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Pokémon The Last Con

Pen

the cat is mightier than the pen
Staff
Partners
  1. dratini
Summary: This is the story of Midnight Silk, who tried to con her way out of death. (Written in response to the prompt: someone pulls their final con.) The lovely art is by @kintsugi.

The Last Con


There was once a thief known from the mountains to the sea. She stole gold from under the cheek of a hydreigon, honey from the heart of a vespiquen hive, and even obtained pearls from a clutch of clamperl, far beneath the waves. But when this thief, who called herself Midnight Silk, attempted to steal from the lucario colony of the Glimmering Ravines, she ran into some trouble. The lucario sensed her intention and converged upon her just as she entered their inner cavern. When she fled, they pursued her, hurling spheres of deadly aura at her back. They chased her to the ridge of Desolation Chasm. There, Midnight Silk took a rather long tumble.

When she came back to consciousness, she found herself in darkness.

"That was a close one," she said, wondering why she wasn't in more pain.

"Midnight Silk?"

The voice startled her. It had a distant, hollow quality, as if she were hearing the echo of an echo. She squinted into the darkness and made out a massive hunched shape, like a shadow cast by no sun. The shape shifted. Dim reddish light illuminated the chasm; the undersides of the stranger's wings glowed the hot red of magma.

"The one and only!" Midnight Silk called out brightly, unruffled by the stranger's fearsome look. "How can I help you?"

Silence from the stranger. As the glow from his wings spread, Midnight Silk noticed a huddled shape lying limp on the cavern floor. She pawed closer and found herself staring down at a body—covered with fluffy white fur, and very, very dead.

"Great Yveltal in the sky," Midnight Silk murmured, at last understanding why she felt no pain.

"Yes," said the voice from the darkness. "That's my name."

Now, Midnight Silk was a little taken aback to realize that she had died and that Yveltal, the Doorkeeper of Death himself, had come to collect her spirit. But even death couldn't faze Midnight Silk for long.

"Lord Yveltal?" she said, her voice still bright with artificial cheer. "What an honor! Would you humor me with a quick game of pebble and shell? I'm sure you'll have no trouble spotting which shell the pebble ends up under. If you guess right, I'll go along with you. If you guess wrong, though, I'll get back to my life."

Yveltal watched her as she approached her lifeless body and attempted to open the pack slung across it.

"You can no longer interact with the earthly realm," the Doorkeeper of Death said flatly.

"Silly me!" exclaimed Midnight Silk, undaunted. "How about a game of riddles, then? More than earth and water, the seed needs—"

"Xerneas." Yveltal's eyes had narrowed into turquoise slits. "I do not have time for these games."

"Time!" Midnight Silk said, starting to get a bit desperate. "That's right, you must not have much time at all, ferrying dead spirits from place to place. You're probably overworked."

Yveltal sounded puzzled when he said, "You're not wrong. Now if you're done talking, shall we be on our way?"

"What you need," Midnight Silk proclaimed, "is an assistant."

"An assistant."

"Yes! Someone to give you a hand, lighten the load, lend a friendly ear. Someone quick, bright, intelligent—"

"Intelligent enough to not fall two hundred feet down a ravine?"

Midnight Silk fluffed her ears as appealing as a spirit could and gave him her most charming smile. "As you can see, I'm not afraid to leap into the unknown."

She couldn't read Yveltal's expression. But at length he let out a long sigh and said, "Then come with me."

~*~​

Yveltal's home lay on the dark side of the moon. Even Midnight Silk was at a loss for words when she first caught sight of his domain. The misty air parted to reveal a massive, twisting garden, though it was not a garden in the sense that Midnight Silk had previously known the word. Nothing grew. The trees—if they could be called that—jutted up with obsidian branches. Clustered like leaves on each branch were fragile crystals, gleaming with inner light. Their light was the only illumination.

"Life-stars," Yveltal said. "When they fall, I know the life has reached its end."

"Do I—"

Silently, Yveltal held out a small, lightless crystal. Midnight Silk took it with trembling paws.

"To reverse death is not in my power," Yveltal said. "I cannot give back life when it has gone. I would not wish you to remain here in that false hope. But if you sincerely wish to assist me, I—" Yveltal broke off and looked out over the garden. "I could use the help," he admitted.

Midnight Silk nodded solemnly, but she did not believe Yveltal. She was sure that she would find a way to regain her life eventually.

Yveltal set Midnight Silk the task of collecting fallen life-stars. It was dreary and time-consuming work. Finding fallen life-stars was no problem—they were everywhere—but bringing them back was trickier. Yveltal's home was a labyrinth. The paths changed without warning or reason, and sometimes Midnight Silk would wander for what felt like many days (though she had no sun to count them by) before she reached the central cavern where Yveltal slept.

On one such wandering, Midnight Silk found herself in a part of the garden she didn't know, where the air and fog were thicker. As she walked, she caught a glint of light—brighter than the dim twinkle made by the life-stars. She stepped and felt something soft under her feet. Moss. Midnight Silk looked down in amazement. Nothing grew in Yveltal's home. Yet this moss glowed an impossible green against the cold gray earth.

Midnight Silk crept forward through the fog until the source of the illumination became clear. A slender, crystalline horn, gleaming golden-white and studded by reds and pinks, lay on a roughly hewn dias. The air around it pulsed with warmth. As if in a trance, Midnight Silk came forward until she was almost touching the strange crystal. She felt heat flicker inside of her. Her hands closed around the crystal, not as a dream touching a dream, but as solid objects. Her heart thudded for the first time since her death. When she removed her paw from the crystal, the feeling of solidity vanished. She was a shade once more, just a thicker patch of mist.

This is it! Midnight Silk thought to herself. If she could steal this crystal and escape back to earth, she could live again! But how could she manage that? There was no way out of Yveltal's domain. And no matter how many times she asked, he never took her on his trips down to earth.

