• Welcome to Thousand Roads! You're welcome to view discussions or read our stories without registering, but you'll need an account to join in our events, interact with other members, or post one of your own fics. Why not become a member of our community? We'd love to have you!

    Join now!

Pokémon Searching for a Resolution [2023 One-Shot Contest]

JFought

Sloooowly writing...
Location
HCL
Pronouns
they/them
Partners
  1. jfought-sword
  2. jfought-blue
  3. deerling-summer
  4. charmeleon
  5. vulpix
  6. monferno
Summary: It’s been 700 years since Keldeo left the Swords of Justice, and their recent reunion did not go as he hoped. Still, acting as an adventurer for Liber’s Traveler’s Guild has always helped take his mind off of troubling thoughts. There was no reason why this request had to be any different…

This was my entry for the Thousand Roads 2023 One-Shot Contest: “Aeons and Avatars.” The theme was “legendary POV,” or “what does it mean to be legendary?” You can see the results thread here, which includes author interviews for most of the contestants, including my own. This story was part of the "Koraidon Flight," and won third place.

This was the first writing contest I ever participated in, so there was a lot of pressure for me. Of course, I’m not a hot-blooded idiot most of the time, I knew not to let that pressure get to me. And I ultimately knew that, if I wanted to stand any kind of chance, then I have to play to my strengths, and not sweat my weaknesses. Unfortunately, the theme played directly to my weaknesses :P. So okay, now what?

Well, I’m honest enough with myself to say that I’m not a good enough writer for a direct interpretation of the prompt, my strengths just don't align with what it was asking for. But if I could manage a take that could twist this prompt into something that could play to my strengths, then maybe, just maybe, it’ll be novel enough to at least be liked.

I’ll save the full history of the one-shot for the Author’s Notes at the end of the story, but the end result was Searching for a Resolution. I predicted this would be tight, both in terms of meeting the deadline, and in terms of staying under the word limit (I had 21 words to spare by the end), but I managed it! In the end, I wasn’t quite able to manage what I wanted out of it within time/word constraints, but I still felt proud of it. I wasn't sure how well it fit in the prompt, and my faith in whether it would go over well with the judges was shaky, but I had just a little bit of hope that my gambit would pay off somehow. And I’ll admit, I’m still dealing with a lot of imposter syndrome over how well it did ^^;. The other winning entries were incredible, hitting the theme right on the nose and knocking it out of the park… and then there’s mine. But if nothing else, I’m glad my approach to this story actually worked out. I wasn’t sure if it would, and the fact that it did… It gives me hope, I think.
I made a copy of the original version of the story before I began incorporating judge feedback. If you want to view it, here's the link to it on Google Docs! Obviously, I think the revisions improved the story, but for the sake of posterity I felt it was important to leave the original version intact too.

As for the changes:
  • A lot of tightening of prose, with some changes in wording to get across intent better.
  • Added a few lines here and there make certain scenes flow better and give greater insight into Keldeo's thoughts.
  • I changed the terminology of public inn to traveler's lodge. This is a minor worldbuilding change on my part, and I decided to test it out here.
  • Cobalion's conversation was very slightly expanded to better get his point across and touch on something I had originally wanted to touch on.
  • The conversation with the baron was also expanded to better get across both side's points.
  • The duel was rewritten to be a bit more drawn out.


Searching for a Resolution
----------

Two pokémon trekked up the narrow forest path. Trees crowded the road’s edges, their branches arching to cover the sky with their leaves. Though it wasn’t enough to blot out the sight of the tower that stood tall above them all, its gleaming white visage peeking through the canopy.

Keldeo kept his eyes on it as they walked, peering past his blue ridged horn. It wasn’t like he had much to talk about with the gumshoos he was traveling with, and something about the hilly ascent had him feeling anticipatory. Though it might’ve just been the weight of his satchel harness against the hill, and besides, his mind had been on a lot of things lately.

“Don’t count on getting a good look from here,” said the gumshoos, breaking through his thoughts.

Keldeo brought his gaze back to the earth. “Oh, no, I was just thinking.”

“Really?” The tower’s groundskeeper didn’t emote much. He kept his paws behind his back while his tail dragged behind him, staring forward as if he wasn’t currently escorting a legendary pokémon. “Y’know, normally I’d expect a ‘mon like you to be above taking a simple inspection request like this one.”

The groundskeeper wouldn’t have been the first to say something like that. “I think you might have some unrealistic expectations of what being an adventurer entails,” Keldeo replied.

“Just sayin’.” The conversation didn’t last after that.

Eventually, the path crested the hill, and Keldeo trotted forward towards the gate of the high metal fence that attempted to keep the tower separated from the forest. ‘Attempted,’ for even past the fence trees grew in abundance, blanketing the area in their shade. The ground on the other side was littered with fallen branches, and grass and weeds threatened the building’s foundation, moss attempting to invade up the sides. He glanced back and waited for the gumshoos as he slowly caught up. “Not to insult, but this place doesn’t look very well kept.”

The groundskeeper just huffed as he spun a keyring around his paw and walked past him. “Not my fault plants grow here so fast. I’m only one ‘mon.” He walked up to the gate and started fiddling with the lock. “You just focus on your job and I’ll worry about mine.”

“Right…” Keldeo just pawed at the ground as he waited. He had always been curious about this place: under normal circumstances, no one was allowed in. It was considered an important historical landmark, and rumors considered it dangerous. In all his years, Keldeo never once had a good reason to come here, so the request he was taking now was the perfect opportunity to finally check this place out. It would certainly help take his mind off of… recent events.

The gate opened swiftly, and the two walked past it towards the imposing wooden door acting as the tower’s entrance. Keldeo took care to avoid the branches on the path, though the gumshoos was too busy fiddling with his keys to care. He had the next prepared by the end of their short walk and got to work on the door’s lock. Before long, there was a *chunk!*, and the groundskeeper put all his weight into slowly pushing the heavy door open, the hinges creaking loudly as it revealed the tower’s dark interior. By the end he was panting, though he made no fuss about it as he nonchalantly connected the keys to a ring on his belt. “Well there you go, have fun in there. I’ll be working in and out of the supply room, though you probably won’t need me.”

Keldeo just nodded and followed him inside.

The tower’s foyer was small and dark, the only light coming from the open door behind him. The room had few features beyond its unlit torches and marble foundation, it being nothing more than a stopgap between the entrance and the doorless archway that connected to the tower’s main attraction: the central room. Keldeo braced himself as he entered and was still left in awe. It was massive: wide in diameter with walls that rose endlessly. Various balconies and entryways could be made out silhouetted against the sunlight coming from the glass roof at the very top. These balconies stood in isolation, connected by nothing except rickety rope ladders sticking out crudely from their surroundings, very obviously added after the fact.

So this is Celeste Tower… A dominant feature of eastern Liber that could be seen from almost anywhere due to both its height and altitude, being at the top of the tall plateau home to the town of Altinsel. Its prominence was only one of the reasons it was famous: those versed in its history knew that at one point this was a holy site for the Lati tribes that once settled these lands. Very few were still alive from those days, Keldeo being one of them, though it felt wrong to claim he ‘remembered’ it when he first arrived here just after they'd left. To him and most others, this was just a landmark, albeit one more odd than most. He had only just entered, and already he felt lighter on his hooves. It was as if all the fatigue of his trip here was being washed away and then some.

That was one of the other reasons it was famous. Those who entered the tower found themselves refreshed and healed. It didn’t just wipe away fatigue, it was also said to heal the wounds of battle and even remove sickness. The tower wasn’t like this when the Lati were here: it was long after they had left that it gained these properties out of nowhere, with no explanation. And so it became classified as a mystery dungeon.

A thought spoke up at the back of his mind. If Virizion were here, then maybe…

He shook his head. The groundskeeper had disappeared into one of the rooms on the ground floor, leaving Keldeo to perform the inspection on his own. The job was simply to check each floor, room, and balcony for signs of damage, wild pokémon, or odd phenomena. Looking at the ladders, there wasn’t any way he was going to be able to use them, even if they weren’t sketchy. He could fly up thanks to his water jets, but seeing all the floors from down here… I might have underestimated how much work this will take. At least he didn’t have to worry about the physical toll.

After a quick moment to prepare himself, Keldeo jumped and shot jets of water from all of his hooves at once, propelling himself up to land neatly on one of the second floor balconies, and from there he began his investigation.

The second floor rooms were dark, as the windows that were supposed to provide light were covered by foliage from the trees outside, though it was still just bright enough to make things out. The first he entered reeked of fallen leaves, and the only things in it were rows of empty bookshelves. Was something on them before? The other rooms on the floor were identical, save for their various states of disarray.

The third floor rooms were a bit brighter. Upon entering the first of them, he immediately noticed a large hole in the wall, evidently made by the tree growing through it. The marble floor was slick with water, and Keldeo had to be careful as he moved to take a closer look. Just outside, he noticed that the invading tree seemed strangely taller than its brethren, with its trunk bending at an odd angle about halfway down. That can’t be natural. Perhaps some storm snapped it in half, and then…

For a moment, Keldeo contemplated what would happen if he tried to cut the tree down himself. Virizion would have scolded him for even thinking about it, but he couldn’t help being curious. This place was weird.

Just as he was about to leave the room, he heard something skitter and he swiveled his head towards the sound. Nothing. Could a wild pokémon have climbed in through the hole?

Leaving that oddity behind, Keldeo rounded the third floor balcony and smelled something out of place as he neared the next room. It was hard to make out among the strong scents of nature, though he recognized it as soon as he passed through the entryway. Blood.

A low, threatening growl resounded through the room. In its corner, a large desk had been moved to cover it up, and the glint of a liepard’s eyes glared from the space between it and the wall.

Keldeo froze. That wasn’t the growl of a pokémon ready to fight. They’re injured. And not only that, but there was no way this ‘mon could have made the sound he heard earlier. There must be multiple wild pokémon in here, then.

He heard a familiar voice in his head. His voice. “What are you going to do about it?”

…Keldeo backed away. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude.” He left the room behind and continued his investigation. I’ll just report it later, it’ll be fine.

The higher floors were uneventful. The rooms were much brighter courtesy of the windows being above the canopy, and some led to outdoor balconies, a few of which had abandoned bird’s nests. Past a certain point most of the rooms were completely dedicated to holding rows and rows of deep blue orbs placed on shelves that lined the walls. Soul Dew, if I remember correctly. Several of the spots from the lower floor ‘soul dew rooms’ were empty; he could guess why, considering he had seen these items before on black markets, but there was nothing to be done about it now.

Soon enough he reached the top floor, where there was only one more thing to check. There was an exit here leading out to a balcony that gave Keldeo rampway access to the roof, and there he walked over to the glass section to inspect it for imperfections. It definitely looks cracked, I’ll have to report that too. He looked back up and-

...Woah.

From the top of Celeste Tower, Keldeo could see everything. Mountains to the west, the ocean to the east, and the world in between, from the sprawling fields of Ebeld northwest to the large city just to the south. And looking down over the eastern edge, he could see the buildings of Altinsel too, spread across the plateau it shared with the tower. He smiled sheepishly to himself, personally embarrassed to have been caught so off guard by a vista when this was far from the first he’d seen before. Still, this one was new to him.

