The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

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

Chapter 76: Chalenor

Chapter 76 was posted on the same day as chapter 75, making it the only chapter ever to be posted simultaneously with another. I decided on this sometime in mid-2015 or so, I believe; as I discussed in the chapter 75 commentary, I'd realized during NaNo 2012 that Mew and Chalenor's story really needed to be told in flashback form instead of through them standing there explaining it after the fact, and although at first I was toying with the idea of interrupting 75 with flashback scenes, I eventually concluded it'd be better off as a separate extra chapter. If I posted 75 first and then a flashback chapter, though, people would inevitably spend the interim pretty confused, with a lot of questions about exactly what happened before the previous War; I figured really, it'd be best if you could all just get those questions answered immediately, even if it was technically a separate chapter, and thus, posting these two chapters together.

The material here wasn't new, though: I had been tinkering with a document named 'chalenor.docx', also known as One-Shot B, for years. (In fact, as I worked on chapter 76, I was working in that document, rather than the QftL one, even after deciding it'd be chapter 76; I copied it over when I was first about to send it off to the betas.) The very first version of One-Shot B was a single scene handwritten into a notebook at the International Mathematical Olympiad in Vietnam in July 2007, after I'd had my final epiphany about the plot (probably specifically the fact that Chalenor was always the Destroyer and everyone knew until Mew decided to lie about it, and they'd planned to try to end the War by dying together), and this scene vividly came into my head. I've still got the notebook. Like One-Shot A, it was originally intended to be some kind of extra posted near the end - at the time I figured they'd get to tell the short version of what happened within chapter 75, and the extra would just be more details for the curious.

As I was working on these chapters together, I seriously mulled over whether I should actually swap them - place this one before the climax proper. Logically, it kind of seemed to make more sense: getting to know these characters before they die would probably fuel more investment in what's going on with them during the climax, wouldn't it? I already spent a lot of time before all this wondering if I would actually be able to make anyone care about Mew and Chalenor in the space of two chapters; surely this'd be the more sensible order in which to go about that? But despite being able to make that argument to myself, I just felt very strongly like it would be better this way around regardless, and ultimately I came down pretty firmly on that side.

There's inherently no narrative tension in this chapter over the identity of the Destroyer - it's well known and a given from the start. So pretty much regardless of how I tweaked the opening, first learning this here wouldn't be much of a reveal - you'd just start reading and oh, huh, the Destroyer casually turns out to be Chalenor, and then no one acts like this is at all interesting. More importantly, though, I felt doing this chapter first would also really mess with the dramatic tension of chapter 75, because you'd no longer be learning this with the characters. Chaletwo would be having this whole intense reaction to something you've just been told in an off-hand manner before this buildup even started.

But even supposing it worked all right as a dramatic irony thing - it just felt deeply, deeply off to write this whole chapter about Mew and Chalenor to get you invested in them and wanting them to reunite, only for the conclusion to be chapter 75, where they reunite briefly while a bunch of other stuff is going on that doesn't have all that much to do with them and then they both die. I just didn't like the story that way around. Preceding chapter 75, chapter 76 would be slow and plodding and its relevance to the main thrust of what we've been building towards not very clear; and as a followup to chapter 76, chapter 75 simply isn't a very good conclusion to Mew and Chalenor's story - or at least I don't think it would've been. The real emotional climax of Mew and Chalenor's story is where it all falls apart, not the reunion.

So ultimately, I just liked it better this way, with chapter 75 as the conclusion to Chaletwo's effort to stop this War, featuring a pile of revelations including that Chalenor is and always has been the Destroyer, that he died and eventually took up residence in Mitch, that Mew spent a thousand years lying about him and the War, and they're each intensely blaming themselves for something that happened back then, and in the end all three of them die; and then, chapter 76 as a self-contained tragedy with a now-foregone conclusion exploring the hows and whys of all that, after you already know how their story ends. After this, you can return to chapter 75 with added insight into what Mew and Chalenor were on about, already knowing where it all leads.

He was dangerous, they said. He could kill with his eyes. He was taking their power bit by bit, slowly but surely, until they were no stronger than mortal Pokémon. One day he would strip them of even their sanity, watch them blindly tear one another apart until only one was left to revive the world. And he was unkillable, unavoidable, inescapable. He was the incarnation of their doom, Death itself in the flesh.

But Mew was curious, and he was a true immortal; he had nothing to fear. Not until a thousand years from now, anyway – and that seemed like an eternity to someone only a few years old.

And so, he headed out to find the Destroyer, despite the other legendaries’ warnings.

Essentially, Mew's original way of dealing with the whole War of the Legends thing is to just completely compartmentalize that away as Some Distant Future, So Far Away It's Not Worth Worrying About, Might As Well Not Be A Thing. Mew is very carefree and playful and in-the-moment by nature, so at the moment this seems very easy. Totally never going to backfire at all, right, it's not like one day it's not going to be so far away anymore or anything.

As it happens, none of the other legendaries in this cycle have Mew's particular ability to blissfully pretend the War is just completely irrelevant to them. Iriesce taught them about how they're largely immortal, but one day all of them will lose control of themselves, slaughter friend and foe alike and then die gruesomely, unless they're the lucky one who has to live through that entire harrowing ordeal and then try to collect themselves enough to restore the world... and they're going to know exactly when it's coming, because they'll be growing steadily weaker and weaker all the way until then. It's a real horror story, and to most of the legendaries it's pretty damn scary. The thought of going and visiting the Destroyer for the heck of it would be kind of like visiting a big ominously ticking bomb that they can feel slowly sucking in their energy like a black hole. The other legendaries don't just hate Chalenor for the hell of it because they're meanies; they're pretty much scared shitless by the idea of him. This tends to be the case, hence why Chalenor doesn't make legendary friends very often.

In hindsight, I wish I'd explored this more. I had a scene where Mew discussed this with Celebi in here at one point, but ended up ditching it to keep the focus just on Mew and Chalenor and their particular story; I think I probably should've kept and improved it.

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Mew had gotten the impression, from the hushed talk of the others, that the Destroyer must leave a path of corruption and horror in his wake – that she could simply follow some dark, sinister aura to find him. But Death was subtler than she’d thought. They had told her he resided in the Black Desert, but it took Mew a few hours of idle searching before she spotted a dark shape lying in the shadow of a rock, curled up in sleep.

They were talking about the thing where even ordinary Pokémon begin to feel uneasy if they're in Chalenor's presence for an extended period of time (the thing that now causes the Pokémonlessness of northwest Ouen). But it's a very subtle effect, not the kind of aura of tangible impending doom that Mew was imagining.

Chalenor isn't always in the Black Desert; he moves around, largely because he doesn't want to expose Pokémon to that kind of unease. But as far as he has a home, it's the Black Desert - largely because there aren't a lot of Pokémon living in it anyway, so it sort of minimizes the effect. (The Scorplack have gotten a lot more numerous in the last thousand years.)

Mew was he in the first scene, but now she. Throughout this chapter, Mew's pronouns alternate between scenes. This resulted in some gymnastics when particular scenes contained sentences I really liked that'd have to be reworded if Mew's pronouns changed; adding in a scene preferably had to mean I added another one too so as not to have to swap the pronouns in all the subsequent scenes. I would say not recommended, but I still just really enjoy this gimmick more than I should. (I got at least one reviewer who was confused enough by this to think they were two different Mew, though. Maybe I should've recapped the legendary pronoun worldbuilding again.)

She descended, hovering warily above the sand. She had expected a more imposing figure; despite the long, angled, jet-black spikes protruding from its body as a warning sign not to come closer, the creature looked almost like it was trying to be inconspicuous. It was a curious sight, and Mew inched closer, cautious.

Abruptly, without opening its eyes, the creature started awake – a sudden change as it jerked its head up, muscles tensing before it sprang up in alarm, crouching into a defensive position. Its closed eyes somehow locked onto her, staring at her through shut eyelids. “Stay away,” the Destroyer hissed, his spikes flaring with a bright green color.

“Are you him?” Mew asked, tilting her head. She hadn’t expected the Destroyer himself to be so jumpy – the most powerful creature in this reality, murderer of every legendary Pokémon since the dawn of time, starting at the slightest of sounds.

“I am Chalenor,” replied the creature, not moving. “What do you want with me?”

Chalenor. Yes, Mew had heard, vaguely, that that was what the Destroyer called himself. His speech was rough, raw, like he didn’t use it often; it was strange, fascinating. Mew idly floated upside-down, considering. “Don’t the others ever come here?”

Chalenor calls himself Chalenor, but the other legendaries pretty much just call him the Destroyer, and that's all Arceus called him. He picked the name Chalenor for himself.

The Destroyer’s closed eyes remained fixed on Mew. “Why would they? I’ll kill them all either way. Why are you here?”

The bright green color of his spikes faded into a more tealish hue. Something was off about his hostility. Mew hadn’t expected the Destroyer to be friendly, but the tension in his stance seemed fearful, almost desperate, and he still hadn’t attacked. The creature shifted uneasily, still keeping a wary closed eye on Mew.