Midnight Silk touched the crystal once more, relishing the heat that flowed through her. The wind on her face, the sweetness of a berry, the bright sheen of gold—existence in Yveltal's domain left her craving them with a greater intensity than ever before. She stuffed the horn in the bag she used to collect life-stars and stowed it away in her sleeping quarters. For the first time since her death, she slept well.

~*~​

"You have been of great help to me." Yveltal broke the silence abruptly, as Midnight Silk placed another bag of life-stars in front of him. "I know that my domain is not pleasant for the formerly living. If you are weary of this place, say the word and I will release you from my service."

"I'm doing fine," Midnight Silk reassured him, touched that the taciturn immortal had bothered to ask. It wasn't even a lie. Sleeping next to the crystal horn refreshed and invigorated her. Before her dreams had held only endless gray seas and darkened paths, but now she dreamed of wind-stirn fields of flowers and honey on her lips. "The work suits me."

Yveltal studied her with narrowed eyes, as if searching for any falsity in her words.

Midnight Silk opened her mouth to say, "Of course, it would raise my spirits considerably to see the earth again—" but instead found herself asking, "What about you?"

"What about me?" Yveltal gave her a puzzled look. "This garden is my home. Its properties grew out from my nature. I like it here."

"But are you—" Midnight Silk, uncharacteristically, fumbled for words. Yveltal slept in a bare stone cave, did his work, and little else. She had never seen anything like contentment in his face. "Are you holding up? Sometimes you seem—"

Listless. Depressed. Lonely.

None of the words that came to mind felt particularly tactful.

"I am perfectly fine," Yveltal said stiffly. He unfurled his wings and picked up the sack of life-stars. "Excuse me. I have work to do."

Midnight Silk watched him depart, frowning. She crossed her arms. "Be that way, then. Your emotional issues are none of my business. And as soon as I find a way out, they won't be my concern."

Midnight Silk didn't know it then, but her opportunity was to come sooner than she expected. As she wandered the garden she noticed a strange twinkle coming from the ground. Approaching, she saw that a life-star had fallen there, but still produced a dim light.

When she brought the strange life-star back to Yveltal, his turquoise eyes flickered with unease. He turned the life-star over in his massive claws and at last let out a deep sigh.

"I have a special task for you, Midnight Silk."

"You can count on me," she said at once.

Yveltal raised a massive claw to his neck and plucked two feathers. The feathers were black, deeper than the darkness, and hung in the air when Yveltal unclenched his claw.

"You must go to the domain of Xerneas," Yveltal said. "My feathers will aid you in this. They have the potency of distance. Simply pass your breath over the feather and speak your destination."

Midnight Silk's eyes widened as she stared at the floating feathers. Was it really that easy?

"Bring this life-star with you. You need not say anything. When Xerneas sees it, she will understand and do her duty."

If she could make it back to her quarters, grab the crystal—but Yveltal was watching her expectantly. Better to do what he wanted now. Later, when he was distracted, she'd steal a feather and make her escape.

She raised the feather to her lips, blew, and whispered, "Take me to Xerneas."

~*~​

Brightness popped. Midnight Silk pressed her eyes shut against the surge of white that broke behind her lids into a dizzying storm of color. When she opened them, she saw that she stood in a brightly-lit meadow, wreathed with fruits and flowers of every kind. They grew impossibly—apple trees that bloomed yellow, green and red on the same branches, sunflowers that trailed off into poppies.

"Why hello." A voice rose like a bright, clear chord. "What are you doing in my domain, dead spirit?"

Midnight Silk swivelled and found Xerneas watching her with interest in her warm blue eyes. The life-bringer stood tall like a tree, and her head was crowned with crystal horns.

Midnight Silk found her voice. She puffed up her chest and cried out, "Greetings Fair Xerneas, Bringer of Life! I am Midnight Silk, messenger of Yveltal. Here is the message I bear." With those words, she proffered the life-star.

The life-bringer bent down her great head. Closer, Midnight Silk noticed a jagged area in her crown, where the crystal seemed to have been broken off. "I see. Thank you for bringing this to me. You may tell Yveltal that the issue will be dealt with."

"I will do that, Life-Bringer," Midnight Silk said importantly. She pulled out the second feather and brought it to her lips.

"Before you depart." A strain had entered the music of Xerneas' voice. "Perhaps you can tell me how Yveltal fares?"

Midnight Silk paused. "Sad," she said, before she could think better of it. "He always seems sad."

She blew over the feather. When she opened her eyes, she was back in mist and darkness.

"Well?" Yveltal demanded, bending over her.

"She said it will be dealt with," Midnight Silk answered. When he grunted and turned back towards his den, Midnight Silk called out, "Why did you send me, and not go yourself?"

There was a long silence from Yveltal. "I do not speak to Xerneas anymore."

"Why not? She—"

Yveltal's eyes flashed. When he spoke, his voice was low and strained. "She did something for which I could not forgive her. In return, I did something for which she cannot forgive me. It is very simple. And it is not your concern."

He unfurled his massive wings and took off over the garden. Midnight Silk hesitated, taken aback at the fury she'd seen in Yveltal's face. But curiosity overpowered her. She set off after him, following the red shadow of his wings.

Midnight Silk found Yveltal in a part of the garden she had not seen before, kneeling before a statue of a pyroar. The statue was made of the same black obsidian of the rest of the garden. But someone had smeared yellow dust and stained red berries over the mane, forming a red and yellow pattern. The colors had a dull, ugly hue—the mist wrapped unhappily around them as if offended by the intrusion of color.

"Yveltal?" Midnight Silk asked, edging forward.

He did not lift his head but at length he spoke. "Does the name Andorostov mean anything to you?"