Though, looking at the ground far below, another concern came to mind. Heights weren’t something he ever thought about too much, but… how was he supposed to get down? Flying up with his water jets was easy enough, but…

Terrakion would say, “The fastest way to conquer your fear of heights is to jump off a cliff.” And no one would laugh or compliment him for the joke because they knew that if they did then he’d ruin it by trying to keep it going. But then he’d think we didn’t get it and try to explain the joke and…

Keldeo sighed. He decided to just turn back and take the long way by jumping down each floor one by one instead.

---

It had been seven hundred years since Keldeo left the Swords of Justice for Liber. They did not part on good terms.

At the time, Keldeo had just wanted to try something new. A society for pokémon: it felt natural for the Swords to be there. Yet for reasons he didn’t understand, they had rejected his proposal. Tensions rose, and eventually they went their separate ways. Looking back now, Keldeo regretted a lot of his behavior back then, though most of it was nothing more than a vague, foggy memory.

Still, he believed in his decision. Liber had given him seven hundred years worth of reasons to believe in his decision. He had gotten the opportunity to help so many pokémon, to join their Traveler’s Guild and receive accolades and recognition for his efforts. There was no way He could argue against the weight of all that, Keldeo was sure of it.

He was nervous though. Did the others even miss him?

His fears were somewhat mitigated when he managed to find Terrakion. The Sword of the Caves was resting at the foot of the mountain Keldeo had heard they had been staying around. The old, gruff ‘mon was shocked at first to see him after such an incredibly long time, but his face quickly lit up and soon they were catching up on all the years that had passed.

“You’ve changed so much, I hardly recognize ya!” Meanwhile, Terrakion hadn’t changed at all. Keldeo had forgotten how slow-paced life in the wilderness could be.

At one point in their conversation, Terrakion made note of the badges adorning Keldeo’s satchel harness. “I was wonderin’, what’s with the bits of metal on your bag-harness thing?”

“Oh, these? They’re my guild badges,” Keldeo explained. “Six gold and four true gemstones. They were given to me in recognition of my efforts.”

Terrakion didn’t look like he understood. “I see,” he said. “Not sure what some rocks have to do with helpin’ others, but they look good on ya.”

It felt reductive to have his badges referred to as ‘some rocks,’ but Keldeo didn’t say anything. He just wanted to enjoy the moment.


---

As Keldeo returned to Altinsel and made his way to give his report to his client, he attracted the awestruck stares of its inhabitants. Altinsel was a fairly small and secluded town: since there were only two paths up and down the plateau, it didn’t get many visitors, especially not visitors like him. Much of the town was scattered haphazardly across the plateau and separated by crop fields and orchards, though it wasn’t quite rural either, as the downtown area he found himself in could attest to. He clopped along busy cobblestone roads crowded on the edges by buildings of gray stone, ignoring how everyone made way for him, and the admiration of his onlookers, and the calls of the merchants who wanted him to buy from them.

Keldeo was used to this kind of attention. Everyone was familiar with at least one story where he defeated some bandits or saved some town or some other great feat. He even had a title: “The Resolute Sword.” He could only barely remember a time when it was new to him, the weight of all those years since having numbed him to their unsolicited adoration. Terrakion would’ve poked fun at him for that. “You always used to boast, and now look at you!” The only reason he really stopped was because it just didn’t feel right when everyone expected that out of you. And to that, He would’ve said-

The gate to his client’s manor was just ahead. The buildings of the downtown area gave way to trees, leading up to a gate that marked the end of the brick path. A fraxure guard kept watch with spear at the ready, nodding to Keldeo before opening the gate for him. Within the fenced enclosure was a field of grass stretching far and wide, cut in half by a dirt path that led to a battlefield and past that, the manor proper. The large and decadent building sported white bricks and a rounded design that was vaguely reminiscent of the tower: there were a few buildings in Altinsel like this, all old and all important in some way. Keldeo crossed the field and stopped at the sawk and throh guarding the front door. “I’m here to see the baron,” he told them.

The sawk entered ahead of him to call the baron out, and soon the manor doors opened for a gallade to walk out. He wore a shining short-sleeved white suit with gold trims, noticeable pauldrons, and an opening in the middle for the red horn sticking out of his chest. Two indeedee servants accompanied his sides as he stopped in front of Keldeo and bowed deeply. “Greetings, Master Keldeo. I trust the inspection went well?”

This gallade was the Baron of the Old Island, Ewald Guarde. The Guardes were a patriarchal noble family well regarded across eastern Liber, consisting entirely of the ralts line and known for their chivalry and skill in battle. The current baron lived up to that reputation: even at sixty, an age most pokémon would dream to reach, he looked both youthful and capable. Keldeo’s impression from their first meeting was that he was a calm and rational ‘mon, who wielded his title with far more precision than the average noble. Just the way he approached and greeted him seemed calculated and aware of the different kinds of power they both possessed.

Keldeo dipped his head respectfully in response to his question. “It did.”

A pause. Keldeo felt hesitant.

“And?” prompted the baron. “What did you find?”

The wild pokémon recovering there… Keldeo already knew where this was going. He accepted the job knowing what it was for. But only now, faced with the baron, did it get to him. “The main things I found were a hole in a room on the third floor caused by a fallen tree growing into the side of the building, and a crack in the glass ceiling. Other than that, there are a few signs of wear on the lower floors, but nothing that should be of danger to the restoration effort.”

Guarde’s eyes narrowed for just a second before switching to concern. “Is something wrong, Master Keldeo? Certainly that isn’t all you found.”

A mix of shame and realization shot through his head. I forgot. Of course he can see through me. Gallade were empaths: he wouldn’t be able to hide anything from him. “R-right, duh, it slipped my mind. I found signs of wild pokémon in there as well. I assume they got in through the hole.”

The baron only nodded, showing no sign of doubt. “I see. I suspected you might discover something along those lines.” He placed a hand over his chest horn. “Though if you do not mind me asking, I sense there is something else bothering you as well.”

Keldeo shook his head. “I’m fine, really. I just have some personal issues on my mind, that’s all. I’ve been letting it distract me.”

“Of course, I did not mean to pry. But do know that I and the rest of my town will gladly offer you our assistance should you need it.” Guarde turned his head to address his indeedee butler. “I trust you have his reward prepared?”

“Of course, great baron.” The butler walked forward and offered the sack in his paws. Keldeo turned to allow access to the wallet on his satchel harness, and before long he had exchanged goodbyes and was out the door.

---

Keldeo found Virizion inside a cave up the mountain. She was resting in a bed of leaves, and unlike Terrakion, was not quite as welcoming.

“I thought you abandoned us,” she had said. “Is Liber no longer good enough for you?”

“I-I didn’t abandon anyone!” Keldeo replied, distraught by her reaction. He tried to keep calm. “And I’m here because I wanted to see you again.”

“Did you now?” Virizion coughed. Her voice sounded… different. The confidence it once held was faltering. “So you are still beholden to them, then? Is that why you still wear that thing?”

Keldeo glanced at his satchel harness. “I need it for carrying my things.”

“What kind of things could you possibly need to carry?”

“Food, water, supplies, money.”

Virizion scoffed and raised her head higher. “And you think you have the right to come back here. You are one of them now. We are beneath you; opposed.”

The harshness of her words tore through Keldeo’s heart. “You don’t actually believe that, do you?”

“I have nothing more to say to you.”

Keldeo stepped back. “I… I missed you.”

Virizion curled back up and spoke under her shaky breath. “And I still miss you.”


---

Keldeo stared at the ground the entire way back to the Traveler’s Office. That could’ve gone so much worse. Lying to his client like that was extremely irresponsible of him; he imagined he might not have gotten away with it had he been anyone else. He stomped the ground with his next step. I can’t believe I’m letting Him get to me. I knew from the start of this request that the baron’s gonna kick those pokémon out. I took it knowing that. Because of course they can’t be there while the hole or ceiling are being repaired. So, why do I care so much about what he’d say!

He spends so much time out in the forest, of course he wouldn’t get it, he has no perspective. Those wild pokémon getting kicked out of the tower will only be a temporary thing, and then they can come back and it’ll all be fine. But no, he’d rather see the tower crumble to dust first, wouldn’t he?! Or better, maybe the tower should fall, and-

“Hey! Hey you!”

In the middle of his rant, a manectric ran into Keldeo’s path and forced him to stop. “What-?”

“Hi there!” she greeted with a wagging tail before running around him to sniff his rear.

“Hey!” Keldeo caught what she was going to do before she did it and immediately whipped around to face her. He backed away and instinctively pointed his horn at her. “Slow down! Who are you?!”

The manectric looked just as surprised as he was. Her head and tail both fell as she looked away in embarrassment. “Oh, you’re not friendly. Sorry.”

Friendly? Keldeo lifted his horn and sighed. “Didn’t anyone teach you not to do that with strangers? I could’ve hurt you by accident.”

“Sorry,” she repeated. “I thought you were friendly, I’ll just go now, I’m really sorry.” She turned to leave, tail hanging low.

“Wait.” Keldeo took a step forward. “What do you mean by friendly? Do you need something?”

The manectric’s tail flicked back up, and she tentatively turned back to him. “I heard from the other townsmon that you were some kind of hero. So I thought I could ask you to help me with something.”

“Well, if you need something, you should put up a request at the Traveler’s Office first,” he tried to inform her.

“Okay…” The manectric hung her head low. “Sorry.” She was about to turn to leave again-

“W-wait!” Keldeo called out. “I can help you right now, too! If it’s urgent.”

The manectric’s head shot up and mouth opened in a wide grin. “Really?! Follow me!” She didn’t give Keldeo any room to interject before she ran off.

“Wait!” You still haven’t told me what you need! Or your name, for that matter!

The manectric dashed through the streets, displacing multiple startled pokémon who gave Keldeo weird looks as he chased after her. He was almost expecting to have to apologize to the poor ‘mon she’d inevitably run into, but to his relief they didn’t have to travel too far. The road opened into a square plaza featuring a stone gallade statue as its centerpiece, and she stopped in front of a slightly larger-than-average building that Keldeo recognized as a Traveler’s Lodge. She waited on her haunches, tongue lolling and tail still wagging.

“The lodge?” Keldeo asked as he caught up.

“Yeah!” She pushed the door open and squeezed inside.

“Wait-!” She did not wait. Keldeo sighed. I feel like a squawkabilly who learned their first word.

Altinsel’s lodge was nothing fancy, like most of the rest of the town. It entered only into a small foyer with a table and a reception desk. The nameless manectric waited patiently by the desk while the ursaring receptionist stared at her with visible confusion, which grew exponentially once she looked up and saw Keldeo enter. “You-!” She stopped herself, then put her paws on the desk and made the friendliest face she could muster. “Welcome, Kelde- Resolute Sword Keldeo!” she corrected herself. “A-are you here fo-? Would you like a room?”

Keldeo paid no mind to her blunder. “Maybe later, but not right now. I’m here for a client.” He nodded his horn towards the manectric.

The receptionist’s posture slacked with dissapointment. “Oh. I see.”

“Can I take him to my room?” his client asked politely.

“Sure, go ahead,” said the ursaring as she waved them off.

Keldeo followed the manectric down one the building’s two halls. Now that they were actually walking, he finally had the chance to ask. “I haven’t gotten your name yet.”

She threw her head back and smiled. “My name’s Volty! I chose it myself!” she proudly added.

