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Thread: The Quest for the Legends, now with its ILCOETH revision!

  1. #1576
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    Thanks for reviewing, Sidewinder. Mutark isn't "the one with the sabertooth-like teeth" (or at least I think you're thinking of Fangcat there), per se - it's the one that grows when it tastes its own blood - but one of the features that grow disproportionately is the fangs, so in her largest form, she can slash with her teeth. I haven't had the chance to implement your critiques, but you make good points.


    So!

    If you haven't seen my signature, I did successfully finish the fic for NaNoWriMo. (Kind of. I didn't write all of chapter 75 because I ended up deciding to do it completely differently than I'd been writing it, so that continuing from there wouldn't have made sense. And lots of chapters are going to be heavily edited and/or added to. But I basically finished, and conveniently it ended up just over 50,000 words from where I started. Whoo.)

    Since then I've been editing the chapters, and although that's been taking longer than it ought to because my treacherous beta opaltiger distracted me by getting me to write Community fanfiction instead, chapter 63 is pretty much the way I want it by now. So because it's been a while since chapter 62 was posted, I'm going to just post chapter 63 now. Chapters 64 and so on are probably not going to show up until I've finished editing everything, unless I again feel it's been really long and I'm not going to make more changes to chapter 64.

    Chapter 63 isn't overly exciting - it's mostly the characters talking and making plans - but it's important setup and I find it pretty fun anyway. Hope you enjoy it. Thanks to opal and elyvorg for beta-reading.



    Chapter 63: Recovery

    Mark woke and found himself on a bed with his arm in a cast.

    He groaned and blinked as he tried to remember what had happened. Raudra and Puragon. How had it gone in the end? Were they safely on the PC?

    “Oh, finally,” said a voice – not Alan or May’s voice, but still one that sounded strangely familiar. “You’re okay. Just relax and take it easy.”

    In his blurry vision, he could see a small figure with messy, blond hair standing near his bed. His brain tried to place the voice, but he was only more puzzled once it did. “...Robin Riverstone?”

    Robin chuckled. “Glad to hear you remember my name. I don’t think we ever even battled.”

    “What?” was all Mark managed to say.

    “Guys,” Robin called in the direction of a blob of light that Mark was starting to recognize as an open door, “he’s awake and really confused.”

    Alan burst in a second later. “Mark? Oh, wonderful. Feeling okay?”

    “Yeah,” Mark said, “but...”

    “Raudra wasn’t happy, but with both of her sisters convinced, she ended up giving in. Dragoreen put you down, but then –”

    Mark stared at him, inclining his good arm meaningfully towards Robin.

    “She knows,” said May as she entered the room. “She saw us. Remember how the safari warden is her mom? Apparently they live close by.”

    Robin grinned at Mark’s quizzical look. “You were pretty loud and visible. I came to check out what the commotion was about and arrived to find you trying to convince the Color Dragons to be captured. Didn’t think it was a good idea to butt in immediately, but once they were all in Pokéballs and I saw you were injured, I knew we had to get you help.”

    “Apparently the warden has some medical training,” May added.

    “And after they explained what was going on and we were done freaking out about legendaries and the end of the world, we figured taking you to a proper hospital wouldn’t be good for the whole secrecy thing, so she did what she could.”

    Mark felt vaguely down his sides; they were covered in bandages and still hurt when he touched them. “So,” he started to say, but changed his mind when he realized properly how dry his mouth was. “Do you have some water?”

    Robin scuttled off through the door and came back seconds later with a half-full glass. He accepted it gratefully and drank most of it.

    “So,” he said again, his voice still weak, “am I going to be able to go out again and battle legendaries, or what?”

    Robin frowned. “Probably not until several weeks from now. Your arm and all.”

    Mark looked at May and Alan, wincing. “So what do we do now?”

    “This is annoying,” Chaletwo said, making Mark jump; he’d forgotten he was there yet again. “But we were at a standstill anyway. We got Raudra and Puragon, and that means again we have no idea where the next legendaries are. The best we can do is try to gather more clues about where any of the others might be.”

    “What about the male Color Dragons?” Mark asked. “Do you think their sisters might know anything about where they are?”

    Chaletwo paused. “That’s a good point. We should talk to them.”

    “And actually, I’ve been thinking,” May said. “After them, it’s just Mew and the Waraider herd, right? Well, the other kids you killed have presumably been looking for them for years now. Wouldn’t it be productive to try to contact them and see what they have? And more of us is always nice for when we have to battle eight legendaries at the same time.”

    “Hm. I suppose perhaps we could try to track them down. We have their names.”

    Mark thought of the girl who’d sent the distress call fighting Entei – Leah, wasn’t it? Her team was probably very powerful after years of legendary-fighting – he felt a lot better about the idea of battling the Waraider herd if she would be with them.

    “So can I come?” Robin asked suddenly.

    Mark blinked; May and Alan stared quizzically at her.

    “I mean,” she went on, “I don’t have years of experience fighting legendaries, but I’m pretty good, and I’d like to think I could make myself useful. And my team’s been bored to tears just fighting each other since the League ended. I’d have to ask, but if I know them correctly I think they’d be game for a bit of excitement.”

    “That... works out very well, actually,” Chaletwo said after a pause. “Then if you get good leads on the remaining Color Dragons, you could maybe check them out immediately with Robin standing in for Mark, instead of everyone sitting around until he recovers. Is your mother all right with this?”

    Robin shrugged. “Ask her. Mom!”

    “Yes, yes, I’m coming,” came the safari warden’s voice from somewhere else in the house. The sound of footsteps echoed in the hallway before she leaned in through the door. “Oh, our legendary-collector’s awake. You feeling okay?”

    Mark nodded.

    “They were wondering if I could go with them to hunt down some more dragons while he recovers,” Robin said with an innocent smile.

    Mrs. Riverstone raised her eyebrows. “Grand. Well, are you going to get her killed? Because he got beaten up pretty bad.” She inclined her thumb towards Mark.

    “That was just him being stupid,” May said.

    “None of us have gotten hurt before,” Alan said, throwing May a glare. “It was a one-time incident, and they were very angry. We’re going to try to avoid fighting at all in the future. But it’s still dangerous. She could be a big help to us, but as her parent it’s your call.”

    “Don’t see what you’d need her for if there wasn’t going to be fighting,” said Mrs. Riverstone dryly. “But, well, I don’t like telling her what she can do. I know she can look after herself, and her Pokémon are top-notch. I just hope I’ve raised her with enough common sense to not want to do anything too dumb.” She looked back at her daughter, pausing. “I trust you’re done with the jumping off cliffs practicing Fly thing?”

    Robin grinned. “Don’t worry, Mom.”

    “This legendary business,” her mother said, turning to Mark. “You’re sure that catching them all is going to do the trick? It sounds kind of flimsy, from how they explained it.”

    “Not this again,” said Chaletwo irritably. “Have you got a better idea? Because I’d love to hear it.”

    Mrs. Riverstone shrugged innocently, a gesture that made her look strikingly like her daughter. “Murdering the lot of them?”

    “Very funny. No, that wouldn’t work even if we were that desperate. It takes a lot to kill a legendary if it isn’t voluntarily making a soul gem. My eyes could, but at this point I wouldn’t have the energy left to do it more than once or twice.”

    She sighed. “Well, that’s a bind. What’s Plan B, then?”

    “Plan B?”

