The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

This is an author's commentary intended for readers who have already read the entire ILCOE. My retrospective comments on the chapter are in bold below, with some remarks within the text and then some overall thoughts at the bottom. The commentary will contain significant spoilers! Do not read the commentary on your first read-through!

The Final Stretch – Chapter 71: Shattered

November 19th, 2016, five months after chapter 70. In that time, I had also finished chapter 72 (to be posted in a week) and started work on chapter 73.

This was the first chapter where I didn't just improve and flesh out the NaNo draft in editing, but significantly altered the main events of the chapter. In the draft, this chapter was titled Parting of Ways and, well, to quote a post on my Tumblr from when I first started to work on these changes:

Old chapter 71: Nice pleasant parting of ways between friends

New chapter 71: Extended, bitter explosion of confrontation, drama and angst, forming of deep irrevocable rifts, yelling and screaming and emotional meltdowns

“To Mark, legendary psychiatrist,” Leah said, grinning as she raised a glass of cola. “Who would’ve thought?”

Mark felt himself blush as the group raised their glasses along with her. He still felt dazed and strange, trying to wrap his brain around the fact that he had actually managed to persuade a legendary to their side, with words, him. Everyone had been there, people like Leah and Ryan who were better and brainier and cooler than him, and yet it’d been him who’d realized why the other unicorns hadn’t gone into the balls, him who Waraider had trusted enough to agree. He’d had help – but he’d done it. And now there was only one legendary left.

Look at Mark feeling good about himself! Boy, we can't have that for long. This was not in the draft.

“What do we do now?” he asked as everyone put their drinks back down. “How are we going to find Mew?”

“We split up,” Leah said. “Mew knows a lot of moves, but there’s only one of her, and of course, she’s been getting weaker. Ryan and I could take her solo no problem. You guys might want to go in pairs, I guess, just in case, but the hard part is finding her. We’ll want to spread out.”

“Are we sure we have to fight her?” Sparky asked, stroking his chin. “I can’t claim to be a legendary expert, but my impression was that Mew wasn’t much of a fighter.”

“We can’t persuade him,” Chaletwo said flatly. “I’ve tried.”

“I should go with Mark,” May said out of the blue. “Our Pokémon have fought together the most. It makes sense.”

Mark turned towards her, a bit surprised, but she was only looking down at her food, busily cutting into a mini-pizza. “Okay, sure,” he said.

May's suggestion of going with Mark is not actually because their Pokémon have fought together the most; it's because she really, really does not want to have to talk about Tyranitar, and by this point she sees Mark as her only remaining option in that regard, after Victor was insistently asking in chapter 69 (and only shut up by Leah) and then Sparky also wanted to talk about it in chapter 70.

(In the draft, Chaletwo suggested Mark and May go together, and it really was on the basis they had the most experience fighting together.)

“I don’t think Sparky and I could handle a legendary on our own,” Victor said, looking at Alan and Robin. “So each of us goes with one of you, I guess?”

“Sparky?” Alan suggested.

“Why not?” Sparky replied, smiling. Robin and Victor shrugged at each other.

In the draft, Chaletwo suggested Victor and Sparky each go with one of Alan and Robin, but then Sparky reasoned that he and Victor could go together because Victor trains Dark-types, and they ended up doing that. I could easily change this in editing to pair up Robin and Victor instead, because in the draft the specific arrangements they made here had no effect whatsoever on anything at all.

“Do we have any leads on where Mew is?” Mark asked.

“Just that one sighting in Scorpio City from a couple weeks back,” Leah said. “We should concentrate on Ouen to start with, but not too much – she does teleport, so although she usually sticks to flying around, she could also be, y’know, off in Unova somewhere by now. Let’s start off dividing Ouen between us and then spread out more if we haven’t found her in a couple of weeks. Any special requests?”

Robin shrugged. “I know the east side of the region pretty well. We could cover that.” Victor nodded at her.

“Same with me and the northwest, near Stormy Town,” Sparky said, looking at Alan. “Does that sound good to you?”

“Sure,” Alan said.

Mark opened his mouth. “I… I’ve been thinking we should look into somebody here in Alumine,” he said. “Dunno if it’ll help, but there’s someone who managed to find Mew once, and maybe… maybe he’d be willing to help, or we could dig something up about how he did it.” May gave him a glance out of the corner of her eye. He was a little apprehensive about voluntarily approaching the Mew Hunter again – but if it could lead them to Mew, they had to try. And surely he didn’t want the world to end any more than they did.

“Sure,” Leah said, raising her eyebrows. “Let us know if you get anything useful out of that. Let’s see, after that you could cover the west side, so how about I grab the south and Ryan takes the north?”

Everyone muttered some form of agreement.

“Great! That’s that all settled. Now for the rest of tonight let’s just sit back and –”

This logistics conversation was rewritten from scratch here, but a roughly equivalent conversation happened at the site of the Waraider battle in the draft, while they were healing their Pokémon, and it was Scyther who suggested hitting up the Mew Hunter - which made surface-level sense, but Scyther should know that the Mew Hunter wouldn't actually want to help them, and that if he did it'd involve him in the grips of his obsession - so ultimately, it was off for Scyther to suggest this. Hence, someone else had to do it - and Mark is just off successfully convincing a legendary to join them, so in that state of mind it'd probably seem more reasonable than it otherwise would that surely they can just talk to that guy, right? Scyther's told them he's really a decent person deep down, right? Surely nobody wants the world to end, right?

“Hey, look,” Robin said suddenly, pointing at the TV above the bar.

Mark looked, and his heart skipped a beat. In the top right corner of the screen, behind the news anchor, Taylor’s picture smiled obliviously down at him, alongside a standard Pokédex render of a Tyranitar.

“…who claims to be responsible for the death of controversial Ouen Champion Taylor Lancaster. The wild Tyranitar approached a trainer on the island this morning to confess to the murder of Lancaster and ask to be captured and taken to the human authorities. In a statement made to the police, the Tyranitar claims it happened upon Lancaster in the mountains and attacked him after he insulted Tyranitar. The statement goes on to say the Tyranitar now understands why it was wrong, that it deeply regrets its actions, and that it wishes to face human justice to atone for its crime.”

And there's where the real change to this chapter happens. As I've talked about, this entire thing about Tyranitar giving himself up was new in editing. (His statement may not have actually been that articulate.)

