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Frontier Town Founder's Square

"If it's cooling off he needs, maybe he'll run into Arctozolt," Nova deadpanned. "They're a walking headcold."

And with that, he finally got far enough away from the others to pick up his pace and head for the railyard.
"Well, this conversation went the broad side of nowhere," Ghaspius sighed after hearing how the others responded. He shook his head. "Don't know what a 'net' has to do with anythin', but if y'all wanna keep actin' high and mighty, decidin' what we—" His voice dropped as he saw Nova walk away. "Well, don't trip on the rocks on your way back."

The Misdreavus gave a nod of acknowledgement to Laura and Isidora. "I'll stick around here for a bit in case anyone needs to get caught up to speed. Appreciate the info y'all have given." He hummed. "Suppose we best prepare for some friction between the otherworlders then. Whatever y'all decide to do, make sure you do it for the right reasons."
Isidora watched the chimera leave, perplexed by his parting words and too busy dealing with the spike in anxiety caused by what he revealed just before to contemplate them further. The mayor hired some of us? She had been afraid of a possible conflict, but actually getting hired to catch Sonora was not what she had in mind. And in the end Sonora wasn't able to give them any practical reason to side with her over him.

The Misdreavus gave a nod of acknowledgement to Laura and Isidora. "I'll stick around here for a bit in case anyone needs to get caught up to speed. Appreciate the info y'all have given." He hummed. "Suppose we best prepare for some friction between the otherworlders then. Whatever y'all decide to do, make sure you do it for the right reasons."
"Y-yeah... Thanks for, being willing to help us, I guess." Isidora glanced between the two of them, then forcefully brushed her fur flat and tilted her hat to cover her eyes. "I think I need a moment to think. Sorry."

She briskly left the square. This isn't like you.

What are you doing? And why are you doing it?
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As the others left the square whether out of anger, fear, discomfort or disgust, Felin remained right where she was. She idly groomed her forearm to maintain the sheen of her fur. Finally, she looked up.

"I worried it'd come to this. This is the kind of thing you have to do with folks you've done several jobs with." Felin sighed and bit the inside of her lip. "Hard to corral a bunch of strangers you don't know to do anything really."
Laura sat heavily down on a fountain-side bench and held her head in her paws.

"Yeah, no shit," she mumbled. "Sorry, it's just that you're exactly right. We're still all just strangers to each other, and it's impossible to get organised. Some of us agreed to completely incompatible offers that happened to come at the same time. That's... That's gonna cause problems."

When she fell asleep tonight, she hoped that Voice would speak clearer, longer, maybe offer some guidance...

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[Ch02] ~ Hippity Hoppity This Cryptid Is Mystery Plottery
Hip, hop, hip hop hop.

A Nidoran traveled down the roads while carrying a bag of supplies about half his size on his back. Spines dug into it, anchoring the bag where it stood, and an extra spine had been broken off and used as a makeshift pin to keep the bag closed.

This Nidoran had gained notoriety for being "strange." He went to shops, placed money on the counter, took some items in meticulous order, and then left, paying things by the exact amount. However, there were a few times when his payments were under or over, like they were based on prices from a few days ago. That was the story that surrounded the little porcupine rabbit.

He was cute. And harmless. Compared to the recent news about the mayor, he was a welcome customer and a more 'friendly' strangeness that Frontier Town could find... refreshing.

But strangeness was what the team was set to investigate. Perhaps this would be the day to 'speak' with the Nidoran again.
At least, most of the team. A certain Misdreavus wasn't a stranger to the strange, yet found himself all the more curious about the strange stranger's strangeness. He casually floated along to tail the fabled Nidoran — maintaining a respectful enough distance so as not to creep. There was a certain art to spookiness, after all.

