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Death Is Lonely

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Yveltal lives a quiet, sad life of killing only when ordered. Despite her benevolent intentions, her position in the pantheon is loathed, and the mortals shun her. Xerneas, who is always bothered by Yveltal's treatment and also beginning to loathe mortals himself, comes up with an idea that can make both of them happy.

Hi everyone! Every so often I have a story idea that doesn't tie directly into Hands of Creation, and even rarer, I have the time to actually write it! And I am proud to present a small, four-part story now that it's complete, which I will be trying to publish every Sunday that doesn't have a new HoC chapter published. It's only four parts, so it should be much easier to take on!

This story contains mild (but not gory or particularly violent) depictions of death, explores concepts of death, and probably has some mildly suggestive language here and there, and is a soft Teen.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Part 1

The trail of blood was fresh.

Autumn leaves crackled under Yveltal’s massive talons. She ducked under a branch, careful not to touch the delicate wood, and scanned the ground ahead. A small tuft of white fur showed her the way, and she continued down the path. Another spatter barely stood out against the red, teardrop-shaped leaves on the ground, but Yveltal was very keen on that kind of color.

Under the evening sun, everything was quiet; too early for the nocturnal Pokémon to rise, but too late to hear the diurnals. Long, dreary shadows blanketed the cooling forest floor, and Yveltal wondered if she would find what she was looking for at all.

A spark of white-yellow light answered her silent plea. It was tiny—it would have gone unnoticed had it been any dimmer. She walked gingerly toward that spark of light, stopping only when a quiet whimper confirmed her suspicions.

A little Pachirisu; young, but not too young. Old enough that it left the nest, but perhaps only recently. On its side, Pachirisu let out another quiet whimper. Dim lights reflected off of its eyes, and Yveltal realized that it was staring right at her. She lowered her head in respect; poor thing. A shame it wasn’t lying in the opposite direction.

“It’s okay,” Yveltal said, her voice an ominous trill. With her words came a cruel, hollow breeze that kicked up dry leaves and dusted her body and blinded Pachirisu. Another whine, an arm reaching up to its face, but it was too weak.

Yveltal lowered her head—her beak was larger than the little thing—and brought a wing forward. Her tail’s claws flexed on the ground, digging into the dirt absently. Almost on reflex, it drew away life from the nearby trees, but she quickly stopped herself.

“Little Pachirisu…”

It whined back, not recognizing her words. A wild Pokémon, no doubt, yet that didn’t make it any less tragic to Yveltal. Life was draining from this one too early, and Yveltal wondered if she could bring this one to Xerneas. But not only was he too far away, but perhaps that would only lead to more suffering.

Morbid curiosity drove Yveltal to inspect Pachirisu closer. The wound was across its chest; some sort of slash. Must have gotten into a fight it simply couldn’t win, perhaps falling prey to a predator. Yet it still managed to escape. It was strong, but not strong enough to escape the aftermath. The little one was too small; these wounds were far too grave, and there were hints of poison coursing through it, too.

Yveltal sighed, making another ominous trill, and gently picked Pachirisu up. Then, she began to sing. The song had no words—it would be meaningless to Pachirisu, after all—but the tune was slow and became slower, notes rising and falling with Pachirisu’s chest. The harmony slowed the wind and settled the leaves; the sun set, making the sky just a little darker. Pachirisu relaxed in her claws, weakly snuggling against her massive wing.

On the final note, Yveltal gently ran her free wing’s claw under Pachirisu’s chin, then the cheek—it sparked, weakly, and Pachirisu smiled. Yveltal didn’t care much for the tingling sensation, but she didn’t stop her song. Finally, she moved it to Pachirisu’s forehead, where a small, dark aura collected at the tip of her claw. Pachirisu, still smiling, stiffened, and then went limp. It was gone.

Yveltal set Pachirisu down after that, and the leaves surrounded the lifeless body. Yveltal stared for a while until more little, gleaming eyes to her left caught her attention. Two pairs of them. Two more Pachirisu, the same age as one whose life had just been extinguished. They looked at Pachirisu with little recognition of what had happened; did they understand death? On a primal level, they at least recognized Yveltal as a threat, because when she looked at them, they immediately backed away.

Speaking to them would be no use. She turned, her tail dragging a trail through the ground, and left the body alone. When far enough away, she took to the sky.

<><><>​

Moonlight Village was a humble abode settled in the middle of a small valley. North of the country, the winds often became cold and harsh when the leaves turned red. A cobblestone path divided the town in two, piercing through its heart. There, in the center of town, a small crowd of Pokémon gathered around a great, blue Pokémon with multicolored horns. Under the morning sun, they shimmered, though the shine faded rapidly to the brightening sky.

“Everyone, quiet, quiet,” Xerneas said, stomping a hoof. “Now, from what I’ve been told, your village was recently hit by terrible rainfall, something you would have expected from Lugia’s wrath. Now, while I don’t agree with your decision to live in a valley where floods may happen… and while I also feel that my visit is completely needless… the Great Ancestor feels that I should at least give this town a proper rejuvenation.” He harrumphed, tapping a hoof again. “So, I will humor you.”

He looked down at them all, greedy eyes, eager for just a small taste of his power. Gods, he hated being out in public. He never had a moment to himself the second he left his dwellings. And even then, there was always some bold explorer…

They were still staring at him. Some of them had that usual, indignant expectance in their eyes, particularly of a Tyranitar that kept rubbing at his arm, like it was sore. Oh, Tyranitar, was your arm hurting? Sprained from carrying too much weight? Is it such a great inconvenience to you, then, that you would ask a god to heal it? Is that how important it is to this village that you’d hint so obviously at it?

Xerneas should leave. He really should. They had no respect for him; they were only being nice because of his power.

Something pink floated in the sky. Long tail, tiny body, watching from far away while resting atop a violet bubble of Psychic energy.

Xerneas suppressed a snarl and turned it into a sigh. “Near or far, it won’t matter; let me focus. One Geomancy for the town, just for you.”

His antlers brightened, outpacing the morning light. Energy flowed from his antlers into his hooves, and then into the ground, where—perhaps as a spiteful side-effect—grass broke through the gaps in the cobblestone floor and overgrew around the feet of the crowd. Nearby trees resembled their springtime days in seconds; all the Pokémon nearby glowed with power, their chests and shoulders visibly rising.

Some of the Pokémon glowed particularly brightly. While this was no surprise to Xerneas, a few Pokémon gasped and cried out in celebration; when the light faded, three Pokémon evolved from the sheer jolt of energy. Cheers and hugs over the monumental occasion—the miracle, as far as they were concerned—didn’t move Xerneas. After all, thanks to the miracle, they had completely forgotten about him, aside from a few in the crowd that gave him thankful nods and smiles.

To them, he at least smiled back. Because at least they knew to spare a few seconds to thank him. Looking up, Xerneas saw no pink Ancestor lording over him, so his job was done. Without another word, Xerneas left the town and its rejuvenated aura.

<><><>​

The chilling wind was calming after a long day. Without ceremony, Yveltal landed near her nest of dead leaves, prodded at a few perceived imperfections at the edges, and then hopped onto the center. It was large enough that, if desired, she could stretch out to her full wingspan and still have some nest to spare. The claws on her tail squeezed and gripped at a clump of the hay, then released it. She needed something harder to squeeze that didn’t simply give way. Maybe somewhere in town they would have a big stress ball, or a mossy rock. A big, mossy rock. Oh, but she’d just kill the moss… Fake moss? Did they make those?

Idle thoughts distracted her until she drifted away. No blankets as there was no need; the cold was cozy for her. She admired the dead trees that had grown over a ruined town long since abandoned. She remembered exploring one of those crumbling buildings. There was a little toy left behind by a Pokémon that had escaped before the fire that had claimed it. But that had decayed to time, too. Maybe she could buy another that resembled it. It was squishy. Maybe they had a bigger version…

After emitting a soft trill—which killed a few nearby flowers—she fell asleep.

Though, it didn’t last long. The sun had set recently, and based on the temperature and how her body still felt warm, it was not even close to the darkest point of night. But despite this, she heard something in the silence. She cracked one eye open and winced in preparation, wondering if it was some misguided Pokémon seeking revenge. She didn’t want to kill someone tonight; she’d done enough of that already. Maybe if she stayed asleep, they’d get cold feet and leave without a word…

What if it was a blighted Pokémon? That could be dangerous. Perhaps the only thing truly dangerous to a Pokémon like her, at least aside from something foolish like defying Arceus. But she didn’t feel any sort of corrupted aura in the air… No, it was just a bystander, perhaps, passing by on a nighttime stroll.

No, they were definitely getting closer, and this Pokémon was a lot larger than something she could ignore. She opened her eye more and focused, only to see, through the dark, the dimly glowing antlers of Xerneas. A mixture of relief and joy washed over her, and then a giggle.

“Xern,” Yveltal greeted. “Long day?”

“Can I sleep here tonight?” Xerneas said with a hint of desperation in his voice.

“Let me guess.” Yveltal lifted her wing, silently inviting Xerneas into her nest. “Eager visitors?”

He obliged with a relieved sigh, going around Yveltal, ducking under the wing, and then turning on his side. His body was so warm; smooth, soft blue fur trapped the heat even this far into the night.

“You don’t know the half of it,” Xerneas said, groaning and cuddling against the underside of Yveltal’s wings. “I went to this town, ugh, what was it called, Moonplate or something. Apparently, someone got on Mew’s good side because she insisted that I go there and take care of some of their villagers after some catastrophe, who cares what it was, you know how they are.”

Yveltal nodded understandingly, though with a small twinge of envy. Any time Xerneas was summoned, it was to see smiling and relieved faces, perhaps not unlike how Yveltal had greeted him tonight. And her? She saw nothing but fear in all those she met. Fear of what she could do to them if she wasn’t in the right mood, as they saw it. Fear of her power. Fear of death. Everyone was like that. Even that Pachirisu’s family, who saw how far gone the little one had been.

Xerneas let out one last groan and nipped at one of Yveltal’s claws. “I’ll get out of your nest in the morning.”

“Oh, it’s—you don’t have to if you need extra time.” Yveltal’s heart fluttered, and Xerneas smirked, even with his eyes closed.

“If I feel like it,” he said. “G’night, Yevvy.”

<><><>​

Ahem.”

Yveltal woke up with a start, accidentally squeezing Xerneas, though he didn’t stir. Golden hooves stood at the edge of her nest.

“A-Arceus!” Yveltal tried to get up, but she was trapped under Xerneas; at some point during her slumber, he had gone on top of her wing rather than beneath, and now she couldn’t move without getting Xerneas off—and, therefore, waking him up. She couldn’t do that.

Reduced to looking up at Arceus, Yveltal gave him a nervous smile. “Um, hello. Is everything well?”

“You have an assignment. I left the details here.” The god of gods tapped a large piece of paper next to her nest, kept down by a small rock. Primitive technology, but she was never good with those newfangled inventions anyway. Arceus probably felt the same.

“Tomorrow at the latest,” he said, “and preferably today.”

And you can’t just do that yourself? Yveltal thought idly, but she knew how it always was. Procedures, policies, delegations, traditions. She wouldn’t mind following Mew’s delegation now and then instead…

“Take care.” Arceus took two steps away, as he always did, and then disappeared in a flash of golden light. Fading orbs remained where he had stood before those, too, dissolved.

Yveltal didn’t like the cold anymore. Slowly, she tugged her wing out from under Xerneas, praying to—well, that would probably just irritate him. She merely hoped that Xerneas wouldn’t wake up.

Perhaps by a residual miracle from Arceus, she was able to break free unnoticed. She shuffled her wings, read over the assignment, and prepared for departure.

<><><>​

South, near the beach, there was a forest that hadn’t seen a fire in at least a generation. A worrying amount of time, particularly when the rains were becoming less and less frequent. Perhaps it was due for floods in a few decades, but for now, the dryness was becoming a concern for the lives within and nearby. The smoke alone from a fire would snuff out all crops that surrounded the forest.

So, Yveltal’s assignment was simple: Destroy the forest and let the overgrowth even itself out. No fire, no smoke, only dust and ash.

It was such a lush forest, filled with deep, full greens. Small Pokémon chirped in the branches—loud little creatures, even from so high up, eager to greet the morning sun. From the sky, her distinct shadow loomed over the trees.

Yveltal didn’t feel guilty for what she knew she was about to do. This was just her job, part of the work that had to be done to keep this world, a world of Pokémon where everyone was capable of so much, in balance. What caused this overgrowth? Yveltal wasn’t sure. But the Pokémon nearby had been neglectful of it and perhaps did not realize the doom they had caused themselves in the future; if anything, her arrival here was a blessing. She could let them start anew without the flames claiming them.

But she understood. Mortals were often short-sighted, and it was difficult and tiresome to teach them generation after generation, what with how often they died. A less involved god would leave them alone to fall to their own vices, but perhaps sometimes it was necessary to help them.

And so, Arceus had sent her here.

The morning dew atop the treetops didn’t deter Yveltal’s descent. She weaved through a large clearing and landed in the center with a firm whoosh. With loud spatters, the dewdrops on the heavy leaves rained down on her. She shook off most of it and outstretched her wings. Around her feet, grass already withered and wilted into nothing but gray mulch.