The rationale for this addition was more or less twofold. First, it bothered me a lot how in the draft, the entire chapter 66-70 arc had the feel of a "filler arc" - there was a progression from chapter to chapter within it, but by the time the team split up again here, nothing that happened during this arc had any effect on any of what happened after it - you could pretty much have cut out these chapters in their entirety and nobody would have noticed, save for Waraider being caught now. This arc just didn't in any way properly justify its presence, but obviously when I'd repeatedly established the Waraider herd existed, it wasn't as if it could have ever been satisfying if I'd cut the whole thing and handwaved that capture - besides that of course I didn't want to do that, when I thought the Waraider concept I'd eventually figured out was actually pretty cool. So rather than cutting the arc, I wanted to make it worthwhile, and make some use of the presence of all these extra characters for these few chapters.

The other thing was that the way chapters 71-74 played out in the draft just didn't work very well either. Rick trying to kill May when they pay him a visit, and Rick having Mewtwo² out when the War begins so that it absorbs all that legendary power, were old, old plans, and I wrote them faithfully as I had envisioned them during NaNo, and I still liked them a lot in principle. But they weren't in any proper causal relationship with the rest of what was happening. Mark and May kind of unconvincingly agreed to go speak to Rick in spite of all the reasons May should not want to do that, on any level, and Mark should at the very least sympathize with that. Then, when they did show up, it just sort of turned out as it happened Rick had figured it was May all along, and yet had made no attempt to do anything about it - and after the kids successfully escaped, Rick went back to just not doing anything about it, and the kids went through this dead boring search for Mew, with little sense of tension, before it just completely coincidentally turned out Rick had Mewtwo² out for a gym battle when the Destroyer's pulse happened. All in all Rick's role towards the end consisted of these two bits that were completely disconnected from everything else and each other, and it was extremely clunky.

My first idea for making the Waraider arc relevant was to focus more on May, and the way that the presence of these other people, especially Robin, affects her and her mental state, so that's what my first round of edits was focused on. As I was working on this, this idea of Tyranitar giving himself up floated into my head, and although at first I kind of dismissed it as something that would've been cool but was too big a change to introduce now, after thinking about it for a while I realized this could actually be just what I needed. It'd make for a confrontation to make this eminently boring chapter more interesting, first of all; all these other people would be seeing this too and reacting and that could be relevant; and then this'd throw May into a guilt-spiral where she actually wants to go visit Rick just to try to do something to save Tyranitar from Rick's inevitable wrath. At some point here I wrote out some planning, as I was halfway through figuring all this out; it's kind of amusing to read the bits that I hadn't properly worked out to be entirely coherent yet (the whole bit on why Rick hasn't been doing anything is still really flimsy there). Once I did manage to properly tie it all together, though, it basically fixed all of these issues. This was probably the best idea I had in editing.

Mark turned towards May, his heart thumping. She stared at the screen, the color drained from her face. Alan, Robin and Sparky were all looking at her; Ryan’s gaze flicked uncertainly between her and Mark. Victor stared wide-eyed at her, lips pressed together, clenching his fist on the table. Leah looked around at everyone in confusion.

I don't really like this paragraph - I enjoy everyone's reactions (especially Leah being the only person who just has zero idea why everyone else is looking at May - after Robin told her group in chapter 69, Leah and Victor are the only people who don't know Tyranitar murdered Taylor, and while Victor guesses what's going on thanks to his existing preconceptions about May plus the way she's reacting there, Leah just has no reason to think this would be her Tyranitar), but the way this is written out feels awkward and listy.

“Among legal experts,” the anchor went on, “opinions are split on how to handle the Tyranitar’s unusual request for human justice.”

The report cut to a woman in a suit, identified as a lawyer. “Regardless of the creature’s desire to be punished, it is a wild Pokémon,” she said. “It’s commendable if it wants to take responsibility, but the Agreement is clear that wild Pokémon are not subject to human laws and standards, and vice versa. Cross-species murder has always been an unpleasant can of worms, but there’s no good solution here. The legal separation is an absolutely fundamental part of the Agreement, and upholding it is far more important than any individual case.”

Another lawyer appeared, impatiently adjusting his sleeves as he spoke: “When a Pokémon joins a trainer, it voluntarily submits to the rule of human law and becomes legally responsible for its actions within human society. This Tyranitar may not be trained, but it’s voluntarily submitting to the rule of human law just the same. I see no reason not to treat it the same way.”

“Champion Island police declined to comment on the matter of jurisdiction, but have stated that the Tyranitar is currently in custody and urge the public to have patience as the investigation continues.”

May’s gaze flicked from side to side, to all the eyes fixed on her, and then, abruptly, she stood up and stormed out of the restaurant.

Some lawyers existing pretty transparently to finally establish this bit of the Agreement, which I'd had a general idea about but didn't fully nail down precisely how it worked until I was preparing for this plot point.

Tyranitar expressly claimed to be wild and that he just happened upon Taylor and then killed him of his own free will. He's doing this partly out of his own guilt, but partly because he's worried May will be implicated, when really it was his fault for being so stupid and not understanding what she wanted. By giving himself up, he's hoping the humans will just accept that he was wild and never find out he was May's - but if they do, he's going to tell them he did it after he was released. He doesn't much care what happens to him, so long as he can save May from getting into trouble for what he did.

-------

They caught up with her on the road out of town. She was leaning over a wall by the roadside, taking deep, heaving breaths. When they approached, she stumbled a bit further before giving up and turning around to face them, still supporting herself against the wall.

“If you told him to lie he’d do it, huh,” Robin said.

She's referencing when May told Robin this in chapter 67; don't know if everyone would've still remembered that when this chapter came out. Robin does initially assume he might have been ordered to do this after X amount of time.

“I did not tell him to do that!” May shouted, her voice hot and raw.

“You were there!” Robin shouted back, fists clenched. “You were there! Why is it him giving himself up to the police and not you?”

“I don’t know!” May threw her hands up in agitation. “I told him to go away and find some wild Tyranitar! I don’t know why he’s doing this!”

She says that, but she has a pretty good idea that he's probably trying to protect her. Obviously, this is not helping her mental state.

“I knew it,” Victor said coldly. “God, I knew it. I knew you two weren’t right.”

Mark blinked, turning around in confusion, and flinched under the sudden accusation in his gaze. “What happened to your Letal?” Victor asked, his voice harsh.

“What?” Mark’s brain was frozen in befuddlement. “What are you talking about?”

