The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

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

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

Chapter 29: Stormblade and Shadowdart

Are you ready for even more Scyther?!

This chapter was published at 1:45 in the morning on Christmas Day 2005, the final chapter of that year - a bit less than a month and a half after the last one. Gone are the days of me writing chapters I was excited about in like three days; this is a chapter that's basically 100% Scyther, no battles or fiddly bits or transitions, but it still took this long.

Mark couldn’t get over just how stupid he had been. Obviously Scyther would kill the trainer. Why was he even taking the doctors there? He really didn’t know. Maybe he should be telling them he couldn’t remember where it was or something. Yeah, he really should.

I actually kind of preferred how this chapter opened in the UMR:

Mark wasn’t sure what would be waiting for him when he returned with the doctors to show them where the trainer was. He hoped that Scyther had been sensible enough to hide the body somewhere and then come back and claim that some other pokémon took him and he followed but couldn’t catch up. But what if Scyther was still having the pleasure of cutting him up? How would he explain that? He had told them, as well as May and Alan, that the boy was attacked by a wild Sneasel, like Scyther had advised. Now it was just hoping that Scyther wouldn’t get him into serious trouble...

The ILCOE version tells us that Mark thinks obviously Scyther would've killed the trainer, but the UMR version shows it more with Mark already convinced there's no way the trainer is still alive, just hoping Scyther had the sense to at least hide the body where it wouldn't be found. That's just a more fun way to convey it to me.

But his legs walked on and his mouth stayed closed, even while the worry built up in his mind.

The past fifteen minutes or so had been a nightmare. First May had found it suspicious that some Sneasel would have not only been around but also not even been in a hurry to kill their prey at that time, and had wanted to ask endless questions while Mark gradually turned into a nervous wreck. When he finally got her to stop stalling and lend him her cellphone, he had first dialled the wrong number, and then the lady who answered the phone call had not understood him because he spoke too fast. Thankfully, only seconds passed from when he managed to make himself understandable and until two doctors in white coats teleported there with an Abra, and he was now leading the way into the forest with the whole group to show them the victim.

It is neat that they actually make use of teleportation for something like this. I guess the psychics can use the phone signal to teleport blindly to the location of the call? I doubt that I was properly thinking about it at the time, though.

I also like that May's exceedingly difficult about it, because of course she is, although being difficult before she even lends Mark her phone is a bit much.

These probably should be paramedics, not doctors, shouldn't they? I think I called them paramedics in chapter 49. But I suspect I didn't know that word here.

“There?” Alan asked, pointing. Mark jumped, looking distractedly over in that direction; he could see Scyther there, seemingly fighting something. Mark’s first crazy thought was that the trainer had regained consciousness and they were having some sort of a hand-to-hand fight about his life; however, he quickly realized the logical failure in that assumption, nodded and hurried ahead to see what was going on.

You can just say "that didn't make any sense" instead of "the logical failure in that assumption", fifteen-year-old self.

What he saw when he entered the clearing was what he had least expected. The trainer, who had been moved more into the open, was still there, and meanwhile Scyther was fiercely fending off two black, catlike creatures with bladelike claws.

The Sneasel ran for it and disappeared into the forest as they realized they had been outnumbered. Scyther turned to the group of humans, his eyes expressionless; the doctors hurried to the trainer with their yellow Psychic Pokémon and started to check him for life signs.

“He’s alive,” one of the doctors confirmed after checking the pulse. “It was lucky you came around and had the sense to leave your Pokémon here to guard him…”

Mark nodded.

“You may be contacted later for a report. Abra, Teleport!”

The yellow Pokémon yawned and stretched out its clawed limbs as the doctors each placed a hand on the brown armour on its shoulders, also holding the trainer’s hands. Then all four of them disappeared.

Of course, Mark never gets contacted for a report.

“Well,” May said after a few moments of silence, “nothing more to see here. Stormy Town is that way.”

And she strode back towards the road, Alan quickly following behind her.

“Why did you move him?” Mark asked Scyther quietly as they walked after the others.

“I realized it wouldn’t look very convincing that some Sneasel would drag him into a bush after bringing him down but before killing him,” Scyther replied simply. Mark shuddered yet again at how calmly and casually the mantis talked about the incident.