    “Well, I’d hope you have some kind of backup plan for if you fail,” Mrs. Riverstone said, frowning. “In the event that you realize the War is coming and you have no hope of capturing the remaining legendaries in time, or you realize capturing just won’t work, what will you do then?”

    “In that event, the world ends,” Chaletwo said. “This isn’t a situation with multiple options. If the War happens, it’s over. We need to succeed.”

    “And what, if you don’t succeed you’ll just lie down and wait for the rampaging legendaries to get you? Forgive me if I think that sounds a little daft. Any reason to think they’d attack an underground bunker with no legendaries in it, for instance, if I were to build one of those?”

    “No, but that’s not much help.”

    “Not for you, maybe,” Mrs. Riverstone said. “Don’t get me wrong; I do hope it works out – but if it’s looking hopeless, I want my daughter back here in my bunker unless she’s very sure she can still help out there. Understood?”

    “Perfectly,” Chaletwo said grudgingly.

    Robin and her mother shared a look; despite the warden’s casual attitude, there was a weary, motherly concern in her eyes. Butterflies were flitting about in Mark’s stomach – discussing the possibility of failure and putting others in danger wasn’t helping his vague guilt about delaying everyone with his injuries one bit. If the remaining legendaries had eluded the others for this long, didn’t that mean they were that much harder to find? Could finding them in the time they had left simply be impossible?

    “We should talk to Dragoreen,” May said, breaking the silence. “I’m going outside. Who’s coming with me?”

    After a moment’s hesitation, Alan and Robin turned around to go with her, Alan throwing Mark an apologetic smile. Mrs. Riverstone looked after them as they exited and then leaned against the foot of Mark’s bed, letting out a long breath.

    “Stopping the end of the world, huh,” she said, looking in his eyes. “It’s a big thing for a kid to be doing. You must have a lot of courage.”

    Mark thought of himself pleading with Dragoreen and didn’t feel very courageous. He tried to smile; it probably came out as more of a grimace.

    “Robin’s made of courage, but she only just turned eleven. Was this really just you being stupid? Because this sounds more dangerous than you’re letting on, and while obviously this is important and it’s her life and her choices, I’d rather she didn’t come home with broken limbs or worse.”

    He winced. “It was pretty stupid.”

    “All right.” Her gaze lingered on him, not looking entirely convinced, but after a few seconds she stood up and prepared to leave. “Well, give me a shout if you need anything.”

    Mark looked after her, feeling a nagging need to say something. “I’m still glad I did it,” he said as she reached the doorway. She turned around and looked at him questioningly.

    “We were going to just capture them forcibly,” he said. “But because I released Dragoreen, we got them to agree willingly, and now they might tell us where the next legendaries are. If I hadn’t been stupid there, we’d have taken them by force and we’d be lost now. It was worth it.”

    The safari warden gave him a grin. “I like your spirit,” she said before walking out.

    -------

    May took the minimized Master Ball out of her pocket as she stepped outside into the cold evening air. It was lucky, she thought grimly, that Floatzel had managed to retrieve it at all – it could easily have been eaten by a Gyarados. And even worse, if it had been merely lost and not destroyed, then... well, then they would have had to convince Dragoreen to make a soul gem, because then it would have been impossible to catch her in any other ball. She doubted the dragon would have taken that well.

    “Right,” she said after confirming Alan and Robin were behind her. “Go.”

    Dragoreen emerged in blinding white light, twice as tall as the Riverstones’ single-storey home; now that they weren’t battling her, she looked far more monstrously huge. She glanced warily over her surroundings before she folded her wings and settled down into a relaxed position. “What is it?” she said.

    “We’re going after your brothers,” May said. “Do you have any idea where they might be?”

    Dragoreen’s golden-yellow eyes surveyed her for a moment, her slitlike pupils narrowing. “You’re going to capture them, correct? All of them?”

    “Yes.” May didn’t flinch, didn’t look away. She still resented that she’d been caught off guard when Dragoreen had taken Mark hostage; it was something Pokémon weren’t supposed to do, and she hadn’t been prepared for it, but she should have been – it was idiotic not to be – and she wouldn’t make that mistake again.

    “Do you have a strategy?” the dragon asked.

    “Our Pokémon have been training to fight many legendaries at once, and we know that you’re all Dragon/Flying-types with a double weakness to Ice. We’ll have to adapt our techniques to three opponents instead of two, but –”

    “It wasn’t enough to capture us,” Dragoreen observed coolly.

    May took a deep breath. “The first time we battled you, we weren’t ready. But we trained after that. The second time, we were expecting to fight only your sisters, with Mark’s Pokémon with us – that’s why we failed. If it hadn’t been for Mark, we would have caught them.”

    “Fair enough,” Dragoreen conceded after a moment. “But are you sure you have the strength to get our brothers? Three are far more powerful than two, as you saw.”

    “Yes, I know.” May exhaled slowly, measuredly. “But this time we’ll have more Pokémon, and we’ll have Robin, once we bring her Pokémon up to speed.” She gestured towards the younger girl.

    Dragoreen gave a slow nod. “Is she any good?”

    “She’s very good,” May said immediately. “I’ve battled her before.”

    Robin grinned. “And she’d know. She’s the Champion.”

    May pushed down the sudden sting in her gut, the flash of blood spreading over rocky ground. “No, I’m not the bloody Champion,” she said; Robin should know better than to think that, and it both annoyed and disappointed her that she didn’t. “And that’s beside the point. The point is Robin’s going to more than make up for the lack of Mark if we go now. We just need to know where they are. That’s where you come in.”

    Dragoreen exhaled, still not taking her eyes off May; the gust of hot air from her nostrils gave a momentary strange sensation of standing by a fire on a windy day. “They’re in the Acaria mountain range,” she said finally. “They have a cave there.”

    Alan frowned. “The Acaria mountains? They’re pretty big. Do you have anything more specific?”

    Dragoreen shook her head.

    He sighed. “Well, okay. Guess we’ll just have to look in every cave, then.”

    Every cave in a mountain range? That was daunting – but May gave a decisive, undaunted nod anyway. “Thanks for your help,” she said. “I’ll recall you now before you lose any more power.”

    “You’re welcome,” Dragoreen said, watching her with golden eyes before dissolving into red light and returning into the Master Ball.

    -------

    “Right,” May said when she stepped back into the guest room where Mark was. “Dragoreen told us the male dragons are in the Acaria mountain range somewhere. We might need to look for a bit, but that’s as good a thing as any to do while you’re recovering.”

    Mark nodded. “All right.”

    “And we should probably take your Pokémon along,” she went on. “You don’t have to be there for them to fight, and we can direct them as we can if needed. We can’t unlock your Pokédex without scanning your eye, obviously, but we can take six of your Pokéballs anyway. Having at least Weavile would be a huge asset.”

    “I think we should bring Dragoreen,” Alan said as Mark nodded. “I know she said she didn’t know exactly where they are, but maybe she’d remember some of the landscape or just be ready to help us look. She knows them better than we do.”

    Mark looked skeptically at him. “I don’t think working with their sister is going to help you catch them,” he said. “Remember how Raudra and Puragon were, after just theorizing we were working with them?”

    Alan winced. “Fair point.”

    “I think we might as well take her along,” May said. “Better than regretting it later. One less of Mark’s Pokémon won’t make much of a difference.”

    Mark nodded again, then hesitated. “Don’t you think you should bring Chaletwo, too?”

