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Sojaveña Wilds Twilight Quarry

Mhynt nodded. That was a sound idea.

They started going around the perimeter, careful to avoid any Void Shadows that seemed to be on patrol. Considering how basic their movements were, it was surprisingly easy with their combined senses, as well as Bellatrix helping with the tricky parts.

Nova's ESP confirmed that, while simplistic, the Void Shadows did seem to have psychic activity of some kind. He could also sense denser activity at the base of the pit.

Dave could detect Owen's scent again. It was nearby, but old... and wafted from below as if he was currently there, somewhere.

Grace resisted much of the Shadows so far, and was therefore able to get closest to the pit's edge without feeling its corrosive pull. It was a deep darkness--unnatural. But within it... there seemed to be a great mass of Void Shadows patrolling around. Like they were guarding something at the bottom...
Nova's hackled raised. "I think that big swarm that came after us is in there." His cheek bolts turned counterclockwise. "ᴼʳ ᵐᵃʸᵇᵉ ᶦᵗ'ˢ ᵇᶦᵍᵍᵉʳ."

He wasn't sure there was really a way to go into there that wouldn't involve serious trouble. "I feel like... we'd need those blessings from the relic fragment if we want to go deeper," he whispered. "I've got some rope if one of you wanted to, like, lower yourself in with a harness to get yanked out if things go south. But that seems too risky to me..."
"Owen's down there somewhere," Dave said, peering down into the pit. There was a cold pull coming from the depths, suffocating, his hackles rising automatically. "You think they're guarding him?"
"Considering how the last encounter ended, almost certainly." Nova tapped a claw on the ground. "If only we could try to coax him out by cooking some of the soup we took. He was carrying around soup cans. He must like it."
"The problem is we aren't sure if Owen can see us," Mhynt said. "Or, if he did see us, if... No. That'd be a bad idea. Still... Are you suggesting we... use a soup can as bait?" Mhynt eyed Nova like he was crazy. But the more she thought about it...

"If we... rolled it into his Perceive range..."
"Something like that," Nova said. "We could even scribble a message on the can." He lifted a talon and wiggled it.
Mhynt blinked at Nova, but she seemed to buy into the idea.

"...Okay," she said. "Let's... 'scribble' something very simple on it, and then roll the can down. Then, we hide. Observe from an angle. As long as we keep our distance, we shouldn't fall into his Perceive range. From what I've seen, it's not nearly as far as back home..."

They quickly made some scribblings. Mhynt asked them for a few ideas, and then, once they got something down, they rolled the can along the pit. It fell off the hill, rolling faster, before suddenly coming to a stop against a rock two layers down. That was certainly within range.

Mhynt held her breath...

Something shifted in the depths of the pit. Rocks rumbled. The ground shook.

A pillar of darkness erupted from the center of the pit, followed by a bolt of Shadows. The pillar remained until it coalesced into a figure at its apex...

Mhynt covered her mouth in horror.

A half-melted, blackened creature hovered in the air with great, dark wings. Yellow eyes stared at the bait the team had dropped and it landed harshly on the ground in front. Lightning struck all around him. A few stray stones arced all the way up to the team, by pure happenstance cutting at the team from the debris.

The Void Charizard picked up the can, inspecting it in silence. His flame seemed to absorb light. The ground beneath him corroded into a tar-like substance...

But there was no doubting it. Beneath all that darkness and corruption... they felt that same tug. They were staring, from a distance, still hidden, at a fellow Wayfarer.
Where did her smile go?

Grace had been optimistic, cautious, and always carried a smile on her face. She had plenty of experience that kept her level-headed in most scenarios, not even the debris that suddenly cut her cheek had fazed her. While she'd been anxious, nothing had really scared her before.

Until now.

She barely had time to cover her mouth to hide the terrified squeak as her eyes fell upon the creature that had arrived in such an intimidating fashion. If she wasn't so used to the feelings she felt when seeing him before he'd evolved again, she might have struggled to identify him this time around. What came with the tug was a bone chilling need to feel small, which she'd done well to ignore until this point.

