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Frontier Town Main Street

Ch04: Barking up the Wrong Tree [Koa & Wes]
Koa let his paws carry him without really thinking, his head up but gaze unfocused. A yawn escaped him, but he stifled it before shaking himself and continuing on. If only his team were here... He could train with them, talk to them... Then again the thought of them being subject to everything happening here wasn't very pleasant either. Nor did he want them to see everything he had.

Perhaps he'd head to the library and try to forget everything for an hour or two... Or a nap, except the idea of another dream made the idea rather unappealing. At least breakfast hadn't been all bad. Dave seemed decent, and talking to Archie had been nice.

Not far in the distance among the crowd of pokemon was a splash of dark blue fur, but his brain didn't consciously recognize what it meant. Until it the mon was only yards away, and his tired thoughts caught up.

Reflexive fear lasted only a moment, replaced with a disconcerting swirl of emotions. Annoyance and frustration. Worry. Regret. He found himself tensing unconsciously.
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Wes wandered down Main Street, in no particular rush to return to go anywhere. Alejandro had insisted he take the time to gather his thoughts and recover—“Look at how banged up y’still are. S’bad for business if ya look like that.” Wes knew the old mon was just worried about him, really, so he decided not to protest too much; he was all but useless in his current state of mind, anyway, even after the much-needed reassurance from Steven. There was just…too much to take in at the moment. And he wasn’t sure things were going to get better anytime soon.

Still, his talk with Steven had…helped. More than he cared to admit. It was nice to know that not everybody hated Wes for what he’d done, at least. Just as he was mulling this over in his head, Wes caught a flash of light blue and felt his insides turn to lead.

Speaking of people who did hate him…

No. He couldn’t do this. Not today, maybe not ever. Steven was one thing, but the kid sure as hell wasn’t going to be so forgiving, and Wes couldn’t blame him for it.

Without a word, he raised his head and stared past Koa, walking by as if he were invisible.
Koa expected a comment or a nod or maybe something more. An apology, at the very least. Something. If Wes could just say sorry- He walked right by. He walked right by. Like Koa didn't exist. Like Wes hadn't almost mauled everyone like he hadn't said everything he did, like he didn't care. Of course.

Fine, if Wes wanted to play ignorant, two could do that. "Fine, just run away then." He'd meant to think the words to himself, to keep his mouth shut. To not make it worse. Instead they came out anyway as an irritated mutter as he passed the now-larger Lycanroc, under his breath but loud enough to be heard.
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Wes went rigid.

Just ignore it, he tried to tell himself. Just keep walking.

But dark, angry, guilt-ridden storm clouds immediately overrode that thought, and before he could stop himself, he snapped his head around to the kid—that damn kid, so cocky and self-assured, so self-righteous even after giving in to the Shadow himself, so above everyone yet having no godsdamn reasoning to back it up.

Wes met his eyes and had a very powerful, very sudden realization.

He hated Koa.

Why had he ever tried to protect this little shit? Koa had proved time and time again that he saw himself as above everyone else, as if he were the only one capable of solving this world’s problems on his own. It wasn’t enough for Koa to just hate Wes from the shadows, having finally received validation that his hatred was justified; no, he still had to go around flaunting how much better he was while picking fights, like a pompous little hypocrite.

A very dark, disturbing thought burned in the back of Wes’s mind: that if this snot-nosed brat was so hellbent on being so high and mighty, then he deserved whatever was coming to him.

Wes forcibly shoved the thought away as soon as it appeared, but it didn’t stop him from hissing at Koa through clenched teeth.

"Don't tell me your new ears made you deaf. You heard me." He snapped out the reply without thinking. The words burned, but they felt good. He hated how good it felt. Standing his ground, he glared at Wes, annoyed at the way he now had to crane his neck to look up.

A furious ache burned in Koa's chest. Just apologize! Wes didn't care. Even after everything he couldn't even say sorry? All he had to do was say two words. Wes had accused him of being the screwup but the only reason the fight against Seth went wrong was because of Wes. Stupid. Too full of himself. An apology probably didn't cross his flea-sized brain.

"Should I spell it out too?"
Holy howling hells, was he serious? Was he really doing what Wes thought he—gods, yes, he was.

Koa was gloating.

It was so unbelievably juvenile, so callous, so cold. Wes wished he could have been surprised that someone so young could be so malicious, but he knew better. Oh, he knew better. And he had the scar across his own damn face as proof.

He laughed softly—a low, bitter, exhausted chuckle more than a proper laugh. Sands, he was so tired. Tired of failing, of screwing everything up, and especially tired of always having someone present to rub it in and kick him while he was already down. He’d had enough of people like this. To think he ever cared about this kid’s safety.

He sneered, curling his lip and lowering his head until he was eye-to-eye with the little prick. “You’d have fit right in at Snagem, kid. Nasty attitude and pompous ego and all. They’d have loved you.”

Then without another word, he spun away and kept walking. If he never spoke to this kid again, it would be too soon.
Red clouded Koa's vision. The world faded until he only heard the dull thud of his own heart. He sees what you are. A buzzing chill traveled down his spine and all over his body and clouded his brain until everything narrowed to a singular point of fury, aimed at Wes.

In the recesses of his mind he scrambled for everything he remembered from Seth. Anything that would hurt Wes the way his words had. A name. A place. Something he could use... Hadn't Wes asked Seth about someone specific? Someone he knew?

As Wes walked away, his next words slid out in a cold, venomous snarl. "Rich words from the useless coward who's only here because he abandoned his pokemon and Rui. You deserve to hate yourself."

Still clouded with anger, he turned and walked away, desperate to get as far from Wes as possible. As far away from the dreadful chasm in his chest as he could. As far from the tiny lingering voice of doubt in the back of his mind saying 'He's right'.
Wes felt his chest turn to ice at Koa’s comment. At the word “abandon.” At the mention of Rui’s name.

