The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

This is an author's commentary intended for readers who have already read the entire ILCOE. My retrospective comments on the chapter are in bold below, with some remarks within the text and then some overall thoughts at the bottom. The commentary will contain significant spoilers! Do not read the commentary on your first read-through!

(The commentary is in progress; only the first chunk of the story has been commented. Check the Quest Blog for progress information!)

Chapter 26: Dead or Alive

This chapter was another long one - the longest so far at nineteen pages - and it took a while by those days' standards, being posted on June 25th 2005. Still not as long as chapter six or chapter 22, though!

Branches rustled. Taillow chirped. Beedrill buzzed.

Mark lay with his eyes closed. The stinging grass underneath him tickled the back of his neck. His hands grasped the cold, dewy blades. He inhaled deeply, taking in the fresh, earthy smell.

Mark felt his heart beat steadily in his chest. His whole body ached, but he felt wonderful. He was alive. Funny how he had never appreciated it before.

After a few minutes, he opened his eyes slowly to look at the roof of leaves above. He sat up and blinked a few times, wondering where he could be; it was clearly the middle of a forest of some sort.

This is a nice calm moment of Mark actually feeling something about having died, unlike last chapter. In the previous versions, the chapter just opened with Mark woke up in a forest. An ache all over his body announced that he was back to life.

“Hello, Mark.”

He sprang to his feet in surprise when he heard the familiar, soft voice. It belonged to the only person who could appear out of nowhere like that: Mitch. He was leaning against a tree, facing away from Mark, and looking into the air as he tended to. Mark walked slowly up to him.

“I guess we’re on the same boat now,” Mitch continued calmly.

I don't know about other non-native speakers, but for me memorizing the exact prepositions used in phrasal verbs and figures of speech was by far the most challenging aspect of learning to write English fluently. (The absurdly inconsistent and random pronunciation is definitely the hardest thing about speaking it, though.) I'm still not always sure I'm doing it right, but at least by now I can spot stuff like this use of "on the same boat" instead of "in the same boat". Normally you're on a boat!

“What do you mean?” Mark asked, leaning against another nearby tree. Mitch didn’t look surprised to see him at all.

“We’re both dead,” said Mitch with a faint smile.

Mark was puzzled. “How?”

“Seven years ago,” Mitch said slowly, still staring into the air, “ten-year-old Richard Brown started his Pokémon journey with a Venonat. He wandered into the Black Desert, encountered a Scorplack, and was tragically killed on the first day of his quest.”

It took Mark a few seconds to realize that Mitch was talking about himself.

“A few months later,” Mitch continued, “a confused teenager named Mitch entered the city with a bad case of amnesia and no identification whatsoever. He looked a little bit similar to poor Richard, although a lot thinner, with more hair and different-colored eyes. He just muttered senseless things about death the first days, but then his memory started coming back and he remembered his name and that he was going to study Biology in Green Town. He did, and later went on to study poisons exclusively. He got a job as a Gym Leader in Scorpio City.”

One of those things that have been bothering me for years upon years is how Mitch, at ten years old, could so easily pass himself off as thirteen. Kids change and grow a lot between those ages, right? On doing some research, it doesn't seem completely impossible - there are apparently ten-year-olds taller than the average thirteen-year-old boy - but nonetheless, I feel like it kind of stretches plausibility, especially since he must have been to the hospital and surely the doctors would have a pretty good idea of what a thirteen-year-old should look like. It may work if we assume that the process of saving his life - which basically just involved the fact that once Chalenor had attached himself to his body he was semi-immortal, meaning the poison ravaged his body for months of agonized delirium without actually killing him until it finally began to break down naturally - rendered him looking malnourished enough that the doctors figured that was why he might not quite look his age. But even then, why did he even try to pass himself off as years older than he was? (...Maybe his time in the desert just felt like years. Oh no, I'm having fun visualizing all this suffering, please stop me.)

In any case, originally it was just that I didn't think anything of it for some reason and just liked the idea of Mitch really being younger than he seemed. In the next revision, I'll probably just make Mitch older when he's stung; there's no actual reason this needs to be happening when he's ten on the first day of his journey, and in fact the whole thing probably makes a lot more sense if it's not.

I'm establishing here that Mitch's eyes changed color when he became Mitch! I didn't quite remember this being here, but it makes sense. This Mitch scene is based on one that happened a bit later in the previous versions, in chapter 31, after the Pokémon backstory chapter, but that one didn't mention this in particular. I'm pretty sure I still didn't know Mitch was carrying Chalenor at this point; I think I just wrote this particular line as part of trying to make it plausible he wouldn't be recognized as his former self by someone who'd seen some "missing child" alerts, figuring that since his eyes have been established to be silver and strange and sort of magical, it'd make sense they weren't that way before. (It's still a bit implausible he manages to completely escape suspicion that he's the child who not too long ago went missing in this desert, though. Like, okay, he's got silver hair and eyes now, but really, nobody?)

Mitch paused for a little while, and finally went on:

“Richard Brown doesn’t like him at all, but what can poor Richard do? Long ago he cloaked himself with Mitch, and now thrives on the disguise…”

“So you’re… you’re seventeen?” Mark asked slowly, still digesting the information. Mitch suddenly looked into his face; his shiny, gray eyes didn’t seem to blink at all.

“Richard is afraid of Mitch. He fears this man who has seen so much death, so much pain, so much sorrow. It is too much for a young boy. He never got to grow into an adult, having hidden away for so long.”

Mitch still stared into Mark’s eyes. He was starting to understand why Mitch liked to look up when he talked; something about his gaze seemed to disconnect Mark from his surroundings and prevent him from looking away, giving Mitch’s words odd importance. A cold shiver ran down his spine as he realized what Mitch’s eyes reminded him of: Chaletwo’s. Like a weaker, non-fatal version.

More delicious unintentional foreshadowing!

I thought this line had been new here, but it actually was in the previous versions of this conversation, in a very similar form:

Mitch paused, then looked at Mark. He was starting to understand why Mitch kept looking up while he talked; there was just something about his eyes that disconnected you from your surroundings and gave what he was saying an additional meaning that made you pretty much unable to look off them. Suddenly, a cold shiver went down Mark’s spine. He just remembered what Mitch’s eyes reminded him of: Chaletwo’s. Like a weaker version that didn’t kill what they were pointed at.

I definitely originally wrote this on spur of the moment, because Mitch's eyes are just that compelling. Then, at some much later point, I know that I was rereading or thinking about this particular line and it dawned on me that holy shit, he's Chalenor. I thought for sure it was after this line in this version, but now that I know it was there in the previous ones, it's actually possible I figured it out earlier, theoretically maybe even before I wrote this here? Probably not, though; I really do think I wrote that line about his eyes changing above just to try to make it more plausible he wasn't recognized.

“I’m not real,” Mitch said softly, looking up again to Mark’s relief. “I’m a dead boy, and a made-up character. Do not make my mistake. Cloaking one’s true identity will never cause anything but trouble.”

Mitch's issues! He spends considerably less time on this here than he did in the previous versions:

“What? You’re seventeen?” Mark blurted out.

