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 67: Friends

This chapter was titled "Team-Building" in the draft, referring to how it's about them starting to gather up a team of people to fight the Waraider herd. The final title was chosen mostly to fit in with the other chapter titles in this mini-arc by being a single plural noun (although the others are all immaterial concepts, hmm).

It was published a week after chapter 66, as promised (although it ended up being at 1:28 AM on February 26th, so nominally it's eight days later). This was definitively my least favorite NaNo chapter; on May 15th 2015, after sitting down to reread this chunk of chapters as a whole and start to plan out how I'd change them, I wrote on Tumblr:

Chapter 67 is, in my opinion, the absolute worst NaNo chapter. It’s seven pages suffering both from those characterizational issues I’ve been rambling about and a general pointlessness - a bunch of blow-by-blow recounting of the characters doing pretty uninteresting, tedious, repetitive things that could be summed up in a couple of sentences and ultimately don’t matter. Most facepalm-worthily, there is a random completely pointless instance of somebody misunderstanding something for a chunk of conversation before it’s cleared up, and this has no meaning or significance whatsoever. There’s some dialogue that amuses me in there, and I may try to keep or recycle some of it, but otherwise I think at least half of this chapter is just getting deleted. Which conveniently leaves space for at least one additional scene at the beginning of it that really needs to happen.

“No, I’ll definitely help. I’m not finding much of anything here anyway. Where are you right now?”

“Scorpio City,” May said.

“Right. Felix has never been there, so I can’t Teleport to it – think you could meet me in Acaria City tomorrow? I think that’s closest, anyway. Or I can come towards you and we can meet up on that route in between whose number I can’t remember. God, it’s been way too long since I was in Ouen.”

Leah's thinking of Route 316.

“Acaria City’s fine,” May replied. “We were thinking of going there anyway – maybe getting its assistant Gym leader to help as well, since he already knows a bit about what’s going on.”

Leah paused. “Wow. Chaletwo’s really gotten lax with the whole secrecy thing, hasn’t he? When it was just me, he was all ‘no one must know or there will be memory-wiping’.”

“We didn’t exactly tell him,” May said. “You know Mitch and how he’s psychic? He knew Chaletwo was up to something, and apparently he told Victor. That’s basically all he knows.”

“Mitch’s psychic? I thought he was just weird and lonely.”

May snorted. “No, apparently he foresees stuff. Didn’t believe it either until he knew about Chaletwo.”

“Huh. Anyway, I’ve also got Mary’s number – if you don’t know her, she’s the second legendary hunter and she’s pretty cool. I think she’s been looking for the Waraider herd since catching Articuno, so she might have some leads. I’ll call her too, see if she can meet us there.”

“Sounds good. Tomorrow morning in Acaria City’s Pokémon Center, then?”

“Yeah. Great, see you then.”

These Leah dialogues are largely intact from the draft; Leah's dialogue just came very naturally. I enjoy her a lot, especially her blanching at Chaletwo casually wanting to tell some gym leaders now and thinking Mitch was just weird and lonely.

May hung up her Pokégear and returned it to her bag. “Well, that’s that sorted. While we wait for the guys, there are some bookshelves over there, so –”

May sure is quick to suggest a thing they should do that does not involve interacting with Robin!

“May,” Robin interrupted. “We should talk.”

...Unfortunately, the whole reason Robin suggested this was in order to talk to her about Tyranitar, so she's not taking the bait.

“What?” May turned towards Robin, her mouth abruptly dry. The Pokémon Center was mostly empty, with the few other patrons scattered around the waiting area, out of earshot. She didn’t know if that was a good thing or not.

“I think you should go to the police.” Robin’s gaze was firm and unyielding, and May forced herself to return it. “If you tell them what really happened, they might even be able to track your Tyranitar down and have him confirm it. If he really attacked on his own, he can tell them that. It’s not fair to Rick that he doesn’t know how his brother died, or to the wild Tyranitar that people are being warned about them when they did nothing wrong.”

She felt bile rising in the back of her throat. In a flash, she imagined the Pokémon Center on fire, people running and screaming, Robin stuck inside and –

May has violent fantasies sometimes, which she never used to think much of, but now they've taken on a pretty different meaning to her.

