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Frontier Town Traveller's Haus - Dining Hall

Lyle briefly flared up at Aige's mention of suppressing 'the negative element' and taking 'care of criminals'. He... was going to wait on being fully open about his backstory. Though... Aige was apparently a knight of some sort, except she also wasn't. But at least she was something like a knight.

Gah, this was starting to trip him up. Though he supposed that starting with an answer to Aige's question wasn't a bad option for getting things back on track.

"They're mostly about stories from back when humans lived in my world, and I suppose the time that came shortly after they all vanished," he explained. "Like, there's supposed to have been types of nations from human times that didn't have kings ruling them. An 'Empire' is one of them, I'm pretty sure, even if what I know of them isn't that different from a kingdom."
Aige nodded. “An empire is a little more explicit in the strength of the ruler, at least from what I’ve read. Kingdoms often are hereditary, no?”

The Roggenrola was impassive. “Where there’s not a difference is how the power coalesces- that is, in a singular figure. My world has a ruling body of multiple pokemon, but that hardly means that power is shared.” Aige sounded annoyed. “It usually ends up in one place anyway, a truly decentralized power base is a lot harder to maintain than to visualize.”

“Anyway, from what you’ve read, what do you think?” Aige stared at Lyle. “Would an empire be better for your land than the kingdom?”
"I honestly am not sure if it'd make much of a difference," Lyle said. "It wouldn't change Edialeigh's rivalry with our land, since the last time my homeland was weak, they took advantage of it to launch a counter-invasion."

Lyle nibbled a bit at his food and shook his head with a low sigh.

"I dunno, maybe if our lands' patron gods both said that they wanted the war to end, it'd make a difference, but they're not exactly around to make a difference," he said. "I'm not sure that they would want it to given how they apparently fought with each other all the time when they were alive."

He tilted his head over at the Roggenrola.

"... Actually, does your world have gods?" he asked. "If so, do they help out with your peacekeeping thing? Or else how do you all make it work?"
"There's no gods- not that I can see at any rate," Aige replied, thoughtfully. "There are believers in a figure called Reshiram, but no one's ever expected them to come fix everything." The Roggenrola sighed. "Well, I say that, but the truth is probably otherwise."

"Peace is an ongoing process," she continued, "We make it work with hard work, that's all!"

For a moment, Aige was silent, glancing at Lyle's food. "How do you see peace? Hypothetically that is, I'm not asking for how you'd fix the world, just how you'd imagine a better one. Would your gods be able to bring peace? Or would there be peace if there were no gods?"

The Roggenrola wondered to herself about Lyle's world as she spoke, trying to sort out her feelings.

And the best I can do is say sorry, she thought.
"There's no gods- not that I can see at any rate," Aige replied, thoughtfully. "There are believers in a figure called Reshiram, but no one's ever expected them to come fix everything." The Roggenrola sighed. "Well, I say that, but the truth is probably otherwise."

Lyle blinked at the Roggenrola's reply. He knew that they were all from different worlds and that they weren't guaranteed to all share similarities, but...

"That's... actually my land's patron goddess," he said. "Do the Pokémon who follow Reshiram in your world not have any rivalries with others? Especially Zekrom if your world has one?"

"Peace is an ongoing process," she continued, "We make it work with hard work, that's all!"

For a moment, Aige was silent, glancing at Lyle's food. "How do you see peace? Hypothetically that is, I'm not asking for how you'd fix the world, just how you'd imagine a better one. Would your gods be able to bring peace? Or would there be peace if there were no gods?"

"I'm... not really sure," he said. "I know that my land's had peace before, but even then, it and Edialeigh still didn't get along with each other. It's been like that for over a thousand years."

He paused briefly before shaking his head.

"I... guess the solution would be to just stop the fighting long enough and try to find a way where there wasn't that sort of enmity. Or at least not enough to want to go to war again," he said. "But I'm not a ruler or diplomat or anything like that, so I wouldn't know where to even start."

