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Frontier Town Frontier Town Outskirts

Wes said:
“Archie. Run.”

Run? And leave Wes behind with this monster? Run, and prove everything Seth said about relying on people only giving them enough rope to hang himself with? No, absolutely not. Maybe he’d overstepped, maybe Wes didn’t want his protection, but Archie wouldn’t abandon him to the Wolf. It was an absolutely inconceivable notion.

“Like hell!” he hissed back.

The Lycanroc was advancing on them again. Archie tried to latch onto every scrap of information he could, since it was beginning to seem unlikely they were going to get another. Holes in the fabric of reality, putting pressure on spacetime. And there was, what, something like three dozen of them all told, summoned all at once?

“Are you getting all this?” he thought, hoping Betel was still listening in. Hopefully Seth wasn’t disrupting their connection with his presence. Hopefully if he was they’d live to relay all this later.

Things began to happen very quickly. Before Archie could react, Seth had hit Wes hard enough to knock the Rockruff off his feet, then scooped up the prone puppy Pokemon and drew back his claws to deal the finishing blow. Suddenly, all Archie could see were those wicked claws and the dark energy that cloaked them. The next moment, he’d cloaked himself in water and launched himself at the Lycanroc, rushing forward as fast as he could, not even taking the time to draw his scalchop again.

“Let him go!”

Archie used Aqua Jet!
Seth swore violently, and flung Wes aside, hard enough to send him impacting a tree with another crack. He fell to the dirt, winded, already dangerously close to fainting. This much punishment already would certainly land him a spell in Drungfield's, any more would risk worse. There was no way he could take on Seth without a squad of Wayfarers for backup... and if he took another hit, he might never get the chance.

The Lycanroc, even blinded, lashed out with a savage kick and sent Archie flying in the same direction, tumbling to a stop near Wes.

Seth's attack dealt 40 dmg to Archie! It's super-effective!

For a moment, while Seth got his bearings, there was a chance to run.

...um. Yes, Archie. I heard everything.

The Lycanroc wiped at his eyes with his Shadow-wreathed paws and growled with enough menace to shake one's heart.

"You little shits are gonna regret that," he snarled.

[ ] Objective: Flee.

Now might be a very good time to run!!
White hot pain where the Lycanroc’s toe claws bit into his flesh. Jolts jumping up his chest with every shallow breath where once bruised ribs were now more likely cracked. Yeah, running sounded very good right now. Archie rolled over, stifling a groan at the pain twisting his torso caused. The Oshawott scanned the nearby scrubland, spotted Wes, thankfully not too far. Also his hat. That went back on his head shortly. The Oshawott got his paws underneath him, pushed himself back to his feet, and ran to Wes as fast as his unsure feet would carry him.

“Come on,” he grunted, keeping his voice low. He helped haul Wes back to his feet as best he could, though in the end the Rockruff was probably supporting the Oshawott just as much as the Oshawott was supporting the Rockruff. Still, Archie was determined to carry Wes if that’s what it took, as the pair broke for the relative safety of the town in the distance.

Would they make it? Was anyone coming to help? Did they even want anyone to come, when things could very well end just as badly for the rest of them as it did Archie and Wes? Archie focused on the sound of their paws hitting the dirt, willing the pair on. They were so close. They had to get away.
Another crack, another burst of blinding pain, and suddenly all the breath was violently ripped from Wes’s lungs. He wheezed, sand in his mouth, and for several seconds he lay motionless, head spinning, unable to even draw breath.

Am I dead? I feel like I should be dead.

There was a distant yell, a sound of impact, and something thumped hard in the sand beside him. Wes tried to move, to open his eyes, but his body wouldn’t listen and he still couldn’t breathe, oh, gods, I can’t breathe—

Someone was pulling at him. Responding blindly, Wes got his feet under him and tried to follow their urging. At long last, he managed to open his eyes and suck in a wheezing, rattling breath. He coughed up a mouthful of sand and recognized the blur of blue and white at his side.