This part of the forest was already showing signs of overgrowth. Twisted vines competed with one another for sunlight. Flowers grew on top of and in between those. The tree trunks of some trees were completely covered in layers of moss so thick she could run her claws through them like fur.

This wasn’t a normal overgrowth. This was the result of Pokémon sparring too often there; life energy flowing without restraint in the roots, through the trees. Frenzy Plant, Magical Leaf—those techniques energized the plants, and sometimes contributed to it. This area must have a high population of Grass Pokémon, if she had to guess.

It was a shame that they had too much of a good thing.

Something creaked above her. The tree was dying. Withering and rotting right where it stood. Leisurely, Yveltal stepped to the side. A branch fell, splintering into countless dry pieces, which themselves turned to dusty ash moments later.

She was careful. She didn’t want to destroy the whole forest, after all. She walked slowly, one pace every five seconds, just like she’d practiced for so long for overgrowth containment. Ahead of her was a beautiful, grotesque collection of twisted flowers and struggling, damp vines. Behind her was rot and ash, the ends of a fire without any flames. Pokémon had fled from their dens shortly after her arrival, but she still saw a few scampering away from her presence.

A few were defensive, shooting Bullet Seeds and rocks her way, but they did nothing. Most of them turned to dust before they even had the chance to so much as dirty her feathers. And then, when she glanced at them, they shrieked and fled.

It wasn’t a large forest, and she slowly increased the distance of her influence, even while she walked. She didn’t know the full extent of the damage, now, aside from the general size, but that made it easier. By the time she was done with her assignment, the once circular forest would be more akin to a crescent moon.

The rot had outpaced her a while ago. Now, she only saw gray mud, though the horizon of the forest was still green, so her work was far from over. But there was something not ashen ahead. Out of caution, Yveltal folded her wings down and approached without any drain, though she clicked her beak worriedly once she got closer.

It was a Honchkrow, crumpled on the ground with a busted wing and leg. Feathers were messy and a few dewdrops were still intact. A gentle touch revealed the body was lukewarm beneath those badly kept feathers, and his eyes were still open, staring emptily at the sky.

She knew death well, and her pang of guilt left quickly. This one had been on death’s door recently, and her power may have sapped the last of his life… but even if it didn’t, she only cut short the suffering. The trail left behind suggested that he had tried to hobble away or fly, but failed each time.

Perhaps it was simply his time. Yveltal stepped around the body and continued along, but something caught her eye to her left, but she couldn’t see the specifics. Whatever it was, it ran away for a while, so she didn’t pay it any mind. Probably just some curious mortal; they didn’t really matter now. If they were smart, they’d get out of her draining range. If not, well… survival of the smartest.

Yveltal resumed her drain, expanding her aura slowly, and finished her route.

The final part of her work was always tedious, not to mention out of her element. From what remained of the forest, Yveltal tore through the vines and the flowers and the fruits, gathering them in her claws and letting them collect on her feathers. Like holding her breath, she made sure she didn’t drain the life from them. After feeling thoroughly filthy and heavy, she used some of her Legendary power to fly in the air—after all, her wings weren’t flight worthy on their own by any means—and shook her body over parts of the ruined forest.

Trees had collapsed and fell away, leaving behind nothing but desolate lands. In their place, seeds scattered through the air and landed in the nutrient-rich soil. Now all it needed was a spark of life and time.

She was finished by sundown, landing at the forest’s edge. The twilight cast long shadows over the dead forest, and it just occurred to Yveltal that these evergreens had shown no signs of autumn like the trees to the north. It was interesting how deceptive forests could be, showing nothing but health one decade, only for them to all go up in flames in the next… But those were slow patterns that normal Pokémon often ignored. Too gradual to care, at least, until it was too late.

One of the shadows was moving oddly. Yveltal suppressed a curious chirp and leaned to the left for a better look. Yes, that was definitely moving, but what—

The Honchkrow. Moving? No, it had been very definitely dead. She knew that more than anything.

No, there was something underneath it. A Murkrow was—

Oh.

At the same time that the thought had hit her, a rock went flying to the back of her head. Its sheer speed made a whistle through the air and it shattered on her skull. With an annoyed twitch of her right eye, Yveltal glanced back to see a Machamp with three more rocks, one in each hand. Behind him were several other Pokémon, and far in the distance, she saw huts of a small village.

“Go away, you blight!” Machamp roared.

“Blight?” Yveltal said with an offended chirp. “I just saved you from a fire that would’ve destroyed everything within a—”

“Saved us? You destroyed the forest!” Machamp clenched one of the rocks and it shattered in his hands. “What sort of game is Arceus playing? Where are we going to get our food?”

“Aren’t you near the ocean?” Yveltal waved dismissively, feeling too defensive to apologize. “The forest isn’t the only thing left for you. And besides, I—”

A sniffle caught her attention. Beside her, taking a wide circle, was that same Murkrow carrying the limp body of Honchkrow.

“Then why’d you kill him, huh?” Machamp said. “You… you killed his brother!”

“That’s not at all what happened,” Yveltal said instantly. “I found his body already dead—the dew was on his feathers! I wouldn’t just—”

Murkrow fell over, the weight too much. Yveltal leaned forward to help, claws outstretched—the villagers gasped and Machamp threw his third rock. That earned panicked pleas from the other villagers, and briefly, Yveltal wondered why she was humoring them. She was death. What insolent mind would try to drive her away when she was just doing her duty? Saving them?

No. No, mortals were short-sighted. And even then, some of them seemed to understand… But the circumstances of that Honchkrow… Of course they would think of it that way. But still, that gave them no right to throw rocks at her. Insolence…

Yveltal stepped away from the Murkrow, glaring at Machamp. His limbs tensed and his legs, try as he might to hide it, trembled.

“Just leave. You did what you had to do,” Machamp said. Behind him, a Chesnaught and a Venusaur nervously glanced at one another. Further behind, two Bellossom and a Lilligant murmured about something. The Machamp continued to hold his ground, and eventually, Yveltal stepped forward and past Murkrow. She took advantage of her height.

“Hey—HEY! Get back!” Machamp roared, squeezing at his final rock, but he was frozen in place. Even if he wanted to, he didn’t have the will to throw at her so close.

Yveltal reached a claw out to Machamp’s hand, to the rock within, and tapped it with black energy. Lightless sparks coursed through the rock, turning it into dust within his grip. It washed over his arm and to the ground.

Machamp’s face, up close, had a defiant snarl, but she saw in those bright eyes nothing but fear.

Good enough. She leaned close, her beak mere inches from his face. A few Pokémon behind him turned away, covering their eyes.

In her usual, ominous trill, she whispered to him, “Clean up after your forest. Too much overgrowth, and my arrival will be the least of your problems.”

Machamp clenched his jaw, saying nothing. She looked at the many Grass Pokémon behind him; some looked down in shame. Others were more fearful than anything. A few seemed more defiant, as if they couldn’t possibly have been to blame for the forest’s overgrowth.

Whatever. If they did it again, maybe she’d burn it instead to show them what…

Yveltal shook her head. “Goodbye, then,” she said, and did her best to ignore Murkrow when she took off.

<><><>​

Little, glowing lights, dewdrops filled with luminescent life energy, dripped from the leaves. The nighttime winds blew a few of the droplets off their leaves, where they spattered against the ground and trailed down small boulders like teardrops. Curled up on a bed of leaves, Xerneas heaved a sigh and tried to tune out the irritable thoughts of yet another day of tireless admirers.

His natural aura energizing those around him didn’t help; it was a feedback loop of endless followers. They walked more than they normally could, because he provided them with the energy and longevity to do so.

At least they had the decency to leave him alone tonight. Either that or that Substitute of himself had been good enough to flee. With a giddy sigh at a night’s silent sleep, he curled up a little tighter, only for a pang of dread to wash over him a second later.

Someone just landed. A big Pokémon, maybe some overeager dragon who happened to be the five hundredth “biggest fan” in the past decade. Maybe if he acted dead, they’d leave him alone. No, that was stupid, how could he die?

“Um—” whispered Yveltal. “Are you awake?”

The amount of relief that followed was enough for Xerneas to deflate. “Thank the light, it’s you,” he said, rolling. “You won’t believe the day I—”

Yveltal sniffled, but it looked like she had been trying to hide it.

“Yevvy?” Xerneas asked, suddenly on his feet. “What happened?”

Yveltal curled up next to Xerneas and squeezed her wings around him, sobbing a little louder.

Xerneas curled his head around, careful that his antlers didn’t prod Yveltal, and said again, “Yevvy, what’s wrong?”

“The world hates me,” Yveltal said between gasps. “I’m just a blight.”

“Yevvy, don’t say that,” Xerneas said, awkwardly rubbing a hoof on her back. “You get rid of blights. You’re essential to balance. Come on, you know what Ziggy always says, right? Life without death is suffering. The mortal realm isn’t geared toward eternity. We need you to balance things out.”

“Oh, enough,” Yveltal said, shoving Xerneas away, but she barely even moved him. She wiped her eyes and tried to dry her beak of the tears that had fallen, but it wasn’t working. Xerneas prodded her again, enough that Yveltal stopped pushing. “I’m sorry,” Yveltal said quietly. “You’re the only person who actually seems to care.”

“Nonsense,” Xerneas replied. “You know how it is. You’ve had your heroic moments, too, remember? When a real threat comes along, you’re always the one sent over to get rid of it, be it a true blight, or… Well, you know how it is. Arceus wouldn’t trust you with such a duty for nothing.”

“Oh, of course, eliminating threats,” Yveltal said. “that went wonderfully last time. I nearly killed an innocent Dunsparce…”

“L-let’s think about the other times,” Xerneas said quickly. “Remember Darkrai, how he asked for help against those odd Pokémon? Or, or, or how about all those times you’ve helped Pokémon die peacefully? Morbid, but…”

Yveltal loosened a little. “It doesn’t matter what I’ve done. I know what I do is right. I just… know that it’s never going to be appreciated.” She sighed. “I envy you, Xerneas, having Pokémon so thrilled to be with you. I don’t understand how you can detest them.”

“Believe me, after a while, you start to hate it.”

Yveltal laughed, leaning against him. “I wish I could have a day where they would like me.”

“Wish…” Xerneas said, narrowing his eyes thoughtfully.

“Xern?”

“I’m not tired anymore,” Xerneas said, standing up.

Yveltal chirped and hopped away. “What do you mean?”

“It’s not fair that you have to go through that, so maybe we can see if someone else can help,” Xerneas said. “Arceus is probably just gonna shrug and say it’s part of the duty—you know how he is. And I’m not talking to Mew. But you know who might be able to help?”

Yveltal frowned. “Who?”

<><><>​

Blue crystals embedded walls of solid obsidian in unnatural yet beautiful patterns. The sole inhabitant of these great depths often renovated with his powers, using his domain over desire to gently alter reality. It was often for petty, little things that did no harm or help one way or the other. After all, what was a little perk now and then for all the help and research he worked on?

Far to the southeast, the air was humid and salty with the nearby ocean. Yveltal didn’t care for the nighttime travel, but at least it wasn’t particularly far from Xerneas’ home down south. More importantly, she was surprised they were even able to sneak into Jirachi’s home at all. Perhaps they got lucky; it was nighttime, after all, and the barriers only kept mortals away when Jirachi wasn’t interested in socializing.

Would be nice if Xerneas got the same, but apparently he was supposed to be more on call than the Wishmaker. A pang of sympathy ran through her; perhaps Xerneas had a point. Still, having that kind of attention…

“Just ahead, there he is,” Xerneas said, pointing a hoof forward.

Floating in midair, curled in his own ribbons, was the star-headed Psychic. He rolled peacefully in his sleep, and Yveltal wondered if it would be rude to wake him.

Then again, he apparently enjoyed his naps too often, anyway.

“Jirachi?” Yveltal called.

No response.

“Jirachi, wake up,” Xerneas said. “You’ve been sleeping for five days. I checked.”

“How do you know that?” Yveltal asked.

“His assistant has a log that I took a peek at,” Xerneas whispered back. “Jirachi! Rise and shine!”

“But it’s night,” Yveltal whispered again.

“Just let me wake him up,” Xerneas growled back. He went closer and jabbed Jirachi with his horn, but nothing happened.

“Maybe we need to attack him,” Yveltal suggested. “I think I’ll try just a little strike.”

“With your death powers? Are you sure?” Xerneas replied. “Bad idea. Let me do it. Stand aside.”

Xerneas found his footing and crouched down. His antlers glowed with Bug energy, and with a dash and a thrust, he jammed his horns into Jirachi’s stomach.

Jirachi screamed in surprise and his eyes shot open—all three of them, including the giant one on his belly.

“Jirachi! Are you aw—”

A Psychic blast sent Xerneas skidding backward, though it didn’t seem to hurt him very much. He shook it off with an annoyed grunt, but then crouched down again for another strike. Jirachi’s belly-eye glowed again, but this time, no Psychic blast followed, and Jirachi yawned.