“Right, Volty.” It wasn’t very characteristic for a name around these parts, though it wouldn’t have been the only thing odd about her. Odd name, no decorum, staying at a lodge; I wonder… Keldeo had a theory, but he didn’t want to assume. There were more important things at the moment. “What is your request, exactly? Does it involve your room somehow?”

Volty only responded with a “You’ll see!” before stopping at the last door of the hall. She pushed and held it open for Keldeo to enter.

The light of the room’s only window revealed it to be a mess. Tattered rags lay strewn across the floor. A heap of saddlebags was piled on a small table, and a sack of berries sat in the far corner, mostly empty. Volty let the door close behind them and walked over to one of the straw beds. She gestured to it, speaking quietly. “This is why.”

Keldeo got closer, careful to step over the debris on the floor, and found himself staring in quiet shock at the two electrike sleeping in the bed. They were nestled closely together, one a bit smaller than the other. “Are they yours?” he asked.

“Yes.” Volty gestured to the larger one, then the little one. “His name is Ludolf, and her name is Lena. The inn leader helped me come up with them.” She carefully sniffed both of them, then lifted her head with a troubled expression. “Can you smell it?”

Keldeo hesitated for a moment, then leaned in to sniff them himself. The larger one smelled normal, but the smaller one carried the unmistakable scent of sickness. “Oh. You need me because the little one is sick?”

Volty nodded. “Yes. Lena was born small, and she gets sick all the time. So, I came to the town so that they could help me.”

“Came to the town?” Keldeo interjected.

She looked away, slightly embarrassed. “Oh yeah, I used to live in the forest with my pack,” she admitted. “But they were going to leave Lena behind, so I left them behind.”

I was right. She is a wild pokémon. It wasn’t unheard of for some wild pokémon to try and make the jump into civilized society, often to mixed success, a reality Keldeo was very familiar with.

“Living in town has been hard,” Volty continued. “I’ve had to learn a lot, and I’m still not used to all the rules. But I’m figuring it out! And now, I work on the farms outside to make money for food and medicine. But this time, the medicine didn’t work, and I don’t know what to do.” She turned back to him with a wide smile. “But then I heard there was a hero in town, and I thought, maybe you can help me!”

Keldeo felt the pressure of her expectant stare. Does she think I’m some kind of miracle worker? It wouldn’t have been the first time, but that didn’t make it any easier. He decided to get more information. “Did you try talking with the town apothecary?”

“Yes, and he figured out what medicine I needed. But I don’t have money for more medicine. Or, I do have money for medicine, but then I don’t have money for food. Or, I do have money for food, but then-”

He cut her off. “Right, I see.” From the sounds of it, Altinsel’s apothecary only cared about money, which was a discomforting thought given the situation. If Virizion were here, she’d tell Keldeo to just hand over the money right now and intimidate the ‘mon afterwards. Though another idea came to mind. “What about Celeste Tower? That place is supposed to be able to heal sickness, isn’t it?”

Volty perked up at its mention. “Oh, the tower? We used to live there! It was the first thing I tried, and Lena never got sick there. But there was this mean group of pokémon, and they chased us out.”

A group that chased them out? I didn’t see anything like that when I was there, but… Keldeo had a bad feeling about this. “What kind of group? Do you remember anything about them?”

Volty mulled it over. “I didn’t get to smell them very closely, but they didn’t smell like they were from the forest. And they were strong.”

“And how long ago was this?”

She had a harder time with that one. The manectric looked down at her paws completely still. Eventually: “...It was when some of the leaves started falling. I remember the smell of dead leaves when I first came to town.” She continued to avoid his gaze. “I don’t know the calendar very well, sorry.”

Keldeo nodded to her. “That’s fine, I can make a guess from there.” Sometime at the beginning of autumn. So about half a year ago. That almost makes it sound like a regular thing…

His voice sounded in his head. “You hesitate before the truth. Do not feign ignorance of what you have already realized.”

It didn’t matter.

“I visited the tower not that long ago,” Keldeo said. “I didn’t see anyone there, so it should be fine to visit again, if only for a short while.”

“But I was told that no one is allowed there because it's dangerous,” said Volty. “The guards block the path there, and the door is always locked.”

“If it’s always locked, how did you get in the first time?”

“Well, first I dug under the fence,” she admitted rather nonchalantly. “Then, there was a tree that fell on a window, but the tree was gone when I came back after getting chased out.”

Another tree that fell on a window? What does that- He shook the thought out of his head. “I see.” Keldeo needed to stop asking these questions. None of this mattered. Virizion would have been right. “I’ll go ahead and talk to this apothecary for you then.”

Volty’s tail shot up and started wagging excitedly. “You will?!”

Her excitement lifted Keldeo’s spirits somewhat, and he smiled. “Yeah, and don’t worry about payment or the guild or any of that. I’ll handle it for free. Do you know what she’s sick with?”

She tilted her head. “Um, the apothecary said it’s some kind of fever. I-I don’t remember what it’s called.”

“But you talked to him about it, right?”

“Yes! So tell him about me and he should know!”

As she said that, a stirring sound came from the bed. The larger electrike, Ludolf, stretched and yawned, before opening his eyes and staring at Keldeo in shock. “Who’s he?”

That was his cue. “I think it’s about time I leave. I’ll be back soon with the medicine,” said Keldeo.

“Okay, good luck!”

“Wait, who is he?!” shouted Ludolf, but by the time his mother could answer Keldeo was already gone.

As he passed by the front desk, the ursaring receptionist asked him: “Was everything okay back there?”

“Yeah, I’m dealing with her request right now,” he answered, stopping by the desk. “Though, she said she’s been in town for six months now. And last I checked, the limit on consecutive days you can stay at a guild-sanctioned lodge is supposed to be a month.”

The ursaring went rigid. “I-I…” She sighed and placed her paws on the desk. “Look, I was worried about her, okay? I actually run this place, and when I saw her building up from nothing with two mouths to feed, I just couldn’t say no to that.” She then bowed her head. “Please don’t tell the guild on me!”

“Don’t worry about it, I’m worried about her too,” Keldeo assured. “It sounds like she’s being taken advantage of. I’m gonna have to have a word with that apothecary.”

The receptionist lifted her head up and relaxed. “Thank you so much. And yeah, that ‘mon’s a piece of work. Best of luck with him.”

“Thanks. I’ll see you again in a little bit.” Keldeo turned to leave. First, he needed to head to the Traveler’s Office to report in on the inspection request. Then, he’d get everything sorted out with the apothecary and leave town tomorrow morning, and there’d be nothing else to worry about.

Keldeo heard his voice.

Of course, whatever the guards did was out of his jurisdiction. As an adventurer, it didn’t matter to him, and once he turned in the request, that would be it. He’d have no business with the tower anymore, and that was fine, because this was his job, and he did his job, and it didn’t matter what he thought because that’s just how it was.



“One more thing.”

“Hm?”

Keldeo turned back to the receptionist. “I don’t expect you to know everything about what the town guard does, but I’ve been wondering. Do they have any orders regarding the tower?”

The receptionist seemed surprised. She leaned in on the desk and adopted a gruffer tone. “Well, I know they guard the path there to keep townsmon out. Besides that, they also help with inspecting Celeste Tower.”

“But the guild usually handles inspections, don’t they?”

“Yeah, and afterwards the guards come in to clean the place of wild pokémon.”

Exactly as he feared. “And they do this every time?”

“They have to. Celeste Tower has always had a wild pokémon problem.”

Always had one, huh? Keldeo was starting to think it wasn’t a coincidence he knew of two trees falling onto the tower. “How regularly do they perform these inspections?”

“They usually do it twice a year. Once near the end of the year and again near the middle. There should be an inspection soon, I think.” Something clicked in her head, and she pointed at him. “Wait, I heard you’re taking part in that, aren’t you?”

Keldeo’s tail swished and he gave her a deadpan look. “Rumors always spread faster when they’re about me, huh?”

The ursaring sheepishly rubbed her nose. “I’m not sure what to say to that, sorry.”

He just shook his head and sighed. “Don’t worry about it, it's fine. Thanks for the info.”

“You’re welcome.” She dipped her head. “It’s been an honor to meet you.”

Keldeo just nodded and left, pushing through the door and stepping out into the afternoon sun. He knew almost everything now, there were no more excuses. The baron has been driving pokémon away from the tower for a long time now. He thought of the injured pokémon currently hiding in there. And the bird’s nests he found on the higher floors. And Volty, and the other townsmon who must have had something to gain from the tower being open as well. I can’t let him do that anymore. But…

No amount of moral duty would change the fact that this was outside Keldeo’s jurisdiction. It didn’t matter if he was a legendary hero, it meant nothing in the face of the law and his obligations as an adventurer. What was he supposed to do?

Terrakion would barge right in there and intimidate him. He’d force the baron to see things his way one way or another, even if it meant destroying his entire manor and half the town with it.

Virizion would fight them off. She’d force the guard back and then confront the baron directly. If things escalated, she might also decide to kill him.

And… him, Cobalion. He would…

---

After Virizion, Keldeo wasn’t sure how ready he was for this reunion. Cobalion had always been his biggest critic. Very little ever seemed to please him, and he had opposed Keldeo’s decision the most. But Cobalion was just old and prideful. Keldeo wanted to see him again, and if he had a problem with that then he was ready to make him understand.

Cobalion was found overlooking a cliff near the mountain’s top. He watched over the small forest at the foot of it, not reacting as Keldeo approached. Though Keldeo could tell he had been waiting for him. “You have returned.”

Nervousness prickled across Keldeo’s pelt. “I wanted to see you again.”

“I heard from Terrakion. Did you meet with Virizion?”

“Yes. But, something seemed wrong with her.”

Cobalion lifted his head towards the sky. “She’s dying.”

Keldeo’s blood ran cold, and all ideas of reunion fell out of his mind. “Wha… How…?”

“Humans,” he said simply. “There was an incident a long time ago, one you were not there for. The aftereffects impacted her in particular, and now it is finally catching up.”

Keldeo looked down at his hooves, still in shock. “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t…”

“It is for that reason alone that I am glad you have returned.” Cobalion turned around, regarding Keldeo with a grave and serious gaze. “Have you finally realized the error in your decision?”

He had prepared himself for this. He knew this visit would culminate in this conversation. The news of Virizion shook him, but he wasn’t going to falter. “No, I still believe I made the right choice,” Keldeo said.

Cobalion closed his eyes. “Then I have failed you.”

“This has nothing to do with you!” Keldeo shouted. Of course he had to be like this. He stomped the ground with a hoof, trying to keep calm. “I made this choice on my own, and I’ve come to believe in it.”

“Your choice was to forsake our principles. To leave behind all that we swore to protect. Or have you forgotten your own last words to me?”

Keldeo had forgotten. The more he thought about it, the more it felt like an eternity ago. “I haven’t forsaken anything,” he insisted. “I’m still protecting pokémon. I’m still giving help to those who need it. That’s exactly in accordance with our principles.”

Cobalion shook his head slowly. “You still do not understand. Do you believe the reason we oppose humans is because they are evil?”

He was caught off guard. It sounded like a trick question. “Y… yes?”

His mentor looked back over the cliff. “Then I truly have failed you.”

“I don’t understand!” Keldeo stepped forward. “For seven hundred years I have done nothing but serve others! I’ve made a difference in countless lives, you can’t tell me I was wrong for that!”

“I will not judge you for the actions you have taken, but for the actions you have not. Can you truly say that those pokémon needed your help?”

