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Frontier Town Drungfield's Remedies

Wes raised an eyebrow. The irony was not lost on him; Jade being somehow trapped out of her region while he was trapped in his. “Well, I don’t know the details, but I do know that if it’s a, ah…legal concern, I’m sure you could find a workaround. If you know what I mean.” He gave her a slightly devious grin. “I know a thing or two about getting into places that don’t want me there.” It’s the getting out where I have trouble…
"Bit of a legal concern, yeah. I guess technically it's not like we can't teleport back for an afternoon here or there, but sticking around and trying to actually do anything is the hard part. Particularly for some of the Pokemon in our group that, uh. Have a harder time sneaking around." Not every legend had the same subtlety that Mew did.

Jade rubbed the back of her head, although the conspiratorial look on Wes's face gave her a bit of a smile. "What kind of places have you had to sneak into?"
Wes hesitated for a moment. Maybe boasting about his less-than-reputable feats to a kid was a bad idea. He simply decided to be selective with his word choices. “Slipped into my share of colosseum tournaments. Some are easier than others—some don’t care at all, but then you’ve got places like Phenac where they’re real damn uppity about who they let compete. Or even attend.” He smirked. “Turns out a convincing ID or learning a place’s security patterns can get you a long way.” He decided it was best not to mention that his reason for competing was to scope out potential snagging targets and to test various strategies against them.

It wasn’t just for that, he told himself defensively, chest aching a little at the thought. I just liked battling, too. It was unfortunate that something he loved had to be so closely tied to something so…shameful. Despicable.

He then gave Jade a slightly puzzled look. “You mentioned…not being able to sneak around because of some of your mon? Can they not stay in their balls when necessary?” He paused, putting a few more pieces together. “And I take it you’re a trainer in your world, then?”
A distant, nostalgic smile made its way onto Jade's face. "That reminds me of my friend, last year--she had this fake ID that she used for entering some underground tournaments without calling attention to who she was. It, uh, would've been bad if people knew." She missed Starr. Most of the time it didn't feel like she'd been on Forlas for very long, but right now, it felt too long.

"And yeah, I'm a trainer too--pretty much all my friends are. But, uh, some of the Pokemon with us didn't exactly have Pokeballs, so... that made things difficult."
They didn’t have Pokéballs? That was unusual, but maybe it wasn’t in Jade’s world. He offered a small smile. “Your friend sounds quite adventurous. Is she in the same situation as you?”
Jade suppressed a laugh. 'Adventurous'... Starr would've hated it being described like that. "Soorrta. We're both in the same situation now, but her situation was more complicated than mine last year." Jade could have just left it there, but what the heck; it wasn't like there was anything wrong with gossiping to people Starr would never meet. And unlike all the recent stuff, last year was considerably less painful and awkward to recount.

"My friend, Starr... she'd defected from a criminal organization and was on the run from them since, uh... she was kinda really high profile on the team, before she left, aha..." Jade rubbed the back of her head, hoping it didn't sound too wild to be true.
Wes perked up at that. “Really now?” he said slowly. “That’s…quite the story.” He stared past Jade, seemingly at the shelves of supplies behind her, but his eyes were unfocused, as if looking at something that only he could see. “It’s not easy to leave such a dangerous position. Sounds very brave of her.”

He blinked, pulled back to the present, and felt a stab of panic. Had he said too much? It would look too fishy to try and backtrack, though, so he simply let his statement linger and hoped Jade wouldn’t think too much of it.
Wes's reply was distant and vague, and Jade couldn't really tell how he felt about it. At the very least, he didn't seem disbelieving, or judgmental, so that helped.

"Yeah, I always thought so anyway, even if she didn't," Jade said quietly. Starr always talked about it like she didn't have a choice, but...

Jade glanced back at Wes. "If you also had to sneak into tournaments and stuff, I'm guessing you also had people you were trying to avoid?" She realized that probably came off weirdly and added, "Er, it's just nice knowing someone else in a similar situation, on the team."
Wes huffed in amusement. “That’s a bit of an understatement.” He paused, then added, “Let’s just say I’m not exactly…popular where I come from. I have to lay low most of the time these days, so I sympathize quite a bit with your friend.”

