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Frontier Town Traveller's Haus - Guest Rooms

Koa bit back a growl as one second their was a Maus, and the next, a pale Zorua. That explained it. In hindsight, the talking was weird but he'd been too tired to think about that. Beatriz? No... Bellatrix. Great, was everyone on their team determined to play tricks? It took all his willpower not to snap at her for barging into his room in an illusion.

He scowled at her disdainfully, too tired to hide his annoyance. Had she come here just to harass him? He found himself reminded of Blake, which only made him more annoyed. "Because it was-" obvious? How else would we get more information before the opportunity was gone? "the simplest way to learn more," he said stiffly. He bit back the 'is that good enough for you?' he wanted to say.
If Bellatrix had any reaction to his scowl, she didn't show it. "Simplest? Perhaps. Riskiest? Most certainly. But that's neither here nor there given that it was halted in a rather brutal manner in a way nobody could expect." She studied Koa for a moment, analysing every bit of body language he exhibited. Anger and defensiveness she expected, she just needed a way to navigate around it.

"I'm here to learn more of the attack," she then added, "because I doubt it was any mere coincidence." She sat down, her tail wrapping around her paws politely. She looked like she wanted to add something more but kept it quiet for now.
What, and she had some brilliant safe solution? Some special easy method to find clues? Probably a better plan than his, one that didn't get everyone almost killed. He snorted. "Yeah, because we came here to be safe." It took him a second to realize he'd spoken it under his breath instead of in his head.

He continued quickly, and pointedly. "There's not much to say that you can't get by asking anyone else." He wished she would. "Some kind of strange Charmeleon attacked us. Our Voice friend said it had some kind of tainted shadow aura. It was faster and and stronger than normal," he ran through the facts stoically, like reading a chore list. And tried not to think of the Rattata or anything else. "Tail flame didn't give off any light either. I don't think it was a thinking pokemon. Feral."

He regarded her coolly. "Anything else?"
"The others weren't as badly hurt or I know them enough that they won't be the most recipient to the presence of others," Bellatrix replied, "and I can understand that. But there is a difference between taking necessary and unnecessary risk. The former is when all other possible options are exhausted, the latter is just another way of saying 'jumping headfirst into danger'."

Hopefully, that would be the next lesson this group would learn.

"Either way, that must have been one of those creatures - 'Witching Beasts' - the Blaguarro residents had been speaking of." She pondered for a moment. "It's all circumstantial but if both those creatures and Terminal Two are connected then...

"Do you think it may have been sent to dispatch the wagon?"
And what? He looked like he was in a good mood for questions? Was Wes too busy? Dave hadn't been hurt as bad. "It was either we step in or the prisoners would have gone in our place." ...And they probably wouldn't have survived. Better him than them. Someone had to do something. Unless they all wanted to sit around for hours having pointless discussions while bad things happened. Then it would be too late. This was Blake, all over again.

"I don't know," he said finally, a tense edge to his voice. What did she want from him? "I don't know what it was or where it came from. If it was sent I don't know who, or how." I remember it smashing my ribs and slashing me and ripping us apart. I remember it hunting us like prey. He struggled to restrain his annoyance and tiredness. "As far as I can tell it came from nowhere and ran off. I don't know how you'd even control something like that."
"Nothing stopping anyone from not sending the wagon at all given that the one in charge was behind bars," Bellatrix countered. "Both you and I, and anyone else in our group know that the only way that wagon was going to leave with anyone on it was if it was for an infiltration mission. Nobody with half a conscious was going to allow it to continue."

The silent tap of a claw drummed against the wooden floors. Spirits, this one wasn't all that bright, wasn't he? No wonder he thought that this scouting mission was the greatest idea to go around. "Use your head," she said more firmly. "Think. Who else would know of the wagons besides Sonora, Ignatius and whoever became privy to his journal?" she asked but she didn't wait for an answer. "The ones these wagons were being sent to, the general location of which aligns with odd sightings of strange pokémon from the locals."

She then sighed and shook her head. She may as well get it out of the way now. "Do you think I am blaming you for what happened?" she asked, her stance and tone softening ever so slightly.
Yes. "No." He didn't need pity or sympathy. She should blame him.

"Look, you can deliberate all you want. We had one concrete chance to get information about terminal 2 and why we're here. That thing is probably connected to all this but I have no idea how, and I didn't see anything. If it was sent after us I don't know how they could have known." He would do it again. Alone, if he had to. They didn't have a choice and it was their best chance.

"And we did use our heads, and it was perfectly reasonable. A calculated risk. Unless you had some kind of amazing plan to share?" There was less annoyance in his tone now, just a general weariness. He was too tired to care about whatever Bellatrix was trying to do.
"Somehow, I doubt that," Bellatrix responded flatly. Her tail twitched and she cast her gaze on the floor. "But the truth is that I don't blame you at all. I'm more upset at Laura for putting it into motion and you in so much danger in the first place." She shook her head and looked back at the electrike. "I'm here because I was worried. I'm going to check on the others too to see how they're faring but I came to you first because you looked the most hurt."

