On the Moor of Icirrus, Keldeo sighed before kicking out at a rock.
It cracked, and he kicked out with his other forehoof.
"This is boring," he grumbled.
"Keldeo, maintain your focus," Cobalion instructed.
"Yes, Cobalion," Keldeo agreed, before returning his attention to the rock.
Being told to maintain his focus was a useful reminder, sort of, but it didn't really help him actually maintain his focus. That was all about being able to concentrate, and if something was distracting you then it was distracting you.
And what was distracting Keldeo was that he never got a chance to do anything to show how good he was.
He trained, sure, but he'd been training for ages. And he wasn't as good as Cobalion, or Virizion or Terrakion, but those three were amazing and heroes and if Keldeo thought he was supposed to get as good as them then he'd have gone crazy, because that was impossible.
But some of the things the Swords of Justice did weren't even really dangerous, just hard. And Keldeo wouldn't mind doing something hard if he was able to do something.
"How come I can't come along when you're sorting something out?" he demanded, looking at the dent he'd left in the rock. "Or go out into the wild so I can train against Pokémon who aren't you three?"
"Keldeo, it isn't safe," Cobalion told him. "You need to be ready."
"But if I only train against you, all that happens is I keep being beaten," Keldeo protested. "If I could battle against other Pokémon who-"
Cobalion stamped his hoof.
"Keldeo, none of us want to see you hurt," he said, moderating his tone slightly. "We want to be certain you can take care of yourself before you get into any trouble."
"But-" Keldeo began.
"This discussion is over," Cobalion informed him. "Now, go and practice your Water attacks."
Keldeo grumbled, then cantered off to the pool.
"You shouldn't be so hard on him," Virizion said. "He respects you, Cobalion, but his heart is the heart of a Sword of Justice and he wants to help. Doing nothing is stressful."
"Perhaps," Cobalion replied.
Panting, Keldeo looked at the latest results.
The cliffside he'd been training on had water twenty feet up the side, now, and the pool was almost overflowing – nearly at the point of overwhelming the stream that drained it.
"I must be strong enough now," he said.
"You're definitely doing great, little guy," Terrakion told him.
From a distance, because he was a Rock-type.
Keldeo sighed. "I just wish I could have a few moments to myself from time to time, to show them that I can take care of myself."
"Allez-Hooparing!" a voice called, sounding like it was coming from behind a small rock.
Terrakion blinked. "What was that?"
Keldeo looked around as well, but didn't see anything.
"What do you think, Terrakion?" he asked, returning to the theme. "How much longer is it going to take before anyone trusts me?"
"I don't know, Keldeo," Terrakion admitted. "Cobalion's kind of stubborn, but – you know he has your best interests at heart, right?"
Keldeo grumbled something, and turned to leave.
"Don't go getting lost, or you'll never get back in time for supper, kid," Terrakion warned.
It was just the same thing as what Cobalion had been saying, but the way Terrakion put it did make Keldeo feel a bit better.
Just a bit.
True to what Terrakion had said, Keldeo didn't go all that far.
He wasn't paying much attention to where he was going, sure, but he only went for a few minutes. There was a weird bit where the trees changed a bit, and he noticed after he got to the next little clearing that the weather seemed to have got better, but he just shrugged and decided he hadn't been paying all that much attention to the weather anyway.
When he came out onto a little hill, though, he did stop and frown slightly.
"So the sun's that way," he said, looking at it. "And it's the evening, so that's the west. And I don't think I got turned around, but I could swear that way's east for some reason."
"Oh, hi!" someone called.
Keldeo turned, surprised to hear a human so close to the Moor of Icirrus, but even more surprised to see the Pidgey flying alongside him turn into a pink Mew with a visible pop! of psychic energy.
"Hello," he said, concentrating carefully on making sure he was understood. "Do you live around here?"
"Not far," the human boy said. "I'm Ash Ketchum, and I'm eight years old. What's your name?"
"Keldeo," Keldeo informed him.
And I'm Mew! Ash's accompaniment giggled. But you already knew that, right?