Xerneas skidded to a stop. “Is he awake?” he said with an unsteady breath. “Good. Then I don’t have to wake him as hard.”

Yveltal sighed. “That was reckless.”

“As if you had a better idea,” Xerneas said with a smirk. While Yveltal had no counter, she did smack him on the side with her wing, pushing him away. He stumbled, but his smirk didn’t waver. If anything, it grew.

“Mmmnn… How many days this time—oh.” Jirachi blinked to clear up his vision. “Wait, who—why are you two here? How did you sneak past—”

“Jirachi, can we ask a wish from you?”

“Excuse me? You come in here, wake me up, and then expect me to—”

“You were asleep for five days, by the way,” Xerneas said.

“F-FIVE DAYS?!” Jirachi floated several feet in the air until he was at eye-level with Xerneas. “Why? That’s far too long! When I took up this position I specifically asked that I wouldn’t sleep for that long, I—”

“Were you overworking yourself again?” Xerneas said. “Last I checked, if you work too hard, your body makes up for it by sleeping.”

“Okay, so maybe I made a few strong wishes to help things out, but—”

Suddenly, flashes of intense light shined around Xerneas, exploding all at once. He shrieked in pain and collapsed to a kneel, gasping for breath. His cross-shaped pupils were crossed themselves, unfocused. Yveltal rushed to his side to keep him held, and he was grateful, leaning against her.

“Whoops!” Jirachi said. “Sorry! Must’ve done Doom Desire when I woke up…”

“I’m filled… with so much hate…” Xerneas wheezed, finally standing again. Yveltal backed away, fearful that her natural powers would drain away more of Xerneas’ energy. “Thank you,” he said to her. “I’m fine.”

He slowly stood on his own while Jirachi floated there awkwardly.

“What do you want?” Jirachi said, finally breaking the silence. “And just because you guys are also Legends doesn’t mean I’m gonna listen to you!” He crossed his tiny arms and turned his head away. “I’ve got standards.”

“Didn’t you once wish for chocolate because you were too lazy to go to the market for some?” Xerneas questioned, narrowing his eyes.

That,” Jirachi said, holding up a hand with superiority, “was a reward for a job well done. It’s different if it’s my own wishes.”

“Irresponsible cretin,” Yveltal murmured under her breath.

“What was that?” Jirachi said.

“I said,” Yveltal said, “are you certain?”

“Certain about what?”

“That you’d be able to grant wishes after just waking up?” Yveltal asked.

Xerneas glanced at her, impressed. Nice save, said his eyes.

Hush, said hers.

“Hmm…” Jirachi twirled around. “Guess it depends on what you guys wish for. If you guys just want some items, I usually just do some Teleport trickery for it, but if you actually want something, you know, substantial…”

“Yveltal wanted to wish for mortals to like her more,” Xerneas said.

Jirachi blinked. “Look, I grant wishes, but I’m not a miracle w—AAH!” He dove out of the way, narrowly avoiding a beam of deadly energy from Yveltal.

“Choose your words carefully,” Yveltal growled. “I’ve had a very bad day.”

“Y-y-y-yes! Well—it’s just, mortals just naturally don’t like death, you know?! I may be Psychic and I may be the Wishmaker but I can’t just change people like that!”

“Rrgh, well, you owe us for that Doom Desire,” Xerneas said.

“Excuse me? You woke me up! That’s not a fair comparison!”

“Is—is there really nothing you can do?” Yveltal asked, the gravity of what Jirachi was implying finally catching up to her.

“Look, I’m sorry, but I meant what I said,” Jirachi said. “That’s such an abstract wish, so broad. I can’t just change how people feel. My wishes are usually more material than that, you know? The amount of power required to warp or even nudge reality for something like that is… it’s astronomical!” Jirachi shook his head and spread his arms wide. “Usually, with something like that, I say that their wish will be granted eventually, and maybe teleport a few things around or call in a few favors, you know? Fortune tellers do it all the time, making vague promises!”

“Rrgh… Then I suppose there’s no use,” Xerneas said. “I suppose I’ll just have to tell Arceus that you attacked me with Doom Desire.”

Jirachi blanched. “W-wait! Wait, um, you don’t have to do that! A-and if you do, I’ll just say you trespassed in my home and assaulted me! So, there!”

Xerneas tilted his head left and right leisurely. “I suppose I’ll also have to tell him about that little favor I did for you as well with my power, hm?”

“Noooo no no, there’s no need for that!” Jirachi said.

“Xern, what are you—”

“Nothing!” Jirachi said instantly. “Nothing! Just a small favor!”

“Jirachi needed a little pep for a little friend of his,” Xerneas said, “and asked if I could give him some help with… vitality. He wouldn’t want that getting out, would he?”

Jirachi froze, fiddling with his hands nervously, while Yveltal narrowed her eyes disapprovingly. For such petty needs… Shameful! Perhaps she should counteract that endurance of his…

“So, Jirachi, do you want the truth to come out… or will we be getting that favor of yours?”

Yveltal frowned, wondering if it was really worth it. This was essentially blackmail, wasn’t it? She was about to ask Xerneas to relent when Jirachi finally sighed.

“Okay, okay, I have one idea that might work. But I’m being honest when I say it’s beyond me. But… I don’t know, if you want to be liked a little more… How about I pull one favor for you guys?”

“Mhm.” Xerneas didn’t show it, but Yveltal could tell from his tone that he was pleased. “And the favor?”

“I’ll Teleport you over to Manaphy.”
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Part 2

Crashing waves and cruel winds filled Yveltal’s earholes. Bitter cold seeped into her feathers, and she weakly flopped her way through the water with an annoyed grunt. “Jirachi’s a real piece of work,” she said. “Teleporting us… out in the middle of the ocean… just because it happens to be where Manaphy rests…”

Xerneas did his best to tread water, leisurely continuing through the ocean currents. “At least he teleported us nearby. I can sense Manaphy’s life energy.”

“The sooner the better,” Yveltal grunted, beating her wings against the water again. A sudden rush swept Yveltal under. Irritably, she beat her wings to return to the surface, trying her best to ignore the salt in her beak. “Jirachi will be getting a visit from me later.”

A dim glow caught their attention and, seconds later, Manaphy flew out of the water with a flourish and a spin. “Hey, hey! I got word from Jirachi!”

“You’re awake?” Yveltal said, squinting in the darkness.

“Of course! The sun isn’t even out yet!”

“…You aren’t nocturnal, though,” Yveltal said, frowning.

“Yeah but today was a party day,” Manaphy explained, grinning while playing with one of her antennae. “Oh, oh! Right! So, Jirachi actually didn’t explain to me what you guys wanted.”

“Land. We need—” Yveltal plunged into the depths for a few seconds. She beat her wings and reemerged, spitting out salt water. “Land. Please.”

“Can’t you just use a little power to fly out?” Manaphy frowned.

“I don’t want to harm the sea life.”

“Hmm…” Manaphy turned around, floating just above the water’s surface. “There’s a sandbar just this way. Follow me!”

With groans, Yveltal and Xerneas continued their swim, occasionally bracing for an incoming wave.

“Can’t we… just use some Psychic energy, Xerneas?” Yveltal said. “Or maybe Gravity?”

“We don’t want to be spotted by Arceus, do we? We need a low profile here…” Xerneas glanced toward land, the dim glow of Destiny Tower just barely visible through the darkness. “This is already risky. Let’s keep going our own way. The less we use our powers, the less likely he’ll see something from up there.”

Sand brushed against the bottom of Yveltal’s talons. Finding her footing, she advanced to more stable ground and tried, futilely, to dry herself off. Xerneas followed, shaking off the water from his fine fur, and turned back to address Manaphy.

“Okay, princess of the sea,” Xerneas said with an irritated snort, “Thank you for answering Jirachi’s call. I think I understand why he sent us here.”

“You wanted swim lessons?” Manaphy asked, tilting her head. “Both of you were pretty bad at it…”

“I have wings,” Yveltal said, “meant for flight. I’m not meant to swim.”

“Well, what’s flying except swimming in the air?” Manaphy asked. “How about we start with the backstro—”

“Manaphy, how long does Heart Swap last?” Xerneas asked.

“Umm, a few days? A day?” She frowned and floated a little lower. The way her attitude suddenly changed, it seemed she figured out what they were about to request of her. “But… you guys want to do that? After all, did you, I dunno, get approval from Arceus for this? Swapping the spirits of the Lifebringer and the Deathbringer? Aren’t you guys, like, total opposites?”

“Excuse me?” Yveltal said, protectively wrapping a wing around Xerneas. “Not at all opposites. We’re perfectly fine working together.”

“But doesn’t Arceus not want you guys working together? You guys have to be one after the other, and stuff. He’s kind of a traditionalist like that.” Manaphy frowned, poking her flippers together. “I’m really not sure about this…”

And for just a moment, Yveltal felt the same doubts. Xerneas had gone on this in a rush of desperation to help her, but was this really what they needed? Sure, Xerneas got all the attention and love and appreciation for what he did. Yveltal, meanwhile, didn’t get any attention and people left her alone.

And yes, they were also familiar enough with each other and their powers that they could slip into their roles just fine.

When thought that way, maybe swapping experiences would be a nice vacation for both of them.

But still

The waves tickled their shins and Manaphy’s dim glow continued to tempt Yveltal into accepting anyway. They did have a lot of precautions in place, but…

“Xerneas, you know not to abuse my powers, right?” Yveltal said. “I know I won’t for yours. It’s—it’s against our very natures, after all. I doubt we’d be that eager to…”

“There, is that enough?” Xerneas said. “Please, Manaphy. Yveltal is dying with how lonely things are for her—it’s not fair, and Arceus isn’t acknowledging it. Just for a few days, can’t she enjoy what it’s like to have some love?”

“I thought you gave her that,” Manaphy said in a whisper.

“You know what I mean,” Xerneas hissed.

Manaphy still looked uncertain, but nodded anyway and brought her flippers up. “Okay, fine. Hold still so I can get to work.”

Yveltal and Xerneas closed their eyes and took steady breaths. Yveltal expected that in a few moments, she won’t be looking through the same pair of eyes. Oh, gods, what would that mean for her name? Would she still go by Yveltal? Or would she have to think of herself as Xerneas? No, even beyond that—would she be a he? This was starting to feel needlessly complicated. It was only temporary anyway. She’ll just… work by the same name. Yes. That would do.

“Um, what are you guys doing?” Manaphy asked.

Yveltal opened her eyes and looked herself over. Still her proper body. “What?”

“Why are you guys closing your eyes? That’s weird. Just let me focus for a second.”

Yveltal and Xerneas exchanged looks then tittered to one another.

“Sorry,” Xerneas said. “I guess we thought it would be something more on the mystical side. You know, like you’d have a chant, and then—”

Everything went dark. And then Yveltal tried to flap her wings, only to realize that not only did she not have wings, but she fell forward when she tried to move the corresponding limb. She yelped, sputtering on sandy saltwater, and wobbled back on her new, four legs.

“Oh… Oh, my voice!” That was going to take some getting used to.

Xerneas was even worse, flapping his new wings before toppling on his side. He flailed on the ground, trying to use his wings like legs, but he sank back into the sand and dirtied his front. Yveltal winced, wondering if she was going to feel that when they returned back to normal.

Manaphy giggled, holding her flippers over her mouth. “Have fun! This should wear off in two days or so. If you guys want to undo the swap early, just hit me up! Or Arceus finds out and does it himself, buuut you probably don’t want that.”

“Thank you,” Xerneas said, wincing when his beak accidentally nipped at his tongue. Yveltal, meanwhile, struggled with this new concept of lips of any sort.

“One problem,” said Xerneas, finally able to stand. “There is… no way that I’m going to be able to fly home like this. I’ll have to spend tonight practicing how to fly a little.”

“I should try out four legs,” Yveltal said, taking a few tentative steps forward. “We really should have practiced this…”

“I can swap you guys back, if you want,” Manaphy offered. “Starting to regret your impulsive decision?”

“No! I’ll—I don’t want to back out now,” Yveltal said, stomping a foot in the wet sand. “I’ll probably never try this again if I do. So… Just two days.”

Manaphy rolled her eyes and said, “Okay, hang on. I’ll get you guys a way home.”

She dove into the water and her dim glow faded.

Xerneas looked to his old body and tried to grin. Yveltal recognized it in his eyes, but it was just as surreal to see her own body controlled by someone else. She tilted her head and suddenly realized the new weight and the strength of her neck muscles, the powerful antlers that adorned her new head. Xerneas, meanwhile, looked like he just noticed that his tail could grab things, and was grasping at a clump of wet sand.

“Quite handy, isn’t it?” Yveltal asked.

Xerneas lobbed the sand her way. Yveltal yelped and tried to deflect it with a small blast of darkness, but what came out instead was a plume of life energy. The sand erupted in seaweed and became a flourishing clump on the sandbar, which further expanded into a small patch.

“A-ah… I’ll need to be careful.”

“Back!” Manaphy erupted from the water in a flourish and a twirl, a strange device in her flippers. “I just called Hoopa! He’ll be able to get you home in no time. Just give him a little bit to wake up.”

