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; there are a fair few chapters left still uncommented. Check the Quest Blog for progress information!)

Chapter 51: Fake-Out

Chapter 51 was published on January 13th 2010, three months after chapter 50, leaving 2009 with only four chapters to its name (though they were pretty chunky chapters). That year was still a big one for the fic, though, because on October 15th 2009, only a week after chapter 50 was published, I finished the chapter plan. I had a plan for up through chapter 55 before, but on this day I wrote the plan from there up through chapter 76 (actually equivalent to what would become chapter 77, as I had not yet decided to implement One-Shot B as a separate chapter within the fic). Essentially, I managed to string together the discrete events that I already had planned for the vague future into one cohesive journey, brainstorming details as I went. Since I was literally thinking up a lot of the progression as I wrote the chapter plan, I had to sketch those things out in a bit more detail than I'd been doing for the 37-55 plan so I wouldn't just forget what I was thinking later, and from there the whole plan got increasingly detailed as I went along. Meanwhile, of course, since I was planning far into the future, the actual fic would often end up deviating pretty significantly from this 2009 plan. So look forward to the chapter plans getting increasingly elaborate and divergent from the actual fic after chapter 55.

“You’ll never guess what I just found.”

Mark looked up, making sure to leave his hand half-covering the tabloid he was reading: he felt stupid to have picked it up, but the cover page had had a blown-up photograph of some blurry patches that were claimed to be two of the Color Dragons, and it was the closest he had come so far to finding anything about relatively recent legendary sightings at the library.

I like Mark being self-conscious about reading a tabloid. I would be too, Mark.

May thrust an unremarkable-looking paperback into his hands and he looked blankly at it.

Blood Sport: A Fighter’s View of Fighting,” he read from the front. It was one of those typical blown-up titles that took up half of the cover; on this one, the publisher had apparently determined that it would look the most dramatic if it had a black background with the title bright red in a font that was meant to look like it was dripping blood but more resembled cheesy nail polish. He looked quizzically up at May.

“Turn it over,” she just said. He did, flipping the book over to read the back cover, and was greeted by a black-and-white photo of a Hitmonchan that looked distinctly familiar.

“…Fury? Fury the Hitmonchan wrote a book?” Mark asked incredulously and quickly began to read the blurb beside the picture. “‘In this thought-provoking book, the world’s first Pokémon to obtain a trainer license provides a sharp and witty criticism of the old-fashioned view of Pokémon battling that still permeates the society of today…’” He flipped the book over again and opened it at a random page in the middle.

…with competitions such as the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament of the Green Town Pokémon Festival, which I myself have had the ‘pleasure’ of participating in. At a glance, the concept looks promising: Pokémon are to battle by themselves, using their own wits and skill rather than being commanded by their trainers who normally get more than their fair share of the glory, and so I had high hopes when I entered, figuring it to be just my sort of thing. At the very least I was expecting to have found a tournament in which Pokémon were given the credit they deserved. Instead I was treated to what more resembled a spectacularly elaborate sadist fantasy; Pokémon have never been objectified more than in this brutal game in which the human organizers seem, more than anything, to be hoping to watch the battlers murder or mutilate one another. (I suppose it would be futile to point out to them that most Pokémon do not have it in their cultures to murder one another unprovoked and fight mostly in friendly competition with serious disputes on the side, even provided they looked up from the carnage for long enough to listen.) I watched as Pokémon were pitted against others they had a severe type disadvantage against or were at a dramatically higher level instead of being matched evenly, and when a trainer stood up in concern when his Pokémon seemed to be in mortal danger, he was told with a disturbing sort of glee that trainers were not allowed to interfere, while the organizers did absolutely nothing even though the winner had been clearly determined by that point. I don’t blame the Pokémon who participated, or their trainers – they might easily have been deceived by the appearance of it as I was – but why the Pokémon Festival openly featured this barbaric event was beyond me once I had seen it for what it was. As it happens I was curious enough to ask the organizers of the Festival, who seemed at least tentatively open to my perspective when I spoke to them. I permit myself to hope that the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament will be off the list of events next year, but who knows what other competitions in the same vein might be going on with a lower profile under the same guise of something revolutionary and Pokémon-centered?

“I flipped through it,” May said as Mark looked up in astonishment. “It’s all about trainer-centicism and stuff, dotted with amusing anecdotes about his journey. I’d never have guessed he was the political type.”

Mark shook his head and closed the book, making a mental note to try to read it sometime when all this was over.

As I mentioned in the chapter 28 commentary, rather than having Fury actually participate at the League, I came up with this idea of him writing a book, at some relatively early point. Since it has no further significance, it feels like a bit of a weird tangent, I think, but I guess it is fun to get some sort of followup on Fury.

Fury's criticisms of the Pokémon Frenzy Tournament and why the Pokémon Festival would feature this event at all, of course, are very valid.

“And guess what else,” May went on. “Robin Riverstone is a girl.”

“Really?” Mark thought quickly back to that first preliminary battle they’d watched and to the trainer who had won with a Charizard and a Cacturne. She’d had short hair and a sort of boyish face and a voice of ambiguous pitch; they’d pretty much assumed it was a guy, but thinking on it, there had been no real indication either way.

“I went to look her up for the battle, and that’s what her profile says. So I’m not the only girl in the semifinals. At least that’s good news.”

