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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 65: Three Dragons
    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 Three added (03-31-2015)

  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 65: Three Dragons
    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.

    In which an undead trainer, a bloodthirsty super-clone, and an irascible ex-Rocket grunt set out to rescue an imprisoned Mew--if they don't end up murdering each other first.

    Banner by Sworn Metalhead of Dćdric Design



  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 12:03 AM.

    Chapter 65: Three Dragons
    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

    In which an undead trainer, a bloodthirsty super-clone, and an irascible ex-Rocket grunt set out to rescue an imprisoned Mew--if they don't end up murdering each other first.

    Banner by Sworn Metalhead of Dćdric Design



  7. #1582
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    Oh god why did I take so long to catch up with this.

    Anyway. Don't get me wrong: I pitied Raudra and Puragon. I really did. I understood where they were coming from. Understood why they were being, well, how they were being. But I still had to facepalm at them. Repeatedly. As much as I sympathized with them, I'll admit I sympathized all the more with Chaletwo there. X3

    I'm kind of amazed I didn't see Dragoreen's double-cross (if it can really be called that; my vote's kind of on "no it can't" since, well, maybe she was on to something with the whole "waiting til they're weaker" thing, but on the other hand, tick tock) coming--why the **** WOULD a bunch of dragon/flying-types want to live in the frosty asscrack of nowhere?

    Congrats on getting the rest of this fic all wrote up! Hopefully next time I'll be a bit more punctual in popping in to read it, heh. XD;
    DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK
    (Or do. I don't actually mind.)
    The Origin of Storms | Communication | Bad Idea

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    Sike Saner: Glad you're still reading! Don't worry about being late; I don't think I could possibly call anyone late with anything at this point.


    Anyway! Still a few hours from being a year after chapter 64, I bring you chapter 65. This was an incredibly problematic chapter to revise (I had to more or less rewrite the legendary battle from scratch), but hopefully it really should be fairly clear sailing for the next several chapters. I am planning to try to finish all of chapters 66-69 before I post them, though, since there are going to be some pretty heavy changes to them and I may move stuff from one chapter to another in the process or change my mind on exactly where to insert stuff. So, don't expect chapter 66 too soon (I am not going to take a year on this, though, damn it), but once that's posted I'll probably be posting 67, 68 and 69 on some sort of schedule, with maybe a week in between or so.


    Chapter 65: Three Dragons

    “Just try to treat your arm like normal. Don’t avoid using it and putting weight on it. Don’t break it again either, but I trust you’ll be more careful from now on.”

    Mark nodded from atop Charizard’s back. “Thanks for all your help, Mrs. Riverstone,” he said. “And thanks again for letting us borrow your daughter.”

    She grimaced. “I’d be coming with you myself if I had battling Pokémon, not sending my eleven-year-old. Frankly, after this whole setback I don’t know how I can possibly believe you’ll make it.”

    May had filled them in on Dragoreen’s deception in a curt phone call the previous night. Mrs. Riverstone had been livid, but somehow Mark had felt mainly disappointment: as terrifying and ruthless as she could be, Dragoreen had ultimately seemed like the reasonable one of her sisters, and during his recovery he’d permitted himself to hope she was truly on their side.

    “Don’t worry, Mom,” Robin said after a few seconds of dull silence, but even she didn’t sound half as cheerful as she’d been before they’d left. “We know where we’re headed now, and after that we just have to find two more. We’ll be fine.”

    “Well, if not,” her mother said, “there’s always the bunker.” She pointed a thumb behind her, at the entrance to the unfinished underground shelter she’d been building over the past weeks with the help of a band of Ground Pokémon she’d recruited from the Safari. Mark shuddered at the thought they might have to use it.

    “Well, we’d better go,” Alan said with a sigh. “Thanks for everything and goodbye, Mrs. Riverstone.”

    “Bye, Mom!” Robin called, flashing a grin as her Charizard took off the ground. “See you when we’re heroes!”

    Mrs. Riverstone grinned back and waved for a second before turning around back to her house, shaking her head. Robin’s smile faded into a wince as their Pokémon ascended and headed west.

    -------

    They flew to Acaria City first, stayed there overnight, and then headed for Scorpio City the next morning. Mark briefly considered whether they should visit Mitch since they were there – the last time they’d met was still nagging uncomfortably at Mark’s mind – but eventually decided against it for now, figuring that since they’d lost so much time, they should use it looking for the dragons as far as they possibly could.

