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Frontier Town Frontier Town Outskirts

Koa nodded along with her, smiling in relief. Oh thank the lakes, she agreed. He wasn't alone. At least now they could put their heads together and figure out something, a better alternative. He paced in a circle and stopped. "Thank you," he said pointedly. "We have to try to think of all the angles..." he trailed off. What even were all the angles? What were they supposed to do? It wasn't like there was an officer to call for backup to turn them in, and they were too weak. "I don't know. I don't think we can fight them ourselves yet, but if they're caught..." he winced at the thought.

Think, Koa, he chided himself. "What if we warned..." He quickly shook his head. "No, that wouldn't work," he mumbled. he started paced again, staring at the ground. "Could we trap the bandits somehow?" Frustration burned through him. Yet again he was lost, clueless and had no idea what to do next.
"The last time I had to deal with a bunch of crooks, my team was with me," Leaf admitted, smiling ruefully— ah, right, her team, a team, hopefully there were still some people here who understood the concept of 'team'. "What about anybody who didn't get roped into this?" She gave Koamaru a slightly desperate look, like please tell me you didn't see everyone siding with one of these jerks. "There've got to be at least a few other people who'll see reason, and if we can find them, there'll be something useful we can do, right? Some way to, I dunno, distract them or something?" A trap, a decoy that seemed like a better deal, anything. If it did come down to a fight for the bandits' own stupid good she wasn't about to back down, wobbly baby stantler legs or not, but if they could get just a few more people to see sense there had to be something.

Man, but not knowing what was going on with everyone else was rough... They really needed a better way to keep in touch with the group, some way to make sure they could actually be on the same page when something important was happening and make sure nobody was doing anything dumb.

"Why didn't you at least call?! Why is this the first I'm hearing of this? How dare you—" But Leaf shook her head and cut that memory off right there, thank you very much. No. Don't even try to turn this around on me. This is different.
Koa's shoulders drooped. "I miss my team too," he said sympathetically. He'd always appreciated them, but being here without them only heightened that feeling every time he met a trainer. Except Wes, although picturing Rascal biting Wes's head off was a nice thought... Wait, the last time she had to deal with crooks? So had Leaf had her own version of team Blackout or some other group to deal with? He wanted to ask her about it, but decided to save it for later.

"It seemed like the group of people I ran into were mostly interested in trying to help the bandits in some way. The uh... I don't know what kind of pokemon he is, but he's the one from the paper. A sort of Chimera? He said another group was approached by the mayor and agreed to help? But I don't know how many. Or why," he added annoyedly. Did they really have people who wanted Sonora and her group dead? For petty crimes? She wasn't even a poacher or anything...

He squinted as he stared at the horizon, thinking. "There was only a few mon talking about helping Sonora. There's got to be a few of us who don't think its a good idea." Jade? She seemed very sensible. Aige, maybe? She had a uncommon outlook, maybe she might want to help? His thoughts turned to the conversation he'd had with Aige and frowned. "But we have to be careful too I guess. What if we run into someone who disagrees and tips the wrong group off?"
"Ideally if we told them they'd just snap out of it," Leaf huffed. She pawed the ground, still frustrated. "But yeah, they might run to their precious bandit or mayor... we could ask if they have a plan for the gala and roll with what to tell them from there, I guess? Same way you asked me."

Also rough: they couldn't even be straightforward with their own friggin' group. But if there really were people willing to work with the mayor, even though he... did they even know? What if they did? Was this what they'd expected when they'd volunteered? Anyone who was seriously considering that offer just wasn't someone they could trust. (God, the more tangled this got, the more she'd have given for her actual team to be here. Thirty-something so-called heroes, and all only a fraction as strong and reliable and good as Tank or Derby or Minerva.)

The thirty-whatever weirdos were who she and Koamaru were stuck with, though, so they were just gonna have to make do. Who else had she met that might be willing to help? Espurr had a good head on her shoulders, at least. "Maybe the people who've been passing around the warnings about the hush-hush human stuff would be okay, if we could find them?" she mused aloud. Not that she'd run into the sources herself, but if they were the types to make a big deal out of caution, they were probably smart enough to see through whatever garbage the others had been told.
"Yeah that sounds like a good idea..." He hummed in thought. "And I think we should at least play along too. Ask people their plans, and even if they're going to side with someone else, act like we agree so they don't catch onto us, you know?" The words felt icky as soon as he finished saying them. They were all supposed to be a team, not some of them. Perhaps later they could figure things out but the gala was fast approaching. Something had to be done.