Mark nodded. She’d been annoyed about that the day before, although by the time she’d brought that up she’d been in a terrible mood already after a lengthy rant about the fact that Taylor had also proceeded to the semifinals and she had still not been matched against him.

At this stage I'd started to become more conscious of my tendency to make characters male by default and had begun to get into the habit of stopping and genderswapping characters before writing them in and seeing if I liked them better that way. It had dawned on me that the League was kind of full of dudes so far - Megan Hayfield was the only girl we'd seen at the League other than May, and I really didn't want to have yet another guy as May's opponent in the semifinals. However, I was pretty attached to the idea that her opponent would be the Charizard and Cacturne kid from the first preliminary battle that they watched in chapter 47, having added that to the chapter plan after opaltiger remarked on wishing to see that trainer again - and while most of the references to that trainer had been gender-neutral, May had offhandedly referred to them as "the other guy". What to do? Well, what if May had just assumed it was a guy? The preliminaries have no announcer or anything, and the trainers are unlikely to refer to one another by pronouns during the battle, so there wouldn't actually be anything to confirm a trainer's gender there even if you watched a preliminary battle. Immediately I imagined this very androgynous girl with an ambiguous name, and I just really enjoyed the idea. Then I figured well, if May originally thought she was a guy, I should probably actually show her having learned otherwise, since otherwise it'll just come out as an inconsistency on my part. And May would have been a little irritated if she thought she was the only girl in the semifinals, so this seemed a reasonably natural way for it to come up in dialogue without seeming too forced.

“Found anything on the legendaries?” May finally asked, glancing at the magazine he’d been reading.

“Nothing of much worth.” Mark sighed. “This is all just people going all excited over somebody who thinks he photographed the Color Dragons around the Eastern Cliffs. It’s so blurry it could be Pidgey for all we know.”

“Well, we might as well check it out, after we’re out of here,” May replied. “It’s pretty much on the way to Ruxido anyway, and that’s where we’re taking Letaligon, right? And then we can stop at the Ouen Safari, too. I’ve always wanted to go there.”

This line is what prompted the entire planning spree! I'd established Ouen's Safari Zone on the Ouen Map, on the route they never visited between Aquarium City and Green Town; when I got here I figured if they were going to the Eastern Cliffs and then to Ruxido, they'd pass by the Safari, so why not spend a chapter there? It could be where May'd catch the Stantler that I already knew would be Tyranitar's replacement! So I went to add chapter 56 to the chapter plan, and then I just kept going, figuring I'd hit a new wall at some point and stop there for now, only to accidentally manage to get through the entire rest of the story including all the bits I'd planned.

Mark shrugged. He had become rather cynical about legendary sightings over the years, having read about a multitude of confirmed hoaxes and still more supposed sightings that were never repeated or simply inconsistent with others. On the other hand, he of course wanted it to be true, and it wasn’t as if they had never been possibly spotted for real.

“Well, I don’t know about you,” May said, “but I’m going to train. I’ve got all the info on Robin I need.”

Mark nodded, looked at the magazine – he had more or less finished the article – and stood up. “I’m coming with you. It’s got to be more fun than this.”

-------

It was weird to just sit there with his team, watching May’s idea of discussing strategies.

“We know she’s good,” she was saying, walking left past the straight line that her Pokémon formed, eying each one as she passed them. She turned sharply around at Floatzel’s end of the line and walked back the other way, continuing to talk. “There can’t be any stupid mistakes. It could cost us the match. I’ve seen her battle twice and I can tell we’ll have to work this perfectly.”

Wait, what does the bit about seeing her battle twice mean? They only saw the one preliminary, and this is just after May says she only just found out Robin is a girl by looking up her profile. There would've been an announcer for the knockout rounds. I guess maybe she watched her other preliminary?

Now that her back was turned, the sea otter returned to glaring at Mark, apparently still not having forgiven him for allowing Dragonite to save her from drowning. The other Pokémon followed her with their eyes as she paced down the line, turned back around (Floatzel’s gaze snapped back to her as if she’d been listening all along) and repeated the maneuver, still going on about the Pokémon that Robin Riverstone had and what kinds of strategies May had noticed her using.

Mark had intended to try to follow the discussion in the hope of learning something, but he quickly zoned out as May seemingly simply thought aloud about what would and wouldn’t work. She mentioned a truly inordinate number of moves that she seemed to have taught her Pokémon at some point (Raichu could learn Grass Knot?) and half of what she said was very difficult to follow, going along logical pathways that were really not as obvious as May seemed to think they were and frequently backtracking and jumping back and forth. He looked at her Pokémon and wondered idly if they had actually learned how to keep up with her train of thought or if they just pretended.

I like the stark contrast to Mark's planning sessions with his Pokémon, but also that it's not just about "May's more talented at battling but has a less equal relationship with her Pokémon" - she's rambling in this way that's disorganized and hard to follow, lost in her own head, and Mark's just kind of baffled and zoning out. Also, Floatzel.