Notice that from the start one of the reasons Robin cites for wanting to go to the police is that Rick doesn't know how Taylor died - which is part of the reason she eventually ends up going to Rick. In January, my brain suddenly floated an idea that came out of nowhere: I had established in Robin's character bio that Robin never knew her father and her mother never talks about him, and when she was younger she'd daydream about discovering she was the secret child of someone interesting or famous... so what if one of the people she'd imagined this about was Rick's father? I'm pretty sure I/Robin came up with this mostly on the basis that Rick and Robin have more or less the exact same hair color, but nonetheless: what if for a while, when she was younger, she imagined Rick and Taylor were totally her half-brothers right, and while today she obviously knows these were pretty silly fantasies, she retains a certain background level of sympathy for the two of them that perhaps most people don't have? I ultimately decided not to actually include this or anything expressly hinting at it in the fic, but it's potentially a thing, if you enjoy the idea.

She took a breath, closing her eyes and opening them again. “Why would they even believe what Tyranitar tells them?” she said. “I trained him. He thought I was his mom or something. If I’d told him to lie he’d do it. It wouldn’t mean anything.”

Robin winced, shifting on her feet, but her gaze only wavered for a moment. “Maybe, but they’re not going to just assume you did it on purpose, at least not if you come there of your own free will and explain what happened. You should have done that right away, but the longer you wait, the more suspicious it looks. You’re only making things worse for yourself. Why are you still trying to hide that it was him?”

Robin really wants to believe that this was an accident and it really wasn't May's fault. All she knows is that it was her Tyranitar, and that apparently he thought May wanted Taylor dead; she's not yet aware that May was literally there and could have stopped him, or why Tyranitar thought he was doing this for May. But in that charitable interpretation of things, there isn't much reason for May to not have gone to the police, and that's nagging at her a bit. She really hopes if she just talks to May she can convince her to go to the police, because if it really wasn't May's fault then that's what the investigation will show, right? Right?

Unfortunately, May's response is not exactly encouraging.

May gritted her teeth. “How about because we’re trying to catch some legendaries before they destroy the world?”

“It wouldn’t have to set us back that much,” Robin said. “You’d be interrogated, but I don’t think they’d have any reason to detain you or anything if you just tell them the truth. Even then, we’re about to get more people, so if they wanted you to stay in town while they’re investigating or something, we could always go fight the Waraider herd and come back for you when –”

“No.” Her fist was clenched so hard it hurt. Why couldn’t Robin just leave it

“May,” Robin said, eyes still steady. “You look suspicious right now. He died just after you lost to him, killed by a Pokémon that you used to have until you suddenly released him around a similar time. That’s a pretty amazing coincidence. Don’t you think somebody might look into that at some point?”

“They’ve got nothing. For all they know I released him because he lost and then he went off to take his own revenge. They can’t prove anything.”

“Not prove, maybe, but somebody has got to be wondering. If they conclude you were involved and confront you, how much worse is it going to look if you’ve been trying to hide it?”

“They’re not going to,” May said, her voice hard. “All right? They have no solid reason to think it had anything to do with me, so long as I don’t waltz in there and tell them.”

“But I just –”

“And even if,” May interrupted before she could finish that sentence, “even if they came after me, Chaletwo said he’d handle it. There’s nothing to worry about. Okay?”

Definitely only reassuring Robin here, totally

Robin stared at her for a long second before taking a deep breath. “Okay,” she said. “That’s fine. I was just thinking.”

“Maybe we’ve already thought about it,” May said coldly. “Did you think of that?”

“I guess not.” Robin looked away, finally, sighing. “Forget it. You said they had books?”

May inhaled, unclenching her fingers to point. “Yeah. That way.”

Robin can obviously see how defensive May's being and it's ringing all the alarm bells she was hoping it wouldn't. She doesn't want to keep escalating or anything, but this sure left her feeling pretty uneasy about all this.

