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Frontier Town Traveller's Haus - Guest Rooms

Ch02: Check-in [Koa & Ridley]
Koa rapped lightly on the door of Ridley's room - or at least, he was pretty sure it was his. It'd be really awkward if it wasn't, but after the other night... he had to check on the others and see how they were doing. Maybe ask about that weird voice. "Hey Ridley, its me. Uh, Koa," he called, not trying to draw any outside attention to himself. "You there?"
Ridley had been... well, resting, mostly, or at least trying to rest. He thought he might have drifted off for an hour or two at some point, but such sleep as he'd achieved had been...

You don't belong here.


He still hurt. Less than he might have expected, considering what had happened to him, but the pain was still there. It was a dull, uninteresting, omnipresent ache, easily ignored as long as he had something to focus on, but the moment he tried to clear his mind for sleep it filled up all the empty spaces in his brain. However minor the pain itself might have been, its presence provoked the memory of the shadow charmeleon's claws tearing into him, jolting him back into wakefulness.

Of course, his persistent issues with insomnia certainly weren't helping matters. Ridley wished he could pretend that was the only issue he was having with sleep. At least it was a problem he knew how to deal with.

He'd managed to reach a sort of semi-comfortable half-doze when he was jolted out of it by -

"Hey Ridley, its me. Uh, Koa," he called, not trying to draw any outside attention to himself. "You there?"

It was uncharitable of him to be irritated, considering that he hadn't been sleeping anyway. What time was it? A glance out of the uncurtained window indicated that there was daylight; he didn't bother checking beyond that.

"Yeah, I'm here," Ridley called. He forced himself out of bed and opened the door for Koa. "What's up?"
"Sorry to bother you. I just wanted to check in and see how you're doing." Ridley's expression was as impossible to read as ever, but he sounded... rough. Not that Koa could blame him. "Did it get you badly? Even with the disguise?" He was slightly curious to know how a Mimikyu's disguise worked. Had it protected him from the worst of it? He seemed pretty roughed up back then but...
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"Well, it kinda sucked," Ridley admitted. He wasn't actually sure how much damage he'd avoided because the shadow charmeleon had been occupied with slashing up his disguise instead, but what he had taken was more than enough to make him miserable. "The disguise is just a distraction, I guess? If someone's not focused they might only hit it and not me, but that thing was definitely focused on making all of us hurt as much as possible."

It felt awkward talking about this with Koa standing out in the corridor, so RIdley stepped to the side and opened his door wider as an invitation for Koa to enter.

He said, "Look, I'm sorry that you got hurt. I mean, I'm grateful that you tried to save me, but I really didn't want anyone else to suffer from what I did. I hope you don't resent me for it, but I'm not sure I can blame you if you do."

Ridley recalled the previous time he'd fought alongside Koa. He'd willingly taken a hit from the lokix then, for the sake of protecting the rest of the party. He'd thought what he was doing with the shadow charmeleon was something similar.

(The only problem was: knowing now how much the shadow charmeleon's attacks had hurt, he couldn't honestly say he'd do it again given the same opportunity. Did that make him a coward? Or just someone who wanted to live?)
Koa accepted, following Ridley into the room as he contemplated what Ridley said. "You don't have to-" he stooped, and changed what he meant to say. "Thanks for the apology," he said awkwardly. "But I don't regret it either. We're a team, we should try and protect each other. I'm not mad at you about it." He couldn't help but remember all the times he'd nearly done the same. To try and protect his team. Like Wes did? ...That was different.

"Besides I've been in a few sticky situations back home, so I guess I can't blame you." He still couldn't quite shake the prickle of guilt for suggesting they go out there in the first place. He studied Ridley for a moment longer. Ridley had taken hits for them during the other battles they'd been in. He wondered if this was similar. "But uh... why did you want to go out there so badly?"
Ridley considered his potential responses to that and decided on honesty. "I like cryptids," he said. "I've been fascinated by them my whole life. I think it's vitally important that we all constantly challenge the limits of what we consider 'known'. I'd wanted to look into the Witching Beasts from the moment I heard about them -" no need to mention that half the reason he'd signed up for the Terminal Two mission was because it took them through potential Witching Beast territory "- so when I actually got to see one..."

He shrugged.

"I knew it would almost certainly attack me, but I was willing to accept that if it meant I got a closer look. And I guess I assumed everyone else would be sensible about it and run away. I really wasn't intending for other people to get dragged in."

