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Frontier Town Drungfield's Remedies

"Is that something you're able to explain, sirs?"
Steven shook his head. "No, we can't. It's likely he chose the wrong target and they fought back."

Which wasn't entirely a lie. Fein did choose the wrong target, and he certainly fought back...

"You should know, though, we did meet the Lycanroc he was impersonating. He only recently found out this Fein was the one responsible for stealing his identity."

"In speaking with him, his only wish-- and rightfully so-- was to be left alone, given that he spent the last several months in constant fear for his life with this Zoroark's bounty on his head."
For once, Wes wasn’t inside Drungfield’s office as a patient. He might have considered it a welcome change of pace were it not for the dead body on the table in front of them. As it stood, he wasn’t sure which was worse; being confined to bed rest or having to stand in such close proximity to a corpse. At least Steven was here, which was a welcome sight. Wes carefully skirted around the edge of the room to stand beside him, nodding to Mhynt and doing a double take before acknowledging Nova as well. So, he’d evolved, apparently. Good for him.

He nodded again at Steven’s account, appreciating his careful choice of words so as not to give Seth’s identity away. “There’s something else, too. This Fein is apparently connected with an organization called Cipher. They’re the ones responsible for the Shadow Pokémon we’ve encountered, or at least some of them, and we suspect their base is somewhere in Blaguarro.” He met Lucien’s gaze, not bothering to hide the distrust in his own. It was time to see where this guy’s priorities truly were.

“We think the Lycanroc victim is in danger from this Cipher, especially now that Fein is dead. They may suspect him to be responsible for Fein’s death and could retaliate.” Like Steven, he chose his words carefully. As far as Lucien needed to know, Seth was just an innocent, nameless victim. Nobody of consequence.

“We wanted to propose the idea of offering him protection, should he accept it, but the only person in this town with that amount of power is you.”
Nova nodded along to Wes and Steven's joint explanation. Though wasn't the election drawing near? He wouldn't be surprised if Lucien deferred because of how close he was. He could understand Lucien not wanting to thrust this onto someone else's lap if he was truly sticking to his word and not running.

He managed to suppress a wince when Wes brought up retaliation. It wouldn't be that big a leap in logic for Lucien to think sheltering Seth could lead to Cipher goons attacking the town if they thought Seth was there.

Nova supposed Wes was going for brutal honesty. A way to test Lucien's resolve, maybe? Nova would tread carefully, then. Keep it broad. "It'll be tough for Frontier Town to rest easy while Cipher's still out there. We want to put a stop to them, but that starts with helping one of the group's victims." He paused. "Provided Lycanroc's agreeable, of course."

If Seth wasn't interested, they could find an alternative.
"Hmm." Drungfield's spectacles flashed as she inclined her head up. Was she skeptical of the Wayfarers' evasive account...?

Lucien's face was less masked than usual. More emotive. Presently, the emotion it was showing was concern.

"This Lycanroc, you're saying he's a, a vagrant? Without shelter? Is he presently unsafe at this moment?"

Drungfield coughed. "Who is this fellow, that Cipher should take an interest in him and steal his identity...?"

Lucien glanced back at the white sheet, and the body beneath it. His brow furrowed and his shoulders slumped. He was tired, troubled, uncertain. What mess was he leaving his successor to inherit? And how much of it would he be responsible for...?

"One supposes they may no longer be able to perform any further impersonations, at least. They, ah, aren't an organisation comprised of more Zoroark, by any chance?"
Steven glanced first at the doctor, and then at the marshal. It was only fair they'd have so many questions. It certainly was a lot to take in.

"He's an offworlder, like us. Except he didn't have the luxury of arriving here in Forlas with anyone to rely on."

He couldn't help his gaze from drifting towards the white sheet on the table.

"I get the feeling he's gotten rather used to fending for himself. He's managed this long on his own, what with how wary he's been with Fein on the loose, so I doubt he's in any immediate danger, but he certainly could be more comfortable."