“Your Letal!” Victor rounded on him. “You used her way too long in our battle, and she failed to evolve, Nurse Joy said you could’ve killed her, and now you don’t have her anymore!”

Oh, Victor. If only you'd just asked.

I really enjoy this moment. I'm fond of pretty much any time characters talk past each other or draw incorrect conclusions based on what they think they know. Victor can't see into Mark's head and wasn't there for when she was released, so of course all he has to go on is what he saw. He'd been trying to be charitable, thinking nah, there's no way, he's just being paranoid... and then it turns out May literally stood by while her Tyranitar committed murder, and at that point it's all too easy to figure he was right and that Letal's probably dead too, isn't she.

Meanwhile, this just comes so out of left field for Mark, who was prepared to be about to have a tough conversation about Taylor's murder only to all of a sudden be confronted with Victor of all people thinking Mark got one of his Pokémon killed. He's too flustered to even explain.

“That’s not…” Mark’s gut stung, his face burned. “I – I think you’re mis…”

“And you, yelling at your Vibrava like that – I should’ve seen it earlier but I liked you and wanted to be your friend, and I didn’t put it together until I watched the League finals and your Tyranitar was just… like a child, and thought he was weak, and you just yelled at him and watched him get hurt! And even then, I thought you’d released him for not being good enough, I never thought – why did I come with you?

“I didn’t make him do it!” May shouted, fists clenched. “He just…”

“I think this is quite enough,” Chaletwo said. “Yes, there was an unfortunate accident –”

“They were there!” Robin yelled.

“– but none of this has any bearing on our mission, which is to find and capture Mew. We have almost succeeded. How can you stand here still arguing about this? You’re splitting up anyway; if you have a problem with May, then great, you never have to see her again.”

Robin stared at Mark, anger gleaming in her eyes. “What about Tyranitar?” she said, her voice quiet. “He’s sitting in captivity right now trying to get himself punished, who knows what they’ll end up doing to him, and they’re standing here getting away with it.”

“Well, contrary to some of your wild theorizing here, it was the Tyranitar who killed him, of his own volition. For the record, May tried to stop him. And as far as I’m concerned this wraps things up nicely. Weren’t you complaining about Rick not knowing how his brother died? Well, now he knows, and he has no reason to think there’s anything more to it than an aggressive Tyranitar, as he should. Frankly this couldn’t have ended better if you ask me.”

Boy, you'd sure like this to just be over now, wouldn't you. Everything is fine.

Robin closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Look. Chaletwo. Maybe you don’t know this. But just because trained Pokémon submit to human law doesn’t mean the trainer is free of all responsibility. The trainer’s the one who makes sure their Pokémon understand and honor the contract they’re entering into. It’s the trainer’s job to inform and educate the Pokémon about human society, and evaluate whether they can be trusted, and recall them if they ever do get carried away during a fight. You know, May tried to tell me it was all a misunderstanding. The problem with that is that actually, making sure he understands stuff like ‘murder is wrong’ was her responsibility, and the moment Tyranitar made a move towards Taylor, he should’ve been recalled. So unless you’re going to tell me that after somehow misunderstanding the most basic rule of being trained, this huge lumbering beast that can be outsped by a Fletchling attacked so fast and so out of nowhere that nobody could possibly have seen it coming, this should not have happened!

She glared at Mark; his heart pounded uncomfortably. He should’ve done something. He should’ve stepped up when Tyranitar approached Taylor, said something. He should’ve objected to May’s methods. He should’ve…

“No? I didn’t think so,” Robin said, her voice hard.

“Well, my point still stands,” Chaletwo said, defensive. “Even if May bears some responsibility for this boy’s death, we’re looking for Mew. That’s far more important than your high-flying notions of justice. It’s fine if you hate her, but we need her out there searching, not sitting in jail or whatever it is your human justice system would do with her. And I assure you that if you make any attempt to sabotage our mission, you’ll make me very angry with you.”

Robin stared at him and shook her head. “Fine,” she said. “Fine. Victor, let’s go.”

She turned to join Victor where the road led onwards, out of Alumine.

“Victor,” Mark managed to croak out as he finally remembered how to speak. “My Letal, she wasn’t… She always wanted to be released after the League. I just took her back home.”

A flicker of doubt passed across Victor’s face. Robin turned, too. “Yeah, well, good for you,” she said. “I guess your only crime is sitting around watching while Tyranitar murdered someone and then participating in covering it up. Hooray.”

She threw up her hands and strode down the road without looking back. After a moment’s hesitation, Victor followed.

Victor might have changed his mind here if he were alone - if he was wrong about Letal, he might have been persuaded that he overreacted to some extent. But with Robin there, remaining firm, he's going with her. Robin might not have gone ahead with visiting Rick either except because she had someone else with her who agreed.

“I… I think I’d better go,” Ryan mumbled, taking out a Pokéball. “Xatu, Green Town.” And in a second, he was gone, too.

“Well, that sure was a thing,” Leah said after a moment, raising her eyebrows. “So, uh, were there any plans to let me in on this murder everyone else apparently knew about?”

Chaletwo gave a frustrated sigh. “I never meant for any of you to hear about this,” he said. “Robin learned of it and informed our group earlier; it was just as hard to reason with her then. As for Victor, I don’t know what he was on about. He didn’t seem to believe any of this nonsense the last time we met. Frankly I’m happy to be rid of them.”

“Same old Chaletwo after all,” Leah said dryly. “Well, so long as you don’t get me tangled up in this. I don’t want anything to do with murdered kids, okay? It’s none of my business how you deal with it, but don’t make it my problem.”

“Why would it be your problem?” Chaletwo replied irritably.

“I don’t know, just don’t.” Leah looked at Mark, grim. “Well, I guess I’m off to look for Mew, too,” she said, giving a sarcastic wave of her hand. “Bye, everyone. Good luck with all that.”

Mark was too dazed to even say goodbye before she’d sent out Felix and teleported away.

Leah is pretty pissed about this, but she's generally good at compartmentalizing and just filing this away as none of her business, hopefully. Dude's already dead, May doesn't seem likely to murder anyone else, whatever, let Chaletwo try to clean up this mess, somewhere far away from her.

I like Chaletwo's bit there - Robin doesn't have a point, she's just hard to reason with, and what do you mean Victor's opinion of things might change offscreen, what do you mean people have their own separate lives and sometimes they are inconvenient

That left Mark, May, Alan and Sparky standing on the crossroads. May was still by the wall, averting her gaze.

