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Frontier Town Drungfield's Remedies

"How long were you here after the charmeleon attack?"
Wes eyed the bossy snake gal, not sure what to make of her flat tone. Probably just tired, so he couldn’t judge her too harshly; he wasn’t exactly feeling particularly chipper himself.

“Not long. Just for the night, really,” he said, voice ragged from exhaustion. “But last time we hadn’t had our sleeping quarters invaded. Somehow, that thing knew where we were. Didn’t you say it was the same one you’d encountered in Blaguarro?” He looked to Odette. “How did it make its way all the way over here and then know where to find us? Unless someone sent it to us?”

He let those words hover for a moment before continuing. “Maybe the Saloon will be safer—it’s worth a shot. But if there’s someone behind these attacks, someone sending the Shadows after us…then I don’t know if anywhere will be safe for very long.”

He shifted, suddenly wondering if he was just being paranoid. He certainly was doing a poor job of lightening the mood, but that had never been his specialty anyway. It pays to be paranoid when you don’t know what—or who—you’re dealing with, he told himself firmly.
One by one, the others confirmed they’d had the same experience. Their encounter with a Shadow Pokemon had put them in contact with someone or something that was not a fan of their presence. It seemed like he was the only one for which this was new, as well? So, presumably, that meant something like this had happened to the ones who’d encountered the Charmeleon, as well. Still, that left him at something of a disadvantage with this topic, not having prior experience to draw on. So he folded his arms and listened, nodding along to the others’ inputs.

Wes seemed antsy. Did he not like hospitals, or was he worried they might get attacked again? The Oshawott finally identified him in the darkness and shot him a sympathetic glance. “They probably just want to make sure your wounds aren’t in danger of reopening.”

As for where they were going to stay… Archie definitely understood if people no longer felt safe at the Haus. It was difficult to say just how badly the building was damaged in the scuffle, but at the very least, Steven would almost surely have to find a new room. Assuming they hadn’t found the end of the Maus’s patience. The strange Pokemon seemed almost preternaturally nice, but if the Shadow Pokemon were seeking them out intentionally, that meant their presence was a potential danger to the lives and livelihoods of the people of Frontier Town. Still…

“I think we should try to stick together,” he said, “Even if it paints a bigger target on us, if we’re being sought out intentionally, at least this way we can keep each other safe.”

Imagine if Steven had been living by himself when the Shadow Drapion attacked? Even with the Cloud – Betel? – broadcasting its plea for help, would they have been able to reach him in time? The Oshawott didn’t think it seemed likely. Even now, with most of them ostensibly staying in the same place, barely a quarter of them had made it to the scene in time for it to matter, anyway.
Steven had made it. After that, and the Maus arriving, everything else had been a hazy blur. The sensation of being carried, ending up at Drungfields, and a bed. At some point he'd drifted off, but proper sleep never came, only a listless half consciousness. Murmurs of conversation mingled with a memory of another ominous warning. A memory he didn't at all feel like dwelling on right now.

At least the throbbing in his skull had subsided from 'Scrapper using his head as a punching bag' to a more tolerable 'Echo using his head as a trampoline'. He listened only vaguely to snatches of conversation between the others, too annoyed and queasy and scared and tired. Not mention the lingering frustration when he thought of Wes and Odette.

Instead he found himself considering Archie's words. "Archie's right," he said wearily. "We need to considering pairing up or staying much closer. I... I think we are being targeted." Otherwise the Skorupi was one bizarre coincidence. "Either its tracked us or was sent after us."

And maybe some of us should take some lessons on not aggravating things that could kill us.
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"C''mon, you're part of the team. Are you surprised we didn't just let you get torn in half? Where would the rest of us be now in that case?"
Steven winced, and not because of his injuries. "I... That's not what I meant..." he mumbled. "I'm grateful to be a part of a group that looks out for one another."

He tried again to pick himself up off the cot so he could see who it was he was speaking with, but it proved to be too much; all he managed was a slight wobble and another twinge of pain.

"Just... It's unfortunate to meet several of you for the first time under such circumstances..." he said, settling back against the pillow. "And to not be able to properly thank you by name."

