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 39: The Workings of the War

February 2nd, 2008, five days after chapter 38! I was really on a roll.

As I mentioned before, during the writing of chapter 37, I decided - now having finally properly figured out what was really going on in this fanfic - to add a plot recap chapter in the space between the Volcaryu battle and Acaria City. This would simply go over and clear up some of the important points of the War of the Legends plot, both for the characters and readers, in the interest of properly establishing the mysteries at play and the mechanics at work. It was easily written since it's pretty much all conversation, and not difficult or emotional conversation but mostly just giving information.

Route 315 was painfully long.

There was no upwards hiking for a change, which did make it a bit more bearable – in fact, it all seemed to be a little bit downhill – but it was just so darned boring. There were grassy plains after grassy plains with absolutely no variation in the landscape beyond the occasional stream or pond with maybe a couple of trees beside them. And it was just so long. There was the occasional wild Pokémon to keep them occupied, sure – they let the Pokémon that hadn’t taken part in the Volcaryu battle fight them – but nothing interesting enough to really liven it up to any degree, and either because of the sheer distance to Acaria City or because they stopped too frequently for too long, the sun had travelled all the way over the horizon and sank behind Mount Fever before Acaria City was much more than a tempting field of shimmering lights in the far distance.

This description has too much "There was".

“We should camp,” Alan said and sighed, stopping on the road as they came to a couple of stray trees. “We won’t get there before tomorrow. No use walking on in the dark.”

They had brought out the Revives, Burn Heals and Hyper Potions early on to heal the Pokémon that had battled Volcaryu and gotten them into decent shape for the most part, so they could send out all of the Pokémon except Lapras and Gyarados. Mark was privately rather relieved that he didn’t have to send out Gyarados, and May also seemed rather relieved that she didn’t have to send out Lapras. Their problems with the two Water Pokémon were perhaps more similar than Mark had realized; the main difference was that Mark had a problem with something Gyarados had done while Lapras had a problem with something May had done.

That literally makes them opposites of each other, Mark.

After coming to the quick conclusion that they weren’t going to be finding any decent amount of firewood there, they got Diamond and the two Charizard to take on the role of the campfire. Then they sat down in a circle so that the distance between the three Fire Pokémon was approximately equal, and although it felt remarkably odd at first to sit in silence around a pile of backpacks with the firelight coming from the circle itself, Mark found himself to be quick to get used to it.

Confusingly phrased, but this sounds cutely awkward.

He looked across at May, who was sitting beside her Tyranitar and stroking his rocklike hide absent-mindedly. The Pokémon was lying down on his stomach with his head resting on his arm and his eyes closed, emitting a quiet kind of content growl or murr. Mark noticed suddenly that despite that Pupitar had evolved and was at least now clearly capable of making sounds, he still hadn’t heard him say a word of understandable speech. He tried to recall if he’d ever talked as a Larvitar and didn’t remember him doing so at all. He couldn’t help finding it a little creepy.

A bit of Tyranitar! And some unnecessarily blunt hinting. Really, seventeen-year-old me, you don't have to have Mark point out it's creepy. This just undermines it.

“So,” he said, looking over the group. Everyone looked up and waited for him to say something.

“Chaletwo?” he asked, not really quite sure why, reaching into his mind.

“What?” came the snappy reply.

Mark sighed. “Still upset about Volcaryu?”

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Come on,” Mark said, irritated. “Carl isn’t going to try to use Volcaryu. You heard the way he talked about him destroying Crater Town.”

“Yes, I did,” Chaletwo replied. “Exactly. He hates Volcaryu because he destroyed his town. And you saw that man kick Pupitar into lava for the heck of it, just to see how heat-resistant he was, for Christ’s sake! Why do you think he really wanted to keep him?”

Mark saw Tyranitar’s eyes flick open at the mention of him. “What do you mean?”

“It’s not the War I’m worried about,” Chaletwo muttered, and Mark suddenly understood.

