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Frontier Town Frontier Town Outskirts

Hot embarrassment flooded Koa and his pelt prickled. "Sorry," he stammered. He put the berry away quickly. Probably a good idea not to mention he'd thought for a bit that 'Bosque' was a feral.

"We were just hiking, we're not spies. You must be guards?" he asked, a note of sincerity in his voice. What were they doing out here? Maybe they were in training? They seemed young but... He wasn't sure how the Escarpa operated.
"Y-yeah, we're guards!" answered Bosque, dutifully not giving away his name. "We're Escarpa warriors!"

Laura glanced around. Scrubland and riverbank, not far east of town... They hadn't wandered that far. This wasn't a usual patrol route for the Escarpa, as far as she knew. Or if it was, the clan scouts were scrupulously inconspicuous.

"I see," she said. "So, this is Escarpa territory, is it? Are we trespassing near your camp?"

She knew full well that they weren't, of course.

"No way," he retorted. "We're really far from camp, investigating townie territory. You're... You're townies, right?"

The other Shinx sniffed, and peered at them. "They must be. They smell like it, and they're wearing townie clothing."

Bosque tilted his head on one side. "I'm not sure, Nube... Brisa wore townie cloth sometimes."

Nube huffed and rolled her eyes, but she didn't disagree.
"I see..." He did not. What were they investigating out here? Perhaps they were trying to help their clan?

"Well, it's good to meet some warriors. You're right, we're not really townies," he said neutrally, glancing between the two. "Just travelers, and I like wearing jackets. That was a good observation though," he said earnestly.

The name Brisa drew his attention, and he hadn't had a chance to meet other Escarpa, so it couldn't hurt to chat for a bit. He sat down, trying to appear more relaxed. "We've heard about Brisa a little, she sounds cool. Were you friends with her?"
"I said so," Bosque whispered loudly to Nube.

She wrinkled her nose. "No, we weren't friends with Brisa. She's way older than us, old enough to have kittens. We hardly ever saw her, anyway. But she was 'cool'."

"She was strong," affirmed Bosque, with firm approval. 'Strong' was very cool, in the clan.

"How long have you been warriors?" asked Laura, her mouth quirking into a smile.

"Well this morning we decid—" Bosque started, before Nube whacked him firmly in the flank, and answered "A whole week!" with as much force as her small frame could muster. "So watch out."

The competent, serious, tough-minded Escarpa at the bridge over the Silver had only been cadets. These Shinx probably weren't even that, yet.
"A week?" They reminded him of the ninja kids he'd fought. Or trainers, when they got to start their journeys younger. Exaggeration or not, a part of him admired their determination. "Pretty cool!"

His gaze slid to Laura before turning back to Bosque and Nube. "How about some sparring then, just for fun?" he said with a friendly grin, rising to his paws. Even if he'd come looking for a feral there was no reason he couldn't challenge them, right? Maybe they were young, but it would only be for fun, and he had hoped to make a friend, or at least meet someone. And now that he was a pokemon he could do it their way.
Laura raised a brow and flicked an ear. Really? They looked super young and they were definitely kids sneaking out playing at being 'warriors' when they might not even have any combat training.

"You spar for fun?" said Nube, as interested as she was incredulous.

"See? They can't be townies," said Bosque, with great pride. "I was right."

"Shh!" hissed Nube. "Okay. We'll fight you!" she said, to Koa. "Two on two! And no cheating!"

Laura's tail flicked. She hadn't agreed to this. On the other hand, she didn't relish the idea of Escarpa cubs shit-talking the Wayfarers for being cowards if she backed out.

"How do you cheat in a sparring match?" she asked. "Do you use moves or not?"

Nube scowled, which could mean any number of things.

"We're only just learning some moves," admitted Bosque. "But we're much stronger than townies and wildren! We'll show you!"

He concentrated, sparks flying off his fur, and let loose a modest Thunder Shock. It burnt a patch of dry grass to a crisp, fortunately not catching anything else alight. It looked like he could be right. Townies and the kind of wild 'mon found in this area really weren't all that proficient at elemental attacks.

"Alright," said Laura. "So long as we all agree to lay off anyone who yields. Plus, we have orans on us for injuries."

Nube tossed her head, as if she had a mane to toss. "Alright. That's just good sense."

"And no holding back just because we're kits," growled Bosque, earning a side-eye from Nube.
"Sick!" Koa nodded, studying them, then the bush Bosque had torched, and cracked a small grin. They were young, but he remembered how annoying it felt to have adults tiptoe around him. He didn't want to hurt them but he didn't want to treat them like they were stupid. Besides, he liked their earnestness. "Let's see what you got..."