In the draft, this conversation did not happen. Instead, May pointlessly recapped the Entei encounter in chapter 51 for Robin, to explain who this Leah person is, with a side of commenting on Chaletwo's daddy issues: You should see him when the subject of Mew comes up. Mew’s really suspicious in all this – trying to keep it secret and so on – but if you so much as suggest that it’s a bit fishy, he goes berserk. Then Mark walked in, and they told him about the plans we just saw them make with Leah; they asked him about Alan so Mark just told them he was at the Pokémon Center talking to Charlie, like we saw last chapter; and they asked him how things went with Mitch and Mark just lied and said he wasn't there. The reader already knew all this information; there was zero reason to show any of this, and I immediately just deleted all this when I started editing for real and replaced it entirely with this new conversation that actually contributes something meaningful.

-------

When the group finally entered the Acaria City Pokémon Center the following afternoon, they found Leah slumped on one of the red sofas, fast asleep.

In the draft I first explained that when Alan got there he was clearly feeling way better (and Mark silently thanked Charlie for managing what he probably couldn’t have; have more self-confidence, NaNo Mark, you could totally do it!), and then pointlessly went over how they traveled to Acaria City. Cut, cut, cut!

“Leah?” Mark said as they approached her.

She started awake and blinked at him. “Oh, hey,” she said, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. “You took your time.”

“Yeah, sorry, our Pokémon were a bit out of it after the fight yesterday,” Mark said. “How are you?”

“Fine,” she said. “So you were going to talk to that Victor guy?”

“We’re leaving our Pokémon with the nurse first,” Mark said. “Do you want to come with us to see Victor?”

“Sure, why not?” Leah yawned. “Oh, yeah, I called Mary, but she said when she went to the Sailance library to research them, Ryan was there – he’s the third guy, guess you haven’t met him – and he’d just been nerding over them for months and developing some formula or something? At least, she thought he seemed to have it more or less covered, so she went back to looking for Mew. So I figured we’d just go join up with him in Sailance instead. She gave me his number, and I called him, and he says he’s very close to some sort of breakthrough and thinks he can try to finish it in the next day or two.”

In the draft, Leah hadn't called Mary yet, so we got to see the call:

“Hello?” came the voice on the other end after a series of beeps.

“Mary? It’s Leah.”

“Hey. Caught anything since we last talked?”

“Entei, kind of. Long story. You’re looking for the Waraider herd, right?”

“Actually, when I went to the Sailance library to research them, Ryan was there and apparently he’s just been nerding over them for like a year – developing some algorithm and something crazy. I figured that looks promising and he said he was close to a solution that would save a lot of time, so I’m leaving that to him and until that’s done I’m just wandering around looking for Mew.”

“Oh. I’m here with the fifth guy, and apparently Chaletwo stopped caring about keeping it secret so he has this whole troupe with him, and they’re suggesting we band together to find and battle them, what with the whole eight of them thing and all.”

“Could be good. How many of you are there?”

“Five now. And apparently they want to talk to some Gym leaders too.”

“Wow. He really has relaxed on the secrecy.”

Chaletwo grumbled irritably inside Mark’s mind.

“Tell me about it. I’m not sure we even need any more, what with the legendaries weakening and all, but you know. Waterberg principle and everything.”

“Well, I’m pretty sure Ryan’s still in Sailance. Basically lives at the library. I’m in Sinnoh now, so it would take a bit for me to get there; if you don’t seriously need me, then...”

“Yeah, no, we definitely don’t need you that much.” Leah grinned. “We’ll just check on him and see what he’s got. Have fun; hope you find Mew.”

“I’ll tell Ryan you’re coming,” Mary said. “If I don’t call you again, assume he’s in Sailance, probably at the library.”

“Thanks for your help. Bye!”

“Bye.”

I kind of enjoy this exchange, but we definitely did not need it, and it didn't make much sense that Leah wouldn't have just made this simple phone call herself, on her own, instead of waiting to meet up with them first - especially when I make a point of how she was so bored waiting for them that she fell asleep - so on the cutting room floor it went.

As I mentioned in the chapter 66 commentary, Mary really was supposed to join them originally - I'd established in chapter 51 that Mary had gone to Ouen to look for the Waraider herd while Leah would stay in Johto to look for Mew, as setup for this. Obviously, eventually I decided I wanted more Leah, and I think I considered including both of them for a bit before I ultimately decided that introducing even more new characters probably wasn't the greatest idea, and Mary was relegated to this cameo (and of course, in editing even the cameo was axed). This does make it a little awkward how we were told Mary was off to look for Waraider back in chapter 51, only to reveal here that nah, actually she just talked to Ryan and decided he had it covered. The next revision would not do it this way.