He looked around at his own Pokémon for comparison. Letaligon actually appeared to be keeping up with it, miraculously enough. Dragonite was also seemingly trying to listen, though he glanced occasionally at Floatzel, who nonetheless refused to look directly at him, instead focusing her grudge towards Mark for the moment. Jolteon scratched nervously at the ground, watching May with a miserable expression of confusion on his face. Charizard and Sandslash had simply lain down to sleep. Scyther sat in the grass near Mark and swept his scythe absent-mindedly across it, tiny pieces of wet grass blades sticking to the blade as it chopped them away.

He was beginning to seriously consider going back to the library when suddenly he heard his name. He looked quickly around before it registered properly in his mind that the voice had been telepathic.

“Mark,” Chaletwo repeated urgently. “I just picked up a psychic distress call.”

It took a moment for him to realize what that meant. “Wait – so Alan’s found a legendary?”

“Seems like it. Hurry up.”

The chapter title "Fake-Out" over "Entei" was chosen because I wanted this to be a jarring surprise. You're expecting a League chapter about May's semifinal and then sudden legendary battle!

“May!” Mark called; she stopped mid-sentence and looked up, apparently annoyed at the interruption. “Alan’s found a legendary. We have to go!”

Her mouth fell briefly open, but then she nodded quickly towards all her Pokémon and recalled them into their Pokéballs. Mark did the same and walked towards her, already accessing the PC system in his Pokédex to switch Chaletwo to an active ball so that he could come out. His heart was pounding in his chest – which legendary had Alan found? He hoped it wasn’t something like the Waraider herd. He looked briefly around to make sure there was no one who might see what was going on.

Chaletwo burst out of the Pokéball, placed his bulbous hands on Mark and May’s shoulders and whisked them away. Suddenly they were standing in a grassy field close to where a sparse fir forest met a mountainside; Chaletwo had already recalled himself. Mark didn’t recognize the place at all. He turned around quickly, looking for Alan and the legendary, and found instead a teenage girl with very long, dark brown hair who was glancing wildly from side to side as an Alakazam stood in front of her and struggled to maintain a Light Screen against a bright Flamethrower.

“Leah?” Chaletwo’s voice asked quizzically. “That distress call came from you?”

“Chaletwo?” the girl called, looking straight towards Mark and May. “Thank God! Help me out here!”

Mark was too busy staring at the source of the Flamethrower to really think about who this girl was. Just a few feet away, hopelessly tangled in what seemed like several sticky, white Spider Webs, was Entei, one of the legendary Beasts of Johto. He struggled against his bonds with all his might in between firing Flamethrower after Flamethrower at the girl’s Alakazam, who strained against the force of the repeated attacks, clearly about to give in. From the looks of the girl’s face, it was her last Pokémon.

He realized with a jolt that May’s Pokémon were materializing around him and quickly threw out his own Pokéballs, only barely remembering to leave out the ball Chaletwo was currently in. He took out his Pokédex again to switch Chaletwo back for Jolteon and wished he’d had the sense to wake up Charizard and Sandslash before they’d left; they were looking sleepily up and blinking, then bolting up as they realized what was going on.

“Are you mad?” Chaletwo’s voice was saying fiercely in Mark’s head, though it was apparently directed at the Alakazam’s trainer. “You can’t just send a general distress call when you’re battling a legendary in the hope that I’ll happen to hear it and come to your aid! What if a legendary had heard it?”

“What? You told me to do that if it got bad!” the girl called as the Pokémon rushed to attack the immobilized Entei. The legendary turned his head as Floatzel smacked into his body with a splash, followed by a Thunderbolt from Jolteon and a quick slash from Scyther. Dragonite fired a powerful Hyper Beam that threw Entei back a little.

“...Did I?”

I love Chaletwo so much. Of course you forgot about this, you dork.

Entei gave Floatzel an indignant snort as Charizard landed on his back, claws flaring with dragon fire. Next to May, Mutark was already growing into a stronger form.

“Yes! You said there are no Psychic legendaries in Johto anymore and the others wouldn’t teleport to another region to respond to something like that! And that the odds a trainer will both have a Psychic Pokémon out that’s strong enough to pick it up and decide to go do something about it was negligible!”

As Floatzel stumbled back in a daze and tripped over herself, Charizard grunted, realizing too late that the sticky Spider Web could trap him as easily as Entei himself now that he had come into contact with it. The legendary Pokémon roared and glowed red, the sticky threads burning with an unpleasant smell before he released a plume of flame around the entire battlefield. Mark turned away to protect his face from the scorching heat and heard the cries of several of the Pokémon as the attack hit them; when he could look again, Scyther was down and Letaligon was running weakly towards the legendary to hit it with a Slash before she collapsed on the ground as well. Mark recalled them worriedly; he had hoped their training during the League would prevent Pokémon going down in one hit from the legendaries’ attacks.

Entei's powered up with several Calm Minds at this stage, hence the OHKOs. Entei had realized Leah was on his trail, then caught her off guard, buffed to high heaven, when half her Pokémon were already worn out.

“...Fine, I guess I remember saying that, but...”

“Will you just shut up and try to help?” Leah shouted as she recalled her Alakazam, who had apparently been brought down by the attack as well. “I thought this was supposed to be kind of important!”

“They’re helping already,” Chaletwo mumbled grumpily, though he did not further the argument. The Eruption had partly scorched the threads of Ariados silk holding Entei captive, and though they did not release their grip on the legendary, it did allow the much less stuck Charizard to wriggle loose from Entei’s back at last.

