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!

Chapter 58: Sins of the Mother

July 16th, 2011 - meaning I managed to write this one in less than a month! After the previous two had been largely played by ear, this one was another one I'd had planned for a long, long time.

Letaligon materialized from her Pokéball in a burst of white light and looked quickly around the small Pokémon Center room before relaxing.

“Are we in Green Town?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Mark said. “We can go out to Ruxido in a moment, if you like.”

She nodded. “Great.”

Mark bit his lip. He’d hoped she would at least show some sign of wanting to discuss things, but it seemed she still just wanted to get out. He sighed and sat down on the bed. “Can we talk, just for a bit?”

“I’m not changing my mind about leaving,” Letaligon said warily.

“I’m not trying to make you change your mind.”

Letaligon shifted, still on guard. “So what do you want?”

Mark took a deep breath. He knew this was almost definitely pointless and not really any of his business, but he couldn’t simply let it alone without one final attempt. “Are you still sure you want to kill your dad?”

“I have to,” Letaligon said insistently.

“But you don’t,” Mark said. “You decided you had to, but you could just go and find another herd where you’ll never have to see him again.”

“You don’t understand,” Letaligon responded without looking at him. “I have to. If I don’t kill him it’s all pointless – going with you, evolving, everything.”

Mark sighed. He’d feared she’d say something like that, but all the same he’d clung on to the hope she could be persuaded, which was probably silly. Pokémon killed one another. They were a different culture. It was none of his business, and once she was gone she would go and do what she wanted to do with her life and he would move on. That was all.

“It doesn’t have to be pointless,” he said anyway. “You’ve grown up. You’ve gotten strong. You’ve –”

“Just let me go,” Letaligon said desperately. “It’s none of your business what I do when I’m out of your life.”

The repetition of "none of your business" here sticks out.

That was it, then.

Mark nodded and recalled her silently back into her Pokéball, then stood up to exit the room with a looming sense of dread hanging over his head.

All in all this opening scene feels like a bit of a repeat of the previous scenes where Mark's talked to Letaligon. I'd want to expand/tweak it and make it more meaningful.

-------

She was quiet as she walked between Mark and May on the way towards Ruxido, her head lower than usual, her steps heavier, and he couldn’t help noticing it, saddening as he realized that there was no way she would let him so much as ask her what she was thinking.

Ever since catching her, ever since seeing her father reject her and hearing her agree to come with him so that she could be strong, Mark had wished he could help her – and at first he’d thought helping her just meant training her so that she’d evolve. But it had never been clearer to him than now that ultimately he hadn’t really helped her at all, and now, much as he hated to admit it, it was too late.

I wish there was a little more setup for this, and a greater sense that Mark had always been hoping he could help her.

When they reached the edge of the forest they stopped. Letaligon took a few steps forward, towards the trees, and then turned around to look at them; she seemed almost startled when Mark detached the six Pokéballs from his belt and dropped them, like it had never crossed her mind to say goodbye to the rest of his team, but she said nothing as the light faded away.

Mark took a deep breath. “So this is goodbye,” he said awkwardly. It was weird, too weird; though he should have had more than enough time to get used to the idea he’d have to release one of his Pokémon, he still couldn’t get rid of the feeling that he’d failed her, that this wouldn’t be happening if he’d just done something better.

I like this bit, though.

Scyther was the first to really get to the point. “Good luck,” he said simply. “It’s been an honor fighting alongside you. Your father won’t know what hit him.”

“Yeah, good luck,” May said with a slightly skewed smile. “You’re strong. You’ll be fine.”

May's trying to get into the habit of just regarding the Pokémon as people. I think she was a little fond of Letaligon, though it'd have been fun to see a bit more of it.

Letaligon shifted, looking between the two of them as if to respond, but still said nothing. Sandslash, Dragonite and Charizard were muttering their own goodbyes; she only nodded distractedly, glancing between Mark, May, Scyther and the forest, like she wasn’t sure what to say to them and just wanted to leave as soon as possible so she wouldn’t have to say anything at all.

Jolteon was standing a little back, looking down; Mark had figured he’d take her leaving the hardest and now wished, with a twinge of guilt, that he’d had the presence of mind to talk to him about it first. “I’ll miss you,” Jolteon said in a small voice, still not meeting Letaligon’s eyes. “Thanks for... for being my friend.”