Sailance. The very mention of his hometown sent butterflies fluttering through Mark’s stomach. It really had been ages since he’d been home, hadn’t it? The idea of going back seemed intangible and strange.

“Who said you were calling the shots now?”

“Nice to see you too, Chaletwo,” Leah said, rolling her eyes.

In the draft she immediately started arguing back, but then I realized Chaletwo hadn't even said hi to her, and this happened instead.

“Did you not hear that we’re going to fight the Waraider herd and try to capture them simultaneously? We need more people. Ryan is good, but Mary is better, and best of all would be both of them.”

“Oh, come on,” Leah said. “She’s in Sinnoh, and she can’t teleport anywhere in Ouen. Meanwhile, with just Ryan there’ll be three quarters of us for each unicorn, and apparently you want to get some Gym leader in on it too? If he even has any good Pokémon – aren’t they supposed to keep them low-leveled?”

Somehow I managed to mathfail in the draft and she said there'd be two thirds of them for each unicorn there instead. I'm glad I caught that and maintained my mathematical dignity.

“Look, don’t you get that this is going to be the hardest battle by far? There’s eight of them, and we have to do it with precision, because if one of them faints before they should, we could have a nightmare on our hands. Perhaps the six of you could pull a victory, but we have a much smaller target here than just victory. This is going to be difficult, and frankly I’m not sure it even can be done.”

Leah took a deep breath, folding her arms. “Remember what you said to me when I was starting out?” she said. “About it being okay to run? It’s still okay to run. If we’re not about to make it, we pull out. Mary could take weeks to get here. If Ryan really has figured out how to find them, we can take a shot before that and see how we do. Even if we fail, we’ll only be better prepared next time. There’s no reason not to.”

It's kind of cute that Chaletwo emphasized to his first recruit that it was okay to run. He really does care.

“I suppose that’s true,” Chaletwo said reluctantly after a moment of silence. “But then we should definitely try to get those Gym leaders. Victor is right here in the city, and visiting Stormy Town and Crater Town shouldn’t set us back much.”

“We’re involving three separate Gym leaders?” Leah said, raising her eyebrows.

“They tried to get Mitch too, but apparently he wasn’t around,” May said.

Leah whistled. “They weren’t kidding about you relaxing on the secrecy.”

“I’m sure this is all deeply hilarious to you, but I for one don’t see the humor in it. I’d rather not involve more people, too, but we’re pretty desperate at this point, and as it happens they already know bits and pieces, so it’d be wise to keep an eye on them.”

“All right, all right,” Leah said, waving a hand. “I’m just saying. Are we going to check out that Victor guy, then?”

This scene is mostly just me indulging in some Leah, honestly; there's not very much new information here, just a bit more planning of what they're going to do, which we could just summarize, really. I just like Leah, okay.

I'm not happy with all of Chaletwo's dialogue here; would be rewriting it if I were writing this today.

-------

Victor stared, his gaze flicking nervously between the five of them, hand forgotten in his bowl of popcorn. “Catch… legendaries?”

The Gym was closed during the day, but with a bit of asking around they’d gathered that Victor lived at the trainer hotel, in one of its ludicrous suites (he’d quickly assured them, face flushed, that it was Diana who’d put him up in there). They’d walked in on him as he was trying to watch a movie, and he seemed quite unprepared for having the entire War of the Legends story dumped on him.

The draft pointlessly described everything summarized in this paragraph. I kind of enjoyed the description of the hotel room:

They stepped inside, and Mark stared open-mouthed at the fanciest hotel room he had ever seen; it was all dark red velvet and ornate polished-wood furniture and a king-size bed, with a giant TV screen taking up most of one wall, showing a paused frame of some film or other.

“This is some room,” May commented, eyebrows raised.

“Yeah, I didn’t pick it,” Victor said quickly, wearing an awkward smile. “Diana put me up here when she made me assistant Gym leader. Kinda freaked me out, to be honest.”

