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Frontier Town Main Street

Bellatrix nodded. "Then we should have an early bed if we are to be up at dawn. Such a thing is deserving of investigation," she said, turning to walk towards the haus. "Let us not delay."

Did you get all that, Betelgeuse? she asked as she walked. If you did, please, spread the word to all Wayfarers and ensure enough are wakeful at dawn.

And with that, Bellatrix was gone.

[Ch04] Nova & Leaf ~ Post-Wolf Woes
Nova's night didn't end with the walk back to town. Because he'd already left the Haus to sleep outdoors. And had a zoroark corpse on him. With a general consensus that banging on Lucien's door at ass o'clock in the dead of night was not going to do their cause any good, Nova ended up having to turn in with the corpse in tow. Fortunately, he was able to get his claws on a large enough tarp to wrap the zoroark up in. Not a perfect solution, by any means, but enough for him to safely retreat to the tent city without raising a bunch of unwanted questions.

But it didn't stop there. Turns out going aggro on Seth actually did draw more than a cryptic message or two from Powehi. Which left Nova with lots to chew on. But he had things to do. Looking rather dusty after everything that happened, Nova hoisted the tarp-encased body onto his back and made his way into town early enough that people weren't up and about quite yet. And then he waited for the sun to rise a bit further before continuing in the direction of the mayor's residence.

... At least, he was pretty sure he was going the right way.

Maybe Nova was more out of it than he realized.
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He wasn't the only one, as it happened. Or, rather, he definitely was, because Leaf was very alert and awake after a fantastic night's sleep. Totally uninterrupted aside from the part where they'd gotten a super helpful affirmation of what they needed to be focusing on next, mostly, maybe one of several things, possibly. The important takeaway was that there was work to be done, anyway, and if there was anything she was good at it was focusing on work and not other things that might be a distraction from that like nightmares or oceans of suffering or maybe almost dying a little bit, possibly, probably not though it was fine.

So Leaf was definitely very alert, and very driven, and very focused, and when she nearly marched right into Nova as he passed down the street it was definitely with intention and purpose and being awake. Hm. Wait.

"Oh, hey, Nova!" Almost crashing into Nova was not working, but she had to be polite about it, and also it was not a lot of other things, and if nothing else it was good to see him not hiding himself away outside of town. "Sorry about that... I thought you'd be out training again, or..." She trailed off when she noticed the bundle slung over his back.
"Can't really show up to the board owner with my passenger in tow," Nova deadpanned. He blinked a few times. "Sorry. You... looked like you were in better spirits before seeing that. Maybe I should go..."
Of... of course. Someone had to tell Lucien about. Someone had to show Lucien about. Yeah. She'd really been hoping someone else would take care of it while she focused on preparing for what they were actually going to do about this. Which someone else was, to be fair! Sorta less fair that she had the great timing to see it, was all.

"No, no! You're fine, it's not... you. I'm just..." Tired? Confused? Scared? "...preoccupied, is all. Lotta information last night. And then, uh, last night again." She tossed her head at nothing in particular, something something dreams something. "You holding that—" she shook her head, looked down and gave the cobblestones a thorough inspection instead of leaving her gaze stuck on the bundle "—ugh, no, sorry, you holding up okay? You looked a little distracted yourself."
"Thinking, mostly," Nova said. He shifted his weight to adjust the dead zoroark's position on his back. "Don't think I've... had such existential infodumps in a very long time." The null sighed into his mask. Standing around with this giant thing slung over his back wasn't going to help him look not suspiciously, so he slowly walked forward.

"A whole human group... dedicated purely to making shadow pokémon," he said. "And those Coven people, too." Nova stopped after only three steps. He lowered his head down. "Fate remains... a harsh mistress."
Always that word with him, wasn't it. Something else to focus on, at least, a weird little beacon through the couple different sources of static going through her head. "Yeah, you, uh, keep mentioning 'fate'. I'm not sure I really get it, sorry. You think Cipher and the Coven were always supposed to show up here? Both of them? Or..." Usually when he started going on about this sort of thing, it had more to do with the way that helmet was getting in his way, or the people who'd forced it on him. "Or do you mean that you can't get away from... situations like this?"
"Powehi said… shadows embody suffering." Nova looked down. He thought that chains were erupting from the ground and wrapping up his legs. Nova involuntarily took a step back.

"… It’s fine." Nova was trying to deflect. Deflect and save face. "I’m used to it. But what about you? The shadows… were pretty brutal for you guys."
That... wasn't really an answer? She didn't think? She had no idea what Powehi had to do with it, at least, but he didn't really seem in the mood to explain. Seemed kind of distracted by something on the ground, actually? Leaf couldn't see anything down there other than cobblestones and ants. Couldn't exactly blame the guy for finding those more interesting than something more complicated, though.