“You think he’ll… do something to Volcaryu?”

Chaletwo didn’t respond.

“So?” May said in a spectacular moment of insensitivity that she could perhaps only partly be blamed for since she didn’t know where the dragons had come from. “I don’t get why you care so much about those things. I mean, from what I can gather they’re psychotic and violent, have been sleeping for the past thousand years, and have had too little waking time since their creation to develop personalities or intelligent thought beyond ‘Kill the other dragons and whatever might get in the way’. And still you seem to care more about them than Suicune, somebody you’ve actually talked to in person and gotten to know and who is not murderous. Seriously, is it just me or are you hiding something?”

I still like how observant May is, although Mark really doesn't need to tell us this is insensitive. Stop telling us how to react to things, Mark.

Mark could feel a sting of pain that was not his own in the back of his mind, and for a moment he felt sorry for Chaletwo, sorry enough to abandon his previous intention to just tell May and Alan that Chaletwo had created the dragons. “I’m sure it’s nothing important,” he said instead, and then realized that for this to work out well in a non-obviously suspicious manner he’d have to propose a change of topic to something more important. “I mean, we’re all here on a quest to try to prevent the War of the Legends, so wouldn’t it be nice to maybe get the details clear on that once and for all now? What do you say?” He immediately liked the idea himself; things about it had been pecking at his curiosity for a while. He looked around the circle.

“That would make sense,” Alan said, and everyone else more or less followed with some sort of agreement. It did make a lot of sense. Now that he thought about it, what they knew was all awfully vague.

This is totally awkward, but at the same time I kind of enjoy that this very necessary conversation only comes about because Mark is trying to change the subject from Chaletwo's feelings about his dragons. It's delightfully me that this is what I came up with to get the characters to talk about the plot.

“I suppose,” said Chaletwo. “I’ll tell you what I know. Just ask.”

“All right,” Mark began. “To start with… the War is caused by something called the Destroyer, which drains the legendaries’ power, right?”

“Yes,” said Chaletwo’s voice.

“What is the Destroyer exactly?”

“Presumably, it’s a legendary Pokémon.”

“Presumably?” May asked sceptically.

“Well, we don’t exactly know much about it,” Chaletwo said. “But the Creator and the Preserver are legendary Pokémon, so it would make sense for the Destroyer to be one as well.”

Obviously, Mew has kept this extremely vague. Chaletwo did state explicitly in chapter 25 that the Destroyer was a Pokémon, though; I guess for the purposes of the story we can suppose he just said that because that's what they presume.

Mark nodded. “Okay. So the Creator…”

“…is the last legendary survivor of the previous War. Some sort of residual energy from the other legendaries settles into the last one when it’s all over. It gives them the power to create living creatures out of inorganic material.”

“Right. What about the Preserver? I’ve been curious about the Preserver for a while, actually. What does the Preserver do? The Creator has the power to create. Do you have some sort of… power to preserve?”

“The Preserver is the first Pokémon that the Creator creates after the War,” Chaletwo replied. “There’s some extra spark of power that the Creator has at that point which is lost afterwards, and that extra spark gives the Preserver the ability to travel through time.”

“So time-travelling is a Preserver thing? Wait, what about Celebi?”

Chaletwo gave a mental shrug. “Time-travelling isn’t that complicated, if you go into that. You can make a time-traveller without that. That extra spark just makes it happen automatically.”

The in-universe reason the Preserver can travel through time is that Arceus designed it so that the Creator and Preserver would always replicate some of the powers of the original Mew and Celebi (who effectively had the roles of the Creator and Preserver originally).

The actual pragmatic reasoning for the Preserver being given time travel has always been sort of shaky, though - why does the Presever particularly need that over any of a number of other powers that could theoretically be useful to safeguard life on the planet, especially since (as I'll go into in a bit) time travel is ultimately shown as not being very helpful? Obviously, this is one of those things that I did as a kid for silly and arbitrary reasons (Chaletwo can travel through time because that means I can make him only exist for a few seconds a year so he's the rarest Pokémon ever, suck it entrants in Mew's Hangout's fakemon contest) and then became tied to other plot points made up later.

