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 74: Unraveling

This chapter was posted on June 19th 2017, the fic's fifteenth birthday. I'd originally wanted to finish it on this day, or publish chapters 75 and 76 - but considering this ended up being a very long chapter, rewritten almost completely from scratch, I'm honestly impressed it only took me three months at this stage. I said when I posted it that if it weren't the anniversary I'd be spending more time on it, but honestly I'm pretty happy with nearly all of it today.

The draft title of this chapter was the reasonably accurate but dull "Rainbow Woods". The final title better reflects what the primary purpose of most of the chapter ended up being, namely to build up a lot of anxiety and dread.

They’d been assigned the west side of the region, and despite everything that had happened since yesterday, no plans had been changed, so west side it was.

They headed south into Rainbow Woods, traveling a bit off the beaten path, keeping a silent, wary lookout for anything suspicious. Every movement made Mark’s stomach lurch, his mind preparing to see Rick’s clenched jaw and bloodshot eyes, but nothing out of the ordinary happened. The woods were peaceful and quiet, weak wild Pokémon occasionally flitting between the trees but avoiding engagement.

Rick was probably still in the hospital, Mark reminded himself every time a rattling in the bushes turned out to be a Rattata. There was no reason for him to be here now.

After a few hours of repeated false alarms, that reflex finally started to numb somewhat, and Mark’s mind began to wander to other worries, to their quest and to Mew.

In the draft, they were still slightly wary and on the lookout for Rick, but not to nearly this extent.

“Hey,” he said eventually. May glanced back at him, her expression unreadable as usual.

“I was thinking,” he went on. “So when Mew…” He paused. “Wait, did I ever properly explain the thing with Mew? Why the Mew Hunter went after me and all that?”

“No,” Chaletwo said. “I had been planning to ask you about that myself. You were thinking something yesterday about Rick giving Mew to you…?”

“Yeah. When I battled Rick, he used Mew, but Mew was resisting the Clone Ball, and I think it freaked him out. He got all weird and angry and then he gave Mew’s ball to me and told me to just take it away.”

“Huh,” Chaletwo said, slowly. “I’d gathered that you’d met Mew a couple of times before, but not like that. I always thought Rick had simply released him.”

“No,” Mark said. “It was me. I switched him to a normal Pokéball, and after we talked for a bit he flew out through my window.”

In the draft Mark went into the bit about how he initially assumed Mew was a clone, but it was unnecessary and a reminder of some of the wilder bits of that part of the fic, so I figured I might as well remove it.

“And you released him formally through the PC after that?”

“Yeah,” Mark replied. “And I put the ball in the recycling bin and everything. I’ve still got the Clone Ball in my bag somewhere, but obviously that’s deactivated. Nothing that helps us now.”

“The mind-control ball? You kept that?” Faint disgust pricked at Mark’s mind.

Mark shrugged sheepishly. “It seemed like sort of an interesting keepsake, I guess.”

By this point the Mew Hunter is already discreetly following them. One thing I don't like here is that it's very muddled exactly how/when the Mew Hunter started following them; what I basically decided on was that he just happened to be passing by nearby and overheard them talking about Mew, but there's no real clear indication that they had been talking about Mew, and nothing that might hint someone noticed.

Either way, though, the Mew Hunter hears this bit of conversation, which informs him Mark has the Clone Ball. I think the flow of the conversation works reasonably to make this just naturally come up. (Obviously, with this I also want to remind the reader that Mark has the Clone Ball.)

As I mentioned in the commentary for chapter nine, this came about because I wrote a throwaway line about Mark keeping the Clone Ball and then a reader commented that this was definitely going to be important later, prompting me to scramble for possible later relevance for it to have. However, this still wasn't actually the plan by the time I started NaNoing. (I genuinely thought it had been when I started this commentary, before I started digging stuff up. Only goes to show my memory can be pretty fallible about details.)

Instead, as the chapter plan for chapter 73 indicated, Mark was supposed to realize here that he hadn't actually properly released Mew back there, and thus the ball that he'd switched Mew to would still be able to simply recall Mew, without a fight. Hence, the Clone Ball actually didn't end up being important in that plan, though the fact the Pokéball switch happened was; because the Clone Ball was deactivated, I'd kind of written off the possibility of it feasibly getting used again.

However, once I started writing out this realization during NaNo, I realized this didn't actually fully make sense. As I explained to opaltiger while trying to bounce this off him:

me: Chapter nine had that thing where Rick suddenly gave Mew to Mark because I was twelve years old, and Mark transferred it from the mind-controlling Clone Ball to a regular Pokéball before releasing it.

me: Then Mew flew away and we cut to the Mew Hunter, so we never found out what happened after.

me: The idea was that Mark had forgotten to properly release Mew on the PC and that now it's like "we can use that ball to just recall Mew without even having to fight it, so long as we find it! :o" Except the Mew Hunter steals that ball.

me: The first logical problem with this is that the way I've set up the PC system working, Mark would have had to explicitly switch that ball to the PC for another one of his Pokémon at some point, because you can only carry six occupied Pokéballs belonging to you at any time. At which time it would somehow have had to escape him that "Oh, yeah, this ball technically holds /Mew/, maybe I should release it instead of switching it to the PC."

me: The second is that if he could even switch such a ball to the PC without Mew actually being in it, the whole six-Pokémon rule would go out of the window again.

me: Since then you could just send out all your Pokémon, then switch some of the balls back to get more Pokémon.

me: And also, he would have had to forget about this very thoroughly because as soon as it came to light after the whole meeting Chaletwo thing, they would go "Oh, crap, that means if any of the /other/ people out there looking for Mew find it, they're not going to actually be able to capture it at all, because it belongs to another Pokéball."

While I was waffling over this on November 24th, this other possibility occurred to me, where the Mew Hunter would instead steal the Clone Ball, and then he'd simply use his already-established expertise with Pokéballs to reactivate it. I think I'd wanted to actually properly use the Clone Ball in some way for a long time, so it did delight me when I thought of this. The problem I got hung up on with this possibility, though, was that Mark had been established putting the Clone Ball in his pocket, and it'd be a lot harder for the Mew Hunter to steal something from his pocket completely without Mark noticing.

...only as I explained this to opal, I realized this was actually a nonissue. opal suggested surely maybe he'd moved it out of his pocket at some point, and I started typing out a response about why he couldn't have done that because he would've immediately noticed and realized that it was that Clone Ball because it looks different, and... then I realized that actually that was fine. Mark believes the Clone Ball is deactivated and can never be used again and it's just a little keepsake of one of his early adventures. So why wouldn't he put it in his bag at some point, and leave it there without a second thought?

Chaletwo sighed. “Well, it’s a moot point now. What were you going to say?”

In the draft, Chaletwo hadn't heard anything about Mark having Mew for a time before this conversation, and wasn't terribly happy about this being dumped on him now: Chaletwo sighed in irritation. “Well, now that I’m up-to-date on trivial details like you having briefly caught Mew, what were you going to say?”

“Yeah, so… when I released Mew back there, he told me his home was here. In Rainbow Woods.”

Another line from chapter nine given sudden relevance 65 chapters later!

“Oh.” Chaletwo’s telepathic voice was dull. “What Mew calls home doesn’t mean very much. He spends most of his time traveling, seeing the world and observing its inhabitants. Every once in a while he picks a place that strikes his fancy and designates it as ‘home’, but he only occasionally spends much time there. He may not return to it for years, and this is not one of the times that he sticks around. He might come back here or he might not. It’s no more likely than any other place.”

Mark nodded slowly. “Do you think he might return home when his power starts to run out? If he’s too weak to travel like normal – would he come back here?”

“Maybe,” Chaletwo said, reluctant. “That would be cutting it uncomfortably close, but if it comes to that, it might make sense to return here.” That was something, at least – a contingency plan. Chaletwo sighed. “If only we could have gotten that device off Rick.”

Note his take on the odds of Mew actually coming back to Rainbow Woods here.

May looked away. “Do you have any idea how that thing worked?”

“Mmm. I can’t know for sure, but it’s likely it was something that detected psychic signals. A strong Psychic legendary like Mew gives off an aura. You can only feel it when the legendary is physically close, but theoretically it’s possible he could make a machine that could pick up a much fainter signal, and then he could triangulate Mew’s approximate location from that. That’s my best guess, anyway. Doesn’t help us find him without the device itself.”

The draft didn't explain this; here, I figured it was good to set up the psychic aura thing, as well as just explaining Rick's device as not just being magic.

“But what about twenty years ago when you first asked him about the War?” Mark asked. “Or when Raudra and Puragon wanted to warn him about us, or Mewtwo – how are they finding him?”

“He wants to talk to them,” Chaletwo said pointedly. “It’s not usually hard for a legendary to find him – wander around looking, don’t make a secret of what you’re looking for, and before long he’ll pop up to greet you. But he’s obviously been avoiding us since we proposed the plan, and he pays close attention to news and rumours of the other legendaries. He’ll know he’s the only one left by now.”

Mark nodded, silent. No shortcuts. They’d just have to stumble upon him, somehow.

One Pokémon in the entire world, and they had… seven groups looking? He’d tried not to think about Mew and how hard it’d be to find him, to push all that back to when they got there, but now they were there and there was nowhere else to push it; all the built-up dread that he’d managed to ignore up to this point was seeping back into his mind, amplified by his general anxiety about Rick.

May just walked on, staring straight ahead. He didn’t think he would ever understand how she maintained that steely composure even now, but somehow seeing her soldiering on after everything gave him some small measure of strength. He hastened to keep up with her, and as they continued their trudge through the forest, he tried to think only of the next step, the next clearing, the next clump of bushes.

