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 Ouen League – Chapter 46: Day One

December 5th, 2008, a bit over two months from chapter 45. This was the final chapter of 2008 and the tenth posted that year (though my New Year's resolution had been to attempt to write ten chapters after chapter 37 which came out January 2nd, so I didn't quite make that).

This was actually originally tacked onto chapter 45 here on the site, and posted on forums as "Chapter 45, Part 2: More Stuff Happens" (referencing the "Stuff Happens" working title of chapter 45). This was because chapter 46 was originally supposed to contain the preliminaries, but once I was a bunch of pages in and hadn't even gotten to the first preliminary yet, I realized this was going to be a nightmarishly long chapter and decided I needed to split this up somehow. However, my beautiful chapter plan had the League finals in chapter 50! I couldn't just add a new chapter here or everything would be ruined! So instead, I figured actually all this stuff before the actual preliminaries could have been part of chapter 45, and that was really short anyway, so I could just grab these eight pages and stick them at the end of chapter 45. It made me sad, because I really enjoyed the opening of this chapter as a chapter opening; it was possibly my favorite chapter opening in the entire fic, and I'd been looking forward to opening a chapter with it for a while. But messing up my League five-chapter arc would've made me even sadder, so I sighed and did it that way.

Later, in April, when I'd finished the first preliminary and written the scenes in between and realized that the chapter had already surpassed chapter 37 in length and the second preliminary battle hadn't even started, I realized that actually, I really needed to split up this monster chapter again. More importantly, I realized that actually, having chapter 50 be Mark and May's battle instead of the finals kind of made sense - the labeled League arc would then cover Mark's League challenge from beginning to end. So I went back, made "Chapter 45, Part 2" into chapter 46, and posted the first preliminary as chapter 47.

It does bug me a little that this means this chapter is officially part of the League arc, the second of the fic's specially-labeled five chapter arcs, but there's not really any real non-arbitrary reason this one qualifies as part of the League arc and chapter 45 doesn't - they both take place at the League HQ but before it properly begins. There's even a timeskip between this chapter and the next. With the original plan it really would have been neater. But oh well.

Dear Participant MARK GREENLET,

Your GYARADOS has been measured at highly abnormal power levels for its species and experience.

As the standard examination of your Pokémon did not reveal any direct evidence of the use of illegal devices, substances or methods, you will not be disqualified from participation; however, to ensure the fairness of the League, you will regrettably have to be barred from using this Pokémon in League battles.

Best wishes,
The Elite Four

And that's my favorite chapter opening. I don't think anyone was as enthused about this as I was, but I still love this form letter wherein the League does not account for Pokémon being chosen by legendaries and instead thinks illegal drugs may have been involved. Something about this just exactly tickles some particular facet of my sense of humour.

I was planning this for quite a while; I can't recall exactly when I thought of it, but it must have been after chapter 22, or I would hardly have done the Attack Approval like I did. On the other hand, this was in the chapter plan, and I know this wasn't one of the bits I made up on the spot while writing the chapter plan, so it was at least a while before chapter 37. Sometime in between these two points, I realized the League would totally notice Gyarados and Spirit being more powerful than they're supposed to be, and... I don't remember exactly how my thought process went from there, but either way I ended up with the idea of them getting these letters disqualifying them, and this was so deeply amusing to me that it became one of the big things I looked forward to writing in the League chapters.

“You got one too, huh?” May asked as she laid a bowl of cornflakes down on the table opposite Mark, her other hand waving a sloppily reclosed envelope. He put the letter down on the table beside his bacon and scrambled eggs while she sat down. He’d read the thing at least five times over since he had found it lying on the floor below the door to his room in a decorative envelope in the morning, and he still couldn’t really get his brain to make proper sense of it.

“Why just disqualify Gyarados?” he muttered. “I mean, if I’d trained him with illegal drugs, shouldn’t I be disqualified altogether?”

May shrugged. “They wouldn’t be able to prove it was you, per se. You could have gotten him off another trainer who did it, or somebody could have laced his food with something to get you disqualified, or something like that. If you don’t admit to it and the Pokémon doesn’t admit to it, they can’t show that you deserve the blame.”

“And if nobody did anything illegal? How is it fair to disqualify him?”

“Well, presumably they wouldn’t call it ‘highly abnormal’ and start sending out letters if it could be achieved through legal methods.”

“We didn’t do anything illegal.”