Chalenor is used to mostly being approached by legendaries with hostile intentions, but also, the handful of times that he's managed to form actual attachments with other legendaries, he went on to have to watch them die, and it hurt a lot, and he's still extremely conflicted about forming new bonds - on one level he desperately wishes for it, but on another level he just wants to drive everyone away before he starts to care, and it hasn't quite happened often enough for him to have been able to resolve that conflict for himself.

“Why do you do it?” Mew asked.

The Destroyer chuckled hollowly. “What is it to you, mew?” he asked. “I am the Destroyer. It’s what I do.”

He used no name emphasis; it was a strange mistake, another thing that was off about his speech. Mew tilted her head at him again, and he stiffened. “Are you afraid of me?” she asked slowly.

The Destroyer’s tail rose, defensive again as the teal glow of his spikes brightened in intensity. His claws were flexed, his muscles taut. “Why should I be afraid of you, mew? I can’t die, no matter what you do to me.”

Again, he didn’t use any name emphasis – and all of a sudden, Mew was struck with her first true inkling of the age of the creature before her as it dawned on her that it wasn’t a mistake. He hadn’t just lived a full millennium, like Iriesce, or two, like she would have by the next War; not even three, like the very luckiest of Creators who survived two Wars in a row. He had seen so many millennia, so many incarnations of Mew, that they were simply a species to him.

This was one of the earliest moments to come to me after the chunk that I wrote in the notebook in 2007.

I actually spent a while agonizing over this a bit. I've always capitalized Pokémon names even when they refer to a species, simply because I'm used to seeing them that way so it looks better to me (I'm well aware of the grammatical argument for not capitalizing, though, and agree with it in principle). But here I was with an actual significant nuance involving something that was literally analogous to the usual English way of capitalizing proper nouns but not common ones, and yet thanks to my Pokémon capitalization habits, I couldn't actually show it in the text. I ended up just deciding that hell with it, Mark capitalizes Pokémon species but Mew doesn't, don't examine this too closely.

There's been a Mew in every cycle. The original legendary with the Creator's role was Mew, and if some other legendary wins the War, their first creation is usually to make a new Mew, in honour of the original one (this is why our Mew is the Preserver, and Mew tends to be either the Creator or Preserver, though not always). Hence, Chalenor's seen a lot of them, and for the moment, this Mew is just another one.

Chalenor's speech is intentionally a bit stilted, because he barely ever talks to anyone.

Legendaries have put Chalenor through some real torture trying to kill him before, and he is very afraid of this happening again, but by making it very clear that nothing is actually going to kill him, he hopes it'll deter them from trying. But there's no reason he should be afraid of anything, right? He can't die. (He can't die, and that's exactly why he's afraid.)

Even thinking of that length of time was dizzying and incomprehensible: her entire life thus far, thousands upon thousands of times over. She stared at him as he crouched deeper and started to growl quietly. “I’m not here to fight you,” she said. “Do the others try to fight you?”

The creature looked warily at her for a moment before he relaxed, tentatively, still watching her, and sat down on his haunches. When she didn’t move, he looked down, let out a breath and wrapped his tail around his legs, his spikes fading slowly to a dark blue. “Sometimes,” he said at last. “Sometimes they think they can kill me and stop the War. But they can’t. It’s no use.”

I kind of wish Chalenor wasn't quite so easily swayed to relax completely here; it's a weirdly complete turnaround.

“I only wanted to talk,” she said. “Doesn’t anyone ever talk to you?”

The Destroyer hesitated. “A few times,” he said, quietly. “But they always die, and then I wish they’d never come. You should go.”

Mew watched the shifting blue hues on his spikes in silence for a moment. “You can’t help it, can you?” she asked. “You don’t want to drain our power and cause the War, but it happens anyway.”

He nodded, looking away, his spikes a stark, clear blue.

“Then they shouldn’t hate you,” she said.

Mew wasn't actually entirely clear on this beforehand, but Chalenor's demeanor has made it pretty obvious. In Mew's simple-minded view, where the War is somewhere far in the future and doesn't matter, surely there's no problem and they should be fine if he doesn't mean to. (And I mean, ideally that would be the case. But again, it's not precisely that they hate him so much as that they're terrified of dying, which means they're terrified of him.)

He didn’t answer, still turned away, the blue of his spikes flickering in intensity. She considered doing as he had said, writing this encounter off as a curiosity and going on to explore the rest of the planet. But he was so strange and sad and afraid, this incomprehensibly ancient creature doomed to destroy the world. Even if she left, she knew, she couldn’t simply forget. He’d seep back into her mind, when she curled up to sleep, when she flew over a desert, the flickering colors of his spikes and his shaky speech and the way he averted his closed eyes from her, as if he were terrified of what might happen if he looked at her too long.

The Destroyer.

Chalenor.

She hovered down to his eye level. He shook his head frantically as she approached, rising and shuffling back. “No, no, you should go, you shouldn’t –”

oh no not potential emotional attachment

(All he can think of right now is just Mew dying, inevitably, in a War that he causes. He's so conflicted. If he could actually make a decision once and for all that he's never going to get close to anyone ever again, it'd be a lot easier to just remain hostile and push Mew away, but he can't actually get himself to do that. He's been relatively content for centuries before with legendaries who were sympathetic to him, and he badly wants that again too. But letting himself get attached to this Mew also guarantees him fresh agony and regret in a thousand years' time, which he can't help but see vivid flashforwards to. Chalenor would love to be able to just become numb and stop caring, but unfortunately he can't do that. He is literally made of emotions. Chalenor cannot stop feeling everything. In other words, he is just about the worst possible person to be an immortal destroying the world at regular intervals. Arceus, you really messed up on this one.)

But as she reached her paws out to him, he stopped. She touched the tip of his nose, and he stood still, trembling, as he looked down. “No,” he muttered again, but he didn’t move as she carefully wrapped her paws around his muzzle in a small embrace.

“It’s all right,” she said as hot tears streamed from his closed eyes. “You shouldn’t have to be alone.”

“I’ll kill you,” he said, his voice shaking.

“I know,” she said cheerfully, not letting go. “But that’s a thousand years from now.”

Their first meeting! There's a bunch of dialogue rewrites I want to do here and general tweaking, but I've always been really fond of how Mew just sees Chalenor as this weird curiosity that she wants to check out, only then he's not at all like she expected and he's just so weird and sad and old and that's kind of fascinating. Obviously the thing to do is cheer him up with some exploration and games and fun, right? Right.

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The day went by in a blur. Mew asked him what he liked to do, where he liked to go, but Chalenor said he didn’t do much of anything, so Mew took him to his own favorite places instead. Chalenor knew them all, had been to them before – of course he had, in so many thousands of years – but he didn’t complain; they rolled around in the lush, dew-coated fields of Hoenn, and they raced each other down the slopes of Mt. Silver, and Chalenor tried his best to follow Mew through the maze-like caves of the Acaria Mountains until his spikes caught on the ceiling for the eleventh time and he gave up, apologizing, shrinking back outside, earnestly surprised when Mew followed him back out, laughing, and teleported them to Sunset Beach instead. Chalenor shivered with lingering cold from the snowy mountains; Mew produced a flame to warm him, and they sat together for a while until he eventually stopped shivering, his green spikes slowly fading to a calm bluish-blackness.

I love the image of Chalenor trying to crawl around caves in the Acaria Mountains and just getting stuck on all his ridiculous spikes and giving up. Poor Chalenor, you were not built to have fun. (There was definitely some awkwardness with the rolling arund in the fields too. How much must Chalenor suffer, a kitty who cannot roll.)

“Did you have fun?” Mew asked, tilting his head as Chalenor gazed at the brilliant sunset. In truth, he already wanted to do more, show him more, go on a real adventure somewhere he’d never been before, but he could tell Chalenor didn’t want to go anywhere else at the moment.

Chalenor nodded distantly, another flicker of blue passing across his spikes.

“Should I come find you again tomorrow?”

“I… I don’t know.” Chalenor looked down, silent. Mew wished he could have really felt what was going on in his mind, but to his psychic senses, Chalenor was a dark void, like a murkrow or scorplack or houndour – if he closed his eyes it felt like he wasn’t there at all, unless he listened for his breathing or his heartbeat.

“Then I will,” Mew decided anyway, and Chalenor didn’t object.

Chalenor's still really not sure about this. (And Mew's still not capitalizing Pokémon species.)

I actually like this scene a lot, brief though it is. The little montage of what they do is still cute. I wish I'd done more of that in here.

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At first, Mew was cautious. Maybe Chalenor really didn’t want her to return; he had said no before, and perhaps she had been too pushy, too excited. She flew over the Black Desert, looking for him, and some part of her expected him to be gone, hiding somewhere she wouldn’t find him again.

But no, he hadn’t gone; he was waiting in the same place he’d been the previous day, awake, tense, looking around, and as he spotted her he relaxed visibly. He liked all the places she took him to, all the new areas she hadn’t explored yet. In a couple of places, he commented softly, sharing brief, vague memories from previous times he’d been there. When she asked if he’d had anyone else with him, though, he grew quiet.