“No,” said Mitch and suddenly looked right into Mark’s face. Mark had forgotten about how special his eyes were. “Richard Brown is ten. Mitch is twenty. You see? I changed myself into the man Mitch. But half of me is still the ten-year-old kid who was thought to be dead and no one believed him when he came back, and the kid is scared of Mitch, the man who has seen so many deaths, so much pain, so much sorrow. Too much for a little kid, who was hidden inside Mitch where he did not get to grow and become an adult. Do not make the same mistake I made. Do not hide yourself inside a new person you make up. Even if no one believes you, you should stick with that you are you. It would drive you crazy to be like me. It drove me crazy. I am two people! I am still half a kid! I should not have seen all that I have seen! I should not have heard all that I have heard! Be you. Stay as you. Being locked inside another person because you are afraid of other people is not the right thing to do. Do not do it! Do you hear me? STAY AS YOURSELF UNLESS YOU WANT TO END UP LIKE ME!!!”

He took a deep breath and looked into the air again.

“Sorry, you get what I mean,” he said. “I am not real. I am a dead kid, and I am a made-up character.”

That version may have been a little over-the-top, but I definitely should have spent more time on Mitch's issues here, given they end up important. (I definitely didn't know that here.)

Obviously, this is why Mitch never ended up seeking out his family or reclaiming his identity, even after recovering his memory; he came out of this whole traumatic affair pretty much believing he isn't Richard anymore, that he died and now he's someone else entirely. In hindsight he manages to regret that and think he could have remained himself, but now it's too late.

They were silent for a long while. Mitch’s lips finally curled into one of his faint smiles.

“You’ve heard about the animal world?”

“Yes,” Mark replied, not sure why Mitch was asking. He had learned about it in History – it was another world that had been discovered 874 years ago, marking the start of the calendar used now. After nearly 200 years, the Pokémon world scientists managed to open a gateway between them. The humans in the two worlds had apparently shared their technology and something until the animal world was destroyed.

The reason I used the number 874 as the current year in the fic is that 874 is the commonly cited year of the first Vikings settling in Iceland (actually today believed by historians to be 871 +/- 2). There's no connection there, just me wanting a year along these lines and grabbing a year I'd easily remember.

Forgot about the detail about the animal world having been destroyed. That's covered more extensively in chapter 29.

“I think humans came from there,” Mitch continued.

“What?” Mark asked in disbelief. “Humans were here long before that.”

“I think that wasn’t the first time a gateway between the two worlds opened. Because you see, it makes perfect sense. Humans are animals. All other animals in this world were moved here from the animal world. And what are the odds that as complicated a species as humans would evolve in two separate worlds?”

Mark nodded; that made sense.

“Look here…”

Mitch moved away from the tree and knelt down.

“This tree is all life. I’ll put the most basic life forms at the bottom, here at the roots, and they advance as they go up. We have viruses here at the bottom.”

In the old versions he explicitly said viruses aren't quite alive. That's why I placed them at the bottom rather than just a very short way up the tree, but I got some complaints about this.

He ran his finger a little bit up the tree’s trunk, stopping at a speck.

“Bacteria. Still basic.”

He slid his hand slowly up the tree. “We go on… we come to fungi, plants and finally animals, which humans are among…”

At this point he was pointing at a spot at his chest level or so.

“But all the way up here…”

He moved his hand dramatically as far as he could reach without standing on tiptoe.

“…Pokémon.”

He looked straight into Mark’s eyes again, his eyes shining brightly.

I was just trying to get at ultimate complexity here, but this comes out annoyingly like one of those simplistic, hierarchical views of evolution where some species are "more evolved" than others (there's no such thing). I should've known better here, really.

Originally, they had this conversation sitting on a bench in Green Town, and Mitch illustrated this by placing inanimate objects where he was on the bench and Pokémon where Mark was. I liked the subtle metaphorical implications of that with regards to Mitch's issues.

“Pokémon are powerful, Mark. Extremely. If other animals came here with the humans, they landed in direct competition with the Pokémon, and didn’t survive. Humans, on the other hand, figured out that they had one advantage over the Pokémon, and used it. They knew that their only hope to fight Pokémon was with other Pokémon, and they managed to cooperate with them. Very clever indeed. But when you think about it, the Pokémon’s end of the deal is still cleverer. They weren’t driven into the deal by any need. They could have wiped us out if the wanted – but they didn’t. They figured it would be for the good of everyone to make the deal.”

“I never thought about it that way,” Mark admitted.

Mitch smiled slightly. “I didn’t expect you to. Farewell, Mark… remember what I told you.”

And with that, Mitch turned and walked away, only to disappear as soon as Mark took his eyes off him.

The "remember what I told you" is referring to the bit about not cloaking his identity, not the bit about the animal world which is just cool worldbuilding trivia that Mitch happens to be interested in. It's really easy to misinterpret, though. I do not blame you if you stared at this whole animal world thing and it was core to your theories on Mitch.

The biology discussion was also more elaborate in the previous versions of this conversation, and it included this interesting tidbit:

“Pokémon are made of 96% pure energy, Mark. Power seeks order, because chaos is a weakness. So pokémon are all orgnized in a big system of levels, attacks, abilities, types, weaknesses, resistances...”

By the time I got to this version I seem to have realized that the whole "Pokémon are 96% pure energy" thing - a firm headcanon I held for a while - doesn't actually mean anything. While this whole statement is nonsense - power doesn't "seek order", what are you talking about - I kind of enjoy the idea that there's an actual reason that Pokémon in particular are so systematically analyzable, with these seventeen eighteen types and these regular type interactions and so on. Kind of a fun way to explain away why Pokémon battling functions in such a relatively video gamey way even in this fanfic world!

“Chaletwo?” Mark muttered, looking down at his Pokéballs.

“Yes?” answered the telepathic voice.

“Where am I and how far in the future?”

“The middle of Ruxido, two weeks after your death,” Chaletwo said. “Molzapart did a slight mass memory modification and now everybody’s memories of you are buried a bit deeper. They will find you distantly familiar, but won’t remember who you are unless they’re specifically reminded of it. The people who knew you well will still recognize you if they get a good enough look at you, though.”

“All right,” said Mark nervously. “Are my Pokémon still in my Pokéballs?”

“Yes,” Chaletwo replied. “I made a copy of your body and clothes before you were buried and snatched your Pokéballs before your Pokémon were released. Naturally, Molzapart helped by giving the person who was supposed to release them a fake memory of doing it.”

Mark smiled. “Thanks.”

Originally I didn't explain or think about this at all, got questioned on it, and then in this version I made sure to clear up exactly how they got this done. Seems a bit annoyingly complicated for these legendaries who have to covertly sneak around human society, though. It'd be a lot simpler in the next revision if Chaletwo just takes the body with him after killing him instead of ever letting humans get their hands on him, or something like that. I'd just have to make sure he definitely looks very good and dead before he gets taken, or people would probably just think he hadn't killed him at all. (Alternatively, he makes a copy of his body/clothes, but snatches the Pokéball belt; that way they still have a body to bury, and probably no one would exactly know that he was supposed to be carrying Pokémon. Or maybe there are conspiracy theories about what Chaletwo's doing with these Pokémon he steals. Who knows!)

Chaletwo chuckled. “No problem, Mr. Last Hope. And remember to talk to Ash Ketchum; Green Town is to your left.”

Chaletwo really should be more nervous here, but I'm going to say he's feigning casual confidence for the moment to seem like the cool legendary whose plan is definitely very great.

Mark took a deep breath, turned left and walked as straight as he could. As the trees thinned, he heard a voice he recognized:

“Pupitar, just Thrash the stupid thing!”

“May!” Mark called, running in the voice’s direction. He caught a glimpse of blue hair behind a tree and soon the whole of May, hissing angrily at her blue cocoon as a yellow and black-striped Beedrill fluttered frantically away. She looked blankly at him and first, then furrowed her brow like she was trying to remember something.