"Y-yes. Legend says he was a great conqueror of the Storm Lands. A brutal tyrant and—"

"Beautiful," said Yveltal hoarsely, touching a talon to the face of the statue. "That's what I thought when I first saw him. One of his earliest victories. The dead lay thick as apples in a fruiting orchard and he stood, watching it all, his mane agleam in the red light of dawn. Magnificent.

"When I laid eyes upon him I felt a burning I had never known before. I asked Xerneas if she'd played some prank and set a star ablaze inside of me while I slept. She laughed and told me, 'Yveltal, you're in love.'

"So I was. I became his constant companion, though he never knew me, just my shadow over his battlefield. They began to whisper that Andorostov fought with the wings of Death himself, and I admit, hearing this pleased me.

"In time, his life-star grew ripe and fell, as it must be for all. His enemies rejoiced while his allies weeped, all of them but me. I quavered with anticipation as I landed to meet him. I told him of my admiration and invited him to live with me as my consort in the skies.

"At first, all was well. He was flattered by my attention, pleased by my devotion. But Andorostov soon grew weary of the darkness here, the coldness, the stagnation. He was a creature of life and flame. My home leeched the color from his mane, and he grew pale and brooding, discontent. At last he begged me to let him move on from here—for me to send him through the doorway and face whatever fate lay ahead. When he asked this, my heart became icy with fear. I could not bear to part with him. So I told him I would find another way—I would reverse his death and restore him to his life."

Yveltal drew in a shuddering breath.

"Of course, I did not have the power to realize this promise alone. So I went to Xerneas and laid my heart before her. Laid everything aside, even my dignity, and begged. She listened to me with a troubled face, for we both knew well the laws that bind us. When I had spoken my piece, she gently refused me. I asked her again. Again, she refused. A third time I asked. 'Yveltal,' she said. 'You have loved. But now you must let go.'

"'You refuse me this third time?' I demanded. A terrible fury overtook me. Only with effort did I keep my voice from shaking. When she nodded gravely, I said, 'So be it. But I shall take what is precious from you as you have taken what is precious from me.' With those words I leaped forward and broke a crystalline horn from her head."

Midnight Silk did not mean to gasp. The crystal horn in Yveltal's garden, the jagged spot on Xerneas' crown—they made a terrible sense now.

An unhappy smile twisted Yveltal's face. "Yes, you understand. It was unforgivable. I knew as soon as I had done it. I had spoken in anger and so spoken unjustly. For she had in truth taken nothing from me, only denied to do that which she could not do. The fault was mine."

"Why don't you give it back?" Even as Midnight Silk spoke the words, a sliver of panic sliced through her. If he went looking for the horn and found it gone . . !

But Yveltal sank down his head and let out a low moan, like wind trapped in a lonely chasm. "Give it back? But how can I face her? What can I say? When one has done the unforgivable, there are no words."

Midnight Silk crept closer and laid a comforting paw on the back of his neck. When she tugged gently, a feather came loose, but Yveltal did not stir.

She backed softly away. When she was out of eye-sight, she began to run, expecting at any moment the shadow of dark wings to fall over her, but she reached her sleeping quarters without anything disturbing the silence. The crystal horn glowed with bright, unwavering light.

For several moments, Midnight Silk sat in silence, clutching the horn and feeling the warmth flow into her. She thought of the obsidian statue, Yveltal's bowed head, and the strained music of Xerneas' voice. Then her thoughts turned to the family she had left behind, the lovers she had abandoned. Yveltal passed his days in darkness, in the company of mist and stone—how strange, she thought, that he had loved more strongly than she ever had. There was no one back on earth who would mourn her passing with a statue carefully carved.

At last, she stirred. Her breath passed over the feather, and she was gone.

~*~​

"Back so soon, Messenger of Yveltal?"

When the surge of light ebbed, Midnight Silk found Xerneas eyeing her curiously.

"Forgive my intrusion, Bringer of Life," Midnight Silk murmured, clutching at the sack in her paws. "I bring you a very important message from the Doorkeeper of Death. These are his words. Xerneas, Life-Bringer, when last we met I spoke to you in anger. In anger I spoke, and so unjustly. I accused you of taking from me what was most precious, when in truth, that life was neither yours to give or take from me. I am sorry, both for my words and for the deed that followed. What I did was unforgivable and so I do not ask forgiveness. But I offer back what I wrongly took, and hope that one day, you will find that forgiveness all the same."

Midnight Silk bowed and held out the horn with trembling paws. Her eyes fell to the green earth. Thick silence settled, until finally the life-bringer spoke.

"You were doing so well too, until the apology."

Midnight Silk risked a glance up. Xerneas' eyes had hardened like old wood.

"Yveltal does not apologize. It is not in his nature. He should not send a servant to put words in his mouth like sweet berries on a dead bush. Leave me."

Midnight Silk stared. "You mean you won't take it?"

The horn in her paws was growing hot. That same heat rose in Midnight Silk. She'd made the choice to come here, thrown away her only chance at life—and for what? Two stubborn immortals who each refused to take the first step.

"Life-Bringer," she said tightly, "surely you know that even the most willing seed can take no root in barren soil. If you deny the seed of repentance, what do you expect to grow?"

Xerneas had no time to answer. The air swirled and darkened, and with a great rushing Yveltal winged down onto the grass. He took no notice of Midnight Silk, who had ducked behind a large sunflower. Bowing his head, he spoke.

"Xerneas, I have no right to speak to you, but speak to you I must. Through my folly, the balance of life and death has been endangered. My helper has stolen your horn and fled to earth to make herself whole. I am sorry."

Xerneas blinked. The colors on her crown shifted. "You are sorry?" she said slowly.

"Yes. For this and for all that came before."

"And you—" Xerneas turned her gaze to Midnight Silk, hunched in the sunflower patch. "You had the chance to live anew, but instead you came to me?"