“Told you to run, you gods-damned idiot—”

Seth snarled from some distance away, and Wes decided he could tell Archie off later. Right now, they needed to ensure that they would even have a later.

“Hold on,” he rasped to the Oshawott, then he planted his wobbly paws in the sand as firmly as he could and waited for Archie to tighten his grip on his neck. Then, with an adrenaline-fueled push, he launched a Quick Attack and fled towards the glowing lights of town.
Whether by luck, desperation, or Seth's fury blinding him, Wes and Archie made it into the shadows and away from the site of their encounter without feeling the teeth and claws of the midnight Lycanroc on their backs. They heard the lone wolf's howl, and the splintering of trees, and vulgar threats called after them, but they were not found.

They would, it seemed, escape further violence this night.
Wes told him to hold on, and Archie didn’t need to be told twice. In fact, the Oshawott held on like his life depended on it – because it likely did! Several times he felt his feet leave the ground as the Rockruff sped them along back towards town, and every time, he felt a slight pang of uselessness. The last thing Wes needed right now was to be doused in water from the Oshawott’s Aqua Jet, but, still, Archie hated how much the injured blue puppy was further exhausted himself on the Oshawott’s behalf.

All the while, his ears were pivoted back, towards where they’d come from, as the shouted threats and howls of the Shadow Lycanroc grew fainter. Somehow, some way, they’d managed to lose him. As the pair approached the town proper, and were able to slow to a more manageable pace, the Oshawott decided that now was probably the best time he could ask what was probably the most loaded question he could ask tonight.

“Wes… Are you going to be okay?”

Physically? Mentally? Emotionally? All of the above, really. That was a lot for the Rockruff to go through all at once. Not to mention, Archie was still somewhat concerned about where the two of them stood. So, the Oshawott mentally prepared for a tongue lashing, somewhat expecting Wes to lay into him. Still, neither of them had died, so, whatever Wes thought about him now, the fact that they’d both see the sun rise in a few hours made it worth it.
Wes had no idea how he managed to make it all the way back to town, never stopping or slowing, and with an Oshawott clinging to him, no less. Adrenaline was a hell of a stimulant, he supposed.

Once they made it back into the safety of town, Wes skittered to a stop, sides heaving as he greedily gulped for air. His head pounded in time with his racing heartbeat, his shoulder had definitely taken the brunt of the impact on the tree, and his bruises from the Drapion were now protesting in earnest.

Stupid. Stupid! His mind screamed at him. An absolutely idiotic decision to go out there in the first place, and now look what you’ve done. And now you dragged Archie into your dumbass decisions—

Archie. The Oshawott had asked him something. Wes stared blankly at him for a second before the question registered.

“Wes… Are you going to be okay?”

“I…” Words were not coming easily. “Fine. I’m fine.” Gods, he was not in the mood to talk about this right now. Or ever.

“Are you?” He looked his companion up and down; he certainly looked worse for wear, but at least he was still standing.
The Oshawott frowned, the concern readily evident across his face. That was certainly a deflection if he’d ever heard one, though Archie wasn’t quite sure how to respond to it. Letting Wes just stew in whatever he was feeling without any outlet didn’t seem like it would be a particularly productive choice. On the other hand, he was still worried about pushing the Rockruff too hard. Well, maybe best to play along with Wes’s own question for now, and circle back to all of what they’d just learned later.

So, that meant a quick check of his own. It hurt to breathe, or move his torso much at all. He ran a paw along the surface of his belly, and his paw came away with a few blood splotches. A thin line was cut across the surface of his scalchop, which had taken the brunt of Seth’s claws when the Lycanroc kicked him. He could also feel welts from where the rest of said claws had streaked across his body, studded by the occasional shallow cut where the they had found some resistance. Still, even though the cuts weren’t bad, the force of the impact had definitely worsened the condition of his ribcage. He really had to be careful about throwing himself into these dangerous situations…

“I think you got the worst of it,” he said, honestly, “We should probably get you back to the doctor’s as fast as possible.”

