The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

Chapter 53: Away

He caught up with May just as she was exiting the Pokémon Center; apparently she’d finished healing her Pokémon already in the time it took for him to get out. For some reason she was also holding both of their backpacks; she must have retrieved them at the trainer lodge in the meantime.

“Let’s just go,” she said without greeting him or looking him in the eye, her voice quiet as she handed him his own bag. “I don’t want to be here when the reporters start looking for me.”

She was obviously upset; Mark wasn’t quite sure what to say to her and just followed behind her as she walked towards the outside gate, hurriedly flipping his nametag over to show his photo before they went through. The gatekeeper woman squinted at them as they passed; a television inside the guard booth was showing Taylor happily shaking hands with the very reluctant-looking Champion of the Old-Timers’ League.

“Hey,” the woman called after May, leaning out of the booth, but she quickened her pace without answering and Mark had to sprint to catch up with her.

“You did great, you know,” Mark tried as May showed no signs of being about to stop; they seemed to be heading towards the mountains where they usually trained.

“No, I didn’t,” May responded irritably without looking at him. “I screwed up with Skarmory. Roosting was a terrible idea when it was using a Fighting move, but I wasn’t thinking. And Feraligatr can’t even learn Haze. I shouldn’t have believed it until I saw it.”

Mark didn’t know quite how to respond to that. “Well…”

“But it’s not like it mattered anyway, because even if I’d done everything perfectly, Mewtwo² would still just have thrown Tyranitar around like a bloody bouncing ball and there’s nothing I could’ve done about it, so either way I never could have won.”

“I’m sure everybody out there thinks of you as the real Champion,” Mark said. “I mean, Taylor basically cheated. Everybody knows that.”

“If they think that, they’re wrong!” May said fiercely, turning around. “There is no second place in a knockout tournament. Any one of the trainers he beat could be better than me. The fact I happened to be the last one to battle him is meaningless, you understand? God, learn some basic math.”

She turned quickly around again and marched on; Mark hurried to keep up with her and quietly decided not to try to start another conversation.

-------

May had stopped suddenly in a bit of an open area that Mark had guessed must be a spot she’d used sometime when they were training separately and announced they would camp there. He’d not felt like arguing.

Now, after they’d set up the tent, they were sitting around their campfire in silence. It was only the afternoon, but the approaching autumn was making the days get colder, and Mark was grateful for the fire. He’d rather be at the warm trainer lodge reading or drawing or watching TV, of course, but he couldn’t just leave May out here alone, and so he stayed, wondering restlessly if it would be horribly insensitive to send out his Pokémon to talk to them. (It probably would be.)

He looked at her. She was staring fixedly into the flames, curled up with her arms wrapped around her knees to keep warm. Her expression was empty and faraway, devoid of any particular discernible emotions, but she still obviously felt like crap. He wished he could help her, somehow; it fleetingly occurred to him to give her a hug or something, but he couldn’t imagine she would appreciate the gesture.

He wondered idly what she was thinking. Was she ashamed? Hating Taylor? Blaming herself? Blaming everybody but herself?

That thought sparked something in his mind. “You’re not mad at Tyranitar, are you?” he asked warily.

She shook her head resentfully. “It’s not his fault Taylor had a bloody Psychic Pokémon that could affect Dark-types.”

Mark nodded. Okay, so she was hating Taylor.

“What a cheat,” she went on, picking up a rock and tossing it angrily away. “Overpowered clones are just a nice challenge, but Mewtwo²? Why does he even bother having the other ones?”

Mark shrugged. There was silence.

“So... when’s the ferry tomorrow again?” he asked after several minutes.

“Two o’clock.”

“Shouldn’t we contact Alan and arrange a meet-up?”

“Yeah, we should.” May seemed somewhat cheered up by the suggestion and immediately reached over for her backpack; she shuffled around for her Pokégear for a moment before she found it. She pressed some buttons, and there was a loud dial tone; Mark presumed she’d set it to speaker.

“May?” came Alan’s voice after just a few beeps.

“Hi.” May actually smiled a little; calling Alan had clearly been a good idea.

“Hi, Alan.”

“Mark too? Oh, awesome. I was just going to call you guys, but I seem to have lost May’s number. Where to start? Well, first of all, I was watching your battle on TV earlier – you were great!”

Her smile faded abruptly; she didn’t reply.

“May? I mean it – I’m in the Scorpio City Pokémon Center, and there were a bunch of people here watching when it was on. Everyone was rooting for you. You should’ve heard them all crying foul when Mewtwo²’s Psychic worked on Tyranitar, or the applause when he got up and seemed to be resisting it. Nurse Joy even came and turned off the television before the award ceremony, and people cheered. Everybody knows you should’ve won.”

