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Frontier Town Founder's Square

Andre shook his head. "Oh, no, no. The raid went well for us. What happened is that... I remembered something from my life back home. Something that was hazy up until now. I wasn't even sure if it was something real or just a dream before, but now I'm certain it happened."

He took a deep breath. "Before I was summoned to Forlas, there was this guy I met. Spent a bunch of time with as well. He was, uh..."

Normally, he avoided this expression. It always reminded him that that's what he was when you stripped everything of its context.

"A serial killer," he said. "Like, a real one. A sadistic, cold-blooded killer who tortured his victims and... cannibalized them. Worshipped some sort of demonic god as well. Claimed that the god was telling him to do these things. I'm pretty sure he's schizophrenic, but I'm not sure how much that takes away his culpability. He seemed pretty lucid otherwise. But then again, I've never met anyone else schizophrenic - I mostly only have movies and TV to go off of, and I know those can be blatantly wrong..."

He shook his head and returned to the point. "The reason I know all this is because he told me. He thought we were... kindred spirits of sorts. I don't know why." There was a very clear reason why, but he'd be caught dead before he told anyone. "Either way, I can't go to the cops because he performed some kind of freaking blood magic spell on me that forces me to only speak the truth, and I... have some things I need to keep secret that would come up and ruin me..." How selfish. Tell him it's not just you. "And have pretty bad consequences for other people, too." It was technically true. If he was arrested, he couldn't keep cleaning up the community, and more people would fall victim to abusers. "Anyway, he's been forcing me to spend some time with him. It hasn't been all bad, I suppose - I've been learning about the ancient texts he's found and attributed to a Bronze Age kingdom his god supposedly led - but... I don't exactly feel safe around him."

He sighed. "I do have some kind of plan for him. I've convinced him to seek psychiatric help, and he's been opening up to the idea that his delusions really are delusions. He's started to take antipsychotics, even. But there's nothing saying that he'll really start to feel... guilty about what he's done or anything. Still, I really would like to see him behind bars, or in an asylum, whatever works, and the only way it seems like that'll happen is if he confesses his crimes himself."

Andre realized how long he'd been talking. "Sorry, I should get to the point. The point is that... I'd like to hear if you have any kind of advice on how to handle the fact that the life you'll be going back to is... less than nice. Not that I enjoy reminding you about it."
Nova blinked once. Twice. So this was what he'd been like to everyone else. Ouch.

Though the question at the end was... much broader and only tangentially related to everything that came before it. And was one he'd been ignoring.

"That's..." Nova's talons curled. "If you ask other Wayfarers, they'd tell you I'm not doing a good job of that. Because I can't stop rambling about what's waiting for me back home. So, I dunno if it's the best advice, but I'd try not to think about it. It'll just fuel your shadows."
"Mmm." That wasn't the answer Andre had been hoping for, but it was one that made a lot of sense in retrospect. "Well, I guess I might as well share some of my attempted coping mechanisms. I've been... trying to tell myself that things will be alright. Not in that bad things won't happen, but that if they do happen, I'll survive. And if I don't survive... that's okay, too. I believe death is just nothing. If it's nothing, it can't be painful." Andre's voice began breaking at the end.

"Of course, it isn't easy to accept these things. Back home, I was young. I had many, many things I still wanted to do. I thought I had time for it all. I thought I had time with my loved ones. I..." He sniffed. His throat felt tight, and emerging tears pricked his eyes. "I didn't think I would have to face these things yet. And I thought that, when it was time, I would be more ready. That I would have lived long enough to go, 'That's alright, I've had my share'. Maybe that's naive, I don't know. I mean, you've lived for a very long time, and I don't expect you to think that. Yeah, it's pretty stupid when I think about it now..." His face scrunched up in inner pain, and the tears leaked from his eyes. "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm losing my composure. And this went in a more morbid direction than I planned... not really comforting."

He shook his head. "But it could also be that trying to think of the worst case scenario and accept that isn't the right way to go about things. Human beings -- sapient beings need to feel like they're going to be safe. If accepting hardship or death was easy, everyone would do it and no one would be worried."

He sighed. "Gods, this might have been a mistake. You didn't exactly sign up for a vent, and I'm making a scene..." He chuckled suddenly. "Well, maybe for a grass type like me, it's good that I'm watering myself."

He closed his eyes briefly and gathered himself. "Thanks for listening anyway," he said. "And... I'm sorry for throwing this on you. I've just never had to deal with this level of dread before. It's overwhelming me a bit. I'd talk to a therapist, but I don't think therapy has been invented yet."
"There's a coroner's office here," Nova said. "Maybe the doc does mental health, too."

He wasn't sure why he defaulted to that as his response at first. Then he realized how similar it was to his ramblings and how uncertain the people he'd talked to were. Surely, there was something else he could say.

