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Frontier Town Main Street

"Spooky as can be~!" Ghaspius replied with a bit of a wider grin than normal as he remained just a bit off-balanced. Still, he seemed to laugh it off. "If a hit like that did me in, I don't think I'd be much fit fightin' with the Wayfarers at all!"

He lowered his head to introduce himself. "Misdreavus Ghaspius of the Sun," he said, before shaking and his head and correcting, "Er, just Misdreavus Ghaspius. Sun part ain't 'round these parts."

His eyes drifted over to her accessory. "Well, I thought I recognized ya! You're one of us too, right?" He chirped as she swayed from side-to-side. "Lovely lil' bow ya got there! That somethin' ya wore back in your world, too?"
"Heh, yeah, something a little like this!" she replied with a soft smile. "I thought it might be nice to let people know at a glance that I'm not a feral, and that way I can help them a little better!"

"But... hm, I think I've noticed some of our team members are starting to evolve, including myself!" Grace said, while patting her front. "Are you not quite there, yet...?"
"'Something'? Ooh, now ya got me curious 'bout what your world was like," Ghaspius trilled as he circled the Togetic in enthusiastic curiosity. It seemed he quickly bounced back from the dizziness. "Mine was a lot like this one — lotsa sand, 'bout the same tech save for the miracle powder stuff, a bit different clothes but not too far off — names definitely not the same, though. Folk here just say 'em without a clan or job or title attached!"

He slowed his roll and his ramble at Grace's question. "Well... I ain't got no Dusk Stone," he said as he eyes peered up to the sky. "Did a battle or one of the dungeons help ya out on your end?"
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"Hah, actually it was training!" Grace said, flashing a pose while Ghaspius circled her. "I was training hard while most of you guys were fighting Seth, and I passed out. I woke up from that dream we all had in that spooky, dark ocean and I had evolved in my sleep! I was worried about needing to make friends to evolve, because I didn't know anyone all that well yet... but it seems like something about us or this world made it so that I wasn't stuck...?"

Grace did a twirl of her own to face him. "My world... it lacked any Shadows or Radiance or any of this stuff... I think my world is pretty closed off. Probably sounds boring, huh?"
"Just training?" Ghaspius tilted his head, "That sounds almost kinda... magical!" His expression brightened into a vibrant grin as his gemstones shimmered an equally bright red.

"I wouldn't say your world's boring just 'cause of that! I mean, mind doesn't have that sorta thing, either!" He chuckled as he waved his tendrils dismissively. "There's plenty of magic wherever ya go! Whether that's the humans and their tech, me and my alchemy, or anythin' you might have in your world, if ya wanna share what ya did!"

He let out a delighted hum. "Well, even if ya don't need friends to evolve, do ya still want one?"
"Yeah, I want all the friends I can get!" chirped Grace, raising a paw in a cheer.

The two went on to talk for some time, and each got to enjoy the nice-smelling baked goods together.

Hopefully, Grace could do better at making more friends.

To be continued next chapter.

Ch04: Big Changes
As the evening light continued to darken, Bellatrix found herself returning to the Haus after a long day of work and training. It wasn't dark enough to light the main street yet she illuminated her path with a ghostly-white flame that she held gently in a paw, her stride smooth and confident. It was undeniable that she had been in a better mood these past few days and it seemed that her evolution had been a large part of it. While not exactly pleased with her progress, she couldn't call any of her form, reflex or movement good enough just yet she was at least happy enough to not be confined to all-fours.

She paused for a moment to admire the clothing on display in the window, comparing them to her own accessories, before swiftly deciding that hers were better and continuing down the street.
Steven thanked the shopkeep for their work and pushed the door open to head back out to the street. It had taken the better part of the day, but the leathersmith had done fine work, fitting his left arm with a bracer complete with several pockets, now that he had to replace his old satchel. After slipping his amethyst into one of the pockets, he floated out into the street to head home for the night.

Too occupied with fiddling with some of the straps on his new accessory, he nearly bumped right into someone. He definitely would have, too, if not for catching a glimpse of light from the corner of his eye.

Startled, he pulled up short with too much force and almost sent himself tumbling through the shop window in the process.

"Ah, sorry, my mistake, I really need to watch where I'm go--"

Steadying himself against the post of the shop porch, he finally got a good look at who he'd almost run over. The visage of a ghostly white fox greeted him, and he needed a moment before he realized why they were so familiar.