“May?” Alan said quietly, stepping closer. “Are you okay?”

She looked up. “Fine,” she said after a moment’s pause. “We should probably get going too.”

May, too, ready to just file all that away and try to pretend it never happened. This was never going to be very successful, but right here, right now, in front of these people, she's fully intending to.

Mark shrugged limply as she turned her gaze towards him. Robin’s words still echoed in his ears. Hooray.

Alan stared at May, brow furrowing. “Look, I… I don’t think they were being fair. It wasn’t your fault, not like…”

“That’s new,” May said coldly without looking at him.

Alan glanced at Mark, sighing. “We… we didn’t see it either,” he said. “None of us knew Tyranitar would do something like that, but he did. And you’ve been suffering for it, and I…”

“I’m not suffering,” May said, turning abruptly, fists clenched. “Let’s go.”

Alan actually wants to reach out to May with his newfound sympathy for her, buuut May is less than eager to accept sympathy.

Sparky, who had been standing silently back, listening, stepped forward. “I can see you don’t want help or pity,” he said, his voice level and calm. “But for the record, I also think they judged you too harshly. It’s true that a trainer is formally meant to inform their Pokémon about human laws, but in practice, most Pokémon already know and most trainers don’t bother. I certainly never sat down for a legal chat with any of my Pokémon, and to be frank, I doubt they did, either. It’s easy in hindsight to call someone a monster for the mistakes they’ve made, but it’s human nature to make mistakes; whose mistakes result in tragedy is often a matter of sheer moral luck.”

May didn’t answer. She stood still, knuckles white, lips pressed together.

“Look,” Alan said, exhaling. “You were careless towards your Pokémon. I still think that. Maybe Tyranitar wouldn’t have done it if you’d raised him better. But I know you didn’t want this to happen. I’ve been thinking about the way I’ve been acting, and…” He glanced at Mark. “I didn’t really want to see it before, but I’ve finally started to notice what you’ve been going through because of this. And I’m sorry for making it worse.”

“Just go,” May said.

Alan and Sparky looked at one another. “The last thing I want to say,” Sparky said, slowly, “is that in my experience, lies and secrets lead to nothing good. I hope the truth will eventually come to light in a way that’s fair to you and to your Tyranitar, and I hope you can be at peace with what that might mean.”

May didn’t answer.

“I guess we should get going,” Alan said after a moment, sighing. “See you around. Let’s hope we can find Mew soon and put an end to all this.”

“Goodbye,” Sparky said. “And good luck.”

“Bye,” Mark said limply. May only gave a vague nod, not looking at them.

And Alan and Sparky turned to head northward, leaving them alone on the empty road.

It's very hard to reassure May or make her feel better, because everything in that direction just reads as condescension and is humiliating to her. It does stick somewhere, but in this moment, she just wants nothing more than for them to go away as soon as possible and stop talking.

Mark let out the breath he’d been holding. His arms and legs were trembling, his body weak with emotional exhaustion; he wanted to go back to the trainer hotel and sleep, forever, forget about Tyranitar and everything that had happened.

May inhaled sharply. “Okay,” she said. “Let’s get back.”

He nodded, and they set off in silence, back down the road into the city.

In the draft, after the group split up (amicably), Mark and May went to the Pokémon Center together, and while they waited for their Pokémon to be healed, they had a brief conversation:

“So I guess it’s just the two of us again,” May said, leaning back on the sofa with her arms outstretched along the back of it, looking up.

“Yeah,” Mark said, not sure where she was going with this.

“Remember when we first came to Alumine after your Pokémon had been stolen?” she asked, a wisp of a smile on her face. “And you just went and knocked on the Mew Hunter’s door, and I had to save you?”

Mark winced at the memory: Scyther knocking him back against a wall, pushing a scythe to his throat. “Yeah.”

“I was terrified,” she said quietly, without looking at him. “I thought you were going to die.”

Mark blinked. That image of May descending from the ceiling on Skarmory like some kind of superhero was burned into his mind; she’d seemed so cool and in control. The idea she was scared – that she was ever scared – felt bizarre.

“Yeah,” he said numbly. “Me too.”

May paused. “That was just after I got Larvitar,” she then said.

Mark was uncomfortable suddenly; he remembered Dratini battling her Larvitar, in a normal Pokémon battle, like any other normal Pokémon. Neither of them had had any inkling that he was particularly young. Had they paid attention to whether he spoke at all? Would they have cared if they’d noticed? They’d just been kids, fresh Pokémon trainers, psyched about catching rare Pokémon. They’d had no idea just what they would go through, that Tyranitar would murder someone, that they would be here now having caught Waraider. They’d just thought they were going to have normal, fun Pokémon journeys.

It seemed like so much more than a year ago.

May opened her mouth as if to say something else, but then the voice of Nurse Joy interrupted them from the counter. “Kids? Your Pokémon are done.”

Keep in mind, of course, that May's state of mind was quite different there; in the final version, there was no way she'd be opening up in this way now of all times. In editing, I basically combined the Larvitar aspect of this bit with the conversation in the Rainbow Café in chapter 74.

When I was first editing this chapter, and had just written the explosion, meanwhile, there was yet another lost scene here:

“Rick probably saw that,” May said quietly as they passed down an empty street.

Mark was dazed and couldn’t think. “What?”

“The… the news report.” May fiddled with a strand of her hair. “He saw Tyranitar killed him. Do you think he’ll…?”

A fresh sting of sickening guilt stabbed his gut. Rick. Rick, who’d threatened his brother’s killer on live TV. Rick, who by now would have gotten Mewtwo² back and could make anyone do whatever he wanted. He could have Tyranitar put down in a heartbeat. They – they had to do something –

...and then this turned into a conversation where Chaletwo tried to convince them why they couldn't go and, like, teleport into the Champion Island police station and try to free Tyranitar. I liked parts of it, but it was extremely deraily, and even if Chaletwo came up with sufficiently convincing arguments, the whole thing just came out very awkwardly; it was basically suggesting this whole potentially exciting course of action and then going "...but nah, we're not actually doing that." I considered having them actually do it, but decided it was just too deraily for this stage of the story, and eventually ended up just scrapping that whole conversation by having May not point this out (which made sense, really) and Mark just plain not think of it.