"Wish we didn't have to sneak around our own teamates though..." he grumbled. Even if they convinced others to help, it would divide the team more. He snorted. "Too bad we can't recruit wild pokemon." There had to be a better way. What would he do if this were a fight, and his opponent was stronger? In regular battles he couldn't call out his whole team, but he would try to feint or wear down the enemy...Except the only thing he could do here was punch sort of well.

And rough idea began to take shape. "Maybe... This is like a battle against a stronger opponent, you know? We could try and disrupt the gala. Go there, keep an eye out for something happening, and then try and get in the way of everyone. Stop anyone from catching Sonora, stop Sonora from trying to rob everyone, and make sure the mayor can't catch her and her gang." Despite his attempt at projecting a modicum of confidence, his tone carried an uncertainty as he looked to Leaf for her opinion.
"Yeah, that makes sense. The gala will be huge, full of tons of guests and staff and all that; running interference as stuff goes down is probably gonna be easier than trying to outthink, what, two or four different-ish groups plus a whole stack of confused partiers?" Leaf nodded absently, relieved now that there was at least the suggestion of something they could do. She was better at thinking on her feet anyway.

But what to do before that? The gala was still a day and a bit away; plenty could change before that. "If we do learn anything about what any of the others are planning, we should keep in touch," she added. "Maybe someone helping the bandits lets slip that they've found another way in; maybe someone helping the mayor knows how they'll try and restrain this Sonora before taking her to jail. That kinda thing."
Koa nodded, his excitement returning a bit as they discussed some solutions. "And train. A day isn't long but if we're like pokemon back home, we can probably hone our skills a little. How about if we find anything out, we meet up before the gala, at the library?" It wasn't much, but it was at least something. Although the prospect of trying to fight his own teammates wasn't particularly thrilling. Hopefully it wouldn't come to that.
"Of course! We've got to train anyway, right?" Leaf said, grinning. "Still working on the 'psychic powers' stuff—" man but it'd be nice if she could toss the bandits back out the door just by thinking about it, but oh, well "—but I've gotten pretty good at this!" She turned and bucked hard, slamming both back hooves into a pitted, broken old signpost just to the side of the path. What was left of the board snapped clean away in two halves and clattered to the ground. Hell yeah, way better aim than the first time. (Possibly that fletchling hadn't understood her when she'd apologized, because this place was weird, but she had been very, very sorry.)

She half wanted to find something else to kick, just to have something to do with the energy. Finally having an actual goal felt practically electric; maybe not as much as Koamaru, heh, but it sure was good to see that he seemed a lot more optimistic now, too. Something to do. Some way to help.

Tempting as it was to go right back out for another run, a second look at the sky did remind her that imaginary pothole report duty did, technically and deeply unfortunately, still exist. "Ah, I think I've gotta head back now," she said apologetically, "but I really appreciate you letting me know about this! We'll get this figured out." We have to. If we don't... "I'll head to the Archives first thing if I learn anything good. Oh, and, uh—" She'd turned to start heading back into town, but paused as thoughts of the library jarred something loose in the back of her mind. "Sorry, this is random, but I don't know if you've seen a little purple nidoran around the library? If you do, he just wants to look at pretty nature pictures. Don't... don't let the other folks at the library chase him out for no reason, if you can?"
Koa grinned as her kick shattered the old signpost. "Not bad!" Maybe they could train together sometime. He liked Leaf, and he was glad to have found at least one other kindred spirit here. And maybe there would be more.

At least now they had a start. "I'll see you later," he called. "And I'll keep an eye out for a Nidoran!" he added. It was a weird thing to bring up, but it must have been important somehow. For a moment he wondered why would anyone kick out a harmless wild pokemon, until he recalled how 'feral' pokemon were apparently different here. Just one more strange thing about this world he needed to adjust to.

As she galloped away, Koa did his best to stay hopeful. It'll be okay... We can do this.