    “These mountains are a lot smaller than around Acaria,” Alan commented when they had landed on the edge of the town. “Hopefully they won’t take as long to go through.”

    “And warmer,” Robin added.

    “Yeah,” May said, grimacing. “A lot more of a natural hiding place for a bunch of Dragon/Flying-types. God, we were so stupid.”

    Mark sighed inwardly. In retrospect he supposed it would have been kind of odd for the dragons to live somewhere very cold, but given Dragoreen had explicitly said they were there, he couldn’t exactly blame anyone for not questioning it. He knew better than to try to convince May of that, though.

    “It was exhausting being in her head,” Chaletwo said. “I had started to take you for granted, but she was just… constantly angry. She never let me get a very good grasp on what she was thinking, but what I caught wasn’t encouraging.”

    Mark tried to imagine being inside May’s head; his first thought was that it was probably terrifying. Is she okay?

    “Mostly. She was pretty stressed. Got vicious when things didn’t go right. Robin brought up Tyranitar, which didn’t exactly help.”

    Mark winced. She doesn’t know?

    “May told her eventually,” Chaletwo said. “I’m concerned about that too. Robin seemed pretty alarmed but then just… stopped talking about it. It doesn’t feel like a good sign.”

    Mark nodded, furrowing his brow. It looked like their time in the Acaria mountains hadn’t been good for anyone involved; even Alan was kind of moody and quiet. Maybe it was a good thing he hadn’t been there.

    “So, do we head for the mountains now or tomorrow?” Robin asked, snapping him abruptly out of his thoughts.

    “I’m kind of hungry,” he said. “How about you?”

    “Let’s have a quick dinner and then go,” May said, already turning down the main street. “Dragoreen lost us enough time already.”

    -------

    They didn’t find anything that evening, not that he’d really expected them to, but they did gain some valuable oversight over the mountains surrounding the valley and managed to pin down some of the most promising caves they hadn’t explored.

    At Robin’s suggestion, as the dark of night set in, before returning to the Pokémon Center, they stood silently a safe distance up the mountainside and watched the eerily beautiful flood of black scorpions near-simultaneously emerging out of the sand to hunt. Mark thought back to that night they’d stupidly camped there and May had almost died, wondering if she was thinking about the same thing or if she tried not to.

    In the morning they headed out again, split the valley into four parts, and each went to cover the mountains in one of them. Charizard flew over Mark’s area for a more detailed overview, and then they headed for the largest cave they’d found.

    “Do you think May’s okay?” Charizard murmured as they entered the cavern.

    A pang of dread hit him; if Charizard had noticed too without reading her mind, it was probably bad. “Chaletwo was saying she was pretty stressed.”

    “Yeah.” Charizard took a deep breath, hesitating. “I don’t think I helped,” he said at last. “The starter Pokémon preparation taught us to be supportive of our trainers when they’re going through a tough time. But while I was there I was too caught up in comparing her to you to remember that. I probably could have talked to her.”

    “I don’t think May wants to be talked to when she’s upset,” Mark said. “Don’t blame yourself.”

    Charizard sighed and might have been about to say something more when there was a roar from outside, faint with distance but unmistakably furious.

    Wide-eyed, Mark scrambled onto Charizard’s back, and Charizard took off to clumsily navigate back out through the tunnel they were in. The sunlight outside momentarily blinded Mark; he shielded his eyes as he got used to it, blinking rapidly, and then saw on the other side of the valley – Robin’s area – where a large shape was hovering in the air, roaring and spewing jets of water towards a smaller shape that had to be Robin’s Charizard.

    “Quick!” Mark said, needlessly; Charizard was already speeding towards the battle. Looking around, he saw Skarmory and Charlie making their way over there as well with their trainers. Robin’s Charizard was dodging nimbly, but she hadn’t sent out any other Pokémon, even as Mark indistinctly heard her shouting: she was trying for diplomacy. Mark grinned at the realization.

    “...look, he’s over there, Chaletwo, tell him!” As Robin frantically waved her hand in Mark’s direction, the blue dragon looked suspiciously his way but didn’t attack.

    “Hello, Dracobalt,” Chaletwo said. “Long time, no see. I assume she was telling you about the War of the Legends.”

    Dracobalt stared at Mark for a moment more before he lowered his head, pent-up tension fading from his body. “Chaletwo,” he said with a sigh as he looked up again. “So it is you. I thought my sisters were behind this.”

    He turned and landed on the mountainside, gesturing for them to join him. Mark and Robin did immediately; Alan hesitated, but Charlie landed anyway, and May lingered for a long second before giving Skarmory the go-ahead to do the same.