I was almost definitely thinking of Michael Ende's Momo when writing this last sentence. This was one of my absolute favorite books as a kid, and it includes a character, Beppo the street-cleaner, who lives life very slowly and in the moment, and as he works, he thinks only of the next step, the next breath, and the next sweep of the broom. Mark's staying in the present moment for very different reasons, but I think of Beppo every time I read this sentence and there's no way I wasn't when I wrote it.

In the draft, there was a rather different little exchange here, rather than these contemplations of Mark's:

“Concentrating less on any place is always risky, but I suppose since we have no solid leads now and you’re spread too thin to cover every area adequately, we might as well go with that as the only thing we’ve got.” Chaletwo sighed. “If only we had gotten something out of Rick.”

Mark winced. “We should never have gone to see Rick in the first place.”

“Well, how was I supposed to know that he’d just guessed May killed Taylor without any evidence?” Chaletwo said defensively. “It was absurd on the face of it, but he did it anyway because apparently he’s madder than I thought. It’s hardly my fault.”

Mark shook his head. “That wasn’t my point. I just...” He saw that May had stopped behind them and was looking away, uncomfortably, as she hastened to catch up. “We’re all in agreement that Rainbow Woods is as good of a lead as we’re going to get right now, right?”

May nodded as Chaletwo grunted telepathically in affirmation.

“Yeah, so let’s be sure to explore this area as much as we can. That’s all. And of course, the others are out there too and might find something. Even without knowing how Rick tracked Mew down, we know where Mew was last sighted and have two sets of people searching there.”

“Of course. I’m not saying it’s hopeless. It just would have been...”

“Yeah, sure, it would have been nice,” May said. “But there is no way he is even conceivably going to tell us anything now. There’s no point dwelling on it.”

Mark felt Chaletwo about to protest, but gave him a mental elbowing. Are you going to go on making May feel worse? Maybe we could have gotten some information if Taylor were still alive, yeah, but there’s no gain in rubbing that in her face.

“Fine,” Chaletwo said grumpily. “You could have just said that.”

Mark didn’t respond.

It didn't add much, and I wanted to introduce the looming dread of this chapter instead. Though I do enjoy the idea of a "mental elbowing".

-------

They camped out in the woods in the evening. May was quiet as they ate a cold dinner of beans and crackers; Mark persuaded her into another drawing game before they retreated to their tents, though, and she gave a faint smile at his drawing of Floatzel. Weavile offered to keep watch as they slept, silent and devoid of her usual cocky demeanor, grim determination in her eyes.

It was almost completely dark when Mark woke with a start, gripped with a chilling feeling of being watched. Something rustled outside, like footsteps, as an indistinct shadow – Weavile? – shifted on the wall of the tent, flickering in the faint light of the fire. He held his breath, paralyzed; everything was silent now but his thumping heartbeat as he waited for Rick to tear open the tent, silhouetted against the flames, Mewtwo²’s looming, hunched-over form at his side.

Mark is here imagining Rick has Mewtwo² out with him - but it does not occur to him that this could actually be a huge problem, because Rick and the War constitute entirely separate and unrelated threats in his mind. I wrote the chapter banking on the reader not noticing either, if I was careful in writing it: never reminding you that Mewtwo² is a legendary too, keeping talk of the quest focused around finding Mew. If you noticed immediately and spent the whole chapter wanting to reach through the screen and shout at them... well, then I failed.

(I could have had them think of it; it's not as if they could've done much about it even if they had. But I think the whole buildup and twist of the chapter plays out a lot better if it does come as a twist, and yeah, I wagered that I genuinely had a pretty good shot at sweeping you up with them in not considering what if Mewtwo² is out until it happens. Please tell me if I was wrong.)

But nothing happened. After several minutes tense and frozen in the dead quiet, taking shallow, silent breaths, Mark finally dared to fully exhale. He sat up, slowly, and carefully unzipped the front of the tent. “Weavile?” he whispered.

“Someone was here,” she said. The glow that remained of their campfire reflected in her eyes and her gleaming claws. “They bolted when I noticed them.”

Mark shivered, staring into the darkness. Rick? But why would he have run off without a fight?

Of course, it was actually the Mew Hunter, not Rick; he was hoping to approach and snatch the Clone Ball, but didn't risk it when Weavile noticed something.

Weavile glanced away, then back at him. “Sleep,” she said. “I’ll wake you if there’s trouble. I won’t let him get you too.”

“No, let’s… let’s move,” Mark said weakly, his mouth dry. “We can’t risk it, not with Mewtwo² around. It can hurt Dark-types.” If only they’d thought to take its ball off Rick while he was unconscious – but of course, they’d been in no state to think that far.

Weavile averted her eyes, but didn’t object. Mark crawled out of his tent to wake May, shaking with both cold and adrenaline.

“I never used to have anyone I wanted to protect,” Weavile muttered, and Mark turned around. “And now that I do, I can’t.”

“You helped us escape,” Mark said.

“Didn’t help Floatzel. Couldn’t have helped Floatzel.”

Mark tried to shrug. “You… you can’t always help.”

Weavile didn’t answer. Mark shivered again as he turned back to May’s tent.

You can’t always help.

Obviously, the person Weavile wants to protect is Floatzel. See why I couldn't kill her?

The thought that you can't always do anything about things isn't the most comfortable idea for Mark right now.

This scene, like most of this chapter, was completely new in editing. The primary purpose of it was to set up the Mew Hunter following them, but also to kind of solidify their fears of Rick a bit, make it feel like he genuinely might be right on their tail - or at least convincingly convey the stress of feeling like he might be. (Obviously, it turns out he isn't, and they never actually encounter Rick within the chapter, so without a fakeout like this, the potential threat there might not have felt very tangible.) Giving Weavile this little moment was a spontaneous bonus.

-------

They moved to a different campsite. Mark didn’t get much sleep after that, but there was no further sign of their visitor. In the morning, they searched around Alumine, tired and exhausted, but found nothing. They camped in the woods again, after wading through a mess of undergrowth and a thicket of trees, lighting no campfire so they’d be less likely to be seen. Again, the night was quiet. Nothing happened, no one attacked – but that didn’t ease his mind much.

The next day was similar. May still said nothing, staring distantly around the forest as they searched as if on autopilot. The silence was deafening, but what could he say?

“Draw Mew,” she said when they’d eaten dinner that night.

“It’s too dark,” Mark said. Again they had no fire, no light, and even though their dinner was early, the trees obscured the diminishing light of the setting sun.

May shrugged slightly. “We can use my torch inside one of the tents.”

Mark couldn’t help compulsively worrying – wouldn’t the beam be visible through the fabric of the tent? – but by the time they were huddled together over his sketchpad by the flashlight, he could forget about all that for a moment. In his drawing, Mew was sleeping, peaceful, serene.

Another one of May's Britishisms, calling the flashlight a torch.

“Did you know,” he said absent-mindedly as he shaded the tiny body, “back in Scorpio City after you got stung by that Scorplack – Mew came there?”

May blinked. “Huh?”

“I was sitting there alone with you, Mitch left to check on some blood test, and Mew just… appeared.”

“Why?”

Mark shrugged. “He said something about… fate, and appearing because he felt he should? I asked him to heal you but he said he couldn’t because Scorplack is a Dark-type. Then he just left again when Mitch was about to come in.”

The bit specifically recapping how Mew couldn't heal May because of Scorplack's Dark-type poison: here because I didn't kill Weavile. You're welcome.

“Did it say anything else?”

“Not really.” Mark shook his head, turning the memory over in his mind: it was pretty odd, wasn’t it? “He was only there for maybe twenty or thirty seconds. Didn’t do anything.”

“Weird.” May looked at the drawing again. “Chaletwo, you got anything?”

“It sounds like Mew,” Chaletwo said, sighing. “Banging on about fate, appearing at random. He likes to show himself more than to be inadvertently seen, so appearing to you but leaving before someone else walked in sounds typical.”

May stared unseeingly at the paper. “Why would he go somewhere for such a short time, if he didn’t do anything while he was there? What was the point?”

“You can’t reason about Mew. He works in mysterious ways. I’ve never been able to figure him out.”

Mark shrugged, but he could see May, her gaze distant, still mulling it over while he finished his drawing.

Yes, Chaletwo, Mew's definitely just banging on about fate and appearing at random because he works in mysterious ways.

Another completely new scene, here for plot recapping and establishing their little drawing tradition, featuring that completely unintentional foreshadowing from chapter 13! This chapter was one big nostalgia trip for me.

-------

As February wore on, they spent a few days searching near Alumine, then a few in the forest, then a few around the Lake of Purity. By a silent, implicit agreement, they didn’t get too close to Cleanwater City itself. Mark thought to himself, without knowing if it was true, that Mew probably wouldn’t want to spend time in a city where he’d been trapped and mind-controlled for three years, either. If Chaletwo thought otherwise, he didn’t object.

Mark initially wasn’t sure about covering the northwest corner of the region, near his hometown: surely, if all wild Pokémon avoided the area, Mew would too? But Chaletwo was unsure, so they searched around Sailance, too. There was a knot in Mark’s stomach as they skirted around the edges of town, as he tried not to think of what would happen to his parents if they couldn’t find Mew. Could he save them, get them into Mrs. Riverstone’s shelter before it was too late? Would it be enough? What about everyone else, who wouldn’t have a shelter?

At May’s suggestion, they slipped into a clothing store after they restocked on food and bought large, hooded wind jackets, hats, and scarves that obscured their features from afar. Mark wasn’t sure it would stop Rick, but he still felt safer, wrapped in warm, concealing layers. They still hadn’t had a nighttime encounter since that first night. Perhaps they’d shaken him off.

