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Frontier Town Frontier Town Outskirts

Wes wished he could say he was surprised to hear how things played out, but he truly wasn’t. When Halcón was finished, he let out a bitter huff. “Well, knowing what I do about Ignatius, none of that surprises me in the least.”

He shook his head. “Ignatius isn’t mayor anymore, but I don’t know if I can promise the next guy will be any better. There’s…a chance that things can be worked out, depending on who takes over, but I won’t insult you by asking you to hold out hope for it.” He met the Luxio’s eyes, a steely resolve in his own. “But at this rate, I don’t care who solves this Shadow problem. The fact that anybody is doing anything about it at all is a breath of fresh air to me. While the Commonwealth have sat back and watched, your people have actually tried to do something. That’s more enough credibility for me.”
We have raised more than one Wandering Light, and sheltered the current Light in living memory.

From the first moments of Halcón's story, Kimiko felt like she understood the Esparca on a far deeper level than she'd expected to.

There were several specific points that caught Kimiko's attention; not the least of which being the reference to the current Wandering Light, one of the local legends. She swore that name was important to the Wayfarers... connected with their search for Radiance, if she had her stories straight. So the Escarpa had not only met a legend, but given it shelter. That in itself spoke volumes of both their skill and the respect they commanded, earning the trust of even living legends and having the power to aid them. Still, Kimiko wondered... what could be so threatening as to send a legend seeking shelter?

She eyed Wes briefly as she spoke; he'd brought up something that was on her mind, too. "I agree. We're all fighting the shadows regardless, and if that makes us Commonwealth enemies too, even that tells us something, doesn't it? And who knows, maybe you'll be able to work something out with Frontier's new leader. I think that'd be in everyone's best interests."
Halcón grew a faint smirk at Dave's comment – either from his crassness, or from the idea that the Escarpa needed the approval – nodded in acknowledgement to Wes, and rolled his eyes at Kimiko's repeated insistence that compromise could be reached with a new leader.

"Perhaps," he conceded, "but a leader is only a leader. The people and their ways remain."

He tossed his head, which shook out his mane.

"Very well. My partner and I will return to our scouting camp to give our report. Then, we shall head to the edge of Frontier Town to collect any of you who wish to speak with Sierra Escarpa and escort you to our main camp. Go now, and consider what you will tell her."
"Perhaps," he conceded, "but a leader is only a leader. The people and their ways remain."

Of course, she thought to herself. It wouldn't ever be that simple. But perhaps with someone with a different outlook leading the town, the citizens views would follow. After all, the residents of Frontier had accepted them, the off-worlders, easily enough. But she couldn't fault Halcón or Pyrrin or the rest of the clan for being skeptical. It probably wasn't helping their case to keep pushing it, either, if the luxio's reaction was any indication.

Apparently the invitation extended beyond just Jade and herself, however, which was... well, if not for the best - she eyed Dave again - at least maybe there would be someone better equipped to handle a diplomacy mission than her.

"Thank you," she said, with one final respectful bow towards both Halcón and Pyrrin. "For giving us this chance."

As the Escarpa headed off and the Wayfarers made their way back to town, Kimiko wondered who might be safe options to bring along. She... really didn't know as many of her teammates as well as she probably should have. Besides, it wasn't really up to her, after all, was it? Still she had to let people know that they'd secured a meeting, regardless.

Maybe Betel could pass along the message...
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Pyrrin snorted but nodded at Halcón. "Funny how that works," he said to the gathering of Wayfarers. It seemed that one of the houndoom's buttons were pressed but he turned and began to walk away.

"And unless you want to make fools of yourselves, I suggest leaving the puppies behind," he shouted back. "Not that I can refuse after Halcón has extended offer."

He didn't say anything else, walking off into the distance not even bothering to wait for Halcón, expecting the luxio to be following close behind.

[Ch03] ~ Finale ~ Dancing In the Moonlight
Lucien had asked the Wayfarers to investigate the activies and whereabouts of the 'Wolf', the Shadow Lycanroc outlaw who'd only recently scrapped with Wes and Archie when they'd wandered into him late one night.

Seth Lycas. Wes Lycas' doppelganger from another world. An abrasive, quick-tempered, and apparently criminally-inclined lone wolf. Last seen in the arid outskirts east of Frontier Town, and very defensive about whatever it was he'd been doing there.

It was the 28th of Winds, and it was a full moon. Ominous, you might say.

Please be careful, heroic spirits.

The influence of encountering so much Shadow energy recently has let it seep into all of you, and even myself. If you do not maintain your focus and control your emotional states, you may begin to display symptoms and behaviours like those of fully corrupted Shadow pokémon.

