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 75: Mewtwo²

This was it. On January 21st, 2018, after seven months, I finally posted chapters 75 and 76, the fic's climax. The fic wouldn't be finished for another few months, but this was the big moment where I'd finally show my hand, reveal the solutions of all the mysteries, and resolve the main storyline once and for all.

This was the one chapter that I didn't actually finish during NaNo 2012; I hit a kind of wall where I realized I really needed to seriously restructure the chapter, and because I just didn't have time for that, I cut off there and just started chapter 76 (now 77). More on that in the endnotes.

Some dreams that I had while working on editing these chapters:

I dreamt something about how I was working on chapter 75, close to the end, but realized suddenly after writing the part about Chalenor that actually this was pretty ridiculous. He literally just existed as a mascot character with a convoluted justification for his existence who ultimately turned out to have no relevance or point to him whatsoever, and as I looked at what I’d written, I realized I could - should - just remove him altogether and focus on the parts that were actually important. I remember thinking “Oh, man, but I already set up his appearance and everything, people are going to be disappointed when he’s not actually in it and they don’t learn what was up with him. But they’d be disappointed anyway if they did, so whatever, I will just have to explain in an author’s note why he will not be appearing.”

Needless to say, he is not actually a pointless mascot character.

I dreamt that I was rereading some QftL chapters from 2006 or so and rediscovered that at the time I’d been writing Scyther (poorly) as a devoted right-wing libertarian, and he had a bunch of dramatic lines like “So… the free market truly is the reason yellow looks so good on green…” As I was cringing at that, I figured at least this’d make for an amusing part of that commentary.

Mitch lay back in his sofa and stared at the ceiling, arms folded tightly across his chest, listening to the faint tick of the clock and his own heartbeat as the hours dragged on. Nothing changed, nothing improved, no more than ever. He wasn’t sure what he was even waiting for anymore.

please no

These italicized lines are not Chalenor speaking or even thinking these actual words, per se; they're just representations of the weirdly disconnected jabs of emotion that Mitch is feeling, hence why they stop when Mitch actually realizes Chalenor is there and listening for his 'answers' becomes an integrated part of his thought process. This was probably not very obvious.

This scene, also known as 'One-Shot A', was originally written in probably 2006 or 2007, after I'd figured out Mitch was possessed by Chalenor and envisioned his appearance during the Mewtwo² climax; this presentation was something I did that first time I wrote it, and I just stuck with it from there, even as I rewrote it from scratch both for the NaNo draft (when I didn't have access to the original document) and for the edit (when I just wasn't quite satisfied enough with how either of the previous versions played out). I'm actually not sure I knew that Chalenor was the Destroyer when I first wrote it. The document that I have with it now was last edited in 2010 - I opened the document and tinkered with it every now and then for a few years, so while it ended up with revealing indicators that he is, that might have been added in later.

Originally, it really was a one-shot: I planned to post it as an extra in between (what would become) chapters 74 and 75, rather than integrating it into the story itself. Then I figured maybe I'd post it alongside chapter 75, and recommend reading it first. But ultimately I decided at that point it really belonged in the chapter itself. Relegating the full explanation of what was going on with Mitch to an extra just wouldn't have been entirely satisfying, and without this scene, the bit where Mitch suddenly appears later using attacks would've been just a bit too out of nowhere. Plus, I think it's fun to have this calm interlude between the monstrous cliffhanger at the end of chapter 74 and its resolution. I'd decided on integrating it into the chapter like this before I wrote the NaNo draft, but probably not before I finished the chapter plan.

A looming, suffocating dread hung over his mind: a desperate fear of the inevitable, a deep and fundamental knowledge that something was horribly wrong, something terrible was happening and he was powerless to stop it. He was helpless, trapped, alone, and all he could do was wait for everything to fall apart.

The problem was that he had absolutely no idea why he was feeling any of these things.

not this

Outside, the sun was shining, birds were singing, a gentle breeze was blowing through the trees; it was a beautiful, calm spring day. He might have liked to take a walk, a nice little hike in the mountains around the desert perhaps – if he weren’t here, clinging to the last vestiges of his sanity inside his locked Gym.

no no no

In both the original version and the NaNo draft, this emotion-flash went no this is a bad day this is a horrible day this is the worst day that has ever dawned. Again, these are not literally words that Chalenor is thinking, just this really strong alien feeling that this is absolutely not a good day, but even then, it just sounded too over-the-top and melodramatic and I got rid of it.

Mitch sighed, unfolding his arms carefully to rub his temples. It had never been like this before, not this strong. He’d always experienced it as vague feelings, intuitions, beliefs that didn’t seem to come from anywhere. But now it was like a tangible presence somewhere in the back of his mind, not speaking exactly but sparking intense flashes of emotions that seemed disconnected from everything, as if they weren’t his own, flashes that disappeared if he tried to focus upon them. Like… like someone was there, at the edge of his consciousness, barely brushing past his thoughts.

it’s all my fault no please

You might assume he's thinking of the War in general here, but no, the specific guilt that he's feeling right now is over what happened a thousand years ago, kickstarting the previous War - the bit where Mew presented his new plan, and Chalenor, shuddering at the thought of living forever continuing to cause the War, sabotaged it by stabbing Mewtwo's body and then released the War early. Both Mew and Chalenor are individually quite convinced that what happened there and this horrible outcome that they're living with was entirely their own fault, and each of them has spent a lot of the last thousand years wondering what might have happened if he hadn't ruined everything.

At first, Mitch had thought the phantom emotions – faint back then – were some strange side-effect of the Scorplack venom. He’d started to research it, interviewed countless other survivors, but none had experienced anything like it. Then he’d realized it seemed to be telling him things, somehow giving him information that he shouldn’t have, that he just inexplicably felt. He’d figured it meant he was a late-blooming psychic, and he’d been okay with that. But then he’d read some books on it, and their descriptions had been similar but not quite the same, and then he’d gone to see an actual psychic – a legit one, he’d made sure – who’d told him she felt nothing at all from him: no latent psychic powers, no trickster Ghost Pokémon sneakily following him and messing with his head, nothing. He’d seen another one for a second opinion and gotten the same answer. And then he’d paid them through his teeth to keep it quiet, because he didn’t know what he’d even do with himself if the League found out and decided they’d rather not employ a Gym leader who was hearing voices that weren’t there, and slowly but steadily getting worse.

(And could he really blame them?)

Of course, the reason the psychics couldn't feel anything is just that Chalenor's Dark-type makes him invisible to psychic senses.

please

Then he’d quietly seen a psychiatrist, of course, been on several different antipsychotics with wretched side-effects for a while. Nothing had changed.

And ever the feelings had grown stronger, clearer, more defined. It had occurred to him, of course, that maybe the psychics were both wrong and there was something there that they weren’t sensing, somehow. But it had also occurred to him that he could simply be hallucinating, imagining the whole thing. Sometimes his mind surged with conviction: what about that time, how could you have known that – but it could be a coincidence. He felt lots of things that didn’t tell him anything specific, sudden pangs of worries and loss and fear that had nothing to do with anything; why wouldn’t some happen to line up with real events? It seemed unlikely, but – odds were meaningless, weren’t they? And he could hardly trust his own brain to judge if his brain was the one producing these feelings in the first place.

Mitch's unusual philosophy on odds from back in chapter 13, back again!

must not happen

So he’d waited, for something, some kind of change or shift or – he wasn’t sure, really, but as it was there didn’t seem to be anything he could do, and that helplessness was maddening. Sometimes, when he was sure he was crazy, he’d thought about admitting himself to the mental hospital in Alumine before he started really hearing voices and believing what they said and doing something reckless or dangerous or harmful. But – what if he wasn’t? And the meds hadn’t helped before; why would they now?

MUST NOT HAPPEN

And, although he hated to admit it, he just didn’t want to be crazy. He could feel his brain rationalizing and downplaying and sanitizing it, assuring him he was fine and his mind was sound and there must be something real there. And he could tell those were insidious thought processes, the same ones that would be at work if he really were going mad, but they were too tempting to entirely ignore. Too tempting to make a decision like locking himself in an asylum.

So instead, he’d locked himself up in the Gym, waiting and waiting for some vague miracle to solve everything – something that’d just settle the question and give him some kind of starting point – as if that wasn’t the most useless kind of wishful thinking. As if wasting away with restless boredom, fearing his own thoughts, wouldn’t eventually drive him mad even if he wasn’t already.

In the NaNo draft, Mitch had basically made a promise to himself that he was going to stay on this couch and not move - because he didn’t trust himself to walk out without fearing he might snap and do something that would endanger others and not only himself. Obviously, he didn't end up keeping that promise. I kind of enjoyed that, but I think I removed it because obviously he does have to move from the couch to eat and drink and go to the bathroom and so on, and adding in exceptions just made it awkward to state it at all.

nononono

He sat in silence listening to the dull throb of alien emotions, hearing his breath shaking as he exhaled. He couldn’t keep this up forever. Nothing was getting better. Nothing was going to just sort itself out and make sense. Any sense this would ever make was something he’d have to make for himself.

please

Mitch took a deep breath, closing his eyes. That strange, pleading desperation was so tangible he could almost taste it – and then, as he focused on it, it was gone, and he couldn’t tell if he’d just been imagining it. “Okay,” he whispered, teeth clenched. “Let’s say you’re real. Then prove it. Come out and talk to me. Can’t you talk?”

This actual moment has been different in each version of the scene. Original (2010 version):

It had to make sense. And really, he knew how it could all make sense – but that was exactly why he thought he was crazy.

“You’re not just a voice in my head,” he said quietly, closing his eyes, knowing full well that the idea was dangerous, insane. “You’re not part of me at all, are you?”

NaNo draft:

He adjusted himself on the sofa, gripped the seat cushion with his hands. He had to try – he had resisted the idea for so long because he’d suspected it would only drive him even crazier, but by now he felt as if he was being driven far madder by the fact he hadn’t even tried.

please

Mitch took a deep breath, closing his eyes. “You’re real,” he muttered, experimentally, wondering if it would make him feel crazier – and he got an answer, a small but unmistakable rush of sudden hope and excitement.

In the original version it more or less felt like Mitch was first coming to the conclusion this probably wasn't a hallucination just now, while for the NaNo draft I went for him more having doggedly ignored the idea up until now but then just deciding to indulge it and assume it is real to see if it'll make him feel better. I didn't quite like either of these, but I'm pretty happy about how the final version ended up, where he is indulging it but as a test or challenge, in the hope that it'll just help him make sense of this one way or another.

For a moment he sat there as nothing happened, like an idiot, hating that he was far enough gone, desperate enough, to be indulging his own hallucinations. But then, suddenly, there was a – an answer. His heart wrenched suddenly in his chest, and a no emerged from the back of his mind – not the word, not speech, but a vague urge to shake his head, to object, to protest. He probably wouldn’t have even noticed if he hadn’t been looking for it, waiting for it, today when the feelings were stronger than ever before. But it was there, he was sure of it. He felt his pulse quickening, his attention suddenly on high alert, his head spinning.

He scrambled to gather his thoughts. An imaginary voice would probably answer, too, noted a dispassionate, reasonable part of him – this wasn’t proof of anything, was it? And abruptly, he realized he didn’t care. Whatever this was, whether it was a hallucination or not, it was better than sitting there, waiting, forever.

“You… you’re real,” he said. From the back of his mind came an urgent affirmation, a longing to nod eagerly: another answer, a different one. Real. A strange wave of elation washed over him, his eyes watering. “So you’re…”

Mitch blinked rapidly. Even now he could feel it, not communicating anything in particular, just there, at the edge of his mind. If he tried to concentrate on it, as usual, it went away – but then he shifted his focus and he could sense it reappearing. How could he have gone so long without realizing?

To quote Chaletwo from chapter 52 again, A second soul has no real business being there; at most it can cling on to some parts of your brain you’re not using at the moment, maybe prod slightly at your subconscious.

Chalenor is so relieved to be actually communicating with someone after literally a thousand years of total isolation. In actuality, solitary confinement is incredibly damaging; only a relatively short time in isolation without any human interaction will get you an array of very serious mental health problems for life. (Did you know extended solitary confinement as punishment is deeply unethical.) I choose to believe such things are a bit different for these immortal legendary Pokémon, because otherwise the timespans involved here should pretty much just have rendered Chalenor completely nonfunctional long before Mew even met him, but it's still been a pretty harrowing experience.

For a while he was silent, eyes closed, aware of it only as that tingling, shivering presence: real, comforting, safe.

“You’re the one who saved me from the Scorplack that day, aren’t you?” he asked softly.

For a moment there was nothing; then came a hesitant, half-apologetic confirmation, the regret of good intentions gone awry. “No, thank you,” he said, chuckling. “I only… I was so confused.” Mitch took a deep breath. “But here you are. I should have… I should have tried this earlier.”