It'd be fun to include in some capacity some actual stories of his previous friends! Would be nice to get a sense of how his relationship with them was different.

They met every day after that, traveling to new places, playing little games that Mew came up with on the spot, talking about the world. She listened with fascination every time he shared something from thousands of years ago – the fields that were here before this lava flowed, the island these mountains used to be when the sea was higher. Her mind spun to think of it, how long he’d been quietly observing this ever-changing planet; he’d seen everything, knew everything, watched the eons work their merciless work upon everything that ever had been. The other legendaries seemed dull in comparison, still cautiously coming into their roles, learning the ways of the world – even Iriesce, who had always seemed so impossibly wise when she talked about the era before. Mew was learning things they could never have dreamed of.

And for a while, she simply enjoyed that thrill of discovery and companionship, of having someone who would come with her, teach her things, indulge her wildest curiosities.

At this point, Mew still doesn't really care. If Chalenor hadn't been there the day after their first meeting, she would've been mildly disappointed, but pretty much shrugged and found somebody else to play with. Chalenor is really interesting to Mew, because she's very curious and he tells her all this fascinating stuff about the distant past that nobody else knows, and that's exciting. But he's functioning more or less as an arbitrary playmate that happens to also be a wellspring of cool history facts at this point. Mew is naturally flighty and doesn't really bond or get emotionally invested very easily. (This characterization of Mew is basically inspired by the depiction of Mew in the first and eighth Pokémon movies; in both, Mew is friendly and playful and fun-loving, but isn't all that great at actual empathy.)

Chalenor, by contrast, kind of latches onto anyone who's kind to him. He's not deluded about the nature of Mew's interest at the moment, but he'd be very upset if she stopped coming. He doesn't really see Mew as being flighty or unempathetic - it's not about that for him. He just appreciates having someone who actually enjoys his presence, and kind of enjoys that she thinks he has interesting stuff to say.

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One day, though, he wasn’t in his usual spot in the desert. Mew jolted out of a happy reverie, thinking for a moment that Chalenor must have finally grown tired of him, only to notice him a short distance away, pawing at something in the sand. Mew approached, puzzled; Chalenor started, shuffling back as he looked up, then sagged as he recognized Mew, looking down again.

“What are you doing?” Mew asked, hovering near his head.

By Chalenor’s feet lay a squirming Pokémon – a trapinch, helpless on its back with stubby legs flailing in the air. He gingerly turned it over with his paw, and the trapinch scuttled away across the sand before burying down into it some distance away.

“Just… helping,” he murmured as he watched it disappear.

Mew tilted his head. The Destroyer, helping mortal Pokémon. None of it made any sense. “Why? Do you do that often?”

“Sometimes,” Chalenor said, turning his head away. “I don’t always. Helping one can hurt another. Sometimes there’s nothing I can do that’ll help, not really.”

And that bothered him. Mew stared at him, at the tension in his stance, his downcast gaze. “But mortal Pokémon die so easily,” Mew said. “They hunt one another. Even if you help, it won’t last. Maybe that trapinch dies tomorrow.” And he was so old. Their tiny, fleeting lives had to be mere blips to him, brief flashes of existence gone before he knew it, and yet here he was, helping a trapinch to its feet, simply because he could.

Mew is so baffled by this. What do you mean, you actually care about mortals.

“I know,” he murmured, looking away.

That night, after a day of exploring swamps and jungles and volcanoes, Chalenor spoke out of the blue when Mew was about to go. “Sometimes I don’t help,” he confessed, his voice raw and desperate, not quite looking Mew in the eye, “because I’m afraid. Sometimes I think if I help, it’ll make it harder to know that they’ll die, so I don’t.”

Arceus, you doofus, you accidentally made a hyperempathetic immortal cat who gets sad about mortals dying. You messed up a perfectly good destroyer of worlds is what you did. Look at it, it's got anxiety.

Mew gazed at him in the flickering teal light of his spikes. He thought of all the mortals he met every day, tiny beings with tiny concerns, living their little lives, that he didn’t give a second glance to, because they were mortals, common, unimportant, and before he knew it they’d be gone.

“It’s all right,” Mew said numbly. “You don’t have to help everyone. That doesn’t make you bad.”

...because if it did, then what am I?

Mew could sense the confusion and anxiety and loneliness in Chalenor’s mind even without psychic powers. He stayed, talking to him, about life and mortality and right and wrong, until Chalenor fell asleep, head resting on his paws, his spikes faded to a dull, peaceful black. Mew curled up against his side and lay awake, unable to sleep, thinking of the mortals, of Chalenor, of everything he knew about the Destroyer, and a nagging sense of injustice began to grow in his heart.

Aaaand this is where it starts. Properly seeing Chalenor's extreme unquestioning empathy for mortals makes Mew begin to feel kind of inadequate. Chalenor is so good. And by extension... Mew is not. It would never have even occurred to Mew to help some random Trapinch or get all torn up about mortals dying (dying's just what mortals do!). And then, how can all the other legendaries treat Chalenor like he's evil and terrible, when Chalenor is the one who spends his time trying to get random upside-down Trapinch back on their feet while Mew just senselessly fools around?

This is also where Mew and Chalenor start to have real conversations, not just Mew asking him questions about the past but actually talking in real depth about their thoughts and feelings. It's Chalenor who initiates this, of course, because Mew has probably never experienced real emotional intimacy of any kind and didn't really expect people talking to each other like that about their feelings and beliefs to be a thing, while Chalenor remains made of emotions and craves someone to talk to. And Mew stays and listens and they talk long into the night, and strangely, he finds he just wants to stay with Chalenor and keep having those kinds of conversations, for some reason. (It's called bonding, Mew.)

But for all of what they talked about, Mew could not bring himself to say perhaps the most important thing keeping him awake right now: Mew's not good enough. It never occurred to him to wonder if he was a good person before, but he sure is now. Would Chalenor even like him if he realized?

I'd like to expand this scene and actually go into their conversation from there more, to really show how they actually grow closer. It'd be cute and probably help a lot to drive the point home.

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“I tried to talk to some of the others today,” she said a few weeks later, when she had settled into her usual sleeping spot, tight against Chalenor’s body, and he shivered, his spikes flaring teal.

Obviously, because they are kitties, they sleep in a cuddlepile. I don't make the rules.

“Don’t,” he murmured. “It’ll… it’ll only make it worse.”

“I don’t understand,” Mew said. “They won’t hear it when I tell them you don’t want to cause the War. Iriesce was so angry.”

Chalenor’s body trembled. “She should be angry. I killed everyone she knew.”

“But it’s not the same,” Mew protested. “What’s the use in being angry at you, when you can’t help it? They really killed each other, but they couldn’t help it, and you couldn’t help it either. It was Arceus who made you this way.”

The legendaries know it's not actually about Chalenor wanting to cause the War, per se, but that doesn't really help or change anything, since their aversion to him is driven by fear of what he is - regarding him as basically an evil bogeyman is easier than the idea he's another victim in all this, when their fears are still there and entirely justified and his nature is not going to go away. And Iriesce in particular had to watch everyone die because Chalenor is still there. Hearing her Mew is befriending and hanging out with the thing that made it happen is just wildly upsetting, like your kid coming home excitedly telling you about their new friend, the kid of the person who murdered your whole family, who is a spitting image of their parent.

“Arceus hasn’t been seen in eons,” Chalenor murmured. “All the legendaries he wanted to punish are dead countless times over. It’s still happening because I’m still here.”

Mew sighed. “Why would Arceus make you like that anyway?”

Chalenor looked away. “Arceus woke from thousands of years’ sleep and found the legendary Pokémon had become arrogant and selfish, ruling over the mortals as tyrants. He told them that from now on they’d know weakness and mortality and fear it every day of their lives. But he knew they would never truly change, and the lesson would only need to be taught again to their replacements. So he created a personification of his punishment, someone who could remind them why they were being punished for eons to come, who could never die but could kill them instantly if they tried, that he named the Destroyer. And when he’d done that, his power was exhausted and his soul was shattered, and he fell back into his eternal slumber.”

Beneath the hint of bitterness in Chalenor’s voice, it had the air of a rehearsed story – the same story Iriesce had told Mew, more or less, and the one the Creator before her had taught her, only Chalenor must have heard it from the source, sometime in a past Mew couldn’t even comprehend. “But why was he so sure they would never change? The legendaries after the first War were completely different. We’re not ruling over the mortals as tyrants. Iriesce would never do that.”

This is Mew clarifying that that's what she was asking about to begin with, but the way this plays out bugs me; too as-you-know-Bob. Obviously I want the reader to hear about why Arceus did this, but this just feels very transparent. Chalenor should know she's not actually asking about this story, because of course all the legendaries already know. Today I'd tweak this dialogue to be less awkward, one way or another.

There was a long pause. “He was angry,” Chalenor said, his voice quiet. “At that moment, it felt true to him. I don’t think he meant for me to have a soul, either. But his mind was clouded with rage and grief and agitation, and I came out wrong. His soul shattered and I got one instead.”