Still, with the way the Rockruff was gasping, maybe taking a moment to let him at least catch his breath would be smart. He gingerly reached his paws out for the Rockruff again, then thought better of it and let them fall to his sides again.

“Do you need help walking? Or, do you want to take five?” he asked. Then, after a short pause, he added another question, “What should we tell the others?”
“Do you need help walking? Or, do you want to take five?”

“For the love of—I told you I’m fine!” Wes snapped at him with a sharp bark, then immediately cursed to himself. Stop being such an asshole, moron.

He gritted his teeth and started walking again, in the direction of Drungfield’s office. “Sorry,” he muttered. “Let’s just…get to the doc’s.”

He glanced over Archie’s wounds and felt his stomach turn at the sight of blood. “Shit, Archie, I think you need it more than me. Why the hell didn’t you run when I told you to?” Anger flared in his voice again.
The Oshawott took a half step back when Wes snapped at him, his brow raising momentarily in surprise. Well, that was more along the lines of what he was expecting from Wes, but the suddenness of it had still caught him somewhat off guard. Alright, so, definitely poking at a raw nerve there. He gave the Rockruff a little space as the pair set off for the doctor’s. Maybe after they’d slept on it he could try again, when the event wasn’t so fresh.

The topic soon turned to the state of his own injuries, anyway. Archie put a paw against his stomach again, revealing some new blood splotches when he pulled it again again. Definitely still bleeding, then.

“It’s not as bad as it looks.” he said. At least, he didn’t think it was? Everything kind of hurt, so it was hard to tell if this specific pain site was the most in need of attention… Maybe he should avoid stretching, or any other sort of big movements, just in case. Didn’t want to open the cuts further or anything like that… To be honest, medicine wasn’t exactly his area of expertise. Still, it seemed to be causing Wes some amount of distress. Archie dropped his paws in his coat pockets, breaking eye contact from the Rockruff to look down at the road again.

“I couldn’t just abandon you there,” he said, a little defensively. Then, after a moment, he added, “It’s not true, you know. What he said about relying on people just giving them enough rope to hang you with.”
Wes bit back another curse at seeing Archie flinch, then give him an obnoxious look that was some mix of concern and doubt. Dammit all, he didn’t need his sympathy. For a reason he couldn’t quite place, the worry in the Oshawott’s face aggravated him.

But Wes had done enough damage. Instead of snapping yet again, he bit the inside of his cheek and kept quiet, then glanced at where Archie had been covering a wound on his stomach. The mon assured him he was fine, but there was far too much red there for that to be true.

“I couldn’t just abandon you there,” he said, a little defensively.

Well, you should have, Wes wanted to snap—

Then, after a moment, he added, “It’s not true, you know. What he said about relying on people just giving them enough rope to hang you with.”


He didn’t have a response to that. What could he say? You’re wrong? You don’t know what you’re talking about?

Perhaps on a different day, when every inch of his body wasn’t shrieking in pain and when his head wasn’t ringing with all the words Seth—himself from another Orre, scorching hells—had jabbed at him, Wes might have snapped back. But tonight, Archie’s words reminded him of someone else, someone in his Orre, and he found himself unsure what to say or feel.

Tonight, he was just tired.

He continued walking and let the silence hang between them for several minutes. Then he quietly rasped, “You gonna be able make it to Drungfield’s?”
“Well, I don’t think my guts are about to fall out, or anything,” he huffed, humorously.

Sure, it hurt, a lot, but compared to what Steven had gone through, or the punishment that Wes had taken, Archie’s injuries felt pretty minimal. He covered his injured stomach with his arm, figuring an out of sight, out of mind approach might be best until they made it the rest of the way to the doctor’s. Maybe he was going to need stitches? All this walking probably wasn’t doing him any good, but it wasn’t like there was another way for them to get there. He’d just have to suck it up.

