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Frontier Town Frontier Town Outskirts

"Well, we just gotta remember that it's temporary, right? It's not like we'll be here forever. We'll see them again. So until then, while we're here we might as well make the most of it and keep trying our best, yeah?"

Silver kept staring at Kimiko, his head tilting ever so lightly and his ears flicking, fully assimilating her words. They were really comforting to hear, and he had the feeling that both needed to hear those same words. Besides, she was right. Their tale in Forlas was nothing more than a single chapter of their entire lives. Something with a start and an ending, and it was up to them to reach such ending.

With a much lighter heart, Silver nodded in agreement, and a warm smile of appreciation appeared on his face. “Yeah… Indeed! That’s what we gotta do.”

Then, a familiar fire pulsated in his eyes and chest. His gaze sharpened and his smile turned into his trademark determined smirk. “We’re gonna become stronger! And we’re gonna figure out how to help this world! Whatever challenge awaits us, we’re gonna face it — together, as a team!”

He pumped his fists, his ego brimming with a burst of confidence, before wincing and wrapping himself in his poncho. “By the gods! It’s definitely getting much colder now! How ‘bout going somewhere to drink something and warm ourselves up?”
Kimiko nodded in reply, feeling far more invigorated and hopeful than she had when she'd come here.

She'd been so engrossed in the conversation that she hadn't even been aware how cold it had gotten. But now that Silver mentioned it, she was indeed starting to shiver - this new body didn't mind the desert heat as much, but gods, the temperature sure dropped when it got dark!

"Sounds like a plan! Why don't I show you the Sun Stone? Drinks on me."

[Ch03] A Risky Venture
Wes’s instincts screamed at him with every step he took out from the lights of the town, and not just because his side ached from the movement. Thanks to Drungfield, the worst of his injuries had already healed to bruises, but they were persistent nonetheless, and liked to remind him of their existence every time he so much as twitched.

Still not as bad as the aftermath from that damn Charmeleon, he told himself. As if that made things better. As if that somehow justified his idiotic decision to wander to the outskirts of town, at night, with only one other person to accompany him as back-up. As if that changed the fact that they’d only just been attacked by a Shadow the night before.

Still, Wes was determined not to let fear stop him. He needed answers; Steven’s question from earlier nagged at his mind. Have we ever tried to contact the Shadow Voice? No, not really. And the sooner they could test this theory, the better.

He came to a stop right at the edge of the town boundary and glanced at Archie. While Wes would have preferred more than one person to accompany him for security, he appreciated that at least his one companion turned out to be the Oshawott. The others were either too battered, too busy with other concerns, or too timid (or simply not as stupid as Wes was) to venture out of town at night. But Archie was undaunted, and Wes was grateful for his company.

Clearing his throat, Wes stepped forward and looked to the starry sky—not that it mattered, but it seemed the best place to look when reaching out to Bee. “Betel, are you there?”
Nighttime always put him on edge. Ever since he’d first arrived in his previous world, the darkness had a tendency to unnerve him. Sometimes he was able to ignore it, especially when he was traveling with others. In town the lights shining from the windows of the buildings open to the Noctowls among them, and the occasional passerby on the streets, also went a long way towards reassuring the Oshawott that all was well. Now, though, so soon after the run in with the Drapion, not even Wes’s presence was enough to fully calm Archie.

Still, he tried his best to keep his breathing steady and even, his pace measured, his expression calm. It helped that, if he failed any of those, he was likely to bring the ache back to his head and chest injuries. He also didn’t want to give the Rockruff reason to worry. This was just going to be a simple task, they were heading just out of town, in the direction of Silver Ravine, to get a good connection to Betel through the Dungeon Sapling they’d planted near the dungeon’s entrance. They weren’t going far, it wouldn’t take long, and even in their injured state they should be more than capable of scaring off any feral Pokemon that might be wandering too close to town.

Still, he kept close to Wes as they walked, his head on a swivel, his ears flicking this way and that. Only once they came to a stop did Archie look the Rockruff’s way again, giving him his best reassuring smile when he caught Wes looking towards him, in turn. Contacting the voice was not something he’d even done by himself, or on his own initiative, so he was reliant on Wes to hopefully know what to do.