“Why were those Sneasel there, anyway?”

“Attracted by the smell of blood.”

Mark wondered for a split second if it was a good idea to ask, but went ahead: “May said Sneasel are never around this late in the morning.”

Scyther smiled faintly. “The ones in Ruxido hunt later than most other Sneasel because many of the Pokémon they eat here first turn up in the morning. I know; I lived here when I was wild.”

Mark looked at him, surprised. “You did?”

In the UMR, Scyther just sort of mentioned as they walked that he'd used to live there when he was wild; here, I tried to tie it back to the incident. I think it works out reasonably smoothly, although the idea that these Sneasel just happen to hunt late is annoyingly lazy.

Scyther nodded, looking fondly around at the trees. “I wonder…” he started like he was thinking aloud, but never finished the sentence. They walked on in silence for a little while.

All of a sudden, Scyther started to laugh. It immediately took the prize of the creepiest sound Mark had ever heard; perhaps it was ancient instinct that made it so chilling, but it sent a cold shiver down his spine.

“That was the last one,” Scyther said and chuckled some more, in a kind of ironic fashion rather than the laugh of one who is amused.

That's impressively wordy and stilted.

“The last… what?”

Scyther turned to Mark with some sort of a crazy smile. “Remember ‘Death is not to be feared’? The first rule of Scyther ethics?”

Mark nodded.

“There are five,” Scyther said quietly. “And I’ve broken them all now.”

It feels so weird and jarring for him to suddenly realize this when literally seconds ago he was just wistfully looking around the forest, and before that acting very cool about the whole incident. Yet again, his emotional process just doesn't make sense.

“What?” Mark asked, confused.

“Ever since that duel… Ever since she beat me, I’ve been breaking them one after another… The one I had yet to break before now was not to inflict unnecessary pain… but now I have.”

He giggled insanely with an odd expression for a second; then he suddenly stopped and jerked his scythe up to his throat. The blade trembled for a few seconds as the mantis Pokémon gritted his teeth. “I’m pathetic, pathetic, pathetic…”

Finally, Scyther lowered his scythe and sighed. He looked at it for a second. “Only rule I’ve followed to this day is keeping them sharp.”

“That’s a rule too?” Mark asked, still a bit wary in case Scyther decided to attempt to cut his head off again. The mantis nodded.

Mark. Mark, why aren't you trying to do something about this. Your Pokémon attempting suicide in front of you is not a time to just stand there or be "a bit wary".

“Yes. It’s included in the one about no unnecessary pain, actually… a blunt blade hurts more than a sharp one…”

Mark didn’t reply as he figured Scyther might not want to dwell on the subject, but the Pokémon continued on his own accord:

“I sharpen them every day… I’m proud of them… I sharpen them until they don’t hurt anymore…”

The unbearable amount of ellipses makes Scyther's dialogue sound even more over-the-top and melodramatic than it would without them. Please stop, fifteen-year-old self.

“Until they…?”

Scyther held his arm out in front of Mark; he was about to ask what that was for when he noticed a row of small cuts on the soft yellow upper arm.

“You… you test them on yourself?” Mark asked with a hint of disgust. Scyther shrugged.

“Nobody else to test them on.”

In the UMR he mentioned this much more casually, like he just genuinely considers this a normal and reasonable way to keep his scythes maintained: I myself developed a special way to know when I should sharpen them. Every night, I test them, and if they hurt, I need to sharpen them more. The "special way" sounds awkward, but it's a lot better than doing it as this dramatic ellipse-filled declaration.

Suddenly, Scyther froze and looked quickly around.

“Scyther? What…” Mark was cut off by the buzzing of wings; he stepped slowly backwards as two green blurs approached and landed on the ground in front of Scyther, revealing themselves to be two other members of his species.

“Well, Razor, we never expected to see you again,” one of them said in a hoarse, deep voice. He was missing an eye, and the green armour on his body was strangely light, giving him an overall sort of faded, ‘withering away’ look. The other Scyther had a large chunk missing out of its left scythe, but was a very dark green compared to the others.