    “So, then,” the dragon said. “If I understood correctly, you’re out capturing legendaries in the hope that it will prevent this... ‘war’ from happening. What is that ‘war’ about, and why have I not heard of it?”

    “Are your brothers here?” Chaletwo asked. “You should all hear this.”

    Dracobalt’s eyes narrowed slightly. “I suppose.”

    He shook himself, the large, fishlike fin that grew out of his spine swaying. Craning his neck back, he let out a deep roar that shook the mountains around them. Seconds later, two more shapes emerged from the mountainsides around the valley: a golden dragon down the ridge they were on in the city’s direction, and a black one from the other side of the valley (Mark realized with a flutter in his stomach that it came out from the next cave he’d planned to explore).

    “What is going on?” growled the black dragon, presumably Venoir, as he landed nearby. “Who are these humans?”

    “Apparently Chaletwo thinks the world will end unless we agree to be caught,” Dracobalt said, his eyes still on Mark. “I thought we should at least let him speak.”

    “Chaletwo?” said Preciure as he folded his wings, having taken his place on Dracobalt’s right. “Working with humans? Really? Well, I suppose I always knew he was a bit nuts.”

    “What?” said Chaletwo indignantly. Sensing an argument in the making, Mark quickly spoke to get to the point.

    “Look,” he said. “There is a phenomenon known as the War of the Legends. It happens every thousand years and is the reason you’ve probably felt your powers diminishing lately. It involves all the legendaries going mad and super-powerful at once and killing each other until there’s only one left. If they’re all inside Pokéballs when the War should start, they’ll be cut off from the power surge, so then hopefully it won’t happen and you’ll all be unharmed.”

    The dragons looked at one another.

    “Hopefully?” Preciure asked, sceptical.

    “Do you have a better idea?”

    “I suppose not, but that’s because this is the first I’ve heard about it. How do you know of this?”

    Chaletwo sighed. “Remember being told about the disaster a thousand years ago?”

    Preciure peered at Mark. “Vaguely; it was before our time. That was this? Have you always known?”

    “Well, no,” Chaletwo said irritably, “Mew neglected to mention it was a regularly recurring event until some twenty years ago, when Molzapart and I started probing him about our power loss. But it was the same thing.”

    “I presume this is why you made that ridiculous proposal back then?”

    “I’m sorry we were vague, but Mew had absolutely forbidden us to inform any of you that the War would happen again. It was all we could do.”

    “All you could do, aside from just telling us. Who cares what Mew thinks? Isn’t the end of the world a little more important than Mew’s approval? Well, not to you, I suppose, but I didn’t take Molzapart for…”

    “Can we not do this?” Mark said, exasperated. “Isn’t the end of the world also a little more important than airing out your issues with each other?”

    Venoir gave him a poisonous glare that made him flinch. “You should keep a tighter leash on your humans, Chaletwo.”

    Preciure shook himself, waving a wing dismissively at Venoir. “Now, now, it may have a point. Let’s put aside our petty differences and talk solutions. You think capturing all of us will stop the War, correct?”

    “Yes, that’s the idea.”

    “But say we’d like a better deal out of that, since your terms seem rather inconvenient for us. What could you offer in return for our cooperation?”

    “What on earth are you talking about? It’s stop the end of the world or –”

    “For instance,” Preciure went on, “I think my brothers would agree that if you were to… forget to save our sisters in time, we’d be considerably more enthusiastic. Is that a possibility?”

    Mark tried his best to keep the shudder off his face.

    “We can’t ‘forget’ to save someone. That’s not how it works. It has to be all of them, or the remaining ones destroy everything anyway.”

    Preciure chuckled, a disturbingly metallic sound. “Well, ultimately you have to get them all out of the way, to be sure. But you say this is why we’ve been losing power and that Pokéballs cut off the power surge – is it safe to assume that the power loss also stops when we’re inside a Pokéball?”

    “It does, but…”

    “Then surely if you were to wait to get them until the War is very close, they’ll be quite weak once you do. Wouldn’t that only make things more convenient for you? I could even tell you where they’ve been hiding – but not until later, of course, to ensure you keep your end of the deal.”

    “Ah… er, we…”

    “Yes,” May interrupted firmly, giving Mark a sideward shut-up glare. “That sounds great. Thanks. Let’s get you in our balls now and we’ll get back to you near the end.”

