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!)

The Pokémon Festival – May 24th: The Threat

May 5th, 2005, so a bit less than a month after the previous chapter.

“There are two events today,” May explained to Mark as they headed towards the Green Town Stadium. “First they’ve got Ash Ketchum’s starter Pokémon giveaway. Then there’s the Trainer’s Market, which sells stuff cheaper than you can get it anywhere else. I’ve heard they even have Master Balls.”

Having two events in one day is, of course, new because I squeezed the Festival's six events into five days this time around. These two events did always share a chapter, though - it just covered two days. I think having the Trainer's Market concurrent with another event basically makes sense, especially when it's something like a starter Pokémon giveaway that most people have no particular reason to attend (though Mark and May are about to do so anyway for some reason).

It's a little baffling that May's only telling Mark what events there are today as they're on their way to one of those events.

“Master Balls?” Mark asked curiously. “Do they sell them?”

“Only here, they’re expensive and there’s only one per trainer,” May replied. “But I’m still getting one.”

Master Balls, Mark thought, biting his lip. He couldn’t deny to himself what he had first thought of when she said that. The uneasy feeling he had had in his stomach since he woke up to yet another nightmare about yellow eyes grew.

Oh my god, Mark, what is wrong with you. Why is this some irresistible temptation you're feeling.

“Hey!” called a familiar voice as Mark and May were about to enter the stadium to watch the starter Pokémon giveaway. Mark turned around to see Ash and Alan walking to them and waving.

“Is that…?” May whispered in his ear.

“Yep,” Mark replied with a grin as she started staring at her fingernails. “Hi, Alan!”

“Hello, Mark,” said Ash. “I heard about yesterday’s incident… are your Pokémon okay?”

“Yes…” Mark said. “Err, what Pokémon are you going to be giving out now?” He quickly changed the subject.

“We’ve got a very wide selection, but only one or two of most of them,” Ash explained. “This year we’re giving out most small Pokémon that evolve except really rare ones and ones that can’t battle out of water. Then we’ve got a Ditto, and that’s the only Pokémon we have that doesn’t evolve at all. Of course, the traditional starters are always the most popular, so we keep a bunch of them handy.”

Consider yourselves lucky that I just explained what their Pokémon selection is like, instead of literally listing all 100 of them like I did in the previous versions.

“How does the starter giveaway happen, anyway?” Mark asked.

“Well,” Alan answered, “the kids get in line, tell us what Pokémon they’re considering, I say some stuff about the Pokémon they’re thinking about, and when they’ve confidently made up their minds, they get their Pokémon and trainer license and it’s the next person’s turn. Pretty basic.”

“Oh, so you’re in it too?” Mark asked curiously.

“Yeah,” Alan replied. “Dad thinks it makes the kids less nervous if they’re talking to a teenager, and at least not directly to him. Dunno if it helps, but I don’t mind doing it.”

“Oh, all right.” Mark paused. “Should we walk down to the stadium together?”

“Sure,” Alan answered. His father shrugged.

“Mmmm,” May mumbled.

May being starstruck in her own way is kind of cute.

Here I've fallen into the trap of having the story both explain how a thing happens and actually show it happening. This is unnecessary! If I'm going to show the event, and it goes according to plan, we don't need to hear what the plan is first. I didn't do this in the previous versions, where they didn't bump into Ash and Alan before the event like this.

-------

A hoard of nervous ten-year-olds entered the stadium and looked timidly around at the audience. Ash was seated at a table beside a Pokéball transfer machine on the far right; Alan stood in front of the table with a microphone.

A very childish-looking blond-haired girl with a pink ribbon in her hair was first in line. She teetered unsteadily towards Alan and muttered something. He turned his microphone off and muttered a bit back, presumably to make her feel less shy.

“Umm, this is Joanne,” Alan announced, turning his microphone back on. “She was thinking about picking a Pichu…”

“NO!” screamed the small mousey-haired boy who was next in line. Joanne looked anxiously at him and then muttered something again.

