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Sojaveña Wilds Dusty Highway

No no no what was he doing, why!!

A million things happened at once. Ridley climbing out of the wagon. Koa, diving for him. Then a vicious burst of flames setting the wagon ablaze. Jade recoiled backwards, every inch of her screaming no no no this was just like what happened with Entei when they'd flown to Indigo, that horrible, all-consuming heat, not again, not again--

And then Dave was rushing past her, throwing sand in the direction of the fire, and Jade felt her brain restart. She wasn't burning, and even if she had been hit, she was a Pokemon now, dammit!

Scrambling to her feet, Jade hurled her stored Sand Attack along with Dave's before leaping out the back of the wagon.
“What are you—stop! Are you stupid?” Wes all but spat at Ridley’s back as the guy jumped out the wagon, his brain short-circuiting at the sheer insanity he was witnessing. What the hell. What in the actual—

And then everything erupted into flames.

The Charmeleon—no, that thing moved way too fast for an ordinary Pokémon. Wes only caught a glimpse of it through the smoke before it all but vanished, then in the corner of his eye he spotted Koa leaping into the cloud of smoke after Ridley.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

His Rockruff instincts screamed at him to run, to bolt, to put as much distance between himself and this hellish chaos as possible. But where would he even run to? He had no way of knowing where the danger was, or how to escape it; the only thing he was sure of, in this moment, was that two gods-damned idiots had vanished in the smoke just a few bounds ahead of him. His brain latched onto that one shred of clarity, and soon found himself leaping out of the wagon and tearing after them.

They’d better be alive so I can kill them myself later.

They were still close, thankfully. Or maybe not thankfully, considering the nutcase of a Pokémon that was somewhere nearby. Wes spotted Koa first and skirted around him before ramming into the damn kid’s flank, knocking him in the direction he’d just come from.

“Out! That way! GO!”

He could only hope that the smoke hadn’t spread to cover the whole area, or else they were definitely screwed. Fire resistant or not, he still needed oxygen. Wes spun around and seized the back of Ridley’s…well, the back of Ridley (was the guy just a uniform blob?) none too gently, and stumbled after Koa.

Somehow in the panic, Wes had a half-crazed, barely coherent thought that right now he must look for all the world like a puppy carrying a chew toy. Fortunately or unfortunately, he didn’t have time to feel properly mortified about it.
They'd been attacked. Andre couldn't see by whom with everyone else in the way, but the way they reacted did not spell anything good. The others wanted to flee, acting like they had no chance of winning this fight, and they were probably right. Not to mention the assailant had set the wagon on fire, and Andre was a grass type - he cowered at the heat and glow and smoke, experiencing fear that now went beyond normal human aversion to fire.

Coughing from the smoke, Andre clambered out of the wagon's back and landed on the sparse grass, but the others were doing something in the front. Holding the assailant off? Andre didn't want to leave them, but that probably went against what they wanted. He bolted out of the cloud of smoke and --

Abandoning the others? Traitor.

He froze, waiting for the others still stuck in the smoke, even if all four of his legs shivered.
His jaws closed around something then he threw himself away from the wagon and the Thing haphazardly, landing roughly.
Wes spun around and seized the back of Ridley’s…well, the back of Ridley (was the guy just a uniform blob?) none too gently, and stumbled after Koa.

Ridley had barely recovered from being tossed about by Koa when he found himself snatched up again. Okay, fine, it wasn't like he'd ever been particularly protective of his dignity, but a little warning would be nice! He wriggled in Wes' jaws, about to voice a demand to be put down, but erupted into another coughing fit instead.

Where had the charmeleon - the Witching Beast? - gone? A normal charmeleon's tail-flame would have made it an easy target at night, but the Witching Beast's strange, lightless flame gave no indication as to its whereabouts.

Was it even here at all? Ridley thought he'd seen it vanish, but the pain and the smoke had disorientated him and he couldn't be sure -

He scrabbled to regain his bearings. His only point of orientation was the burning wagon: blazing orange and the most visible thing in the dusk by far, searingly bright to his dark-adapted eyes. That was everyone's night vision gone to shit then, Ridley realised with dread; even without the smoke, they'd be stuck stumbling around all-but-blindly.

Ridley wriggled in Wes' jaws again, ignoring the pain from his burn as he tried to peer into the dark. If he could just catch a glimpse of the Beast, figure out where it was - if he could get off an Astonish, or a Scary Face, anything to slow it down, then they might just have a chance.