    Dracobalt looked warily at Preciure. Preciure’s eyes narrowed. Venoir stared at May, then Mark. Some instinct made Mark start to back away without thinking; he reached for Charizard beside him, feeling the tension in the Pokémon’s neck, muscles preparing for liftoff.

    “You went to them first,” Preciure hissed, an all-too-familiar mad fury rising in his voice, and suddenly Venoir was lashing out with his engorged fangs at the ready. Charizard stumbled back out of his way and began to frantically flap his wings as Mark managed to crawl onto his back, heart hammering. The other fliers were scattering, and May was already throwing her Pokéballs.

    “Everyone, according to plan!” she shouted.

    Like before they’d fought Raudra and Puragon, they had worked out in advance where each Pokémon’s abilities would be best used, and May’s Pokémon wasted no time. Floatzel and Raichu went after the ascending Dracobalt as they emerged, Raichu’s Thunder Wave seeping into his muscles only a fraction of a second before Floatzel hit him with a powerful Ice Punch that knocked him in the direction of the mountainside. Preciure hit an invisible wall in the air, created by Spirit’s Mean Look, as he tried to come to Dracobalt’s aid. Flygon raked his claws across Venoir’s wing and then shot forward, drawing the roaring black dragon to follow him away from the trainers, and then started to spin a Sand Tomb around them, trapping Venoir there.

    “Traitorous worms,” snarled Preciure as Mark threw his Pokéballs. Robin and Alan’s Pokémon were already materializing all around. “What negotiation! Lie through your teeth about your pact with the enemy, all the while planning an assault if we should see through it. Congratulations on finally growing a spine, but this is low even for you, Chaletwo.”

    “What choice did we have?” Chaletwo shouted back, fiercely. “You petty imbeciles would let the world burn to inconvenience your sisters! Short-sighted idiots – we should’ve just snuck up on you in your sleep!”

    Preciure started to make a retort, but was cut off as Weavile smashed an Ice Punch into the side of his head. He roared as he attempted to swipe at her with his claws but missed, only to be struck with a Thunder Wave from Robin’s Luxray. With another contemptuous snarl, he flared up in blue flames and charged towards Dragonite, who was coming at him with a Dragon Rush. The two dragons collided in a ball of dragon flames and then rebounded, Dragonite struggling to flap his wings while Preciure rushed right back at him, and this time Dragonite went limp in the air. Mark recalled him as pointed stones called by Robin’s Machamp shot straight up into Preciure’s body from below and the dragon turned his attention towards her.

    Mark looked quickly to where Dracobalt was – yes, Vicky had managed to trap him with a Mean Look, too, higher up the mountainside, and Floatzel and Mist were alternating Ice attacks – before giving Charizard the go-ahead to fly closer to Venoir, where most of his remaining Pokémon were. The black dragon was still trapped in a vortex of sand, and judging from his erratic movements, Jolteon had successfully paralyzed him. May’s Flygon was gone – he noticed her sending out Butterfree to replace him and ordering a Tailwind – but Robin’s Froslass and Gastrodon were inside the vortex firing Ice Beams from two different directions, and Sandslash, from where he was standing in the desert sand below, shot sharp rocks into the Sand Tomb. Scyther was Swords Dancing nearby as he waited for an opportunity to strike.

    Robin, too, was turning her attention towards Venoir. “Froslass, Confuse Ray!” she shouted as the black dragon smashed his tail into Gastrodon’s body. The sea slug squealed helplessly as she hurtled through the air towards the mountainside. Robin quickly recalled her in mid-air and then sent her back out in the sand nearby. In the meantime, Froslass produced an orb of light that flickered within the Sand Tomb, drawing Venoir’s eyes towards it.

    “Okay, Froslass, get out of there,” Robin said, and the little ghost Pokémon vanished and reappeared outside the whirl of sand. “Mark, can you recall Sandslash and send him out up on the rocks instead for a moment? I have an idea.”

    Mark warily did so, and Robin called, “Gastrodon, Whirlpool!”

    Gastrodon nodded quickly and closed her eyes. Slowly, water vapour began to condense around the Sand Tomb, gluing the dusty particles together into globs of mud. Inside the vortex, the confused Venoir was shaking his head, too distracted to notice his limbs sinking into the sand as it became saturated with water. The whirl of water and sand around him slowed as its mass built up, then collapsed under its own weight on top of him, burying him. He screeched in surprise, flailing under the mud.