This chapter has a fair bit of summarizing like this, what with covering long stretches of repetitive dredging. I tried to use those bits to convey atmosphere and little bits like this, building dread.

After Sailance, they headed back past the Lake of Purity and through the forest, then threaded the beaches west of it. They were back near Alumine, a couple of weeks into the search, when something was different about the atmosphere as they packed up their tents in the morning; May was distracted, fidgety, in a way she hadn’t been before, and even Chaletwo was radiating a faint sense of apprehension from somewhere in the back of his mind.

“What’s up?” Mark asked, looking at May.

“Nothing,” she said immediately, stuffing the minimized box with her tent into her bag, then pulling the hood of her jacket further over her head. Mark’s gaze lingered on her. She still wasn’t talking much, but she watched him draw most nights, hugging her knees close, making quick suggestions like she was trying not to think about them – always Pokémon. He was never sure what she was thinking or how he could help.

She glanced back at him, then away again. “It’s…” she began, her voice quiet. “It’s my birthday.”

I don't actually mention the date explicitly, but May still shares a birthday with me (February 18th), a remnant of her self-insert origins. It's just tacky enough that when it wasn't necessarily about to get brought up, I was happy to leave it out.

May's obviously not feeling particularly celebratory on this particular birthday, and was going to just pretend it's nothing, but since Mark clearly noticed something was on her mind, and she does kind of want it to be acknowledged, on a level she'd usually suppress - she tells him, and figures that'll probably be about it.

Mark blinked at her. She busied herself with zipping up her bag, as if she expected that to be the end of the conversation. With a sting in his gut, Mark recalled his own last birthday: Sparky throwing him a party, May and Alan helping to make him a cake. Now, here they were, hiding in the woods, subsisting on bottled water and dry crackers and cold beans and cereal bars.

“Hey,” he said, willing himself to smile as she looked up again. “Happy birthday! Thirteen, right? So you’re… you’re a teenager. Congrats.”

He laughed as she grimaced exaggeratedly. “Don’t remind me.”

This was pretty much my reaction to turning thirteen. I hated the thought of being a teenager.

“How about we go somewhere and celebrate?” Mark said. “There’s a café at the edge of the woods. They might have cake or something.”

It bugs me that Mark says this like May doesn't know about the café, when they ate together there once before and we're going to be bringing this up extensively in the next scene, with no indication that Mark had somehow forgotten.

“Really?” May gave him a sceptical glance.

He shifted on his feet. “There’s… nobody’s been following us lately, and we’ve got our disguises. It has to be okay for just maybe an hour, right? Some proper food?” Mark really hoped he was right. “It’s your birthday.”

May looked away, still hesitant. In truth, Mark wasn’t quite sure either; images of Rick bursting in and Mewtwo²’s empty eyes flickered in his mind, underlined by the faint buzz of tension and fear and guilt in the back of his skull.

“If…” Chaletwo said abruptly, “if it would help, you can switch me to an active ball. If Rick did appear, you should have time to let me out before he could pick you out of the crowd, and I could teleport us out of there. It should be fine.” May blinked in surprise. “You... you both deserve this,” he added awkwardly. “Happy birthday.”

Mark grinned in disbelief, looking back at May. “Okay,” she said after a moment. “Sure.”

Chaletwo was wringing his immaterial hands over how to tell them they have less time than they thought, only for May to bring up it being her birthday, and Mark wanting to go to a café, and he knows humans really insist birthdays are supposed to be special and fun, and they've just been through this thing with Rick where he kind of failed to help at all, and all in all he just felt bad about bringing them bad news now. If he lets them have a good time and do the birthday thing for a bit, then he can tell them later and not feel guilty about it, right?

-------

They reached the café around lunchtime. Mark couldn’t help being apprehensive again as they approached it, but Chaletwo’s ball was comforting in his hand; even though it was unlikely it would come to that, knowing they had a backup plan if something went wrong calmed him down.

The little red door was friendly and welcoming. They frantically scanned the other customers as they entered, but once they were sure they hadn’t just barged in on Rick, May led the way to a corner booth, sitting down on the side that faced towards the door. Mark took a seat opposite her; as he sank into the cushion and dropped his backpack down on the floor next to him, all the pent-up tension and worries of the past weeks seemed to lift off his shoulders as well. They were okay. They were here. They were going to have some nice food again, in the warmth of a house, because it was May’s birthday, and for the moment that was all that they had to think about. He’d needed this break, really needed it; he hadn’t realized how much so until now.

This paragraph was pretty much written as an excuse to sneak in the mention of Mark dropping his backpack on the floor without it drawing obvious attention to itself. I'm not sure if I've quite portrayed the tension enough leading up to this point; he does say he hadn't realized quite how much he needed this break, but it feels just a little over-the-top next to what we've actually seen of their search so far.

He inhaled deeply, rolling his sore shoulders, relishing the smell of food. A waitress approached the table, smiling, and took their order. For a minute he just sat back with his eyes closed, feeling the tension melt out of his muscles; then he opened his eyes again and glanced at May where she sat gazing at nothing in particular. The interior of the café was cozy and nostalgically familiar.

“It’s weird to be here again,” he said, smiling at May. “Still seems bigger on the inside.”

“Last time we were here, you thought I’d stolen your Pokémon,” May said.

“Did I?” Mark laughed; he could just about remember it, but the thought seemed alien now, like something that had happened to someone else.

Boy, does it! It's only been nine actual months for Mark, but he sure grew up in those nine months. Almost like his author is magically thirteen years older.

“Yeah. It was when the Mew Hunter took them. You freaked out at me because you thought I’d wanted to steal Dratini.”

He did remember that. Back when he’d caught him, May had tried to argue that Dratini should be hers because she’d brought the tools to fish him out of the lake. “And then you said you didn’t really want him anyway, because…” He trailed off as he caught himself, the humour of the situation dying down into an awkward silence. Because she had Larvitar.

They looked at one another for a moment before May averted her gaze. Thankfully, just then their waitress arrived with the food, smoothly disposing of the subject.

Halfway through his grilled cheese sandwich, Mark spoke again. “I was kind of a jerk back there,” he said. “We both wanted Dratini, but I just took him and ran while you were distracted. I’m sorry.”

May shook her head; she was eating her sandwich with a knife and fork, one meticulous bite at a time. “You were the one who caught him. I just made up some dumb reason I should get him instead because I was jealous.”

Mark blinked at her, surprised by her bluntness. Not that he hadn’t guessed; it occurred to him, fleetingly, that it was no wonder they hadn’t noticed anything off about Larvitar, because they’d both been too busy being childishly excited about having pseudo-legendaries.

“I guess we’ve both grown up a bit since we started out, huh?” he said. “Happy birthday again.”

Obviously, the intention at the time wasn't that they were being very childish, but recontextualizing it as that does make it all make a lot more sense.

As-you-know-Bob conversations are a bit of a pet peeve of mine, and although I tried to make this reasonably natural, I don't think I entirely made it. I really needed to recap some stuff for this conversation to make any sense, though, and obviously, I couldn't possibly expect anyone to still remember what happened in chapters nine and ten by now.

The main point here is the fact May has been reflecting on this stuff - the beginning of their journey, their relationship, and the many, many mistakes that she made. May's usual tendency to excuse or minimize own wrongs has been shattered, and she's been spending most of the silent journey since going over her training career - or really, her entire life - with a new brutal honesty, mercilessly cataloguing everything she did wrong in the hope of making some kind of sense of it.

May poked the bottom of her glass of cola with her straw, absent-mindedly, her face expressionless. “I never really used to have any friends,” she said, without looking up. “I had Spirit, but the New Bark Town kids never liked me. I told myself it was because they were idiots, but I guess actually I was the idiot.”

The first and only time that May alludes to having been bullied within the story. May has now reflected and basically decided it was probably her fault, too. Like the rest of May's background of bullying, this is heavily inspired by personal experience, though thankfully in my case I started to believe that when I had well and truly moved on and become way happier, and not after being strangled and traumatized and feeling responsible for an actual murder.

Like me, though, she experiences this conclusion pretty casually. She feels like she's just rationally going over things, reflecting on causes and effects, and figuring her bullies were probably acting the way they did because of the way she acted doesn't exactly carry a lot of emotion for her. She doesn't feel bad about it. It just feels like a simple factual observation.

Mark looked at her, unsure how to react to a confession like that. “I… I don’t think you’re an idiot.”

“You didn’t like me either,” she said, matter-of-factly. “I didn’t actually start trying to be friendly until after the Dratini thing. And even then I wasn’t very good at it. Remember how I just left you behind in Scorpio City?”

“Oh.” Mark scratched the back of his head. “I figured you’d just moved on, though. It wasn’t a big deal.”

She grimaced. “You can tell I wasn’t used to having friends.”

I really enjoyed recontextualizing this as May not knowing how to have friends. Totally wasn't meant to be, but it makes so much sense!

She put her glass down, still not looking him in the eye. Mark hesitated before opening his mouth again. “I’m glad we ended up traveling together.”

May looked up. “Why?”

“You helped me with battling a lot. I’d never have gotten so far at the League without you, or caught any of those legendaries. And… you’re not perfect, but we’ve been through a lot and I just… I’m glad you’re here.”

I love Mark and how this is kind of awkward but totally sincere.

May looked at him for a long moment. “Well, thanks, for… coming to my birthday party, I guess.” She glanced back towards the counter. “Anyway, didn’t you say they had cake? I want cake. Screw the money.”

She called over a waiter and ordered two large slices of chocolate cake, which arrived quickly. Mark wasn’t too hungry after the sandwich, but he ate his slice anyway, almost as an act of solidarity.