“What, do you think we should go and try to explain to them that they were touched by the legendary beasts and granted special powers? They wouldn’t exactly have that registered as a legal way of strengthening a Pokémon.”

Mark shrugged. In a way, he was glad he’d gotten that letter; now he had the perfect excuse to refrain from using Gyarados in the League while he got over the Suicune incident. He was really only arguing on principle.

I wish I'd conveyed that discomfort more before this point.

“I wonder if they tried to remove Spirit’s necklace to see if it was some sort of an illegal power-up,” May mused to herself. “I’d pay to see her reaction to that.”

I bet she did react poorly. I do love May knowing that; little lines like this convey their relationship in a way that I really didn't do enough of.

“They also sent me a notice about Charizard,” Mark said. “How he was formally registered to another trainer and how while he had confirmed he wasn’t stolen, unofficial trades were frowned upon by the League and the trading machines available in every Pokémon Center should always be used to prevent misunderstandings, yada yada.”

“Huh,” May responded in bemusement. “Then what did Quilava tell them when they asked her, if Taylor still had her?”

Quilava, of course, hadn't been with May very long at all and May had been very cold towards her - and as far as she ever knew, they genuinely just did do an unofficial trade that May was all for. (It was only after Taylor had left with Quilava, after all, that May realized Charmander was level five - and whether that makes Quilava count as 'stolen' in the first place is pretty questionable.) So Quilava had no real reason to think she was not in fact supposed to be Taylor's now. May doesn't think it that far from Quilava's point of view.

Quilava absolutely could have complained about never being sent out, though. She is pretty quiet and can accept a lot, but the potential for literally being stuck in a ball for years kind of should be something you'd say something about.

(Look at the world now actually sensibly involving asking the Pokémon if they're stolen, though.)

Mark shrugged and looked up, catching a glimpse of the TV screen on the wall above the buffet, behind May. The morning news was on; he wouldn’t have been interested except for the fact that the all-too-familiar eerie pupilless eyes of Mewtwo² were staring at him from the picture on the anchorwoman’s right. May was beginning to say something, but he silenced her with a wave of his hand and pointed at the television.

I really should have written this like Mark's shocked or having some sort of emotional reaction to seeing this, as opposed to merely being "interested".

The coincidence of there being news relevant to Mark two days in a row is kind of amazing, but both make sense happening around now.

“…meanwhile, public outcry continues as Ouen League officials persist in ignoring fierce protests to the unprecedented decision to permit the entrance of illegal superpowered clone Pokémon forcibly controlled by modified Pokéballs into the League. Many groups have expressed their confusion, pointing out the generally rigorous efforts of the League to ensure that participating Pokémon have not been subjected to questionable training methods or power-ups, and several individuals and organizations have accused the League of taking bribes, while a petition against the decision has already gathered over three hundred thousand signatures from all over the world. Allen Brown of the Pokémon Rights Advocacy Group, who started the petition, had this to say.”

Mark stared at the screen as they cut to an interview with a man who looked every bit as baffled as he was.

“This is ridiculous,” the man said. “Ridiculous. There are at least three things about this that are plainly illegal, and it spits on virtually every policy the League has. I cannot believe what they are doing. If this is allowed to pass, we must seriously think about whether our government has become corrupt.”

What even is that last sentence, who says that in that way. I hate that sentence so much that before I reread this chapter it was like "Oh boy, this is the chapter with the TV interview with That Sentence." I don't know if it ever bothered anyone as much as me, but.

300,000 signatures on a petition for something like this is quite something; I'd definitely reduce that number.

The picture switched to a slideshow of photos of Rick’s legendary clones that made Mark feel even sicker than he already did while the anchorwoman droned on: “Cleanwater City Gym Leader Richard Lancaster has long attracted controversy for his use of low-levelled clones of legendary Pokémon in his Gym, controlled through the power of a Pokéball of his own invention which is said to repress the free will of the contained Pokémon. He was also granted a special license to keep one low-levelled genetically modified clone in his Gym. His younger brother, Taylor Lancaster, was reportedly named in numerous reports to the League during the course of his journey in the past few months for carrying abnormal Pokémon, all of which were ignored. Only during his registration to the League a few days ago did it fully surface that all but one of his Pokémon were genetically modified clones, created without the knowledge and approval of the League, and that one of them was ‘Mewtwo²’, the devastatingly powerful Mewtwo clone that Rick had previously been permitted to keep only at a low level. Despite this, the League has not objected to his participation, and this morning a formal statement was issued, proclaiming their decision to be ‘final’ but that Taylor would be restricted to four Pokémon in the League rather than the standard six. This compromise has done little to calm the loud voices from every corner of Ouen calling for Taylor to be disqualified and stripped of his trainer license and Richard to be charged as a criminal.”