Whatever his feelings had been on it initially, he’d clearly made himself at home: the television remote lay on the dishevelled bed like it had been discarded in a hurry, along with a half-full bowl of popcorn, and what looked like his socks were lying on the floor near the bed. “Hope we weren’t interrupting you,” Mark said.

But then I wrote out the whole conversation about what the War of the Legends is, including Victor initially being extremely awkward and reluctant before Chaletwo tells him oh, wait, also the legendaries have been losing their powers so they're not as powerful as they used to be, and Victor going oh, phew, okay, then sure. This was me starting to write Victor, and him being awkward and reluctant, and me being like no, Victor, why are you so hesitant?? Then I figured oh, wait, they didn't mention the power drain yet, maybe that's why? But ACTUALLY he was being awkward and reluctant for totally different reasons that I wouldn't understand until editing. I actually removed this scene entirely while editing, but then wrote one back in when I realized his reluctance about joining them was actually relevant.

“Yes. We’re almost done now. It’s just the Waraider herd, which we need some help on, and then Mew, who should be harder to find than to fight.”

“And you’re… Chaletwo, like actual Chaletwo.”

“I could come out to prove it to you but I’d rather not.”

“Okay.” Victor nodded mechanically. “That’s… that’s fine. Um, so you’ve been… catching all of them?”

“Yeah,” said May.

“And… and you think I could help.”

“Hopefully. By the time Mark and May battled you, they’d already fought three legendaries more powerful than the unicorns are now. Can you leave your post at the Gym for a while?”

“I… sure, I think? I mean, I’m just Diana’s assistant. She could go back to singles if she had to. But…”

“But what? This is a matter of the fate of the world.”

“Yeah, I get that. I just…” Victor glanced at May, then back at Mark. “Well, yeah, I guess.”

“You don’t sound terribly enthusiastic.”

Victor let out a nervous laugh. “Oh. Well, it’s… kind of a shock, you know? I’m fine. Just need a moment.” He took a deep breath. “Yeah. Why don’t you go on down and take a walk? I’ll have to talk it over with my Pokémon and call Diana to let her know I’ll be gone, and then I’ll meet you in the lobby when I’ve packed some things. Where are we headed?”

“Stormy Town, then Crater Town, then Sailance,” Leah said. “I’ve got an Alakazam who teleports, but he hasn’t been to Crater Town since the eruption – the spot he memorized is somewhere in mid-air above the crater right now, so we’ll have to fly there from Stormy Town.”

Victor nodded. “Right. Yeah, just… meet me in the lobby in an hour and I’ll be ready.”

As I mentioned in the chapter 40 commentary, when Victor watched the League finals and saw May yelling at Tyranitar, several things clicked into place for him, things that he'd willfully overlooked back when they battled - and he concluded actually Mark and May had always been bad news. He was really not counting on them showing up later to recruit him for Chaletwo's mission. On the other hand, this is an actual legendary trying to get him to help save the world, and he can hardly say no, can he? Talking it over with his Pokémon and Diana definitely involved some inner conflict.

I figured this out on January 17th 2016, quite late in editing this batch of chapters. In November I'd decided to put chapter 67 to one side for a bit while I worked on 68 and 69; at this stage I was considering maybe even cutting Victor entirely, because he did nothing of worth whatsoever in the draft, but before making a final decision on it, I wanted to see if maybe in editing the latter two chapters I'd figure out some way for him to actually contribute something, probably to May's arc. As it turned out, I did, and I kept him and this scene, though the new version of it was a lot more concise and better at communicating what's actually relevant.

I think I probably should've gone further with that here, though; the reader reaction ended up being pretty much 'why is this scene here'. I didn't want it to be too obvious that Victor's reluctance was absolutely not just about the shock of learning about the War of the Legends, because I wanted it to be a real shock to Mark when Victor confronts them in 71. But it's probably not necessary for the reader to be equally oblivious; I could probably do more to hint to the reader that they ought to be paying attention to this while Mark still reasonably dismisses it.

In the draft, there was a brief scene after this of Leah explaining how they're going to have to teleport to Stormy Town and then them actually doing so; this was also totally unnecessary, and I just fit the pertinent information into the second-to-last paragraph above.

