The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

Chapter 38: Volcaryu

“It’s half past six. Get up.”

Mark opened his eyes and immediately regretted it. He recoiled and squinted at the bright light above him, first not sure where he was, until his eyes found the middle-aged, bearded man that held the flashlight whose bright beam was searing through his pupils. He shielded his eyes with his hand. “Are you insane?” he mumbled. “Get that thing away.”

Carl flicked the switch on the flashlight off, and the world plunged into darkness. Mark blinked a few times, trying to adjust to the dim twilight from outside that did little more for the lighting than to allow him to spot the windows. He sat up and looked at Carl’s tall, looming silhouette. “Half past six,” he muttered. “Right. I said Chaletwo would wake Volcaryu at seven o’clock.”

“Yes, that’s what you said,” Carl said coldly and Mark wanted to slap his forehead; he was too half-asleep to be careful. He rubbed his forehead, crawled out of the sleeping bag and began to roll it up while silently cursing that seven in the morning had to be the first arbitrary time that had come to mind.

The wheels in his brain creaked metaphorically as the numbers began to register properly in his mind. Half past six. He jumped.

“Wait, what?” he asked quickly. “In half an hour?”

“Yes,” said Carl and nodded.

“Why didn’t you wake me earlier?” Mark blurted out, stuffing the sleeping bag hastily into the far-too-small containing bag without bothering to finish rolling it. “I won’t have time to eat breakfast or brush my teeth or…”

“Isn’t it strange how you didn’t seem to be concerned enough yesterday evening to even mention when we would wake up?” Carl asked, his voice dripping with icy sarcasm. “One might even get the impression you don’t actually believe that the timer to the destruction of this town by dragon-induced eruption is ticking.”

I believe it’s ticking all right, Mark thought dully as he attached the sleeping bag to his backpack, this time making very carefully sure not to say it aloud. It’s just that I know it would wait for me to get breakfast if I asked.

“I’m an it now?” asked Chaletwo’s voice in his head.

Mark rolled his eyes as he put his backpack on, for once grateful that the darkness prevented Carl from seeing it. He would probably interpret it as something decidedly not in his favour.

Chaletwo, Mark thought darkly as the Gym Leader dragged him towards the door, if we’re flying up there over the volcano and you tell me Volcaryu won’t wake up or something, I’m going to kill you.

“Maybe if Carl doesn’t finish you first.”

Mark shuddered as they left the house and headed towards the Pokémon Center where May and Alan had slept and might even still be sleeping. Carl turned the flashlight back on to illuminate the wooden floor in front of them.

No, I mean it. Is there any chance that you could fail to wake up Volcaryu?

“No,” Chaletwo responded. “Not really. I’m the one keeping him asleep, after all. It’s not a matter of doing anything, but of not doing something anymore. I’d be very worried if I were capable of messing that up.”

Mark snorted, but Carl cast a suspicious glance at him that made him remind himself to be quiet. He looked around the town and found it eerily deserted, somehow clearly more so than it had seemed the previous evening when he had arrived there. Maybe it was that all the windows were dark or that the sun just below the reddening horizon provided only barely enough light to see around. Or maybe the hole in the middle of the wooden town floor that now, more than then, provided a prominent second natural light source in the warm, fiery glow that spilled faintly out over the floor closest to the hole and painted the fronts of the houses with an eerie translucent orange. It struck Mark suddenly what a truly unique place Crater Town was in the world, and again he was hit by painful guilt when he reminded himself that it would all be gone within the next hour.

The boards he was walking on creaked uncomfortably.

You’re not about to lose him early or anything, are you? Mark thought nervously as Carl stepped in front of him and opened the door of the Pokémon Center using a key – Mark presumed the electricity must have been taken off the town, hence the flashlight and the nonworking automatic doors.

“No, no, no. Everything is fine for now.”

To Mark’s surprise and relief, May and Alan were already dressed and ready, standing in the lobby of the Pokémon Center and waiting for them while Spirit curled up on a bench. Carl held the door open for them without words and locked it pointlessly again once they were out; the kids muttered some brief greetings.

Carl checked his watch. “Twenty minutes. Let’s get our Pokémon.”

Mark wondered crazily whether Carl would kill him if they were still in town at seven o’clock and Volcaryu still hadn’t burst out from under their feet in a fit of anger over not being dead yet. For some reason the thought made him chuckle, but he stopped quickly when Carl narrowed his eyes at him.

