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 65: Three Dragons

May 13th, 2015... just a few hours off being a year after chapter 64. Ouch again. In the meantime, the fic's twelfth birthday had passed; on October 18th, I'd passed the important milestone of having been working on this fanfic for more than half of my life; and I'd turned twenty-five in February.

This time the reasons it took so long were much less intellectual (at least mostly - some of it was still that I was rereading the rest of the fic and mulling over plans). What happened was largely just that editing this legendary battle was a headache and I kept putting it off. First I realized bits didn't make sense and wasn't sure how I was going to fix them, then I realized even if I fixed them I'd have to edit what happens in the rest of the battle accordingly, then eventually I realized what'd have to happen was I'd have to rewrite the legendary battle from scratch, then I put that off. But I was determined not to let a chapter take more than a year again, and once that deadline really started looming on the horizon, that kicked me into sitting down and doing the work.

“Just try to treat your arm like normal. Don’t avoid using it and putting weight on it. Don’t break it again either, but I trust you’ll be more careful from now on.”

Mark nodded from atop Charizard’s back. “Thanks for all your help, Mrs. Riverstone,” he said. “And thanks again for letting us borrow your daughter.”

She grimaced. “I’d be coming with you myself if I had battling Pokémon, not sending my eleven-year-old. Frankly, after this whole setback I don’t know how I can possibly believe you’ll make it.”

May had filled them in on Dragoreen’s deception in a curt phone call the previous night. Mrs. Riverstone had been livid, but somehow Mark had felt mainly disappointment: as terrifying and ruthless as she could be, Dragoreen had ultimately seemed like the reasonable one of her sisters, and during his recovery he’d permitted himself to hope she was truly on their side.

“Don’t worry, Mom,” Robin said after a few seconds of dull silence, but even she didn’t sound half as cheerful as she’d been before they’d left. “We know where we’re headed now, and after that we just have to find two more. We’ll be fine.”

“Well, if not,” her mother said, “there’s always the bunker.” She pointed a thumb behind her, at the entrance to the unfinished underground shelter she’d been building over the past weeks with the help of a band of Ground Pokémon she’d recruited from the Safari. Mark shuddered at the thought they might have to use it.

“Well, we’d better go,” Alan said with a sigh. “Thanks for everything and goodbye, Mrs. Riverstone.”

“Bye, Mom!” Robin called, flashing a grin as her Charizard took off the ground. “See you when we’re heroes!”

Mrs. Riverstone grinned back and waved for a second before turning around back to her house, shaking her head. Robin’s smile faded into a wince as their Pokémon ascended and headed west.

Things are dreary and everyone's dispirited! In the NaNo draft, if you can believe it, everyone felt fine here and Mrs. Riverstone was in a pretty good mood. This is going to be a running theme of my edits.

I like Robin here, clearly affected by their pointless venture and the unpleasant revelations, but still valiantly trying to stay optimistic and cheerful. I wish we got a better sense of what Mark's been doing for all this time, though - ultimately it feels very much like Mark's stay with Mrs. Riverstone just never happened.

-------

They flew to Acaria City first, stayed there overnight, and then headed for Scorpio City the next morning. Mark briefly considered whether they should visit Mitch since they were there – the last time they’d met was still nagging uncomfortably at Mark’s mind – but eventually decided against it for now, figuring that since they’d lost so much time, they should use it looking for the dragons as far as they possibly could.

“These mountains are a lot smaller than around Acaria,” Alan commented when they had landed on the edge of the town. “Hopefully they won’t take as long to go through.”

This was actually May's line in the NaNo draft, but it was way off for her to be pointing out the positives here. Alan's pretty dispirited as well, but still halfheartedly trying to see the silver lining.

“And warmer,” Robin added.

“Yeah,” May said, grimacing. “A lot more of a natural hiding place for a bunch of Dragon/Flying-types. God, we were so stupid.”

Mark sighed inwardly. In retrospect he supposed it would have been kind of odd for the dragons to live somewhere very cold, but given Dragoreen had explicitly said they were there, he couldn’t exactly blame anyone for not questioning it. He knew better than to try to convince May of that, though.

“It was exhausting being in her head,” Chaletwo said. “I had started to take you for granted, but she was just… constantly angry. She never let me get a very good grasp on what she was thinking, but what I caught wasn’t encouraging.”

Mark tried to imagine being inside May’s head; his first thought was that it was probably terrifying. Is she okay?

This line was kept from the NaNo draft and I enjoy it a lot.