It did touch her a bit that Mark said that, but May doesn't really know how to respond to that, so awkward thanks and a quick topic change it is.

Note May going "Screw the money", in stark contrast to every previous time May has talked about money, where she hates to waste it. She even orders cake for Mark without even asking if he wants some. More on that in a moment.

“What was that Sparky said again?” May asked when she’d finished, putting her fork down. “Make every birthday the best you’ve ever had because it might be your last? Seems apt.”

“Don’t say that,” Chaletwo said. “We only have Mew left. We’ve got to find him eventually.”

“Yeah,” May said. “Sure.”

May still doesn't want to have to go to the police; as far as she's concerned her life is basically going to be over. She's still going to do it, and has accepted that she deserves it, but in that state of mind, the thought that maybe the world's going to end before she can do it becomes kind of seductive, in a twisted way. Maybe she won't have to go to the police. Maybe her family will never have to find out she killed a boy. I won't say she'd prefer that outcome... but it makes it awfully easy to be pessimistic, something she's already inclined towards, and especially in the kind of mood she's in right now.

This is also why May doesn't care about saving money anymore. This is the end for her anyway, so who cares? May isn't imagining a future, because it won't be any kind of real future anyway.

Mark felt a sudden, abrupt flash of intense anger in the back of his mind. “No! You will not undermine everything we’ve worked for at this stage in the game. We’re almost done. Do you understand what we’ve accomplished? We’ve captured every legendary but one!”

May blinked at him, her brow furrowing.

“Mew is just one more. We’ll get him. Not one more word of this. It’s your birthday! Talk about… presents or school or whatever it is you talk about on birthdays.”

He tries so hard with these human things.

Mark shared a glance with May, a sinking feeling in his stomach. “Chaletwo?” he asked under his breath.

“I just…” The legendary’s psychic sigh reverberated through Mark’s mind, trembling. “My power loss is slowing down. That’s what happens near the end. We may have somewhat less time than I thought.”

“What?” Mark’s ears rang with a strange, otherworldly static. “How much time?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t really know to begin with. I was hoping we had until May at least. I’m not sure anymore.”

“So what, it could just… happen any day now?”

“No,” Chaletwo said. “I’ll know when it’s getting very close. We probably have at least a month or two. It just… made me concerned.”

May pressed her lips together. “I guess we should get going,” she said and started to push her chair away from the table.

“But…” Mark trailed off; May stopped. “Can we… can May at least have her birthday?”

“It’s fine,” Chaletwo said, sighing. “You lose far more time at night than you do here. I wasn’t going to tell you until after this.”

“No,” May said after a moment. “Let’s go. The cake’s done, anyway.”

May's first reaction to the news is to just assume they have to go right now. Of course they do, because who is she to think she should get to sit at a café celebrating her birthday. Mark wanting to stay made her hesitate - but at this point staying would feel like she's actually giving in to the voice in her head that wants the apocalypse to happen, and then she really would be a pretty terrible person, wouldn't she?

In the draft, there were actually two visits to the Rainbow Café. The first was on the day that they set out from Cleanwater City. Mark commented that it's still bigger on the inside, and they had largely the same conversation from there to You can tell I wasn't used to having friends, except that... May was just really cheerful and laughing and a beacon of sudden emotional honesty, because what was the character development even during NaNo. (Again, in the draft this was the day after Rick assaulted her.) It was bizarre. I have no idea how I managed to write it this way.

After that:

“Anyway,” May said after taking a deep breath, “it’s my birthday on the eighteenth. We’re probably not going to be in a position to have a proper party, but I thought I’d invite you anyway. Maybe we can just get cake here or something.”

Mark blinked. “Yeah, sure. Thanks.”

She smiled at him, a bit awkwardly, but genuinely. “Thanks.”

And then, the next scene, after a brief summary of how the search went in the interim, was said birthday party. This bit was kind of cute:

They headed back for the Rainbow Café, ordered a chocolate cake, and even managed to get the waiter to allow May to have her Pokémon out (Mark, when he asked, was told it wasn’t his birthday).

Mark's narration actually remarked on how May was a lot happier these days. Were all her issues and trauma just magically resolved by her brief half-assed conversation with Stantler? Please explain, NaNo me. Who even are you.

Anyway, during this café scene, Mark asked what it's like being a teenager (inspiring that bit in the previous scene), May opined that twelve is a way better number than thirteen so this isn't the best birthday, Mark said he once heard you should make every birthday the best you've ever had, and May said "It's true, this really might be my last birthday," but in a jokey, ha-ha kind of way. (Oh my god.) After a brief exchange with the Pokémon (Spirit suggested Mew might end up making a soul gem, but Chaletwo said Mew doesn't change his mind about things like that), Chaletwo said, since I'm talking to you, that he should probably get out of Mark's head, because his power loss is slowing down and the War is coming sooner than he thought.

-------

They kept on searching. Mark kept a close eye on May, concerned after all she’d said at the café, but she was actually less quiet than before, commenting dryly on the search, the weather, the Pokémon they encountered. Every night now, she suggested a new Pokémon for him to draw: an Espeon, a Milotic, a Lapras (he looked at her when she said it, and her lips were tight but she said nothing).

Obviously, May's been thinking about Lapras.

After another week or so, Chaletwo persuaded Mark to message the others through May’s Pokégear. There was a knot in his stomach as he typed: Been a few weeks, should we spread out?

Heard of more sightings in Ouen, Leah replied back. Better stay here. Keep doing what you’re doing, everyone. I’ll contact Mary and get her over here too.

Roger, came Alan’s answer. Take care, guys.

Mark felt anxious for the rest of the day, compulsively checking the Pokégear while at the same time dreading it, his throat tight, but the others never responded. The device showed they’d gotten the message, at least; they had to trust that they were still searching.

The others, if you've lost track, are Robin and Victor (obviously not really keen on talking to them) and Ryan (who was just pretty freaked out by this whole murder thing, left awkwardly, and has pretty much been trying to forget he ever met them).

They went up and down the coast, through the woods again, back beyond Sailance, around the Lake of Purity, down to Alumine; then they combed the whole area again but found nothing. Chaletwo’s apprehension was a steady throb in Mark’s skull, growing little by little every day into a constant, maddening tension that left him restless and unable to relax, constantly shaking with nerves.

In the evenings, he continued drawing, the quiet sessions with May becoming the only times he could temporarily escape that relentless anxiety, an anchor of comforting tradition that kept him going: Pidgeot, Salamence, Blaziken, Mutark, Flygon, Raichu, Butterfree. Charmander. Quilava. Spirit.

Again, a couple of random Pokémon, but then May starts systematically requesting her other Pokémon, current and former, as she reflects on her treatment of each of them. She includes Charmander, of course, because even though he barely spent any time as her Pokémon, the way she treated him in particular by doing this unofficial trade and then just throwing him away like trash when he wasn't what she was hoping for is one of the things that she's been lingering on.

I just realized she doesn't ask for Skarmory, which I guess is because she already got Mark to draw a Skarmory in chapter 73, but that wasn't actually associated with this kind of reflection, so it might make more sense if she asked for Skarmory again. (Maybe she would have but just didn't want to ask Mark again because she didn't want to ask for the same thing twice? Obviously this time she asks for Spirit it's her as a Ninetales.) She puts off Tyranitar as long as she can, though.

It was April when, after several exhausting nights of fitful sleep interrupted by flashes of alien terror, Chaletwo muttered, “I think I should get out of your head.”

Mark felt his brain grinding clunkily out of a state of autopilot, a strange mixture of relief and dread bubbling up in his head. “Is… is it close?”

“Not… not that close, I think. I just… I just think it’s best if I conserve my power from here. I could still teleport you somewhere, and it’s good if I can in an emergency.”

Mark swallowed. “How are we going to know if it’s too late?”

“I’m… I’m sure I’ll be able to tell if you release me for a moment, maybe once a week. I’ll let you know. It’ll be fine.”

Mark and May looked at each other, silent. “All right,” Mark said, hesitant.

“This is… this is goodbye for now, then.” Chaletwo’s voice was forced and unsteady. “You’re sure the storage system’s Pokéball farms are safe?”

Mark nodded, his mouth dry. “Yeah, they should be.” But…

“Good. Just put me on the PC and –”

“No,” Mark said, his voice tight. “I’ll keep your ball with me until you tell me it’s too late. We might need you to teleport quickly again. And…” He hesitated, an uncomfortable stinging in his gut. “I need to know that you’ll really tell us. I… maybe I want to call my parents.”

Chaletwo was silent for a long moment. “All right. I’ll talk to you in a week. Keep searching.”

I like that sentence about Mark grinding clunkily out of a state of autopilot a lot. That particular phrasing was actually in the draft! It was way later in the chapter, though - the thing that triggered it was Spirit noticing Mew's aura towards the end.

Conserving Chaletwo's power for potential teleports is pretty much just a rationalization. He initially wants to go straight to the PC, where he'd theoretically, maybe, be safe from the War altogether - he's trying to run away and basically remove his personal stake in the search (which Mark picks up on). But it's not entirely that; even after Mark refuses to deposit him, he still wants to sever the anchor. Largely, he wants to get out of Mark's head because constantly feeling his power loss and worrying about how close the War is based on that is obviously just really getting to him, and it'd be a huge relief for him to be free of it now. But part of the reason is also that he's noticed his nerves are affecting Mark, and although Mark's not complaining, Chaletwo feels some mixture of guilt for adding to Mark's anxiety, general embarrassment that Mark can feel how scared he is, and worry that this is distracting him or will push him to give up the search and seek out shelter instead.

In the draft, Chaletwo just suggested Mark keep him with him for now, because the draft of this chapter was very bad and boring.