They walked back towards the Gym building in silence. Carl stopped to take a long look at the exterior before he finally walked up to the front door and opened it with a key. Some of the Pokémon were apparently already awake, while others still lay sleepily on the dirty mattresses; as they entered, several ears perked up and the ones who were awake quickly prodded the ones that weren’t. Carl walked straight towards the ladder that led down into the crater, presumably to get his own Pokémon.

“Come on, guys,” Mark said, walking further into the room while the Pokémon stood up and stretched one by one. “Wake up and get in your balls. Well, except Charizard, I guess.”

He waited for all the Pokémon to wake up and stretch and then recalled them while May and Alan did the same so that only the two Charizard, the Skarmory and Spirit were left in the room among the scattered mattresses. It seemed strangely empty; they moved a little closer to one another and stood together in complete silence in the middle of the room for a few awkward moments. Finally Carl came back up the ladder and they walked outside without words.

“Twelve minutes,” Carl said as they exited the Gym building, and Mark felt himself shiver uncomfortably. The Gym leader looked at him, May and Alan in turn. “You’re in awfully little of a hurry, aren’t you?” he said.

Anger and irritation that had been building up the whole morning flashed through Mark’s mind. “Just shut up,” he replied and didn’t really remember deciding to say it. “You have no idea what this is about. Can’t you save the judging for a few minutes?”

Carl raised an eyebrow and looked at him for a long moment. He felt oddly satisfied with his own daring for a split second despite knowing what a stupid thing that had been to say here and now. He was uncomfortably aware of Alan staring at him like a lunatic.

“Fair enough,” the Gym leader said at last, sounding surprisingly calm. “Let’s get up there, then.”

And Carl grabbed a Pokéball from his belt and sent out his Charizard. She looked coolly at the two males; Mark saw his Charizard blush and look away as Carl climbed with surprising agility onto her back. The dragon took off from the ground with far more grace than a creature of her size carrying Carl’s weight ought to be able to and then hovered in circles above the crater. Carl looked down at them.

“Right,” Mark muttered, ignoring the surprised but somewhat impressed expression that May was still wearing, and it occurred to him that he had never ridden Charizard before. “Uh, can you bend down somehow so I can get on your back?”

Charizard crouched down on all fours and lowered his wing to the floor. Mark stepped hesitantly onto the leathery wing fabric and then climbed awkwardly onto the dragon’s back, wrapping his arms around his Pokémon’s neck. Charizard raised himself up, very slowly, and Mark still felt like he was about to fall. He watched May and Alan mount their Pokémon (far more easily, his disgruntled mind added with envy) and took a few deep breaths.

“Ready?” Charizard murmured.

Mark closed his eyes but wasn’t sure if it would help at all. “Try, at least.”

He yelped as Charizard’s muscles flexed under his thighs and spread the dragon’s majestic wings out in full. He felt his Pokémon crouch ever so slightly down and then jump with a terrifying lurch.

I’m going to fall, Mark’s brain said frantically as the dragon’s wings flapped and his body was thrown irregularly up and down while Charizard tried to steady his flight. Oh, God, I’m going to fall into the volcano and burn to death, or maybe drown, whichever comes first, and the legendaries are going to kill everybody…

But then the movements of the Pokémon’s wing muscles became more rhythmic, their ascension began to feel steadier, and at last he dared to open his eyes. He caught a glimpse of the volcano shrinking below and the gaping hole to Hell in the middle of the town and immediately regretted it, squeezing them shut again.

“Charizard, can you fly in some wide circles like Carl’s Charizard is doing while I get used to this?” he called into the wind around his face. He actually felt Charizard nod through the muscle movements in his neck. It was a weird sensation.

Charizard smoothly adjusted his flight to be horizontal and after a minute of regular, rhythmic forward-flight, the feeling that he was about to fall had subdued a little, enough for Mark to dare to open his eyes again. Learning from his past mistakes, he resisted the urge to look down and looked at Carl, May and Alan instead. They were all hovering on their Pokémon around the same plane as he was.

“Pokémon out,” Carl barked, taking out his own Pokéballs and throwing them down towards the crater. Alan took out two of his; Vicky came out of one to hover beside her trainer while the other, presumably containing Diamond, fell down towards the ground. May sent out her Butterfree and newly-evolved Vibrava to fly beside her while the third ball fell down to let Pupitar join Spirit. Mark got out Dragonair and Scyther’s balls and sent them out to fly by Charizard’s side.

