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Frontier Town Traveller's Haus - Dining Hall

The first two questions were easy. The third made him flinch internally. Facts, facts, facts. Start with the simple answer, so he wouldn't linger on the other question.

"He let us go. At the time I believe it was because he didn't intend us harm. Some kind of test I guess. I don't think he was our enemy and at the time we were trying not to make him one. He offered to teach the us and the team about shadows, or at least guide us to see if they were in us already."

At this, he glanced down reflexively at his paws, remembering that night with Seth. "We were both able to use a small amount of shadows that day." Another easy answer, just relating the simple parts of what happened.

"As for when..." His voice faltered a moment but he tried to cover it by clearing his throat and pressing on. "Two possibilities. Multiple exposures to shadows caused it. Owen. Drapion. The first encounter with Seth. Or it was Alex. Something he did awakened it." His mouth had gotten dry and he realized he'd started to dig his paw into the table slightly.

"Also he was able to block Betel when we started talking and once he left was when they seemed to first react. Whatever Alex did changed something." Just state the facts. Nothing more. You did this... "After he threatened us he used a bolt of some kind of shadow lighting and struck near us."
"If Betel had a reaction to the aftermath, then it must have been him," Bellatrix muttered continuing to rhythmically tap the table. "Simple exposure is not enough, something needs to be unlocked within by someone who has proficiencies with said power and I believe the exact same applies to Radiance if I am not mistaken following my experience with it."

Her gaze softened ever so slightly as she continued to consider the possibilities. The shadow bolt did raise a slight alarm bringing forth a small kernel of concern, there was no telling if it was merely a bluff or something more insidious based on recent accounts of the zweilous.

"Have you and Archie been feeling alright since the encounter? Nothing particularly off, per chance?" Guilt she expected. Much as Koa tried to hide his feelings his mask was fragile - slipping at even the slightest of prods - but even if he had managed to hold it steady, Archie's reply was a dead giveaway to how they were handling the aftermath. What Bellatrix was focused on was any noticeable shifts in the two, either physical or mental.
Koa resisted the urge to give a bark of laughter. Nothing off? Maybe Bellatrix hadn't heard how the little battle against Seth had gone. Still, he didn't care or desire to answer her question at all. As if she even cared. Facts. Reaching around his emotions he carefully plucked the most sparing details he could from his memories.

"You'll have to speak to Archie yourself," he said carefully. "Physically, fine. Not sure what you've heard but some of the team experienced negative effects fighting Seth. Seth's corruption affected Wes, it led to an evolution, and the team had to subdue him." If subdue meant nearly tearing each other apart and Wes attacking everyone. "Fighting seems to have an effect either way, both on Seth and Wes. Alex may not have the best intentions but it seems he's correct. Shadows are controllable."

There. That much was accurate. The rest of theory was no different that what he'd thought of a thousand times before, so he had no need to dwell on it. "What do you know about Radiance then?" he asked. "You were exposed to it?"
Such a predictable boy. Bellatrix bore no reaction to the comments surrounding the encounter with Seth, clearly she was looped in on that front. Perhaps she would talk to Archie herself later but she didn't see the need to comment on it now.

"Thanks to Sierra, yes," she answered, moving onto Koa's question. "I offered myself to experience the effects for myself. Considered divine, it sharpens the mind, strips it down to a singular focus that can consume its user if they are not careful. It acts as Shadow's direct counter and while possible to use it after enough intense training, without a proper blessing one will not get very far in their capabilities to wield it. A lack of any focus will also cause difficulties in trying to use it and due to its extreme nature, Radiance itself doesn't appear to manifest much beyond the more intense of situations, hence the importance of trying to track down the Wandering Light, so we can learn of this ability without needing to place such strain on ourselves."