“Could the Creator decide not to use that extra spark in the first creature he creates?”

“I don’t know. Mew didn’t mention it.”

“So Chaletwo,” May began just as Mark was about to go on, “I’ve been wondering. You can travel through time. Why haven’t you just taken all the legendary Pokémon into the future to just after the moment they’d all go mad? Seems a lot easier than trying to capture all of them.”

Chaletwo sighed. “Time-travelling doesn’t work that way. Every living creature belongs to a certain time. If you take someone to a different time, he’ll still be anchored to his own time, and the Destroyer can drain a legendary’s power through that anchor even when the legendary’s physical existence is in some other time. And maintaining that stretch of the anchor requires the time-traveller to put in a steady flow of energy. Basically we’d all continue to get weaker anyway, I’d eventually become too weak to keep us there, and we’d all bounce back just in time to go mad. In short, useless.”

“What about going to the past, then?” May asked. “Altering it somehow so that the War doesn’t happen?”

Chaletwo sighed again. “That only happens in movies. You can’t mess with the past in the real world. You can go to the future from your own time and then back. Celebi has this prescience thing where she feels a calling to appear at some point in the future, but that’s still only actually travelling to the future and she has awfully little control over it all. There’s no changing the past. I wouldn’t even know what to change if I could.”

The bit about Celebi's prescience is basically there to ensure the fourth Pokémon movie makes sense in the fic's universe (which, you'll recall, is supposed to be compatible with the anime as far as possible - after all, it's got Ash in it). In the movie, Celebi is only seen to travel to the future, but at the end of it, there's a scene where Celebi is dying and a bunch of other Celebi appear and revive it. Since in the fic's universe all legendaries are one-of-a-kind, I explained this as being the same Celebi from different times - but since it can only travel to the future, it'd have to know when to appear before actually experiencing this moment.

I thought this was pretty clever of me, but naturally since then we've had a bunch of Shaymin in the eleventh movie, time travel to the past in the twelfth movie, etc., and all in all I've reluctantly had to declare the later movies simply uncanonical in the QftLverse. (I'd already had to reluctantly declare that one anime episode with a baby Lugia uncanonical, once I learned about that.)

“But wait,” Mark said. “Didn’t you say that Chalenor took Mewtwo back in time to be there before the first War? How could Chalenor do that when it was long before Mewtwo’s own time? And how did Mewtwo not just bounce back when Chalenor ran out of power to keep him there?”

There was a long silence. “That is strange,” Chaletwo said at last. “I don’t know why I haven’t thought about that before. Maybe it is possible to take someone from the future back to the time-traveller’s own time, but I’m not sure that would help us any now, especially since I’m not powerful enough to time-travel anymore, anyway.”

It feels sort of weird and handwavy how Chaletwo goes on to say "And I'm not powerful enough to time-travel anymore" here after they've talked a bunch about why the general limitations on time travel mean they can't do this and that. Like, wouldn't that have been a thing to bring up earlier? I think I pretty much wrote that in because I didn't want this to lead to some sort of time travel experimentation, which would kind of be a logical thing to do with this mystery established, but I could have written it in earlier in the conversation. Sometimes I stuck a bit too closely to just writing down how the simulated conversation was playing out in my head.

“What about how Mewtwo didn’t bounce back, then?”

“I don’t know. Maybe some other power came into it somehow, but I don’t know what it could be.”

Our first mystery! It turns out, of course, that what was taken back in time was Mewtwo's body, but not Mewtwo's soul (the thing actually anchored to his own time, hence why this limitation applies to living creatures specifically). I had them discuss a couple of red herring theories here, but I already knew the real answer.