    “Everyone, attack, now!” Robin shouted, and immediately Froslass and Gastrodon began to fire more Ice Beams and Jolteon Thunderbolts. Sandslash shot another Stone Edge, and Scyther nimbly dodged past the stones to strike at Venoir’s wings with his scythes. The dragon roared in the middle of the onslaught, struggling to move; he spewed out a bright teal Dragonbreath, but Scyther managed to dart out of the way.

    “Nice work, Robin,” Mark called, and she grinned widely. Venoir was still struggling to rise, weakening rapidly as attacks continued to bombard him. Once they brought him down, all of these Pokémon could then move on to –

    “Robin, look out!” Alan shouted from somewhere behind Mark, and Mark looked quickly back in her direction to see Preciure darting towards her, wreathed in blue fire. Her Charizard whipped his head around and shot up out of the way, and Robin yelped in surprise as she lost her grip on his neck and narrowly managed to grab onto the base of his wings instead. The Charizard slowed down in concern, looking over his shoulder, while Preciure rocketed upwards and –

    “No!” Alan yelled, and Charlie rammed his body into Preciure at full speed. Charlie roared in pain as he came into contact with the dragon flames surrounding the legendary, and Preciure was quick to take advantage of the sudden contact by digging his claws into the Charizard’s flesh and driving both of them towards the ground with a triumphant screech. Charlie’s wings were no match for the much larger dragon’s weight; by now he was upside-down, and Alan only managed to dangle off his neck for a second before he lost his grip entirely. He screamed as he fell; time seemed to slow as Mark watched in shock and couldn’t get his brain to think of what to do – but he didn’t need to, because May’s Skarmory dived, and she clung to his neck with one arm and reached out for Alan with the other.

    She grabbed his hand, and time sped up again. There was no way May could have pulled him up; instead, Skarmory just managed to slow down their fall enough so that when they all crashed into the sand, they could fall into a roll and appeared mostly unharmed.

    And as Mark and Charizard were staring at that, a sudden, cold blast of water hit them in the face.

    Charizard was thrust helplessly back by the Hydro Pump, coughing and spluttering; Mark managed to cling onto his neck only by virtue of having wrapped his arms tighter around him while watching Alan fall. He squeezed his eyes shut as they careened through the air, his stomach twisting and lurching, until abruptly the water pressure was gone. He felt his Pokémon struggling to gain control of his flight again while they lost their borrowed momentum, and for a few more terrifying seconds they tumbled over each other in the air, falling, falling – and then, with a sharp, twisting flap of his wings, Charizard managed to reorient himself. A flurry of frantic wingbeats slowed their descent, and finally, they were pulling upwards again.

    Mark released the breath he’d been holding with a choked gasp and opened his eyes again, blinking rapidly. They’d been thrown some distance from the battle; at least that meant there was no danger for now. Every muscle in his body was still tense and aching. He took a deep breath and gently released his hold on Charizard’s neck, willing his body to relax. “You okay?” he mumbled, his voice trembling a little.

    Charizard was panting, but he nodded. “Let’s get back in there,” he said, groaning with a heave of effort as he started to head back towards the battle.

    “Are you sure?” Mark asked. “We could rest for a bit if you like.”

    The Pokémon shook his head. “Those dragons aren’t resting.”

    Mark squinted as they approached the fight, trying to regain a sense of what was going on. May was back in the air on Skarmory, but Alan had gotten onto Diamond’s back, and she was leaping to evade another Hydro Pump from Dracobalt. Charlie was nowhere to be seen; presumably Preciure had knocked him out. Dracobalt and Preciure were staying close together in the air now: clearly they’d figured out their ploy about keeping them apart to split up the battle. Venoir…

    …wasn’t there. The place where they’d trapped him earlier was an empty, wet mound of mud. Mark looked wildly around, half-expecting to find the black dragon sneaking up behind them, but he was nowhere in sight.

    “One down, two to go,” Robin shouted towards him, and he blinked. He’d missed a capture? It seemed bizarrely anticlimactic, but it made sense – Venoir had been weakening rapidly earlier, after all. Robin must have thrown the ball, then. He gave her an encouraging thumbs-up and started trying to locate his Pokémon. Weavile was lying fainted on the ground near where Preciure had been earlier; he quickly recalled her back into her ball. Scyther was attacking Dracobalt, striking with repeated quick Fury Cutters in between darting out of reach. Jolteon stood some distance from the dragons, shooting Thunderbolts. Sandslash was down in the sand below them, shooting Stone Edges upwards.