She would have abandoned you in the end anyway, a voice not unlike Seth’s hissed in his ear. For once, Wes had to agree.

He kept walking, not bothering to look back. There was no point in continuing this conversation, not now that he knew what the kid’s goal had been.

But, even as he walked away, Wes replied quietly under his breath, in a mutter only he would hear.

“I know.”

[Ch04] Nova & Jade Near the Archives
Nova was processing several things at once. Sensations against his face that he hadn't experienced in so long. Was sensory overload a thing on Forlas? Or just in general for people like him? He didn't know.

One thing Nova was sure of, though, was a certain tug on his... spirit. And even though he couldn't attack as he was, Nova had to satiate that curious tug. Going to Old Town and the brief talk with Lyle had given him a spark of reminder of his old ability back home. And if this kind of body existed on Forlas, the RKS System could, too. In which case, it behooved him to know how to use it. This wasn't home. There was no Legend Memory to stick in his drive and swap types on the fly. At least, Nova was willing to bet that wasn't the case.

The town had a library. It was the best starting spot Nova could think of, so he headed toward it. Hopefully his dusty pelt wouldn't get him tossed out. He had saddle bags, so that was enough to prove he wasn't feral, right?
Jade wasn't totally paying attention to her surroundings, shifting some of the books in her bag as she exited the archives. Which was why she had to do a double take when she caught a glimpse of... what? One of the two Graydian on the team? The legs, talons, and mane all looked the part, but--

"You--your mask, it's gone," she blurted out stupidly, immediately realizing it had to take the record for 'stating the obvious.'
Nova snapped to attention. "Oh, hi Jade." He lifted a foreleg in greeting. "Yeah, it broke apart. Seems that Mewtwo was telling the truth after all. Just needed... some folks showing me kindness."

She had gone to meet Mewtwo with him, right? Nova was pretty sure he wasn't misremembering.
Well, the voice confirmed it as Nova. Jade did her best to avoid staring, but if there was ever a time for it, this was it, right? She'd never seen a Graydian without the mask--a beak was about the last thing she'd been expecting. And that crest... it was so much brighter now.

"W-wow, that's..."--her face lit up--"that's really good, isn't it? Like, I know you'd been wanting to get rid of that thing for a long time, and--" Her words abruptly cut off as something occurred to her. "Wait, so do you think Gladion could remove his without getting messed up without it?"
"I don't see why not?" Nova tilted his head. "I never needed one in the first place." He poked at the ground with a talon. "Back home the mask is... a symbol, more than anything. Proof that I'm shadowed, if that makes sense."
She'd just gotten the impression from Gladion that the mask served some purpose, but by now it was pretty obvious that Nova's situation back home was pretty unusual, even as far as experiments were concerned...

"Well, either way..."--Jade shook her head to put on a brighter and less perplexed expression--"uh, congrats! I bet it's a relief to have it gone. And--and maybe we can help Gladion with his now that you've got rid of yours."
"Definitely." Nova was happy not to elaborate on what he said further. "It, uh... really did come down to what Mewtwo talked to us about. Friendship and all that."

He opened his satchel — realizing it, like him, had gotten rather dusty — and produced the luxury ball that Mewtwo had crafted for him. He carefully rested it in a tiny pouch. "The kicker was Archie and Leaf saying they thought I'd helped them out. It crumbled to bits after that."

Though he hadn't spent much time talking directly to Gladion. Because Nova had foolishly dumped a bunch of stupidly heavy stuff on the guy. "Admittedly I might've been too, uh, heavy with Gladion earlier." He paused, his head crest drooping a bit. "Like I did with you, I guess."

The crest spread back out as he perked up. "But I'd love to help." He paused. "Or at least try."
Jade really didn't know what to make of that. The mask had crumbled just like that? The way he'd described it--and how Mewtwo had talked about it--it almost reminded her of her of like, Pokemon evolving after bonding with a trainer.

Still, Nova's face looked... almost bright there at the end, and she couldn't help smiling a bit. "I think he'd like that.

At the mention of Mewtwo, Jade thought back to their first meeting with him... Gladion had been there for that, right? "Come to think of it, I still don't really get how Mewtwo knew all that stuff, even if he's human," she said, tapping a paw on the wooden steps.
"I was skeptical, too, but I know some pokémon actually evolve when they're very happy," Nova said. "Like a riolu or a happiny." Trainers would know about that sort of stuff, right?

"I did have a theory about him I shared with Leaf the other day, though," he continued.
Evolution? Was a mask being destroyed really similar to something like that?

Jade tilted her head at the mention of a theory. "Oh yeah? Gladion mentioned that certain people seem to show up connected to certain... concepts, I guess. Or at least, that's his guess as to why there's more than one of him." But then... Mewtwo.
"Yeah. She'd brought up Team Rocket to me." Nova tapped a claw in the dirt. "Got me thinking about my old mewtwo buddy back home. At one point we had to sift through his memories working for Team Rocket..."

He shook his head. "I doubt it's the exact same guy, but the way Mewtwo acts is a dead wringer for Team Rocket's boss." Nova paused. "Or a version of the guy, at the very least."
Jade exhaled slowly. There it was. Team Rocket's boss. She wouldn't have wanted to think about it, but the pieces lined up too well.

"Thaaat... makes more sense than I wish it did," Jade said, running a paw down her face. "I guess it probably won't be a surprise to learn that I was... familiar with the Rocket boss in my world. This Mewtwo's probably not the same one either, but... there's similarities."

Multiple Giovannis. And one of them was here.

Oh man, Starr was not gonna like this.
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