This chapter, of course, is from before I properly developed Stormblade and Shadowdart in Scyther's Story, but I had begun to think through Scyther's backstory and what happened between the three of them before he left the swarm. I don't think Stormblade quite sounds like himself here, but overall, in this conversation Stormblade and Shadowdart definitely sound way more like themselves than they did in the UMR.

Later I'd describe their color differences as being pretty subtle and only really significant to a Scyther, but here I'm absolutely making them sound very pronounced from Mark's point of view. I don't blame everyone who assumed Shadowdart was shiny, and in hindsight it should've been fairly predictable that people would make that assumption.

“Stormblade.” Scyther looked at the lighter one with a small nod and turned to the dark one. “Shadowdart…”

Mark looked confusedly at him; Shadowdart looked suspiciously at Mark.

“What is the human doing here?” He narrowed his eyes and looked sharply back at Mark’s Scyther, who hesitated. He seemed upset and alert.

“He’s… my friend.”

Shadowdart gave Mark a nasty glare before jerking his head back towards Scyther. “Your ‘friend’? Since when did you make human friends?”

“None of your business,” Scyther replied quietly.

He's oddly meek and submissive to Shadowdart here, given what their dynamic turns out to have been like in Scyther's Story, but I guess that can be chalked up to him being kind of ashamed of having a trainer and mingling with humans now that he's confronted with his old friends.

Stormblade appeared not to like this subject, and changed it. “Well, did you ever find Nightmare?” he asked.

Scyther nodded. Shadowdart didn’t object to the abrupt change of direction in the conversation, but looked at Mark every now and then.

“So how did it go?” Stormblade asked with interest.

Scyther swallowed, looking at the two other bugs, and then whispered, “She… She got caught…”

Shadowdart looked at Scyther with angry disbelief. “Caught?”

“How did that happen?” Stormblade asked slowly. “She was the fastest I’ve ever seen…”

“He caught her in her sleep,” Scyther said bitterly. Stormblade nodded absent-mindedly before suddenly looking sharply back at him.

ADVERBS

“How would you know? Were you there?”

Scyther sighed and nodded, looking down. Stormblade’s expression changed to one of disdain.

“Then you didn’t do anything… You just watched…”

Scyther was very visibly uncomfortable, but simply sighed again, nodding.

“I thought I knew you,” Stormblade muttered, shaking his head. “I never thought you’d…”

“Screw that,” Shadowdart interrupted, looking at Mark once again. “What are you doing with the human?”

“He’s my trainer,” Scyther said after a short silence. Shadowdart snorted.

“You let a human stuff you into a ball? I thought you had some dignity… Then it’s probably true what they all say, that you begged for your life, too…”

“Don’t,” Stormblade warned. “You didn’t watch the duel. I did.”

“Fine,” Shadowdart spat, “then she was just weak. I bet both of you just sit there with your trainers now doing whatever you’re told, like little robots under their…”

“NO!”

Generally, I regard all the Pokémon speech in this fic as being a magical perfect translation of meaning and connotations, without having to be entirely literal, and as such I haven't tried to avoid having the Pokémon's dialogue use human terms that they wouldn't know per se - the name Razor, for instance, is just a word that Pokémon use for a very sharp edge, the same one they'd use for the attack "Razor Leaf". However, I do find it a bit jarring to have Shadowdart reference robots. Surely the word he's actually using has some closer English analogue than that.

Scyther swung his scythe straight at Shadowdart’s face. For a second Mark thought he’d kill him, but Shadowdart quickly raised his own blade to block the blow. Scyther attacked faster and more fiercely than Mark had ever seen him, gritting his teeth as Shadowdart’s scythes clashed with his again and again. Finally slashing forward with both of his blades, Scyther stared murderously into the other’s eyes as Shadowdart blocked.

The two Scyther glared at each other while each pushed with all his might; finally they both leapt backwards and Shadowdart lowered his scythes.

“All right,” he said nastily. “Fine. Be a slave. You’re not worth duelling.”

Shadowdart looked at Mark again. “And your so-called trainer isn’t worth killing, either.”

With that, he took off and buzzed back into the depths of the forest. Stormblade looked doubtfully at Scyther, shaking his head before flying after the other bug.

“What was that?” Mark asked when they were out of sight.

“My friends,” Scyther sighed. “Only proves how worthless I’ve become…”

God, these lines.