I really enjoy the dynamic between Leah and Chaletwo. I should write a side story about Leah's adventures with Chaletwo in her head.

“Try to stick to attacks that don’t require physical contact, everybody,” Mark called. The moment Charizard was off and a safe distance away, May ordered her Tyranitar to use Stone Edge, and the ground underneath Entei exploded upwards, sharp rocks digging up into his body while Flygon breathed a sparkling Dragonbreath at his face. He roared, blinded, and again his body glowed brightly red and spawned an explosion of flames. May’s Skarmory fell screeching to the ground after pulling off a Rock Slide; Mutark collapsed with a mewling whine.

As May took out two Pokéballs to recall them and her Blaziken fired a bright blue Focus Blast, Mark eyed the river flowing over the plains nearby and realized that he could send out Gyarados – but the image of Suicune’s body flashed in his mind and he shuddered at the thought. Meanwhile, May was furiously pressing buttons on her Pokédex to switch Skarmory and Mutark to the computer before she threw out two new balls, releasing Butterfree and Raichu in their place.

“Thunder Wave and Tailwind!” she called.

As Sandslash called a rain of rocks upon Entei, Raichu crouched down and sent a sparkling wave of electricity towards the legendary. He stiffened and growled as he strained to move his head up towards Butterfree; she began to flap her wings in a rhythmic pattern until she had produced a strong wind at their backs.

Entei managed to move at last as two Thunderbolts from Jolteon and Raichu struck him. Letting out a deep roar, he enveloped himself in a glow of heat yet again, and the Pokémon braced themselves for being hit by the fiery eruption of before. Instead, however, it was a weaker plume more concentrated around Entei himself, and it burned through the last threads of silk that were binding him to the ground. Entei rose to his feet, shook off the final remains of the thread, and was clearly preparing to hightail it out of there as Tyranitar produced a second explosion of rocks from the ground below him. With nothing tying him down, Entei was thrown up and landed awkwardly on his side.

“Floatzel, Whirlpool!” May shouted as the legendary Pokémon stumbled back to his feet. Floatzel snapped out of her daze just in time, and a vortex of water sprang up around Entei, preventing him from escaping.

Entei growled as Sandslash jumped bravely through the Whirlpool and latched onto his leg, digging his claws into the soft paw. Entei slammed his other paw down on him to peel him off, but just then Dragonite dived straight into him while flaring with blue flames and threw him onto his side. Dragonite quickly picked up the already unconscious Sandslash and carried him out of the Whirlpool, where he could be recalled. Mark’s heart thumped as the pangolin’s body was absorbed back into his Pokéball; Entei was struggling to get up now, thanks to the injuries on his paw.

Well done, Sandslash! This was cute; I like Dragonite picking him up and carrying him to safety.

“Tyranitar, use Stone Edge! Blaziken, stay back for now! Flygon, Dragonbreath! Waterfall, Floatzel! Butterfree, Psychic!” May barked from behind him. Her Blaziken joined Charizard, who has hovering some distance away, not daring to risk trying to cross the Whirlpool while it was in full force. Meanwhile, the ground under the fallen legendary exploded upwards yet again while Flygon breathed sparkly dragon flames towards him, and Jolteon and Raichu pulled together for a collaborative Thunderbolt just before Floatzel jumped into the Whirlpool and sent water crashing down on Entei. Butterfree sent a blast of psychic energy the legendary’s way.

Mark shuddered as he tried to see the legendary through the vortex. It was still uncomfortable to look at one of the legendary Pokémon he had loved and respected since he was little being ganged up on, and he realized dimly that he hadn’t really given any orders in the battle so far. “Try an Aqua Tail?” he called to Dragonite, who had seemingly thought much the same thing as he hovered above waiting for an opportunity to get a hit in; only moments later, when Entei had smacked Floatzel away, the dragon dived down with his tail turned aquatic, only to suddenly stop in mid-air, his eyes widening before he simply crumpled to the ground and didn’t stand back up. Mark recalled him, puzzled, while Jolteon and Raichu pulled off one more Thunderbolt.

Floatzel was moving in for another attack when, similar to Dragonite, her eyes suddenly widened and she just sort of went limp. Some part of Mark’s brain remembered that Entei knew Extrasensory, and his sheer power could be because he might have used Calm Mind a few times before they’d come along. He felt a pang in his heart as Jolteon suffered the same fate and recalled him quickly. If Entei would just start picking them off with the Psychic move now, he really ought to send out Gyarados anyway; he took out his Pokédex and quickly began to switch him to an active ball.

I guess they've been weakened previously, but it feels a bit weird that suddenly with Extrasensory Entei's just taking them down left and right; why hasn't he been doing that before?

The Whirlpool had begun to lose force and dissipate into a soft drizzle around the area; Entei had managed to get to his feet, but he was crouched low, shivering after being trapped inside the vortex of water for so long. He sent a Flamethrower flying straight at May’s Butterfree, who crumpled to the ground with her wings scorched, and then made what looked like an attempt to jump, but his paralysis stopped him just as May replaced her own Pokédex on her belt. “Spirit, go! Mean Look!” she called, throwing forth a ball.

Wait a minute, Mark suddenly thought just as he was about to send out Gyarados. Spirit. Entei.