Pupitar is already subject to May's high expectations and blunt disapproval. In the previous versions, Mark did find May as she was battling a Beedrill with her Pupitar, but the bit with her being clearly annoyed was new. I dig it.

“Mark!” she suddenly realized. Then she shook her head. “Oh, never mind. I thought you were somebody else.”

Mark walked up to her; she stared at him.

“You can’t be…” she said slowly.

“It’s me, I have to tell you…” Mark started.

“But who got killed?” she interrupted blankly.

“That was also me,” Mark said, “but let me explain…”

May raised her eyebrow. “Have you been out in the sun for too long?”

“No!” Mark yelled in frustration. “I’m trying to…”

“You can’t both be dead and be here.”

“SHUT UP!” Mark screamed. She raised both of her eyebrows this time.

And of course, May's first reaction to a friend being back from the dead is also to argue about it. I shortened this exchange slightly here, but it's still very similar to the original. My thirteen-year-old self really just wanted to have everyone argue with each other a lot.

“Thank you,” he said angrily before continuing to tell her all of the clear memories of his conversation with Chaletwo and Molzapart. Unfortunately, May was about the worst listener imaginable. She interrupted every few sentences, usually with something he was just coming to, and after he had finally struggled through the whole thing, she raised her eyebrow yet again. That, Mark had learned, was never a good sign.

“That sounded like something you’d think of while high on weed,” she said.

Amazing. In the previous versions she just said "I'm not sure I believe you, Mark," but now I was fifteen and my twelve-year-old characters would be making references to drugs.

I love the bit about May being a terrible listener so much, though. It's also straight out of the original. I love her.

“It’s true!” Mark said hotly.

“Then prove it… send out Molzapart and Chaletwo.”

Mark was about to yell something angry at her when another voice broke in:

“He’s not lying.”

Chaletwo, Mark thought with relief.

“Chaletwo?” May asked shakily.

“Indeed,” the Legendary replied. “He can not send us out of the Pokéballs. It is too risky as the other Legendaries might spot us. And now that you have learned about all of this, we have no choice but to erase your memory or...”

“I’m not getting my bloody memory erased!” May hissed. “He decided to tell me, for crying out loud!”

More "bloody" from May. The bit where Chaletwo suggested erasing her memory was new; before, he just told her to help Mark and she didn't complain.

“Either that or you help him,” Chaletwo said simply.

“Fine, I’ll help him!” May snapped. “Are we going to see Ash Ketchum, then?”

“Yeah,” Mark replied. Getting her to help was why he had gone to talk to her in the first place; he wasn’t sure why, but he enjoyed her company.

Aww. Love that "He wasn't sure why, but..."

This whole thing plays out in a kind of funky way, even aside from the lack of them acting like human beings about Mark dying and coming back to life. Mark approaches May without confirming with Chaletwo that it's okay to tell her; then he tells her the entire story without Chaletwo commenting, either to ask him who this girl is and whether she's really trustworthy or to confirm his story and get her initiated quickly and quietly; and then after they've had a little bit of a back-and-forth about how she doesn't believe him, that's when Chaletwo finally chooses to actually say something. It's just generally weird and stems from me clinging to doing more or less the same (bad) dialogue as in the old versions.

-------

They set off on an uneventful journey towards Green Town. They didn’t meet anybody on the way, although Mark was constantly worrying about it. May seemed rather grumpy; she was walking rather fast, staring straight ahead and not talking to Mark – although he wasn’t really trying to start a conversation either.

May's so annoyed about being dragged into this saving-the-world thing.

When they finally reached Alan’s house, May knocked on the door. Mark stood slightly behind her, rather nervous about Alan’s reaction to seeing him. They heard footsteps and the door opened.

That's the third "rather" in two paragraphs and it's SCREAMING at me.

Alan looked uninterestedly at May for a second, and then his gaze ran over to Mark. Alan stared at him for a few seconds, his mouth falling slightly open.

“You’re dead,” he said blankly.

“I’ll explain inside,” said Mark tiredly as Alan stepped aside, still staring at him. They walked into the kitchen.

I like how done Mark is with explaining this.

“I saw it with my own eyes…” Alan continued weakly. “Chaletwo opened his eyes and… I’ll eat Pamela if it wasn’t you…”

“Can’t you see he’s no more dead than you are?” said May annoyed as they sat down

“I… I’m not dead,” Alan said confusedly.

“Let’s just pretend both of us are alive for now, okay?” Mark suggested. “I’ll explain.”

And he started telling the whole story again. This time it was significantly easier, since Alan listened quietly without interrupting (except for one “I told you Chaletwo wasn’t evil!”).

Some more dialogue closely following the original, although I shortened Alan's original line about how he's not dead:

“I’m no more dead than you,” Mark said.

“No more than me...? Do you mean... a – are you coming to get me? I – I think you’re taking me for someone else, I’m sure I don’t have cancer or anything, I’d surely have noticed if I’d been murdered... and I’m much to young to by dying for natural reasons now... and I like my life, I’d not go and commit suicide, least of all without being aware of it myself...”

In the ILCOE, at least he sounds vaguely like a genuine human being; just the "I'm not dead" can sort of be excused as a confused thing to say while in shock, whereas this entire ramble is just bizarre.

“Wow,” Alan breathed as Mark finished.

“So…” Mark said hesitatingly, “are you having problems believing me?”

I'm pretty sure the word is "hesitantly", fifteen-year-old me.

Alan shrugged. “Well, I really should have known. Chaletwo had to have a reason to do that. And you’re alive, which makes it sound sensible enough.”

Mark almost laughed at how different Alan’s reaction was from May’s, but he held it back.

“Um, where’s your father?” he asked.

“Who, me?” came a voice from behind him. Mark turned around to find Ash walking into the kitchen. He stopped in his tracks as he spotted Mark.

“Ah,” he then said. Mark and Alan stared at him with a puzzled expression. Ash slowly sat down.

“You were killed by Chaletwo, weren’t you?” he asked quietly.

“Yes,” Mark replied, slightly confused.

“You won’t need to explain,” Ash sighed. “Molzapart told me years ago about the War of the Legends and requested of me to try to catch some of the Legendaries, but as much as I’d have liked to try, I was extremely busy; if I cancelled everything and went on a journey suddenly, it would look very suspicious. He suggested killing me and bringing me back, but I didn’t want to because of Alan, who was young at the time. I also pointed out that there was no guarantee the kids couldn’t do it themselves in a few years. So he gave in and told me that they would send somebody to me as a last resort if they were getting really desperate.”

“Why?” Alan asked. “Why you?”

Ash smiled slightly. “I’ve had extraordinary luck with Legendaries. Molzapart said it was some sort of a subconscious connection that brought us together.”

“So you’re going to come with me to make it easier to find them?” Mark asked slowly.

“That’s the basic idea, yes,” Ash sighed. “Of course I’m still busy, but I can make some kind of an excuse since we’re running short on time.”

“Dad,” said Alan suddenly, “do you think I have that too?”

“Have what?” Ash asked.

“That subconscious connection with Legendaries.”

“Hmm,” came Chaletwo’s telepathic voice, apparently having listened to everything, “we never thought of that. Have there been any signs of something like that in the boy?”

“Rainteicune,” said Ash, looking at his son.

“Maybe I should go in your place,” Alan said. “After all, you’re busy and stuff. Much easier for me to go.”

“It’s worth a try,” Chaletwo commented. “After all, a 15-year-old suddenly deciding to leave on a journey sounds a lot likelier than a 37-year-old.”