To be honest, he was more concerned with Wes’s ability to make the trek, but given how the Rockruff had been reacting, the Oshawott doubted bringing that up was the greatest idea. Still, he wanted to keep the blue puppy talking, somehow. The lengthening stretches of silence were the Rockruff retreated into his own head probably weren’t exactly conducive, either.

“Thank you, though,” he said, “For asking. I’m not sure what he hit me with, but it hurt like hell.”
Wes grunted. “Probably some Shadow move or whatever. Bet we’ll get some fun dreams tonight.” Awesome. As if he needed more to worry about right now.

He glanced at Archie again. Wes noticed the way he covered up his wound after asserting he was fine, like that would somehow make it more convincing, then decided to pick up the pace a little. He’d have offered to carry him, but he had his doubts about being able to do so in his current state.

“Almost there,” he said as Drungfield’s came into view. He was out of breath, his legs shook with every step, and his vision was starting to swirl and dim a little. “Almost there. Just a little longer,” he breathed, as much to himself as to Archie.
Maybe the Shadow Voice would be a little more forthcoming this time around? Well, probably best the Oshawott didn’t get his hopes up. They hadn’t learned as much as they might’ve liked, but they’d escaped with their lives, and maybe Betel would be able to fill the others in on what they’d heard. Archie was a little too tired right now to imagine doing all that himself. All they had to do was get to the doctor’s. It was just down the street, they could see it now.

Wes was flagging. To be honest, Archie was too. But they were so close now, they couldn’t rest yet. So, tossing aside his earlier concerns for giving the Rockruff some space, Archie pulled up alongside him. Wrapping his free arm around the Rockruff’s shoulders, he pulled him in close, while at the same time slumping against him, trying to form a center of balance somewhere between them, pool their remaining strength.

“Lean against me,” he said, “We’ll make it, you’ll see.”

Either they’d make it to the door together, or they’d both collapse together. Hopefully, if it were the latter, some kind passerby would alert the doctor before too long. Regardless, though, they’d reached the end of their long night.
Wes flinched as Archie suddenly drew close and looped an arm over his neck. What—is he hugging m—?

“Lean against me,” he said, “We’ll make it, you’ll see.”

Oh. Wes wasn’t sure whether to bitterly laugh or not at the absurdity. What a sight they must be, hobbling up to the doc’s little by little. But he was too tired to protest, and his pride has already taken a sound—and literal—beating tonight, so what the hell. He leaned into Archie’s side and the next few minutes felt like hours until they finally hobbled in through the door.

He thought he might have croaked out a call for help, but he wasn’t sure. As soon as he was inside, Wes’s legs gave out and he slid to the floor. Was that Archie talking loudly all of a sudden?

Wes closed his eyes with the tiniest hint of relief. If he feels well enough to yell, then that’s a good sign...I think…

And then, with a sigh, he gave in and let the blackness swallow him whole.

Ch03: Scouting Mission
The outskirts of town were oddly quiet today. Close to the tracks, towards Blaguarro's direction, dry winds kicked up dust and through it, the blurred form of a houndoom who bore many scars from battle could be seen walking within. He eyed the tracks as if they were insulting him.

Murkrow perched on rocks and branches of drywood cawed at the canine. Some flew off towards the east while others hopped closer, trying to listen in. Houndoom was either unbothered or none the wiser to their presence. He looked back and yelled something, though it was impossible to hear over the winds from the perimeters of the town. After a moment, he seemed to shake his head to continue walking. The determined look in his face made it clear that he wasn't going to stop for anyone.
Fuck this. Fuck that. Fuck literally every little fucking thing about this. On a scale of one to ten on the bad idea scale, this is a “you deserve a brick to the back of your head for thinking this was smart.”

Odette had been entirely turned off when the murkrow had mentioned a houndoom. She didn’t fucking care what information she could find; she wasn’t fucking with any houndoom. Not again. Not ever again.