So that's a pretty funny story. Sometime in... probably 2005 or early 2006, a certain author on Serebii read TQftL and talked to me about it on MSN Messenger. He was a fan of Mewtwo, and he wanted to tell me that he was very unhappy about the bit in my fanfic where Mewtwo just gets brought back in time and then unceremoniously killed a thousand years ago. Put on the spot by this displeased reader, with no idea how to justify to him why I'd treat one of his favorite Pokémon so disgracefully, I think I told him some vague nonsense about how not all is as it seems, and Mewtwo isn't really dead. I quickly decided that Mewtwo didn't get brought back in time at all - it was just a copy of Mewtwo's body! And then later in the fic I could have Mewtwo appear and reveal this! And this dude would be happy! Brilliant!

Only Chaletwo had explicitly told us about how Chalenor had brought Mewtwo back in time because he wanted to see Chalenor's time. The only explanation, if that wasn't actually true, was that Mew must have lied to Chaletwo about it. (I knew Chaletwo wasn't lying; I had a strong sense of who he was as a character, and he was honest and very bad at hiding things even if he wanted to. Mew, on the other hand...)

I think this, a disgruntled reader complaining about me killing off Mewtwo, probably prompted my first reexamination of what happened there, my first actual critical look into whether Mew might not have been entirely truthful about the little we knew about the events prior to the last War. All in all, the whole real plot might never have come about if not for that. For this, I'll always be grateful to this reader. I've omitted his name here so as not to embarrass him, but if by some slim chance you're reading this, thank you.

This does mean that yes, I constructed the time travel mechanics with this in mind, not the other way around. Nailing down the time travel mechanics was mostly a matter of figuring out how to place enough hard limitations on what could be done with time travel to not leave a bunch of glaringly easy loopholes out of the entire plot, while still allowing for the established fact of Mewtwo's body ending up where it could be used to make Chaletwo. Only allowing time travel to the future solved a lot of headaches, and the thing about living things being anchored to their own time not only closed plot holes but allowed for a fun way for the characters to figure out something was off about the Mewtwo story, once I'd realized it was only his body.

Ultimately, though, even with these quite narrow restrictions, I also later ended up just making it something that's generally discouraged; Mew's little trip into the future pre-War is the only time that time travel is actually used in the fic, and he uses it pretty much against his better judgement. Essentially, while you can travel into the future, the fact that the knowledge you gained by doing so can affect your own actions results in a potential for paradoxes (suppose, for instance, that you travel five minutes into the future and observe a rock in a certain location, without touching it; then you go back and move the rock somewhere else, and then wait for five minutes). The solution to those paradoxes here is: it's possible that you can steer the timeline onto a different path and the precise future that you saw won't happen, but it usually does, and attempts to change the course of the timeline for the better in some substantial way tend to have unpredictable consequences. Preservers have gone off the deep end trying to use knowledge gained through time travel to effect significant changes on their timeline; by this point, it's basically strongly advised that you don't use time travel to try to achieve specific goals. I'd like to develop this better in the next revision, and have Chaletwo actually talk about it - it's not in here at all because I hadn't thought it that far at this stage, and this ends up only being implied by Mew's "no matter what they said about time travel" in chapter 76.

Mark took a deep breath. The sudden realization that the situation was ripe with mysteries not even Chaletwo knew the answer to was extremely disconcerting, and suddenly everything seemed a lot more hopeless than it had when he’d been picking up the Ultra Ball containing Volcaryu. But this was only all the more reason to want to find out more.

“So what does the Preserver do exactly again?”

Chaletwo actually paused for a couple of seconds. “Mew says the Preserver has the role of being a guardian of life. Some crap like that.”

Chaletwo totally doesn't feel like his role doesn't really mean anything. I suppose Mew's explanation never managed to sound all that convincing.

“But that’s just an arbitrary role, isn’t it?” Mark protested. “I mean, why are you, or whoever the Creator creates first, the Preserver? Sure, you can automatically time-travel, but I don’t get why that should make you more of a ‘preserver’ than anyone else. Isn’t there anything else that makes you special?”