That scene was actually the end of chapter 67 in the draft! The last two scenes here were originally in chapter 68. Draft chapter 67 was just 70% completely unnecessary padding repeating information we already knew and describing uninteresting things blow-by-blow. It was so bad. In December I decided to move the first two scenes of 68 over, because there was almost no content left in chapter 67 after the cuts I'd been making, while chapter 68 was fairly long already and I was about to add more to it.

-------

“Wow,” said May, blinking as she looked around at the people in the street. “That’s a change.”

It really was. Where Stormy Town had once been dark, dreary and mostly empty, all deserted houses with boarded windows and peeling paint, it was now bright and lively, betraying little evidence of the ghost town it had been only months ago. It was cold, as expected for the beginning of February, and the sun was starting to descend overhead, but the sky was starkly clear save for a few stray clouds near the eastern horizon. At the end of the main street, the small Pokémon Center’s polished windows projected a warm and inviting light, the exterior of the building newly renovated. Only the Gym beside it looked the same as always, merely blending in better now that its colourful, radiant joy had spread over the rest of the town.

“It’s amazing,” Alan said as he took it all in, a smile slowly forming on his lips. “I guess we really did save the town, huh.”

Mark grinned. “Yeah, we did.”

Alan is starting to rebuild his faith in what they're doing after his conversation with Mark last chapter! This was new in editing; in the draft he just had the equivalent of May's line below.

Also, establishing some timing! It's the beginning of February here.

“Let’s get to the Gym,” May said, already turning towards it. “That’s where Sparky would be.”

The inside of the building was warmly familiar, but this time the door to the restaurant on the left side of the entrance hall let through a steady chatter of squabbling guests. When they entered, they found the Gym leader, sporting an apron over his regular blue T-shirt, serving food to a family sitting at one of the large, wooden tables.

Sparky turned around as the door shut behind Victor, and his face lit up when he saw them. The silver shades he usually wore rested on the top of his head, hopelessly tangled in his hair; his large, bright eyes only enhanced the youthful energy he projected.

“Well, if it isn’t my heroes!” he said as he approached them, beaming with unbridled joy. He’d been unwaveringly cheerful before, but now he was positively glowing. “Come to look upon the fruits of your labor?”

I really wanted to bring back Sparky just to write more Sparky.

Mark smiled. “Not exactly.”

“It’s great to see the town doing so well,” Alan said.

“It’s never been better,” Sparky replied. “Everyone’s coming back and business is better than ever. I can’t thank you enough.” He gave a little bow to them, adding a dramatic flourish with his hand. “And May! I was rooting for you at the League. You truly deserve the Champion title.”

It doesn't quite feel like it's been long enough for things to have turned around to this extent, but... the Stormy Town chapters were back in the first half of June, so it's been eight months. Time flies here in the latter half of the fic.

May smiled stiffly at Sparky, but he’d already turned to Leah, Robin and Victor. “Anyway, who – no, actually, you I know,” he said, pointing a finger at Victor. “You’re the boy that Diana took in, aren’t you? Victor?”

Ways to make May not like you these days: imply that she's the Champion

Victor blinked. “Oh. Yeah, I am.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance. And who are you two? Oh, I think I’ve battled you. I’m dreadfully sorry I can’t place your names.”

“Leah,” Leah said, shaking his hand. “How are you?”

“Wonderful,” Sparky said, beaming. “And you’re...”

“Robin.”

“...Riverstone! I should have recognized you; you were one of my favourites at the League, too. I loved your Luxray.” He eagerly shook her hand as well. “So, we’re back to the original question,” he said, looking over the group. “Why are such seasoned trainers returning here now?”

I like that Sparky's looking out for cool Electric-types at the League.

Mark glanced around the restaurant; there wasn’t much room there for a private conversation. “Do you think we could talk somewhere?” he said, lowering his voice.

Sparky’s face fell. “Not quite now, I’m afraid,” he said. “The Gym may not be busy this time of year, but the restaurant is. I should already be getting back to the kitchen. Do you think we could do it tonight after closing? Ten PM?”

