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!

Chapter 3: Vuiiii!

When Mark was out of the library, Charmander was sitting on the stone steps, his head resting against the shiny wall and his eyes closed peacefully; basically, he was looking absolutely adorable, attracting quite a few ‘awww’s from passers-by.

“Are you asleep?” Mark asked cautiously, poking Charmander’s shoulder. The Pokémon jumped, eyes opening wide.

“Wha… no, I was just… er, in deep thought,” he replied awkwardly.

“Right,” said Mark and grinned. “Shouldn’t we move on?”

Charmander stood up, and they walked out of the town while dark clouds gathered above them.

-------

Keep running, keep running…

Four small paws beat the ground soundlessly.

He had no idea where he was running, nor did he care.

It didn’t matter.

Why would it? He had better things to worry about.

A bright white lightning flashed with a terrible roar of thunder. He shrieked in fear, turned around and ran even faster in the other direction.

Small drops of water started falling, prickling down his beautifully light brown fur coat and soaking the soft, creamy-colored ruff around his neck. He shivered, but kept running.

Pretty sure I meant "trickling".

This is very melodramatic. He has better things to worry about than where he's going, apparently, but given later this is explained as Eevee going out to look for his mom after she didn't come home, that doesn't seem quite right - shouldn't he be, you know, trying to actually find her? Running aimlessly as fast as he can and declaring it doesn't matter where he's going seems very unhelpful. I suspect when I wrote this I just hadn't properly solidified exactly what was motivating Eevee here - just this vague idea that his mom died and he doesn't know what to do - and just wanted to write something that sounded very intense and dramatic.

-------

It had started to rain. Charmander’s tail flame was spouting thick steam; Mark glanced worriedly at it every now and then as they walked down the road south to Cleanwater.

“Are you going to be OK?”

“Yeah, I’ve been through more rain,” said Charmander casually, obviously referring to the one Mark saved him out of.

“If you think so,” said Mark doubtfully, still keeping an eye on his friend.

Kind of like that detail about the steam and how it makes Mark worry.

-------

Should I give up all hope?

No…

It… can’t be…

He was far too exhausted to run, but the knowledge that by every passing second, his greatest fear was more likely to have come true, drove him on.

His forepaw hit a small rock hidden in the wet grass. He tried to keep his balance, but tumbled over. He got up right away and despite the pain nailing his left front paw, he aced it and kept going at the same pace.

Wow, that "he aced it" is still in there. My amazing fourteen-year-old English strikes again. I thought for sure I'd changed that in the YAR or at least the ILCOE; I thought I'd learned this was not the phrase I wanted pretty soon after I first published this, but apparently not. (I was under the impression it meant something like getting through or enduring it. I got this impression from some random online quiz, where I was guessing from context, and naturally made this guess confidently enough to subsequently write it into my fanfic without looking it up.)

What Eevee's thinking here is that his mom's probably dead, but I'm not sure it makes sense to say it's more likely with every passing second, given he just ran out into the middle of nowhere so for all he knows she's home by now. Rule of melodrama again, I suppose.

-------

“Hey, Charmander, have you ever thought about evolution?”

“Yeah, why?” Charmander questioned.

“Do you want to?” Mark rephrased his question.

“Huh?”

“Do you want to evolve?”

“Why are you asking?” Charmander said, puzzled, looking up at Mark.

“Shouldn’t I ask you?” Mark asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Of course you should,” Charmander said, looking down. “But most trainers wouldn’t, that’s why I was surprised. My old trainer wouldn’t.” He spat the last words in a resentful tone.

Well, that's an awkward segue.

Be prepared to see a lot of me cringing at these efforts to paint Mark as so great for what should just be basic common decency. It took a while for me to stop this and it's so jarring to me now.

“Yeah, that’s one thing,” Mark said thoughtfully, “did your trainer release you?”

“No… not really…” said Charmander faintly.

“What happened?”

“Well… he battled a girl with a Quilava once. Didn’t use me for it, he never used me at all. But she beat him and he showed her me, lied that I was level 15 like her Quilava was, and asked to trade. She bought it, she didn’t really appear to like her Quilava all that much for whatever reason. They just did an unofficial trade by handing each other the Pokéballs, and then my trainer quietly made himself disappear. Then it appears that when the girl registered me to her Pokédex and found out I was level five, she tossed the ball to the ground in anger and ran after my old trainer, so I popped out of the ball and was left there. Then I just walked off in a random direction, and ended up in that monsoon.”

“Oh…” was all Mark could say. He paused, then added: “He must’ve been a selfish little brat.”