"It, uh. It wasn't great, no." (It'd been pain like her chest had been punched so hard it was gonna continue right on out of her back and catch fire on reentry.) "Think I'm better now, though." (Sometimes she thought it still burned where the stone had slammed into her.) "I mean, we're just going to have to get used to it anyway, right?" Don't lose. She attempted a cavalier shrug and half a smile. "Just... just need to figure out. How to do that! That's all."
Nova reflexively stepped closer to her. "It's... okay. I get it. This stuff's... hard to talk about." He tried to appeared relaxed, but the gesture failed because of his heavy cargo. Nova stiffened. "Sorry, I--" He stopped himself. How could he phrase this?

"I'm... I don't want to upset you." He traced a claw through the dirt. "I've... told other Wayfarers about my situation. Sorta. But it was... to much." Nova hung his head. "I'm not looking to push people away."

Even though you're sleeping outside. Alone.
"I know someone made you do things you didn't want to. You don't have to talk about what it was if you don't want, either." Leaf wasn't sure she wanted to hear, but it was kinda hard to imagine anything would really make her feel that much worse right now. "Whatever it was, I know it can't've been anything good if they had to torture you and control you to do it." She pulled her eyes up from the ground long enough to give the helmet a significant look.

"But... at this point we're all stuck here together, right? Powehi's not even saying we have to... go home, yet. And if we're not gonna be able to get away from all this shadow stuff—" her ears flicked back involuntarily as all the terrible things Wes had shouted last night rang in them again "—seems like we all might have to get used to... hearing things we don't want to. About each other. So..." She tried to smile at him again; it probably wasn't a very good one on account of all the tired, but she tried, and that was the important part. "If you ever decide you do want to talk about it—without it being forced out or whatever—I'll listen. It's okay. Like during training, if you still want someone to go with you."
Nova tensed. He still wasn't sure it was a good idea. But... Leaf was offering.

"I kinda... said it already," he mumbled. "Though I think it got lost in the chaos last night." It was much easier to outright say it during the fight, though. Perhaps that whole "opening your heart through battle" made his beak a bit looser?

He needed to not hesitate. That would just let fear take hold. Another shadow of a sort.

"Back home... I'm a shadow pokémon." Nova looked toward the sky. The desert sunlight... was surprisingly nice despite the mask trapping heat. "I've been one... for a very long time. Powehi talked about shadows represent suffering. Sometimes it's not just an emotion or two.

"My shadow... is fate. A lack of choice— or, I guess, having my choices taken from me. Moving toward an outcome... that was already decided."
There wasn't a whole lot about the chaos last night that'd actually stuck, beyond the overriding sense that everything was just terrible. He might've said something like that, hadn't he, somewhere in there.

"I'd like to say I know a little about what that's like, but I don't think having an overbearing mom counts" she said, snorting a little. "Even if it feels like I can't get her out of my head sometimes... or a lot, lately... but I can still, like. Go do things. She can't stop me just because I'm not a coward like her. And also she's not here, so." Leaf stomped one hoof just a little for effect.

"But I guess what you've been saying all this time makes more sense now, at least. If that's all you've ever really had a chance to know or even be for a long time, it'd probably be hard to get away from it even without all the rest of this... stuff." She looked at Nova's helmet again, as if hoping to learn something from it; probably wasn't going to happen. "You know, though, for all you keep saying you don't want to cause trouble around everyone else... if you've been like this for a long time? That means you're better at handling it than the rest of us, I think. You're not the one who flew off the handle in the middle of the fight last night. Probably everyone could at least learn something from you, about how to stay calm when it gets bad. If that's something you think you could teach, at least." If it didn't require being trapped in a fatalistic depression for years and years, maybe. Hopefully not? "It'd be an option for something to stay more in touch with the other Wayfarers about, if you were okay with it?"
Nova's gaze fell. "I know I look well-adjusted... but it's easy to 'handle' it when you can't actually hurt anyone." His claws dug into the dirt, then back out. In, out. Almost rhythmically. "I'm the same here as I am back home. I 'fight' people like what you guys think shadow 'mon do, but I can't hurt them. All I do is shield myself from their attacks. And as they fail to hit me their resolve... weakens and weakens. Until their fighting spirit fizzles out."

And they surrender to fate. To Him.

"The difference here is the shields aren't terribly good." Nova was still to tired to conjure a paltry one to prove his point. "I said I left the Haus because I was worried I might hurt the others. But I'm pretty much useless in a fight, so even shadowed no one has to worry about me attacking them. Because it'll be like getting poked with a stick."