“My name’s Archie, I’m… I’m Koa and Wes’s friend.”
Archie? Steven had only met one Archie before, and he wasn't exactly the kind of person to selflessly throw himself in front of an overwhelming opponent to protect others...

Steven regarded the oshawott for a moment longer before his eye upturned in a small smile, the first in a good many hours. "You are a kind soul to mesh with such, ah, different personalities."

He hadn't really met Wes beyond a few cursory interactions, but Steven had the feeling he and Koa mixed a bit like oil and water.

"I'm glad to have finally met you, Archie. You as well, Ridley," he said relief in his gaze as the mimikyu produced the notebook from beneath his disguise, safe and sound. "And thank you, for everything."

Steven then settled for listening to the conversation around him. Even the brief chat he'd just had had tired him out. The discussion turned to a mysterious dream, which he could vaguely recall, but he'd been so exhausted the words muddled in his mind.

Whatever was going on, signs indicated that whoever was behind these shadow pokemon were interested in making things personal.

Then a thought struck him. "Has anyone tried to communicate back at this other voice, like we do with Betel?"
“Maybe grouping up in one living quarter makes us more susceptible to ambushes, but I can’t imagine splitting up would be any better…”
“Even if it paints a bigger target on us, if we’re being sought out intentionally, at least this way we can keep each other safe.”

Kimiko sent a curious look at the mawile. That felt like an odd conclusion to reach, given that splitting up during the battle had probably been what saved them.

But she didn't have the energy for an argument now, least of all with Odette, who already had been off around her since the watchtower.

Thankfully, Archie made a good case for sticking together. "I'd been planning to move to Sun Stone for little while anyway. So long as everyone behaves better than they did at that team meeting, boss'll probably be honored to host more of us."

"And to not be able to properly thank you by name."

Oh. Right. She'd never actually answer that, did she? "Kimiko," she finally said, realizing the beldum probably couldn't see her. She waved a vine towards him, hoping he could at least see that. "Sorry. I promise I'm not normally so... well, like this."

“How did it make its way all the way over here and then know where to find us? Unless someone sent it to us?”

"I didn't get the impression it was sent," she replied before she even realized what she was saying. She averted her gaze when eyes drifted in her direction. Gods, she was so drained, so why couldn't she stop talking?

"This one isn't like the charmeleon. We thought it was feral, remember? I think it's more likely that I... we... it was just pissed off that it couldn't reach us on the watchtower, so it probably just... followed us somehow..."

Sure, it didn't exactly answer how it got to Frontier Town, but it could move faster than a normal 'mon, and could probably track what it considered prey somehow and gods, what if she accidentally lured it back to them all?
Kimiko sent a curious look at the mawile.

So long as everyone behaves better than they did at that team meeting, boss'll probably be honored to host more of us."
Kimiko’s look was not lost on her, and something about it put her hackles up. What was that about? Odette didn’t remember saying anything that warranted such a look. Was that just how she liked looking at people who enjoyed the company of ghosts?

She returned it with a harsher glint in her eye. “I think going in for lodging is a lot different than having 30 people show up to have a heated meeting. As long as nobody battles on property or disrupts the flow of business, we’re square.”

Did she mean to sound as harsh as she did? She didn’t know. She couldn’t tell. All she knew was that she was still feeling some type of way.

Shaking her head, she sighed. “Bellatrix and I talked a little bit about the charmeleon attack a few days ago. She seemed pretty darned convinced that it was sent to the wagon, and considering the sheer targeted-ness of this attack, I’d sooner believe this drapion was just as likely to have been sent as the charmeleon might have been. Maybe it’s Beelzebub sending them, and taking advantage of the attacks they lay out on us to further warn us to stop poking the beartic here.”
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“I think we should try to stick together,” he said, “Even if it paints a bigger target on us, if we’re being sought out intentionally, at least this way we can keep each other safe.”
Wes nodded to Archie, relieved to see he was well enough to be chiming in on the conversation. Not even a proper beating fe a Shadow could dampen his friendly spirit, which Wes found impressive. Rui would adore him, he thought with a touch of fond amusement.

