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Frontier Town Frontier Town Outskirts

Seth stared uneasily at Wes.

"Entei's ass crack, kid, what the hell's your problem?"

He looked around again, his ears flattening, increasingly on edge.

"I straight-up said I wasn't from this world up-front, dumbass. I'm from another fucking dimension. I'm from planet fucking Earth, kid – I'm the king of jack-shit, the lord of the wasteland."

A strange, angry grin crept over his lupine muzzle, as if he was getting into character. He spread his arms wide, gesturing to himself as if provoking his audience.

"I'm the guy that single-handedly took out the Snagger Gang. I'm the guy that's undefeated in every colosseum from the depths of the Under to the peak of Realgam Tower! I'm the guy carrying a bounty big enough to retire on, if anyone could ever collect!"

The Lycanroc's head twitched, and his fists shook.

"I'm Seth fucking Lycas, the Wolf of Orre, and I've been fighting Shadow pokémon since I was a godsdamn teenager. What the hell could you two whelps do that I couldn't?"
Archie glance between Seth and Wes, trying to figure out what had caused the Rockruff’s reaction. Clearly, the name was significant to the blue puppy somehow. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like he was going to have a chance to pursue that line of questioning, the Lycanroc was getting louder and more aggressive by the word, and the Oshawott was beginning to fear that if they didn’t do something very soon to distract him from his rant, and get him to settle at least a little, he was going to fly into a similar sort of mad rage as the Drapion. And they were so far away from anyone else Betel might call to, they might well be dead by the time help arrived.

“We can go places you can’t!” Archie blurted. Thinking quickly now, the words tumbling out one after the other, he continued, “You said it yourself, you’ve got a massive bounty on your head – I’ve seen your poster. Something like that’s bound to restrict your movements, right? It’s not like you can wander freely into Blaguarro or Frontier Town or the like. But it’s not the case for us. We can move around the settlements freely. That gives us access to sources and information that you would have a harder time getting to, right?”

He pointed at himself, “And, I’ve got an in with the Rangers. I know they’re investigating the Shadow Pokemon too. And everyone trusts them, so they get told everything. Even if you’re more knowledgeable than they are on the subject, you can’t be everywhere at once. Sightings, victims, disappearances, attacks, that sort of info would be worthwhile, wouldn’t it? We could help each other out.”
Wes glared at Seth as he spoke, not bothering to hide his disdain. This scum stain was making Nolan look like an agreeable old pal by comparis—

Snagger Gang.

Most of what Seth said next flew over Wes’s head, his brain stuck on that phrase. What other Snagger gang could there be…? But he certainly didn’t remember a Seth in the crew, and Wes was damn sure he’d remember someone so obnoxious and full of himself.

He started laughing.

Maybe it was to cope with the icy dread crawling all over his skin, screaming wrong, wrong, wrong. Maybe it was because Seth really was ridiculous. Or maybe Wes was just losing his gods-damned mind.


He met Seth’s eyes again between chuckles. “Bull. Scorching. Shit. There’s only one Snagging gang in Orre, under the gods-awful name of Snagem, and you aren’t on it. I would know.” He stepped forward against his better judgement, laughter dying into another growl. “Because I was there until a few months ago, until I blew it up, I was the best Snagger they ever had.”
Seth heard out Archie with an ever-stormier scowl on his face.

"There's nowhere I 'can't go'," he snarled, voice lower and more menacing than ever, bassy and thick with some hot and bitter emotion.

It seemed Seth didn't take well to being told what he was or wasn't capable of...

Then Wes' outburst caught his attention. Seth's face contorted in a messy cocktail of fury and confusion.

"Snagem? That's the cringiest fucking name I've ever heard. And, what, you're not Forlasan, you're Orrezonan? How the hell are you even here? did you fucking follow me?? And you're claiming to be the best snagger? That was me, asshole. Hell, you're taking fucking credit for my blowing up the Snagger Hideout? Motherfucker, I oughta—"

He froze mid-sentence. Then started to laugh. Howling laughter, like he could hardly breathe.