“Can we please not talk about the battle now, okay?”

“What?” Alan sounded honestly confused. “Um, okay, I guess? Well, we found Rainteicune and explained it to him, so he’s caught and that’s all fine now. You, um, you got Polaryu all right, I trust?”

“Yeah,” Mark replied. “But May had to use a Master Ball, so we’ve only got one left now. Also Entei, sort of – it’s a long story.”

“Huh? Uh, you’ll tell me about that when we meet up, I guess. You were going to take the ferry, right?”

“It’s at two o’clock,” May said. “Dunno when it’ll be over there exactly – make an educated guess?”

“It’s arriving in Merville, right?”

“I was thinking, though,” Mark said, “since we sort of decided to go up to the Eastern Cliffs – the Color Dragons might be there – and through the Ouen Safari, maybe we should get off on the other side of Aquarium City, on Route 308. I think I heard it lets off passengers there too.”

“Okay by me,” Alan replied. “So I’ll just be waiting for you, then?”

“That’d be nice,” May said.

“Great. I’ll see you then, I suppose. I should probably get going.”

“Bye,” Mark called.

“Bye,” May said kind of half-heartedly. She looked at the Pokégear for a moment before she turned to put it back in her bag, and then she inexplicably sprung to her feet.

“Taylor!” she shouted, and for a moment Mark was sure she’d gone mad, but then somebody with very familiar dark red hair stepped into his field of vision from where he’d been obstructed by a rock.

“Hey,” said Taylor, in a curious but altogether not unfriendly tone, walking towards them. “What are you doing here?”

“I want a rematch,” May said with cold determination, seeming bizarrely unsurprised that he had just appeared out of nowhere.

Taylor looked blankly back at her. “But I just beat you.”

May gritted her teeth. “I know that. I want a rematch. Same as before, except no Mewtwo². Just your other four clones against my team of six. Okay? You’ve healed, right?”

The other boy gave her a doubtful look. “But you know you don’t get to be Champion even if you...”

“Yes, I bloody know that!” May snapped. “Are you going to battle me or not?”

Taylor shrugged. “Uh, sure?” He paused. “But then you send out first. You’re the challenger.”

May nodded shortly and they each stepped back a bit to form a clear area between them. Mark made himself comfortable where he was, which gave him a decent view; though he wasn’t quite sure why she was bothering, it actually would be interesting to see if she could beat him with Mewtwo² out of the picture.

“Tyranitar, go!” May called after a moment of thought, and the dinosaur materialized in front of her with a powerful roar.

Taylor grinned, clearly not in any hurry to get out a Pokéball of his own. “I remember this guy,” he said. “You’ve got to admit, it was pretty funny when Mewtwo²...”

Tyranitar cut him off with a low, threatening growl as he took a few steps closer.

“Heh.” Taylor looked up at the towering figure of the Pokémon, taking a nervous step back. “Easy there.”

Mark wondered idly if Taylor had ever been this close to a large, real Pokémon that wasn’t mind-controlled by a Clone Ball in his life before. Tyranitar took another step towards him, and Taylor shuffled back so fast he tripped over a rock and fell onto his back; May seemed to be enjoying the spectacle immensely.

“Get him off me!” Taylor yelled in a panic, crawling frantically backwards as Tyranitar continued to advance towards him. “Get him off me!”

“Fine,” May said, rolling her eyes. “Tyranitar, get back here.”

But Tyranitar didn’t get back there. He took one more step towards Taylor, who was screaming in terror by now, and another, and then lifted his foot high above the boy’s body.

May’s eyes widened, her hand fumbling for the Pokéball she’d already attached back to her necklace.

There was a sickening crack as Tyranitar’s foot thrust down through Taylor’s ribs, instantly silencing his scream. Dark blood trickled out from underneath his body, quickly turning into a puddle of red.

“Oh, God.” Mark looked away, trying to restart his brain and fight back his nausea. May was staring frozenly at Tyranitar, one hand still clutching her Pokéball necklace. The Pokémon looked over at her, like he was waiting for something.

“Wh... why would you...” she asked weakly.

There was a pause. “You said he should die,” Tyranitar said in something that sounded like genuine confusion. “You said to show him we’re...”

Mark stared at him in limp disbelief. Tyranitar lowered his head ever so slightly, looking at May. “You’re not happy?” he asked, his unpracticed, still-childish speech somehow making it worse.

“You just murdered...” May covered her mouth and turned away as if she were about to throw up, but she didn’t; she just took a few shaky breaths and didn’t turn back around again. Still watching May carefully, Tyranitar lifted his foot and put it down beside Taylor’s body (Mark made every effort not to look at it but there it was and oh God).