In the draft the paragraphs preceding this were bad and unsubtle, with Chaletwo again just being significantly more sympathetic to May than he ought to be and Mark bluntly explaining May's issues to the reader because he's psychic now I guess:

Mark had the feeling May really thought she should have picked up on the fact Dragoreen was lying immediately. He didn’t think he could ever have guessed something like that; types didn’t really occur to him that way. But May seemed to beat herself up about not being quite as amazing as she thought she ought to be a lot, and whenever he tried to point out her expectations were unreasonable she just got mad at him, so he’d learned not to.

“Mostly. She was pretty stressed. Got vicious when things didn’t go right. Robin brought up Tyranitar, which didn’t exactly help.”

Mark winced. She doesn’t know?

“May told her eventually,” Chaletwo said. “I’m concerned about that too. Robin seemed pretty alarmed but then just… stopped talking about it. It doesn’t feel like a good sign.”

Mark nodded, furrowing his brow. It looked like their time in the Acaria mountains hadn’t been good for anyone involved; even Alan was kind of moody and quiet. Maybe it was a good thing he hadn’t been there.

This paragraph was also extremely bad and unsubtle in the NaNo draft:

Mark winced. It didn’t sound like that was quite sorted out yet, then. He still didn’t like to think about Taylor’s death – in a flash, he remembered the boy’s frozen stare and shuddered – and for Robin, who had only just been introduced into the group, it had to be a bit hard to swallow. If she’d initially freaked out, being silent after that probably didn’t mean she’d simply arrived at the conclusion she was okay with it.

Here, I added in the bit about Alan, largely because I wanted the reader to notice Alan's not quite doing okay either, setting up for his outburst in the next chapter (which was originally spontaneous and came out of nowhere).

“So, do we head for the mountains now or tomorrow?” Robin asked, snapping him abruptly out of his thoughts.

“I’m kind of hungry,” he said. “How about you?”

“Let’s have a quick dinner and then go,” May said, already turning down the main street. “Dragoreen lost us enough time already.”

-------

They didn’t find anything that evening, not that he’d really expected them to, but they did gain a valuable overview of the mountains surrounding the valley and managed to pin down some of the most promising caves they hadn’t explored.

At Robin’s suggestion, as the dark of night set in, before returning to the Pokémon Center, they stood silently a safe distance up the mountainside and watched the eerily beautiful flood of black scorpions near-simultaneously emerging out of the sand to hunt. Mark thought back to that night they’d stupidly camped there and May had almost died, wondering if she was thinking about the same thing or if she tried not to.

This paragraph was rewritten in the draft, largely for imagery, but noticeably it's Robin's idea to watch the Scorplack emerge - she's trying to improve people's spirits, and suggesting an activity like watching something cool together is something she thought of to facilitate that. I kind of wish I'd done a little more of this.

In the morning they headed out again, split the valley into four parts, and each went to cover the mountains in one of them. Charizard flew over Mark’s area for a more detailed overview, and then they headed for the largest cave they’d found.

“Do you think May’s okay?” Charizard murmured as they entered the cavern.

A pang of dread hit him; if Charizard had noticed too without reading her mind, it was probably bad. “Chaletwo was saying she was pretty stressed.”

“Yeah.” Charizard took a deep breath, hesitating. “I don’t think I helped,” he said at last. “The starter Pokémon preparation taught us to be supportive of our trainers when they’re going through a tough time. But while I was there I was too caught up in comparing her to you to remember that. I probably could have talked to her.”

“I don’t think May wants to be talked to when she’s upset,” Mark said. “Don’t blame yourself.”

Charizard sighed and might have been about to say something more when there was a roar from outside, faint with distance but unmistakably furious.

This exchange was a little different in the draft, but still pretty similar. I wish I'd made it a bit longer; Charizard feeling bad for failing in his starter duties is interesting, but it's a fleeting moment almost immediately interrupted by legendaries.

Wide-eyed, Mark scrambled onto Charizard’s back, and Charizard took off to clumsily navigate back out through the tunnel they were in. The sunlight outside momentarily blinded Mark; he shielded his eyes as he got used to it, blinking rapidly, and then saw on the other side of the valley – Robin’s area – where a large shape was hovering in the air, roaring and spewing jets of water towards a smaller shape that had to be Robin’s Charizard.

“Quick!” Mark said, needlessly; Charizard was already speeding towards the battle. Looking around, he saw Skarmory and Charlie making their way over there as well with their trainers. Robin’s Charizard was dodging nimbly, but she hadn’t sent out any other Pokémon, even as Mark indistinctly heard her shouting: she was trying for diplomacy. Mark grinned at the realization.