That was the end of the story and the anchorwoman moved on to some other subject as if nothing were more natural while Mark was still staring at the screen in disbelief.

“That bribing, thieving, disgusting cheater,” May whispered, her voice shaking with anger. “How could he possibly get away with this?”

Mark felt no need to reply; she’d taken the words right out of his mouth. How could they allow Taylor to enter the League using clones, even as they sent out letters disqualifying Spirit and Gyarados for being too powerful? That was too blatant a double standard for even the stupidest of politicians not to notice. In fact, the entire process was so ridiculously obvious in its wrongness that Mark couldn’t really believe it: Taylor had been walking around all this time, cheerfully using his clones; the Clone Balls were recognized to function in very morally questionable ways; there was a particular clause in the exception that permitted Rick to keep Mewtwo², rendering it void if it was ever trained past level ten. How could the brothers have been so ridiculously careless while relying only on Rick’s influence to avoid being stopped in their tracks and charged with all sorts of crimes?

Note how here Mark appears to know all about this, like one would expect, whereas back in chapter four he was hearing about Rick's legendary clones for the first time from Megan Hayfield.

A memory snuck into his mind: their previous encounter with Taylor in Scorpio City and Officer Jenny’s distant, staring eyes as she suddenly ushered them out and closed the door without a further word. It blended in with all the details of the news report, and all of a sudden everything clicked.

“Hypnosis,” he said quietly. “They haven’t been bribing the League – they’ve been using Mewtwo² or something to force them to do their bidding. It explains everything – all the leeway Rick has gotten, Officer Jenny in Scorpio City, Taylor being allowed into the League, the ignored reports… everything.”

May looked at him for a long moment, not looking entirely surprised. “It has that kind of power?” she asked, but of course it did. Mewtwo² had slammed Gyarados into a wall with a careless wave of its hand while it was still low-leveled; of course it would make short work of hypnotizing a few government officials if it ever came into contact with them, now that it was no doubt far more powerful.

“We have to tell someone,” Mark said, still in shock, glancing around; nobody else was there for the moment after a girl had left the room a few minutes earlier. “Somebody has to tell someone.”

May shook her head. “It won’t do any good,” she said. “I mean, Taylor still has Mewtwo², and clearly the Destroyer hasn’t drained it too much yet. Is there really anything we could do to him now that he couldn’t prevent or undo?” She paused and glared fiercely out the window. “Damn it! I hope I get to battle him and show that talentless little git that you need more than a mind-controlling legendary clone and a power-hungry psycho brother to be any good!”

This line is also really stilted.

Mark nodded and hoped it too; it felt right for May to be the one to knock Taylor out of the League, more than somebody Taylor had never directly wronged, and he would have to be knocked out if there was any semblance of justice in the world. For as long as he was a participant, he was vulnerable: while he’d slanted the rules in his favour, it did appear he had some genuine sense of wanting to participate in a real competition, what with letting them restrict him to four Pokémon, and that meant he could truly be beaten. There was no guarantee that he would ever let that happen once the League was over.

Then again, there was no knowing what he might do to get his way if he did lose. Mark shuddered.

Ohoho, look at me, ominously setting up the idea that Taylor might do something awful if he loses to May.

“Huh,” May said, mostly to herself. “Come to think of it, the four-Pokémon restriction can’t have been already agreed upon if he was desperate to get a sixth clone last night. I wonder if Rick got the League to put the restriction in place when Taylor came whining to him about getting a new clone afterwards.” She smirked at the thought before turning to Mark and standing up. “Well, let’s go get our Pokémon back, then. We’ve got training to do.”

It feels awkward for May to just immediately guess this here. I'm of course just trying to get across the actual explanation, which would otherwise seem like a strange plot hole, but it'd have been better if they'd been confused and discussed possible reasons.

