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Sojaveña Wilds Dusty Highway

No you didn't. Koa swallowed and nodded, glancing away as he stamped out any errant thoughts. Arguing right now was pointless. And he didn't want to press Mhynt more about how she felt.

Focus. "He left something behind." Koa nodded towards the shapes of the guards. "They look like the guards I spoke to after he broke into the jail in Forlas."
The assault on her aura forced Bellatrix to recoil with a hiss before she took several long, deep breaths to try and calm and reorient herself. It seemed that everything had went as well as it could have in the wake of the attack. Pushing past the lingering burn of the shadow wave, Bellatrix stood herself back up and gestured to the Admins. "Reload them onto the wagon," she directed. She looked at what had remained of Ein with an indifference only slightly tinged by disgust. "Hopefully, this little demonstration will make for a fine enough lesson on why treating powers beyond your grasp as a plaything will only lead to ruin."

She turned to allow the Rangers to handle it seeing that she was in no state to help. Sybil already seemed to be giving anyone doing the lugging a small psychic boost to make the work just a bit easier for them. Bellatrix's gaze then fell on Koa, her head tilting slightly as she apprised his current state. "Stable then?" she asked. Louder, for the others to hear, she added, "I can an eye on him in case he is compelled to turn again."

Meanwhile, in the quiet, the caws of murkrow could be heard as a murder flew east overhead. Had they been watching the Wayfarers throughout the ambush?
Wes staggered under the onslaught, but held firm, slamming his paws into the ground alongside Seth and Leona to summon more rocky spires. Hold, hold, please hold—

By some miracle, it did—barely. Wes blinked as the Shadows dissipated, hardly daring to believe it. It was…over? He was just gone?

Seth was next to him, breathing hard after the frenzy. His gaze was fixed on their new Lycanroc companion, and it wasn’t hard to see why. Wes recognized that stiff, trembling stance and those haunted eyes of hers.

Cautiously, Wes brushed past Seth to step closer—but not too close. He stayed outside of striking range, just in case. “Easy,” he said slowly. “He’s gone. It’s safe now.”

Wes Called out to Leona.
"Stable then?" [...] "I can keep an eye on him in case he is compelled to turn again

Koa met her eyes briefly and nodded, his gratitude overshadowing his shame for a moment. "Thank you," he said quietly.

The sound of cawing drew his attention upward. His eyes narrowed. Murkrow again?

Blinking, he turned back to the shapes ahead. He edged closer, wincing at the movement, trying to get a look without getting near striking distance. And trying to see what condition they were in.
Panting, Odette surveyed the carnage as she forced herself back down to earth. With each breath, she released more of the Radiance from her being, blinking it out of her eyes and shaking it from her fingertips. Her skin burned with each movement, thanks to the lingering miasmic goo that had struck her, but she ignored it in favor of focusing on regaining her surroundings.

Her ears rang so loudly she wasn’t registering any of the talking around her, instead finding herself focusing on the bodies that had been left behind. She didn’t recognize them at first glance, but they didn’t look dead. The chirping murkrow made her flinch, but she ignored it in favor of eyeing the knocked-out ‘mon.

Why would he just leave some random ass ‘mon behind? Something about it smelled fishy, and it wasn’t the stench of Shadow in the air.

She saw Koa start to move toward them, and she gently and silently stuck her hand out to him, as if beckoning him to stop.

“Hang on a sec,” she said.

Using what was left of her energy, she looped her Ancient Power around some smaller rocks and flung them toward the bodies.

Odette used Ancient Power to fling rocks at the ground near the fainted Pokemon!
“Easy. He’s gone. It’s safe now.”

Leona took a paw and scraped it over her face in a motion eerily similar to Seth's own take on it when he struggled with Shadow.

"We won, we won, it's okay," she muttered to herself.

The day-wolf screwed her eyes shut, as if it would help not to look at her counterparts.

"My name... is Leona Lycas," she said, apparently to the other Lycanroc. "I... I used to be a thief in the Snatcher Crew, until I left that life behind. When Shadow pokémon started showing up in street battles, I tracked them back to Cipher... and defeated them. One night I fell asleep and woke up in a dark cell, in a world I didn't recognise..."

Her eyes opened, the fever gone.

"They asked if I was the 'Lycas' who'd given them so much trouble. But the Lycas they were looking for... was named Seth."

She kept her gaze on the night-wolf, her ears pinned back even as her nerve held.

"That's you. Isn't it?"

Seth's face twitched, but he nodded, silently. He looked stricken.

Leona turned to look at the dusk-wolf, her head tilting as she did.