A spark of happiness, reassurance, the relief of old, nagging doubts and guilt finally laid to rest. The undercurrent of urgent, screaming desperation wasn’t gone, but – it was glad for that, at least. Glad he thought it was worth it, glad he was glad to be talking to it. It was strange, but somehow, now that he was paying attention, its presence felt deeply familiar, as if he’d known it intimately all those years since that day and just never realized it. As if it was an old friend – a friend he’d never known he had, who’d saved his life and then stewed in anxiety wondering if he would have preferred if it hadn’t.

He couldn’t help but linger on that thought. In some way he’d always thought of himself, of Mitch, as a puppet of some nebulous, inscrutable power that was toying with him, like this was all part of some fate or plan that he was helpless to contest – but that had never been it, had it? Perhaps it had only ever simply been something, someone, that’d wanted to help, and tried to, as best it could, the only way it could think of.

This bit about Chalenor having worried he shouldn't have saved Mitch was new in the edit, and I'm glad I got it in here. This last paragraph is basically getting at the central theme of the fic - no grand plans or fates, just flawed people doing poorly thought-out things all the way down - and although I think it's kind of awkward and transparent in the way it's currently presented, I like that it's there.

The reason Chalenor had doubts about whether he should have saved him, if you've forgotten about Mitch's early-fic ramblings by now (I don't blame you), is that Mitch has spent the past seven years believing he ought to be dead, that he's basically a ghost trapped in this alien Mitch persona that he doesn't really recognize as himself. This is also why he regards the idea of giving up his body with relative indifference. He's never been actively suicidal, and just carries on living by default and because he knows he helps a lot of people with his work, but he has basically no personal desire to continue living and kind of resents his existence, increasingly so with his strange powers growing out of control. Chalenor, who is more familiar than most with the idea that living can be hellish to the point you'd prefer to be dead, obviously felt all this and has quite seriously worried that he inadvertently doomed someone to the same kind of personal hell that he himself had gone through. But that's not how Mitch feels in the end - he feels a lot better about all this with the realization that what saved him, and what's been giving him these feelings and powers, was just somebody who cared and wanted to help him.

He chuckled. “I’ve had so many theories,” he muttered, shaking his head. “I’ve spent the last seven years of my life trying to figure you out. And…” He paused. And what? What could he say to it? What are you? How could it possibly begin to answer that?

“What… what happened? Why are you so upset?” he asked at last.

Flashes of pain, grief, loneliness of an intensity that was terrifying and ancient and inhuman, coursed through his mind and left him breathless and shivering. Then a blanket of deep, desperate guilt smothered all of that, drowned it, made it seem trivial in comparison. He wanted to die, wanted to disappear, and yet he couldn’t; he was trapped, suffocating, screaming with no voice, forever and ever, in a silent, isolated hell.

Chalenor is genuinely trying to tell him what happened, but all that actually gets across to Mitch is a bunch of very intense emotions, because this is the extent of how Chalenor can communicate. Again, the guilt here is mostly for what he feels his actions did to Mew - after all, Chalenor wanted to die mostly so he wouldn't have to continue to watch everyone die in the War including his best friend, and then... because of what he did, Mew had to watch everyone die in the War including his best friend.

Mitch clutched his head as he caught his breath, eyes squeezed shut, still trembling uncontrollably. It… it was suffering. He couldn’t tell why, or how, but it had been suffering, in a way he couldn’t even imagine, for a long, long time. An intense sympathy gripped him; after feeling what it felt, the urge to assist somehow, some way, was overpowering.

I don't like this paragraph; it just doesn't feel very natural.

“So there’s… there’s nothing you can do about it?” he murmured.

His heart wrenched as that horrible, suffocating sense of entrapment consumed him again, of being imprisoned and powerless and mute – and then it hit him. “You’re… stuck in my head?”

Yes: a brief sensation of faint relief, an urge to nod. It couldn’t do anything at all, because it was a prisoner in his brain. How had it gotten there and why? There was no way it could answer that, was there? (A sense of flustered helplessness affirmed this.)

“Can I… can I help?”

His heart stung again, with hopelessness and regret and weakness in the face of overwhelming odds and another flash of that sense of being trapped and unable to speak.

He really couldn’t, anyway. What could he possibly do to help it, when it couldn’t tell him what to do, what was even wrong? It might share his brain, but his brain had too much him in it. He supposed the way it vanished from where his attention was meant his own thought processes drowned it out, kept it confined where all it could do was twang his emotions.

And that thought gave him pause, a chilling idea creeping up on him.

I like how this plays out a lot better here than in the original and NaNo draft - in both of the older versions he just sort of immediately thought of lending Chalenor his body using this poison, once they'd gotten around to the bit where he wanted to help somehow. I'm fond of the sentence "It might share his brain, but his brain had too much him in it." Again, that thing Chaletwo said about a second soul in a body that's already occupied - it can only cling to the parts of the brain you're not using - but also, it's just very Mitch to feel that there's too much Mitch in his own brain.

“Say… say I could lend you my body,” he said, slowly. “Would that… would that help?”

A spark of hope, real hope, flashed across his mind, tinged with a hesitant wariness, a hint of sorrow and pain: maybe, but.

“Is it dangerous?” he guessed.

Yes.

“Dangerous to whom? Is anyone else getting hurt?”

Hesitation, uncertainty, a stab of pain and loss, determination, grim hope – probably, but it would try to prevent it.

I tried to convey that Mitch is slowly getting better at interpreting what Chalenor is trying to tell him by having him end up sort of 'translating' - though he still couldn't make out complex information, only these basic emotional reactions. Hopefully the combinations of emotions are reasonably believable in meaning the things that he interprets them as.

Mitch nodded slowly. “Would we die?”

The response was pained, a regretful, tentative affirmation made of endless grief and dejected apology. It wasn’t certain, but it didn’t have a lot of hope for them.

“Is it worth it?” he asked softly, and the answer was yes – tinged with guilt and regret, but no trace of doubt. It didn’t want him to die, but this was important, more important than anything.

Mitch paused. So this was it, then.

“There’s a rare, reclusive Poison-type in this region called Wasparch,” he said. “It lays its eggs in comatose victims and buries them as a living larder for its young. Its venom shuts down the higher brain functions, but keeps the body alive. I have a sample of it in my cupboard.” He hesitated. “So does that sound like you could…?”

A jolt of hope, excitement, wonder, coupled with immense gratitude, hesitation, sorrow, apology again. The alien emotions felt discordant, strange against his own sticky, drying mouth and the pit in his stomach, but they were somehow comforting nonetheless. He wasn’t alone. He had a friend. A friend who was suffering, and he could help.

I think this one manages to sound a bit weird again, and even kind of brainwashy, which is bad. To be clear, this is supposed to be genuinely entirely Mitch's idea; Chalenor would sure like to try his hardest to do something about the War (especially since otherwise Mew will almost certainly die in it), but it's just way beyond him as a character to expect other people to make sacrifices for his sake. He can't lie that it wouldn't be worth it - but he'd never try to cajole Mitch into this. He kind of feels like dirt doing it at all even when it is entirely Mitch's idea.

It'd probably make sense to establish Wasparch as a Pokémon before it suddenly becomes a plot point in chapter 75, wouldn't it. It's been this specific fakemon with this specific name since the first version of the scene, and yet it never occurred to me to actually write one in somewhere earlier. By the time it could have occurred to me, it would've been incredibly out of place. In the next revision this'd definitely just be a Pokémon that Mitch owns or talks about sometime early on. It's based on parasitoid wasps, but I never gave it an actual design, since it never actually appears on-screen.

He stood up, his body trembling as his head buzzed with conflicted feelings: tightness, grief, warmth, love. Was he really doing this? Dying for the voice in his head, this companion that – even if it didn’t seem that way – he’d only actually known for a matter of minutes?

Yes, he thought, and this time it was all him.

It wasn’t as if he shouldn’t have been dead seven years ago. It was time to repay it the life that he never ought to have had – the fake, troubled life of Mitch that it had given him that day in the desert. He owed it that much.

And if none of this was real, realized that rational part of him, if it was all a hallucination and he’d never had a companion – then he’d just drift away and stop existing. They’d find him sometime when people started to worry about him not returning calls, and euthanize his empty shell, and he’d never have to endure any of this again. Nobody would get hurt.

It was an oddly calming realization. He had nothing to lose.

So yeah, this is his established resentment of his life as it is, which probably no reader at all remembered by the time we got here. If he dies, nobody gets hurt.

Slowly, he walked over to the lab and opened the cupboard of venom samples. He rummaged through it for the right vial, an odd routineness to the act, as if he were simply looking for a normal Weedle antidote on any ordinary day.

This last sentence made it almost word-for-word through all three versions of this.

(The growing nervous hesitation in the back of his mind probed at him again with a stab of concern. “Yes, I’m sure,” he whispered. “You need it more than I do.”)

Chalenor wants to be really really sure that Mitch is okay with this.

And then, finally, he found it. He pulled it out carefully and fiddled with the label for a moment, gazing at the thick navy ooze inside it, ignoring the trembling of his hands. Wasparch. Effective when ingested as well as injected. He took a deep breath, not sure he could feel his legs anymore. The poison acted slower when ingested: it would take about a minute or two before he became dizzy and lightheaded, and then he would fade away. He’d read it, researched it, interviewed survivors, studied countless diagrams and surveys and medical reports; he knew how this went.

With a shaking hand, he lifted the vial towards his faint reflection in the glass door of the cupboard. “Cheers,” he said, chuckling – he looked like a lunatic, he thought – before he let it clink softly against the glass, raised it to his lips and poured the contents into his mouth in one swift gulp.

It tasted faintly sweet and sticky, distantly reminiscent of blood, leaving a cold, tingling feeling on his tongue and the inside of his mouth. He shuddered as he swallowed it, then walked slowly, slowly back to the couch, legs trembling. As an afterthought, he picked up the pencil and half-solved crossword puzzle lying on the coffee table and scribbled a note in the margin:

If you find me here, I don’t want to wake up

I’m sorry

-Mitch

He put the paper down and laid himself gently down on the sofa, feeling sleepy and fuzzy and slow. It was becoming difficult to think. It wasn’t an unpleasant sensation, only an unusual one; it wasn’t a bad way to go, all things considered.

“I hope I could help,” he whispered, “whoever you are.”

And then he drifted away, leaving his fate to the friend he’d never known.

This whole last bit was one of the strongest images of this scene in my head from the start (unsurprisingly), and a lot of the phrasing and details here made it intact or largely intact through all three versions of this: fiddling with the label, "thick navy ooze", ignoring the shaking of his hands, "faint reflection in the glass door of the cupboard", "Cheers", "he looked like a lunatic, he thought", vial clinking softly against the glass, pouring the contents into his mouth in one swift sip, "It tasted faintly sweet and sticky, distantly reminiscent of blood", "shudder as he swallowed it". The note in the crossword margin is also word-for-word. In both previous versions, though, Mitch's last words were "I hope I could help, whatever you are." I changed it to whoever here because this version had an added emphasis on Mitch actually caring for this voice in his head, and with that it became weirder to talk about it like it's a thing, even if he doesn't know its true nature. Similarly, the last sentence in both previous versions was "And then he drifted away, leaving his fate to the mysterious entity that had saved his life seven years before." This change of focus was somewhat rushed, I feel in hindsight, and I think I would've had to do a bit more to properly sell why he perceives Chalenor like he's known him on some level for all this time (because yeah, I think right now I made it sound weirdly brainwashy by not developing it better). They should probably talk a little more; I really like the bit where Chalenor's hesitant about having saved him in the desert and Mitch thanks him for it, and I could probably extend that conversation a bit with other things before Mitch starts asking what's wrong.

Overall, Negrek made a good point here that Mitch actually seems to have it together better here than he did last time we saw him, in chapter 66, even though his 'symptoms' are significantly worse. Obviously, when I originally wrote this scene, I had no idea Mitch would be making any kind of appearance in chapter 66, much less what the content of it would be, but once I did write that it definitely would've been appropriate to adjust the mood here accordingly. Mitch is pretty detached, as a way of coping and because of his way of thinking of his Mitch self kind of as this weird alien, so he'd never be doing too much worse than he was back in chapter 66, but he could definitely do with being at least about as frazzled.

As I've brought up before, we also really need more emphasis on Mitch's actual issues during his previous appearances in the fic, and not on his various ramblings about unrelated things that aren't relevant to anything. I wrote this kind of invisibly assuming you remembered Mitch's thing about believing he's really dead and a made-up character, because to me this was pretty much Mitch's whole Thing and I just unconsciously assumed that if you remembered Mitch at all you'd know this about him, but really this last came up in chapter 26 back in 2005, and probably nobody remembered it whatsoever, so him having such an indifferent shrug reaction at the idea of killing himself with only a cursory explanation was probably kind of bizarre.