“Well. Yes,” Chaletwo said hesitantly. He paused for a moment while everyone looked expectantly at Mark and then sighed. “You know how legendary Pokémon are immortal, in the sense that they don’t age or reproduce, but can be killed if their body is destroyed like any other living creature?”

An uncomfortable flash of pulling Suicune’s limp, cold paw to drag the body against dew-coated grass struck Mark’s mind and he felt a sting of pain in his heart at the thought. “Yes, I think we’re all pretty clear on that.”

“Well, the Creator and the Preserver, Mew and I, are true immortals.”

A few seconds passed in stunned silence.

“Meaning… what exactly?” Mark asked slowly.

“Meaning that you could hack away at me with a chainsaw for however long you liked, and the tissue would heal faster than you’d be able to tear through it. It would be painful as all hell, but I’d be fine afterwards.”

That sure is a way to describe it.

The specific way it's described as the tissue just healing immediately kind of opens a lot of loopholes - like, what about if you just plain embedded an axe in his chest and didn't take it out, how's the tissue going to regenerate to fix that? Maybe it regenerates with enough force to push it out, but then what if you, like, impaled him on a ten-foot pole - how would the regeneration get the pole out?

A more foolproof concept of true immortality might involve the body just being completely invulnerable, or that even if you destroy one body a new one will immediately form around the soul, or something like that. I'm pretty sure the actual reason I didn't do the former was just that I definitely wanted it to be possible to hurt them; it goes against my nature to make up characters who can't feel pain. But I may consider fiddling with how this works in the next revision, one way or another.

This took a while to digest.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Mark muttered at last and shook his head. “Then there would be two survivors of the War of the Legends, since neither of you can die.”

“Remember that the Destroyer drains away all our powers before the War of the Legends. He gets this as well, just before the end. During the War we’ll be as mortal as the other legendaries.” He paused. “Awfully depressing, being immortal except at just about the only time you’re likely to die.”

Describing it as "awfully depressing" just sounds far too casual.

There's an inconsistency here: Chaletwo makes it sound like the true immortality is the very last thing that they'd lose - but Chaletwo ends up mortal when the War does happen, even though he's been in a Pokéball for a bit and still has the power to, for example, teleport. If it were possible to just keep a true immortal in a ball until the War happens and that'd mean they stay truly immortal during the War, though, that would just be another thing leading to a way too easy loophole. True immortals should just inherently lose their true immortality during the War regardless of the power drain effect itself. (Chalenor's true immortality would not be affected by this stipulation, of course - but he loses it anyway when the pulse takes too much of his power.)

Mark shook his head again to clear it. “Okay, this is a bit surprising to find out now, but it doesn’t seem to be of much importance here, so let’s just go on. I’m wondering… can the Destroyer still drain the legendaries’ power when they’ve already been caught?”

“No,” Chaletwo replied. “Or rather, he can drain mine, because I’m anchored to you, which allows him to get to me, but presuming the other legendaries don’t have anchors within the world, which they generally wouldn’t, he won’t be draining theirs. And of course, when I feel that my power has almost run out, I’ll cut the connection to you so that the Destroyer can’t make me mad through that anchor.”

“Wait, so you’re letting your power be drained because you’re in Mark’s head?” May asked.

“Well, yes,” Chaletwo said. “That’s pretty necessary. I need to be able to talk to you guys when I need to, and this is the only way that’s possible. I’d lost too much power already for it to be that much of a loss, and besides, I can act as a clock now, since as I said, I’ll feel it when the War is drawing closer. This is why Molzapart hasn’t been talking to you – he’s not anchored to your brain, although of course he was also pretty powerless before anyway.”

Yup, totally not because Molzapart was embarrassing, Chaletwo definitely didn't originally say they might both talk to him from time to time

“Right,” Mark said, realizing with bemusement that he had never really thought about why Molzapart wasn’t in his head too. “So when the Destroyer has drained the power of all the legendaries, what happens exactly?”

