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Frontier Town Founder's Square

Isidora's eyes widened a bit. "I'd been wondering if you'd been through some shit..." she remarked. He does get it. A prickle of insecurity. And he sounds so smart about it, too. She knew that humans were supposed to be naturally quite intelligent, but somehow it wasn't until now that it occurred to her what that might mean.

Her feathered ear flicked. "Well, I've been pretty clear about my worries," she said, fighting off discomfort and trying to keep pace. "I guess... I've seen a lot of 'mon who don't really think all that hard about the actions they take. In my experience the way it goes is that most aren't really aware at all about what's goin' around them, or the ways those different from them are affected. And I haven't seen much reason to think most of the other humans in the group are all that different."

She brought a paw to her face and usheathed its claws so she could inspect them. "They think they know what they're getting into with the Coven, and hell, maybe they do. But they can't see that the stakes are different between us. If they make me involved and something goes wrong, then I'll suffer more for it than they will." Her claws flexed. It's arrogance. Plain and simple.

She put them away. "So I've already decided I'm staying far away from that. It's..." Isidora hesitated to say the next part.

"...It's good to know I might not be alone."
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Gladion sat up, hoping it might express something like an increase in seriousness. He worried it might seem painfully pointed, and like he was making a conscious effort to try to emote properly in his new body... Mostly because both of which would be accurate assessments of him. "I don't have the same firsthand stakes, but I can see why it's of particular concern. And even then, it's got me deeply unnerved. I've been considering whether or not it's something I should preemptively warn Valere about. He's stuck his neck out for us with that info he did offer, and I'd feel bad if it came back to haunt him because I shared it. And if he distrusts the people involved... Well, maybe he should. I'm I wouldn't trust anyone who did it myself, either...

"You're not alone. I know the feeling, and I'll promise I won't let it happen to you. If there's some human stuff you need an insider's perspective on or something, I'll be around. Or just someone to back you up in general."
Isidora felt a flush of embarrassment, and suddenly her wounded arm became more interesting. "...'S a bold declaration. We barely even know each other..."

She shook it off. "A-anyway, I don't think warning Valere's a bad idea. But the group might hate us for it, and who knows how Valere'll take it." She scratched the side of her head. "Guess I can't shake the feeling it might be risky, but I guess everything is in this situation."

"And..." Isidora hesitated again. She could barely believe the conversation they were having. "Well, I think you might be getting a little ahead of yourself with your offer there." She sheepishly looked away. "But... I'll keep it in mind, I guess."
Gladion exhaled, almost like a laugh. "I'm not saying we're going to be besties for life or anything. I am not becoming an extrovert on your behalf. I'm just willing to back you up, that's all I meant. And if someone has to warn Valere, I'm not one for making friends anyway."
"As long as we’re clear on that." Caught up in the moment, the smallest of smiles crept its way onto her face. She caught it quickly and wiped it off with a paw. "And... thanks," she said finally. Her voice dropped to a mutter. "Can't say I'm the best at making friends either..."

She sighed, then shuffled on the bench until she sat straight. "Still need to figure out my plan for tonight. I'll probably just stay here for a while to think, unless there's something else you need to talk about. Not like I have much better to do."

Her ears quirked curiously. Actually, I have been wondering about how he ended up as- Then she remembered Nova, and shot the thought down. ...No. I don't want to dig into his past like that.
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Gladion laughed. "No idea how other people do it, honestly... And, no, got nothing else to talk about. See you around, I guess?"

With that, he left. It had been a busy week, he was ready to call it a day.
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Isidora held up a paw as he left. "See ya."

Alone once again, she had nothing but her thoughts. Never would've thought I'd get along with him. I wonder what he was like as a human. If he...

She frowned a little. Well, we're not friends. We're acquaintances. She wasn’t sure how else she was supposed to reconcile the possibility she was working with 'pokémon trainers.' But at the very least, she could say Gladion was more trustworthy than most.

Ch03: Visitor from the Roughland
The month of Winds gave rise to cooler temperatures than the merciless summer months before, but the Soja' was still the Soja', and even 'relatively cooler' was still warm compared to other regions.

