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Frontier Town Traveller's Haus - Dining Hall

Ch05: Mint-al Health Check {Koa & Mhynt}
Worry ate at Koa as he hung around the dining hall, scanning for any glimpse of green. Where was she? Maybe she was avoiding him... Not that he could blame her after what happened, but he couldn't ignore it either. He'd hoped talking to her at breakfast might be less invasive than trying to barge into her room.

Just as he was considering giving up to try somewhere else, he spotted her from afar. Steeling himself, he trotted over to her, stopping before he got too close. "Hey Mhynt," he said neutrally. Now that he stood in front of her, it felt harder to find the words to say. Another apology felt pointless, but pretending she was fine felt risky too after everything that had happened. Assuming she even wanted to speak to him at all.

"Holding up okay after the raid?"
"Koa." Mhynt nodded in her usual, cordial way when she wasn't in mission mode. For someone who had been mauled and nearly kidnapped just a few days ago, she carried herself well.

"I'm doing fine," Mhynt said, walking down the hall to get breakfast. "I was getting some food. Then I'll be returning to my room. Have you been doing well?"
"Well enough," Koa replied, studying her uneasily as he walked with her. He almost felt he'd prefer her to be mad at him. At least he would know what to do with that more than behaving... calm. "Told Lucien to put up wanted posters."

Not leaving her room felt odd, considering her advice to Archie. Was she okay? Had Alex done something to her? "Has your arm healed okay?" he asked carefully.
"...It is," Mhynt said quietly. "I think what remains is only phantom pains. I will be fine."

But Koa knew Mhynt well enough from exposure that she was more stoic than usual. That usually meant she was hiding her true thoughts. Still... Mhynt was usually clear if she disliked someone. She didn't give that vibe toward him.

"The wanted posters will at least mean he'll have trouble walking in town again," she added after that brief silence. She entered the dining room and searched for a spot to grab a plate.
Koa nodded, trying to consider his next words. She seemed bothered. He distracted himself by heading towards a table and taking a plate with a few berries and toast. He couldn't muster an appetite for a proper breakfast.

It felt wrong to ask 'are you sure', since she would know better than anyone. Would she follow her own advice about not isolating? "You're not going to the Bulletin Board today?"
She hesitated in answer and avoided eye contact. Mhynt sometimes did one or the other, but never both at the same time.

"...I could," she said. "I've been doing that a lot lately. It was a tiring few days. Maybe I could use some savings and have myself a small vacation. It's safe enough here to... exist."

An evasive answer, though nothing she said in isolation seemed wrong...
A vacation? Since when would Mhynt want a vacation? It was hard to picture her lounging on a beach somewhere sipping a drink, but maybe she was into that...

"I guess. Rest is important too. My team back home would tell me the same thing." He briefly wondered if this was what he sounded like when he tried to pretend nothing was bothering him. "Where would you even vacation around here?" It wasn't a bad town but it was hard to think of anywhere that was particularly good for that.
"I think I heard the term staycation uttered before," Mhynt hummed, finally deciding on a plate of berry waffles. "I'd... do something like that."

She held her plate a little tighter, then walked down the hallway again. She'd return the plate when she was done.

"...I know you're worried about me," she finally said, her voice a little softer. "I need time to process... it. Seeing him again."
Koa swallowed and frowned. "I get it..." he murmured. "I mean. I don't know what its like but I understand wanting time." He at least understood not wanting to see certain people. Especially if it was someone like Alex.

An uncomfortably long moment passed as he decided if he wanted to say his next words. "It's just... You told us how important it is not to isolate. I mean that applies to you too, right? Uh, not that it has to be me or anything. It probably shouldn't. But maybe there's someone else on the team? Someone you could talk to." He felt awkward even suggesting the idea to Mhynt, given how little he understood of her situation. But a small part of him felt responsible. He wanted to help her.

The sound her screaming the other night was hard to forget. "Um. Not right this second just... sometime?"
Mhynt sighed through her nose. It was a slow, steady one. It didn't sound like annoyance. Perhaps... defeat, acknowledgment.

"You're right," she said. "I've... not been following my own terms. I thought it was fine to just stay here. People knew where I was. I wasn't... isolated. But... I haven't been checking in properly. Maybe it isn't enough."

She was walking down the hall and to her room again.

"I will, Koa. And... I'll try to be alright. You're far too young to be burdened by the things I'd have to talk about. People can be cruel. And cruel people with power can cause limitless suffering. And... I was a victim of that circumstance. I didn't expect that to follow me here. That's all. I'll be okay."