I'm pretty sure I actually wrote chapter 45 expecting Taylor to be using six clones at the League, but when I got here I started reflecting on it and decided his Pokémon would be restricted. In the finals, after all, I wanted May to think she had a chance at winning before Mewtwo² turns out to be able to trounce Tyranitar, which meant Mewtwo² had to be his last Pokémon, and when the whole point is that his clones are way stronger than normal, would it really be believable for them both to end up down to one Pokémon? I could have gone with the clones other than Mewtwo² not being that much stronger, I suppose, but that'd just open the question of why Taylor would be so insistent on using clones if that were the case. And it occurred to me that Rick probably isn't all that enthused about Taylor's League participation and all the attention it draws, and when I was opening here with the League disqualifying Spirit and Gyarados for being abnormally powerful even though there was no indication illegal methods were used, surely Taylor being able to just waltz in there with his clones at the same time as other Pokémon are being disqualified for being too powerful would cause an international outcry. Having them place a special restriction on him would create the illusion some misguided attempt at fairness was being made, instead of the League just blatantly being the brothers' puppets; surely Rick'd persuade Taylor he needed to be at least slightly more subtle. And Taylor'd probably be fine with that! Sure, the League should be more fair! His Pokémon are way stronger, after all.

In the next revision I may not have the Mark and May figure this out at all and instead include a Taylor-POV scene about his call to Rick asking for another clone (which would be where Rick would make said call for subtlety), even if it were only an extra. As I've said, I wish I'd done more with Taylor and Rick's relationship within the actual story.

-------

At the League office building, they retrieved their Pokémon and were given booklets with a detailed rundown of the rules of the League, which May immediately began to read as they headed towards the gate.

“Interesting,” she said. “We’ll have to leave our Pokémon for inspection the night before a match, too.”

Mark glanced at her as the gatekeeper woman waved them through. “Makes sense, I guess.”

“And – oh, here’s the section about the preliminaries,” she said as she turned the page. “I was wondering how those worked.”

Mark moved to read over her shoulder, but she started reading it aloud anyway. “‘The preliminary matches are conducted over a period of seven days, starting on the first of August. Multiple matches may be conducted simultaneously on the League’s three arenas. The preliminary match-ups are published on July twenty-sixth, but the themes of each arena not until the day before each battle. In preliminary battles, trainers use three Pokémon each’ – I’m guessing that means Taylor gets to use two – ‘with switching allowed and the four-move restriction in place. Every trainer has two preliminary battles, after which they are graded on their overall performance, taking into account how many Pokémon fainted on each side, the health of the remaining Pokémon on each side, and overall battle performance as evaluated by the judges and the presiding member of the Elite Four. The top sixteen trainers then proceed to the knockout phase, which begins on the fifteenth of August.’” She turned the page. “Sounds fairly straightforward. Oh, hey, it also says you can see every participant’s registered Pokémon in the computers at the library. Nice.”

Mark looked at her. “Why is that?”

“I suppose otherwise you’d be at an unfair advantage if you happened to have been able to watch your competitor’s previous battles or know them otherwise. Makes sense to just make what you have public and let you keep the ones you bring to the battle secret.”

I can't remember when I put together the rules of the League at all. Some of this was probably decided as I got here, but the chapter plan definitely included the two preliminary battles followed by a four-round knockout tournament; I may have arranged that while I was doing the chapter plan, though.

Mark nodded and realized that they were now walking in the direction of the mountain. “Wait, where are we going?”

“I was thinking we’d find some nice place to train by the mountainside somewhere.” May shrugged and looked at him.

“Well, are we going to train together or separately?” Mark asked unsurely. “I mean…”

“I think it might as well be together for now, before we start specializing for the individual battles. It’s a lot easier to focus one’s efforts that way.”

Mark felt no need to protest; he liked the idea of having May around to give him tips for as long as possible. They found a spot by the mountain, spacious and flat ground hidden from view from the League camp but not too far off, and looked around without saying anything.

The memory of the previous day suddenly bubbled to the top of Mark’s mind. “So did you talk to Quilava?” he asked, looking abruptly at her. Come to think of it, it was rather strange that she had not mentioned it yet.

She looked distractedly at him. “Oh, her,” she said in a voice that attempted unsuccessfully to be casual. “She… She doesn’t want to evolve.”

Mark looked at her, dumbfounded. “What? Really?”

“Yeah,” May said, looking at the rock wall straight in front of her. “She said she’s had enough of it, and that she wouldn’t mind getting to battle a bit, but she’s spent too long as a Quilava to want to…”

She trailed off, not needing to finish. There was something all too ironic in all of this, that May had spent so long obsessing over the thought of reclaiming Quilava only to have her first given back voluntarily and then turn out to not want to evolve, which surely had to make May very doubtful about wanting to use her.