Hopefully, Lucien was able to glean from Steven's words that if he was planning to offer aid to Seth, he should be prepared for the possibility of the prickly Lycanroc turning it down.
"God, I hope not," Nova muttered in response to the zoroark comment, tapping talons against the floor. He didn't even know if he could turn psychic-type in this world to "see" through an illusion.

And now that they were pressing for further details, it occurred to Nova that no one brought up the fact that Cipher was a human organization that had spilled over from another world. But fortunately Steven said Seth was an offworlder. That made it easier for him to say his part.

"The zoroark is what that human's soul attuned to," Nova said, glancing toward the exam table. "Cipher's a group of human offworlders. And they've got the means to brute force their way into this world." He pointed his beak toward the exam table. "Otherwise he wouldn't have been here to begin with.

"I can't say I know their intentions, but between producing shadow 'mon and jumping between this world and their own, they're an immediate concern of ours."
Nova’s emphasis on the word “human” was not lost on Wes. He shot the chimera a scathing look. Really? These people were corrupting and killing right and left, but he wanted to emphasize the human aspect for some damn reason? As if Pokémon weren’t equally capable of committing monstrosities?

“This Lycanroc individual comes from the same world as these Cipher folks do,” Wes said, turning back to Lucien, who thankfully hadn’t immediately dismissed the idea of offering Seth aid. “He was instrumental in disrupting their plans in his world, and they have been after him ever since.”
"Therefore, following them to this world would put him high on their list of people to eliminate. They nearly did, had we not seen through their deceptions... I do not know what their future plans are. But it sounds to me like the person they're after is safe for now." Mhynt eyed Fein's body. Seemed that she wasn't the only one with people of their home world haunting them in this one...
Wes raised an eyebrow and waited for Nova to elaborate, but he didn’t. Okay then. No skin off his nose if the chimera didn’t want to elaborate, plus it wasn’t the time or place for such a tangent, anyway, not with the current topic at hand. He turned back to the conversation and shook his head a little at Mhynt’s comment.

“Problem is, I don’t think he’s safe. And if he is, he won’t be for long. He’s had to be on the move constantly because he’s all alone and has no backup, no protection.” Seth would probably spit in his eye, to hear Wes talk about him like some sad helpless puppy. But the fact remained that Cipher was hot on his trail, probably even more so after Fein’s death, and Seth was utterly exposed.

He met Lucien’s eyes again, imploringly, daring to take a chance on the interim mayor. “He needs protection. He knows things, too, about this Cipher, that could be incredibly useful to us. I’m asking if there is any way you can help us provide shelter and safety for him until we take down Cipher.”

Saying those words out loud felt electrifying. Take down Cipher. For the first time, Wes started to feel that maybe it could actually be possible.
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Drungfield put her paw to her mouth as she watched the Wayfarers' reactions and interactions. At times, some had wondered if her psychic abilities were capable of reading minds, or at least perceiving hidden truths in people's responses. Was she trying to spot deceit...?

Lucien pressed his wings to his chest, and met the offworlders' eyes with a serious, sincere expression.

"I confess to hoping that this fellow will offer an account of his ordeal to inform our efforts against Cipher. However, whether he should choose to do so or not, I feel it is not at all well that he should remain out on the lam, hiding from this organisation without aid or comfort. While I cannot promise anything regarding the decisions of my successor, I can at least offer shelter for so long as I remain steward of this town. From your description, I worry that he may be too proud to accept help offered openly, in which case I ask that you tell him of Sanctum of Wishes, which allows all comers to sleep under its eaves and provides food and water without charge. I will advise the Watchog family of this, and that they are not to interfere with his comings and goings."


Drungfield did her neat little cough again.

"Am I to understand that this 'Cipher' have devised a method of travel between worlds? And that they obtain pokémon bodies when passing through to Forlas, without ever being summoned? I would keep that information out of public earshot, good sirs. It would not do for folks to catch terror from hearing of an invasion of humans with malicious intent. It is well-understood that even a single human, given the opportunity to develop their power, could raze a town like this one to the ground. That is without considering their access to Shadow energy..."