    He’d no sooner noticed Sandslash than Dracobalt spewed a jet of water straight down at him. Sandslash let out a surprised screech as Scyther zoomed in to try to distract Dracobalt again, but just then Preciure flared up in an Outrage and barrelled into Scyther, keeping him away. Sandslash collapsed under the Hydro Pump with a quiet whine, and Mark returned him to the safety of his Pokéball.

    As Scyther fell towards the ground, Racko and Pamela leapt onto Dracobalt’s back, slicing their claws into him. He roared in pain, twisting in the air as the Hydro Pump dissipated, but even before Dracobalt could counterattack, Preciure had torn them off him and dived with a vengeful hiss, dragging them with him towards the ground. Racko slashed madly at him on the way down and Pamela locked her jaws around his forelimb, but Preciure hardly even reacted before he thrust both of them into the desert rocks. Alan recalled them both, wincing.

    May’s Mutark had managed to take their place on Dracobalt’s back, however, and the blue dragon was now wreathed in cyan-colored fire of his own as he tried to shake her off. He looked a lot worse for wear than Preciure: his breath came in gasps as he shot yet another Hydro Pump towards Raichu, knocking him into the cliff wall behind him, and his flight was faltering. He landed on an outcropping of rock, where Preciure returned to grab Mutark and throw her harshly into the mountainside. She collapsed with a faint whine while Preciure hovered, shaking his head, and May recalled her as she came swooping in on Skarmory.

    “Everyone attack the blue one!” she yelled, and a Thunderbolt from Jolteon struck Dracobalt before Stantler leapt to Stomp him, Robin’s Cacturne hit him with a Feint Attack and Butterfree sent a purple pulse of psychic power at his head – and that was it, Mark realized with dread; they were the only Pokémon left. Dracobalt roared, his voice panicked and desperate, shooting a weak, futile Dragonbreath that failed to hit Stantler as she darted away, and May hurled an Ultra Ball that sucked him in and began to shake on the ground.

    Preciure had apparently managed to shake off the disorientation of all those Outrages, and now, flaring anew with bluish flames and snarling hatefully, he darted towards the remaining Pokémon. He tore madly at Butterfree’s wings before throwing her tattered form aside; he knocked Stantler away from the mountainside with his tail and she tumbled helplessly down the mountain until May recalled her, knuckles white; he picked Jolteon up in his jaws and shook him violently before throwing him aside; and…

    “Destiny Bond!” Robin called.

    The cactus Pokémon grinned, purple flames rising from his body. Mark could see Preciure’s pupils contracting to slits, a twitch of hesitation in his flight, a glimmer of horrified realization somewhere behind the blind fury of the Outrage.

    But he dived nonetheless, screeching with rage, and tore into Cacturne with his claws. And as he did, the dragon flames coating his body turned a ghostly purple, and his screech became a shrieking howl of agony.

    “Cheating scum,” he hissed with his last breath before his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed into the sand, stirring up clouds of dust in the deafening silence that followed.

    Robin tossed yet another Ultra Ball, and after absorbing Preciure’s form, it stilled without shaking.

    “Yes! Take that, idiots!” Chaletwo shouted triumphantly as their Pokémon landed in the desert sand to catch their breaths. “Good thinking, Robin. You’re living up to everything May said about you. Great job, all.”

    Robin gave May a strange, puzzled glance before turning to Mark and grinning. “I’m just glad it worked out. I was about to suggest we just throw a ball to delay him and then run for it, but then I realized he kept using Outrage, so…”

    “Yeah,” May said quickly. “Good work.”

    Robin looked at her, smiling cautiously; May looked away, and Robin looked back at Mark in defeat.

    “Well,” Mark said after a moment, “now it’s just the Waraider herd and Mew.”

    Alan gave a tight smile, petting Diamond’s neck absent-mindedly; May just nodded. A few more seconds passed in silence.

    “We can talk about them over lunch,” Robin finally said, her voice firm. “Come on.”

    And they recalled their Pokémon and trudged back towards the city.

    Chapter 65: Three Dragons
    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.

  9. #1584
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    “For instance,” Preciure went on, “I think my brothers would agree that if you were to… forget to save our sisters in time, we’d be considerably more enthusiastic. Is that a possibility?”
    You know, it's probably a terrible idea to chuck a boot at a legendary dragon, but

    chucks a boot at the legendary dragon

    “What choice did we have?” Chaletwo shouted back, fiercely. “You petty imbeciles would let the world burn to inconvenience your sisters! Short-sighted idiots – we should’ve just snuck up on you in your sleep!”
    Somewhat inclined to agree, heh.