    May looked at him in puzzlement. “What for?”

    “Negotiating,” Mark said. “Without Chaletwo, you have nothing backing up the War of the Legends story. Except Dragoreen, but again, that’s not exactly going to help if they’re anything like their sisters.”

    “I thought that was a given,” Chaletwo said, a note of indignation in his voice. “I’m not going to just stay here twiddling my thumbs. If it’s wasting a ball you’re worried about, I can get into May’s head now and then you can put the ball back on Mark’s PC and give that slot to another Pokémon.”

    May grimaced. She hadn’t really been intending to attempt negotiations; as far as she could tell, the Color Dragons were stark raving mad, and it was only by the sheerest luck that trying to talk to them had worked this one time. But she imagined Stantler would tell her she wasn’t giving the crazy murderous dragons a chance – plus even if Mark wouldn’t be there, Alan would, and so would Robin, who seemed to actually admire her. “Yeah,” she said reluctantly. “I guess.”

    She rummaged through Mark’s bag for the Pokédex, scanned his eye with it, and switched Gyarados’s ball for Chaletwo. It seemed ridiculous to withdraw a legendary Pokémon from the PC like any other Pokémon – did League employees ever see activity like this in their logs and freak out?

    The Pokédex bleeped cheerfully to indicate the transfer had completed, and she dropped the Pokéball and watched Chaletwo form in front of her. For a split second he looked at her with his creepy closed-but-not eyes, and then a strange pricking sensation arose deep in her brain, like her mind was going to come pouring out. She instinctively clutched at her forehead in a momentary jolt of surprised panic, but the feeling quickly faded into a faint tingling as Chaletwo disappeared back into the Pokéball.

    “Well, here I am,” he said just as the throbbing was dying down, and she started again: it was an entirely different feeling than listening to him talk normally, like a voice in her head but with the volume turned up to the max, spreading out from inside the back of her skull. A creeping feeling that someone was looking over her shoulder lingered even after he went quiet.

    Can you read my mind? she thought warily.

    “Only what you’re thinking at the moment.”

    She really should have realized this; it was perfectly obvious, in retrospect, but she hadn’t been thinking. She didn’t want him in her thoughts. Her thoughts were for her and her alone to know, not...

    “Oh, come on. I thought you of all people wouldn’t let this get to you. Fine, we can make Alan the leader instead, but...”

    “No,” she said firmly; the others gave her puzzled looks, and she realized belatedly that only she had heard that. “Sorry, just sorting things out with Chaletwo. I’m okay. Let’s go to bed; we should get up early tomorrow, shouldn’t we?”

    As Mark and Alan looked at one another in confusion, May marched out of the room and tried not to think anything at all.

    Chapter 64: Hide and Seek
    The story of an ordinary boy on an impossible quest in a world that isn't as black and white as he always thought it was.
    (rough draft of the remaining chapters finished for NaNoWriMo; to be edited and posted)

    Morphic
    (completed, plus silly extras)
    A few scientists get drunk and start fiddling with gene splicing. Ten years later, they're taking care of eight half-Pokémon kids, each freakier than the next, while a religious fanatic plots to murder them all.

    Lengthy fanfiction reviewing guide / A more condensed version
    Read and I will be very happy for a large number of reasons.

  2. #1577
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    It was like two days after I Pm'd you asking about an update that you updated, haha. I don't know if you heard or not but I was in a car accident and loss the use of my hands for a bit, which prevented me from reviewing your stoy, as well as everyone else's. Sorry about that, but anyway, let's get to it!

    “...Robin Riverstone?”
    Hah, that's been awhile

    “She saw us. Remember how the safari warden is her mom?
    You're referring to Robin's mother, right? Hmm, it may have been so long since I've read the story that I don't remember this portion but i don't remember this

    Waraider herd
    I still love the name for them. Waraider, so awesome lol

    “That was just him being stupid,” May said.
    Hah!

    but as her parent it’s your call.”
    Alan saying that felt really odd to me. I mean, obviously it's her call, but him drawing attention to it just kinda felt outta place. If I was the mother I would tell that kid to screw off because I know it's my right to tell my daughter what's what. Not only tht, but Alan is actually pretty smart, so him saying that went against something I thought he would do. I'm not trying to needlessly harp on it, you understand, it just felt off to me

    “In that event, the world ends,” Chaletwo said.
    That was said with such finality. What a realist, I love it

    did League employees ever see activity like this in their logs and freak out?
    That's hilarious and a really astute observation. I can imagine that scenario really well haha

    All in all, a pretty decent chapter. I liked the fact that the crew seems to be thinking more logically than earlier chapters and fully grasp what a perilous situation it is. At first, it seemed unrealistic that they would be so calm about going after it again, especially since mark got hurt, but the more I thought about it, their calmness was fitting. They have to realize that the odds are so stacked against them that all of them them dying is a real possibillity, and with that thought comes the understanding that they HAVE TO BE calm. I'm sure they'll have little freak-out moments, but you did a good job with this chapter. I'm eager for the next installment

    An Ancient Treasure, a Terrible Price. Take the Risk, Eat the World
    (Final Chapter added 05-15-2014)

    -Thanks to PopPrincess_Lyra for the banner above, and Sworn Metalhead for the banner below -


    All Hail the Six Kings...
    Chapter One added (12-07-2014)

  3. #1578
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    Well. It's sure been a while.

    But the fic didn't die a tragic death so soon after its completion; I was just trying to get this chapter right. And I'm reasonably satisfied with the outcome now, but at this point I've been staring at it for over a year, so I'm not the best judge of it.

    Next chapter should not take this long!



    Chapter 64: Hide and Seek

    The quickest way to Acaria City was to fly. Skarmory couldn’t fly as fast as Charizard with a trainer weighing him down, so May borrowed Mark’s Charizard. It was strange flying an unfamiliar Pokémon, and despite how many battles they’d been in together, she could never quite shake the feeling that she just didn’t trust him like one of her own.

    (Chaletwo didn’t comment on that, but he was probably rolling his immaterial eyes.)

    They reached the city in the evening and checked into a trainer hotel. Chaletwo hadn’t talked to her most of the day, which made her almost forget he was there at all; if anything that bothered her even more. She didn’t know how Mark could stand this.

    “He can stand this because he doesn’t freak out over it,” Chaletwo said as she entered her room and collapsed onto the bed. “I don’t understand why you’re so tense. You know me; I know you; I already know your Tyranitar killed a boy. Exactly what are you afraid of?”

    She winced. “That’s not the problem,” she said, turning onto her side.

    “Then what is? Do girls your age think about boys or something? Because I assure you I’d tune that out anyway.”

    “No!” She sat up in disgust. “What, is Mark thinking about girls all the time?”

    “Thankfully, no.”

    “Good.”

    May lay back down with a sigh. There was silence.

    “You still haven’t told me what –”

    “Thoughts are supposed to be private,” she said between gritted teeth.

    “I’m not going to blab everything you think to Mark, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

    “Again, that’s not the point.”

    “Then I don’t have the faintest idea what is.”

    What was the point? May wasn’t entirely sure how to answer that. Thoughts were random and uncontrollable, and people should have conscious control over how they appeared to others. That didn’t mean they had anything to hide. It was just... who you were was the choices you made about what to say and do, and if somebody was reading your mind, you didn’t have a choice about anything. It was creepy and terrifying.