The Ninetales materialized from her Pokéball, and all of a sudden Entei stopped and straightened himself with difficulty. “Ah,” he said, his voice still a bit hoarse and weak from the battle. “You.”

All of Mark and May’s remaining Pokémon stopped where they were standing. Leah looked at Mark and then May in puzzlement. “We’re idiots!” Chaletwo spat privately to Mark, not wanting to make his presence known to the other legendary. “We could have had Spirit talk to him to begin with, but with Leah being here and all I just sort of…”

Hopefully, you got swept up with them in the chaos of all this and didn't really question why they were fighting Entei until just now. I imagine it'd be very annoying to read this fight if you were thinking "But why aren't they having Spirit talk to him" from the start.

Like a lot of things, I think the moment where Entei recognizes Spirit and stops is pretty abrupt and should be done better.

“You have been fighting Entei?” Spirit asked sharply, looking over at May. All the other Pokémon looked at her. Entei continued to gaze at Spirit, ignoring all the tearing, blood and dragonfire burns streaking his thick fur after the battle.

Mark suddenly felt one of the Pokéballs at his belt twitch, and Gyarados materialized in the river. An uncomfortable flash of déjà vu struck Mark and he frantically grabbed the Pokéball, ready to recall him, but hesitated as Entei looked at Gyarados.

“The other,” the legendary said with a nod. “Suicune has told me about you.”

“Told you about me?” Gyarados spat. “What does he think I am, his son?”

“Why can they speak English?” Leah mouthed at Mark, looking utterly confused. He tried to make some sort of a gesture that could be interpreted as ‘long story; explain later’.

I love Leah just there like ????

“Master Entei,” Spirit said, bowing down, “I must bring you grave news. Suicune’s Chosen has rebelled and murdered his mas...”

“I know,” Entei interrupted, turning his intense gaze back towards her and instantly silencing her.

Oh, Spirit.

“Tell me what all this is about or I’ll do the same to you,” Gyarados growled, and Mark tightened his grip on the Pokéball in his hand.

“I could ask you the same question,” said Entei, looking searchingly at Gyarados and then Spirit. “Why are you out here trying to capture me?”

There was a silence. Everyone looked doubtfully at one another, then settled for looking at Mark, who fingered Gyarados’s Pokéball nervously. They couldn’t tell the legendaries about their mission, could they...?

“Hello, Entei,” said Chaletwo with a weary sigh before anyone else had said anything.

“Chaletwo? That is a surprise.” Entei surveyed Mark with interest for a moment of thought. “Is this about whatever it was you tried to convince us all to be captured for some twenty years back?”

...shouldn't he have noticed Chaletwo was there earlier, though. Even if Chaletwo's telepathy didn't reach him, Leah had this whole yelled argument with him during the fight, and said his name.

“What else?” said Chaletwo resentfully. “No one agreed to it, and it’s extremely important, so I had to get it done by force. If you don’t allow us to capture you willingly now, we’ll beat you down and capture you anyway. You’re weak. You couldn’t handle all these Pokémon with the little you have left.”

Entei spent a silent second looking at Mark with something like amusement glinting in his eyes. Then: “Say, Chaletwo... is this by any chance about preventing the War of the Legends?”

Everyone stared at Entei.

“How do you know about the War of the Legends?” Chaletwo’s voice was sharp, almost angry.

“The same way you do, presumably,” Entei replied. “Not long after you and Molzapart tried to persuade us, we the Beasts of Johto noticed our power loss, so we talked to Mew. She was reluctant, but she told us about the War and that we couldn’t inform the other legendaries for fear that chaos would arise. So we hatched a plan of our own.”

Somewhere in the back of Mark’s numb mind, he remembered that Mew was one of those legendaries with no grammatical gender preference, even though Chaletwo had always used the masculine.

This is the most awkward paragraph of all time. But while how the fic treats legendary pronouns had been decided a long time ago and I'd often explained it to readers, I knew everyone else would be deeply confused if I had Entei just call Mew 'her' with no explanation after the whole fic has been using 'he', so I squeezed this in. Obviously, I would make sure this was properly established earlier if I were writing this today.

Oddly, I don't think anyone commented on this here even though I was bracing myself for it, but when I then had Mewtwo and Chaletwo again use different pronouns for Mew in chapter 61, I got a bunch of puzzled comments. I guess this brief explanation was enough for this chapter, but not enough for people to remember it ten chapters later (...which is probably reasonable, actually, especially given the pace at which I was writing).

“So... you’re trying to prevent it as well?” Chaletwo asked limply.

“Not quite. We didn’t think of anything to prevent it altogether – Pokéballs? Do you really think that will work? – but we did figure that it might be safer, for us at least, to insure our souls and store our power somewhere the Destroyer couldn’t reach it. So we each chose a few young potential Pokémon of our types, gave them a share of our power, made them speak human to minimize the potential conflict with that species, put them through some tests to see which had the greatest chance of survival...”

“You selfish legendaries,” Gyarados spat, making a point of speaking the Pokémon language this time. “Always thinking about your own insurance, saving your own skins, sacrificing other Pokémon for your sake. You’re repulsive.”

I guess Gyarados realizes he shouldn't be speaking human once Entei has explicitly mentioned it as one of the things they did for their potentials. Obviously it was a power Suicune gave him, but I suppose this is the moment where it really sinks in.