Right now, with her eyes wide and her heart beating loudly in her ears, Grace did not want to be noticed.

Please don't look this way. Please don't look this way.

Grace knew she had to calm herself down. If she got the others in trouble...

Still covering her mouth, she started to suck in deep breaths as quietly as she could.

Please don't look this way. Please don't look this way.


Why did it make her feel this way...?

It was awful.
Nova stared silently. The moment he sensed something coming out from the center he'd already moved to have his Escape Orb ready. This was... a level of shadow corruption beyond what they dealt with, wasn't it? What could they do here? Could they even do anything here?

"I don't... know what else to do here." He tried to keep the message telepathic. Talking out loud was far too risky now.
Jesus Christ. That was what had happened to Owen? He was just... made of fucking Shadow substance now?

The air was even more oppressive than before, like tar in his lungs as his heart raced sickeningly, his shoulder stinging with pain. Owen was closer now. How far to the range of his Perceive thing?

He nodded at Nova, paw reaching into his bag for an Escape Orb.
Mhynt stood there, paralyzed, yet resolute in getting as much information as she possibly could. Any details, any hints at how to save him. Not now, but later. Later. He had to... they couldn't just leave a Wayfarer like this, could they? Some way to free him...

The Void Charizard's eyes focused on the can. It was hard to tell if he understood any of it. Mhynt glanced at the others once, but then seemed to nod and back away. He didn't notice them. It was best to not press their luck; she could sense the caution from the others.

"Let's go," she finally breathed out. "What did you write on that can?"
"I think... we'll need a firm plan," Grace said softly once she was able to somewhat pull herself back together.

How was anyone capable of turning someone else into a creature like this?

The togetic sucked in another breath as she clasped her shaky paws together. "If we want to rescue him, we need to be able to keep him contained until he's safe. From... Alexander, and himself. I... I-I'm sure we can still save him..."
Grace's words snapped Mhynt back to reality. She nodded again and fell back with the others. She nodded as well to Nova, appreciating the words. If anything would get through to Owen, even shrouded in that kind of darkness... it would be that. It had to be that.

The Void Charizard continued to stare at the can, but now, the Wayfarers could not see how he was reacting. Only that it was silent, and getting closer would risk being spotted.

"Let's go," Mhynt finally conceded. "We learned what we needed to."
Nova nodded. "We should trigger the orbs in unison. Just in case someone or something catches onto one of 'em."

He had his orb ready and would activate it as soon as the others did.
Dave picked the orb out of the bag and nodded to the others, heart still pounding.
The light took them before they could see or hear anything more. Swiftly, they fled and distanced themselves from Twilight Quarry, running all the way to their initial rendezvous point.

Once finally there, Mhynt used the rock for support, leaning her back and tilting her head to the sky. She focused only on breathing.

They'd made it out unscathed. Perhaps a bit of corruption, but that, too, would fade. They had information. But Mhynt's mind was buzzing too much with incoherent thoughts and images to make any sense of it.
"So, uh..." Nova kept looking over his shoulder, half expecting a repeat from the time the others had visited the quarry. "Me thinks we ought to go see Sybil again. Maybe there really is a role for the Relic Fragment to play in this? Either in protecting us... or breaking through Owen's corruption."

He looked down and muttered, "Or maybe both."
"Yeah. Yeah, that, and more fucking people."

Dave took deep breaths, trying to will the fucking Shadow out of his lungs. After a minute he turned to Mhynt. "Any idea exactly what happened to him? He wasn't like the other Shadow Pokémon we've seen."
"I... I don't know. I don't know how this world works. Or how it'd work for a Wayfarer, or... ones from my world. Owen already had an association with Shadows... He could have reacted worse. Or maybe all Wayfarers have that happen...?"

She shook her head. "But back home, if you're too corrupted by Shadows, if it gets into your very core... it's called Voiding, or Voiding Out. You become a Void Shadow. Strong ones retain elements of their old self, but... Well. You see how that manifests..."

Her voice trembled as she added, "I don't know how much of 'him' is... left."
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