Hopefully Laura wouldn't mind a little scrapping too much. He dropped into a combat stance, letting his weight sink into his paws. Keeping it simple wasn't the same as taking it easy. His tail wagged slightly and he let the familiar spark of energy coalesce around his paws.

Then his gaze settled on Bosque. With a bark, he sprang forward and swung a paw at him, a basic fakeout. The same technique he might use to test an opponent.
Bosque, to his credit, did react by pulling back, but the juke startled him a little. His fur sparked, and he loosed a crackling Thunder Shock Koa's way. Nube, meanwhile, immediately went down on crouched limbs, to pounce on Laura with what looked like a well-drilled Quick Attack.

Laura pulled a face at being dragged into a scuffle with children, then the Shinx slammed into her gut and she doubled over, winded. Escarpa kids played hard. Damn.

"Koa, they're clanners," she snapped, snapping her paw to trigger a Coaching. "Don't hold back, or you'll give offence!"

She got low too, ready to sidestep Nube next time, glancing over at Bosque and Koa warily every other second.
"Oh I don't plan to!" he called, rising to the challenge. Bosque's attack had packed a punch and left his muscles tingling, even for being an electric move. It had been a well timed counter strike.

Bosque seemed to have some grit to him if he'd retaliated like that. "Not bad, let's see what else you got!" Koa gathered energy and then lunged, letting loose a Flash attack right in Bosque's face before trying to followup with a Spark.
Bosque yelped in surprise, and reflexively went low, his ears pricking for the attack. As such, he braced himself well! Even so, Koa's strength was more than equal to the clanner kitten's, after months of training in a more developed body.

"Bosque! Try a Wave!" called Nube.

"N-no! He's Electric too!"

"Salt!" swore Nube, wrinkling her nose. In her anger, she loosed a Thunder Wave of her own at Laura, and sparked off to follow up with a Thunder Shock.

"Gghhauh!" Laura pulled a face as her limbs seized, and the Shock landed true. But she'd shrugged off worse. She considered, for a moment, going for Nasty Plot into Dark Pulse, and ending the fight quickly. Was that too harsh...?

"How ser–ugh. How serious were you? About not holding back?"

"Deadly serious!" yelled Bosque, before launching himself at Koa at speed in a flurry of Quick Attacks.

"Okay! You asked for it," said Laura, grinning. For a second there, her heart had jumped like this was a League match, and she had a win condition in reach.

She put a paw to her temple, and concentrated. She could see how to land the attack, her Dark-type energy flowed through her with a thrill, she was poised to time it perfectly.

Her paw snapped, and the energy loosed.

Nube yowled, more from shock than actual hurt, and pawed at her head. "Sky and stars! That one was a real attack!"

It was the happiest the girl had sounded, even though her limbs wobbled a little.
Koa ducked and weaved around Bosque's strikes, though he found that even with his youth Bosque was quite good at the move. The speed the move lent the kit meant a few struck true, even with his best efforts to dodge. They were smart too, trying to strategize on the fly. Thunder Wave to incapacitate... a good play.

From the corner of his eyes he saw Laura preparing, then a second later, Nube was hit. He grinned. No way was he going to let Laura show him up. And no way was he gonna go hold back on Bosque after that. "I like your guts!" he called to them. "I won't hold back either."

He took a split second, honing his energy and condensing it to a fine point. His gaze locked onto Bosque as he used Focus Energy. Then he poured energy into his claws, and danced forward, light on his paws, waiting for the right moment... A fake, then another and- There!

With a flick of his paw, he swiped at Bosque, hard.
Bosque gave a loud oof as he was knocked onto his flank, and groaned theatrically.

"Wind and weather," he swore, though his body language suggested he wasn't too hard done by.

"Okay! We yield," announced Nube. "That's enough."

"We yield??" whined Bosque. "But that wasn't a long battle! What if we could have won?"

Nube scoffed, and flicked her tail. "Of course not. They're actual warriors. We weren't going to win." She gave the offworlders a smug, unrepentant look. "We're not really warriors. We're just on a dare. But we'll be cadets by winter, I'm entirely sure of it!"

Laura smiled, and suppressed a chuckle. "I'm sure of it too."
"If you're battling like this already, then you definitely will," Koa said enthusiastically.

He dipped his head to Nube. "That was a good idea to slow down Laura with Thunder Wave." He turned to Bosque, eyes gleaming. "And you remembered it wouldn't work on me. A long time ago, on my first battle, I forgot I couldn't use ground techniques against an Eelektross." He chuckled at the thought. Had it really been that long... it felt like ages ago.