I mean, you don't quite have to explain this to us, Mark.

Given how Pokéballs work, and how Quilava has pretty much been inside it the entire time, it's kind of questionable that Quilava could sensibly consider herself to have spent a particularly long time as a Quilava (especially since even in real time, it's less than six months - May started her journey with her as a Cyndaquil on her birthday in February). I'd probably reconsider Quilava's motivation there and/or the thing about her literally spending all her time in her ball in the next revision.

“So… what are you going to do?” he asked cautiously.

“Do?” May paused for a long moment, fiddling with the minimized Pokéballs on her necklace, before her expression hardened to some sort of repressed distaste. “I’m not allowed to use Spirit, so I don’t have a Fire-type. The starters given out by Professor Elm are bred, so they’re genetically stronger than anything I might find in the wild here. Who says she won’t change her mind?”

Mark gave her a sceptical look.

“And if she doesn’t,” May went on without looking at him, her voice turning almost angry, “I can just release her, catch a few wild Cyndaquil, or some better Fire Pokémon – I can’t stand bloody Cyndaquil anyway – and keep the best one. And even if she’s got better genes, the evolved form is still stronger.”

She clenched her fist around her Pokéballs; Mark wished he could have said something to calm her down – he would never be able to convince her that using an unevolved Pokémon was not the end of the world, after all – but couldn’t really think of anything to that effect that wouldn’t at the same time encourage her in her rather dubious intentions. He also wanted to tell her that capturing many Pokémon just to pick out the strongest one and release the others was wrong, but he knew that would only get her more riled up, so he said nothing at all.

I'm going to be hammering this home a bit here in the lead-up to the League. Mark realizes the way May thinks and acts around her Pokémon isn't okay, and he really could have said something and at least tried to persuade her not to think this way, but he doesn't. Might things have ended up differently if he had? ...I kind of expect May would've just reflexively pushed him away, the way she did Alan, once he'd started to make her uncomfortable, unfortunately. But he does ultimately have good reason to feel pretty guilty and complicit in Taylor's death, thanks to all these moments where he thinks to himself that he should speak up but doesn't.

I do think all this may be a little blunt here, but I'd keep the same basic idea.

She took a few deep breaths and then looked sharply towards him. “Shouldn’t you talk to Dragonite or something?”

It was an obvious hint that she didn’t want to talk about it; in any case, Mark had almost forgotten that Dragonair had evolved, and now that he’d been reminded of it, he really did want to see how he was doing in his new form. “Oh, yeah, right,” he muttered and grabbed the dragon’s ball. “Go!”

He threw the ball, and it opened to release a formless shape of light that quickly began to shape itself into Dragonite. His first instinctual reaction was that Dragonite was a bit anticlimactically small; he hadn’t gotten a good idea of his size in the Polaryu battle, and now that he could evaluate it properly, he was definitely smaller than Mark’s mental idea of a Dragonite. But when the light had faded away completely, he felt pride well up in his chest: he actually did have a Dragonite, one of the strongest non-legendary Pokémon in the world.

Dragonite turned around to look at him.

“So…” Mark began, not sure how to start a conversation. “How’s being a Dragonite?”

“Feels very weird,” the dragon muttered in a voice very oddly unlike his own as he raised a chubby arm and moved his claws slowly. “It will take some time to get used to having limbs.”

Mark tried to imagine what sort of an experience it would be to grow limbs all of a sudden if you’d never had them and could only conclude it had to be very alien. He said nothing; it was beginning to creep upon him that, particularly in the light of the discussion he had just had with May, maybe it had been inappropriately selfish of him to be so excited about Dragonair’s evolution – had he ever properly made it clear that it was his choice?

“And I feel kind of… ungraceful,” Dragonite went on without really waiting for an answer. “Like a balloon. I’d gotten used to controlling my flight the way I was before.” He concentrated and flapped his tiny wings rapidly, but didn’t budge from the ground; he growled in irritation and leapt off the ground with his hind legs, which made him bound surprisingly high into the air, where he got caught in the wind and was thrown sideways. He regained his balance awkwardly, still floating slowly towards the ground in a very balloonlike manner, and began to flap his wings again, which this time managed to stop his descent and propel him forward.