Originally, Molzapart had just outright told Ash that his legendary-attraction powers would be inherited by Alan. How does he know? What is this mystery legendary-attraction power that never actually seems to affect anything in the fic anyway? We will never know.

Ash raised his eyebrow. “You never struck me as the type to have any interest in saving the world, to tell you the truth, Alan.”

Alan shrugged. “Sounds more fun than sitting here itching to know whether the world is going to be saved while thinking about how my father is yet again proving how much better he is than me.”

There was a short, uncomfortable silence.

“I’m sorry, Alan,” Ash sighed. “It would probably be better if you went.”

“It’s okay, Dad,” Alan muttered.

Hi there Alan's issues

Suddenly he grinned and ran upstairs. A few seconds passed; Mark, May and Ash gave each other puzzled looks until Alan came sprinting down the stairs again, holding a battered Pokémon League cap. Ash suddenly cracked up.

“Can’t go on an adventure without Dad’s old cap, can I?” Alan laughed, putting it on. The white front of it was decorated with a green, fancy L-shaped Pokémon League symbol. Mark recognized it as the famous cap Ash Ketchum had journeyed with and smiled slightly.

“Well,” Ash said cheerfully, “let’s pack.”

The transition from "Alan having issues" to "Alan grinning and getting his dad's cap" was a bit less abrupt in the previous versions.

Today Ash has worn several different hats over the years, but this was back when there was just the old League cap and the weird new Hoenn one that I didn't entirely accept. I think it's kind of cute that I had Alan wear Ash's hat; no point to it whatsoever, and one wonders if he wouldn't be kind of recognizeable in it when his dad's famous and he looks a lot like him (which there's no way Alan would want), but assuming that's not a concern for some reason, wearing it sort of for luck when he's out essentially trying to finally live up to his dad's name is fun.

-------

The three of them left the house, waving goodbye to Ash. After walking only a few steps, Mark stopped.

“What now?” he asked emptily. “Where am I supposed to go? You have a subconscious connection with Legendaries, but if it’s subconscious, we don’t know where we should go to find them.”

“Well,” Alan said, “don’t they say the best way to find something is not to look for it? That certainly seems to apply here. I wasn’t looking for Rainteicune, and Dad wasn’t looking for the Legendaries he found.”

“But what, does that mean I should just continue along my merry way and battle Gym Leaders like nothing ever happened?”

Alan shrugged. “For example.”

“I can’t just go around battling Gym Leaders when the world is ending!” Mark said in frustration.

“Got a better idea?”

Mark fell silent. It didn’t feel right at all to just continue his journey.

“Suicune,” he suddenly realized. “Suicune always appears at the Lake of Purity. We should hurry there and then we can worry about Gym battles.”

“The fastest way to Cleanwater from here is through Stormy Town, which actually is the next city with a Gym,” Alan pointed out. “You could as well grab a badge there as we pass through, if you did go with the badge thing.”

This is genuinely coincidental - I'd made the Ouen map and had all this happen in Green Town long before I wrote this, but as it happened, yup, Stormy Town really is right on the way back to Cleanwater City.

“But…” Mark protested.

“Look, Mark,” May interrupted, “whatever you’re going to do, I want my badges. I’m going to Stormy Town and challenging the bloody Gym whether you like it or not, and if you’re not going to get your badge too, that’s your problem.”

“Err…” Mark sensed that he was alone; deep down, he also wanted to get the rest of his badges, since he had been through the trouble of getting half of them already.

“Fine. But I don’t even have the badge from the Green Town Gym yet.”

“Go ahead and get it,” said May. “I can just talk to Alan or something. There’s a bench over there.”

I'm pretty sure this was a mythology gag referring to the bench that Mark and Mitch sat on in chapter 31 of the previous versions.

In the previous versions, the decision to keep collecting badges was made a lot more quickly; Alan just said this, and everyone accepted it:

“Well, as Dad always says: To find legendary pokémon, all you need to do is being incredibly lucky like I seem to be, and not looking for them,” Alan answered. “According to Molzapart, I will be incredibly lucky too, so you can just concentrate on the pokémon league, and we will find them in the end. What’s more of a problem, I’d say, is how you’re going to catch them, it’s not like you have fifteen Master balls ready at hand...”

(I love the idea that Ash "always says" that. What a delightfully unhelpful and self-aggrandizing thing to say that he apparently says all the time.)

Here, I was more conscious of the fact that it really was a bit weird for them to go on collecting badges, so I had Mark be a lot more reluctant to do so - but instead, the way Alan and May repeatedly insist that he should keep collecting badges in response just comes off hilariously weirdly. It's also strange that Chaletwo has nothing to say about this. I'd definitely rework this, probably having Chaletwo admit that the other legendary hunters just continued their usual journeys at first in order to strengthen their Pokémon and their battle skills, and although they're running short on time, traveling between gyms is just as good as aimless wandering around the region.

Mark sighed as they walked over there. He waved absent-mindedly and started walking towards the Green Town Stadium, where the Gym battles supposedly took place. He couldn’t help feeling he was actually more determined and confident as a trainer now than he had been before – he wanted to continue his journey and compete in the Ouen League, although that wasn’t what he was supposed to be focusing on.

Why couldn’t that have happened earlier?

Wait, what? You sure didn't sound more determined than before just now.

He nervously walked into a small building beside the stadium that had a rusty sign saying GYM CHALLENGES HERE above the door. It contained a small table, a coffee machine and two girls sitting by the table. One looked around eighteen years old, and was stunningly beautiful, with long, dark hair and wearing a green outfit. The other looked maybe twelve or thirteen, had light green hair in pigtails and wore a white T-shirt depicting various Grass Pokémon.

“Hello?” said the older one in a bored voice.

“Er, I’m here for a badge,” Mark said.

“Of course you’re here for a badge,” she replied snappily. “Why else would you be here?”

“Um,” Mark said unsurely, a bit surprised by her reactions, “I guess.”

I love Flora. Obviously I was having fun taking a Grass-type gym leader and making her the absolute opposite of the serene, flower-loving types we usually see training Grass Pokémon in the games.

“So anyway, junior trainer first,” she said lazily as the younger girl stood up and gestured for Mark to follow her. He walked hesitantly with her out of the building and into the huge arena, where they took their places.

“Three on three. Ready, go, Tangela!” said the junior trainer in a high-pitched voice. She threw a Pokéball into the arena, which popped open as it landed on the ground and allowed a weird Pokémon to take shape – Mark was reminded of a bundle of turquoise spaghetti with two round eyes in the middle. It didn’t help that for some reason, it was wearing bright red shoes.

Mark took one of his Pokéballs off his belt.

“Charizard, go!”

He hurled it forward and a red beam of light materialized into the orange dragon. He had heard that Tangela were rather weak, but he would rather stay on the safe side.

“Tangela, Sleep Powder!” yelled the girl.

“Charizard, beat your wings to blow it away!”

Two of the vines that covered her Pokémon’s body shot forward and held Charizard’s wings in place while it shook itself vigorously, causing a cloud of green, sparkling dust to be released into the air. Charizard, rather than risking to inhale the powder while attempting to attack the vines, shut his mouth tightly and turned his head away in order not to be affected by the spores; unfortunately he soon relaxed in the Tangela’s grip and sank down to the floor, fast asleep.

“No!” Mark shouted in frustration. “Wake up!”

“Tangela, Slam!”