“Five minutes,” Carl said, looking at his watch, and Mark couldn’t help being briefly envious of how easily Carl could hold himself still on his Charizard’s back without having to hold on to her neck with more force than would have been necessary to strangle a human being. “I don’t assume you know which clock Chaletwo goes by.”

Mark didn’t dignify that with an answer. He was feeling a little distracted. Something seemed to be missing before they could actually start.

Chaletwo’s pep talk, he realized and grinned to himself, mentally prodding at the part of his brain that Chaletwo was residing in.

“With him around?” Chaletwo responded, and Mark knew he meant Carl.

It was a good point. Since supposedly Chaletwo could only communicate either privately with Mark or by sending out a local psychic signal that everyone in the vicinity could hear, it would be a bit difficult for him to make any sort of a speech. Mark sighed.

He’d have to do it himself.

“All right,” he said and cleared his throat. Carl looked at him and raised an eyebrow.

“So this is it. Volcaryu is a – a fire dragon. And he’s powerful. So we all have to work together to bring him down. Try to take the other Pokémon into account while you fight. And, uh…”

He looked around, first at Alan, then at May, then at all the flying Pokémon (he was still not going to look down if he could help it), and then finally at Carl. The Gym leader was observing him with calm interest.

“Right. And Pupitar. Try to support Pupitar. And, uh, all you guys down there, you should get on the edges of the actual crater on the outside of the volcano if you aren’t there already if you don’t want to get caught in the eruption.”

He looked awkwardly at everyone. He was increasingly realizing that he sucked at pep talks, but for some reason the fact he was doing it felt strangely good at the same time.

“All right, then. Do your best, and… we can do this.”

He saw Alan nod and smile in encouragement and felt a little warmer, despite knowing that he could have been the worst speaker in the world and Alan would still have done that.

“One minute,” said Carl. They waited and Mark frantically went over everything he remembered about Fire Pokémon in his head. This was so crazy. What would the eruption be like?

“Ten,” said Carl, “nine, eight…”

Chaletwo, be ready, Mark thought.

“…five, four, three, two, one…”

Carl looked up. They waited for a few more seconds. Nothing happened.

“Well?” asked the Gym leader. “Where’s your Volcaryu?”

“I don’t know,” Mark said, reaching for Chaletwo in his mind. He was feeling more angry than anything else for some bizarre reason.

“He’s awake just fine,” Chaletwo replied. “But I mean, I can’t make him come out if he doesn’t feel like it. I assumed he’d…”

“Hell with it,” Mark hissed. He wasn’t sure what it was that made him think of it, much less go ahead and do it, but he whipped out his Pokédex and began pressing buttons.

“What do you think you’re…?”

“Thunderyu, GO!” Mark shouted, folding his Pokédex as he threw one of his Pokéballs forward.

May and Alan stared at him as if he were insane, which he probably was, come to think of it. He watched the white shape from the Pokéball form into a slender dragon with broad wings, stunned by what an insanely risky thing he had just dared to do.

The light faded from Thunderyu’s form, and the dragon didn’t as much as look at his captors. Instead, his eyes stared transfixed at the crater straight below him while he flapped his golden wings with slow graceful movements that somehow made Mark think of heartbeat.

There was a deep rumble in the depths of the volcano.

“Are you mad?” Chaletwo hissed. “Recall him before Volcaryu gets to him, or they’ll tear one another apart and wipe us out as collateral damage before we can even blink!”

“Not yet,” Mark muttered, squeezing the maximized Pokéball in his hand. There was another roar from within the volcano below, more powerful than the first. Thunderyu’s eyes, which had begun to wander and notice the humans’ presence, were instantly fixed back on the crater, and the dragon let out a wild, screeching cry of excitement, daring the creature in the volcano to break out of its prison.

Mark looked briefly at Carl, who was watching Thunderyu in disturbed fascination. Alan looked terrified. Even May was a little pale as she watched the legendary Pokémon so close by. Above them, dark clouds were already beginning to gather in obedient response to Thunderyu’s presence.

There was another deep roar from below, laced with poisonous loathing as Volcaryu recognized the challenge of his nemesis. There was also a much deeper, somehow more terrifying rumble from the volcano itself.

Mark couldn’t help it. He looked down.