“Of course I can!”

“Yet had you not, nothing would have changed. I am aware of how the guild works, and the core of its principles is to ensure that help always exists.” Cobalion looked back at him. “That is the point of a society, after all. To protect those who take part in it, and nothing more.”

Keldeo took a step back. “What are you saying?”

“If you didn’t help those pokémon, then someone else would have, one of an endless supply of individuals who regardless of their capability by comparison to you are just as suited, and just as willing. Meanwhile, outside of the walls of your towns, there are countless pokémon with no one to speak for them. And oftentimes their needs are at odds with the needs and desires of the protected.” Cobalion’s face shifted into a glare. “Do you see? We are fundamentally opposed to each other.”

His words sank into Keldeo’s head. It was too much. Looking back, he remembered the requests he couldn’t get to that disappeared off the board later. The times when he had to deal with wild pokémon causing issues, and the hate that they showed him. The times where it seemed that a situation could not be resolved. He wanted to feel that being an adventurer was worth more than that. He wanted to take the weight of everything that made it feel worth it and put it into words that would shut Cobalion up. But what was the weight of seven hundred years against thousands?

“I don’t regret anything,” Keldeo said. “I know I’ve made a difference, I-”

“You keep trying to justify your decision to me.” Cobalion turned to the forest one last time. “If you spend the rest of your life looking for justifications, you will never be satisfied. That is the last thing I have to say to you.”

Keldeo stomped the ground. “You can’t just-!” But Cobalion ignored him.


---

The extravagance of Baron Guarde’s manor was not lost on Keldeo. The foyer alone put the entire town to shame, with polished white floors and works of art depicting the splendor of the tower adorning the walls. The baron led him up a staircase leading to the balcony overlooking the entire room, where the door to his office was found. Keldeo followed him in, taking note of the small statues of various pokémon lined up on a table to the left (with a start, Keldeo realized one of the statues was of him), and the window overlooking an interior courtyard situated behind a desk. Keldeo couldn’t help but notice the Soul Dew decorating one of the desk’s corners.

The gallade cleared his throat and, once he had Keldeo’s attention, brushed some imaginary dust from his shoulder pauldron and sat down behind his desk, hands overlapping each other upon it. “It is an honour to have you in my audience, Master Keldeo,” he began. “I assume this is about your reward?”

Keldeo took a deep breath. Negotiating was never one of his strong points: it was a skill he only used sparingly, and almost never against noble types. He at least knew the baron was feigning his politeness; he most likely already picked up on Keldeo’s hostility. He needed to be careful. “It’s about the tower,” Keldeo decided to go with. “I noticed you mobilized the town guard.”

“There is no issue with that, I would hope.”

Let’s get to the point. “At first I had no issue, but I’ve changed my mind since then. I want you to call off the guard and open up Celeste Tower.”

The baron’s arms tensed. “For what reason?”

“It’s because of the tower’s healing properties. It doesn’t make any sense to me that it’d be closed when the townsmon have so much to gain from it.”

Guarde placed a hand over his chest horn. “I understand your argument. But Celeste Tower is a mystery dungeon, not a medical facility. My ancestors had it closed in recognition of its potential dangers; surely you are aware of the wild pokémon problem?”

“I am.”

“Then you must also recognise that your two requests are incompatible with each other,” he continued. “It is enough work to keep the tower maintained while it is being beset upon by savages, to allow the public in as well is beyond the guard’s capacity to handle.”

Keldeo nodded in recognition. “Even so, there are pokémon in the town who are in dire need of the tower’s properties. Right now, there is an apothecary taking advantage of that desperation to extort others.”

“That is the first I’ve heard of this. Though I do not see what the tower has to do with it.”

“It’s because the tower is closed that he can get away with this. If it were open, swindlers like him would have no place in this town.”

“A lone swindler is an easy enough problem to solve though, isn’t it? The rest of Liber handles fine enough without magical towers to support them, I would prefer if Altinsel could be self-sufficient in the same way.” Guarde shook his head. “That is the core of it, really. Celeste Tower is a site of immense historical and cultural value. Allowing public access would create numerous logistical issues that would threaten its integrity. Not that I do not recognise tourism as a lucrative industry, Altinsel simply isn’t the right place for it.”

“I’m-” Keldeo held back his words. He couldn’t let the baron get to him. “I don’t really care about tourism. What I’m trying to say is that, even if there are ways to treat sickness without the tower, those methods would still be out of reach for the poorest ‘mon. The tower has the potential to be an immense public good.”

Guarde raised his interlocked hands up to his mouth. “I sense this is about someone.”

Keldeo blanched. Dammit!

“Tell me their name. I will personally pay for their medical expenses, both for now and in the future if it would calm your worries. Additionally, I will strike a deal with this apothecary to ensure this extortion does not continue to happen. Such philanthropy is easily within my means. Is that good enough for you?”

“It’s not just that-!”

“So this is about principle, then?”

“The townsmon aren’t the only ones who need the tower!” Keldeo blurted out. “The wild pokémon who live there are injured and sick! They need it just as much as anyone else!”

“Interesting…” the baron mused. He used a hand to wave it off. “Frankly, that is not my problem. I have no obligation to the well-being of savages. If they seek respite from sickness and injury, then they must simply conform to the rules and expectations of civilised society. Only then are they my problem. If they cannot do this much, then they have no right to the tower.”

“It doesn’t matter if they have a right!” Keldeo stomped the ground. “You know just as well as I do why Celeste Tower has a wild pokémon problem in the first place: it’s because they depend on it to survive! You can drive them out over and over again for the rest of time, and they will never stop finding ways in! This ‘problem’ of yours is an unsolvable one!”

“Whether or not it is solvable is irrelevant to my duty. I have been tasked with keeping the tower standing, and as long as wild pokémon remain a threat to that, then I have no choice but to continue to drive them out. And believe me, they are a threat. You are conveniently ignoring this fact.”

“Of course they’re a threat when you’re forcing them out!”

The baron’s eyes narrowed. “If you are attempting to suggest a more favourable solution, then the least you can do is state it.”

Keldeo glared and stomped the ground again. “I already did. Call off the guard. I’m not turning my eyes away from this.”

“You are allowing yourself to be overcome by sentiment,” said Guarde, his face shifting into a sympathetic look. “I do not doubt your convictions, but as a famous adventurer who has lived for far longer than I, you should know better than to overstep your bounds like this.”

Keldeo pointed his horn directly at the baron. “I’m not overstepping anything. My only obligation is to the pokémon suffering because of your decisions.”

“But are you truly certain the guild agrees?” The baron tilted his head. “Or are you threatening me?”

Keldeo froze up.

“I would hope not,” he continued, betraying not a hint of fear. “Such a breach of trust between the Traveler’s Guild and Yagoran nobility would inevitably result in the bounty for your head being plastered across the entire continent. I had always thought you preferred a cleaner image.”

Thoughts swirled in Keldeo’s head. Wh-what am I doing? Am I really staking my entire career on this? Everything that I’ve spent hundreds of years building up? He knew he shouldn’t care so much for the fancy badges on his side, but they were all he had.

If Cobalion was here, the baron would already be dead. It would’ve been easy.

But Keldeo was there. And in this situation, Keldeo would…

“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” asked the baron.

“...I challenge you to a duel.”

The baron’s reaction seemed to happen in slow-motion, his eyes widening and his posture straightening. “What?”

“You’re right. We are…” -- Keldeo spoke his next word through grit teeth -- “...civilized, ‘mon. I may not have a noble title, but certainly my status grants me the right to challenge you over this.”

He said that, but unfortunately he knew this was a long shot. The baron had the right to turn him down, and then he’d be back to square one. And of course the baron wouldn’t accept. No one would be foolish enough to take Keldeo on in battle. Keldeo couldn’t even remember the last time someone was that foolish. He tried to look serious, but behind that facade he knew he messed up. Cobalion was right. There’s no other way, I might actually have to-

“Very well. I accept.”

Keldeo tried his absolute hardest to stifle his surprise, even though he knew the gallade could probably sense it anyway. Wh- Is he an idiot?!

“Do not look so surprised,” said Guarde. He got up from his desk and examined the courtyard from his window. “This one might be ill suited to our battle. We shall use the practice field out front. If you could give me a moment to prepare, I would have you wait for me out there.”

The next several minutes Keldeo spent very confused. He made his way to the designated field, where some of the guards waited for their orders. They pressed him on why he was there, and once he admitted the reason, word spread among the standing guard like wildfire. By the time the baron arrived with his indeedee servants in tow, the field was thinly ringed with pokémon eagerly awaiting the upcoming duel.

I can’t believe this is happening. He knew the baron must have admired him to some extent. Maybe he just wanted to try his luck? But that wasn’t all that was on the line here, so Keldeo couldn’t understand.

One of the indeedee was carrying a broadsword in a fancy leather scabbard. The gallade baron took off his suit and handed it to the other, before taking his blade and unsheathing it, handing the scabbard back. The crowd cheered. Maybe he’s just… old and prideful.

Baron Guarde stepped forward onto the field and raised his voice. “The conditions of this duel are as follows! Should I, Baron Ewald Guarde of Altinsel, win, then the guards here shall march on Celeste Tower and carry out their sworn duty, as was originally planned. However, should the Resolute Sword Keldeo win, then I shall call them off, and open the tower for public use as he has demanded. Does he find this acceptable?”

Keldeo slipped out of his satchel harness and moved onto the field. He then nodded and pointed his horn -- his own sword -- at his opponent. “I accept.”

“It is decided then. Lorenz!” He called to the indeedee holding his scabbard. “You shall judge this match.”

“Of course, great baron.” Lorenz handed the scabbard to his colleague, then walked to the middle of the arena. He held up a paw. “This match shall be decided on the first direct hit! Alternatively, should the baron be disarmed, that shall also constitute victory for Keldeo! Are both combatants ready?!”

Disarm? Did the baron give himself an out? Keldeo was silently thankful for that. “I’m ready.”

Guarde got into his stance and placed his sword in a neutral position, pointed towards Keldeo at an upwards angle, skewed slightly inwards. “I am ready.”

The servant brought his paw down -- “Begin!” -- then ran off the field.

Keldeo analyzed his opponent. He’d seen this stance before. Gallade did not have thumbs, so his ability to use a sword was somewhat compromised, something he’d have to make up for with skill and technique. What he was seeing here was nothing new, really. Keldeo had seen many other sword-wielding pokémon adopt similar techniques and already he knew how to counter his opponent.

He felt a sense of unease at that fact. There was nothing stopping Keldeo from cutting straight through the baron, except for that it would undoubtedly kill him.

Energy began to coalesce around Keldeo’s horn, spiraling up its shape until it shot outwards as a blade of light. He aimed it at his opponent and carefully advanced, stopping until they were both a step outside each other’s range. For a moment, they waited.

Keldeo tested a strike first, a diagonal cut aimed right at the baron’s blade. In an instant, a hexagonal field of energy repelled his strike, prompting his opponent to immediately lunge. But Keldeo saw it coming and with a burst of water propelled himself back out of range. They were back in neutral.

Guarde did not advance. He won’t play aggressive. He knows I can easily punish his mistakes. And more than that, Keldeo’s own intentions were likely being read too. I don’t want to hurt him…

He realized something. And the baron is betting on that.