    “What? Of course you can still choose what you say and do. It’s not mind-control.”

    May clenched her jaw and thought about empty white space.

    “If it helps,” Chaletwo said after a moment, “I don’t have to read your thoughts all the time. I can tune you out completely unless you ask for me or something important is going on.”

    She shook her head. “I’m fine.”

    Chaletwo gave a long telepathic sigh. “If you insist. What do you think of our prospects without Mark?”

    “We have Robin,” she said.

    “She’s a whole lot better than nothing, obviously, but you and Mark did train for a couple of months for legendary battles, which she hasn’t.”

    “But Robin is good at battling, which Mark isn’t, so that pretty much balances it out.”

    “I wouldn’t go that far. Mark made it to the quarterfinals of the League. I realize you’re the more skilled battler, but…”

    “Mark is okay,” May said firmly, “but Robin is top-notch. She’ll pick up the strategy in no time. If anything we’re better off now.”

    Chaletwo sighed again. “Well, I suppose optimism is nice. Either way, you should get some sleep; tomorrow will be a long day.”

    May nodded and stood up to brush her teeth, and Chaletwo didn’t speak again for the rest of the night.

    -------

    May had only had a vague idea about the existence of the Acaria mountains. People didn’t exactly study Ouenian geography in Johto, and while of course they’d been to the city before, she hadn’t paid much attention to the mountains in the background when they’d approached it then – she’d never been one to spend her time admiring landscapes.

    But now that they were there, flying over the mountain range, she could see that, depressingly, Alan was right: the mountains seemed to go on forever, and they were so littered with cracks and holes that it was a wonder they hadn’t collapsed into a pile of rubble. There had to be thousands of caverns. Not all of them could house huge legendary dragons, of course, but that didn’t help them find those few.

    “Let’s land here and plan things out,” she shouted as they finished their initial flyover. They’d been vaguely hoping to run into dumb luck such as happening to see one of the dragons, but predictably enough, that hadn’t happened. Wisps of clouds rushed past as Charizard descended; the Acaria skies were cold and wet today. Grateful for the wool-lined coat she’d bought in Green Town in October, she clung to the Pokémon’s neck and braced herself for the landing: despite being faster than Skarmory, Charizard weren’t nearly as nimble or precise in their flight. (Well, maybe Robin’s was, given the acrobatics she’d seen him do at the League – but she wasn’t about to point that out to Mark’s Charizard.)

    “Right,” she said when she’d climbed off his back and recalled him. “Alan, I was thinking you could start looking around the area while I introduce our fighting strategy to Robin and her team. Take Skarmory; Charlie’s probably exhausted.”

    She switched the ball she was holding with Skarmory’s and handed it in Alan’s direction. He looked annoyingly surprised, in that particularly Alanish way designed to tell her what an awful person she usually was. “Yeah,” he said. “He is. Thanks.”

    “You’re welcome,” she said anyway as he took the ball and sent Skarmory out. The vulture gave May a disappointed glance when Alan explained he was going with him, which was at least grimly satisfying.

    Once they were gone, she finally turned to the other girl, exhaling. Robin was still standing by her Charizard’s side and looking eagerly at May, her eyes practically sparkling with enthusiasm. She’d been wearing an excited grin since they’d set off, and apparently her cheek muscles still hadn’t tired of it. After hanging around Mark and Alan for all this time, May couldn’t quite decide whether this was a refreshing change or indicated a bizarre lack of perspective on what was going on.

    “Well, what are we waiting for?” she said. “Send out your team so we can get started.”

    She took out her Pokéballs and May shielded her eyes from the blinding light of five Pokémon materializing. Robin had briefly introduced her Pokémon to them before they’d left, of course, but most of that conversation had gone into explaining the War of the Legends and answering their many questions, so there hadn’t been much in the way of considering battle strategy. May would have to work from what she’d gathered about how they fought from their battle at the League, at least for now.

    “Well,” she said, glancing over the group, “first off, you’ll be flying Charizard, so he’s not going to be battling. I’m not taking any chances with them being friendlier than their sisters, and the last thing we want is a repeat of the Mark disaster, so he’s going to want to devote his full attention to keeping you out of their way.”

    The dragon Pokémon nodded firmly. If he was tired after the long flight, he didn’t show it – he was breathing slowly and measuredly, each calm exhalation forming a thick cloud of mist in front of his nostrils. In a way it seemed backwards; Robin’s Charizard was considerably smaller and leaner than either Mark’s or Charlie, and while it made intuitive sense that this made him faster and more agile, May wouldn’t have expected him to excel in endurance as well. She wasn’t sure if that was genetics or if it was Robin’s doing.

    “So, again, the dragons are all Dragon/Flying-types. They don’t look it or fight like it, but Ice attacks are always going to be the best choice. Rock and Dragon are good too – and Fairy, I guess, but none of us have Fairy-types – but Ice is more effective and obviously easier to pull off in this weather. That means Froslass is going to be the most important member of your team, and the others should do their best to try to keep them off her back.”

    The ghost Pokémon tilted her head curiously, her strange blue-and-yellow eyes flicking towards May. “What about Gastrodon?”

    May opened her mouth. “Yes, her too, if she knows Ice moves. Stone Edge too, I guess.” Except she’s slow and can’t dodge worth a damn, so she’s not going to last very long once they see her as a threat, she thought, but didn’t say it – you weren’t supposed to say things like that. And Robin’s Machamp, though she looked almost as excited by the prospect of the battle as her trainer, would have a similarly hard time – she knew Stone Edge too, but the dragons would probably have Flying moves and Machamp were not exactly agile either.

    Meanwhile, Robin’s Cacturne was looking sluggishly around, shivering. When May had first seen Robin battle, she’d used him brilliantly on a desert-themed arena, but for the same reasons he’d been excellent there, he was next to useless here. It wasn’t their fault, and definitely not Robin’s fault, but it was dawning on her that this fight wouldn’t be very suited to them. Perhaps she’d spoken too soon to Chaletwo yesterday.

    May sighed, squeezing her eyes shut, trying to think of words. What would Stantler say? “Since the dragons fly and are pretty fast, agility and range are going to be key points. Our general strategy so far is to try to isolate them from one another as much as possible by luring them in different directions and keeping them there with paralysis, trapping moves or just keeping them busy, so that each dragon can only attack the Pokémon that are attacking him. This allows us to break the battle into three roughly eight-on-one battles instead of one twenty-something-on-three battle, which is better for us – Waterberg principle and all. Does that make sense?”

    Robin nodded; she had obviously paid enough attention in school to know the Waterberg principle, unlike Mark and Alan, which cheered May up somewhat again. “Gastrodon can use Whirlpool,” Robin said. “So she can help with the trapping, and obviously Luxray has Thunder Wave. If we get them paralyzed, that helps Gastrodon and Machamp a lot, too.”

    May glanced at Robin’s Luxray, who was lying in the back of the group of Pokémon; he let out a low, rumbling growl, and she averted her eyes again. He hadn’t seemed very sociable during the introductions either. Part of her wanted to ask Robin about it, and part of her really didn’t.

    She realized belatedly that she hadn’t answered. “Yeah, that sounds about right,” she said. Paralysis helps Gastrodon and Machamp a lot, too. How discreet. She took a deep breath. “Maybe Cacturne would want to sit this one out, though. I don’t think there’s that much he can do in this kind of environment, and they’re doubly resistant to Grass attacks. But I guess that’s up to him.”