“What is that?” Yveltal asked, pointing at the small device. It was circular and glowed very brightly in the dark. Despite how far away they were, she had an irrational worry that Arceus would see it from Destiny Tower.

“Um… What, do you live under a rock? It’s called a badge.” Manaphy raised her flippers in the air. “Get with the times.”

“I might be too big for one,” Yveltal said.

“They’ve got bigger models.”

Something landed on Yveltal’s head, between her horns. She tried to look up, spotting a wispy tail in her face.

“Hi, hi!” Hoopa said, floating off of Yveltal. His mouth was full with the final few bites of a jelly donut. “Xerneas and Yveltal got lost at sea? What, were they on a quiet getaway and got lost?”

Yveltal flushed. “N-nothing of the sort,” she said, stomping her hoof. “We were just going for a swim, and, well, and nothing more than that. We just got tired.”

“Tired! Immortals like you? I doubt it! You just wore each other out.” Hoopa winked at the two of them. “Don’t worry, I’ll never tell. Okay! I know where you live. Two portals for the Luvdisc, right away!”

“That’s not—”

They fell through the portals, and Yveltal landed in Xerneas’ usual bed with a grunt. The soft leaves and vibrant colors unnerved her at first, especially without Xerneas there with her. In the back of her mind, she feared whether she would accidentally destroy it all.

Yet, that was definitely not the case, now. If anything, she could have livened the place up even more, but… That was probably a bad idea. She had to use her powers conservatively for now. Too much and she might draw suspicion. But, too little, and she might get the same…

She drifted off, the fatigue of the swim finally getting to her. It must have been just as much trouble for Xerneas as it had been for her after all. The morning was a new day…

<><><>​

The cold, autumn air; the dreary silence; the complete emptiness that came with the morning sun in the abandoned village… Nobody was there to greet Xerneas that morning. He was completely and utterly alone.

And he loved it.

Xerneas stretched his wings and rolled onto his back, kicking his legs without a care. He giggled and settled back in a tight curl, giddily looking to his left and right to see absolutely nobody there. How peaceful had his sleep been? Never disturbed once! And even better, there was nobody watching him.

It was like a dream. And at first, he thought it had been; Yveltal showing up in his abode, his spontaneous decision to seek out Jirachi, the swap—had all that spontaneity really happened? Yes. It did! It really did!

He didn’t even want to stay in bed any longer. It was time to start killing things for once!

Oh, but he had to wait for an assignment. And he probably also shouldn’t mentally phrase it that way, either. Clearing his throat and getting into a more relaxed, dignified position, Xerneas reminded himself instead to take this early rise as a means of practicing how to fly.

With careful wingbeats, Xerneas took his first ascent to the air.

<><><>​

There was something under her left foreleg.

Yveltal opened her eyes and her X-shaped pupils refocused in the morning light. She squinted, looking around to see that while nobody was around, she still felt some kind of presence nearby, and her head felt a little heavier, too.

Suddenly aware of all the life forces around her, her heart skipped a beat. No! Had she killed them all? They should have known better than to—no, no, she wasn’t ‘Yveltal’ anymore. No, she was, by name, but her body was of Xerneas.

Oh, this was going to take some getting used to.

What was on her?

She tilted her head forward and a Pidgey flopped down, squawking in surprise. Yveltal breathed in sharply—a bird landed on her? Why?

“I’m sorry, Xerneas!” the Pidgey said, struggling to his feet. “I—I just wanted to see you, and, um, ummm…”

He seemed very young. Wandered away from his parents? They must be worried sick. It was a miracle her powers didn’t kill—no, wrong powers. This was probably a daily occurrence for Xerneas.

“It’s okay,” Yveltal said, then lifted her left foreleg to see that a Bidoof and a Salandit had made their little beds under her. She frowned and tried to move past them, only to feel the hard, tough body of a Salamence curled up next to her. Had he been there the whole time?! So silent, too… “It’s very… I am not used to so many visitors at once,” Yveltal let slip, not realizing that this was probably anything but the case for Xerneas.

“Really? I think Shelgon over there—I mean, Salamence over there was visiting you every day!”

“Shelgon?” She glanced at the curled-up Salamence again.

“Well, he was one last night.”

A thought occurred to Yveltal as she scanned her bed to see the various Pokémon that had made their temporary sleeping arrangements around Xerneas. There was no way Mew would enforce this. Why didn’t Xerneas just make his home restricted at night? The Tree of Life was sacred, after all.

Xerneas’ gaze trailed over to the tree that towered over them all, frowning pensively. The Tree was brimming with power as always, but making it some destination for anybody to visit… let alone at night, in his very abode—Xerneas could surely and reasonably expect privacy then, wouldn’t he?

Maybe Yveltal could ask about that later. It seemed like such a simple solution. Was there more to it?

“Xerneas?” Pidgey asked.

Yveltal looked around for the Lifebringer, realizing seconds later— “Yes?” Yveltal answered.

“Are you okay? You seem kinda funny.”

Not good, not good—she couldn’t already blow their cover! “No, I’m just waking up,” Yveltal said. “Sorry if you’re worried. You all should probably get going, though. It’s not safe here.”

That got an even more puzzled look from Pidgey, and even Bidoof, groggy, looked up and tilted her head.

“Not safe?” Bidoof asked. “Isn’t this one of the safest places in the world?”

Why do I keep slipping up? “No, I’m sorry, I misspoke. Your friends and family might think you’re in danger.”

“Oh.” Pidgey seemed to understand that much, and nodded. “Okay. I guess I should go back before they ground me again…”

Again. Yveltal wasn’t surprised. Hiding her disappointment, she merely nodded and let them depart. Salamence was still in a deep slumber, but before she could figure out how to wake him, she felt a new presence behind her.

“Yo, Xerneas,” Mew said. “How’s it?”

The tiny Creator, leaning against a Psychic bubble with her arms behind her head, grinned and flicked her tail in Yveltal’s general direction.

“Hello, Mew,” Yveltal greeted, her chest suddenly feeling tight. She just had to be careful and resist any sort of Psychic readings from her. Xerneas was always a private Pokémon, right? He’d probably be very offended if Mew tried reading his mind, so she just had to keep that act up.

“So, just came in for your assignment today. I know, I know, you had one yesterday, but this one is kinda high priority.” Mew held up her tiny paws disarmingly, eyes closed. She did a flip and landed belly-down on her violet bubble. “You know that forest down south, Evergreen Jungle?”

Why did that name sound familiar? Wasn’t that—

“It’s the one that Yveltal just destroyed yesterday. Well, some of the locals there got pretty peeved, so I think better sooner than later on doing step two of the whole life cycle ceremony.”

Surreal. But also understandable. She was going to bring back what she had killed the day before. Hopefully this time she’d be able to see their happy faces rather than their angry scowls.

“I understand,” Yveltal said. “Thank you, Mew.”

“Sweet. Need a zap there? I’ve got a few other folks to check up on but just bringing you there is easy. By the way, do you, like, want a badge or something? I know you don’t like the whole new age tech stuff, but it’s really useful to have for, you know, communicating.”

“I’ll consider it,” Yveltal said. It was still strange and foreign to her and she didn’t want to impose something on Xerneas while in his body, but at least leaving the option open could be nice. After all, wouldn’t that let them communicate with each other at night? Perhaps even talk to each other… Yveltal wouldn’t mind hearing Xerneas at night, even if he wasn’t physically there, now that she thought about it. Maybe something like that wouldn’t be so bad after all…

<><><>​

Flying came naturally. It must have come with the instincts in this new Yveltal brain of his. But in no time at all, Xerneas used his wings of death to fly over the desolate landscape of Yveltal’s abode in gleeful flips and spins.

“Perfect!” he said, landing on his feet with grace that he’d practiced just slightly. “And how was that?” Xerneas asked, turning around to puff out his chest.

But nobody was there to see him. A hollow feeling radiated from his core just then—something he tried to suppress into a cough.

“R-right. Nobody shows up here. Perfectly alone.”

Something about it was starting to get old. Being able to wake up without anybody bugging him was nice, but how did Yveltal deal with all this quietness?

That same silence helped Xerneas hear the new arrival right in front of Yveltal’s nest. The Alpha himself, though this time Xerneas imagined he’d be less disappointed in seeing two of his gods sleeping together.

“You’re awake early,” Arceus remarked, turning back.

“Had some energy from yesterday,” Xerneas said as he had mentally practiced. “To what do I owe your arrival today?”

“Another assignment.” A small paper floated down to the side of his nest. “Take care.”

Xerneas flinched. He had always seen Arceus act that way to Yveltal, but did it always feel that curt and professional? Nothing at all like Mew’s assignments. She always tried to go for a friendly chat, or at least a more casual air. But was Arceus really like that even when it was just Yveltal? Talk about uptight.

“Is something wrong?” Arceus asked. The pressure Arceus naturally gave off was suffocating, like the golden light was a blanket that stifled the air around him.

“No, nothing. I just remembered something.”

“Mm. Then I will be on my way.”

“Goodbye.”

Arceus disappeared in a golden flash, and Yveltal read through the assignment. A wave of dread followed: Apparently, he had over-healed that town from before, and he had to clean up some overgrowth.

Now he could finally see how they treat Yveltal firsthand.
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Part 3

Perhaps worse than death itself was the aftermath that it left behind. That was one thing that Yveltal often tried to avoid; she was guilty enough of their sad faces, and so sick of their misdirected anger. Wasn’t she supposed to be some kind of necessary evil? It’s what she told herself, at least.

From what she recalled, Xerneas had always talked about visiting the village first and making a little spectacle of his arrival. He had to boost their morale, give them a lecture about being more careful with the gifts they are given, and to make sure they didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes twice. Yveltal imagined that was the polite way of saying, ‘You don’t want Yveltal coming again, now do you?’ Because she wouldn’t be surprised if that was what Xerneas actually told them. She wouldn’t blame him.

And so, she stood, horns radiant and body gleaming. She didn’t even have to call out to them; the villagers in their more primitive homes—simple clay and stone—emerged to marvel at her blue form. She knew Xerneas’ stance, and she mimicked it to the best of her ability, and it was enough to fool them. They were distracted by her radiance anyway.

She recited what Xerneas often told them. He’d said it to her to satiate her curiosity time and time again, and sometimes also to vent about the parts they clearly didn’t listen to, or often forgot, or simply ignored out of convenience and thinking in the present instead of the future. But she couldn’t really tell when she told them the same things: they were all so attentive and so eager. Perhaps Xerneas was just tired.

By the time her throat was tired from talking, Yveltal reached the end of her lecture and turned around for the forest adjacent to their village. The mulch and seeds had mixed together well. Gray ash and the recent rainfall that had blessed the previous night made for the perfect atmosphere to regrow the forest. Less overgrowth this time, and perhaps with the trees more sparsely populated, too. Would give room for less close-quarters fighting, and would probably lead to less upkeep by Xerneas and herself in the future.

Radiant light flowed from her horns, into her legs, and then outward through the soil. She felt all of their presences around her, and a few of the younger Pokémon stepped away out of caution. Their parents told them, while still awestruck, that they should avoid getting too much exposure to her light. That much was fair; spikes in energy sometimes led to premature and involuntary evolution. No reversing that.

Little saplings pushed through the soil in controlled and scattered patches, rapidly maturing into small trees. The crowd murmured to one another in awe. A nearby Venusaur stepped a little closer to Xerneas, but then a Meganium held her back. Yveltal smiled regardless; it was so surreal, having others hold one another back from approaching not out of anger, but admiration.

Xerneas, how spoiled you were.

“It’s like Yveltal was never even here,” Meganium said in awe.

“Good riddance,” Ludicolo muttered back, followed by bitter grunts and nods from the others.

Okay, that was going to be awkward.

Refocusing her efforts, she channeled more energy into the trees ahead, knowing that she would have to do several more of these rounds all throughout the wastes to complete the process. It would be all day.

“Did you know that we were only given, like, one warning for that?” another Pokémon said—this one a Leafeon. “And not even through the news, either. A verbal announcement. Talk about old-fashioned!”

“Who, from Arceus? Or Yveltal?”

“Pfft, as if Yveltal would ever show up to not destroy something, just warn us. They throw that beast at us and the rest doesn’t matter.”

“Well, the forest was overgrown… And Xerneas said that if Yveltal didn’t do that, the fire could’ve spread all the way to town! Not to mention all the smoke and haze…”

At least some of them were reasonable. Yveltal stepped forward, hoping that they would be harder to hear while she worked. Unfortunately, they ended up trying to follow her—well, most of them did. Some were already losing interest and leaving for town, and, briefly, she felt as relieved as Xerneas probably would have.

But they kept talking.

“Well, just use Yveltal as a deterrent, then,” Meganium said. “If we don’t want to see that thing again, we just have to take care of what Xerneas makes for us. Simple, right? Just like he told us!”

She didn’t tell them that. She said that they might not come back to fix their mistake a second time if they didn’t learn. Nothing about Big Bad Yveltal coming in to destroy their homes…

That was just how the world worked. Life without death was… imbalanced! Just because she had to be the part that the living didn’t appreciate didn’t mean she was… Was she unwelcome? No, of course she was. Because that’s how the living reacted to death. Xerneas got to enjoy all of this praise, and—

How often did Xerneas hear them badmouthing her? Did he never tell her?

