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Sojaveña Wilds Dusty Highway

You appear to be fully clean of Shadow corruption, Dave.

I do not know how pokémon become Shadowed, but it must surely be deeply terrible.

'Light' is likely not to be an effective countermeasure to Shadows. I have sensed some Shadowed souls whose activity appears to be diurnal, while others are crepuscular. I am beginning to realise that I am not... good at guessing the reasons for things. But I think it would be reasonable to assume that the skorupi was light-averse because they are a skorupi.

However...

'Light' is the most common symbol or colloquial term for highly energised aura in a volatile, self-actualising state. It is the power of the Saints, but also of rare mortals who can achieve mastery of their own souls, and even of 'lords and ladies' empowered with what rural cultures call 'wild might'.

I know this power by the name, 'Radiance'.
 
Dave tilted his head. The term 'Radiance' rang some kind of vague bell but he couldn't put his finger on it. "Okay, so... 'Saints'? I've been hearing that term around, but in my world that's what we call dead people that a religion decides you can pray to for miracles. I hope we're talking something a bit more concrete? And what exactly do you mean by 'mastery of your own soul' and 'lords and ladies'?"
 
That was... interesting, but also confusing. Ridley had never known skorupi to have any particular aversion to light, so he wasn't sure why the shadow skorupi would show such a strong unwillingness to venture into the light from the watchtower if that wasn't a typical trait for shadow pokemon. He still knew so little about shadow pokemon that it was a little disheartening to be told one of the few things he thought he'd known wasn't true.

"Is there an easy way to find or recognise the sort of people who have this power?" Ridley asked. A person like that would be an incredibly valuable ally if they were going to be encountering more shadow pokemon, and they might even be able to give some actual answers about what shadow pokemon were.
 

'Saints' are what you think of as... 'legendary pokémon'. Some Forlasan cultures do revere or pray to them, but... it is not what you think of as 'prayer', Dave. Your concept of religion is dissimilar to the Forlasan consensus – the translation is imperfect. Neither is 'faith' a perfect word. A better one might be 'trust'.
'Lords and ladies' are not an aristocratic social class. They are wild or feral pokémon who have attained some ability to use Radiance. They fulfil an important role in wilderness ecology, protecting against outlier threats.
By 'mastery of your own soul', I mean reaching the upper potential of your aura. When the aura of a Forlasan pokémon is sufficiently strong, and they maintain perfect control of it, they can... generate enormous energy with atypical properties.
Individuals with the ability to wield Radiance may have unusual appearances, such as displaying luminescence uncharacteristic of their species, and their Radiant attacks are visually distinctive.
 
Dave squinted at the air. Weirdly cryptic answer, which he'd normally suspect of being a dodge, but he wasn't sure the cloud was actually capable of intentional obfuscation. "So... to be clear, what you're getting at is that these legendary Pokémon actually exist? Not mysterious intangible supposed beings you attribute natural phenomena to when it's convenient, just concrete people you can literally talk to and literally trust?"

If that was the case... Well, first of all, what the fuck. But honestly not any fucking weirder than anything else in this place, as with so much else. God.

"And if so, how plausible is it to find some? Because it'd be real helpful to have someone around who can actually fight those things. Or, what, these lords and ladies? Or, failing that, reaching the 'upper potential of our auras' and using this thing ourselves?"
 

Yes, Forlasan Saints exist as a matter of fact!

There are not many living Saints, and not all of them are proficient with Radiance, but there is one pokémon in your general region who is.

The Escarpa Clan revere a Saint known as the Wandering Light.

She is an experienced master of Radiance, and she may be able to pass this energy to you heroic spirits, if she wished. Certainly she would be able to teach you in a way that wild pokémon could not.

You could learn to use Radiance on your own, but it is a rare and exceptional pokémon who can do so without instruction and the passing of energy from an existing user.

The monks of Obstine Abbey may spend a lifetime to master Radiance in only a small part.
 
Huh... Okay. Well, paying a visit to the Escarpa Clan and seeing if they knew anything about that Brisa girl probably made sense anyhow. If they could find this 'Wandering Light' and convince her they could use her energy or whatever the fuck, all the better.

At least this meant they had a lead, some kind of way to approach this Shadow Pokémon problem. He nodded, exhaling. "Okay. Well, that at least gives us something to work with." His gaze slid over to Ridley. "Anything else you wanted to ask before we head back?"
 