Yveltal's head jerked up. His eyes quested through the air and fell on Midnight Silk. He gaped.

"You're here? But I thought—"

"You thought right," Midnight Silk said, forcing herself to meet their gazes. "I did intend to take this horn and steal back my life. I've always loved life, you see, and I didn't think I had any regrets for the way I lived. I took what I wanted, whether that was gold or love, and when I left, I left nothing. I could steal back a year of life, maybe more. But I understand now—I will die again. That outcome won't change, because I am mortal. I will die, and leave nothing behind. But you—both of you will live on. Life-Bringer, I ask you again. Will you not take back your horn?"

The silence that fell was thick with expectation. Xerneas came forward slowly. New sprouts unfurled with her every step. She bent down and touched her crown to the broken horn. Light burst, blinding Midnight Silk. When she reopened her eyes, the horn had fused; Xerneas' crown shone an unbroken white.

"Yveltal," she said, "I do not yet forgive you. In the heat of passion and anger, you neglected your duties and hurt me terribly. But I believe this is a hurt that can be healed. Do not hide yourself away again. Let us walk the earth together, as we once did."

"I would like that," said the Doorkeeper of Death.

"As for you, Midnight Silk, I believe I know a fitting fate for you. For your courage today, you shall not fade, but will shine ever-bright, a beacon and a reminder."

Yveltal expanded his wings to their full span. When the tips of his wings touched Xerneas' crown, the world changed. It only changed a little, but it became brighter.

Lift up your eyes! Do you see her, stealing across the sky with Xerneas' horn? Some call that star The Thief, but those who know this tale have a better name for her. Midnight Silk, The Restorer. She charts a winding path, but if you follow her, she will always lead you true.
 
Last edited:

kintsugi

golden scars
Location
waiting for the fog to roll out
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. silvally-grass
  2. lapras
  3. golurk
(the legendary reverse crosspost!)

I mean this is on the list of "fics that made me feel a way that I could not word about and made art instead", so. I think my enjoyment was apparent enough, but I really enjoyed this fic lol.

"Great Yveltal in the sky," Midnight Silk murmured, at last understanding why she felt no pain.

"Yes," said the voice from the darkness. "That's my name."
dead. slain.

"As you can see, I'm not afraid to leap into the unknown."
I loved this so much. Such a good setup for Midnight Silk's character in so few interactions. I also liked how she immediately tries to con Yveltal with street tricks -- it gives us a great idea of who she is and sets everyone up so well for the ending, which can only be resolved through being genuine.

Midnight Silk opened her mouth to say, "Of course, it would raise my spirits considerably to see the earth again—" but instead found herself asking, "What about you?"
I liked this too -- I don't know if she's redirecting or not!

"I see. Thank you for bringing this to me. You may tell Yveltal that the issue will be dealt with."
This left me wondering what Yveltal did with undead life-stars when he didn't have an assistant, haha -- leave them on the doorstep and run away really quick?

I really loved this story -- felt like we got to see another iteration of "The Hardest Word" come back, and it's really fun to see how apologies and forgiveness play into the themes of immortality and death. Things don't resolve immediately with the word sorry, but there's hope there. I like how you balance both sides of Yveltal/Xerneas -- the past cannot be undone, but the future can be healed.

The mythos is really natural, too. The differences in the two domains, Yveltal's sad statue, the magic feathers -- there's a really delicate balance between keeping the story grounded and also giving it this mythological, fairytale story, and I think you nailed it.

When the tips of his wings touched Xerneas' crown, the world changed. It only changed a little, but it became brighter.
no stop. my heart.

Removed from the context, I actually might walk back my theory that this is a sequel to Crystal Prince -- the themes are there, but the feel is so different. This is a lighter, rompier version; the world is optimistic but the characters are not (but eventually can be). TCP is much the reverse, with optimistic characters struggling in a world that is not (but eventually can be). A fun dual-duality, tbh, but looking at them back to back and without the dialogue
l
i
k
e
t
h
i
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I think it's a bit more apparent that these aren't sequels so much as like, counterparts? Duality? Ironic twins?
 

canisaries

voted most likely to be edgy
Location
the middle of nowhere
Pronouns
she/her
Partners
  1. custom/inkay-shirlee
Hello, I'm here for Catnip. Let's check this out.

Quote Comments:

She stole gold from under the cheek of a hydreigon

which kind ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Yveltal's home lay on the dark side of the moon.

yveltal is cancelled for using nazi aesthetics

A slender, crystalline horn, gleaming golden-white and studded by reds and pinks, lay on a roughly hewn dias.

I think you meant dais - dias returned no sensible results.

Also, it's probably mostly my fault, but this description initially was hard for me to pin down and I ended up thinking of some kind of strange metallic party hat. I also briefly considered that it was an instrument instead, since the party hat image was so strange. I feel like maybe describing it as branch-like would be clearer? It does look that way in the cover, although there it's also pretty immediately recognizable as an antler.

Her hands closed around the crystal, not as a dream touching a dream, but as solid objects.

I think I understand what this means, but the phrasing is strange and took me a while.

"So I was. I became his constant companion, though he never knew me, just my shadow over his battlefield. They began to whisper that Andorostov fought with the wings of Death himself, and I admit, hearing this pleased me.

"In time, his life-star grew ripe and fell, as it must be for all. His enemies rejoiced while his allies weeped, all of them but me. I quavered with anticipation as I landed to meet him. I told him of my admiration and invited him to live with me as my consort in the skies.

i cant believe death is a simp?

Lift up your eyes! Do you see her, stealing across the sky with Xerneas' horn? Some call that star The Thief, but those who know this tale have a better name for her. Midnight Silk, The Restorer. She charts a winding path, but if you follow her, she will always lead you true.

Oh, this is nice. It really brings the fable angle full circle.