For a brief moment, Koa would see a flash of guilt cross the Zoroark's features as she looked down on her claws. "I've dedicated myself to that goal over these last few days," she said. "It's the least I can do..." she added more quietly.
Koa's eyes widened with interest as she described Radiance. A counter to shadow... He wondered if it could heal shadow pokemon too. Someone like the Wandering Light would want nothing to do with you. If they could find a way to access Radiance then they'd have a real weapon against Cipher.

Her final comment caught him off guard slightly. He frowned, both surprised and curious. "Least you can do?" he asked carefully. Was that guilt? Did she know more than she was letting on?
There was a pause as Bellatrix tried to find her next words, however she nodded. She didn't care if the electrike hated her for it, transparency was the entire point of this exercise and he didn't seem to like her much to begin with anyway.

"I feel partially responsible for Alexander's growing presence," she admitted. "I met him once before, in Blaguarro, and I mistakenly believed his act as fool so I paid no heed to him when he followed us when attempting to find Terminal Two." She fought back the urge to lambast herself, she didn't warrant pity, and instead focused on keeping her cool demeanour. "I doubt he has actually found the facility given that only an entrance to a labyrinth was discovered and he appears to have been spending his time in Frontier Town but the recent events with Ignatius and the drapion leads me to believe that he is cultivating some kind of force. If he reaches Terminal Two...

"...The consequences would be disastrous and for that, I apologise."
He blinked, then blinked again. Then he gave a derisive snort. She was mad at herself for not instantly realizing Alex was not who he seemed? For all of her attitude she was just as stupid as he'd been. And he'd been worrying about her judgement, as if she was more all knowing than him. He almost laughed. He didn't care. Maybe she liked complaining but he didn't really care to return the favor.

"Okay," he said, shrugging. Water under the bridge. "Now we all know Alex is a liar. We aren't officially enemies with him, and last time we parted on neutral terms. We had proposed before we left that Alex should teach the rest of the team how to use shadows."

He found that he could relax slightly, and he continued, still calm. "Only because I had hoped the team could make their own choice what to do or if he would be useful. Maybe we can't play double agent, but we can still do something. We just have to plan what to do next."
A refusal. Bellatrix expected as much so she let it pass, unfazed. She didn't need approval when there were far more pertinent things on the line. All she needed to do was to ensure that she would not fail again.

"Is such a thing wise with the added context of his actions, especially seeing how wary Mhynt is of him?" Her tone was thoughtful, like she was trying to scour the idea of any potential advantages. "Perhaps once we gain access to Radiance, there is a chance to ambush before he spreads his influence further?" She shook her head, dismissing the thought. "But incredibly risky, I would rather discuss these things with the rest of the group before we settle on any definitive plan of action. Better to understand what we're up against, ensure that it has minimal flaw."

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Her claw continued to fill the air with noise, Bellatrix's expression now pensive. "It is more a matter of how much time we have," she mused. "I just hope it's enough."
His ears twitched as she tapped away. "I'll leave that up to the team and Mhynt, or someone who knows more about that," he murmured. "You're right, we can't do anything until we discuss it more with everyone." On that much at least, he could agree completely. Especially considering Alex had deceived them both. He'd assumed before it was at least true that Alex was working with Powehi but hearing that he'd played Bellatrix changed things.

"When I encountered him he said he knew of the facility, but wasn't strong enough yet to go there. Maybe he's trying to gather enough strength to attack them as well?" Koa frowned. "Or he's using Powehi too, and doesn't plan on stopping Cipher at all... Did he give any clues to what he was up to?"
"I have my reasons to believe he was searching for where the source of the Shadow influx from Blaguarro originated from," Bellatrix replied. Her tapping ceased with a slight shrug. "When I first encountered him, he seemed to have just been loitering but he had been present in the town for some time given that the residents had sighted him numerous times before. The excuse given being training. Perhaps that was true to a certain extent, from what I hear a deino evolving into a zweilous is no easy feat and deino do not exactly bear the reputation of being the strongest pokémon."