"Just remember to keep listening to warriors with more experience, and you'll get there in no time." Unlike him, he reflected. How many times had Rowan or Blake tried to impart some lesson he'd ignored? He'd gotten better, but maybe these kits could be smarter than he had.

He pulled out and Oran berry for himself and handed one to Bosque and Nube.
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Nube looked like she meant to turn her nose up at the offered berry, but seeing Bosque forget himself and wolf it down whole, she took it with a respectful nod and a small 'brrrt!'.

"You two are fun," said Bosque, cheerfully, not at all put off by being knocked on his backside. "Clear skies, outsiders! Maybe we'll see you again when we're on a real patrol!"

"We'll never be on a real patrol if we're late back and Piedra tans our hides," scolded Nube, sounding very much like she was making a direct quote.

"Right," agreed Bosque, without sounding especially afraid of the prospect. More playing pretend, perhaps? "Let's get home."

Laura's tail perked, more relieved than anything that the encounter had gone well. "Clear skies, you two," she said back, as they made to leave.
"Clear skies," Koa said with an amicable grin, repeating the phrase. He rather liked it, and he liked them. Even their brief contact made him miss his days training. "I look forward to it if we meet again! Maybe next time you'll give us a real run for our money." He was willing to believe it too. And getting to fight them as a pokemon gave him a totally different perspective.

Once they'd gone, he glanced up at the sky before turning to Laura. "It's weird, fighting as the pokemon instead of being the trainer," he mused out loud. "I kind of like it." He wasn't sure how the memory thing between worlds worked, but he hoped he remembered a little of that feeling somehow, the thrill of battle and partnership.

Laura chuckled sheepishly. "Kinda? It's a bit nerve-wracking, to be honest. I fight almost like I'm still a trainer. But I get it – and I'm glad for the experience."

Koa nodded. He kind of liked that about Laura, the way she would scope out the whole battle from a trainers eye... "I guess we might as well start heading back." He started walking back towards town, his spirit light. The pair weren't the feral Shinx he'd come out here to meet, but in a way it was even better.

"So you've got to tell me more about your Noivern! I've never heard of that variant of species in my world..."

[Ch05] Nova & Mhynt ~ Relicvelations New
When the news had first come via Betelepathy, Nova tried looking for Mhynt but came up empty. Then he found himself preoccupied with Ghaspius and the sudden imposter appearance. When he finally did manage to get over to the Haus to get someone to show him where the old sheriff's cabin was, he found the grovyle. Except she'd asked he come help her map out a road and clear some debris.

The sum total of all of this was that Nova did not end up spending a much-needed recovery day taking it easy. But that was fine. He wanted to know Mhynt was okay. And he used it as a chance to test the ground-type disk against the debris. Ground trumped rock. Debris were usually rock. It made perfect sense.

... About fifty percent perfect sense. Which was still good!

So, Nova was brushing small rocks aside, glancing over his shoulder at Mhynt. "How are you?" He went with the obvious question. "Cuz, y'know, it's okay if you're not okay. I wouldn't be if I'd come face to face with my past demon."
"...Better," Mhynt admitted with a pause that suggested she'd really put thought into how she felt. "Perhaps a day ago, I would have been much worse. But Koa was able to speak to me, and... He has a way with words. It must be that human influence I don't know about. I thought to... at least try speaking to others that I know."

Up ahead, the road was flat and starting to show signs of a battle. Bandits, probably, or some other clash irrelevant to them. All that mattered was they had to clean it up.

"I intentionally picked a less demanding mission," Mhynt said. "Something to help get back into things. I could have done it on my own with some strain... but this seemed like a good idea."
"Right." Nova finished the rocks he was dealing with. He glanced at the grovyle. "Better's good. I was trying to find you, but you weren't around. Sorry."

There was that human bit again, but he pushed that aside.

"Are you guys all okay? I think you said Alexander can control people, right?"
"...Yes." Mhynt once again avoided direct eye contact. "He can. But that's better now. The strange relic we'd found... It countered Alexander's infection entirely. Perhaps we might even resist it now... Though, I can't channel Shadows just yet. I think... that will heal. It's better than the moment it happened."

Her leaves withered anyway.

"...But I don't... know if I'm ready to face him again. I froze completely the first time... and that was before he'd infected me."
Nova stumbled, catching himself with a squawk. "Wait, you guys got that relic from the Oasis working?"

He abruptly shook his head. "Err, never mind. I believe you." He trotted over and sat down opposite her. "That's, um... we don't have to talk about it if you don't want."
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