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.
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?”
“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?”
“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.