“I agree. Whatever we do, sticking together seems to be our best bet. Strength in numbers and all that. Don’t think any of us would have been able to take that thing on our own.”

He felt another swell of relief when Koa finally spoke up, and even managed to give him a nod of agreement when the Electrike sided with Archie. Whether the kid saw the gesture or not in the dim light of the room, he wasn’t sure.

Then a thought struck him. "Has anyone tried to communicate back at this other voice, like we do with Betel?"
Wes tilted his head in consideration. “No, the thought hasn’t really occurred to me, personally,” he said. “I mean, I’ve only ever heard it in dreams and never while awake. I’m not sure any of us could reach it outside of dreams, but it might be…worth a try. I…I don’t think the voice can hurt us?” He wished he sounded more confident in that statement.

He then gave Steven a nod. “Name’s Wes, by the way. Sorry it took a mauling for us to really get acquainted.” He tried to give him a lighthearted grin, but it was hard to know if he’d been successful or if it had come out more as a grimace. Gods, he was horrible at small talk even on a good day.

I think it's more likely that I... we... it was just pissed off that it couldn't reach us on the watchtower, so it probably just... followed us somehow..."

He shook his head with a small huff. “We took a train to get there and back. Unless that thing knows how to hitch a ride, or it has an insane sense of smell, I don’t know how it could have got here without some kind of assistance.”

His lip curled at Kimiko’s “behavior” comment—Oh, like you were so helpful?—but he just barely managed to swallow the retort. Now is not the time. Just keep it together.
Kimiko. He saw her vine wave, so, a grass type. Inwardly he frowned. A poor type matchup against the shadow pokemon, no wonder she was so sour with him. And Wes, officially this time. Steven found solace in getting the chance to become acquainted with his teammates (and saviors).

"It's nice to meet you both," he said. "Well, not nice that we've met at the town clinic. Apologies, I seem to be unable to offer a better greeting than that at the moment." He tipped one claw up in acknowledgement.

"About the dream voice, though." Steven used his head to nudge himself in a better angle to speak with the assembled group. It hurt, but it was worth it. His eye landed on Odette. "Bellatrix said the same to me as well, that the shadow attacks aren't random, and I'm inclined to agree."

Next he eyed Koa. "I... I know I was negligent with the wagon mission, but what were the chances that that very wagon would be targeted by a shadow that exact night?" He shook his head. "And the shadow voice, I recall it using the word 'summoned.' Whoever it is, they're aware we were brought here. Maybe they even have a guess as to why."

Speaking for so long took a toll on his stamina, and his head flumped back to the pillow, eye dimming.

"About lodging, though. I'm not sure when I'll be getting out of here," he gestured at the clinic with a tilted claw, "and I'm not sure what's best for the team as a whole, but... I'll need to find somewhere else to stay, and I'd rather not be alone at night for the forseeable future."

His eye drifted off to the side in what seemed almost like embarrassment. "Surely, you can understand."
A pang of sympathy filled Koa at Steven's words. Back home he was used to the constant presence of his team, and he always felt safe. After the wagon and now this, whatever scraps of that feeling that remained had vanished. Nowhere felt safe. What was to stop a shadow from attacking the Sun Stone, any more than the Haus? How could they rest with the constant threat of being attacked?

Had this just been because some of the grouph had gone to investigate in Blaguarro? Did someone notice them and try to send the Skorupi after them? He fidgeted in his bed restlessly. Despite his best efforts to want to ignore Wes, he found himself vaguely surprised Wes was on board with sticking together.