One cloudless day, a Staraptor perched on the edge of the fountain at the center of town, having recently cooled off in the inviting water. The pure-white feathers across most of the bird's forehead suggested he was likely male, and at first glance, he might have appeared to be wild--he wore no clothing aside from a woven turquoise band around his left leg. Upon second glance, an onlooker might notice differently-colored feathers woven into the natural gray of his head--apparently for decoration--maybe a clan affinity? Not to mention the travel bag slumped against that fountain's base, likely belonging to him.

He'd been visiting various shops all morning, so anyone who'd gone shopping during that time was likely to have noticed him, as he didn't exactly look much like the average citizen of Frontier Town. Right now he appeared to be reading a crumpled up paper with a front-page story about the Wayfarers...
At this point they might as well just make it official and put up a sign saying the fountain with the Emperor Pinhead statue was a public bath. At least this guy wasn't hamming it up like Kyoko and Ibuki had done, and while several team members had gotten beat up again recently no one had said anything about a staraptor being the culprit, so proooobably there was no reason to jump in and defend anyone's honor or anything. (Any townies who might've fussed about it didn't count, because, again, if this was a recurring problem: signage! Not that hard, people!) No reason not to just keep on errand-ing. Wasn't like she didn't have things to do today.

But then he'd shifted to reading one of Laura's articles in the paper, and given that he seemed pretty new in town that was maybe something to keep an eye on?

"Oh, those guys!" Leaf said, nodding at the paper super-casual and definitely super-slick. "Make for some interesting reading, don't they?"
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Nova was making a quick trek into town to buy some things for himself. The board was proving good enough for him, particularly since he was no longer paying any boarding fees. He'd got what he wanted and he was preparing to head back when he noticed Leaf talking up some random staraptor in the town square. No clothing articles, either.

Then again, the cloth anklets Nova had made were beyond torn following all the training and his sleeping out in the dirt. They were barely scraps of cloth, so Nova had discarded them. It earned a few looks, sure, but the null figured enough people dismissed his helmet as "clothing" to not brand him some sort of wild pokémon. And that was enough for him.

Still, with how many Wayfarers had run into trouble as of late, it wouldn't hurt to make sure nothing bad was happening. "Hey, uh..." Nova approached Leaf, his head tilted. "New friend of yours?"
An uncharacteristic anxiousness wrapped itself all over Ghaspius's expression as his eyes darted in every direction. "Crap, crap, crap...!" He muttered to himself as he hastily tied his scarf while looking towards the sky.

His all-nighter trying to get in touch with Drungfield had cost him too much time. As soon as his body had enough, the Misdreavus had clocked out right there on the spot. His aching neck arched towards upward as he mentally tried to figure out the time. 'Too late' was what the time was: the Escarpa were coming and potentially shadows to follow; he had to warn everyone!

He had been so preoccupied with his own thoughts that he failed to notice the fountain in front of him as ungracefully tripped on its edge, tumbled in the air, and fell face-first in water. Proofed or not, drowsiness and inattentiveness meant he neglected to even to try to phase through.

Bubbles rose as he slowly lifted his dizzy head. "Bird...? I thought Houndoom were dogs..." He mumbled in delirium as he tried to regain his bearings.
Koa had gotten the warning from Betel but he'd ignored it. All night the events of what had happened with Alex ate away at him, and he'd barely slept. What if he did lose himself? How could he trust himself to go out and try and help the rest of the Wayfarers? You don't deserve to. You're tainted.

So he didn't go. He woke early enough after a few snatched bits of sleep to know that some of the others were going. Better them than him. At some point after he sleep for a time, but not nearly long enough. Sleep eluded him and he didn't want to spend the whole day hiding away. He forced himself to crawl out of his bed at the Sun Stone and decided to go for a walk.

Eventually, his steps carried him towards the square. Much to his dismay, he saw more of the Wayfarers there. He brightened a little when he spotted Leaf and Ghaspius however. Lastly, he took in the Staraptor they were talking to. A vague sort of nostalgia came over him seeing the species he'd once so longed to partner with. Was the Staraptor related to the Houndoom scout? He dipped his head in greeting.

"New in town?" he asked in a friendly tone.
Mhynt wasn't entirely sure what was going on, but during her pensive walk back home, she'd seen the commotion and decided to pitch on and observe quietly. If something went wrong as things often did, she could at least slip away unnoticed and report to the others...