Mark looked to the others for opinions. Alan shrugged, but Leah hesitated. “Then we should probably go to Crater Town in the meantime, so we can head straight from here to Sailance tomorrow,” she said.

Mark nodded. “Yeah, that makes sense.”

“If you’d like to have some dinner first,” Sparky suggested, “I’d be thrilled to have you on the house. We’ve expanded the menu considerably since last time you were here.”

“Oh, that sounds great,” Alan said, and everyone muttered their agreement. Mark hadn’t even realized how hungry all that traveling had made him until now.

In the draft, The fact they’d been arriving in Acaria City less than an hour ago and yet now they were in Stormy Town had somehow put his body clock all out of whack. I kind of like this; it's kind of a shame I cut it. I guess since here they stayed a bit longer in Acaria City I removed it?

The draft also had some unnecessarily complex logistics talk before they actually decided to have dinner.

-------

That evening, they talked about Leagues and Pokémon and their journeys and their hometowns – things they could discuss in public. Mark had almost forgotten how good it felt to laugh with friends about something that had nothing to do with legendaries or wars or dangerous quests.

When they’d had their fill, they thanked Sparky and headed outside into the cold air. It was starting to get dark now, the sun slipping ever lower towards the western horizon.

This opening feels awkward and I wish I'd done it better. In the draft the equivalent was at the end of the previous scene instead, and I honestly kind of liked it better: They took a table and ate with relish as they chatted about trivial things – things they could discuss in public, with no relation to legendaries or wars or dangerous quests. Somehow it was enormously relieving.

“Right,” Leah said, “I don’t think all of us need to go to Crater Town. Better send a couple of people in case anything goes wrong, but I’m thinking the rest of us can stay here and ask around town if anyone’s heard of any recent legendary sightings or something like that. So who’s going?”

Mark swallowed. “I should go,” he said. “Carl helped us fight a legendary, but I lied to him about what was going on. I want to tell him the truth now.”

“Fair enough,” Leah said. “Who wants to go with him?”

“I’ll go,” Alan said. “I was there too. I’d like to talk to him again, see how the people of Crater Town are doing.”

After seeing how Stormy Town's turned out and it making him feel better, he wants to hear how things went in Crater Town, too.

“I’ll go with you,” May said quickly. She glanced at the others as they looked at her in surprise. “I was with them too. It’s only right.”

Leah shrugged. “Sure, if you want.” She detached Felix’s Pokéball from her belt and offered it to May, then to Mark when she didn’t take it. He put the ball carefully in his left pocket.

I like this detail where Leah clearly thinks of May as the leader first. She's the Champion and everything, right? Why isn't she the leader?

May wants to go with Mark and Alan here in order to avoid Robin. She's really on edge now after Robin brought up Tyranitar again and wants to avoid another conversation about it at all costs.

May looked around uncomfortably, then squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath, turning. “Robin,” she said. “Can I borrow your Charizard? He flies faster than Skarmory.”

Robin stared at her for a second. “Yeah, all right,” she said, half-sighing. She sent out her Charizard in a blob of white light. “Hey, buddy. Think you could fly May over to Crater Town with Mark and Alan?”

The Charizard looked at her, grunting questioningly. “You’re not coming?”

“Not this time.” Robin smiled. “We’re going to ask around town while they talk to Carl. You’ll be teleported back, so you’ll only have to fly one way.”

Her Charizard hesitated for a moment, glancing at May, but then nodded and lowered his wing for her to climb onto his back.

“Right,” Mark said, reaching for Charizard’s Pokéball. “Let’s get going, then.”

Robin's Charizard really likes Robin and isn't super-thrilled about going with somebody else. May really does ask to borrow him for practical reasons (she casually did so in the draft), and obviously Robin can tell how awkward she is about asking about it, and still just doesn't really understand her at all.

