The Quest for the Legends (ILCOE)

Chapter 77: Home

“It’s a soul gem,” Molzapart said as Mark turned the purple gemstone over in his hand. “I can sense it in there. Huh.”

Mark could only nod at first, numb, still in a state of shock after everything that had happened. But as he closed his fingers around the gem, the realization began to melt its way through it all, something good and warm on a small, easily comprehensible scale. Mewtwo² had cheated death. He was safe. They hadn’t killed him.

“So you can resurrect him?” Mark said. His voice was hoarse and strange.

Molzapart hesitated. “I…” He stopped, glancing away. “Well, I’d rather wait for a bit before trying, just in case the madness still lingers in its body somehow. I can feel my power returning now that it’s dead; I expect it should be safe in perhaps an hour or two.”

Molzapart’s reluctance tickled at the lump in Mark’s throat, but right here, right now, he didn’t want to confront or rebuke him, or do anything at all that’d somehow upset the fragile calm that’d descended over the area. Instead, all he did was nod. “Okay.”

He straightened himself slowly, placed the gem carefully in his pocket and looked around. The others were already recalling their Pokémon from where they were strewn around the battlefield. He found Scyther fainted a short distance away – Scyther, who’d probably saved all their lives with the suicidal charge that’d shown them Mewtwo² had more control than it seemed. Jolteon was still conscious but weak, grateful to return to his ball after Mark had given his head spikes a gentle stroke. May had already recalled Floatzel, so Weavile lay on her own, eyes closed, smiling contentedly, and he scratched her head before recalling her. Dragonite had collapsed a bit further away, over where the flying Pokémon had surrounded Mewtwo²; Mark walked over to him, still in a hazy sort of trance.

As he called Dragonite back into his ball, he looked idly over to where May was kneeling on the ground by her Flygon a short distance away – and froze.

Flygon was missing a leg and part of his tail, in an unnaturally clean, straight cut crusted over with blood. His chest moved erratically as he breathed. The dirt around him was stained crimson, a few red-smeared bottles of potions scattered at May’s feet.

“Did I…” Flygon wheezed, his eyes shining and unfocused. “Did I do well?”

May clenched her fist. “Who cares?” she said. “You need a Pokémon Center.”

She pushed the button on his ball to recall him, pressing her lips together as he disappeared into red light. Mark thought back to near the end of the fight, to Mewtwo²’s increasingly forceful and uncontrollable Psycho Cuts as the Pokémon held him off. He should have realized they might not be safe anymore, but in the middle of everything, it hadn’t quite registered. “That’s… I’m sorry,” he said, shuddering.

“He was scared,” May said without looking at him, her voice empty. “He didn’t want to be here, but every time I asked he insisted he was fine.”

“That’s not your fault.”

“I know.” May squeezed the ball in her hand for a moment, knuckles white; then she minimized it and replaced it on her necklace.

A muffled beeping sounded from her backpack. She pulled it off and took out her Pokégear; it was a text message from Leah. Everyone still here?? What’s happening?

May typed back: That was it. We stopped it. It’s fine. She pressed the send button and hesitated before turning the device off and hastily stuffing it back in her bag.

“Kids?” came Sparky’s voice, gentle and level. “I don’t know how you’re feeling after all this, but if you’d like to come back to Stormy Town with me later, I’ll cook us all some dinner while Joy takes care of your Pokémon.”

-------

They ate together in the empty, still officially closed restaurant with the curtains drawn. Molzapart stood awkwardly at the side with Mewtwo²’s body, glancing at it every now and then; the Pokémon that weren’t too big and hadn’t needed special treatment were scattered around the room with plates of their own food. Spirit lay low on the floor by May’s side, ears flat, restlessly digging her nose through her thick neck fur every now and then as if expecting to find the necklace hiding in there somehow. May glanced down at her in between picking at her food.

Sparky gazed at each of them in turn. “What now?” he asked, his voice quiet. “Are you headed home?”

Mark nodded, a strange flutter in his stomach, and across from him, Alan did the same.

“Home, huh?” Alan said, sighing as he leaned back in his chair. “It’ll be weird to go back.”

“I’m…” May began, glancing at Sparky as she prodded at a piece of salad. “Yeah. Something like that, I guess.”

“I suppose your parents must be missing you,” Sparky said.

“Yeah,” Mark said. He thought of his mother’s face, now safe and within reach – and then another, painful thought struck him, a pang of strange emptiness in his stomach. “Or, well – Chaletwo told me the memory modification they did means they don’t really think about me anymore. So maybe they don’t.”

“They’ll remember when they see you in the flesh,” Molzapart said, a little defensively. “It’s the same thing that happened with all of you.”

Alan glanced at Molzapart before turning back to Mark. “I’m sure they do miss you. That’s just what parents do.” The corners of his mouth lifted a little; he fiddled with the hat lying on the table beside his plate. “Dad texted me earlier, this… this goofy message about how he was proud of me and believed in me.”

Mark smiled. Sparky nodded, grinning. “Ah, yes, that sounds like a parent for you. You answered him, I hope?”

“Yeah. I told him I’d be having dinner with you and he told me to have fun, with a bunch of exclamation marks. And that he’d make an even better dinner tomorrow.”