General Comments:

On the subject of the fable-like tone, I enjoyed it quite a bit and thought it was well executed - fables do often center around some specific objects, and this time it was the horn. However, the fable-like tone also trips this up in places as a general story as the pacing is quicker. I noticed two parts where this really stuck out, and both had to do with Midnight Silk. First off, it felt like she was extremely quick to understand and internalize that she had died. She does consider it temporary, which rings of denial, but I think the death part could have been reveled a bit more. The second part is Silk accepting her death, which comes a little anticlimactically, and the speech she gives about it even feels wooden and insincere, kind of like a child being forced to apologize and say they learned a moral.

One other thing that rubbed me the wrong way was Xerneas. Frankly put, she seems like kind of a dick. Yveltal is clearly sorry as fuck about what he did, and what he did really didn't seem to be that bad. Xerneas didn't at all seem to be affected by losing a bit of her antlers, and while it's kind of said that this caused something (which we also didn't see, save for possibly the incorrectly fallen life-star, but we never found out how serious that was or what it meant) in the balance between life and death and that it upset Xerneas a lot, it seems kind of tacked on - not to mention she initially refuses to take it back, so clearly it can't be that vital. And while I know it's not right to strike at someone out of anger for refusing to go against common sense, it's very understandable for someone who just experienced major loss for the first time. It just feels like Yveltal broke Xerneas's nail and Xerneas is being a massive drama queen about it, but the narrative vilifies Yveltal far more.

Anyway, outside these I really had no complaints. I found the structure and conflict to work rather well, and that impressed me a lot given this was written like a fairy tale, as usually those just fall apart into plot holes after thinking about them for 30 seconds. So, yeah, I'm glad I read this.
 

Adamhuarts

Mew specialist
Partners
  1. custom/mew-adam
  2. custom/celebi-shiny
Decided to check out this oneshot of yours and honestly, I really wish it'd been longer.

Midnight Silk was a pretty entertaining character to read. I loved how her dialogue was written and how dissuaded she was in trickery even after finding out she'd died.

I quite enjoyed your depiction of Xerneas and Yveltal here. Yveltal tends to be depicted as nefarious a lot, but here he's just a sad lonely bird that lost his boyfriend. It was great seeing Silk choose to patch things up between him and Xerneas over her second chance in life.

Like I said, I really wish this fic had been at least a few chapters long because it feels like a great slice of life material right there.
 

love

Memento mori
Pronouns
he/him/it
Partners
  1. leafeon
I think one thing that could have strengthened the story would have been if the significance of Xerneas' horn had been better established. The horn was imbued with some power, so did its loss weaken Xerneas? If so, did that have any consequences for life on earth (or, well, whatever this planet is)? I would think the answer would have to be yes, because otherwise it wouldn't make sense for the story to place so much significance on the horn, but I think it should have been clearer.

Also, this might be silly, but I am not totally sure why they have to collect the fallen life-stars.

Your prose was solid, and I thought your dialogue was good. In particular, the first conversation between Yveltal and Midnight Silk was amusing, and characterized both of them well.

He should not send a servant to put words in his mouth like sweet berries on a dead bush.

Such a fitting line for Xerneas :)

Anyway, yeah, cool story. I like the idea of Midnight Silk conceding that Xerneas and Yveltal's reconciliation is more important than a few years of her life.
 

K_S

Yes, my fav 'mon match up with TR's, what of it?
Last con review/analysis

I love how Midnight Silk’s first reaction once “oops” has passed is to whip out each and every “Game with Death” trope she could think of… Clearly she didn’t have any cards though; I was seriously expecting a wry “pick a card, any card, oh I can’t touch them… well I remember my last hand, let’s roll with that” at some point… ah well. And why not invite the Eternal Doorkeep to a fetching game of zeros and crosses? He can likely scrawl on the sand with a claw at least even if she can’t… It feels a bit like a missed opportunity to not build up on games within games as a deflection, but the possibilities are an amusing mental image in potential even if they aren’t shown…

Anyways…

Tangent aside, her efforts, to try might and main to get out of her final fate, were hilarious. Also, her timing. She takes about ten seconds for reality to hit, and then she’s all sun beams and muffled snark while she’s trying to back peddle out of the inevitable like it were an unpleasant spot on the floor. It’s a good way to reinforce her resourcefulness and cunning without overtly saying she’s such.

So nice work there.

I’d point out that there’s’ a bit of a break in format with the first paragraph. We have a cause and effect established, showing she does things for a reason ex: steeling gold from a hydreigon, honey from a hive… There’s a back and forth to the lot and that breaks when we get to the lucario colony. Why put her hide on the line for that cave/ravine? It’s Glimmering Ravine, and just a pretty name.. now if they’re rumored to have the largest diamonds this side of the continent than I’d get it. But that’s not stated or shown so it feels like she’s being a bit stupid and inflicting wrong place wrong time on herself.

Also why quit the ravine for their cave? The motive seems a bit holey.

The lucario sensed her intention and converged upon her just as she entered their inner cavern

Intent instead of intention would be a better fit here.

The lucario sensed her intention and converged upon her just as she entered their inner cavern. When she fled, they pursued her, hurling spheres of deadly aura at her back. They chased her to the ridge of Desolation Chasm. There, Midnight Silk took a rather long tumble.


Because she’s established as fleeing, you can have them/lucario just pursue. As the her is a bit extra, more so when you consider this section has a bunch of hers/shes throughout (7 instances in 4 lines), a few swapped out to better describe Midnight might not be a bad idea.



"That was a close one," she said, wondering why she wasn't in more pain.

Alright, this is more a pet peeve than anything else, and while I get “said” is helpful when dealing with more than one person verbally going at it it’s such a bland work around in identifying the speaker. She could whisper, fearing the return of the Lucario, chirp in relief, because “wow, wasn’t that close!” and so on and so forth. The identifier can be used to expound on her mentality of that moment so easily. I’d rec swapping it out but I also know it’s not a hard and fast rule, so meh…


She squinted into the darkness and made out a massive hunched shape, like a shadow cast by no sun.