"And you... You're the same. Aren't you?"
"And you... You're the same. Aren't you?"
Wes didn’t even have it in him to be shocked anymore. Or even exasperated. He wearily met Leona’s gaze and responded with a tired grunt. “Yeah. That’s about the gist of it. Name’s Wes. Nice to meet me.” His mouth twitched at his stupid joke.

So, a female version of himself existed out there somewhere, apparently. Couldn’t say he saw that coming. But then again, he hadn’t seen any of this coming in the first place. He frowned. “You don’t remember how you got here? At all? How did Cipher manage to catch the wrong version of Seth from another damn dimension before they found their version?” Gods, none of this made any scorching sense.

Another thought occurred to him, and then another in rapid succession. He felt his fur stand on end, but tried to keep his voice steady to avoid setting off Leona—hells, of course her name was Leona, of all the damn names—into another episode. “Leona. Where are your Pokémon? An Umbreon and Espeon, I assume? Does Cipher have them?”

He turned to Seth. “Seth, we…didn’t find yours anywhere in the terminal, as far as I know. Do you think…they’re at Terminal One?”

Oh, sands and stars, he hoped so—hoped they were at least alive somewhere. He hadn’t even thought to ask Ein about Seth’s Pokémon, and that oversight was now ramming him with a truckload big guilt. And now Ein was…well. They weren’t going to get any more answers from him, that was for damn sure.
The rocks landed around the Pokemon, but nothing seemed to happen.

Yes. As far as they could tell... they were just fallen guards. Unconscious, but the same ones. Had they somehow been left behind?

The two guards were a Sandslash and a Maractus. And aside from looking... darker than usual, they seemed to be in good health.

Mhynt seemed pensive. "...There was word that they'd apparently gone missing recently," she said. "I guess now we know where they are. They seem to be alive..."
Isidora hung from Cascada's talons and watched as the situation below began to calm. She looked up at her savior with a confident smile. "Perfect timing."

From her vantage, she spotted what Ein had been reduced to. For the slightest moment, some reflex made her avert her gaze. And then it changed into a scowl and in defiance she went right back to staring at it. Her grip around Cascada's talon tightened. "You get what's comin' to you..."

By the time the braviary finally let Isidora back down, the effects of adrenaline and radiance had worn off. She felt the muscles in her arm start to strain, and the second her feet touched the ground, her tiredness came back all at once for a brutal reminder. She swayed, and nearly collapsed, but she puffed up her fur and attempted to put on a better face than that. It'd be unfair to show weakness when she had escaped with much less harm than some of the others.

Various loose ends already seemed to be in the process of being resolved. Arms crossed and standing straight, she looked to the fallen guards. "Guess we'll have to take them with us now..." Then to Mhynt for a moment, then to the rangers. "I'd hate to take a break here, but, I don't think some of us can keep walking right now."
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Razael bowed his head to Isidora.

"You all fought well. We can carry those of you who cannot travel. I still have stamina yet."

"I'm good," volunteered Ollin, getting on all fours.

"Just don't crowd up this cart any more than it already is," pouted Venus.

“Yeah. That’s about the gist of it. Name’s Wes. Nice to meet me.

“You don’t remember how you got here? At all? How did Cipher manage to catch the wrong version of Seth from another damn dimension before they found their version?

“Leona. Where are your Pokémon? An Umbreon and Espeon, I assume? Does Cipher have them?

“Seth, we…didn’t find yours anywhere in the terminal, as far as I know. Do you think…they’re at Terminal One?”

Seth folded his arms and turned away with a grunt.

"Maybe. Or back on Earth. I don't fuckin' know."

Leona closed her eyes and took a steadying breath. "Yeah, my girls are bond-evo 'vees. ...But mine didn't come with me to this place, as far as I know." She looked back at Seth, who didn't meet her eye. "I'd also like to know why they found me, and not you."

Seth shrugged and made a face. "How the fuck should I know? I don't know how they grabbed you from another dimension, or timeline, or whatever! But if they were looking for me, then, you know – I was already here. They tried Shadowing me on Earth, and I escaped. Maybe they didn't realise I'd escaped here instead of back into the Orrezonan desert. What-fuckin'-ever."

"They said something about 'summoning'," added Leona, with a grim tone. "Guess if you were already here... whatever they did found the next-best thing."

She glanced at Wes.

"What about you... Wes? Why are you here?"
Sybil tossed her head. "Any of you can get on the wagon or on my back, won't make much of a difference to me."