So the fact that she was standing in the outskirts, ready to face one in a potentially sticky situation, had every hair on her body standing on end, even the metaphorical ones. Her burn scars had not transferred over to the mawile form, but she felt the ghostly itch of those bite shaped marks on her arm, and she rubbed at it with an almost-too-rough fervor. But, she ensured her face remained calm, just to hide the fact that her internal state was anything but.

As the silhouette of that damn fucking canine Pokemon came into view through the dust, she gulped down the steadiest breath she could muster.

“It’s for the town. It’s for info. It’s to nail down your stance,” she muttered to herself on the exhale. Then she rolled her shoulders and crossed her arms over her chest.

“Bit of a windy day to be trekking out here like this,” she called, relieved her voice wasn’t shaking.
Felin was out roaming the dusty outskirts when she caught a glimpse of a Houndoom she didn't recognize. Her whiskers twitched on her muzzle. She dropped off her perch and walked right up to him. They say curiosity killed the cat, but Felin had nine lives to work with.

"Hey there. You're not a face I've seen before," Felin said, flashing a smile. She maintained a few sprigatito body lengths from him, enough to avoid what she assumed his pouncing distance might be. "Love the scars by the way. Want to tell me the story behind each one?
Morning again. First Blaguarro, then this. Curse the morning. Everything always seemed to happen when Kimiko wanted to sleep.

Okay, not really, but she was grumpy and tired and that's all she cared about for the moment.

Once Betel passed along the message that someone connected to the Escarpa was expected to be showing up nearby the following morning, Kimiko made sure she was awake before the sun. Surely Jade had heard the message too, just like everyone else, and hoped she'd turn up with that earring or whatever it had been she'd been given. Kimiko wasn't sure who else would show up, if anyone, and they couldn't lose this opportunity, so she wanted to make sure at least someone was there to offer the meowth some backup. She didn't wait for anyone else though, making her way to her usual training spot alone.

There, she curled up in her favorite small grass patch as she waited for any unusual sounds nearby, keeping an ear open not just for the Escarpa scout, but also for anyone else who happened to wander nearby, such as the Wolf - this wasn't far off where Wes said he and Archie met the shadow, after all.

Sure enough, she eventually heard... something. Voices, footsteps, she couldn't be sure; probably some more of the team. With a sigh and a grunt, the yellow snivy pushed herself off the ground and made her way out from her hiding spot to join them.

Oh... Odette was here. Cool. Awkward. They still haven't gotten to talk.

Felin! There's someone she hadn't seen in a while. Kimiko slipped up beside her, but she didn't say anything beyond a polite greeting, as it seemed they'd found the houndoom they were all expecting. Best not to sidetrack them.

"You with the Escarpa?" she prompted the houndoom instead. Might as well cut the bullshit.
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Wes really, really would rather not come back to this place, at least for a while longer. But it was daylight this time, and with several other people, so it provided him with some reassurance—but not much. Not enough. Every gust of wind, every creaking branch of sagebrush had him on edge as he made his way outside of town.

His shoulder still ached on occasion, but it no longer protested at every movement. His head was prone to throb if he got too riled up or pushed himself too hard. Still, he couldn’t ignore this meeting. Not once he’d heard it would have something to do with the Escarpa. Brisa had some connection to this clan somehow, for one, and then something or other had been mentioned about the Escarpa and this…Radiance, or whatever it was. He had to know more.

Maybe…if I can learn how to cure Shadows here, I can cure Shadows back in my world, too. It was a reach, he knew, but it was a tiny seed of hope that he hadn’t felt in a long time. It was something.

He pulled up beside Kimiko, giving both her and Odette a nod of acknowledgment, and—why did Odette look so horrified? Was she scared of running into Seth?

He didn’t recognize the green feline in the group, but she cut right to the chase asking questions, which Wes appreciated. For once, he was content to let others do the talking while he listened.
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