I still really enjoy the basic concept of this scene, though, with Chalenor communicating with Mitch through emotions alone, Mitch never learning exactly what he is or the cause of his distress but still deciding to lend him his body anyway because living or dying is really all the same to him and this way either he gets to help whoever saved him back there, or he's been hallucinating the whole thing and then at least now he won't have to deal with all this anymore. Also, this entire last bit is just very self-indulgent. Welcome to Me Village, population 1, where we appreciate people's hands shaking as they prepare to sacrifice their life, unable not to feel a basic primal fear despite their conscious detachment and belief that this is a simple, rational choice.

-------

Mark blinked rapidly into cold air that was thick with dust. The hunched-over form of Mewtwo² stood limply on the ground ahead of them, shivering uncontrollably. An electrifying sensation of power hung in the air around it, a psychic pressure that threatened to tear everything apart; Mark felt every hair on his body standing on end, nerves tingling in anticipation of looming, terrifying danger. In front of the clone, a shallow, circular crater was carved into the rocky ground, still smoking with heat and twirling dust, surrounding a sickening, unrecognizable splatter of red – some unwary wild Pokémon suddenly obliterated by the power of a hundred legendaries.

I'm quite fond of this paragraph.

In the NaNo draft, the opening of this scene went like this:

Mark blinked and it took him a second to recognize where he was: debris was strewn over the street he stood on, and the front wall of the gigantic building in front of him had been completely blown off.

In the middle of the carnage stood Mewtwo², hunched over, shaking. An electrifying sensation of power hung in the air around it, giving Mark goosebumps. As terrifying as its power had been at the League, it paled next to what it was now – a strange certainty based on nothing but that thrumming aura of pure power.

The tattered body of an Arcanine lay limp on the other side of what had once been the battle arena; a teenage girl, tears streaming down her face, shook it desperately, fingers wrapped tightly around tufts of blood-soaked fur. Mark couldn’t even register what was going on; his brain seemed to be processing things in slow-motion.

As you'll recall, in the draft, Mewtwo² was simply out in battle in the Cleanwater Gym - so this entire chapter took place in the ruins of the gym, with a bunch of people around. For many reasons, this just didn't work very well - during NaNo I just kept kind of forgetting about all the other people there, but if I hadn't they would've really distracted from a lot of what was going on - and of course, the fact Rick was still at his gym at all was just bad and nonsensical, so although it meant I just had to rewrite most of this chapter from scratch, I was happy to just move the entire thing elsewhere, where they're alone.

(This does kind of open up the question of why nobody else comes to check on this overwhelming psychic sense of Mewtwo², though. The legendary hunters have good reason to suspect what's going on here and just seek shelter, but surely to others this'd just seem concerning and worth checking out. Potentially Rick would've made the authorities ignore any reports relating to Mewtwo², but what about lone adventuring trainers who are just too curious for their own good?)

The reason I chose to have Mewtwo² having just obliterated a wild Pokémon there is basically as a nod to this poor sacrificial Arcanine. (This never made any sense, though. How does Rick, official first gym leader - and this definitely isn't one of those cases where the gym leaders have multiple sets of Pokémon depending on how many badges their challengers have, because it was explicitly specified that none of Rick's legendaries were higher than level 15 - get to use Mewtwo² in his gym battles at all now that he's literally fought in the League?) Originally it was supposed to be basically establishing that Mewtwo² hasn't just been standing there and has already used its massive new power, but the fact nothing remains of the target but a crater in the ground with a splatter of red in it probably makes that point significantly better.

Behind it stood Rick, coughing, arm shielding his face, a ball clutched in his hand.

“Recall him!” Chaletwo screamed. “Recall him now, or that’s what happens to this entire planet!”

In the draft it was May who told him to recall Mewtwo². This really didn't make sense, because 1) shouldn't May kind of freeze at the sight of Rick, who was literally trying to strangle her to death last time she saw him (but haha of course not this is the NaNo draft where May was magically okay somehow), and 2) how on earth would Chaletwo not be the first person to do this.

Rick’s head snapped around, his gaze locking onto them, surprised, alarmed. For a split second he stared at them, frozen. Then, all at once, recognition spread across his face and melted into a familiar, stomach-turning madness.

He raised a trembling hand towards May. “Kill her!” he snarled.

Mark’s heart thumped in slow-motion as May stared back at Rick, pale, fingers tight in Spirit’s mane. Then she released her grip on the Ninetales, closing her eyes, inhaling sharply, and before he could consciously think anything at all, Mark had thrown himself at her in some stupid attempt to get her out of the way. They tumbled over each other on the ground, his head smashing into a rock that sent his vision spinning as he realized that it was no use, he couldn’t help, this was Mewtwo² imbued with the power of every legendary and it would just blast him into oblivion too.

This little moment of Mark unthinkingly trying to save May was spontaneous in the NaNo draft. As I had been picturing this scene (and I had been, pretty much ever since first imagining the Mewtwo² climax), Rick just told Mewtwo² to kill her only for him to manage to turn it back on Rick instead - but once I was writing it, Mark just immediately had try to do something here before they can see Mewtwo²'s resisting, and I liked that a lot.

The bit where May's kind of prepared to die there, letting go of Spirit and everything, was new in the edit, though.

Rick is not making the same mistake as last time where he tried to kill her with his own two hands. Would've been satisfying, but no, she got away somehow, and he's not risking that again. Yet again, he completely ignores Chaletwo, because he just could not give less of a damn what some legendary wants to order him to do. She's right there.

(If Tyranitar hadn't killed Taylor, Rick probably would've actually recalled him. Driving event of the entire plot.)

There should be more Rick in the fic. The next revision will have more Rick.

For another eternal heartbeat, he clutched May’s jacket, eyes screwed shut, bracing himself for an inevitable death.

But his heart thumped again, and he opened his eyes. May was still there, coughing in the dusty air, blinking at him, with nothing more than a gash on her leg. Mewtwo² stood in the same place it had been, its arm extended in their direction, shaking as if straining against some invisible force.

Rick's mind-control is a lot stronger than it was last time we saw Mewtwo² resist - he hasn't been able to in a long time - but now that he's got the power of all the legendaries within him, he totally can fight it. At the same time, though, the War is also trying to wrestle control away from him, so he can't quite use all that power to defeat it entirely; it's a real struggle.

“Kill her!” Rick ordered again, louder, and still Mewtwo² didn’t attack.

“Recall him! Now, goddamn it!” Chaletwo lunged towards Rick, but Mewtwo²’s eyes flashed blue and an invisible barrier stopped him. “Recall him or he kills us all!”

Rick glanced in his direction, hesitating only a split second before he looked back at May. “Kill—”

Abruptly, Mewtwo² moved, sweeping its hand back with a heaving lurch of effort, turning its head towards Rick as the power in the air intensified, burning, searing. The man’s eyes widened as he stepped back, raising the ball in his hand.

And then his hand just folded in on itself, bone crunching and electronics sparking and then it was simply gone. Rick let out a piercing scream, and then Mewtwo² swept its other hand down and suddenly he wasn’t there anymore as a formless red mist splattered the clone’s body. Mark stared in mute, detached horror, unable to properly comprehend or absorb the unreality of it. Somewhere, dimly, behind what had just happened to Rick, he realized the ball was gone, vaporized. There was nothing left, no way to stop it.

And yet, Mewtwo² stood there still, quiet, pupilless eyes rolling in its head.

Ultimately, the result of that struggle is that Mewtwo² manages to direct the kill order back towards Rick instead. The War will absolutely let him take actions that will help him accomplish his true purpose of destroying every legendary, and killing this person and destroying this ball that's holding him back would do that, so that's the path of least resistance here, and the best he can do at this point, when he still doesn't understand what's going on at all and doesn't quite know how to resist this new force. On some level it was cathartic for him to vaporize Rick and the Clone Ball, after all this time at their mercy - but it's also traumatic and he feels pretty bad about it. He doesn't want to kill anyone. He just wants to be free and do twirly loop-the-loops in the sky.

Rick's death was waaaay more graphic in the draft (sticking far too closely to some of my edgy teen self's visualizations) and involved blood pouring out of his eyes and bones snapping individually. Mark also threw up yet again. Nope! Let's definitely not do that! It was ridiculously unnecessary and just made this scene worse in every way. It can be plenty horrific without eye-roll-worthy over-the-top gore, and of course, again, vaporized in a second conveys a lot better what an overwhelming power we're dealing with.

(I couldn't resist having him crush just the hand with the ball first, though. It just wouldn't have been quite satisfying without it.)

Run. They should run, screamed a terrified part of Mark. But another part of him was paralyzed, fascinated, silently waiting for what would happen next, and his legs didn’t move. What was the use in running, anyway, if the world was ending?

“I…” Chaletwo said, backing away, his voice wavering. “Why isn’t he doing anything?”

“He’s spent all his life struggling against forces subduing his will,” said a quiet voice, and Mark looked around, startled, to find Mew suddenly hovering near them, staring towards Mewtwo². “He’s still fighting back. I should have known.”

May was also the first person to ask this in the draft, for some reason.

Mew got to 'know' Mewtwo² while captured in Rick's gym. It'd actually be kind of interesting to learn more about exactly how much Mew got to observe or interact with him there.

“So he’s… he’s not going mad? It’s not happening?”

Mew shook his head slightly. “He can’t resist forever. He’s not the first to try.”

“Then throw another ball! Anything!”

His voice was piercing and desperate. Mark rose to his feet on wobbly legs, fumbling for an Ultra Ball, but as he threw it, Mewtwo² looked up sharply and it simply disintegrated in mid-air. At the sight of it, with a bloodcurdling physical scream, Chaletwo opened his eyes, and Mark shuddered in anticipation, the memory of the day he’d died flashing through his mind – but instead of the blinding, terrifying brightness he remembered, the light shining from Chaletwo’s eyes was only a faint glow.

Across from them, Mewtwo² didn’t even react.

Chaletwo’s scream died in a strangled, disbelieving cry as he closed his eyes again and doubled over, panting and shaking.

In the draft, somehow, Chaletwo never even tried to use Death Stare, which was kind of ludicrous. I like how it's not the first thing he thinks of, though - he only ever uses his eyes to recruit trainers, and has never seriously considered using them against the legendaries.

(I said Death Stare there, but I tactfully avoided ever naming this ability in the actual chapter, because this silly name thought up by an eleven-year-old does not need to distract you from what's going on here.)

Mewtwo² is forced to react and neutralize anything that's a direct, immediate threat to him destroying all the legendaries, so a Pokéball flying towards him just automatically forces him to destroy it.

“You’re too weak to use your eyes,” Mew said softly, not quite looking at him. “But with the power he has now, he could block it even if you could. It can’t be escaped.” He took a deep breath. “Once he succumbs, he’ll hunt down all of us. Pokéballs, soul gems, he’ll destroy them. Legendaries have tried to escape it before; we have always struggled with the idea of dying. But it’s no use. I’m sorry. We should try to use these final moments to make peace and accept it, like the mortals—”

“Hypocrite!” Chaletwo lashed out, rounding on Mew. “You tried to escape it! You and Chalenor went to the future together trying to insure yourselves, and then when I try to do the same thing you just babble on about fate and acceptance!”

Mew blinked, turning towards him.

“If you’d just told me what went wrong with your attempt, we could have made a better plan, goddamn it!” Chaletwo went on, fiercely. “We could’ve been working on it for a thousand years instead of twenty! We could’ve gotten all the legendaries in on it from the beginning, instead of trying to keep it a secret! Everything you’ve done, everything, it’s all like you just wanted to...”

“What are you talking about?” Mew interrupted, frantic. “Me and Chalenor in the future?”

“Mewtwo told us all about it, that you appeared on his island babbling about insurance and made a copy of his body and took it back to the past – is that where I came from? A botched safety precaution for Chalenor?”

The alarm in Mew’s expression faded. “Oh.” He looked away, bitterly. “I’m sorry. I did go to the future and bring a copy of his body back. But I was alone.”

“That doesn’t even make any sense!” Chaletwo snapped. Mew stared at the ground, not moving, paws clenched. “How could you travel through time alone? If you’re going to continue lying to me, I swear –”

“Because I was the Preserver,” Mew said. His voice shook as he looked up, still not looking Chaletwo in the eye.

Chaletwo's just going to do his very best to let out every issue that he's ever had with Mew before they all get obliterated. If nothing else, yelling at Mew is a fine distraction from the going-to-die bit.

For a second there Mew totally thought that Chaletwo was telling him something new - that somehow Chalenor comes back and they end up together in the future and Chaletwo traveled to the future and saw it, or something. Wouldn't that be great? But of course, that's not actually what he's talking about.