After nodding in reply to Koa, Bellatrix looked half-tempted to take the offer but restrained herself for the moment, approaching the fallen guards with grit teeth. It didn't seem that they would be getting up any time soon. Her eyes narrowed as she considered what to do with them. "Load them in with the others!" she decided after a moment. "I will question them once they come to. Restrain them as you think is necessary." And with that, Bellatrix seemed to think that would secure her the spot on Sybil's back - a thought that made her apparently giddy with excitement.

She hopped up to rest and ease away the lingering burns, glancing at the bloody patch on the ground. "What will be done with the remains?" Bellatrix asked the Rangers, not seeming to care what consensus would be.
"Can't let good flesh go to waste," Mhynt said idly.

A beat.

"...I-ignore me," she murmured, shaking her arms a little. "A... bad habit from home. Proper food was scarce. So, when tragedies happen, you sometimes... took advantage of silver linings. Not necessary here. I apologize."

Her gaze went to the horizon again as she tried to re-center herself.
Koa hung back as he watched the others, his head down. Better not to get too close, the rangers could handle it. Or Bellatrix. Better that way.

Mhynt's suggestion made him nauseous and he quickly pushed the thought out of his mind. He didn't care what else they wanted to do with... that. Forcing his gaze away, he did his best to think about anything else.

The ever present burn of his skin and fur was hardly better. Asking one of the larger Rangers for a ride was tempting but the thought of having to be near anyone else felt worse. "I'll ride in the wagon," he murmured.
"What about you... Wes? Why are you here?"
“I…” Wes wasn’t sure what to say. He suddenly felt very foolish, given that Seth and Leona had been dragged here against their will—tortured, even, in the process—and Wes had…what? Volunteered, apparently? Because he wanted to play hero? Because he’d stupidly thought he could make a difference somewhere, despite the fact that he couldn’t do anything worth a damn in his own world?

“I was…summoned here. Along with others.” He gestured with his head towards his teammates. “We’re not Rangers or Escarpa, we’re…sort of our own group, all summoned here from our own worlds by an entity named Betel. We were brought here to…save this world from an incoming calamity, or something like that.”

He felt a little bite of bitterness. Not that he held anything against Betel—not anymore—but it stung that even now, there was still so much they didn’t know. Finding answers here felt like trying to move against the wind in a howling sandstorm.

He shook his head. “If you know your mon aren’t with you here, then take it as a good sign. Cipher would have taunted you with them if they had ‘em, I bet.”
Leona winced, her face turning downcast. Not having her partners would be tough for her – as would be the thought of them in Cipher hands.

"Seems like you guys are still in the dark about some stuff," Seth grunted, quick to change the topic away from the idea of his own partners, who he knew were in Cipher hands. "Since it seems like you're here to stay, and you handled Cipher... Well, we'll see what Powehi tells me the next time I catch a wink of sleep, I guess."


"Living ocean of despair who talks to me in my nightmares."


The night-wolf started trudging along beside the cart, the Soja' winds ruffling his mane. The day-wolf began to pad forward, too, her expression grim.

"This world doesn't make any scorching sense," muttered Leona.

Seth smirked. "What, like Orre does?"

"...Heh. Never said it did."

Seth glanced at Wes and beckoned him to follow. After an encounter as grim as they'd just had, shit-talking Orre could only come as a much-needed release.

It wouldn't be long now until they reached Ranger HQ, and safety.
When nothing stirred around the bodies, she exhaled in relief. No traps, just a purely odd occurrence. Hell, maybe Alex got scared and dropped them in his retreat, because he was a bitch.

Unlikely, but it sounded nice in her head.

She was already walking over to them when Bellatrix called out. “On it,” she said. She tugged one of her chains between her hands, deciding it was her best bet for now. There was no reason to muzzle Jawile right now, not after what just happened. So she might as well put one of the chains to use. She could find more easily.

Before binding them, she took it upon herself to pat them down. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for, but she wasn’t exactly off high alert yet. When she was satisfied, she bound them together with the chains, and fired up Jawile’s teeth with a minor use of Fire Fang to meld them together. Good enough for now.

She caught Mhynt’s comment even as she was admiring her handiwork, and she quirked a brow and looked over her shoulder with clear intent to say something. Perhaps out of sheer habit.

However, she stopped herself. She didn’t want to get in on that heat.

Okay, Odile, she thought with a snicker.

“Good to go over here,” she said.
Wes snorted at Seth’s comment. He wasn’t sure whether to find it amusing or depressing that, no matter which world he and his counterparts came from, they all had that in common: being chewed up and spit out by the region they were supposed to call home.

Well, if nothing else, it was cathartic.

He fell into step beside Leona and Seth, and after the battered wagon escort scraped itself up off the ground, they all trudged onward to Ranger HQ.

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