“Is this a good spot, or do we need to get closer to the sapling?” The Osahwott asked, not sure if he should expect an answer from Wes, Betel, or both.
Something both humans-turned-'mon might notice about the sky overhead once they got far enough out of town was that the relative lack of light pollution made it brim with stars. One might imagine that if they found a peak high enough, they could step off it, onto a road of shining particles of light.

You are within range of the Silver Ravine anchor! Hello, Wes and Archie!
Have you come to talk to me?

Be careful, many wild predators are more active at night!
Most of the late-evening sounds in the scrubland east of town were of insect stridulations, or the occasional owl-call. But every so often, pricked ears might catch an unidentifiable rustle or crack, from past this or that ridge, unseen.
Wes let out a breath of relief. Even though Betel wasn’t there physically, it was comforting to have another presence with them. He kept his gaze skyward, admiring the many stars overhead, and suddenly wondered about the constellations in this world…perhaps he could research those later.

“Don’t worry, we won’t be here long,” he said, repressing a shudder at their warning. “We just…had some questions to ask you. I know you’ve said you don’t know much about other Voice entities, but, well…do you think that with the connection we’ve established with you, there’s a chance we could contact this other Shadow-like voice? Maybe even with your help, uh…somehow?”

Oh, sands, this was such a reach. Suddenly he felt very stupid for wandering from the safety of town all on a shaky hunch. Wes looked to Archie in hopes that maybe he would have a better approach.
He couldn’t help but share in Wes’s relief. He was really glad they didn’t have to go farther than this. Even as it was, the occasional sounds in the distance were making his hackles raise. He couldn’t stop glancing around from time to time, half expecting to catch the glow off some new monster’s eyes. Still, Wes needed him to focus, so he tried to keep his mind on the conversation.

“It talked to us in our dreams, same as you, and seems to know things about us being summoned and what it could do to the world,” Archie reasoned, “So, it seems possible it’s another being like you, and if we can reach out to you, it seems like we should be able to reach out to this other voice, too?”

It sounded reasonable enough to him, based on the information they already know. But, admittedly, what they knew was awful little. Still, it was Betel, the Oshawott figured the worst that would happen would be that they wouldn’t have any idea how to help. The Cloud didn’t exactly seem the jealous type.
...I really do not know if such a thing is possible.
Or advisable...
My connection to you is possible because I summoned you. Your messages from this other entity seem to come only after exposure to Shadow. I cannot say if a connection is possible otherwise.

...I am willing to try, however. The 'Shadow voice' is an unknown factor I too would like to know more about, if at all possible.

...One moment...

There was a pause, and a faint susurration of thought and memory in Wes and Archie's minds as Betel made their attempt at reaching out through whatever telepathy-like medium they used. There was a faint pressure of some kind, as if their auras could feel the ripples of Betel's call. Their presence was much stronger near the 'anchor' point than anywhere else, it seemed.

Despite this, there was no immediate reply. Just the sounds of the night...

...There is something. It is hard to identify...
A sharp schnnck sound cut through the insects' chirping, from somewhere to the two Wayfarers' right, past a thicket of bushes and trees.
Wes nodded. “Thank you for trying. At first I thought these were just hallucinations of some kind, but…after hearing everyone else’s experience, it seems too intentional to be random. There has to be someone—or something—behind it.”

He waited while Bee attempted…whatever the hell it was they did, fur prickling at the unfamiliar sensations floating about him.

A sharp schnnck sound cut through the insects' chirping, from somewhere to the two Wayfarers' right, past a thicket of bushes and trees.
Instinct kicked in immediately. Wes snapped his head in the direction of the sound, hackles raised, tail bristling, head low. A guttural snarl rose from his throat. “Who’s there?” he snapped.
Well, Betel didn’t seem super into the idea, but, they were willing to at least give it a try. That was probably the best they could ask for, honestly. It was a strange, somewhat uncomfortable sort of feeling – though maybe that was just the lingering effects of his concussion talking – as the Cloud attempted to make contact with their mysterious second voice… And then a loud noise cut through the night from the nearby bushes, silencing the insects that had, until that moment, been buzzing merrily away.