The grass around here was tinder-dry. It was surely only a matter of time before the fire from the wagon started to spread.
Wes spotted Koa first and skirted around him before ramming into the damn kid’s flank, knocking him in the direction he’d just come from.

“Out! That way! GO!”
Koa snarled and snapped instinctively as something struck him, ready to fight, only to realize it was Wes. "Don't touch me," he snapped out, fear tinging his tone. Still though he moved anyway once he saw that Ridley was ok.

Moving away from Wes, his head whipped side to side, frantically searching for a glimpse of the beast. Sparks gathered around his pelt. If it showed its face, he had to be ready to fight it or lead it away.
Jade stumbled out from the back of the wagon, every inch of her body on high alert, one paw reaching for more sand while the other snatched up a thorny stick (maybe she could jab the thing’s eye, make an opening for the others to get away, something). She glanced in all directions, her eyes bizarrely seeing less now that the wagon was on fire.

And then Jade realized it was nowhere to be seen. Where had it gone, where where—

Vibrations. Faint. Underfoot…
There was confusion and shouting and heat – but no Charmeleon 'witching beast'. The double Sand Attack hit air and fell the ground, hardly smothering the loose grass, which was going up at an exponential rate...

...Shadow Charmeleon is attacking...

There was no coordination. The voice from the Nexus was nothing but a thin, reedy cry in the back of the party's heads. The offworlder humans-turned-'mon stumbled about, coughing, preparing attacks, jumping at sounds. Hackles rose and limbs trembled.

Not silence, but the same tension – anticipation.

Then the ground beneath Koa erupted in a spray of earth, as the creature crashed into his vulnerable abdomen. Underground. The thing had dug underground—! It threw Koa to the ground, not even looking at him, eyes already hunting for its next target. It found several, and something dark spewed upwards from its mouth. Bolts of jagged blackness, like inverse lightning, crashed into the ground on all sides, crystallising sand and splintering the front-right wheel of the cart, nearly hitting several of the party.

Dig. It's super-effective.
Unknown Attack. Missed.

The Charmeleon ducked the first, fear-addled attacks sent its way, none doing more than grazing its cheek. Stood on its hindlegs, it was tall, lanky, and gaunt, with an unsettling agility. It leapt from Koa to Wes, claws gleaming with a dark, hazy energy. It carved into Wes' side. He didn't even have a chance to dodge before the beast opened his side with deft efficiency, the same crazed look in its eyes, and the hint of a smile. It swept its tail on the ground, kicking up another black haze of dust and smoke and heat, then in the cover of its fumes, it lunged for Wes again. The thing grabbed him by the hindleg, pulled him off his feet, and pressed its Steel-edged claws into his flesh, with a pain like fire and rot and terror—

Metal Claw. It's super-effective.

—then more flames billowed from its mouth, in a gob of filthy heat that blew apart on impact with the wagon, spraying anyone nearby with fire, smoke, and splinters. The fiery backwash enveloped Jade's upper body in cloying fire. More grass caught, and spread, and ignited more grass. Dry, parched bracken went up like it was eager to burn.

Flame Burst. A critical hit.

Too bright. Too much smoke. Too disoriented. Dave felt the bright pain of teeth in his shoulder before he saw the Charmeleon in the fumes. Fire leaked out of its mouth, kissing Dave's flesh.

Fire Fang. ...Burn ... Burn... Burned.
Sharp fangs dug into his flesh with a rush of heat that looped over into icy numbness. Dave struggled wildly, limbs kicking desperately at the creature's form. The billowing smoke covered everything, filled his lungs and left him coughing helplessly, wringing the fight out of his body. Sand, sand, summon more fucking sand--

He squeezed his eyes shut as dust whipped up, aiming it as best he could just past the freezing numbness in his shoulder. He couldn't even feel the pain anymore. Fuck, fuck, fuck, why'd he ever joined these fucking idiots--
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Impact first, then pain, crackling across his chest. The world flipped. Koa crashed to the ground with a choked wheeze, smoke burning his lungs as his vision spun. Through distorted vision and scattered thoughts he saw the creature setting upon Wes in a blur of motion, ripping him up, then blazing fire and tearing across to Dave. Koa tried to cry a warning but he was late, there was already fire and and smoke consuming everything.

He stood, halfway, trying to call out but only succeeded in coughing more. His heart rattled and he couldn't think straight, had to act, no time-

Do something!!!!