At this point Mew's basically resigned to telling him the truth. Mew's felt incredibly guilty about lying to him all this time, seeing how worked up he is right now isn't helping that, and it's not like it's going to change anything now; no point desperately trying to spin more lies minutes before they die anyway. But he's not exactly eager to explain all this either, and wouldn't really know where to begin even if he wanted to, so for now Mew's just sort of quietly letting him yell and then correcting him where his assumptions are wrong, without quite meeting his eye.

I wish I'd shown more what Mewtwo² was doing during this conversation; ultimately it feels like he just conveniently stands there doing nothing at all while Chaletwo and Mew have this back-and-forth, when really he's very actively struggling with the growing War impulse, and we could really do with a reminder that he's still there instead of acting like he's just been put on pause while we watch Chaletwo and Mew squabble.

“What are you talking about?” Chaletwo’s hostility was gaining an undertone of desperate fear and confusion. “Chalenor was the Preserver! Like me!”

Mew shook his head again, almost imperceptibly. “No, he wasn’t.”

“Yes, he was!” Chaletwo screamed, a crazed ferocity in his voice. “It was the first thing you told me about him!”

For all the things that Chaletwo worried Mew was lying to him about or not telling him, it never, ever occurred to him to question this. It's not like he ever even thought this was at all important, but the idea Mew was lying to him about things that he'd never even thought to question at all just sort of knocks out the foundations of everything he believes. He is so desperately confused right now, and of course he responds by just angrily going "No!" If you just refuse to accept it loudly enough, that means it's not true, right?

"He was the Preserver, like you," really was literally the first thing Mew told Chaletwo about Chalenor when he asked who he was, as shown in the final scene of chapter 76.

“I lied,” Mew whispered, staring at Mewtwo².

“No! That doesn’t make any sense! Why in the hell would you lie to me about that?!”

A cold shiver of realization trickled down Mark’s spine, but before Mew could give an answer, there was a sudden change in the throbbing psychic background noise as Molzapart blinked into existence ahead. At his side stood Alan and Sparky, visibly relieved to see them.

This is where Mark figures it out. I expect around this part was probably where a lot of readers did, too - if Chalenor wasn't the Preserver, what else would he be? But I didn't entirely want to spoil it if it didn't occur to you here, so Mark doesn't voice what he's realized. I wanted it to be clear to those who did figure it out here (or had theorized on it before, but had your theory pretty definitively confirmed here) that Mark isn't oblivious, though - it's always frustrating when you read and something's been made quite clear to you but even characters who you feel ought to be able to piece it together just don't work it out until way later.

Chaletwo's line there is calling back to this one from chapter 61:

“That doesn’t make any sense!” Chaletwo said heatedly. “Why in the hell would Mew lie about something like that?”

This entire conversation is nearly identical to the draft, bar the surrounding narration - I'd had most of this exchange in my head for a while but not 100% how it all connected together, but I was pretty satisfied with how I got it to flow in the draft.

Molzapart appearing here, on the other hand, was not in the draft; Molzapart wasn't in this chapter at all there, and only got a couple of token mentions in the last chapter. I was essentially sticking to my usual way of mostly pretending Molzapart just didn't exist, being the ridiculous childhood creation that he is. But then, as I was working out exactly what I wanted to do with the edit (more on that later), I realized I could actually use Molzapart's ridiculous powers, and really, although Molzapart is hard to take seriously, he is already well established as a part of the fic and it was kind of glaring that he, the other legendary behind this entire plan, disappeared so completely into irrelevance. Ultimately I'm quite happy with what I ended up doing with him here.

“Chaletwo!” Molzapart said, his voice sharp, as Alan ran over to hug Mark. He hesitated as he looked at May, who didn’t meet his eye, then gave her a quick hug as well. “What’s happening? I’ve stopped growing weaker, and they said they felt some kind of pulse. Was that it? And what’s…” He trailed off, staring at Mewtwo². “Oh, no. Is that the power we’re feeling? Please tell me it wasn’t out.”

Boundaries, Alan. (To be fair, he's just happy to see her still alive, but still.)

What happened on their end was basically that Alan and Sparky felt the shockwave (like probably everyone did), wondered if this had to do with the War, and sent out Molzapart. (Now that I think about it, there's a plot hole here: Alan technically never actually had Molzapart. He was stored on Mark's PC; in chapter 42 he made a physical anchor to Alan's brain, but they didn't actually do a trade of any kind that'd let Alan send Molzapart out. Will have to fix this in the next revision.) Molzapart felt there was no drain anymore, and they were there wondering if it meant they'd succeeded. Then they start feeling this growing psychic signal, don't know quite what it means (remember, none of them have ever been around Mewtwo²), debate about what to do for a bit - should they check on this or just hide? - until eventually they brace themselves and decide to try to teleport to the signal - and see Chaletwo and Mark and May before they properly notice Mewtwo².

(Again, I wish I'd done more to remind you Mewtwo² is actually still there struggling and hasn't just conveniently disappeared into the background.)

Chaletwo didn’t answer. He stood still, arms shaking, fingers clenched together.

Chaletwo is just there having a heroic BSOD. Literally everything Mew told him is somehow a lie, he's going to die and can't stop it, and here's Molzapart expecting him to explain all this. He can't tell him it's over and they're all going to die; that'd make it real.

“It was out,” May said, her voice hoarse. “Mew said it’s resisting but it can’t hold out for long. It…” She swallowed. “It killed Rick and destroyed its ball.”

“Then how do we stop it?” Molzapart hissed.

“It can’t be stopped,” Mew said, without looking at Molzapart. “There’s nothing we can do.”

Molzapart stared at him. “There has to be a way!” he said. “We can’t fight power like that, but what about…”

He trailed off suddenly, turning wide-eyed towards Mewtwo² as the clone began to stir. There was a strange disruption in the energy surrounding it, a sudden sensation of stinging heat, as it slowly pushed itself upright, strangely rigid and tense, stared at Mew, and stretched out its arm.

“I’m sorry,” Mew said again, closing his eyes.

Mew really is very sorry for everything he screwed up... but also, this is the moment he's been waiting for, and he's so ready to finally just go and see what's beyond. (Maybe Chalenor. But if not, at least Mew'll no longer have to keep living forever with all this constant barely-repressed guilt and despair hanging over him. Ironically, Mew has ended up feeling pretty much exactly the same way Chalenor did, before the last War, when Mew so ardently refused to accept that very idea.)

And then, all of a sudden, an orb of dark energy smashed into Mewtwo², sending it flying back. It took a few limp tumbles on the ground, then went rigid again, floating into the air as a new protective sphere formed around it. Mark looked wildly towards where the attack had come from, expecting another legendary somehow, only to see Mitch sprinting in their direction, already forming another shadowy orb between his hands.

When I originally envisioned Mitch joining the fray here in probably 2005, he sort of calmly walked towards them as the dust cleared, cape billowing, eyes glowing in some unnatural color. The NaNo draft added a bit of urgency, because come on, this is the middle of a fight, but still tried to pretty much keep to that original image:

All of a sudden, an orb of dark energy smashed into Mewtwo², sending it flying into a half-collapsed wall of the Gym. Mark looked wildly towards where it came from, expecting another legendary somehow, only to see Mitch walking hasty steps in their direction, hands outstretched in front of him, his eyes a startling bright teal color that he was quite sure was not how they’d been colored before.

But it was way better if he was running and desperate and not like he's trying to make a dramatic entrance, and with that, I thought it'd be fun if Mark doesn't properly get a look at his eyes and realize this isn't Mitch until a bit later.

Mark had no chance to even try to wrap his brain around what was going on before Mitch leapt into the air, unnaturally high, and threw another Shadow Ball at Mewtwo². It dissipated as it hit the barrier, only for Mewtwo² to drunkenly swing its arm downwards, sending Mitch hurtling towards the ground. He vanished suddenly inches above the dirt, reappeared in the air behind Mewtwo² and crashed into the barrier, clawing madly at it with his fingers as tendrils of darkness twirled around his hands, and Mewtwo² jerked away, bringing the barrier with him. Mitch charged back towards it, but froze suddenly in mid-air as Mewtwo² held its arm forward, bringing its trembling fingers together.

I like how Chalenor tries to use his fingers like claws. He's used to being a cat! I should write, like, an extra about Chalenor frantically figuring out how you move a human body around.

He let out a chilling, almost inhuman scream as his head and limbs were twisted back, and Mark felt a horrible certainty that he was about to meet the same fate as Rick – and then, somehow, a burst of dark energy exploded out of him and surged towards Mewtwo², straight through the barrier. A stab of piercing psychic agony rang out as the clone dropped out of the sky, and for a heartstopping moment Mark thought Mitch had actually knocked it unconscious – but its fall came to a gentle stop as it glowed blue, curling up into a ball on the ground and clutching its head. The barrier around it thickened somehow, turning a more opaque white that throbbed like a living thing, and inside, it lay motionless, shivering, breathing rapidly. The thrum of power in the air had barely diminished; it wasn’t defeated, only… recovering?

The move that Chalenor just used there was a kind of Dark-type Mirror Coat-esque thing, dealing double the damage that he just took. Arceus probably designed him with this move so he could take swift revenge on any legendary trying anything against him. I doubt he's ever used it much.

In the draft, I did not establish Mewtwo² was recovering from a particularly heavy hit here; instead, Chalenor just blasted him into a wall and then apparently he just happened not to move while Mew and Chalenor had their reunion.

Mitch stared warily at Mewtwo² from the air for a few seconds, as if making sure it wasn’t standing up again, then landed in an exhausted stumble, panting, blood trickling from his lip. Mark was about to run over to help him, to ask if he was all right and how in the world he’d done that – but then Mitch looked up, his eyes a startling, alien bright teal color that definitely wasn’t what they’d been last time they’d met, and the words died in Mark’s throat.

“Mew?” Mitch said quietly, his voice raw and shaky and unlike himself.

Mew whirled around, his eyes widening. “Chalenor?” he said, trembling, but didn’t wait for an answer before he shot towards Mitch.

Mew just plain instantly recognized the way Chalenor says 'Mew' after a thousand years. Shut up, I don't care. They are friends.

The Gym leader broke into a run. He caught Mew in his arms in midair and pulled him tightly against his chest as he fell to his knees, knuckles white as he embraced the legendary like his life depended on it.

“Mew, I’m so sorry,” Mitch said, his voice choked with sobs. “This is all my fault.”

Yet again, he's thinking of the events of the second-to-last scene of chapter 76. Mew doesn't quite realize this; she's used to Chalenor basically acting like the War is his fault, but obviously this was all her fault, right?

“You were dead,” Mew whispered, still in shock. “I tried to resurrect you but I couldn’t find you – sometimes I could have sworn I felt you there, but with the Dark type I couldn’t—”

“What?” Chaletwo said weakly, staring at the two of them. “What do you mean, he’s…”

“I know,” murmured Mitch, except it wasn’t Mitch. “I tried to move on after I died, but I couldn’t, something was anchoring me there, and I wanted to talk to you, to anyone, but there was nothing I could do.” He shivered violently. “It’s been a thousand years.”

“As an undetectable roaming spirit?” Mew’s voice shook.

“I passed between hosts and tried to communicate, but I wasn’t strong enough, not until…” He trembled again, staring at his hands, Mitch’s hands. “He lent me his body, he didn’t even know why, and now he’ll die with me.”

Mew shook his head fervently. “No, no, you can’t go through that again, I won’t let you, I won’t let you—”

I expected this conversation to probably be a bit confusing at this stage. I wanted to convey that clearly they have a complicated history, and they care a lot about each other, and to give the basic information needed to make sense of what's going on here - Mew tried to resurrect Chalenor after the last War but couldn't because he's a Dark-type, Chalenor has been a ghost trapped in the world ever since, he passed between hosts he couldn't actually communicate with until Mitch just earlier, and you know the rest. But this is extremely quick and sudden and doesn't get into enough depth to truly understand their story at all, and I was okay with that, because Mew and Chalenor are not the emotional focus of this chapter; Mark, Chaletwo and Mewtwo² are. Mew and Chalenor play a part in what happens here, but chapter 76 is for telling their story.

(I hoped that after 76 you might be compelled to reread 75, though, with a better understanding of who they are, what their relationship was like, and exactly why they're both so convinced something is their fault.)

Sparky stepped forward, wary, his brow furrowed. “Mitch?” he said cautiously.

The other Gym leader flinched strangely as he turned; he looked oddly small, somehow, still clutching Mew tightly.

“I’m not him,” he said, quietly, his voice trembling as his eyes flared teal again. “I’m Chalenor, the Destroyer.”

There it was. Mark’s stomach twisted in on itself, his ears ringing as a ripple of wordless, desperate psychic fury passed through his mind.