Keldeo’s tail swished as he dragged a hoof across the ground. He was not going to lose this, not for that reason. No matter what, he was not going to let Guarde get to him. Centuries of battle experience flew through his mind, his next move calculated in an instant. The baron attempted to advance…

Keldeo rushed forward with sword carefully aimed, bursts of water from his hooves propelling him faster towards his opponent. A look of pure panic crossed the baron’s face; he quickly raised his sword arm and positioned his blade downwards to parry, of all things. Keldeo instantly corrected his course, a quick burst of water pushing him left, and as he was about to pass his opponent he raised his head back and with one quick motion slashed down at the blade. Now behind the baron, he quickly stomped his front hooves into the ground and spun around in the dirt to face him, keeping his sword pointed ahead.

Guarde’s sword was broken in two, one half on the ground beside him and the other in his shaking hand. The baron himself was on his knees clutching underneath his shoulder, a red substance trickling between his fingers…

The crowd erupted into cheers. “The baron has been felled!” announced the judge. “Keldeo is the winner!”

Keldeo’s ears flattened and he stomped the dirt. Dammit. I guess I really do still have a long ways to go. He ran up to the baron to check up on him. “Are you okay?”

The baron just stared at the ground and dropped his broken blade, eyes frozen in shock. “F-Five generations of battle… snapped in half like it were a twig from the forest…”

Keldeo nudged his arm. “Save the compliments, you’re bleeding.” He turned to the crowd and called out. “Someone get him a medic!” Or… He looked back at the wound. I have the perfect idea.

---

It was the second time he had been on this path today. This time, Keldeo ran up its length with the baron on his back, still clutching his bandaged shoulder wound as he held onto Keldeo’s mane. The gate was just ahead. With a concentrated blast of water, Keldeo vaulted over it and rushed past the surprised groundskeeper, who was still clearing the branches from the path. He ran into Celeste Tower through its open door and slowed down, walking the rest of the way into the central chamber where he allowed the baron to disembark.

Guarde leaned against the wall and sank to the ground. After getting comfortable, he sighed, still clutching his wound. “You planned this from the beginning, didn’t you?”

Keldeo didn’t say anything. The baron could think whatever he wanted to.

They waited there in silence. Guarde’s grip on the bandage gradually lessened, and curiosity lit up his eyes. He picked at the bandage’s knot. “Careful,” Keldeo warned him.

The baron ignored the warning and took the bandage off, lifting his arm so he could see the wound. The area was still stained with blood, but the wound had already scabbed over, and was visibly closing, albeit slowly. “Incredible…” he remarked. He let his arm fall and winced, then stared upwards, that wonder still in his eyes. “I had only been inside the tower once before, when I was child. My father considered it important that I understand the significance of this place.”

“Yet you kept it closed.”

“It was tradition. I cannot regret that.”

It had been bothering Keldeo, so he had to ask. “Why did you accept the duel, then? You know you didn’t have to.”

Guarde looked forlornly at the marble floor. “You forced my hand,” he said simply. “My title becomes meaningless if I acquiesce to the demands of any adventurer who barges into my manor with a blade and a threat. And yet, the threat you posed was grave and serious. I sensed had I not agreed, you would have done something drastic.” He took a deep, shaky breath. “I know I held all the power in that situation. But I did not want to be the one responsible for depriving this land of its hero. That is not the legacy I wish to leave behind. Though I suppose such ideals must sound incomprehensible to one as long lived as you.”

It made sense he’d assume something like that. In that moment, Keldeo felt seven hundred years older. “No, I understand,” he said. “But if you’re so worried about legacy, then this is for the best.”

“How so?”

“Because everyone benefits from this.” Keldeo dipped his head. “I know to you it must seem as if this all comes naturally to me, but the only reason I have these badges is because I’ve dedicated myself to making the lives of others better.” And I still make mistakes sometimes, he thought but didn’t add. “Pokémon will always remember the good things you do for them, even after you’re both long dead. And I know for a fact that there are pokémon in this town who will sing your praises for this.”

The baron absorbed every word. He does admire me, thought an embarrassed Keldeo.

Though his face still showed some doubt. “You still have yet to bring forth a solution to the wild pokémon problem.”

Keldeo turned away and looked up at the cracked glass ceiling high above. “We still need to repair the tower. But rather than the guard, I will be the one to oversee the repairs and ensure no interference from wild pokémon. Then afterwards, we’ll make this place a sanctuary. Your relationship with the wild pokémon doesn’t have to be antagonistic.” Keldeo glanced back at him and smiled. “Not to say I have it all figured out yet, but I mean, look at how big this place is. Don’t tell me there isn’t a way to make it work.”

For the first time, Keldeo saw a genuine smile creep its way onto the baron’s face. “You would be overqualified for such a task.”

“I think you’re overestimating just what being an adventurer entails.”

“Perhaps I am.”

---

It would be a month before Keldeo would finally get the chance to leave Altinsel behind. Operations on the tower went well, and together with both the baron and the guild, a plan for the tower had been drafted. But Keldeo wasn’t to be a part of that, he just had to trust things would go well.

After saying goodbye to his associates at the Traveler’s Office, Keldeo took his things from his room at the lodge, and outfitted in his satchel harness he was ready to leave for the south. But as he left the lodge behind, a voice called out to him. “Keldeo!”

Two electrike burst from the door and ambushed Keldeo in the plaza, one jumping onto his back and the other nipping at his hooves. “H-hey!” he shouted as he stumbled back, careful not to step on the little one between his legs and ignoring the slight electric shocks from the other biting into his hair.

The smaller electrike, Lena, popped out of his mane. “Are you really leaving?”

“No, he’s gonna play with me!” growled Ludolf.

“Lena! Ludolf! Stop that!”

The two turned their heads towards their mother, Ludolf running over and Lena jumping off him to meet her as she came out to say goodbye. Volty wagged her tail as she walked up to Keldeo. “I have to leave for work soon, and you have to leave for work too, so I’ll be fast.” She quickly bolted forward and licked his nose before he could do anything about it. “Thank you! For everything!”

Keldeo blinked. “Uh, no problem.” He shook off embarrassment. “All I did was resolve the situation with the tower and apothecary. You and Lena did all the real work.”

“I mean everything!” Volty insisted. “The children are gonna miss playing with you.”

“You’ll be back someday, right?” asked Lena. Her brother chimed in with a “Please?”

Keldeo nodded. “Sure I will.”

A crowd had started to form in the plaza while they talked. Oh no, word always gets around too fast. Why is every town like this? Keldeo sighed. “I think I need to be leaving right now, actually.”

Volty dipped her head. “Good luck then! And goodbye!”

The children said their goodbyes as well, and Keldeo had to weather several more as he walked through town towards the exit. He was reminded of that moment when he left to meet his family again. I remember why I felt so confident now.

He looked back at the edge of town, and thought of Cobalion. I’ve been doing this for too long to say this is a good enough answer to his point. I know I’m lucky that things got to work out like this. Cobalion would hate me right now.

And he turned forward. I’ll just have to figure something out.


Chibi Pika said:
So we’ve got a couple of intriguing paradoxes right off the bat—the tower with healing properties, whether it affects the wilds, why it’s closed off, why more people don’t visit, etc. I like how you set up the intrigue early, it keeps the reader wanting to know more. There’s some nice tension with the wild encounter in the tower, and a real heavy presence with Cobalion’s voice looming over our protagonist. Plus some early hinting that Keldeo is torn between being a hero in society, and the honor of the wild.
I'm glad the tower section went over well! I was afraid it'd be too slow and exposition heavy and just not very interesting, so the fact that no one complained about it is a relief, honestly.

Chibi Pika said:
I did get the feeling this premise would work equally well without a legendary protagonist since the main conflict is society vs wild rather than anything pertaining to legends protecting mortals (and the town folk could easily be just as awed because of his folk hero status as his legendary status). But that’s a pretty minor nitpick, and I think you used Keldeo’s relationships with the other Swords to great effect.
I'm actually surprised I didn't get docked more points for this. Admittedly this was another of my fears regarding this one-shot: I felt it'd be way too easy to disagree with my interpretation of the prompt here. So I guess I'm just glad it went over well!

Chibi Pika said:
The pacing of the battle was the weirdest bit. A ton of internal monologue before any of the combat, and the baron is panicking before it even starts, which makes it feel weird that he even accepted it. I could certainly see him being old and prideful and Keldeo being stronger than he bargained for, but the panic before the battle even began just felt… strange. And then the battle is over in a single paragraph and it felt almost… anticlimactic. I think it would have been more effective if baron appeared very calm and collected (not letting on that he’s in a real catch-22 until after the fight), and counters Keldeo’s first few moves, but is playing things too safe and Keldeo has to make a bold move to catch him off-guard. This would also mirror how Keldeo himself had played things safe with his reputation until now, and is making a bold move by standing up to authority in the first place.
I was a little conflicted on this, since the anticlimax was partially intentional. The main difficulty with this battle is that the baron really is just outclassed. Even taking skill out of the equation, the canon properties of Keldeo's sword means that Guarde might as well have brought a stick to a lightsaber duel. But he doesn't know that: he tries to parry Keldeo because he genuinely believes his sword is equal to his opponent's. So it's hard to write the battle in a way that doesn't end more or less instantly. But I think I've come to agree with the sentiment, and you did give me an idea for how I could try going about it differently, so maybe the newer version is better? I hope so, at least!

Chibi Pika said:
That said, I did quite like their convo afterward, and the baron’s answer helped add depth to the situation. In a way, Keldeo was in a uniquely advantageous position because of his title as a hero of the people—there’s no way Cobalion could have achieved such a favorable outcome with force alone, and that’s pretty vindicating. Overall I think you did a good job conveying Keldeo’s principles and his relationships and how those shaped his decisions, and his arc concludes on a satisfying note.
I'm really glad the ending went over well too! i guess i'm just glad things went over well in general.

HelloYellow17 said:
My favorite is the way you’ve sprinkled worldbuilding throughout the story—never spelling it out outright, but leaving details here and there for the reader to piece everything together themselves. Doing it this way prevents the pacing from getting bogged down with exposition, and you did so skillfully!
I always worry about my approach to worldbuilding, so this was just nice to hear, thank you ;_;.

HelloYellow17 said:
If I had one criticism, it’s that there’s a lot of set-up for the main conflict, but then the conflict is resolved rather quickly. I feel like a little more could have been added there, either making the duel more drawn out and difficult for both sides, or Keldeo trying other avenues to get Guarde to listen to reason at first before resorting to a duel. The set-up itself was really nicely done, not too fast or too slow, but the resolution (ha) did feel a tad too easily won after all of that.
I definitely originally wanted to expand more on some of this, but unfortunately I ran out of words ^^;. On another level, there were a few things I was originally going for with the main conflict here that got changed during writing, and obviously this is my author bias speaking but I feel that might be part of it too. I got the chance to expand the conversation with the revised version, so I hope that at least somewhat addressed it.