“Oh, I get it,” he said brightly, flying forward and gathering speed as he went; he accelerated more quickly than Mark would have expected, though he was still not especially fast. “I could get used to this.”

“So you’ll be okay, I mean, having evolved?” Mark asked cautiously.

Dragonite looked at him, his expression puzzled. “What? Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”

I like this little scene of Dragonite getting used to his new form, Mark worrying while Dragonite is really just happy to be experimenting. It is kind of a shame that it'd actually be pretty neat to write about a Pokémon that really does regret evolving after the fact - suggesting possible problems for the characters and then having it turn out those problems don't happen is always a little disappointing, to me. But I think it's cute how Mark takes Dragonite's honest thoughts on his new form as an indicator that maybe he didn't do enough to let Dragonair choose. We never saw Mark apply anything like pressure to him, but he worries anyway. That alone is quite a contrast with how May feels about Quilava.

“So,” May said suddenly, reaching for a Pokéball before Mark could think up an answer, “how about a battle to see what you can do now?”

Dragonite looked towards her and made a careful landing. “I suppose,” he said and looked at Mark; he hurried over to his Pokémon’s side to stand opposite May as she threw the ball she had plucked from her necklace.

“Go, Tyranitar!”

Mark was a bit doubtful as he watched May’s dinosaur materializing; sand was already beginning to twirl up on the ground around it in obedient response to Tyranitar’s presence. The two Pokémon were about the same size, but Tyranitar obviously had more experience with his evolved form and had had more training since his evolution, not to mention that Dragonite would be weak to Rock attacks; he couldn’t help thinking it wasn’t a fair match-up at all. But he couldn’t deny that Dragonite and Tyranitar were Pokémon viewed as counterparts in a way that made it seem very fitting.

“Okay, Dragonite,” Mark began, “use Dragon Rush.”

“Tyranitar, Stone Edge!” May yelled.

Dragonite was faster and took off in a leap that, again, seemed far too high and slow for the weight he ought to be; intense blue flames cloaked his body, far brighter than when he’d been a Dragonair, while Tyranitar roared and raised chunks of rock out of the ground below him. Dragonite dodged them in his dive downwards, closed his eyes as he entered the cloud of sand around Tyranitar and then smashed his body into the dinosaur, causing Tyranitar to stumble a little backwards as Dragonite retreated back out of the sandstorm.

“Aqua Tail!” Mark shouted quickly.

“Rock Slide!”

Tyranitar was still recovering as Dragonite’s tail lengthened and dissolved into water in mid-air; he dove back towards his opponent, drawing his tail back, and then whipped it powerfully into May’s Pokémon, who growled in pain, thrust a paw into the air and with it caused an array of rocks to tear themselves out of the mountain and smack into Dragonite’s back, sending him flying right over May’s head. He crashed into the ground a few feet away.

“Another Stone Edge,” May ordered; Mark saw the danger immediately, his Pokémon being vulnerable on the ground. “Dragonite, quick!” he shouted. “Get back up!”

But Dragonite was only beginning to push himself to his feet when the ground underneath him cracked apart, sharp rocks exploding upwards and cutting him as they sent him flying. Here it benefited him how light he was in practice, however: instead of his weight helping the edges of the rocks pierce into his hide, the attack served more to throw him upwards where he flapped his wings frantically and managed to shake the stones off himself. Instantly his tail turned into water again and he dived down to smack it into Tyranitar.

“Crunch!” May yelled as the dinosaur was hit and roared in pain; he countered by seizing one of Dragonite’s feet in his jaws as he began to ascend again. The dragon cried in pain, tugging on the leg, but Tyranitar held him – for a second, Mark was comically reminded of a child trying to hold on to a particularly large helium balloon, except for the sandstorm beating on Dragonite’s hide.

Ahahaha, I don't remember this at all but I totally wrote Tyranitar as a child in this amusing mental image of Mark's for a reason, didn't I.

“Tyranitar, use Stone Edge while he’s stuck!”

The ground underneath Dragonite began to crack, and he tried in seeming desperation to fly up without success; then suddenly he pulled straight sideways, just as the sharp rocks began to tear themselves out of the ground below, and thus pulled Tyranitar straight into the way of his own attack. He roared in pain as the sharp stones drilled into his thick hide, and Dragonite wriggled himself loose from his open jaws and was quick to get out of the way.

Tyranitar fell onto the ground on his side, beaten and battered and clearly unable to stand up. He looked at May with a desperate gaze as the last wisps of the sandstorm died down; she looked from Dragonite to Mark, her lips thin.