She had to.
"I know they can," he said softly. He knew too well, and that only scratched the surface. "I'm sorry." At least it sounded like she was taking her own advice. He wanted to offer her more help, but then she probably wouldn't be interested in it. Besides, what wisdom could he offer a legendary? Someone like Luz or Nova would probably know more, by the sound of it.

"Thank you," he added solemnly. "And... at least you're not alone here. We can stop him." Even if Alex kept getting stronger, so would the Wayfarers right?
"...I thought Owen could," Mhynt said. "But I'm beginning to think... he's too far gone in this world. If we want any hope in defeating Alexander, we'd have to chip away at his power faster than he acquires it.

"Ein..." Mhynt shook her head. "I do not think Ein is gone. I think... Alexander claimed him. We may fight him again as a puppet to him. That's how he fights. How he grows his power. And even without his thrall... he alone has massive Shadow power. I can't believe that dark presence chose him as an emissary. Such foolishness..."
Koa frowned. Mhynt had a point, Powehi either didn't care or lacked forethought... "Maybe Owen isn't too far gone. Cipher wouldn't go through all that trouble to destroy that stone if it wasn't a threat somehow. And look at Seth and that other Lycanroc uh... Leona? Maybe there's still a way to purge the shadows or control them."

He found himself staring off into space and grimacing as his thoughts turned back to Ein. "So he can borrow powers from his puppets? Why leave those guards behind then?"
Mhynt held her plate in one hand and opened her door, pulling inward. She left it open for Koa to enter.

Her room was neat, tidy, and sunny, with a window open to allow fresh air inside. There was a small, tall cactus on the corner of her desk with the nametag 'Artur' pasted onto the ceramic pot. On the desk were several news clippings of Shadow sightings and other happenings around town. There was a large rock next to her bed that was covered in Leaf Blade cuts, likely for training.

"Perhaps," Mhynt said, "he had no use for them. Mundane guards might be... below his power needs. Perhaps he needed to use them as a conduit for some of his powers. I wouldn't be surprised if some of his abilities required souls as batteries, and those guards were disposable enough to use as those... giant Shadow pillars."
Slightly surprised Mhynt's hadn't told him to leave her alone yet, he followed her in, glancing briefly around. Maybe he should get a plant...

Her words made Koa shudder. "Souls as batteries?" What did that mean for Drapion? And worse yet for Owen? Another thought came to mind as he remembered how Alex had attacked. "Does he... get moves and powers from souls too? If he took Ignatius then could that be how he could burrow or use that wave attack?"
"That's my guess," Mhynt said. "I think the reason Alexander was able to sense us so thoroughly despite being blind... is because he has access to Owen's Perceive. I'm not sure if you're familiar with that..." She shook her head. "But Owen can see a radius around himself in all three dimensions. He can see through, around, and throughout basically anything that isn't elementally insulated. And now... Alexander has that same power, so long as he has Owen's soul under his domain.

"I suspect the same is true for Ein and whatever powers manifested in him. And the mayor, and Drapion... anyone. He's too dangerous to leave alone."
"Yeah we... got a taste of that before," he muttered. "When he attacked our wagon." Always wagons and prisoners... He was beginning to think it was a curse as opposed to coincidence.

The thought of facing Alex plus whatever powers he'd stolen from his other victims was terrible. "Was there ever... a counter to his power? Negative effects or limits that could affect him here?"
Mhynt frowned, looking away.

"Someone who can wield the power of Shadow and Radiance in perfect equality. That's a means to counter him. In our world... Owen was one of the few capable of such a feat. And here, he is under Alexander's control. A worst-case scenario. Here... I do not know if any of us have a mastery of both yet. But... perhaps soon..."
"Well we're halfway there then," Koa said, trying to sound optimistic. One other factor was bothering him, but he felt bad bringing it up.

"I was wondering... back during the battle, right before I attacked Alex, I didn't feel anything at all. Like his powers failed for some reason. Do you have any idea why?"
"Failed?" Mhynt repeated. "Right. That caught Alexander by surprise, too..."

She paced to her notes and papers on her desk. She flipped through a few of them. It was hard to tell if she actually read any of it during her silence.

"Maybe it works differently here," she finally concluded. "I'm weaker here. Much weaker. If he came the same way, maybe he isn't as all-powerful here, either."
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