“All right,” said Alan, “she’s changed her mind… she’s considering Bulbasaur. Bulbasaur is a Grass/Poison type and one of the original starter Pokémon that Professor Oak gave out to children in Kanto… it’s also Pokémon number one by National Pokédex. It evolves into Ivysaur and later Venusaur, and likes to use spores and powders as well as direct offensive Grass attacks. They’re usually loyal, but tend to be a bit secluded and not the most social Pokémon around. So… Joanne, is this the Pokémon you want?”

She looked doubtfully at Alan like she had had an overload of information, but then nodded shyly.

“Great!” Alan said cheerfully as his father pressed some buttons on the Pokéball transfer machine and a red and white sphere fell out of the tube. Ash took the ball and handed it to Alan, who in turn passed it on to Joanne and gestured for her to send out the Pokémon. With a quick questioning glance at Alan, she lightly dropped the ball onto the ground. It popped open and the orb of red light inside it took shape into a green, spotted toadlike creature with a large plant bulb on its back. It blinked its bright red eyes a few times, looking up at its new trainer before extending two long, green vines from the base of its bulb and grabbing her hand with them. The crowd cheered, Joanne blushed and then recalled her Pokémon. She went up to Ash’s table and was handed a green Pokédex and a trainer card; then she shook Ash’s hand, her face bright red, and started running out of the arena.

“And now,” Alan started, but didn’t get to finish his sentence; the mousey-haired boy ran up to him and screamed “PICHU!”, causing the microphone to produce an ear-splitting screech.

“Err,” said Alan, covering his ears, “Pichu is a…”

“I just want my Pichu!” the boy yelled as Alan quickly pointed the microphone away.

“Um, well… all right, I guess.” Alan shrugged and Ash quickly handed him a Pokéball to give to the hyperactive kid. The little boy tossed the Pokéball to the ground, jumping around in excitement as a small, yellow mouse-like Pokémon with diamond-shaped ears formed. It looked confusedly at the boy as he picked it up and hugged it.

Alan poked the boy’s shoulder. “Er… can’t you do that later? Go get your Pokédex.”

The boy hurried over to Ash’s table and stared at him with an expression of deep admiration. Ash smiled slightly and gave him a red Pokédex; the boy almost forgot to get his trainer card before bouncing out of the arena with his still confused Pichu.

A red-haired, tall boy was next; he walked up to Alan, cleared his throat and said into the mirophone: “I’d like a Ditto, please.”

“There goes the most unique one,” Alan said as a few kids groaned in disappointment. “Ditto is the only Pokémon we’re giving out that doesn’t evolve, and also the only non-Legendary Pokémon in the world with the ability to transform into other Pokémon. Ditto is perfect for strategists, because when Ditto has transformed it is exactly as powerful as its opponent and the trainer with the more skill will win. Is this your choice?”

“Yes,” said the boy nervously. Alan nodded; his father handed him a Pokéball which he then gave to the boy.

“Thanks,” the boy said, smiling as he dropped the Pokéball to the ground. A pink blob resembling a blotch of chewing gum with two tiny eyes and a thin mouth came out of the Pokéball.

“Ditto!” it squeaked before transforming into an exact replica of its trainer. He smiled and shook Ditto’s hand before recalling his Pokémon again.

This is sort of a cute scene - I like Alan and Ash trying to deal with the overenthusiastic Ash wannabe - but there is no actual point to describing this event, or having Mark and May attend it to begin with (this honestly seems pretty boring for people who aren't related to someone who's getting a starter). I just did it because I'd done it in the previous versions, where I did it because I'd decided there was a starter giveaway at the festival so obviously I had to write about it, right.

To retroactively give it a little bit of significance, I wrote two of these kids into the League chapters: the Ditto kid is Aaron White (not named here; in the previous versions I actually called the Ditto kid John, but understandably I didn't look back there for reference), who faces Mark in his first preliminary battle, and May fought the Pichu kid offscreen in chapter 48. I think I may have already been vaguely intending to have at least some of them appear at the League by the time I wrote this version of the chapter, but I can't be entirely sure.

I think this is sort of a fun way to imagine a starter giveaway; the usual sorts of fanfic starter giveaways take place at professors' labs and involve just the three traditional starters of the region and the trainers who are going to take them, while I did something quite different with it. But since it doesn't actually contribute anything, I'd probably leave it out of the next revision, or summarize it very briefly at the very most.