The Tangela started smashing its vines into Charizard’s body like whips, muttering “Tan-gela! Tan-gela!” as it did. After a bit of beating while Mark tried desperately to wake his Pokémon, Charizard’s eye twitched slightly and then opened. He got up with a roar, took a deep breath and spewed a blast of bright flames at the Grass Pokémon. It stood there charred for a second, but then collapsed.

Seriously, why was I still doing these battles where the opponent faints in one hit. This is the same choreography (if you could call it that) as in the original.

“Tangela, return,” said the girl. “Sunflora, do it!”

She sent out a peculiar flower Pokémon. The petals were bright yellow, surrounding the happy-looking face, which Mark found creepy for some reason. Then it had a green stalk-like body with leaves for arms, which it was currently waving around like it was trying to fly or something.

“Sunflora, Sunny Day!”

The flower sang a sweet note and the sunlight above intensified greatly; the arena grew very hot.

What the heck? Mark thought, stroking sweat off his forehead. Why would she be powering up my Pokémon’s attacks? And Solarbeam isn’t exactly the attack of choice to use on a Charizard…

“Flamethrower!” he shouted, and the dragon fired a great stream of flames at the Sunflora. It was engulfed in it completely and shrieked in pain; when the fire cleared, it was already down.

The girl silently recalled her Pokémon and took out the third and last ball.

Again? Jeez.

“Go, Jumpluff!”

The Pokémon that came out was ball-shaped and blue, with two tiny legs. Its arms, however, had puffy cotton-like balls on the ends, almost as big as the body. It also had a similar cotton ball sticking out of its head. Mark found it rather freaky, especially when it just floated into the air like a balloon.

“Err… Charizard, another Flamethrower,” he ordered. Charizard shot forth yet another Flamethrower, but Mark was surprised to discover that the Jumpluff was unbelievably fast. It zoomed easily out of the way in the air, agile as a Taillow, and stuck its tongue out at Charizard.

The Jumpluff has Chlorophyll, of course (that's why the junior trainer used Sunny Day), and Mark didn't pay enough attention in Mrs. Grodski's class to know that. I do like these instances where what's happening in battle flies over Mark's head; I believe it happens a fair bit throughout the fic.

“Jumpluff, Cotton Spore!” the girl yelled. Again, the Grass Pokémon moved quickly; it shook its puffs, releasing a cloud of cotton-like material that covered Charizard. He coughed and was having a rather hard time moving in it, but he flapped his wings and managed to blow it away.

“Jumpluff, use a Poisonpowder!”

“Jump!” the Pokémon cried, shaking its arms again. This time the puffs released purple dust.

“Charizard, fly out of the way! Don’t inhale it!” Mark shouted desperately. Charizard took off from the ground, but the Jumpluff followed him, still at this bizarre speed. It was faster than the dragon and caught rapidly up with him; Charizard blasted a Flamethrower over his shoulder but the Jumpluff dodged it easily and then suddenly dove down and covered Charizard’s nostrils with the cotton balls. He coughed and spluttered, but it wouldn’t let go; he breathed a bit of fire that lit the puffs and Jumpluff shrieked in pain before letting itself float a bit farther into the air, waving its arms frantically to put out the fire. Meanwhile, Charizard landed, looking rather sick and in pain. Mark figured that he had inhaled some of Jumpluff’s poisonous spores.

“Charizard, return,” he sighed, absorbing the dragon back into the ball. He reached for another Pokéball.

“Scyther, finish it!”

The mantis emerged from the ball and flew into the air, raising his scythes. He took aim at the grass Pokémon and shot towards it, but it darted out of the way. Scyther looked around, and then suddenly shot in the opposite direction.

The junior trainer looked surprised. “Sleep Powder,” she ordered with a hint of doubt. The Jumpluff darted towards Scyther, but slowly the sunlight started fading and the Grass Pokémon slowed down…

This seemed to be what Scyther had been waiting for; he shot towards Jumpluff and started slashing it like mad. It shrieked and released a cloud of green spores in self-defense; Scyther coughed and attempted to slow himself down as he crashed to the ground. Mark looked at his Pokémon with a puzzled expression as he realized that Scyther’s eyes were still open.

The mantis winked.

“Jumpluff, Sunny Day!” the trainer ordered triumphantly as the Jumpluff started doing a weird dance and chanting something to get the bright sunlight from earlier back. Scyther lay completely still, pretending to be asleep.

“And now, Leech Seed!”

“Pluff!” squeaked the Pokémon, firing two dark green seeds from its puffs. They embedded themselves into Scyther’s exoskeleton and then vines started growing up towards Jumpluff. They wrapped themselves tightly around the Pokémon.

Scyther suddenly rose up. He stretched out his scythes and then started spinning around in marvellous dance of flashing movements. At the same time, the Leech Seed vines wrapped around him and literally reeled Jumpluff in. The Grass Pokémon desperately tried to get away, but was bound by the powerful vines and pulled closer and closer to the mantis.

“Scy,” Scyther growled as he stopped, the Jumpluff having been dragged almost up to him. Then he slashed it powerfully, and the Grass Pokémon slipped into unconsciousness.

That's neat and creative, and I guess Scyther learned a lot about battling in his time as an (unofficial) gym leader's Pokémon, allowing him to recognize what was going on with the Jumpluff. But how on earth did Scyther know it was going to use Leech Seed? Without knowing he'd be able to use the Leech Seed vines to pull it closer, Scyther had no reason to keep pretending to be asleep while Jumpluff was Sunny Daying up again - it would've been the perfect opportunity to strike again, while it's busy executing a different move.

In the previous versions, none of the neat bits happened - instead, Sunflora fainted in one hit while trying to charge a Solarbeam, and Jumpluff just paralyzed Charizard with Stun Spore, causing Mark to recall him and send out Jolteon, who of course beat it in just a couple of hits.

Incidentally, Mark doesn't order any moves from Scyther in this battle, so according to the formal battle rules as they're explained at the League, Scyther was cheating. While I started to put these rules together in this chapter, I don't think I came up with the bit about how the trainer must order every move before it gets used until I was writing the League chapters.

“Jumpluff, return,” said the girl, recalling her Jumpluff and the Leech Seed in a beam of red. “I’ll fetch the Leader for you.”

Mark smiled at Scyther and recalled him. The junior trainer hadn’t been too hard – after all, he had defeated her three Pokémon using two of his – but the leader was sure to be harder.

The older girl entered, holding a Pocket Healer. She gave it to Mark without words and walked over to her place on the arena as Mark put Charizard and Scyther’s Pokéballs into it, healing them.

“My name is Flora and I am the leader of the Green Town Gym,” she announced as Mark put the Pocket Healer down on the ground. “However, there are a few things you should know.”

Mark nodded.

“Firstly,” Flora began, “I hate perfume.”

“Huh?” Mark asked confusedly, not sure what that was supposed to mean. She ignored him.

“I train Grass Pokémon because they can use powders, damn it! Why do I always have to be met with that stupid stereotype? I’m not a flower hippie, get it?”

“Um, okay,” Mark replied unsurely.

“Secondly,” Flora added in an even more disgusted voice, “my name is my parents’ fault, not mine! It’s not MY fault if my parents happened to give me a name that sounds like a pun! I hate it! I hate it all!”

She kicked a rock off the arena and took a few deep breaths.