They walked on, not in a hurry to catch up with May and Alan. Mark hesitated a bit. “They called you Razor – is that your name?”

Scyther shook his head. “Pokémon don’t have names like humans, remember… We made those silly names up ourselves to use for each other. I’d prefer if you didn’t call me that – too many memories I’d rather not think of.” He paused for a second. “I do like calling her Nightmare, though,” he added softly. “Ironically fitting… but I can’t stand the thought of you calling her ‘Scizor’.”

Maybe you should've called her Nightmare earlier, then? I did this in the UMR, but by the time I was writing this version, I knew he called her Nightmare, so I'm not sure why I still didn't reveal the name until here, especially when I have him make a point of how he hates the thought of Mark calling her Scizor.

Mark nodded. They silently kept going; Mark could see the sunlight between the trees ahead, and realized the forest’s exit was not far ahead.

“It’s funny, actually,” Scyther suddenly started. “Stormblade hasn’t changed one bit, but Shadowdart was always a wuss. He got scared easily… The day of his First Prey, he couldn’t face ending a life and it took him many, many failed attempts before he finally caught something he had the guts to kill. That was actually the same day as my fateful duel with Nightmare…” He trailed off.

“First prey?” Mark asked.

“A kind of growing-up ritual,” Scyther explained shortly. “You go out on your first hunt and need to catch and kill something all by yourself, and once you’ve done that you’re officially an adult.”

He seemed to be thinking hard for a second. “I just don’t get it,” he muttered. “You saw that piece that was cut out of his scythe?”

Mark nodded.

“It was always our leader’s trademark to cut a bit from those he defeated… This means Shadowdart has challenged him for leadership, but not just once – with that much cut out, it must be three, four, five times. He wants to be leader…”

Scyther paused. “Damn it, where did all that determination come from?” he suddenly asked loudly with a hint of annoyance simply about the mystery itself. “Not Stormblade. He’s turned into Shadowdart’s toy…”

He sighed and shook his head. “I’ve changed too… but for the better… This is… I really have a bad feeling about this…”

More ellipseees

The whole thing about Shadowdart challenging the Leader was new here - in the UMR, he still had a piece cut out of his scythe, but it was just a random injury to make him more menacing, same as Stormblade's lost eye. Obviously, this would then be the subject of The Fall of a Leader, and followed up on in the main fic in chapter 60.

They exited Ruxido into the glorious sunlight of Route 212, only to be greeted by an endless field of tall grass. May and Alan stood hopelessly in front of it.

Apparently I still managed to think nah, there's not going to be an official Route 212 before I finish this fic, no way. (Later I retconned it so that the Ouen routes start in the 300s, and with Gen V the games started just counting each region's routes at 1 again, so I never had to change it again after that.)

I guess May and Alan just didn't notice the two suddenly appearing Scyther and the vicious half-duel between them?

“We might be able to get around it,” Mark heard May saying as they approached.

“Yeah, but it would take ages,” Alan argued. “It can’t be that bad to walk through…”

“Oh, hi,” May said as she turned around and saw them. “As you can see, this is a very annoying patch of grass.”

Mark stared out at it. “I can imagine.”

I guess May's learned from the previous time she decided to take the shorter path through the middle of the dangerous area.

I like "As you can see, this is a very annoying patch of grass."

Scyther looked at the grass and just smiled before taking a step backwards and then zooming into it with his scythes aloft. Grass blades flew in all directions. Within a few minutes, he had cut down a clear path through all the grass and returned.

“Nice,” Alan said, raising his eyebrows and heading into the newly-cut path. May followed after him, and Mark came last.

“I haven’t done that in years…” Scyther recalled. “Fun, though, and harder than it looks. As soon as our scythes harden – they’re soft when we’re born – we start doing this for practice, all the way until our First Prey.”

Of course, Scyther's Story doesn't show this happening at all; everyone's just obsessed with dueling. I think by that point I'd started finding the idea of Scyther spending their free time cutting down grass (I mean, how much tall grass can there be in the vicinity for a swarm of Scyther to be able to make a regular hobby of it) a little silly. I just thought this whole and he cuts the grass down, really quickly!! thing was a really cool scene for some reason when I was fourteen (I'd turned fourteen in the interval between the equivalents of this chapter and the previous in the UMR).