-------

Once the starter Pokémon giveaway was over, they had a bit of free time while preparations for the Trainers’ Market were being made.

Earlier you called it a "Trainer's Market". Make up your mind, fifteen-year-old self.

“I think I’m going to call home,” Mark said as they exited the arena. “Nothing better to do, and my parents would probably be happy to hear from me. After all, it would be the first time since I started my journey.”

May shrugged. “My parents know I’m doing fine, even if I don’t call them.”

“I still want to call,” Mark said decisively. “You coming with me to the Pokémon Center?”

“No,” she said simply. “Your parents, your call.”

“See you at the Trainers’ Market, then.”

“Bye.”

Mark walked to the Pokémon Center and got permission to use the videophone. He picked up the receiver and dialed the number nervously.

“Hello? Mark?” came finally a deep male voice. The black screen started displaying a picture of Mark’s father; he looked very worried. Mark saw his mother in the background hurrying up to the videophone. She looked worried too.

“Hi Dad,” said Mark.

“Where are you?” Mark’s mother interrupted.

“Um, Green Town Pokémon Center,” he replied confusedly. His parents looked at each other; then his father turned back to the camera and sighed.

“Look, Mark… you’re not about to go see Chale-thingy tomorrow, are you?”

“Well,” he replied, “I’m not sure…”

“You’re not going!” his father hissed, narrowing his eyes and leaning towards the camera. “You’re not coming anywhere near that thing! Do you understand me?”

“Why?” Mark asked confusedly. “How do you even know what Chaletwo is?”

I guess he'd expect them to not know who Chaletwo is given he didn't know, but this just makes it all the more glaring that it hasn't properly occurred to Mark that he really should have heard about Chaletwo before.

“Look,” came his mother, pushing his father away, “we just wanted to keep you safe.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mark asked hotly.

His father sighed. “We didn’t allow you to go on a Pokémon journey. We talked to the librarian about putting books involving Cha-whatever somewhere away. We did our best to prevent you from hearing about the Pokémon Festival. We did it all because we knew that as soon as you found out about it, you would want to see it and get yourself killed. Now, don’t make all that effort be wasted.”

And there we go, Mark's parents' efforts to orchestrate a conspiracy to conceal everything in the region from him instead of just talking to him about why maybe seeing the murder legendary that might murder him is a bad idea. I mean, I guess ultimately they're right and Mark goes and sees Chaletwo despite knowing about the murder thing, but it's amazingly prescient that they were so sure of this they didn't even try to do this the way that doesn't involve getting the local librarian in on an elaborate plan to stop your kid ever learning about major newsworthy events.

“What?” Mark asked furiously. “You’ve been trying to keep it away from me? What sort of parents are you?”

“Parents who care about you, that’s what sort!” Mark’s father hissed. “Now promise me you’ll stay away tomorrow. Just lie somewhere in your hotel room and pretend not to exist or something. Do you understand?”

Wow, that's... quite a suggestion. You could have told him to just curl up with a nice book and a cup of hot cocoa, but lying in a hotel room pretending not to exist is also a thing he can do, I guess.

All this anger is really obviously not helping, Mark's dad. You people really brought this on yourselves.

Mark didn’t answer.

“Mark? Mark? Can you hear me? What…”

He placed the receiver on the side of the videophone. The image on the screen flickered and disappeared.

Anger boiled within him. He had thought his parents were overprotective before, but this was the last straw. He couldn’t stand the idea of having had all that kept from him for so long. So that was why they had never seemed to have anything against him going on a Pokémon journey until five years ago. And why he had never found any books about the Ouen legendaries before, and didn’t know anything about the Pokémon Festival. So many mysteries were explained by this one phone call.

This one phone call that was definitely planned from the start as the answer to all this, it definitely wasn't a new scene in this version

Here, Mark claims for the first time that his parents had suddenly changed their minds on Pokémon training five years ago - but in chapter one (at least in the ILCOE and ILCOTEM) he indicates he thought he'd get to be a trainer right up until his classmates were all about to head out:

Mark’s parents were over-protective. There was no question about that. Almost all the other kids had been taken to Green town last year to receive a Pokémon from Ash Ketchum. Out of the ones left, Mark was the only one who had been looking forward to it for his whole life, only to have his parents tell him that it was too dangerous.