She let out a brief, thoughtful hum and nodded at her own train of thought. "Ergo, he still seems to require more power before he becomes something truly frightening. Perhaps it correlates to his connection to Shadows - it would be a good enough reason as any to target the jailhouse - which is why it would not surprise me if he was taking advantage of Powehi though whatever becomes of that relationship remains to be seen."

Another pause for thought. "What I wonder is how long he has been on Forlas, we could figure out a general rate at which he builds power if we knew the time it took for him to reach this point."
Was Powehi using Alex, or Alex using him? Or perhaps somehow, both? He found himself studying Bellatrix, wondering what was going on behind her mask of calm. And how much longer she expected to talk to him. Was she actually interested in his thoughts?

"Powehi might have an idea," Koa murmured. "But I don't know if we can contact him again. Or if he'll answer any more questions." He'd provided some useful information but then he'd been rather reluctant to truly do much for them.

"If the team does decide to do something about Alex it might be better to attempt to do it sooner rather than later. He's already strong and skilled in using shadows. And he's only gotten stronger by taking Drapion and Ignatius."

They'd missed their chance to stop him sooner but there was no way of knowing at the time. But if he couldn't be trusted to take down Cipher, what else... "Maybe he plans to take control of Cipher himself."

There was an air of pensiveness and curiosity surrounding the zoroark though her features betrayed nothing. Despite her youthful appearance, it was obvious that Bellatrix had mastered the art of maintaining a mask of neutrality long ago. No thoughts passed through unless she was shaken enough or allowed them to.

"It's possible," she then answered. "If that's where all the Shadows are, then naturally it would be a significant point of interest for him." Though her expressions betrayed little, she was clearly quite interested in hearing what Koa had to say and formulating ideas based on that. "Mhynt is another we could ask," she continued, "as she appears to have experience with Alexander - that charmeleon too if I recall - and I imagine she is far more readily available than Powehi. Though if we do find ourselves communing with Powehi again then best to not waste the opportunity."
"I have plans already to talk to her," he said with a nod. Her mask revealed nothing else. Fine by him, she was welcome to think as she pleased as long as she kept those chains away from him.

"I think for now the only option is to gather information from her, and discuss with the team. In the meantime I'll let everyone know to be aware of the threat Alex poses," he said neutrally. There was an unspoken 'anything else?' tone to his voice. As much as he wasn't looking forward to fighting Alex, they couldn't avoid him forever. Especially if he had Drapion and Owen.
"Good, good. That will be all for now then," Bellatrix replied, Koa's tone not lost on her. "I will continue to look into Radiance for the time being to ensure we can attain it as quickly as possible. Hopefully, with the new communications, this word will spread quickly amongst the rest of the Wayfarers."

She left the implication that she didn't need reporting back to hang. Koa clearly didn't bear much interest in speaking to her and she didn't exactly like the electrike much either. So, with a polite nod, she indicated that he could now leave as he pleased.

Although... Just as she was about to see him off, she felt that sensation again. She had other things to think about since she had first felt it during her first encounter with the electrike but the feeling lingered and itched at the back of her mind and it bothered her.

Why can I not recall just who you remind me of?
Finally it was over-

There it was again. A look. Something he couldn't place but one that rankled him anyway. He tensed. What now? Why did it always feel like Bellatrix had a problem with him? He'd never even spoken to her before she attacked him. Was she mad at him still, looking for an apology, judging him quietly for his choice? She didn't seem like she cared enough to want an apology, and it wasn't like she'd apologized either for attacking him that night. It didn't feel at all like an apology would help her. Frustration bubbled up and he narrowed his eyes.

In the back of his mind he remembered Odette's advice again. I'm angry because she's judging me. I want to get out of here and I hate being around her... He could just leave. Most of him wanted to, but part of him was sick of it, sick of the lingering sense of judgement, sick of all the tensionsick of the way he couldn't get those chains out of his head.