Ch02: Get Ready to Rumble (Odette and Arctozolt)
Chomp. Chomp. Chomp.

While Odette had never really been one for the great outdoors, the outskirts made for decent training area. There was a lot more scrap metal around than she would have initially anticipated, but it made for a good way for Jawile her to blow off steam. Plenty of rusty, unused materials to gnaw away at and use as sparring targets. She might be able to segue Acrobatics into High Jump Kick if she wailed on enough bent railing...but, baby steps.

"̴I̸'̷m̷ ̴g̶o̴n̸n̴a̸ ̴p̸r̶e̸t̷e̴n̴d̵ ̵t̵h̷i̶s̸ ̸i̶s̸ ̶I̴g̷f̶u̵c̸k̴'̸s̵ ̵f̵a̸c̵e̸ ̴a̶n̷d̷-̷-̶"̴ Jawile said between swipes at a sheet of what looked like old roofing,

"Uh huh," Odette said dully.

"̵-̸-̸j̸u̵s̵t̷-̴-̵"̴ Another chomp.


Jawile took a bite out of the sheet and proceeded to fling it over their heads."̷͓̽-̶͙̀͜-̷̨̛̘̀F̶̞̻͊Ù̷͙͕̊C̷̻̓͝K̸͓̔ ̴͎̽̔H̵͖̓̔Ï̸̦̳̑M̵͍̑̌ ̶̝̖͋̒Ṷ̵̪́͒P̵̠͒̐.̶̟̽̎"̷̦̾

Odette watched with a deadpan expression as the metal soared up, up, up...before landing in the nearby water with a pronounced splash.

"How pleasant of you," she said flatly, watching the water rush around the new obstacle.

[[ @IFBench ]]
"HEY!" A voice shouted, as a certain mismatch came into view. "What's the big idea here? Are you TRYING to give everyone in town tetanus?"

Can Pokemon even get tetanus?
Shut up.
Odette whipped around to see...actually, she didn't actually know what she was looking at.

"Fucking relax, I'm not gonna leave it there," she shot back. "You act like there probably isn't already shit in there 'mon shouldn't be drinking anyway."

"̶Q̷u̵i̸c̵k̴,̸ ̵w̵o̴u̸l̷d̸ ̵y̴o̴u̸ ̸r̴a̶t̵h̷e̴r̷ ̸d̷r̸i̶n̵k̴ ̴a̷ ̴d̷r̵u̷n̵k̸a̵r̷d̸'̷s̸ ̵p̵i̷s̴s̷ w̵a̴t̶e̷r̵ ̴o̸r̵ ̴r̷u̸s̵t̴y̸ ̵m̶e̷t̶a̴l̶ ̴w̷a̸t̴e̷r̵?̸"̴ ̵Jawile interjected. "̶N̴o̶ ̴w̴r̵o̵n̴g̸ ̷a̶n̵s̸w̵e̶r̷s̵ ̶b̶u̸t̶ ̷I̵'̷m̷ ̵d̷e̷f̸i̵n̶i̸t̶e̴l̴y̶ ̶g̶o̵i̷n̸g̵ ̸t̶o̵ ̵j̸u̴d̶g̵e̵ ̴y̶o̶u̴.̸"̷
Ch02: Feeling Blue [Koa & Steven]

Balance... hold the position... strike! Koa winced, the movement sending a crackle of pain through his chest. He exhaled through gritted teeth. Take it easy. Maybe a few distance attacks would make for better practice. He'd been desperate to get back to training more than ever, but his body seemed to disagree.

It hadn't been long since the fight. The fur on his chest was still in patches and the lines of the wound visible. He was healing, fast. Much faster than he'd expected, given how according to Drungfield he very likely would have died. But it didn't feel good enough.

He nudged some small rocks into place and moved a short distance away. He began practicing some basic drills to sharpen his accuracy, aiming further and further away. In the slowly darkening twilight, it made for a nice light show, and was a good distraction from the thoughts that plagued him...
With his sleep schedule well and thoroughly upended since the gala, Steven an idea to try something different. He'd headed outside town to watch the sunset and try to find some restfulness even if it wasn't proper sleep.