There is still so much we do not yet know...

...but I am confident that apprehending and learning everything we can from Lycanroc Seth is of great importance. We must press on.
The desert air was chillier at night. Nova didn't particularly mind, though. He originally had no intention of going around to find the Wolf. The null was really trying to distance himself from the town proper. Not because he wanted to be a loner or anything. He just... was growing more and more uncomfortable there. Maybe it was actually a sign of shadows beginning to fester deep inside?

Nova jostled his mask and continued heading forward. He stopped when Betel's voice rang out. So, others were getting close to him, then. Otherwise the message wouldn't have carried that clearly. And here Nova was hoping others would just... run into the Wolf and he'd just go over to them. It didn't sound like that was the case.
Steven wasn't entirely sure why he was out in the middle of the desert late at night, let alone why he was out here deliberately looking for a known Shadow. Scratch that, maybe it was good he was here, since it seemed like Shadows knew how to find him... Well, maybe not good, but useful, at least.

A minor blessing, the moon was out in full, painting the surrounding landscape in a pale light. Despite the darkness, it was actually easy to see. The faint red glow of Steven's eye swept back and forth as he kept watch for anything remotely Wolf-shaped in the distance.

Actually, he did know why he was here looking for the Wolf. Ever since Archie had shared that they all were at risk of being consumed by the shadows that infected the group, Steven couldn't put it out of his mind. There apparently was a way to keep the shadows at bay, but no way of learning how without asking a Shadow who was in control to teach them.

The Wolf was one of those Shadows. He was dangerous, but according to Archie, the he was also lucid; undisturbed by his shadow powers until provoked. Steven wanted to know how. No, he needed to know. So here he was.

Speaking of Archie, Steven relaxed his vigilance for a moment, glancing over towards the Oshawott. "Archie," he began, keeping his voice low, half for privacy, half out of respect for the desert night, "can I ask you something?"
Archie took a deep breath of the cool night air, held it for a moment, and then exhaled. He’d retraced his and Wes’s path from the night they encountered Seth. Some morbid part of him wondered, if the sun was shining brightly overhead, if he’d be able to find some trace splotch of his own blood from where the Lycanroc had kicked him. That was ridiculous, of course, and yet, here he was, scanning the ground, seeking out any discolored spec of dirt or sand that might be illuminated by the pale moonlight. He really hoped there wouldn’t be any cause for him to have to relive that experience this night.

Betel’s communique broke him from his thoughts, and the Oshawott briefly looked skyward, as if he could spot their guardian in the outline of the stars. He hated that this was how this info had to come out to some of them. It was his own fault. Maybe if he’d been more proactive in seeking people out. If he’d simply tried harder to find the words he had to say, and the courage he needed to say them. Well, it was another thing to add to his list of regrets. Right now he needed to focus. Eyes on the horizon, seeking out the glowing reds of The Wolf’s own eyes. He wondered if the Lycanroc would still be hanging around these parts after their chance encounter? Would he have left any clues behind as to where he was headed next?

Steven said:
“Archie, can I ask you something?"

“Hm?” The Oshawott grunted, his train of thought momentarily derailed. Ah well, felt more like he was spinning his wheels anyway. He glanced Steven’s way, and shot the Beldum a slight smile, “Yeah, of course. What’s up?”

Actually, come to think of it, it was a good thing Steven was a Beldum instead of a Metang. The way the Steel Type’s one red eye glowed in the darkness actually kind of reminded the Oshawott of Seth. Accidentally confusing one of their friends for their quarry wouldn’t exactly be an auspicious start ot the night!
Archie said said:
“Yeah, of course. What’s up?”
Archie's smile surprised Steven. It was gentle, if slightly pensive, and Steven found he almost didn't want to say what he was about to say. But he knew he couldn't leave it unsaid. Not after stewing over it night after night, not with what they were trying to do this night.

"I don't mean to ruin the mood but..." He glanced to the side for a moment before turning his unblinking gaze back to Archie. "Promise me, if it ever comes to it, if I ever lose myself to the shadows, you'll send me back to my own world."

Steven assumed Archie knew what that entailed.

"I don't want to end up like that, trapped here forever."
“It won’t come to that,” the Oshawott replied, too quickly. Then he hesitated, sucking in air through his teeth. He couldn’t just leave it at that. A hopeless platitude wasn’t going to give the Beldum the reassurance he needed. He hated even having to consider Steven’s request, but, maybe if it could give the Steel Type some peace of mind…

“If you lose yourself like that, and we can’t find a way to bring you back,” he said, slowly, scratching at the fur on the back of his head, “Alright. You have my word. I’ll see to it personally if I have to.”

