) Hilariously, the instigator of this was May:

“Nah, I don’t think so,” May replied. “I want Pikachu to learn all of his attacks before he evolves.”

“He? Didn’t you always refer to your pokémon as “it”?” Mark asked.

“Oh, Mark, please. How can you still refer to your pokémon as objects? After all this training... I mean, they have a character, they are alive... it has started to sound ridiculous to refer to pokémon I know the gender of as “it”.”

“You’re right,” Mark said. “Yeah, you’re right... I have to admit that it feels pretty weird to call Charmeleon “it” now... he’s a male after all.”

On the one hand, it's pretty funny for May to be championing how Pokémon are living beings, and was pretty funny back then too - but on the other hand, this is probably the most sensible way this could've happened, because May is assertive and Mark is somebody who'd just immediately agree that yeah, of course she's right, while it's very hard to picture this conversation happening the other way around. (Even if Mark suddenly decided as the POV character to start using gendered pronouns, the only way he'd ever suggest May do the same would be very meekly, and she'd probably roll her eyes and dismiss him.) So that's probably why I had it happen like this. May is just a bit of a hypocrite.

In the UMR, though, I used gendered pronouns for the Pokémon from the beginning and elided that little bit of dialogue.


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