"Wait, Bellatrix, is that you?"
Bellatrix skidded out of the way in surprise of the flying metal object, barely stifling a surprised yip. Composure was quickly regained however when she realised what or rather who the flying metal object was given the lack of other metang in the area alongside the recognition.

Straightening her mane, herself and folding her free arm behind her back, Bellatrix nodded at the metang's question. "It is. You've evolved yourself then, Steven?" She tilted her head slightly in question. "How are you finding it?"
Still flustered that he almost ran over one of his own teammates, Steven missed Bellatrix's momentary slip in her composure.

"I... suppose I did. In a manner of speaking." He found it hard to maintain eye contact with Bellatrix as he spoke, unsure how much he could take credit for in his own evolution...

"Sorry again, though. I think perhaps it's a bit obvious I've still got quite a bit to learn. Again," he added a bit sheepishly.

Spatial awareness for one. Movement speed, too. He found himself staring at Bellatrix curiously before he caught himself. She couldn't have been evolved long herself, and yet she seemed to have things much more sorted with her new body.

You don't have to do it alone, Stone.

He fiddled with one of the notches on his claw. "It's not quite the same, but do you have any pointers for a newly-evolved pokemon?"
"A manner of speaking?" Bellatrix repeated, skeptical. "You don't look particularly stunted. Are you not a metang?" She appraised Steven's new form as she asked, only to thoughtfully hum at his next comments.

"I can," she replied. "You're currently struggling with increased psionics if I had to hazard a guess." She glanced back at the window Steven almost found himself shooting through. "Common amongst newly-evolved psychics." She looked Steven in the eyes, clearly thinking of something. "You need to increment," she finally said. "What you're used to exerting as a beldum is now too much as a metang. Make what is ingrained in your subconscious conscious until you get used to your new, lowered baseline.

"Doing so should decrease the number of broken doors, windows and dented metal that you may experience in the interitem. How many have you broken so far?" That final question seemed like a cheeky way of simply asking how recent Steven's evolution, only a slight deadpan breaching her neutral tone.
Steven blinked. "Stunted?" he repeated to himself, confused for a moment. "No, ah, that's not it."

He reached for his left arm, brushing against his new bracer before halfway tucking it out of view of Bellatrix's scrutiny.

"It's more like I wasn't really trying to. And when it did happen, I... didn't have control of it."

He didn't think she needed the specifics... It was already pretty clear he didn't have control even now.

But he listened intently as Bellatrix gave some advice, bringing a claw to his chin in thought. "Psyonics, you say?" A shame he didn't know much about them. He could have asked Metagross if they were here, though.

His eyes darted downward for a moment. He couldn't remember Metang having any difficulty when they evolved. In fact, they had incredibly precise control, saving them both from a sinking desert temple immediately after evolving.

Maybe the whole relearning part was specific to humans. Or maybe just him. But what was she on about with doors and windows?

"Hang on, I only just got back to town, I haven't broken any--"

Wait. Was that the tiniest smirk on her muzzle?

"Ah," Steven said, giving the side of his head a small scratch. "Of course. I'll be careful, given my track record of testing the limits of the Haus's insurance."
"So very recently then," Bellatrix replied, a small hint of humour entered her tone at his comment about the Haus. "A lot of pokémon evolve when they aren't trying to," Bellatrix then said. "I evolved rather suddenly myself although, by having no control do you mean you lost control of yourself or you couldn't stop it when it started?

"Either way, yes. Your innate abilities amplify after evolution, if you want to see by how much, find a rock and throw it or try to crush it." Though Bellatrix wasn't a psychic herself, she had seen some of the training routines for the newly-evolved at the guild and drew from what she could gather then. Though she played it off as natural, she had to admit to herself, that the memory of those routines was what had made the jump from zorua to zoroark significantly smoother for her.
"Ah, that's true," Steven mused at Bellatrix's words. He hadn't even considered how his own pokemon hadn't necessarily evolved when they were trying to, but more of out a desire to do more regardless of their form. Not wholly unlike his own evolution, when he thought about it.

Though, he nearly shivered at Bellatrix's next question. He wanted to say some of both, but really it was, "The former," he admitted, gaze falling sullen. "When it happened, there were... There were Shadows. I don't know what happened, but it felt like my body-- like the Shadows-- had a mind of their own."

He'd clutched his left arm again as he recounted what happened.