“Now,” she said after calming a bit down, “let’s get this damn battle over with. You’re probably going to win like everybody else, because as the fifth Gym Leader, I can’t use Pokémon past a certain level, but nobody’s limiting you from training as much as you like. And Grass Pokémon have a lot of weaknesses, so people just stroll through here with their Fire or Ice or Flying Pokémon, just because Gyms are forced to have some kind of a strict theme to the Pokémon they use. Heck, I could just give you the damn badge right now, because we all know that even if you lose, you’re just going to train a bit, come back and eventually beat me. I don’t know why I even bother…”

The lampshading is strong with this one. She's so over-the-top but I love her. Also Mark's puzzled reactions.

Flora's introduction in the original and UMR features some of my thirteen-year-old self's hilarious English:

“I’m Flora, the gym leader. I’d like to mention a few things before we start our battle. First off, I hate perfume. I don’t train grass pokémon ‘for their scent’. I don’t train them because I’m a flower-mad hippie either, because I’m not. The reason why I train grass pokémon is that they have spore attacks, and that means strategy, more strategy than all-out attacking. Status affections, I’ve found, are far the easiest way to win a battle, and that’s why I train grass pokémon, they have spore attacks, which cause status affections. Then, I want to remind you that I wasn’t a gym leader when I was born, so my name is just a coincidence. Heck, it’s my parents’ fault, not mine! I didn’t ask to get a name that sounds like a pun on my job!” She took a deep breath, then continued in a calmer tone, “Shall we start the battle, then?”

Yes, I'm sure status affections are the best way to win battles.

During this speech her voice went back to that disgusted one, but now she paused.

“Oh, wait, I do know.” She smirked and took out a Pokéball. “It’s fun.”

Flora hurled the ball forward. “Go, Victreebel!”

The red energy from the ball formed into a gigantic pitcher plant with two evil eyes and a heart-shaped leaf draping over the fanged, gaping mouth. Mark shuddered; it was another one of those horror-movie Pokémon. He remembered seeing a gory scene with one crunching up a Growlithe sometime on TV.

*Aaron Paul screaming dot jpg*

Mark took out Charizard’s ball. Using Pocket Healers felt odd; it didn’t seem like Charizard could suddenly be at full health again.

“Go, Charizard!”

The dragon materialized from the ball and took off the ground, watching Victreebel closely.

“Charizard, Flamethrower!”

“Victreebel, Sludge Bomb!”

Flames formed in Charizard’s throat as he got ready to send a blast of fire at the pitcher plant; the Victreebel meanwhile shut its mouth with its leaf and shut its eyes.

Charizard fired the Flamethrower and the silky flames struck the Grass Pokémon. It let out a deep sound but as soon as the fire cleared, the singed Victreebel lifted its leaf from its mouth and spewed out deep purple acid straight at Charizard. The dragon didn’t have time to dodge and was stricken by the blast; he was thrown backwards in the air and needed a bit of time to regain his balance. Flora seized the opportunity.

“Stockpile!”

Mark watched in disbelief as the Pokémon started munching on its own leaf. Stockpile, Stockpile… there had been an entire lesson devoted to it in Battling Strategies at school, but as usual he didn’t remember any of it. He had been too busy drawing an Arcanine. He silently cursed his lack of attention in school.

I love that he remembers what he was drawing during this particular lesson, but not the content. Relatable.

(I'm also pleased that I managed to both have the bit earlier where Mark never actually realized what he was missing and this bit where he knows this was covered in a lesson but he just hadn't been paying attention.)

Charizard, having landed with a sickly look on his face, stumbled back towards Victreebel, flapping his wings in an unsuccessful attempt to fly.

“Victreebel, Spit Up!”

The pitcher plant suddenly bent forward, aiming its rounded mouth at Charizard like a cannon, and spat out green goo – what Mark presumed to be the remains of the leaf mixed with some acids. It hit the dragon right in the face as he seemed too sick to dodge; he roared in pain.

“Charizard, don’t give up!” Mark shouted desperately as Charizard shook his head to get the disgusting slime off his muzzle. If a Fire Pokémon lost to Flora’s first Grass type, Mark had practically no hope of winning with his other Pokémon that didn’t have a type advantage.

He suddenly had an idea, seeing Victreebel back in its upright position and remembering how it had closed its mouth with its leaf earlier when Charizard attacked. “Charizard, if you possibly can, fly above it.”

The dragon managed to take off unsteadily.

“Victreebel, Sludge Bomb!”

“Charizard, Flamethrower straight down! Now, before it attacks!” Mark yelled quickly, hoping for Charizard to make the first move. His first Pokémon didn’t fail him; Charizard fired a bright tongue of flames downwards into the pitcher plant’s mouth. It let out a scream of pain, but still managed to retaliate with another spurt of purple acid. Charizard crashed into the ground, his eyes closed; Mark got that stinging feeling of having driven him too far as he recalled his Pokémon.

His hand almost instinctively reached for Scyther’s Pokéball, but he stopped at the last second. No, this wasn’t working. He’d have to try to be a bit clever.

Mark thought hard; meanwhile Flora commanded her Victreebel to use Stockpile again and it started eating one of the large arm-like leaves on its side by flexing its body. What Pokémon did he have again? Charizard, Scyther, Jolteon, Dragonair, Sandslash and Gyarados. Wait, hadn’t he switched one of them for Leta? He took out his Pokédex and ran it past his Pokéballs. He didn’t have Dragonair.

At least Dragonair didn't get forgotten about this time.

Sandslash was pretty much crossed out; he was weak to Grass attacks. Since this was a five-on-five, he would probably be using all his other Pokémon. But what about Leta? She was so low-leveled.

Glaring continuity error: Flora never actually said this was a five-on-five! I was just wondering about that earlier as I was reading.

“Victreebel, Swallow!”

Mark looked up; Victreebel swallowed the leaf if had been chewing and looked a bit healthier afterwards. Something in his mind abruptly told him to wait a second.

Pokémon were restricted to using four moves in official matches like Gym battles.

And here's where I start establishing the battling rules!

Victreebel had used Sludge Bomb, Stockpile, Spit Up and Swallow… four moves. No more surprises from Victreebel if Flora played by the rules…

What was more, this meant Sandslash wasn’t useless. Mark smiled; he did know that Ground types were resistant to poisons.

“Go, Sandslash!”

The pangolin emerged from the ball and stretched. He blinked, eying his opponent more with interest than fear.

Mark felt a little guilty for the strategy that struck his mind; something told him it was a bit nasty. But hey, if getting a Victreebel’s saliva all over one’s face wasn’t nasty, what was?

“Sandslash,” Mark ordered, “tear up its leaf.”

Both the heart-shaped one that had covered the mouth and the right arm-leaf had already fallen victim to the pitcher plant’s own attack; Sandslash dashed towards the left one with his sharp claws in the air and started slashing at it. The Victreebel shook itself violently and sprayed a shower of acid over the two Pokémon, but Sandslash didn’t seem to be affected very much by it. Within seconds, Victreebel’s last leaf was in shreds.

No more Stockpile.

And if Mark remembered correctly, Spit Up and Swallow didn’t do anything unless the Pokémon Stockpiled first.

Look at Mark being a bit clever!

“Damn you!” Flora hissed. “Victreebel, Sludge Bomb that thing! Swallow it whole! Whatever!”

The Grass Pokémon hesitated, not sure what to make of those orders, and Sandslash grabbed the opportunity to stab all three of his right claws into Victreebel’s body. It screamed in pain and twisted around in agony for a second, letting loose another spray of acids, but then fell limp.

Another embarrassing Pokémon knowledge goof: Sandslash only have two claws on each arm.