He trailed off and noticed that in spite of not having recognizable facial features, that something about Aige seemed bothered. Maybe he had been talking about his world's problems for a while.

"Sorry if the topic's been getting you down," he said. "Though you say you make peace for a living in your world... have you ever had to deal with a situation like the one my homeland is in? If so, how did it turn out?"
"Oh don't worry!" Aige said, "It's not bringing me down or anything. I just wish I could help a little, haha."

The Roggenrola edged closer to the table. "Not that you would need it or anything. When you say things like your countries don't get along, I just wonder who that statement extends to. I- I know it's not my place to pass that kind of judgement however."

She took a moment to compose herself. "Yes, anyway. We haven't had wars in the nominal sense. Maybe a bit close to a civil war one or two times, but mostly crime rings and the like. Hypothetically speaking though, if we were to get in a war with the nearest continent- well, I don't know what would happen..."

Aige shook from side to side. "Oh well, guessing doesn't help too much. As for your earlier question, I think I ran into the same situation talking with Koamaru a while ago in that our worlds are a little bit strange in comparison. Reshiram is a figure of reverence in my world, sure. But Zekrom is one of their adherents. I've uh, talked to him before, and he's a very pleasant pokemon. I suppose in your world, he's another- legendary pokemon- or so the term goes? Very strange."

"I hope this doesn't bring your day down too much," Aige said apologetically, "We should be more focused on keeping our spirits up for whatever challenges come our way!"
"Nah, it's fine," Lyle said. "It's frankly nice to just have a break from things, so I suppose I should be thankful while it lasts."

He trailed off briefly as something about Aige's earlier comments stuck with him.

"Though 'challenges'?" he asked. "Did you get yourself into a sparring match or something in town?"
“Not me,” Aige said, sounding a little relieved. “I think I’m a little better at taking hits than giving them, so don’t rely on me too much on the front lines.”

The Roggenrola laughed. “Some of the others have been getting in scrapes however. From what I gather, some of it has been pretty rough.”
“Not me,” Aige said, sounding a little relieved. “I think I’m a little better at taking hits than giving them, so don’t rely on me too much on the front lines.”

The Roggenrola laughed. “Some of the others have been getting in scrapes however. From what I gather, some of it has been pretty rough.”

"Heh, tell me about it," Lyle said. "Though I suppose that that's why we were all brought here together."

Lyle carried on with Aige as they ate and idly chatted together over their meals. He got the feeling that he'd be learning quite a bit about other worlds before this was all over.

And maybe, just maybe. He'd get a chance to take some of that knowledge back home with him to make a difference.

[Ch04] Dave, Archie and Koa Discuss Shadows
Well, that was a fucking dream.

Dave woke up abruptly, disoriented, something uncomfortably cold and heavy lingering weirdly in his chest. Had... had Ridley just fucking walked into the depression ocean? In a dream, sure, but who the fuck does that.

It was light out, though, and after a minute of lying there seeing if he could get back to sleep, he sighed and gave up. The dream discussion was still bothering him. Who the fuck was Seth? When exactly had everyone discovered whatever this was about dimensional portals?

He dragged himself out of bed, maneuvered his belt on, and stumbled down to the dining hall. Hopefully they had coffee brewing and he could properly wake up and maybe get rid of this fucking chill.

The dining hall was still sparse, but at least two people were already there. Archie, the Oshawott in the fedora, and Koa, the Electrike kid, were sitting at a table and eating. Dave saluted them vaguely as he went to ask the attending Tandemaus for a cup of coffee, but his gaze lingered on Koa. In the dream, he'd just been desperately asking Powehi about how to control Shadows.

"So, uh," he said, approaching their table and pulling out a third chair, "is there something you know that I don't? What was all that shit about protecting us from becoming too Shadow and how to control it?"
Koa had tried to avoid falling asleep at all last night, but he'd been far too exhausted to stave it off for long, only for that awful dream to happen, after which he entirely gave up on even wanting to sleep. So instead he had paced for awhile, trying not to think about anything that had happened and failing miserably, until he'd gone downstairs for an early breakfast.