“...look, he’s over there, Chaletwo, tell him!” As Robin frantically waved her hand in Mark’s direction, the blue dragon looked suspiciously his way but didn’t attack.

“Hello, Dracobalt,” Chaletwo said. “Long time, no see. I assume she was telling you about the War of the Legends.”

Dracobalt stared at Mark for a moment more before he lowered his head, pent-up tension fading from his body. “Chaletwo,” he said with a sigh as he looked up again. “So it is you. I thought my sisters were behind this.”

He turned and landed on the mountainside, gesturing for them to join him. Mark and Robin did immediately; Alan hesitated, but Charlie landed anyway, and May lingered for a long second before giving Skarmory the go-ahead to do the same.

Both May and Alan are pretty wary after watching what happened with Mark previously and Dragoreen's betrayal - ironically more so than Mark himself, who didn't go through the same thing with Dragoreen that they just did and thought the injury was totally worth it.

“So, then,” the dragon said. “If I understood correctly, you’re out capturing legendaries in the hope that it will prevent this... ‘war’ from happening. What is that ‘war’ about, and why have I not heard of it?”

“Are your brothers here?” Chaletwo asked. “You should all hear this.”

Dracobalt’s eyes narrowed slightly. “I suppose.”

He shook himself, the large, fishlike fin that grew out of his spine swaying. Craning his neck back, he let out a deep roar that shook the mountains around them. Seconds later, two more shapes emerged from the mountainsides around the valley: a golden dragon down the ridge they were on in the city’s direction, and a black one from the other side of the valley (Mark realized with a flutter in his stomach that it came out from the next cave he’d planned to explore).

This paragraph reads awkwardly.

“What is going on?” growled the black dragon, presumably Venoir, as he landed nearby. “Who are these humans?”

“Apparently Chaletwo thinks the world will end unless we agree to be caught,” Dracobalt said, his eyes still on Mark. “I thought we should at least let him speak.”

“Chaletwo?” said Preciure as he folded his wings, having taken his place on Dracobalt’s right. “Working with humans? Really? Well, I suppose I always knew he was a bit nuts.”

“What?” said Chaletwo indignantly. Sensing an argument in the making, Mark quickly spoke to get to the point.

I love Mark knowing Chaletwo pretty well by now.

“Look,” he said. “There is a phenomenon known as the War of the Legends. It happens every thousand years and is the reason you’ve probably felt your powers diminishing lately. It involves all the legendaries going mad and super-powerful at once and killing each other until there’s only one left. If they’re all inside Pokéballs when the War should start, they’ll be cut off from the power surge, so then hopefully it won’t happen and you’ll all be unharmed.”

The dragons looked at one another.

“Hopefully?” Preciure asked, sceptical.

“Do you have a better idea?”

“I suppose not, but that’s because this is the first I’ve heard about it. How do you know of this?”

Chaletwo sighed. “Remember being told about the disaster a thousand years ago?”

Preciure peered at Mark. “Vaguely; it was before our time. That was this? Have you always known?”

“Well, no,” Chaletwo said irritably, “Mew neglected to mention it was a regularly recurring event until some twenty years ago, when Molzapart and I started probing him about our power loss. But it was the same thing.”

This was one bit I was stuck on for a bit, because I realized when editing this that I hadn't actually hammered down in a sensible or consistent way exactly what the other legendaries actually knew and didn't know about the previous War. Originally, in the NaNo draft, Preciure just didn't question this whole War story at all - he went straight to trying to persuade them to "forget" about saving their sisters. But this was obviously nonsense; nobody would just accept a story like that without even asking for more details, and once I started to write them having a conversation about it, it became achingly obvious that there was no way the other legendaries knew nothing about the War. Most of them were created by Mew and Chaletwo a thousand years ago - surely they'd have asked what'd just happened and why their predecessors were no longer around. Heck, what had Chaletwo himself thought before Mew told him and Molzapart about the War - what'd he think killed Chalenor? I actually had at some point answered a reader question about this by saying they just didn't know the War would happen again, but I hadn't really properly been writing it like that was the case even after writing that answer - I'd written things more like Chaletwo'd always known and the other legendaries just had no inkling at all. Chaletwo had always been talking about legendaries knowing about the War being a new thing, and both Entei and the female dragons had sounded like the concept was entirely new to them when they learned of it.

Either way, now I finally did pin this down and establish it properly in the fic, better late than never: they were all aware that a thousand years ago the legendaries all went mad and murdered each other, but Mew had made it sound like it was just a one-time thing and nobody knew what had caused it. Mew actually explaining the War meant explaining that this was actually a known thing, a thing that happened every thousand years called the War of the Legends, and how it works with the Destroyer's power drain (of course, he still maintained nobody knew who the Destroyer was). In the next revision I'd write it more consistently like this was the case from the start.