HelloYellow17 said:
The whole dynamic of civilized vs “savages” (yuck) is a really solid basis for a longfic, tbh. You could easily turn this into a longfic and I, for one, would be eager to read it! There’s so much to explore here with some tasty angst, political tension, moral dilemmas, and so on. Especially now that you’ve shown that even legendaries are divided on this particular issue!
lisianthus said:
There was quite a lot of setting and plot that felt as though it had to be from an existing series??? And if it wasn't, to the author: Please consider expanding on this! The characters all seemed so rich, with so many untold tales and moments hidden beneath every single line — I feel as though it'd be almost a travesty to not do something with this in the future!? Although that's just me talking of course.
funny you both mention that, considering what i published the same day the results came up. I mean I don't want to actively shill Sword but if you insist... But yeah, this actually did come from a longfic I've been working on. Sword takes a while to really get to the meat of its themes, but I can tell you I do, in fact, have plans to do something with all of this. It's nice to see interest in that!

Sinderella said:
I was into the main conflict here. A tower that heals, a rich man who doesn’t want anyone to use it, and Keldeo trying to figure out how to make it all work, all while dealing with the weight of the family he’d left behind to do this work. It seems by the end of it he’s still “searching for his reason” for doing what he does, being that Cobalion’s words affected him so deeply, and honestly…I think I fuck with that. I like that, while his issue at hand has been solved, his personal ones are not, even after 700 years. He still has some work to do, and that’s okay.
I was worried a lot that writing the main conflict as a thing happening in the context of Keldeo's baggage wouldn't go over well, so I'm just really glad to hear it worked out for you!

Sinderella said:
Speaking of which, the mention of that fact felt like something that should have hit a little harder. Keldeo was so concerned with Virizion not being upset with him and upon finding out she’s dying, he just…kind of forgets about it after a while. I would think he might want to push getting the tower open to the public so he could bring her to it? I feel like that would be something that was on his mind for a while, if he was as concerned for her as the narrative tried to make it seem.
Admittedly I glossed over this! I talk a little bit more about where the "Virizion is dying" thing came from in the Author's Notes, but I guess I wasn't properly considering how this might have an effect on Keldeo's motivations. One thing I will say is that he likely wouldn't be able to bring Virizion to the tower. Liber is an island: Keldeo had to cross the ocean to see the other Swords again. So taking Virizion there would be a long ordeal. I did at least decide to go ahead and write in a thought during the tower scene to acknowledge that Keldeo is still thinking about her, though.

Sinderella said:
Also, I wanted to see Keldeo go fight the apothecary. There was mention that the guy might be jipping people out of money, but there was a part of me that wondered if the apothecary was falling on hard times himself. Some dialogue out of him might have been nice.
You actually caught on to both of the things I glossed over! :mewlulz: Originally, the apothecary didn't have any nefarious intentions, or even a presence at all. It was just gonna be "yeah lena came down with some other sickness and volty couldn't pay for it." But then I actually started thinking about it and realized it was kinda a dick move for the apothecary to give her a medicine that didn't work, and then tell her that she needed more money to pay for this other one. Hence the bit about him in this story. I don't think there's room in the story for it, but you bet Keldeo beat him up offscreen. :copyka:

Thank you all for your reviews! I found the feedback extremely helpful, as there were a lot of points I was unsure about with this story. And I'm just really glad you all found something to enjoy in it ;w;.
I began writing this one-shot on June 10th, 2023. I finished writing on June 30th, 2023, taking 20 days to finish. The contest version is 9,979 words long, while the revised version is 10,436 words long.

The story of this one’s development is actually fairly long, so bear with me for a moment.

I went through a few ideas before settling on Keldeo. The original idea would’ve been a Latios one-shot focusing on a Latios who became a guide for the guild in Capital. This Latios is an actual character... kinda. His status as a character is admittedly a bit in flux right now, and I'm leaning towards cutting him out, but if I don't then he will eventually appear in either Sword or The Myriad Investigations, whichever comes first. The idea would’ve been to focus on him learning to see himself as an equal to those surrounding him, growing to care for other pokémon and recognizing his own implicit biases. Buuut it wasn’t really working the way I wanted it to, so I scrapped it. The next idea was a Shaymin fic. This one got a bit more development, and even a name, though I can’t talk about it because I might still write it someday. The most I’ll say is that it fit on of the other prompts just as well, and I might save it if that prompt manages to come up again and win next year. I loved the idea and I still love the idea, but I couldn’t go with it because it didn’t really match “legendary POV” very well. Technically the POV was a legendary, but the actual story didn’t focus on it all that much, and so I couldn’t really use it. So finally, I wasn’t left with a lot of options. Legendary worldbuilding isn’t exactly something my setting has a lot of, so the only real option left that didn’t involve blatant main project spoilers was Keldeo. Though first, we need some background.

Keldeo was someone I added to Liber sometime in I’d say about 2018. I added him because I felt it made sense: the Swords of Justice were all about helping pokémon, and I thought it’d be neat to have an established and independent Keldeo in my setting. For a while there wasn’t much else to it: I had already decided that Keldeo had separated from the Swords of Justice due to ideological differences, but there wasn’t any plans to actually do anything with it, as Keldeo is a fairly minor character in the grand scheme of things. There was one development however: during the leak cycle for Scarlet and Violet, Iron Leaves got teased as “future Virizion.” The site keeping track of these pokémon leaks often had artist interpretations of what these pokémon could look like, and Paradox!Virizion was interpreted as somewhat ghostly and sickly. It gave me the idea of “what if Keldeo visited Virizion again, and this was happening to her,” and you already saw where that ended up in the story proper! Of course, in the end, because Future Paradox ‘mon are creatively bankrupt, Iron Leaves ended up being just another robot, but like I dunno maybe they put her brain in a robot body after she died or something. (And as an additional note, Iron Crown was revealed between writing this and publishing it, so uuuuuhh sorry Cobalion sucks to be you :copyka:)

With all that background, you can probably see where I got the idea for this story from. I wanted to focus on that ideological conflict and feeling of loss and estrangement, and because I’m me I also had to make an entire other plot that was happening in the context of it. Keldeo usually hangs around Capital, with Altinsel being directly north of it (in fact, Capital appears in this fic as "the large city" Keldeo saw), and I really just wanted to do stuff with Altinsel and Celeste Tower, so I went with it for the setting. I started with some very basic ideas: Celeste Tower would be important to the plot somehow, and Keldeo should get into a curbstomp duel in the climax. The earliest idea was to have this Toxicroak bandit guy causing problems and Keldeo has to stop him, regaining his faith in his choice in the process, but that didn’t actually give me the kind of ~conflict~ that I wanted. Over time “Toxicroak Antagonist” morphed into “Gallade Antagonist,” and I came up with the scenario shown in the story. The Guarde family predates this one-shot and actually does have some relevance to Sword, though there were still a few things up in the air at the time I wrote this, so this story gave me the opportunity to iron those down. Volty was added to help pad out the middle and elaborate on the wild/civilized conflict, as well as to show how the baron’s decision has been affecting others. One smaller thing to note is that originally I was going to hype up the duel a bit more: the Toxicroak would’ve been a magic user who infused his sword with poison. The idea was that his entire motive was that he really really wanted to fight Keldeo, just for the prestige of fighting a legendary, and then Keldeo puts him down. Baron Guarde kept the magic for a little while, but then I cut it out because I didn’t feel it added much of anything to the story, and I still had to make sure it was approachable for those unfamiliar with the setting.

I also went back and forth on the timeline for this story. Officially, this story takes place on the 4th of Lux, 1790. Originally it was going to take place even further back than that, in the 1600s instead, but I eventually decided I wanted to keep it at least somewhat recent. 1790 takes place far enough back that it’s before Liber’s Industrial Revolution, and close enough that the immediate effects of Keldeo’s actions here can be seen in Sword when we actually get back to this place someday. I did have to change a little bit of my Celeste Tower worldbuilding in order to make the story work; I guess you could say the story is about bringing it back in line with my original plan ;).

Two extra things to note: this is the first time I've featured my take on Mystery Dungeons! They work very differently in Liber, to the point where they're really "MDs in name only," but I'll leave it to Sword to properly explain what the term means in this setting when it comes time. The other is addressing a potential point of confusion regarding Guarde's "Baron" title. Despite what conventional ranking would have you believe, "baron" is actually one of the higher ranks in Yagora's noble hierarchy. Yagoran nobility is a little weird in general, since it's somewhat factionalized (and obviously I leave properly explaining this to Sword), but the important thing to note is that Guarde does actually have enough influence to mark Keldeo as an outlaw.

I definitely feel I took some risks with this story. It’s a slow paced story that spends a lot of time dwelling on the details and for most of it the actual conflict is simmering in the background. Not only that, but the specific angle on “legendary POV” I took here lies on the fringes of the prompt’s inherently subjective nature. In other words, it is very easy to disagree with my interpretation here, and in some respects I feel like I got lucky this didn't happen with any of the judges. In the end, I still went with it because I just ended up liking it too much. I do worry the opening drags a bit, and maybe there’s a few places where Keldeo’s motivations are unclear/inconsistent, but really I’m just glad I got to write it. There were a few times during the process where I thought to myself “what if i miss the deadline?” And the answer was always “well then you won’t be able to justify finishing it anymore and it’ll die,” and I very quickly realized that I didn’t want that to happen, no matter what. Sometimes I wish I could be less rash and more chill about things like this, but it is what it is.

I'd like to say one last thank you to the judges and Negrek for the contest this year. This story wouldn't have happened without it, and I'm very glad I got to write it and have it be enjoyed. Feedback is very appreciated, and I'll be back next year, certainly!
 
Last edited:

Flyg0n

Flygon connoisseur
Pronouns
She/her
Partners
  1. flygon
  2. swampert
  3. ho-oh
  4. crobat
  5. orbeetle
  6. joltik
  7. salandit
  8. tyrantrum
  9. porygon
Whew lad, what a story. Ever since my rewatch of the very good Keldeo movie I've actually really liked this guy.

Usually I'd do some line quotes of my thoughts as i read but a few paragraphs in I was basically so sucked in I kind of forgot to take any notes lol. So I'm just going to ramble about this because the story was delightful. Great prose and worldbuilding and character, and paced pretty well! Once I got going I found myself drawn in very quickly.

I think handling idealogical conflicts and political/societal problems in a short story can be really challenging. Often I see stories fall prey to making a conflict in a fictional setting feel either trite, heavy handed, or just a poor analogy to something irl.

However, I found that this story handles it really well. The conflict, principles and problems, as well as the core of the conflict, are entrenched within its own world. The situation presented was a tricky one. A legendary, a pretigous baron, a legacy, a tower with mysterious healing properties, and conflict between wildborn mon and those in a society.
I like the way the buildup to the tower and core conflict happened, it felt very natural with this sense that something was a little off, and then slowly building up to unfolding the true breadth of the issue, and then Keldeo's choice to take action. I really liked the moments in between, showcasing each of the Three Swords perspectives and how his reunion with them had gone. The conflict of ideals between them felt very believable.

I guess the first bit I'll talk about is theme in terms of legendary. While technically I think that its shaky here, since there's not as astrong a legendary presence so to speak, I do think the fact that Keldeo is a legendary lends something to this story that simply wouldn't work if it was say, a noble and powerful Rapidash or Aegislash or the like. Keldeo's status as both a legendary and member of the swords of justice adds such a unique layer to the conflict between wilds and townmon. I'm not sure the story would have the same weight without it being Keldeo.

Throughout the whole story there's a constant undercurrent of Keldeo's doubt and, heheh, searching for a resolution. Not just a resolution to the issue of the tower, but searching for resolve. Cobalion is quite harsh and tough, and theres lots of juicy unresolved tension there in how they think of his choice.