And then, all of a sudden, he was gone. The presence in Mark’s head vanished, a smothering weight of oppressive emotion abruptly lifted from his mind, leaving behind a strange void. He felt lightheaded for a moment, followed by a weird pins-and-needles sensation, and then, finally, normal. No Chaletwo. They were on their own.

“Is he gone?” May asked, and Mark nodded. They looked at each other in silence for a few more seconds; neither of them wanted to voice the obvious, like it would somehow make it more real.

Mark forcibly pushed it out of his mind, turned and prepared to go on autopilot again, to just stare at the ground and the bushes and not think about anything.

“Wait,” May said suddenly. “I… I want to get Spirit and Floatzel back.”

Another all-new scene, besides that as I mentioned Chaletwo severed the connection to Mark at the Rainbow Café in the draft.

-------

The nurse from Cleanwater City was visibly relieved to see them when they called her on the videophone in the Alumine Pokémon Center. She looked quickly from side to side before leaning in closer, lowering her voice. “I’m so glad to see you safe. How are you doing? Did you find your Growlithe?”

It took Mark a moment to remember what she was talking about. “Yeah, we did,” he said as his brain caught up, feeling a little guilty again for lying to her. “We’re okay. We’ve been keeping a low profile.”

The nurse nodded. “Good. Your Pokémon are doing well; they’ve made a full recovery, more or less. Your Ninetales has been concerned after not hearing from you for so long. Rick’s been out of town since he got out of the hospital, probably searching for you. I hoped the fact he hadn’t returned meant he hadn’t found you, but we couldn’t know for certain.”

Setting up that Rick really is out of town looking for them.

“What about Floatzel?” May asked.

“She said you’d never let him catch you.” Nurse Joy smiled. “They’ll both be glad to be back.”

They kept it brief. Spirit and Floatzel were transferred over and they said goodbye to Nurse Joy before heading back out into the woods, until they felt safe again. They sent out all the Pokémon they could to welcome the pair back; May hugged Spirit close, while Weavile practically jumped on Floatzel with a playful Quick Attack as soon as she was out, the sea otter cackling with glee as she retaliated.

Like half of the reason I wrote an actual scene here was just that I wanted more Floatzel and Weavile.

“Thanks,” May said as she let go of Spirit, looking towards Floatzel but not quite making eye contact.

“Only what you do for a trainer, isn’t it?” Floatzel said, cocking her head. “I get battles and food and I protect you. That’s how it goes, yes? A deal’s a deal.”

May stared at her a moment as Spirit eyed her grimly; then Weavile pounced again, and Floatzel turned, darting out of the way and preparing a countering Aqua Jet. May took a deep breath. “There’s more,” she said, looking over the group of Pokémon. “Chaletwo’s gone from Mark’s head. Apparently there’s not that much time left. So if… if any of you want to leave and find a safe place now, you can go. Mrs. Riverstone had a shelter.”

Floatzel laughed and returned to the playfight. The other Pokémon murmured to each other, but nobody stepped forward.

“Are you sure?” May asked, clenching her fists. “You don’t have to stay.”

On some level May feels like all her Pokémon should probably just leave right now, and she kind of wants them to, because if they get killed staying with them, that'll be even more deaths she's responsible for.

“We’ve come this far,” Butterfree said. “We can’t quit now.”

“How long do we have?” Flygon asked, his wings twitching.

“We don’t know,” Mark said. “He said we should release him once a week and he’ll say if it’s coming.” The knot in his stomach tightened. Weeks. Everything might be ending in weeks.

The Pokémon looked at each other. “Then,” May’s Flygon said, tilting his head, “we can think about leaving if Chaletwo says that.”

The other Pokémon murmured in agreement. Nobody objected.

May stared at them in silence for a few moments. “Well, then let’s go,” she said, reaching for her Pokéball necklace again. “Better not waste any more time.”

Aaand this one's new too. In the draft, May got Spirit and Floatzel back for her birthday, and this was just briefly summarized before the birthday scene.

-------

A week passed, slowly but far too quickly. Chaletwo said that it was okay, it was fine, there was still time.

Of course he did.

Another week went by, and May asked Mark to draw some of his favorite Pokémon. So he drew Lugia, Articuno, Moltres, legendaries he’d adored since he was a little kid staring wide-eyed at the illustrations in his picture books. Back then, they’d seemed impossibly big and beautiful, perfect, immortal beings that he could only dream of seeing from a distance one day – but they were just Pokémon, weren’t they? Just a bunch of beautiful, undying, flawed, scared Pokémon that were doomed to destroy one another, unless they succeeded on this strange quest. He wondered again, for the first time in a while, why Mew, who already knew about the War, didn’t want it stopped. Had Mew and Chalenor tried to stop it before? Exactly what had happened before the last War, a thousand years ago?

Some brief recapping, if you'd forgotten about the whole thing about Mew and Chalenor potentially trying to stop the last War. This is the first mention of Chalenor since chapter 61, where that theory was originally proposed. As I've said before, I really regret how I managed to barely bring up Chalenor until suddenly he's the key to everything. Prior to this chapter, there are literally only four chapters that mention him at all: chapter 25 (where the fake backstory is explained), chapter 39 (where he's brought up briefly, but only in connection with the fake backstory), chapter 52 (where Chaletwo mentions once in his conversation with Mark that he thinks Chalenor's death is the reason Mew was so down after the previous War), and chapter 61 (where we finally actually talk about Chalenor a bit).

One more week, and Chaletwo told them to contact the others again. There had still been sightings in Ouen, all over the place, scattered throughout the region in no discernible pattern. There was nothing better to do than to keep doing what they’d been doing. The lack of a change, a plan, of any sense of progress, was maddening, but they kept going, walking the same familiar woods and beaches and edges of cities.

In the draft, they never contacted the others at all. They just kept searching this part of Ouen based on that hunch about how maybe Mew might return to Rainbow Woods, and there was no attempt at proper coordination. All in all it was weird and nonsensical.

“Draw Tyranitar,” May said quietly at the beginning of the next week, and Mark drew him as he successfully stood up to Mewtwo²’s power in the League finals, not weak, that one glorious moment when it had seemed like she would win. The next day, when May asked him to choose, he drew Letaligon, roaring in triumph after her evolution. Where was she now? The rest of the week’s drawings were more victories, successes, happy moments frozen in time with everything that came after them forgotten: bringing down Thunderyu, winning badges, Jolteon holding his own against May’s Flygon, Waraider when he agreed to be captured.

May, finally gathering the courage to make him draw Tyranitar; Mark, clinging to some of the times when things actually went okay!

At the end of the week they sent Chaletwo out, in the thicket of the forest, and he was silent.

“How long do we have?” May asked.

“Stick to the forest,” Chaletwo said after a few seconds. “You said his home is here. He’ll come back. He must come back. Search it better.”

A cold, invisible hand clutched at Mark’s insides. He didn’t know what to say, but even if he had, his throat ached with weeks of built-up looming horror finally latching on and settling in, making him want to curl up and scream until it was over.

“How long?” May repeated.

“It’s… it’s fine. Just keep looking. By this point he’d be getting weak. He’ll be back to the forest.”

“Are you sure?” May asked. Her voice was level but firm, her fists clenched, knuckles white.

“Yes. Yes! I’m sure. It’s not yet. We’ll find him when he returns to the forest. It’s fine.”

“So…” Mark began, his tongue sticky and uncomfortable in his mouth, “what you’re saying is… I should put you on the PC and call my parents?”

“I’m…” Chaletwo hesitated. “No! No, it’s… it’s not yet. Not quite. It’s not less than a week. It can’t be. He’s coming; I know he’s coming here. Just keep looking!”

And he recalled himself back into his ball.

May looked at Mark, her fists still clenched tight.

Chaletwo hadn’t actually asked to be sent to the PC. That had to… that had to mean he believed it. Didn’t it?

Ultimately, Chaletwo just can't face the possibility that he's failed and the War is going to happen. He wants to be safe on the PC - but if he tells Mark to do that, then Mark and May are going to stop searching. It'd mean actually resigning himself to the War happening. So, despite that he really isn't quite sure there's more than a week to go, and he's terrified, he clings desperately to the idea that no it's not less than a week, and Mew's definitely going to come back to Rainbow Woods before it happens and then they'll find him and everything will be fine. Remember how Chaletwo was pretty skeptical of Mark's theory that Mew might come back here at the beginning of this chapter? Yeah, this is very motivated reasoning on his part.

Obviously, Mark and May can see through him pretty easily, though Mark would still really, really like to believe that Chaletwo's right about it not being less than a week.

His parents. Was he actually going to call them, show them he was alive only to tell them the world was ending? Would they believe him? Would Mrs. Riverstone’s shelter actually keep anyone safe? If they did survive a legendary apocalypse, what kind of life would be waiting for them afterwards, with maybe thousands or millions dead? All these questions seemed abstract and unreal; his mind went blank trying to imagine it, flinching away from the idea, retreating back behind a barrier of safe, sane normalcy: Chaletwo didn’t ask to be sent to the PC. Mew is probably coming back here. We can find him. We’re going to find him.

Even if he could save his parents or other friends or family members, could he really do that, knowing so many others were doomed?

Was the time he was wasting here thinking about it time in which they could have found Mew?

“So are you calling home?” May asked.

“I…” For a moment he stood there speechless, his parents’ faces at the edge of his mind, never quite in focus as some desperate part of him insistently pushed them back, behind that safe barrier. “Not… not yet,” he said, numb. “Let’s try for at least a few more days.”

May nodded slowly, without responding.