Rage and grief and agitation, of course, being pretty decent descriptions for the red, blue and green color factors of Chalenor's spikes respectively. Again, literally made of emotions. (Obviously, this was not actually the original intention behind his color-changing thing, which was just this random thing I came up with in 2004. It blew my mind when I realized it actually meant something. I think I may have been rereading the creation myth that I wrote in 2008 and just had a holy shit moment. Either that or I had it while I was writing that.)

This element where Arceus was just acting in blind anger, taking wildly disproportionate revenge upon the legendaries' untold generations of 'descendants' that he probably wouldn't have if he'd given it a couple of days to cool down, and Chalenor's soul was an accident, came in relatively late, but I think it really kind of brought things together. Literally nobody in this entire tragic series of events was acting according to grand genius plans and carefully considered intentions. Just people and their bad ideas all the way down.

Mew made a small noise of discontent. “It’s not fair,” she said after a moment. “It’s not fair that you make the War happen even though you don’t want to and it’s not fair that they act like it’s all your fault. It’s not fair that you’re the Destroyer. You didn’t want to be. I never asked to be the Preserver either.”

He was silent for a moment. “What is it like?” he asked softly. “Being the Preserver?”

“I don’t know.” Mew thought back, to Iriesce’s first words to her; she’d been shaking, exhausted, drained, her pearlescent feathers streaked with tears and her mind radiating shock and horror and grief, and yet she’d softened as she looked at Mew, her eyes kind and motherly and her voice gentle. It was painful to think of that Iriesce now, when she couldn’t erase the livid, hateful Iriesce from today from her mind. “When I was created she told me I should watch over all life. Find Pokémon in need and help them, even humans. Look out for any greater evil and try to prevent it, if I can.” And she had tried. But between helping mortals, creatures that would die soon anyway, and exploring the wonders and splendors and horrors of a living, breathing, eternal planet…

Chalenor chuckled softly. “That sounds nice,” he murmured.

The basic idea of this was in the 2007 Vietnam notebook (though this scene wasn't; it was in that scene at the time). Obviously, given Chalenor was actually the Destroyer, Mew's lie that he was the Preserver specifically warranted some explanation, especially since it complicated the lie significantly by also lying about Mew's role. And that explanation was... once upon a time, Chalenor wistfully wished he could have been the Preserver, and in Mew's new fantasy reality where he wasn't the Destroyer, she wanted to grant him that wish.

Abruptly, for the first time, she felt ashamed of her ambivalent feelings about her role. Here she was, Mew, an incarnation of the original Creator, and the Destroyer would have made a better Preserver than she did. Everything Iriesce had told her that day, everything she was meant to embody – she’d never truly cared, and somewhere deep down she’d assumed no one did. And that wasn’t true.

(In the back of her mind, it struck her too, as an afterthought, that Iriesce cared. She’d been angry because she cared.)

Perhaps that didn’t mean she was bad. But then again, maybe it did. Maybe she was selfish and uncaring, every bit as conceited and arrogant as the legendaries of old.

“You’d have been a good Preserver,” she muttered. And she wished she was better.

This last bit feels too abrupt.

Slowly, Mew's beginning to put Chalenor on a pedestal. He's so good, and Mew doesn't know how to be as good as him. By all rights Chalenor should be the Preserver - and clearly, the legendaries ought to respect him instead of Mew. From this point on she becomes increasingly preoccupied with how good Chalenor is, how much he has suffered unfairly and how much the others ought to understand - and she begins to value his life and happiness above her own. He's never gotten to be happy, but he should, and that's important, more important than anything.

(Mew no)

-------

“Hey,” Mew said the next morning, pulling Chalenor’s tail playfully. “I want to help. Let’s help someone.”

...But all that said, Mew is also going to try to be better, to be a little closer to living up to him. While making it sound like just one of his silly games, of course.

Chalenor chuckled, shaking himself as he rose. They teleported around between places where he said he’d sometimes found someone in need, and eventually, in the woods of Unova, they helped a deerling find its mother. Mew’s heart pounded in giddy excitement as it squeaked a quick, intimidated thank you, and Chalenor actually smiled as they turned to walk away, along the river running through the forest. This was good. This was rewarding. It might be even better than exploring.

“We’re heroes!” Mew trilled, twirling in the air. A young poliwag flopped helplessly on the rocks by the riverside; Mew teleported it into the water and waved cheerfully as it stared back in wonder.

“I don’t know,” Chalenor said, looking away, but he was still smiling faintly.

“Of course we are. We’re helping.” Mew floated upside-down in front of him. “Isn’t that what you like to do?”

“I suppose,” Chalenor replied. “I never thought of it that way.”

“Then I’m thinking it for you. Heroes!” Mew dived into the river and splashed water in Chalenor’s face. He shook himself as Mew giggled, then leapt after him into the river. They swam, and laughed, and talked, and everything seemed better. Mew could get used to this. Perhaps he could be good, after all.

Mew does genuinely enjoy this. But it's not quite in the same way that Chalenor does, because Mew's instinctive way of thinking is different. What truly excites Mew is mostly the idea of swooping in as the hero and feeling this sense of being good (helpful when Mew feels like he isn't very good at being good). This little hero motif came in quite late, while I was editing 75/76, but I enjoy it a lot. I'd probably do more with it in the next revision.

That's never been what it's about for Chalenor, because he's just naturally empathetic and compassionate and hates to see anyone suffer, but Mew's happy to declare they're both heroes.

-------

She got better at helping. It never quite came to her like she suspected it came to him, but it became instinct to wonder what he would do, and doing it made her happy. More importantly, it made him happy – or, not happy exactly, but it was like he forgot everything for a moment, like the heavy melancholy that hung over him always was lifted for just a bit.

More importantly, though, this makes Chalenor happy! Mew tries her best, and this is a lot of fun for her, but she knows she's kind of faking it, not doing it for the same selfless reasons he is. But that doesn't really matter as long as Chalenor's still enjoying it. Chalenor's the one who's genuinely good, and she's just trying to imitate him. He deserves to be happy, and that's what really matters; the fact she's having fun with this is nice, but secondary.

And years passed, and it had been a long time since Mew had talked to Iriesce. Sometimes she missed her, and then Mew would think of the way she’d lashed out in violent hatred at the mere mention of Chalenor, and she didn’t want to make more eternal memories of that.

Eventually, she did try to broach the topic again, and as Iriesce froze and her gaze went cold, Mew shrank away and realized it would never be the same. It became hard to be around Iriesce as her gaze became intense and suspicious, fearful, distraught, a constant reminder that she hated him and was starting to hate Mew a little bit, too, for not hating him enough.

And eventually Mew realized nothing would ever change, and she let Iriesce go, Iriesce and all the others. It was painful, and it made Chalenor sad, but it had to happen. And as she curled up next to him in the night, and Chalenor asked her in a murmur why she didn’t just let him go instead, she replied, “Because I’d rather have you than any of them.”

For the other legendaries it's more a matter of that they're just intensely uncomfortable with the topic of Chalenor, symbol of their impending doom and all. Mew could've gotten along all right with them if she'd been content to just pretend Chalenor doesn't exist when she's with them, but no, he's become her cause, and they expect her to just politely shut up about how their bogeyman is actually her friend and he's a good person and he's actually a way better person than her, and even if she does shut up about it she can still tell they're uncomfortable just because they know she spends most of her time cheerfully hanging out with the ticking time bomb who's draining their energy to kill them all right now, and it bothers her intensely and makes her want to talk about it, only she knows doing so would only make it worse, and all in all it's just a bad time.

Shutting out everybody significant in your life except for one person is never great, but in this case it's kind of inevitable. Mew really is effectively being made to choose betwen Chalenor and keeping the others comfortable, and she's not just going to abandon her actual best friend for the 'family' who refuse to stop seeing him as inherently evil. She really would rather have him in her life. But I think the way I wrote this out here managed to make it sound more unhealthy than it is; this last paragraph has an almost ominous air. There's plenty of unhealthy in Mew's pedestalization of Chalenor, but this wasn't really supposed to be part of that, so I regret that I presented it this way. The point here storywise is mainly that in the end they only have each other. It'd probably help if the other legendaries were portrayed as more resposible for their falling out with Mew, as opposed to here which is very vague but basically suggests it was entirely down to Mew just deciding to cut them off.

This scene and the previous were the last to be added into this chapter, less than a month before they were posted, and I'm not very satisfied with them in general; they're pretty short and rushed and just don't get in depth enough. We're also about to have a pretty massive timeskip here, which is a bad time to not give the right impression of what goes on in the timeskip. When I wrote this I was keeping it pretty minimalistic and laser-focused around the relevant developments in Mew and Chalenor's story that build up to the main thrust directly, but with a couple of characters who are basically new, I really should have taken a bit more time to stop and smell the roses and develop their characters and interactions more thoroughly. I also think we could do with seeing more of what their daily interactions work out to be like for the sake of showing exactly how Mew's inferiority complex affects them - namely, they still spend most of their time genuinely enjoying themselves and being pretty honest with each other about most things, but Mew still can't ever talk to him about how (she feels that) she's bad and selfish and only pretending to be as good as him.

(Mew just talk to your friend about your issues talking is good I promise)

-------

Mew bounded across the grassy landscape, heart beating furiously in his chest. He hovered nimbly over a hill, then dived into a valley, swerved to the right and ascended to confuse his pursuer. Up into the treetops, down in another direction, and then speeding straight ahead: he must be unpredictable, random. He looked quickly over his shoulder; had he shaken him off?

And then all of a sudden came a black shadow from the other side, crashing into him and throwing him aside. Mew struggled to get away, but a paw had pinned him down before he could escape, and a huge, fanged mouth locked around his body.

“Fine. You win again.”

Chalenor released him gingerly and shook himself, panting. “A thousand years and I sometimes still can’t believe how fast you are.”

A pretty transparent effort to establish where we're at in the timeline, which is not really necessary because they're about to have a conversation about how the War is coming soon. This is an old line and I should've changed it long ago.

He sat down, curling his spiked tail around himself. The sun was setting over the sea in the west; the sky transformed brilliantly from orange to yellow and finally to blue higher up, while purple clouds hovered lazily over the ocean, too small to hide the sun from view. Mew sat down too, wordlessly, to watch it with him.

“It’s going to end soon,” Chalenor said quietly after a while.

Mew nodded; his gut stung at the thought, but he knew showing that would only make it worse. “We always knew it wouldn’t last.”

There was a long silence.

“What do you think happens to the souls of the dead?” Chalenor said after a while, a distant thoughtfulness in his voice.

Mew took a deep breath. “I think they go to somewhere better,” he said. “Don’t worry about me. There will be others who’ll see you for who you are. They’ll probably be better than me.”

“I don’t want to replace you,” Chalenor said softly.

Now that the War is actually getting too close to ignore, Mew has been forced to turn to a different way of looking at it: he's insignificant and unimportant and not good enough anyway, so it's fine that he's going to die, but Chalenor's going to live on and get new, better friends, and so long as he's happy it doesn't matter what happens to Mew. He's basically turned his inferiority complex into a coping mechanism, prioritizing Chalenor to the point where he convinces himself it doesn't really matter if Mew lives or dies. This is definitely very healthy and not going to backfire in any way, nope!

Chalenor has not picked up on this; he just thinks Mew's trying to cheer him up.

Mew winced. “Neither of us wants this,” he said. “But you have to move on. You’re doomed to live forever, truly forever, and I won’t.”

Another old, as-you-know-Bob-ish line that I don't like.

Chalenor was silent for another few seconds. “What if I’m not?”

Mew looked up at him, wary. “What do you mean?”

There was another pause as Chalenor gathered his thoughts. “Every cycle has more legendaries with more power than the last,” he said. “Every War takes a bit more of my power to match theirs. I was weaker during the last War than during any before it, and… my healing didn’t work right. I was hurt when Iriesce killed the last of them, at the end, and it didn’t fully heal until she came to and my power was returning.”

Mew blinked up at him in incomprehension. “It took your true immortality? But –”

“I didn’t understand what it meant then,” Chalenor said. “I don’t think Arceus meant for this to happen when he made me. There were a lot of things he didn’t mean to happen. But I think… this War might make me mortal.”

Mew stared at him, mind racing. “A loophole? But that means…”

“This War could be the last,” Chalenor finished, his voice quiet, trembling. “If I’m in harm’s way.”

Yet another thing that's simply a mistake; Arceus just didn't think that far, and he's no longer around to do anything about it.

As I've mentioned, the next revision would make the War normally by its very nature suppress true immortality, only the Destroyer's normally immune - but after the pulse, Chalenor's just weakened enough that he triggers that the way a normal legendary would.

Chalenor genuinely didn't originally fully realize what this meant - that a wound not healing immediately suggested he was actually mortal - until a while into this cycle when he thought back on it; it had never occurred to him that him becoming mortal was ever a possibility. But he hasn't wanted to bring this up with Mew. It's an ugly thing to want, and Mew's never wanted to talk a lot of specifics about the War (after all, it's irrelevant, right?). Broaching the topic now has been a long time coming.

Mew looked away, quickly, fixing his gaze on the distant sunset instead, his heart thumping. “Ending it,” he whispered. “We could end the War, forever.”

Chalenor turned his head slightly towards him. “So do you think there’s somewhere else?” His voice was an unsteady murmur, his spikes flaring teal. “Somewhere we could meet again?”

Mew nodded, not taking his eyes off the setting sun. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah. There has to be.”

Chalenor was still, silent, undetectable, but in Mew’s peripheral vision, wild, rapid patterns of light flickered across the surface of his spikes, throbbing, restless, pained.

In principle, Chalenor doesn't really want to stop living - he just wants to stop causing the War and outliving everyone he ever cares about, and the only way to do that is to die. An afterlife would truly free him - shed his Destroyer status but let him go on with Mew and just be happy forever. He wants to believe that, so badly. But he's afraid anyway; he can't help it.

Mew said earlier that he thinks souls go somewhere better, but that really was just an effort to make Chalenor feel better about Mew dying. Now that it actually matters, now that Chalenor is going to die too... well, he would also really, really like to believe that. But he doesn't really, and never has. His way of dealing with death was always to just pretend it's not a real relevant thing that's going to happen to him, and then that obviously only Chalenor matters, and so he never actually felt that need to fantasize about an afterlife. Trying to believe it now would just feel like hollow wishful thinking.

“Hey,” Mew said, hovering in front of him. “We’ll end it. Together. We’re heroes, remember?”

Behind those ever-shut eyelids, Chalenor stared at him. “Heroes,” he murmured as he looked away.

“Heroes.” Mew nestled on top of his head, and they watched the sunset in silence. Slowly, slowly, as Mew suppressed the sickening feeling creeping up his lungs, the light of Chalenor’s spikes began to fade into a calm, soft blackness.

Ever since they started going on their help missions Mew likes to talk about how they're heroes, and it makes Chalenor smile - now's a good time for that. They'll be real heroes now, ending the War! Ending the War is good, right? Chalenor's feeling better, even! Ending the War is what good people would want to do, people like Chalenor. This is great. Why does Mew suddenly feel like the world is ending for real

This scene was the scene that I wrote into that notebook in 2007. However, that incarnation of it was quite different. Because it didn't come with any of the previous scenes, it had more awkwardly expository conversation establishing that Chalenor is the Destroyer and everyone knows this and Chalenor has no power to stop it and hates causing all that death and horror. Chalenor actually told Mew that he didn't really care about the other legendaries, only that Mew was going to have to die this time, which, wow, way to be OOC, 2007 Chalenor. Mew was literally the first person ever to treat Chalenor like a person, which was just kind of silly. Then, somehow, Chalenor suggested maybe they should just jump off the cliff together, as if he wouldn't already have tried every apparent way out of this; Mew awkwardly exposited about how they're true immortals and can only die during the War (because Chalenor didn't know this I guess??), and Chalenor suggested well, are you sure, for all you know we could have turned mortal (???). Mew actually asked Chalenor to open his eyes and look at him to test this, and suffered the blinding agony of the Death Stare for a few seconds before Chalenor closed his eyes again and apologized. Then Chalenor idly wished he could have been the Preserver (or the Creator), out of nowhere. Then Mew just suggested that maybe... you can die during the War! And somehow this was just something Chalenor had never thought of before. Yeeeah, 2007 One-Shot B was weird.

This version of their plan also involved Chalenor planning to wait and watch and make sure Mew died first, so that if Mew happened to be the survivor Chalenor could just stay in hiding and not get himself killed - only then, as it was happening, he couldn't actually bring himself to watch Mew die and just banked on him not being the survivor, which he of course turned out to be. All of this went through a lot of iterations and tweaks from there in the years afterwards as I worked out how to get all this to actually make sense. The very core of it - Mew has befriended Chalenor, the Destroyer, and together they plan to both die in the War and reunite in the afterlife, only it all goes terribly wrong - remained the same, but most everything about the specifics changed.

-------

Mew wasn’t sure if she really believed the dead went anywhere at all. But believing it was all she could do.

Every morning, she awoke gipped with icy terror after nightmares of bloody war and catastrophe and Chalenor lying dead among the carnage. She told herself they were going to stop the War, and that was worth it even if there was nothing beyond death, but then she looked at the other legendaries and felt a rush of hatred towards them, them who all despised Chalenor for how he’d been made, and she didn’t want to save their successors. She looked at the innocent Pokémon with their short, mortal lifespans, and some part of her didn’t want to give up her life, his life, for them.

This paragraph was one of the ones I wanted to keep in a scene with Mew being a her, because I just really liked the rhythm of that "her life, his life". Chalenor's life is more important, obviously.

Her life was void either way, she supposed; there was no way out of the War for her, whether it was this one or the next. But Chalenor could live. He was never meant to be mortal at all. Normally the legendaries wouldn’t even attack him. He could live.

And what if the War didn’t end? Was Arceus so easily fooled? Wouldn’t he simply rise from his eternal sleep and make another Destroyer, one who would truly remain immortal?

It ate at her, bit by bit; she tried to smile and pretend to Chalenor that nothing was wrong, because she couldn’t take this away from him, this small measure of true happiness that their plan had given him, but it became harder and harder. She stopped being able to sleep; she would lie awake in the dark and hallucinate rivers of blood and armies of Destroyers and Chalenor’s severed head with gaping, empty eye sockets, and one day she started out of a deranged vision with a wild resolve that she had to know, she must see how it really worked out, no matter what they said about time travel. She closed her eyes and reached a thousand years through time; everything swirled for a moment, and then it was cold and rainy.

Chalenor's doing much better at actually believing in an afterlife than Mew is. After all, he has Mew's support, and Mew says she thinks there is! Sometimes he muses about what they're going to do in the afterlife, and Mew feels like she's sinking into a bottomless pit but she smiles and nods and humours him anyway because this is what he wants, she knows how much he wants this, and she can't ruin it for him or make it about her.

(Mew's issues never quite used to make her feel bad in this way; Chalenor was more important, yeah, but they did fun things together and could talk about anything she wanted to talk about and Chalenor never asked or needed anything from her that she wasn't happy to do. Chalenor rarely asks or needs anything from anyone, and most of the time it was her who suggested things. It's first now that this is starting to cause her real anxiety and distress.)

She opened her eyes, shivering, and saw a strange Pokémon, large and gray and leathery with a long, purple tail. He turned around as she stared at him in confusion – there was something eerily familiar about him, almost as if he were a twisted version of her – and then he said, like he knew her, “Mew? What brings you here?”

“Who are you?” she blurted out, because it was the first thing that occurred to her.

He paused as he looked at her. “It’s me, Mewtwo,” he said. “Is everything all right?”

He must know the Mew of this time, she thought – but that wasn’t important. “The War,” she said urgently, knowing she didn’t have much time; she already felt her power diminishing, trying to draw her back to the past. “Is the War gone?”

“The War? You said it was drawing closer,” he said warily, and she wanted to scream. “Mew, we were talking about this only a month ago.”

“What happened?” she said, frantic. “I… I can’t remember. What happened in the last War?”

“You were the victor,” he said, hesitantly, and that was all he said, like it had just been an ordinary War and she had…

“Chalenor,” she said urgently, pleading, as if he could change the truth if he took pity on her. “Where’s Chalenor?”

He hesitated. “Chalenor is dead,” he said. “You said he died in the War. Why don’t you remember? Are you all right?”

She stared at him as she tried to comprehend what had happened. They had failed. The War wasn’t gone. And… he was dead, while she lived on, a true immortal, for a thousand more years.

“No,” she said, shaking her head, looking wildly around. “No, no, everything is wrong –”

The fact in this outcome Chalenor dies and she lives is even worse than both of them dying. It's backwards.

“I’m sorry,” the other said, as if it meant anything.

“This can’t happen, it can’t.” Her voice shook. She felt her power dwindling and knew she couldn’t stay for long. “We have to fix it. Chalenor – Chalenor has to live, and –”

And, she realized in a rush of wild hope, she was going to win the War. She would live. If they just canceled the plan, they’d have another thousand years together, and they wouldn’t have to worry about the War again for a long, long time –

Again, Mew is very able to regard something a thousand years in the future as basically not happening.

But of course, this was only one possible future, and now that she knew it, had been changed by the knowledge of it, there was no guarantee of the outcome anymore. What was this future? What had she done in this past? What if a change meant she wouldn’t win?

She shook her head again. “No, we – we need to escape,” she said, “insurance – I need insurance.” And suddenly it dawned on her that she was standing in front of a new legendary Pokémon, one she hadn’t recognized, one nobody in her time would. What if…?

“What?” said the other in confusion, but she had no time to explain; she drew upon all of her remaining strength as the Preserver and formed a duplicate of the strange Pokémon in front of her, and she managed only to grab tightly on to it before she couldn’t hold the anchor anymore and was whisked back in time.

And that's the other end of the Mewtwo conversation that he described in chapter 61. The fact I didn't write this until after chapter 61 does mean that the way Mewtwo described it there was probably not the most natural possible way to do so - for example, he didn't mention that Mew was asking about what happened in the last War, which should've been a pretty big hint that this was Mew from the past.

The opening bit of this scene is one of my favorite bits of the chapter, though - the way Mew just slowly unravels at the thought of this plan, but stays silent out of this misguided desire to keep Chalenor happy no matter what. (Please just actually talk to your friend, Mew.)

-------

“Chalenor,” he said, “Chalenor, wake up, we have to change the plan –”

“What?” said Chalenor, his black spikes flickering slowly to life as he raised his head, drowsy. “Why are you wet?”

“I went to the future. You were dead, and I’d won the War, but it was still happening – the plan fails, it’s all going to go wrong – but then I realized that if I can just win the War and you stay out of the way, then…”

“What?” Chalenor hesitated, his spikes brightening, blue and teal. “I… but what if you don’t win?”

“I figured it out,” Mew went on eagerly, heart thumping. “I took the body of a future legendary that the others don’t know and have no reason to attack – if I’m killed, you can resurrect me in that body before I disappear. An immortal body! And we can find another one in the future before the next War. We can both – we can both live on forever – we don’t have to…”

I'm not all that sure this would've actually worked; it seems a bit too easy. But the main point is just that it sounds basically credible in the moment.

“But…” Chalenor stared at him for a long moment. “I’m not sure I want that,” he murmured.

“What do you mean? We’ll both live!”

Chalenor shuddered, looking away. “I… I don’t think I want to live on forever.”

Mew blinked. “But it’s still going to happen even if you die!” he said. “It doesn’t work – the plan doesn’t work! The War keeps happening! You dying won’t accomplish anything!”

“I…”

Chalenor stared at the ground, his spikes roiling with an intense, turbulent blue. Slowly, hesitantly, he looked up. “I’m not sure I really want to accomplish anything.”

His voice was quiet, shaking; Mew stared at him in incomprehension.

“If I’m dead, it’s not me doing it anymore. That’s all I want.” He let out a trembling breath. “I’m not a hero. I’m a coward. I just don’t want to be the Destroyer. I don’t want to have to see all that suffering, over and over and over again, and know that I made it happen. That’s all. That’s why I wanted to do this.”

Chalenor's never really felt like a hero, and although he is resolutely compassionate and empathetic, he's not really the perfect incarnation of selfless goodness that Mew feels like he is. The idea of there never being a War again is nice, but this isn't ultimately about a noble self-sacrifice on his part. He just wants to finally escape from the reality he has to live with. He hasn't really wanted to tell Mew this either, though, because Mew so likes the idea of them being heroes saving everyone.

(guys talk to each other about your issues)

He looked away again, the light of his spikes brightening, flickering. Mew stared at him, his lungs burning with creeping despair and anger and terror. “Don’t you see?” he pleaded as his ears rang with a strange white noise. “We can live.”

Chalenor shook his head, slowly. “While all the others die around us? It’s torture to watch, every time, and it’ll be worse when one of them is you. I should know. I’m sorry, Mew, I’m so sorry.”

Desperate tears began to burst from the corners of Mew’s eyes. “But…”

“You can live,” Chalenor said, his voice softening. “Like in the future you saw. You said you won the War. Please, live and be happy for another thousand years – maybe you can come up with a way to survive the next too.”

“No!”

“Thank you for everything,” Chalenor went on in a murmur. “These were the happiest thousand years I’ve ever had. But I just… I just want it to end. Forget about me. Please.”

Chalenor can't quite imagine how much Mew is preoccupied with his survival. As far as he's concerned, everyone'd probably be better off without him; he's enormously grateful for Mew's friendship, but the idea Mew doesn't want to carry on without him is just kind of unthinkable to him. (He wouldn't have proposed this so casually if he'd known.)

“No!” Mew yelled, tears streaming down his cheeks. “You can’t just die!”

“Mew, I…”

“Souls don’t go anywhere!” Mew’s voice broke into desperate sobs. “They don’t go anywhere! They just fade away and disappear!”

Chalenor backed away, shaking his head as Mew closed in on him, his spikes bright teal. “We don’t know,” he whispered. “We don’t know that.”

It hurts a lot for Chalenor to hear Mew doesn't actually believe this at all. He needs to believe in an afterlife. This is all weird and upsetting and can't they please just rewind and go back to the way things were before, yesterday, when everything was fine - (everything wasn't fine, but Mew wasn't telling you that, because TALK TO HIM)

“We have a new plan now!”

“Mew, no –”

“We have a new plan! It will work! All you have to do is…”

Suddenly Chalenor’s spikes flared with a piercing yellow, and with a desperate roar, he smashed his tail into the limp legendary body lying beside Mew. Blood spurted from where one of his tail spikes pierced into its chest, into its heart, ruining it, destroying it –

And that's why Mewtwo's body has been stabbed in the chest in the prologue. I have since been informed that "spurting" implies more blood than I meant to. It's just the kind of splatter you'd get from the impact of a messy stab with a spike that's not that sharp.