While the sunset was beautiful that night, it couldn't hold a candle to the one he experienced his first day in Forlas. Steven was lost in thought as he drifted back towards town in the growing dusk, finding it hard to believe it hadn't actually been that long since that day.

Suddenly, a crack of lightning snapped him from his musings. He was more confused than startled; he didn't remember seeing any storm clouds on the horizon. But again, a bolt of lighting jumped through the air, only a short distance away.

Curiosity won out, and Steven changed course, silently approaching the hillock where he'd seen the lightning. As he crested over the hill, he spotted an electrike launching attacks at a small mound of rocks. And not just any electrike. Even in the fading light, it was clear their coat was a striking shade of blue.

To someone intimately familiar with pokemon training, it was immediately obvious what this electrike was up to; target practice. They were training. But why so late? Steven floated down the hill towards the heavily panting pokemon, hailing them with a friendly chime.

"Hello! What's got a shiny electrike doing target practice out here after dark?"
Koa jumped at the voice and spun, tense. An unfamiliar Beldum floated before him. He studied him for a moment, half wondering if this was some illusion again, before deciding he looked real enough. After a second he realized he did actually recognize him, as the Beldum who'd been at the Gala, with the journal. "Oh hey," he said, trying to sound as neutral as he could. Please not another pity interrogation. Or yelling. At least here he had plenty of space to leave him in the dust.

"Just training. Keeping my skills sharp," he said somewhat stiffly.
Steven hummed. "I see that."

A curt reply from the electrike, but it was fair. He had interrupted them after all.

"Apologies, I didn't mean to startle you," he said. "All I meant was that if you were staying in Frontier Town, it's getting late to be outside town limits after dark."

Steven backed up slightly, drifting towards the direction of town. Its lights twinkled welcomingly in the distance. "I'm headed back there myself, if you care for some company on the way."
"Sorry, you're fine," Koa muttered. "I just wasn't expecting to see anyone." He studied the Beldum, half wondering if there was some kind of ulterior subtext before deciding he seemed sincere in his gesture.

Koa glanced towards town, wavering. His body clamored for rest, but his mind was reluctant to head back so soon. Next fight they might not end up so lucky. And if he did try to investigate those rumors in Blaguarro he needed to be ready for whatever they found.

"I wouldn't want to trouble you," he said after a moment. He hesitated. "I might practice a bit longer."
"Ah, it's no trouble. I'm not in a hurry." Steven settled a bit in his hovering, turning to face the makeshift training ground. "I can stick around for a bit longer, if you don't mind a spectator."

As he spoke, he noticed the electrike's lingering gaze on him, and came to an incorrect conclusion. "But, oh, where are my manners? My name is Steven."

Something seemed familiar about the electrike, but he couldn't place it...

"I feel like I've seen you around before, but we've never been introduced."
"Koamaru," he said after a moment, trying to be a bit more amicable. "I think we probably saw each other at the gala."

"Heh. Steven... The old champion- uh, a famous trainer back on my world had the same name," he said with a chuckle. He supposed by now there wasn't much point trying to hide being human. Although he had no idea if Steven even came from a similar world, now that he thought about it. Maybe he had no idea what trainers were. Or what a champion was.

He wasn't sure what to make of Steven's offer to stick around. He didn't want to sound mean and tell him to go away, and Steven seemed genuine so far at least. "If you really want to, you can watch," he said with a shrug. "It's not much though, just some basic accuracy training."
"Ah, the gala, that must be it." Steven nodded. "Sorry for not realizing sooner. That whole night was kind of a blur."

"Old--?" Steven caught himself before he said more. Of course. Koamaru was a trainer. And Steven's name wasn't exactly a low-profile one. For some reason he wasn't feeling very forthcoming that evening. "O--oh, yeah, I've heard of him," he offered with a kindly smile. "I was a trainer, too. Before we came here." Smooth, Stone. Hopefully Koa wouldn't pry further.

Steven hummed to himself at Koa's answer to his request to stick around. Truthfully, he wasn't entirely sure what made him offer to stay. Maybe it was just a desire for some normalcy after the whirlwind that was arriving in Forlas.

"I haven't come across many 'mon partaking in training sessions since I've been here. I think I'm feeling a bit nostalgic," he said with a chuckle. "Perhaps the others in our group are simply more adept with their new bodies."
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