“I presume this is why you made that ridiculous proposal back then?”

“I’m sorry we were vague, but Mew had absolutely forbidden us to inform any of you that the War would happen again. It was all we could do.”

“All you could do, aside from just telling us. Who cares what Mew thinks? Isn’t the end of the world a little more important than Mew’s approval? Well, not to you, I suppose, but I didn’t take Molzapart for…”

Pretty much every legendary was aware of how hung up on Mew Chaletwo is, and Preciure in particular has always found it deeply ridiculous and Chaletwo in general kind of pathetic. I really love Preciure's various jabs at Chaletwo in this chapter.

“Can we not do this?” Mark said, exasperated. “Isn’t the end of the world also a little more important than airing out your issues with each other?”

Venoir gave him a poisonous glare that made him flinch. “You should keep a tighter leash on your humans, Chaletwo.”

Venoir in the NaNo draft was all for the plan, so his characterization changed a bit here (but he was still a dick; he just figured this was the best way to beat out their sisters).

Preciure shook himself, waving a wing dismissively at Venoir. “Now, now, it may have a point. Let’s put aside our petty differences and talk solutions. You think capturing all of us will stop the War, correct?”

Of course you openly call humans 'it', you dick.

“Yes, that’s the idea.”

“But say we’d like a better deal out of that, since your terms seem rather inconvenient for us. What could you offer in return for our cooperation?”

“What on earth are you talking about? It’s stop the end of the world or –”

“For instance,” Preciure went on, “I think my brothers would agree that if you were to… forget to save our sisters in time, we’d be considerably more enthusiastic. Is that a possibility?”

Mark tried his best to keep the shudder off his face.

“We can’t ‘forget’ to save someone. That’s not how it works. It has to be all of them, or the remaining ones destroy everything anyway.”

Preciure chuckled, a disturbingly metallic sound. “Well, ultimately you have to get them all out of the way, to be sure. But you say this is why we’ve been losing power and that Pokéballs cut off the power surge – is it safe to assume that the power loss also stops when we’re inside a Pokéball?”

“It does, but…”

“Then surely if you were to wait to get them until the War is very close, they’ll be quite weak once you do. Wouldn’t that only make things more convenient for you? I could even tell you where they’ve been hiding – but not until later, of course, to ensure you keep your end of the deal.”

Preciure is pretty smart and just deduces this from what they've told him. Dragoreen probably would've figured it out, too, if she'd learned the details in the same order and without trying to deal with this whole ongoing battle at the same time.

“Ah… er, we…”

“Yes,” May interrupted firmly, giving Mark a sideward shut-up glare. “That sounds great. Thanks. Let’s get you in our balls now and we’ll get back to you near the end.”

Dracobalt looked warily at Preciure. Preciure’s eyes narrowed. Venoir stared at May, then Mark. Some instinct made Mark start to back away without thinking; he reached for Charizard beside him, feeling the tension in the Pokémon’s neck, muscles preparing for liftoff.

This whole exchange, after Mark explains the War of the Legends, was rewritten pretty much from scratch since the draft. Originally, Preciure started by proposing they leave their sisters out as I mentioned earlier, then just went "oh well" when Chaletwo said they had to capture every legendary in order for it to work, then asked why they're only finding out about this now and talked about the practicalities with the power drain, then Preciure awkwardly returned to asking when they'd been planning to capture their sisters, Chaletwo fumbled and said “We could negotiate that,” and just from that Preciure immediately deduced they'd gone to their sisters first. All in all, this version of the conversation is a lot smoother and more convincing (and more fun; Preciure was already a dick, but I dialed him up).

“You went to them first,” Preciure hissed, an all-too-familiar mad fury rising in his voice, and suddenly Venoir was lashing out with his engorged fangs at the ready. Charizard stumbled back out of his way and began to frantically flap his wings as Mark managed to crawl onto his back, heart hammering. The other fliers were scattering, and May was already throwing her Pokéballs.

“Everyone, according to plan!” she shouted.

Like before they’d fought Raudra and Puragon, they had worked out in advance where each Pokémon’s abilities would be best used, and May’s Pokémon wasted no time. Floatzel and Raichu went after the ascending Dracobalt as they emerged, Raichu’s Thunder Wave seeping into his muscles only a fraction of a second before Floatzel hit him with a powerful Ice Punch that knocked him in the direction of the mountainside. Preciure hit an invisible wall in the air, created by Spirit’s Mean Look, as he tried to come to Dracobalt’s aid. Flygon raked his claws across Venoir’s wing and then shot forward, drawing the roaring black dragon to follow him away from the trainers, and then started to spin a Sand Tomb around them, trapping Venoir there.