Why was he so forthcoming with this kid? Was it the medicine loosening his tongue? Was it because she herself had a close friend who had done questionable things, and still saw that person as a friend? Or maybe Wes had simply been craving an interaction that wasn’t charged by the other person’s dislike or worry about him?

He lowered his head back onto his paws, beginning to feel tired. “How about you, kid? What did you get yourself wrapped up in that got you banned from your region? If you don’t mind my asking.”
Jade sighed. "It's a whole long mess. The short version is that the same organization that my friend walked out on got their hands on some serious leverage over the League, and because the League needed their help to defend against some... dangerous Pokemon, they were forced to work together." She paused, tail swishing restlessly behind her. "Those Pokemon were the the ones we'd been trying to help. But we didn't have the situation under control, and people got hurt, and the League wasn't happy with that." She winced, eyes sliding to the floor.
Wes’s face darkened into a mutinous scowl as Jade spoke. When she finished, he didn’t bother hiding his disdain and he let out a bitter scoff. “Somehow, I’m not surprised. Leave it to the League to royally screw over a region, even if it’s their own.” He met her gaze. “So…what’s your plan, then?”
Jade clutched her bag, a bitter taste in her mouth. "I didn't. I didn't really have a plan, before coming here. We were living in Hoenn for a bit, trying to have some scrap of normal life, but..." She let out a sigh. "I knew it couldn't last forever. I had tried leaving the fight before, over a year ago, but it didn't last, because..."

Her mouth was dry. "Because... I'm one of the few people who's already involved, so if I don't do something, I don't know who else can." That was why she'd agreed to be chosen. But the memory held a lot more bitterness now.
I don’t know who else can.

Something tightened in Wes’s chest. Guilt? Understanding? He wasn’t sure.

You’re one of the only ones who could help in Orre, and you left. You abandoned the few people trying to help.

It wasn’t my job in the first place,
he argued back. I would’ve left sooner or later once my sentence was up.

And that’s why you’re a selfish coward.

He swallowed past the bitter taste in his mouth and avoided Jade’s eyes, staring at the wall behind her again. “Well…you’re a better person than I am, then. I…wish you the best of luck, once you’re back home.”
Jade relaxed slightly. "Thanks..." She made her way towards the door, but then added, "And, uh... I hope things work out for you, when you're back home." It occurred to her that she didn't actually know what problem he was facing back home, other than that he felt trapped. But that was probably all she needed to know for know.
Wes chuckled a little at Jade’s attempt at reassurance. Whatever the hell was going on in Orre, it was a ways off from being “worked out,” but he appreciated the sentiment regardless. “Same to you, kid. And…” he trailed off, not quite sure how to continue. “I meant what I said, about you not doing this alone. While you’re here, I mean. So just remember that, yeah? We’ll back each other up when we need to.”

He watched her leave, then rested his head on his paws, growing tired once again. It hadn’t been much, but he hoped he’d been able to provide at least some reassurance to her. She seemed good and earnest and wise, especially for her age; he’d keep an eye out for her and do what he could.

[Ch04] ~ Candour and a Cadaver
The body lay under a white covering. Not too clean, but not filthy. Practical, affordable, but respectful to the dead.
Even if the dead had it coming.

Lucien adjusted his sash, looking a little pale.

"How, uh—?"

"A few days," replied Drungfield, stiffly. "I couldn't say precisely how many. I suppose we'll bury him in the old boneyard, shortly."

"And the... infection?"

"The aura's extinguished. No trace Shadow in the corpse, I'm afraid. Furthermore, physical alterations from Shadow-type energy are not strongly evident in the body, nor are the wounds particularly distinct from ordinary lacerations. I wouldn't know this from a mundane murder had I not been paying particular attention to such things of late. Still, one may observe, if keen-eyed and well-informed, certain details that indicate the killing blows were ill-resisted, and of an exotic type."