I'm quite fond of this bit. Mark and Chaletwo have at least this in common: the idea of actually making a judgement call that it's too late to avert the apocalypse is really, really hard. This isn't a cut your losses and save yourself sort of situation; making that decision means submitting to a nightmare of horrific consequences, and his brain just refuses to go there. It's so much nicer, so much easier, to instead just cling to the hope that they must be able to somehow fix it and everything will be okay. They can at least try for a little bit longer, right?

“We should message the others,” he managed to add. “Let them know. And our Pokémon.”

She handed him the Pokégear, and he typed a message with shaking hands: It’s coming soon. Mrs. Riverstone wanted Robin home. There might be room in her shelter. We’re still searching.

Despite everything, none of their Pokémon wanted to leave. May’s Flygon looked uneasy, curling his tail around himself, glancing anxiously from side to side, but when no one else volunteered, he didn’t either. May asked if he was sure, twice, staring at him like she wanted to make him go, but he insisted he was staying, at least for now, and that was that. Stantler asked if they were okay, if they were going to contact anyone, but Mark said no, and May shook her head. For a brief moment he wondered about her family, why she didn’t want to call them, but that train of thought took him back towards his own, and within moments, before he could take that horrible plunge into nightmarish finality, the barrier was back, banishing the thought. They could do it. They could do it. They’d stop it. Everything would be fine, somehow. It had to be.

And then they had to go. There was no more time to waste. May kept Spirit out, saying if they found Mew they’d need a quick Mean Look, and they set off yet again, the Ninetales staying close by her side.

definitely not wanting her there for comfort

Note Flygon in particular starting to lose his nerve but staying anyway because everyone else is. May tries to ask him if he wants to leave!

“You know what’s funny?” May muttered that night as they were hastily pitching their tents. “Part of me doesn’t mind.”

Mark shivered. He wanted to respond, but there was nothing he could say that wasn’t painful and terrifying.

There was no more drawing after that.

May, for her parts, is still on some level almost relieved at the thought the world will just end, and knows that that's messed up, and actually finds it in her to tell Mark this, but this is the last thing Mark wants to hear because he doesn't want to think about this possibility, at all, so sadly May doesn't get an answer.

Yet another completely new scene! None of all this painstaking ominous buildup happened in the draft. It went straight from the expository conversation about Mew to the two Rainbow Café scenes and then straight to the final scene, where they find Mew. That last scene opened with a brief summary of the search, which was about it:

They went around the forest in a repeated S shape, searching behind every tree and bush, and still there was nothing. They camped in the forest and kept going the next day with no more luck. May’s happy, relaxed demeanor was rapidly disappearing in favour of a quiet, focused obsession; she urged them on faster with every day, and Mark felt himself, too, becoming increasingly agitated, even as he avoided thinking about what would happen if they failed: his unconscious brain seemed to do the job of pushing it aside better than his conscious mind could have. The prospect of the future seemed to stop existing; there was only here, now, the woods, Mew, no Mew.

-------

And then, after five more days of restlessly combing through the forest, shaking, unable to stop or think or sleep more than a few hours, there was a change.

Five more days, so it was, indeed, less than a week.

A soft, familiar tingling brushed by the back of his mind, something light and warm and feathery, and he knew what it was. He hadn’t really registered it back then, but just the same, he recognized it instantly, some subconscious memory surfacing for air from the depths of everything, a sudden ray of hope out of the darkness.

May and Spirit noticed, too, stopping, holding their breaths. Everything was hazy and unreal as Mark led the way towards that gentle guiding signal, the soft psychic aura of the last legendary.

And then they were there, pushing aside the branches of a tree to reveal a small clearing where Mew lay curled up in sleep inside a pink protective bubble, hovering lightly just above the ground.

And then, before Spirit could step forward and use Mean Look, before any of them could start to process what was happening, the red recall beam of a Pokéball shot towards Mew from the bushes to the side, and the legendary was absorbed into it and disappeared.

What I was going for with this opening was a kind of numb, unreal, strangely detached feeling, mirroring how this feels to Mark, all the way until here where suddenly everything goes wrong in some new way they didn't expect. Imagine this as a soft, dialogue-free montage with calm, beautiful music, all the way until Mew disappears into that Pokéball and suddenly the music gives way to abrupt, cold silence.

In the draft, it was Spirit who noticed Mew's presence, and I wrote actual dialogue around it, but in the edit I just did this and liked it much better.

Anyway, time for a scene that I thought up when I was twelve or thirteen! You would not believe how long I had waited to write this. Thirteen-year-old self, this one's for you.

Mark’s heart stopped, his body frozen and numb with shock. Behind the bush, an all-too-familiar man in a trench coat with a thick, unkempt beard rose to his feet and chuckled in disbelief, gazing at a black Pokéball in his hand. A Kabutops stood by his side, staring at Mark.

His brain could think one thing and one thing only. “How?” he croaked. “How do you have a Clone B…”

The Mew Hunter looked up, sharply, as if he hadn’t noticed them, taking a step back behind his Kabutops. He hesitated a moment, his eyes darting back and forth, but then a gloating smirk broke out on his face. “Don’t you recognize it?” he said. “It’s yours. I heard you say you still had it and then nabbed it from your bag at the Rainbow Café, when I finally had a chance.”

The Mew Hunter still has a touch of monologuing disease. He just wants Mark to know how cleverly he snatched his ball, damn it.

Everything spun around in Mark’s head. Him. He’d been following them, for weeks. He’d been the nighttime visitor. “It… it was deactivated! I know I…”

“I reactivated it,” the Mew Hunter said, his voice cool, holding the ball close to his chest. “The recall data isn’t permanently lost on deactivation. It can be recovered, if you know how. I studied Pokéballs, remember.” Oh. “I removed Rick’s repulsive mind-control hardware, of course. I need better tools for the Mean Look modification, but once I get home I’ll make it a ball fit for Mew.”

What he means, specifically, is that you can recover data that hasn't been overwritten. In a regular computer system, deleting a file doesn't technically destroy the data that was there - it just marks it as memory that's no longer reserved or referenced and can be overwritten later, but if you did read the data that's in that bit of memory, it'd still be the same data. The same applies to Pokéballs here, which allowed him to reactivate the Pokéball with Mew's recall data despite that it had theoretically been deleted.

This is a security flaw that the League ought to fix, but I believe it's a fairly realistic one that you really might have in this sort of system.

Obviously, this aspect about how deleted recall data can be recovered was not part of how I originally conceived of this scene - originally he was just going to have a regular Master Ball, and then he was going to steal the ball that Mark had switched Mew to, which was supposed to not be deactivated. As I mentioned previously, I switched to this plan when I got here during NaNo 2012, by which time I had a B.Sc. degree in computer science and could conceive of this sort of thing.

“Okay,” May said, and Mark looked back at her in alarm. “Okay. It’s fine. You can have it. It doesn’t matter. Just don’t send it out for a while, okay? If you just keep it in there for –”

This has been intended to be May's first reaction here for years and years (not these exact words, but the general sentiment). Maybe not quite as far back as the very first time I envisioned this scene, but it was an early addition. Once again, she has the purely pragmatic approach: let's stop the end of the world now, and then we can worry about whether we have to free Mew from this guy.

In the draft, Spirit looked at her trainer, appalled. I rather like that; might bring it back.

The Mew Hunter’s lip twitched. “You think I caught Mew to be a mere prize in my collection? To let it rot in a ball? No! I caught it because I understand. I’ll give Mew friendship and happiness. I care about it. I care more than anyone! That’s why I was destined to be Mew’s trainer. I’m the only one who can save it!”

Again, I wish I'd managed to make him just a bit more coherent.

“Give her to us,” Spirit snarled. “You have no idea what you’re dealing with.”

“Look,” May said, keeping her voice level. “There’s this periodic disaster –”

“I’d die before giving Mew up to the likes of you!” the Mew Hunter growled, pulling four Pokéballs off his belt. “I’d sooner release it now and find it all over again than let you get your filthy hands on this ball. Cover me!”

In the draft, he made a point here of how his Pokémon would fight to the death for him, and he wouldn't give Mew to them even if they killed all of them. It was just too far for him; he genuinely loves his Pokémon, in his misguided way, and although he would ultimately prioritize Mew over their lives, he wouldn't gloat about that fact.

As he took off running through the woods, four bursts of light formed around him, his Feraligatr, Sandslash, Sneasel and Fangcat joining Kabutops, looking back and brandishing claws and fangs as they ran alongside him in a protective formation. May glanced at Mark as they sprinted after him, Spirit bounding ahead. They could beat his Pokémon easily, of course – they’d taken down legendaries. But if he felt threatened and threw that ball and Mew teleported away, to some far-off region…

Mark grabbed Chaletwo’s ball from his belt, but before he could throw it, one of his other balls popped open.

“Rob!” Scyther called as he materialized in front of Mark, and the fleeing man froze in his tracks, his Pokémon whirling around to face them.

In the draft, Mark actually went for Scyther's ball and told him to explain the situation, hoping it'd at least stall while they thought up a plan. But this seemed a bit optimistic, rationally surely Chaletwo was the best choice and most likely to be able to actually stop him, and I just liked it better with Scyther himself breaking out of his ball, simply because he wanted to try to persuade Rob.

The Mew Hunter turned, slowly. “You… you’re with them?” he asked limply, his voice quiet and shaking as he lowered Mew’s ball. “You joined them for good?”

Scyther nodded warily, glancing at the five Pokémon surrounding his former trainer. “Rob, what are you doing?”

“Does he ever talk to you, like I did?” the Mew Hunter said, his voice low. “Spend evenings washing the blood from your self-inflicted wounds and trying to give you comfort and warmth? Let you drink and vent and forget?”

“He doesn’t have to,” Scyther said.