"Maybe... we should pair up," he suggested quietly. The words felt stiff and hard to say for some reason, but it was practical. "Two to a room, at least for now. That way if anything happens we're not alone." As long as his room was far away from Wes. He found his gaze resting on Steven, and trying to give him a reassuring smile. The Beldum had been nice to him, he hated to see him upset.
Archie felt another weight lift off his chest when Koa finally spoke up. Both his friends had made it through alright. It also seemed like most of them, at least, were in agreement that it was better to try and stick together. The one point of disagreement, however, appeared to be over how intentional the Drapion’s attack was. Was it sent after them, or did it choose to come? Did it follow them purposefully or at random? It was frustrating they couldn’t just ask the Shadow Pokemon directly, but it might well be feral even without the whole being twisted into a mindless killing machine thing…

No, it clearly wasn’t mindless. Koa was getting through to it there at the end, before the Mawile had gotten it angry again. Maybe if they kept trying, they could make the breakthrough circumstances had denied them after the battle was over. If they brought it food, maybe, continued showing it they didn’t want to harm it. He’d have to talk to the Electrike about it privately when they got the chance. The others likely weren’t all too keen on such a topic right now.

For now, though, he gave a slightly awkward chuckle to Steven’s comment. Koa and Wes were certainly very… Spirited. To be honest, if they hadn’t gotten off to such a horrible start with one another, the Oshawott thought they’d probably get along well. But that was another topic that was probably far too dangerous to bring up at the present moment. So instead he just nodded, and said, “It’s good to properly meet you, too.”

“I’m not opposed to rooming with someone else,” he continued, following Koa’s suggestion. He and Spencer had shared a dorm back at their guild, so any awkwardness was well and truly past for the Oshawott. “It would probably be safer, and help us all sleep easier, too.”
"It's nice to meet you both," he said. "Well, not nice that we've met at the town clinic. Apologies, I seem to be unable to offer a better greeting than that at the moment." He tipped one claw up in acknowledgement.

Well, it was nice to have a name to put to the leg. And she got one for the rockruff, too. Kimiko was pretty sure that covered everyone present.

"Not like it's your fault we ended up here," she said dismissively. "We maybe could have found time to talk earlier, but we've all been busy."

Conversation shifted. Most seemed to disagree with her about the drapion's origins, and she didn't care to argue against it. (What if it had hitched a ride? she thought. It wouldn't likely have attacked them in daylight, so they'd never have known it was there.) She'd much rather believe it had been sent to them instead. Made it more convenient for her. She silently curled up into herself a little tighter, cautious to avoid irritating her injury further, and closed her eyes to rest again.

Conversation shifted again. Talk of roommates. Great. If everyone was going to bottle up in one place, it was probably necessary... Maybe she could leverage employee privilege to keep one to herself.
Dave frowned, brow furrowing. "Well, either the Skorupi was sent by someone who knew where we are, possibly this voice that keeps harassing us, or it somehow hitched a ride on the train all the way here but only attacked now, or it had the ability to track us down. Odette, what did you do with that Pin Missile spike you showed to Nolan?"

Meanwhile, people were starting to talk about roommates, like they were going to just have a fucking college dorm. "I don't know, if another Shadow Pokémon barges in to attack us having one or two people in the room won't make that much of a difference. Ideally if we want to account for nighttime attacks we'd just want everyone to be in the same building so people can get there fast."
Odette couldn’t help but wrinkle her nose at the insinuation of roommates. No. Fuck no. There were only a handful of people in the multiverse she’d be okay sharing a space with, and none of them were in Forlas. Plus, with Jawile, and her sleeping habits, it would be a recipe for disaster.

But she couldn’t help but wonder. If only for the sake of safety and not being killed in the night, who would she even be okay with bunking with? The first name that came to mind was Kimiko, surprisingly, but no. If what she said on the tower was truly how she felt about ghost types, then no. No.

Bellatrix came next. That one didn’t actually feel too bad. They’d been pretty much on similar pages the entire time they’d been here, and she felt like there was some mutual respect there.

If that fell through, Steven or Andre came to mind. She got along well with both of them. Maybe Wes, though that one felt a little more up in the air. They’d made up, yeah, but he seemed like the type who hated the idea of rooming as much as she did.

Why was she even humoring it? The answer was a big fat fucking no.

Odette, what did you do with that Pin Missile spike you showed to Nolan?
Odette’s eyes widened a smidge. “Put it in my room,” she said slowly. “Nolan had no use for it and I figured hanging onto it was better than just throwing it into a trash can somewhere,” she explained.

Holy shit, if I was the reason that fucking thing found where we were, I’m going to eject myself from the fucking group.