"Nah, I think I said everything I wanted to say," Ridley answered. "Got more than enough new information to be working with for the time being. We can head back."

Besides, now that there was a consistent way to contact the Voice, he could just head back to this area if he founds something else he wanted to ask or suddenly remembered something important. Before they left he glanced around, memorising the area so he could be sure of finding it again in future.

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[Ch03] It has to work this time... (Isidora Solo)
For Isidora's purposes, night was the best time to try this. The temperature was bearable and her mind was at its sharpest. She didn't plan to stay long or go too far along the highway: this was for some light training, and nothing more.

The exacts of how her powers worked in this world was something she still wasn't fully clear on. It was similar, but it was different, and previous attempts to think too hard about what she was doing when using a move didn't always go well. She understood how to make a move happen, but beyond that it felt like blind stumbling. However, when she began reading into the source of a pokemon's powers, referred to as her "Aura" in this world, she was hit with something of an epiphany. Maybe, to properly understand how her moves worked, she just needed to change her frame of mind a bit.

She couldn't access her soul to use magic with it. She didn't understand why, but she couldn't, that much she knew. But she could access this “aura”. In her own world, "auras" and "souls" were the same thing: two concepts for the same idea that their origin cultures used to understand the world and their place in it. But here, they must've been two distinctly different things. So maybe…

Isidora stopped and looked behind her, Frontier Town far behind her now. She kept an ear out and scanned the area. Nothing but the dirt path and a few shrubs surrounded her. It was quiet. Perfect.

Maybe it was just desperation. She hated what Betel took from her, even if it wasn't their fault. She’d place her claw on her shoulder and nothing was there, like her soul didn't even exist. The wound on her arm felt no pain but still stung, carrying the memory of how she tried to save herself and failed. She had never realized just how important, how foundational her magic was to her until it was gone.

Isidora unsheathed her claws and placed one on her left shoulder again. She concentrated, tried to ground herself, put special attention to the sensation of cold bone digging through her pelt and poking her skin. A deep breath. She tried to feel her aura, imagined what it would feel like to pull it down her arm. But she couldn't pull something she couldn't grab.

Give me something. The sneasel’s claws dug into her skin. Give me something. Her breath shook. It didn't feel like she was asking for much. She just needed something to happen. Something to vindicate the work she put into getting stronger. She refused to be weaker than any of the humans, who had spent barely a month in bodies they had never truly lived in. The fear that her soul was cut off from her on purpose, that she was made weaker so they could be stronger, came to the forefront again. Her soul was hers, she should be allowed to do whatever she wanted with it. This wasn't fair.

Give me something. Her ears flattened. It wasn't clicking; she could feel her aura but it felt rigid and unintuitive. It kept wanting to follow familiar paths, not listening to her but some primal instinct. Resignation started to creep in, but she refused to give up. It took all of her self control not to pierce skin.

Give me something. Give me something. Give me something give me something gimme something gimme something give me SOMETHING!

Something budged.

Her eyes widened and on instinct she tore her claws down her arm. It all happened in an instant, the feeling of something following her motion until she effortlessly pulled it out.

The mental tax left Isidora panting and shivering. Her arm felt… cold. Unnaturally so, like something stole all of its heat from within. And she could feel the source of that cold stuck to her right claws. Did I…?

She looked down at her paw. It was shrouded in something dark, some midway between purple and black. It made her paw numb. And the instant she realized something was wrong, it dissipated.

She gasped and clutched her paw. Feeling returned to it, but the small void she could feel in her chest remained.

“Wh… what…?”

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[Ch04] ~ On the Road to the Rangers New
"Honestly, if it weren't for everything being so weird and hectic lately, I probably woulda offered to escort you guys up to base a while ago already," remarked Nico, soaring easily above the party, just close enough to hold some conversation. "All the same, we're on our way now! And that's a good thing so far as I make it."

The seabird's earnest voice betrayed a tinge of nervousness. After all, by now everyone knew about Shadow pokémon in Blaguarro, or at least they'd heard rumours, and the young ranger must have been thinking of the Wayfarer mission to Ranger HQ as a prelude to a terrible conflict...