I also really appreciate the way you wrote the Baron. I think it can be easy (or at least, easy for me heh) to have someone like his character just be evil or have a superiority complex and must be vanquished, but instead through Keldeo's actions his mind was swayed. Compromise could be found. But interestingly, the resolution found wasn't black and white. It wasn't destroying the baron vs let the tower fall apart.

Virizion or Cobalion or Terrakion might have solved the problem for a time through the methods Keldeo thought they'd take. Killing the baron or razing the town and the like. But it would just keep happening, over and over. And probably get worse and worse. But Keldeo had a unique position. Both as a legendary and a legend. He had the power of legacy and a lifetime of lifetimes of actions. He could act when no one else could.

The fact that he chose to do something speaks so many volumes. That he came to an inner understanding that he could affect change as well.

Which leads me to how amazing the resolution itself is. The anticlimactic duel, the Baron's explanation of why he even tried, and bringing him to the tower to make him see. It carries this sense of how the baron was seemingly benevolent in some ways but so blind in others, preserving something like the tower without thinking of a better way.

Yet in the end the truth is there's no easy answers, but there can always be. That sometimes those in a unique position can make a difference, the importance of that power, and that compromise takes work. A gray solution can create a better future instead of a black or white one (haha see what i did there?). Driving out the mon changes nothing, killing the baron wouldn't help the wild mon long term.

And there's also a delightful running undercurrent that there's no one solution that's perfect across the board nor is there a way forward without flaw. What matters is always trying to fight for good and learning from mistakes.

Just as the Baron learned, so did Keldeo.

Dang that's good.

I really want to read more about Keldeo.
 

Dragonfree

Moderator
Staff
Location
Iceland
Pronouns
she/her/hers
Partners
  1. butterfree
  2. mightyena
  3. charizard
  4. scyther-mia
  5. vulpix
  6. slugma
  7. chinchou
Hey! I wanted to check out some of your work for the "New faces" week but didn't get to it then, so here I am. I actually have reviewed you once offsite before - because I judged your entry in the Perspective contest on Serebii in, I think, 2012? But I hadn't read any of your work since then, despite being intrigued by Isidora in Heartache, so you were definitely someone I was interested in checking out.

Live reactions:

He heard a familiar voice in his head. His voice. “What are you going to do about it?”
Intrigue :eyes:

Terrakion would say, “The fastest way to conquer your fear of heights is to jump off a cliff.” And no one would laugh or compliment him for the joke because they knew that if they did then he’d ruin it by trying to keep it going. But then he’d think we didn’t get it and try to explain the joke and…
This is some lovely characterization in a short space: Keldeo knowing and being able to imagine just the sort of joke Terrakion would make, and how the others would react, and this is obviously a painful memory for Keldeo, the way it cuts off. Immediately creates a wistful sense of the relationship between them and makes the reader wonder what happened.

It had been seven hundred years since Keldeo left the Swords of Justice for Liber. They did not part on good terms.

At the time, Keldeo just wanted to try something new. A society for pokémon: it felt natural for the Swords to be there. Yet for reasons he didn’t understand, they rejected his proposal. Tensions rose, and eventually they went their separate ways. Looking back now, Keldeo regretted a lot of his behavior back then, though most of it was nothing more than a vague, foggy memory.
Interesting :eyes: So they came from a world with humans but Keldeo left it for a PMD-like world, I take it?

At one point in their conversation, Terrakion made note of the badges adorning Keldeo’s satchel harness. “I was wonderin’, what’s with the bits of metal on your bag-harness thing?”

“Oh, these? They’re my guild badges,” Keldeo explained. “Six gold and four true gemstones. They were given to me in recognition of my efforts.”

Terrakion didn’t look like he understood. “I see,” he said. “Not sure what some rocks have to do with helpin’ others, but they look good on ya.”

It felt reductive to have his badges referred to as ‘some rocks,’ but Keldeo didn’t say anything. He just wanted to enjoy the moment.
Interesting - kind of getting into the way 'humanized' PMD society differs from wild Pokémon society.

So far, Keldeo has brought up Virizion, Terrakion, and Him. Wonder if He is Cobalion or someone else altogether.

Keldeo stepped back. “I… I missed you.”

Virizion curled back up and spoke under her shaky breath. “And I still miss you.”
Ouchh. The Virizion scene here is very striking; definitely showing the wild Swords don't feel great about Keldeo taking on the trappings of humans. Keldeo misses her, but as far as Virizion is concerned, he's just no longer the Keldeo she knew. Some suspicious coughing here as well... She's definitely sick, isn't she.

I can’t believe I’m letting Him get to me. I knew from the start of this request that the baron’s gonna kick those pokémon out. I took it knowing that. Because of course they can’t be there while the hole or ceiling are being repaired. So, why do I care so much about what he’d say!

He spends so much time out in the forest, of course he wouldn’t get it, he has no perspective. Those wild pokémon getting kicked out of the tower will only be a temporary thing, and then they can come back and it’ll all be fine. But no, he’d rather see the tower crumble to dust first, wouldn’t he?! Or better, maybe the tower should fall, and-
Some very tasty denial here. It's bothering Keldeo, because he doesn't think the wild Pokémon using the tower as a place for healing should just be kicked out, and isn't sure it'll just be a temporary thing and they'll be fine. But he's externalizing it as just something He would think instead, which lets him sort of create this strawman, that no, he'd just rather see the tower crumble to dust.

(It doesn't seem quite consistent whether you capitalize the bolded He in reference to Him, though - here, you do capitalize it in the middle of a sentence once in the first paragraph there, but then don't capitalize it later in the same paragraph.)

“Hi there!” she greeted with a wagging tail before running around him to sniff his rear.

“Hey!” Keldeo caught what she was going to do before she did it and immediately whipped around to face her. He backed away and instinctively pointed his horn at her. “Slow down! Who are you?!”

The manectric looked just as surprised as he was. Her head and tail both fell as she looked away in embarrassment. “Oh, you’re not friendly. Sorry.”
Interesting to see this Manectric behaving in a more wild-Pokémon sort of way than Keldeo does! Really intrigued by what you're doing with this theme of the ways of wild Pokémon versus PMD civilization.

“Yes.” Volty gestured to the larger one, then the little one. “His name is Ludolf, and her name is Lena. The inn leader helped me come up with them.” She carefully sniffed both of them, then lifted her head with a troubled expression. “Can you smell it?”
I like how the names being so different, so humanesque, makes it immediately apparent Volty didn't come up with them herself.

“Yes, and he figured out what medicine I needed. But I don’t have money for more medicine. Or, I do have money for medicine, but then I don’t have money for food. Or, I do have money for food, but then-”
I love how you portray her wildness. So unused to concepts like money, still wrapping her brain around being able to afford medicine, but not food, or she can afford food, but then she can't afford medicine.

She had a harder time with that one. The manectric looked down at her paws completely still. Eventually: “...It was when some of the leaves started falling. I remember the smell of dead leaves when I first came to town.” She continued to avoid his gaze. “I don’t know the calendar very well, sorry.”
And this. Of course a wild Pokémon doesn't have much use for exact accounting of dates, just the general idea of the seasons.

“Well, first I dug under the fence,” she admitted rather nonchalantly. “Then, there was a tree that fell on a window, but the tree was gone when I came back after getting chased out.”

Another tree that fell on a window? What does that- He shook the thought out of his head. “I see.”
Some rebellious someone is deliberately breaking windows to let wild Pokémon in?

Keldeo heard his voice.

Of course, whatever the guards did was out of his jurisdiction. As an adventurer, it didn’t matter to him, and once he turned in the request, that would be it. He’d have no business with the tower anymore, and that was fine, because this was his job, and he did his job, and it didn’t matter what he thought because that’s just how it was.
Not in any denial at all

And… him, Cobalion. He would…
Theeere we go.

“I will not judge you for the actions you have taken, but for the actions you have not. Can you truly say that those pokémon needed your help?”

“Of course I can!”

“Yet had you not, nothing would have changed. I am aware of how the guild works, and the core of its principles is to ensure that help always exists.” Cobalion looked back at him. “That is the point of a society, after all. To protect those who take part in it, and nothing more.”

Keldeo took a step back. “What are you saying?”

“If you didn’t help those pokémon, then someone else would have, one of an endless supply of individuals who regardless of their capability by comparison to you are just as suited, and just as willing. Meanwhile, outside of the walls of your towns, there are countless pokémon with no one to speak for them. And oftentimes their needs are at odds with the needs and desires of the protected.” Cobalion’s face shifted into a glare. “Do you see? We are fundamentally opposed to each other.”
This is fascinating. Cobalion's opposition to Liber on the basis that it's a bunch of Pokémon forming the same sort of society humans have going on, oppressing wild Pokémon in just the same way humans do. It's not better just because they're Pokémon. The Swords of Justice, in his view (as I'm reading it), are for helping the truly downtrodden, who don't have a whole society to back them up.

Keldeo followed him in, taking note of the small statues of various pokémon lined up on a table to the left (with a start, Keldeo realized one of the statues was of him), and the window overlooking an interior courtyard situated behind a desk. Keldeo couldn’t help but notice the Soul Dew decorating one of the desk’s corners.
Nice meaningful environmental description. Keldeo's so popular in Liber society as this legendary hero... who enforces the law as it stands. And the Soul Dew is a nasty little callback to Keldeo's initial investigation and how he noticed some of the Soul Dews had been removed to sell on the black market. The baron himself apparently just kept one as a desk decoration.

Guarde placed a hand over his chest horn. “I understand your argument. But Celeste Tower is a mystery dungeon, not a medical facility. My ancestors had it closed in recognition of its potential dangers; surely you are aware of the wild pokémon problem?”
Oh boy. The "wild Pokémon problem", i.e. wild Pokémon who also could use the tower's healing properties.

If Cobalion was here, the baron would already be dead. It would’ve been easy.

But Keldeo was there. And in this situation, Keldeo would…
Love this little callback, after all the times he's thought of what the others would do, where Keldeo chooses his own path to what's right.

It had been bothering Keldeo, so he had to ask. “Why did you accept the duel, then? You know you didn’t have to.”

Guarde looked forlornly at the marble floor. “You forced my hand,” he said simply. “My title becomes meaningless if I acquiesce to the demands of any adventurer who barges into my manor with a blade and a threat. And yet, the threat you posed was grave and serious. I sensed had I not agreed, you would have done something drastic.” He took a deep, shaky breath. “I know I held all the power in that situation. But I did not want to be the one responsible for depriving this land of its hero. That is not the legacy I wish to leave behind. Though I suppose such ideals must sound incomprehensible to one as long lived as you.”
Ahh, I was wondering that too. But it makes perfect sense that the baron sensed Keldeo's desperation, and I find his perspective here really interesting - he does care about his legacy and that of his family, and Keldeo being disgraced would have been a terrible legacy. It gives a degree of depth to him that I wasn't necessarily expecting.

The baron absorbed every word. He does admire me, thought an embarrassed Keldeo.
Awww.

Keldeo blinked. “Uh, no problem.” He shook off embarrassment. “All I did was resolve the situation with the tower and apothecary. You and Lena did all the real work.”

“I mean everything!” Volty insisted. “The children are gonna miss playing with you.”
:veelove: Love this reveal that Keldeo has been playing with her children regularly, too, but just hasn't mentioned it.