No. No. She needed to get a grip. There were a variety of reasons as to why it was unlikely her little keepsake had led it here.

“But, Nolan said something about the Shadowy energy draining from it after a while. I got ahold of it days ago, and if he was actually telling the truth, then I can’t imagine there was much energy left in the pin for the drapion to track. If that’s even how that works. Plus, Kimiko, Ridley, and I ran through the dark right after it struck me, I was holding the pin in my hand, and it didn’t follow us.”

Unless it was smart enough to completely stealth it. Fuck.

Now she was scratching at her cheek. “Not to mention, if it was locked onto my pin, would it not have gone to my room instead of Steven’s?”

Then again, nothing said it wasn’t headed there when Steven pulled up. Maybe it was just a horrific case of wrong place, wrong time, it all being her fault.

Fuck. Fuck.

“I just…I mean…if that is what led it here, I swear I didn’t…I had no clue that was something that could happen. I didn’t even think…”

That’s right, she didn’t think. All she saw was a specimen and nothing more.

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Wes gave Steven a sympathetic nod. “Understandable. I don’t blame you in the slightest. And honestly, it could have been any one of us that got targeted.” He shivered a little. “It’s probably best we avoid being alone or isolated wherever possible.”

But then Koa spoke up about…sharing rooms. Well, that was only a natural conclusion to come to if they all agreed on not being alone, but the thought still made Wes’s hackles rise a little. Sleep in the same room with someone who was practically a stranger? To say nothing of who would even be willing to room with him in the first place. Odette was friendly, sure, but he doubted either of them would enjoy such a venture. Wes barely knew anyone else, and if the stink-eye Kimiko was hellbent on giving him was any indicator, there was no shortage of people who would rather stay away from him.

Who cares? He wanted to snap. The feeling is mutual.

Wes glanced at Archie. Of all people, maybe Archie would be okay with such an arrangement…but even so, the idea of roommates was one Wes was not going to sign up for unless absolutely necessary.

He squirmed in discomfort. “To be fair, we already were all in the same building, and that was barely enough to…get Steven out of there,” he said to Dave. He chose his last words carefully, in favor of something like barely enough to prevent him from being killed. Steven probably didn’t need the reminder. “But I’m not so sure about the idea of sharing rooms, either. Best temporary solution I can think of is the Saloon for now; maybe it’s a little more secure than the Haus.”

He perked up at Dave’s question to Odette and he looked at her as she stammered, feeling a growing sense of dread. Oh, hell, don’t tell me…

“We can’t know for sure what led it here,” he said quickly, trying to leap to her defense. “Like she said, the Shadow energy was gone by the time we offered it to Nolan. Maybe he can give us more insight on how it got here.”
Yeah you not thinking seems to be a habit for you.

Koa withheld the angry comment only barely, though he realized he was probably scowling at Odette and giving her a dirty look. Forcing himself to look away, he stared at his paws instead. He still felt that simmering resentment every time he remembered how she'd almost sent Drapion into a frenzy in the middle of him trying to calm it. Did she know nothing about how wild pokemon should be handled?

"Well maybe we should put it somewhere else just in case," he said stiffly. "Where we're not sleeping."
At the sound of Wes’s voice, she felt a momentary flush of relief. Hearing him back her up helped her in convincing herself that the chances the pin had attracted the drapion were slim. Right? Right.

Movement in her peripheral vision led her to looking in Koa’s direction, just in time to see his look right before he glanced away. Was he…fucking scowling at her? What the fuck was that about? They have an amicable conversation in the courtyard and he scowls at her?

You fucking rat, she thought, opening her mouth to say it out loud. But, in the middle of her brewing panic and her pointed rage, she remembered something.

Koa had been next to the drapion when she started yelling. She didn’t think then either, she just let her internalized Wrath go to town, with him in harm’s way.

Fuck, shit, dammit, motherfucking dumbass idiot, you are batting ten fucking million right now.

Okay. Yeah. She took it back. He had every right to be upset at her. If the roles were reversed, she’d have wanted to put his head through a wall.

Be the adult here.

“Yeah,” she said in a breath. “I’ll take it to Nolan and ask him to hang onto it.”