"You're not from my world!" he wheezed, eyes popping, clutching his gut. "You're from a different world! You're me. I'm you. We're both the fucking orphan kid who blew the hell outta HQ and took off on a piece-of-shit hoverbike with the only portable snag device in existence. Maybe the details vary, but holy shit – you even turned into a fucking Rockruff, too! Raikou's rocks, kid, no wonder you're an insufferable little snot. How old are you, seventeen? Eighteen? You got a pair of 'vees like I do, or what? You taking out Cipher's creeps yet, or are you still stuck sucking shit in Pyrite?"

He cackled again, like he couldn't control himself. Like it hurt.

"Suicune's slit, I can't believe this shit. Last thing I need is some knock-off of myself sticking his nose in my business."
Archie drew his Scalchop, and stepped more fully in front of Wes again. At this point, the Oshawott had fully lost control of this conversation. No, if anything, now he was the one making things worse. Worse, the Lycanroc seemed seconds away from going berserk. He set his expression to one of grim determination, doing the best to mask the growing terror. He glanced back at the Rockruff, taking the time while Seth ranted and raved to pass along a simple message.

“If he snaps, run and alert everyone. I’ll be right behind you.”

Maybe if Wes got enough of a headstart, Archie could break for Silver Ravine, and lose the Wolf in the dungeon’s twisting passageways? Or else find a place where the water was deep enough to impede the Lycanroc’s crossing. Hopefully if Seth did go nuts, it would impair his judgment and higher reasoning enough that the process wouldn’t be too dissimilar to evading a feral. It was a long shot, but it might just be their best chance for both Archie and Wes to escape with their lives…

Only, maybe it wasn’t going to come to that after all? Instead, the Lycanroc broke into a cackling fit, and- Oh. That, actually explained a whole lot. The Oshawott lowered his scalchop a little, looking between the Rockruff and the Lycanroc.

“That.. Makes sense, I think?” Archie said, more to Wes than Seth. “I know versions of Corey and Tarahn, who live in my world, and they both knew versions of me and one another, in theirs. So, you could both be the same guy, from different universes? It would explain why you’ve had such similar experiences to one another?”

Jury was out on if such a connection was a good or bad thing at this point, though. It was another potential in between them and the Wolf. On the other hand, Seth did somewhat seem like the type to go 'there can only be one.'
Eighteen? Eighteen??

“The hell are you—I’m in my twenties, moron!” Wes snapped, his heart pounding in his chest. What is happening, what is happening, what is—

The stars overhead were spinning. Wes planted his feet in the sand and hoped he didn’t look as stunned as he felt. Another…another me—? Wait, Cipher and Pyrite and a pair of vees?

“I—I have Neo and Novo.” Then, realizing that this guy likely didn’t name his mon the same, Wes stammered, “The vees, I mean. Espeon and Umbreon. Brothers. And I’m in…in Pyrite. Barely know what Cipher is, only just heard of it recently, and…”

He trailed off, unable to finish his thought or to stop staring at Seth. “Did you…never make it out of Orre?” he asked weakly.

He vaguely registered Archie talking beside him, putting the dots together and mentioning something about having experience with something like…this. Something told Wes this should be comforting to hear, but he didn’t seem to be registering much at all at the moment.
The uncomfortable laughter continued in a wheeze as Seth heard each Wayfarer respond. He seemed to find Archie putting himself in front of Wes particularly, painfully funny, shaking his head as if it were a joke.

"Oh, gods," he sputtered. "If you're in your twenties and only just encountering Cipher, you're late. Or Cipher's late. Who knows?"

“Did you…never make it out of Orre?”

"Make it out? Of Orre?" Seth doubled over again, wheezing. "No! No, I didn't! And good fucking luck ever getting out now, pal! Cipher's caught your scent, you're not on my level, you still have no idea what's going on... you're fucked."

The Lycanroc's grin grew manic, half-snarling, all teeth.

"This is so fucked up," he growled. "How the hell did you get here, 'Wes'? If you're me from a parallel world, but you don't know about Cipher, it doesn't make any godsdamn sense that you can even be here. So how? And what about your heroic little buddy over here?"