Charitably, though, we can interpret it as his parents starting to express some reluctance five years ago, but not actually telling him straight out that he wouldn't get to go until last year.

To get his mind to something else, he looked at his watch and decided that he might as well start walking down to the stadium again for the Trainer’s Market. He kicked some stones along the way and decided that this call was nobody’s business but his own.

I kind of like this little mopey detail.

He momentarily forgot about it when he entered the stadium. Dozens of sale stands were now standing there in neat rows; trainers of all ages were gathered around them to buy all the items they could dream of. The biggest crowd, however, was gathered around one stand, which Mark guessed was the one with the Master Balls. Hesitating, he walked up to what he presumed was the end of the line. Slowly the crowd thinned and he finally got to the stand. He took out his trainer card, remembering that they could be used as credit cards.

“You’re selling Master Balls, right?” he asked, just to be sure. The brown-haired man on the other side nodded as he adjusted his sunglasses slightly.

“Okay… I’ll have one.”

The guy inserted Mark’s trainer card into a slot on a small box. It beeped and a purple and white sphere with a small white ‘M’ on the front materialized on top of it.

“Here,” the man said, handing it back to Mark along with his trainer card and a booklet. He quizzically looked at it; the front of it said ‘Master Ball safety manual: Read before use.’

In the previous versions, Mark and May were there for the preparations for the Trainers' Market and helped one of the guys setting up the Master Ball table, resulting in him giving them a 50% discount on Master Balls. There was no good reason for this - I haven't established anything about how much money Mark has, nor does the Master Ball even have an established price that'd need to be lowered - so just I ditched it here. (In the UMR I added a line lampshading what a huge discount that is just for helping out a little bit.)

“Hey, get a move on,” a voice said behind him, and Mark moved to the side. He bumped into a boy with a pale face and long, black hair.

“Victor?”

“Mark!” Victor exclaimed. “I thought I’d never find you! We were going to meet at the festival, remember?”

Mark blushed. “Oh, I forgot.”

“It’s all right,” said Victor. “Um… is May here somewhere? Oh, there she is…”

Victor waved to her where she was somewhere in the crowd. She doubtfully waved back and then came to them.

“You’re the Mutark guy, right?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Victor confirmed. “I wanted to speak to you two…”

May raised an eyebrow. “Go on.”

“Well…” Victor began, swallowing, and then sighed and gestured for them to follow him out of the stadium. He was only happy when they were standing by the side wall, out of everybody’s earshot.

“What is this all about?” May asked impatiently.

“Er…” Victor started again. “Well, after you two had both left Scorpio City, Mitch told me that… that he had a feeling something would happen to you.”

Mark got a sinking feeling in his stomach; May just raised her eyebrow further. “And? It’s not like he’s a psychic or something.”

“He is,” Mark muttered miserably, remembering what Victor had told him when they had met outside Scorpio City.

“It’s just a rumour, of course,” Victor quickly added. “But I’d still be careful if I were you – they say he has foreseen deaths and stuff.”

“I don’t believe in rumours,” May said firmly, not looking very convinced. Mark didn’t say anything. He just thought about Mitch’s odd, hypnotic stare, the strange things he said and the way he had asked if Mark had dreamt anything. As much as he’d have loved to label it as just a rumour, it didn’t seem all too unlikely that there was more to Mitch than met the eye.

I wrote this, of course, still having absolutely no idea what Mitch was about.

“Well, that’s all,” Victor said nervously. “I’ll… see you around, I guess.”

“Bye,” said May doubtfully. Mark mumbled something. Victor waved slightly and walked off.

“Do you think he’s just trying to scare us?” May asked after a moment’s pause.

“He didn’t seem like it,” Mark muttered.

“Mitch could be wrong, too,” May suggested.

“Could I be wrong?”

Mark jumped and turned around to find Mitch suddenly standing there with a mysterious smile on his lips.

“Was what Victor said true?” May just asked.

“We had that conversation, yes,” said Mitch and nodded slowly.

“But what…” Mark began before realizing that Mitch was walking off. Puzzled, the two kids looked at each other.