Once in familiar territory, Ghaspius intentionally dropped the small sack of berries he had been carrying hoping the Nidoran had been close enough to notice. "Oh, drat, not again," he said wistfully as he leaned down to start gathering the berries again. "If only I had someone to help pick these up." He tried to pass the occasional glance to see if the Nidoran would react in his periphery. Of course, he hadn't exactly been expecting anyone else to show up.
Leaf had a lot of things on her mind as she made her way down the street. Entirely too many things, actually, like maybe they should consider stopping because piling on like this was pretty rude? Anger, for one: a bunch of people had gone off to "Terminal Two" without telling her after she'd promised Sonora that she would help. Some worry, too, because it sounded like Koamaru and Andre and Ridley and the others had gotten really badly hurt, and they were getting better but it wasn't even clear what had happened? And sure, why not, toss a little guilt in there, the more the merrier, just in case maybe it would've have gone better if they'd made it through Silver Ravine faster, planted the cutting sooner. Fantastic, great, super fun times, anyone else wanna jump into the clown car, step right up why friggin' don't you.

She passed through the square with her head down a little, trying to will the whole sorry mess to untangle itself but mostly just giving herself a headache, when she noticed a few berries bouncing merrily past. She caught one and turned to see where it'd come from. "Hey, Ghaspius, I think you dropped these?" she asked, floating the wayward produce in his direction. It took her a couple seconds to realize just what the misdreavus was glancing at.

"Oh! You're here, too! Hello!" she said, smiling with recognition (and a few different kinds of relief). "See any nice pictures lately?"
Nidoran's ears twitched and his eyes glimmered with recognition at Leaf. He hopped over and grabbed a few of the berries, tossing them back into the Misdreavus' bag. His aim was surprisingly good. Ghaspius had a strong impression, the way he tilted his head, that Nidoran was asking if everything was alright. After all, maybe a ghost in the harsh sunlight wouldn't do too well.
Ghaspius let out a light gasp. His plan was foiled! Still, he couldn't be mad at the adorable Ponyta for trying to help. "O-oh! Thank you, Leaf," he said as his face settled back.

His eyes drifted back to the Nidorian as he whistled, impressed at the little rabbit's aim. Perhaps his plan didn't quite fall apart. "Ah, appreciate it lil' fella," he said with a smile. "I'm holdin' up alright; I was just trying to do a bit of shopping when the sun got just a bit too close to my eyes, and, well..."

Ghaspius made a bwoosh sound with his mouth to represent the berries falling out of his grasp and tumbling. "Got a name? I wanna properly thank my other helper."
Nidoran blinked again. The answer didn't immediately come. But then--perhaps this time, he was prepared?--he reached into his bag, pulled out the quill pin, and stuck his head inside. He disappeared into it... and then, despite it being half his size, reemerged normally with a little nameplate in his mouth.


It appeared to be some sort of typeface. It was unknown if Nidoran actually knew what it said, or if he was prompted to give that when asked specific things like his name.
"Thank you, Nidorian~!" Ghaspius trilled with adoration. Whether it was a literacy issue or something else, he couldn't help but root for the little champ. "My name is Ghaspius. Gasp-ee-us. Okay?" He tilted his head and smiled.

"What's a lil' fella like you shopping around for? Something for your family?" His eyes passed a glance to Leaf, wondering about those 'pictures' she mentioned.
Leaf allowed herself a chuckle at the nametag the nidoran produced. Well, that was one way to handle it! Must've beat everyone bugging him about it all the time. "That's a great idea," she said. "And it looks nice!"

"He doesn't talk much," she added to Ghaspius. Or at all, far as she could tell. Was it rude to explain more than that? (Would Nidoran even mind?) "I met him before at the library a little while ago; he wanted to find books with pictures in them." She glanced at the nidoran, wondering whether he'd do something to elaborate on his own.

It didn't look like he had books in his bag today, at least, based on the shape of them. "What are you looking for today?" she asked, gesturing with her head to encourage him to point something out if he wanted.
Nidoran blinked again and then dug through the bag. He then produced a large leaf of some kind--looked like a discarded Bayleaf's headleaf. Based on the condition of the root, it appeared to have been shed, replaced, or otherwise discarded rather than cut off.