The glow in the hole in the middle of town was much brighter now, and it took a second for Mark to realize that it was because the lava level had risen – and it was still rushing upwards with unsettling speed. He saw the floor begin to crumble as the heat vaporized the support beams below it, seconds before molten lava spluttered out through the hole, shattering the wood into burning splinters that crumbled into ash in the air. The sheer destructive power of it was terrifying but fascinating; Mark couldn’t look away as fiery magma enveloped the Gym building and it began to sink and melt. The wooden houses all around had turned into a blazing inferno whose ashes were crumbling into the magma in a matter of seconds. He could see the lava finding its way through every crevice to flow down the sides of the volcano and the Pokémon hurtling out of the way while the lava level began to sink again.

Then suddenly the magma was rushing back upwards, and a dark shape burst out of the middle of it, sending splatters of lava flying in every direction as the creature roared with hatred and headed straight up towards Thunderyu. The electric dragon cried out in glee and swooped downwards to meet it.

“Return!” Mark yelled, although his voice could hardly be heard, pointed the Pokéball at Thunderyu and pressed the button. A red beam of light shot out of the ball, hitting the descending dragon’s back.

Thunderyu cried out in surprise as his form began to dissolve into translucent red energy. Mark felt the Ultra Ball shake in his hand as the dragon strained madly against the power that was pulling him into it while the piercing roar garbled into an incoherent mess of sound waves. He held the ball firmly in his sweating hands and prayed that what they were always told about Pokéball beams being impossible to escape once the Pokémon had been caught and hit by the beam was true.

The ball stopped shaking, Thunderyu let out a last, distorted cry of frustration and finally vanished into the Pokéball. Mark replaced it on his belt and somehow it took him a second to remember that there was a whole battle yet to be done.

He jerked his head back towards Volcaryu, who had now flown up to the same height as they were and was looking frantically around for any traces of the other dragon. Mark couldn’t help thinking, in the split second he spent taking in the sight of him visually, that Volcaryu was nowhere near the creature of grace that Thunderyu was, but he was bigger and bulkier and at least ten times more frightening. His muscular body was covered with dark red scales and some larger plates of black armor, and coupled with the twisted horns and pointed snout, the color scheme made him look positively demonic. The relatively small, black wings really shouldn’t have been able to keep its weight aloft, but somehow they did.

Volcaryu turned his head towards Mark, his eyes shining with nothing less than psychotic bloodlust, and apparently decided to give up looking for Thunderyu for the moment and take his frustration out on the Pokémon flying around him instead.

Charizard swooped upwards, and Mark screamed as he narrowly avoided falling off by clinging on to his Pokémon’s neck. Just below them he could see a tongue of bright flames erupting from Volcaryu’s mouth and enveloping the spot they’d been at only seconds earlier. He shivered. “Pokémon, start attacking him already!” he shouted as he tried to steady himself better on Charizard’s back. He saw the other flying Pokémon scatter out of Volcaryu’s way as the dragon turned around to attack them.

“Magcargo, Ancientpower!” he heard Carl bark somewhere behind him. Below them, chunks of glowing rock tore themselves out of the crater’s edge, making way for more lava to pour our down the sides of the volcano as the boulders smashed into Volcaryu’s body, tossing him off course from where he was chasing after May on her Skarmory. The dragon cried out in pain and turned sharply towards the crater instead while the metallic vulture turned back around and tried to stay still in the air.

“Pupitar, Rock Slide!” May shouted from the bird’s back. “And Spirit, use Curse!”

The Ninetales on the edge of the crater looked up at Volcaryu as her eyes began to glow bright red – but then Volcaryu roared, lava rushed upwards again, and it began to spill violently over the edge of the crater while globs of it were sent flying through the air. Charlie swooped out of the way of a splatter of magma, narrowly saving Alan from being hit by it, while an entire flood burst out on Spirit’s side of the mountain, enveloping her and disrupting her concentration as she tried desperately to fight her way out of the molten rock. May quickly grabbed a Pokéball and recalled her.

Mark tore his eyes away from the Pokémon below and looked at Volcaryu again. Satisfied with the distraction that the eruption had provided for the Pokémon on the volcano, he turned to the humans again, this time looking at Carl. The Gym leader’s Charizard growled threateningly, and the taunt seemed to draw Volcaryu’s attention well enough for the other Pokémon to finally dare to approach and attack.

Scyther darted towards the dragon with both of his scythes raised and glowing with a dark aura while Dragonair flared up with blue fire and zoomed in the same direction. May’s Butterfree began to glow purple. The first attack to actually hit Volcaryu was Vicky’s Shadow Ball that smashed into the dragon’s head while he was gathering flames in his throat; he roared and turned sharply around, realizing too late that he was being attacked from all sides.