That's pretty important. Rob really did try very hard to help Scyther through the hard times - but with some very toxic coping mechanisms. Scyther hasn't been needing those of late, because he's actually doing better, which never happened while he was with Rob.

“I gave you everything!” the Mew Hunter barked, his eyes wide and shining. “I saved your life! I loved you. I did everything I could to help you. How could you abandon me just when I could finally live again, only to join up with...” He waved a trembling hand at Mark. “...with these slave-drivers who want to destroy everything that’s important to me?”

The possessive way that Rob is talking about him is just breaking Scyther's heart.

Scyther took a breath. “I loved you too, Rob,” he said. “I’d be dead if it weren’t for you – you taught me a way to cope when I had nothing. But my head’s cleared a lot since I left you, and I don’t think it was the right way anymore. I wallowed in my own worthlessness instead of questioning it, instead of getting anywhere. And I did that because that’s all that you did.” He hesitated, staring at the Mew Hunter, then at his Pokémon again. “You don’t need Mew. You can have a normal life with your Pokémon, who would die for you. Rob, you can let go. I swear you can. All Mew’s ever given you is misery. Just… just give that ball to Mark and walk away. Please.”

Scyther would like nothing more than for Rob to just come to his senses and stop it with this Mew thing and be able to have a normal, happy, well-adjusted life; he still wishes the best for him, and feels intensely sorry for him. But he's also finally realized that Rob was always toxic and misguided. He doesn't want to go back to him. He just wishes he would change, for his own sake, and his other Pokémon's.

The line I wallowed in my own worthlessness instead of questioning it, instead of getting anywhere. And I did that because that’s all that you did. was new in the edit, and it's probably my favorite part of this confrontation. Above all, Scyther realized reading his diary that Rob never managed to rise from that quagmire of self-loathing that Scyther himself has now escaped, and that that's why he couldn't actually help Scyther make any real progress with his problems.

The Mew Hunter cradled the ball tightly against his chest. “Why should I give it to him?” he snarled. “He’s done nothing to deserve Mew. Either it comes with me or it goes free.”

“He doesn’t want it, Rob,” Scyther said, sighing. “We just need Mew to be in a ball for a while, until it’s safe. There’s a…”

“What are you talking about?” the Mew Hunter snapped. “Mew shouldn’t be trapped in a ball. Do you remember how I didn’t even keep you in a Pokéball unless I had to, because you didn’t like it? Remember how at first you wanted to escape but then I let you stay outside your ball and watch me with the others for as long as you needed until you grew to trust me? How is Mew going to trust me if I don’t send it out?”

“There’s a legendary war that happens every thousand years,” Scyther continued. “If every legendary is inside a ball, it won’t happen, but if even one is out there, the world could be destroyed. We only wanted to capture Mew to prevent it. Mew, and the others, will be released when it’s safe. If you followed us, you must have heard them talk about the War. That was what they meant.”

The Mew Hunter’s Kabutops shifted uncomfortably, looking back at his trainer as his other Pokémon stared at Scyther. The man’s gaze remained fierce and suspicious. “How do I know you aren’t just lying to make me give it to you and your filthy new trainer?”

Scyther sighed heavily. “I wouldn’t lie to you, Rob.”

“You betrayed me.” By the Mew Hunter’s side, his Kabutops winced, looking back at Scyther. Feraligatr and Sandslash glanced at each other.

“I didn’t betray you,” Scyther said softly. “You were you when you caught me, when you thought Mew was lost. But once you saw it again in Cleanwater City, you turned into someone who’d threaten a kid and wanted me dead for questioning you.”

In the draft, Scyther brought up the thing from earlier where he said he'd let all his Pokémon fight to the death.

All in all, it just pains him so much how aggressive and irrational Rob is being. He had this faint hope that maybe he'd listen to him, but no.

I like his Pokémon reacting in the background, too, obviously uncomfortable with the way he's acting. That wasn't in the draft, and I actually didn't add it in until elyvorg mentioned it when betaing, but it makes this so much better.

“Mew is worth it!” the Mew Hunter shouted. “I can save it. This is what was meant to be!”

Scyther shook his head, slowly. “That’s only what you’ve been telling yourself. Mew is a legendary Pokémon and doesn’t even know who you are. Why would he befriend you? We only did because we had nowhere else to go. I’m sorry, Rob.”

The Mew Hunter’s eyes widened as his face contorted in rage, his Fangcat hissing at Scyther from his side. “No! You know nothing! Mew will understand me! Mew will know! Mew will give me a chance! Just watch, you –”

And he pulled back his arm as he prepared to throw the Clone Ball. Mark froze, his heart lurching in panic; by his side, Spirit growled, preparing to attempt a Mean Look –

Of course this is what finally sets him off. Scyther didn't want to say this, and he knew how much it'd hurt him, but he had to.

Scyther telling him this was in the NaNo draft, but not in my original plans as a kid. I think in the very first version of the scene I imagined, Scyther didn't come out at all and the Mew Hunter just tried to send out Mew as the kids were frantically trying to tell him not to, but then at some point, after I'd developed his relationship with Rob more, I envisioned this bit with Mark sending out Scyther and Scyther finally confronting him again and realizing he doesn't want to go back to him. I hadn't actually mapped out Scyther's character arc, so while he did say things like how Rob taught him a way to cope but it wasn't the right way, I had no inkling that by this point he'd have rejected the Code altogether. I also think in that original version with Scyther, he wasn't trying to persuade him to give up Mew or explain the War to him at all and it was just supposed to be a weird detour about Scyther's personal issues because Scyther.

– and then, suddenly, a deep, powerful tremor shook the ground. Everyone looked up in alarm as a massive shockwave blasted through the forest, knocking leaves from branches and the kids off their feet. Mark lost his grip on Chaletwo’s ball, and it sailed through the air as the Mew Hunter too lost his balance, fell forward and sent the Clone Ball flying.

This, with the tremor and shockwave and the Mew Hunter just accidentally dropping Mew's ball and sending him out as a result, was there in the first version of this scene I imagined. Mark accidentally sending out Chaletwo too, though, was not; instead, Chaletwo just broke out a moment later, and this is how it was in the draft. I'm pretty sure I changed this in the edit because as it happened Mark was already holding Chaletwo's ball now, and I'd previously made this huge deal of how Pokémon can't break out of their balls on their own by default, so Chaletwo managing to come out on his own here when he's never done that before in the fic (well, he sort of ambiguously did in chapter 36, but it wasn't clear and there's no way anyone would remember this) would be jarring.

Chaletwo materialized on the ground, looking frantically around. Mew emerged in mid-air, blinking, his gaze turning from confused to worried.

“That… that was it!” Chaletwo said, his voice shaking with nervous excitement. “The... the Destroyer’s pulse! Before Mew came out! We did it!”

Mark blinked in incomprehension as he crawled to his feet. It was over? They were done? They’d saved the world?

Mew turned sharply. “No, no, no,” he muttered. “No! Why!”

“No?” Chaletwo repeated, his voice fierce and incredulous, whirling towards Mew. “No? I’ve just saved the whole world from destruction, including you, that’s why! You should be thanking me on your knees!”

The draft kept exactly to the words that I'd envisioned sometime at the age of thirteen here:

“Oh, Chaletwo,” he said softly, “what have you done?”

“What have I done?” Chaletwo repeated in a fierce incredulity. “What have I done? I’ve just saved the whole world including you, that’s what I’ve done! You should be thanking me on your knees!”

But this just wasn't at all in keeping with Mew's actual mental state here - no wonder, since I'd thought up these words before I had the faintest idea about any of what the plot would eventually turn out to be about (more on the previous endings that I'd envisioned for the fic in a bit). So, in editing, I suppressed my nostalgic instincts and changed Mew's line, and then Chaletwo's accordingly (I made sure the new line allowed for Chaletwo to make a similar response).

Honestly I think this line of Chaletwo's that I thought up in probably 2003 was probably the driving force behind how my entire understanding of Chaletwo's character developed - the way that he craves Mew's validation, and on some level expected Mew to thank him if he did successfully stop the War, yet the fact Mew isn't grateful instantly makes him angry - he's not truly surprised, but Mew ought to have been thanking him. He feels like Mew never properly appreciated anything he did, and this is just one more example.

Mew just shook his head. Chaletwo continued, heat growing to a furious pitch in his voice. “What, are you going to tell me now that you had some great reason to oppose the plan all along? That we’re actually all going to die now, is that it? Because you’ve had twenty years to tell me to stop and the only reason you ever managed to give was some dumb crap about destiny!”

This line, on the other hand, was new in the edit. I'm pretty sure I'd thought it up a good while before I actually got here in editing, though. I'm really fond of it, because the way this is Chaletwo's very next thought here is so telling. On some level he always worried that maybe there was a real reason Mew was against the plan, and maybe it really was somehow a bad idea to try to stop it - but if so, then that's on Mew for not just fucking telling him. And that singular conviction that if this goes wrong somehow it's Mew's fault actually managed to override caution.

“You wouldn’t understand,” Mew said, his voice trembling.

“No, of course I wouldn’t. I’m not Chalenor, am I, so how could I ever understand –”

“You never even knew Chalenor!” Mew interrupted, desperate tears in his eyes. “Why are you talking about him? You have no idea who he even was!”

Of course Chaletwo wouldn't understand. Mew wanted the War to happen again for completely selfish reasons that no one else would or should accept. She couldn't tell him this. She had genuinely managed to convince herself that it was impossible to stop the War anyway, and that she was only telling him the truth when she said you couldn't fight fate, mind - but the reason she actively didn't want it? Of course he wouldn't understand that.