He fired half blind, nearly harmless bursts of electricity, trying to stun it or slow it or draw its attention, anything.
The ground exploded just in front of Wes, sending Koa flying. Wes cried out to him, but with Ridley in his mouth, all that came out was a muffled yell.

Right. The least he could do was get Ridley out of here, somehow. With a muffled “Thorry,” and jerk of his head, he flung the Mimikyu a couple paces away from where he stood, hoping that would be enough—


Piercing, shredding, white-hot agony ripped along Wes’s side, knocking him off balance and crushing the breath from his lungs. He caught a flash of metallic claws and heard a vicious snarl in his ear, head spinning too fast to make sense of up or down. What—

Then suddenly he was wrenched backwards, claws skewering through his hind leg. Wes cried out and scrabbled for purchase, but his claws dragged uselessly through the dry grass and loose soil. Snarling with terror, he glanced over his shoulder—

Eyes. Blank, mindless, soulless eyes bore into his, and the next few seconds felt like years. All of Wes’s thoughts went quiet, save for one. Shadow. Shadow. Shadow.

He thrashed in the monster’s grip and lashed out, firing off a series of attacks that only seemed to bounce harmlessly off the Charmeleon’s scales. Dammit, why couldn’t he use a rock move, why couldn’t he do anything—

The monster gave his leg another twisted jerk.


Wes’s vision flickered black and red. Distantly, he heard a scream and only vaguely recognized it as his own. His leg and side simultaneously burned and froze, hot and cold, and just as he braced himself for a final blow, the creature sprang away from him, dialed in on another target.

Breathe. Just had to breathe. He lay there gasping, vision swirling and consciousness ebbing. Breathing…keep breathing…he just had to…
Right. The least he could do was get Ridley out of here, somehow. With a muffled “Thorry,” and jerk of his head, he flung the Mimikyu a couple paces away from where he stood, hoping that would be enough—

Shit, what the fuck - it had been underground?

Ridley was thrown across the ground as the charmeleon sliced into Wes, tumbling uncontrollably for several feet before he finally came to a stop. He heard Wes screaming, but couldn't see what had happened.

By the time Ridley, dizzy and panicked, managed to regain his footing, the thing had already moved onto its next target. The charmeleon was standing over Dave, sinking its fangs into his body. Flames dripped like saliva from its mouth.

Oh, fuck, no, no, no -

Somehow Ridley found the breath within himself to scream. He channelled ghost-type energy into his voice as he bellowed, unleashing all the fear and pain he felt in that moment in the direction of the Beast.

Ridley used Astonish!
Too late. The beast erupted from under Koa, tore into Wes, then turned to face Jade, flames licking its snout. No chance to dodge. Searing heat exploded in front of Jade, the only sensation that existed, digging into her flesh, just like before, just like that night—

And yet, somehow Jade could still move, scraping weakly at the dirt to get away from the residual flames. Her human body would’ve been toast, but this body, the one she’d been given, it could still move.

Come on, you’re a Pokemon now! Firestorm, Swift, Nine, they’d all be fighting now if they were here! I can’t just lie here—!

The pain wasn’t real, the damage wasn’t permanent, this wasn’t even her body!

It sure felt real, though.

What… what had the voice said about dying here? What would happen…?

No no no that wasn’t going to happen! No!

Had to… do something. Her paws clenched, drawing on a rock-type energy from somewhere, probably Wes. She hurled it at the beast and then forced energy into her legs, anything that’d let her get away.
The creature seemed to sense Dave's sand coming and released him, darting back. It dropped to all fours again, moving erratically, too unpredictable and too fast to follow in the smoke and flame. Koa's inexpert electric shocks went wide – Ridley's attack failed to connect as the Charmeleon writhed out of reach. Rocks shifted around it, but it slipped through Jade's efforts like sand through fingers.

Then it retaliated, a dark haze enveloping its claws as it lunged first for Koa, then Ridley, striking past their guards and tearing into them with vicious, unerring accuracy.

Unknown Attack. It's super-effective. You must... hold on. Please. Please hold on.

The voice sounded like it was in pain.
Koa staggered and snarled as the Thing struck, then vanished. He tried fruitlessly to fire another electric blast, his vision swimming. His heartbeat grew louder in his ears- had it always been this hard to breathe? - and the cries around him sounded murky. Ridley..! Fire. Jade... Where... Wes- He coughed. Pain tore through his body and one of his legs buckled. He blinked sluggishly.

Smoke stung his eyes. ...Why did his chest feel wet? He looked down to see something dripping into the dry grass.

You must... hold on. Please. Please hold on.