One of the trees suddenly exploded in height, shooting high above all the others. Its thickness, too, was doubled in size, and Yveltal cut her powers short to make sure she didn’t have it grow further.

“Wow!”

“Amazing!”

“It’s huge!”

Yveltal smiled bitterly, but said nothing more. Until—

“Let’s see Yveltal destroy that!

For some reason—a reason Yveltal wasn’t entirely sure herself—that earned a vocalized response. “You know that… Yveltal and I are two sides of the same coin, right?” She glanced back, doing her absolute best to keep her voice even. “You can’t really have me without her or everything will fall out of balance.”

“Well, yeah, we know that,” Meganium said casually, though it was clear a bit of their wind had been taken away from their wings. “It’s just, even if we need her, doesn’t mean we have to like it. I mean, who in their right mind would like death?”

“Just because she has powers over death,” Yveltal said coldly, “doesn’t mean she’s evil or unpleasant. Death is release. Death is peace after struggle. Death is something you can prepare for.”

“Yeah, but sometimes it’d probably be better without it, if you ask me,” Meganium said, frowning. “I mean… look at you guys. You don’t have to worry about getting old, or food, or dying, or any of that. No offense, sorry, um, Xerneas.”

There were so many things that Yveltal wished to say in return, but in Xerneas’ body, she could not. Instead, she turned away and continued to tend to the forest.

“Well, I suppose that’s something to consider,” Yveltal eventually said. “I have to get to working. But I don’t want to hear you badmouthing Yveltal like that, understand?”

Reluctantly, the villagers nodded, and Yveltal returned to her work. Suddenly, giving life to the forest in front of all those cheerful faces was starting to sour. Why Xerneas didn’t enjoy their unconditional love for him was beyond her.

<><><>​

Xerneas had no trouble ignoring the scornful looks the other villagers gave him while disintegrating the excess vines that had overgrown in the foundation. If anything, he was far too focused on how he had clearly overdone himself the day before when he had restored the town. How… sloppy!

He brushed his left wing over a small patch of flowers in front of one of the building’s windows. Almost instantly, someone shrieked behind him.

“Nooo! My—my flower garden! You killed my flower garden!” A Scyther raised her scythes to her face in horror.

Xerneas blinked, looking under his wing to see the wilting Oran Berry bushes. He had been spending so much time culling the foliage that it was all starting to look the same.

“Hm, sorry,” Xerneas said, lifting his wing completely. The plants were a dusty pile of gray ash. “Plant some more. This soil is pretty nutrient-rich with, you know, the stuff that used to be alive.”

“I can’t believe you’d even do that… just kill things because you can…”

“It’s part of Yv—it’s part of my job. Unless you want to deal with that yourself?”

Scyther tensed, looking ready to fight. Xerneas wasn’t, and in fact was still incredibly thrown off by how hostile everybody was to him now. All because he had a different appearance? And maybe death powers?

“I’d clean this up myself if I could!” Scyther glanced left and saw a nearby vine. She sliced cleanly through it; prismatic liquid gushed from the vine as two more sprouted from the spot that had been cut open, and then the entire vine itself grew several feet in length.

Xerneas winced. He had really overdone it yesterday…

“Well, there you go,” Xerneas said. “You need me to nullify it. So, leave me be and I’ll be out of your chitin.”

Scyther snarled, her blades scraping against one another for a threatening sharpen, but Xerneas was unmoved. He brushed his wings over a few more vines, wilting them instantly as their life energy flowed into him. He wondered if Yveltal always had that dull hunger that he was currently feeling—that satisfaction of filling that hollow void in his core with life energy.

He still felt her stare, and it just occurred to him that Yveltal was going to probably have to deal with even more rumors this way. But was there anything he could do to rectify that? At all?

“Er,” Xerneas said, looking for the next words he was supposed to say. None came.

Scyther kept staring, blades ready for a battle that Xerneas had zero interest in pursuing.

“I’m sorry if my powers frighten you. But it’s as you said: I’m needed to take care of the mess Xerneas left behind, so I’ll—”

“It’s not a mess,” Scyther said immediately. “It’s just too much of a good thing.”

“Well, yes, but it’s still a mess,” Xerneas debated back. “Now, let me continue with my work and I’ll be gone, okay? Sorry about your berries. Just plant more.”

“Just plant more… Hmph.” Scyther didn’t say anything after that, walking away while muttering incomprehensible statements to herself.

Finally, some peace.

It lasted three seconds.

“You really have some nerve, you know that?”

Xerneas closed his eyes, took a breath, held it, and still felt his rage building. “Yes, what is it?”

He recognized that voice from before and addressed the Tyranitar with as little contempt as he could muster. Whatever he’d tried, it wasn’t enough, because his expression made Tyranitar even more hostile.

“You don’t have a single ounce of respect for mortals, do you? You know, we’ve been at this for generations, hearing words about you, and you know what happens any time we ask about it to Arceus? He says that while your work is unpleasant, it’s necessary. Well, you know what? Maybe if we have to deal with you, having Xerneas come along isn’t worth it!”

Oh! Were they actually learning, or were they just being insufferable again? The world was unstable with the rampant powers that Pokémon were naturally capable of, not to mention the blights that occasionally disrupted the typically peaceful countryside. Their work was needed from time to time, but in this era of peace, some of their assignments did feel like needless busywork.

Xerneas was glad that his beak didn’t show any sort of smirk, at least not easily, compared to his typical form. Instead, he let his ire show through his tone. “I suppose I can just go and leave this overgrowth for you to deal with, then. Would you prefer that?”

Tyranitar snarled. “Don’t toy with us. You… You haven’t killed anyone yet, have you? Like last time?”

“Last time, what do you mean, last time?” Xerneas said, incredulous. “I’ve never—” Wait, Yveltal may have.

“You don’t even remember!” Tyranitar shouted, his voice a deep snap that caught the attention of Pokémon several houses away. He swung his itching arm to the right, pointing at some distant hillside. Xerneas followed it and saw that part of the mountaintop seemed practically carved out. A longer look—the distinct lack of plant life, not even little dying shrubs—and it was clear that Yveltal had blasted there.

“It was only five years ago, so that should be no time at all to someone like you unless we’re that inconsequential. Ever since that blast, this village has been dying, like all the life here had simply refused to grow. Only when Xerneas came here did we see it bounce back at all. Five years too late, if you ask me…”

Apparently, Xerneas had been staring pensively for too long, because Tyranitar stomped his foot on the ground even harder.

“You killed my father in cold blood and then left the village to rot!”

“I did what?” Xerneas shouted, feathers puffing out. “I don’t kill for no reason!”

Gods, why did Yveltal have to kill someone here? Was he some kind of menace to society?

Tyranitar rubbed his arm again, like some old pain was coming back. “I’m not gonna take something like that,” he said, his voice shaking. And his body, too. And his eyes… Xerneas didn’t like those eyes. There was some kind of lost, primal rage brewing inside—and while he could understand that to an extent… No. There was more to it. Crazed. Five years of dwelling on this, would that be enough to cause this?

The other villagers were gathering around, forming a curious wall on both sides of the tanned autumn streets. Leaves crunched under their many feet, and a few had to shield themselves from a dusty wind that picked up.

Tyranitar snarled and shifted his footing. His arm crackled with reddish energy, and then prismatic energy, and Xerneas suddenly recognized that last part as his own. What? Did Tyranitar somehow acquire some of his own power? No, that wasn’t possible, unless—

Pitch darkness emerged in tiny cracks on Tyranitar’s arm like ink-black blood.

Blight.

Normal Pokémon attacks had no effect on the likes of Xerneas… but not if they were blighted. And Xerneas reacted too slowly when a sharp pillar of rock jutted from beneath him, sending him flying through the air. Up felt like down, and when he tried to beat his wings to stabilize, he only hastened his fall to the overgrown soil. A few vines wrapped around him when he smashed against them, but a simple wingbeat was enough to rot them away. The residual life energy inside gave him the strength to get to his feet quickly.

A second Stone Edge smashed into his back, sending him careening forward with a wail. These weren’t normal attacks. Mortals weren’t capable of this kind of damage; it was the blight. How long had it been festering inside of him, undetected? It was too late. He didn’t have a choice.

When Xerneas landed on the ground again—hoping that he hadn’t accidentally crushed his wing at his angle—he scrambled to his feet and threw open his one good wing. Dark energy coursed through it—sending shivers through Xerneas’ spirit—and he beat once. At the same time, the ground under his feet shifted; he jumped out of the way, narrowly avoiding the third spire of rocks.

The dark blast struck Tyranitar, knocking him backwards several feet in a rough skid. He clutched at his chest, wheezing, snarling. While his attacks were strong, his body was frail; he fell to the ground, held up by the arm that didn’t ache and itch.

“Nngooh…” Tyranitar tried to stand, but his body didn’t respond, and the soil under Xerneas didn’t shift. It was over.

But he was still blighted, wasn’t he?

Xerneas stretched his wings and readied another Oblivion Wing. It was only halfway there, his other wing feeling sprained, but it would be enough.

The beam of darkness went for the same area as before, and Xerneas knew that his strike would hit true.

Something dark shuffled from the corner of his vision to the center, directly in the beam’s path. Xerneas couldn’t halt the attack; instead, a gout of fire tried, and failed, to intercept the beam in a head-on collision. Instead, the flames diverted in all directions, scorching the ground and the grass. Someone shrieked, and then the crowd echoed the same sound tens of times over.

Xerneas had feeling in his other wing again; the absorbed life energy was more than enough to bring him back to perfect condition. He beat them to blow out the flames like candles; when the dust settled, he saw Tyranitar, still on the ground, and the defiant statue of a Salazzle.

The crowd murmured around Xerneas, too shocked to speak any louder. Tyranitar crawled to the statue, reaching toward the arm weakly. Xerneas was a split-second away from readying another attack when the black, crackling energy in Tyranitar’s arm suddenly dissipated. When it faded, so did Tyranitar’s consciousness. He collapsed at Salazzle’s feet.

Xerneas’ first instinct was to heal them, but the shouts from the crowd to get away, and the creeping darkness that flowed through his feathers when he tried to channel his power, reminded him that such things were well beyond his ability.

Despite their fears, several Pokémon tried to get to Tyranitar to inspect him. Xerneas couldn’t hear properly anymore; they said something about Tyranitar still breathing, and another said something about his poor mate. He saw some of them give uneasy, fearful glances at Yveltal, and others carrying Tyranitar away. Some of the others stared at Salazzle, her expression frozen in a mixture of fear, anger, and hope.

He finally came to his senses and muttered, “Keep her there. I’ll be—I need to find Xerneas, I need to…” He stepped, turned around, and flew away.

<><><>​

It was finally over; every tree, every bush, the whole, tiny forest was back and tidier than ever. No overgrowth; just the right amount of power. Yveltal was used to that kind of controlled output; she had to be very careful about her powers over death, after all. Being able to monitor how much life she gave to the trees, by comparison, had so much leeway that she planned to tease Xerneas about how easy he had it.

She did miss her wings, though.

The villagers had invited her to town for some sort of celebration. The request was so surreal and unexpected that she accepted without thinking, and now she was walking toward her first party with mortals since…

She didn’t remember.

The village bustled with happy faces and enthusiastic singing—something that was also a surprising change for Yveltal. Singing. She sang to herself sometimes, but only rarely, and often just to comfort the dying before claiming them. And yet, this time, it was cheerful and beautiful in its own way…

“Er, what do you need from me here?” Yveltal asked nervously. “I’ve already done my part. Just keep the forest healthy and you’ll—”

“No, no, we know!” said Meganium. “We just need to thank you after everything. That’s all!”

And that was enough. She wasn’t about to deny a little thank-you that Xerneas always got to enjoy. And, to be fair, she was a little tired after all her restoration efforts. She had a weak instinct to give it all out, like a building power and need to throw it out somewhere… The complete opposite of her usual instincts to consume. It was an interesting change, but it also felt oddly burdensome.

Their food was humble but hearty: a potato stew mixed with some of the berries and herbs that had been harvested from the very forest that she had destroyed yesterday.

A pang of guilt plagued Yveltal at that thought, so she tried to shake it away with a remark, “This is amazing, you know,” she said. “I, er, that is, the food. And the little celebration.”

She scanned the room and admired all the happy partygoers in the square. The night was no match for the torches that lit the streets and the further, artificial lights lining the streets to accompany them, the white bulbs mixing with the orange flames.

Yveltal didn’t realize that she had laughed until it escaped her, and the other villagers beamed. “Wow, Xerneas,” said Meganium. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this happy.”

“Oh! I’m sorry,” Yveltal said. “I was just thinking about how, er—well, how lively this place is.”

“Oh, of course! All thanks to you,” Meganium said. “And, to be honest, we were doing some thinking, and, about Yveltal…”

She struggled to maintain her smile.