I can't for the life of me remember exactly why I went through all these contortions to have them come to Stormy Town here first, talk to Sparky briefly, then go to Crater Town, and then back to Stormy Town to properly tell Sparky about the War. The draft had a bunch of unnecessarily complex logistics talk here (two of Victor's total four lines of dialogue post-recruitment in the draft were just part of this conversation), and my best guess as to the original line of reasoning here is something like this:

  • I wanted only Mark, May and Alan to go see Carl, because obviously Volcaryu was going to come up in that conversation, but he was kind of a big complicating factor and the others learning about him and everything that happened there was just not something I wanted to get into.
  • But if they can teleport to Crater Town, why wouldn't they just bring everyone?
  • So they can't teleport to Crater Town; they're going to fly there, and they don't have enough fliers for everyone, so they have to leave some people behind. (This is what all the logistics talk was about.)
  • And the most reasonable place to fly to Crater Town from is Stormy Town - that's by far the closest other town.
  • So naturally, since they need to go to Stormy Town too anyway, they're going to go to Stormy Town before Crater Town.
  • But I really wanted them to spend the night in Stormy Town. (I'm really not sure why I did, since the May scene set during that night wasn't in the draft, but I vaguely feel like I recall really wanting this, for some reason. Maybe it was because I wanted Mark's immediate reaction to returning home after all this time in chapter 69, and if they went straight to Sailance and stayed there overnight I'd be skipping over that?)
  • But why bother to go back to Stormy Town at all and not just straight to Sailance? Surely they'd have just recruited Sparky the first time they came to Stormy Town.
  • ...Unless when they talked to Sparky he told them they'd have to come back later! I have solved it!

In the edit, though, I took out all the logistical problems with getting everyone to Crater Town, because really it was perfectly reasonable that only a couple of people would go - and that topples the entire need for the rest of this chain of reasoning: they'd just have had to decide a couple of them would teleport to Crater Town from Acaria City while the rest tried to ask around about Mew or whatever, and then they'd go to Stormy Town and talk to Sparky. I must have considered combining the Stormy Town scenes in editing, at some point in the nine months I spent wrangling these chapters, but I can't really figure out why I decided to keep it this way anyway - I'm not sure there's anything remaining here that calls for this, but surely while I was cutting half of this chapter it would have occurred to me I could also simplify this, and there must be some reason I ultimately didn't. Maybe it was just pure inertia.

The chapter plan currently in the document says Chapter 67: Leah has Mary’s number; she is in Sailance with the third legendary hunter, a boy. They arrange to meet, though Felix hasn’t been to Sailance so they have to fly – which isn’t so bad, since then they can visit Crater Town and Stormy Town on the way. First, they go to the Acaria City Gym and talk to Victor, who joins them. However, the original chapter plan was entirely different: it said Chapter 67: Mary apparently met the other boy not too long ago, when he was heading towards Stormy Town. She has a Pokémon that can Teleport and whisks them there; they meet Sparky again, who tells them the boy headed to Cleanwater City; they go there and Mark realizes he probably went to the Sailance Library. Since Mary’s Psychic Pokémon has never been to Sailance, they have to walk, but eventually get there and find the guy.

Obviously, the two plans have pretty much nothing in common, beyond the words 'Mary' and 'Sailance'. Originally, I just wanted Sparky to have some sort of reappearance, and found a potential way to do that like this, with the kids trying to track down the as-yet-unnamed Ryan across multiple towns and stopping by Stormy Town on the way. But I never quite liked this plan enough; it would've been pretty fillery, and really, wouldn't the legendary hunters have each other's numbers?

The new plan there kept Mary, and seems to be from the time where I was thinking about having both her and Leah along in addition to Ryan, as well as having Victor... but it sounds like at this point they still weren't going to be actively going to recruit Carl and Sparky, but rather might just happen to check in with them on the way because they can't teleport to Sailance. I never ended up editing the chapter plans for the subsequent chapters at all to match up with this one - I suppose I stopped messing with the chapter plan because I still wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do with Sparky and Carl - which was pretty confusing when I started squinting at these chapter plans again. Obviously, when I actually wrote it, I had them simply choose to go to Stormy Town and Crater Town in order to recruit Sparky and Carl.

All in all, this is kind of a meandering chapter - not much happens exactly, and it's mostly just about getting the characters to progress from A to B in the process of preparing to fight Waraider. It's clearly a massive improvement over the draft version, which was truly horrendous, but I was still not hugely satisfied with it when it was posted, and today I'd definitely be variously condensing and rearranging this material, as well as trying to add more suspense to the Victor scene.


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