"Betel brought you here... for a reason." Nova was trying to pick and choose his words carefully. "It's just a guess... but maybe, deep down, you already know exactly what you're going to do back home."

He looked skyward. "But coming here and facing down threats as a deerling... has forced you to confront the reality of what's waiting back home. So, now you're afraid of that choice. Or maybe just choosing in general."
"I mean... I guess I know what I'm gonna do, as I have been in that situation for a while already, but I just dread whether or not it's going to work out," Andre said. "I don't think I'd choose to stay here instead of going back in any case, either. I still have a chance of making things right, so it's my duty to try. I need to get that guy locked up, and I need to get him to confess. His victims' families deserve the truth. Closure, even if knowing your family member died in agony and fear will be painful."

He breathed in deeply and lowered his head. "I guess that motivation is something to lean on. I have always had a very strong sense of morality. It's... part of why I'm worried about using Radiance, honestly. I'm not sure if I'd be able to stop myself." He looked at Nova from underneath his brows. "Have you had moments like that yet? Losing control to either of the new types?"
"Came real close fighting Seth," Nova admitted. "There was this... eruption of shadow that got the lot of us. One lost control. The rest of us hung tough. And in Terminal Two, I broke the shadow machine and flooded the room." His head crest drooped. "Would've made everyone lose it if Jade didn't find controls for a drain.

"I think that's the big thing here. We're a team, aren't we?" He held up a foreleg. His gold talons glowed faintly pink with a bit of psychic energy. "If you don't go running off on your own, someone can always be around to keep you grounded. Stop you from losing control."
Andre nodded. "Yeah... that's true. I just hope it won't ever get to a point where I start... attacking teammates. I hear that happened to a Wayfarer once already." He smiled and huff. "Well, I guess it's a good thing I'm no good at fighting, then. I'd be easy to subdue."
Nova tilted his head, looking concerned. "But consider the reverse. What if one of us ends up needing your help to regain control? Whether you like it or not, you might need to make an effort to get stronger." His cheek bolts turned once in their sockets. "Is there anyone on the team you're close with? Training's better with a buddy."
Andre nodded, more subtly this time. "I have been training by myself, but that's really only helpful in practicing your aim and drawing elemental energy from yourself. I don't have much in terms of reflex or strategy practice, though I did train once with Kimiko. But in terms of who I'm close with..." He paused to think. "I'm not terribly close with any of the Wayfarers," he said, "but of the people I've spoken to the most... I think it's... you, actually. But..." His ears folded back as he gave a shy look. "If you still have that 'can't attack' thing, I guess there's not much sparring we'd be able to do."

He restored his posture. "Actually, I guess there's someone else - Mhynt. And she seems very experienced in battling. No doubt she's trained people once or twice. I think I could approach her about that."
"Well, I can attack you. It just won't hurt," Nova said. "Which could be ideal for training if you're that worried. Thing is, if you hit me... you'll hurt yourself twice as much." Which was what seemed to happen down in the lab. "Mhynt's a good option, though. Probably patient enough, too."
"Yeah. I'll ask her the next time I see her." Andre smiled. "Thanks for the talk. I think I feel a little better."

He took a few steps back. "I think it's time I let you get back to your house-hunting now, though. I hope you find a good place for our new friend." He extended a vine to wave as he began walking off. "See you around!"
"See ya around." Nova waved back to him with a foreleg before returning to the signs.

A part of Nova wondered if he should've pressed more on the specifics. But it clearly sounded like he was dealing with a lot back home. Maybe he could've offered better advice, but Nova opted for what was true to the moment.

It wasn't perfect, but none of the Wayfarers were. That was fine though. Teammates could cover for each other, right?

[Ch05] "I saw him vent in admin!"
Nova was on his way back from the orchard with promises of a cabin that he and Ark could borrow.

... Okay, technically they'd be squatting in it. But apparently the owner had been gone for a while. Worst case scenario, they'd find a corpse or a skeleton in there or something. Not a huge deal.

But he needed to find someone to guide him since he'd so foolishly ruined his map. That was what Nova got for mishandling a blast seed. He sighed and shook his head.

A glint of light in the corner of his eye drew his attention left, toward a street branching out from town square. He squinted, then realized it was just sunlight glinting off another full's metal beak. Nova wondered if he should say hi to Gladion.


The beak was gold. And the tail of that full was turquoise.

Nova headed for the left street. The other full had patches of white fur on its belly and golden forelegs just like his.

Something was wrong. Very wrong. Nova picked up the pace. Hadn't someone described running into a doppelganger before? Think, Nova!

... Notva spotted him. Their crest fanned out in alarm and they broke into a run in the other direction.

"Shit..." Nova tucked his head down and sprinted forward. "Hey! Stop!" he cried. "Somebody stop them!"