Sleep dragged at him, nipping his heels as he picked at his breakfast. Archie had joined him at some point but he barely spoke to him.

Words prodded him from his murky haze of thoughts. Blinking, he looked up to see... the Poochyena. Dan? David? Dale. No... Dave? Maybe. Forcing himself to focus, Koa nodded a greeting. "Morning." Right, Dave had asked a question. "Uh... Well we're all apparently infected with these shadows now. And there's a Zweilous named Alex apparently who knows about wielding them." He hesistated as he remembered their encounter.

"We sort of met him a couple days ago. Never had a chance to tell the group before everything happened." With a start, he realized Dave might not even have heard about Seth and Cipher. "But if we don't learn to use them then we..." He trailed off, lost for a moment in the memory of fighting Seth. Wes. "Get taken over or something. Go feral."
Archie’s preferred waking up drink was a Chesto berry blend. Though its dry taste left something to be desired, its easy availability on the road back home meant the Oshawott had long since gotten used to it, and so, even in Forlas where other options were readily available, he often went for the berry juice out of habit. After last night’s dream, he found he didn’t really have much of an appetite, but he forced himself to pick out a few pieces of fruit to idly nibble on, knowing that if he neglected to eat anything he’d soon come to regret it.

He’d set up at a table with Koa, the Electrike being the only other one in the mess at the time. Though the two didn’t exchange many words, Archie at least took some comfort in sharing space with someone familiar. Really, it seemed both of them were content to keep to their own thoughts… At least until they were joined by a third. This was… Dave, Archie was fairly certain? The surly Poochyena who’d joined them in the fight to save Steven’s life, and the follow up trip to the doctor’s office. That was right, he was one of the ones Archie had been meaning to warn about the whole mess with Shadow corruption before… Well, before everything happened.

“It’s like Koa says,” Archie nodded. “We… Picked up corruption from the other Shadow Pokemon, it spread from us to Betel, and then from Betel to, well, everyone else.”

Only, was that really how it went? Lately, Archie had been playing events back to himself in his head. If it really was that the shadow had come from sources like the Charmeleon and the Drapion, why hadn’t Betel picked it up sooner? Alex though, after he’d cut them off from the Cloud, he’d hit them with something that had frozen Archie’s blood in his veins. And only then, when their connection had been resorted, had Betel had their Shadow induced freak out. Whenever Archie had felt the Shadow since then – when he had called it himself, when it had threatened to overwhelm him when Wes evolved, last night in the dream, it had brought along that same feeling of ice. Was he reading too much into it? Or did he just not want to acknowledge that, ultimately, he might be at least partially responsible for everything…

“Powehi said as much in a previous dream, too, that if we didn’t learn to control the darkness in our souls, we’d fall to the Abyss,” he continued, pushing that thought aside for now. “So, I imagine, the protection is something along those lines.”

Hopefully they’d actually gotten it. Things had gotten kind of screwy there at the end. Just what had Ridley been thinking? … Hopefully he was okay.
Dave blinked, squinting at Koa and then Archie, the heavy cold dread in his chest curdling into anger. His claws dug into the floor, low growl forming in his throat, phantom pain stinging his shoulder. "The fuck do you mean we're all infected? Betel insisted after the wagon thing that it'd just fucking fade away by itself. That our aura would just naturally reject it. What the fuck changed?" And why the fuck did Betel still only show up if they went out of their way to go to an inconvenient fucking dungeon?

"Who told you this? That Alex guy? Because if Betel knows, they sure as fuck haven't seen fit to update me on that tiny little irrelevant detail. And for that matter, who the fuck is Seth? What the fuck all was Powehi even talking about? Am I the only one who's getting real fucking sick of this fucking place?"

The cold hadn't gone away, instead settling as a horrid weight suffocating his lungs. The Tandemaus arrived with his coffee and set it down on the table; he took an agitated sip that was scalding hot and slammed the cup back down with a clatter. "Fuck!"
Archie leaned back in his chair, expression pulled back into a teeth showing grimace. Dave wasn't taking the revelation particularly well. The Oshawott could hear the gravelly vocal distortion thar he was beginning to recognize as a telltale sign of building shadow corruption in the Poochyena's voice. They needed to find a way to calm Dave down. Archie wasn't ready for another episode like Wes's.