Sparky chuckled. “Oh dear. I suppose you’ll have to be the judge.”

Alan grinned. “He says that, but I don’t think he can compete with this.”

“Happy to please.” Sparky bowed with a flourish.

Mark finished off his plate and laid his cutlery aside, thinking. “What’s everyone going to think happened? There’s no way Mewtwo²’s power surge wasn’t felt by most of the region.”

“I’ll handle that,” Molzapart said from the corner. “I’ve talked to the human media before. There’ll likely be people who recognized the disturbance as Mewtwo²; I can tell them it happened when it broke free of Rick’s control. But that’s about all they need to know. Better not cause a mass panic.” He paused. “They’ll notice Mew and Chaletwo are gone, eventually. But it’s simpler if people don’t connect them. I expect Mitch will be filed as a missing person and that will be that.”

Mark nodded slowly. “Everything’s going to be okay, right? With… with no Creator or Preserver? Or is there going to be a Creator?”

“I don’t know that much about this,” Molzapart said reluctantly. “But I expect there won’t be a Creator exactly, no. The power that the Creator would have gained will likely be split between all the surviving legendaries.”

Beneath the table, Spirit let out a faint whine. May dropped her fork with a clatter. “Spirit,” she said. “Entei didn’t care about you. He was a tool and he was using you for his own ends. Can’t you see that?”

Spirit jerked back, standing up and shaking her head. “I am… no, Entei was…” She trailed off, exhaling in a huffy sigh, flattening her ears. “I was meant to guard his soul,” she muttered.

“You weren’t meant to do anything. He plucked you away from your mom and almost killed you. It’s his own damn fault he decided to put his soul in a stupid necklace, okay?”

Spirit bared her teeth for an instant before catching herself, wincing guiltily and lying back down on the floor under the table with a sigh.

“Let her process it at her own pace,” Stantler said gently. “She needs time to mourn.”

May took a deep breath, looking down at Spirit, then at Stantler, then Sparky.

“…Yeah.” She winced like she had something bitter in her mouth. “Spirit, I’m sorry. It’s just…”

She stroked the Ninetales’ mane a few times. Spirit leaned into her hand, closing her eyes.

“I’m not going home,” May said after a few seconds of silence, staring at her plate. “I’m going to the police. I need to tell them about Tyranitar.”

Spirit’s eyes blinked open. “What? But –”

“And whatever else happens, they’re definitely going to revoke my license. So you all do whatever you want to, I guess.” Her fingers curled around Spirit’s fur.

May’s Pokémon stared at her in surprise – all except Stantler, who gazed evenly at her trainer, giving a slow nod.

“I see,” Sparky said, surveying her closely. May didn’t look up. “Legally,” Sparky went on after a moment, “it may not be permanent. You are a juvenile; you should be able to reapply for a license after you’re of age. The legal system has its problems, but people don’t suffer forever for mistakes made when they were children, so long as they’re deemed no longer at risk on reevaluation. The rest, I suppose, will depend on the testimony of your Tyranitar, and any witnesses.” Sparky glanced towards Mark, and his stomach twisted uncomfortably.

“Same thing,” May said, her fist clenched around her knife. “It’s not like you’re all going to just wait around for me for years. I don’t expect that.”

“I’ll stay with you,” Spirit said firmly.

May inhaled sharply. “I don’t… I don’t know if you can, Spirit. That’s the thing. I don’t… I don’t think they let you have Pokémon in detention, for a start, if…”

Spirit stared up at her.

“You can stay with Dad. I know you need someone right now and he’s useless, but I can’t. I’m sorry I can’t be there.” May’s voice was starting to tremble. “I’m sorry. I hate this. I hate all of this. All I ever wanted to do was be a great trainer, and I screwed it up. I should’ve recalled Tyranitar, and I shouldn’t have said that about Taylor, and I shouldn’t have even caught him in the first place, or Lapras, or Flygon. But I did it anyway, and I can’t undo any of it, and the only thing I can do to set anything right is make sure Tyranitar gets free, okay? So I have to do this. I’m sorry.”

“May—” Alan began, but before he could finish, May abruptly stood up from the table and headed for the door, Spirit looking after her in shock.

Alan let out a heavy sigh as the door slammed behind her. Sparky put his hand on the table, preparing to stand up.

“Wait,” Mark said. “I’ll… I’ll go talk to her.”

-------

May was outside, sitting against the side of the Gym and hugging her knees, looking out in the direction of the mountains. It was cold, but the skies were still bright and mostly clear, a lingering memento of the success of their fight against Thunderyu.

She looked up as he approached and wiped her face with her sleeve. He sat down by the wall near her. Spirit padded up to her, tentatively, ears flat; as she nudged her trainer’s shoulder, May wrapped her arms around the Pokémon’s neck, burying her face in her mane.

Mark sat there, silent, for a little while, looking towards the half-collapsed remains of Thunderclap Cave. Beside him, May sniffled quietly a few times, until he heard her sit back against the wall again, exhaling. “How are you feeling?” he asked, turning back towards her. Spirit had laid her head down in May’s lap, and she stroked the Ninetales’s mane absent-mindedly.