“We are all selfish,” Entei replied, his eyes suddenly cold and merciless. “No one wants to die. The difference is that your death is inevitable and ours isn’t.”

There was a stunned silence. Mark stared at the legendary, feeling like a cold bucket of water had been dumped over his head.

“We feared you would take it like this,” Entei continued viciously. “That’s why we didn’t explain it to you. You mortals don’t know what it really is to fear death, to realize that your time might be limited after thinking otherwise for a thousand years. Of course we tried to save ourselves. Who do you think Molzapart and Chaletwo are trying to save? But they do it by making you fight us in difficult battles and forcing us to injure you, while we are saving ourselves by giving you great power to use as your own, in any manner you choose, at the cost of a few measly trials. By all rights, you should be grateful.”

It feels so backwards for an immortal legendary to tell mortals "You don't know what it really is to fear death", doesn't it?

“I am,” said Spirit firmly. “I am honoured to be your vessel. The Gyarados is ungrateful for his gift, but...”

Oh no, Spirit, stop it.

“Wait,” Leah spoke up suddenly. “I don’t get it. You took out my entire team and half of theirs, but now you’re telling me you gave your power to this Ninetales? And what’s this about murdering Suicune?” She looked at Gyarados with an odd expression somewhere midway between disturbed and confused.

“Power is drained more slowly from the weaker legendaries,” Entei said. “We gave a portion of our powers to the potentials, and afterwards our power loss slowed down accordingly, so by now the difference is slight.”

“So power isn’t drained from the Chosen at all?” May asked.

“No. Only legendaries are affected by the Destroyer. We do not know why that is, but it is why we could store our power safely in mortal Pokémon. Our plan was in two parts: we would store power within the bodies of the potentials, and we would then choose one of them each – the Chosen – to carry our souls so that after the War, we could be resurrected by any Pokémon with the ability and then take our power back.”

Gyarados’s face contorted in anger. “So Suicune isn’t dead.”

“Only temporarily,” said Entei, his voice calm. “Suicune’s soul is stored in the gems on your neck, and a large portion of his power within the bodies of you and several other Water Pokémon around the world.”

The sea monster roared madly in rage and twisted his head downwards in an attempt to reach the soul gems with his fangs, but they were too far up on his neck segments. Suddenly Mark felt bizarrely sorry for him.

It's a shame how awkward this paragraph is. How do you describe Gyarados's mobility issues.

“Of course,” Entei went on, turning his gaze towards Mark, “since Chaletwo is with you, I trust he will understand the gravity of the situation and ensure that the gems are not destroyed from here on.”

“...Of course,” Chaletwo replied after a second’s hesitation. “Gyarados, stop it, or Mark will recall you.”

Gyarados didn’t stop it. He roared hatefully again and began to slam his head and neck against the ground, and for a moment, Mark wanted to let him. But he reminded himself that as long as the gems were intact, Suicune wasn’t really dead, and Suicune was a legendary and it was good that Suicune was alive after all, even if he had selfishly put Gyarados through unimaginable suffering for years just to save himself from the mortality other creatures had to take for granted...

He pressed the button on the ball and muttered, “I’m sorry, Gyarados,” as the red Pokéball beam absorbed him.

Notice Mark hasn't said a word since Entei revealed his motivations. I would kind of like to do more to show Mark's shock before this point as he tries to process what he's learning about the legendary beasts and how Entei is not only openly out to use the Chosen to survive the War while everyone else dies, but is just kind of a condescending jerkwad about it. I don't think the way this turns everything around in his head is quite strong enough here.

“What’s with the spirit form?” May asked Entei after a moment’s pause, her expression neutral. “Why did you give her that power?”

“She chose it for herself,” Entei replied. “We only give them pure, raw power; it is up to the individual Pokémon how they learn to utilize it, whether they realize it consciously or not.”

May nodded contemplatively. “What about Raikou? Does Raikou have a Chosen?”

“Raikou has potentials around the world, but he was captured before he could pick one of them as a Chosen. It is a shame, but it cannot be helped. We must move on without him.”

Mark was beginning to feel a little sick to his stomach.

Mark's been making jabs at Chaletwo not caring enough about Suicune, but here's Entei, similarly dismissive of Raikou.

This section of the conversation, where they ask several disconnected questions clearing up plot holes and Entei answers, has always felt kind of awkward to me; it's pretty transparent as an exposition dump. I'd want to figure out a way to get this information across more smoothly in the next revision.

Background thing that I came up with at some point but never actually made canon: the Electrike whose mother they accidentally killed in chapter 34 may have been one of Raikou's potentials. The main reason I came up with this is that I thought it was thematically neat, and deliciously cruel, if Alan almost ended up with one of Raikou's potentials too, but whoops things aren't that neat, Electrike doesn't actually want human help and probably dies, and Alan gets no special Pokémon after all. It is kind of an unbelievable coincidence that Alan would almost get it too, though. I doubt I would ever actually make this canon, but if you enjoy the idea, please imagine this was the case.

“Well, it’s been nice to talk with you and find out what you’ve been doing behind our backs, Entei, but now we have to capture you and prevent the actual War,” said Chaletwo shortly. “Do you want to do this the easy way or the hard way?”

Chaletwo, trying to be a tough guy making threats.