He looked up at her at last; his eyes shone with tears as he stepped very carefully up to her and, after another moment of hesitation, rubbed his head gently against her leg. Again Letaligon seemed startled; she looked miserably down at Jolteon, shaking her head a little, and then said quietly, “Goodbye.”

We have seen Jolteon and Letaligon together a bit, but generally as off-hand mentions that they're hanging out together in the background. This'd be significantly more impactful if we'd had more of it.

“Goodbye,” Jolteon said and took a step back, his ears drooping. Letaligon started to turn around, towards the entrance to the forest, and then abruptly looked at Mark.

“Will you come with me?” she asked, her voice uncharacteristically pleading.

“What?” Mark asked in confusion, hesitating. “And watch you...?”

“No,” Letaligon said quickly. “Just until I’ve found them. For safety. Maybe they’ve... maybe they’ve moved.”

It had the air of a hastily assembled excuse, but Mark didn’t care; if for the first time she actually wanted his company, he wasn’t going to turn his back on her. “Okay,” he said and nodded. “Until we find the Letaligon herd.”

Poor Letaligon. She has no idea how to deal with realizing she's going to miss them when she's so determined she's leaving and not looking back. But at least she dares ask Mark to come with her so she won't have to go and face all this alone.

-------

For the first time as far as Mark could remember, Letaligon seemed very nervous. She carried herself with a weird stiffness, glancing back and forth as they headed deeper into the forest, and he couldn’t help getting the feeling she was more wandering aimlessly than heading anywhere in particular. Regardless, he didn’t comment, just following silently along by her side, wondering what he could say to reassure her.

“I hate him,” Letaligon said suddenly, her voice trembling, though it had regained the iron determination that had been so jarringly absent earlier. “You don’t know how much I hate him. You couldn’t understand. You keep saying I shouldn’t kill him but you don’t know anything.”

Mark hesitated. “Maybe not,” he admitted.

“He was a monster to my mother, not just me,” she went on, not looking at him. “You didn’t watch him, every day, treating her like...” She trailed off. “She was his mate. He should have loved her. But he didn’t. And she couldn’t leave him because he was the leader. The leader has a right to a mate.”

Letaligon society with its shiny supremacy is pretty toxic and terrible.

Mark shuddered. It was dawning on him that he really hadn’t understood her situation very well. He’d somehow imagined she could just as well simply leave and avoid a confrontation to begin with, but if it was about her mother as well, it didn’t seem so simple. Part of him wondered why she hadn’t ever brought it up before, but come to think of it she’d never been very willing to talk about the reasons behind it to begin with.

“You could still take your mother and leave the herd,” he suggested.

“If I don’t kill him it’s all for nothing!” she insisted, and he shut up. They’d been through this part already.

For a minute they walked on, Letaligon shifting a little more than usual. Then, without warning, she muttered, very quietly, “I don’t know if I can beat him.”

Mark stared at her. “No, don’t think like that,” he said quickly. “You’re strong. You heard May and Scyther. You were in the League and you did brilliant. Pokémon in the wild almost never grow to those kinds of levels.”

“He’s a Letaligon,” she pointed out, the softness of her voice somehow unnerving. “He’s been a Letaligon for years. I’ve only been one for a month.”

“You evolved late, that’s all,” Mark said, but even then he started to wonder: if there was a herd of wild Letaligon, they had to be high-leveled, and the only way they could be so high-leveled in Ruxido, where most of the Pokémon weren’t that powerful, was if they regularly fought one another even far past the point where they could defend themselves against any local threat – so why would they stop training after they evolved? Their progress would be slow, but with years of time...

“If I don’t win, he’s going to kill me,” she said, still not looking him in the eye.

And it struck Mark, finally, finally, that maybe this wasn’t just a matter of whether she would become a murderer, but of whether she would be murdered.

“Letaligon,” he said carefully, “if you’re having second thoughts, we can still go back –”

“Shut up, Mark,” she snarled with a sudden ferocity, jerking her head back towards him. “All you ever want is to tell me I’m wrong.”