Poor Tyranitar.

Mark let out a short burst of repressed, disbelieving laughter. He wasn’t the type to gloat, but he couldn’t help himself: he’d just beaten May, with her at a type advantage. It seemed ridiculous.

“Look,” May said, “that does not count. It was a practice battle so that Dragonite could get used to fighting in his new – shut up, Mark.” She gave him a glare, but he couldn’t have stopped giggling if he had tried.

“I know you think this is just sore loser talk,” May said heatedly, her face already reddening, “but I was not making any effort. I thought Tyranitar could beat Dragonite with brute force and no strategy, and you got lucky.”

That absolutely is sore loser talk, May.

“Yeah, suuure,” Mark replied with a grin that prompted another murderous glare. But even though winning this was priceless, and a definite moment of awesomeness on Dragonite’s part, he knew better than to seriously think himself the better trainer for it, and it would have been rather hypocritical to tease her too much about it. With the general mood she was in, he didn’t really want to. She just gave him a resentful look and reached for a Pokéball.

After hastily recalling Tyranitar, May quickly got to discussing moves with Dragonite to change the subject, and they spent the rest of the day guiding their Pokémon in picking up various useful moves similarly to how Letal had learned Iron Head. By the time they returned to the trainer lodges for dinner, Mark already felt like they had made enormous progress, and despite everything, he was more grateful than ever that he was there with May.

This was a more interesting chapter than I remembered. There's some particularly awkward dialogue in it for whatever reason, but it's got both the whole reveal about Rick and Taylor hypnotizing officials, and then a lot of May, with her reactions to the Taylor reveal and the Quilava aftermath as well as this battle between Dragonite and Tyranitar. I think the end of the chapter where Mark talks about being grateful to be there with her is a bit jarring given so much of the chapter has been about her various toxic tendencies, but it's definitely good to be spending some time on this setup.

This chapter's extra, "Letting Go", features May releasing Quilava some days after this, when she's decided she's just going to get a Torchic instead, as she feels kind of crappy about the whole thing and deflects it insistently into poisonous annoyance at everything including Quilava herself, who's clearly picked up on how much May hates all this and feels kind of sorry for her. I do think there's a degree of overt sentimentality there that I don't think I'd do today with May - she talks about how your starter is meant to be the heart and soul of your team, for instance, which she'd surely dismiss as silly in anyone else, and about Charizard being a "cooler" Pokémon. Today I'd probably write fairly similar sentiments, but justified differently, at least at the conscious level.

Today I'd also write Quilava to seem less simply oblivious to how May's acting. As it is, Quilava barely speaks and doesn't show much character in the extra, and all she really does in it is apparently forgive May and try to be comforting - the idea was that Quilava ultimately sees through her, realizes May's very upset and shows her kindness despite everything, but it doesn't really come through properly that Quilava notices the cruelty of her surface words at all. I'd want to write it to show better what's actually going on in her head, even if May doesn't pay full attention to her. All in all, I wish Quilava got to be more of a character here before being released, and in the next revision I think I'd actually show May sending her out after Taylor gives her back and the conversation that they have about her being back and evolution.

When I split the original chapter 46, I split the chapter plan accordingly. What this one ended up with was just Chapter 46: Pokémon League letters disqualify Spirit and Gyarados, that of course having been one of my concrete plans that I'd been sure to write down. I'm not sure I'd actually planned to reveal the hypnosis thing at this point; I think it pretty much came out when I worked out the thing about Taylor being restricted to four Pokémon, which had to mean Mark and May'd learn about that, and then Mark just put it together and I thought sure. The Dragonite/Tyranitar battle was also definitely spontaneous. I had planned Quilava not wanting to evolve and getting released, though. Once upon a time, in the original team plan for Mark and May, May was actually supposed to end up with a Typhlosion. I've never liked Typhlosion, though, so I think sometime probably soon after Scyther joined Mark in the original and I figured these team plans weren't sacred and not every Pokémon had to be fully evolved, I changed my mind and decided Quilava wouldn't want to evolve. But the idea of May using an unevolved Pokémon bugged me increasingly as her character became clearer to me, until at some point I realized oooh, what if she just releases Quilava and the whole thing was all for nothing and it highlights her inability to regard her Pokémon as more than their battling potential and everyone feels bad, that'd be great.


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