"I'm sorry, I know this isn't exactly ideal for any of us," the Oshawott said. He took a moment to glance at Koa, before looking back at Dave. "Koa and I had intended to spread the word ourselves, but things have been... Eventful, these last few days."

He leaned forward again, resting his elbows on the table and lowering his voice so the Maus couldn't overhear. "Seth is, or, well, it's complicated... Suffice to say, you might know of him as The Wolf, from the wanted posters. Wes and I encountered him a few days ago, and, last night, a group of us had another run in with him. Long story short, we confirmed that the corruption spread to all of us during that second encounter."

He was really glazing over a lot of this whole mess. Honestly though, he barely even knew where to begin! And, honestly, part of him worried that the more he said the angrier Dave would get. The Poochyena had always seemed the surly, irritable type to the Oshawott.
Koa winced, wishing he could vanish into a hole in the ground. What changed? You. You brought this on the team. What would Dave think when he found out? A prickle of anxious worry needled at him as Dave continued. He knew that edge in Dave's voice. Shadow.

Traces of fear rose in him, though he supressed it quickly. He stared at Archie for a moment, wondering if they should explain more about Alex. His mouth went dry as he tried to find something to say to explain to Dave everything, or help somehow. "Sorry," he mumbled finally. His mind was too sluggish and tired to come up with anything real to say.

"But that Zweilous Alex was able to control shadows somehow and we believe that we can control the shadows too if we just try to stay calm." The words tumbled out in a wearied, haphazard mess. Except Alex was maybe some kind of dangerous villain. "And we did it when we fought Seth kind of so its possible, we just have to focus and ignore the negatives..." You call that control?
Oh. They'd just casually gone and met with the Wolf? The sapient Shadow Pokémon who'd kicked Nolan's ass six ways to Sunday? Well, okay. Why the fuck wouldn't they.

"Focus and ignore the negatives. Great. Sounds fantastic. Sign me up."

Dave took another irritated sip of his coffee (but more careful this time), blinking blearily. Koa wasn't looking him in the eye, tense, like a deer in headlights as he apologized. Archie, though, was watching him, unfazed but with wary concern.

He breathed in, the smell of coffee bright and vivid with his canine nostrils. At least the drink was sharpening his mind a bit, the cold knot beginning to loosen.

"How much can we trust this Alex guy, anyway?" he said, exhaling through his nose. "You said he 'knows about wielding them'? As in, knows how to wield the power that turns people into bloodthirsty zombies? That doesn't exactly make him sound like the most trustworthy guy on the fucking planet."
Mhynt's words came back to him, and he shuddered. She wanted Alex dead. "He's not," Koa muttered. He continued to stare vacantly at his plate. "We shouldn't trust him. I don't know, I think Mhynt knows him, but I don't know the story. He knows more than he's telling though, and he works for Powehi."

He knew he shouldn't keep the secret, but he couldn't stand the thought of making an enemy of someone else on the team. Or getting called a stupid idiot. Except this wasn't just about him. What he'd done affected the team. "But he didn't seem trustworthy when we met him, and I think he's dangerous. I don't know but I think... I think he could have done something. Like somehow whatever we learned from him or being near him affected Betel, or maybe it was just from fighting Seth, I don't know." A soft growl of frustration escaped him. "I don't know," he said again.

"Betel got shadowy after we met with Alex though." The memory of Betel's panic made him sick. Maybe this really was his fault. Now they all had shadows in them. Because of you. Screwup.
“The more you let yourself stew in it, the worse it gets,” Archie explained, “If you let it overwhelm you…”

He frowned, briefly pulling his coat tighter around his body. To be honest, he still felt emotionally exhausted from everything. The fight with Seth, the follow up fight with Wes, the corpse they’d dug up, and then the dream, all back to back. He had little desire to revisit that whole mess already, and explain to the Poochyena how the overwhelming amount of Shadow had made him feel and think. Thankfully, Dave soon changed the subject. The Oshawott sat up straight again at the mention of Alex.