“I don’t understand,” the Pokémon muttered after a moment. “I thought you’d be happy and then you wouldn’t be mad that I lost.”

May whirled back around to face him. “I’m not mad that you lost, okay?” she said, her voice unnervingly close to breaking. “It wasn’t your fault. It was just Mewtwo². That’s why I challenged him to a rem...”

Her voice died abruptly and she quickly turned her back to him again, her shoulders shaking. Tyranitar’s gaze stayed on her. “You said he should die so I...”

“Well, you can’t just kill people,” she said as she turned around yet again, an almost hysterical anger entering her voice now. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done? What kind of trouble we’re in?”

Tyranitar hung his head miserably but said nothing.

“We have to talk to the police,” Mark muttered numbly from where he was sitting.

“The police? We can’t talk to the police! What are we going to tell them? ‘My Tyranitar decided completely on his own to kill this guy I have every reason to have a grudge against and there was no way I could have stopped him even though I had his Pokéball’?”

Mark looked away, unable to answer.

“Or are they going to ask Tyranitar himself, and he’ll tell them I said he should die?” May paced off towards a nearby rock and leaned against it with one hand for a little while as she rubbed her forehead. Tyranitar glanced uncomfortably at Mark.

May finally turned back towards him. “Look, we have to get the hell away from here before somebody finds us here with the body, okay? Help me pack up the tent. We don’t want any evidence that we were here.”

On a normal day, it would have unnerved him how quickly she was planning a cover-up, but as it was, he just stood up and got to work, finding some strange comfort in being told what to do. Everything was back in their bags within minutes, and then it was just putting the fire out, throwing the half-burnt sticks off in different directions and covering the ground where it had been with loose gravel.

May stared over the area for a moment and then nodded. “I think this is the best we can do,” she said quietly. Taylor’s body was still lying there on the blood-soaked ground, jarringly out of place alone in the barren landscape. Neither of them had been able to bring themselves to touch it.

“Are we going back to the trainer lodge?” Mark asked, the thought of being around other people strangely nauseating.

May shook her head. “We’ll camp somewhere else.” She spent a moment seemingly lost in thought before she finally looked up at Tyranitar. “You need to go away.”

He looked back at her, uncomprehending. “Not with you?”

“No, not with me.” She looked down. “I’m releasing you. Go and find some wild Tyranitar to live with.”

The Pokémon stared at her. “But I won’t…”

“It doesn’t matter,” May said, her voice shaking a little but still firm. “You killed someone. I don’t know if they can trace it back to you somehow, but if they can, I can’t still be carrying you around. Wild Pokémon don’t get prosecuted.”

Tyranitar looked mortified. He stared at May for a moment longer and then let out a bone-chilling wail before he turned around and fled, eventually blending into the rocky landscape and disappearing from sight.

Mark turned to May and noticed with a jolt that there were tears running down her cheeks as she stared after Tyranitar. As she realized he was looking at her, she quickly wiped her face with her sleeve and then turned around, heading off without a word.

Something compelled Mark to take one last look at the body before he followed her. The boy’s face was frozen in horror, his frightened stare now fixed forever on the sky above; he didn’t look like a League Champion, or a dangerous opponent, or a cheating scumbag. He just looked like a scared little kid who would never get to walk or talk or laugh or do anything again.

Mark shivered and ran to catch up with May.

-------

She led the way to another reasonably open space where they silently set up camp all over again and made a new fire. They sat around it without saying a word for a long while.

“Where are we?” Mark asked at last, mostly just to say something.

“It’s my first training spot,” May answered without looking at him. “Then later I switched to the one where I trained for the finals.”

Silence. “I thought that was where we were before.”

May shook her head. “That was Taylor’s.”

Mark looked uncomprehendingly at her, his brain still largely frozen. “Taylor’s?”

“I was hoping he’d come there,” she said. “So I could get a rematch.”

Taylor’s greeting echoed in Mark’s mind: What are you doing here? They’d been there waiting for him, ambushing him in his own training spot. Something about it made him start to laugh; he felt sick for doing it.

There was more silence for a while.

“He was such a selfish, incompetent, cheating little git,” May said quietly, her voice unconvinced and empty of vitriol.

Something broke within Mark. It was a curious feeling: in a flash every nauseating detail of everything that had happened hit him like a freight train, and then he found himself heaving over a puddle of vomit, not remembering properly how it even got there. May was watching him, not saying anything.

He wiped his mouth and sat back up a bit further away. “You went there to his own training spot,” he said, trembling. “And he came, probably to escape the angry mob that must have been assaulting him outside the stadium... and then...”

She looked away without answering.