I probably could actually have them spring Tyranitar out of jail in the next revision, honestly? They probably could get it done with Chaletwo's help, Robin and Victor would still have told Rick he had a trainer, and it'd neatly tie up the kind of questionable idea that Rick wouldn't just try to get his revenge on this defenseless, captured Tyranitar anyway when he can't find May. We would lose out on May actually choosing to go see Rick to make her fumbling attempt to persuade him it was probably a different Tyranitar, though. (Unless they freed him afterwards?) Wwwwe'll see. I'd have to figure out just how complicating the legal consequences would be there and whether it'd be worth it.

“Are you sure this Mew Hunter person can help us?” Chaletwo asked after a minute, a note of lingering irritation in his voice. “From what I’ve gathered of your memories, he doesn’t seem very pleasant or reasonable.”

Mark shrugged uncertainly. He’d felt a lot more confident earlier. “Scyther used to be his Pokémon,” he said. “He might be able to talk to him.”

He took out Scyther’s Pokéball and dropped it. The mantis materialized out of white light, stretching.

“We were thinking about talking to the Mew Hunter and seeing if he’d be able to help us find Mew,” Mark said.

“So I heard,” Scyther replied.

His gaze was distant and contemplative as he scanned his surroundings – the city he’d spent three years of his life in. Mark suddenly had a thought that he should have had before. “Wait, do you know anything about how he found Mew back then?”

Scyther shook his head slowly. “That was before he caught me. He would often talk about it, but he never mentioned a strategy. I always assumed he simply wandered.”

“Didn’t Rick find Mew at the same time, though?” May said. “That’d be a weird coincidence.”

Scyther hesitated. “I don’t know. Perhaps he didn’t tell me everything.” He paused again, wincing. “I don’t know if he’d talk to me. He thought I’d betrayed him. But I do know that he’d never help you capture Mew. He was in agony after losing it to Rick. He wouldn’t tell you anything unless he thought it’d help him find Mew himself.”

I guess Scyther automatically picked up using 'it' for Mew from the Mew Hunter, which I had completely forgotten, but it's kind of neat. Curiously, unless I missed it, I think this is actually the first time we've seen Scyther refer to Mew by a pronoun in the actual fic - but he did also use 'it' in Scyther's Story.

Mark shared a brief glance with May before she looked away again. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea. What if the Mew Hunter demanded to come along, threw his own Pokéball at Mew when they’d weakened him?

“Well, then at least the War would be prevented,” Chaletwo said. “You can worry about what follows if it comes to that.”

He shrugged uncertainly, and they walked on towards the hideous yellow building on the edge of town.

Of course, this isn't exactly what happens but it's pretty close.

This conversation with Scyther before they go to the Mew Hunter's gym didn't happen in the draft; we skipped straight from the aforementioned Pokémon Center scene to them knocking on the door, and Mark didn't send out Scyther until they got there (though I moved a bit of that conversation into this one).

-------

When they knocked on the large steel door, though, there was no answer. The curtainless windows were all dark.

In the draft I pointlessly described them deciding to knock, and then knocking. Mark was also faaar too casual about the prospect of approaching this man who literally threatened to murder him.

“He’s gone,” Scyther whispered, his gaze distant.

“Home?” Mark asked.

Scyther shook his head. “He lived in the Gym. He must have gone out to search for Mew again.” He chuckled bitterly. “I always knew he would. Never stopped hoping, though.”

Mark stared at him. He really should have known that was a possibility, but somehow he’d felt like the Mew Hunter would simply be waiting there, rambling incoherently on the floor forever like they’d left him, as if time wouldn’t pass when they weren’t there.

Mark is also not immune to being surprised when people move on with their lives offscreen. This was a bit I enjoyed in the draft, although I rewrote it (like most of this chapter) completely in editing.

“So what then?” he asked. “Is there anything here that could give us any clues?”

Scyther hesitated. “He kept a diary,” he said after a moment. “He never let us see it, but sometimes I could see him writing in it late at night. Perhaps he wrote about how he found Mew there.”

“And you think he’d have left it here?”

Scyther shrugged slightly. “It was a few years ago. If he still keeps a diary, it wouldn’t be the same one.”

Although he said it casually, he averted his gaze to stare into the distance. Mark supposed he even now felt conflicted about invading his former trainer’s privacy.

“We have to do this if it might help us find Mew,” he said.

“I know,” Scyther said, sighing.

“May?” Mark said, looking at her. She’d been staring at the door, but snapped to attention as he said her name.

“Right,” she said and took a deep breath. “I’ve broken into this place once. I can do it again.”

And she marched decisively around to the back of the building as Mark recalled Scyther and scrambled to keep up.

May's just relieved to have something else to occupy her mind with.

In the draft, Scyther didn't know about a diary. Instead, Mark asked here if Scyther knew anything about how the Mew Hunter found Mew, he answered he didn't know but got the impression he'd just wandered, May commented on the weird coincidence of Rick finding Mew at the same time, and Chaletwo suggested maybe one of them followed the other. Scyther said that the Mew Hunter had said Rick beat Mew unconscious before he got there (so Rick couldn't have been following him - this actually wasn't the case as the Mew Hunter told the story in chapter 10, instead being the Scyther's Story version of events), and that he trusted Rob and he wouldn't have followed Rick - at which May commented that well, she doesn't, and either way they need to find out if he had a method and she's already broken into this building once. Obviously, she was a lot more casual and chatty in the draft, where we weren't just off this traumatic emotional confrontation, and there wasn't really any proper justification for what they thought they'd find by breaking in - hence why in editing I had Scyther know there was a diary, so that they had an actual reason to think they might achieve something this way.

-------

Near the top of a corner of the back wall of the gym, a large ventilation grate was bolted onto the concrete. Without speaking, May raised a Pokéball and released Skarmory from it.

“Get the grate,” she said, matter-of-factly, like this was something she did regularly, and Skarmory flew up, dug his claws between the slits and tore the grate clean off the wall. It dropped to the ground with a clatter; Mark’s gaze darted down the alleys on either side, waiting for some bystander to appear to investigate the noise and catch them in the act, but no one came. He wasn’t sure that made him feel any better. (Getting away with it.)

“You coming?” May said, climbing onto Skarmory’s back. He wanted to say no and stay here looking the other way, pretend he had nothing to do with this, but he couldn’t. He nodded, his mouth dry, before getting on behind her. The bird Pokémon trilled and clumsily took off the ground to ferry them up.