She sighed as she deliberated on her next words. But, ultimately, she couldn't stop herself. "Jaak has given us another chance to investigate Blaguarro," she said. "Where we can investigate any signs of oddity in a way that won't have us walking through Terminal Two's front gate with open arms."
Koa bristled slightly. "Laura was right," he said firmly. Why was she worrying about him? He didn't need yet another person pitying him or treating him like some delicate kid who'd just gone along with it. Like he hadn't had a choice. It was his plan, and he'd chosen to be there.

"And anyway, Wes had had it worse than me," he muttered. He had no idea if that was actually true but he had looked bad. She could go fuss over him or Dave or the deer.

He contemplated her next words carefully. "If you need an extra set of paws, I'm willing to help," he said carefully, keeping a neutral expression. "But I have some things I'm investigating too. So if you can't find me don't wait on my account." Probably better that way. The last thing he needed was her complaining about him again or pitying him if they went somewhere. Although it was hard to deny the curiosity in him, to know what was going on.
"Laura is why you're bedridden with injury in the first place," Bellatrix replied. "Or why you more than likely would have ended up someplace far worse if you weren't intercepted. Besides, Wes is one who is used to leg injury at this point. He'll walk it off."

The zorua took another look at his injuries and frowned. "So long as you're not pushing yourself too hard," she said. "Though one way or the other, I think this has now become the best chance to investigate."
His annoyance flared again. Koa fixed her in a harsh stare. Bellatrix seemed ready to blame everyone else, like he was some stupid kid Laura dragged along.

"No she's not. I chose to go. Nobody made me go. At least she had the guts to help." Your plan. Your fault. At least Laura wanted to do something instead of standing around waiting. At least she'd tried.

His next words came out tense and hard edged. "And unless you had magic future telling powers to know a crazy Charmeleon would attack, you don't know the plan would have failed."
"And you don't know if the plan would have succeeded either," Bellatrix said, voice level. "Pretending to be prisoners for a facility you know nothing about beyond what's written in a journal is reckless at best and outright dangerous at worst and if fully dependent on the complete incompetence of the ones behind it. Laura was at fault for facilitating it."

Her gaze turned cold. Relentless. Judgmental. "This isn't some game where you can walk right into enemy territory, beat the bad guys and be lauded as a hero before dinner is ready. That's going to get you killed and you were beyond lucky that you weren't."
You're no hero. You're a failure.
"And next time you want to play hero, think twice before making a mess of things.”
A knot wrapped around Koa's chest and he dug his paws into the bed. Anger and fear and sick guilt pooled in him.

He glared back at Bellatrix with unflinching iciness. Blake talked to him like that. Except she wasn't Blake, and he didn't need her judgement. Or her care. "You're just scared," he snapped, his voice edging into a snarl. His head buzzed. "If you're that desperate to blame someone, blame me. But I don't need your concern. So get out and fawn over someone else."
Bellatrix's expression didn't change, nor did she move. "You're horrifically short-sighted if you consider any modicum of careful consideration fear or cowardice," she said. She tilted her head to the side her eyes narrowing with question. "And why should I blame you? Because you suggested the idea? Suggesting an idea and actively going through with it are two entirely different things. Just because you tagged along doesn't mean you were the driving force behind it."
He rose to his feet, scowling. Tagging along? "Do you have too much fur in your ears? Get out." This wasn't like back home. He couldn't walk away. "You're the one desperate to blame someone." Everyone but the wrong person.
Bellatrix continued to remain in place. Unamused. "I am simply telling you the truth of the matter. Something that won't become less true because you're desperate to ignore it," she stated bluntly. "You're in no condition to fight. Don't even try it," she then added. A certain guardedness entered both her tone and posture, as if she was expecting an attack.

If Koa were to look closely, he would notice tiny, red sparks flickering around Bellatrix's paws.
Was everyone trying to start a fight? He narrowed his eyes. And she was preparing an attack? Was she insane? He let out a long sigh, relaxing a little. Then he spoke, his tone more reserved, quiet. "Listen-"

And then he abruptly fired a bolt of electricity at her. Nothing that could injure, but more than strong enough to feel. Even that felt draining. "I said get out," he snarled, more electricity gathering on his pelt. "There's your truth."
Bellatrix visibly flinched at the attack but then, her expression became that of calm indifference to a glare filled with cold fury.

"I said stand down."

With a stamp of a paw, the sparks hardened in red, crystalline chains and flew right towards Koa, wrapping themselves around his head, jaws and torso before abruptly pinning him to the floor and reawakening the injury. "Stupid boy," she spat, her gaze drilling right through the electrike. All cordialness lost. "It's a wonder that you were chosen as a hero if this is how you're going to behave."

