The story's not dead yet!! (And I'm allowed to say that because I just posted an update.)
Chapter 59: Closure, Part 1
Analysis (and possible spoilers):
I'm glad this one's finally done. I'm not completely happy with it; I feel there are a lot of parts that are weak, but after much consideration I don't know how to fix them. So I just pushed forward and finished it, because the show must go on.
A big part of the reason this was hard to write is the content: "Operation Appletree" was originally supposed to only take one chapter, leaving the Chapter 60 milestone free for a different kind of surprise. But now, Saura's journey back home has been split off four times, and to make it worse, there's a part at the end I've been wanting to write for nearly a year now, and it kept feeling like it was getting farther and farther away the more I wrote. But now, without a doubt in the world, it's going to happen in the next chapter. Nothing can stop it.
The part in this chapter I felt the most uncomfortable with was the scene when they entered Ion Plains. That was the part I was stuck at for a very long time. It was at that moment when I realized the chapter didn't have a strong theme, and that all the emotions were weak and lacked focus, and weren't very well executed, so I felt uncomfortable with continuing. But answers never came to me, so eventually I came up with a different idea. That idea became the basis for the second half of the chapter.
Originally, the concept for this part was to explore an interpretation of the "electric-type habitat", inspired by Amp Plains from PMD2, with Ray commenting about how awesome it felt to be there and how his brother would teach him to catch lightning in some other electric habitat. When I realized the chapter had to be split again to keep it from becoming Eon Fable-length, I struggled to find a good stopping point for it. Ray talking about his brother wasn't exactly an emotionally powerful theme on its own, and I already felt guilty at stopping the previous chapter at such a pathetically bad place, I didn't want a repeat of that.
Then I got the idea to finish Ray's character development completely in one full blow, and that's when the chapter started to turn around.
I felt that the worst part of this chapter was the weak justification for Ray running off, but the moment I started writing the flashbacks, my inspiration returned in full force, and the entire second half of the chapter came out very easily, so much so that I feel that any doubt one may have at Ray abandoning the team is forgotten when they see his emotional development through the rest of the chapter. Now that he knows the answers about his past, he's pretty much a complete character, just like Scythe was when he left the spotlight at the end of season 3. Sure, there's still the "Lost Loot" to find (which, yeah, is a nod to a PMD item), but that's going to affect Team Ember as a whole more than just Ray. Ray has finally reached the end of his character development. Everything that can be said about him has now been said.
And that's a good thing, because in Season 5 there will be little time for this kind of thing. I have to get it all out of the way now. That's why this is the "Ember" season; its purpose is to finish the development of the main characters so that other characters can enter the spotlight when they need. You'll see just why this is important at the tail end of the next chapter.
In case you're wondering about the "deadly virus" Rautzen had: I don't know exactly what it was, maybe a jar or something, but it was contaminated by Pokerus. He had contaminated himself long ago so that he'd have the strength to fend for his brother, and he kept it in case he'd need to infect Ray with it too. When he started talking with Cepheus and realized that he was probably getting himself in huge trouble, he gave Pokerus to Ray during one of the very last visits he had with him. Though this is all probably easy to figure out if you made the connection while reading the chapter.
If you're curious about the line in Chapter 42 part 2 where Scythe mentions Rautzen selling out to one of the Master's minions named "Tallarak", well, that was kind of a placeholder name I had for the villain who later became Cepheus, so you can kind of ignore that. I'll change it eventually. Also, you can see some of the actual confrontation between Cepheus and Rautzen in the "Judgment" chapter, which is posted on my account here on dA. Although only 2 of 5 chapters are done, and it's low on my priority list, but you might find it interesting.
Thanks for your patience, and I hope you enjoyed reading.