“Traitorous worms,” snarled Preciure as Mark threw his Pokéballs. Robin and Alan’s Pokémon were already materializing all around. “What negotiation! Lie through your teeth about your pact with the enemy, all the while planning an assault if we should see through it. Congratulations on finally growing a spine, but this is low even for you, Chaletwo.”

“What choice did we have?” Chaletwo shouted back, fiercely. “You petty imbeciles would let the world burn to inconvenience your sisters! Short-sighted idiots – we should’ve just snuck up on you in your sleep!”

In the draft, Chaletwo didn't answer here (Preciure didn't insult him in particular either), and Mark actually felt bad and that Preciure had a point.

The whole battle was pretty much rewritten from scratch and plays out completely differently from the draft, except where otherwise noted. In the draft, for some bizarre reason, Sandslash was assigned to Dracobalt; I do not understand how that could have happened except by me just really rushing the battle planning because NaNo. They also just completely failed to keep the dragons apart for more than ten seconds, and meanwhile the dragons somehow neglected to prioritize in any way, leaving Mist, Weavile and Froslass (all using Ice attacks) as some of the last Pokémon to go down. (Granted, it doesn't make any difference to Preciure - his ability makes all attacks equally effective against him - but surely he'd want to target them for his brothers' sake.) All in all, it was bad.

Preciure started to make a retort, but was cut off as Weavile smashed an Ice Punch into the side of his head. He roared as he attempted to swipe at her with his claws but missed, only to be struck with a Thunder Wave from Robin’s Luxray. With another contemptuous snarl, he flared up in blue flames and charged towards Dragonite, who was coming at him with a Dragon Rush. The two dragons collided in a ball of dragon flames and then rebounded, Dragonite struggling to flap his wings while Preciure rushed right back at him, and this time Dragonite went limp in the air. Mark recalled him as pointed stones called by Robin’s Machamp shot straight up into Preciure’s body from below and the dragon turned his attention towards her.

Mark looked quickly to where Dracobalt was – yes, Vicky had managed to trap him with a Mean Look, too, higher up the mountainside, and Floatzel and Mist were alternating Ice attacks – before giving Charizard the go-ahead to fly closer to Venoir, where most of his remaining Pokémon were. The black dragon was still trapped in a vortex of sand, and judging from his erratic movements, Jolteon had successfully paralyzed him. May’s Flygon was gone – he noticed her sending out Butterfree to replace him and ordering a Tailwind – but Robin’s Froslass and Gastrodon were inside the vortex firing Ice Beams from two different directions, and Sandslash, from where he was standing in the desert sand below, shot sharp rocks into the Sand Tomb. Scyther was Swords Dancing nearby as he waited for an opportunity to strike.

Robin, too, was turning her attention towards Venoir. “Froslass, Confuse Ray!” she shouted as the black dragon smashed his tail into Gastrodon’s body. The sea slug squealed helplessly as she hurtled through the air towards the mountainside. Robin quickly recalled her in mid-air and then sent her back out in the sand nearby. In the meantime, Froslass produced an orb of light that flickered within the Sand Tomb, drawing Venoir’s eyes towards it.

“Okay, Froslass, get out of there,” Robin said, and the little ghost Pokémon vanished and reappeared outside the whirl of sand. “Mark, can you recall Sandslash and send him out up on the rocks instead for a moment? I have an idea.”

Mark warily did so, and Robin called, “Gastrodon, Whirlpool!”

Gastrodon nodded quickly and closed her eyes. Slowly, water vapour began to condense around the Sand Tomb, gluing the dusty particles together into globs of mud. Inside the vortex, the confused Venoir was shaking his head, too distracted to notice his limbs sinking into the sand as it became saturated with water. The whirl of water and sand around him slowed as its mass built up, then collapsed under its own weight on top of him, burying him. He screeched in surprise, flailing under the mud.

“Everyone, attack, now!” Robin shouted, and immediately Froslass and Gastrodon began to fire more Ice Beams and Jolteon Thunderbolts. Sandslash shot another Stone Edge, and Scyther nimbly dodged past the stones to strike at Venoir’s wings with his scythes. The dragon roared in the middle of the onslaught, struggling to move; he spewed out a bright teal Dragonbreath, but Scyther managed to dart out of the way.