This was a great read! It started a little slow, with sort of dense environmental descriptions and not a lot of context to grab me, but once you started showing glimpses of Keldeo's relationship with the other Swords of Justice I was definitely hooked, and from there it was just a thoroughly enjoyable read. The flashbacks were really well placed, I think; if anything I would have liked to see a little more of those small characterizational glimpses of what their relationship was like back when they worked together.

I particularly enjoyed the worldbuilding here and the way it's tackled in the story - Liber seemingly just being a PMD-like society of 'civilized' Pokémon in a world that also has humans and sapient wild Pokémon with wild Pokémon social structures, whose behaviour is much more animalesque. I enjoyed Volty, who is just extremely like a talking dog - sapient, but so distinctly not like these civilized Pokémon, working her way toward trying to be because her own society would have left her daughter behind. I think you believably portrayed this in a way where you get how the civilized Pokémon think the wild ones are savages who just cause trouble, but also that they really are the same, with the difference simply being cultural, and Pokémon being fundamentally able to move from one to the other if they choose.

And Cobalion's perspective on all this is fascinating - society looks out for its own, but that's why those who deem themselves protectors of those in need should focus on those who don't have that. It's a worldview that makes sense on its own terms, but though Keldeo realizes he's been far too Lawful so far, he manages to find and forge his own path to help both. I enjoyed Keldeo still being so viscerally upset by Cobalion's teardown, externalizing his own sense of justice as Cobalion's voice in a way that makes him angry and defensive about it, refusing to consider that he's complicit in injustice until he can't ignore it anymore.

In some ways the resolution here felt a little 'too clean', perhaps - Keldeo thinks of the duel thing, the Baron just immediately agrees, Keldeo easily wins the duel, and then he easily wins the Baron over to his side and comes up with a solution that's good for everyone, then just chooses to trust that things will go fine. I expect realistically this situation would be a little more complicated; if wild and civilized Pokémon don't like each other, there will probably be Problems involved here. But it didn't seriously diminish the story for me, and I think you did a good job setting up how much Keldeo is genuinely revered and how that might help him accomplish this more believably than someone else might.

I did find myself somewhat curious about the humans in all this - are they still around, outside of Liber? You talk about wild Pokémon living in "the forests", but we don't hear much about what exists besides Liber and forests. I imagine that's something that's expanded upon in your other stories, but for a free-standing one-shot you had just enough about humans in here to raise some questions that aren't answered. But, again, it didn't really bother me, just something I found myself wondering about.

All in all, I enjoyed this a lot and am really glad I read it! It's added some cool intrigue to Isidora's character in Heartache as well; looking forward to learning more about this world there.

Very few were still alive from those days, Keldeo being one of them, though it felt wrong to claim he ‘remembered’ it when he first arrived here just after they left.
You want the past perfect there at the end, "when he'd first arrived here", since the general narration is in the past tense but there you're talking about something even further in the past.

Those who enter the tower find themselves refreshed and healed.
Meanwhile, because your general narration is in the past tense, you basically never want to use present tense in the narration; you want "Those who entered the tower found themselves refreshed and healed."

The tower wasn’t like this when the Lati were here: it was long after they left that it gained these properties out of nowhere, with no explanation. And so it became classified as a mystery dungeon.
And this is describing events happening further in the past again, so I'd say you want "The tower hadn't been like this when the Lati'd been here; it'd been long after they'd left that it had gained these properties out of nowhere, with no explanation. And so it had become classified as a mystery dungeon."

It had been seven hundred years since Keldeo left the Swords of Justice for Liber. They did not part on good terms.

At the time, Keldeo just wanted to try something new. A society for pokémon: it felt natural for the Swords to be there. Yet for reasons he didn’t understand, they rejected his proposal. Tensions rose, and eventually they went their separate ways. Looking back now, Keldeo regretted a lot of his behavior back then, though most of it was nothing more than a vague, foggy memory.
The explanations of what happened at the time here should probably also be in the past perfect, since it's not a full-on flashback. It had been seven hundred years since Keldeo had left the Swords of Justice; at the time, he had just wanted to try something new; it had felt natural for the Swords to be there, they had rejected his proposal, tensions had risen, they'd gone their separate ways. There's more of this as the italicized scene continues.

Liber had given him seven hundred year’s worth of reasons to believe in his decision.
Since it's seven hundred years in the plural, you want seven hundred years' worth.

Lying to his client like that was extremely irresponsible of him, he imagined he might not have gotten away with it had he been anyone else.
This is a comma splice (two full sentences separated with just a comma), which is generally incorrect. Here you probably want a semicolon instead.

“Well, if you need something, you should put up a request at the Traveler’s Office first,” he tried to inform.
"He tried to inform" doesn't quite pan out to me as a speech tag - you can inform someone of something, but I don't feel like you can just inform a sentence. But I could be wrong; I'm not a native speaker.

I feel like a squawkabilly who learned their first word.
A Squawkabilly who just learned their first word, perhaps...?

Tattered rags lie strewn across the floor.
Lie is the present tense, so you want the past tense, lay.

“So this is about principal, then?”
I think you want "principle", here, unless I'm misunderstanding.

I have no obligation to the well being of savages.
I think wellbeing is generally written in one word?
 

JFought

Sloooowly writing...
Location
HCL
Pronouns
they/them
Partners
  1. jfought-sword
  2. jfought-blue
  3. deerling-summer
  4. charmeleon
  5. vulpix
  6. monferno
Finally got around to post-blitz review replies!

Whew lad, what a story. Ever since my rewatch of the very good Keldeo movie I've actually really liked this guy.
As it happens, my characterization of the Swords of Justice is heavily based on M15! Terrakion and Cobalion are more-or-less ripped straight from my memories of that movie and how they were depicted. Virizion was more of a departure, as I decided to mostly base her off the Musketeer she's supposed to represent (which ended up making her a bit closer to her Gates incarnation than M15). Meanwhile the Keldeo I went for was "M15 Keldeo but after 700 years worth of character growth." So he has shades of the same brash and naive Keldeo from that movie, but much more reserved and tempered by experience.

I think handling idealogical conflicts and political/societal problems in a short story can be really challenging. Often I see stories fall prey to making a conflict in a fictional setting feel either trite, heavy handed, or just a poor analogy to something irl.

However, I found that this story handles it really well. The conflict, principles and problems, as well as the core of the conflict, are entrenched within its own world. The situation presented was a tricky one. A legendary, a pretigous baron, a legacy, a tower with mysterious healing properties, and conflict between wildborn mon and those in a society.
I'm really happy to hear this! I feel what you're getting at with the difficulties with handling these sorts of things, and I have a lot of thoughts on it. I guess it's always been my goal to try and handle political themes in way that feels grounded. And of course I always worry about it, because of how easy it is to mess it up. So it's validating to hear that this felt believable.

I guess the first bit I'll talk about is theme in terms of legendary. While technically I think that its shaky here, since there's not as astrong a legendary presence so to speak, I do think the fact that Keldeo is a legendary lends something to this story that simply wouldn't work if it was say, a noble and powerful Rapidash or Aegislash or the like. Keldeo's status as both a legendary and member of the swords of justice adds such a unique layer to the conflict between wilds and townmon. I'm not sure the story would have the same weight without it being Keldeo.
I worried a lot over how my interpretation of the prompt would work out, because you're right that Keldeo's perspective isn't very "legendary." Instead I put most of my focus on the idea of responsibility that comes with being a legend, and the way that meshes with the Swords of Justice, and I've been very pleasantly surprised to hear that this came across and was considered a valid way to interpret it.

I also really appreciate the way you wrote the Baron. I think it can be easy (or at least, easy for me heh) to have someone like his character just be evil or have a superiority complex and must be vanquished, but instead through Keldeo's actions his mind was swayed.
I'm glad you liked the baron! There are definitely still some pretty shady aspects of his family, ones I originally was going to bring up, but cut out because it distracted from the actual story. My goal was to create an antagonist who'd be fairly reasonable and agreeable; someone who could put Keldeo in an uncomfortable spot for forcing his position and sticking to principle. And also I just like writing characters like him, tbh :p.

Also I just have to say that I loved reading your analysis! I do try my best to put thought into my stories, and I'm always worrying that I'm missing some element, or I'm being too subtle, or it just isn't landing and I'm too blinded by intention to see it. So it's always really validating to see someone just get it, y'know? I don't know if I have the ability to figure out another Keldeo story, but I'm glad you enjoyed this one!
I actually have reviewed you once offsite before - because I judged your entry in the Perspective contest on Serebii in, I think, 2012?
I had a sort of mini-crisis because I was sure this was my first writing contest, and I think you might've gotten mixed up! I looked into it, and it was ran in 2010, two years before I joined Serebii, so I couldn't have participated in it. I know I participated in a few Exquisite Corpses though, so you likely did still get exposed to my earlier writing at some point.

Nice meaningful environmental description. Keldeo's so popular in Liber society as this legendary hero... who enforces the law as it stands. And the Soul Dew is a nasty little callback to Keldeo's initial investigation and how he noticed some of the Soul Dews had been removed to sell on the black market. The baron himself apparently just kept one as a desk decoration.
I'm glad you liked that bit! I remember feeling a few times in editing that I should cut or overhaul it, so it's nice to know it worked out. I like to think the baron inherited his Soul Dew from an ancestor who took it in the first place. And he never thought too hard about it because a Soul Dew only matters to him in terms of its monetary value and some vague, symbolic significance, as opposed to what they meant to the Lati.

Ahh, I was wondering that too. But it makes perfect sense that the baron sensed Keldeo's desperation, and I find his perspective here really interesting - he does care about his legacy and that of his family, and Keldeo being disgraced would have been a terrible legacy. It gives a degree of depth to him that I wasn't necessarily expecting.
It's nice to hear that! I did try to put a lot of thought into him: his motivations are fairly consistent across all of his actions (or at least I hope it seems that way). He's just a noble, so of course he has to dress it all up in pompous displays and grander reasonings.

In some ways the resolution here felt a little 'too clean', perhaps - Keldeo thinks of the duel thing, the Baron just immediately agrees, Keldeo easily wins the duel, and then he easily wins the Baron over to his side and comes up with a solution that's good for everyone, then just chooses to trust that things will go fine. I expect realistically this situation would be a little more complicated; if wild and civilized Pokémon don't like each other, there will probably be Problems involved here.
I can agree with this criticism. I originally wanted the conflict to be more difficult than this: something where Keldeo would have to choose the needs of wild 'mon over the needs of the townsmon. But over time as I worked on the story, several of its pressures (making sure the tower conflict made sense, trying to hit the specific story beats I wanted, concerns about the word limit) kinda softened the edge as I went. I think by the end, I was more concerned with Keldeo's arc than I was with the tower conflict itself, and in hindsight that resulted in a conclusion that sweeps most of the nuances that would exist into "well we talked about it offscreen"-land. I feel if I were to rewrite the ending now with the benefit of hindsight, I'd try to lean more into the "no perfect solution" angle like I was originally going for.

All in all, I enjoyed this a lot and am really glad I read it! It's added some cool intrigue to Isidora's character in Heartache as well; looking forward to learning more about this world there.
I'm glad you enjoyed it! I don't know how much of Liber I'll really get to show off through her in Heartache (especially given how dense this setting is oh god), but hopefully I'll be able to keep her interesting!

Thanks to both of you for your reviews! I appreciate them a lot :veelove:
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom