The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

Chapter 41: Return to Scorpio City

Mark and May returned to the Pokémon Center the next morning after breakfast to retrieve their Pokémon while Alan checked them all out of the trainer hotel where they’d been staying through the night.

Nurse Joy handed May her Pokéballs and then turned to Mark with a frown. “You’re the one with the Letal, aren’t you?” she asked disapprovingly, thrusting five Pokéballs into his hand.

“What? Is she okay?” Mark was puzzled; he had never really heard of Nurse Joy being grumpy before.

“No, she is not okay!” the nurse responded angrily, almost shouting. A few people who were waiting looked their way to see what was going on. “I could heal her wounds, but she’s severely overworked. Do you think that just because you have a Letal that’s close to evolution you can make her go on fighting for however long you like even when she’s dropping down with exhaustion?”

“What?” Mark repeated in disbelief. “She… she wanted to evolve! She asked me not to recall her!”

“You trainers are all the same, trying to blame the Pokémon,” the nurse said fiercely. “She’s young. An overgrown child. She doesn’t know her own limits. Would you let her jump off a cliff if she thought she could fly?”

“No, but…”

“You took her away from her parents wherever you caught her. You need to come in their place and show some responsibility. No good trainer would let her keep fighting in the kind of state she’s in.”

Mark blushed, feeling eyes on him all around. “I’m sorry, but is she going to be all right?”

The nurse gave him a disapproving glare. “Oh, sure, but Pokémon that try to evolve when they don’t have the energy go into a state of hormone and energy overdrive and it can have lasting effects. She might never be able to evolve now.”

Mark stared at her, dumbfounded. She looked at him with resentful satisfaction. “That gets to you, doesn’t it? No Letaligon for you? Well, it’s about fifty-fifty, and I hope that bad fifty teaches you not to let your Pokémon overwork themselves whichever way it goes.”

“So,” Mark began carefully, “can I, uh… have her back?” He gestured vaguely at the unoccupied space on his Pokéball belt, feeling worse by the minute.

“We have to keep her for the rest of today,” Nurse Joy said, her tone of voice making it apparent she would really rather not give Letal back to him at all. “You can get the nurse wherever you’re at this evening to transfer her over.”

“Okay,” he said, turning back around, determined to get out of there as soon as possible. “Thanks. Let’s go, May.”

“Well,” May commented as the automatic doors closed behind them, gesturing back towards the building, “somebody’s in a bad mood today.”

“She had a point,” Mark mumbled, still in a bit of a shock. He had never been called a bad trainer before – not bad in this sense, anyway. “I should’ve recalled her anyway.”

“Oh, come on, Mark,” May said irritably. “What if you had? She’d have hated you for weeks, we’d never have found out it was actually dangerous to let her fight that long, and she’d have found some other opportunity to do something stupid. Letal overestimated herself; here’s an experience to teach her that she has limits. That’s how people learn things. How will she ever grow up if you just take on the role of an overprotective mom?” She threw him a sideways glance. “And you’d spend a couple of days sulking about how horrible and evil you are to your Pokémon since you recalled her when she didn’t want it. Why are you making a big deal of this? I mean, it sucks both for her and for you if she loses the ability to evolve, but if that happens it’s her fault, and if you start beating yourself up about it I think I’ll have to slap you.”

Mark wasn’t sure he should be listening to her opinion about Pokémon abuse of all things, but his subconscious mind apparently didn’t care and just eagerly jumped at the opportunity for some justification. Despite himself, he couldn’t help feeling a little better.

But whoever was at fault, he didn’t want to imagine how Letal would react if she were told she would never evolve after all this effort to do so. Although she had never said it straight out, she had been implying for a while now that she wanted to return to Ruxido once she evolved to her final form, and he had after all caught her on the condition that she would go back once he had ‘made her strong’. To her, the entire experience of going with Mark, all her disturbing and unconventional battling methods and the way that she overworked herself and battled longer than she ought to, had been aiming towards this one goal, and now she would perhaps never reach it. She would take the news badly, but how badly? Request immediate release and go back to Ruxido, never to overcome her father? Become a lone wild Letal somewhere else? Decide in her shame to stay with him for good but lose all her enthusiasm now that she had no goal to strive towards?