The fact Chaletwo actually brings up Chalenor in response to this really messes with Mew - as if he knows, even though there's no way he could. Of course, he doesn't actually know a thing; he's just venting his inferiority complex, which as it happens also involves Chalenor.

Mark’s heart thumped; there was something strange in the air. He didn’t understand what was going on anymore. Why was Mew so upset? Something was off, he could tell, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

He's feeling Mewtwo²'s aura here (which may be amplifying Mew and Chaletwo's emotions a bit), and kind of mixing up that feeling with the way that he's genuinely confused and unnerved.

“I know enough!” Chaletwo spat. “You kept on telling me about him, about how he was the Preserver before me and your best friend in the world and no one could ever compare –”

Mew squeezed his eyes shut, shaking his head bitterly – and then, suddenly, Mark recognized the strange feeling in the air, the oppressive psychic pressure that was growing, magnifying, smothering everything, like but so unlike Mew’s light footprint, only so much stronger than he’d ever felt it before. Chaletwo’d stopped speaking, turning his head sharply as Mew looked around in wonder. “Oh, no,” Chaletwo said, his voice quiet again. “Oh, nonononono. What is that?”

Instead of them feeling Mewtwo²'s aura here, in the draft (and ever since I first thought up the Mewtwo² climax) they heard an explosion from the direction of Cleanwater City and realized Rick must've had one of his clones out in battle (by pure coincidence). I had to change this when I moved the climax out into the wilderness of mid-eastern Ouen, but I also like this version much better - it's so much more ominous to have this growing, terrifying psychic aura of power that can be felt even from great distances.

“I’m sorry,” Mew whispered, trembling.

“That’s… that’s Mewtwo²,” Mark breathed, heart hammering in his chest.

“What?” Chaletwo stared at him through his eyelids. “Oh, no. He was out. Rick had him out. This can’t happen. This can’t happen!”

Chaletwo sounds so much more distressed and in disbelief here than in the draft (which just had “Rick,” Chaletwo realized abruptly. “One of his clones could have been out.”) and I love it.

“Isn’t… isn’t there anything we can do?” Mark asked, numb.

“I…”

“Hold on,” May said, pale. “It’s already got a ball. It’s got a ball that mind-controls it. Maybe if it’s recalled, then…”

In the draft it was also May who realized this! But she was perfectly casual about it because NaNo me did not know how to characters and emotions.

Chaletwo whirled towards her. “Yes. Yes. We can still stop it. We can still stop it. Come on!”

And before Mark had any idea what was happening, Chaletwo had grabbed Mark and May by the shoulders. May only just managed to place her hand on Spirit’s head, clutching her mane, before he teleported them away.

In the draft, Chaletwo didn't immediately, frantically teleport them like this; he waited for Scyther to say goodbye to Rob and Mark to recall him. Of course he wouldn't actually do that, so in editing I was having a bit of trouble with this, whether I had to squeeze in Scyther and the Mew Hunter's last interaction before all this somehow, or if I had to cut it altogether... until I realized that actually, they could just leave him behind, and he'd follow later, which'd actually work pretty well with another plot point in chapter 75 that'd been bugging me.

-------

Razor might have been left behind, but he knew where he had to go. There was a tangible shift in the psychic interference if he turned, an unmistakable pull towards the east. If he just flew straight and followed that pull, he would find them. Mew was looking in that direction too, fiddling anxiously as if conflicted.

In Scyther's POV, he's still Razor... which may have confused readers, given the name Razor hadn't been mentioned since chapter 60, back in 2012. I hoped it'd be clear from the context, but at least my mom, when she read this, was just completely confused by who this new character was all of a sudden.

“Mew,” said Rob hoarsely, still on his hands and knees on the ground. “I will protect you. I understand. Come with me. I can help you.”

Mew shook his head, staring into the distance. “There is nothing you or anyone can do to help me.”

And then, stopping, Mew took a deep breath, closed his eyes and vanished, without giving Rob so much as a second glance.

Obviously, Mew does not actually have any interest in Rob.

“Goodbye, Rob,” Razor said quietly. “I need to help my trainer.”

“Mew, please,” Rob muttered. “Don’t… don’t go.”

His Pokémon were silent. Fangcat growled quietly, nudging his leg, but he didn’t react. Kabutops looked up at Razor, hesitating.

“You know this is mad,” Razor said. “You’ve always known.”

“Yeah.” Kabutops sighed, looking away. “It’s just how he is sometimes. You never knew him back the first time around.”

“It doesn’t have to be this way.” Razor glanced between his former teammates. “I meant what I said before. It’s possible to let go, even if it doesn’t seem that way. I… I met Nightmare again. I realized the Code was wrong. I found a reason to live.” Kabutops stared at him in wonder. “You can break free.”

Feraligatr and Sneasel nodded silently, glancing at their trainer again. Rob heard everything they were saying, Razor knew, but he didn’t respond or even look up.

“Goodbye,” Razor said. “Try to… try to help him.”

And he took a deep breath, turned around and took off, heading towards the source of that terrible looming power.

The Mew Hunter was left lying on the ground with his Pokémon, sobbing quietly.

And there's the pitiful end to his story. That's been how he ends up since the very first version of this whole scene with the Mew Hunter.

It was only in the edit, though, with Scyther having been left behind rather than about to teleport away with Mark/May/Chaletwo, that Scyther finally got to say something more here than just "Goodbye, Rob." I'm glad I did get this scene in - largely for the sake of the Mew Hunter's Pokémon. Scyther means his advice that they can break free both in terms of how Rob can do that and how they can do that, if they wanted - leave Rob and find their own reasons to live, like he did. But if not, or until then - he hopes that they can at least give Rob some real help.

So, I've alluded to my old ending plans here. Originally, when I first thought up the War of the Legends plot, the ending that I envisioned for the fic was simply that... they successfully catch Mew, mere seconds before the pulse of the War passes them. Whew, that was close! And then Chaletwo'd congratulate the kids on a job well done, and they'd all go home, we'd move on to the epilogue.

On some level, though, I realized that this was kind of uninteresting. No, a really great ending would have a twist. And this birthed the second ending, which went exactly the same way, except that after the shockwave passes, Mew comes out and tells them that actually the War was destined to happen, and they really shouldn't have done this, for... some reason. I don't think that there was an actual concrete reason this had been a bad idea; Mew just declared it to be so, because destiny (this being when Mew was actually supposed to be very into destiny). And then Chaletwo would be left very upset and ashamed of himself, weeping in the forest as the kids headed home. All in all, the only thing that changed was that Chaletwo ended up broken and suffering, which... is extremely me, but would not actually have made it a better ending at all, dear twelve-year-old self. That one dialogue with Mew going "Oh, Chaletwo, what have you done?" may have originated with this ending, which is hilarious and amazing.

A bit later, though, sometime after I'd written the Mew Hunter in, I thought of an even better ending, the third ending, where they're about to catch Mew, only... the Mew Hunter appears and catches him first! And then they frantically tell him to not send Mew out, and he tells them of course he's not going to just coop Mew up in a ball - only then, just as he's getting ready to release Mew, the pulse arrives! Phew again, crisis averted! Originally I think I decided that was enough of a twist, but then eventually I decided no, there's an actual reason Mew didn't want to stop the War, I just didn't know what yet. It wasn't until probably 2005 that I came up with the Mewtwo² climax, where it turns out the pulse actually hit Mewtwo², who happened to be out at the time.

The 2009 chapter plan for this one said: Chapter 74: They eat at the Rainbow Café, where Rob steals Mew’s Pokéball, though they don’t know it immediately. They walk carefully around the forest; Spirit says she senses the presence of a psychic power, which in Rainbow Woods could only really be Mew. They navigate around in accordance with her senses and eventually come upon Mew sleeping in a bubble deep in the forest. As Mark reaches for Mew’s Pokéball, however, he grabs thin air, and a red beam absorbs Mew from the other direction… Rob has been following them and used the ball. He gloats insanely for a moment and Mark pleads for him to just not send Mew out, since that’s what matters now. Rob is about to do it anyway, but then a strange wave passes over everyone… Chaletwo sends himself out, as does Mew, and they’re not mad or losing their powers anymore. Mew is not happy; Chaletwo calls the old man out. Then there is an explosion from the direction of Cleanwater City.

I'm honestly really surprised that I don't actually mention Scyther here; I seem to be describing the scene in a fair amount of detail, so it's kind of an odd omission to not mention his part here - but on the other hand, I can't possibly believe that I didn't think to make Scyther play a part in the scene involving his old trainer even during the couple of years that I spent just obsessed with him, writing three chapters in a row and a spin-off dedicated purely to him, so I think I've got to have just not mentioned it regardless. (I also just distinctly feel like I remember envisioning the scene in ways that I just don't think would've made any sense for me post-2006 or so.)

The "Chaletwo calls the old man out" bit of the plan is referencing a trope on TV Tropes.

Whew, that's a lot. As you may have been able to tell, this chapter was really bad in the draft. The character progression reached a peak of pure nonsensicalness, and being rushed through for NaNo just meant that it was ultimately a very quick timeskip that just made it feel very cheap when suddenly they find Mew. When I started editing it, what I set out to do was to make the character development actually make sense, make the appropriate changes in accordance with how Rick is now actually looking for them with Mewtwo² rather than just back at his gym doing nothing in particular, and last but not least to properly build up tension and really convey the mounting dread and anxiety of the search for Mew. The only scenes that play out basically similarly to the draft are the first scene and the Mew Hunter scene; the entire rest was rewritten completely from scratch, only taking vague inspiration from the draft here and there.

Either way, I think the overall outcome does successfully build the atmosphere that I was looking for and otherwise do what I set out to do, which is the most important thing.


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