Archie shifted around, stepping to half cover Wes with his body as he lifted an arm to further shield the Rockruff. At the same time, his legs tensed up, ready to bolt if necessary. The blue puppy was putting up his best threatening display, but depending on what it was hidden beyond that thicket, they might not have any other option but to run…

The Oshawott’s eyes scanned the nearby ground, eventually settling on a small rock, roughly the size of his fist. He picked it up in a paw, and then threw it into the brush in the direction the sound came from, hoping to flush whatever it was out in case it was planning to rush them.
The rock thwipped through the foliage, and made a solid clunk of stone-on-stone, at head-height, about a dozen yards or so away.

"Fuck!" swore the victim of Archie's projectile. "Sand, shit and splinters—"

Oh dear...

I do hope this does not initiate combat. You are in no fit state for battle.
Nevertheless, I am with you.

There was a rustling of leaves and a snapping of branches, and the pokémon hidden past the thicket stepped through the brush to approach his assailants – Wes and Archie. From the sound of his voice, he was male, and from his now-visible silhouette and his casual sweeping-aside of plantlife, he stood easily twice their height. What seemed at first like eyeshine from the light of the moon couldn't possibly be – and indeed, it turned out to be that this 'mon's eyes had a glow of their own, red and fierce.

"Who the hell are you?" growled the Lycanroc, paws tightening into fists.
Wes bristled even more, a feat he didn’t actually know was possible. He stepped in front of Archie, trying to look as menacing as possible. “I could ask you the same thing,” he growled, narrowing his eyes. “Were you spying on us?”

Then he got a closer look at the guy, and—oh, howling hells. Shit. This was—

Think. Think. Backpedal. Wes cleared his throat and tried a different approach. “Sorry for the, uh, rock.” Could it really have hurt that bad if this guy is a rock type? “We’re just a bit…jumpy, as we’ve had some less than pleasant encounters with wild mon lately. But we don’t mean any harm, promise.”

He took a moment to look this newcomer up and down; he was an evolved form of Wes’s own species, after all, and he couldn’t help being curious even if his heart was threatening to pound out of his chest. What was it Gladion had said this mon was? Lycanroc?

Wes still stood his ground, tensed and ready to fight (or run) or even kick sand in the guy’s face as a last resort (definitely just run, idiot). “Name’s Wes. This here is Archie.” He gestured to the Oshawott behind him with a jerk of his head, not removing his gaze from their visitor. “You?”
"My name wouldn't mean anything to you," grunted the Lycanroc, with a scoff. "This world knows me only as 'the Wolf', and that's fine by me."

His expression seemed to change, as if he was considering something, then his eyes narrowed again. "Whatever. Wild 'mon aren't likely to back off if you throw goddamn rocks at them, moron. 'Mean no harm', my ass. Scorching sands, you oughta leave well enough alone."

He crossed his arms over his chest, and cocked his head up, defensive.

"Thought you were spying on me. So go on, spill. The fuck are you here for?"
Wes blurted a retort before his reason could scream at him to shut up.

“Really? You thought we, the ones talking at full volume, were spying on you, the one hiding in the bushes? Dunno how many spies you’ve encountered, but they must have all been shit at their jobs if you think we’re anything close.”

Oh my gods, he’s going to eat us and it’ll be my fault.

He couldn’t argue with the guy’s point about throwing rocks, at least, but Wes wasn’t going to throw Archie under the bus, either. “Thanks for the tip about the rock,” he growled. “Looks like if you don’t want to get beamed in the head, you should avoid skulking around in the bushes at night. A simple ‘hello’ works wonders, you should try it sometime.”

Holy howling hells, stop running your mouth, idiot!

Wes swallowed, his throat suddenly very dry, and struggled to mask his fear. “And not that it matters to you, but we were out here trying to…contact a friend. Had some questions for them about some shady…feral ‘mon round these parts.” He placed emphasis on the word “feral,” hoping it wouldn’t trigger the Wolf’s defenses. Nolan thinks this guy is Shadow. Don’t show suspicion. Don’t show fear. “You know anything about that?”
The other Lycanroc's upper lip purled back, slowly, as his paws balled tighter, the growl in his chest returned, flecks of spittle escaped his teeth.