“What is the First Prey thing like exactly?” Mark asked. He had always found this kind of thing interesting; wild Pokémon’s culture were something he wished there was more of at school.

Scyther shrugged. “They send you off, and two witnesses follow you to make sure you do it all by yourself. Then you just find something living, kill it, and bring it back to the swarm, eating it there and giving some to those you respect, which always includes the leader unless you plan to be banished. Usually we just catch small Pokémon like Rattata or Nidoran. The more ambitious head for bigger targets and greater glory.”

Mark nodded. “What did you catch?” he asked out of curiosity, wondering what kind of a target Scyther had headed for when he was younger.

“Well…” The mantis looked around, reluctant to answer. Mark looked at him with suspicion.

“You don’t want to know,” Scyther finally said quietly. Not sure if the hint was intentional, Mark felt a cold shiver run down his spine.

“Don’t tell me you…”

Scyther nodded without looking at Mark. He immediately felt sick.

“Why a human?” he mumbled.

“Why not?” Scyther whispered. “Do you think the Nidoran wouldn’t be horrified if I had caught one of them? And the Rattata upset if I had killed their offspring? We are all sentient, Mark… and none of us want to be killed deep down, no matter how many rules of your ethics tell you to be ready to face it.”

Mark said nothing. It still felt wrong, but in a way Scyther had a point. He shivered as he thought of all the Pokémon families that the mantis might have ruined, the children he might have left motherless, the eggs that cooled and died with nothing to warm them… all because he was a predator…

Scyther suddenly started to laugh again. “Isn’t this ironic? I could kill you… I could reach out with my arm and cut your head off if I wanted… but here we are talking like best mates…”

Mark didn’t particularly like this twist of the conversation, but Scyther didn’t notice, he was looking straight forward and muttering to himself.

A rare comma splice in the ILCOE. I think I recall first learning about comma splices while I was writing chapter 36 of the UMR, but after that I think I tried to be very diligent about them.

In the UMR, this conversation happened in a different order; Scyther made the random comment about how it was ironic they were talking when he could murder him kind of out of nowhere, and used rather more visceral detail:

“I could kill you, Mark,” Scyther said slowly, with his eyes closed. “I could sneak up on you in the middle of the night, dash forward when you’re looking in the other direction, knock you down, swing my scythes at your friends so they run for it, cut your throat, rip open your ribcage, tear your lungs apart for the sheer pleasure of it, eat you, I wouldn’t even need to be hungry, because killing gets fun when you’ve done it your whole life, the smell of blood makes your heart pound, it becomes a pleasure to rip the meat off the bone, just the color red alone gets you high… am I disgusting you?” he suddenly added, looking into Mark’s face again.

“Just a bit,” Mark said, when in fact he felt totally sick. What bothered him more than the gory description itself was that Scyther had said all of this in a certain tone of voice that made it sound more like a memory than something made-up.

Mark then just figured out based on that that Scyther must have killed a human before, and from there Scyther explained First Prey to him.

“You know about the animal world?” he suddenly asked, looking back at Mark.

WHY DOES EVERYONE JUST RANDOMLY WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE ANIMAL WORLD

“Yeah?”

“The humans there were too powerful for their own good. They practically took over the world, and it… went to their heads. Because they had no natural enemies, they made other humans into enemies instead – those who were different in some way, lived in different places, looked different or had different customs. Of course, it all ended with their society going to Hell. They went to wars, blew each other up and made the animal world into the radioactive wasteland it is now. Thankfully the portal between the worlds had been opened and refugees fled into the Pokémon world…”

In the UMR, Scyther specified about a billion refugees had made it to the Pokémon world. He also mentioned that animal world humans had repeatedly tried to sell weapons to the Pokémon world, but the Pokémon world governments adamantly refused.

Scyther stared ahead at the plains below as they started to walk downhill. Wild Pokémon were becoming less prominent in the area; it was clear that they were entering the Pokémon-devoid part of Ouen from the East. Mark had forgotten that Stormy Town was so close to Sailance; he looked with regret back towards Ruxido, so lively compared to the dull sand ahead.