The bit about how he wants to pretend he has nothing to do with this but he can't totally isn't referring to anything else, nope.

In the draft, immediately after May said she'd broken into this building before, we got this:

Mark stared as she marched around to the back of the building, then hurried to follow her. It seemed surreal to actually see the large ventilation grate crudely bolted onto the concrete near the top of the wall and think of May detaching it and crawling through it – like some kind of mastermind criminal. The same kind of mastermind criminal who covered up the murder of Taylor Lancaster, he couldn’t help noting, feeling a fleeting flash of sickness.

It was pretty blunt and over-the-top, especially since there we hadn't just had something happen to make Mark feel worse about the Tyranitar situation; in editing, I toned it down and made it a bit subtler.

May went in first and Mark squeezed in after her, ducking down to let her recall Skarmory over his shoulder. The ventilation duct was dirty and only barely wide enough for them to crawl through on all fours, but thankfully it wasn’t very long: it only went through a small side room, visible through a grate in the bottom of the duct, and then ended in a third grate on the wall of the main gym arena. Cold air rushed past them from the outside, as if drawing them in.

“Go,” May whispered, knocking Skarmory’s Pokéball against the inside grate. It burst open in a shower of white light, releasing Skarmory on the other side, where he could tear off the grate and ferry them down. As May absorbed Skarmory back into his ball, Mark released Scyther again, looking around apprehensively.

In the draft, May just banged on the grate with her elbow and it fell. Here, I figured that was unlikely to work, and instead figured actually you can totally send out a Pokémon through narrow slits. (Train of thought prompted by this: man, what's it like in the Pokémon world where a thief doesn't need to be able to physically get into your house to steal your stuff? You can definitely send in and recall a Pokémon just through a slightly open window.)

It was suuuuper-nostalgic for me writing this break-in; as I mentioned in the commentary for chapter 10, the original and UMR versions of that had Mark and May break into the Mew Hunter's gym through the ventilation together, while that bit was lost in the ILCOE version of the chapter where Mark just knocks on the front door instead. In the draft I actually went into considerably more detail on every part of it just because I was excited to be writing this again, but made it a fair bit shorter in editing. This last part of the fic (at least chapters 71-74) is really nostalgic in general - we're back in locations and dealing with characters and discussing events from the first ten chapters of the fic - and I really enjoyed that; it felt like coming full circle.

For this revival of the ventilation break-in, I actually did some research so as not to embarrass myself too much, and found that there are multiple types of ventilation systems; the one I went with this being is the type where there's a fan pumping air out somewhere, and this causes air to be sucked in from the outside through plain ducts that don't need to have fans installed in them since the air pressure from the other fan will handle the airflow. (That's also why there's a reference to cold air drawing them in from the outside.) I am still not an expert, so if you are, please do tell me about my ventilation misconceptions.

It was obvious no one had been in the Gym for a while; the floor was dusty, the windows grimy, and the lights were off. Scyther looked wistfully out the window and around the room, like a cherished childhood home, but the harsh, bare concrete of the empty walls only pricked at chilling memories Mark had tried to forget: being pinned against that same wall, scythe at his throat, threatened with death.

“He wasn’t a madman,” Scyther said, as if he’d read Mark’s mind. “He was kind and he loved us. I would’ve followed him anywhere, short of murdering a child for Mew. And even then I considered it.”

Mark shuddered. He couldn’t see the man he’d met that day, with those glinting, light blue eyes and that hoarse voice that went from low to bellowing in a second, as anything other than frightening and dangerous. Even the idea he could also have been kind to his Pokémon seemed irrevocably in conflict with the rest of him.

The phrasing of this seems kind of odd to me now - like, are his eyes and his voice all that relevant to why he's frightening and dangerous?

In the draft there was a bit more to this:

But Scyther’s affection for him was genuine, and while he wouldn’t have trusted the Mew Hunter for a minute if he’d said it himself, he did trust Scyther.

And hadn’t Scyther also tried to kill him? Hadn’t he nearly murdered another boy for a grudge? And yet Mark did trust him and care about him. Perhaps it wasn’t as strange as it seemed.

This was just a weird train of thought - Mark doesn't need to trust the Mew Hunter or agree with how Scyther sees him, they're just trying to find out how he found Mew.

“Come on,” May said behind them. “There’s nothing here.”

She turned to the door beneath the ventilation grate, to the back room. They pushed it open, carefully; inside, there was a table, a refrigerator, some cupboards, and a bed with a small window above it.

“This is where he lived?” Mark asked.

Scyther nodded. “He never went back home after his Pokémon journey. Bought the Gym, lived here ever since.”

Mark swallowed. The room was tiny, dark and dirty – not the kind of place one would want to spend a single night in, let alone live in. And yet in some way it didn’t entirely surprise him. It seemed to fit with the man’s unkempt appearance and strange behaviour.

May opened the refrigerator to find it loaded with beer cans. “I can see where Scyther gets the drinking problem from,” she said, wrinkling her nose as she closed it again. The cupboards, too, were full of liquor bottles of various shapes and sizes.

Scyther chuckled. “He wouldn’t let us have any of that,” he said. “Said it was too strong for Pokémon.”

May only arched an eyebrow at him in disbelief.

May's dad probably does have a drinking problem.

Mark looked around, and his gaze settled on a black object lying on the windowsill above the bed. “What’s this?” he said, climbing onto the bed to reach for it; it turned out to be a small, dust-covered book. There was no title or picture on either cover.

“That’s it,” Scyther said. “That’s the diary.”

In the draft, as I mentioned, Scyther didn't know about a diary - Mark just chanced upon it:

“Did he keep a diary?” Mark asked, looking up at Scyther.

“Not that I knew,” Scyther replied. “But he could have before he caught me, or when he was alone.”

“A diary?” May came over, peeking over Mark’s shoulder. “Well, that’s exactly what we were looking for. Open it.”

Mark looked hesitantly at the book. “Prying into a private diary that not even Scyther knew about? Isn’t that kind of...”

May sighed. “It’s to save the world, Mark,” she said firmly, taking the book out of his hands and opening it.

Mark turned it over, apprehensive. He’d known they were looking for it, but it still felt strange to be holding the diary of someone like that in his hands, like his madness could be infectious, somehow. What would they find in there? Could they really just read it?