Because she “woke in darkness” she could be squinting at any direction, even straight down, and that hasn’t changed yet (light appearing after the squint/shift). The easiest fix would be swapping “into the darkness” with a direction, ahead for example. Another angle would be to build this up. Have her spin around in pitch black, slow, or fast, speed being a matter of taste. Have her try to chase the echo of an echo with her ears (pointed, fuzzy?) until she makes out the hunched shape. By having her have to look for something “Massive” in a tight setting (She’s in the bottom of a hole/chasm right, this can be used to build scope of the scene as well…) this gives Yv’ a slightly creepier/unnatural slant that alludes to his nature before anything is out and out said.

“The shape shifted”. Is right after “massive hunched shape”, some speculation as to what the shape is shaped like before the light show shows too much would shake this up.



"The one and only!" Midnight Silk called out brightly, unruffled by the stranger's fearsome look. "How can I help you?"


She did retail/sales, didn’t she? Before she got into thieving? I’ve been meaning to ask, do her friends get the privilege of calling her M.S? It’d be a great alibi if worked right and can you imagine if any acquaintance of hers were dragged into questioning?

“You see I was at Ms Messes house and… you know the Misses house…”


Midnight Silk noticed a huddled shape lying limp on the cavern floor.


Huddling usually alludes to… well you’ve seen sport huddles? There’s a bit of curl and clustering and that alludes to a type of tension. Because of this I’d suggest dropping the limp. I’d also reassess the use of shape, it’s been used already to describe Yv’ a bit and seems a little overused by this point.

She pawed closer and found herself staring down at a body—covered with fluffy white fur, and very, very dead.


Pawed? Like cat reaching out to paw at something… She’s not pinned and scrabing at the dirt under her, or stretching so far to barely pat pat at something … Did you mean “padded” instead, which alludes to quiet movement usually made by a paw?


"Yes," said the voice from the darkness. "That's my name."

Well that’s one way to rephrased the old joke… “Oh God,”(as an exclamation of shock) “Yes, you rang?”….



Now, Midnight Silk was a little taken aback to realize that she had died and that Yveltal, the Doorkeeper of Death himself(can be dropped, excessive) had come to collect her spirit.

Yveltal watched her as she approached her lifeless body and attempted to open the pack slung across it.


How did she fail? Did her paw pass through it, did the mater of her hand never touch the matter of the packs no matter how she tried, her claw tips grazing the air at the edge of the flap no matter how she lunged at it, was she rebuffed because the familiar pack felt so off she couldn’t even lift the flap, was it too heavy for her to lift since she was made of a last thought, fancy, and star light? Showing how she failed would be helpful here. The last one would actually be foreshadowing…


"You can no longer interact with the earthly realm," the Doorkeeper of Death said flatly.

Now if he noted it drolly instead of “said”we could get shadings of amusement at her failure and the fact he’s seen it all before in one swoop…


"What you need," Midnight Silk proclaimed, "is an assistant."

Not only could she proclaim, she could fluff up, strike a pose, twitch her bushy tail, waggle a claw under his beak. A sales/swindle pitch is as much body language as it is tone and words after all.



"An assistant."

He is so parroting her every word here in stupefied shock and it’s horribly funny. Death birdies a macaw, I can feel it, we’ve all just been drawing him wrong is all.


"Intelligent enough to not fall two hundred feet down a ravine?"

Funnily enough I’d rec italicizing the not… it’s not a hard or fast rule but it shows emphasis, perhaps even a cutting slant, to that rebuttal and showed Yv’s exasperation without too much effort.

Midnight Silk fluffed her ears as appealing as a spirit could and gave him her most charming smile. "As you can see, I'm not afraid to leap into the unknown."



Of course she’s got to make herself look pretty, can’t make a sale/swindle when looking run down… So is the act of fluffing her ears supposed to be appealing, or is it supposed to make her look more appealing? That line needs a bit of fixing up there to better specify



Clustered like leaves on each branch were fragile crystals, gleaming with inner light. Their light was the only illumination.

We’ve got inner light and their light near touching as well as an illumination right next to each other. I’d recommend a bit or rewording to avoid repetition.


Silently, Yveltal held out a small, lightless crystal. Midnight Silk took it with trembling paws

.

Are they flying when this conversation/scene happens? Have they landed? If they’re on the wing are they going towards landing? If so I can see Yv’ working his tail hand to pass her up her life gem as they glide down and talk, and if that are is MS having to holler to be heard, is Yv’s echoing voice raised a bit, or is both their stats (her dead, him god of death) such that they’re both so unnatural that physics don’t matter much anymore? And if so wouldn’t that cause a tiny freak out for MS if that ever sinks in?



And if they’re landed what’s the ground like, are they huddled under one of the “not trees” so she can see him?



Despite being given a bit of setting there’s a bit of float because in this opening scene we don’t know really where they are in it. It’s like seeing a painting and having to guess where the cast are on it.



On one such wandering, Midnight Silk found herself in a part of the garden she didn't know-

Know what? Sorry it’s a kneejerk thing. On a more serious note, how could a few days in twisty turney Hogwarts staircase land even grant anyone with anything like familiarity when it restructures itself almost constantly? I’d rec swapping know with “recognize” or just dropping it and throwing the reader into the mist and letting the allusion of life/water build up to life itself to show the contrast/oddity considering Xem’s home is a alter to unlife.​



Before, her dreams had held only endless gray seas and darkened paths, but now she dreamed of wind-stirn fields of flowers and honey on her lips.



Stirn means forehead? Stirred perhaps?

Yveltal studied her with narrowed eyes, as if searching for any falsity in her words.