"Oh, you're one of the Pokémon who kind of speaks human, or speaks so humans can tell what they're saying," Ash realized. "That's pretty cool."
"Thanks," Keldeo said, puffed out a bit by that. "I didn't know any humans lived in this bit of Unova."
"Unova?" Ash repeated. "Um… is that another word for Kanto? We're in Kanto."
Unova's a reeeeally long way away, Mew told them both, flipping upside down.
"It can't be," Keldeo said, frowning. "I was definitely in Unova ten minutes ago…"
He turned around to look back the way he'd come. "Or maybe I was going for a bit longer than I thought. I must have come from those mountains way over there, because there were definitely mountains when I started…"
"Well, we're definitely in Kanto now," Ash told him. "Are you sure you're not from Johto?"
"I don't think that's right either," Keldeo said.
Ooh, I know! Mew said, brightening. Mew had already been bright, but now they were much more so. If you need to be able to get home quickly, I can teach you something!
About half an hour later, Keldeo waved at his two new friends.
"Thanks!" he said. "For all your help!"
That's okay! Mew said.
"Yeah, it'd be great to see you again some time!" Ash agreed. "You seem like a really cool Pokémon!"
Keldeo smiled, then turned and started trotting. Then he broke into a canter.
"And… teleport!" he announced, and vanished with a flash.
"He's been hours," Cobalion said, stalking up and down. "What happened to him?"
"You should calm down, Cobalion," Virizion told him.
The Grass-type shook her head. "I know you care for him. We all do. And it's sometimes hard for Keldeo to see that… but at the same time, he's much stronger than you give him credit for."
"Yeah," Terrakion weighed in. "He's a smart kid. And he's way stronger than a lot of wild Pokémon already."
"He'll get it out of his system, no matter how long that takes, and then he'll be back with us," Virizion soothed. "Remember, we were tearaways in our youth too."
A very long way away, Keldeo looked up at the building in front of him.
It was huge, and beautiful, with two halves curving around like the halves of a guitar.
It was also one he didn't recognize in the slightest.
"Where's Alamos town compared to Icirrus, anyway…" he asked.
Not every day could be a day when Mew was around.
Some days, it was a day when Mew didn't seem to be around and Ash met with another Pokémon outside, but then they turned out to be Mew anyway. Other times Mew was around, but another Pokémon turned up anyway.
And this time, Ash was outside just to enjoy the sun by the edge of the woods, but when there was a sort of soft whump sound and a cracking of branches he looked up to see what was going on.
There was a big Pokémon in the underbrush, with striped yellow-and-black fur and a stormy purple mane, and Ash got up carefully before waving.
"Hello?" he said. "That isn't Mew, is it?"
The Pokémon shook its head, then whined slightly, and Ash didn't really have to think before hurrying over to see what was wrong.
"Are you okay?" he asked. "I know that's a silly question because you sounded like you were hurt."
He was in the tree canopy, now, and the Pokémon nodded.
"Kou," it coughed. "Raiii."
Ash did his best to do what Mew had said, about listening properly, but he couldn't really tell what the Pokémon was trying to tell him.
"Rai-ai?" it tried, raising its fore paw, and Ash winced at the sight.
There was something sharp in there, something which looked kind of like a fish hook, and they'd be painful enough to have in your hand so he could barely imagine what it'd be like to have in your foot.
"You poor thing," he said. "Do you want help with it?"
The Pokémon nodded, and as Ash got a bit closer the Pokémon proffered their paw again so Ash could examine it more closely.
"Okay, it doesn't look like it's actually stuck in your skin," he said, squinting. "Just a little bit in there, and held because it's all tangled up in the fur. But it's going to hurt if I take it out. Is that okay?"
The Pokémon nodded, and Ash took a deep breath before yanking.
"Rrrrai-kou," his new friend gasped, clearly doing their level best not to howl, and tensed up all over before relaxing with a whimper of relief as the hook came loose.
"There you go," Ash said, putting the hook in his pocket. "I'll get Mom to get rid of that later, there must be a way to get rid of sharp things without just throwing them on the ground."