“We understand. It was wrong of us to badmouth your opposite so strongly. In the end, we need both of you. So… I guess, even if we don’t like when Yveltal comes around, we can at least respect what her purpose is.”

Yveltal didn’t want to be silent afterward, but she didn’t know how to respond to that while staying in character. It was, at least, an improvement. Rather than hate her, they would at least tolerate her… right? Or was that just to satisfy him? How many times did they tell Xerneas this just to win him over?

She was paranoid at this point—no use bringing down the mood for everyone else. “That’s good,” she said. “I—”

“E-excuse me.”

The tiny voice was nearly drowned out by the crowd, but something about it stood out to her. It was the little Murkrow, and the densest, coldest pit in her chest returned the moment she saw his red, tired eyes. In an instant, a thousand realizations hit her, and the fact that she could see her blue legs didn’t help.

Keeping her voice as even as possible, she said, “Yes, little one?”

“Can I talk to you?” Murkrow asked, his voice cracking near the middle. “Ab-about m-my brother?”

She obviously couldn’t say no, but what would follow—she saw the whole conversation ahead of time, and she wanted nothing more than in that moment for the Heart Swap to wear off. But it had been far less than a day; they had seen Manaphy in the dead of night. The last traces of twilight still taunted her.

“Please?” Murkrow asked again, breaking Yveltal out of her trance.

“Yes, you may,” she said quickly. “What is it that you wanted to ask me?”

Murkrow stepped back, sniffling. “Y-Yveltal killed him,” he said. “And… a-and he would have lived if Yveltal didn’t show up! Please!”

“I can’t revive someone just like that,” Xerneas said a little too quickly. “It’s already been a whole day, hasn’t it? The body must be…”

“Well, it’s buried already,” admitted Meganium, nearby. “But you’ve performed miracles like those before!”

“No, it’s… not that simple. I can’t just bring people back like that. First of all, th-they would have to want to return, hypothetically speaking, otherwise it would all be pointless, and—”

“Of course he’d want to return!” Murkrow said.

“And—I can’t just do it by mortals’ requests, either. You know that.” Yveltal bowed his head apologetically, and this time it was genuine.

“Unless,” Meganium said with a hopeful lilt to his voice, “you’re undoing the mistake of another god. Right?”

“Exactly!” Murkrow said. “Please! Yveltal killed him wrongly, so you can bring him back! That’s part of—of your policy, right? Legend against Legend!” His voice kept cracking and tears were starting to stain his feathers. Yveltal couldn’t ignore it anymore.

“If we brought you to his grave,” Meganium said, “would you be able to tell if he was truly killed by Yveltal?”

She would. But she couldn’t say that out loud. Because it would just give them false hope. Honchkrow had been killed by natural causes, and she just happened to be there. That had to have been it, because there was no way she would have missed his energy flowing into her. She had always been very careful about that. She didn’t—no, she couldn’t have possibly done it. So, there was no point in her checking.

“I don’t know if I could still be able to tell,” Yveltal lied. “I… don’t know if…” She couldn’t look away from Murkrow’s face, those desperate eyes. How did Xerneas deal with this all the time? Did he just tune it out? It’s not often that Pokémon approach her wishing for death, but Xerneas must get this daily. This was too much. If Arceus found out she used Xerneas’ powers improperly…

“Please,” Murkrow begged again, beak quivering, and Yveltal simply couldn’t say no.

“I’ll… check.” She bowed her head. “Show me the way.”

The walk was a lot longer than Yveltal thought was possible, every single building passing in slow motion like she was being walked to her own death. A whole crowd gathered behind her, waiting and watching for the next and final miracle of the night to be performed. Her stomach was in knots and it was a mystery how she wasn’t losing the dinner she’d been treated to.

It was just at the edge of the village in a small field. Little stones marked the graves and their names were etched in each one, and Murkrow went to one of the latest, freshest entries in the dirt.

“R-right here,” Murkrow said. “This should be enough, right? Right?”

The body was already being reclaimed by the earth, but it had also only been a day. If she wanted, she could channel a great deal of energy into the ground and return him, should he answer the call. But only, and absolutely only, if Yveltal sensed her own touch upon his deceased person. She had a very clear signature; usually, it took at least three days for it to fade, sometimes longer.

“Move aside,” Yveltal said softly, hoping that the fact that she could barely speak would be more a testament to her compassion for the dead than her fear of what she would find.

No, why was she afraid? She wasn’t going to find anything. She still remembered it. She didn’t kill that Pokémon. She didn’t. Natural causes. Nothing more. He had no hope to begin with. Perhaps he had a bad run-in with some other Pokémon, or fell ill and wandered off—anything could have happened in an overgrown forest, he—

“Xerneas? Are you okay?”

“Yes. I’m fine.” Yveltal had to get it over with. She placed a hoof on the gravesite and closed her eyes, and for a single instant that felt like an eternity, she realized that she could have killed him after all, just by chance. Unlucky chance, a life cut short. And that happened. That was how the world worked.

They all held their breath, including Yveltal. Her sense of life redoubled, and she felt all the forces around her, the whole crowd, their hearts, their minds, their very spirits. The energies flowed around her like water, and she was aware of every current. And eventually, she was able to focus on the weak, residual energy left behind in the body underground. There, she knew she would find nothing abnormal, because there was no way she had killed him.

Silence, and then more silence, as the currents flowed through her. And then, she found…

Nothing.

No trace of her deadly power plagued the bones of the Pokémon under her hoof. She had been right all along; her power didn’t kill him! And she doubted herself!

Murkrow gasped, beating his wings. “You sensed it! You can revive him!” Happy caws and a flurry of black feathers—as if the stress of loss was literally falling off of him—turned Yveltal’s immense relief into redoubled dread.

She had smiled. And now they were all smiling back.

And even though her smile was gone, now, all the others still looked at her eagerly, reverently, and expectantly.

“So Yveltal really did kill him?” Murkrow said, wiping his eyes with his wings. He sniffled a few times, then laughed, and then his wet, shiny eyes met Yveltal’s—looking down had been a big mistake for her. “St-stupid god powers… d-death… w-we didn’t need her to do any of that…”

She had to say no. She had to say no because it was against policy. She didn’t kill him; it wasn’t a divine accident. But… but would she ever, ever be able to get the opportunity to bring life back to the departed, ever again? Ever?

…She’d ruin how the public saw Xerneas if she refused now…

“Okay,” Yveltal finally said, her thoughts suddenly feeling clouded. She brought her hoof forward and over the grave, closing her eyes. “Everyone, back away. I don’t want you getting this energy, too. It takes a lot of power to bring anybody back after this much time. And—again, I need time, and we need to make sure that he even wants to return. If he does not want to… then it is beyond my power.”

They all backed away, Murkrow showing no fear that Murkrow could refuse, because why would he?

…What if she faked it, and said he would rather remain deceased? Perhaps she could say that she sensed no will to live from his spirit, and that he was content with the peace and stillness of death that he’d been granted.

No. That wasn’t going to work.

And so, even though she knew this wasn’t going to be a good idea, she channeled her power into the grave, a bright, prismatic light flowing from her horns and into the ground. The soil stirred, white, see-through petals shining from beneath the dirt. The crowd had to avert their eyes for part of it, and even Yveltal had to shut them, not used to that brilliance herself.

Something underground forced her hoof up, and she backed away. That was more than enough power. From the soil came a bright, crystal flower several times Murkrow’s size. It twisted its way out of the ground, thick, solid petals brightening the entire graveyard as if it was daytime. And then, when the light finally settled to just a dim glow, they all saw a dark lump somewhere inside the flower’s petals. Murkrow held his breath; Yveltal did, too. It had only occurred to her just then that she could have done something wrong. After all, she hadn’t seen Xerneas perform such a miracle that often.

But then the crystal petals blossomed and evaporated at the very tips. A fine, sparkling mist drifted into the air, leaving behind a Honchkrow, curled up like he was still inside an egg. He did not stir for several eternal seconds until he blinked himself awake. He stretched, his beak chattered in the cool air, greeting it like he’d been asleep for a long, long time. And then, with a satisfied sigh, he seemed to remember where he was and jerked upwards.

“What? Where—I was… What happened?” Honchkrow groaned and wobbled, trying to regain his footing. “Did I pass out?” He scanned the crowd. “Er, I’m okay, guys. Don’t worry about it.”

Murkrow wailed and flew into Honchkrow’s chest, earning a surprised caw from the elder brother. He curled his wings around the smaller Murkrow and preened at the little one on reflex. Several Pokémon in the crowd held back their tears; others were much less modest.

“You died,” Murkrow said. “You died in the forest because Yveltal killed you, and—a-and… and I…” The rest was lost to his sobs, and Yveltal knew that this was one lie she had to allow to persist.

Honchkrow was ushered over to the village, and while they wanted to check on him to make sure he was okay, he claimed that he never felt better. Yveltal wasn’t surprised. With how much energy he had flowing through him, he’d probably need to spend a day or two burning it all off. Little murmurs echoed from the last of the crowd, all still admiring Yveltal for just being there.

She looked down at the hooves that were not her own, and then listened to what some of them were saying, if only out of morbid curiosity.

“I knew it,” said a Bulbasaur with a wide grin. “Of course Yveltal would be that careless. Killing a random Pokémon because she’s probably too lazy to wait or something, right? Hah!”

Just ignore it. Was this really something to be so bothered with? She had said it herself. The Honchkrow had been killed by Yveltal; the lie that she had to make just for the sake of seeing a smiling face for once. Not just smiling. Tearful, completely elated, beside themselves…

“Knew she was a killer. She doesn’t care about normal Pokémon at all,” Bulbasaur said, and a few of the other Pokémon around the youngster nodded. “Maybe she just got caught this time. I bet now she’ll get in huge trouble with Arceus!”

“You think he’ll smite her for it?” asked another.

“I hope so. She’s awful!”

“You know,” Yveltal said, suddenly turning and trying her best to dispel the red in her vision, “I don’t think that’s a very fair comparison to make for Yveltal, when you think about it.”

Bulbasaur looked at the others, but then smirked at Yveltal. “Aw, c’mon, you don’t like her either, do you? You guys are opposites! I bet Yveltal gets annoyed when you undo her work.”

“No, she doesn’t,” Yveltal said. “In fact, she’s relieved that there’s someone like—me to help, just as she’s there to help when I give too much life.”

Bulbasaur didn’t look convinced, but it seemed that the other villagers were perceptive enough to drop the subject. They stepped away and shuffled back for the village, all except for Bulbasaur. And Yveltal felt her hooves plant firmly in place. She couldn’t let this go. The lie was already spiraling horribly out of control and she had to at least stop this one, insignificant Bulbasaur from spreading the rumor through the whole village.

“That’s not at all how it is,” Yveltal finally said, stepping forward. This is a bad idea. Just let it drop. How is this child’s opinion going to mean anything? Let it go. “Yveltal isn’t like that.”

“How do you know?” the insolent Bulbasaur said. “Like, you don’t know what’s in her head. Maybe it actually feels good to her to kill people. I heard from Mom that there are some Pokémon that are broken like that, and they like to kill others.”

“Yveltal hates killing needlessly,” Yveltal said. “She—she isn’t someone who enjoys it. She does it because it’s her duty, just as I do mine.” Just because it felt good to satiate that emptiness inside her whenever she absorbed life energy didn’t mean she liked killing. It was—it was different.

Bulbasaur rolled his eyes. “Meh, whatever,” he said. “Nobody likes her anyway. Maybe this mistake will be enough that she’s gone for good, huh? The world would be way better without her.”

“That’s… that’s not true,” Yveltal said slowly, eyes clouding with something between pain and rage. Her breathing was uneven and her chest felt tight. Something was growing around her hooves but she didn’t care. “You don’t know a thing about Yveltal.”

Bulbasaur blinked, glancing around, and then looked at Yveltal. He seemed to realize, then, that it was just the two of them. “Yeah, so? We know what she does and what she is, so… so that’s just how it is! That’s what she told us! She thinks she’s all high and mighty because she’s supposed to be around, but you know what? I think everyone else just tolerates her because she thinks she’s needed, and—”

“ENOUGH!” Yveltal slammed her hoof on the ground.

“O-okay, okay, I—”

“NO.” Yveltal advanced, grass overgrowing around her. A dim glow radiated off of her horns like a beacon, and other Pokémon looked at them. The plants were glowing with the grass in outward ripples that originated from Xerneas’ body. Vines overgrew where she stood, writhing in random directions. Some of that light channeled into Bulbasaur’s body, giving him a dim, ethereal glow that made him seize up.

Yveltal went on, horns blazing with power. “Yveltal has nothing but love for mortals every time she tries to help them, and what does she get in response? Nothing but scathing hatred and anger because of the mortals’ own irresponsibility. They know nothing about how horrible this world would be if there was no Yveltal, no death, to balance out life.”

Yveltal stepped toward the frightened Ivysaur, huffing again as the vines continued to twist and turn around them both. She didn’t care. She didn’t even care when the other villagers came running out, shouting something that she didn’t care to hear.

“Stop!” Ivysaur squealed, trying to back away, but the vines were getting caught around his body. He clumsily tried to slice through the vines with a Razor Leaf. Luminous fluid spurted out of the vines and blinded him; he screamed and flailed as more of the vines grew where they had been cut, further entangling him.