“There,” Chalenor said, a manic, pleading desperation in his voice, raising his tail again, “what if we can’t use this body anymore? Let’s go back to the old plan, Mew, please, please let’s go back to the plan –”

No!” Chalenor lowered his tail, startled, as Mew’s vision swam in a delirious combination of horror and rage and suffocating fear, he was going to die he was going to die no no NO –

This one is deliberately ambiguous with the "he was going to die". Mew's fear of his own death that he's only managed to suppress with the thought of Chalenor living just kind of merges together with it as everything crumbles.

“Mew?” Chalenor took a trembling step closer, his spikes bright teal again. “I’m sorry –”

A shrill, hysterical screech sounded somewhere from the depths of a void of hot, indescribable terror. Before Mew knew what he was doing, he’d produced a blinding, searing Moonblast between his paws. Chalenor cried out in agony, flinching under the burst of energy, and retaliated with a pulse of deep darkness that made Mew’s entire being shudder with cold and nausea.

“Fine!” Mew shouted, his vision shrouded in darkness. “Fine! Go and die in the War, you coward, and I’ll live on for as long as –”

Chalenor screamed, and this time there was something different about it that Mew couldn’t place, something that made the hairs rise on his body; he didn’t know how, but somehow he knew that he was releasing the War, that it was early, that somehow Chalenor was making it happen now when they should still have a few more months, a few more precious months of life and laughter and joy –

“No!” he yelled into the darkness. “Chale…”

And then a hazy red mist covered everything, and his last thought before he tore his only friend apart was I’m sorry.

Mew has plenty of reason to believe all this was his fault, but Chalenor does too: when Mew got so angry and started attacking him, he just broke down, couldn't deal with Mew suddenly despising him, and set the War off early just to not have to face that. (He's able to release it a little while before he's forced to, but obviously he's usually put it off for as long as he possibly could.) It wasn't an entirely conscious decision, but it really was pretty cowardly. (Maybe if you hadn't done that you could have cooled down and talked to each other about your issues)

For quite a while this was the final scene of One-Shot B - the last scene was added on December 8th 2016. For the longest time, though, it cut off in the middle of this final argument - I knew exactly what'd happen, but I wasn't sure I could do the end here justice just yet. I finally wrote it all the way to the end in October 2015, and this is pretty much exactly what it looked like then.

After this, as a ghost, Chalenor clung on to the world, wracked with guilt, refusing to move on until he could see if Mew was all right. Normally, the souls of the legendaries that die in the War disappear quite quickly; sticking around for more than a short time is a willful act, and the madness of the War doesn't let them (after all, it'd quite defeat the point if they could just hang around until the War is over and get resurrected). But Chalenor is of course not affected by that, and ghosts can hold on for a while when they've got 'unfinished business' that they still feel like they must see to. He witnessed Mew's failed effort to resurrect him, felt very very bad, uselessly tried to communicate how sorry he was for a bit to no response whatsoever, and then attempted to move on, only to find nothing happened. At that point he panicked and started trying to possess passing Pokémon, only to be helplessly carried away.

-------

She shouldn’t have gotten her hopes up – she shouldn’t have expected it to work. But her heart still wrenched in agony when the creature created from Chalenor’s eye wasn’t him. She fumbled to give him a name, to stop her mind from screaming so he could hear, to explain that his eyes were dangerous and he mustn’t open them. Midway through she realized that because he’d been her first creation, that meant he was the Preserver, the one who must work with her to protect life and oversee the world for the next thousand years, and she wished she hadn’t done it, hadn’t foolishly created an eternal, immortal reminder that Chalenor was dead and she had killed him.

She knew they had work to do, that they would have to recreate all the legendaries, fix the world, bring everything back to normal. But the thought alone was insurmountable when she was still shaking, grieving, fumbling to remember what living was meant to look like. She told Chaletwo – she wished she hadn’t given him that name, but it was too late, too harsh to try to take it back from him – that they would start in the morning. She knew humans and Pokémon were dying out there, would die while they waited, but the thought seemed abstract and distant; she knew she ought to care, ought to be out there saving lives and undoing the damage, but right now she couldn’t convince herself it wouldn’t be better if it all burned down.

(She’d never been a good Preserver.)

Mew is still in shock and it's difficult to find the drive to do her usual What Would Chalenor Do? thing right now. She's just a bad Preserver and that's how it is. (Well, bad Creator now.)

Chaletwo sat beside her, contemplative, staring at the fire she’d created for them through the permanently shut eyelids that still reminded her of him. His childish, unpracticed mind spilled psychic fragments of thoughts and emotions that he couldn’t yet contain, wonder and curiosity and a timid wariness. Despite her best efforts, he had sensed her agitation, the resentment that she’d tried so hard to conceal because, in the end, it wasn’t his fault.

Mew does resent Chaletwo a bit just for not being Chalenor, and she knows that's not remotely fair and tries her best so that he won't notice, but it's hard to suppress it entirely when psychic powers are involved, and he does pick it up... which obviously goes on to kind of mess him up for life a bit. I'm sorry, Chaletwo. Mew genuinely didn't mean to.

“Mew?” he asked at last, hesitant. “Why are my eyes dangerous?”

Her heart stung. “I… I made you with the power of someone called Chalenor. It gave you his eyes.”

She could feel his apprehension, confusion, a twinge of fear. “Who was he?”

Somebody who had eyes you can't open without killing and destroying things has to be pretty scary, right? Is he really made from someone scary? Chaletwo hopes not.

She stared into the distance. The wind was cold, the world empty. Everyone was dead. Everyone who had known him. Everyone who had hated him.

“He was the Preserver, like you,” she said, staring at the fire as a new resolve took hold. In her mind she heard his voice, his laugh: That sounds nice.

“Oh.” Chaletwo was surprised, but relieved, curious. “What was he like?”

Mew took a deep breath.

“He was kind,” she said. “All he ever wanted was to help others. He was braver than he thought. Stronger than I’ll ever be. And…” She took a trembling breath, wishing she had better words to say, but she had never been good with words. “And he was my friend.”

Sadly, Chalenor's gone by now and doesn't get to hear any of this.

Chaletwo’s curious admiration gave way to concern, worry, sadness. “What happened to him?”

“He died.”

He looked down. “I’m sorry.”

She nodded faintly. Sympathy emanated from his mind; she’d told him what death was, that that was what was happening to all the creatures around them. The soul severing from the body, leaving an empty husk behind to be uselessly mourned. And then, after a little while, ceasing to exist.

(Or, perhaps, it just went somewhere else. Somewhere better. She supposed believing that was all she could do.)

Mew manages to will herself to believe in an afterlife only when Chalenor really is dead, and an afterlife is (she thinks) the only way he could still be around so she could see him again in some sense.

A creeping edge of confused, nervous apprehension tinged Chaletwo’s emotions. He hesitated, anxious, looking up at her again.

“Am… am I going to die?” he asked.

Mew stared out at the ruined world, avoiding the sight of Chalenor’s mangled body.

“No. Never.”

Nope! Never!

Mew settles into a kind of doublethink here, which she manages to maintain for most of the next thousand years: Chalenor's dead and that has to mean the War is gone (never mind that future she saw, who says it's this future), none of the other legendaries need to know it was ever a thing, nobody has to ever know Chalenor was the Destroyer... but also, she holds on to the dark hope that maybe it was always impossible to get rid of the War anyway, and it'll turn out it will still come, and then maybe she'll die and join Chalenor in the afterlife, or maybe there isn't an afterlife but then she'll never know. It's not like she tried to make it happen, but maybe it wouldn't have been possible to do anything about it anyway, right? Surely even if the War might happen again it's actually better if they don't all live their whole lives fearing it like they used to, right? But it's all rooted in her just wanting her friend to be remembered as her friend, who was good and compassionate and loyal, and not as the great monster eternally causing death and disaster.

I love this last line a lot as some intense dramatic irony after we just watched Chaletwo have to sacrifice his life last chapter (another reason not to swap the order), and it and the basic inspiration behind this ending dialogue in general came to me on the way home from work one day in probably November 2016 (I made a Tumblr post on December 2nd talking about how I couldn't find where I'd written it down - it actually turned out I'd written it into where chapter 76 should be in the QftL document, but I didn't expect I'd put it there and ended up rewriting it before ever finding that first version again.)

The precursor to this scene, though, was a document titled chaletwo.docx, which I think was probably created not too long after chalenor.docx, the One-Shot B document that would eventually become this chapter. It originally contained a brief scene and a half, one from the actual moment after Mew created Chaletwo, and one from a bit later, when Mew comes up with the spontaneous lie of how Mewtwo wanted to see Chalenor's time (unfinished):

“Do not open your eyes,” Mew says urgently as he watches the creature he has just created stir; its bulging eyebrows twitch for a moment, but then it relaxes, and Mew feels the familiar sense of being looked at through its leathery eyelids; his heart jumps.