The day was bright and the air was dry. Tiny wild 'mon and smaller bugs and lizards skittered away from the travellers' footsteps into the dry grasses off the path. Here and there, the call rang out of some raptor hunting on the wing.

It would take a couple days at least to reach the Ranger Union...
 
"No worries, Nico! It's been hectic for us, too," Leaf said, not without a little relief. Man but it would've sucked if she'd missed out on this. "Just happy you were able to find the time! Been waiting for a chance to see more about what the Rangers' work is really like. And there's a lot to talk about." The wattrel hadn't wanted get into the sticky details yet, which suited her just fine. He'd ask if and when he felt like it, or his bosses would ask when they got there, and they'd deal with it then. For now all that mattered to Leaf was being on the road again, with a real destination locked in.
 
Koa followed the group, half lost in his thoughts. With everything Betel had told them, he felt torn between where to go. What could he possibly do? It felt like almost anyone else would have less chance at screwing everything up. But he refused to do nothing either. In the end he'd decided that visiting the Rangers made the most sense. At least he knew them, and Leaf was here. Maybe the they would be willing to help them fight Cipher too.

Bundling up his loose thoughts, he pushed them down and picked up his pace. For now he would just think of this like being out on his journey again, traveling the wilderness like back home. With pokemon he only sort of knew. He should probably try to strike up conversation... How did people make small talk?

"Yeah thanks Nico! Its fine, we learned a lot while we were in town." An understatement. "So... How long have you been a ranger for?" Wait, had they already asked Nico that before? He hoped not. "You must have some great stories to tell," he added.
 
Isidora had packed well for the trip. Her bag was heavy with full canteens of water, along with food and other supplies (and of course she brought her research notes on the Ranger Union). Hiking in the desert wasn't her idea of fun, but she felt prepared. She had been waiting for a good chance to meet with the rangers, and now it was finally here. They'll be good allies and better training. And maybe I could try... joining them.

She was aware of her hesitation at that thought. Even after the interview with Tlalli, there was still this prickle of uncertainty, telling her that making a commitment she can't truly keep was a poor idea. Not to mention she hadn't gotten the chance to prove herself to the chief, unlike some of the others here. There was a good chance she'd have to complete a test solo. But she at least had made a good impression on Nico, all that time ago on this very road. And if she did have to prove herself, then she would.

There was a reassurance in Leaf being here. She seemed able to hold her own, and as far as Isidora knew, she still had the button. As for Koamaru... Isidora adjusted her hat a bit and made sure to keep her distance. They had never really interacted since the incident in the square, and she figured he probably didn't want to have anything to do with her anyway. Especially not after the meeting, and how that went. She didn't know his feelings, but it was easier to just assume he disliked her now. She didn't need to push boundaries unnecessarily, not when her status in the group still felt so fragile.

She gave Nico a nod of acknowledgement. "It's not bad it took so long. We're a lot stronger now than before. More prepared, too."

She said that, and earlier had felt that, but the sun was relentless, and she could feel her resolve start to melt under its fury. This journey's gonna suck...
 
"I'll say. You guys took on some Escarpa cadets, last I heard! Or, some of you did, anyway. Even the trainee warriors are pretty hardcore. You're all coming into your own real fast."

He rolled to one side, dipping gradually closer to the Wayfarers so as not to have to raise his voice.

"Uh, I guess I've been a ranger for a couple years now. I'm not originally from Sojavena, you know! I'm from out east, on the coast. Decided to head west 'cause... Well, I guess I've always had some wanderlust in me, and the city was just getting too cramped for a bird like me."

The Wattrel paused for a moment, as if thinking about how much of his own story to tell.

"I wasn't even looking for a job. I just kinda got lost out in the world, miles from the nearest real town, not knowing a soul around me or even what was safe to eat out in the wilds... until a ranger found me. Helped me out, took me along until I got somewhere safer. We got to talking, and I explained how I just like to keep moving and look at all the 'mon down below for hours on end... so he pointed me in the right direction. Which was Little Scriven, at first! Not the Ranger Union, not yet. I was a courier for a while, delivering messages and smaller parcels. Every now and again I'd find myself pointing some traveller the right way, or spotting some problem to report back. Eventually I got a letter of sponsorship from Mayor Enubel, bless her, and that was that."

He laughed, sounding nostalgic.