Lucien nodded. He was more keen to speak with the Wayfarers, not to examine a corpse, but it was his duty as town marshal to look in on it. And something about the soberness of the matter felt like it merited... acknowledging, somehow. One did not pretend to have done away with a person's remains as if it were a discarded rag.

The doorbell chimed. The offworlders were here.

"Good day," the Prinplup called. "We're just through here."
It was strange for Nova to be able to nudge a door open with his beak — his actual beak — instead of using the mask. Maybe if it were less... metal that might've left him with a musty taste.

However, the lack of a mask did make the smells much stronger than before. Like something had punched him in the nostrils.

"Uh, hi?" The realization no one had seen him without the mask aside from Archie and Leaf tempered his greeting. "I have the coroner's claim if you need it. Y'know, for Zoroark Fein's body."
"Otherwise known from the wanted posters as The Wolf," said Steven as he drifted into the room, catching the tail end of Nova's statement.

Wait, Nova looked different. Had he... evolved? Steven felt glad for the now-Silvally and offered him a good-natured nod of greeting. So many of their group had grown stronger over the weeks. He had to quickly glance away before the sentiment turned into a pang of... something else. Guilt? Doubt? Self-loathing?

No matter, he buried the thought. He was here on business; the business of putting this whole Wolf nonsense to rest.

He floated further into the room, still giving the body a wide berth, and addressed Lucien. "We looked into the Wolf's activities at your request, and well, things turned out to be not quite what they seemed..."

Steven finally gave the white sheet a glance. "Handy thing for a Zoroark to be able to go around committing crimes while wearing another's face."
Lucien shook his head gravely.

"Zoroark are rare in civilised parts, you know. I look at this case and wonder if people will say to each other that of course it makes sense that a Zoroark should do such a thing, having the powers that they do, and ask themselves if other Zoroark do just the same while escaping notice. A small part of me wonders, even for just a moment, if criminals' pleas of innocence may be truthful – being victims of stolen identity."

The Prinplup sighed, deeply.

"But is it not just as likely that a Zoroark could become a scapegoat falsely accused of such a thing? Are they rare because they cannot be discovered, or because they avoid persecution, or because they have been killed off? We cannot ask this fellow for his side of the story. We may never know his story, entire and accurate."

"Lucien," said Drungfield, with a tone that suggested she was more used than most to this kind of introspective rambling.

"The 'Wolf', that was his moniker. He's more of a fox, wouldn't you say?"

"Zoroark are the 'illusion fox' pokémon, yes," replied the Indeedee, matter-of-factly. "He impersonated a Lycanroc, remember?"

"Yes. Of course."

Drungfield turned to Nova and nodded politely, adjusting her spectacles. "Thank you, sir. I already spoke with him to obtain the body myself, being that I have more knowledge of Shadow-type injuries. I can pronounce the cause of death to be Shadow-type attacks to the throat and abdomen with reasonable certainty."

Lucien kept staring at the white sheet.

Drungfield cleared her throat. "Is that something you're able to explain, sirs?"
Mhynt stood near the back of the room, analyzing the whole of the room to get a feel for everyone's baseline. When things got tense, perhaps she would be able to see it and spot it. That was her line of work, as much as she preferred to avoid it. Infiltration, sabotage, and some dirtying of her claws.

...It was nice that she was just hearing about it this time around, at least. And she wasn't doing it on anyone's orders, either. Admittedly, she still wasn't clear what the whole game was about--was Seth truly responsible, or was Fein falsifying matters the whole time? Did they know the truth? Perhaps she could ask later.

But at least this blind look allowed her to see how everyone behaved.

One particular remark caught her attention, though.

"I'm familiar with a Zoroark," Mhynt said. "She is kind. Crafty, illusory, yes. But kind at heart and would harm nobody who was not already harming others. The temptation for mischief is stronger when you have the power to do so... but that is the same for all Pokemon and their talents. Yet, despite this, our group deemed this Zoroark an impersonator even without such prejudices."

She had to put her faith in the team, regardless of the true answer.
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