His head began to glow with the same purple that Butterfree was, and he screeched in pain, momentarily unable to move, which gave the other Pokémon the chance to strike.

Scyther drove his scythes at Volcaryu’s underbelly, but it was apparently pretty strongly armoured and the blades barely even left a mark. Scyther quickly retreated back to Mark’s side to avoid being attacked in retaliation while Dragonair smashed his fiery body into the much larger dragon’s side, causing Volcaryu to let out yet another roar of pain. He was shaking the Psychic off now.

“Dragonbreath, Vibrava!” May yelled.

“Diamond, use Bounce!” Alan shouted.

“Scyther, Swords Dance!” Mark blurted out. “Dragonair, use another Dragon Rush!”

Scyther began sharpening his scythes in a peculiar dance in mid-air while Dragonair flared blue again, but meanwhile, Alan’s Rapidash leapt up towards Volcaryu in a humongous leap as she neighed ferociously. Volcaryu turned around to inspect the noise just as she smashed into his side, throwing him a bit downwards.

Mark knew that Volcaryu was still being a bit slow and hadn’t quite realized that all of the creatures around him were actually there to attack him and that as soon as the dragon had figured that out, he would become a lot more aggressive, and this was where he realized it. Volcaryu roared and spewed a column of flame towards May and her Butterfree; Skarmory swooped quickly out of the way, but Butterfree wasn’t as fast a flier and was caught in the blast. May recalled her without words while her Vibrava fired a cone of sparkly flames at the legendary Pokémon and Dragonair smashed into his other side.

“Camerupt, use a Rock Slide!” came Carl’s barking voice. “Another Ancientpower, Magcargo! Magmar, Confuse Ray! Flareon, use Helping Hand to assist Magcargo! Arcanine, Extremespeed!”

“Everybody, another synchronized assault!” Mark screamed, and Scyther, Dragonair and Diamond all rushed towards Volcaryu again just as Carl’s Arcanine shot into the air at supernatural speed and smashed into Volcaryu’s body. Mark eyed Vicky charging up a Shadow Ball. They were actually not doing too bad this time…

And just as the thought crossed his mind, Volcaryu let out a deep roar and his entire body burst into a humongous sphere of white-hot flames. All the Pokémon that were closing up on Volcaryu were caught in the inferno and screamed in collective pain as the blazing heat scorched them; Mark stared in horror as even the boulders that Magcargo and Camerupt had summoned were literally melting in mid-air before they could reach the dragon Pokémon, sending splatters of glowing magma flying all around so that the three Charizard and Skarmory had to recoil to a safer distance with their riders (Mark’s stomach took an uncomfortable lurch as he very nearly fell off Charizard’s back at the unexpected movement). He saw Scyther, his armor blackened and charred, fall limply downwards before ever reaching the legendary Pokémon, and quickly recalled him back into his Pokéball. Dragonair managed to actually deliver his attack, if with rather less power than otherwise, but Mark could see his skin flaking by the second in such close vicinity of the source of the heat, and within seconds Dragonair was unconscious as well and had to be returned to the safety of his Pokéball. He saw Diamond swinging her horn at Volcaryu, but she missed; however, she actually didn’t seem at all hurt, and in fact her flames were burning brighter than before if anything as she descended back towards the crater.

The fireball from around Volcaryu dissolved and the dragon looked a little tired after having kept it up for so long, but still immediately allowed his body to flare up in new fire, this time blue dragon flames, and dove straight at May’s Vibrava.

“Dodge!” May yelled from the back of her Skarmory, but the Pokémon just screeched in panic, seemingly frozen with fear, and when Volcaryu smashed his heavy body into him, he didn’t even stand a chance. Vibrava was sent flying through the air, enveloped in blue flames, and May silently recalled him while Volcaryu’s still flaring form turned downwards to the part of the crater wall where Carl’s Pokémon and Diamond were standing.

“Get out of the way!” Alan and Carl shouted simultaneously, and Diamond was quick to leap over Volcaryu’s body and land on the other side of the crater while Carl’s Arcanine and Flareon ran along the edge to either side, but Camerupt and Magcargo weren’t fast enough to get away and Magmar had apparently decided to sacrifice himself so that he could form another Confuse Ray as a distraction.