The Pokémon he'd just helped licked him with a big damp tongue, and he laughed. "Heh, it wasn't that big a deal… hey, are you friends with Miss Suicune? Mew introduced me to her once."
That got another lick, then the Pokémon went back a step and used a paw to touch its chest.
"Rai-kou," it coughed.
"Oh, so you're Raikou, right!" Ash said. "And are you a boy or a girl?"
Raikou shook its head at the first, then nodded at the second.
"It's nice to meet you, then, Miss Raikou," Ash told her. "And I'm really glad I could help! But I kind of need to head in for dinner soon… sorry."
Ash considered his TV, stretching, and looked out the window at the darkening night sky.
It was kind of late, but it was the Pokémon League finals in Galar tonight – which were always really cool to watch –and after only a bit of pestering Mom had agreed to let him stay up late.
It wasn't quite the same as being told he could stay up all night, she'd said he had to go to bed when he was tired, but there were snacks and he could watch TV… it was going to be a great evening!
At the same time, though, it was going to be kind of late. So Ash decided it'd save a bit of time if he got his pyjamas on now, went to the wardrobe, and opened it.
About twenty kilos of Pokémon fell out, and Ash was nearly flattened under an awkward white-and-blue shape.
Oof! announced the Pokémon who'd just sprawled out of Ash's wardrobe. Oh! Sorry, I didn't mean to do that.
Ash stepped back a bit, supporting the Pokémon's weight until it could get properly balanced, then had an actual proper look at it.
It looked a lot like the same Pokémon who'd lifted him back into the boat months ago, only a lot smaller.
"My name's Ash," Ash introduced himself, quietly, so he didn't disturb Mom too much. "I don't often find Pokémon in my wardrobe."
Is that what that thing is I fell out of? Ash's latest visitor asked, examining it, then stuck its head back in.
Yes, I was surprised, it announced.
While he'd been doing that, Ash had stepped back a bit to look at how big the Pokémon was.
It was bigger than Mew, but a bit smaller than Keldeo… and it wasn't all that heavy, either…
"Hey, I've got a suggestion," he said. "What's your name?"
Oh, right, sorry! the Pokémon said. Mom's always telling me about manners. I'm Silver, and I'm a Lugia!
"Well, Silver, there's the Galar Pokémon League finals tonight," Ash explained. "So why don't we watch them together?"
What's a Pokémon League? Silver asked.
"Well, what you have is you have lots of really good trainers," Ash explained. "Those are humans who help Pokémon get stronger. Then in the Pokémon League the best ones battle to see who's the best of all. You see some really amazing battles."
That sounds neat! Silver said, clearly fascinated, and Ash went over to turn on his TV before changing it to the right channel.
That done, he picked the Snorlax plush off his bed, and put it in his wardrobe so there was space for his new friend.
Silver was already staring at the TV.
So that's showing us what's going on a long way away? the Lugia asked.
He blinked slowly.
Why is it all about something called a tooth brush?
"Nah, that's just an advert," Ash explained. "The actual battles are going to be in just a few minutes!"
About nine in the morning, Delia crept into her son's room.
The TV was still on, quietly talking about the news, but Ash was completely out cold – sprawled on his bed and cuddling a big lump underneath the blankets.
Delia didn't giggle, because she knew sometimes eight year old boys could get defensive about cuddling plushes. So she just patted her son's sleeping head, and crept right back out again to let him sleep in.
There were a lot of things in Ash's life which were kind of cool.
His Pokémon friends were cool, for example, even Hoopa who could get kind of annoying sometimes. And Professor Oak was cool, because Professor Oak knew so much about Pokémon that even the boring books in his lab were full of Pokémon with all kinds of cool abilities.
And Professor Oak running a summer camp was extra cool, because it had all the fun sides of camping out without the downside of having to sit in a car for hours or whatever to actually get to where you were going to camp.
The hailstorm that had swept over unexpectedly, though… that wasn't cool.
Except in a literal sense.
Ash had been out trying to finish an orienteering task, because he'd been way behind everyone else and had ended up going round them in the wrong order, and he'd only just found the last post – and stamped his sheet – when the hail had swept over. So he'd run for the nearest shelter, a section of tree canopy that was thick enough to keep the stones from hitting him or ruining his sheet, and just sort of sat under the tree waiting.