However, the message was clear and Bellatrix knew that nothing else was going to come from this. Without another word, she turned to leave, though the chains remained firmly wrapped around Koa for several more seconds after she left the room.

They only dissipated once the zorua was a fair way down the hall.
Koa's body froze, his mind grinding to a halt. Red chains. Chains that looked exactly like - How- What was she doing? Then they were around him, wrapping his mouth and body, pinning him. He couldn't move. A grunt escaped him as a sharp stab of pain went through his chest. He growled, writhing in a vain attempt to get free. How, how was she using those chains, how-

The chains stifled his snarl, but he glared at her hatefully, latching onto his anger. Stupid fox. And you think you're so much better as a hero?

Then she left, practically swaggering out with a smugness. Except he was still chained. He thrashed for a second, ignoring the freshly awakened pain in his chest. Then the chains abruplty vanished. He scrambled to his feet, panting and growling, ready to fight, except she was already gone. And his body hurt and he didn't want a fight right now, he wanted to be left alone. Wincing, he shoved the door shut and crawled back into his bed, anger still simmering beneath his pelt.

Why was she so bent on blaming Laura instead of him? The plan had been reckless but it wasn't like they'd had time to perfect it. It was a brief window of opportunity, what was so hard to see about that. Sometimes you needed to be reckless... He winced mentally at that thought. Blake and Kitto would chide him for that. Still... "Someone had to act," he whispered into the dark. There hadn't been time, and it had been thought out, and there had been a backup. Hadn't they come to help this world? How could they do that if they didn't take a risk? Heck, coming here in the first place was a risk.

Sighing miserably, he shifted to try and get comfortable, to little avail. He hadn't meant for things to turn out like this. Except Bellatrix seemed set on acting like he was a stupid kid dragged along. You never should have come.He closed his eyes. All he really wanted was some sleep. And to forget this awful night. Tomorrow would be better.


Ch02: Yearning and Resolve [Koa Solo]
It took Koa a long time to finally fall asleep. He kept tossing and turning, trying to find a way to lay down that didn’t make his chest ache. Eventually he settled for lying awkwardly on his side, but couldn’t quite get his mind to stop racing. It was exhaustion that finally won him over into blissful sleep.

Fire woke him up. He jolted to his feet, wincing reflexively to see orange flames licking at the walls, and more dancing orange lights outside. No... He sprinted for the door, shoving it open and stumbling onto the stony ground. Harsh wind blew between the sparse trees and he shivered. Even his Electrike fur didn’t seem to keep out the chill. Rocky hills rose around him, cold ridges of stone before him. In the distance, fire painted the skies red, smoke blocking out the stars.

A shadow fell across him and Koa whipped around.

Entei towered above him, gazing down on him with an empty white gaze. Its gaze. Lightless embers fell from its pelt, its mane oozing off its body in pools of dark smoke. Run!!! He moved backwards, his limbs dragging unnaturally slowly. He opened his jaws to call out for his team, but his voice came out a parched whisper.

Entei took a step towards him, emotionless as ever. Then it opened its jaws, more dark flames gathering within. Move move move- He threw himself to the side at the last moment, a bolt of black flame exploding where he stood.

He got to his feet, only to see Entei once more, gazing down at him. Koa was rooted to the spot, its gaze boring into him.

You don't belong here.

It spoke without moving its mouth, the voice ringing, ringing in his head- Chains, wrapped around him-

Koa lurched and his eyes shot open. Just a dream, just a dream- “Echo?” he whispered.

Four small walls instead of a tent, a bed that wasn’t his. And no cheery Crobat or calm Joltik. Just a too scratchy blanket and a too warm room.

The dream memory lingered. Already the details were murky in his brain...

You don't belong here.

Koa’s blood turned to ice. The memory stung. Like his brain had brushed against a hot iron. It felt real. Like something had actually spoken to him. He shivered and buried his face into the pillow. Just a dream. It’s right. You don’t belong here. Except somehow it reminded him of how it felt when the Voice spoke in his dreams. It had been so... clear.

A dull ache settled in his chest, deeper than the wounds he’d received. The room felt emptier than ever, and he would have given anything for his crowded tent back home. To feel Hazard’s gentle weight on his head, Echo sprawled across his chest like he would do as a Zubat. For Rascal’s attitude or Flurry’s peppiness. No Anubis, keeping the tent warm. There would be no Scrapper prodding him awake at the crack of dawn to train.

He closed his eyes, fixing Echo's grin in his head. He wished the Crobat was here. Echo would probably lick his face and try to get him to cheer up. He would give a little chirp and do one of his loops and push him along, tell him to stop thinking so hard. Tell him not to lose hope, and that he had to keep trying. Hazard would tell him to be smart and figure out the problem. And Rascal would probably bite him. A small smile crept across his muzzle. Exhaling, he let the spiraling thoughts fade. Resolve crept through him, pushing out the fear. Okay. I hear you.

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