That being said, though, this was a great battle by my standards! No fainting in one hit, type advantages ultimately don't count for that much, some unusual use of a particular Pokémon, Mark using an actual inventive strategy... It probably shows in the fact that this was one of the battles I remembered most vividly from this early in the fic.

“Oh great, return.” Flora rolled her eyes as the red beam from the Pokéball recalled the pitcher plant. “Bellossom, do your thing.”

She sent out a very small, cute Pokémon. It appeared to be wearing a skirt of leaves in different shades of green; two red flowers decorated the top of its head.

“Bellossom, Sunny Day!”

Mark wanted to smack himself for bringing Charizard out first even right after a demonstration of Grass Pokémon becoming annoying with Sunny Day.

“Sandslash, Slash it quickly!”

Bellossom chanted something and made the sun brighter as the pangolin ran forward with his claws raised. Sandslash slashed across the Bellossom’s body, leaving three red streaks; the Grass Pokémon squealed in pain.

“Bellossom, Solarbeam!”

A golden orb of light formed on Bellossom’s head, and then it bent forward, pointing straight at Sandslash. It fired a great beam of solar power that sent Sandslash skidding backwards and left burn marks on his hide.

“Sandslash, try to…”

“Another Solarbeam!”

Bellossom immediately fired a second beam, and Sandslash couldn’t take it anymore. He tumbled backwards and collapsed.

Bellossom also has Chlorophyll, of course, hence the two Solarbeams in a row.

“Sandslash, return,” Mark muttered. This time he didn’t have to think. “Scyther, do it!”

The green mantis came out of the Pokéball and smiled slightly at the sight of his opponent. Flora hissed.

“Okay, do a Fury Cutter!”

Scyther instantly took off into the air and swooped down towards Bellossom, his scythes glowing slightly green.

“Bellossom, Stun Spore!”

Bellossom was incredibly fast and shook itself to release a cloud of yellow, sparkling spores. Scyther couldn’t avoid inhaling them as he struck Bellossom with his glowing scythe. The paralysis came quickly into effect, making Scyther’s flight more irregular. He managed to get down and strike the Grass Pokémon one more time with his scythe, but then he gave up and landed with difficulty.

“Bellossom, Synthesis.”

“No!” Mark protested, but the plant closed its eyes in concentration to absorb sunlight and heal its wounds. Great. Now all the effort had been for nothing.

“Scyther, um…” Mark blushed as he realized that he honestly wasn’t sure what Scyther could do. He had only made him use Fury Cutter and Slash.

“Wing Attack?” Mark said unsurely. Scyther nodded and ran towards Bellossom to beat it with his glossy wings. The Grass Pokémon cried out in pain.

“Bellossom, Synthesis,” Flora simply said, and the plant healed itself again.

“Scyther, try attacking it a few more times,” Mark ordered, forming a plan. Scyther was having a bit of a hard time since he was still paralyzed; once he tried to slash but wasn’t fast enough and Bellossom shot out of the way. Hitting with Wing Attack was a bit easier. Flora just kept telling her Pokémon to heal itself, but Mark saw how Bellossom was clearly growing tired and it was taking more effort to use Synthesis.

“One more Wing Attack,” Mark finally said, and Scyther (who was also growing tired) struck Bellossom with his wings again. Bellossom was clearly getting too fatigued to heal itself.

“Slash!”

Scyther growled, bringing his scythe down on the Bellossom’s body and cutting some leaves off its skirt. It squeaked like a plush toy and moved no more.

This one was a lot less interesting; it's awfully disappointing that Flora couldn't think of anything better to do with her Bellossom than just use Synthesis until it ran out of PP. I guess it'd run out of moves, and Solarbeam wouldn't be very effective, but still better than nothing.

Flora sighed and recalled it. “Venusaur, go.”

Mark looked at Scyther and bit his lip. The huge, green, dinosaur-like toad that Flora sent out was healthily enjoying the sun as the flower on its back released a sweet aroma, but the mantis was paralyzed and additionally the heat didn’t seem very good for him. He was panting weakly.

“Scyther…” Mark paused, “do you think you’re going to be able to get a hit in?”

Scyther didn’t answer; then he suddenly took flight, his scythes glowing lime green as he slashed across his opponent’s face. The green glow steadily grew as the Venusaur tried to back away or bite and the mantis kept cutting it. Then the paralysis kicked in; Scyther’s body stiffened up and he collapsed.

“Scyther, come back,” Mark sighed. Two of his best Grass-beating Pokémon were down, as well as the only one who was resistant to Poison. And Leta… what use could she be? She was still much lower-leveled than the rest of his team. He would have to leave her out. That left him with Gyarados and Jolteon against three Pokémon that Flora had left.

Well, Jolteon had Pin Missile, didn’t he? That would be good against pure Grass Pokémon, but not especially so against Venusaur if he remembered correctly. Using Gyarados would be his best bet.

“Um…” he asked hesitatingly, “can’t you open that pool?”

Flora smirked, clearly figuring that if Mark was resorting to Water Pokémon, the win was in the bag. She took a small remote like the one Ash had used to open the pool in the Attack Approval and pressed a button. A square-shaped section of the floor sank down below the rest and then slid under it, revealing the Water Pokémon pool.

“Go, Gyarados!”

Flora slapped her forehead at the sight of the blue sea monster, probably realizing he wasn’t weak to Grass attacks.

“Damn it,” she swore. “Venusaur, Solarbeam!”

Before either Mark or Venusaur managed to do anything, Gyarados lifted his head and roared loudly. In an instant, the bright sunlight faded; dark clouds started gathering on the sky instead, blocking out the sun. Venusaur started charging a Solarbeam as the first raindrops fell; Flora’s expression resembled an annoyed Tauros more than a human girl.

“Gyarados, Dragon Beam!” Mark shouted over the sound of the rain, wrapping himself in his jacket. Venusaur fired the Solarbeam, but in the rain it was just a pathetic little beam of light that Gyarados barely seemed to notice as he closed his eyes and started graying. The familiar red beam was fired from the sea monster’s eyes at the Grass Pokémon; it was too slow to even attempt to dodge and was blasted with the beam. It roared; small icicles formed on its body and it became unable to move within seconds.

Flora let out an array of swear words directed at Gyarados, the stupidity of the Attack Approval and being wet from some stupid Rain Dance.

Still love her. (Wow, though, she has every right to complain. Dragon Beam instantly freezing her Venusaur, in a Rain Dance where it won't thaw out, is some serious hax.)

“Venusaur, return,” she said and took out her second-last Pokéball. “Go, Meganium!”

Out of the ball came a large light green dinosaur of sorts with a large head. It also had antennae and bright red flower petals in a circle around its neck.

“Meganiii!” it cried out in a high-pitched, feminine voice at Gyarados. His expression remained the same.

“Gyarados,” Mark told him, “use another Dragon Beam.”

“Meganium, use a Light Screen!”

As Gyarados closed his eyes and turned greyscale, Meganium’s eyes glowed deep golden and a translucent yellow shield of energy formed all around it. Gyarados shot forth his attack, but the Light Screen absorbed most of the beam, rendering it relatively harmless before it struck the dinosaur.

“Now, Meganium, use a Sunny Day!”

Meganium looked at the sky with a small cry, but as the rain started subsiding, Gyarados let out a deafening roar and as if the clouds were scared of him, the raining worsened even past what it had been earlier.

Flora cursed a bit more.

“Gyarados, try something physical!” Mark could never remember whether it was Reflect or Light Screen that countered special attacks, but at least it was either one or the other. And since Light Screen had countered that Dragon Beam…

I like Mark being unsure about this and just making an educated guess.