He eyed Archie with naked resentment.

"I can't believe that you're a version of me that's so weak that you need help."
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"If you're in your twenties and only just encountering Cipher, you're late. Or Cipher's late. Who knows?"
“What’s that supposed to—just because in your world—you don’t know anything!” Wes barked, trying and failing to hide his panic. “J-just because you failed to get out, doesn’t mean I will. I’m not about to get caught up in whatever the hell you did!”

He only wished he believed that. He’d had a horrible, sneaking suspicion that whatever was happening in Pyrite was far bigger than a simple local problem. But that was his story, Wes told himself hastily. His, not mine. Not mine, not mine, not mine—

"I can't believe that you're a version of me that's so weak that you need help."

Whatever Wes had planned to say next died in is throat. Suddenly, with this Lycanroc towering over both him and Archie, Wes felt so small. He was eight years old again, at death’s door and unable to push away the help being offered to him. He was ten, shaking hands clutching at the supply of yet to be used snag balls on his belt, wishing he could be anywhere else and drawing comfort from the steadying hand on his shoulder. He was thirteen, fifteen, seventeen and screaming Alden’s name—

You’ve always had help, a voice whispered, and that’s what has made you weak.

“N-no,” he rasped, more to himself than to anyone else, “That’s not—”

It wasn’t until that help was gone that you were able to break free. And now that you’re accepting it again, it’s tying you down. Restraining you. Keeping you caged.

He blinked, registering Archie’s form in front of him, and snapped at the Oshawott, fangs flashing. “I didn’t ask you to be my bodyguard, dammit! I don’t need your help! Or yours!” He turned on Seth, face twisting in rage. “If you don’t want our help, then why approach us in the first place? Go on, tell us more about how great you are, asshole!”
Different emotional reactions flickered across Seth's face – some almost remorseful, others angry or frightened or hateful – before settling on a dull, frustrated apathy.

"You're the dipshits that came snooping around where I was doing my business, and threw a fucking rock at me," he huffed. "I don't want your help. Help's just a way to get dependent on someone. Or give them rope to hang you with."

He snarled again, more at himself than at Wes or Archie.

"I was just gonna scare you off. But now I wanna know how the hell you even got to Forlas, and if it's gonna fuck up my plans."
Archie scowled up at the Lycanroc, gripping his Scalchop with both paws again even as said paws threatened to shake under the Shadow Pokemon’s glare. He had to hold firm here, he’d never forgive himself if something happened to his friend. He couldn’t lose another one.

“Just because you think you’re too good for friends-” he started, only to be cut off by the Rockruff. He took his eyes off Seth to look at Wes again, his determined look cracking. Instead, he looked lost, unsure, maybe a little scared. He lowered his scalchop again, and this time his ears and tail drooped with it.

“Wes I… That’s not… I didn’t mean to…” He broke eye contact, looking down at his feet. “I’m sorry.”

He stepped aside again. Maybe he had been taking things too far? Making the Rockruff feel smothered? He’d thought Wes would be a tough nut to crack, maybe he’d gotten too familiar too fast? Maybe he should give the blue puppy some space, for now? He turned his gaze back on the Lycanroc, his frown returning.

“Must be real lonely, feeling like you can’t trust anyone,” he said, “I don’t know what happened to make you feel that way, but… I’m sorry it happened. Really.”
"I don't want your help.
“Yeah, I think we caught all those subtle hints you’ve been dropping,” Wes spat.

Then Archie stepped back, and the hurt in his face was like an ice pick through Wes’s chest. Guilt snuffed out any annoyance he’d had toward the Oshawott, and Wes swore furiously under his breath. “No, don’t—I just—shit.” He growled at his paws, unable to look his friend in the eyes. “Don’t apologize. You did nothing wrong.”