“Nice work, Robin,” Mark called, and she grinned widely. Venoir was still struggling to rise, weakening rapidly as attacks continued to bombard him. Once they brought him down, all of these Pokémon could then move on to –

Robin's strategy here was completely new in the edit. I like it! It's probably the most strategically interesting thing the kids do in any legendary battle in the fic, so I think it helps sell that Robin is pretty competent. (Too bad I haven't been selling May's competence in the same way.)

In the draft, Venoir was also brought down first thanks to Robin... with a Destiny Bond. NaNo me just straight-up had Destiny Bond be a thing you can order as your Pokémon is about to faint and then it just brings down the opponent regardless of the power differential, easy. It's like the Curse thing except I had it actually happen, and then it happened again with Preciure at the end. It was ridiculous and just glaringly raised the question of why they didn't just do this from the beginning. I knew pretty much immediately that this made no sense and I was going to have to change this in the revision - but that pretty much inevitably meant rewriting the battle significantly (either Venoir would continue to be around for much longer, meaning Pokémon that I had battling the other dragons after this would now have to be assigned to him instead, or I had to come up with some other more plausible reason for him to go down that early and write that). Ultimately, I realized I had to just redo the battle entirely, and I'm glad I did, though it took me a while to muster the motivation to get it done.

“Robin, look out!” Alan shouted from somewhere behind Mark, and Mark looked quickly back in her direction to see Preciure darting towards her, wreathed in blue fire. Her Charizard whipped his head around and shot up out of the way, and Robin yelped in surprise as she lost her grip on his neck and narrowly managed to grab onto the base of his wings instead. The Charizard slowed down in concern, looking over his shoulder, while Preciure rocketed upwards and –

“No!” Alan yelled, and Charlie rammed his body into Preciure at full speed. Charlie roared in pain as he came into contact with the dragon flames surrounding the legendary, and Preciure was quick to take advantage of the sudden contact by digging his claws into the Charizard’s flesh and driving both of them towards the ground with a triumphant screech. Charlie’s wings were no match for the much larger dragon’s weight; by now he was upside-down, and Alan only managed to dangle off his neck for a second before he lost his grip entirely. He screamed as he fell; time seemed to slow as Mark watched in shock and couldn’t get his brain to think of what to do – but he didn’t need to, because May’s Skarmory dived, and she clung to his neck with one arm and reached out for Alan with the other.

She grabbed his hand, and time sped up again. There was no way May could have pulled him up; instead, Skarmory just managed to slow down their fall enough so that when they all crashed into the sand, they could fall into a roll and appeared mostly unharmed.

And as Mark and Charizard were staring at that, a sudden, cold blast of water hit them in the face.

Charizard was thrust helplessly back by the Hydro Pump, coughing and spluttering; Mark managed to cling onto his neck only by virtue of having wrapped his arms tighter around him while watching Alan fall. He squeezed his eyes shut as they careened through the air, his stomach twisting and lurching, until abruptly the water pressure was gone. He felt his Pokémon struggling to gain control of his flight again while they lost their borrowed momentum, and for a few more terrifying seconds they tumbled over each other in the air, falling, falling – and then, with a sharp, twisting flap of his wings, Charizard managed to reorient himself. A flurry of frantic wingbeats slowed their descent, and finally, they were pulling upwards again.

Mark released the breath he’d been holding with a choked gasp and opened his eyes again, blinking rapidly. They’d been thrown some distance from the battle; at least that meant there was no danger for now. Every muscle in his body was still tense and aching. He took a deep breath and gently released his hold on Charizard’s neck, willing his body to relax. “You okay?” he mumbled, his voice trembling a little.

Charizard was panting, but he nodded. “Let’s get back in there,” he said, groaning with a heave of effort as he started to head back towards the battle.

“Are you sure?” Mark asked. “We could rest for a bit if you like.”

The Pokémon shook his head. “Those dragons aren’t resting.”

This bit here, with Preciure trying to attack Robin, her nearly falling, Alan and Charlie ramming him to save her, Alan nearly falling, May and Skarmory saving him, and Mark and Charizard getting Hydro Pumped while distracted by that, was in the NaNo draft. It was definitely the best part of the battle in the draft, and not wanting to lose it was part of the reason I was reluctant to rewrite the battle from scratch - but then I managed to fit it into the new battle anyway, and all was well. It is considerably improved here, mind, particularly the last bit; it was a lot more clumsily written and less visceral for Mark originally, and Charizard just silently returned to the battle instead of them having this exchange.