“No!” Chaletwo screamed, head bowed low, his hands trembling at his sides. “That doesn’t make any sense!”

Mitch – Chalenor – flinched again, squeezing his eyes shut. “I know this is my fault, but please, let me help.”

This time he is talking about the War in general, which he's used to being blamed for and considering himself basically responsible for. (Note the difference in tone, though - this is something he sort of quietly accepts as basically his fault by definition even though it had nothing to do with his choices, whereas the thing he was apologizing to Mew for was obviously something he actually viscerally regretted.)

Chaletwo had pretty much already figured out he was the Destroyer too, hence why he doesn't act terribly surprised here; he's just lashing out at the confirmation of it. Chalenor, of course, has no actual idea what it is that he's mad about.

“It isn’t your fault!” Mew said desperately, wrenching around in his grip. He turned towards Chaletwo, pleading. “Arceus made him to punish the legendaries for their arrogance, eons ago – he doesn’t control it! He never has!”

Alan stared at them. “But… I thought Chalenor was the Preserver?”

Chalenor blinked at him. A wisp of a smile crossed his face as he looked back at Mew, his eyes darkening to a calm, murky blue. “Is that… is that what you told them?”

It bugs me a bit that with the weird bit about how apparently Chalenor somehow knew about Chaletwo's plan through some nebulous psychic means and gave Mitch his vague awareness of it, it's kind of funny that he'd specifically not at any point have picked up on the bit where Chaletwo had no idea who the Destroyer is. I really need to properly hammer out exactly what he's supposed to know and how and why for the next revision. But I just enjoy this a lot more if he's actually learning this for the first time here. (In the NaNo draft, he also learned this for the first time a bit later in the chapter.)

Mew took a deep breath. “I only –”

“No!” Chaletwo’s voice shook with anger. “Why?!”

“You don’t know what it was like,” Mew said, his voice quiet, not meeting Chaletwo’s eye. “For millennia every legendary knew him as the Destroyer. They knew he would drain their power and make them mortal and then watch them tear each other apart. They feared and despised him. You would have too if you’d known.”

“You said… you said he was…!”

“I thought he was dead.” Mew looked away. “All I wanted was to make a world where at least he’d be remembered like I remembered him.”

Chalenor stared down at Mew, holding him tightly. “I’m so sorry,” he murmured again.

“Why are you sorry? It’s my fault.” Mew curled up against his chest, bitter tears forming between his eyelids. “I screwed everything up. I – I k—”

Mew was about to say "I killed you". The way Mew sees it, this was all her fault, because she couldn't accept the original plan, traveled through time despite that Iriesce had warned her against it, made up her rushed little new plan, then had a breakdown at Chalenor when he didn't want to take part in it, and then literally murdered him once the War started.

And then, suddenly, the psychic pressure began to shift yet again with a nauseating sensation of the world being skewed and off-balance, and Mew was cut off abruptly as Chalenor scrambled back to his feet. He released Mew gently in the air, like something precious and fragile, and then took a protective stance in front of him, forming another dark orb between his hands.

I'm fond of this paragraph.

In the rubble, beneath the thick protective shield, Mewtwo² was stirring, crawling to its feet, slowly, jerkily. The shield faded, and Chalenor flung the Shadow Ball with a desperate yell, but again, it simply fizzled away harmlessly in the air as Mewtwo²’s eyes flashed.

As the clone’s body arched upright, its gaze locked onto Chalenor. It swung its arm downwards, and a vertical, ripple-like shockwave passed through the air, tossing Chalenor’s body back like a ragdoll. He landed in a heap, and Mew rushed over to check on him. Mewtwo²’s hand pointed back towards the two of them again, only for its body to suddenly jerk back, convulsing strangely.

Mewtwo² is trying so hard not to murder them.

“I don’t know if I can defeat him,” Chalenor said as he crawled back to his feet, his voice hoarse. “But if I can, it should end for now, shouldn’t it?”

Mew stared at him. “I don’t know,” he said. “He won’t become the Creator unless we’re all dead, but…”

“I have to try,” Chalenor said. He wiped blood from the corner of his mouth as he pushed himself to his feet, just in time to form a translucent white shield in front of them as Mewtwo² stood rigid again and fired a clumsy psychic blast that smashed the barrier apart and brought him back to his knees.

“But what if you die again?” Mew said urgently, pleading.

Chalenor paused, watching Mewtwo² carefully as it clutched its head, eyes shut, a protective sphere flickering in and out of existence around it. “Wasn’t that what I wanted in the first place?”

Mewtwo² experimenting with taking down his shield!

“But – what if you can’t move on, like last time?” Mew’s voice was desperate. “Another thousand years as a Dark-type ghost? I can’t let you do that to yourself!”

Chalenor hurled another Shadow Ball as Mewtwo²’s barrier flickered off, but the clone raised its hand again, and this time the attack swung around and smashed back towards Mew. Chalenor leapt into the way, producing a shield that scattered much of the blast into dark tendrils of energy that hit him instead. He shuddered, sucking in a breath before he jumped into the air again, sending a pulse of darkness towards Mewtwo² and then shooting higher up, the clone following. The two circled each other in the air, spiralling upwards, firing attacks, darting aside, putting up shields. Mew stared up at their battle, quivering.

I was really enjoying writing the way that they spend this whole battle just constantly worrying about and trying to protect each other.

This brief exchange is another bit that's intentionally probably a bit confusing the first time around.

“It’s me, isn’t it?” Chaletwo said suddenly, his voice flat. Mew turned towards him, eyes wide.

“It’s me. I’m the anchor.” His voice began to tremble, a furious psychic cocktail of rage and confusion and terror spilling out of him in waves. “You transferred the essence from his eye into me, and it tethered his soul to me, and that’s why he couldn’t move on. That’s why the War is still happening. It’s me! You did this! Goddamn it!”

A strange pain passed across Mew’s face; then he averted his eyes, turning back towards the fight raging above.

“You knew?” A fresh wave of desperate, confused psychic anger lashed across Mark’s mind. “You knew all along?”

“I suspected,” Mew said quietly, his voice bitter. “I didn’t know he was trapped here, or I would’ve…” He clenched his paws, staring. “But when I felt my power was being drained again, I thought it might have to do with you. I hoped I was wrong. I’d seen the effect Chalenor’s skull had where I buried it, near Sailance; perhaps it would have done it regardless.”

Sailance. Mark froze. The Pokémon. The lack of Pokémon in northwest Ouen.

And there's the reason for that established. In this version, the lack of Pokémon around Sailance isn't set up like it's terribly important or a big mystery, unlike the IALCOTN which made a big deal out of it with the Effect (an actual power-drainage phenomenon affecting normal Pokémon in the vicinity). It's a complete side note to everything, but I'm probably keeping it in the next revision, as this innocuous, nameless thing where Pokémon just don't seem to want to live there, if only because I like Mark growing up not seeing a lot of Pokémon at all, and the little parallel between the opening lines of chapter one, where Mark laments the lack of birdsong, and the closing lines of chapter 77 where the phenomenon is gone. Making it into a big mystery in the IALCOTN was a mistake that didn't really contribute anything, I think.

Chaletwo being the thing that was keeping Chalenor from passing on into the afterlife was actually a very lategame realization: I'm pretty sure this is what I was referring to in this NaNo Quest Blog post from November 17th as a detail that just finally came together. Prior to this, the reason he was stuck was supposed to be that his skull was still intact, and it was effectively acting kind of like a soul gem, as an extra measure that Arceus took to make sure the War wasn't going anywhere. Chalenor was supposed to have worked this out, and he'd tell Mew this here now that he could finally talk, and in chapter 76 (now 77) Mew (who was meant to still be alive) took them to where he buried the skull so they could destroy it and end the War forever.

It worked, just about, but it was never very exciting, just sort of a vaguely adequate explanation for what happened that I'd managed to hammer together, so once it dawned on me that night that actually it was about Chaletwo, I never looked back. Can you believe that originally Chaletwo was just supposed to live and be basically irrelevant to this chapter aside from learning the truth about Mew and Chalenor? So boring. It was so much better with the cruelty of him actually being the reason the War is still happening, and needing to die in order for the War to ever stop. Delicious! Exactly the tragic irony and Chaletwo suffering that this ending always needed! And, perhaps even better, Mew's very efforts to resurrect Chalenor were actually what ended up trapping him in this worse-than-death state for a thousand years! God, I was so pleased.

During NaNo, though, as I was writing this chapter only like a week after first realizing this, I still hadn't fully worked out how all this should play out within the story, and my first effort at it was a total mess that ended with me not finishing this chapter at all; more on that in the end notes. One thing I will mention here is that in the draft, Mew hadn't figured this out earlier. It was just better if he had, though. More inner conflict! More fresh reasons for Chaletwo to be upset!

“It’s not fair!” Chaletwo yelled. “It’s not fair! I’ve been fighting to stop it!”

“I know,” Mew whispered, looking away. “I couldn’t tell you, not after watching how Chalenor suffered every day of his life. I’m sorry.”

“I was trying!” Chaletwo screamed. “It could have worked! You could have helped! Why didn’t you help?!”

Mew squeezed his eyes shut. Above, the battle raged on, bursts of energy flying between the clashing beings. “It can’t be stopped. It’s no use. I told you that.”

“You didn’t know that! You didn’t even try!” Chaletwo’s rage had taken on an almost physical quality, swimming through the thick background of Mewtwo²’s power. “Earlier, when you came out of the ball, you thought it wasn’t happening! It wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been out! But you just decided it wouldn’t work and made excuses! Like you – like you wanted it to happen!”

Mew stared down at the ground, silent, for a long, long moment.

“I…” he said in a whisper. “I just wanted to see Chalenor again.”

The second time in the chapter that Chaletwo voices his persistent, nagging suspicions that Mew just wanted the War to happen. And he's right! Mew's suppressed this very hard, trying to justify to herself that it just really was impossible, but ultimately this is what it all boiled down to. She felt responsible for killing her best friend, and she just wanted to be able to somehow reunite with him and make it okay, even though this could only happen if a lot of other innocent people died. And so she didn't work to bring it about exactly, but she really wanted it to be impossible to stop, and justified and rationalized that to herself and to Chaletwo for all these years. It really was pretty terrible and selfish of her, and deep, deep down she always knew that.

A desperate, wordless psychic scream emanated from Chaletwo’s mind. Molzapart stared at him, opening his beak as if to say something.

And then Chalenor crashed into the ground with force enough to shake the earth, sliding several feet in the dirt on his back. Mew shot to his side as Mewtwo² descended, paying no mind to Molzapart, who shuffled back to stay out of its way. It pointed its now-steady hand towards Mew and Chalenor –

– and then, suddenly, a green blur knocked it down. Mark stared as a shape – Scyther – slashed madly at Mewtwo², severing one of the two pipes connecting the base of its neck to the back of its head. A stab of pain pierced through Mark’s mind before the clone thrust Scyther away with a psychic blast, the two ends of the neck pipe already knitting back together as the flesh mended itself. Scyther rose again, swaying, hurtling back towards it with a desperate battle cry, and Mewtwo² lifted a hand – which trembled before it fired a small, clumsy burst of purple light that barely slowed him down. Scyther lunged at its throat, but Mewtwo² flexed its fingers and produced a protective barrier that stopped him, its blank eyes staring at the mantis’s form as he tore into the barrier with a Fury Cutter, to no avail. Slowly, the clone turned away from him, its eyes fixing back on where Chalenor was lying.

Scyther blinked at Mewtwo² and then glanced at Mark.

Mark’s heart thumped. He knew what Scyther was thinking. Mewtwo² could have obliterated him with a thought, and yet it hadn’t. Scyther had tried to kill it, and still it hadn’t. For that matter, it could have attacked any one of them, and yet it was still focused blindly on Chalenor, attacking only him.

“Guys,” he said, feeling his pulse in his throat, lightheaded in the sea of psychic static. He reached for his Pokéballs. “It’s still resisting. It’s not attacking Scyther.”

Scyther to the rescue! Both in the Watsonian and Doylist sense of the word.

In the draft, May (ahaha) just suddenly realized at something like this stage of the fight that hey, Mewtwo²'s technically only being compelled to kill legendaries, right? So they can totally send out their regular Pokémon to help Chalenor fight Mewtwo² and they won't be in any danger.

This wouldn't stop bugging me, though. Surely no decent person would choose to risk their Pokémon's lives on a hunch that Mewtwo² won't actually harm them even if they're actively attacking. This is not remotely obvious, and given surely a bunch of regular Pokémon couldn't hurt this nigh-invincible thing already making short work of the Destroyer himself to any appreciable degree, it'd just clearly not be a trade-off that'd even cross their minds. Nobody would expect their Pokémon to run in at a very real risk to their lives for whatever tiny contribution they could make, and the Pokémon would hardly volunteer for it under those circumstances.