Despite her even speech, the doc's voice seemed strained. Even... afraid.
"It's like Wes said. They're a priority for us right now," Nova said. That strain in Drungfield's voice was noteworthy, given how no-nonsense she came across to him. "I think... some of us are trying to find some extra help for this, but that shouldn't involve walking around town sounding alarm bells over this."

Though he wondered if staying totally quiet was truly the play. Sure, ignorance was bliss. But didn't the people living here to deserve to know the truth?

Nova was just one guy, though. So he kept that thought to himself.
"The general public shouldn't know about this just yet," Mhynt agreed. "It would bring us more harm than good. It could make Cipher try to speed up its operations out of paranoia, harming innocents. But we will need help. If, through private channels, we can get any intel related to this when it comes up..."
Wes nodded and tried to mask the prickle of dread he felt at Drungfield’s words. Well, it wasn’t so much her words as it was her expression; she’d always been so stoic, so unfazed by just about anything. Seeing fear on her, of all people, made him restless with anxiety.

But at least there was a highlight to this conversation. Wes looked at Lucien and felt a rush of relief at his offer. Who knew whether Seth would take it—stupid, stubborn idiot that he was—but now at least he had options. A safe place that wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, waiting for Cipher to pounce.

Perhaps he’d been a little too quick to judge Lucien.

“Thank you,” he said to the mayor, not bothering to hide the immense relief in his tone. “I know this is a lot to take in, and I know many of us are still strangers to you, but—thank you for trusting us and offering your help. I admit I…had my reservations about you. Still do, to some extent. Considering who your father is, I didn’t know how much of his views you shared.” He flicked his ears sheepishly. “I think I made some hasty assumptions, and I’m sorry.”

He then nodded to Drungfield. “Agreed, we will keep this between us and our team for now. Don’t want to cause a panic. Hopefully we can take care of this issue before we ever need to make it public.”
"If it's any consolation, from what I can gather, Cipher has been a presence here in Forlas long before we even arrived. If they were keen on seizing power here, wouldn't they have already have made their move?"

Steven's eye slid from Drungfield to Lucien. "Your father's records link his illicit activities to several organizations in Blaguarro, where thanks to our Lycanroc fugitive, we now know is home to Cipher's base of operations. That means his dealings with Cipher go back more than five years ago."

He held Lucien with a sympathetic gaze. "I know you and your father were not... close," Steven's voice sounded a bit more strained as he said this, "but can you think back to that time? Did anything change with your father's behavior? Why would he willingly choose to work with Cipher?"

Or maybe... maybe he didn't even know who they were and what they were doing...
Lucien looked stricken at Wes's, then Steven's, words about his father. Drungfield's eyes shot to him, as if she expected such a reaction.

"I have... recently become aware of the depths of my father's misdealings," said Lucien, his voice quavering a little.

Sometimes it was suddenly quite plain how young he was. Barely in his twenties, if the Wayfarers had looked into the matter.

"Things had always been... difficult. Between us, that is. I always expected and dreaded that I should take over from him as governor of this town, and hoped that at least I might choose to do so in a kinder and wiser way, if I could only find the strength to do so, and the wisdom to believe that my way was not simple naivete. And now I know that people suppose if he was a blackmailer, corrupt, and villainous as we now know, then surely the rot must be in my veins also. It is yet another reason I am eager to cast off the mayoral regalia for good."

He gulped, and steadied himself on the table behind him, only to flinch away as he became aware of the proximity to Fein's body.

"I'm sure you've all heard that he... escaped from jail. It was very nearly time for him to attend trial. I hardly dare show my face for fear that citizens will accuse me of having been the one to free him. Of having the witching powers that melted the bars of his cell and bedevilled the minds of his guards. Even beyond that, I am afraid of my father returning with unholy powers to reclaim his control of this town, and... of me."

Lucien fell silent, his face a perfect mask of null expression, giving away nothing. The coping mechanism returning, when emotions became too dangerous.

Drungfield took up speaking, before the silence could linger.