Koa opened his jaws. A pained howl escaped him as his senses caught up, his gaze fixated on the blood dripiping from the slash across his chest. Get up... He tried to focus on what the voice had said, but it felt hard. Distant.

Focus. He forced one paw underneath him and started to rise, only for his body to betray him as he collapsed. The familiar spark he always drew on felt out of reach. Oranges flames swallowed his vision. Just like facing Entei. Except this time he couldn't protect anyone. And he didn't have anyone to protect him.

He fought back the patches of black, clinging to his last scraps of coherent thought. Jade and Ridley and Dave. Andre. Wes. Would they all die out here? This is your fault. You did this.

'Voice... I'm sorry.'
Breathe. Keep breathing.

Searing pain made it difficult to focus on anything else. Wes opened his eyes (when had he closed them…?) and tried to make sense of his surroundings, but all he could make out was blurs of flames, smoke, and distant silhouettes darting around. He heard the shouts of his companions, yet they were so far away, so hopelessly out of reach…except one.

A struggling, faintly stirring form a short distance away…who…? Wes blinked, and his sight cleared just enough to make out a blue pelt.

“Shhhit,” he mumbled, his words slurring. Summoning an ounce of strength he didn’t know he had left, Wes managed to get his front legs under him just enough to drag himself forward. His leg and side immediately screamed in protest, feeling as though a thousand tiny hot knives were sizzling through his skin down to the bone. Blackness crept in at the edges of his vision, and Wes managed one more forward pull before his body gave out once again. Closer, yet still so far away.

A strange emotion stirred dully within him. We’re going to die here. Normally, the thought would fill him with panic, but the fear he’d felt was now so distant, replaced by pain and the smell and taste of blood. Dying here…didn’t mean real death. He’d be back with Neo and Novo. And Rui. He’d be fine. But the kid…an idiot and a stupid, snarky punk though he was, he didn’t deserve to see any of this. To experience any of this.

Wes stretched out a paw. “Kid…Koa.” He coughed, the smoke stinging his throat and lungs and making his head spin. “Get up. Go. Run.”

He couldn’t even be sure that Koa heard him. (Was he even conscious?) Stubborn fear and anger urged him to pull himself forward just one more time; Wes pushed himself upright with shaking legs, his entire body throbbing in rhythm with his racing heart, eyesight failing…but he just needed to get a little further, a little more, just a little—

A fresh, icy stab of agony surged from his leg all the way up his spine and into his skull. A breathless cry escaped him as he collapsed. His head lightly bounced off the ground and before he could do anything else, Wes succumbed to oblivion, blackness swallowing his senses.
Ridley went down like a ragdoll as the Beast's claws tore effortlessly into him, shredding cloth and flesh to ribbons.

For half a heartbeat, just long enough for him to feel stupidly, pathetically relieved - oh, that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be - he didn't feel anything at all.

And then his brain caught up with the rest of his body and the pain hit him like a force of nature, intense and all-consuming, obliterating everything in its wake. Ridley didn't fall down so much as the planet itself shifted in its orbit, lifting itself up to punch into his body like the fist of a God who hated him personally.

Ridley might have blacked out. He wasn't sure, couldn't tell; he was losing sense of continuity, the world narrowing down around him to a black and orange blur.

He struggled to reorient himself, to drag the world back into focus. The dark of the night, the bright orange of the fire. The small dark lumps of his teammates' bodies. The dry grass roaring into life as the fire spread.

(Where was Andre? Had he escaped? Ridley hoped at least one of them had managed to make it out of here.)

He felt wet. There was a moment where he was awfully, humiliatingly certain that he'd pissed himself, before the reality of the situation drifted in around the pain.



I'm bleeding.

Despite the pain and the prospect of imminent death, it turned out that some small corner of his stupid mimikyu brain had enough spare energy to waste a thought worrying about whether his disguise would stain.


The idea of death in this new world hadn't frightened him. Die, and what? Wake up again in his original world and return to his everyday life, consequence-free. As a threat it was about as meaningful as a GAME OVER screen. Sure, he'd lose all memory of his time in this world, but what did that matter?

It mattered. More than the pain, more than the fear, those memories and experiences mattered. If Ridley died here, then regardless of where he woke up tomorrow this version of Ridley, the one thinking and feeling right now, would die for real.

Ridley tried to move. Stupid. He'd been in so much pain he hadn't thought any more could possibly exist, but he'd been so, so wrong. He might have screamed if the renewed shock of the pain hadn't already knocked all breath out of him in a voiceless gasp.