And as much as he hated having the thought at just this moment, he had really wished she’d be a Letaligon by the time he got to the League. A lot of trainers had them, seeing as Leta were far easier to find than Pokémon like Dratini, Bagon or Larvitar but similarly powerful in their final stage, but unlike them, he also had a Dragonair who would possibly evolve before or during the League. That would have given him somewhat of an advantage to make up for not being as knowledgeable about attacks and abilities as somebody like May was. While there were unevolved pseudo-legendaries in the League, they were usually particularly enthusiastic fighters who were either looking forward to an upcoming evolution or had made a conscious choice to remain in this form – Letal would be neither.

He had the fleeting thought that maybe he could release her even if she didn’t request it so that he could catch some other Pokémon and train it up instead, but shuddered at the thought and pushed it out of his head. That was something May would think, not him.

They didn’t know yet whether Letal would be able to evolve or not, anyway; perhaps Letal wouldn’t take it too badly as long as she knew she might still evolve as normal. Perhaps it would even make her more determined. Hadn’t he heard about a psychological experiment at some point where the most effective method of getting someone to perform a repeated activity was to make the activity give rewards only sometimes and then randomly? It would be kind of similar in principle.

He wasn’t sure he liked where his mind was going with this and they were stepping into the hotel lobby anyway. Alan was sitting there in a stylish purple sofa reading a newspaper, the kids’ bags lying on the floor beside him.

“Hey, Alan,” May said as she picked hers up and hoisted it onto her shoulders; Alan looked up, closed the newspaper and placed it on the low table in front of him. “Shall we get going?”

Mark picked up his bag as well. “They say there’s going to be a storm in the afternoon,” Alan said as he stood up, indicating the folded newspaper on the table. “We should probably get to Scorpio City and then wait it off there. Probably stay the night.”

May shrugged. “Fine by me. I want to find myself a Mutark anyway, so more time around Scorpio City is great. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to find one, even with Tyranitar out.”

“Sounds fine to me too,” Mark said, but lightly prodded at Chaletwo in his head for approval.

“Now that I can concentrate on only one dragon who was too far away to feel anything through his sleep when we were fighting the other two, we’re not in that much of a hurry to get to Polaryu,” the legendary Pokémon replied. “I’ve got him covered for now. Staying one night somewhere won’t hurt.”

They walked out of the Pokémon Center and back onto the boring Route 315, but soon took a left turn down a steep, rocky hill to be faced with Route 317. It was an overall upwards slope with a rough road heading straight ahead; the landscape on the sides was rather bland, consisting of rugged, moss-covered rocks with some grass in between. There was a flock of Pidgey looking at them from a short distance away.

“So Mutark are around here…” May muttered, grabbing a Pokéball from her necklace. “Tyranitar, go!”

The white light that came out of the ball materialized into the shape of the green dinosaur, who looked around for an opponent but found none; the flock of Pidgey took off towards the south with startled shrieks. He turned to May.

“Just walk with us,” she said. “Supposedly just you being here will help get the Mutark out.”

Tyranitar nodded and walked along with the group, which made Mark notice that the Ninetales, whom he had grown accustomed to seeing trotting by May’s side, was missing.

“Where’s Spirit?”

“Hm? Oh, I figured having a Pokémon out could scare the Mutark away. I mean, having a Dark-type out attracts them for some reason, but other Pokémon could just weigh against that.”

Mark shrugged. He looked briefly at some rocks by the roadside and could have sworn he saw yellow eyes blink in the darkness underneath one of them.

“I think you’re attracting them already.”

She stopped and turned; he pointed at the rock. She approached it carefully, peering at the shadows under it for a few seconds.

“Let’s keep walking until one comes out on its own accord,” she said finally. “We can’t dig under the rocks.”