"I... don't remember much. Just that I woke up and I had changed. And the Shadows were gone."

He appreciated Bellatrix's advice, but somehow thinking about it again made him hesitant. If his abilities were amplified, did that mean his Shadows had been amplified too? He couldn't hide the worry in his expression.
Bellatrix gave Steven a single, thoughtful nod. "I admit, I have dabbled little in Shadow. I use it when training, begrudgingly, as it is like any other tool at my disposal so long as you never allow yourself to be carried away but never for too long, even with Powehi's blessing." There was a degree of hesitance in her expression as her mind ruthlessly debated whether or not she should say anything more on the matter.

She shook her head and kept the subject focused on Steven. "Was it actually that way or did it only feel that way?" she asked. "When emotions run high, you act in ways that seem out of control. Shadow itself seems to amplify that." She rested her chin on a claw. "So just what were you doing? What led you to that state?"
Despite her words, Steven felt no recourse. He remembered the Shadow limb emerging. He remembered being dragged, unable to stop. That wasn't-- emotions couldn't do that, could they?

Internally, he paled. He wasn't entirely sure what that translated to with his current biology, but as sharp as Bellatrix was, he doubted she missed his reaction.

What had he been doing? How could he even answer that?

'I ran away and hid because I thought my being here was a mistake, and I was failing the team.'

That was certainly the most truthful answer. But also the one that hurt the most to admit out loud.

Except, wasn't that what landed him in that situation in the first place? Hiding the truth from people he should trust.

He was taking too long to answer, Bellatrix would know something was up regardless of what he eventually said.

So he gave a rattling sigh and decided on the truth. "I wasn't training. I was hiding."

He knew he couldn't leave it at that. Not with Bellatrix watching him so intently. He couldn't meet her gaze, though, staring hard at the dirt with claws clenched into fists.

"I believed I was hurting my teammates-- my friends-- and that I couldn't be relied upon to remain a part of the group. So I left. To go somewhere no one would find me. That was when I evolved."
"And your emotions got the better of you," Bellatrix finished. She appraised Steven looking out for his body language. While she wasn't exactly familiar with the mannerisms of a metang, Steven was formerly human and she knew better than anyone else how such mannerisms could carry over, even into bodies that were as far from human as you could get.

Internally, she was beginning to break down Steven's explanation, trying to figure out each component to diagnose the issue. Her approach, as a result, started to become more clinical, much like her prior encounter with Koa.

"It happens, fear especially leads into to drastic action and I can see how such circumstances made evolution off-putting for you," she said. She allowed some comfort to enter her tone. While she didn't want to coddle Steven, she also didn't want to exacerbate the issue by distancing herself too much.

"Tell me as much as you are comfortable with. What led you to that conclusion?"
He narrowed his eyes at Bellatrix. Off-putting? Evolution has been the furthest thing from his mind. He hadn't even considered it until it happened. He hadn't done anything to earn it; he'd hardly trained at all.

After the conversation with Odette he'd felt better. More sure of himself than at any point since he'd come to Forlas.

And now, being asked to relive his lowest moment was the most unpalatable thing.

A sour look crept over his expression. "I'd rather not if it's all the same to you."
The shift in demeanour was not lost on Bellatrix, immediately telling her that this approach would quickly lead to a dead-end and whatever it was that caused Steven to hide away was going to be a sensitive subject moving forwards. "My apologies, it does not matter," she said quickly, dropping the subject. "It appears that my curiosity got the better of me there."

She shook her head, mentally chastising herself. Her mind scrambled for words, trying to look for something to say to pivot the conversation, she ended up with, "Many avenues have opened up to you with that new form of yours. I do hope you enjoy them, regardless of what happened."
Steven's eyes widened as he realized how cold he'd treated Bellatrix just now. He quickly looked away. "I'm sorry, that was rude of me. You were only offering to help. It seems I still need to work on controlling my emotions."

He scowled at the ground. It was frustrating. He'd made a mistake. He needed to put it behind him. And not take it out on others.

Take some responsibility, Stone.

He knitted his claws together. "I'll try," he offered. He thought for a moment on what Bellatrix said. "Maybe... maybe I don't have an appreciation for what evolution affords."

Glancing back at Bellatrix, he took in her new form. She was upright, standing taller than him on two legs, her long mane flowed in its own wind. She looked confident.

"What sorts of things have you gained?" he asked hesitantly.
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