“And what’s with Tyranitar? He’ll kill people because he thinks it’ll make you happy? To make you not mad at him? What the hell? How did he get to thinking like that?”

“I don’t know!” May almost shouted, sounding broken and desperate. “I just don’t know, okay?”

“Well, I know,” Mark went on, his voice rising. “He’s probably really young and just didn’t know any better than to live for pleasing you and take you literally when you cheerfully tell everyone Taylor should die in a fire, and you’ve never given him enough thought to even see it, let alone correct it – but really, for God’s sake, he never said a word in his life until today, and nobody wonders if there’s anything wrong with him?”

Nobody had wondered. Neither had he. Neither had Alan. He was sure May would immediately seize upon that, but she didn’t. She just sat there, looking away, saying nothing, and that deflated his bubble of anger a little. He took a deep breath, feeling slightly calmer but not really any better.

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” May said shakily after a moment. “He’s gone.”

Mark wanted to argue with that, to tell her of course it still mattered because they had made him that way and failed to do anything about it, but he couldn’t admit that to himself, not now. “Somebody is going to find out,” he said, his voice flat. “We’re not going to just walk off and get away with this.”

May looked up, her gaze steeled. “Why not?”

“We’re just kids!” He tried to fight back the tears, but they formed anyway. “We’re not criminals. How are we supposed to pull off a perfect cover-up? We’ll get caught. It’s murder. We’ll...”

We did not do this!” May interrupted him heatedly. “This is not our fault!”

“What’s your point? You said yourself we can’t tell the police what really happened because it sounds too implausible that we didn’t have anything to do with it. We might as well...”

“First of all, you had nothing to do with it,” she said, cutting him off, but she didn’t follow it with anything; she stared at the fire, curled up against the cold, and Mark suddenly didn’t want to say anything either.

Silence lay thick for a few tense moments.

“Do you want to tell the police?” May asked quietly.

She was right. Mark had nothing to do with it and there was no reason he ought to fall under suspicion for anything. He had nothing to lose by going to the cops. And wasn’t it May’s fault more than anyone else’s, anyway?

Wasn’t it the right thing, really?

“If I may intrude,” said a telepathic voice, making Mark jump; he’d forgotten Chaletwo even existed. “Nobody’s calling the police on anyone here. I realize this is a big deal for humans and I can’t pretend to really understand how you feel right now, but... we need you. We need both of you. You can’t let this get in the way of your mission. I hate to say this, but mortals die. It was an accident. It was nobody’s fault. Deal with it and move on. You have more important things to worry about than the death of a boy you never liked anyway.”

Mark stared at the fire, a growing pit in his stomach. May was looking at him, her face pale.

“And if the police seem to be connecting it to you, Molzapart or I should be able to do something about it in an emergency. This is not the end of the world.”

“Molzapart,” Mark realized, glancing at May. “What if he just performs a mass memory modification? Makes everyone forget about Taylor? Then maybe...”

“Unfortunately, that was the compromise we made to be able to send him with Alan,” Chaletwo replied with a sigh. “He’ll have gotten too weak for something of that scale by now. But like I said, if suspicion falls on you, we can fix it.”

Mark took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, feeling a bit better. May, on the other hand, didn’t look like she felt better at all; she was motionless, her empty gaze still fixed on the fire.

“And before you ask, no, I couldn’t have resurrected him. The body was too damaged.”

The image of Taylor’s crushed body and wide, staring eyes flashed across Mark’s mind; he shuddered before something struck him that he had been too numb to register while they were there. “Should we have taken his Pokéballs?” he asked. “I mean, because of Mewtwo²?”

“Pokéballs transmit signals that can be tracked,” May said without looking at him.

“I doubt they’d release him, anyway,” Chaletwo said. “Odds are Rick will take him back and he’ll be as safe as the other legendary clones in the Cleanwater Gym. Which is to say, not perfectly safe, but it can’t be helped, and at our best estimates the start of the War should be well before the start of the next high season of trainers, so there shouldn’t be a lot of Gym battles going on around that time.”

Well before the start of the next high season of trainers. Mark had always known there was a deadline, but hearing it stated like that made it all too real.

He sighed. They really did have more important things to worry about. And paralyzing as it was to think about it, there was nothing more they could do about Taylor. He was dead. Tyranitar was gone and would hopefully be better off in the wild with others of his kind. They would not be suspects.

“Chaletwo’s right,” he said, not quite sure to whom. “We have to move on. We have no other choice.” He looked at May and clenched his fist unconsciously. “We’ll take that ferry tomorrow, meet up with Alan and go to the Eastern Cliffs like we planned. Everything is going to be fine, and then we can just forget this ever happened.”

May just continued to stare into the flames, not saying a word.


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