Gyarados lunged forward with a roar. Indeed, the Light Screen wasn’t solid and he got right through it, slamming into Meganium. However, this ended up as a kamikaze attack; Gyarados couldn’t get back into the pool after this. He roared and thrashed madly around.

“Meganium, Razor Leaf!”

The dinosaur Pokémon let out a cry and fired a flurry of razor-sharp leaves from the petals around its neck. They all plummeted straight into Gyarados’s body; none of them really did much to his armour, but one of the last leaves went straight into his eye.

Gyarados let out an ear-splitting roar of pain; blood spurted out from his eye and Mark looked away before recalling Gyarados into his Pokéball.

“All right, go Jolteon.”

Mark was losing his hope of winning as the spiked Eevee evolution appeared; Jolteon’s Electric attacks wouldn’t be very effective especially with that Light Screen up, and Jolteon just weren’t known to be particularly good users of physical attacks – although his Jolteon had actually used them fairly well. And Flora had two Pokémon left.

“Jolteon, try a Pin Missile!”

He crouched down and fired a flurry of small sharp hairs from his rear end towards the dinosaur. It passed through the Light Screen and Meganium cried out as it was bombarded by the attack.

“Razor Leaf!”

“Return!”

Jolteon was faster; he sped towards the dinosaur, charging a pink aura around him, and rammed into Meganium. The dinosaur seemed dizzy after the blow, but fired another bunch of leaves – much fewer than last time, though. Jolteon tried to avoid them and his wiry fur stopped some of the ones that came from the wrong angle, but he got stricken by some and got a few cuts. Meganium, however, had had enough and collapsed on the ground, fainted.

Mark wasn’t surprised to hear Flora swear as her Pokéball absorbed the green dinosaur. “Well, it’s time for my last against your last,” she said. “Cacturne, I choose you!”

Out of her last Pokéball came what looked at first like a green scarecrow – it was probably the face with that evil mouth consisting of several holes lined up in a creepy grin along with creepy emotionless eyes. The weird head shape that resembled a hat didn’t help. Then Mark noticed the spikes along its sides and realized it was more of a cactus. A very creepy cactus, that is. It had been sent out inside the protective Light Screen that Meganium had put up earlier.

This is a particularly bad Pokémon description.

“Jolteon, Pin Missile!” Mark shouted, and Jolteon fired more fur needles towards the cactus. It screeched eerily as it was hit, getting severely cut. Instead of blood, the Pokémon seemed to bleed water, which only made it seem creepier.

“Cacturne, use an Ingrain!”

Brown, twisted roots started growing out of Cacturne’s feet and digging into the ground. Mark saw its wounds start to close. He would have to act fast.

“Jolteon, try another Pin Missile!”

“Cacturne, Sand-Attack!”

Another barrage of pins showered through the rain to cut Cacturne up while the cactus prepared for its own attack. It somehow whipped a bit of sand out of nowhere and then made it fly straight into Jolteon’s eyes. He cried out, staggering backwards while trying to get the sand out of his eyes. Meanwhile he managed to continue firing the Pin Missile although his aim was suffering greatly. The spiky fur on his back was growing considerably thinner. Cacturne let out more screeches as Jolteon got the sand out of his eyes. The rain was still falling.

“Jolteon, try a Return!”

“Needle Arm!”

Jolteon leapt towards Cacturne and struck it, glowing with pink energy, but then the cactus swung one of its spiked arms and smashed it into Jolteon. He was thrown out of the Light Screen.

Jolteon stood weakly up, and Mark realized he was on the edge of fainting. Around Cacturne, the yellow bubble was fading into nothing.

Then it was as if a realization came over Jolteon.

“Jooolt!” he cried, sparkling with electricity as he manipulated the electric charge both in the clouds above and his opponent. A magnificent bolt of lightning struck right from the clouds into Cacturne’s body with a roar of thunder, practically lighting the cactus on fire as it let out a piercing scream. Then it dropped to the ground, deep-fried and unconscious.

“Damn your Rain Dance!” Flora shouted, recalling her smoking Cacturne. “Fine, you’ll get your badge!”

She threw a small object to him; it was a rather simple round silvery plate like the others, but this one was carved with a leaflike pattern on top. He put it in his pocket as he smiled at the exhausted Jolteon and recalled him.

“Nice match,” he commented as they walked out through the doorway. Flora merely stormed back into the small building without answering.

Mark shrugged, felt the badge in his pocket and headed back towards Ash’s house.

All of the actual Flora battle was rewritten completely in this version; the only similarity is Gyarados also froze Venusaur with Dragon Beam there (of all things to choose to keep). The Victreebel fight was definitely by far the most memorable part of it, though; I didn't even remember the bit with Jolteon managing to learn Thunder at the end, which may have been what I intended as the gym battle twist here (I'd been thinking of it as Mark's realization about the four-move rule in the Victreebel fight). Just the Victreebel fight is probably the best battle in the fic so far, though.

Anyway, there was a lot happening in this chapter. In the previous versions, the gym battle was its own chapter, and while it wasn't a very interesting chapter, it might still have been better off split here.

First, we had Mark waking up and the conversation with Mitch. I like the accidental foreshadowing a lot (and the placement of it works delightfully well: just after we learn about Chalenor and how Chaletwo has his eyes, we hear about how Mitch's eyes remind Mark of Chaletwo's). I also just enjoy the idea of Mitch identifying with Mark as someone who's come back from the dead and projecting onto him a bit, enough to sort of vent all his issues at him. I'd write all this a lot better now, but something like it would probably still happen in the next revision. The animal world/biology talk would probably go or be reduced a lot, though; it's not really relevant here and probably distracts from actually learning more about Mitch. That's not to say that worldbuilding would be gone entirely, just that there's probably a better place for it than this. Maybe Mitch can talk a bit more about how powerful Pokémon are and why humans are different while May's dying of poison and Charmeleon's fine in chapter 13.

Then there's talking to Chaletwo and May, which as I've already mentioned is pretty ludicrous as it plays out here, but it would have to happen. It kind of bugs me how coincidental Mark incidentally bumping into May minutes after being resurrected is, but I also wouldn't want to have to spend some inordinate amount of time on Mark finding her; maybe I'd do something with why May's still hanging around Green Town when she by all rights should have moved on. (She was probably more affected by seeing the guy she'd been traveling with murdered before her very eyes than she'd like to admit.)

Then there's talking to Ash and Alan joining up. The more I think about it, the more inclined I am to just cut Ash out of the fic entirely. He is pretty much a pointless cameo, he's not really in-character, and I think it's ultimately just distracting that Molzapart and Chaletwo previously spoke to Ash about helping only for me to go through some contortions about heritable magic legendary-attraction to justify them taking Alan along instead. In the next revision, they'd just recruit Alan because Mark's not sure about just the two of them fighting legendaries and feels he can trust him, period, and Ash'd just never appear on-screen. (Alan'd still be his son, though. Too tangled up with his issues.)

And then there's the scene where they decide to keep collecting badges and the battles themselves. Flora's junior trainer is totally unnecessary, as is the fact she uses five Pokémon. I might keep the Victreebel battle, give her the Jumpluff, and maybe keep Mark using Gyarados and Rain Dance against one or two more Grass-types. Something like that.

Overall, this is a pretty bad chapter with a few nice bits in it, suffering from a lot of me staying too close to the previous versions, people acting unnaturally, and uninspired battling interrupted by a couple of neat bits. But! That amazing unintentional foreshadowing, man.


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