“The Destroyer emits some kind of pulse of energy, containing all the power of the legendary Pokémon doubled. This power flows directly back into the legendaries and is split evenly between them, and receiving such a large amount of power so suddenly basically drives them into a trancelike mental state focused on nothing but getting all that power out through destruction. They destroy everything, especially one another, until only one of them stands left, who then, as I said, receives this residual energy, which apparently causes them to lose consciousness for a time, and when they wake up they’ve gotten their sanity back as well as the power of the Creator.”

Mark nodded. “So there’s a new Creator and Preserver after every War? What about the Destroyer? If he’s a legendary Pokémon, does he die during the War too? If he does, then how does he come into existence afterwards? Could he be something like the second Pokémon created by the Creator or something? Is he a true immortal as well?”

“I don’t know the answer to any of that,” Chaletwo responded irritably; Mark got the feeling that Chaletwo hated admitting to himself how little he knew. “But it would make the most sense if he were one of the legendaries and a true immortal, I suppose. Of course, I really hope not.”

“Why?” Alan asked. “If we knew who he was, then we could get to the root of the problem, couldn’t we?”

“Well, yes, except that then you’d have to battle something that’s considerably more powerful than all of the legendary Pokémon of today put together. He’s been draining their power for nearly a thousand years, after all. Which is why it worries me, because if the Destroyer is one of the legendary Pokémon, you’ll most likely be confronting him at some point thinking he’s just another legendary and getting a nasty surprise when he kills all of you with the flick of a claw. The best we could do would be to figure out who the Destroyer is beforehand and then know who you don’t want to be battling. Of course, he might also be a legendary whose existence has escaped everyone until now.”

It's kind of a shame I didn't do more with this thing about them worrying one of the legendaries they've yet to confront might be the Destroyer, although it was of course mostly here as a red herring.

“But if the Destroyer is one of the legendaries,” Alan asked, “what happens to him during the War of the Legends? Does he send his own power off to the other legendaries, making him powerless?”

“Look, I really don’t know. It’s pointless to ask me questions about the Destroyer. I don’t know anything about him, and neither does anyone else. I asked Mew much of the same stuff when I was young and he just shook his head and said he didn’t know.”

Look at me making a point of how all this information comes from Mew specifically.

“But,” May said, “if we do catch all the legendary Pokémon – what’s going to happen to that pulse of energy? Do you even know? What if it just goes back to the Destroyer, drives him mad and makes him go on a rampage? All we’ll have done will be pointless, and the world ends anyway.”

Chaletwo was silent for a few moments, which Mark found very unsettling.

“It’s the best chance we’ve got,” the legendary said quietly at last, and the hopeless manner in which he said it made a cold shiver run down Mark’s spine.

There were a few seconds of more stunned silence.

“Well, isn’t that a cheery thought,” May said. “We’re on an impossibly dangerous quest to catch all of the legendary Pokémon so that we can perhaps, maybe, if we’re really lucky and pulses of legendary power really do just vanish into thin air, save the world.”

“It isn’t quite that bad,” Chaletwo said quickly. “I mean, maybe the pulse finds normal Pokémon instead when there are no legendary Pokémon, and it would be spread between so many that none of them would gain enough power to go mad like that. Or maybe…”

“Wait, wait, wait,” Mark said, rubbing his forehead and thinking hard. “How does it… ‘know’ that there’s only one legendary Pokémon left?”

Everyone looked at Mark while Chaletwo considered it.

“I… don’t know. That’s an interesting thought. Where are you going with this?”

“So let’s assume the Destroyer does normally die in the War of the Legends. Maybe, if we catch all the legendary Pokémon in time and the power returns to the Destroyer… the War is technically over, because there’s only one legendary Pokémon that has all the power of the others, including that… residual energy you talked about. And the Destroyer becomes the new Creator, and everybody lives, and we won’t have to worry about this for at least another thousand years.”

“Sounds awfully optimistic to me,” May said, but everyone else was quite happy with a bit of optimism and Mark could see the Pokémon’s faces light up with hope. Funny how the very same quest that had felt impossible before suddenly seemed easy when put into perspective with the other dreadful possibilities in the situation.

“That… makes a lot of sense,” Chaletwo said thoughtfully. “It’s just speculation, of course, and we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves, but I think it’s good speculation. We stick to the plan, then. Get all the legendary Pokémon, hope we don’t attack the Destroyer himself, and then hope for the best… it sounds pretty good.”

I kind of think this should probably be Chaletwo's assumption before they start. Surely they should have some kind of actual workable model of how they think this is all going to work out. They still don't actually know that the Destroyer would count, and we'd learn that at some point, but here it sounds like Molzapart and Chaletwo have just never thought very hard about all this.

The reality, of course, is that not only does the Destroyer not count, Pokéballs don't actually 'fool' the War in this regard. Mewtwo² was the only legendary left, but he would have remained mad until he had actually killed every other legendary, destroying the soul gems and Pokéballs that they were held in - as Mew mentions in chapter 75, legendaries have tried to escape it before. It would've been common knowledge in the past.

Would it have worked if every legendary had truly been inside a ball/in a soul gem? I'm inclined to think the legendaries must have tried that sometime while Chalenor was alive, and as May suggested earlier, the pulse of energy just found him again and forced him to rampage and destroy every legendary soul gem but one; Arceus wouldn't have left a loophole that easy. But of course, this time around, with Chalenor not actually being there to rampage - Mew was genuinely unsure if this might work, and maybe it would have, though he kind of convinced himself that no, there's no way to escape the War, nothing could possibly work, Arceus saw to it.

“Well, not attacking the Destroyer himself is a pretty big point, isn’t it?” Alan said. “We’d have to try to make sure that each legendary we attack is not the Destroyer first. What would be the most likely one to be it? What is the second Pokémon that Mew created?”

“Well,” Chaletwo said, “he started with Kanto’s legendaries and then went on to the other regions, and the trios were created first, so…”

“Articuno,” Mark finished quietly, and his heart seemed to sink into a bottomless pit.

Alan shook his head. “Okay, I think it’s been enough speculation for today. We’ve got our goals clear, and that’s the most important thing. The next legendary we’re going for is Polaryu, right? Champion Island?”

If they've got a theory on this, though, shouldn't they be, say, trying to make sure the other legendary hunters don't obliviously approach Articuno? After all, Mary does end up catching Articuno without ever hearing their Destroyer theory; surely that could've been disastrous. It definitely warrants more thought than just "Well, that's enough talking for tonight." Obviously the real reason they don't do much with it is just that I knew it's a red herring, but the characters don't.

“Yes.”

“So to get to him as quickly as possible, we should get to sleep so that we can head on to Acaria City early tomorrow. And sleep might clear out our heads a little and give us more good ideas, right? Pokémon, you can be outside of your balls.”

There were murmurs of agreement and everyone prepared to go to sleep. Mark sighed, got his sleeping bag from the pile, unrolled it on the ground and crawled into it to lie down on his side. He saw that May was already in hers with her eyes closed, just next to where Tyranitar was still lying silently awake and watching him.

He would have found it creepy if his mind hadn’t been too occupied by the thought that his second favourite Pokémon that he had spent countless battling classes sketching up on the back of his schoolwork might after all be the creature bringing about the end of the world.

I sure really wanted you to believe in this Articuno thing.

Looking back on this chapter, it covers surprisingly little. It explains the time travel mechanics, establishes the Mewtwo mystery, and goes over the mechanics of anchors/the power drain/true immortality/the way the Creator and Preserver are assigned - all of which is good and important information to establish, but it is missing a lot of stuff.

