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Sojaveña Wilds Dusty Highway

Isidora was busy neutralizing Koa. Odette tossed Radiant stones at the incoming third threat, while Wes further diminished the lunging pillar.

To their fortune, that lunging darkness going for Leona had disappeared completely after Seth's final blow, off the momentum of the others who had struck it before.

The same couldn't be said for the other pillar, which completed its charge. It released a wide, sweeping beam of dark energy across the field. It hit everyone--but the beam itself was manageable. It didn't feel like a blow directly from Alexander, but more from one of his familiars. The sting of infection they'd been so aware of... was not present from the pillars, despite Mhynt's worries.

It still hurt. The more fragile of the group would find themselves barely hanging on, while the sturdier Wayfarers sensed they could only take two or three more of them, and perhaps only one more direct strike and still stand. Alexander was getting stronger. Yet... it felt as though the power gap had narrowed since last he and Koa had met.

"He's... th-there," Mhynt said with uncertainty, trying to brush off the residual darkness from her scales and leaves like they were fire. Her movements were jittery and she'd been knocked away from most of the party, her Paralysis dramatically impeding her movements.

Mhynt had pointed at the third, rising darkness, which finally formed from a burrow in the ground. Alexander... knew Dig? How?

He was still merely a Zweilous. Silver linings. But all pretenses of politeness and niceties were gone. Somehow, he must have figured out the Wayfarers were onto him.

There was a wound on Xander's cheek as well as along the side of his body that matched with Odette's Radiant attacks. He seemed mostly fine... but he was not invincible. Good to know.

And he was moving fast. It seemed to be the effects of a Haste Orb--some of the Wayfarers had seen this before. He sped right along to Mhynt and one head picked her up while she was still prone. Then he sped to Koa. Could he see? He moved like he knew where everyone, everything, was with such precision. Scent wasn't that good. But he was supposed to be blind.

"So glad you could make it," Alex said to Koa, pressing a paw to his back. The red chains dissolved. He'd... cured Koa?

Xander held Mhynt by the shoulder, his teeth digging past scales. Mhynt tried to draw her Leaf Blade, but when she so much as considered it, tensing her muscles, Xander crunched harder, earning a pained cry. Xander was biting down directly on the muscles that operated her arms. She couldn't move like this...

"Stand. Kill them," Alex ordered Koa, taking his paw off of his back. He smirked, facing the Wayfarers, looking at them like they were slabs of meat in the butcher shop.

The remaining pillar lunged for Lovrina this time. A pincer attack, Alexander on one side, the pillar on the other. The Wayfarers were hurt, but not out of the running just yet -- they did well against the first pillar, after all. But now Alexander was there, Mhynt in one set of jaws, and another set free to bite someone else. And Koa...

Alexander looked like he would block any attack toward Koa. He found him to be a valuable asset, apparently...
Lovrina was frantically bashing her aura-suppressing cuffs against the weight chaining Naps down, a heavy clang with each strike.

“C’mon, c’monnn!” Lovrina muttered under her breath, her pace quickening as the Shadow tendril grew nearer. “These cuffs are, like, nothing! I can break ‘em, I can—”

“You so can’t break those cuffs,” Naps said in a low voice, shaking slightly.
"There's his face," remarked Ollin, unperturbed. "You sunlight types take care of the dark."

The Cyclizar lowered his head, opened his jaws, and loosed a gout of violet dragonfire towards Xander's body.

"Intercept, guard Tinkaton!" called Cascada, swooping overheard and bound for Koa.

Leona, with the nearest pillar neutralised, swung around bug-eyed to lunge at Seth, whose arm erupted in Radiance as her jaws closed on it, prompting a yelp, followed by a bassy, reverberating howl.

"Snap outta the dark, lady," barked Seth, his voice thrumming with volatile light. "Whoever the fuck you are."

"I'm... strongest," snarled the day-wolf. "Strongest motherfucker in the whole of Orre."

"The fuck??"

Venus burst into mocking, fearful laughter. Dakim kept laser-focused on heating his cuffs until they glowed red...

As the pair of Lycanroc duelled, Razael pounded the dust to get to Koa and Mhynt, his body-hugging shields up and his head down. The Haxorus was strong, and a former disciple of Obstine Abbey – but he was no master of Radiance. Still, it would be no small thing for Alexander to strike him down. The Wayfarers would have to see the opportunity and use it...
Raw terror flooded Koa as Alex approached. He felt the claw on his back and his panic spiked as the chains holding him dissolved. No no no-

Alex's voice reverberated in his skull, leeching into him. He saw Mhynt writhing in Alex's grasp. His gaze frantically scoured the team, desperation burning in his gaze, begging one of them to act, do something, strike him down strike the him down anything.

"Odette please-" His voice shook. If Bellatrix's chains didn't work then one of them had to-

"Stand. Kill them,"

Dread gripped his heart. His body locked up and he froze, half expecting the same feeling as before, the blind desire and certainty that he knew what to do. It didn't come.


He didn't feel any change he could sense. Whatever Alex said, it didn't affect him this time. Yet? He didn't know. He didn't know how long it would last, he didn't know what to do. If he could do anything. If he still had his own will for long. But he was entirely certain of one sensation. Hate.

Icy white anger blotted out all other thoughts. He whirled on Alex, his claws alight with Radiance and tore into him with cold, precision fury. Slashing at the head holding Mhynt to free her, and attacking every part of Alex's body he could reach with fang and claw.

Koa used Radiant Slash! Koa used Radiant Thunder Fang!

His thoughts swam with desperation. How long would this last? He called frantically to the team. "Protect the others!"

Alexander had no time to react. By the time the slash came, the Thunder Fang had followed, staggering him. Xander's hold on Mhynt's shoulder weakened, but did not go away completely.

Instead, fury painted Alex's snarl. "What are you DOING?"

Suddenly, Alexander seemed keen on killing his asset. He charged for Koa.
"Stand. Kill them,"
She wasn't paying attention. She wasn't paying attention--

But even then, what was she going to do? It was like Alex had that affect on him. It was immediate. Like a possession.

What could she have done?

"Odette please-" His voice shook.
Hearing her name claw its way out of his throat sent her brain into a tailspin. The molten light bubbling in her soul was cut by the raw fear that took her nerves in an iron grip. Her knee jerk reaction was to run to him, shield him, protect him, get the control of the situation back, but if she got too close, she knew she was going to be as good as out.

But Koa, she promised she would have Koa's back, she helped train him so he wouldn't get hurt, he went to her in his time of need, she was the person who was supposed to help him.

She had to help him.

"Wes!" she shouted. "Help me hit--" she started to say. But a flash of movement caused her words to get stuck in her throat.

Alex then lunged at Koa. And she acted without thinking twice.

"DON'T YOU DARE!" she shrieked before she realized the words were leaving her and Jawile's mouths. She felt her psyche mesh with that of the one attached to her head, and through the light shining behind her eyes, she saw red. Her body lurched with the force of her inner light, and the power she'd trained for this very moment.

Throwing herself into the line of fire, her ancient power surged as her jaws snapped for the fuckhead hydreigon. Rocks hurled toward their attacker, while iron teeth snapped for whatever they could grab.

Odette used Radiant Ancient Power on Alexander!
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Bellatrix hissed at Alexander preparing a second Embargo to restrain Koa again only to halt when he had turned to strike with Odette quick to provide further backup. It seemed that that side of the battle was handled so her attention was quick to pivot to Lovrina and the tendril that was attacking her. The loss of Ein? Manageable seeing that they still had his two consorts. Lovrina however seemed to have been involved in other aspects seeing that she had been operating on the lower floors. She could not risk to lose an invaluable source of information.

Bellatrix ran straight for the tinkaton, filling her sword with bitter energy saturated in light, swinging it to strike the tendril. Then, she attempted to quick shove Lovrina away from both the shadow tendril and Alexander. While she wasn't one to be so rough, this was a rather exceptional circumstance. Better a few bruises than Ein's sorry fate, Bellatrix would hope that Lovrina had enough survival instinct for that to occur to her.

Bellatrix used RADIANT Bitter Malice on the Tendril!

"Stay down," she growled, voice laced with Radiance. "Not unless you want to join that manetric friend of yours."

Meanwhile, throughout the struggle, Sybil had simply been offering supporting strikes from the backlines seeing that she was hardly mobile being the one to pull the wagon. The actions of the admins did not escape her notice and she was quick to turn to the darmanitan trying to break free of his cuffs.

"No. None of that," she said curtly. The orbs in her antlers pulsed with hypnotic, psychic energy to leave Dakim drowsy enough to break his focus on his cuffs.

Sybil used Hypnosis on Dakim!
Even amidst the chaos, Wes felt a strange sense of synergy as he fought alongside Seth and the new Lycanroc, and despite the panic, he felt a flicker of satisfaction. They made a good team, honestly. Whoever this new wolf was, she was a hell of a fighter—

Until she wasn’t.

"I'm... strongest," snarled the day-wolf. "Strongest motherfucker in the whole of Orre."

"The fuck??"


Wes froze in his tracks for just a second, stunned as several things clicked into place all at once. “Oh, for the love of—screw me sideways with a rusty scorching forklift—”

Why in the hell did he have to keep running into more of himself? And at the worst damn times?

Well, fine. Fine, dammit. It wasn’t like it was the first time he’d been forced to beat up his alter ego. He stepped forward and readied a swirl of rocks around his mane. Just another godsdamn day in this godsdamn world that made no godsdamn sense—

"Wes!" she shouted. "Help me hit--" she started to say. But a flash of movement caused her words to get stuck in her throat.

Alex then lunged at Koa. And she acted without thinking twice.


Odette’s scream made Wes’s blood run cold. He snapped his gaze over to where she was, lashing outward at Alexander, who was bearing down with full force on—


All thoughts in Wes’s brain went silent. Forget the fact that the kid was an insufferable, pretentious, even cruel little terror—he was still just a kid. And Wes would be damned if he was going to let him die.

In a split second, Wes made a choice. He leaped up alongside Odette and fired an explosion of Radiance-enforced stone right at Alexander’s eyes. Let it be lethal, for all he cared. That bastard deserved all of that and more. “LEAVE HIM ALONE!”

But he couldn’t leave Seth to fend for himself, either. Odette was in a proper rage, slashing with wild abandon at Alexander, and for now, that would have to be good enough. Wes gave her a nod and whirled back to the dueling wolves, barreling straight into the light-colored Lycanroc’s side.

“Godsdammit,” he hissed, brimming and prickling with uncomfortable Radiance. “Can everybody keep it together for more than ten seconds?”

Wes used STRONG RADIANT Stone Edge on Alexander!
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A barrage of strikes landed on Xander and Alex, but there was a notable concentration on Xander, who finally let Mhynt go, just enough for her to crumple to the ground and move her arm again. The attacks were so intense that Alexander went closer to Koa--and then straight over him, somersaulting through the air from Wes' Stone Edge. He landed on his feet by some miracle.

"Unbelievable," Alex hissed. Whatever else he might have been thinking was only in his head. "Still... It's nice to see you again, Mhynt..." Alex smirked. "I'll find you later. It'll be like old times..."

Mhynt didn't reply. She was curled up on the ground, conscious but barely responsive for one reason or another.

Alexander slammed his paws on the ground, creating an intense outward shockwave. This particular blast felt a lot more *infectious.* But at the same time, he summoned the second pillar again, and fled directly opposite to the Wayfarers.

The other pillar, struck and crumbling, still tried to cause more trouble as it wrapped its Shadowy, ethereal jaws on Lovrina's arm, crawling to get her whole body next.

The other pillar went for Dakim while he was down.

Alexander himself... was not able to carry anyone--not even Mhynt--as he retreated, burrowing into the ground at alarming speeds. The Wayfarers had to defend against two pillars and the incoming wave of darkness--more like a thick tidal wave that would dissolve into a miasma, tainting the path for who knows how long. It crashed toward them at nearly three feet in height--to their over-Radiated selves, that water-gas would be caustic. They had seconds to react to Alexander's final chaotic gift.

Mhynt just barely got to her feet, staring at the wave. She struggled in her Paralysis to conjure a Teleport...
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Lovrina recoiled backward, looking almost equally disgusted as she was offended. "Ughh, what--? Naps, do something!!"

"I'm trying!!" he yelled back. His weighted chain had snagged on Lovrina's cuffs, and he was flapping with all his might, but the aura suppression prevented any kind of wind blast that could help them.
Alex turned on him with terrifying, murderous intent.

Let it happen. You deserve it. Koa braced, limbs trembling, fur spiked with electricity, ready to face Alex alone if he had to. Anything to give the others a better chance at stopping him. Before he could strike back, Odette's furious cry, compounded by a second voice, echoed over the din of the battle.


And Odette.

They were protecting him. Even when he'd ruined everything and turned on them. When he'd failed. A strange feeling burned in Koa's chest.

He couldn't waste this. Wouldn't. His Radiance buzzed brighter in him as he prepared to press the attack...

Except Alex didn't have the chance to lay into him, too busy dodging Wes and Odette's attacks. The followup shockwave sent Koa reeling. Before he could give chase to Alex, the Zweilous was gone, somehow burrowing-? Then a wall of shadowy water bore down on them.

In the blink of an eye Koa sprang towards Mhynt, shielding her with his body because it didn't matter if he got hit, did it?. He poured every ounce of his strength into a Light Screen to shield her and the rest of the team. He owed her that much.

A shimmering wall of light appeared, as wide as he could manage without losing durability. "Sybil, help me!"

Koa called Sybil!
Dave stared at the remains of Ein where the pillar he’d attacked had been, stomach twisting. And then Koa was…

What the fuck, what the fuck. He leapt to strike Alexander, Radiance burning bright in him, body shaking. Wes and Odette struck him too, trying to keep him at bay, until Alexander was knocked away by a Stone Edge. But—

Lovrina. The tendrils were trying to get fucking Lovrina.

No, you don’t,” he snarled, pumping his Radiance into another Bite.

Dave used a RADIANT Bite on the pillar attacking Lovrina! Flinch!
"I hear you!" Sybil yelled back, rearing and slamming her hooves into the ground, summoning forth more shielding at Koa's call. "If I can just focus on that energy, I could—"

Sybil used Reflect!

She tried to focus on the psionic energies produced by the Light Screen in the air to add onto it and extend its range further across the group, lowering her head as she did so. Sybil then snorted as another thought was quick to occur to her. "I may not be able to use Radiance but that Light Screen of yours should help. If I charge as it crashes down, I might be able to carve out a path through."

Sybil is preparing Psyshield Bash against the Shadow wave...

"How uncivil," Bellatrix spat upon watching Alexander's final desperate attack. Dave seemed to have Lovrina handled, but she tossed her final iron thorn the tendril's way for good measure before leaping to strike at the tendril that was currently heading for Dakim. She used the Radiance-laced Bitter Malice on the freshly summoned pillar, her eyes flickering gold as she drew more and more of that light from within.

Bellatrix used RADIANT Bitter Malice on Dakim's Tendril!

Instinct sparked at the sight of the wave. That brilliant buzz that settled across her mind like a blanket told her to face it head on, cut through with her sword of brilliant light, if she could just channel more—

But Sybil was in the way, forcing her to begrudgingly dive behind the wyrdeer's protections but the moment she saw an opportunity...
Odette felt her attacks land, but Alexander seemed to be a slippery motherfucker. She'd only blinked, and he'd managed to slip away. But, not without a couple cuts and bruises to go, the piece of shit.

"A̸s̷s̶hole̵.̷ ̸P̸i̵e̶c̷e̴ ̶of ̷s̶hit.̴" She was fuming. Red singed the corners of her glittering vision, and murderous intent pulsed against her glowing mind. "P̵ussy ̵a̷s̵s̵ ̸f̸u̵c̶kfac̴e̴.̷ ̴G̴i̶v̴i̸n̴g̴ ̶us dua̵l̷ ̸h̴e̴a̸d̸s̴ ̴a̷,̷"̴ ̶she launched another rock,"̴b̸a̶d̴ ̶f̸ucking̶ ̷n̸a̴m̶e̷So ̷h̸e̸l̶p̶ ̸m̷e̵ ̶f̴u̸c̶k̷i̴n̷g̴ ̴god,̴ ̷I̶'̶l̵l̸ ̶kill you ̵i̸f̶ ̴i̵t̸'̷s̸ ̴t̴he las̵t̴ ̸t̶h̸i̸ng-̷-̴"̶

Alexander slammed the ground, and a shockwave of Shadow rose around him. At the same time, a pillar rose up just a few paces to her left. In that split second, she had to make a decision. Chase the fucker, risk the Shadows annihilating her, or protect the team and get to safety.

Her body wanted to run for Alexander. All she wanted to do in the moment was eat him. Bite his fucking head off and enjoy the sight of his body falling limp against the sand. All for having the audacity to try to hurt her friend.

But, the Radiance within her had a different idea--she was much smarter than that. She had to be. If she lost control like that now, they might be as good as gone.

She was still up. She still had her head on; could still think straight. While she felt the Ancient Power vibrating along her nerves next to the sensation of the Radiance, she needed to conserve her energy. She needed to take a breath, conserve her energy, find the fucking control, because she was smarter than what her recklessness wanted her to be.

Gritting her teeth, she whipped out her gun in one quick motion. Light cascaded down her arms and into her fingertips, and soon the inner mechanisms of the firearm were glowing from within. With one last malevolent look at the hydreigon, she turned toward the pillar and let her bullets fly with the aim Drungfield helped her perfect, sending one, then another, then another, then another.

Odette shot multiple Radiance-touched (?) bullets at Dakim's tendril!

She had about a second to duck behind Koa's Light Screen, and she did.
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Isidora's body still stung from the beam attack she had failed to stop. My timing was off. With Alexander's parting attack coming her way, she had little time to land the perfect shot on the tendril going for Dakim before surely getting knocked out.

She looked to the braviary in the air and lifted a paw high over her head. "Cascada, grab me!"

Immediately she drew again and breathed in to charge her next Icicle Crash. The incoming wave didn't faze her, whether Cascada was coming for her wasn't a doubt in her mind. She instead watched the tendril's movements, using the few seconds she had to analyze when the attack would be at its most destructive...


Isidora used RADIANT Icicle Crash on the tendril targeting Dakim!
Dave's bite was enough to mess with the pillar's formation. It snarled back and recoiled away. Radiance ate away at its Shadowy body like fire on paper. With the last of its strength, it tackled Dave... only to evaporate halfway through, only leaving him with a soon-to-be bruise.

Meanwhile, Dakim's pillar had taken three Radiant shots in a row with a few more to come straight after. It didn't stand a chance, unable to touch Dakim at all.

The wave of Shadow waters was a different story. Barriers came up and diverted much of the flowing corruption, but only so much of it was stopped. Like the true power of a flood, much of it crashed over the barrier and toppled it down. A Psyshield and several Stone Edge attacks split the sea further, giving only residual attacks to the Radiant Wayfarers...

And even that stung. Mhynt found the strength to Teleport behind the splitting waves, avoiding the worst, but she wouldn't have been badly hurt anyway. It was the others, so brightened by their attacks, that felt even the smallest of drops seep into their skin and eat away at their auras.

The infection, though... It didn't seem to take hold. Instead, it just burned, and burned, and burned despite there being no wound. A cold burn that would agonize Ice just as much as Fire. It wouldn't fade for a while, making every movement trick their body into thinking they should have been resting and not walking on a melted leg.

The most insidious part of it all was all their wounds were invisible and immaterial.

Silence followed. The winds blew. It was... safe enough.

Ein was gone, his only evidence of what happened being that missing part of him--looked like a paw. Alexander had fled. Mhynt was still silent and trembling. But aside from Ein, everybody else was accounted for. In fact...

In the ethereal sludge, now evaporating under the open air, something... was left behind.

Two Pokemon--hard to tell their forms just yet--buried in the semi-real Shadow material. Two familiar forms...

Weren't those the guards from Frontier Town who had been Shadowed?
As the Shadow flood swept across the highway, the rangers pivoted to act in defense of the cart. Dakim blinked drowsily at the oncoming darkness, and his attention fell into the abyss. Venus reared up, as if poised to leap from it into the oily waves when the moment came...

Shouts rang out – Wayfarers calling for aid, or in defiance of the darkness. Cascada swooped to snatch Isidora from the ground. Ollin ripped his own tail free and cast it in front of Bellatrix as a Substitute. Razel threw himself in front of Dave, arms cast wide and an energy barrier cast before him.

Seth turned to face the attack, and pointed towards it. "Stone Edge, together, now!"

Leona's Shadow-Fevered gaze turned to see a stronger opponent, and her eyes narrowed.

"G-gotta– keep everyone... safe!"

Somehow, through the mind-melting fever of Shadowfication, Leona found it in herself to summon a Stone Edge of her own – charged with Shadow rather than Radiance, but no less potent for it as an attack.

The waves crashed against a glittering wall of rocky spikes, like the teeth of the earth itself. The watery onslaught crashed over the barricades and swept across the escort party, searing their very auras, but blunted by the unified defense. The earth drank the darkness; the danger passed.

The end came and went, and they'd survived – injured and afraid, but intact.

"Two unidentified 'mon below!" called Cascada, as the waves dissipated. "They are fainted; two survivors KO'd!"

Ollin steadied himself on the cart as his tail regenerated in a shimmer of aura. "Hostages? Could be a trap."

Razael knelt and rested his body on one knee. "See to them anyway. Whosoever can prepare a shield, go to them."

Meanwhile, Seth held his distance from Leona, who was staring at the spot where Alexander had been. Still baring her teeth at all the worlds' demons. Panting, her chest heaving, as if fighting for her life. What darkness lived in her that the Shadow energy was forcing her to relive, over and over? But Seth did nothing – nothing but stare, helpless to help.

All around, pokémon clutched at Shadow-burns on their hides, but no further attacks came.

Silence followed. The winds blew. It was... safe enough.
A stifled cry of horror escaped Koa as the water splashed onto him. It seared straight through his fur and ate into his skin, melting it. He yelped, flinching and trying to get it off of himself. Yet when he looked at his body, it was intact. No missing patches of fur or missing parts. Except it still burned. No matter how he pawed at himself or shook himself, it didn't go away.

Gritting his teeth, he quickly scanned the area. Ignored the scrap of Manectric lying there. No more sign of Alex. Unless he was still lurking underground somewhere, waiting to strike again. Fighting his paranoia, he looked for his teammates. Was everyone alive okay? Mhynt looked... she was alive, at least. Sybil too.

Odette... Bellatrix.. Isidora and Dave. Wes. Even the Cipher thugs had made it. Nobody was missing -or turned to a stain on the sand- but the others looked like they were having just as bad a time with Alex’s attack.

Mind still hazy with pain, he started to take a step towards Mhynt, then recoiled. The memory of what he'd done smothered his thoughts. What if Alex did something again or if he hurt her? No apology could ever undo what he'd done. He shouldn't go near her, or anyone else on the team. Ignoring his trembling paws, he shifted back and tried to force down the spiral of emotions. Keep it together.

Looking away, he took in the rest of the marred battlefield. Through bleary vision he spotted two shapes left behind and frowned. Was that? The... the guards he spoken to after the prison break? How...? Still on edge, he didn't approach yet, trying to observe from afar first in case it was somehow a trap.
The Paralysis was finally wearing off. Mhynt shakily stood again, leaves curled inward like they'd touched something acidic. She wiped her face and was startled to see tears. Hastily, she grabbed her scarf and wiped herself down more, stepping away from the others so maybe they wouldn't notice. The Sneak Scarf helped with that, didn't it? It was supposed to. She was supposed to keep out of trouble.

Then she remembered how it happened. Her gaze jerked to Koa while he wasn't looking at her. But he seemed to be trying to avoid things, too.

"Koa," Mhynt finally said, mustering all she could to keep her voice even. "Are you well?"
The sound of Mhynt's voice sent a wave of shame washing over Koa that he buried. Even so he found himself reflexively leaning away.

He turned toward her, not quite meeting her gaze. All he could manage was a shaky nod first. "For now. I don't... Feel anything else.." Not that he could even tell.

Was Mhynt okay? Anxiously he looked her over. Apologies seemed not nearly enough after what he'd done. His voice wavered as he spoke. "Mhynt I-I'm sorry..."
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