    “Of course I’ll take part,” Cacturne said, sounding cross. “Who do you think I am?”

    “Right. Obviously.” Judging from Robin’s amused eyeroll, May took it Cacturne wasn’t really as offended as he sounded. “Well, basically in each sub-battle we’re going to want Pokémon that resist that dragon’s favoured type of attack, as far as possible. They can still use Dragon moves, obviously, but that can’t be helped. So Pokémon that resist Water should go for the blue one and those who resist Poison attack the black one. Mark didn’t think the gold one had a special favoured type, but he’s probably going to be using mostly Dragon and Flying-type moves, then.”

    “Huh,” said Robin, scratching her chin. “If he doesn’t have a favoured type, does he have something else instead?”

    “I don’t know,” May said, sighing. “Mark was going by what he can remember of some book he flipped through once. Chaletwo doesn’t know anything about how they battle because, surprise, legendaries don’t usually spend their free time battling. Dragoreen just said he was strong defensively and that’s it.”

    Robin pursed her lips, thoughtful.

    “But since Ice is our best shot,” May went on, “we want at least something with an Ice move in each group, if we can. Mark has a Weavile, my Floatzel knows Ice Punch, and Alan’s Vaporeon knows Ice Beam. With your team, we can add Froslass – and Gastrodon – to that. Then we should try to spread the remaining Rock and Dragon moves to even it out once we’ve sorted out which Ice user goes for which dragon – there’s Mark’s Charizard, Dragonite and Sandslash, Alan’s Grovyle and my Flygon, and now Machamp. Like I said earlier, yours and Alan’s Charizard are going to be too busy carrying you, so –”

    “What about your Tyranitar?” Robin asked, and May froze, her train of thought coming to a screeching halt.

    (Robin didn’t know. Of course she didn’t. What the hell had she expected?)

    “He’s gone,” May’s mouth said.

    Robin blinked, her eyes widening in dawning concern. “Gone?”

    “Not like that. I – I just released him. It’s not important.”

    “What? Why?”

    For a split second May hated her more than anything in the world for not knowing when to leave it alone. Then, as she was trying to pull together a response, Robin looked down and shook her head. “No, sorry, I won’t pry. Forget it.”

    May opened her mouth to say that it was fine, but stopped herself; there was nowhere good the conversation could proceed from there. “Thanks,” she made herself say instead.

    Robin smiled awkwardly. May tried to smile back.

    “I think it would be a good idea to try to organize things a bit around the trapping moves too,” Robin said after a long pause.

    “Yeah, that was the idea,” May said.

    Tyranitar didn’t come up again.

    -------

    Alan didn’t find anything. When they’d finished nailing down which Pokémon would go for which dragon, May and Robin went flying around too, but didn’t find anything either. They returned to where they’d landed to camp, tired and exhausted with nothing to show for a day’s gruelling work.

    Robin didn’t seem to have noticed, though. She was chatting enthusiastically practically the moment they were off their Pokémon’s backs, and by the time they’d heated some beans for dinner she was still at it.

    “…and then the kid came back again, all sore-loser-like, saying, ‘That didn’t count, I want a rematch.’”

    Alan raised his eyebrows, chuckling. “Wow. Yeah, that sounds pretty obnoxious, all right.”

    May poked at her beans, hungry but not hungry, trying to work up the willpower to eat another forkful and wishing they could just eat silently.

    “And Luxray just gave the guy this stare, and he kind of started to back off, but then he changed his mind and just stood there and folded his arms and told me he wasn’t leaving until I battled him again. And, you know, I have to give him some credit; it’s pretty hard to stare in the face of a Pokémon with Intimidate and not back down, but I just could not believe…”

    “What’s wrong with your Luxray?” May said, before she could think better of it.

    “Huh?” Robin looked quizzically at her.

    “He doesn’t talk.” May forced the words out as quickly as she could, trying to ignore Alan as his gaze flicked sharply towards her in alarm. “He just growls. What’s up with that?”

    Robin’s puzzlement turned into understanding, and she laughed. “Oh. Yeah, he comes off pretty cold, doesn’t he? Sorry, I should have thought to explain – he just takes a while to warm up to people. He didn’t really talk first after I caught him, either, so I was pretty concerned too, but after about a week of gentle prodding he started opening up, and now we’re basically best friends. He’s a total sweetheart once you get to know him; he just has some childhood trust issues that he hasn’t quite worked out yet, and it’s something he really needs to get through at his own pace, so I try not to get on his case for being a bit hostile to people at first. Sometimes I forget people might take it the wrong way, though. Sorry about that.”

    “Don’t worry about it,” Alan said, smiling. “It sounds like you’re handling it well.”

    May nodded numbly, waiting for the knot in her stomach to dissolve, but it didn’t.

    “Thanks; I try to.” Robin beamed. “Anyway, so like I was saying, annoying dude came back again, and despite Luxray’s attempt to scare him off, he still refused to go away. Luxray looked up at me like, ‘Say the word and I will make sure this kid never bothers you again’ – it was kind of hilarious, honestly – but I just told him straight out that I wasn’t interested and he doesn’t own me and we’re done here. He still followed me for a few minutes whining about it, but by that point I was just ignoring him completely and eventually he gave up.” She finally stopped to take a breath. “How about you guys?”

    Alan scratched his brow. “I don’t know, I think the most obnoxious trainer I ever met was probably this one boy who…” He trailed off. “Well, he was just a kid, so maybe it’s not really fair, but he approached me after he overheard me saying my last name at a Pokémon Center in Hoenn. I thought he just wanted to say hello but he ended up interrogating me about my dad and what would he think of this and that and how he was raising his Pokémon and so on for about an hour. It was awful.”

    “Ouch,” Robin said. “Why didn’t you just tell him you had stuff to do?”

    Alan winced. “That would have seemed kind of mean, don’t you think?”

    “There’s a difference between being nice and being too polite to say no to anything,” Robin said firmly. “A lot of people don’t get that. Like, I heard people complaining May seemed rude because she was always refusing interviews before the League finals, but really it’s perfectly reasonable she wanted to use that time to train and said so. She doesn’t let people just walk all over her, and that’s a good thing. If you let random kids hold you hostage for an hour in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, maybe you could learn something from her.”

    “Maybe,” Alan said, sceptical.

    Robin looked at May with a grin. May stared at her rapidly cooling beans, squeezing the can, and halfheartedly tried to hold on to the remains of her appetite for a moment before giving up and putting down the can with a sigh.

    “So…” Robin’s smile faltered at last. She hesitated before putting up a more awkward version of it. “Do… do you have any obnoxious trainer stories?”

    “No,” May said, and she stood up and started to pitch the tents.

    -------

    Robin broke the silence again once they’d crawled into their sleeping bags inside the girls’ tent. “I’m sure it’ll go better tomorrow,” she said. “I mean, now that I’m all initiated and we can go in three different directions from the beginning.”

    May wanted to believe that, but didn’t. She didn’t respond.

    “May?” Robin asked again after a few minutes, most of the cheer finally gone from her voice. “Random question, sorry it’s pretty silly and you don’t have to answer, but at the League, what did you really think of me? I mean, I did lose, and almost pretty badly at that, so I get it if you weren’t that impressed.”

    May shifted around, still trying to find a way to be comfortable on the hard ground, irritated at that, irritated that Robin was suddenly playing humble at her after everything. “I thought you were a guy,” she muttered.