    Robin gave May a strange, puzzled glance before turning to Mark and grinning. “I’m just glad it worked out. I was about to suggest we just throw a ball to delay him and then run for it, but then I realized he kept using Outrage, so…”
    I'd wondered if/hoped that all that outrage would come back to bite him in the butt.


    I can see where a battle like that would be a stubborn a-hole to write, yeah. Turned out pretty decent, though; I didn't have any trouble following it. And now all those squabbling siblings can just sit in those balls and think about their life choices. Mission mfing accomplished.
    DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK
    (Or do. I don't actually mind.)
    The Origin of Storms | Communication | Bad Idea

  10. #1585
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    I kid, I kid. :P

    I will admit that this is kind of an anticlimactic chapter to have coming straight off a year's hiatus--with all the effort that's gone into finding the male color dragons, having them show up pretty early on in the search and then all get captured in one shot feels a little , Not that I think it would have been better for you to have drawn the find-the-dragons subplot out longer; the end of the arc just didn't quite fulfill the buildup for me. All in all the chapter's kind of short, and there's really nothing here but the battle.

    picky picky picky:

    “Bye, Mom!” Robin called, flashing a grin as her Charizard took off the ground.
    Took the ground off what? (You could just leave it at "took off" and it would be fine.)

    valuable oversight over the mountains
    An oversight's something you miss; I think you mean "overview." It's also awkward to follow on with "over" right there, too. Overview of the mountains would work fine.

    At Robin’s suggestion, as the dark of night set in, before returning to the Pokémon Center, they stood silently a safe distance up the mountainside and watched the eerily beautiful flood of black scorpions near-simultaneously emerging out of the sand to hunt.
    There's a lot going on in this sentence--lots of adverbs and subordinate clauses. In particular "as the dark of night set in, before returning the Pokémon center" and "near-simultaneously" felt unwieldy to me. For the over-9000 level of nitpickiness, "emerging out of" is a little redundant, and "emerging from" the usual construction.

    It is a pretty image, though.

    Seconds later, two more shapes emerged from the mountainsides around the valley: a golden dragon down the ridge they were on in the city’s direction, and a black one from the other side of the valley (Mark realized with a flutter in his stomach that it came out from the next cave he’d planned to explore).
    This is a pretty convoluted sentence, with the pileup of prepositions in "down the ridge they were on in the city's direction" being particularly wonky. "At the base of the ridge?" Does it matter that it's coming from the direction of the city? And the parenthetical seems like it would work just as well as its own, subsequent sentence.

    “Chaletwo?” said Preciure as he folded his wings, having taken his place on Dracobalt’s right. “Working with humans? Really? Well, I suppose I always knew he was a bit nuts.”

    “What?” said Chaletwo indignantly. Sensing an argument in the making, Mark quickly spoke to get to the point.
    lol nice

    It's kind of interesting that these guys are the first legendaries we've seen who've expressed any scorn for humans. The dragons' scheming nastiness is fun, especially in how they don't even care to try to be subtle about it--and how May just lies right off because she doesn't even see any point in dealing with them.

    Mark tried his best to keep the shudder off his face.
    That's a weird way to put it. Normally shudders wouldn't be on your face anyway.

    He roared as he attempted to swipe at her with his claws but missed, only to be struck with a Thunder Wave from Robin’s Luxray.
    I wouldn't say "attempted"; he was successful in his swipe. What he attempted to do was hit her.

    “Everyone, attack, now!” Robin shouted, and immediately Froslass and Gastrodon began to fire more Ice Beams and Jolteon Thunderbolts.
    Preeetty sure there should be a comma between "Jolteon" and "Thunderbolts."

    “Yes! Take that, idiots!” Chaletwo shouted triumphantly as their Pokémon landed in the desert sand to catch their breaths.
    Man, even Chaletwo's getting really into this battle. :P

    All in all I think the battle played out well. There was some clever use of strategy, and it was nice to see the dragons employing a bit of their own counter-strategy, especially with regards to attacking the humans. Most of the previous legendaries have concentrated primarily on the attacking pokémon, but that makes sense--Volcaryu, Polaryu, and Thunderyu have never battled before in their lives and don't even know what humans are, so it makes sense that they'd lash out at the things hurting them while ignoring the ones in the background. On the other hand, the color dragons actually know about humans and training and recognize that if they can take out the trainers the battle will pretty much be over.