He offered it to Ghaspius. Shade from the sun for the spectral citizen.

Though, that didn't quite answer Leaf's question... When they caught a glimpse inside, there appeared to be a random mixture of berries and gold coins inside. He must have been shopping. There was also a piece of paper with a list--surely a list of things to buy.
Ghaspius couldn't help but coo. "Thank you kindly, Nidoran," he said as he gently grasped the leaf with a bit of energy. It floated up until it loose fitted between his scarf and his neck. "It'll be a nice lil' parasol."

It spun a bit in place, but the Misdreavus's relaxing expression showed the immediate effects of getting out of the searing sun. He let out a light but satisfied exhale before looking to Leaf. "Picture books, huh? Maybe he's got trouble reading?"He tilted his head. "I wonder where his parents are..."

He looked back towards Nidoran and spotted the list. With a polite smile, he asked, "Would you like some help shopping?"
"He wasn't interested in the reading, I don't think, at least not last time," she answered, twitching one shoulder in a half shrug. "Unless he's really into farmer's almanacs and also local tax law." Could he read, if he wanted to? If what she'd heard around town was true and people really were being nicer to him, it probably wouldn't be difficult for him to find someone to try teaching him.

She hadn't really wondered about his parents before, huh. Had they given him the list, maybe? If it was written words then someone had to have, well, written it. Come to think of it, someone would have to understand what he wanted in order to write it down. Or was it a list of things someone else had asked him to go get for them? She tried to see if she could identify anything on the list without invading Nidoran's personal space too much; if he didn't want to share, she'd back off.

"If you would like help shopping, I'm happy to!" she offered, smiling at both Ghaspius and the nidoran. It'd be good to spend some time around someone so uncomplicatedly nice—okay, fine, a little bit complicated, whatever, but still nice—and something to do would be a welcome distraction.
This earned a more cautious stare this time, eyes averting to a nearby and apparently interesting wall. It seemed like Nidoran was instructed for one reason or another to not ask for help when it came to his tasks... Though, he seemed friendly, if not cautious. They would have to convince him to back off.

They could catch a few lines from the list from their angle. 'I would like these items from your shop.' And there were numerous notes like these, and some appeared to be crumpled or completed and riddled with bite marks. The handwriting was very precise and purposeful. It somehow didn't fit the Nidoran. There seemed to be other notes in the back that had what appeared to be different messages, but they were too deep in the bag to read.
Huh, there were... a lot of lists, actually. He must've been doing this for a while. Or helping multiple people? "I mean, not that you can't do it yourself," Leaf added, smiling again. "You're stronger than a lot of nidoran I know." And disappear-ier. "But if you'd like some company while you're out running errands, or if someone doesn't quite understand—" if someone's being a jerk "—we don't mind helping. Really. All up to you, though!"

Part of her really wanted to insist, to be certain that he wasn't about to get kicked out of anyplace again, but he did seem pretty capable of taking care of himself. (And taking care of someone else...?)
Ghaspius nodded in agreement. "We ain't here to impose; just wanna give a lonesome lookin' fella a friend or two!" He wasn't entirely sure that the Nidoran would understand, but he might as well try. Worst case, he could always try to trail him in the shadows. Not that he wanted to stalk the little guy, though.

He place a tassel to his mouth in a hushing motion. "We can keep a secret too, if ya want," he added with a whisper as his eyes moved from left to right in faux cautiousness.
More uncertainty in his eyes and the way his ears twitched. He didn't fully understand what they were saying but he understood their intent. And with that intent, and the mixture of caution and friendliness and curiosity, it seemed to win him over just a little. He hopped to turn around, sealing his bag and continued down the road. His speed suggested 'follow me' instead of 'go away.'

And without a single word said.
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