Hopefully they’d never have to consider going through with it. Hopefully it would remain an unnecessary bit of insurance, only kept around for the Beldum’s peace of mind. Hopefully none of them would fall to the Shadow like that. The last thing any of them should have to consider were situations where they might need to turn on one another. Even just thinking about it sent a chill down his spine.
Steven's gaze softened, and he nodded. He hated to foist such a request on Archie, but after getting to know the Oshawott more, he felt like the right person to take this request seriously.

"Thank you," he said simply, before lapsing back into silence as he returned to scanning the desert.
Koa trailed along with the group, mainly trying to stick closer to Odette and Leaf and Archie and Steven, and really anyone who wasn't Wes. He was already deeply on edge and unnerved. Between Alex, and what he'd heard about the Escarpa, and everything else. The last thing he needed was Wes sticking his nose where it didn't belong, or trying to act high and mighty (and after he'd gone and gotten into a fight with this Wolf too).

Better to try and keep a level head. He had to. Although he couldn't help but worry about if everyone else here would be able to... Steven looked so anxious. And whose fault is that? Who corrupted them? Exposed them?

Pressing down the errant thoughts, Koa kept his spirits high and tried to focus. Focus on the mission. Scenting the air, scanning the earth and keeping his ears pricked for any sign of this 'Wolf' character.
Odette took a long, deep breath, savoring the still evening air for as long as she could. She knew, deep down, that it likely wasn’t going to be still for much longer. Surely Seth wasn’t too far away. Surely things were going to get ugly relatively fast once they—if they—found him, if what she’d heard about the past encounter with him was any indication.

She sent Wes a short glance, trying to briefly read him for any signs of apprehension. Not that it meant anything; he was here already and she didn’t imagine he was just going to bow out before anything happened. Though, she had to wonder what was going through his head, knowing they were basically up against his doppelgänger. What a small fucking multiverse.

She started to wonder if there were other doppelgängers of the group members in Forlas…

Shaking her head, Odette decided she was better off focusing on the task at hand. She felt like she really dropped the ball during the ending of that meeting with the stupid fucking houndoom, so she really had to make up for that here.

Jawile was already twitching in anticipation, and she felt the metal of her gun being pressed into her skin by her garter belt. She was already flipping the key to Jawile’s lock between her fingers as she scanned the horizon. She was ready. Or at least, she hoped she was ready.

“I guess this is the part where I say that if I start foaming at the mouth and going full darkness feral mode, please bash me over the head with the biggest rock you can find,” she said to nobody in particular.

Jawile twitched violently after that. Whether it was in agreement or protest, Odette couldn’t tell.
Why in the scorching hells they had all decided to come at night was beyond him.

And Betel’s message was hardly reassuring. He felt a tiny flare of panic—the hell did they mean, Shadow energy had “seeped” into all of them? Surely that couldn’t be right—Wes felt no different than before, and he hadn’t noticed anything off about his moves when he’d been training. Besides, getting hit with a Shadow move was definitely not how Shadows formed in his world. It wasn’t contagious. Perhaps Betel was just paranoid, wanting them all to be extra careful.

Well, at least they were in a large group this time. Wes felt a trickle of reassurance at seeing both Archie and Odette here—familiar faces, and ones he had fought alongside before. They all stood a better chance together, that was for sure.

There were also a few faces he was less familiar with. Steven was here, which puzzled him a little—could the little Beldum even fight? Wes hadn’t actually seen him ever fight, only get thoroughly mauled by that Skorupi. He recognized Nova some distance away, and figured that it would be helpful to have someone that was easily three times the size of everyone else, at least. He didn’t recognize the weird-looking Ponyta and couldn’t remember the white Vulpix’s name.

But he sure as hell recognized the kid. Koa.

Why are you here, dammit? It didn’t help that Wes also recognized Ridley, shuffling along close to the Electrike. Gods-dammit. Wes clenched his teeth and decided to ignore them—ignore them both. If Ridley decided to pull another stunt to get himself killed, Wes wasn’t about to help him this time. The weird Cleffa hadn’t been all that grateful last time, that was for damn sure. However, if he did something reckless that got the kid involved, like he did in the wagon…well, Wes might just feed him to Seth himself.

You can be reckless all you like. Just don’t do it at the expense of other people. Wes’s fur bristled at the thought. The wagon had been one thing—caught off guard with no time to prepare. But the Wolf…Seth…was different. They had to be more unified if they wanted to stand a chance.

And if I want to redeem myself. His humiliation from the first encounter with Seth still stung, along with his words, his sneers, his taunts and jabs. Wes dug his claws into the sand as he walked, barely repressing the growl that threatened to rise from his throat. This time. This time would be different.