“Who... am I?” the creature asks, slowly, as it experimentally levitates itself to its feet. It looks at Mew, waiting for an answer, and Mew doesn’t know what to say. A twinge of disappointment strikes him as he realizes it doesn’t have Chalenor’s memories at all; though he always knew it wasn’t likely, the hope remained. But there is little to do about it now, and it strikes him that if it isn’t Chalenor, it has to have a name of its own.

As he looks at the creature’s body, he remembers vaguely its former possessor’s introduction. “You are Chaletwo, the Preserver,” Mew says. “Your eyes are deadly; do not open them.”

“Why am I Chaletwo?” he asks. “Are you Chale?”

Mew shakes his head. “I am Mew. You were named for someone else. His name was Chalenor.” He gestures towards Chalenor’s head, but cannot bring himself to look at it again. “You have his eyes.”

Chaletwo pauses for a few moments, looking at his predecessor’s remains. “Who was he?” he asks, and Mew’s heart wrenches in his chest; in a flash he sees Chaletwo’s ever-shut eyes widening in horror, asking hopefully if Chalenor is definitely dead, and he realizes he cannot tell the truth.

Chaletwo looks at him, and he remembers Chalenor looking at him in that same way, telling him how much he wished he weren’t what he was…

“He was the Preserver, like you,” Mew says, his expression hardening as he realizes that nobody knows the truth, nobody has to know the truth: he can create a world where Chalenor is remembered with respect and reverence and no one will ever know. And as Chaletwo asks questions about what it means to be the Preserver, he steals a glance at Chalenor’s head and thinks, I’ll see you again in a thousand years.

-------

“Mew,” says Chaletwo one day, “I look a little like you, don’t I?”

Mew looks at him and considers it; Chaletwo’s skin is gray and leathery, his limbs long and thin with bulbous fingers, his tail thick and curved, but there is a likeness in the shape of their heads and the elliptical tips of their tails; he has a point. “I suppose I can see what you mean.”

“Did you make me from yourself?” He sounds innocently excited at the prospect; Mew finds it almost comical that this much larger, deadlier creature looks up to him as a parent and wants to be like him.

But he has to shake his head. “No. There was someone from the future – I used his body. There wasn’t time to make a new one.”

As soon as he’s said it, he realizes he’s slipped up, and Chaletwo catches on simultaneously: “From the future? So Chalenor took him here?”

Mew hesitates momentarily. “Yes. Chalenor traveled through time and…” He can’t say he made a copy of the body; Chaletwo would ask questions. “He wanted to see Chalenor’s time, so Chalenor took him with him. Then the War happened, and he got caught up in it as well.”

Of course it doesn’t work; the other would have rebounded back to his own time. But Chaletwo doesn’t know that yet: Mew has yet to explain the intricacies of time travel to him. Instead, he just nods, a receptive child absorbing all the information he can. He would never think to question what Mew is telling him or criticize it; Mew can make him whatever he wants.

I'm not sure if I ever intended to post this per se; maybe I'd only have thrown it up on the Quest Blog. But it did clarify things for me a bit.

Today, that document also contains my first effort at writing the modern form of this scene, on December 7th 2016, after I thought up the final lines (and was already intending to make it the final scene of chapter 76). It was essentially a rewrite of the first scene, doing the emotions better and expanding that dialogue with the new material:

When she awoke, everything was dead, burning. Her mind was sludgy, her memory cloudy; she wasn’t sure what had happened or why. The strange body lying beside her barely registered; the first fragment to return was a hazy, chilling fear that something horrible might have happened to Chalenor. When she looked around, she found his mutilated body lying a short distance away, and everything melted into horror as she realized what she had done.

Fumbling, shaking, she felt around for his soul, but all was dead, quiet. He was a Dark-type, of course; she wouldn’t have felt him anyway. When she saw his eye still glowing on the ground, some flash of hope erupted within her; she pulled in its power and laid her trembling paws on the head of the body she’d brought from the future – still almost intact. Maybe…

She watched with bated breath as life stirred within the body and the wound on its chest began to knit itself together. She couldn’t feel him, but that was good – he was a Dark-type, like Chalenor, like him. After a few seconds something changed; his bulging eyebrows twitched, and all of a sudden she knew he was looking at her, the familiar sensation of being surveyed through closed eyelids. Her heart soared, then plummeted again as he made his first psychic reach into the world: his voice was different, felt different.

“Who… who am I?”

Not Chalenor, she thought, but that was unfair. She shouldn’t have expected it to work, not when she couldn’t find his soul.

“Don’t open your eyes,” she said urgently as she saw his eyelids starting to move, and they relaxed again.

“Why not?”

“Your eyes are dangerous,” she said. “You’re…” She stopped; she was trembling again, realizing what she had done. “You are the Preserver. Your role is to protect life, not to destroy it. Keep them closed.”

The creature paused. “Who am I?” he asked again.

Mew swallowed. “Chaletwo. You’re Chaletwo.”

“Chale…two?” Again, he paused to consider it. “Are you Chale?”

She shook her head, her chest tight. “No. I am Mew. You were named for someone called Chalenor. You have his eyes.”

“Oh.” Chaletwo pushed himself upright, gingerly, looking around. “Who is he?”

The cold wind blew through her fur. Everyone was dead, everyone who’d known him.

“He was the Preserver, like you,” she said. “He was kind. All he ever wanted was to save others. He was braver than he thought – braver than I’ll ever be.” She paused. “And… he was my friend.”

“Where is he?”

She looked away. “He… he died.”

“I’m sorry,” Chaletwo said. He sat upright, contemplative. “Am I going to die?”

Mew took a deep breath.

“No. Never.”

I didn't quite like this version of the scene enough and started it over, with this new approach of skipping/summarizing the actual resurrection and instead letting Chaletwo's probing about Chalenor happen a little bit later, when the initial shock has worn off. I think overall it came out significantly better, and ultimately the final version of the scene is possibly my favorite scene in the entire story, but that's also just because I did a way better job on the actual dialogue and the narration around it, so I can't entirely chalk it up to that particular decision.

What I do enjoy about this earlier version is how the first paragraph summarizes the prologue from Mew's POV in a way that's baaasically compatible (or as compatible as it can get) with both the ILCOE and IALCOTN prologues, though. I'd forgotten I did that!

So, as mentioned, all this originated with the scene where Mew and Chalenor come up with the initial plan, as written into that notebook in 2007. I think probably in 2008 or so I started the chalenor.docx document, where I wrote the first meeting scene (including the brief intro preceding it) and started to revise the scene from the notebook. I've got a version of it from 2010 where it's still just that scene and a half; apparently, even as I developed fully in my head what had actually happened there, I wasn't working on this document all that much. Sometime after writing chapter 61 in 2012 (by which time I had definitely finalized what the actual plan was and how Mewtwo's body came into it, something I hadn't worked out when I wrote the notebook version), I was spurred on to finish the plan scene and write out the following couple of scenes about Mew's trip to the future and its aftermath - though the latter was left unfinished - and I basically considered those four scenes to be the complete One-Shot B.

Finally, in 2015 when I made that decision to actually implement One-Shot B into the fic as a separate chapter, I started to expand and flesh it out a bit more, first with the three scenes following the first meeting and then the cut scene I mentioned before where Mew tried to talk to Celebi and Iriesce about Chalenor. That then got replaced with the scene where Mew just talks about talking to the others with Chalenor, where I also got into the Arceus backstory a little bit (I had been planning to maybe post as an extra a revised version of the creation myth that I'd originally written in 2007 first after figuring out that Arceus had created Chalenor and all that, but ultimately decided it'd be unnecessary once after various revisions I had managed to fit all the relevant information into this scene). It wasn't until late in the editing process for 75/76, though, that I added the two further scenes about Mew wanting to try to learn to help, after thinking a lot about Mew's issues, having the hero motif pop into my head, and realizing we were kind of missing the part of the story where Mew stops being able to look at Iriesce as a mother figure and can no longer conceive of talking to her about her issues. As I said, these additions were kind of rushed, and I should have done more there.

Overall, I've spent more than a decade very invested in Mew and Chalenor and what goes on here, and I still adore the material. Friends with deep-rooted issues who care the world for each other tragically causing themselves and each other unimaginable suffering thanks to their issues, and then suffering more and having even more issues about that, is basically concentrated Me Appeal. You know how I love the eighth Pokémon movie a lot a lot? There are certain similarities.

But I think I should've done more work on it in editing than I did. I kind of wanted to regard 76 as basically done and only to be tinkered with a bit and 75 as the real problem chapter that needed all the rewriting; I ended up doing more tinkering than I expected on 76, but once I'd finally nailed down a chapter 75 that I was satisfied with after way longer than I'd wanted that to take, I didn't want to sit down for a few more months to mull over whether 76 should get more extensive rewrites and more new scenes. I knew those last additions were rushed and just kind of convinced myself they were okay and I needed to just go ahead and finally, finally get these chapters posted, and in hindsight I really regret doing that. I wanted to get this chapter really right and I don't really think I did. Maybe I should start by just rewriting this one for my own peace of mind.


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