“Capture?” Entei snorted. “I think not. You may continue your futile efforts if you choose so, but I am spending the War in that necklace, not in a ball. Goodbye, Chaletwo.”

And before anyone could respond, Entei crouched down and closed his eyes, and millions of bolts of thready blue lightning shot from him to Spirit, wrapping around her as Entei grimaced in pain. It was over much sooner than when Suicune had done the same to Gyarados; after mere seconds it simply stopped, and Entei’s body collapsed onto the ground with a heavy thud.

“I can feel it,” whispered Spirit, looking down at the red gems of her necklace. “It’s heavier.”

Spirit noooo don't get caught up in feeling honored

Leah carefully threw an Ultra Ball; it bounced off Entei like any inanimate object. “He’s dead, all right,” she said.

“Do you think there is... any risk to them being like that when the War comes?” May asked anxiously, glancing at Mark.

“No,” Chaletwo replied. “He was right. The Destroyer can’t drain power from mortal Pokémon, and a soul in a gem can’t do much harm to anyone. It shouldn’t make a difference that they’re there and not in Pokéballs.”

“Well, then we might as well consider this a capture, I guess,” she said, looking over at Entei’s body. “How do we hide him?”

May's immediately going for the practicalities, of course.

Mark looked away, shuddering. The Pokémon were silent and grave; May took out Pokéballs to recall hers, and Mark did the same for Charizard and Jolteon. Leah was spraying her Alakazam with some potions she’d taken from her backpack.

“Felix can probably levitate the body out of the way,” she said, fairly nonchalantly. “So Chaletwo, were you going to introduce us?” She looked at Mark and May with an all too cheerful smile.

And Leah isn't rattled by anything. I love how casually she treats this.

“Right. Mark and May, that is Leah, the first trainer I recruited to prevent the War. Leah, this is Mark, the latest recruit, and that is May, a friend of his who has also been helping out.”

“Cool,” said Leah, waving at them. “Hi.”

“Hi,” May replied, but Mark just vaguely raised his hand; he didn’t quite trust himself to talk right now.

I think I'm doing better at Mark just being kind of numb and not dealing well by now.

Leah, though. I love her.

“How have you been doing so far? How many you got before Entei?”

“Four with Suicune,” May answered.

Leah raised her eyebrows. “Four? In your first couple of months?”

“Well, all of them were in previously known locations,” Chaletwo replied.

“Oh,” said Leah. “Well, that doesn’t count. The hard part is tracking them down. I didn’t find Latios until I’d been chasing him for three months straight, and then Latias came and destroyed the Spider Web so they both got away in the end. That was frustrating.”

I wish I'd had Mark and May react a little to this story.

“That reminds me – have you had any success since we last talked?” Chaletwo asked her.

She shook her head. “Just been chasing Entei most of that time. Oh, but I met Mary the other day, and she’d gotten Articuno a bit before that. She said she’d be going to Ouen to try to find the Waraider herd.”

Mark’s heart took a sudden leap. “Wait,” he said. “Did you say Articuno?”

“Yeah,” said Leah like it was the most natural thing in the world. “He was in Seafoam after all. Said the battle wasn’t so bad, but the caves were a nightmare to get through.”

“But that means Articuno’s not the Destroyer!” he blurted out.

“Well, yeah,” Leah said, cocking an eyebrow. “Why would Articuno be the Destroyer?”

“It was just a theory we had… apparently we were wrong.”

So much for the Articuno red herring! Today the Leah in my head is just going, "Wait, you thought Articuno was the Destroyer but didn't tell anyone?"

“But who is the Destroyer then?” Mark asked, wide-eyed. “We don’t even have any leads anymore now. One of us will probably attack him at some point and… we might all attack him at some point!”

“It could still be an unknown legendary, or even not a legendary at all,” Chaletwo pointed out. “There is little logical reason why any of the other known legendaries should be the Destroyer. Second created by the Creator was a theory, but…”

“I don’t know about you,” said Leah, looking at Mark, “but for my books, the risk of attacking the Destroyer and getting killed really isn’t so bad compared to the alternative risk of not attacking some legendary that then turns out not to be the Destroyer and kills us all when the War starts. Just stop with the pessimism and hope for the best. What else is there to do on a mission like this?”

Mark sighed. There seemed to be a bottomless pit in his stomach. Gyarados had been right all along; Suicune had chosen him, used him and made him suffer just to save his own neck. Of course, because what would be more frightening to a naturally immortal being than the sudden knowledge of inevitable death? The legendaries weren’t deities or higher beings to be revered and worshipped. They were just flawed, scared, selfish individuals, desperate to survive their oncoming doom by any means available to them, no matter what the price or who it hurt.

He wasn’t even sure anymore if they deserved to be saved.

Maybe going a bit far with the universal condemnation of legendaries here.

But he thought of all the innocent people and Pokémon who would also die if the War came to pass, just because they’d be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and forced his resolve back together.

“You’re right,” he said grimly. “We’ll hope for the best.”

May rolled her eyes, but didn’t remark on it. “Where are you heading next, Leah?” she asked instead. “Since Entei is gone?”

Leah shrugged. “I’m the only legendary hunter in Johto at the moment, so I guess I’ll stick around here and comb the region for Mew.”

It struck Mark properly for the first time that they were actually in Johto. It felt strange to have been so suddenly whisked away to a different region.