...but then Chaletwo really wanted to just leave without Scyther in chapter 74, and I realized actually, using Scyther here would be perfect. If he got left behind, he could appear here out of nowhere halfway through the fight, on his own, without talking to Mark, without a very clear idea of how powerful Mewtwo² is exactly since he hasn't seen the fight leading up to this, and just make this reckless attempt to kill him. Unlike most Pokémon, Scyther could pretty reasonably assume he had a chance for an instant kill here - if he could take Mewtwo² by surprise and get a good enough slash in to just plain chop his head off, surely this'd be over. And better yet, Scyther has been suicidal for years, so now that he'd see a chance to potentially save the world - the obvious risk wouldn't seem terribly important. Scyther would absolutely be ready to give up his life for this.

(But, in the process, he'd also realize that he doesn't actually want to die anymore - that he's ready to sacrifice himself, but in that moment actually finds himself hoping that he gets out unscathed, because he has healed enough to regain the will to live.)

Obviously, he wouldn't actually succeed, or give up his life - rather, his attempt would serve to demonstrate, without anyone having to choose to stake their Pokémon's lives on wild speculative assumptions, that Mewtwo² really is able to completely restrain himself from seriously harming ordinary, non-legendary Pokémon, even when they're attacking - even when they're trying to kill him.

Mewtwo² fired a Psycho Cut towards Chalenor, and Mew darted in front of him, squeezing his eyes shut as a faint, feeble pink bubble formed around him. Chalenor pushed himself partially upright in a lurch, holding his hand forward to create a stronger shield in front of Mew that deflected the attack before he collapsed again. Mewtwo² stared at them, motionless.

Scyther leapt up again, and this time he got a few slashes in before the clone psychically thrust him away and raised its shield again, its wounds easily closing.

“Go!” Mark shouted as four Pokéballs opened in bursts of light. Charizard, Dragonite, Jolteon and Weavile materialized on the ground. “We can… we can help! Be careful!”

He glanced at Charizard and was going to ask him if he was okay to fight now – but before he’d said anything out loud, Charizard nodded. “I’m fine.”

And he kicked off into the air.

This was meant to relate back to the whole chapter 72 conversation they had about how Charizard had been doing a lot of work for Mark without wanting to complain - but it occurred to me after publishing the chapter that this was months ago by this point, so presenting this like a continuation of that now, with Charizard making no actual on-screen appearances in between, is a bit out of left field.

As Mark’s Pokémon surrounded Mewtwo², another burst of white light emerged in front of him. May jerked her hand up to her necklace, but Floatzel was already forming, racing after Weavile with a manic grin.

“Mark’s right,” Spirit said, looking up at May. “The madness only compels it to attack legendary Pokémon, does it not?”

“I…” May pressed her lips together, a trembling hand clutching her Pokéballs. “I don’t…”

“May,” Spirit said, her voice firm. “We will all die if we don’t stop it.”

May bit her lip, glancing over at Floatzel before she gave a slight nod, pulled the remaining balls from her necklace and threw them. Flygon, Butterfree, Mutark and Skarmory came out of their balls ready, Mutark licking herself and transforming within moments. Only Flygon hesitated, trembling as he stared towards Mewtwo².

“Flygon,” May said, fists clenched. “Should I switch you out?”

The dragon took a deep breath and shook his head, then darted after the others.

May, still extremely reluctant to let her Pokémon risk themselves again, even though it isn't even so much for her. She knows Flygon was unsure about staying, and sees him hesitating, and offers to switch - but he insists on trying anyway, and that seals his fate.

Alan and Sparky’s Pokémon joined the fray as well, but Mewtwo² remained inside a protective bubble, shielded from the onslaught of attacks, twitching restlessly. Chalenor had risen to his hands and knees, struggling to recover; Mew hovered by his shoulder, worried.

The psychic noise shifted, and Mark’s stomach twisted in anticipation of Mewtwo² firing off another attack – but then Spirit disappeared and reappeared behind it inside the barrier, locking her teeth around its neck pipes. Again, a surge of pain pulsed outward. The Pokémon gathered around Mewtwo² visibly flinched as it raised an arm and telekinetically tore Spirit away, healing its wounds again. She landed on the ground beside it and was quick to get back to her feet, preparing to pounce again.

Mewtwo²’s arm pointed at her, twitching. Mark’s heart pounded as May clutched the Pokéball in her hand. It shouldn’t attack her, not really, not badly –

– and then, abruptly, Spirit was yanked into the air. Mewtwo² levitated her pendant as it stared at it, eyes rolling, oblivious to Spirit’s struggling form suspended from it by the neck. May threw her arm forward, pressing the button to recall her.

This is where Mewtwo² learns soul gems are a thing. He sees this necklace, and this force inside him is telling him furiously that there's a legendary in there and he must destroy it.

The beam of the Pokéball passed through the barrier and began to absorb her – but as the glow tried to take the necklace with her, it couldn’t. The chain trembled in the air, flickering red, the Ninetales’ amorphous shape still dangling from it.

“Spirit, let it go!” shouted May, her eyes wide, but the Ninetales continued to struggle against the pull, the red glow clawing desperately at the chain. “Spirit! Please! Don’t!”

For a second more, Spirit strained to take the pendant with her. But then, her translucent form was absorbed into the ball, and in Mewtwo²’s psychic grip, the necklace and Entei’s striking red soul gems crumbled to dust.

And that's it for Entei.

This was always a bit of the draft that I liked. It wasn't in the chapter plan, but I'm pretty sure I thought it up some time before NaNo. Spirit valiantly trying to hold on to the necklace as she's recalled even when she's being hanged in it was fun, as was Entei's arrogance about the superiority of their plan backfiring (remember, Entei expressly chose to transfer his soul into Spirit's necklace rather than be caught in a Pokéball). But it all became even better after where May's development went, where her Pokémon nearly getting themselves killed now, especially Spirit, is basically her worst nightmare. She actually pleads with her to not do this! That's probably the most May's ever dared to openly express caring about anyone.

One thing that was in the draft but didn't make it in here was that Gyarados was out as this was happening, but as soon as this happened he told Mark to recall him. Mark was surprised he wanted to save Suicune, and:

“I still hate him and everything he stands for,” Gyarados growled. “But I swore I wouldn’t destroy the gems, and I’m not looking for a loophole. Recall me.”

This wasn't a great bit on the whole, but I regret removing it rather than reworking it. As it is, Gyarados hasn't been onscreen since chapter 55 and only barely been brought up in passing, and the basic idea here, of Gyarados truly demonstrating that he really has no intention of letting Suicune's gems be destroyed despite his hatred of him, is something that I think is missing a bit in the final version. I would want to give Gyarados something in the direction of this moment in the next revision.

The clone stood there for a few seconds, breathing rapidly. Slowly, carefully, May placed Spirit’s ball back on her necklace, staring towards the other Pokémon. Coughing, Chalenor rose to his feet, facing Mewtwo² again.

The clone flexed its fingers for a moment; then the barrier around it disappeared as its eyes glowed blue. Immediately, the Pokémon around it sprang into action, led by Floatzel slamming into it with an Aqua Jet. Mewtwo² took the flurry of attacks without flinching, almost comically unaffected, but looked around, shaking its head, concentration faltering, and whatever attack it’d been preparing never landed. Charizard engulfed it in a Flamethrower, and then, without warning, a shockwave threw all the Pokémon back, clearing the area around the clone. Chalenor, leaping into the air, tossed a Shadow Ball at it, and Mewtwo² stumbled back momentarily before wrapping itself in another protective bubble and shooting off into the air after Chalenor, followed by all of the flying Pokémon.

They surrounded Mewtwo² in the air, orbiting it in a circle, but its barrier kept them away whenever they tried to strike. The two legendaries danced around each other, exchanging blows, barriers clashing, firing attacks – but Chalenor’s movements were exhausted, desperate, while the clone fought with the same indifference as ever, barely hurt. “No,” whispered Mew, staring at the fight above, “no no no no no no –”

Although it's been pretty well implied Chalenor's been taking a beating, this is the first time it's really been properly made clear that he's fighting a losing battle. Should probably do more to show this throughout.

“He’s not going to make it,” Molzapart said, his voice tight and fierce. “The thing’s not even tired, and he’s stuck in a useless human body. It’s only a matter of time.” He looked restlessly around before fixing his gaze on Chaletwo. “If ever there was a time for your murder-eyes, it’s now. Why haven’t you obliterated it?”

Chaletwo didn’t respond. Mew shook his head. “He’s too weak. It’s no use.”

Molzapart looked away, then back. “So if you had more power, you could do it?”

Mewtwo² hovered above Chalenor and thrust its fist downward, producing a burst of energy that crushed him against the ground next to them, where he lay motionless. “No!” Mew said, nudging him desperately. “Come on, come on!” Up above, Mewtwo² hung in the air, a shadowed figure wreathed in a combination of orange and blue flames, motionless but for its tail lashing restlessly around.

“I mean it. Could you do it with more power?” Molzapart repeated, looking urgently at Chaletwo. “Because I can do that.”

Chaletwo looked up, slowly.

“Power Drain, remember? I can drain the power of willing subjects, and I could channel it into you. I don’t know how much you’d need, but…” He glanced at Chalenor. “With all the Pokémon here, and him, it might be enough.”

Remember Power Drain? Mentioned in chapter 20, that really bizarre one with Alan retelling Molzapart and Rainteicune? Guess what's back!

I was incredibly tickled when I realized I could use this silly ability I gave my hybrid legendary when I was eleven to make the finale work. It also gives Molzapart an active role in facilitating Chaletwo's self-sacrifice without risking his life at all, which nicely facilitated some guilt for him. I couldn't expect you to still remember this was a thing, of course, but I hoped it'd pretty much pass if I included this brief recap explanation.

Chaletwo stared at him. Somewhere in the raging psychic storm sparked a flash of faint, confused hope.

Mew squeezed his eyes shut as Chalenor stirred on the ground. “You don’t understand,” he said, shaking his head. “With the power that Mewtwo² has now, he can block or redirect anything he pleases. He may be able to ignore your Pokémon’s attacks, but anything that could truly hurt him or stop him, he will instinctively react to. Even at full power, Chaletwo’s eyes would be useless. There is nothing you can do here.”

Mew took a deep breath, looking back towards Molzapart. “And I don’t remember much of the War. But I remember what the madness felt like. Nothing mattered but the legendaries, surviving long enough to destroy them. And…” He trembled at the recollection, his gaze distant. “Any legendary who attacked me, I had to retaliate. That compulsion was stronger than anything. When only Chalenor is fighting him, he can focus on only him. But as soon as you try to attack, he will strike back. If you’re a true threat, he’ll be forced to use everything he has. He’ll kill you where you stand in the attempt.”

Obviously, this is just me trying to establish the mechanics of why the climax has to play out like it does. It feels a bit awkward. I could probably establish some of this earlier to reduce the volume of "all right, here's why things absolutely have to turn out the way they do" infodumping.

“Well, according to you it’s going to kill us all anyway!” Molzapart hissed. “Do you have a better idea?”

Something rippled through the psychic noise. Mark looked up to see Mewtwo² beginning to move again, descending slowly as attacks bombarded its protective bubble, preparing an attack between its hands. Chalenor lay in the dirt, exhausted, looking up in silent resignation; Mew curled up against his chest, face digging into his shirt, closing his eyes.

“I’m sorry, for everything,” Mew said quietly.

“Maybe this time we’ll both die,” Chalenor said, his voice hoarse, smiling faintly. Then, in a murmur, he added, “I’m glad I got to see you again.”

“Me too,” Mew whispered.

Up above, Mewtwo² stared at the two of them, its arms still, shaking with effort as the energy around its hands dissipated, its bulging eyebrows twitching. A psychic wave of horror and nausea spilled out of it for a brief second before it was superseded by a forceful pulse of blind anger. Mewtwo² lifted its arms to clutch its head, then snarled as a ripple of frustration passed through Mark’s mind, then went rigid and started preparing an attack again.

And something about that visceral psychic horror hit Mark like a punch to the gut as he stared at the clone, a sudden stab of sympathy piercing through his fear of it. And with that, a strange, stark sense of clarity came over him.

I don't quite like this paragraph enough, which is a shame. I didn't want to make Mark's proper visceral realization that there's a person in there who desperately doesn't want any of this too blunt and preachy-sounding, but I think this is probably a bit too short and abrupt.

Before he knew it he was moving, running, sprinting towards Mew and Chalenor. He spread his arms in front of them, facing Mewtwo², heart hammering, and stared at the clone.

And Mewtwo² hesitated, staring back at him, eyes rolling in his head.