I like this conversation a lot, Letaligon's rambling, desperate attempts to get Mark to validate that she has to do this and tell her she's definitely going to win, then the lashout when he just suggests retreating instead. All Letaligon's ever wanted is someone to tell her she's right and she can do this and they'll be fine. I imagine her mother spent a lot of time telling her nothing could be done and they just had to accept their lot, and she spent her time imagining that if she were just stronger she could set things right.

She quickened her pace in the opposite direction, and he hastened to keep up with her. After a moment, she said, in a tone of forced conviction, “Shiny armor is heavy. I’ll be faster than him. And I beat a Letaligon at the League while I was still a Letal.”

Mark was beginning to try to formulate some kind of a reply when she stopped abruptly, looking around. For a second she stood there, one leg forgotten in the air, all senses on high alert; then, just as suddenly, she straightened and let out a loud, hollow, metallic-sounding cry.

There was silence, and then there was an answer, a similar cry from deeper within the forest. Letaligon listened to it, tensing, and hesitated for a long second before she made off in the direction of the sound.

Mark sprinted unthinkingly after her, only barely keeping up as he tried to avoid the trees; thankfully, as they reached a clearing, Letaligon slowed back down to a halt, and he only just had time to catch his breath before noticing the other Letaligon that was approaching the other side of the clearing.

“Mother,” whispered Letaligon, her gaze somehow distant.

“Hope!” called the newcomer as she came into full view, her voice trembling with fearful disbelief. “You came back!”

“Mother,” Letaligon said again, shakily, and took a few hesitant steps towards her, but she needed no more, because the other was already bounding across the clearing to meet her. She stopped only just before she would have physically crashed into her, and they crossed their necks and nuzzled gently at each other for a moment, their species’ equivalent of a hug; Letaligon closed her eyes, but her mother kept a wary eye on Mark.

I drew this moment in 2017.

This last paragraph has always kind of bugged me; the description just seems awkward and I'm still not sure exactly how I'd fix it.

“That’s your trainer, isn’t it?” she asked softly as they stepped back from one another. “Has he been kind to you?”

Letaligon nodded slightly and Mark felt a little warmer.

Her mother nodded. “You’re leaving again, then?” she said, keeping her voice level, but Mark could see the worry in her eyes.

“No,” Letaligon said quietly. “I only went to evolve. I’m back now.” She hesitated for a moment as her mother nuzzled her again. “Where’s... where’s Father?” she then asked.

Her mother looked in her eyes, shaking her head slowly. “Vigor’s dead,” she said. “Your sister evolved and deposed him, months ago. She’s leader now.”

Mark’s heart stung weirdly as Letaligon stared at her. “My father’s dead?” she repeated in incomprehension.

The older Letaligon looked at her for a moment, eyes sorrowful, and then murmured, “Hope, he wasn’t your father.”

Letaligon blinked, stiffening. “What do you mean?”

“You aren’t shiny,” her mother said softly. “Didn’t it ever occur to you to wonder, as you grew up?”

“But you said it could happen,” Letaligon insisted, sounding puzzled. “You said sometimes shiny Letaligon have –”

“Do you remember my friend, Power?”

Letaligon stared, stunned into silence.

“You have his eyes,” her mother went on, her voice gentle and quiet.

As I mentioned in the chapter 22 commentary, originally I fully expected she was genuinely just that rare exception. I still planned for Vigor to be dead by the time she returned, though. It was a revelation when I realized he literally thought she wasn't his daughter, and that he was probably right.

Her mother, of course, didn't want to tell her this, but always expected she'd figure it out as she grew up, so to see her returning a Letaligon and still convinced Vigor was her real father was rather awkward and unexpected.

There was a long pause. “So...” Letaligon finally began, swallowing, “so all those times he refused to call me his daughter... he was right?”

Her mother’s eyes widened at the anger in her voice and she took a horrified step back, shaking her head. “Of course it wasn’t right for him to treat you like that – but –”

“Why?” Letaligon asked, her voice shaking as she raised it. “Why would you...”

“It was a moment of weakness!” her mother said, pleadingly. “Please understand. I didn’t choose Vigor. He chose me and he’s the leader; I couldn’t say no. But I was Power’s mate before I was Vigor’s, and sometimes I just...”

“You lied,” Letaligon said, trembling. “All that time, you said that... you said sometimes shinies have Leta that aren’t...”