He owed Archie a proper apology, but that would have to come later; for now, they had to figure out how to deal with the wolf-shaped asshole standing in from of them. Gods, he was so full of himself, so certain of his skills, so—

Hang on. Somehow, even through the whirlwind of panic and fear and anger, an idea surfaced in Wes’s mind. Whether or not it would work was anyone’s guess, but…to hell with it. This prick was impossible to work with, so they didn’t have many options anyway.

“You seem to think you’re more than capable of curing this whole world down to its roots all by yourself, do you?” Wes let his words drip with condescension. “Think you’re so smart that you can do more than entire squads? Hate to break it to you, but you’ve just been lucky so far. If you’re so great, so much better than us, then tell us about this genius plan if yours.”

His lip curled and he bared his fangs in a vicious sneer. “Unless you’ve actually got nothing and you’re just all bark and no bite.”
Seth's expression pulled into a snarl of naked hostility. Something about Archie's empathy seemed to wound him, but it was Wes' goading that the Lycanroc actually lashed out at.

"I've got all I need," he growled. "I've been fighting Shadows longer than anyone, and I've never needed allies. I just need you to tell me how the fuck you got to Forlas, and then you can fuck off back to town and sit tight while I clean house."

His eyes had already been red. But something had changed about them, now.

"Quit dodging the question. Spill."
Seth towered over them, looking like he was a hair’s breadth away from snapping entirely. Terror froze Wes in place as he stubbornly returned the wolf’s glare.

De-escalate. Now. Just gotta cooperate for a bit and maybe he’ll let us go.

I can’t let Archie get dragged into this.

Wes snapped, hoping he sounded more angry than afraid. “Don’t know why the hell you’re so interested in this, but the honest truth is…I’m not really sure. Heard a voice calling, and I think I answered it, and I ended up in some weird…astral plane or whatever. Thought it was a bizarre dream until whoever summoned me dropped me out of the sky near Blaguarro. They’re some telepathic or psychic entity, I don’t know, haven’t actually met them in person. But they brought us here somehow, and they’ve been communicating with me—with all of us—ever since.” He took a shaky step backward and covered it up with another bark. “Happy now? Why do you care so much, anyway, what’s it to you?”
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Seth's eyes glowed like hot coals for a few seconds as he burnt a hole in Wes's face, scouring the Rockruff's expression for any hint of deceit.

"So you were summoned," he growled, at last. "More than one at a time, and one of you is a ripoff of me. So that's what he meant. This is a bad fucking joke."

Seth's fists clenched even harder, and his muzzle creased into a frustrated, shaking fury until a wolfish howl ripped from his snapping jaws.

"Been getting warnings in my goddamn dreams, telling me about a bunch of clueless do-gooders who'd interfere with my job. Guessing that's you and the rest of your lot. Lucky for you, I'm a nice enough guy that I'll give you a warning first, instead of putting you in the ground right where you stand."

Seth's claws darkened as purplish Shadow energy bubbled up around his paw. He pointed two claws to his own eyes, then directly at Wes'.

"Don't fuck with me, little Lycas. If you get in my way, I'll erase you from the surface of the fucking earth."
“I ended up appearing in a bar here in Frontier Town,” Archie said, figuring backing up Wes’s story was his best option here. Seth was too erratic, it was impossible to get a good read on what kind of answers he wanted to here. The Lycanroc was really pushing the whole lone wolf aesthetic hard. Obviously, Archie’s attempts to appeal to Seth’s humanity weren’t working, and neither were attempts to offer assistance. But, it was hard to believe the Wolf had no better nature to speak of – they were still standing, after all. He hadn’t been sufficiently provoked to give in to the Shadow Pokemon nature just yet. Still, getting through wasn’t going to be easy…

Then he said something that caught Archie’s ear. The Oshawott stepped forward again, placing his scalchop back on his belly to show he had no hostile intent at this point.

“Wait, that voice that’s been talking to you. He’s been talking to us too, saying things like how we’re not meant to be here and how we’re a danger to this world,” the Oshawott explained, “Every time any of us get attacked by Shadow Pokemon, he contacts us in our dreams the next time we sleep. We were hoping that our telepath friend might be able to get in contact with him somehow – that’s why we came out here. We don’t want to get in anyone’s way, we just want to understand. We just need information. Please, tell us what he’s told you.”
“Yeah, what he said,” Wes growled, nodding to Archie. “Whoever that voice is, they’re just trying to pit us against each other. How long have you been hearing it anyway?”