    Bizarrely, Robin broke into a wide grin. “A lot of people do.”

    May blinked, incredulous, not sure exactly how she’d expected Robin to react to that, only knowing this definitely wasn’t it. “Doesn’t that… doesn’t it bother you? People thinking you’re something you’re not?”

    Robin shrugged, shaking her head. “Actually, I kinda like it.”

    May stared at her for a moment, then turned over in her sleeping bag to face away. She should have guessed, she thought grimly. Everything about Robin was bizarre and infuriating.

    “So… was that the only thing you thought, or…?”

    “You didn’t almost lose pretty badly,” May said, wishing she’d stop hammering on this. “You almost won. Your Charizard beat a Tyranitar.”

    She kind of meant to continue, but her mouth was dry and she felt kind of sick, and whatever Robin was fishing for, she didn’t want to give it to her.

    “Okay,” Robin said after a moment, and May heard her sleeping bag rustle as she turned around. “Thanks.”

    -------

    She tried to struggle, but her limbs were limp and numb and she couldn’t breathe. Robin’s Luxray’s eyes bored into hers, his huge jaws clamped tightly around her body. Behind him, his trainer looked at her in a mixture of accusation and disappointment.

    “You know,” Robin said, frowning, “I could call him back. I’m just not sure I want to.”

    Then he let go, and she plummeted off the cliff, down towards where Taylor’s body lay in a pool of blood, his glassy stare filling her field of vision as an overwhelming voice called out to her –

    May’s eyes tore open, and she forcibly blinked a few times. Methodically, her mind unscrambled itself to focus on reality: she was shivering, drenched in sweat, in her sleeping bag, in their tent, in the Acaria mountains. She could hear the wind outside and Robin breathing contentedly on the other side of the tent and feel her own rapid heartbeat as it started to calm.

    “Are you all right?” Chaletwo asked, and she started again as she recognized the overwhelming voice, a flash of falling, Taylor’s dead eyes – no

    “Get the hell out of my dreams,” she hissed under her breath, her voice shaking with cold, before turning over on her other side and thinking determinedly of Meowth kittens.

    By the time she fell back to sleep, the dream had faded into a hazy muddle.

    -------

    “All right, let’s go,” she said when she climbed onto Skarmory in the morning, grateful to be on his familiar metallic back again. Something had just seemed too organic about Charizard, with all those moving muscles constantly reminding her that she was riding a living creature with wings designed to hold it without a rider, and that if he made a mistake they would come careening down.

    “You okay in the cold, Skarmory?” she asked as he took off. She knew the answer, really – his Steel typing would offset the Flying-type weakness much like the Fire-type did for Charizard – but it seemed right to ask. He nodded and took a skilful dive to make the point. (Charizard would probably not have been able to do this gracefully, cold or no cold.)

    “You know the drill,” she said to Alan and Robin once they were all airborne. “I say Alan continues west from yesterday, Robin goes east and I go further north.”

    The others nodded and diverged, and she took a deep breath as Skarmory flew out over the area she and Robin had been exploring the previous day. It was a frustratingly small portion of the overall landscape, but at least this time she was alone.

    She’d memorized the shape of a large crack where they’d left off yesterday, and once they were past it she squinted at the various unexplored shadows and openings beyond. “Start by flying over high,” she said to Skarmory. “Then we can see what’s most promising and prioritize.”

    On the first overhead scan, she picked out two or three locations that seemed like fairly large caves; then they did a second pass flying lower past those areas she couldn’t see very well from above. There were a lot of caverns, but most of them were probably too small to house a legendary dragon. She made a mental note of the most plausible candidates, and when they’d covered everything, she told Skarmory to return to the biggest of them.

    They landed on a small outcropping by the cave entrance, and she recalled him for now. If they found anything, better if Skarmory wasn’t crawling around inside the cave where he could barely move.

    “Charizard, go,” she said, taking his ball out of her pocket and throwing it. “This is the biggest cave I’ve found so far. Could you light the way?”

    Charizard nodded and swung his tail out in front of him, proceeding cautiously by her side. The cave appeared to be something of a tunnel, leading into the mountain; it narrowed as they went on, but from a rough estimate she figured it was still just wide enough for something Dragoreen’s size to crawl through. Be here, she thought. Just be here and we can be done.

    (Not done with Robin. Or Chaletwo. Or Tyranitar.)

    They weren’t there, of course. The tunnel just kept on narrowing. She went on anyway until Charizard pointed out it was getting too narrow even for him; then she sighed and they turned and trudged all the way back out. The next candidate turned out to be very shallow and obviously empty, and the one after that seemed promising at first but turned out to end in a massive Woobat nest.

    May didn’t have much hope for the fourth. It looked barely big enough for a dragon to get through. But as Charizard lifted his tail once they’d climbed through the entrance, it turned out to be a considerably bigger cavern, and on the left side, a wide tunnel led into the darkness.

    “That looks pretty good,” Charizard said. May nodded wordlessly and entered it, the Fire Pokémon following hastily behind.

    The tunnel narrowed a little as they continued inwards, but not by much. Shadows danced on the rough walls on every side, creating a constant illusion of movement; at first, startled Zubat occasionally screeched overhead and made them jump before flying out through the tunnel, but as they went deeper, even they disappeared. The cave became stark and empty, each dimly flickering section of wall the same as another; her feet hurt from the walking, her eyes hurt from squinting into the darkness.

    “Do you also hear something?” Charizard asked suddenly.

    “What?” She stopped and waited, holding her breath; without the noise of their footsteps, she could hear a deep, barely audible rumbling somewhere ahead – like the breathing of some large creature somewhere in the depths of the tunnel.

    Overwhelming relief was the first thing she felt. She let out the breath she’d been holding, reaching up for her Pokéball necklace. “Okay, this could be it. Be ready.”

    “Shouldn’t you get the others?” asked Chaletwo, and she jumped.

    “Just… when I’ve made sure, okay?”

    They walked slow, measured steps along the tunnel, her heart pounding in her ears. She could hear the breathing clearly now, slow, calm breaths, like the creature was asleep. That meant it should be easy to confirm it was there and then get out. The tunnel was wide enough for Charizard to spread his wings, but not the dragon. They could see it, bolt, and then call the others. Easy.

    May rounded a corner a second before Charizard. Her breath caught as she made out the indistinct outline of a large shape lying on the cave floor, but it seemed smaller than she’d expected, and a lot rounder in shape. Then the flame swung around the corner, illuminating... thick white fur?

    A Beartic. Yet another wasted trip just to find some stupid wild Pokémon. Frustration and disappointment and rage reached a boiling point somewhere in the back of her mouth.

    “Charizard, Flamethrower,” she said; he looked at her in puzzlement. The huge polar bear Pokémon was stirring, probably awoken by the sound of her voice. “It’s waking up. Just do it.”

    She stepped backwards as the Beartic rose to its hind legs with a deep roar, swiping at Charizard with one of its paws. He shuffled back as well, breathing in deep, and then released a bright cone of flames from his mouth. It hit the polar bear square in the chest, and it roared in pain, dropping back down to all fours. Charizard turned and started to flap his wings.

    “No! Another Flamethrower!” May ordered, but Charizard just looked at her and shook his head, taking off as the Beartic charged towards him. She tore Skarmory’s Pokéball off her necklace instead and threw it. “Steel Wing! However many it takes!”