Yveltal suddenly gasped and snapped back to her senses. The vines—what was happening? She tried to channel some of her energy into it to wilt them, but that wasn’t her power anymore, and now the vines were growing even more. Out in the village, a Venusaur—strongly resembling the Venusaur child ensnared in the vines—readied another set of sharp leaves.

“No, don’t!” Yveltal shouted. “It won’t—”

She launched them, slicing through several of the vines that now covered half of the gravesite.

Crystal flowers bloomed along nearby gravestones and the vines continued to immobilize and squeeze around the new Venusaur’s body.

Yveltal broke free of the vines that grew around her own hooves, but Venusaur was too unfamiliar with his bulky body to do the same. Thick vines of his own flopped around and weakly pushed at the thorns that were starting to dig into him; panicking, he screamed and flailed, which only made them dig deeper.

“No, stop, STOP!” Yveltal begged, trying to pull the vines away delicately, but every time Venusaur struggled, more kept piling on. “No, calm down, calm down! I can’t help you if you keep—”

Venusaur’s screams etched themselves into Yveltal’s memories. She could only stare, helpless, as the vines wrapped layer upon layer around Venusaur, his muffled screams the only thing able to break through.

He was going to die there, except he wouldn’t. The energy would sustain him, and yet the vines would cut him, and then he would keep dying.

Yveltal couldn’t do anything to stop it. He would be buried in that agony. And it was all her fault.

“Yveltal!” She heard her own voice, and then she stared up just in time to see a beam of darkness wash over the vines. They broke apart just enough that, while he was still wounded, Venusaur scrambled out of the vines and toward the villagers, who all stared in horror.

Xerneas—in Yveltal’s body—descended upon them with his wings stretched wide. The vines halted in their growth, and Yveltal stepped away in an effort to not contribute to their plague.

“I—I’m sorry,” Yveltal said. “I used your powers incorrectly, I lost control, I—”

“I did, too,” Xerneas said. “I need you to help me revive someone where I messed up.”

“What?”

Someone landed on Yveltal’s back; she struggled to look, but then the source floated in front of her.

“Hey,” Jirachi said. “I, uh, er, sorry about all this. I probably shouldn’t have listened to you in the first place if you guys wound up messing up this badly…”

Yveltal blinked, then looked at Xerneas.

“I had to call his assistant to wake him up again, but I needed to teleport to you quickly,” Xerneas explained.

“…Call?” Yveltal asked. “How did you—”

“With those badges. Everyone apparently knows his public contact information since he’s the go-through for any wishes Jirachi could grant.” Xerneas nodded and motioned to Jirachi. “Come on. Is anything else here broken?”

“No, I—well, yes, the—” Yveltal looked back at the revived Pokémon that were staring confusedly at one another at the graveyard. Xerneas counted seven of them in total—a mercifully small number compared to what could have happened, but…

“You brought them all back from the dead, huh?” Xerneas said, grunting. “Great. Well, look, that’s a gray area, we—I’ll handle it, we’ll handle it later. I have something more important back at the village I had been at yesterday. Accidentally killed someone when trying to take out a blight.”

“A bl—”

“I don’t know, either, but the blight disappeared from the target, but I killed the wrong person. I need you to undo it.”

“You—you what?”

“I know, I’m sorry!” Xerneas bowed his head, nearly losing his balance thanks to his bipedal form. “Ugh—no offense, Yveltal, but your body is really hard to keep balanced. How do you even work this tail?”

“Er—well, practice, I suppose,” Yveltal glanced at Jirachi. “Can you take me to—”

“Right, I’ll get to that.” Jirachi raised his hands. “One Teleport, coming right up!”

<><><>​

Xerneas led the way through the dying village and motioned to some of the vines that had been left over. Yveltal shuddered, thinking back to the damage they’d left behind in the southern village. All because of some overgrowth—compared to that, what Xerneas had done here during his routine healing was nothing…

And then she saw the damage that had been done with her own, deadly power. Still in the middle of the street, the statue of a Salazzle—a corpse, as far as they were concerned—stood, still with those defiant, yet fearful eyes. And a blighted Pokémon had been there? She understood why Xerneas would feel the need to fight back against something like that, but to accidentally kill a mortal…

Yveltal thought back to Honchkrow and suppressed another shudder.

“Xerneas… and Yveltal? Together? What?”

“I’ve never seen them together when on duty like this…”

“But why? Don’t their powers cancel out?”

“It’s not right…”

Xerneas growled. “Is something wrong?” he asked, wings glowing with dark aura.

“N-no, Xerneas, don’t do that.”

“What?” Xerneas balked. “After how they treat you? I could do a whole lot more if I had the—”

“No, no, please,” Yveltal begged. “Not with my body, not with my power, they’re a-already so afraid of me.”

“That’s—” Xerneas flinched again, but then relented with an annoyed grunt. “Fine. For you.”

They approached the statue in solemn silence, and Yveltal asked Xerneas, “How do I use your power on stone?”

“It’s the same. Easier, actually, especially since this is a recent death and the body is still completely intact. The stone will undo itself after just a little work.”

Yveltal nodded and approached, already knowing that feeling of revival. Xerneas commented on that idly, but Yveltal evasively said that she’d just seen him do it a few times as a demonstration. Which was true—just omitting the fact that she’d already done a proper and controlled revival a little while ago.

Energy flowed from her horns and into her hooves again, and then to the statue in front of her in a gentle pulse. Right before Xerneas’ eyes, the gray stone regained its color; solid rock turned to smooth scales; life returned to her eyes, and she continued her defensive stance like nothing had happened.

The disorientation hit her moments later, and she dropped her stance to rub her eyes. “What?” She looked at Yveltal, then Xerneas. She glanced at the sky, certainly surprised that it had suddenly become nighttime, and that Xerneas had also appeared out of nowhere. Seconds later, the realization arrived, and she took a few shaking steps away from Yveltal. “You… y-you killed me.”

“You defended a blighted Pokémon,” Xerneas replied coolly. “Consider yourself lucky I—”

“Xerneas, please,” Yveltal said, but then clamped her beak tight. Did she just—

“What? Xerneas?” Salazzle eyed Yveltal, in Xerneas’ body, and then at the other. “Are you sure?”

“Err, well.” Jirachi floated out from behind Yveltal. “It’s sort of a long story, but—hey, is everything else okay here? What happened to that blighted Pokémon?”

“What do you mean?” Salazzle said.

“He’s this way,” called another, this one a Fraxure. He ran to another home, where Xerneas and Yveltal both followed him inside to see Tyranitar on his back, looking relaxed. When he saw Yveltal, he quickly turned his head away, a mixture of anger and resignation on his face.

“Hang on,” Jirachi said, flying forward to hover over Tyranitar. After closing his eyes, he ran a ribbon along Tyranitar’s arm, then over his chest, and then on his forehead; all the while, Tyranitar held still, looking almost afraid.

“A-am I… am I—”

“…No, he’s not,” Jirachi said, floating back. “You fought off the blight. How about that.”

He deflated with relief, but then rubbed his arm as the phantom pain came back. “I’m… I nearly killed you with that power,” he said to Xerneas. “I’m sorry. I… I know what you did was necessary. My father was blighted beyond repair, and none of us saw it in time to help. I only hope he now has peace.”

Yveltal remembered that day, but she, as Xerneas, could not bring it up. Instead, she said, “I’m sure he does. But… take care of yourself.”

“Maybe now you understand why Yveltal—why I’m necessary,” Xerneas said. “What would you guys do if I wasn’t here to take care of these blights? What will Xerneas do, life them to death?”

The villagers didn’t look at Xerneas directly, but instead at Yveltal, like they were waiting for a retort. But after what had happened in the south, Yveltal wondered if that was possible after all. If Venusaur hadn’t been rescued by Xerneas, would her powers over life have actually killed him, or would it have kept him alive within those vines, even as they dug into his body?

She shuddered. No. She was done with this power. This was all one big mistake; everything was better off when she was just alone and nobody wanted her to do anything.

Something radiating golden light illuminated the village behind them. With cold chills running down their spines, Xerneas, Jirachi, and Yveltal all turned around to see the Creator himself.

“A-Arceus,” Xerneas greeted, stepping forward. “Listen, today wasn’t the best day for any of us, but—”

Arceus wordlessly tapped his hoof on the ground. Xerneas and Yveltal both blacked out.
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Part 4

Cold, white marble chilled Yveltal’s wings. The only sense of warmth she had was from the blue, furry body cozied up against her back. With a weak breath, she tried to lift her head, expecting to be stiff and groggy. Something felt correct, yet wrong, like there was a disconnect in what had happened earlier.

She was in the right body again. And, therefore…

“Urgh…” Xerneas tried to move his legs, but they were underneath Yveltal.

She rolled away and helped him up, and then a golden gleam caught her eye. She sprang upright and took on a more dignified posture. “Arceus. I—”

“Arceus?” Xerneas said, trying and failing to stand with some form of grace, but his legs were asleep. The most he could manage was a wobbly kneel. “Hello, Arceus—it’s an honor to see you.”

“I wish I could say the same.”

Yveltal shuddered. That tone was something she hadn’t heard from him in a very, very long time. Cold, harsh, yet still contained and level. But it was clear that the amount of irritation Arceus chose to display here was intentionally less than his true ire.

When Yveltal and Xerneas said nothing in reply, Arceus continued. “I know everything. After I spoke with Jirachi and reversed your Heart Swap, I spoke to Manaphy, and then returned you to the Hall of Origin.”

Yveltal only now realized their surroundings. Aside from the pristine, marble flooring, they were within a great, ethereal hall of light with pillars of the same divine material. Everything was bright, aside from the dark glare given by Arceus’ green and red eyes.

“Explain yourselves,” Arceus said, “or I will strip your spirits of power and make better candidates for Life and Death.”

Yveltal bowed her head again, shivering. Explain herself? How was she supposed to explain this? That she was lonely, and that her occupation—which generally required dabbling with things inherently unpleasant to mortals—was leaving her mentally unwell? How was Arceus supposed to take that?

He wouldn’t. Everything she’d done was shameful, and now… Now, Yveltal didn’t know what was going to become of her. It was all her fault for being so careless, so weak. She used to be so strong and proud of what she’d done, and yet the moment she brought some of that old pride back, she’d misused Xerneas’ powers and traumatized a—

“There’s a Venusaur,” Yveltal said, looking up. “I—is he okay? He was just a young Bulbasaur, and I…”

Arceus shook his head. “He is still adjusting to his new body, and I do not know if reverting it is worth the trouble.”

“A-and—and the ones that were revived, the ones during my… m-my outburst.” Yveltal looked down. “I—that was an incorrect use of Xerneas’ power. Therefore, it would have… h-have to be undone by me. They shouldn’t be alive.”

“Is that how you feel?” Arceus said.

“It was a mistake. Under the rules, I… it would be proper if the mistake of one divine act is undone by another. Divine to divine.”

Silence followed, and then he said, “Do you feel that if you undid this mistake, it would absolve you of your crimes?”

Everything felt cold and tight and dark, even with all the warm light around her. Yveltal couldn’t breathe. She hated how powerless she felt against Arceus, but there was nothing she could do.

“Speak.”

“N-no,” Yveltal said. “It wouldn’t. But I…”

Arceus waited.

“But I don’t think this is very fair, either.”

“Fair?” Arceus said, narrowing his eyes. “What isn’t fair?”

“I’ve… I’ve seen nothing but hatred and disdain for my power despite how necessary I am to balance in this world. I go to my empty nest, alone, and wake up in my nest, alone. I go to the villages and perform my duties, where I feel like I would rather be alone in the cold. Sacrificing one horrible situation for another, slightly more tolerable emptiness. And not once did you consider how I felt about that!” The cold was fading, replaced by a small fire in her voice. “If you perhaps cared about how I felt instead of what I did, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so unstable and foolish!”

“You’re blaming me for your mistakes?”

“No,” Yveltal snarled, biting her tongue. It came as a reflex, and she’d caught herself. It wouldn’t be proper to cast blame on Arceus entirely. “I blame myself for trying to suppress it instead of speak my grievances to you sooner.”

Arceus said nothing, staring with that same, stony expression.

And the silence ate away at her, particularly when Xerneas, whatever he was thinking, was equally quiet. So, she continued. “I am death. I am supposed to be indifferent and decisive. I am the end. I am inevitable. And I… can’t uphold that.” She looked down. “Not when I also need companionship.”

“Then you are saying that your will is not enough to uphold the power and title of Deathbringer?”

Her will? Her will was strong. Iron-clad. She doubted anybody else could handle the same duty the same way she had for ages. To think that anybody else would be able to perform the same duty was… foolish.

Yet she couldn’t find her voice. She only stared at Arceus’ golden hooves, even as the ground around the Creator grew brighter. Yveltal screwed her eyes shut and held her breath.

“It’s my fault,” Xerneas said.

Her head whirled toward him, incredulous. Xerneas had his head down in a bow, but it was his turn to be tense.