Fear prickled along his spine. This guy wasn’t going to leave them well enough alone, but Wes wasn’t about to let him take over and possibly ruin their entire mission. Maybe, maybe he’d let them off today…but what would he do the next time he saw a Wayfarer meddling in his plans? Wes had a hard time believing Seth would be lenient a second time. What if he runs into Archie again, or Odette, or the kid?

Seeing no way out of this, Wes threw Archie a sideways glance and hissed under his breath.

“Archie. Run.” Because I’m about to do something real gods-damned stupid.
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"Ever since I came to this world," growled Seth, staring daggers at Wes. "And he hasn't lead me wrong yet. You might wanna think about taking his warnings seriously, little Lycas."

The Lycanroc shot a dirty look at Archie. "He may not have summoned me like your 'friend' did you, but he's got his own ways of fixing this fucked up world. You want information? Here's some fucking information."

The wolf's lips pulled back over his teeth, and he advanced on Wes and Archie.

"Souls from the wrong dimension thin out the walls of the world. Every summoned hero puts pressure on the fabric of spacetime... Enough offworlders, and you start getting fucking holes in reality. That's why heroes are only summoned once in a generation. Whoever your 'friend' is... they fucked up. So I'll say this one last time—"

Shadow energy rippled in Seth's eyes and across his arms.

"Give it up, quit looking into this shit, and keep out of my fucking way."
"Give it up, quit looking into this shit, and keep out of my fucking way."

Wes sneered. “Yeah, no can do. Sorry, wolf, but I was sent here with a job to do. I can’t go back to my world until I finish it, so I am damn well gonna do it and I don’t give a shit about your fragile ego!” His voice rose into another angry bark. “Either work with us or get the hell out of town!”

He then gave Seth his most ferocious snarl. “If you want to make enemies out of everyone you meet, be my guest! Some brilliant strategy you’ve got there, dipshit!”
"Shoulda known my double would be a stubborn son of a bitch," hissed Seth. "Fine, fuck talking sense into you. I'll just beat it into you instead."

When he struck, it was fast. His fist made contact with the side of Wes' face with a crack, spinning vision, and a ringing in his ear.

Seth's attack dealt 37 dmg to Wes! It's super-effective!

The wolf cracked his knuckles, and crouched down to grab Wes by the scruff of his neck. He held him up with one paw, and loosened up the other with a wringing of his wrist, Shadow accumulating around the fist.

"Good luck interfering from a hospital bed, you stupid, sorry shitstain."

The gulf in power wasn't like when they'd fought Ignatius, but there were only two Wayfarers in this fight, and Seth was their strongest opponent yet.

It’s not that Wes wasn’t expecting it; he knew this guy was going to hit hard and hit fast. Yet even bracing for it didn’t fully prepare him for the impact, for the way the blow reverberated through his skull and sent stars exploding across his vision, for the way the ground rushed up to meet him and left him unable to tell up from down—

Shit, he thought groggily.

He was too dazed to feel any sense of panic, but stubborn anger remained. A crushing fist clenched his scruff and hauled him up in the air, making his surroundings spin even more. He blinked through the vertigo and could just make out a blurred red and white face, eyes glowing, snout utterly twisted in murderous rage.

Finally Wes’s head cleared enough for him to have a single semi-lucid thought. Damn, I hope I don’t look that ugly when I evolve.

And then a second, slightly more helpful one: Shouldn’t have held me so close to your face, moron.

It wasn’t a Pokémon move, but that didn’t matter. It was a stunt universally hated by both mon and humans alike: he spat a generous wad of saliva directly into Seth’s eyes.

Then, seizing the momentary distraction, Wes lashed out at the arm holding him with everything he had.

Wes used STRONG CRITICAL Shadow Claw!
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