They continued warily, keeping an eye on the shadows. Mark saw a few more pairs of eyes shining in the darkness for a second before they disappeared again. Finally, when they were passing a large rock, the head of a black kitten peeked out from underneath it and walked cautiously towards them, staring at Tyranitar as if in a trance.

Mark was about to point it out, but a glance from May silenced him. He watched it come nearer and nearer as they walked on as if they hadn’t noticed anything. Then suddenly –

“Tyranitar, get it!” May shouted, and the Mutark only had time to freeze in its tracks before the dinosaur Pokémon reached down, picked it up in his jaws and threw it across the road. It let out a shrill, mewling cry as it flew through the air and bounced a few times on the rocky ground. Alan stared at May in horror.

“Oh, come on,” she said, plucking another ball from her Pokéball necklace. “It’s a Dark Pokémon. It only looks like a kitten to fool you.”

She threw the ball into the air. “Butterfree, Sleep Powder!”

As the Mutark rose to its feet and shook its head, the butterfly Pokémon formed in the air and flapped her wings powerfully. Sparkling, green dust drifted down towards the ground; the Mutark looked at it with kittenlike curiosity in its eyes, rose to its hind legs and started batting at it with a paw. Mark couldn’t help finding it adorable, despite knowing what it could turn into, as the Mutark wavered drunkenly on its feet and then collapsed in the grass, fast asleep.

May fished an Ultra Ball out of her pocket and hurled it at the creature. As it made contact, the catlike form turned a translucent red and was drawn into the ball.

The black and yellow Pokéball wobbled on the ground and then stilled with a ping.

May frowned as she walked towards it. “That was too easy,” she said. “It’s probably low-leveled.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Alan said immediately.

“Yes, I know, I know,” May said irritably. She held her Pokédex up to the ball.

“Mutark, kitten Pokémon,” said the electronic voice of the device. “These Dark Pokémon have the peculiarity of growing in both size and ferocity when they taste their own blood. They hunt in groups after harming one another sufficiently to grow to the desired size to deal with their prey.”

“People still don’t know the exact nature of their transformation when it comes to their personality,” Alan said. “They always act sweet and innocent when they’re in their kitten form. Nobody knows if it’s a conscious deception or if their mind really regresses to an infantile stage while they’re in this form. If it’s the latter, it’s questionable whether it can be considered right to make them battle at all.”

May looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “Interesting,” she said before looking back at her Pokédex. “Female, level sixteen.” She sighed. “Great.”

She sent the Pokéball to the PC, recalled Tyranitar and Butterfree and replaced their balls on her necklace. After a moment of thought, she brought out another one, which Mark initially assumed to be Spirit’s.

“Vibrava, go.”

The antlion Pokémon formed on the ground and looked questioningly at his trainer.

“I’m getting fed up with you being at a lower level than the rest of my team,” she said. “You could have lost me that Gym battle. The Pokémon around here are hopefully something you can handle. I don’t care how long it takes. You’re evolving today.”

“May…” Alan began.

“You keep out of it!” May snapped at him. “What, is it cruel to train your Pokémon now?”

“Maybe Vibrava doesn’t want to evolve or he’s tired.”

“I’m fine,” the Pokémon chimed in, his antennae twitching. “And evolving would be nice.”

May glared at Alan in an I-told-you-so manner and he threw his arms up in defeat. “Fine. Fine. I just thought you should ask. Let’s get going and get to Scorpio City before that storm starts, okay?”

This whole thing kind of killed the mood for any further conversation, and for the rest of their southwards journey up the gentle slope, the only words spoken were May’s snappy commands ordering Vibrava to attack the various wild Pokémon they came across while dark clouds gathered in the sky. At last they reached the highest peak of the mountain on that side and could look directly down into Scorpion Valley, the city below and the stretches of the Black Desert.

“All right,” May said. “You guys can go on. I’m going to train Vibrava until he evolves. I’ll see you at the Pokémon Center later.”

Alan looked doubtfully at her, but didn’t say anything.

“Goodbye, then,” Mark said with a shrug. “See you.”

“Watch out for the storm,” Alan muttered as he followed Mark down the zigzagging path that lay down the steep mountainside. May probably didn’t even hear him.