He hung his head shamefully. "The truth was it... all got to be too much for me. All the time shadowed... I've been alone. Wandering the world." His helmet muffled a thoughtful tongue click. "I suppose you humans would call it 'being homeless.' I tried to make it work, but... all the people. The noises." Nova shook his head, jostling the helmet. "The walls just felt like extensions of this mask. Like everything was closing in. I had to get out."

Steady breaths.
Hm. Maybe it was too close to home for him, then. "That's... awful," Leaf said, and she meant it, even if it was still kind of hard to wrap her head around. She wasn't sure which sounded worse: being alone all the time with nowhere to go, or being around other people and feeling more trapped than before. "If that's what it feels like then I don't think there's anything wrong with staying outside the Traveller's Haus. If..." She was going to say 'if there are ways you can still spend more time with other people outside the Haus', but then it looked like Nova might've been breathing a little heavy for a second. "...Are you okay? We don't have to talk about it any more if you don't want."

It was probably better if she shut up anyway. This probably wasn't something she was gonna have the answers to.

"Has the training been helping, at least? Or that new poké ball? I keep meaning to check in, but we've been so busy getting started with the Rangers, and now all this..." And there was still something off about that mewtwo guy. But progress was progress... assuming there'd been any.
“It helps,” Nova said. “It’s like having a wide open field to lie in.” As backwards as he knew that was given how small the ball really was.

“It can only do so much. I don’t have friends. Don’t remember how to make them.” He took a step forward, then another. “There are more humans in this group. You guys can relate to one another. But I’m better off not bringing up home.” Or, at least, not doing so in the future.

“And I can’t fight. So Forlas’ whole ‘show your heart through battle’ takes me nowhere. Even the shield conjuring amounted to basically nothing with Seth.”

There was, indeed, some humiliation at being outclassed by a bunch of people who were new to their bodies and never battled before. But Nova wouldn’t admit that out loud.
"Not like relating's easy just because we might've been human before," Leaf snorted. Koa and Jade were great, she understood them and they understood her, but it wasn't like she knew any of the others. Maybe it was just because pretty much all the other humans were adults and their heads were always somewhere else twenty-four-seven by definition. (That seemed closer to relatable to Nova, at least. If only it wasn't for that thoughts-always-somewhere-else part. Oh well.) Or because their worlds still managed to be waaaaay-out-of-left-field different from what was going on with hers. "Like, no, I haven't met anyone else who was a... reverse super-soldier. But it's not like everyone else I've been around has been as willing to talk or listen, either, so what do the similarities matter at that point?"

She shook her head and scuffed the cobblestones a little, still glancing occasionally at the mask. "I figure it's like Laura said at the meeting: it's important to ask the Forlasans what they want instead of just assuming, right? It's important to get to know what the rest of our team needs, too. I'd be a garbage trainer if I wasn't interested in learning to relate to pokémon. Whether they're my battling partners or anyone else.

"I don't think you'll have any trouble making friends, anyway, once you're ready. There isn't really a whole lot to 'remember' in the first place? It's mostly just not being a jerk to them if they doesn't deserve it, and getting to know them, and being yourself. And I know that last one's not straightforward for you right now," she added quickly, "so it's not bad if that takes time. It's not something you can force, not if it's actually going to mean anything. But taking the time to get more comfortable around the others, when you think the helmet will let you manage it, would be a start. And more of us could come with you to the training, too, if that'd help."
"Being... myself," Nova parroted. Had Fein gotten heavier on his back? "I don't... really know what that entails anymore."

Stars, that sounded pathetic. "Before I was shadowed, I just... wanted to help. Make a difference." He rubbed his right hind paw back and forth against the dirt. "I don't know... how to do that here. Not when I only have flimsy shields." Nova paused. "And, uh, just being large and weird-looking."
"Maybe it'll be easier to remember once the helmet's off again," she mused, frowning, but shrugged after a few beats. "Until then... maybe you get to decide for yourself? Are there things you like, or things you want to try? Outside of battling, I mean. Might be a way to help you feel more at ease and more like you can make your own choices.

"Even if it's hard to help the team in battles right now, it's not like that's the only thing the Wayfarers need help with, right? There's research, and traveling, and staying in touch with Lucien and everyone else." She very admirably kept going without looking at what Nova was carrying. "Or even just... advice. Someone to listen. People appreciate things like that, you know?"
"... I don't really remember what I like," Nova said. "I think... most of my life before shadowing was built around battling. First under orders. Then to stop the person who once gave me those orders."
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