“It was my idea from the start. Yveltal was lonely. She had a bad day during one of her assignments and I had a moment of weakness when I saw that. I had an idea and I followed it through to give her some sense of companionship. I’m bothered constantly by admirers and bright eyes. I wanted some peace and quiet. It seemed like the perfect change for the two of us to swap jobs. And that was obviously impossible unless we also swapped powers. So, therefore…”

“You thought to grant access to one another, unauthorized by me?”

“Yes.”

“Yveltal agreed to it,” Arceus said. “You are both at fault.”

“She only agreed because I took advantage of how lonely she was,” Xerneas said, and Yveltal knew that wasn’t at all true.

“No,” Yveltal said. “You also wanted to be alone. We both wanted what the other had, and…”

“I was wrong,” Xerneas said immediately. “I—I thought I wanted to be alone, but…”

By now, Arceus was just watching them in silence, but Yveltal and Xerneas forgot about Arceus then. Instead, Yveltal stopped and stared at the Lifebringer, taken aback. “You hate them, though,” Yveltal said breathlessly. “How could you—”

“I know I did, I thought I did, I mean,” Xerneas said, biting his lip. “But… I think I actually do like their company, in some… twisted way. At least, after the way you felt, there was… there was this emptiness.”

“I’m always empty, though,” Yveltal said. “That comes with the job.”

Arceus shifted his weight ever so slightly, and that was enough for Yveltal to take notice. He usually had a completely stoic stance; any sort of shift was odd.

“Isn’t it?” Yveltal confirmed.

“It’s not,” Xerneas answered for Arceus. “If you ask me, that emptiness is just because nobody understands you. Because I think the same’s true for me, too. It’s all… fake, all the—the way everyone appreciates me, but doesn’t understand you? That’s just because they want my power and don’t want yours. Because they’re mortals, so of course they’d love life. Who doesn’t love life?”

Yveltal was ready to answer the question on reflex, but the answer frightened her enough that she couldn’t say it at all.

“So that is your answer,” Arceus said.

Yveltal felt a harsh tingling on her body at the same time that Arceus’ body brightened. She saw filaments of light sprouting from his back, and in an instant, she both lowered her head again and felt her heart beating out of her chest.

She didn’t want to know when it would happen. Based on Xerneas’ silence, he didn’t want to, either. They knew it would be useless to fight against him.

It was so bright that even with her eyes closed, she could still see the light. For a fleeting moment, she felt defiant rage, and her wings darkened with her horrible power. The moment she felt something electric coursing around her body, she panicked—and in her panic, she fought. Her Oblivion Wing blasted forward, and she felt it connect with a loud hiss. Stones crackled and upturn as vines grew from the very ground, breaking through the marble. They tightened around Arceus’ legs and torso, and Yveltal stared in horror at Xerneas, who intended to fight him in the same way.

Arceus stood unmoved, a scorch mark on his chest, while countless filaments of light spread around his back like wings. With a weak pulse of light, the burn mark was gone, and the vines disintegrated into nothing.

Arceus finally showed some emotion—an annoyed snort. “That was rude.”

Xerneas and Yveltal didn’t know how to react, so they only stood their ground. Their attacks had done nothing. Now came the Judgement…

Arceus turned around. “I am done for today. Your punishments have been administered.”

Yveltal and Xerneas stood in tense silence for a while until the words actually registered.

“What?” Xerneas said, looking himself over. Then at Yveltal, who had checked her feathers. She tested her Oblivion Wing’s aura, but she had just used it. Nothing changed.

“You clearly cannot be trusted with your own powers unless you’re able to regulate one another,” Arceus said. “I have linked your auras. So long as you are separated, your powers will not work. From here on, you have no choice but to perform your assignments together. Now, leave. I will be giving you another assignment tomorrow to make up for the mess you caused today.”

Arceus tapped a hoof on the ground; behind Xerneas and Yveltal was a portal that led to Xerneas’ home. Yveltal at first wondered if she had to go to her nest to get any of her things, but then realized that very few of those things were worth bringing. That last bit of emptiness was enough for her to come back to her senses.

“We—what do you mean?” Yveltal said. “We have to be together?”

“Perhaps in the future I will allow you two to separate,” Arceus said, turning his head back to look at them with the corner of his eye. “But for now, these will be your new arrangements. I do not like breaking tradition, but if it is for the betterment of the world, I have no choice. Now, go. I am very busy.”

Xerneas blinked and looked to Yveltal, but she shared the same expression. Xerneas left first, stepping through the portal and onto the grass. He stared back, waiting for Yveltal to do the same, but she watched Arceus for a little longer. Because she saw something in his eyes. The way they gleamed a little, that weak, dull shine.

Yveltal cleared her throat. “Thank you,” she said, and her eyes added, I’m sorry for all the trouble I caused.

“Mm,” Arceus said, but his eyes said more: I, as well.

<><><>​

It had rained again.

Xerneas and Yveltal had slept soundly that night, together in the former’s usual abode. They weren’t sure who did it, but the few belongings that Yveltal had at her old home had been transported near their bedding. Yveltal had forgotten about a few of them. One was a small trinket from Xerneas some decades ago that stood the test of time. Though, she wasn’t sure what it was supposed to resemble; it only mattered because it wasn’t dust by now.

Their assignment was also near their bedside, and it was a simple one. While they had cleared up the mess in the northern village, that southern village still had some loose ends to clear up—particularly the graveyard, which was still overgrown with plants that could not be cut away. Aside from that, it did not specify anything in particular, and only to check for substantial damage and to reverse it.

And so, they returned, greeted by the sunlight glistening off of the grass in an orange shimmer.

“The sunrise is always pretty, isn’t it?” Yveltal commented. “Dawn of a new day, and so on.”

“I prefer the sunset,” Xerneas said, though he’d said the same to her so many times. “But the sunrise is nice, too.”

Not many Pokémon bothered nor greeted them while they cleared up the overgrown plants and disturbed graves.

“They might be hiding from us, you know,” Xerneas said, watching Yveltal get to work. “I don’t blame them. How many did we revive? Seven?”

“Seven,” Yveltal said, sighing. “Not counting Honchkrow.”

“You aren’t going to reverse them, are you?” Xerneas asked, the hesitance in his voice suggesting the answer he wanted to hear.

Yveltal sighed. “By our rules, we are supposed to remove divine mistakes,” she said. “Those seven… perhaps even those eight…”

“Well, by our same rules,” Xerneas said, “we don’t tamper with something that the mortals can take care of themselves, unless they request it of us. And then, well, refer to the other rules. I don’t think the mortals are requesting us to un-revive them.”

“Un-revive.” Yveltal stifled a laugh. “Right. I suppose that’s true.”

The sun’s rays casted shorter and shorter shadows. A few Pokémon peeked out from their doorways and windows and then quickly hid away any time either of the Legends made so much as a glance in their general direction. Eventually, Xerneas sighed and said, “How about we test out how far we can go before Arceus’ new rule comes into effect?”

“Where are you going?” Yveltal asked.

“To talk with the villagers,” Xerneas said. “I want to smooth things over for both of us while you actually do the fixing.”

But before he could even make his way to the village, there was already a lone Sawsbuck staggering toward Xerneas. He suppressed an annoyed wince; he had to be in a good mood this time, and he had to show it. If this was some elderly Pokémon, he couldn’t just do something like return their youth. That would just further their improper use of—where was he going?

Sawsbuck moved past Xerneas and toward Yveltal. Several other Pokémon emerged from their homes next, and while a few were facing their ‘new-age’ badges at him, likely to take pictures of him up close—they loved doing that, after all—many were more interested in following Sawsbuck.

“What’s going on?” Xerneas had to ask.

They stared at Xerneas uneasily, then at Yveltal.

“…Right, you probably found out,” Xerneas said. “It’s really me this time.”

He scanned the crowd and saw two Venusaur near the back. He locked eyes with the smaller one—his eyes were incredibly young—and immediately recognized him from the story Yveltal had told. He bowed apologetically to him, and the younger one nodded back, albeit hesitantly. Then, he went back to his steps; they were careful and deliberate, like he was trying to learn how to walk for the first time.

Still, he was learning quickly, and it seemed that all the cuts from the night before had healed. He decided not to bother them.

“How has everything been going?” Xerneas asked. “Where are the seven Pokémon—er, eight, that had been revived?”

The villagers suddenly looked worried and defensive.

He should have phrased that better. “Don’t worry, we—don’t worry. Yveltal isn’t here for them. We just wanted to make sure things were going well. Venusaur, too.”

“Well, they’re doing fine,” Meganium said, stepping forward. “Er, sorry. I don’t believe we’ve properly met… Xerneas, for real, right? Venusaur’s son is getting special treatment to learn how to adjust to his new body. He evolved very early, so it might be a little awkward with the kids… but it happens. It’s nothing we aren’t prepared for.”

“That’s good to hear,” Xerneas said, sighing. “Can we say the same for Honchkrow and the others?”

“His brother is elated,” Meganium said, smiling. “And we think it was very big of Yveltal to own up to her own mistake. We can’t imagine how difficult it—”

“It was actually a lie,” Xerneas said immediately. “Yveltal hadn’t sensed any of her energy behind Honchkrow’s death.”

This earned surprised murmurs from the others in the crowd, and eventually they turned their attention to Yveltal, finally finished with all of the cleanup. Sawsbuck was still staggering toward her, and Yveltal, thinking he was mistaken, tried to point him in Xerneas’ direction. But Sawsbuck only shook his head.

“What do you mean?” Meganium said.

“He must have gotten injured some other way and succumbed to his wounds. Yveltal was not the one to deal the finishing blow.”

“But—but then why did she revive him?” Meganium said. “You don’t mean to say we have to bring him to Yveltal and—”

“I just said that’s not why we’re here,” Xerneas said with a scowl. “I came here to just set the record straight: Yveltal revived Honchkrow because she saw Murkrow’s hopeful little face and she never had the power to bring someone back to life before.” He shook his head. “She’s never wanted anything more than for someone to thank her. It was a moment of weakness… But it’s one that we shouldn’t undo.”

They all looked at one another again and Xerneas, growing impatient, turned around to address the Deathbringer directly. “Okay, I straightened—Yveltal?”

She was leaning forward, so close to the face of that frail Sawsbuck, with her head tilted to the side. A crowd was gathering around them both, and Xerneas joined in.

“Oh—Xerneas.” Yveltal stood up. “I’m sorry. I was just helping him not strain his voice. He’s… one of the Pokémon that I had revived.”

“Oh, one of the eight?”

“I am.”

Xerneas suppressed a shudder; the voice was so wobbly and weak that he was worried that the noise itself would crumble to the slightest breeze.

“It seems that I had been revived… at the same state that I had fallen away,” explained Sawsbuck. “All the others were more recent. Accidents here, perhaps a disease there… But I… lived a long life. I got to see my children and grandchildren one last time, one last nap, and it all went to a… cozy little darkness.” He smiled with a serenity that Xerneas had trouble understanding.

And then, that smile transitioned to a tired frown. “And then I woke up. Checked the year… I’ve been asleep for a long, long time. There ain’t anything here for me anymore. I… don’t think I have much time to begin with.” He looked down. “Is it wrong for me to ask for an early rest… considering I shouldn’t be awake at all?”

A solemn silence followed, Yveltal staring at this tired Pokémon, and then at all the others who were watching. This sort of event was very rare—and even rarer was it one that she could accept so publicly.

“Well, I…” Yveltal looked at the others. Uncomfortable stares, but none of them glared. Some looked away; others seemed to know what was coming and left. But many stayed.

“Are you sure?” Meganium asked. “You…”

“How many days do I have?” Sawsbuck said. “Died once before… was real peaceful. Don’t wanna ruin that.”

That was enough to silence Meganium.

“Y’all have a lot to live for,” Sawsbuck said. “But I had my time. The real blessing here is Yveltal… I belong to her. Ain’t that right?” He looked up, but it was hard, so he settled for staring at her talons. He puffed a little more, and then knelt down. “Ah, sorry for all the disrespect. I gotta… take a breather on my side.”

Yveltal quickly descended upon him, sweeping her wing under his side before he hit the hard dirt. A few villagers flinched, but then Sawsbuck’s head gently nestled against her feathers.

Yveltal’s tail-claws twitched against the dirt, then relaxed at the same time that the villagers did.

“How kind.” His voice was barely a whisper; only Yveltal heard him. “Here I thought death would be cold…”

With his eyes closed, he breathed steadily.

Yveltal looked at Xerneas, then at Sawsbuck, but he didn’t look back. And finally, at the villagers, like she needed their approval.

Perhaps they recognized it, or perhaps they accepted it. She wasn’t sure which. But some of them smiled, and others nodded, and the wind blew. A stray cloud cast a shadow over the graveyard.

Yveltal sang a wordless song. One understood by Pokémon in the wilds, Pokémon of the cities, and everything in between. It was just loud enough for Sawsbuck to hear, but just soft enough that he did not stir. To Yveltal, it was night again, in a quiet forest, where nobody else mattered.

A black haze collected around her wings like morning dew.

She sighed her final note; the stray cloud faded from the sky.

End.
 
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