May took a deep breath, without looking back at him. “I’m okay,” she said. Then, “I mean, no, I’m not okay. But I’ll live. It’s the best thing I can do and I know that. I’ve had a couple months to think about it. It was just…”

She trailed off, glancing at Mark, and he nodded.

They sat silently for a moment. “Earlier,” he said after a while, “you said your dad was useless.”

May winced. “Not exactly, but you know.”

“I don’t.” May glanced back at him. He hesitated. “Back when we were looking for Mew, and I was going to maybe call my parents, I noticed you never wanted to call yours. Is that…?”

May sighed, leaning back against the wall. “My dad used to be a trainer. He was pretty well known in the adult competitive circuit for a while. Then his Meganium died in a battle, just an accident, and he just… never got over it. Quit training cold turkey, and couldn’t hold down a decent job after that. My brother and I had to handle a lot of stuff on our own. He’s not bad, but he’s got far too many of his own issues to help anyone else.”

“And you didn’t want to call him?”

May fidgeted with her fingernails. “I’m not sure he’d actually do anything about it even if he heard the world was ending.” She paused. “And… he’d just start asking about my journey, and my Pokémon, and the League.”

Mark nodded slowly. May had never talked about her family, as far as he could recall. He considered asking about her mother, or her brother, but decided against it.

“How’s Flygon? What’d Nurse Joy say?”

May was silent for a few moments. “She said he’d be okay. Flygon spend most of their time flying anyway; guess he doesn’t need his legs that much. Might have a harder time with balance because of the tail. Either way, she said he’d probably do all right in the wild if he’s released, so…” She sighed. “That’s something.”

“I hope so.”

She picked at her fingernails for a minute, avoiding Mark’s gaze. “In a way it’s a relief,” she muttered. “In a way I don’t want to do any of this anymore. Maybe I’m becoming like Dad.”

Mark shrugged slightly. “Maybe you just need a break.”

“Maybe.”

May scratched the Ninetales’ ears for a minute. Eventually, she opened her mouth again. “Spirit,” she said. “You should talk to Stantler. Just… see if she’ll stay with you in New Bark. She can probably help you sort through all that stuff.”

Spirit made a small noise of complaint, but then sighed. “I will try,” she said quietly.

“If I have to go, I’ll be back for you,” May said, her voice firm.

The Ninetales closed her eyes. “I’ll come visit,” she murmured.

They sat there for a while, looking up at the sky. Clouds were slowly gathering in the west, heralding oncoming rain.

“You should draw Chaletwo,” May said.

A strange mixture of emotions bubbled up within him at the request, something warm and nostalgic coupled with empty sadness and regret. Wordlessly, he pulled off his backpack and took out his sketchpad.

All he really meant to do was Chaletwo, but without thinking about it he started sketching the rest of the image still burned into his mind: Mewtwo² opposite him, Mew and Chalenor by his side, Chaletwo’s tear-stricken face tight with anguish. For a moment Mark was struck with a guilty sense of impropriety; was this how he’d want to be remembered, as a terrified wreck?

As a hero, another part of him pointed out. As someone who saved the world.

On some level he’d always had nagging doubts about Chaletwo’s motivations, whether he was really doing this for everyone’s sake or to save his own skin – whether he’d ultimately try to save himself and let the world rot. And in the end, he’d been scared, he’d lashed out, he’d protested, but he’d faced down death anyway. In a way it meant more knowing how hard that had been for him. Mark had probably never respected Chaletwo more than in this moment. Drawing it felt right.

May gave him a questioning look, and he took a deep breath and resumed. Mark still didn’t entirely understand what he’d learned about Chalenor and Mew – the reluctant Destroyer, trapped in isolation for a thousand years, and the friend who’d constructed a clumsy web of lies in his memory, desperate to see him again. But he supposed he didn’t have to. Their story was their own, and now they were gone – together.

And Mewtwo²… Mewtwo² would be okay.

“That’s good,” May said as he slowly lifted his pencil from the finished sketch. There was a strange, trembling heaviness in his chest as he looked at it. “Always wanted to draw like that,” she added in a half-hearted mutter.

“It’s never too late to start,” he said as he closed his sketchbook and placed it back in his bag. She looked up at him for a moment, blinking.

Then a sharp gust of wind blew past, and she shivered, pulling her jacket closer. “It’s getting cold,” she said. “I guess we should get back inside.”

“Yeah.” Mark stood up, hoisting his bag back onto his shoulders.

“Hey, I’m…” May began, and he looked back at her. She trailed off, looking away. “Well, no, I wish none of this ever happened. But I’m glad you were there.”

Mark smiled, offering her his hand. “Me too.”

-------

And then it was time for goodbyes. They went over the practicalities, and Molzapart volunteered to teleport them where they needed to go.

Sparky hugged everyone, assuring them they’d be welcome in Stormy Town for a free dinner any time they wanted. He wished them good luck in their future endeavors, and offered to host Mark’s next birthday party, and gave May some hushed advice that Mark couldn’t hear.

Then it was off to the woods near Green Town. Alan gave Mark a tight hug and promised to call sometime. May fidgeted by Molzapart’s side, avoiding Alan’s gaze.