    Sucks to be Volcar/Thunder/Polaryu, though. You sleep for a millenium, wake up for ten minutes, then have a bunch of things come out of nowhere to hurt you and get stuck in indefinite storage.

    I definitely noticed a lot of adverbs going on in this chapter; I'm not sure if I'm just unusually sensitive to them at the moment, or if there's an uptick over your usual number. But overall you did a good job of wrangling a big battle without it becoming confusing. Like I said, this chapter felt a little lacking in substance, but there was some interesting stuff going on in the background with May's continued agitation, and like I said, I enjoyed the exchange between Mark's group and the dragons.

    Also, as I alluded to in my VM, I put together what I think is going on with the whole War of the Legends plot. I know you won't respond to most of it (although some parts you perhaps can), but I wanted to put it out there for the record in case any of it turns out to be right, for your entertainment, and so you can get an idea of how some of this stuff comes together for a reader of your 'fic.

        Spoiler:- Theorizing:


    And so, the prosecution rests. (Literally. Is bedtime.)

    One way or another, I figure the next few chapters should be fun. I'm now hoping that Mitch doesn't show up in the next few chapters, since you've stated pretty clearly that the reveal won't happen fora while yet, so if he does, I'm probably wrong. He could be away on mysterious business! Or maybe he's still around, but Mark continues to not figure anything out. Also acceptable. Anyway, I recall you mentioning Carl's coming back; not sure whether he's one of the "familiar faces" in 66-69 or later, but one way or another I imagine that'll be a lot of fun, whether it means he'll be on Mark's case, causing trouble with Volcaryu, or just roped into going off after the waraider herd while unhappily surrounded by a bunch of preteens. Presumably you'll have Sparky reappear as well. I'm particularly looking forward to the resolution of Rick's subplot--or perhaps it'll turn out to be "plot" instead of "sub."

    Quote Originally Posted by me, last year
    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.
    Good luck with your writing! Hopefully you don't find the going as frustrating as it was for this chapter.
    Last edited by Negrek; 16th May 2015 at 8:15 AM.

    In which an undead trainer, a bloodthirsty super-clone, and an irascible ex-Rocket grunt set out to rescue an imprisoned Mew--if they don't end up murdering each other first.

    Banner by Sworn Metalhead of Dćdric Design



  11. #1586
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    :D

    Quote Originally Posted by Negrek
    I will admit that this is kind of an anticlimactic chapter to have coming straight off a year's hiatus--with all the effort that's gone into finding the male color dragons, having them show up pretty early on in the search and then all get captured in one shot feels a little , Not that I think it would have been better for you to have drawn the find-the-dragons subplot out longer; the end of the arc just didn't quite fulfill the buildup for me. All in all the chapter's kind of short, and there's really nothing here but the battle.
    Yyyyyeah this was not a chapter I wanted to have take so long, especially just after chapter 64 took as long as it did. It probably made the search for the male dragons feel like it needed more payoff than it was really meant to. Ugh. I WILL WRITE FASTER I SWEAR.

    Thanks for the sentence nitpicks. Probably suffered from only handing this chapter off to one beta (opal was busy). I wouldn't think there's an unusual amount of adverbs in here given it went through my usual efforts these days to eliminate a bunch, but maybe returning to Mark's POV just turned up the adverb-stream to wholly unreasonable degrees somehow. I'll give it another read-over... sometime when I'm not trying to make actual progress.

    And thanks even more for the lengthy theorizing! :DDDD Reading that was so much fun.

    I will reemphasize for the purposes of anyone getting into this theorizing that yes, I didn't nail down some of the fundamentals of what was going on until 2007, and while obviously I retrofitted the plot to match up with the events of the fic, I made no effort to ensure that I didn't say something that wildly contradicts it at some point in this thread. Please do regard all old commentary and character Q&A as extremely suspect; it could happen to still be right, but if so that's likely to be some sort of hilarious coincidence. Also, while a delightful amount of older events later turned out to fit perfectly into the plot once I'd figured it out, it may not be the best idea to read too much into even what I wrote into the actual fic back then - again, I didn't actually have any idea what was really going on at that point, so while nothing in there should contradict the actual conclusion, and there are things in there (lots of things, way more things than there have any right to be) that do now function as hints and foreshadowing even though I didn't know it at the time I wrote them, the fact something looks important or significant does not necessarily mean it is so.

        Spoiler:- A couple of responses:
    Last edited by Dragonfree; 16th May 2015 at 6:22 PM.

    Chapter 65: Three Dragons
    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.

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