Mark squinted as they approached the fight, trying to regain a sense of what was going on. May was back in the air on Skarmory, but Alan had gotten onto Diamond’s back, and she was leaping to evade another Hydro Pump from Dracobalt. Charlie was nowhere to be seen; presumably Preciure had knocked him out. Dracobalt and Preciure were staying close together in the air now: clearly they’d figured out their ploy about keeping them apart to split up the battle. Venoir…

…wasn’t there. The place where they’d trapped him earlier was an empty, wet mound of mud. Mark looked wildly around, half-expecting to find the black dragon sneaking up behind them, but he was nowhere in sight.

“One down, two to go,” Robin shouted towards him, and he blinked. He’d missed a capture? It seemed bizarrely anticlimactic, but it made sense – Venoir had been weakening rapidly earlier, after all. Robin must have thrown the ball, then. He gave her an encouraging thumbs-up and started trying to locate his Pokémon. Weavile was lying fainted on the ground near where Preciure had been earlier; he quickly recalled her back into her ball. Scyther was attacking Dracobalt, striking with repeated quick Fury Cutters in between darting out of reach. Jolteon stood some distance from the dragons, shooting Thunderbolts. Sandslash was down in the sand below them, shooting Stone Edges upwards.

Mark also missed the moment of Venoir's capture in the draft, although there he did see the Pokéball start to shake. I'm fond of this moment; it's a nice bit of the world not revolving around Mark so he doesn't necessarily personally witness every important event.

He’d no sooner noticed Sandslash than Dracobalt spewed a jet of water straight down at him. Sandslash let out a surprised screech as Scyther zoomed in to try to distract Dracobalt again, but just then Preciure flared up in an Outrage and barrelled into Scyther, keeping him away. Sandslash collapsed under the Hydro Pump with a quiet whine, and Mark returned him to the safety of his Pokéball.

As Scyther fell towards the ground, Racko and Pamela leapt onto Dracobalt’s back, slicing their claws into him. He roared in pain, twisting in the air as the Hydro Pump dissipated, but even before Dracobalt could counterattack, Preciure had torn them off him and dived with a vengeful hiss, dragging them with him towards the ground. Racko slashed madly at him on the way down and Pamela locked her jaws around his forelimb, but Preciure hardly even reacted before he thrust both of them into the desert rocks. Alan recalled them both, wincing.

May’s Mutark had managed to take their place on Dracobalt’s back, however, and the blue dragon was now wreathed in cyan-colored fire of his own as he tried to shake her off. He looked a lot worse for wear than Preciure: his breath came in gasps as he shot yet another Hydro Pump towards Raichu, knocking him into the cliff wall behind him, and his flight was faltering. He landed on an outcropping of rock, where Preciure returned to grab Mutark and throw her harshly into the mountainside. She collapsed with a faint whine while Preciure hovered, shaking his head, and May recalled her as she came swooping in on Skarmory.

“Everyone attack the blue one!” she yelled, and a Thunderbolt from Jolteon struck Dracobalt before Stantler leapt to Stomp him, Robin’s Cacturne hit him with a Feint Attack and Butterfree sent a purple pulse of psychic power at his head – and that was it, Mark realized with dread; they were the only Pokémon left. Dracobalt roared, his voice panicked and desperate, shooting a weak, futile Dragonbreath that failed to hit Stantler as she darted away, and May hurled an Ultra Ball that sucked him in and began to shake on the ground.

In the draft, it was Robin who caught Dracobalt, too. He actually broke out of the first ball there, and I do kind of miss that here, but there wasn't really room to fit that in in the new battle.

Preciure had apparently managed to shake off the disorientation of all those Outrages, and now, flaring anew with bluish flames and snarling hatefully, he darted towards the remaining Pokémon. He tore madly at Butterfree’s wings before throwing her tattered form aside; he knocked Stantler away from the mountainside with his tail and she tumbled helplessly down the mountain until May recalled her, knuckles white; he picked Jolteon up in his jaws and shook him violently before throwing him aside; and…

“Destiny Bond!” Robin called.

The cactus Pokémon grinned, purple flames rising from his body. Mark could see Preciure’s pupils contracting to slits, a twitch of hesitation in his flight, a glimmer of horrified realization somewhere behind the blind fury of the Outrage.

But he dived nonetheless, screeching with rage, and tore into Cacturne with his claws. And as he did, the dragon flames coating his body turned a ghostly purple, and his screech became a shrieking howl of agony.

“Cheating scum,” he hissed with his last breath before his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed into the sand, stirring up clouds of dust in the deafening silence that followed.

Robin tossed yet another Ultra Ball, and after absorbing Preciure’s form, it stilled without shaking.