"Cipher's long-term goals are unknown. It could be that they have been gathering resources, working to overcome some limitation on their operations in our world, or dealing with internal issues of some kind. Political or technical matters. However, if they were to realise that they were being exposed, and that forces were moving to unite against them, they would be spurred into action. That is my strong supposition, and I suggest you take that possibility seriously, as Miss Mhynt has wisely pointed out."
"Some of us are... looking into the jailbreak and have a good idea what happened." Nova glanced at Mhynt, unsure if they should also whack them with the proverbial zweilous hammer on top of the other bad news. "It's not your fault. I'll vouch for you if people really want to keep making a stink about it even after there's a new mayor."

He glanced toward the door, making sure it was still firmly shut and no one was trying to get in. "We're trying to move cautiously. Or, well, those folks with better connections are." He gestured to Wes and Steven. "I can't say I'm all that, uh, regarded anywhere in the Soja. You're probably the person I'm most connected to, Lucien. And I'm not subtle in the appearance department either."

Nova nodded to the others. "So, I trust whatever resource gathering these guys have been doing so far. And plan on doing in the future." He didn't want to be the ideas guy, anyway. At least, not as far as the current Cipher predicament. Maybe there'd come a time where he'd have to more to offer. But Nova was fine to stick to a supportive role. Too many chefs and all...
Mhynt nodded and caught Nova's glance. She nodded to them and said, "We have a few leads, but this is something that we cannot let get around just yet. We will inform you when we get more confirmations."

If Alexander thinks they aren't on their trail, maybe this would be best to keep under wraps for now.

"But if you find any testimony from those Shadowed guards useful while we are busy with other things, let us know. They were affected by whoever invaded and that could be a danger, short or long term."
Wes nodded as Lucien spoke, gaining a new understanding of the mon that stood before him. He didn’t feel guilty about his previous assumptions—he still stood by the fact that his wariness had been warranted, given how little he knew of Lucien himself. This was one thing that he was very glad to be wrong about, however.

“I hope you’re not avoiding the title of mayor just to prove a point that you aren’t like your father,” Wes said gently. “Because if you did still want it, there are other ways to prove you are not him. That said, I understand if you want to walk away from it entirely. I’ve had my own experiences with cutting ties and shedding former…identities.”

The news of Ignatius’s escape was grave, but Wes knew of it already thanks to Aige’s message via Betel. Wes loathed the idea of that bastard roaming freely, and it was doubly alarming that Alexander seemed to be the one behind it.

He recognized Lucien’s fear; the terror of being reclaimed by the one who once held power over him was a feeling Wes understood far too well.

“We have information and strength in numbers. We may not know exactly what we’re up against yet, and of course we need to be careful—” he nodded to Drungfield— “but even if Ignatius does try to return, somehow, you are not him.” He met Lucien’s gaze. “You will never be him, and there is nothing he can do to change that.”
At Lucien's words, something surged to the surface. Righteous anger? Protectiveness? Absolute incredulity that Lucien had spent his entire existence in fear of his father, and even now he was unable to escape the bastard's clutches when all that was left of him was a shadow and a name.

Steven bristled with a sharp magnetic hum. "I won't let--" he blurted, before catching himself and clarifying with a glance around the room at present company, "we won't let that happen."

He shook his head and then fixed Lucien with a determined stare. "You father does not own you, and if he reappears claiming he does, he is as sorely mistaken about that as he is about everything else. A fact that we will be happy to educate him about. Again."

Steven glanced around the room, at Wes, Nova, Mhynt, they could attest to this as well, regardless of what they thought of Lucien prior. "You've show us-- a bunch of strangers from another world-- nothing but kindness and understanding. How anyone can look at you and say your heart is as rotten as you father's, I wouldn't know."

"Every person deserves to live their own life, you are no exception." Steven paused for a moment, leveling his gaze with Lucien's once more. "I'll do whatever it takes for you to finally be able to live yours."

Perhaps it was a bit extreme, but if Ignatius were to return, Lucien's fate-- being shackled to a life out of his control-- would be worse than death. Maybe it wasn't Lucien who called the Wayfarers here to help, but so far if there was one person Steven wanted to help, it was him.
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