Alan hesitated a moment, looking at May. “Hey,” he said. She looked up tentatively, still guarded. “I… I really admire what you’re doing. It’s the right thing.”

May inhaled. “Yeah.”

He looked at her for a few moments, his face tight and awkward. “Well, take care,” he said at last, turning towards the road into town.

“I will,” May said, and Alan turned around in surprise. She’d straightened a bit, looking at him directly. “Thanks.”

Alan nodded, smiling a little. “I’ll call you too someday.”

He waved as he turned and headed towards his home.

-------

The next stop, then, was the Champion Island police station.

May took a deep breath in front of the steps leading up to the door, her hand tangled in Spirit’s mane. Weavile stood by her other side; she’d wanted to follow Floatzel, whatever the outcome.

“You sure you don’t want me to come in with you?” Mark asked.

“I need to do this,” she said, shaking her head. “But thanks.”

“You can tell them I was there and I’ll tell them you tried to recall him.”

She nodded slightly. “I know.”

Hesitantly, Mark spread his arms. For a moment, May blinked at him and he felt incredibly stupid – but then she wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug.

After a few seconds she abruptly pulled away. They looked at each other for an awkward moment. “Good luck,” Mark said.

She smiled a little. “Goodbye, Mark.”

“Goodbye.”

And she turned to walk up the stairs, Spirit at her side. After a quick wave and a grin to Mark, Weavile darted after her.

-------

And then it was just him and Molzapart, with a couple of things to take care of.

A cold, purple glow enveloped the gem in Mark’s hand. His stomach fluttered weirdly, elated and anxious at the same time; Molzapart’s eyes were closed in grim concentration, the tip of his wing gingerly touching Mewtwo²’s body. They were in some barren off-route valley in the middle of the region; Molzapart had insisted they do this somewhere secluded.

The clone’s lifeless form lit up with the same glow, and then, abruptly, his eyes snapped open. There was no obvious transition from corpse to living being, only that sudden movement. Mewtwo² jerked upward, and Molzapart flinched, backing away.

“Are you sane?” he asked, wary.

“I…” Mewtwo² clutched his head for a moment, blinking slowly. He levitated himself to his feet, gently, and looked around, tail swishing experimentally behind him, his back straight but relaxed, his movements fluid and alive. Something about that, the contrast to every other time he’d seen this tortured creature, made Mark’s heart flutter with elation. It’d been hard to separate the straining, struggling, half-mad Mewtwo² of the battle from Rick’s dead-eyed tool and the memory of being restrained, unable to breathe, helpless as May choked – but the clone felt different now, as a being acting on his own will.

“You,” Mewtwo² said. He took a wobbly step in Mark’s direction, then another, more confident one – and fell into his arms, clumsily, his long, bony forearms wrapping around Mark. The Pokémon shook as Mark embraced him back, a flurry of emotions swirling in his mind, relief and disbelief and new pangs of sympathy as he felt the contours of the Pokémon’s spine and ribs under the thin, leathery skin of his back. How much had Rick ever let him eat?

“Thank you,” said the clone’s telepathic voice, unsteady with emotion but free of strain. “I… am sorry.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Mark said, his voice shaking with something he couldn’t quite place. Relief and gratitude flooded into his mind, then vanished as Mewtwo² carefully pulled away again.

“What are you planning to do now?” Mark asked.

“Hmm.” Mewtwo²’s blank eyes blinked slowly. They weren’t nearly as unsettling now that he looked alert and alive. “I want… a home,” he answered after a moment. “And then… explore. Learn. Make up for… all that happened.”

“Have you… have you considered looking for Mewtwo?” Mark said. “He’s the one you were created from, and… I think you might have a lot in common.”

Mewtwo² tilted his head, tail twitching curiously. “Thank you. I will find him.”

The clone kicked off the ground into a playful loop in the air, and a psychic wave of thrill and exuberance washed over Mark. He grinned as Mewtwo² experimentally levitated himself down in front of Mark, hovering a few inches above the ground.

Molzapart sighed. “The legendaries will expect you to act as one of them. We have a purpose; we must try to protect the mortals and keep the world in balance.”

“I know,” said Mewtwo², without moving aside from the gentle up-and-down bobbing of his levitating form. “I will try. Perhaps Mewtwo can help.”

“I’m sure he will.”

Molzapart grimaced. “I might also need you to talk to the humans at some point. Show them you’re not a ticking time bomb. After you killed Rick and broadcast all that power, they might have concerns.”

Mewtwo² squeezed his eyes shut at the mention of Rick. “I didn’t want to,” he muttered.

“It’s a little late for that.”

Mewtwo² shook his head, hunched over again, agitated, a nervous sense of psychic upset stabbing through the air. Mark took a deep breath. “Stop,” he said. “Stop talking to him like that.”

Molzapart turned, defensive. “I…”

“Stop. He’s been through enough. He did more to save the world than you ever did.”

Molzapart fell silent. Mewtwo² rose slowly, a thrum of gratitude warming Mark’s mind.

“I can talk to the humans,” the clone said. “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

Molzapart nodded without meeting his eye.

Mark sighed inwardly, but extended his hand to Mewtwo². “Did you want your gem back?” Something about the purple stone felt different now, some strange, electrifying energy gone now that it was just an ordinary gem.

“Hmm. Why not?” The clone reached his abnormally long arm out to take it, holding it between his two fingers. “Goodbye,” he said, blinking softly at Mark again. “Thank you.”

“Goodbye,” Mark said, raising a hand to wave. “I… I hope we can meet again sometime.”

Mewtwo² nodded, and then he jumped, shooting up into the air. A prick of psychic joy jolted Mark’s mind again. He watched the clone disappear as a speck in the sky, spiralling in free-flowing loops.

Molzapart was distracted, still looking away.

“Chaletwo wanted me to fix his dragons, didn’t he?” he muttered after a while.

“Yeah.” Mark’s heart stung.

“I gather the last one’s still with Carl.”

Mark nodded, his mouth dry.

“Then I guess we’re paying Carl a visit.”

-------

For the second time, Mark knocked on the door of the temporary Crater Town Gym with butterflies in his stomach.

Carl didn’t bat an eye when he opened the door, only slightly raising his eyebrows. “You again,” he said. “Here to tell me another story about Chaletwo?”

Mark couldn’t speak, but he didn’t have to. “Chaletwo is dead,” said Molzapart, and for the first time, Carl actually blinked in surprise, pulling the door open further to see the legendary by Mark’s side.

“Interesting,” he said. “You weren’t part of the story either the first or the second time around.”

Molzapart gave Mark a side glance. “Never mind about the story. The only reason we’re here is to retrieve the dragon they let you capture.”

Carl’s gaze hardened. “I see.”

“We’re going to fix him,” Mark said quickly. “To… to not be dangerous anymore. Molzapart can do that.”

Carl didn’t move. “I think at this stage it would be extraordinarily foolish of me to take you at your word.”

“I’m afraid you don’t have a choice,” Molzapart snapped.

“Wait,” Mark cut in. “I’ll explain. All of it this time. Please listen.”

-------

Seated on Carl’s couch with his hands in his lap, Mark recounted everything – about the War, their quest, Chaletwo. The Gym leader sat silent, head cocked, lips pressed together, throwing suspicious glances at Molzapart every now and then.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said when Mark had finished. Mark opened his mouth to speak, but Carl continued: “This entire plan was asinine. Recruiting a bunch of children? Refusing to get more qualified help on grounds that are waved away later? Frankly it’s a miracle you somehow bungled your way into success. Last time, you made it sound as if things were under control without my help; now it’s plain they were nothing of the sort. You could have gotten us all killed.”

Mark squeezed his eyes shut. “Okay. Sure. It was kind of a stupid plan.”

“So you’ve told him,” Molzapart said irritably from behind him. “Can we now get to the point?”

“That being said, I hate to say this, but I don’t think you’re lying,” Carl went on. “Whatever else you are, you aren’t a good liar, and I doubt you could have convincingly fabricated and delivered every ridiculous detail of this. I’ll consider your story a warning of the fallibility of legendaries, but I believe you, for now.” He shot a brief glare towards Molzapart. “Besides, I expect the bird can and will do what he pleases regardless of what I think.”

“I don’t have time for your condescension,” Molzapart said coldly. “If you have nothing else to say, we’ll take the dragon and leave.”

Carl wasn’t looking at him, instead focusing on Mark. “So this fixing of the dragon that you mentioned,” he said. “What, precisely, does that entail?”

Mark looked at Molzapart; he wasn’t actually sure exactly how this would work. “Well,” he began, slowly, “when Chaletwo made them, he made them obsessed with killing each other, so it’s all they can think about. He’d remove that from them and make them… normal, I guess?”

“That’s not enough,” Carl said, his eyes boring into Mark’s. “If that’s all they’ve known, they have never learned morality or restraint. This might revert them to the minds of children – but children can be extraordinarily cruel. They will need guidance and oversight, someone who can rein them in and keep them under control, for years, while they mature. Have you prepared for that? Or did you again fail to think things through?”

Mark stared at him, face flushed, opening his mouth to answer.

“I’ll do it,” Molzapart said before he could say anything, sounding like he hated every word. Mark turned towards him, blinking. “Chaletwo wanted me to fix the dragons. That includes this. I’ll raise them, keep an eye out for them and make sure they don’t harm anyone. You have my word.”

Carl raised an eyebrow, not moving. “Fair enough that you say that,” he said. “But you haven’t given me much reason to trust your word.”

“You don’t have a choice!” Molzapart snapped. He looked away, wincing, before reluctantly facing Carl again. “Chaletwo died for this,” he said, quieter. “His last wish was to fix the dragons – to have him make me fix the dragons.” He glanced at Mark, grimacing. “If I’m left here – at least I can do this.”

Carl surveyed him with interest for a moment. “I see.” Slowly, he stood up from his chair. “Well, as you say, I don’t have a choice, do I? The safe was meant to be indestructible, mind you, but I suppose that wouldn’t account for you.”

“You suppose correctly.” Molzapart’s eyes glowed; the metal of the safe in the corner warped and twisted, and with a sweep of his wing, the door tore off its hinges and crumpled into a lump on the floor. Carl watched with the same grim expression as the Ultra Ball inside levitated into the air and towards Mark. He took it carefully, looking at Carl.

“I suppose we’re done here,” the Gym leader said, folding his arms. “But know that if any legendary attacks my town again, we will be prepared. I don’t trust your competence, for obvious reasons.”

“You won’t have to worry about that,” Molzapart said, coldly. “I’ll handle it.”

“So I’d hope.” Carl moved towards the door, opened it, and gestured for them to leave. With a ‘hmph’, Molzapart teleported outside.

Mark nodded slightly to Carl as he made his way towards the door.

“Thank you for telling me the truth,” Carl said; Mark stopped and looked up at him in surprise. “It’s plain you didn’t need to be here.”

“I wanted to,” Mark said, numb.

“It was a dumb plan and you should’ve questioned it,” Carl went on. “But you’re a kid. The immortal deities don’t have that excuse. It’s on them.”

Mark took a deep breath. “Molzapart’s going to do his best. I think it’ll be okay.”

“That’s very optimistic,” Carl said. “But fair enough. I’ll be prepared anyway. I never trusted legendaries.”

“They’re…” Mark paused, trying to gather his thoughts. “They’re just people. They’re not perfect, but they’re not evil either. They’re just… trying.”

Carl raised his eyebrows.

“Thanks for listening,” Mark said without waiting for an answer, stepping back through the door. “Tell your townspeople I said hi.”

-------

The next stop was the plains outside of Ruxido.

A large, lone oak tree stood on a hill overlooking the woods. In the grass below the hill, Mark could just make out the glint of blades here and there, giving away the otherwise-camouflaged Scyther. Against the tree, though, sat two indistinct shapes, red and green.

Scyther inhaled sharply as he stared towards the tree. “I never thought I’d make it back,” he whispered, his voice trembling with emotion. He turned to Mark. “Thank you. For everything you’ve done for me. It was more than you know.”

“Thank you for what you did at the battle with Mewtwo²,” Mark said.

Scyther looked away, a wisp of a smile on his face. “I thought I’d die there. I was ready. But at the same time, I realized I didn’t want to. And it was the best feeling in the world.”

Mark nodded, a lump in his throat.

“Goodbye,” Scyther said. “I’ll never forget you.”

“Try to be happy,” Mark said, willing himself to smile. “And – if you bump into Letaligon – please make sure she’s okay.”

Scyther nodded and turned before taking off the ground and zooming towards the tree, letting out an elated, whooping cry. All around, heads poked out of the grass, watching him curiously.

The green shape at the tree rose instantly and flew out to meet him. The red shape stood, leaning against the tree, and raised a pincer in greeting.

Mark turned back to Molzapart, and they vanished.

-------

Sandslash wanted to return to the Lake of Purity.

Molzapart waited in the woods while the two of them walked along the bank of the lake. The brilliant colors of sunset reflected across the still water; Mark couldn’t help but think back to his first fateful night here as Sandslash told him stories of his old Sandshrew buddies – silly competitions, back-and-forth pranks, weird hijinks.

The Pokémon shook his head, chuckling. “Initially I didn’t want to come back. They were a childish lot and I wasn’t very close to anyone. But when I visited, back when we came here to capture Suicune, it was… nice. I used to be small and scaredy and they kind of ignored me, but suddenly I was the grown-up and everyone wanted to know about what I’d been doing with my trainer. I liked telling them stories and showing them moves and answering questions. Teaching them.”

Mark smiled. “It’s weird to think of you being scaredy.”

“It’s weird for me, too,” Sandslash said, looking out across the lake. “I gained a lot of confidence on this journey, didn’t I?”

“Yeah,” Mark said. “Same.”

They walked on in a pleasant, comfortable silence. The sun was disappearing behind the trees, shadows stretching out across the lake; the dark cloud bank from the northwest was moving in rapidly, promising a change in the weather.

And then, just as he was thinking he’d have to say goodbye and turn back, the excited cries of a troop of Sandshrew surrounded them. Sandslash grinned as the tiny figures rolled into him in bursts of giggles, examined his claws with awed gasps, and started asking him how many legendaries he’d fought.

Mark stepped back, smiling. Sandslash looked up and raised a paw to wave, laughing as one of the Sandshrew climbed onto his head.

As Mark turned around and headed back for where Molzapart was waiting, he could still hear the echoes of their conversation:

“Diggerclaw, Diggerclaw!”

“Did you fight the whole Waraider herd, Diggerclaw?”

“We did,” Sandslash said, chuckling. “And we saved the world.”

-------

Finally, Molzapart teleported Mark into the alley next to the Sailance library. They looked at one another, boy and bird, human and legendary.

“Thank you for all you’ve done,” the legendary said.

“Thanks for taking us everywhere,” Mark said.

“It was the least I could do.” Molzapart looked away, uncomfortable. “I’ll raise the Dragons of Ouen as best I can. You gave me all the legendaries you held, correct?”

“Yeah.”

“Good. I’ll handle releasing them safely, explaining why we did it when necessary, and picking up the ones the others have. In an emergency I can perform a memory modification. You won’t have to worry about them.” He took a deep breath. “All in all, you can return to your life as it was. No one has to know your part in any of this unless you choose to tell them. I’d advise you not to tell too many people.”

Mark nodded slowly.

“I think that’s all,” Molzapart said. “If you ever need me, I’ll be keeping an eye out.”

“Thanks,” Mark said. He was oddly numb; the fact it was over and he was going home still seemed unreal, like it wasn’t really happening. “Goodbye, then. Take good care of the dragons.”

Molzapart nodded, grave. “Farewell, Mark.”

And then he was gone. The first drops of rain were falling from the sky, and Mark blinked. The world seemed to zoom in suddenly, locking into place in a new order. He was here, back in Sailance, and the rain made it real.

Shivering, he fished his raincoat out of his bag, put it on, and set off walking the familiar route towards his home.

The school building was gray and dull as ever as he approached it, the fenced-off schoolyard empty. As he passed by the front entrance, though, a figure was stepping out of the door, opening an umbrella, and something made him stop.

“Mrs. Grodski?” he said.

His teacher lifted the umbrella, looking at him. “Greenlet?” she said disinterestedly – and then her eyebrows scrunched. “Wait. No, you –”

She stared at him, hard, before looking away and sighing. “Never mind.” There was something intense and upset about her gaze still; there were bags under her eyes, her whole face gaunt with exhaustion. Mark wasn’t sure if she’d changed or if she’d always looked like that and he just hadn’t noticed. A strange mixture of emotions battled in his head; the monster she’d seemed like back then, how absurdly trivial all of that seemed now, the realization of how disorienting Molzapart’s memory modification might feel from the inside. He shifted on his feet as Mrs. Grodski shook her head and walked down the steps, preparing to head the other way.

“Listen,” he blurted out. “I’m… I’m sorry I was such a brat.”

She turned around, blinking warily at him, fingers tense around the handle of the umbrella, as if she expected this was some kind of prank.

Mark smiled. She hesitated for a second, glancing sideways. “You made it pretty far at the League, didn’t you?” she said, sighing. “Good work. I suppose I underestimated you.”

Mark blinked – and then, without meaning to, he burst out in a disbelieving grin. “I guess you did.”

She squinted at him for a moment, like her brain was fighting, grasping for purchase on a slippery surface. “I… I think I wasn’t quite fair to you,” she said. “I’m not…” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I regret that.”

Mark stared at her. The confused muddle of feelings in his chest was starting to settle into pity. “It’s… it’s all right, Mrs. Grodski.”

She took a deep breath, her expression softening as she looked at him. Slowly, her shoulders sagged, her fingers seemed to just slightly loosen their grip on the handle of the umbrella. “Welcome home, Greenlet,” she said. “Take care.”

“I will,” Mark said, smiling at her. “Have a nice evening, Mrs. Grodski.”

“You too,” she said. She looked at him for a second more before she shook her head, turned, and headed off in the other direction.

-------

A strange sense of déjà vu hit him as he turned into his home street. The rain, the rivulets of water draining from the road, the bushes in front of his house – for a split second, he half-expected something small and orange lying on the pavement, breathing raggedly, a faint flame curled against the side of its body. But that was a long time ago.

These gardens, the houses, his house: it’d been so long since he’d seen any of them. Everything was nostalgic and new at the same time, familiar and yet different: new decorations in the neighbor’s windows, a blooming flowerbed, a newly-painted fence. Life had gone on without him, the slow progress of time and change continuing.

The steps up to his house were smaller than he remembered. He lifted a hand and rang the doorbell.

It was his mom who answered it. The door opened and she stood there, and instantly, with a sudden, powerful ache in his chest, Mark realized how much he’d missed her. Her default polite smile changed to a warm, happy one as she saw him; then her brow furrowed, and her eyes widened, and her lips parted in shock.

“Hi, Mom,” Mark said, a strange lump in his throat. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she pulled him in close and hugged him tighter than he thought he’d ever been hugged.

“You... you were dead and I forgot,” she whispered in shocked confusion, clutching his coat as if he might otherwise simply float away. “How could I forget?”

“It’s okay, Mom,” Mark murmured, his voice muffled against her tear-stained shoulder. “I’ll explain everything.”

-------

In the back of his mind, Mark had wondered if they’d believe him. But he needn’t have worried: after realizing they’d forgotten their son’s funeral, his parents were willing to entertain whatever he told them. They listened to him talk with rapt attention, for hours, hardly interrupting; maybe later, when they’d slept on it and recovered from the shock, they’d interrogate him, but for the moment all they cared about was having him back, alive.

He introduced them to Charizard and Jolteon and Dragonite in the garden. Maybe they wouldn’t have agreed to let them live there under other circumstances, but as it was, they simply accepted it. His mom tearfully thanked them for taking care of him, his dad silent and awkward, nodding at the Pokémon like he wasn’t sure what to say to them. Dragonite wouldn’t be staying long, of course – he’d only wanted to have a place to return to when he travelled the world. Charizard had said he might go with him sometime, but for the moment he wanted a break to just rest and recover.

Jolteon was content to be a pet. For now, at least, he’d seen enough of the world for a lifetime.

It was hours past his bedtime by the time the conversation was winding down, Jolteon snoozing peacefully in his lap, Charizard and Dragonite dozing off sat against one another in the garden. Normally, Mark knew, his parents would have sent him to bed by now, and although he’d journeyed across the whole region, he imagined they’d balk if he asked to go out again now – besides, he was pretty exhausted himself.

“I think I’ll get some sleep,” he said, yawning, gently lifting Jolteon and placing him on the couch. “You… you didn’t throw away my stuff or anything, did you?”

They hadn’t, of course, because they’d forgotten he was dead. Mark apologized to them for probably the twentieth time that night; he wasn’t sure it would ever be enough.

-------

He slept until the afternoon. He’d almost forgotten how good it was to sleep in an actual bed.

After dragging himself to his feet and eating the breakfast-slash-lunch that his dad cooked for him, though, he told his parents he had to go to the beach, and was smothered with hugs and ‘take care’s that would have irritated him a year ago but seemed kind of sweet now. Jolteon followed him outside; Charizard and Dragonite were lazing around in the shadow of the garden’s trees, talking.

They could have flown, but the beach was only a short walk away; Sailance was by the shore, and their house was on the sea side of town. In the movies he’d watched as a kid, beaches were always hot, yellow and crowded with people, but this one had black sand and cold winds, waves crashing mercilessly against huge rocks and banks growing with faded grass. He’d always liked this beach for what it was; he’d used to come here to draw sometimes, imagining Lugia sleeping at the bottom of the ocean, forever just out of reach.

Today the wind was light; the rain had cleared up since yesterday, and the rocks were warmed by springtime sun. He sat down on a weathered boulder with Jolteon, looking out at the ocean for a moment, before he took out his last Pokéball.

“Gyarados, we’re here.”

The sea monster emerged in the water, stretching his fins. “So this is your hometown,” he said in a low rumble.

“Yeah.” Mark smiled.

Gyarados looked around, then glanced at the gems on his neck. “I suppose the Ninetales was devastated.”

Mark nodded silently. He really should’ve done this while he was still with Molzapart, shouldn’t he – gotten him to teleport them to the sea first and revive Suicune immediately. But he couldn’t entirely regret it.

“We’re going to have to resurrect Suicune,” he said.

Gyarados grunted. “I know.”

“Other than that, all that’s left is for you to decide what you want to do. You can stay around here, and I’ll come and bring you some food when I can. Or you can go, wherever you want.”

“I promised to serve you forever, didn’t I, back at the lake,” Gyarados said.

Mark winced. “You shouldn’t have promised that.”

Gyarados chuckled. “You’re right. It was a stupid promise. You don’t need me anyway, do you?” He paused. “I always did want to swim the ocean. Be free. That’s what I really wished for.”

“Then that’s what you should do.”

Gyarados gave a slow nod. “What about Suicune?”

Mark took a deep breath. “I think you can handle it,” he said. “If you find a legendary, or a strong Psychic Pokémon, see if they can do it. There have to be plenty of them in the ocean.”

“So you trust me.” Gyarados’s lips curled in amusement. “What’s to stop me just not doing it? Keeping him trapped and helpless at my mercy, forever?”

“Nothing.” Mark’s gaze didn’t waver. “But you know what that’s like. You’re better than that.”

Gyarados smiled, looking off into the distance. “I wouldn’t want to carry him forever anyway.”

“You won’t destroy the gems either.”

Gyarados let out a rumbling sigh. “No, I won’t.”

Mark sat in silence for a moment as Gyarados gazed out at the vast stretch of ocean before him. The wind ruffled his hair. There was no deadline, no worries. He could just sit here, as long as he liked.

“I figured you’d prefer this,” he said. “Over having yet another legendary dictating your fate. Molzapart probably only heard about you maybe once, from Alan, sometime while we were at the League. I don’t think he remembered. But if he realizes you’ve still got Suicune before you can get him resurrected, he’ll probably try to find you.”

Gyarados chuckled. “Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”

He swam a few experimental circles in the ocean water. Mark watched him dive and resurface, shaking the water out of his fins.

“Goodbye,” he said, bowing his head towards Mark. “Thanks for getting me out of that lake.”

“Goodbye, Gyarados,” Mark said, smiling. “Good luck out there.”

“I’ll be traveling too,” Dragonite said. “Maybe we’ll run into each other again sometime.”

Gyarados nodded slowly. “Mmm. I think I’ll come back here someday, too. Maybe when Suicune is gone.”

“I’ll be on the lookout,” Charizard said.

Jolteon nodded, eyes shining. “Goodbye.”

“See you around,” Gyarados said. And with that, he turned around and dived into the sea.

Mark watched him go with the others until the ripples in his wake disappeared. It really was a nice day. Charizard lay on the rocks in the sun, the tip of his tail flicking idly back and forth, the flame burning peacefully. Dragonite sat in the sand, looking out at the calm ocean. Jolteon lay leaning against his side, eyes closed.

He took his bag off his shoulders, pulled out his sketchpad, and started to draw Charizard. Distantly, from the trees in the direction of the city, he could just hear the first Taillow song in Sailance in a long, long time.


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