"Gods in a fuckin' goblet, you're just full of yourself, aren't ya. Why excuse me then, boss-man. Here's your godsdamn 'hello'! You happy with that, you little sand-in-my-ass prick?"

...Oh no.

That cannot be right...

The 'Wolf' tensed up, snapped his head to the side, and seemed to force down his anger. He looked around, red eyes narrowed, ears swivelling for any sound.

"Ugh, whatever. You probably don't know what the fuck you're doing, anyway. Who exactly were you meeting out here, under cover of night, to talk about fucking Shadow pokémon?"

...Wes. Archie.
He is Shadowed right now.
For a second, it almost sounded like Archie’s blind throw had hit a rock hidden in the brush. Only then the rock started swearing. To someone who’d worked with Bounty Hunters from time to time, Archie’s accidental victim was instantly recognizable. Were it not for his coat of fur, the Oshawott would have visibly paled. He’d seen this Pokemon’s wanted poster. Wanted, dead or alive, with a five thousand dollar reward – almost five times the amount Sonora and her gang were worth collectively, even with the mayor inflating the value of their bounties. There was something… Almost familiar about how The Wolf talked.

And Wes… Wes was not helping. He’d stepped around Archie, and, while it meant a lot to the Oshawott that the Rockruff was trying to protect him, Wes had an unfortunate tendency to… Put his foot in his mouth. Which was, at present on full display. So, the Oshawott shuffled out from behind the Rockruff, to stand beside him. He put his hat over his heart, and gave The Wolf a contrite bow.

“I’m really sorry! It was my fault,” he admitted, hoping to at least shift the Lycanroc’s ire off of the Rockruff, “I really did think there was a Wild Pokemon in the brush, and I wanted to flush it out before it tried to get the jump on us.”

Something The Wolf said caught the Oshawott’s ear. That ‘this world’ knew him by that name. That seemed like an odd choice of words, for a local. Was The Wolf like them, originally from another world? Was that a reach? Unfortunately he didn’t have much time to ponder that line of questioning, because the very next thing Betel told them sent a chuck of ice deep into the Oshawott’s heart. The Wolf was a Shadow Pokemon? One still in control of his faculties? Was it like he and Koa had theorized, then? Was it like the Drapion, where once they’d burned through its anger it was almost reasonable? If that was the case, then the last thing they wanted to do right now, was anger the Lycanroc!

He thought quickly, trying to decide his next course of action. If they tried to be evasive, or lied, it would almost certainly annoy The Wolf further. The whole truth, however, might not be entirely believable, especially if the Lycanroc was a native to this world – something Archie doubted, but couldn’t disprove. At the very least, he did seem to know a thing or two about Shadow Pokemon. That could mean any number of things, few of them good. So, the Oshawott took a deep breath, and did his best to choose his next words very carefully.

“We’ve never actually met them face to face,” he said, “They talk to us telepathically, but we can’t always hear them good, unless we head out towards Silver Ravine. Uh... Mr. Wolf, are you... Not from this world?”
Wes’s lip curled. Insufferable prick.

But then Bee spoke again, and their words sent a shiver down his spine. Shadow. Shadow. The guy certainly did seem a bit…unhinged. And in a very scary, very dangerous way.

Run, his instincts screamed. Just turn and run and hope you make it to the city in time.

But another instinct told him this was a terrible idea. Running would surely trigger a chase, and there was no way Wes or Archie could outpace this Wolf, even if they had been in better shape. So, fighting his quickly mounting terror, Wes stood his ground while Archie spoke.

Archie. Dammit. He’d been so caught up in the moment, so quick to mouth off to this obviously dangerous stranger, he hadn’t even thought about the consequences this would bring to his companion. You stupid, selfish moron. You can’t let him get ripped up on your behalf. Not again.