“Yup,” said Charmander and sighed.

Amusingly, May really comes off worse than Taylor here, but Mark and Charmander both just ignore her part in this to berate Taylor. Sure, Taylor conned her by lying about Charmander's level, which wasn't cool, and traded him away without consulting him about it, but it's May who actually left a Charmander in the rain because he wasn't good enough for her. Taylor didn't expect that to happen when he instigated the trade.

This conversation happens when Charmander offhandedly mentions Taylor wouldn't have asked him about evolving, but he doesn't actually talk about why he got that impression from Taylor. I'm pretty sure I was assuming here that Taylor never sent Charmander out at all since he got him, but if this is literally the only thing Charmander heard through his ball, then it really doesn't follow that Taylor wouldn't have asked him about evolving - he's just conflating him doing one bad thing with him being generally bad and therefore him not doing the good proper trainer thing. Which is probably in fact what my thought process was.

-------

He was beyond exhausted. He was even starting to slow down. He tried to order his legs to speed up again, but they refused and answered simply by collapsing under him. He helplessly crawled a bit on through the tall grass, and to his horror he realized that he was lost either way.

It was too painful…

He eyed the road and the cars just a few meters away, and made his hopeless decision.

Melodrama x3. I'm not surprised I made him suicidal, given me, but I kind of wish I hadn't thrown that in here for drama points when I wasn't actually going to make much of anything of it (or Eevee's trauma in general). The bad thing about being intensely fascinated by fiction involving suicide from a very young age, I suppose, is that you end up repeatedly writing about it before you have any ability to do so with any kind of discernment.

The IALCOTN toned it down a bit; there, it occurred to him that he could just lie down on the road since he thought he was probably going to die either way, but he fainted before he actually came to a decision on whether he'd go all the way across the road or not.

-------

“Hey,” Charmander suddenly exclaimed, “did you hear something?”

“No,” said Mark.

“It was just, you know, a small rustle…”

“Like a Pokémon?” Mark suggested hopefully.

“Yeah…”

Mark stopped and looked around the dry grass on both sides of the road. Something moved, just a few inches from the roadside.

He carefully came a bit nearer, and saw that it was a little brown furball with long, rabbit-like ears. A thick, creamy ruff covered its neck and a bushy tail extended from its backside. It was flailing around a bit, apparently trying to crawl but not really being successful.

“An Eevee!” Mark shouted so loudly that the Pokémon made a desperate, yet unsuccessful attempt to get up and run away before fainting with fear. He quickly realized the mistake of his over-excitement, and started thinking about his next problem.

“Why do I have to run across an Eevee just when I don’t have any Pokéballs?” he moaned. “Just my luck…”

This chapter, straight from Eevee giving up all hope and resolving to end it all to Mark shouting so loudly that Eevee faints and then bemoaning the fact he has no Pokéballs to catch him with. No whiplash there at all.

Exactly then, he caught a glimpse of something in the grass, a few meters away from the Eevee. It was a familiar red and white sphere…

He couldn’t believe it. A Pokéball was lying there, exactly when he needed it.

Actually not just a contrived coincidence for once; this is Charmander's ball, which we heard about earlier (meaning it wouldn't actually have worked to catch Eevee with, though of course Mark doesn't know this). I'm not sure if it was planned that way in the original where all this originated, mind you, but by the HMMRCIG I definitely intended it to be Charmander's ball and was pretty pleased with myself.

He quickly walked over to it, bent down and picked up the ball. It felt cold and metallic; a few grass blades were glued to its wet surface by the water. But it would work just as well. He took aim at the Pokémon.

“Pokéball, GO!” he yelled, just like he had seen on TV.

“What do you think you’re doing??”

Charmander jumped up and punched the ball away in the air so it missed its target.

“What was that for?” Mark groaned.

“What was it for?” Charmander snapped, raising up his tiny thumb. “One: He’s unconscious.” Charmander raised his forefinger, continuing: “Two: He’s obviously too young to battle at all, don’t you see how small he is?” He raised the third miniscule finger: “And three: He’s in an absolutely terrible state; he’s obviously been through hell before we came here.” He lowered his hand firmly. “Don’t you know the Agreement? If a Pokémon is caught while unable to put up a fair fight for its freedom, it is free to ignore or even attack its trainer until released back into the wild.”

Mark blushed; of course he knew this. The Agreement between Pokémon and humans clearly stated that Pokémon must only be caught while they were still in proper condition to battle. He had forgotten all about it in the shock of seeing one of the most sought-after Pokémon in the world.