And then Wes had decided to be an asshole about the whole thing. Ugh.
Koa frowned, tipping his head. "Cryptids?" The term felt both familiar and unfamiliar. But the passion in Ridley's voice was deeply familiar. It reminded him of himself, so strongly. The other part made him a bit more troubled. Curiosity killed the meowth and all that. Yet he could get it, in principle. He remembered how strongly he wanted to see Regirock, and going into that cave. "I guess most of us didn't want to see one of our team get ripped up. And if you got ripped up, it'd be hard to learn anything about those things," he pointed out with an awkward chuckle.

He shook his head. He didn't really want to think about that. "But what exactly do you mean by 'cryptids'? I think I've heard the term before but its not a common one, at least on my world."
"Ah," Ridley said. It was easier to think about cryptids than about other people watching him get ripped up, but how did he explain the concept to someone who didn't know?

Aware he was about to start lecturing, he began: "Cryptid's a term for pokemon which... might exist, but have not yet been fully proven due to a lack of evidence. Often the only records of their existence come from unsubstantiated reports, which means a lot of people dismiss them as little more than wishful thinking, but I think it's important to keep an open mind in these circumstances. New pokemon species are being discovered every year, and even our understanding of something as basic as the type chart has been subject to change within recent memory. It's absurd and frankly irresponsible to assume we already know everything there is to know about the world!"

He forced himself to a stop and shrugged instead. "Our encounter with that charmeleon might have been -" horrifying, agonising, traumatising "- not have gone well, but I still have so many questions about it! More than I started out with, actually. Despite everything, I still want to learn more."

Maybe from a safer distance, next time.
Koa leaned in slightly as Ridley began both glad to think about something lighter and genuinely eager to know more. He nodded along as Ridley talked, but bit back any interjections until he seemed to be done talking. Still, he couldn' help but grin a little. He liked Ridley's passion.

"Oh that sounds sick!" Cryptids sounded a bit like how legendaries used to be referred to by a majority of people. Unconfirmed sightings and tall tales, but also encounters than sounded real. Of course, most folk in his world nowadays believed they existed, but they were still shrouded in mystery.

"That kind of reminds me of how legendaries in my world used to be, a little bit. Especially like, Mew or Hoopa and stuff. They're sorta more well known now but some of them are really rare or some people still don't think they exist at all." His mind briefly wandered to some of the more bizarre tales he'd read in the past. Experimental pokemon. That sort of sounded like a cryptid too. "Or like Mewtwo I guess. What kind of 'cryptids' are on your world? Have you ever seen any?"
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"Eh." Ridley raised a hand and wobbled it from side-to-side in a so-so gesture. "I haven't met any of the well-known ones, but I spent a lot of time as a kid investigating urban legends. You'd be amazed how many cryptid reports are just ghost-types playing tricks, or people seeing a noctowl at night and getting spooked. But I think that makes the ones who do stand up to closer scrutiny, like Mewtwo or missingno, all the more fascinating." He added, wistfully, "I really want to travel to Cinnabar one day."

He gestured. "Legendary pokemon are a good example of what I'm talking about! I don't know what it's like in your world, but in mine... with a few rare exceptions, legendary pokemon have about the same amount of evidence for their existence as most cryptids do. Lots of individuals claiming to have encountered them, but very little substantiated evidence. The only difference is that belief in legendary pokemon is more widely accepted, so you can say what you want without people thinking you're a weirdo."

Not that Ridley was bitter about that or anything.
Koa snorted. "Yeah, that used to be the case in my world," he grumbled. "Nobody minded if you were into them. But people have kind of gotten touchy about anyone too into legendaries lately." He shook his head slightly. He wasn't particularly in the mood to dig into why.

But what Ridley suggested was intriguing. So cryptids were their own class of strange and mysterious pokemon... Ones even weirder in his world, and less known. Something else Ridley said intrigued him more. "Wait, whats... Missingo? I think I've heard the term once or twice but I don't think I know anything about it."
"Missingno's the term for a pokemon - or potentially a group of pokemon, given that its reported appearance varies - which appears off the coast of Cinnabar," Ridley started. "It's claimed to cause perceptual issues or even death in those who encounter it. It's already known that Cinnabar Laboratories were experimenting with genetic engineering and that at some point they were trying to construct a form of biological superweapon - you already mentioned Mewtwo, right? - although they're an infamously shady group and details are hard to come by. So it's fully possible that missingno is one of those creations."