So here's the thing about the Destiny Bond: I knew that the way it got used in the draft was horrendously cheap. However, I did like one thing about it: later, in chapter 72, May uses Destiny Bond to take down Mewtwo². This had been planned for a long time, and that moment really was way better and less cheap with Destiny Bond having been set up beforehand as something that can take down a legendary, and not just a thing that May figures out spontaneously on the spot there for the first time - plus with my new and better understanding of her feelings about Robin, the fact she was escaping using a trick she got from Robin in particular was a delightful extra slap in the face for her. I didn't really want to lose that.

So, instead, I nerfed Destiny Bond in a way that'd still let it make sense used once here and in chapter 72: it's easy to tell when a Pokémon is using Destiny Bond, and generally the opponent can simply stop the attack they were about to perform and do something else instead until the user loses their concentration. Preciure could have canceled... except he's in the middle of an Outrage. And of course, Mewtwo² could have stopped there too under ordinary circumstances - but he was under mind-control and forced to carry out Rick's order, and Rick didn't react quickly enough to give him the order to stop, mostly because he was primarily paying attention to Floatzel at that point, making sure she wasn't moving after he'd thrown her aside.

Preciure still called them cheating scum in the draft.

“Yes! Take that, idiots!” Chaletwo shouted triumphantly as their Pokémon landed in the desert sand to catch their breaths. “Good thinking, Robin. You’re living up to everything May said about you. Great job, all.”

Robin gave May a strange, puzzled glance before turning to Mark and grinning. “I’m just glad it worked out. I was about to suggest we just throw a ball to delay him and then run for it, but then I realized he kept using Outrage, so…”

“Yeah,” May said quickly. “Good work.”

Robin looked at her, smiling cautiously; May looked away, and Robin looked back at Mark in defeat.

“Well,” Mark said after a moment, “now it’s just the Waraider herd and Mew.”

Alan gave a tight smile, petting Diamond’s neck absent-mindedly; May just nodded. A few more seconds passed in silence.

“We can talk about them over lunch,” Robin finally said, her voice firm. “Come on.”

And they recalled their Pokémon and trudged back towards the city.

I rewrote this whole ending dialogue from scratch, too. Originally, May was the one to compliment Robin on the Destiny Bond thing because everything was hunky-dory between them in the draft, only meanwhile Mark was angsting about how wrong it was to catch the brothers this way when they hadn't really been negotiating in good faith, and Chaletwo only spoke to say that wasn't the most important thing and the most important was that they only had the Waraider herd and Mew left. I guess it was semi-reasonable for Mark to feel like this wasn't exactly the negotiation he wanted, but on the other hand, the dragons were just such dicks. He could establish his desire for cooperation better with Waraider.

Here, instead, Chaletwo compliments Robin, referencing May's high view of her, which confuses the hell out of Robin yet again, and May knows it really was well done and quickly agrees, but when Robin tries to reach out positively to her again, May refuses to look at her, and Robin just has no idea what any of this means.

Meanwhile, Alan's still not doing great. He was pretty shaken by falling off Charlie, and seeing Robin nearly fall (after he'd personally assured Robin's mom that Mark's injury was a one-time thing, no less), and this after the wild goose chase for Dragoreen really got to him as a particularly dispiriting, humiliating failure. He, too, feels like he should have noticed something was off, just like he should have noticed something was off about Tyranitar, just like he should've done everything better.

But Robin, bless her, is still adamant that she's going to keep this weirdly mopey, dysfunctional group together and make everyone feel a bit better! So lunch it is.

The chapter plan said Chapter 65: They head down Route 316 to Scorpio City, Mark considers meeting Mitch but decides not to, and they search the mountains around the valley, eventually finding Dracobalt, Venoir and Preciure holed up there; they capture them after a chaotic battle. This one actually ended up pretty accurate, though the plan is missing a lot of significant details that were quite different from what I was originally picturing.

This chapter is okay, I think - a decent legendary battle, with some character dynamics in the background. It was not really worth waiting a whole year for, though, and was probably pretty anticlimactic in that light. I really have no excuse for that. But finally, we can move onward, to some chapters that didn't take quite so long!


Previous chapter --- Next chapter


Comment on this? Please keep all comments strictly related to the fic only; any irrelevant posts will be deleted.

Not logged in - log in to submit a verified comment or submit one as a guest below. Note that your e-mail address will only be recorded for the purpose of notifying you if I reply to your comment. It will not be sold to third parties, displayed anywhere on the website, or used to send unsolicited e-mail. If you would rather not receive a notification upon a reply to your comment, simply leave the e-mail field blank.




203

203


View comments