“They do,” her mother said. “Even shiny mothers can give birth to Leta that aren’t shiny, sometimes. But I had to lie; he would’ve killed us both if he’d known for sure, and you were just a Leta – you couldn’t have understood, then. Don’t you see?”

For a long moment they looked at one another, Letaligon’s gaze staring and disbelieving, her mother’s sad and concerned.

“Hope,” the older Letaligon murmured, “please come home. I’m sorry for how you feel, but I did it for you, because I love you. Vigor is gone and we can’t change it, but Power will be a better father to you than Vigor ever was.”

There was a moment where Letaligon looked miserably at her mother, and then something just died in her eyes; the fire that had driven her for as long as he’d known her faded into a dull emptiness. Mark’s heart wrenched and he wanted to call out to her, say something, help her somehow this last time he had the chance to, but any words he could begin to formulate got stuck in his throat; he didn’t feel like he could interfere in their conversation.

“Mom,” Letaligon finally whispered, her voice wavering, and then she just hung her head, making strange strangled noises that it took Mark a second to recognize as sobs.

“Hope, it’s not that bad,” her mother began cautiously, her voice betraying her confusion; she had no idea what was actually wrong, and it hit Mark that Letaligon would never tell her, or tell anyone; he really was the last person who could offer her any kind of understanding.

“Letaligon,” he found the strength to say, but she didn’t look up. He approached her slowly, and after a moment of alarm, her mother backed away from her, still keeping a cautious eye on him.

“Letaligon,” he said again, quietly, as he placed a careful hand on her neck, remembering his conversations with Scyther, “life is what you make of it. When things don’t work out like you thought they would, you can find a new purpose. You’re safe, your mother’s safe, and your father can’t hurt you anymore – you can put it all behind you now, if you just let yourself.”

“Just leave me alone,” she said, her voice still shaking. It stung, even after all this, but Mark forced himself to nod and step away.

Letaligon’s mother glanced anxiously at him before turning to address her daughter again. “Come with me,” she said gently. “You’ll feel better tomorrow.”

Letaligon nodded vaguely without looking at her, and as her mother turned to walk back in the direction she had come from, she followed behind her, head low.

Mark was frozen for a moment before he realized that this was truly it. “Goodbye, Letaligon,” he called belatedly after her, unable to think of anything better to say. “Try to be happy –” – and suddenly his voice broke on the last word, because in a sweeping moment it hit him hard that she probably wouldn’t listen to him, any more than she had ever wanted to listen to him, and she really might spend the rest of her life not even trying to find her drive again.

As he cut off, she turned her head around, looking at him, and for a moment her expression turned to sorrow and confusion as she hesitated –

– but then her mother noticed her stopping, her eyes hardened again, and she turned away to follow the older Letaligon into the forest, disappearing between the trees.

Mark waited a few seconds, just in case she changed her mind and came back, before he turned back in the direction he hoped led to Green Town.

He wasn’t sure what, but something in that final look she had given him had sparked a shimmer of hope that maybe she would take his last piece of advice to heart after all.

I like to think she does get over it. People always think they'll have a harder time getting over major traumas than they actually do, and although Letaligon is now aimless and without purpose, things will eventually get back to a relative normal for her, and she'll find something to strive towards.

I'm not sure if I've ever talked about this before, but: for a while, I was considering having Letaligon come back after the chapter 59 timeskip, having healed a bit and come to the realization she wants to help save the world. I ended up not doing it; it'd be basically the exact same deal as Scyther's resolution in chapter 60, which would diminish both of them, and ultimately, I liked her story ending here and felt bringing her back afterwards would lessen the impact here.

This is yet another one of my anticlimax moments: Letaligon doing everything in order to fight her father has been built up steadily, only for it to just turn out by the time she returns he's already long dead, and there's nothing for her to do. It's unsatisfying, but hopefully that's because it's unsatisfying to her and you've been swept up with her, and you're feeling that restless aimlessness with her.

The chapter plan said Chapter 58: They head into Ruxido at last and find Letaligon’s herd; she finds out her father is dead and stays with her mother, having lost her sense of purpose. I hadn't decided on precisely how this would play out with Letaligon getting just Mark to come with her until I started writing the chapter.


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