This whole bit did happen in the previous versions, despite that we hadn't seen Mitch telling Victor anything and Victor had appeared to be perfectly straightforward when he asked if they'd meet at the festival. Victor simply explained here that he'd actually wanted to meet them because Mitch had told him something horrible would happen to Mark and May would suffer a loss, off-screen. I'm pretty sure I decided to retcon it sometime in between these chapters in the original (because why would Victor tell them about this festival, he must have an ulterior motive!!).

-------

Mark felt uneasy for the remainder of the day. May was quieter than usual too; he also felt a strange need to keep her company. They stuck together until they went to their Pokémon Center rooms in the evening.

Aww, look at them starting to develop their funny little friendship.

Mark didn’t feel like going to sleep for some reason, so he picked up the booklet he had received at the Master Ball stand.

IMPORTANT NOTICE

The Master Ball, while capable of holding any Pokémon no matter how powerful, will not automatically sway a Pokémon to obey you any more than a normal Pokéball will. Remember that Pokémon respect their trainers in accordance with their training experience and kindness, not their equipment! Always show caution when attempting to capture powerful Pokémon. If it appears unhappy about being captured, release it straight away and do not in any way give it a reason to dislike you.

The Master Ball is best kept until you are an experienced trainer, and is wisest to use on a Pokémon that is rare rather than one that is powerful.

People can talk to Pokémon in this universe; what do you mean appear unhappy.

Really, the entire concept of Master Balls is pretty dodgy here. A large part of the point of the system is supposed to be that the trainer needs to be strong enough to weaken the Pokémon enough so it can't break out of the ball, to prove themselves worthy, so to speak; the Master Ball just destroys that whole assumption by making it so that any random kid can throw a Master Ball and successfully confine a very powerful Pokémon. It makes sense Master Balls are possible, and that criminal organizations and shady scientists would create them to make it easier to capture Pokémon illegitimately, and maybe some trusted elite trainers and organizations would keep some on hand to stop a rampaging Pokémon in an emergency. But letting regular trainers just buy them? Even if it's one per person, why would this be a thing. That's not even how it works in the video games: after all, while you do always get a Master Ball in the games because of your role in the plot, getting a Master Ball has never been a routine thing every trainer does.

Mark read the words dully. He wasn’t an idiot; this text basically translated to “Don’t do anything foolish like trying to catch Chaletwo even though he’s appearing tomorrow.” He put the booklet down and sighed before taking out his paper and pencil and starting to draw.

He was lost in his own world for a while as his hand shot across the paper and drew the outlines of a Lugia. After the Lugia, he added a Zapdos, and a Moltres, and an Articuno…

He slowly got drowsy and in the end he realized that he had been dozing off for a few minutes while drawing. He stared at what he drawn while half-asleep.

Wow, that’s my best Mewtwo ever, was his first, somewhat sleepy thought. Then a cold shiver ran down his spine as he realized that its eyes were closed.

Queen of subtlety that I was, this is how I ended this chapter in the previous revisions:

“So, Chaletwo’s appearance is tomorrow,” May said on the way back to the hotel. “Such a powerful pokémon... imagine if he were evil. The world would come to a quick end...”

“Yeah,” Mark said, remembering the conversation with Alan. He had never told May the part about him being in danger too. Relax, he told himself, of course you’re not going to get killed...

I am picturing my thirteen-year-old self cackling with glee.

This chapter is back to some very quiet, kind of boring events, but obviously the real point of it is just the buildup leading up to chapter 25: Victor telling them what Mitch said, Mark's parents revealing they kept things from him because they were convinced Chaletwo would kill him if he attended his appearance, the Master Ball warning, and now Mark unconsciously drawing Chaletwo while half-asleep, which is pretty random and doesn't actually mean anything but it sure sounds ominous.

Looking back on it, I think I could probably have done a bit more tension-building here and trimmed down these relatively uninteresting festival events. But I do appreciate what I did do here to build it up, particularly the addition of that conversation with Mark's parents and the booklet - both of which are kind of silly in themselves, but it's cool I was really going for that setup and building this suspense. Are you excited to get to chapter 25 by now? Because I am.


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