Midnight Silk watched him depart, frowning. She crossed her arms. "Be that way, then. Your emotional issues are none of my business. And as soon as I find a way out, they won't be my concern."

Until you die again, and then Yv’ is patiently waiting up for you like an irate stern parent waiting up for the out too late again teenager who went to that all night party and he wants to have a few words…


"You can count on me," she said at once.


Such a yes puff ball… btw I may have missed it but what type is MS? I’m guessing an albino espurr per the fanart but it’s never been spelled out and the most description we have is white fluff, fluffy ears, small, and that’s been it thus far.


Yveltal raised a massive claw to his neck and plucked two feathers. The feathers were black, deeper than the darkness, and hung in the air when Yveltal unclenched his claw.


Such an item get thing… I’m imagining her pulling a Link, having to hop up and pluck the feathers from the air because they’re just hovering there.

"Bring this life-star with you. You need not say anything. When Xerneas sees it, she will understand and do her duty."


MS’s a chatter box, this is established, she chats with you and you’re death/taciturn itself… you think she’s just going to leave the star and let it go at that? I vote for naming Yv’s territory “Denial isle” and letting it go at that.





Brightness popped.

How did it pop, why, audio or visual? Was it the sheer contrast to the stagnancy of the world before with Yv and the new destination? If you want to use it this I’d recommend expanding on it or dropping it.


Beautiful paraphrasing of the previous conversation, MS’s almost not lying here. It’s amazing to see that a little companionship is what spurs Yv to grow so much as a character here and I wonder if after he’ll occasionally take people in for short stints to help him as a habit now as he’s developed a great deal for it and surely isn’t dense enough to not see that for himself…

And I’m wondering why Xem doesn’t have any helpers/staff floating around, (perhaps the potent of people to be born to counter Yv’s people who had passed?).

Well that was a sweet wrap up. Now I’m imagining MS’s star being put very close to Xem’s constellation, having days where she eclipses a fringe horn star or something to keep the myth going…

And that’s it for your prize review. I hope you like it a for this tale it was a treat that I enjoyed reading and picking apart. Thanks for posting.
 
  • Quag
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Persephone

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  1. vulpix-alola
She stole gold from under the cheek of a hydreigon, honey from the heart of a vespiquen

Extremely unwise to steal from hydreigon, for they are the best and strongest dragons and will be very angry that they were stolen from. I also wouldn't steal from the hive mind; resisting them is futile.

she ran into some trouble

I love the understatement here lol.

"Xerneas." Yveltal's eyes had narrowed into turquoise slits. "I do not have time for these games."

Awwww. He swears on Xerneas. That's adorable. Even if death isn't playing by the well accepted Rules of Death. Always play the games. Always.

"Intelligent enough to not fall two hundred feet down a ravine?"

Come to think of it, Death has to have a low opinion of humanity, since he only sees us after terrible mistakes and senseless violence. And also we're usually covered in shit when he meets us. Not a great way to make a first impression.

"I am perfectly fine,"

Perfectly, absolutely, ten thousand percent fine. Do not press further.

the mist wrapped unhappily around them as if offended by the intrusion of color.

I like the imagery here. I like a lot of your imagery, but here it's particularly good since it's not clear if this even is figurative or not. Spooky death mist doesn't have to obey physics, after all. That's the first rule of spooky death mist.

"Beautiful," said Yveltal hoarsely, touching a talon to the face of the statue. "That's what I thought when I first saw him. One of his earliest victories. The dead lay thick as apples in a fruiting orchard and he stood, watching it all, his mane agleam in the red light of dawn. Magnificent.

Ah, I see that he and Cuicatl have similar tastes in pokemon.


Star myths are absurdly common in real life. If you're going to make a fake myth, might as well make it a star one. My only comment is that maybe you should have taken greater pains to mask your usual style and conceal that you wrote this. Posting it under your publicly known account is also a major mistake that would have been easily avoided. At least you could have added in a few more camping scenes to make it plausibly come from the OSJ part of your hive mind. Also, only partial forgiveness in a myth? Lies. Must always be instant.
 

penda

Hmm
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Been poking around at a few stories on the site to drop some reviews, and this was a great one to start with.

I enjoyed your take on creating a Pokémon inspired myth. Silk and Yveltal's dynamic worked well and the two gods being petty and grappling with mortal emotions to only be resolved by a mortal really helps the story to feel similar to something of Greek mythology (especially with the "god" characters being the most emotionally volatile and stubborn of the story. Very nice).

The description of Yveltal's garden as well as his recollection of his lost love stand out as the greatest bits of writing in this. I mentioned a few of the weaker bits in the line by line section, but they are overshadowed by how well the story is put together as a whole. It's tight, dense, and I feel it's the perfect length for a myth. I also appreciate that death is absolute in the universe; despite Yveltal's bargaining with Xerneas or Silk's initial scheme, death is still final. Despite the uplifting note at the end of the resolution of the god's conflict, it's still melancholy that Silk will remain dead and only be immortalized as a constellation.

Overall I am glad I read this. Hopefully my review helps with fine tuning this more and I hope to see more stories like these from you in the future.

There was once a thief known from the mountains to the sea.
It seems this line is meant to mimic that of a storyteller beginning a legend, especially in light of how the final paragraph is written. If that's the case, I feel that giving this line a more active voice would be more effective. Something along the lines of "A great thief once plundered the world from the mountains to the sea". You could even weave in a line about how Silk believes that anything she can steal rightfully belongs to her or something to that effect, giving her a reason for why she steals and also giving us a contrast to when she eventually matures past this reasoning and selflessly gives Xerneas back her horn.