Another breath. “And…if that was what brought it here, I know it doesn’t take away the injuries, but I am…so fucking sorry.” She paused. “And since I’m on a roll, I’m…also sorry for screaming. My, uh, anger gets the better of me sometimes. It’s not an excuse, but I picked a gods awful time to slip.”

She looked at Koa. “I didn’t mean to put anyone in a bad place. And I really am sorry.”
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Dave sighed, rubbing his face. “Well, yeah, none of us knew it was going to barge into Steven’s room days later. This isn’t about finding a culprit, it’s about figuring out what the fuck is going on and what to do about it.”

He imagined giving the spike to Nolan and the prick just getting jumped by a Drapion in the night. If only. “Probably best to throw it out in the middle of the desert somewhere.”
Koa had kept his gaze trained on his paws, not wanting to look at Odette or think more about her in case he snapped. He could already feel that nagging burning in his chest from when he and Blake would get into fights and disagree. And he could feel a snide retort building.
“And…if that was what brought it here, I know it doesn’t take away the injuries, but I am…so fucking sorry.” She paused. “And since I’m on a roll, I’m…also sorry for screaming. My…anger gets the better of me sometimes. It’s not an excuse, but I picked a gods awful time to slip.”

She looked at Koa. “I didn’t mean to put anyone in a bad place. And I really am sorry.”
The knot in him started to loosen as she spoke. How many times had he snapped in anger over something? Even with Kitto. Well her mistake almost got me killed.
She hadn't meant to though. And considering what had happened he probably nearly would have done the same. He'd wanted to.

"It's fine," he said genuinely, despite a tired sigh. At least the Drapion had ultimately been okay too. "We still survived so that's what matters. Besides I think Betel said this shadow stuff can mess with your head." He managed to look up and give Odette an weary apologetic look. He couldn't hold it against her for a mistake he could have made. Then he lay his head back on his paws.
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Surprise colored Steven's expression as Odette's apology came tumbling out. "We don't know for certain that's how the skorupi found us. No one's blaming you." He paused, making sure she was looking at him before he spoke again. "I don't blame you."

"At this point, I'm not sure there's anything we can do to truly be safe unless we find a way to combat these shadow pokemon directly." Especially now, since in his current condition he was about as capable as a doorstop.

His eye drifted to Dave. "What you said at the team meeting, about this power of Radiance. I think we need to focus on learning more about that as soon as we can. Regardless of how these shadow pokemon are finding us, they're going to keep doing so unless we put a stop to whoever is creating them."

He gave a slight shudder at the thought. "I'll do my best to find out more about that when I meet with Nolan about the ledger." He glanced at the book in question where it sat at his bedside. "I don't know when he'll ask to meet, but--" he winced again as the pins and needles in his side grew sharper, "--but I'll do my best to be ready when that time comes."
Wes certainly hadn’t missed the scorching glares Koa had been throwing Odette’s way, and his barely covered anger in his comment to her made it all the more obvious. He sighed wearily and braced himself for a storm. It wasn’t that he blamed Koa, exactly; he had been right next to that monster when Odette flew off the handle, and Wes himself had wanted to smack her upside the head for such a stunt. Still, she was clearly frazzled and didn’t need to be provoked at the moment. Not the time, kid!

But then she apologized. Huh. That was…big of her, actually, even if the apology was warranted. He rested his head on his paws and let out a breath of relief. Points to her for fielding such a barbed response. And even to the kid for letting it drop. Maybe his head isn’t completely up his own ass.

He glanced at Dave as he proposed tossing the pin. “Hang on,” Wes said, “Maybe we can test this theory before we dispose of it. That mon is restrained, so it’s not a threat to us anymore, but maybe we can…I don’t know, bring the pin to it in its cell and see if it reacts?”

That’s a stupid idea. For stars’ sakes, just go to bed already. The thought was honestly tempting. Wes was so tired he was having trouble seeing straight.

Then Steven spoke up about Radiance, one of the many things mentioned at the meeting that Wes had nearly forgotten about, and he mumbled an agreement. “Or that. Yeah.”
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