I don't think I ever saw anyone comment on this, so I'm not sure if people generally noticed, but Mark just switched from calling Mewtwo² 'it' to 'him'. He's spent all this time regarding him as this unsettling monster, but it's just properly sunk in that he isn't.

“Mewtwo²?” Mark said, his voice shaking. The clone’s empty eyes pierced back into his, the psychic force in the air pricking at his brain like a thousand tiny needles. “You’re still fighting back, as hard as you can, aren’t you? You don’t want this. You don’t want to kill anyone else.”

The clone let out a faint whine, curling up in the air, the barrier around him shimmering; then his arm shot outwards again, charging a Shadow Ball.

“Please,” Mark said. His legs were wobbling, but he was frozen in place; he couldn’t have backed off if he’d wanted to. “I’m… I’m so sorry this is happening to you.” He swallowed, tears starting to blur his vision as the clone stared at him, his head twitching from side to side. “You didn’t deserve any of this. I… I wish we could free you, but I don’t know if that’s possible.”

His mouth was dry; it was hard to speak. He wasn’t sure if there was any possible way for this to accomplish anything; how could there be anything he could say that’d be stronger than the madness that’d killed every legendary for thousands upon thousands of years?

But he had to say it anyway. If nothing else, Mewtwo² deserved to hear it.

“I remember I met you in Rick’s Gym, a year ago, and even then you were fighting back, saying you didn’t want this. You never got to have a life of your own, did you? Just… just fighting for whoever held your ball. I’m so sorry.” He blinked rapidly. “We don’t want to hurt you; we just don’t want you to kill everyone. I can see you don’t want that either. I wish we knew how we could help you.”

Mewtwo² released the Shadow Ball with a roar, and Mark’s heart stopped, only for the attack to hit the ground several meters away in a spray of sand and dirt. The clone stared at him, trembling.

Mark is a good.

This was spontaneous in the NaNo draft, and I'm so happy about it. In at least the last chunk of the story Mark's character development has been largely about deepening his sense of empathy and understanding of people having their own issues and problems, and it was just so right for it all to actually come to a culmination in the climax with Mark actually successfully connecting with the half-maddened Mewtwo². Mark saves the world with empathy. This was never the plan, and when I was a teen I would've dismissed it as a cliché that I certainly wasn't going to do in my story, but in the original plan Mark pretty much just played no real part in what happened here, and giving the protagonist an actual moment of being himself here improved it massively. More on the draft version later.

(In my defense, it's not a power-of-friendship kind of thing per se, it's just him literally helping Mewtwo² realize a plan to stop all this by literally just talking to him.)

I'm not 100% happy with all the specifics of Mark's dialogue during all this; I'd tweak it in the next revision. But the general idea of this moment, probably my favorite thing to come out of the NaNo draft.

“Please.” Mark turned around at the sound; Chalenor had pushed himself upright, staring up at Mewtwo². “He’s right. You’re still fighting back, still trying.” He swallowed. “You’re causing destruction that you don’t want and are attacked for it. I… I’m sorry.” He averted his eyes. “Others have tried this before, and it never worked. That’s why I attacked. But you…”

He looked back up, meeting the clone’s eyes, milky white staring into tealish blue.

“You’re stronger than any of them, aren’t you?” Chalenor murmured. “You’ve had a lifetime to learn to resist. If anyone can stop the cycle, it’s you, isn’t it? Another… another anomaly that Arceus didn’t account for. Please, keep trying.”

The other anomaly, of course, being Chalenor's true immortality failing.

Even Chalenor, who definitely slots in with Mark in the empathy category of the spectrum of character powers, was so caught up in his prior knowledge of how these things go that he didn't properly see the potential for Mewtwo² to manage to do what no legendary ever could before and defy the War by his own will. He feels pretty bad realizing this; obviously he can relate pretty hard.

They stared at one another for a few more seconds of tense, electrifying silence. The psychic field intensified to a feverish pitch; Mark’s ears rang, his heart pumping like it was about to explode. Something probed at his mind, fumbling and frantic and shaking.

“I…” said a voice in his head, and he recognized it, faintly, from that day. “Please…”

The clone’s body seized up; the barrier vanished, and a psychic shockwave abruptly thrust the flying Pokémon around him away.

“K-k…” The telepathic voice was strained as Mewtwo²’s body convulsed in the air. Then, a sudden moment of abrupt alertness, his blank eyes staring straight into Mark’s, pleading. “Kill me!”

Then he seized anew, roaring once again, and began to prepare an attack, only for Charizard to tackle him with a Flare Blitz. Mewtwo² swung his arm, and Charizard was slammed into the ground with a heavy thud. Finally, Mark could move again; he ran over to kneel by his starter’s side, stroking his head. Charizard opened an eye. “I’m okay,” he said, weakly, and Mark tried to smile before recalling him back to the safety of his ball.

“I…” came the psychic voice again as Mewtwo² formed a new barrier around himself. He stared at Mark as abruptly, the barrier disappeared. One, two, three seconds, he convulsed in the air, fingers twitching; Scyther dived in towards him again, raising his scythe, but the instant he swung it and it made contact with Mewtwo²’s flesh, the clone flung out his hand and sent him flying. He remained unshielded for a second more; then a forceful wave of rage exploded through the psychic field, and the barrier was up again, his wounds healing. Mark stared up at him, his heart hammering. Mewtwo² could deliberately take down the barrier. That was what he was showing them. He could stop defending himself, if only for a few moments. So…?

“Do it!” the voice shouted, and then, with a roar, Mewtwo² flared up with a purple aura and smashed into the other flying Pokémon, firing off clumsy Psycho Cuts.

Thanks to the War, Mewtwo² is unable to do anything directly self-destructive - he can't just kill himself and make a soul gem, the way Suicune did (he actually did do this in the draft; more on that in a bit). But he realizes that if he's already dying, he probably could - making a soul gem in that situation is self-preservation. And he can drop the defensive barrier, with considerable effort, for a few seconds - just long enough for someone to use a single fatal attack, like what they were talking about earlier. Mewtwo² is clever and he wants to live. He has no time or ability to explain all this, though, and just has to trust that they'll do it anyway. (Which they do, fully assuming that they're killing him for real, but thinking there's no better way to help.)

Mark making the effort to connect with him was pivotal in him actually coming up with this plan, though. He couldn't have pulled this off without communicating about exactly what needed to happen here, but he's spent his entire life being treated like an object or a mindless monster, and they were no different, all the way until Mark actually ran up and started talking to him and reaching out and saying they wished they could help.

Molzapart looked at Chaletwo with a maniacal fervor. “That’s it! I Power Drain and you get it when the shield goes down!”

“He’s still going to counterattack, isn’t he?” Chaletwo asked slowly, his telepathic voice dull. He was still standing, head bowed, not turning. “He can let an attack through but he still hit Scyther back.”

Mew nodded silently. Molzapart’s eyes widened. “But…”

In the air, Sparky’s Swellow, Charlie and May’s Flygon danced around Mewtwo², keeping him occupied, dodging carelessly thrown but increasingly forceful attacks.

Naked fear trembled in the air around Chaletwo as Molzapart stared at him, silent. “It’s not fair,” he murmured, wiping his closed eyes with his hand, “it’s not fair, it’s not fair!”

Mew hovered closer, but Chaletwo swung his hand, flinging Mew back; Chalenor caught him, cradling him protectively in his arms.

“You lied to me! All you did was lie to me, for him! All I ever was was a stupid mistake, for him!”

Mew shook his head, eyes squeezed shut. “That’s not true.”

“Yes, it is!” Chaletwo shouted. His fists trembled as tears streamed from his eyes; his voice grew quiet. “But that doesn’t matter, does it? Of course you cared about him more than anybody else. I always knew that.” The psychic anger around him was thickening, congealing into heavy despair. “I need to die anyway, right? I need to die so he can move on and the War can stop. That was always how it was going to end, wasn’t it? Now or in a thousand years.” He took a shaking breath. “I wanted to save the world, didn’t I?” Another swirl of terrified fury lashed through the air. “It’s not fair!”

Mew pulled himself from Chalenor’s grip and floated cautiously towards Chaletwo again. “Chaletwo, I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I was selfish. All I could do was forget and pretend. I was never… All this was my fault.” He shook his head, his voice trembling. “I could never stop seeing my mistake in you, but even despite that, you grew to be a better Preserver than I ever was.”

Mew wrapped his tiny paws around Chaletwo’s torso, eyes filled with tears. Chaletwo stared down at Mew for a moment, then slowly, slowly wrapped his arms around him and hugged him in return, a confused flurry of emotions radiating from his mind.

I love Chaletwo a lot and his little despairing speech there is one of my favorite moments of this chapter. This character who's spent this entire story trying to avoid dying realizes that he's not only going to, he has to. The War literally can only stop happening if he dies. It's cruel and unfair and he does not go gentle into that good night. He's terrified and angry and he hates this. (Characters desperately, desperately not wanting to die when they realize that they have to anyway, and going to their deaths kicking and screaming, may be one of my absolute favorite things in fiction.)

He's basically right about Mew, and she admits it. She's spent a thousand years consumed in selfish, toxic defense mechanisms and denial. Chalenor was someone she'd truly grown to care for, for better or worse, but in Chaletwo she just saw the fact she killed Chalenor and couldn't bring him back staring at her, and although it wasn't as if she didn't care about him (it really isn't true that it was all he ever was to her), she just never quite managed to see past that. She was never a great Preserver; she wasn't very naturally empathetic or great at doing the right thing or making sacrifices for the greater good, even if those were qualities that she was able to admire in Chalenor, and realize she was lacking for. But here's Chaletwo, doing the right thing, giving his life to do it, in spite of how desperately he wishes he could just run away and live. He really is a far better Preserver than Mew ever managed to be, and Mew means every word of that.

She genuinely is incredibly sorry, though. She knows she's selfish and weak and bad and the way she lied to him about everything was awful and he deserved better and in general everything bad that's happened since a thousand years ago is her fault because she screwed up everything. Mew is probably the most self-loathing character in this entire story... which is saying something. I may enjoy self-loathing just a little bit. I will be talking a loooooot about Mew's massive pile of issues and her very bad coping mechanisms and her horribly unhealthy inferiority complex especially in relation to Chalenor in the chapter 76 commentary.

A stab of urgency cut through the air. Up above, Mewtwo² flung the last of the flying Pokémon away with a pulse of psychic energy and descended slowly towards the ground, staring at Chalenor. Chaletwo looked up, releasing Mew, taking a deep, trembling breath.

With a quick teleport, he was in front of Mark, grabbed his shoulder, teleported him to Molzapart’s side, and then took his place.

“If we both die, it ends forever, doesn’t it?” he said, his voice shaking, looking back at Chalenor. “We’ll… we’ll end it. Right?”

Chalenor nodded, reaching for Chaletwo’s hand. “I think so.”

Chaletwo started to pull away, but then hesitated. Chalenor gripped his bony fingers tightly as Mew floated up to them, settling on Chalenor’s shoulder.

Chaletwo still instinctively kind of resents Chalenor for everything, but that really wasn't Chalenor's fault and he could use some moral support right about now.

“Mew, go! Get out of here!”

“No,” Mew whispered, wrapping his tail around their joined hands. “I’m going with you.”

At last, Mew gets to die.

He also genuinely wants to comfort Chaletwo in this moment and make him feel less alone, though, in whatever way he can in spite of everything. Obviously, Mew can relate pretty easily to how Chaletwo is feeling right now. In hindsight I regret that I ended up specifying Mew is on Chalenor's shoulder - even with the tail entwined with both their hands, this rather favors Chalenor, doesn't it, and that would probably serve as a last little jab at Chaletwo's issues. That isn't actually what Mew wants to do here. In the next revision Mew would hover between them holding both their hands, or something like that.

Chaletwo stared at Mew for a long moment.

Then, abruptly, he turned to face Mewtwo². The Pokémon on the ground were frantically attacking, keeping him convulsing as the remaining Electric-types alternated electric shocks, but with a sweep of his hand, the clone threw them aside yet again and produced a translucent bubble around himself.

“Molzapart, do it!”

“I…” Molzapart stared at Chaletwo, hesitant.

“Do it!” Chaletwo’s voice broke. “Before I change my mind!”

“I’m… I’m sorry,” Molzapart said.

One of my favorite films, District 9, has a "Before I change my mind!" moment, and I love it a lot and it inspired this.

Molzapart feels so bad watching Chaletwo sacrifice his life like this, and having to be complicit in making it happen. He's never really thought much of Chaletwo - see the endless put-downs and bickering literally every time Molzapart was on-screen before this chapter - but goddamn if he isn't saving the world right now, for all of them, and Molzapart doesn't know if he could've done the same in his place - can't know, because he couldn't trade places with him even if he wanted to. He's ashamed of every petty word he ever said to him. But all he manages to say to express all this is "I'm sorry." Better than nothing, I suppose.