There had to be something left in him, anything he could do -

Ridley ușɇd̸̢͕̳̖̘͓̩̙͆̌̿̓̌̚
R̨̨̛̜̫̳͔̹̥̹̓̉̆̆̕ï̼̩̻͙̻̺͎̎̌̏̃̑̈́͋͘͜͡d̢̧̮̠̗̟͙͇͐́̑̍̐͜͟l̼̦͈͈̳̞͓̼̃͌̓̇̇̑͐͡è̛͖̥̭̘͕̇̓̎͗́̂͜͡ÿ̵̰̹̣̺̯̥́͆̓̽͜͡-̶̼̰̻͔̼̮̰̣͌͋͆͛͆͂͡ -
It failed!

He didn't want to die here.
The wagon exploded. It basically exploded, showering Andre with heat and splinters and singeing his fur. Hot, too hot! He leapt back and found momentary respite, but the patches of grass on fire around the wagon didn't spell anything good. And the meowth -- he'd seen the flames get her. And now she manifested some rocks and threw them - okay, she's still okay enough to use moves, at least that was good.

Moves. Right. Fighting. He should fight. But he only knew how to tackle, and that was probably worthless even if he did somehow spot the hiding assailant. And the screams he'd heard before the explosion... it didn't sound like hand-to-hand -- paw-to-paw -- fucking whatever, not relevant now -- combat had gone well for any of them.

Run, said another thought. Get the fuck out of here. Save yourself. And as much as it wrenched his gut, he couldn't argue. Survival instincts had shut up the voice in his head that told him to be moral. He turned around and stumbled into a run, nothing ahead of him but nighttime desert. There was no shelter. There was nowhere to be safe. But anywhere was better than here.
First one dog, then another, then another, then the thing in the costume... All went down with ease. The cat was weak...

But the deer was fleeing.

The beast tripped Jade with its tail as it raced past her, scrambling on all fours to reach Andre before he could get away. It wouldn't let him get away. It would attack him. Fell him. Defeat him. Be stronger. Win.

The ground ahead lit up in the fire-glow of the Charmeleon's attack. First Andre saw the light, then heard the scrabble-scratch of its claws, then felt the heat of its flames.

Fire Fang. It's super-effective.

It went for Andre's leg first, and he toppled to the ground, his head impacting the road with a gross thunk. There was a sensation in his leg, mostly proprioceptive rather than painful, with all the dread of future pain that came with it. He was dragged back with a lurch and then the pain hit, lurching with him.

Please, Andre. Please hang on. I can almost...

Behind him, the creature rose up on its hind legs again, and this time, Andre could see it.

The creature's aura. A swirling darkness, pouring off of it like purple smoke. It all but hurt to look at, the wrongness of it, like the soul was rotting in the body, putrid and hateful.

Please. So close...
The ground ahead lit up in the fire-glow of the Charmeleon's attack. First Andre saw the light, then heard the scrabble-scratch of its claws, then felt the heat of its flames.
Oh Gods. Oh Gods, oh Gods, oh Gods, it was after him. His fucking fault for running and tripping what must have been some predatory instinct to go after fleeing prey. Andre tried running faster, but he was already running as fast as he could. The limits of his body infuriated him.

It went for Andre's leg first, and he toppled to the ground, his head impacting the road with a gross thunk. There was a sensation in his leg, mostly proprioceptive rather than painful, with all the dread of future pain that came with it. He was dragged back with a lurch and then the pain hit, lurching with him.
Stars fizzled in his vision as his head met the ground. Something touched his leg. It got him. It got him. It pulled back and he felt it - flames searing his flesh. The sheer magnitude of the pain sucker punched him, and he screamed. He could barely, just barely realize that the Voice was saying something.

Please, Andre. Please hang on. I can almost...
Help! Andre thought, desperate. Help me!

Behind him, the creature rose up on its hind legs again, and this time, Andre could see it.

The creature's aura. A swirling darkness, pouring off of it like purple smoke. It all but hurt to look at, the wrongness of it, like the soul was rotting in the body, putrid and hateful.
What the fuck. How hard had he hit his head? This sensation didn't feel normal. It wasn't something you sensed with your eyes. It was too visceral. It was --

Please. So close...
Your words aren't fucking helping - do something! spawned a sentence in Andre's thoughts before he could stop it. I'm sorry, he thought right after. As if politeness matters now, said another thought. I'm gonna fucking die here, said another. What's going to happen to me?
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