    Skarmory came out with his wings glowing and smashed into the Beartic. May watched with clenched fists as he swiped across its body again and again, streaking its stark white fur with dark blood and drawing raw roars of pain from its throat, and then recalled him when she was sure it wasn’t moving anymore. She was left in cold darkness, her breath shaking.

    “Wow,” said Chaletwo, and she jumped. “That was brutal.”

    “It was a wild Pokémon!” she snapped. “I battled it! That’s what trainers do!”

    “May,” Chaletwo said; she took a deep breath. “This is not normal. You’re coming unhinged. Please calm down.”

    She wanted to make an icy retort, but couldn’t. No, it wasn’t normal. There was no reason to waste time fighting the Beartic at all.

    “Is this because of the reading your mind thing? Because at this point I’d be relieved to switch to Alan’s head instead.”

    She shook her head firmly in the darkness and forcibly unclenched her fists. A flickering light appeared in her peripheral vision; she turned to find Charizard carefully making his way back towards her.

    “Are you all right?” he asked quietly.

    “Yeah,” she said and walked over to him. Wordlessly, he turned around and they headed towards the exit.

    “I’m sorry I left you behind,” he said after a moment, without looking at her.

    “I’m...” May winced. “Sorry I was trying to make you battle.”

    “It scared me,” Charizard muttered. “How angry you were.”

    May didn’t say anything.

    “How long is it going to take for Mark to heal?” Charizard asked when they finally reached the cave exit.

    “Mrs. Riverstone said maybe six weeks.”

    Here, on his third day of being with her, he was already thinking of when he could have his real trainer back. She wasn’t even surprised and it still stung.

    -------

    There was nothing in the other caves either, except a lone Froslass that retreated into the wall when she approached. After another long and fruitless day, they had dinner at their camp site, let their Pokémon mingle and train for a while, and retreated to their tents again.

    May couldn’t sleep. She curled up in her sleeping bag trying to keep warm, looking at Robin’s wild hair sticking out of hers, the Beartic’s roars still ringing in her ears. Eventually, she whispered, “Robin?”

    “What?” the other girl said sleepily without turning around.

    “My Tyranitar,” she began; her mouth was dry. “He... it was him who killed him. Taylor.”

    A second passed before Robin turned over in her bag. “What?” she said again, blinking at May. “He...”

    “He thought he was doing it for me. I didn’t want that. He just...” May pressed her lips together, wishing she hadn’t started. She barely even knew Robin. How did she know she wouldn’t take it to the police or worse?

    “You didn’t tell him to attack him, did you?” Robin’s eyes were wide and alarmed. Maybe that was better than starstruck.

    “No, he just... he misunderstood.”

    Robin pushed herself upright. “Misunderstood what?”

    “I...” May wanted to go away, out of this tent, out somewhere where she could be alone and not hear her voice shaking. “I said he should die, but not... I didn’t mean it. It’s just how people talk.”

    “Have you told the police? Aren’t they still investigating it?”

    “We’re trying to save the world,” May said. “That… that has to come first. I just… I just thought you should know.”

    Robin looked at her for a few seconds before slowly lying down again, facing the other way.

    May turned away too, clutching at her sleeping bag.

    -------

    Over the next couple of weeks, they alternated training sessions and searching for the dragons. The former progressed quickly, Robin’s team being quick learners who were obviously used to trying on different strategies; the latter was nothing but disappointment after disappointment. Caves upon caves turned out empty, and the mountains started to seem familiar, mundane and limited.

    Robin didn’t mention Tyranitar again. May didn’t attack any more wild Pokémon.

    “We’ve been over the entire mountain range by now,” Alan told Dragoreen after two more excruciating weeks. “They could still be lying low somewhere, but at this point we think they’re probably not here anymore. Do you have any idea where they might have gone? If not we’re going to have to exhaustively search every mountainous area in Ouen. It could take some time.”

    The dragon considered it. “How long have you been looking?” she asked at last.

    “A month,” May said. “We’ve covered everything that looks big enough.”

    Dragoreen closed her eyes, thinking, her mouth curling into a frown. Stray snowflakes settled on her body and she irritably shook them away.

    “They’re here,” she said, finally. “Keep looking.”

    “Really?” Chaletwo asked, sceptical. “How sure are you? We can’t afford to waste more time here if we’re going to have to look blindly around the entire region.”

    “I know,” said Dragoreen firmly. “I can feel it. They’re here. You must have overlooked something.”

    May pressed her lips together, nodding curtly before she recalled the legendary. Robin and Alan glanced at her and then each other in silence.

    “Well,” she said. “Let’s get back to work.”

    -------

    They spent another week going over some areas again with a fine-toothed comb, checking caves that weren’t easily visible from above and ones that were probably too small. It felt futile, pointless. May felt she knew the mountains like the back of her hand now; every day was the same trudge through the same caves leading to the same nothing. At least she’d stopped being disappointed and angry: by now all she felt was dull apathy.

    “Dragoreen,” she asked the evening of the twentieth of January, her teeth chattering in the cold, “are you absolutely certain they’re still here? Could they have moved somewhere or seen us coming? Are they evading us somehow? We’ve looked in every cave and there’s nothing.”

    Dragoreen shook her scaled body, crouched low to conserve heat. “How long has it been?” she asked.

    “More than five weeks. Mark’s almost recovered. If they’re not here, we need to move on soon.”

    The dragon surveyed her for a few seconds, tilting her head. “Perhaps I was mistaken,” she said eventually.

    “Mistaken?” May stared at her. “What do you mean, mistaken?”

    “Perhaps they weren’t here. It may have been the mountains of Scorpion Valley that they were in.”

    “What?” Chaletwo said, not even trying to hide his frustration anymore. “You told us several times that you were absolutely sure. You said they were here. What changed?”

    “Maybe they weren’t,” Dragoreen said, looking down thoughtfully. “No, I think it was the Scorpion mountains.”

    “This is ridiculous,” Chaletwo said. “You were very insistent that we keep looking here a week ago.”

    “Apparently not.” Dragoreen shivered. “Now get me out of this cold.”

    May pointed the Master Ball at her and pressed the button, wordlessly, before turning around. What words could there be? The dragons weren’t here. They’d never been here. It was all for nothing. Of course it was. Why would a bunch of dragons, doubly weak to Ice, choose to live in such a cold place anyway?

    That last thought gave her pause, a niggling sense of dread creeping up on her. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. This hadn’t made any sense from the beginning. Dragoreen had been knowingly lying to them. Why would she lie?

    As heat rushed to her face, May hurled the Master Ball at the nearest rock, as hard as she could throw it; it popped open and the dragon reemerged in a burst of white light, pressing her wings against her sides.

    “You knew,” May said; she wanted to scream and kick and punch, but she didn’t even have the energy, only helpless anger that trembled too audibly in her voice. “You were trying to waste our time so they’d be weaker by the time we get there and capture them. You deliberately sent us here so that we’d...”

    Dragoreen looked coolly at her, a wisp of a smug grin playing around the edges of her mouth.

    “Ice Punch!” May said, throwing another ball; Floatzel came out hissing, her paw already on her Never-Melt Ice. Dragoreen didn’t even try to dodge or counterattack as Floatzel smashed her fist into her jaw.

    “Where are they?” May clenched her fists tighter than she thought she’d ever clenched them. “Where are your brothers really?”