But the few townsfolk he passed only offered confused stares. Of all the times for the bystander effect to kick in, why now?

Though Nova tried his best, he couldn't catch up to Notva. He staggered to a stop, hunching over to catch his breath. "Damn... it..."

Nova looked down at the tracks left behind. He quickly rummaged through his bag and grabbed a scrap of paper and a small pen. He carefully traced Notva's small tracks, then stuffed the paper in his bag. Nova turned with a huff and marched back toward town.

He couldn't let this get him down. He needed to be in good spirits for Ark's sake. And, really, compared with Alexander and the Covenant, one niggling imposter seemed like small potatoes.

But boy did he hope those small potatoes wouldn't become the side dish to an annoying entree.

[Ch05] ~ Rematch with the Samurai
The return of the samurai to Frontier Town had been marked by word of a barfight breaking out in the Sidewinder Saloon, the collection of a bounty on notorious highway 'mon Scyther "Cold Blooded" Mae, and at last – their reappearance in Founder's Square, where they were once again using the fountain to bathe in.

Naturally, the first pair of Wayfarers to happen by stopped to get their attention. After a round of pleasantries, Laura and Jade entered into actual conversation with the travellers from Tsainan.

"So, you lot have stuck around, eh?" said Bisharp Kotetsu, smirking to himself. "We heard some odd rumours while we were away. How much is true, and how much is... what is your eastern word? Ah – how much is bullshit?"
Jade sat on the edge of the fountain, idly swishing her feet in the water. She wouldn’t have done that normally but it seemed fine given the context.

“Well, uh, I dunno what the rumors are saying. I guess we sorta did beat a bunch of demons.” It felt weird to say it so bluntly, but it was true and it felt good to say it. They’d taken on the heart of the shadows and won.
"Oho? How marvellous!" rumbled the Bisharp, applauding lightly. "We encountered a few of those ourselves, if I am not mistaken."

Laura frowned, ears flicking doubtfully. She joined Jade in dipping her hindpaws while the water was warm, and decided to relax.

"Demons, as in Shadow pokémon?"

Kotetsu nodded, and scoffed lightly. "Enjoyable opponents, if feral beyond reason."

Kyoko confirmed with a more serious glance that they'd fought exactly what Kotetsu suggested.

"However," continued Kotetsu, his deep voice booming, "in our travels we have yet to find opponents as entertaining as you 'Wayfarers', ha! I have been looking forward to our return westward, and to encounter you again!"

He levelled a gauntleted hand at the pair of Meowth at the fountainside.

"Do you thirst for battle as I do?" he demanded.

Laura started to shrug, then froze, as her heart started up at the thought of battle. It wasn't the same as a League match, but still...

"Maybe," she said, hesitantly. "We'd need even numbers, right?"
"Perhaps you can tell us about those demons you fought later," Mhynt said. "I'm here so I can get... lively again. I have a mission soon to investigate another demonic location, so to speak... and I don't want to be caught rusty in such a place."
Jade shrugged, pulling her feet from the water and standing up. “I guess I wouldn’t mind a battle. There’s some stuff I really oughta practice.” Even if they’d cleared out Terminal Two, Jade knew better than to expect that to be the end of their troubles.
Silver walked through the crowd, lost in thought as he got through recent events for what might be the umpteenth time that day. It had become far too easy to brood lately, he noticed, and he wanted to break out of that habit as soon as he could. But how?

In one of his fleeting and unfocused glances around, he noticed the small crowd by the fountain, and he overheard some discussion about demons. He quirked a brow — did those big guys deal with Shadows, too?

"Do you thirst for battle as I do?" he demanded.

Ah, those magical words! An excited smirk screeched across Silver’s face as he felt his fighting instincts going wild. Those guys seemed tough, and he always enjoyed showing who was the toughest guy around.

“Hey! Looking for someone to fight?” Defiant as usual, Silver stepped toward the group of samurai and shot a smug stare, the fire burning in his eyes. “Then you’ve just found yourselves another opponent! Show us what y’all got!”
"Then we shall do battle," declared Kotetsu, hauling himself upright, swaying a little. It appeared he might be inebriated...

"When the boss says jump, I jump," sighed Ibuki, reluctantly clambering out of his self-made hot springs.

Kyoko nodded solemnly, and put aside her shaving kit to stand with her fellows.

Something caught Kotetsu's eye, and he smirked again. "Four against four," declared the Bisharp, with a steel-scraping laugh.


But battle was about to begin.

Kotetsu used Strong Style Iron Defense! +2 Def!
Kotetsu Focused...

Ibuki used Strong Style Bulk Up! +1 Atk, +1 Def!
Ibuki Focused...

Kyoko used Strong Style Swords Dance! +2 Atk!
Kyoko Focused...

It seems there is another fighter present...
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