What attention did they attract this time?
"New in town?" he asked in a friendly tone.
It was hard to tell what the Staraptor thought of the modest crowd gathering around him, although he didn't seem too bothered. Perhaps it was because he could simply fly away if it became too troublesome.

"Indeed. I normally visit once a month to sell my finds, but I was indisposed during Stone." A mild flicker of amusement had crossed his face at Leaf's not-so-subtle opening, although it was minimal.

He inclined his head toward the group. "Staraptor Cielo. I gather you are also 'new in town,'" he said, adjusting his talon on the newspaper he'd been reading.
"Ceiling? But we're outside..." Ghaspius's words slurred. His eyes drooped and head slowly fell as a combination of sleep and dizziness washed over him. "Absollllluuutely. Wayfarers. From waaaay far away. Way far. Wayfare. Haaaaah!"

He winced as the ensuing headache finally caught up to him. While he lost his dazy giddiness, he did regain some articulation. "Augh, why does it feel like a steel bar slammed me in the face?"

Ghaspius gasped, but clutched his head as he slowly rose from the water. "R-right, steel, rails— the rails— Mister, we need—"

He slowly opened eyes as he sputtered, but puckered in his lips as soon as he realized it was someone new. "Oh, pardon me mister Starpator, been in a bit of a rush. Mismagius Ghaspius." He still wasn't getting his own species right, and he was looser lipped, too. "Yeah, we're new. I work at Drungfield's. Say, ya see anyone strange around town lately?"
"Yeah, we're new. I work at Drungfield's. Say, ya see anyone strange around town lately?"
The Staraptor blinked. "Seeing as I've only been here since the morning, and the merchants were all the usual faces, I'd say the strangest folks I've seen in town were you," Cielo said, his voice tinged with dry humor. He stepped forward with one talon, the one with the turquoise band around it. "I hail from the Escarpment, to the south. The goings-on of town aren't my specialty. Although..." he glanced around at the streets beyond the main square, "I had noticed that things seem livelier around here this season." There was an odd edge to the way he said it.
Koa's eyes widened slightly at the mention of 'Escarpment'. "If you don't mind me asking, do you know the Escarpa clan by any chance?"

Radiance. Maybe if he could use Radiance instead of Shadow... A spark of hope flared in him.
"Is it different?" Nova sat down and scratched at his side with his hind leg. This kicked up some dust from the white parts of his pelt. "Kinda left town to wander the wildlands. If you mean the idiot bird in charge of this place getting the boot, then yeah. Suppose that's different."

He declined to mention his involvement with that. Or any of the group's for that matter. The paper probably spoke for itself.
Leaf missed the first few beats of the staraptor's statement, distracted by Ghaspius's odd behavior as she was. This meant she missed the snort, which also meant that as far as she was concerned her smooth entry had gone off without a hitch. Hell yeah. Anyway, Ghaspius. "Are you all right over there? You seem kinda out of it." She did her best to help levitate him away from the it's definitely a bath at this point fountain. Hopefully drying off would clear his head a little.

"Been here a couple weeks, yeah," she said, turning back in time for the rest of Cielo's intro and the others' questions. Was he with these Escarpa people? Interesting, considering the impression she'd gotten that they and the folks in charge around town didn't like each other much. "Helping out with things here and there. You said you're here to sell stuff, right?" she asked. "What kinds of things d'you usually sell?" She glanced around, past his crumpled paper, curious to see whether he had anything interesting sitting nearby.
"If you don't mind me asking, do you know the Escarpa clan by any chance?"
Cielo nodded deeply, his eyes closed for a moment. "My family have always been closely affiliated with the clan. We live, and roam, and hunt by their ways."

He glanced at the strange patchwork creature without much reaction (he must have already seen Nova's picture in the paper) although there was a definite pause while he absorbed the Graydian's full appearance. "Mm. Definitely busier than it was during Mind. The clan has been uneasy."

"Helping out with things here and there. What kinds of things do you usually sell?"
"Furs and other treasures of the hunt, as well as dungeon finds," Cielo answered simply. "I sell all that I can, and spend it on food and supplies to bring home. Money is not of much use to me outside of the town."
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