“She worries me sometimes,” Alan said after a minute or two. “I don’t know what kind of effect her treatment could have on her Pokémon.”

“Effect?” Mark replied without looking around. “Aren’t there a ton of trainers like her out there? I mean, she’s not exactly exemplary, but I can’t see anything she does as being particularly traumatizing. Lapras doesn’t like her for a number of reasons, but all her other Pokémon don’t really seem to mind that much. You saw Vibrava.”

“Well, she’s not that much worse than most wild Pokémon expect trainers to be,” Alan said, “but the image of trainers that an average wild Pokémon has is just a person who’ll guide them in battle, teach them strategies and techniques, help them evolve, take them to new places, heal them between battles and eventually release them. The only reason her Pokémon put up with it is that they weren’t expecting to make a lifelong friend anyway. They’re just in it for the quick training.”

Mark shrugged. “Why can’t they be in it for that? Letal is in it for that, no matter how nice I try to be to her.”

He had intended for it to be just a casual mention, but now that he had reminded himself of Letal’s situation, it was starting to bother him again. The fact he was now alone with Alan made it worse.

“Well, at least you are nice to her,” Alan replied. “You don’t call her stupid or useless or decide without asking her that you’re going to evolve her.”

Mark was going to ask Alan’s opinion on whether he should have kept Letal out or not, but somehow it just came out as, “Letal might never evolve now.”

“What? Why?”

“She was too exhausted in the Gym battle for the evolution to happen. She just glowed and then it faded again and she collapsed. Nurse Joy said she was in hormonal overdrive or something and this could screw up her chances of evolution for good.”

“How’d she ever get that worn out?” Alan asked, sounding genuinely puzzled. “I mean, I’ve heard of it happening, but the Pokémon needs to be literally dying of exhaustion.”

“It amazed me too,” Mark just said, looking back at Alan. “She was fighting for longer than any other Pokémon in that battle. There was a point where she seemed to be about to drop down and I was going to recall her, but she refused. She got up like three times when she should have fainted and just kept going. And then that… I think it was after Diana’s Tyranitar threw her into a wall.”

Alan shook his head. “She shouldn’t have kept going that long. It’s crazy. You know that Pokémon evolved fainting as a precaution to prevent them from inflicting life-threatening injuries on one another in a friendly fight? It’s like a switch in their head – in one mode they’ll automatically fall unconscious given a certain level of pain or injury, and in the other they’ll fight to the death. Normally they couldn’t switch it voluntarily even if they tried, but she did it. She could have died.”

This did not help Mark feel better at all. “Nurse Joy told me off for not recalling her anyway. She said I should have known better than to let her do that to herself.”

Alan looked at him for a second, considering it. They were almost down to the city now. “Well, it’s a bit of a tough situation,” he said finally. “But seeing as you probably didn’t know it was dangerous to her, it’s a bit hard to point to you as the one at fault. She probably didn’t know it either. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just good she’s okay.”

“She’ll be upset if she can’t evolve,” Mark said. “It’s always been really important to her.”

“Well, there’s not much you can do about that if it happens.”

Mark sighed as they stepped down onto the concrete floor of Scorpio City’s main street. “I think I’m going to check on the Gym and talk to Mitch if I can. Can you get rooms for us?”

“Sure,” Alan replied with a shrug and headed towards the Pokémon Center as Mark continued along the main street. The Gym building was on the right close to the entrance into the desert; it was a simple single-storey concrete building painted deep purple with GYM on the front in large, white letters. The memory of himself seeing that building for the first time, scared out of his wits with May lying unconscious beside him, popped into his head. And as if just to creep him out, the moment he turned around he found the silver-haired Gym leader standing there just as he had that fateful evening. Mark jumped, not having expected to see him there.

“Hello, Mark,” Mitch said softly.

“I wanted to talk,” Mark said, feeling the questions try to burst out of his brain now that Mitch was actually standing in front of him.

The Gym leader nodded. “Let’s go inside. They say a storm is coming on.”

The two of them entered the Gym building; Mark experienced another déjà vu seeing the three corridors leading from the small entrance hall and knew that they were going to the right. They stepped through the wooden door into the tidy living room with the navy-and-gold carpet and sat down in two of the three brown leather couches surrounding the small coffee table. It was all almost bizarrely familiar; he couldn’t believe what a short time it had been since he had last been there, fearing for May’s life.

“So,” Mitch said, one hand rubbing his chin as he kept to his old habit of looking up while he talked instead of at the person he was speaking to. “You wanted to talk to me.”

“How do you know all that stuff?”

Mitch gave him a sideways glance. “What stuff?”

“We were at the Acaria City Gym yesterday. Victor was there. He told us you’d told him I was alive and Chaletwo had plans for me. I knew you’d seen me alive back in Ruxido, but even then you were there like you’d been expecting me. And I never told you anything about Chaletwo.”

Mitch rubbed his forehead. “It’s all a bit hard to explain.”

“Well, do it anyway,” Mark said, finding his temper rising suddenly. “Because to be honest, this is freaking me out. And in Ruxido you distracted me with some stuff about biology before I had the sense to ask.”

The Gym leader chuckled. “Sorry. It wasn’t meant as a distraction.”

Mark didn’t respond. He just waited. Mitch glanced at him and took a few deep breaths.

“Ever since Scorplack stung me that day, I’ve had these feelings. I don’t know much. They’re never specific. The first time I saw you and May, I felt like there was something wrong. I saw you die at the Pokémon Festival and had an immediate feeling Chaletwo had done it because he needed you for something. I had a feeling I would see you in a particular spot in Ruxido so I went there. That is all I know that has to do with you.”

“What kinds of ‘feelings’ are these?”

Mitch rubbed his eyes with his hands, something about the gesture making him seem like he was very uncomfortable. “They’re hard to describe. It’s like when you look at someone and observe that they’re beautiful or that they have dark hair. But I observe something more that’s not based on what I see.”

Mark looked at him for a few seconds, trying to make sense of this.

“I can teleport,” Mitch suddenly said, his voice almost bitter. “I can affect people’s dreams. I can sense powerful emotions from afar. And I don’t have the faintest idea why.” He held his right hand over his eyes and shook his head. “I think I’m going insane.”

“Why would…” Mark began, but Mitch suddenly looked up, straight into his eyes, and the wild, frantic gaze of his faintly bluish-gray eyes somehow made Mark forget what he was going to say.

“I’ve been having more of these,” Mitch whispered, his eyes shining with uncertainty and fear. “I used to get feelings only occasionally, but now I can’t look at anything without having some bizarre feeling about it. Other people’s emotions keep me awake at night. Am I just finally losing it after the near-death experience? Have you experienced something like this?”

Mark shook his head, stunned, and Mitch broke their eye contact as suddenly as he had begun it. He leant back in his chair with a sigh and looked out the window; it was starting to rain. “Sorry. You’re troubled enough already without me trying to pile all this on you too.”

Mark realized dimly that his anger had completely vanished. In fact, now he felt intensely sorry for Mitch, particularly so because while Mark was also carrying a burden of his own, at least he knew why. Unfortunately he knew no more than Mitch did about the strange powers that were plaguing him.

“I’m sorry,” he said finally in a quiet voice. “I have no idea what’s happening to you.” And then he had an idea that made his heart jump.

Chaletwo? he thought. Have you been listening to all of this?

“Yes,” came the reply. “But I’m afraid I don’t know what’s wrong with him. I don’t know of anything similar happening to anyone. And while I could maybe try to help it if I had more of my strength, I’m pretty useless right now.”

Mitch looked at Mark and he immediately had the feeling the Gym leader knew he had been talking to Chaletwo. But neither of them said anything.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you anything more useful,” Mitch said at last. “You should probably get over to the Pokémon Center until the storm is over.”

Mark nodded and stood up. “Sorry about barging in here and pressing you about all this,” he said. “I hope you… figure it out.”

And with that, Mark left the Gym and ran through the rain towards the warmth of the Pokémon Center.

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