“I wouldn’t consider trusting him were it not for lack of alternatives,” he said. When the Zweilous was the only sapient being with Shadow experience both willing and able to talk to them, it was more of a gamble Archie was willing to make. But circumstances had changed now, and Seth was possibly a viable alternative. It was hard to say for sure, but the Lycanroc felt like the safer bet overall. Though, that reminded him, “We did get him to agree to meeting up with as many of us were willing to show, in the Industrial District sometime soon for some more in depth shadow training, but…”

He glanced at Koa again, bringing a paw up to rest against his muzzle as his frown deepened. It seemed like the Electrike was thinking along his same lines, about Alex maybe having done something to cause their current corruption. If something like that was bothering Archie, he could only imagine how much it might be eating Koa. Maybe they could discuss it a little more privately, later. Ultimately, as the elder of the pair, the Oshawott felt like most of the responsibility for what happened fell on him. Still, he didn’t think the Electrike would particularly care for that line of reasoning…

Something else Koa said did catch him off guard though. Mhynt knew Alex? If he was remembering right – and to be fair, Archie had been a bit lost in his own thoughts to properly focus on long stretches of the dream – Powehi had said something about them being allowed to kill the Zweilous, if they so desired. Did that mean Mhynt wanted Alex dead? What kind of history did they share to warrant such an extreme reaction out of the Treecko?

“A-anyway,” he said, shaking his head, “Alex is the one that showed us how to wield the shadow, originally. It was how we found out we had it at all. He seems to have localized his own corruption entirely into his second head, Xander. So, it seems like he has a good grasp on his own sanity, which, at the time, made him seem like a valuable potential source of information.”
Dave took a deep breath. "Okay. So you met with this Alex guy, and you 'learned' something from him that corrupted Betel and is spreading to everyone? And Betel just didn't see fit to fucking mention this to anyone? We're all corrupted with zombie juice, happy fun surprise whenever you happen to ask someone about it at breakfast?"

Mhynt had said something suggesting Powehi murder Alex, hadn't she. He'd taken it as a deadpan joke. What the fuck?

He exhaled in frustration again. "Powehi called Alex a tool and sounded like he didn't care if he got killed. So it doesn't exactly sound like he trusts him farther than he can throw him, either. With regards to meeting with him again, how about fuck no? You met with him once and he corrupted Betel, and now you want to see the guy a second time? I don't want his fucking training and I don't want whatever corrupted energy he decides to pump into Betel next. I don't know about alternatives, but I don't see in what universe getting tutoring from that asshole would be a good idea." Although... Archie had said something else in the dream world, hadn't he, about Seth. "What happened with the Wolf guy, anyway? Wasn't he supposed to be a full-on Shadow Pokémon but in charge of his faculties?"
"We were going to try and explain to the others more but everything kind of happened," he muttered, feeling a twinge of frustration, though it was outward instead of directed at Dave. He wished Beetle could have said more, done more. But then, given how inexperienced they were he found it hard to be truly upset. They were trying. And they'd been so scared when it happened.

"But I won't see him again, and I don't think anyone should. Especially if Mhynt hates him." He didn't know Mhynt very well but he trusted her leagues more than Alex, who'd done nothing but try and deceive them. He swallowed thickly. "Unless... Unless we can somehow try to get information from him. Use him somehow. He clearly knows more than he's letting on I think."

Koa gave a soft sigh. "Anyways Seth is... Sort of in control. Things got out of hand when we battled him though." The memory still made Koa squirm under his pelt. "Like he was mostly in control but it almost overwhelmed him." And Wes. And you. Seth's story bubbled up from his memories of last night. "That group from the dream. Cipher. Whatever they did to him shadowed him when he was human and he escaped here. So he's some kind of half shadow I guess."
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