This time, he would beat that bastard. Prove him wrong. And make him pay for his words.
Leaf couldn't remember the last time she'd been surrounded by so many intensely grim faces. Like, yeah, wasn't exactly a slumber party, even she wasn't dumb enough to think that, but there was a difference between being focused on a task and... whatever this was. It'd been like this since they'd set out: heads down, muttering to themselves or to each other but apparently too wrapped up in their own heads to introduce themselves or talk strategy or anything.

Best she could tell, a lot of this group had been attacked by shadows before, at some point or other. More than fair enough that they'd be nervous about a repeat, but somehow that didn't seem like all it was. Thinking hard about Beetle's warning, or... something else?

"We'll... call that plan B," Leaf said to the mawile, a little hesitant, not sure whether she was joking. "Maybe before it comes to that, though, we could consider a plan A? What's the best way to handle this guy so he doesn't kick all of us into next week?"
There was a faint non-sound of distress from Betel, as if they were telepathically wincing from the suggestion of mercy-kills.

Of course, you should all do everything you can to avoid that outcome.

And perhaps... any who succumb can be restored, somehow.

Remember, Prinplup Lucien only asked that the Wayfarers investigate Lycanroc Seth's activites. (Under cover of night so as to draw less attention, and avoid his notice.) He may have left some trace of what he was doing. If he were by chance encountered again, then—

Betel didn't get to finish what they were saying.

"Maybe before it comes to that, though, we could consider a plan A? What's the best way to handle this guy so he doesn't kick all of us into next week?"

The wind breathed. The thickets of river cane that flanked the path creaked. Stalks snapped.

Red eyes opened on the way ahead. What had looked like part of the silver-washed rocks and plants was actually the pale mane of a Midnight Lycanroc. He stood, turning his head towards the party, and clenched a fist.

He'd been waiting for them.

"No point making a plan you got no chance of pulling off," jeered Seth.

Darkness billowed like black sand falling against gravity from his paw.

"Figured you lot wouldn't fuckin' listen. That's fine by me – I got no problem kicking your teeth in if you won't keep your goddamn noses outta my business."

He grinned, like he was having fun, like he was a showboating trainer at an exhibition match.

"I don't even have to feel bad about it! I did warn you.
They were a loose collection of off-worlders, but, the numbers did give Archie some confidence. They were stronger together, they’d taken down some pretty dangerous Pokemon as a team before. They could do it again if it came to it…

And, as it turned out, it would come to it. Seth was still here. Had he been skulking around here for days? No matter, it was clear that this time around he wasn’t going to waste time on the pleasantries. Still, as the Oshawott drew his scalchop and summoned the blade of his Razor Shell, he couldn’t resist one last attempt.

“It doesn’t have to be this way Seth, we’re after the same goals, we should work together,” he called out to the Lycanroc. Then he readied his weapon, “But… If you won’t listen to reason, then we’ll just have to beat you into submission.”
The strange tone to the lycanroc's voice suggested simple reasoning wasn't going to get to him. He'd gone from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye. Which meant this Seth guy was just going to go on the attack. Even if they could purge the shadows from Seth, Nova guessed he'd be far from a ray of sunshine. Was this guy supposed to be an adult? Nova doubted it.

Archie had a decent, measured response to this. Maybe "beat into submission" was a bit much, but overall good. Nova figured he ought to help the oshawott set an example for the others. Showing their hearts through battle. That was how this could work, right?

He stepped to Archie's side. "Show me your real convictions then, kid," Nova said. For a brief moment, Seth might've caught a flash of turquoise in his normally gray eyes. "That your precious 'private business' is worth us keeping our noses out of." He crouched slightly. Namely to brace for an attack. Because, even if taking hits was all he was good for right now, he could still make something out of it. That was what Mewtwo was teaching him, right? To strengthen allies using bonds.

"Because we've made some promises that we intend to keep."
The sound of Seth’s voice instantly triggered a wave of rage that Wes wasn’t fully prepared for. Sure, he hated the guy, and sure, his words had been haunting him for days on end—but even Wes was surprised at how visceral of a reaction he was having. He bared his fangs, hackles rising, and glared at the Wolf, at his smug expression, at his cocky stance.

Wes despised him.

I am not you. I will never be you.

Archie was talking, already offering a peaceful resolution. No. Screw that. This was always going to result in violence, and Wes was ready to deliver. To make him hurt.

“If you’re so sure about your own strength,” he snarled, “then let’s see how you do against all of us. Time to put your money where your rotting mouth is, asshole.”
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