He cleared his throat again and tried to relax a little, to force away the visible signs of aggression. “You…yeah. Alright, you’re right. We are looking into Shadow Pokémon.” How did he know immediately this was about Shadows? “And no, we don’t know what we’re doing, not really. But we’re trying.” He gestured to Archie. “It’s like he said. We’ve got a…telepathic friend who might be able to help us get in touch with another telepath that’s been sending us cryptic messages about Shadows. Probably sounds like it’s a load of shit, but that’s the truth. Honest.”

Bee, any possibility you can somehow prove you exist to this guy?
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The Lycanroc glowered disparagingly at Archie as he took credit for the rock, and winced at 'Mr. Wolf'. But he listened – and he narrowed his eyes with a fierce curiosity as the two Wayfarers mentioned telepathic voices.

Well, I can certainly try to—
'Wolf' didn't wait for Betel, or maybe didn't even hear them.

"Cryptic messages. So you can hear him, too."

He looked at his clenched paw, still a tight fist, which somehow looked odd on a creature like him. Would a pokémon with claws like that really punch in a fight? He seemed deep in thought.

"If you don't know what you're doing, why don't you fuck off back to town and keep your noses out of this shit. Shadows are fucking dangerous, and the scumbags messing with that shit are not people you can fuck with. Even if you could mess with them, if you got in my way, I'd fuck you up myself."

He didn't even say it like a threat. More like a matter of fact. Cold, unsympathetic advice. Stay out of my way, or I'll hurt you.

The Lycanroc glanced at Archie. "And don't call me 'Mister Wolf', for fuck's sake – make me sound like a fucking storybook villain. Fine, fuck it. My name's Seth. Seth Lycas."
Okay, a name. They were getting somewhere. Also a threat to keep out of the wolf’s way, but, as long as they kept this Seth talking, they could continue defusing this situation. Apparently, the voice was also reaching out to the Lycanroc, which made sense, since it spoke to them after encounters with Shadow Pokemon – like Seth himself apparently was!

“Alright, Seth,” the Oshawott nodded, “Unfortunately, we can’t exactly keep our noses out of it, even if we wanted to. See, some of my friends, including Wes here, were attacked by a Shadow Pokemon on the road to Blaguarro the other day. That was when the voice first spoke to them. Then, when they came back, another Shadow Pokemon followed them here to Frontier Town, a Skorupi. It attacked us and nearly killed one of our friends. We don’t know how or why it came all the way here to Frontier Town from Blaguarro, but we’re worried that we might’ve been marked, somehow.”

He shot the Lycanroc an apologetic frown, raising a paw into the air and making a vague circular gesture. “We don’t want to underestimate the Shadow Pokemon, or the people behind them. So, maybe, if you could share some of what you know, we’d be better prepared in the future? Not that we plan on, uh, getting in your way, but just in case one comes after us again.”
"Cryptic messages. So you can hear him, too."
“Wh—him? You know who is sending those messages?”

Shadows are fucking dangerous, and the scumbags messing with that shit are not people you can fuck with. Even if you could mess with them, if you got in my way, I'd fuck you up myself."

Wes curled his lip again, but managed to hold back a growl. Gods, he hated this guy so much already. Shadow or not, he had a suspicion this guy was an asshole even on a good day.

“Like my friend said here,” he said tersely, “we don’t have the choice to stay out of it. Trust me, I’m not doing this crap as a hobby. But we’re being tracked down at this point, people are getting mauled in the middle of the night, and I know from personal experience that things like this—like Shadows—can’t just be ignored.”

He looked the guy up and down again with narrowed eyes. “You talk like you’re really familiar with these Shadows—with who’s behind this, even. Listen, I know we didn’t get off on the right foot, but if we worked together, maybe—”

The Lycanroc glanced at Archie. "And don't call me 'Mister Wolf', for fuck's sake – make me sound like a fucking storybook villain. Fine, fuck it. My name's Seth. Seth Lycas."


Wes’s heart dropped so fast his head spun. He stared, stupifed, at the Wolf—no, Seth; why did even his first name sound familiar—and scrambled to get his thoughts in order.

“You—how—where did you get that name from?” he said shakily. “Who…you’re not from Forlas. Where did you come from? Who are you?”
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