He looked down in concentration, and strings of energy shot towards him from all the gathered Pokémon. Chalenor and Mew shivered as the ghostly tendrils sucked out their strength; Floatzel and Weavile collapsed side by side, Floatzel shooting Weavile a grin. Jolteon whined, ears pinned back as he lay down, eyes closed.

Chaletwo trembled like a leaf in the wind, unmoving in the deathly silence that followed. In front of him, Mewtwo² stood on the ground, hunched, still covered by his defensive barrier.

“Mark?” said Chaletwo’s voice suddenly; it was strangely weak, shaking. “Get Molzapart to fix the dragons. Give them a life. Please.”

Mark nodded, frozen. He wanted to say goodbye, say something, but his voice was gone.

Maaaark tell him how brave he is

Chaletwo doesn't trust Molzapart to fix the dragons; he trusts Mark to make him do it. Unlike Molzapart, despite all the disagreements he's had with Mark, Mark's always managed to be basically sympathetic and understanding, even towards stupid, stupid things like him having made three legendary dragons who think of nothing but killing each other and still loving them on some inexplicable level and wanting them to be okay. Really Mark's probably the best friend he has.

Molzapart definitely picks up on the implication, and it makes him feel even worse about this.

A bright beam of power shot from Molzapart’s beak and enveloped Chaletwo in a glowing aura as he took a trembling breath.

Mewtwo² clutched his head, and the barrier was gone.

Chaletwo screamed as he opened his eyes, and brilliant, blinding light shone from his eye sockets, sending shivers of phantom agony down Mark’s spine. The clone jerked where he stood, suddenly rigid, his back arching, eyes rolling back, arms outstretched.

“Thank you,” Chalenor whispered.

That's a thanks to both of them.

A huge orb of dark purple energy formed in front of Mewtwo² and shot towards Chaletwo. The ground shook with deep, shuddering tremors as it exploded, tendrils of darkness whirling around in a dark vortex before dissipating into nothingness.

When the dust settled, there was another shallow crater carved into the earth. Nothing remained of the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer, gone together into the great beyond.

Opposite the crater, Mewtwo²’s body slumped motionless to the ground, its pupilless eyes peacefully closed at last.

Beside it, a single purple gem clattered on the rocks and settled in the dirt.

This ending wasn't meant to be ambiguous, but in hindsight, it's not actually all that obvious that this is a soul gem that Mewtwo² just made. While I was writing this chapter I waffled over whether to include the soul gem in the last line here or just have chapter 77 open with Mark finding it next to Mewtwo²; I think putting it here was definitely the right choice, since otherwise you would've gotten the impression Mewtwo² was dead and then it'd feel like chapter 77 was just sort of cheaply going "Nah, just kidding!"

Hoo boy, the history of all this. As I believe I've mentioned, I think my very first inkling of this - that there'd be something after the War pulse happens - was just to add on the twist that Mewtwo² was out in Rick's gym after all when the pulse happened, and they'd have to have a final epic battle against this ultra-legendary. I think this probably largely happened because I'd spent all this extra time in the ILCOE establishing how Mewtwo² is so tragic and abused, and wanted to do more with him as a result, and at some point I tried to handwave that surely Rick's clones will be safely confined in the gym, which glaringly offered the opportunity for them not to be at all. Rick's demise probably came about alongside this. This was probably around early 2005 or so. I'm pretty sure I was toying with the idea of Mitch coming to help them using his mysterious psychic powers before I realized the whole Chalenor thing, but obviously once I did that became a lot more plausible. Then, of course, I realized the whole thing about Chalenor being the Destroyer, and it took me some time after that before I came up with the skull thing as an actual vaguely workable conclusion to the whole thing.

The 2009 chapter plan for this chapter said: Chapter 75: Mewtwo² happened to be out when the pulse came along and has already blown up the Gym, including Rick. Mark, May and Alan frantically send out three of the Color Dragons, Molzapart and Rainteicune; Mark realizes Gyarados and Spirit were chosen to receive the power of Entei and Suicune in a form in which it couldn’t be absorbed by the Destroyer. They fight fiercely, but Mewtwo² is too powerful, soon taking out the five legendaries, though it takes no notice of Chaletwo and Mew, who are only about as powerful as ordinary Pokémon. They use normal Pokémon too, and the people of the city help, not knowing what else to do. Suddenly, Mitch arrives, possessed by Chalenor; he reunites with Mew and joins the fight, soon outlasting every other Pokémon in the fight. He sacrifices himself to bring Mewtwo² down. The power returns to the legendaries.

I'm surprised in the chapter plan I wrote that Mewtwo² would have already killed Rick by the time they get there, because I'm quite sure I had definitely imagined the bit with Rick trying to order Mewtwo² to kill May and then meeting his own unpleasant end pretty much from the start, and I mean, come on, why wouldn't I take the opportunity to have them actually see Rick again. Maybe at the time I wrote the chapter plan I'd started to feel like my teen imaginings of it were too edgy and had some quick thing of figuring maybe I should just not show it at all.

By this point I think I'd been thinking for quite a while that in order to be able to take down Mewtwo², they'd have to use some of the legendaries. I hadn't written the Color Dragons in at all yet, so I casually threw in that they'd use three of the Color Dragons - plus Molzapart and Rainteicune, who it seems despite my embarrassment I figured should belong in the finale. I think it was not that long before this plan that I figured out the Chosen were actually chosen as a way to foil the War - but I had no plans to have Entei actually tell them this in chapter 51, so instead Mark would just have a random epiphany here and figure it out. Definitely glad I did not do that. Meanwhile, the planned ending of the chapter there was just Chalenor sacrificing himself to kill the maddened Mewtwo². (Tragically.)

By the time of the NaNo draft, I think I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do with this. Them trying to have the weakened legendaries fight for them just seemed like a real dick move: Mewtwo² is ridiculously powerful and also strongly motivated to go all out to tear any legendaries attacking him apart. Plus, would it even be very exciting to watch some of the random legendaries try to beat him up - something that might be a cool spectacle in animated form but probably wouldn't particularly hold anyone's attention in writing, particularly not my writing that's not all that action-oriented? So I ended up just going with not having them use any legendaries; instead, Chalenor just arrives much earlier, before Mewtwo² actually starts attacking anything besides Rick, and it's mainly him doing the fighting.

I did, however, include random citizens' Pokémon helping in the NaNo draft. It was extremely clumsy and they just kind of stopped existing when convenient, but it was there.

At a certain stage of the battle, though, when Chalenor was getting weak and Mewtwo² had destroyed Entei's soul gems, Mark had an altogether different sort of epiphany:

There was no way to beat it – but was that the only way to begin with?

A psychic wave spread outwards from its body, knocking back the other Pokémon around it; the woman from earlier recalled her Blastoise with a murmur of, “Good work.” The other stray trainers recalled their Pokémon as well: the attack had not been powerful enough to be lethal, only to knock them out, despite the enormous power differential between Mewtwo² and other Pokémon even before he was imbued with the power of all the legendaries as well.

That was when it hit him. Mewtwo² was weakening its attacks. It wasn’t just throwing them around carelessly without bothering to aim unless the target was a legendary; it was systematically keeping it nonlethal when it attacked other Pokémon. He remembered Mew doing something similar, so long ago in this very Gym. It was still fighting back against the madness that was controlling it, even now.

“Everyone stop,” he shouted, wide-eyed. “Mewtwo², please listen to me. We’re trying to stop the thing that’s making you fight. If you could stop letting it affect you, you’d be free.”

The clone turned its empty eyes towards him, in a horrific, slow movement, but that wasn’t important. Mark’s heart thumped. It was listening. It heard him and understood on some level.

Even Mew, Chalenor and Chaletwo stopped to stare. Mewtwo² twitched and trembled, sweating, its arm rising and pointing towards them.

“You don’t have to fight like this,” Mark went on desperately. “Rick and Taylor have been making you fight all your life, haven’t they? This is just one more thing that thinks it can control you into doing its bidding, but you don’t have to. You’re far more powerful now – you have the power of all the legendaries. You can resist it. Please try. I know you don’t want to destroy everything like it wants you to. We’re sorry we attacked you and made you have to defend yourself too.”

This was unplanned. I think it basically came about because in writing the battle I realized that the non-legendaries surviving for any appreciable length of time here didn't really make any sense unless Mewtwo² was managing to resist intelligently enough to intentionally avoid hurting them. And if he was resisting that well... Mark just stepped up to do this. Chalenor and Mew butted in as well, pleading for him to stop. And then:

Mark watched it staring down for a moment; then, its arms reached out to its sides, thready lightning spreading out all around it, and he only barely had time to recognize that he had seen this before until it stopped, and Mewtwo²’s body dropped limply onto the ground.

In front of it, in the rubble, lay a large, dark blue gemstone.

(I'm surprised I changed the gem color from dark blue to purple in the edit. Mewtwo² is blue rather than purple so really blue makes more sense. I can't remember why I did this.)

So Mewtwo² just literally realized, with some coaxing, that he could just not destroy everything. I really liked this thing of Mark stepping up like that and Mewtwo² making a soul gem and getting to live and finally be free - but this just didn't work very well, for several reasons. First of all, if this were possible, it would've been far too easy a loophole. Secondly, it made it kind of inane that Mewtwo² needed Mark to tell him to keep resisting - the ability to make the soul gem had nothing to do with what Mark was telling him, so why couldn't he have thought of this earlier? And lastly, the fact this meant the main action of the chapter ended without anyone having to die at all (besides Entei)... just completely wrecked the structure of things.

Specifically, in the draft, this meant that after Mewtwo² made the soul gem and ended the War, with everything calm and resolved, they all sat down with Mew and Chalenor, and they explained their story, which took up way more page space than I'd anticipated - and then, after that, Chaletwo realized he was the anchor keeping Chalenor there, and started raging at Mew about dying and everything. But... what with the War being over, couldn't Chaletwo (and Chalenor) just live happily for the next thousand years and then give up their lives before the next War starts? Chaletwo still wouldn't be happy about this at all, but there's not exactly going to be much in the way of gripping visceral emotion there. And... if the War was over, shouldn't that mean the Creator/Preserver/Destroyer are true immortals again? Can they even die before the next War happens? Didn't they just kind of miss their chance? Where was the tension in any of this, now that everything was already fixed for the next thousand years?

All in all, I realized quite in the middle of Chaletwo's breakdown that this didn't work, at all. Chaletwo's realization that he was the anchor had to happen way earlier in the chapter, before the resolution. Chaletwo, Chalenor and Mew should all have to die in order to stop Mewtwo², one way or another - otherwise we'd just lose the whole impact. And all this exposition from Mew and Chalenor was massively clunky and way too long - this needed to be flashbacks or something. Buuut it was the final day of NaNo, and I had no time to start the editing process now and figure out how to actually put this together. So I just stopped there and moved on to chapter 76 (now 77). The final line of chapter 75 in the draft is this:

“And it’s going to happen again in a thousand years unless both of us die.” Chaletwo’s voice was breaking into hysterics. “This isn’t fair! I’ve been working to save us all along and this is what I get?”

So, once I got here in editing... I was still mulling over exactly how the end should play out. I'd realized, of course, that Chaletwo/Chalenor/Mew just dying during the fight only for Mark to then be able to step up and talk Mewtwo² down would never work - it'd be incredibly cheap to have people die and then just go "Whoops, turns out that totally didn't need to happen!" So for a while, I thought I'd probably have to get rid of Mark's grand empathy moment and Mewtwo²'s soul gem, as much as I liked them, and just have Chaletwo/Chalenor/Mew need to band together for some kind of suicide attack that'd be sufficient to kill him. I was very sad about this.

But eventually, at some point, in the shower, I realized that all I needed was to arrange things in such a way that all these elements needed to come together. They can't take down Mewtwo² without his cooperation; Mewtwo² can't make the soul gem without their cooperation; Mark facilitates that cooperation. I simply had to set up the details of the rules so that this was how it would work. Alongside all this came an incredibly silly idea that I could use Molzapart's Power Drain, and although I could easily have decided Chalenor was just able to give some of his power to Chaletwo, I just had to do this.

Overall I'm quite happy with how I did end up fitting all this together. Mark got his protagonist moment, Mewtwo² got to have his heroic resistance and his soul gem, Chaletwo got to face the prospect of self-sacrifice kicking and screaming and still do it like a true hero, and Mew and Chalenor got to accompany him into the light together, ending the War forever (hopefully). I'm not entirely pleased with various bits of how I wrote this all out, but the basic idea of the climax would remain more or less the same in the next revision.


Previous chapter --- Next chapter


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

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




262

262


View comments