It wouldn't go on for that long, probably. And if it looked like it was going to take ages, he could always change his mind.
Ash had lost a precise track of how long he'd been waiting – it wasn't all that long, but it had been several minutes – when some movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention.
A shadowy, ethereal shape, half-buried in the ground and moving through it like it didn't actually know the ground was there, was heading through the undergrowth towards him.
It was quite big, and Ash moved to the side so there'd be room under the tree.
The shape slid into place next to him, and Ash tried to get a closer look without actually being rude and staring.
It had several gold rings around it, and a pair of shadowy wings. There were some glowing red eyes, as well, but Ash couldn't see any legs… but, then again, it was sort of half-buried into the ground.
Ash shrugged, and sat back against the tree.
"Pretty nasty weather, huh?" he asked.
The Pokémon replied with a rumbling sound, and Ash listened closely.
It was sort of like… actually, he was pretty sure that was a yes. It sounded like what Pokémon had said when they meant yes before.
"Are you a Ghost type?" he asked. "Or a Ground type? They're the two I can think of who could go through the ground like that."
The Pokémon said something else.
"The first one?"
Ash nodded, glad to have the mystery solved. "Thanks."
Ten minutes later, the hail had got worse rather than stopping.
"Oh, great," Ash said, shaking his head. "I can't stay here forever, and my sheet's going to get ruined when I go through this."
The Pokémon hiding under the tree next to him rumbled something, then the golden rings around it glowed.
A sort of gap appeared in the air, with a weird shadowy space behind it, and the Pokémon rose out of the ground – revealing itself to be bigger than Ash had expected, with six legs and a red-grey-and-black body – and walked inside.
Once it had, it changed shape, becoming a serpentine Pokémon without legs that floated instead, and it made a sort of inviting gesture from inside the hole in the air.
"You want me to come in?" Ash asked.
"Yes," the Pokémon said.
Ash peered through, then stepped inside, and looked around in awe. "Wow…"
There were trees and grasslands on this side of the hole as well, but they looked really different. The grass he was standing on was part of a space only about twenty feet across, and overhead there was a cube-shaped mass of land with trees on all six sides – each one a tall pine tree stretching out into the void.
It was beautiful and weird and amazing, and Ash said so in tones of wonder.
The Pokémon swept down next to him, then pointed off in a specific direction.
Ash looked, but he couldn't see anything. "What is it?"
The Pokémon tried again, hovering next to Ash, and Ash frowned.
"Umm…" he began, and the Pokémon rumbled something he didn't quite catch before drifting sideways and nosing at his orienteering map.
Ash unfolded it, and looked at the stamps. Then the Pokémon reached down with a shadowy wing-claw and gently touched the map.
"Oh, right!" Ash realized. "That's where we're all staying. You mean that way's home?"
"Yes," the Pokémon confirmed.
A few amazing minutes later – Ash had got to ride a Pokémon again, like Solgaleo, but this time the Pokémon could fly! - his latest friend deposited him gently on a section of weird ground, then put something in front of him.
It was a mirror.
"Is that for me?" Ash asked.
"Yes," the Pokémon said.
Ash picked it up, impressed by how it looked – it was sort of old, and made of polished metal, and the reflection wasn't very good, but at the same time when he looked at it he could see both his reflection and a sort of like-a-reflection image of where he and the other Summer Camp people were staying.
"Thanks!" he said, putting it in his pocket, and the Pokémon made another of those holes for him to go through.
It still meant a run through the hail, but it was a short run.
"Where were you, Ash?" Professor Oak asked. "Everyone else got back a long time ago. I was considering sending one of my Pokémon out to look for you."
"Mostly I was doing the orienteering challenge," Ash replied, bringing out the map paper. "It's really hard, Professor, but I wasn't going to give up until I'd finished!"
Professor Oak chuckled, shaking his head. "Oh, dear me, Ash..."
As you can probably tell, this concept seems to have legs.
Or not, depending on what form Giratina is in.