May snagged the book out of his hands, sighing impatiently. As she opened it, Mark caught a glance of bizarre, alien writing at the bottom of the page, and his gut twisted in a sudden, irrational panic before May turned it the right way up and flipped to the start of the book. It had no date, only a hastily scribbled, barely legible block of text covering the page from top to bottom.

This chunk about them exploring the Gym, from "It was obvious no one had been in the Gym for a while..." up to here, is the only part of this chapter that was not rewritten completely from scratch in editing - most of this is pretty close to the NaNo draft with some modifications, whereas in the rest of the chapter I just used the draft for reference for some things and for the most part wrote entirely new words. This will become more common as we proceed towards the final chapters.

Mew is the greatest Pokémon, originator of all life – all of them in one, the ultimate being. They say it wanders the earth and appears only to the pure of heart who desire to see it. It knows their hearts and takes mercy on them by gracing them with its presence. Mew would underst

It cut off suddenly in the middle of the word; a loose, hasty scribble crossed the entire paragraph out before the writing began anew in the next line.

In the draft, the Mew Hunter's diary was a lengthy ramble, not very coherent or convincing, and I was immediately unhappy with it and determined to redo it completely in editing. This thing of repeatedly cutting off and starting over was new, and I think it does a much better job showing his thought process; he keeps trying to get words around what he's feeling and then just getting frustrated and giving up or starting over.

Mew is the most perfect and pure-hearted of all Pokémon. People don’t see it but I do. There are rotten people everywhere poisoning the world, capturing Pokémon and enslaving them for their own gain. Mew must be devastated, tired, harrowed, at the filthy selfishness of all those people, just like me. I understand. This world is broken and Mew must suffer and I can help. I understand Mew. I can help Mew. I can save

Again, the paragraph cut off suddenly. Mark swallowed, his mouth dry as he read on.

I’m a savior. I save Pokémon. That’s what they tell me. I capture them so I can save them. Feraligatr was nervous about trainers, but with me he said he could be himself. Sandslash lost his parents, but I came in their place. Sneasel was an outcast rejected by his kind, and I accepted him for who he was and taught him to trust again. Kabutops is haunted by ancient memories, but I listen and help him process them. They would be lost if it weren’t for me. I saved them because I love them, more than anything. Other trainers don’t care, they don’t care to understand them, they just want to use them for fights. They’re repulsive and wrong. I can save Mew from all the filth and the selfishness and the greed. Mew must cry every day at how broken the world is. I can help, I can make Mew whole again, I can make it better. But how can I make it see? How can I let it know that I’m different from them? Mew wouldn’t let itself be captured by an ordinary trainer, I know. Even with a Master Ball, it would teleport away instantly when released. I have to find a way to make it stay and give me a chance, like Feraligatr and Sandslash and Sneasel and Kabutops, so I can show it that I understand and earn its trust and save it, just like I saved them.

May took a deep breath, glancing at Mark for a second, before she turned the page.

Pokéball books at the library. It’s not that hard to modify balls. I never thought it would be so easy. The secrets seem so closely guarded from afar, but the technology is old and it’s simple when you look into it. I think I know what I need to do, found some info on Mean Look. Just have to experiment and confirm, get some balls to try it on. I can feel Mew getting closer. Please

It'd be pretty bad if any random Joe could just pick up a book or two at the library and immediately start to create something like his or Rick's illegal balls, wouldn't it? I probably shouldn't make it sound quite this easy. The two of them are dangerously obsessed; they can have spent a lot more time on this than any other reasonable person would.

I can do it. Tried it on Sneasel’s ball. The first attempt didn’t work but the second did. He can’t stray far from the ball now. I switched him back to a normal one, but it works. If I just get a ball that can hold Mew, everything will be complete, but I need money. I think I’ll open a Gym. Feraligatr and Sandslash and Sneasel and Kabutops are strong. They can do it. They believe in me.

The next few entries were about the process of setting up the Gym and opening it; May gave an impatient sigh and turned the page, then gave the next a brief scan and flipped it again. Mark caught glimpses of sentences as she skimmed:

The Master Ball price is going down. I will wait. Mew has time. Mew has unlimited time but it is alone and it has no one. I’m coming for you Mew

Sneasel was distracted during a fight today. I asked him what was wrong and he said he’s feeling sick but didn’t want to disrupt the management of the Gym. I told him never do that again, he’s more important. He said he doesn’t think he’s important. I said he’s important to me and to us. Took him to the Pokémon Center, they wanted to keep him overnight. Can’t sleep, hope he’s okay.

Kabutops remembers seeing Mew once, back in his previous life. I nearly choked. I asked what he had seen but he says it’s all fuzzy, all he remembers is a pink glow and a serene smile. So back then, Mew was happy. I wish

A sampling of him genuinely caring about his Pokémon but also being distracted by Mew the moment Mew comes up. Also not present in the draft; I think it's pretty important here.

“Okay, here we go,” May said at last as she turned the page once more.

I have the ball now. That means I only need to find it. I don’t know how, but it doesn’t matter, because Mew appears to the pure of heart who desire to see it, and I know it will appear to me. I only need to go out, wander the world like Mew does, and our kinship and connection will grow. I can feel destiny drawing us together already. I am meant to be Mew’s trainer and it is meant to be mine, so I can help it heal and we can face the world together. It will happen soon.

So far nothing. It’s been a month, I think, haven’t kept track. It doesn’t matter. I have time and patience. Mew cannot be rushed. Mew lives without worrying about time. It has nowhere it needs to be, nobody it must see, it just is. It’s like me. We will find each other.

I know my heart is pure. I know it. But does Mew know?

Mew still hasn’t come. I have patience. I

Still nothing.

Heard a rumour today. Bad rumour, about some kid from Cleanwater City capturing legendary Pokémon, cloning them, planning to open a Gym. He’s just a teenager, an orphan. They say he’s caught a few already. How can that be possible? The legendaries of the myths are so powerful no trainer could take them down. It has to be a lie.

Still haven’t found Mew. The kid’s still at it, they say. It’s said he’s caught even more legendaries, like he has a way, like can track them down. It’s impossible. I don’t believe them.

I think I saw the kid today. He travels with a sense of purpose, like he already knows where he’s going. He has a device at his belt that he looks at every now and then. That has to be how he’s finding them. He can’t find Mew that way. Mew only appears to the pure of heart. How dare he? I should

I can’t risk him finding Mew first. I’m following him. If I’m there too when he finds it, Mew will choose me. I have the ball. Everything is ready. Mew will come to me.

May sighed. “So he just tailed Rick, I guess. What a waste of time.”

“What are you talking about?” Chaletwo said. “Apparently Rick had a device that led him to Mew. This is fantastic news. If we can get that device from him, we can track Mew down.”

In the draft it wasn't explicit in the diary that Rick had a device that he was using; they just sort of vaguely figured well, he had some way. (They also didn't actually discuss this until chapter 72.)

Mark’s stomach twisted. They’d have to talk to Rick. Rick, whose brother they had killed. May looked away, silent.

“Well, if you really don’t want to, we can try to get some of the others to check that out and you can start looking in the meantime.”

May took a deep breath. “No,” she said firmly, and Mark blinked in surprise. “Let’s go see Rick. We can still make it tonight.”

The reason May is determined to do this here is that she's been extremely aware of the possibility Rick might try to get Tyranitar killed or worse since the news report, and while she'd been trying to ignore it and rationalize why they have to keep moving on their world-saving quest and he probably won't do anything, now that there's actually a good reason they should go to Rick's place for that quest, she abruptly figures maybe she can do something, make him think it's not him. She doesn't want to visit Rick, but she does not expect Rick has connected it to her at all, and she just knows it'd be so much worse if she actually walked away and didn't try and then heard later that Tyranitar had been killed.

She closed the diary, thrust it into Mark’s hands and turned around to exit the room. Mark motioned to replace the diary on the windowsill where he’d found it.

“Mark?” Scyther said quietly. “I’d… I’d like to read just a little further.”

Scyther also wanted to read a bit more in the draft; there, Mark remarked that he was probably shaken to read that the Mew Hunter really had been following Rick, after he'd said previously that he trusted he hadn't.

Here, Scyther mostly just wants to read onward because he's only ever heard about his quest for Mew after the fact, and reading all this straight from his hand as it was happening is a bit different and lays more bare how sad this obsession was. It gives him a bit more perspective on him, and makes him see him in a somewhat more tragic light - and he wants to see that through all the way.

Mark hesitated before opening the book again. Truth be told, he was a little curious as well, but the apprehension he’d felt before had only grown.

I think he knows I’m after him. He takes long ways around, leaves early in the morning like he’s trying to shake me off. He doesn’t fool me. I know better than to let him escape. I have a duty to Mew and I cannot fail it.

He’s gone. He left even before I woke up. Has he already found Mew? Sneasel may be able to smell him. I will try

Mew chose him. What they say about pure hearts is false. Mew refused me. Why? I don’t understand. I thought I understood but I don’t. Mew chose enslavement and brainwashing. I wanted to tackle him down and wrestle the ball away from him, but Mew made the choice. Why? I don’t underst

Why

Mew is gone. It’s gone. It thinks I’m worse than him. There’s nothing left. No point. Mew’s right. Goodbye.

I failed. Like at everything else. Couldn’t go through with it. Kabutops found me. What would they have done without me? I can’t leave them. It was cowardly. I have to move on, for them. It’s the only thing I can do.

The Mew Hunter's prior suicide attempt had been established back in chapter 27 as something that made Scyther feel they were similar, but by now reading this is just desperately sad to him.

Mark shivered, a knot of unease in his stomach.

Behind him, Scyther let out a long, heavy sigh. “That’s enough. Thank you.”

Mark nodded and placed the diary carefully back on the windowsill where he’d found it before he recalled Scyther and hurried out after May.

This kicks off a sort of reevaluation of Rob in Scyther's eyes. He still has enormous lingering affection for him, but now that he's grown and developed healthier ways of thinking, he can really properly see how sad and futile and pathetic Rob's entire obsession with Mew was, and how unhealthy Rob's ways of dealing with all this were.

The other purpose of showing the Mew Hunter's diary, besides the kids learning about Rick's tracker device, is to remind you of the important points of his character, and properly establish the basis of how he thinks (after all, his only previous appearance in the actual fic was chapter 10, where his characterization was not exactly coherent or compelling), in preparation for his reappearance in chapter 74. Multiple people were apparently surprised to see him being brought up again - which probably makes sense, as a kind of bad early plot point that had been briefly, vaguely mentioned all of twice in the last literal decade (and the last of those mentions, in chapter 45, was more than eight years ago at this point). But I'd known for longer than the ILCOE had even existed that the Mew Hunter would crop up again for the chapter 74 scene where they find Mew, so it'd been very natural to me that obviously I'd have to remind the reader about him at some point here.

I'm not super-happy with the contents of the diary and would be rewriting them better in the next revision, trying to make his worldview appear to make at least a bit more actual sense, but I think it does the recapping job decently, hopefully, without feeling too much like a pure recap.

Meanwhile, the actual shattering referred to in the title! Boy, did I enjoy taking the draft's dead-boring purely logistical split-up scene and turning it into this. May feels worse than ever! Tyranitar needs hugs! Alan finally reaches out to reconcile with May, even if she's not having it just yet! The entire Robin thing actually comes to a head! This is another one of my personal favorite scenes in the story. I don't expect it to rank particularly highly for anyone else, since it's basically just people shouting at each other, but people shouting at each other is my jam, damn it.

As for the chapter plan: Chapter 71: Only Mew is left; since brute force is not needed and Mew has always been the most elusive legendary of all, they split up again. Mark, May and Alan get to continue to handle Ouen. They say their goodbyes and wonder how they might find Mew; Scyther points out that the foremost experts on that are Rob and Rick. They go back to Alumine, but Rob has long deserted his Gym and they realize he must have been out looking for Mew all this time; who knows where he is now? They wonder if it could really help them that Rick knows something; May is especially reluctant. As you can see, originally Alan was supposed to be with them for this whole last bit. I'm not sure exactly when I changed that plan; it may have just been when I got here in NaNo and it would've been kind of hard to justify sending three whole people together when it should be pretty easy for two to overwhelm a single legendary by now and the main thing is just finding Mew - besides that Alan didn't really have anything to do in the next few chapters anyway. (I always knew I definitely wanted Mark and May together here, of course, for chapter 72.) The diary, of course, was not a thing here either - I think that occurred to me fairly spontaneously during NaNo as a sensible way to do that recapping and also give them a reason to think talking to Rick could be productive.

I'm so excited to be at this part in the commentary. We're almost done, guys!


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