    “I told you the truth earlier,” Dragoreen said calmly. “I have no interest in delaying you so long you won’t get them at all.”

    May stared at her; her lack of remorse or defense was the most frustrating part of all, like a wall of calculated indifference that made it impossible to even hurt her back. “Ice Punch her again,” she said coldly, and Floatzel obediently socked Dragoreen in the jaw again. The legendary only shook her head.

    “I would be angry, too,” she said. “But you gain nothing by punishing me. My goals were not the same as yours before; now they are. Go and capture them.”

    May felt tears in her eyes, bitter, hateful tears, made worse because Dragoreen was right. There was nothing to do but to continue on their way.

    She recalled Dragoreen again and Floatzel with her, sending out Skarmory instead. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s get the others.”

    Chapter 64: Hide and Seek
    The story of an ordinary boy on an impossible quest in a world that isn't as black and white as he always thought it was.
    (rough draft of the remaining chapters finished for NaNoWriMo; to be edited and posted)

    Morphic
    (completed, plus silly extras)
    A few scientists get drunk and start fiddling with gene splicing. Ten years later, they're taking care of eight half-Pokémon kids, each freakier than the next, while a religious fanatic plots to murder them all.

    Lengthy fanfiction reviewing guide / A more condensed version
    Read and I will be very happy for a large number of reasons.

  4. #1579
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    All right! I've got to admit that I haven't a clue which sentence it was that gave you so much trouble, but I hope it ended up coming out to your satisfaction.

    “What’s wrong with your Luxray?” May said, before she could think better of it.
    Aww, someone's worried that Luxray has Tyranitar-problems.

    Mark was going by what he can remember of some book he flipped through once.
    Err, why don't they just go to the library, then, and look up some more concrete information themselves? Seems like it would be better than relying on his memory, and they might find some other useful things by doing a bit of research.

    If they found anything, better if Skarmory wasn’t crawling around inside the cave where he could barely move.
    If it's too small for Skarmory, how does it make sense to bring Charizard in instead? I'd expect them to be about the same size.

    I enjoyed Chaletwo and May's interactions in the beginning of the chapter and was a bit disappointed to see them pretty much disappear for most of it, although it makes sense that Chaletwo would more or less shut up. (I'm kind of surprised he didn't have any commentary on what Dragoreen was saying at the very end there, or how May was treating her at the time, though.) Hoping to see a little more interaction between the two of them before Chaletwo gets stuck back in Mark's head.

    I had to read the conversation between May and Dragoreen like four times to figure out what was going on; apparently I'd just managed to scan Dragoreen's dialogue as “I have no interest in delaying you so long as you won’t get them at all,” multiple times, which made the whole rest of the conversation really wonky, but while I would probably word the sentence a little differently, I'm probably the only person who managed to have that problem.

    Anyway, this is pretty much a May Feels Bad chapter; kind of quiet, but it's nice to see some signs of her trying to be more empathetic and kind of failing at it most of the time. It'll be interesting to see what snaps her out of her funk in the end. The fact that this was ultimately a pointless, disappointing detour for the characters does make for a bit of a depressing read, but it's nice to see things moving again.

    Finally, completely unrelated to the chapter itself, it seems crazy to think that this story is going to be over in just twelve chapters. I mean, during that span, I'm thinking you have to accomplish at least (not in any particular order):

    1) at least an attempt to catch the rest of the dragons
    2) resolve outstanding character arcs
    3) reveal who the Destroyer is
    4) **** goes down
    5) denouement

    That's going to be pretty jam-packed! Should be fun, anyway. Funny to think that the 'fic is actually finished and we're closing in on the end, assuming it doesn't take a year for each of those remaining chapters.

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  5. #1580
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    Quote Originally Posted by Negrek
    Err, why don't they just go to the library, then, and look up some more concrete information themselves? Seems like it would be better than relying on his memory, and they might find some other useful things by doing a bit of research.
    The Sailance library appears to be the only one in Ouen, for some reason you'd have to ask younger-me about (...actually I could have changed that with minimal figuring, but it didn't really occur to me to step back and ask myself if the lack of other libraries makes any sense until you brought it up), and that's far enough away that it didn't seem worth the bother given Mark did remember the book was very vague about the dragons' abilities anyway. But funnily enough they do in fact go to the library a few chapters from now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Negrek
    If it's too small for Skarmory, how does it make sense to bring Charizard in instead? I'd expect them to be about the same size.
    Well, Charizard is being brought out to light the way. It's not that it's too small for Skarmory to be there at all so much as that it's too small for him to fly in and thus small enough he'd just get in the way. (Even if Charizard will have to fight, he's still better able to do it in cramped spaces than Skarmory, since he has long-range attacks like Flamethrower that he can use from a standing position, while almost all of Skarmory's moves are either physical and require some momentum to work very well or explicitly require him to be flying.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Negrek
    (I'm kind of surprised he didn't have any commentary on what Dragoreen was saying at the very end there, or how May was treating her at the time, though.)
    His silence was meant to imply he's part speechless at her audacity and part basically with May on this. He doesn't generally approve of May turning to violence, but Dragoreen really needed that punch in the face, damn it. (He'd probably have spoken shortly after the end of the chapter, but of course we didn't see that.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Negrek
    Hoping to see a little more interaction between the two of them before Chaletwo gets stuck back in Mark's head.
    Sadly, he's back with Mark by the time chapter 65 starts. I do agree that they're a lot of fun, though; one of the first questions I asked my betas was actually if they thought getting only one chapter of Chaletwo in May's head would be disappointing. Maybe I'll write some May and Chaletwo Discuss extras. I mean, there's six weeks of material there that didn't make it into the chapter.

    Twelve chapters is more than you'd think. I expected the fic to be well over eighty chapters before I sat down and wrote the chapter plan. Granted, as it stands the final version of chapter 75 will probably be pretty monstrously long. I've just recently been considering moving some bits of it over to chapter 76.

    Thanks for reviewing! Hope you enjoy the rest of the ride.
    Last edited by Dragonfree; 16th May 2014 at 1:03 AM.

    Chapter 64: Hide and Seek
    The story of an ordinary boy on an impossible quest in a world that isn't as black and white as he always thought it was.
    (rough draft of the remaining chapters finished for NaNoWriMo; to be edited and posted)

    Morphic
    (completed, plus silly extras)
    A few scientists get drunk and start fiddling with gene splicing. Ten years later, they're taking care of eight half-Pokémon kids, each freakier than the next, while a religious fanatic plots to murder them all.

    Lengthy fanfiction reviewing guide / A more condensed version
    Read and I will be very happy for a large number of reasons.

  6. #1581
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    The Sailance library appears to be the only one in Ouen, for some reason you'd have to ask younger-me about...
    Oh man, I would completely shrivel up and die if I had to visit Ouen, then. Library deprivation. (I was thinking research on the internet as well, although I don't know if there's internet in Ouen as of this story.)

    Sadly, he's back with Mark by the time chapter 65 starts. I do agree that they're a lot of fun, though; one of the first questions I asked my betas was actually if they thought getting only one chapter of Chaletwo in May's head would be disappointing. Maybe I'll write some May and Chaletwo Discuss extras.
    Ah, that's too bad. Some extras sound like they'd be fun, though, if you felt like you wanted to write them. From the way the two of them get along it seems like they'd usually be more like "May and Chaletwo Don't Discuss" extras, though. :P

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