"What?" his tone was forceful, but he managed to let go of the worst of of his anger. "What is your problem with me?" There was an edge of challenge and confusion in his voice. He met her gaze with a cool levelness, his jaw set like stone.
That managed to take Bellatrix aback with a slight flinch and a blink. What was it now? Did he finish every social interaction with attitude and the threat of potential attack? Quite frankly, she didn't wish for a repeat; if she did, she would have lambasted Koa for his recklessness from the outset. For now, she kept her cool with a small sigh.

"Not with you," she said after a moment, rubbing her temple. She settled for honesty with the potential that it would provide an answer or two. "It's my own memory or rather, lack thereof. You remind me of someone but I haven't the faintest clue as to who, how or why, just like how one notices the empty spot of a missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle and how the more you stare at that empty space, the more determined you become to fill it in."
Koa stared at her, blinking and baffled. Not the response he'd expected at all. "I remind you of someone?" He narrowed his eyes, although his tone was more bewildered than angry. He cocked his head. "Is that it?"

He stared at her, half wondering if she was lying, but at least she seemed honest. Which made everything more irritating and confusing. "That's why you've been treating me like this? Why you attacked me in my room after the wagon debacle?"

Was... was it really all because of that? It would almost be funny if it wasn't annoying.
Bellatrix now looked genuinely confused. "Treating you like... I always try to remain calm and professional when speaking with anyone and look down upon reckless behaviour regardless of who was responsible," she began. "Yes, trying to piece together the answer to that question remained at the back of my mind since that night but I hadn't lied when I told you I was genuinely concerned for your wellbeing then."

Part of her wondered how much of this was going to stick given how taurosheaded Koa was, but Bellatrix felt like she owed an explanation, especially since...

"Koa," she said slowly. "You struck first."
"You were already preparing an attack first! I was defending myself! It was barely even an attack." The reply came quick, quicker than he meant, and he frowned, biting down the frustration. Odette's advice rang in his mind again and he quickly tried to gather himself to reply. He almost missed her other admission, that she was genuinely concerned about him. Maybe try not barging into people's rooms with an illusion and then condescending them!

He could feel his body tensing, his annoyance rising again. Everything about that night had been awful and he hated thinking about it. Don't snap. Keep it together. I have to explain. His voice was clipped and stiff when he spoke, but forceful. "You invaded my room after we had all been attacked by tricking me with an illusion." His paws gripped the table again. "I told you to leave and you chained me up."
Bellatrix's confusion didn't fade, in fact, it only became more pronounced at Koa's next words. She tried to keep her bewildered tone out of her voice but some couldn't help but slip in.

"But I was retaliating back, I wasn't preparing..." She began but her words trailed off while her thoughts raced. What did happen there exactly? She remembered feeling frustrated, both thanks to Koa's stubbornness and her, at the time, recent conversation with Laura but also concerned. His injuries at the time were far from light and she could tell that he had been reawakening them with every push of his body. She wanted to stop him before he got too reckless, riling up his injuries, just like how she wanted to stop Ignatius using his escape orb in the manor and both ended up producing those strange chains, didn't they?

The name of the technique, Embargo, echoed through her mind. It had been there since the moment she stepped foot on Forlas - she had noticed that there was always something there - but when she'd tried to experiment with it once or twice before those instances nothing ever became of it. Was that what was required? The desire to stop someone or something?

"I don't think I realised," she finally said after a pause. Spirits, this was going to difficult to explain wasn't it? From the top then. "I was, and still am, unsure of how summoning that move exactly works and both times, I had assumed that it was instantaneous something that could just be used if I desired not something that prepared itself by feeding off my thoughts." That had to have been a good enough explanation, being seen as a madwoman was perhaps the last takeaway she would have wanted for this.

She continued, "As for the illusion, it's reflexive for a zoura or zoroark to take a form that they think makes them appear less threatening - survival mechanism - we hadn't spoken much before that night so I thought that a maus would not have bothered you nearly as much as a teammate that night. I had visited a couple of the others, like Andre, on that wagon since then for the same reasons."
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