The similarities to the situation in Blaguarro struck him. "Guess it's similar to the Witching Beasts and the rumoured experiments around Terminal Two," he muttered.
Koa listened with rapt attention, his curiosity piqued. The biological weapon part was weirdly on point to his own world. Another one of those odd similarities. He wondered just how much of the tales could be true. Uxie was said to wipe memories of those who encountered it, which was true, but then he suspected some of the tales of Giratina's rampant savagery were exaggerated.

"Fascinating," he murmured. "It seems possible. Humans, bad ones, try to do things they shouldn't. I bet there's definitely something out there... Or it could be some new mythical ghost type," he mused. Maybe he'd have to compare notes with Ridley sometime about what kinds of pokemon were in their world. He paused as he considered what Ridley said about witching beast. The dream he'd had still lingered in the bacl of his mind. If the others could hear the Voice in their dreams...

"About the 'witching' beast thing. Did you hear anything weird in your dreams after... all that?"
Anything weird? Well, yes, nightmares, obviously, but -

You don't belong here.

- ah. That.

"You heard it too?" Ridley asked. He wasn't sure whether he was relieved by that or not. On the one hand, that meant the whatever-it-was wasn't specifically targeting Ridley. On the other hand, that meant it was more likely something real, rather than just Ridley's subconscious mind throwing bullshit at him while he slept. "Have you asked any of the others about it yet?"

Would it be all the travellers hearing it, or just those who'd encountered the shadow charmeleon? Either answer sucked in different ways. "If there's a second voice, then I wonder if our voice would know anything about it," he mused. "We really need to find a way to contact them more consistently."
Oh good. It wasn't just him. Which was disconcerting. He didn't mind the Voice becuase they were so pleasant and friendly but that thing had sounded... Unconsciously, he shivered.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to anyone else yet. But if we both heard it there might be a pattern..." He shook his head. "We'll have to try and talk to the others soon. It does complicate things not being able to talk to our Voice... What do you think it was?" he mused. Longshot, but maybe something about Ridley's knowledge of cryptids might be helpful... Either way it was probably more sensible to discuss it.
"I've got no idea," Ridley admitted. "But whenever I think about it I remember the voice saying that they were afraid touching the shadow pokemon would make them like it. What if it's something like that? An infected one of whatever the voice is."

He said, "Do you know if any of us have been keeping closer contact with the voice? If someone's been speaking with them more regularly then they might have more idea of what it could be, or more ability to ask the voice for their input. Either way, if both us heard it we should definitely try asking around to see who else has."
Koa shook his head again, feeling a distant annoyance at how disconnected they were. If they could just communicate better... "That could be it... Something telepathic maybe. But it might not even be a pokemon we'd know about either." He sighed again. "I don't think there's anything we can do yet. Even if we knew what it was I think we'd need to be a lot stronger to fight it." And something told him the Charmeleon probably wasn't the only one like it. What if there were more? They'd need to figure out how to work together soon.

"I heard some of the group is going to investigate around Blaguarro, are you thinking of going?"
"Of course I'm going!" Ridley said. "We barely know anything about the Witching Beasts so far. I have to be part of that investigation."

Sure, okay, their first encounter with one hadn't exactly ended well for anyone involved, but Ridley wouldn't make those same mistakes again. If there was something to be learnt about their nature or their origins, then Ridley wanted to be involved. "What about you?"
Ridley's gumption felt infectious. He felt slightly less enthusiastic about running into another one of those, but then if it was some kind of legendary... Except Bellatrix was sure to be there. The thought made him wrinkle his nose. Half of him wanted to go to prove himself, but the other half was not keen on being in her presence after the stunt she'd pulled the other night.

"I might try. There's a couple leads I want to check out here but I definitely want to know more..." Knowing Ridley would be there made it a bit more appealing, at least he'd have one ally he knew. He smiled slightly and rose to his feet. "Let's try to keep each other updated if we hear anything else. I guess for now you can leave a note for me if I'm not in my room. And I'll let you know if I hear anything new." Maybe he would join Ridley to check out Blaguarro...

[Ch03] Nova & Isidora ~ Post-Dungeon Passersby
The meal was nice. Though Nova hadn't really eaten in front of other people, so he couldn't shake that awkwardness that came from forcing the food in through the small slit.

All the while the guilt and shame kept festering in the back of the null's head. At how little he did to help the others. How they forced themselves to put on smiles and give him pats on the back. It was pity. It had to be. Nova tried similar gentle touches with some people he worked with. Particularly Gene.

... Now he understood why the mewtwo wasn't a fan of this approach. It felt degrading.

Nova eventually found his way back to the Haus and lumbered back toward his room. The dungeon incursion was over, which meant he'd have to get back to work soon enough.
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