“Magmar, don’t…” Carl began, but then Volcaryu’s body rammed into all of the three Pokémon on the crater’s edge, enveloped all of them in dragon flames and knocked them flying down the side of the mountain. Carl quickly took out their Pokéballs and recalled them. His Charizard growled.

The flames on Volcaryu’s body died down and the dragon shook his head to clear it before flying back upwards and heading towards Vicky.

“Grudge!” Alan shouted, and the Misdreavus’s eyes glowed purple while Volcaryu approached her, opening his jaws wide. As the dragon snapped them around the Ghost Pokémon and shook her violently around, she let out a shrill scream of pain, and Alan recalled her. Volcaryu briefly shuddered and closed his mouth. If Mark remembered his battling class correctly, Grudge was supposed to give him an aversion to the move that had finished Vicky, but he couldn’t help thinking that preventing Volcaryu from using Crunch wasn’t much of an improvement on their situation. By now he was really getting worried. Only a minute ago it had actually seemed like they were about to win. Now Volcaryu had brought down most of their Pokémon within the space of a few attacks.

“Where’s Pupitar?” May suddenly yelled, looking frantically around the crater below her. Mark looked down as well (it fleetingly occurred to him that flying was in fact surprisingly easy to get used to) and indeed he couldn’t see the pupa anywhere. Carl turned his head sharply down towards the volcano to scan its sides. Mark was vaguely aware of Diamond leaping up to ram her body into Volcaryu’s while the dragon countered with a blast of sparkly flames.

“Arcanine, Flareon, look around the volcano and find Pupitar!” Carl barked. The two Pokémon nodded and began running up and down the sides of the mountain, avoiding the streams of magma still flowing down from the crater.

“Diamond is paralyzed!” Alan shouted. Mark looked where he was pointing and saw that Diamond was standing stiffly on the brink of the crater, her eyes wide with fear while Volcaryu, whose body was now covered with blue flames again, was about to smash into her. Mark looked quickly around and realized in panic that aside from her and the missing Pupitar, Carl’s two remaining Pokémon were all they had.

“Come on, Pupitar!” May screamed down from her Skarmory’s back while Diamond was knocked over the side of the mountain and Alan recalled her back to her Pokéball. “Are you hiding? Scared of Volcaryu? What is this supposed to be? You were meant to be the most important Pokémon in this battle, and then you just disappear before… before you even pull off a single attack! Come here and make yourself useful!”

Mark could see Alan wince at her words while Volcaryu swooped down towards Carl’s Flareon; the Arcanine leapt up in a blur to knock the dragon Pokémon off his path, but was instead the target of Volcaryu’s terrifyingly powerful dragon flames. Carl recalled him, giving his Flareon a worried look.

Then there was a rumbling roar from the crater, and Mark’s first, crazy thought was that somehow there was another Volcaryu coming, but of course he realized as soon as his common sense kicked in that it could only be…

A reptilian head burst out of the magma by the crater wall and roared, followed by the rest of the body of a red-hot Tyranitar crawling up from the bowl of lava.

Mark goggled at him – had he actually been buried in magma since the beginning of the battle? How had he breathed? He wondered momentarily if Pupitar even needed to breathe very often. Perhaps the pain had just now brought him over the edge to evolution, giving him the arms that he’d needed to climb up.

May stared at her Pokémon in surprise that suddenly turned into triumphant admiration as a grin broke out on her face. “YES! Tyranitar, Stone Edge!”

But Volcaryu had already noticed the Pokémon that had emerged from his crater, and the flames enveloping his body intensified as he roared and swooped straight down towards the exhausted Tyranitar who was struggling to concentrate…

“Flareon, Helping Hand!”

The Gym leader’s last Pokémon glowed white as he ran towards May’s final and placed his paw on his leg, and with a cry of “Flare!”, he managed to give Tyranitar the power boost that he needed. With a triumphant roar, the dinosaurian Pokémon raised his arms, and chunks of rock by the two Pokémon’s sides ripped themselves loose from the crater wall and shot straight upwards, hitting the diving Volcaryu at a great speed and smashing him up towards the sky. Carl’s Charizard swerved out of the way while the legendary Pokémon was thrown up past them, roaring in agony.

An Ultra Ball flew through the air, hit the falling dragon and sucked him inside before falling towards the ground. Mark’s heart jumped in excitement as Charizard dived down after it. He could see the ball on the ground wobble once, twice, thrice…

And it stilled with a confirming ping.