“Also,” Charmander went on with folded arms, “he’s young enough for me to strongly suspect that he shouldn’t be wandering around on his own. I think he must have lost his mother.”

Mark now felt terrible about his foolish longing to throw a metal ball at the little thing. It could’ve died; what was he thinking?

I do really appreciate this bit, where Charmander calls Mark out on this. It's not unreasonable for a kid to get carried away in his excitement about being a Pokémon trainer and seeing a rare Pokémon without thinking about the state it's in; through this we get some Mark being a genuine flawed kid thoughtlessly doing something boneheaded and wrong that's explicitly acknowledged as such by the narrative, and Charmander finally gets to be not just Mark's cheerleader. It also introduces a bit of worldbuilding in the Agreement. It's not amazingly executed (to start with, the weird over-the-topness of Mark's initial reaction to the Eevee doesn't really make it come off as believable), but this is still definitely the best, most compelling thing that's happened in the story so far, in my opinion.

...All of which only makes it even more awkward that just earlier I insisted on having Charmander tell Mark how especially great he is for flimsy reasons. He's not! This very chapter shows that he's not! You could have avoided this!

“A male, you say?” Mark questioned.

“Yeah,” Charmander nodded.

Mark slowly walked towards the fainted Pokémon, bent down and touched the fur on the head. It was soft, thick and very smooth, but with a few twigs tangled in it. He brushed them off, and the Eevee’s body twitched a bit.

Carefully, he picked the Pokémon up. Its body was warm; Mark felt weird holding it. He stroked a few times over the fur on the head with some soothing words, and to his delight found that Eevee’s eyes opened a bit.

“Vuii!” he shrieked and weakly struggled to get away, but Mark held him tightly. Eevee seemed to find the warmth from a living body to be somewhat comforting and in the end just curled himself up in his arms.

For a few seconds, Mark just stood there like in a trance, but then snapped out of it.

“We’d better hurry to Cleanwater to get him help,” he said to Charmander before breaking into a run. The lizard followed on his heels.

A lone Pokéball was left by the roadside.

And that's two for two on Mark rescuing his Pokémon in the rain. I wonder why I never really noticed or thought about the simply repetitive aspect here; surely it's a little silly that Mark just happens to bump into two separate Pokémon in need of rescue near Sailance in the space of a few days, and making this happen twice like this just reduces the impact of both. Just the general fact Mark is immediately handed an Eevee as soon as he's out of Sailance, though, is something I've disliked for a long time, and I'm still not sure how I'd actually approach this in a rewrite.

The Eevee-POV bits here are very much written for drama over internal coherence, and this is also the only part of the fic where I do this sort of rapid POV-switching (chapter 14 has some brief scenes from Taylor's POV, but those are there to show specific events and the scenes in between are far more substantial). I think at some point I was vaguely considering doing this for every Pokémon Mark caught, showing its POV a bit before he catches it, but of course I didn't actually end up doing it, so this chapter ends up being an odd one out.

The best part here is Mark trying to catch Eevee and Charmander blocking the ball and telling him off for it, which actually originates in the original version, believe it or not:

“Pokéball, go!” he shouted and threw the pokéball at the poor Eevee that didn’t dare to move.

“Charmander!”

Charmander suddenly jumped up and punched the pokéball back to Mark. “Charmander charmander!” he said angrily.

“Scared?” Mark looked at the Eevee. It most certainly was.

Equally surprisingly, the IALCOTN version actually went and removed Charmander blocking the ball here. Granted, I think I must have decided to alter that bit because in the IALCOTN, Mark's already had his morally ambiguous moment with taking the unconscious Charmander out of town, and while Charmander forgave him, it would've seemed a lot weirder for him to unthinkingly try to capture Eevee after that - instead, he just spends a little while agonizing over it, which comes off kind of weirdly because he ends up seeming really reluctant to help Eevee unless he can catch him. I think I get what I was trying to do there, anyway, but in a future revision, I may go back to Charmander blocking the ball again, assuming some version of this makes it in. It could be made into a really nice early character-establishing moment for both of them.


Previous chapter --- Extra --- Next chapter


Comment on this? Please keep all comments strictly related to the fic only; any irrelevant posts will be deleted.

Not logged in - log in to submit a verified comment or submit one as a guest below. Note that your e-mail address will only be recorded for the purpose of notifying you if I reply to your comment. It will not be sold to third parties, displayed anywhere on the website, or used to send unsolicited e-mail. If you would rather not receive a notification upon a reply to your comment, simply leave the e-mail field blank.




590

590


View comments