Midnight Silk nodded solemnly, but she did not believe Yveltal. She was sure that she would find a way to regain her life eventually.
I'd suggest cutting "solemnly". Besides always being keen on cutting adverbs, from the following narration, it's clear Silk isn't sincere with the nod. The nod is more to placate Yveltal, it seems. I also think the second line of the quote can be portrayed through another dialogue interaction between Silk and Yveltal rather than just explicitly told to the reader. Like Silk playfully suggesting that there has to be a way around the rule and Yveltal just giving a dismissing sigh. Or having the narrator weave into the narration that Silk believes she would find a way back to life because she's a master thief wise in the ways of stealing treasure from places assumed to be heavily guarded and immune to theft. If she finagled plans to prove those once impenetrable placed penetrable, then surely her first instinct would be that if she was told a rule like what Yveltal has posed, that she'd be inclined to prove the rule has an exception.

Yveltal set Midnight Silk the task of collecting fallen life-stars. It was dreary and time-consuming work
I feel like this could be shown through dialogue as well. Yveltal remarking how he hates this aspect of the job, so having Silk do this grunt work would be a relief. I think I just want to see more of Yveltal and Silk's dynamic played out more since you've shown it to be so entertaining in the previous sections that when more of their potential dialogue is eschewed for straight narration it feels like a missed opportunity.

She stuffed the horn in the bag she used to collect life-stars and stowed it away in her sleeping quarters.
I sort of expected the horn to be under stronger protection or for Silk to have to flex more of her criminal genius to procure it. Yveltal knows she's a master thief, or at least a trickster from how she immediately tried to bargain her way out of death.

The dead lay thick as apples in a fruiting orchard
Wow I like that a lot.
 

zion of arcadia

too much of my own quietness is with me
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  1. marowak-alola
I jumped into this lowkey under the impression it was a heist fic. Instead, I got a myth fic, which... I'm definitely not complaining, haha. Both are a-okay by me.

My mind immediately defaulted to the Orpheus myth when I heard the premise. Although he's a musician, not a trickster. But there is a trickster in Greek myth who also defies death... Sisyphus. It's interesting how Sisyphus cheating death ultimately leads to immortal punishment, giving the tale a tragic, cautionary end. Meanwhile, The Last Con is much more hopeful, because Midnight Silk makes a decision to accept the natural order. Although it's framed as an act of compassion for Yveltal, rather than a moral decision. A selfish character making a selfless decision after death. Grace. Lovely capstone. And having Midnight Silk become a constellation is the icing on the cake, and also really cements the parallels to Greek mythology.

As an aside, it's fun that this is the second story about Yveltal and Xerneas I've read recently. It's cool to see the different perspectives and styles at play, and how much is similar and how much is different.

My only minor criticism is that Midnight Silk and Yveltal's relationship never features a moment beyond her feeling sorry for him. It would've been nice to see another aspect of their friendship, as it would help sell the pivotal decision by the end. There are definitely things they could've bonded over, I think, given how attracted Yveltal was to the ruthless Andorostov, and how Midnight Silk herself showcases a willingness and to get what she wants however she can.

There, Midnight Silk took a rather long tumble.

I like this imagery a lot, as it calls to mind the classic rabbit hole: a gateway into a new adventure, into unknown territories.

"Silly me!" exclaimed Midnight Silk, undaunted. "How about a game of riddles, then? More than earth and water, the seed needs—"

The dynamic between Yveltal and Midnight Silk is hilarious here. Also feels like it pokes fun at some of the common conventions with trickster characters, haha. This playfulness does drop away as the story progresses though, giving it a slightly off-kilter tonal shift. It would've been nice to see this manifest again later on somehow.

Yveltal's home lay on the dark side of the moon.

Also imagery I love a lot. I'm reminded of the myth of Chang'e, the Chinese goddess trapped on the moon. The moon just naturally calls to mind loneliness and isolation, not to mention duologies. In this case, Yveltal is the reflection of Xerneas. It also made me think of the classic Pink Floyd album, which deals with depression and mental illness. A couple of very lyrics that fit the tone:

Intro: I am not frightened of dying
Any time will do, I don't mind
Why should I be frightened of dying?
There's no reason for it, you've gotta go sometime

Bridge: I never said I was frightened of dying


--The Great Gig in the Sky

Outro: There is no dark side in the moon really
Matter of fact it's all dark


--Eclipse

They grew impossibly—apple trees that bloomed yellow, green and red on the same branches, sunflowers that trailed off into poppies.

Enjoyed how surreal this was (the sunflowers into poppies was particularly inspired), and how it mimics Yveltal's crystal garden. Both feel unnerving in their own way, too, an unsettling sort of ethereal. As someone who enjoys flower symbolism, a potential reading here is adoration transforming into sleep/death/peace. And of course, apple trees are often equated with the Tree of Knowledge in Genesis. It adds a lot to the scene.

But someone had smeared yellow dust and stained red berries over the mane, forming a red and yellow pattern. The colors had a dull, ugly hue—the mist wrapped unhappily around them as if offended by the intrusion of color.

Beautiful.

Then her thoughts turned to the family she had left behind, the lovers she had abandoned. Yveltal passed his days in darkness, in the company of mist and stone—how strange, she thought, that he had loved more strongly than she ever had. There was no one back on earth who would mourn her passing with a statue carefully carved.

Also beautiful. Not to mention an effortless way comparing and contrasting their views of life and death and love. Reminds me how I originally thought the story bore similarities to Orpheus's tale, and again, how there's compassion to the love story of Andorostov and Yveltal that Orpheus and Eurydice never get, as Orpheus loses his wife due to his inability to follow directions (which could be read as a failure to comply with authority), while Yveltal chooses to let Andorostov go. Not before ultimately losing his friendship with Xerneas--so there is still a cost--but the hopeful end of the story gives them an opportunity to rebuild broken bridges.

Wonderful short story. Thanks for the read.

A poem for your efforts:


1
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.

--"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" by Walt Whitman
 
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