“Of course, the animal world brought animals here,” Scyther added, snapping Mark away from the sight of Ruxido. “Pokémon are really made to eat each other… Animal meat such as humans doesn’t contain nearly the energy and nutrition that Pokémon need, and when Pokémon started teaming up with humans and fighting the predators, it simply wasn’t worth the bother to hunt them anymore. Since humans don’t even eat Pokémon anymore, having the farm animals, it was possible for this kind of inter-species co-operation to emerge. In the Pokémon world, both humans and Pokémon evolved differently from how the humans did in the animal world. The presence of a technical threat – some sort of a Pokémon revolution – brings more unity among the humans, and trained Pokémon are the glue that ties both species together, because they are loyal to some portion of both sides… It works out, so strangely perfectly.”

Ultimately irrelevant worldbuilding infodump, ho!

Scyther nodded absent-mindedly to himself and then turned back to the uncomfortable subject of earlier: “Are you really never afraid of me, even though I’ve both threatened you and almost killed you?”

“Not… not really,” Mark muttered. “Well, when it happens I am, of course, but…”

The mantis chuckled. “It’s a good thing. A perfect example of the kind of ridiculous trust between humans and Pokémon who have been together for a little while… The species could as well fuse into one by now. If this development continues, all trainers will be like Rob in ten years… Pokémon will be viewed exactly like human friends… Perhaps Pokémon training will even be stopped; it’s not even needed anymore to connect us… We are as one…”

Nobody's training Pokémon in order to connect with them, though; it's a sport. People aren't just going to stop enjoying a sport because it's not needed to connect them anymore. What nonsense is this.

Also, don't act like Mark trusting you is about humans and Pokémon evolving to trust each other in general. Surely Mark trusting you specifically at the moment is more about the bit where you didn't kill this one dude he was convinced you would, remember? The idea that Mark trusts him in spite of everything simply because of the general Pokémon-human bond just makes the whole thing sound kind of creepy and unhealthy.

Mark listened, but said nothing; Scyther didn’t appear to mind, and in fact it looked like he had mostly been wondering aloud without expecting an answer. They were all distracted from this conversation as the sight of Stormy Town came into view; scattered buildings that looked depressingly deserted formed an irregular area around a large neon pink, blue and yellow brick-shaped building in the middle. Black thunderclouds loomed over the town and the mountains to its North-West, producing an occasional flash of lightning and thunder.

“Let’s hurry up,” Alan suggested as the first drops of rain wetted their clothes. Mark quickly recalled Scyther and they ran down the last hill.

-------

By coincidence, Mark happened to glance at the shadow under a large rock near the road to Stormy Town. He stopped.

“What was that?”

May came over and looked. “What?”

“I just thought I saw something,” Mark muttered, still staring into the shadow. “Like red eyes…”

“You must be seeing things,” she just said. Mark shrugged and turned around.

May stared into the shadow for a few seconds before finally shaking her head and running to catch up with the boys.

It's Spirit!

This little scene was here in the UMR too, at the end of chapter 35. I'm pretty sure this was the first deliberate reference to Spirit in the fic. When I put up chapter 33, I'd written on the update blog I had at the time that I'd just "planned a new plot twist out of an unsolved mystery I found", and when I put up chapters 34 and 35, I repeated that I had something great planned that would be explaining two old mysteries. I think I must have been referring to Spirit and the Chosen plot in these updates, meaning I likely didn't come up with that until this point in the story. From there, I planned to have Spirit's appearance where she explains about the Chosen plot in chapter 37... but I dropped the UMR after chapter 36, meaning it had to wait until I finally made it back there in the ILCOE.

The material from chapters 34 and 35 of the UMR was reordered a lot for this version, with a lot of interesting changes in emphasis. Originally, this is how the flow of the conversation went:

  1. Scyther randomly mentions he used to live here.
  2. Mark asks if this is where he met Scizor, and if she was beautiful. (Why.) Scyther says she was beautiful, but unlike shallow human beauty standards that are all external, their standards of beauty are mostly about scythes.
  3. Mark asks well, isn't that external too? Scyther says nope, your scythes reflect who you are. How much you maintain and sharpen them shows how much respect you have for yourself, and also for those you fight, because cuts from sharp blades hurt less. Scyther vary in how often they sharpen their scythes; he himself decides if they need sharpening by testing them on himself. Mark's weirded out but doesn't comment.
  4. Stormblade and Shadowdart appear. Stormblade asks what he's doing with humans and interrogates him about what happened with Nightmare; he's extremely anti-human throughout, and also seems kind of paranoid (“I don’t know what she was thinking, though, going to sleep. Who needs sleep? There are enemies on every side.”). It's hilariously out of character.
  5. Once Scyther confesses he saw a human capture Nightmare but didn't do anything, Shadowdart cuts in to call him a coward. Stormblade just says it's unlike him, because he always used to have more guts than the two of them. Apparently in consideration of the kids present (despite his antagonism towards humans), he talks around the fact he's referring to First Prey, but references that Razor did it on his first try, but Stormblade needed three, and Shadowdart took nine and had to close his eyes.
  6. Shadowdart lashes out, calling Razor a coward again and making that remark about how maybe it's true he begged for mercy, and Stormblade contradicts him. Stormblade's theory is that Nightmare spared Razor because she thought he was too cute to die this young. Guess he ships it.
  7. Shadowdart says he doesn't believe in love, and Nightmare was also a coward, and she probably didn't even mind becoming a Scizor.
  8. At this, Scyther is enraged and demands a duel to defend her honour, I guess. Shadowdart says he doesn't duel with losers. Scyther taunts him about taking nine tries to kill for the first time again (he, it seems, doesn't have the same consideration for the kids that Stormblade does).
  9. As Shadowdart's about to answer, Stormblade cuts him off to say he's more concerned about what Razor is doing with these humans. (They never actually fight in the UMR.)
  10. Scyther goes off on an angry monologue, explaining what happened and then that the reason he went with Mark after leaving his previous trainer was that he knew what they'd think - that Stormblade would reject him for being caught by a human, that Shadowdart would hate him for failing to help Nightmare, that every other Scyther would despise him for having been defeated in a duel. He also says his parents didn't even want to know him anymore. And then he declares that their society sucks and he doesn't want to be a part of it anymore. (Poor ILCOE Scyther is going to take some thirty more chapters to realize this.)
  11. Shadowdart says he should've rejected him the moment he was beaten, Stormblade asks if he really prefers humans over the rest of his kind and wants to throw away the little he has left of his reputation, and Razor says yes. Stormblade and Shadowdart leave, and chapter 34 ends.
  12. Continuing after the chapter split, Mark asks about the name Nightmare. Scyther explains Pokémon nicknaming for the first time in the UMR.
  13. They stop at the very annoying patch of grass, and Scyther cuts his way through it.
  14. May asks how he did that; he says it's the first thing they learn to use their scythes for.
  15. Mark asks if that means they learn it before hunting. Scyther says yes, they do it for fun and to practice their reflexes; if they learned to hunt first, they'd just want to do that for fun.
  16. Mark is surprised to hear Scyther don't hunt for fun. Scyther sarcastically asks why they don't just take over the world while they're at it.
  17. This prompts him into a ramble about how they just know better than to attempt some kind of world domination, unlike the humans of the animal world, etc. etc. Mark is amazed that these humans managed to wage not one, not two, but three world wars.
  18. From there, Scyther brings up how ironic it is that they're talking and how he could murder Mark in gory detail, Mark asks why he killed a human, and he explains First Prey.
  19. Mark asks him why a human, and he says three kids walking were just the first creatures he came across. (A detail that gets lost here! I liked the ominousness of it being three kids.)
  20. Mark decides he probably doesn't want to know and drops it.

I pretty much chopped up all of this and rearranged it - many of the same individual pieces happen, but in a different context and emphasized differently. In the UMR, most of the conversation outside of the Stormblade and Shadowdart interlude was about Scyther's general worldview and philosophical musings, and the Stormblade and Shadowdart bit was mostly about how other Scyther view someone like him.