In particular, Chalenor is barely mentioned in this chapter - only very briefly in relation to the Mewtwo time travel thing. I expect I didn't want to talk too much about him here in the chapter that's obviously establishing stuff that will be relevant to the plot, for fear of making it too straightforward to guess he might be the Destroyer somehow - but I think one of the biggest flaws in the larger plot of this story is how little Chalenor is talked about, in general. He's brought up as part of the backstory in 25, then barely brushed past here while addressing some of that backstory, then Chaletwo mentions once in chapter 52 that he thinks Mew was down after the previous War because of Chalenor's death - and then it's just chapters 74-77. Outside the story, it was always pretty easy to tell Chalenor was somehow important (he was the lone Pokémon featured on the fic's banner on Serebii, and I just generally kept drawing and talking about him an awful lot), and readers would speculate on him, but a reader just reading the actual story straight through could easily be forgiven for forgetting who he was supposed to be entirely in between these fleeting mentions. Obviously that's a problem! I think the amount of meta talk about Chalenor as I wrote the story tricked me into feeling like I'd written him to be a lot more prominent than I actually had, and that's one of my biggest regrets here - he's barely present in the story until the moment he suddenly turns out to be who the entire plot hinges on.

Part of the issue, though, is also that since this was serially published over the course of years, that created a different sort of dynamic around the plot's twists and turns than in your average novel: if something like Chalenor being the Destroyer had been significantly foreshadowed and telegraphed to a point where an average reader could be reasonably expected to be able to come up with it and piece it together with some confidence as they read, everyone would have so long to figure it out and discuss it to death that by the time the twist actually happened, it'd be uninteresting and anticlimactic. Where for a work of fiction enjoyed as a whole over a compact period of time, you have a lot of room to make a twist that the reader can figure out and then feel thrilled and satisfied to be right, I think a longer release schedule tends to push twists towards the extremes of either becoming obvious or out of nowhere, unless they strike a very delicate balance. I erred on the side of out of nowhere because once people figured it out with any degree of confidence it couldn't be taken back, and it'd be frustrating as all hell to spend the rest of the story with the characters oblivious when the truth is obvious to the reader. I think I definitely erred too far on that side regardless in the end, but I felt this constant awareness that if I ever stepped too far in hinting or foreshadowing anything, I could ruin it in a way that I wouldn't if this were a novel published in one piece. Maybe now that the cat's out of the bag with this version anyway, I could relax a bit more on it with the next one.

Either way, I wouldn't want to just infodump about Chalenor in the plot recap chapter, of course - but I would want to have Chaletwo spend a lot more time throughout the story offhandedly mentioning Chalenor, stuff that Mew had told him about Chalenor, subtly conveying his own feelings of inferiority next to how highly Mew thought of Chalenor. We should properly hear about Chaletwo's understanding of who Chalenor was and Mew's feelings towards him. Heck, Chaletwo should talk more about Mew in general. This chapter could be just another chapter where, in the process of talking about being the Preserver, or what Mew has told him about the War, he mentions stuff about Chalenor.

Some of this stuff also should probably be established from the moment Chaletwo recruits Mark, though - the only reason it wasn't in chapter 25 was that I hadn't properly worked any of this out at that stage. I'll see about exactly how I structure how all this information is revealed in the next revision; having a chapter like this one clearing things up fourteen chapters after they're recruited is pretty awkward.

The chapter plan for this chapter said Chapter 39: Group heads out to Route 315, camp on the way, discuss what they actually know and don’t know about the War of the Legends. Still accurate. These will definitely get less so as we go on.

With this chapter done, we're halfway through the fic by chapter count, counting the prologue as a chapter! It feels like a pretty appropriate halfway point, establishing what we have to work with from here. As a chapter it's not great - just a bunch of awkwardish infodumping, really. But it does represent a shift towards some far more confident plotting and actual intentional foreshadowing, and I'll be thrilled to move on to the second half of the fic!


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