"Now I can't imagine doing any other kind of work, to be honest. I hardly had any one job longer than a month back in Magna City and thereabouts, and I've been at this two years now. Although I gotta say... most of the excitement's come just in the last couple months!"
 
The desert sun was warm as they walked, almost moreso in the middle of the desert than hanging around Frontier Town, and Kimiko found herself enjoying it. All she'd really packed was water and her usual item bag; she didn't expect to need anything else during the trip, and figured the Rangers would have supplies to use. Sunlight and a couple berries should be plenty to hold her grass-type form over.

And she doubted they'd appreciate it if she kept them awake every night playing music.

She kept silent for most of the walk. She wasn't terribly familiar with half of the gathered; she barely recognized the ponyta, for example. There was the blue electrike that she remembered fighting with Wes early on. And then there was Isidora. She'd recently had a newfound sympathy for her, but she figured now wasn't really the time for a heart-to-heart.

"I'd only met with chieftain Sierra, but that went well enough." Sure, it wasn't a battle with Escarpa warriors, but it had certainly felt like a test in it's own way.

She listened to Nico recount his tale of how he'd joined the Rangers with silent interest. If nothing else, he certainly enjoyed his job. To some degree, Kimiko lamented the thought of trading in some of her performance shifts at Sun Stone in exchange for Ranger work. She hadn't had an opportunity to sing so much in years. But ultimately, that wasn't why she'd accepted the summons. She really needed some proper training; Alex had always been the better trainer between the two of them. So hearing how excited Nico was for his job helped lift her own spirits.
 
"I've not had the pleasure of meeting Sierra," said Nico, not sounding at all like he wished to, "but I've run into Escarpa scouts plenty of times. Sometimes they challenge me. But it's not my job to take on scraps with feisty cadets, so I just wing on by. I like that Halcon guy, though. He doesn't seem as tightly wound as the rest."
 
"Halcon certainly was easier to talk to than the first scout we met, yeah," Kimiko replied. "Not that I blame Pyrrin. He was just doing his job. I wouldn't have appreciated a bunch of strangers trying to interfere if I'd been in his position, either."

She paused to think back. "I don't recall ever being challenged by any Escarpa scouts while just out and about, though." Or, at least, no one reported in with it if they had. It sure would have made contacting them far easier. "That happen often?"
 
"Falling into a job where you get to do all this traveling and meeting so many other pokémon sounds great. I'm glad it found you!" Each time she heard more about the Rangers and what they did, it sounded closer and closer to perfect. Even being a courier seemed like a good way to see the world, if a little less exciting. "Oh, do you know Gil, the golett courier? They helped some of us get from Little Scriven to Frontier Town when we first got here."

Leaf slowed for just a moment to adjust one of her saddlebags, then caught back up with a few easy strides. Weird how much easier it was to cross these same roads now than it'd been when they'd left Little Scriven, still just kind of stumbling along behind Gil while they chatted with her confused little group. She'd been plenty used to day-hiking as a human, sure, but the adjustment here had been so strange at first. Now? This felt easier than it had as a human. All that training (and imaginary pothole chasing) had really been something, huh.

"What do you usually do to train?" she asked, curious. "Is it mostly just out in dungeons or wilds, or do you have a space for it at HQ?"
 
"Yeah, I know Gil! Lovely little 'mon. Bit of an odd duck, but they're adapting well to the modern day for someone who conked out for over a century, bless them. And, uh, no – it's just somethig that happens from time to time when I'm patrolling near their territory. You guys haven't been out that way so much."

Nico smiled to himself at Leaf's adept strides. He wasn't old, but he sure missed being young young.

"Yes and no! Training's often in the field – wilderness, settlements, dungeons. But we do train at HQ, too... This isn't really public knowledge, but since you guys are headed there anyway – the HQ is a dungeon."

The seabird grinned like he was hoping for gasps of awe. He could hardly get many chances to be the 'mon to reveal that piece of info.
 
Koa made a mental note to talk to Kimiko about what exactly had happened when visiting the Escarpa. He was relieved the others had picked up the burden of conversation, and he could focus on listening instead. His ears perked up at Nico's next words.

"Wait, a dungeon?" He paused for a moment to stare at Nico, wide eyed, before resuming walking again. "Sick! How do you even navigate? I guess it must keep intruders out but how does that work for the Rangers?"
 
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