In the ILCOE, the chapter focuses significantly more on Scyther as a person. Look at the bit about Scyther testing his scythes on himself, for example: in the UMR, he's explaining the whole bit about how true beauty lies in the scythes because the way you care for your scythes reflects who you are, and sort of incidentally mentions that he tests his scythes on himself as part of that. It's still self-harm, and Mark still finds it kind of concerning, but it's fairly subtle. Here, on the other hand, Scyther doesn't talk about Scyther beauty standards at all; he's talking about how he's broken yet another sacred law, says the only part of it he's managed to uphold is the part about keeping your scythes sharp, and from there says he's proud of his scythes and sharpens them every day until they don't hurt anymore, showing Mark his scars. It's all about him and the depths of his angst rather than the larger context of Scyther philosophy. Similarly, Scyther no longer rants about Scyther society to Stormblade and Shadowdart, but he does actually attack Shadowdart in a rage when he insults Nightmare, and his big takeaway from the conversation is that the way even his friends have rejected him proves how worthless he is. After they leave, ILCOE Scyther then lingers on that conversation and how Stormblade and Shadowdart have changed as individuals, in a way he didn't in the UMR. Even his musing on the animal world concludes with something more personal as Scyther asks if Mark is ever afraid of him.

It makes sense on one level that I made this shift; I expect I thought these chapters were too rambling and infodumpy originally and wanted to focus more on developing Scyther's individual character here. But I didn't really do that terribly well (like, the bit about Scyther realizing he's broken the last of the laws is in principle interesting, but I just had him very suddenly and dramatically try to kill himself on the spot and then move on to other topics as if nothing happened), and some of the details I left out here were actually really interesting! I dig the thing about scythes reflecting who you are, damn it; that was a totally coherent and interesting way for Scyther to view beauty, and the only reason I can think of for cutting it out entirely here is just that I thought Mark asking if Nightmare was beautiful was kind of cringey (which it is - why is this the first thing on Mark's mind, why does he care if a Scyther is beautiful - but that's no reason not to fit this information in there anyway).

Also, I quite liked how First Prey was built up in the UMR: first there's just this unnamed thing that Scyther did on his first try but Shadowdart needed nine and lashes out at the mention of it, then Scyther goes on to reveal they're talking about killing for the first time and taunts Shadowdart with it, and then later we learn more about what that's about and that Scyther's was a human. In the ILCOE, I took First Prey out of the Stormblade and Shadowdart conversation entirely and just had Scyther bring it up afterwards, which I don't think is nearly as fun.

The change to Stormblade and Shadowdart is kind of fascinating, though. Originally, their characterization was very distinctly that Stormblade was upset about Razor being trained now while Shadowdart was repulsed by his cowardice in not helping Nightmare. Shadowdart was definitely the more aggressive and unforgiving of the two of them, but they were clearly meant to have these two very different issues with Razor. However, in the ILCOE, it's Shadowdart who makes all the disparaging comments about him having a trainer and Stormblade who's mostly concerned with what happened with Nightmare! Shadowdart still thinks he's a coward, and Stormblade is still visibly uncomfortable with trainers too, but ultimately their material concerns end up totally reversed, which is pretty funny.

Obviously, as I was fleshing out Scyther's backstory in the background, I thought a fair bit about Stormblade and Shadowdart, and ultimately they shifted around quite a bit in that process. Stormblade in the UMR was obviously friendlier towards Razor, had been impressed by Nightmare, and appeared to be something of a romantic and invested in their relationship - so wouldn't it make more sense if he were more concerned with the part where Razor failed to help Nightmare? Meanwhile, Shadowdart didn't believe in love and was much more antagonistic and disdainful towards Razor in general - wouldn't he be the one to be openly repulsed to see him with a trainer and insult him for it? All in all I think their characterizations here do make more sense, and though Stormblade especially isn't quite in character, this version of them would form the basis for fleshing them out further in the spin-offs.

Overall, this chapter isn't the most relevant; a lot of what Scyther is saying doesn't really have anything to do with anything (especially all the animal world talk, yet again). Stormblade and Shadowdart do turn out to appear again later, but there's regrettable little followup for the events of the previous chapter, and all in all this chapter is obviously just me indulging in a bunch of Scyther because he was my favorite character. I'm fond of the core of it, and I'd still include Stormblade and Shadowdart's appearance and some of the conversation here in the next revision - but it'd have to be written better to portray Scyther's turmoil without all these cheesy melodramatic lines, and I'd want to bring back some of the focus on showing how Scyther society works, which is relevant to Scyther's arc and also just neat.


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