“YES!” came Chaletwo’s voice in Mark’s head; he had almost forgotten about Chaletwo’s existence after he’d been silent for the whole battle.

Charizard landed on the ground and Mark almost jumped off his back to pick up the Pokéball. “We got him!” he shouted and held it up as he watched the other two Charizard and the Skarmory land and their riders step down from their backs. May replaced a ball on her Pokéball necklace, presumably Tyranitar’s, while Mark could see the flow of lava down the mountainside coming to a halt as the magma presumably retreated back under the Earth’s crust. He found himself laughing stupidly in glee.

Carl walked up to him and extended his hand towards the Pokéball in Mark’s hand. “Well done,” he said in satisfaction, nodding towards May before looking back at Mark. “So it turns out you weren’t lying after all. I suppose I owe you an apology. Now give me that.”

Mark lowered the ball quickly; the adrenaline rush was quickly wearing off. “What? Why?”

“Because I threw that ball.”

Mark stared. He had assumed May or Alan had thrown the Ultra Ball. Definitely not Carl. Had he even known that they needed to capture the dragon? “You… you can’t just take Volcaryu!” he blurted out. “He’d never battle for you!”

Carl looked at the Pokéball. “Make it battle for me?” he said, his voice harsh and disdainful. “Of course not. But it destroyed my hometown, and it needs to be kept where that ball will never be opened again. It’s not as if it will battle for you.”

“Don’t let him!” Chaletwo said frantically. Mark’s initial inclination was to agree, but after a second of thought, he wasn’t quite sure. After all, they had put their trust in Rick not sending out any of the legendaries he was keeping, and he had a distinct feeling that Carl meant it when he said he would make sure Volcaryu was never sent out again.

“All right,” Mark replied. “You can take Volcaryu. But it needs to be kept where it can’t be sent out ever again to cause more destruction. Not even to look at it. Okay?”

Carl nodded firmly. “Can I ask you a question?” he then said, and Mark nodded curiously.

“What was that thing you sent out that made Volcaryu come?”

Mark racked his brain; he’d forgotten that he had done that. He quickly came to the conclusion that the truth was the only thing he could really tell. “It was Thunderyu. Chaletwo created it along with Volcaryu and one other dragon, and they hate one another and can sense each other’s presence.” He paused. “I guess Chaletwo realized we were there and decided not to make Volcaryu come out after all, but then when I sent Thunderyu out, Volcaryu sensed it and came anyway.”

“What’s the third dragon?” Carl asked, stroking his beard.

“Polaryu, Champion Cave,” Chaletwo answered in Mark’s head, “but you really…”

“It’s called Polaryu, and it’s in Champion Cave,” Mark responded, ignoring Chaletwo and enjoying every minute of it. Carl nodded thoughtfully.

“All right, then. Thank you for warning us. I hope we see one another again eventually.” He paused. “Well, we have one thing left to do.”

Carl reached into his jacket, took out a box and looked at May. “I forgot to give you this yesterday,” he said, opened the box and handed her a round, silver badge from it. “And…” He turned to Mark and Alan. “Well, with my Gym gone, we can’t exactly have a rematch, can we? I suppose you’d get it eventually anyway, and the fact is that you’re not going to be allowed on Champion Island if you don’t have all eight badges of the Ouen League. So… in the interest of preventing more disaster such as what happened to my town, you’d better take these.”

And Carl handed them one badge each, though he clearly hated to do it. “Now, promise me that you’ll get Diana’s badge in Acaria City fair and square, will you? I won’t feel at ease with myself unless I know that by the time you are at Champion Island your Pokémon would rightfully deserve these badges.”

“Definitely,” Alan replied, and Mark nodded. “Thank you.”

Carl turned away. “Well, go on, then. I’ll have to get to my friends and relatives and tell them that I’m fine.” He mounted his Charizard with practiced ease. “Goodbye.”

The female dragon winked at Mark’s Charizard before taking off with her trainer. Charizard blushed and looked away, and didn’t look up again until they were just a dark spot on the reddened eastern sky.

“Oh, stop complaining,” Charlie muttered. “Some of us aren’t getting any at all.”

Alan snickered. “Well, since you guys have been carrying us all morning, you should probably just get in your balls and make us do the walking to Acaria City.”

“Good idea,” the two Charizard replied simultaneously, and the three kids recalled their Pokémon before heading on along the road towards the rising sun.

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