“Well, we’re competing in the Ouen League at the moment to get our Pokémon up to par for the legendary battles we have left,” said May. “So we’d probably better get going back there. Good luck finding Mew.”

“Good luck with the League and all the rest,” Leah said with a grin. “It was nice to meet you. I’ll handle Entei’s body, so don’t worry about it.”

Mark nodded as he switched Chaletwo to an active ball. “Thanks. Nice to meet you too.”

He waved, trying not to look at the great furred shape lying behind Leah as Chaletwo materialized beside them and teleported them back to Ouen.

Overall I like this chapter a lot, though the execution is somewhat uneven. May's training session, the sudden legendary battle, and of course the revelation of exactly what the Chosen were all about, that Suicune and Entei know about the War and Spirit and Gyarados are serving as vessels for their souls, as Mark's image of legendaries is truly shattered. And in the background, Spirit, still clinging to the idea that to be chosen was a great honour, trying to act as Entei's chosen obedient servant while he simply ignores and silences her.

The chapter plan went Chapter 51: Semifinal; May realizes Fury has written a book, May beats Cacturne and Charizard kid, they teleport to help Leah fight Entei. May won't actually battle Robin until next chapter, but the main idea here at the time I wrote the chapter plan appears to have been for the chapter to be about them fighting Entei with Leah. Dealing with Entei was something that'd always had to happen at some point, and at one stage before I wrote the chapter plan for chapters 37-55, when I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with chapter 39, I was considering putting the Entei fight in it. But Entei would sensibly be in Johto - in fact, he explicitly had been in Johto to choose Spirit - and once I'd decided to make chapter 39 the plot recap instead, I started planning out this whole bit about Leah sending a distress call and Chaletwo teleporting them there, while they were at the League (the entire setup about Molzapart being ready to send a general signal for them to teleport towards if Alan found a legendary was always meant to facilitate this, rather than it ever being the plan for Alan to need help; the placement of it here in particular was basically to fill the semifinals chapter with something more interesting than actually showing May's entire semifinal battle). I don't think I realized until a while later that hmm, Spirit should kind of complicate things a bit here, shouldn't she. By the time I started this chapter, I believe the plan was that they were going to be teleported to fight Entei, and then one way or another once Spirit comes out they're going to stop fighting, and they talk a little, and then one way or another Entei ends up doing the same thing Suicune did, transferring his soul into the necklace.

However, I hadn't planned for the conversation to reveal anywhere near as much as it turned out to. In the chapter plan I'd finished early while writing this chapter, I had Mark realize what the Chosen were really for in chapter 75. If I recall correctly, while I was writing this, though, Entei just decided to go, "Say, Chaletwo, is this by any chance about preventing the War of the Legends?" And I realized that actually, I could totally just reveal the whole thing here straight from the horse's mouth without waiting for the end, and that'd actually be way better in every way. I'm so happy I did that here rather than have yet another thing suddenly revealed during the climax. This chapter turned out so much more interesting than I expected, and I think it really enhances the story from here that we and the characters know this - Mark having this major crisis of faith about legendaries here, bringing the whole overall theme of legendaries being terrified by their own unexpected mortality properly to the forefront, the revelation not every other legendary is just simplistically following Mew like Chaletwo's been assuming, the idea other legendaries also noticed their power loss and are proactive agents, Gyarados learning exactly why Suicune starved him after all, everyone knowing Spirit's just being used while she still clings to Entei. All in all, thank everything this happened.

When did I actually come up with what the Chosen were for? Hmm. I definitely had not when I originally came up with Spirit; she was just chosen for ~mysterious~ reasons to make her special, and I was going to figure out why later. At one point, one of my Mitch ideas was that somehow, he was chosen by a legendary as well, for... some reason. I'm not quite sure I'd actually even decided by the time I wrote chapter 35; I feel like I first envisioned the whole bit where Suicune transfers his soul as not Suicune transferring his soul, just Suicune officially Choosing Gyarados for whatever mysterious nebulous figure-this-out-later purpose with the last of his strength before he dies? But then again, maybe I had figured that out by the time I actually wrote it. I know that when I was writing this chapter I realized there was no way it made sense for Entei to have known about Chaletwo's plan and that May was involved with it this whole time, and thus I reluctantly retconned that bit. I forget exactly what my train of thought was there, but I posted about how I was having to figure this out on the Quest Blog, and I'm pretty confident this is what I was talking about.

It occurs to me today that the setup with Chaletwo potentially expecting a general psychic signal from Molzapart and therefore blindly teleporting towards a signal that turns out to be Leah, because Chaletwo had forgotten he'd told Leah to do the same thing if she was in trouble, seems to be kind of needlessly complicated. There's not really any obvious reason Chaletwo can't be aware it's Leah calling and not Alan, other than just the simple humour/characterization value of him having forgotten and Leah arguing with him about it, and the surprise of them arriving to find Leah there. I feel like there must have been a plot reason at the time that I went through all these convolutions, but I can't figure out what it was. I could still have Molzapart go with Alan so he could signal Chaletwo, of course - Chaletwo'd just know that he has this arrangement with the other legendary hunters as well, if they ever need backup (and may or may not mention it). But maybe I'll keep Chaletwo having forgotten just because I enjoy it.


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